Happy New Year

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Sarah Haskins in Target Women: Lessons 2009

Coming Out 41 Years Ago

Tina and I went out to dinner tonight, a sort of pre-New Year’s Eve because we will not venture forth into the world of drunken drivers tomorrow night.  I mentioned that it was on this night 41 years ago that I decided to come out.

I was depressed, I had been raped in jail, assaulted in the streets and arrested for causing gender confusion on the part of some pigs who rousted me outside of Maud’s in the Haight.

I was part of a cadre, a 1960s version of a black bloc.  I belonged and was afraid they wouldn’t accept me.  The internal contradictions came to a head and it was either commit suicide or tell them.  The Golden Gate was across the Bay and singing the siren’s song.

I was stoned on something and freaked out.  My best friend, Morey, a beautiful boy my age talked me down.  I wanted to tell him how much I was in love with him.  Instead I told him there was something about me that I was afraid to tell anyone because I was afraid they would no longer be my friends if I told them.

He assumed I was gay and I was okay with that because I wasn’t sure of how to phrase things.

I don’t dress up the telling my friends what I was in euphemistic psychobabble about transition and all that.  My roots are red/black and purple.  I didn’t marry a woman, my first sexual experiences were with men.  It was only after becoming part of the cadre that I tried having sex with women.

If changing sex had been impossible I would have been a queen.  Prior to November of 1967 and reading the Hopkins Announcement I had assumed I would be a queen.

Transition?  I changed the way I wore my hair.  Wore women’s hippie clothes instead of guy’s.  Took hormones.

I came out.  I told people.  I changed sex.

I had a vocabulary that I used that is now dismissed as being derogatory towards transgenders.  It was the language of transsexuals and queens, the words we used before people who pretty much enjoyed heterosexual male privilege for xyz number of years started telling us how we had to describe our lives.

I’m still pissed with having some PC folks start telling me about 15 years ago that I shouldn’t even metaphorically describe being transsexual in terms of feeling like I was a woman trapped in a male body.  WTF…  My life, my right to describe my internal feelings in my own words without some supercilious overly privileged IFGE type telling me that using my words to describe my life experiences is oppressive.

As far as I am concerned I like the word “trannie” or “transie”.  We grew these words ourselves in the sexual outlaw bars of the Tenderloin and Hollywood Blvd.  Trannie is more deserving of the mantle of umbrella term than is transgender.  Like Trans* it dooesn’t have an ending that favors one group over another.

And screw transition.  My life has been one long series of coming outs.  Coming out atheist, coming out red, coming out gay, coming out transsexual, coming out lesbian, coming out anarchist.

The over intellectualization that accompanies so much of transgender seems like a pasteurization process aimed at making it safe for the heterosexual cross dressers who have come out as transgender, a way of dequeering translives.

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Cultural Sensitivity Is Not Equality

One of the more bizarre acts of the powerless that has become a substitute for direct action and demanding equality even for those who are different has been the use of euphemisms and word games.

Yesterday there was omne of those columns over at Pam’s House Blend that just left me saying WTF.

Way too much of the fighting between people with transsexualism and people with transgenderism has been about those with a political agenda hegemonically colonizing and erasing the lives lived by people who had sex change operations and do not hesitate to call them sex change or sex reassignment operations.

Many of us are as guilty of the use of euphemisms as those Transgender activists with the whole bit about it not being a sex change operation but sex confirmation surgery and it not being transsexualism but rather HBS.  For that matter there is a particularly bigoted set that identifies as “Classic Transsexual” coded language of the same nature as the use of “family” by the bigoted Christo-fascist right wingers.

As for me I had a sex change operation as did my friends Diane, Laurie,  (all five or so Lauries among my friends), Leslie, Kim, Jan etc.  Screw Glaad.  We used transsexual and sex change as well as trannie or transy 40 years before this language was declared Verboten by a bunch of politically motivated people in academe and transgender activists who wish to erase the differences between transsexual and transgender lives.

There are differences.  rather than my getting pissed off and screaming about those differences I am going to make the point that we know, those of you who haven’t had a sex change operation do not know.  We get angry when pre-ops and non-ops tell us there isn’t because no one knows what is between our legs.  Or the one about how it is only important to my sex partners.

This is a particularly Barbie or Disney type genital erasing point of view that assumes one does not pee several times a day or wash.  Yeah it matters and yes it is different.  One of the big aha moments is the first time you pee after decatheterization and dekinking of your urethra.

I have my own style sheet.  I do not use transgender as a substitute for transsexual or transsexualism when some has had surgery or is surgery tracked.  I do not use transgender as an umbrella term when using it in that manner erases the differences between people who have had their lives defined by other transprefixed words like transvestite or transsexual.

I see Transgender as Umbrella as a fiction.  a political identity created by lazy people who wish to use those of us who had surgery to further the politics of those who have not.

Anti-colonial wars get fought over such matters.

By the way…  To further discourse I agreed to stop calling names.  I did not agree to surrender my principles.  It does take two to make a fight and the systematic hegemonic erasure of the differences between transsexual and transgender is an act of unilateral aggression.  It is not in the spirit of, “In spite of our having major differences let us work together for things that would benefit our different groups of constituents.”

Mostly though… Autumn, nice words and polite fictions are a piss poor substitute for an equality that recognizes differences and does not use those differences to deny rights every human should have no matter what their color or sex.  The right to dress and present as one wishes is pretty implicit and shouldn’t require us to all be transgender or gender variants when gender itself is a fiction that oppresses women.

Holiday Fatigue

I’m looking forward to January, a time of fresh starts. Mostly though I am looking forward to the end of the holiday season with its semi-mandatory manufactured cheer.

The whole war on Christmas pile of right wing bullshit has made life harder for apathetic atheists to not become grumpy atheists.

I’m currently enjoying three books:  Alan Berube’s,  Coming Out Under Fire – The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two.  Pam Tent’s,  Midnight at the Palace, My Life as a Fabulous Cockette.  Susan Jacoby’s,  Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.

They all present hidden history one does not find in standard high school or even grind History 101,102 classes.

Can’t have history that contradicts the the commercially pushed programming.

This last month several stories have intrigued me that I didn’t have time to blog about.  There is a story of a four year old boy in Mesquite, who is being punished by the school for having  sort of longish hair.  This cute little moppet contradicts the conformist ideal simply by having slightly long hair.  There are all these writers in the letters section expounding on and on about how rules are rules and if you let a four year old have long hair you are teaching him he doesn’t have to conform.

This brings me to Pam Tent’s book.  I lived in Berkeley during that period after the decline of the Haight Ashbury.  It was a wonderful era of non-conformity, when people were able to be free spirits, before the corporations were able to copy right and patent that rebellion to sell back to us in manufactured form something that was neither as much fun nor anywhere near as radical.

Some of us were political radicals and some of us were cultural radicals and many of us were both. The most threatening thing about us wasn’t our demonstrating in the streets even though that was the most obvious.

The most threatening thing about the counter culture was that we heeped scorn upon the plastic fantastic packaged consumerist lives.  The Fugs, beat poets from the Lower East Side, the Alphabets of the East Village sang paeans to “Slum Goddess”.

We demanded free love because in the words of Emma Goldman. “How can love be anything but free?”  We knew that father didn’t know best.

Transsexualism was was very DIY in those days.  Queer/hip  script writing doctors would give us a poke for a few dollars and a script to go up town or down for a lecherous feel.

I remember the Cockettes.  I met Hibiscus at the Pentagon before his wings sprouted.  He is the one in the famous photograph putting flowers in the barrel of the rifle.  One sister I met at Stanford where she was getting SRS.  Sylvester opened for Bowie at Winterland.  Pristine Condition and the Tubes opened for the New York Dolls when they played North Beach.

A few months later I was living on Sunset and making it with lead singers, lead guitars and movie stars, although usually of the B-list.  I made a point of going to bed with David Johansen.  And others too…

You could live on air and the kindness of strangers in those days.

But then the economics got harder and the rents soured.  Everything cost more and they convinced us all our lives would not be complete unless we had all this stuff. We worked more hours and tried to recapture the sense of freedom we once had when we were penniless but had lots of time to let our imaginations fly. The contradiction is that things do not really replace living.  Pre-shrunk, pre-fab, pre-digested and packaged with a designer name and label for our consumption products do not make up for the emptiness of our lives.

Perhaps it is because I am of an age.  I miss the freedom to be and not to buy.

I too caved in to becoming a wage slave and yes I like my possessions even though they possess me as much as I possess them.

Yesterday I was reading the New York Times and was reminded of what is missing.  John Lennon was murdered shortly before Reagan took office and the decline of America to the place we are today accelerated.  Reagan hated freedom and non-conformity.  In 1969 he proclaimed (regarding People’s Park): “If it takes a blood bath, let’s get on with it.”  A year before Kent State the police fired upon us, killing one and wounding many.

And so it goes. Now the battle lines include pre-school boys with hair too long, but shorter than John Lennon’s when he and Yoko first presented this ad 40 years ago.

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Susanna Maiolo Strikes Blow Against the Misogynistic Former Nazi Pope

It really makes me angry that they are trying to paint this woman as mentally disturbed for committing an act of the utmost sanity in lashing out against one of the world’s most misogynistic and oppressive institutions.

For some 1600 years the Catholic Church has spread its oppressive fiction based superstition, waged genocidal wars against all those who did and do not cave into its vile and exploitative abuses.

It has perpetuated the lie that women are evil and that their role is secondary to that of men.

It is the foundation of all Fundamentalist Christo-Fascism.

Free Susanna Maiolo

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When I Was 17

The opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is,  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I am half Polish American on my father’s side of the family, the drunken asshole side that dominated so much of my teenage life.

Most holidays put the dysfunctional aspects of Catholicism mixed with homophobia, misogyny and alcoholism  on display.  Beaten down by hard lives and hard drinking as well as the sexism of the 1950s the men would gather in the living room to watch sports, the women in the kitchen.

Unwelcome anywhere I was often given the task of minding the kids ranging in age from a year or two to ten or twelve.

As I grew older and more obvious I was the teen aged queen no one knew what to make of, subject to comment from both aunts and uncles.

My dysfunctional family wasn’t as mean as some and while my feelings were often hurt by the mean comments I was not thrown out while I was still too young to take care of myself.

Aside from my obvious girlishness I was an earnest kid, who tried hard and didn’t give up.

Part of why I was trusted with watching the children had become apparent that summer.  My uncle John, a New York State Trooper and My uncle Mike, a college basketball player and several other family members were on a beach when my younger brother started to drown.  I jumped up before either of my uncles could react and rescued him.

That year for Christmas my mother made me a sweater.  She gave me a pattern book of virtually identical boy and girl sweaters and told me I could pick one I liked.  She vetoed a couple, telling me they were too obvious and that considering the skin tight jeans I favored my wearing those would have been like my wearing a skirt to school.

Instead she made me a beautiful ski sweater.  Years later I showed it to my boyfriend, Jerry and he said, “Everyone must have known that was a girl’s sweater.  How did you get er to make you that?”

It was a reward for saving my brother’s life as well as reward for working so hard and taking the scholarship exams.

In spite of all the meanness no one in my dysfunctional family said anything cruel about my new sweater.

It was also how some dysfunctional families treated their teenage transkids.

We Eat Chinese Food on Christmas

When I told a woman (also New Yorker now living in Texas) at work we were thinking of going to a movie on Christmas she said, “All you need to do now to be Jewish is go for Chinese food instead of cooking.”

Sounds like a great suggestion.

In lieu of the usual Friday Night Fun and Culture here’s a little multi cultural tidbit

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Happy Christmas War is Over!

Solidarity: “Transmisogyny” & “Faggots”

From Bilrico

Filed by: Rachel Dunn

December 21, 2009 7:00 PM

Editors’ Note: Guest blogger Rachel Dunn is an out and proud trans-lesbian filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Although very supportive of community events, her primary activism comes in the form of fostering and contributing to queer and minority film projects as a cinematographer, producer, writer and consultant. Some of her work can be seen at www.racheldunn.com

After reading “What Transmisogyny Looks Like” and “I Have a Problem with Faggots“, something occurred to me that some may not like to hear, but here it is it is:

The entire queer community has gender issues – not just the transfolk. Gay and lesbian people have a big gender issue – otherwise the gender of the people they love would not be an issue.

Being punished for failing to adhere to heteronormative gender roles is part and parcel of a common problem we all share. When a male child is harangued, harassed, and humiliated for showing emotion, gentleness, crying or displaying other “feminine traits”; that is transmisogyny – whether or not they identify as trans – or even gay.

Continue reading at:  Solidarity: “Transmisogyny” & “Faggots”

Ron Gold, Jim Fouratt, Norah Vincent et.al.: Why Do We Attack Gays and Lesbians While Giving Transgenders and Transsexuals a Pass when they Say the Same Thing?

Ron Gold over at Bilrico managed to get himself trashed for daring to write about transsexual and transgender people from the limited perspective of a gay man who probably came out in the World War II period.

He displayed a remarkable level of ignorance regarding the nature of the “Transgender (as umbrella) Community”.  From his point of view the transgender community was either drag queens and butch dykes or transsexuals.

The big question should be… Why do we expect gay men and lesbians to be more understanding than heterosexuals? Do straight men show a whole bunch of sympathy or understanding towards straight transvestites? Or for that matter, why do transsexual and transgender people get a pass when they say the same thing?

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves some serious questions.

In the words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all get along?”

Why is it that every time I get a serious questionnaire asking about a serious topic regarding people described at one point or another in their lives by a transprefixed word, can’t I ever get past about the forth or fifth question.  Seriously… I wasn’t fucking assigned a gender at birth.  I was assigned a sex.  I didn’t change my gender, I changed my sex.

Perhaps transsexual and transgender people need to look at the bullshit they have been putting out for the last ten to fifteen years with all the gender this and gender that crap.

Even those of us who have libraries full of the books and theory see it as an attempt to dazzle with brilliance and baffle with bullshit.

We substitute myth for actual history.  Outside a few of us who have actually made a study out of transsexual and transgender history and culture most people are woefully ignorant regarding the lives lived by actual people transsexual or transgender people could claim as their own pioneers.

Yet there is a reluctance to claim much of anyone other than Sylvia Rivera as if simply being at Stonewall was more important than all the work done organizing.

You can argue that transsexual and transgender people have traditionally occupied a space in the gay and lesbian world as drag queens and bull dykes, but even then the dykes and queens occupied a special class, who were often excluded from the political discourse aimed at furthering the rights of gays and lesbians.

The Daughters of Bilitis didn’t want to be associated with stone butches, in part because stone butches were an under class, who couldn’t or wouldn’t pass as straight, something that femme lesbians were capable of doing.  See:  Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold and Stone Butch Blues.

Remember the argument was, “We are just like other women, except we love women.”

When the Mattachine Society picketed the Capitol demanding equal rights the gay men wore suits, the lesbians wore dresses.  Queens and dykes need not apply.

After Stonewall we saw the emergence of the cult of, “I am a masculine gay man who is attracted to other masculine gay men.” And so it goes… The dykes and queens who had been the face of gay and lesbian, the shock troops for gay and lesbian liberation were once again left by the wayside with the lesbian community arguing against dykes because they were mimicking men and gay men arguing against queens because gay men were not supposed to be feminine.

A few years back when there was the big emergence of F to Ms I quipped, “There really are two kinds of lesbians, women and men.”  Nasty but true.  Norah Vincent wrote a really snotty piece in I believe, Out Magazine, or perhaps The Advocate attacking transsexuals.  Considering Norah’s book about passing as male for a year and the gender issues Norah has shown since just who was Norah arguing against?  Internalized self hatred in dealing with issues of her own, perhaps.

Jim Fouratt was another case of open mouth, insert foot.  I bumped into Jim a couple of times in 1967.  We were both radicals involved the anti-war movement.  He was a feminine looking angelic blond hippie boy who looked rather queenish.

Me.. .  I was following the road map laid out in John Rechy’s City of Night looking for sisterhood in the gay world and having a hard time finding it among gay men.  Queens were a separate underclass.  I first connected with transsexual and transgender sisters in jail, the queen tank of the San Francisco city jail to be exact.

You see I explored enough of the gay world to know it wasn’t a place for me.  I had too many gay men tell me I was a girl and they weren’t into girls.  My explorations taught me of the differences, just as getting to know non-op queens helped me to see I wasn’t one of them.

But back to Norah Vincent and Jim Fouratt, their snotty remarks are reflective of a certain mindset common in gay men and lesbians.  Transsexual and transgender people remind them of the abuse they received as kids for being too girlish or too boyish.

Actually though gay men and lesbians have been taking shit for not being real men or real women from time immemorial. After Stonewall both gay men and lesbians distanced themselves from the queens and butches. There were the class issues.  Queens and dykes didn’t clean up nice and were not someone the “community” could present to the corporations as a marketing demographic.  The queens and dykes were too lumpen, too down by law for that one to fly.

Earlier I mentioned a transgender rewriting of history, a substitution of myth for history that places a paradigm that came into being in the mid 1990s anachronistically into situations where the historically accurate terminology would suggest using the language of the times and referring to those people as queens and butches or transsexual. The term transgender wasn’t in common usage then.

Even today an awful lot of people reject the hegemony of the transgender as an all inclusive paradigm. The paradigm of transgender as umbrella has always had a synthetic feel to it. Further its supposed inclusiveness tends not to extend to a fair number of people with legitimate claims to citizenship within the gay and lesbian world such as the female impersonators and “she-male” sex workers.  Perhaps they are too queer for a movement that has many of its roots within the heterosexual cross dresser world.

Ron Gold managed to insert not one foot but both into his mouth showing remarkable flexibility for a man his age.

. As for adults struggling with what to do about their feelings, I’d tell them too to stay away from the psychiatrists – those prime reinforcers of sex-role stereotypes – and remind them that whatever they’re feeling, or feel like doing, it’s perfectly possible with the bodies they’ve got. If a man wants to wear a dress or have long hair; if a woman wants short hair and a three-piece suit; if people want romance and sex with their own gender; who says they can’t violate these perfectly arbitrary taboos? A short historical and cross-cultural survey should establish that men and women have worn and done all sorts of stuff. I recall reading something by Jan Morris in which it seemed that he thought he needed a sex change because he wanted men to hold doors open for him and kiss him goodbye at train stations. For starters, I’d have told him that I’ve had these nice things happen to me and I’ve still got my pecker.

Perhaps it isn’t needless to say that a No to the notion of transgender does not excuse discrimination against cross-dressers or post-op transsexuals in employment, housing and public accommodation; and I strongly support legislation that would forbid it. I would, however, get after the doctors – the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn’t exist, and the surgeons who use such spurious diagnoses to mutilate the bodies of the deluded.

Oooh, what a pissy queen, he is.  I know the type. He is someone who makes grand pronouncements from total ignorance.  He correctly identifies GID as a politically created mental illness but conveniently forgets that until 1973 so too was homosexuality.

In his ignorance he fails to conceive of transsexualism and transgenderism as being like homosexuality; something people are born.  On top of that he is a phallocentric misogynistic pig.

The real bitch of the matter isn’t what he said.  Really…

The real bitch of the matter is that I have read the exact same bullshit from numerous people in the so called “Transgender Community”.  My mother always told me that it takes two to make a fight.  I took that message to heart when I started this blog and declared a moratorium on name calling.

I have heard far worse than anything any of the aforementioned people are being pilloried for come from mouths of both sides of the transsexual/transgender wars.

Hell, I’ve grown used to some transgender activists describing post-SRS sisters as mutilated men with inverted penises.  Indeed Monica Roberts, who I often agree with regarding the racism among not only transsexual and transgender people but within the greater LGBT/T alliances has a tendency to go off on post-SRS women and use the same filthy abusive language to describe our bodies as Ron Gold did in the above quoted excerpt. (see her current post).

While Ron Gold is probably a lost cause, I actually feel I would have a greater potential for a reasonable dialogue with Vincent, or Fouratt than with some people in the world of transgenders and for that matter transsexuals. I know Jim to have shared some common history and I actually agreed with some of what Norah said about the replacing of sex with gender although her right wing politics put me off.

Generally speaking I have had vile things said about me by some of the most militant pushers of transgender as umbrella and by heterosexual post-SRS women than I have from gay men or lesbians.

In point of fact the first people to hit my permanent shit list were several of the “classic transsexual” faction.  Mainly because I would not put up with their homophobic, right wing hostility.  So these people who shall remain nameless regularly trash me on their blogs as being a transgender activist.

This is odd because trying to pin me to the transgender cause is so limiting.  People who regularly read this blog have probably come to realize I am involved in dozens of causes.

In the end though I have to reflect on the wisdom of an old saying, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”  The nature of prejudice is such that we all too often take the opinion of some asshole and apply it to everyone who shares a common characteristic with the person who is an asshole. The difficult trick is to oppose the opinion, even a commonly shared group think opinion without opposing a class of people based upon their membership in that particular class.

I’ve learned a lot by turning down the volume and not immediately attacking or calling name.  One thing I have learned is that dialogue is possible if one gives reasonable respect in exchange for the same.

As the Jill Sobule song puts it “I know everyone’s a good person inside, everyone wants to be loved inside, so whenever I think what a dick what a liar, I try to remember the good things inside.”

Fundamentalist ideology, be it religious, right wing, feminist gender theory, or queer theory gets fucked with by transsexualism.  The tendency is to lash out with something that fucks up your otherwise perfectly constructed dogma.

Transsexualism is not homosexuality although people with transsexualism may be gay or lesbian after SRS as well as straight.  We are not drag queens or drag kings who have gone too far.

Transsexualism is not transgenderism, in spite of the efforts to lump us all together.  Transsexuals  may share common oppressions with transgenders (or cis- LGB folks) and have the need to fight those oppressions as a coalition based on common interests but we are not the same thing.  Pretending we are and focusing all the energy that has been and continues to be expended on constructing the political fiction of transgender as the universal descriptor just creates a lot of anger.

But back to Ron Gold, Monica Roberts, Jim Fouratt etc.  I know they have all done good things in the past and continue to do good things.  When ever they run their mouths that song by Jill Sobule just pops up on my mental i-Pod and I try to think they are good people inside and remember we are ostensibly on the same side.

The nagging question is always one of why do these folks feel the need to expound so nastily regarding others whose life experiences are different from their own? Who are nonetheless expected to work for shared political goals such as marriage equality, health coverage, employment and housing non-discrimination etc.

And I will not let those claiming the dubious status of classic transsexual (post-SRS heterosexual) off the hook.  Their homophobia and general right wing bullshit sucks just as much as anything put forth by Gold , Fouratt or Roberts and Vincent.

Whey should those of us post-SRS folks who are lesbian, gay or bisexual defend your heterosexual privilege when you will not defend our rights to marriage equality?

Happy Solstice

Tis the darkest day of the year, but one I dearly look forward to since working retail.

As an atheist the Solstice means we are in the final stretch of the real reason for the season.  Already they are blowing out the cheap crap from China festooned with  boring Christmas cheer that some how loses so much meaning when mass produced by child and slave labor.

I actually tried to be a Wiccan but for someone who finds the concepts regarding monotheism to have to many magic invisible all powerful patriarchal dictators the idea of of many invisible magic beings was a bit much.

For me the magic is in the science and in nature.  The solstice less a festival than the marking of the wonders of nature with this the darkest day giving way to a lengthening of the days.

In a few days I will have completed my ninth year of sobriety.

The solstice marks the point when Tina and I started our relationship, a long distance one at first with her helping me to make the final steps towards becoming an alcoholic who no longer drinks.

Perhaps we will soon see the passage of some sort of health care bill, probably offering little to the people and yet more profits for the already obscenely rich fat cat of the corporate over lords.

But for today it is off at dawn for another overly long day in the windowless space of the sales floor.

A transsexual is ‘Woman of the Year’ in Argentina

http://noticias.aol.com/articulos/latino-news/_a/transsexual-argentina/20091208100609990001

South American Country marks a ‘first’ in gender revolution
Posted: 2009-12-09 13:33:30
Argentina, one of the few countries in the world to empower the first female head of state is again breaking grounds again in gender politics by giving a congressional award to a transsexual as a “Distinguished Woman of 2009″ and by trying to implement the first Latin America nation to permit legal, same-sex unions.

Argentina´s Congress annual prize to the ‘Distinguished Woman of 2009′ unleashed a wave of controversy this year as the recipient of this national award was a transsexual, who recently prevailed in a 10-year-long court battle to receive a new identity document recognizing her as a woman.

Marcela Romero is 45 years old, and had gender reassignment surgery years ago. She is one among hundreds of cases in Argentina striving to have their new gender identity legally recognized, according to the queer.org organization in Argentina.

A decade in waiting

“I am what I am. The right of one person is the right of all,” said Marcela Romero during an event last Tuesday in the Argentine Congress. Her award suggests that “no other person would have to wait 10 years or more in order to receive a national identity document with their name and gender identity”.

Ms. Romero is a known activist, fighting for the abolition of various civil codes across many provinces of Argentina, where being a transvestite is considered a criminal activity. Romero, who is vice president of Argentina’s Association of Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgender People, was chosen from among a dozen nominees for the award, including women active in combating poverty, drugs and environmental degradation. After the announcement, news services reported that some in the audience walked out.

“I don’t know democracy … I would have liked, for example, to go on studying, but I was rejected by the educational system when I assumed the identity of a woman”, she told Todo Noticias, a local news channel.

A decade in waiting

It wasn’t until August 2009 that Romero could finally stop responding to her male name every time she would visit a public office. Her new identity card shows her with long blond hair and red lips.

She told the BBC that the approval of a new law would open doors to start working together with the government to decrease the violence in her country. “We know that women are victims of a very patriarchal violence, and transsexuals are included in this group”.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture

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Some recent history, and its mythical transformation

By Wayne Dyne

Reposted with permission.  Original post at:

http://dyneslines.blogspot.com/2009/12/some-recent-history-and-its-mythical.html

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I am a survivor, and my involvement in the gay movement goes back a long ways. In fact it started at a time when the current obligatory designation of “GLBTQ” could scarcely be imagined. We called ourselves homophiles in those days.

I was living in Los Angeles in the 1950s when Mattachine, the first significant homophile advocacy group was formed. I had other concerns in those days; getting through college and laying the foundations for my academic career. After having attended a few meetings, I finally joined the New York branch of Mattachine in 1968. Like many of my contemporaries I was energized by the events at the Stonewall Inn a year later. Not long after, I was became active in the gay committee of the American Library Assocation, and then became a founding member of the Gay Academic Union.

After I shifted from activism to gay scholarship, I realized that the history of the American gay movement needed to be written. I knew that the belief (still common to this day) that everything started with Stonewall in 1969 was mistaken. Accordingly, I journeyed to Los Angeles, where a number of the leaders of the original movement, which started in 1950, were still active. I was lucky enough to speak at length with such key figures as Harry Hay, Jim Kepner, Dorr Legg, and Don Slater. Over the years I have maintained a friendship with Billy Glover, a key figure in the early years who is still going strong in his late seventies in Louisiana. Billy is a kind of living record of those brave years.

I then gathered some biographical pieces on the early leaders, turning them over to the late Vern Bullough, who shaped them into an essay collection, entitled Before Stonewall (2002). This book is now the standard reference for the period.

I won’t rehearse any further my credentials in this area. I mention them because they are relevant to what I am now going to relate.

A strange new myth has arisen about the origins of the gay movement. This myth, fervently endorsed by some trans activists, holds that the gay and lesbian movement was, essentially and pivotally, the work of their group, the transgender people. The transgender folk were in the vanguard, gay men and lesbians followed meekly after. This bizarre claim in the opposite of the truth.

First of all, the term “transgender” is an anachronism, and as such revealing of the present-minded agenda of those who brandish it. To be sure, Christine Jorgensen had made headlines with her Danish surgery in 1953. Jorgensen, and the very few individuals who followed her example at the time, had little interest in gay matters, because they believed that they had truly become women. Jorgensen dated men and regarded herself as heterosexual. The same was true of Reed (formerly Rita) Erickson, a wealthy oil tycoon who helped fund several social-change organizations.

Let us then be honest. If we are to speak of a “transgender” contribution we must restrict ourselves to drag queens. They were the only transgender folks around in those days. None of them in fact made a major contribution to the movement.

It is true that Harry Hay sometimes donned a string of pearls, but that was as far as it went in those days. Among the lesbian stalwarts in Daughters of Bilitis, my friend Barbara Gittings was known occasionally to pull out her corncob pipe. Most of the time, though, Barbara wore a dress (gasp!). The demonstrations she and Frank Kameny organized annually in Philadelphia were known for their sartorial conservatism: dresses and skirts for women, and coats and ties for men.

The female impersonator Jose Sarria of San Francisco, who came along a little later, was the only exception in those early days. Quite a few years later Beth Elliott, a Bay Area male-to-female post-op, made a splash. Unfortunately and tragically, Beth was soon run out of the lesbian movement, for not being born a woman. Transsexuals remain controversial in the lesbian movement.

In reality, the “transgender” contribution was negligible in the early gay and lesbian movement. We started the French Revolution, so to speak, without these individuals. The claim of current trans activists rests, as far as I can see, on the slight foundation of two events, the Compton Cafeteria episode in San Francisco and the much more famous Stonwall Inn riots in New York City. (I will return to Compton’s in a moment.)

As various accounts show, drag queens played a role in the Stonewall events–but only in the raucous aftermath OUTSIDE the bar. The actual patrons of the Stonewall Inn were for the most part gay men of middle-class origins (note Rivera’s testimony below). For the real facts, see the definitive account in David Carter’s 2004 monograph, Stonewall. Anyone who has not consulted this book does not know much about Stonewall. Some things just can’t be “winged.”

From the Greenwich Village event emerged a whole new cadre of leaders, who joined together to form the Gay Liberation Front. Not long after some of them seceded to create the Gay Activists Alliance. None of these leaders were in any way classifiable as transpeople.

There were, to be sure, two fringe individuals, the drag queens Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. While these two persons now enjoy iconic status among trans advocates, neither of them made a significant and lasting contribution to building the overall gay movement. They were pretty much doing their own thing. I knew both of them.

What then of the Compton Cafeteria event? One must step back a moment and realize that during the pre-Stonewall years confrontations with the police were routine. These stemmed from the vicious bar raids conducted by the men in blue. As a rule, one of two precipitating factors came into play: “cleanups” when an election was in the offing, and dissatisfaction on the part of the police that their payoffs (routine in those days) were insufficiently lucrative.

For the most part, the gay victims went quietly during these raids, resulting in a misdemeanor charge. These arrests could be career-ending, though. Doubtless this was one of the main reasons why the raids kept happening–to “keep the queers in line.”

In a few cases gays fought back. This was true, for example, of the Dewey’s restaurant raid in Philadelphia (1965), the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco (1966), the Black Cat raid in Los Angeles (1967), and the Donut shop event in Los Angeles (May 1969). Thus the Compton occurrence, now lauded to the skies by trans activists, was but one of a series. Compared to Stonewall, all these episodes were of merely local importance.

What happened at Compton’s Cafeteria so long ago? The riot occurred in August 1966 in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. On the first night of the disturbance, the cafeteria management summoned the police when some drag-queen customers became obstreperous. When a police officer attempted to arrest one of the cross-dressers, the individual threw her coffee in his face. At that point the riot began, dishes and furniture flew in the air, and the restaurant’s plate-glass windows were smashed. Accounts of the event indicate that the rioting and subsequent picketing of the cafeteria were a joint effort of drag queens, hustlers, Tenderloin street people, and lesbians. This occurrence was by no means a “transgender exclusive,” as it is often portrayed nowadays.

On this slender foundation–a San Francisco episode of purely local importance and the flare up of drag queens at Stonewall–today’s trans activists have built a whole elaborate myth. We are asked to revere a gaggle of crazy queens as heroic pioneers who were responsible for the foundation and progress of the gay movement. As I have shown, this contention is simply nonsense.

FOOTNOTE. Here is what Sylvia Rivera herself told the historian Eric Marcus for his book, Making History: “The Stonewall wasn’t a bar for drag queens. Everybody keeps saying it was. … If you were a drag queen, you could get into the Stonewall if they knew you. And only a certain number of drag queens were allowed into the Stonewall at that time.” In fact, the night when the Stonewall riots began was the first time Rivera had ever even been to the bar, and then she only appeared outside the premises.

Shrinks at War

Reposted with permission:

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/Shrinks_at_War_7642.html
by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, 2009-12-14

You’d think that if anyone could get along, it would be a bunch of shrinks. Apparently not. At least not when you’re dealing with the American Psychiatric Association and its revision of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the bible of its profession.

The tome, which is used by psychiatrists worldwide, contains a listing of all the conditions or behaviors that the shrinks feel are problematic for humans, as well as ways to treat them. The effort to update the book, designated DSM-V, is being described as a “civil war.” It is contentious, to say the least. And well it should be. A lot is at stake.

One of the leading critics of the revision process, Allen Frances, a former editor of the DSM, published his critique in Psychiatric Times. He believes that the shrinks should tread lightly in making changes in conditions and illnesses.

Frances writes that “a seemingly small change can sometimes result in a different definition of caseness that may have a dramatic and totally unexpected impact on the reported rates of a disorder. Thus are false “epidemics” created. For example, although many other factors were certainly involved, the sudden increase in the diagnosis of autistic, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, and bipolar disorders may in part reflect changes made in the DSM-IV definitions.”

Then, too, there is the “skillful pressure likely to be applied by the pharmaceutical industry,” Frances says, “after these new definitions are published. “To promote sales, the companies may sponsor “education” campaigns focusing on the diagnostic changes that most enhance the rate of diagnosis for those disorders that will lead to the increased writing of prescriptions.”

In a country where 20 million grade school kids and 50 million adults are already hooked on all sorts of heavy duty, and often dangerous and toxic psychiatric drugs to control their behavior or moods, it’s insanity to encourage the creation of more conditions that can be diagnosed and medicated — at a huge profit.

Forget the war on recreational drugs. Let’s declare war on psychiatric drugs. The new pusher on the block is not the guy lurking around the school yard. He’s the school shrink.

There’s another problem with the DSM: its propensity to declare our every proclivity a mental illness. What is a mental disorder and what is human behavior that merely deviates from the norm?

A person who talks to the dead for money is a spiritualist, but a homeless man who communicates with the un-alive is mentally ill.

It wasn’t that long ago that lobotomies were commonplace, women who wouldn’t obey their husbands were “schizophrenic,” and gay men were administered electric shocks to their genitals to “cure” them. Transgenders, according to the DSM, still suffer from “gender identity disorder.”

I’m not denying that there are people who need some sort of treatment. But that treatment should be well conceived and humane and should not merely involve pushing pills on vulnerable kids and adults.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.

Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation is one of those books that fills in the missing blanks in the history of the movement and helps explain why various groups sometimes talk past each other rather than to each other.

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Some Myths Have a Core of Truth

Some myths have a core of truth.

One of those myths about life around the late 1960s and early 1970s that has a core of truth to it is that it was important to pass.

We were after all still illegal in many places and failure to pass could mean arrest or at the least police harassment.

It was a time before anti-discrimination laws and policies so our very ability to work at anything other than sex work was dependent upon our ability to pass.

This does not mean one had to be beautiful or cute.  Often those that passed without question were less attractive than the divas.  Nor should the valuing of passing be interpreted as meaning stereotypically feminine or the embracing of sexist stereotypes.

I was considered flawless not because I was glamorous, although I was cute.  I looked like a typical left wing Berkeley hippie chick.

And yeah we wore dresses more often than women do today because women wore dresses more often in those days.  A lot of time we wore skirts or dresses because work dress codes required them.

What does passable mean?  For one thing it meant getting rid of facial hair prior to getting SRS.

It might have been a harsh reality sandwich for certain people, who because of physical build, bone structure would never pass.  One such person, a long time friend who introduced me to micro computers transitioned in the 70s only to detrans in the 80s and retransition once again in the late 1990s when the transsexual and transgender movements had made it more possible to be obviously transsexual or transgender even though people would still give negative feed back.

We moved to greater acceptance and that is a good thing and yet those who pass still have an easier time even when they are out TS/TG activist than those who do not.

But this is a matter of dealing with the world at large and the powers that be, who provided our health care were less dictators of a policy than advisers as to the difficulties people would face .

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The Myth That Others Counseled Us To Be Totally Stealth

I was there in the early days, aware regarding transsexualism even as it was being discovered by the tabloids.

I was in the system when University research and Medical School training were part of being in “the program”

I saw Dr Benjamin as a patient and he wrote one of my surgery recommendations.

I went to the monthly rap groups at Stanford for a couple of years and co-ran the NTCU.

The doctors and counselors weren’t the ones telling us we should live absolutely stealth and they were not the ones recommending we make up an appropriate childhood.

They didn’t have to.

We weren’t stupid.  While we had gained knowledge of self because of the news and scandal created by people like Christine Jorgensen and April Ashley we could see the impact on both our ability to function in the world. How the notoriety meant that to be out would mean always being a freak.  It meant that “Transsexual” would become our new first name.

We weren’t aware of how many of us there were in those days.  Each of us had grown up thinking we were the only one.  When we discovered there were others like ourselves we found them in the underclass demimonde of the trannie/queen ghettos where the only way of life was that of being a sexual outlaw.

When some of us started living as women our very existence was illegal. As I have said we ironically describe our career choices as performer, hairdresser or sex worker.

All one had to do was look at the tabloid headlines.  Some things never change even today the news digests of Brenda Lana Smith and Stephanie Stevens all too often have the same bigoted nasty language, the pronoun abuse that the head lines have always had.

We weren’t stupid back then, indeed if someone who delayed coming out until middle age were to say to me, “I didn’t want a lifetime of being treated the way the women born transsexual I read about in the tabloids were treated…”  I would see that as a completely valid reason for not transitioning as a young person.

We didn’t need doctors or counselors to tell us that if we wanted a chance at escaping all the bullshit we had been put through as transkids, all the discrimination we had faced as pre-ops,  that stealth was a better option than wearing the label transsexual like a t-shirt slogan.

Andy Warhol said, “In the future everyone will have 15 minutes of fame.”  When there were a few hundred post-ops just the willingness to be out could get one a book contract for putting your face on a ghost written pulp.  By the 1970s when there were a few thousand of us or 15 minutes of fame had been devalued to the point of having a good story might  be worth a writer taking you to dinner.  If you were hot looking and fuckable.

So those of us who wanted to be just women, straight or lesbian looked at the situation and how little outness was worth and said “screw that shit”.  I want something more than working the sex ads.  Even if my dreams are only having a lover, an Ikea furnished place to live and a decent used car.  I want the life I can have if I keep my mouth shut.

Stealth equaled survival.

For many of us stealth was never absolute.  We kept our sister friends,  signed petitions.  Wrote and spoke and realized that those who really made the headlines tended to be the glamorous and the notorious.  Mostly though there were more and more of us and we sort of hit a critical mass where we were no longer one in ten thousand.  We might not be as common as gays and lesbians but it sometimes seems as though we are close.

And yeah we owe a debt of gratitude to those who were in the headlines.  Yet if we chose stealth (and that always tended to be more about controlling information than keeping an absolute secret) we were nonetheless brave enough to live our lives as post-SRS women and by simply doing that help make it easier for those who came after us.

Those who believe the myths without questioning them do us a disservice and dis-empower us by making the assumption that stealth was pushed upon us from above and wasn’t a way of survival we developed on our own.

In fact I sometimes think it is a bit insulting of those of us who were smart enough and crazy brave enough to be the first for people to think we had much of anything pushed on us from above.

Some of us started living as women in preparation for our operations at a time when it was illegal for us to dress in women’s clothes, when we had to teach the doctors about the right dosage of hormones to prescribe, when we couldn’t change our ID until after SRS.

We questioned authority, we gave authority the finger, we didn’t just submit to it.

Domestic Violence: A resource for Trans People in the UK

NHS Northwest – Health Equality Library Portal, UK

Domestic Violence: A resource for Trans People

Publisher: Barking and Dagenham PCT <http://www.bdpct.nhs.uk/>
Author: Greater London Domestic Violence Project
Published date: 31st Aug 2009

This resource was written principally to assist trans people who experience domestic abuse, although it will also be of use to service providers, family and friends. The document builds on previous work by Barking and Dagenham PCT in London, who previously developed domestic abuse resources for lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women. Barking and Dagenham was a demonstration site for domestic violence for the NHS in London in 2008, and launched the regional resource site www.domesticviolencelondon.nhs.uk to help improve the support provided by healthcare professionals to individuals experiencing and affected by domestic violence and abuse.

Click here to view resource
<http://help.northwest.nhs.uk/storage/library/Domestic_Violence_A_Resource_for_Trans_People.pdf>

© 2009 NHS North West

http://help.northwest.nhs.uk/library/item/1528

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Myths and Misconceptions Part I

Jacob Hale—  “Trans lives were lived, therefore trans lives were livable.”

I read a piece over on Questioning Transphobia written by Kittyburger:

http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/trans-sexualization-in-academia-guest-post/#comments

See also:

http://kittyburger.livejournal.com/12967.html

http://threeduelsonenight.blogspot.com/2009/12/trans-sexualization-in-academia.html

There is an assertion made in the second paragraph that displays a fictitious set of mythology that is divorced from the historical reality of the situations and manner in which people with transsexualism or with what is now referred to as transgenderism negotiated their lives during the  period  following World War II to the early 1980s.

The original standards of care forced the transsexual to lie constantly. They forced you to lie if you were bisexual or a lesbian; they forced you to lie if you didn’t care to wear skirts or dresses or makeup; they forced you to lie if you were a feminist; they forced you to lie if your interests lay outside of traditional homemaking and “feminine” pursuits; they forced you to lie if you were so badly off that you felt you would die if you didn’t get treatment right this minute, right this second. Trans women were routinely forced to quit rewarding, well-paying “masculine” careers and take up “feminine” jobs that paid a fraction what they were making pre-transition. And they forced you to begin presenting as a woman for an indefinite period of a year or more before receiving the hormones that most trans women need to be able to both feel at one with our bodies and pass successfully in society. In short, you were required to be a 1950s stereotype of femininity, that was even outdated THEN.

There are so many mistaken assumptions I’m not sure where to start.  Hopefully what I am  writing will start a discourse and further the understanding of our history.   I don’t want to  start another counter productive flame war.

Since meeting Susan Stryker and Jacob Hale in the mid-1990s I have become aware of my part in history and how my involvement over the last nearly 50 years has made me a repository of a good deal of transhistory.

In the early days one had to be an autodidact who scoured libraries and connected random bits of information from obscure  sources in order to get the medical treatment we needed.  One also had to advocate and educate the doctors as to what we needed to get their assistance in changing sex.

I use the phrase changing sex and sex change operation rather than all the current “gender” language because we didn’t much think in terms of gender.  Indeed I tend to view gender theory with the same skepticism as I view other religions.

In the comment thread at Questioning Transphobia Lisa Harney gave me pause to think that perhaps the old days that some refer to now happened in the post-1980 time frame when GID entered the DSM and the accompanying Benjamin Standards of Care. In this particular piece I’m going to take us to about the mid 1970s.

As I said in my entry “Friday Night Fun and Culture”, I am currently reading April Ashley’s second biography The First Lady.  A few months back I read Aleshia Brevard’s book, The Woman I was Not Born To Be.  April Ashley got her SRS from Dr Burou in 1960.  She went to Casablanca for it and claims to have been his 9th patient.  Aleshia Brevard got hers around the same time.  Add to that Roberta Cowell’s biography, Coccinelle’s, Hedy Jo Star’s and Patricia Morgan’s along with Christine Jorgensen’s and you find a cross section of the people who got SRS before the John’s Hopkins announcement in 1966 and Dr. Benjamin’s book in 1967.

Let’s look at society and gender during that period.  Homosexuality, in spite of Kinsey’s study was firmly in the closet or underground.  There were small activist groups such as the Mattachine Society, One and the Daughters of Bilitis as well as the bar scene.  One could find information of the gay and lesbian world in pulp paper backs and scandal magazines and tabloids but it was the love that dared not speak its name in serious novels or in movies.  (even in the pulp paperbacks the gay was often more subtext than graphic).

As early as Lili Elbe (1882 – 1931)  sisters did not conform to the attracted to men only paradigm.  Lili was married to a woman prior to getting treatment and SRS.

Further… Prior to coming out they did not necessarily conform to the mythical assertion of always being obviously feminine individuals.

When the news of Christine Jorgensen’s sex change operation broke the tabloid headlines blared “Ex GI become Blonde Beauty”.  This implies that at least during the draft anyone days of WW II she was masculine enough to not be considered too queer for the military.  Roberta Cowell was a fighter pilot during WW II and raced cars after wards.  I think she was married to a woman prior to her transition and SRS.  Hedy Jo Star, Aleshia Brevard, Coccinelle and April Ashley were drag performers.  Although even there, is the biographical detail from April Ashley of a stint in the British Merchant Marines. Patricia Morgan hustled.  Sisters did what they had to do to find their own paths to getting surgery.

Even in a world where information was rare and obscure these sisters were able to find it.  And they were able to locate doctors who were willing to treat them.  They also managed to find each other in the drag queen and transvestite undergrounds that later evolved into the transsexual and transgender network of support and advocacy groups of today.

In 1960 women wore skirts and dresses.  If they wore pant those pants went by a different name such as capris, slacks etc.  All this was prior to Betty Friedan publishing The Feminine Mystique.  For what it is worth when I came out in 1969 classified ads were still separated into “Help Wanted-Men” and “Help Wanted-Women”.  When the Mattachine Society picketed the Capitol in the the mid-1960s demanding civil rights for gay and lesbian people the gay men wore suits and ties while the lesbian women wore skirts or dresses.

The pop culture/hippie culture of the mid to late 1960s introduced  more androgynous looking clothes for both men and women.  Zippers on women’s pants had been in back or on the hip and wearing front fly zipped pants were used as reason to harass and arrest lesbians for being in drag up until the late 1960s.

Transsexual and transgender sisters had to live in ghettos such as the Tenderloin in San Francisco.  Up until the late 1960s being obvious and daring to venture beyond the ghettos was asking for police harassment and arrest.  Passing equaled surviving.  Prior to coming out I was too obviously different.  My appearance confused people regarding my sex/gender in 1968 I was both assaulted on the street by a stranger and was arrested and charged with impersonation while dressed in masculine male clothing.  Initially the police thought I was a dyke.  (I was living in the Haight Ashbury rather than the ghetto of the Tenderloin)

I came out in 1969.  Supposedly the bad old days.  I was living in a radical left hippie commune/cadre.  We had moved across the bay to Berkeley.  I applied for Welfare in drag using as reason my being transsexual, needing help and not having the documents that would permit me to get a job.

This was early in the cycle of Second Wave feminism and the main professions open to women were teaching, nursing, sales and office.  Then you had the entertainment field.  Loosely interpreted the entertainment field also includes things like waitressing and sex work.

I was part of a particular class of transkids.  My peers included the runaways and throwaways.  The hippie queens and recent high school graduates out there looking for a space where they could be themselves.  When it came to employment we kidded among ourselves that our career choices were hustling, hair dressing or performing.

But as early as 1966 the queens and transsexuals of the Tenderloin were trying to break out of that rut.  In 1966, nearly 3 years prior to Stonewall there was a riot at Compton’s Cafeteria in the heart of the Tenderloin by TS/TG sisters who were fed up with being pushed around.  The sisters involved got together afterward and started organizing.  One of those organizations turned into the National Transsexual Counseling Unit that I co-ran from mid 1971 through early 1973.

Some of the goals of that original group were to gain medical access and to help us mainstream our lives by using the War on Poverty and anti-discrimination push to help us gain us access to legitimate careers and a way out of the permanent underclass.  This was the early 1970s and while the Office of Economic Opportunity was open to helping us get job training the opportunities for training for underclass women both cis and trans were still in the help wanted male/help wanted female mindset.  So yes our career options were still stereotypical.  They were for all underclass women.

Let us touch on the idea that we had to lie and could only like men.  Most of us in San Francisco liked or had boyfriends.  Having a boyfriend offered a certain level of protection.  But even in the feminist circles of cis women many lesbians were still identifying as heterosexual.  At the same time many of us were in relationships with each other and there were militant lesbians.

We were all going to the same clinics and we were all being fairly honest about our sexuality As we saw it at that point and time.  The fact that it was often more fluid or that we might not settle into heterosexuality after SRS and might like women both cis and trans didn’t necessarily occur to us.  Context is important, we were part of society that was in tremendous upheaval.

Some of the larger collections of myths surround our group sessions at the Gender Clinics.  I attended the one at Stanford where I got my sex change operation.  Yes, that is what we called it prior to our indoctrination into post-modern new-speak and euphemisms.

They may have been different before and they may have been different later but in many ways they more closely resembled cis-women’s consciousness raising sessions within the feminist movement than they did the myths I hear taken as gospel today. One of the details that has been spoken about in a manner that gives it the worst possible spin is how we showed the results of our surgery to each other and to sisters who were scheduled for surgery in the near future. Sisters who had their SRS before us reassured us we were healing normally, sisters coming soon after us received graphic details regarding what they faced.  We didn’t have our version of Our Bodies, Ourselves to tell us what to expect.  Some sisters had never seen a naked female.

We talked about jobs, school, family relationships, relationships with friends and lovers.  Hopes and aspirations.  Those of us who held the stereotype of the young, pretty and attracted to men paradigm as what transsexualism was all about met sisters who were middle aged, married and attracted to women as well as having fathered children.  We saw them showing the same dedication to the goal of SRS that we were showing.  We also got something from them.  Many of them were engineers working in the aerospace or the newly emerging Silicon Valley.  Eventually many of us went on to receive training and build careers in the computer field.

We saw that not every sister was a “diva”, that we come in all shapes and sizes.  We learned that some who claim to be like us are truly insane and not transsexual at all.  We saw there was a difference between how those of us who got SRS dealt with life and how those who live as women without SRS dealt with life.  Perhaps because we were dealing with each other face to face we were able to be more aware of each others humanity than many seem to be in the on-line world of today

Yes we saw stealth as pretty much the only viable option.  In the early 1970s many of us were living underground with cobbled together identification papers and name change via common usage.  We were unable to change our names legally until after SRS and obtaining a California ID Card or Driver’s License that reflected your new name required both that legal name change and a letter from your surgeon attesting to the completion of SRS.  Other things were easier to change.

Nonetheless among sister it was shared common wisdom that keeping your mouth shut about your medical history was the wisest course of action in most situations.  Here again our individual mileage varied considerably.  Some were always more open than others.

The greatest pressure to conform to stealth, and appropriate culturally sanctioned current heterosexual female norms came from other sisters.  The idea that we were as a whole terribly anachronistic in our ideals or image of what was appropriate female behavior was something that seemed more common in the TV/TG arena.

When I came out as lesbian some sister reacted badly yet others treated me like the L-Word’s Shane and looked to me for their “lesbian” experience and for me to tell them their pussy looked and tasted right.

This is a good place to end this particular post but not this subject.  I realize some will claim I am using anecdotal evidence based on biography rather than academic based on the articles of scholars but I think our stories have more validity than the studies of us.  It is our history and it is time we own it.

References:

Ashley, April with Duncan Fallowell  April Ashley’s Odyssey 1983

Ashley, April  The First Lady 2006

Benjamin,  Dr. Harry The Transsexual Phenomena 1967

Brevard, Aleshia The Woman I was not Born to be 2001

Costa, Mario A.   Reverse Sex 1962

Cowell, Roberta  Roberta Cowell’s Story 1954

Driscoll, James  Transsexuals  Transactions of the  _____  circa 1970

Jorgensen, Christine  Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography 1967

Meyerowitz, Joanne How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States 2004

Morgan, Patricia  The Man-Maid Doll 1973

Rechy, John  City of Night 1963

Star, Hedy Jo  I Changed My Sex 1963

Star, Hedy Jo  My Unique Change 1965

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