Susie Bright, in addition to being a best-selling author, activist, and podcast host, is editor at large for Audible. This past spring, she approached Beacon with the goal of bringing out some of our titles in audiobook format on Audible, and we couldn't be more excited to announce that the first few books are now available. Susie's blog, The Bright List, keeps readers and listeners apprised of new audiobooks, with Aretha Bright reviewing new titles. Today's post is a cross-post of two recent reviews.
This week is Transgender Awareness Week, and we're highlighting two new Audible titles that are enlightening listening for trans- and cis-gendered folks alike: A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein and Just Add Hormones by Matt Kailey.
Kate on Audio! -- Jewish Lesbian Tattooed Tranny, with a Titanium Knee & Scientologist Past
Kate Bornstein writes books condemned by Pope Benedict. She's a self-identified jewish lesbian tattooed masochist tranny, with a titanium knee. She's the definition of an outlaw! So how did she get this way?
A Queer and Pleasant Danger is Kate's memoir, broken into three parts: growing up a Jewish boy in New Jersey, joining Scientology as an adult (and leaving 12 years later), and finally, transitioning into a woman, coming out as a lesbian, and joining the BDSM culture. Who says getting old is a drag?
Kate's story is a deliciously matter-of-fact narrative, narrated by Alice Rosengard. Alice, coincidentally, went to college with Kate when she was known as "Al." They were friends! She called Kate up and they collaborated on the narration process— an unusual and delightful reunion.
Matt Kailey Lays It Out -- The Transssexual Experience
Author Matt Kailey answers all the questions cisgendered people might be too polite to ask--- about what it's like to change from living as a woman, to living as a man.
Just Add Hormones has behind-the-scenes details on the female to male transitioning process, with both humor and serious contemplation.
This bookassumes you don't know about the process already, and explains the basics while moving into every detail. —From the therapist sessions to the chest surgery, the testosterone shots to the "clit-dick!"
Every few weeks, I get an email from a colleague, a friend or a student asking me what pronoun I prefer. I mostly go by “Jack” nowadays, although people who have known me for a really long time and some family members still call me Judith. Then there are a few people, my sister included, who call me “Jude.” I have debated switching out Jack for Jude to try to compress the name ambiguity into a more clear opposition between Judith and Jude. But then again–and contrary to my personality or my politics—when it comes to names and pronouns, I am a bit of a free floater. This goes against my instincts and my general demeanor—I don’t hang in the middle ground on much, not politically, not socially, not in terms of culture, queer issues, feminism or masculinity. I am a person of strong opinions so why, oh why, do I insist on being loosey goosey about pronouns?
Well, a few reasons: first, I have not transitioned in any formal sense and there certainly many differences between my gender and those of transgender men on hormones. Second, the back and forth between he and she sort of captures the form that my gender takes nowadays. Not that I am often an unambiguous “she” but nor am I often an unambiguous he. Third, I think my floating gender pronouns capture well the refusal to resolve my gender ambiguity that has become a kind of identity for me.
I watch friends, one after the other, transition, mostly from butch to TG male and I wonder whether I am just sitting on a fence and not wanting to jump. But actually, as a real medi-phobe, I don’t see taking hormones, even in small doses as right for me for any extended amount of time. Top surgery? Well, yes please, but then again, would this make it even harder for me to use the women’s locker room when I swim or work out (and I do one or the other almost every day so that would really be something to think about). So, while I could “transition” and still live in the ever-evolving, improvised territory of transgenderism…well, I prefer not to.
Yes, like Bartleby, that wonderful and doleful example of a refusenik who declined to explain his refusal to work, to comply, to communicate even, I prefer not to transition. I prefer not to clarify what must categorically remain murky. I prefer not to help people out in their gender quandaries and yet, I appreciate you asking.
I still use women’s restrooms, and I avoid any and all contact on going in or coming out. If someone looks frightened when they see me, I say “excuse me” and allow my “fluty” voice to gender me. If someone looks angry, I turn away, but mostly I just ignore what is going on around me in the restroom and do what I am there to do.
I wish more people would behave like my partner’s son (he’s 9 years old) and simply ask, politely and without judgement, what pronoun anyone prefers—he rarely presumes and often asks. I also wish more people would adapt to a pronoun system based on gender and not on sex, based on comfort rather than biology, based on the presumption that there are many gendered bodies in the world and “male” and “female” does not even begin the hard work of classifying them.
So, if you are wondering about my pronoun use and would like it resolved once and for all, I cannot help you there. But if, like the UK in the 1980′s, you are ready to give up on the “imperial” systems of measurements in favor of new metrics, then consider my gender improvised at best, uncertain and mispronounced more often than not, irresolvable and ever shifting.
And ps: grouping me with someone else who seems to have a female embodiment and then calling us LADIES, is never, ever ok!
Visit the other stops on the Going Gaga Blog Tour
My Husband Betty Where Jack wonders, "When did 'vagina' suddenly become a fashionable term?"
Queer Fat Femme "Feminism is as much about naming one’s desires with precision and care as it is about expressing desire in more amorphous ways."
Sugarbutch Chronicles "Heterosexual mainstream conversations about desire love to depict women as the ones who create an environment for love and romance and men as the ones who set the whole thing on fire."
The Qu "For the Gaga feminist, in fact, the end of the normal is in sight and we don’t want the same old norms packaged back up for us and sold to us again as new norms!"
Why are so many women single, so many men resisting marriage, and so many gays and lesbians having babies?
In Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, J. Jack Halberstam answers these questions while attempting to make sense of the tectonic cultural shifts that have transformed gender and sexual politics in the last few decades. This colorful landscape is populated by symbols and phenomena as varied as pregnant men, late-life lesbians, SpongeBob SquarePants, and queer families. So how do we understand the dissonance between these real lived experiences and the heteronormative narratives that dominate popular media? We can embrace the chaos! With equal parts edge and wit, Halberstam reveals how these symbolic ruptures open a critical space to embrace new ways of conceptualizing sex, love, and marriage.
Using Lady Gaga as a symbol for a new era, Halberstam deftly unpacks what the pop superstar symbolizes, to whom and why. The result is a provocative manifesto of creative mayhem, a roadmap to sex and gender for the twenty-first century, that holds Lady Gaga as an exemplar of a new kind of feminism that privileges gender and sexual fluidity.
Part handbook, part guidebook, and part sex manual, Gaga Feminism is the first book to take seriously the collapse of heterosexuality and find signposts in the wreckage to a new and different way of doing sex and gender.
Halberstam has co-edited a number of anthologies including Posthuman Bodies with Ira Livingston (Indiana University Press, 1995) and a special issue of Social Text with Jose Munoz and David Eng titled “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?” Jack is a popular speaker and gives lectures around the country and internationally every year. Lecture topics include: queer failure, sex and media, subcultures, visual culture, gender variance, popular film, animation.
Photo by Assaf Evron.
Follow the Going Gaga! Blog Tour
My Husband Betty
Where Jack wonders, "When did 'vagina' suddenly become a fashionable term?"
Queer Fat Femme"Feminism is as much about naming one’s desires with precision and care as it is about expressing desire in more amorphous ways."
Sugarbutch Chronicles"Heterosexual mainstream conversations about desire love to depict women as the ones who create an environment for love and romance and men as the ones who set the whole thing on fire."
A native of New York, Nick Krieger realized at the age of twenty-one that he’d been born on the wrong coast, a malady he corrected by transitioning to San Francisco. His writing has earned several travel-writing awards and has been published in multiple travel guides. He is the author of Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender.
Enter to win a copy of Nina Here Nor There or one of Beacon's other LGBT titles in our Pride Month Giveaway. For more information, visit beacon.org/queervoices.
About five months ago, I quit my day job as a web writer, put my possessions in storage, and took off for Asia. I’d just finished promoting my memoir, Nina Here Nor There, exploring the land between man and woman. During the four years it took to complete the book, I also changed physically, growing comfortable in my body, now commonly perceived to be male.
My great intention for this trip was to put my memoir down and leave my transition behind me, to clear some space for the next phase of my life.
I eased into Bali in luxury, at a closed yoga retreat with my teacher and a few friends from San Francisco. In heteronormative settings with swimming pools, I’m used to fielding questions about my chest scars. Sometimes I’ll tell people they’re shark bites. At first, at least. Then I’ll disclose the truth. “I’m transgender,” I always say, occasionally adding something explicit despite my discomfort, like “had breasts,” “born female,” just to be clear.
I wrote a memoir, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I find outing myself powerful. The ensuing conversation is my opportunity to educate, dismantle stereotypes, and make my queer, gender-hybrid identity visible. As a speaker on trans issues, I’ve trained myself to handle unintentional insensitivity and ignorance, but even after a record-breaking number of questions, one particularly tactless person in Baliset me off.
Internally fuming, I went to the edge of the jungle and hurled rocks into the black night. All the old words -- disfigured, abnormal, glaring, different – came alive again. I threw wildly, venting my frustration and anger, until I accidentally pegged a nearby tree. The rock bounced back and almost nailed me. I started to laugh. Which made me laugh even harder, joggling something loose deeper inside.
I wondered what it would be like to really leave it all behind, not just the story I’d crafted between two covers, nor the hormones, surgery, name change, family and workplace challenges, but the pain I still held on to and all that I’d built around it -- the drama that defined who and what I was.
After the retreat, I embarked on my own solo journey through Bali and then Nepal. I learned to say, “I had surgery, I’m totally fine, but I’d prefer not to talk about it.” Even with my shirt on, I faced challenging questions about my writing. I told people my memoir was about “alternative genders.” Of course, this was confusing. If pressed, I’d cop to my evasiveness, write down the title, and suggest they look it up later, like when we were in different countries. (I received a couple of kind emails later.)
Without presenting myself as a queer person and writer, the most amazing thing happened. I made friends, lots of them, of all ages and nationalities. Underneath the tags I’d adhered to myself, and beyond the stories that had solidified like foundation, I rediscovered a sense of myself that existed outside of identities and narratives, expressed in my smile, my laughter, and the way I carried myself.
The longer I spent on the road, the fewer and fewer people I told about being trans. I shrugged off comments about my “women’s fit” backpack, and my atypical traits for a man-- my small size, youthful face, and robust hairline – all prior triggers for me to mention my past.
During my last month, I outed myself to only one person, my new best friend, a Dutch woman I’d met during my stay at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. After our course, we trekked for two weeks in the Himalayas, talking about everything in the way that you do when you eat, sleep, and walk side by side.
“Could you ever live here?” she asked as we crossed a suspension bridge over a glacial river.
“No,” I said without hesitation. Throughout my twenties, I’d traveled to dozens of countries, spent many months backpacking alone, always wondering if and when I’d arrive somewhere that could become home. Eventually, I started to believe that I’d never find in Nepal, in Bali, in Laos -- in the places that I loved the most -- something I’d always need, the freedom to be queer.
“The things I care about,” I said, “The subjects I write about, the lifestyle I lead, sex and love, I can’t find that here.” I’m pretty sure my friend had no idea what I was talking about, but I continued, rambling about GLBTQ progress and trans/queer struggles, spurred on by the resurgence of a passion that had lain dormant for the past few months, “I cannot be my full self here.”
Reminded of the split I used to feel between my traveler identity and my queer identity, I thought of a long train ride I once took from Amsterdam to Slovenia. Re-reading Michelle Tea’s “Valencia” cover to cover, I got lost in the sexually-charged dyke world of San Francisco. Toward the very end, I looked up to find myself surrounded by the mountains of Austria, an apple-strudel setting straight out of the “The Sound of Music.”
I felt unmoored, disconnected from both my home culture in the States and the new landscape I was exploring in Europe. Both were flashing before my eyes, in the pages and out the window. Unable to situate myself, the whole notion of identity started to seem relative, something created in connection to my surroundings. On a train, my background in constant motion, for a brief moment, my sense of a solid self crumbled.
I think that’s when I fell in love with traveling. Since that journey, I’ve disappeared from San Francisco for a few months every now and then, changing the backdrop and watching my own self-definitions fade just a little.
By the time I returned from this trip, my queer/trans badge had fallen to the very bottom of my backpack. Culture shock, or reverse culture shock (always more my issue) refers to the disorientation that results from jumping across continents, and even after a month back, I’m experiencing it big time. Some days, I think it’s getting worse.
Pride weekend just ended. It was my 13th Pride here, and over the past few years, it’s become an effort for me to engage in the festivities – the crowds, the boozing, the out-of-towners, the chaotic energy – I find it slightly painful.
Instead of going to the Trans March, I attended my regular yoga class wearing my tacky rainbow wristband. In my heart, I was with my people in Dolores Park, united in pride – for surviving, for being, for fighting for rights and equality.
I knew I was in the right place, there on my mat, even as the waves of guilt, and sadness, and fear passed through me. What if I blended in with the straight guy next to me who had no idea it was Pride weekend? What if I could no longer summon that hurt, angry boy chucking rocks into the night? What if my activism, my writing, and my passions change?
From afar, I couldn’t see that in creating the space that I now have, the first thing to show itself would be uncertainty, and that to dwell here would require patience and faith. As I readjust ever so slowly, I try to keep the traveler in me alive – not in terms of revisiting trip highlights, but in the ways my sphere of caring expanded, my sensitivity to all sorts of people increased, and the world outside my own trans narrative got a little bigger.
"Among Mamitarees if a boy shows any symptoms of effeminacy or girlish inclinations he is put among the girls, dressed in their way, brought up with them, and sometimes married to men." Nicholas Biddle, original journals of the Lewis and Clark expeditions
"Their garments consist only of skins; the women are always clad very modestly and very becomingly, while the men do not take the trouble to Cover themselves. I know not through what superstition some Ilinois, as well as some Nadouessi, while still young, assume the garb of women, and retain it throughout their lives. There is some mystery in this. For they never marry and glory in demeaning themselves to do everything that the women do. They go to war, however, but can use only clubs, and not bows and arrows, which are the weapons proper to men. They are present at all the juggleries, and at the solemn dances in honor of the Calumet; at these they sing, but must not dance. They are summoned to the Councils, and nothing can be decided without their advice. Finally, through their profession of leading an Extraordinary life, they pass for Manitous, — That is to say, for Spirits, — or persons of Consequence." From the journals of Jacques Marquette, 1673-1677
"Among the women I saw some men dressed like women, with whom they go about regularly, never joining the men. . . . From this I inferred they must be hermaphrodites, but from what I learned later I understood that they were sodomites, dedicated to nefarious practices. From all the foregoing I conclude that in this matter of incontinence there will be much to do when the Holy Faith and the Christian religion are established among them." Franciscan Pedro Font's diary
The use of the word "gay" really arose in the 1920s or '30s, but there was all sorts of different language in the previous four hundred years. Take us back to some of the earliest descriptions and usages of terms to describe queer people in the Americas.
Language can be very tricky, so when we're looking at language and how it's describing people, we have to realize that sometimes other people do the describing. So, before the Europeans even came here, we had many Native tribes and groups of people who exhibited behavior such as cross-dressing, same-sex relationships for both women and for men. Each of the tribes had their own language for this. When the Europeans came here, they used the French word berdache--which was a pejorative word essentially meaning a pedophile--for these people, completely inaccurately. Yet it's a word that continues to be used by anthropologists even today.
There's a mix in the behaviors and attitudes that you're talking about among the Native Americans, around both same-sex sexual behavior but also around breaking gender boundaries.
Certainly breaking gender boundaries for the Europeans, who were quite shocked when they came here. So the language that we have, which is used to some degree now, is the European terminology. Which I think we find repeatedly throughout the history of America. America was here before the Europeans came, they brought over the language, another word that they brought with them was "sodomite." Which is a theological term, meaning a person who has committed a sin of sodomy. Used rather broadly about anybody who transgressed accepted gender or sexual behaviors. And yet, a word that's used today, even in the general sense of the sodomy laws which are defined in various different ways. So from the earliest Colonial times, we did not have "homosexuals," we did not have "gay people," we had people who were accused of committing the sin of "sodomy" and were "sodomites."
And so both of those terms--"berdache" and "sodomite"--were really pejorative.
Completely pejorative. The first, by social implication, although considered a sin. The second explicitly, theologically, a sin. So it's important to realize that most of our laws emanate to a large degree from canon law in Europe, and were translated from the church into the state.
The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today
“I was born male and now I’ve got medical and government documents that say I’m female—but I don’t call myself a woman, and I know I’m not a man. . . .”
Scientologist, husband and father, tranny, sailor, slave, playwright, dyke, gender outlaw—these are just a few words which have defined Kate Bornstein during her extraordinary life. For the first time, it all comes together in A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein’s stunningly original memoir that’s set to change lives and enrapture readers.
Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein’s most intimate book yet. With wisdom, wit, and an unwavering resolution to tell the truth (“I must not tell lies”), Bornstein shares her story: from a nice Jewish boy growing up in New Jersey to a strappingly handsome lieutenant of the Church of Scientology’s Sea flagship vessel, and later to 1990s Seattle, where she becomes a rising star in the lesbian community. In between there are wives and lovers, heartbreak and triumph, bridges mended and broken, and a journey of self-discovery that will mesmerize readers.
"A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a brave, funny, edgy, and enlightening new memoir. I loved it and learned from it. Kate Bornstein shares her fascinating journey—through gender, Scientology, and more—and it was a thrill to tag along on the ride. This book is unbelievably powerful and affecting. If Kate Bornstein didn't exist, we would have to invent her. But luckily for queers, straights, gender outlaws, and general readers, Bornstein is out and out there." —Dan Savage, author, columnist, and architect of the "It Gets Better Project"
"To me, Kate Bornstein is like a mythological figure or a historical literary character such as Orlando or Candide who, by illustrating her struggles, shows the rest of us how to live. This book is destined to become a classic." —Mx Justin Vivian Bond, author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels
"Kate Bornstein's journey from moon-eyed Scientologist to queer icon is harrowing, heartbreaking, and amazing. This narrative is surely not for the squeamish. And yet, in the story of a sea-dog named Al who became a trans goddess named Kate, we see the messy, unsettling, inspiring struggle of a lady trying—and at last succeeding—to let her own soul be known. Disturbing and wondrous." —Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She's Not There and I'm Looking Through You
“I read A Queer and Pleasant Danger over four nights in a bathtub and bed and was totally transported to Kate Bornstein’s world. Kate boldly lets us look under the hood of her own transformations as Jew, Scientologist, boy, girl, Buddhist and parent, leaving us with a richer understanding of the true identity underneath: human. A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a page turner, making sweet love to the paradoxes we all face." —Amanda Palmer, musician and co-founder of The Dresden Dolls
"Bornstein is hilarious, honest, acerbic, and fearless in her writing…QAPD is at least three books in one, each of which is a page-turner."—Religion Dispatches
"Breathless, passionate, and deeply honest, A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a wonderful book. Read it and learn."—Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren
I don’t care for the current labels that we have for sexual orientation. I think they are confusing and confining, and I don’t think they truly represent the broad range of sexual and romantic attractions that actually exist in the species.
While labels such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, and even pansexual, omnisexual, and queer can help with self-definition and the formation of communities, they can also result in shame, guilt, or concern when someone’s attractions happen to fall outside of the label that the person has adopted, or when someone is told that his, her, or hir attractions are wrong.
Regardless, it appears that these labels are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, and I am willing to go along with both their intended meanings and the meanings that each individual ascribes to them as he, she, or ze defines his/her/hir own sexual identity. However, I simply can’t accept the notion that “ex-gay” is a sexual orientation.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (how original – could they not come up with something on their own without stealing from the marvelous organization PFLAG?) are calling for the reprimand of a Maryland school superintendent, saying that his statements broke the school district’s own nondiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation.
It seems that PFOX sent flyers home with students telling them that no one is “born gay,” and that gay and lesbian students can change their orientation if they want to. Apparently the superintendent criticized the flyers, and now PFOX is complaining that he violated the district’s nondiscrimination policy because ex-gay is a sexual orientation, too!
Sorry, PFOX, I don’t buy it. If a gay or lesbian person can truly change his or her sexual orientation, then that person is no longer gay – right? That’s what “ex-gay” means – right? So if a person is “ex-gay,” then he or she is “straight” – right?
And if an “ex-gay” person is not straight, then, given the dearth of labels that we currently have available to us, that means that he or she is gay – right? So there is no such thing as “ex-gay” – not really. Is that what you’re saying?
Or maybe what you really mean is that we should expand our labels to account for all possible sexual identities and orientations. If that’s the case, then you would certainly support the labels “pansexual,” “omnisexual,” and “queer” – right?
Or maybe what you mean is that we should just get rid of labels altogether and allow each individual to love whomever he, she, or ze happens to fall in love with – no questions asked, no judgments made, and no labels needed.
If that last one is where you’re going with this, PFOX, then I would support it wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that I’m a little off base.
But I think you’re grasping at straws with your “ex-gay is a sexual orientation” argument. It’s not – not unless you are willing to move outside of the categories that we have now, and doing that is going to be dangerous for your side.
Be careful what you let out of the box. You might not be able to get it back in.
“From its thorough but brisk explorations of sexual orientation’s intersections with sex, gender, and romance, this illuminating study examines our presuppositions and makes a powerful, provocative argument that heterosexuality—mazy, unscientific, and new—may be merely 'a particular configuration of sex and power in a particular historical moment.'" Publisher's Weekly
Like the typewriter and the light bulb, the heterosexual was invented in the 1860s and swiftly and permanently transformed Western culture. The idea of “the heterosexual” was unprecedented. After all, men and women had been having sex, marrying, building families, and sometimes even falling in love for millennia without having any special name for their emotions or acts. Yet, within half a century, “heterosexual” had become a byword for “normal,” enshrined in law, medicine, psychiatry, and the media as a new gold standard for human experience.
In this surprising chronicle, historian Hanne Blank digs deep into the past of sexual orientation, while simultaneously exploring its contemporary psyche. Illuminating the hidden patterns in centuries of events and trends, Blank shows how culture creates and manipulates the ways we think about and experience desire, love, and relationships between men and women. Ranging from Henry VIII to testicle transplants, from Disneyland to sodomy laws, and from Moby Dick to artificial insemination, the history of heterosexuality turns out to be anything but straight or narrow.
With an eclectic scope and fascinating detail, Straight tells the eye-opening story of a complex and often contradictory man-made creation that is all too often assumed to be an irreducible fact of biology.
A few days ago, I spoke to the gender-neutral housing floor at an Ivy League college about my new transgender memoir. Before introducing me, the faculty advisor wanted to discuss the students’ responses to the recent vandalism (a “fag” slur) on their dorm, and a film they watched, the trans movie Gun Hill Road, which this advisor only brought to campus after ensuring that the trans character is not killed.
I keep returning to this act of homophobic harassment and the resistance to promoting the historically dominant, tragic trans narrative as I reflect on the approaching Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday.
This is the 13th year the growing community of transgender people and allies commemorates those killed due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice. The history of this day dates back to 1998, when Rita Hester was brutally murdered in her home, and her friend, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, launched the Remembering Our Dead web project. The following year, a candlelight vigil for Hester was held, and would become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
TDOR persists to raise awareness of hate crimes against trans folk, and to publicly mourn those who might otherwise be forgotten. Over 100 international events are listed on the website, along with the names (and occasionally) pictures of those we are memorializing.
In the past couple of years, some activists have brought up concerns over the grave tone and depressing theme. TDOR is the most well known acknowledgement of trans people, and as a trans-questioning person five years ago, the fact that our “special day” focused on violence and murder did little to put me at ease with myself. Almost every trans story I came across focused on pain, tragedy, loss, and suffering. I had to wonder: Is it possible to be a happy, healthy, successful trans person?
While I kept my own process of internal investigation to myself, I observed my transsexual, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming acquaintances in San Francisco from a distance. Over time, I watched them grow into themselves. I witnessed them find peace, joy, and expressions of their own unique beauty. These people inspired me to come out, and when I sat down to write my own trans narrative, I consciously decided to highlight the positive aspects of my experience, to focus on empowerment, and to find the humor wherever possible.
Now that I am a happy, healthy, successful trans person (or at least a person working on self-affirmations) invited to speak at a handful of universities as part of their Transgender Awareness Weeks leading up to TDOR, I aim to strike a balance between the somber and the celebratory, to engender hope while also acknowledging the work that still needs to be done.
Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice. A groundbreaking report released earlier this year, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, revealed the extreme challenges that trans people still face.
The statistics are alarming: 63% of participants experienced a serious act of discrimination (i.e., lost job, eviction, physical or sexual assault, bullying, homelessness, denial of medical services), and 23% faced a “catastrophic level of discrimination” —defined as being impacted by at least three major life-disrupting events. Across the board, trans people of color fared worse than the white participants.
As a trans person of many privileges (class, race, and education) talking to other (mostly) privileged college students this week, I find it important to acknowledge the disparities in what my mind links together: a homophobic act of vandalism and the intention to shift away from the tragic trans narrative at an elite university, and the unabated hate-crimes, violence, and discrimination against trans folk, most of whom lack social privileges.
I link these here intentionally, believing our struggles are all linked. While we may separate ourselves under our various social justice causes, our groups and acronyms must join together in the space of our hearts. We all must fight for equality and human rights – like the right to live – by backing, recognizing, and honoring each other.
On Sunday, we commemorate the loss of our trans folk. I call to everyone in the GLBTQIQA — buy a vowel, add a letter, become an ally — to visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance websiteand review some names and pictures. If you are so inclined, attend a vigil in your area, or simply light a candle in your house. Please take a small moment, even if it is right now, in memory of those in our community, this great big community of humanity, who have been killed in the past year for being themselves.
Then, take a breath and move forward, continue your activism by living honestly and authentically. In honoring our own lives, we remember the dead, something we will continue to do annually until our collective tragic trans narrative is obsolete.
As International Transgender Day of Remembrance grows near, it appears that this year will, unfortunately, be no different from years before – we will be adding names to the list right up until the actual memorial services take place.
Our society reinforces these heinous acts of violence in many ways – through misogyny, institutionalized racism, and second-class citizenship for trans people, along with a generalized violent ideal that permeates the culture itself. The causes are many, the solutions must be many, and change is slow to arrive. There appears to be nothing on the horizon to indicate that we will not be holding TDORs for many years to come.
But there are steps we can take to reach people, and the sooner in life we reach them, the better. I support education on sexual orientation and gender identity beginning in elementary school and woven naturally into the topics of study, so that LGBT and queer people are seen as equal contributors in every area of life. I support LGBT and queer teachers and administrators being out with no threat of losing their job, and with education and training for straight and non-trans school personnel. And I support LGBT and queer functions and organizations at every school. But I don’t kid myself that this is going to happen anytime soon, or even in my lifetime.
However, I’m buoyed by some of the things that are happening at Red Rocks Community College, where I teach part-time. As with many colleges, Red Rocks has an LGBT student organization that is responsible for putting on various events throughout the year. The college also has out LGBT faculty (including myself), staff, and students.
Last week, I attended a Rainbow Registration event, designed to introduce students to LGBT and LGBT-friendly instructors and allow them to sign up for these particular instructors’ classes if they wanted to, in subjects ranging from psychology to math, and from composition to foreign languages. For many LGBT students, just knowing that their instructor is also a member of that community, or supportive of that community, makes all the difference.
This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event will feature a panel made up solely of the school’s trans instructors and students (or I should say “instructor and students,” since I’m the only trans instructor at the school). The purpose of the panel is to educate students about TDOR and about trans people, and some instructors are offering extra credit for their students who attend.
Red Rocks is not unique in this regard. There are plenty of other college campuses planning memorials and other TDOR educational activities, and there are plenty of other colleges that support LGBT and queer faculty, staff, and students. But there are plenty more who do not. And it is this type of education and visible support that sends open-minded students out into the world – students that might one day be influential in changing laws and policies that affect trans people.
This kind of atmosphere and these kinds of programs are not just the purview of colleges and universities. Trade schools, apprentice programs, online training programs, high schools (when they are allowed to) and, of course, businesses of all kinds can adopt a welcoming attitude and incorporate a variety of educational resources and events into the fabric of their organizational culture. In fact, schools, businesses, and local government entities are usually way ahead of the federal government on these types of issues, and these local venues are generally where the real changes are taking place.
So as we enter this very solemn week, I’m not going to offer platitudes of optimism – not when we have recently seen several horrendous incidents of violence against trans women, and when, statistics tell us, we will probably see at least one more over the next few days.
But I am going to say that there is some hope out there for the future, however minimal it might seem right now. There is the possibility for change, however far away it might appear right now. And hope might seem even more tangible when we hear what is going on in the readers’ schools, organizations, and places of business that might bring about positive change.
Tonight, a new season of Dancing With the Stars begins, featuring Chaz Bono as one of the most-talked-about contestants (sorry, Carson Kressley). Author Matt Kailey couldn't help noticing that amid all the chatter was a current of concern.
The uproar hasn’t stopped since it was announced that Chaz Bono will be one of the cast on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which premieres tonight.
While there are many people who are supportive of Chaz and his appearance, plenty more crawled out from under their rocks to be shocked, appalled, and offended in the comments section of the DWTS website.
Of course, there are the usual yawners harping about chromosomes and destiny, but in addition, a whole new group has materialized – parents who aren’t going to watch the show because they don’t know how to explain a man dancing with a woman to their children.
The Dancing with the Stars website is littered with these concerned comments – How am I going to explain this to my five-year-old? What will I tell the children? We’re not going to be watching this season, because I don’t want my children to see this!
I understand. It is concerning when children are exposed to heterosexual dancing. At best, a man dancing with a woman seems just a tad bit edgy – and worst-case scenario, it’s just plain immoral. After all, you know what dancing leads to! I believe they covered that a long time ago in the movie Footloose (when today’s concerned parents were kids).
So I want to offer the following tips to those parents who are worried that their children will lose their innocence by watching this season’s DWTS:
Before the show starts, sit down and explain to the kiddies that sometimes boys and girls see each other across a crowded gymnasium at prom, and while the senior high band plays their special rendition of “Back to Black,” they are all simply compelled to get up and dance – with each other! Tell the kids that someday they will understand – the dancing and the words to “Back to Black.”
Pick out an innocent song from your own youth – say, “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper or “Little Red Corvette” by Prince – and start dancing with each other. There’s no better way to break the kids in than to have them witness their own mother and father spinning around the living room together. When you’re finished, explain to them that when grown-ups fall in love, it’s natural for them to want to dance together. Someday, unless they grow up to be perverts, they, too, will be dancing with members of the opposite sex.
Go on YouTube and find old clips from American Bandstand. Show them that heterosexual dancing on television is nothing new. The only difference is that it’s now available in full color on the big screen. If they’re grossed out and scared, assure them that Dick Clark will not be hosting Dancing with the Stars.
Find the video of President and Mrs. Obama dancing together at his inauguration. When they can see that even the president and his wife dance together, in public, and on television, they will come to realize that this is perfectly normal and natural and nothing to be concerned about. It really is a beautiful thing.
Once you have done all these things, turn on Dancing with the Stars. If they start to wiggle or become uncomfortable when the various couples come out and dance, remind them of everything you have shown them.
Hold each other’s hand and sway gently to the music so they can be comforted by the image of the two of you enjoying the show. As each couple takes the stage, say, “See? It’s okay.” Soon your children will realize that there is nothing disgusting, sinful, or immoral about a man and a woman dancing together.
Nick Krieger is the author of Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender. You can read more of Nick's blog posts at ninaherenorthere.com
I might have made a huge mistake. A cardinal trans sin, really. The equivalent to tattooing my birth name on my forehead. And then shoving my forehead into the faces of friends, strangers, the whole world. I decided to use my birth name in the title of my memoir, Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender.
It started with a friend, an idea offered in the kitchen, a funny play on words, a title for my new blog back when “Nina” was still my name. Then three-and-a-half years later, this phrase ended up on the cover of my book, and I now have a friend who holds out her hand for royalties, or at least a hundred-dollar-bill bookmark, every time I see her.
Sometimes it seems like the book title just sorta happened, but I made decisions along the way, specifically the decision to let my old name linger while I adapted to my chosen name. Had I published my memoir two years ago, when “Nick” was brand new, I could not have handled “Nina” staring back at me everywhere. Shit, I couldn’t even utter the word at that time. It wasn’t so much that I disliked my old name. I was just using dog training, or maybe dolphin training, strategies. If I wanted people to call me “Nick,” it had to be all “Nick” all the time. Perpetual constant reinforcement, not only for others but for myself.
As I broke in “Nick,” the sound shaped itself to me, conformed around me, and soon it fit as comfortably as a pair of worn slippers. Once I became more physically, emotionally, and mentally at ease with myself, I was less frustrated when certain friends would mention my old name, less controlling of it. While I occasionally told them it wasn’t theirs to speak, I also understood that they were revisiting a scrapbook, a memory, and to my surprise, I found that I too wanted to hold on to my past, keep it as it was without revision. Occasionally, I even wanted to share it, whisper my old name into a lover’s ear, an offering of the most intimate piece of myself.
Now, part of me is proud to render “Nina” indelible, to have it serve as a tattoo, maybe not on my forehead but on the underside of my wrist, so I can turn it up and share the singular word that was closest to me for thirty years. To watch such a word unexpectedly change shape, morph from name into title, transform into something new, come to mean something new, seems as beautiful and wondrous as a gender transition itself. For me, seeing both “Nina” and “Nick” in the same place at the same time is symbolic of my gender, the unification of the woman and man in me.
Whether others will allow me both, to live my present while loving my past, is yet to be seen. There is implicit risk to blasting my old name into the world, to giving others access to something that has been used again and again in ignorance and fear to hurt trans people. I am still recovering from the slip-ups, mistakes, and careless cruelties, and my heart still tingles with raw sensitivity in the presence of my mother, who, despite good intentions, reverts to a “Nina”-spewing machine around me.
Which is why it seems crucial to let it all go, to reclaim my old name as mine, to own the power and let it stand for something other than pain. I also believe there is change going on around us. Trans folk and allies have fought for visibility, rights, and respect, paving the way so that I can live happily and joyfully without the weight of heavy armor and without needing to maintain a constant state of self-defense. I aspire to continue the fight, and for me that means believing in the change, not allowing cisgender (non-trans) people who have fucked up in the past to prevent me from trusting those with the potential to see and embrace me in my totality. I am making a leap of faith, hoping that my old name will be respected, as a character in a book and part of a title, not as some “real” “truth” that makes the Nick of here and now invisible.
I have been living with my decision in somewhat of a vacuum, save for one trans friend who always seems a bit bothered by the choice I made. Whether it is my old name, his old name, or the larger cause that unsettles him, I do not know. But I do know I am only one person, with one voice, and I’d like to hear yours–I’d like everyone to hear yours. So please, whether you are trans or not, how do you feel about your name? If you changed your name, how would you feel about going public with your old one? Are we as a trans community as diverse in our decisions as I truly believe we are? Are we living in a time with more space for each of us to express our unique experiences?
And as long as we’re answering my questions, can someone please tell me how long it’s going to take for me to stop unconsciously doodling my old name in all of my notebooks?
I really wanted Chaz Bono to be a transgender hero. By sharing his transition in his film, “Becoming Chaz,” and in his memoir, Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, he is offering gender-questioning people an intimate entry into his personal experience. With his fame, he is raising much-needed awareness about a marginalized population. But as I, a writer releasing my own transmasculine memoir on the same day as Bono, follow the coverage of his story, I feel like I’m watching a slow-motion media train wreck.
The New York Times article, “The Reluctant Transgender Role Model,” by Cintra Wilson, is the latest troubling piece. Wilson, in what must be an attempt at humor, investigates Bono’s motivations with questions about celebrity damage, gender-bent Oedipal revenge, and reclaiming childhood attention. I imagine Wilson aims to connect with skeptical mainstream readers, but those types of questions push well past curious and cynical to downright ridiculous.
In a cultural climate that forces transgender people to explain themselves at every turn, I cannot be too surprised that Bono plays into another story of overcoming pain and suffering, of transition as the last resort of the suicidal. As a transgender person, I find this narrative exhausting and self-victimizing. Why do we, as trans people, need to keep proving how awful our lives are in order for people to accept us? What if we modified our bodies, not “amputated” parts of them as Wilson so crudely states, because we thought our lives were so beautiful that we wanted to experience them in a vehicle that allowed us our deepest comfort and truest self-expression?
Bono reiterates the standard transgender narrative of identifying as a male since childhood, using as evidence gender stereotypes like “playing sports” to reinforce his case. Once again, it’s hard to blame Bono. The criteria for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders refers to gender stereotypes in its diagnosis. Although the article claims GID was only classified as a mental disorder until 1999, this is incorrect. (eds note: The article was corrected online after publication.) A diagnosis of GID is still required for many trans people seeking gender reassignment surgery, and reinforcing gender stereotypes is the necessary proof. While I cannot question Bono’s experience, I can challenge his facts and make it absolutely clear that his experience isn’t shared by all of us.
Bono says, “There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a birth defect, like a cleft palate.”
First I’d like to know where Bono confirmed the gender in your brain and gender in your body theory. Sure, researchers are looking for hard proof of transsexualism, but they are having about as much success as they are in finding a definitive “gay gene” or “gay brain” structure in homosexuals. The nature vs. nurture debate will continue in gay and lesbian research circles just like the essentialist vs. cultural construction debate will continue in gender research circles. To fall completely to one pole as Bono does with essentialism is to ignore the very complicated topic of gender presentations, expressions, embodiments, roles, and identities as lived in our culture. To Bono’s claim of mismatched alignment for transgender people, this is a gross misrepresentation of all of us.
“Transgender,” in its most common usage, is as an all-encompassing term and self-defined identity available to anyone who doesn’t fit into the man or woman boxes. Transsexuals (female-to-male/FTM like Bono; or male-to female/MTF) are the most well-known group under the transgender umbrella. But there are many trans people who live and identify outside of the stifling constraints of the gender binary. Some pursue hormones without surgery; some pursue surgery without hormones; some choose only to adopt a new name; some use the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “hir”; some use self-identifying words that encompass both man and woman, like genderqueer or gender fluid.
Therefore, the conclusion of Wilson’s article relating to diversity is correct, except that Bono actually reiterates the black and white of gender identification by wedding himself completely to the notion of a woman becoming a man. He may offer an alternative understanding of black and white, but as for ushering in a complete wheel of gender (not sexuality as Wilson mistakenly writes) into the mainstream, Technicolor Bono is not.
It’s time for an understanding of transgender experiences and identities to reach mainstream audiences. Bono is, with his celebrity bullhorn, an ideal candidate to be a transgender role model, but after I read that he once had a tolerance for women that he no longer has, he cannot be my hero. I do hope that his story is the starting point, an impetus to expand the conversation beyond sensationalism, gender stereotypes, and the Fashion & Style pages. But this poorly fact-checked article by Cinta Wilson makes me nervous that many will now claim to know about transgender people, and about me, because they read or saw something about Cher’s kid.
Louisiana’s “Crime Against Nature” statute punishes solicitation of oral or anal sex for compensation more harshly than the state’s criminal law penalizes prostitution generally. Not only does a second or subsequent offense of offering oral or anal sex for money carry much longer prison terms and higher fines than any number of prostitution convictions, it also subjects individuals convicted of Solicitation of Crime Against Nature (SCAN) to mandatory sex offender registration. No state other than Louisiana requires anyone convicted solely of selling sex for money to register as a sex offender. Only in Louisiana does merely offering to provide oral or anal sex in exchange for something of value land you on the sex offender registry.
Far from being a technical requirement, being required to register as a sex offender affects nearly every aspect of a person’s life. In Louisiana, sex offenders are required to carry a driver’s license or state ID with the words “sex offender” emblazoned across it in bright orange capital letters.
Once on the registry, an individual’s picture, address, identifying information, and crime of conviction also appear on a publicly available website. Moreover, you are required to pay $60 a year to register, and between $200 and $750 to send out postcards to all of your neighbors featuring your picture, address, and the crime you were convicted of.
Imagine all of your neighbors receiving a postcard informing them you are a convicted sex offender. Most will think that you are dangerous, violent and prey on children, when in reality you were convicted for offering to engage in oral sex with an undercover officer for $50 bucks ten years ago when you were struggling through tough times. Imagine your kid or family members googling your name and learning more about your past than you ever wanted them to know. Imagine trying to explain to a prospective landlord, employer, or romantic interest that you have never harmed a child, or engaged in any conduct involving force, a weapon, or lack of consent.
Whether or not you end up having to register as a sex offender for 15 years – or the rest of your life if you are convicted of SCAN more than twice - is completely up to the police officer who decides to arrest you and the prosecutor who decides what to charge you with. Because the same conduct is covered by the prostitution statute, which prohibits solicitation of any kind of sex (vaginal, anal, oral, manual, and whatever else the imagination can conjure) for money, someone accused of offering oral or anal sex for compensation can either be charged with prostitution or solicitation of a Crime Against Nature – or both.
Police and prosecutors are given no guidance whatsoever in making that decision, which can change the entire course of a person’s life. You can either wind up with a misdemeanor criminal conviction, or a felony that requires you to register for a sex offender for 15 years to life.
As Queer (In)Justice argues, such unfettered discretion in the hands of law enforcement lends itself to overt and implicit policing of race, gender and gender identity, sex and sexuality, and poverty. The numbers bear it out – the vast majority (80%) of people required to register as sex offenders solely because of a SCAN conviction in New Orleans are African American. An overwhelming majority (97%) of women who are registered as sex offenders must do so solely because of a SCAN conviction. And, predictably, along with poor Black women involved in street-based economies, transgender women and gay men of color are singled out for SCAN charges.
Clearly, the disparity in sentencing consequences for the solicitation of oral and anal sex stems from historical condemnation of sexual activity that is non-procreative or traditionally associated with homosexuality. How can this still be happening almost ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Lawrence vs. Texas, the historic case which was hailed by Lambda Legal as "a legal victory so decisive that it would change the entire landscape for the LGBT community," and supposedly eliminated criminal penalties for conduct associated with homosexuality? That’s what I thought when I first heard about this. Then I read this fateful line in the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence, which was decided on the basis of privacy.
This case does not involve … public conduct or prostitution.
In other words, while Lawrence eliminated criminal penalties for those engaged in consensual homosexual activity in private, it has been interpreted – erroneously, we argue - to not provide any relief to queers who engage – or are perceived as being engaged - in public sexual conduct or the sex trades. Their landscape remains, in fact, the same.
People like Michael (a pseudonym), a Latino man who was kicked out of his home for being gay at age 13 and forced to make his own way on the streets, are unfairly punished by this law. Because Michael once offered an undercover cop oral sex in exchange for $50, he was convicted of SCAN, spent 4 years in jail, and was forced to join the ranks of the Louisiana sex offender registry. He is now HIV+, and he can’t stay in a homeless shelter, get a job, or find housing because he is branded as a sex offender – and will be for the next 15 years. People like Stella (also a pseudonym), a young African American transgender woman who, like so many other transgender women, is often profiled as being a sex worker and is constantly arrested for and charged with solicitation of Crimes Against Nature every time she steps into New Orleans’ storied French Quarter as a result, is forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. She’s not alone – as one person put it, “I feel like if trans women are just walking down the street, they hit them up with that charge...”
People like Frances (also a pseudonym), a middle-aged African American grandmother who was arrested and charged with SCAN as a teenager trying to make her way through high school despite grinding poverty, will continue to live in shame and fear of humiliation and harm.
Yes, this law also affects middle-aged grandmothers. As Queer (In)Justice highlights,
Cathy Cohen points out in her groundbreaking essay Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens, gender conforming heterosexuals can also be policed and punished for exhibiting behavior or indulging sexual desires that run contrary to the vast array of punitive rules, norms, practices, and institutions which “legitimize and privilege heterosexuality.”
…women of color [are] by definition outside the bounds of heteronormativity, and therefore inherently subject to gender policing and punishment. For instance, Black feminists have consistently highlighted the development of a number of controlling narratives casting Black women as dangerous, gender deviant, “castrating matriarchs,” or as sexually aggressive, promiscuous, and depraved, to justify their regulation as both inherently criminal and as “breeders” of criminals. Cohen also points to the use of heteronormativity to exclude single mothers on welfare, predominantly perceived to be almost exclusively women of color, and sex workers, from who is “normal, moral, or worthy of state support” or legal recognition.
One African American woman forced to register under the Crime Against Nature statute asks "I was raped and used myself a lot of times. I never hurt anyone - why am I on the registry as a sex offender?" Another, who has struggled with poverty and addiction and has spent most of her life behind bars, in large part due to SCAN charges, as a result says: “There are children getting raped every day, but no, you want to go after me, and go after the transsexuals out there ... It just vex my spirit.”
In other words, there is both theoretical and real common ground among poor non-transgender Black women and transgender and gay men of color who are, or are perceived to be, involved in the sex trades, on which multi-racial and multi-issue organizing can be solidly built. The disparate punishment of certain types of commercial sexual exchanges based on ancient notions condemning queer sex should also be considered an LGBT rights issue that affects both queers and heterosexuals.
Unlike earlier efforts to challenge the statute post Lawrence, the campaign currently underway to, spearheaded by local harm reduction agency Women With A Vision, focuses on the experiences of both queers and heterosexuals of color who share experiences of policing and poverty. In this way, it represents exactly the kind of organizing Queer (In)Justice hails as the future of a progressive queer movement. Led by lesbians of color, bringing together civil rights, racial justice, women’s health, AIDS, LGBT, juvenile justice, and anti-police brutality attorneys, advocates, and organizers, and centering the voices and experiences of all people affected by the law, the campaign recognizes that issues of poverty, race, criminalization, gender, sex, and sexuality are inextricably intertwined.
Join Women With A Vision’s No Justice Campaign in demanding the repeal of Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature statute and retroactive removal of everyone who is on the sex offender registry solely as the result of a non-violent SCAN conviction. It’s just one step toward ensuring that no queer is left behind.
Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock went on sale in bookstores across the country on February 15, 2011.
Matt Kailey is the author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience, a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He is also a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, and writer dealing with transgender issues. He can be reached through his website and blog at www.tranifesto.com.
I'm not sure what people thought would happen when Allums played basketball as a man, but his playing ability has likely not changed. He has already said that he would not start hormones as long as he is on the team, due to concerns that testosterone might disqualify him from play by giving the team an unfair advantage.
Of course, I doubt that they have tested the testosterone levels of the women on the team, and, as we discovered when South African athlete Caster Semenya was dragged through the mud simply for being a superior runner, testosterone levels vary tremendously from woman to woman – as they do from man to man.
The subject of trans athletes is nothing new. Renee Richards broke ground in 1977 when the New York Supreme Court ruled that she had the right to play professional tennis as a woman after transitioning from male to female. But the controversy over who can play what sport remains ongoing.
Today's post is from Gail Dines, author of the forthcoming book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Dines has written and lectured on the porn industry for over two decades. She is professor of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College.
For all those women who think men are interested only in sex and not conversation or intimacy, think again. A New Jersey based company, ironically called True Companion, has come out with what it calls the "the world's first sex robot". This is, according to news reports, a life-size rubber doll that has all the "necessary" orifices. Why the big news? After all, this is not the first time that the porn industry has come out with a sex doll. The company Real Doll has been around since 1996 and offers "an extensive list of options, including 10 female body types and 16 interchangeable female faces." Offering to customize the doll to the desires of the particular consumer – color and shape of pubic hair, fingernail colors, hairstyle, ethnic features etc., -- the company boasts that "If you've ever dreamed of creating your ideal partner, then you have come to the right place."
True Companion is trying to build a business on the deep insight that some men want more from their ideal partner than silent beauty. For about $8,000 True Companion offers a doll that actually talks in response to various stimuli, generating nuanced and complex sentences such as "I love holding hands with you." Douglas Hines, the owner of True Companion, wants the customer to be able to "talk and relate to" the doll because he has come to the great realization that "Sex only goes so far -- then you want to be able to talk to the person." At last, men have discovered that for most women -- and perhaps a few dolls -- conversation matters! Well, it's a start.
As ridiculous as this robot may seem to many of us, it actually makes perfect sense in a society saturated by porn, where the average age boys first view porn is 11 years. Boys and men are socialized by porn to see sex as lacking in connection, intimacy and emotion. Sex in porn is all about penetration; as chrisfjohn, commenting on the robot on the Huffington Post, said, "the great part about porn is that you don't have to deal with all of the emotions and drama of a relationship." For chrisfJohn the robot is a bit too emotionally connected -- he doesn't want to "have to listen to it talk." For Don E Chute, on the other hand, the price is a bit steep because, he calculates, for that amount he could buy "roughly, 80, $100 hookers." To be fair, many of the comments do see the problem with the robot-as-partner idea, but the misogyny still drips from their posts, as in the case of AZ85283, when he asks "Mothers, what the hell are you raising?"
Of course, it's not the mothers but the pornographic culture that is raising men who are increasingly seeing women as interchangeable with sex dolls. If a doll with three orifices can stand in for a woman, then it doesn't bode well for women who want to be seen as equal to men and deserving of full human rights. To see just how gender specific this is, can you imagine women shelling out thousands of dollars for a male doll, no matter what size his manhood, even if it did say, "can I make dinner for you"?
Today's post is from Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Campbell's writing has been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors; National Women's Political Caucus; the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, and the Connecticut chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. She was also a member of the Hartford Courant's 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for breaking news. Be sure to check out her Dating Jesus blog.
I want to take a moment-- belatedly so-- to thank Bro. Jimmy Carter.
Let me first say that former Pres. Carter is not of my particular theological tribe. I was raised non-denominational/ fundamentalist Christian, while Carter is maybe the world's most famous Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher Growing up, we thought Southern Baptists were in gross scriptural error-- but then, we thought everyone else was, too. I have since come to understand that we were wrong on that and on several other matters of faith, including our view of the role of women in society. In my church-- and in Carter's-- women were told to keep silent. They could and can hold no positions of authority (lest they usurp authority over a man), and their highest calling was/is to be someone's submissive partner. My highest calling at my church was to be what we called "help-meets."
Please don't tell me this is God's plan. There is no good reason-- scriptural or otherwise-- to assign to more than half the population the role of "help-meet." Do men really need that much help?
Who's your daddy? Barack Obama, that's who. We haven't seen black family role modeling like this since the Huxtables. Actually, Cliff and Clair couldn't touch the Obamas-- they didn't have Bo. Still, the president's not content with his own nuclear family bliss. He really, really wants you to have a great dad, too.
But the problem with Obama's effort to turn Father's Day into an annual conversation about the tragedy of failed fathers is that it's rooted in one of the greatest-- and most consequential-- lies the Christian right has sold the country: That “traditional” family structures are best equipped to produce healthy kids. The notion that biological fathers are essential to childhood development wasn't true when Dan Quayle asserted it in 1992, and it won't become true no matter how eloquently Barack Obama restates it.
“The hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill,” Obama wrote in a beautifully crafted Parade magazine essay last week. “We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.”
This is a terribly moving refrain that echoes through all of the president's rhetoric on fathers-- and it's entirely beside the point. Nobody sane would argue that government can give a child love. That truism, however, does not mean only a gendered dyad of parents are adequately equipped to do so.
No surprise there, of course. Moms are still the ones most likely to be taking care of kids. But where does that leave families who don't fit the traditional mold? And how does that help parents who want to provide caring role models to their sons?
There are books out there, few and far between, that depict dads as co-parents and primary caregivers. In an effort to find them, I consulted bookstores in San Francisco as well as my local children's librarian.
My list is not exhaustive; these are only the ones I can recommend, and there are many titles I found online that I wasn't able to read in real life. And because these kinds of books are so rare, I'm willing to bet that there are plenty out there that few people know about.