trans stuff: news and reviews

And last but not least, trans stuff, some of which makes me happy and some of which pisses me off. A non-binary post – how apropos. (There’s a treat at the end, FYI.)

– There’s a huge report on transgender issues in Newsweek, posted on msnbc.com a few days ago. It’s remarkably well-done – they quote everyone from Judith Butler to God (via the Bible, natch) to Anne Fausto-Sterling to Renée Richards to students from Smith College. It’s quite impressive. They manage to properly handle the pronouns throughout as well, and they provide a really cool photo gallery (attendees at a trans job fair in L.A.) and a great trans resource page. Who’da thunk? Here are a few neat little tidbits:

  • In case you were wondering what Fausto-Sterling, the groundbreaking biologist brains behind some of the most accessible intersex research ever to be carried out, was up to these days, it appears she’s “currently investigating whether subtle differences in parental behavior could influence gender identity in very young children.” The article quotes her as saying, “The brain doubles in size in the first five years after birth, and the connectivity between the cells goes up hundreds of orders of magnitude. (…) The brain is interacting with culture from day one.”
  • Apparently the International Olympic Committee has ditched mandatory lab-based gender screening. The article quotes Arne Ljungqvist, chair of the IOC’s medical commission, as saying, “We found there is no scientifically sound lab-based technique that can differentiate between man and woman.” Hm! Interesting little factoid, that!
  • It would seem that Renee Richards, the well-known transsexual tennis player, is not exactly the champion of today’s gender-benders. According to the article: “Now 70, Richards rejects the term transgender along with all the fluidity it conveys. ‘God didn’t put us on this earth to have gender diversity,’ she says. ‘I don’t like the kids that are experimenting. I didn’t want to be something in between. I didn’t want to be trans anything. I wanted to be a man or a woman.'” Well, that’s fine and dandy for you, Ms. Richards. Too bad you aren’t as understanding of people who are different from you as you would like people to be of you in your own difference.

– Speaking of trans issues, I just reviewed Jean Bobby Noble’s latest book, Sons of the Movement: FtMs Risking Incoherence on a Post-Queer Cultural Landscape (yes, it’s quite the mouthful) on nomorepotlucks.org. Check it out here if you’re curious. It’s short and sweet, unlike this post.

I was trying to be a good girl and do my homework, so before reading Sons I also slogged through his first tome, Masculinities Without Men?, in which he on the one hand made a bunch of really interesting points about gender in trans-related English literature, and on the other hand managed to have me seething almost every time I picked up the book to read. Why? Because he decided, in a feat of stunning rudeness and overstepping, to re-baptize Stephen (the protagonist in Radclyffe Hall’s seminal The Well of Loneliness) as male, and therefore used male pronouns throughout.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who staunchly defends TWOL as a “lesbian novel.” But I’m also not one of those who claims it as a “trans novel.” I think it’s way more complex than either of those things, particularly when taken in light of its historical context – it was published in 1928 when the common term for queers and gender-variant folks of many stripes was “invert.” There were no homosexuals, lesbians or trans folks – we were all in the same bag. Or boat.

Anyway, Radclyffe (who was of a rather masculine bent herself) wrote Stephen as a female-bodied masculine person who consistently uses the pronoun “she.” And while that may or may not be adequate as far as pronouns go, neither is “he,” and “he,” as used by Noble, has the added disadvantage of making a pronoun decision about a character that’s directly contrary to the one made by its author. And that, folks, just feels incredibly disrespectful to me, no matter what fancy post-queer justification Noble managed to come up with. Good thing he’s not so rude in his new book, or I might have had to throw it across the room in frustration.

On a totally non-trans-related note, I feel compelled to share, of all things, a cartoon with you. It’s about Quantum Fetish Mechanics – check it out if you’re curious. I don’t want to spoil it for you. 


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