A Moment With Betty

I was busy writing a post about Jill Barkley and the Philly Trans Health Conference when the President’s appearance was announced. With my back to the TV, I heard Betty crack a beer open and then say, “It’s like a parade of evil.” Indeed.
We decided not to play do the Presidential Drinking Game suggested by Heather Havrilesky of The LA Times. Here are the rules:

  • Every time Bush says “terror,” “terrorism,” “terrorist,” “war on terror” or “Terror Dome,” you drink.
  • Drink when the president winks, nods and points at someone in the audience in rapid succession; drink each time he refers to 9/11 or uses the word “nuke-u-lar,” and drink something bitter when he says that “the state of our union is strong.”
  • Whenever there’s a close-up of a sour-faced Democrat, drink. If it’s Hilary Clinton, Ted Kennedy or Harry Reid, drink twice.
  • When Bush says “protect” as in “protect America,” “protect the lives of Americans” or “protect our right to eavesdrop on the phone calls of any American,” drink. If he refers to his solemn right to spy on antiwar activists as the “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” drink three times.
  • Also, drink whenever the president uses the word “security,” as in the “security of all Americans” or “a secure nation.”
  • When the president alludes to “tax reform,” “tax credits” or “tax relief,” give a big shout-out to the federal budget deficit — then drink.
  • Drink each time the president begins a charming anecdote about some folks from a small red-state town; drink twice when the camera cuts to said folks.
  • Every time the president smiles or chuckles when he’s talking about something scary and awful, like giant battlegrounds and forces of evil, smile and chuckle along with him — Haw haw haw! — then kick your dog.
  • Drink each time the president mentions “free elections” in Iraq.

You really should read the complete rules, though. But both Betty and I have to work tomorrow, so this one just wasn’t an option. I’d be drunk by now (9:17 PM) if we had.

Apparently It Is a Secret

Tonight I caught a Secret deodorant commercial and noticed the tag line is now: Strong Enough for a Woman.

I had no idea they’d changed it, but bravo!

Way, WAY Too Much TV

Okay, I’m going to hope this is the last installation in my recent series about my TV viewing. (Previous installations includes posts about Coke and Adam Ant, Jenny Craig and street harassment, Beauty & the Geek, and one about a reality show that never aired, despite its feel-good homo-friendly vibe). Okay, I might still write about the Abigail Adams biography that’s been running on PBS, but not right now.
Right now I want to talk about the most lovely and bizarre – and uniquely American – merging of capitalism and philanthropy I’ve ever seen: Extreme Home Makeover.
Here’s the premise: family beset by hardship or doing really cool stuff is recommended to the show and its host, Ty Pennington, by a friend or neighbor and occasionally a member of the family.
The Extreme Home Makeover team show up at the family’s door, send them on vacation for a week, and during that very same week, completely re-build their entire house.
They use products that get prominent display during the show and on the show’s website: tools from Sears, and appliances from Kenmore. Basically, it’s free advertising in exchange for donated goods to use for the home makeover.
Local construction companies help out, and/or volunteer types, and often a celebrity gets involved. The family returns home, their community gathers, everyone shouts “move that bus!” and then everyone cries and smiles and hugs everyone else (especially the Design Team).
It’s the corniest shit ever and I love every minute of it. It’s so bizarrely American. In a way, it’s all win-win: cool families that do things like rescue injured animals get a great house and free dog food and kennels, Sears gets to show off their power tools, and millions of viewers are entertained.
Really, Betty and I have been watching weekly for a long while now, and we fight over tissues. Dunno, maybe during such shitty times, it’s a relief to see nice people who do good stuff get rewarded – and the only strings attached is a little bit of ‘good karma’ advertising for the companies that donate.
I think shows like this are what we should be exporting to the rest of the world instead of Baywatch or whatever other crap we export (there are some cultures, I’m sure, that find those damn Survivor shows insulting, since so much of the world’s population isn’t living in much better conditions than the contestants). We all know that Ford isn’t going to give any trucks to the employees they just laid off when their families apply in a year or so after not being able to find replacement work. No, of course not.
But at least it’s not crap news, of which we’ve got plenty.

Receipt, Please?

Natalie posted a “quit bickering” type post in a recent thread full of hot debate, misreadings & misunderstandings (since closed) about mosaic intersexed conditions, and her list, although well-intentioned, immediately garnered objection from Andrea – and from us.
Betty and I have both long hated the phrase “gender gifted” to describe this insane state of affairs.
The first time I attended the Eureka En Femme Getaway, I conducted a Saturday afternoon workshop with Gina Lance where I said something along the lines of wanting a receipt for this fabulous “gender gift.” I think at the time I compared it to the pink slip Betty got two weeks before our wedding – which to this day takes all awards for worst gift ever. (Later, when Peggy Rudd gave the banquet speech, she used the term “gender gifted” positively, and two partners next to me elbowed each other and then me, trying not to laugh too hard outloud. It really was, in some ways, the summation of the difference between Peggy’s and my styles, notwithstanding our respect for each other.)
And while I understand the way people come to understand transness as a gift, I really can’t think of it that way myself. I also understand why people need to think of it as a gift, but I can’t go to the mat asking partners to accept it that way – I just can’t. I can barely get partners to accept it as the worst freaking thing that’s ever happened to them, so asking them to consider it a gift would more likely end up perverting the meaning of the word ‘gift’ than making them positive, forward-thinking, supportive types. (Most likely result would be that they’d tell me to go to hell.)
So, the gender gift: being misunderstood by friend, peers, and larger society. With transition this gender gift implies extraordinary expense, job loss, and often divorce; without it, a sense of uncertainty at the very least.
That’s not to say there aren’t positive things that can come out of transness for the transperson and the partner – of course there are. But positive things come out of negative things all the time, depending on the outlook of the people making their way through the adversity. It can make you a more thoughtful person, deeper, more accepting of diversity, maybe even downright philosophical – but that doesn’t mean it will. People learn tremendous, important things about themselves and the universe when they get cancer, too, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants it.
To me, a gift is something unequivocally good, something you wanted when you didn’t have it, or something someone gave you that makes you happier. In the second sense of the word, transness could be a gift the way a high IQ or good vision is a gift, and I suppose that’s the way people mean it. But even in that case, it’s a lot harder to have any benefit come of transness the way good vision or a high IQ might; you might not use the latter, but it doesn’t harm you to not use it, either – where transness, more often than not, is a kind of niggling annoyance (at least) when it’s ignored, or a major disruption, or, at worst, leads to straight-up tragedy.
When people tell me they would choose being trans, I think they mean they would choose the things they learned as a result of being trans, and that they appreciate the journey of self-discovery they had to go on because of transness. But mostly I think if people could gain those things without the frustration, ostracism, self-isolation, shame, and cost – they would.
I know: I’m just a regular bucket of cheer, but I talk to partners a lot.
In my own experience, transness is more like fire: naturally destructive, but powerful when it can be harnessed; it’s difficult to harness in the first place, and still, ultimately, always a little dangerous. But you know I used to take the A train at 2am, too.

Way Too Much TV

When I first saw the ads for Beauty & the Geek, I delivered a predictable tirade about gender and intelligence and how stupid it was that the Beauties were all female and the Geeks all male.
Then I saw a couple of episodes. And now I’m hooked.
This is the first reality show I’ve ever seen where the underlying tone of the show is really very sweet. The premise: socially-challenged geeks helping academically-challenged social butterflies how to learn stuff. In exchange, the socially-skilled pretties teach the guys how to have a conversation with a girl & comb their hair & tell a joke.
It makes me happy to have been a That 70s Show fan from the beginning, since without its success, Ashton Kutcher wouldn’t be Ashton Kutcher, and he wouldn’t have had the clout to produce Beauty & the Geek. Now if I could just talk to him about doing the show with reversed genders…
And while I still wish it weren’t gendered so strictly, it’s a lovely little show – honest and funny. I worry this means I’m softening up in my old age, but then I think – so what if I am? Hey, maybe the beauties are teaching me something, too. Oh, the horror.

Out of the Freying Pan and Into the Fire

Oprah just said that she doesn’t want kudos for admitting she was wrong because it was the only thing to do, and that was after cutting off Nan Talese mid-sentence. (Nan Talese is not the kind of person who is used to be cut off mid-sentence – she’s a Senior VP of Doubleday and owns her own imprint there). But Oprah is angry, and James Frey is starting to feel like the meat industry, I bet.
Frank Rich is angry, too, and just pointed out that being honest is usually the first step in any addiction recovery journey.
Stanley Crouch wants to know how much Doubleday had to do with coercing Frey into publishing it as a memoir.
And Maureen Down suggested Oprah cast Frey out of her kingdom.
A journalism professor (whose name I didn’t catch) just pointed out that when you doubt one memoir, you start to distrust them all; as someone who has put the truth of my life on the line, I really resent James Frey and even more the slick rationalizations of Nan Talese. Her attitude is exactly what sucks about the publishing industry.
Granted, our whole culture cries out for sensationalism: they don’t want to hear one woman’s story of pregnancy and childbirth; they want the post-natally depressed nearly-killed-her-baby mother. More than once members of the media (okay, including a producer from Oprah) stopped being interested in our story because Betty hasn’t had “the operation.”
So this is what I think: Nan Talese and Frey should figure out how much money they made from bullshitting everyone, and they should give it back. There are definitely 12-step programs that need funding and tons of individuals who could use some money to re-start lives that addiction has made a mess of.
And I know there are memoir writers out there that could use a grant. I just know it.