Gender Studies 101

For your amusement, or edification, I’ve been putting together a list of terms & concepts students of my Intro to Gender Studies class are required to know – for exams & that sort of thing. I thought some of you might want to ‘check in’ to see how many you could define or explain (extra points if you can name the author/article we were teaching the concepts with!): Continue reading “Gender Studies 101”

TG Veterans Survey

New Transgender Veterans Survey
Immediate release. Please post this everywhere.
Transgender American Veterans Association
Contact: Monica F. Helms, President

A new survey has been created to achieve a more accurate picture of the state of the transgender American veteran population. Many of the issues facing transgender veterans are no different than those facing the rest of the transgender community. However negotiating healthcare thru the Veterans Administration and dealing with the Department of Defense poses its own unique set of challenges. This survey is also for those transgender people who are still serving in the military and those veterans who identify and are diagnosed as intersex.
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SoCo Keynote: Jenn Burleton


One Community, One Family

by Jenn Burleton, TransActive Education & Advocacy, Portland, OR

Thank you to the organizers of this amazing conference and in particular, Cat Turner, Lola Fleck and Elaine Martin. And I must thank my longtime friend, Mariette Pathy Allen. My life has been truly blessed as a result of knowing her and sharing many adventures with her…some of which are suitable for sharing with the whole family.

When Cat Turner called back in January and invited me to come to Atlanta I was of course, very honored. I was also surprised. After all, we’d never met. I’d never attended a previous Southern Comfort Conference and I am not, in my opinion anyway, one of the gender community heavy hitters.
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“Stuff I Supposed After Meeting Some People in a Gay Bar”*

* quote by Mara Keisling, when providing an alternative description of what Bailey’s book could be described as instead of as “science.”

This NPR show out of the Bay Area about the whole Bailey controversy is good listening. Joan Roughgarden (author of Evolution’s Rainbow), Mara Keisling (executive director of NCTE), Alice Dreger (author of Hermaphrodites & The Medical Invention of Sex) & Bailey himself.

& A challenging phone call from Ben Barres, who I love & who does not let Bailey not answer a direct question (with textual backup from Roughgarden), specifically, whether or not Bailey feels trans people are suited to prostitution.

The only thing that no-one said that someone should have said is that Bailey now has a history & a record of turning (at best) weak science into “controversy,” such as with the bisexuality studies that came out a couple of years ago.

I’m upset by the idea of how or if Dreger’s status as a woman – not just as an academic or intersex educator – is coming into play here. That is, is a man not sexist because a woman says he isn’t? (I don’t think so, but I think that’s coloring her defense of Bailey.)

Five Questions With… Richard M. Juang

Richard JuangAlthough Richard M. Juang is an otherwise studious English professor, I came to know him through my participation with the NCTE Board of Advisors, and increasingly found him to be gentle and smart as a whip. We got to sit down and talk recently at First Event, where he agreed to answer my Five Questions.

(1) Tell me about the impetus that lead to writing Transgender Rights. Why now? Why you, Paisley Currah, and Shannon Price Minter?
Transgender Rights
helps create a discussion of the concrete issues faced by transgender people and communities. Our contributors have all written in an accessible way, while also respecting the need for complex in-depth thought, whether the topic is employment, family law, health care, poverty, or hate crimes. We also provide two important primary documents and commentaries on them: the International Bill of Gender Rights and an important decision from the Colombian Constitutional Court concerning an intersex child. Both have important implications for thinking about how one articulates the right of gender self-determination in law. We wanted to create a single volume that would let students, activists, attorneys, and policy-makers think about transgender civil rights issues, history, and political activism well beyond Transgender 101.Transgender Rights

One of the things the book doesn’t do is get bogged down in a lot of debate about how to define “transgender” or about what transgender identity “means”; we wanted to break sharply away from that tendency in scholarly writing. Instead, we wanted to make available a well-informed overview about the legal and political reality that transgender people live in.

Oddly enough, Shannon, Paisley and I each did graduate work in a different field at Cornell University in Ithaca NY. (Apparently, a small town in upstate New York is a good place to create transgender activists!) The book represents a cross-disciplinary collaboration where, although we had common goals for the book, we also had different perspectives. The result was that, as editors, we were able to stay alert to the fact that the transgender movement is diverse and has many different priorities and types of activism.

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Dr. Keith

We taped an episode of the Dr. Keith show last week, and I’ve been sorting out my thoughts since then. I found the experience exhausting. From all reports (Donna, my sister, another friend) we were good. But some days it’s hard to consider the toll that’s paid.

I’m not sure yet what that toll is exactly, but it feels something like a distilled version of all the other work we do for college audiences & at trans conferences except the audience is so different: at one point during the taping I looked at a woman in the audience whose jaw was literally hanging agape.

It doesn’t help that I’ve replayed it all a million times in my head, hoping I said things that make sense. Before that I worried for days beforehand about whether I could really get something across of what this life is like for both the partner and the trans person. It’d be nice to be able to shut off my brain, to stop wondering what the whole show will be like, since we weren’t on alone: we had the company of a trans man & his ex as well as an intersex person.

Overall, I liked Dr. Keith’s take: his general tone was one of “Wow, that’s one hell of a hand you’ve been dealt,” and although the show was a little too anatomically-focused for me, people DO want to know about body mods and I think it was handled about as well as it could have been. It couldn’t have been thorough – transition, transgender, and intersex are a lot to cover in an hour – but it wasn’t sensational.

So I can only wait to see what the rest of you think. It should air before mid-March, and of course I’ll post info about the airdate as soon as I get it.

First Event Keynote: Me

Well, the news is out: I’m going to be the keynote speaker for TCNE’s First Event next year. The event will be from January 17th – 21st, and in addition to the keynote I will be doing a reading from the new book and (I think) doing a workshop for partners.

We have never otherwise been to First Event and are very much looking forward to it.

There’s a thread about this on our boards where you can check in with others who might be going, too – so do come!

Read the press release below the break.
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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.