aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, December 03, 2007
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.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Facebook has the social graces of a hyperactive 6-year-old
Facebook’s “platform" strategy has sparked much online debate and controversy. No one wants to see a return to the miserable days of walled gardens, when you couldn’t send a message to an AOL subscriber unless you, too, were a subscriber, and when the only services that made it were the ones that AOL management approved. Those of us on the “real” Internet regarded AOL with a species of superstitious dread, a hive of clueless noobs waiting to swamp our beloved Usenet with dumb flamewars (we fiercely guarded our erudite flamewars as being of a palpably superior grade), the wellspring of an endless geyser of free floppy disks and CDs, the kind of place where the clueless management were willing and able to—for example—alienate every Vietnamese speaker on Earth by banning the use of the word “Phuc” (a Vietnamese name) because naughty people might use it to evade the chatroom censors’ blocks on the f-bomb.
Facebook is no paragon of virtue. It bears the hallmarks of the kind of pump-and-dump service that sees us as sticky, monetizable eyeballs in need of pimping. The clue is in the steady stream of emails you get from Facebook: “So-and-so has sent you a message.” Yeah, what is it? Facebook isn’t telling—you have to visit Facebook to find out, generate a banner impression, and read and write your messages using the halt-and-lame Facebook interface, which lags even end-of-lifed email clients like Eudora for composing, reading, filtering, archiving and searching. Emails from Facebook aren’t helpful messages, they’re eyeball bait, intended to send you off to the Facebook site, only to discover that Fred wrote “Hi again!” on your “wall.” Like other “social” apps (cough eVite cough), Facebook has all the social graces of a nose-picking, hyperactive six-year-old, standing at the threshold of your attention and chanting, “I know something, I know something, I know something, won’t tell you what it is!”
Is there anything Stephen Fry can’t do? Damnably versatile without ever exhibiting a hint of undue exertion, Fry is an actor of plummy aplomb on stage, screen, and telly (the imperturbable Jeeves to Hugh Laurie’s sputtering-tea kettle Bertie Wooster), a film director, a novelist, a playwright, a memoirist, the author of an inspirational how-to book on versifying, and the presenter of a travel series about the US of A, which prompts the image of Oscar Wilde (whom Fry portrayed on screen) entertaining the mining camps of Montana.
Fame. It’s an embarrassing thing to talk about, for all that it is a national/global obsession. It is one of the few apparently desirable human qualities that Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ no, what am I talking about Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ it is not a quality. It is not like courage, mercy, kindness, strength, beauty or patience; or laziness, dishonesty, greed or cruelty for that matter. What is different about fame, I was going to say, is that it is so contingent. If you are tolerant or strong or wise, you are tolerant and strong and wise wherever you are on the planet that day. You don’t become bigoted, feeble and dim-witted the moment you cross a continent. Famous people however, can become entirely unknown the second they leave their homeland. Only the World Famous are famous everywhere, and there are precious few of them. They used to claim Mohammed Ali was about as well-known as a human could be, the same was said of Charlie Chaplin and Elvis. Who now? Osama bin Laden? Michael Jackson? Robbie Williams can walk around Los Angeles without being recognised and they say Johnny Carson was so surprised/irked/mortified at going unremarked in London whenever he showed up, as he did regularly for Wimbledon Fortnight, that he arranged for British TV to carry his Tonight Show at a reduced rate. Martha Stewart can travel by Tube unspotted, but not by Subway. And so on. As for myself, well, I mean next to nothing in Italy, but seem to strike a chord in Russia. Don’t ask.
Fame has this unusual property. It exists only in the mind of others. It is not an intrinsic characteristic, feature or achievement. Fame is wholly an exterior construct and yet, for all that it is defined by other people’s knowledge of a given person, they cannot dismantle or deactivate the fame that their knowledge engenders. What an ugly sentence. I mean this. We cannot, however much we may want to, make someone unfamous. We can make them infamous, unfashionable, notorious, despised or derided but the more we do so the more we actually increase their level of fame. Fame is a function of memory. I can’t impel you to forget Adam Sandler, for example, any more than I can instruct you to forget Jack the Ripper or the Jolly Green Giant. Indeed, as I’ve suggested, to urge someone to forget is worse than useless. It’s like the well-known procedure of telling someone not to think of something specific and odd, a yellow panda, for example. Go on, do not think of a yellow panda. [...]
All of which leads me to this obvious point. It is no good everyone repeating that tiresome clichÃƒÂ© about x, y and z ‘only being famous for being famous’ - their fame exists in our heads and it is therefore our fault, not theirs, if fault there is.
Adds Wolcott, “this is why it’s such a steaming vat of bad faith when the press acts as if celebrities who are hounded the moment they meet outdoor air...deserve the grief they get as a penalty tax for their fame, casting them in the role of molestation victims who were ‘asking for it.’”
Read the whole blessay. But if you plan not to at least read “The Tom Cruise Eye-Contact Canard.” I’ve quoted it after the jump.
Zuckerberg hoisted on his own pertard?
Remember the very thorough article by Luke O’Brien from 02138, an independent magazine aimed at Harvard alumni, that convinced me along with probably pretty much everyone who read it that Mark Zuckerberg is not telling the truth about the creation of Facebook?
There are some ugly stories in there that have the ring of truth to them. They are buttressed, no doubt, by the 02138 posting of a series of court documents in a downloadable format.
On Thursday Facebook unleashed a massive legal fury at 02138 after discovering that those documents included Mark Zuckerberg’s Social Security number, the full name of his girlfriend and the address of his parent’s house in New York.
The documents have been redacted and reposted. “It was a regrettable error and we have fixed it,” said 02138 executive editor Richard Bradley.
Kara Swisher’s been watching and commenting on the irony of Facebook’s privacy concerns, “given that Facebook is embroiled in a controversy over advertising practices it has unveiled recently that some think are violations of Facebook users’ privacy.”
A Massachusetts judge denied the Facebook take-down request. As questions about Zuckerberg mount:
[H]is company is under intense fire for new ad programs it recently introduced, especially one called Beacon, which can track your purchases on some external sites and send the information back to your Facebook profile’s news feed.
While it made some changes in Beacon last week, Facebook has not given users a global opt-out of the controversial marketing system in which the social network is seeking to link behavior and advertising more tightly for supposedly bigger payoffs.
Of course, after more bad publicity, rising user ire and inevitable advertiser pull-out from the program (Coca-Cola has already headed for the hills, according to reports), it’s a good bet that Facebook will be forced into an opt-out for all solution.
But, I am guessing given what as to be simple stubbornness on the part of Zuckerberg, another few rounds of devastating publicity for Facebook.
Let’s just say that this is not a good thing for a company that recently got a $15 billion valuation after $300 million of investments by Microsoft and last week, as first reported by BoomTown here, Asian billionaire Li Ka-shing.
There is little question in my mind-and it has to be going through the minds of all Facebook employees and investors-that all this should be considered a major fumble on the part of 20-something CEO Zuckerberg, whose judgment on how to handle both Beacon and in waging the pointless lawsuit against 01238 seems deeply flawed at best.
More on that key issue for Facebook here in BoomTown next week.
It looks like I’ll be reading more of Kara in the coming days.
Blodgett says the Facebook spokesman’s attempts to explain what Zuckerberg really meant only made matters worse. “Time for Facebook to look in the mirror and realize that it’s not a quirky little start-up anymore.”
Like I’ve been pointing out - the real strategic problem is that Facebook is a faux revolutionary. There’s little but evil in its DNA. It’s not concerned with making things better, exploding yesterday’s orthodoxies, etc - it’s just concerned with domination, control, subordination and other obsolete massconomy games.
I’m not opposed to behavioral targeting either, Fred, but a global opt-out wouldn’t kill it.
The questions around Zuckerberg are what bug me. If there wasn’t similar scrutiny around Google at this point in its rise (and I’m not so sure there wasn’t) could it be that Sergey Brin and Larry Page had cleaner more appealing “DNA” than Zuckerberg?
More gay men describe sex w/Craig
If there’s anyone left who doubts Craig did it:
David Phillips. Mike Jones. Greg Ruth. Tom Russell.
Four gay men, willing to put their names in print and whose allegations can’t be disproved, have come forward since news of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s guilty plea. They say they had sex with Craig or that he made a sexual advance or that he paid them unusual attention.
The Idaho Statesman has audio clips of the men telling their stories.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Calls in Sudan for execution of Teddy Bear teacher
Today we add Sudan:
Hundreds of demonstrators in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, poured into the streets on Friday demanding the execution of a British teacher who was convicted of insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammad.
The protesters, some carrying swords, screamed, “Shame, shame on the U.K.!” and, “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”
They were calling for the death of Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in jail. Under Sudanese law, she could have spent six months behind bars and received 40 lashes.
I’m imagining the inevitable Nixon-like reconsideration of George W. Bush’s presidency 35 years from now. Then we’ll say his construction of the fight we’re in now as similar in some ways to that against Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini was essentially correct. But such an observation would not vindicate the incompetence of the man. Rather, it makes what he’s done with his presidency all the more tragic.
UPDATES: On Friday the NYTimes had a story on the Saudi rape, Saudi Rape Case Spurs Calls for Reform and ABC’s 20/20 did a story on the French boy raped in Dubai. His mother has put up a website, boycottdubai.com.
The General’s question
I could see it if the question itself was rude or shockingly partisan, but there is a GOP “special interest group” called the Log Cabin Republicans who actually sued the government over the same issue. One of them could have asked it just as easily. It’s obviously a salient political issue in America and I don’t see why any news organization should apologize and expunge the record just because of the political leanings of a citizen who asked a question. Apparently, after all these years of Bush’s canned Townhall meetings with sweet softball questions, the media has decided that’s the only form of legitimate debate.
But Wonkette had the most fun commentary, noting gay call-boy Republican “journalist” Jeff Gannon’s lack of irony:
You’ll recall that one of the folks at the Republican debate on Wednesday turned out to be working for Hillary’s campaign, and thus was accused of planting a question. Jeff Gannon thinks that’s totally shitty [please insert obligatory “Jeff Gannon thinks?” joke here as it’s Friday and we’re tired]. He thinks CNN President Jonathan Klein should initiate a full investigation and remove everyone involved in improperly vetting the multiple people with their fake questions.
Wait, how many people got fired for letting Jeff into the White House briefings and allowing him to ask fake questions of the actual President? None, right? Just checking.
More marginalizing our media!
I did not watch the YouTube debates, Democrat or Republican, and I tend to view them as not much more than Big Media big-footing into our media - media made by and for the people and emphatically not rooted in our commercial television system - in an attempt to co-opt and cash-in on us.
Let’s be clear, the network, CNN, picked the questions and shoe-horned the show into its own
tried tired and [not] true cable format.
So far, so be it. What can we do? It is what it is.
The part that pisses me off is the afterward where the public is blamed for the inanity of the questions. This kind of marginalizing our media is nothing new. You may know that I spent a dozen years as
a marginal media magnate the director of a community television organization.
Here’s a young idealistic me in 1991 commenting on MTV’s take on our media. Just substitute “YouTube” every time they say “public access” and you will see that my message then is as true today as it ever was:
SEE ALSO: Entertainment Tonight in 1991 on wacky weird crazy kooks from cable hell. And so long as we’re on the topic of how our market-driven media defines the public, please remember the fallacy of the lowest common denominator.
Barrow oponent emerging? Marshall staying put?
Let me be clear, I watch these guys because they represent my area but neither is my ideal Democratic candidate. They both, however, have my full support because I firmly believe that, for the time being at least, they are the best we can get.
My experience leaves my confident that those who are agitating against Barrow and Marshall both from outside and within Georgia are wrong-headed and if they are successful we will be left with far more conservative Republican representation.
Barrow and Marshall may both be Bush Dogs but they do, in fact, reflect their districts. The work that needs to be done is empowering the Democrats here to persuade their neighbors.
On to the topic at hand…
It looks as if the Republicans may have finally found someone to go up against Barrow:
The Associated Press is reporting that John Stone, who served as a top aide to two of Georgia’s former Republican congressmen, is seeking the GOP nomination for a shot at defeating U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the Savannah Democrat.
Stone said Thursday he recently moved back to his hometown of Augusta from Virginia so he could run in the 12th District, which includes parts of Augusta and Savannah, the AP reported.
The 51-year-old Stone served on the Republican congressional staffs of U.S. Reps. Charlie Norwood, who died in February, and Max Burns, who lost his seat to Barrow in 2004 and ran unsuccessfully for a comeback last year. Burns has already passed on a re-match.
Stone was a consultant to Jim Whitehead, who lost to Paul Broun for Georgia’s 10th District seat.
Whitehead should have been a shoo-in but bungled so badly (remember his “probably ought to bomb” UGA comment) that the liberals among us hoped for him to beat Braun so that Democrats would have had a shot at winning the seat.
It looks like we may get to see if it was Stone’s advice that sealed Whitehead’s fate.
As for Marshall, in a piece that finds things are looking good for our Senator Chambliss’ reelection, Grigs Crawford says:
It is still possible for other candidates to enter the race for the July 15 Democratic primary, as the filing deadline is not until May 2. There are Democrats who would like to see three-term 8th District Rep. Jim Marshall jump in, citing his success at projecting an image as a conservative Democrat in a district that generally has a strong Republican lean.
But Marshall appears so far to be sticking with his determination to run again in the 8th District, where he defeated former Republican Rep. Mac Collins by only 1 percentage point in 2006 — the second-closest outcome for a Democratic incumbent in a national campaign year that was strong for the party. And Democratic House campaign strategists would be happy if he does run for re-election, as the seat would be much harder for them to hold if Marshall were to move on.
I’m at least glad to see that the “Democratic House campaign strategists” he talked to see things the way I do.