NH Gets Same Sex Marriage

Oh, New Yorkers, are we not embarassed enough YET?! Honestly. The New England states are kicking our collective ass.

Last Titanic Survivor Dies at 97

The last survivor of the Titanic disaster died on Sunday, on May 31, 2009, on the 98th anniversary of the launch of the ship from Southampton, England. She died – in Southampton, England.

France Depathologizes Transsexualism

Saturday’s edition of the French language newspaper Le Provence headline:

Transsexuality will no longer be classified mental illness in France

and the article explains why France has now become the first country to depathologize transsexualism.

English translation is now online.

Very, very interesting and good news on the eve of the APA conference in California, where protesters will be gathering to protest the GID diagnosis.

Another NYC Landmark… Gone

& Now Kim’s is going to Italy, since no one in NYC came up with a proposal to keep Mr. Kim’s remarkable collection here.

I’m starting to feel like I’m living in Venice in the late 17th Century (which was, ironically, founded on St. Mark’s Day, in Saint Mark’s Square, while Kim’s is leaving its location on Saint Mark’s Place.)

Commissioner for Human Rights

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe has released a statement about transgender people, discrimination, violence, and human rights that is stunningly thorough and well-articulated. Here’s an example:

To require surgery as a prerequisite to enjoy legal recognition of one’s gender identity ignores the fact that such operations are not always desired, medically possible, available, and affordable (without public or other funding). It is estimated that only 10% of transgender persons in Europe actually undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Even access to ordinary health care is a problem for transgender people. The lack of trained staff familiar with the specific health care needs of transgender persons – or simply  prejudice towards transgender people – render them vulnerable to unpredictable and sometimes hostile reactions.

He covers issues such as divorce, child custody, employment, identity documents, and jsut about every other aspect of life with the same clarity and sense of fairness. Do read the whole thing.

Girl Reader

From an article in the December 2008 Atlantic Monthly about why teen girls love vampires:

The salient fact of an adolescent girl’s existence is her need for a secret emotional life – one that she slips inot during her sulks and silences, during her endless hours alone in her room, or even just when she’s gazing out the classroom window while all of Modern European History, or the niceties of the passé composé, sluice pasat her. This means that she is a creature designed for reading in a way no boy or man, or even grown woman, could ever be so exactly designed, because she is a creature whose most elemental psychological needs – to be undisturbed while she works out the big quetions of her life, to be hidden from view while still in plain sight, to enter profoundly into the emotional lives of others – are met precisely by the act of reading.

I don’t agree with the gendered conclusion she comes to, but I thought it was a nice description of reading, especially of reading novels, especially when you’re a child or young teenager. At least it described me somewhat, right down to the passé composé (which I did manage to pick up, eventually).

I remember reading a theory once that young female readers figure out how to masturbate sooner than their peers, exactly because they’re used to & look forward to time alone.

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba died on Sunday right after she finished a concert in Italy. She was a South African singer who I first discovered on a collection of music from the tv show Northern Exposure (of which I was, & am, a huge fan).

The Best of Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks – recorded in the 1950s – is one of my all-time spirit lifters; I have no idea what I’m singing but I sing along whenever these tracks come on. (I’d highly recommend this one, especially, to anyone who loves rocksteady.)

She had such a sparkling, clear voice – the kind that makes you think of beautiful sunny days.

Soeur Emmanuelle

Here’s a woman who got a heck of a lot less press than Mother Theresa, but who, in my opinion, took the best stands on things like contraception. I’m entirely flummoxed at her descriptions of her own desire & flirtation, all of which she gave up at 21 or 23 years old = young to give up a sex life.

I am fascinated by nuns like this, who practice what they preach in terms of living with the poor and having compassion for all. Truly remarkable, as was Dorothy Day before her (though Day was never a nun).

I’m looking forward to reading her autobiography but can’t find it – not even on www.amazon.fr. If anyone else does, or find the English translation, let me know. (Though I’m thinking it would probably be a good book for me to brush up my French!)

Not a Goomba*

I was just bitching on the MHB boards that nearly all the only portrayals of Italian-Americans is mafia related, and people pointed out a few others – like did you know Elaine on Seinfeld was supposed to be Catholic? Nice try, but she wasn’t. Other than Ray Romano, Fonzi and Al from Happy Days, there seems to be a real dearth of the rest of us that isn’t Sopranos-esque.

* Goomba, or goombah, is a term used to describe a stereotypical Italian-American, & in a few dictionaries, implies a connection to the mob. & Yes, it’s also the name of one of the bad guys in Super Mario.

I didn’t have any goodfellas in my own Italian family, and we’re even Sicilian / Calabrian. I tend to describe my dad as “the other kind of Italian” because he is – more Joe DiMaggio than Godfather. Mostly if it’s not mafia it’s about food, or more likely, it’s about both. But honestly, is there a culture where the food isn’t important? My Big Fat Greek Wedding got closer to my experience of being Italian-American than any of those goomba movies.

& These days, in New York, there’s about three blocks left of Little Italy; Chinatown has been encroaching for years, and Italians left the city – for everywhere. (Though the midwest could use a few more, because finding inexpensive, good Italian food in Wisconsin leaves you at Pizza Hut. ugh.) But at least now there’ll be a museum of the whole Italian-American experience, located where Little Italy used to be.

(Thanks to Nettie, Caprice, VM, & Donna, all of whom put in their two cents.)

Albanian Sworn Virgins in Decline

The tradition of Albanian Sworn Virgins is dying out, & the implication is that it’s dying out because women can now do things that women weren’t allowed to do before:

This is the last generation of sworn virgins, according to Aferdita Onuzi, a professor at Tirana’s Cultural, Anthropology and Arts Research Institute. In Albania these days, women enter parliament, government ministries, and the police force.

But I wonder if it’s as simple as that, since homosexuality became legal in Albania in the 1990s, too, and surely this was one path for a woman who didn’t want to marry the man chosen for her – either because she didn’t like him or didn’t like men.

(Much thanks to Caprice; we have a few other posts about the tradition on the MHB boards.)


Katha Pollitt’s recent column in The Nation, “Lipstick on a Wing Nut,” proposes that we skip all the Sarah Palin family saga & simply ask her a dozen questions instead:

  1. Suppose your 14-year-old daughter Willow is brutally raped in her bedroom by an intruder. She becomes pregnant and wants an abortion. Could you tell the parents of America why you think your child and their children should be forced by law to have their rapists’ babies?
  2. You say you don’t believe global warming is man-made. Could you tell us what scientists you’ve spoken with or read who have led you to that conclusion? What do you think the 2,500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are getting wrong?
  3. If you didn’t try to fire Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Baker over her refusal to consider censoring books, why did you try to fire her?
  4. What is the European Union, and how does it function?
  5. Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance. John Goodman, who has advised McCain on healthcare, has proposed redefining them as covered because, he says, anyone can get care at an ER. Do you agree with him?
  6. What is the function of the Federal Reserve?
  7. Cindy and John McCain say you have experience in foreign affairs because Alaska is next to Russia. When did you last speak with Prime Minister Putin, and what did you talk about?
  8. Approximately how old is the earth? Five thousand years? 10,000? 5 billion?
  9. You are a big fan of President Bush, so why didn’t you mention him even once in your convention speech?
  10. McCain says cutting earmarks and waste will make up for revenues lost by making the tax cuts permanent. Experts say that won’t wash. Balancing the Bush tax cuts plus new ones proposed by McCain would most likely mean cutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Which would you cut?
  11. You’re suing the federal government to have polar bears removed from the endangered species list, even as Alaska’s northern coastal ice is melting and falling into the sea. Can you explain the science behind your decision?
  12. You’ve suggested that God approves of the Iraq War and the Alaska pipeline. How do you know?

I’d really like to hear her answer these.

The Requisite Sarah Palin Post

The real kicker of Sarah Palin’s talk tonight was the “scary ideas from Europe” idea. I mean, seriously? Scary Europeans? Where there’s national healthcare and maternity leave and no gun crime? That scary place?

I’m still flummoxed by just about everything she said tonight. Astounded, even. Aside from the Big Fat Liar issue – she was for the Bridge to Nowhere until she was nominated, and she raised taxes on Alaskans – I can’t believe her entire talk was about the elites, and scary European ideas, and tiny government. (You know, like the kind that brought you Katrina.) I mean, aren’t culture wars so 90s?

But it’s more than that. The cynicism and sarcasm and meanness she expressed blew my mind. I like people who are clever and clear-thinking, but that’s not what she is. It makes me so sad to think anyone might admire her, or find like-mindedness in her comments. She’s like Dr. Laura, and those platitudes don’t work as advice, and they definitely don’t work as policy.

Please, Dems, don’t rest easy. We need to kick this woman’s ass. She cut funding on a center for pregnant teenagers even though she has one. Talk about elitism. She tried to ban books and she got pork-barrel funding for aerial hunting (which is about the lamest, most shameful thing I’ve ever heard of).

Not Your Phone

This is the singularly funniest dumb news story I think I’ve ever read.

I’m trying to figure out how significantly distanced from your own body you have to be to not notice a living animal in your bra.

Secondarily, what it would be like to have 34FF boobs.

Her consideration of the sleeping critter was kind of heart-warming, though. Or bra-warming. Whichever.

The Disappearing Virgin

The New York Times just did a great article on the tradition of sworn virgins in Albanian culture – that’s the tradition that says a woman can foreswear marriage (& presumably, sex) in order to live as a man & so be head of household, inherit land, etc.

Betty & I had an Albanian cab driver in Boston not so long ago who had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him about it, & no Albanian I’ve ever met – I ask them all – has ever heard of it, either. But the article makes clear exactly why your average Albanian wouldn’t have.

What’s most interesting to me is that in every case they cite – and I don’t know if this is true for every case – it was the woman’s choice to “become the man.”

White Privilege

& More on the Fr. Pfleger post! Someone wrote to me & said:

I am Catholic as well, 1st generation Irish-American, I was poor, faced prejudice – and feel I owe nothing to Father Pfleger’s constituency. I feel I worked myself out of the bottom and I don’t feel anyone owes me anything either. But if this race-baiting (as I see it) continues then I might have to argue that I was discriminated against as well—if not here in the USA then maybe in Ireland/England.

But then when does it end? When does victimization end? It has gone on a long time in the USA and it hasn’t improved. I don’t think victimization helps improve people’s lives. It never helped me. I worked my way out of it (and people don’t understand the work that I did unless they did it themselves).

But when Father Pfleger says we owe some of or 401k’s to black people because we had ‘white privilege’, I have difficulty understanding it because I don’t feel I had equal opportunity and yet I don’t resent it. I accept it–It is life and I don’t think it will ever change.

Which is all perfectly logical & makes sense to me; I think it’s the nut of why poor and working-class white people sometimes object to Affirmative Action programs.

Except that the reality, in the US, is that we have inherited a system where some people are oppressed because of their race and only because of their race. It is not the only way people are oppressed, and plenty of us (white folks) did not have family here when slavery was operable. But the system that came out of race-based slavery was, in turn, racist.

So while poor white people didn’t benefit from equal treatment – because we didn’t – we didn’t have to deal with being poor AND black. We were privileged in one aspect – being white – and oppressed in another – by class. Catholics and Jews and other “white” immigrant groups were often also oppressed due to their religion or recent immigration status. Often these groups are referred to as “white ethnic” – meaning ‘white but not WASP.’ It’s what I consider myself. For an excellent book on the subject, specifically the way whiteness was sold as privilege to unionized white workers – check out The Wages of Whiteness, or on White Ethnic groups, check out White Ethnics.

Being able to look at the ways we are each privileged and the ways we are oppressed is what we call Intersectionality in Gender Studies.

But more importantly, let me say this: the idea here isn’t about victimization. It’s about understanding one’s individual story in context. It’s not about sitting around & saying “woe is me” or anything like it. It’s just about knowing which aspects of your own experience and others works against you, & them; it’s a way of explaining why some women are more privileged than others, and why, say, a white, rich, professional gay man might have a hard time understanding why a black poor lesbian can’t get a decent start in life despite them both being LGBT.

So: no whining. Just acknowledgment in the ways we exist, as individuals, within the larger culture and its institutions, and the ways those institutions, in turn, shape us. (Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who would prefer to blame everyone & anyone for why they suck, but that’s an entirely different issue entirely.)

Guest Author : Mercedes Allen

(crossposted in several places, and people are welcome to forward this on freely to others in the transgender and GLBT communities, as I see this as being very serious — Mercedes)

A short time ago, I’d discussed the movement to have “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID, a.k.a. “Gender Dysphoria”) removed from the DSM-IV or reclassified, and how we needed to work to ensure that any such change was an improvement on the existing model, rather than a scrapping or savaging of it.

Lynn Conway reports that on May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V. Such a revision would include the entry for GID.

On the Task Force, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, we find Dr. Kenneth Zucker, from Toronto’s infamous Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute). Dr. Zucker is infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. “ex-gay”) therapy to “cure” gender-variant children. Named to his work group, we find Zucker’s mentor, Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”

Continue reading “Guest Author : Mercedes Allen”

Unjustice of the Peace

A church in the UK stopped performing weddings when the congregation realized how different the laws are governing civil unions vs. marriages there.

Unitarians, of course.

(Thanks to Valery for the tip!)

When Worlds Collide

I’m at an Au Bon Pain in Boston’s South Station the other day trying to buy a cup of soup while I waited for my next train. They have clam chowder on the list of soups, so I ask,

“What kind of clam chowder is it?”
Blank stare.
“Is it white or red?”
“Do you want clam chowder?”
“What color is it?”
Blank stare, eyeroll.
The clerk next to her overhears it & asks me,
“You’re from New York?”
I nod.
He says to my clerk,
“You need to get out of Boston once in a while. In New York they have red clam chowder too.”

I had no idea that when you’re in New England, all the clam chowder is New England clam chowder. I mean, if they serve both New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder in Manhattan…

Alt Marriage

It seems medieval Europe was a lot hipper than we might assume.

The Greeks* & Now the English

Hey, it works in the UK:

Since the British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of its fears — about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness — have come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue.


“The boss said, ‘I think you will be surprised that in this day and age it will be a complete anticlimax, because as far as I’m concerned, homosexuals in the military are yesterday’s news.’ ”

From Monday’s New York Times.

* The Ancient Greeks used homoerotic and homosexual bonds to boost the morale of their military.