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I finally read the opinion piece in last Sunday’s NY Times (I’m not going to link it, but it’s easy enough to find) by Elinor Burkett, ostensibly about Caitlyn Jenner’s trans coming out in something of a media onslaught, but which quickly descends into a diatribe against all trans women (and some trans men, but more on that later).
Look, I agree with you about brains. I don’t think men’s and women’s brains are much different. But along that thought:
1. Just because a specific trans person says they believe in any particular thing, doesn’t mean all trans people agree. Remember your oft-referred to women’s studies training—no community is a monolith.
2. Just because a trans person says something with which you disagree doesn’t mean you ought to go whole hog in throwing the entire community under the bus as trampling on your womanhood and need to be kept on the margins of culture because you personally are so offended. To reverse your example, my cis gender partner Susanne has identified as female her entire life and she disagrees that there are male and female brains, but SHE DIDN’T JUST CALL CAITLYN JENNER A MALE PRIVILEGED FAKE WOMAN IN THE NEW YORK FREAKING TIMES. Because all women have different opinions from each other. Isn’t that nice?
Now then, let’s move to your understanding of experience, since it seems to be a bridge too far for you to honor someone else’s life if they didn’t walk exactly in your steps. There is zero accounting for race or class difference in your brand of feminism as articulated in your opinion piece. You think you get to exclude trans women from the extraordinarily broad range of femininity and womanhood because for some portion of their life they lived as men or boys? Well I have a news flash: EVERY WOMAN’S EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT. (As I said on Facebook, if you want to see the differences in your experience as a woman from someone else’s, just go swimming in a pool in Texas.) Your experience is different from Black women, from women who come from a socioeconomic class not immediately preoccupied with career advancement but with keeping food in their cupboards, from first-generation immigrant women, from disabled women, and hell, from women with endometriosis, since you brought up period flow. (You don’t scare me talking about period flow, even if you used in such an incredibly disingenuous way.)
The wonderful, powerful thing about womanhood is that it is entirely capable of including all of these disparate experiences. It grows and flexes and rises up to meet the challenges of every modern age that has asked it to change. When capitalism asked women to enter the workforce, they did, and although there were men who mocked the riveter Rosies, they were still women. When lesbians came out of the shadows of culture and said they were their own community, there were people who railed against them, but they insisted they were still women, EVEN AS they themselves eschewed the 1950s brand of femininity that they said had previously kept them in the closet. When women in the 1980s said they wanted to break the glass ceiling and sit in the executive board rooms across America, they were labeled Feminazis, but feminists stood up and said they’re still women.
So now it’s 2015, and feminism has pushed from all angles at the notion of womanhood and here you are, drawing some ridiculous line in the sand? Now? In 2015? Ms. Burkett, that argument is over. It’s gone. You’re reaching back to the same threads of reductive hate that you yourself have fought against. It doesn’t matter that your veiled invective is aimed at a different sub-population of women, you’re still fighting against yourself as you make arbitrary and intellectually impoverished swipes at trans women. Feminism has moved on from your little corner of thought, and it did so a long time ago.
I agree talking about essential male and female characteristics is unhelpful. I wish Caitlyn hadn’t said she thought her brain was different, but it’s not a point to use against her entire identity. Many trans people are looking for validation, especially as they begin transition, as an anchor. How does a person REALLY know they’re trans? For me, I wasn’t sure for something like the first five years. It is so out of left field that I thought I was losing my mind—how could I possibly be a man? After all, I’d hit all of the so-called milestones you included in your opinion piece, the inconvenient menarche, the chronically underpaid paychecks, the fear of assault, plus I was tall and large, which oh my gosh, didn’t jive very well with some people’s notions of womanhood! Can you imagine! So when it started becoming a thought in my mind, and then a fixation, and then an obsession, that I might live as a man, that I might actually IDENTIFY as a man, I wanted some kind of evidence. There is none. At the very least, our culture hasn’t been working on helping individuals figure out their gender identity and presentation, or more precisely, it wasn’t a cultural project back in my day (I grew up in the 70s and 80s). So please forgive my fellow trans travelers if we sometimes latch onto an idea or concept that doesn’t jive with your version of feminism. It’s not a justification to say that we’re not real people in these lives we’ve worked hard to live.
One more thing: every time you point to a biological marker, like uteruses or penises or menstrual blood or breasts, you’re doing the same thing you’re critiquing PLUS you’re making trans women feel bad ALL OVER AGAIN about the limitations of their bodies. That’s not only unfeminist, that’s cruel. And also, you’re missing out. Trans women, no matter how long they lived before they transitioned, they didn’t experience male privilege in the way you think they did. Just as I didn’t revel in the joys of womanhood—each marker of my gender only served to make me confused, aggravated, or depressed. And through this experience, many trans women I know developed a terrific insight into gender that today’s feminism finds vital. Quite of few trans women friends of mine also have the sharpest wit, great senses of humor that are amazing to witness as, say, you’re sitting around complaining about your limited paychecks with the girls. Feminism, womanhood, identity, and the world are so much larger than your vision. They’re more generous, grand, and inclusive. They’re pushing progress in ways I never thought I would see when I was a fresh out of the box lesbian in 1990. I’m excited to see this new world unfold and I wish you would join us in it.
But madam, you have a LOT of reading and thinking to do first.
P.S.: If someone is working on reproductive rights, do you really care what their gender identity is, or whether they have a uterus in their body or not? I mean, ALEC is out there doing everything it can to stop abortion and choice in the US, how about we work with the folks who are showing up? For Pete’s sake.
“She [Michelle Duggar] said the fondling devastated her and her husband and made them question whether they had failed as parents.” —Michelle’s comment to Megyn Kelly of FoxNews, on the revelation that her son Josh molested four of her daughters and his babysitter
Yes, Michelle, you failed as parents. Not when Josh initially molested his sisters and his babysitter, but when you learned about it and didn’t move to prevent more abuse.
Yes, Michelle, you failed as parents when you let the abuse continue for sixteen months without getting Josh treatment and without getting your daughters specialized counseling–in fact, ANY counseling–to deal with the trauma they’d experienced.
Yes, Michelle, you failed as parents when you sent Josh to work for a home renovator and then called that treatment.
Yes, Michelle, you failed as parents when you focused only on Josh’s so-called redemption while utterly dismissing what happened to your daughters.
But Michelle, you failed as PEOPLE when knowing all of this you paraded your family on national television proclaiming your vision of family as perfect and superior to so many other families who didn’t erase their own children’s trauma. You failed as PEOPLE when knowing all of this you took to the recording studio to make robocalls in a critical civil rights vote, demonizing trans women for the VERY SAME ACTS your son performed that you so callously disregarded, even though he’s done them against YOUR OTHER CHILDREN, and even though there is no evidence that trans women are ipso facto pedophiles, nor even pedophiles AS OFTEN AS STRAIGHT MEN are. You failed as PEOPLE when you covered up your family history in order to make millions off of your ruse of a family unit. And you failed as PEOPLE OF FAITH when you warped what Christianity means for millions of people with your simplistic, reductive, nonsensical value system that is really just a cover for rape culture, misogyny, patriarchal order, and emotional abuse.
I don’t believe in Hell. And the good old Roman Catholic Church even disavowed purgatory a decade ago. Good thing for you, because I’m sure rotting in your graves will be a lot kinder eternity for you than where you’d otherwise someday go. You and Jim Bob are the worst kind of parents and people I can even comprehend.
EDITED TO ADD: I was texting with a friend about this and he said, “I imagine [the survivors] will need counseling and emotional support.” And I said, hell yes:
First, they were abused, period. Second by their brother. Third, more than once. Fourth, the parents after learning about the abuse did nothing to help them. Fifth, they had to go on national television for eight years and act like everything was hunky dory. Sixth, they had to nod their heads and take it emotionally whenever mom or dad or big brother went on public tv to talk about how great they were as christians and how they needed to stop the child molesting gay and trans people.
I am no stranger to anxiety. Anxiety may even be something of a close friend, but it’s one of those friends who talks on and on about themselves during your coffee date together and maybe you don’t even realize it until you’ve hugged and you’re walking home and then finally you think, “I didn’t even say that my dog died/I’m breaking up with my partner/I got a new job/something momentous and totally worth mentioning.” I’ll put it this way: I hate my way through my relationship with anxiety, one miserable unwanted thought at a time.
That said, I am a product of no fewer than half a dozen terrific therapists and my neuroses are down to a dull, annoying grumble in the back of my head. I recognize frenemy Anxiety as soon as it pops itself into my consciousness, and sometimes I can stamp it out even when it’s bumbling about in my semi-conscious, because things like my body will send up an alert, and then that decade of therapy kicks in, and well, if I have to Goldberg Machine my way to functionality, so be it. It’s working for me. I’m even past the point where I tell myself to fake it till I make it. Read More…
Mad Men has been a strange, amusing series, replete with historic moments like JFK’s assassination and the moon landing, full of smoking and daytime drinking, and loads of human foibles, chief among them our ability to compartmentalize (and I’m not just talking about Dick Whitman). Beyond the character arcs and season-long plot points are some meta-analyses of the show that have kept me watching, fascinated. I’ve posted before about how I see Dick/Don as a kind of trans narrative but there are other interesting interpretations of the show, like the limited ranges of success, nay, life, for women in the characters of Betty, Joan, and Peggy (and how they differ from what we know will be the options for Sally), the clash of generations over cultural meaning and production (“What is the Carousel?”), and ultimately, where is meaning itself? That’s the question Dick/Don has been asking at least since he accidentally blew up his commanding officer in Korea, and perhaps since his youth at the brothel after his mother died. While Dick/Don in last night’s penultimate episode seemed to be finally coming to terms with an answer for himself, we the audience are in full-plummet mode as the series finale looms. Read More…
When do we decide that humans have autonomy? When is a person capable of making her own choices? Why do we imprison ten-year-olds for crime but not let a nine-year-old walk through a store by himself? Our culture’s understanding of age and agency is twisted.
Originally posted on coldbike:
I spoke to the district manager just now, and the summary is that they will put up a sign saying no unaccompanied children under 12. The safety scenario he suggested was that if the mall was evacuated and my child couldn’t contact me it would be dangerous. I explained the difference between inconvenient and dangerous. Also the store manager denies saying anything outside of “for child safety reasons, this is our policy” – I can’t say that I blame him, to admit to having said that to me would show integrity, but be career limiting for him.
End of Update.
The following is a letter to Lego regarding an incident which happened at the Chinook Centre Lego store on Sunday. My son, who rides his bike to school alone, goes regularly to stores to…
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I had an opportunity to speak recently with writer friend and colleague from the Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writer’s Workshop, Audrey Coulthurst, about her new two-book deal with HarperCollins. I also wanted to find a way to communicate with the public about how much Audrey likes horses, so hopefully by the end, her potential readers are clear on that.
Congratulations on your publication news with HarperCollins! What was your path to publication?
Thank you! My path to publication was fairly straightforward. After the first draft of A Hidden Affinity was complete I spent a long time finding critique partners and revising. As part of that I participated in the Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers Retreat. Studying with Malinda Lo and having a group of very talented writers discuss my work was a true gift.
Once I felt the manuscript was as strong as it could be, I entered a couple of online contests and got some agent requests through those. Then I began to query in earnest, and then a few months later my fabulous agent pulled my query out of the slush and offered representation. We made some more revisions and then she sold the book.
I should probably note that while this whole process can be summed up in a few paragraphs, it took a very long time. The first draft of A Hidden Affinity was written in 2010. Read More…
Here’s a little something from a story I’m working on right now…
Ezra walks like a drunk sailor, or how I think a drunk sailor would walk, because like I have never seen one but I’ve heard that sailors drink a lot and drinking makes people stagger around the way my little brother does, but whatever, Ezra stumbles around the house all the time. Mostly he clings on to furniture if it’s near enough to cling to, but some of the stuff that Mom Two buys on her antiques shopping sprees is really tippy, so then I have to rush up to Ez and make sure that he doesn’t bonk his head or break some fancy Shaker end table in the process. It gets tiring, but the extra allowance is worth it. Plus he’s cute, and so when we’re out somewhere like the arcade on Folsom or the hipster park where everyone beautiful plays lawn Frisbee or whatever the hell it is, people come up to us all agog and shit because Ezra is teetering around, saying “arararar gagagaga Amuhwee” which is some apparently adorable pronunciation of my name, Emily.
Yes, our parents gave their two children E names. It is so awesome being us, let me tell you. Actually my original name was not Emily, I had to convince my parents that despite what the doctor yelled out as I was born, I was really a girl. It wasn’t easy to get them to believe me, but they’re more or less okay with it now, and I have learned all kinds of ways to be a more patient person. Maybe. The universe gave me my parents so I would learn how to get what I need, and then it gave me Ezra so I would continue to work out my core muscles. Thanks, universe, for looking out for me.
The phone rings, and it’s my friend Iggy who is also trans and who also left out extremely crappy high school because of it. Iggy has been funny as hell lately because he finally started hormones after years on the blockers and now he texts me every time a new chin hair appears. Seriously. I have like 126 texts from him, all about freaking chin hair. Guys are so weird.
“What’s up, Ig?”
“I was going to hang at Gus’s house, you wanna come?”
Gus is one of those kind of asshole, kind of cool dude you can’t ever pin down. But his parents have a pool and it is close to 100 degrees outside. Read More…
As always, quality medical opinions from a doctor who knows her stuff.
Originally posted on Dr. Jen Gunter:
The Ohio House just passed a “fetal heart beat” bill, which is the first step on the road to legislation that would ban abortion after embryonic cardiac activity.
Embryonic cardiac activity is typically seen by 6 weeks gestation (42 days into the pregnancy or about 2 weeks after a missed period), which is before many women know they are pregnant and certainly before many have really had time to consider what being pregnant means for them. Thus this kind of legislation really has one goal – to eliminate abortion.
This type of bill has been tried elsewhere and while it hasn’t become law anywhere, typically because some politician decides it won’t hold up to in the Supreme Court against Roe. With that in mind, why keep churning these things through State Legislatures wasting tax payer dollars?
Possibly the “pro-life” forces that support this…
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I’ll be honest; I’m quite an average person. Oh I know there’s the whole transsexual thing, and the being from New Jersey thing, but regardless, I’m not especially bright nor talented, I have not accomplished a single push-up since 2004, and I waste a ton of time on the Internet. (I did quit that bad Farmville habit, but that’s another story.) I am middle-class, middle aged, pretty much white, male, college educated, opinionated, obstinate, fat, and okay with a sense of comic timing. I manage to remain partnered, I’ve got two terrific children, a mid-range house, a paid-off car, and dreams of a hot tub installation in my future. There is nothing exceptional in any of that, save the partner and children who are measurably and demonstrably superior in many ways. I on the other hand, am pretty good at cobbling dinner, wiping away poop, and figuring out how to soothe my children. But on any given night I may burn the potatoes and overcook the chicken, get shit on my hands and the wall, and wind up bouncing a screaming baby for twenty minutes in an attempt to suss out the problem. In other words, having some success does not in any way preclude future failure. I try on a frequent, regular basis not to attach my ego to my successes or my failures and to keep outcomes away from my sense of self, should I fall victim to an overinflated vision of myself or reach a state of disquiet desperation at my gross ineptitude.
If one only knew me from my public persona—which I have half-assed crafted at the behest of my publisher and a myriad of publishing industry experts, in an attempt to fashion the proverbial “national platform” necessary for author stardom someday—one would think my life is an exercise in perfection. There are the adorable cherubic children, the very cute home, the published books and essays, the leadership title in my online input field for occupation. All of that is absolutely true, and I am proud of my family and friends and where I find myself at this point in my life. It is, however, a curated list of high points. Not posted (in part because I disdain the whiny FB post on principle) are all of the mistakes I replay in my mind throughout the day, whether they be a driver unhappy with me or an argument I had twenty years ago. Also not presented in most public forums are the mantras from my inner critic, my sadness that I’m not on an upwardly mobile career track, my frustration with my creaky knees, and my nagging sense that I deserve all of the rejection slips I get after applying for a grant or to a literary journal. I often realize, with stunning newness, that nearly every other writer I know is more talented than me and writing something more interesting than I am.
There is no point in entertaining these destructive notions more than I do already, so I corral them off of the Internet for the most part. This means a couple of things, namely:
- I feel like a fraud to some degree, every day
- I have lots of coping skills for life while feeling like some degree of a fraud
When I was a teenager, I was impressed that my father read the newspaper every morning, listened to NPR in his car, and watched the evening news every night. He told me that keeping up on current events wasn’t just an interest but his civic duty. He didn’t use those words, but look, it was a long time ago and I’m left with just the takeaway if not the precise quote. Now my dad was born in 1928, a child through the Great Depression, and one year shy of getting to enlist and fight in World War II (he lied about his age and went to work as a postal carrier instead, and they were willing to take him because they needed people). Duty and attachment to our neighbors has certainly shifted from then until today, and barely anyone reads a newspaper anymore. Our media outlets have grown, merged, super-merged, and drifted from the journalistic standards once popularized by people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. For example, Fox News broadcasts verifiably true stories only twenty-two percent of the time. Rachel Maddow is better, but not much, at thirty-eight percent.
But in addition to the truthiness of mainstream news outlets, we have a problem with how subjects and topics are framed. Take the recent letter by forty-seven Republican Senators to Iran’s leadership, suggesting that their ongoing negotiations with the United States (and several other countries) won’t be worth the paper it’s eventually signed on. The debate frame is set up around whether these Senators are traitors or patriots, whether they should be recalled or heralded. Clearly they’re not traitors, as they didn’t call for the overthrow of the United States, didn’t send classified information to a foreign government for same effect, and didn’t attack the United States. (They didn’t even violate the Logan Act, but that’s another issue.) Read More…