PA Changes Gender Marker Rules

Good news in PA!

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) ? The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is changing its policy on how transgender people identify themselves on driver’s licenses.

The department and Equality Pennsylvania announced a settlement Wednesday that allows people to change the gender on their licenses if they are living full-time in the new gender and it can be verified by a licensed medical or psychological caregiver.

The previous policy only allowed changes in gender for drivers who could prove they’d had sexual reassignment surgery.

PennDOT says about half the states already have adopted a similar policy. The new policy takes effect immediately.

Two Tune Tuesday: Toy Dolls

Not all punk was serious or angry: here’s The Toy Dolls, who were insane live, a speedfreak’s dream. (The 1st song is dedicated to my NYC friends.)

And Yet, Simultaneously…

We’ve got London Fog paring Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) down to size.

Which puts my “yay, the future!” optimism on hold. Because it’s always been okay for skinny white guys to do whatever they want, while women, and actual gay men, will continue to deal with this bullshit.

Okay, someone send me a story that cheers me up again.

Kevin Barnes: Of Montreal and Of the Next Wave

This interview with Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal is too cool. Wow: queer straight guys are really starting to exist. It makes me so happy.

The void came in handy when the family moved to staid Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. His brain still smoldering, young Barnes disappeared into his music. When he wasn’t writing songs about his desperate lust for girls, he was fantasizing about being attracted to boys. “I was more feminine than the other straight guys, and I got picked on,” says Barnes, who speaks in a fey whisper, so this is easy to imagine. “I was like, if I’m going to get picked on, I might as well be gay. Then I would at least have a support group, and we could isolate ourselves and be in that world together.” Being gay also seemed more interesting. “I romanticize homosexuality. Most of the gay guys I met were smart and so many of the straight guys were dipshits, especially in South Florida. I wanted to be part of the more elegant caste.” But Barnes never found a serious boyfriend—making out has been the extent of his homosexuality, which is why he says he’s not gay. “I’ve never had a connection where I wanted to tear a guy’s clothes off. I’ve been open to it. Maybe I haven’t found the right guy.”

Wow. It’s been cool for women to admit to such things for a long while now, but for guys? Not so much. Ah, brave new world, you can’t get here fast enough.

Post Trans Post

Here’s a copy of a a guest bit I wrote recently for T-Central for a small series there on transitionn. Lots of the posts that appeared there were interesting, from FTM & MTF, a 17 year old & a 90 year old & every age in-between. I haven’t written very much about the experience of being “post trans,” so here you go.

Post Trans Post: Life After Transition – August 2010

Betty transitioned. Apparently we’ve forgotten to announce that officially. I can’t imagine anyone is surprised; looking back, I see chapter 5 of My Husband Betty as tea leaves neither of us wanted to read. But I wrote My Husband Betty seven years ago (and it’s still in print!), and that old joke says it only takes 2 years, right? Maybe that’s from crossdresser to transsexual, because surely it takes more years than that to become a woman or a man. It certainly took me a few more than 2 to become a woman, and that was without any trans interference. (Sometimes, when someone asks me if I’m trans myself, I wonder if I ever did make it to “woman,” but for me, that’s a compliment, that all of my genders are showing.)

What we are, post transition, is more relaxed. That has something to do with our move from New York to Wisconsin, and something to do as well with us both having jobs we like. It may also have something to do with our being together for 12 years now. But hearing that other shoe drop, at long last, has brought us both relief as well.

We find it easier being perceived as a lesbian couple than as a trans couple. Granted, we “do” lesbian with our bizarre heterosexual privilege – by which I mean we are still federally recognized as legally married. I certainly don’t mean to imply it’s easier to be a lesbian couple; it’s not. It’s way harder then when we were seen as a somewhat eccentric het couple. But you do a lot less explaining at parties, and that’s a nice break. People know what lesbians are, even if, as in our case, the label isn’t wholly accurate. Mostly we don’t prefer to tell people Betty is trans; if they know, & have questions, we answer them when we’re in the appropriate time & place to do so, like in a private conversation and not at a party. But otherwise, I have no interest in outing her on a regular basis.

Often the question of whether or not to be out as trans rests upon the assumption that you’re either out or stealth. Yay, another binary! The reality is that there is a significant gray area. What has surprised us most is that the old advice – to move clear across the country – has its reasons. We did, but not as part of her transition plan. We did, and so we’ve reaped the benefits of being in a place where no one knew her as male, where no one knew us as het, where no one knew us before at all. That is, when we meet people now, they need only know as as a same sex couple. Unlike many if not most trans people, Betty is undeniably out. Once someone asks me what I do, for instance, it is only a few short stops to “She used to be a man?” To preserve some of our privacy – and yes, even memoirists like some privacy – I usually tell people I write gender theory which invariably leads to one of two responses: (1) “Oh.” Or (2) they actually want to know what I think of Lady Gaga’s/Caster Semenya’s gender, at which point the conversation turns away from me and onto cranky female athletes or Gaga’s little monsters. That is, the titles of my books don’t ever have to come up, which keeps me from outing Betty. One of the best parts of working in academia is having people assume they haven’t read your work.

Sometimes I like to joke that I threw Betty over for a “real woman” but that’s only if that someone will get the joke. (The short version: I don’t believe in “real” genders.)

What we’ve found is that the guy at the local equivalent of the 7-11 doesn’t need to know. We are often assumed to be friends, and not a couple, because of general LGBTQ invisibility, and I’m learning to leave with that & all the heterocentric bullshit the world is steeped in. When someone’s head is still getting used to the idea of homosexuality, you don’t really want to hit them with Teh Trans, anyway. They’re not ready.

A friend of mine, both lesbian and trans, was once asked to talk to a student about being out. My friend promptly explained her experiences being out as trans, to which the slack-jawed undergrad responded, “I thought you were just a lesbian.”

So now we’re “just lesbians.”

But is anyone “just a lesbian”? Every lesbian woman I know is a host of other things: parent, daughter, lawyer, trans, Asian, etc. We are not “just lesbians” either. We are something like post trans queers. Or I am, at least. I’m not really sure anymore.

The only sad thing for me is that I have lost my partner in crime. Betty is (quite frustratingly, some days) gender normative, trendy, and magazine feminine. I have to remind her not to flip her hair so much. I love her, but I still nurse a general dislike of normative femininity. I’m naturally suspicious of people who fit in. I assume I’ll get over it. You don’t really make it through transition as someone’s partner without having an awful lot of flexibility.

What I will say to the partners: my resolve to be her friend first, and her lover/wife second, was tantamount. We still worry that our friendship has replaced or supplanted our marriage, but I suspect that’s the kind of thing a lot of long-term relationships wrestle. When it comes down to it, our journey, and my midwifery, has been an honor and a pleasure. It is a remarkable thing to watch someone go through gender transition and to help them do so. She has assisted me through a few life transitions, and we will, no doubt, see a few more in our lifetimes, and any and all of those changes can be a threat to a couple’s permanence and happiness. Her gender transition’s challenge to who we are as a couple was maybe more challenging than others, or maybe just more obvious in the ways it accessed axes of identity. But surely unhappiness, self-repression, and stagnation would destroy any relationship as easily and with far more bitterness and regret, and you know? Phooey to that.

Friday Cat Blog: The Couch

90 Years Ago Last Week

To hell with Ken Mehlman, today Wisconsin is celebrating the 90th anniversary of Wisconsin’s signing of the 19th amendment! (I don’t know why they’re celebrating a week after the anniversary date. If anyone does, let me know. WI ratified in June, so it’s not that.)

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Once upon a time it was argued that we would make politics more moral, because women were, naturally, more moral. Ha!

Semenya’s Return

And another via my friend Matty, with whom I will be team teaching Gender Studies 100 this fall, about Caster Semenya’s return.

She added: “Even if she is a female, she’s on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition from what I understand of hormone testing. So, from that perspective, most of us just feel that we are literally running against a man.”

To which I might say: isn’t the whole point of athletic competition pushing the envleope / finding the fringe of “normal”?

His Son’s Dress

I don’t know why these stories depress me so much, and really, it’s the ones with the cheerfully liberal dad who really is trying his hardest not to be a dick.
And yet, he is.

Sigh. And we didn’t even have to wait until Halloween this year.

Some Lovaas Lost

I was sent the link to a cool little blog called Killing the Buddha, and specifically to this post about “The Feminine Boy Project” which attempted to rid young boys of their femininity, and of course, their homosexuality. The blog’s author specifically calls out the NYT for leaving out Lovaas’ involvement in the project:

Well, George “Rentboy-renter” Rekers is no gay activist . . . Just last year, Rekers described Lovaas as not only critical for the funding and oversight of the study, but also for its planning. In fact, the way Rekers tells it, Ivar Lovaas came up with the idea in the first place.

…which is just a smidge more than being tangentially involved, no?

So if anyone out there has more information on Rekers’ statement, let me know.

Tickling a Slow Loris

Since Monday sucks for almost everyone, & I’ve gotten too many emails in the past week from people who are really going through some complicated stuff, please take a moment to watch this video of a slow loris being loved on. Really. It’ll do your soul good.

(Found on Allison’s blog about her Medical Spa, Tres Belle, the services of which I highly recommend.)

(How anyone could see those eyes and kill these critters for them I can’t understand, but they do, which is why these critters are endangered. How messed up is that? What goobery lovely big eyes on an obviously gentle creature.)

Tragedy, Again

If you can bear to read it, there’s a long story about Christine Daniels / Mike Penner in The LA Times. The whole thing is so fucking tragic, a huge waste. There are times I get so pissed off about how euphoric people get about transition that I want to spit nails.

Toward the end there’s this soulless quote by Marci Bowers:

Bowers believes Penner put one foot in the grave by abandoning the transition. “If we had done surgery, it probably would have saved her life. Now she died as an unhappy soul who never got a chance to align her body and soul, and that’s the greatest tragedy about her.”

I’m not sure that doesn’t win an award for most self-serving pile of crap I’ve ever seen.

Her whole story, I’m going to say, makes me want to scream. PEOPLE CAN AND DO CHOOSE TO TRANSITION. People can and do choose not to when what they might lose is a too much to lose. It is not “transition or die.” Sometimes it’s “transition and die.” That does not mean I’m saying people shouldn’t transition, or that late transitioners shouldn’t transition. What I’m saying is that the larger trans community – and especially the gender therapists who “serve” this community – have got to get it through their heads that someone who has lived a long time in one gender & who has had something like a good life, career, and marriage, might want to think long & hard before deciding to transition.

Or, as we were told, DO AS LITTLE AS YOU CAN to relieve the gender dyphoria.

Friday Cat Blog: The Return

Betty’s gotten some amazing new photos of the cats in our new place, so here goes:

Welcome to the Present, Newsweek

It’s not a bad piece, something like a big summary, and brief, and there is a general glaring lack of the word genderqueer. Still, some nice bits:

Many scientists, he says, see gender as a continuum and acknowledge that some people naturally fall in the middle. Gender, Bockting says, “develops between the biological and the environmental. You can’t always detect gender by physical evidence. You have to ask the person how they identify themselves; in that sense, it’s psychological.”


But Drescher says he is certain of one thing after a lifetime of working with gender: “There is no way that six billion people can be categorized into two groups.” Now if we could only figure out the pronoun problem.


Instead, Drescher says, the committee is proposing changing the name to “gender incongruence” and making the diagnosis contingent on the person feeling significant distress over their gender confusion. “We didn’t want to pathologize all expressions of gender variance just because they were not common or made someone uncomfortable,” Drescher says.

and finally:

Bockting says it’s not uncommon for people undergoing sex changes to find that surgery doesn’t resolve all their gender-identity issues. “With time,” he says, “they accept a certain amount of ambiguity … We have this idea that people take hormones and undergo surgery and become the other gender. But in reality it’s more complicated.”

except I would add: except when it isn’t.

There is also a photo gallery of people – it’s not clear how any of them identify but all the portraits were taken at the LA trans job fair – and I really have mixed feelings about the photos. I’d love to hear what you all think of them.

Poll: Should Transgender People Be Allowed to Marry?

The local Fox channel/website of Houston wants to know if transgendered people should be able to marry.
Let them know.

(On the bottom right side of the page, no registration necessary, though you do have to type in some captcha text).

(via TFA)

Men Drivers

From a NYT article about a study of pedestrian victims:

And in 80 percent of city accidents that resulted in a pedestrian’s death or serious injury, a male driver was behind the wheel. (Fifty-seven percent of New York City vehicles are registered to men.)

& Another bullshit stereotype mowed down in traffic!

Two Tune Tuesday: Off the Beaten 80s Path

I was recently at my brother’s wedding, and I remembered the song “Heaven” but not the group – I initially thought it might be Martha + the Muffins.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Lavender, Not Pink or Blue

Here’s an article about gender that actually makes sense; I’m looking forward to the book, even.

“If you map the distribution of scores for verbal skills of boys and of girls you get two graphs that overlap so much you would need a very fine pencil indeed to show the difference between them. Yet people ignore this huge similarity between boys and girls and instead exaggerate wildly the tiny difference between them. It drives me wild,” Plomin told the Observer.

Again: there’s more similarity than difference between genders.

College Admissions

Two interesting articles about admissions and LGBT students have come across my desk recently:  One is about colleges seeking gay applicants, and the other is about asking students, on the Common Application, what their orientation is.

As much as I’d rather see LGBTQ students at a college that really does welcome them, I hate anything that seems like it might be ghettoizing students. For some, their orientation is barely important; what med school they want to get into is most important.

But at the same time, that anyone’s even asking the questions means there is starting to be more consistent recognition that gender and sexual orienation are important aspects of identity.

Now if we oculd just get them to make the question about gender a blank to fill in instead of a choice that dichotimizes our genders.


MWMF: Solidarity, Please

This photo of a protest/action, in support of inclusion of trans women  at MichFest (aka MWMF) brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the linkage goes to Joelle Ruby Ryan, who teaches Women’s Studies and is a transfeminist. She is as excited as I am by bridges being built between trans and non-trans women, and you can follow her on twitter at JoelleRubyRyan.

(Of course there’s nothing that could keep me away from a music festival more than a policy of it being only for women, but I’m not big on any kind of separatism.)