Link to original Norah Vincent article, The Advocate, June 20, 2000:
WARNING: These letters are unedited and some contain exceptionally strong language.
Gender Voyagers support group
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Coming hot on the heels of three transgender murders in the last ten weeks, the June 20th issue of The Advocate features columnist Norah Vincent attacking transsexuals for “mutilating their bodies.” I though we had gotten past this Janet Raymond/Germaine Greer hate of transsexuals thing, but now I see that this is not true. When will the Gay Establishment stop hating us? Haven’t you learned anything about us in the last 30 Years? When I walk down the street with my female partner/wife the world sees two lesbians, and that’s all. Why do you need to make more of this than that? If you had a shred of decency in your whole bodies you would give us several pages of rebuttal in your next edition. Do you?? Is it mutilation when Gay Men fist fuck each other into bloody pulps? Is it mutilation when Lesbian Dykes pierce their bodies anywhere they want to? Is it mutilation when David Letterman gets quadruple by-pass surgery? Where is freedom to express who we are the way we want to? Even if it includes surgery. Why do we need the Advocate to hate us out of it, and preach to us about what you obviously know nothing about!! When Dykes give themselves buzz-cut hair and dress in men’s combat boots and men’s military shirts, why are they considered women and not TV’s? Who’s putting them down for it? You talk about Stonewall and then dump on US! Talk about being PC; Why do Dykes have to look like men! I’m no more a “PC language policeman” than anyone else. What is Ms. Vincent raving about here? Why do Gay’s and Lesbian call themselves that! Why not abolish all sexual orientation labels altogether? Why have gay culture, or gay identity, or gay pride? As far as “oppressive stereotypes” I’m no different in how I live my life than any other woman. I work, I take care of my children, I love my partner etc. If there are any oppressive stereotypes here, it’s the ones that the Advocate and Ms. Vincent are propagating about Transsexuals! Advocate get your act together! Get over it!! Stop hating Transsexuals!
Joyce K Cooper
New York, N.Y.
I’m a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual. I have lived full time as my true self, a woman, for five years. During this time I have attended a number of gender support groups & met a number of transsexuals, both pre & post operative.
It has been my observation, that in my case, and in the cases of many of those that I have met, that we start out early in life knowing two things. First of all, we know deep down inside of us that the sex designation found on our birth certificate does not mirror our inner understanding of who we are. You’ve probably heard this before. Secondly, we really, if there were some way, would LOVE to have been born into the gender that we know we are in the first place! If this had happened, we would have fit nicely into society. When I say this, I mean that most of us would have been heterosexual in our love choices, as is the case with the majority of the general populace.
So, to say that it’s the goal of most transsexuals to use means to achieve the goal of fitting into society at large as the gender that we truly know that we are is correct. We really don’t want to stand out, call attention to ourselves, or be perceived as weird or different. To do this would be masochistic. But, in the case of many of us, there are just too many visual and others clues for society to notice to make it easily possible to “just fit in”. We would love it if this were not so!
As a result of this inability to fit in nicely and be our true selves, a number of us have chosen to make ourselves known and to talk with legislators, city officials, and company heads about achieving the fair treatment and respect that most Americans take for granted. After all, we need to have income, just like anyone else, so that we can have our needs met.
On the subject of sexual attraction, I find it amusing and sometimes sad that others feel that it’s their “duty to decide” for us who we should be attracted to and have relationships with. In my case it would be difficult for those who “choose to decide” whether I have done it correctly in my choice of a partner to be in a relationship with. You see, I’m legally female, and have an “F” on my driver’s license. My partner is legally male and has an “M” on her driver’s license. She is bi-gendered. So, here goes--Are we heterosexual based upon our driver’s licenses? Are we gay based upon the fact that we both have “outdoor plumbing”? Are we lesbian in that we present to the world as a female couple by how we dress, act, and refer to ourselves? Dont’ you see how unfair, and for that matter, uneasy it is to go around making decisions for others about who they should be attracted to and have relationships with? The world is far too diverse to feel that it’s possible, or necessary to do this! Instead, can’t we all just enjoy being citizens of this wonderful country and really be given “permission” to enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”!?
Thanks so much for reading this letter. I hope that you will find it worth printing. I hope that it will clear up some of the confusion that others seem to have about us.
Please feel free to email me if you need to understand the points that I have alluded to, or others that I left out to save space.
Transsexualism has been well documented for many years. Recent advances in science have allowed us to see it as more than a mere psychological condition. An article recently published describes studies done on M2F Transgenders that clearly show certain brain structures that closely resemble the structures of a genetic female. A region in the hypothalamous known as the BSTC has been found to be markedly different in males and females. Transsexual M2F’s have been shown to have BSTC’s that closely resembles or matches a female’s.
I feel that Ms. Vincent is wrongfully attempting to justify the hate that has been occurring. Transsexual people are murdered on an average of one a month, and simply because they are doing what all of us have been taught to do; just be ourselves. I suppose for many Transphobic people, it would be completely irrational to push hate on a group such as intersexed people because that has clear medical documentation. TS people are no different than those born with a birth defect, and seeing it any other way is clearly just discrimination. The only difference between both sexes is simply half a chromosome and hormone levels. It is society that primarily classifies how we should behave and act based on how these hormones shape our body. It amazes me to see that discrimination can occur on such a level, and disappoints me.
I suppose it is okay to change gender on a baby that was born with an outside birth defect, but the inside ones just don’t count??
I suppose it is okay to change gender on a baby that was born with an outside birth defect, but a birth defect not readily apparent is body mutilation?
P.S. - In response to the recommendation that Trans people live androgenyously; Would the editor of this article like to live androgenyously?
Thank you for your time and consideration to this unfortunate situation.
Unknown to you and apparently to “The Advocate” staff as well, it was a handful of QUEENS who began the Stonewall Rebellion. Interestingly enough, it is the case that often gays and lesbians are attacked by bigots because they are perceived as transgressing gender norms. Clearly, therefore, it is in the interest of all queers to fight for transqueers’ rights. After all, ALL OF YOU non-transgendered queers are the target of gender bigotry as well as us.
Do the entire movement a favor, and stop attacking the victims.
Given the degree to which The Advocate and its owners dominate the national queer press, it might be nice if you would use your space a bit more usefully. I can think of 3 recent murders of transgendered people that deserved a lot of space in your rag. That page could have been used to remember their lives, and to honor their tragic deaths.
Blaming transexuals for confusions between “sex” and “gender” - and worrying about all that power that we transexuals weild - is amazingly Reaganesque. Here’s a clue for the Advocate - dont use us as your scapegoats anymore, and stop colonizing our lives and our bodies.
As for giving advice to transfolk about how to live - well, Vincent makes a fine Dr. Laura. But next time you want a column about transexuals - why not hire a transexual? Go on, we promise to use “sex” and “gender” properly. We could even arrange to keep those evil, draconian PC police from knocking on your door at night.
Under the guise of saving the purity of our language Dr Norah hands out advice on how Transsexuals should and shouldn’t live their lives.
The most important part of it for her is the sanctity of one genitals. Even intersexed individuals should hit the public showers and take the beating in stride so she can have her pure English language. What kind of nonsense is this?
It sounds like the same old lesbian hate tirade we’ve come to expect from people who think shaving their head is a liberating experience that will bring the greater good to all. Or at least all women. It doesn’t
Why does Dr. Norah think that the burden of not “reinforcing oppressive stereotypes” should be placed squarely on the shoulders of transsexuals alone? What someone has between their legs is their business not the purview of the Advocates or Dr Norah.
When 99% of the people on this planet have a basic physical construction that every 7 year old knows about, that is not a “fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender”. It is the reality, and transsexuals should have the right to achieve congruity between their bodies and spirits without constantly being oppressed by the Gay establishment for it.
There is a general archetype for what is a male and female body, true enough. However, an archetype is not a stereotype.
The best plastic surgeons that do gender related work try (and in a majority of cases succeed vary well) in making a person look only like the right-for-them gender version of themselves, Not bimbos in pinup magazines.
Unless Dr Nora is a Christian Scientist, and refusing all medical attention, she has no moral high-ground for her grin-and-bear-it positions.
The Advocate has done a hateful and egregious wrong to the transgender community and especially to transsexuals by publishing this twisted and violent missive. Will there ever be a time when it allows Transgender and Transsexuals to speak for themselves in print to address these lies and misconceptions?
People in Glasshouses... the Gay establishment has a long way to go.
Joyce K. Cooper
Moutain View, Calif.
None is better than the other, and no one will ever get to convince the other of the better judgement to one choice. Even those that get to like the taste of both -at the same time or at different stages of their life- fall far short from being anything close to the truth. In any case, palatal rejection of ripe fruit should not lead to its condemnation, nor counter clockwise experience.
When we ask for tolerance, we are being far to conservative. We must demand unarguable acceptance, fight for upright unquestionnableness and live for pleasure in any case. Ms. Vincent: start by seeking for happiness under your own tongue, and if necessary by checking sweet and sour and how it feels. Visit sweetness when you’ve made your choice, but do take in account that you are only welcome if you are looking for the mutual joy and right to be of all.
strawberry-loving human being
I don’t think you queers can afford to call anybody a freak, just take a long look into the mirror.
Stacy Sofia Siivonen
A straight freak womanoid
Parroting the bankrupt fundamentalist screed of Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire, Norah Vincent reveals her distinct inability to think up an original form of ignorant, bigoted hate speech.
Vincent accuses transsexual women and men of “mutilating their bodies”. What does she think of the Religious Wrong (I cannot bring myself to call any fundamentalist, either “Christian” or Ms. Vincent, “right”) who claim that women who have abortions are desecrating their bodies and murdering unborn children? In Ms. Vincent’s ossified world only nontranssexual women are allowed to control their own bodies, and transsexual women and men must, in denial of all medical developments that allow us to realize our fullest human potential, relinquish control of our bodies to her identity policing. If transsexual women and men are to eschew the medicine that makes us whole, then shouldn’t nontranssexuals decline treatment for AIDS or breast cancer, and simply accept such conditions as a womanifestation of the way things are supposed to be? Vincent’s nonsense that medicine is a welcome, wonderful way to help people be as whole as they can be, but not when it comes to transpeople, is disingenuity at its most insidious.
Coming from a Women’s Movement that owns a lioness’s share in the invention of politically correct language (it is helpful to recall the ridicule and resistance to the introduction of “Ms.” as a form of address, and the sapphic euphoria at the debut of “womyn”) Vincent has the gall to charge transpeople with being “the most draconian arm of the PC language police”. When is it wrong to create language that is sensitive to the way any people growing toward wholeness self-identify? To me the development of sensitive language for emergent, self- identified people is merely an evolution of good manners; to Vincent it seems that linguistic evolution needs to have terminated in 1970, as a means of anointing separatism with a halo of immutable dogma - to serve the same fundamentalist purpose of so-called “Christians” who interpret scripture to suit their inflexible view of a fixed state of revealed “truth”. Any dogma that harms others is unforgivable. In Vincent’s world, it is the dogma that leads people by its leash; in the world I work to embrace, it is people who tame dogma in order to free all from ideological prisons, so all can realize their full human potential.
When she wrote that transsexual people “reinforce oppressive stereotypes” Vincent generalized, lumping people unlike her into her rigid Weltanschauung of “us and them”. In five decades on our planet I have never met a stereotype. I’ve met individual humans, each of whom is different from all other humans - and that goes for gays and lesbians too, from Log Cabin Republicans to Lesbian Avengers. I’ve met oppressive people who, in search of a warm-fuzzy excuse for their bigotry, frantically strive to cram humans who do not fit their rigid world-view into tidy little boxes. I’ve learned that a person’s exterior does not tell the sort of person they are, that it is what in people’s hearts that counts. Is Vincent so shallow as to judge all transpeople - and Goddess only knows whom else - through the distortional, cheap-shot lens of stereotyping? Regardless of gender, sexual orientation or any other self-identification, I’ve met evil, as well as good, individuals; and I’ve only encountered stereotypes - of lesbians or transpeople or any other persons - as narrow, predominantly negative generalizations. It is blindly dogmatic, inflexible, intolerant fundies such as Vincent who invited the equally dogmatic and myopic conservative court jester, Rush Limbaugh, to accurately, if irreverently, characterize her perfervidly judgmental ilk as Femi-Nazis.
Like Vincent’s orientation, my being a transwoman, is not a matter of choice. Like her and every other human, I and all transpeople, simply are. Who transpeople are, and how we grow to wholeness at no expense to others, is not for Vincent, or for anybody, to say. As has Vincent, so have transpeople the unalienable right of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. How we transpeople grow to our wholeness is nobody’s beeswax, just as anybody’s sexual orientation or decision to have an abortion or, Goddess forbid, to watch an episode of Will and Grace without retching, is nobody’s beeswax.
A stunning insult to intelligent, mature people is Ms. Vincent’s assertion that transpeople should decline the wholeness of flesh and spirit that most nontranspeople, from birth, take for granted. Vincent blandly calls for transpeople to reject the surgeries that confirm who we are, that allow us to own bodies that do not lie to ourselves and to others about who we are, that allow us to realize our full human potential. Her admonition is especially gratuitous in the light of many religions declaring that it’s okay for homosexuals to be homosexual, so long as they do not act on their homosexual orientation. I wonder if Vincent will soon practice Catholicism: after all, by her condemnation of trans health care she demonstrates the requisite Jesuitical rabidity for the post of Grand Inquisitor.
It amused me that Vincent forgot to recycle the separatist (yes, Virginia, separatism is just another “ism”, another tired, feeble view of the world as “us and them”) silliness about transwomen being incapable of growing to womanhood because we were “socialized as men”. To believe that conditioning alone, without an inner sense of selfhood, makes people who they are is to believe that a liberated convict in a meadow will walk only five paces before jailhouse conditioning compels her to change direction. It’s as absurd as believing that a lesbian, closeted till she came out, cannot be a lesbian. In Vincent’s nightmare world only nontranssexual women and vetted gay men are allowed to grow, to self-realize: all else are denied that intrinsic human process. On this point Raymond and Vincent cannot have their cake and eat it too: when transwomen behave with a sense of our power as women they condemn us for exercising male privilege; yet when some of us behave as our femme selves they condemn us for perpetuating “oppressive gender stereotypes”. For the Vincents and the Dr. Lauras of the world only the biologically pure, the dogmatic select, the true Aryans, can occupy the moral high ground.
Vincent has yet to learn that stereotypes neither oppress nor liberate - they only reveal the inability of those who wield them to let go of “us and them” non-thinking, the non-thinking of those who willfully reject responsibility for their own shortcomings and failures, and who brook no credit for any but their anointed ideologues. It is individual people who oppress - or liberate. Responsible, positive, human-friendly change begins with each one of us exercising the freedom to grow, not with Vincent’s “us and them” ideology.
It’s healthy to be wary of demagogues such as Vincent who demand tolerance for their peculiar queerness while they treacherously oppress those they themselves will not tolerate. I am tired of all the “us and them” people who claim to “celebrate diversity” while their actions betray that they really mean “you can be diverse, as long as you’re diverse like me”.
No person or power has been able to erase the delightful range of sexual orientations or gender variance from human experience. And Vincent’s recycled, vacant Raymondisms have no such power. When I look inside a Vincent or a Fred Phelps, I see the atavistic antagonism of the early humans in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, creatures whose feeble, frightened little-box minds are incapable of evolving beyond “us and them” to the progressive, harmonious, embracing realm of “We”.
Jordynne Olivia Lobo
St. Louis, Mo.
Traverse City, Mich.
Vincent should recognize that transsexuals are not about the task of “reinforcing gender stereotypes” or (necessarily) being “revolutionaries.” We want to feel whole in our own bodies. We seek to create a world in which people are free to choose their own particular gender expression. We seek nothing less than complete gender freedom, which strikes me as a very revolutionary goal.
As a non-transsexual, Vincent has no right to prescribe (and proscribe) what transsexual lives should look like. Setting herself up as an “androgenous” role model for transsexuals is deeply hurtful and thoroughly insensitive. In almost every sexual encounter, I experience a palpable sense of discomfort and anxiety with my male genitalia. How exactly can I be “androgenous” in bed anyway? In her arrogance, Vincent goes so far as to denounce genital surgery, an avenue to bodily and sexual wholeness for many of us.
By presenting us as self-mutilating freaks, Vincent has buttressed the hate filled atmosphere in which one gender queer is murdered every month. Thanks, Nora, thanks so much.
As Riki Wilchins states, “A bigoted assault like Ms. Vincent’s on any other segment of our community--lesbians, Jews, people with AIDS, blacks, overweight people, or Latinas--would rightfully be deemed intolerable but apparently it’s still Open Season on genderqueers.”
I am a hard-working, fast-climbing male IT professional who just happens to have been born female. I am as queer as anyone else who claims the label. I do not want to have to read about how sick and twisted I am in the pages of a major queer publication!
Please consider your trans readers before publishing something so damaging again.
Tyler J van Vierzen
Americans who transcend narrow gender stereotypes face enormous discrimination--on the job, on the street, from bashers and from the police. It is unconscionable that The Advocate--while bitterly fighting Dr. Laura’s characterization of some queers as “biological errors”--would now print a piece attacking other queers as only self-mutilating and oppressive gender stereotypes.
A bigoted assault like Ms. Vincent’s on any other segment of our community--lesbians, Jews, people with AIDS, blacks, overweight people, or Latinas--would rightfully be deemed intolerable but apparently it’s still Open Season on genderqueers.
Executive Director, GenderPAC
It should have been published under the heading: Knows nothing, but has an opinion anyway. This article disappointed me to say the least; I had previously never failed to pick up a copy of the Advocate when the new issue hit the stands, and had always been impressed with the coverage and thought that went into the articles published. Far be it for me to hold you folks ultimately responsible for every bit of idiotic non-educated prejudice the queer community still holds about things that they don’t understand, but PUBLISHING this bigoted trash is another issue altogether. I literally laughed out loud at the ‘transsexuals mutilating their bodies’ rhetoric that passed off the spoo in this goofy article as an up to date community opinion piece. I thought the term ‘Draconian’ applied far more to the baseless prejudice and lack of education of the writer of the piece, rather than the Transsexual community itself. The thing that folks who hold her view (prejudice without education) in the gay and lesbian community find the most offensive about Trans people is that they generally call them on this type of idiotic thought, rather than embracing the kick-in-the-teeth from a group that considers themselves ‘one step up the ladder’ in the societal ‘crap trickles downhill theory’. I am assuming since The Advocate has begun to publish fear and loathing as valid opinion, we can soon look forward to pieces speaking against Interracial relationships (can’t have that race mixing goin’ on, dontchaknow), Liberals (let’s have the Log Cabin Republicans write a piece on how politics should be), ooooo! let’s also have some pieces written about how those dang differently-abled queer people should be kept off the streets so the general populace won’t think we look like them, either! It’s far more radical to stay at home and work on the down low, right?? Or maybe you can just give Ms. Vincent her own monthly column to rail against all the other groups she knows nothing about, but is squicked by anyway. There’s an idea.
Then I won’t feel so bad about passing up the next issue of the Advocate. Because the idiocy will be right there out in the open, rather than passed off as intelligent journalism.
I will also copy this article, and pass it on to other people who are thinking about subscribing. I would hope that after reading such an obviously prejudicial piece will affect their decision. Not everyone thinks respect for different groups, and not tolerating ignorant slander in print is ‘Draconian’. And speaking of ‘Draconian’, has dear Ms Vincent looked in a mirror lately? This piece struck me as being written by someone who also thinks jokes about black people/polish people/anyone who doesn’t fall into her own category are funny and worth retelling. I was most disappointed to see this in The Advocate. I can’t imagine how you could have read this and thought it was worthy of publication.
So why, as adults, do transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make >them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender? I am not conforming to anything fashionable when I transition, I am making my body something that I am comfortable with. I do not see it as mutilation. If you had a tumor on your arm would you have it removed? Even if it were benign, why because it doesn’t belong on your body that’s why.
That only reinforces oppressive stereotypes every bit as much as liposuction or a bimbo’s boob job. If you’re a man in a woman’s body, then live androgynously I am not androgynous, so why would I want to live androgynously? That is as logical as saying you are homosexual and you know you are but because society does not accept you pretend you are straight.
If you’re such a revolutionary. don’t conform. I do it every day, and it isn’t particularly easy. Half the time I’m sir, and half the time I’m ma’am, and that’s how it should be when sex and gender don’t matter. If you truly want to thwart gender norrns, don’t pull a fast one on the dictionary or your poor blameless privates. Live with all the polymorphy God gave you, body and soul. It’s a lot more radical.
And how absurd to think one could declare one’s own gender identity !! imagine if people were allowed to choose their own gender .. how confusing !!! what bathrooms would they use? how would we segregate them? what if many of the little boys wanted to wear dresses and play with dolls instead of build forts? how would we defend our country in the future? what if some little girls wanted to build the forts .. how would we prepare them for infant care? I apologize if i’m starting to sound straight.
how can you not know what sex you are ?? It’s like sexual orientation ; you’re born with it !!! right?? Why can’t they just be who they really are and act normal?
Thank gawdness for the enlightened journalism emanating from the bowels of the gay community; Let’s continue to put gendertrash in its proper container.
any thoughts? any thinking at all?
Adding insult to injury, Ms. Vincent goes on to claim that transexuals, “the most draconian arm of the PC language police,” merely “reinforce oppressive stereotypes.” She closes by recommending transpeople forgo sex-related medical services and instead simply “live androgynously,” a notion all but indistinguishable from so-called reparative therapists’ exhortations that gay people simply live as straight. GenderPAC has tracked almost one gender-based murder a month for the past year. Said Riki Wilchins, GenderPAC’s Executive Director, “By holding up such people for ridicule, by deprecating them as nothing more than self-mutilating freaks, Ms. Vincent only justifies the hate and helps make the next murder that much more likely.”
“Americans who transcend narrow gender stereotypes face enormous discrimination--on the job, on the street, from bashers and from the police,” added Ms. Wilchins. “It is unconscionable that The Advocate, while bitterly fighting Dr. Laura’s characterization of some queers as ‘biological errors,’ would now print a piece attacking other queers as only self-mutilating and oppressive gender stereotypes. “A bigoted assault like Ms. Vincent’s on any other segment of our community--lesbians, Jews, people with AIDS, blacks, overweight people, or Latinas--would rightfully be deemed intolerable but apparently it’s still Open Season on genderqueers.”
Donna M. Cartwright
Founding member New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)
I am a transsexual man, and resent Ms. Vincent referring to me or any of my transsexual brothers and sisters as and I quote, “the draconian arm of the PC police,” as well as stating that we as transsexual men and women, alter our bodies and again I quote, “in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender,” end quote. Ms. Vincent goes on to imply in her self-righteous attempt to “clear the air and set the record straight”, for anyone who might still have some lingering doubt as to the true validity of the transsexuals existence and role in society, that in a nutshell, we choose to be harassed, ostracized, beaten, murdered, and basically ignored by society as a whole, in order that we might make some sort of a fashion statement and for the sake of conformity?
I might ask Ms. Vincent the age old question, did she choose to be a Lesbian? After all, she is implying that we as transsexuals have chosen our paths, and that if we “really wanted to, we could change who we are, and how we feel and respond to these feelings,” does this kind of ideology sound at all familiar?
Ms. Vincent goes on to say, that the transsexual community is “helping to reinforce oppressive stereotypes, every bit as much as liposuction or a bimbo’s boob job.” Now ... please allow my self mutilating transsexual mind, to get this straight: ah ... we are not only trying to make a fashion statement, but we are also helping to reinforce oppressive stereotypes, oh and this is rich, we also want to be radical revolutionaries ... thank very much for the education Ms. Vincent.
Please understand my sarcasm and anger here, I am completely miffed and am having trouble rapping my mind around such unconscionable baseless banter, and frankly, Ms. Vincent’s arrogance in thinking that it is perfectly acceptable to make blanket statements about a particular group, has left me at a complete loss.
How dare Ms. Vincent even presume to speak about a community that is not a part of and that she obviously does not know the first thing about. I can only imagine what Ms. Vincent’s response to this letter would be, “Well, it’s all right, some of my best friends are transsexuals,” does this too not sound familiar?
Ms. Vincent truly shows her ignorance and apparently wares her discomfort of the transsexual community, like some sort of a protective badge. I say protective, because judging by self-assured tone in the article, and by the fact that your magazine did print the it, that she believes that everyone will not agree with her line of thinking, but will also defend it, and so she feels perfectly safe and free of consequence.
If anyone had dared to use any of the derogatory words or outdated descriptions that Ms. Vincent used in order to describe a person of color or anyone in the Gay, Lesbian, Bi, or Hermaphrodite community, the so called PC police would have been all over it, and rightly so! Why then is this kind of bashing of the transsexual community being tolerated and allowed to persist, especially in your supposedly inclusive magazine!
I dare say that by printing this article, you are encouraging intolerance and allowing that the transsexual community will continue to be an easy target for the ignorant and misinformed. We are NOT second class citizens, and deserve your respect and not your ridicule.
Your magazine has indeed done a great disservice to a wonderful community of people, who would easily be a perfectly willing and understanding ally, in the Gay communities fight for equality and humanity, as we share many of the same issues and a need for the same basic freedoms that we are all entitled to as human beings.
I would like to know, where on earth does Ms. Vincent get off saying that we in the transsexual community endure all of societies crap on a daily basis in order to, “thwart gender roles and pull a fast one as she puts it, on the dictionary or our poor blameless private parts.” Frankly, I am very disturbed by the fact that your very respected and always responsible magazine, found space for this kind of Anita Bryant holier than thou garbage. Your magazine is the last place that I would expect to see such intolerance, I’m greatly disappointed.
In closing, I would encourage Ms. Vincent as well as The Advocate, to educate yourselves on the transsexual community and experience, so that your readers will have up to date and accurate information, rather than the erroneous and incorrect ramblings of a Dinosaur. You might also consider adding a transsexual man or women to your esteemed writing staff. Lastly, I would thank Ms. Vincent not to presume that she may address the transsexual community in any way, unless she is willing to be a part of the solution and not the problem. Thank you.
Augustino Matisse Alvarez
transsexual man and proud of it
How dare Vincent *define* for anyone the reason for a transsexual to modify their physical form, never mind in the simplistic and incorrect manner that she did. Her essay exuded ignorance and discomfort and should never have been published by any magazine which perceives itself to be any kind of friend to the transsexual community. Any of the things she said have been said by homophobes about gays and lesbians in the past and thus should not have been missed by the editors. Or is she immune to such oversight?
Shame on you, Advocate!
Sky Lesbian Avengers of Boston
I have always held THE ADVOCATE in the highest regard. When I read Norah Vincent’s article I almost choked on my coffee. How could you allow such trash to be published in THE ADVOCATE??????? Undoubtalble she doesn’t understand the difference between sex and gender, although she pretends to,and/or may not be well educated insex and gender, even though shepretends to be one. (you figure it out). I’m not going to waste my time debating her on her sloppy editorialism and her misunderstanding of sex and gender. She should learn to research her topics to the extent that she understands what she is writing about. It’s really a wonder why we in the Transsexual community have anything do to with you in the GLB. You are no better than the rest of thetransphobic jerks in this world. I have been hesitant about joining the current movement to disassociate the Transsexual community from the GLB community.Now, with statements like Ms Vincent’s, I have decided,like a large number of postops in our community, that we don’t need the liability the GLB poses.
Much as we all might wish to see major changes in what modern society sees as sexual difference, that wished-for scenario has not yet come to be. Males and females are viewed and treated differently in the world in which we live. Those transsexuals who truly see themselves as members of the other sex wish to be regarded by the world in general as belonging to the sex of choice, not merely as a person of questionable sexual identity or as a third sex. Depending on the transsexual’s attitude toward his/her own body, s/he might very well want to have the genitals surgically altered, in addition to dressing and living as the other sex.
It isn’t a case of simply wanting to be an activist on the cutting edge of gender identification. It’s a case of wanting your own body to match the image of what you feel yourself truly to be, in the deepest part of your heart and soul.
And while we’re at it, let’s also make it clear that gender identity and sexual orientation are separate things. In the sex or gender of their choice, transsexuals may just as easily be gay or bisexual, rather than straight. Transsexualism is an extremely complex topic and it won’t simply be made to go away by telling people to dress ambiguously and be content with that.
New Bern, N.C.
San Mateo, Calif.
I’m happy to read that Vincent opposes “corrective” surgery for intersexed infants and relishes living androgynously (“Half the time I’m sir, and half the time I’m ma’am, and that’s how it should be when sex and gender don’t matter.”). But she has no business telling transsexuals how to manage their identities or their lives. Her assumptions that all transgendered people are “the most draconian arm of the PC language police” or “mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender” are so deeply stupid they are bound to engender more laughter than offense.
Each of us ought to have the right to decide what sort of gender expression feels most congruent with our own self-image. And we ought to have the generosity and decency to support one another for making those often difficult choices. There is no one right answer. If you are gender dysphoric enough, there is nothing “mutilating” about taking hormones or getting surgery. I doubt Vincent would attack an asthmatic or a diabetic for using medical science in order to make themselves feel better. Would she piss such poison at the thought of a woman who’s had a radical mastectomy undergoing breast reconstruction? Frankly, she sounds like a repressed and enraged FTM who has not yet gotten up the courage to stick a needle full of testosterone in his butt. Vincent, honey, the world is not going to give you any brownie points for making yourself miserable this way.
It really is tedious of The Advocate to print simple-minded and hateful stuff like this when there are so many people publishing thoughtful and interesting queer theory about the performance of gender. Vincent is simply recycling the same banal crap that Janice Raymond threw at us all when she published The Transsexual Empire. VIncent should be retired until she gets a full series of rabies shots. A formal course in deportment would not hurt her either.
Jim: Please feel free to pass this letter on to whomever. Now they can threaten to kill us both. Like this is new for us old queers--coming from within the ranks it hurts.
I don’t even know where to begin and I hope you will be kind enough to read this letter to the end and I would welcome your comments in person, through e-mail or on the phone.
This mud slinging in our community around differences of opinion has got to stop. I believe that, to quote Warren J. Blumenfield (editor of International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies and “Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price) “We have crossed a critical line when we enter into character assassination, insinuation, innuendo, name calling, stereotyping, defamation and calling into question one another’s motives for the opinions we hold. When reading these personal attacks on our own, I have to ask myself , have some of us taken on the characteristics of our abusers by perpetrating the abuse? And what role does internalized oppresssion play in this equation?
I am going to say a few words about Jim and then I want to have my say on why I support him in his questioning and plea for an open dialogue on certain issues concerning the transgender movement.
I have known Jim since 1969. He was the only gender variant male at the time who addressed the idea that lesbians were dismissed as irrelevent in the gay liberation movement. He was one of the few gay males who gave credence to the full participation lesbians, and of what were then called “drag queens,” in the gay activist movement...much to the dismay of GAA. In spite of being constantly harrassed by other members of the GLF and GAA he persisted in moving us to participate in consciousness raising groups which made us see that single issue politics were not how were were going to grow and change - he actively challenged us all to involve GLF and GAA in coalition politics with the Vietnam antiwar movement, the Young Lords, the Black Panthers and YES, the Women’s Liberation Movement. To this day, I believe that is why he continues to be vilified by former GAA and even some GLF members.
I think it says something about Jim’s adherence to feminist principles, that >when Rita Mae and I left the GLF in total frustration and anger in 1970 to organize lesbians, who at that time where still not considered a serious part of the gay movement, that Jim was the only male from GLF or GAA that I have remained friends with for over 30 years. I have many fond memories of actions taken in those early days where he clearly put his life on the line and was arrested along with myself and others in GLF and they know who they are. They know how we fought the police in 1972 when INTRO 405 (the first gay rights bill) was presented to the City Council and we got beaten and chained to the City Hall fence. I’m not going to go on and on, I can’t answer all of Jims detractors but I can say I know Jim, I know his questioning comes from his heart and I know above all his love for his brothers and sisters in the gay community. Richard, I know it seems like a small uneventful thing now - but we risked out lives in that first gay pride march up 6th Avenue in 1970. I truly believe that Jim carries with him that spirit in everything he does.
Now to the controversy about transgendered individuals. As a licensed social worker/psychotherapist - NYS license # 055006-1 06/30/02 I have worked with many individuals with Gender Identity Disorder. I am very knowledgable on Gender Identity studies and have years of training in this matter.
Transgendered people suffer tremendous discrimination in our society, the same type of discrimination GENDER VARIANT GAY INDIVIDUALS SUFFER, such as BUTCH LESBIANS, SISSY BOYS etc. Do I, or Jim see this as a form of discrimination and understand that these individuals are subject to hate crimes- YES! Would we fight for their right to demand full rights as citizens - YES! Would we work with them as a coalition side by side- YES.
NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT THE REAL CONTROVERSY IS.
The controversy as I see it, it that no one wants to discuss what the political ramifications of encouraging a gender variant gay man or lesbian to physically change their body and thus identify as a heterosexual (straight) man(woman) of transsexual experience within a queer movement. I will discuss my feelings about MTF who identify as lesbians later in this letter. When the Director of the Gender Identity Project at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center defines herself as “A straight woman of transsexual experience within a queer movement” I take umbrage with that. Would I applaud her right to do what she wants to do with her body - YES. Do I think she deserves all the rights and dignity given to any other straight citizen - YES. Would I fight for those rights with a coalition of Transgendered straights - YES.
Do I want her influencing other young gay men and women who are gender dysphoric or gender variant - ABSOLUTELY NOT. AND THIS IS WHY. I believe that the physical and chemical manipulation of the body to conform to the outward heterosexual appearance of the opposite gender is another form of blatant homophobia. We as homosexuals should be fighting for the right to accept gender varance of all forms and orientations. We should not be attacking those within our community who QUESTION THE MOTIVES of the MEDICAL COMMUNITY, the MEDIA and the POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS RIGHT in encouraging gays and lesbians to spend thousands of dollars to become “straight” men and women. That for me is the crux of this controversy. NOT WHETHER TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO EXIST. For me, as a licensed social worker, a health care professional it would be criminal to continue to fight for gay men and womens rights to surgically and chemically transform their bodies ON DEMAND, without years of psychosocial preparation and informed choice. No matter how you cook it Richard, it’s still going to be squash. When it comes to MAKING MONEY I never heard of the Medical Commujnity saying -” well hold on here now, how is that going to effect that community” “FIRST DO NO HARM” - HAH!! When it comes to the medical community and US, it has always been make money now and get a good PR person when the truth becomes known.
Lets look at some known facts. In 1992, Dr. Paul McHugh, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins (home of the now defunct Gender Identity Clinic) “lambasted transsexual surgery as the most radical therapy ever encouraged by twentieth century psychiatrists and likened its popularity to the once widespread practice of frontal lobotomies”. Mc Hugh has long believed that psychiatrists should treat such patients through talking cures, not radical, irreversible surgeries. Under Mc Hugh, Dr. John Meyer, head of the Gender Identity Clinic, produced a long term follow up of post operative and pre-operative transsexuals treated at Johns Hopkins since the clinic was founded in 1966. Meyer concluded that none showed any measurable improvement in their lives and concluded that sexual reassignment surgery confers NO OBJECTIVE ADVANTAGE in terms of social rehabilitation. This paper was published in the Atrchives of General Psychiatry in 1979. The Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic was closed shortly thereafter. The above bears out the research found in the 1951 PH’D thesis of Dr. John Money, the founder of the Gender Identity Clinic - “of particular interest are the study’s in depth interviews with intersex individuals who received no surgery or hormone treatments until they were old enough to make their own decision. Their lives only strengthened the investigators impression that the condition of the genitalia plays a strikingly INSIGNIFICANT part in the way a person develops a stable and healthy gender identity, not to mention a secure and confident self image. FAR FROM MANIFESTING PSYCHLOGICAL TRAUMA AND MENTAL ILLNESS, the study showed, the majority of patients not only made an adequate adjustment to life, but lived in a way virtually indistinguishable from people without genital difference - a result that clearly amazed the author”
Barry Winchell loved Calpernia Addams knowing full well she was a man - “The sexual reassignment surgery, he seemed totally like he didn’t care whether it happened or not. When she could accept the fact that Barry Winchell was a gay man who loved her as a GENDER VARIANT GAY MAN - “I felt comfortable that he wasn’t going to use me as a bridge. “Among the transgendered women here in Nashville, we have a jaded understanding of the ‘way it is’, she (Addams) says. And one of the cold hard facts that we understand is that a lot of straight men who are attracted to us are actually closeted gay men and they may not even have admitted it to themselves. We bring them into the gay community and introduce them to people and they start to get comfortable, and the next little step is they leave us behind and start dating men. It’s really lonely.”
In the article Bill Turner was quoted as saying “Calpernia Addams has really fallen victim to our (the gay community’s) limitations” Barry Winchell loved Calpernia as a man, plain and simple - no limitations - when she introduced hin as heterosexual he corrected her. Who in the gay community is making it difficult to let us be as loving towards our gender variant brothers and sisters. When Kathi Westcott (the staff attorney for the Service members Legal Defense Fund said “A lot of people just don’t get that this woman has male parts. It was a difficult connection to make for people, even in the gay community” WHO IN THE GAY COMMUNITY IS MAKING THAT HAPPEN RICHARD. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THOSE LIMITATIONS. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE A LOVING DIALOGUE ON THIS.
Richard, I ask you to consider what I’ve said in terms of the violence we do to each other verbally over this issue. I ask you to consider the wisdom of opting for surgery, hormonal and medical intervention with young gays and lesbians in light of some of the facts presented above.
And now that I’ve talked about he boys I ‘d like to have my say, as a lesbian, abouy Brandon Teena. Brandon Teena was a physical woman. She was killed because she was a dyke who passed her self off as a boy. I was Brandon Teena except I came to New York City. If I had gone to Lincoln, Nebraska I would have done just what she did and probably with the same results. Have we lost all common sense. It it really that unacceptable to be a lesbian that now we have to make transgendered martyrs out of any woman who passes for a man to survive in a homophobic world. Here is a direct quote “During a one-on-one counseling session with Deb Brodtke, a mental health clinician who would later see Teena as an outpatient, she talked about wanting to be a male to not have to deal with the negative connotations of being a lesbian and because she felt less intimidated by men when she presented herself as a male” (From page 83 of All She Wanted by Aphrodite Jones, Pocket Books, 1996).. HELLO!!! CAN ANY OTHER LESBIAN IDENTIFY. How have we come so far from the days of diversity within the movement. That was what separated us from the narrow confines of the heterosexual community - our rainbow of diversity and gender variance. Now we are all fighting to to become those narrowly defined gender roles. What has happened to us Richard.
Yours in Sisterhood and Love, Michela Griffo, Proud Butch Lesbian
Once again the likes of Ms. Vincent recycle that old tale of Transsexuals “mutilating their bodies”. As a T-woman or, “Woman of Transsexual Experience”, I see my reassignment as corrective surgery. I do not accept the old tired story of transsexuals as terrified homosexuals, since I am attracted to women. Believe me, I tried going with men, it would have been so much simpler being gay. I would not face the constant rejection by so many in the lesbian community My experiences have shown me two very basic and simple things : 1. There is no good reason for me to align myself with the “Transgender” community. I do not identify as a third sex / gender. I am a woman. 2. There is no future being the “T” in LGBT. Allowing myself to be defined by the L/G majority of the “rainbow” will forever keep me a “poor relation”. I refuse to continue to picket HRC for T inclusion in ENDA. I can no longer listen to folks who dub me a pioneer”--how many of those do we need? The likes of Ms. Vincent just proves (again) that a “different” difference will not be tolerated, that even people who are willing to die for self-definition do not hesitate to define others. The Rainbow has once again become black and white.
Tina Eleanor Sokol
Ben A. Barres, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Neurobiology Stanford University School of Medicine
If you print Vincent’s writing you will be trying to place a splitting wedge in the Queer body. May you think better of it and withdraw.
Your actions will reap either the damnation of all Queers if these harmful thoughts see the light of day, or the admiration of all Queers for your muteing of this horrible article.
Gender ambiguity is not sanctioned and is surgically enforced on helpless infants by doctors who believe there are only two sexes or genders and that in between is unacceptable. Then you have the people Ms. Vincent writes about who identify differently than our culture would like and who alter their bodies so as not to feel the awkwardness of living in a body whose cultural meaning is not in sync with their emotions. Ms. Vincent seems to feel that this self imposed mutilation is bad, though I imagine she is not fighting the use of hormones in post-menopausal women, circumcision of unwilling infants, or the mutilation of the thousands of children who are sliced into the gender of the urologists choosing.
Perhaps if we spent more time focusing on the real problems of the world (like overpopulation, which is inhibited by people who voluntarily give up reproductive capability) and stopped pointing fingers at each other, we might live in a more vibrant, living world. For instance, if Ms. Vincent thinks that transsexuals parody gender in a way she finds offensive, perhaps she could talk to him or her and ask them, in the same way one might to any woman or man who takes their gender too seriously, to not accept the cultures representation and to instead find their own means of expressing themselves.
For Ms. Vincent to be so concerned about the ultimate political correctness of transsexuals, it seems that she is herself attempting to preserve the last bit of political correctness by insisting on an idea that science will soon do away with, gender as a link to reproductive capacities.
Please realize, Ms. Vincent, that people struggle to fight the tides society would have us swim in because it is important to them. If people denied their own feelings, which is what it sounds like you are suggesting, then they will never become the totality of themselves and our society, as a result, will be stunted in it’s growth. If society encouraged androgyny, perhaps it would be different. We need to be inclusive rather than divisive if any of us are to see the top of our oppressor’s foot.
I agree with you that some in the gender community can be very picky about their pronouns and are insistent that others share in their reshaping of cultural boundaries. It is difficult to criticize them for that since their community has to live under the image that the members who inhabit this grey area are often told that it is in their heads, they just don’t get it, or are diagnosed as gender disphoric by the medical establishment. That, in the face of all of this harassment, these brave souls defy our culture in maintaining their beliefs is a testament to humanity rather than a detraction.
“A bigoted assault like Ms. Vincent’s on any other segment of our community--lesbians, Jews, people with AIDS, blacks, overweight people, or Latinas--would rightfully be deemed intolerable but apparently it’s still Open Season on genderqueers.” (GPAC) I invite Norah to “Transgender Unity 2000” at the Ed gould Plaza on June 18 to talk to the transgender community to ascertain the truth about the transgender community.
Los Angeles, Calif.
THE GAY DR. LAURA: HATE SPEECH BY ANY OTHER NAME
Coming hot on the heels of three transgender murders in the last ten weeks, the June 20th issue of The Advocate features columnist Norah Vincent attacking transexuals for “mutilating their bodies.”
Adding insult to injury, Ms. Vincent goes on to claim that transexuals, “the most mdraconian arm of the PC language police,” merely “reinforce oppressive stereotypes.” She closes by recommending transpeople forgo sex-related medical services and instead simply “live androgynously,” a notion all but indistinguishable from so-called reparative therapists’exhortations that gay people simply live as straight.
GenderPAC has tracked almost one gender-based murder a month for the past year. Said Riki Wilchins, GenderPAC’s Executive Director, “By holding up such people for ridicule, by deprecating them as nothing more than self-mutilating freaks, Ms. Vincent only justifies the hate and helps make the next murder that much more likely.”
“Americans who transcend narrow gender stereotypes face enormous discrimination--on the job, on the street, from bashers and from the police,” added Ms. Wilchins. “It is unconscionable that The Advocate--while bitterly fighting Dr. Laura’s characterization of some queers as ‘biological errors’--would now print a piece attacking other queers as only self-mutilating and oppressive gender stereotypes.
“A bigoted assault like Ms. Vincent’s on any other segment of our community--lesbians, Jews, people with AIDS, blacks, overweight people, or Latinas--would rightfully be deemed intolerable but apparently it’s still Open Season on genderqueers.”
Write The Advocate and Ms. Vincent to educate them that all of us--gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender--deserve the right to express our gender orientation free from ridicule, bigotry, and violence.
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition is the national organization working to guarantee every American’s civil right to express their gender free from stereotypes, discrimination and violence.
Because of the uninformed things that she said, I feel that she has earned the name “The Gay Dr. Laura.” Uninformed, ignorant and uncaring, she should have no professional standing, most especially in the communities that are all so hated by the Religious Wrong. What’s wrong with her? Does she have so much to elevate herself (like the “Jim Crow” party) by having someone, anyone else, to hate?
I call for her to learn about the Transgendered community before she writes another single piece about anything. It is wrong for someone who influences so many people to not know what she is talking about. Just plain wrong. And I don’t mean spend an hour in a TG bar, either. I mean meet at least a hundred of us, and really get to know some of us. She is a bad choice to write about Trans-People; somehow, lesbians just irrationally hate us more than most.
Papers like The Advocate are supposed to be about freedom to be who we are, and most certainly NOT about elevating one group of people above another. If you’re going to print things like this, then you should run “Dr.” Laura right alongside.
The paper should either send her to be with the “Jim Crow” party, or to learn about Trans-People, and NOT be infecting people with “Dr.” Laura-like material. More hate will not ever help, and gay and lesbian people need to remember they’re just as hated and looked-down-upon as we are. It’s especially bad for the communities to show such division, when we are supposed to be working together.
I’ve included a picture of me to PROVE that a lot of us Trans-People don’t get much choice in things. Gives us visibly queer people a break, and get the hate out of your paper! We don’t need to be getting bashed and killed because someone else is ignorant. Especially one of our own.
Diana S. McLean
Maybe that is why I was the target for taunting in grade school. Maybe that is why after a successful career as executive, I couldn’t even get a Federal government job even when I was overqualified. Oh, and they were an “Equal Opportunity Employer” . So even before I had my surgery, living androgynously, I still didn’t meet some bigot’s definition. I guess he or she had not been informed by Ms. Vincent. Maybe that is why people feel that it is socially acceptable to demean, degrade and all to frequently physically assault transgender people. I guess we didn’t get their permission to exist.
Her view is an update of the “Transsexual Empire” which sees all transsexual woman as the unwitting tools of a male dominated medical elite playing God. Hey, Barbie I’m not. I have three children to raise. I have a place in my community.
Let’s face facts gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, we are all sexual minorities. There are far to many ignorant people who target us for us to be divided among ourselves. They may becoming for me today, but the forces of reaction want all of us back in the closet or worse.
So, Ms. Vincent, lighten up. It is the Trent Lotts of the world that are going to harm you, not me and my transgender brothers and sisters.
Jersey City, NJ
In the meantime, the transgendered community rarely has any opportunity to represent itself. The Advocate is well-positioned to make self-representation the standard, without the embellishment of “balanced opposing views” that regurgitate popular hatred.
The fact that she is a lesbian does not make such bigotry more tolerable, or make The Advocate an appropriate forum for it. The right to decide how your body can be used is at the heart not just of the lesbian/gay movement, but also of the women’s movement. For Vincent to take such a proprietary view of other peoples’ bodies is a betrayal of the accomplishments of the lesbian, gay and women’s movements in the last century.
Shame on you for printing this shit.
Harm Reduction Coalition
Takoma Park, MD
Stephanie Friedman Chicago, IL
We are not “self-mutilating freaks” as stated in this hate article. If this female knew anything about us she could not make such a rash statement. She is far from a woman and not near a lady. Maybe it is time that we as a LGBT community try bashing some straight heads in return. Maybe that would bring some light to the situation. However as a LGBT community we are not violent hate-mongers like Vincent, Fawell, Laura, and the membership of the Southern Baptist religion. We would like all people to live lives free from oppression.
If your publication has any credibility you will publish a retraction of this article. Failure to do this will result in a loss of support for you people and publication amoung the trans community and by those in the LGB communities that have pride.
All of us - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two spirit, same-gender-loving - deserve respect and deserve the right to express our gender orientation free from ridicule, bigotry, and violence. Please educate yourselves on this issue before you do further pain and damage to all of us. Thank you.
Norah, honey, I think the GLBT community have enough problems without one of our own sisters turning on us in such a way. While I am not trans, my lover IS, and I KNOW that this wasn’t a concious choice for her. I know that my girlfriend ISN’T mutilating herself.
I am handicapped. I was walking home from a bar one night 3 and a half years ago when I was hit by a drunk driver. I had no desire to be handicapped, it just happened. Do you think that if I could change it, I would? But I can’t. There’s no use crying over it.
But there is no way you can convince me that people in the trans community woke up one day and said “Y’know, I think I’m going to make my life 20 times as difficult as it is today. I’m going to change my sex! Brilliant!” The trans community do not choose their fates.
For your very own Dr. Laura-esque columnist to imply that we have any control over how we feel is, to put itt kindly, possibly the most insulting piece of crap I’ve been handed in a long time. How dare you state that the trans sommunity is “the most draconian arm of the PC language police,” only “reinforce oppressive stereotypes”?
Please, in the future, stop giving the strait community more fuel. If we sepharate, the whole GLBT community is just going to fall apart- all of us! We don’t need Dr. Lauras in our ranks!
To whom it may concern:
Have any of your staff recieved a letter like the one I have attached below? I am very upset about the publishing of the recent article by Norah Vincent. It’s really hard for me to believe that The Advocate would publish a column that seems to splinter the LBGT community, rather than unite it. As a transexual, I have always felt myself to be a valuable and wanted part of the gay community, but it’s getting harder to maintain that opinion when the standard-bearer of queer journalism chooses to run such an obviously exclusive and hateful article. Aren’t we all on the same side when we go to Pride Fest events, march on government for the rights we deserve, and attend at the bedsides of friends that are struggling with AIDS? I will continue to do those things in support of my queer brothers and sisters but it seems obvious that Ms. Vincent and others who might have been swayed by the column you published will not be so quick to lend a hand to a significant portion of our community.
So what’s next? Can we have an article for the next issue that criticizes bisexuals and calls for their removal from the gay community rosters for not being able to make up their minds? I’m not saying people should not have opinions or the ability to express them. As we all know, people are born with certain biological parts in common and opinions seem to be among them. I only ask The Advocate to use caution when deciding on the kind of content they offer, and decide if it runs contrary to our community’s ultimate aims.
Robin Ann Dixson
In my opinion Ms. Vincent’s entire article held up such people for ridicule in a very unjust manner. She paints them as nothing more than self-mutilating freaks and that is a totally unjust picture.
Transexuals can no more live within the bodies in which they were born without bringing them into line with who they feel they really are inside than a gay or lesbian person can “go straight”. To try to tell them to live androgonously is a moronic simplification of their situation and an insult as well.
According to GenderPAC there has been almost one gender-based murder a month for the past year. In my humble opinion, bigoted viewpoints such as Ms. Vincent’s only serve to justify the hate that fuels those kind of actions and makes the next murder that much more possible. I think before she expresses such a prejudicial opinion again she should give that idea some serious thought.
Facilitator of Queer Youth Exist http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/queeryouthexist
Ms. Vincent closes by recommending that transpeople forgo sex-related medical services and instead simply “live androgynously,” a notion all but indistinguishable from so-called reparative therapists’ exhortations that gay people simply live as straight. If cancer patients would forego medical services and live a healthy life instead, they would be much happier, and society would save a great deal of money on their unnecessary medical treatment.
It’s so nice to have enlightened people and media organizations sit in judgement and tell the rest of us how to dress, behave, think, and generally live our lives. How has our diverse society survived so long without the moral guidance and judgements of “The Advocate” and its columnists?
No doubt Ms. Vincent and “The Advocate” are unhappy that more transexuals are not eliminated by other enlightened moralists.
Shame on you.
The amount of information that Ms. Vincent apparently fails to grasp about the reality of trans people is tremendous. That those trans people who alter their bodies do so because, like virtually all human beings, they want to be comfortable in their skin and present themselves in a way that is true to them. That not all trans people identify as either male or female and that even those of us who do, do not conform to rigid notions about sex and gender or sexual orientation but rather, are bridging all sorts of gaps in the understanding of human nature, sex and gender.
The one thing about Ms. Vincent’s column that struck me most is that it is just another version of the oppressed become the oppressor. I certainly hope that her views do not become a regular feature of The Advocate - or of the broader G/L community.
Attorney at Law
Recently, the Advocate, in a move that belies its name, ran a hate column attacking transsexuals, and calling for them to “hide” themselves in a life of androgyny rather than doing whatever they deemed necessary to be comfortable and at peace with themselves. I was wondering, will a column about homosexuality written by a right-wing homophobe and calling for all homosexuals to go and get themselves cured, be running next month? I am sure that Ms. Vincent (hopefully I got the gender pronoun right), is an expert in those issues that she has personal experience in; such as being a lesbian. I am sure that she would take offense to anyone telling her that lesbianism is wrong, or that she needed to hide herself in a life of heterosexuality because her poorly researched lesbian-feminist rhetoric is an embarrassment to all the lesbians out there just living at peace with the world as themselves. Her writing about transsexuality, however, is similar to Jesse Helms or Pat Buchanan writing a column on what it means to be a homosexual from their personal experience. Please, for the sake of the credibility of your magazine, try to get people familiar with the word “Advocate” and the subject matter they write about, to your articles.
Jordan T Garcia
proud tranny punk
There were warning signs of the debacle before things turned out so badly. Somehow Ms. Vincent believes transsexuals misuse the terms for gender. Perhaps some do, but ultimately, it is Norah herself who abandons the distinction in her penultimate paragraph.
Instead of writing in an understanding and sympathetic vein, she turned judgmental and cruel. She reached into the bag of loaded words and phrases, and pulled out “mutilate their bodies” as a description of sex reassignment surgery. This is a phrase that is the key of bigotry against post-operative male-to-female transsexuals, who in some cisgendered venues are mocked as “pathetic mutilated men.” I am sure that Norah would contemptuously refer to female-to-male transsexuals as “pathetic mutilated women.”
A female-to-male transsexual is not a “man in a woman’s body.” No. Ms. Vincent doesn’t really get it at all. He would be a masculine man in a female body.
Let’s try a simple primer on gender and sex.
Masculine and feminine (plus androgynous, which is better than neuter, and bi-gendered, which covers some others), are terms that best fit the concept of gender identity.
Sex assignment is mostly male or female, though there is the category of the intersexed, whom Ms. Vincent dismisses as anomalies. Shame on you, Ms. Vincent, living in your own orientation glass house, for such a cavalier dismissal of perfectly natural variations on the human condition.
Gender expression is where we find man, woman, and perhaps androgyne, and perhaps genderbender.
Sexual orientation is best expressed in terms of “attracted to” the sex assignment or gender identity or gender expression of the sort of persons the individual being described might consider as a partner for intimate relations.
I am a feminine, male-bodied (for now) woman, primarily oriented toward women (which is not limited to natal-women/females!), but not entirely averse to Prince Charming turning up on his white horse. Perhaps one might consider me lesbian bordering on bisexual in classic terms.
But wait! Since I am male-bodied and attracted to women, doesn’t that make me <gasp!> heterosexual? Isn’t my situation something like the opposite of Calpernia Addams, the pre-operative transsexual woman who was involved with Pfc Barry Winchell before he was brutally murdered? Look at Calpernia as feminine, male-bodied (for now!), woman attracted to men, or male-bodied persons.
If one determines sexual orientation as a function of gender identity or gender expression, Calpernia and Barry were a heterosexual couple. If one determines orientation as a function of the shape of genitals, then at least until sex reassignment surgery, Calpernia and Barry would have been a gay couple.
Confused? Of course, it is confusing. Anyone who is involved with a transgendered or transsexual individual is going to have a severe case of orientation anxiety! Does it matter? If a couple (or a group) of people wish to express themselves intimately together, does it really matter what their gender identity is? Does the shape of their genitals really matter?
But back to Ms. Vincent!
Essentially, Norah strives to be open-minded and tolerant but fails miserably. Transsexuals who wish to conform to gender stereotypes by having their sex surgically reassigned are condemned as “mutilated.” Ms. Vincent would rather they come to terms with their bodies, despite their dysphoric feelings.
But she doesn’t seem to realize that there are people who are doing just what she advocates. These people are sometimes identified as transgenderists or non-op transsexuals.
Ms. Vincent does not appear to understand that there is a difference that drives transsexuals to surgery - and it isn’t pandering to gender stereotypes, as she seems to believe from her position as an outside observer. No, it is a matter of personal self-worth, or self-esteem. It may well have a sexual component, a wanting to be able to interact sexually with others, having genitals re-configured to suit.
An open-minded and tolerant person would recognize that there is a natural variation in the intensity of gender identity feeling, and that those with the most acute feelings will seek sex reassignment surgery, while others might be happy living as transgenderists.
Unfortunately, for my female-to-male brothers, the available bottom surgery is extremely expensive and not truly very efficacious from a performance point of view. For my male-to-female sisters, the surgical solutions are more realistic. Ultimately, we await developments with fetal stem cell research for better solutions in the future.
One area where Ms. Vincent is curiously silent is with regard to cross-sex hormone replacement therapy, which is an extremely important part of the sex reassignment process. Though there are limitations. Female-to-male treatment often results in deeper voice, beard growth, thicker body hair and male-pattern baldness. Male-to-female hormone treatment often results in breast development, softer and dryer skin, and some fat redistribution. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reduce the size of the vocal cords.
In any event, perhaps ninety percent of sex reassignment is accomplished hormonally. The “mutilation” of surgical intervention relates to the final bits of bodily modification that hormones just can’t deal with once the parts have grown in their original direction.
As a transsexual myself, I have a better idea of these issues than I can briefly discuss here. But, when it comes to being judgmental on transsexual issues, an outsider like Ms. Vincent might be wise to butt out, or betterm get truly informed before pronouncing judgment.
White Plains NY
I was angered, upset, and disturbed by this article. As a publication for the GLBTQ community, I expected more. I am a pre-op transexual, FTM. The article by Ms. Vincent implies that we should for go medical treatment, and “live androgynously.”
That is not a solution for us! Being born in a woman’s body, I tried for many years to fit in with the girls. This caused me to transfer schools many times during my childhood and adolescence, since I kept running out of peers to befriend, and, furthermore, my peers saw me as a freak and did not want to befriend me.
In high school I came out as a lesbian, hoping that being able to love women would be enough. But it wasn’t. I tried living androgynously, but having a rather large chest makes that hard to accomplish.
Finally, I was true to myself. I am having sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment.
My point is this: being a transexual or transgendered is not always about breaking gender-roles, or, on the other hand, perpetuating gender stereotypes. It is about being yourself.
I hope Ms. Vincent is able to read my response, as I am sure I speak for many.
Benji Alexander Maron
If I am simply a closet gay, then why was my answer to my son “no” when he asked me why I couldn’t just be gay rather than transition? (I love him and wouldn’t lie to him, even to please your writers---I mean spies.) Why did I go to sleep as a child of six, and, being somewhat innocent at the time, pray to God that I’d wake up a girl? (I don’t remember praying to be gay, nor do I remember praying that I would be required to spend many thousands of dollars to achieve congruity...or did I miss something?)
So. These spies have done their evil job with thoroughness and clarity. Next issue will no doubt feature articles by other far-right authors about “curing” gay men and lesbian women, since they are really just straight people who can’t handle the responsibility. And of course, those of us who simply try to live in harmony with the planet, rather than attacking nature from the inside of a church, need to be “cured” because we are avoiding the just and final retribution of a jealous god.
Thank you for the forum which you have provided these hate-mongering idiots. Falwell must be proud. Anita Bryant must be secretly giggling somewhere down in Florida. So as a transexual woman--yes, WOMAN--I get to be the Jews--we go first. Your writers are obviously the labor movement--they go next. The Third Reich lives, and it’s in the hearts of people who dictate the terms of other people’s lives.
Kindly weed out these spies, disavow their absurd mutterings, or admit that you no longer are a legitimate publication of the GLBT community. Lots of us are waiting.
Chair Bellingham Gender Group
Please try to stop reinforcing the notion that you’re a magazine by and for gay men who wear those stupid “Abercrombie” or “Fitch” sweatshirts, or, in 1 out of 5 cases, by and for lesbians who purse their lips when they think of SM.
With the murder of Brandon Teena still in the headlines how dare you advocate such a misguided and hateful opinion to be printed. Ms Vincent appears doesn’t know anything about the real struggle of Transsexuals. How dare you say that we are “the most Draconian arm of the PC language police,” merely “reinforce oppressive stereotypes.” The “PC Police” want nothing to do with us and apparently you don’t either. If you knew anything about Transsexuals you would know that it is a birth defect. I did not choose this, It chose me before I was born, Just like you were born Gay.If you were to, say, wake up tomorrow looking like Newt Gingrich would you be comfortable “just living androgynously”? Or would you want your body back. You know the one you should of been born with. We Transsexuals are only trying to fix a “Cruel hoax” played on us by Mother Nature. Surgery is neither fun or nor done on a whim. We do it to make ourselves and only ourselves, Feel whole for the first time in our lives. When preformed on a “True Transsexual” the surgery vastly improves ones lives. I know because I’m a MtF transsexual. Oh and by the way, I am also gay.
However, not everyone feels that way... for whatever reasons. I also identify as an indeterminate un-gender, neither excusively male or female... sort of a boi/grrl. But I intend to have top surgery (having the dangly things removed). My body doesn’t feel right like this. It makes me uncomfortable and so I intend to change it. Instead of “making do.”
I find ze’s attack on transsexuals to be particularly unnerving... we of the transgender community, have very good reasons for being draconian. When even magazines oriented towards the queer community can’t get transgender individual’s preferred gender down on print, of course we’re going to be uptight about it.
Norah is very very wrong on one of her facts... there are not two sexes. Most intelligent biologists are coming to realize that there are more than two sexes. Many acknowledge at least 7 major varieties. Yes, male and female are the dominant forms... so are brown and blue eyes... does that mean that green and grey eyed folks are abnormal freaks?
Doctors don’t correct kids to save them humiliation, they mutiliate them... and hermaphrodites are starting to get organized... and pissed as all hell, too! So why does Norah attack transsexuals for “mutiliating” our bodies? Why is this particular form of cosmetic surgery so much owrse than say, a facelift? Or a boob job?
Another big mistake that Norah makes.... transsexuals do not have surgery to conform to societal norms (or as ze puts it, “fashionable”) of what male and female is. While I enjoy being radical, and take pride and comfort from it... a lot of transsexuals are just trying to be themselves. Transsexuals have surgery and take hormones to make their gender expression conform with their internal gender. Surely Norah, a non-conforming genderperson can appreciate that?
If you want to talk about cutting something up, or off, how about the tests that people are conducvting to cut up lesbian and gay people’s brains to find out if there is any prenatal disposition to being gay or lesbian. Granted that these are dead people’s parts we are talking about, but no less an abomination.
Why? So that someone who tells interesting but innacurate stories like you can claim that there is a natural disposition to their sexuality, rather than choosing it after birth and falling victim to the claims of the religious riech about having somee sort of choice and thus being able to be “cured”.
Compare that to the study just let out by John’s Hopkins, which followed 27 children who had indistinguishable male reproductive organs at birth and were changed with SRS to female. By the time one child was three years old, she already wanted to be a he. They followed these children for years and around 24 of the 27 who were operated on and made female, at one time or another complained, changed their lives or resorted to measures to become male again. Conclusion, that gender is inherent before birth, assigned in the womb and therefore a biological component of a person’s being. Compare that evidence to the garbage they are handing out after cutting up GLB brains.
The fact is that it is not the Creator that has made any mistakes in making people who are Transexual, it’s more society that makes the mistake in thinking that diversity in nature is only relegated to what is between the legs, or a person’s color.
Lets see you take a closer look at this thing instead of imposing a personal attitude of why you don’t like people who try to get their bodies in line with their minds.
And by the way, you and Jim Four should get your heads together. You sound so much alike it’s pathetic.
Goodwin Metropolitan Gender Network
M. A. Val San Francisco FTM
June 20, 2000 CUNNING LINGUISTS BY NORAH VINCENT Nowadays it’s fashionable to pretend that sex and gender mean the same thing. They don’t. It’s just that language has been hijacked by politics. To show you how far down that slick slope we’ve slid, lexicologically speaking, consider that quaint contraction “ain’t.” When I was a kid we used to say, ‘Ain’t ain’t in the dictionary.” Well, ain’t is in the dictionary now (Random House, second edition, unabridged). What’s worse, it’s defined as ‘non- standard except in some dialects.’ So you see, the euphemisms of multiculturalisrn (itself a euphernisrn) have made bad English into a dialect.
Similarly, queer theorists have conveniently blurred “sex” and “gender”. After giving the gramrnatical definition of gender, especially as it is used in European languages, Random House follows the zeitgeist, conceding that “gender” can also mean “sex”--as in “the feminine gender.” Notice, though, it doesn’t say “the female gender.” Why? Because sexes are male and female. Genders are masculine and feminine. That’s also why the form on the clipboard at your doctor’s office doesn’t ask you which gender you are. It asks you which sex you are, because you’re an mammal--not a noun.
This oily word “gender”--which so many pious postmodernists utter as sanctimoniously as if it were Yahweh’s maiden name--doesn’t apply when you’re talking about what British comedian Dawn French called a person’s ‘dangly toilet parts.” The proper word is “sex.” If he’s got a pinga, a Johnson, a Tootsie Roll-his sex is male. If a pudendum, she’s female. As for gender, well, that could be mascu- line, feminine, or neuter depending on whether you’re talking about a gym boy, a drag queen, or the epicene copy editor who carries a PBS tote bag. Since a person’s gender is determined by what she wears and how he carries himself and has nothing to with what's between his or her legs, you can be a masculine female or a feminine male. But whatever your sex, your gender can't be female or male. There's no such thing. Got it?
Naturally, many transsexuals, the most draconian arm of the PC language police, are fond of misusing the word gender--mostly because, unlike the word sex, there's no biological imperative attached to it. This is where the postmodernists are right. Gender in humans is socially constructed and therefore fungible. Coiffed wigs and makeup are feminine now, but our oh-so-butch founding father wore them once. Sex, however, much to every transsexual’s chagrin, is not socially constructed. It can be cosmetically constructed or reconstructed, but this doesn’t change the fact that though some people are born hermaphrodites, the vast majority of people are born male or female. Regardless, society has no say in the matter except in neonatal surgery. For purposes of procreation there are two sexes. Anything else is a genetic/biochemical anomaly that we correct to save kids humiliation in the locker room.
Transsexual activists are always telling us that it’s a crime to surgically reassign hermaphrodites at birth. I agree. If I’m born doubly blessed in the south 40, then the doctors should let me be--even if I get teased--until I’m old enough to decide my own fate.
So why, as adults, do transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender? That only reinforces oppressive stereotypes every bit as much as liposuction or a bimbo’s boob job. If you’re a man in a woman’s body, then live androgynously if you’re such a revolutionary. Don’t conform. I do it every day, and it isn’t particularly easy. Half the time I’m sir, and half the time I’m ma’am, and that’s how it should be when sex and gender don’t matter.
If you truly want to thwart gender norrns, don’t pull a fast one on the dictionary or your poor blameless privates. Live with all the polymorphy God gave you, body and soul. It’s a lot more radical.
Ms Vincent states that, “For purposes of procreation there are two sexes. Anything else is a genetic/biochemical anomaly that we correct to save kids humiliation in the locker room.” This sounds like anti-gay rhetoric skewed to fit an anti-transsexual agenda. Didn’t Dr. Laura get an earful from gay activists for saying gays were a “biological anomaly?” In addition, if Ms. Vincent believes that “anything else,” which includes transgendered persons, is an “anomaly” then wouldn’t surgical/hormonal correction of the problem be in their best interest?
Ms Vincent asks, “So why, as adults, do transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender? That only reinforces oppressive stereotypes every bit as much as liposuction or a bimbo’s boob job” Using words like “bimbo” isn’t reinforcing a stereotype? What happened to it being a woman’s body to do with as she “chooses,” or does that only apply to abortions? Furthermore, it is not mutilation to bring the external self in line with the internal self. It could, to some, be seen as body modification. However, to call it mutilation is pejorative. She goes on to say, “If you’re a man in a woman’s body, then live androgynously if you’re such a revolutionary. Don’t conform. I do it every day, and it isn’t particularly easy.” Bully for you! Evidently you are a WOMAN. Female to male transsexuals do not want to live as women because they are MEN. They may well eventually live androgynously, but as the men they are. You want the freedom to live as the butch woman you are, I assume. Why is it so threatening to you to allow the same for FTM transsexuals? Are you afraid there will be a shortage of radical lesbian man-hating feminists for you to pal around with? Now how does THAT stereotype feel?
The point of this article is beguiling. Is it in fact a lesson or statement on linguistics, or a farce to insult several groups of people? So, different groups of people are deciding what sex and gender mean to them, and in fact in keeping with the times even the dictionary is lending credence to the meanings of sex and gender as being fluid, possibly overlapping in some circles. People decide for themselves how they ID, or how they want to use words that describe who they are, that’s their own choice. Likewise, if Ms. Vincent is choosing to ID as an androgynous radical, that’s her choice.
I have to disagree completely with Ms.Vincent that sex is as black and white as male and female, unless she can lend some valid lesson in genetics, perhaps she is also an expert on DNA, RNA, and polypeptides? Or is her particular specialty devaluing people that happen to be intersexed or transsexual? She states, “Sex, however, much to every transsexual’s chagrin, is not socially constructed. It can be cosmetically constructed or reconstructed, but this doesn’t change the fact that though some people are born hermaphrodites, the vast majority of people are born male or female.” Again she reduces intersexed people to an anomaly, “Anything else is a genetic/biochemical anomaly that we correct to save kids humiliation in the locker room.” She dismisses differently gendered and transsexual surgeries as both “cosmetic”, and as “mutilating”; She says, “ So why, as adults, do transsexuals mutilate their bodies..”. So, which is it, “cosmetic” or “mutilating”? Cosmetic surgery’s sole function is to enhance or to make beautiful while mutilation speaks of disfigurement. She even insultingly refers to breast surgery as a “ bimbo’s boob job”. I’m sure that women who have suffered through chemo therapy and losing their breasts, followed by reconstructive mammoplasty will appreciate the reference to “bimbo boob job”. The professional surgical procedures that she refers to are intricate surgeries that take hours to complete and in some cases lengthy hospitalizations, and are not surgeries decided upon by any passing whim. She is correct that gay, lesbian, and differently gendered are human, and it is appalling to see this devaluing and insulting in the pages of the Advocate. Signed, Disappointed
The article is obviously not written by a TS, so their opinion on how we should live our lives is irritating, to say the least. No one has the right to criticize our choices; living in between, whether by choice or necessity, is HARD. This society is not set up to allow ppl to live that way, so criticizing the TS for transitioning fully is just plain insensitive. It obviously never occurred to the writer that after being a “freak” for so many years, perhaps the TS might just want to blend in & be enjoy being a “normal” man or woman for a change. How can you blame them for wanting what everyone else takes for granted? One TS friend of mine claims he stopped getting beaten up only after he transitioned & looked less androgynous. Although I agree with the writer that it’s wrong to assign sex to hermaphrodites at birth, I do not agree that the configuration of your genitals is what makes you male or female. As humans we believe in the immortality of the soul, which is the essence of who you are. That spirit inside is what has always spurred humans throughout the ages to decorate & remodel their physical bodies to better reflect their inner self, whether through tattooing, piercing, scarification, body modification, or sex reassignment. It is part of the human experience. Sex reassignment may seem to the non-TS like “mutilation”, but to the TS it is a totally different experience. It made me feel healthier, less disfigured, & my body responded to it like water to a man dying of thirst. I know & love myself. I am not a “masculine woman”, & never have been. I am a man who was born with severe birth defects, & that is my gut feeling, how I view my body. I never finished developing into a man in the womb, & I happen to have other non-TS birth defects as well. I may never choose to have the final surgery to “conform” my genitals to a traditional male configuration, but I am still a man regardless. Sexually, I may choose to remain in between & even enjoy it, but outwardly, I wish to be a normal man to the world, & be treated as such. That’s not cowardly or conformist, that is who I am & how I wish to be treated. Until the writer experiences that which they insist on broadcasting an opinion on, they will continue to sound callous & ignorant.
First of all, NO ONE goes through the pain, emotional and physical, of SRS so that they can be “fashionable.” I think Ms. Vincent is projecting a lot of her own feelings onto transsexuals, evidenced by her talk of her own trouble conforming. I’m speaking for myself here when I say, I do NOT want to be radical! I’m NOT a revolutionary, I’m not a “freak,” I’m not some girl/boy combination, and I don’t want to “thwart” anyone! All I want is to live a normal, boring life as a MAN, not as a confused, undecided girl who sometimes dresses up like a boy or some bs like that. Maybe Ms. Vincent enjoys being a freak, but I do not.
Enough is enough. I’m sick of this kind of nonsense. Don’t we have enough enemies already without encouraging the ignorant hatred of people like Vincent?
Terence Dougherty, Esq.
New York City
Thank you for providing yet another example of an oppressed minority oppressing an even smaller minority.
At issue is the column written by Ms. Norah Vincent that, as a transsexual woman, I find deeply insulting.
Would you please be so kind to explain to me what is your editorial position on the issue of transgendered people and why you have published Ms. Vincent’s column that is full of nonsense on that subject? If it is your editorial position to publish such uneducated rubbish, can I also expect to see column written by the religious right? And why should I pay to read that?
I’m expecting a prompt response so I can make my decision on subscribing or not.
You know nothing about how transgender people feel if you reduce us to nothing more than self-mutilating freaks. We are trying to live honestly just like gender straight gay, lesbian and bisexual people. It’s also really sad that the Advocate would support a gender bigot like you “Ms.” Vincent. It’s seems that gender straight Americans (especially you & the people at the Advocate) don’t value anyone who is gender queer. Our lives aren’t worth as much to you and you are free to deride our very serious decision to live true to our real gender. Well, I’m sure this won’t be the last letter (or phone call) you will get about this. The transgender people of America won’t accept this kind of treatment anymore!
Can it somehow have escaped Ms. Vincent’s attention, and yours, that transgendered people, particularly transsexuals, still have the right, and indeed the necessity, to self-definition and self-determination? Can the hypocrisy of a lesbian dismissing others whose life experience is unconventional be so difficult to perceive? Have we, have YOU, learned nothing of compassion for the human condition by our struggles for dignity in a hostile society?
Perhaps the answer is much simpler, though no less distressing. Could it be that such smug cynicism is an ostensible sign of self-justification and cultural superiority, albeit one which comes at the expense of people already marginalized and under assault? Maybe it feels really good to finally have someone to look down on.
There is a sickness intrinsic to this perspective that is tragic to all concerned. But then, you’d have to care, really care, about social and personal integrity for that to matter... I’ll let you decide.
Lori Buckwalter ED,
I could write a long letter on gender and human rights; why transsexuals have a right to seek congruence between mind and body, and about gender as fluid concept. But I am tired of writing such letters; in this year 2000, it should not be necessary. Every person on this planet has an equal write to be treated with dignity. If we are to become truly civilised, we must learn to accept that we are not all the same, and that many people have to address many diverse problems. We all have the right to live in freedom and expect and receive the respect of others, even if they cannot understand our personal gender issues. Everyone means everyone; gay, lesbian, straight, transsexual, bisexual or asexual.
who is neither male nor female but is proud to call herself transgendered.
Some points I’d like to make: 1. Language is dynamic - the dictionary doesn’t define common usage of language anymore than YOU do with your column, thank god. Trannies can use language to talk about themselves in a way that feels empowering to them - just like queers have been doing for hundreds of years. How does this hurt you?
2. You say “If he’s got a pinga, a Johnson, a Tootsie Roll-his sex is male. If a pudendum, she’s female. “ What about hermaphrodites, whom you expressed such pity for in your article? Are they just nothings? How does splitting every human being into two categories according to their “dangly parts” foment revolution? The kind of essentialism you exhibit in your column is what I would call “gender fundamentalism.” At best its boring, at worst oppressive and hateful. You should know better if you’re such a revolutionary.
3. So why, as adults, do transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender?>> Do you think that most transsexuals go through what they go through (derision from our culture & society, the painful sense they’re in the wrong body, surgery, to name a few) for FASHION? Thats insulting as well as ignorant. You should know better. But since you don’t, apparently, may I suggest some excellent reading?
Family Myths: Breaking Free from Family Patterns & Becoming Our True Selves by Joyce Block Transmen & FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, & Sexualities by Jason Cromwell Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue by Leslie Feinberg
The Advocate should be ashamed of printing Norah Vincent’s hateful diatribe against transsexuals, suggesting how we should live our lives in order to make ourselves more acceptable to those that think like her. This form of transgender-bashing hasn’t been seen since Janice’s Raymond’s paranoid rantings. As long as this point of view is given any kind of credibility, such as being published in the Advocate, the chances are diminished for transgendered people ever gaining any of the same rights the gay community is fighting for. The Advocate should apologize to the transgender community and print an editorial condemning Vincent’s article.
North Hollywood, Calif.
Sincerely, KAREN DENISE COLE M2F TRANSSEXUAL
Ms. Vincent allows herself the freedom of not conforming in order to better define herself. Maybe she should allow the transgendered the freedom to define themselves on their own terms, instead of shaming them into supporting her personal “gender thwarting” philosophy. Sir - ma’am, the world aint just about you!
David M. Schoelen
In the 1966 edition of the same dictionary, the definitions of “gender” are identical to those quoted by Vincent. This was, I remind you, three years prior to Stonewall and even prior to the beginning of the so-called “sexual revolution”.
I also recall one of the more enlightened nuns at my grade school teaching us that “gender defines what you have, sex defines what you shouldn’t do with it outside of marriage”.
As for “ain’t” not being a legitimate word, tell it to Shakespeare. He used it in several of his plays, in the mouths of both rabble and nobility. The word only became verboten in American English when Noah Webster decided that “ain’t”, along with the -re ending for nouns (among many other instances), was too British to be used by patriotic Americans. (The word is a variation of the obsolete “am’t”, a contraction of “are not”.)
Perhaps before writing a column such as that printed in the June 20, 2000, issue of the Advocate, Ms. Vincent should do more in-depth checking of sources.
On to more important issues: Why was there no mention of the strong Leather presence at the March on Washington? Many of my Cuir brothers and sisters were there, including at least one speaker, but your magazine, which purports to represent the entire gay and lesbian community, didn’t mention any of this.
I find myself more and more disappointed with the Advocate’s lack of coverage of everyone in the community. Not all of us are willing or able to be “normal” in the sense of “people the straights can identify with”.
To paraphrase an old chant I learned at my first gay pride parade (San Diego, 1978), “2, 4, 6, 8! We will not assimilate!”
If you could print the letter in the Readers’ Forum, I’d appreciate it.
In Human Spirit.
The next time Norah sets out to write another one of her consistently insulting, venomous, and pointless columns, I hope she uses a word processor with a “hypocrisy check.”
Female-to-Male Coordinator, Gender Identity Center of Colorado
The feminist movement was first able to introduce us to the idea that there has been a system of socialization, called patriarchy, that has, from the moment of birth onward, given us the ideas that there are such things as boys and girls, that boys have penises and girls do not (in a phallocentric world, that is how we usually define the difference). As we grow up, patriarchy teaches us that boys will act aggressively, take up as much space as possible, be “strong,” not express emotion, and enjoy such pastimes as baseball, beating each other up, and enjoying sexual activity with women. Patriarchy also teaches us that girls are weaker than boys, that they are emotional, and that they will enjoy pastimes such as cooking, cleaning, and attempting to find a good man to marry so that she can cook and clean for him.
Feminists have recognized the ways in which patriarchy has subordinated women to men and have argued that patriarchal concepts of gender norms are socially constructed, and that women can be aggressive, men can be emotional, etc. Gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals have similarly stood up and argued that it is not “natural” for boys to only feel sexual attraction toward individuals of the opposite sex, arguing that this portion of patriarchal norms has also been socially constructed. However, very few people have challenged that portion of patriarchy that even states that there are such things as boys and girls and how that distinction has been drawn in the sand of physical genital formation.
Transgender, transexual, and intersex individuals, in different ways, help to challenge this portion of socially constructed norms regarding sex and gender. Individuals such as Anne Fausto-Sterling, whose books have been reviewed in the very pages of this magazine, have argued that male and female, as categories, are inadequate to describe the degree of sexual or gendered experiences that individuals face in their daily lives. Intersex individuals, such as hermaphrodites, challenge the fact that possession of a penis necessarily defines an individual as a male, and that lack of such possession necessarily defines an individual as a female. Transgender individuals have introduced to us that people can identify as a man without possessing a penis, or that individuals can similarly identify as women while possessing the phallic signifier. Transsexual individuals such as Riki Wilchins and Kate Bornstein have introduced to us the concept that perhaps even the fact that we create categories of men and women, and defining these categories by the way a person’s genitalia look, is the source of our mutual oppressions.
If we listen to the experiences of transexual individuals, we may be able to learn a few things, and hopefully before we accuse the transexual community of self-mutilation. By doing so, we may be able to create a more united and comprehensive movement that fights for the rights of EVERY individual who faces oppression as a result of a rigid system of gender (which I use because I do see sex and gender as both being socially constructed concepts).
New Haven, Con.
Norah Vincent’s recent column “Cunning linguists” was so riddled with contradictions and erudite verbal hairsplitting, that it is difficult to respond. I would most recommend that she spend some time walking in the moccasins of a gender-incongruent individual before she harshly states how we should live our lives. Then again, I suppose it’s good for someone to bring up these hidden feelings and misunderstandings rather than being politically correct, so those of us in the gender community have a chance to reply. First, I think Vincent ignores the history behind our emphasis on the word gender. We saw our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers branded with the term “homoSEXual,” which made Puritanical Americans see them always, first, as sexual beings. That’s why many of us are moving away from the similar term, transSEXual to the term transgender. For us, an essential clarifying concept is that gender identity is separate from sexual orientation. Most of us have to reach a gender that is congruent for us. Only when that elemental aspect of our personhood is resolved do we then discover who we might be attracted to. Of course, because this whole gender thing is so complicated and intertangled, there can be exceptions. I didn’t decide to physically transition to male until I learned that it was possible to be a gay transman. That combination of gay and male proved to be the niche of mental/physical/emotional comfort I’d been searching for all my life. Many of Vincent’s arguments sounded like they were coming from a Republican or a religious fundamentalist, those individuals most quickly defined by their fear of change. Vincent is frustrated that English is a living and ever-changing language. She seems angry that the old rules about male and female are, themselves, transitioning. Her views also reminded me of that tired old proof we heard over and over in my home state of Idaho, the hardware argument. Parts is parts. You have your female part and your male part and the male part has to go into the female part and anything else is unnatural; it just can’t work. By emphasizing only the biological parts, Vincent totally ignores the brain. It is the brain of the transgendered individual that makes us transgendered. Even though I was forced to see myself physically as female 24/7, 365 days a year, my brain stubbornly saw me only as male. That mental image was so strong that I often failed to recognize myself in mirrors or in pictures. I was continually astonished to discover that I had breasts because my mind simply did not believe they existed or belonged on my male body. If I had been able to get my mind to stop torturing me in this way, I might have been able to resist the obsessive drive to change my body to match the reality my mind demanded. In Vincent’s either/or philosophy, people are either 100% male/female or hermaphrodite. She insists upon the rigid bipolarization that is at the heart of so much anguish in our world. But with Einstein and the shift to a relative paradigm, the old image of two absolute points - either John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe - has given way to the image of the continuum - a smooth curve of all the individuals who find themselves somewhere between those two extremes of maleness and femaleness. She admits to this continuum in the gay male community, “a gym boy, a drag queen, or the epicene copy editor.” And one has only to look at Lea DeLaria and Anne Heche to get an idea of the wonderful diversity in the lesbian community. So why can’t there also be a continuum in the gender community, from those who thrive in the radical, in-between, androgynous gender presentation that Vincent favors to those of us who are in a different place on the continuum and need some kind of physical transformation to feel truly whole? I was also reminded of the college experiments where those students measured as most homophobic were also most aroused by the image of male-male sexuality. Just as these young men were struggling with their internalized homophobia, perhaps Vincent is struggling with her own internalized transphobia. Doth s/he, perhaps, protest too much? It has always been difficult for me to understand how one oppressed person can turn on another oppressed person with hatred and condemnation. We know what discrimination feels like and how much it hurts. How, then, can an African American be homophobic? How can a gay male be racist? Surely, Vincent has lustily heterosexual friends who can’t imagine why she would possibly want to be a lesbian, but who at least attempt to wrap their minds around that concept in an effort to be understanding. Why can’t she show us the same level of compassion? I so admire my lesbian friends who have been supportive of my transition. Even though they might have felt betrayed, felt that I had “joined the enemy,” felt that I had taken the easy way out in terms of being accepted by society, they can’t help but see the positive changes in me. Before I lived a mostly solitary life as only a head, a head connected to a 200 plus pound body that I tried never to see or feel. Social situations were a nightmare because of the constant disconnect between who I was inside and how people reacted to me based on my outside appearance. But now I weigh 60 pounds less. I lift weights. I go to tap class every week. I stand up straight because I’m no longer trying to hide the parts of my body that don’t belong to me. I sing in the New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus. I have friends. I have a decent job and I’m finally building some financial security instead of wandering aimlessly from one place to another and one job to another, too tangled up in my internal conflict to be a fully functioning adult. I look into mirrors all the time, and each time I’m outrageously delighted to see my real self looking back at me. There’s a rightness about who I am that I never experienced before. It’s an endless exhilaration and a priceless relief. I don’t believe I have mutilated myself. I believe I’ve done the best I could given the biological challenge of being born with a male brain and a female body. I’ve found a way to make my life work for me. Eventually, my friends were able to see that being a lesbian, even a lesbian who prefers to present in a very masculine way, is completely different from being a transgendered individual who identifies as male. Once Vincent is also able to understand this difference and accept it rather than feeling threatened by it, I think she’ll find it fascinating and liberating to take a stroll in those moccasins. I’ll keep them handy.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Associate Professor of English University of South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
Yes, much of gender is a social construct, as is our language. Not all of it, though, and the very fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate clearly what a transsexual *is* using language should be a clue as to what we’re up against in society; it isn’t proof that we don’t exist. Your three-quarter-page argument to that effect shows only that you, like most, were asleep during the semantics portion of English 101.
I’m not “a revolutionary;” I’ve got no real desire to be “radical.” Some people would think that my life, as a fully out transsexual lesbian school nurse, is plenty radical enough, though. I didn’t particularly like living androgynously, although I did for a long time. Sorry. If you do, great. Please don’t try and tell me how I should live, who I should love, and how -and with what- I should love them.
Ms. Vincentís article really raises an important question as to why, in an age when many lesbian, gay and bisexual organizations are joining forces with transsexuals (as in LGBîTî) the Advocate is printing such a prejudicial commentary, trashing the transsexual community. Unless the Advocate takes measures to become more sensitive and informative on gender dysphoria in the near future, I will cancel my subscription and recommend the transsexual community, as well as those supportive of it, boycott the Advocate.
Josh, Milwaukee, Wis.
As a transgendered person who has chosen not to transition with hormones or surgeries, I read Norah Vincents piece (last word, June 20) with interest. Yet I was puzzled by her positivist argument on sex and gender (as if there were only one way of looking at it), and completely appalled by her superiority trip over transsexuals. Ms. Vincent is entitled to her opinion that — transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender, and that choosing not to physically transition is a lot more radical. When you're transgendered, it's hard no matter what route you take, and folks who transition are no less radical than folks who don't. Her piece reminds us that we need to continue the dialogue, for clearly, we cannot assume that everyone in the larger LGBT community understands each other's issues in all their complexity. If we want to move forward as a larger queer community, we need to ask more questions, make more room for varied voices and experiences, and ease up on all the rules.
Thank you for you time,
Ray, Chicago, Ill.
No Names Please
Exactly who are you claiming to Advocate for? Cut the bull and take transexuals off that list.
San Francisco, Calif.
She writes, “Half the time I’m sir, and half the time I’m ma’am, and that’s how it should be when sex and gender don’t matter.” It’s so easy, when one is confident in the harmony between one’s self-identity and one’s physical appearance, to find this confusion of typing cool, revolutionary, a mind-fuck for the establishment. It’s so easy to be androgenous when there isn’t an underlying self-identity problem. I’ve been androgenous for years. Each year gets worse and worse as the total alien-ness of this body I am inhabiting puts extreme pressure on my self-determination. I did not chose to be born with the psyche of one gender in the body of another. I didn’t even know for certain there was anything wrong until I hit puberty and suddenly my body was growing quite of its own will into the sex of a person opposite to who I had always believed I was. You see, gender identity is not a political choice one makes, any more than being a lesbian or a gay man is. The Advocate should appreciate this, being the sort of magazine it is. Norah Vincent writes that persons in my situation should simply accept ‘the polymorphy God gave you, body and soul’. Politically, I’m all for breaking the bonds of gender-specific labelling, which starts from the moment we are born. I advocate non-gendered pronouns, a non-gendered language in general, as a path society really needs to take for the oppression of both men and women *as* differentiated sexes in this society to cease. But being transgendered is aside from this; being transgendered is not about one’s political beliefs, one’s academic postulates on sex and gender and everything in between. It’s about that apparently irrevocable canyon of dismay and loathing between one’s self-identity and one’s physical manifestation. It’s a lot more than disliking the shape of your breasts, or wanting a bigger penis. It’s about being dissassociated, alienated even, from your own self. It’s a huge thing, and one that pretty much anyone who isn’t this way themselves has a hard time getting their heads around. I’m not expecting Norah Vincent, or the Advocate, to understand this. I would just hope for a little more acceptance, a little bit of research even, before putting forth such extraordinary pronouncements as appeared Norah Vincent’s above-mentioned article.
It was extremely disappointing to read such an insulting piece in a publication that I would have hoped would be more open to transsexuals than the average news magazine. Ms. Vincent asks why transsexuals “mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender?” Putting aside the mutilation comment, the answer is that we are changing our bodies to suit our current gender. The writer went to great length to explain the difference between sex and gender and then ignored her own schooling. As a transsexual I have done nothing to my gender. It is as it has been for as long as I can remember.
What Ms. Vincent obviously doesn’t understand is that most transsexuals don’t see themselves as revolutionary at all. My transition has had NOTHING to do with being revolutionary, cutting edge, or radical. I felt a deep need to see my body as I expect it to be, as a vehicle that I am supposed to be in. I am not now, nor have I ever been, androgenous and it is offense for your writer to say that *that* is the answer to the transsexuals problems.
Going through what transsexuals go through has nothing to do with conforming. It has to do with being a whole person. If being called sir one day and ma’am the next makes Ms. Vincent feel good, then more power to her. Maybe sex and gender mean nothing to her. But to me, being called ma’am is inaccurate and over the years I have done what I can to insure that it doesn’t happen any more. Thwarting gender norms has had nothing to do with it.
This article was good for one reason. It re-affirms my belief that the gay and lesbian main stream have no interest in the reality of the transsexual experience, despite the fact that many transsexuals have come from your ranks. What’s shocking is the contempt and ridicule apparent in Ms. Vincents column and the fact that in the pages of the Advocate, exsisting to give voice to a much-maligned minority, it is apparently acceptable to malign other minorities. And just like in so many other cases, in this one it was seemingly done to make Ms. Vincent feel better about herself and her gender status. She’s a radical. Good for her. I’m happy just being a man.
Joseph M. Schreiber
I was very disappointed that you published that column by Norah Vincent that
attacks transsexuals of "mutilating their bodies." I'm amazed that
instead of covering tranny issues from a tranny perspective, you use an outside
voice to criticize this part of our community. Transgender issues are so little
understood by LGB people that our queer publications would do a great service by
having exposure to them from a first-person tranny perspective. Why not publish
articles explaining what operations mean to transsexuals in their terms? By only
exploring LGB bias against trannies, you only further the cause of ignorance. The
Advocate can do better.
San Francisco, Calif.
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