Go, Chaz!

June 11th, 2009 | Uncategorized


Chastity Bono’s transitioning.

Here’s a press release from GLAAD. (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)

GLAAD Statement Regarding Chaz Bono’s Decision to Come Out as Transgender

June 11, 2009, New York, NY – “Chaz Bono’s decision to live his life
authentically represents an important step forward, both for him
personally and for all who are committed to advancing discussions about
fairness and equality for transgender people,” said Neil G. Giuliano,
president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
“Coming out as transgender is an extremely personal decision and one that
is never made lightly. We look forward to hearing Chaz’s story in his own
words in the future.”

“GLAAD encourages media outlets to cover this story accurately, and to
avoid speculation about the details of Chaz’ story before he is ready to
tell it in his own words.”

The GLAAD Media Reference Guide urges media to use the name and pronoun
preferred by the transgender person – in this case, referring to him as
Chaz and using male pronouns. For additional information, including
related guidelines from the Associated Press Stylebook, please visit the
GLAAD Media Reference Guide at

234 Responses to “Go, Chaz!”

  1. Renee S. says:

    I’m Glaad for Chaz. It takes a lot of chutzpah to follow your heart!

  2. Eva Schweber says:

    In one of those odd twists of irony, apparently Sonny Bono (Mr. DOMA himself) was much more supportive that Cher when Chastity came out. I wonder whether Cher is able to be more supportive of Chastity coming out as transgender.

  3. Ery says:

    Good for him.

    I wonder how fame, even just fame by association, affects a decision like that?

    Transitioning is a big enough deal in someone’s life when they aren’t the kind of people who will have special interest groups issuing press releases about their changes. The added pressure of expecting to be made a poster child for transfolks, and be made the focus for both sympathetic well wishers and hateful nuts nationwide, must be intense.

    But on the other hand, to a certain degree, I would suppose normalcy may be a lost cause for the famous anyway, so that’s one less thing to loose by trying. And, to the degree that riches follow fame, there’s less to worry about financially (and in any case, while a transgendered nobody may risk becoming unemployable, a transgendered celebrity might be able to make it work for them)…

  4. Dale says:

    Love is a many-gendered thing…isn’t that what Lois told Mo one time? Hee hee! That came to my mind immediately!

    Go Chaz!

  5. Diana says:

    Heh- one of my students in Graphic Novel class did a temr paper on trans issues in comics. I pointed her to Alison’s work, even got her to check out the Essential Dykes from the school library, but it never made it into the paper. I always wanted to see the MtF character, Jillian, have a more active ongoing role, and I also enjoyed the transitioning at an early age of – God, I can’t remember the kid’s name all of a sudden!
    Anyway, the upshot is that Alison has always been supportive of trans folk, on paper and in life, as far as I know. And that kind of acceptance needs to be celebrated, as does Chaz’s decision to act on who he is!

  6. Charles in Vancouver says:

    Might I also add, it is so refreshing to see -mature- comments on this topic. Comments on news websites make me want to cry.

  7. Ready2Agitate says:

    Jonas became Janis – and it’s OK, Diana, those minds of ours do come with blips :).

    In the photo (Cher & toddler), Chaz looks very much like Sonny Bono there, no?

  8. Ready2Agitate says:

    omg the emoticon did not convert to a big goofy yellow bulbous smiley face – hurrah!

    And Feminista, you’ve got street cred, girl (not to mention Maggie JoChild) – (see previous thread re: Harvey Milk)

  9. Alex K says:

    Transitioning is, for me, a confrontation. It confronts me with feelings that I’d like to disown but have to work through if I am to dispel them.

    None of my business, I think; not for me to HAVE an opinion; and a pang of sorrow / regret (“Isn’t life tough enough without throwing THAT into the mix?!”) that someone else should imagine his / her happiness to lie at the end of that particular road, a road on which I can’t see myself setting foot.

    Not too different, I muse, sitting here and thinking it over, from the response that I’d have to the news that a friend had decided to become a Scientologist.

    Fancy opens both those doors for me — to gender dysphoria and to belief in Xenu. Yet I can’t really slip inside either realm, not yet, not to wander about and to dream myself into those existences.

    I’d like to offer celebration. But what wells up is…acceptance. Not endorsement, certainly. Not rejoicing. And I think that acceptance is just not enough.

    For one thing, acceptance is the obverse of rejection. It implies assessment, weighing-in-the-balance, judgement. I don’t like finding out about myself that about such a matter I am, still, judgemental. Not who I’d like myself to be, I reflect. No, not at all.

    Imagining again, I think: This is how — not my parents, perhaps my uncles or cousins, people more distanced, less invested and partial, more dispassionate, but who au fond wished me well — must have reacted to the news about MY sexuality. “Well, we saw that coming, didn’t we?” Or, again: Nothing to do with me, but… With that shrug, a turning from.

    To them, with that declaration of mine, I was become a sea creature, slipped away into a life sealed into separateness, behind glass, under and amidst the alien. Ferdinand’s father, not gone like him into death, but yes, gone away. And not richer through the change; instead, something poor and strange, something that at best couldn’t help it.

    A good reminder to me: I mustn’t turn away.

    Thank you, AB, and fellow blogfollowers, for establishing and maintaining a part of my world in which I can be pensive.

  10. Feminista says:

    @Ready #8: Thanks! I found Randy very supportive of feminism, a good model for other men.

    And now I must leave you fascinating folks and get some work done.

  11. jayinchicago says:

    being trans = scientology. i see.

  12. Alex K says:

    @11 / jayinchicago: No; not at all. The two are entirely different.

    The flavours of my responses to the news that someone had decided to embark on either of those journeys: Those flavours are, to me, reminiscent of one another.

    My intention was not to conflate the event with the echo, the perception, of the event. I think that these are very important to distinguish from one another. That I did not make this clear in my first post is, for me, to be regretted, and I apologise for not making it clear.

  13. ThE LaTeNt Lens says:

    @ Alex K…..
    you were so clear to me with such eloquence.

  14. Antoinette says:

    In a climate where hate crimes are rising, I’m dreaming of the day we can all be who we are without fear.

  15. Dr. Empirical says:

    Not to detract from Chaz’s courageous decision, but did anyone else see the picture of Cher before reading the article and assume she was a drag queen?

  16. NLC says:

    Curiouser and curiouser…

    If you look at the very, very top of each page, above the new header, right in the middle, above the “E” and “C” in “Bechdel”, you’ll find a small dark dot.

    (At first I thought this was a spec on my monitor; but, no, it doesn’t go away.)

    Any guesses on what this might be? Has our new web wizard figured out how to embed an micro web cam in the page, so now AB can see what we are up to? Perhaps this points the other way; if we could zoom in far enough we would have view into the D2WO4 world? Could it be a preview of The New Book in microfiche form?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    Perhaps we should ask AlisonA about this?
    (As distinct from AlisonB (How cool would it be if the text-editor supported subscripts.))

  17. Eva says:

    Go Chaz. What a brave person. And yes, resembles his dad very much (as a four year old for sure…haven’t seen any recent pics so can’t say anything about present day).

    Dr.E, that’s interesting. I hope my taking up your subject here isn’t seen as a derailment and/or disrespectful – here goes.

    Am I wrong or is Cher a (male) gay icon? Maybe not a Judy Garland or Bette Midler, but still. Yeah, Cher is tall and relatively big boned in a way that is perfect for a drag queen to immitate to terrific effect. Is anyone here the right age and inclination to have watched the Sonny & Cher show? I think Bob Mackie (sp?) designed her dresses, which were totally fabulous and also excellent drag queen fodder, as well as for Carol Burnett and a number of other 70’s TV stars.

  18. iara says:

    @Dr E and Eva: I think Cher is not just a drag queen icon, Cher is a drag queen, period.

    @ NLC I was intrigued by the weird dot too. I looked at the style sheet and I suspect that the offending item is this image here: http://www.dykestowatchoutfor.com/visi/falsecolumn.gif
    that is used as a filler in the div#wrapper of the style.css file (I think it is there as a background in order to align the banner, but a little bit of its vertical line shows through at the top, and it looks like a dot).
    Ha, I will next uncover AB’s sinister use for this, stay tuned!

  19. Calico says:

    Good for you Chaz! We saw this on the news last night.

    Re: trans characters in DTWOF, I miss Jerry (I forget what his name was before transitioning). I miss Lois too (though I know she’s not a transgender or transsexual).

  20. Jessica says:

    Here’s the link to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide!


  21. Metaphysical says:


  22. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Iara, NLC

    Disclaimer… I am NOT an HTML guru at all.

    I also looked at the source. I don’t think the dot is an embedded graphic, it didn’t show up when I looked at the media tab in Firefox page info.

    I think it’s a stray period at the end of this line (GT and LT brackets replaced by square brackets so it doesn’t show up as HTML in this post):

    [link rel=”EditURI” type=”application/rsd+xml” title=RSD” href=”http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/xmlrpc.php?rsd” /].

    Note the period at the end of the line.

  23. Ian says:

    @Alex K: Thank you for articulating my own very similar feelings so eloquently.

    It feels very strange to be on the other side of the non-understanding. No anger, or fear, or hate, just perplexity. Maybe this is how it feels to be the parents you come out to? Who can’t relate to the new information about someone they previously (thought they) knew.

    I do know someone, I’m not sure if he’s pre- or post-op, but definitely lives as a woman (and really needs a good hairdresser). I’m lacking that chord of recognition, that moment of connection with his experience that enables me to relate to the challenges he faces. I find it really frustrating that I don’t “get” it. I suppose I just need to work on it more and try harder.

    By the way, it is very difficult to express these feelings, especially on a blog which is very trans-friendly and I really hope I’ve not offended any of the transfolk that post here as that’s not my intention.

  24. AlisonAG says:

    @iara, NLC & HOH
    The dot has been removed. HOH was right, it was that stray period. A punctuation pimple on the blog. Perhaps we can have a weekly “find the dot” scavenger hunt. Where will the errant punctuation mark fall next week???

    I like this embedded micro web cam idea. To be honest, it’s always creeped me out a bit that there’s a camera on the top of my computer looking at me, claiming to be turned off.

  25. Dr. Empirical says:

    @ Eva: In my observation, Cher is by far the most-impersonated personage in Dragqueenland. Of course, Dragqueenland and Transgendered Society are two completely different worlds, and one should not confuse them.

  26. hairball_of_hope says:

    re: #24

    Oooh, I won, I won, I won! What’s my prize?

    As for the creepiness of the webcam, I agree. But AAG, you’re not just being paranoid, webcams HAVE been used to remotely ID the person at the keyboard.

    Two cases come to mind: The first was a stolen Macbook. The rightful owner tracked down the Macbook over the Internet, and used the webcam to snap a photo of the user remotely. One of her roommates recognized the guy, who had attended a party in their apartment.

    She brought the photo to local police, who arrested the two thieve, and the Macbook was returned to its rightful owner.


    The second case (or situation) is a bit more nefarious. There are software programs out there that track your activities on a computer. Sometimes installed by suspicious spouses, sometimes installed by paranoid parents, sometimes installed by evil employers, and sometimes installed by our criminal security and/or intelligence organizations.

    These programs capture your screens and keystrokes, and can also use the webcam to capture a photo of the user. The data are then sent to the person/group/org that installed the software for scrutiny. You can’t claim it was your officemate accessing pr0n on your computer when they have a timestamped photo of you at the keyboard that correlates to your visit to rubbermaids-in-crisco.com (although you might try to claim that you were merely looking up baking recipes and kitchenware).

  27. hairball_of_hope says:

    Damn… I previewed the post, and I *STILL* have a typo in it. ARRRRGGGHHH! That’s supposed to be “thieves.”

  28. Kate L says:

    Chaz’s decision (not to become transexual – he’s probably known that since he was 3 or 4 years old) but to transition is a very brave and very public (yet very lonely) decision. Even members of other parts of the LGBT spectrum can be ignorant and prejudiced about what being transexual means (although our little group here has a rather good grasp of the subject and is being appropriately supportive). Good luck to him.

    I myself used to be prejudiced against female to male transexuals. I got my attitude adjusted when a friend rented “Boys Don’t Cry” with Hilary Swank in the true story of Brandon Teena, a female to male transexual. I knew the general subject matter of the film, but not how it ended until I saw it for myself. I now realize that Brandon’s body image was just as legitimate as my own.

    Maggie; Thanks for answering my unasked question about Milk. After seeing the film for myself, I really, really doubted that only one lesbian (Milk’s campaign manager) was involved in the movement. It all seemed too male-oriented to be true to life.

  29. Christine says:

    Go Chaz! I think it’s good he’s going to be in living the way that feels right to him. I don’t have very much trouble understanding how some people can be transgender because I always wanted to be a boy. But, I used to be utterly bewildered at male to female transgender people because I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to be male.

    Speaking of “Boys Don’t Cry” I cried for like an hour after I saw that movie! The ending kind of showed me my worst fear. I saw the movie not long after my dad stated that he was going to kill my girlfriend (he hasn’t).

  30. Alex K says:

    @Ian / 23: Thanks for that. I was timorous about posting my original comment.

    And, yes, perplexity / befuddlement… again, that sense of separation.

    But — homo sum [!], humani nil a me alienum puto, if I remember the tag correctly.

    I have to work to make that connection. The bridge is there. It only needs me to build it.

  31. Calico says:

    #24 – Fare thee well, O great yet humble Dot.
    (As for stray periods, I wish they’d finally all go away for good.)

    : )

  32. judybusy says:

    I just want to thank Alex and Ian for sharing their thoughts, and recognize you still wish to grow and change. I had to–and still am–work on growing my own mind.

    My first thought when I read the headline in our local paper’s site: “Holy sh*t, that is taking some guts!” I then skipped the comments section, knowing it would suck, and came here.

  33. Maggie Jochild says:

    Cher plays a direct role in my coming to name myself as lesbian, which I think about first every time I look at her (followed immediately by Jack McFarlane’s imitation of her on Will and Grace).

    When I was nine (1965), I was watching TV in the same room as my parents. During those years, I was stalked by my older brother/torturer/molester and I had acquired the ability to go invisible — literally, my family didn’t notice me sitting among them. Hence, I often heard things I wasn’t meant to hear. This night, my brother wasn’t present but I was still, as a matter of habit, “off radar”.

    Sonny and Cher came on to perform, and my mother, an aficionado of gossip magazines, turned to my father and remarked “You know, there’s a rumor that she’s a lesbian, but of course that can’t be true because she’s married.” My father grunted in reply.

    I was electrified. Despite being a voracious reader and having an extraordinary vocabulary, here was a word I’d never heard: Lesbian. And it was somehow associated with a woman NOT being married. I already knew I was never going to marry, not if I could possibly find a way around it. (Of course, my mother’s information was very wrong, but that didn’t matter at the time.)

    I did something I’d never done before, or since: I broke cover. I turned and asked out loud “What’s a lesbian?”

    Both my parents gasped, as much at the shock of me suddenly materializing two feet away, sitting on the linoleum floor at their feet, as the fact that I’d heard that verboten word. But the secondary shock was, yes, the word and its meaning. Mama had a rule that if we asked a respectful question, we got a respectful answer. She was always going with us to the encyclopedia or dictionary to help us look up things. That rule now warred inside her. She looked at my father, who gave her an expression that clearly read “You’re the one who said it, and besides I don’t give a fuck” and looked back at the TV.

    Unwillingly, she answered “A lesbian is a woman who loves other women instead of men.” Again, not strictly accurate, but clean enough for the purpose, and I knew instantly what she meant. Followed by an instant recognition of “So that’s what I am!”

    (Let me add here, I am not an essentialist or a biological determinist, so I don’t think this was a recognition of “Oh that’s what I was born” but rather a recognition that I had already made some early, probably pre-verbal decisions about the path I wanted to followed, based on the data I had available to me at the time.)

    I nodded silently. After a minute, I slid back into invisibility and left the room unnoticed. I went to my hiding place — under the big oak dining table, where the table cloth reached close to the floor and provided a canopy against my being seen. I also slept in the dining room those years, because it was the only rent house we could afford and there was no bedroom for me.

    I sat there in seclusion and felt emotion storm through me. Relief, anticipation, and terror: I could tell from Mama’s tone of voice that being a lesbian was NOT okay with her, and I adored my mother, lived to please her. But there was a word for what I wanted to do.

    I’m still — no surprise here — very partial to lesbians and who we are, to the choice of women against all pressures to devalue us in this society. I work at not being prejudiced about it, my heightened interest in all things lesbian. I often feel a pang when someone gives up that identity for heterosexuality or (in the case of someone transitioning to male) trans identity, although of course many women in my life, including exes, have done so with my best attempt at support. Well, support unless they were assholes to me and I have a hard time being charitable about any choice they make, but that’s just personal.

    I feel the same pang when someone who was raised poor/working class becomes upwardly mobile and rids themselves (they delude themselves) of their former identity, or when a Southerner takes steps to wipe away their gorgeous accent. For brief periods, I undertook both of those actions, feeling overwhelmed by the oppression and unwilling to be separated from so-called privilege, even if I had to alter my perceived identity to pass. I’ve also dieted, shaved my legs, and bleached/removed facial hair, all in an attempt to deflect the oppression that comes down on women in particular who take up space, who don’t adhere to rigid notions of gender, who are indifferent to the male gaze (to paraphrase Alix).

    I also, as a teenager in rural Texas, considered trying to pass as a boy, either then or when I was grown, to give myself permission and safety in pursuing girls. It’s a choice poor and isolated lesbians often make, and I have to say, when I watched Boy’s Don’t Cry, I completely related to the Brandon Teena character from that viewpoint, not as transgender (a viewpoint somewhat validated by journal entries shared after his death). When you have a full range of options in front of you as an adult, some choices change. Thank g*d I’m not locked into the choices I thought I had at age 17.

    I know, absolutely, that women who leave behind lesbian identity do not necessarily do it for the reasons I’ve chosen to pass. But I always wonder what sort of relief they feel at no longer being one particular brand of abnormal (though of course “woman” and “trans” are still targeted for profound oppression under our gender rules, all on a continuum where I refuse to say one is “more oppressed” than another, just different.) Is it the same relief I felt at finding there was a word for what I wanted to be, at age nine?

    I didn’t have that particular reaction to Chaz’s news because he is a celebrity only by accident of birth, is not a leader, and if my memory is correct, on the conservative end of things. I wouldn’t care if Mary Cheney stopped being a lesbian, either. And no, I don’t assume that someone transitioning automatically makes them an ally to lesbian/gay issues, because in my experience that’s not an assumption you get to make. Some people transition with an intent of being heterosexual and never claiming a prior queer identity, and they have that right. I hope Chaz’s attempt to avoid public scrutiny and speculation works for him; he deserves privacy and the right to not be shoved into more boxes based on other’s expectations.

  34. Aunt Soozie says:

    sorry to change the subject but
    one of my friends needs a drag name for an event next weekend and asked for suggestions. anyone remember any of the names that were dreamed up over on the maoist orange cake blog? ooo… I just noticed the preview button. cool.

  35. Ian says:

    Drag King or Queen, Aunt Soozie?

  36. Alex K and Maggie, thank you so much for your eloquent comments. Thanks, everyone, in fact. I was kind of worried when I put up this post that people would take cheap shots, but what was I thinking?

    I’m really grateful for these honest and kind explorations of peoples’ feelings about transgender. It’s a conversation that so often gets completely polarized.

  37. Alex K says:

    @Aunt Soozie / 34:

    “Brie Chardonnay” has always done it for me. ‘Cause it’s you, though, Sooz —

    — call me Brie.

  38. Dr. Empirical says:

    @Alison: I was concerned that my comments might be interpreted as cheap shots, so was careful to phrase them accordingly.

    @Auntie: The formula for drag queen names is the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on, which would make mine: Misty Sagamore!

    I bought The Little Stranger today, and felt fortunate to make it out of the bookstore having only spent an additional 30 unplanned dollars. I’ll get started on it soon.

    In other entertainment news, Sonia, who apparently no longer bills herself as “Sonia of Disappear Fear”, is playing up the street tonight. Sadly, it’s an outdoor show, and it’s looking like thunderstorm weather. Any fans on line?

  39. hairball_of_hope says:

    Wow. Powerful words from everyone here. I’ve been thinking this over all day as I dealt with stupid stuff at work, and I’m not sure I’m up to the expressive content of the folks who’ve already posted. Not that THAT’S ever stopped me from putting my two cents in.

    I’ve confronted my own preconceived notions and prejudices over the years. And as with most things in life, it’s a work in progress.

    Yes, there’s bias against transfolk in the lesbian and gay community, and I think we’ve often been silent about it. We squirm a little. It makes us uncomfortable. How much of THEM is in US?

    We make little or no distinction between transfolks and drag queens. Oh sure, we’ve added BT to the LG (and now the L comes before G), but really, do we celebrate or cringe when we watch the Pride parade?

    Oh no, they’re going to get media attention, and we’ll all be portrayed as crazed drag queens. We’re trying so hard to be respectable, and now look, Hedda Lettuce and Rollerina are all anyone sees on the 15 second clip of the Pride parade, along with the backsides of the topless Dykes On Bikes.

    Nevermind that it was the drag queens who rebelled at Stonewall – against the cops, against the Mafia who owned the bar and exploited the gay community, against the so-called liberal Village Voice that covered the story in shockingly offensive terms (“limp wrists” comes to mind as one of the terms used).

    Maybe it’s a little different for folks a few generations younger than me, Maggie, Kate, Ian, Alex K (I’m assuming we’re all in the 50-ish range, please correct me if I’m wrong). When we were coming into puberty, the gay rights movement and women’s movement were in their early days.

    The dominant media of the time made no distinctions between transvestites and homosexuals (the preferred terms used in the media). Lord knows they had no clue about gender dysphoria.

    I remember reading and watching the news about the “transvestites and homosexuals” rounded up at the Stonewall Inn, the riots in the next few days, and how those arrested were placed in “paddy wagons,” also an accepted term used by dominant media despite the obvious ethnic slur.

    Perhaps we’ve had to overcome some of our early social conditioning and negative associations. Perhaps we’ve had to come to terms with our own feelings about gender and sexual identity. Probably all of the above.

    It’s a process. Maybe we’ve got some catching up to do to make up for all that cultural BS that was inculcated in us.

    My own story… I first met transfolks around 1975. I freely confess I didn’t “get it.” Both were MTF, one had a more “conventional” female appearance that made it easier for her to get through life, but I quickly learned how problematic that little piece of paper called a driver’s license can be if you look and live as one gender, but the license says something else.

    A few years later, I met a lesbian who confided to me that she was dealing with gender identity issues. Now I really didn’t get it. I asked why she would want to be male, not understanding the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation. Another milestone in my education.

    This was around the time that Martina Navratilova came out, and had the MTF Dr. Renée Richards in her entourage. Everything about Martina and her associates was fodder for late-night comedians. Richards was treated as a circus act. Another education.

    And so it goes. Just as straight folks start to “get it” as they encounter people in their daily lives who are of a sexual orientation different from theirs, so too do straight and LGB folks start to get it when they encounter people in their lives who are trans.

    By far the real-life education that affected me most deeply was when a gay male colleague decided to transition. I knew him pretty well, had been to his house, met his teenage daughter (he was a divorced single parent with custody of the kid). Anytime we were at a meeting or seminar (we are in different parts of the country), we’d go out to dinner and catch up on news, and just talk freely.

    I gave him advice on navigating the minefield at work. Despite official policies barring disparate treatment, it’s pretty rough to work someplace for a bunch of years, and then one day start coming to work living as the other gender, with another first name, as the person goes through the Benjamin protocols until reassignment surgery.

    Still, I had reservations. I thought he should wait another two years or so until his daughter was out of high school, she already had a bunch of problems, and this wasn’t going to help. I told a friend that his decision to transition seemed very selfish at this point in time, and very “male,” a woman would be more likely to sacrifice herself for the child.

    “And how long should he wait to live his life?” she asked me. “Why should women be expected to sacrifice themselves for others, but it’s ok for men to just go ahead and do what is best for them?”

    Another education. She transitioned, her mother disowned her (literally), then died of cancer not wanting her daughter-formerly-son to visit. Her daughter rejected her. The job survived. As did my colleague, who tells me that for the first time in her life, the inside matches the outside, and she’s happy.

    Despite my own path to understanding, I see my shortcomings.

    Would I enter a relationship with a transperson? I don’t know. The fact that I can’t just say YES, and I can’t just say NO, bothers me.

  40. NLC says:

    Dr. Empirical: The formula for drag queen names is the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on, which would make mine: Misty Sagamore!

    Snooky Hancock County Rte 117??

    (Hmm, Perhaps I should hyphenate.)

  41. hairball_of_hope says:

    Oh no, I am NOT going to use that formula. I named my first pet after Lurch of the Addams family!

  42. Kate L says:


    I actually have been in a relationship with a transperson. I never knew her as a man, and -shall we say- everything was where it should have been.

  43. Alex K says:

    @H_o_H / 39: Fifty-four here, rounding the curve into fifty-five.

    Maggie J — stern and powerful. Austere. She might be my age or older. But she might just as well be younger. Some persons’ experience imbues them with an authority to which I defer. She radiates that authority. Perhaps the closest among the regular posters to someone who rightfully can claim the title of crone.

    Kate — My contemporary. From far away, my aspired-to friend.

    You? Your energy, your brilliance, make me surprised to learn that you’re my sober, grey, saddened age.

    And Ian? If he’s a day over thirty, I’m astonished. What unfailing good humour and ebullience! I lost that sparkle and verve long ago. Wonderful if, at your age and mine, he should have been able to keep them.

  44. Eva says:

    Oooo, I love that there’s a drag-name formula. Mine would be Happy Brandon. That works really well, and it’s gender neutral!

    Meanwhile, whatever you call Cher she seems to love her own campiness, in all it’s manifestations.

    Maggie J., thanks so much for your comments.

  45. geogeek says:

    That would make my drag name Waldo Bedford. Whaddaya think, is it me?

  46. geogeek says:

    p.s. I like the Snooky….

  47. Aunt Soozie says:

    Alex, I mean, Brie my little honeybun,
    it’s a drag king name she seeks.
    I like Waldo Bedford.
    By dr E’s formula mine would be Chucky Strahle.
    I guess that’s sorta gender neutral too?
    We had some witty ones in a contest over on the orange cake blog but now that I’m trying to think of some I’m drawing a big blank. Performance Anxiety?
    Baron Von Count Gettuddup? nah. someone must remember…. gosh, I’m crash.. midst this intense dialogue, yo, y’all, gimme a drag king name for my friend… prioritize people, prioritize.. : )

  48. Aunt Soozie says:

    shoot, even with the preview button I said I’m crash instead of crass..but that could be a good drag king first name Crash Inntaherr

  49. Maggie Jochild says:

    Alex K, #43: Stern? Austere? See, that’s how writing fails to convey folks. I’m kinda doofus-y in real life. Powerful, yeah, but oh so tender-hearted and generous. I laugh all the time, especially at myself. I have a Leo self-confidence (which is overlaying a craving for liking, something I’ve worked hard to ameliorate because Bill Clinton I do NOT want to be).

    My experience with drag queens in the 70s, during college, was unfailingly negative because they were howling misogynists. But also immature and, hey, it was common to the times. Later on I found drag queens who had politics and social consciousness as well as camp under their belts — I especially adored the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in San Fran. What I’ve learned is if you’re a one-issue identity, and you haven’t incorporated feminism/anti-racism/class awareness into your mix, you’re not going to be someone I want to do alliance work with. I’ll support your human rights, of course (to the fucking wire), but we’re probably not on the same front lines.

    I like drag names that seriously make people question the ridiculous nature of gender boxes, that don’t perpetuate racial or class stereotypes (very rare, the latter), and please for g*d’s sake never again any variation on Jack Off. It was NEVER funny.

  50. Maggie Jochild says:

    On a depressing note, Obama’s administration has, according to John Aravosis at America Blog, just threw a lot of us under the bus, ran us down, backed up and ran over us again for good measure, as spelled out in his post Obama defends DOMA in federal court. Says banning gay marriage is good for the federal budget. Invokes incest and marrying children.

  51. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Alex K (#43)

    The marketing droids like to say that 50 is the new 30. Great. We’re of the generation that said, “Never trust anyone over 30.” So now I really can’t trust myself. 🙁

    I don’t think of this decade of my life as a “sober, grey, saddened age” merely because of the time passage. The health issues are starting to creep up on me, I don’t have quite the energy I did a few years ago, but overall the improvements in my mental and psychic health are outweighing the niggling physical reminders of my mortality. I just wish I had that 20-year-old’s body again to enjoy it all.

    I was much more sober and saddened in that hard 10-15 year period when everyone I knew was dying of AIDS. Saddened when I found myself in my 40s and single again. Saddened when my beloved feline went to the catbox in the sky. But saddened by age 50? No way. I’ve earned these damn grey hairs, thank you very much. I’m going to celebrate this time of my life – it took me half a century on the planet to figure out how to live.

  52. Dr. Empirical says:

    @NLC: A certain amount of wiggle room is permissible: Snooky Handcock?

    My girlfriend says “I don’t see what’s so funny about a guy in a dress!”

    She’s missing the point. A guy in a dress: Not Funny.

    A transgendered person trying to define their identity in a hostile world: Not Funny.

    A guy in a dress, 8-inch heels, a 2-foot high wig and inch-long false eyelashes, waving a cigarette holder and declaring himself “Fabulous!”: Hilarious.

  53. iara says:

    omg, I just remembered that Robert Altman film: “Come back to the five and dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean” – does anyone else remember it? Cher is in it – I don’t want to write a spoiler here, but it is very relevant to our discussion.

    @hoh: you win! Watch out though for the rematch!

  54. Aunt Soozie says:

    my favorite queen is Mary K Mart. and she is Fabulous. I love her. but, dunno what anyone else thinks of the social message there… Maggie, so, no names with Jack and Off… are you against those that start with Dick? I think I had suggested Dick Sillacone. not too good, huh?

  55. Dr. Empirical says:

    I agree with Maggie that names like “Dick Stroker” are too obvious. Subtlety is not a virtue here, but still, there are standards.

    Baron von Gropenschtupp?

    Pharoh Ramitupem?

    Apollo Snogbody?

    I’m shooting in the dark here. I’ve never seen a drag king show. Still, I love how the serious and silly conversations here intertwine without detracting from each other. I’m staying out of the serious side because it’s outside my experience, but I am listening.

  56. Alex K says:

    @Aunt Soozie / 43: “Max Axle” is up for grabs, I think, till AB gets back with the programme. I’ve searched YouTube for I’M YOUR VEHICLE, BABY, but it’s been pulled, copyright issues, wevs.

    Maybe I can unite anime / kawaii! with that drag name. Brie-chan. Whaddaya think?

    @Maggie J / 49: However cuddlesome you may be in “real life” (as we know it), I still am going to keep listening to you, and learning from you. You have a lot to say and to teach.

    @H_o_H / 51: I guess I’m not saddened by being in my 50s per se. More that, what with one thing and another, and as I count my scars, the phrase “No one gets out of here alive” is so much more vivid than it used to be.

  57. Aunt Soozie says:

    Dr E… Love Baron von Gropenschtupp! found these…
    Holden Johnson, Dick Carrier, Joe King, Leonardo Di CapriSun, Mr Meanor, Pat McCrotch, Seymour Booty, Will Charmer,Vain Diesel, Luke Warm, Mick Swagger..and now I’ll stop!

  58. Maggie Jochild says:

    I knew a radical dyke in SF who wrote and posted flyers about racism in the wimmin’s community using the name Kaylinda S. Kooba. What was hilarious is how few white women got the joke in the name — proving her point, as it were.

    Some of the great names that we came up with at Maoist Orange Cake, Aunt Soozie, include the prize-winner by little gator — Cervix Merchandise — as well as:

    Orifice Max
    Boxa Hammers
    Elvis Herselvis
    Brit Tenyspears
    Brad Clitt
    York Hunt
    Jean-Claude Coq au Van Damme

  59. Ali: AKA Anneka Avenue says:

    To all who contribute here my girlfriend who follows this blog but does not comment, says it has the best comments of any blog she knows and I would like to second that. I enter into a world I love when I tune into this blog and so often feel stimulated, challenged and entertained. Thank you all for your great comments. Which in particular today are fasinating.
    @ Maggie #33 I am moved by your entry – caried with you to be sitting under that table cloth hiding and thinking – realising.
    @ HOH #39 Thank you for your enigmatic honesty – I do so look forward to your comments in particular – I wonder where you find the time – but I am glad you do. I feel Milk got it so right when he said that people’s attitudes to homosexuals would change when they found out that their friends, family, colleagues and neighbours were gay. When you know someone you don’t see the difference you just see them – when you don’t you can’t see past the difference. I am so grateful to the lesbians who have gone before me who make it possible for me to be out today without fear. I wonder what you all think of me – that I knew I liked women but trying to be a good Christian girl got married and had children – do you think i am a sell out or do you feel pity for me? I stayed in an abusive relationship for 9 years because I had settled – believed marriage was to be endured. Should I be disowned or embraced???

    I struggle with anyone wanting to be male – mainly due to abuse and the crap qualities that have been fostered to get on in male society. But I am finally getting that it is not about choice ” You are what you are”. Wanting implies choice – needing to be male would be more accurate. I believe I was wrong – ultimately not in society’s eyes but for my own well being to try to be what I was not. So I believe if you trully feel the need to be a different gender to the one you were born as – you should be supported by every free thinking person to be who you are.

  60. Maggie Jochild says:

    Ali, #59: Abusive relationships occur with any sexual preference or identity, and staying in them is common. I’ve done my share. It doesn’t feel like a choice at the time, does it? Only when you realize your own power and worth can you move into something else. Celebrate the shift and forgive yourself, then you won’t need the forgiveness of others (which isn’t theirs/ours to give, anyhow).

    Thanks for jumping in.

  61. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Ali (#59)

    As Maggie wrote, the choices you made didn’t feel like choices at the time. Or perhaps they felt like the best of a bad lot of choices available to you. I’ve known women in abusive relationships who stayed because they didn’t have financial options, especially when kids were involved.

    Beyond forgiving yourself is recognizing that each of us evolves. What feels right at the time might not be right somewhere down the road. So don’t go judging your previous self harshly in the light of your current understanding.

    Understand that wherever you are today, you’ll be looking back at it critically sometime in the future. You’ll be a lot more pleased with the outcome if your instant reaction to something new isn’t “Why?” but “Why not?”

  62. Ian says:

    @Alex K #43 and HOH: I’m 35! Bless you for saying I have unfailing good humour and am ebullient! I’m currently struggling to recover from PTSD, but I guess this blog just brings out the best in me!

    @Ali #59: I think almost every ‘different’ person can understand why anyone would want to please their family by conforming to what we think they’d like best. We all desperately want our family’s approval and love to some extent. I think a few of us also understand the reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. Sometimes the relentlessness of it all just saps the life out of you.

    You should definitely not criticise yourself or feel that you did something ‘wrong’ by staying. Instead, focus on where you are now – married to someone you love! The past still upsets me, but I feel (sometimes) like I know so much more and have so much more experience. The path I’ve followed got me here, where I am. Not perfect, but on the road to healing. The good thing that came out of the suffering was the learning.

  63. Renee S. says:

    I realize that each person’s reasoning and rationalization processes are different. Do I feel uncomfortable with the idea of transitioning? Yes.
    I think one of the reasons I feel this sense of uneasiness is because, as a lesbian, I have struggled, argued, and explained at great length about eternal misconceptions from those who live in STRAIGHTWORLD about lesbianism (as I see it). For example, when I was talking with my mother (many many moons ago) about a then current lesbian relationship, the first question she spurted out was, “Well, who is the man? You or Linda?” I felt kind of horrified, because, even though both of us were sort of androgynous looking, neither of us wanted to be men nor even thought of it. “Well”, I said, “neither one of us, we are both women, that’s why we’re called lesbians.” She responded, “Well, somebody has to play the man, don’t they?”
    Before I even came out to myself, I remember my Aunt asking me, “Why do you carry your wallet in your back pocket, like a man?” I knew in my heart that I was a lesbian, but I think it was that particular comment that kept me from coming out for a couple of more years.
    I think that we fear that maybe a little part of us really wants to be a man, or perhaps we worry that others think that lesbians are just women trying to be men. (And believe me, I hear this all of the time!)
    This reminds me of when NOW was trying to exclude lesbians from the movement; I think straight women were afraid that they would be considered not only as feminists, but as dyke feminists. And if memory serves me correctly, I remember that those types of accusations were flying around.
    So, I think this uneasiness we feel about transitioning really comes out of self-fear. The social construct of gender identity and male dominance is ingrained upon us from birth onwards. We have already been through a huge struggle with our own sexuality, and explaining that sexuality over and over again is very aggravating sometimes. But way back in the creases and fold of our brains we worry that maybe, just maybe, we could be struggling with gender identity too. My thought processes sometimes go like this: “Gee, if I were a man, I would make more money…but, gee, I know I do NOT WANT to be a man!” The argument continually abounds in my own head.
    However, having said all of this: I think anyone who wishes to transition should do so. Self-realization and happiness is a long path, and each path belongs exclusively to each one of us. We should all find our own reasons for what we want to do and what makes us happy with ourselves. Choices are not always easy nor nice. But the ABILITY to choose is what sets us free.
    Even though I am uncomfortable with the subject of transitioning, I find it in my heart to be happy for, admire, and respect people who find themselves walking on their own rugged or smooth paths to happiness, no matter how fearful my inner self may be.

  64. Renee S. says:

    Oh, and my stripper/drag name is Dusty Castle.

  65. Ian says:

    My drag name would be Caspian Crossley! Maybe that would work if your drag character was upper class, English, and wearing a top hat and tails. Oh, and a monacle too! Very Marlene actually.

    I like the drag names in Torch Song Trilogy: Virginia Ham, Anita Man, Vonda Boys, Clare Voyant, Fay Ways, Bang Bang LaDesh, Marina Del Rey, Bertha Venation. I’m afraid my own attempts at Drag King names are terrible: Rock Hardon was the first to come to mind, although I’m quite fond of Dr Butchenstein.

  66. Ian says:

    Oh! And the daddy of them all – Phil McCracken! (Hmmm. Should I be ashamed of posting that one?)

  67. Diana says:

    After a couple days away from the boards, and after reading some of the hateful twaddle about this over at Huff, I have to tell you all how grateful I am for you all.
    I’ve talked here in the past about my status as a post-op MtF. I know there have been a couple times when I’ve gotten my back up about it over the years, possibly needlessly. I’m a bit embarrassed about that, as I read over the posted remarks.
    I know that you’re on my side- no, that’s wrong. I know that we’re all on the same side.
    To paraphrase one of the early books of lesbian comic artists, what I love about queer communities is arguing with people I agree with. Just have to remember that last part!
    From me and Chaz and the rest of the trans communities: Thanks, folks.

  68. Alex the Bold says:

    As to Chaz Bono. One of the previous posters wrote about how Chaz probably “knew” at the age of 3 or 4.

    It seems — let me repeat that — it SEEMS that the MTFs and FTMs predominantly “know” at an early age that, whoa, everyone else is THIS way, but I’m THAT way.

    But with the gays and lesbians there seems — SEEMS — to be a wider window of first awareness. I have one friend who swears up and down that he knew since he was six or seven. Another swears he had no idea until he was 16 or 17, up to then he liked girls and says he only fantasized about them.

    Does anyone know of any research on any of that?

    And I think the best — because it’s just so awful — drag queen name ever was Bertha Fanation.

    And the best drag king name? Dick Bush.

  69. ksbel6 says:

    Applying Dr. E’s rule my drag name would be Spooky 23. Which is kinda cool.

    @jayinchicago: I hope you are still reading this.

  70. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#63… gawd, I love these comment numbers!)

    re: Back pocket wallet…

    Chicken or egg? Does it cause one to become a lesbian or is parking one’s collection of credit cards and IDs in close proximity to one’s buttocks some lesbian signal that I’ve managed to miss? Damn, I need to upgrade my gaydar receiver.

    While your thought process about “Gee, if I were a man…” goes to money, mine goes to clothes. “Gee, if I were a man, these clothes would actually have usable pockets.” “Gee, if I were a man, these shoes would be made of real leather, would be comfortable to walk in, and would cost one-third less.” “Gee, if I were a man, it would be incredibly easy to dress up for this formal event, and I could rent every bit of the clothing, right down to the shoes and socks.”

    But that’s ok. I have all the advantages of being a woman (oh yeah, babe) with some of the skills unexpected in a woman, and I get a kick out of people’s reactions.

    Car needs a jump start? More than once, I’ve had women oh so grateful that another woman got their car started. Dropped your contact lenses down the drain? Let me fool with your plumbing. [ahem] Norton Antivirus clobbered your computer when it attempted to clean a virus? Smoke coming out of the PC? The guru is here with her bag of tech toys to fix it.

    I do wish personal safety weren’t such a hassle for women. I’d trade places with men for that in a heartbeat.

    Many years ago, I had to fight with a boss (eventually going over his head to our unit manager) about the hotel parking garage charges on my travel expense reports. The cheapskate boss refused to authorize valet parking charges, he expected me to self-park in an underground garage even though I was returning to the hotel late at night. Excuse me, I don’t think so.

  71. Em says:

    Good for Chaz! I’m glad he is living true.

    In the early/mid 90s I worked on a large internet bb’s glbt site. There was a wide range of attitudes regarding the trans community at that time, at least as expressed on our bb. Some very supportive, some not. I was lucky, in that I had two friends, one transitioning from MtF, one from FtM. So I got to ask many (probably incredibly stupid) questions and they were kind enough to educate me. I also saw first hand the challenges the glb community offered for the trans community at the time. It seems to have gotten a bit better, although I would, of course, not know if this is true as well as a member of the trans community would.

    I remember some people being shocked at the existence of transgendered fish, though! There’s a type of fish that’s found in the Pacific Ocean, from the Monterey Bay and south that are all born female. Apparently most of them transition to male at a certain point in the lifespan. (Link for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s description here: http://tinyurl.com/n2lonl) California Sheephead is the name of the fish. I remember being as happy about that fish as I was about lesbian seagulls.

    @Renee #63, Before I was out at work, I had someone there tell me I reminded them “of that Ellen girl on TV. Even though you don’t look like her.” Ellen D. wasn’t out at the time either. Ahem.

    @Alex #68 I knew I was a lesbian at about age 5. Although I didn’t have a word for it. I did proclaim that I was going to grow up and marry a girl, though. My MtF friend told me that she knew always, from her earliest memories.

    @HOH #39 As far as dating someone transgendered, the MtF women I know are all too femme for me.

    @Diana #67 Here’s hoping the day when “hateful twaddle” is no longer bandied about. It’s a dream future. I’d love to see it be reality sooner rather than later.

    And hi to everyone! I’m pretty new around here. I hope you don’t mind me just leaping in and joining the party. Very nice place you have here, Alison B.

  72. Ellen O. says:

    @ Dr. Empirical, #52. You wrote: A guy in a dress, 8-inch heels, a 2-foot high wig and inch-long false eyelashes, waving a cigarette holder and declaring himself “Fabulous!”: Hilarious.

    I’m not being facetious when I ask, “Why do you find this hilarious?” Is it one of those situations where you either you like it or you don’t, such as with the Three Stooges or bathroom humor?

    Honestly, I don’t understand what’s funny about men who wear women’s clothing or take on women’s fashions? (Who decides what is women’s clothing or fashion?) I don’t find big hair or ultra-long finger nails either funny or sexy.

    Is it funny for a women to wear “men’s” clothing, such as a suit and tie, to have short, manicured nails, to wear a pocket watch? Personally, I’d say no, that’s not funny. It’s hot.

  73. Ellen O. says:

    Name for a drag king…
    Butch M. Upp

    For a literary drag king
    a variation of Balzac (as in Honoré de Balzac)
    Charles Dickens (Charlie Dickens? Chuck Dickens?)

    For a scientic drag king
    E. Coli

  74. Glenn R says:

    I stole Sparrow’s line to use at work when the topic came up (with friends who know I am gay and thus think I am an expert on trans): “Changing your body to conform to rigid gender types is just more binary thinking. What was wrong with being a butch dyke?” I wish Chaz well of course!

  75. Kat says:

    Just saw Maggie’s DOMA link. Spitting mad. So angry.
    I can’t even verbalize what’s churning and making my heart race…

  76. Ready2Agitate says:

    Good to hear from Diana – was wondering where the transfolk on this blog had gone, and feared we’d become an echo chamber of sorts….

    We’ve usually discussed trans issues when one of the to-watch-out-fors does something in the plot that makes us ponder & discuss, esp. Janis & her mom or mom’s lover (remember when the word was always “lover” and not “partner”? I found it funny in “Milk” when Harvey refers to a gay man’s ‘life-partner’). This is a roundabout way of saying that AB has always pushed this issue for us as a community and grown and learn/taught alongside us, which is just one more reason to pause to say that she is so FREAKING AWESOME.

    As for me, I’m quite clear abt being a trans-ally. It’s an important part of my feminist identity, fighting for trans justice (e.g. picketing when a very light sentence is given to a murderer of a transperson, which is not infrequent — see the annual Day of Remembrance held every November to draw attention to the problem of anti-transgender murder). I also fought for our women-only center to become inclusive of transwomen, which nearly split the community apart.

    Still, it can be hard for me to reckon with the knowledge that an ex-lover of mine (formerly a dyke) now lives full-time as a man (married to a lesbian), perhaps because we are no longer in touch (mostly due to our lives moving on and living far apart). So perhaps my politics and my personal life aren’t completely in sync. One place that has educated me enormously is gendertalk.com. Over 15 years of ‘talking about transgender in the first person,’ with two amazing hosts with very clearly articulated progressive feminist politics. And still, Maggie, I get the misogyny that can exist in the cross-dressing cmty. If one more film comes out in which the subtext is that a man playing the part of a woman (a la Tootsie) is actually more woman than the women around hir, I will puke.


    I’m delaying fuming over Obama’s flip-flop on DOMA till I see it verified elsewhere. Ugh.

    And Maggie, my heart ache for the little girl growing up in the shadow of a scary stalker/torturer/perp older brother, who brilliantly (and sadly) learned to invisibilize herself for safety and sanity. I’m glad her voice is so loud and proud in this blog today.


    Happy Pride, y’all. Enjoy the drag king show, Auntie S. – they always got me… well, excited :).

  77. Ready2Agitate says:

    ps Full disclosure: I am a bi-sexual woman married to a man. A friend from 20 years ago recently learned this and said, in shock, “But Ready, I thought you were ALL about women!” to which I replied, “Well I AM all about women!” (that’s all I could think of at the moment). So now, like Ali, I think: what will the folks on this blog think? Will they feel betrayed? Will they pity me? etc. Long live the space for us to dialogue freely. ps I am more like Mo than Sparrow and am way more attracted to Lois, Ginger, and Toni than to Stu!


    And Ian, healing thoughts to you.

  78. jayinchicago says:

    thanks alison for continuing to maintain a blog where cissexual people can state openly that they feel UNCOMFORTABLE with my gender identity and what i have had to go through in my life to make peace with my body and self. thanks again for creating trans characters who were wonderful, three dimensional representations and yet, as you put it
    “I’m really grateful for these honest and kind explorations of peoples’ feelings about transgender. It’s a conversation that so often gets completely polarized.”

    and you know, i think you mean transgender PEOPLE there and not just “transgender” as if you could separate that out from the people that inhabit what that stupid label has come to represent. i might see some things honest here, but i’m missing the “kind” part. what’s worse, reading some ignorant folks on a mainstream media site attack trans people, or the ‘kinder’ attacking and dehumanization that is going on at this blog.
    i’d share my feelings about cissexual [people], but i’m afraid that frankly they aren’t very ‘kind’ right now.
    oh, and i’m sick and tired of the rhetoric that states i was ever a “woman” who chose to be a man. i was always a man.

  79. Alex K says:

    @jayinchicago / 78: I’m sorry to have been unkind. Although my intention was neither to attack nor to dehumanise you, if you saw me as doing so – then I have to honour your perspective, and to learn how not to do so any more. Thanks for calling me out.

    Life hasn’t taken me involuntarily through the processes that have shaped you. You’re beckoning from ahead — “Come on! Catch up!” I hope to. I want to. To stand in your shoes I need to work, and to grow.

    To acknowledge publicly my sense of perplexity was, for me, necessary so that I could say: I’m uncomfortable with that perplexity, much more uncomfortable than I am with “transgender identity”. (Again, not the event but its echo.) I’m not satisfied with myself here; I’m not the person I want to be; I need to work beyond the perplexity, to understand, and to endorse with my heart.

    Please keep your hand out to me.

  80. CJ says:

    Stopped reading somewhere in the 50ties, not enought time for it all right now.

    I react to woman and man differently, and this difference carries over into the way I react to transpeople, whom I tend to treat as the gender they left behind when I meet them in real life. That’s in some ways nice for F2M if they don’t catch on to what’s happening, i.e. I’m treating them like I would a (nice butch) woman, but very unfair to M2Fs.
    As long as I met them over the internet or phone, that didn’t happen. But as soon as I met them in person and there was something in their body or behaviour that irritated my gender-distinction-mechanism, it took some work for me to at least behave civilly, as M2Fs then triggered a panic attack and F2Ms some thoughts of being betrayed, specially, if I met them in a women-only space. More so, if the women-only space in question was under attack (of being opened to men that is, which most constantly are).
    Fear does not give good advice.
    Being told that I shouldn’t feel what I felt didn’t help.

    Meeting those where my gender-distinction-mechanism didn’t flip helped, being told that “The transsexual Emprire” by Janice Ramond was concidered some kind of black book by the trans movement helped, meeting Leslie Feinberg,whom I deeply respect, in person helped, reading the stories of Minnie Bruce Pratt helped.
    Reading Dykes helped.
    But still, I put it on the stack of “problems that I’d like to solve but that are not important”.

    Recently, I was confronted with an evangelical christian in my therapy group and found myself for the first time in years at the receiving end of “I think you are not OK” at close quaters at a place where I expected to find acceptance. There are lots of people about who think that, but usually, I can avoid them.
    And while thinking about it all, finding how this statement affected my trust in the group (not to mention the person), I thought that probably this was the same that I doled out to transgender folks. And I’m ashamed.
    Put it on the agenda of important stuff.
    Having done two years of learning about non-violent communications offers me a better grounding to deal with what I now regognize as *my* feelings, *my* thoughts.
    (I still long for a course in “Giraffe for political activists” as non-violent communication and working for change are about as compatibel in my mind as the concept of women-only spaces and deconstructivism, but well, I hope I’ll get it.)

    I’ll watch how Chaz’ announcement will be covered in the German media.

    On a lighter note, some time ago the singer songwriter Jan Allain was doing a sony&cher parody to “I got you, baby”
    involving a dildo; I’ll never be able to hear that song again whithout hilarity.

    Why I actually visited the blog today was the shooting in the Holocaust Museum last week. The German media covered it some, and linked it to the shooting of the doctor doing abortions and right-wingers going off on the deep end because of Obama. Do you think that’s a reasonable accessment?

    Sorry about typos and grammer gaffes, English’s not my first language.

    I hope I haven’t offended anyone with telling about my mixed feelings in such detail, I though sharing the process might be useful (to me and others).
    Be safe
    CJ, Germany

  81. Maggie Jochild says:

    Ellen O.: E. Coli. I’m in paroxysms over it.

    And just for general reference: I’m not cissexual, please don’t label me such against my will. Nor am I trans. I don’t have to live in your binary, either.

  82. Maggie Jochild says:

    Oh, and Ksbel #77: I’m assuming there are MANY bisexuals who comment here, since it’s also a bi friendly site. Or ought to be. Two of my exes were bi, it’s not a “lesser” status to me.

    But I have an (of course) pedantic language question: Why do you hyphenate it as bi-sexual? Is there a political or identity or etymological reason for the hyphen? No satire on my part at all when I say I’m really curious. (You know how we language geeks are here.)

  83. Dr. Empirical says:

    @Ellen O. (#72): It seems that you missed the first part of my statement (#52) “A guy in a dress: Not Funny.”

    Humor isn’t really amenable to analysis, in my opinion (Why DO people think the Three Stooges are funny?) but as I tried to explain above, the clothes aren’t funny; what’s funny is the act of declaring herself Fabulous. It’s the attitude. It’s the camp.

    Similarly, a woman in “men’s” clothes isn’t funny. My experience with drag kings is limited, but I don’t find them funny in the same way I do drag queens. The attitude is different.

  84. Renee S. says:

    @HOH #73

    yeah, don’t know if it were da chicken or da egg…!
    All I know is that I don’t have enough things to carry in a purse, and yes I want my wallet to be close by me, but now I usually carry it in a vest pocket or in my front pocket, cuz it can be easily pickpocketed from behind.

    @Em #71
    Funny, when my then 7 year old nephew saw a woman in a restaurant (that I sensed was a lesbian thru my gaydar), he said to me, hey, she looks like you. Of course she looked like the total opposite of me, light hair vs. dark hair, glasses vs. no glasses, slight vs. heavy build, etc., but oh, he must have gaydar too.

    #78 The choices of which I was speaking about were not about women “choosing” to be men. It was about choosing paths to seek self-fullfillment. My thinking was this: A man born with female parts either chooses to have surgery or not to have surgery. or visa-versa.
    It’s not the trans folks themselves that cause my discomfort, it’s my own self doubt due to societal conditioning about “what it means to be a lesbian” that causes the conflict within me. And you know, looking back thru the blog, you are right, the word “people” has been omitted throughout the blog in reference to transgender people. My apologies. I think self-doubt and fear often generates “other-ing” without even realizing it.
    Thanks for the insight.
    oh, and um, forgive my ignorance, but what does cissexual mean?

  85. ksbel6 says:

    I’m agreeing with jayinchicago…I love the political discussions on this blog, but I had no idea so many readers/respondents were uncomfortable with transgender people. The last time I remember this long of a discussion was when Jonas/Janis started hormone therapy and there was much debate about an appropriate age for such therapy to begin. As soon as possible is my thought.

    The fact is, trangender issues are not sexual orientation issues. There is no “maybe this is who I am” debating going on inside. You know who you are and you just don’t understand why when you see your own body, that it is not the correct one.

    Interesting side note: In Iran, the government pays for the transitioning process. Their scientists/doctors believe that the evidence for transgender people being “born that way” is significant, and if they can help make the person physically into who they should be, they will do so.

    Also, transgender people face many more harassment type issues than gays/lesbians. Unless you happen to be an extremely feminine male, or an extremely butch dyke, the average person will not know you are gay/lesbian until you tell them. Transgender people though, are easier for the average person to point at as “not right.”

    @Maggie: sorry, but I didn’t make comment #77, I think you need Ready2Agitate to respond to your question. I also would not consider bisexuals to be some sort of lessor status. I do not believe in ranking sexual orientations. I’m not convinced it is as static for women as it is for men. I just think there is a wide spectrum of possibilities.

    Oh, and finally, for those who have wondered about relationships with transgender people, my soulmate says I’m the best of both worlds. I’m not sure you can find a more empathetic person than one who has grown up feeling like he/she is in the wrong body. I’m not sure how I made it past 18.

  86. hairball_of_hope says:


    Cis is Latin for near, and is used as the antonym for trans, which means across or beyond. It’s commonly used in chemistry to describe the structure of geometrical isomers.

    In the gender identity usage, trans means the internal identity does not match the outer characteristics. Cis means both match. Trans is the term used regardless if the person has had reassignment surgery or not (i.e., a transperson who has had surgery does not become cis because now the internal and external match, and a transperson who has not had surgery is still trans).

    (… anticipating your next question, based on the puzzled look on your face …)

    What’s an isomer? Two molecules with the exact same chemical composition, but the atoms are laid out differently… think of gloves, left hand and right hand. Each has four fingers and a thumb, but they are not the same, they are geometric isomers.

    Back to cis and trans… if you’ve got identical atoms or groups of atoms (radicals) on the same side of a double bond, it’s called cis. If the identical atoms or groups are on the opposite sides of a double bond, it’s called trans.

    Way-simplified molecule, showing cis and trans isomeric forms around the double bond (C is carbon, H is hydrogen):

    H H
    } }

    cis isomer


    trans isomer

    (Yeah, I know the diagrams are screwed up, a fixed-pitch font is required to see this properly. If you really want to see it, cut-and-paste into your favorite text editor and set the font to Courier. Thank you preview!)

    Now you have some idea of what the term “trans-fats” means. The naturally-occuring form of fatty acids is cis. Trans fats are made when hydrogen is forced under heat, pressure, and the presence of a catalyst in a liquid fat. This is done to change the liquid fat to a solid (think Crisco) in a process called hydrogenation. The hydrogen atoms are added on both sides of the double bonds, creating (tah-dah!) trans-fats, which our bodies don’t know how to properly handle because millions of years of evolution have given us enzymes that only know how to deal with the cis form.

    (… End of biochemistry lesson. Now put down that Twinkie with all the hydrogenated vegetable shortening in it and gag …)

  87. hairball_of_hope says:

    Those diagrams are totally screwed up, even cut-and-paste won’t help… let’s see if I can fake out the WordPress thingie that removes spaces by using dots (ignore the dots).


    cis isomer

    trans isomer

    It still displays screwed up because of the proportional fonts, but now a cut-and-paste into your favorite text editor with Courier font works fine.

  88. Calico says:

    My Drag Queen name would be either Kitty Mead or Snowflake
    Mead. I kind of like the former, though. Sounds a bit like a 30’s starlet…

  89. Therry and ST. Jerome says:

    Hi Ready2agitate #77, married to man and bisexual. I’m straight and married to man and cat, and your status as revered contributor to the blog is intact by me! I think the advantage of a blog is that I can read/comment in my old bathrobe, HoH can read/comment in her whatever assistive devices, and all of us can be turned on by Lois, whatever our sexual identity.

  90. hairball_of_hope says:

    @R2A (#77)

    Well, it’s not the first time I’ve been surprised on this blog, but that’s part of the great fun here.

    I forget who asked Feminista the question about her high school reunion, if she created an alternate persona to confound folks who had a static image of her that was formed 40 years ago.

    Blogs and online forums are often like that. Some folks actively create an alternate persona, but that’s not common, in my experience. Mostly, people drop a trail of breadcrumbs from which others infer the details of their lives; gender, age, race, occupation, relationships, family, and in the case of this blog, gender identity and sexual orientation.

    Sometimes we infer things based on our own experiences and prejudices, and we’re far off the mark. Sort of like the button that reads, “How dare you presume I’m heterosexual!”

    So I guess that my surprise in reading your breadcrumbs is strictly my own doing.

    Speaking of breadcrumbs, you just jogged a memory for me from my past as a forum moderator. My colleague (the one who transitioned MTF) had a gender-neutral username, but when the descriptive handle changed from his male name to “Pb2Au” (Lead to Gold), I knew that he had made the decision to transition to F.

  91. hairball_of_hope says:


    Hey! Your old bathrobe has an Ethernet connection? I want one!

  92. Ready2Agitate says:

    re: hyphen – it was random – I hyphenate a lot, sometimes inaccurately/inapropriately, I ‘spose. (I call myself bisexual & bi-spiritual, much as I think binary is dumb.)

    My point in outing myself as bi (I’d done this before here so it wasn’t a secret), was that any of us could find ourselves suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable for our different identities. Also, if I’m going to comment from my lesbian self, I want to be sure I’m not closeting my straight self.

    And good G-d, I don’t know how I jumped so readily on the train of declaring personal discomfort w/trans people (notably my ex-lover). After years of working for trans rights, justice, and inclusion, I should have been more circumspect abt the impact of sharing random ambivalences like that. (“I’m an ally but…” just doesn’t cut it!) Mea culpa.

    Everyone who hasn’t yet might enjoy the quick brilliant read of Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Nation.

  93. Diana says:

    On timing/knowing: I knew something up when I was 4. I started to act on it when i was 11, and found a name for it when I was 14. when I was 18 I resolved to have surgery, and finally did when i was 35.
    We all have different timelines. I know one woman who knew something was wrong, but said she didn’t know what it was until she fell out of a helicopter when serving in Vietnam.
    A lot of us suss it out when we’re young, and that’s the expected model for Harry Benjamin standards. But people come around to it differently, just like everything else.

  94. Renee S. says:

    @HOH #86 thanks! RE: Cissexual and trans. However, now I am more confused, as all of these categories and pigeon holes have made me feel like a Whirling Dervish riding on an out of control Tilt-A-Whirl!
    I agree that sexuality and gender identification are two separate things. However, if cissexual is a reference to gender identity, maybe this should be labeled as cisgendered?
    Also, I’m confused about the differences then, if there are differences, between a transsexual person and transgendered person? I mistakenly thought that a transsexual person was a person who has not had a physical transition. I thought that a transgendered person was someone who had already transitioned. My ignorance on this subject is contemptible. It’s a learning process for us all. Knowledge defeats prejudice.
    Oh, and thanks for the chemistry lesson, it was very enlightening.

  95. Kat says:

    R2A, I got an email from Equality California yesterday that referenced the Obama/DOMA catastrophe. Considering that they’re the current face of CA marriage equality (organized the anti-prop 8 phone banks, demonstrations), I’d be inclined to trust them.
    They write:

    “In a recent California Federal Court challenge filed by a couple legally married in California, the Justice Department filed a brief saying the couple does not have the right to equal federal benefits. Obama asked for the challenge to be thrown out.”

    I had the same misgivings about identifying myself as bi on this blog, but have felt nothing but respect and, maybe, a sense that how we identify is less important here than whether we have something interesting to say.

  96. Kat says:

    @ Ian (#23)*

    I’m not going to claim to be any sort of expert in trans issues (I’m just starting to learn, and am in the “shut up and listen” phase of learning), but I’ll un-shut-up for a minute:

    As far as I’ve read, referring to a trans person by pronouns from their birth sex (after they’ve transitioned, regardless of whether surgery has occurred) is not very kosher.

    Maybe someone with more experience can confirm or deny this.

    *I HEART numbered comments!

    **Hope this doesn’t come off as too critical, but I did notice the pronouns….

  97. Maggie Jochild says:

    Kat, I just blogged about this so I know you probably already know, but for everyone else: The chief author for the DOJ brief declaring DOMA should be retained because marriage rights are not advisable for lesbians/gays (and comparing the restriction to our marriage as akin to laws which prohibit incest) is a Bush-appointed Mormon. The fact that Obama allowed this man to use the language he did is sending shock waves through progressive circles. It’s like they deliberately did the most they could to assist the Religious Right.

    Rick Warren being asked to deliver a prayer at the inauguration takes on a new light at the moment.

    I still want the government out of the business of prioritizing one kind of committed relationship above others, and conferring sacred or religious status on any union. I’m for civil unions for EVERYBODY, let the churches have marriage, it’s about women as property anyhow.

    But the bigger picture is that we came close, 30+ years ago, to making a cultural shift in which a critical mass of folks understood (a) race is a constructed identity, and all reasons for assigning different values to different human beings based on skin color is a lie; (b) gender is a constructed identity, and all reasons for assigned different values to different human beings based on gender (which includes the subcategories of masculine/feminine and all LGBTQ) is a lie; and (c) America is a deeply class-stratified society without any genuine class mobility except for the occasional entertainment-industry-based fluke used as mythic proof for mobility. The seismic change which began at that point has been ardently, unrelentingly, and violently pushed back against by an alliance between the conservative monied elite and the Christianist jihadis. They understand if women are allowed to control their own bodies and identities, if divorce and birth control remain accessible to average people, if masculinity and femininity are abandoned in favor of an integrated humanity, if working people band together to control our own economies, and if racism stops being the perfect tool to corrupt every impulse toward social reform — then they will lose their power. They are willing to kill to stop modernity.

    We are all in this together. We are not going to succeed by playing oppression olympics, by silencing each other when we admit we are imperfect in our current consciousness, or conversely by allowing fear and discomfort to dictate our actions. We have, apparently, not elected a current government who understands this, so we will have to lead from the ground up. That means alliance and listening and picking your battles. Which is political strategy, not who you climb into bed with at the end of hard days like this one.

  98. sk in london in portland says:

    HOH#86 … swoon on the biochemistry lesson… :)… yeah!

  99. Feminista says:

    @@Ready #77 &92:

    (Takes deep breath..)OK,32.5 years ago a friendship with a woman turned into a relationship,which she initiated;she revealed she’d been crushing on me for over a year,which was complete news to me. She ended it 4 months later,complete with nasty letters,but later we became friends again. She’s now married to her partner of 40 years,a very sweet man who knew about our relationship and had nothing to do with its beginning or end.

    Did this make me bisexual? I don’t think so. Did I realize that sexual orientation can be “fluid and varied”? Yes. Have I told people? My sister,niece,a few close friends,and a (short-lived)sexuality discussion group know.

  100. Feminista says:

    Yesterday I bought some sweet almond oil on sale,so I can make the infamous Maoist Orange Cake! Just need to dig out the recipe and find folks to share it with.

  101. Ali says:

    Thank you all for being so honest about your sexual and gender identities. I feel encouraged to not beat myself up about making choices that were not true to who I was. But I also think it is important for people to have a space to admit they struggle with things they feel they should be fine with. It is only when we deal openly and honestly with prejudice when there is a safe place to admit our limitations that we can grow towards more understanding and acceptance. The world can be so politically correct – it is easy to present a veneer of progressiveness – it is what is expected in liberal intelligent circles – but it is only when we are honest about where we are and allowed to make mistakes that we can trully develop. I am sorry that being different is so hard in this world – the human race are ultimately a herd animal – but I don’t apologise for giving people the freedom to admit they struggle with difference. I live in a remote part of the UK where until recently there were very very few people that were not WASP – so when a musician from Zimbabwe visited to do a dance workshop – the children needed to feel free to ask questions about her hair and skin – although as their teacher I was cringing inside – she was fine about it and they realised it was ok to ask questions – that is the only way to break down ignorance and the prejudice that accompanies it. I was always told not to look or ask when I saw a disabled person as a child and felt that there must be something deeply wrong and embarrassing about disability – It wasn’t until I dragged myself a long to volunteer at a holiday camp for young people with disabilites when I was 15 that I realised the strengths, gifts and wonderful contribution people of diability make in the world. It wasn’t something to worry about or feel embarrassed about – it was normal and natural – if sometimes both a gift and a curse in an able bodied world.
    So I say where better to say ” why hasn’t that man got any clothes on?” as in The Emperor’s new clothes – to look stupid but be honest – than this wonderful, challenging blog.

  102. an australian in london says:

    Maoist Orange Cake – from the little red book of recipes.

    Take one cup of reds from under your beds. Sift carefully.
    Mix with one cup of yellow peril.
    Bake at Farenheit 451 until cultural revolution can be detected by prodding with a fork.
    Eat in countryside.

  103. an australian in london says:

    @ Ali (101) “It is only when we deal openly and honestly with prejudice… that we can grow towards more understanding and acceptance… it is easy to present a veneer of progressiveness …being different is so hard in this world…but I don’t apologise for giving people the freedom to admit they struggle with difference.”

    HERE HERE!!!

    And yet, and yet… How exactly I understand Jayinchicago’s rage. It is very similar to mine when I leapt out of my father’s car seven years ago and slammed the door when he refused to meet my partner. Or when I shouted down three children in a Devon village street three weeks ago for calling us ‘lezzies’ (in that ‘coughing’ way kids have.) How dare anyone have a problem with me as I am? How dare anyone with Jay!

    And yet, and yet – would I rather they expressed their discomfort quietly, and privately, to their loved ones who share all their prejudices, or declared them in an open forum like this where I have the right of reply?

    Answer: Both at once, really, but in my best self, the latter. Go Jay in Chicago for using your right of reply and teaching us all something. And whoever it was that initially expressed discomfort – thanks for being honest enough to open up the space to engage with Jay’s rage.

  104. Renee S. says:

    @ Maggie #97

    I’m looking at the Motion to Dismiss DOMA right now. Who wrote the brief? Where can we get a copy of it?
    Here’s where we can get a copy of the Motion to Dismiss:


    To all~ Maggie’s right, we have bigger fish to fry.

  105. Heidi says:

    My partner has said to me on a few occasions that she doesn’t understand people being trans, which she follows up by saying, “Why would you want to change the sex you were born with?” Upon which I try to explain, again, that the person likely never felt they were really that sex to begin with. She says that’s hard to understand because she can’t imagine feeling that way herself. It’s a little frustrating to me because it reminds me of my mother saying that she doesn’t understand people being gay. To both of them I say, “You don’t really have to understand. Just accept that, for some people, that’s the way it is.” Trying to understand is nice, too. But I think giving people the benefit of the doubt about who and what they say they are is the most important thing.

    Regarding bi identity, it’s just very hard to be visible as bisexual. I was in a relationship with a man for three years when I was younger, and I always felt invisible as a queer person. You have to be very deliberate about coming out when you’re in a different-sex relationship. But now that I’ve been with a woman for 8+ years, almost everyone assumes I’m gay. So I still have to come out if I want someone to know I’m bi. Most of the time I consider it beside the point and just don’t bother.

  106. Renee S. says:

    ok, from the stuff I’m looking at, I cannot find a bio or photo of W. Scott Simpson anywhere…anybody?

  107. Ian says:

    @ Kat #96: Ugh. I noticed I’d subconsciously done that after I’d posted my comment and I guess it’s one of those learning process things. I wouldn’t mind, I do know you have to be careful about your pronouns.

    One thing I would like to say is that not understanding does not necessarily equal discomfort with something, although for a lot of people it could be I suppose. It’s easy to see how my ignorance could offend, but FFS I’m trying to learn how to be more understanding and supportive. Like Alex K, I’m uncomfortable with my lack of understanding/connection, not the transgendered people I do communicate with. I come from a very right-wing bigoted family in an all-white small town. I’ve had a lot of learning and unlearning to do which is still going on. DTWOF has really helped me to progress along the curve.

    @R2A #77: Thanks for the healing thoughts, they are much appreciated!

  108. Diana says:

    On terminology:
    All transsexuals are transgendered, but not transgendered people are transsexuals. Much like the old Monty Pyton joke that all of Alma Kogen is dead, but not all dead people are Alma Kogen.
    Transgender is a blanket term. It includes crossdressers, drag queens, shemales, bois, people that have no sugery and cross-live, people that have some surgeries but not all, and people that elect to have all surgeries.
    I can understand the difficulties that people in related communities (lesbians, gay men, bis,the intersexed, and apologies to anyone I’m overlooking) can have identification and comfort issues. I AM us, and I don’t always get us. For instance, I have nothing against crossdressers, but they’re sort of like my cousins. I enjoy their company just fine, but we really don’t have too much to talk about.
    Hope this is of some help to us all.

  109. Maggie Jochild says:

    Thanks, Diana, for a very clear explanation. Thanks a LOT.

    Renee S., some of us don’t have bigger fish to fry, we have to deal with what’s on the plate right in front of us. And that’s fine, we have room for all. What I mean by picking your battles: What you can do today is enough. Don’t beat up on yourself — but also don’t beat up on your allies.

    Which is a struggle at the moment, considering what Obama did today, on top of continuing too many aspects of the Bush/Cheney Imperial Presidency, continuing the secrecy, bailing out the bloodsuckers, caving on Gitmo, caving on bringing war criminals to trial, hell, caving on FISA before the election. Today for the first time I actually thought “I wonder what Hillary would be doing right now”. But that’s a losing proposition, we have the sword we’re wearing. I talked with a trusted friend a couple of hours ago who said “If he gets us health care, I’ll let it all slide”, and you know, that will save so many lives, including my own, I have to agree. With a fetid taste in my mouth, to be sure.

    And if you think I’m dead wrong in that choice, maybe I’ll learn differently.

    Fran Winant, circa 1970:
    Eat rice
    Have faith in wimmin
    What I don’t know now
    I can still learn
    If I learn first
    I will come back to teach you
    If you learn first
    I must believe you
    Will come back to teach me

  110. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#106)

    W. Scott Simpson’s profile from Martindale-Hubbell:


  111. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#106)

    (… Had to do this in two posts so the dual URLs won’t cause it to end up in blog purgatory …)

    W. Scott Simpson’s profile from Westlaw:


  112. Renee S. says:

    @HOH, I knew you would find it! Thanks!
    yup, he’s a Mormon. yup, he’s a Bush leftover.

  113. Renee S. says:

    oh, didn’t know you posted #111 before I put up my post.
    will look that over too

  114. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#113)

    Here’s his salary info, as of 2007:


  115. Renee S. says:

    Dang, even though I made an account I cannot look at his legal record on Findlaw, because I am not a legal professional. Shouldn’t that be public record? looking for more stuff.

  116. Renee S. says:

    my dear, you post so quickly….looking at the salary info

  117. Renee S. says:

    The only things I could find out about him from DOJ is that he received 2 service awards.

  118. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#115)

    By legal record, do you mean cases in which he was the attorney of record, or are you looking for disciplinary records?

    Disciplinary records are maintained by the bar association(s) of the localities to which the attorney has been admitted.

    For litigation records, you need to do a Westlaw or Lexis search. Sometimes public libraries have access to Westlaw or Lexis-Nexis, but you’d have much better luck at a law school library. Often, they have some limited public access to Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis.

  119. Maggie Jochild says:

    Renee S., what were his service awards? Because under the Bush Administration, service to country often meant lied under oath, hid evidence, or participated in torture.

  120. Renee S. says:

    @HOH, thanks! I think I do have some access through the University of Michigan. Will look next week. Looking for attorney of record cases.
    My questions: Who is this guy? What are his political connections or motivations? Why on earth would the Obama administration request the motion to dismiss DOMA?

  121. Brazenfemme says:

    hey all – this brings so much up for me, I will try to keep it short. I just want to say to AB that she opened a whole new world to me via DTWOF re: trans issues when I was in a lesbian and gay (word choice intentional)circle of friends and in a very small, conservative city many years ago. This lovely butch dyke (whom I taken women studies with), who I swooned over for her theoretical conversation and unapologetic way in the world of gender had begun the first public transition at our workplace that was known. At first I thought, ah, I can never love you, you will be a man. My circle of friends ridiculed, put down, you name it and to boot, we were all co-workers. When I ran into him at pride, uh-oh, I still swooned! Between DTWOF and my co-worker, I can honestly say I went through a transformation that I am so thankful for, because it made me seriously question sexual orientation, gender and desire outside of women studies in a really raw and relational way. Those co-workers are behind me, as is the circle of friends for other reasons and I now have a truly queer and trans friendly context. As a femme, I have experienced over the last decade many butch women in my life transitioning to male and this brings up not my questioning of them, but of me – what does it say of sexual identity if I am attracted to butch and trans men? How do I remain a visible queer? How do I resist popular assumptions of “butch flight” and support my FTM allies? I don’t think I can put into words my concurrent joy and sorrow – and all this raises about personal identity. Hmm, I had hoped to end on a more profound note, but alas, that is where I end.

  122. Renee S. says:

    whoops, that URL turned out to be no good

  123. Renee S. says:

    sorry to be leaving all of these sporadic posts…but now I see the URL is now working

  124. Renee S. says:

    It appears he replaced an attorney during a proceeding regarding FOIA, The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. NARA

  125. Renee S. says:

    OK! I think this was the case about Bush’s missing emails!!

  126. Renee S. says:

    Here’s a timeline


  127. hairball_of_hope says:


    What’s really interesting to me is that the Martindale profile shows he was admitted to the bar in 1987, but there’s no state listed.

    He didn’t show up in Utah, DC, Maryland, or Virginia state attorney registration listings. This piqued my curiosity, so I did some more digging.

    I just searched through about 43 or so individual states that have attorney registrations online, and he didn’t show up on any of them. The only one that might have been him (very odd one) is in South Carolina, where the name William Scott Simpson shows up, but zero identifying info… not the law school, not the year of admission, nada.

    One state (I forget which one), allows attorneys to opt out of the public listing.

    Now, unless I’m grossly mistaken, US government attorneys have to be admitted to the bar in at least one US jurisdiction to be hired.

    Maybe I’m just overly suspicious, but why isn’t this guy’s full bar admission info available? Hmmmmm…..

  128. Aunt Soozie says:

    Phil McCracken! IAN! love it.
    love this blog too…
    and all y’all and your comments.

  129. Renee S. says:

    here’s a blurb from San Francisco Faith News that cites a statement about partial-birth abortion from our friend W. Scott Simpson: http://www.sffaith.com/ed/news/2004news/0406news.htm

  130. Renee S. says:

    Here’s his statement, as you have to scroll down a bit to find it:

    “But assistant U.S. attorney Sean Lane said the partial birth abortion procedure “blurs the line between live birth and abortion.” Federal justice department lawyer W. Scott Simpson said that there is no evidence that extraction abortions are safer than any others and that they cause great and unnecessary pain to infants. Further, he said, “the evidence supports Congress’ finding that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of the woman.” Finally, Simpson said, “there’s no elephant in the room. There’s a baby. Congress can prohibit partially delivering that baby only to kill it.”

  131. Renee S. says:

    So this is what W. Scott Simpson has defended in court: a DOMA affirmation, disappearing presidential emails and anti-partial birth abortion.

  132. Em says:

    I’m not sure if anyone has posted this link regarding DOMA, but here you go:

  133. j.b.t. says:

    Thank you to all here – I am so grateful for the continuing education I get. Maggie – I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t get the Kaylinda Kooba reference… please enlighten me, anyone!

    I would much rather have people discuss things openly and learn here than be afraid of not being pc and stay quiet and lose the opportunity for growth.

    It seems to me that if the world was ok with with everyone being who they really are, and if it wasn’t such a binary – either-or place, people could just *be* without having to have surgeries and pharmaceuticals to fit into the *right* category. Am I missing the point here? Jay? Diana? I apologize in advance if my comments have offended. I am mistrustful of the medical-industrial complex and that may be coloring my thoughts.

    Jay, I finally “got it” in a meaningful way reading your comments. Thank you.

    I’m so disappointed in Obama right now. Can’t deal with it tonight.


  134. j.b.t. says:

    Or maybe I should have signed that, Winky Fremont. 🙂

    P.S. HoH – Women that can fix cars and computers make this married to a man bi-girl swoon!

  135. hairball_of_hope says:

    Oy… two swoons in one day, I think I’ll have to hide for a while.

    I think you didn’t get the Kaylinda S. Kooba reference parce que vous parlez français. Phonétique en anglais pour l’espagnol, “Que linda es Cuba.” A classic Cuban revolutionary song that goes something like this:

    Que linda es Cuba
    Cuba sí, yanqui no

    How beautiful is Cuba
    Cuba yes, Yankee no

  136. Em says:

    Unite The Fight has the Motion to Dismiss up on their website. [I’m still citing DOMA material.] (I was not familiar with Unite the Fight prior to this.) http://unitethefight.blogspot.com/2009/06/obamas-defense-of-doma-invokes-incest.html

  137. Feminista says:

    (clearing throat) This is how I learned it in the 70s:

    Cuba que linda es Cuba
    Quien la defiende la quiere mas
    Que linda es Cuba (2x)

    Playa Giron
    El yanqui sabe
    Lo que paso
    (Que linda es Cuba)

    Looking up the song in a small 1975 song book,Venceremos Cantando (We will win singing),I found it has a long introduction plus 6 additional verses. They give tribute to Fidel,Che,Camilio Cienfuegos,socialism,liberty,and the people of Chile.

    Obviously it has evolved over the years. The tribute to Chileans fighting against fascism was written after the U.S.-backed assassination of Allende,so that dates it between Sept.73 & early 75,when the 8th Venceremos Brigade published this booklet.

  138. JMG says:

    re: 94 and 108

    Cisgendered is actually also a word. It means something different than cissexual. A detour is necessary in order to spell out the difference. I actually disagree slightly with Diana’s explanation (although over all I think that it is very good). I recognize that this may be inappropriate, because I am cissexual. However, I am also the partner of a transsexual woman and there are many MTF women in my life. And I think the issue is that trangender is both an umbrella and a specific term, kind of like tea. Tea, in its specific meaning, is a steeped beverage made from the leaves of a tea plant. As an umbrella term, it also covers roibos, mate, herbal teas (made of leaves, flowers, etc), and tisanes (made from fruit). Much in this way, transgender is also both a specific and an umbrella term. As a result, I know (and know of) a number of MTF women who identify as transsexual but not transgendered and some who chafe against its use as an umbrella term. In terms of umbrella terminology, it is used exactly as Diana described. In terms of specific terminology, it refers to people who deeply disidentify with the gender commonly attached to their sex as assigned at birth, and may well just as strongly disidentify with the gender commonly attached to the sex they were not assigned at birth. Many people who identify as transgendered do not identitfy with a sex other than the one they were assigned at birth. They may identify to some extent with the sex they were assigned at birth or with neither. It is entirely possible (in the specific meaning way) to identify as both transsexual or transgendered. Transsexuality generally means identifying with a sex other than the one assigned at birth and can apply to people who enact this through any combination of hormones, surgery, and/or cross-living that they might choose (or not choose, since issues of class can very profoundly affect people’s access to hormones, surgery, etc). To my knowledge (which is, of course, limited to the people I know and the people they know) there are actually many MTF women (I don’t have nearly as many FTM men in my life) who identify as transsexual and not transgendered because they do identify quite strongly with gender presentations/identities normatively associated with women.

    So, back to the cis issue. In this context, cissexual refers to one whose sex identity and sex as assigned at birth match. Cisgendered refers to one whose gender identity and the gender associated with sex as assigned at birth match. This, of course, creates a bit of a grey area. I don’t identify as transgendered, but I’m probably not quite exactly cisgendered because I am certainly gender queer/gender variant (as is my partner, who does identify as both transsexual and transgendered).
    On this subject (this more in response to 94, obviously, and the desire to learn more), I would suggest Julia Serano’s book, Whipping Girl.

    Diana (and anyone else), I hope I haven’t offended by this act of speaking for, but the women whose terminological identities don’t match your description aren’t here.

  139. Zoe Brain says:

    “Transgendered” also includes the Intersexed – who are far more common than most know. About 1 in 60, that’s 5 million Americans, by the most broad definition – a body neither wholly male nor wholly female.

    There’s over 100 Intersex conditions, and they vary enormously. On one hand, you might have a woman who is completely straight, cisgendered and cissexual – but who has the 46XY chromosomes normally only found in men, and may never know she’s intersexed. At the other extreme, someone who has both ovarian and testicular tissue, 45X, 46XY, 46XX, or 47XXY chromosomes depending on which part of the body you sample, and identifies as neither male nor female biologically, and genderqueer as regards gender.

    You even have some conditions, not that uncommon, where someone can be born looking female, but get a natural sex-change to male later in life. Great if they’re boys, with a male gender identity from birth, not so good for a girl though. They become transsexual, with a neurology that doesn’t match the body.

    Natural changes in the opposite direction happen, but are one of the rarest forms, and aren’t well understood. One in many million, rather than one in 50,000.

    Transsexual people are often asked “why change your gender from the one you were born with?”. That shows a misunderstanding. They don’t change gender. They were always boys, or girls, they just looked like the opposite sex. They change their appearance for the same reason that cisgendered people *don’t* change. Cisgendered people would be horribly uncomfortable with the wrong shaped body, becoming transsexual.

    In Iran, where homosexuality is a capital crime, they don’t kill all the gays – they allow them to become transsexual instead, with the body of the opposite sex. It would be kinder to kill them, and many suicide. Lesbians, even the butchest of the butch, are not men. If mutilated to look like men, they realise it’s a terrible mistake, despite acquiring male privilege in a society where the Patriarchy is far more oppressive than most places on the planet.

    Chaz is in a different situation. He’s a guy, always was. He tried living as a lesbian for 40 years, but it doesn’t fit, and it gets worse as you get older. So he’s doing something about it.

    Oh BTW… I’m one of the few women who were born looking male, but where that changed naturally. A massive relief, I’d picked the name “Zoe” in 1968, but it’s caused some really interesting medical, social and legal problems.

  140. Renee S. says:


    hey, this post about your reunion may be too late, but here in Michigan, the Food Banks are having problems with keeping up their food supplies due to massive lay-offs and unemployment.
    Maybe the attendees could bring in canned goods for the Food Gatherers: http://www.foodgatherers.org/
    Just an idea.

  141. Maggie Jochild says:

    Wow. Had a long night sleep and came back to discover REAMS of information. Brownies at work!

    Renee S., your digging is PHENOMENAL. I’m about to write a follow-up post for Group News Blog and I’m going to credit you (as well as this blog thread) — do you want to use a different name?

    Zoe Brain, thanks for mentioning and explaining some about intersex. I had the opportunity to meet Cheryl Chase at the Queer Disability Conference, and to attend her panel, and I’ve been a staunch advocate of ISNA ever since. But to remind us here: Intersex is NOT an interchangeable term for transgendered and ISNA adamantly does not want the two conflated. Which is one reason why “I” is being added on to LGBTQ, although some intersex folks also do not consider themselves logically part of that string of identities, either.

    As in the disabled community, ask for information and consent, and follow the requests of others as to their preferences. For labeling, etc.

    Cisgendered and cissexual has arisen, from quasi-scientific appropriation, to be an alternative to saying “non-trans”, because some trans people feel that non-trans is perjorative. I don’t understand that — I don’t see non-gay as perjorative, for instance — but I honor the identity requests of others. However, the choice between trans or cis leaves me out in the cold. I don’t claim either one, and I very much resent the further division of people into yet another ill-defined binary.

    Most, if not all, of the “straight”, “straight-appearing” women I’ve have intimate converations with have said they feel like they are not a “real woman” every single day, that they fail to adequately pass, that their identity is in question by others and they suffer repercussions as a result. This fear and uncertainty is one of the chief tools used to keep us blindly attemping to conform to meaningless gender boxes, and I believe it’s just as prevalent among men. Thus, it’s all on a continuum, and ANY time a woman is the target of sexism, it’s gender identity oppression. Period.

    Radical feminists of my generation refused to allow “them” (the system of sexism) any credence about what makes a woman, what we are supposed to look like or behave like, and tossed out the whole shebang. I am a woman if I say I am, and that means what I say it means. Which, as it turns out, means EXACTLY the same thing as a man except for whatever conditioning and cultural training I’ve acquired along the way. Playing around with their lies, I believe, does more to reinforce their misinformation that subvert it. In my opinion, we actually had more general public fluidity of gender expression 30 years ago than we do now.

    So my choice has been to daily accept an identity of woman, as I accept white and raised poor and disabled, but speak out about my own definition every chance I get, leaving those around me very uncomfortable if they’ve made assumptions. Despite my breasts and high voice, children often don’t know if I’m a “boy or a girl”, and I use the opportunity to explore their preconceptions, giving them a chance to discard rigidity. (Not all accept.) I don’t have to be trans (or cis) to live outside the barrier.

    And, at every turn, the oppression I face because I challenge the rules of gender is not cleanly categorizable as woman-hating, dyke-hating, or transphobia: It’s simply that I resist the rules of gender. I call that sexism. In that choice, I make allies of everyone who faces the same repressions, which is all of humanity. It’s a much, much smarter political strategy than parsing myself into smaller and smaller groups, demanding sympathy and comparison with other oppressed groups, and watching the system inevitably pit us against one another. I learned that the hard way, in the 1970s and early 1980’s.

    Or, to quote Judy Grahn, “Look at me as if you have never seen a woman before.” Because, in fact, you haven’t.

  142. Renee S. says:

    @Maggie Jochild
    HOH contributed as well. She is a digger extraordinaire!
    And hey, You are the one who got us going on this. same name.

  143. Renee S. says:

    @ Maggie Jochild 144

    “watching the system inevitably pit us against one another.”

    Reminds me when I when to a Independent Progressive Politics Network Meeting. An elderly civil rights worker once told me, “Don’t forget, our oppressors will always try to divide us.”

  144. Renee S. says:

    oops, when I went

  145. Mad Scientist says:

    Holy smokes! I have never invested sooo much time reading back along a blog thread. Concurrently, I have never contemplated leaving/sharing/exposing so much of my own thoughts and musings on any matter. Rather this ‘majority topic’ matter of sexual identity and definition. This who is what and my god we better come up with a name (now many names) for it and oh boy oh boy, were does this most newly visible group of people who are supposedly different from us/me fit and g-damn I’ve got to hurry up and categorize them so I can return to my comfort zone of knowing what is what and who is who and where we are all are in the world. Phew! Please understand, I do not mean to marginalize or minimalize a very complex issue. It just reminds me, once again, of my own pet peeve. This thing about labels. I am a proud, out lesbian who is comfortable with her egg bearing body. I cannot imagine the horror of feeling trapped in a body that feels alien. I am however, continually horrified by my own communities insistence to label me (in particular) as butch (and not so in particular) as fem/boi/toy/top/bottom, whatever. My god people. I mean seriously. Are we all not many different things on different days? Why the insistence to pigeonhole? How many more eons of evolution must it take before all notions of gender distinction (beyond it takes a male sperm and a female egg to, well, wait….that already doesn’t always really hold true…) are blurred and we can just be human. It is beyond fear and laziness. It is not only our oppressors who will try to divide us. We are active participants in that dynamic.

  146. Maggie Jochild says:

    Renee S., the post is up at Group News Blog at Who Obama Picks To Keep Doing Bush’s Work For Him, as well as my own blog. Trust me, this will have far-reaching ripples we may never know about.

    HOH, I didn’t mean to exclude you, but I’m only quoting VERY publicly available material that is directly pertinent to his work as a lawyer in accordance with my own ethical standards. No smear jobs, only pointing out the influences at play. Which is not to limit the research, becaused you have to follow leads wherever they go — you just don’t have to publish everything.

    Thank you both so much for launching this. It will do good. Breaking silence about corruption and bias always does, eventually.

    And, Mentor, since I linked to DTWOF, it’s possible that right-wing trolls will now come here. I mean, more than usual. Sorry about that, it’s the consequence of speaking a larger truth.

  147. hairball_of_hope says:


    No apologies necessary. I was merely finding a small bit of publicly-available information, and reporting on my findings. Renee did the heavy digging. She used the big shovel, I used the one that came with my little sand pail.

    I don’t need or want spotlights, shoutouts, and all that stuff. But I confess I am still blushing from the swoons on this blog.

    I hope the orange-haired ones don’t descend on this space. The visit from our OHO pal the other day annoyed me (and Renee, who responded). No reaction to trolls seems the best course, Mentor is on the job and will nuke ’em.

  148. Feminista says:

    @Renee S. #153:

    Great minds think alike. I posted the same idea when I was thinking out loud awhile back (this board moves fast). Oregon,where I live now,is right behind MI in unemployment,same as it was in the early 80s.

  149. Kate L says:

    hairball, Alex K – Yes, I am 54 years old. I’ll be 55 this Fall.

    Alex the Bold #68 You’re right on target. Everyone has the same experience at age 3 or 4 in realizing what gender they are (“I’m a girl!” or “I’m a boy!”). Sometimes, that realization does not match the body.

  150. Ellen O. says:

    Hi Kate (Comment #152)

    Can you say more about your statement above: “Sometimes, that realization does not match the body.” Isn’t gender just a belief of ever-changing cultural expectations?

    What does it mean to say, “I’m a boy” or “I’m a girl” when it is not about your body?

    I was a girl who didn’t like many traditional girl activities and who imagined herself as a man (or genderless) when playing games like “radio reporter” or “shipwrecked on an island.” These experiences defied typical gender roles but I didn’t feel as if I should be a boy. I just wanted girls to have more options.

    If I wanted to have a penis, or felt as if I was missing a penis, then that, to me, is about transgender. If I wanted the mainstream world to view me as a man, then that also seems to be about transgenderism. (Though it sounds like a better term would be transsexual, if sex is about body and gender is about cultural norms and expectations.)

    When someone says, “I don’t feel like a woman,” I always wonder, “What does a woman feel like?” (Other than the obvious answer, “A woman feels really good.”)

  151. hairball_of_hope says:

    Gee, chemistry seems so simple in comparison to all this cis/trans gender/sex naming stuff.

    The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry decides on the rules for chemistry nomenclature; with a few common exceptions of non-standardized names (e.g. acetone for dimethyl ketone), everyone uses the IUPAC nomenclature and understands how to name chemicals via the IUPAC conventions, and what each name actually means in terms of molecular composition and structure.

    There’s no one organization that defines these terms for the trans community, and I’ll bet the same terms means different things across the trans community.

    I’m gonna have to make a chart for all the gender/sex info above, and come back here with questions once I’ve figured out where the gaps in my understanding are. Right now I am soooo confoooosed….

  152. Alex the Bold says:

    Ellen O.,

    “What does it mean to say, ‘I’m a boy’ or ‘I’m a girl’ when it is not about your body?”

    Let me take a stab at it (and if I’ve got parts wrong anyone, let me know). In the issue of gender self-identification for MOST people, it isn’t “I’m a boy” or “I’m a girl” as an identifier of gender self-assignment.

    The words “boy” and “girl” in that usage are merely a sort of placeholder/shorthand for the child’s biology. Because it’s binary, you could just as easily say “I’m a boy” or “I’m the choice that is other than boy.” (This is a somewhat subtle point, and I may be making it badly.) You could also have it “I’m a girl” and “I’m the choice that is not girl.” In all three cases (boy/girl, boy/not boy, girl/not girl) what you fundamentally come down to is a case of the child’s statement meaning “I have figured out which of the two distinct biological identities I am. They are both opposites, so whatever terms are used are irrelevant because they can only be contrasted to each other. But whatever I call myself, it is a cultured agreed upon term, and I can now follow my culture’s set of dictates for becoming an adult of that gender.” (Obviously, children don’t speak like this. Well, maybe scary children.)

    For a transgendered child, the phrase would more likely be “I have a boy’s biological body, but I don’t feel like a boy because I can see the other boy-bodied children enjoying these activities, and I do not feel comfortable doing them.” or “I have a girls’ body, but I want to be doing the things the boy-bodied children are doing.”

    Hence the problems. You’re trying to drive stick shift and the only instructions you’re getting from your coaches are for manual. “What about this damned pedal on the floor? What do you mean there’s no pedal? It’s right the heck there, look, I’m stepping on it. All the way on the left. My God, why is everyone screwing around with me? I just want to go to the supermarket for some bulk tofu and the car’s about to go in a ditch!”

  153. Ellen O. says:

    Alex the Bold —

    Thanks for your comments. As a girl with a basic girl-body, I was definitely of the camp: “I have a girl’s body, but I want to be doing the things the boy-bodied children are doing.” (as you’ve said above.)

    Well, actually, I wanted to play with Lincoln Logs, climb into and sleep in the tree house, have short hair, and wear pants. As a girl with three brothers, I was able to do and have all that. I didn’t care if I peed sitting down. I didn’t hate my breasts. I didn’t want to be viewed as a girl by the rest of society.

    I wonder if those last kind of desires (along with many others) are what separates against-the-grain girls from girls or women from women who want to become and do become male?

    I think of the Radical Faeries, men who adopt many “female” attributes while still calling themselves men. Or is it something both deep and more subtle than that….

    All that said, I’m happy for anyone who can seek their own path without hurting others.

  154. hairball_of_hope says:

    I think it will be interesting to see if the Obama Administration tries to block the lawsuit against former Bush Justice Dept. attorney John Yoo over his authorship of the torture memos.


    Quoting from the article:

    A convicted terrorist can sue a former Bush administration lawyer for drafting the legal theories that led to his alleged torture, a federal judge has ruled who said he was trying to balance a clash between war and the defense of personal freedoms.

    The order by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco is the first time a government lawyer has been held potentially liable for the abuse of detainees.

  155. jayinchicago says:

    “I would much rather have people discuss things openly and learn here than be afraid of not being pc and stay quiet and lose the opportunity for growth.”

    I’m pretty astonished that someone at a liberal blog would throw around the term pc pejoratively. please look up the history of that term and how it was co-copted by the right wing to demonize groups of people who asked for respectful language. as if respectful language is a bad thing.
    people can grow all they want to on their own. they can google, or better yet ask a reference librarian for some books and info–that’s what librarians are there for! but to act like processing their feelings about trans people and transitioning (and let’s face it, you can’t separate transitioning from trans people–it’s something many of us go through. it’s something i definitely went through) is more important than the the needs of trans people to not run into that in spaces we can easily access as well…well, it’s just the tyranny of the majority.
    as a hypothetical mind exercise, would a homophobic person be defended here? would they even make it past moderation?
    i’m tired of being mr. nice trans guy. it’s bad for my mental health.

    “It seems to me that if the world was ok with with everyone being who they really are, and if it wasn’t such a binary – either-or place, people could just *be* without having to have surgeries and pharmaceuticals to fit into the *right* category. Am I missing the point here? Jay? Diana? I apologize in advance if my comments have offended. I am mistrustful of the medical-industrial complex and that may be coloring my thoughts.”

    first, let me link to something: http://tiny.cc/reifygender
    I personally tried for many long hard years to live without transitioning. but i never felt right and i was always uncomfortable with my body. i have no idea what the etiology of transsexualism is, nor to I particularly care at this point. but i think you need to question yourself…what is so wrong with trans people that you are trying to think of a world where we wouldn’t exist? to me that seems remarkably transphobic and cissexist. i would love to see a world where gender was not brutally enforced…i have many friends who suffer at the hands of the coercive gender binary and I know it’s wrong. but i happen to be very male identified regardless of sex assignment at birth. and i’m not really looking to change that. i enjoy being a man.
    as for you thoughts about medicalization…well, i’ve taken antidepressants before. hell, i’ve taken antibiotics. what’s the difference, really?

  156. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    You could also have it “I’m a girl” and “I’m the choice that is not girl.”

    Except that in western mainstream culture, being a girl or woman is never, ever the default or unmarked choice except when the concept being discussed is nursing, flight attendants, or giving birth. I think this is an important distinction.

  157. Donna says:

    Nice Librarian Trading Cards blogsite.

  158. Kat says:

    “Most, if not all, of the “straight”, “straight-appearing” women I’ve have intimate converations with have said they feel like they are not a “real woman” every single day, that they fail to adequately pass, that their identity is in question by others and they suffer repercussions as a result. This fear and uncertainty is one of the chief tools used to keep us blindly attemping to conform to meaningless gender boxes, and I believe it’s just as prevalent among men.”

    I think we talked (blogged?) about this before, Maggie, but my best friend struggled with that exact sentiment.

    She’s “cute” and has a bubbly personality, is straight and married, dresses “well” (works in an office where that’s expected)…All those markers of good straight-woman-ness….And yet.

    She was having a hard time feeling adequate as a woman. She felt like she didn’t fit in to the definition of “woman” as she, and those around her interpreted it, and was beating herself up for lacking some mysterious woman-ness that she perceived in others.

    Her therapist didn’t help (told her to poll her friends for “woman-defining” experiences, which I thought was bullshit).

    I think we can all relate to sometimes feeling inadequate in what we do or how we are, and I’ve often felt that my physical self doesn’t match up with my inner me-ness. I can only imagine, however, what it must be like for that feeling to relate to my ENTIRE body and sex.

    JayinChicago, thanks for sharing your thoughts and frustrations.

  159. Kate L says:

    Ellen O (#153)

    Yes, I meant “gender identity”, which is distinct from socialization. Transgender (and specifically, transexuality) is about body plan not being in accord with a person’s sense of self. I used to think that gender identity was ALL socialization, now I believe that it is as much an integral part of a person as sexual orientation.

    hairball (#154)

    Back in the Apollo days, “cislunar space” meant the space between Earth orbit and lunar orbit.

  160. Alex the Bold says:


    “how it was co-copted by the right wing to demonize groups of people who asked for respectful language. as if respectful language is a bad thing.”

    When done with less fraught topics, it goes something like this:

    Me: So we were driving down the road in a blue Ford.
    Other: It’s really more of a black than a blue.
    Me: Okay, a black Ford. And we came up to a four-way stop.
    Other: Actually, there were stop signs on only two sides.
    Me: For God’s sake will you just let me spit out the damned point already? Must you nit-pick every little thing? It isn’t relevant to the point of the story, which I might eventually get to if you stop correcting every single sentence!

    I’m not saying someone’s self-identification for gender is a nit-pick or trivial. What I’m saying is that there are instances where, in a discussion or a debate, I have found myself growing frustrated with the other person’s “refutations” which aren’t debate points about the heart of the point I was raising, but were rather some sort of scolding about how I said “he” instead of “he or she.”

    There is a difference between wanting respectful language and using the power of the nit-pick to annoy the other person into simply just giving up in order to end the conversation. If this were golf, it would be like deliberately coughing loudly while the other person is swinging.

    I don’t think transgendered persons go into a discussion of the topic spoilin’ for a fight but I would raise the point that we all have topics we feel strongly about, and those are usually the ones that directly affect us. And we tend to go in with a mindset of “take no prisoners, the first thing this SOB says wrong, I’m gonna shove right down his throat.” I think a lot of chances to build bridges are lost by this hyper-PC type of correction. The details kill the broad picture.

  161. Liza says:

    Kate # 163: I don’t think sexual orientation is integral to a person without the support of culturally induced models. The whole idea of sexual orientation is historically new – a fabrication of culture. As is gender and even sex. It’s all made up. Even the idea of there being two sexes is made up. What is male, what is female? All culturally constructed. We live in culture, so it’s kind of hard to believe that these constructions are all illusions, but that’s how culture operates.

  162. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#163)

    Have cislunar and translunar fallen into disuse now that we’re not actively doing moonshots? (Gee, moonshots sounds like a drink that might be popular on college campuses… is there such a thing?)

    After you posted that item about the IAU demoting Pluto to non-planet status, I’ve been meaning to post a link to the Youtube video of Christine Lavin singing an updated version of “Planet X,” her song about poor Pluto. Alas, I’m currently blocked from access to streaming video, so I can’t post the URL right now. When you view the video, check out the fretboard on her guitar, it has all the planets on it (including Pluto). She makes a reference to it in the video.

  163. AlisonAG says:

    Testing the comment replying…

  164. AlisonAG says:

    You’ll notice you now have the ability to reply to comments. And also include your e-mail address and website.

    Reply works a bit fancier if you have JavaScript turned on (the reply box jumps right below the comment) but it should also work just fine with it turned off.

    I’ve added the subtle boxes because it seemed a bit easier to distinguish the threads this way. You can only reply 5 levels deep… beyond that and the text gets too crowded with all the indentations.

    Let me know if you run into any problems.

  165. hairball_of_hope says:


    The replies are not numbered, but the comment counter increments just the same. Right now, the comment counter shows 169, but the last numbered post is yours, #167 with two (and soon to be three) replies.

    Also, thanks for the e-mail validation box. It closes a pretty obvious security loophole for identity spoofing.

    FYI, I’m posting with Java and Javascript both disabled Let’s see how well this works.

  166. NLC says:

    Reply, reply, reply.

    Trying out both the nested reply, and the website feature


  167. hairball_of_hope says:


    Dumb question (or maybe not dumb):

    Let’s say the comment counter is at 171, and someone posts a reply to comment #52. Now I’ll need to scan through 171 comments to figure out the latest one is all the way up near the top. Bleah.

    Normally, I look at the number of comments, and scroll down to where I last left off. With the new nested reply system, I’ll *NEVER* know where the latest comments are. Worse still, someone making a reply to a comment high up on the comment thread may never get eyeballs to read it.

  168. hairball_of_hope says:

    Duh, I made the observations but never actually asked the (maybe) dumb question.

    How are we supposed to determine where the latest comments are? Some might be replies way up near the top, some might be new comments, or replies to existing comments anywhere in the chain.

    No offense, but I vote FEH on this update. I’d much rather see those Walmart smilies go into 404-land.

  169. Andrew B says:

    HoH, re #168. Someone who is concerned about having others see her/his comment can post a new comment, as we’ve always done and as I’m doing here. But you’re right about finding the new comments when the commenter chooses to use the quasi-threading feature. It could be a bear to find a new reply in the middle of a thread as long as this one.

  170. Andrew B says:

    Another issue is that people will read comments out of order. E.g. I’m posting this a couple of minutes after having posted #169. Not a big deal in this case but could result in misunderstandings when something important is being discussed.

  171. Ali says:

    @AAG and AB
    Please can we not have the reply thing. Now we have numbered comments it was working really well and kept you aware of past comments by people referencing their number. I am still more likely to post a comment because sometimes I am replying but then I may extrapolate with other ideas. Also when we get going there are so many replies to an issue it would get overloaded and complicated with replies all over the place some embedded some numbered. I agree with HOH (which is something I am regularly proud to say – although not swooning I am definietly part of the appreciation society). This is going to get complicated and messy. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should…
    But AAG your work is trully apreciated though.

  172. Heidi says:

    I’m also not sure I like the reply feature. I think it might take away from the typical flow of the conversation here. Just having the numbered comments seems to work well.

  173. AlisonAG says:

    Hi everyone, thanks for your feedback. Those are all very valid concerns. I’ve turned off the reply feature for now while we discuss alternatives.

  174. AlisonAG says:

    Also, sorry, that messed with the numbers on a few of the most recent comments…

    Andrew B referred to #168 and #169, which are now #172 and #174 respectively.

  175. jayinchicago says:

    @”pc discussion”
    if you have a problem with someone doing something you regard as nit-picking, you can address your concerns to the rhetoric directly rather than just saying “why do we have to be sooooo PC!” or you can also consider that maybe what you (or whoever) considers to be nit-picking is actually really important to the other person.
    the fact is, there was a lot of problematic stuff going on in the comments on this post. i don’t think it’s wrong to try to address it even if the number of people hurt by it is infinitesimally small.

  176. Kate L says:


    Actually, there’s a moonshot planned for later this week (NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LCROSS impactor, which will be launched together). The impactor will crash into the Moon at Shackleton Crater near the lunar south pole, but just before it does, it will fly through the plume of debris kicked up by the impact of the launch vehicle’s much larger upper stage. The hope is to demonstrate that permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s poles contain frozen water that might be used by future human inhabitants. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will take detailed images of the lunar surface from orbit.

    This will be NASA’s first lunar mission in ten years, but India and Japan have recently launched unmanned missions to the Moon. In fact, Japan’s Kaguya (Selene) lunar orbiter carried a high definition television camera that returned this sequence of photos of Earthset (actually, the Earth appears stationary from the lunar surface, as the Moon is tidally locked to its much larger parent body. This sequence, taken from orbit, looks like Earthset because Kaguya was moving from the far side to the near side of the Moon).
    Also, there is an international contest run by Google (the Google Lunar X Contest) that will award $30 million U.S. to the first private group that lands a rover on the lunar surface, moves it across a third of a mile (500 m), and returns high-definition televison pictures from the lunar surface.

  177. Kate L says:

    Uh, I should have said that the Japanese space agency’s Kaguya probe was moving in its orbit from the near side to the far side of the Moon when it took the photographic sequence.

  178. Ali says:

    @ jay#159
    I am sorry you were angered by my response. In the UK PC is not something used by the right wing – it is a bureaucratic liberal thing where excellent nurses can lose their jobs by referencing an Agatha Chritie Title – very aptly if admittedly tactless. Here PC has not made people sensitive to the feelings of others it has made us hyper aware – but it is a veneer that trully hides the very deep latent prejudice hidden by the language that is very much still there in attitude. I cannot imagine how hard people’s crass attitudes to transexuals have been for you – I am sorry that all people – LGBQT, liberal, feminist, progressive etc. included – are crap. Everyone is at best a little uncomfortable about difference – I think it is the human condition – birds of a feather flock together – our identity is reflected back to us by those around us – or so pshycology suggests. I am sorry you have suffered people’s ignorance and prejudice – that you have been made to feel wrong to the core by society’s attitudes. I am sorry.

    @ Alex I did mean what I said about having freedom to express ourselves openly – and grow – that we need to be honest here and not be sickeningly PC to appear more liberal and progressive than we are. Here at DTWOF there is a culture of being open minded and progressive so it is hard to admit discomfort with issues of sexuality and gender. BUT your reply to Jay was crass. He was not nit picking over language and minor details he felt judged and his and other transexuals gender identity disregarded when pronouns were used unthinkingly. So maybe I now think there needs to be a balance where one can admit discomfort but think about the wording and how it will be taken. Not Political correctness but politeness and sensitivity. What say the rest of you?

  179. an australian in london says:

    Here here again.
    Pronouns clearly not nitpicky but the core issue when talking or writing about a transgender person.

  180. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    In the UK PC is not something used by the right wing – it is a bureaucratic liberal thing where excellent nurses can lose their jobs by referencing an Agatha Chritie Title (Ali, #183)

    Death on the Nile? Mrs. McGinty’s Dead?

    Yes, that would be a problem.

  181. Timmytee says:

    @ 183 & 185: My guess would be “10 Little ([Indians] or [N…])”, just off the top of my head.

  182. Where, then, is there to be a discussion between folks who are open to all kinds of sexual identities and orientations on the subject of the larger (I mean, 93% of folks) community perception and understanding of transgender? If not here, then where? Where will it be safer and have better self-policed rules of discourse?

    That’s a real question. I have not yet found a place on the web where people are not accused of being transphobic or oppressive simply for not understanding something. The effect, if not the intent, is to shut off all discourse altogether. And as a strategy (because sometimes it IS deliberate), it’s backfiring. It’s not winning new allies or new understanding.

    We as dykes did that in the 1970s with regard to lesbian vs. straight woman identity. If you didn’t somehow magically “get it”, you were the fucking enemy. It was stupid then, it’s stupid now.

    Safety is not guaranteed by huddling together with people who never raise a question. If you don’t want to be the educator on a topic which involves the flesh of your body, don’t be. In the early 70’s I was on a speaker’s bureau where I, along with a fag buddy, went to junior colleges all over North Texas to answer Soc 101 classes’ questions about being lesbian and gay. If I never again hear “How do you, like, DO it?” or “Which one of you is the man?”, I’ll die happy. (And g*d forbid I should have to answer the latter question nowadays.) But I volunteered for that project.

    It’s trickier on the web. Still, if there ever was a place where diverse approaches to gender (among other hot-button issues) were discussed with as much respect as is possible to find on the web, it’s here. And yeah, there are questions all the time here about lesbian 101 or even sexism 101, as well as profound theoretical disagreements here. The best we can do is define our terms over and over, try to learn or when we actually disagree do so without deliberately offensive language, and coexist. Just like in the rest of our worlds.

    We do NOT all agree here on the definition of gender, the definition of sexism, the definition of orientation or preference. Ain’t gonna happen. We can argue our points with personal fervor but not demonize each other (or play the victim) because someone actually chooses to disagree with us.

    The fact is, any trans definition of gender which relies on biology or essentialism (i.e., I was *born” this way) completely refutes my own view of whom I am and how I construct my universe: those theories directly dispute my body and reality. Are the people who speak such theories attacking me? Are they trying to oppress me? Fuck no. They have a right to their perception, and I have a right to mine. Where we agree, we can work together. Where we disagree, I’ll still defend your human rights to the end of time, and I hope you’ll do the same for me. Including my right to express my beliefs.

    Oppression is when there’s a systematic, institutionalized back-up to my words, and my beliefs about my identity as a lesbian and a woman are definitely not backed up by any such system.

    The view of identity as constructed is at complete odds with the right-wing insistence that we are essentially born male or female, that being lesbian or gay may be a “birth defect” but g*d expects us to fight against it and eventually Jesus will transform us into the right sexuality if we try hard enough, and that the only correct path to both salvation and societal acceptance is trying to find a way to be “man” or “woman” in a neat little box. I am definitely bucking the system with my views, and I wear the effects of a lifetime of that resistance on my body. But I’m not going to try to shut you up and claim superior victim status when you speak views which align yourself with that dominant power system: I’ll argue my belief, but listen to yours, too.

    If I am too tired to handle it that particular day, I’ll read on down the thread and switch over to maple syrup or geology or, now, Agatha Christie. Because I’m here for the whole discusson, not just a single issue.

    Four basic rules I’d request for the future:
    (1) ALWAYS use the self-identified gender pronoun when referring to someone else. If you don’t know, ask nicely without self-flagellation or defensiveness — “Do you prefer he, she, or something else? If so, what?”
    (2) If you use “trans”, EXPLAIN WHICH DEFINITION OF TRANS YOU ARE USING. Transgender as in I believe gender is nonexistent and constructed, transgender as in I believe gender is inborn and I’ve changed mine along the way, transsexual, trans as cross-dressing makes me feel hot, etc.
    (3) Don’t assume others agree with your terms and definitions if you haven’t told us what they are. We are not a “loudest voice rules” population here, we are a “diversity gets a voice here” populaton.
    (4) If someone disagrees with you and that hurts your feelings or makes you feel unsafe, own it as feelings first instead of making accusations. Preferably, ask them their intent. “Any difficulty I have with your difficulty is still MY difficulty.” This applies to everything but outright oppression — and oppression’s intent is to shut you up, not bumbling around ignorantly on a site where just maybe some questions can get answered.

    Finally, AlisonAG, major major kudos on the website/email additions to the comment posting, and even more kudos for such quick response to the threading problem. I agree, let us all stew in this together and use numbers to respond to specific comments. It’s the synergy and multi-issue crossover which makes this so appealing to me.

  183. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#181)

    I just read up on LCROSS and LRO. Thanks for the heads up.

    Really fast and cheap by NASA standards. If Mars Rover was supposed to be faster/cheaper space science, this is like McDonald’s/Walmart in comparison. I just hope it’s more nutritious and better tasting than Mickey D.

    Don’t know if they’ll get it launched this week, however. Endeavour launch was pushed back to Wednesday, and you know the Shuttle launch window has higher priority than a science mission.

  184. hairball_of_hope says:


    Thanks for being so responsive to our (hopefully constructive) comments and concerns.

    re: the spoofing issue… you need to make the e-mail field required or it won’t be useful.

  185. Ginjoint says:

    I have not yet found a place on the web where people are not accused of being transphobic or oppressive simply for not understanding something. The effect, if not the intent, is to shut off all discourse altogether. And as a strategy (because sometimes it IS deliberate), it’s backfiring. It’s not winning new allies or new understanding”

    Agreed. Strongly.

    Also, Alex the B, I thought you made a nice point about the nuances of debate; I know you were not considering one’s preferred pronouns to be trivial at all.

  186. hairball_of_hope says:

    Now how did I miss this story from the Rutland (VT) Herald…


    Quoting from the article:

    The Montpelier event, part of World Naked Bike Ride, sought to promote bicyclists’ rights as a means of mitigating the nation’s fossil-fuel dependency. Roberts said the event is also about “healthy body awareness.”

    “We’re promoting all these ideas in a completely absurd, ridiculous way,” he said.

    Literally hundreds of spectators, some aware the event was happening and others most definitely not, couldn’t stop smiling as the naked cyclists, in-line skaters and skateboarder passed by. Nudity is perfectly legal in Vermont, however disrobing in public is not. The participants met at a Barre Street bike shop before the ride to change into their birthday suits before taking to the streets.

    I wonder about that legal logic… you can be naked in public in Vermont, but the act of taking your clothes off in public can get you arrested.

  187. HOH, #91: Hysterical. Because it’s not the body that’s provocative, it’s the act of revealing said body. If that doesn’t synopsize America’s obsession with/repudiation of sex, I don’t know what does. The opposite of inhibition is not compulsion, it’s indifference.

    Do you think spritzing maple syrple on the passing bicyclists would be taken as a sign of appreciation?

  188. Ali says:

    I’m off to bed it is getting late in the UK – I wish you all well for the rest of your evening of discussion.
    @Alex – sorry if I sounded more stroppy than I meant to. I just reread your comment and I can see both that you were not trying to be provocative and why Jay who is personally affected by this might be upset by it. If I have learnt anything form this blog – and believe me I’ve learnt a lot – it’s that the people who regular contribute here are capable of great wisdom and compassion. So may they both be abounding at this time of sensitive issues.
    @185 & 186 Ten Little N… not a term I would ever be comfortable using but the correct title of the book directly referred to by a nurse at a NHS course when several of the delegates had gone missing – aptly but as I say tactlessly in the hearing of a Black Senior Manager who took offence and had the nurse in question dismissed – even though she had not intended any racial comment in the reference. The book is now titled Ten Little Indians as Timmytee suggested- although not a lot better.

  189. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie (#192)

    Maple syrup? Speaking as a former avid cyclist (before my knees gave out)… uh no. Water would be more appreciated, and less messy.

    Now, if the maple syrup spritzing were done somewhere that the edible mess could be cleaned up by an attractive partner… uh yeah. But there’s no need for a bicycle in that scenario. Unless that’s a turn on.

    (… goes back to her vanilla existence …)

  190. Ian says:

    @Ali #193: I’ve never bought a copy of Ten Little N[…], I used to have a copy of Ten Little Indians. I believe it’s now published under the title “And Then There Were None”, which still references the original rhymes, but is a much less loaded title.

  191. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    The original UK (1939) book title was the offensive one. The first US edition, at roughly the same time, changed the title to And Then There Were None. There’ve been several movies and at least one play by Christie herself using the titles And Then There Were None and Ten Little Indians. The British editions of the novel were published under And Then There Were None starting in 1985– which is way later than I’d have guessed but not so recent that there’s any excuse to disingenuously drop the N word at a Black coworker and then whine about language usage police hurting your right to express yourself on the job, IMO.

  192. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    Oops, I posted too soon.

    It looks like the rhymes were variously redone as little Indians or little soldiers (and the setting as Indian Island or Soldier Island) well before the British book starting being published as ATTWN. The US versions used Indians all along AFAIK. (Of course, our Indians aren’t your Indians.)

  193. Kat says:

    *clears throat* Well….That certainly tells us how YOU, like, do it….

    (referencing Maggie’s story in a totally tasteless way….sorry!!!)

  194. Kat says:

    To: Hairball, that is…

    Preview, silly!

  195. AEB says:

    I’ve been reading for a while and felt intimidated about commenting; I’m blown away by the quality of the conversation here. I look forward to joining in more substantially, but what jumps out at me tonight…

    187 Maggie — I appreciate your emphasis on understanding oppression as something different than conflict/rudeness/various other shades of interaction.

    AAG–Count me among those who think the reply function would have a negative effect on the flow of conversation.

    Thanks, and good night from the eastern US…

  196. j.b.t. says:

    Thanks to HoH and Feminista for illuminating the Kaylinda Kooba thing – hilarious!

    Thanks to everyone and especially Maggie for super smart comments.

    Jay – I didn’t mean pc in a pejorative way, for goodness sakes! Also didn’t mean to offend, as I had previously stated. Was just trying to ask a question so I could better understand.


  197. Alex the Bold says:

    jayinchicago and Ali,

    I sincerely hope you don’t think I was referring to the discussion topics being raised on this thread as being of the nit-picking variety. Let me apologize if that was the conclusion you reached. Absolutely not my intention, at all.

    Obviously how someone identifies themselves is not a nitpick. Nor is it PC run amok to have the expectation that if you identify yourself as ________ that you should not have to fight over it with a bunch of strangers (or friends) every day of your life or be arbitrarily grilled about it. I can just barely begin to imagine how misery-making that must be.

    My specific point about PC run amok was that there’s a subset of people (I’m NOT talking about anyone on the list, there’s one particular friend of mine who’s coming to mind, but I also see it sometimes in TV debates) who have adopted a particularly irritating tactic for discussions.

    An example of it: Say you’re at a party, and you’re talking about healthcare in this country. And you’re making a point. You’re right in the middle of it, and you say something like, “So you go to a doctor for a check up and he says …”

    And the other person’s response — in mid-sentence — is to interrupt you to say “You know, women can be doctors too. Not just men.”

    And you’re standing there and you really feel like you’ve just run into a clothesline at neck level. Does this person think you don’t know women are doctors? Do they think you’re Archie Bunker? You’re trying to discuss healthcare and this person flags you for leaving out a pronoun in the middle of a casual discussion?

    That was the PC run amok I was trying to describe. I don’t think anyone here has done that. And thank God, I only run into it infrequently elsewhere. (Am I the only one who’s experienced this?)

    Also, somewhere in the bookcases I have a paperback of the Agatha Christie in question. Mine is titled Ten Little Indians. But, I’m almost certain, in small print on the cover near the bottom is “Originally published as:” and you can fill in the blank from there.

    And I recall clearly as a teenager reading a line in one of her books where the two main characters (I think it’s Tommy and Tuppence) are interacting and the narration goes something like “They discovered they had many things in common. They both took the tube. They both preferred aspirin for headaches. They both disliked blacks.”

    I still remember thinking, “Wow, that just isn’t nice at all.”

  198. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#163, 166)

    Here’s the link to Christine Lavin playing “Planet X”:


    If you ever get the chance to see her in concert, do it. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Her concerts are a real hoot.

  199. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kat (#198,199)

    As long as one is not diabetic, honey works pretty well too, and it stays in place better. Make mine tupelo. :).

  200. Zoe Brain says:

    @Maggie Jochild (#187)

    While I disagree about the biological causation regarding transsexuality (I think that’s been proven now), I applaud the more important issues that were raised in that post, and completely agree.

    We must be able to talk with each other, to define terms, and have a rational discourse. And to realise that just because someone disagrees with you, they’re not irrational, or bigoted, or a tool of Patriarchal oppression. At worst, they’re incorrect: but it’s just possible they may be right too.

  201. Liza says:

    Zoe@205: Just because something has been “proven” doesn’t mean it’s true. Science is a culture too. And a set of political constructs.

  202. Ginjoint says:

    Zoe, as I’m sure you’re aware (based on your bio), “proven” is a very, very strong word in science. I’ve never seen or heard of the proof of biological causation of transsexuality OR homosexuality (and I speak as a lesbian who feels I was just “born that way.”) Of course I know that just because I personally haven’t come across something doesn’t negate its existence, but I’d think that a bombshell like that would get some attention. For many reasons, I wish this proof existed, but I just don’t think we’re there yet.

  203. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Alex the Bold (#202)

    That quote from Christie reminded me of the first time GW Bush had a meeting with Tony Blair. At the press conference with Blair, W remarked that the two men had much in common. When a reporter asked for something specific, Bush said they both used Colgate toothpaste. I am not making this up.


    I wonder what other nefarious things they had in common, but were left out of the press conference. At least Christie articulates these things. :(.

  204. Kate L says:

    hairball (188)

    I just viewed the Lavin song you posted about Pluto. Great! 🙂 I’ll have to send it to my brother the astronomer. He knew Clyde Tombaugh.

  205. jayinchicago says:

    @ maggie jochild

    there’s no reason for me to argue with someone who doesn’t even believe that there is a categoric difference between transsexual and cissexual people. that statement does little to hurt cissexual people, and it does a hell of a lot to make me invisible and delegitimize my struggles with gatekeepers, employment, education and all sorts of legal red tape.
    that’s really all i want to say about that.

  206. The problem with the trans/cis invented binary is that it is not all-encompassing as it pretends to be — any more than the queer/straight category covers all those people who claim neither label. The fact that your binary MUST be accepted by me in order for you to engage in discourse or, apparently, feel that I support your cause is the problem, not my disagreement with your particular belief system.

  207. Gabi B. says:

    WOW, so much to read and so much to comment on. Where to start..I’ll start heavy and end light.

    I’ve always felt that change occurs when a minority group steps forward to shed light on themselves and what they are fighting for. I feel the reason that people still take issue with the transgender community is because they aren’t as visible. I’m not speaking from experience so maybe I’m wrong, but I feel that the whole point of transitioning is to be looked at as the gender they feel to be. To be public about their change would highlight the issue of them not being a “real” woman or man (as the majority who don’t fully comprehend the issue would see the situation).
    Growing up in the Austin teen gay scene (Out Youth Austin) I was lucky enough to meet a MTF woman who spoke to our group about her life. It made me realize that like sexuality (as theorized by the Kinsey scale) gender identification falls on a scale. It is neither black or white, but many shades of gray.
    I’m glad that Chaz has courageously decided to make this change in the public eye.

    To the whole issue of putting my sexuality in a category, I consider myself a lesbian with heterosexual tendancies (sp?), because there are only few men I find sexually attractive (like Patrick Stewart, but maybe thats just a trekie thing).

    And finally, my drag name would be BooBoo Cherry Creek.

  208. Ginjoint says:

    BooBoo Cherry Creek.


  209. Zoe Brain says:

    “I’ve never seen or heard of the proof of biological causation of transsexuality OR homosexuality (and I speak as a lesbian who feels I was just “born that way.”) Of course I know that just because I personally haven’t come across something doesn’t negate its existence, but I’d think that a bombshell like that would get some attention.”

    An E-mail to me from Prof Ecker:

    “Hi Zoe,

    Yes, we gave our presentation to 60 plus psychiatrists from the US, AU, FR, IT, EU, UK, Holland etc.

    We spoke for 2 1/2 hours on why cross gender identity was a normal inherited variation of humans. We showed how Transgender Brains think, smell, and hear like the opposite sex. We presented internationally accepted guidelines for hormonal treatment of transsexuals to be published Summer 2009.

    Here are my slides and with my participants’ permission I shall send you theirs. We are now in print in the APA Syllabus and soon in the APA Journal this summer. I am checking if we were recorded.

    My greatest personal compliment came from Frank Kruijver, from Holland, whose research of the human brain in TSs started it all. He thought we have taken his work very far in our understanding of the human brain. Hope you can do something with this.

    Sid Ecker, M.D.”

    That was in the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting.

    Gender Identity is that innate sense of who you are in this world with reference to your sexuality and behavior, not necessarily corresponding to your genitalia and reproductive organs. Transgenders are atypical and “think” as the opposite gender. Certain areas of the brain have been shown to be sexually dimorphic. They are different in structure and numbers of neurons in males versus females. Protein Receptors for the sex hormones in different areas of the brain (limbic and anterior hypothalamic) must be present in sufficient numbers to receive those powerful hormones. There are androgen receptors (AR), Estrogen Receptors (ER), and Progesterone receptors (PRs). ARs or ERs are predominant at different times in different parts of the human brain. Hormone receptor genes have been identified in humans, which are responsible for sexually dimorphic brain differentiation in the hypothalamus. The groundwork in brain gender identity is gene-directed and takes place by forming male and female hormone receptors in the brain before the gonads and hormones can influence them. Multiple genes acting in concert determine our sexual identity. The human brain continues to make neurons and synaptic neuronal connections throughout life. This contributes to Gender Role Behaviors making individuals in the continuum of gender identity. Gender behaviors must be differentiated from gender identity (Hines). Gender Identity cannot be predicted from anatomy (Reiner). Brain gender identity is determined very early in fetal development, but gender expression, expressed as behaviors requires hormonal, environmental, social and cultural interactions, which evolve with time. One cannot deny the profound effects of Testosterone, Estradiol and other steroids on genital differentiation in-utero or their effects on behavior from birth or the physical and mental cross gender changes caused by exogenous hormones, but gender identity is determined before and persists in spite of these effects.

    There’s over 300 papers now on both human and animal experimentation, all showing the same thing. Fully repeatable MRI scans. Autopsies.

    This has been proven as much as anything can be “proven” in Science.

    Much of the data is relatively recent: the first clues came in 1995, and over half of the papers written on the subject are less than 5 years old.

    Even as far back as 2003, the Full Bench of the Australian Family Court stated, after reviewing all the expert scientific testimony:
    At paragraph [270]: ‘But I am satisfied that the evidence now is inconsistent with the distinction formerly drawn between biological factors, meaning genitals, chromosomes and gonads, and merely “psychological factors”, and on this basis distinguishing between cases of inter-sex (incongruities among biological factors) and transsexualism (incongruities between biology and psychology)’.

    At paragraph [272]: ‘In my view the evidence demonstrates (at least on the balance of probabilities) that the characteristics of transsexuals are as much “biological” as those of people thought of as inter-sex’.

    Now that’s a legal rather than a scientific view. And the data back then was only enough for proof “on the balance of probabilities”. But there comes a time when the evidence is so overwhelming, and when it can’t be explained in any other way, that to say that “we still don’t know” becomes an untenable position.

    The problem is that this view is both politically and theologically unpopular.

  210. Ginjoint says:

    Zoe: um, whuut?

    I kid! Thanks for the cutting and pasting, Zoe, you’ve given me much to think about. Very interesting. Unfortunately, it seems societal and legal structures seem to wish for something easy and to-the-point, like some malformed thing, however small, visible either under a microscope or on some kind of scan before accepting as true. (I know, the MRIs, more on that in a minute.) And as a lay person/non-scientist, I have to admit I sometimes fall into this camp too. Brain stuff (see how scientific I am? “Brain stuff”!) is so much more…I’m trying to think of the right word…esoteric? No. Ethereal? Nebulous. It’s maddening. I hope you understand what I mean. You’d think that as a person who has dealt with a lifetime of mental illness, I’d be more sympathetic to the nebulousness, but it frustrates me. It doesn’t dissuade me, but it does frustrate.

    Back to the MRIs, sort of – I know they show non-willed responses to stimuli, which perhaps can be used as proof (I’m not sure about that – again, non-scientist), but what has been seen in autopsies, when the juices are no longer flowing and the connections crackling?

  211. Liza says:

    Zoe: Nah. I’m not buying it.

    Science can “prove” anything. Furthermore, what is the point of “proving” or even investigating whether or not sexual identity, gender identity or sexual preference is biological? What’s the political/cultural agenda?

    I don’t trust it.

  212. Dr. Empirical says:

    Liza: “Science can “prove” anything. ”

    I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sure ain’t science!

  213. ksbel6 says:

    I would think that proving transexuals are born that way may lead to insurance companies covering the cost of the transition process. Many cannot afford the operations or the medications.

    @Liza: I find it interesting that you are so quick to not trust the science. Do you trust the science that lead to evolution? What about the science that has lead to space exploration?

    Oh, and I think you meant that statistics can prove anything. Us mathematicians are fantastic at making numbers tell you what we want you to know. Scientists do not (or at least should not) manipulate their data that way.

  214. Alex the Bold says:


    Perhaps there’s a doctoral paper in there somewhere: Mrs. McGinty’s Racist Attitude’s Dead — An Analysis of the Dissolution of Cultural Racism in the Christiean Societal Classes.

    The paper will be written by a drag queen named Carrie DeWay.

  215. The problem with all these studies are:

    (1) No control group. No possible way of HAVING a control group.
    (2) Studies done on adults who already have formed cultural identities, not infants. All theories about babies are theories, not based on verifiable science.
    (3) The studies quoted are on very small (too small to apply across the globe, I think), SELF-selected populations, not genuinely random, certainly not adequately diverse.
    (4) The human brain is enormously plastic, and every study for the past 10-20 years indicates it is more plastic than we ever believed. This means it adapts to environmental factors in physiological as well as psychological ways: it changes structure and biology in response to cultural factors. Thus, we’re back to chicken or egg. Which came first, a genetic component or a smart brain’s adaptation to a culture stressor? The reason why conservatives and the Religious Right favor biological determinism is because it is another refutation of the power of evolution.
    (5) Epigenetics. Go read about it. It’s PROVING (via genuinely scientific, random, control-in-place experiments in animals) that not only do animal brains alter physiology in response to environmental influences, those changes re back-written onto DNA — so the next generation is born with the environmentally-induced change in its genes. If this is also occurring in humans (and so far, there’s no reason to doubt it and every reason to suspect it), it explains all the cultural evolution and quantum leaps we’ve made as a species in response to changes in environment, whether geographically or culturally imposed.

    I think we all deserve human rights whether we are “born that way” or not. Equally. I mean, being born black has not protected Africans from horrific exploitation, or protected women from eons of abuse. Likewise, being Jewish is an acquired culture — if you’re born to a Jewish mother but adopted by a gentile and never know your Jewish ancestry, you may never feel an interest in Judaism. But that cultural “choice” (which is usually imposed on us from infancy) is no excuse for anti-Semitism, either.

    Babies make decisions about their identity based on overwhelming pressure from the adults around them and the information available to them. This occurs before they have language, and thus it is going to feel as if they were “always that way”, because there is no way to formulate an alternative. EVEN IF what they are doing is resisting the pressure, it’s still a choice made within the confines of that culture’s world view. (Heads or tails is still using a coin to make a decision.) However, if there has ever been a single child born one gender but forced into another gender who agreed with that switch and preferred the imposed gender (and there has been), then it’s not biologically set in stone, it’s culturally defined.

    You get to define your identity however you want. I define mine as a choice, as my right to choose, and whether or not you agree with me is irrelevant to my human rights. And vice versa.

  216. Una cosa mas — I can’t speak for Liza, I haven’t talked to her about this (yet), but what I take as her meaning is that what gets funded and promoted as science is politically determined. Real science has taken a giant hit under the years of Reagan and Bushies. Hence, “intelligent design” purports to be science. Phrenology used to explain the righteousness of racism was science, eugenics claims to be science. And we’re in another period of much pseudo-science needing to be sorting from actual science.

    One feminist website where they regularly take on all these bullshit studies that supposedly “prove” why women prefer pink, for example (wash of hormones is the preferred mumbo-jumbo these days) is Echidne of the Snakes. Echidne is well-versed in scientific method and can explain where the alleged study went awry in lay terms. Almost always, it’s study size, no control group, and self-selecting sample instead of random sample.

    But it’s also critical to look at who funded those performing the study, and if those promoting its conclusions are also connected to folks who, for example, deny evolution. Or believe racism is no longer an issue in America (except for the ways we have to keep brown people out because they’ll ruin our way of life, but that’s just ,em)common sense, right?) If you find those kinds of beliefs in association with advocacy of a so-called scientific breakthrough, red flags should start waving.

  217. Acilius says:

    A few minutes ago I read Maggie’s #220, including the line “Babies make decisions about their identity based on overwhelming pressure from the adults around them and the information available to them. This occurs before they have language…” I then clicked over to Ed Yong’s blog “Not Exactly Rocket Science,” where I found this:

  218. Fascinating article, Acilius. I remember watching a PBS documentary about how early babies develop the ability to hear subtle differences in word pronunciation, way before they talk or appear to have vocabulary. There are tonal differences in Chinese, for instance, that babies who are exposed to the language can hear (no matter what race they are) if they are exposed to it before, as I remember it, age six months. After that age, they’ve lost the ability to ever hear it like a native speaker.

    Increasingly, the theory that we became “human” and developed the unending diversity of culture we have because we developed language, which shapes the brain more than any other factor. The more open-minded we are (literally), the more the next generation is able to build on our shoulders, not just culturally but also genetically. A powerful argument for funding nutrition, health, and education from prenatal stage on: It is literally our human posterity and the change for unimagined change at stake.

    Also a great argument for (a) saving dying languages and (b) insisting on dynamic, open grown of existing dominant languages, especially with regard to ending gender-based limits and biases in language.

  219. Acilius says:

    @Maggie: Glad you liked the article. As a classicist, I tend to get a bit fervent when the topic of saving dying languages comes up; suffice it to say I couldn’t agree more.

  220. Ginjoint says:

    This just gets interestinger and interestinger. Thanks Maggie for your points – I was struggling for words this morning when I posted my comment above, and trying to reach into the dusty corners of my brain for the parts of scientific method, on only my first cup of tea. (Then I was running quite late and had to leave for the McJob.) So thanks for the refresher course of sorts. Also, Acilius, that link! It led me to another article and another article and another…

  221. nice one chaz!.. saw it on tv

  222. ksbel6 says:

    Trying to produce a truly scientific study about humans is nearly impossible, that I understand. The idea that you should dismiss information because the group being studied volunteered for the study, or was not big enough, I do not. When looking for differences between transexuals and everyone else, you going to need volunteers that consider themselves transexual. This would be the same as turning down a cancer treatment option because only people with cancer volunteered for the research. I’m not trying to say these studies are perfect, but they are the studies currently available, and if they the APA thinks they are worthy of publication/attention, they must be pretty well done. The studies Maggie is referring to (#221) do not make it into the elite scientific arena for the reasons Maggie stated.

    Also, they actually do have evidence that a male fetus can be changed into a female after brain development but before sexual organ development. Those studies came out in the mid 70s after women who became pregnant while on birth control were only giving birth to girls. During those times, birth control pills were still VERY high in estrogen and that extra estrogen sent the incorrect signals to the fetus. Those original studies have been repeated with the same results several times over the past 40 years.

    I guess my point is, I was born this way. If the science ever becomes perfect, then great. Until then, when the APA publishes research that tells me what I already know, I will happily nod my head and say, “yep, that’s what I said.”

  223. Acilius says:

    @Ginjoint: Glad I could introduce you to Ed Yong’s “Not Exactly Rocket Science”! It’s one of my daily reads.

    @ksbel6: Point taken! Imperfect science is better than no science. A flawed study, a misleading interpretation, a false presupposition, once they are laid out for the world to see, can be examined and corrected.

  224. Acilius says:

    @ksbel6: Er, not that I mean to suggest that you are flawed, misleading, or false, much less in need of correction by the world. Just that the difference between science and dogma is the openness of scientific claims to challenge. So that an untrue claim, set up as a dogma, is a dead end, while an equally untrue claim, found in a scientific context, can be a step towards a new understanding. In other words: Yay, science!

  225. JMG says:

    In support of the whole medicalized/scientific discourses of queer/trans origins can be just as scary, and just as phobically pointed, as discourses of choice, an oldie but a goodie:

    “…it is also becoming increasingly problematic to assume that grounding an identity in biology or ‘essential nature’ is a stable way of insulating it from societal interference. … Increasingly it is the conjecture that a particular trait is genetically or biologically based, not that it is ‘only cultural,’ that seems to trigger an estrus of manipulative fantasy in the technological institutions of the culture. … What whets these fantasies more dangerously [than the AIDS fueled vision of a world free of queer people], because more blandly, is the presentation, often in ostensibly or authentically gay-affirmative contexts, of biologically based ‘explanations’ for deviant behavior that are absolutely invariably couched in terms ‘excess,’ ‘deficiency,’ or ‘imbalance’ – whether in hormones, in the genetic material, or, as is currently fashionable, in the fetal endocrine environment. If I had ever, in any medium, seen any researcher or popularizer refer even once to any supposed gay-producing circumstance as the proper hormone balance, or the conducive endocrine environment for gay generation, I would be less chilled by the breezes of all this technological confidence. … In this unstable balance of assumptions between nature and culture, at any rate, under the overarching, relatively unchallenged aegis of a culture’s desire that gay people not be, there is no unthreatened, unthreatening conceptual home for a concept of gay origins.”

    – Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (RIP), Epistemology of the Closet, 43.

    I think in this context, her point about the resonance of a desire for elimination in both cultural and biological models of gay origins applies equally well to models of origin for transsexuality. Just because something is framed as innate, doesn’t mean that the framing itself won’t work in the service of eliminating it.

  226. JMG #30, extraordinary quote and great point: Essentialism is never any guaranteed protection for those targeted for oppression — because the ostensible “reasons” for oppression are always lies and rationalizations tacked on after the oppression is already in place.

    The belief that being Jewish was innate, traceable through blood lines and genetically-determined “proclivities”, was absolutely no protection for 7 million in 1930s Europe.

    You have a right to live as who you want to be (as long as you do no harm to others), regardless of the source of your identity. If we focused on that instead of proving our “normality” and ability to look like what the boxes say, we’d have a radical edge and a built-in constituency called the human race.

    I caught a few minutes on one of those trashy Extra kind of TV shows a few nights ago, flipping through — apparently Chaz did a reality show at some point, and they repeated showed footage of him (or it is proper to say her if she was still identifying as a woman then? or did she ever identify as a woman, I don’t know) getting out of a hot-tub in a woman’s bathing suit, with an infuriating close-up of Chaz’s large breasts. Over it was running an interview with some loser on the reality show going on about how much Chaz hated his breasts, and the final line was “I hope she’s (sic) transitioning for the right reasons.” I screamed at the TV and clicked away.

    We do NOT get to make these judgments for other people. Not identity, not lifestyle, not medical, not moral. NOT our right.

    But not all ignorance or discomfort is judgment, and we need to parse out the distinction in order to create informed allies.

  227. Glenn R says:

    Back to the Chaz and trangender original post.

    It’s unusual of course, and not something a lot of us growing up knowing anything about.

    As Maggie (231) notes, we do not get to make judgements about others. As a gay man, I know that half of Americans find that unacceptably different, foreign, a “disqualification” of me as a person worth getting to know.

    I do still think like Sparrow (I hate the idea of surgical changes to meet societal categories).

    But I won’t let myself slip into judging and being part of the oppresor’s side. I’m sure nobody transitions before careful thought, and they know who they are inside more than I do.

    To question their decision would be like people who still insist being gay is a choice – like I don’t know myself inside, know who I am.

    The bittersweet side is that Chaz has the status and support to be a “Transitioning Star.” I wish all the non-celebrities going through this amazing passage could have at least a little support and understaning.

    The trans people I have known are given about as much support as gays and lesbians were in the 1950s (i.e. none) – and that was in San Francisco and Boston, not in Alabama. Let’s stop judging.

  228. dbd says:

    Is there a larger version of that pic anywhere? Can’t find it online. What’s it from?

  229. MidSouthMouth says:


    I think that it’s better to air the cisgender aversion and confusion along with the alliance and compassion than to suppress it.

    There is a certain way that this comment section seems to me the mildest, most covert display of bias against transpeople–compared to the flesh-and-blood world off-blog.

    It reminds me, a 30ish Black cisgender queer Southern woman, of talking with progressive white people about racism:

    There’s enough comfort that I am calling them on their shit, or they are calling each other on their own shit, with each other’s permission, and yet I hold them to a higher standard of nt-being-a-hot-mess-ness than the average whitefolks I might meet for only a few minutes in an average day …

    I guess the expectation of safety and comfort here is a bit high. It is a relief to find all the positive parts, though.

    As for me and transfolks, I have been attracted to them (more FTM, but some MTF and genderqueer) and done activism with them, but not yet forged closer friendships with any of them– not anyone who was out and identifying as trans anyway.

    For me, the worry when people are up in arms about the so-called butch attrition or the (MTF) transsexual menace, is feminism really. I worry that even if these transitions are properly done out of self-love and not self-hate, that the individuals transitioning will not be feminist or progressive in the social realm. We feminist cisgenders have to constantly ask ourselves, though, if we are being feminist and respecting human rights of transfolk.

    I also worry about the racial and middle-class cultural biases I see in the pubic discourse about the gender and sexual roles or identities available. To top it off, the lived experiences of intersexfolk are elided in most of these conversations altogether!

    The panic to identify everyone in a hierarchy etc. is at the root of so many social pleasures and destructive measures. We humans think if we can just simplify the world–just read the patterns– we can figure it all out or control it. I know everyday, I navigate people’s positions to search for allies, enemies, etc. It’s a way of short-term and individual survival that is not neccessarily a way for long-term thriving as a human community.

    To me, however we all identify is always understood in the historical and social realm even if it has biological elements. Often the social power is in who can read us as what. In a week in the city streets, I may be read as a Black young man by cops, or a Black femme-of-center dyke by someone flirting, or a middle-class aspirant straight Black Latina Sunday school teacher and mother when I am hanging with my niece. In these situations,despite of my political consciousness and Southern hometraining, I only have so much control over how others read me, and only so much desire and time to correct everyone. Don’t get me started on the public readings of my beloved midlife soft butch partner with her broad shoulders and narrow hips.

    I mean, we *are* all “carbon-based life forms” but there is not yet any outside human cultural history to measure against, so we have to remember cultural context. Part of me laments that a broader range of people is not celebrated and that cataloguing people is never neutral. Part of me laments that we cisgender feminists, lesbians, bisexual, and queer women have a lot to process to admit and attack our privilege!

    One thing that help me to do this constant process is feminist science fiction (like _Life_ by Gwyneth Jones or most anything by Octavia Butler or _Filter House_by Nisi Shawl) and another thing is film. These media help reorient and vary the pathways set up earlier for what is possible and good. I want the basic human needs of every person to be met, as well as plenty of pleasure.