Transgender as Umbrella is Dead: What It Means to Win

I stopped fighting a long time ago.

Calling people names seemed childish and diminished my effectiveness in calling them on actions I considered egregious.

I also had no real interest in joining up with most of the name callers in the “Classic Transsexual”/HBS set.  Too many were just as willing to call other post-transsexual women names for not meeting some sort of imaginary standard of realness that I always tended to find absurd.  Maybe it was coming out in hippie Berkeley, among non-conforming bohemians, artists and radicals rather than surrounded by other transsexuals trying to conform to mass marketing standards of appearance and femininity.

Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors and levels of physical ability.  Ugliness does as well.

For a while in the 1990s after reading Riki Wilchins and Kate Bornstein I thought the “Transgender as Umbrella” paradigm was a good idea.  I noticed it seriously fell down in practice, while trying to get people across that umbrella to participate in the Pride Day March or put together a table for the Pride Day Festival.

But I had my “Transsexual Menace” t-shirt and I actually wore it to certain events just like another dozen or so people in LA.

We were ignored.

I was a volunteer with the cultural events part of the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center.  I facilitated meetings and collected demographic data as to who was attending.  At one point Transgender was added to the choices one could check (Male, Female, Transgender).  I helped with “Transgender” support groups on several occasions.  Even in those support groups most people checked male or female rather than transgender.

But it seemed Academics loved the term and politicos loved it too.  Indeed “Transgender as Umbrella” had the support of the largely white middle class demographic that came out of the heterosexual CD groups and read Tapestry Magazine.

Transgender was perfect in a reactionary era that embraced post-modernism, obscure French Philosophy, and other forms of academic wankery.

Second Wave Feminism had attacked sex roles and had created women’s studies programs.  Black Liberation Struggles along with Native American, Asian American and Latino American movements had each created their own studies programs.

Attacking those programs was part of the reactionary right wing agenda.  The defensive lines that were drawn led to identity politics.

Multi-cultural programs and gender studies came about as budgets were cut and individual programs were collapsed into multi-purpose programs. The odious concept of “gender” erased concerns about sex role stereotyping and sexism.

Over ten years ago I went to the only Transsexual/Transgender conference I ever attended.  It was the Forward Motion Conference in Burbank, Ca., an F to M Conference and I was invited as a person in history.

I liked the guys.  It was good to spend a weekend with them and hear their issues, hear what they thought.

I came away with two distinct impressions.  the first and most important was, “There is no ‘Transgender community’, there are many different communities made up of a wide variety of people with different trans-prefixed words somehow attached to them.”

The other impression was that M to f Transgender as Umbrella advocates were using F to Ms and speaking for them in the same way they tried to speak for post-transsexual women.

Women born transsexual in part developed out of a need for a label.  Tina and I put our heads together, we wanted the meme to reflect that transsexualism was innate and also play off “women born women.”

And we fought with the people who embraced the umbrella.  We called names with everyone else.  We ran a mailing list for a number of years.

You would think that post-SRS transsexual women might have a better chance of getting along, but that wasn’t true either,  what with AGP/AP, young emergers/late emergers and lesbian/straight conflicts.  Not to mention the whole HBS silliness, the “true transsexuals” and the ‘classic transsexuals”.

When I started this blog I received support from Andrea James and others.  Within days people came here with the ad hominem attacks, attacks on people who weren’t even posting here.

I said, “No name calling, No ad hominem attacks!”

Argue the point not the person.

But this blog reflects me, and unlike many transsexual and/or transgender blogs I have many other interests, many left wing political as well as general cultural interests.  Sometimes the rest of those interests occupy more of this blog than does trans-related material.

Which is how it should be since post-transsexual women and men should leave the ghetto for the bigger world.

Spending all one’s time fighting these word wars with transgender folks isn’t leaving the ghetto.  The word wars are drama queen games.  I find them incredibly boring.

Especially since I don’t have to buy the Transgender Borg Collective ideology to think people who live transgender 24/7/365 should have the same basic civil rights I have plus hate crimes laws and anti-discrimination laws that are geared to protect their specific needs.

But it isn’t my life and so if I limit my participation to petitions and the like it is because I have other things happening in my life and not out of hatred.

The same is true with my post-transsexual sisters.  If you do not support me having marriage equality you shouldn’t be surprised if I am apathetic about supporting your heterosexual marriage if you run into legal problems.

I didn’t fight with the ideology of the Transgender Borg Collective because I hate transgender people who live it, walking the walk as well as taking the talk.

I fought the ideology because I hated how it negated my life and everything I have both stood for and experienced.

I did not like being erased or told I can’t use the phrase “sex change operation” to describe the surgery I had.  I am not a ventriloquist dummy.  Don’t put words in my mouth or tell me I should use words from an approved list when I use words I used 40 years ago to describe my life.

Do not disparage my cunt by channeling Virginia Prince via Janice Raymond and I won’t call you an ugly man in a dress.

I considered what I was doing when I declared a moratorium on name calling on this Blog a couple of years ago to be a way of saying I was bored with the endless “Trans-wars”.   I wasn’t going to cast anymore first stones or institute any gratuitous flame wars.

I had people, mostly other post-SRS women devote nearly their entire Blogs to flaming me and I tried to avoid mentioning their names or flaming them back.

In the mean time I have watched the development of positive actions against bullying and anti-suicide messages.

I’ve watched post-transsexual women, who weren’t part of the flame wars burn out on Transgender as Umbrella.  I’ve watched hard working activists get tired of all the insane fighting and noise.  I watched Mara Keisling get trashed.

Then this week Mercedes Allen posted “The Death of the ‘Transgender’ Umbrella” on Bilerico.  Reposted here… on this blog earlier this week…

What if “Transgender as Umbrella” is actually finally dead?

Does that mean an end to the seemingly endless trans-wars?  Or are some people so addicted to the drama of fighting they will find new parties to fight, defame and flame?  I suspect some will…

I have better things to do now that the war seems to be over.

This blog has always been more about how the world affects those of us on the outside and not too well off rather than purely about transsexual.  I had surgery so long ago I feel like a grandmother to kids coming along today.

I can’t help remembering some of the wisdom of the 1960s which is why I opened this post with a picture of Yoko Ono and John Lennon holding a poster that says “War is Over– If You Want It”.

Perhaps “Transgender as Umbrella” is dead and maybe we can move on.  The people who need a movement specifically for transgender people can build a version 4.0 that doesn’t have all the problematic elements of the version that has died.

Perhaps post-transsexual women can quit the drama and flame wars too and find something that suits their interests.  I don’t expect many will follow me.  I was the outsider from Berkeley in the 1960s and I probably still am.

I have other sisters who are friends.  The love of my life is a sister.  Having friends you can share the special life problems that go with the past history is nice but not mandatory.

Declare the war over…  withdraw from the combat and avoid getting stuck holding on to the runner of the last helicopter  out of the war zone.

Declare the “War to be Over.”  Turn the energy to rebuilding or building something better.

Fukushima Reactor No. 1 more radioactive than ever

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Saturday, June 4th, 2011

At the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, a robot sent into the building housing Reactor No. 1 on Saturday detected the highest levels of radiation measured since the crisis began on March 11.

According to the Japan Times, The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that radiation levels in the air around Reactor 1 were at 4000 millisieverts per hour, an exposure level equivalent to approximately 40,000 chest x-rays. TEPCO says it has no plans to send workers into the area because of its dangerously high radioactivity.

On Friday, a spokesman for TEPCO announced that steam was rising from underneath the reactor building. That afternoon, Japanese national television carried blurry footage of smoke rising from an opening in the floor.

Underneath the reactor, an estimated 40,000 tons of “highly contaminated” radioactive water have collected in what is known as the pressure suppression containment vessel, and it’s this water that is believed to be producing the steam. TEPCO officials warn that the water will begin to overflow from the storage vessel by June 20 as it reaches its maximum capacity, sooner if there are heavy rains.

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Speaker At Faith-based Hate And Fascism Likens Gay Adoption To Children Losing Parents On 9/11

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Has America Become a Corporate Police State?

From Alternet:

In just the last few years, the Corporate Police State has reared its head at every level of government.

By David Sirota 
June 2, 2011

“Corporate Police State,” it’s a fraught — some might even say, overwrought — term. But in its purest, apolitical form, it simply describes the periodic commingling of state and corporate power to protect private interests.

In the American psyche, any discussion of that phenomenon typically brings one of three images to mind. There’s the Old Corporate Police State — the sepia-toned America of decades long past, a place where state militias murder striking mine workers on behalf of Gilded Age barons and Congress empowers the government to forcibly ban work stoppages that defy corporate executives’ wishes. There’s the Fictional Future Corporate Police State — that smoldering bombed-out world depicted in “Robocop,” “Fortress” and every other dystopian flick in Hollywood’s post-apocalyptic catalog. And there’s the Foreign Corporate Police State — think Dubai, Singapore, Monaco and every other lavish enclave defined by lots of rich people, lots of corporate headquarters, lots of heavily armed cops — and almost no civil liberties.

By imagining the Corporate Police State primarily as a historical, fictional or foreign monster, these snapshots encourage us to believe that this monster poses no threat to us in the here and now. They encourage us, in other words, to ignore the monster’s creeping advances in present-day America.

In just the last few years, the Corporate Police State has reared its head at every level of government.

States and municipalities, for instance, have toughened criminal penalties and immigration laws at the behest of the private prison industry; empowered Wall Street banks to not only collect taxes but levy additional tax penalties; and allowed energy companies to exploit so-called forced pooling statutes, thereby creating what one Republican governor calls a new power of “private eminent domain.” One state is now even considering making it a criminal act to share your Netflix password with friends and family, because that is cutting into Netflix revenues.

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“Smells Right”

In the early 1970s I co-ran the National Transsexual Counseling Unit with Jan Maxwell.

This was after the War on Poverty funding had been cut.  We had office space for the first few months at the location that had been the offices of the War on Poverty.  The floor was empty because most of the people had left after their jobs had been eliminated when Nixon turned the war on Poverty into the class war on the poor.  The offices had been leased and remained available.

(In 1969 before all the draconian cuts when there was still a war on poverty, social workers in the Berkeley Welfare office were actually fighting to get SRS paid for by the Medicaid Program.)

Jan and I were unpaid volunteers.  We were the second wave of transsexuals to go through the process of changing sex.

Wendy Kohler, Kathy Gruenier and  Mandy Taylor had been the original founders of the Transsexual Peer Support Organization.

They started it in 1967, years before anyone ever heard of Sylvia Rivera.

What made those of us who came out in San Francisco after 1967 different from those who came before us was a combination of attitude and a sense of freedom.

While Johns Hopkins did very few surgeries and rejected many people seeking surgery, often in ways that were rather nasty, their November 1966 announcement of a surgery program within the US had been extremely empowering to a generation of young kids already empowered by the radicalism of the 1960s.

In the Transgender version of history what we did was impossible.

Supposedly we needed Sylvia Rivera to come along and help us.

Except in San  Francisco Sylvia Rivera was an unknown.  And we had a clown of our own to deal with, a strange attention freak and liar named Angela Douglas who was irritating feminists and creating a negative public image of us as freaks.

We did have  heroes, people like Reed Erickson (a brother). But often  the people who did the most for us were neither transsexual nor transgender, folks like Police Community Relations Officer Elliott Blackstone, Zelda Suplee (Erickson Educational Foundation Executive), Dr Jack Liebmann and Sally Sukow (Dr. Laub’s assistant).

The Transgender Borg Collective mythology tries to rewrite our history and make us seem like fembot puppets controlled by and dictated to by our care givers.

Except it wasn’t that way.  for one thing we were researching our own treatment and using what limited resources we had to educate doctors who were helping us with things like proper hormone dosages and what transsexualism was all about.

We didn’t have a whole lot of material.  Christine Jorgensen’s useless “autobiography”.  Dr.  Benjamin’s book, Stoller’s “Sex and Gender” and the Green and Money “Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment”….  We did have a box of donated books, which is where I read “Charles” Prince’s crap.

But we had something else.  Call it a sort of gut instinct.

We were friends with people who came to the center and listened to them.  It was an era of honest, the same sort of honesty that had made it impossible for me to continue in denial with friends I otherwise trusted.

We had James Driscoll’s article about the transsexual women who had founded the office we were running, we also had visited with him and had spoken to Dr. Benjamin.

We knew that those of us who got SRS were different from those who didn’t.

At first it wasn’t something we could pin down.

But then it hit us pre-op sisters had a sadness and longing we weren’t seeing in the non-transsexual sisters, the one who would later come to be described as transgender.  That sort of sadness and longing led to the term gender dysphoria.

Last weekend, I was curious about the Blogs I was getting traffic from and looked at some of them. A piece by Natasha on her Blog caught my eye. It captured that longing to the point I asked her if I could quote her:

I know some trans women survive a lot of years without SRS or a lifetime even and are just happy living as women and I don’t get it. I really don’t. Every day weighs just a little heavy on me and if I didn’t have to make it through another year, I sure wouldn’t be trying. It’s essentially worse living full time because at least when I’m in disguise, I can do my method acting thing and pretend I’m who I present myself as for a bit.

But now I’m not pretending. And as much as I’m enjoying things, I’m hurting a lot as well. I know a lot of other folks out there are as well. If I had won the powerball last night, I would have taken care of all of you…or a lot of you. But, alas…alack. I did not.

So I’ve gone from 45% good with things to 90% good with things. That’s pretty good, all things considered. But that last 10%? It’s the part that really hurts and the part that really makes this unbearable at times. But that’s life, right?

I contrast this with the acceptance of their bodies that I hear from transgender folks, along with the rationalizations about how it it doesn’t really matter because no one other than an intimate partner ever see your genitals.

Jan and I called the sometime subtle differences in attitudes a matter of smelling right or smelling wrong.  Many times we were better in our evaluations than were the Doctors, who only saw people in clinical settings.

In one case Dr. Laub asked me about a dear friend of mine because he was concerned about approving her for SRS since she was extremely flamboyant.  I knew her very well and also knew she was Southern.  I said “She’s Southern and that sort of flamboyance is common where she grew up.”

As her friend I had listened and had heard the phrasing and the wistfulness and could tell that from the attitudes of other friends who over the years came to accept being transgender and gradually stopped talking about ever having surgery.

When it gets to the point where some one says, “Well if I won the lotto I might finally get SRS.”  They are not transsexual.

Jan and I realized that rather than a continuum transsexual and transgender were more parallel things that look similar but are on different tracks.

In the end though credibility often comes down to whether someone’s narratives smell right or not…

South Korea ‘Free Trade’ Deal: Another Funnel for Exploitation

From In These Times:

By Roger Bybee
Friday Jun 3, 2011

While President Obama and most Congressional Democrats are allowing the Republicans to define America’s most urgent crisis as the budget deficit, the nation’s job deficit grows more dire day by day with no clear, forceful direction coming from the White House.

The adjusted growth rate for the first quarter of the 2011 “recovery” fell to be a miniscule 1.8 percent, sharply sliding from a more vigorous 3.1 percent in the last quarter of 2010. Private-sector jobs grew by a feeble 38,000 last month. Meanwhile, the most meaningful unemployment statistic is not the commonly cited 9 percent, but the “U-6” rate which includes those who have given up seeking work and those stuck in part-time jobs while wanting to work full tim. The U-6 rate now sits at 15 percent five years into the economic crisis.

Misery is pervasive, economist Richard D. Wolff notes grimly:  “One in six members of the US labor force brings home little or no money, burdening family and friends, using up savings, cutting back on spending, etc.”

Unfortunately, Congress—blocked by intransigent Republicans and Democrats incapable of presenting a unified, coherent job-creation plan to the public—is headed in the direction of more domestic job destruction. The timing is unclear, but this summer, Congress may soon be debating a new “free trade agreement” with South Korea (known as “KORUS” to Washington insiders). If adopted, KORUS will only make the job deficit even worse and, ironically, Obama’s re-election less likely.


KORUS is based on the NAFTA model, the outstanding achievement of which was managing to lower living conditions for the majority of citizens in three nations (United States, Mexico, and Canada) simultaneiously.

KORUS has the enthusiastic support of President Barack Obama despite the fact his winning presidential campaign heavily depended on stirring up anti-NAFTA and anti-“offshoring” sentiment in Midwestern industrial states.

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