Not a Goomba*

I was just bitching on the MHB boards that nearly all the only portrayals of Italian-Americans is mafia related, and people pointed out a few others – like did you know Elaine on Seinfeld was supposed to be Catholic? Nice try, but she wasn’t. Other than Ray Romano, Fonzi and Al from Happy Days, there seems to be a real dearth of the rest of us that isn’t Sopranos-esque.

* Goomba, or goombah, is a term used to describe a stereotypical Italian-American, & in a few dictionaries, implies a connection to the mob. & Yes, it’s also the name of one of the bad guys in Super Mario.

I didn’t have any goodfellas in my own Italian family, and we’re even Sicilian / Calabrian. I tend to describe my dad as “the other kind of Italian” because he is – more Joe DiMaggio than Godfather. Mostly if it’s not mafia it’s about food, or more likely, it’s about both. But honestly, is there a culture where the food isn’t important? My Big Fat Greek Wedding got closer to my experience of being Italian-American than any of those goomba movies.

& These days, in New York, there’s about three blocks left of Little Italy; Chinatown has been encroaching for years, and Italians left the city – for everywhere. (Though the midwest could use a few more, because finding inexpensive, good Italian food in Wisconsin leaves you at Pizza Hut. ugh.) But at least now there’ll be a museum of the whole Italian-American experience, located where Little Italy used to be.

(Thanks to Nettie, Caprice, VM, & Donna, all of whom put in their two cents.)

Five Questions With… Monica Canfield-Lenfest

As many of you know, Monica Canfield-Lenfest is the daughter of a trans woman and created a new resource, with COLAGE, for kids with trans parents. I highly recommend it.

1) First, tell me about COLAGE & how the book for Kids of Trans happened, what your goals were.

COLAGE ( is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy. I first contacted COLAGE five and a half years ago, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis: “She’s My Father: The Social Experience of People with Transgender Parents”. Looking for references for my project, I discovered a diverse community of queerspawn who gave me the space to better articulate my experience and encouraged me to continue my work, since there are hardly any resources for transgender parented families. I started presenting at transgender conferences and gained a renewed sense of responsibility to build community and develop resources for people with transgender parents.

During a COLAGE conference in Dallas two years ago, I suggested to Meredith Fenton, COLAGE Program Director, that perhaps I could fill a fall internship position at the national office. We came up with a Fellowship model for my position, which has become a new program for the organization. I worked full-time for eight months focused specifically on the Kids of Trans Program. The major goal of the fellowship was to develop resources for people with transgender parents. Since there was no book detailing our experiences and offering advice to people with trans parents, the Kids of Trans Resource Guide became the obvious main project.

My goals in writing the guide were: first, to tell other people with trans parents that they are not alone; second, to recognize that the entire family transitions when a parent transitions; and third, to provide compassionate advice from people who have similar families. In short, I hoped to create the book I wanted my father to give me when she came out to me over ten years ago. Continue reading “Five Questions With… Monica Canfield-Lenfest”

Next Stop

Anyone else catch any of the July 4th Twilight Zone marathon? Great stuff. I just saw Of Late I Think of Cliffordville which is particularly cruel, and stars Albert Salmi, who also played Smerdjakov in The Brothers Karamazov in 1958.

I also caught the only Jack Klugman TZ I’d never seen – Death Ship. & I love Jack Klugman, yes, because of The Odd Couple, but mostly because of Quincy, which, imho, gave birth to all of the forensic shows on TV now (most of which I watch).  But I have to go to sleep, despite the next one up being Printer’s Devil with Burgess Meredith. (It’s a good one.) I used to tape these when the marathons were on WPIX here in New York, but now they’re all on DVD, which makes it a bit easier. (& It took me borrowing the DVD collection to finally see the Buster Keaton TZ, which they never, ever show during these marathons.)

I really do love this series, and love Rod Serling – not just for The Twilight Zone, but because he fought and fought and fought the censorship that came with advertisers’ sponsorship of television, and during an era when they almost didn’t win. As he put it:

“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”

Now there was a fine tilt at an inexorable windmill, but at least he got a few stunning seasons of work done, which we’ll have forever.

Pride Rant

A great rant about Pride by Joe.My.God, which he wrote back in 2005 after watching a NYC Pride Parade:

Because even if Pride doesn’t change many minds in the outside world, it’s our PARTY, darlings. It’s our Christmas, our New Year’s, our Carnival. It’s the one day of the year that all the crazy contingents of the gay world actually come face to face on the street and blow each other air kisses. And wish each other “Happy Pride!” Saying “Happy Pride!” is really just a shorter, easier way of saying “Congratulations on not being driven completely batshit insane! Way to go for not taking a rifle into a tower and taking out half the town! Well done, being YOURSELF!”

I’m not worried what the outside world thinks about the drag queens, the topless bulldaggers, or the nearly naked leatherfolk. It’s OUR party, bitches. If you think that straight America would finally pull its homokinder to its star-spangled bosom once we put down that glitter gun, then you are seriously deluding yourself. Next year, if one of the Christian camera crews that show up to film our “debauched” celebrations happen to train their cameras on you, stop dancing. And start PRANCING.

It seemed a great way to end Pride Month.

The Trip to SC, Pt. 2

What a trip! I haven’t had so much fun without Betty since before I met her, and while I’m sad she wasn’t there to enjoy it all, I also know that she wouldn’t have found the train much fun at all (& so might have ruined it for me, ahem). But I was early for my train, & so hung around the ass-end of Penn Station for a while (that would be the 8th avenue side, of course), talking to guys trying to bum change and cigarettes. I don’t know why I like those guys; I must’ve been a hobo in a past life. But the guy I talked to was originally from New Orleans, and it’s hard not to have a good conversation with an older brother from NOLA, imho. In exchange for a cigarette, he said he’d buy me a drink next time we’re both down that way.

On the way down I was seated next to an older man who carried only his Bible, which was a “welcome to the south” a little early for me. He was a minister from Greenville, SC, it turns out, & his stop was the one after mine, so we were stuck with each other for the duration. He slept mostly, and I got very good at climbing over his napping legs.

But I ate dinner with a man and his 15 year old son on the way down; the guy was originally from the east coast, a professor and scientist, who knew Ben Barres when he was at Stanford, but who’d moved to VA and was traveling back to VA with his son after a short sojourn in NY. They were both really nice, and I had a great chat with them despite getting a little drunk on the half-bottle of wine I had ordered (which I had ordered in order to put myself to sleep). Continue reading “The Trip to SC, Pt. 2”

Pregnant Man, Redux

That bonehead Bill O’Reilly made fun of Thomas Beattie for having a baby since his wife can’t.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly one of the “worst persons in the world” for doing so.

Olbermann 1, O’Reilly 0.

For those of you who are confused by the whole “pregnant man” story, here’s the nutshell: female-bodied person needed to change gender due to internal sense of gender role. Took testosterone, had breasts removed, was legally declared male on important documents. Did not have full hysterectomy. His wife, Nancy, unable to have a baby due to her own gyn stuff, opted to impregnate her husband via artificial insemination, who went off testosterone two years ago in order to be able to do so.

So that’s it. It’s not complicated, it’s not disgusting. It’s just a man who, with his wife, wanted to have their own child, and had the plumbing to do so. End of story. If any other husband could, and did, we’d all be talking about how brave & selfless he was, but because this particular man was born female at birth, people are freaking out. No need. Choice is the gig, and stuff like this is going to keep happening — baby, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

While I’m here, can we toss the phrase “artificial insemination”? It’s silly. You sure can end up pregnant, & there’s real sperm involved and a real egg. So how about “technologically assisted insemination”? “Manual insemination”? Something better than “artificial.” That makes it sounds like people are getting pregnant with robots or extras from Steven Spielberg movies.

New Resources

So I’ve discovered a few interesting new resources in team teaching Gender Studies 100 this semester, and never posted some I discovered last term. Here are a few:

  • The Trouble with Testosterone by Robert Sapolsky – a very accessible read about the popular misunderstandings about testosterone (for instance, that it causes aggression)
  • Iron Jawed Angels – about the last push for the vote for women in the US
  • The Fire, Earth, Water trilogy by Deepa Mehta – stunning, beautiful film series by a woman director about various aspects of Indian culture. Mehta has a gentle but powerful hand as a story-teller.