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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 11:48 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

In the years I grew up gay there was nothing for me to relate to. Everything was happy bell-ringing endings for heterosexuals.  I had to be content with being secretly in love with Farley Granger who got the girl in films, although he was gay in real-life - something I didn't know at the time.  I persuaded myself I fancied Claire Bloom!!


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funny you should mention Claire Bloom - I've just moved on to Philip Roth. From no sex whatsoever to the most sex-obsessed writer of them all...


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought that title was held by Henry Miller! I read the two Tropics in my youth but I could never work out why there was such a fuss about them. In general the aftermath of the 1960 Chatterley trial certainly released far more explicit and graphic material.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2016 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must read Henry Miller. Much loved of E/V, sometimes of this board. I remember she liked Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.

More of the same: a slim volume, The Lives of Transgender People by Genny Beemyn and Susan Rankin (Columbia University Press, 2011). Actually, not quite the same: this is a study of transgender people that differs from previous ones on account of its inclusivity. Its scope is not restricted to clearly delineated demographics, but includes all manner of different identities, many of them non-binary. Its basis is an online survey of 41 questions that was completed by around 3,500 US residents and followed up in some cases by interviews with the respondents. From their statistics Beemyn and Rankin aim to build up a more accurate portrait of modern transgender life than has hitherto been published.

It's a good book and an important book, but you have to wade through quite a bit of boggy statistical analysis before you get to the most interesting parts, which as ever are the personal testimonies. The large data sets permit generalisations that may be useful, but generalisations just aren't as involving to the lay reader as specifics. The trends are as you might expect: people identifying as 'cross-dressers' as opposed to trans women tend to be older; female-assigned people have more leeway for exploring their gender as children because of the sexism ingrained in society (girly boys have to be put a stop to because they might turn out gay, shock horror; boyish girls are tolerated because after all it's only natural to want to be male); younger people are finding it easier to come out because of the increase in trans visibility; it can be terrifying going out dressed in women's clothes for the first time but also exciting; children are more accepting of mutability of gender than adults, and it's when we grow up that the rot sets in. This is a simplistic condensation of some of the things that I recognised in the book. But you can do all the analysis you want, it basically boils down to: being nice to each other is cool.

Another cross-dressing interviewee, Donna, related the following story.
'I once asked my eight-year-old if it bothered her that I was different.
She replied – with a wisdom beyond her young age – [by] telling me
that being different was okay and that people should be able to be
whoever they want to be. It was all I could do to keep from crying. I
can only hope that she never loses that view of the world.'


Something the best books about gender I've read have in common is that they come from a single perspective. Julia Serano and Kate Bornstein, S. Bear Bergman and T Cooper. And most of all, as I read this one, I thought of Jamison Green, who is cited once or twice. It's nice to spend time with individuals who give you a new perspective on life, as all of these writers do. I think my reading on this subject, assuming it continues, will probably gravitate away from social science and towards personal memoirs. This book is balanced and thorough and often enjoyable, but I didn't get a great deal out of it that I hadn't read elsewhere.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2016 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This week I've been reading an often fun academic book, Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages by Robert Mills, published last year by the University of Chicago Press and reviewed to great acclaim. It explores depictions of various deviant behaviours in medieval literature, art and manuscript illustrations. You might think that sodomy = bum sex (excuse my jargon), but this is not invariably the case. Eleventh-century oddball Peter Damian's definition of the term, quite new at the time, split it into four categories:

These were, in ascending order of sinfulness, self-pollution,
mutual rubbing of manly parts (virilia), pollution between the
thighs (inter femora), and fornication in the rear (in terga).


If I didn't follow the book very well it's mostly because I'm a lazy reader, but also because I don't have the breadth of knowledge to understand a book with such a wide scope, that looks at art and literature and constructions of gender, often through the prism of postmodern theory and modern categories of gender and sexuality (which practice Mills defends eloquently in his conclusion) that I don't always understand, a book that attempts to build a picture of the social attitudes of the Middle Ages on the basis of artefacts. But I kept reading because I was often fascinated by his observations on, for instance, the frequent personification of the serpent in the Garden of Eden as female in illustrated Bibles, or the many different ways in which Orpheus's sodomy post-Eurydice (as related in Ovid) is variously justified, condemned or omitted in translations of the text, or the usefulness of knowing about French kissing customs in reading medieval illustrations, and so on. His examples are engrossing:

In the Old French biblical paraphrases on fol. 36r of Vienna 2554,
the Philistines have been rendered Sarrazin – Saracens – who
are depicted in the accompanying miniatures (a) setting up the
ark before their god Dagon; (b) returning to find Dagon fallen to
the ground; (c) being beset by rats who devour their genitals as
a sign of God's anger; (d) repenting of their misdeeds and making
offerings of gold pieces and 'raz dor' (gold rats).


Predictably I found the chapter called 'Transgender Time', which has been the most remarked upon part of the book, particularly interesting. When dealing with texts or artworks where deviant behaviour is associated with men becoming feminine/passive and women becoming masculine/active, modern ideas about gender can shed new light. Mills looks at Ovid's Iphis and Ianthe, and at Ali Smith's interesting take on the story, Girl Meets Boy, already discussed on these pages.

I'm not sure much of it went in, but I enjoyed it. Here's a video of Bob Mills discussing his research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrHameoh-Mk


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating....


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read Dazzling Darkness: Gender, Sexuality, Illness & God by Rachel Mann. Mann is a trans woman who is a musician, poet and priest, and this book is what in an online interview (http://theheroines.blogspot.co.uk...6/interview-with-rachel-mann.html) she refers to as a 'spiritual autobiography or theological memoir'.

Mann transitioned from male to female in her mid 20s, and came to Christianity around the same time. In her late 20s she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which continues to be periodically debilitating. The book explores the ways in which she has reconciled (reconciliation is the single word I've written down most in making notes about this book) her faith with her gender and her chronic illness, and the complementary relationships between these superficially unrelated things.

I sometimes wonder how gay Christians of my acquaintance can bear to remain part of an instutition that, to a large extent, enshrines homophobia (though individual practitioners seem more progressive than the Church as an entity, and certain denominations more progressive than others). By the same token, I imagine Christians can feel like outsiders within gay communities. Substitute trans for gay, and it's the same story. Or so you'd think; but just as S. Bear Bergman argues that in job interviews trans people ought to be able to claim their transgender status as an asset, since if a person can cope with transition they can cope with anything, the things Rachel Mann writes suggest that transition can affirm a person's faith, bring them closer to God. She writes of sitting through an evangelical priest's homophobic sermon in tears, and realising that God was present in the church, not in the preacher's ignorant words of hate but in herself, in the pity she felt at his wrong-headedness. Throughout the book God is personified as 'she' or 'her'. If at first that feels somewhat wilful to the conservative, hidebound reader, it comes to feel appropriate, as Mann's God is a part of herself.

'I do not think we should be afraid of the thought that there are circumstances in which reconciliation cannot avoid violence', she writes. Although her transition involved violence (in the sense of hurt and upheaval) to her family and to her relationships, it also involved violence to her body. A lot of trans writers shy away from the idea of surgery as 'violence', as it's an argument that others (many Christians included) employ to try and persuade trans people against the necessity of surgery ('mutilation!' they cry, that ugly, manipulative word). The vast majority of trans people who have surgery say it's not a choice, it's something they have to do to mitigate their dysphoria and affirm their gender (an effect Mann says it had on her).

Still, she writes, transition was a choice, and not an easy one, a 'choice between two goods'. It's taken some time for her to reconcile (that word again) her current and past selves, to accept that there were things about being a boy and a young man that she loved, and that being a woman now does not mean the necessary eradication of her past identity. Life's always more complex than it seems. A friend of mine has written perceptively of the need that many medical professionals seem to have to fit transitioning people into a recognisable narrative. You're supposed to have felt 'different' from early childhood, to have felt at odds with your assigned gender all your life, and if your own story doesn't fit that model then you're less likely to be given credence. In the past, and perhaps still now, trans people had a much better chance of being treated if they told their doctor that the result of changing gender would be to make them heterosexual, such was the desire of medics to 'normalise' patients. Well, balls to that, balls to fitting into boxes, balls to pretending you're something you're not in order to avoid challenging the prejudices of other people.

I was interested in the sections where Mann discussed her illness. I haven't experienced gender dysphoria, but I do know first-hand, sadly, about inflammatory bowel disease (yeuch). How do you reconcile a belief in God with God's unmerited cruelty to others and to yourself? I was surprised to find a memory from many years ago returning to me, of praying to be killed. A nice corrective to my default mode of nostalgia. Sometimes the future's better than the past.

For a taste of Rachel Mann's writing, try this version of her excellent prologue, published anonymously in another book: https://books.google.co.uk/books?...A62&dq=%22tonka+toy+christmas


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2979


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that analysis - and all the others giving us more understanding of transgender issues, and the people they affect. (I am being careful about the words I choose and I am not sure that 'affect' is the right one here.)

But I came here to talk about the NZ honours list.  Among the sportspeople and judges etc honoured and the ordinary people doing extraordinary things for their communities, there were two honoured for their "services to the gay, lesbian, transgender, bi-sexual and intersex communities".  I don't think that has ever been honoured before, at least not in that form.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2016 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you're fine using 'affect', Caro Smile  Good news about the honours. Over here, I'm particularly delighted to see the actress Penelope Wilton made a dame. I've loved her since I was about six years old, I think.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My latest book is Becoming Nicole: The Extraordinary Transformation of an Ordinary Family by Amy Ellis Nutt. I cast my eye over the nominees in the Lambda Awards which were awarded earlier this month to see if any of them looked interesting, and this one, nominated in the Transgender Non-Fiction category, happened to be in the public library. The author, the cover announces, won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

The book's about eighteen years in the life of a family from Maine. In 1997 Wayne and Kelly Maines, unable to have biological children, adopt twin boys, Wyatt and Jonas, but from an early age Wyatt has a liking for girly things and announces himself a girl. The book follows the family through the troubles and joys of Wyatt's transition into Nicole – rejection and acceptance from other people, bullying and support at school, legal challenges, openness and stealth, friendships, medical transition.

The book's called Becoming Nicole, but the subtitle is more telling. It really is a portrait of a family, and the family unit is the hero, with father Wayne as inspirational a figure in his way as Nicole is in hers. Nicole has her transition to make, but so does Wayne, as he learns to unlearn the prejudices and preconceptions that he has held most of his life. It gives one hope for the rest of humanity: if this man can change for the better, so can any of us.

Amy Ellis Nutt writes very sensitively, I think, and with the collaboration of the Maines family. One of the first things you learn when trying to find out ways to be a good ally to trans people is that dead-naming (using a person's former name) is a complete no-no. But I don't think you could write about Nicole's pre-transition self without doing that, or without using male pronouns. Nutt does this as respectfully as possible, and the occasional insertion of chapters looking more widely at aspects of gender, without specific reference to Nicole, is wise. She doesn't dwell too much on prurient detail, and altogether does a good job.

The twin aspect is an interesting one. There can't be many sets of identical twins who have different genders. Nicole and Jonas have their disagreements, but they love each other dearly, and Jonas always sees Nicole as female, supports her, looks out for her at school, without question.

At other times, however, the differences in their personalities erupted in fights,
usually with Wyatt lashing out at Jonas. When Kelly or Wayne separated them
and asked Wyatt why he was so angry, he'd tell them he didn't know. And he
really didn't seem to know, because it would happen so suddenly. Looking at
Jonas, he saw himself, but also 'not' himself. The cognitive dissonance must
have rankled. It was as if his own image mocked him at every turn. Wyatt didn't
know why he and Jonas both looked like boys but only he felt like a girl. Once,
when Wyatt was asked yet again why he had hit his brother, he finally gave an
answer: 'Because he gets to be who he is and I don't.'


Amid the awfulness of world and UK events this week, the awfulness of the introduction of 'bathroom bills' all over the USA, which have gained momentum in recent months, this book has given me some much needed encouragement. Gender considerations aside, it's a delightful and moving story of two thoughtful, eloquent children growing up. A universal story.



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