Nothing to Fear

From Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh, toward the end of Chapter 10:

I’ll tell you a secret about fear: it’s an absolutist. With fear, it’s all or nothing. Either, like any bullying tyrant, it rules your life with a stupid blinding omnipotence, or else you overthrow it, and its power vanishes in a puff of smoke. And another secret: the revolution against fear, the engendering of that tawdry despot’s fall, has more or less nothing to do with ‘courage.’ It is driven by something much more straightforward: the simple need to get on with your life. I stopped being afraid because, if my time on earth was limited, I didn’t have seconds to spare for funk. Lord Khusro’s injunction echoed Vasco Miraanda’s motto, another version of which I found, years later, in a story by J. Conrad. I must live until I die.

I’m reading it because I recommended his Midnight’s Children to a student, then wanted to re-read it myself, & so instead picked up one of his I hadn’t read. I love his writing – it’s at once so inebriating, the joy he takes with language, but then exhausting — why aspire when someone is already so good at what you want to do? — still, I’m writing anyway.

Two Tune Tuesday: Inspired by Juneteenth

I went to a Juneteenth celebration – yes, here in Appleton, Wisconsin – and one band did a bunch of familiar R&B; I don’t know if it’s age or what, but I have really started to love the soul side of things. Philly soul next week!

Guest Author: Kelzi

Kelzi, one of the regulars on our MHB message boards, wrote a piece about what it’s like to be a couple going through transition that resounded pretty strongly for me (& for others):

Lately, I haven’t had much to say, and when I do, I just journal it. However, when I stop by to catch up here and there, I often find that I should have posted. My recent M.O. What’s different about tonight is that I find the warm and fuzzy stories about couples who stay together way too inflated, heart warmed and fuzzed that they become unrecognizable as a point of reference. Except, every once and a while someone cleans the pig. MG wrote:

….And Jenn and I didn’t survive anything. Everyday we make a decision to continue to stay together. That in no way means we survived anything. It only means that, for today, we still want to be together. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll both make the same decision.

Two nights ago, D and I just celebrated (and I use the word figuratively, it certainly was not a celebration. miss O was genuinely upset we didn’t go out and celebrate. Upon querying us as to the reason, D quickly replied ‘what’s to celebrate?’ to which miss O responded ‘Oh yeah, that man and wife thing.’) our 14th year as husband and wife. It was also our 8th year since my transition.

MG is painfully right, couples that choose to stay together, after the transition of a spouse, are not survivors, we have just found a couple of compelling reasons to stick it out together for one more day. A couple of reasons to let ourselves think that the cultural and social stigmata that tattoo our lives will disappear in the morning. That in the frighteningly few moments where we get to forget the realities of our lives together and embrace as lovers, only to have the moments shattered when we remember that we no longer make love as we once did, we both agree to stick it out for one more day.

I wish I could understand why we choose this way. It not a path that I’d wish on any couple. Its hard and it hurts and the longer we stay together, the more I’m convinced that the pain will never really go away. Its true that we still love each other. We cuddle on the sofa, sleep in the same bed (depending on the intensity of our hot flashes or the weather) and continue to revel in the joys of raising our daughter, together. But we have also become much more reclusive. We’re hurt by the simple slip of a pronoun. I being reminded of what I am, she remembering who she was. We look at the photo from that night 14 years ago and wonder what happened to that couple, where did they go? Why aren’t they here? Will they ever come back? Perhaps what hurts most of all, we miss our simple displays of affection, that kiss on the street, holding hands as we walk, a long embrace under a street lamp, that we so often freely gifted. Yeah, we miss the simplicity of man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father. We tire of the attitudes from the public and parents and friends and family. They, thinking their thoughts of us. We, conflicted by wanting to right the assumptions they make of us, wanting to correct, explain, share and then we remember the results of our previous disclosures. Who has that kind of time and energy? For the last 8 years, it has taken all the energy plus some that we borrowed, just to stay together just one more day.

There are days, too often it seems, where making the best of a trying situation, makes no sense. How I long for those days where my sweetie’s resting head gradually, gently drifts to my chest and there we drift into our world of pleasant dreams. Now a days her head comes to rest at my boob. She awakes and is reminded of the indignities she endures, the loss she has suffered, unfulfilled dreams that may never return. Could our lives be much better if we said enough is enough? We’d be free to experience our lives as we once dreamt they would be. In love. In public. Innocuous. Together, silently, without ever saying it to each other, we ask, ‘Really, is it really worth it? Can I do this for one more day?’

Usually I don’t know.

Its part of our unspoken agreement to each other. Oh, there have been times where I thought we wouldn’t be able to do it. We leave each other. We look for clarity. We seek advise and usually we wake up in the morning ready for one more day.

Next year, if we get that far, it’ll be our crystal anniversary. Maybe things will be clearer by then. Maybe we’ll be gifted a crystal ball that will show us were to go, how to get there. Maybe I’ll be able to clearly explain why we stay together. Except with our luck, Coyote would come along and want it for himself, steal it before we even got to peak into it. I bet that he would eat it, to illuminate his inner self, only to see that he was really full of shit. Maybe that’s the point, we have to see thru all the shit find what we really are looking for. When asked on how we’re doing, we’ve often say, ‘We’re taking it day by day’. It comforting to know that at least for now, that hasn’t changed. At the end of the day, we both are saying, ‘I think I can do this for another day.’

The Other VD

South African doctor invents female condoms with ‘teeth’ to fight rape

Do you really even need to read the rest of the story?

Vagina dentata via prophylactic. (I’m sorry, has there not been a punk female vocalist named Vagina Dentata yet? or a derby grrrl?)

Dirty Crossdressers!

Oh, this killed me. Aside from the message being cool & groovy – what about all the trans women who used to identify as crosdressers – the “what CDs are doing on MySpace clip is priceless.

“I can see cisgender people from my house!”

(thanks to Melissa V. for the link)

Classical Music (& Class)

Lawrence University, where Rachel & I work, has a Conservatory as well — which for me means tons of free, cool music. I go see a lot of things I never went to see in NYC; as I was explaining, in NYC, classical music often costs a lot, and when it doesn’t, it means sitting with a million people in Central Park to hear/see it. Ditto for opera, and often for jazz, too.

Here, I go a lot, although I’ve never known much about classical music, and along comes this cool series from Atlantic Monthly about how to listen to (& appreciate) classical music. I’ve had people give me CDs (the music medium, not the type of trans person) in the past, but for me – live is the thing. I prefer all of my music live & in person, pretty much, & now feel like I’ve been incredibly spoiled to have so much of it around so much of the time as a NYC resident. I went to see a Chinese classical performer, here, for instance, & couldn’t remember where I’d seen someone play that kind of instrument before, until I remembered: the W 4th Street subway. It’s one of the things I miss most, all the found music in NYC – guys playing plastic buckets, folk singers in Washington Square Park – but the Con makes up for a lot.

World Man Cup

No, really: why do so many cool people watch World Cup? There isn’t one woman on a team anywhere, & if any other industry were so blatant in its discrimination, so many people wouldn’t watch, & might actually be out protesting.

Not having women on World Cup teams isn’t discrimination, you say? How, exactly? Are the try-outs open to women? As far as I know (& I’m willing to stand corrected), there is no “separate but equal” league, or set of teams, that gets the same kind of attention, that represents their home countries on the world stage.

I will confess that it’s no skin off my nose not to watch because I don’t really like sports (and I’ve certainly got no truck with a field full of athletic men in shorts).

I’m not for quotas or lowering standards – though I’d ask my liberal friends to consider how full of shit that argument is when you apply it to any other category of human competition – just for opening the try-outs to women.

Ethics, Schmethics

Alice Dreger, recently disliked by those in the trans (for defending Michael Bailey) and intersex communities (for being for the “DSD” diagnosis), has at least said, in print, in both Psychology Today and The Hastings Center Report, that maybe using a vibrator on a young girl’s clitoris is completely unacceptable.

Here more specifically is, apparently, what is happening: At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen, and Poppas also report a “capillary perfusion testing,” which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl’s clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. He intends to chart the development of their sexual sensation over time.

If this were requested reconstructive surgery, or absolutely necessary surgery that treated a dire medical condition, maybe this wouldnt’ seem to fucked up. But these are surgeries conducted on girls whose clitorises are viewed as “too big.” That’s all. Just “too big.” They worry that girls with big clitorises will somehow – I don’t know, that they’ll be socially traumatized, but all I can think is: it’s probably just more likely that they’ll have orgasms, & we certainly can’t have that

One time I asked a surgeon who does these surgeries if he had any idea how women actually reach orgasm. What did he actually know, scientifically, about the functional physiology of the adult clitoris? He looked at me blankly, and then said, “But we’re working on children.” As if they were never going to grow up.

Or, as Courtney on the MHB forums put it, maybe this article should be called When Ken Zucker calls you out for being a sicko, you’ve know you’re screwed.