I tried to write up a snappy review of Far From Heaven, but I'm way too tipsy. Everyone has fled NYC but me. I spent the day holed up in the house, struggling through an essay on Richard Dienst's piece "Image/Machine/Image: Marx and Metaphor in Television Theory." Geek me loved having a whole day to think about Dienst's suggestion that television has socialized (absorbed into capitalism) "free time," such that our time outside of work is now exposed to the same contradictions and tensions of exchange value as our labor time. He writes, "Televisual images do not represent things so much as they take up time, and to work through this time is the most pervasive way that subjects suffer through, participate in, and perhaps even glimpse, the global unification of contemporary capitalism." If I could explain it right, you'd know it's deep.
Anyhow, I fled my own head and went to the local gayborhood bar Saints, where my drinks were free and Romy and Michelle was on the (aforementioned and critiqued but greatly loved) TV. It's snowing in New York, what's going on where you are?
p.s. Back to musical lists: number one encounter with a rising hip-hop star would have to be my conversation with Juelz "Hey Ma" Santana, who lives in my building and whom I held the door for a few weeks back. (Craig: "What's up." [opens door]. Santana: "What's up." [goes through door].) Will 2003 dare to top such a moment?
I'm feeling like my year-in-pop-trash list was insincere, only insofar as it failed to acknowledge the melancholic return (isn't melancholia defined as a return? of the object of which I can't let go?) of the Magnetic Fields to my life. Volume 2 of 69 Love Songs has played soundtrack to my insomnia these past two weeks.... I like that volume because the lyrics are sharp and hiliarious, of course, but also really, really sad. Really. I like the folding up of lost love with lost place in the songs, a nostalgia for location revealing a defeated desire. Like the utopic no-place that remains after love evacuates in "I Shatter." The songs induce longing for what you didn't lose because you never had it, and I'm enjoying the pause of giving over to nostalgia, a mopey-ness that's serious, kind of. If unconscious memory forms some ground for a politics of affect, as my Globalization professor suggested in our last class, then grief/ forgetting/trying to remember/longing become something other than personal expressions of an individuated self--they move out into the world and then, well, I don't know. Then something.
For a good laugh, watch the "video" that goes with this. This is all ridiculous, but at least the interviewer was a sweet southerner who got my pronouns right and told me all the best things about Nashville.
I'm supposed to be studying for the classical theory exam I'll be taking in less than an hour, but I'm feeling none too motivated. However, inspired by Shane out in Sydney, here are my top ten songs for shaking ass and sing-a-longs in the year that ate my life, 2002:
10. like I love you / j. timberlake
Obviously some of these songs have snuck in from earlier years, but they made the soundtrack to our lives these past twelve months. Also, an honorable mention to Fisherspooner for Emerge despite the horrendous electrocash imitators they've inspired, and best effort to Kelly Osbourne for Papa Don't Preach. I'd say greatest lyric goes to Brandy's other single, Full Moon: "We can dance if you want, get it crackin if you like." Outside of music, the year's lowlights are painfully obvious (arrest, firing, mugging) but highlights could go on and on because of the wonderful people I've met, re-met and continue to know.
Alright, time for some other pop stars: Weber, Durkheim, and Marx...
First, Lissa just sent me this link to this conference. It seems rad, I'm particularly interested in the panel about the psychiatric industry (always looking for more ammo against the linking of trans liberation struggles to getting us all gender identity disorder diagnoses). Its only $10 to go too!!
Also, we should all be submitting our zines and books to the next bookmobile tour, here's more on that:
ARTIST BOOKS AND ZINES, SEND 'EM IN! TOUR 2003 SUBMISSION DEADLINE: POSTMARK BY February 1, 2002
The BOOKMOBILE has finished its tour and is getting ready to do it all over again. We would sincerely like to thank all the artists that graciously let us take their books on tour, all the host venues and any visitors that came and helped make our tour a success. A major shout out goes out to all of you from the MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE Collective!
In Spring 2003, a new collection of 300 book works will hit the road in a converted vintage Airstream trailer and visit community centres, schools, festivals, artist-run centres, libraries, and book stores all over North America. Since its debut tour in 2001, the BOOKMOBILE has enjoyed great success as an annual touring exhibition of artist books, zines and independent publications. Organized by a collective, the project travels across the United States and Canada visiting public spaces and attracting audiences in many urban and rural communities.
Now the time has come to invite you to participate once again. Yes, its time for our annual CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Please send us your artist books, zines and independent publications in time for our FEBRUARY 1st deadline to the US or Canadian address. The books will be juried in February and we will let you know in March whether your work has been accepted. All submissions must include return postage (SASE, or cash, cheque or money order made out to BOOKMOBILE) for the return of your submission. If you do not include money for return postage, please consider your work to be a donation to the BOOKMOBILE. You will find the 2003 submission form attached to this email.***
If you have any suggestions for venues or would like more information on how to host a Bookmobile visit in your area please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the project check out our website: www.mobilivre.org
The MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE collective C.P. 42062, Montreal, QC H2W 2T3 Canada, 1026 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 USA, email@example.com
Bread and Puppet presents the possibilitarians at the theater for the new city. Thursday through Sunday at 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm (matinee is a circus). It's $10 or you can volunteer and be in it.
Come be inspired by explicit political theater that uses paper mache and cardboard in creating some of the most beautiful puppets you have ever seen. Indulge your hippy, crunchy self and enjoy the amazing sights and sounds (complete with georgian singing and a good vs. evil fight scene). At the end you get some delicious sourdough bread and tangy aioli. Plus, cheap art in the lobby. While you are there you can also check out mayday books.
More importantly, do colby, craig, boots, and micah ever get to do anything besides edit my angry letters? Here is the letter i wrote to Nancy Solomon at NPR. Feel free to give me some back up by writing her your own letter: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Ms. Solomon:
I am writing to express my disappointment with Monday's Christine Jorgensen story on All Things Considered, for which you interviewed me on November 22, 2002 at the CUNY Graduate Center. To say the least, I was very offended by your use of our interview, and your comments about me. As you recall, I participated in that conference as an attorney working for legal and social equality for transgender people. My remarks at the conference provided an analysis of how the medical model of transsexuality, and its reliance on a strict vision of binary gender, impact legal and political struggles for transgender equality. When you asked to interview me, I understood that you were hoping to offer your listeners a taste of what had occurred at the conference that day, and that you would approach me professionally and respectfully. I did not anticipate that I would be featured as a "confusing" specimen, with my pronouns misused, and my appearance analyzed evaluated for masculine and feminine traits. Certainly, I now feel quite naïve that I relied on the reputation of NPR as a progressive organization, and your own seeming interest in the issue of transgender equality, to believe that fair and accurate reporting of the conference would result.
First and foremost, it is inexcusable for any journalist to use pronouns for a transgender person other than those the transgender person uses to identify him/herself. The AP Stylebook, as well as the guidelines put out by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association both recommend that transgender people be identified only by the pronouns of our choice. I was introduced by the moderator of my panel using male pronouns, and my fellow panelists used male pronouns to refer to me. If you were confused about what pronouns I prefer, in the interest of accurate reporting you should have asked me what I preferred to be called rather than referring to me with female pronouns at one point in your story, and then purposefully stumbling over my pronouns later to make some kind of point about how odd and “confusing” I am.
Secondly, by choosing to ignore the content of my words and work, and focusing your attention instead on my appearance and whether you find that I look sufficiently masculine or feminine, you became part of a long history of journalism which treats transgender people as freakish objects of fascination. Your attention to the tightness of my sweater and your perception that my short haircut is "feminine" (to which I must ask: is it only ‘feminine’ because you expect trans men to be more masculine than non-trans men?) send a clear message to your listeners that it is acceptable to approach trans people with the objectifying fascination "is it a boy or a girl?" It also reinforces the idea that transpeople’s self-identification is not worthy of respect. Taking my appearance apart trait by trait was distasteful, unprofessional, and disrespectful. The entire point of my work (which you did not feel merited reporting when the important question of my haircut loomed large) is that people's life expectations and choices should not be determined by their willingness to adhere to the narrow expectations assigned to the gender category they are assigned to at birth. The way a person wears their hair, who they love, whether they reproduce, or what career they pursue should not be determined by their birth-gender identification. In essence, it is the classic feminist position that biology should not be destiny. I believe that the way you chose to frame our interaction is entirely opposed to these basic principles of equality.
Your treatment of my appearance is especially ironic because of your seeming critique of the transphobic scrutiny applied to Christine Jorgenson by the media of her day. A few minutes earlier, in the same interview, you remarked on the way that the media eagerly looked for flaws in Ms. Jorgenson’s femininity (such as tottering on her high heels), in order to conclude that she was indeed not a real woman. Your declaration that I am "confusing" because I fail to fully conform to your understanding of masculinity or femininity, underscores exactly what trans activists from before Christine Jorgensen's time through today have been fighting against. Your approach to my gender identity was not a respectful affirmation of the struggle of transgender people who live outside cultural norms of gender, but instead a continuation of the sensationalist, body-focused, dehumanizing approach to transgender lives that dominates in mainstream media and culture.
Finally, I would request that you consider how you would have treated our interview if I had been a non-trans attorney who works for transgender equality. Would you have included more of my words about my work, and less of your opinions about my appearance? I approached you as a professional journalist, with the expectation that you would approach me as a professional as well. Instead, you produced a segment that humiliates me, identifies me by an incorrect pronoun, identifies my appearance with gendered words that I do not understand myself through, and disregards the important work I am doing.
I hope that you will give my comments some thought, and consider how you can interrogate your own perceptions of gender before you decide to do further reporting on transgender people. I think that a proper response would be to do a new transgender story which fairly reports on the struggles transgender people are currently facing and the work we are doing to combat discrimination in housing, education, employment, benefits, medical care and all other realms. You should consider me a resource for such work. While I am very upset about Monday's story, I also recognize that we are all steeped in misunderstanding about gender throughout our lives, and we are all victims of a rigidly binary sexist gender system. I am interested in working with people to overcome the ways in which this causes us to harm and disrespect each other, and moving toward deeper understanding and better relationships. To that end, as a part of the legal resource center I founded, I do trainings about transgender awareness for social activists and public interest lawyers. I also recently spoke at the conference of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association, offering ideas to journalists there about how to avoid common mistakes in reporting of transgender stories. I would be more than happy to talk to you about arranging such a training for the people in your office, to increase understanding of transgender lives and experience and promote fair and accurate reporting of transgender news.
If you are truly interested in promoting transgender equality through your work, I am interested in being your ally in that work. However, it is my hope that you will first recognize the disservice you have done to both of us, and to transgender people generally, by reporting our interview in dehumanizing, objectifying terms. I think that it is reasonable that as a beginning to remedying the damage that your approach to our interview did, you offer to apologize on the air for your words and for your failure to follow well-established guidelines for handling transgender new stories. Additionally, I would ask that NPR make a public commitment to following the NLGJA and AP guidelines regarding respecting the self-identification of transgender subjects of NPR stories. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my comments.
Dear Ms. Solomon --
I am writing concerning your piece on Monday's program on Christine Jorgensen. While it is refreshing to hear a lengthly piece on trangender lives on national radio and it was clear that you sought to produce a fair and respectful segment, I was surprised that your narrative did not transcend the persistent and troubling errors of reporting on the lives, struggles and triumphs of trangendered and transsexual people.
The comments of Dean Spade were powerful and insightful. But Dean Spade Does not exist to confuse me or make me squirm. He is a public interest attorney fighting for essential human rights that can mean life or death. I would like to see more stories that focus on the challenges faced by his clientsthan on his appearance.
By referring to Spade in female pronouns and then, awkwardly, "her [pause] or him," and focusing on his physical appearance and arbitrary distinctions of whether his haircut is feminine, the story fell into the common pattern of disregarding transpeople's own choices for how they wish to be identified and reducing their lives to how much they live within or deviate from binary gender roles.
I appreciate very much that you sought to bring to a wider audience the work and lives of a generation of trans people 50 years after Jorgensen's surgery who are making gender in our own terms. But in a time in which trans people are left to bleed to death in the middle of the street, beaten to death by their schoolmates, can be fired at whim, denied access to basic public accommodations like restrooms, or forded to live in hiding or as other than their true selves, I would like to see reporting that focuses on these issues rather than awkward pauses between pronouns.
What follows is a listing of individuals murder over the past 12 months – at least the one that we know of -- who were memorialized in dozens of gatherings around the country last month. I send this not only to emphasize that there is sadly no shortage of trangender discrimination and violence that can be covered in stories, but also to suggest that reporters can learn from these listing how to respectfully use pronouns and descriptions of gender identity in their stories.
Thank you for your work, and I hope that you can indeed pursue additional programming to further challenging and respectful dialogue on gender, bias, and discrimination in the near future.
Julie Davids, West Philadelphia
Remember all those thousands of times I've ranted about how the media is incapable of reporting on trans people in any okay way, and how much I distrust journalists, and how I don't believe that with trans people any publicity is good publicity and all that. You'd think I'd listen to myself, right? But after I talked at the Christine Jorgensen conference at CUNY last week, making my usual insightful comments about how the medical model of transsexuality impacts activism and struggles for legal equality for low-income trans people, I was interviewed by someone from NPR. I should have known, since her questions seemed to all focus on my identity rather than my work, that she was going to edit what I said to get the answers she wanted--making me into a classic trans subject to be exploited and taken apart physical trait by physical trait. But I thought I was being pretty clever, turning her personal questions into broader statements about the struggle for gender self-determination for all people. But, to my dismay, I just listened to the program that aired as part of All Things Considered Yesterday. She uses female pronouns for me, she discusses my "feminine haircut" and "tight sweater." I can't help but think about how if I was a non-trans lawyer working for trans rights, she would have interviewd me as an expert, but instead I was a trans body to be picked apart, and found "confusing." (Do you guys think I should cut my hair? Should I give up my new wave faggyness for a nice normal masculinity that let's people think I'm at least trying to be normal and not so confusing? Should I do it for THE MOVEMENT?) I'm so sad.
I'm making myself feel better by listening to the interview I did in April, on GenderTalk Radio, for the first time. Karl recommended I listen to it to hear the change in my own voice from T, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Weird to hear the hosts chatting about my feminine voice before they play the interview, but whatever. At least it's lovely to be interviewed by trans people and allowed to actually talk. Listening now, I wonder if I misstated the law with regard to post 9/11 reasonable suspicion requirements, and how much cops can ask you for your ID and stop you. Oh, well. Still, it was heartening to listen and remember that I'm more than just a pretty face in a tight sweater.
First, look here for info about an event to update us on the situation in Vieques.
Second, the publication Harm Reduction Communication is looking for essays, interviews, artwork, poetry, fiction up to 4000 words in length from drug users and other describing personal and political experience with incarceration. The deadline is Feb 26, 2003. Send it email@example.com.