Archive for November, 2008

Transgender History- Susan Stryker

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I finished reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker during my long post-Thanksgiving public transport journey. It was overall a very informative and straightforward book. It was easy to read and understand, which is a feat for non-fiction, and a contrast to Striker’s recent CUNY lecture, which was considerably more cryptic. I really enjoyed the book, it felt immediate and relevant, engaging the reader with the past 100 years of struggle for transgender rights.

The movement towards visibility has been pretty fascinating. It seems that the first people to challenge the assumption that transpeople are not only mentally ill, but also extremely perverse, were people within the medical establishment, German and Austrian psychologists and doctors. Then it was wealthier white male bodied individuals, who campaigned for the rights to cross-dress, and separately, to be granted sex-change operations. The book moves from that telling, to the history of early FTM agitators for change, who also seem to have started within the upper class, or rather gained initial success there.

Direct action, and quasi-revolutionary groups later emerged in the second half of the 20th century, with Stonewall, and it’s predecessors, such as for example, the staged sit-in that occurred at Compton’s restaurant, inspired and enacted by civil rights activists, who were also queer, many of whom were trans,-rights activists. That intersection between transpeople and LGB folks was a theme that Stryker consistently explored in relation to recent trans history.

It seems that although there was a lot of overlap between struggles during the 60s, that unity was often fractured by both, feminist lesbians, who rejected trans people as impostors of a sort, and gay men who labelled trans individuals somehow not radical enough because they were willing to seek help from the medical establishment. As transgenderism remained a disease in the medical books, certain gay activists, judged the transpeople who sought sex change operations, while some lesbian feminists claimed that by enacting femininity in a stereotypical way, transwomen mocked their struggle towards an androgynously expressed equality, and that anyone not born a woman could never fully understand and experience Women’s Oppression.

With so much fragmentation prior to the late nineteen-nineties when queer emerged as a blanket, inclusive term for a whole wide variety of folks, it is kind of nice to see how much of the old divisiveness has died down. However, recently when transgender people were left out of the new anti-discrimination law, many of those old flames were rekindled. In explanation of this political division the distinctions between homosexuality and transgenderism are offered. As well as the wide ranging differences within the transgender umbrella. People often presume that transgender people are by definition homosexual, when historically and continuously that is often not the case. While for some the distinction between gender and sexuality is obvious, many members of the general public don’t quite get what the difference is. Stryker clarifies this within her large definitions section. For anyone who is still confused please refer to the text!

First iphone post

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

So I just discovered the wordpress application for the iPhone. I am your budding technological baby, with open eyes and outstretched arms I am slowly learning what this whole Internet/computer thing is all about. Forgive me for my lack of total computer nerdyness and trust that I am rapidly catching up! Wow, what a dream boat you are wordpress iPhone app. + a shout out goes to my two thanksgivings, I got some tech tutorials over turkey and what a revolution it has been! Ok, officially a nerd, going to go check the big screen to see if this worked!

Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera

Posted in opera, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last night I went to see the opening of Daniel Barenboim’s production of Richard Wagner‘s Tristan und Isolde (itself an interpretation of Shakespeare) at the Metropolitan Opera. The opera was five hours, and well, what can i say…It’s a love story, which is more about loss than anything else. Wagner said before writing it, that he had never truly experienced love. Interesting. Maybe that’s why the love depicted is so tragic. Tragic love and tragic death. When the third and final act ends, Isolde is surrounded by Tristan and his two best friends, dead. Perhaps the type of love that Wagner most understood was homeogenic love, as Carpenter called it, better known as homosexuality. Shoot me for saying this, but why didn’t Isolde follow Tristan to death as she promised she would. It ends with her dying, apparently from grief, but not a sword to the chest like Tristan’s two best mates took. I digress…the point is, even if we assume the premise and believe that the man and woman were the only true lovers on set, why should love destroy us? I believe that desperation is not synonymous with passion and strive to see love instead as a sustainable site of healing. love many, love one, love for living, not as a form of torture!

Thanksgiving, Thanks for Taking

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Although there is something really fun about shooting out random “Happy Thanksgiving” emails, it is still important to take pause and call this holiday what it is: Genocide day, Invasion Day, take your pick. Just please don’t tell me that played out old folktale about the peaceful dinner, “pilgrims and Indians sharing corn (or maize, that is.)” Maybe it’s the historical mis-telling that plants the seed of discontent in me, your resident former history scholar. Or, perhaps it’s that always bizarre feeling of being expected to feel on cue. ‘It’s New Years, make resolutions and feel happy!’ ‘It’s Halloween, dress up and feel ghoulish!’ ‘It’s Christmas, give gifts and appreciate others!’ ‘It’s Thanksgiving, count your blessing and list everything that you have to be thankful for.’

I’d rather gorge myself on Pumpkin Pie and wine, and from my curmudgeounly corner, raise a fist in support of the Native People who truly own this land. Happy Thankstaking and never feel afraid to express your honest emotions on any day of the year!

The Last Cigarette-Stranger than Fiction

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last night I went to my favorite documentary series in NYC, Stranger Than Fiction, and I saw a film called The Last Cigarette. It was directed by Kevin Rafferty, who’s most recent film Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is currently screening at the Film Forum. The Last Cigarette was made in the mid 90s purely out of news and archival footage. It fits into the documentary genre, yet there are no interviews or original voice-overs and it seems in fact that the filmmaker never once picked up a camera while working on this project. All in the editing room, like a modern day mash-up, it meshes scenes from Vertigo and Psycho with footage from the Congressional hearings, in which the cigarette companies were held to task for selling cancer sticks. The middle aged men, who represent Philip Morris et al. bumble and attempt to euphemize their way out of taking responsibility for smoking deaths. They all actually say that they don’t believe smoking is addictive, that it does not cause cancer, and they swear that their companies have never marketed to children. Interesting. The film serves asĀ  a comical, yet frightening glimpse back into the mid-nineties. It is hard to believe how much attitudesĀ  towards smoking have changed in the past 15 years. Plus, quite bizarre that people have gone from thinking that cigarettes weren’t that harmful, to knowing they are, and smoking anyway.

Sheila Rowbotham on Edward Carpenter

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I went to CUNY this evening to see Sheila Rowbotham talk about her new book and the man that inspired it, Edward Carpenter. This is how the CUNY website pre-described the event:

“Feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham discusses her latest book ‘Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love’. Edward Carpenter (1844 to 1929) challenged both capitalism and the values of Western civilization. He pioneered homosexual, lesbian and women’s liberation along with nudism, recycling, anti-pollution, diet reform and animal rights. He was friendly with such cultural icons as Walt Whitman, E.M.Forster, Isadora Duncan and Emma Goldman. He lived his politics, advocating a minimalist simplification to cluttered middle class Victorians and initiating a craze for country cottages, beeswaxed floors and sandals which helped to prod the modern age into being.”

Carpenter seems like an interesting man, who expressed his gay-ness fairly openly at the end of the 19th cetury. During this time, sodomy was considered criminal and Oscar Wilde was on trial for that very act. Sheila herself is a pretty fascinating lady. Earlier this year I read her 1973 book, Women’s Consciousness: Men’s World. It is a highly readable analysis of British socialist feminism. She tells the story of women who chose to trade eye liner for revolutionary politics, back in the day when it had to be one or the other. I especially like her likening of marriage to feudalism. While I categorically believe that queer people deserve equal rights and protection under the law, in all areas, including marriage. Like Sheila, I personally don’t think that marriage is a goal that any of us need aspire towards. Let’s focus on legalizing free thought instead shall we? It was cool to see Rowbotham, British accent and all, in a small room at CUNY. She is a thinker that holds a vital place in the history of second wave feminism.

Communal Literary High

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 24, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Very little compares to a literary high, the only thing better, is that high experienced communally. It wasn’t the red wine, though we 20 souls went through several bottles of it. Not the soup or the thick hot chocolate, although that alone would’ve been enough to make for a sweet evening. It was the temple of past experience, future dreams, present tensions, colliding under the umbrella of openness, community, literature. Last night’s lit-salon was a a truly sacred experience, and I felt blessed to have presided over it in my Ella Fitzgerald party dress.

People shared their own pieces about unrequited love, then that thought was capped by an Austrian poet’s instruction that “Love says,’It is what it is.'” Published Trans stories shared space with emerging confessions of complex nature, or becoming. We had a free write about waterfalls and Spain, while powerhouse confessions of death and the end to mourning neatly fit beside Einstein Stories, a card trick and a report back about Central Park, in broken English and jagged winter. Miles Davis played Sketches of Spain, voices were found, unfamiliarities lost, as Subway Strangers became friends and LA transplants hooked in to Brooklyn. We remembered where we have slept, plus the dreams we had there. Then we decided on the places where we might sleep next, and with whom.