The Becky Blog

 


February 7, 2003

It's time for the next installment of Dr. Becky's Music Recommendations (Rock For Grownups)! As before we'll talk about my three favorites from the last several months.

3. ( ), Sigur Rós

Dreamtime!

Sigur Rós come from Iceland, the same as another favorite of mine, Björk. (Which begs the question: how is an ó different from an ö?) SR's music is even more otherworldly - their words are not only not English, they're not even Icelandic but a made-up language all the group's own. This album is being called "ellipsis" or just "that new Sigur Rós album." The tracks don't have names - at least not in the U.S. release. In Europe they go by such names as "Njosnavelin" and "Samskyeti". Oh, now it all makes sense. But the tracks are so, so dreamy, much like the group's first CD, Agaetis Byrjun. What wonderful sounds to have in the background when you're doing most anything.


2. Brainwashed, George Harrison (with Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne)

Thank you, Dhani, for giving your father a marvelous musical legacy by releasing this posthumous album which is his best since the 1970 all time classic All Things Must Pass. George's voice was still strong enough to make lively tunes I can't stop singing.

There are no losers on this CD (or on any of these three). Some are fluffier than others ("Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"); some are full of dark humor, like the title track and "Any Road;" and some are laced with references to eternity, which George saw coming ever closer ("Pisces Fish," "Looking For My Life," and the gorgeous "Rising Sun"):

In the rising sun
You can feel your life begin
The universe at play
Inside your DNA
And you're a billion years old today...


...and my unquestioned favorite, you gotta run right out and buy this:

1. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips

They say the Lips are an acquired taste. I don't know about that, but I know I'm hooked now. I acquired them rather late in the game when I discovered their marvelous 1999 album The Soft Bulletin. Oh my goodness, these guys are great. I could really enjoy hanging out with folks who think like this... Two of the tracks, "Waitin' For A Superman" and "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," are already in my short list of all time favorite tunes. I went back and listened to most of their other nine albums (Nine? They've been around for twenty years - where have I been?)

It got even better when album number eleven came out this fall. Yoshimi is simply perfect. The back story about a girl who uses karate to save the city from evil robots is just too cool. (There is a wonderful anime video on their Web site - www.flaminglips.com - featuring a pink electric pencil sharpener. Click the "downloads" tab.) "Do You Realize?" is getting heavy air play now, and while it has a top 40 hook, it is also as cerebral as the rest of Wayne Coyne's material, dealing with the need to make good things happen right now. The same theme is featured in "All We Have Is Now," the one song on the album guaranteed to make me cry. And how can you not like a title such as "Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell"?

The band's favorite song, I believe, is "It's Summertime," which needs several repeat listenings before you really get that it's about staying optimistic even in the face of loss and tragedy. That's a theme we could all use at this time.

It is, as I say, a perfect album, each track in just the right place. I think I'll stop writing and go listen to it again.


February 11, 2003

Interest has been expressed regarding how your humble correspondent looked "back in the day."

With considerable reluctance, we present this photographic evidence of Christmas past. I am registering glee as I open a rather stereotypical gift...


February 21, 2003

Some good news, finally, on the legal front as a court recognizes transgender parental rights.

TAMPA (February 21, 2003) - In a groundbreaking decision, Florida Circuit Court Judge Gerard O'Brien ruled today that Michael Kantaras, a transgender man, is legally male and was legally married to his former wife Linda Kantaras, stating that "the Court has carefully reviewed all the pleadings, record evidence, expert medical testimony, lay witness testimony and the appropriate statutory authority for marriage in Florida and concludes the overwhelming weight of evidence favors declaring the marriage valid." Final Judgment at pp. 806-07. The court also awarded Michael primary custody of the two children he and Linda raised together during their marriage.

Judge O'Brien's opinion is one of a handful of decisions addressing marriages involving transsexual spouses, and one of the first in the United States to hold that such marriages are valid. The only states with similarly favorable decisions are New Jersey and California; in contrast, Texas and Kansas courts have held that marriages involving transsexual individuals are void. Internationally, courts in a number of countries have affirmed the validity of such marriages, including a very recent decision by the Family Court of Australia upholding a marriage between Kevin J., a female-to-male transsexual, and Jennifer, his wife.

After completing sex-reassignment, Michael Kantaras met and married his wife, Linda in 1989. Linda was fully aware of Michael's transgender status prior to the marriage and permitted Michael to adopt her then three month old son. The couple later had a daughter through alternative insemination. The Kantaras children are now ages 14 and 11.

When the couple divorced in 1999, the focus soon shifted away from the best interests of the children and onto Michael's transgender status. Linda argued that Michael should be considered legally female, their marriage deemed void, and his parental rights stripped away. The three week hearing, which included extensive testimony from medical experts, was covered live by Court TV last January and February.

"I'm so relieved," said an exhausted Michael Kantaras. "Now my kids and I can get on with our lives in peace."

"The court recognized that the two children in this case have a devoted, loving father and need to maintain a relationship with both their parents," said NCLR Staff Attorney Karen Doering, co-counsel in the case. "This court recognized that Michael's transgender status has nothing to do with his ability to be a good parent. Michael is a loving, responsible father who also happens to be transgender."

According to NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, "To our knowledge, this is the first transgender marriage case in the U.S. in which extensive medical evidence was presented, including testimony from three of the foremost experts on transsexualism in the country. As the Court has recognized, the medical evidence overwhelmingly favors recognizing that the law should accommodate transgender people so they can be productive, functioning members of society. This includes permitting transgender people to marry and raise children."

"This is not only a victory for the transgender community, it's a victory for the Kantaras children who deserve to have their loving father remain a part of their life," said Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. "We all benefit when gender stereotypes and bigotry are defeated."


March 15, 2003

You and Me and the Dixie Chicks

One of the most predictable characteristics of the mentality which has captured America's heartland is a mind completely closed to new ideas and different opinions. The possibility that one might be wrong about a given issue simply does not enter the collective conservative consciousness. Unless, of course, one was wrong about the party-line conformity of a fellow heartlander. Then the infidel must be cast out! Not even a Wah'habi from Jeddah could work up more of a self-righteous snit than a good ol' boy who learns that someone he thought he knew doesn't share the same brain waves.

This is the reality of the America in charge in 2003, from the top down. It was forcefully brought home this week to a brave young woman named Natalie Maines.

Don't feel too sorry for Natalie. She's still richer than you are, as she is the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks. This is not a group I favor, since bluegrass and bubble-gum pop are the only two musical genres I cannot appreciate, and they reportedly blend both. Enough music fans love them, however, to put them at number one on the Billboard charts for country album ("Home") and single ("Soldier"). Winners of multiple Grammy awards, they have ridden the wave of popularity to its peak.

The wave broke last week in London. During a European tour, the group noted an "astounding" anti-American sentiment related to the likely upcoming war. Isn't it amazing how it will open your eyes and mind to get away from home for a while? Proving herself capable of free thought and free speech, Natalie addressed an audience in London: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

Now, there are those who think the President and Texas deserve each other, but that's not the point. Her remarks were quite well received in Britain, but not back in the heartland. Public opinion of the Chicks went from adulation to disgust. Oh, the yowling and moaning!

From Houston's KILT radio: "People are shocked. They cannot believe Texas' own have attacked the state and the president." The station lived up to its call letters and "kilt" the Chicks, removing their music from its playlists.

In Kansas City a station held a "Dixie Chicken Toss," encouraging listeners to toss the group's CDs into trash cans. What's next? Bonfires at baseball games?

Sadly, I doubt Ms. Maines will stick to her convictions. She's already apologizing, but has not yet retracted her statement. The group begins a tour of American cities in May, in South Carolina yet, and I don't think they will be well received in Bob Jones land unless they have repented and re-entered the ultraconservative fold.

Natalie Maines learned a lesson I wrote about years ago during my transition:

I thought that, if I carefully explained my gender conflict to my friends back in Mississippi, it would change their opinion about transsexuals. It didn't. It just changed their opinion about me.

Here's wishing you the best, Natalie. You've managed to unplug yourself from the Matrix. Don't go back.


March 23, 2003

Since the above notes were written, combat has begun in Iraq. Americans, British, and Iraqis have been killed, and more will die. Now is the time for prayer: prayer for the loved ones who have been left behind, for comfort and consolation in their grief; prayer for those still in harm's way, that they may return safely to a world at peace; prayer for those making the decisions, that they may be guided by the highest of motives, and act with wisdom and compassion. Prayer for our adversaries, that they and we may be turned toward a world of peace together.

War is never the answer, but when it is chosen, we do well to lend our support and prayers to those who are placed into position of peril for the sake of their country - our country.

I'll have no more to say about this for the present; I will let the verses at the top of my home page speak for me.


April 13, 2003

NONs

(or The National Academy Meets The National Enquirer)

It's probably just as well that Geraldo Rivera was "invited out" of Iraq prior to the conquest of Baghdad. I can imagine his tactful, sensitive (??) interviews of some ordinary Iraqi citizens who have lost their homes to bombing or their possessions to looters. But most of us are like Geraldo in the sense that we have no idea how it feels to lack sufficient food, water, and shelter. We can feel sympathy for these Iraqis, but we can't empathize or understand. We are non-Iraqis.

I am a non-cigarette smoker. I saw what cigarettes did to my parents, and I made up my mind never to start. Now I care for patients whose diseases are due in large part to their tobacco use. I urge them to stop. I show them the medical studies of the health risks of smoking. I recommend smoking cessation medications and support items. Still, most continue to smoke, even after their heart attacks or bypass surgery. I am at a loss to understand. They tell me it's addictive, and my patients' behavior surely suggests that this is true; but I don't know what it is like to want that cigarette more than I want to be healthy. When it comes to tobacco, I am a NON.

In many places, political and religious restrictions prevent a woman from having decision-making power over her own body. Even if she becomes pregnant through rape or incest, she is forbidden to terminate this totally undesired early pregnancy. Forbidden by whom? By a group of men who will never have to face such a decision personally. By NONs.

J. Michael Bailey is a NON - a non-transsexual. Who, you may ask, is J. Michael Bailey? According to Amazon.com, he is an "Associate Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University and an internationally recognized researcher and expert on the origins of human sexual orientation." That should tell you all you need to know about the emphasis of Mr. Bailey's studies.

J. Michael Bailey has written a book entitled The Man Who Would Be Queen. It's an amazingly offensive title for a book which purports to be a scientific study of male to female transsexualism. In one phrase, he labels us "men" - a repudiation of all we've sought for so long, the right to be recognized as women - and "queens" - a blatant allusion to a quite different group, the performers known as drag queens.

I know a few drag queens. I like every one of them. They are really kind and generous, and those I know are very intelligent. But they are not transsexuals. If you suggested to one of them that she should consider a sex change operation, she would tell you in very colorful terms what you could do with that knife.

J. Michael thinks drag queens are stereotypical for one of his two types of transsexuals. That's right, just two. "Homosexual" transsexuals, he says, are those sometimes called "primary" or "early transition." Bailey's single other category encompasses all late transition transsexuals, which have been sometimes called "secondary" - not my favorite term, but decidedly better than Bailey's designation. You guessed it, from the old Blanchard-Lawrence hit parade: we are all "autogynephilic" in Bailey's world.

Dammit. I hate fighting this battle again. This person - this NON - has gone to a couple of gay bars in Chicago and thinks that gives him a representative view of teenage and twentysomething transsexuals. What garbage. Has he even heard of the AntiJen list? I've had correspondence with dozens of college students who are transitioning or plan to transition soon. They have never been to a gay bar. Like most of us old folks, they are not interested in having sex (of any kind) prior to SRS. They are NOT drag queens. They are studying to become doctors and lawyers. (This flies in the face of Bailey's little twelve question "survey," one of which questions insists that if you work as a doctor or lawyer you must be autogynephilic.)

Then in his next chapter, entitled "Men Trapped In Men's Bodies," (heard that phrase before?) he briefly mentions the lesbian and asexual groups of late transition women, before tossing them in with the Lawrence autogynephiles while muttering, "I'm a lumper, not a splitter." Who does he interview for this chapter? Not you or me. His first interview is (I am serious) a crossdresser who admits she is not transsexual and that she gets a lot of sexual pleasure from crossdressing. This is enough to torch the whole book, but he goes on. The next interview is with someone who seldom if ever crossdresses, but masturbates quite frequently to fantasies of himself as a woman - I should say, to fantasies of himself having a vagina. In an earlier chapter we were introduced to Cher, who prior to SRS had devised a robot dildo to penetrate this fake vagina that she strapped on to her bottom. This apparently was very stimulating. Just like you and me, eh? Bailey thinks so:

I think that Cher is a wonderful example of the second kind of transsexualism, less because she is representative than because she openly and floridly exemplifies the essential nature of this type, which is autogynephilia.

Memo to Mr. Bailey: Cher is in a category by herself, Mister.

[Important note] For an update on "Cher" as of May 12, 2003, and to learn how this woman has been misrepresented in Bailey's book, please see Lynn's correspondence with Anjelica.

Are we steamed enough yet? How about this quote from Chapter 8, "Terese and Cher":

...many of us have had the experience of wondering if a particular woman we have seen is actually a man, and most of us who have been to even a few gay bars have seen one. There are also transsexuals who work as waitresses, hairdressers, receptionists, strippers, and prostitutes, as well as in many other occupations...

Oh no, you couldn't mention those other occupations, could you? Not enough room to list cardiologist, general surgeon, internist, family practicioner, neurologist, dermatologist? That's right, we got all of those. How about attorneys, clergy, CEO, CFO, airline pilot, security analyst, world renowned musicians, artists, engineers, college professors, high school teacher, and about eleventy dozen programmers and other computer experts? I guess you ran out of space after "prostitutes."

It is nice for you, however, that you got to spend a lot of quality time in those gay bars.


A couple of important points. First, it is not about having sex, Mr. Bailey. Can you grasp that idea? Many of us do not give a damn about having sex. It is about life. It is about what works versus what wasn't working. It is about going on living versus ending it all. As I've said before, if transition was all about great sexual fantasies, I'd still be a male today. I didn't do this for sex. There are some autogynephiles out there, but there are many who don't fit your categorization.

Second: is it possible for a NON to know enough about transsexuals to actually write a valid review of the subject? Maybe, I say. If one can overcome his own biases, which Bailey obviously cannot, then I think it's possible to be objective. It will take a lot more interviews than he has done, and a lot more categories than his little binary world.

I won't quote that lengthy poem about the blind men and the elephant (it's all over the Internet, just do a Google search), but the idea is that we come to erroneous conclusions about a subject when we cannot see it as a whole. J. Michael Bailey is one such blind man attempting to describe a condition which includes a much wider variety of experience than he can see. The book is too flawed to be taken as an "expert" study.

Did I mention the cover art? A pair of big hairy legs in high heels. Are we having fun yet?


For other reviews of this book, please see:

The Transsexual Roadmap

Lynn Conway's Transsexual Pages

In addition, Lynn has posted an excellent review on Amazon.com. Please visit the page for this book, try not to look at the cover art, and leave a feedback that says "this review was helpful." This will show the author that we are not in agreement with him.


April 27, 2003

See, in addition to the above, another excellent article on J. Michael Bailey, by highly respected Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden.


"Fundamentalists"

Guess what? This isn't about religion. Well, let me clarify that. It's not about Christian fundamentalists. But there seems to be a somewhat religious fervor on both sides of the debate over the book I've discussed above.

The following paragraphs are taken from the front page of Anne Lawrence's website.

"If you can get past the title and the cover photograph, Michael Bailey’s new book about gay femininity and male-to-female transsexuality is easily the best popular treatment of these subjects. The full text is now available on-line as well as in book form.

"A few prominent "transsexual fundamentalists" hate this book and its heretical ideas, and have been busy misrepresenting its content on the Internet. I hope the resulting controversy will encourage more people to read the book and make their own judgments.

"For the record, I would like to reassure these transsexual fundamentalists--many of whom I know and admire--that I identify as a woman, and consider myself a "real" transsexual. I also respect their identities as women, and consider them real transsexuals, too."

I am not going to descend into name calling over this issue. I have already gone on record as opposing the basic assumption of Bailey's book, that all male to female transsexuals are either "homosexual type" or "autogynephilic type." I am neither. There are others who feel as I do, and I've given you links to some of their writings above. It is not "misrepresentation" to offer proof that an assumption is incorrect. I don't doubt at all that many persons are describable by Bailey's two categories. But many others are not, and that is the point Bailey and Lawrence refuse to recognize.

A "fundamentalist" is one who adheres rigidly to a certain set of behavior, and refuses to consider the viewpoint of anyone who differs. Who, then, are the fundamentalists here? I will concede the existence of Bailey's categories, but he will not concede the reality of my life.

Equally frustrating is the implication that persons such as Lynn, Andrea, Joan and I can be ignored because we are so few in number. "A handful of transsexuals," says one reviewer who agrees with Bailey. "A few transsexual fundamentalists," says Lawrence.

First of all, I don't believe we are such a small handful, judging from the volume of e-mail I have received. But what if we are? What if autogynephiles outnumber us by a two to one, or a ten to one ratio? Does this invalidate our existence?

The reason transsexual people are not included in ENDA is not because the Human Rights Commission's leadership thinks we are bizarre. It's because they think we are too few to make a difference, and we are easily sacrificed to help them reach their goals. Does a similar line of reasoning give the ones who say we don't exist the right to disregard us? Where is the justice in that?

We may be few, but we exist and we will not go away. Bailey is wrong to dismiss those persons he doesn't understand.

Perhaps some of my friends are correct: it's all about power. We are too few in number, and our life experience is too far outside the mainstream, for those in power to acknowledge our existence. That is why it is so important for all of us who can be visible to retain our visibility, so the world can see we are real, we are serious, and we are seeking the same things in our lives as anyone else: acceptance, equal treatment, security and love. Not sexual fantasies.


May 3, 2003

Who says irony is dead? You will love this, from the Washington Monthly Online:

"We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing...[We] need ... to set definite boundaries on our appetites."

-- The Book of Virtues, by William J. Bennett


(If you've ever seen the overstuffed Mr. Bennett on television, you'll immediately know that he doesn't practice what he preaches. Now we know that in addition to his appetite for food, he has an even more expensive appetite - for high stakes gambling. While he sits on talk shows and pontificates against same-sex unions, medical cannabis, and your favorite movies, he never seems to mention his own vice of choice. Hypocrisy is alive and well in conservative circles - not that we didn't know that already.)


May 5, 2003

Today's purple prose from J. Michael ("No, really, I'm straight. REALLY.") Bailey
(from Chapter 8, Page 141):

As I waver, I notice her companion , an attractive, blonde-haired, blue-eyed man whose body, amply displayed in a tight tank top, is the male analogue of Kim’s—he has a huge chest (hairless of course) and bulging biceps.

Eewwwwww....


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