Gwendolyn Smith’s Historical Revisionism

There is an actual history of the early transsexual community history in San Francisco.  One that is documented by James Driscoll 1, Susan Stryker 2, Joanne Meyerowitz 3, and others including the film “Screaming Queens”.

There are also people who are still alive (not many anymore) who were part of the San Francisco Bay Area Transsexual Community.  I believe some of their oral history’s can be found at The San Francisco LGBT History Archives.

There is a difference between history and mythology.

For one thing history implies at least an attempt at correct chronology.

In Gwen Smith’s latest offering in the Bay Area Reporter she manages to both fail to give credit to the major Transsexual Organization that was at its time one of the biggest in the country if not the biggest and instead gives credit to CATS which consisted of two people, a transsexual woman and her husband who had splintered from the main organization and were considered pariahs due to the husband’s extorting of sexual favors from newbees in exchange for information.

Perhaps the enmity between Gwen and myself makes her loathe to mention the Transsexual Counseling Center in either its original incarnation or in its latter as the National Transsexual Counseling Unit.

Her piece is Titled: At 40

The following is complete and utter Bullshit from start to finish.  Not only isn’t it good San Francisco Bay Area Transsexual History, it isn’t even good Transgender History.

Consider what it was like for transgender people in 1971, when the B.A.R. was but a fledgling newspaper.

The “community” was very different then. There were a couple early groups that catered to people we might call transgender or transsexual today, but these were few and far between, and in many ways hard to come by. Here in San Francisco, you had the California Association of Transsexuals, born out of an earlier group called Conversion Our Goal that met at Glide Memorial Church in the late 1960s.

Being a transperson then, from the accounts I have read, was a somewhat clandestine operation. The university system largely forbade you from talking to other transfolks, and would remove you from the system for doing so. Meanwhile crossdressers and others would also meet in secret, for fear of societal repercussions – including arrest. It was only a few years after the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin, and being publicly crossdressed was very much against the law in many parts of the country.

Transsexuals, once considered a part of the “Gay rights” movement – indeed several were involved with the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969 – found themselves pushed out in the early 1970s, with transgender people uninvited to women’s music events and gay Pride parades within the first few years of the decade. Transsexuality was viewed as undesirable, a byproduct of the old-school, closed gay community of the pre-Stonewall era.

Hormone treatments were hard to come by, and genital reassignment was even rarer. Many resorted to back-alley practitioners to get surgery done, like the infamous Dr. John Ronald Brown, a former physician who, until his death last May, served time for one of his botched surgeries. Many died or were mutilated in their quest for surgical reassignment.

Of course, there was also no Internet then, either.

Information was scarce, even when you could find it. Christine Jorgensen’s much-publicized reassignment surgery was less than 20 years previous, and Dr. Harry Benjamin’s groundbreaking The Transsexual Phenomenon was still relatively new. It would be decades before Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaws , Les Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues , or Loren Cameron’s Body Alchemy would ignite a new generation, and just as long before the radical notions of the Lesbian Avengers or Queer Nation would help lead to early transgender activism groups like Transgender Nation and the Transexual Menace.

Actually San Francisco was a wonderful place to be a transsexual in the years between 1968 and 1974 when I was there.

James Driscoll’s article in “Transactions: The Journal of the Sociology” documents the turning point of the era circa 1967 which followed the riot at Compton’s Cafeteria. (If anyone wishes a copy send me an e-mail                         ( )).

Part of the process of coming out as transsexual was separating oneself from the queen/transgender community that existed in the Tenderloin. I sometimes think the whole idea of stealth was born of the reality of that era.  You see in San Francisco prior to the organizing of Transsexuals into the Transsexual Counseling Service with its working arrangement with the police department and other authorities the police kept obvious Transsexual and Transgender sisters confined to the Tenderloin.  If you didn’t pass your employment opportunities were pretty much limited to sex work.  If you passed and could be stealth you had other options.

The politics of the Transsexual Counseling Service were ostensibly conservative and assimilationist.  For those people who had come out as transsexual the goals of assimilating into ordinary society as ordinary women were quite radical. The university (To be precise Stanford University Medical Center’s Gender Clinic) did not forbid you from talking to other “transfolks”.  We didn’t associate with queens because they were trouble.  We were close friends with and associated with each other, however if you weren’t living in the ghetto of the Tenderloin you didn’t want obvious queens coming around where you worked or lived because they would endanger everything you were working to achieve.

One of the pluses of dissociation from the queens who stuck to the drag/hustle bars of the Tenderloin was that we could go out and play whether at the Stud, Hamburger Mary’s or the Haven up on Polk St.  We went to movies together, we went clubbing together.  Indeed Stanford encouraged these friendships. (my friend Leslie, who died last year ran the Center after I left.  We were friends from our Stanford days.)

Heterosexual cross dressers weren’t of our realm.  We did have friends, who were in the parlance of the early 1970s, queens.  However their commitment to living their lives as women coupled with everything but SRS would make them transgender in today’s terminology.

We were not part of the Gay Liberation Movement.  At least not Transsexuals.  The transgender people who were part of the Gay Liberation Movement were the queens, the same people who form the Imperial Courts.  Perhaps the Cockettes although I knew at least one of the Cockettes who was in the Stanford Program.

Hormone treatments were hard to come by…  Say what?  I came out in Berkeley in February 1969 when I got welfare.  It took me a grand total of four weeks to get hormones.  First I went to a clinic in Berkeley, they gave me an appointment to see a counselor, she didn’t know where but suggested I speak to the people at SIR and Mattachine Society.  I went to SIR and the guy at the desk told me to talk with someone at Mattachine who knew about those things.  The contact at Mattachine told me about the Center For Special Problems on Van Ness, Dr. Fong in Oakland and gave me the number of CATS.  I made an appointment to go to the Center because it was free.  I saw Ron Lee, a case worker who told me what I could expect from the hormones and  as well as mentioning the Transsexual Counseling Unit.  I was given an appointment a week later to see Dr. Liebermann.  He gave me a quick physical, told me I wouldn’t have any problems since I was pretty and passed easily.

Passing equaled survival outside of the Tenderloin.

There was also Fort Help run by Dr. Joel Fort and Laura Cunningham (?), which had a reputation of being more rigid than the Center for Special Problem.

Getting the surgery from a legitimate source was relatively easy for those disciplined enough follow the particular protocols of the various programs. In 1972 there were over two dozen places in the US where one could get SRS from a certified, skilled surgeon.  There was also Dr. Barbosa in Tijuana who was one of the major pioneers of M to F SRS along with Dr. Burou in Casablanca.

Contrary to popular opinion there were quite a few post-SRS women involved with the lesbian movement besides Beth Elliott and Sandy Stone.  The problem is their public trashing is the only story that gets heard.  Beth was writing for The Lesbian Tide when she was trashed, yet I wound up working with them a few years later. (Had the same thing happened to me I would have sworn the women of the Tide Collective didn’t know just to spare them)

Even the banning from Women’s Music Festivals was more limited than the impression given by Gwen.  Robin Tyler utilized a transsexual woman, who was in the Fire Department in Southern California in charge of fire control at her festival(s) she staged in California.

In the early 1970s we were all over the place and there were dozens of biographies.  Dr. Benjamin’s book was less useful then Green and Money’s “Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment”, which had more details regarding the process including hormone administration.  We used that book to educate doctors.

BTW Dr. Benjamin had an office at the Medical Building on Sutter near Powell.

Dr. Brown rolled into SF in the summer of 1973.  He was cheap and had zero standards.  He would operate on the crazy and those so strung out they were lucky the anesthesia didn’t kill them.  He operated in garages and kitchens. Within a couple of years he was on the lam and had lost his license.

There were some really stupid TS/TG people, real kamikazes in those days and there still are considering the articles about silicone pumping.

By the mid-1970s modern TS/TG groups were forming. In part because the Tenderloin ghetto was no longer enforced and we were a freer society.  IFGE and Tapestry was publishing a newsletter that became Tapestry.  Transgender was starting to be used for those who lived full time without SRS.

One of the major issues that wasn’t addressed was substance abuse.  The other was that when Nixon killed The  War on Poverty, he ended programs that helped sisters escape from sex work by giving them job training and placement.

Gwen… You need to read Joanne Meyerowitz’ book and Susan Stryker’s too.  The actual history has this incredible depth and texture of various communities often working in parallel with little knowledge of each other that is lost in this mythology.

1.  James Driscoll:  The Transsexuals  Transactions 1971

2. Susan Stryker:  Transgender History 2008; Transgender Reader 2006; Gay by the Bay 1996

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

Washington: Bill recognizing domestic partnerships signed

From The Bellingham Herald:

law: Same-sex marriages of other states recognized

MOLLY ROSBACH; The Associated Press
April 6, 2011

Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages with all the rights and protections given to registered domestic partnerships in Washington.

Legislators who supported the measure described it as a “technical correction” that closes a loophole in the law it replaces. Previously, Washington recognized only domestic partnerships and civil unions. But same-sex marriages received no benefits coverage.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that when state laws recognizing domestic partnerships were first written, gay marriage wasn’t legal in many places.

This led to some “very illogical results” as such laws changed.

Pedersen said that in many places domestic partnership laws have been replaced with same-sex marriage laws, and civil unions that would have been recognized in Washington “automatically became unrecognized as they matured into marriages in their state.”

There was no change in the people involved, he continued, but suddenly Washington was saying that they no longer received protection.

The bill’s original sponsor Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said this action closes “a hole in the law.”

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With or Without a Government Shutdown – Republicans have Already Won the Debate

From Common Dreams:

by Thom Hartmann
April 8, 2011
With or without a government shutdown, Republicans have already won the debate on our nation’s budget. Why? Because the corporate media is on their side.

Make the wealthy pay their fair share.

A budget shouldn’t just focus on spending cuts directed at the poor and middle-class – it should also include revenue raisers like closing corporate loopholes and asking millionaires and billionaires to cough up a few extra bucks a year. Let’s cut some wasteful spending, but let’s also raise a few taxes. But this common sense narrative has been lost inside the main stream corporate media – where there’s only one question that’s being asked today, and that is “how much spending needs to be cut?”

Not, “why aren’t some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world skating by paying zero taxes?”

Not, “why are the wealthiest Americans enjoying historically low tax rates during a historically high budget deficit?”

Did you know that corporate taxes used to account for roughly 30% of revenue collected by the government – and today that number is only 7%? Probably not, because the corporate media, which would prefer not to pay its taxes and only wants us to focus on just how much Republicans and Democrats can cut out of the budget?

So why is the media ignoring these calls?

It’s simple – corporate owned media outlets won’t call for tax hikes on corporations, and rich TV personalities won’t call for tax hikes on the rich. The topic of tax hikes just doesn’t exist in our now-consolidated media. Which is really a shame because the Republicans who seem to have already won the debate have a bad idea – a really, really, bad idea.

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Our Lives Are Under Threat From Some of the Most Powerful and Richest Entities — Here’s How We Can Fight Back and Win

From Alternet:–_here%27s_how_we_can_fight_back_and_win/

We need to rebuild the kind of mass movement that marked 1970: bodies, passion, and creativity are the currencies we can compete in. It’s not impossible.

By Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben
April 8, 2011

Not for forty years has there been such a stretch of bad news for environmentalists in Washington.

Last month in the House, the newly empowered GOP majority voted down a resolution stating simply that global warming was real: they’ve apparently decided to go with their own versions of physics and chemistry.

This week in the Senate, the biggest environmental groups were reduced to a noble, bare-knuckles fight merely to keep the body from gutting the Clean Air Act, the proudest achievement of the green movement. The outcome is still unclear; even several prominent Democrats are trying to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

And at the White House? The president who boasted that his election marked the moment when ‘the oceans begin to recede’ instead introduced an energy plan heavy on precisely the carbon fuels driving global warming. He focused on ‘energy independence,’ a theme underscored by his decision to open 750 million tons of Wyoming coal to new mining leases. That’s the equivalent of running 3,000 new power plants for a year.

Here’s what we think is going on, in the broadest terms.

The modern environmental movement was born on Earth Day 1970, in an unprecedented burst of mass organizing–by some estimates 20 million Americans, a tenth of the population, took to the streets. It was a young movement, at a time when large numbers of people were serious about not just cleaning the air but stopping wars and ending official discrimination. That popular base inspired–or, more likely, cowed–Washington: the next four years saw the passage of virtually all the environmental legislation that still forms the core of green law.

It also saw the birth or rebirth of many of the organizations we think of when we think of environmentalism. Powered by that initial burst of mass support, they were able to make real headway in DC, and so they concentrated on important and professional tasks: patient lobbying of subcommittees, careful report-writing. And they kept making substantial gains: Superfund toxic cleanups, acid-rain control.

But in recent years two things have happened. One, that battery wound up on the first Earth Day has finally wound down: congressmen, it turns out, can tell the difference between an aging membership list and a vibrant political movement. As the DC political bible Politico put it last month: “green groups are being forced to play defense in a world where D.C. pols aren’t scared of them.”

Second, the key issue has changed. Forget acid rain and Superfund; these were important but relatively easy fights that didn’t directly confront anyone’s business model. You could clean up acid rain by putting a filter on your power plant. But global warming is different–you’d have to shut down that power plant, and replace it with a windmill or a solar panel.

And so the full power of the fossil fuel industry–the most profitable business in the planet’s history–has been brought to bear on the fight, and they play hard and dirty. The Koch Brothers spend huge sums to underwrite the network of global warming skeptics; the US Chamber of Commerce emerged as the biggest campaign funder of them all, shuttling 94% of its donations to climate deniers. This kind of clout carried the day: the biggest dream of DC Washington groups was the so-called ‘cap-and-trade’ bill, behind which they mustered every insider technique they’d spent the last four decades perfecting. But in the end they didn’t come close: Harry Reid refused to even schedule a floor vote, knowing that he was far short of the votes needed to pass the bill. The White House stayed on the sidelines.

Continue reading at:–_here%27s_how_we_can_fight_back_and_win/

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DIY Publishing

Thank you for your suggestions.

I have considered self publishing, particularly using Create Space.

It seems to work pretty flawlessly with Word and Amazon is the World’s Biggest Bookstore.

In the past several people including Susan Stryker have suggested both the Academic Press and other sorts of underground alternative presses.

I really cranked out some 150 pages of over 100 thousand words really quickly.  Then I went to work and bogged down.

I do not want a ghost written book.

Writing is a craft and I have been polishing my skills as well as developing a name.

A few months ago one of the commenters to this blog accused me of “identifying as a writer”.  My response was “I don’t identify as a writer, I am a writer because I write.”  Some of the pieces that I write once or twice a week for this blog are 1500-2000 words long.

I am also reading writers teaching about writing both to over come some bridges between points as well as to overcome things I see as weaknesses in my writing.

I would kind of like to try finding a publisher for my memoir as that would make it easier to find a publisher for some other ideas I have and may wish to work on.

Like many artistic endeavors the actual finishing and marketing a book requires overcoming fear of failure, of rejection.  For me that means conquering some lifetime demons that are the result of childhood emotional abuse.

Having people read my blog in the numbers y’all read it and return to read more is very confidence building.

I’m glad people get something from it.