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by Sarah, Editor in Chief
Hi everybody. I'm sure many of you have been wondering what has been going on with the Crystal Club, considering that there was no November newsletter. Well, a lot has been going on, most notably that Cathy has stepped down as president, and Stephy was voted in as her interim replacement. This all happened at the November meeting, for those of you who weren't there. I started by reading an announcement that Cathy had prepared for that purpose. I am reprinting it here:
I have resigned as president and as a member of the club. This was not a decision I made lightly and I did so only after I knew that there was someone willing to take my place. I really felt I had no choice. I have written passionately about my feelings as a transitioned transsexual and the bathroom issue. This is not something I take casually, it's about my life as I lead it. In the past week I have been made painfully aware that many of my transvestite sisters simply are unable to understand and respect this. I cannot tell you how very important this to me. It's not about bathrooms. It's about respecting me as a transsexual woman and respecting how I must live my life. It is about my basic gender identity. It's about my personal sense of who I am.
By failing to understand and respect my feelings on this, those club members expressing those feelings leave me with a sense of no support for the very difficult road I must travel. They have left me alone in a group that is supposed to be my main source of those who are understanding when no one else does. How ironic that I'm supposed to lead those who would deny me my basic identity!
This has never been about TVs using or not using the restrooms. That is not my place to comment on and only a couple of people are even aware of my personal feelings on that. This is about respecting me as a woman. Respecting my path. That anyone calling themselves my sister could take a position that I'm not a woman hurts beyond words. Worse than that, it leaves me afraid for the ability of the club to support the transsexuals who will follow me. How can the Crystal Club claim to be inclusive of transsexuals when they can fail to support their own president in her basic gender identity? Resigning as president was the only path left to me to express how important this is to those members who cannot understand this. Please, face this issue once and for all, agree that the club must hold the gender identity of it's members as a basic right. The people stepping forward to lead you now are going to be in exactly the same position I was. Don't do to them what was done to me.
Cathy's resignation was done responsibly, only after Stephy agreed to step in and relieve her. After I read the statement, we had a lengthy discussion about the issues Cathy raised, and then we voted Stephy into office. (The vote was unanimous, by the way!! Wow!! Then again, would we seriously expect otherwise?) Shortly afterwards, Stephy emailed me a short announcement to post here:
As some of you already know, I have stepped in as interim president of the Crystal Club until formal elections are held in February. Cathy has decided to move on to other adventures and I applaud her for all the time and effort she has put into the club to keep it going this last year. I hope I can fill her shoes. For now, my plans are to run for the president's spot in February, and I hope we will have a good turnout to vote. I would also ask that you (the members) consider running for some of the positions that are available. It would be wonderful if we could fill all of them. The agenda for the rest of this year is pretty much taken care of. The Christmas party is this month and I would like to use the January meeting to discuss the direction you would like to see the club take. We are all on a journey and we each have our own path to follow. Our interest in the club is the one commonalty that binds us together. I realize that we are a very diverse group and there are just as many different degrees of gender exploration as there are members, but I believe there is room for all of us.
Please attend the January meeting and voice your opinion. We need to know what you want. We have quite a large membership, are planning some new innovations, and whole-heartedly welcome your suggestions and ideas. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
I must comment here that I am impressed with the leadership qualities Stephy has already demonstrated, and I am excited about the progress the club will likely make under her leadership. As I was telling Stephy, I feel this has been a rather good turn of events. Cathy and I took over when the club needed rapid growth and revitalization. During our tenure, we have more than doubled our membership and have made significant progress in moving our community into societal mainstream. However, these things were not accomplished without considerable growing pains. Now that we have had our growth spurt, it is time for our leadership to focus on easing the stresses and strains that could only have occurred. Stephy is perfect for that role. The club has a bright future in her hands.
At the November Crystal Club meeting, I read an announcement Cathy had prepared, in which she announced her resignation from the office of President. Her decision was based on several factors, but foremost among those was the failure of several in our community to acknowledge and respect the basic truth (and I will call it such) that she is a woman. Frankly, I don't blame her. What happened to Cathy is but one more symptom of a disease that is spreading throughout the transgender community. Our community is like a partnership between gold prospectors in the middle 19th century. Typically, when the gold was nothing more than talk, only a distant prospect, the partners were very cooperative and mutually respectful. They protected each other, making their lives much safer, and they worked together, thus achieving much greater productivity. However, as the gold became more of a reality, the partners become increasingly greedy and selfish, often trying to cheat each other. As one partner was cheated by the other, he would feel justified in cheating back. Malice and dishonesty eventually built to a point at which the partners could no longer work together. Such a partnership would sometimes even result in one partner murdering the other to have a larger stake in a claim.
I think something similar is occurring in our community. At one time we (gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, crossdressers, transsexuals, drag queens, drag kings, etc., etc.) were all persecuted mercilessly by society, and so we all banded together, declaring, "We are all human beings!" In fact it was the drag queens who were on the front lines during the Stonewall riots that signaled the beginning of the gay rights movement in the late 1960's. We all banded together because we needed each other. We joined forces because the road ahead seemed just as treacherous for us all. The GLB camp, however, approached the societal mainstream sooner than the rest of us, and there reached a point at which it was easier for society to accept just the GLB population than all of us. It then became expedient for GLB folks to distance themselves from us, pointedly justifying to themselves and to others why they are different from us and how those differences mean that their issues are somehow different from ours. Only now are those of the GLB community becoming secure enough to remember the orphaned transgender community that held their hands and fought with them so long ago. Only now do they feel they can shoulder the burden of reuniting with their more embarrassing sisters and brothers.
Now the same thing is happening in the transgender community. Our community has finally come to the forefront of public attention, and people are starting to understand us, tolerate us, and even accept and sympathize with us. It is at this point that different identifiable camps within the transgender community (TVs, TSs, DQs, etc.) are starting to see those in other camps as strange and different -- as embarrassments -- as people whose manner of presentation somehow bring disrepute to the other camps. In fact society has the same image for us all: flamboyant homosexuals who want to have sex change operations so that we can prostitute ourselves to men. While certain elements of this stereotype may apply more commonly to different camps, none of them apply broadly to us all. The different camps seem to feel that by shedding aspects of this image that apply more to other camps, it will be easier to gain public acceptance. For instance, most TVs are extremely quick to emphasize that they aren't homosexual and that they don't have plans to change their sex, thinking that somehow makes them more acceptable. Many male-to-female TSs, on the other hand, defend that they don't play like they are women like TVs and DQs but that they are women, thinking that somehow makes them more legitimate. In the final analysis, John Q. Public and his wife Jane could care less. To them, we are all flamboyant homosexuals who want to have sex change operations so that we can prostitute ourselves to men. The only thing that our bickering and finger pointing tells them is that many of us feel homosexuality is wrong, many of us feel that crossdressing is wrong, many of us feel that sexual reassignment is wrong, and so forth. That makes us pretty awful people by our own admission!
I think we could learn a very important lesson from our brave sisters and brothers in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In March I reprinted an article by Alejandra Sarda about their heroic protest of the Argentinean government's egregious human rights violations against transvestites, including several dozen murders by the police. What was remarkable about the protest was who "our brave brothers and sisters" were. They were not only transvestites but also gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. So where were the TSs? Where were the DQs? Where were the transgenderists? In fact the TSs, DQs, and TGs identified and continue to identify as "transvestites." The government shoots them with the same guns. It chains them with the same shackles. It tortures them with the same knives and prods. Why should the relatively small differences between them really matter? They are absurdly irrelevant. I think Luciana Kerner of the Young Gay and Lesbians' Group was most profound when she declared, "When the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA [Israeli Mutual Help Association] were bombed, we all became Jews; when photographer Jose Luis Cabezas was murdered we all became him. In the same way, today gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals, we are all transvestites!" On that glorious day, even a group of demonstrators from a shanty town called Villa 21 were "transvestites." While they were protesting the police murder of several young men from their village, their spokeswoman declared to the public, "We can not be indifferent to any of our people's struggles because in the face of this system that kills some of us by hunger, that kills women through abortion [illegal in Argentina], that kills young people and transvestites through the police, the only thing that can give us the victory is unity, the unity of us all".
Meanwhile, here in America's Heartland, we bicker about who is and who isn't a woman. We bicker about who does and who doesn't get to sit on or stand before a ladies' room toilet. We bicker over whether others have jumped through enough hoops and walked over enough coals to have certain body parts surgically removed. We bicker over what to call ourselves (e.g. "crossdressers" vs. "transvestites"). We bicker over whether our hair should be long or short and whether our heels should be high or low. We bicker over whether there is such a thing as a nonoperative transsexual and whether such a person deserves the lofty distinction of being called a real transsexual. We even bicker over whether we have "disorders" or merely unusual but otherwise normal "conditions". I'm not suggesting that these issues don't merit discussion, but do we really want to erect them as insurmountable barriers that define the differences between us? Do we really want to declare to the world, "We may be a bit unusual, but at least we're not like them!" Do we appreciate other groups declaring that at least they're not like us, the flamboyant homosexuals who want to have sex change operations so that we can prostitute ourselves to men?
It's time we recognize all this silliness for what it is. It's time we put matters into perspective. It's time we pause to consider how lucky we are that our government at least pays lip service to matters of human and civil rights and that we are not being systematically killed off by the police or military. It's time we stop bickering, stand together, and set our bearings once again. We still have a long road to travel, and the only way we can survive the perilous journey is to walk the road together, unified. I hereby declare, in the spirit of the Argentinean protesters, that today I am a transvestite! In the same spirit, I am a transsexual. I am a gay. I am a lesbian. I am a victim of HIV. I am whatever the "normal" people of this world regard contemptuously as "them," and I am very proud to be one of "them!" It's not an easy road I walk with my down-trodden brothers and sisters, but it's one I choose to walk! It's a road that sorely needs walking!
I will not be an officer of the Crystal Club for much longer, but before I hand over the Vice Presidency and Editorship to those who follow me, I want to help change the Crystal Club for the better. I want to help treat our wounds before they fester and become gangrenous. There are several serious rifts that are growing between different camps within our community, not the least of which is the rift between crossdressers and transsexuals. While these rifts are relatively mild in Central Ohio, and while we should applaud ourselves for being as cohesive as we are, we should still recognize the malignancy of this problem. If we do not act now to stop the problem, it will grow until our community is one day shattered.
It has been claimed by many that the Crystal Club is a "safe place" to meet, dress, and be with others like one's self. Is it really safe? Of course one would never be attacked or accosted at a meeting, and one's anonymity is always assured. The perils of joining our community are more insidious than that. Our support group often does serious harm to its members by failing to support them. I have talked with perhaps a dozen people who are not active with the Crystal Club for that very reason, including our now former President.
The single most common injury we inflict on others, often unintentionally, often with malice, is our judgment. As well liked and respected as I seem to be, even I have fallen victim to injury at the hands of my sisters. I have been categorized variously as a TV or a TS apparently with little regard for my feelings on the matter, as suited the personal needs of the person categorizing me. I have been told by the same people at different times that I'm pretty, that I'm not pretty, that I pass, that I don't pass, that I'm a ruthless despot, that I'm a kind and thoughtful leader, and so forth. I didn't ask for their opinions, yet they had some personal need to impose them on me, and it has always hurt. The one thing that thankfully nobody has been so presumptuous as to assert is that I am somehow not a woman. I am very lucky, because I have seen several friends torn apart over this very issue. It is very much the same sort of insult as African Americans use on each other when they call each other "white." To deny another person's fundamental identity is always hateful and hurtful in the extreme. Please don't gloss over this point. It is very important:
To deny another person's fundamental identity is always hateful and hurtful in the extreme.
For instance, if I say I am a woman, having come to terms with myself only after 36 years of life, it doesn't take a Nobel laureate to anticipate that I would take great offense at someone else being so arrogant as to tell me I'm wrong, simply on the basis of my appearance or a ten minute conversation. I have known others who have agonized over whether they are TV or TS, finally coming to the decision they're TS only after months or years of soul searching. Then another TS will refuse to acknowledge that personal truth simply because he or she doesn't want to have that person sharing the same gender category. Whether others perceive a person as TV or TS seems to depend as much on matters of appearance, personality, or congeniality as it does on one's actual gender identity. It's superficial, it's hurtful, and it's wrong.
I feel very strongly that the very minimum we should expect from a gender support group is support on gender issues. When most of society refuses to acknowledge our chosen or preferred gender, should we not have a place we can go where it is acknowledged, respected, honored, and even celebrated? I find it highly ironic that I am almost treated more like a woman by the public at large than by my own gender community. When I declare, "I am a woman," my sisters and brothers should affirm, "Yes, you are a woman." When I declare that I am a TV or TS, my sisters and brothers should affirm that too. My transgender family should trust me and respect me and accept me at face value.
While that is not the current state of affairs, I propose making it so. I propose an amendment to the Crystal Club Bylaws for the February ballot, stating that the Crystal Club and its members shall acknowledge, respect, honor, and defend every person's right to gender self-identification. The Crystal Club furthermore shall not establish or enforce policies concerning gender-appropriate behavior or presentation. The Crystal Club shall, however, require that all members conduct themselves at official functions in a manner that is decent and respectful of others. In other words, we will not tell our members who is and who isn't a woman, and we will not presume to tell them how they should behave at Crystal Club functions with regard to their self-identified gender or gender status. Among other things, we will not tell our members which toilet to use. We will only ask that our members use their best judgment and take reasonable steps to respect the feelings and interests of others. That means, for instance, not making unnecessary trips to the ladies' room, not loitering before the makeup mirror, avoiding unnecessarily confrontational situations, using proper bathroom etiquette, etc. If asked by others our policies regarding these issues, we will respond that we require our members to be respectful of others but that we trust their best judgment as to how to do so -- that public behavior is a matter of personal choice. We will add, however, that if there is a problem, it may be brought to the attention of Crystal Club officers and that we will take reasonable measures to resolve the problem, including, if necessary, asking the offending person to leave.
We need to put these explosive issues to rest for good, and above all, we should no longer tolerate the level of arrogance and insensitivity that we have witnessed recently in their debate. The Crystal Club is a support organization, so the very least it should do is to offer support -- support in the most fundamental thing that brings us all through the door -- the self-identified gender of each and every one of us. If we cannot do that, then perhaps we should not exist. In the broadest perspective, the lady sitting in the stall next to us has no idea whether we are TV, TS, DQ, or whatever, and she probably doesn't even understand the differences. All she knows is that someone who is/was male in at least some manner walked into the restroom with her and is peeing next to her. The regard and respect she has for that person depends largely on the regard and respect we have for each other and for her. There are much bigger issues that face us -- matters of our most fundamental civil and human rights. Isn't it silly to let our community fall apart over matters such as bathroom privileges? We will all thrive or perish together. Let's thrive. Let's unite once more!
The annual Christmas Dinner will be held this coming Saturday. For those of you who have never been to a Crystal Club Christmas dinner, it's not something you want to miss. It's a chance for you to trot out your finest and dress to the nines. (However, many people choose to come dressed in a more "everyday" manner.)
We'll take care of the main courses, but you might want to bring some small item, such as an hors d'oeuvre, dessert, or drink. Also, please remember to bring a doll or teddy bear to give to Choices. Choices is a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The children who stay there are very frightened, especially during the holidays, and the fact that someone cared enough to give them a doll or teddy bear -- a companion for their difficult journey -- can make a very big difference in their lives. (K-Mart has some beautiful, porcelain dolls on sale for $16.99, by the way.)
One thing trannies do frequently is to offer unsolicited advice to others about matters of personal appearance and style. Usually the advice is offered out of kindness or concern. For instance, we may feel that a friend is making a terrible fashion mistake, and we may delicately broach the subject for the perceived good of the friend. That has happened to me countless times, but I find I get involved in a bit of a tug-of-war. Just like no two people have the same opinions regarding style and presentation, no two people offer the same advice. I have been told I should walk around with my hand on my hip, swaggering like John Wayne. I have been told I should jump about like a Nutcracker fairy. I have been told I should not wear hair below my shoulder. I've been told I should only wear longer lengths. I have been told I should not wear thick foundation, irrespective of the heavy beard shadow that would otherwise show through. I have been told how to apply thicker foundation with a spatula and to seal it with spray lacquer. (Seriously!) I have been told my lipstick is too bold. I have been told my colors are too boring.
With time, I learned not to listen to all the well-meaning advice I receive. I learned that femininity cannot be boiled down to a list of 50 rules. Genetic women don't follow the rules. Why should I? People do have a right to present themselves in a manner that other people might not choose for themselves! What's more, it's almost their obligation, so that our world maintains its diversity. I remember recently in group therapy my therapist commenting on how we all have our legs politely crossed and our hands neatly folded in our laps. The comment was no more than a preface to a question; however, it really highlighted how little diversity we had in our presentation. It was really somewhat laughable.
My point is that style and manner of presentation are as personal as tastes in food, music, and literature. There are no "right" or "wrong" tastes, just like there are no "right" or "wrong" styles. Telling a person what style she should have is every bit as presumptuous and rude as telling a person what music she should like. However, this is a very different matter from one of sharing techniques. It is one thing, for instance, to tell a person she shouldn't wear her hair straight and quite another to share with her what you just learned about how to style a wig. "How to" tips are always different from "you should" tips. If nothing else, a "how to" tip can be prefaced with, "I don't know if you'd be interested in this sort of thing, but I just learned about a great way to... with a new product available at..."
Sometimes advice is offered for selfish reasons. For instance, we may be jealous of another person for some reason and may seek to elevate our self-esteem by offering advice authoritatively on points where we think we excel. Once a friend started riding me about my garish makeup, my "lips from Hell," and so forth, insisting that those factors were the reason I "don't pass." Largely because of her negative commentary, I started changing my makeup colors, and I was not as pleased with the results. Moreover, I lost much of my confidence in my appearance. Because of that, I started having more difficulty "passing." Finally I had the good sense to rebel against her advice and to revert back to my more familiar style. I was happier, I was more self-confident, I passed better, and I think I looked better in the process. I talked with my therapist about the matter, and she suggested it was probably a matter of appearance jealousy. I finally confronted my friend about it, and to my surprise she confessed, "You know what it is, don't you? I'm jealous." While I am not angry with my friend, I am still hurt that I spent several months doubting myself and corrupting my personal style simply because someone was jealous of my appearance and had some personal need to justify to herself why she passed better than I. That was a hard-learned lesson for me.
Finally, advice or commentary is offered occasionally with the intent of being hurtful or provoking jealousy. For instance, I have a hair problem. I am bald, and I have incredibly dense and tenacious body hair. I am already all too aware of this problem, having to deal with it almost on a daily basis. There's not much I can do about it cheaply or easily. Still, practically everybody I have ever met who is blessed with lots of hair on top and not much elsewhere has taken the liberty of bragging incessantly to me about it, asserting that if I were to address my hair problems I might pass as well as they. Fortunately I have always been fairly high in self esteem, so I recognize boasting for what it is. Still, these sorts of comments only serve as frequent reminders of the difficulties I face., and it's hurtful that someone would wish that on me. It is quite different, however, when someone gives me advice as to how to deal with hair problems (e.g. hair removal advice), for which I am always grateful. The first approach says to me, "Look at me! Don't you wish you could be like me? Too bad!" The second approach says, "That's a terrible problem. I'd like to help. I heard about something new that might help you. Have you heard about it?"
In summary, when should we give advice, and when should we keep our mouths shut? First, one should never give advice to point out a problem that cannot be addressed. (e.g. "You're not pretty enough. Your facial features are too masculine. Perhaps if you were prettier people would accept you more.) Such "advice" is never helpful and is always unwarranted. Second, one should question one's motives in offering advice before one gives it. Advice offered for selfish reasons will likely not be well received. Third, while techniques advice is usually welcome, advice about personal style can be somewhat touchy. When should we give it? I think it's usually safe to give it when the person asks for it, as long as it's done with tact, sensitivity, and diplomacy. I think that unless a person asks, we should not presume to offer our views, no matter how good our intentions. We are all very fragile and vulnerable people, and even the gentlest of unsolicited advice can be devastating. The only exception I would make to this rule would be for matters of personal safety. For instance, I might be inclined to offer some stern corrections and unsolicited image consultation to someone who boasts naively, "I pass perfectly! I can walk into any redneck bar anywhere and have guys crawling all over me!" Otherwise, we should try to remember that we are all very fragile and vulnerable people, no matter how we may appear, and even the gentlest of unsolicited advice can be devastating.
by Vanessa Edwards-Fosterreprinted with permission
Recently a few articles and a question about the facilitator in another local group have brought to light a continuing problem in the Transgender Community -- exclusive or divisive attitudes. One article from Linda Phillips, editor of Boulton & Park Society’s newsletter, reopened a persistent argument about the demise of the Gender Community. In it she mentioned Kymberleigh Richards (editor of the now-defunct Cross Talk) and her blast at the entire TG community. She then remarked on “the selfishness of those [in] Genderworld,” and a tendency to pursue our own dreams while leaving behind those remaining to have fulfilled theirs . In another article Ms. Phillips pointed out the TS’s reputation for “no sense of humor” in regards to taking personal criticism and their tendency to disappear after surgery, the trivial nature of crossdressers who focus wholly on their appearance and clothes, closeted folks who haven’t found the courage to step out of the closet, and publicly outlandish fetishists who in her opinion should go back into the closet. From the Femme Forum, Jane Ellen Fairfax leveled a shot at the ‘passable’ crossdresser. In the article she described a case of an individual at a transgendered convention who demanded, “Keep the group away from me. They’ll get me read!” (an insensitive comment and totally uncalled for, especially considering the situation.) She then goes on to claim that the “crossdresser intent on passing” does the cause of education and acceptance “real harm” and to attempt to pass is “selfish and intellectually dishonest.” Later in the same newsletter, facilitator Brandi Welch brought up issues of contention concerning Tri-Ess’s excluding others because of sexual orientation. In it she discusses her reading of the various reasons her group should remain exclusive as such, but doesn’t understand the persistence of those arguments from within the group considering that nobody is picketing Tri-Ess meetings, or gate-crashing events. Later in the article she mentioned her hormone therapy, electrolysis, membership in the Texas Association for Transsexual Support (TATS), and pursuit of living full time as female -- likely an attempt to head off future arguments of her validity as facilitator for a heterosexual crossdressing chapter. Yet the firestorm may have just begun, as one ‘friend of’ Tri-Ess, a pre-op TS, has already questioned the criteria for exclusion of full membership to full-time TG’s or eventual transsexuals. It goes without saying that all of the above categories have made little secret of distancing themselves from gay transvestites and female impersonators. In general they look upon ‘drag queens’ as the dregs of the community whose raison d’être is to have sex with men.
This divisiveness among our loose-knit community is what will eventually dissolve what community we have. Yet these exclusionary attitudes can be boiled down to one component: hierarchical mentalities...the feeling that ‘our group is better than theirs.’ Hierarchies in the TG community was a topic on a recent Transgender Community Forum’s Gazebo chat room on AOL. Unfortunately I was unable to log on and participate. The Email sent to me by TCF coordinator Gwen Smith did bring up some interesting questions which I’ll attempt to address (with a little rearranging in the order of the questions).
Why is their a hierarchy mentality within the TG community? Grouping according to commonality is natural instinct and is not peculiar to transgenders. We all tend to naturally gravitate to those with the same general cultural background, interests, or experiences. Further still we’ll then seek out those of similar experience levels within the general groupings. The problems that arise are when these groups then become exclusive. Naturally, someone who’s been excluded would feel hurt or offended. The problems are exacerbated when one group or subset develops a ‘better than thou’ attitude towards another. While it’s true there are traits or talents that distinguish one from another, we shouldn’t develop superior attitudes to trivialize others we deem lesser than ourselves. We all have different talents, different experiences and different views to contribute to the whole.
Is the competition inherent in some the root of this mentality, and does that act as a negative influence on others in the community? Competing for attention is also natural. We all crave it as children. As we grow we tend to develop our competitive urges differently: little girls pursue it in appearance, and/or more creative or artistic fashion; while little boys are societally and/or genetically programmed to compete more overtly -- to win games, battles, acclaim, etc. Friendly competition is positive and can keep one strong, but when its ultimate goal is for feeling superior or dominant over another, it becomes negative. Competing should be limited to appropriate situations. Competing amongst those in our own community is divisive, and only serves individual egos.
Are there any benefits to a certain level of hierarchy, or is it all a bad thing? A hierarchy by definition implies various levels subordinate to levels above. In an organization’s administration it can benefit by setting a responsible party to guide the group, and responsible subordinates to help. This gives focus to the organization’s individuals who otherwise would likely stagnate without some catalyst to initiate consensual direction. However hierarchies in a community of individuals, or a community of groups within the whole, imply superiority to others arbitrarily deemed below our level. This is where hierarchies fail. There’s a tendency to consider neophytes beneath us, because of lack of experience. Another tendency is to consider those beyond our level, or those more zealous as extreme or even temerarious. There’s also the chance that we categorize too broadly, potentially underestimating or dismissing those whose talents we don’t appreciate or understand. Generally we view anyone not at our specific level as either suspect or unenlightened.
Does a hierarchy help or harm an individuals self-worth or self-esteem? The only individual helped by hierarchy is the one who, by virtue of feeling superior, can make another feel less worthy or devalued. Bringing others down to make yourself feel better never raises a community, it only lowers it. Eventually it even harms the arbitrarily superior individual by showing them to be self-centered, shallow and insensitive. As a result, their peers will consider them someone to avoid. Ultimately this attitude affects us all by affirming a negative image of transgenders in general.
Are there real differences between the ranks, and are their enough similarities to ease those differences? We all share a commonality -- an attraction to the clothing, and/or the mannerisms, and/or the gender of the genetic sex we were not physically born to -- yet there are true distinguishing factors as well. Adopting a theory put forth by Martine Rothblatt, in general transgenderism is a continuum. With the ultimate terminus being post-surgical transsexuality, and the absolute beginning being the first flirtations with fetishism or novice crossdressing, there is a wide range of choices within transgender spectrum. Given that this is a continuum, most of us continue progressing through the various stages; moving on once we’ve decided we comfortably passed a certain level. For many, this transition through the stages can be lengthy. Because of societal stigmas and a general lack of accessible information on transgenderism, many start off as crossdressers -- often quite closeted -- before discovering their true desires. Others find their true desire is to be nothing more than a crossdresser. Some individuals will even start out in gay drag or even prostitution under the guidance of society’s stereotype of ‘what a drag queen should be’ before realizing that they feel out of place. Instead they discover, after finding information or groups of those that are their true peers, that they are in reality transgenderists or transsexuals. Tragic as that may sound, as long as the institutional stigmatization is in place, this scenario will continue. While it may seem to some of us that we share no common bond, there is one undeniable similarity: society views us all as one entity and will likewise discriminate against us in the same sweeping manner. The only way to win any rights and acceptance from the non-TG world is to unite and to educate them, as well as each other.
Which bring us to our final question: What do we stand to lose by perpetuating a hierarchy? Judging other individuals or groups tends to divide. Dividing then dissolves to ‘rock throwing’ -- launching epithets or worse -- which causes a similar response from the other side. A by-product of our divisiveness is that we give arch-conservative moralists half a victory resulting from our lack of focus caused by the fragmentation. It plays right into the old strategy of divide and conquer. If we fragment as a community, we will become an even smaller minority than we already are as a whole. Moreover our disarray will erode any credibility we’ve built to this point, further jeopardizing our position regarding our rights. The dismissive attitudes and the firing of salvos at one another must stop if we hope to keep our community from completely dissolving. If we fragment our community we stand to lose all progress made to date, as well as losing any real chance of winning rights or respect and acceptance from society at large. We need to stop wasting so much energy pointing fingers and spend more time educating ourselves and understanding each other. Quoting Abraham Lincoln (a paraphrase from Mark 3:25), “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
by Jane Ellen Fairfaxreprinted with permission
There was no denying it. Carolyn was a beauty! With her lovely auburn hair amplified by perfectly-matching extenders, immaculate makeup, soft, sultry voice, and carefully cultivated mannerisms, she was the very picture of a lady. Not surprisingly, Carolyn was proud of her ability to pass in public. So it was hardly unexpected when she approached the organizers of a Holiday and demanded, "Keep the group away from me. They'll get me read!"
Passing has always seemed to me a sterile pursuit. Most crossdressers feel hurt when they hear derogatory comments from people who read them. To some extent, then, attempting to pass is an understandable defense mechanism. Even so, the concept has always struck me as selfish and intellectually dishonest. Some criminals attempt to pass counterfeit money as real. Crossdressers are not, and should not try to be, counterfeit women. But there is nothing bogus about our femininity. It is real! Our ability to express our feminine potentials is a true gender gift. Why hide it?
Recently, however, an insidious and cruel element has crept into our community, one which threatens the very foundations of support groups. Some "old guard" types are actually suggesting that novice crossdressers be excluded from outings because they will get the group read. Not only is such an approach futile, it is disgustingly heartless to sisters most in need of support.
Such behavior is not only insensitive, but futile. Buoyed by wishful thinking, most crossdressers convince themselves they pass better than they do. Even very polished crossdressers have little imperfections in their presentations. When a group of them go out in public, these little defects magnify one another, and the whole group usually is read. So why not lay aside ineffectual attempts at deception? Why not be satisfied with achieving the best possible feminine presentation, and go out and meet the public?
Nor does the crossdresser intent on passing accomplish anything toward the cause of public education and acceptance. If he should pass, who, except for his ego, is the better? If he does not pass, he misses out on some golden opportunities to educate. Instead, he does our cause real harm by inviting ridicule not only for being a crossdresser but also for being unable to blend successfully.
But it is on the unfortunate novice that the most destructive effects fall. When a new member emerges, she approaches the chapter with much trepidation. Perhaps she has labored for months on her feminine image, hoping her sisters will find her acceptable. Her self-esteem is a fragile flower that a gust of insensitivity can easily blow away. Can you imagine the effect of such a boorish remark as, "Keep away, Sister. You'll get me read"? Her self-image crushed, the novice will probably retreat back into secrecy, never again to emerge.
Every Tri-Ess sister should be aware of this destructive behavior and do everything in her power to discourage it. If chapter peers make it clear that excluding sisters from outings is unacceptable, the offenders may find it advisable to pursue their social deception in more appropriate settings. Nurturing the newcomer and the less-skillful sister should be a high priority for everyone in Tri-Ess. Should an attempt be made to exclude a sister from an outing, mature sisters should speak up immediately and emphatically, inviting her along and reassuring her that her presence is desired. While the group will be read, peer support will facilitate the adjustment of the inexperienced sister. Having enjoyed the outing, the new sister will want to become more and more a part of chapter life. Doling out positive reinforcement between meetings also helps the novice build self-esteem, and warms the heart of the giver. A little love cancels out a lot of thoughtlessness.
Now back to the story of Carolyn. Although her sisters felt hurt by her request to be left alone, they honored it. Some time later I was en homme in the hotel restaurant, dining with a colleague, when Carolyn, aloof and supremely confident, strolled past. "Well, would you look at that!" exclaimed my colleague. "That's a man!"
Support or self-indulgence? The choice is clear.
by Mary Ann Harris
In a recent exchange in Dear Abby, someone reminded us of the horrors of the Holocaust, where millions of Jews and other minorities were killed. Abby gave thanks that "We are living in a country where people will never encounter the horror that was faced" during the Holocaust.
Another letter pointed out that "apathy and denial by the populace led to the actions of the Nazis. Some in our society preach the same hatred, and there is profound apathy in this country toward those who engage in such activities. We all hope that we will never `encounter such horror,' but only an informed, vigilant society can prevent such a horror from ever happening again." Abby agreed, and suggested that one way to protect our freedom is to exercise our right to vote to the fullest.
The second letter makes a poignant argument. Are those same forces that propelled Hitler to power alive and well in America today? Just what was the idea that Hitler used to gain power?
The Nazis had a simple message. They said that people just like them were better than people who were different. They proceeded to take away basic human rights from those who were different. It started with registration, then loss of the right to work, to own property, and to liberty. Eventually they took away their right to live.
Much money is raised today in the name of God or Jesus. Some of that money goes to support true mainstream Jewish/Christian values: loving your neighbor, helping those in need, spreading the word of the Lord that, by accepting Jesus as savior, your sins can be forgiven.
Other money is raised in God's name to withhold basic rights from those who are different than the fundraisers. These fundraisers would have us have laws that bar some people from the right to work, to marry, to buy housing, to use public restrooms, to medical care, even to medical advice. Women, gays, and the transgendered are to be denied rights, to be domesticated, subcultured, or even eradicated.
Every day we all receive mail asking for donations. Which kind of organizations are asking you for money in today's mail?
Apparently whipping the masses into a frenzy that "we might be asked to treat THOSE people as equals, God forbid!" is a powerful fundraising technique. The money keeps flowing in, and the hate campaigns escalate. There are enough people in this country who support the denial of basic human rights to fund fancy new buildings in Colorado for many far-right organizations. The people of this country are not bad, nor were the people of Germany. But good people can be misled by clever hateful leaders.
There is more than one way to exercise your right to vote. In this country, you can vote with your money. Take that money you were requested to send to someone promoting hate, or a small donation of your own, and send it to someone who promotes love, equality, and human rights. Send a donation to the National Organization for Women, P.O. Box 96824, Washington, D.C. 20090-6824; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2320 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-2702; and/or to my favorite, the International Foundation for Gender Education, P.O. Box 376, Wayland, MA, 01778, or to your own favorite non-hate organization.
And pass this column on to your friends. If you're on the Internet, forward it to 10 or 20 people. Put it up on a bulletin board at work, or in your church. Publish it in your newsletter. Show that a message of love is more powerful than a message of hate.
Life isn't about keeping score.
It's not about how many friends you have
Or how accepted you are.
Not about if you have plans this weekend or if you're alone.
It isn't about who you're dating, who you used to date,
how many people you've dated, or if you haven't been with anyone at all.
It isn't about who you have kissed,
It's not about sex.
It isn't about who your family is or how much money they have
Or what kind of car you drive.
Or where you are sent to school.
It's not about how beautiful or ugly you are.
Or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on, or what kind of music you listen to.
It's not about if your hair is blonde, red, black, or brown
Or if your skin is too light or too dark.
Not about what grades you get, how smart you are, how smart everybody else
thinks you are, or how smart standardized tests say you are.
It's not about what clubs you're in or how good you are at "your" sport.
It's not about representing your whole being on a piece of paper
and seeing who will "accept the written you."
LIFE JUST ISN'T.
But, life IS about who you love and who you hurt.
It's about who you make happy or unhappy purposefully.
It's about keeping or betraying trust.
It's about friendship, used as a sanctity or a weapon.
It's about what you say and mean, maybe hurtful, maybe heartening..
About starting rumors and contributing to petty gossip.
It's about what judgments you pass and why.
And who your judgments are spread to.
It's about who you've ignored with full control and intention.
It's about jealousy, fear, ignorance, and revenge.
It's about carrying inner hate and love, letting it grow, and spreading it.
But most of all, it's about using your life to touch or poison other people's hearts in such a way that could have never occurred alone.
Only you choose the way those hearts are affected,
and those choices are what life's all about.
by Hilary Louise Fosterdedicated to Dea Juliana
You act like you want me in all of your life.
But when the time comes about you push me away.
You walk out the door without even saying good-bye.
You push me away, and my heart breaks.
You hide things and deny things.
You live two lives
And that's alright.
But please let me into them
by Hilary Louise Fosterdedicated to Dea Juliana
You start your day by shaving your legs.
Then you pull on your hose
And slip on your dress.
Finally you get your hair and makeup done.
When you enter the room
I'm just stunned.
You're so beautiful.
In so many ways.
I look into your deep brown eyes
And I can see the love in your heart and the light into your soul.
You're passionate and caring
Yet strong and protective.
You're a Father yet a Mother
And most of all
You're my Friend, lover and my life.
So do what you need to,
And wear what you choose.
Just remember no matter what gender you portray,
I love you either way.
The other night, Stephy, Carey, and I got together for an evening of discussing Crystal Club business, followed by some well deserved "west and wewaxation." We had actually planned the evening well in advance, but we didn't know we would be starting the evening on a gray note, having to sort our vision of the future of the Crystal Club. We held our little meeting at the Grapevine, which proved to be an excellent choice -- not so noisy as to be distracting, not so quiet as to be dead, and well enough lit that we didn't need night vision scopes to see each other. What did we discuss? The almighty toilet, of course! That's a long story, covered elsewhere in this newsletter. The good news is that we found ourselves of like minds on all that we discussed, yet we managed to refine our positions considerably in the process. Besides our refined ideas, the evening was also filled with refined sugar. We all had a positively decadent caramel apple pie (a la mode, of course!) -- three thumbs up!
While we were eating our dinner, discussing which toilets we should use, I was rather amused by the Grapevine's toilet situation. (We were seated right next to the restrooms, which not only was great for observation's sake, but also quite appropriate somehow!) Those of you familiar with the restaurant probably know that the men's room and the ladies' room are labeled with posters of rather androgens little kids. One is a boy, and one is a girl, but nobody is quite sure which is which without first opening the door. That's similar to a trick that one local bar and grill plays on its customers. The men's room door says "men" on the outside and "women" on the inside (and vice versa for the women's room). While we were watching the customers go in and out of the toilets, somewhat confused, Carey spotted a guy from her work crew. He didn't spot her though, even after making a couple of trips to the men's room and passing right by our table. I suggested to Carey that she should start talking about grape vines at work, pointing out that grapes are her favorite fruits! (OK, cruel, I know....)
When work was finally over, it was time to play. I had never been to Wall Street (the lesbian bar, not the street) and wanted to see what it was all about. Carey and Stephy were amazed I hadn't been there before, but hey, I'm not really much of a party girl. Of course on a Wednesday night, the place was a bit dead, at least when we got there. We ordered drinks (a virgin daiquiri for me, high test rocket fuel for Carey, and something inbetween for Stephy) and chatted a while. I couldn't help but notice that there were very few lesbians (or even women) there that night. I later found out that Wednesday is "straight night." Of course the GLBT crowd is welcome too. Later when things got a bit livelier, it was a lot of fun having such diversity in the same bar.
Because I had never been to Wall Street before, I suppose I didn't know how I should dress. Carey and Stephy fit right in, with jeans and sweaters. I stood out like a sore thumb, which made me fit in quite nicely too -- in a strange sort of way. I was wearing a really short metallic leather mini, a metallic top, sandals to match the mini, and of course my classic "Trailer Trash Barbie" wig.
After the three of us chatted for a while, we decided to explore the place and eventually found ourselves playing pool. Actually Carey just watched while Stephy and I played. Neither one of us is a particularly good pool player, but for some reason we were both making shots beyond our skill level and actually sinking all the balls! It was a relief to find out that I hadn't lost my spatial abilities. I had added interest in the game, because I could strut around and show off a bit. (No, I'm not above that sort of behavior!) Anyway, Stephy and I were cookin'! Of course my game was a bit hindered, as I couldn't very well bend over the table, or else I would give other patrons a clear view up my skirt! Still, I did a great job sinking those balls! I was clearly playing beyond my abilities. Finally a butch lesbian came up and abruptly plopped three quarters down on the edge of the table, obviously claiming the table for the next game. Not knowing pool etiquette, though, I didn't realize she meant she was to play the winner of our game. When the game was over, she suggested we could play "partners" and take turns with the pool cue. (Watch it! Don't go there!) That sounded good to Stephy and me. The lesbian woman played about at our level; however, her partner was the ringer. He was good! Even so, luck was with us that night, and we won all three games we played, which was a real stitch, considering that we were two prissy femmy trannies playing a butch lessie and a somewhat "tough" guy. They were both extremely nice people and didn't have big, fragile egos, so the games were a lot of fun.
After I hung up the pool cue and went over to chat with Stephy and Carey, some guy came over and started setting up the table again. He carefully selected his pool cue, checking it by rolling it on the table, and he racked his balls with ever so much skill. (Hey! I told you to watch it!) Then he came over and motioned me to play. Had pool etiquette doomed me to play all night? Somewhat reluctantly, I said, "What the heck! You'll win though!" He grinned. I broke but didn't pocket any balls. Then he followed up by sinking a few balls with great finesse and precision. His greatest strength was bank shots. To my amazement, though, I managed to keep up with him, taking some pretty fancy shots myself. Then came the moment. Only the 8 ball was left on the table. He shot. He scratched. I won! Ha! I gave him a prissy smile and shrug.
Then he racked the balls again, challenging me to another game. "OK," I said. Again, we were both making amazing shots, I playing far beyond my normal capabilities, until only the 8 ball was left. It was then that neither one of us could manage to sink the ball, even when we had very easy shots. After we had knocked the thing around at least a half dozen times, he finally was able to pop it into the corner pocket with a very nice bank shot. It was a great game, and I had finally been defeated! I could finally hang up my pool cue and retire a happy and satisfied woman, having shown them all what real women are made of!
Left to right: Vanessa Edwards-Foster, Sarah DePalma, and your humble editor
Editor's note: I wrote this article for the Gulf Coast Transgender Community (GCTC) newsletter when I visited my dear friend Vanessa Foster (also their newsletter editor) in Houston. I am reprinting it here exactly as it appeared in the GCTC newsletter. Just so every one understands it better, I'd better start by providing a bit of background: Every year I attend the Society for Neuroscience conference -- an enormous event that is the principal venue for face-to-face interaction for neuroscientists throughout the world. This year the conference was held in New Orleans, which is not all that far from Houston. What's the importance of Houston? First and foremost, I have two cousins there (by marriage, not by blood) who are beginning to accept me as Sarah. My family is very tiny, consisting only of my those two cousins, another very distant cousin by marriage in Austin, and my first cousin in San Francisco, and of course my children. I have other blood relations still living, but they're not part of my family. They don't want me. They consist of my biological father, my uncle, and my other first cousin. I was unaware that my "real" father, who died in 1979, and my biological father were not one in the same, until my estranged wife informed me. It's confirmed the he always knew I was his child, and I even met the guy before I found out, but he never claimed any relation to me. My uncle and cousin have essentially disowned me after having talked extensively over the phone with my wife. (Gee, I wonder what they discussed....) I guess they're her family now. They're certainly not mine! The point of all of this is what little family I have left is extremely important to me, and visiting my two "cousins" in Houston, en route to New Orleans., was a high priority for me. They had never met me as Sarah but had heard about my being transgendered. (Yup! You guessed it! My wife took it upon herself to call them and tell them!) So I thought it was important that they meet me as "Sarah." Meanwhile, that gave me the opportunity to visit my dear friend and fellow editor, Vanessa Foster, who was so kind as to put me up during my stay, and it also gave me a chance to visit my alma mater, Rice University, where I met with some of my old professors and gave a talk on GIDs to a psychology class.
While in Houston, I met many TG locals, including Sarah DePalma (an important transgender activist and organizer of It's Time, Texas!) and the infamous Denelle, who is, like, a totally awesome valley girl, airhead-type. (In truth, it's just an act. She's really one of the most intelligent and talented people I've ever met, but we'll just keep that a secret.....) I spent some time there helping out with the Annise Parker campaign. Annise is the first openly lesbian candidate to have a serious shot at winning a city council seat in Houston. In fact she won the election as of December 6 (the date of the runoff), and her victory might not have been possible without the very strong showing of support (and labor) from the TG community.
Anyway, that's the cast of characters. Following is the article Vanessa made me write!!
When I came here to Houston to visit my sis, Vanessa, little did I know what experiences lay before me. I left Columbus a neurobiologist, headed to the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, and I thought this an opportune time to get in a quick visit with Vanessa, as well as a couple of my Houston cousins. What I didn’t know was that I would be enslaved and made to work in a campaign sweatshop for Annise Parker.
OK, in truth, it’s been rather fun getting to know all the local politicos. Of course I had to start at the bottom -- stuffing envelopes. (Don’t I do enough of that as editor for my newsletter??) The office was a very spirited place, with Annise having moved into front-runner status and having captured the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle, the local Southern Baptists (!!) and most importantly the other Chronicle -- the Crystal Chronicle (the newsletter of my support group). Hey, the Crystal Chronicle supports Annise so strongly that it’s entire editorial staff flew down from Ohio to lend a hand! What more remains to be said?
During my time here, I also had the opportunity to meet, like, Denelle. What a character! It was, like, really kewl running around with her for the short time we had together, particularly when we were roving about, pounding Parker campaign signs into the fire ant mounds outside of the various polling places. It makes a girl feel, like, really bitchin’ to be hangin’ with such awesome babes! We even got a few honks from passing drivers. Rude? Yes. Uncool? No. Sometimes it’s fun to get a bit of attention from horny honkers! Denelle captured the moment with this sketch of me pounding one of the Parker signs with a hammer. Of course the face isn’t visible, and Vanessa claims Denelle was drawing her, but her hair is curly, not wavy, and I was the one doing the hammering, not she! Anyway, I’m really impressed with Denelle’s ability to capture an image so incredibly realistically. She is truly talented, both in her drawing abilities and in her knack for recognizing great subject matter when she sees it.
I suppose Vanessa felt pretty guilty having looped me into a sweatshop environment, so she took me to the Galleria. What better place to take my mind off of the little matter of my enslavement? Mostly we walked around, but we did hit a pretty good sale at Wet Seal. They had some Summer things selling for 75% off. The shop was a bit... um... youngish, but we found some really bitchin’ white cotton halter tops for around $4. OK, I know that’s socially irresponsible of us -- particularly of Vanessa. (Some poor guy is going to get a coronary or run his car into a telephone pole!) Still, the sale tags spoke to us, we listened, and we bought. Feeling a bit guilty about the breach of social responsibility, though, we felt it only our duty to try to expand ourselves just a wee bit in the middle, so we hit the Godiva chocolate stand. I guess Vanessa and I are a pretty bad influence on each other.
The next day we both felt very ashamed of ourselves. Yes, we felt it was time to do our part for TG outreach and public education. We both dressed in our nicest business suits (having reluctantly decided against the halter tops) and buzzed into the Rice University campus, where I was scheduled to give a talk to my undergraduate mentor’s Introductory Psychology class. My timing was great, as they had just hit the part of the course concerning gender identity disorders. The talk went quite well, and Vanessa and I had a great talk with my mentor afterwards. It was a very warm experience. We also talked to another Psychology professor and to my college master, establishing lots of communication links along the way.
We of course couldn’t end our day at my alma mater without first making a trip to Willy’s Pub for lunch. Their pizza isn’t as good as it used to be, but other than that the place hadn’t really changed much. On our way out, I stopped into the gift shop, where I found a great pair of hooters for only $10! (No, not that kind of hooters! I mean two little stuffed toy owls for my boys.)
Getting the chance to visit my alma mater as my “new” self was quite a good experience, so much so that I didn’t even mind being dragged straight from there back to the Parker campaign headquarters, where they made me staple more yard signs together in my high heels and fine wool Evan Picone suit! Vanessa appeased me, anyway, by taking lots of pictures of me. I think she was just amused at the saw dust all over my suit and wanted to remember the image for years to come. I guess she was pretty intent on ruining my suit, because she took me for barbecue right afterwards.
The next morning Vanessa and I had no commitments and could mess around for a while. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) I finally had the chance to try on one of my halter tops without a bra, and it looked... um... Mmmmmmmmm. Well, of course I had to wear it! It was getting pretty close to lunch time, and I think Vanessa sensed that I was getting pretty hungry. She told me that we could go an eat, provided I write this article for her first. OK, so I WROTE the @#$%ed article, and she finally consented to take me for some food -- and she made ME pay!! (Ahem... Well, I suppose I did offer...) Anyway, after we got back home, she looked at the article again and said it wouldn’t do -- that I had to EXPAND it some more! So here I am typing again!!
To make matters worse, Vanessa wanted me to pretend to be writing it “tonight,” so that I could make tonight’s activities sound like they had already been done. I’m sorry, but as Editor in Chief of the Crystal Chronicle, I adhere to the highest standards of journalistic integrity, and that’s where I draw the line! It suffices to say that Vanessa will drag me once again to the Parker headquarters, where I will be forced to call people on the phone (having been promoted from envelope stuffing and sign stapling). After they’ve used me for that purpose, I think they will finally keep by their word and release me from my indentured servitude, delivering me at long last to the love and care of my cousins across town. Tomorrow I’ll be flying out to New Orleans for the conference. What fates await me there? I’m not sure I want to know....
[Editor's note: On December 6, Annise Parker became the first openly lesbian member of the Houston City Council, having won the runoff election. I know how hard Vanessa and her friends worked to help get Annise into office, and they are all to be congratulated and commended. All joking aside, I enjoyed my short time working with them, and I'm very proud to have played some small part in helping the Houston GLBT community reach this milestone.)
After I finished my modifications to the Sweatshop Slave article, Vanessa read it over, groaning, rolling her eyes, and periodically exclaiming, "Thanks a lot!" She was obviously very impressed with my writing, and to my surprise she had even expressed her profound appreciation! After she finished savoring my generous contribution to her newsletter, she stuffed me into her truck and dragged me back to the Parker campaign office. I of course wore my cute halter top for the occasion. (Hey, if I'm going to be put to work in a sweatshop, at least I want to look good doing it!)
At the campaign headquarters, they again shoved a staple gun into my hands and made me staple yard signs again. Apparently their promise to promote me to telephone work was only a cruel joke -- or perhaps they changed their minds after learning of the article I had written for Vanessa. Denelle was also there, showing off a very sexy, sheer, red blouse. After we had stapled together a respectably large pile of signs, Sarah DePalma suggested Denelle and I go outside and put up a couple dozen of them around the campaign headquarters. (She had been amused by our eye-catching attire and commented that we could use it to good advantage, drawing attention to the campaign from passers by.)
Soon it was time to leave. Vanessa, Denelle, and I set out in Vanessa's pickup to put up yard signs at four polling locations en route to my cousin's house. Denelle changed back into her more conservative blouse for the trip, but I didn't. It would have taken too long. Vanessa thought that my halter top would be OK, since it's really not so much "cheap" as "cute." It's really not something one wouldn't find on a genetic woman.
Finally we arrived at my cousin's house. She welcomed the three of us in most graciously and offered us some wine. She's a real sweetheart. Vanessa and Denelle were understandably "wowed" by their house. It's quite a palace, and I had long since been "wowed!" We had a very nice conversation, and my cousin successfully referred to me as "Sarah" and "she" with only occasional slips. I was touched that she was making the effort. Many people don't. At one point her husband came into the living room and chatted with us. He was quick to point out how happy he is that I seem to have found myself. He described how "Jim" had impressed him as a person who always wanted to disappear -- who couldn't seem to make himself "small" enough. He described the "new" me as a more vibrant person, definitely changed for the better. I was very touched, and I was even more impressed at his prior insights regarding "Jim." He had known more about me at the time than I had known about myself!
After a very long chat, it was time to retire for the night. My cousin showed me to an extraordinarily frilly bedroom. It was so beautiful! The canopy bed even had a special, sentimental meaning to her, and she was so sweet as to offer me both the memory and the bed! I slept very well that night, so satisfied at the success of our meeting.
I got up very early to pack and then went downstairs to chat with my cousin. That morning I dressed in my more typical attire -- a pair of jeans, my favorite casual silk blouse, and tennies. I think my cousin was relieved to see that I could actually dress like a genetic woman. (In fact the outfit I had worn the previous night wasn't out of the question for a genetic woman. While she claimed that women don't really wear outfits like that, I've seen her wear similar things herself.) She complimented me on my blouse and my watch and told me I looked pretty. That meant a lot to me.
After spending much of the morning chatting with me, she ran off for a brief appointment with her chiropractor. When she returned, we went out for lunch. Along the way, I told her my thoughts about chiropractors and their methods and suggested some stretching and postural exercises to remedy her problem. She seemed to take my advice to heart, which was some indication of her acceptance of me. I find that those who feel I have lost my mind in gender matters usually assume I have also lost all intelligence and credibility. Before going into the restaurant, we stopped at a jewelry store where she needed to pick up a silver bracelet she was having repaired, and we launched into a short discussion of our love of silver jewelry. It's strange how sterling silver can be a bit of a bonding medium.
After we left the jewelry store, we ate at a Mexican restaurant where I was delighted to find an excellent chile relleno, one of my favorite dishes. It's hard to find Mexican food worth eating here in Columbus, except perhaps at Chile Verde or Don Pablo's, but there are so many things one cannot find here even at a good restaurant. This meal was my last "hurrah" before leaving the land of Tex-Mex cuisine.
My cousin was very surprised and somewhat amused that everyone kept calling me "Miss" and "Ma'am." She seemed to think that nobody would be able to read me as female with my obviously male voice. I pointed out to her that my voice is really fairly androgynous and works just fine in person -- that she was merely sensitized to the fact I am genetically male, but that others are not. I think the point took home, and she started to relax a bit more. We had a delightful chat over dinner about many things, including some of the more amusing points of the Bible. She and I have similar views, and she was amused at my thoughts about Deuteronomy and the sin of wearing cotton/polyester blend shirts (Deuteronomy 22:11; Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together. )
Finally we left for the airport. She stopped at the curbside check-in, where we chatted in the line. Finally it was my turn to check in, and the clerk asked me for my ID, as per standard procedure. I think my cousin looked a bit concerned, but I smiled at her. I showed my ID, the clerk glanced at it, and said, "OK, thanks...," to my cousin's surprise. I pointed out to her that nobody really cares that I'm transgendered, particularly if I'm a paying customer. They only care that I'm not a terrorist. Finally she bade me farewell with a big hug and an invitation to return.
When I got to the security station for the departure gate, I saw a sign stating that I was not allowed to carry mace with me onboard the plane. Oops! I naturally had a can of mace in my purse! I asked the security person what to do, and she said I would have to throw it away. I proposed the alternative that I put it in my suitcase, and she said that would be permissible, so I ran back outside to the curbside check-in station just in time to do the transfer. Whew! That should be a lesson to all you travelers. Always pack your mace in your suitcase!
When I returned and had my brief case X-rayed, the security personnel asked to inspect its contents. I think Southwest has tighter security than most airlines, which comes perhaps as little surprise. It's a good airline. They quickly passed me through, and soon I was on the plane, en route to New Orleans. My traveling companion was a young Middle Eastern man. We ignored each other, and so he was none the wiser.
Upon my arrival in New Orleans, I called for the hotel's free shuttle. The shuttle driver was very sweet, giving me a taste of his Southern gentility and charm. He asked me the purpose of my trip, and I told him I was there for the Neuroscience conference. He was quite surprised. I quipped, "Don't I look like a neuroscientist?" and he told me he never would have guessed.
After I checked in I called my friend Crystal Little (Gulf Gender Alliance), as we had previously discussed. She told me to hop a cab and head to the riverboat landing -- that we were going to go on a gay/les/bi/trans cruise up and down the Mississippi. Wow! No sooner had I kicked off my shoes than I was on my way back out the door! That's the way things are in New Orleans, at least among the people I met.
The cruise was not entirely what I expected. Yes, there were lots of gays and lesbians, and I presume lots of bisexuals as well, but Crystal and I were the only two trannies on the whole boat! That wasn't a problem, though. Like Columbus, New Orleans is one of those places in which there are strong, friendly ties between the GLB and transgender communities. I was among friends. Other than that, it was exactly what I had expected -- lots of music and dancing, lots of conversation and socializing on the upper deck, good food, and an all-around good time. It was a great introduction to New Orleans.
On the lower deck was some really great live music, and I wanted to dance. Dancing is something I've hardly ever done. Certainly "Jim" was too socially stunted to have danced in his early years, and when he finally wanted to dance with his wife in his adult years, she was too socially stunted to hit the dance floor with him. Well, "Jim" may have missed all his opportunities to dance, but Sarah wasn't going to make the same mistake. At the same time, it's very different for a woman, as a woman usually is asked to dance, rather than taking the initiative to ask someone else. Of course that's not as true in GLBT circles, since lesbian women obviously ask other lesbian women to dance. Still, I wanted to be asked, rather than to ask. I suppose it was an affirmation thing -- that I wanted to know I was somebody someone would find desirable enough to ask.
With unwavering determination, I waited... and waited... and waited... and soon realized it wasn't going to happen. I had been chatting with a very nice gay man about the fact, and he pointed out to me that insecurities run rampant even among the GLBT community. If either a gay or a lesbian dances with me, that means he/she might look "straight," just like if a straight person of either gender would dance with me, that would make him/her look gay/lesbian. It's an irrational fear, but apparently a very real one. I suppose a dance can't be simply a dance. Anyway, my acquaintance took pity on me and dragged me to the dance floor. He was a very good and energetic dancer, and he was soon running me to the brink of exhaustion. (I'm a pretty sedentary person.) I suppose I must have been doing a good job wiggling about. He paused at one point to tell me he's not available, because he has a gentleman friend. I reassured him I wouldn't have been interested, because I'm a "lesbian" and am unavailable anyway (out of respect for my wife and children). Relieved at our mutual understanding, we enjoyed dancing several more dances, until I was too tired to go on. (I've got to start exercising more!)
I thanked my new friend for showing me a good time on the dance floor and stepped outside into the cool evening for some quiet and fresh air. The Mississippi River was so beautiful, and the passing ships were so impressive. It was truly wonderful to be standing at the bow, gliding quietly into the night with the cool breeze in my face.
I was in good company on the deck, as everyone out there was another lesbian. Some were of the "lipstick" variety, and some were more "butch," but women all. I struck up a few conversations, but I suppose I didn't fit in too well. I'm not sure whether it was the part about being transgendered or the part about being a neuroscientist that sent them running. (OK, they didn't actually run. They just found other people with whom to chat.) In point of fact, I got the impression that my being a neuroscientist was a bigger offense. Considering that trannies are considered by the public at large in the same vein as rapists and child molesters, that speaks very poorly for neuroscientists indeed! The conversation would usually go: Her: "So I haven't seen you before. Are you from New Orleans?" Me: "No, I'm actually from Ohio." Her: "Ohio? Wow! You're a long way away from home. What brings you here?" Me: "Don't ask!" Her: "No, really!" [long pause] Me: "Well... I'm part of the neurogeek invasion." [another pause] "... a neuroscientist, that is..." Her: "Really?" Me: "Really... Ya' know... like... don't I look like a neuroscientist?" (Valley Girl style) Her, chuckling: "No..." Then the conversation would slowly trail off, and she would wander away. Only one girl, Maria, a devastatingly cute young thing in her 20's, cared to chat with me for a while. Then a friend of hers came along and dragged her away. Oh well... After a while I noticed two other women chatting pretty much between themselves, and it soon became apparent they were talking about... [frightening music]... NEUROSCIENCE!! Morbid curiosity overcame me, and I exclaimed, "You've got to be kidding! You two are neuroscientists?" Indeed they were! Even two days before the conference in a very large city, it was impossible to find a place to go where one wouldn't find other neuroscientists. Well, I 'fessed up too, and we all rolled our eyes. Then, geeks that we are, we exchanged email addresses. At least they didn't flee in terror at my being a neuroscientist, although I can't imagine why not. After all, who else would better understand the perverse workings of my twisted mind?
Pretty soon the cruise was over, and Crystal took me over to the local lessie hangout, Rubyfruit Jungle, a bar owned and operated by the same person who organized the riverboat cruise. It was a very comfortable place with an atmosphere of camaraderie, where I met lots of wonderful people. Crystal of course seemed to know everyone there and introduced me around. Among others, she introduced me to one of her favorite people, a sweet, "butch" lessie girl who worked at the door, and before I knew it, the girl was asking me to dance with her! Cool! We danced to a few tunes, but the one that stands out in my memory is one that was rather "poofy," "fluffy," and "Barbie-like." (I had never heard it and have no idea as to its name.) She was laughing with me about that being "my song," and I jokingly danced my prissiest to it. By the time we had finished dancing, she and I had "bonded" to an extent. We truly enjoyed dancing with each other, neither one of us being particularly good, but both of us having had fun doing it. Finally it was time to go. Crystal and I had to get up early the next morning, I for my conference and she for work. I gave my dance partner a big hug, and she urged me to return, looking warmly into my eyes and telling me I was "beautiful!" Even though her kind remarks had come in part from the alcohol, she had given me something very special. She enjoyed me as a person and was the first lesbian ever to ask me to dance. The next morning I would again be a neurobiologist at work trying to be learned and scholarly, but that night I had been Sarah, the complete woman. I remember that night very warmly. Crystal dropped me back to my motel, and I collapsed, exhausted, glowing with fulfillment.
by Gary Bowen
Coordinator-in-chief, The American Boyz
In the latest issue of Aegis News (#11), Dallas Denny announces that AEGIS, IFGE, and REA, three of the largest transgendered organizations are contemplating a possible merger. Denny points out that transgendered services are not at a professional level, and suggest that a merger of these three organizations will reduce demand on money and volunteers, while improving services, eliminating overlaps and gaps, and overall be a good thing for the transgendered community.
In general I concur with her analysis of the current state of the transgendered community, and I applaud the courage of these organizations to discuss the merger proposal. Many good things could come of such a merger, as well as many bad things. Such a plan is ambitious and challenging. It has a risk.
But while the activist in me views such a proposal as a possible source of much good for the transgendered community, as an f2m and person with multiple minority status (Native American, differently abled), I have to ask, "What's in it for me?"
In the last several years the above named organizations have made overtures to the f2m and minority communities, and have made several substantive contributions. However, f2m and minority services remain badly underfunded and are administered only sporadically, usually as the result of a small number of people of good will who are taking on a huge task.
I recently reported that the American Boyz had reached 568 members, but recent information provided to me shows that is a significant under count; while I am still awaiting further information, it appears that the actual number of people being served by the American Boyz is more than 650 people. This explosive growth has occurred principally in the Southern Region. Print subscribers out number the Amboyz main list for the first time; we have affiliates in 23 states and are laying the groundwork for expansion into the Midwest and are contemplating expansion into the Plains States. Clearly, there is a profound need for grassroots f2m support and information.
But the American Boyz, like all tg organizations, exist on donations, volunteers, and the good will of the membership. Like all tg organizations, we are perpetually underfunded and understaffed; and many people are giving Herculean efforts, both in terms of time, money, and knowledge to provide the degree and variety of services that we currently have. Yet at the same time, critical jobs go begging.
Therefore, considering that the transgendered community needs unity and professionalism, and whereas the American Boyz is in a unique position to offer f2m and minority inclusion to the proposed 'super tg' organization, I am seeking input about whether the membership would like me to: 1) approach the merger committee with a possibility of merging the American Boyz in the proposed new organization, 2) to establish coalition & cooperative ventures, 3) to ignore them, 4) or do something else entirely.
The possibility of a truly effective, properly funded and operated tg organization that adequately serves all members of the diverse tg community is a worthy goal. The question is, how are we to achieve it? This is not a question to resolve in haste. At the very least, if we want to know more, I can ask to be involved with the merger committee; we do not need to commit to anything. If the resulting organization does not meet our needs, we can decline to participate and continue as we have been.
by Sheila Kirk, M.D.printed by request
For the first time in it's history, two members of the transgender community have been elected to the Board of Directors of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association. Sheila Kirk, M.D. and Jude Patton, CMHC, CMFT were elected to four year board terms in September at the HBIGDA conference held in Vancouver, B.C. . This is a historical and important event that brings the Transgendered and professional communities closer together. Their appointments allow the Transgendered Community to have a positive, strong voice in establishing standards of care and policies that will greatly benefit all of members of the Trans-community.
Dr. Kirk and Mr. Patton have been asked by incoming president, Richard Green, MD, JD to establish a committee to address consumer concerns. This committee is being formed to give the trans-community a voice in HBIGDA's activities, to support consumer advocacy for current and future proposed Standards of Care revisions, and to provide empirical data and research data supporting consumer concerns.
It is their hope that members from the T-community will serve on this committee with them. Since HBIGDA is a professional organization and has specific membership requirements to become a voting member. HBIGDA's bylaws limit any committee membership to voting members. Persons who qualify for voting membership and who wish to serve on the community are encouraged to contact Dr. Kirk or Mr. Patton immediately. HBIGDA members who choose not to participate on the committee at least will have a chance to vote for various items and specifically for changes in the Standards of Care. You may contact the HBIGDA at (612) 624-8078, to leave a voice mail message, or e-mail to: email@example.com to obtain information and an application for membership.
YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT! Any suggestions for changes in the proposed Standards of Care need to get directly to the committee working on them, or can be sent to Sheila Kirk or Jude Patton to present to the committee and the HBIGDA Board of Directors. Time is of the essence for the final draft is said to be in its final stages.
Dr. Kirk and Mr. Patton suggest that those who do not qualify for HBIGDA membership could form an Ad Hoc consumer concerns committee, and could funnel their suggestions and ideas through them. The goal is for every voice to be heard.
Both Dr. Kirk and Mr. Patton strongly urge world-wide community input and are striving to reach out to all community members in all countries. "We want to reach out to everyone not only those who identify as "trans" but also those who have other self-definitions for their gender and sexual identities, " said Patton, "We should not be USA-centric in our considerations for improving consumer welfare."
Any help you can provide to disseminate that Dr. Kirk and Mr. Patton welcome any suggestions that will enhance community consumer welfare would be greatly appreciated. Your help in getting this information out to the general trans-community and to other trans-organizations by e-mail, into newsletters and on web sites is encouraged.
"For the first time, we have an unified opportunity to be heard by the professionals who administer our care and set the standards upon which our care is given, " said Dr. Kirk, "As a transgendered physician who in my private practice specializes in caring for our community, I am gratified for this opportunity to work together with Jude to make a positive impact through this first step in improving our community's welfare."
Those with comments or questions can send them via mail to: Sheila Kirk, M.D., P.O. Box 38114, Blawnox, PA. USA 15238. Jude Patton, 1812 East Madison, Suite 102, Seattle, WA USA 98122. You may also reach Dr. Kirk via phone (412) 781-1092 (Tues/Thurs 10A-5P EST); 24 hour fax (412) 781-1096 or e-mail, SheilaKirk@aol.com. Mr. Patton can be reached at (425) 787-5094, e-mail: JUDEPATTON@aol.com.
Need some great tweezers? Check out the little black Kroger-brand tweezers. They sell for around $4.00. They're made in Italy of stainless steel with black enamel coating on the body. The machining is exquisitely very precise, so that it is possible to grab any hair that presents itself, no matter how short.
The rest of the tips come from other people. Thanks, everyone!!
This tip is from our phantom Kristen: For anyone interested in some very racy items (some even fetish items) I stumbled upon a store along Cleveland Avenue (near Northland) called Teddi's Intimate Apparel. They have all kinds of pretty things including fetish attire. In the back they also have a variety of publications, even CD TV publications. Judging from the sizes of the gorgeous lingerie, they cater to a wide crowd. The store was a bit crowded so I was unable to talk with the owner, but from his demeanor when we briefly chatted, I feel anyone of us would be welcome there. They do have a good selection of hose there along with absolutely stunning sleepsets. Now for the racier girls out there he has a selection of leather, and latex stuff (Not my style).
This tip comes from our Susan Bennett: Canadian pharmacies provide a very economical source of medications for those of you buying medications out of pocket. That's because they can only mark up prescriptions a maximum of 10% over manufacturer's wholesale price by Canadian law, plus a C$10.50 dispensing fee (about US$7.50) for the entire purchase, no matter how many prescriptions or refills are involved. Canadian pharmacies cannot honor US prescriptions; however, some Canadian physicians are willing to review US scripts and patient histories for a small fee and rewrite the scripts so that they may be honored there. The FDA can use its discretion to permit entry of the medications into the US, and according to the mission statement, it should. Still, FDA agents can give you grief. If you just make a drive up, though, you'll find that few border crossings (if any?) have FDA agents. At least the one between Windsor and Detroit doesn't. The Customs agents you'll find there are only interested in whether the medications are dutiable, and they are not dutiable unless they are manufactured outside North America. How much money can you save? I recently brought back $700 of medications through Customs which would have cost me $2500 domestically!
These tips come from another Susan, a reader in Baltimore: Chadwicks now has a catalog for larger sizes called Jessica London. The clothes are pretty much the same as in the Chadwicks catalog but in larger sizes. They are good to deal with as the quality, price, and return policy are great. 1-800-784-1667. Finally, I solved one problem with eyeglasses. Shop in a place with an extensive unisex selection. The optician told me the only difference is that these styles come in 2 sizes depending on face size. I've found wholesale clubs such as Costco, Sam's and BJ's are good sources.
Copyright © 1997 by the Crystal Club, all rights reserved. Articles and information contained in The Crystal Chronicle may be reprinted by other non-profit organizations without advanced permission, provided the author and source is cited and a copy of the issue containing the reprinted material is sent to the Crystal Club within two months of publication. The opinions or statements contained in the Crystal Chronicle are those of the authors' and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or the Crystal Club. Furthermore, neither the Crystal Club nor the Crystal Chronicle editor assume responsibility for any consequences resulting either directly or indirectly either from advice or from any other materials contained in this newsletter. Contributions of articles are encouraged but may be altered with the author's intent retained or may be rejected, whether solicited or not. Absolutely no sexually explicit material will be accepted or printed. Contributions may be emailed directly to the editor or sent to the postal address below. The Crystal Club is a non-profit support group for transvestites, crossdressers, transsexuals, female impersonators, and other transgendered individuals. Spouses and significant others are welcome and are encouraged to participate. Both male-to-female and female-to-male individuals are welcome. Also, members from related organizations, helpful professionals, and approved guests are welcome when cleared through a Crystal Club elected officer. Club policies, meeting dates, locations, and fees are available on request through our address below. We will exchange newsletters with any other similar group. Send all correspondence to: The Crystal Club, P.O. Box 287, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-0287. (614) 231-1368.