Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coming Out, Staying In

New Below the Belt content!
I recently had an encounter with our mental health system. (I'm fine. Now.) I don't have to tell you that almost any encounter with our health system is embarrassing; that seems to be the state of American healthcare. But what do you think the frosting on my mortification cake--the little extra bit of humiliation to go with the spongy cake of being put in a room with no sharp corners and the delectable pudding filling of despair that having them take my belt away proved to be?

Having to out myself. Three times--once to the triage nurse, once to the nurse who took my vitals, and once to the doctor.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adventures in Transition: Inadequacy Edition

Hola, ducks! Did you know that I'm currently between positions? Yes, tis true that I work as a consultant when not writing pithy internet ramblings. But while I was out in California, I lost my main client in a move of wonderful class upon their part. Wev. Anyway, did you know we are in a recession, despite what the economic gurus tell us? I sure do--I'm reminded of it daily as I watch my bank balances dwindle! And also, have I mentioned that I seem to be getting depression for Christmas! And now you are too, if you've read this far?

This is all preamble.

So, okay. I had an interview on Friday. Which didn't go so well...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start again.

So I had an interview on Friday. It was my third interview with these people, but the first one that would be face-to-face; I had survived two phone interviews prior to this, and passed the little "mess around with this database" test they'd sent me with flying colors.

That in itself is an accomplishment of sorts--not the application thing, I do that for a living after all; the phone interview bit. Now, you may not know this, but there's only one kind of transsexual whose voice is helped by transitioning, and I am not that kind of a transsexual! Or to put it more bluntly, estrogen doesn't do anything to your voice. (Testosterone will, so FTMs get a break there, but--as I well know--the effects are permanent.)

So back when I was transitioning--actually, just before I was sure I was going to transition--I began to work with an actress who gave voice lessons on finding a less obviously masculine way for me to talk. Not that I have anything against deep voices in women! Just, um, it was a way to make sure I would get outed. I didn't have a James Earl Jones bass or anything, but my voice pretty clearly marked me as trans.

The best part of the experience was that I was her first trans client, so we sort of assembled our own course in how to do this out of things on the internet, a DVD I had, and whatever seemed to work for us. After a while, we just spent half the class talking to each other, which was a great way to get comfortable using my new voice.

Thus, passing two phone interviews was not a small accomplishment.

Anyway. The face to face interview, which was not only face to face but a state away. And potentially guarded my economic future! After being so confident on the phone interviews, I suddenly found myself...inadequate. Because:

--I needed a new suit, since I'd gained some weight.

--Jeez, skirt or slacks? What was more appropriate?

--It turns out I needed a new suit that was two sizes larger than I normally wear, because I've gained so much weight. Sigh.

--I began to worry: would I come on too aggressive?

--I began to worry: would I not be aggressive enough?

--Or too feminine?

--Or not feminine enough?

--Or for that matter, would they immediately think I was trans?

--Or pull a credit bureau on me and know I was trans (I've been lazy about getting every account I own fixed.)

--Even if they hired me, would they hit me with the "female discount"?

--Do they want a woman in their IT department?

--Was I just the "diversity interview"?

Now, ducks, I know a lot of my female readers are somewhere between bemusement and rage at going over that list. I know it sounds whiny. It is whiny. But let me just say: I knew all this stuff going in, and I decided to transition anyway. I don't have any regrets about that, and I'm not saying I should have any special treatment.

But. This was the first time a lot of these things hit home for me all at once. And it was definitely a different experience for me to think of this stuff before an interview. (Also, I should note that I hadn't been on a serious interview in over six years--advantage to consulting--so there was that factor as well.) And the inadequacy I felt...was pretty massive. There was so much to be afraid of, so many traps I felt like I could blunder into just based on how I looked.

And you, my beloved female ducks, are more than welcome to chorus "Duh!" in my general direction right now. And I deserve it.

Anyway, as far as all that stuff went, I think things went fine--I looked professional, I don't think anyone read me, and I think I struck the right amount of aggression/femininity/whatever. It was the tech questions I whiffed on that probably sunk me! So there you have it.

But at least it was beautiful out in the snow today--the sky a hazy pastel blue at sunset, the air clear and all edges sharp-edged, the snow that light twilit blue you get at sunset. That helps. Even if it won't pay the rent.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Forgotten Feminist Films: My Brilliant Career

So I've been watching a lot of things on IFC lately. Thank you IFC! You are an underemployed person's true friend--you brought me Heathers and Ginger Snaps which I promise I am going write about soon!

It also brought my My Brilliant Career, a quirky Australian movie starring a very young (and fantastic) Judy Davis, and a Sam Neill who is so young that he is actually handsome. But still boring! Just, in a handsome way.

Now, it should be said that I have never gone in for the domestic English novel of manners. (Which according to Mikhail Bakhtin, is what the novel is really about.) To this day, I have never finished a novel by Jane Austen or George Eliot, and only one by Henry James (The American, a second-tier work of his.) This is very likely due in part to my upbringing--back in the day when I was still, shall we say, confused about who I was, novels about who was going to marry whom and why that would be a disaster simply didn't resonate. And while I regret not having made my peace with Austen, for the most part I've kept this prejudice even into my transition.

So I wasn't necessarily excited about My Brilliant Career, which shapes up early to be a rather typical story of the rough-around-the-edges outsider girl who charms the rich and reserved bachelor. (Sounds like Pride and Prejudice, fercryinoutloud.) Indeed, I only recorded it because the synopsis indicated it was about a woman struggling to be a writer at the turn of the century. So I kept at it, and I am glad I did.

Because Davis' Sybylla Melvyne isn't just a stand-in for Elizabeth Bennett. Twice, handsome Sam Neill (it feels odd typing that) proposes to her, and twice...she turns him down. Even when the second time it would literally lifted her out of the mud. And that's just the beginning of the charm of this film.

Everyone, you see, is onboard telling Sybylla that she can't expect more--can't expect a love match for her marriage, can't expect a career, can't expect not to pay a huge price if she is so indulgent as to pursue one. "Loneliness is a terrible price to pay for independence," says Sam Neill's mother, the closest thing to a genuine parent figure she has. But Sybylla doesn't listen; and if early on her refusals are little more than temper tantrums, over time she learns how to rely upon herself to persevere, eventually publishing a novel based on her experiences. (In real life, Miles Franklin published the novel the film is based on while in her early twenties, and it became a classic for its brutally honest portrayal of life in the Australian bush.)

Plus the movie is a pleasure to watch. Director Gillian Armstrong--who would go on to do the 1990s remake of Little Women--finds beauty in almost every frame of the movie. Plus she is unafraid to make interesting choices: an outdoors pillow fight between Neill and Davis lasts a good five minutes, is stunning, and despite the lack of dialogue manages to capture Sybylla's attraction to Neill's Harry, and at the same time her fears of giving up all her dreams before she even knows what they are.

Perhaps the best compliment I can give the movie is this: after I finished watching it, I started to read Pride and Prejudice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trailers For Films That Were Never Made: Dennis Moore

So Liss over at Shakesville notes that there's a new Ridley Scott version of Robin Hood coming in 2010, starring Russel Crowe as Robin Hood. This would be yawn inducing news, but for her hilarious transcript of the trailer:
TW] A lone figure runs through dark empty woods. Armor-clad knights ride horses through the woods. A tripwire is released and a net flies up. A wolf walks among corpses from a battle. A man peeps on an undressing woman. A thread is pulled through cloth. Light streams in through a stone wall. Armor-clad warriors creep through the woods. Text: "From Ridley Scott. The director of Gladiator." Armor-clad knights ride horses on the beach. Armor-clad knights run from the water onto the beach. Russell Crowe emerges from water screaming and raising a sword. More armor-clad knights ride horses on the beach. Russell Crowe rides a horse. Someone else strikes a tree with a hatchet. Armor-clad knights scream and get hit by falling trees and fight with swords and shit. Russell Crowe kisses a totes babe. Russell Crowe on horseback throws a sword. Text: "Academy Award Winner Russell Crowe." Russell Crowe looks at a bald dude with a sword. Text: "Academy Award Winner Cate Blanchett." Cate Blanchett appears for a brief instant; cut back to bald dude with a sword, who chops the fuck out of someone. Text: "Universal Pictures Presents." Sword-fighting! Fire! Text: "The story behind the legend." Vaguely swarthy dude with beard holds knife at totes babe's exposed bosom. Hey, arrows! A dirty dude hand rubs over Cate Blanchett's face. Russell Crowe runs. Text: "The hero behind the outlaw." Gold coins. Swarthy dude on horse grabs Cate Blanchett by the neck. Russell Crowe rides a horse, waving a sword. Russell Crowe kneels over a fallen comrade and makes the sign of the cross. Says: "Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions." Ooh, arrows again! Text: "Robin Hood." Russell Crowe aims an arrow, blood on his face. Text: "Coming 2010."
 Now, that got me thinking. I really don't need to see another Robin Hood movie: even the presence of BRIAN BLESSED and Alan Rickman couldn't save the unfortunate Costner vehicle Robin Dude: Prince of Dweebs, and everything ends up just being a sketch on the 1930s Errol Flynn classic.

But it did give me an idea for a blog post series! Movie trailers for films that were never made! So I thought, instead of Russel Crowe as Robin Hood, howabout him as another hero of English folklore--Dennis Moore!

Dennis Moore? That's right, Dennis Moore:

Below is a working script for the Dennis Moore trailer. Note how, as per the conventions of The Film of the Series, I worked in a cameo from the original version!

A group of richly dressed nobles get into a carriage. Text: "In an age of kings..." A masked rider on a horse rides through the night. British soldiers in 18th century uniforms emerge from the mist. Various quick cuts of poor people in rags. Text: "One man dared to stand up." Another shot of the masked rider. A coach rumbles through the darkness. Cut to soldiers firing muskets. Something explodes. The coach pulls up in front of the masked figure, seen from behind in a slow tracking shot from his stirrups to his hat.

Russell Crowe: Stand and Deliver!"

More soldiers. Text: "From Academy Award-winning director Ridley Scott." Horsemen ride; Crowe rakes coins into a bag at a tavern. Text: "Starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe." A brief two second shot of Cate Blanchett in period dress, barely enough for us to register someone blonde, elegant, and far too talented for this crap. Text, briefly: "AndacademyawardwinningladyactorCateBlanchett" Crowe, with a pistol, is relieving the occupants of a carriage of their valuables. One starts to run away. Crowe picks up an axe and flings it sideways, chopping the fleeing man's head off; the blood, as Eric Idle says, goes "pssssss" in slow motion.

Crowe: This redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.

Guns! Soldiers! Fire! Poor people dancing! Wealthy nobles at a ball! Horses ride through the dark. Something murky happens while a rock ballad plays. Crowe clutches Blanchett under a waterfall. Text: "DENNIS MOORE"

John Cleese, dressed as a country squire, sits in his library holding a book. He looks up.

Cleese: Dennis? How did the day go? Did you get any gold?

Crowe, off-screen: Sorry, father, they were all out.

Cleese: Ah, I see. Very good. (beat) Did they have any....lupins?

Text: COMING IN 2010

When Allies Attack

Hey! I have a new post up at Below the Belt!
So did you hear about how the Bilerico Project ran a piece from their brand-new contributor Ron Gold last week and the internet caught fire and burned down because it was so smugly transphobic? (No? Then you should be reading my blog. Seriously, people, I have a life outside of here you know.)

Now, Bil Browning ultimately did the right thing and took down the offending post and rescinded Gold's contributor status. I'm not going to rehash the particular reasons why this post was incredibly wrongheaded and stunningly insulting. I'm more interested in a phenomenon illustrated by this fracas: what happens when allies do something you find profoundly hurtful.

On y va!

Monday, December 14, 2009

In Space, No One Can Hear Your Right To Choose

So I've been reading science fiction again. Not a big surprise--there was a period of time (roughly from age 10 to 16) where I read nothing BUT science fiction, before embarking on a self-designed Great Books survey.

Anyway: I needed a book to read on the flight home from San Francisco, so I picked up a copy of Iain M. Banks' Matter, one of his Culture novels. For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, the Culture is a space opera series set in a human civilization that has evolved beyond such petty concerns as money, economy, gender, government, or living on planets. As that describes the place I want to live in one day, I'm a big fan. I also re-read two of Vernor Vinge's postmodern space operas, A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. And that got me thinking of one of the grandparents of postmodern space opera, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye. (Warning: there be spoilers below.)

In case you haven't heard of it, TMiGE sets out to reverse the classic "first contact" story: instead of hideously advanced aliens showing up over a backwards earth, in the novel the humans are the advanced aliens with an interstellar empire who discover an alien race confined to one star system. The Moties, as they are called by the humans, aren't hicks: a "differentiated" species that has several subspecies that rely heavily on instinctive knowledge, the Moties are the equivalent of an entire race of experts: their Engineer subspecies can barely talk, but can repair advanced machinery after only a cursory inspection of it; the Mediator class can talk the hind legs off a mule; and the Warrior class are born tacticians, generals, and special ops fighters. (Moties also change sex after being pregnant, regularly cycling between male and female, which is kinda cool.)

It's a fun read, but of course there's a lot of built-in FAIL. (You were expecting something different from the work of two white sci-fi authors in the '70s?) The sexism isn't just cultural, it's built into the characters: the one human female is consistently airheaded, muddle-minded, and wrong about everything--how she is supposed to be a "doctoral candidate" is beyond me. (She is a noble, so that may be explained.) Besides providing a mouthpiece for liberal strawviewpoints, her primary function is to comfort the crew and be the love interest for the dashing captain. I suppose this could be cultural criticism--after all, the humans not only have revived feudalism in their empire, but the Catholic frakkin' church as well; that might be giving them too much credit. (Plus they seem not to have read anything ever written by a woman or even encountered a woman in everyday life, based on Sally's characterization.)

Then there's the Motie subspecies. This is actually a clever idea...until you take a look at how it's organized. The primary way to tell Moties apart is by the color of their fur: Warriors are red colored, Doctors rust colored, Engineers brown colored--and the Masters, the subspecies genetically determined to lead all the other subspecies are white.

Yeah. You read that correctly. In the Motie species, white guys literally are genetically superior to the brown guys. Holy frak.

But that's not the most bizarre aspect of the Motie civilization. The central mystery in the book, the thing that the Moties try hard to hide, is that they are doomed to a constant cycle of the collapse of civilization--millions of years, thousands upon thousands of falls into barbarity. And the reason? I'll let a Motie explain:
"That's the whole secret. Don't you get it yet? Every variant of my species has to be made pregnant after she's been female for a while. Child, male, female, pregnancy, male, female, pregnancy, 'round and 'round. If she doesn't get pregnant in time, she dies."
I suppose this makes a certain very, very strange sense--a sort of evolutionary impetus on steroids, if you will. But what doesn't make sense is that in Niven and Pournelle's world, pregnancy always equals childbirth.

Think about that one.

I mean, let's just go with the idea that somehow becoming pregnant makes a Motie healthy again--that there is some hormonal change that occurs after the Blessed Event that she needs, and somehow can't be simulated even by the genius Motie doctors (Huh? How? Why? WTF?) Somehow, though, it isn't getting pregnant or even staying pregnant for a length of time that's the key--it's actually giving birth. Which is just a boggle: there's Something Important about the Motie vagina, I guess.

And of course, abortion is never mentioned. The closest the book comes is to say that the Motie equivalent of birth control would be infanticide. (What? How? The Pill just doesn't work on Moties? Do these guys know anything about mammalian female physiology? WTF?)

That's right--in the future, abortion is literally unthinkable. At least, nobody thinks about it. But of course the special Magic Motie Vagina probably explains all this.

Why am I taking all this time to rag on a book from the 1970s, you ask? Because of this:

--Because even then two popular male writers could create a scenario that was grossly ignorant of the female body

--Because I've never heard a male fan of the book ever wonder why the hell the Moties don't have abortions

--Because it's astonishing that the subject never even comes up given the nightmare parody of female reproduction the book creates.

--Because this book could be written today, and all my objections would remain; because abortion and women's control over their bodies still remains a taboo subject in much of the world's literature; because that silence contributes to the oppression of women's reproductive rights.

And let's not get into the book's other nightmare (super-fertile brown aliens are going to invade our country and breed all over the place, destroying civilization!) I'll leave that one for Lou Dobbs to take care of.

A Purloined Girlhood

I have a new post up at Tiger Beatdown!

It's the first post in a series I'm calling "A Purloined Girlhood" where I look at the ways that watching movies about growing up female have a completely different resonance for me nowadays. The first post is about Say Anything:
You have an odd relationship to the past when you’ve transitioned.

There’s barriers, thresholds, hesitations. Things Not Wanted To Be Said. Occasionally, misdirection and dodging. It can get…complicated.

You see, I am a woman in her thirties Without A Past–or at least, Without An Adolescence.

There are times I don’t regret not having had a girlhood; from what I’ve observed, and from what I’ve heard from my friends, it can definitely be one of those things that is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be.

But at the same time, I feel, sometimes…a loss? A lack? A missing connection between me and other women? Adolescence is such a key experience for so many of the women I know, so my lack of a girlhood sometimes leaves me feeling–still–like I’m on the outside, looking in. It’s difficult to pin down, exactly, especially because doing so sometimes brings back all the pain I felt during my childhood: the pain of having a boyhood I never wanted thrust upon me, the pain of watching others have the life I wanted and not being able to figure out what to do about it.
The next one will be on Heathers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ron Gold, Choice, And The End Of The Affair

So on further reveiw, the infamous Ron Gold post was taken down and he had his contributor status revoked. This was the proper step to take: one doesn't run a blog that supposedly caters to every letter in the LGBT spectrum and then publish something like that.

In the past I've found Bilerico to be pretty approachable for trans people and trans bloggers, which makes this failure hurt so much more than if it had been on a blog that didn't have that reputation. It revealed an enormous blind spot in the editor's outlook. One thing is certain: nothing that attacked the gay and lesbian identity in such a way would have been posted there.

However, one must wonder about the screening process over there. Were they aware that Ron Gold had previously claimed that being gay was largely a matter of "imprinting"?
First, about the science of the thing.  My reading of the literature gives me no cause (despite highly publicized research by Simon LeVay and others) to believe that there is any physical, chemical or genetic difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals.  Indeed, I think the current data leads to the inescapable conclusion that all human beings are born with the capacity for both homosexual and heterosexual responses.  Preferences for one or the other seem, in most cases, to be fairly fixed by the age of six, but within the species homosexuality and heterosexuality do not appear to be discrete entities, with preferences running the continuum from exclusivity at both ends to genuine bisexuality in the middle.  Even within individuals there is ample evidence that people can and do change, whether situationally (as in same-sex settings like prisons) or culturally (as in virulently homophobic societies).

So what causes sexual orientation?  My guess is that preferences for one gender or another is much like preferences for people who are dark or fair, young or old, tall or short; imprinted patterns that are usually formed quite early in life.  How these imprints occur has yet to be discovered, principally, I think because the bulk of the research has been looking for "the cause of homosexuality" rather than the cause of sexual preferences in general.  Do we choose our imprints?  No, but we do choose not only whether to act on them but whether our feelings are appropriate for our self-image.  It really isn't too hard to repress feelings that embarrass us or make us feel guilty.  It's a bit harder to try, as I've tried, to expand my imprints beyond young, short, dark men to others I might like just as well if I gave it a chance.

You should go and read the whole thing, because it's remarkable how this presaged the line of argument he used in his anti-transgender piece--with the exception that he was respectful of gay identities, but didn't deliver the same courtesy to trans folk.

I should note that one of the few good things about this mess is how many LGB and straight cis folk defended transgendered people and decried the bigotry of the Gold article. Peterson Toscano has a nice post about this, with many wonderful replies. (h/t to helen boyd, with a side order of snark.)

It should be noted too that not every trans person in the world acquitted themselves spotlessly. Our old friends the HBSers leaped in to score their usual desiccated points about "the transgender." There were some posts of fail in the various comment threads--even having bigotry shoved in your face shouldn't be an excuse to shove bigotry right back. These were few and far between, and somewhat ameliorated by the shocking level of insult Gold heaped out.

And by the fact that, well, we've heard it all before. Bil Browning said he wanted to "challenge" the readers of The Project, but how the fuck was the latest reiteration of the same old argument I've heard for all my life from all kinds of cis people, queer or not, challenging? Would Peter LaBarbera be allowed to be a contributor to The Bilerico Project? He'd certainly "challenge" the views of many in the gay community.

I think Lisa Harney of Questioning Transphobia said it best in the comments thread to the non-apology apology:
Don't you think trans people are constantly challenged already? Why do we need to be shocked out of a comfort zone that we largely do not have access to? [...] Would you honestly allow a post that called all LGB people deluded and unnatural, and said that same-sex attraction doesn't really exist? And when your commenters respond predictably (that is, with anger), would you deliver this same apology?
And with that, let's put L'Affaire Ron Gold to bed. I'm sure by tomorrow morning the world will have found a new champion to tell me that I don't exist.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"No" to the question of homosexuality

 So Bil Browning posted a non-apology apology over at Bilerico and mumbled the usual things about wanting challenging posts, noted they had run stuff from ex-gay activists, made a typical mistake about the meaning of "safe space" (hint: it's not a space where no one disagrees, it's a space where people don't get attacked based on who they are as a person rather than what they believe or do.) But let's take Bil at face value: he wants challenging posts, and I'd certainly still like to write for Bilerico. Let's see if this post would run there:
What is a homosexual? Well, there are two sorts who seem to be covered by the name, the gay guys and girls so good at portraying cartoon imitations of straight people, and queers, the folks who report that from an early age they've acted in ways that don't look like how normal boys and girls act. Despite the equipment they were born with that belies their assertions, they say they are really attracted to men or really attracted to women.

What does it mean to be really attracted to a man or a woman? Since it's not just about genitalia, it must be about personality, and what, one asks, is a male or a female personality? Even transsexual people nowadays concede that some men have attractions to men in ways thought to be exclusive to women, and some women have attractions to women in the sort that used to be thought exclusive to men. And transsexuals have always known that people of the same gender can be very different from each other. Isn't it true that those we form mated relationships with are always complementary - even polar opposites - to ourselves?

Let me state it categorically. There is no such thing as a gay or lesbian personality. Personality is not a function of sexuality.

So where does that put the concept of homosexuality? In my view, down the tubes! And that leaves the further questions of how homosexuals got to think the way they do, and what to do to resolve their dilemmas. I hope I'll be forgiven for rejecting as just plain silly the idea that some cosmic accident just turned these people into queers. What happened, more than likely, is that, from an early age, when they discovered that their personalities didn't jibe with who little boys and girls are supposed to be attracted to, they just assumed they mustn't be real straight little boys and girls--when in fact they're just real transsexual boys and girls, and a sex-change is the natural and correct way for them to express this side of themselves.

So, parents of such little boys and girls, do not take them to the psychiatrist and treat them like they're suffering from some sort of illness. Explain to them that, whatever the other kids say, real little girls attracted to boys, and real little boys are attracted to girls. And make sure the teachers are on the same page.

As for adults struggling with what to do about their feelings, I'd tell them too to stay away from the psychiatrists - those prime reinforcers of sexuality stereotypes - and remind them that whatever they're feeling, or feel like doing, it's perfectly possible with the sexuality everyone else has. If a man wants to sleep with a man; if a woman wants to sleep with a woman; if people want to change their sexuality; who says they can't violate these perfectly arbitrary taboos? A short historical and cross-cultural survey should establish that men and women have worn and done all sorts of stuff. I recall reading something by Ron Gold in which it seemed that he thought at the age of 13 he liked boys. For starters, I'd have told him that I like boys too, but like normal people I got rid of my pecker to do it.

Perhaps it isn't needless to say that a No to the notion of homosexuality does not excuse discrimination against gays or lesbians in employment, housing and public accommodation; and I strongly support legislation that would forbid it. I would, however, get after the doctors - the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn't exist, and the activists who use such spurious diagnoses to endanger with horrific diseases the bodies of the deluded.
 Somehow I think not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WTF, Bilerico?

I really like the Bilerico project--it's a great place for queer and trans folks and their allies to meet and discuss things. And it's never shied away from controversy.

Bilerico recently added a new contributor, Ronald Gold, and reading his biography he's just the kind of person you want to have there--a long time gay activist, one of the founders of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and a man who was instrumental in getting homosexuality removed from the DSM.

So it's an enormous disappointment to read his first post, officially titled "'No' to the notion of transgender" but if you look at the url it must have been called "Transgender: a disease that doesn't exist" at some point. And, well, let's see if you, Gentle Reader, can understand why I was shocked to see it on Bilerico:
What is transgender? Well, there are two sorts who seem to be covered by the name, the drag kings and queens so good at portraying cartoon imitations of straight people, and transsexuals, the folks who report that from an early age they've felt themselves trapped in the wrong bodies. Despite the equipment they were born with that belies their assertions, they say they are really men or really women.
 Holy fuck. Did I just read that at a queer site? Seriously? Please tell me this is some kind of horrid fundamentalist satire...
I recall reading something by Jan Morris in which it seemed that he thought he needed a sex change because he wanted men to hold doors open for him and kiss him goodbye at train stations. For starters, I'd have told him that I've had these nice things happen to me and I've still got my pecker.
Oh ye ghods.

Oh, but he isn't prejudiced against trans folk! See, this is how he ends the piece:
Perhaps it isn't needless to say that a No to the notion of transgender does not excuse discrimination against cross-dressers or post-op "transsexuals" in employment, housing and public accommodation; and I strongly support legislation that would forbid it. I would, however, get after the doctors - the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn't exist, and the surgeons who use such spurious diagnoses to mutilate the bodies of the deluded.
 See? I just think you're deluded, C.L.--but that's no reason for people to be cruel to you. That is, for levels of cruelty beyond calling you a man and a "transsexual."

If I was to be charitable (I am reliably informed that for some reason December is a month we're supposed to do so, here in Merka; the media says so), I guess I could scratch out some kind of "hmm, he's really against gender essentialism, which I'm down with" Except, oddly enough, as I write this he's sharing the front page with Autumn Sandeen, the transgender barista from Pam's House Blend, and whom I'm sure enjoys having her identity crumpled up in front of her eyes and tossed away.

I just...can't understand why this of all things should be the first post this guy makes at Bilerico. Didn't somebody tell him there are actual trans people who visit? Or even, you know, write stuff there? Holy cow.

Grumble...gotta write that "how to take an ally to task" post that everybody is writing nowadays...sheesh.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Your RDA of Internalized Misogyny

I don't always follow the Daily Show anymore; there are days when it seems like Jon Stewart has kicked all the lady writers out of the room and lets his dudebros handle all the jokes. But last night's segment on Gretchen Carlson was fantastic:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down

Daily Show
Full Episodes

Political Humor
Health Care Crisis

If you had doubts about the misogyny of the right wing, the media, and especially the right wing media: put them to rest.

What on earth does it say about this woman's political beliefs that she purposely makes herself look less intelligent in order to be able to speak about them? (Of course, according to Wikipedia her nanny growing up was Michelle Bachmann, so...) And in case you just think that's broadcasting, don't forget that many of her colleagues regularly strut out how smart they are--frequent commentator Karl Rove is admired for his genius, for example--but Ms. Carlson has to pretend to have never accomplished anything intellectual before. Now, maybe that's okay for Michelle Bachmann, who genuinely hasn't done anything noteworthy with her brain; but for goodness' sake, studying at Stanford and Oxford doesn't just happen; neither does playing classical music solos on the violin. Yet one cannot help but feel that the most important qualification for her job--at least in the minds of the heads of the network--was her Miss America title, not her degrees.

But why? Why can't she be smart and beautiful? (And conservative. It's a free country, mostly.) Even if she's the host of a morning show? What on earth is so awful about a woman who can think--what is so terrible that she purposely hides it?

Yes, I know. The kyriarchy. Still, funny how that thing can bite you even when you're not looking.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Better Watch...Out!

So tonight, I had a choice in my TV watching. I could watch the new TNT show "Men of a Certain Age", about the World's Most Undercovered Topic--the ever so gentle male ego--or Ridiculous Wooden Puppets.

What Ridiculous Wooden Puppets, you ask? Surely you jest, Strawperson Reader I am having an imaginary conversation with! Why, these Ridiculous Wooden Puppets!

Except it wasn't even Rudolph! Rudolph would have been cool! No, it was the much-less well known Santa Claus is Coming to Town, narrated by Fred Astaire (you haven't lived until you've seen a Ridiculous Wooden Puppet representation of Fred Astaire dancing) and...Mickey Rooney? As Santa? Did I just type that right?

Anyway, Ridiculous Wooden Puppets is still better than Ridiculous Wooden Actors. Talking about, um, wood.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Je Me Souviens

Today is the anniversary of the infamous École Polytechnique Massacre.

For those of you who don't know, here are the basics: on December 6, 1989, a gunman named Marc Lépine entered the École Polytechnique in Montreal, an engineering college. He entered a classroom, separated the men from the women, and then shot all nine of the women, killing six. He then began wandering the school, specifically targeting women, before taking his own life. He killed 14 women, wounded 10 others, and also wounded four men.

Before setting out on his mass murder, he had left a suicide note which mentioned that he specifically targeted "feminists" for ruining his life, and included a list of nineteen women he wanted to die because they were feminists.

Today is commemorated as National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Survivors of the massacre helped pass a gun control law that required the registration of all firearms--and which probably has helped reduce firearm-related violence against women.(Which is something to think about, O ye who criticize TDOR for being an ineffectual "pity party.")

And the response has been a serious consideration of how misogyny pervades our society, right? Or about how violence and especially armed violence is a plague, right? No. It seems lots of folks deny that what has to be one of the most brain-thuddingly obvious acts of violent misogyny in recent history...wasn't misogyny at all, no ma'am. Oh, and the Harper government wants to drop the gun registry. Nice commemoration, assholes.

CaitieCat on Shakesville has a poignant post on the subject today, and I highly recommend (and when was the last time you read a post from me with this sentiment?) the comments thread. The Toronto Star has an article about how the lives of the survivors have changed, and how many of them have fought to prevent further massacres, and for women's rights in general.

Je me souviens. Je ne oublierai jamais. Jamais encore.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Science Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

There is so much miserable shit in this world.

There's the a many wars. An economy that seems geared to either kill us all or return us to feudalism (the line's fifty-fifty either way.) And not to mention the constant and perpetual oppression that stems from the horror that everybody isn't just like yourself, and maybe you can turn a buck on that fact.

In this crapsack world, Mythbusters is a shining light of goodness.

I mean, yes there's Adam and Jamie and the whole "hey, science actually proves things! Knowledge is good and fun to acquire" message they cleverly disguise by blowing shit up with great abandon.

More than that, there is Kari Byron.

I love Kari Byron. Even if she did do a FHM spread, sigh.

I mean, first, she is a full-fledged member of the team. She works on all their advanced crazy toys. She's always there when they blow stuff up, and she has a ton of her own good ideas.

And the fact that she's a woman is never particularly comment upon. She's just another member of the build crew.

And she does all this stuff even when she's nine months pregnant. Which is awesome. There is something in me that delights at the sight of her swaddled in a bulletproof vest, testing their latest explosive craziness experiment.

Also, she does cool and weird conceptual art.

But beyond all that: you know what's cool? Today I'm watching an episode where they are testing whether or not you can really hold on to the roof or hood of a car if the person driving tries to do maneuvers to throw you off. So they build this boom rig attached to the car that will let them hang from it without flying off to their death.

And Adam paints it bright pink.

That is awesome. And it's symptomatic of the show, because for all of their We Love The Big Booms, it never is all about macho BS about how big their booms are. They need a color to make the boom show up on camera. They choose pink. No biggie.

Life should be more like Mythbusters.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blogging From Home: Anomie Of Unemployment Edition

Okay, unemployed is a strong word for me: I haven't worked a fulltime W-2 job in over 10 years, and I have some contract work that will be coming down the pike soonish, plus a serious line on an actual job. But still: for the first time in a couple of years, I have no place to be to make money right now.

Funny, it actually is like the last time I was out of work around Christmas, four years ago: which incidentally was about two months before the collapse of my marriage.

Anyway, my damn jet lag (and spending too much time reading a Culture novel the last few nights) finally caught up with me and I crashed this morning--fed the Evil Feline Overlords and passed out in bed again. So I didn't get much done today. I was going to walk over to the library to get more Banks novels, but I checked the website and they're all out or on hold.

So I'm going to treat myself to a fabulously cheap calzone for dinner. I thought about ordering a movie from my cable company, but the best I saw was the new Transformers movie. Then I remembered I have "Ginger Snaps" on my DVR, and I also set the same to record "Heathers," a movie I had never seen before. So definitely some blog fodder coming.

Anything is better than watching TNT tonight--they're showing Spielberg's 9/11 porn adaption of "War of the Worlds."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Duck, Duck, Silly Goose

OK, so some of you may wonder where the hell I've been, assuming anyone still reads me given my recent vanishing act.

The answer is--well, I've been through the wringer. Not quite. Rather, I've been in California, which was quite pleasant, though I did miss the Great American Metropolis.

I also lost my major client and so I've been looking for work rather more actively than I've been writing.

And I had a bit of a case of burnout, something I think is going to be my perpetual inheritance as long as I insist on being the on the Radical side of the fence.

And a lot of other not so great excuses. There you are.

I have been thinking about just how I want to continue in my writing on these subjects. For one thing, I think at least on this blog I may open up just a little bit and do some more personal pieces, or at least personal experience pieces.

My vision for The Second Awakening was always to be an analysis site--there are plenty of places on Ye Olde Blogosphereee where you can get up to date info on how badly the world sucks. I never planned to break news. So I see what I do as catching up on stories and bringing my own view to things.

But one thing I've learned in writing these last--sheesh, seven months?--is that I need, or want, or have to if I want the whole analysis thing to work, tie stories and outrages to a larger theoretical framework. This is what Sady at Tiger Beatdown does so seemingly effortlessly, and it's what I want to learn how to do. (And speaking of the Ol' Tiger Beatdown, it looks like I'm going to be a semi-demi-occasionally-regular contributor there--yay!)

And also maybe do stuff at Op-Ed length (600-800 words for you aspiring writers) which is not only easier on the brain and fingers, but something that writing for Below the Belt has really trained me how to do. what, Cat? So this. I do plan to do more writing, here and at other venues. There will be posts! It may take a while to gear back up, but this is what I do. It's all I've ever wanted to do (well, that and get paid for it...I'm working on that one.) I'm not giving up anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

General Francisco Franco Is Still Dead, and Hiram Montserrate Is Still A Douche

So the New York State Senate finally got around to voting on legalizing gay marriage today:
Marriage equality failed today in the New York Senate after a years-long battle to bring the issue to a vote. The final tally: 24 YES, 38 NO. Among the surprises was a "no" vote from Queens Democrat Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who had previously been a vocal supporter. In October, Monserrate narrowly escaped a felony assault conviction for slashing the face of his girlfriend with a broken glass. Monserrate's NYC office: (718) 205-3881. His Albany office: (518) 455-2529.
 Yes, it's our old friend Hiram Montserrate shocking nobody with a fucking brain that he once again turned out to be lying, devious jerk. We knew he hated women; now we know he hates gays: fortunately, the New York State Senate takes so few damn meaningful votes that we may have to go months before we find the next group Montserrate thinks is disposable.

And fuck, it sucks that NYS couldn't make this happen, although there is hope now for future votes (and primary challenges to the Democrats who voted No.)

BTB: The Wages of Transness

Yanno, these days I guess I'm lucky to be able to even write these damn things, let alone tell anyone about them: but I have a post up at Below the Belt about the tragic death of Mike Penner, and transition in general:
Transition, as you may have heard, is really hard.

There is the actual physical nature of it: the hormones, the changes to your body, the surgeries (if you want them), the hair removal (if you want or need that too), the way you look in the mirror, the way people look at you. There is the long period when you may look like you could be either gender, or neither, when passing as your birth gender is as hard or harder than passing as your new gender.


Friday, November 20, 2009


I've got a post about today--Transgender Day of Remembrance--up on Below the Belt:
Today is the eleventh annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day when trans people and allies are encouraged to pause and remember the people who have died in the previous year for the simple crime of being trans (or even, in the case of one person on this year's list, loving a trans person.) Today events will be held all around the world to memorialize, celebrate, and educate people about the lives of trans people and the all-to-often fatal prejudice they face.

Which isn't to say that there aren't controversies even inside the trans community about TDOR. Some people find it overly morbid--that by making our annual celebration about people who have been killed, we make ourselves out to be victims, not strong people struggling against sometimes impossible barriers. (I once heard a transsexual woman describe the day as a "pity party.") Another criticism is that we should be celebrating our lives, not our deaths--that people who are trans and live "normal" or "successful" lives should be the focus of our celebration, not the unfortunates that died.

But not me.
 The rest is here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Here's a quick duck-in to discuss some hobbyhorses of mine--the Polanski debacle, and the Senate filibuster rules! (What, you didn't know I have an obsession with that? Good thing most of you haven't met me in person, I natter on about them a lot.)

First, Jay Smooth does an amazing take down of all the arguments people have been throwing around about why Rapin' Roman should go free or something:

Like a lot of people, I always like Jay Smooth, but that was teh awesome.

(h/t to the fabulous Lena D.)

Next, here's a nifty piece from Gail Collins and everyone's favorite muddle-headed voice of conservative received wisdom, David Brooks, where they talk about the House's recent health care bill. Gail voices one of my particular frustrations with the Senate's arcane rules:
We used to think of the filibuster as a dramatic, once-in-a-blue-moon vehicle that was used only in extreme circumstances, like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” (What I like about that movie, in retrospect, is that Stewart was not standing there, holding the floor all by himself for hour after hour until he collapsed from exhaustion, in order to save puppies or fight unemployment. It was because the evil Claude Rains was trying to destroy his career, and Jimmy had to prove that he was as saintly as ever. It was all about him. So very Senate like.) Or, of course, when the Southerners wanted to stop civil rights legislation.

But now, a minority of senators don’t have to bother to actually keep talking, or take turns talking, or even hang around the chambers to bring progress to a screeching halt. They just declare their intention (it’s the thought that counts) and nothing can go forward without 60 votes.

That’s crazy. If we’re going to have this system, the filibuster should be reserved for matters that can’t be undone later, like important judicial nominations. Or wars. Not normal domestic policy, no matter how large.
 I so 100% agree with that. It would be a will of the people moment--if you've judged opinion correctly, then people will support your principled stand against oppressive legislation; otherwise, they'll think you're a bunch of obstructionist clowns.

Honestly, I can't see why the Democrats wouldn't go for this--can you imagine the glee in Chuck Shumer's face as he goes on talk show after talk show to run the same damn clip of Orrin Hatch reading the AMA membership lists into the Congressional Record? It would be great.

Gail then goes on to attack Joe Lieberman, which is always good fun. She doesn't, however, mention the single largest problem with the health care bills: the evil Stupak-Pitts amendment, the greatest rollback in women's health and reproductive rights in over a quarter of a century, and something Ms. Collins might presumably be interested in.

Unless, of course, she thinks it's just "politics" instead of "fundamental rights."

Or maybe she was afraid of offending Bobo's delicate sensibilities. WEV.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Female Imponderablization

Hey! It's time for another Below the Belt post......this time, on DRAG!
Nowadays, Halloween isn't much of a holiday for me; I rarely make special plans for it or bother to get a costume--and considering the average woman's costume--Sexy Ninja! Sexy Vacuum Cleaner Salesperson! Sexy First Lady!--that's maybe for the best. (I may not be a radical feminist--they won't take me--but come on, people--Amanda Hess at the Sexist has done yeowoman's duty on this subject.)

This Halloween, however, I was out in San Francisco and went to see a friend's performance in a drag show. So I donned my homemade ironic vampire disguise--fangs, pvc duster and dress, boots, and my "...And Then Buffy Staked Edward. The End." tee shirt--and caught some decidedly non-vintage drag.
 You know the drill!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday Media Watch, Edizione Internazionale

O HAI AGAIN, DUCKS! And yes, this really is a Monday Media Watch--I get in just under the wire by virtue of being in California.And being in California, I decided to put aside my usual Monday Media Watch sparring opponent--the New York Times--and try one of the local papers for a change.

So today's target: The San Francisco Comical, er, Chronicle, and specifically this article on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi! Take it away, Joel Brinkley:
So Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is shaming his nation. That's what pundits and commentators are saying as the Italian courts pursue charges of bribery, corruption and tax evasion. But by far the most visible allegations revolve around his sexual escapades.

But before we all clamber aboard that bandwagon, is it possible we misunderstand?
 Hey, that is one promising start, Mr. Brinkley--because certainly lady people have noticed a disturbing trend to judge us by our sexual escapades rather than the substance of our scandals! In fact, we often get judged on our "sexual escapades" in the absence of any other "scandal"! Let's take a look at Mr. Berlusconi's issues:
After all, as the prime minister explained at a recent news conference, "to my male colleagues present here I say: Raise your hand and tell me you don't think it's nice to rest your eyes on pleasant and enjoyable feminine presences - rather than sitting at a table with people lacking aesthetic qualities."
Oh. I see. I think I can diagnose these difficulties. He's a douche.

Now, "pleasant and enjoyable feminine presences" by its very nature is enough to make me do a Radfem Stomp. But for the sake of my blood pressure, and the possible edification of a dudebro who stumbles upon this site, let's unpack that: first, only feminine presences are pleasant and enjoyable--this comes as a surprise not only to big ol' bisexual me, who has been known to find masculine presences both pleasant and mm-hmm-hmm enjoyable, but it also pretends that there are no men who might agree with Your Duckmistress about said pleasant and enjoyable masculinities.

But let's dig, Starbuck, to the little lower layer: you can't just utter a sentence like that without it seeping context. And the context for it is that for men in power, women have far too long been seen only as, well, pleasant decoration and the occasional useful sex object. One would presume, just from his saying such an asinine thing, that a room with Chancellor Merkel, Baroness Thatcher, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Albright would not be one of "pleasant and enjoyable" presences, despite all the named presences being female. So to sum up, on the Berlusconi scorecard of douchiness:

Female Heterosexual Desire....................................................Inconsequential
Male Homosexual Desire........................................................Invisible
"Plesant and Enjoyable" Males................................................Ignorable
Women Who Aren't "Pleasant and Enjoyable"
by virtue of Silvio's Lust..........................................................Inconceivable

Okay, I know what you're saying: I'm making some leaps of logic here. Maybe his (very debatable) Excellency isn't a douchebag--maybe he's just a man of his time, well-meaning but saying douchey stuff. Allowances should be made, etc. And maybe you're right; maybe I haven't given him a fair shake...
Certainly that must be why he showed up at 18-year-old Noemi Letizia's birthday party last spring. It's probably a coincidence that Letizia, a model, poses for provocative photos in her underwear. That couldn't have been why he gave her a nice birthday present, a gold necklace worth about $10,000.

Berlusconi's wife was angry. She left him, saying his visit to the birthday party "really surprised me because he has never come to the 18th birthday parties of any of our three children, despite being invited."

Come, now. Berlusconi is the prime minister of Italy. He has a busy schedule. Even a young Noemi Letizia understands that. "I am in awe of him," she told an interviewer. "He calls me, and I go to him." But only "if he has time."
 Right. Well-meaning guy who can make time for underwear models but not his own children...como si dice "douchebag" in italiano?

But let's not stop at Italian heads of state--there's plenty of members of the doucheoisie right here at home!
For example, two newspapers, Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, recently reported that [businessman Giampaolo] Tarantini told police he lined up 30 women for Berlusconi and his friends, "if the need arose," and brought them to 18 parties in Berlusconi's homes in Rome and Sardinia in 2008 and 2009.

"I wanted to meet Premier Berlusconi, and to that end I spent a lot to get into contact with him, knowing his taste for women," Tarantini told the papers. "I merely accompanied to his house young women who I introduced as my friends while keeping quiet about the fact that I sometimes paid them."

You'd assume that all of the press coverage, all of that back-room business, would spell Berlusconi's political demise. Think of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, both of whom are accused of covering up extramarital affairs. The South Carolina legislature is considering impeachment, and Ensign's re-election prospects in 2012 appear to be slim.

What about Berlusconi? Do we misunderstand? If the public opinion polls are an indicator, we do. His popularity among Italians, in recent polls, stands at 63 percent - a figure any chief of state would envy.

What do Italians know that we don't?
Well, Joel, first off, maybe Americans do know something about this--President Clinton had approval ratings at or near the 60% range all during l'affaire Lewinsky. And you conveniently ignore the fact that in the case of Urbin and Sanford, a huge part of the scandal is the hypocrisy of a candidate who deliberately cultivates an image of being squeaky clean and virginal (outside the God-sanctioned marriage bed) being caught metaphorically with their trousers down. Neither Berlusconi nor Clinton built their image around their presumed superior morals, and more importantly neither routinely made political hay out of condemning other people for their presumed moral failings.

And of course the article ignores, or minimizes, the fact that Berlusconi is the richest man in Italy, someone who routinely throws bushels of money into his various political campaigns (he owns his own political party) and has been mired in controversy, legal actions, and charges of criminality pretty much from the inception of his political career. With Berlusconi, his sexist actions are just the tip of the iceberg. Which could have been an interesting jumping off point for an article that might look at how hidebound belief in personal superiority (such as sexism) might also be revealed in other aspects of someone's personal dealings (such as rampant corruption from within the government.) But that wouldn't be as fun to write as a "Europe good sexy fun, America evil Puritanical morals police" article, which continues to get written whenever any scandal remotely sniffing of sex heaves into view--witness how often people have taken this precise tack over the Polansky arrest, even when European opinion is hardly neither uniform nor even close to the perception of the writer.

And besides--writing about how a European leader who is both sexist and corrupt, and whose sexism reveals things about his corruption, might force you to consider the same things about American leaders--and then who would invite you to the cool parties, or give you op-eds in local papers?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bloggity Blogity Blog Blog Blog Note

O HAI! Like, remember me? I used to post--sometimes more than once a week--on this here blog!

Sorry, ducks, I know I promised you more vitriol--I did try to deliver with tonight's offering--but getting caught up with things out here on the west coast has been demanding. Also, my main client is playing the "we're not going to pay you, nyah nyah nyah" game, which is awful fun--nothing like being far from home with two months income being held in hock.

HOWEVER, I am slowly regaining equilibrium--or, since this blog is about anything but that--massive amounts of rage, and will be writing more and more often. I promise--and I've never let you down before, except for all those other times. Ahem.

Monster Rat: A Gallery of the Rape Culture

Hiram Monserrate is a douchebag.

Need proof? Consider the lovely legislative record of the freshman NYS senator: he not once, but twice threatened to caucus against his own party--which for the first time in over 40 years was in control of the upper house of the New York State legislature and had an ambitious progressive and reform agenda, including legalizing gay marriage--making good on his threat the second time and throwing the entire state government into chaos (and costing the taxpayers billions of dollars.) And both times, he couldn't even stand steadfast to his own dirtbag principles (well, except the most important: look out for Hiram first)--he turned coat on his turncoat companions and slunk back to the Democrats.

And that's not even what earned him his nickname: Monster Rat.

That comes as a result of the "incident" of December 19th, 2009. Monserrate brought his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, to an emergency room over a half hour from his apartment. She had been slashed down to the bone by a broken glass. Monserrate claimed he had tripped in a darkened room and accidentally smashed the glass into her face. Giraldo disagreed, although she would later recant and say that his version was correct. But that night she called him "crazy" and said, "I can't believe he did this to me!"

It seems that he had been driven into a jealous rage by finding another man's business card in her purse. A security camera would later show images of him beating her in the hallway, dragging her by her hair. She tried to get away from him but nobody opened their door.

He was indicted, but once Giraldo changed her story, it proved impossible to convict him of anything but misdemeanor assault.

Now, I can leave it there: yet another case of a powerful man using his privilege to abuse a woman and get away with it--as Joanna Molloy did in the New York Daily News:
In the hallway after the verdict, women in jeans and lawyers' suits clustered in groups and shook their heads. "This sets women's rights back a long time," said one female court officer.

Forgive us if we find the couple's story the most incredible coincidence since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same Fourth of July.

Erlbaum did find Monserrate - who courthouse wags have been calling Monster Rat - guilty of reckless assault, for forcibly dragging Giraldo out of the apartment in a scene caught on videotape.

It's a misdemeanor, so Monserrate gets to keep his job in Albany.
So for your enjoyment (read: rage), here is a gallery of Bramhall's cartoons, which are disturbing and triggering enough that (in a Second Awakening first) I present them after the jump.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog Note

I know I've been away. Thank you for all your concern about my mental health: it is improving as my withdrawal stabilizes. Also, I'm currently on a transcontinental sojourn, which means that I have nice weather (I am typing this from a patio in California) and that can't but help my mood.

And that means more yummy vitriol, coming your way now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yet Another Below The Belt Post

That time of the month again:

The first person I knew who told me they weren't transgendered was a crossdresser I'll call Gene. He (and he did later come to insist on male pronouns, and stopped calling himself Gina on the message board we met on), decided that he really was in it for the clothes, and didn't find himself aligned with the other crossdressers on the board, who all thought of themselves as transgendered.

It was a little jarring to me at first; I had naively assumed that crossdressing=transgendered, so having someone overturn that conviction was surprising. But as I reflected on it, I could see his point. And since that time, I've met other people like Gene, some crossdressers, some genderqueer, and even some transsexuals who identify completely as their post-transition gender and have no desire to continue with any kind of transgender identity.

There exists, however, a group of trans women--at least, they seem to be exclusively trans women--who resist being placed under the transgender umbrella. Some refuse to even call themselves transsexuals, preferring the term Harry Benjamin Syndrome instead. They claim that transsexualism is a case of being "neurologically nteresexed" by which they mean that they have a "female brain," and therefore a medical, not a psychological condition.

Finish up over here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blog Note

Bad serotonin day. Be back tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Duck Blogging

Lake Tahoe--courtesy of the fabulous Lena D.

Allow me to introduce myself...

Greetings, Ducks!

I seem to have taken an inadvertent week off from the blog there--sorry about that. Much of this is because my free time currently is being swallowed by some intense computer programming work; there's a lot to get done, and I'm trying to get it done and over with already, and I've had to teach myself a bunch of things I didn't know how to do before. (Today, I grabbed a static Google maps image and dumped onto my server! Yatta!)

The other truth, though, is that I've been struggling lately with my anti-depression meds. I went off of them over the summer--you may have noticed the intense, burning rage from that period--and went on a completely different med right before I left for Paris. It's an SSRI, a kind of AD that I have a real love-hate relationship with: on the one hand, they seem to work really well for me; on the other, I get all the side-effects. (I now think that my caffeine-withdrawal insomnia the first few days in Paris was heavily exacerbated by the new meds, which have been giving me insomnia of late.) And while the meds definitely kept me from crashing into the slough of despond, I wasn't exactly scaling the heights of ecstasy of late: in fact, my motivation has completely vanished. I haven't done aikido since that night I trained in Paris, I've only posted once in the last week here, and in general I lack any willpower to get things done. (Let's not even talk about my rapidly ballooning weight.)

So I'm going off them again, and maybe I'll find a new psychopharmacologist to get me on something new, or maybe I'll try to find another way to control my mood swings. But I can't keep on going the way I was, with a head lightly wrapped in what felt like fabric softener sheets. And I can't give up my writing, not after I finally began to reclaim it.

This, by the way, is pretty much par for the course with me--I've had a long battle against my depression ever since I finally began to seriously treat it almost a decade and a half ago (there's a fascinating story about how that all came about, which I will save for another day.) The first time I took AD meds, I thought I had locked my depression in a cell deep in my soul and it would never bother me again. The second time, I realized I was locked up in that same cell, but my depression was safely chained up and couldn't get me.

After the third time, I realized that my depression was chained up to me. And if I ever took my eyes off of, that fucker would kill me.

Don't worry, I have an excellent support system and I'm not in any danger right now. And I'm sure I'll get through this and cope--one of the reasons it took me so long to finally start working on my depression is that I'm so damn high-functioning. But it's frustrating to keep ping-ponging around like this.

Also, withdrawal sucks, even with my tapering off regime.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Today in Tales From the Douchoisie

Hello, Ducks! Can you guess what Google Reader threw up in my lap today? Did you guess Tucker Max? I didn't, which I guess is what makes it sexy...or something; I'm not up on my fratire. But let's check in, courtesy of The Frisky...

Oh, what? The fratire thing?

The Frisky: Gawker deemed you a “ham-fisted frat s***.” The feminist bloggers hate you. You’ve been called a “professional sexist,” “anti-feminist,” and a “promoter of rape culture.” The New York Times labeled your prose “fratire.”

TM: Hold on now. The New York Times was not insulting me when they called my writing “fratire.” In fact, they said I invented a new literary genre, one that defines a whole new generation of writers and readers. How is that an insult?

Yes, the brave new world of Two and a Half Men, Maxim, and Ketel One ads:

I think that this isn't exactly a new genre...unless you think that the needs, feelings, and emotions of young white dudes has been an underserved artistic destination for these last, um, 2,000 years.

Sigh. On y va...

The Frisky: Are you a “misogynist”?

TM: Complete bulls**t. A misogynist is someone who hates women. I love women. Everything I do is to impress women. Without women, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Plus, half my fans are women. The people who call me misogynist are the ones who haven’t read or engaged my writing, and are just looking for a bogeyman to attack.

The Frisky: In your stories, women throw themselves at you. How many women have you slept with, and what advice do you give men on women?

TM: I have no idea how many women I’ve slept with. Probably more than 300, probably less than 600? I don’t keep count, because that would be super creepy.

Some women absolutely do throw themselves at me. I think part of it is that there are always some women that are into rich, famous, and powerful men. Then there is the artist aspect. Half my fans are women, and they are fans because they love my writing. There is the masculine thing; I am one of the few people in media who is unapologetically masculine, and that’s very attractive to some women.

You know? He's not a misogynist. Just a narcissist living in his own, private world where women flock to him to give him blowjobs, sexy girls (the only real girls: see Amanda Hess' brilliant "Anatomy of a Tucker Max Joke") never think he's being insulting to him, and "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell" is... awesome and groundbreaking movie, and great art always finds its way.
Box Office total, after two weeks: $960,425.

But wait! Ol' Tuck has an excuse for that!
It may not hit at the theater, but it will hit on DVD, and hit big.
Yeah, you and Joe Francis, amigo. Funny the company you keep.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You Win Some, But You Lose Many, Many Others...

Double header of media mayhem!

First, the good news:

Roman Polanski lost the first round yesterday in his battle to avoid extradition to the US for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Already locked in a Zurich cell for the last dozen days, Polanski learned that he will remain incarcerated for an extended period after the Swiss Justice Ministry rejected his plea to be released from custody.

Swiss authorities said they feared he might leave the country if released. The director of film classics such as Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown has been wanted by US authorities since fleeing sentencing 31 years ago.

"We continue to be of the opinion that there is a high risk of flight," said the ministry spokesman Folco Galli.

He said the threat was too great for the government to accept bail or other security measures in exchange for the release.

Oh, and by the way? If you had any doubt remaining that this guy wasn't a megadouche? Or that he had somehow made some recompense? Feast your eyes on this:

Roman Polanskiwas to pay at least $500,000 to Samantha Geimer, the victim in his 1977 child-sex case, under a settlement in a civil suit Ms. Geimer later filed against him, The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend. Mr. Polanski, right, agreed to the settlement in 1993, but as of 1996 had not made the payment, according to court records provided to the news media in response to requests for access to the old case. It remained unclear whether the settlement was ever paid, though Ms. Geimer was still trying to collect as of 1996, by which time accrued interest had pushed the amount to more than $600,000, according to the court records.

But don't worry, the news can always get worse...especially when it's the NY Daily News:

A shocked judge demanded prosecutors explain why they asked him to allow a prominent Manhattan therapist to return to the home where she's accused of
slashing her husband Tuesday.

"I'm going to send her home to a 79-year-old husband when it's alleged she stabbed him with knives?" Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Anthony Ferrara asked prosecutors.

"You're assuring me he's going to be safe, that this piece of paper is going to protect him from knives?" he said, after granting a "limited" order of protection allowing Joyce Poster-Lederman, 64, to return home.

Funny how people never seem to worry that it's "just a piece of paper" when it's a woman who's being covered by it. Don't believe me? Check out this site about orders of protection in New York:
You have been arrested because you got into a fight with your girlfriend or wife. Maybe there is a reasonable explanation or your girlfriend does not want to "press charges." Unfortunately, at this stage it doesn't matter. You are now before a judge and whether or not you are released, you must completely stay away from the complainant.
A "full" order of protection or "restraining order" is a an order by the court preventing you from having any contact at all with the complainant or alleged victim of a crime. This could mean that if you live together you may not enter the home. Alternatively, the police will arrange a time for you to enter and get some of your things. You will not be able to call the complainant or talk to the complainant even if she calls you. The burden placed upon you is quite severe.

Yeah. Imagine, not being able to see the woman--please note, it was assumed to be a woman who was the victim--because you beat her up! Oh, the humanity!

Which is kind what the order is trying to protect, ya know?

Below The Belt: The Umbrellas of Transburg

My latest post for Below The Belt is now up:
I invariably use trans as short for transgendered, and transgendered in its so-called "umbrella sense": embracing anyone with a variance with the gender assigned to them because of their biological sex. (When referring to a transsexual's gender, however, I use trans as an adjective modifying that gender: trans man, trans woman. Although this is slightly confusing, I agree with Julia Serano and helen boyd that the space is vital in avoiding "othering" or invalidating a transsexual's gender--something that transwoman doesn't do, since it implies that transsexual women aren't women but something else entirely).
You can read the rest here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Times, They Are A-Draggin'

Several years ago, back when I was still a crossdresser myself (and working as a man), I came across a picture on an old hard drive of my boss. Wearing tight leather pants, a low-cut blouse, and makeup. And written in a pink script on the picture was a feminine name that shared his first initial.

I was caught somewhere between completely weirded out and strangely relieved to know I wasn't the only trans person in the office.

Which leads me to events in East Cleveland, Ohio, where mayor Eric Brewer was recently defeated in a primary election. Unremarkable, right?

Well...except for the fact that like me and my boss, somebody found pictures that seem to look like the ex-mayor on his computer hard drive. Wearing lingerie.

I'm not going to reprint the photos here--you can find them easy enough, ducks--except to say that they do look like the mayor, and that they "vibe" crossdresser for me. (When you've been around as long as I have, you've seen this sort of thing before.)

And speaking of seeing this thing before, it reminds me of another crossdressing pol who was outed before an election: Sam Walls, a conservative Republican in Texas who lost a runoff election for the state House in 2004. Now, in Walls' case, you just have to wonder how he didn't think this would happen: not only (as the pics showed) had he been out and about while crossdressed, but for Pete's sake he seems to have been the treasurer of the local chapter of Tri-Ess, the national crossdressers' organization.

Cases like Walls' and Brewer's show some of the disturbing inequities of life under the transgendered umbrella. One may point out that people like Walls or Brewer retained substantial privilege and did not face everyday transphobia--something that MtF transsexuals often have to deal with every day. But. Even in Oklahoma, a trans woman can run for office and be open about her history, whereas neither of the crossdressing politicians felt comfortable doing that.

And that shows the relatively large gap in both visibility and acceptance between transsexuals and crossdressers. Television shows, news reports, books--all concentrate on transsexuals, not on crossdressers; and the leadership of many trans organizations is dominated by transsexuals. Now, again, some of this is because there is a greater incentive for transsexuals, especially trans women, to push for their rights. There is too what helen boyd once called the "fear of queer": crossdressers can look "normal" in their everyday presentation and can fear (or feel no need) to lose that part of their gender identity in service to activism.

But that obscures--just as crossdressers themselves are obscured; no one is really sure how many there are, since so many are relatively closeted--the very real pain and angst of being a crossdresser, of not having the comforting narrative of transition--a story that seems, at least, to have a beginning, middle and end. If people now seem to understand, if not accept all the time, the transsexual narrative--"you're a woman on the inside" or "born wrong" or whatever the current popular meme is--but how do you explain that you only need to be a woman part of the time? That you only seek temporary solutions? That you live in the shadow of, as helen has also said, the other shoe never dropping?

A crossdresser I used to know wrote about this once*:
[...]my transness will always be subordinate to other people's experience of either womanhood or transhood. Women can look down at me because I'm a "part-time" woman, who dresses in costume and "doesn't know what a real woman's life is like"; transwomen can throw the same criticism at me, with the added vector that my transness can't be serious because it doesn't manifest itself constantly or as urgently as it does for a transsexual.

But it isn't true; I'm trans all the time, and there are a lot of times that I feel trapped in an endless cycle of oscillation between femininity and masculinity with no way to end the cycle.

Sure, compared to transitioning, my problems are the difference between jumping off of a cliff and riding the kiddie roller coaster. But who the hell wants to ride on the kiddie coaster for the rest of their lives?
But let's not stay all doom and gloom...courtesy of Joe My God, here's Donna Sachet performing the national anthem before a Giants game in San Francisco--the first drag performer to ever do so! Rock on, Ms. Sachet!

*She later transitioned, so take it with a grain of salt. Still, it's a good sentiment.

Friday, October 2, 2009


One of those days, yesterday, though not as bad as the following will make it seem--just didn't feel much like doing anything, so sorry no post.

Thought I'd rerun this bit...from a long time ago, before The Second Awakening, both the blog and my own personal sense of it. More original stuff later on, I promise.

Ma Saison en Enfer

1. Un nuit en enfer/A night in Hell

The night your wife finally moves out of the apartment, at your request, turns out to be surprisingly shitty. You knew this day would come, probably suddenly, and you've wanted it, but now that it's here you find yourself gripped with a slow-spreading, vastly deepening sense of loss.

You try to keep busy. You've already left work early, giving up billable hours just when you need them the most, to run home to make sure that the things you really want to keep have been clearly separated. As it turns out, you have a surprising number of purses, more than you thought.

You go to your therapy session and remain calm, and then head out to go to a gig at CBGB's gallery with your best friend, who has been your rock through the whole thing. The singer starts launching old songs--"You belong to me" is the one that hits you the worst--and you end up in the bathroom trying to cry. As it turns out, you can sob but there are no tears, not now, not even at the end, not even for you.

2. Mavais Sang/Bad Blood

Maybe it was your fault all along; maybe it was how you were made, all the issues you never confronted. Maybe it was too much in your nature to compromise, to sacrifice. Maybe you thought that somehow, bizarrely, that made you more of who you thought you were, even as the compromises took you further and further away from that idealized, non-existant person.

Maybe it was that never in your life have you felt the need to ravish. Maybe it was that you lay fallow waiting for ravishment.

Maybe that was some taint of the genes. Of the blood, the blood of your father and your funny uncle.

But there came a day when your wife began to take potshots at you for not noticing her, and then your bad blood roared through your tortured veins, poisoning your vision, painting the landscape with loss.

3. Nuit de l'enfer/Hellish Night

There comes a night, as it must, when your wife and alcohol and your medication mix together to perfect a cocktail of hell.

A night when your wife will yell at you, when you will feel everything slipping away from you as she tells you how you are not a man, or not the man she needs, and those words will cut you apart and pare away your illusions of your own happiness.

And the ground of your hell is fertile, and her words take root and bear fruit.

In this night, she will tell you that after the next morning she is no longer sure if you will be together.

Dawn will come without sleep and you will waken to the realization that your marriage is over. You will feel nothing at first. Nothing is left to feel.

Nothing will matter.

4. Délieres/Delerium I

You waken to a wedding, and it saves you. On the dance floor she will beg forgiveness and claim forgetfulness, and you will hold her and feel relieved. You will resolve not to throw away your second chance, because you have stared into the abyss and it nearly ate you.

You will resolve all these things, though you don't mean them. It is not in either of your natures to change course now.

5. Délieres/Delerium II

And for a while you both belive in the lie, because the lie has worked for so long. She will forget that you are not what you seem, not what anybody, even her, wants. And you will forget that she is a flesh and blood woman, not one of your fantasies that you try and shoehorn yourself into, to take the shape of your airy dreams. You will forget her impatience and her impulsiveness and your own propensity for inertia. You will forget all these things in the delerium of the most seductive drug, nostalgia.

You will forget all these things. But you will suspect.

6. L'impossible/The Impossible

She will tell you that she cannot deal with seeing you dressed as a woman anymore, and suggest that she spend the night with her girlfriends outside the city. You will be touched by her sacrifice and seduced by the thought of transgressing, for a while, the narrow boundaries of custom and biology. So you agree, though you grudge it, and hope for a day where the separation won't be necessary.

And yet, and yet, like a canker the suspicion grows that there is more here than you suspect, more being said than you have heard. And yet, and yet, you think that what you suspect, the hair of shadow that now hovers like a flaw in your sight, cannot, must not be true.

Your plans are both disrupted for your birthday. You come home to change, still made up, in your new jeans and pedicured toes, and you sense her anger and hurt. You think it is just that she is home, alone, and confronted even briefly by your own perverted self, and you are sad, you grieve inside yourself for the you that never was and never could be.

You grieve, not knowing yet what you grieve for, not knowing that grief is going to be your lot.

7. L'Eclair/Lightning

When you finally learn the truth, discover the betrayal, it leaves you physically ill. You stumble out of the house on an excuse, and wander downtown. You sit in anger with your best friend and she has nothing to say, nothing to give but an embrace.

Later will come the confrontation, the flash of brilliance that has lit up the dark corners of your marriage, of your soul, and you know as the bolt cleaves the sky so your life has been cloven in two, and you have been put asunder.

And in that flash you see the empty plain of new possibilities, even as your future dies upon the vine and with it all that you were, all that you were trying to be for five years, all that you thought was worth having and sacrificing for. The sacrifice is returned, you look at it as a feast, but your hunger makes you sick and you don't know how to begin, or even if you should.

8. Matin/Morning

You stay up late, far into the morning most days. Sleep is something you find only in the pills you bought at the drugstore. Even strong drink, which you avoid, does not bring it.

You find that you shared so many things. You replace a manicure set and several purses. You agree to give up the chairs in the living room, and her sister's bed that you slept on for two years. You keep the cats but lose the rug and the toothbrush. You lose a bookcase but gain several shelves on your new built-ins, the ones she insisted on.

You find your arms aching for her at night even as your heart shrieks its anger and drowns in its own blood.

The morning after she leaves, this very morning, you come home to the apartment, the empty spaces like fading ghosts. You want to collapse and sleep, but the bed is gone and you are too tired to inflate the air mattress. You take a shower and go to work. You want to cry as you walk to the subway, but you can't, because you are a man and there is no place to go and hide while you weep.

And you know that you will pass almost directly from this morning to another long, empty morning, despite not sleeping since the day before.

9. Adieu/Goodbye

And though she is gone, it cannot, will not be goodbye, though sometimes you scream in your soul to just be left alone, to lick your wounds alone in silence.

You know there will come a day when you can see her again without seeing him in your mind as well. You know there will come a day when you forgive each other for what you did, what you did not do, and all the myriad days that should have come but now will never arrive.

And you know this won't be the end of everything. You know it is the beginning for both of you, and the dammed stream of frustrated posibilities is already pushing you strongly from behind.

But you still want to weep, even though you cannot. You still want your tears, so you can say farewell to them. You still want her with you, and you can never say goodbye to that.

After Arthur Rimbaud
Translations of titles by Bertrand Mathieu

February 23, 2006