Masculinity, Androgyny, and Young Greek Gods

Yesterday Betty met my agent for the first time, and at some point in our conversation – amazingly enough, gender did come up – she mentioned that she not only read Betty as androgynous, but that her reading of his/her androgyny caused her to not know, exactly, how to interact. That is, all the social rules were gone. She is my agent, after all, and likes my work, so for her, this was a good thing; for her, it meant she had to connect with the person, and not her own expectations of who the person was based on his or her gender.

Others, of course, resent not having those kinds of social cues, and get confused and angry. Especially when conflated with sexual desire, or power, or even a tiny black and white world where there are no shades of gray.

Tonight, because it’s gotten hot here in Brooklyn, Betty was walking around for a while in a green Batik sundress of mine. (Note to CDs: babydoll sundresses are not very gendered, and did nothing for Betty’s figure.) A little while later, she gave up on the sundress as well and was walking around naked.

At home, I often flirt with her girl self – whether she’s presenting as female at the moment or not. At some point, she stood in the doorway to talk to me while I was at my computer, and I confess: I had a split-second – a kind of atavist split-second – of noticing what a beautiful man my husband is. I covered it by saying something about her being a girl, but she’d seen it. “When you look at me like that, doll,” she said, “I know what you see.”

What do I see? I see a young man who at age 36 has all the masculine and feminine beauty the Greeks were after. Betty is naturally hairless, naturally svelte, and has a full head of hair that goes wavy in humid weather like this. Go ahead and picture Michelangelo’s David, albeit less muscular, with longer legs. His looks both defy gender and confirm it; his beauty is not the type of masculinity we admire now, in modern 21st Century America, but it is a classic type of beauty, and – dare I say – the kind of beauty that men who love men seem to excel at portraying.

Others who meet him in male mode often remark to me privately that they’d have a difficult time letting go of a man who is so perfectly beautiful. And I admit, it does make it harder. I still go weak in the knees when I see my husband walking around naked; I still go weak in the knees when he’s in women’s underwear and leaning over to apply make-up, too. But in either case, I am responding to physical beauty, the kind that inspires poetry and love songs. And blog entries.

A long time ago I saw a magazine cover with a photo of Johnny Depp on it. A friend and I stopped to ogle and gossip, since we’re both fans. And suddenly it occurred to me: transness had to be real, because my husband looks like Johnny Depp and doesn’t want to. I don’t know anyone else who wouldn’t want to look like Johnny Depp if they could – male, female, or otherwise. (Johnny Depp, of course, also looks good as both male and female, too.)

In some senses, when I see how beautiful my husband is as a man, I really do think that God has a sick sense of humor to put such a beautiful body on a soul with no libido, to put such a beautiful male body on a soul that wants to be female. It’s a double sucker-punch, and it doesn’t make any sense to me – none at all. Add to that Betty’s desire to be my husband – and it becomes some kind of evil triple-play. (Hey, did I just use a sports metaphor? Did someone give me a lobotomy when I wasn’t looking?)
jas headshot

I wish I could bring Betty any kind of comfort or solace in his beautiful self. I wish I could help him feel more at home in a male body. I wish I thought I was a sufficient door prize for not transitioning (but I don’t) and I also wish I didn’t have this feeling that I’m somehow torturing the person I love most in the world.

But all that I’m laying aside tonight. Right now, I just want to get it off my chest: I married the most beautiful man in the world.

^ That’s his acting headshot. And yes, I had his permission: not just to post the photo, but to write this blog entry, too.

Received Wisdom

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve read or heard that when a CD/TG goes through a “slutty phase” it’s because they’re just going through their female adolescence, like all girls go through – experimenting with styles, wearing too much makeup, etc., I’d be rich woman.

While it may be true that teenaged girls experiement with makeup and clothes, it also occurred to me that I had never gone through a “slutty” phase. So I started asking other women – partners, friends, sisters – and amazingly enough, none of them had.

One woman (a trans-partner as well) pointed out that the “slutty” girls in high school – the ones everyone knew would have sex with nearly anyone – were the only ones who dressed that way. (She also pointed out that in retrospect, those girls were most likely subjected to sexual abuse or violence as children or young adults, which I think is entirely accurate).

Most of us were busy covering up our newly-exploding bodies, dealing with what it felt like to have curves, to be looked at sexually. It wasn’t easy. But the last thing we were doing was dressing like sluts – believe me, it comes as quite a shock to have thighs, get your period, grow breasts – and suddenly find that your male friends look at you differently. A lot of women I know just covered up – in whatever ways possible – until they’d made peace with their new bodies. And for a lot of us, that didn’t happen until college, if then.

So what are trannies really doing when they dress slutty? It’s my feeling that what they’re doing is indulging in a “look” that they – socialized as men – think is powerful. It’s part of the mythology that women are in control, that we use men to suit out purposes – you know, the “cold hearted bitch” myth that even Robin Givens is debunking on Oprah this week.

And that’s not so much what bothers me. What bothers me is how quickly we as partners are to accept this “received wisdom.” This crap wasn’t explained this way by a partner – I’m pretty sure of it. Because it does not compute. Any woman who has been raised as and lived as a woman knows it doesn’t compute, but we tell each other things like this to feel better about the way our partners are objectifying women in their choice of clothes. We fail to inform our partners, too.

The most beautiful women I know are not masters of their realm. They are usually more insecure than other women who don’t play the beauty game, actually. I was friends with a woman who was beautiful who would always make sure people had noticed her when she walked into a room; it helped boost her confidence, because otherwise she felt she had nothing to give. She waited by the phone like every other girl, wondering if he was going to call like he said he would.

So please – let’s drop this little bromide. Every time a partner tells you her partner is going through the “slutty” phase, just ask her: did you have one? My money is on the fact that she didn’t go through a “slutty” phase, and neither did any other woman she knows.

Obvious

This may seem obvious to the rest of you, but I’ve had a major revelation tonight.

I’ve been reading Judith Halberstam’s Female Masculinity – just started it, in fact – and I’ve been looking forward to reading it since I was given it – so much so I hurried through the end of another book (yes, about gender too) I’d been reading.

And then I came to this, on page 28:

Because female masculinity seems to be at its most threatening when coupled with lesbian desire, in this book I concentrate on queer female masculinity almost to the exclusion of heterosexual female masculinity.

My enthusiasm dropped like a lead balloon, then, but I read on:

I have no doubt that heterosexual female masculinity menaces gender conformity in its own way, but all too often it represents an acceptable degree of female masculinity as compared to the excessive masculinity of the dyke.

And there you go: not only is she not talking about masculinity in heterosexual women, but she managed to get a dig in about how “acceptable” my masculinity is. (Tell that to all the boys who wouldn’t date me, and all the kids who called me dyke over the years, Prof. Halberstam!) So not only did I not find validation, but found its opposite.

I’m sure for a lot of you, finding stuff about drag queens (or even crossdresser erotica that ends with the CD being sexual with a man, or the stories about how most MTF transsexuals end up dating/marrying men, etc) had the same effect, the same kind of let-down, the hope of finally reading something about yourself only to find, in fact, the author is precisely not talking about you.

What I realized is that in some ways, this is my connection to crossdressers: of being gender variant in a heterosexual context. In fact, one young TG just came on our boards trying to figure out where to meet girls who might like his gender mix; I spent most of my teens and early 20s trying to find a guy who liked women who weren’t models of prototypical femininity, and let’s just say: I found a lot of friends, and not a lot of dates. (I did get asked out by women an awful lot, though.)

Although I probably knew this at some level before now, the actual experience of opening this book with expectation – that I might learn something about who I am and how I fit in – came to an abrupt and unsatisfying halt: oh cool this is about – well maybe it is – no she doesn’t seem to be – oh, it’s not about me at all… like the judges on The Muppet Show.

After writing damn in the margin, I kept reading, and found out that the clitoris was officially discovered in 1559 when two Italian anatomists . . . gave the organ a name and ascribed it a function (p. 60). So far, aside from the academic writing style (which makes me want to take out a red pen) it’s chock full of goodies like that one, despite the fact that I won’t find any answers to my own questions in it.

In solidarity,
Helen

Pronouns

It was interesting to discover that trans-ness has not been the only reason people might want gender-less pronouns, and that people have been trying to coin them since way before “zie” and “hir” (1978) showed up.

Harvard President Summers

With President Summers’ actual statements still unknown, and while he continues to withhold transcripts of what he actually said, we are all left to guess as to what was controversial enough to make a Harvard graduate and female scientist walk out of his lecture in disgust.

What I think it’s important to keep in mind is that there are trends in science as elsewhere; what might be the hot thing today turns out to be absurd tomorrow.

Biological essentialism has its day every few decades, usually as a result of political/social progress. The anti-black science (a la “The Bell Curve”) that came out a few years ago was well-timed: the black middle class was making real inroads.

Likewise, biological essentialism vis a vis women became all the rage when we were trying to return those newly-liberated WWII female factory workers to their homes. It happened again after the 2nd wave of feminism in the 70s. John Gray didn’t come from nowhere; his bullshit is exactly the answer to so many people’s anxieties about the changes in gender roles.

Aside from that, there’s funding. During this presidency, which has proved itself willing to fund only research that it finds politically expedient, we have to see where the money is coming from.

Most theories can seem rational without proof. Interesting and worthy of research, too. But it doesn’t make them right – and until proven otherwise, I think Summers was talking out of his ass.

As trannies, you all are going to have to keep track of this stuff, too. You can’t be surprised when a sodomy law gets taken down, backlash happens – and it happens in all industries and cultures – even that untouchable behemoth we like to call science. One of the things you start to figure out as a minority is that the hotshots of science hobnob with the same legislators that won’t approve trans-friendly legislation. Everyone has politics, but some hide them behind their impressive degrees.

The one thing transwomen especially have to keep in mind – and which they may have no experience in – is understanding that a strong objection (like Hopkins’) isn’t usually about nothing. Find out who is objecting, and why, instead of dismissing a person’s compaints for being too sensitive, or being “politically correct.” Discrimination is a difficult thing to prove but terrifically oppressive to the people living with it. As transfolks, you know what oppression is, and if you’re not going to be accused of “crying wolf” when someone treats you like crap, learn how to give other kinds of objectors the benefit of the doubt before dismissing them.

Summers may be a scientist, but he’s also a man with a lot of power. Power is deafening to those who have it, and unbearably loud for those who don’t.

Subordinate

Here’s some depressing news from The New York Times:

“A new study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggests that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors.”

(The entire article can be found here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/13/opinion/13dowd.html?oref=login&hp)

I doubt this is going to be big news to any women out there, but it’s kind of frightening that it’s actually supported by a survey.

The implications?

Men choose women who are subordinate to them for marriage.

If you look at it one way, the man with an IQ of 150 who makes $100k a year is most likely to marry a woman who has an IQ of less than 150 and earns less than $100k.

Which also means that a woman with an IQ of 150 who makes $100k a year is either going to end up single or marrying a man who has an IQ that is higher than her own and who makes more money – because the men in this study ARE CHOOSING TO MARRY WOMEN WHO ARE SUBORDINATE.

I’m sure plenty of powerful women are dating younger, less powerful hotties. But that’s not the point. The point is that when those hotties choose to get married, they’re going to marry a woman who is subordinate to them, too.

If this trend continues, every single one of my nieces is going to have two choices: to marry a man more powerful than her or to marry a man more powerful than her (or being single, or a lesbian, I suppose).

The study also indicates that it is also unlikely that the guy even pick someone who is an equal in these regards.

To me, it’s like playing any game or sport you’re good at. The guys in this survey are basically saying that they always want to play with someone they’re superior to. The intimation is that they are stacking the odds in their own favor.

One of the researchers, Dr. Stephanie Brown, is quoted as saying: “Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them.”

Men are choosing subordinate partners because they are insecure around powerful women. They are concerned that strong, smart, salaried women might not be faithful. Imagine if women did that: no one would ever get married, both sides standing off to the sides waiting to be the more “dominant” partner.

This report is sickening & depressing to me. Deeply. Because I do have ten nieces, and I thought the world had changed a lot more since when I was a kid, but this survey – and the report about it – pretty much shows that girls are in the same shitty position they’ve always been in: either be okay with being subordinate and married, or be single. Or marry a tranny, I guess.

Since the study was done on undergraduates, I can only that eventually men do wise up – maybe once they’re dating more in their 20s and 30s, and maybe they come to appreciate having an equal, challenging partner.

Still in all, depressing news.

Reading Judith Butler on the D Train

I know I’m not the only one excited by a Christmas gift of gender theory – not only, but not common, either. A slim volume, bound in oily paper.

But how is it – despite my excitement – that once I start to read I start to yawn? Radical performativity and challenges to authorship make me want to stretch like my cat on our bed, him in the sun through our back bedroom window, me on the D train, rays streaming in off the white chips of ice in the East River and on the sludge piles on the Brooklyn side. White light/no heat.

Despite theory, on the train I name genders. Shy momma’s boy, effete hipster, resilient Malay matriarch. Aren’t we all different gendered, even while we pass for one or the other? Does the crisis only happen when everyone sees “man” when one feels “woman,” or vice versa? Or do we just assume that everyone only sees two, like some kind of post-apocalyptic god, cleaving some to the left, some to the right? What do most people see? I try to remember back, from when I didn’t think of gender, and what comes to me is a time when I was on a different train, the Long Island Railroad, and I was about 17. An aging conductor was the first to take my monthly ticket, and he punched it M. I know I changed it later, but I also know I’d wondered if I should, or not. Would all the conductors think me male, or had the lights blinked off for a moment for one semi-blind conductor? If I had it changed, and they still read me as M, – what then? (I had it changed, thinking somehow that my combat boots and shaved head and flannel shirts would still, somehow, by some miracle, be read as F.)

No one reads me now as M, but I still know I’m only passing.

The Uses of ‘Pretty’

Today, on the MHB message boards, a conversation started about why I don’t like or wear high heels. After a few soul-searching and memory-reliving posts, I intended to drop the subject and quit responding, especially after Betty reminded me of how deeply felt my memories are on this subject. But I didn’t drop it, & the reason I didn’t is because I felt like I needed to explain there are real reasons why some women drop “pretty.” I had to stop caring about pretty, because it sucked for me – I stopped caring about “pretty” for pretty much the same reasons the average trans woman stopped caring about “macho.” What went on in my head was something like: Who gives a fuck? I’m never gonna jump your stupid bar, & – oh, wow, it just occurred to me: & I don’t WANT to, either.

I find it troublesome to think that some might read my posts & think of my reasoning as sour grapes. The irony, I suppose, is that I am pretty. I’ve always liked my face, despite my crap skin. Sometimes, however, it’s as if it’s inconceivable to people for “pretty” not to be important to women. I find that outright sexist to be honest – that you can’t give a woman the benefit of the doubt, that she might have good reasons, and that the main issue is not about her thinking she isn’t pretty, and is basically saying ‘to hell with it.’

To me, “pretty” intersects with attitude & behavior, too. Pretty Is as Pretty Does, as they say. “Pretty” intersects with gender, behavior, and class in ways that are too complicated to sort out here.

In the same way that tranw women grow to love & celebrate their transness, I celebrate my departure from those girly games. I wouldn’t be half so smart, half so direct, or half as well-read as I would be had I had a *chance* at being considered pretty. Would my life have been easier? In some ways, & not in others. Watching my pretty friends try to desperately hold onto their looks as they age is pretty depressing, and not something I’d want to deal with.

But the real issue – you know that old question about “would you take a pill if it would make you not trans?” – is whether I value who I have become because of this stuff. As with most tranw women, I wouldn’t take the pill. It was totally a positive thing in my life to have taken that “left turn at Albuquerque.”

My memories of my teenage years are painful, but my decision to side-step the issue is not. As Betty likes to recall, it’s like that Seinfeld episode where they compete about who can not masturbate… & in about 5 minutes, Kramer barges in and announces “I’m out!” For me, it was liberating to say “I’m out!” of those competitions, or even of thinking about this stuff.

That others will continue to value women who value being pretty isn’t my issue. I just want the space & respect NOT to value it. I hate the idea that anyone would see my rejection/dislike of heels as being some kind of problem, on my part, some “riddle” to tease out.

Psychiatrist: So, Ms. Boyd, when did you develop this dislike for heels?
Me: Dunno.
Psychiatrist: So when did you reject being female?
Me: But I didn’t.
Psychiatrist: Well certainly your rejection of heels indicates some unrest with your female-ness.
Me: Um, no, I don’t think so.
Psychiatrist: But don’t you want to be pretty?
Me: Not especially.
Psychiatrist: Why not?
Me: Dunno. I like being other stuff better.

What I’m saying is that I understand perfectly well why most trans women don’t love hockey jerseys & Coors hats. I’m not the psychiatrist that’s going to ask why you have such sour grapes over not being “real men.” And all I’d like, in return, is the same respect: I don’t like heels and I don’t care about being pretty because I just don’t. It’s not some indication that I perceive myself as a failure as a woman, and it’s not some kind of recompense for not feeling like I don’t measure up. I’ve never really cared if most men find me attractive or not. And how I look doesn’t much enter into how I feel about myself.

All of us who are genderqueer (or who didn’t fit in) in one way or another had teenage years that were trial by fire. Having made the decisions we needed to at whatever age we were is half of what makes us such cool grownups, who have the room to appreciate, understand, and befriend people who made similar but different decisions. Not seeing each other as the freaks and weirdos everyone else thinks we are would give us all a much safer space to be ourselves.

Which I think, in the end, is what it’s all about.

Third Gender (Muxe) in Mexico

http://www.oaxacatimes.com/html/third.html#

The Third Gender
By JULIE PECHEUR

Photo by Julie Pecheur

In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, some children are born neither boys nor girls.They are muxe.

Under the still fiery rays of the late afternoon sun, two dozen ox-carts decorated with flowers, palms, and multicolored banners parade down the center of Juchit�n. The convite, the traditional procession announcing a special mass, brings together the whole neighborhood. In one cart, sit erect dignified old men
in white shirts and straw hats; in another, motionless boys in blue shiny costumes with their palms joined in prayer; and in a third one, little made-up girls in regional embroidered dresses throw plastic cups and plates as gifts to the enthusiastic crowd.

As the procession moves forward, standing on the upper part of another cart, two children energetically ward off the branches of the surrounding trees to protect the cart�s adornments. They are about 12 years old, with narrow bodies and loose hair down to their round naked shoulders. One wears a pair of blue jeans and a short white top that reveals a flat belly and no waist. They both look like boys, but they could be mistaken for girls. Here in Juchit�n, on the pacific
coast of the Tehuantepec Isthmus, Mexico�s narrowest land near Guatemala, they are neither girls nor boys. They are muxe (pronounced Mooshey).

In striking opposition to Mexico�s dominant mestizo culture, which is racially mixed and where machismo prevails, the population of Juchit�n is predominantly
Zapotec and does not condemn or reject effeminate male homosexuals. On the contrary. Here muxe (the word comes from the Zapotec adaptation of the Spanish word for woman, mujer) are generally regarded as part and parcel of society, a third element or gender, combining the assets of both the female and male, and sometimes equipped with special intellectual and artistic gifts.
No one knows how many muxe live in this city of 80,000. Around the shaded plaza at the center of town near the market, one often spots them: slightly
effeminate older men, young transvestites (vestidas), and men dressed in shirt and trousers but wearing make-up (pintadas). The majority of the muxe live in
the two popular neighborhoods where most fishermen and peasants reside. Those in the upper classes however, still tend to stay en closet, in the closet.

�In Juchit�n, nearly all families have a great-uncle, a son, or a bother who is a muxe,� says Adolfina Pineda Esteva, a 47 year-old primary school teacher
whose younger brother, now known as Am�rica, is a muxe. �Not all parents accept them, but they are not rejected,� she explains while her husband Andr�s nods in agreement. �They have their space in the society. They teach dance, sew, head beauty salons, make adornments� Muxe are very active and creative.�

�Here one is born a muxe. One does not become one,� says Ulises Toledo Santiago, a thirty-year-old muxe, echoing the general opinion. Ulises, who dresses as a man but whose face expressions and voice are somewhat
effeminate, has a license in law and works for the city family planning agency. In an article published in 1995, anthropologist Beverly Chi�as confirms that: �The idea of choosing gender or of sexual orientation�the two of which are not distinguished by the Isthmus Zapotecs�is as ludicrous as suggesting that one can choose one�s skin color.�

Much to the annoyance of the 16th century Spanish conquerors, male homosexuality was widespread and tolerated in many North American indigenous societies, such as the Isthmus Zapotecs and the Yucatan Mayas. The Spaniards highly valued �manliness� and �assertive� behavior and placed a stigma on
�submissive� attitudes. Their chronicles never failed to mention the Indians� �corrupt� behavior, which they labeled as �sodomy� after the biblical town of Sodom, destroyed by God because of the sinful mores of its inhabitants. While systematically destroying all statues and frescoes representing male-male sexual
encounters, the Spaniards found in the natives� different approach to sexuality yet another theological justification to annihilate their culture and convert them to Catholicism.

The people of the Isthmus however have always fiercely defended their identity against conquering powers, whether Aztec, Spanish, or later French. Nowadays in
the region, contrary to the national mestizo pattern where men prevail in every strata of the society, women have more outlets for social participation and
enjoy the resulting powers. Typically, Juchitecan men work the fields and go fishing, participate in politics, and shape intellectual and artistic life. Women, on the other hand, do the housework, but also organize the fiestas and take part in various important commercial activities. In Juchit�n for instance, they control the vital daily market, reigning over piles of mangos and dried fish, their full-size bodies wrapped in long black skirts and huipiles, the short dark traditional blouses embroidered with large bright flowers.

Juchitecan women thus enjoy unusual financial autonomy and prestige, which has led many observers, chiefly foreigners, to mistakenly define Juchit�n as a
matriarchal society, a designation which overlooks the male equally crucial, and sometimes domineering, roles. Nevertheless, women and female activities are
not considered secondary, which may partly explain why muxe, who assume effeminate manners and participate in both female and male economic activities, are usually not discriminated against.

When a son prefers dolls to pistols, female cousins to male ones, and dresses to trousers, many mothers rejoice, even if the majority of fathers merely resign
themselves. For women, raising a muxe implies that strong arms will take care of their house while they go out to work and that someone will look after them
as they grow older. (Men have a tendency to prefer younger women and leave the household, even in Juchit�n.) �Parents with a muxe know that he will
always take care of them because he will never get married and leave the house,� says Ulises, who lives with his mother. �Our society is very tolerant because the muxe work hard and support their families.�

Traditionally, muxe are expected to cook, clean, look after the children, take care of the elders, and bring home an additional income. In recent years, muxe, like women, have started to gain access to higher education and careers such as lawyers and doctors.

Moreover, they play a key role in preparing the countless fiestas, essential to the identity of the community. This is not a light task: Juchit�n celebrates at least 20 in-town velas, the round of parties in honor of patron saints or particular events. During virtually the entire month of May, for instance, the streets are filled with parades, music, and flowers. Then, there are 20 or so obligatory national holidays, about 30 unmissable velas in neighborhood communities, plus the frequent weddings, birthdays, graduations. For all these celebrations, muxe design, embroider and sew traditional female outfits, make garlands and paper chains, fix hairstyles and make-up, and set family and church altars.

Less visible however, is the sexual role the muxe play in the Juchitecan society. Although classical heterosexual rigid classifications hardly hold when it comes to homosexual preferences, it is generally true that muxe don�t have sexual relations with other muxe. They see themselves as women and want men. And the men they sleep with, called mayate, are not considered homosexuals because they play the �active� part. �Because a woman�s virginity before marriage is still very important in our society, many young boys are initiated by the muxe,� says Yudith L�pez Saynes, the director of Gunaxhii Guendanabani, an association dedicated to AIDS prevention. �It is widely accepted, but with AIDS now, people are more cautious.� Andr�s L�pez, a thirty-year old pintada nurse who heads a medical service, explains laughing, �You go in the street and the boys play tough with their friends, but then they flirt with you.� His friend Felina
Santiago Vadivieso, a 36-year-old fake blond muxe who heads a beauty salon, confirms that younger boys keep on asking her advice on how to please their
girlfriends. She prefers older men however, although she can�t kiss them or hold their hands in the street. �A lot of Juchitecan men marry women from other towns like Puebla. They are very conservative and more homophobic,� she explains, before adding in a laugh: �But their sons get caught in the local movement, and their husbands never leave it!�

For almost thirty years, muxe have had their own velas in Juchit�n. Ulises for instance, organizes his club�s December 28th vela, baile con migo, or Dance With Me. The first muxe vela, the vela de las aut�nticas intrepidas buscadoras del peligro, or the vela of the Authentic Intrepids in Search of Danger, took place in
1976. The organizer, Oscar Cazorla Pineda, a fifty-four-year old muxe, is the owner of a famous dance hall in the center of Juchit�n and the leader of the Intrepidas club. With large features and figure but feminine movements, he is also a successful and respected businessmuxe, who sells the traditional and
ubiquitous gold jewelry, which he himself puts on to party.

Each year in November, after a special catholic mass held in its honor, the Intrepids� vela gathers all the city�s muxe along with fifteen hundred men,
women�grandparents and young adults�and children. The blast, which now gets national attention, requires a full year of preparation and costs around $10,000
dollars. Oscar and the Intrepidas cover some of the expenses, but most are now paid by others, including the town�s elected officials. In fact, the Intrepidas are partisans of the PRI, the political party in power in Juchit�n, and they regularly participate in political meetings and demonstrations. Conversely, during the vela, it is the city officeholder who crowns the Intrepid beauty queen.

Nowadays during fiestas, many muxe wear traditional women�s dresses or drag queen outfits. An increasing number, and virtually the entire new generation, also dress like women in every day life. To Filiberto Cruz, who, at 89 is the oldest Intrepid, this new tendency is rather shocking. In his time, nobody would do it,
although he confesses with a shy smile that he himself would sometimes wear gold buttons and discreet bracelets.

This new transvestite tendency has created dilemma and friction in the society as well. In schools, for instance, some teachers, often from other parts of the
country, do not tolerate the new trend and children, as mischievous as anywhere else, make fun of it. Many Juchitecan women also twitch at the sight of their
traditional dresses on muxe.

�This transvestite process is rather new,� says Amaranta G�mez Regalado, a 26 year-old beautiful muxe who wears traditional huipiles and became famous last
year when she ran for congressional in the Oaxaca state elections. �It started about twenty years ago and I think it has to do with the advent of marketing
and television.� In her low caressing voice, she says she understands the debate about traditional clothing, but states, �It is part of our culture, and I consider
myself a vehicle of that culture too.�

Vicki Santiago Lu�s, a twenty-year-old muxe who was born Jorge and came to Oaxaca because she found Juchit�n intolerant towards gays, decided to wear
women�s clothing when she was 13, against the advise of a muxe her age who thought it could be dangerous. She received the support of her mom, grandfather, and a couple of girlfriends who helped her define her style�western and sexy. But to these days, her grandmother has refused to accept it. Next December nonetheless, Vicki will wear to the vela club baile con migo the regional dress her uncle bought for her to receive the 2004 beauty queen crown. �I am so happy to be the queen,� she confesses with a soft, but rasping voice, her ecstatic eyes twinkling. �I have admired the transvestite muxe since I was a very little boy.�

�The new generation is only interested in dressing up like women and looking beautiful. They don�t think at all about their future,� argues Felina who herself
wears a knee-long blue jeans skirt. �We follow the examples of the older muxe: we work and take care of our parents. My motivation is my parents. I live alone
and it is my duty to help them.�

The new generation’s attitude is not limited to clothing. A few muxe have also started considering using hormones, breast implants or aesthetic surgery to narrow their noses. Only one so far is said to be thinking about getting an operation to remove his genitals.

For Amaranta, who was able to travel around the world as an anti-AIDS activist and is considering furthering her education in social studies, muxe ought to create different roles for themselves within the Juchitecan society. �When I was 13 or 14, it was impossible for a muxe to enter politics, to write articles, to be an
activist, an opinion maker. We had to embroider and create adornments,� she says. �Now the muxe who wants to should be able to open up intellectual spaces for herself.� With her charming ironic smile she adds: �It has not been easy for me. My mom wanted me to learn a traditional muxe job. Between two conferences she would tell me, �at least bake a cake or something.�� When asked if marriage is part of the agenda, the vast majority of muxe seem perplexed, as if they had never thought of it. �People get married, and then they
divorce,� says Felina. �I don�t want that. I want my relationships to last the time they should last and that�s it. And I want to enjoy all the men I want.�
�In Juchit�n marriage is not a necessity,� says Ulises. �It is an issue that you find in other societies, where homosexuals are discriminated against. Here we don�t need a political movement or the creation of special space in society. We already
have it.�

‘As Nature Made Him’

Gender change victim dies

WINNIPEG – A man who was born a boy but raised as a girl in a famous nurture-versus-nature experiment has died at age 38.

David Reimer, who shared his story about his botched circumcision in the pages of a book and on the Oprah TV show, took his own life last Tuesday.

His mother, Janet Reimer, said she believes her son would still be here today had it not been for the devastating gender study that led to much emotional hardship. “I think he felt he had no options. It just kept building up and building up.”

After the circumcision accident as a toddler, David became the subject of an experiment dubbed the John/Joan case in the ’60s and ’70s. Janet said she still harbours anger toward a Baltimore doctor who convinced her and her husband, Ron, to give female hormones to their son and raise him as a daughter, Brenda.

Kids were cruel to Brenda growing up in Winnipeg.

This gender transformation was widely reported as a success and proof that children are not by nature feminine or masculine but through nurture are socialized to become girls or boys. David’s identical twin brother, Brian, offered researchers a matched control subject.

But when David discovered the truth about his past during his teenage years, he rebelled and resumed his male identity, marrying and becoming a stepfather to three children.

David recently slumped into a depression after losing his job and separating from his wife. He was also still grieving the death of his twin brother two years earlier, their mother said.

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Continue reading “‘As Nature Made Him’”

Good Article on Intersex

Gender blending
by By Will Evans — Sacramento Bee on 28 April 2004

David Cameron feels neither completely male nor female. Born with male genitalia, Cameron began growing breasts during puberty and didn’t sprout chest hair until testosterone treatment kicked in. Instead of the typical male XY chromosomes or the female XX set, Cameron has XXY.

“I feel sort of like a blend,” says Cameron, 56, of San Francisco.

Some researchers say that’s a reasonable conclusion. Humans don’t always clearly divide into male and female categories. Some are born with abnormalities that challenge the very definition of sex. The term for them is intersex. Julia, a schoolteacher from a small town in central California, didn’t want to be identified to protect her daughter. Now 4, the girl has a condition that caused an enlarged clitoris.

Doctors couldn’t tell Julia her baby’s sex until after several days of testing. They first came to her with a box of tissues, announcing, “We have a problem.”

Julia felt hot from head to toe from the shock. She remembers the hospital bracelet that said only “baby” instead of “boy” or “girl.” She cried at the thought of her child’s future challenges. “Oh, what a hard life,” she told her husband.

The concept of intersex that links Cameron and the little girl is too blurry to yield a definition with which everyone agrees. Many people with XXY chromosomes, for example, consider themselves absolutely male and distance themselves from the intersex world.

But prominent academics and activists define intersex as anyone whose sex chromosomes, external genitalia or internal reproductive system is not considered standard for male or female.

Peter Trinkl, a computer specialist in Berkeley, doesn’t really know how he looked at birth. All he has to work with are his genital scars, evidence of surgery. His parents didn’t tell him much. In school, he was beaten up and called an alien.

Trinkl, 51, considers himself a heterosexual male, but dating brings up difficult issues, and he hasn’t tried for 20 years.

“If I’m a man or a woman, I don’t want to get too much into that,” he says.

Only recently did Trinkl summon the courage, he says, to research the intersex community and hunt for his medical records.

Some infants are born with ambiguous genitalia while others clearly look male or female and may not find out they are different until they reach puberty. Still others bear a visible difference in anatomy – an enlarged clitoris or a tiny penis – but otherwise can be determined male or female. And some have the standard chromosomes of one sex and the external appearance of the other.

Intersex activists decry the shame and secrecy caging their condition. They urge doctors to avoid cosmetic genital surgery on intersex infants until the children themselves can decide if they want it. Cameron is helping to organize a public hearing on intersex issues to be held by San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission next month.

Children frequently are born with wide-ranging genetic and physical abnormalities. Intersex conditions just happen to manifest in an area that gets at the very definition of who we are.

What defines a person’s sex – their chromosomes, their appearance or their psyche? What if they don’t match?

How can you assign a sex to a child when you don’t really know? How can you not?

What if you surgically reconstruct a baby to look like one sex and the child grows up to identify as the other? What does gay or straight mean, then?

And when everything from color-coded baby presents on out is sexually segregated, is it possible to grow up as an alternative to male or female?

The mind-boggling, gender-bending conundrum plays out in people’s lives.

Intersex people might make up as much as 2 percent of live births, with between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent of all infants receiving genital surgery, according to a scientific journal article co-written by Anne Fausto-Sterling, a professor of biology and gender studies at Brown University.

“If you look at this from the bigger philosophical view of, ‘Are there really only two kinds of people in the world – either men or women?’ – then the answer to that clearly is no,” she says.

Human sexuality, instead, can be seen as a spectrum or continuum, she says.

The medical profession has traditionally viewed an intersex birth as a “social emergency,” pushing to assign a child’s sex immediately and perform corrective surgery as soon as possible, says Celia Kaye, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Doctors want to avoid traumatizing parents and help the child grow up normally, without confusion or ridicule, she says.

Kaye helped create the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on intersex newborns along these lines in 2000. But the academy might revise its guidelines because of a growing number in the field who question whether surgery and sex assignment should take place so early in life.

A baby with an enlarged clitoris or minuscule penis, depending on one’s perspective, conventionally has been more likely to be determined a female because it’s surgically easier to make that happen, Kaye says. But it’s not clear, she says, whether that child will grow to be a happy, functioning woman. Some activists call it “genital mutilation.”

Sonoma County resident Cheryl Chase, 47, had surgery on her enlarged clitoris, leaving a “big, flat scar.” But she says the biggest harm doctors caused was “the idea that this was shameful,” telling her parents to keep it a secret.

In the early 1990s, Chase, who identifies herself as an intersex lesbian female, confronted doctors, called the press and founded the Intersex Society of North America, creating today’s intersex movement.

Because of pressure from advocates, doctors are now more open with patients and more likely to present parents with options rather than telling them what to do, says Amy Wisniewski, who does intersex research at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital.

Julia, mother of the 4-year-old girl, says one of her daughter’s doctors “bullied” her into making a surgery appointment. Some surgery is necessary when the toddler hits puberty, but decreasing her clitoris is optional and cosmetic.

Because doctors can’t guarantee a post-surgery clitoris will retain the same sexual sensation, Julia worried her consent may deprive her daughter of a vital part of life. Julia cried every day until she finally canceled the surgery.

“We’re going to leave the decision up to her and talk to her and support her when she’s old enough to make that decision,” Julia says over the phone.

How old is that? If you can delay surgery, can you also put off assigning a sex?

The questions build quickly, but most people are stuck at the first one: “What is intersex?” The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center at the University of California, Davis, held a talk on exactly that as part of its first Intersex Awareness Week earlier this month.

It’s not clear, Wisniewski says, whether rates of homosexuality are higher among intersex people. But because it shares a battle against the closet, the gay community has embraced the intersex populace, with some organizations adding “I” to the alphabet soup of LGBT.

Still, some with sex chromosome variations keep as far away from both communities as possible.

Those with Klinefelter’s syndrome, or XXY, struggle in a world that glorifies a man’s-man masculinity and sexual prowess, mocking androgynous qualities in men as signs of homosexuality. They’re already marked by that extra “female” chromosome and, for some, breast development and smaller genitalia. The last thing many want is to be aligned with the gay community.

Melissa Aylstock of Loomis is clear: Her XXY son is unambiguously male, and most men with Klinefelter’s syndrome don’t consider themselves intersex. Her son’s doctor, Ronald Swerdloff, chief of endocrinology at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, doesn’t consider Klinefelter’s syndrome intersex, either, because it doesn’t produce ambiguous genitalia.

When her son was diagnosed at age 8, Aylstock was “scared to death.” She wrote to Ann Landers, asking that a post-office box address be published for other parents to get in contact. After the letter ran in 1989, Aylstock received 1,000 letters and hundreds of dollars to start an organization. She founded Klinefelter Syndrome and Associates in Roseville.

Testosterone treatment is the norm for Aylstock’s son, now 23. In the school gym, students asked about his patch. He told them it was for nicotine addiction. “Mind you, we’re Mormon,” says his mother. “That just cracks me up. So he handled it.”

The son declined to talk about his condition in the context of the intersex community.

“So many guys are trying to be just normal,” says Robert Grace of Sonora, who found out at 39 he has XXY chromosomes. When he told people, they thought, “Oh, you’re gay,” he says.

When Grace should have been going through puberty, he watched the other boys whistling at girls and thought, “What jerks.” But he wasn’t gay.

His diagnosis popped up during his premarital physical. “I looked at my (fianc�e) and I said, ‘You don’t have to marry me.’ ”

They did marry and have adopted four children, two of whom also have Klinefelter’s syndrome.

“As a general population, we really would like to be accepted,” says Grace, a “stay-at-home Mr. Mom.” “If I sat next to you, you would have no clue that I was XXY, so why do we need another label?”

Cameron, on the other hand, embraces the other label.

Cameron’s birth certificate and driver’s license declare that “he” is male. With a 6-foot-10 build, a balding head, a deep voice and a beard, Cameron could hardly pass for female yet feels more female than male.

When faced with those annoying little boxes designating “M” or “F” on forms and applications, Cameron might check both or write “intersex.” It somehow seems appropriate that Cameron sometimes goes by the nickname “Iris,” after a favorite flower, the bearded iris.

Cameron got the Klinefelter’s diagnosis at 29 and began testosterone therapy. Where before Cameron had a “really nice smooth body,” now everywhere is hair. “I hate it,” Cameron says. “Quite frankly, I would really like the body I had 27 years ago back.”

Cameron has been with the same male partner for 26 years, though before that Cameron had a girlfriend. Earlier this month, the partner dropped to his knees and presented Cameron a diamond ring.

Cameron wants to wed but first is inquiring with civil rights lawyers because of the radical questions the act could provoke.

After all, would it be a standard marriage, a same-sex marriage or something else entirely?

——————————————————————————–
Misused terms add confusion

The term “intersex,” according to advocates and academics, means anyone with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system not considered standard for male or female. Here’s what intersex is not.

Hermaphrodite: The medical definition of a true hermaphrodite is someone with both ovarian and testicular tissue. This is rare and only one of various intersex conditions. Many intersex people consider this term offensive.

Homosexual: Some intersex people are gay, some are not. One doesn’t imply the other.

Transgender: This refers to people who are born one sex but identify as the other. Some choose a sex-change operation.

Eunuch: This refers to a castrated male.

——————————————————————————–

Genetic roots of intersex conditions

Intersex conditions vary in their genetic roots and physical manifestations. Here are details of a few conditions.

Androgen insensitivity syndrome: Patients have male chromosomes (XY) but don’t respond to androgens (male sex hormones, including testosterone). They have undescended testes, normal female external genitalia and breast development. Those with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome have ambiguous genitalia.

Gonadal dysgenesis: Patients have XY chromosomes, but their gonads don’t produce androgens. They have female external genitalia. Those with partial gonadal dysgenesis have ambiguous genitalia.

5-alpha-reductase deficiency: Patients have XY chromosomes but can’t produce the sex hormone dihydrotestosterone. They have testes, a penis resembling a clitoris and a scrotum resembling outer labia. They undergo some masculinizing changes during puberty.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: Patients have female chromosomes (XX) but produce excess androgens. They have ovaries, an enlarged clitoris and fused labia resembling a scrotum.

Klinefelter’s syndrome: Patients have the sex chromosome variation XXY and are sterile. They have male genitalia, sometimes with smaller sex organs, and sometimes develop breasts at puberty.

Turner syndrome: Patients have the chromosome variation of only one X. They have normal female external genitalia but can have other physical abnormalities. Because they don’t have functioning ovaries, puberty doesn’t cause breast development or menstruation.

Source: The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center

——————————————————————————–
Resources

* Bodies Like Ours support group with online forums: www.bodieslikeours.org, (610) 258-7466.

* Intersex Society of North America: www.isna.org.

* Klinefelter Syndrome and Associates: www.genetic.org, (888) 999-9428.

* The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center guide for patients and parents: www.hopkinsmedicine.org/pediatricendocrinology/intersex.

http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifestyle/story/8971622p-9897782c.html

UCLA Doctor on Sex Identity

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-vilain19apr19,1,4766046.story

COMMENTARY
Gender Blender

Intersexual? Transsexual? Male, female aren’t so easy to define

By Eric Vilain, Eric Vilain is chief of medical genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

This was the moment of truth. The ultimate test before the coronation. A deacon would extend his hand below the robe of the future pope and check for the presence of two testicles. Middle Ages legend has it that this rite was started after Joan, an Englishwoman and a cross-dresser, managed to get elected pope in 855 but was discovered two years later because of an ill-timed childbirth.

Will we soon be witnessing such surreal examinations in our city halls? After all, if the Constitution will allow only marriages between a man and a woman, the county clerks had better make sure that they are issuing licenses legally. Patting down the two male organs would ensure an absolute certainty of sex identification. Or would it?

In reality, sex isn’t so straightforward. Let’s take testicles as a defining characteristic of a man. Are individuals with only one testis “real” men? The “two-testicles rule” would disqualify about 3% of male newborns a year � about 4.5 million Americans total. Does one need to produce active sperm or eggs to be considered a man or woman? Adding a fertility criterion would eliminate millions more from both categories.

If conventional wisdom cannot easily define men and women by just a simple look at the private parts, science should help us distinguish between the sexes. Since 1921, we have known that women have two X chromosomes and men an X and a Y chromosome. This is the fundamental genetic distinction between men and women.

But still, it’s been difficult to find clear-cut answers. Olympic Games officials have struggled with the science of “sexing” individuals for many years � often after high-profile cases of gender confusion. In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, U.S. runner Helen Stephens beat Polish runner Stella Walsh in the 100-meter sprint, winning a gold medal and breaking Walsh’s 1932 record. The Polish press falsely accused Stephens of being a man. Ironically, after Walsh was killed during a 1980 robbery, her autopsy revealed male genitals. Decades later, Erica Schinegger, who won the women’s downhill skiing world title for Austria in 1966, was two years later found to be chromosomally male and, as such, disqualified for the Olympics. Her case forced the International Olympic Committee to require all athletes to take a test counting the number of X chromosomes.

In 1990, scientists learned that a gene called SRY on the Y chromosome is what makes fetuses become boys and not girls. In 1992, the Olympic test was perfected to detect the presence of the SRY gene.

But even that was insufficient. Any genetics expert knows that there are exceptions to the chromosome rules. There are females with a Y chromosome; there are males with no SRY gene. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the IOC decided to “refrain from performing gender tests,” conceding that no single test provided a complete answer.

Identifying the gender of intersex and transsexual individuals poses an even more complex challenge. Intersexuality is defined as the presence of “ambiguous genitalia,” making it impossible to tell easily whether the newborn baby is a boy or a girl. It occurs at a frequency of 1 in 4,000 births. Plastic surgery of the genitals is often performed to conform a typical appearance of one sex or the other, and a male or female legal sex is assigned shortly after birth. Many of these children grow up feeling alienated from their legal sex identity and undergo reconstructive surgery as adults to regain their dominant gender identity. If intersex adults change their legal sex, which sex should be considered when they marry?

Although the validity of marriage of an intersex person has not been tried in court, legal challenges to marriages of transsexuals abound. Transsexuals believe that they have been born in the wrong body and often pursue a difficult and painful process of surgical reassignment. But courts often don’t recognize the change of sex and invalidate spousal rights of transsexuals. In the 1999 landmark case of Littleton vs. Prange, a male-to-female transsexual was denied the right to sue under a wrongful death statute for the death of her husband. The Texas Court of Appeals referred to sex provided by “our creator” as opposed to sex created by physicians and rejected “man-made” sexual organs.

Sex should be easily definable, but it’s not. Our gender identity � our profound sense of being male or female � is independent from our anatomy. A constitutional amendment authorizing marriages only between men and women would not only discriminate against millions of Americans who do not fit easily in the mold of each category, but would simply be flawed and contrary to basic biological realities.

“The Opposite Sex” – Showtime documentary

From The Advocate, May 11, 2004

The Opposite Sex, a two-part Showtime documentary, begins with the gripping journey of trans man Rene Pena, a God-fearing, married truck driver

By Christopher Lisotta

The Opposite Sex: Rene’s Story opens with documentary subject Rene Pena jogging through the countryside. Handsome, muscled, and driven, he’s a prime example of masculinity. That only grows more obvious when the traditional, God-fearing Pena, a truck driver, interacts with his pretty wife of 11 years, Wona, and their two young sons. But appearances can be deceptive – although everything about Pena’s mind and heart shows he is a man, his body still forces him to face the fact that, at least biologically, he is a woman.

Films and documentaries exploring the transgender experience have become all the rage thanks to the success of Boys Don’t Cry, Southern Comfort, and Soldier’s Girl. But Bruce Hensel, MD, a heterosexual practicing physician and emergency room director who has been a medical reporter on Los Angeles’s KNBC-TV for more than 15 years, wanted to make a powerful film that presents the process of transition from start to finish.

The result is The Opposite Sex, a documentary in two parts, with each part telling the story of a different individual. The first part, Rene’s Story, airs May 3 at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on Showtime. Jamie’s Story, which follows a male-to-female transition, will debut in June. After each segment, Hensel moderates a panel in which trans men and women talk about their own experiences.

“I was so fascinated that so many people are so prejudiced about what they don’t understand,” Hensel explains. “I also knew that I could show the medical side. No movie has ever shown the full journey.” Pena wasn’t Hensel’s ideal choice for the female-to-male segment. Since the now-33-year-old was so masculine, Hensel feared that the audience wouldn’t believe Pena was a biological woman, and he felt the medical journey he was hoping to capture on film would be too short. But after a meeting with the couple – and with prodding from his business partner, out reality TV producer Stuart Krasnow – Hensel changed his mind.

“When we interviewed Rene and Wona, [the decision] was a no-brainer,” he explains. What was initially a liability became an asset once Hensel heard Pena’s personal story. Pena tells The Advocate, “I told my mom when I was 3 years old that God was going to make me a boy, and I never turned back from that statement, not one day of my life.” He refused to wear dresses and fought attempts by his family to make him act or appear feminine. At 11, Pena decided to live his life as a boy. “I just happened to have the strength to be what I wanted to be,” he says, noting that other transgendered people often wait decades before taking that step. “I may be different, but I’m not special.”

Pena’s reason for doing the project was clear: He wanted to get his lower surgery paid for and performed by a world-class doctor. In his early 20s Pena had a double mastectomy, but he’d never had a medical procedure to alter his vagina. Although the film’s producers refused to pay for any surgery, Pete Raphael, MD, a Texas surgeon who performs an innovative procedure that transforms a clitoris into a penis, did the work for free. One of the distinctive elements of the film is its graphic medical footage, which shows exactly what Pena went through to become a man.

Aside from Pena’s unswerving determination, Hensel was fascinated by his relationship with Wona (the couple are in the process of adopting the two boys who live with them). Intensely loyal to one another, the former high school sweethearts were reeling from being shunned by their church after Pena’s transgender status was revealed. “They have so many layers,” Hensel says. “They really love each other in the deepest way possible.” The Penas gave Hensel complete access to their lives, which play out with intense emotion on the screen as one revelation after another comes out into the open.

Both Pena and Hensel insist that the film does not exaggerate. “The pain you see is the pain that’s really there,” Hensel explains. “And triumph, the triumph is really there.”

Gender- bender teen shot in B’klyn

Gender- bender teen shot in B’klyn

By CELESTE KATZ
and GREG GITTRICH
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

A 20-year-old Brooklyn man shot a teenage transvestite four times – capping their illicit pre-dawn encounter with gunfire after discovering the youth was a boy, cops said yesterday. Jamel Stevens was tracked down Wednesday by detectives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and charged with attempted murder, assault and menacing
in the attack, authorities said. Stevens shot the 14-year-old twice in the left arm and twice in the left thigh just after 3 a.m. on Feb. 21 in the Marcy Houses playground on Nostrand Ave., police said. The young victim’s wounds were not life-threatening. He was treated and released from Kings County Hospital, police said. The teenage transvestite was wearing lip gloss and tight pants, and had long hair and painted nails, the source said. Still, there is no mistaking him for a girl, said Rafeal Hernandez, 17, a neighbor of the victim.
“It’s just noticeable that he’s a guy,” Hernandez said. Crystal Gonzalez, 19, said she had warned the teen to stop stuffing his shirt and dressing like a girl. “But he didn’t listen to me,” she said. “There are a lot of crazy people in this world who don’t accept gay people.” At Marcy Houses, Stevens’ family was stunned by his arrest. “Jamel has never been in trouble a day in his life,” said his grandmother, Patricia Fleming, 62. “I never had to go to the police station for him.” Fleming said Stevens, a construction worker, was living in Florida but moved back to Brooklyn this year after his sick mother lapsed into a coma. Fleming said she visited Stevens’ mother in the hospital yesterday. “I told her, ‘We need you. I can’t do this alone,'” she said.

Originally published on April 16, 2004

Nyack, NY Talk on Intersex

This article, ” Talk Calls for Fair Treatment of Intersex Children ,” is about a local talk that was given by members of the intersex group Bodies Like Ours.

It does a decent job of presenting the evidence against surgical choices made without an intersexed child’s consent. Up until now, the standard operating procedure has been to assign intersex children a sex at birth, which often leads to more confusion, shame, and medical problems. Intersex groups, like the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) and Intersex Initiative recommend instead that no surgical options be used without the patient’s consent, although they do think the children should be raised one gender or the other.
Continue reading “Nyack, NY Talk on Intersex”

New Yorker article

MY AMENDMENT
by GEORGE SAUNDERS
Issue of 2004-03-08
Posted 2004-03-01

A s an obscure, middle-aged, heterosexual short-story writer, I am often asked, George, do you have any feelings about Same-Sex Marriage?

To which I answer, Actually, yes, I do.

Like any sane person, I am against Same-Sex Marriage, and in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban it.

To tell the truth, I feel that, in the interest of moral rigor, it is necessary for us to go a step further, which is why I would like to propose a supplementary constitutional amendment.

In the town where I live, I have frequently observed a phenomenon I have come to think of as Samish-Sex Marriage. Take, for example, K, a male friend of mine, of slight build, with a ponytail. K is married to S, a tall, stocky female with extremely short hair, almost a crewcut. Often, while watching K play with his own ponytail as S towers over him, I have wondered, Isn�t it odd that this somewhat effeminate man should be married to this somewhat masculine woman? Is K not, on some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a man? And is not S, on some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a woman?

Then I ask myself, Is this truly what God had in mind?

Take the case of L, a female friend with a deep, booming voice. I have often found myself looking askance at her husband, H. Though H is basically pretty masculine, having neither a ponytail nor a tight feminine derri�re like K, still I wonder: H, when you are having marital relations with L, and she calls out your name in that deep, booming, nearly male voice, and you continue having marital relations with her (i.e., you are not �turned off�), does this not imply that you, H, are, in fact, still �turned on�? And doesn�t this indicate that, on some level, you, H, have a slight latent desire to make love to a man?

Or consider the case of T, a male friend with an extremely small penis. (We attend the same gym.) He is married to O, an average-looking woman who knows how to fix cars. I wonder about O. How does she know so much about cars? Is she not, by tolerating this non-car-fixing, short-penised friend of mine, indicating that, on some level, she wouldn�t mind being married to a woman, and is therefore, perhaps, a tiny bit functionally gay?

And what about T? Doesn�t the fact that T can stand there in the shower room at our gym, confidently towelling off his tiny unit, while O is at home changing their sparkplugs with alacrity, indicate that it is only a short stroll down a slippery slope before he is completely happy being the �girl� in their relationship, from which it is only a small fey hop down the same slope before T is happily married to another man, perhaps my car mechanic, a handsome Portuguese fellow I shall refer to as J?

Because my feeling is, when God made man and woman He had something very specific in mind. It goes without saying that He did not want men marrying men, or women marrying women, but also what He did not want, in my view, was feminine men marrying masculine women.

Which is why I developed my Manly Scale of Absolute Gender.

Using my Scale, which assigns numerical values according to a set of masculine and feminine characteristics, it is now easy to determine how Manly a man is and how Fem a woman is, and therefore how close to a Samish-Sex Marriage a given marriage is.

Here�s how it works. Say we determine that a man is an 8 on the Manly Scale, with 10 being the most Manly of all and 0 basically a Neuter. And say we determine that his fianc�e is a -6 on the Manly Scale, with a -10 being the most Fem of all. Calculating the difference between the man�s rating and the woman�s rating�the Gender Differential�we see that this proposed union is not, in fact, a Samish-Sex Marriage, which I have defined as �any marriage for which the Gender Differential is less than or equal to 10 points.�

Friends whom I have identified as being in Samish-Sex Marriages often ask me, George, given that we have scored poorly, what exactly would you have us do about it?

Well, one solution I have proposed is divorce�divorce followed by remarriage to a more suitable partner. K, for example, could marry a voluptuous high-voiced N.F.L. cheerleader, who would more than offset his tight feminine derri�re, while his ex-wife, S, might choose to become involved with a lumberjack with very large arms, thereby neutralizing her thick calves and faint mustache.

Another, and of course preferable, solution would be to repair the existing marriage, converting it from a Samish-Sex Marriage to a healthy Normal Marriage, by having the feminine man become more masculine and/or the masculine woman become more feminine.

Often, when I propose this, my friends become surly. How dare I, they ask. What business is it of mine? Do I think it is easy to change in such a profound way?

To which I say, It is not easy to change, but it is possible.

I know, because I have done it.

When young, I had a tendency to speak too quickly, while gesturing too much with my hands. Also, my opinions were unfirm. I was constantly contradicting myself in that fast voice, while gesturing like a girl. Also, I cried often. Things seemed so sad. I had long blond hair, and liked it. My hair was layered and fell down across my shoulders, and, I admit it, I would sometimes slow down when passing a shopwindow to look at it, to look at my hair! I had a strange constant feeling of being happy to be alive. This feeling of infinite possibility sometimes caused me to laugh when alone, or even, on occasion, to literally skip down the street, before pausing in front of a shopwindow and giving my beautiful hair a cavalier toss.

To tell the truth, I do not think I would have scored very high on my Manly Scale, if the Scale had been invented at that time, by me. I suspect I would have scored so Fem on the test that I would have been prohibited from marrying my wife, P, the love of my life. And I think, somewhere in my heart, I knew that.

I knew I was too Fem.

So what did I do about it? Did I complain? Did I whine? Did I expect activist judges to step in on my behalf, manipulating the system to accommodate my peculiarity?

No, I did not.

What I did was I changed. I undertook what I like to think of as a classic American project of self-improvement. I made videos of myself talking, and studied these, and in time succeeded in training myself to speak more slowly, while almost never moving my hands. Now, if you ever meet me, you will observe that I always speak in an extremely slow and manly and almost painfully deliberate way, with my hands either driven deep into my pockets or held stock-still at the ends of my arms, which are bent slightly at the elbows, as if I were ready to respond to the slightest provocation by punching you in the face. As for my opinions, they are very firm. I rarely change them. When I feel like skipping, I absolutely do not skip. As for my long beautiful hair�well, I am lucky, in that I am rapidly going bald. Every month, when I recalculate my ranking on the Manly Scale, I find myself becoming more and more Manly, as my hair gets thinner and my girth increases, thickening my once lithe, almost girlish physique, thus insuring the continuing morality and legality of my marriage to P.

My point is simply this: If I was able to effect these tremendous positive changes in my life, to avoid finding myself in the moral/legal quagmire of a Samish-Sex Marriage, why can�t K, S, L, H, T, and O do the same?

I implore any of my readers who find themselves in a Samish-Sex Marriage: Change. If you are a feminine man, become more manly. If you are a masculine woman, become more feminine. If you are a woman and are thick-necked or lumbering, or have ever had the slightest feeling of attraction to a man who is somewhat pale and fey, deny these feelings and, in a spirit of self-correction, try to become more thin-necked and light-footed, while, if you find it helpful, watching videos of naked masculine men, to sort of retrain yourself in the proper mode of attraction. If you are a man and, upon seeing a thick-waisted, athletic young woman walking with a quasi-mannish gait through your local grocery, you imagine yourself in a passionate embrace with her, in your car, a car that is parked just outside, and which is suddenly, in your imagination, full of the smell of her fresh young breath�well, stop thinking that! Are you a man or not?

I, for one, am sick and tired of this creeping national tendency to let certain types of people take advantage of our national good nature by marrying individuals who are essentially of their own gender. If this trend continues, before long our towns and cities will be full of people like K, S, L, H, T, and O, people �asserting their rights� by dating, falling in love with, marrying, and spending the rest of their lives with whomever they please.

I, for one, am not about to stand by and let that happen.

Because then what will we have? A nation ruled by the anarchy of unconstrained desire. A nation of willful human hearts, each lurching this way and that and reaching out for whatever it spontaneously desires, trying desperately to find some comforting temporary shred of warmth in a mostly cold world, totally unconcerned about the external form in which that other, long-desired heart is embodied.

That is not the kind of world in which I wish to live.

I, for one, intend to become ever more firmly male, enjoying my golden years, while watching P become ever more female, each of us vigilant for any hint of ambiguity in the other.

And as our children grow, should they begin to show the slightest hint of some lingering residue of the opposite gender, P and I will lovingly pull them aside and list all the particulars by which we were able to identify their unintentional deficiency.

Then, together, we will devise a suitable correction.

And, in this way, the race will go on.

Men in Skirts: Art & Activism

It seems someone got the big idea that men who wear skirts should all show up en masse at the “Men in Skirts” exhibit currently showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They’re asking you all to show up either Feb 7th or 8th, to raise visibility for men’s sartorial freedom. Below is the letter I received which includes more information and websites that are promoting the event. Seems like a cool idea to me!

When tyranny rules freedom starts with taking the first step. Although the first step may seem insignificant and it may not meet all your requirements, it is necessary to achieve complete freedom We all wish we could have complete freedom of dress, however currently within our society, it is not possible for men in spite of the fact that women enjoy this freedom. I realize that we all want our freedom this very moment, however society thrives on conformity and to accomplish change from within it takes time. It took women several decades to achieve complete freedom of dress. At first they wore pants styled for women with zippers in the back and on the side. Eventually the zipper moved to the front and equality was achieved. In order for men to achieve freedom of dress we need to capitalize on their achievements and begin with the basics. On February 7 & 8, 2004 we are asking every man who desires freedom of dress to join us at the Metropolitan Museum to attend the special exhibit “Bravehearts: Men In Skirts”. During the weekend several activities are planned during which we can express our concerns and show a united front for freedom of dress for men.

We would like this event to have a first step appearance. What we mean by this is to have as many men as possible attend in skirts as men without expressing other qualities that are considered feminine by our society. In other words, before society will accept you dressed as women we have to overcome the stereotype associated with wearing a skirt. Although you may not agree with our mission statement our goal is the same, freedom of dress. Therefore it doesn’t matter if you are a crossdresser, transvestite, or post-op transsexual, our first step as well as our ultimate goal is the same, freedom.

The number of men who attend is proportional to the rate at which we achieve our individual goals. In other words if several thousand men attend society will accept this more quickly. However if only a few men attend it will take much longer to achieve our freedom. Once this initial freedom is achieved an individual can expand it to where they feel comfortable with it.

Please attend, we need your support.

Although there are several sites dedicated to this movement the following provide the most comprehensive coverage. These web sites also have links to other sites regarding these issues.

The Bravehearts’ Kilt Forum

Tom’s Cafe

Riki Wilchins on the TG spectrum

from Riki Wilchins’ Gender Queer :

“Transgender was intended as an umbrella term, then a name of inclusion. But umbrellas don’t work well when one group holds them up. Today, trans activism is often focused on the problems (bathroom access, name change, workplace transition, and hate crimes) faced by those who have been most active in its success: postoperative male-to-female transexuals (any similarity to the author is purely coincidental).

Yet there is little being done today to address the needs of drag people, butches, cross-dressers, transexuals who do not seek surgery, or (besides the Intersex Society of North America) intersexuals. Cross-dressers especially have suffered from lack of representation, although they number in the millions and experience severe problems associated with child custody, job discrimination, hate crimes, and punitive divorce precedents.

Thus has transgender, a voice that originated from the margins, begun to produce its own marginalized voices. And in part because – as an identity organized around “transgression” – there is a growing debate over who is “most transgressive.” How does one decide such questions? For instance, as one transexual put it, “I’m not this part-time. I can’t hang my body in the closet and pass on Monday.” There is no doubt, from one perspective, that cross-dressers enjoy some advantages. They are large in numbers, most only dress occasionally, and they can do so in the privacy of their own homes. Does that mean they would live that way if they had a choice? Does it really make them “less transgressive”?

In fact, nobody wants men in dresses. There are no “out” cross-dressers, and almost no political organization wants them or wants to speak in their name. “A man in a dress” is the original “absurd result” that judges, juries, even legislators try to avoid at all costs when rendering verdicts or crafting laws. “Men in dresses” isn’t the next hit movie: It’s a punch line in the next joke.

Among genderqueer youth, it is no longer rare to hear complaints of being frozen out of transgender groups because they don’t want to change their bodies. In an identity that favors transexuals, changing one’s body has become a litmus test for transgression. . . .

Since trans activists have loudly and justifiably complained about being “most transgressive” and about being consigned to the bottom rung of gay and feminist concerns, so it is doubly unfortunate to see them developing hierarchies of their own, in which transpeople must compete for legitimacy and in which their own margins soemtimes go unrecognized. Indeed, like assertions over who has more “privilege,” debates over who is most “transgressive” are a form of reverse discrimination that seeks to confer status based on who has it worst. Which is to say, debates over identity are always divisive and never conclusive. They are divisive because at heart they are about conferring status, always a zero-sum game. For one person to win, another must lose. They are inconclusive because there are no objective criteria by which to decide. Winning such debates is always a function of who sets the rules and who gets to judge. And since postsurgical transexuals are most often in a position to judge, at the moment, the rules tend to favor their life experiences . . .

There is no denying that after a persistent 10-year struggle, the T in LGBT is here to stay. Will the new gay embrace of transgender be successful? Will gay organizations actually devote any real resources to transgender, and if so, will they give us anything more than transexual rights? On this, the jury is still out. Although a few organizations have led the way, most organizations have not brought to bear anything like real muscle, and what muscle there is continues to be channeled into “gender identity” and transexual concerns. In the meantime, butches, queens, fairies, high femmes, tomboys, sissy boys and cross-dressers have completely vanished from civil discourse. They are never mentioned in public statements by any major progressive organization. For political purposes, they have ceased to exist. Gender itself remains invisible as a progressive issue. If it is mentioned at all, it is carefully confined to transgender. . . . With gender stretched out across the whole surface of individuals’ relations with society, maybe it’s time to quit attacking the problem piecemeal, waiting for the next issue to appear on the front page of the New York Times. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge gender stereotypes as a problem we all share, a central concern, a way to come together: a human rights issue for us all.”

GenderPAC

As I mentioned, Betty & I got to see Mariette Pathy Allen’s new book while at a GenderPAC event – a small party/outreach/fundraiser. GenderPAC is the ‘Gender Public Advocacy Coalition,’ an organization which works to end discrimination and violence caused by gender stereotypes. Riki Wilchins, author of Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender is the executive director.

Wilchins and others spoke about their mission and their current projects: 1) Workplace Fairness – in which GPAC helps corporations add gender protections to their EEO policies; 2) Public Education & Violence Prevention – which involves lobbying, press releases (which draw the media’s attention to violence against transgender people, which is why most of us even heard about the rash of killings in DC recently ), and works on changing laws in order to protect transgender people, and 3) GenderYouth – which is rallying support at colleges and high schools to end the bullying, harassment, & discrimination that is too often part of school life.

Obviously, crossdressers stand to benefit from their efforts. Because most CDs are not out, and so cannot help do their share in terms of helping eduate the public, the best way to support GPAC might be to donate money. Those of you who work for corporations might talk to someone at your company about adding gender protections to your EEO. & you don’t have to out yourself to do any of this! So go read the website, write a check, spread the word!