Monday, March 26, 2007


I've never heard of a transguy deciding to go back to being female, but I bet, given the popularity of transitioning among those in their early 20s, it will become more popular. But maybe, just maybe this is first-ever account of (and by) a person who came to regret the decision to become a man. (There are a lot of verbs in there, but I think that's appropriate, if clunky.) Which makes blogs feel a little worthwhile again. (In my opinion, they make more sense as vehicles for voices otherwise unheard than anything else.)

Do you know of more such man-interrupted stories? What do FTMs who have fully transitioned think of them?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Gates on Gays in the Military: I'm Too Busy for this Crap

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that homosexuality, like adultery, is immoral and the Army shouldn't allow any immoral behavior. I have a few questions left about that. First of all, immoral according to what standard in a secular state? The Bible? Even the Bible takes adultery to be the bigger issue: It made the top 10; biblical pronouncements on homosexuality are tucked away in odd places and not especially clear. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" is pretty clear. And yet, there's no word from the DoD that a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on adultery is forthcoming.

None of these obvious questions has been asked. The media has, however, tackled likely '08 Democratic candidates Obama and Clinton and asked for their opinion on the morality of homosexuality. They hedged. (Clinton had asked for the gay vote just days before at an under-the-radar speech at the Human Rights Campaign.)

Finally, someone has gotten around to asking the Secretary of Defense what he thinks. Robert Gates veritably brimmed with substance and insight when he said, "I think we should just move on at this point." Asked whether he thought Pace should apologize, Gates said no. Gates went on to say that he was too busy to evaluate whether "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"—which less than half the nation supports and which costs a strapped military 4,000 soldiers a year—is an effective policy.

Tale of the First Two Transsexuals

In an article I wrote for AlterNet that was meant to serve as an introduction to the many-splendored world of queer identities—about which, more later—I claimed that male-to-female gender reassignment surgeries have been around for longer, and consequently so have MTF transsexuals.

Well, slap my ass and call me Sally! It turns out the first ever transsexual was Michael Dillon, nĂ© Laura. He fell in love with a man who wanted to become a woman, and did—making her the first male-to-female transsexual. (Their love was predictably ill-fated.)

All of this is in a book reviewed in the New York Times, called The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution, by Pagan Kennedy.

The review is pretty interesting, but I'm a little disturbed by this pronouncement by the writer (Mary Roach, of Stiff fame):

I wanted to stand by [Dillon] through all 200 pages, but I fell hard for Dr. Gillies. It is no small feat to make a romance between the world’s first two transsexuals seem ho-hum, but Gillies almost manages…Gillies was altering not merely faces and bodies, but the very nature of surgery.

See, surgery that affects everyday people is more interesting that the intense plight and bravery of the first ever transsexuals, who served as Gillies' guinea pigs in order to live the lives they needed to. Or am I just being hypersensitive? And hypersensitivity is precisely the subject of my next blog post (OK after the one on Gates that I'm cross-posting from Mother Jones), so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Which My Hands Tremble with Anger at Homophobes Who Think They Know More About Gay Issues Than Gay People

When I blogged about Garrison Keillor's ridiculous stereotyping of gay men as camped-up, self-obsessed, effeminate jerks, I got a lot of comments like "can't you recognize satire?" and "lighten up." I'm really baffled by these. No, actually, I'm pissed.

I think, and hope, if you've been reading my blog, you'll know that, yes, in fact, I do have a sense of humor. About queer issues. It is that same sense of humor that tells me Garrison Keillor's remarks weren't funny. Sure, I think they were meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but all in the service of saying, let's go back to that peachy simpler time when men were men and women were women and children were important. First of all, much to my chagrin, gender norms are still firmly in place. Go to a random person's house: Who's cooking? What does the husband watch on TV? Who quits to raise the baby? And children, sweet mother of God, children are still fetishistically important—especially to gay parents who pay good money and put lots of time and thought into the matter.

(Now just a quick aside, Mr. Keillor is a fine one to blame others for the passing of that sweet, simple time of the nuclear man-woman family. He has cheated on at least 2 of his 3 wives.)

But how is it that people are so totally ignorant about discrimination? Here's a primer:

Jokes are a big part of the problem!

They seem to be an especially big part when it comes to queer stuff. I've had more people make jokes in front of me in that "I'm only laughing at this because I know you know I'm too sophisticated to be a biggot, but you've got to admit the stereotype is really true (or else you have no sense of humor)" kind of way. Let's just say if I pooped the tiniest turd in the world for each of these remarks, I'd have taken a mighty big shit.

The funny thing is, these people—and Keillor is especially guilty of this—think the stereotypes are true because, well, because they think the stereotypes are true. If you aren't gay sensitive, it's likely the only gay person you'll know is gay is the one that fits your stereotype. Meanwhile, non-stereotypical gays are moving all around you. Now I myself am a fairly stereotypical homo in many ways--certainly the way I look. But does that mean I'm no more than the sum of my stereotypes? That's kinda demeaning, don't you think?

And then there's this comment: "I don't think that Garrison has evil intent or wants to hurt anybody. Just like Chris Rock when he says unkind things about EuroAmericans. If we are offended by what Chris Rock says, just don't watch him and/or Comedy Central shows." Pop quiz: How is a black man making fun of white people different from a straight guy making fun of gay people? Answer: Either the humor supports real-world oppression (and if you don't think there's any of gay people, are you dead?), or it challenges those oppressions.

By the way, that's also why "there isn't this kind of outrage when straight White men are lampooned, denigrated, and presented as the stereotypical bumbling moron white man daily in TV shows (Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, Friends, etc.), ads, and in countless articles and blogs." Oh, and those shows are produced and written by the people they mock. Oh, and one other thing, the purpose of these shows is not to deprive straight white men of anything.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Military Man in a Pickle Over Anti-Gay Remarks

pace.jpgComments made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune may make his, from a PR perspective, one of the most disastrous interviews ever given.

Pace said he believed homosexuality was immoral and that he doesn't "believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." He compared homosexuality to adultery, I suppose to avoid the obviously delusional comparisons conservatives such as Rick Santorum have made. But his comparison raises the question: Will the military institute a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with regard to adultery?

Of course, Pace was only saying what most military men think—but the military, led by Colin Powell, carefully crafted an alibi for its homophobia when it demanded in 1993 that Clinton not allow out gays to serve in the military. It's not that we're homophobic, the brass said; it's that the grunts are so homophobic they'd sooner fight a gay platoon-mate than the enemy—and that's OK.

Pace also violated another military stance in speaking the truth that dare not speak its name. The military is, at present, desperate not to revisit the gays in the military issue, because commanders know now would be an opportune time to repeal the rule. Homophobes can get down with the idea of sending gays and lesbians off to die for them, as evidenced by the drop by half in the annual number of soldiers discharged for being gay since 9/11.

John Warner, a Republican on the Armed Services Committee, suggested that the policy will at least be reviewed when he said, "I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral." A Republican! This could only happen with the military desperate to boost its numbers.

Why is Salon Running a Bigoted Anti-Gay Column by Garrison Keillor?

In a column called "Stating the Obvious" no less, Keillor spouts:

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show.

Does Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva who fought and was wounded in Iraq fit this stereotype? Does John Amaechi, a retired NBA player? Keillor is just vomiting up his own homophobic impressions.

Write Salon and ask why they're giving bigotry a platform.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Largo City Commissioner Becomes Trans Activist

Steven "Susan" Stanton has protested being fired as Largo City Commissioner after coming out as a transsexual (she is being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights). The Saint Petersburg Times ran this kind, human portrait. The Saint Petersburg Times, y'all. It always does take someone pretty mainstream who's cried a lot about who they are to break through the walls, but it's still great when it happens.

Military Will Institute "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy for Adultery

General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke out against proposals to loosen the "don't ask, don't tell" policy today in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. He said he believed homosexuality was immoral, much like adultery is immoral, and that he doesn't "believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

Friday, March 2, 2007

City Employee in Florida Transitions, Gets Canned

Transsexuals in the national news, Oh my! But the news isn’t good. Steven Stanton, a city commissioner in Largo, Fl., went public with his intention to begin living life as Susan (she has been on hormones for more than 2 years) and was promptly fired.

It’s unclear whether Largo has adequate antidiscrimination legislation to bolster a case against, err, itself, and Stanton says she hasn’t decided whether to fight the move or not. (Stanton claims the city shot down a measure to bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity, but the Human Rights Campaign suggests otherwise.) The media has been all over it. Newsweek is featuring an interview, in which Stanton seems so raw and human it’s painful.

A transgender woman recently fired by a Michigan Christian university said today she does plan to fight the dismissal.

Here's a little good news. You knew it already but the girls in the Go-Go's go go both ways!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The End of the Castro?

The Castro—the world's gayest neighborhood at 95 percent gay and lesbian—is heterosexualizing, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. As I found the article, my immediate responses were sadness and resignation, because it's a pretty mainstream neighborhood anyway. (But if the Castro Theater goes, I will chain myself to the organ!) In fact, the end of gay enclaves might even signal the beginning of true acceptance.

I was surprised to find myself a more offended than simply resigned as I read the article. Here's one married woman's account of her recent move into gay Oz: "The only thing that meant anything to me was the area would be nice"… At first, [she] wondered if her family's presence would provoke a backlash from gay and lesbian residents...She rejects suggestions that families like hers should live in other neighborhoods. "You could also say this neighborhood used to be full of families."

Sounds a lot like "this land is my land, and this land is my land, too." (And, yes, Dorothy we are still in Kansas!) I would suggest it is still full of families, though they may not have children.

The article also suggests, convincingly, that the Castro's visibility has contributed to San Francisco gays and lesbians' political power:

"Having a specific neighborhood politicians can point to, can go to and shake hands or kiss lesbian babies, has really solidified the gay vote, our political muscle," said longtime community activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

San Francisco is one of precious few places where politicians worry about the GLBT vote. That may be because the Castro has become an affluent neighborhood, but it could also be because the Castro is, as Mecca indicates, a visible reminder of how may gay people live in the city.

The Castro is also an exception in that dykes and fags—usually white ones—are often the agents of gentrification. We are the first to move into undesirable neighborhoods, which we then make culturally vibrant in those white, middle-class ways that bring white heterosexuals in. (Case in point: San Francisco's Mission.) The process is difficult on both ends: I don't like being the beacon to people of color that their homes are about to become unaffordable or that their neighborhood is about to lose its individuality. Nor do I like having straight people move in behind me, making my home unaffordable. But then, that's kind of the predicament of the queer in America: It's better than being a racial minority, but the straights will squeeze you out in the end.

Advocates are proposing that the city's gay institutions (including its Gay and Lesbian History Center) be permanently housed in the Castro, which seems reasonable. But I did get a little misty when I read that Don Reuter, a historian of gay enclaves, says "I think the only gay neighborhood that is going to survive is the Castro. In every city this is going on—we're unraveling. Our gay neighborhoods are unraveling."