Thanks, Josey

Betty & I filmed a short clip for a Canadian television show called Richler Ink which showed on Book Television, which is an entire channel dedicated to books & authors (so you know it’s not American). They themed their shows “Naughty Librarian Month” for January and so focused on sexual topics. (Whether or not we all think crossdressing is a sexual topic is beside the point, since 1) the point is outreach and education, as long as it’s done respectfully, and 2) the rest of the world still thinks it is, and they’re not going to understand otherwise until they hear about and maybe read a book like mine).
I hadn’t seen the show ever before, but it was explained to me that there would be in-studio guests, and Betty & I would be a segment. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the two books used as segments (My Husband Betty and another on women’s orgasm called She Comes First) would be commented on by the in-studio guest. It was as if Daniel Richler (the host) and the in-studio guest – who was in our case Josey Vogels – were watching the video clip of us with the audience, and when it finished, they chatted about it.
I was pretty upset when Daniel Richler couldn’t seem to keep a smirk off his face, and started muttering things about “kinky” & the like. But Josey Vogels, I’m happy to say, is not only well-informed but a pro. She’s apparently talked to straight, nervous, vanilla guys about sex before! And she talked a little bit about the transgender movement, and otherwise made sure Daniel Richler didn’t get to go anywhere with his nudge, nudge, wink, wink crap.
I’ve already thanked Josey Vogels, of course, for being a first-class act, and for not allowing the show to sink into Springer-esque insinuations, and she’ll hopefully be writing one of her columns about My Husband Betty as a result of our correspondence.
And though I certainly don’t mind spending time praising Josey Vogels (who was on promoting her current book Bedside Manners), that’s not why I sat down to write this: I write this because I was suddenly reminded that the world still thinks crossdressers are funny, or kinky, or both. In more than a year of going to trans-conferences and the like, you start to believe that everyone is tuned into the finer debates about passing, or other standard fare that’s dicussed within the trans community, until you realize – maybe because of a nervous talk show host or because of something someone shouts from the street – that we’ve got a long way to go.
Going that long way is going to take working with the media where and when we can. Betty and I have had to turn down other television shows on advice from friends here in NYC who have been burned themselves or seen firsthand how disrespectful most of the talk shows are of their guests: from “surprise guests” to telling people the shows are themed other than they are, they actually trick people into coming on. Of course all the invitations seem respectful; none of them write to ask me if I’d be willing to portray a wife who’s been victimized by her crazy tranny husband.
And while I don’t even have cable TV because of the schlock that is American television, I’m well aware that most of America is informed via TV – depressing but true. Doing innumerable events like Trans-Week at Yale or speaking to a class at UVM are wonderful: talking to people who are intelligent and willing to learn and listen means a new generation aren’t going to become adults with the same uninformed notions in their heads as their parents.
The question is: what about the rest? How do we get to the rest of the people out there?
Doing publicity with a mainstream book helps. Knowing my book is in libraries where it can be found (not only by T-people and their partners but by any average, interested, curious reader) is something. People ask me all the time why we haven’t been on Oprah. After I ask them if they know anyone who works on the show who might get us on (no takers yet), I ask: why aren’t there more shows like Oprah?
Maybe those of us in the GLBT community can start pressuring networks not necessarily for more shows about us – but just for more intelligent shows, in general. We need to write to our local and cable stations and tell them we’re tired of schlock. The Jerry Springer-type shows wouldn’t hurt half so much if we had something to offset it. I was pretty amazed to find that when we did PBS’ In the Life, none of my friends in the red states could see it. Why? Their local PBS affiliate simply didn’t carry it.
But I’m sure that had nothing to do with why eleven states voted for banning gay marriage, or why we’re teaching Creationism in schools as if it’s science, or why no one seemed to notice that we’ve hung the whole of the guilt for the Abu Ghraib horror on guys who were following orders.
I’m sure it doesn’t have anything to do with it. It doesn’t, does it?

Women & Activism

I’m very excited that while we’re up in Burlington at the University of Vermont, I’ll also be doing an event for UVM’s “Women’s History Month” series. Their theme this year is “Women & Activism” and I’ll be hosting a roundtable on feminism and transness.
The event will take place at UVM’s Women’s Center on March 4th, sometime around noon.
It is, need I say, a great pleasure to be able to do an event for Women’s History Month, and especially one that focuses on women and activism.

2nd Annual Trans Issues Week at Yale

I was part of the first annual TransWeek at Yale and was more than impressed with the (undergrad) organizer of the event, Loren Krywanczyk. I’m happy to be part of it once again, and thanks to all the CDs (& one wife) who are willing to speak.
February 21 – 25, 2005
Sponsored by the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies
Press Release
It is still widely believed that all individuals are simply male or female, and that there is no fluidity whatsoever between these two supposed polar opposites. Likewise, many Americans still ascribe to the common misconception that an individual’s biological sex is necessarily the same as her/his gender identity or performance. The notion of binary sex and gender categories pervades modern society and exerts pressure on all individuals, regardless of sex or sexuality, to adhere to specific standards of behavior and of masculinity and femininity based on their physiologies. Transgendered and intersexed individuals, among others who transcend stereotypical gender boundaries, demonstrate the inadequacy of these binary systems.
Trans Issues Week at Yale is an annual speaker series which explores gender and transgender identity through a variety of both formal and informal events. It will incorporate concepts of fluidity and of a spectrum of gender and sexuality. Events will shed light upon the intersections of gender, sex, class, and race and will illuminate the distinctions and overlaps between sex, gender, and sexuality. Founded and organized entirely by personal undergraduate efforts to increase campus and New Haven awareness about gender identity and the values of gender diversity, Trans Issues Week reflects and contributes to a relatively new wave of thought about gender, sex, and sexuality.
February 21 – 25, 2005
Sponsored by the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale
Shana Agid
“No Superman: Troubling Representations of Trans ‘Masculinity'”
Monday, February 21 7 pm
Harkness Hall, 100 Wall Street, room 309
Through a close look at Loren Cameron’s Body Alchemy, artist, activist, and cultural critic Shana Agid addresses the construction of “appropriate” FTM (female to male) transgender narratives, and the place, or placelessness, of race and power in popular images and stories about trans identities and in the making of “real” transmen.
“Part-time Ladies: Crossdressers Tell Their Stories”
A forum of heterosexual crossdressers moderated by author Helen Boyd
Tuesday, February 22 7 pm
Yale Women’s Center, 198 Elm Street
A forum of male, heterosexual-identified crossdressers and their partners describe the intersections of sexuality, sex and gender in their lives.
“Transitioning on Campus”
A panel of trans-identified college students
Wednesday, February 23 4:30 pm
Harkness Hall, 100 Wall Street, room 309
New Haven college students discuss the experience of transitioning and genderbending on campus. The panel will include the perspectives of trans-identified individuals, their close friends and significant others.
Julanne Tutty, “My Experience as Intersexual”
Friday, February 25 4 pm
Yale Women’s Center, 198 Elm Street

MHB on Canadian TV Tonight

An interview with MY HUSBAND BETTY author Helen Boyd (Thunder’s Mouth)
starts airing tonight on Richler Ink/Book Television Wednesday, January
19th @ 10:00pm ET / 8:00pm MT Saturday, January 22nd @ 7:00pm ET /
5:00pm MT Sunday, January 23rd @ 10:00pm ET / 8:00pm MT

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.

Betty in the NYT

From the Tuesday, January 18th edition of The New York Times and an article titled “Actors Exit One Troupe to Build Another”:
“The longtime familiarity among the actors was critical, said Jason Crowl, who played Titorelli, the artist who finally reveals to Joseph K. the truth of his horrible situation, as a sinister, epicene figure. Mr. Crowl left the Cocteau about two years ago because he was unhappy.
Mr. Crowl, who describes himself as transgendered, said, “I wouldn’t have made Titorelli as interesting as he was if I didn’t know the people in the cast and couldn’t say, ‘I’m going to make him freaky and androgynous and hope everyone is O.K. with that.’ ”
That would be my husband Betty. I’m newly amazed by her bravery, coming out in the paper of note.
(Thanks to Eddie Izzard for opening the door.)

Dr. King

This year’s celebrations and memorials in honor of Dr. King are likely to gloss over one important fact of his activism: his belief in peace.
This column by Nation writer John Nichols makes a good case in point.
Another column found on the Working Assets site focuses on the Dr. King lost in all our memorials.
And I’d like for all of us in the GLBTQ community to remember that the famous March On Washington was organized by one Bayard Rustin: Quaker, and Queer. The Gay and Lesbian Task Force celebrated Dr. King while also acknowledging what his friendship with Rustin means to us all.
But it’s his Letter from Birmingham Jail that is still the piece that invites us all to look at what social justice is, and what needs to be done to achieve it.
A peaceful day to all,

Please Donate

Betty & I are planning to do some great events this February and March, but I can’t afford to order my own books to sell! If you can donate, to help us do our outreach work, please do.

Upcoming Events

Betty and I will be doing a few interesting events this coming February and March that I’d love for people to join us at, and to say hi if they’re attending.
February 18th – 20th we’ll be in Phoenix, AZ, at the Glitz Ball. I’m doing one workshop, participating in another, and will also be the Banquet Speaker.
On Tuesday, February 22nd, I’ll be moderating a forum of crossdressers for Yale’s Trans-Week. It’ll be called “Part-Time Ladies.” The Yale Daily News did a nice piece about my presentation last year.
On the weekend following Trans-Week, February 25th – 27th, I’ll be presenting a workshop on trans-sexuality at the all-kink inclusive Dark Odyssey. Betty & I had a great time at this event last fall, and are excited about going again. This year, with the privacy afforded by hotel rooms, I’m hoping to see a lot more trans-couples attending. The remarkable Kate Bornstein will also be attending, and it will be wonderful to see her again.
The very next weekend, we’ll be going up to Burlington and the University of Vermont. David Houston, an anthropology professor, has asked me to speak to his class; they’re reading My Husband Betty as part of their “kinship and identity” coursework.
While I’m in Burlington, I’ll also be participating in the Translating Identity Conference on March 5th. I’ll be doing a workshop on trans sexuality, as well as teaming up with FTM partner Jill Barkley for a caucus on partners’ rights. I’m very much looking forward to meeting Leslie Feinberg, whose Stone Butch Blues is a seminal work (and which I recently recommended as part of my reading suggestions for Book Television in Canada).