Archive for October, 2008
First, thank you again to everyone for the donations. I don’t know if it’s best to name names or not name names, but if you sent anything at all, thank you very much for your generosity.
Second, things have been hectic. While the computer has been slightly less crashy, it’s already eaten one video card and is working on devouring a second.
Third, while I appreciate that cats are predators, I do not like stumbling across the remains of the rabbit they killed. Especially since there wasn’t enough left to immediately identify it as a rabbit, and the fur was the same color and pattern as a cat I’d been missing for the past few months.
I’ll do a roundup later of the the “transsexual gene” posts. I’m kind of surprised the trans men gene article from August didn’t garner quite this much attention. Only “kind of surprised.”
At least for trans women:
Gene linked to transsexualism
by Melanie Macfarlane SYDNEY: The first genetic link to male-to-female
transsexualism provides new evidence of the biological nature of the
condition, say Australian researchers. ‘There is a social stigma that
transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice, however…
For the new study, Harley and his team took DNA from 112
male-to-female transsexuals and 258 non-transsexual men. They looked
at the sequence of three genes …
…Nevertheless, “we think that these genetic differences might reduce
testosterone action and under-masculinise the brain during foetal
development” said co-author Lauren…
…researchers. “There is a social stigma that transsexualism is
simply a lifestyle choice, however our findings support a biological
basis of how gender identity develops” said Vincent Harley…
And the link that you probably can’t read:
I don’t have any more information than that. I can’t read the article, and dredged the quotes from elsewhere.
I’m not endorsing this, either, just relaying.
So, is it really helpful to describe being trans as such a horrible fate that we’d wish death on other people before trans?
I admit, I get rather uncomfortable when I read that, or I see someone thanking god that her child isn’t trans, or otherwise expressing that being trans is a horrible fate. I think that the problem with being trans is cultural and probably technological in some ways, but not personal. There’s nothing wrong or bad or abnormal about being trans, and it’s only cisnormativity that tells us that it’s a fate worse than death.
This is prompted by a discussion I had with Black Amazon and Zenobia.
- How often is Germaine Greer’s Whole Woman taught in Women’s Studies classes? Does such teaching typically include criticism of the chapter Pantomime Dames?
- Same for Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire?
- Same for any similar works – Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, and others whose names I’m no doubt forgetting.
- Have any cis feminists undertaken an academic or political refutation of the attitudes expressed about trans women (and intersex women in Whole Woman)? Beyond cis feminists who state their support for trans women and oppose the exclusion of trans women from feminist activism or women-only spaces. I’m talking about more formal stuff.
I wanted to link to this post of Nix’s about the movie Boys Don’t Cry because he makes a really good point about the way trans sexualities are proscribed and flat out denied by cis expectations. It’s worth copying this out in full:
Cissexism is apparent in many criticisms of Boys Don’t Cry. In [the article under discussion in the lecture], Judith Halberstam argues that a space for trans subjectivity is at one point preserved by Lana’s refusal to look at Brandon’s genitals when he is stripped by John and Tom. However, Halberstam and other critics also claim that the film portrays Brandon and Lana’s last sex scene as a lesbian sex scene, betraying Brandon’s trans/male identity and turning Brandon into a woman/female. I don’t think that the film is that great in this regard – I particularly don’t think that the last sex scene is really appropriate after such a graphic depiction of rape. However, I’m also really uncomfortable when people describe it as a lesbian sex scene for the most part because Brandon takes off his shirt and doesn’t use a prosthetic penis*. What that assertion says to me is that the viewer can’t see (or refuses to see) Brandon as a man if they also see his breasts. It also implies that trans men are not allowed to be comfortable enough with their bodies and/or their sexual partners to have sex in any way other than fully (or partially) clothed. The underlying belief here is that if a trans person is comfortable enough with their body to be naked, then they mustn’t really be trans, and they aren’t the gender they say they are.
I think that the viewer of a trans film has a responsibility towards the viewing of trans bodies. I think they have a responsibility to step out of this cissexist paradigm and understand that a trans man in a sexual relationship with a woman is not switching from heterosexual male to lesbian (dependent on what bits of his body we see onscreen) but is, more likely, inhabiting a trans subject position. The inability of so many critics to recognise a possible trans space in Brandon’s relationship with Lana echoes a wide-spread inability to comprehend that trans bodies are legitimate, even though they do not seamlessly conform exactly to sexist, heterosexist, cissexist expectations of what bodies should be. Some people have a real difficulty understanding and acknowledging that a trans man’s body is male if he says it’s male**, no matter what kind of genitals he has. That’s cissexism, and it’s not OK.
* It is also because of the way the scene is shot, but, erm, I DON’T HAVE TIME to go into that at this point of the lecture!
** Likewise, that a trans woman’s body is female if she says it’s female.
Ironically given that trans bodies are so thoroughly over-sexualised in a cultural sense, we rarely ourselves seem to talk about what it means to have sex as an embodied trans person. What I think is interesting about Nix’s post is that he’s very clearly making the point that the meanings of trans bodies are viewed through a cis lens that the trans person in question very definitely does not share (and indeed a cis partner like Lana may not share that either). That nudity does not mean the cis “revelation” of the gender you really are. Rather, the first time I was naked with my girlfriend I felt open, because the peculiarly trans mixture of my body and my identity were accepted and valued for the complex things that they are.
“you’re still my girl,” she whispered to me as she pulled off my shirt, knowing how insecure I was about my body
Rather than a regression to cis-sexuality, it was an affirmation of my femaleness, of the legitimacy of my trans identity.
Of course, I do have body issues, though how that figures in sex does not fit the profile with which psychology has pathologised sexual trans bodies–the false binary between the over-sexualised auto-gynephile and the stone, sexless pre-op trans person who, if they can have sex at all, covers their body as much as possible and can’t bear to have their genitals touched. The reality is something else rather different, one that shifts from day to day.
And further, I think about my own fraught relationship with my penis as a pre-op trans woman, and how sometimes I re-figure it in my mind as a clit, or as a strap-on, and sometimes I don’t. How, sometimes using it feels like it undoes my identity as a woman.. and sometimes it doesn’t.
And none of this is particularly readable through a cis frame, because the meanings that I make from my body, are not the same meanings that of a cis-sexist society that can only see truth when its stories are mirrored back to itself.
Further thought about my post about passing – I remembered later a (cis) sex worker acquaintance of mine telling me that the slang term for trans women sex workers who pass as cis-sexual is “trick.” This is an adjective, not a noun – usage: “most of the girls nowadays look very trick.” There’s a few connotations I can think of here – the obvious deception one, tricking as prostitution (more of an American term I would have thought, but you know, they makes it out to Australia), and perhaps tricked out (with a bunch of surgeries?).
I was wondering if anyone had any info on whether this is actually a common term for trans women. Is it used by trans sex workers themselves or punters?
In the movie Ghostbusters professor Peter Venkman, played by Bill Murray, deflected questions with a quip,
Back off, man. I’m a scientist.
In the reality of human gender diversity, the current diagnostic categories of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) convey a presumption that internal gender identity or social gender expression that vary from assigned birth sex roles are intrinsically pathological and sexually deviant. Their authors and supporters have defended this axiom by disparaging skeptical criticism and indignation as “attack” on science and academic expression. Thus, the premise of “disordered” gender identity has ascended to the level of dogma in American psychiatry and psychology, imposing a near-impossible burden of proof upon contrary evidence, dissenting opinion and especially upon transitioned individuals to demonstrate our legitimacy in our affirmed roles.
In an interview with MSNBC this year, Dr. Kenneth Zucker, chairman of the current DSM-V Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders work group and a chief author of the current GID diagnosis, stated that there “has to be an empirical basis to modify anything in the DSM.” But has the appropriate burden of proof been reversed here? Should his work group be equally committed to review the validity of the current diagnostic categories? What is the basis, where is the science to substantiate the premise of “disordered” gender identity that underlies them?
Lilienfeld, Lynn and Lorh, editors of Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, noted that
the burden of proof in science rests invariably on the individuals making a claim, not on the critic.
At the core of the GID diagnosis is the presumption that social or medical transition contrary to birth sex is always a negative outcome and acquiescence to birth sex role is a positive one. This is reflected in the diagnostic criteria, which tar even the happiest, most well adjusted post-operative transsexual men and women as disordered, and absolve closeted or concealed gender dysphoria (distress with current physical sex characteristics or ascribed gender role) from diagnosis of mental illness. This doctrine of “disordered” gender identity is underscored throughout the supporting text, where persistent gender identity differing from birth sex is termed a “chronic course” of disorder and the need for gender congruence is disparaged as “preoccupation.”
I strongly recommend reading the whole post at Bilerico or at the GID Reform Weblog.
via Bird of Paradox:
We are delighted to announce the official launch of the Transgender Carnival today (22 October 2008); with the first Transgender Carnival scheduled to be hosted at Bird of Paradox on 16 November 2008.
The Transgender Carnival aims to recognize and celebrate the full spectrum of gender identities by providing a platform for all our voices.
The Carnival is open to transsexual, transgendered, genderqueer, nongendered, gender non-conforming, and anyone working in solidarity with us.
The format is similar to that of other carnivals and each month a different blogger will host it. Anyone can submit a link to a piece for consideration for inclusion.
Posts should not seek to disseminate hate speech or oppression and nominations should be sent either directly to the host of the next carnival, or to email@example.com
Schedule of Transgender Carnivals:
- 16 November 2008: Bird of Paradox
- December 2008: Questioning Transphobia
- January or February 2009 (to be confirmed) Sugarbutch Chronicles
The Transgender Carnival is currently accepting nominations for (a) links to posts for inclusion in the first Transgender Carnival, and (b) host sites for future Carnivals.
Please contact the organizers by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Republicans have been spreading some rather scurrilous rumors about Acorn and the Obama campaign. This video clears the air.