Guest Author : Mercedes Allen

(crossposted in several places, and people are welcome to forward this on freely to others in the transgender and GLBT communities, as I see this as being very serious — Mercedes)

A short time ago, I’d discussed the movement to have “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID, a.k.a. “Gender Dysphoria”) removed from the DSM-IV or reclassified, and how we needed to work to ensure that any such change was an improvement on the existing model, rather than a scrapping or savaging of it.

Lynn Conway reports that on May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V. Such a revision would include the entry for GID.

On the Task Force, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, we find Dr. Kenneth Zucker, from Toronto’s infamous Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute). Dr. Zucker is infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. “ex-gay”) therapy to “cure” gender-variant children. Named to his work group, we find Zucker’s mentor, Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”

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El Dia De Los Muertos

A very happy Day of the Dead (or All Saints’ Day, or All Souls’ Day, depending on your Catholicism).

I’m pleased that one of the student groups has assembled a Muertes altar here at Merrimack, with explanations of the Calaveras (the skeleton/skull figures), the water bowls, the salt, the candy and candles. I love the idea altogether, of throwing a party that your dead loved ones come to as well. It just seems so – civilized.

Now go eat your candy. (The photo is of candy skulls that I found at this UK site about Aztec culture.)

Five Questions With… Eli Clare

Eli Clare is the author of Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation (South End Press, 1999) and has been widely published. He has walked across the United States for peace, coordinated a rape prevention program and co-organized the first-ever Queerness and Disability Conference. He works for the University of Vermont ‘s LGBTQA Services. We were lucky enough to meet him at a Translating Identity Conference at UVM, and I was happy to get the chance to talk to him about his new book, The Marrow’s Telling, which was recently published by HomoFactus Press.

(1) Why poetry?

As a writer, my first love is poetry. I think of it as a thug who grabbed me by the collar many years ago and whispered in my ear, “You’re coming with me.” I went willingly, not having any idea where poetry would take me or what it would demand. Twenty-five years later I find myself writing a mix of poetry and creative nonfiction; my first book, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation, is a collection of essays, and my second book, The Marrow’s Telling: Words in Motion, which ought to be rolling off the press at any moment now, is a mix of poems and short prose pieces, not quite essays but more than prose poems.

Audre Lorde in her essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” writes of poetry as a “revelatory distillation of experience.” Poems demand both wildness/revelation–moments where language, sound, and rhythm, rather than thought or idea or analysis, take the lead–and discipline/distillation–the paring down to heart and bone. As a writer, a reader, an activist trying to make sense of the world, I need revelatory distillation.

I also know that in the United States too many of us have been taught to fear or avoid poetry, to feel bored or stupid in its presence. As an activist-poet, I always hope that my poems will be doors held wide open, roller coasters, parachutes opening above you, slow meandering rivers.

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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.

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NCTE’s Responding to Hate Crimes manual

Just in time for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held annually on November 20th, NCTE has published a small manual called Responding to Hate Crimes: A Community Resource Manual, which, according to NCTE’s Simon Aronoff, “represents a holistic, community-based approach to responding to hate violence in a wya that aims to curb the number of attacks faced by transgender people.”

Read the full press release from NCTE below the break, and read or download a copy of the manual at NCTE’s website:

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Vern Bullough

Vern Bullough, author of umpteen books, advocate for crossdressers and trans people, died this past Wednesday, June 21st.
I can’t even begin to express how sad I am: Vern became more than an author whose books I read, but a kind of mentor for me, always willing to answer a question or point me toward research that might help me out.

From the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism
The Center for Inquiry Laments the Death of Vern Bullough: Leonardo Man and Stalwart Secular Humanist
The Center for Inquiry is sorry to announce that Vern Bullough died Wednesday evening, June 21st, after a brief illness. He was a stalwart humanist, a dedicated member of the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry, and CSICOP. He had devoted himself to humane causes all during his life; he was considered to be one of the leading authorities in the world on the history of sex and the nature of gender. He was a tireless advocate of civil liberties, the rights of minorities, including gays, lesbians and transgendered persons.
The author or editor of over 50 books including Sexual Attitudes: Myths and Realities, with Bonnie Bullough, and hundreds of articles, he was renowned in several areas of human interest, including history, sexology, nursing and liberal religion. Indeed, a true Leonardo Man, Vern was a distinguished professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo, an Outstanding Professor in the California State University, a past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, past Dean of natural and social sciences at SUNY in Buffalo, New York, and one of the founders of the American Association for the History of Nursing. In addition, he was a recipient of the Distinguished Humanist Award and a past Vice President of the IHEU.
Vern served on the Center’s Board of Directors since its inception and was personally involved in its outreach. He accompanied the Center for Inquiry’s Explorers Club on a Cruise to Alaska in early June. He read a paper on board ship, and managed to write up his remarks in the form of an article, which will be published in Free Inquiry magazine.
He will be sorely missed as one of he leading secular humanists in North America and the world and a liberal voice for the right of self-determination, tolerance and dignity.
He leaves his wife, Gwen Brewer (Prof. Emeritus, University of California) and four children.
Paul Kurtz
Chairman and Founder, Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism