Thursday, October 29, 2009

What did you learn in school today?

In a lot of these political campaigns against LGBT rights I’ve heard a lot of people shouting, “They’ll be teaching homosexuality and transsexuality in schools!” (OK, they don’t shout that articulately...I’d rather not type out what they actually say). In some schools children are being taught to accept those who may be different from them—including gay, bisexual, and transgender people (gasp!). The tolerance-based education is primarily centred on anti-bullying lessons, but several on the political right continually launch accusations that this constitutes indoctrination. I’m going to assume that everyone reading this blog knows that this is bullshit. Clearly it’s not indoctrination: boys are not made to wear dresses, gay sexual or queer social identities are not forced on children; all that happens is our children are told what homosexuality and (if they’re lucky) what transsexuality is, and they’re told to accept it. That’s it. They aren’t taught about marriage. Children aren’t really even taught about gay people in history, LGBT civil rights movements, and gender across cultures—they aren’t even taught about sexual, sex, or gender diversity in the natural world. No. Children are, for the most part, told not to bully others. If they’re lucky, they may read a book a watch a film that tells them LGBT people are OK.

And I have to ask the question: if we did teach all the above—even teach about queer sex in our sex education classes, teach LGBT literature, sex and sexuality diversity in biology, etc.—would it be so bad? So what if we teach about different cultures, relationships, and genders? They say these are lessons to come out of the home, but frankly I don’t trust the religious right to teach these things in their homes. I may get flack for saying that, but I don’t really care right now. The point in all this is that while our society is slowly growing more accepting, there is still a gross amount of hate out there focussed on LGBT people—you don’t have to look any further than the media to see the shadow of the very real prejudice. Many private households are not teaching affirmation and acceptance of LGBT people—often if any lessons are taught at all they are lessons to the contrary.

This is an issue that, frankly, really pisses me off. I’m shaking with rage as I write this—I have to consciously and forcibly direct my thoughts to more civilized discourse, lest in my anger I just fill the void with more violence. See, I cannot remember a single time that anything about the LGBT community was ever even mentioned in my home (either in positive or negative connotations) while I was growing up. My teacher at school never taught anything about homosexuality either—not even as far as tolerance education was concerned (and forget hearing about transgender people; no one even seemed to know the word existed). So, where did I get my first lessons? From the kids who made fun of me, assuming I was a sissy or a fag. I got my first lesson about transsexuality from daytime talk shows like Maury and Jerry Springer (I can thank my sister, flipping through the channels on summer vacations for those nuggets of misinformation). In movies I learned that trans women were jokes—that they were ugly men in dresses and freaks and something to make our stomachs churn. I learned about the Bible and God from my family, and from the Bible and God I learned that my desire to be a girl was an abomination—that I was defective and wrong, diseased and untouchable.

I didn’t hear a single accepting voice until after my junior year in high school. I went to a biotechnology summer camp at Montana State University, and while I was there my sense of unease in my body hit a breaking point. At that time I had gathered from the some internet searches, television programs, and movies that transsexuality was a mental disorder—that they were psychopaths and disgusting. I knew that I crossdressed in secret, so I typed in the description of my actions into a Google search engine: cross dressing. I then learned that cross dressing was a fetish. That didn’t seem right. So, while at MSU, I went to my last resource to find out what the hell was wrong with me: I turned to science!

Scientific articles, surely, would have some information about my disorder, right? Well...they do, but I never found those articles. Instead, I found a review of Jenny Boylan’s book She’s Not There. I don’t know how, exactly, I stumbled on that when I started out searching genetics journals, but there it was. I ran out to Bozeman’s Hastings and bought the only copy of She’s Not There that they had, took it home, and read it in one evening.

The walls of my prison shattered in a most stunning explosion.

Here at age 17 I had finally found someone who was expressing the same kind of emotions I was feeling—I felt as though this Jenny Boylan had reached into my subconscious, pulling out my deepest feelings and put words to them. I broke down and cried in the small dormitory: I was OK. I could be a girl and that was OK. There wasn’t anything wrong.

I was raised in a vacuum, no one ever told me about LGBT people. If I had never gone to MSU—if I had never gained access to their archives of academic journals—I don’t know when I would have heard my first affirming voice, or if I ever would have heard such a voice. I don’t want to imagine the implications of this possibility.
When I hear folks talking about the “dangers” of teaching children about LGBT people, all I hear are the shadows of the same intolerance that was indoctrinated into me through religion, the media, and schoolyard bullies. The implications of not teaching about LGBT lives and history in public school are far more drastic than the alternative; leaving these lessons out of the school curriculum leaves a vacuum that is often filled with a contagious hatred. And that’s just on the level of teaching acceptance—I’m not even touching on the fact that our existence in the natural world is never discussed, nor are our contributions to literature, politics, mathematics, science, art—our contributions to human history are all neglected.

What this debate really boils down to is two sides: one saying LGBT folks are human and deserving of recognition, respect, and affirmation like any other people; the other side saying that LGBT people are immoral and diseased, a blight upon

existence. I was reading an article earlier today titled “The Pink Dress.” It’s about a four year old boy who asked his parents for a dress. The parents, after thinking it over, decided to give the boy a dress, even let him wear it to school.

At that morning's drop-off, my confidence in Sam moved up a notch when he announced to his teacher, "Look at my pretty dress! No one is allowed to make fun of me."After school, Sam beamed as he reported that his teachers had said they liked his dress, and the other 4-year-olds had said he looked pretty.

Kids as brave as Sam are starting to become much more common, and I like to think that’s partly because acceptance is finally starting to leak its way into schools (although Sam’s awesome parents also played an enormous role). But what about kids who don’t get this affirming message at home, or worse, get a negative message? When I was Sam’s age, I had already started to get the hints that it was not OK for a boy to want to be a girl. I can’t imagine how much easier my life would have been if in my childhood someone had told me it was OK for me to be a girl. People like Sam deserve a place—they deserve to be themselves, and I can think of no greater disservice than for the education system to permit the erasure of LGBT lives. I’m done with trying to debate the religious right, or avoid the issue of teaching LGBT affirmation and contributions in school. They belong in our curriculums, in our schools, and in our lives.

What's it mean to be a woman?

A while ago my friend Lori (of Lori’s Revival) asked the following: What does it mean to be a woman? What follows are my new-initial thoughts on this question; I may very well have to revisit this topic down the road. While I’m a little late in joining the discourse, my tardiness has not been for lack of interest or attention. Frankly, when I first sat down to write responses I was struck by the rather disconcerting realization that I didn’t really know what it meant to be a woman (or a man, for that matter). It’s not so much that I don’t have opinions on what constitute men and women—the problem comes from attempting to distil an objective definition of these two particular genders (already making the assumption that any answer I compose will be set in a U.S. mindset, as different cultures have different gender schemes). The problem with finding any one objective description is that our ideas of men and women will unfailingly be conflated with assumptions of sex, biologically based sex behaviours, sociological assumptions, popular gender roles;, and many of these assessments assume that the gender binary is not only in play, but an accurate dictator of essential qualities of men and women.

As I’m writing this you have to understand that I’m listening to Joan Jett; generally the music I listen to may influence the overall tone of my posts, but tonight the artist plays a more significant role. Joan Jett (along with a couple of girls I knew growing up) greatly shaped the woman I have become. From them I got my mixture of easy-going, coffee-shop lesbian, queer punk rocker style that makes up my feminine tomboy gender expression. From them I learned that I could be a girl and still be empowered, intelligent, in control of my body and sexuality—that I could write my own destiny. Own my weakness and my strength. To directly quote Joan, herself:

I know I’m a woman and I love being a woman and I embrace it, but I don’t embrace the roles that people have carved out that a woman could be. Personally, I’m more comfortable in boy’s clothes because they don’t make good girls clothes and they don’t make them strong. I guess you can say that I like to blur the lines a bit, and that is what androgynous means to me, it’s saying that we both have male and female within us and to embrace those energies.

And that pretty much sums up my ambivalence about this topic. I can easily discuss the social roles that women are expected to embody—but those narrow niches are not what it means to be a woman. No, being a woman, like being a man, is something much more intangible; it’s a way of thinking—it’s an energy that we emit like an aura. A girl can be strong, dominant, and powerful while not compromising her femininity. One of my favourite quotes comes from Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author of Bitch and Prozac Nation:

The biggest problem that women have is being ambivalent about their own power, ... We should be comfortable with the idea of wielding power. We shouldn't feel that it detracts from our femininity.

The moments I’ve felt the most like a girl have been some of the most banal I can recall. That’s not to suggest that being a girl is boring or commonplace; rather, the moments that I was not trying to abstract or intellectualize things—those moments when I just lived my life fully—were the moments I felt most connected to myself as a girl. Most nights driving for Women’s Transit were nights that I felt distinctly like a woman—and a woman in control. I would be hanging out in the car, blasting some of the greatest music of any generation: easy going. Of all the drivers and dispatch, I was among the most distinct and recognizable, having my own call sign and witty/sarcastic rapport with the other volunteers. Driving those cars with the radio clipped to the belt of my skirt/pants, I felt like the height of feminine badassery.

Every time that I really get into playing the violin, I feel like a woman. I get my whole body into the act, using the full weight of my arm to pull the bow, curving my body into each note—when my whole body is engaged I’m the most connected to my own femininity—I channel that feminine energy and amplify it through my music. I think Joan Jett does something very similar.

See, being a woman, to me, is being able to take control of my own life. It’s being a badass, having great reserves of strength and power, ambition and talent. It is empathy and sympathy—being in touch with the emotional and sensitive side of ourselves and our relationships. Being a woman is being able to tattoo your arms, pierce your cartilage (and not cry), dye your hair funky colors, and then put on a skirt and a flower top (with Dr. Marten boots, of course). Being a woman, to me, is an empowering embodiment of my own feminine gender, even if it might not always be expressed in the most typical ways.

Photo of Joan Jett taken from

Monday, October 26, 2009


There’s a major debate in the field of sex determination concerning the development of brain sex. Originally it was suggested that the brain was sexed by a “hormone wash;” because males have surges of testosterone early in life, it was assumed these waves of “male” hormone were what pushed the brain into a male configuration. More recent studies, however, have discovered differing levels of expression of ~50 genes in the brain between males and females—and these genes are being expressed prior to the development of the gonads (i.e. testes and ovaries)! Other studies, examining transsexual brains (in effort to uncover aetiology of brain sex) suggested that HRT had no effect on brain morphology. This is, of course, is an encouraging finding, especially considering that the brains of MTF transsexuals were comparable to those of non-transsexual women and FTM brains were comparable to non-trans men. This suggested that our brains are naturally developed opposite our bodies—which is exactly the story we’ve been telling medical professionals for decades. Zhou et al.’s studies in which they found MTF transsexuals had a feminized bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (Nature 378.2 1995). Zhou was looking for a sexually dimorphic region of the brain that was not influenced by sexual orientation, and he came across the BST, known to play a role in mammalian sexual behaviour, it also was known to be 2.5 times larger in females than in males, and was known to house both oestrogen and androgen receptors. In his study, Zhou reported that hormones did not affect the relative size of the BST, and therefore HRT was a non-issue.
Subsequent studies, however, have suggested that the BST isn’t fully sexually dimorphic until adulthood (Chung, Vries, and Swaab, 2002). Might this mean that, indeed, Zhou et al’s studies were tainted by HRT? Still others (Blanchard) have suggested that homosexual and non-homosexual transsexuals have distinct aetiologies—this is getting into that fun area of autogynophilia vs. “true-transsexualism” that I, generally, dismiss as utter bullshit.

More recent studies, however, have told different stories. Now the issue of whether or not HRT affects brain morphology is open for debate, and researchers controlling for HRT have found that MTF transsexuals, prior to HRT, have brain morphology that is more similar to that of men. However, one specific area—the right putamen—is feminized in MTF transsexuals (Luders et al. NeuroImage 2009). What role this brain structure plays is still unknown, though it raises whole new questions. It appears that there’s a bit of a discrepancy in the scientific community. What this means, of course, is that there are some vexing questions in the field of brain sex determination (to say the least).

It’s amazing what a chemical—a little bit of estrogen or testosterone—can do. Before I transitioned and well before I knew the meaning of the word “transsexual,” I had a tremendous crush of a gorgeous red-haired girl named Lauren. I wanted nothing more than have a romantic relationship with her—hell, I may have even wanted a sexual relationship; I did, after all, have the libido of a teenage boy. I also had all the horrible awkwardness that came with having the external physical anatomy of a teenage boy along with those pounding waves of testosterone (or...rather, I had small, albeit significantly-sized waves). This meant masturbation, and lots of it (just what you all wanted to read about!). And while the crush died away (there’s a much more awesome story here...I’ll tell you sometime) the libido never did. Right up into college, I was plagued by those damn inches of manhood, peeking their way up in an effort to undermine my gender. Even HRT, while stemming the tide, did not completely arrest that thriving sex drive. At this point, I think I was sexual (i.e. I would have wanted to have sexual relationships with people as well as romantic relationships). All that changed, however, when I had my GRS. After surgery, the libido—the interest in sex and possibly romance—all had vanished.

In a recent email, Dr. Marci Bowers told me, “Post-op drops in libido are the norm rather than the exception and are an unintended consequence of GRS...Your testosterone levels are lower and probably could use a boost. I know most do not want testosterone in their blood but all women have some and it really is responsible for libido...they make an estrogen/testosterone pill called estratest or estratest HS (half strength) could try that or try a testosterone cream applied directly down there. It will also reduce the threshold to reach orgasm which many find difficult in achieving despite sensation.”

It makes me wonder what far-reaching effects these chemicals have. It raises the question of whether or not the orchiectomy has left me hormonally imbalanced, and whether or not this huge androgen deficit is now affecting not only my sex drive, but my sexual identity—and then what else might it be affecting? If adult hormone levels affect brain morphology, then what effects are my current hormone levels having? Is it worth it to try out testosterone treatment? Overall, I’m starting to feel comfortable in my differentness and comfortable with my sexuality...or general lack thereof. It might be worth it, down the line, to try out testosterone, but for now I suppose the most important question of all is why should I care? But I do care; all this has brought up one disconcerting issue: to what extent am I just a product of chemicals? How much of my identity is dictated in my neural chemistry—and how does that same identity change in relation to hormone levels and gene expressions? Important to all these questions is the underlying assumption that a fundamental, essential identity exists outside body chemistry, genetics, environment and socialization—that we must be more than the sum of our parts. As a scientist, I want 1+1+1+1 to equal 4; but as a human, vain and craving something more meaningful, I don’t want this to be the totality of all being.

This is what is at the heart of sex determination studies: what makes us human? Why do some of the brain sex study results differ? If trans women have an over-all masculine brain, how is it we come to self-identify as female in a culture that so harshly pushes conformation to the contrary? Are these identities—gender, sex, sexuality—firmly grounded within our cells or are they more fluid? If the later, how can scientists control for all the dynamic processes?

But maybe that’s the underlying truth? Identity—whether it is gender, sexual, social, etc.—perhaps is much more complex, multilayered, and dynamic than we assume. Regardless of what someone may tell you we are nowhere near knowing what “causes” transsexuality or cissexuality—now, just reading over the papers, the issue seems increasingly nebulous. In the face of the clusterfuck of potentially contradictory and controversial evidence, I take a step back. Matt Ridley is one of my favourite scientific authors, and at the end of his acclaimed book, Genome, he wrote the following:

A gene for free will would not be such a paradox because it would locate the source of our behavior inside us, where others cannot get it. Of course, there is no such gene, but instead there is something infinitely more uplifting and magnificent: a whole human nature, flexibly preordained in our chromosomes and idiosyncratic to each of us. Everybody has a unique and different endogenous nature. A self.

Our biology is not static, so why should we assume our social identities are? We are more dynamic—our identities more flexible. Perhaps it would be more comforting to have everything settled in a clean, Mendelian fashion—a gene for introversion here, the gay gene over on chromosome 7, and the transgender gene nestled tightly along the short arm of chromosome 16. We don’t get off that easy. The sooner we become comfortable in the natural variation and plasticity of our identities, the sooner we’ll be able to lovingly accept ourselves and each other.

Zhou, J.N., Hofman, M.A., Gooren, L.J., Swaab, D.F., 1995. A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. Nature 378, 68–70.

Blanchard, R., 1989a. The classification and labeling of nonhomosexual gender
dysphorias. Arch. Sex Behav. 18, 315–334.

Blanchard, R., 1989b. The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender
dysphoria. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 177, 616–623.

Chung, W. C., De Vries, G. J., & Swaab, D. F. (2002). Sexual differentiation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in humans may extend into adulthood. Journal of Neuroscience, 22, 1027-1033.

Luders, E., et al., Regional gray matter variation in male-to-female transsexualism, NeuroImage (2009), doi:10.1016/

Ridley, Matt. Genome. Harper Perennial. 2000

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Comfortably Introverted Part 2: Finding comfort in difference

Author’s note: this is what my previous post, “Comfortably Introverted,” should have been, or rather it may be seen as an amendment. If it’s redundant in places, please forgive me.

It was getting on towards midnight and my constant intake of coffee over the course of the day was still keeping me wide awake. Slipping on my boots and a thin hoody, I stepped out into the cold Adelaide air and on towards the Village reception, where I found Eddie. He was sitting behind the desk (as usual) drinking a thick, black cup of coffee; he always looked too tired to be someone working night-shift security details. “Hey, Tats!” he called to me, once he saw me pass through the adjacent sliding glass doors, “How ya goin’?” I stop. I sigh. These questions are always more complex than they need to be. “What’s wrong?” he asks, not missing a beat. So I tell him. I open up about how I don’t feel like a girl—how I feel like I’m a boy, still. I tell him how I feel as though people can see through me, and how it feels like people are giving me dirty looks—how they see the boy and the masculinity and glance away. I tell him I hate how people look at me, that it makes me feel like a freak and only heightens my feelings of gender dysphoria. Eddie nods at me, and then he brings up a very obvious point: I’m tattooed. He tells me that he’s seen people looking at me, only to abruptly look away again, somewhat startled; however, he also said the a lot of people asked questions about the “cool girl with the tattoos.”

I’ve been questioning a lot of things lately: my gender expression, my comfort in my body, my sexual orientation, etc. Just the other day a good friend wrote me an email in which she used the word “heteroromantic.” Having never heard this term before, I quickly googled it, and I found out it comes from the asexual community—they have divided sexual orientation from romantic; you may or may not want to have sex vs. you may or may not want to build an intimate, non-sexual relationship with someone (akin to a sexless marriage, although minus the negative connotations—as you’d be perfectly content with the absence of sex).This has me thinking about what my sexual and romantic identities are. And along came Lisa.

Lisa was attracted to me—something she made abundantly clear over the weeks. I have to admit, the concept of the relationship was tempting: here was a girl who said I was pretty and feminine; she wanted to help me realize my own feminine gender expression (essentially “teach me to be a girl”). Given all the self-doubt I’ve recently experienced around my own gender, the offer (as I said) was tempting. This was an offer of validation. Foolishly, I accepted, but the more time she spent with me, the more I started to hear “Scar” by Missy Higgins playing in the back of my head. Being in this romantic relationship I found myself feeling increasingly uncomfortable and stressed until, shortly after the relationship began, we ended it. Instantly, I felt free again...only now, new self-doubt was born. What did my discomfort in the relationship mean? Was that more indicative of trying to force feelings I didn’t have? Was this an indication that I am not only largely asexual, but aromantic as well?

But the Lisa situation wouldn’t die. Now in the “just friends” territory of doom, I find that even a friendship with her is too stressful. Just under the surface of everything I perceive the pretext of the old romantic feelings and the drive to change me. I find myself pushing her away...and damn, isn’t poetic justice just perfectly brutal? Back in college I knew a girl named Nikki; she and I used to be close friends—she even taught me how to play violin—but after a year of knowing her I noticed that I had developed romantic feelings for her. I disclosed my emotions to Nikki, and we decided to remain “just friends.” Obviously, things are never so cut and dry. She stopped taking my calls. She avoided me and lied to me—she excluded me from her life entirely. I have to admit, that hurt...but I can see now that my behaviour in relation to the situation was stressing her out. Now the tables have turned, and I know all too well what must be done.

This is the kind of situation I never wanted to blog about. It’s a tawdry, vulgar scenario that has a better place in high school poetry than it does in a PhD trans girl’s blog about gender. All the same, this trope bears some recognition for what it is: this entire situation has been a giant set-up for questions concerning my own sexual orientation, romantic orientation, gender expression, gender identity, and social identity (optimist vs pessimist, extrovert vs introvert). Moreover, it’s been a lesson in integrity. I have to be honest with myself.

And part of me realizes that what I’m feeling right now isn’t necessarily the pangs of asexuality or aromanticism or even introversion. Part of me is assuming that my orientations are a lot more contingent on other factors—that they do not exist as one universality in a vacuum, but instead are a function of where I am in life and the person or persons to whom these orientations may be directed (if that makes any sense). And maybe that’s the fairest way of assessing the situation: case by case, never limited, and always open for review. And maybe that fluidity is common to the other aspects as well. Before writing this I had a brief chat with Dr. Chin (Not a real doctor, but a motorbike-riding, piano-playing uni student). He said to me, “You’re not normative; you have tattoos, etc. People have a hard time accepting what’s not status quo. So, you’re a tomboy and maybe you’re a little more masculine. But that’s you. If some days you want to wear a dress, just do it. Don’t worry. You have to be who you are.” Fucking wise man that Dr. Chin.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Got to give them hope

In the time it took me to walk from my house to the bus stop this morning, it was announced: the Matthew Shepherd bill passed the Senate and is on its way to President Obama’s desk! Cross-posted links shot up all across facebook; the statuses of many of my friends quickly converted into shouts of ecstatic joy at the news: the FIRST ever transgender-inclusive bill had passed the Congress and was well on its way to becoming law. I let out a huge sigh, realizing I just a monumental achievement for my community. As Bil Browning of Bilerico put it, “Our lack of progress in our state has been salvaged by federal action. The only way we're going to gain our rights is via federal law.”

I agree with Bil 100%--at this point I’m not sure state-by-state efforts are as effective. We’ve made some major federal milestones lately, and the prospects for an inclusive ENDA are looking pretty damn good. We may well be standing on the precipice, looking into a world of full national legal equality for LGBTQ Americans. But there’s a lot of work still yet to go.

Back in July I wrote about some queer resistance to hate crime legislation. Among the main queer opponents was the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, who in April announced their non-support of New York’s Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) due to the inclusion of hate crimes legislation. The points SRLP makes are startling, citing that the LGBT community and people of color are routinely targeted by police and arrested regardless of guilt. SRLP asserts that hate crime legislation will only add ammunition to the machinery of oppression:

Trans and gender non-conforming people, particularly trans women of color, are regularly profiled and falsely arrested for doing nothing more than walking down the street... Once arrested, the degree of violence, abuse, humiliation, rape, and denial of needed medical care that our communities confront behind bars is truly shocking, and at times fatal.

The fear is that not only is the criminal justice system already profiling LGBTQ people and people of color, but that hate crimes laws will intensify this oppression at the hands of law enforcement. The SRLP cites the case of the “New Jersey 4,” a group of queer women of color who were incarcerated for defending themselves against a homophobic assault; the straight man who was attacking them claimed they had committed a “hate crime” against him. Hate crime laws could, potentially, be turned around and utilized to oppress marginalized groups whenever they defend themselves against attacks, or they could escalate the problems created by demographic profiling:

Compared to white men, Black men are disproportionately arrested for race-based hate crimes. The second-largest category of race-based hate crimes tracked by the FBI is crimes committed against white people. Every year, the FBI reports a number of so-called “anti-heterosexual” hate crimes—incidents where members of the LGBT community have been prosecuted for supposedly targeting straight people with criminal acts.

But above all else, the SRLP’s concern seems to be for the real victims of hate crimes:

The real victims who are liable to be thrown to the wolves in this case are the most marginalized members of trans and gender non-conforming communities: poor people, people without jobs or housing, people who resort to survival crimes in order to get by or access health care, people with substance abuse problems, sex workers, youth, people with disabilities, and so many more who are disproportionately targeted for violence, harassment, prejudice in the courts, and incarceration. These are the same people our community must mourn every year at the Trans Day of Remembrance.

I don’t know many people who, after looking at the criminal justice system for five minutes, would suggest that there is nothing wrong. Our system is broken, and it has been broken for a long time. There’s evidence that our focus on punishment is actually detrimental to increasing safety and civility; that increasing the punishments for crimes will only make those who commit the crimes more impoverished and more alienated. While I am certain the fears of the SRLP are founded, I have questions concerning the frequencies of the abuses of the criminal justice system in relationship to hate crimes. I’m certain the examples cited by the SLRP occur—there has been a lot of evidence concerning the disproportionate incarceration of people of color, but I don’t know what the figure are for LGBT people. The APA had this to say:

A defendant's transgender status could affect decisions to arrest, influence jury verdict decision-making and could lead to disproportionate sentences exceeding what is typical for the crime committed. To date, there is little if any empirical research that examines the verdicts against and the sentences given to transgender offenders in relation to their crimes. This research is crucial to gain insight as to whether transgender offenders are treated differently than nontransgender individuals for similar crimes.

Furthermore, there wasn’t much evidence concerning disproportionate incarceration of LGBT people. As I said, I’m sure the arguments of the SRLP are founded to some degree, but I don’t know how much of their fears are represented in reality. The studies haven’t been adequately done (from what little I’ve been able to gather), but that doesn’t mean this is not a very real problem. It just means, like much of LGBT social situations, it has not been as well studied. What is clear is that we do need to reform our criminal justice system, but does that preclude hate crime legislation?

There are many structural problems with hate crime legislation, just as there are many benefits. As NCTE announced this morning (or this evening for you folks in the US):

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will have a number of positive impacts. First, it will help educate law enforcement about the frequent hate violence against transgender people and the need to prevent and appropriately address it. Second, it will help provide federal expertise and resources when it is needed to overcome a lack of resources or the willful inaction on the part of local and/or state law enforcement. Third, it will help educate the public that violence against anyone is unacceptable and illegal.

Additionally it seems that having this pass at the federal level sets an amazing precedent for further legal battles (such as ENDA). These are all very positive outcomes of the passage of the hate crimes bill. As Judy Shepherd said:

Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes. Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families.

I agree with Mrs. Shepherd, especially when she calls for appropriate justice. At the end of the day, my feelings are mixed on this issue, but overall I’m fairly happy. We have a lot of work still yet to go for LGBT equality as well as reforming our justice system to operate in a manner that is adequate, appropriate and fair. Above all else, I see today as a historic marker: the plight of LGBT people has been recognized by our federal government and they have, on this issue, said in a large majority that the violence suffered by the LGBT community must stop. They have said that hate against people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression must be confronted. With the anniversary of Matthew Shepherd’s death nearby and the Day of Remembrance just around the corner, this affirmation from our national leaders gives me hope that we can change the world to be more affirming and accepting of us. Regardless of what undesired side effects this laws may have, the intentions behind the law are clear. It’s taken us a long time, but we have changed the opinions of our leaders, gotten them to see us a little bit more as valuable and as human beings. I know that sounds like a cop out—that should be a given. But it’s not. I have hope that the affirmations we’re seeing in this Congress can become more widespread across the world. Hope.

It’s the same emotion Sylvia Guerrero, the mother of Gwen Araujo, said she held on to the most after her daughter was stolen from her. It’s the hope that through education and advocacy we may “celebrate more birthdays and commemorate fewer murders.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Comfortably Introverted

During my first semester as an undergrad at WSU I completed several paintings, most of which featured my archetypal red-haired girl; among my favourites of these (pictured on the left) is the painting of the red-haired girl sitting on a bus, peering out into the vast wheat fields of the Palouse; she is immersed in the music blasting through her headphones, unaware of much of the world around her—blocking it out through her music and through her own imagination. Though there should be more substance to the bus, it has all dissolved away, symbolic of the girl’s self-imposed isolation. She is, in effect, a human embodiment of introversion. It doesn’t take much imagination to assume that the red-haired girl is a literal rendition of the girl inside me. At this point in my life I still had not started transitioning, though I was well underway setting the stage for hormones and name changes. Looking back at a lot of my art, the image of the isolated red-haired girl pops up a lot; in high school she was depicted in states of alienation or experiencing intense physical/psychological pain (though what, exactly, was inflicting the pain was never shown...I’m sure you all can guess, though). But as time moved on—just before and after I started the transition—the girl’s isolation turned into a peaceful introversion.

I think part of me assumed that once I transitioned I would somehow turn into an extroverted, outgoing person. It never happened, though I still have caught myself thinking that perhaps there is something wrong with me because I don’t do things like initiate conversation. Yes, I’m shy. Sometimes it feels like social phobia. But overall, it’s a kind of serene, easy-going introversion. Typically I’m not put off when people do talk to me—indeed, I really enjoy spending time with friends or meeting new, friendly people. I just don’t initiate. It takes an external force to pull me from the world of my mind...and maybe this isn’t a bad thing. I (and you, too, probably) live in a world where extroversion is seen as something good and healthy; likewise introversion is associated with having low self-esteem, depression, and an unhealthy social and psychological wellbeing. Wow. But what if there isn’t anything wrong with introversion at all?

I find myself asking these questions a lot lately: what if the stupid societal assumptions are all wrong? You know what? I’m finding that society’s got a lot of unhealthy assumptions floating around—superficial beliefs that really don’t serve any purpose aside from making a select group feel good about themselves...all coming at the expense of a lot of other people. But we know this: it’s the basic set up of the in group vs. the others.

A similar issue comes up with respect to asexuality. This culture builds up this necessity for dating, sexual relationships, marriage, etc.—all, of course, under the added assumptions that these relationships are heterosexual and monogamous. It’s seen in the major focus around marriage, indoctrinated into us from our earliest memories (think fairy tales like Cinderella, where the handsome prince whisks the girl away into a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. Oh joy, just what every kid wants!) But what do you do when despite an overwhelming cultural drive, you find yourself not wanting sex? What if you additionally find yourself not wanting a romantic relationship?

I remember reading that an estimated, “60% of post-op MTF’s, regardless of quality of surgical outcome, will not use their new equipment for its intended purpose” (which I’m assuming is sex, as opposed to secret storage of small swag). I’m not sure where, exactly, that number comes from. I do know, however, that Dr. Marci Bowers is the person I’m quoting, and given her position I’d assume she would, of all people, have a fair idea of what that figure is. When I first saw that statistic over a year ago, I initially felt a little sad—I assumed the number was more indicative of the loneliness that far too many trans people have to live with. And while it’s certainly true that many trans people do live with a certain degree of loneliness (I know Donna Rose has written extensively on this topic), I also wonder what percentage of this number is due to trans people who just happen to by asexual (i.e. not wanting to have sex). What about trans people who are aromantic (i.e. not interested in having romantic relationships)?

In my “Coming Out” post I talked a lot about how identity (my identity, at any rate) is contingent on a lot of other factors—and the same is true in this case. My identities are all complex, but to simplify things a little it’s easiest to say I’m asexual. Beyond that I’ve assumed that I’m queer with a tendency to be homoromantic...but I’m coming to even question that. Lately, I don’t have any interest in any social relationships whatsoever aside from friendships. Is this just me being my awesome, introverted self, or is there something more to it? In my (extraordinarily limited) experience with relationships I’ve found that romantic entanglements are both extremely awkward and extremely stressful. What the hell? The damn fairy tales never told me that my relationship with the queer princess would make me uncomfortable or overwhelmed with self doubt and stress.

I’d like to know what you think—especially those out there in normative monogamous relationships. Not that I want you all to be horribly uncomfortable/awkward and stressed in relationships, but if you have had analogous discomfort it would certainly make me feel a lot less confused.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day...or, at least it is in the US. Here in Australia, there is no such day; October 11th goes unmarked in Adelaide, and no one seems to take note that somewhere this month is considered Gay History Month. All the same, I’ve grown accustomed to honouring the 11th of October, taking care to remember Matthew Shepherd, who was brutally murdered 11 years ago, and Harvey Milk, who urged us all to come out and be out, as only through recognizing us for who we are will our loved ones, friends and neighbours make a personal connection with the injustices committed against the queer community, and only then will they stand with us, accept us, and fight with us for equal rights. It all sounds very good in theory.

But what does coming out really mean? I’m talking here not only about what it literally means, but the consequences it signifies as well. In some parts of the world, declaring oneself as gay is quite literally a death sentence. “Coming out” as LGBTQ can mean anything from freedom and empowerment to acceptance to social ostracization to murder a la hate crime—given the huge range of consequences (normalcy, homelessness, admiration, death), the mere act of “coming out” is at best a rewarded as courageous and is at its worst no more constructive than slitting your own wrists. And what of the underlying meaning of “coming out”? It’s a little more than implied that LGBTQ people will forever need to come out. Oh, you moved to a new town? Well, you better tell people you’re gay. Oh, you’re dating someone new? Do they know you’re a transsexual? “Coming Out” in these senses—as something you have to do and something that needs to be openly admitted—often feels a lot like “coming clean.”How many times has “coming out” as a transsexual been rephrased as “coming clean”? It’s the same principle. We have this dirty little secret that needs to be exposed, lest we’re lying to ourselves or others, or we’re not exhibiting the characteristics of Pride, or living up to Milk’s quixotic dream. The whole point of “coming out” was supposed to be empowering. It’s supposed to be a statement of who we are, and because “who we are” is a marginalized and oppressed group, that seemingly-simple act of expression becomes an open force of rebellion...or so it used to be. Now, everything around “coming out” seems to be the obligation to fess up to something, or it’s become a way for many privileged folks in the community to celebrate the fact that they were able to “come out,” even though there are heaps of people who are unable to do so.

And what are we “coming out” as? I’ve given a lot of thought into this, and so to best demonstrate my qualms with the whole “coming out” act, I will, symbolically, “come out” to you all. I’m putting all my cards on the table:

My name is Sonia Adeline. I’m an Amazon woman—or girl. Girl sounds better because, well, I associate “woman” with a certain age and sense of maturity/attachment to the real world that I, frankly, never hope to attain. I’m a scientist, and artist, and a musician, although my lack of experience and dearth of patience have conspired to retard my musical and artistic abilities. That’s not to say I’m not good at what I do, only I could be much better if only I had more discipline. I’m not particularly adventurous, though given the circumstances of my life it would be easy to make that assumption. Really, I’m just very adept and jumping into uncomfortable situations—at unknowingly stumbling into unexplored (or scarcely explored) territory. I’m laid back/easy-going, humble, kind-hearted...though I have an alter ego who is much more intense/exciting/sarcastic/witty/playful/playfully-sadistic/adventurous/spunky/whatever. She peaks through the everyday Sonia frequently, sometimes making me feel like I have a dual personality. I may be crazy, but I’m probably not insane.

Oh, you wanted to hear about sexuality and gender, huh? Well, I thought I was laying my cards on the table, and my deck...well, let’s just say there are far more than 52 cards—and each card is the size of a damn billboard. But, if you want a limited window, let’s go for it. I like girls. A lot. I like tall girls mostly, though shorter is fine by me too. I’m not picky, though I have preferences. I like trans girls and I like cis girls. I like girls with tattoos and dyed hair, and I like girls who play guitar or paint. I like boys—and/or bois—specifically trans boys. I like genderqueers, though I’m not too attracted to genderfucks. I like cis friends. Mostly. I like people who make my soul resonate.

But I don’t really want to have sex with anyone. That’s all a problem. Yeah, I’ll call myself “gay” to appease/shut up some idiot. Yeah, I’m gay...but that’s too simple. If I subscribe to the popular theories of sexual orientation and assume that human sexuality is a spectrum along a bell curve (homosexuality and heterosexuality at the poles with most people being some degree of bisexual), I still limit my sample size. This paradigm still assumes that only two genders exists and that I must be sexually attracted to one or both of them. What if there are more genders, and what if I’m attracted to them all? What if I’m not attracted to anyone? What if, as my case is, I want to cuddle with them, hold hands with them, kiss them, but not really fuck them? What then? In a multi-gendered, multi-sexed, and multi-layered world, words like “gay” and “straight” and “bisexual” lose all meaning. The more progressive of us invent words like “omnisexual” and “pansexual” to describe this phenomenon, but even they make assumptions; they assume that I am equally attracted to everyone, even though I clearly prefer feminine expressions. And again, don’t these terms imply that I’m sexually attracted to them—that I, in fact, want to have sex? I’m a passionate, playful asexual. For now anyway. These identities are in constant flux—I may well meet someone who I really want to fuck. Why limit myself now? The only word for me in this sense is queer. I’m queer, and as all queer folks know, “queer” doesn’t really mean anything aside from “atypical.”

What then of gender/sex? It’s true that I was born male, transitioned, and am now female. That technically makes me a transsexual; however, does this mean that I am the “Once and Future Transsexual”? Instead of pulling a sword out of a stone and being crowned king, I get to instead pull a dilator out of a—well, you know—and be crowned “tranny”? I’m not saying I can change the past and I’m not suggesting that I’m not proud of who I am—instead I only mean to say that at some point in the transition, it seems like being a transsexual would take a major backseat to being a girl. Next there’s the somewhat ill-conceived category of “transgender”—a term that is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. In a technical sense, everyone is at some point transgender if for no other reason than a failure to conform to the unattainable ideals of masculinity and femininity (as society imagines them). But those in the know about minority labels recognize that identities like “transgender” have to be self-claimed. Just because a guy is really feminine doesn’t mean he’s transgender, though his gender expression does make him privy to a lot of the discrimination and asinine assumptions made of the transgender community—or the gay community, for that matter. Transgender expressions, whether the individual identifies as trans or not, are irrevocably linked to the gay community thanks to popular stereotypes.

So what’s the point of all these identity labels? Their meaning within the LGBT community is at best muddled by the gross complexity of sexuality, gender, and sex; however, even were sexual orientation and gender as simple as these basic binary cartoons, social realization of these identities are confused. A trans woman may well identify as female, but if she’s not in the privileged position to afford a transition (let alone “pass,” though that’s a different issue entirely) her self-identification as female may as well not exist—gender identities, to some extent, require social recognition in order to be fully actualized. This is the issue at the crux of “coming out”: how much does it matter what people think?

Like it or not, what other people think does matter. Even Daria Morgendorffer wasn’t immune to caring about what others thought of her. It’s a human characteristic—we look for verification of our identities from society; this is possibly why coming out becomes so important: if we don’t get to be out and recognized as ourselves in society, then our identities essentially don’t exist. For example, I self-identify as a feminine tomboy; while a lot of people who know me have found some way to make sense of this oxymoron of a gender identity, most people never recognize it. My height, my build, my tattoos and my piercings all are cues of masculinity—at least to the uneducated—and as such I am assumed to be more butch and more aggressive than I really am. To these people, that feminine identity is not a prevalent, and therefore is not as real as, say, my more punk/alternative identity (which, oddly enough, has nothing to do with my gender at all).

My point in all this is that if you feel compelled to come out as a given sexual orientation or gender identity/expression today, go for it. Knock yourselves out. What infuriates me is that on paper, these identities really don’t mean anything—they’re vague descriptions aiming to describe individual niches in a system that doesn’t really exist in nature—or it doesn’t exist in such simplistic terms. But outside of the theoretical, these words do mean something—they mean social rebellion; they mean liberation and self-actualization and alienation; love and hate; life and death. Identification as LGBTQ is a radical act, even if, on paper, the words are hollow and meaningless. The real truth in this issue is that any identity is essentially devoid of value until we assign meaning to it, and because everyone will value these labels differently, gathering any consistent standard proves ultimately futile. At this point, I would come out to you all; I would paint a picture using my 52+ metaphorical cards, but that would be an empty gesture. I cannot be defined by 52+ separate labels any more than I can be identified by one primary label of sexual orientation or gender. And besides, the notion of “coming out” or “coming clean” about my identity makes me feel like my inner-most self is some sort of dirty little secret, and you’re supposed to be privy to such intimate information. What infuriates me is that people are now expected to come out and be out as a part of Harvey Milk’s vision, or at least as some version of being an open and honest individual—never is there any mention of people who cannot “come out and stay out” because of social circumstances, or because their identities are too complex to distil succinctly into a Coming Out Day declaration. It’s for these reasons that if I “come out” as anything to you today, I “come out” (for now) as Sonia Adeline.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Man, I feel like a...well, y'know...

A boy. A goddamn mother fucking boy. Fuck. Why do I still feel this way NOW! After all this time--after all I've gone through--why do I STILL feel like a goddamn boy? Jesus fucking Christ...take a deep breathe. It's a screaming confusion, as though this disconnection was waiting patiently for attention, and now, after years of neglect, it rips through everything else, loudly baying:
I feel like a boy.

Before you get any assumptions, let me clarify: I am a girl. Or, at least I think I am. Intellectually...accademically...I'm a girl--no doubt. Physically? Mentally? Ah, man, I'm a fucking mess. It gets confusing. Half the time I feel so disconnected from my gender, as though I'm an agendered being--some sort of blank slate: neither man nor woman nor any third (or fourth) category. The other half of the time, I feel (well) like a boy. A boy. Heh, yeah...I thought I was done with this. Maybe I'm too much of a dyke-tomboy. I dunno. Why is it that when I'm around guys I feel like "one of the guys," and when I'm with girls I feel big and clunky, bulky and awkward? Why can't I relate to myself as a girl? This is like some mirror-land gender dysphoria.

I'm getting so sick of all these fairy tale stories of someone transitioning smoothly--folks who just took to it all like fish to water, put on that skirt and *poof* you're you and life is grand--you finally get to be your true self. Yeah, fuck you. (OK, I don't really mean that, but I cannot take your optimism right now. It's I'm defective for not being able to relate to myself as a girl as quickly, or because I cannot just merge seamlessly into feminine expression. Fuck the optimists--consider this the yin to your yang). I have that poisonous voice of the archetypal HBS woman, saying, "Your difficulty is because you're not a 'true transsexual.' You're a crossdresser/fetishist/etc." Damn right I'm not a 'true transsexual'--I'm a girl.
I think.

I really hate posting something so angsty like this. It makes me feel like a grungy little teenager again, bitching about how tragic life is and how "no one feels like I feel." I'm not singing "Behind Blue Eyes"; I'm certain I'm not the first person stuck in this middle-ground transgender state. It's limbo, not knowing what the fuck you are because your outsides only partially match your insides, and your insiders are inhibited by some unknown's a feeling so reminiscent to the old days before I knew the word "transsexual"--it's so similar, yet it's also a world apart.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Web Comics!

Hey everyone! Currently I’m working through some super-fun (i.e. stressful and unpleasant) emotional issues, and while this blog is in many respects a great way to get free therapy while working through the stress, I don’t particularly want to discuss these issues here and now. This is partly due to the fact that I have alluded to these issues in previous posts (and I hate redundant themes), and partly because I don’t want to write posts that are dripping in pathos. Instead, in order to hold things over until I can compose a real post, I’m going to share with you all some great web comics that I’ve either just started reading, or that I’ve been reading for ages.

Some of these comics helped me deal with being a closet transsexual—this was waaaaaay back when I was still in high school, running off on my free periods to buy really meretricious skirts from the mall (oh, I was young with retarded fashion sense). The first comic I have to share with you is, in fact, the first web comic I ever read! Venus Envy, written by Erin Lindsey has been ongoing, in one form or another, since 2001 (well before I even really came out to myself!), and it’s still going stronger than ever today. It’s the story of a trans girl still in high school, dealing with parents, siblings, and the regular stresses of adolescence, all while incorporating uniquely trans issues! The story has somewhat wavered recently as the art has morphed; I’m not sure how I feel about more recent posts, though many of the archives still have a lot of sentimental meaning for me.

Next I want to introduce you to Transe-Generation, written by Matt Nishi. Unfortunately this comic is no longer being updated, though it’s still worth a read. It’s sort of like a transgender version of the far side—it’s a lot of single-panel comics that allow the reader to laugh at the many of the aspects of being transgender. We all know that being trans can be extremely stressful at times, and as Coyote would say, being able to laugh at ourselves is great medicine.

Next on our journey is Misfile. Like Venus Envy and Transe-Generation, I’ve followed this one, written by Chris Hazelton, for a long time. This is possibly unfortunate for me because I feel like the story has stalled and is becoming tired, even though new characters are continually added to the cast. My history with the comic means, however, that I’m stuck reading it, for better or worse, until it either jumps the shark or concludes. In short, Misfile is about an angel who fucks up and accidentally turns a boy into a girl at the same time he accidentally erases two years of another girl’s life. The story is about these two unfortunate people trying to scratch out any sense of normalcy in their unhappy predicaments all while the helping the angel find a way back into heaven so he can correct the mistakes. It’s worth a bit of a read, especially if you like cars.

Then there’s The Wotch, produced by Anne Onymous and Robin Ericson...this one isn’t overtly about trans people at all. Instead, The Wotch follows the adventures of a young girl with amazing magical powers. What makes this comic trans-related is how this girl frequently uses her power to turn two of her closest friends into girls. Er...yeah. It’s a lot better than I’m making it sound, though I have to admit I haven’t kept up with reading it.

Thus concludes the web comics that I “grew up” with. Recently I’ve stumbled on a couple of others, some of which I can give glowing recommendations, others that I can only offer up as something you might want to look at. The first of these is Closet Space by Jenn Dolari. I have to admit, I haven’t read this one, and the art work kind of turns me off (it has a sort of late 80s, early 90s anime feel about it). The story follows a couple of trans women who become roommates, and from there it’s difficult to explain. It deals with a lot of life circumstances, many of which are sad...some of which are disconcertingly random and surreal. Overall, it’s worth at least checking out. It didn’t float my boat, but loads of people love the story.

Next we have Between the Lines by...a huge team of people. The art on this one is a little inconsistent, and like most of the comics I’m reviewing its writing isn’t always phenomenal. The story is still in its infancy and therefore hasn’t really had much time to mature. However, that said, I found it to be a very enjoyable read, and many of the panels where the art is good, it’s surprisingly pleasing to the eye...though this could also be nostalgia talking (I know lots of people don’t like this art style. I think it’s pretty places. As I said, it’s inconsistent because they’ve had several artists work on it, though the color looks like it has been done using pastels—this gives a really light and beautiful effect, even when the line drawings aren’t superb). Definitely worth a read through, though be warned it deals with some heavy issues, including self injury/suicide, child abuse, drug abuse, sexuality, etc.

The last comic I have to recommend is Trans Girl Diaries is written by Evelyn P. It’s somewhat like Matt Nishi’s Transe-Generation in that it frequently looks at the lighter side of being trans. Unlike Nishi’s comic, though, TGD has several posts that are far, far from funny. Many of the posts are shockingly serious, terrifying, heartbreaking, or just outright depressing. This mix of subject matter is to be expected, however, as the comic reads like a diary, chronicling many events common to trans people (especially trans women) while it also confronts transphobia. Definitely worth a read.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I know of about five other trans-related comics floating around, though I cannot really recommend them because I either a. completely cannot stand them or b. I haven’t read them. Hopefully this brief list is of interest to some of you; reading trans web comics was a big part of my growth from a closeted trans girl, through my coming out, and well into my transition. Clearly I’m still hooked as I still check many of these for updates daily/weekly. To me, these web comics have been as instrumental to my coming out and seeking self acceptance as any transgender book, and I hope that you all can find similar value in them. Sure, the writing is often corny, and some of the art isn’t on par with a lot of other comics around—but these web comics have filled a major gap. Prior to comics like Venus Envy and Transe-Generation, there really weren’t any web comics around that dealt with transgender issues. At times, the impact of these stories can seem intangible because they are freely available and it’s therefore difficult to measure the importance they have had on the community—folks like Erin Lindsey, Jenn Dolari et al may not be celebrities on the same level as folks like Leslie Feinberg or Jenny Boylan, but they nonetheless clearly influence folks within the community—especially young, internet-savvy kids like me. I cannot suggest these comics enough to anyone, young or old. They fill an amazing niche, artfully taking our stories to the masses in an accessible way.

Friday, October 2, 2009

what do YOU think?

This is just a quick note…of frustration! So, I’m at a bit of a crossroads (mentally) as far as this blog is concerned—where do I want to take the content of the blog? How do I want things organized? And so forth…

I think I just jumped into making this blog, hoping to talk exclusively about sex and gender from cultural/social and scientific standpoints (I’ve clearly done more of one than the other), but some of my posts have become muddled with my own personal information. But that’s not altogether a bad thing—I like to share some of my personal stories with you all, as terrifying as that is (for me. Hopefully it’s not terrifying for you at all). So that brings me to where I stand today: I am not happy with the organization/content of my blog as it currently stands. I feel like many posts (perhaps, even this one) are disorganized and incoherent; I feel like the subject matter drifts aimlessly from topic to topic—in essence, this all reads more as a diary filled mostly with ranting than any cohesive body of thought.

And maybe that’s the definition of a blog in a nutshell. My understanding was that a blog was meant to be written more or less on the fly—it’s a rough draft of thoughts put to the page…er, WEBpage, at any rate. Lately, however, a lot of blogs online have become a lot more journalistic in nature, and therefore have been incorporating more and more researched topics, complete with source information. While I like the idea of researching topics and gathering source material—hell, I’ve done it plenty of times here—I also find myself cleaving to my old perception of what a blog actually is. The result has been something between a polished essay and a rough draft of a research paper (with a heavy leaning on the latter).

So, I’m opening this up to you folks reading: what is your opinion? Do you think these posts should be more focussed on the science and cultural aspects of sex and gender, or should I be more personal? Or should I be more political? Should I do heavily researched, polished essays, or do you like the half-assed quasi-researched topics that appear every now and then? Do you think there should be more structure to the posts (ie. Do a series of posts on a given topic, then switch to another series)?

Of course, I have my own ideas of what I’d like to do…maybe revamp a few older posts and work them into actual pieces you’d feel comfortable using as references, yourselves. But, I do like to hear your input as well. So, what do you think?