Letters to Norah
When Last Word columnist Norah Vincent addressed transgender issues in her June 20 column for The Advocate (titled “Cunning Linguists”), the response from readers was so overwhelming that we couldn’t begin to include them all in our Reader Forum in the magazine. We were able to make room for four letters in our July 18 issue; the remainder—approximately 130 in all—have been posted here in unedited form and in no particular order.  

Link to original Norah Vincent article, The Advocate, June 20, 2000:
http://www.advocate.com/html/stories/819/819_vincent_persp814.html 

WARNING: These letters are unedited and some contain exceptionally strong language.


Your recent column by Norah Vincent wherein she attacks transsexuals for mutilating their bodies (her words) is beneath you. In a time when gender based assaults have steadily risen, misinformed opinion such as Ms. Vincent’s can do little but add to the stereotype that the T community is trying to dispel. I am curious what her opinion is of fat people.

Kay Williams


What in God’s name was the reason for allowing this kind of gender people slap-in-the-face article to reach the printed state? This is horrible to read for those of us who have gone through absolute hell to become ourselves. You should be ashamed of yourself for allowing such a trash-em article in your paper. The bigotry of this is undeniable.

Pamela Miller
Gender Voyagers support group
Santa Barbara, Calif.


Imagine my feelings after coming back today from a training session as a parade monitor for the SF Gay Pride 2000 parade and finding this sitting in my email inbox!!

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


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.” Adding insult to injury, Ms. Vincent goes on to claim that transsexuals, “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.” 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. LGNY Article--The Disappearing Woman (June 2, 2000) It was very strange being contacted by a national gay advocacy group seeking support in the wake of the Sunday New York Times Magazine article whose teaser was: “Before they could turn the murdered soldier Barry Winchell into a martyr, gay rights campaigners first had to turn his girlfriend back into a man.” The girlfriend in question was, of course, Calpernia Addams, the transgender woman whom Pfc. Winchell was dating when he was beaten to death at a Tennessee Army base. The article has precipitated an outcry. Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network (SLDN), in particular among national gay advocacy groups, has been highly vocal about what they see as a mischaracterization of their participation in the case, particularly the notion that they tried to turn Callie Addams into anything. Compounding this are what they assert are outright misquotes by the author. Callie herself has signed a letter circulated by SLDN declaring that she was never asked to hide her identity as a woman, and it is hard not to feel sympathy for SLDN if they were misrepresented. At the same time, it’s also hard to avoid the fact that whatever errors the article may contain, writer David France got it basically right: for months now Callie Addams has gone, neatly, quietly, conveniently Missing In Action from her own story. Perhaps the most telling illustration of this is France’s poignant observation that when Winchell’s mother was invited to appear at the Millennium March, no one even thought to invite Callie. This lovely and still grief-stricken transgender woman has been erased from her own loss in a way that is would be simply inconceivable and totally intolerable had she been Winchell’s gay male lover. And what made the phone call I received strange was that GenderPAC has been working hard to get just this story into the mainstream press, by repeatedly covering it in our own news releases, through interviews with Callie Addams, and by placing stories in the gay press, for most of the last year. Gay advocacy groups have been quick to point out that Winchell’s assailant reportedly attacked him because of the perception that Winchell was gay. Indeed, similar skirmishes have broken out in the past over gay activist groups’ portrayals of Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, and Tyra Hunter. And when Atlanta’s main drag and transgender bar, The Otherside, was bombed last year, a national gay lobbying group was on CNN the next morning decrying this “gay and lesbian” hate crime. Nor are gay groups alone. GenderPAC has frequently referred to the death of Tyra Hunter as being transgender-related, when an EMS technician backed away from her body when she lay bleeding after a hit and run accident in Washington, DC. Yet It remains far from clear that Tyra ever personally identified as “transgender” or that s/he preferred feminine pronouns. Bodies are inherently unstable foundations on which to mount identities. There’s always the danger of getting it wrong, even when you’re trying to get it right, and GenderPAC is no exception. Yet no matter what the crime, gender inevitably seems to just disappear from the premises. When transgender people are assaulted because they are perceived as homosexual, gay groups point out that it’s really an anti-gay hate crime. When a gay man is picked out for murder in part because he’s young and slender and gentle and blond, gay groups point out that it’s an anti-gay hate crime. And now when a young soldier is killed because he’s dating a transgender woman, gay groups point out that this, too, is really an anti-gay hate crime. When is it ever about gender? When is it every about being visibly queer, about that totally inconvenient part of being gay that so many groups and activists would prefer to sweep back into the closet as we assure the American mainstream that we’re just like everyone else, we just sleep with the same sex. Well some of us aren’t “just like” straight people. And some of us who are don’t necessarily want to be. And even if we did want to be just like everyone else, too few of us as LGBT people enjoy the luxury of a simple, straightforward, and uncomplicated oppression: when we are beaten, assaulted or killed, it’s never just about sexual orientation. It’s always about orientation and gender, or orientation and race, or orientation and class. Representing the crimes committed against us as anything less does a terrible injustice to the lives we lead, the challenges we face, and the scars we bear. Some activists have responded that it’s only incumbent on gay advocacy groups to respond to the gay aspects of a hate crime. Let me close with a different perspective, from a gender activist in New York City: “My reaction to Callie’s letter in support of SLDN, and that organization’s own public statements, is outrage. In an interview with GenderPAC last September, Calpernia said, ‘It was sort of an unspoken general consensus among those I spoke to that I not correct the initial reports that Barry had been dating a “man.” I inferred from what they told me that it would be easier for the public to understand that Barry’s murder was a hate crime if they referred to me as male.’ “Callie’s recent letter in support of SLDN does not mean she’s a flake who’s changing her story back and forth. She’s a shy, southern, intelligent genderqueer who got to know those activists personally. I’m sure their support for her and, perhaps, affection was genuine and she feels beholden to them. I think I know exactly how she feels. “I also think they used her shamelessly. They milked this story for all it was worth as a ‘simple’ anti-gay hate crime. If they notified the mainstream and queer media of her transgender status, her womanhood, they damn sure failed miserably to make an impression. And now they’re upset. Too bad! “I personally feel great about the story. A transsexual woman is the cover story in the paper of record in this country, and is portrayed as a good person--intelligent, caring, gorgeous, and endearing. The tone of the article is wonderful; it doesn’t portray her as a man, or as a woman. The writer, in a sense, welcomes the ambiguity we present to society. It is a huge step in the right direction.”
Norah Vincent is wrong to tell transsexuals not to undergo the surgery that will make their minds/souls and bodies congruent. First of all, one issue is Freedom: Who are we to decide for someone what gender they are? Surely we can help them explore their own psyches, and then stand back and let them decide for themselves what is best for them. Second, most people, probably Ms Vincent among them, have no understanding of what transsexualism IS. The brain has gender. The brain has sexual orientation. These issues are determined by biological incidents in the womb, and cannot be changed. The body has gender, and it may not match the brain’s. The body can be changed. And the brain takes precedent over the body. Or you might call it the soul. Why would the body take precedence over the brain/soul? If it did, it would be OK to tell homosexuals to just act like heterosexuals, and ignore your brain. Third, even if in some Utopian future, gender is such a non-issue that hanging out in what we see as the middle ground is perfectly acceptable, IT IS NOT TRUE NOW!!! Telling transsexuals to dress neutrally and don’t do surgery is tantamount to telling them to hold themselves up for even more hatred and ridicule, and even murder. The fact of gender persists, even if (and that’s a big IF) it is only a psychological structure. While there may well be some people who ARE somewhere in the middle, if a person feels that she is at the female end of the gender spectrum, but has unfortunately ended up with a male body, the counseling, several surgeries, and coaching they undergo to make themselves congruent, DOES CURE THE PROBLEM! Who are you to tell someone not to do what will make them happy just because it offends your Utopian ideals? One question that’s comes to mind is: Why are Lesbians so concerned and so paranoid about male to female transsexuals? What is the fear? Is it because the oppressive stereotype propagated by the few transsexuals in the media is the same oppressive stereotype perpetrated by Playboy and Victoria’s Secret and supermodels? The majority of real transsexuals just want to blend in and be seen as ordinary women and men, and do their best to be undetectable. But the process of getting to undetectable takes a while, because there’s a lot to learn and practice, and it requires some coaching and help, which can be hard to come by. Can’t we be tolerant and helpful along the way instead of critical and hateful? And we need to not support the media stereotype--we need to find out what is real, and allow people to be who they are, not what we think they are. I have one other question: Why do dykes dress like men? If it is to differentiate themselves from the female stereotype, as I have been told, why align themselves with a male stereotype? Why not invent something new? Just curious.

Kim Cooper


Norah Vincent needs to know that some of us transsexual activists do know the difference between sex and gender, and we are very careful in our use of language to ensure that others who persist in conflating these concepts might understand what we are talking about. She also needs to know that a transsexual person’s choice to have surgical sex reassignment is that person’s business, not Ms. Vincent’s or anyone else’s. If Ms. Vincent wants to be radical in her gender presentation, that is her choice. She can live in her own body, not mine. Regardless of other people’s inability to discern Ms. Vincent’s sex or gender, if she has her own congruity between those two features then she is privileged, and she has no idea how a transsexual person feels. No matter what my (or any other transsexual person’s) appearance, Ms. Vincent’s projection of conformist stupidity is the presumptuously offensive bludgeon of her congruent privilege. Transsexual people do not deserve to bear any greater share of the social burden for the dichotomy between the two dominant forms of gender expression than does any other person who appears normatively female or male. And as for the concept of mutilation, I wonder how Ms. Vincent feels about piercing and tatooing? Nobody’s trying to make her change her body against her will. Her clever and equally draconian conceits cannot conceal her fundamental ignorance of transsexual lives. I suggest she have some civil dialog with more than a few transsexual people before she decides what we all think. I hope her column in your June 20th issue will truly be her last word on the subject until she learns considerably more about who we are.

Jamison Green
Emeryville, Calif.


I was shocked and horrified to read Norah Vincent’s recent column on transexualism, although considering her other bile-filled writings I’ve seen in the past, I probably shouldn’t be surprised anymore. Sure, queer people shouldn’t all have to march lockstep to the beat of one drummer’s opinion, but how could you print Vincent’s outrageously offensive diatribe against transsexuals who “mutilate” their bodies? Just as Vincent would no doubt want respect for her innate sexual orientation and the life choices she has made based on that (couldn’t someone say that shaving her head is “mutilating her body”?), pre- and post-op transsexuals deserve respect and tolerance for their gender orientation and the choices they have to make, which are almost always much more difficult than those of the average GLB person. Viciously attacking members of the community who are doing their best to live their lives with integrity and pursue their own happiness is not, as Vincent must think, cutting-edge journalism. It’s just petty and cruel, and says a lot more about Vincent than it does about transsexuals.

Ali Lemer
New York, N.Y.


I feel the need to say a few things that might clarify how transsexuals think & act, at least from my viewpoint, that is.

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.

Sheila Mink


I’m writing this in response to Ms. Norah Vincent’s hate speech about Transsexals. I am outraged as to how such misinformed writers could be allowed to pass judgement. ‘Mutilating their bodies’ is a completely innacurate statement when describing what TS’s go through. They are simply attempting to put their body back in harmony with their mind. Is it purely the opinion of the editor that such a medical condition doesn’t exist?

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.

Melissa


I must admit I am a bit confused as well as disappointed... A few months ago you ran a very good group of articles on the Transgendered in an issue dedicated to the phenomena. Now you run bigotry and ignorance from Nora Vincent. Well... maybe you could clarify this someday.

Kelly Burdick
Lubbock, Tex.


Whatever makes Norah Vincent think transsexuals are revolutionaries with the Mission Impossible imperative of dismantling the sex/gender system for the benefit of nontranssexuals? This is not a mission most of us choose to accept. We’re just defining our own identities and our own bodies, no more, no less. If we choose to alter (Ms. Vincent says “mutiliate”) our bodies, we do so for ourselves, and ourselves only. We like the result, and our lovers like the result. We’re really tired of nontrans queers who don’t have a clue laying their own trips on us. I suggest Ms. Vincent read the writings of phobic heterosexuals on homosexuality (may I suggest she start with Pat Buchanan?) so she’ll maybe understand what it feels like to be violated in print.

Dallas Denny


I was shocked and sickened in the most recondite and esoteric part of my being when I read the horrid words you used to attack and dehumanize me and my sisters and brothers. It is utterly clear that your ignorance of psychological issues in general and in particular those relevant to transqueers is as great as your transphobia.

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.
Kim Rogers


I was very dissapointed that you chose to run the article by Norah Vincent in the June 20th issue. Like Dr. Laura before her, Vincent finds a problem (in this case, the somtime confusion between the words “sex” and “gender”) and then blames it on - whose else? - Transexuals. Frankly, Im sorry that Vincent is so upset over the state of the language under a heterosexist society - but surely Transexuals are more the victims, and than the problem? I found it illuminating that she begins by calling us “the most draconian arm of the PC language police” and ends up by preaching to US about how WE should live our lives. Who’s being draconian now?

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.

Stacey Montgomery-Scott


Recently, I wrote a letter to your magazine expressing displeasure with the June 20th column written by Norah Vincent, entitled “Cunning Linguists”. At the time, I had been going on damaging and irresponsible statements that had been pulled from the column, rather than on the piece of tripe as a whole. It reminded me of a rant by a christian right hate group that a friend of mine shared with me recently. In fact, except for her nonsense about her living androgynously (I know of few ways for the name ‘Norah’ to be androgynous, and doubt that ‘Norah’ binds her breasts)and the lead in about language, much of the column could be put into the christian right newsletter without missing a beat. I doubt Ms. Vincent is old enough to remember the furor and frothing at the mouth about using the word gay as synonymous with homosexual; or the fight that lesbians had to get included in the “gay rights movement”. I doubt that Ms. Vincent understands what it means to be transsexual, and probably lacks the common human empathy to even try.

David


When will the gay establishment stop hating Transsexuals? Norah Vincent’s article in the June 20th edition of the Advocate reeks of the old venomous separatist smell.

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.


Strawberries can be the most delicious of fruits for most of us: some like to feast on freshly picked ones, thriving for its sparkling acid on the tongue; others go for them when ripe and sweet, loving most the juicy feeling in the mouth. Some will switch from one to the other smoothly and even back and forth, others will feel bitter thereafter or will get to like it when the time has come.

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.

Enrique González
strawberry-loving human being
Caracas, Venezuela


It seems that you always attack the weakest when you now hunt the transgendered individuals basically calling us self-mutilating freaks. In a similar vein, everybody that has ever done anything to their body has “mutilated” it.

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


(Having experienced your magazine, and being familiar with its bent, I doubt you will print this letter in its entirety, or even in a sani-edited form, but here goes....)

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.


Just got done reading Nora Vincent’s “Last Word” article. It actually started off good, but then died a horrible transphobic death in the very last two graphs. Two points: Ms. Vincent seems to imply that transsexuals should model their life after hers. My, does the Advocate rent separate space for Ms. Vincent’s ego? Secondly, Ms. Vincent correctly points out that intersexed infants (she uses “doubly blessed”, though I’m sure she must realize babies born with dual sets of genitalia are very rare, right?) should be left alone until they are “old enough to decide”. Hmmmm. I’m transsexual, and though I may not show outward signs of being born the way I am, I KNOW there is some biological basis. Guess what? I’m also old enough to decide now!

Toni Poole
Traverse City, Mich.


Your June 2oth article by Norah Vincent regarding transsexual peopole is appalling. If the title of your magazine is “The Advocate” and your audience is queer shouldn’t you ACTUALLY ADVOCATE FOR QUEER PEOPLE? I am a queer person who, while having thoroughly questioned my gender, predominately consider myself to be a woman. I have the privilege of my gender identity matching my genitalia. I don’t take that privilege lightly and neither should Norah Vincent. To counter that privilege it is our duty to educate people and support our gender minority peers. We expect no less than that from our heterosexual friends. As a sexual minority I wholeheartedly support my gender minority peers. Gender minorities are just as queer as we are and deserve our support and ADVOCACY. I am also a feminist with a degree in Women’s Studies which means I have carefully examined notions of gender. For a long time I thought that transsexual people only reinforced traditional sex stereotypes. I have since discovered that transsexuals, transgendered, and alternatively gendered people only ENRICH and EXPAND our ideas of sex and gender rather than reinforce tradition. For nearly a century the medical/psychological communities considered sexual minorities to be an alternative gender. Furthermore, it was NOT the gay men but transgendered people at the Stonewall riot which STARTED THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT! We therefore share a common bond and history. I encourage any of your staff to carefully re-consider their phobic views of gender minorities and instead become advocates because as long as we step on the backs of others in attempt to gain more acceptance for ourselves we hurt EVERYONE.

Amanda Smith
Tacoma, Wash.


How convenient for Norah Vincent to live in such a pleasant and polite world. In the name of protecting the Queens language, she insults members of the trans community by comparing them to “bimbos” and a boob job. She implies that trans men and women are undergoing re-assignment surgery for vanity’s sake alone, not self worth, self esteem, self realization. That only vanity and social assimilation underlie their decisions to choose surgery or not. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had such rose-hued eyewear. When being called sir or ma’am incorrectly was just a blip on the “pardon, my error” scale. When feminine males and masculine females fear no reprisals in their day to day doings. When our queer youth suffer only the regular teen angst of fitting in with all the other teen angst of everyone else. When our self worth is never at question by what we say , do or present. Where lace and a full beard or flannel and a strap on cause no one to question their right to work, parent, oruse the washroom of his or her choice. Now THAT would be radical and revolutionary.The author speaks semantics well. Unfortunately, it’s not reality.

StephniLee Libby
Seattle, Wash.


Shame on “The Advocate” for printing Norah Vincent’s column “Cunning Linguists” [June 20]. I have never before read such smarmy, transphobic, pseudo-intellectual rubbish in a progressive magazine. All this at a time when “The Advocate” is bitterly fighting the blatant bigotry of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Your magazine should be reaching out to transgendered people, not alienating us. We deserve to be treated with as much respect and dignity as the gay/lesbian community.

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.

Angela Lombardo
Denver, Colo.


Transpeople and others who do not fit the social norm of what is ‘male’ and ‘female’, just as gays and lesbians do not fit into what is ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Don’t Norah, tell us to live androgynously. What the hell is that supposed to mean anyways? There are people of more than three genders (male, female andro). Don’t tell me what to do with my body. But I do agree with you here: that bit about “reinforcing gender stereotypes” I do that all the time. Especially when I go braless in a dress with boxers and leave my legs unshaved.

A. Wilk


I would like to know why the Advocate thinks it is okay to print transgender-bashing articles? This would not be tolerated if the attack were on blacks, lesbians, people with HIV/AIDS, Jewish people, etc... so why is it okay to attack our trans sisters and brothers? I will not be buying another issue of the Advocate. Angry ex-reader.

Jan Tilley


After 15 hours at the office I have arrived home to find a letter about Norah Vincent’s horrific article in my inbox, and despite my exhaustion, I am compelled to write. This sort of “transsexuals are sick and mutilate their bodies” nonsense should not be seen as fit to grace the pages of a publication as widely-respected as the Advocate. Ms. Vincent has resorted to the most common and base biological arguments while ignoring the millions made on other body modifications every year. Somehow wanting less breast and more hair makes one sick, but wanting more breast and less hair is appropriate because it apes the hyper-feminine culture.

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


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. 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.

Riki Wilchins
Executive Director, GenderPAC


I really appreciate the updates I get every week on what is more or less gay and lesbian news. I am frustrated to hear however, that you decided to print an opinion article that furthers the discrimination and possibly hatred/anger towards transgender individuals (by Vincent). It is important to me as a non trans queer individual that transgender rights are held equal to other queer rights, transgender rights are queer rights. If you would not print something by Dr. Laura about gays and lesbians being biological errors (even though that is her opinion) you should not print opinion articles that suggest transexuals mutilate their own bodies and should not do so even if they feel that is right. That is a direct voice against strong and beautiful leaders in the queer community like Leslie Feinberg and Kate Bornstein. Please take these things into consideration in future selections for the Advocate.

Cori Jaeger


To whomever made the error of publishing that piece of trash by Norah Vincent:

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.

Dominic Parker


To the Editor, I can’t imagine why you’d let this reactionary prejudicial piece of garbage run. ‘A bimbo’s boob job’? Actually I’m relieved that I saw this piece, as I was about to subscribe to your magazine. Now I understand that my money would be better spent attempting to contribute to education. I could not rationalize subscribing to a magazine which would further promote prejudice and such an obvious lack of education and common sense.

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.


I’m all for the first amendment. The article by Normal Vincent, concerning “transexuals” changing their bodies tells it like it is. Who do they think they are, traipsing around, posing as something they certainly are not ??? It’s unnatural !!! changing your appearance to try to fit into a culturally defined class is not healthy .. you never see any kind of conformity of appearance within the gay community .. we’re all very independent. Let’s face it... transexual/transvestites/whatever are gay and simply can’t deal with it !!

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?

Sara Wetherbee
Reston, Va.


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 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.”

Merry Met!


I am writing this to you in all seriousness. I want someone at The Advocate to explain to me why your mag published an article by Norah Vincent in which she clearly bashed transqueers. I simply do not have the intellectual resources that will allow me to understand this. Please respond.

Kim Rogers


Norah Vincent tells us, correctly, that intersex children should make their own decisions about their anatomical sex when they are old enough to decide their own fate. But then, in a stunning leap of illogic, she argues that adult transsexuals who similarly decide their own fate by having genital surgery (or perhaps even hormone therapy) are merely engaged in an effort to “mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender.” Speaking from what appears to be deep ignorance, Vincent denigrates the experience of transsexuality, saying we merely “reinforce oppressive stereotypes.” Instead, she tells us that we should “live androgynously” in order to “thwart gender norms.” In fact, the decision to cross gender lines does not stem from an ideological or political agenda, but from a profound inner need. I see my body and my inner self as an integrated whole; if I choose to remake my body into a form that is pleasing to me, that is my business and mine alone. As to reinforcing stereotypes, Vincent simply does not understand the reality of transgender lives. She pats herself on the back for her androgynous daring, saying that “half the time Iím sir, and half the time Iím maíam.” How thrilling for her. I have certainly had that kind of experience often enough; I am too tall, and carry too many hints of my genetic-male physiology, to “pass” consistently on the street. But Iíve had other experiences that are far more telling. When bigots call me “faggot” or “fucking queer” or “chick with a dick,” it is not a mark of their appreciation of my performance of traditional gender stereotypes. Instead, they are voicing their intense disquiet at my crossing of gender lines. When strangers follow me for blocks on city streets, bellowing insults at the top of their voices (“Hey, mister, you dress like your sister!”) they are insisting that I violate our cultureís gender rules, and must be punished. That same impulse regularly produces violence in our culture. I have been assaulted three times in my life because of my unconventional gender expression. When I began gender transition a few years ago, I found it necessary to move away from a neighborhood where I had lived for 17 years; I was simply unsafe in what had been my home. Vincent exhibits astonishing arrogance in lecturing transsexuals about an intensely personal decision. She is a tourist in the borderlands of gender; she can return home anytime. I live there permanently, as a kind of immigrant in the gender of my desire. Let me be who I am.

Donna M. Cartwright
Founding member New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)


This letter is in response to Nora Vincent’s 6/20/00 article entitled “Cunning Linguists.” I do not usually write letters of protest unless I feel strongly about an issue, but in this case, I found it necessary to do so.

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


This essay in the 6/20 issue which refers to the trans community as the PC police was full of derogatory and outdated concepts as well as just plain mean-spirited. Maybe she’s actually relieved that that honorific has been removed from lesbians, as lesbians for years had that distinction within the queer community. Trans people are doing it for the same reasons lesbians did: to educate people and help them to modify their behavior and speech to be more considerate of others’ realities.

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!


I was appalled to find out about a column written in your established publication by a Ms. Norah Vincent. Ms. Vincent went on to bash transgendered people in her column by saying that we “mutilate our bodies” and are somehow undermining the “gay and lesbian” movement. What trans people choose to do with their bodies is to make themselves more comfortable in their own skin, and keep in mind that many MTF (male to female transsexuals) are lesbians and many FTM ( female to male transsexuals) indentify themselves as gay men. I fail to understand why Ms. Vincent seems to think that these people are undermining the queer movement when I see them as nothing but the “queerest of the queer”. It saddens me when internalized homophobia is shown so blatantly shown in our own community. When is this community going to pull together and learn that our equal rights cannot be won if we all don’t fight together? Wake up folks! We are still being killed left and right! Amanda Milan was a transwoman who was murdered just last week, and statistically, and transperson dies once a month in this country. When is this lunacy going to end? I think Ms. Vincent needs to take a step back and deal with her own internalized homophobia before nominating herself the “gender police”. I could’ve dealt with that kind of slander better if it had come from some right-winged religious bigot than someone in my own community. I find that unacceptable.

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.

Leeanne Mackowski


In response to Norah Vincent’s article (Cunning Linguists - The Last Word, 6/2/00), I’d like to say, with all due respect to the writer’s opinions and her willingness to live androgynously, she shows no real comprehension of the mindset and feelings of transsexuals when she urges them to simply accept the sexual organs they were born with and dress gender-ambiguously, the way she has chosen to. This is rather akin to telling gay people to accept the fact that they are gay, but don’t act on these feelings.

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.

Kerry Lindemann-Schaefer
New Bern, N.C.


I’m disappointed by Norah Vincent’s question in her June 20, 2000 “Cunning Linguists” essay: “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’d like to suggest that by using the word “mutilate” Ms. Vincent is not showing enough sensitivity on an issue that needs plenty of careful discussion.

David Patterson
San Mateo, Calif.


I have heard Norah Vincent referred to as “the poor man’s Camille Paglia.” But after reading “Cunning Linguists” in your June 20 issue, I’m thinking nobody is that poor. If we can make the benighted professor who once made her read a few pages of Foucault in some college class apologize, will she stop playing this one-stringed harp? The poor man is dead already, darling, you can’t hurt him much any more.

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.

Patrick Califia-Rice


Thank you for having the courage to write the article “Cunning Linguists” in the June 20th issue of the Advocate. I am passing on to you a letter I wrote to Richard Haymes at AVP who has been pushing this transgender political agenda to the point where he is attacking in print and through e-mails one of the founders of the Gay Liberation movement whose worst crime has been to ask for an OPEN DIALOGUE with the community on just the issue you wrote about. I thank you sincerely for being open minded an intelligent enough to see the problem and to bring it to the attention of the readers of the Advocate. I also congratulate to Advocate on having the foresight to print it. I am only sorry that my friend Jim has been subjected to everything from death threats to total slander in the media for bringing up the same issue. Fight on!!! Yours in sisterhood. Michela Griffo (Co-founder of Radicalesbians)

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.

Michela Richard


I was very upset to say the least when I received an e-mail from Jim Fouratt last week which included a letter from you to the Rally Chair for HOP. I am not going to dwell on the fact that you say you e-mailed it to your constituents, friends, and supporters, and yet I was not informed of it until Jim’s e-mail.

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 


Would you have published the Norah Vincent piece had she attacked any other segment of the community? If she had suggested that gay people just go straight? I guess the gay community has a tolerance for nazis only if they attack us. Or is there a group you can find that’s even more vulnerable?

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


In her recent editorial entitled “Cunning Linguists” in the June 20th issue of The Advocate, Norah Vincent expressed the views that gender is socially constructed and that sex reassignment surgery for transsexuals is mutilation. There is no convincing evidence, however, that gender identity is socially constructed. Instead, recent scientific studies provide compelling evidence that gender identity is irreversibly biologically specified by birth. However our gender identities arise, they are as immutable to alteration as sexual orientation. It follows that many transgendered people are condemned to psychological discomfort until their sex can be reassigned to conform with their gender identity. Vincents’ editorial reflects profound ignorance and intolerance of others different from herself. As a transsexual and recent subscriber to The Advocate, I was deeply offended by her piece.

Ben A. Barres, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Neurobiology Stanford University School of Medicine


All non-hetros are of our Tribe. The Queer Tribe. No one is to put asunder what nature has joined together.

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.

MotherEdwards@usQueers.com


I would like to let you know that people come in all different colors and genders. Because our culture is fanatic in its faulty assertion that gender can be defined and placed into its own neat little categories, sixty thousand children a year are mutilated by surgeons seeking to treat what they believe would be a devastating physical “deformity”, namely ambiguous genitalia. That is the medical term and it can mean men with really small penises who are operated on and hormonally shifted toward our cultures approximation of womanhood, or women whose clitorises are too large for our society to deal with.

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. 

 


As a transgender person I am appalled at the comments of Norah Vincent. I demand an apology from the writer for the insulting manor in which they disregard the suffering and pain of another human.

“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.

Lori Norman
Los Angeles, Calif.


I am utterly shocked that “The Advocate” would print such hateful, bigoted, insensitive, psychologically ignorant nonsense as I found in Vincent’s article in which she attacked transqueers. What on earth is wrong with your collective politics? Don’t you realize that printing this retrograde, malicious, bigoted trash that you are no better than she is? Those who collude with bigots are bigots themselves. I had expected better from you. You’ve saddened me. You need to educate yourselves about transpeople and move your politics forward. A bit more psychological sophistication might help. Get an education before you hurt more of us.

Kim Rogers
Retired Psychotherapist 


If the following story is true, then I find you no less despicable than Dr. Laura. It’s not because gays are becoming more “mainstream” that they should start bashing more vulnerable minorities.

 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.


I heard about the piece that Ms. Vincent wrote about Transgendered people, and feel that a response from me is required.

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


Ms. Norah Vincent’s comments in June 20 the issue are just so wonderful. Yes, she has made it truly clear to me. I suspect her mother may have wanted her to forgo the status of lesbian writer and “could you please do something with your hair, dear” . And I’m sure that Brandon Tina’s non-surgical transgendered status helped him greatly to adjust. And if the Log Cabin Republicans could just-- well you get the point. Yes, we can all do things to made others feel better. But my human potential doesn’t require me to make Ms. Vincent conformable with my sexuality. Hey, I guess that is how most people feel. If you must ask permission to exist than your ability to survive becomes dependent on others’ whims.

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.

Antonia Gilligan
Jersey City, NJ


Norah Vincent’s statements on Transgendered people really don’t need airing in the Advocate. While you may wish to offer a “well rounded” perspective, the Ms. Vincent’s hostile views are frequently aired in our society and can be heard anywhere. Its not as though her views were new, different, or rarely heard. The Advocate doesn’t print the views of the homophobic christian right, so why does it need to print the views of someone who simply repeats common social prejudice and fear of serious gender identity/body ownership issues?

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.

Donald Grove
Harm Reduction Coalition


It has come to my attention that one of your columnists, Norah Vincent, is writing about transgendered persons in a very negative, dangerous way. This is very disturbing for a gay magazine. Ms. Vincent isn’t trashing someone’s philosophy, politics, etc.; she’s trashing these peoples’ lifestyle/identity. How an individual chooses to relate to their gender or their own bodies doesn’t hurt anyone, regardless of how one feels about them.

Deb Friedman
Takoma Park, MD


I am appalled that a magazine which bills itself as a national news source for and voice of the queer community would have such an editorial lapse as to print Ms. Vincent’s characterization of our transgendered brothers and sisters as “self-mutilators.” As for her other statements, there is as much variety of opinions, values and purpose among transgendered people as there is among any other segment of the population. Perhaps Ms. Vincent should have researched her subject more thoroughly before publicly opining on it.

Stephanie Friedman Chicago, IL


I have received information about the article that your paper ran by one Ms. Vincent. As a transsexual woman I take great exception to such ignorant writings. Your publication should have the integrity to refuse to publish this trash. Ms. Vincent along with Fawell, Dr. Laura and other hate mongers produce the seeds of hate that develop into the instigators of the hate crimes against the LGBT communityies.

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.

Terrianne Summers
Jacksonville, FL


As a member of the queer community, I was very disappointed by Norah Vincent’s recent column in The Advocate, attacking transexuals for “mutilating their bodies.” Vincent robs transpeople of respect and the right to self-determination - the very crimes that mainstream society commits against GLBTQ people, the very crimes we all fight on a daily basis. In lieu of criticizing members of the queer community, I propose that all of us, Ms. Vincent included, seek to understand, support, and show unconditional love to each and every member of the GLBTQ community. The truth is, every queer person is beautiful, and we should celebrate this. There is no room for degradation or lack of respect in our community.

Paula Kirlin
Indianapolis, IN


I am a lesbian who supports all in the freedom to express their sexual orientation and gender expression in whatever nonabusive form they feel is right for them. I am ashamed that the Advocate is a magazine that puts itself out their as a leader in discussing the issues of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community would write such a hateful article agaist transexual folks. Though it takes different forms, the discrimination that all LGB and most certainly T (transgender) folks experience is based on rigid gender and sexual orientation norms in a society that wishes to control us by use of violence, ridicule and shame. We need to support and honor each other if we are all going to one day find peace and feedom in this society.

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.

Neena Hemmady
Chicago, IL


I was quite sad when I received an email from GenderPAC talking about how one of your own columnists, Norah Vincent, giving flack about how trans-people “mutilate” their bodies.

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!

L. Bourn
Allston, MA


I am fed up with narrow minds, study and educate yourselves. Being transgendered is not easy nor did I want this hell! Choice is not the issue, But suicide is for many of us. Feel free to respond. thank you. Ps am 40 yrs old and work construction because of the great wage and being outdoors, I love my job but have now friends at work for our difference in attitude. Have been employee of the year and months over the last 15 years, but no friends!

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.

Donna


Are you writing about language or having a personal pissing contest with the transsexual community, Ms Vincent? I can point to far fewer transsexual people who “reinforce oppressive stereotypes” than I can to non-transsexual people, and that’s by percentage. Before you go calling the kettle black, why don’t you start taking a look at your own “draconian” policing measures in language? Do you really think that your suggestion to transsexuals that we get over it and “live androgynously” is not an effort to police how other people live? It’s just as easy for you to say that as a non-transsexual person as it is for heterosexual people to tell homosexual people to live celibately as an alternative to our sinful sexual practices.

Justin Cascio


I was recently shocked to hear of Norah Vincent’s attack on transpeople in your magazine. I have recently been re-framing my attitude towards the advocate and had almost decided that it was a magazine that might approach a fair representation of the queer community; obviously, i was wrong. As a young transperson who does not feel the need for surgery, i support wholeheartedly my transfriends who do wish to change their bodies. what right does ms. vincent have to make judgements about any segment of our community. I become more disillusioned with the queer movement every day was i watch how transpeople are left out at every turn. Why does our community never learn how destructive this pattern is? We gain rights for one select group (gender-straight, rich, white, gay men) and then this group turns around, joins the mainstream, and discriminates against those who were left behind. Please refrain from such brainless trans-bashing in the future? Your magazine needs a stronger trans presence, not a stronger trans exclusion.

Amanda Macomber
Philadelphia, PA


I am deeply disturbed that your publication would allow such a hatefull view as those of Ms. Vincent (or should I call Her Dr. Luara). I guess She does not know the difference between Gender Identity & Sexual Preference, or is it simply open season on the “GENDERQUEER” by the gay community to get the Dr. Luara’s and the religious reich off your backs? A sort of sacrifical lamb if you will. Sadly, one Transperson is being killed a month and given our numbers, I suspect that our per capita murder rate is amoung the highest for any group.

Robin Ann Dixson
Arizona


I found Norah Vincent’s recent featured column on her opinion of transexual individuals to be both deplorable and inflammatory.

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.

Jay F.


I’m writing about the artical about transexuality by Norah Vincent in the most recent issue of the Advocate. I was appalled that she would attack members of the GLBT community for simply existing and refusing to closet themselves. Not only is it disgusting that anyone would be so closed minded and self centered as to not consider the pain and anguish of waking up each morning trapped in a body that will always be foreign, and it shows that the GLBT community is losing our public sense of solidarity that a featured writer in a leading GLBT publication would present the veiws in such an aggressive manner. While I feel it is important to see all veiwpoints of issues, it is not appropriate to be attacked rather than informed.

Katze Ludeke

Facilitator of Queer Youth Exist http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/queeryouthexist 


It is difficult to begin to comment regarding Ms Vincent’s article considering the level of her errors of fact and lack of objectivity. If she is genuinely interested in the issue of gender identity disorder and the people who it affects, she could at least have the decency to do some serious research of the literature and speak to the health professionals who face the day to day battles of people with this condition. Instead, she feels it more appropriate to reccomend a course of action which has, in past well documented medical experience, caused significant suffering, pain, and loss of life. It obviously has not occurred to her that for a proportion of people with gender identity disorder, transition to an expression of gender most congruent with the person’s identity is a mechanism of survival, minimizing severe psychological distress and maximizing their functionality in life. For about 10% of people with gender identity disorder, this will mean undergoing some form of surgery. Surgery is successful and highly beneficial to some people, particularly those with a sound, sustained and fully crystalized cross gender identity. For these people, surgery is a release, not a mutilation. A chance to be as congruent as they can. Ms Vincent seems to significantly lack and real insight into the lives of transsexuals nor has she even attempted to gain such insight. Rather, she has stated a rather ignorant and ill informed opinion which has little basis in medical or social fact The fact that she accuses the transsexual community of reinforcing gender stereotypes is utterly bizzare. The transsexual community is full of people who identify as male, female and anywhere between those two socially constructed states. This comment alone suggests that Ms Vincent has never had any real contact with the transsexual population. On the whole, Ms Vincent’s article does little other than to devalue the lives of transsexuals and to further enhance the isolation and stigmatization that many of these people suffer. At worst, her article is little other than an encouragement to those who would discriminate and commit violence and mayhem against this community. After all, the first jucy rationalization that many biggots have is “they are not human” or “they are less than people like me.” It is neither smart or intelligent to write a a poorly researched article.

Rhian Cope


I do not see how you can claim to be an advocate of anyone, when you allow such hate-mongers as Ms. Vincent to be allowed to declare “Open-Season” on genderqueers. Such behavior only adds fuel to the fire of bigotry, ridicule, and hatred against all of us who choose to express our gender orientation differently. I would have hoped that a so-called “respectable” magazine, such as yours, would have held itself to higher standards. Shame on you.

Sabrina


Although there have been at least three transgender murders reported in the media in the last ten weeks, the June 20th issue of “The Advocate” features columnist Norah Vincent attacking transexuals as inferior and even contemptible beings who are “mutilating their bodies” (would this be comparable to her mutilation of people’s right to simply be who they are rather than who she believes they ought be?) Ms. Vincent next claims that transexuals, “the most Draconian arm of the PC language police,” merely “reinforce oppressive stereotypes.” A stereotype in this case would appear to be people behaving in a way in which Ms. Vincent disapproves. Ms. Vincent certainly reinforces the stereotype of “intolerant bigot.” No doubt Ms. Vincent and “The Advocate” feel that people who are murdered, or otherwise brutalized (raped?), bring it upon themselves.

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.


It is amazing to me that The Advocate - which has been doing an increasingly good job of reporting about transgendered people - would publish the kind of column that Norah Vincent wrote for the June 20th issue. A column which serves only to play on stereotyped imagry by claiming that transgendered people mutilate their bodies and on being holier-than-thou in presuming to tell trans people how to live their lives - i.e., androgynously. Is this any different than someone telling a gay person that they’d be better off living as straight? I think not.

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.

Spencer Bergstedt
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.

David Dahlgren


You guys suck more than i already thought you did. i knew that your staff was primarily white assimilationists, but i didnt’ realize that you felt it was ok to print hateful demeaning shit such as ms. vincents last piece ragging on gender queers. i have been beaten up several times, by assholes that think like her. in fact a lesbian once. my college queer youth group will no longer subscribe you your pathetic excuse for alternative media. i hope you feel the wieght of violence against queers, particularly gender queers on you minds and hearts.

Jordan T Garcia
proud tranny punk


Nora Vincent’s cunningly crafted Last Word (Cunning linguists, The Advocate, June 20, 2000, p. 144) cries out for some rebuttal from the transsexual and intersexed communities. In parts of her essay, she really seemed to understand one aspect of the distinction between sex assignment and gender identity. In the last half of the third column, just as she was about to reach the realm of a reasonable conclusion, she fumbled, crashed and burned. But there were earlier sputtering comments that indicate Ms. Vincent’s apparent lack of true understanding.

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.

Joann Prinzivalli
White Plains NY


The June 20th issue of The Advocate features columnist Norah Vincent attacking transexuals for “mutilating their bodies.”

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


Your magazine has reached a hypocritical high! Bravo!! It’s baffling how you can help lead a campaign against Dr. Laura(one I do support) and then go ahead a print a very bigoted article against transgendered individuals. Who the FUCK are you, Norah Vincent, to judge a whole group of people and recommend some easy bullshit answer in order to fulfill your own personal agenda of what the queer community should be. Maybe you should start talking to some trans people and reading some material before submitting such an article. Shame on you. And Shame on you, Advocate, for publishing the article. Your hypocrisy is painful to witness.--Dillon Font “I’m just looking for some code to connect. I’m ready... I’m willing...I’m...Aaaaah!”

Miranda July


You are obviously only espousing what has been poured into you. as there is no way that you can call Transsexual’s self mutilating... Had you done your Medical research on the subject you would know that it is an actual condition recognized and treatable. Those souls who had the mishap of being born to the wrong body should be respected and supported in their search for self. Do your research... you will see I am right. Hiding your head in the sand will not make it go away and you have an obligation to the public to know a subject thoroughly before claiming to be an expert and spewing forth a damaging opinion. No, before you ask ,”I am not a transsexual” I am a born female complete... But I support those who were not so lucky at birth, as should you.

Sandra Riceman


Since I read the Advocate, and have found it in the past a reasonable and rational publication, I must draw the conclusion that there some of Dr. Laura’s undercover operatives in your midst there. Who else could possibly have the unmitigated gall to insult the transgendered community, as has been done recently in your name. “Mutilate our bodies”? “Denial that we are simply gay?” Seig Heil....

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.

Barbara Yaple
Chair Bellingham Gender Group
B’ham, WA


Tell Norah Vincent to include everyone who’s ever pierced or tattoo’d anything along with transsexuals under the rubric “self-mutilating freaks.” Not sure yet if this also covers plastic surgery in general and women who have to have C-sections when they deliver, but will send followup after further reflection.

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.

Kiva Offenholley


Your magazine ran an article by Norah Vincent in which she attacks transsexual as self butchers. She appears to not have the slightest clue of the pain that transsexual go through feeling that their body doesn’t match their mind. She has fueled the fire that separates transsexuals and the gay community. Perhaps she is jealious of the fact that when a transsexual completes her journey to womanhood her body and mind are as one and that she can persue avenues that she can’t take, having a relationship with a man. I pity her for her ignorance. I hope the gay and lesbian community views her work as a radical point of view. I am sure that they will. I have found that most of the people in the gay and lesiban community to be very intelligant. I am sure that they will see right through this and ignore this viewpoint.

Jenny Davis


All of us--gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender--deserve the right to express our gender orientation free from ridicule, bigotry, and violence. Your article was atrocious and disturbing in an age when discrimination against any group of human beings should NOT be tolerated.

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.

Jessica Kelly


Well, thanx for trying to take away my right to try to live happily, Norah. Who the hell asked you to play judge over how I should live? Never use as a subject matter what you can’t grasp intellectually. Oh, by the way, I have not mutilated myself. That would be an act of aggression against myself. Not unlike your hurtful words. Very not cool Advocate for allowing someone to trash one of your own!

Christopher Magnuson


Regarding nora vincent- hey miss ignoramous you have a lot to learn- you might think it is mutilation but alot of us wonderful transsexuals look at it as peeling away dead layers of skin-and matching our souls and spirits connecting finally to our body-you may choose to live androgynously as this is your choice-i don’t have this luxury i must have these changes to just survive-as for god-he is with me and gives me the strength and resources to become my true self-and he came to me crying about you and your misunderstandings of transfolk and told me to educate you-hey get your head out of my vagina- i am talking to the other one-got it now-understand.

Samuel Gilbert


I know a lot of people are probably going to trash the recent article “Cunning Linguists,” by Norah Vincent... but I think in a lot of ways, ze’s right. Just insensitive. For Norah, being of indeterminate gender is comfortable... it feels right, at least according to ze’s article.

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?


Give it up! Your proposterous article about sex and gender is so off the wall that it simply smacks of illiterate and unfounded thoughts. To bad you haven’t read the latest.

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.

Angela Brightfeather
non-transexual


However couched in pseudo-semantics, Norah Vincent’s article was just another in her series of vicious attacks on transsexual gender identity. The first was an article in the Village Voice with the cutesy title “Suddenly Not Susan” accompanied by a drawing portraying a female-to-male transsexual as a Barbie doll crudely sewing ‘boy parts’ on itself with Frankenstein stitches. This resulted in the Metropolitan Gender Network picketing the Village Voice with a crowd of around 100 people including two city council members and the director of the Anti-Violence project. I feel that the Advocate owes the transsexual community an apology and that Norah Vincent needs to learn the difference between intellectual integrity and spreading hate speech.

Chelsea Elisabeth
Goodwin Metropolitan Gender Network


As a long time subscriber I could hardly believe this trashy fill in article “CUNNING LINGUISTS BY NORAH VINCENT” What kind of one sided,anti Transgendered/sexual spew is this? This is not a view I nor many others care to support of our most misunderstood queer minority. Is’nt this type of negativeaty what we are have been working against in our communty?. As she states,”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.” So this statement reflects that we are all abnormal since we are mostly non breeders as well in our community. It sounds Like Norah needs more exposure and compassion towards all of our diversities. I think Trans folk have more courage than most people I know. You need to review your writer’s ( as well as spelling and punctuation) pet peeves and hope they study about topics before they try to give their bigoted “better than you” dribble to the rest of us. I LOVE ALL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS FOR WHAT’S INSIDE AS WELL AS OUTSIDE!!! DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS!!! IS’NT IT TIME TO STOP ALL SEPARATISM IN ALL FORMS!!!! GET OVER YOURSELVES!!!!! HATE AND FEAR = IGNORANCE!!! Poud to come so far to be me,and still care about you for being you. 

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. 


I doubt this letter will even be read, but I had to say something. I trudged my way through this droll little article with pretty much no feeling on it one way or another. People who like to argue semantics are usually very shallow folks who have some cerebral ability that they like to flaunt and since their arguments are pointless, it is pointless to argue with them. However, when I got down toward the end I encountered this paragraph: “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.” As a female to male transsexual myself, I am outraged and offended. I can tell you truly that there have been only a small number of things in my whole life that have genuinely offended me, and this is one of them. It had the same stinging impact of a racial epithet. First of all, transsexual surgery is a means to correct a birth defect not “mutilation.” Would she call it mutilation if we were correcting a cleft palate? I noted, she also didn’t even mention those of us like myself that have transitioned to male. What fashion impact does she think we are trying to make? She has never learned with the pain of being out of place in her own body obviously. She thinks it has something to do with conformity to society’s perception of gender, and it doesn’t. It has to do with what you are living with inside. The battle of soul vs. body is how I think of it. She also seems to think that she has done something great that we didn’t think of by stating that she is both sir’ed and ma’amed. Most of us at one time or another tried living between genders.. er, sexes, because when you go into transition, your whole life gets turned upside down and inside out. Most of us just want to be at peace in our bodies and not make a political statement everywhere we go. How dare her tell us how “it should be” when she has no concept whatsoever of the pain in our lives that brings us to the final point of transition. Does she know almost half of transsexuals commit suicide because they either can’t find help or they can’t afford it and would rather not live than live a lie? Does that sound like a group of people out to make a fashion statement? How would she react I wonder, if I wrote an article about how I think all lesbians are pathetic losers and how I think they should all stop pretending to be men and go ahead and transition to male? I don’t really feel this way, but that argument would be as cruel and inhuman and moronic as the crap she wrote and probably got paid for. Okay, I will stop my rant, but I am truly shocked your mag would let this intolerant piece of garbage get published. It was flatly irresponsible.

Coghan B.


I am writing to respond to Norah Vincent’s 06/20/00 article “Cunning Linguists.” This transphobic article does nothing to show how language actually works, is worked upon, or is formulated, except in supporting the “pious postmodernists” she attempts to slander by proving that language and words in themselves, work only with regards to the syntactical (hyperbolic) relationship to the speaker, thus having no inherent meaning that is seporable from that of the speaker. Therefor, her comment upon dictionaries is proven false by her own message, without having to remember that dictionaries and lexiconography does not work to validate language (such as the word “ain’t”), but only to provide something of a definition and gramatical guide to that word. As far as words such as “sex” and “gender,” it is absolutely naive and quite laughable to think that the blend of such words are due primarily to transexuals, as Vincent claims. First, it is necessary to say that such words are necessarily blurred, even thought they do not “mean” the same thing, as they are both working with the same subject matter. Second, with the transgender movement very young, the word transgender less than 20 years old and transexuality only being possible (in the modern definition) in the last 50 years, it wouldbe obtuse to assume that such people (still relatively unorganized and marginalized) have had such a dramatic impact upon the English langauge as to entirely re-define two entire concepts. The femitist movement has been trying to redefine the word Ms. for over 40 years actively and persistently, and still it is far from being as “fashionable” as Vincent claims the sex/gender blur to be. That is a massive accomplishment and, if true, would elude to the massive political and social power of trans people to pull of such a feat. And last of all, for these words to have been “hijacked by politics” would be to ignore the ostensibility of semantical/semiotical ramifications therein. Had this author actually read anything upon this subject she claims to have such an indepth, insider’s knowledge, she would know that Freud, Lacan, Derrida, Kristeva and others, have proven that language is de facto political. The act alone of understanding language is a political act, which entails ramifications; which deliniates the argument that language could ever be non-political, thus “hijacked” in the first place. Language is a necessarily fluid system of signs and signifiers. It is also important to keep in mind that sex and gender only have meaning and value when referenced in a system that already has imposed values/meanings/worth for such. Thus, sex and gender are both socially constructed, as they are necessarily participants in this system. As to the outragous and grotesque transphobia underlying this entire article, I must ask the question, how is a transexual or any trans in the wrong in pursuing hir own happiness? To even argue the a transexual is “mutilating” their body, Vincent is clinging to heterosexist, nostalgic views of the natural order of things. Wakeup call: no matter how much GLBT advocates claim that non-heterosexuality is normal, it is not by any means the norm of human behavior. Trans people do not reinforce sexist stereotypes, for if they did, they would be accepted by the patriarchical powers that be, rather than being attacked, murdered, harassed and disparaged, among other things. There is a difference between cosmetic surgery and SRI surgery, which is exactly why the AMA and APA approve of it. (And this androgyny argument, read some women’s studies material; this argument has already forwarded and debunked again and again.) Vincent herein contradicts herself again and again. If sex and gender don’ matter to her, as she claims, then why is she so concerned with transgendered people. Because it threatens her identity. If if didn’t, why would she want people to live she does: “[Like] I do every day....and that’s how it should be....[like] God gave you.” While this is reading between her rambling lines, it does essentially boil down to just that. Vincent is happy with her life, so it is obviouly the life for everyone else to be happy, or to at least keep her life a happy one. Here is a new thought: let everyone pursue the right to their own happiness, even if it might mean they will deviate from heterosexuality, or sexist and gender norms.

Nico Grey


While I agree with much of Ms. Vincent’s ideas about gender v. sex, I did not appreciate her negative attitude and pejorative language regarding transsexuals. I thought I could expect more from a publication that targets gays, a segment of society far too familiar with prejudice and bigotry.

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?

J. R.


This article was passed along to me by a very insulted portion of the Advocate readership. It is difficult for me to envision the apparent disregard of a whole sector of people that this article insults. Normally, one does not have to look much further than their own back yard to witness the hate generated by the ignorant anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-diversity agenda. It’s disheartening to see the same in the pages of the Advocate.

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.

A.


I’m writing in response to the inaccurate and offensive article by Norah Vincent. I’ll skip through her harping on transsexuals as “PC language police” simply for their efforts to help those ignorant of their condition, and skip straight to what truly offends me: “transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender? ..... 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.”

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.

Jeremy


I was shocked to see Norah Vincent’s letter about transsexuals in the pages of your magazine. The article was offensive, childish, and conveyed an unbelievable amount of ignorance. The fact that you thought it appropriate to provide such a forum is really very sad. Please do not condescend to the readers of your magazine by justifying printing such a ridiculous article on some first amendment grounds. That only expresses a very shallow and juvenile understanding of these principles. There are plenty of forums for homophobic garbage. We read them every day, even in mainstream journals and newspapers, and you are not a magazine that in the past has published every side of every issue, nor should you have to. So why do so in this situation unless you were trying to lend some legitimacy to the ideas. If you were really so concerned about Vincent’s obnoxious viewpoint within the gay community, then why not get a transsexual person to write an article about Vincent. Or at the very least you could have found some “neutral” “expert” to present both sides. I picked up a copy of your magazine at the Lambda Legal Defense Fund’s annual fundraiser and was quite happy to see its great graphics and interesting articles. I was excited to get a subscription, but, having read Vincent’s letter, I will not pay for a subscription for your magazine, will urge my friends to stop buying it, and will, to the extent I am able, discourage businesses and people I know who already advertise in the magazine from doing so in the future.

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


If Ms. Vincent had singled out any other segment of the gay community in such a manner, it is hard to believe that you would print it. How is her evaluation of transgenders different from Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson evaluating the realities of being a gay man or a lesbian to an immoral choice we made one Wednesday afternoon when nothing was worth watching on television. She should go back to her Log Cabin Republican meeting and work on defending Laura Schlessinger.

Charlotte Henry
Atlanta, GA


Is it true that you published an article by Norma Vincent about transsexuals attacking transexuals for “mutilating their bodies”? I find this rather appaling that in 2000 The Advocate, which prides itself on being a progressive mouthpiece for the community, would stand behind such unsupportable and conservative dogma. Please explain.

Carolyn Halley


As a lesbian who supports all in the freedom to express their sexual orientation and gender in whatever nonabusive form they feel best expresses themself, I am ashamed that a magazine that puts itself out their as a leader in discussing the issues of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community would write such a hateful article agaist transexual folks. Though it takes different forms, the discrimination that all lgb and, yes, t, folks experience is based on rigid gender and sexual orientation norms in a society that wishes to control us by use of violence, ridicule and shame. We need to support and honor each other if we are all going to one day find peace and feedom in this society. 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.

Joy Wright
Chicago, IL


Question: What is the difference between Norah Vincent and “Dr. Laura” or Paul Cameron? Answer: Not too damned much.

Thank you for providing yet another example of an oppressed minority oppressing an even smaller minority.

Michelle Steiner
Sunnyvale, Calif.


Come on, what were you thinking?! Norah “Trannies are biological errors” Vincent has been the scourge of the New York media for years now. Her hatred of anything to the left of Rush Limbaugh is norious. What were you all trying to do? Sell a few extra copies by sensationalizing her bigotry against transgenders? Hands off my oppressed but courageous fellow genderfuckers, and back to serious journalism, please.

Anthony Williams


I have received a free copy of your magazine at the Millennium March and am thinking about subscribing. However, I have some questions before I commit my money.

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.

Vickie Kostic
Washington, DC


It’s really sad that you feel the need to attack transsexual people. Or maybe you’re afraid to come out as an FTM? Well, regardless of your personal grudge against transsexual people our community isn’t going take this kind of bullshit anymore! Clearly you don’t get it. Transsexual people aren’t merely here to “reinforce oppressive stereotypes” we transition to keep from killing ourselves and often from being killed by bigots like YOU! If you don’t think this is a serious issue for us please look at http://www.gender.org/remember/index.html. You’ll see how many people have died because people like you couldn’t accept transgender people. The thought you would ask people to “live androgynously” and forgo sex-related medical services is insane. That’s like asking people to wear a sign and ask to be ridiculed and beaten.

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!

Michelle


I read with shock and horror the latest transphobic commentary that your columnist Norah Vincent has unleashed. It is so dismaying to realize that, rather than create an inclusive and progressive model of social discourse which supports human dignity, you would give voice to such positions that encourage exclusion, and ultimately, hatred.

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,
Portland, Ore.


Any transsexuals reinforcing oppressive stereotypes are transsexuals being used. Many transsexuals do not adhere to the bi-polar concept of gender, and are not the pawns of a patriarchal society.

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.

Suzanne Gallagher,
who is neither male nor female but is proud to call herself transgendered.


Imagine my shock at discovering, after successfully living, working, and loving as a woman in mainstream society, that Ms. Norah Vincent feels my 1962 transsexual surgery helped to “reinforce oppressive stereotypes”. I am even more dismayed that The Advocate is printing such offensive and divisive commentary. Had I lived “androgynously”, as suggested by Ms. Vincent, I could have never married the man I loved, appeared in eight major films, thirty-six television shows (including a year on The Red Skelton Show), or happily taught theatre as a respected (female) coach and director at a university. If the life I have enjoyed for the past 38 years is the result of “mutilating” my body--then please pass the scalpel and sign me up for another glorious surgery.
In Norah Vincent’s discussion of transsexual concerns, she continues the tradition of the “gender-straight” queer community alienating and denigrating the trans community. I imagine that with this deep moral and political compromise she hopes to make the queer community more acceptable appearing. However, she also hinders the understanding of what a full freedom would look like. I am discouraged by the Advocate’s willingness to publish and consequently encourage this divisive and short sighted perspective.

H. Summerhayes


Please tell this bitch to stick to topics she knows about. Transexualism isn’t one of them.

Sarah Martin


As the dyke partner of a male-to-female transsexual, I am amazed at the utter ignorance and apparent malice in your recent column CUNNING LINGUISTS.

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.

Christine Beatty
North Hollywood, Calif.


I cannot believe that a magazine that caters to the GLBT community would allow an individual to write and publish an article such as this in The Advocate. This is a blatant attack on the transgendered and is biased against transsexuals. Regarding us as self-mutilating freaks, Norah Vincent has opened the door for more oppression and discrimination by other communities. This is intolerable. Telling us to live our lives “androgynously” is unacceptable. In regards to myself, I want to live in the gender that Is my birth-right. I have lived in the wrong gender for 45 years, maybe Norah should try living in the opposite gender for that long. She might learn just how intolerable it is. I am proud of who I am and no one will take that away from me.

Sincerely, KAREN DENISE COLE M2F TRANSSEXUAL


If “sex and gender don’t matter”, as argued by Norah Vincent in her condescending column admonishing the transgendered, them why does she utilize over half her column space to give readers a lecture on the lexicon of “gender” and “sex”? Identity cannot be dictated by the dictionary. Language and cultural assumptions may try to compartmentalize our experiences, but that does not mean that words accurately describe and portray the scope of reality. Perhaps the words were wrong to begin with, not the people they attempt to define.

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

Riverside, Calif.


I’m afraid Norah Vincent got it wrong in her article regarding the difference between “sex” and “gender”. Specifically, I am referring to her implication that the unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, had added the second meaning of “gender” as a nod to those who have “hijacked” the language for political purposes.

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!”

Luke Owens


I don’t usually do this. (How many times have you heard that one?) But I couldn’t let Norah Vincent’s myopic diatribe about transsexuals go by without comment. I’m more than a little sick and tired of the Oppressed becoming the Oppressors. Judging by the big words that Ms. Vincent uses, I’d guess that she’s been through the academic system. I hope she reads my letter that I’m sending as an attachment, and takes a lesson from the School of Life.

If you could print the letter in the Readers’ Forum, I’d appreciate it.

In Human Spirit.

Shadow Morton


After giving a four paragraph diatribe denouncing variety within the English language and attacking anyone who speaks differently from herself, Norah Vincent adds insult to injury by stereotyping transsexuals as “the most Draconian arm of the PC language police.” Well, If that ain’t the sergeant calling the kettle black!

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.”

Jason Rasmussen
Madison, Wis. 


For several decades now, those in the medical and psychiatric professions have been trying to figure out the whys and hows of transsexuality. They needn’t have spent so much time. All they had to do was ask expert Norah Vincent. Transsexuals go through the pain, expense and danger of sex reassignment in a misguided attempt to be revolutionary and thwart gender norms, when all they would really have to do is just be like Norah. Why can’t everyone just be like Norah? Everything would be so much easier. Yes, Norah, there is a big difference between sex and gender and I don’t know anyone who thinks they are the same thing. Yes, Norah, many transsexuals do reinforce the existing sex stereotypes--they really are people assigned the wrong sex at birth. They have no desire to change our culture. They desire to correct what they consider a birth error and live comfortably within the culture’s sex and gender roles and expectations. They are not attempting to be radical. They are attempting to conform. Norah, if you ever truly want to find out about transsexuals, a very diverse population that will not always fall into your guidelines for acceptability, I will be happy to educate you.

Matthew Kailey
Female-to-Male Coordinator, Gender Identity Center of Colorado


I had to cringe a bit when I read the Last Word by Norah Vincent entitled “Cunning Linguists” in the June 20th issue of The Advocate. What Vincent wrote reflects a widespread view of how sex and gender operate, and myself as well, until I had the opportunity to read more of the great work that has been done by trans theorists such as Riki Wilchins and Kate Bornstein.

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).

Brant Berndlmaier

New Haven, Con.


I hope you’re planning to let a transgendered person respond, at column-length, to Norah Vincent’s column “Cunning linguists,” someone like James Green from FTM International. If I had that honor, this is what I would say to her:

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.

Sean Gardner
Santa Fe, N.M.


Norah Vincent seems more than usually illogical and mean in her column on transsexuals, “Cunning Linguists” [June 20]. While I’ve never been particular impressed with her columns (is she your lightweight replacement for heavyweight looney Camille Paglia?), her take on transsexuality and queer theory was not only annoying, it was inaccurate. First Vincent attacks “queer theorists” for having blurred sex and gender. Funny. Every queer theorist I’ve read makes it very clear that sex, gender, and sexuality are related but by no means equivalent categories. (Does Vincent even know what queer theory is? Maybe she should do her homework before making such arguments?) That (faulty) accusation out of the way, she turns to attacking transsexuals and transgendered people for not sticking with the genitals they’ve been given and for “mutilating” their bodies. It seems the body is essential and sacred ground for identity in Vincent’s view, since she wants transgendered people to accept their “poor blameless privates” and learn to live androgynously. The confusion of gender norms in androgyny, she says, is more “radical” than refusing sexual assignment and transforming the body to fit one’s gender identity. I thought we abandoned that naive celebration of androgyny in the late 1970s. While transsexual surgery may raise many questions about the nature of our gender identities and the relation of those identities to what may lie between our legs, Vincent’s anti-intellectual and dismissive rant is neither insightful nor helpful.

Ed Madden
Associate Professor of English University of South Carolina Columbia, S.C.


In response to your “Last Word” column of June 20th:

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.

Gail Piche


I must protest the article by Norah Vincent, entitled “Cunning Linguists,” [June 20] who made every effort to trash transsexuals. Her perspective on how ětranssexuals mutilate their bodies in order to make them conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and genderî is an insulting, outdated, radical view held by only a handful of lesbian feminists. Not only has she no compassion for those with gender dysphoria, she also lacks knowledge about the condition. She claims that ětranssexuals, the most draconian arm of the PC language police, are fond of misusing the word ëgenderí--mostly because, unlike the word ësexí thereís no biological imperative attached to it....Sex, however, much to every transsexualís chagrin is not socially constructed.î First, that makes no sense as most transsexuals, as well as scientists, consider gender dysphoria to be genetic and not socially constructed. Secondly, and perhaps most telling of Ms. Vincentís ignorance on the subject matter, she makes no mention of the distinction between ěgender identityî and ěgender roleî. Most psychologists believe gender identity (our self identification as male or female) is innate and is what is sex-opposite in transsexuals, while gender role is the social construct of the biologically based sex and gender identity.

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.


Ease up on the Rules

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.

Willy Wilkinson
Oakland, Calif.


Is it your magazines intent to alienate the trans community? If it isn’t then who in their right mind would allow bashing of a group that helps support this magazine and the community it services. I am referring to the article “Cunning Linguist” by Norah Vincent. I do not appreciate being told that I have mutilated my body in order to conform. If I wanted to hear that I could listen to Dr. Laura.

Thank you for you time,

Stacey Levin


It shouldn’t surprise me that Norah Vincent produced such a ludicrous and insensitive essay, since this is the writer who insists on calling Brandon Teena a “she”. But even though I’m not surprised, I’m still hurt. And I’m angry that The Advocate let such foolishness be printed. Would you print a column written by a Christian giving advice on how Muslims and Jews should live their life? Would you allow a white writer to instruct african-american people on how to be “a revolutionary”? I think not. And most importantly, would you allow a writer who’s done no significant research on a topic to write on that subject? The answer to that must be yes, because that’s what “Cunning Linguists” is--a mess of myths and backward logic in the guise of something “radical”. My transition is not some fucking “boob job”. And if she bothered to consult any psychologist or psychiatrists who’ve studied transexuals, she might realize that. Or she may never realize it, because she’s obviously not a transexual. I am transgendered and I have never in my life said that sex and gender don’t matter. I may _wish_ that they don’t matter, but that is a far different statement. I don’t even deny the fact that I was born female. I indentify as a trans-guy which is different from a bio-guy. But if having my “sex” changed on my driver’s license means I’m less likely to be harassed or beaten up, please let me indulge myself occasionally and not be an uber-radical 24 hours a day. Being androgynous (as Vincent suggests) is far different from being transgendered, just as being bisexual is different from being gay--there is lots of overlap between all of them, but the experience of each is still distinct. I don’t presume to speak for all other transexuals. I would never presume to speak for Vincent or advise her on how to be radical--I would appreciate the same courtesy from her.

Ray, Chicago, Ill.


Norah....... I’ve walked a mile in your shoes........ I hated myself....... so I had surgery.... now I am the man I’ve always been. Try it.... you might like it.................... Dean
I am so tired of people saying that transsexuals mutilate their bodies, and I’ll bet most surgeons who perform sex reassignment surgery are sick of it too. In her article, Cunning Linguists, Norah Vincent urges transsexuals to ‘live androgynously’ ...with all the polymorphy God gave us.’ To which I as a postoperative female to male transsexual say to Ms. Vincent: why don’t you forego having nonconformist gender bent sex with women and have normal missionary sex with men. If you truly want to thwart sex norms, don’t pull a fast one on your blameless privates. Accept the divine heterosexuality that God gave you and suck some biologically male dick like all good Christian women. Trust me honey, you’re about two steps away from the chop yourself.

Ethan Zimmerman
Seattle, Wash.


The last place I expected to see a gratuitous put-down of those who are different is in a magazine that celebrates difference. Trans people use a variety of strategies to find peace. For some, it’s surgery or hormones. For others it’s simply a change in presentation. Lumping us together as delusional fashioned-crazed misfits is a cheap shot. Words can hurt, especially when they are presented in a clever package. Let’s make a deal, Norah- you don’t make fun of my missing parts, I won’t critique your haircut.

Mark Hopkins


I am writing in regards to the editorial by Norah Vincent in this months issue. I have never written to a magazine, but I have never been as outraged or offended as I was by this self-righteous know-it-all’s ramblings. I am not a transsexual, but I am a bisexually identified partner to a female to male transsexual. This women was born the way that she was and my partner was born the way he is. She has no idea what its like to be a transsexual or to feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body, and quite frankly I don’t either. But I do see how much pain he has had to endure in his life being the way he is. Well if this women wants to be a radical, feminist, rebel, Ani Difranco wannabe, that’s her own deal. But she has no right to tell everyone what or what not to do with their OWN genitals. I am not interested in reading a magazine that supports and PRINTS her claims of knowledge on a subject she knows absolutely nothing about. What exactly does she think the “T” in LGBT is?? Where exactly does she suggest that transsexuals go for support, definitely not the advocate. Oh, that’s right, she says to “live androgynously if your such a revolutionary”. Well, being transsexual has nothing to do with being a revolutionary, it has to do with living your life the way you feel it should be, which I would say IS pretty revolutionary. After this subscription is up, I do not plan on renewing, not if you continue to print such prejudicial and self exalting articles. Why don’t you all take another look at who is fighting these equality battles with you.With people like Norah Vincent in your forces you’ll need all the help you can get, even if it’s from “conforming” transsexuals. I give my permission to print this.

Tiffany Hardin


There was something in Norah Vincent’s “last word” article that stroked my fur the wrong way. There seemed to be so little understanding of trans issues in the sentence, “So why, as adults, do transsexuals mutilate their bodies in order to conform to the fashionable version of the opposite sex and gender?” My sex is female. I am, however, a transgendered person who does not identify as a heterosexual male - but as a gay male. It takes more than “mutilation,” or good “fashion sense” to emotionally pull that off on a daily basis. What’s lost in the article is any feeling for the emotional crises trans people suffer both internally - and living in today’s world. If I butch myself up, I’m seen as a lesbian. I’m not a lesbian. If I go gay, people see me as a nutcase, which I’m not - uh, I think. So, there is this sort of androgynous wasteland where trans females who identify as gay males dwell. An actor’s paradise, if you’re up to the stress of constant improvisation. Good lord, if *all* it took was a surgically-attached dick, or a non-conformist attitude...

No Names Please


The recent sensationalistic article by Nora Vincent on language and transexualism was a predictable ‘gender revolutionary’ stance. The unfortunate truth, Miss Vincent, is that many of us don’t care that living androgynously might be “a lot more revolutionary” (than sex reassignment surgery). Many of us, unlike you, are not going for the more-cutting-edge-than-thou prize. We just want to live in the correct body.

Exactly who are you claiming to Advocate for? Cut the bull and take transexuals off that list.

Ray R.
San Francisco, Calif.


I’m so happy for Norah Vincent (re: recent Advocate article ‘Cunning Linguists’) that she was born in the body that matches her own gender identity. I don’t however believe this gives her the right to ridicule the many people in this world whose gender identity is at odds with their biological sex. In her column she depicts transsexuals as foolish and reactionary individuals who seek to conform both mentally and physically to a social construct of gender. That’s pretty insulting. In fact transpersons are some of the most knowledgeable persons around about gender constructs. We have to be. We’ve had to justify ourselves to ourselves long before we tried to justify ourselves to anyone else.

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.

Zane Mackeirnen
Australia


I don’t generally read the Advocate because I am a heterosexual man. However I happen to be a female to male transsexual, so when I heard there was a column about transsexuals in your magazine, I checked it out.

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.

Jay Snider


Thank you to Norah Vincent for showing us what a cunning linguist she is. Sex and gender, she informs us, do not mean the same thing. Sex is between your legs, gender is a construct that is somehow out there somewhere. True radicals juggle that constructed reality, challenge it, refuse to conform. Transsexuals, wretched creatures that we are, miss out on Ms Vincent’s brilliant insight and mutilate our bodies to conform sex to gender. Excuse me? Her witty banter is evidence of her complete ignorance and lack of respect for transsexual individuals. As if we were less than human. Somehow, in the gay and lesbian community which has made major inroads against discrimination and oppression in the last three decades, transsexuals are still fair game. Objects of scorn and ridicule and for no reason other than to make the author of this essay look clever. As a gay female-to-male transsexual I already challenge norms within my own community as well as the general assumptions that are made about sex and gender. I thought the two terms were supposed to be connected for most of my life and I struggled to make my gender--that which was expressed to the outside world and that which was part of my fundamental identity as a human being--conform to my biological sex. The outside stuff was easy, but it never changed the way I felt about my gender. Imagine the freedom that the realization, in my late 30s, that feeling male does not preclude loving men has given me. And yes I want to change my body with surgery and hormones so that I can live in the realm of constructed gender, in a manner that accords to the way I have felt since I was a child, as a male person. The process is called gender reassignment. As for the “toilet bits”, change is currently unaffordable and less than stellar in its results in my opinion. And I don’t care. Because I know what transsexuals (and intersexed individuals who were given an arbitrary gender at birth) have known all along: you don’t need a vagina to be a woman or a penis to be a man. If Ms Vincent could stop thinking with her vagina and start using her brain when she tackles the word “gender” she might begin to see what we are actually talking about.

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.
Michael Calfee
San Francisco, Calif.


Source: http://www.advocate.com/html/stories/816/816_norah.html 


If you surfed in from the Internet directly to this page
and wish to view the entire Christie Lee Littleton website,
click HERE

Last revised: Sunday, October 01, 2000 07:20 AM

Website design and hosting courtesy of WomynWeb
and AMCI