aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, December 03, 2007
Also from On The Media last week, a disquisition on calling Hillary Hillary:
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media. I’m Bob Garfield. Edwards, Obama, Hillary, Giuliani, Romney. Notice anything odd there? I referred to one - and only one - of those candidates by first name. And we’ve gotten some mail about this.
And off we go! Now this is not the first story of its kind I’ve come across. And I have to tell you I never really get it. It sounded more odd to me to hear Garfield say Giuliani rather than Rudy.
From this week’s New York Magazine, Rudy Has Seen the Enemy and He Is...Us:
America’s Mayor has just climbed onstage. Rudy Giuliani peels off his navy suit jacket and rolls up his shirtsleeves, grinning so wide that every one of his suspiciously white teeth is visible. Six years of nearly nonstop speechifying, selling either his own book or George W. Bush, have made Giuliani a masterful campaigner… They sure think so out here in the real America: The chants of “Roo-dee! Roo-dee!” are drowning out Giuliani’s final words, and women are elbowing one another in pursuit of his autograph.
While on Rudy, he was in Georgia yesterday where he was “effectively drown[ed] out” by a young crowd of Ron Paul supporters, then dissed by Johnny Isakson, “We’ve got a lot of great candidates...and I’m for the Republican candidate.”
Judge finds no Michelle Bruce gender fraud
The Riverdale runoff election will proceed on Tuesday:
A Spalding County Superior Court judge threw out a petition to halt the runoff after nearly four hours of testimony Monday.
“The court finds no facts shown of illegality or irregularity,” Judge Johnnie Caldwell Jr. said. “There has been no fraud perpetrated to the citizens of Riverdale.”
It will be interesting to see how this affects turnout - less than 800 people voted in the disputed city council election.
Word of the Year: Locavore
The New Oxford American Dictionary announced its 2007 Word of the Year and Ben Zimmer of Oxford University Press went on On The Media to talk about it:
BEN ZIMMER: Yes. The Word of the Year is “locavore.” Locavore means someone who endeavors to eat only locally-produced foods. And, as you were saying, it’s a word that we know exactly when and where it was coined. In 2005, there was a group of four women in San Francisco who challenged Bay Area residents to eat only food that was grown in a 100-mile radius, and they called themselves the locavores.
BOB GARFIELD: Now, when I saw the word, I immediately understood, yeah, got loca - vore - got it - locally-grown produce. Does anyone actually use it?
BEN ZIMMER: Well, it’s being used quite a lot by the local food movement, either locavore, or there’s another variant form that’s often used - localvore, with an extra L in the middle. And at the moment, those two forms are battling it out a little bit. But the original form and currently the more popular form is locavore.
I vote no on the second “L.” Another word I expect we might here more about:
BOB GARFIELD: The next coinage, previvor.
BEN ZIMMER: Previvor is a word that is used to refer to a person who hasn’t been diagnosed with cancer but has survived a genetic predisposition for cancer or may have precancerous cells. So someone who doesn’t have full-fledged cancer but could possibly develop it becomes known as a previvor amongst this community.
And just how might it get to be word of the year?
BEN ZIMMER: Well, we would need to see these words being used more widely, also not so self-consciously, so not just talking about the word.
The targeting of Michelle Bruce
The small-town politics in Riverdale, Ga., features some big-time mudslinging in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election, with a website accusing Georgia’s first transgender elected official of being a man who “used an alias and fooled everyone into thinking he was a woman.”
The website - operated by anonymous supporters of Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham - also notes that transgender City Councilmember Michelle Bruce is under investigation by the Georgia Attorney General’s office for allegations of election fraud during an attempt to recall Graham from office in 2005. Filed with the Secretary of State’s office in November 2006 and forwarded to the attorney general last month, the complaint accuses Bruce and her mother of forging signatures on recall petitions, a charge Bruce denies.
..."The referral to the attorney general’s office is in no way an implication of significance,” said Matt Carrothers, media relations director for the secretary of state’s office.
...More troubling to Bruce than the pending attorney general’s investigation is what she calls a “hate website” that features pictures of her and ridicules her for being transgender.
“The man at the left tricked us last election. He used an alias and fooled everyone into thinking he was a woman,” reads an entry on www.getinvolvednowga.com. “Riverdale is the laughing stock of the county with him presently in office.” [...]
Bruce, who was born intersexed and identifies as transgender, said the website is a result of Graham’s “cronyism.”
“They’re just trying to use anything they can to smear me and get me out of office,” Bruce said. “The website itself is nothing, but - it hurts, don’t get me wrong - but it’s a shame someone has to go after someone’s race or gender and that’s all they can use.”
“They’ve made comments previously [about being transgender],” Bruce said of Graham and her political allies. “She’s gone around and said we need to get that transvestite out of office - that freak of nature.”
I loved the movie Transamerica. I notice now that the DVD cover is a photo of the real life gorgeous Felicity Huffman, rather than her Transamerica character, Bree (formerly Stanley). If that’s what it takes to get America to rent this movie, so be it. I posted this a couple years back when I went to see the film in NYC...
A friend with a featured role in Transamerica - she was outstanding, by the way - commented to Doug last night on the heterosexual cast. As with Brokeback Mountain, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t want ghettoized movies preaching to the choir, I want movies that reach out and spread the good word.
Transamerica is that kind of movie. It is outstanding; Felicity Huffman’s performance brave and brilliant:
To call Felicity Huffman’s performance in “Transamerica” persuasive would be an understatement, as well as somewhat misleading. Her character, Bree (short for Sabrina), is a pre-operative transsexual who lives in a modest bungalow in Los Angeles and in a condition she refers to as “stealth.” In other words, though still technically male, Bree passes for a woman, though there is nothing very stealthy about her elaborate, almost theatrical displays of femininity. In her tasteful pink outfits and meticulously applied makeup, she presents an image of womanliness that harks back to an earlier era. Her voice soft and breathy, she avoids cursing and peppers her conversation with Latinate words and foreign phrases.
In this debut feature by Duncan Tucker, who wrote and directed it, “Transamerica” sets out to affirm Bree’s dignity, to liberate her and others like her from any association with camp or freakishness. That the film succeeds without slipping too far into sentimentality or didacticism is in no small measure the result of Ms. Huffman’s wit and grace. (She may also be the first film actor of either sex to do frontal nudity, in a single movie, as both.) Her work on “Desperate Housewives,” for which she won an Emmy earlier this year, suggests a knack for gender parody, since that series is in essence a drag show that happens to star real women. The challenge Ms. Huffman faces here is more complicated: she must convey the layers of Bree’s identity and the spaces between those layers. It is not just that the actress must play a man who is playing a woman - that much is a matter of technique (with some prosthetic assistance, to be sure) - but also that she must impersonate a performer in the midst of learning a complicated role. Her performance is a complex metamorphosis, and it is thrilling to watch.
SEE ALSO: Felicity Rulez!
Gender neutrality. And why the T belongs in LGBT!
Physical gender is not always just a matter of XX or XY, girl or boy. In approximately one out of every 100 births, seemingly tiny errors occur during the various stages of fetal sex differentiation, causing a baby’s body to develop abnormally. Problems in the formation of chromosomes, gonads, or external genitals can lead to a range of intersex conditions. The most common and well-researched of these conditions are explained below. For information on intersex conditions not mentioned here, see http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/pediatricendocrinology/.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)—One in 13,000 births
Two hormones are critical in normal sex differentiation. The testes of normal 46,XY males secrete both MÃƒÂ¼llerian Inhibiting Substance (also known as MIS or antimÃƒÂ¼llerian hormone) and masculinizing androgenic hormones, while the ovaries of a normal 46,XX female secrete neither. In CAH, the absence of a critical enzyme allows a 46,XX fetus to produce androgens, resulting in ambiguous external genitals. A CAH individual may have an oversized clitoris and fused labia.
Testosterone Biosynthetic Defects—One in 13,000 births
In a condition related to CAH, some 46,XY individuals do not have the properly functioning enzymes needed to convert cholesterol to testosterone. When such enzymes prove completely incapable of creating testosterone, the genitals appear female; when the enzymes function at a low level, ambiguous genitals form. [READ ON]
That’s from the Nova website of an excellent 2001 broadcast, Sex Unknown (unfortunately not available for viewing online).
In it, they tell the story of Max Beck:
When I was born, the doctors couldn’t tell my parents what I was: They couldn’t tell if I was a boy or a girl. Between my legs they found “a rudimentary phallus” and “fused labio-scrotal folds.” They ran their tests, they poked and prodded, and they cut open my belly, removed my gonads, and sent them off to Pathology. My parents sat in the hospital cafeteria, numb, their hearts as cold as the Manhattan February outside. [...]
After five weeks of study and surgery, they weren’t any closer to the truth; mine was a fuzzy picture. Not even the almighty gene provided any clear answers, since it was discovered that I was a mosaic, with some cells in my body having the XY genotype and others having XO. The decision was made to raise me female.
So begins the story of Judy, now Max, whose parents tried desperately to raise her as a girl, even as he knew - as only he could know, from the knowledge deep inside him of his essential self rather than from any external signals or anything anyone said - that he was a male.
Back in October, John Aravosis asked in Salon, How did the T get in LGBT?
Like an ever-expanding mushroom cloud of diversity, every few years America’s gay leaders and activists welcome a new category of member to the community. [...]
A lot of gays have been scratching their heads for 10 years trying to figure out what they have in common with transsexuals, or at the very least why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins. It’s a fair question, but one we know we dare not ask. It is simply not p.c. in the gay community to question how and why the T got added on to the LGB, let alone ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman.
Aravosis says, “I’m not passing judgment” and wonders “Is it wrong for me to simply ask why?”
Well, no, but the tone of his piece suggests an answer. And it’s not the one I would agree with. I may agree that compromise requires we drop transgender protection from ENDA (though it doesn’t get my support) but I think it should be obvious why our causes are related.
Like Max Beck, when I grew up a gay child in a straight family in a straight world, my parents raised me as straight. They knew of no other option. I knew from the knowledge deep inside me of my essential self - rather than from any external signals or anything anyone said - that I was gay.
I was effeminate enough that the gender signals I sent seemed wrong to my childhood peers, so they came after me (names, physical threats and violence) for who I was. That has continued through my adult life. People feel entitled to discriminate against me (in hate-crimes language, to hate me) for the way I was born.
Now lesbian and gay people argue vehemently that we were born gay. But a large faction of us - those who see a gay identity as little more than a sexual preference, rather than as a cultural orientation - are just as uncomfortable with transgender inclusion in the gay world as the straight world is of gay inclusion in the straight world.
This is merely a continuation of gay male ambivalence toward effeminate gay men. We’re much more comfortable with our leather brothers than those who don a wig and a skirt. For me the goal is cultural empathy and understanding. I want to work to help my neighbors and my world to understand that naturally occurring difference need not scare us.
To that end, I embrace my transgender brothers and sisters, respect their struggle and will do everything in my power to support them.