DTWOF episode #524

March 18th, 2008 | Strip Archive

524 web closeup

Please don’t let this distract you from your article-writing and ad-composing for The Daily Distress!

181 Responses to “DTWOF episode #524”

  1. Uhh…oops. Janis’s shirt isn’t colored in the “you did it” panel. Hmmm. It’s much easier to point this out than fix it.

  2. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    She’s wearing mood clothes!

  3. AndreaC says:

    I say she had just put on her jacket in between screaming things, in preparation for storming out the door.

  4. Aunt Soozie says:

    Aren’t you glad you caught it first!!
    (everyone else is at their typewriter…uhm, computer, writing an article or designing an ad… how many pages is that mock newspaper gonna be??)

  5. Finnish Army says:

    Love Janis’s reaction. I teach high school kids for a living and I recognise the strength of emotion immediately. She also has a point. Parents are invariably better at wanting their children to be like them than allowing the kids to do what they used to do themselves. The argument is as hollow as ever. Perfection, AB, again! Never mind the shirt.

  6. Therry says:

    There was a huge article in the NYTimes mag about traditionally women’s colleges being a haven for trans this is uncannily apt, but trans in high school? Admittedly Janis was trans in kindergarten…

  7. Lisa (Calico) says:

    Well, shiite Alison – at CC we were complaining about Snuffy Smith’s weird hat coloring the other week, which was antithetical to the point of said cartoon.

    The shirt color here has nothing to do with the joke(s), so do carry on without worry! : )

  8. Mabel says:

    Janice and Clarice would be the worst thing ever!

  9. Mabel says:

    Oh, wait, I don’t mean Janice (or even Janis)… what is Janis’ mum’s name?

  10. jayinchicago says:

    “but trans in high school?”

    i was trans in high school. granted, i didn’t tell anyone, but i can’t even imagine what hearing a trans speaker would have done for my self-esteem.
    I support Janis in this endeavor.
    also, i got something different out of that article than you did. but, i guess that’s outside the scope of this discussion. (:

  11. Jasmine is Janis’s mother. That was a mistake, giving them both J names, but water under the bridge now

    Yeah, you should check out the NYT mag article on trans men at women’s colleges, “When Girls Will Be Boys.” It struck me as fairly good.

  12. chriso says:

    I love this latest installment. It’s nice to get a bit more focus on Lois, Janice and Jasmine. And it’s really sweet to see how Clarice can talk all about how she’s enjoying the break from parenting and then can’t stop herself from leaping to being a parental figure in the argument with Janice and Jasmine.

    I think Janice should totally speak at high schools. With heavily armed guards in tow, mind you.

  13. Rohmie says:

    I love how the strip always feels so grounded in physical reality, right down to the tiniest detail. The “*SNEP*” of the cell phone closing was a spot on sound effect.

  14. Bell says:

    Jasmine has a very real fear for her child’s safety. It will be difficult to put that aside and support Janis in her need to reach out to others struggling with transgender issues.

  15. Montrealais says:

    Heh. I remember the first time I ever did a classroom workshop. One of the other people doing it was this fourteen-year-old kid — he was younger than the kids we were addressing, and to top it off it was a school for kids in difficulty (usually with the law).

  16. Mabel says:

    Ok. I don’t want anyone to jump down my throat about this, as it is a genuine question. At the root of the question might be some unacknowledged “transphobia” or something, but well, enough disclaimer…

    Is being trans a medical issue? I know once upon a time being homosexual was medicalised and considered a disorder. We now generally agree that it isn’t something that needs to be diagnosed, treated or cured. IS the same thing to be said about being trans? In practice or in theory?

  17. Scotia says:

    The NYT article was fascinating, though it left me wondering…. Would an MTF trans student ever be accepted to a women’s college? It would be great for Janis to go to some place like Smith or Barnard (bracketing the cost issues). Someone who’s been transitioning for four years would be pretty much woman identified by the time she reached 18. On a side note: while there are still quite a few women’s colleges around, there are almost no men’s colleges, aside from a few very religious schools, or ones that are so closely aligned to a women’s college (Morehouse, Hobart) that they’re practically co-ed. Why do you suppose that is?

  18. Evelyn says:

    I wonder when the time is come for Sparrow to fall for motherhood via remote.

  19. Gwen says:

    That’s a common problem, with FtMs being accepted into “women’s” communities and MtFs being excluded. I believe it’s disrespectful and shows no understanding of transgender people. “Oh, you FtMs may look like men, but we know you’re really still women, so that’s ok; you can still hang out with us. And you MtFs think you’re women, but you were born with penises! Icky! You’re not allowed here!” Whether you’re the one being included or excluded, it’s disrespectful. We’ve got to get past that to a point where we accept that a person’s chosen gender IS their real gender.

  20. Ellen O. says:

    Some thoughts—

    At Smith (and other women’s colleges) the people in question entered as women then transitioned.

    Also, some trans folk see themselves as neither men or women. So it’s complicated.

    As far as all-women colleges, I think because women face discrimination because of our sex, we see benefits in being in an all-female environment. (Similar to historically Black colleges?) Both my nieces went to all-women schools. One is straight and one is gay.

    A year or two on this blog there was a huge discussion on trans acceptance and identification.

  21. Jana C.H. says:

    I notice the Obama signs are on the left side of the sidewalk and the Hillary signs on the right. I would reverse that, though Darwin knows neither of them is genuinely progressive or left of center. I’ll just pretend the signs were arranged as seen from the house.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith JcH: If I can’t have Big Al, gimme Little John!

  22. jayinchicago says:

    I don’t think male-identified ftms (aka trans men, such as myself) should go to women’s colleges. I think it’s a slightly different story for female-assigned people who don’t identify within the gender binary–which is a definition that also works for some ftm-spectrum folks. i know, it can be confusing.
    Women’s colleges will generally let enroll anyone who is “legally female” (though that’s not as pat a definition as it sounds, since there are many aspects of “legal” gender) so a transitioned trans women could conceivably enroll.

    “Is being trans a medical issue?”
    I consider my transsexuality something I am treating medically. It differs from homosexually because being gay doesn’t *need* treatment, and on the other hand many trans people do. I needed treatment to masculinize my body.
    also, there’s no need to put transphobia in “quotes”. It definitely exists.

  23. jayinchicago says:

    “At Smith (and other women’s colleges) the people in question entered as women then transitioned.”

    In the article that’s being referenced, young trans men are starting at women’s colleges already male-identified, some of them undergoing physical transition concurrent with beginning college (at a single-sex college). that’s just weird to me.

  24. Robin B. says:

    I’m guessing that an MTF student, especially one post- or mid-transition, could be seriously considered at a women’s college. I know of at least one openly intersexed person who attended a women’s college (the person had always lived as a woman). Does anyone know of an MTF student attending a women’s college?

  25. kellan says:

    Off topic re: the strip: With regard to transitioned/transitioning FTMs at women’s colleges, Julia Serano (who I think is brilliant, but that’s yet another topic) has written a comment about the problem of FTMs claiming access to women’s spaces, and what it means for MTFs: Having it both ways

    On topic re: the strip: what’s with the sultry, shady glance at Jasmine from Clarice?? For everyone’s sake, I hope Clarice isn’t thinking what it looks like she’s thinking…

  26. Cynthia-Symp says:

    Oh, kellan, I think Clarice is thinking what you think she’s thinking.

  27. AndreaC says:

    I don’t know, kellan, I read Clarice’s look in the third-from-last panel as being an “ugh, fighting! these people are all crazy” look shared with Lois. Lois and Clarice have their eyeballs pointed at each other.

  28. Jim says:

    Well, as a gay male born in 1939 I am a bit of an outsider here, in
    spite of being a camp follower of my fellow Oberlin graduate Alison.
    I do happen to live a block from the Smith campus, so I know all
    too well the mix of people who congregate there, some of whom
    are quite hard to identify by “gender” at first sight. I’m only
    grateful that the cultural world of the US is starting to change,
    even if too late for my generation.

  29. The Cat Pimp says:

    I went to Barnard ages ago and I don’t think there were any trans people there (this was the late 1970s). I think it was just not viewed as an option due to cost and absence of reliable, safe and accessible medical procedures. Personally, I spent much of my time taking classes at Columbia College and would not really care who is in the classroom. I think the true sticky wicket is sharing a bedroom with someone, which is understandable.

    My own take is the real value in same sex education is to get them apart for a few years so the kids don’t distract each other from the subject matter. They kinda get a clue once they’ve passed 17.

    (By the way – I am running into that 15 seconds – “slow down cowboy” message. Anyone else getting that?)

  30. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    I was at Columbia, and at Barnard there were a coupla trans guys who were my friends in ’04 and ’05. They had to challenge the policy, so they were probably the pioneers. But they felt hella inspired by Dean Spade.

  31. Ellen O. says:

    Cat Pimp,

    Concerning your post… except at Smith, maybe 60% of the women’s are bi or lesbian, so there’s lots of distraction.

    I didn’t go to an all-women’s college, but I imagine that it gives women the chance to take more leadership positions within the school, not to have to compete with men for the profs attention (some profs discriminate against women in the classroom), and reduces the temptation (expectation?) to play dumb around the guys. I don’t know if that’s a problem in college as much as middle school and junior high.

    I’d love to hear from women who went to all-women’s colleges or high schools. Wonder if the experience is different for straight women than for lesbians.

  32. Jana C.H. says:

    I don’t see Clarice as jumping into the Mom’s role with Janis. She made a comment to Sparrow about someone they both know and care about. She was not telling Janis she supported her, nor was she making suggestions to Jasmine or Lois about dealing with the situation. It was Jasmine who jumped to claim Clarice as an ally against Lois, who clearly had a different opinion. Clarice can’t escape being pulled into nuclear family traumas no matter where she goes– which, by the way, is how I saw her facial expression in the last panel.

    Great strip, as usual! Don’t freak about the shirt, AB, though when I do that in a cartoon I draw, I freak just the same, and I’m the merest amateur.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  33. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Y’know, the same hate-crime death mentioned in this strip is what finally inspired me to give up on _Lavender_, the Twin Citie’s gay rag, for good. In an (utterly detestable) article on the killing, the writer/editors managed to betray both their blinding whiteness (speculating on whether the killing would have been so nonchalantly received if it had been a white student killing a black classmate for using “black slang”), and their obsequious dedication to heteronormativity. What the article literally said was that the kid should have been directed to a guidance counselor, who should have told him that his cross dressing was putting him in danger. So, uh, the kid brought it on himself for preferring Hello Kitty to Abercrombie? I remember when _Lavender_ was OK (as in, when they carried DTWOF!) but now they just plain suck.

  34. christina says:

    Sex? Drugs? Neither. Both!

    I love that word play! Great work.

  35. falloch says:

    can someone please give a web address for the recent New york times article on transgender mentioned earlier in this thread? Tried to find it, with no luck

  36. kellan says:

    When Girls Will Be Boys

    A caveat: in the opinion of many (both trans and non-trans people), this article is hugely problematic, for several reasons. These include the wish of women at women’s institutions not to have to share their bedroom with someone who uses masculine pronouns and identifies as a man; the fact that the media focus on FTMs at women’s colleges encourages people to think of trans men as not “real men” because of the way some FTMs are shown as continuing to claim access to women’s spaces; and the continuing invisibility of trans people in the media who aren’t a) young, FTM, and adorably gender-binary-smashing about it or b) murdered.

  37. iara says:

    I think the divide among the characters has to do with being the parent of a teenager. It is just amazing how this strip captures the paralyzing fear associated with the mysteries of what goes on in and around high school. Scary stuff!

  38. Anonymous says:

    “I support Janis in this endeavor.”
    “It would be great for Janis to go to some place like Smith or Barnard (bracketing the cost issues).”

    These are cartoon characters (very good cartoon characters, not real people…

  39. alichatty says:

    Ellen O: I may not be historically straight, but I am a bisexual woman in a committed relationship with a man – and I attended an all-women high school in the heart of the South. Having graduated nearly ten years ago, I can attest to the fact that many of the alumni friends and acquaintances I know are strong-willed, assertive, and outspoken professionals. Some of whom have come out as lesbians in the years since graduation, and at least one close friend is in the middle stages of his transition to becoming male.
    Of course, I can only write from my personal experience, but I think it is necessary to mention the exceedingly sheltered environment of my all-female high school, not because of the fact that it was all women, but because gender-specific grade-school learning environments are usually private and very expensive, so, unless you’re someone like me, who happened to get in by the grace of a massive scholarship, most of the students were born into rich, white, conservative families. Granted, my school was pretty close to the buckle of the Bible Belt, but I think, on the whole, this is true. Suffice it to say, its hard to remove enough variables to be empirical about my experience.
    I do know, however, that while it was an excellent facility for institutional learning ad platonic female-solidarity, it was NOT a comfortable forum for lesbian experimentation, let alone transgender experimentation, perhaps to a greater extent because of the peer stigma amongst surrounding co-ed high schools that we were either “prudes, sluts, or dykes.” In a way, it made it harder all around to experiment sexually, with other women, men, or simply oneself. It took college for many of us to crack the subtle heteronormative teaching of that school.

  40. jayinchicago says:

    “These are cartoon characters (very good cartoon characters, not real people…”

    hey now. i have a degree in English. that’s an entire academic field devoted to the study of (mostly) fiction.

    so what of it?

  41. alichatty says:

    ps. sorry for such a long response.
    i didn’t realize how big it was until i posted it! :)

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have a degree in English as well. But I don’t relate to Mrs Dalloway as if she were real… just saying I don’t see how one can “support” a fictional character’s fictional choices or worry about a fictional character’s fictional monetary restraints.

  43. alichatty says:

    It would be interesting to find out just what percentage of Alison Bechdel fans are English scholars. I too have an English degree! (and totally understand getting way too attached to fictional characters…)

  44. Riotllama says:

    Mabel:There is a “Gender Dysphoria” diagnosis in the DSM-IV that could be and is applied to transpeople. If you want to include legal hormones and surgeries in your transition, it is nessesary (in most places in the USA)to get yrself diagnosed as this particular kind of “crazy” in order to get “treatment.”

    Personally I think that’s busted. Being trans is not an illness.

    Kellan, thanks for that Julia Serrano (who *is* totally brilliant)article. I think it is right on.
    Has everyone Julia’s book “whipping girl?”
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/605663.Whipping_Girl_A_Transsexual_Woman_on_Sexism_and_the_Scapegoating_of_Femininity

    and why are you all not my friends on goodreads?
    check my post all the way at the bottom here: http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/from-the-archives#more-549

  45. Riotllama says:

    anonymous.. are you not familiar with the concept of “fanboys”?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanboy#Comic_Book

    ignoring the obvious vagueries of gender here, most people on this blog are hella DTWOF fanboys. Every comic has em.

    at least we don’t demand porn… oh wait.

  46. Quatre says:

    Lois’s expressions are priceless.

  47. shadocat says:

    Whaddaya mean “these aren’t real people?”

    Nooooooo!

  48. Maggie Jochild says:

    My problem with the NY Times article, which is being touted on a lot of blogs as “exemplary”, is that (as alichatty mentioned) it focuses on the financially privileged and elite approach to gender definition. After mentioning that the interview subject couldn’t get his surgery okayed by insurance, it blithely says he paid for it privately. While attending an extremely expensive college.

    But that’s the way class gets ignored (or treated as a moral failing, if you’re not rich) in our current empire in steep decline.

    As someone who, while still a teenager in the very early 1970s, served on a speaker’s bureau at community colleges about being a lesbian, I can relate to the physical risks of being out as non-male, non-het (which IS the deviant gender in our world). Many, many of my out women friends, including my lover, were raped and beaten up during that time period. I believe the violence against women who defy the wider cultural definition of woman (which includes being sexually accessible to men) from that era and, frankly, in most places in the world today is equal to the violence against trans by any definition, in part because the definitions overlap. What we re-named “woman” as dykes in 1971 is virtually identical to a lot of self-defined young tranny women today.

    However, what’s missing from this analysis is not that Jasmine is the single mother of a single child who is trans, or female, but that her child is black. Black kids are exponentially more at risk than white kids, and Jasmine is well aware of it. Furthermore, until recently, her child was a black boy, the most at risk group in America. Given that reality, I’d support her decision because it would be ignorant of me to presume I knew better. And it’s relevant that the other black person in the room “gets it”, too.

  49. LJR says:

    Kellan — thanks for the interesting link (to the juliaserano piece on LJ). Another women’s college graduate here, who knows several transmen who didn’t start transitioning until during or even after their college experience… and yeah, having students who don’t identify as “women” is a problem for a number of reasons. I don’t know what the solution to the problem is (I think it should definitely include MTF’s)… but I definitely share the discomfort with FTMs acting entitled to womanspace.

    I know that this can be read as transphobic, which is something that I try to catch and correct in myself. But it’s a real issue: if you’re making a clubhouse for women, and someone says “I’m not actually a woman, but…” when does what follows that “but” become a reasonable ground to exclude someone? When does having someone who strives to be read “male” in a womanspace make that space less safe for women?

  50. ls56 says:

    Women’s colleges accept transwomen who are “legally female” and can prove it in some way.

    Being “legally female” most of the time means that you have to have surgery and hormones. (which is wrong, in a moral sense.)

  51. sebastian says:

    Jay, you said, “I don’t think male-identified ftms (aka trans men, such as myself) should go to women’s colleges.”

    As an ftm considering transition while attending a women’s college, I’m curious as to why.

    I love my profs and I’m getting a first-rate education and building my self-esteem. Why should I give this up?

  52. chris says:

    brava, Maggie. Thank you.

    DeLand, I read the same Lavender piece and could. not. believe.

    or didn’t want to. Classism and racism are alive and well in the Lavender world.

  53. chris says:

    …and whatever the term is for judging queer youth by their fashion. victimblaming for not being butch/straight-acting? obviously, I am no English professor. neither did I make it through women’s studies.

  54. jayinchicago says:

    “Jay, you said, ‘I don’t think male-identified ftms (aka trans men, such as myself) should go to women’s colleges.’
    As an ftm considering transition while attending a women’s college, I’m curious as to why.
    I love my profs and I’m getting a first-rate education and building my self-esteem. Why should I give this up?”

    Well, only you know if you are male-identified. But if you are, regardless of physical transition plans, you are essentially using your legal sex to trump the wishes of those women who wanted to attend a women-only college. also, your response is really entitled. you might want to check that. you seriously can get a first rate education and build your self esteem at any number of other elite institutions for the privileged. i find this whole argument mildly solipsistic. Please read that Julia Serano essay linked above. Your choices do not only affect you.

    LTR, I hear you. People who live and want to be recognized as men have no place in women’s space, such as it exists. They are not only going against what they are saying to be true about themselves, they are going against the intentions of the space. And they are damaging the perceptions of trans women, as well. You are not being transphobic.

  55. jayinchicago says:

    please note that i’m trying very hard to differentiate male-identified ftm spectrum folks from genderqueer or other non-binary identified ftm spectrum folks. i think it’s important to acknowledge the breadth of the range of trans identities.

  56. alichatty says:

    i don’t mean to jump in on something that I admittedly know little about, but I can’t help but open my big mouth:
    it seems that those of you who would oust either a ftm or a mtf are underestimating the complexity of that self-identification. its a slow and tremendously psychologically taxing transition.
    and if we women, who, in general, spend a lot more time thinking and talking about issues of gender than men do can’t allow ftms in our spaces, where are they to go? why isn’t this such a big deal in the male gay community?
    and its not as if a switch is being flipped, thereby erasing this person’s entire personal history as a woman. its not as though he hasn’t experienced what its like to be a woman in society.
    it seems kind of elitist and unfair to oust anyone who even partially identifies as a woman from women’s spaces, particularly anyone who is so personally tormented with their own identity that they need to transform their body through expensive medications and surgeries…

  57. BrooklynPhil says:

    I apologize if this has been addressed in other posts, but I’m confused about Jasmine’s response to the query “Sex or drugs?” (when she says “Both.”) How is joining a queer speaker’s bureau about drugs? Is that an allusion to artificial hormones?

  58. Ellen O. says:

    BrooklynPhil –

    It’s not about the act of having sex or about using illegal drugs (that’s the “neither”). It is about sex as in fe/male and drugs as in hormones (that the “both.”)

    Pretty darn clever of Alison, isn’t it?

  59. sebastian says:

    My school is not “elite” nor am I economically priviledged. I am in this college because they gave me a scholarship and grant to help me pay. As an independent adult, I am paying for school through student loans.

  60. jayinchicago says:

    “it seems kind of elitist and unfair to oust anyone who even partially identifies as a woman from women’s spaces, particularly anyone who is so personally tormented with their own identity that they need to transform their body through expensive medications and surgeries…”

    this is not talking about ousting anyone that “even partially” identifies as a woman. this is discussion around whether men who call themselves men and either live as men or plan to, belong in women’s spaces. given that i am a transsexual man, this topic is very interesting and important to me. i don’t want my “women’s history” (presumptuous, isn’t it) to grant me access into space where I don’t belong.

    and i am but one trans person, but let me assure you that I am not at all “personally tormented” with “my own identity”. the torment was having to live as something i am not. it really was and is that simple. and actually, my HRT is about $35 for a 5 months supply.

  61. ready2agitate says:

    Jay, I find your views refreshing. Maggie, I was pained to know that your lover was among the many lesbian feminists in the 70s who was raped and assaulted for coming/speaking out.

    ***

    Everyone, how on earth do y’all find the time for three ongoing DTWOF blog conversations plus Daily Distress articles & ads all at the same time??? Should I write a personal ad for a drop-in support group for DTWOF blog addicts, er, I mean, fanboys, who can’t get their work/family/sex/lives/pets/food needs, etc. taken care of due to the lure of the DTWOF blog? Yowsa.

  62. jessica max stein says:

    a few thoughts… mabel, some people consider trans a medical issue, as queerness was once seen. this viewpoint is maybe useful to some people but to me it’s pathologizing.

    one thing that really got me about that nyt article was the section where they were interviewing someone who “eschewed pronouns,” and then referred to hir as “she”.

    my vote on clarice’s face in the last strip is an apologetic face at clarice.

    another great strip!

  63. Bill says:

    To be honest, being a bi FTM myself, I don’t get why any trans guy would want to join a woman’s only college. It just immediately makes me think of an Animal House sketch with a guy in drag sneaking into the woman’s locker rooms and making out with the lesbains. It just seems a bad joke and no one would take your transition seriously. Fair enough if you’re someone who deep down doesn’t really have any gender identity, and is a real ‘hir’ or whatever the lingo is, but why would a run-of-the-mill transguy want to spend his time completely surrounded by women?
    Wait a sec…
    Loved the comic.

  64. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    I only graduated high school, Alichatty, but I rather suspect I could still nail a Master’s in English Lit. in just a few years, if I honestly thought it worth the trouble — I was tested at a “Grade 16″ reading level in Grade 7 (I’m 38 now) — but my financial situation makes any thought of college/uni laughable, as it is. Even if I got a break on tuition, by some miracle, the list of required books I’d need to buy would still be enough to force me to a near-starvation diet. I don’t tend to rely on convenient miracles, especially not for things I don’t really need. Feh.

    Incidentally, I’m also trans (MTF), though the aforementioned situation also makes that irrelevant, since my provincial government (BC) doesn’t include SRS on the list of medical procedures paid for under the Medical Services Plan (MSP) [thank you Gordon Campbell (and cronies) you steaming POS]. They’re “cosmetic surgeries”, you see — not essential for life. Not like I *need* to be the woman on the outside that I am on the inside, or anything. Not like I have days when not being a woman makes me want to scream, or take up political assassination, you know. Anyway.

    Snarky

  65. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    …Sorry if that got a bit OT, there. Not to mention OTT.

    Snarky

  66. Butch Fatale says:

    Ellen O., when I was at Smith it was more like 30% (according to many student surveys in methods classes – the only research done on the matter as of the early 00′s). 60% is a large proportion, even for Smith or Northampton.

    The FTMs at a women’s college question is certainly a sticky wicket. I think there’s a lot to be debated about it, but I for one am not comfortable telling someone who may have gotten their best deal financial aid-wise at a women’s college that they have to go somewhere else. This is not in response to the article, btw, it is in response to what it costs to go to college and the opportunities presented by a fat financial aid package.

  67. shoshana says:

    This is completely off the topic of the current strip. I am an intermittent lurker. The other night, in one of those “totally random yet clear thinking while wide awake in the middle of the night” episodes, I realized what I miss about the strip–I miss the bookstore! The bookstore was both a character in itself, in some sense; it was also a community setting where anyone could and did walk onstage at any time.

    Much as I love Lois and Sparrow and JR and even Stuart (I identify with his humorless earnest-ness) and now Ginger and the others who show up at the house, I am a little bored with them!

    I wonder about Jezanna and her girlfriend and Albert and his girlfriend; I wonder about Thea; I miss the references to current teen and 20-something culture the interns brought with them.

    Is there some other public space that can serve the function that Madwimmin’s served in the strip?

  68. shoshana says:

    oops, I meant to say Clarice where I said Ginger above.

  69. a different Emma says:

    Snarky– Sorry to hear that Campbell et. al are getting you down. Here in Ontario you can’t even get the “sex letter” on your driver’s license switched without irreversible surgery. Also not covered, if I’m correct. (Which I might not be, since I don’t need to switch the “sex letter” on my driver’s license.)

    How can our so-called universal health care system say no to such a basic (not to mention safety-related) human right?

  70. Kelli says:

    Anonymous: To say we “support” such-and-such character doing X or Y or Z is shorthand. It means that we would support a storyline in which our illustrious illustrator Alison chose to move the plot in that direction.

  71. Naava says:

    Mannn, Clarice should watch out with that ‘parenting by remote’ thing. When Raffi gets old enough to be resentful (or stops trying to escape reality through the wonders of pot), he’s going to give her hell for it. While I can empathize with the relief she feels at getting a breather from the situation at home, this is more of the same for her. I wish she could just be present, if only for Raffi’s sake.

    Gah. Too much treating cartoon characters like real people, methinks.

  72. DaneGreat says:

    Butch Fatale, I’m currently a senior at Smith, where the debate about transfolk is still alive and well. I also read the NYT article, and, while aware of its shortcomings, found it to be one of the more competently written and respectful articles out there.

    I’m firmly in the camp of “all transfolk belong at women’s colleges, if they want to be there.” I see this as falling within the boundaries of what a women’s college – an institution designed to nurture and educate those whose gender made it impossible for them to be treated fairly or seriously elsewhere.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that most transmen who come out at women’s colleges had no idea they were trans until long after they got there. My boss at Smith, the director of institutional diversity, gets hundreds of angry phone calls after every Thanksgiving and Christmas, from parents demanding to know what “you’ve done with our daughters.” Lots of us come out in one way or another over that first school break.

  73. DaneGreat says:

    grammatical typo *falling in the boundaries of what a woman’s college is*

  74. ksbel6 says:

    I may be totally wrong on this, but don’t most transgendered people know VERY EARLY that something is wrong? Unlike gay/lesbian/bi folks who may (or may not, some know early on) experiment with several varieties before settling into their role, I think transgendered people are often the boy on the playground playing with barbies, or the girl being told she is in the wrong bathroom until she is about 25. In which case, I agree with Jay…if one identitfies as male, why would they want to go to an all female college?

  75. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Hear hear, Chris. I realize that I probably should have bitched directly to _Lavender_ about that article, but I thought I stood a better chance of reading an intelligent, well-argued series of posts here. :D

  76. sebastian says:

    ksbel6: Not all transpeople follow the same path, nor do people necessarily know about the possibility of transgender in highschool.

    It’s not always an easy or obvious decision, either.

  77. ksbel6 says:

    I’m not suggesting that the decision to change would be easy, that would be incredibly difficult…shaking the entire history of the family, etc. It just seems like they are all quoted as saying something along the lines of knowing they were in the wrong body since they could remember.

  78. tas says:

    So sad to see Clarice falling into the absent parent routine out of convenience. She’s never been the greatest mom in the world, but I didn’t expect her to fall out so quickly, especially at a time when Raf seems to need her influence most.

  79. ready2agitate says:

    Knowing you are in the wrong body as long as you can remember, and realizing that this is not just the way it is (and how it has to be) — that there is support out there and that changing is a possibility — are different processes.

    The empowerment process to transition is just that, a process. Many of us reach adulthood before we go “ah-ha!” and put all the pieces together for ourselves identity-wise. I imagine this is what is happening to transfolks at women’s colleges. Once away from home, childhood, and adolescence, they start to move closer to their truer identities.

    And as far as I know, transfolks are not “shaking the entire history of the family, etc.” they are integrating their past, present, and future, like many of us. Even if they did not feel they were in the right gender for their entire past, they aren’t shaking it off like something that didn’t exist.

    As a non-transperson, though, I’d be happily corrected.

  80. Suzanonymous says:

    I liked that AB bothered to put the little bus vehicle ID numbers detail on there.

    I was struck somehow by the way a bus rider gets exhaust fumes to remind her of the carbon footprint, while a car rider doesn’t. That’s ironic, since a single car to transport one person around causes more emissions per rider (I assume).

  81. Fabian Alvarez says:

    That’s quite curious, I’m also an English scholar… I have a degree in English Philology.

  82. Riotllama says:

    I had a friend who was at Bryn Mawr and transferred to Warren Wilson (co-ed)after coming out as trans and beginning hormones.

    I agree with most of what Jayinchicago says about transmen checking their priveledge and opting out of sapce designated for a gender they don’t identify as. I also agree with him in that the complexities of gender as a non-binary thing often make that confusing and blurry. Not all transpeople feel that they are the “opposite” gender than the one they were assigned at birth. I’m one of those people. As someone who identifies as “Genderqueer” but has no plans to use either hormones or surgery, I often have the privilege of not having to come out to anyone. The times when I pass as male are rare enough that I often use “women’s spaces” such as bathrooms, because they are safer for me. There are no “Nerdy Pirate” spaces that I know of. (if you know of one, can I come visit?)

    It would be nice if trans’ colleges existed, but they don’t. Women’s colleges exist as alternatives to spaces that may be multi-gendered spaces(nominally, or in actuality)but may have too “dudely” an energy for many women to feel comfortable, safe, or like they are getting the most out of their experience there. Many of these women’s spaces are expanding to include transpeople of all flavours in their definition of space and in some instances (attempts at paralell festivals to MWMF come to mind) transfolks are making their own spaces. I used to volunteer at a bike shop where we taught people how to fix their own bicycles. 4 years ago some of us noticed that certain people weren’t using the shop because they felt uncomfortable and intimidated by the “bike dude” atmosphere. A couple people would only come on nights when they knew that I or one of 2 female identified people would be working. So we started a women and trans only night. It’s been a success.

    I really don’t want to re-open the MWMF argument so i want to say that i understand the plurality of opinions on this issue, but I really think that women’s spaces should be opened to trans people of all design. I want to ad the caveat here that transmen who identify as male and want to live as male should really consider their own priveledge, power, and position in the world and not take advantage of these spaces, even as they are open to them.

  83. Les says:

    I’m ftm and I went to a women’s college. No, I didn’t know at age 5. Or age 15. Or age 25, although I’d begun to suspect by then.

    Going to a women’s college was great for me. Because there wasn’t gender pressure like there was in high school. I wasn’t expected to be girly. I’m glad I went. Some of my classmates began to transition while enrolled. Some, like me, didn’t start until later.

    While I don’t currently ID as a woman, I’ve had the negative oppressions related to being read as a woman AND I’ve had the oppressions related to being gender variant. When patriarchy tells you that you can’t possibly succeed in math or technology (because you’re a girl), they don’t both to first find out if you really ID as a girl, they just say you suck. Studies show that butch women actually get this more, not less, because they threaten the idea of male dominance. So pre-ftms get this double.

    When patriarchy gives encouragement to the schemes and dreams of boys, they don’t bother trying to figure out which girls might turn out to be boys, they just tell everyone they think is a girl to dream smaller.

    When patriarchy constructs gender as a binary of winner/loser, good/bad, male/female (to paraphrase Helène Cixous), they don’t excuse people who don’t fit on their assigned side.

    What is the POINT of women’s space? It’s for people on the losing side of the binary to band together and fight for their rights. Well, I’ve been on the losing side for most of my life.

    Certainly, I’m not going to spend time in transphobic women’s spaces or places where I’m not welcome. Honestly, I don’t know how male privilege will change this for me. I’ve only started to pass recently. It is really a different experience being treated as a straight white guy than a butch dyke. I mean, I knew intellectually, but I had no idea. This makes me want to fight more for feminism, not less.

    I went to Mills College. We took anybody “legally female.” Because around half of our students were 25 or over, this has probably including mtfs. We also had an mtf on faculty in the math department.

    . . . In that nyt article, the one guy that started at the women’s college after he started T probably didn’t belong there. He was 18. He was probably trying to make his parents happy. It’s a well known fact that 18 year old boys are kind of stupid. So was this one. It makes me uncomfortable that he’s some kind of symbol. I wish his story was seen as just his story and not some larger narrative for all trans guys.

    And also, I mean, c’mon, how many of us were insufferable when we first came out as dykes? Rainbow shit everywhere? Capitl-P Pride? Super adamant and annoying. It’s part of being young.

  84. Les says:

    ksbel6: For a lot of trans people, if you don’t say that you knew since age 2, you’re not going to get hormones. For a lot of trans people, you have to SAY you want surgery even if you don’t, or you’re not going to get hormones.

    I feel very lucky that I didn’t have to lie.

    As for medicalizing the issue: starting hormones without a doctor involved is a bad idea. But the baggage associated with medicalization is optional. Getting eyegalsses without an optomotrist is a bad idea too, but we don’t talk about a stigma for eyecare, nor do we restrict it only to people who would be unable to drive without glasses. The baggage associated with trans issues comes out of prejudice, plain and simple.

    I’d like to see hormones for anybody who asks for them. I’d like to see the end to even having a “legal sex”. People don’t have a legal race. They don’t have a legal religion. Why not just have them self-report when it’s time to collect statistics? The only use I can see for giving people a legal sex is to discriminate in marriage or to try to find somebody (wanted, missing person, etc (again, why not just ask which to use?)).

    Sorry for going on and on and on about this. I’m just coming out and starting transition and am totally in the rainbow shit everywhere phase.

    Also, I love DTOWF and have since I was a young dyke. :)

  85. Jana C.H. says:

    Pope Snarky said: “I only graduated high school…”

    Make that “I only graduated from high school…”, or if you want to be truly anal-retentive, “I only was graduated from high school…” The school graduates the student; the student does not graduate the school. (Only here can one make a comment like this and be seen not as grossly rude but as sharing tips with a fellow-fanatic. Forgive me, O Pope!)

    Not an English major, just a geographer and amateur language nerd.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Arthur Pinero: Where there is tea, there is hope.

  86. Butch Fatale says:

    Les, folks in the US don’t have legal religions, but it’s documented by plenty of European governments.

    I’m glad to see so many gender variant and trans folks talking about their experiences & opinions on here. It is, of course, the only antidote to totalizing statements about what ______ want/are like/experience/think. I’m also excited to see a fellow Smithie on here, DaneGreat. As I recall, this time during my senior year was when the graduation panic started to set in. Resist!

    I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the article, but now I’ll have to because you’ve all piqued my interest.

  87. KC in SD says:

    I’ve felt like I was in the wrong body for as long as I can remember. But changing gender was too big a step. I concluded it makes more sense to work towards eliminating gender roles altogether (or trying to ignore them) than redoing one’s body. But how to accomplish this? It looked like it was starting to happen in the 70s, but then reversed course. The whole issue makes me crazy, the way the fashion industry dictates femininity/masculinity, and the way we buy it. Women will wear the most impractical clothes imaginable while men’s clothes get progressively baggier and more comfortable. Gender roles seem to be here to stay…vive la difference and all that. One reason I enjoyed Juno-the-movie so much was not just her attitude but her attire. Probably seen as a boyish phase to most viewers, but to my mind revolutionary. In these post-modern times there is choice, not like heaven-forbid the 50s. Of course the issue goes way beyond clothing: how you carry yourself, present yourself, how you sit, how you do everything, basically. Choosing to change genders means adopting all the opposite roles and ways of being, rather than eliminating them. But… we have to live in the times to which we’re born and go with the identities that feel right. I don’t mean to judge folks here — I’m really sorry if it sounds that way. After all, had I been born a little (okay, a lot) later I may well have taken that path.

  88. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Jana: ;-{P}

    Snarky

  89. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    If I’d woken up to the fact of my inner woman at the same time as I did my bisexuality (in 1990 — and I literally woke up to it, too, in the middle of the night — I can be thick…), I’d have transitioned before Gordogekko and his band of cutthroats took over in Victoria, but instead, I’m stuck with Liberals-in-name-only for years to come, before I can even think about it, in more than a wishful sense. Yeah, I’ve been mentally kicking myself for quite awhile.

    Snarky

  90. Jana C.H. says:

    Snarky! You’re in B.C.! I’m a border town kid from way-back.

    Hiya, neighbor!

    JcH
    Seattle

  91. Bell says:

    So does anyone feel Jasmine’s sense of terror for her child here? It’s the only reason she doesn’t want Janis to do the speakers gig. Are we Mom’s to bear this alone? No words to assure her that ‘the family’ will, of course, watch out for Janis, even if they have to do it incognito?

  92. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Hiya, Jana! I’ve always lived in Greater Van, too — born in the City of Vancouver, for that matter — and live out in the ‘burbs, now. One of a very few…

    I understand Jasmine’s terror, yes, Bell, but I also get Janis’ need to stand up and claim her own identity as Spartacus. I didn’t get a chance to have that issue (or the bi issue) in high school, due to being a thickie about them into my twenties, but I _was_ still one of the biggest nerds in my class, due to my taking up reading big-time in Grade 2. I was into sf by Grade 4, so I caught all kinds of hell for that alone. Encountering homo-, bi- and transphobia would merely have been “MOTSS” for me, really.

    Snarky

  93. bcgal says:

    Les, please don’t apologize for “going on and on” (although I love your description of the “rainbow shit everywhere” phase). I found all your comments insightful and thought-provoking. I particularly appreciated “the point of women’s space …” being “for people on the losing side of the binary to band together and fight for their rights.” I have a feeling I’m going to be quoting this often, it’s such a perfect crystallization of a whole politics.
    Appreciations to everyone contributing to this topic — much food for political rumination here. I always learn something on this blog.

  94. ready2agitate says:

    Les said: “…Super adamant and annoying. It’s part of being young.” Cool that AB has captured that with Janis. It’s Janis’s right to go through that rite of passage like all of us did, as Les reminds. And it’s our job to make sure she’s safe doing so.

  95. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    ready2agitate said: “And it’s our job to make sure she’s safe doing so.”

    Well, our job to make sure the Janises of the world are safe doing so, anyway…;-{P}

    Snarky

  96. jayinchicago says:

    les said:
    “When patriarchy tells you that you can’t possibly succeed in math or technology (because you’re a girl), they don’t both to first find out if you really ID as a girl, they just say you suck. Studies show that butch women actually get this more, not less, because they threaten the idea of male dominance. So pre-ftms get this double.”

    First, you are assuming that all “pre-ftms” were butch women, which isn’t at all true. Secondly, I feel like I didn’t pick up as much female socialization as other female-assigned people because, while i didn’t allow myself to identify as a boy for years after it was clear “something” was going on, i also disregarded a lot of messages society gives to women. I just knew they didn’t apply to me. So in my particular case, I don’t think I experienced sexism in the same way as a female-identifying female-assigned person. This is part of why, by my own ethics, i avoid women (and women and trans) space.
    I don’t discount your opinions and experiences. I just bristle at all the generalizations.

    KC in SD said:
    “Of course the issue goes way beyond clothing: how you carry yourself, present yourself, how you sit, how you do everything, basically. Choosing to change genders means adopting all the opposite roles and ways of being, rather than eliminating them.”

    First off, I didn’t choose to ‘change genders’ as you put it. I accepted that I was male and needed to have my body match my self-image for my mental health and continued good functioning.

    I also reject your idea that transitioning means adopting all the opposite roles and ways of being, rather than eliminating them. First, I think expecting *more* out of trans people than you would out of anyone else is transphobic, and if that word doesn’t do it for you, than to put it another way: trans people shouldn’t be expected to be the engines of gender binary smashing–at least not any more than anyone else should be. i know that’s hard for people who have thought about transitioning and have rejected it for various reasons to accept. but i believe we are in this together and i am totally willing to work in solidarity to create non-coercive and non-punitive genders. but at the same time, that means that i have the freedom to sculpt and change my body as I see fit, for my well-being. i will only be allied to a movement that accepts that i know best for myself and my body.

    secondly, and sorry for the longwinded hooha, many trans people transition (or not) and have complicated relationships to their “new” bodies and social roles. though i am masculine and increasingly “male-bodied” i can think critically about what it means to be a man, and i chose not to replicate parts of american maleness that i find unsavory. i don’t like this idea that trans people are too duped or stupid to not be able to react to coercive binary gender in exactly the same ways we did pre-transition. i didn’t let living as female dictate my social gender; i’m not going to as a male either.

    while i don’t mind these kind of discussions and actually love being able to clarify and defend my positions, i get a little tired of the binary-transsexuals-as-scapegoats trope.
    are non-transsexuals who generally fit into binary gender exempt from this kind of criticism?

  97. ksbel6 says:

    Jay, I agree with your account of sexism…I was told for the first time that I was good at math when I was very young and was encouraged by all of my math teachers all the way through school to get a math degree (which I did with very little trouble…the masters in math was much more difficult so I ended up switching half way through and my masters is actually in education). Most of those teachers were men.

    Also, I really appreciate you information. You are very well informed and it is great of you to share your experiences.

  98. Ellen O. says:

    I’m curious to hear what people think about the intersection of feminism and transgender issues. KC said that in hir case, eliminating gender roles felt like a better direction to go than changing hir gender. That’s always seemed to me what feminism was about, eliminating gender roles.

    Are their places that gender elimination and blurring can take us that feminism cannot?

  99. Virginia Burton says:

    The article gave me a good laugh about how feminine & “girls-with-pearls” the Barnard women are.

    In 1963 I was accepted to Barnard from an upper middle class public high school in San Antonio. I was scared to go~didn’t think I was smart enough, plus I was determined to suppress my bi side by having a steady boyfriend at O.U. whom I’d never get to see if I went that far away. My father was all for Barnard, but my mother wanted me to have a social/sorority life elsewhere.

    When I visited Barnard, I experienced huge culture shock: the filthy dorm rooms, the dirty hair, the slovenly clothing! I decided to go to SMU and when Barnard wrote to ask why I turned them down, I said that the girls didn’t take pride in their personal appearance!

    I’ll bet that letter is still passed around the Admissions Office!

  100. Maggie Jochild says:

    I REALLY appreciate how much care folks in this discussion are taking to define their terms. It’s been my conviction for a long time that the arguments arising in our community over this (and other) issues are, to some degree, the result of two different interpretations of the same terms, without recognizing or respecting such. Honestly, I can’t thank you enough. And particular thanks to JayinChicago for clarity and respect.

    I’m listening. And learning.

    Though not always agreeing, and that’s fine. The only difference I want to point out at the moment is that my definition of women’s colleges (or girls’ schools) would not be that they MUST fill the role of sanctuary for anyone who does not fit the default “normal” for gender (which is a straight male who passes as such). I think it’s legitimate for anyone in a target group for oppression to define themselves and choose their focus, temporarily or long-term.

    The analogy would be: Do the traditionally African-American colleges in the U.S. have an obligation to accept any person of color, anyone who is target for racism, and develop programs to meet their needs as well as a strictly African-American culture and curriculum? While I can see that other target groups for racism do not have the same access to a focused education offered black kids by the likes of Spelman, etc., I think the onus for creating those outlets falls on those of us who are non-target for racism (whites) rather than the one group who has managed to create a network of colleges of color.

    And, in particular, whenever I hear the idea that it is, once again, up to women to make sure everybody crapped on by woman-hating feels better, I have an emotional rejection of of being saddled with that burden without my consent. I want the chance to give consent. I mean, the fact is, woman-hating lays waste to everything it touches, including boys and men raised with the toxicity of masculinity. Not to the same degree or in the same ways, but when the song says “The rising of the women means the rising of the race” (human race, for clarification), I’ve always believed it. I’m in this for us all. But I get to choose where my energy goes.

  101. nonabug says:

    wow! i just dropped by to read the new comic (another great one btw!-the facial expressions really are immaculate…) and wound up spending about an hour reading articles and comments! In a way, I am more excited about the productive and enlightening debate elicited by the NYT article than the piece itself. Maggie, I totally appreciate your comparison to racially defined spaces, and the concern for providing “sanctuary for anyone who does not fit the default ‘normal’ for gender.” That’s a great point. Also, Jay, your insight and explanations have been tremendously valid (and patient :) ). I can’t really contribute my own opinion yet (I am a student at a public university which only recently instituted a Women’s Studies Major – yay! – so we’re excited if anyone is interested in gender issues), but I will be forwarding this discussion on to the members of my Rhetorics of Embodiment class for further debate.
    Thanks for all the brain food!

  102. Les says:

    Butch Fatale: Yeah, and European religion registries were really helpful to Nazis when they were tying to figure out who to deport. Which is why they’re now completely illegal in France. (France doesn’t even collect anonymous census data on religion, which I think might be going too far.) Also, many European countries are still legally Christian or Catholic. Like England, Denmark and Austria. (I find it especially alarming that Austria has an official religion). In the last three years,, I’ve lived in France, the Netherlands and Britain and usually try to take some sort of trip on every longish school break, so I’ve been around a lot of western Europe recently. I used to think Europe was really enlightened on things like secularism. They’re not. Well, France is. But I think given Europe’s relative recent history they should REALLY drop the legal religion ting. Germany still does this too! they collect tithes on behalf of churches. Their state should stay the hell out of policing religions! Why not quit being gender police too?

    jayinchicago: sorry for saying that all ftms were butch before they were ftm. You’re totally right and I should have known better.

    I want to assert, though, that while you, happily, were able to not internalize negative messages about women and girls, the external pressures of these might have still applied. I mean, I don’t know you, so it’s possible you had a really progressive, wonderful childhood. I was always being told I couldn’t be a boyscout. I couldn’t be an altar boy. I couldn’t play football. I couldn’t stay out too late, etc etc etc.

    My dad taught me how to solder and repair electronic things because I begged him to, but he made me promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone that he had. Meanwhile, my brother was encouraged to build all kinds of things and got tools as gifts. I got hair dryers.

    Unfortunately, I DID internalize all these things. (Alas, it’s part of why I spent so very many years questioning. Am I really trans or do I just still want to be an altar boy? haha. It made things especially confusing for me.) But even if I hadn’t, I was still experiencing patriarchy trying to lower my horizons. I learned fewer skills when I was a kid because of this.

    KC in SD: I HATE American men’s fashions. Whoever came up with the idea that sloppiness equals masculinity is a bad person.

    Maggie Jochild: I would find it problematic if a historically black college had a policy against admitting certain minorities, like “no asians” or, maybe worse, if they had some sort of test for who was black enough. I’ve seen that dynamic in undergraduate student politics and it’s really ugly.

    To me it seems really obvious that most people who want to go to women’s colleges would see themselves as some kind of woman or female, at least when they started. An ftm who saw themselves as 100% male would feel out of place. He would find his assertions of 100% male masculinity constantly contradicted by his environment. Then, when he graduated, his transcripts and whatnot will list a women’s college. He can never be stealth. He has to come out to everybody whenever they ask about where he went to school. (Or lie.) He has to come out when interviewing for jobs. It’s a hassle that I think most would chose to avoid. The guy in the NYT article is an exception to this rule, but he ended up transferring, which was probably a good choice for him.

    “it is, once again, up to women to make sure everybody crapped on by woman-hating feels better” . . . well this assumes that all trans-masculine spectrum people are coming in from outside demanding you comfort them. But many don’t come from outside. I’ve marched for choice and done clinic defense, even though I was fairly certain I would never need an abortion. I’ve done activism for women’s rights (and TG rights). I’m sorry you feel the way that you do because I thought we were all in this together and have given a lot of energy to feminism and will continue to do so. I don’t do it because I’m some super enlightened liberal guy (ugh, they drive me crazy) but because I see my survival as intrinsically linked to yours. The kind of society in which women prosper also tends to be good for trans folks and vice versa. Do I have to now leave all the clubs I joined when I was still thinking of myself as a woman? Have those affiliations become false as I’ve changed? Have I re-written my past?

    But I mean, I can’t say that I see masculinity as toxic. I see the circumscribing of roles based on genitals as toxic. Is that what you mean? Do you think butch dykes are toxic or is it only toxic when it’s heteronormative?

    As to smashing gender: most people like having a gender. Heck, most people are internally compelled to have a gender. There’s nothing wrong with liking pink and sewing or liking math and the guitar. The problem is when patriarchy asserts that you can’t both like sewing and math or your genitals compel you into a certain set of tastes. Most everybody would keep some gender even if it was optional. That’s fine. But let’s stop seeing only two categories with one of them branded inferior. And for Christ’s sake, biology is NOT destiny! It’s not even immutable! This is the 21st century, we can be whatever we want!

  103. Dr. Empirical says:

    Such an informative, and civilized discussion! Not one, alas, in which I feel qualified to participate, but congratulations to all involved!

  104. Butch Fatale says:

    Oh man, Les, I did not mean to imply it was positive to have to register your religion. Thank you for your extended response, as it filled in with actual information what I was trying to refer to (in an unfairly short-hand way). Germany is progressive in a lot of ways, and France is certainly not a paragon of all things free-thinking. I really find the yearning for western europe-style living among some progressives frustrating for exactly this reason. We are different countries with different histories, which leads to a lot of differences. To put it in a rather trite way. While there’s a lot to be admired in Germany’s post-WWII history, it certainly shouldn’t be looked to as an overall model. Particularly if we’re talking about racism and immigration politics, we don’t necessarily want to look to France and Germany for lessons on how to handle it better than we do.

    As to the discussion of whether one should change one’s sex or change society (which I’ve heard many times, and frequently from my mother, who was far more masculine when she was growning up than I was), I see that as a false dichotomy. The choice of whether to pursue a medical avenue to make right what feels wrong is not capitulation to the patriarchy. The idea that being FTM or MTF somehow puts you on the side of the powers that be ignores the extent to which transgendered persons are devalued medically, legally and socially, and it designates socially accepted genders as somehow false or anti-revolutionary/anti-feminist/anti-queer. It is not the proportionally few people who are able to afford the means to legally and medically transition who are responsible for oppressive gender roles, and it is not feminine women and masculine men of any medical status or identity who enforce those roles by their adherence to them. It’s the system which values and rewards certain identities and behaviors above others which keeps us all under threat, even those it seems to benefit.

  105. Butch Fatale says:

    Addendum:

    I meant to say in my last comment that my mother was a far more masculine girl when she was growing up than I was when i was going up. I did not mean to imply some sort of temporal rift whereby we had simultaneous childhoods.

    Les, I just went back and read the rest of your long and wonderful comment. I appreciate your addressing the question of why a transman would be interested in attending a women’s college.

    I’d also like to ask if we could examine the question of safety and sanctuary. The question of how male identified folks in women’s spaces imperils the safety of those women has been brought up, and I’d like to know what people mean by that. My girlfriend and I were harassed in college — by women. My choices around my body, identity, how much to drink and what I was comfortable with physically and with whom were all put down, belittled and marginalized or ignored by women. I know I have an instinctive feeling of needing to protect myself around large groups of guys, or even sometimes one guy, so I’m not questioning whether the presense of men often makes women feel unsafe. I’m questioning the implication that being around only women is safe. I can tell you that if all the other masculine folks at Smith had left I would have felt incredibly unsafe.

  106. Maggie Jochild says:

    Les, I was talking specifically about admission to women-only colleges, not “all the clubs” you’ve belonged to. Don’t set up a straw man, here, in order to assume a division I’m not stating.

    If you identify as woman, then surely you at least comprehend (although you may not agree) that a founding principle of feminism is that female conditioning differs markedly from male conditioning, one aspect of which is that females are responsible for the emotional well-being of everyone, themselves and males. I was pointing out that the expectation that females assume the job of ensuring the emotional well-being of ANYONE who is feeling excluded from the patriarchy is sexist, and encouraging us to place that responsibility on those who actually hold the power — which, if you identify as male, IS you.

    I think it’s legitimate for a black university to limit enrollment to blacks only. I don’t think it’s racist for groups who are target for racism to define their own race. They don’t hold the institutional power — whites do.

    It’s about the power, not the visible differences.

    To clarify my terminology: I’m not an essentialist. I do not believe that gender behavior (or brain structure), sexual orientation, race, class, or masculinity/femininity exist biologically in a meaningful or demonstrable way. I believe they are all constructs which vary from culture to culture and era to era, and that (in part) the advocacy of them as biologically determined DOES feed the status quo power structure, which is patriarchal and white supremicist. I don’t think human liberation will occur until all these cultural constructs are recognized and respected as choices, without power being assigned to one group or another — and I believe when that occurs, most people will not choose identities that in any way resemble what we gather together as identities today.

    And — I believe that some identities (white, “upper class”, masculine/feminine) are so dependent on oppressive ideology and segregation for their definition that they are beyond rehabilitation. Which is not to say we should give up being white, for instance — just recognize it’s a meaningless category as we’ve defined it, based on putting everyone else into the “other” box, hoarding resources, living in denial/confusion, colonizing the planet, and claiming biology where none exists. Once you undo those lies, the “race” itself vanishes and you can think flexibly.

    So, when I use these terms, that’s what I mean. I understand we don’t agree. We can work in alliance where we do agree.

  107. Maggie Jochild says:

    Butch Fatale, yeah, I noticed the safety issue had been brought up, too. I think it’s not addressable — I can’t actually make someone else “feel” anything. I can insure actual safety of others, to some extent, but that won’t necessarily mean they “feel” it. Which has led us astray for 30 years.

    Rather, I think the only goal we CAN achieve (aside from actual safety, of course) is relative freedom from male conditioning in a learning environment: The opportunity for those raised with female conditioning to find out what that means free from the constant defining of female which comes from males, and, hopefully, to sort out which pieces are human, which pieces are not. Female-on-female mistreatment exists and damages us all. But it does not actually carry the weight of 3000 years of patriarchy behind it, and being able to make that distinction turns out to be critical for a long of girls/women to come into their own power.

  108. Butch Fatale says:

    I think that female/female mistreatment does indeed carry that weight. If men have the power, and women gain power by the men who deem them worthy, then other women are the enemy. The threat of non-conforming women is always responded to not just by men but also other women.

    So if you’re invested in people socialized as women being in an environment focused on providing a space relatively detatched from patriarchical values (which in my experience is a debatable description of a women’s college, but I think not an uncommon one), why the objection to FTMs at a women’s college?

  109. Maggie Jochild says:

    I’m turning off the italics I so thoughtlessly left on, sorry. And — I’d like to debate the question, Butch Fatale, but I’m going to leave room for others to speak here. Not abandoning you or the issue, just sitting out for a bit.

  110. Ginjoint says:

    I think it’s legitimate for anyone in a target group for oppression to define themselves and choose their focus, temporarily or long-term.

    whenever I hear the idea that it is, once again, up to women to make sure everybody crapped on by woman-hating feels better, I have an emotional rejection of of being saddled with that burden without my consent.

    YES. Especially the second paragraph – that whole line of thinking that ends of making me feel like this: “Yes, of course, welcome to the comfort of my bosom! It’s here for you, whether I want you there or not, I have absolutely no say in it! My rights to privacy, bodily and psychological boundaries are moot! I am woman, I must comfort!” Blechh.

  111. Butch Fatale says:

    That’s fine Maggie, but I want to point something out. I see you mentioning something about dykes in the 70s’ definition of women being the same as “tranny women” today. And I don’t know what you’re getting at there, but I want to make sure we’re clear that transwomen are women who were raised as boys, and transmen are men who were raised as girls. Whether they themselves agreed with that social assessment is a different question of course, but I’ve seen a lot of confusion around this in other places and I want to make sure it’s not happening here. If, in fact, the women you knew back then had a definition of woman broad enough to encompass transwomen, brava, that wasn’t and still is not a common view.

  112. Jen in California says:

    Wow, great discussion!

    Butch Fatale said “I’d also like to ask if we could examine the question of safety and sanctuary. The question of how male identified folks in women’s spaces imperils the safety of those women has been brought up, and I’d like to know what people mean by that. My girlfriend and I were harassed in college — by women”

    I don’t know if Butch Fatale would agree or not with my opinion on this, so I don’t want to use his quote to make my point. I’ll just use it as a starting point.

    I have always had a problem with Women-only spaces. (Full Disclosure, I am a bi, biologically born woman who has always identified as female, albeit fairly butch, just so you know my perspective/limitations/biases). While I agree that patriarchal society is unsafe for women, individual men are not all unsafe, nor are individual women all safe.

    Being in a woman – only space does not mean you will not be criticized, judged, stereotyped, emotionally (or physically) abused. Whenever you have a group of people who identify similarly (by sex, race, religion), you breed identity politics, that insidious and hateful tendency for some people of that group to try to control the rest of the group by defining what that group is, thinks, feels, or represents.

    Women of color have been legitimately complaining about the Feminist movement since the dawn of time. Feminists have been complaining about other Feminists regarding the “porn is evil vs. don’t control my body or sex choices” debate. Men of color have been understanding upset about the racism in the gay men’s movement. Every time a group gets together, somehow they manage to oppress their own.

    Given that history, I don’t see how it is possible to draw a bright line in the sand and say that women-born-women make a space safe and trans women make a space unsafe. I’m white myself, but I certainly can imagine a situation where a woman of color gets more support, safety, and alliance from a particular trans woman than from a particular white woman-born-woman. It all depends on the person.

    Interestingly enough, being white, I cannot bring myself to apply this same logic to the TBC (traditional black colleges), like Morehouse, etc. Maybe I just feel like too much of an outsider to make that pronouncement, or maybe I just worry about any lingering racism I have.

    PS – Can someone let me know if there is a better/less offensive term than “woman-born-woman” for non-trans women? I have no idea of good terminology for us that isn’t insulting to trans people.

  113. CJ de says:

    The German state collects thithes for the roman-catholic and the lutheran-protestant church, and – as far as I know – none else. These two large christian denominations are treated unfairly well by German laws. I have great hopes that some islamic group will sue for equality and then these laws will be thrown out at last.
    Though the both catholic and protestant churches will really have a crisis if they suddenly have to depend on their members giving freely (and not with their tax).And that would create a lot of problems in the social services sector. Even now, they are reducing their activities like German-as-a-foreign-language courses and other socially important tasks.

    But though it may seem strange to someone from the US to find your faith a thing dealt with in tax forms, in my view, the churches have less influence than in the US.
    Anyone trying to teach the bible in biology class is seen as a rabid maniac and won’t be teaching long.
    On the other hand, I found it rather frightening that laws forbidding the tshador for teachers allow the nuns habit (not to mention the wired Supreme Court decision that the crucifixes in bavarian schools are not really a form of faith-statement and therefore are still allowed).

    But anyway, asking which country is better or more advanced really is the wrong question. Looking at how things are done elsewhere can be an eye-opener,sure. But if there were a perfect country, we would have already all moved there.

  114. jayinchicago says:

    Non-trans women works. I’ve also heard female-assigned (birth sex assignment based on genitals), and cissexual women.

    What’s kind of funny is we are getting back to this comic, in some ways. Janis is getting a girlhood. Janis is getting female socialization. What if Janis (regardless of surgical status) wanted to go to, let’s say, Smith? What if Janis needed to (god forbid) utilize resources for women such as women only sexual assault support? Is she different because she is transitioning so young?

    I don’t like reliance on the female socialization part of female birth sex assignment to be the marker of what makes a woman a woman, or what doesn’t. what it really does is underline and support the idea that sex=birth genitals. I know it would pain some people to think about, but if we are saying gender is based on birth sex assignment in our society, and then we are separating people into immutable groups based on gender (which came from birth sex assignment), we are basically back at gender=birth sex assignment.

  115. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    OK, for some reason, I’ve been italicised, but wev, it’s no big. Anyway: I think female-on-female mistreatment *comes from* patriarchy, because some women think they can “please” said patriarchy by mistreating other women, but instead, they’re selling out for the proverbial mess o’ pottage, since the best they can hope for is a condescending pat on the head, from unenlightened men, and disgust from men who reject the patriarchy. OTOH, in places where patriarchy’s power is weak, those women who would be sell-outs elsewhere become powermongers instead, whether they’re head bully or Mother Superior. True, that means it’s more a matter of opportunism, but patriarchy affects the form of that mistreatment, twists it into a tool for its own use. I guess by “comes from patriarchy”, I mean the sort of mistreament we usually see in places where men have total dominance over women, such as certain portions of Asia and Africa. The female-on-female mistreament there is entirely of the “sell-out” variety, and has been for so long, it’s practically considered “tradition”. *Cultural* tradition, even. But no one has a claim on that. Man’s inhumanity to man is rivalled only by woman’s inhumanity to woman…and eclipsed only by man’s inhumanity to woman.

    Snarky

  116. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Yay, the italics went away…Hey, CJ, does that mean wearing an upside-down crucifix isn’t a problem? ;-{P}

    Snarky

  117. cedmt says:

    A quick plug – if you haven’t heard of them already, check out the folk/bluegrass group Coyote Grace. One of the members is a transman; his song “Ghost Boy” speaks of reconciling his “f past” with his “m present.”

  118. cedmt says:

    Oops … sorry, there was meant to be a link there”

    http://www.coyotegrace.com

  119. syd says:

    I read about / hear about / think about violence against lgbt & gender nonconforming kids all the time. You’d think I’d be less affected by the Lawrence King tragedy, but I tear up every fucking time I come across it. It’s just so horrible…

    Thanks for putting it in the strip, Alison; altho it makes me feel sad, it also feels makes me feel good that it’s more of a solid part of our shared history…

  120. Les says:

    Maggie Jochild: I’m an alum of a women’s college. Now I’m ftm. This isn’t a strawman for me, but actually a set of questions I’m trying to navigate as I start my transition.

    (Just for clarity: Anybody that says that mtfs don’t belong in women’s spaces is transphobic and is a bad person. Mtfs are women, of course they being in women’s spaces. Anybody who thinks that mtfs have privilege compared to cis women needs to spend 5 minutes looking at statistics for unemployment, and violence.)

    One serious very difficult thing for me, when I started realizing that Iding as a woman wasn’t working for me, is that suddenly a lot of people said things like, “those who actually hold the power — which, if you identify as male, IS you.” Whoah, there! Everybody who saw me walking down the street or talked to me didn’t see me as some sort of power holder. They saw me as a butch dyke. It’s like assholes in hardware stores suddenly started being civil to me because they could somehow sense that I held power. All of the sudden, I lose access to all the alternate spaces set up to help non-powerholders like myself, but I don’t get any actual power. So I was still experiencing the direct effects of sexism. I was experiencing queerphobia. But I’m the patriarchy, so no support for me from anybody.

    In what way does it advance feminism to kick the newly out transguy out into the cold? Transition is not an instant process. It’s not a sudden binary opposition. I didn’t wake up one day and find out I was the patriarchy. I wasn’t coming in from the outside demanding support. I was an insider trying too figure out how to gracefully leave. With the exception of the occasional subject of a New York Times article, the vast majority of ftms at women’s colleges were not trans when they entered.

    You could argue now, that I’m starting to pass reliably, that I hold some power in patriarchy. And I can say that it’s actually shocking how different it is going from being read as a butch dyke to a straight guy. I don’t want to minimize the change in casual encounters, nor their importance on one’s psyche. Sustained interactions, though, I’m one of the power holders only as long as I stay stealth. I’ve changed from a visible to an invisible minority. All I can say about it is that it’s weird and new to me.

    I want to point out, also, that all this stuff about patriarchy and gender politics is really external to why people transition. Mtfs don’t want to be victims of patriarchy any more than ftms are primarily motivated by a desire to seize power. And, again, for me these aren’t abstract, academic questions. I have strong solidarity with my sisters. If there hadn’t been this terrible power dynamic hanging over, I would have transitioned years earlier.

  121. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Patriarchy (and gender politics, to some extent) still affects our _ability_ to transition, though — it’s literally preventing me from doing so here in B.C., for example. Plus, as long as I’m wearing a masculine appearance (which is as long as I’m unable to find decent women’s clothing for a low-income transgirl who prefers black and is heavily (financially) dependent on a father who was abusive (physically, verbally, and emotionally) in younger years (and displayed a certain amount of homophobia, long before that moment of waking-up to realisation)), I’m presumed to be as much a part of the patriarchy as you, Les — the same patriarchy which gave subtle support to, frex, Brandon Teena’s killers. I have no desire to _be_ part of that, which is one minor ingredient in my stew of reasons for wanting to transition. Since I’ve always been something of an outsider — in a “special class” (Grades 1-4), a heavy reader, a gamer, an sf fan, a comic book fan, a nerd who actually read ahead in science textbooks, a geek dancing by him(her…)self at sock hops — one more layer of freakishness is not in and of itself worrisome to me. My drunk driver of a premier, however, is quite another matter — he embodies patriarchy if anyone does. Mind you, the whole ancestral McGill-Campbell enmity (going back over 260 years now — he lives down to his ancestors, BTW) might be an element there, too.;-{P}

    Snarky

  122. oceans 111 says:

    I’m afraid I didn’t take the time to read this whole thread, but I read the top and the bottom (oooh…) and can offer one comment. I went to a women’s college about 15 years ago now, and we had at least one MtF student there. It was difficult for her, including getting some rather clueless health care from the studnt health center, but many of us in the bi/lesbian “group” worked to support and accept her, with varying success. I think the fact that she was a little older than most of the students probably helped her to stay calm through some of the storms. I was certainly confused about the whole thing, but preferred to err on the side of acceptance. I liked her personally, so I do sometimes wonder what my attitude would have been like if I’d thought she was a jerk…

  123. Butch Fatale says:

    Ooh! Exciting new posts!

    Jen in CA — I don’t take offense at male pronouns, but I use female pronouns. And I don’t disagree with your point, but to be clear about what I was talking about, the women in question were queer, and often former partners or friends. Of course there are any number of ways that people are awful to one another, and when they keep people feeling that they can’t trust others, the system (the capitalist machine, which serves only itself) wins, and the community in question loses.

    And also, I think we need to recall that community defined spaces are different from accredited colleges and universities, which must abide by certain federal and state laws which are not community defined. I take issue with comparing women’s colleges with HBCUs for several reasons. One being that while the black experience seems to be the go-to comparison in certain circles these days, race and sex, gender and/or sexuality are different and are treated and experienced differently. The other, pertinent in this particular case: HBCUs do not bar non-black applicants from admission.

  124. CJ says:

    > Hey, CJ, does that mean wearing an upside-down crucifix
    > isn’t a problem? ;-{P

    Well, I don’t thinks its a smart move in the outback of bavaria – allegedly, there are still catholic priests around that go for exorcism, though that may be a roumor – but in the cities, there’s no problem with that. And it’s certainly no reason to be fired as a teacher or civil servant. (Though if you exhibt certain behaviuor like beliving in ghosts and acting on that belief, that will get you a nice stay in a closed institution).

    Don’t think most people over here associate anything with upside down crosses anayway.

  125. Riotllama says:

    Cis-gendered is the term for non-genderqueer folks that I like best, but thats because its derived from chemistry. (oooh SCIENCE. i like science)

    Maggie Jochild-

    I think you’re brilliant but I always stop agreeing with you when you get to your “you’re not a real woman if you weren’t raised as a woman” schpiel.
    you said:
    “Rather, I think the only goal we CAN achieve (aside from actual safety, of course) is relative freedom from male conditioning in a learning environment: The opportunity for those raised with female conditioning to find out what that means free from the constant defining of female which comes from males, and, hopefully, to sort out which pieces are human, which pieces are not.”

    I don’t think you are a bad person(a bit too far Les?), but I think this is bad science. That statement is blocking anyone who was assigned male at birth and wasn’t actually male from going to a womens college. Do you have a slippery slope here? If Janis were real, would she have been “raised female” long enough here? She started hormones about the same time and average developing female bodied person would start puberty. Does one need to start transition younger? Are kids who don’t come from supportive families just shit out of luck of ever being “woman enough” in you eyes? Where’s the line Maggie? If she starts getting street harassed at 18, is that too late to really make an impression?
    Being a transwoman does not have to mean that you bring old male privelege and power with you wherever you go. And I’m sure we’ve all known loud-mouth dykes who talk over others, and in other ways act as if they’ve got it when in “women’s spaces.”

    Shadowcat, help me out here, I think you can say what I’m trying to say with less anger and more eloquence. where you at girl? you seem strangely absent from this conversation.

    There’s a wide variety of people on this blog. Who’s voices are we not hearing right now? Are you wondering why?

    And Pope Snarky- we get it. you’re a Discordian. can you stop heading EVERY post with Hail Eris? I don’t force my religion on you.

  126. Riotllama says:

    i think i should mention that I was using the phrase “bad science” as slang back there and it should not be taken literally when considering the context of the sentence. Sorry. I just caught up on a couple weeks of Girl Genius (webcomic). Science nerds and steampunks should check it out.
    http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

  127. jayinchicago says:

    i don’t even know what hail eris means.

  128. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    It’s just my salutation, one I’ve been using for over eight years in a variety of fora (including my own blog posts) — I find that hailing Her thusly tends to be less likely to provoke Her interest. She likes to laugh, She does, especially at those who are aware of Her…Even if one chooses not to believe She actually exists. Such belief is not a requirement for Discordians, BTW. Anyway.

    Snarky

  129. Maggie Jochild says:

    Riotllama, don’t put words in my mouth, especially ones I’d never say. I absolutely don’t believe “you’re not a real woman if you weren’t raised to be a woman”. I believe you are NOT raised to be a woman if you were not raised to be a woman, and yeah, I believe in conditioning as the main component in both individual development and human culture. We’re much more products of culture than biology or, except in rare circumstances, the magic of free well.

    For me this is a political stance because I want us to revise culture to make room for all of us, rather than us revising ourselves to find comfort and acceptance — at least when it comes to issues of oppression. The biggies, like race, gender, class, disability, age, religion. I want it for my children and grandchildren.

    But on an individual level, everyone is doing the best they can.

    I think by age three, your conditioning is pretty much in place. Definitely by age 18 months, kids know which gender roles and behavior go with which perceived sex, and get anxious when those roles are violated. I suspect it’s preverbal, but there’s no way to devise a test for it, and there’s no humane way to raise children completely free from community pressure regarding their gender identity. Not yet.

    I believe it’s crucial to politically acknowledge conditioning as paramount because ignoring it, or believe it is trumped by free will at a later point in life, does not appear to me to be working. It certainly is not with regard to race. During the early 1980s, the lesbian community I was in was beset with white women who were so upset by racism that they claimed they were not white (because of some remote ancestor, usually who was Native), it had not affected them the same way as the rest of us, or they could just choose another race. They crashed people of color space, their definitions of what was “non-white” were inherently disrespectful, and it interfered temporarily with the rest of us were trying to find an effective way to undo our white conditioning, admit it and dismantle it, piece by piece.

    I don’t know what it takes to completely undo conditioning, because it’s more of a process, a choice and path, rather than a goal I’ve seen achieved. But staying on the path puts me in line to live with an expanded horizon, not needing agreement or “safety” to relate closely to someone of even extremely divergent views. Just how I’m doing things, I don’t think it’s the only way, I really don’t.

    And — it’s critically important to me to take on all the conditioning at once, to work in political situations where other folks are making the same all-issue choice. In my 20′s I was focused overwhelmingly on gender, and in a close second, being a dyke. Honestly, I still see that consuming the queer community. But, as La Chola says in a number of ways at her blog, if I’m not working on dealing with my white conditioning (where I’m non-target), my class conditioning (where I’m target), my anti-Semitism, my perception of children as property, my perception of elders as hopeless, my fear of disability — then I’m sitting in powerlessness, saying it’s too much to do all at once.

    I realize that asking people to acknowledge their particular conditioning, especially when it sets them apart from communities where they desperately long to belong, leaves them open to judgment because in our culture, we assign value to every difference.

    I’ve spent 44 years as a non-Christian, when do I get to stop acknowledging how different that makes me from someone who was raised non-Christian from birth? The honest answer is, never. The Jews close to me can tell, in any intimate conversation, that I have Christian roots, despite all my work. And — that’s okay. There’s enough room for this complexity. When they need a breather from Christian conditioning, they get it. When they want to step back into the fray, I’m there doing my end of the battle. No pretense on my part.

    And where I personally feel the strongest political commonality is with trannies who are trying really hard to identify and discard their own gender conditioning (whatever it is), who utterly reject the dominant culture’s definition of male and female or any binary, and who recognize that this is PRECISELY what my generation meant when we kept insisting “We are women, THIS is what a woman looks like” — meaning, however the fuck we want to define it — even as we met together in small groups to name our shared conditioning in the hopes of scouring clean that which is laid particularly on girls. Not observed, but felt raining down on us directly. And not to sit there in that space of shared revelation, but to use the scrap of new solid ground as a place to stand (you have to admit, my generation stood incredibly bravely, we moved mountains) so we can make all humanity more free.

    To remove power dynamics from every single human connection.

    To make every definition of what it means to be human available to every newborn, regardless of gender, color, or class.

    I don’t know how you can do that if you don’t admit how you got imprinted before you were old enough to even recognize, much less resist, the crashing burden of lies which is our culture’s version of “reality”.

  130. Riotllama says:

    maggie- your argument is an extremely strong and powerful one and would have swayed me except that I cannot agree with you on the nature vs. nurture question.

    I was adopted when I was 12 days old. I met my birth mother and her side of the family when I was 19. We kept in touch for 4 years. I don’t feel comfortable talking about that time in my life in such a public forum, which will perhaps dilute what I am about to say. which is merely thus:

    It explained a lot. While I look like like my adopted family enough (typical eastern european jew) we are nothing alike. Logic, mannerisms, patterns of speech, ways of communicating, sense of humour… SO different. I didn’t understand why I found it so hard to fit into my family until I met my birth mom and realized I was EXACTLY like her. It was fucking weird.

    So I don’t buy all the “culture conditions us into who we are.” Sure it plays it’s role, but we are who we are programmed to be. Sometimes all the parts match up, and sometimes they don’t.

    And I don’t think ethnicity is quite comparable. Someone trying to claim a distant indigenous ancestor to get out of their white guilt is not the same as someone who’s gene’s fucked up and put them in the wrong body.

  131. luck be a lady says:

    your’ genes fucked up?’ They have agency? They acted independently?

    How can the body you live in be “the wrong” body. It’s your body. Are you saying that it’s like your soul and your body are two entities, and the soul somehow was inserted (by your genes?) into the wrong container?

    How can you and your body not be one entity? Talk about Cartesian duality. Mind/body split.

    Is this what you are proposing, Riotlama?

    Sorry. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Chose whatever gender you want, change as many times as you like, but I don’t understand blaming your genes as if they were something independent of you.

  132. Riotllama says:

    It’s very clear to some of us how they are not one entity. I don’t feel like it’s my duty to explain, go read a book. I’m done with this conversation.

  133. Public Health Vet says:

    I agree with Riotllama. I always thought it was all about conditioning until I a)looked at my own animals and saw how very different siblings’ personalities often were from birth (including siblings that look nearly identical!) and b) talked with my friends who have young kids and have learned the hard way that their children are not their children, that is, that while they can model love and respect and compassion and tolerance and so forth, they cannot fundamentally mold their childrens’ basic personalities, interests, orientations, preferences, you name it.

    There is a huge component of genetics in personality, in sexual orientation, and in gender idenity. There’s also a big component of culture. It’s not one or the other, but the genes lay the foundation that culture gets to influence. Culture doesn’t mold us like clay, it works synergistically with the basic foundation that’s laid very early in life.

    Luck be a lady, its not that genes are independent of the body, its that genes (which are incredibly complex and diverse and can’t be lumped into one category anyway) code for so many traits and sometimes they code for a combination of traits things that don’t go together easily in a body and/or in a culture. Like someone who has a male body and desperately wants to be female, or vice versa. I’ve talked to enough of transgender folks to absolutely believe those who say, “I was born in the wrong body, and I knew it from the time I knew there were two different sexes.” For those people, the soul and the body sure felt disconnected. But they’re not alone; lots of us feel conflicted in some fundamental way. The culture I live in doesn’t accept me for who I really am, and that’s also true for most of the people I know. It cleaves to the norm, a norm that represents only a fraction of each of our whole selves.

  134. Maggie Jochild says:

    I appreciate the effort, Riotllama, I really do. Thanks for all the defining and stating where you are coming from. It helped immensely. I respect where we disagree.

  135. luck be a lady says:

    Well I’d be glad if you’d explain your clarity about the mind body split. And by “us” who do you mean?Personally, I believe that life exists beyond the containers of our bodies, and by “our” I’m including animals, plants and anything that has a molecular structure. But once the breath of life incorporates, how is it not one with the body it has become?

    I”m not saying it can’t be so. I can’t make any claims to any such grand knowlege. But you said you know how, and I’d like to know how.
    .I’m genuinely curious, more than curious. If I’ve missed a book that you could recomend on this topic, I’m all ears.

  136. bcgal says:

    luck be a lady,

    I invite you to read all the contributions on this thread very carefully. If you’ve already done so, I’d suggest doing it again. Take careful note of how respectfully the participants in the discussion have treated each other, how patiently they’ve worked to clarify their positions on these complex issues. Also take special note of how courageously people have exposed their own personal relationship to these issues. When you’ve done that, I hope you will consider modulating your tone.

    To everyone else in this discussion, especially Les, Riotllama, Maggie, Butch Fatale, Jay and Snarky, a profound thank you, for all the respect, patience, courage, and smart thinking collected here.

  137. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    As an afterthought (my strong suit!), I’d like to add that Her influence is very significant on this blog, even if it doesn’t tend to manifest in the form of flame wars as often as on, say, usenet.;-{P}

    Snarky
    P.S. GIYF.

  138. 3Jean says:

    Oh the ang’st, thanks Allison!

  139. jayinchicago says:

    “And where I personally feel the strongest political commonality is with trannies”

    I really dislike the casual usage of the word ‘tranny’–especially coming from those who themselves aren’t trans (though I suppose anyone could claim to be trans based on this, that, and the other) or even those who aren’t transsexual. It *may* be a word that’s been somewhat reclaimed (I take issue with this particular reclamation) but just as I wouldn’t throw around the word dyke too casually, I would hope people not in the community of reclamation wouldn’t throw around “tranny” casually. I know in the context of the strip and the excellent jerry/mechanic/transmission/tranny puns it has fallen into casual usage, but it sets my my teeth on edge. It’s cutesy but notice how it reduces people to this one “thing” about themselves. To me it’s as jarring as “a transgender”. I’m a person. Also other qualifiers and modifiers come second.

  140. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Jay said: “It’s cutesy but notice how it reduces people to this one ‘thing’ about themselves. To me it’s as jarring as ‘a transgender’. I’m a person.”

    I’m with you on that, Jay — I’m too many other things (in addition to trans, geek, nerd, gamer, etc.) to simply be any one of them. Mind you, the one description with which I really take issue is “nice”. I’m not a nice guy (and yes, both halves of that description bug me — neither “nice” nor a “guy”;-{P}), though I can be nice, at times (I’ve been told I’m nice too many times for it not to be true that I *can* be nice). I’m me. Not every single thing I’ve ever done has been nice, and some of those things I wouldn’t take back/undo, if I could. Meanwhile, some of the nice things I’ve done I’ve later regretted. Helping someone who has stalker-ish qualities, frex.

    Snarky
    P.S. The “beard” in that emoticon will vanish when/if I transition. Ahem.

  141. Laurence says:

    I’m coming in very late here, but . . .

    Maggie Jochild said:

    “Definitely by age 18 months, kids know which gender roles and behavior go with which perceived sex, and get anxious when those roles are violated.”

    To me, that sounds like you’re saying that everybody values socially defined gender roles, and that everybody only feels comfortable when people conform to their assigned gender role. But that is not the case.

    People who can’t conform to their expected gender role are going to feel “anxious” when others try to force them to conform. They’re going to perceive that their lack of gender conformity makes other people anxious, and I imagine that this even applies to kids who are only 18 months old.

    BTW, if you believe that conditioning is the major influence on personality, then what causes people to be unable to conform to gender roles (or any other social expectations)? When your whole culture is saying, “be like this,” how come you don’t just accept your conditioning and be that way?

  142. liza Cowan says:

    Nobody conforms perfectly to their expected gender roles. How could they? The expectations are ridiculous and unachievable. So we all feel that anxiety. Anxiety is just a cue that something needs to be changed. Some people chose to change their bodies. Some people do political work. Some do both. Some do neither. But the anxiety is just a message. How you interpret that message is an individual + cultural choice.

  143. Ellen O. says:

    And of course, expectation of gender roles varies depending upon where you live, how old you are, who you hang out with, and what season of the year it is.

    Just last night, some friends and I were joking about straight farm women of the midwest who look enticingly like dykes.

    That’s a pin-up calendar I’d like to see!

  144. Maggie Jochild says:

    Ellen O., put me down for one of those calendars. I have a bit of a sexual fetish about it. (All conditioned, of course.) (grin)

    Laurence, short answer to your question: Because all conditioning is based on cultural divisions to maintain power in the hands of certain groups. It’s riddled with lies, and every single who was ever born recognizes the lies, resists to the point where her/his survival is at stake, and then finds a way to survive, maintain the love and approval of the adults who matter most to them, and have to sort it all out later when they can. As best they can.

    We’re all heroes/sheroes.

    I hear you about the “tranny” think, Jay. Would “trans” be better? When I’m trying to make a comparison of how the “political dyke” of my generation tends to be saying the same thing as one version of the “trans” of yours, just using a different vocabulary?

    I don’t know anyone I’ve ever talked to, on a more than superficial level — gay, straight, male, female, any race or class — who feels they actually meet the expectations of their gender, that they are not “disappointing” or deviant in some way, often in a form they are trying to keep hidden. It’s a universal deviance, and I prefer to build on that shared experience rather than divvy us up further.

  145. ready2agitate says:

    Wow I was so busy reading contributions to the Daily Distress I took a breather and now, 3 hours later (OK I took a break to listen to Coyote Grace), I’m caught up.

    Good to be reminded/cautioned about casual use of “tranny” – esp. since transpeople frequently suffer objectification, and it seem to me that this term in particular has that potential (analogy to the term “girls” (or even “chicks” – grrrr) comes to mind – OK when we/women reclaim it; not OK when used by non-group members). (Note I’m non-trans/cis so I’m speaking from outsider perspective here) (meaning I’m happy to be corrected.)

    Riotllama and Maggie Jochild, I wish I could have you over for tea (I’m much better at discussion than writing; Maggie, your writing is so startlingly clear, it intimidates). Jay, your generosity of spirit is deeply appreciated — your solidarity is clear.

    Pope Snarky – what you said! ;-p (smile)

    Interesting that the discourse has come back to nature/nurture, which is one of the places second wave feminism started (and queer liberation continued) in the 70s. Today so much is being pegged to genetics, especially as science has advanced, it seems almost a reversal of feminism’s declaration of conditioning as the origin of women’s oppression. (Of course genes are not static either, they change too, albeit slowly – there are constant subtle changes occurring to the human genetic code as we evolve, no?) I find the trend a bit troubling. And yet my parenting friends swear that no matter how hard they try to raise gender-aware/progressive kids (they are rather Stuart-like, to give you a sense of my crowd), their kids are often ultra-pink cinderella’s or stereotypically masculine boys, against their parents’ hopes. Of course the boys who like dolls are scorned by their peers, and the Disney/princess marketing intensely targets girls, so there’s hefty nurture at work too. (hint – JR could become Stuart’s nightmare in terms of her gender role conformity)

    Great discussion, folks. Back to the previous topic of queer archives, I hope this one makes it into a ‘trans hirstory archives’ one day. Now I’m off to read the NYT mag. article….

  146. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    On the subject of “nature vs. nurture”, I have but this to say: Without nature, there’s nothing to nurture, but without nurturing, nature won’t last long before wiping us out. Separating them into two different things is false logic.

    Snarky

  147. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Or to put it another way: Nature gives potential, which has to be nurtured. If the potential isn’t there, it can’t be nurtured — always assuming that the nurturer is qualified for the task.

    Snarky

  148. hm says:

    As a graduate of a women’s college, I must say that I have an issue with FTMs invading that space; it is hard enough to hold ground against various pressures for women’s colleges to go co-ed.

    Entering a women’s college with the belief of maleness and intention to seek to legally and biologically live as a male is cheating in one of the worst ways. That is taking a spot away from someone who may desperately need to be within that space; if not for women’s colleges, some women (myself included) would not have obtained their degrees.

    Women’s colleges offer a bit of a refuge from the concerns found within co-ed colleges. I cannot imagine having gone from the sort of public school I came out of and having gone into a co-ed college…. especially since the ones in my area tend to lean toward fraternities and sororities.

    MTF is, of course, not an issue as far as I’m concerned. If you are living life as a female, you face the issues that afflict womankind.

    Just my two cents….

  149. Cat says:

    It is a good discussion! Just so we can be clearer on the science (if anyone is still looking):

    Regarding conditioning in early childhood and gender identification, the classic, tragic case is David Reimer (also Brenda and Bruce). He got born a boy but got his penis cut off at a couple of months old in a circumcision accident. On the advice or a guy called Money, who wanted to prove that gender was all about conditioning, his parents raised him as a girl, hormones and all. Mid-teens, he was basically where most trans people are. He went back to being a boy, and married a girl, but never quite got himself right with it all. There’s an overview on Wikipedia, for those who are interested. Both him and, I think, his brother ended up killing themselves, poor guys. It’s only one example (there are others but obviously, for ethical reasons, it’s not replicable) but it makes it fairly clear that gender identification, or even in a high degree the acquisition of ‘gendered’ traits isn’t the result of socialisation, but of biology. (Then again, I’d probably argue that socialisation itself is only the indirect result of biology, but I’m a godless heathen rationalist.)

    Impersonally would basically take Riotllamas point about nature/nurture. In terms of gender however, genes probably have only secondary relevance. Y chromosomes are pretty much empty: the main coding is on the x, which both genetic genders have. The Y acts like a trgger for sex hormones in the womb, and it’s these in interaction with non-gender-specific genes which cause the child to develop in whatever gendered way it does. Of course, factors other than genes, anti-miscarriage drugs based on female hormones for instance, or even vagaries in the mothers moods and diet, can alter the hormone balance. Much gender-non-conformity in apparently genetically normal individuals may be to do with this kind of variation, rather than with genes per se.

    All of which isn’t to say upbringing makes no difference, only that upbringing only has certain stuff to work on…

  150. Cat says:

    Oh, sorry, I should have mentioned…

    David Reimer had a twin brother, so there was even a control. Money must have been wetting himself until it turned out he was wrong and had ruined several people’s lives. At which point he mainly pretended it had never happened, and continued to claim the outcome supported his theories.

    Also, for ‘Impersonally’ read ‘I personally’. So just the opposite, that is…

  151. Maggie Jochild says:

    Cat, I’d argue that the science is ON conditioning here, especially in the case of John Money’s horrific experiments with the lives of children. I’ll try to be succinct:

    (1) Conditioning begins before birth and is instantaneous at birth, with regard to gender. I myself have prenatal memories, significant ones that influenced my life’s direction.
    (2) Money’s “reassignments” were imposed on unhappy families and nonconsensual children. Resistance is to be expected. The fact is, at least half of his “changes” succeeded — those forced into another gender chose to remain that way, “against biology”.
    (3) Having been close to many people who have suicided, for a variety of reasons, I balk at assigning motivation if I didn’t know someone well. Being forced into ANY life-altering surgery as a baby is enough to fuck someone up, whether it is gender-related or not. Ask disabled people who’ve been operated on 20 times before the age of consent.
    (4) Most importantly, the era in which Money was doing his stuff was a time when girls were a profound step DOWN on the social ladder from boys, and there was no feminist message to contradict it yet. (Some of us were raised partly in that era.) Of those victims of his surgery who rejected his gender assignment, most if not all of them were biological males who had been raised as girls, with commensurate loss of access to status, income, safety, etc. You can’t separate out the sexism in this picture, it’s not an even trade. And, given the overt worship of masculinity and increasing gender disparity in our current conservative culture, I’d argue that a lot of little girls now are again feeling cheated by gender boxes because of a power dynamic that does NOT extend both ways, despite the myths. (We don’t have a level playing field with regard to race, either, despite the Right’s noise machine cranking up the volume in response to Obama.)

  152. Cat says:

    Hi,

    Yes, of course, I agree, the science is on conditioning, the questions being what sort of conditioning, when and how. I guess I was suggesting that, as regards both sexual characteristics and gender identification, as distinct from conceptions of what that sex and gender might mean, a lot of the conditioning is probably hormonal, both post- and pre- natally, rather than social. You’re also perfectly right that I’m making too much of an assumption about David Reimer’s motivations. I didn’t mean to be but sympathetic, but of course I don’t know.

    If I’m remembering rightly, the Reimer case was the only one involving a child who was genitally unambiguous at birth (a ‘biological male’). All of Money’s other cases were on genitally ambiguous kids, which of course is why he got to do them. He wasn’t the only one doing this, and genitally ambiguous kids are still often ‘assigned’ at birth, which looks to me like a dodgy choice, though I can see the reasoning. He, like most doctors who did, or do, this kind of thing, usually chose to assign them female because ‘it’s easier to make a hole than a pole’ and if gender identification is down to social conditioning then it doesn’t matter anyway. When a lot of these genitally gender-ambiguous (hermaphrodite, intersex… I’m trying to use the least suggestive terminology I can) kids turned round and rejected their gender assignement, it surely became clear that social conditioning was not the only factor operating here, and nor was genitalia. The way it looks is as if you can’t determine gender identity through upbringing alone, and can’t predict it by reference to genitalia in cases where that genitalia is ambiguous, or even in all cases where it isn’t. You’re surely right that you can’t separate out the sexism here, but you can’t use it to explain everything away either. Of course, none of this means that your criticisms of the kinds of gender boxes we have aren’t spot on.

  153. Maggie Jochild says:

    Good points, Cat. Thanks.

    I try to follow the lead of Cheryl Chase, founder of ISNA, with regard to intersex theory. Assigning a gender isn’t the problem, it’s the definition of that gender which is the minefield. In my experience, kids who are not told they can’t do/be certain things because it doesn’t fit their gender quite organically expand their self-definition to include what they want to do/be.

    And you’re right, the unconsented reassignment surgery on intersex babies and children continues apace, although it does look as if ISNA is making good inroads. As Cheryl points out, children do not usually run about naked and strangers bending over a stroller don’t pull down a diaper to peer at genitals. Decisions CAN be postponed until the child has a say in it.

  154. Riotllama says:

    In case other people are still reading this, the book referenced above is :http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41379.As_Nature_Made_Him_The_Boy_Who_Was_Raised_as_a_Girl

    I found it well written.

    I’m glad we all seem to agree that John Money was an asshole.

  155. nonabug says:

    Cat:
    I’m not sure that David Reimer was “basically where most trans people are.”
    he was faced with either (1) a single surgery to become the man that he already kind of biologically was or (2) undergo all of the normal trans procedures to remain a woman (which – up until this point he had culturally thought he was).
    so, first of all, he was facing medical procedures either way.
    second, to me, the distinction between the experience of rejecting a birth characteristic versus one administered wrongly by people who thought they were doing the right thing (a cause of so many problems…) is a huge one – one that made his feelings of bodily displacement more in common with intersex than trans people, though ultimately cuncurrent with neither. transfolk are reforming their biological assignment – whether their need to do so is based in nature or nurture is up for grabs, but the fact is, they are physically changing what they were born with. David was reforming a cultural assignment based on his parents’ and doctors’ concern over his developmental well-being. in this case, his doctors were covering for their own mistake during circumcision (a procedure that presents another, yet similar, ethical debate altogether). this is as opposed to the surgical gender assignment of intersex people, which is a response to a general discomfort and concern on the part of parents and doctors toward child with ambiguous sex organs (despite the almost unanimous research showing that intersex people who are not surgically assigned at birth are much happier adults than those who were…)
    so, while i think this is an unfortunate example of the power and significance of discussing gender, i’m not sure that it adequately can be applied to the trans experience…

  156. Liza Cowan says:

    I’d like to remind people that sex (as in male and female), as we know it, is a modern phenomenon. Before the 18th Century, much of the world – and all of the western world – believed, knew, demonstrated, scientificized, that there was only one sex. Men were warmer, women colder, but their sexual equipment was the same. Gender was a social political construct of dualities, but there was only one sex – only one type of organ. Men had their organs on inside, women on the outside. But that could and did change sometimes. There wasn’t even separate terminology for male and female parts.

    Maybe we are in another paradigm shift here, I don’t know. But I think it’s important to know that the things we know to be intuitivly true, like the two sex model, are only historical/cultural beliefs.

    They had their science too, so it’s not that we are more “advanced.” It’s a different paradigm.

    See Thomas Laqueur, “Making Sex: Body and Gender from The Greeks to Freud” A great book and a fascinating read.

  157. Liza Cowan says:

    er- I mean men’s bits were on the outside, women’s on the inside. But you knew that.

  158. nonabug says:

    Sorry that I didn’t manage to fix my capitalization before posting…a terrible habit!
    I hope it doesn’t make my already convoluted thoughts more difficult to follow!

  159. Cat says:

    nonabug: sorry, there I go making too grandiose statements again, leaving out qualifiers. Story of my life. All I meant to imply was that, practically, things being as they are in the world we’ve made for ourselves, he was in a position such that, if he was going to live in a gender role that semed to him acceptable, he was going to have to take hormones and have major surgery.

    Maggie: Totally. If, willy-nilly, we seem to have some kind of sex and gender, that’s no reason we should make it more complicated by enforcing ill-considered sets of differentiated rules on ourselves and any children we get a-hold of. Most of the important things about people, genitalia and, to some extent, secondary sexual characteristics and propensity to violence aside, have, at most, a bi-modal distribution with very significant areas of overlap. Sex and gender aren’t, taken in isolation, in individual cases, very good predictors of much apart from sex and gender. My only addition (or is it a caveat?) would be that one of the things we probably shouldn’t be telling a kid it can’t do/be because of its gender is the other gender.

  160. ready2agitate says:

    Many terrible things about John Money. But one that stands out is that he never recanted his science, nor did he apologize, as far as I know — things that would have meant a whole lot to a heck of a lot of people. I was shocked to read on Wikipedi that he still taught and practiced at John Hopkins up until his death in 2006.

    A resource that has educated me enormously over the last 10+ years on trans issues is http://www.gendertalk.com (maybe someone can learn me how to make the link orange and click-able?). It covers a tremendous amount of trans-news and trans-issues (“the show that talks about transgender from the first person”), and has a very feminist/activist slant. I remember several discussions of John Money. The program used to air in Cambridge, MA but now airs on podcast.

    >>There wasn’t even separate terminology for male and female parts.

    I should check out the book, Liza, but is that really true? I find that fascinating.

  161. ready2agitate says:

    (Oh, Alison’s webmistresses make the link work, I guess.)

  162. jayinchicago says:

    “See Thomas Laqueur, _Making Sex: Body and Gender from The Greeks to Freud_ A great book and a fascinating read.”

    I took a history class in college called something like The Making of Sex and Gender, and that was one of our texts. As I recall, it was very good.

    The last day of class, my seatmate and I were discussing with our professor conclusions we drew. We all agreed that if you thought about it as unbiasedly as possible, sex was as socially constructed as gender.
    An epiphany. (:

  163. Les says:

    In the days since I last posted on this thread a question occurred to me. During the 25+ years that I was female identified, I became very aware of sexism, patriarchy, etc. Not that I didn’t find some empowerment by being a dyke, going to a women’s college etc. I never felt empowered or whatever in society at large at all. This isn’t why I transitioned. Instead, it lead me to resist for as long as I could out of solidarity with other dykes.

    But it occurs to me that since so many ciswomen stay women and, of course, trans women actually fight to be women, there must be something really valuable and wonderful there. My solidarity with dykes was great and I hope to maintain it as much as I can. But there must be something more than that. Something that applied also to straight women.

    You’ll have to pardon the problematic phrasing and thought, but this is something I’d never thought about before. There must be something really great about being a woman. I mean, it can’t all be discrimination and patriarchy, right? Or is it? I feel like as a butch woman resisting transition, I must have gotten all the negatives and none of the positives – hell, I don’t even know what the positives are. What’s good about being a woman?

  164. liza says:

    Les, I’d say probably the same things that are good about being a man. Having a supportive community, a loving family, living in an amiable neighborhood, stimulating and satisfying work when you can find it, a great meal, engaging hobbies, a lazy Sunday, birds singing in the morning, finishing a tough crossword puzzle, reading a good book, having a rousing discussion, dappled shadows.

    Etc.

    Why would it be any different?

  165. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Les: What’s good about being a man, if you’re a woman on the inside, but not the outside? AFAICT, it’s the same for women who are men on the inside. There’s nothing but negatives, because the positives don’t matter.

    Snarky

  166. Ellen O. says:

    Hi Les,

    Since there are, what, 3 billion women on the planet?, I can’t say what’s good about being them, but I can say what’s good about being a woman from my perspective as a 47-year-old lesbian living in Boulder.

    hiking in the foothills, watching for early spring flowers

    the smell of other women’s bodies, whether sweaty after gardening, or damp from a bath, or lightly-scented under a sweater

    lying on the couch, reading, cat on my stomach

    giving friends back massages

    in my world, anyway, not having to care about football statistics

    less competition in general (?) (others would probably say this is not the case)

    swimming in cold lakes, with or without clothes

    hot tubbing, with or without clothes

    women wearing freshly-pressed Oxford shirts, white

    breasts

    going to a fabric store and seeing lots of women in the aisles

    watching a punked-out, pierced woman learning to knit

    watching a woman drive a big truck

    women with large hands

    women with delicate hands

    collarbones

    talking with my eye-doctor, a women, about birding

    chatting with my sexy women librarian friends

    deciding your girlfriend looks even sexier in glasses

    choosing new bed sheets with a woman friend

    discovering a wood duck in the backwaters of a marsh with a woman friend who is as quietly awed as you

    sharing that moment, even as you remember that twenty years ago you were in love with her, but now, you “just” love her, and that is even better

    working along side women forest rangers

    the back of women’s necks

    dancing with women

    women with bandanas and pocket watches

    not shaving or shaving one’s legs

    skipping the make-up or wearing it

    wearing jeans or a skirt or nothing at all

    women playing brass instruments

    women playing stringed instruments

    women being strong

    women letting themselves be emotionally vulnerable

    watching women care for each other, and being part of that caring, cared for, circle

  167. Les says:

    Thanks for your answers. They don’t seem especially gender-specific actually (in terms of the subject, not the object), except for “not shaving or shaving one’s legs \ skipping the make-up or wearing it \ wearing jeans or a skirt or nothing at all” all hint at a freedom to optionally express femininity. And “breasts” which indicates a physical state of secondary sex characteristics. And, I’m going to guess that the major positives are these: socially allowable femininity and a body that conforms to your identity. Which is logical. What else could it possibly be?

    I was just wondering if maybe I had missed something. Some of my long-time friends are really upset and confused, alas. I thought maybe I was missing something crucial in the conversation, but I think they just feel sad, like they’re losing me. Which is confusing to me, actually, because I feel almost totally unchanged, aside from being happier.

  168. Virginia Burton says:

    What an interesting question to ask, Les! I’ll tell you what I think is great about being a woman–lowered expectations. I’m serious. People are always surprised that I run a very successful business, all by my li’l ole self. Once a sales rep looked around my shop (the sweetest optical shop on the east coast) and said, “So, your husband set you up in business, huh?” I laughed and straightened him out on that.

    I remember reading about how the English lords would bankrupt themselves, preparing elaborate receptions for Queen Elizabeth I as she made her summer progresses to visit them. But the barons’ widows weren’t expected to do anything like that and were able to keep their wealth.

    I also like how people feel comfortable confiding in me and aren’t upset if I start crying when they tell me something sad. I like that no one is afraid of me, that I can touch someone without setting off alarms.

    And, I have to admit, I’ve always felt that women were superior to men in so many ways (e.g. more patient, more collaborative, more thoughtful, more loyal, harder working, gentler, kinder, softer to the touch) that being a man has never appealed to me.

    But I’m glad that you’re happy on your new team!

  169. Ellen O. says:

    Hi Les,

    I was surprised by your use of the phrase “socially allowable femininity.” I have no idea what “femininity” actually means. An aspect of being female? I know females who are tall and bony, others who are smaller and fleshier (both look great to me), those who do and don’t wear make-up, skirts, and nail polish. Females can be arrogant, compassionate, smart, racist, silly, brilliant. What does feminine mean when one acknowledges this? (Got me.)

    By the way, I know goth boys who wear make-up and athletic men who shave their legs. Pants were invented by Chinese women who planted and picked rice. Men have worn variations on skirts for hundred of years.

    Being a woman is what you make it, despite what people expect of you, what limits society puts on you. You break through the confines as much as you are able.

    I think when a person leaves an oppressed group (women) to join a less oppressed group (men), some, perhaps many, women are going to experience loss. I know that people say that transmen are equally oppressed, but then it seems that we are again back to the range of femaleness or maleness.

  170. ready2agitate says:

    What a wonderful little ode to women you penned, Ellen O. – I found myself feeling adored and appreciating all the beautiful women around me while reading it. Thanks.

    A lot of what I like about being a woman is hard to separate from what I like about being “me.” Also, much of what I like about womanhood is often societally devalued, so it’s a tough if not odd question… (for example, I like that I have access to my emotions — which I see wonderful men really struggle with — is that b/c I’m a woman or b/c I’m “me”? And does society actually value that? or does it force it onto women and not onto men? etc.)

    I agree that there is loss felt whenever anyone joins or leaves any social group – and the genders are so dichotomously framed, they may be one of the harder “group” changes for friends and family to accept. But in time, I like to believe that those who really care and really count in the long run, are the ones accept our changes when we are following our hearts (our own “true north”).

  171. ksbel6 says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the number one difference between men and women…women get to have babies. I know that some may not see it as a “get” but it is a get. There is nothing more exciting than feeling a new life actually grow in your belly.

  172. jayinchicago says:

    well, some trans men are apparently having babies, too.

  173. Str8 but not Narrow says:

    Urgh. Yeah, I understand that some women really dig that, but I personally have a problem with the social condition in which people look at me like I have two heads when I profess not to be dying to have children…or even that I’m not particularly fond of them.

    I have the maternal instincts of a doorknob. Back in my 20s (I’m 37 now) when I was apparently supposed to be catching a sperm donor, I was running political campaigns. I just don’t want to give up a significant portion of my income, free time and mental energy for someone else’s benefit, and I don’t think I should have to provide what can feel like endless justifications for seeing things that way.

    It’s not personal. And yet people invariably take it personally when the subject comes up, like I’m trying to invalidate their decision to have children. I’m not, I just feel like the societal pressure is overwhelming sometimes, and that I have the right to comment on it in some circumstances.

    On transgender: I dated a MTF for about four years, before she decided to make the transition. We’re still great friends (although I wish I could see her more often) and the breakup was not over gender issues.

    I’m convinced it’s hardwired. I don’t think my friend could have gone any other direction and been anywhere near satisfied with her life. Frankly, I’m sorry she didn’t go for reassignment sooner. She’s now got a girlfriend and last I heard they were engaged. I’m thrilled and am threatening to send them matching sparkly toasters ;)

  174. diana says:

    Okay, as a result of feverish work on my Master’s Capstone/thesis, I’m coming to this discussion a bit late, but I have to chime in.
    I’m bi, trans, female, in my early 50s, and 19 years post-op MtF.
    You all can say whatever you please about dominant paradigms and whose space is whose, and expound queer theory till the cows come home. But I resent the beejeezus out of all that theorizing, however well intentioned. You’re not talking about abstracted notions, you’re talking about people’s lives, including mine. I’m not a social construct, at least no more so than anyone else. And I am not a nature vs. nurture argument. I’m a person.
    I loathe gender theory. It diminishes me by abstracting me, making my pains and joys something others quantify, study and scrutinize.
    Beyond a core understanding, the reasons I wore my sister’s clothes and had an operation to live as I saw best don’t make a blind bit of difference. It happened. It happens. Other people live through it for good and bad every day. If theories help people live their lives more fully, great. But I suspect that there are a great many of us who live just fine without understanding or even knowing scientific, political,or social theories about our lives, thank you very much.
    Gender theory has little or nothing to do with my day to day life.
    I came out to my current girlfriend on our second date. There’s a special brand of fear that goes along with the possibility of being rejected for who you are at your core. Other parts of the GLBTQIA continuum experience their own brands of this. But in my life I’ve been rejected for being myself by straight men, gay men, gay women, and other transpeople of numerous genders. That makes the stakes pretty high. Despite that, I’m out to everyone who has a right to know. I’ve even done lobbying work and testified to the Minnesota State Senate on health funding issues related to trans rights.
    But I realize how negative this must sound, and despite my strong feelings on theory diminishing us as people, I’m really a very positive person. so let me leave you with a couple more cheery notes:
    1. Sheri and I have been together almost half a year now.
    2. I have a good career that I was able to earn without ever working the streets. Not all us girls are so blessed.
    3. I look OK. I’m not a stunning beauty (Sheri says otherwise) but nobody says boo to me on the street or in the women’s locker room.

    Thanks all for a lively discussion. I wish I could have come out when I was 16, but 1970 wasn’t quite ready for that. Go Janis!

  175. JMoon says:

    Hello, all~

    To start off, let me say that my framework is that of a genderqueer person who had been socialized female; I’m 27 and didn’t go to a women’s college, though I did major in Women’s Studies with a focus on gender. (With, of course, a minor in English. *grin*) From my perspective, I am thrilled to see such a conversation taking place with such respect and well-thought-out posts. Thank you all for taking part.

    As a short comment on John Money, he was sexually abusing both of the twins, forcing them to “practice” heterosexual sex with one another in some sort of perverted effort to solidify gender roles. This kind of abuse is in itself enough of a variable to render the whole “experiment” completely null and void.

    In addition, no one individual can speak for all of us. John/Joan cannot be expected to answer such a complex question; at the very least, a case study of 1 is horrendous science, but further than that, we are each our own person–even if something were true for every other person on the planet, that could not make it true for you, if it were not your personal truth. Popular opinion does not make something true: ask Columbus or Galileo.

    As to whether trans folks “should” be allowed in women-only spaces, I would say that situations differ based on the reasons for creating that safe space. For political purposes, I would say anyone who has experienced the sucky end of patriarchy has something to contribute to the discussion, so cisgender women as well as trans folks of all varieties. If a group is focused on anatomy bits, certainly include trans guys. (I am a student midwife who intends to work with the trans population, for annual exams as well as pregnancy care, so much of my focus is “anyone who currently has a cervix,” a subset of the population that includes many trans guys.) Most groups for whom this has become an issue, however, are geared toward folks who are currently operating in the world as women–it is abundantly clear to me that trans women ought be included in this sort of group, and most men (trans or cis) would not desire to be involved. The question, therefore, is what the purpose of a women’s college is; what exactly are they trying to exclude? In this answer, each college may have to determine for itself. Indeed, each individual student at any given women’s college may have a different idea of the purpose.

    In any case, the comparison to traditionally Black colleges does not stand, as these schools (so far as I understand) do not have any policy prohibiting any student on the basis of race–rather, they are acknowledging their school’s history and affirming their dedication to teach Black students in an atmosphere designed to limit white supremacy/ racism. Anyone can attend. Women’s colleges, however, actually prohibit students from attending based on gender.

    I could go on all night, but I think that’s enough for now.

    Peace ~J

  176. JMoon says:

    Fie on my lack of proofreading!

    When I said “it is abundantly clear to me,” I meant only that trans women should be included. The bit about men not desiring to be involved is NOT abundantly clear to me, for although I am a boy some days, it is not my permanent state of being. From my standpoint, though, I would let anyone in with a desire to learn/ be treated/ organize politically/ whatever–I’m of the opinion that banding together is the only way to accomplish anything.

    Alright. Peace ~J

  177. Ronan says:

    I think it’s completely fine for trans men who feel like they belong at women’s colleges to be at women’s colleges, for a variety of reasons. It’s a problem that trans women have so much less access to women’s colleges, though. If I were an administrator at a women’s college, I would set up scholarships and recruitment and retention programs specifically for trans women to help deal with this.

  178. ready2agitate says:

    diana, thank you for speaking your truth. As someone who enjoys what I’ll loosely call ‘gender theorizing,’ I really appreciate your shake-me-from-my-head cut-to-the-chase. I do believe, though, that such discussions help me better understand myself, others, the world, and the power relationships happening around us all the time — in the spirit of empowerment (for the disempowered). Good to be reminded, though, that it when it comes to gender – sometimes it happens, it happened, and there’s real people in the balance, which is more impt than why/whereforth/what if/what does it mean/ etc.

  179. ksbel6 says:

    St8 but not Narrow—believe me, I understand your point of view. That was/is my point of view also, but I still ended up pregnant (yep, life is weird that way) and I will never regret having the experience and my daughter is a wonderful part of my life. Go figure :)

  180. nonabug says:

    I’ve been reading Donna Haraway lately, and I thought this passage might prove pertinent to the discussion on this page (particularly that of “women’s spaces:”

    “It has become difficult to name one’s feminism by a single adjective – or even to insist in every circumstance upon the noun. Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute. Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic. With the hard-won recognition of their social and historical constitution, gender, race, and class cannot provide the basis for belief in ‘essential’ unity. There is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as ‘being’ female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices. Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historical experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. And who counts as ‘us’ in my own rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called ‘us’, and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity? Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women) along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive, an excuse for the matrix of women’s dominations of each other.”

  181. JaymeBright says:

    Alichatty– you said you’d be interested to know how many supporters work in the English field: I am an English major, as well. I’ve also been wanting to be a professor for the longest time, can’t wait to succeed.