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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 10:19 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

I forget what I've written here and what I've written elsewhere, Castorboy - apologies for not being clear. Cis means not trans, so a cis person is someone who identifies by what we might for convenience call their 'birth gender' (though that's a phrase some people find objectionable for various reasons I won't go into here). The word 'cisgender' has just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, so it's something of a buzzword over here at the moment. Thanks enormously for your kind words Smile


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'CIS' is new to me too. I'm getting out of touch.........


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hadn't heard of cis before either, or if I had I had ignored it or forgotten.  I thought I might not reply here for fear (certainty really) of seeming ignorant or judgemental.  I wonder how people without such a defined gender as most of us managed in the past. It seems to be a very strong movement at the moment.

But I came here today to mention that NZ has become the first country in the world apparently to put this on its national statistics records (I presume that will include the next census, not due for a while); there will be a third category  - "gender diverse".  http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1507/S00152/gender-identity-standard-world-first-in-new-zealand.htm

NZ is no longer, I think, generally very advanced in social issues, but for some reason gender and sex has always been one where we kept on top of the play.  First country to have votes for women, first to have a transexual elected MP, now first for this.  

I second Castorboy's thanks for your reviews, Gareth - they are always thoughtful and accessible and often of books I at least otherwise would know nothing of.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It does seem a strong movement, doesn't it, Caro, partly because the rise in understanding of transgender issues in the past couple of decades means more trans people feel able to be open about their gender, and the increased visibility means increased advocacy. Not that the struggle for gay rights is over, far from it, but now that LGB people are much more widely accepted than they were a generation ago perhaps the public focus has shifted to groups who are still widely misunderstood and oppressed, even by those who mean well.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't put links to my external blog here often, but related to this discussion I wrote a sort of introduction to transgender stuff a few weeks ago, in case anyone's interested: https://somewhereboy.wordpress.co...06/14/thinking-about-transgender/


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2015 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finished today: Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality by Susan McClary. I shrank from musicology in student days when I was supposed to be reading it, but I seem to have had a change of heart.

First published in 1991, this is one of the seminal texts of feminist musicology, a genre still in its infancy. It's probably as controversial now as it was when it came out. McClary's description (not in this book) of the recapitulation of the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 as 'one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release' is one of several statements that I imagine people like to use to paint her as an irrational and hysterical woman, and perhaps there was a time when I (as a man) would have taken some of what she writes as a personal affront (though actually I think not; if I liked Beethoven's 9th, on the other hand, I might have bristled). The thing to do is to grow a thicker skin, look beyond your affrontedness, and consider whether there is any truth in what is written.

In a lot of cases, there is. Whether or not you agree with her individual analyses of pieces (and there's a lot of analysis, especially of tonal relationships, so it may not be a book for the layperson), and everything from Monteverdi to Madonna comes under her microscope, it's not difficult to find her central theses of, say, the gendering of musical analysis into masculine and feminine binaries, outlined in the opening chapter, compelling and convincing.

If you have any sense of propriety then please stop reading now. I'm sure the analogy of music and the sexual act has been made many times before, it seems so intuitive, but I hadn't thought of it in any depth until now. The build-up of tension, the eventual climax. Ravel's Bolero is an obvious example, though not used by McClary. You don't have to be a sensualist like Ravel or Richard Strauss to use the formula. Bach and Mozart do it too. It's ingrained in Western musical forms. Wagner comes along and shakes things up. The Prelude to Act 1 of Tristan is 10 minutes of writhing with every opportunity for a cadence shunned, then the climax doesn't arrive for another four hours. Watch Bernstein explaining Tchaikovsky 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ3GpUldYvE If he didn't have an audience full of children he'd be able to explain what the music's really about. It's not hard to see the subtext.

McClary's not as obsessed by sex as my last paragraph suggests. She's very good at showing how social constructions of gender influence the way we hear music. I think this book is best read (at least to the beginner, i.e. me) as an introduction to thinking about hitherto unexplored ideas. I'm sure it will inform the way I listen to music, and it was useful to be able to read it in conjunction with recordings of some of the music discussed. I'm starting to understand words like hegemony and semiotics without having to look them up. Be afraid.

One thing that has interested me for years is why I respond to certain types of music the way I do. As a boy my favourite composer was Ravel. A more stereotypically feminine composer you couldn't wish to find. (He was a dandy who had no documented relationships with women, so many people over the years have tried to claim him as gay; I'm undecided.) Not that there's nothing below the surface, but there's such attention paid to the sheen of his music that it masks the substance. He favours harmonic lushness over contrapuntal rigour. The anti-Bach. I didn't like Bach either when I was little. I favoured the sensual -- Ravel, Respighi, Poulenc. At some point in my teens, a sea change. I suddenly got masculine music. The muscularity of Bach and Beethoven and Brahms, academic Teutons to a man. That's not to say that the likes of Bach don't have their sensitive side.

Why these stereotypes? What truth is in them, and what purpose do they serve? In Kate Bornstein's My Gender Workbook, which I skim-read a few months ago, ze (gender-neutral pronoun alert) asks the reader to come up with a definition of a 'real man'. I think what ze's getting at is that there is a stereotypical macho man. (My definition would have been that a real man is anyone who says they're a man; I wasn't going to play ball with hir.) Ze then says, if you yourself are a man, in what ways do you fail to conform to your image of a 'real man'? Well, I'm not muscular, I don't give a damn about cars, etc. etc. To what extent are these stereotypes innate, to what extent are they constructed? How do we quantify masculinity and femininity, and why do I like Schubert more than Beethoven? I haven't worked any of this stuff out, it's just what I've been thinking about. I liked McClary's book a great deal.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 1:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh dear, Gareth, what with Himadri's thoughtful analysis of everything he reads, and the linguistic knowledge of someone on another board, and the serious religious musings of someone else, and now you! I am starting to feel out of my depth, with my rather ordinary brain thinking rather ordinary thoughts.  People (some people at least - others are amazing for their lack of anything but the most shallow sentimental thoughts) are so thoughtful and careful in their reading and study.

I have out the library a book called Why We Like Music by Silvia Bencivelli translated by Stephen Thomson Moore, which I thought would be interesting, but I have found that it is an extension of a university thesis, and so far I have found it rather daunting, with a bit of history from Pythagoras, Plato, the importance of the flute, encoding music, changing tonalities.  I did study the piano for a fair number of years, and was quite good at theory, but it's a long time ago now, and I have never got to understand or really like classical music.  As for finding Ravel feminine (though I do like Bolero), and Bach masculine!  Goodness, I have never thought of such things.  Though because my grandmother didn't like Bach, I have never taken to him all that well either.  Mozart and Chopin for me, perhaps.  (Though I'd struggle to actually name a piece of music by either of them, or recognise them especially.)

Anyway thanks, Gareth, for opening our eyes to things we might otherwise have gone through life not knowing existed.  And keep it up.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish I were really the egghead you paint me, Caro. It's all an illusion. The only thing that's changed in me is that I'm straying outside my comfort zone. I wouldn't have read these books in the past, and there's a great deal in them that I simply don't understand (or, as may be the case, could perhaps understand if I really put in a lot of effort but at the time of writing am too lazy to bother about), but I'm not letting that put me off now as it once would have. I'd put Mozart roughly in the middle of the masc/fem spectrum, Chopin a bit further to the feminine side.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2015 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More of the same from me. I'm all too aware that I'm becoming a bore on the subject. I suppose it isn't as if I'm forcing you to read this stuff; still, I feel a bit guilty. Don't feel obliged to wade through it, I write this so I can remind myself in the future what I've read in the past.

Today I finished Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green. It's an overview of the female-to-male (FTM) transsexual experience, with illuminating personal anecdotes from the author's own life. When a couple of nights ago I told a friend I was reading this book she said, Don't you get bored of it? and it's true that now I have a more solid footing in this world I feel like I'm retreading some old ground with my reading. Why keep reading books on the same subject, then? Well, for new insights, because it's good to read many individual perspectives to get a more rounded picture of something I will never experience first-hand; to absorb ideas better through greater exposure to them; to develop arguments I can employ when talking with people who think of transgender as a joke, or as something they have only thought about in abstract terms or as an exotic idea, rather than as something that might directly affect them or people they care about.

This book, though it's barely ten years old, is perhaps slightly dated now in terms of terminology and attitudes. That's because understanding of trans issues advances so quickly, and many people still disagree on the matters of a) which words should be used (e.g. 'transsexual' vs 'transgender'; Green calls himself a transsexual) and b) what they even mean, what the nuances of difference between such terms are. It's not worth getting too hung up on vocabulary, but Green writes of 'female' and 'male' bodies, which is problematic to people (like me) who can see value in getting away from the gendering of bodies, on account of our gender being determined more by what we feel than what we look like. If you object to that, though, you come across as an agitator. What's objectionable about referring to someone as 'male-bodied'? one might reasonably ask. (Well, quite a lot, it turns out; a discussion for another time.) Green also tends to view things in binary terms, and writes very little about people who identify as neither male nor female. Perhaps, given his book is a FTM story, that's understandable.

It's a wise and eloquent book, readable and informative and emotive. I was particularly moved by a section telling of Green's acceptance into a cis men's group after his coming out as trans, and by his related musings on the nature of manhood, and felt inspired by the story of his part in the organisation of the first American FTM conference. The fact that there is now a transgender movement that can exert pressure on governments to change their outdated laws to accommodate the needs of people who are still badly discriminated against is down to people like Green, pioneers in creating communities and forming individuals into small local groups and small local groups into something bigger.

It makes me think, as several books I've read this year have, that I ought to take some kind of positive action myself. Not just reading books, but something practical. This paragraph relates to the trans person's voyage along the spectrum of gender in a search for identity, but I felt it also applied to me, to the way my attitudes are changing through exposure to new ideas:

Identity has often been a powerful organizing tool, but it should not be mistaken
for the ideal model of community. Identity is not a rigid, monolithic psychosocial
box into which we can each place ourselves, where we'll permanently remain.
We are all becoming something, and we can strongly identify with different
aspects of our lives at different times, or new elements may be introduced into
our lives that we must integrate into our identity, such as parenthood, chronic
illness or sudden disability, falling in love with a person we wouldn't have
imagined being with, or finding a new career. These evolutionary events often
draw us into new communities and new identities. The tendency to 'fix' people's
identities as encompassing only one aspect of themselves, or as being
unchanging in their various aspects, is equivalent to expecting a person to only
eat apples because he or she was eating an apple when you met.


There were places where I was mightily impressed at Green's succinct and pithy way of expressing thoughts. I would like to have this gift myself, but it's hard to be a good advocate of any view unless you know from personal experience what it means to be oppressed by the things you're fighting against.

What makes a man a man? His penis? His beard? His receding hairline? His
lack of breasts? His sense of himself as a man? Some men have no beard,
some have no penis, some never lose their hair, some have breasts; all have a
sense of themselves as men. Transsexual men are also men. Transsexual
men are men who have lived in female bodies. Transsexual men may appear
feminine, androgynous or masculine. Any man may appear feminine,
androgynous, or masculine.

My uniqueness is the same difference that each man has from any other man.
If transsexual men want to disappear, to not be seen, it is because they are
afraid of not being seen as men, of being told they are not men, and of being
unable to refute the assertion that they are not men. All men fear this, deep
down, just as all women who know they are women would at some level be
pained by an assertion that they are not women or a refusal to acknowledge
their feminineness. In this way, all men trans and non-trans are the same.
All men would cling tenaciously to their self-concept as men, even if they lost
their penis (though the loss of this unique organ would very likely be a serious
threat to a man who had not examined his sense of self). One thing all men
understand is that they are not women. This is also true for transsexual men,
even though they have lived in female bodies. As soon as a transsexual man
reveals his trans status, he is examined for vestiges of 'woman' that may then
be used to invalidate his maleness, his authenticity.


This speech incorporates much of the closing section of the book. I think it's well worth reading: http://www.donnarose.com/Becoming_Visible.html


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Mikeharvey



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find your thoughts and extracts about these issues most interesting G. Thanks for posting them.



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