This Just In: Relationships Fail.

This is a pretty miraculous little article about relationships but moreso, about love, and about the limits of intimacy. It blew me away. She starts at a place that most people would consider pessimistic, but the older I get, and the more couples I have known, the more I feel that she is just stating the obvious.

So let’s take a hard look at why relationships never seem to pan out. I mean, really—have you ever seen a functional relationship? There are some that seem to be functional, or possibly even very good, but we never really get to know too much about them. Then later, we discover the seedy underbelly—often when the couple splits—and are disillusioned all over again.

This one had domestic violence in it. That one has been a sexless marriage for the past 10 years. This one had one partner lying and cheating on the other. That one was more of a business arrangement, waiting patiently until the kids were out of the house. The list goes on and on.

So, um, yeah. There’s that.

Then she talks more about the why, and here’s it’s not hard to tell I found this in a buddhist journal:

Relationships are based on the fallacy that I exist, you exist, and that my happiness, connection and fulfillment can be met by something from the outside—that there even is an outside.

That might sound esoteric, but stick with me.

When we look at our experience we can’t actually find a “person,” or even a “self.” In any experience we can find what we call color, the sound of a voice, the experience of a touch, etc. Without a belief in a self, other or time—which are all just thoughts and images in the mind and have no substance—all we have is this moment. Continue reading “This Just In: Relationships Fail.”

Mara Keisling’s Birthday

And all she wants if for people to come to NCTE’s gala on November 12th in DC. Buy tickets here, or, if you can’t go, make a donation for $54 to NCTE in honor of her birthday.

Catholic Throwdown

I have all kinds of new respect for Jack White after this.

Mary’s mother’s name was Anne, by the way. & This is a scapular – which they pronounce kind of more like scapula, which is actually the Latin term for the shoulder bone.

& Yes, I am Jesuit-educated. All hail the black Pope. (I’m kidding, though I do like this new guy.)

This post is dedicated to my friend from 6th grade, Brian Winkowski. We used to have a contest every year on Ash Wednesday to see which one of us could count more people with the ash smudge. We are both youngests from huge Catholic families, as apparently Colbert & White are too.

Chickens & Rifles

Some men have been carrying AR-15 rifles to the Appleton Farmer’s Market. They are making a Point about open carry laws and 2nd Amendment rights, etc.

Other people – and yes, these are people I know – decided to carry chickens to the Farmer’s Market instead, because you can’t openly carry a chicken to the Farmer’s Market but you can carry a rifle.

So you can see why some people are upset and protesting the rifles.

The problem is that there’s a weird intersection of city and state laws here. The municipal code bars the chicken. The state law allows the rifles. What you wind up with is a wholly stupid situation, where people will be boycotting the farmer’s market because they don’t want rifles there, you know, near their children and parents and friends, which means the city, or the county, or someone, will have to do something instead of letting a really cool local institution fail.

Continue reading “Chickens & Rifles”

A Trans Only Workshop with Lynda Barry

What Transpires?

A Trans and GenderQueer Writer’s Workshop with acclaimed author and artist Lynda Barry

It’s for everyone who loves to write or do spoken word or draw or any other medium of expression, and who identifies with some version of trans. The idea isn’t for writing about being trans, but rather, to see what will happen when 15 gendercreative people get together to create from various parts of of our brains, under the amazing guidance of Lynda Barry.

Tuesday, 6-8pm, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, 2013
at the ImageLab in Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Madison, WI

The two-session workshop is free of charge.

Applications due October 14th.

For applications or more information: Finn Enke, aenke(at)wisc(dot)edu. Please put “Transgender Writer’s Workshop” in subject heading.

From All Quarters

It seems some in the leather community have decided trans men aren’t men – again. This was the case years ago, but then, five years ago, the rules were changed to be trans inclusive, & now they’re back to being exclusive of trans men.

They’re even using that sorry old version of cis, “bio male”, which hasn’t been acceptable to use in, oh, I don’t know, a decade?

“For any person who wants to run for International Leather SIR, Leatherboy you must be a bio male in order to run. Even the Transgender Leather Community has an International title now. ILSb used to be bio male only and we will be returning it back to the Drummer days. We are not turning our back on any segment of the community. It is okay for an international title to belong to a gay man. But we welcome everyone to the party as far as the weekend events and so on. As far as the Leather Sir and Leatherboy, it will belong to the gay male community. ICBB will again have no change there because it is a community title that is open to anyone.”

Sad.

Many in the leather community are saddened by this atavistic decision.

Call for Submissions

Call for Submissions

Transgress Press is publishing an collection of wisdom, Letters For My Sisters, written by and for trans women and co-edited by Andrea James and Deanne Thornton.

The anthology will be published as part of the press’ Letters series and is envisioned as a companion piece inspired by Letters For My Brothers (edited by Megan M. Rohrer and Zander Keig), a collection of wisdom written for/by trans men. For more description of the series (and other titles) go to,www.transgresspress.org.

The editors are interested in letters that are:
• Written to yourself or others at the start of your transition.
• Discussions of why transition was the best choice.
• Things you found out about yourself through transition.
Other relevant topics on transitional wisdom in retrospect will be considered. Just follow these guidelines:
• Letters should be 1,000 words or fewer.
• Be searching and fearless.
• Be honest about your mistakes and heartaches as well as your surprises and joys.
• Consider writing about things you did right as well as things you could have done differently.
• Do not specifically name service providers, good or bad.
• If you include people in your life make sure that they approve (in writing) or use aliases not real names.
• Humor is greatly appreciated, but we are not seeking vulgar or sexually explicit material.
• Include your name and title for your letter. If you do not wish to be identified, we may publish your work under a pen name, but we will require that you verify your identity.

The ideal letter will be about you, but it should be something to which others in the community can relate.

For more information, or to make a submission, please contact:
Deanne Thornton
Email: sister_letters(at)icloud.com
Phone: 620-332-6638

Or check out TS Road Map for more details.

One Date Only

I’m struck by this short piece about a woman who went out on a date with an amazing man only to have him die before they could go on a second one.

Maybe because it is so much about the promise of what love is supposed to be and then wasn’t. Or because it exactly fulfilled the the best possible outcome of a first date and because it was all there would be, it stayed exactly that. No relationship. No arguments. No boredom.

It had to be a profound experience, and a haunting one, and I kind of wish someone like Margaret Atwood would write a poem about it.

Or maybe I appreciate it because so many people were posting this other story about a guy who didn’t know what love was until he had been married for a while, and who now looks on his first affections for his wife as not-love. Every time someone I knew posted that on Facebook I wanted to respond “I call bullshit” so I’m going to do that here instead. Love is only long-term commitment? Love is only changing diapers? Ugh, please. Just what we all need: more smug coupledom from people who need to tell themselves that they have the Real Thing even though they’re busy compromising pretty much everything in order to have it.

I hate that. & I hate that even more as a person who has been in a committed relationship for 15 years, precisely because the early days of wonder and joy really were days of wonder and joy. It’s okay that the start of a relationship is more exciting than conversations about who’s going to empty the dishwasher a decade later. Nobody would ever get married if a relationship started the way it will be in 15 years. You need the days of wonder and joy to be blinded to the compromises that are coming.

And I say that, too, as someone who really does believe in long-term commitments. I think many, many people are happier in them than not. But I also know a lot of people try to stay in a relationship that bores them to tears and frustrates their desires and hems them in on all sides because of schmarmy essays that like that one by the husband.

Call me a romantic, but I prefer the idea of being in love with someone because I am, not because they do the dishes. Call me crazy.

Condoms Required

It seems like a no-brainer to me after 3 porn stars tested positive for HIV and a recent outbreak of syphilis, but when Tristan Taormino recently announced she will have all male stars use condoms in her porn movies, all hell broke loose. Here’s a CNN clip about it, if you prefer video.

Here, she explains why she made the decision she did and also explains that she is still not for mandatory use of them for everyone. This is her own decision, for her films, and in keeping with her own (feminist) labor practices.

If you support her decision, do go like her Facebook page & post a message of support.

This New Pope

I’m liking him more & more every time he speaks or does an interview.

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.
An Interview with Pope Francis

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

And that’s after he was asked about gay priests and said “Who am I to judge?” Kind of mind-blowing, and a welcome change.

Love & Shame & Having a Thing for Trans Women

Here’s a great interview with the amazing Laverne Cox and Janet Mock about Mister Cee – who was caught soliciting a trans female – that he loves women, dates women, but occasionally desires fellatio with a “transsexual” – that is, a trans woman.

What’s fascinating is how many people think he’s “just gay” and needs to come out.

Liking fellatio – and he’s unclear if he’s interested in a trans woman blowing him or blowing a woman who still has a penis – doesn’t make someone gay.

Liking men, as a man, makes someone gay (if anything does).

Men who like trans women are straight. Maybe adventurous. Maybe they like penises and women.

They said there is no language for someone who loves trans people, but in fact the term “trans amorous” – “trans am” for short – has been around quite a lot. They’re called trans admirers sometimes, or “transsensual” (which is used more on the FTM end of things).

THAT SAID: plenty of men who date trans women are straight men. Period. End of statement.

Janet Mock talks more about shame and gender policing in her article which is, as per usual, right on.

A very, very long time ago I asked trans admirers to step up.

I’m still waiting.

A Trans Inclusive Feminism.

It was the principle of the thing.

I’ve been doing this work for more than a decade now, so if you’re indecisive, I’m going to say this: there are no doubt trans women who are jerks, misogynists, and who carry around a fuckton of male privilege. But they are NOT all trans women, and they are not jerks BECAUSE they are trans.

Cis women can be jerks, too, but we’d all rather not have people’s opinions and policies decided based on their behavior.

Anyway. I don’t think of what I do as fighting transphobia. What I think I do is practice an intersectional, trans inclusive feminism. & That is all.

There are many, many ways a woman arrives at “woman”. Trans is just one of many paths.

Bereft of Butches?

This is a really great piece by a woman who has dated butches and trans men for most of her life, telling the brief story of how she came to understand why the lesbian community isn’t “missing” the butches who choose to transition.

She says:

Most trans men I know came out as lesbians, then claimed a butch identity, and then transitioned. Some of them have realized they never were attracted to women at all and are now gay men — this isn’t as odd as it might sound, if you accept that the lesbian community is the only safe space to explore gender, so it’s where many trans men start their journey.  

Maybe that’s why lesbians feel we’ve lost them: because we believed they were ours.

It is, overall, a great piece of writing, plainly laid out, touching on major objections and criticisms of trans inclusion, but it’s also got a light touch. It’s not an angry piece – if it’s anything, it’s got a tiny note of sad in it – not because of the perceived “loss” of butches, but because so many in the lesbian community don’t yet seem to get it.

Trans Health Publication Needs Your Help

Jamison Green & Maddie Deutsch have created a document that will be free and shareable with healthcare professonals — but they need to buy the distribution rights from the publisher. They need $2500 to do it, & they’re well on their way, so please do contribute if you can.

Here’s a special appeal from Jamison Green about why they’re raising the money now & not waiting:

We are restricted from distributing the article for one year, and the audience for the journal is pretty specific, but the content of our piece is (we believe) important to many, and we wanted to get it out as quickly as possible, particularly since work on EMR standards is proceeding apace, and we don’t want to be barred from the conversation by virtue of not having a weighty voice. The authors of this article have publicly shared these ideas previously from many other platforms (public lectures, personal consultations, etc.), and through work done by the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at UCSF. Even the CDC has begun to take up some of the concepts. But the value of being able to show (for example) a hospital administrator a copy of an article in a peer-reviewed journal can often carry the needed weight to make a needed change happen, when the advice from an individual might be ignored or disregarded because it was perceived to be only one voice. We know that the more voices carrying the message, the farther it is likely to get; if we thought we could afford to wait until next April when we will have the right to distribute, we would have waited, and continued to share the information at medical conferences and through other media as we have been doing. But we think we can do better by distributing the article more quickly, and we wanted to engage the wider community in sharing the knowledge, too. Again, I appreciate your help!

You can read more at the GoFundMe site for it, too.

Terrible, Terrible Joke

(via https://www.facebook.com/ifinglovethis)

1st Day Back

Because Lawrence is on the term system, we are just starting our fall term next week, but we’ve got a special first section of our Freshmen Studies class, which I teach. Tomorrow a small group of unsuspecting first year students will meet me as their 1st college professor.

Otherwise, everyone else is back on campus now too, & classes start in earnest on Monday for all.

So welcome back, Lawrence! & So it begins again, this time for the class of 2017.

Gender Binary’s Disservice

This just in from the “We’re not just making this stuff up” department of gender studies, where we don’t actually just talk about how the binary prescribes and proscribes our lives, but even moreso, how it influences and limits medical research:

Both men and women make estrogen out of testosterone, and men make so much that they end up with at least twice as much estrogen as postmenopausal women. As levels of both hormones decline with age, the body changes. But until now, researchers have focused almost exclusively on how estrogen affects women and how testosterone affects men.

Sadly, we have known for a very long while that men have & need estrogen and vice versa, that neither is the “male” hormone or “female” hormone, and yet we persist in separating these hormones based on their dominance in one kind of body or another.

The article goes on to point out that middle aged spread in men is likely due to a decrease in estrogen levels, which was previously believed to be caused by the decrease of T, which, coincidentally, has lead to a $2 billion dollar testosterone industry. Go figure.

Kittens

We happen to be fostering three kittens at the moment, all of them goofy, clumsy little ninjas, hungry and recently weaned. One orange, one grey, one tortico. And they have been amusing the hell out of me, like kittens always do.

But today? They are running all over the place & so I’m reminded of that day 12 years ago when I looked down at our hardwood living room floor in Brooklyn and noticed that our kitty boys – who were then about a year & a half – had left footprints while they played.

& That was when we noticed the light coating of ash on the floor.

& Then it all comes back: the smell, god the smell. But the phone calls, & my family gathering on Long Island that following weekend, to look at our wedding photos – we’d just gotten married in July. Walking down the street in Park Slope & a woman stopping to take a call on her cellphone & watching her go ashen & cry & fall to her knees right there on the sidewalk. Finding a day a few months later to shop up on 7th Avenue and running into a funeral for a Rescue One firefighter.

It was a lot of that. It wasn’t a day.

It was months, now years, more than a decade, & yet the shock of it, and the sadness, never goes away.

So today, tears, and kittens who leave no footprints.

 

Your Own Ethics, or Someone Else’s

The essential issue with a surgery that people get to eliminate or “westernize” the epicanthic fold in their eyelid isn’t dissimilar from too many other arguments about similar surgeries: do you get bigger breasts to fit in, to feel happier, to get ahead? Then what’s wrong with it? If a trans woman gets Facial Feminization Surgery again, so she can fit in, and not to “as trans” as she might otherwise, then what’s wrong with it?

Long ago I decided that unless I were in a similar situation, I couldn’t judge and won’t judge. People make what decisions they do for themselves.

The financial argument – the ‘how dare someone spend that kind of money on vanity?’ kind of critique – also strikes me as a moot point. Every single day people in the industrialized nations spend money on stuff when other people need malaria netting for their beds and clean water.

So where do you end up? I don’t know whether to focus this issue on the marginalization and orientalism that contribute to the kind of discrimination Leo experienced or on the aesthetics and our absurd beauty standards:

The truth is more complicated, if you ask Jiang: “There is a difference between looking more like a white person and looking less like your race,” he believes. “At the highest echelons of beauty, the categories all begin to look the same. We’re all trying to achieve racial transformation, but in a homogenized center ground. My personal view is that there is a white, idealized version of beauty associated more with Western beauty ideals. The argument is whether it’s coincidental or constructed.”

There are two major ways of thinking about it, for feminists: on the one hand, that no one who lives in a culture with all of these intersected oppressions can possibly make a choice out of their own free will (and that a feminist, in rejecting these oppressions, will reject any decision that compromises her ability to resist patriarchy/beauty standards/sexism/etc, OR, that every individual has to make choices based on personal agency and the ability to recognize systemic oppressions and choose to do something to circumvent or resist them.

So which is it? Is he grabbing the bull by the horns or being gored by it?

Personally, I find the epicanthic fold beautiful, and always have.

Make Your Own Dress

Okay, this is both funny and kinda gorgeous: on Reddit, a bunch of men tried their shorts on in a whole new way, creating an off-the-shoulder slinky ass dress for themselves.

There’s a bunch more. I chose this one because of the well-chosen details that wound up on his arm.