August 31, 2006

A Letter To My Assailant

(Crossposted to my website, Sex and the Ivy)

Dear Fellow Passenger on the Metro Rapid 720,

Today was supposed to be remembered as my last day of work at my summer internship. But after our encounter this morning, I’ll fondly look back on this Thursday as the day I got my ass grabbed on the bus down Wilshire.

At first, I wasn’t certain that anything inappropriate was going on. It was a crowded bus, I had a headache and a cough, and I was thirty minutes late on my last day. Being assaulted was the last thing I worried about. But after you brushed up against my hip one too many times, I began to take notice. I realized that despite close quarters, you were much closer than you needed to be. You positioned yourself so that my back was flat against your chest. I didn’t intend to vertically spoon with anyone on public transportation this morning. I looked down and you were wearing running shorts, which led me to deduce that it was your erection causing the uncomfortable sensation.

You don’t fit the typical profile of a pervert. You’re not middle aged, balding, wearing a trench coat. You’re an attractive black male about 6 feet tall with an athletic build. And most surprising of all, you’re young, no older than 25. If you had asked for my number, I would’ve probably given it to you.

I was willing to ignore the constant brush-ups that occurred every time the bus jolted. I was willing to walk away irritated, but optimistic about human nature. Besides, I could just scoot forward a little bit. If I wasn’t positive that you had inappropriate intentions, why cause a fuss? But then I felt your fingers graze my rear and you confirmed every suspicion, so I whipped my head around and asked loudly, “What are you doing?” Immediately, you apologized and looked sheepish more than anything. You didn’t even try to play it off like you were innocent. I have to give you credit for that.

Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with a slightly instable, fed-up-with-men feminista who was having a bad day as it was, “I’m sorry” just didn’t cut it. Because this is the first time I’ve spoken up against behavior I’ve been subjected to countless times before, your apology just wasn’t enough. So forgive me for not letting you slide with your “I’m sorry.” Forgive me for insisting on making a scene in front of the 30 other people on that bus. When you tried to leave at the next stop – coincidentally, my stop – I had every intention of leaving this incident behind. But forgive me for turning back around, grabbing you by the collar, demanding, “Why are you touching me on the bus?” in front of all those onlookers. Forgive me for screaming repeatedly, “What makes you think it’s okay to touch women like that?” while pedestrians stopped and looked on. Forgive me for refusing to let you go, for kneeing you in the crotch repeatedly – I was trying to go for where it hurt the most. Forgive me, because you have to understand – you got me where I hurt most.

Do I feel empowered? Hardly. I’ve been recounting this tale to friends and coworkers (“I kicked the pervert’s ass!”) But the truth is, I don’t feel any more empowered for fighting back. My reaction today was the exception not the rule. This once, I didn’t stand for it. This once, I spoke up. But for this single instance, for every time I yell “fuck off” at an unwanted come-on, there are countless other occasions when I remain silent. For every woman willing to fight back, there are many others too scared to say anything. If it was just the two of us on the bus, would I have summoned up the same courage? If this happened at night, would I have dared to grab you by the shirt on the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire? I don’t fool myself into thinking that I’m any safer because I fought back this one time.

So no, I don’t feel empowered, and no, calling you out on your behavior doesn’t make me feel like I’ve reclaimed the dignity I lost when you invaded my space. You walked away embarassed, but I walked away a little less whole than I was when I left my house this morning. I hope you realize that every time you and other men touch me, honk at me, leer at me, call to me, or otherwise mistreat me, you add ever so slightly to the collective fear of women in the world.

I am just a young woman trying to get to work in time. I am 5’ 2”, small-framed, and not very intimidating outside the boardroom. Everyday, I have to brace myself when I pass a man on the street because invariably, two or three will make a comment or give me a lookover that leaves me feeling victimized. So I’ve taken to mentally preparing for these instances. No one should have to look away hoping to escape notice on the street. No one should have to prefer invisibility to acknowledgement. You are just another concern on my already long list of worries. Last week, I had to laugh off a honk when walking my little sister to school. Last month, I had to maneuver away from a man who cornered me for my number on the Metro Rail. And because of you, tomorrow, I will have to worry about being groped on the bus.

August 28, 2006

Blast from the Past

So I've been reading a lot about colonial America lately, for reasons that are too improbable to outline here. Anyway, it turns out that ideas about gender were really getting scrambled on either side of the Atlantic during the first half of the 17th century. In 1628, this English theologian and fussbudget named William Prynne lamented that in these "Degenerous, Unnaturall, and Unmanly times," women were being "Hermaphrodited" by "Odious if not Whorish Cutting, and Crisping of their Haire." Men were also up to no good, what with all of that "Womanish, Sinful, and Unmanly, Crisping, Curling, Frouncing, Powdring, and nourishing of their Lockes and Hairie excrements." Um, no comment on that last part.

Anyway, check out what happened in Virginia during the following year. I'm quoting from Karen Ordahl Kupperman's Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America, pp. 54-55:

This preoccupation with clothes as symbols and with the need to get them right is most graphically demonstrated in the case of Thomas or Thomasine Hall, whose self-presentation was both male and female. The case came before the Virginia authorities in 1629 because several colonists, hearing that Hall sometimes dressed as a woman and sometimes as a man, had tried to find out the truth by forcibly examining Hall's body. Hall testified to having been christened Thomasine and being brought up as a girl. At age twelve, with adolescence approaching, Hall was sent to live with an aunt in London, and continued to live as a woman up to the age of twenty-two. When Hall's brother was pressed for service in the English expedition to the Isle of Rhe in France, Hall designed a new short-haired identity and signed up to go with him as a soldier. Upon returning to England, Hall once again put on women's clothes and lived in Plymouth doing needlework, until, deciding to go to Virginia, Thomasine resumed men's clothes and shipped out as Thomas Hall.

Because the specter of a person alternately assuming male and female dress comfortably was so disturbing, the General Court of Virginia set out to determine Hall's true gender, in order to dictate proper dress. After hearing sworn statements from men and women who had carried out the examinations, the court accepted Hall's claim to be both male and female, and decreed mixed clothing expressive of this double gender. Hall was ordered to dress as a man, but to wear a woman's cap and apron; the court also decreed that Hall's dual nature was to be "published" in the "plantacion where the said Hall lyveth...that all the Inhabitants there may take notice thereof."

Whoa.

August 27, 2006

Here we go again: gender, t3h gay, and why science and the media don't seem to know the difference


This is probably old news to the rest of the blogsphere, but old news is what you get when you watch reruns of "60 Minutes." Which is what I was doing this evening, when I caught this gem, apparently originally aired on March 12, 2006.

The Science of Sexual Orientation: Researchers Focus on Twins

[To psychologist Michael] Bailey, the stereotypes suggest there's a feminizing of the brain in gay men, and masculinizing in lesbians. ... But how and when does this feminizing occur? If the differences were already apparent in childhood, that would point to an early, perhaps even genetic origin — and that's what Bailey and Rieger are testing in a new study using childhood home movies.

In the study, volunteers were asked to rate each child's femininity or masculinity. Stahl took the test and rated two girls highly feminine.

When shown video of a toddler girl running a truck off of a table, Stahl observed, "She's really not girly. Isn't that interesting? She’s not girly." [A voice-over later reports that this girl grew up to be a lesbian. - M.E.]

She also observed differences in two boys, one of whom would grow up to be straight, while the other is now gay.


quiz: spot the queers by their "masculinized/feminized brains"
(images from meetup.com and wikipedia.org, respectively)

Intrepid reporter Lesley Stahl then got a "crash course in rat sex," and discovered that female rats exposed to testosterone immediately at birth were "profoundly indifferent" to the sexual advances of male rats - behaving, in effect, like just another red-blooded American boy rat. Castrated male rats, on the other hand, threw their plump little rat behinds into the air the moment they were mounted, just like a wanton temptress girl rat.

Stahl's conclusion? "So you created a gay rat?"

The rat sex scientist, the aptly-named Dr. Marc Breedlove, carefully corrected her: "I wouldn't say that these are gay rats. But I will say that these are genetic male rats who are showing much more feminine behavior."

The online version of the story, in the very next sentence, sums up the results with "profound indifference" to Dr. Breedlove's explanation. "So the answer may be," says 60 Minutes, "that it's not genes but hormones" which cause the gay.


now you, too, can be an expert in rat sex: the bottom rat's position is called "lordosis" and is only displayed when the bottom rat (usually female) wants to have sex with the top rat (male)

Interspersed between these helpful forays into toddler gaydar and rodentian copulation is the story of young Adam and Jared, fraternal twins and photogenic research darlings.
The bedrooms of 9-year-old twins Adam and Jared couldn't be more different. Jared's room is decked out with camouflage, airplanes, and military toys, while Adam's room sports a pastel canopy, stuffed animals, and white horses.

When Stahl came for a visit, Jared was eager to show her his G.I. Joe collection. "I have ones that say like Marine and SWAT. And then that's where I keep all the guns for 'em," he explained.

Adam was also proud to show off his toys. "This is one of my dolls. Bratz baby," he said.

Adam wears pinkish-purple nail polish, adorned with stars and diamonds.
...
Asked how he would describe himself to a stranger, Jared says, "I'm a kid who likes G.I. Joes and games and TV."

"I would say like a girl," Adam replied to the same question. When asked why he thinks that is, Adam shrugged.
I can't answer Stahl's question for Adam, but I'm skeptical of the insinuation all through the piece that Adam's self-described "like a girl" nature means he's going to grow up and perform lordosis with other Barbie-loving boys in the back alleys of the Castro. I wouldn't be at all surprised, my own self, to see Adam grow up into a loving, pearl-and-heels-wearing suburban wife and mother. I wouldn't even be surprised to see Adam grow up into the first hot femme transdyke to get into MWMF fair and square. (Ok, maybe I'd be a bit surprised to finally see them letting in a hot femme transdyke.)

Quick primer, once again, for you reporters in the back who were dozing:
  • not everyone who is feminine likes to have sex with boys. (See: lesbian femmes, metrosexuals.)
  • not everyone who likes to have sex with boys is feminine. (See: bears, em0's sister.)
  • not everyone born a boy grows up to be a man. (See: transwomen.)
  • not everyone born a girl who grow up to be men are ever ball-scratching manlimen at any point in their lives. (See: my darling femme transguys, you know who you are.)
  • sex, gender, and sexual orientation are not the same thing. (See: intersex people who aren't bisexual, bisexuals who aren't androgynous, etc.)
  • "gay" and "straight" aren't the only options out there; neither are "boy" and "girl." An ability to mix, match, blend, and start over as necessary may make your results a little more informative and a lot more credible.
Not that I really care why I'm a big old queer; but I'm just a little sick of hearing "gay manhood means acting like a woman" and "lesbians just want to be men" repeated as if it were science.

August 25, 2006

Mad at MWMF?

w00t

Okay, La Gringa understands that y'all are tired of the ranting that has been going on below re the idiocy of the Michigan Whatever We're Spelling Women Like This Week Music Festival's blatant promotion of bigotry toward members of the transgendered (and by default, also the intersexed) community...
Read more!

Comeback of the week

Overheard yesterday on L Street near 17th (Farragut North, Washington DC):


Cute hipster-dyke-type: Hey, that's a cool tie!
Well-dressed guy: Um, thanks, but - I'm not into girls.
Cute hipster-dyke-type (deadpan): Oh, don't worry, I'm only into guys on alternate Tuesdays. Since today's Thursday, I was just going to ask where you bought it.


Her: 1
Him: negative a lot

It was a cool tie, though.

August 24, 2006

Come now, don't be Shai!

Snagged from the bgltsa-open list:

Shaiwear, a French clothing company, has released an interactive x-rated catalog (NSFW). Basically, you choose your flavor - "men men", "women men", or "women women" - and then watch a pretty decent little porn vid. At any time, you can mouse over the action to freeze the frame and shop for the clothing that the models are wearing and the clothing that they've shed and thrown on the floor.

Oh, capitalism, what will you think of next?

Why Forbes Sucks: In Bullets, for Forbes Writers' Ease and Understanding

  • The title of a piece published 8/22 reads "Don't Marry Career Women"
"How do women, careers and marriage mix? Not well, say social scientists."
  • Attempting to use scientific justification for sexism and misogyny.
"If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble."
  • Accompanying pictorial, "Nine Reasons Not to Marry a Career Woman,"
Featured photos: dirty houses, depression, and a career wife cheating on her husband while wearing lipstick in Harlot Red.
  • Scant acknowledgment of physiological ability of men to clean, care for children
One or fewer mentions of opposable thumb possessed by not only women but men, making domestic tasks and childcare feasible for husbands as well as wives.
  • Writers scrape knuckles on floor, roast animals at desk.
"Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career."
  • Forbes didn't even stand by its piece, instead muting it and turning it into one half of a "point/counterpoint" within 48 hours.
  • Original piece ends with false surgeon general’s warning that career women are more likely to have children with severe medical deformities, contract certain diseases, become homicidal, and “pull a Lorena Bobbit”

Hell Freezes Over: Women Given (Slight) Control over Uterus

Although yesterday's "Smart Women Will Bite Your Dick Off" piece in Forbes was disheartening, today brings joyous news:

Plan B is to be OTC.

Okay, so it's only for women over 18. And WalMart is probably going to try to find a way around it. But don't let that spoil how amazing this development is. (Nor should we let this partial victory make us complacent, of course.) It's a sign of things to come. After all, this is a wildly contentious issue and one that has instigated serious turn-over as the Bush administration worked to implement its own views rather than, say, science.

From the NYT:

“I cannot recall any other issue in my 45 years of watching F.D.A. that has garnered this much attention at all levels of government,” said Peter Barton Hutt, a former general counsel for the agency who now teaches drug law at Harvard.

Michigan Women's Music Festival

MWMF smacks down with transphobia rampant:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Lisa Vogel
August 22, 2006

MICHIGAN WOMYN’S MUSIC FESTIVAL SETS THE RECORD “STRAIGHT”

Hart, Michigan – Seeking to correct misinformation widely distributed by “Camp Trans” organizers, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival founder and producer Lisa Vogel released the following clarification:

“Since 1976, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been created by and for womyn-born womyn, that is, womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn. Despite claims to the contrary by Camp Trans organizers, the Festival remains a rare and precious space intended for womyn-born womyn.”

The facts surrounding the interactions between WWTMC and Camp Trans organizers are as follows:

In the months preceding this year’s Festival, held August 8 – 13, there was communication between a Camp Trans organizer named Lorraine and Lisa Vogel. Letters from Lorraine continued during the Festival, when they were hand-delivered to the Festival’s front gate from Camp Trans, which takes place on Forest Service Land across from Festival property. On Tuesday, August 8th, Camp Trans organizers inquired at the Box Office about Festival admission. They were told that the Festival is intended for womyn-born womyn, and that those who seek to purchase tickets are asked to respect that intention. Camp Trans organizers left without purchasing tickets. They returned the next day and were given the same information.

On Wednesday, August 9th, Vogel sent a reply letter to Lorraine which stated in part:

“I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space -- as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.”

Lorraine at that point chose to purchase a ticket. Vogel’s written request that Camp Trans organizers respect the Festival as womyn-born-woymn space was consistent with information provided to Camp Trans organizers who approached the Festival Box Office. “Does this represent a change in the Festival’s commitment to womyn-born womyn space? No.” says Vogel. “If a transwoman purchased a ticket, it represents nothing more than that womon choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this Festival.”

“As feminists, we call upon the transwomen’s community to help us maintain womyn only space, including spaces created by and for womyn-born womyn. As sisters in struggle, we call upon the transwomen’s community to meditate upon, recognize and respect the differences in our shared experiences and our group identities even as we stand shoulder to shoulder as women, and as members of the greater queer community. We once again ask the transwomen’s community to recognize that the need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing the larger and beautiful diversity of our shared community.”

* * *

In an effort to build further understanding of the Festival’s perspective, answers are provided to questions raised by the recent Camp Trans press release (which contains misinformation):

Why would the Festival sell a ticket to an individual who is not a womon-born womon if the Festival is intended as a space created by and for womyn-born womyn? From its inception the Festival has been home to womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme – and everything in between). Many womyn producing and attending the Michigan Festival are gender variant womyn. Many of the younger womyn consider themselves differently gendered, many of the older womyn consider themselves butch womyn, and the dialogue is alive and well on the Land as our generational mix continues to inform our ongoing understanding about gender identity and the range of what it means to be female. Michigan provides one of the safest places on the planet for womyn who live and present themselves to the world in the broadest range of gender expression. As Festival organizers, we refuse to question anyone’s gender. We instead ask that womon-born womon be respected as a valid gender identity, and that the broad queer and gender-diverse communities respect our commitment to one week each year for womyn-born womyn to gather.

Did the Festival previously refuse to sell tickets to transwomen? The Festival has consistently communicated our intention about who the Festival is created by and for. In 1999, Camp Trans protesters caused extensive disruption of the Festival, in which a male from Camp Trans publicly displayed male genitals in a common shower area and widespread disrespect of women’s space was voiced. The following year, our 25th anniversary, we issued a statement that we would not sell tickets to those entering for the purpose of disrupting the Festival. While this is widely pointed to by Camp Trans supporters as a "policy," it was a situational response to the heated circumstances of 1999, intended to reassure the womyn who have attended for years that the Festival remained – as it does today – intended for womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn, despite the disrespect and intentional disruption Camp Trans initiated.

Is the Festival transphobic? We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female. Within the rich diversity now represented by the broader queer community, we believe there is room for all affinity groups to enjoy separate, self-determined, supportive space if they choose. Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist. We believe that womyn-born womyn have a right to gather separately from the greater womyn’s community. We refuse to be forced into false dichotomies that equate being pro-womyn-born womyn space with being anti-trans; indeed, many of the womyn essential to the Michigan Festival are leaders and supporters of trans-solidarity work. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival respects the transsexual community as integral members of the greater queer community. We call upon the transsexual community in turn to respect and support womyn-born womyn space and to recognize that a need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing transwomen as part of the larger diversity of the womyn’s community.

What is Camp Trans? Camp Trans was first created in 1994 as a protest to the Festival as womyn-born womyn space. Camp Trans re-emerged in 1999 and has been held across the road from the Festival every year since. A small gathering of people who camp and hold workshops and a few performances on Forest Service land across the road, Camp Trans attempts to educate womyn who are attending the Festival about their point of view regarding trans inclusion at the Festival. At times they have advocated for the Festival to welcome anyone who, for whatever period of time, defines themselves as female, regardless of the sex they were born into. At other times, Camp Trans activists have advocated opening the Festival to all sexes and genders.

What is the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? It is the largest and longest running womyn’s festival in the United States. Since the first Festival in 1976, tens of thousands of womyn from all corners of the world have made the pilgrimage to this square mile of land in Northern Michigan. The essence of the Festival is that it is one week a year that is by, for and about the glorious diversity of womyn-born womyn and we continue to stand by our labor of love to create this space. Our focus has not changed in the 31 years of our celebration and it remains fixed on the goal of providing a celebratory space for a shared womyn-born-womyn experience.

Lisa Vogel, bite me.

Man, I frikken' hate the words "womon" and "womyn".

August 22, 2006

Oh, puberty...

If I'd seen this video, entitled "Molly Grows Up," when I was a kid, I'm fairly certain I would never have wanted to get past the age of nine.

Watch Molly as she discovers lipstick, boys, and most importantly - That Time of the Month.






(this might take a while to load, so you might want to pause it, let it all load, and then watch it, otherwise it may get all skippy)

Ok, so hopefully, those of y'all who get periods didn't have to watch this horrific explanation of the phenomenon; but how did you find out about your period? Who explained it to you, and what did they say?

For my own part, I don't recall anyone sitting down and explaining it to me - I didn't really get a Sex Talk, either. I think I learned most of what I knew by reading the boxes of my mom's sanitary products. When I was 8 or so, I thought maybe I'd started, but my grandmother said, "No, when you do start, there won't be any doubt. There'll be a lot of blood." And sure enough, when it happened, I woke up, looked down, and shrugged. Got myself a pad - I knew how from reading the box - and that was that.

But in any event, everyone I knew in school got their periods way before sex ed, so our school figured we knew about it anyway and didn't bother to discuss it. And because nobody told me anything, I was spared the myths that apparently some other people heard: you can't swim because sharks will eat you, your immune system is weakened from losing so much blood so you're more susceptible to colds, etc.

What about you? What were you told? How were you told?

August 21, 2006

Sometimes politics is just so local.

I love it when I see politics happenning at its most local grassroots level. Check out this story.

PS. For more information about the DC Mayoral race, visit here. In my opinion, this is always an interesting race because it's so personality-oriented and tends to be less based on political parties than other races I hear about. I haven't yet picked someone who I support. Any other DC folks who read this blog have an opinion?

Official release from Camp Trans.

Camp Trans sent out a press release with information about the changes in the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.

It is titled "Michigan Women's Music Festival ends policy of discrimination against Trans women."

The release quotes some festival-goers positive reactions:

"Seeing trans women inside the festival for the first time brought me to tears," said Sue Ashman, who attends the festival every year. "It's restored my faith in women's communities."

Ashman said "I have friends who have already committed to bringing themselves and others for the first time next year."

And a narrative of what happenned:
Organizers of Camp Trans, the annual protest across the road from the festival, say that every year at least one trans woman at Camp Trans walks to the festival gate with a group of supporters, explains that she is trans, and tries to buy a ticket. In past years, the festival box office has produced a printed copy of the policy and refused.

"This time, the response was, 'cash or credit?'" said Jessica Snodgrass, a Camp Trans organizer and festival attendee who spent the week reaching out to supporters inside the fest. "They said the festival has no policy barring any woman from attending."

But Camp Trans will not end.
With their original mission accomplished, organizers say Camp Trans will continue to be a place for trans people and allies to build community, share ideas, and develop strategies for change. And they will keep working together with festival workers and attendees to make sure trans women who attend the fest next year have support and resources.

Camp Trans will partner with a group of supporters inside the fest next year to establish an anti-transphobia area within the festival. Representatives from Camp Trans and A group of festival workers and attendees, organizing under the name "The Yellow Armbands," plan to educate people on trans issues and provide support to trans and differently gendered women. Festival attendees have worn yellow armbands for the past three years as a symbol of pro-trans inclusion solidarity.

And it has a really cute quote towards the end:
"This is not about winning," said Snodgrass. "It's about making our communities whole again. The policy divided people against each other who could be fighting on the same side. We want to be part of the healing process."

August 20, 2006

Why I love my job.

Completely by chance, I canvassed Kit Yan today. (I thought Kit looked vaguely familiar, snuck a peek at the postcard, and promptly made a complete fool of myself.) This occurred in the parking lot in front of an asian supermarket in Quincy. While a brawl involving two asian families, a parked car, somebody's stiletto, and several uniformed police officers occurred fifteen feet away. During a festival to celebrate, of all things, the August moon.

I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.

P.S. Kit Yan supports gay marriage. Just fyi.

August 19, 2006

Update on MWMF (Michigan Womyn's Music Festival)

Rumor has it that their policies that exclude transwomen may be relaxing. No official press release from Camp Trans yet but we all wait for more official word of what's going on.

NYT Article on Transmen

There's an article on transmen in today's New York Times. It features predictably thoughtful and intelligent commentary on how transmen are choosing to come out to queer women by such august thinkers as the Michigan Womyn's Festival ("for womyn-born-womyn living as womyn") and Judith Halberstam:

“It’s as if the category of lesbian is just emptying out,” said Judith Halberstam, a gender theorist and professor of literature at the University of Southern California, San Diego, whose books include Female Masculinity.
(It's more hysterical (as in OMG!1! T3H TR4NZPEEPUL SUXX0R! in context.)

But the overall story seems pretty decent and the overall tone is summed up as "transitioning is very, very hard and people who suggest stupid theories about transmen just desiring male privilege or betraying da sistaz are misguided." (I thought about writing "stupid" rather than "misguided", then realised the article is educational and hence "misguided" is actually the appropriate word.")

And they mention Max from The L-Word (for good or worse) and how rabid fans are clamouring for him to be kicked off the show. Plus lots of interesting gossip about reasonably famous persons in the queer community who are/have genderqueer partners.

James Dobson wants to buy you shit

Seriously, he really does. Check this shit out. Focus on the Family is giving out free shit. Sure, most of it is hardcore fundamentalist books and the like, but they also have the complete radio dramatization of the Chronicles of Narnia (value: $80).

I just ordered $95 worth of swag. That's $95 FotF won't be spending making people I like miserable. w00t.

Slapping the Monnkey at the Bench

TChris at Talk Left reported the following story and I figured I couldn't say it any better so I just quoted it here.

Last year, TalkLeft noted the strange behavior of Oklahoma Judge Donald D. Thompson, who was pleasuring himself with a "male enhancement pump" during trials. Thompson was convicted last month of four counts of indecent exposure. He was sentenced today to four years in prison.

August 18, 2006

Condoms - the latest, safest fashion accessory!

Ok, I'll make this quick, since free internet and boring p-sets have made me way too voluble already today:

Reuters: Making Condoms Stylish for Everyone

DeRose said that creating wearable art out of condoms attracts people who normally wouldn't wear the prophylactics, let alone touch them or even utter the word.

"It opens the door," said DeRose. "We find that we're very, very successful."

Almost 400,000 condoms have been decorated and turned into brooches or pins around the world including India, Thailand, Senegal and Burkina Faso, he said.

Just this week alone, about 30,000 of the pins have been decorated at the conference, DeRose said.

People from different cultures and backgrounds wear them, trade them and even argue over safe-sex related topics while making them, including when to broach the subject with kids, DeRose said.

"We're not pushing it on people. They come to us and the information is there," said DeRose, adding his group teams up with the local information groups in the communities where his team visits.



Read the full article here.

(I want one.)

One more for our team.

I'm sitting in a café, theoretically doing phonetics problem sets. The problem is, this place not only has free internet access, but a slew of insanely cute children.

One in particular, a two-year-old sitting on the couch across from me with her nanny, is dressed in baby cargo khakis with pink flowers, a pink shirt, and a pink bow as big as her head. Actually, I don't do the outfit justice - the small solemnly informed me that her shirt was "light pink" and the bow was "hot pink."

The nanny - in very sensible khaki shorts, sneakers, and blue hoodie - earlier confessed utter bewilderment. "I was never this girly," she said, shaking her head. "I don't know what this is all about. I'd never have let my mother put a bow on my head."

But the girl was definitely a different species altogether. When the nanny said, "How about I take this silly bow off your head?" the girl firmly shot back, "No! Pretty!" and guarded it with her hands.

"What's pretty?" the nanny prompted.

"I pretty! Bow pretty!" She paused a little, as if looking for a stronger argument. "Hot pink!"

The nanny sighed. "She's gonna grow up to be a little princess."

I looked over my laptop, over the rims of my own hot-pink chrome eyeglasses - "Grow up to be? I'm pretty sure she already is a little princess."

I can't hide a smile of recognition as I watch them and continue typing this post. Wait till she hits the stage where she refuses to wear pants - I confused the daylights out of my second-wave feminist mother when I was about that age. Wait till she uses her chemistry set to blend perfume - I spent about a year of my childhood smelling like an entire French whorehouse. Wait till she tries on the heels in mommy's closet and you discover she can walk in them better than mommy can - I got a lot of my best shoes out of the "torture rack" in my mom's closet.

Oh, welcome to the world, baby femme. They won't know what hit 'em.

Christian Sex Toys

This is kind of amazing. Check out this Christian sex shop. As far as products go, their selection is somewhat tame, but hey, I'm all for promoting intimacy.

Thanks Wired!

August 15, 2006

Girl Comic

NS4W comic explain how queer women have sex with each other.

August 14, 2006

As long as we're channelling MasterCard commercials.

I wanted to share this with Quench.

Long day at work: potentially bad.

Said work being MassEquality: good.

Talking with my grandmother on the phone while driving back from work: good.

Being inadvertently outed by a car full of my (straight, interestingly enough) co-workers while on the phone with said grandmother: potentially really bad.

My heretofore homophobic grandmother, who has often uttered hateful and hurtful comments about "the gays" in my presence, being unexpectedly accepting and loving and open-minded: PRICELESS.

(Oh, and having a really frank conversation with said grandmother about how the idea of gay sex makes her uncomfortable, a conversation in which she used the terms ORAL SEX and RECTAL SEX repeatedly? PRICELESS.)

*bat dor happily dances around her apartment*

OMG

OH MY GOD YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME.

AIM IM with jungmusiclover.

jungmusiclover: hi

me: salaam calaykun

jungmusiclover: what's that

me: who's Jung Music Lover, the fan of the Mets or somefing?

jungmusiclover: i love music
and JUng is my name

me: salaam calaykun is Arabic. It means "peace be with you (f)"

jungmusiclover: cool

me: you are a girl?

jungmusiclover: no
are you

me: salaam calaykum, then
yes

me: where did you come from, exactly?
with the IMing me?

jungmusiclover: korean
livejournal
do you go to harvard

me: i graduated
1997

jungmusiclover: cool
did you like it there

me: you read my livegerbil innit? but there's not much there. yeah, i loved it
where do you live?

jungmusiclover: washington dc
you
where do you live

me: at Harvard

jungmusiclover: i dont go to harvard i am thinking about going there for grad school

me: what about my livegerbil made you interested in contacting me, if i may ask? (I don't get many random IMs)

jungmusiclover: ah

me: which school

jungmusiclover: NYU
are you arabian

me: no, i mean, which graduate school

jungmusiclover: math

me: FAS, then

jungmusiclover: yes
what was your major

me: East Asian studies - Chinese and Korean

jungmusiclover: wow that's cool
i am korean

me:

jungmusiclover: so i know a little bit about korean history

me: i'm afraid i've forgotten all my korean except for the food

jungmusiclover: are you korean

me: aniyeo, Scots-Irish, Cherokee, German-Turkish and some unclear amount of African American (slave) blood

jungmusiclover: oh
did you take korean at harvard

me: yes

jungmusiclover: cool
do you like korean food

me: it was hard. Everyone else in the class was Korean-American and could already speak or understand, but needed to "learn proppa"
of course I do
bibimbeob!

jungmusiclover: i had that today

me: i used to pig out all the time when I was at school in China

jungmusiclover: how did you like China

me: it was dirty, overcrowded, hostile, polluted - and totally fabulous

jungmusiclover: have you been to Seoul

me: no

jungmusiclover: it's really overcrowded there also
random question: does size matter?

me: size?

jungmusiclover: penis i am a bit worried about my size

me: are you fucking kidding me?

jungmusiclover: no i am not

me: bu-bye

jungmusiclover has been blocked

being a transsexual = people asking you about the status of your genitals
being female = people talking about their genitals
being a lesbian = people talking about their genitals, your genitals and the genitals of an unnamed third female party
being a lesbian transwoman: PRICELESS

August 13, 2006

Baby Natalie strikes again

Click to enlarge (unless Bat Dor or Spork or someone can make it legible and make it fit):


Darrin Bell = my new personal hero. That is all.

August 09, 2006

Generally, my generation wouldn't be caught dead working for The Man

(with gratitude and credit-where-it's-due to Ani)

If queer non-profits were literature, the Human Rights Campaign would be Mark Twain. They're the old dead white guy who's indisputably important and influential, and sure, he's politically incorrect by modern standards, but there's no denying he was a good writer and pretty darn radical for his times. So, yeah, HRC's pretty retrograde on a lot of issues, but if you want to protect marriage and build bridges between Fortune 500 companies and their gay financial analysts, there's absolutely no one better for the job. And yes, their trans politics have sucked giant monkey balls for quite some time (though they're better than they used to be) - but if you want a quick, relatively well-paid summer job in the queer nonprofit world, you take a job canvassing on their behalf.

Which is exactly what I did for a couple weeks, before heatstroke forced me to quit. In that space of time, I had some well-nigh-unbelievable encounters, which I thought I'd share with the Quench-reading world for your amusement.

*knock knock*
Person At Door: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group, and we're -
PAD: Oh, I'm already a member of Human Rights Watch. You should keep better records and stop bothering people!
*slam*

(And you should pay better attention and not slam the door in people's faces before they're done talking ... I'm pretty sure HRC would agree torture and civilian-killing are bad things, but that doesn't make them the same as HRW.)

Me: ... so it's important that you give as generously as possible so we can keep getting out there and having an impact!
Nice Donor Lady: Sure, absolutely! *takes out checkbook* Who am I making this out to?
Me: Human Rights Campaign.
NDL: Human ... Rights ...
Child of NDL: Mommy?
NDL: Mommy's busy, sweetie.
Child: Mommy, I don't feel so - *begins to projectile vomit*
NDL: Ummm, can I mail this in?

*knock knock*
Medical Condition Person: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group and -
MCP: Look, I'm passing a kidney stone/I just got my wisdom teeth out/I'm just house-sitting for a friend who's napping from chemotherapy/I'm just cleaning out my late mother's possessions. Now's really not a good time.
*M.E. slinks away - what do you say?*

*knock knock*
Liar Shouting Through Door: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. Is Joe Renewal home?
LSTD: Are you a solicitor?
Me: Well, as I said, I'm with the HRC, and I'm here to -
LSTD: So you're a solicitor.
Me: Er, I'm sorry, is Mr. Renewal home? Because I'm just here to thank him for his generous support of us in the past -
LSTD: You're a solicitor. Well, *long pause* Mr. Renewal doesn't live here anymore. And if he did, he wouldn't appreciate solicitors coming to his door.

(Oh, for pity's sake ...)

*knock knock*
Cranky Old Bigot: Hello?
Me: Hi, I'm M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil right's group, and -
COB: *spits at me, misses* I don't approve of lesbianism!
*door slams*

(That was ... disheartening.)

Then there was the couple of former HRC staffers, who were disgruntled and didn't donate. I talked to one of them and left, but shortly thereafter, her partner came outside and flagged me down. We chatted for a little, and I said:

Me: Yeah, well, we're both working at queer non-profits, too, although not the same one. I'm dating an intern at [Queer Non-Profit With Much More Street Cred.]
Disgruntled: Wow! And your partner lets you work for HRC?

(Yeah! And your partner lets you say stupid things like that?)

*knock knock*
Confused Lady: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name is M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group, and we're out here today continuing our work against discrimination. You may have heard that Congress is trying to push through an amendment to the Constitution that would ban marriage for same-sex couples -
CL: Wait, wait, does this mean you're a lesbian?
Me: (wanting to simplify matters a little) Er, well, ma'am, actually, I'm a bisexual, but you're in the right ballpark, yes.
CL: Well, child, what would you go and be a lesbian for? Don't you want to get married, and raise a family?
Me: *look down futilely at anti-FMA petition* Er, yes, ma'am, I do.
CL: Well then!
Me: Er, well, I guess I'm off to go spread the good word elsewhere, then?
CL: Child, I've read the Word, and that is not what it says.
*door closes none-too-gently*

It wasn't all bad, though, I have to admit. For every creepy old man that lured me into his house in order to call me a pedophile and give me Bible tracts, there was a ten-year-old who ran out to give me her allowance because "those people you were telling my dad about are stupid, and I wanna help!" For every totally infuriating house of complacent lesbians who had given to ACT-UP in the nineties and thought their job was done, there was a house of ultraconservative Republicans who invited me inside during a thunderstorm, toweled me off, and gave me a refill on my water bottle. For every door where the mere mention of "gay and lesbian civil rights" provoked an airing of all the wrongs of affirmative action, there was a single mother who said, "sure, I think it's a sin, but I had a baby out of wedlock, so I'm a sinner too" and proceeded to raid her kid's piggy bank for five bucks. Even the spitter turned out positively: one of her neighbors saw me on the curb crying, and in a fit of civic pride assembled an honor guard to take me around the block to show me that this was not what her town was about!

My secret favorite house, though? This one:

*knock knock*
Person At Door: Hello?
Me: Hi, my name's M.E., and I'm with the Human Rights Campaign. We're the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights group, and -
PAD: I know who you are.
Me: Oh, great! Well, we're out here today continuing -
PAD: Listen, if you're asking for money, you should know that I just gave $2,000 to the Task Force last month, and I don't plan to give a penny to the HRC until their trans politics improve significantly.
Me: Well! I can certainly respect that! Have an awesome day!
*door closes*

I wonder, can I tell someone who's not giving me money that not only do I respect them, I kinda agree with them, too?

August 07, 2006

even in the communities we build

So recently I was hanging out in a queer progressive kind of space with some people I know and some people I know less well. I don't think any of them knew I was on Quench. At least, we hadn't talked about it. Anyhow, someone brought up the topic of Quench and someone else said, "yes, well, i generally like it but it seems like they've had some off-topic and random posts sometimes."

I am imagining this to be the result of my shenanigans. (eg. the post about the giant ball of tape and international relations). Anyhow, like a good activist, I responded with a question, "What about these off-topic posts is bothering you?"

And she responded, "there are some people who just keep whining about healthcare and poverty. I mean, the blog is supposed to be about sexuality and feminism or something?"

Firstly, I have never actually seen a mission statement for Quench. Maybe it would be cool to have one of those second lines under our title like QueerToday does.

So I answer, "do you see anti-poverty work and queer or feminist work as related?"

And she basically took a long route to get to saying "no."

Those of you who are new to this blog may not know me, so just for clarity's sake, I strongly disagree. In a world where some families hold wealth for generations, passed down through marriage and children (these are families that queers are all too often kicked out of or unable to enter), I think that sexuality and class are certainly related. In a world where people who are visibly queer often have many obstacles to face in terms of getting employment, it is hard not to link income and gender and sexuality expression. In a world where health care is often expected to be distributed through employers and through marriage, sexuality and access to healthcare are linked. In a world where there is a marriage movement working against women, particularly women of color, working-class folks (especially women of color), and queer folks, in the name of "family values," we are all linked in a struggle - or at least we should be. (see BeyondMarriage.org for more information). In a world where LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes and become homeless at alarming frequencies (some studies say 1/3 of homeless youth identify as LGBT), how can we say queerness and homelessness are not connected?

Examples - one study in DC showed that

  • One third of transgender people were earning $10,000 or less per year.
  • 29% of respondents were unemployed.
  • Only one in four respondents reported being satisfied with his or her housing situation.
  • 13% of respondents reported not feeling safe in their current housing.
  • 15% reported losing a job due to discrimination in the workplace.
  • Only 58% had paid employment.
In LA, another showed that of transgender people
  • 64% made less than $25,000 a year.
  • Over 40% did not have health insurance.
  • One in five did not have stable housing.
In less than five minutes of perusing websites like that of Immigration Equality, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Boston Glass, Somos Latin@s, or dozens of others to be aware that not only are liberation from opression based on gender and sexuality tied in with class, race, and nationality, but that many organizations work successfully on several of these issues at a time.

And in working together on a variety of issues, people with power and privilege only hurt our movement by claiming our struggles to be independant. As a white person, if I claim that working on sexuality is independent from working on race, how many other people will avoid working with me because I am working for such a narrow group. I am calling on people in our communities to open up their eyes and realize - it is only white people who have the privilege to act as if sexuality and race are unrelated, it is only rich people who have the privilege to act as if sexuality and class are unrelated. Those of us who are white and have class privilege need to push ourselves and each other to stop hindering the LGBT movement.

Hopefully, someday we can not only stop hindering it but we would help it as well. This is going to involve a lot less talking and a lot more listening in order to allow us to use the resources we have access to to effect social change.

August 06, 2006

Today...

A Happy Story

Today, I was walking through Harvard Yard, and I passed Memorial Church. There was a wedding going on there, and I stopped outside the steps because I wanted to see the bride’s pretty dress when she came outside.

The wedding photographer was running around, there were bridesmaids in shiny blue dresses, the white convertible with JUST MARRIED and streamers was waiting. All the anticipation, but still no lace-covered bride came out of the church.

And then I realized there were two grooms.

They were climbing into the back of the convertible, and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” was blasting, and the hundreds of family and friends were clustering around and taking photos. As the car started, one of the grooms grinned: “Going through the Yard – this is going to be such a scene!”
As they drove past, I clapped, and he turned and winked at me.

The family and friends remained on the steps of the church, as the two sets of parents were photographed together, in a huge, multicultural, GLBT-and-not, smiling group.

It just gave me hope.

August 03, 2006

minimum wage increase paired with estate tax repeal

Believe it or not, a minimum wage increase was paired with something that AFL-CIO thought was so unfair that it opposes it.

"We don't think minimum-wage workers should have to wait for millionaires to get another tax cut before they receive a long-overdue pay increase," said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's legislative director.


According to this Washington Post article.

But business lobbyists said the trade-off between a lower estate tax and a higher minimum wage clearly favors the business community and upper-income Americans. The proposed reduction in the estate tax would lower federal tax revenue by $268 billion over the next decade, according to one estimate.

This 'compromise' hardly seems to make sense.

August 02, 2006

We are so cool that...

...a LiveJournal community copied us and now has almost 2000 members. (We'll pretend that's how it went down.)

Anyway, it seems we all enjoy awkwardness, so I thought I'd share. Their profile is also amusing.

August 01, 2006

A Victory for Sex in the US

Although overwhelmingly jazzed for this victory -- FDA's shifting to endorse OTC EC -- I'd like to state once again how obscene it is that the US doesn't even abide by the recommendations of scientists and public health officials -- or statistics -- in regard to women's health here or worldwide. Cue the US Mexico City Policy.

Exhibit A, from the NY Times:

In 2003, an F.D.A. advisory committee voted 23 to 4 to allow the drug’s over-the-counter sale without age restrictions. But a top official of the agency overruled that committee and agency staff members, raising concerns that young teenagers might engage in riskier sex if the morning-after pill was easily available. The company revised its application, asking that over-the-counter sale be allowed for women older than 16.
Check out the full article here.