Archive for Susan Stryker

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!

Normal, Better, Drunker

Posted in Party, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Sorry I´ve been a little bit out of commission lately. There is a price to pay for being a purveyor of nightlife. Especially when best mates come to town and pour vodka down your throat. It is not that you (me) are saying no at the time, but when you are crawling towards lattes in the morning, the regret does really set in. I can admit that much! In my defense, the work has continued. The joy of The Brooklyn Socialite is not just writing, but also curating, and I have enjoyed the chance to put forth some other perspectives lately. Shannon tells us that Queer is normal, Susan Strkyker alludes to the concept that Queer people may be supra-normal, in fact special spiritual leaders, equipped with extra fabulousity.

Monday night, I attended the GO magazine Nightlife Awards, which suggested that perhaps queers are drunker. Susan Westenhoeffer hosted the affair, a comedian, who actually managed to be quite funny. DJ Stacy was on decks and they hysterically kept giving self-shout outs. “DJ Stacy in the house!!” That was the highlight. The most fun moment came when we went to find food after the party ended. It was in hot mess midtown at a place called Touch (pretty fancy club by the way). We wondered down 8th ave and eventually found a Kashmiri restaurant/deli. It was dirt cheap and we got a selection of quite tasty buffet items, then settled down to eat them at the shop´s single table. We shared the little eating spot, with a  bearded man dressed in traditional Muslim attire. He told us that he was European American, but had long ago converted to Islam. He recommended Briyani and agreed that the food was very spicy, but one gets used to it. I left with my mouth on fire and we wondered down to HK lounge for the Awards After Party. It was a really intense go-go dancer scene and we didn´t stay long!

Last night feels like it was a continuation of Monday night, because my cultural consumption was somehow limited. Not completely though, as I am given to having Existential conversations while under the influence. This is what I love about certain friends of mine. Race, class, gender, identity, art…everything is invoked on the bar stool and when I look around and listen, I notice that other people are doing it too. Last night ended at 4am, me dragging my friend away from a pretty great chat at Mug about Obama and race in America. The Jamaican man told us, he is not African-American, someone said that I wasn´t, my friend insisted that I am, another biracial guy on a  bar stool, said that he considers himself to be black and white and then this white guy said, “I am totally white, I`m Ukrainian!” Wow, I don´t know what was going on. Time for that latte I guess!

Susan Stryker lecture, La Zarza

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, Party, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Yesterday evening I attended a lecture that Susan Stryker gave at the the CUNY Grad center. It was a nice moment for different cool folks in the trans and queer community to gather, talk back and primarily to listen. I really respect the history gathering, voice planting work that Stryker does, she is a leading force in the movement for trans civil rights. This was evidenced during the introductions she received from Paisley Currah and Joanne Meyerowitz, two other academics who work in the field of trans studies. In terms of the lecture itself, I have to say she lost me at times. The part about Foucault and Hobbes, a lot of theoretical words that can’t yet be found in the dictionary, and several ‘this is not cultural appropriation’ disclaimers had me at the point of putting my pen down. The trouble was I really came to the lecture prepared to learn and left feeling befuddled and not quite there yet. The parts which I did find to be insightful, centered around the concept of a trans person sensing a need to transform outside appearance in order to fully realize an inner potential. I could really relate to this concept, even when applied to writing. When I am unable or unwilling to create something that really resonates for me, I walk around feeling un-realized, incomplete. This is a very spiritual concept, the idea of reaching self-realization. Thus the larger premise of the lecture, which was something like, “Ghost Dance: transperson as spiritual leader” sort of followed along the same avenue, implying that the trans person, innately experiencing transformation towards self-realization, is naturally qualified to be a spiritual leader. Interesting. Have I got it all wrong? Or was that the argument? Afterwards I spoke with Stryker, her partner, and a lot of other good folks about the beauty of dialogue, so comment away!

Just a quick note on La Zarza … This loungue space underneath a sort of swanky Nouvau Italian place, is a sweet spot, when the Grey-Goose promotions are flooding and you are somehow on the doorlist. It is still free if you get there early, but otherwise $100 bills may get thrown around. Last night there was a good pop-hip-hop dj and lots of guys in suits and girls in drag. No wait, that wasn’t drag, straight girls really dress like that!

Be Like Others, Q & A w/ Tanaz Eshagian

Posted in film, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

In the lead up to Trans Rememberance Day, whether intentionally or coincidentally there are several trans stories in NYC events this week. As your faithful socialite, I dragged myself uptown to see Be Like Others at Lincoln Center. Eshagian, the Iranian-American filmmaker returns to her home country and films a group of Transwomen who are pre and post sex change operation. Most of the footage is shot in the clinic where there operations take place, with extensive focus put on the doctor who performs the procedure. He is part of a group of men in the government of The Islamic Republic of Iran who have either decided, agreed with or implemented the concept, put in place by Ayatollah Khomieni (the father of the Iranian Islamic Revolution), that sex-changes are permissible under Islam. Khomeini passed a Fatwa to this effect, officially declaring them legal. In a country where homosexuality is highly illegal and punishable by a stoning death penalty, it is surprising that being transsexual is so legal that people are given a new legal name and passport post-op. Take a look at the trailer, only available on her website and a brief interview with her below.

Much of what’s contained in this interview was seconded by the vibe I got off her last night. She didn’t really seem to want to take sides, so to speak. I wasn’t sure if this was just another case of the gay disclaimer, or if she was really a distant outsider, looking in at this story from the perspective of novelty. The film sheds light on an interesting subject that not many people know about. In that sense its investigative journalism, but in terms of its humanity at moments I wondered if Eshagian herself was transphobic, or if she was just somehow hiding behind a lens of impartiality. Questions for the interview, I guess. If you read this, talk back! Maybe she will be at transhistorian, Susan Styker’s lecture at the CUNY Grad center tonight at 6:30? See you there.