Month: May 2012

No Homos

Posted by – May 30, 2012

Billy Lucas’ suicide was what caused Dan Savage to start the It Gets Better campaign.

A toddler in Billy Lucas’ hometown is on video singing “Ain’t No Homos Gonna Make It to Heaven” at a local church – to wild approving, applause.

A protest against the church is being organized via Facebook.

Sheila Take a Ban

Posted by – May 30, 2012

Radfem Sheila Jeffreys has been barred from speaking at RadFem 2012, a radical feminist conference in the UK.

She complained about it to the Guardian.

She is writing a book on the hurt caused by transgenderism. You can read about it here, but here’s the blurb:

“Transgender describes those who seek recognition as the opposite sex or gender on a long-term basis. The idea and practice of transgenderism now affects legal systems, schoolteachers, parents, wives and partners, and the politics of gender in profound ways.  Gender Hurts examines the wider social and political context and implications of the phenomenon of transgenderism. Jeffreys and Gottschalk propose that gender in western culture is socially constructed as the basis of male domination and that the concept of gender has the potential to hurt many. They argue that in transgenderism the hurt can take several forms; psychologically, physically and socially. This book explore how the phenomenon is affecting people’s lives from exploring the implications for the children and adults who are diagnosed as having gender identity disorder, to the survivors’ movement who claim to have been misdiagnosed, and the impact on the partners of transgenders.  This controversial book is a must read for all students and scholars of the politics of sexuality, women’s studies, gender studies, queer studies, transgender studies and cultural studies courses.”

Same hateful bullshit.

If anyone said the same stuff about women that radfems say about trans people, it would be called sexism. It is sad to see the amazing potential and significant contributions of radical feminism becoming mired in anti trans rhetoric and now research.

If you’d like some interesting historical contrast, Stephen Whittle’s piece “Where Did We Go Wrong?” discusses how his transition was accepted and even encouraged by the radical feminist group he belonged to at the time, but which changed with the publication of Raymond’s Transsexual Empire in 1979. So there is prior, pro trans radical feminism out there to build on, even if it’s 37 years old.

Kate Bornstein’s Unusual Journey

Posted by – May 28, 2012

It is with absolute pleasure that I get to kick off the blog tour for Kate Bornstein’s new book A Queer and Pleasant Danger because, well, she’s Kate, for starters, and the grand dame of the radical trans set.

Besides, who else could subtitle a book The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves 12 Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today?

We were lucky enough to have Kate read us a chapter – the one on her expulsion from Scientology – a few years ago on a drive from Appleton, WI – where I’d convinced her to come speak at Lawrence University – to the big queer midwest college conference in Madison, WI, where she was the keynote speaker. Sometimes it’s striking what kinds of things you remember, things that maybe no one else would, but anyone – anyone and their favorite aunt – would definitely remember eating Taco Bell with Kate Bornstein in a car on a Wisconsin interstate while she reads to you from her as-yet-unpublished memoir.

I think anyone who reads this will remember it much the same way: you’ll remember imagining who she was then because it will make you aware of who you are now & who you have been in a way that the immediacy of any pop song couldn’t.

The Village Voice did an amazing write up, so I won’t go into every detail of this wonderful book, but I can say: it crackles with Kate-ness, which I now think of as a state of being more than anything else, a kind of awesome mix of camp, integrity, ego and empathy. Just do go out & get one and read it.

 

Treated Like a Woman (Or a Young Black Man)

Posted by – May 27, 2012

My friend Lena pointed out this short article on Think Progress by Alyssa Rosenberg about the return of D’Angelo to me, which talks about how D’Angelo was undone by the pressure to strip – and maintain an exacting and desired physique for his fans – and Rosenberg talks about how he was, effectively, treated like a woman.

Which, well of course: women have to be beautiful to be considered talented, but if beautiful have to work against type to be considered smart, or artistic.

Yet there is this long, long history of treating young black men as a stereotype too, of the young black buck: known for their bodies, and brawn; assumed to be hung, sexually provocative and yet also sexually and physically objectified. In a culture where well hung or athletic or both is often also assumed to mean small brained, or non/anti-intellectual, young black men are up against a lot of stereotypes women are up against as well. Both too are demonized for their apparent sexuality: women for having any, and black men for having their assumed and expected expertise “threaten” white men’s power and self-image.

So in a sense he wasn’t treated like a woman at all; he was treated as many young black men are treated, and have been: expected to be nothing more than their physical, sexualized, and objectified bodies.

LGBT for Obama Sticker

Posted by – May 27, 2012

You can get yours for free, just by asking.

Driving

Posted by – May 26, 2012

At age 43, I have been officially licensed by the state of Wisconsin to drive a car.

Everyone is full of happiness and congratulations for me, promising me new freedoms and – new freedoms. That I can’t even imagine how much life has changed. Etc.

I suspect that will all be true once I get used to the idea; maybe no one will ever see me again as I drive my way around the world.

But what I do know is that I have now increased my carbon footprint – which I’d already done once simply by moving to the midwest from NYC, and which I offset by becoming an ‘eat lower on the food chain atarian‘ (which means vegetarian, except on holidays or other rare occasions when I feel like eating meat) – and now I have to come up with some other way to decrease my very American impact on the environment. If you have any ideas, let me know. We already keep a largely non-toxic home, use very little electricity, and walk to work.

Being a non-driver did allow me to meet & get to know some people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to know; some of you, at least, have heard the story of the lovely ride I took with two musician friends out to a gig on a cold Wisconsin night, through some beautiful, serene farmland, which gave me the idea, at least, that I might find a way to fit in socially here, at long last. The idea didn’t become much of a reality, but still, it was a cold drive that warmed my heart some, and will probably remain one of my best memories of my time in Wisconsin.

Being a driver makes me feel a little less a NYer, and a lot more of an American; a little less individual, and a lot more like everyone else, which is not, exactly, the most comfortable place in the world for me.

Still, it means I can drive myself to physical therapy, which will mean in turn, I hope, that I will be able to get back on my bicycle.

And you know, get my dry cleaning done without having to bug my already too busy spouse.

Change is good, they say. Change is, rather. And this is a big one.

 

Sports Illustrated on Trans Athletes

Posted by – May 25, 2012

I have to say that this is kind of amazing: Sports Illustrated has taken on the topic of trans athletes.

For transgender men and women, the physiological traits that distinguish them as male or female don’t conform to how they feel about themselves. Some have undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy to make their biological and gender identities match. Others, such as the 28-year-old Godsey, have not: He was born as a female and therefore competes as a female, but he identifies as male. Imagine a body, especially one as finely tuned as an elite athlete’s, feeling inescapably foreign—as if it were intended for the opposite sex. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that I have a good amount of muscle mass, and I’ve done it naturally,” says Godsey. “But in some ways, this is the last body I would ever want.”

. . .

Consider something as simple as going to the bathroom. When using men’s rooms—his preference—Godsey usually tries to conceal his chest; in women’s rooms he accentuates it by wearing what he calls tight “girl shirts.” Still, he has been escorted out of an airport ladies’ room by security, interrogated at restaurants and once had to flee a group of snarling men at a truck-stop bathroom in Nebraska.

The world is a-changing. Maybe not fast enough, but faster than I expected.

Sissy!

Posted by – May 24, 2012

There are so few articles about sissies; there really should be more. But Brianna Austin gives us a little bit of a rundown:

The sissy, however, doesn’t see himself as a women; in fact he is firmly rooted in the reality that he is not a women, nor can he every truly become one, but no longer a man either. In many instances the sissy sees women as the superior species, and is happy to simply elevate themselves to their highest possible feminine representation of female.

To that end, the sissy acts and dresses as frilly and feminine as possible, but never in a mainstream way. They love ruffles, satin, and lace in yellow, white and pink, anything that accentuates femininity – usually garters & stockings, high heels, and costumes.  But it can also include baby girl and little girl attire and actions as well.

Their goal is not to assimilate; thus the frills are both an adoration of feminism, and a reminder that they’re merely emulating that which they can never actually be.

It is then no surprise that most sissies are usually submissive in nature, a soft demeanor that earns to serve.  Often when you come upon social profiles of sissies, they are seeking a “strong master or mistress” to train them. This is yet another way of saying, “bring out the girl in me and suppress the male … PLEASE!”

Is being a sissy then really about being and looking feminine, or is it really – at the root – about power, the lack of, and/or exchange of it?

I’m fond of them myself, as is Dan Savage. As I’ve often said, some of the strongest, bravest people I’ve met are sissies, and yes, this is for you PettiPie. :)

 

Neil Gaiman’s Commencement

Posted by – May 23, 2012

Neil Gaiman, writer-hero of mine, has spoken a commencement address. He’s speaking to artists, mostly, but there is so much good stuff in here.

The only two pieces of advice I’ve ever found useful come from him:

  1. finish what you start
  2. don’t get up except to make more tea

But he’s fleshed it out in a good way.

I had no plan either. I had a list too. In fact I write a new one every year.

Senior Banquet

Posted by – May 21, 2012

Tonight’s the night at Lawrence when graduating seniors get dressed up & invited faculty and staff get dressed up and we all go for drinks and then for dinner and then for speechifying and then for more drinking. I have lucky enough to be invited three years running, and it is always a blast.

So congrats, seniors! More advice later, but for now: make sure you drink a lot of glasses of water while you’re drinking a lot of glasses of everything else.

For Pops.

Posted by – May 19, 2012

Because today would have been my father’s 84th birthday, some Louis, who he loved.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

It is sometimes reassuring to think of all the people who knew him – and he knew a lot of people, some for a second, some for decades – and to know he probably got to tell them a dumb joke, or complimented them in some old-fashioned way, or even just smiled at them as they went by. It’s the jauntiness, the joy of him, that I miss the most now; there are very, very few men who can tell me a dumb joke that will actually make me laugh, & who think it is important enough to try, & he was the first and the last. You getta you papers.

Pops, I miss you. I wish I could pick up the phone so you could tell me every last detail of your most recent conversation with the guy about the extra charge on the cable bill right now.

He found joy in almost everything: in the photos taken around the same time as this one, there’s one of my mother worried about her electric scooter; my nieces are splitting a cotton candy; my sister was probably counting tickets or finding  a map or some something for my mother, and my nephew was waiting to see what ride next. Rachel volunteered to go on any ride the kids would go on, even the ones that made everyone else sick and dizzy, and I took pictures. But my dad just watched and smiled: at a toddler taking a step, at his beautiful wife, at the ice cream stand, at this small part of his assembled family. He’d tell a story about a guy he knew growing up in Brooklyn, or about the guy he knew in the service, and the funny thing is, not all of his stories ended happily. A lot of them didn’t. But he just told them, because they were relevant or because something had reminded him of the person or that particular story. They rarely had  an ending, or a moral; he wasn’t that kind of guy who is always trying to impart wisdom or experience. In almost the same breath, he could finish a story about not having his number called during the Korean War, and then wonder out loud where to get ice cream.

Stories and ice cream. I thought I’d get to share a lot more of both with him, but I’m glad, at least I managed to snap this photo: you may not be able to see his eyes, but you can’t not see the twinkle in them, too.

Dolby Family Transition

Posted by – May 18, 2012

Thomas Dolby’s kid transitioned, and Dolby wrote a song about it.

It is taking me much effort to resist a ‘binded him with science’ joke.

Good luck to them all.

Trans Paris, ’60s Style

Posted by – May 18, 2012

A cool exhibit of photographs of the trans women of 1960s Paris starts today at the ICP.

It’s open until September 2. I hope I make it. I’m glad Christer Stromholm took them.

High Heels for Men

Posted by – May 16, 2012

High heels for men? But of course! Their rules? ” No adult content and men wear heels as men.” Sometimes I wish I could just read things without deconstructing them. “Adult content” means “not a of a sexual nature” I’m sure, but “as men”? No idea what that’s supposed to mean.

Exactly Why Slutwalk

Posted by – May 15, 2012

You don’t really have to wait even a minute for an example of the kind of victim-blaming that Slutwalk is all about, but this one is particularly horrific, as the young woman died in a fire on Saturday and the coverage of her death appeared in The New York Times. The journalist quotes someone who calls her a “he”, comments on the men she invited to her apartment, and describes her curvaceous body.

As if any of these things had anything to do with her dying in this fire. Pathetic reporting, pathetic culture we live in.

From Feministing:

Other folks, including GLAADJanet Mock, and Autumn Sandeen are calling out this incredibly offensive and dangerous article as well. You can let the New York Times know you’re sick and tired of their victim blaming and transphobia by writing to them here or tweeting @NYTimes. Update: GLAAD also recommends tweeting @NYTMetro, the paper’s Metro Desk, which might get to the reporters more directly.

Please speak up.

Me: Slutwalk: Appleton

Posted by – May 15, 2012

It wasn’t the most formal talk I’ve ever given, but I didn’t know it was being filmed at all, so I’m glad to see it.

And let me tell you “slut” + “faculty member” + “”43″ is not the easiest sartorial equation to solve, and on Mother’s Day, no less!

Slutwalk: Appleton

Posted by – May 13, 2012

Today, for my 43rd birthday, and on Mother’s Day to boot, I’ll be speaking at Appleton’s first Slutwalk. Here’s a preview of what I’m planning on saying:

Thank you so much, VDAY, for having the ovarios to put on this event here in Appleton.

For those of you who don’t know, Slutwalk began only last year in April, in Toronto, when a police officer  admitted that he was told he wasn’t supposed to say that women shouldn’t dress like sluts so as not to be victimized. And by that, he meant they should dress in ways that hid their bodies in ways our misogynist, sex-obsessed culture would find acceptable. Aside from the impossibility of being able to decide what “dressing like a slut” means in any culture, he put together the idea that somehow women’s bodies are at fault for the violence and slut shaming perpetrated against them.

They are not.

Women’s bodies are beautiful and should be seen, and in a culture that had its act together – on both violence and sexuality – police officers wouldn’t say such stupid things. Mind you: he wasn’t trying to be hateful. His words, no doubt, came out of something like compassion for the women who he had seen victimized while doing his job. He wanted – like so many of us do – to keep women safe from sexual assault, from trauma, from fear.

But what many men don’t know is that it’s not what kind of clothing a woman’s body wears that has anything to do with it. It’s what a woman’s body IS that causes us all these troubles: bodies full of desire, desiring, desired; bodies of curves and straight lines and freckles and hair. Bodies of skin and fat and muscle and bone; bodies of organs, of hearts and brains and cervixes.

What I love is that every day of my life I can wake up & say that I was born with the one body part whose only use is pleasure. But if you think about it, which parts of us aren’t? Brains, hair, hands, hearts, breasts, legs, feet and elbows – the skin itself is about pleasure. Freud had this theory that we were all polymorphously perverse – meaning that when we’re born, we’re so awash in the pleasure of having a body that every touch, ever breeze, brings us rolling waves of pleasure and that the process of getting older is learning to move some of that sensitivity to a few precious locations – mostly so, as he figured it, we were going to get anything done at all. And so our nerves, so adept at finding pleasure, became located in our nipples and tongues, our fingers and toes, the backs of knees and the backs of our necks, our lips – both sets of lips –  and of course in our genitals too. And somehow we managed to stop touching our selves long enough to write books and build buildings.

But women are a kind of warm, breathing repository of all of that pleasure, and it’s hard not to see, especially not in spring. Our sexual selves come out of hiding in the spring, and so our clothes come off – even here in Wisconsin, where “spring” and “warm” are not always the same thing – because we feel the joy of having bodies, of desiring and being desired. More

In Honor of Today’s Slutwalk

Posted by – May 13, 2012

Argentina Raises the Bar

Posted by – May 12, 2012

Argentina set the new standard for changes in gender markers on identity documents for trans people:

“The fact that there are no medical requirements at all — no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis — is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries,” said Eisfeld, who researched the laws of the 47 countries for the Council of Europe’s human rights commission.

In the US, you can get your passport changed with a letter from a doctor but no genital surgery is required, at least. The problems arise in the different ruling of the different states, so in Texas, for insance, a trans woman is always legally male, but she can legally marry her (cis) girlfriend there. Not quite how they expected the law against transness and against same sex marriage to play out, but there you go.

NC

Posted by – May 9, 2012

North Carolina looks to pass a law that will make it impossible for same sex couples to have anything that even resembles marriage – a law that’s referred to as a super DOMA. Wisconsin has one in place, too, and I understand, for some, they are meant to uphold a traditional Christian marriage of one man + one woman.

What they do, sadly, is make LGBTQ feel less welcome, cause an increase in bigotry and violence against queer people, and put many children of LGBTQ people further into legal limbo when their parents separate, amongst other things.

I do not understand why civil recognition of my partnership offends people so deeply that they would pass this kind of law.

I don’t understand why people hate gay people so much.