Here’s a short list of the topics my students researched for papers this term:

  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Intersex activism
  • Justin Bieber’s gender
  • David Reimer, or the John/Joan case
  • The invention of heterosexuality
  • Korean pop band f(x)
  • Kyle Alums and gender in college sports
  • Genderqueer identities
  • Femininity in male-bodied people
  • African trans identities/activism
  • De-homosexualized femme identities
  • Tribe 8’s “Femme Bitch Top”
  • Pete Burns’ gender
  • Barsexuals
  • Feminism and femme activism
  • GIDC

It makes grading a lot easier, that’s for sure.

College Admissions

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

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

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

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



Congratulations to all of Lawrence University’s graduating seniors! Today is commencement, my second since I’ve been teaching here, but the first where I’ve known quite a few students, one of whom is graduating summa cum laude with an honors project on drag kings in Amsterdam. He was in the first Trans Lives course I taught here two years ago.

TransOhio in 2 Days

I’m leaving today for Columbus, OH, where I’m speaking at the TransOhio Conference, & yes, I am traveling by train. Tons of people from our MHB boards are joining me, including my lovely wife. (“She said ‘wife’!”)

They closed the online registration yesterday, but they WILL be registering walk-ins at the conference, so even if you haven’t registered yet, you can still come. They’ve made it very reasonable – $30, $20 for students, and that comes with lunch. Students can go for $11 but with no lunch & no me. Basically, it’s a tiered system, allowing people as much conference access as possible. There’s a meet & greet on Friday, 8/14, AND a brunch on Sunday. (The day-of registrations are more expensive, and may not come with a guarantee that there will be room for you at lunch.)

So yes, make your plans to come while I’m on a train to Pittsburgh!

No More Abstinence Only Funding

This morning, the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor HHS) eliminated traditional sources of funding for abstinence-only programs by passing the appropriations bill for FY 2010.

The Labor HHS subcommittee and the Obama Administration has recognized what we already knew: abstinence-only sex education programs do not work. The evidence is irrefutable that spending for abstinence-only education is not only wasteful, but also the programs put young women’s health at risk. A 2004 study by the House Committee on Government Reform, conducted at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-30-CA) found that over 80% of the curricula used in the largest federally funded abstinence-only programs contained “false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.” >In addition to pulling the plug on funding for failed abstinence-only sex education programs, the bill eliminates a ban on syringe exchange programs, which have been proven to be a highly effective strategy for preventing HIV.

(via email from

New Study on Poverty & Education

Taylor said frequently textbooks in primary and secondary schools and in higher education do not address issues like poverty fully and often are reduced and oversimplified. “Far too many schools continue to endorse a curriculum of the absurd that encompasses ‘heroification’ of primarily white males, while the contributions of women and people of color appear in pop-out format in textbooks,” she said.

I wish I were even a little surprised by the results and her conclusions.


Oy. I got entirely roped into the CSI marathan that was on Spike this weekend, and today they’ve moved onto CSI: NY episodes.

I come home from teaching Gender Studies 100 (specifically a piece by Ana Castillo) and it turns out the “Jane Doe” is really a “John Doe” — which conclusion they come to by looking up the dead trans woman’s skirt.


Local Issue

Within a few weeks of me arriving in Appleton, a transgender person named Sierra Broussard filed a lawsuit against a local club for not allowing her in. They checked her ID which still has an M & didn’t let her in. The Post Crescent, the local paper, covered the story.

There were so many comments left on that story that they wrote another story about the lawsuit for Sunday’s paper. The reporter asked for people who were willing to be interviewed, and me and Lynne volunteered.

I wanted to thank Cheryl Anderson, the journalist on the story, for getting across what I had to say. Sadly, however, she called Betty “he.” Unfortunately for Betty, there is enough evidence for me using “he” – from when she had a multi-gendered identity – that I can understand how that happens, even if I said “she” and “partner” throughout the interview. Of course if she met Betty that “he” would never seem appropriate.

I don’t know Ms. Broussard personally, but I do know that the whole “it” thing is unacceptable (as Lynne says in the interview) and that a person who lives as female 24/7 should use the ladies’ room. The legal hocus pocus is what people don’t necessarily understand: that a penis is not really a penis once it’s been on estrogen for even a few months; that genital surgery is not covered by health insurance *and* that it’s very expensive, and to plenty of people it’s just unnecessary surgery – and who wants to have surgery that they don’t have to have? That’s what I meant by education & tolerance; that maybe the average Joe doesn’t know all that’s involved, and that if they knew more, they might not be so quick to criticize the decision not to have genital surgery.

The problem is the legal requirement for genital surgery to change a gender marker on an ID. We have to come up with another way for trans people to change that, because surgery is a ridiculous requirement.

10 Days In

After a nearly balmy 10 days in Appleton – it’s been aboug 20 degrees everyday – on Tuesday it’s meant to plunge to 2 degrees, and by Thursday, to 0.

I am amazed by how much I don’t mind the cold. I’m a little amazed by the consistency of both the cold and the snow, but since I don’t have to shovel my own walk or dig out a car, I just have to bundle up to walk to class or to get groceries and the like, which isn’t too bad.

I’m teaching three courses this term – Freshman Studies, Gender Studies 100, and Trans Lives – so I’m happily busy and feeling optimistic about 2009. Obama may have a first 100 days to make changes (and only 10 days until he takes office!!), but so far we’ve all had 10 – how have yours been?

Leaving (Not on a Jet Plane)

So how many of you will be humming that song the rest of the day now?

We’re leaving today for Appleton, Wisconsin, where I’ll be living for the next six months. It’s so odd that I have never lived anywhere other than the NYC area my entire life, only to end up living in Wisconsin for months at at time, to teach. It’s surprised me, in a good way.

We do an overnight near Akron, OH, & then another in Kenosha, WI.

I am really looking forward not just to teaching but to being back in Appleton. I really enjoyed my last stay there, & I really loved the area around Lawrence. What is weird is that I remember feeling sad when I left, but pleased to get back to Brooklyn, and now I’m doing all those feelings in reverse: feeling sad to be leaving my much-loved Brooklyn, but excited to be going back. I have decided that I have to figure out a way not to miss things so much, or to be as sad about leaving, and focus more on the going to than the coming from, but then I’ve always been a little bit this way: melancholy & maybe a little sentimental.

Either way, the boys are coming with me, and I’ll be incredibly busy, and that is an excellent combination for me.

By the time you’re reading this, we will have started the long Westward Ho that is the state of Pennsylvania. We’ll end the day just on the other side of Ohio’s state line.

Holiday Angst

There is something about the Christmas season that makes you think about life in sad ways.

I had a friend visiting not too long ago who had just heard that a friend of hers had decided to have a baby despite the fact that she didn’t have a husband. She kept repeating how sorry she felt for her, not to have had a husband and father, and all I could think was that she did have her child, who was healthy, and she had a good job to be a single parent – she’s a teacher – and that life comes with a lot of goddamn compromises.

I think about my lovely set of friends from high school and so many have had unfortunate surprises in their lives: babies born with serious medical conditions, boyfriends in near-fatal accidents, people who wanted children & didn’t have them (yet), people who didn’t and who did. There are so many ways things can go a little awry, or a lot awry, but I found myself feeling a little angry at the pity my friend was expressing, maybe because I’ve felt that kind of pity directed at me, although not from her, because I married someone trans.

So I’ve been thinking this winter about how to make room in my life for other people’s decisions in a way that really is fair to them. I’m tired of feeling like everyone’s a control freak, as if we all know better than others about what they need or should have. I’m not sure what the answer is but as we all get ready to see old friends and family I thought it might be something to think about.

Life is not easy, but it’s definitely that much harder when you can feel someone’s judgement on the back of your head.

Trans for Obama: Reason #1

Your #1, and last reason to vote for Obama: because polls aren’t always right, and a lot of races are tighter than they look like they are, and because there is no worse feeling than wondering if you could have done something, just one more thing, to make sure your candidate wins. All you’ve got left to do is vote. Just vote. It’s not hard. Stand in line. Bring your book, bring your iPod, but most importantly, bring friends & neighbors to keep you company. Some of the best times I’ve ever had have been standing in line and/or electioneering near polling areas. If you’ve already voted, bring people standing on line hot chocolate, or gum, or candy bars, or folding chairs, or even blankets to put on the ground.

For trans voters: From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund will have lawyers staffing their hotline to respond to callers who experience discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression at the polls. If you experience discrimination at your polling place, call their hotline at (646) 862-9396. Exercise your right to vote on November 4th. They’ll be there to make sure your vote counts.

& Tomorrow we’ll wake up & the trans community will have a fighting chance with President Elect Barack Obama.

Trans for Obama: Reason #2

Reason #2 to vote for Obama is because when it came to extending non-discrimination coverage for Federal employees and contractors, Obama wanted to make sure that gender identity was an included category for non-discrimination (which is, imho, an excellent predictor of his backing a gender identity inclusive ENDA).

For trans voters: From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund will have lawyers staffing their hotline to respond to callers who experience discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression at the polls.

If you experience discrimination at your polling place, call their hotline at (646) 862-9396. Exercise your right to vote on November 4th. They’ll be there to make sure your vote counts.

Growing Up Stupid

This study, about how Americans discourage the highest level of math genius, is far more interesting than all the ink we waste on the differences between boys’ and girls’ math skills. To me, this is the great American tradition of anti-intellectualism at its worst. My guess, of course, is that the lower you go on the socio-economic scale, the more pervasive these ideas are.

I had friends stomp on my report cards. Me and other smart working class kids weren’t exactly encouraged. I feel very lucky that my emotional needs to be smart outweighed all the discouraging influences; as with other kids from big families, being smart got me attention from my teachers, attention that was a little lacking at home. Because otherwise, being good at math came with major social stigma, and most of the young women I’ve met at colleges seem to have developed a reflexive “fuck you, I can do math” kind of attitude that keeps them safe.

That they should need it is the sore point. We celebrate athletic prowess, the people who make the top 1%, but not in intellectual arenas. Oh, this country. Maybe having an actual smart guy for president will change that & start to filter down, & kids might want to grow up to be something other than an NBA star.

De-gendering this stuff really points up actual real problems that need to be dealt with.

(h/t to Lena for sending me the article)


Today I’m taking the GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, and let me tell you, I’m not excited about it. I don’t mind taking a test for four hours – my time spent writing often runs longer than that – but the idea of this exam just pisses me off. I don’t do well with standardized anything, but the idea of standardized intelligence is so unbelievably counter-intuitive, especially for us humanities types.

I’ve always been good at math; I just didn’t like it. My sister, who always scored higher on verbal than math, went into banking. I always scored higher on math than verbal and I’m the writer. Maybe it’s just inborn perversity, or maybe this whole idea of a “right” answer offends me. Math encouraged the wrong bits of me entirely.

I’ve spent most of my intellectual career teaching myself not to look for a right answer, but to look instead at things in a way they’re not usually seen, to ask questions that expose more of the riddle of the thing in question. I love the idea of imbuing the subjective narrative with authority; of defining the universe in a kind of Buddhist solipsism. You know, in a healthy sort of way, that maximizes the importance of our humanity and decreases our judgment of what’s right or wrong.

Call me a recovering Catholic, but I had a literature professor in my first year at Fordham – I started out a theology major, no kidding – who called me The Church Lady because I found Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” a moral outrage. I was The Church Lady with a mohawk, but judgmental nonetheless. I think that tendency is sometimes referred to as liberal fascism, or for you D&D types, Lawful Evil. I recognized the streak and since then have learned to tame it.

And then this test comes along, a test I avoided taking the first time around by getting my MA in Writing, of all things, but now, considering doing a Ph.D., I can’t avoid any longer. And they want to know the best opposite of restive is, and I have to spend the first seconds while reading the question turning off the part of my brain that wants to know the context, and whether restive is being used sarcastically, who’s using it and what they’re describing. The next seconds I convince myself to just answer the damn question the way I expect they want it answered, and the next seconds after that I have to convince myself to stop thinking about it because my first “this is the answer they want” impulse is usually the one that gets me the check mark of correctness. It’s exhausting.

I don’t believe in check marks of correctness, and the idea – at this age! – of having to take a test to give someone a numerical way of understanding how smart I am, or am not, is pretty damned frustrating.

Either way, I’m taking the GRE today.

Please wish me luck in not sticking the pencil in my own eye out of frustration.