The Becky Blog

 

November 17, 2003

Apologies for such a long delay. Work has been very demanding.

This is the latest update on the subject of J. Michael Bailey and The Man Who Would Be Queen:

November 12, 2003

Dear Ms. Kieltyka,

The ad-hoc committee inquiring into the allegations of research misconduct against Professor J. Michael Bailey has completed its work. The committee and the Dean of the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences recommend proceeding with a full investigation of the allegation that professor Bailey did not obtain the informed consent of research subjects. I concur, and have directed that an investigation committee be established.

Sincerely,

[signed]C. Bradley Moore
Vice President for Research
Professor of Chemistry

You may have already read that Bailey's friend Ray Blanchard, of Toronto's Clarke Institute, the person who first used the term "autogynephilia," has resigned his membership in the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, being upset with HBIGDA's criticism of TMWWBQ. Bailey, of course, was never a member of HBIGDA in the first place.

We owe special thanks to Lynn Conway, Andrea James, and Angela Kieltyka, who have been essential in exposing the unscientific nature of Bailey's findings, as well as his failure to obtain informed consent from his research subjects.


November 24, 2003

The religious right promises to make gay marriage a major issue for the 2004 elections. Isn't it incredible? We are facing monumental budget deficits, unfunded entitlement programs, escalating health care costs, a total squandering of global goodwill, and unending killing of American troops, and they want to focus on denying basic human rights to a segment of American citizenry.

As I've said before, if you T-folk think gay marriage is an issue which doesn't relate to your life, think again. It surely does relate in the minds of your oppressors. We are the cutting edge of this battle. We confound their plans. If they maintain that we cannot legally change our sex, then an MTF transsexual is free to marry an XX female. It's happening in Texas already. If they say, "You can't do that" because it sure looks like two women are marrying, then they are admitting we are now female. They can't win, and it drives them crazy. We are in for some ill treatment if they have their way.

At least one notable commentator who calls himself "conservative" has spoken in a somewhat sensible manner. David Brooks, in the November 22 New York Times, observes:

Today marriage is in crisis. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Worse, in some circles, marriage is not even expected. Men and women shack up for a while, produce children and then float off to shack up with someone else.

Marriage is in crisis because marriage, which relies on a culture of fidelity, is now asked to survive in a culture of contingency. Today, individual choice is held up as the highest value: choice of lifestyles, choice of identities, choice of cellphone rate plans. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but the culture of contingency means that the marriage bond, which is supposed to be a sacred vow till death do us part, is now more likely to be seen as an easily canceled contract.

Still, even in this time of crisis, every human being in the United States has the chance to move from the path of contingency to the path of marital fidelity — except homosexuals. Gays and lesbians are banned from marriage and forbidden to enter into this powerful and ennobling institution. A gay or lesbian couple may love each other as deeply as any two people, but when you meet a member of such a couple at a party, he or she then introduces you to a "partner," a word that reeks of contingency.

You would think that faced with this marriage crisis, we conservatives would do everything in our power to move as many people as possible from the path of contingency to the path of fidelity. But instead, many argue that gays must be banished from matrimony because gay marriage would weaken all marriage. A marriage is between a man and a woman, they say. It is women who domesticate men and make marriage work.

Well, if women really domesticated men, heterosexual marriage wouldn't be in crisis. In truth, it's moral commitment, renewed every day through faithfulness, that "domesticates" all people.

The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage.

Marriage is not voting. It's going to be up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage. Not making it means drifting further into the culture of contingency, which, when it comes to intimate and sacred relations, is an abomination.  

Okay, so Brooks is still a little constipated, but even if he hasn't turned into Mark Morford, he's at least open to considering that GLBT folk are still human and still entitled to the same rights as the mundanes. Thanks for a small favor.


November 27, 2003

Thoughts while pre-heating the oven...

Despite all our worries - and we do have worries - it could be so much worse.

I am thankful for:

Margaux - so many people go through life without a best friend. Not us! Your personality and interests complement mine so well. We both grow from the interactions. I am always amazed at your depth of understanding on so many subjects. And what you're doing with your new project is so brilliant, I wish I didn't have to keep quiet about it! Love ya bunches, MargauxMonster.

Karren - you are asleep on the sofa as I type this. I am so fortunate to be your "Mom," and I cherish every time we get together, in Phoenix or in Tucson. It's wonderful to have you here for the holiday. Stay just as you are.

BabeCat - Lap Time! MmmmmmPurrrrrrrrrr......

Mike, Sarah, Emma and Ben - Thank you with all my heart for letting me into your life. It is a joy beyond emotion. I wish every good thing in the world for all of you.

Jamie and Diana - what a blessing you are to me. I am grateful if I have been something of the same for you. We're going to have lots of good times.

My other Arizona buddies who don't want their names mentioned here. As I say about the "Friends and Families" page, You Know Who You Are.

My Mississippi friends who still care and keep me updated. All of you, but especially Drenda, Alec, and Ellen Ann. Love Y'ALL.

My job!! How fortunate can one be to love what you do every day and still get paid for it. All the wonderful people. Julie, Ginna, Thom, Lisa, Pam, and I'm gonna stop because I know I'm leaving out everybody, but THANK YOU.

Living in such a beautiful place. Okay, technically I live in a huge city, but I'm within a few hours of dozens of places of natural wonder. Arizona rules.

Shadow Rock UCC - the absolute perfect home for my spiritual life. Finally.

Lynn Conway and Andrea James. I think I've made the reasons clear in these pages.

Courageous voices. The above mentioned Mark Morford. William Rivers Pitt, of TruthOut. Tom Tomorrow and "This Modern World." Molly Ivins, who knew before the rest of us.

And all you who read this. Thank you for considering my words meaningful enough to take a few moments of your day. Live in love and peace.

Oven's ready. Time to start the pies.


December 6, 2003

From Deep Stealth Productions:

Deep Stealth Productions is proud to present the V-Day 2004 Worldwide Campaign event for Los Angeles on Saturday, February 21st.

In cooperation with the author, internationally-known playwright Eve Ensler, and under the auspices of Jane Fonda (both scheduled to attend), this benefit performance will feature the first ever transgender cast of "The Vagina Monologues," and will include a new monologue written by Eve especially for this event.

This large-scale, mainstream event will be a historic opportunity for the trans community to present ourselves in a positive, contributing light.

The performance will showcase notable trans women reading Eve's beautiful monologues about the experiences of womanhood and the reclaiming of self through loving and respecting our bodies.

The event will also feature artistic, literary and musical contributions from trans women from around the country.

VIP and general admission tickets are now on sale. If you can’t attend, there are still plenty of ways to participate and get your voice heard in the documentary, as well as the keepsake publication and web project.

We hope you’ll join us however you can!


December 13, 2003

CAUTION: Politically incorrect, potentially unpopular opinion to follow. (Isn't that unusual...)

One cannot write about this subject without being criticized by those whose mantra is "We must protect the children!"

I am all for protecting the children. I believe those who take advantage of any other human being for their own gratification should be prevented from doing so. But I am not for those who would pre-judge every person who doesn't meet their expectations of appearance and behavior.

Where do you draw the line? In the case of the missing young North Dakota woman, I would agree that the police are correct in apprehending their suspect. Evidence implicates him, and his whole life pattern suggests he would definitely be capable of such an act.

Let me speak of another case on the opposite end of the spectrum.

When I was a first year medical student in Jackson, the student body president was a fellow named Andy (name changed). One of his duties was to welcome us "newbies" and help us make the adjustment from the carefree, low stress college life to the long hours of study and work which would characterize our careers.

Andy was quiet spoken but at ease with a crowd, and made an effort to meet everyone. In my role as freshman class president I had occasion to work with him often. I am not being "revisionist" when I say that I always knew there was something special about Andy. I didn't take the time to analyze what it was. At that time I had never heard of the concept of "gaydar" (or as we call it, T-Dar - they overlap).

Life went on. I married. Andy married. We both took our turns as chief medical resident at UMC. For years I had little contact with Andy. He returned to Jackson after completing a fellowship in infectious disease. He practiced with a prestigious medical clinic and became one of the most respected infectious disease specialists in the South, caring for more AIDS patients than anyone else. His reputation was spotless.

When I dealt with my gender issues in 1993 and had to leave Jackson, I had hoped to hear from Andy; I thought he might have some encouragement for me. It didn't happen, and in retrospect I believe I know why. Andy was beginning to confront his own reality. He came out as gay a few years later. Apparently, being gay doesn't upset Jacksonians as much as the high visibility of changing genders; Andy continued his medical practice. I was possibly the least surprised person who heard the news. Now I knew what was that "special something" I saw in him years ago.

A few weeks ago there was a news item in the Jackson papers. My friend, along with another man, was arrested and charged with sexual battery, following the accusation of a 14 year old boy that he had had sex with them "75 to 90 times".

I'm sorry. I am not being "anti-children" when I say I cannot believe this. It is totally antithetical to everything I know about Andy.

  • Police admit they have no physical evidence to confirm that any sexual encounters ever took place.
  • At least one date and place contradict the teen's allegations because both men can show they were elsewhere at the time.
  • 75 to 90 times??? Wouldn't you think he would say something after two or three? This is no "Mystic River" lock-'em-in-the-cellar type deal.
  • The same child has a history of accusing other adult leaders. Three years ago, a church worker in North Mississippi went to prison because of his accusations. (The man did plead guilty, but one could wonder if he did so to spare the publicity of a trial. No one knows.)

Being gay does not make one a pedophile (no matter what Rick Santorum thinks). Neither does one begin pedophilic behavior at age 60. It doesn't add up. If I am later proven wrong, I will admit it, but I think Andy was set up by someone who wanted to discredit his reputation. The idea of a successful, respected, gay physician in Jackson, Mississippi might be just too much for bigots to bear.

Becky, out on a limb but without a chainsaw


January 3, 2004

A Little New Year's Present

Way back before there was a Doctor Becky Dot Com, I began a little website endeavor on a local ISP called Primenet. It was much less focused on trans issues and more of a "my little favorites" site. Over the years I've refined my focus, eliminating such subjects as "my favorite movies," travel, music, and so on. Little remains from the old site except my beloved recipe collection - and I'll hold onto that as long as there's Web space.

One personal topic I eliminated several years ago was a selection of my favorite poems. It featured Keats, Wordsworth, García Lorca, as well as some works from friends. My favorite was a poem I first saw in the medical journal The Lancet seven years ago. Written by the acclaimed German-born poet Lisel Mueller, this work first appeared in Mueller's collection "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems," which I highly recommend. When it was reprinted in The Lancet, an editor's commentary was added which captured my attention for obvious reasons. Here they are, poem and commentary, for your enjoyment.

Monet Refuses The Operation
by Lisel Mueller
© 1996

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.

I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision
of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line
I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.

Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate from the bridge it covers.

What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?

I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.

To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heat expands
to claim this world,
blue vapor without end.

Commentary from The Lancet:

... Mueller's achievement is to mirror, both in what is explicit and in what is left unsaid, some of the many faces of the experience of illness and disability. What seems to be a clinical "fix" to a physical problem may in fact "break" functioning parts of a patient's life and work. As the poet and the painter so elegantly show, decisions about what is done to one's own body may be charged with emotions, some clearly expressed and some only vaguely apprehended by the conscious mind. And, apart from these emotional components, choices patients make may arise from legitimate preferences for one way of life over another, sometimes with results that others not similarly affected might find unacceptable. The poem serves as an eloquent reminder of these complexities.

In our case, the emotional decision is opposite: to have the body alterations rather than to refuse them (refusal would be society's expectation). Still, we are willing to risk that "others not similarly affected" might find us unacceptable. To this we respond: "I will not return to a universe of objects that don't know each other..." as for the first time we see life as an integrated whole.


January 28, 2004

This is the Way the Future Can Be

One of the greatest joys of a teacher is to see your pupils equal - and surpass - your accomplishments. This story is not exactly a teacher - student relationship, but I think you will understand the analogy.

As one of the earliest transsexual physicians to have a Web presence, I have been privileged to hear from over twenty-five doctors and follow them through their transitions. Many have done as I did, leaving home to transition, settling in a distant city and re-establishing their lives. A growing number are choosing to remain in their home towns.

A few years ago I received a message from a family physician in a Southern state not known for its tolerance of diversity. This person was starting to face the reality of her life, and she knew that if she wanted to continue as a functional and productive person, her transition was going to occur in the near future. Furthermore, she had built up a very busy and loyal practice over the years, and did not want to leave the patients and staff she loved. She was also prepared to sustain her spiritual grounding, even in the face of those who would wrongly oppose her. Finally, if that were not challenge enough, she and her spouse were still quite in love and hoped to remain together.

Wow, I thought, you have a tough road ahead. But I didn't discourage her. She had very definite goals and timetables. In her first letters to me she still used her male name, but soon she was becoming secure enough in herself to let me know she would henceforth be Deanna.

As she had feared, two of her partners plotted to have her removed from the group practice she had started twenty years ago. But the support she received from her patients was overwhelming. With the help of her spouse and her nurse/office manager, Deanna built and equipped a new office from the ground up. She had her SRS here in Arizona in August of 2003, and opened the doors of her new clinic in December. On the first day she saw thirty patients, and it's grown from there. Her practice consultant was "astonished" with the first month's figures. The local newspaper ran a very positive front page story on her clinic; that edition sold more copies than any other in the newspaper's history. "My spirits are soaring and I couldn't be happier," she writes me.

Deanna, I salute you, my sister. You have done what I did, and you did it better. You are the new role model for how to transition a medical practice.

This is the way it will be. This is the way it must be in the future. No one should be "run out of town" for taking steps to correct what's wrong in her life. More and more of us are making successful, public transitions. We are visible. Our new happiness and contentment is there for all to see. With time, even many of our detractors will have to admit that they see nothing "sinful" or "abominable" in the way we live our normal post transition lives. With time, transition will become just another life challenge to face, and friends and families will remain supportive and loving. It will happen.

The truth is making us free.


March 5, 2004

V-Day

So much happening and so little time to write about it.

In February, Margaux and I participated in an event we will remember all our lives. We were privileged to be cast members in the 2004 Los Angeles production of "The Vagina Monologues." Eve Ensler's drama is performed all around the world each February - this "V-Day" stands for vagina instead of Valentine. The goal is to raise funds to help prevent violence against women and girls. College campuses feature students in the various roles. Other presentations have involved many notable stage and screen actresses. This event - V-Day LA 2004 - featured the first ever cast composed exclusively of transgender women.

The idea was born in early 2003 at the Sundance film festival. The movie, Soldier's Girl (see Blog from June 14, 2003) was featured at the festival. One of its stars is Troy Garity, the son of Jane Fonda. This brought about a meeting between Jane and Calpernia Addams, whose love story with Barry Winchell forms the plot of Soldier's Girl. Jane then introduced Calpernia and Andrea James to Eve Ensler, and the idea took hold.

By late 2003, Andrea and Calpernia had worked to secure the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood for the event. We were made aware of the opportunity, and obtained the book and DVD to study the parts. Margaux saw several possibilities, including two which called for completely different emotional responses: the tragic "My Vagina Was My Village" and the pissed-off "My Angry Vagina." For me, there was one clear choice. "I Was There In The Room" is Eve's poem about her presence at the birth of her grandchild. Since I was definitely not there in the room for the birth of my grandchildren, this seemed an opportunity for healing. In addition, the simile of vagina and heart made this monologue seem almost custom-written for me!

I spoke to Calpernia and gave her a reading over the phone. When the casting was complete, I was assigned "I Was There" and Margaux had "My Vagina Was My Village." We started playing the DVD over and over to learn our lines. We also became deeply involved in the production. My role as a page layout "grunt" (hey, I got really good at Adobe InDesign) kept me busy every night for weeks, but nowhere near so busy as Margaux, who did the original artwork for the invitations, tickets, posters, and keepsake publication. Samples of her awesome artistic talent are visible on the V-Day Web site (just follow the links to keepsake, poster, or invitation).

I did find myself intensely and emotionally involved with the project, as I typed and retyped the "Remembering Our Dead" pages compiled by Gwen Smith. This listing of trans women murdered in the last 20 years left me tearful and drained. I could see myself in their places.

The event was scheduled for February 21. We arranged to fly to Los Angeles on Wednesday the 18th, and stay at Le Montrose Suite Hotel just a few blocks from the Pacific Design Center. Several of our friends were staying at the Hyatt Beverly Hills, just a mile or so away.

Prior to leaving, we received a phone call from Ariel Jordan. Ariel is producing a documentary on the V-Day 2004 experience, and he wanted to meet us at the airport. He and his crew would film us getting our bags and walking across the LAX grounds toward the familiar arch building. Later we would have extensive interviews and opportunities to discuss our experiences with discrimination and violence.

What we didn't know (nor did Ariel) was that it would be raining steadily at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, so by the end of the third take of the cross-airport walk we were rather soggy. Oh well, what we do for art.

Next: Rehearsals - Meeting our colleagues in the cast


April 5, 2004

V-Day, Part 2

By the time we reached our rental car, the rain had stopped. I made the mistake of taking the 405 instead of La Cienega Boulevard, so we arrived in Hollywood an hour and a half later. Still we had time to check into the hotel and locate the Deep Stealth offices, where rehearsal would soon begin.

We had been looking forward to meeting Andrea and Calpernia for the first time, and it was wonderful to have some time to visit before getting down to work. Our friends Donna, Elizabeth, and Sally were already in town, and there were so many people I had corresponded with but never seen in person. I can't mention everyone in the cast but it was a special privilege to meet Lynn Conway, who has been such a vital part of our Internet support and advocacy, as well as a fellow physician, Dr. Dana Beyer.

Rehearsals went fairly well. We were still using our note cards, but learning the lines quickly. Over Wednesday and Thursday we spent much time going over the entire script, including the new monologue that Eve had written especially for trans women, "They Beat the Girl Out Of My Boy." We had some time to socialize, but were intent on making the production work. Margaux was especially busy with the printed materials, being sure the posters were ready, and personally signing and numbering a limited edition of 100 posters.

Friday was a little more relaxed. It was Calpernia's birthday, and instead of a formal rehearsal we had a combination birthday party and a reception for NCTE, the National Center for Transgender Equality. The coordinators of NCTE, Mara Kiesling and Lisa Mottet, were in town from Washington. We also met Dr. Marci Bowers, our first SRS surgeon who is a trans woman. Marci, Dana, and I were opening the monologues with a comedy number titled "Worried About Vaginas." For doctors, we were learning quickly how to have fun in a live performance.

Saturday, the day of the performance, dawned cold and rainy. Yuck. I thought it never rained in Southern California, that's what the song said! But it didn't keep us away from the Pacific Design Center. We arrived early in the afternoon and ran through more rehearsals on the actual stage. By mid afternoon it was time to begin dressing and makeup. All this time Ari and his crew continued to film us and conduct interviews regarding our personal experiences with physical or emotional violence. Once we were stage-ready, I was able to go to the front lobby and mingle with many old and new friends who had flown in from all over the country.

The hour arrived, and we had the privilege of meeting privately with Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda for several minutes before the doors were opened. I felt a bond with these women who accepted me and all my friends without question. I was able to share with Eve the reasons why I wanted the part of "I Was There in the Room," the monologue with which she usually closes the show.

As the lights were dimmed we gathered in order for our entrances from stage left. Dana walked onto the stage first, followed by Marci and then me. I was first to speak.

Stage fright hasn't been an issue for me. As long as I know what I'm talking about, I can speak to groups of under ten to thousands. I smiled broadly, left hand on hip, right arm bent slightly as I turned my right hand over and pointed at the center of the audience: "I'll bet YOU are worried!" For some reason, that line drew a widespread chuckle that broadened into laughter as Marci and Dana expanded on how we were "worried about vaginas." By the time we were into the names women give their vaginas - "a mimi in Miami, a split knish in Philadelphia" - the audience was warmed up for the entire performance, and we were having a ball.

Some of the other parts were also humorous. Debra Soshoux was so believable as an older woman remembering lost fantasies in "The Flood." I'll never see Burt Reynolds again without thinking of "Burt and I...Burt an' I...Burt'n'I." My buddy Donna was hilarious as she went into every detail of "The Vagina Workshop." Andrea's collection of moans was quite comprehensive, and I can't even mention Verba's audience-participation piece without getting an NC-17 rating. Let's just say we were all screaming out the C-word in between peals of laughter.

Other parts were a complete turnabout. Calpernia's own monologue, remembering events in her life and her relationship with her mother as she counted down the seconds until her surgical anesthesia took effect, brought tears. The tears flowed more as Margaux showed the devastation of the Bosnian girls who were repeatedly raped and tortured in the Balkan war. By the time Asia, Dee Dee, and Vicki finished the stories of "The Memory of Her Face," the tears had been replaced by horror at the thought of such abuse.

Finally it was time for my solo turn. I had removed my red boa and re-entered the stage after Debra's introduction of my monologue. No flash cards this time. I knew every line. It was me.

All was quiet in the audience. I closed my eyes and opened them again, remembering an event I had never seen. For those minutes I truly WAS there in the room - I was there with Sarah and Mike - it could have been Emma, or it could have been Ben. But I lived it as I spoke.

"I was there when her vagina opened...

"I was there when the doctor reached in with Alice in Wonderland spoons...first the little head, then the gray flopping arm, then the fast swimming body, swimming into our weeping arms..." Yes.

"I stood, and as I stared, her vagina became a wide, red, pulsing heart.

"The heart is capable of sacrifice...So is the vagina...

"I was there in the room. I remember."

I stood still for a few seconds, eyes opening, forever imprinting the moment. Then I went to the stage couch and sat watching "They Beat the Girl Out Of My Boy." As Andrea finished this specially written piece, she described our post-transition life: "It's as if all your life, there has been this loud car alarm going off just outside. You can't sleep. You can't concentrate. Now, the alarm has been turned off."

I know exactly what she is talking about. So did every woman in the cast.

The experience of this week, and of the performance, will be sharp in our memories when we are very old. It was one of life's incredible blessings.

And I was there in the room.


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