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Yet again, the New York Times writes about trans male students at women's colleges like Wellesley. And yet again the article reeks of false attempts at even-handedness that really demonstrate the paper's absolute cluelessness about writing about trans people.

The headline alone has problems. God forbid the NYT just title the article something straightforward like "Controversy over Trans Male Students at Women's Colleges." Nope, instead they resort to Ye Olde Binarie Termes that sensationalize the lives of the trans male students as strange voyages across gender and, incidentally, reinforce the supposed male/female dichotomy by not even using the adjective "trans" to describe the students.

As I read the article, in which many present and past students, as well as faculty, decried the presence of trans male students on campus as a detriment to "sisterhood," I got the sense that the NYT sympathized with them. For example, a [cis male] professor, commenting on being asked to make his examples and pronouns more inclusive, is quoted as saying, "“All my life here, ... I’ve been compelled to use the female pronoun more generously to get away from the sexist ‘he.’ I think it’s important to evoke the idea that women are part of humanity." Like many antitrans people cited in the story, he perceives equality and respect as a zero-sum game in which he cannot respect trans male students by using inclusive language because that would somehow diminish the "humanity" of the cis female students. The article itself supports this incredulous, contemptuous point of view when it claims that trans students receive "disproportionate attention" on campus. Darn minorities -- how dare they agitate for equal rights? They should shut up and go away.

The NYT literally has no clue about how to write about trans people, and it even admits this. The article itself closes by saying, "...[I]t’s difficult to distinguish in the cacophony each of the words shouted atop one another. What is clear is that whatever word each person is hollering is immensely significant as a proclamation of existence, even if it’s hard to make out what anyone else is saying." Despite the acknowledgment that "a proclamation of existence" should be respected, the comparison of this controversy to an unintelligible "cacophony" reminds me of the scornful ways in which U.S. citizens refer to speakers of foreign languages. When one of the most respected and influential news publications in the country basically goes, "What you're saying is too complicated so LAH LAH LAH I CAN'T HEAR YOOOOOU!!!" we clearly have a problem, and it's not the "trans question." It's the "cis question," as in, "Why don't cis people think of trans people as fellow human beings worthy of dignity and respect?"

P.S. The controversy over trans male students at women's colleges becomes more problematic when one realizes that trans female students do not figure into this uproar at all. The people interviewed seem ardently convinced that there are no trans woman whatsoever on their campuses. I suspect, however, that they do exist, but they are probably keeping their heads down in fear of being hit by collateral damage from the arguments about the presence of trans male students. The rather disingenuous and transmisogynist erasure of trans female students makes me wonder if the cis resistance here comes largely from reactionary, unexamined transphobia.
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...why the hell does it have Jeffrey Tambor playing Maura, the main character, instead of, you know, an actual trans woman? >:( Go AWAY, Jeffrey Tambor.
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The judge in the case against murderer Oscar Pistorius just found him not guilty of murder. As I predicted when I first heard about Steenkamp's death, her killer got away with it because he's a straight, cis, white, athletic superstar with the added bonus of having a disability, so, as an inspiring example of humanity overcoming wretched odds, he couldn't possibly do something as vile as killing another human being. Ugh, the stench of white privilege, straight privilege, male privilege and ableism is nauseating.
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For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There's no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It's the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other's choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It's the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn't object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O'Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I'd be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It's as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game's Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game's creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity's concept of coolness -- that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness -- entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who's not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don't try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn't, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you're still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it's hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what's shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card -- the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" -- signals that the game's creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity's treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn't really know how to accommodate them -- they're comedy gold! I mean, really -- can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he'd be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can't really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before -- ever! They're just...like... wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity's decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they're not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
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I hate it when beautiful animation and character design is ruined by a threadbare universalization of gender essentialism. Shame too because they're exquisite human/plant hybrids. They're not technically therianthropes because they're not human/non-human animal hybrids, but I'm tagging them as such so I can find them again.
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Colorado's civil rights division has determined that Coy Mathis, prohibited from using her school's bathroom, has been unfairly discriminated against for being told to hold it all damn day just because she has a penis. She will now be able to take a shit on school premises again. Why we needed to go all the way up to the state judiciary to determine that taking a crap is an inalienable right is beyond me. But at least now the Bathroom Police Department in Colorado Springs, Colorado can fuck right the fuck off.
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A South Carolina couple is suing the state for performing unnecessary mutilative surgery on their son, who was born with ambiguous genitalia, operated on at the Medical University of South Carolina and assigned female. The Crawfords adopted him after this surgery and raised their son as a girl until last year, when he said he was actually a boy. 

NBC says:

The state lawsuit accuses the Medical University of South Carolina — where the surgery was performed — and Greenville Hospital — where the child was born — of negligence medical malpractice for not getting the patient's informed consent before surgery and failing to warn of potential problems resulting from it. At 16 months old, the suit alleges, the child was too young to make such a decision, one that could have waited until years later.

That complaint accuses state Social Services officials of failing to protect the child from the consequences of the surgery. A federal lawsuit also accuses doctors and state officials of violating the child's civil rights by performing the surgery without consent.

I applaud the Crawfords for resisting the medical industrial complex's obsession with forcibly shoving everyone into M or F categories before the people being shoved into the categories can express any preference. It is indeed a violation of civil rights to alter people's bodies like that without their consent. All parties being sued should indeed be held accountable for their assumptions that they can steamroll individual liberties for the sake of some stinkin', rigid gender binary bullshit.

I'm also happy that the parents seem pretty cool with their son selecting a different gender presentation than the one assigned him at mutilation. They come across in the article as parents who really love their son and who want him to be happy. They want to protect him, but they know sadly that the world doesn't see their son the way that he does and they do. i.e., the way he actually is.

Tagged "trans yay" for resistance to forcible gender reassignment, acceptance of personally chosen gender reassignment and generally cool kid and parents. Tagged "stupid cis people" for the medical establishment against which they are fighting.
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Reading a paper on operations that trans persons may choose to undergo as part of their bodily transitions...

Authors go on and on about "sex reassignment surgery." No, dipshits, it's not "sex reassignment surgery." Frankly, I'm not entirely sure what the most accurate term is at this point, but it's not that. I think the general term I've heard is "gender transition surgery," which encompasses a variety of procedures.

"Transexualism is a gender identification disorder..." A) Authors can't even spell "transsexualism." B) Cissexism is a disorder in which people think that there are only two categories of people, "men" and "women," and that all people in each group must have bodies that look exactly the same.

Authors are obsessed with penetration, defining a neopenis as one that can successfully achieve penetration and a neovulva as one that can successfully be penetrated. They apparently think that the only type of sexual activity available is penis-into-vulva penetration.

ARRRGH!
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 NBC is covering the story! Bullshit ahoy!

I don't have the energy to parse this right now, but I do have to say that my favorite quote is this:

...Women may be looking for orgasms, which, in turn, Mautz suggested, may serve a pair-bonding function. In the recent book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction Bullshit Topped with Bullshit with Bullshit a la Mode for Dessert (which I co-authored crapped out of my ass), Emory University neuroscientist Larry Young argues that the big human penis evolved into a tool meant to stimulate both the vagina and cervix as a way [to] trigger the release of oxytocin in a woman’s brain, activating bonding circuits. 

BONERZ = WUV. It's science, dipsticks!
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Gaystarnews is running an article based on an interview that Richard O'Brien recently did with the BBC in which he's talking about gender identity. GSN's title for the article is "Rocky Horror writer Richard O'Brien believes he is ‘30% female’ after taking hormones," which is NOT WHAT HE SAID.

This is what he said:

"It's my belief that we are on a continuum between male and female. There are people who are hardwired male and there are people who are hardwired female, but most of us are on that continuum and I believe myself probably to be about 70% male, 30% female."

He was also talking about having been on estrogen for a decade, but he never made the causal connection between his hormones and his 70/30 split. Given what he says about his history, it's possible that he experienced this 70/30 split well before taking estrogen and therefore started estrogen because of it. That makes for a much more complex, much less lurid headline, however, and GOD FORBID that news outlets reflect the complexities of reality.

O'Brien's experiences with gender provide instructive background against which to interpret RHPS.



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The parents of Coy Mathis, a Coloradan first-grader [with magenta hair?! how awesome is that?], have filed a discrimination suit with the state's Civil Rights Division because the school district will no longer let her use the girls' bathroom.

Why? Because they are obsessed with Coy's penis.

A letter that the Mathis family received in December states:

"....I'm certain you can appreciate that, as Coy grows older and his [sic] male [sic] genitals develop along with the rest of his [sic] body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his [sic] continued use of the girls' restroom."

So a girl can't use the girls' bathroom because some people might be bothered [heaven forfend!] by the fact that her body differs from that of the majority of girls'.

Oooh! Oooh! I can play this game. We need to make separate bathrooms for every category of person whose body might conceivably bother someone else.

Okay, so we'll have to separate bathrooms based on race, fat, disability, age, sickness and shoe size, at the very least.

Is that school district serious? Are they honestly arguing that putative future squeamish prejudice trumps a person's immediate need to perform a basic human function?

The "bathroom argument": it's bullshit!

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Steenkamp hailed from Cape Town, South Africa. She began work as a model in 2001 and graduated from Nelson Mandela Metro University in 2005 with a BA in law, then went on to work as a paralegal. She applied to the bar in 2011, hoping to be a legal advocate by the age of 30. She was murdered on Valentine's Day, 2013, two days before the fifth season of reality TV show Tropika Island of Pleasure, in which she appeared, began airing.

She was murdered by abusive, wretched excuse for a human being [and celebrity athlete] Oscar Pistorius, in yet another depressingly common case of intimate partner violence.

How much do you wanna bet he'll get away with it due to his super privileges as a white, rich, straight, cis, celebrity dude who can also play on the public assumption that people with disabilities are useless lumps who can't do anything, much less murder?

And how much do you wanna bet that Steenkamp will disappear in the media's narrative about how they're shocked -- shocked, I say! -- that the inspiringly heroic supercrip should have such a tragic downfall?

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BJD Text Confessions anonymous bigot sez:

I hate MD Jinas like Kyoyaxl has. Fucking learn the difference between a girl and a boy.

For those of you who do not speak BJD code, the submitter is saying that they dislike the Jina headsculpt by Migidoll when styled by doll owners like DOA member Kyoyaxl.

Migidoll bills Jina as a "girl," but that doesn't mean much in the BJD world. Just because a company bills a head as "male" or "female" doesn't mean that doll fiends will abide by those distinctions. The majority of BJD heads demonstrate a distinctly androgynous aesthetic that doesn't swing in a stereotypically masculine or feminine direction. Ergo, there's a lot of putting "female" heads on "male" bodies [and significantly less putting "male" heads on "female" bodies, the way that I did with my Frank BJD].

There's also a lot of dressing "male" dolls in "women's" clothes [and significantly less dressing "female" dolls in "men's" clothes].

Incidentally, there are also a notable minority of breast removals ["girl to boy mods"] on "female dolls," as well as penis additions ["hermaphrodite mods"] on "female dolls" too.

All of this is to say that sex and gender presentation can be very fluid in the BJD world. And some BJD fiends, like our anonymous gender-policing bigot, are going to resist that fluidity kicking and screaming. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to continue genderfucking while innocently asking, "And which differences, pray tell, are you speaking of?" :p


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Here's a perfect example of that bigotry in this BJD-related confession.

See Julie Serrano's Whipping Girl for an analysis of the bullshit going on here.
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I picked up Eon by Alison Goodman after reading some laudatory reviews on Amazon and also being marginally intrigued by the concept, in which a young woman adopts a boy's identity to compete for the chance to communicate with dragons and wield great magic, which is, of course, reserved for men. Of course, Eon wins the chance to communicate not just with any dragon, but with the super special awesome Mirror Dragon, the most powerful of all. Then she becomes involved in imperial politics, and eventually the fate of the emperor's succession and the kingdom depends on her. Of course it does. :p

I did not expect this book to be quite so shitty. It really reminded me of The Diviners in that it was a textbook example of how not to tell a story.

Do you need to learn how not to write, kids? Okay, then pay attention to the following precepts, in no particular order.Read more... )
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Trans people are actual people, not Thematic Elements That Underscore the Protagonist's Ponderous Musings About Mutability. It's stupidly disingenuous of you to claim, through your protagonist, that you are not making the protagonist's trans girlfriend a Thematic Element when you end up explicitly making the girlfriend a Thematic Element a few hundred pages later. Kindly fuck off until you learn the secret to writing trans characters.

Hint: It's NOT A SECRET, and you, being a published author of some experience and renown, should know it already. Here's the hint: you write about a human being with the attribute of being trans, instead of writing about the concept of Transness that incidentally has the attribute of being human. You can do it with your queer cis female characters. Why can't you do it with your queer trans female character?

Do you care about trans people at all? [Do you even known any?] Or do you just think that writing "tr***y" makes you grittier, edgier and more shocking? I'm going with option C, given your colossal cluelessness.

I am so disappointed in you. I am never reading anything you write again, which is a pity because I liked The Red Tree.

You do realize that The Drowning Girl, catalyst of my ire, is nothing but a flaccid, digressive, anti-trans Red Tree wanna-be in need of ruthless editing, right?

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Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves has denied at least two women, Christie Harvey and Angela Ingram, their requests to legally change their names. Why? Because he's an anti-trans bigot. Jesus, DNA and "fraudulent purposes" also figure into his inane ruling, in some obscure way. To compound the cruel bullshit, The Oklahoman's news site refers to Harvey and Ingram by their birth names and masculine pronouns.

Furthermore, the article reports that Ingram goes by Angela in her social circle. She also carries a purse and wears a bra. Well, I nearly fell over from shock when I heard those details. I mean...can you imagine someone's friends calling her by her name?! And a purse? How odd! I've never even conceived of a modern white bourgeois woman in the US using one of those. And what about this "bra" thing? She must be conforming to the ubiquitous societal expectation that all women in the modern US should wear elasticated garments that restrain and support their breasts. Can you even imagine a woman in this culture doing things that most women in this culture do? Why would that even happen? I can barely wrap my brain around it. It makes no sense!

Wow, if the author of that article thinks that Ingram's underwear is news, he is not only perpetuating the objectification and sexualization of trans women, but he's also seriously underestimating his readers' capacity for understanding and empathy.
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On the off-topic section of the MWD board, a repainter of 1:6 figs asked why some people "hated" repaints. Most of the respondents replied that they loved repaints, naysayers be damned. The only truly negative comment came from one "Daniel Wickson" who wrote:

Lack of artistic talent translates into any medium even lil' dollies At least yours aren't yarn haired tr*****s.

I starred out the slur that he used for trans people. >:(

Given that my subtitle on that forum is "Transgender[izer]" and that LHF featured several characters with yarn hair, as well as trans characters [but no trans characters with yarn hair], I strongly suspect that the poster was referring to me and my dollies. ^_^

He's just jealous 'cause he lacks my imagination.
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Hey kids! Are you ready for your daily dose of outrage?

You are? Well let's get crackin'!

I just read Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. More precisely, I tried to read it, but ended up throwing it against the wall in disgust about 50 pages in.

Ostensibly, the book is a feminist reclamation of the word "cunt," which apparently amounts to a long discussion of how wonderful uteruses, Fallopian tubes, ovaries, eggs, menstruation and all associated hydraulics are. I don't object to the concept -- we need more appreciation of these long-devalued body parts -- but I object strenuously to the execution.

Muscio insists that all women have cunts. Yes, she actually writes that. I promptly yelled at the book, "NO THEY DON'T!!!!!!!" but this did not alter her erroneous assumption. Apparently all the women I know who don't have cunts aren't women??!?!?!?!?!?!? Keep your essentialist claptrap to yourself, Muscio.

In one of the book's early chapters, Muscio talks about her childhood in which she was shamed and characterized as unclean for menstruating. She then recounts her reacquaintance with her reproductive system, her determination of her own reproductive schedule and her switch from "feminine hygiene products" to sea sponges and rags. There is also a huge tangent about the ocean and the moon and how this somehow relates to fertility [hint: it doesn't]. Yay hooray, she liberated her reproductive system, and she feels good about it.

The problem arises when Muscio prescribes her reproductive liberation program for all women. First of all, as I mentioned before, not all women have the same biology. Second, even if they do have the aforementioned long-devalued body parts, they don't all menstruate. Third, if they do menstruate, they don't necessarily do it on a regular schedule the way that Muscio apparently does. ["Fun" experiment: try figuring out your menstrual "schedule" if you have PCOS!] Fourth, the ocean and the moon have nothing whatsoever to do with menstruation. Fifth, some of us have slightly more complex relationships to our bodies than "Ick, I'm disgusting; the patriarchy has oppressed me!" then transforming into "My womanhood is wonderful!" However, Muscio presents her experience as the sole option, thereby foreclosing on the full and varied range of experiences that a full and varied range of women have in their bodies.

This is not feminism. This is simplistic, biologically reductionist bilge in complete denial of multiple axes of oppression.
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They just published another article about trans people, called "For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage." It's about young trans women of color on Christopher Street in the West Village in New York City. In the summer nights, some of them gather in this area. They enjoy the freedom to express their fashion sense and/or their desires openly. They do the usual activities covered under the rubric of "hanging out" for twentysomethings: talking, eating, dancing, arguing. Some of the women are sex workers.

I want to know more about the motivations of the women who moved here because they found it safer and more welcoming. I want to know more about the class conflict that they experience when they earn small money doing sex work in the vicinity of expensive condos. I want to know more about the daily lives of the women, activists and sex workers alike, who congregate on Christopher Street after dark.

And, thanks to the New York Times, I will never learn any of this from their coverage. I don't know where to start on how disgustingly problematic it is, so I'll start with the title. Calling the women's hang-out place a "stage" implies that their activities are false, untrue mimicry. Since the women in the article are, you know, living their damned lives,   the use of theatrical terms suggests that their lives are trivial and second-rate...probably in implicit comparison to the lives of the owners of the extravagant mansions lining the street.

The rest of the article goes on and on about how the women look, how they style their hair, what they wear, even comparing them at one point to "flocks of exotic — if risqué — parakeets." Hey look -- it's dehumanization! Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, in the reprehensible NYT coverage on the death of Lorena Escalera, who shared some traits with the women in this article: she was a trans woman of color in her 20s, and she had done sex work in the past.

Time for another letter, calling out the NYT's racism and cissexism. I should really cancel my subscription.
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Both organizations piss and moan obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities while refusing to recognize the reality: namely, that queer and/or trans people exist within their ranks and that "ACK COOTIES GET IT AWAY!!!" is not a compassionate, acceptable, morally defensible to address these people.

I'm going to talk about the Boy Scouts because I have more experience with them than with Catholics. Sometimes I think that what happens in BSA hierarchy and what happens in local BSA troops are completely different. For example, all my family members involved in BSA describe an enjoyable experience of making friends, playing with their peers, going on adventures and learning fascinating things. I will not claim that everyone's BSA experience is like this, but I will note that, in my admittedly unscientific sample, nobody mentions "pissing and moaning obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities" as a primary pursuit.

What is wrong with the BSA leadership? Why are they so pathologically focused on what a very small number of people do with their bodies? Don't they have better things to do, like run the damn organization?
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Do you have body integrity identity disorder? Well, that's neither here nor there, since I really don't care about your BIID.

I do care, however, when you start calling yourselves "transabled" and organizing your whole identities around the supposition that your experiences are analogous to those of people who are trans or who have disabilities.

First of all, you don't get to use the word "transabled." By doing so, you appropriate the terminology of the trans rights movement and disability rights movement. You dismiss the lived experiences and struggles of trans and/or disabled people by using their vocabulary as your metaphor. You're therefore objectifying and dehumanizing trans and/or disabled people. You're perpetuating discrimination and prejudice against these populations. Go find your own terms.

Second of all, neither do you get to claim that your oppression is like that of trans and/or disabled people. When you are murdered for your state of being and society finds your killer[s] understandable, justifiable, sympathetic and symptomatic of an entire social program that dehumanizes people like you with the goal of eliminating them, then we might be able to talk. Otherwise, you need to understand that being different does not axiomatically entail being oppressed.

[Prompted by a similar takedown on Womanist Musings.]
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I don't care if he endorses trans-themed T-shirts designed by a trans guy. He's still a giant cissexist asshole.
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As much as I'm interested in the concept of the novel [a cure for aging and its effects on the world], I DO NOT CARE AT ALL about the adventures of the protagonist, a straight, cis, white, middle-class, able-bodied, US man with a societally acceptable body shape and a slag heap of unexamined privilege.

Seemingly THE ENTIRE WORLD revolves around the adventures of straight, cis, white, middle-class, able-bodied men with societally acceptable body shapes and slag heaps of unexamined privilege. They're tedious, boring, self-indulgent and overdone. Find a new narrative, people.

P.S. And if you're a straight etc. man whose protagonist happens to be a straight etc. man, you're suffering A FAILURE OF IMAGINATION. The world don't look like you no more. Get over yourself.
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New York magazine has a feature about families with trans children. The subhead summarizes the article's angle: "Parents of transgender children are faced with a difficult decision, and it’s one they have to make sooner than they ever imagined." In other words, when their child announces a trans identity, how do the parents respond? Do they give their child anti-puberty Lupron shots? Do they research surgery on secondary sex characteristics before 18? Do they support their child's social transition at school and elsewhere? Or do they hold back?

When you think about it, this is nothing new. Parents, children have been deviating from your expectations from the beginning of time!! This feature articulates an age-old tension that just happens to manifest around gender identity. In pretty much every case, the best resolution for this tension is for the parents to accept their children as they are, not as they wish their children to be. For our purposes, this means that parents of trans children should respect their children's trans identities and support them in their transitions to the extent that they are able [with the recognition that drugs and surgery are a) not for all, b) pants-wettingly expensive and c) of course not covered by our wonderful patchwork insurance options in this country].

Frankly, I don't care about this story. It's just another whine about how hard it is for cis people to accept trans people, with the added unequal power dynamics of the cis people being parents to the trans people, who are their kids.

Get over yourselves, cis people; you're on the losing side of history. Trans people have always existed and will continue to exist, and your hand-wringing will avail you nothing. Sit down; shut up, and accept it.

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Earlier this week, I fired off an enraged letter to one of the authors of a NYT article about the death by suspicious fire of Lorena Escalera, a trans woman of color. The article was a vile cesspit of sexism, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, bias against sex workers, stereotypes, objectification, dehumanization, othering and probably many other forms of bigotry that I am not currently picking up on.

The NYT responded to the criticism with vacuous, unsympathetic justifications that positively reeked of unexamined privilege. GLAAD analyzed the paper's response, accurately describing many of its shortcomings. I should note that the GLAAD critique does not, however, recognize the NYT's bias against sex workers in the article about Escalera.

If the NYT really wanted to, as it claimed, "capture the personal [story]" of Escalera, why didn't it do what most writers of articles about dead people do and incorporate information from people who actually knew her? Some people among her social circle of friends, family members and fellow performers at the House of Xtravaganza would have provided comments on what they remembered her for and how much they missed her. Instead of interviewing the neighborhood ignoramuses who had no respect for Escalera as a woman or as a person, the NYT should have sought out quotes from people who saw her as she was: a fellow individual deserving respect. But no...the paper merely perpetuated multiple axes of oppression by selecting a narrative of dehumanization.
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And now, for something more amusing, let's turn to John Scalzi's blog entry, "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is," which begins:

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.

The entry itself goes on to analogize "straight white male" privilege as the easiest level setting in a video game. I sense some implicit Oppression Olympics going on in his analogy, so I can't recommend it unreservedly, but that opening comparison sure is hilarious.
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Wow, the NYT is the gift that keeps on giving.

Lorena Escalera, 25, died in a suspicious fire in Brooklyn, NY, last weekend, and the NYT was much more interested in her body, her clothing, how sexy her neighbors thought she was, her trans identity, her occupation as a sex worker and her participation in the House of Xtravaganza performing troupe and other details not directly relevant to the case.

Pam's House Blend pointed out just a few of the problems in the coverage here.

I sent a form E-mail to one of the article's authors, Al Baker, containing the following:

Your coverage of this story is sexist, transmisogynist and generally disgusting. Your inclusion of Escalera's trans identity is irrelevant to the tragedy of her death by suspicious fire. You add insult to injury by quoting a neighbor who misgenders her. Furthermore, the details about Escalera's appearance and sex life add nothing to the story, except to reinforce the stereotype of trans women as objectified prostittutes. The dehumanization exemplified in this coverage directly contributes to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of trans and gender-variant people every year. We deserve better.
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Wow, this temporary free 2-day shipping deal with my Amazon Prime test membership is really liberating me to purchase books that I have long yearned to buy, but never gotten around to. Today's purchases include two books about conjoined twins [Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton], Sex Changes: Transgender Politics and The Development of Imagination [about paracosms!].

I'm quite curious about Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, the story of Millie-Christine McKoy, conjoined twins who were born into slavery in the US in the 1850s and became well-educated entertainers, dying in 1912. They were treated both as one person and as two. For example, their family called them Sister, but also gave them separate names. From what I recall of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, they had a joint sense of self, referring to themselves in the first-person plural. I look forward to finding more about Millie and Christine's concepts of their personhood as I read Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

Conjoined twins fascinate me. In One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, Alice Dreger actually touches on two of my interests -- conjoined twins and trans subjects -- by discussing the case of conjoined twin boys who shared a set of genitalia. When they were separated, one boy got the penis and was raised as a boy. The other penisless boy was raised as a girl. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm eager to learn more about these twins, especially since their case addresses both non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery. [NB: Non-consensual genital change surgery rarely goes well. See David Reimer for details.]

Non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery both piss me off for the same reason. In both cases, people with abnormal bodies [either conjoined twins or people with ambiguous genitalia] are changed against their will. Guardians and/or medical professionals decide that the conjoined twins and the intersex people must be modified to find societal concepts of personhood. In the case of conjoined twins, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a single person must have a single body. In the case of intersex people, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a child's genitals must easily appear to belong to one sex or the other. So we cut them up because we have problems with them, not because they have problems with themselves. We disrespect the autonomy of such people and the self-acceptance that they show in the vast majority of the cases because we get queasy seeing two people share a body or a person possessing ambiguous genitalia. They're not wrong; they have no need to be altered; it's our narrow definitions of personhood that must be changed.
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Summary: Jerkwad protagonists Lee and Angel actually go on sales calls. Angel gets results by stereotypically flirting and playing up "feminine" mannerisms. Lee gets jealous and accusatory, then tries the flirty style to great failure. Meanwhile Angel gets a date with one of the doctors he was selling to.

Analysis: Oh God, I can feel my will to watch draining away as I watch this show. I feel my mouth hardening into a permanent cringe. I thought that the collective scorn and criticism of the Internet and the known world would force this show back into the dank hole of "isms" whence it came, but apparently not.

The transphobia...because Lee can't describe how Angel looks as a woman without mocking him for stereotypically masculine traits such as big biceps and a broad chin!

The sexism and misogyny...because this episode just assumes without question that women using their sexuality in the workplace to get what they want is acceptable and appropriate!

The slut shaming...because Lee can't express his jealousy of Angel's success without intimating that Angel is a whore!

The trivialization of date rape...because Angel was going to drug his doctor date if the date put any moves on him!

The homophobia...because God forbid that two men touch in an affectionate or intimate manner!

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive list of prejudices evinced in Work It. The stupidity is multi-dimensional, much the same way as Dan Savage's bigotry, and no one entry can comprehend it all...maybe a series.

My favorite response to Work It was someone's tweet saying, "I think ABC left out a letter when they described this as 'the new hit show!'" LOL!

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Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I've collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order...here they are...
Read more... )
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Earlier I wrote about ABC's new sitcom Work It, in which two men impersonate women to get jobs at a sales company. I just caught the first episode of this dung heap on Hulu. I am here to report that I stand by my earlier comments about all the show's prejudices and to report that it was, besides being offensive on many levels, poorly written with unfunny jokes, unoriginal characters and lazy execution.

A few especially stupid and offensive moments stood out for me after my cursory viewing:

1. In an early conversation in a bar, the laid-off protagonist commiserates with his two laid-off friends, a mechanic and a shuttle driver. The shuttle driver describes the recession as a "mancession," insists that women are "taking over" and predicts that soon men will only be kept around as "sex slaves" if women continue asserting their dominance. This character is factually incorrect; there is no mancession; women are not taking over, and the joke about "sex slaves" makes light of sexual abuse and rape. While the shuttle driver clearly serves as the "stupid comic relief friend" archetype, no one corrects him or calls him out on his behavior, thus reinforcing the idea that his false interpretation of events is acceptable.

2. While I have detailed earlier how the entire show is transphobic, one especially transphobic moment caught my eye. In a flashback scene where the protagonist, now impersonating a woman, tells the mechanic "how he does it," a saleswoman is shown at a counter. She sees someone off-camera and screams and recoils. The camera then shows the protagonist with makeup all over his face [including lipstick on his teeth, blech], imploring the saleswoman, "Help me, please...help me!" The laugh track resounds.

Now is the saleswoman [and the laugh track] laughing at a generally bad application of makeup or a man in drag? It doesn't really matter because the show is mocking the protagonist, who dares to "look bad" in makeup. The show thus looks down on the protagonist's gender presentation in that scene, allowing the interpretation that the saleswoman shrieks because of the "incongruity" in a stereotypically masculine-presenting person wearing makeup, a stereotypically feminine accessory. The rigid implicit heteronormative bias of the saleswoman's shocked scream militates against anyone who dares to deviate from traditional stereotypical masc/fem gender presentations.

I really hate this show. It's bad, and it's offensive.
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They all contain female protagonists who are over the hill at my age >:( [Eve's Xmas] and who learn the true, fulfilling value of heterosexual marriage through the intervention of unrealistic "meet cutes" [His and Hers Xmas] or Magical Wise Negro fairy godfathers. Vomit vomit vomit. They're sort of fascinating in a stomach-churning sort of way.
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So I learned, thanks to Shakesville, that ABC has a new show coming out in fall 2012 called Work It. In this show, two cis straight guys pretend to be cis straight women in order to get jobs. How bilgey is that?

Oh, the horrible sexism. Shows like this, which pretend to be reflective about gender and sex but really aren't, usually end up cementing the vast, irreconciliable differences that supposedly exist between men and women. Shows like this also tend to suggest that, somehow, the male protagonists are better at being women [you know, fooling all those stupid cis straight wimmenz] than women are, thus denigrating the sex and gender of women.

Oh, the horrible transphobia too. Shows like this assert that it's funny when biologically male people try to radically change their gender presentation. Shows like this say that biologically male people who radically change their gender presentation will never successfully pass; they'll always eventually be seen as their "true," biologically male selves. Shows like this portray gender transition as fatuous and ultimately futile, preferring to see it as a comedic device, rather than a way that some people use to manifest their true identities.

Oh, finally, the horrible stupidity. It doesn't really make sense, given the barriers to employment that women face [such as pay disparities with men and risks of sexual harassment], that being a woman would somehow make things easier for our two cis straight guys. In fact, new challenges would crop up, not of the easily resolved comic variety, but of the deeply situated, kyrarchical kind. What a stupid show!
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Clearly this SNL commercial for "Estro-Maxx" trades on the expected amusement value of the male actors playing trans women as if the trans women are really men in unconvincing drag. The vignette in which the woman goes through the full-body scanner, causing the security officer to make lewd, unprofessional expressions, also makes light of actual, real-life concerns about such technology's abuse and invasion of privacy.
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The Law and Order: SVU ep “Identity” [season 6, ep 12], summarized earlier, features a bitten penis, gangbanging, homeless women, ID theft, an anti-graffitti task force, a pair of unusually identical twins, a sex therapist, a secret language, possible incest, violent siblings, possible lesbianism, unethical investigation of medical records, non-consensual gender reassignment of a minor, molestation by therapist and, finally, “the perfect crime.” Now that I’ve summarized the plot for you, I’m exhausted. No, seriously, it’s time to examine some of the deleterious assumptions at work in your average SVU ep.

Thesis: SVU pathologizes everything in sight.

Read more... )

 

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I've been watching a lot of Law and Order: SVU lately [enough to realize that the script writers have an unhealthy obsession with prison rape jokes, which they are apparently contractually obligated to shoehorn in once per episode]. Among the many eps that I've watched is "Identity," ep 12 from season 6. I remember enjoying this ep especially because it features a pair of identical twins, of which I am one, as you no doubt know. I also remember this ep for its particularly exploitative and melodramatic plot twists. Heck, this thing has enough melodrama and occurrences for an entire season of a show! Let me summarize for you...

A corpse drops off the top of a building right through the windshield of some guys with blue balls. Stabler, Benson and the ME wonder who the dead chump is. His bling labeled "SCA" seems to be a clue. Also someone bit his penis real hard. DUNT DUNT! Read more... )
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I didn't say it. Stephen Marche says it in Esquire. He thinks that the recent spate of popular vampires represents not, oh, say, dangerous sensuality or suave seductiveness or something, but the desire of straight women to get into bed with gay men. He provides no actual evidence for his claim, other than noting that True Blood's anti-vamp crowd ["God hates fangs!"] sounds a lot like the anti-gay crowd. In fact, not till the end of his blithering ramble does Marche reveal what may be his thesis:

And so vampires have appeared to help America process its newfound acceptance of what so many once thought strange or abnormal. Adam and Steve who live on your corner with their adorable little son and run a bakery? The transgendered man who gave birth to a healthy baby? The teenage girl who wishes that all boys could be vampires? All part of the luscious and terrifying magic of today's sexual revolution.

So a gay couple with a son and a business, as well as a transgendered pregnant man, are both grouped in the same "luscious and terrifying" category as vampires. The gay guys and the trans guy are, according to Marche, categorically similar to cold, dead killers. I think that says more about the author's misogyny, homophobia and transphobia than it does about the attraction that many young straight white teenaged girls feel toward recent vampiric characters. Ugh, what a bigot.
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Talia Mae Bettcher writes an interesting article in Hypatia about transphobia and its connection to murders of trans people. Basically she points out that there's this persistent theme that trans people are deceivers and that, if one checks what's in their pants, one sees what they "really" are. So what we have here is the essentialist notion that gender depends not on how one dresses, acts and identifies, but what one covers up with one's underwear. 
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Saatchi and Saatchi created a print ad campaign for 42 Below Vodka that apparently won a Clio. God knows why. I mean, the rebus idea is really clever, but I don't understand why it's a good thing that your alcoholic beverage promotes drinking your way to the White House or getting crabs. 

And then there's the two following examples of the campaign, which use the typical straight male fear of other penises to make fun of 1) gay men and 2) trans women. [And don't get me started on how the ad with the man and the trans woman was titled "Transvestite." I interpreted the ad about being about a man and a woman who happened to have a dick. A woman who happens to have a dick is transgendered, but not necessarily a transvestite. People can be so stupid sometimes.]


42 ad #1 )

42 ad #2 )
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As much as I like a good polymorphously perverse pirate [lookin' at YOU, Captain Jack Sparrow!], the appearance of such a character type in Stardust worries me exceedingly. I wanted to go see this high fantasy fairy tale...until I heard about Robert DeNiro playing the sky pirate as a cross-dressing ham. Well, okay, the presence of a cross-dressing ham doesn't scare me away so much as does this quote, from a New York Times interview by Charles McGrath (New York Times, August 5th, 2007) with the perpetrators of Stardust:

//...Tristran grows up, falls in love and has a hair and wardrobe makeover under the care of a pirate captain (De Niro) who if he's not gay nevertheless enjoys dressing up in a tutu in the privacy of his cabin.

"I don't know where that came from," Goldman said in a telephone interview. "It was just one of those magic moments. Matthew and I were thinking it might be interesting if the captain was in some ways wrestling with identity issues the way Tristran is."//

The offending comment, the one that got me anxious, is in bold. Basically Goldman's statement can be translated as the following: "I have no idea why the sky pirate is a prissy poofter. Someone just got a silly brain fart one day and, since we were all drunk and/or hopped up on drugs, we laughed uprorariously and decided to incorporate this bit of throwaway, sophomoric stereotyping into our film because we're self-indulgent wankers. Captain Shakespeare's sartorial interests really have nothing to do with anything, but, since I'm being asked about it, I'll pull an answer about its relevance out of my butt to give the illusion that we actually really planned it." 

I'm not amused.

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