No Way Renee

After the controversy a few years back when some Taliban Christer Reparative therapists made up a bunch of crap about Renee Richards’ “regrets” and telling people that getting the operation was a mistake I hesitated to even bother buying this book.  I certainly wasn’t going to pay full price for it.

But I basically loked at the sources of the claims that Renee said this, that and the other thing.  Freaks like Jerry Lynch have zero credibility with me.  I do not believe they are capable of telling the truth about anything so I discounted what I read and pointed out my belief that what they claimed Renee had said had in all likelihood been distorted and twisted as well as anything that was not distorted and twisted being taken from context and given a different spin.

After all, we’ve had some thirty-five years of right wing Christo-Fascist noise machine turning us into freaks.  I think any sister in her right mind should automatically dismiss anything they say about us.  That includes smears from those people who are allegedly members of Opus Dei.

That said.  I am working hard at developing my writing ability.  Writing is a craft.  I have read many sisters books including those with aditional authors listed, something that might as well read “as told to”.  The writing of this book sucks.  I’m really glad I got it from Amazon and paid more for the shipping than for the book.  I don’t remember “Second Serve” as being this poorly written, but I read it some 25 years ago and may not have been as conscious of bad writing.

There is an annoying story telling style that has Renee speaking in the third person as though she is speaking about three separate people.

There is a lot of self-pity coming from a person who has enjoyed a great deal of privilege in life, much of it male privilege.  Indeed I suspect that some of her regret lies in loss of some of that privilege (wealth) and yet there is a failure to see her own responsibility for her life.  As an existentialist I believe we are the products of our past actions in situations we may or may not have had much control over.  As a person in recovery I realize the importance of owning my own short comings with the same honesty with that which accept those things which were beyond my control.

There are enough of the common threads to Renee’s narrative that I accept her authenticity as a sister even as I am annoyed by her incredible narcissism.

I had really mixed feelings about her playing tennis back in the 1970s.  Women’s Tennis was just coming into its own.  I had started playing tennis and later did Tae Kwon Do so I knew what hormones do to muscles.  I was getting my butt kicked by women both on the court and in the dojang.  But I was barely 5’8″ standing as tall as I could make myself in bare feet and I weighed about 135 pounds.  I wasn’t 6 feet and I hadn’t trained for years in either of those sports.

Then there was her use of the ultra right wing Roy Cohn as her attorney.  Roy Cohn was a closet case who later died of AIDS.  In the 1950s he had been a central figure  in the red scare witch hunts that comprised McCarthyism.  He was Joe McCarthy’s right hand man and never repudiated his role in fosetering a climate of fear that destroyed the careers of numerous progressive artists.  Renee blithely dismisses any criticism of her choosing him to represent her.

Many of her “regrets” stem from her relationship with her son during what seems to have been an extremely troubled childhood.  Her including this information raised my level of empathy considerably.  I have known sisters who had to fight to see their children, sisters who have been driven to detransition and even commit suicide because of the guilt and sense of failure as a parent.

I think this is why some sister wait until their children are grown before entering transition.

Renee’s okay…  Too bad the book is so poorly written.

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Lowenstein: Annie Leibowitz and the consequences of gay inequality

By Jenna Lowenstein, 365gay blogger 03.09.2009 10:10am EDT
Culture & Ideas


I get pretty upset when people argue against equality, but there is one particular argument that gets me more than most. It goes something like this: since civil unions and marriage are really the same thing with a different name, why can’t LGBT Americans just settle for the former in order to keep from offending those who consider the latter a religious institution?

The incredibly obvious answer is that civil unions and marriage aren’t equal at all. Setting aside the fact that even if civil unions and civil marriage were completely identical institutions the division would still violate our judicial ideal that separate can never be equal, there are very real federal benefits and rights that come along with marriage that same-sex couples can never receive.

In fact, there are over 1,000 benefits that marriage couples receive from the federal government that same-sex couples can’t access, including the ability to save money by filing joint tax returns and receiving access to government pensions and health insurance. (A married lesbian couple in Massachusetts actually filed a lawsuit last week, arguing that they’ve to paid $15,000 more in taxes than a straight couple would have to, since they are forced to file separately each year.)

One additional inequality that comes along with the federal distinction is the difference in inheritance law for married straight couples and same-sex couples who can’t be married under federal law.

This issue has been given a face and a name after The New York Times reported last month that photographer Annie Leibowitz was forced to use her work as collateral in order to secure a loan and resolve her financial difficulties. Queerty and After Ellen have both reported that some of the financial difficulties faced by Leibowitz were likely due to the fact that when her long-time partner Susan Sontag died in 2004, Leibowitz would have had to pay significant taxes on her inheritance– a tax liability that wouldn’t have been incurred if they were a married, opposite-sex couple.

Annie Leibowitz is just one of many to have been hit by these discriminatory regulations, to be sure, but her relatively public case does underscore an important point. Equality is more than a hypothetical ideal, and inequality is not in name only. There are very real consequences to our continued reliance on a system that treats some people different than others, and those differences can be catastrophic.

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Following the path of struggle

Eamonn McCann looks at the tradition of women’s struggle for equality and liberation.

Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth

IN AN interview some years ago pegged to International Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8, singer Chrissie Hynde mentioned Mary Wollstonecraft as one of her heroines.

If it’s possible to point to a single founder of the modern movement for women’s liberation, it’s Wollstonecraft. She was a philosopher, novelist, poet and political activist, and wild and free.

In 1792, she produced A Vindication of the Rights of Women, complementing and responding to Paine’s Rights of Man, published the previous year. She wrote:

How many women thus waste life away, the prey of discontent, who might have practiced as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which, at first, it gave luster.

Sojourner Truth knew the feeling. She’d been born a slave in New York in 1797, the year that Wollstonecraft died. She fought from the age of 11 for abolition and women’s rights. Her speech in September 1851, at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, still rings down through the years:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man–when I could get it–and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne 13 children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Six years later, on March 8, 1857, the slogan “Ain’t I A Woman” was carried on placards by women textile workers in Sojourner’s home state of New York, protesting against low wages and inhumane working conditions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

NEW YORK women marched, 15,000-strong, again on March 8, in 1908, demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labor. They summed up their demands as “Bread and Roses.” The march and the slogan were to inspire a poem by James Oppenheim, published in The Atlantic three years later.

And the poem, somewhat adapted, became the marching song of women garment workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the year after that, when they came out for higher wages and union rights in a strike which united dozens of immigrant communities under the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World.

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
As the people hear us singing: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!…
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses, too!…
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

One of the IWW organizers in Lawrence was 21-year-old Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. At a fundraiser for the strikers, she declared:

The queen of the parlor has nothing in common with the maid in the kitchen; the wife of a department store owner shows no sisterly concern for the 17-year-old girl who finds prostitution the only door open to a $5-a-week wage clerk. The sisterhood of women, like the brotherhood of men, is a hollow sham to labor. Behind all its smug hypocrisy and sickly sentimentality are the sinister outlines of the class war.

Exactly 100 years after Soujourner Truth’s speech, in 1951, also in Akron, Ohio, Chrissie Hynde was born.

She attended Kent State University, and was an antiwar activist and close friend of Jeffrey Miller. One of the iconic photographs of the age shows another student kneeling over Miller’s body, gunned down by a National Guardsman while protesting the invasion of Cambodia.

Hynde’s band, the Pretenders, included her song for Jeffrey Miller, “Revolution,” on their 1994 album Last of the Independents:

The fond fear of danger,
That’s what sets us apart,
Couldn’t wait for the real world
To test the strength of the lion’s heart…
When we watch the children play,
Remember how the privileged classes grew.
And from this day, we set out
To undo what won’t undo.
Looking for the grand in the minute.
Every breath justifies
Every step that we take to remove what the powers that be can’t prove
And the children will understand why.
I want to die for something.
Bring on the revolution,
Don’t want to die for nothing.
Bring on the revolution,
I want to die for something.

There’s the connection between Mary Wollstonecraft and Chrissie Hynde. It’s the tradition coming down, the river ever-flowing, the women marching, marching.

First published in the Belfast Telegraph.

15 Percent of Americans Have No Religion

Fewer Call Themselves Christians; Nondenominational Identification Increases

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 9, 2009; A04

The percentage of Americans who call themselves Christians has dropped dramatically over the past two decades, and those who do are increasingly identifying themselves without traditional denomination labels, according to a major study of U.S. religion being released today.

The survey of more than 54,000 people conducted between February and November of last year showed that the percentage of Americans identifying as Christians has dropped to 76 percent of the population, down from 86 percent in 1990. Those who do call themselves Christian are more frequently describing themselves as “nondenominational” “evangelical” or “born again,” according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

The survey is conducted by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and funded by the Lilly Endowment and the Posen Foundation. Conducted in 1990, 2001 and last year, it is one of the nation’s largest major surveys of religion.

The increase in people labeling themselves in more generic Christian terms corresponds strongly with the decline in people identifying themselves as Protestant, the survey found. People calling themselves mainline Protestants, including Methodists and Lutherans, have dropped to 13 percent of the population, down from 19 percent in 1990. The number of people who describe themselves as generically “Protestant” went from approximately 17 million in 1990 to 5 million.

Meanwhile, the number of people who use nondenominational terms has gone from 194,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million.

“There is now this shift in the non-Catholic population — and maybe among American Christians in general — into a sort of generic, soft evangelicalism,” said Mark Silk, who directs Trinity’s Program on Public Values and helped supervise the survey.

The survey substantiated several general trends already identified by sociologists: the slipping importance of denomination in America, the growing number of people who say they have “no” religion and the increase in religious minorities including Muslims, Mormons and such movements as Wicca and paganism.

The only group that grew in every U.S. state since the 2001 survey was people saying they had “no” religion; the survey says this group is now 15 percent of the population. Silk said this group is likely responsible for the shrinking percentage of Christians in the United States.

Northern New England has surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country; 34 percent of Vermont residents say they have “no religion.” The report said that the country has a “growing non-religious or irreligious minority.” Twenty-seven percent of those interviewed said they did not expect to have a religious funeral or service when they died, and 30 percent of people who had married said their service was not religious. Those questions weren’t asked in previous surveys.

The survey reflects a key question that demographers, sociologists and political scientists have been asking in recent years: Who makes up this growing group of evangelicals? Forty-four percent of America’s 77 million Christian adults say they are born again or evangelical. Meanwhile, 18 percent of Catholics also chose that label, as did 40 percent of mainline Christians.

“If people call themselves ‘evangelical,’ it doesn’t tell you as much as you think it tells you about what kind of church they go to,” Silk said. “It deepens the conundrum about who evangelicals are.”

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