Preview of Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity

Mattilda, the editor of That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, has a new anthology called Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity that just came out, and I contributed an essay called “Persephone.” It’s a bit different from my usual, so I thought I’d post a small preview here.

I’ll be doing a Five Questions With… interview with Mattilda about this new book, too.

I used to be something you might call heterosexual – not straight, because straight carries connotations about picket fences and children and normalcy that have never been up my alley. It is awkward being monogamous around the poly set and legally married when I’m in queer crowds, but both of those things are as true as my heterosexuality, even if it’s not easy to see any of them. They are the old tattoos, or the memorabilia that tells me how I ended up in this new place, with this new tattoo, the same way a transwoman might see her penis as a reminder that she came by womanhood in a slightly different way than the expected route. Some women change their names when they get married; I changed my public identity instead: queer though formerly known as heterosexual, queer though married, queer due to binary, queer in context, queer by association, queer due to no fault of my own, queer as a result of cupidity.

Five Questions With… Max Wolf Valerio

max wolf valerio

It’s been a while since a Five Questions With… Interview, but I can’t imagine a better re-entry interview than one with Max Wolf Valerio, the author of The Testosterone Files. Max and I “met” as a result of us both being published by Seal Press, and because we were both friends with the late, great Gianna Israel. His Testosterone Files are a fascinating account of his move from his life as a radical dyke and poet to being a ‘straight guy.’

1) I often joke that I only ever “passed” as a straight woman, and there were parts of The Testosterone Files that made me feel like you “passed” as as lesbian. Is that even close to right? How do you feel about your former identity now?

Yes, I definitely did “pass” for a lesbian, a dyke, whatever you wish to call it. I was dyke-identified for at 14 years, and more, if you count my adolescence. Early on, I realized I was attracted to women, and so, a lesbian identity made the most sense to me. It was all I knew to name myself. The idea of transitioning in 1975 and before, when I was a teen, was completely off the map.

I am proud of the person I was as a dyke, and I learned a lot in my years as a lesbian. I understand many of the finer points of feminism, in all its permutations. Through lesbian feminism, I also came to an understanding and empathy for other types of radical politics. It was quite an education, and an amazing immersion in female life. Ultimately, dyke life is about immersion in female life I think, and it provided an axis for me as well as a point of departure.

However, as I show dramatically in The Testosterone Files, I was much more than simply a lesbian feminist or dyke. I was, actually, just as involved in the punk rock scene, as well as in being a poet who crossed all lines of identity and just “wrote” and read for an audience that appreciated poetry as an art form period. So, this involvement gave me an “out” from dyke life and provided a portal to the fact that there is so much more out there in the world than simply lesbians or feminism. This portal would prove to be invaluable as I came into male life.

On the other hand, I think my perspective was a bit constrained anyway from being a lesbian all those years. I have had to re-examine many of my feminist beliefs and attitudes anyway, even if I was not entirely cloistered within the dyke perspective. Some of these attitudes no longer fit my male life, and I find them to be restricting. More importantly, I also have come to see that certain of these ideas were just wrong-headed, even if they served a purpose for me then. I mean, some of the anti-male attitudes, and anti-het attitudes that I absorbed. These attitudes and ideas not only do not serve my present life, they are not rooted in truth. I think I was often coming from a place of defensiveness, and I have learned, and am learning, to drop that.

Even so, I have many fond feelings about my past dyke life, and about lesbians in general, and will always feel related.

Continue reading “Five Questions With… Max Wolf Valerio”

One Big Answer

A recent conversation on the boards brought up the whole ‘brain sex’ debate again, and what I want to know is why all of these studies or conclusions need to be so mutually exclusive? Isn’t it possible for one person to be transsexual via brain sex & another person to be transsexual for another reason?

I don’t think like a trans person about this stuff, but being gender variant, I “could” pin my gender variance on my high levels of T. But that doesn’t explain why I was a tomboy growing up, either. Maybe it was having a lot of older brothers. I don’t doubt, either, that some of it  had something to do with the way women are treated in this culture. It could have been anything, but I tend to see it as an amalgamation.

& While I understand the necessity of “proving” it a medical condition, I don’t see why a combination of womb hormones, brain sex, karotype, etc = might not be responsible.

Why do we always want/need One Big Answer? Especially when the systems we’re talking about = reproduction, cell formation, genetics, sexual identity, consciousness, ETC = are all pretty damn sophisticated unto themselves?

Clear-Headed No Longer

As a long-time sinus congestion/allergic type, I am really starting to hate meth addicts. Apparently they use the best-ever decongestant, pseudoephedrine, to make meth, so now the stuff is something like impossible to get a hold of. As it is they take down your name and license # here in NY if you want to buy any, but worse is that I can no longer can I buy those little travel packets of two at my bodega. No longer can I get boxes at my local pharmacy. At the bigger drugstores, I have to carry a little card up to the pharmacy counter to get it.

And I can’t find it for sale online, either.

Hate meth addicts, hate ’em.

Tomboy Take

In Margaret Atwood’s book about writing, Negotiating with the Dead, she writes:

I was now faced with real life, in the form of other little girls – their prudery and snobbery, their Byzantine social life based on whispering and vicious gossip, and an inability to pick up earthworms witout wriggling all over and making mewing noises like a kitten. I was more familiar with the forthright mindset of boys: the rope burn on the wrist and the dead-finger trick were familiar to me – but little girls were almost an alien speciaes. I was very curious about them, and remain so.

It’s always nice to read reports on growing up a girl from other tomboys, although I’m not sure she’d call herself that. She was a girl with an older brother who had parents who followed insect migrations.

She also, by the way, does not drive, so I consider myself in excellent company.

Leslie Feinberg on She’s Not The Man I Married

As if what people have said wasn’t enough to make me delirious already, Leslie Feinberg read She’s Not the Man I Married, and said:

“Between the covers of this book, you’ll hear how love sounds when it’s so honest it bleeds. Trans liberation is more certain to “win” because Helen Boyd’s on the team.” — Leslie Feinberg

Thank you, Leslie. I hope zie’s right.

School’s Out (for Afghan Girls)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I remember hearing a lot of palaver about how it was so cool that we were getting the Taliban out of Afghanistan so that those girls could go to school (& so that women wouldn’t be stoned to death & other fucked up things).

But wow, while the administration’s been buggering themselves about Iraq, it turns out that the Taliban are bombing girls’ schools to keep them from attending – losing ground they gained for a few years only to see it being hacked away again.

The United Nations estimates that every single day a girls’ school in Afghanistan is burned down or a female teacher killed.


Confirmed Events

I will have the extreme pleasure and honor of introducing Leslie Feinberg at the State Museum of New York in Albany, this coming February 3rd.

Betty and I will also be attending IFGE 2007, in Philly, where I’ll be presenting both my Trans Sex & Identity workshop (on Friday) and doing an additional workshop on She’s Not the Man I Married (on Saturday).

& That is in addition to my being the keynote speaker for First Event this year and doing an erotic memoir reading for Rachel Kramer Bussel here in NYC.
More to come, no doubt!