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.