sad, sweet story

June 28th, 2010 | Uncategorized

Photo on 2010-06-28 at 07.58 #3

This is a photo of Stormé DeLarverie from JEB’s 1987 book of photographs, “Making A way: Lesbians Out Front.” It was taken in 1986 when she was the bouncer at the Cubby Hole. She used to perform as a male impersonator with a troupe of drag queens in the old days. Michelle Parkerson made a documentary about her.

Yesterday the New York Times ran this really great piece about Stormé, “A Stonewall Veteran, 89, Misses the Parade.” She has dementia and is in a nursing home.

100 Responses to “sad, sweet story”

  1. […] Alison Bechdel.   « Aretha | […]

  2. ksbel6 says:

    That is an awesome picture.

    Since you mentioned Stonewall, I will repost this here…
    Have you all been following the police brutality in Toronto? There are some video clips on YouTube. Scary stuff.

  3. Kate L says:

    🙁 Sad to say this kind of story about the trailblazers of my youth are getting more and more frequent. And, ksbel6, last year the Dallas police conducted a brutal raid on a gay bar on the Stonewall aniversary, but the irony was lost on them…

  4. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    I could see Lois at that club, either out front with Storme or inside with the drag kings.

  5. Cathy says:

    Thanks for the link to the story. My father currently resides in a nursing home because of Alzheimer’s disease, and I feel so sad seeing him and other formerly vital persons suffer from dementia. The NYT story mentions SAGE, a group that assists elderly LGBT persons and has gotten a rating of three stars (out of four) from Charity Navigator. I’m not gay myself, but am gay friendly and childless, and I’ve been wondering if some means exists for middle-agers like me to help similar elderly folks now and get help themselves if they need it when old. So I’m going to get in touch with SAGE.

  6. shadocat says:

    My Dad has dementia, so this article was particularly moving for me; luckily for Storme, she has some healthy, younger folks interested in seeing she has good care. All the more reason that we do everything we can to find new treatments and someday (hopefully) a cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
    These diseases slowly rob a person of their very soul, right before your eyes—I tell you there are some things that really are worse than death.

  7. --MC says:

    ksbel6 @2: why am I not surprised? having read a) that the city of Toronto spent like $3 million on security during the conference, and b) that masked “anarchists” had gone apeshit downtown, breaking windows and spraying American Apparel mannequins with muck .. having watched similar doings here in Seattle during the ill-starred WTO conference, I wonder who those “anarchists” were, who they were working for ..

  8. Calico says:

    That is sad…dementia sucks.
    I just learned that the Dad of a college friend of mine probably has dementia…I hope a cure is found for this someday soon.

  9. Riotllama says:

    10 years ago I hung out with those types and was at many of the protests of that period myself and I can tell you; most of them are around 19, full of anger and hormones, and just think they are trying to change the world. No one owns them or secretly directs them. Just a bunch of young adults full of ideology. Of course, a bunch are probably undercover cops trying to make them and the entire movement by connection look bad.
    And… What happened in Seattle was awesome.

  10. L says:

    I live in Toronto. It was actually close to a billion Canadian dollars for security costs for both the G8 in Huntsville and the G20 in Toronto. I think the whole thing is a shame – especially since not one major news station reported on the actual issues the protesters were out there for.

  11. Ginjoint says:

    Here’s a blog post from someone who’s in Toronto:

    Also: the last line of that story about Storme…whew.

  12. Kate L says:

    The same Bush-appointed Roberts Supreme Court that ruled earlier this year that corporations have individual rights has, for its last trick of the session, ruled that local government cannot regulate weapons in their jurisdictions. One wonders how far this ruling will go… can the next Times Square would-be terrorist now legally obtain a surplus stinger ground-to-air missile? We’re not talking about logic here, we’re talking about the law which often has unintended consequences.

  13. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#12)

    Not exactly the last trick of the current SCOTUS session… they also ruled that universities may deny official recognition (and thus funding) of campus groups that discriminate against LGBT and non-believers.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the majority opinion. I was surprised to learn she read the opinion’s summary from the bench today; her husband died over the weekend after a struggle with cancer.

    The NY Times obit (which I’ll link to in a separate post to keep this out of spam-limbo) said they met on a blind date, and he was the only guy she dated who was interested in her brain.

  14. hairball_of_hope says:

    Correction… it was the Washington Post which had the brain quote about Martin Ginsberg:

    Both the NY Times and the Wash Post had humorous bits about Justice Ginsberg’s lack of culinary prowess (Martin did all the cooking after she made an inedible tuna casserole early in their marriage).

  15. hairball_of_hope says:

    Article in today’s LA Times written by a retired physician with Alzheimer’s:

  16. Dr. Empirical says:

    I don’t know which is sadder, the news about Stormé, or seeing 1986 described as “the old days.”

  17. Kate L says:

    The elders are passing. Soon, we will be the elders. 🙁

    (Dr. Empirical, #16) I’ve heard it said that “back in 1985, there simply wasn’t much to do”. If that’s true, then it was even more true in 1971, when I first saw this Gulf Oil commercial that first put the spark in my mind about petroleum geology and the high seas. Why, oh, why, couldn’t I have paid more attention to the “Learn to Draw the Turtle!” commercial that was also making the round back then? I could have used my powers for good!

  18. Ready2Agitate says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Storme DeLarverie. Poignant. She probably had a tough life at times. I guess none of us, even the leastest tough, can really imagine being seen one day as a “little old lady,” and yet, it happens to the best of us…. We’ve all got that one-way ticket deal. Seems Storme took life by storm in her hey-day!

  19. Ian says:

    I always thought that Storme was said to be the butch dyke who threw the first punch at the Police in the Stonewall riots? Or am I getting my gay mythology mixed up?

  20. Annie in Norway says:

    She reminds me so much of Lois. It makes me sad to think of Lois being a frail and confused little old person.

  21. ksbel6 says:

    Here’s something I thought you all might like.

  22. ksbel6 says:

    Oops, that obviously didn’t work. Alright then, so, sorry.

    Yes, I agree that Storme and Lois would have had lots in common.

  23. Annie in Norway says:

    BTW, I’m sorry if this has been addressed in the Canon of DTWOF, but how is Lois pronounced? I always mentally hear ‘Lew-is’ but I overheard someone say ‘Low-is’ the other day in the Library. I pointed another potential non-creepy-fan-stalker to the blog, so if you’re out there, library girl, HIYA!

  24. There has been a great deal of very promising research on Alzheimer’s in the past several years, including discoveries that point toward the strong possibility of curing, not just treating, the condition. I get the sense that they could be regularly halting or reversing the progress of the disease in as soon as a decade or so — which does nothing for current Alzheimer’s patients. Maybe there will be incremental improvements along the way.

  25. hairball_of_hope says:

    Off-topic… Holy Captain Kirk! Star Trek is really a secret atheistic humanistic plot that snuck under the network censors’ radar to ply our impressionable youth with revolutionary ideas! And those pesky Unitarians are involved too. Can’t wait for the Phelpses to show up at the UU church with signs proclaiming “God Hates Star Trek.”

    Quoting from the article:

    Ms. Sackett said that Star Trek, like humanism, promoted ethics, social justice and reason, and rejected religious dogma and the supernatural.

    “A lot of science fiction is filled with humanism,” said Ms. Sackett. “You usually don’t run across an archbishop of Alpha Centauri.”

    She said Mr. Roddenberry, who lectured in Worcester in the 1990s, strived in his Star Trek ventures to affirm the dignity of all people.

    “Rationality was the key … There was no recourse to the supernatural,” she said.

    Ms. Sackett said Roddenberry was so resolute about religion that he refused suggestions to add a chaplain to the crew of the starship Enterprise.

    She said Star Trek was imbued with what she called the “IDIC Philosophy,” namely, infinite diversity in infinite combination.

    [… snip …]

    Ms. Sackett said that Mr. Roddenberry, a voracious reader, was upset because many rabid fans began to view Star Trek as a religion and its central characters as saints.

    She added that, after Mr. Roddenberry’s death, some of the Star Trek vehicles, particularly the television spin-off series “Deep Space Nine,” were permeated with religious themes, something the franchise creator would not have appreciated.

    Ms. Sackett also noted that the Star Trek series’ principled “prime directive,” that humans should not influence or interfere with other races and peoples, was actually a snipe at American involvement in Vietnam, something that television network censors never picked up on.

    “Infinite diversity in infinite combination” sounds a bit like the characters in DTWOF and on this blog. I haven’t actually seen Vulcans around here (and I can’t look at their ears to verify), but I suspect there are a few. Riffing off the New Yorker Internet cartoon, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a Vulcan.”

    (… goes back to petting the Tribbles … oh, they’re cats, how did that happen? …)

  26. judybusy says:

    Alison, thanks for posting this. I’d caught the original article via another blog, and had wished the Times had included a photo of Storme when she was younger.

    HOH, thanks for the Star Trek lore; I hadn’t heard of the the IDIC principle before–love it!

    Since no one’s shared this, here is some happy news.

    Also, the NYT had this recent article on one research project regarding Alzheimers.

    Annie #23, I’ve always thought “Low-is” for Lois. “Lew-is” would be for, well, Lewis. There could have been a Louise, too, but Lois fits the character so well!

  27. Kate L says:

    Russian spies under arrest in Chicago? 1985 (1984?) came early this year! I feel young again!!!

  28. Stephen Gordon says:

    Voluntary ignorance of one’s history is cultural suicide. If we refuse to study the past and archive our heritage, eventually it will be shoved under the rug and nobody will know and we will be crushed.

    Lois with a U is Louis, which can be pronounced like Lewis, or like Louie(Loo-Wee). You might’ve got them confused.

  29. Stephen Gordon says:

    gotten them confused”, excuse me. Past participle conjugations are too inconsistent in English.

  30. shadocat says:

    Thanks to all who posted such positive news regarding Alzhiemer’s research. It really lifted my spirits. I must confess that although going through this with my Dad is beyond hard,I’m also (somewhat selfishly) worried about what’s going to evntually happen to me. My grandmother died from this disease, and (based on family stories)I’m pretty sure her father had it too.

  31. judybusy says:

    shado, I’m 45 (this very day, matter of fact!) and my paternal grandmother and her sister have/had it. I, too, am hoping for a cure as I’m somewhat worried I will develop the disease. I don’t think there’s a selfish bit about that, either. It’s horrible, horrible and I want the cure for everyone!

  32. Feminista says:

    #31: Many happy returns. Life long and prosper!

  33. Ian says:

    @stephen gordon(29): “gotten” is no longer used in the home of the English language. The form remains in the use of ‘forgotten’.

    @judybusy(31): Bonne anniversaire! Live Oolong and Prospero.

  34. Robin B. says:

    A very upsetting article:

    Storme DeLaviere: One Of Nightlife’s Legendary Bright Lights Faces Dark Days

  35. Annie in Norway says:

    I don’t have a lot to add, but I just noticed today, linking the headliner article to a friend of mine that I didn’t know which pronoun to use for Stormé and I just want to say that English needs a gender neutral pronoun (besides ‘it’ which obviously Will Not Do).

    That is all.

  36. bean says:

    #9 riotllama: yes. totally. ditto.

    i had a discussion today with a therapist friend who works with poor women in Oakland, CA on the subject of rioting. my friend’s comments: “it’s sad to see folks take their anger out on on their own communities. it’s doing the ‘system’s’ work for it and against us.” My comments: “yeah, but when young white, obnoxious, teenage boys actually target their anger at the real causes, at these massive power institutions, everyone gives them shit.”

    I’ve been reading controversies over whether the black bloc are infiltrated by cops setting them up and causing more violence, or whether these are legitimately chosen tactics. hard to know what to believe. I’m sure infiltration happens. and i’m sure young, stupid, macho white boys make dumb decisions. I do think you have a responsibility to the larger movement when you take action not to put others in danger if they didn’t sign on.

    On the other hand, I’m sick of the “larger movement” giving these folks shit for taking real action. i think there’s room for all these tactics and historical precedence for them, and plenty of evidence that “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho” doesn’t really accomplish much except create really boring demonstrations.

    so, i say, cut the obnoxious boys some slack. who doesn’t enjoy seeing a burning cop car every so often??

    #34 Renee S.: awesome pics, thanks for posting that!

  37. Renee S. says:

    @ Robin B. #35

    The eviction of Stormé is something that the Times neglected to tell us.

  38. Chloe says:

    I rememver that Storme was a ubiquitous sight around the West Village in NYC years ago when I was “in the life”, for lack of better terminology. Seems like every gay or lesbian event I went to, she was there; a sweet soul with a beaming smile. Or else I’d just see her on the streets of Chelsea of the village; walking around, doing her thing. You couldn’t miss Storme. She stood out from the crowd, her appearance spoke volumes about who she was and who she still is. The only other person I remember making such an impact on me was the transgendered activist, Sylvia Rivera, may she rest in peace.

    Anyway, back to Storme. I was young and diffident at the time and never had the courage to walk over and introduce myself, until one day many years later. I was scheduled to meet an ex-girlfriend and a gay male couple for dinner at a restuarant in Chelsea and I arrived first and wouldn’t you know who was sitting at the bar. None other than Storme. My level of confidence has increased somewhat over the years and I went over and introduced myself and told her how much I admired her for having the courage to fight the good fight, to speak truth to power, to be who she was despite the prohibitive era that she lived in.

    We talked for a while, Storme and I. She was warm, genuinely receptive and glad to share her stories. I was glad that we finally met and that was the very last time I had seen her. May her name and legacy live on and may all those who enjoy the opportunity to be who they are also remember that it was she, along with other brave souls, woh made that all happen.

  39. Cathy says:

    Shadocat and judybusy, I share your worries about Alzheimer’s and family history. Both my husband and I have/had parents with this dreaded illness, and I worry not only that one of us will get this condition, but that both of us may do so at the same time. I’ve told friends and relatives that if our cats put on lots of weight, we need to be taken to doctors, as this may mean that neither of us is remembering that the animals have already been fed and are continually feeding them when they meow.

  40. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    At the gang with parents/relatives with Alzheimer’s, I hear you, sigh. Me old Mum comes from a family who all faced dementia in their very old age.If my mother is any indication of where I’m going to end up, I’ll need to arrange for long term care too. My husband , with a similar family history, qualified for long term care insurance (which I don’t).
    But my mother shows another side of dementia, which is that she’s incredibly easy to please. A friend took her to Dunkin’ Donuts, and she spent an hour watching everybody eat up their Chocolate Glazed with the burnt coffee, wondering and smiling and commenting freely on the vast variety of doughnuts available. Daft but cheery, I could live with that!

  41. Kate L says:

    Speaking of heroic women, the matriarch herself, Wonder Woman, has been updated to the 21st century. Great Hera! Most surprising of all, I look exactly like her new image! Well, if this were 1974 I would. It was a very good year…

  42. grumpy says:

    havent poked through the veil for a while * just wanted to throw in some realism about a cure * this is not an easy disease * long ago there was research on A resourcing church records of lifetime nuns * turned out affects were noticable in the early twenties * as evidenced by markedly reduced use of subordinate clauses * another simple fact is that general dimentia in old age used to be taken as a given * today with more precise diagnostics it turns out A is actually the culprit in most cases possibly eighty percent * so we are all in good company * and yes some of my relatives became totally blotto and we are NOT pleased * the storme photo and stories are so good *

  43. geogeek says:

    Grammar nerdery: I use and hear “gotten” regularly, but only in combination with conjugations of “to have,” as in “I would have gotten up, but I was wiped.” “She would’ve gotten her ass kicked, but she ran.” “I could have gotten a ticket, but the cop didn’t see me.”

  44. Dr. Empirical says:

    Some of the geek community is up in arms about the Wonder Woman costume change. They’re always up in arms about Something.

    A bigger concern is that they’e changing her backstory. These things get tweaked all the time, of course, but this time they’re just discarding the whole thing and making up something else. The idea, I understand, is to make her more urban.

    I’ve never cared for the character, so the change doesn’t bother me except in that it displays a disrespect for tradition. I predict that within a few years, everything will revert.

    There was a period in the early seventies where WW lost her powers. She studied Kung Fu, and I think she traveled around the country in a van, solving mysteries. All that went away. So will this.

  45. Ian says:

    *sighs* Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman was such a good litmus test of a man’s sexuality. If they played at bullets and braces (and got off on how kitsch it all was) then they were definitely Martha. If they were mesmerised by her decolletage then most definitely Arthur. If they pretended to play with her lasso of truth then a future in bondage lay ahead. You didn’t need gaydar with Wonder Woman around.

    Which programme could do that today?

  46. Stephen Gordon says:

    @GeoGeek — You think that the conjugation “gotten” is only used in a conditional tense? Even if it is anachronistic, it is still correct and it makes sense to me.

    Ian — Martha? Arthur? What are you talking about? These slang terms are unfamiliar to me, aside from a Martha being someone who works really hard at domestic work and doesn’t spend a lot of time playing or hanging out, a biblical allusion. Martha is also a class of women in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale who are infertile and work as domestic servants. Neither make sense in the context of your post.

  47. Diamond says:

    @GeoGeek: Gotten is one of those words that we don’t usually use in the UK, but which we understand as we hear it so often in US films and so on. Another is Fall, where we would say Autumn. They are commonly described here as “Americanisms”.

    Interestingly though, both of these words were once apparently coomonplace in Britain, but went out of use generations ago. For me this is an interesting lesson in the fact that language changes with use, and what now sounds wrong may once have sounded right.

    “Correct” grammar is often just to do with familiarity, and as a struggling ex-pedant I find it very liberating to remind myself of that!

  48. Ian says:

    @Stephen Gordon(48): Ahhh, it comes from the phrase, “He doesn’t know if he’s Arthur or Martha!”. Arthur = heterosexual and Martha = gay. I’m not sure of the derivation.

  49. Marj says:

    How poignant the story of Storme. I’m outraged (but not surprised) by the behaviour of the Chelsea Hotel management company; and somewhat surprised that Storme’s chroniclers seem unclear about both the spelling of her name and her gender status.

    Off topic: I was just minding my own business, washing my hands in our workplace facilities, when a woman breezed in, whipped out an aerosol, gave each underarm a generous blast, and breezed out again!

    I can’t decide if I’m grateful that she’s concerned enough to protect her colleagues from her whiffiness, or affronted at being left gasping for breath in that confined space.

    Revenons a nos moutons…

  50. NLC says:

    Ian#50: “He doesn’t know if he’s Arthur or Martha!”

    Just wondering: When typically spoken, how closely are “Arthur” and “Martha” pronounced? (If closely, this might help explain the combination.)

    That is, I know that in the Proper English, they should be quite different. But I also know that there are areas of, say, Boston, where they can almost rhyme, either as “Arthur or Marther” or “Arthuh or Martha”.

    (Some of the same places where “orphan” and “often” are pronounced almost identically.)

  51. judybusy says:

    @Ian 47 and 50: Even though I’d never heard the phrase before, it all made me chuckle–it seems such a quaint way to talk about orientation! It made complete sense to me, and I wonder if the new WW will be as useful…..a quick search revealed no helpful information on the origins of the phrase.

    I have also been thinking about Storme’s stituation. I smell a little hyperbole in the story about her eviction and “forced sedation/captivity.” It does seem she has dementia, and if that’s the case, she may have indeed been removed from her home if she were unable to care for herself any longer. (I’m thinking rent control agreements are pretty strong, but I also know a landlord would have deep pockets.) She would also be kept at the home technically against her will via a guardianship if she was deemed incompetent.

    Also, I question if the article author did any investigation beyond repeating hearsay. I would just encourage us not to jump to conclusions based on what seems to me a poorly-researched article. Also, Storme seems to have some people in her life who keep an eye on her and who would likely raise a stink if she is being mistreated. Lastly, if the author is so concerned, he could make an anonymous report to an ombudsman or similar agency that monitors nursing homes.

    I was concerned by the report in the NYT article she’s not allowed to leave the building even escorted by friends. This could be poor practice, or it could be she is too confused to risk it.

  52. Kate L says:

    (Ian, #50) Hey, I was “mesmerised by her (Wonder Woman’s) decolletage”. Oh, wait a minute… there may be a reason for that! 🙂 Of course, I was mesmerized by Janeway, too!

    My dog and I were attacked last night in our own back yard by a neighbor’s dog that is allowed to run lose. I got thrown to the ground several times just trying to hold my own dog back from the fence of her own dog run and away from the other dog’s teeth. I bellowed out “Keep your dog out of my yard!”. Golly, I must not have seemed very lady-like! Almost “manish”, as my mom would call such moments… the owner of the other dog came into my yard, cursed me, and went home. Goddess, I love my life.

  53. Cathy says:

    In looking over the comments about Alzheimer’s disease, I am wondering how Sydney would have handled her father’s dementia if DTWOF had not ended. This is not the first time that I wish I could see how a DTWOF character would respond to something.

    A thought occurs to me: What if some of the DTWOF characters did those end-of-year letters that go out with holiday cards? Someone with an active social life such as Lois might just jot down a few lines, whereas Mo’s missive might be highly detailed and pedantic. In different letters, characters might contradict one another’s versions of the same events. Perhaps DTWOF fans could be challenged to submit entries for such letters, with Allison choosing the best one for each character to post on this website next winter.

  54. Kate L says:

    (Cathy #55) No doubt, Sydney would have many of the same concerns expressed by her real-life counterparts, expressed on these electronic pages.

  55. Dr. Empirical says:

    Comic Book Resources has a nice recap of Wonder Woman’s looks over the years, including the kung-fu jumpsuit period.

  56. Alex K says:

    @54 / Kate L — “Mannish” is good. I really LIKE “mannish”. Except when it’s being done by a man, in which case it’s just… tedious.

    Tick my box (oooh matron!) — Martha, Arthur, Siddhartha?

  57. Ian says:

    @NLC(52): Arthur and Martha are pronounced (in my mind in a Lancashire or Yorkshire accent) as though they rhyme, i.e. very closely. Both have a long ‘a’ and pronounced “arth-uh” and “mar-thuh” with the stress on the first syllable.

  58. Kate says:

    An investigation just concluded by Pennsylvania State University has completely cleared climate-change scientist and Penn State faculty member Dr. Michael Mann of any wrong-doing in his scientific findings showing man-made global warming. Dr. Mann is author of the famous “hockey stick” illustration showing stable climate temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide until the start of industrialization, after which both have increased and are still increasing. Earlier this year, independent inquiries of Dr. Mann’s climate-change colleagues in Britain also cleared them of any wrong-doing in their research. Dr. Mann remains under investigation by attorney general Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, of Virginia. Mr. Cuccunelli is also suing President Obama over health care reform, and is attempting to remove LGBT-rights ordinances in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

  59. Dr. Empirical says:

    Ian (59) Americans have no idea what a Lancashire or Yorkshire accent sounds like. We think everyone in England sounds like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

  60. Renee S. says:

    @ Renee #39…oops, AB already posted about the documentary….I don’t always read carefully…

  61. hairball_of_hope says:

    Cathy (#55)

    “In different letters, characters might contradict one another’s versions of the same events.”

    Two words come to mind. Kurosawa. Rashomon.

  62. little gator says:

    The name Lois is usually pronounced LOE iss.

    which reminds me- i read recently that Kipling left written notes somewhere that Mowgli is pronounced Mow gli rhymes with Cow gli, not Moe gli.

    In the Jungle Book it’s said to be a word meaning frog but this is something Kipling made up-it’s not a word in any known human language.

  63. Andrew B says:

    Alex K, 58, have you ever heard Muddy Waters sing “Mannish Boy”? You can like it or not, but you’re not going to convince me you find it tedious. (I mean his original recording, from around the mid-50s to early-60s. I take no responsibility for later versions, some of which certainly are tedious. E.g. the one with Edgar Winter.)

    Cathy, 55, I’m not convinced Paul was becoming demented. The termination of this story line was my biggest single disappointment when Alison went on (probably eternal) “sabbatical”. I wanted to see where she was going with this. If anybody wants to hear a long explanation of the questions I had, I’ll explain.

    I never heard of DeLarverie before Alison’s post. She certainly is a robust looking 65 year old in the photo above, even allowing for lousy reproduction. The lesson I take from her story is, if you know somebody who is elderly, frail, or who has health problems, visit her. Often. That way, if her scumbag landlord tries to push her out the door, you’ll know about it and be able to intervene. If she starts to have trouble with basic necessities like hydration, you’ll be there to help her. If she winds up hospitalized and a guardian is going to be appointed, you’ll be able to help ensure that the guardian is someone who knows her and cares about her, not some anonymous social services agency. I don’t mean to criticize DeLarverie’s friends. This whole thing probably came up so fast that they had no time to get involved. But it’s a lesson for the rest of us.

  64. Captain America says:

    @61 — I beg to differ. Haven’t you ever read the book or watched the movie of The Secret Garden? Yorkshire accents are how Dickon and Martha(!) speak. The class conflict derived from a Briton’s manner of speech is also the subject of satire by George Bernard Shaw in his play Pygmalion, later made into the musical “My Fair Lady”, which was made into a movie of the same name starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn in 1964.

  65. Kate L says:

    If there are no “uppity women” born in the next generation thanks to in utero homone treatments(discussed in the Newsweek article linked by Calico #67), who will carry on for us when we’re gone??? In acuality, bombarding fetuses with levels of hormones they are not supposed to see until adulthood can have all sorts of deleterious effects. The anti-uppity parents who find a doctor willing to try it could get more than they bargained for

  66. Kate L says:

    …and another thing. Wasn’t there a book and a Hollywood movie right along the lines of the Newsweek article? The Stepford Wives, I think it was called.

  67. ksbel6 says:

    @67: I agree.

  68. The good news is that tinkering with fetal hormones is simply another aspect of the current experimentation trying to prove that cultural roles are the result of biology, etc., for which no sound science yet exists and, as this foray makes plain, is not just ludicrous but dangerous. Lesbianism and women’s will is not going to be created or destroyed by boys with their toys.

    The bad news is that children will be physically harmed, ARE being harmed, by adult panic over genital difference and gender role noncompliance. The rational alternative — alter social structures so children have enough options to exist outside boxes — is anathema to biological determinists.

    There are intersex conditions which require medical intervention to create a viable urinary tract, etc. ISNA’s stand is that these assists should not be combined with an attempt to “alter gender”, not without the recipient’s informed consent.

    The conflation of enlarged clitorises (which probably enhance sexual pleasure, since the clitoris is by far the most sensitive human anatomical structure and appears to exist solely FOR pleasure — most mammals don’t have one) with a tendency toward resisting male domination is the takeaway point here. I believe that anyone who allows the whitecoats diminish their sexual pleasure (i.e., all the vulva plastic surgeries being breathlessly reported on) in order to better “fit” in the patriarchy is not acting from a liberation stance, and to perpetrate this on infants is despicable. That’s me coming from a radical feminist and radical disabled rights position.

  69. Andrew B says:

    Calico, 67, thanks. People should take a look at that article. There are too many things that could be said about it. The one that most jumped out at me was a feature of the article itself: the way the author wanted to have her cake and eat it too, criticizing the bad docs and the strident feminists. One paragraph says that the researchers are not trying to turn girls into “Stepford wives”. Rather, they are trying to “treat [them] so that … their brains” develop as “clearly female, something [the researcher] believes will make life easier for them”. The criteria for having a female brain are behavioral: lack of aggression, heterosexuality, marriage, motherhood. So the purpose of the treatment, according to the Newsweek writer, is to make girls conform to patriarchal gender roles so as to “make life easier for them”. But this is not supposed to turn them into Stepford wives. Which makes me wonder what the hell she thinks a Stepford wife is.

    The egregiously phony “balance” aside, there’s a lot of interesting and upsetting information in that article.

  70. Alex K says:

    @67 / 72: Once I worked in the same institution as Maria New, who is reported as having mooted that steroidal treatment in utero possibly predisposes toward one or another pattern of behaviour. She was great because she was bold: She saw around corners, postulated consequences, proposed “thought experiments” of which her peers did not conceive. I have great respect for her.

    Science asks: If this is the goal how might we attain it? The possibilities are then laid out, and Ethics says: Not by this route, nor by that one; and really, Science, when you postulate, “If this is the goal,” you invite us all possibly to decide: No. This is NOT the goal.

    Perhaps we are watching the dialogue, contributing to the dialogue, between Science and Ethics as we comment on the NEWSWEEK article.

    For myself, I concur with Maggie Jochild: Let parents be taught that a prominent phallus is one of the things that can be seen in a female child. Let them be encouraged to understand that “reduction phalloplasty” treats their anxiety rather than a disease. Let them be shown to accept and to love.

    I also hope that Maria New and those like her will be afforded the room to put forward their visions of what might be done — afforded that room by a society confident in its abilities to make good choices.

  71. Kat says:

    Calico, et al,
    I have 3 versions of this article open on my browser at the moment. I’m glad you brought it to us.
    I’ve got more to say on it, but I’m trying to figure out how to phrase it exactly right. Back soon.

  72. Gabi B. says:

    My best friend’s family has a history of Alzheimers. We’ve been friends since the third grade, but I still worry that one day she will forget me.

  73. Duncan says:

    The blog post mentioned by Ginjoint, #11, seems to have vanished. I wonder why.

    Since then it’s become clear that Toronto has been another police riot, with agents provacteurs infiltrating the protesters, and

    “In fact some eyewitnesses reported that they saw large groups of cops standing by while the black bloc did their thing. Eyewitnesses at the scene of two of the burning police cars insist that officers of the so-called peace drove them up, jumped out, and walked away leaving the cars next to the protesters following which, the cars exploded. Talking to the media outside, after my release, my understanding was that this use of ‘decoys’ had since been confirmed by the police.

    “In protest after protest, at summit after summit, in city after city all around Canada, in the United States and in many other countries as well we hear afterwards that undercover police officers infiltrated the Black Bloc with the express purpose of provoking violent retaliation against the peaceful protesters by the massed ranks of law enforcement. The tactic in this case has expanded to the more or less open detonation of incendiary devices in public space, with the obvious intent of framing a movement composed of pacificistic vegan hippies as deranged, violent lunatics looking only for an excuse to pillage and destroy.”

    I’m certainly not going to take the police and corporate media accounts of what’s been going in Toronto at face value, since in every case I know of in the past couple of decades, such accounts have been proved false in the aftermath. Consider the police harassment and violence of protestors at both 2008 US political conventions. First you get alarmist tales of protester violence, which required mass arrests, then you learn that the charges all had to be dropped and class action suits against the cities involved are moving along. Those who are old enough to remember Seattle should remember this much.

    Since –MC’s description of Seattle in #7 is palpably false, I am equally skeptical of similar claims about Toronto. (Those interested in what happened in Seattle might have a look at David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit’s The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, published by AK Press earlier this year.) And it’s also false that most protesters are testosterone-crazed 19-year-olds; sure many of them are, but many are not: many are old union people, longtime anti-corporate activists, and poor farmers from countries being destroyed by agribusiness. It’s interesting that people can celebrate queers who “threw the first punch” at New York’s cops while griping about protesters at G20. But if you don’t care about the violation of civil liberties, and it’s clear that some here don’t, consider this from the same article I quoted above:

    “Oh yes, and if you want to know why I was protesting and the answer ‘everything’ doesn’t quite satisfy, let’s go with alfalfa, a delightful vegetable that I just rediscovered a few weeks ago when it appeared in my seasonal vegetable basket from the local CSA, and then found out Monsanto had recently got the green light to start distributing GM alfalfa seeds. Soon they will all be contaminated – given cross-pollination – and so, another food plant will become genetically toxic, as an entire generation has found to its intense gastrointestinal discomfort, with their diet of BT or RoundupReady soy, corn, and canola being the almost certain culprit for the rash of digestive disorders.”

  74. Andrew B says:

    Alex K, 73, I don’t have much confidence in our societies’ abilities to make good choices. Better, to the extent that we do make good choices, it’s partly because activists got involved. We don’t make good choices by leaving things to the experts. (See: financial innovation; deep sea oil drilling safety standards.) But media outrage is a very, very blunt tool and I do worry about using it to regulate research. I’m in partial agreement with you as far as that goes.

    In this one comment, you seem to make ethics out to be purely negative, and I strongly disagree with that. Ethics tries to answer fundamental questions about value. That helps us to set positive goals, both as individuals and as societies.

    Two problems about this issue are that there seem to be disagreements about the facts, e.g. how dangerous dexamethasone is; and a lot of the information is in technical publications that are behind paywalls or not online at all. Although I have not read New’s original publications, some of the quotes about behavorial (or “brain”) “masculinization” still seem pretty damning to me, whatever the facts about CAH and dexamethasone. Conflating biology and social standards is wrong, even if (hypothetically) it’s done for innocent reasons.

    Kat, I hope you’ll add your thoughts, even if they’re not phrased exactly right.

  75. --MC says:

    Duncan @ #76, are you saying that you think the “Black Bloc” were police provocateurs? But that’s what I was implying. Some activists I knew talked about being in the action at the WTO protest: they leased a space not far from where I live (it’s now a dog day care place), and that was where they held the staging area for the protests, set up the sea turtle puppets and such. They said they had never seen the masked “anarchists” who caved in the windows of the shops downtown, before or after the protest. They just turned up, went crazy, then went away again. And unfortunately, that event has formed the template for the authorities’ response to any potential protest: they set up segregated protest zones and holding tanks for the protesters taken into custody.
    It takes more strong effort to take a swing at a cop than it does to hurl a trash can through the facade of a Starbucks, particularly if you’re not being paid to do it. I care a lot about civil liberties, but I don’t write about them online much, because .. you know, the paranoia thing.

  76. bean says:

    Duncan and MC

    Infiltration and provocation happen. clearly. but, also, people ARE capable of making the rational decision to “take it up a notch.” and they have. and there’s a long history of it. i think this agrees with what duncan was saying?

    if those people are skinny, wearing black, and having their faces covered, they might make the news, and they are probably adolescent boys. i didn’t mean to imply that all activists fit this description or only those fitting that description can imagine a life after “no justice, no peace!” some folks take that chant seriously.

    i’ve been reading a number of interesting essays on these topics on infoshop dot org like this one:

    apparently, some folks are pretty incensed by the suggestion that the cops allowed the boys to burn their cars. in fact, the boys really did burn their cars, and the cops were seen running away.

    the piece ends with this nice sentiment: “what we do know is that diverse movements and diversity within movements requires diverse tactics and we can work towards being in harmony with each other without always having to agree 100 percent with each other.”

  77. --MC says:

    Bean @ #79 .. am trying to parse the article you linked to. The writer says the cops ran away from the black bloc and let them torch the cars, and this proves they weren’t in collusion?
    The writer seems in places to be an apologist for the police. The assertion that the Watts and Detroit riots were factors in the end of the Vietnam War is absurd.
    It is possible that the “anarchists” who have become the public face of protest are actually not provocateurs, are actually on our side. Just great. It’s like being at a restaurant with somebody who hassles the waiter.

  78. Stephen Gordon says:

    What is masculine about having a prominent clitoris? It is a distinctly female organ.

    Furthermore, why would exposure to female hormones make someone any less lesbian? That’s preposterous. Liking other women doesn’t mean you are masculine or want to be a man.

  79. Alex K says:

    @77 / Andrew B: Let me put forward the hypothesis that “ethics” is conservative — in that it trusts what is operationally good, in that it has been shown to work! — and that “science” brings forth new things. I don’t mean to write, “Ethics is negative”. I think, however, that ethics will look with disfavour on many new things, and that science will bring us for consideration things that test boundaries which ethics may have believed settled.

    @76 / Duncan: Oh, my. That you endorse “…with their diet of BT or RoundupReady soy, corn, and canola being the almost certain culprit for the rash of digestive disorders” surprises me. Please cite evidence that soy, corn, and canola harbouring genetic changes that confer resistance to RoundUp are implicated in digestive disorders. I look forward to reading the work that you cite.

  80. Acilius says:

    @Alex K #73: I’m perfectly willing to accept that Maria New’s research may have been distorted in the press. The standards for science coverage generally seem to be pretty low, even when no hot-button social issue is at stake. When right-wingers see a chance to twist the work of a female or minority researcher so that it sounds like something that supports their agendas, all restraint goes out the window.

    Whether Dr New ever contemplated developing an “anti-lesbian drug,” the Newsweek article Calico links in #67 and the reactions it reports go to something I think about all the time. Lots of same-sexers and allies seem utterly certain that a scientific explanation of the biological basis of homosexuality will be a great blow to homophobia. Yet it seems obvious to me that nothing of the kind will happen. On the contrary. Homophobes will take that news as confirmation of their idea that homosexuality is a disease. That will be bad enough; what is vastly worse is the likelihood that they will be armed with drugs with which they can “treat” that “disease.”

    Every time this comes up I have a very strong sense that I know just what’s going to happen, and it is horrible. So I’m writing a post on my own blog about it, because I don’t want choke up this thread with a long essay. Suffice it to say, I’m worried.

  81. Acilius, let me/us know when your post is up about the above so I can link to it at FB for starters. Medicalization of physical or cultural difference is part of the oppression, not part of liberation.

  82. hairball_of_hope says:

    I winced at the claim that digestive disorders were directly linked to GMO foodstuffs. Like Alex K., I want to read the actual studies that showed this. The claim sounds hyperbolic and not based on scientific evidence.

    When discussing GMO foodstuffs, it’s the specific genetic alterations that I worry about. A GMO grain that has a transplanted gene variant from the same or related species (e.g. corn/maize genes mixed with teosinte genes) doesn’t worry me a much as the transgenic ones that have genes from a different species.

    Imagine you are highly allergic to peanuts. If a peanut gene is inserted into a soy genome, it may express allergens that cause you to react to the GMO soy. If the GMO soy cross-pollinates non-GMO soy, now you may have allergic reactions to non-GMO soy as well.

    And don’t get me started on Monsanto’s “terminator gene” which made offspring of GMO plants sterile.

    As for the risks of in utero treatment with hormones, one need look no further than the history of women whose mothers were treated with diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriages and premature births. Women of DES-treated mothers have a huge incidence of vaginal cancer directly caused by the DES exposure in utero.

    No one realized the link to DES until 30+ years of DES treatment in medical practice, because the vaginal cancers typically showed up when the women were in their mid-20s to mid-30s.

    While I’m not aware of studies linking dexamethasone exposure in utero to health issues later in life, it’s not unlikely, and as with the DES exposure, health problems probably won’t surface for a few decades.

    (… goes back to her “abnormal” interest in sports, science, math, technology, etc. while being paid for working in a “non-traditional” field alongside mostly men. Oh yeah, and I’m uppity about it too …)

  83. hairball_of_hope says:

    Leery of spam-limbo, here’s the Wikipedia link to DES:

    Read about the history of all the off-label uses of DES. Scary.

  84. Acilius says:

    Maggie, it’s up! Thanks for asking. And thanks for speaking out against the medicalization of human differences.

  85. ksbel6 says:

    Brave New World, here we come!

    Has anyone else been alarmed by the insane number of multiple births caused by invitro fertilization (up 1000% over the past 10 years according to the most recent data)? We used to have this small percentage of the coupled population that was actually not capable of reproducing. Those folks would often end up adopting or becoming foster parents. Now those couples can produce multiple offspring all in one go with the magic of science. To me, the ethics involved with that situation are at least as bad as everything else we’ve been posting about.

  86. Stephen Gordon says:

    Morals are individual, ethics are collective.

    Well, it makes perfect sense, since the drugs used to make a woman fertile often cause her to produce several ova at once, which means that each of those ova get to be fertilised. Yes, it would be better if they just adopted in terms of overpopulation, but sometimes people want to have their own kid. Why they want to go through the agony of pregnancy and childbirth when they could have a child that needs parents and may even already be potty trained and all that jazz mystifies me.

    That said, I just saw an excellent movie called Mother and Child, featuring Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson, that has a lot of interesting things to say about this issue and others related to motherhood. The obstetrics in the movie is flawed, but it still well worth seeing.

  87. ksbel6 says:

    @88 & 89: There are several fertilized ova implanted during invitro fertilization.

  88. Kat says:

    So, New’s use of dexamethazone:

    Alex K, the trouble that I have (well, the one I’ll focus on now) is not “precedent vs. science,” it’s that the science itself, at least according to the multiple articles that I’ve read, is seriously faulty.

    New (and some other pediatric endocrinologists) advocate the use of “dex” in women whose fetuses risk being born with CAH. The drug, however, does nothing to lessen the chance that the fetus (if female) will be born with CAH. It’s sole use would be to decrease the possibility that the eventual baby will have “ambiguous genetalia”*.

    Here are the problems as I see them:
    1. This does nothing to address the actual disease (syndrome?) in question

    2. The injection of high levels of steroids into a fetus early in development seems have only one benefit (possibility of a “normal sized” clitoris”) and many, many possible detriments/side effects that researchers know nothing about as of yet

    3. CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!!!!! That’s like, a hugely important rule in science! New’s collaborator state in a study:
    “Most women were heterosexual, but the rates of bisexual and homosexual orientation were increased above controls . . . and correlated with the degree of prenatal androgenization.”

    “Correlated” is the important word there. There’s nothing showing that higher presence of prenatal androgens CAUSES one’s orientation to go one way or the other.

    4. New’s colleagues have claimed that a drug whose known effect is a physical change (preventing a large clitoris) will somehow prevent the girls in question from behaving a certain way.

    The logic gap here is huge. Heino Meyer-Bahlburg, a psychologist (!!!) who works with New, published the following:

    ““CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

    M-B goes on to claim that “dex” might cause these girls’ behavior to become closer to “expected heterosexual norms”.

    They want to give large doses of steroids known only to change a physical attribute in the hopes that it will affect the way that the children daydream??? I may not be a scientist, but this seems to me (and my scientist boyfriend, by the way) to be terrible science!

    The leaps and assumptions are huge, and the articles go on to call childhood play that is not home/family centered “abnormal.”

    So, in a nutshell (and sorry if this is terribly unclear), my issue is that an unproven drug is being injected into pregnant women (some of whom are not fully informed as to it’s ACTUAL purpose and outcome, by the way) in the hopes that it will prevent a sexual organ from becoming too large, but a psychologist is wanting to do this in a hope that it will also prevent children from engaging in activities that said psychologist deems to be “abnormal” based on societal, not biological, expectations.


    My quotes are from the “Bioethics Forum”:

    I also read the Time, Newsweek and The Stranger (written by Dan Savage. It wins for sarcastic humor, but is much less in depth than the others), and some website called “i09”

    * Is an enlarged clitoris but otherwise clearly female reproductive organs really “ambiguous genetalia”?? I was under the impression that ambiguous genetalia meant that they were truly ambiguous?

  89. ksbel6 says:

    @Kat 91: Great point…folks are always tossing about correlation as the end all and be all of the necessary information. I have no idea how often I have said, “but correlation does not prove cause and effect!”
    Currently DARE programs in our public schools teach 3rd-5th graders that alcohol is a gateway drug. Their reasoning being that people who drink alcohol also use hard drugs (like cocaine)…there is a strong correlation between the two. My immediate response was, “wow, I guess water is a gateway drug then because I bet I can show an even stronger correlation between water drinkers and cocaine users than you can between alcohol consumers and cocaine users.” The very nice police officer did not think I was funny.

  90. Ellen Orleans says:

    Ksbel6 (92) We were told that same thing back in 1975 and I responded the same way you did, except I thought in terms of milk drinkers.

    I didn’t speak up though, because I was 12 and knew the police wouldn’t want to hear that.


  91. Acilius says:

    I also think of correlation and causation when I think of DARE programs. DARE programs are marketed as a way to keep children from growing up to become drug addicts. So if they actually had that effect, we would expect DARE graduates to be less likely than similar students who had not gone through DARE to be drug addicts later in life. Yet I’ve never heard of research that found any such correlation, and there was a well-publicized study released in early 2003 that found absolutely no difference in the rate of drug abuse among DARE grads and others (link below.) So, unless I’ve missed some new study in the last seven years, we can say with confidence that the lack of a correlation between completion of DARE and freedom from drug abuse and disproves the idea that completing DARE will cause freedom from drug abuse.

  92. bean says:

    many conversations going on at once. since i agree with what most folks are saying about bad science, DES, correlation, the insanity around intersex issues and sexual surgery (especially where children are involved) and DARE programs, i’m not going to comment on those.

    I do want to post this link from infoshop, though:

    Supporting the Prisoners of the G20 Police State

    by Peter Gelderloos

    “…To talk about broken windows when the G20 come to town is to participate in a policing operation that has our doors broken in and guns pointed in our faces, regardless of whether we justify this collaboration with a discourse of nonviolence or one of security. It is to contradict even that most tepid of progressive clichés: people over profit.

    To consider questions of guilt or innocence in the case of these sixteen people facing conspiracy charges is to indulge in all the hypocrisy of a judge, a prosecutor, or a cop. It doesn’t matter that most of these people were already arrested when the property destruction occurred, and it doesn’t matter that they didn’t lead any conspiracies because we anarchists don’t have leaders, and we certainly don’t need them to carry out a little bit of vandalism.

    What matters is that when all those workers died, when all those people were evicted, when all that money was taken from us by the banks, when all those bombs fell, when all that air and water were poisoned, no one in power was punished and it didn’t matter whether rules were broken or followed. To speak of rules and laws is to perpetuate one of the greatest lies of our society.

    What matters is that a great many more banks and cop cars will have to be thrown on the trash fire of history before we can talk about a new world, so we’d better stop getting so upset by such a modest show of resistance.”

  93. Judybusy says:

    Well, it’s been a bit of time since we’ve had some levity: for cartoon and dog lovers. It was very hard to laugh heartily but quietly while reading this blog post in my cube farm.

  94. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Oh Judybusy #96, thank you so much for that post! I was going to blogjack for a discussion of the octopus shaped cake my husband baked this past weekend for a fireworks party, but I like the dog blog better!

  95. ksbel6 says:

    DOMA was struck down in Mass. today! Of course, appeals will follow, but one step forward!

  96. Andrew B says:

    Alex K, 82, now we are in a period in which ethics is relatively conservative. It isn’t always so. For instance, Maggie Jochild’s point (71) that women’s sexual pleasure is valuable and may not be subjugated to men’s purposes was a new insight that people developed about 30-40 years ago by thinking about what it would mean for men and women to be truly equal. Before then, such an idea would have been scoffed at or positively opposed. To think about what equality really means is to think about ethics. Of course the radical feminists of that time were not just thinking about right and wrong in a vacuum. They were also activists with experiences in other movements. But their activism was guided by thoughts about what was right.

    The same point would apply to other aspects of feminism, as well as Civil Rights, gay liberation, anti-imperialism, and other movements. Ethics can be active and innovative.

    Kat, 91, there is a pretty good pro-Dex blog entry here. I can’t personally vouch for the author or her views but I found her via a link from Echidne of the Snakes and she doesn’t say anything obviously stupid. She has at least one more entry on the subject which is also worth looking at.

    According to this blogger, CAH can have significant effects — the urethra and vagina can develop as a single opening, producing incontinence, chronic vaginal irritation, and frequent vaginal and urinary tract infections. Dex can reduce the likelihood of this. That sounds like a legitimate medical issue to me. She also suggests the evidence for danger, thus far, is low.

    This is what I was thinking of when I said that there seem to be disagreements about the facts.

    The problem with criticizing experimental treatments is that every treatment is experimental until it’s proven — and ultimately, the proof has to come from human trials. Twenty years ago AIDS activists were concerned about exactly the opposite problem. They felt that the medical establishment was being too cautious about introducing new drugs. Obviously that was a different, more urgent context, but the point is that there are two sides to this issue. We can’t only look at examples like DES and be perfectly conservative.

    I still can’t see any defense for medicalizing ideas about gender roles, but the broader issue of CAH and Dex is unclear to me.

  97. nylon spandex fabric says:

    xhmansen supply all kinds of nylon spandex fabrics for customers,welcome to our web site to learn more information you