Re: Endgame

1

If not, should there be?

No, I think women and African-Americans should continue to be put down.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:11 PM
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Amnesty International has always had this as a stated goal - to advocate for a world where their organization is no longer needed. But missions can evolve, and are not so easily definable as "done". Just because groups have equal rights under law doesn't necessarily mean that individual prejudices magically disappear or that such laws get implemented and executed fairly.


Posted by: sam | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:16 PM
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Amnesty International has always had this as a stated goal - to advocate for a world where their organization is no longer needed. But missions can evolve, and are not so easily definable as "done". Just because groups have equal rights under law doesn't necessarily mean that individual prejudices magically disappear or that such laws get implemented and executed fairly.


Posted by: sam | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:16 PM
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Mmmm, I think basic human tribalism means that each new generation will resurrect some version of these things, and that you have to actively pass down tolerance. So I think some group needs to have their eye on different fronts of prejudice indefinitely.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:16 PM
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Successful organizations never go away. Look at the March of Dimes, still carrying on even 50 years after the polio vaccine.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:17 PM
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It's a long march.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:22 PM
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Or consider the Society of the Cincinnati, founded as a drinking club for Revolutionary War officers, it became, as soon as they started to die off, an exclusive society with membership only through primogeniture! How's that for a turn-around?


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:23 PM
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In practice such organizations lobby for the interests of a subset of the population (gays, blacks, women etc). Since it is unlikely that the interests of such subsets will ever become identical to the interests of the whole population there is no reason to expect such organizations to disappear.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:35 PM
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Some foundations are designed like that, to close up shop after a certain number of years. It's not a bad idea. Large, established charities can get stuck in a trap that keeps them from spending their endowment today because holding on to it will allow it to grow, so there is more to give away tomorrow, an a never ending cycle. IIRC, Warren Buffett structured his gift to the Gates foundation so that all money donated would have to be spent that same year to avoid this problem.

Of course, an established charity "brand" has value in terms of attracting donations, so I'm not sure what the proper balance is between helping out immediately and sticking around for the long haul.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:41 PM
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Didn't there use to be Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. equivalents of the NAACP, which are now entirely unnecessary? Do they still exist even in vestigial form?

Is that what the Knights of Columbus used to be? I only know it as a source of anti-abortion activism.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:50 PM
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There was an Italian-American organization of that sort that turned out to be a front for the Gambino crime family. That was a fairly recent phenomenon, I think: mid-1990s.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:57 PM
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There is a nasty little subtext to remarks like Sullivan's, which Kirchick, in the linked piece, makes more explicit:

"Mission accomplished" is one of the most difficult things to say when your organization depends on working toward a cause, but Love Makes a Family did it. And other gay groups may soon need to follow suit. If the gay community truly wants to achieve equality, it will have to overcome a victim mindset that is slowly becoming obsolete.

Kirchick hasn't actually got the balls to name the organizations that have failed to shut down, but I don't think there's much question who he thinks has a "victim mindset."

It's in the culture of any institution to justify its existence. This is especially so with civil rights groups, which thrive on a sense of persecution, real or perceived.

I'm going to make a wild guess and tell you that I don't think Kirchick is dropping hints that, having achieved an ironclad commitment to the defense of Israel, he thinks AIPAC should shut down. Or that having imprinted an absolutist version of the Second Amendment on peoples' minds, the NRA should close its doors. No, those guys aren't the ones with a "victim mindset."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 9:59 PM
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10: The Knights of Columbus started as a way for Catholic workers, mostly Italian, to get life insurance.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 10:07 PM
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Oops. It was the Columbo family, early 1970s.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 10:17 PM
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The Gambinos took over because the Columbo family could never end a conversation. It was always "just one more thing...."


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 10:40 PM
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WE MUST REMAIN VIGILANT AGAINST THE DEPREDATIONS OF MONARCHY!


Posted by: OPINIONATED THOMAS PAINE | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 10:42 PM
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I have a past student who went to a much more gender-queer-friendly European country to research trans populations there and was a bit annoyed (and annoyed at himself for being annoyed) that there was so little political organization among trans people there.

It was especially interesting to me because when I met him, he identified as female and lesbian and often expressed exasperation with "you know, those like 'lesbians' who are still all 'sisterhood' and shit."

He had been born late enough, and in a place where lesbianism as a source of political motivation seemed kind of played out. But I think he recognized on his trip that the loss of that political motivation, a sense of necessary togetherness, constitutes itself a kind of loss. The right to no longer be together in anger is a magnificent gain. But the loss of a movement means no longer knowing that you meet someone like yourself and you don't necessarily have to get along and find community that way.

I also felt that loss moving from a fairly conservative city, where liberals all necessarily banded together and put up with each other's foibles, to NYC, where Jesus Christ I hate most of the liberals I meet here. There's no fight to fight, so people I would have bonded with in Previous City and worked to support are, here, just some asshole who doesn't necessarily want the same things I want.

I don't in anyway mean to undermine the goal of losing the need for a gay movement (or a feminist, or trans, etc. movement), but I think the members of that movement will see youngsters grow up in the world they've helped build for them and think, where's your rage, man? Where's your solidarity? I couldn't seem to communicate this about lesbians to my student; he had to see it for himself in his own community.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 10:46 PM
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But the loss of a movement means no longer knowing that you meet someone like yourself and you don't necessarily have to get along and find community that way.

I was talking about something similar with a friend/FOAF. She was upset because, hm, something like because she didn't think a real revolution was necessary for her? That she could get most of what she thought she wanted/was right for her to have by working within the institutional structure laid out before her instead of by subverting it or through violent revolt. I thought that this meant either (a) congratulations, she's the man or (b) cause for celebration, not much needs to be done anymore. The problem for her with (b) was that she seemed to think revolution was good in itself and it was a shame to have lost that.

I think it was primarily an aesthetic thing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:03 PM
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Overall, it's a good sign that the "gay ghettos" and similar situations are dispersing, but I can understand why some feel nostalgic for the sense of community the ghettos fostered.

I hope I can age gracefully into quaintness instead of crotchetiness. This guy seems to be trying, but it might be too late. He could come across as just trying to get a cookie.


Posted by: Frostbite | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:04 PM
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10:Of course there were. Order of the Hibernians or something, for instance.

Here we Are

But there are some obvious differences, and I never forget Sullivan's conservatism.

Still looking around at Queer Theory and Sedgwick. One QT site barely mentioned her, and said she was a literary theorist. All Foucault. Another listed two books of her books as primary.

AWB is right, I think I will like her. Just a glance at the discussion of early-modern rakes, Wilmot Earl of Rochester era, was enough to excite me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:04 PM
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Didn't there use to be Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. equivalents of the NAACP, which are now entirely unnecessary? Do they still exist even in vestigial form?

These groups only become unnecessary when their ethnicity has so assimilated as to become indistinguishably mainstream.

I was raised in a nice liberal household where I got a bunch of lessons on diversity, and went to a private elementary school where there were black kids, but they acted white.

Then I went to public school in 6th grade and became a racist little shit, all completely organically generated from within. No one taught me any of that stuff. I just noticed substantial cultural differences between the black kids and the white kids and drew pejorative conclusions. (This does make me squirm to admit.)

(Then came a long, long period of over-compensation to prove how not-racist I am, and now I'm magically perfect and everything is perfectly better.)

My point being that as long as there are cultural or behavioral differences, intolerance springs up innately.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:11 PM
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(Then came a long, long period of over-compensation to prove how not-racist I am, and now I'm magically perfect and everything is perfectly better.)

Does Jamaal know you only married him because he's a cat?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:12 PM
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I just think mixed-species babies are inherently cuter than the rest.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:14 PM
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For me, I don't think it's an aesthetic thing. I'm not romantically attached to the revolutionary spirit so much as I am interested in the ways that community spirit fall apart with success. There was a time (and still is in many places) when you could walk into a dyke bar and you were everyone's friend, because you were there to hang out with lesbians, so you must be (a) a lesbian or (b) someone who likes lesbians just fine. The documentary Small-Town Gay Bar is not great in itself, but it is interesting to see how very intense the camaraderie is among queer people in communities like that. Here, any of those country gays would be laughed out of the gay bars. (What, you expect us to embrace you as a brother? Look what you're wearing!) That's a sign of some kind of privilege, to be able to meet another member of your embattled community and reject them.

I also get a little tired of my undergrads talking about how "black people back then were all oppressed and stuff, and you can tell because they're all angry but now there's no more racism in America" and I want to say, you have clearly not met my family. You have clearly not seen the internet. The revolution didn't happen one day because King gave a speech. It hasn't happened. OTOH, shouldn't I be happy for them, that they don't feel oppressed as black/hispanic/Jewish/etc. people? Shouldn't I be glad for a student who feels privileged enough to reject "lesbians" as passé? Instead, I feel the need to point out all the ways in which, even in NYC, minorities are regularly threatened, oppressed, and marginalized. Then I talk about this poem to apologize, saying I sometimes feel like a jealous old man.

The only students I have in NYC who really express a lot of political anger are physically disabled. They no there's been no revolution.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:18 PM
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24: Heh. no s/b know. Hard day.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:20 PM
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12 gets it, I think. Maybe, maybe not, but look very closely at the people suggesting it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:20 PM
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Semi-OT: Check this shit out!!1!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:22 PM
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You can make the argument than any particular charity ought to have an expiration date or a finite, realizable goal and then shut down, without asserting that the original problem can ever be completely solved.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:22 PM
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I think it was primarily an aesthetic thing.

Sure. It's the journey, not the destination. Revolution is exciting. Sticking it to the man is fun.

There's a credible argument to be made that there exists a moral obligation to tear gas public protests. Without police oppression, protesters just a bunch of assholes out causing trouble. Bring out the nightsticks, and everyone's a winner.

This is also why non-violent action works so well against societies that consider themselves enlightened. When cops beat the hell out of someone well-dressed and calm who just stands there and takes it, they aren't keeping the peace, they're just a bunch of Nazi assholes.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:22 PM
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From 20.4 link

The most important lingual distinction in the book is Sedgwick's forced opinion that homosexuality is solely a speech act. That is to say that one is not a homosexual unless one parades down Massachusetts Avenue, pink boa streaming from shoulder to shoulder, and declares with limp wrist, "I am a homosexual" in a loud, obnoxiously Roseanne-like voice. That's when you're a homo, according to Sedgwick. Of course, I don't agree. My argument is perhaps a bit more traditional. I believe that having homosexual thoughts or attraction to the same-sex doesn't make one "gay" (and I despise using this term when analyzing a Sedgwick book, but what choice do I have in this oppressive, binary world?), but, rather, the physical act of engaging in same-sex relations does. One can go around declaring oneself to have sex with Martians, but does that make it true?

1) I agree with Sedgwick more than the author, and found the hyperbole offensive. Am I Irish-American? Don't know, don't care. Some distantly Irish like me do, maybe because it gives them an identity to play with. Listen to Celtic music, drink Guinness. What the hey.

2) The bolded part is bullshit. I didn't engage in the fun a while back, because Larry Craig has the right to define his own sexuality as he likes. Who the hell am I to tell LC what he is?

I could be very wrong, but I am hoping my Martian lover will come soon to clear up my confusion.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:27 PM
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27: The Daily Mail states that "It is not known why the woman pulled the dangerous stunt" but this publication all but outright calls it a suicide attempt.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:28 PM
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27: weird use of semi. Are you saying that the don't-climb-in-with-the-polar-bear people will someday put themselves out of a job?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:30 PM
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31: there was a fabulously translated quote in the telegraph (I think?) where a zookeeper said "the woman was very careless to climb into the cage". Indeed! Must pay attention at the zoo, lest you unexpectedly find yourself scaling a wall and diving into a pool filled with massive, deadly animals.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:32 PM
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30: That's just a stupid misreading of Sedgwick, and of gender/sexuality performativity in general. Her position is actually really interesting and brilliant, of course. The Nation piece outlines it nicely.

Eve posted this to her FB page (which is very cute, of course) recently.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:35 PM
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33: A deer accidentally jumped into the polar bear enclosure here. Died from stress/fright/etc even thought the bears never laid a paw on it. I'm not sure how the deer made the mistake as the whole point of the polar bear enclosure is to make it easy to see the polar bears.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:35 PM
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My point being that as long as there are cultural or behavioral differences, intolerance springs up innately.

You only say that 'cause you're a woman.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:37 PM
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To the post, when the thermohaline circulation shuts down and the human inhabitants of earth have been starved, drowned, burned, frozen or otherwise extinguished, the environmental movement can probably call it quits.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:37 PM
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You only say that 'cause you're a woman.

But I break just like a little girl.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:40 PM
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34:That's just a stupid misreading of Sedgwick, and of gender/sexuality performativity in general

Uh, mine or the authors?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:47 PM
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For better insight, somebody should do a detailed case study of Oprah's decision to end her book club.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:48 PM
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Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre serrons le cou du dernier roi! I believe that's the canonical endgame condition.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:52 PM
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Shorter Andy "bareback" Sullivan: "I got mine, why should I worry about yours?"

He has always been the gay pundit that could be relied on to parrot the opinions of those who actually would rather see him in a nice internment camp but are too polite to say it to his face. Why take him seriously?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:56 PM
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39: The author's. One of the things I have found so useful about Sedgwick's work is that she negotiates the space between the problems with "gay people are born gay and they're just gay and that's it" (often taken up by pro-queer people) and the "everyone could suddenly become gay if they momentarily felt a twinge of feeling or had some kind of gay sex" position (often taken up by homophobes). Both of those things are real experiences of people. Some grow up knowing in their bones that they're queer somehow. Some find through the pleasure of experience that they're somehow not straight. To marginalize either for the sake of a political position is to ignore the possibilities of desire.

I often use her work to talk to homophobic students and family members, and find that even the most anti-gay people recognize that their assumptions about humanity are being taken as possible sources of wisdom about the human condition by her. And once I can get someone to recognize that she's right about their own position, and respectful toward it, they're often willing to give some ground about other positions.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-09 11:57 PM
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Her stuff on homophobia is particularly great. There would be no homophobia if we didn't feel that there was something particularly desirable and seductive about queer sex and sexuality. Homophobia is always a recognition of the fluidity of one's own desire, and an urgent need to police one's own desire through violence. This seems obvious now, but wouldn't if she hadn't written it over twenty years ago.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:01 AM
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Why take him seriously?

Well, he's just so English. And he was so right about everything ca. 2001-2007. And he kneaded his butt on Bill Maher that one time. What's not to take seriously?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:08 AM
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Well, come on, the feminists have basically given up, haven't they? They used to be all about "equal pay this, right to vote that", but that all got sorted out and now they're basically a pole-dancing club. Or at least, that's what I think happened - I read about it in one of Camille Paglia's articles in Salon and wasn't paying much attention.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:09 AM
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I read about it in one of Camille Paglia's articles in Salon

Geez dude Martin and I are having a thoughtful conversation about how seriously to take Andrew Sullivan (very? somewhat? extra very?) and you have to up the ante and bring up the English language's greatest prose stylist. Troll!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:15 AM
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Did you ever notice that heebie is like, unnaturally funny? I could be letting myself be influenced by the fact that I just watched 4 hours of Battlestar Galactica on DVD, but I'm beginning to suspect that heebie is a Cylon.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:21 AM
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44.last: I'm skeptical of that claim. The idea that homophobia is driven by the impulse to clamp down on same-sex desire has been folk wisdom for a long time. I'm pretty sure I heard it more than twenty years ago.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:30 AM
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I never forget Sullivan's conservatism and extreme toolishness.

42 is dead right.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:32 AM
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49: Of course that's true. But she does a really remarkable analysis of how this functions through homosocial interactions throughout various periods in Western history, specifically focusing on things like poetic coteries of the 17th, novelists of the 19th, etc., that lends it more historical credence than folk wisdom or psychoanalysis alone. That is, the thing that may seem absurd or merely insulting on its face to a homophobe (that they are, in fact, worried about their own gay desires), comes from a history that is rich with its own traditions and methods. My students may not care to recognize it as a truism, but after doing a Sedgwickian reading of Donne, Marvell, etc., they see that this is not new, but a tradition with a history even longer than established queer identities.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:40 AM
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re: 49

Ditto, on the folk wisdom.

I can see how the approach described in 51 would be interesting, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:45 AM
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Sullivan's "and, er, that's about it" speaks volumes. Even if we were within 50 years of fully achieving his conservative (small "c"), integrationist/assimilationist list of policy goals (we're not), that's his list, tailored to his (large "C") Conservative politics.

Which isn't to say that getting everything on that list wouldn't be a triumph, nor that the progress of the last 60 years isn't hugely important.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:12 AM
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Are you saying that the don't-climb-in-with-the-polar-bear people will someday put themselves out of a job?

Damn right! On that glorious day when the polar bears have eaten everybody else. Don't think we're not working on it.

On topic-ish, I read a pretty good book about queer life in London in the first half of the last century, and what struck me was how much more fluid many people's sexual identity seems to have been then compared to now - especially working class people.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:33 AM
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49: More like forty or more years ago. I heard that theory in Psych 101.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:27 AM
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There was an Italian-American organization of that sort that turned out to be a front for the Gambino crime family.

Thus demonstrating its authenticity beyond all possible doubt.

More seriously, there's an Australian economist who argues that organisations as a rule should have a finite lifespan. And the Czech Civic Forum, I think, decided after completing the revolution that it was necessary for it to disband in order to start having proper democratic politics. (The current party of the same name was started by one of the breakaway groups.)


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:03 AM
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...moving from a fairly conservative city, where liberals all necessarily banded together and put up with each other's foibles, to NYC, where Jesus Christ I hate most of the liberals I meet here. There's no fight to fight, so people I would have bonded with in Previous City and worked to support are, here, just some asshole who doesn't necessarily want the same things I want.

This is my diagnosis of what happened to Kaus in Southern California. That, and his shame over his flirtation with Marxism at Harvard in the early 70's.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:35 AM
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Goal succession is a pretty well-recognized topic for social movements. The staffed part of the movement usually doesn't want to disband.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:42 AM
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In the UK, by the end of this year, we should have achieved what the feminist movement had achieved by 1976: legal equality so close to "complete" it makes pretty much no legal difference.

Just as the feminist movement didn't stop in the 1970s, neither will the LGBT movement stop in the 2010s. Social acceptance of equality will be the new goal; protection of asylum seekers; pro-active campaigning against discrimination that employers still expect to get away with. New organisations will probably arise; new campaigns will be needed.

I came out in 1983: the difference between now and then still astonishes me when I stop to think about it.

I do look forward to the days when we won't need to be LGBT activists any more - when "Pride March" is a day everyone takes to have fun waving rainbow flags and baking rainbow cookies, and no one really remembers that it used to be all about combating anti-gay discrimination, any more than anyone really remembers what the St Patrick's Day marches used to be about.

Of course, when I say "I look forward to it" by the time it actually happens, I'll probably be a grouchy old dyke who talks a lot about "kids today have it soft" and "When I came out, we had to walk uphill four miles in a snowstorm to the nearest gay bar" and so on.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:05 AM
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And ye, beneath hate's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now! for gay and rainbow hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the marchers sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
by dykes and queens descried
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Pride;
When Pride shall over all the earth,
Its rainbow splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song,
Which now the marchers sing. (I love you)


Posted by: Shameless Hymn Filking | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:07 AM
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she seemed to think revolution was good in itself and it was a shame to have lost that.

Everyone I've met who holds this view comes from a fairly comfortable background and has no personal experience of revolution or even large scale civil disorder. The people I know who have personally experienced revolutions are nearly all* of the opinion that they suck donkey balls.

* Sole exception: A friend who was in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution, which was apparently something of a big-ass street party.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:08 AM
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Successful organizations never go away. Look at the March of Dimes, still carrying on even 50 years after the polio vaccine.

Frequently true of government programs, as well. See for example the Rural Utilities Service, the linear descendant of the Rural Electrification Administration of the New Deal.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:16 AM
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linear s/b lineal.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:18 AM
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...what the feminist movement had achieved by 1976: legal equality so close to "complete" it makes pretty much no legal difference.

And yet the patriarchy continues.

I have more confidence that the gay rights movement will close up shop in my lifetime than the women's rights movement, even thought gay rights seems like a more radical concept.

Historically and globally there is a lot of variation in attitudes toward homosexuality, but the patriarchy is everywhere are at least as old as the species.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:19 AM
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61. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon--authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries.


Posted by: Friedrich Engels | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:33 AM
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Okay, I'm already late, so I shouldn't even be writing this, but I have to get it out there, and I haven't had time to read all the comments to see if someone beat me to the punch.
Sullivan is sort-of correct, in that, yes, the goal of a civil rights organization should be to abolish the conditions necessary for its existence. However, I think we should make a distinction between a civil rights organization like the Human Rights Campaign, which, while laudable, has a fairly limited critique, and a liberation organization, like maybe the Lesbian Avengers, for instance. There's an implicit ideology in the idea of "civil rights", namely that all you can ask for is full citizenship, under the unceasing gaze of the state and its minions, and at the sufference of the capitalists and their economies. A liberation organization shouldn't stop fighting until everyone is free. So if that means that trans-people, after being accorded full civil rights by every state, have to start organizing for the liberation of some other group, then they must do so to be true to their goal of trans-person liberation. An injury to one is an injury to all.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:59 AM
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Further to what Minnie said, Sullivan is actually spouting nonsense:

once the government treats gay citizens the same as everyone else, we should close down the movement and get on with our lives.

We can imagine a time not too far off when the government won't discriminate against gay people, and even bars private discrimination against gay people in employment, housing, etc., and yet gay people are still oppressed. Gay kids will still be born into families that can't deal with having a gay son or daughter, into religions that still teach them that they're abominations. There will still be a paucity of advice on how to bring up your kid (or your military recruit, or your psychotherapy client) gay. There will still be plenty to do -- and as Minnie says, that's still drawing an artificial line between the liberation of one group and the liberation of related groups, and the liberation of all.

As AWB noted w/r/t the civil rights movement: if you think it's over or will be any time soon, take a look at my family.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:14 AM
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61:Somewhat on the topic of revolution.

I watched Paul Schraders 1988 Patty Hearts Sunday night. Last night I discussed with the lady how if you hadn't been there and hadn't felt the context there is no way to understand the reaction. Vietnam winding down, Cambodia, Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof, Carlos the Jackal, airplane hijackings, Israel at war, Nixon impeachment, Mishima? Munich Olympics?...I could have the timelines a little wrong, but the SLA was just one insane violent newsstory among dozens of other stories happening every day, after a decade of violence, exceptional mostly for the celebrity.

(We got more Int'l news back then, and less bullshit)

If the SLA berserking happened today it would seem freaky;back then it was close to "ordinary." So the focus was on Patty Hearst because she was what made it different.

That wasn't really the story Schrader was trying to tell, Schrader was telling a personal story of one woman, but I felt without the context it was incomprehensible and a distortion.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:33 AM
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It doesn't help that there is such a regional divide in attitudes toward queer people and the resultant political attitudes of people in those areas. Watching Small-Town Gay Bar, it's obvious that there are wide swaths of America in which gay visibility is pretty much what it was in NYC in the 1950's or earlier. You try to fit in all day at your job and no one mentions what might be obvious to everyone because your sexual orientation is unspeakable, and then, at night, you dress up and head out to a place exclusively frequented by LGBT and LGBT-friendly people.

A straight married couple I know from rural Kentucky recently visited the wife's uncle's gay bar, outside a town of 300, and came back raving about how cool it was that everyone was so intensely friendly, in that "You mean you don't hate gays? Party with us!" way that STGBs have.

But to people in large urban centers, the level of freedom that allows you to, like, be gay and hold a job at the same time without mortal terror of being "found out" is banal. Harvey Milk encouraged gay kids to come out to big cities so they could live their lives openly, and a lot of them still do. But it's still not ideal because the revolution for social acceptance feels somehow (erroneously, surely) "over" in the big cities, and somehow (erroneously) unnecessary in small towns. If you want to be gay in public, move to San Francisco. But there's no Harvey Milk waiting for you on Castro Street to embrace your sorry country ass.

It's easy for Sullivan to envision the gay movement ending, I guess, because he either has no experience of or wants no experience of perpetually homophobic families. Having to leave your community behind to live your life is not a sign that your movement has succeeded.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:38 AM
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69 is annoyingly obvious, sorry. I'm just sick of all the stuff about "oh, the coasts, where people are all queer and shit" when the only reason the coasts are so queer is that it's where all the queer people move when they're sick of getting their asses kicked. You can't export teh gay for decades and then point and laugh and say, oh look, they're so gay. They're your gays.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:42 AM
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I'd like to apologize in advance for this spam-bomb of a comment. The abstract is: fuck a bunch of overconfident conservative queens for their assumption of privilege. And of course, on preview, everyone has pwned me but Sullivan in general, and this in particular, mashes my every button.

Overall, it's a good sign that the "gay ghettos" and similar situations are dispersing, but I can understand why some feel nostalgic for the sense of community the ghettos fostered.

I've never lived in a gay ghetto (unless you count the smoking section of my undergraduate cafeteria) but I do feel that we're losing an experience of community that is/was a powerful, positive thing in its own right. When I asked a motorcycle cop for directions at the March on Washington in '93, and he said he'd give me directions if I'd answer the question of why all of us were there that day, I replied, "For once in my life I'd like to look around and know what it feels like to be in the majority." (He nodded for a moment and then gave me directions.) I don't long for more gay-bashing to moosh us together as a people but I do wish I had more ways available to me of feeling like a part of a movement.

I just read a short story (in an anthology Rah got me while we were in DC last weekend) about a lesbian who abandons a life of perfect, legislated and enforced equality in favor of joining a community formed to experience life in earlier, less tolerant times, because she's drawn to the idea of that life being a crucible. I mentioned it to Rah and he said, "Oh, the other side of gay marriage." I think that sums it up pretty well.

There is a valid argument that the path to equality isn't to conform to the model of monogamous marriage and picket fences and respectability but to demand respect regardless of lifestyle differences. I don't think one is better than the other and recognize that what I want for myself - the former - isn't morally superior to the latter, but I do think that a lot of breeder acquiescence to the queer community is based on the belief that those of us who are most visible these days are trying to become "normal" in some way I do not support.

Whether referred to as a movement, a lifestyle or a community, that shared experience of being outside the mainstream, of being considered abnormal, forges bonds. Those bonds have real power. I don't know whether those bonds are stronger or better than other people's ties to their own communities, but they are/were of vital importance to the people who have them.

Like I said, I haven't experienced life in those dedicated communities - and at the same time I don't want to participate in the "you weren't there" game Becks discussed in a post some months ago, the link to which I can't quite dig up at the moment, even as I seem to play that game myself - but some of the experiences that most directly formed my political priorities were of being young and, for the first time, in a crowd of queer people. I can tell you the precise circumstances in which someone for the first time in my life assumed me to be gay. I don't think those experiences are more important or valid or authentic than growing up feeling able to say one is both queer and mainstream, but those experiences were important to me and I think there are other people for whom similar experiences could be just as important so I don't want to see that type of experience disappear entirely. I think the community should hesitate before accepting Sullivan's position that our goal should be to dissolve those bonds and avoid those experiences.

So, while I don't want there to be ghettos and I don't think queer people should be herded into urban reservations for the terminally different, I do think that there is value to be gained from a sense of community that comes from direct contact with one another and a duty to have each other's backs - and I do think we have a duty to look out for one another. We are deluded if we relax and say, "Well, that's that, the homophobes have lost and we're winning almost everywhere." What of the people gay-bashed during the Prop 8 campaign?

It's very convenient for conservatives to bitch that we all just want to feel like victims but the fact is that we are not yet equal and that, if we ever are, it will be altogether too easy for that to be taken away again. There will always be Anita Bryants ready to scare Wichita or Eugene or St. Paul. There will always be Dobsons and Falwells and Gingriches and Santorums. We forget that at our peril.

I think it's probably very easy for someone with Sullivan's biography to go ho-hum at the thought of being scared to go to a gay bar or march in a pride parade for fear of physical assault. I think it's very foolish for anyone to think he best understands where the queer community should go over the next generation or two. I think it's crazy to think that there is going to be some point in the future when we achieve perfect equality for all time and the music swells and the credits roll. Life goes on and society changes for better and for worse. Progress can be undone and rights can be taken away. The movie doesn't end with a punch-out finish. Conservatives tend to act like life has a title card and a scoreboard at the end and Sullivan is playing into that.

That's a sign of some kind of privilege, to be able to meet another member of your embattled community and reject them.

I recently met an undergraduate who was described to me as "a gay guy who hates gay guys." He struck me as just this sort of privileged: white enough and athletic enough and smart enough and rich enough to be able to downplay being gay. Surely that isn't the apex of the queer movement. Surely that isn't what people were marching and bleeding and dying to achieve.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:49 AM
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Not "this in particular" meaning Frostbite, but "this in particular" meaning this topic/idea that there's going to be a bell that rings and some confetti and then we can all go home and stop being queer.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:50 AM
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Watched Sullivan once on a several hour NYC public panel on some GLBT issue, with the rest of the panel GLBT, and a full audience of variants, some incomprehensible to me, or at least confusing.
All were umm, assertive New Yorkers.

Sullivan seemed very uncomfortable, and more than a little disdainful. There was snobbery, and it was partly his conservatism, but I felt somehow he wasn't interested in diversity or pluralism. There was something monolithic or intolerant about him, as if after the Revolution, everyone can accepted as Good Republicans, and that that was the point of liberation.

It was as rageful an event as I have seen on CSpan, mostly directed at Sullivan.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:50 AM
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He struck me as just this sort of privileged: white enough and athletic enough and smart enough and rich enough to be able to downplay being gay.

Ugh, yes, this. A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post about struggling with depression and being a transwoman, and the comfort she found in reading of other queer people's experiences of depression, and, of course, the first comment was from some dude saying that as long as she treats herself like a victim, she'll continue to be victimized. Thanks, dude whose family calls him by the name he recognizes, who had the choice to stay in his own community, who doesn't have to struggle to make enough money to afford to live in an area where he won't get raped or beaten for walking down the street! You clearly understand what that feels like, and why one might want the comfort and support of a community.

Watched Sullivan once on a several hour NYC public panel on some GLBT issue

Are you talking about that Charlie Rose panel from the 90's? That was hilarious. Sullivan is sitting there with a radical white lesbian, a black lesbian, and a lefty gay dude, lecturing all of them on how if they stopped wearing silly clothes and complaining about equal rights, they'd be happier because they'd fit in. This has always been Sullivan's MO. Quit the struggle as soon as you find a way to pretend it doesn't exist. I don't trust him. (He got seriously schooled by the lesbians, of course, but it didn't seem to stick.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:01 AM
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I suspect I am multiply pwnd, and really should be doing more reading than opining anyway.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:01 AM
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It sounds like a different show, actually, but same thing. Sullivan's schtick is won't it be nice when we all feel like white straight men do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:04 AM
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OT: This is cute.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:08 AM
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69 is annoyingly obvious, sorry.

No, it isn't. None of this is. If it were, Sullivan would be laughed off the web. Having to say these things over and over is all a part of the whole deal, unfortunately.

There was snobbery, and it was partly his conservatism, but I felt somehow he wasn't interested in diversity or pluralism.

This is pretty much Sullivan in a nutshell. He strikes me as being one of those people (so recently discussed) who think anyone who doesn't succeed for his definition of "success" must not have been trying.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:18 AM
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I don't know how queer friendly the liberal places are.

My BF's workplace has a trans-woman (is that right?), and plenty of people are politely uncomfortable. His immediate supervisor is a right-winger from NC whose views on healthcare policy astonish my BF, but most of the people who work on the research side are Democrats.

I think that that situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that a lot of people didn't like Luke so much before he became Liz, and people find Liz somewhat "bitchy." It's also hard for some, because Liz is married to a heterosexual woman with two small kids, and she's made it clear that she'll get a divorce if Liz goes beyond hormone therapy to get a sex change operation.

Some of the women were uncomfortable with the idea of letting a trans-person into the women's bathroom, so they built Liz her own private bathroom. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The prejudiced part of me is somewhat sympathetic, because I don't think that I'd like it either, but that's probably an attitude I should work on changing.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:19 AM
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It's easy for Sullivan to envision the gay movement ending, I guess, because he either has no experience of or wants no experience of perpetually homophobic families. Having to leave your community behind to live your life is not a sign that your movement has succeeded.

Don't forget that Sullivan lives in that most unusual of geographies, a thoroughly gay-friendly (indeed, gay-celebrating) small town (Provincetown, MA).


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:21 AM
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60 really should have ended "Fuck you, gay clown."

It's very convenient for conservatives to bitch that we all just want to feel like victims

What *that* is is a bunch of fucking projection. The only thing the modern conservative movement does any more is moan and whine about how they are so put upon and oppressed, and are the last group that can be persecuted openly.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:28 AM
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Sully did use a very clever rhetorical move here. He smuggled in a stupid thesis ("gays should only strive for equal equality under the law.") under a thesis that no one would disagree with ("the gay movement should work to make itself obsolete.")


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:30 AM
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My 81 didn't post. 80: I think that Sullivan spends most of his time in DC.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:32 AM
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Also, I'd love to discuss the acceptance of trans people in society as well as bisexuals.

That seems to be a complicated question too from a legal perspective. What happens to the legal status of a marriage in a state which does not allow gay marriage when one spouse changes his/her gender or rather makes it manifest in a formal way.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:35 AM
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I do wish I had more ways available to me of feeling like a part of a movement.

community good, movements not necessarily so good. To the extent movements require the fuel of a negative sense of grievance, victimization, injustice, they can be really problematic. The ideal would be a movement driven by a positive vision of building a certain sort of community, but that seems to be harder to create. This goes to Freud's belief that the libidinal ties that hold large groups together require a sense of aggression and hostility towards an out-group. This is what the sense of victimization provides -- to identity politics groups on the left as well as on the right.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:36 AM
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He's got a loft in Adams Morgan in DC, bought with Internet stock monies.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:36 AM
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79: Yeah, transwomen aren't going to rape you in the bathroom. I wouldn't worry about it.

I know you know this, and everyone knows this, but trans friends can't figure out why people have this bone-level dread of peeing near someone who may or may not have similar genitalia. It's not like you know what the person in the next stall's genitals look like, anyway, right? Here the "What is it to you?" question seems useful for figuring out what straight rights in the face of LGBTQ issues "should" be.

And I guess I've also become a bit sensitive to the line about "I just hate [transperson]. It's not because s/he's trans, but because s/he's so [whiny/depressed/alcoholic/self-conscious/performative/etc.]" Well, fucking duh. Feeling you're in the wrong body, but being trained to act as if you belong in that body, and then trying to figure out how to perform a body identity you were never taught, even in the absence of physical violence, rape, and constant humiliation, can have a bit of a psychological toll.

I am most explicitly not saying all trans people are crazy; many are the most boringly normal and well-adjusted people in the world. But for the ones who are struggling with life, the attitudes and personalities that can be a part of that life experience can be used as a way of marginalizing trans people without explicitly saying one hates trans people. It's similar to the old "I don't hate women; I just hate angry feminists" or "I don't hate black people except when they're talking about reparations. Did I enslave their ancestors?"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:37 AM
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81 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:39 AM
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84: I sort of think of transsexuality as a kind of mental disorder that's related to internalized gender essentialism. But it's also potentially functional as a lifestyle. If people function well, you need to deal with them on their own terms. The question is the level of "acceptance" required.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:40 AM
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87: What about locker rooms, especially those with children? I mean, I can certainly see an argument for having co-ed changing rooms, but isn't the desire to have separate ones based on an explicit concern about genitalia. Are single-sex changing rooms wrong too?

(I have well-formed thoughts on these questions. I'm just thinking aloud.)


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:43 AM
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Trans people in locker rooms tend to change in bathroom stalls. It's not like they're big fans of wiggling non-standard genitalia around in front of people who might attack them.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:47 AM
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Heading out for the day.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:47 AM
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89 is too strong. The most I will say is that I get the impression that some transpeople changed gender because something was out of balance with their lives, and it turns out that being the wrong gender wasn't it.

I developed this theory at a time when I was being telephone-stalked* by a MTF person who had read something on my blog criticizing the current state of sex research.

__
* As in, she kept leaving long, rambling voice-mail messages.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:52 AM
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93: Thanks for teh info, White Bear.

I also have to head out to go to the RMV, because I lost my wallet yesterday and I need to replace my driver's license. It will probably take more than one trip. I also need to buy a new wallet.

The process was significantly less awful than the last time this happened, since I had an SO who came to help me. Having people you can call on for support is so nice. It's really too bad that that seems to be restricted in our culture to family members and romantic partners.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:59 AM
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Trans people get mixed reactions from gay crowds as well. I'm about as queer-friendly as straight guys get, have had both pre- and post-op acquaintances, and I'll admit that transgenderism (is that even a word?) still makes me vaguely uncomfortable. My pet theory is that the Western mindset relies very heavily on dualistic categories (X and not-X), and most of us have trouble finding the appropriate mental box for people who aren't cleanly in either category.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:00 AM
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it turns out that being the wrong gender wasn't it

This has been my impression too, though my sample size is too small to make any broad generalizations from it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:02 AM
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You know who gets far too little sympathy from the liberal victimization industry? Transracial kids. They were born into a white body, but inside they know they were meant to be black. Often, their parents reject their decision to go transracial, and they have to alter their dress, speech, and habits to be accepted by their white families.

I've seen pre-op transracial kids congregating where they think they will find acceptance in a like-minded community -- I speak, of course, of upscale suburban malls -- but mall cops seem to go out of their way to harass them. Truly our society will not live up to its founding creed until transracial kids can wear their trousers below their underwear and listen to gangsta rap as their true nature intends.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:16 AM
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my sample size is too small to make any broad generalizations from it

The apostropher would make a terrible social scientist.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:55 AM
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my sample size is too small

So I have to shop in the children's department.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:02 AM
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Why does everybody laugh at my sample size?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:22 AM
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Why do all these transsexuals keep increasing my sample size?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:25 AM
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100: Because your mother dresses it funny?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:25 AM
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102: Maybe because I fold it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:53 AM
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You know who gets far too little sympathy from the liberal victimization industry?

Contrarians, especially the ones that write for Slate.

max
['I mean, they write for Slate... how heart-rending is that?']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:26 PM
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It's just hard, being a straight white upper middle class guy in this world.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:41 PM
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Okay, I'll say this and I'll say it plain and a little bit rude: If trans people being trans around you bothers you, you need to change. What is more, your right to keep your children from seeing genitalia and non-cis-gendered bodies (whatever, if that's your anxiety) does not trump the right of a trans person to do ordinary things like change in the locker room that reflects zir gender identity.

Yes, trans people mess up the various firm categories we've invented to police gender and sexuality.

Funnily, I've never felt that being in the locker room with cisgender women was particularly safer than being in the locker room with trans women. People often write about this stuff as if the real anxiety were about physical danger or sexual unsafety--sexual assault, whatever--but I think that the anxiety is really about the fragile status of solidarity among women. We're supposed to believe that there's some sort of bond across class, race and character that makes us all...something....in women-only situations. Pink, we're supposed to be pink in women-only situations--making jokes about male fallibility or the idiosyncrasies of the female body or how hard we work to project the illusion of femininity, or whatever--just one big hen party. Mothery-daughtery. And since this isn't true--there's always class and race and nationality and sexuality and experience and character--we have to pretend that this bond is based on some kind of woman-born-woman essential thing. When we start meeting women who were not born biologically female, that messes up the category.

Honestly, cis-women-only spaces scare me because they make me feel a huge pressure to be female in some normalized way, to admit to some kind of deep essential experience of femaleness that I share with all other cis women. Since this is very much not the case, I avoid locker rooms, wedding showers and all that like the very plague.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:53 PM
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106: Precisely.

I wish I had time to say more but I have to get garbage off my lawn before the city gets it off for me.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:03 PM
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106: on the other hand, Frowner, everyone brought up as a woman in our society does share /something/ that other members don't have. I don't object to trans-women in my locker room, but I do think woman-born-woman space is useful some places. (One of the most self-satisfied pink lectures I've ever gotten was from a newly trans woman telling me I was doing it wrong -- and telling me with the combined authority of Raised as a Boy and Validated by Very Conventional Psychotherapists. Cripes.)

----

In more cheerful news, the Newcomen organization disbanded recently when they decided that Watts' unfair share of fame had been more justly allocated.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:08 PM
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Nothing, not arguments of convenience or long use or anything else, could possibly convince me of the propriety of singular "they" and "their" and whatnot more than how silly "zie" and "zir" and whatnot look.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:16 PM
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108: What exactly is it? I've often wondered.

No, seriously, if it's just "born with more-or-less the tendency to menstruate and more-or-less-probably the ability to bear children", even if we take "mostly true for most women at some point in their lives" as meaning "universally true for all women"....I dunno, that's a weak reed. How I experience those things, how I feel about them, is so conditioned by class, race, family-with-really-crazy-ideas-about-embodiment....it's almost certainly going to be more productive for me to talk to a man (or to a trans woman) who has a weird experience of embodiment than a woman who has a conventional one.

And if we mean "gets treated as a woman"--well, being "treated as a woman" varies so enormously by race, class, etc etc...I assure you that I am not treated by anyone in the same way that the Latina child of high-class Brazilian parents would be, or a working class Hmong woman, or even an old weird artsy white middle class woman. I am not even treated "as a woman" the same as a white middle class nerdy femme woman is treated.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:22 PM
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(109....I'm not actually the biggest fan of zie and zir, either, but I wanted to be all snottily self-righteous and foreground gender in language in a way that "they" does not.

Myself, I like "per" as used in Woman on the Edge of Time, since it's a bit silly, has a proper radical etymology and sounds like "purr".)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:25 PM
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109: One of the most basic rules for the political manipulation of language is that it is always better to change the meaning of a word already in use than to introduce a new word.

Frank Lunz, the Republican strategist who gave us "death tax" and "contract with America", would never even think of introducing something as clumsy as "zir"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:27 PM
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Thanks for the comments, everyone.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:29 PM
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110 -- The same can be said of class, race, religious tradition, ethnicity, etc. Wide variations within any one group. And yet, among a significant number of members of any group, enough commonality for a purposed community. E.g., surely every South Asian lawyer has had a distinct experience, colored by class, gender, etc, and yet one can see why there is a South Asian bar association.

106 -- IME "you need to change" and "whatever, if that's your anxiety" aren't particularly effective. It's always easier to tell people how to act, or how not to act, than how to feel.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:35 PM
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114: The argument for professional organizations and the argument for "women have this essential thing that's of the body but not of the body, and which justifies excluding trans women"--those are rather different. One is directed outward: At this moment, we have professional goals in common and we're working together to achieve them. The other has a desire to define some kind of essence and then figure out what we should do about the essence, which usually turns out to be focusing on who doesn't count.

A women's professional organization doesn't have a logical reason to exclude women professionals who are trans, and probably won't even attempt to drum one up. "Women-born-women Lawyers Guild"?

IME "you need to change" and "whatever, if that's your anxiety" aren't particularly effective.
I know that you mean this in a more sophisticated way than it's usually said, but I just can't be having with the "your message would be better received if you were just more civil.

Also, I find that I do change how I feel. In fact, I usually change how I think long before my feelings really match up. I thought that trans women should not be excluded on the women-born-women argument long before I felt comfortable about it. Indeed, meeting trans women didn't so much change my thinking (I wouldn't have been in the political settings in question if my thinking hadn't been what it was) but it certainly changed how I felt.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:47 PM
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I don't think "you need to change" is the right answer to transphobia. I think people need to explicitly state what they're so afraid of. Are they afraid that trans bodies will rape, terrorize, physically harm, somehow make one less chaste upon seeing them? Are transphobics somehow afraid that their own bodies, or their children's, will start mutating? Should we not allow children to see the bodies of women who have had mastectomies, because the most terrible thing in the world is answering the question "Why is her body like that?" Are women and children so infinitely harmable that being anywhere near a transsexual makes them rock back and forth in a corner for hours?

And why are transphobics so obsessed with transwomen potentially flaunting non-standard genitals at them? No one does this in locker rooms to begin with, and transpersons who haven't had bottom surgery tend to be incredibly ashamed and secretive about having what they feel is the wrong genitalia. I know trans people who, with or without surgery, are so phobic about how people will react to seeing their genitals that they go years in relationships without taking off their pants. I.e., we are not talking about gay drag queens here, who may see the penis as a funny exclamation point at the end of a performance of ironic self-positioning. Trans people feel they have the wrong genitals, so they're generally the least likely population on earth to go around presenting them for your unwilling spectation.

Raised as a Boy and Validated by Very Conventional Psychotherapists

Maybe my experience is just very limited, but transwomen, in particular, generally seem to be people for whom masculine privilege was always bitterly withheld when they were children. They were never man enough, never woman enough. Some of them emerge from that experience incredibly shy and self-conscious. Others are passionate radical feminists who know exactly what privileges are lost. But it would be something, I think, to know a transwoman who somehow obtained and maintained a sense of masculine privilege. I am amazed by the resiliency of people.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:02 PM
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And why are transphobics so obsessed with transwomen potentially flaunting non-standard genitals at them? No one does this in locker rooms to begin with

You haven't been in a locker room with Apostropher.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:13 PM
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116.1 eats its own tail. Asking those questions is the very mechanism needed to initiate the necessary change.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:21 PM
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116.1 eats its own tail.

Hottt.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:25 PM
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You haven't been in a locker room with Apostropher.

Or most men over 60 at my gym. It's an absolute mission to them that I see their packages from at least 3 different angles.


Posted by: Byron the Bulb | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:29 PM
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On the discomfort-with-trans-people issue, in my experience a very large percentage of it is what has been described above: Personal discomfort due to bigotry, prejudice, or just internalized gender norms that make it hard to emotionally get past what intellectually you feel you should.

But another piece of it is unpredictability. A trans person is overtly rejecting one of the most fundamental categories -- if not THE fundamental one -- in our society. What's the first question people ask about a new baby? Is it a boy or a girl?

It's a common heuristic to make the leap: Unpredictable in one domain=unpredictable in others, and thus potentially dangerous. It's not necessarily logical, but it's relatively easy to see how people get there.

It took me the better part of fifteen years to feel comfortable sifting deviant-because-of-extremely-severe-mental-illness from deviant-in-a-way-that-should-raise-immediate-red-flags, and I still regularly second-guess myself and worry about the consequences if I get it wrong. I would like to think I'm never going to hurt or insult someone with schizophrenia by taking his cellphone-photo-taking-obsession to be a warning sign worthy escorting him out, but I've also been appalled on a couple of occasions when I didn't react strongly enough.

Back to revolutions and social movements. I grew up pretty far outside mainstream society in a number of ways, and got to witness firsthand other people's reactions to my family's (extremely mild, nonjudgmental) non-mainstream choices. Judging by the level of defensive near-hysteria that often provoked, I never doubt how explosively people can react to anybody whose existence threatens the idea of "normal."

But lifting up your own reactions to examine them under the light is the first step toward shifting them. Even if they look ugly.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:31 PM
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I know men's locker rooms are different, but their phobia about transdudes seems a very different thing from women's phobia about transladies, which seems to stem from some kind of rape anxiety or even fear that seeing something might harm them somehow. Dudes are not afraid that transguys will rape them in the locker room. Somehow cisgendered women feel like their fears are somehow justified or justifiable, but I've never heard a decent explanation for what exactly they are afraid will happen to them, e.g., if they share a bathroom, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:35 PM
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I'd be surprised if anyone seriously feared genetic mutation of their children's genitalia, or that they'd have to schedule time to rock in the corner for hours. But I'd expect a large part of it is fear of the unknown (is this person mentally ill? dangerous? correlated with pedophilia? different than someone who just likes to dress up in clothing coded as for the opposite gender? a guy in disguise just so he can peek at women? etc.), rather than anything specific. It's outside of a lot of people's experience.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:36 PM
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My own discomfort in the presence of trans people has been more along the lines of "oh god, am I going to say something hideously inappropriate?" combined with a real, impertinent curiosity that I have to restrain. So I feel a bit embarrassed, and don't trust myself not to behave like an ass. It's been mostly fine, in my limited experience.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:36 PM
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I have trouble believing in the sincerity of people who persistently allege that trans women are "men dressed up" in order to get into women's spaces. Once, or as an initial reaction,yeah, but people are really attached to that one. And it's like, yeah, right, trans women are going to take the immense number of risks involved with being trans just to get into the locker room at the local Y. It doesn't make sense and yet it's such a powerful recurring argument.

I tend to think that part of this is how women are socialized to be gatekeepers of purity and appropriateness. Trans people are viewed as too sexual, too much a reminder of sexuality, just as gays and lesbians have been in the past--scandalous just by existing. (At the bookstore where I volunteer, for example, we used to have a porn/erotica shelf entirely of GLBTQ material--as if straight people somehow had no pornography, no sexuality, but GLBTQ had lots. This in a collective that was back then almost 100% straight.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:43 PM
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Of course it doesn't make sense. But it goes to what Witt said. Gender is a very, very fundamental distinction for our society; I suspect some people think that if that's up for debate, almost everything else probably is, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:45 PM
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My own discomfort in the presence of trans people has been more along the lines of "oh god, am I going to say something hideously inappropriate?" combined with a real, impertinent curiosity that I have to restrain.

I still often feel this, actually, or fear that I will misuse pronouns, especially when I've known the person before and after transitioning. But my fear is lessened by the fact that I have often said offensive things, asked offensive questions, pushed the wrong buttons. IME, these are things that happen to trans people all the time, and, if you're actually friends (or potential friends), they'll tell you where the line is for them, or what offended them, just like women with a lot of dude friends might have to get used to saying, "Hey, can you not call me a cunt? That's over the line for me," or "I don't think 'women are bitches' jokes are funny." Intimacy often grows out of those moments of offending, being told you were offensive, and figuring out how to be kinder.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:45 PM
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Further to 127, it's not that I've offended a trans person and then they haven't wanted to talk to me again; it's always been that I feel so ashamed of having offended that I fear they won't be able to forgive me that threatens the relationship. I have been learning over the past several years to trust people more than that.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:47 PM
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114: IME "you need to change" and "whatever, if that's your anxiety" aren't particularly effective. It's always easier to tell people how to act, or how not to act, than how to feel.

Well, what do you want trans people and their allies to say: "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" Whatever progress we've made emotionally in this country around race, has, in large part, I propose, been because people have said to themselves "I'll get a lot of crap for being racist, so I'm not going to be racist anymore." It's not perfect, but over a generation or two it solidifies into being "natural". (To oversimplify greatly.)


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:06 PM
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But minne, giving people crap for being racist and saying "you need to change" are different. You can effect change via the former a lot more easily than you can through hectoring. (Hectoring is a form of crap-giving but not a very good one.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:10 PM
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131: I think we run with different crowds, nosflow. "You need to change" isn't hectoring where I come from, and "you need to stop that", well, it works, among people of good faith. I've been told that I needed to change on matters of privilege and I changed....or at least I gave it the old college try. There's an awful lot of attention paid to the delicate feelings of cis-gendered white folks, I notice, in these matters. We're too delicate to possibly, possibly respond to anything except the nicest, most polite inquiries into our feelings about our status vis-a-vis trans people, women of color, etc, etc. Now, when I encounter someone who says, "I would be less transphobic if only you asked me why I was transphobic and attended to my wounded masculinity because patriarchy hurts men too", I generally do not find that they are speaking in good faith.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:15 PM
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What in the world makes you think I have the delicate feelings of anyone in mind? And: if "you need to stop that" isn't taken by someone as hectoring, well, that person wasn't really a problem.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:42 PM
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106: The last two paragraphs are excellent. They describe my feelings/experience perfectly.


Posted by: jackie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:07 PM
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Well, I didn't think that you had the delicate feelings of anyone in mind. But I've been in an awful lot of situations where people were really wedded to their own stupid beliefs and where a fairly direct calling-out is helpful. Sometimes with them, sometimes with the group, since "you need to change" statements serve make it really really clear to the group that we're not screwing around, now is the time to back people up, etc, etc.

I actually had an "I'm calling someone out" moment last night where I in fact used the phrase "I need you to stop that". I made myself do that because I tend to be, in real life, really flinchy and bury-my-anger and because the guy was being a prat. I knew if I didn't speak in strong terms I wouldn't speak at all, or else I'd be wobbly and unclear.

That's the other thing with these conversations--there ends up being a very high bar for saying "your transphobia has to stop". There's much more burden placed on the person/group who is wronged than on the wronger.

In this instance, I was really, really tired of the behavior, of writing it off since the guy is an dedicated, intelligent aspie pothead, tired of feeling like my role in the group was to make everyone feel really comfortable, tired of nannying feelings. I've spent a lot of time on the left trying to tell people nicely that please could they stop please and I understand that they had a difficult childhood and all...Funnily, after I told dude that he had to knock it off, we did pretty well.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:18 PM
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Frowner your experience is different from mine. Carry on. Best of luck.

Minne, I don't think it's a correct reading of history at all to say that first people's feelings change, and then their conduct changes, wrt, for example, race. Conduct is always easier to reach than emotion. [Many] people may not now want to be thought racists, but that's after 40 years of being able to be sued for acting like a racist.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:28 PM
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What in the world makes you think I have the delicate feelings of anyone in mind?

It is a peculiarity of Unfogged that I actually felt a little flicker of shame at having perhaps insulted you, nosflow, by suggesting that you were concerned with people's feelings.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:34 PM
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Coming way late to this thread, but having made my monthly trip to the gym today, I do have a thought on the locker room question. In the locker room at my gym, sign are very prominently posted reminding women to "be courteous" and cover your damned self up with a towel already. Personally, I have always found it laughably ludicrous that women should need to hide their bodies in a locker room filled with other women who seem to also have bodies. But when a friend came along once, *she* found it ludicrous that this needed to be posted because, gosh, don't people just know that it's inappropriate to walk around a locker room naked? Anyway, it seems to me that the women who are going to get the vapors about seeing and being seen by other women are just going to have a whole nother level of anxiety about seeing and being seen by someone who isn't exactly a woman biologically. I mean, maybe it's not quite the same as being seen by a (gasp) man, but, well, naked bodies and gender and it's all very disconcerting.

It took me the better part of fifteen years to feel comfortable sifting deviant-because-of-extremely-severe-mental-illness from deviant-in-a-way-that-should-raise-immediate-red-flags

Huh. I don't know that I quite get the distinction. I mean, I tend to see extremely severe mental illness as something that does properly raise red flags. Particularly un- or inadequately treated mental illness. Not to take the discussion on a tangent though. Just saw this comment and couldn't quite process it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:42 PM
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I don't think I'm at risk from transwomen in my locker room, but I do think I'm at a (small) risk from some creepy guy-raised-guy perv who figures he can claim to be a transwoman. There's regularly one guy like this at the Fremont Solstice Parade, although that is thoroughly disinfected by sunlight.

110: No, I don't believe that people-viewed-as-women don't get treated in some shared ways, even though those ways are all filtered through/mixed into other class distinctions. As someone else said, gender is the one thing we're surest to care about in others. People use that knowledge.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:53 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:54 PM
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I mean, I tend to see extremely severe mental illness as something that does properly raise red flags. Particularly un- or inadequately treated mental illness.

Yeah, sorry, I made a last-minute edit and I realize now that completely obscured the context. I was referring to being a library worker or other customer service representative who has to make decisions about what is "quirky but OK" behavior versus what is "a potential danger to self or others" and must be dealt with by warning, removal, or (in rare cases) arrest.

Obviously in many cases it breaks your heart not to be able to provide substantive help, but there's a point at which we can't expect service workers to be clinicians. You could write a book on the reprecussions of untreated mental illness among library patrons, but that's not a problem that's going to get solved in Unfogged comments.

On the restroom theme, I do want to point out that I've worked in several places where there WERE genuine issues with creepy guys trying to get/hide in the women's room. People's nutty reactions about trans women trying to sneak into the women's room may be insanely off-base as far as the trans people are concerned, but they're not actually hallucinating that a problem does exist. The issue is that the relevant variable is "criminal," not "trans."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:57 PM
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138.1, 140.last: Sounds like the heart of the problem is likely that most of us know far too few trans women to feel comfortable distinguishing between genuine trans women and male creeps pretending to be so? Personally, I don't (knowingly) know anyone who is transgendered. (Though I do know plenty of male creeps and like to think my souped up male-creep-radar would help *me* make any necessary distinctions.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:02 PM
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Look, a person behaving creepily in a locker room is a person behaving creepily. Trying to evaluate creep potential based on "how sincerely 'feminine' does this person look?" is a recipe for disaster. And I say this as someone who was in younger, butcher times mistaken for a man on a semi-regular basis. A young, fresh-faced fellow, no doubt, but still...

People need to be thoughtful about what triggers their anxieties and why. I do happen to know a reasonable number of trans people, and if cis women are routinely flagging trans women as potential creepy bathroom perverts they've simply GOT to be misreading, almost willfully so, unless there's some radically different community of trans women than the ones here in MPLS. There simply isn't an overlap in behavior, manner, affect, etc. Trans people are people trying to live in their bodies just like cis people are--when they're in a locker room or a bathroom, they're there to use the locker room or bathroom for its ordinary purposes.

Seeing someone whose gender is to you ambiguous is not a sign that you're seeing someone who is going to hassle you.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:14 PM
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People need to be thoughtful about what triggers their anxieties and why.

Amen.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:15 PM
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On the restroom theme, I do want to point out that I've worked in several places where there WERE genuine issues with creepy guys trying to get/hide in the women's room. People's nutty reactions about trans women trying to sneak into the women's room may be insanely off-base as far as the trans people are concerned, but they're not actually hallucinating that a problem does exist. The issue is that the relevant variable is "criminal," not "trans."

Also, once there is a standard in which certain people who are clearly men in women's clothing are allowed to be in the women's room because they are transgendered, we have a scenario where people feel like, well, men could sneak into the women's room by dressing in women's clothing. I'm sure this is what people would actually tell you they're worried about. Not whatever 125.1 thinks people think.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:16 PM
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Is there any mystery to the reasons why most cis-women who object to having trans-women in the women's room actually object? They don't believe that trans-women are really women, but are in fact men. The objections they give are the objections they would give to allowing men into the women's room. So it's not that they object to sitting next to somebody with nonstandard genitals in the bathroom -- they object to sitting next to men. I doubt your average cis-woman has a well-articulated reason for women's bathrooms in general.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:16 PM
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Good God, Phyllis Shafly was right: it is a slippery slope to unisex public restrooms.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:21 PM
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145: And yet I've dealt over and over with cis people who are absolutely unwilling, no matter how much personal testimony they hear, no matter how much history, no matter how much data, to accept that trans women are women. Either they're being jerks (and it's goddamn jerky to be all "you go through huge suffering and incredible risk so that you can live as a woman but I don't believe you're sincere) or there's something else at stake, some reason that they are so attached to this "but he's not really a woman" line.

(Or actually, a lot of other somethings...)

I will be totally upfront here and say that I know a trans guy fairly well, one of my friends is married to a trans man, I do political work with a number of trans women...When people say to me as if it were an excuse "but I don't believe he's really a woman or she's really a man", they are talking about my friends.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:22 PM
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And I add that it wasn't particularly fun to get queerbashed back in my butch youth, either, and I haven't enjoyed the couple of recent instances (since I cut my hair and went back to clothes more reminiscent of my young day) either.

Look, I don't like creepy guys any more than the next woman does, but the harm that is done to non-gender-conforming people in the name of protecting the gender-conforming is tremendous and ongoing. And it usually doesn't really protect gender-conforming women either--it's not like kicking me out of the women's bathroom saves anyone from anything.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:27 PM
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In Portland 10 or so years ago there was a tremendous feud between lesbians and transexuals (specifically Margaret Deirdre O'Hartigan) , and it reached the City Council level. A lot of it seemed driven by M. D. O'H. herself -- her political projects, her personality, and the strong reactions she aroused inh almost everyone who ever met her. I found it tremendously depressing and annoying and just wished it would go away.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:27 PM
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Women's bathrooms are so we don't have to see men peeing.

As far as I know, I only know one transgendered person irl, and I'm highly unlikely to ever share a changing room with her. I think people should use the toilet/changing room/whatever of the gender with which they identify - but, it *would* be weird to be undressing next to a woman undressing who turned out to have a penis. That would be surprising, wouldn't it?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:28 PM
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Every application of the term transgender to me is an attempt to mask what I've done and as such co-opts my life, denies my experience, violates my very soul. I changed my sex. Like the hijra of India and the gallae of Rome I took cold steel to myself and proved that anatomy is not destiny. Like the Siberian Chukchee shaman I have died and been taken apart, reassembled, changed sex, and come back with new powers. Like the inkte of the Mdewakanton Siouxs I grew up amongst, I have had my visions.

I am not transgender.


Posted by: Margaret Deirdre O'Hartigan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:34 PM
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150: Maybe surprising, although in my particular circles not wildly so. This will sound far more self-righteous than I mean it to be, but after years and years among activists it's pretty much habit for me to feel that bodies are individual, you never know what you'll find, etc, etc. Now, I'm a prude and tend to be very, very clothed around everyone, especially other cis women because I feel that they'll all just think "but at least I don't look like her, but I don't particularly care about what variety of people change clothes around me.

I was chatting about this whole matter with a housemate, though, and she said that for various reasons she'd grown up being very uncomfortable around trans women. (And she's left, from a consciously open and affirming pro-trans religious background, etc) This did surprise me just because I grew up without encountering very much anti-trans stuff at all---stereotypical stuff, certainly, but nothing about sinister scary trans people.

I remember reading in a book geared to teenagers about a couple of the first women to have surgery; I remember reading a dreadful sentimental line of hard-boiled crime stories where my favorite character was in love with a stereotypical/beautiful/vulnerable trans woman; I remember reading an Isabel Allende novel with a significant trans woman character (politically problematic, I suspect looking back). I don't remember reading anything about trans men, though, until college.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:45 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:45 PM
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147

... I don't believe you're sincere ...

It has nothing to do with sincerity. Someone can sincerely believe they are Napoleon but I don't have to agree.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:48 PM
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147: That's phrased as if you're disagreeing, but it reads like 100% agreement with what I just said. If you have an essentialist notion of gender, then one consequence is that you have an essentialist notion of gender. Men are men, women are women, and you can ignore the exceptions. I can't imagine what kind of scientific evidence you think you could present that would overturn a belief that seems to accord so well with the casual facts of life in our society. You'd have as much luck trying to present scientific evidence against the existence of God.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:52 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:54 PM
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145

... I doubt your average cis-woman has a well-articulated reason for women's bathrooms in general.

Concern about rape.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:54 PM
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147: If I I thought you were doing anything but chain-yanking, I'd say that insisting that you can know someone's gender while ignoring their lived experience and everything they say about themselves is assholish, pointless and self-important.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:00 PM
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Er, 158 to 154....


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:01 PM
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159: I was a little surprised to see you turn on yourself like that...


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:03 PM
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I love the sensation of eating beyond satiation almost as much as I love the subsequent expansion of my entire body. The fatter I grow the more exquisitely attuned to my own body and to another's touch I become. Then, too, there is no small amount of satisfaction for me in seeing a lover's eyes widen in amazement at my growing bulk, knowing all the while that there are very few women willing and happy to let someone share in such a simple pleasure.

Growing fatter, however, is first and foremost a matter of loving myself, and only secondarily a form of erotic expression to share with my lover.


Posted by: Margaret Deirdre O'Hartigan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:18 PM
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Here's what I don't get:

College dorms have had single sex bathrooms for at least 20 years. They didn't have them at SJC when I was there, but other colleges already had them.

By now, you'd think that a single sex bathroom would be something other than the worst imaginable bottom to the most horrible of slippery slopes.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:23 PM
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I always get fucked up with the terminology: a trans-woman is a biological man working to inhabit a female self, correct? In perhaps varied stages of surgical sex? And a trans-man is born biologically female, roughly speaking?

I don't really care what's going on in the stall next to mine in a bathroom, as long as it doesn't smell too bad or involve more than one person. I don't use the men's bathroom (often) because urinals are gross and because men get embarrassed to be discovered with a dick in their hands by a woman. I would be fine with a unisex bathroom with individual stalls.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:26 PM
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It would be nice for parents of young children to have dedicated quiet de-sexed places to deal with nursing and changing. Maybe our future utopia will have "family bathrooms" with tables and comfy chairs and utilitarian unisex bathrooms with individual stalls.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:28 PM
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162: My college had single-sex bathrooms. Every time I have ever mentioned this to someone, they responded with horror. Women in particular were upset by the idea. I don't get it either.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:30 PM
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We had unisex bathrooms at our fraternity and it never caused any problems.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:31 PM
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Because I am a terrible person who is wildly selfish and also rather proud of my ability to pee quickly, I have very frequently used men's restrooms. I have used men's restrooms that have open urinal areas. I have done so while on a first date. I have then walked out of the stall to find my date pissing in the urinal. SORRY AMERICA.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:34 PM
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I'm never using a public restroom again.


Posted by: America | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:36 PM
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If I were a woman, I'd use men's bathrooms all the damn time because women's bathrooms so often have waiting lines.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:36 PM
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148: the harm that is done to non-gender-conforming people in the name of protecting the gender-conforming is tremendous and ongoing.

I had to skip ahead from this without reading further.

Frowner, I hear you. Don't back down. Your anger and refusal on this matter is entirely warranted.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:39 PM
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If Apo were a woman using men's bathrooms, I'd use women's bathrooms all the time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:39 PM
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There should be many more family bathrooms.

As I have mentioned before, it is a pain when I am in public and my daughter needs to go to the bathroom. She needs assistance.

With regard to locker rooms, I have little modesty (or shame), after having spent years as a swimmer in small suits and constantly in lockers. I do not care if you are male, female, transgendered, or some other category. It just doesnt bother me to get changed around you.

But, I certainly understand that most people are not like that. As someone mentioned above, many people are embarassed about being naked and seeing naked people of their same gender. I'm just not sure how is inappropriate or horribly insensitive to have most lockerrooms reserved for people with mostly similar genitalia.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:39 PM
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I don't use the men's room if there are multiple stalls because I don't want to frighten the men, poor dears, but when there are two single-toilet bathrooms, and the one with the skirted figure on the door is occupied, it's silly not to use the other one.

My college dorm had a unisex bathroom. I got over the unisexness of it pretty quickly, but it also had a wall of showers with a single drain at the center stall, and the very thought of it gives me THE SHIVERS.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:43 PM
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SHIVERS OF EXCITEMENT, I mean.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:43 PM
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You were clearly never there when a group of men were actually in the showers, jms.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:45 PM
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We're so progressive, we installed unisex bathrooms on every floor of our house.*

* OK, the basement toilet isn't functional. But it's non-functional equally.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:46 PM
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No, I was kidding. The showers were fucking gross. I bought platform shower slippers so that the water would minimally touch my feet.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:47 PM
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I was in a public locker room naked today with my boss. I am not a body-privacy person. I understand from several people's comments here that it is rude not to cover yourself with a towel while you change into your underwear. Do not go to a locker room with me ever, because I am not that coordinated.

I understand how it would be weird if you were changing your clothes and decided to take a break to, like, clip your toenails on the bench with your business in full view, but walking around naked for a few seconds? Who gets hurt by this again?

Bave and some other friends and I have taken to Korean Baths like pigs to shit. It involves about a full hour of full-nudity bathing time with your same-gendered friends. It's a lot less weird than you might imagine if you haven't done it. In fact, it's so not weird that the men's locker room (I am told) has a sign next to the door asking, "Are you wearing clothes?" because men (particularly, apparently) get so comfortable and blissed out that they wander out to pay and leave without a stitch on them. I wonder where they think they put their wallets.

The women are comfortable, and will dry their hair, etc., while still nude. They bring children with them. None of these children seem harmed by the experience. In fact, I envy their ability to be naked with other people across so many usually-awkward ages.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:47 PM
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Dont believe her. BR and I kept trying unsuccessfully to get AWB naked.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:51 PM
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Slightly more seriously, unisex bathrooms (for multiple people, that is) are way, way more rare than 162 thinks. Like, a small minority of bathrooms at a small minority of colleges, when a minority of Americans even attend a non-commuter college. Vanishingly rare.

Furthermore, not that I think it has big societal consequences, but I think it's noteworthy, the International Building Code does not, AFAIK, permit unisex bathrooms. Not just that they don't allow multiple occupant unisex bathrooms; they don't permit, as a general rule, single occupant, nominally unisex bathrooms (as in: a small business, required to have 2 toilets for employees, must have 2 separate toilet rooms, and they must be labeled Men's and Women's - they cannot be labeled "Toilet" and "Toilet." Fucked up, man.).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:51 PM
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I was referring to being a library worker or other customer service representative who has to make decisions about what is "quirky but OK" behavior versus what is "a potential danger to self or others" and must be dealt with by warning, removal, or (in rare cases) arrest.

Heh. I'm back on the downtown beat for the summer. Which, as it so happens, includes both the city library and the homeless shelter. Schizos ahoy.


Posted by: Teddy Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:52 PM
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||

On a separate, less heavy, but awfully big in this household, note, I just discovered, thanks to AB, that we will qualify for a substantial EIC on 2008.

Guess I should have done my taxes sooner. The idea hadn't occurred to me, even though I knew 6 weeks ago just how tiny my net income was last year.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:53 PM
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What 178 describes is basically my ideal, but it's extremely difficult to find communities of people who feel the same. It gets in your head: you should be ashamed! Of your body! Unless it conforms!

Well, anyway. This is the world we live in.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:55 PM
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unisex bathrooms (for multiple people, that is) are way, way more rare than 162 thinks.

Case in point: That its mere existence on Ally McBeal could be so endlessly remarked-upon by reviewers -- not just because of how David Kelley used it endlessly as a comic device, but as a punchline itself. See what a goofy, quirky TV show this is! It has unisex bathroom! Ha HA!

(Amen to JM's 164. And boo hiss on building codes.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:55 PM
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179: "Oh, sure, AWB, we'll drive you back to your hotel if that's what you really want. But we are just two doors away from this raging kegger we're at, where we're trying to get you to play beer pong with us."

I know where that leads. Fox News says that's how girls find themselves dead in dumpsters.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:56 PM
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pfft. You werent wearing a short skirt, so you were clearly going to live.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:57 PM
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On topic, and a bit more substantively, I think that Frowner and minne and AWB are basically right on the various trans issues, but I think are underestimating just how squicked out everyday Americans are by any body-related issues. I mean, I know you guys are all aware of this, but put it in perspective thus: to an average American, hearing a noisy, wet fart in the toilet stall beside you is at least somewhat gross (even if it's not stinky). There is no place on earth more natural for noisy farts, yet people get uptight about them (some men can't pee next to other men, as you may recall). To think that someone who is that uptight, that maladjusted, that uncomfortable with being a human animal, will be able to deal rationally with a once or twice in a lifetime bathroom/locker room encounter with a trans person is really unrealistic.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try, and I'm not saying your approach is wrong (or that you should "be more civil"*), but I'm just saying: that's a mighty big mountain you're expecting to scale on the force of "you should change."

* I don't think that's a fair characterization of CC, but he can defend his own self


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:00 PM
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181 how do you keep your internet access? the library?
i recalled some Japanese homeless keep using laundry, and other possible amenities, from the outside look just a regular person, but jobless and homeless irl, i admire that so much, must be unbelievably hard to maintain self on the streets
otoh, it's unbelievable that such a person would become homeless, maybe that was just an urban myth something


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:01 PM
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180: That is exactly what all the bathrooms are like in our school building. Each floor has 3 single occupant bathrooms.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:04 PM
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you should be ashamed! Of your body! Unless it conforms!

Maybe this is weird, but as someone whose body doesn't fall within "acceptable" ranges of conforming, I feel like it frees me not to be all anxious about my body. Most of the women I know who do get anxious about nudity/judgment/etc. are the ones who look, to my fat eyes at least, the most likely to be considered "conforming."

One of the great things about deciding at a very young age that I was ugly (not trolling for compliments here, as I am very aware how lucky I am in many ways--it's a psychological position I'm talking about) was that none of that beauty/body stuff applied to me. I knew I wasn't "acceptable" (or thought of myself as unacceptable in that sense) and that I was never going to be "acceptable," so it makes it much easier to write off or ignore those people who care about such things. I've said it many times, but I've never been envious of people who feel (like what is socially defined as) beautiful or that they could, if they did X, be beautiful. I think it would have made me neurotic as hell.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:04 PM
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Wet noisy farts are totally grosser than invisible hypothetical genitalia. Also, you know what's really, really gross? The musty old vagina-juice smell in the Metropolitan Opera women's bathrooms. Oh my God, I'm grossing myself out all by myself over here. It is SO nasty. It's like concentrated week-old dirty underwear.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:05 PM
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Uh, 191 to 187, insofar as it pertains to anything.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:07 PM
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The musty old vagina-juice smell in the Metropolitan Opera women's bathrooms.

Come on! Old ladies gotta get their rocks off somehow.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:08 PM
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191: Ageist! (No, but, seriously I have never noticed this. The bathrooms there are pretty spiffy, I thought, with uniformed attendants constantly tidying, etc.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:10 PM
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We're talking about the waaaaay upstairs bathrooms, right? Come ON. The miasma is overwhelming.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:12 PM
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195: Hee. No, I was talking the Grand Tier. It smells like Mitsouko and Euros.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:13 PM
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Once I get a smell in my nose, either the source of the smell has to be eliminated entirely or I'll be picking it up forever. I'm always the first to know that the garbage needs to go out like yesterday, so I'm always the garbage-taker-outer.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:14 PM
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181 how do you keep your internet access? the library?

I'm a cop. A "beat" is a slang term for a patrol area. When your beat has the downtown library and the homeless shelter in it, you deal with mentally ill people on a regular basis.


Posted by: Teddy Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:14 PM
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196.--Hmph.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:15 PM
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Somewhere, Ogged just got a shiver down his spine.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:15 PM
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197: I'm like that too. What's worse is that if my brain sort of misfiles a smell it is very hard for me to correct it. I ordered a fancy bar of soap that supposedly smelled of mint and milk chocolate, but my brain decided it was mold at first and so it remains.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:17 PM
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190: I admit I remain quite confused, emotionally, about this. I never fell easily among what were considered the beautiful people either, but for christ's sake, I kept trying, for a long time. It made me neurotic as hell, yes. This is becoming embarrassingly self-confessional, but whatever. What came out of it, in conjunction with coming to know a lot of people (gay people) who were fundamentally rejected, was a very strong "fuck you" level of anger.

I only feel fully comfortable now with people I know as hippies. My definition of those people differs from the one generally at hand here, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:17 PM
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176: Three cheers for Pittsburgh toilets. If you have a sink or walls around your basement toilet, it doesn't count.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:18 PM
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And you know what? Since people are talking about the scents at the opera house, I am seriously laughing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:22 PM
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Early in our relationship, BR took my daughter to the bathroom at the youth football field. My daughter somehow locked herelf in the stall, forcing BR to get down on the floor and crawl into the stall.

Youth. Football. Field. Bathrooms.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:22 PM
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One of the great things about deciding at a very young age that I was ugly (not trolling for compliments here)

Hott.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:22 PM
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188: from the outside look just a regular person
Man, that must be nice.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:23 PM
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205: But that BR is certainly a keeper.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:23 PM
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She is. She keeps asking me how I transitioned her from not wanting kids to wiping my 17 yr old daughter's butt.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:26 PM
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oh, thanks for the explanation, TR
a homeless person using internet, that would be unusual i guess, but perhaps there could be such people like hypothetically, if the libraries allow them an access


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:29 PM
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I am confused by the use of "single-sex bathrooms" above; is it a repeated thinko for "unisex", or are they really so unusual in some places?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:30 PM
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i didn't read upthread, such day came, amazingly
i mean the source of confusion


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:32 PM
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The library is definitely where homeless people use the internet.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:32 PM
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a


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:32 PM
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211: In rob's comment he definitely means "unisex."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:35 PM
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a homeless person using internet, that would be unusual i guess, but perhaps there could be such people like hypothetically, if the libraries allow them an access

It's not unusual or hypothetical at all. In fact it's quite common. Most public libraries these days have terminals where the public can access the internet, and many homeless people do so on a regular basis. Some homeless shelters and other outreach centers have internet access too.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:59 PM
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I do happen to know a reasonable number of trans people, and if cis women are routinely flagging trans women as potential creepy bathroom perverts they've simply GOT to be misreading, almost willfully so, unless there's some radically different community of trans women than the ones here in MPLS.

Oh, I'm more assuming that alot of people form and voice reactions to the idea of trans women in the locker room without reference to any actual trans woman at all. Or, to be clearer, they are flagging as creepy their conception of what they imagine a trans woman to be without having any real person at all in mind.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:04 PM
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217 gets it right.

As for non-hypothetical situations, I find it hard to be sympathetic to people who respond to what seems like a once-in-a-lifetime and bizarre, but nonthreatening, encounter with not just surprise and confusion, but fear and resentment at the very idea of a person who goes against their assumptions.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:07 PM
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they are flagging as creepy their conception of what they imagine a trans woman to be without having any real person at all in mind.

This gets it exactly right. I can remember, vaguely, having some kind of feeling that OMG DUDE-LADIES IN THE LOCKER ROOM! anxiety wasn't entirely insane and hateful at some point. I didn't endorse that position, but I remember thinking it had some basis that deserved a voice. It seems so unbelievably fucking mean and stupid to me now that I can't even call it up for empathy. The difference? Actually knowing some trans people.

It makes me think about my mom's racism. She's not the one telling racist jokes or making overtly racist observations. She just understands that racists have concerns and gets a little of where they're coming from. The fact that overt racism doesn't seem incomprehensibly insane to her is not that she actively thinks she hates anyone. It's just that white people are a part of her experience in a way that (in her case) black and hispanic people aren't. So even crazy racists make more sense than prioritizing the humanity of all humans.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:11 PM
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that's great, MM, so hopeful, if the person goes online, still hopes, not the dead-end for him/her
the other day i saw a man, he was eating his lunch perhaps facing some building's parapet, put there his soda and was holding the plastic food container on it, a very inconvenient position and location
if he walked a little further he could eat in the park, sitting on the bench, it was a nice sunny day
i thought how desperate and indifferent he must be


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:12 PM
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Wow, the things you learn. Before reading this thread, I had never heard of the zie/zir thing, which is of course an abomination, nor had it ever occurred to me that a significant number of people could be offended by nudity in a locker room. A locker room, for the love of God! That seems almost literally insane.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:30 PM
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Totally OT, but this video is adorable.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:31 PM
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Boy am I late to this thread.

I was always slightly "off" around trans people -- not uncomfortable, but always internally noting it, you know? -- until I had one as a roommate. The transition (no pun intended) from "oh yes, 'she' is in some sense a 'he'" to "oh yes, she dresses in leather fetish gear on trips to IHOP and is a narcoleptic who really likes nintendo" was just as quick as could be. Since then I don't really think about it, unless somebody does a startlingly bad job of selling their gender.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:17 PM
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Trans men are not women. That's just a fact. I personally don't give a damn who I change in a locker room with, men, women, gay, straight, and whatever kind of trans are welcome to use the locker next to me. But if women want an all-woman locker room, for whatever reason, it's silly to force them to have people who aren't women in there.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:37 PM
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But they may want an all-woman locker room because of prejudice against the nebulous and theoretical non-women who they fear would take advantage of a policy of lenience.

You could as easily say "if white people want an all-white locker room, for whatever reason, it's silly to force them to have people they aren't comfortable with in there."


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:43 PM
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Probably we should just all be required to go naked on the third Thursday of every month until we fucking lighten up a bit.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:01 AM
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224 is just obnoxious.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:38 AM
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227: that's his thing, though. You have to respect it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:40 AM
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228 is a joke, but it's kind of a joke that stings, you know?

Seriously, if we could get past the "commenter who's completely embarrassingly wrong about the things they think they understand, but who we must nonetheless ignore, because they comment a lot" thing, I think we'd be stronger as a community.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:46 AM
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229: Who would be left?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:54 AM
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230: well, me, you. Who else do you want?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:55 AM
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220: if the person goes online, still hopes, not the dead-end for him/her

Yeah, until they end up here.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:55 AM
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Christ, this is a horrible time of night. Police could burst in any minute. Not looking forward to the morning. All is vanity.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:57 AM
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I discovered to my surprise the other day that the bathrooms in the Victoria and Albert museum, which is probably the biggest tourist draw in the whole of London after Buckingham Palace, are now all unisex. I wonder if they get feedback.

I found I had no personal reaction at all to this beyond, "Oh, that's odd."


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:16 AM
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Let everyone pee in peace.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:26 AM
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re: 227

I don't really think it's obnoxious. As a description of how a lot of women are going to feel, it seems pretty accurate, and it's a bit glib to immediately think they are wrong to feel so.

I don't doubt that I'm multiply pwned by a thread I haven't read, but buying into the idea that transwomen are ' _really_ women born in the body of a man' is to buy into just as much essentialist bollocks as the 'men are men, women are women, dammit' viewpoint.

I'm all for letting people define themselves how they want but other people don't necessarily have to buy into the definition. That said, of course it would be nice if people were more tolerant of the infinite panoply of human identities.

Also, for what it's worth, I know several people who've had sex change surgery. Oddly, considering I come from a small village, two of my schoolmates -- including one who was quite a good friend for years and years -- had the 'op'. I will say this, the narratives of 'transwomen' repeatedly described above absolutely do NOT apply to her. So, I'd bloody wary of over-generalizing in any particular direction.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:57 AM
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As a description of how a lot of women are going to feel, it seems pretty accurate, and it's a bit glib to immediately think they are ludicrously obviously wrong to feel so.

fixed.

I'm all for letting people define themselves how they want but other people don't necessarily have to buy into the definition.

Hmmm, I think there's a reasonable sense in which they basically do - if you're going to deny someone their right to define who they are, then you actually need to reach quite a high bar of justification to do that. Otherwise it's really rather like all those people who went on calling Mohammed Ali "Cassius Clay"; it's really hard to see a reason why someone would do that other than bigotry.

#234: presumably they did this because they finally snapped out of irritation on reading the five millionth feedback comment saying it would be cute if they labelled the toilets "Victoria" and "Albert".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:17 AM
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I really hate this argument. Mostly out of courtesy I just shut up. There's so much invested in it for the individuals, and it's none of my business.

But I don't see why a woman who has always been a woman should be required to accept someone else's claim to also be a woman. There is a category "M2F transsexual", but as I understand rejecting that in favor of "woman" pure and simple seems to be the issue.

Apparently even pre-op M2Fs are allowed to claim womanhood. That makes no sense to me at all. But even post-op, here's a whole range of womanly body parts, traits, and experiences that M2Fs don't have.

I can just see the philosophical arguments: "Why is a trannie less a woman than a woman who's had a hysterectomy, or a woman who's never had children, or a woman with an unfeminine body type", etc. But you know what I think of philosophy.

I also don't see the analogy with civil rights. Blacks weren't asking to be declared white, they were asking to be declared full citizens.

I guess that at some level I don't believe that the male-female distinction should be entirely eradicated or blurred or redefined and that in certain respects it should be recognized or allowed by law.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:15 AM
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To take Dsquared's comment as a launching point for a slightly less dignified and more homely moment, I apparently know someone who once urinated on the Greatest.

(When the acquaintance was a baby.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:53 AM
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I'm kind of curious what the experience of FTM transpeople is like in locker rooms. Do they avoid them, afraid that they'll be mocked?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 4:54 AM
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Hmmm, I think there's a reasonable sense in which they basically do - if you're going to deny someone their right to define who they are, then you actually need to reach quite a high bar of justification to do that.

I don't think the analogy strictly holds. The whole point is that sex and gender isn't just a matter of fiat, or of self-description. There are complicated arguments in favour of multiple different positions on what sex and gender actually are, positions that include but go beyond some crude anatomical essentialism, crude social constructivism, and crude veldtian bollocks, say.

To say that gender is a matter of self-definition and that self-definition ought to settle all issues of public policy, law, and so on, is to adopt a very specific position on some of those issues, and a position that's by no means obviously true.* Furthermore, it's not the case that only unreconstructed bigoted gender essentialists have a problem with the truth of this claim. Writers otherwise sympathetic to people with ambiguous or non-conventional gender identities, and who are happy to endorse some broadly 'constructed' account of gender are still pretty unhappy with the idea that people born and brought up as men can claim 'womanhood' for themselves.

That said, I take your point, that we should generally treat people who they want to be treated. I call the transsexual people I know by the name they've chose to be called by, refer to them by the gender pronoun they prefer, and so on. That's only right, proper and polite.

* and, for what it's worth, I'd not be arguing for some crude biological/anatomical essentialism, here.


Posted by: natttarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 5:03 AM
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I try to abide by the principles laid down by Emerson in 238.1.

But I don't think dismissing the view ttaM's trying to present in the way Daniel does is helpful. Anecdatally, I remember a few years ago when a trans woman came out as lesbian, and a lot of lesbian activists with impeccable credentials had enormous problems with it.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 5:15 AM
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re: 242

Anecdatally, I remember a few years ago when a trans woman came out as lesbian, and a lot of lesbian activists with impeccable credentials had enormous problems with it.

Yes, and dismissing their viewpoint as bigoted may or may not be right, but it takes a lot more argument to establish that they were wrong (and bigoted) to think so than simply a bit of hand-waving, and some question-begging.

And, fwiw, I get that it's tremendously insulting for individuals to have their own view of their identity dismissed as incorrect or misleading. It's clear why emotions get high when this topic is discussed even when all parties involved are arguing in good faith and with a reasonable degree of mutual respect and toleration.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 5:25 AM
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Writers otherwise sympathetic to people with ambiguous or non-conventional gender identities, and who are happy to endorse some broadly 'constructed' account of gender are still pretty unhappy with the idea that people born and brought up as men can claim 'womanhood' for themselves.

Anecdatally, I remember a few years ago when a trans woman came out as lesbian, and a lot of lesbian activists with impeccable credentials had enormous problems with it.

hmmm, this is just another example of the general category "writers who are otherwise all right have some blind spots" though IMO.

I mean, really, if someone (as noted above) is prepared to go through huge amounts of inconvenience and stress in order to adopt an identity for themselves, but members of a group decide that they are committed to a specific membership criterion which definitionally excludes them, then what possible other word for that is there than "bigotry"? That's what the word means. We use it in that sense in every other relevantly similar case - there are plenty of people who think that being Scottish is a matter of race and descent and that, say a black person born in England can never become Scottish even if he moves to Lanark, learns Gaelic and becomes leader of the SNP, but we don't pretend that they're not bigots.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 5:37 AM
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We use it in that sense in every other relevantly similar case - there are plenty of people who think that being Scottish is a matter of race and descent and that, say a black person born in England can never become Scottish even if he moves to Lanark, learns Gaelic and becomes leader of the SNP, but we don't pretend that they're not bigots.

Well, it depends. I know someone who tells everyone he meets that he's Scottish. He has spent quite a lot of time telling me he's Scottish. But his entire time spent living in Scotland amounts to weeks [he moved to England as a baby and has never gone back]. I have another friend who was born in Pakistan but lived her entire life [from being a baby] in Scotland.

From my point of view, SHE is Scottish, HE is not. That's because, for me, being Scottish is about having a particular cultural identity. His self-ascription of Scottishness to himself matters not a fucking jot, to me. In fact, although I've never actually told him, I find it mildly insulting that a guy who has spent his entire life outside Scotland, who was educated at an English private school, and who has fucking zero clue what Scotland is actually like for Scots who live there should lay claim to that identity for himself. It feels like he is doing so under false pretenses.

Now we can have a debate about which is the right account of Scottishness -- something based on 'descent', or something based on cultural background, shared experiences, etc -- but it's clear that whatever answer we give to whether or not either of these people is Scottish will embody a particular viewpoint on national identity. They aren't empty of substantive content vis a vis the 'metaphysics of nationality' or whatever you want to call it. I can provide arguments for why I think my point of view is the right one, and would vehemently oppose the race/blood-and-soil point of view, but it'd not be something I'd just be able to assume as part of my desire to avoid being a bigot.

members of a group decide that they are committed to a specific membership criterion which definitionally excludes them, then what possible other word for that is there than "bigotry"? That's what the word means.

No, no it doesn't. I could go about telling people I'm Welsh, calling myself Dai, and affecting an accent, but by any reasonable standard I am not Welsh. That's because 'Welsh' has a meaning, and if I feel insulted by the fact that definition of 'Welsh' excludes me, then I'm a bloody idiot. Again, we can have a debate about 'Welshness' but whatever definition we come up with is going to exclude some people. To turn the 'that's what bigotry' means point around, that's just what definitions of categories do. They exclude things/people that don't fit the definition. That fact may sometimes line up with bigotry, and sometimes not.

The same applies with gender. One could argue, for example, that being a women is a matter of having two X-chromosomes; or that it's a matter of being socially acculturated as a woman, having a certain set of life-experiences, and so on; or we can argue that it's purely a matter of subjective self-definition. Each of those three positions embodies a particular viewpoint on gender. Taking the self-ascription route is no more obviously true than the others, and if that's the route you think we should go that doesn't self-evidently follow merely from the desire not to be a bigot or the desire to respect people's life choices.

We can behave in ways that respect people's life choices without actually buying into the 'metaphysical presumptions' that underly their process of self-description.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 5:58 AM
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(further to the above, the important point here is that we're not just talking about people wanting to defend a point of view about terminology - nobody here is saying "of course, trans women are entirely welcome in our community, we respect them and allow them to live their lives as they choose alongside us, albeit that we maintain our right to disagree over the interesting important but not very practically significant question of whether the word 'woman' can accurately be said to refer to them". We're talking about people who want to actually exclude trans women from communities, even down to the level of specifically preventing them from walking into public lavatories.

It's specifically the practice of discriminating against people on the basis of an essentialist criterion. That's what bigotry is; the analogy to people who believe equally strongly that "marriage is between a man and a woman" is so precise it's not even really an analogy. The fact that some feminists are bigots isn't really new information.

And contra OFE, I tend to think that calling people on their bullshit is about the most helpful thing you can do.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:04 AM
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For me, I think the issue is that I have a very hard time empathizing with the trans situation. I'm sympathetic, find it interesting, and have liked the few that I've known. But it's a sufficiently foreign situation that I don't feel like I've ever really understood it. It's easy enough to understand being attracted to one gender or the other, or not fitting or wanting to fit the stereotypical looks and roles assigned to men and women. But being so alienated from your own body as to feel you have to undergo such a grueling and difficult process to change it? That's just so very different from my own experience of gender that I can't really start to get my head around it, and I was always a bit apprehensive that I was going to make the folks I knew feel like I was viewing them as an exhibit or an oddity rather than a person. Which was, at times, truer than I wanted to admit.

It probably didn't help that I wasn't particularly close with either of the two I knew, but just moved in similar circles. So I never got the sort of experience Tweety did in 223.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:09 AM
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It's specifically the practice of discriminating against people on the basis of an essentialist criterion.

Yeah, I get this. And I also get that, for a lot of people, that is precisely the reason they have problems with trans-women -- that they have an essentialist understanding of gender.

However, I don't [have an essentialist understanding of gender].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:09 AM
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To turn the 'that's what bigotry' means point around, that's just what definitions of categories do. They exclude things/people that don't fit the definition.

As per 246, let's make this a bit more exact. We'll say that not being Welsh is, quite literally, the most awful thing you can imagine, and that your Scottishness is something that causes you very severe stress every minute of the day. So rather than just adopting an accent, you learn Welsh, move to Wales and have penis-reduction surgery to make yourself seem more Welsh.

Now at this point, the Welsh would have a choice - they could either say "well, technically, he's not really Welsh but it really causes him a lot of grief and he really wants to fit in here, so we will just keep that thought at the back of our mind and not do a big deal about him not being Welsh"

Or they could say "NOT WELSH! We must make sure that this guy is never allowed into our private Welsh-only clubs! If he ever says that he's Welsh we must forcefully contradict him! In public spaces, he must be forced to use the Scottish-only changing rooms and lavatories, however embarrassing and inconvenient it is to him!"

Those are obviously two ends of a continuum. But if you were in a situation somewhere between the two, then I would think that every time someone wrote an essay in Tafod y Draig that included a reference to "Of course, ttaM isn't really Welsh, he was born Scottish", you would quite correctly think "what's that guy's fucking problem?" rather than "ahhh, another discussion of essentialism in Tafod this week". The question of whether trans women are women really isn't confined to the linguistics journals.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:19 AM
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Now at this point, the Welsh would have a choice - they could either say "well, technically, he's not really Welsh but it really causes him a lot of grief and he really wants to fit in here, so we will just keep that thought at the back of our mind and not do a big deal about him not being Welsh"

Put that way, this is obviously the more reasonable point of view.

Part of the reason I'm arguing is because my thesis covers some of these areas, and I get fucked off at people assuming away a load of substantial stuff. So the technical bollocks about how we ought to define particular categories, what counts as 'normal' etc is interesting to me. So, yeah, I'd be in the corner saying 'well, what makes someone technically Welsh is pretty interesting, but fuck it, if he wants to be called 'Welsh' lets just go ahead and do it and not make a big deal about it.'

I believe this is what they call 'comity'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:26 AM
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245 - that's really interesting. My husband is Welsh - was born there and then his parents moved here to Reading before he was 1. I've never thought of him as anything other than Welsh, I think of our children as being half-Welsh, etc. There's absolutely no way he'd consider himself English, but according to your feelings, he's not really Welsh - so .... what is he?

240 - BG, round here, most places have private cubicles as well as a communal changing area. So there could be hordes of pre or post op M2Fs getting changed in the cubicles and no one else would ever know. Which seems fine to me.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:26 AM
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249, 250 - hang on, isn't that what ttaM's arguing anyway in 245? That his friend who was born in Pakistan is 'really' Scottish?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:29 AM
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But being so alienated from your own body as to feel you have to undergo such a grueling and difficult process to change it?

To me, this represents such a colossal tragedy that it distracts from seeing the full personhood of the individuals in question. Also distracting: being led by language and categories to think about other people's genital organization. However, at the end of the day, it's really none of my business. I have no particular stake in "womanhood" and don't think it's necessary for feminism's sake to police its boundaries.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:35 AM
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re: 252

Well, yes. Scottishness, for me, is cultural, not about race. But it's also not purely a matter of self-definition.*

My friend has a Scottish accent, has spent her entire life in Scottish schools and universities, has a deep understanding of the country born from decades of living there, etc. As far as I am concerned, that makes her pretty damned Scottish. Scottish in a way that someone who doesn't have those experiences could not be. I'm sure she also thinks of herself as Pakistani, and I'm sure there's truth in that too -- she speaks Punjabi, reads it and reads Urdu, went to a mosque primarily used by other people of Pakistani-descent, etc. She has deep cultural ties with that, too.

There's nothing problematic about having multiple identities of that type, but, for me, it's the cultural connection, the social acculturation, being embedded in particular cultural/social/lingusitic traditions, and so on that make for a particular identity, and not something as reductive as parentage or genetics.

* although where the comity comes is I'm sure it's right that it's going to cause people who are really really committed to defining themselves as some identity or other a lot less stress and hassle if we just let them get on with it and act in ways that respect their choices.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:39 AM
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251: I was specifically thinking of female to male. There was that FTM man on Oprah who carried his wife's child. He'd never had surgery, but his clitoris had grown under testosterone therapy. It would still be quite a bit smaller than a regular penis. I could imagine guys in the U.S. being jerks about it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:44 AM
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My husband is Welsh - was born there and then his parents moved here to Reading before he was 1. I've never thought of him as anything other than Welsh

It was always a joke between my parents that he (born in England, non-Welsh-speaker, never been to Wales before he met my mum) was from a good Conwy family, while she (born in Wales, native speaker) would never really be accepted by the locals as her grandparents were immigrants from Oxfordshire.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:52 AM
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I'm pretty nominalist about ethnic identity and think that national identity tends to be toxic (the American State is a violent, erratic brute who only pretends to be my friend and implicates me in crime).

But the male / female distinction is physiological hard to nominalize, like the cat / dog distinction, and this is true even though there are individuals born in an intermediate form. Apparently you need to completely separate the biological distinction (natural) and the culturally constructed man-woman distinction (culturally constructed) and also insist that actual culturally-constructed distinctions can be overridden by legal and political considerations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:58 AM
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Funny that this turned to national identity, as Iris last night revealed that she wants to be Japanese (this came in context of a discussion of languages). This is particularly funny because AB, when she moved to Pittsburgh after having once lived in Japan, developed this whole thing about how similar the two places are, and one of them is that, no matter how long you live there, you're never actually from there. So we explained to Iris that, no, she would never be Japanese.

At the time, I didn't realize we were oppressing transpeople.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:18 AM
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But being so alienated from your own body as to feel you have to undergo such a grueling and difficult process to change it? That's just so very different from my own experience of gender that I can't really start to get my head around it, and I was always a bit apprehensive that I was going to make the folks I knew feel like I was viewing them as an exhibit or an oddity rather than a person. Which was, at times, truer than I wanted to admit.

Yes...how different is it from the people who feel their true body is one that's missing an arm or a leg? Or people with this problem? Both of those types of people are considered mentally ill and their desires to change their body are not supported by any sort of lobby. Although maybe they aren't mentally ill either.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:28 AM
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What if one was just more comfortable in women's locker rooms than men's? Why do they need to be trans anything?

Why is it required to be gender identified?


I was born in New Jersey and lived there for the first 18 months of my life. Yet, I consider myself a Virginian.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:32 AM
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258: I'm curious about the other similarities between Pittsburgh and Japan. They're both hilly. Both have been the settings for genre defining monster movies (Godzilla, Living Dead). After that I got nothing.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:38 AM
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I think that the nationality analogy should be scrapped. Biculturalism is a common fact involving tens of millions of people. Going down to the level of American states just confuses the issues.

The nation state you're born in isn't necessarily decisive. Many German Turks are still culturally Turkish, though some are not at all Turkish. Some for British Irish.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:43 AM
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Sedgwick's obit on the frontpage of the Times website.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:45 AM
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261: Insular. Sexist. Weird blend of pride and inferiority complex. The list was longer, but now that she's been here 10 years, it comes up less often.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:47 AM
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Apparently you need to completely separate the biological distinction (natural) and the culturally constructed man-woman distinction (culturally constructed) and also insist that actual culturally-constructed distinctions can be overridden by legal and political considerations.

Well, of course we know the latter can be done. Pretty much the entire history of history involves changes in cultural constructions, often by legal and political means.

As for separating biological from cultural, I'm not sure why that's necessary or desirable - or even what that would mean in practice. Are separate locker rooms a biological imperative, dating from the veldt? Or are they a cultural construction? Are transgender individuals unnatural in a way that (I dunno) airplanes, say, are natural?

All narratives based on the "biological" and "natural" are inherently suspect - guilty until proven innocent. Man was not meant to fly, at least as far as nature and biology are concerned, but the desire to fly seems perfectly natural to me. The desire to change genders I find counter-intuitive, but I am compelled to acknowledge that this desire exists, and I'm hard-pressed to think that this desire isn't "biological" in some important sense.

And so what if it is or isn't? The whole "nature, red in tooth and claw" thing is something we want to transcend, not enshrine.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:47 AM
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Back to trans-women in women's changing rooms. Isn't there a legitimate policing issue that's not about trans-phobia, but about the fact that the distinction between someone chromosomally male and chromosomally female (I don't know the appropriate vocabulary for this in connection with trans politics) is fairly easily made in most cases, while the distinction between a transwoman and a man wearing women's clothing is difficult to make without knowledge of the person's individual history?

Singlesex changing rooms/bathrooms are believed by most women, on some level, to be a matter of physical and social security from men. You can argue that that's overstated, and there's no reason for women to be afraid of men in that way -- all changing rooms and bathrooms should be unisex. But that fear isn't about fear of or hostility to transwomen, but purely about men.

If we take the desire for single-sex changing rooms to be legitimate at all, then allowing transwomen in makes it very hard, as a matter of practice, to exclude men who are willing, at the small cost of wearing women's clothing for a short period of time, to claim falsely to be transwomen; taking it as given that transwomen aren't any sort of security problem themselves, allowing them in still opens up women's locker rooms to creeps.

This is the kind of security problem that probably wouldn't be all that great in practice; I simply don't have a sense of how many assholes there are out there who'd want to expose themselves to women or watch women changing badly enough to wear women's clothing for it. But it's not an a priori unreasonable fear, and it's not solely a fear of transpeople (although probably most people who are worried by this also have some hostility toward or fear of transpeople).

I think a claim that transwomen should be allowed to use women's lockerrooms has to include an acceptance of the fact that there's a potential for legitimately negative consequences for the ciswomen now using them that's not about bigotry, Once that's said, I think the answer is that the benefit to the transwomen to have a place to change that fits their gender identity outweighs the speculative harm to ciswomen from making it harder to exclude male voyeurs and exhibitionists from women's changing rooms. But there's a tradeoff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:50 AM
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re: 259

Well, actually, the parallels are tighter than you'd think.

There is a lobby for people with various forms of body dysmorphia, including apotemnophiles, and others.

Are separate locker rooms a biological imperative, dating from the veldt? Or are they a cultural construction?

Yeah, that's a pretty compelling argument, I think, come to think of it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:50 AM
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like the cat / dog distinction

By the way, when Peter Venkman panicked about "cats and dogs living together," he was being ironic.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:53 AM
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I was born in New Jersey and lived there for the first 18 months of my life. Yet, I consider myself a Virginian.

Only the most depraved consider themselves New Jerseyites.

Huh. I just realized that my father has now lived in NJ longer than anywhere else. ~15 years ago he thought about getting a place in NYC, but he hesitated, and the market started rocketing upwards, and that was that.

One of the things AB & I have in common is that we don't have a good answer for "where are you from?" When I was 28, I had spent almost exactly 1/4 of my life in each of NY, Miami, NJ, and Pittsburgh. Now I'm approaching 20 years here, and I certainly consider it home, but I would never call myself a Pittsburgher (out of respect, incidentally, for how actual Pittsburghers define themselves; I don't feel like an outsider as such, but I know what it means to be from here, and I'm not that. In other cities, I'm sure I'd call myself a local by now).

All that said, I agree with Emerson's 262 - nationality & origin are extremely poor analogues for gender & sex.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:55 AM
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Of course cats and dogs can live together, but sharing a bathroom?!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:55 AM
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My dog would just like me to note on his behalf that he feels pretty firmly about excluding cats from this household.

He's not completely thrilled about Kai, either, but it's a fait accompli.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:59 AM
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Why exclude men from the women's locker room? Maybe a man wants to go into the women's locker room because the general scenery is nicer than seeing a bunch of hairy men.

If you are going to exclude men, why not lesbians who are trying to look at other women for naughty purposes?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:02 AM
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Also related, eliminate the laws making it illegal for women to be topless in public.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:04 AM
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We've just walked into a Republican straw man. I can see the ads:

"Mommy, there's a girl in my gym class who has a penis."
"Dear, you might as well get used to it, because the law says she's a girl."

I personally have much less than zero interest in committing myself into pushing the civil rights analogy into ever new territory in order to shock / liberate ever new populations of evil conventional-thinking old-fashioned people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:06 AM
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One of the things AB & I have in common is that we don't have a good answer for "where are you from?"

Yes. I can empathise with this. I have simply no idea of what people are feeling when they talk about "their home town" and related concepts. Alien experience. Makes no sense.

I'm perfectly happy where I live (the English Pittsburgh) and have no particular desire to move to anywhere else. But I wouldn't waste my time pretending to "come from" here.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:06 AM
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If you are going to exclude men, why not lesbians who are trying to look at other women for naughty purposes?

If this were a serious question, the answer would be that the perceived risk (and I think the perception is accurate) of straight-man-on-woman sexual harassment or crime is much greater than the risk of lesbian-on-woman sexual harassment or crime.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:08 AM
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276:

I dont see any studies or data to back up this assertion. Therefore, I deny it!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:10 AM
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You go, Will! Be the force for intellectual rigor you want to see in blog comments.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:11 AM
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I personally have much less than zero interest in committing myself into pushing the civil rights analogy into ever new territory in order to shock / liberate ever new populations of evil conventional-thinking old-fashioned people.

Because this whole issue is all about the conventional old-fashioned people, and not about actual transgender folks, whose concerns are, at best, symbolic.

As a practical matter, I'm not going to carry a sign or boycott a gym - the issue doesn't have that much salience for me - but I can manage to comment sympathetically on a blog, and if confronted with an actual transgender person in a locker room, I'd make an effort not to notice.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:11 AM
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272: check out my original 90, though, will, I certainly think that you expand on my point.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:13 AM
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BG:

You raised an excellent point.

Once you accept restrictions on public nudity, you have accepted separating lockers rooms based on genitalia.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:18 AM
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Oh, will, did you catch Juan Williams on Morning edition today? He pissed me off even more than he usually does today.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:23 AM
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Although maybe they aren't mentally ill either.

Ye gods, do we really want to live in a society where "I want to chop my leg off" doesn't merit a visit to a psychiatrist?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:24 AM
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BG:

No. I turned it off first. What did he say?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:26 AM
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This is the kind of security problem that probably wouldn't be all that great in practice

why are we speaking in the subjunctive here? There are plenty of actually existing changing rooms all over the world which don't discriminate against transsexuals, and the sky has not fallen in. And it's pretty clear in most of the cases described above on this thread that the objection is to the transsexual woman herself, not to the hypothetical perv.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:28 AM
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re: 283

There's a pretty vigorous (but small) lobby for that point of view, yeah.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:30 AM
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Has anyone articulated an appropriate locker room room in this thread?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:32 AM
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Will, (reposted from 80 in the Hair thread):

Fuck Juan Williams!

He just said on Morning Edition/NPR that since Obama has 27% approval among self-identified Republicans, 88% approval among Democrats, and 60% approval among Independents, that he's "highly polarizing." Give me a break. What percentage of the population self identifies as Republican now?

[As an aside, what's the html code for getting indented text in a smaller font? eb uses it all the time. I know that House Style requires it for quotations from books and other off-blog text.]


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:36 AM
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Will, (reposted from 80 in the Hair thread):


Fuck Juan Williams! He just said on Morning Edition/NPR that since Obama has 27% approval among self-identified Republicans, 88% approval among Democrats, and 60% approval among Independents, that he's "highly polarizing." Give me a break. What percentage of the population self identifies as Republican now?

[As an aside, what's the html code for getting indented text in a smaller font? eb uses it all the time. I know that House Style requires it for quotations from books and other off-blog text.]


UPDATE: heh, it worked the way I expected it to this time.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:38 AM
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Only the most depraved consider themselves New Jerseyites.

Loud and proud, baby!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:39 AM
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283: I met a woman once whose father is a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of people who are obsessed with the amputation of a limb. Some have gone so far as to chop off a limb. I neglected to ask if any of the limb choppers had found themselves happy and well adjusted after the deed.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:40 AM
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I'm objecting to the idea that if someone wants to call themself a woman, they're a woman, and that anyone who objects is a bigot. After all, when you push far enough, the whole idea of men-only women-only restrooms is pretty conventional and old fashioned, too.

I have no objection to bathroom sharing and think that the concrete issue should be dealt with in some kind of pragmatic way in terms of individual and group feelings. But we're on track to make it an enormous philosophical - political - legal hooplah event, on a par with the Civil Rights Movement or the anti-Fascist crusade, and it's not that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:41 AM
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re: 291

Yes, some of them claim to be very happy afterwards. Which is why, controversially, some surgeons are prepared to amputate as a treatment.

Some people are dysmorphic, but some people claim to get some sort of erotic thrill out of being amputees. There's some controversy about the distinction between dysmorphia and apotemnophilia.

I've written a bit about this in my doctoral work -- but only a little, so not an expert.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:45 AM
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I'm perfectly happy where I live (the English Pittsburgh) and have no particular desire to move to anywhere else.

Bradford?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:50 AM
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I make a motion to add "Fuck you, Juan William" as a new secret Unfogged greeting.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:51 AM
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s/b an s there.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:51 AM
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"I makes a motion"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:54 AM
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294: I was thinking Manchester, based solely on the fact that the original UK version of Queer as Folk was set in Manchester and the American version in Pburgh.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:54 AM
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s/b I make motions


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:00 AM
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I'm objecting to the idea that if someone wants to call themself a woman, they're a woman

John, this is something of a strawman, and I suspect that yer actual tranny[1] community would be quite (and justifiably) irritated by the trivialisation of what they go through. We're talking about transsexuals here, not people who just woke up one morning and fancied a go at gender tourism.

(apologies to anyone whose animosity to people who "just decide to call themselves women" is based on traumatic experiences in IRC sex chat).

[1] Frankly I find the whole thing hilarious in a genuinely puerile, snickering kind of way, but am aware that I ought not to disgrace myself in public, and that my own juvenility is not a good basis for public morality.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:00 AM
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I'm perfectly happy where I live (the English Pittsburgh)

Assuming you mean the city I'm assuming, part of our city was once named for yours, a history memorialized in a poorly-scaled bridge.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:02 AM
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I believe that OFE lives in Sheffield.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:04 AM
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Quick questions:

Should a private entity be allowed have separate lockers based on genitalia?

Should a transgendered person be arrested/convicted if they enter a locker room where they do not have the appropriate genitalia?

Should all locker rooms be required to be open to nakedness by all?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:06 AM
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As someone who used to be fairly uncomfortable about nudity and values privacy. I definitely value having individual shower stalls. I used to use the communal ones in college, only with a bathing suit on before going in the pool.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:10 AM
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We were all naked on the veldt. That was the problem!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:10 AM
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BG has come over to the naked side?? "Unfogged Russian Baths 2009 - Much more than you really wanted to see!"


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:11 AM
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283:Yes. I also want to live in a society where the limp can be preserved and re-attached. I would also love to see more prosthetics, like rams's horns or wings.

292:The potential problems have been discussed, but I just can't build up the enthusiasm for making a big deal of it. What usually goes on with me when encountering such a situation is an interrogation of my own ideas of gender, like maybe my distaste for binary essentialist distinctions needs qualification.

(Waving my arms and becoming invisible)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:14 AM
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All of this is no big deal until someone gets arrested and becomes a sex offender with all of the fabulous restrictions and reporting that come with it.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:17 AM
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One of O'Hartigan's big issues was insisting on called a woman and not a transsexual.

I just don't see it at all. The tranny community does recognize the man-woman difference as real, and they want to be women. They have surgery, take hormones, and declare that they are now women. That's more than "deciding to call themselves women", but they're claiming that they've met the requirements for womanhood via medical means. The requirement is a vagina plus hormones.

Now, there's another group of people who were born women, with a range of traditional women's bodies (traditional uteruses, etc.), who also recognize the man-woman difference as real, and who also want to be women and claim to be women, and many of them draw the line in a different place and do not accept trannies as women. I just don't think of them as Bull Connor / KKK equivalents, which is the way the argument ends up being framed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:23 AM
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302. Give that girl a bun! Huge historical steel industry, hard times more recently, famously hilly, populations roughly the same and heading the same way, local people great, but if you're not born there, you're an incomer all your life.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:27 AM
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I just don't see it at all. The tranny community does recognize the man-woman difference as real, and they want to be women. They have surgery, take hormones, and declare that they are now women. That's more than "deciding to call themselves women", but they're claiming that they've met the requirements for womanhood via medical means. The requirement is a vagina plus hormones.

I think this is right, in some cases (not wanting to over-generalize). It's a mistake to paint the 'pro-transexual' side as always being the side running against vulgar essentialism. A lot of them buy into just that essentialist dichotomy, they just want to be on the other side of the essentialist divide.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:28 AM
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In Iceland there are lots of great, public, outdoor, thermally heated pools. Apparently the water has some amount of chlorine or some such antibacterial agent dissolved in it naturally; in any case, Icelanders don't add more chlorine. Instead, they have very strict rules about washing yourself thoroughly with soap and water before putting on your swimming suit -- some locker rooms have diagrams indicating the most bacteria-laden areas of the body, which require special attention. The general procedure seemed to be to undress at your locker, walk with swimming suit in hand down the hall to the shower room, wash up, and put your suit on. This was a bit more personal exposure than I was used to, but since nobody else treats it as a big deal, it's not.

The Korean Baths here in New York have a similar shower policy, only the showers are along one wall of the big "naked room," where people are bathing in hot pools, getting massaged by jets of water, scrubbing themselves and their friends with exfoliating cloths, shaving, etc. The first time I went, I found it very disconcerting to be washing my asshole in such an exposed situation. Again, though, I got used to it. Like AWB said, Korean teenagers show up at what we think of as the most awkward of ages for body-image issues and don't think twice about hanging out in the naked room.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:33 AM
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I'm objecting to the idea that if someone wants to call themself a woman, they're a woman

I feel this way about Christians.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:34 AM
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I am generally in favor of society recognizing the rights of trans to define their gender as they see fit, but I do think proponents need to recognize that (per John and ttaM) there have been a lot of shifting arguments in this space and there will undoubtedly continue to be shift in the future. A quick perusal of the History and Variants sections of the LGBT entry in Wikipedia provides a taste.

As an aside (and to the whole thread not just this sub-issue), in the discussion on public radio, I should have noted that I find "This Way Out" to be one of the most informative shows on the radio and I try to catch it each week.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:39 AM
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Some people are uncomfortable with nudity even in all-male or all-female contexts. I was somewhat that way myself at age 14 or so, but got over it soon enough. I think that reasonable accommodation should be made for people who don't get over it, even though Koreans and Finns and Japanese all do.

This is an example of an issue that should be fudged and satisficed and kludged as much as possible, rather than clearly decided on definite rational or legal grounds. But that's not how things work.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:45 AM
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I can't really post from work today and y'all are wearing me out on this topic (okay, I admit I've probably worn folks out on other topics myself if not this one) but you do grasp, right, that being trans is really, really difficult and pretty dangerous and actually kind of does need some civil rights action. I can think of two trans women whose names I actually remember and whose cases I am familiar with--Duana Johnson and Angela Zapata--who were harassed and murdered for being trans just recently. And I know that those are just two of many, many.

Right here in this very town, I know people who've been kicked out of restaurants and threatened with arrest for being insufficiently gender-conforming for the bathroom they use. And let's think about this--if you're in a restaurant and you're a trans man and you look too "female" to use the men's bathroom you probably still look male enough to freak out the cis-women in the women's bathroom.

I know people who don't get called by the name they choose--who apparently constantly want to remind them that they're not "real" men/women.

I also know that the level of harassment you get when you don't gender conform is really intense and that it colors your every perception. I, as a moderately non-gender-conforming woman, wouldn't say that I live in fear, but I do live with fairly routine anxiety. I've had stuff thrown at me from cars, frex. Now that we're getting into bare leg weather, I start to get a little nervous when I'm riding my bike, since I have short hair, no hips and very hairy legs, visible now to the knee on the right so that my bike gears don't cover my clothes with grease.

I really don't feel that people's delicate sensibilities are more important than my right to bike around feeling that I probably won't get beer bottles pitched at me while someone yells "What the fuck are you?", so civil rights and education, yes.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:53 AM
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The bathroom on my floor freshman year had two shower heads in a fairly small tiled stall. We (all women) showered in there two at a go and I never thought a single thing of it, until it became clear that the (fairly nuts) woman down the hall was literally NEVER showering because of this. Our RA began knocking on her door at 2 am and inviting her to shower and that worked.
Apparently, though, each year the women on that floor made their own unspoken rules about that shower. My year, we all hopped nakedly in. In a subsequent year, it never occurred to them to have 2 people in there at the same time.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:54 AM
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237

Hmmm, I think there's a reasonable sense in which they basically do - if you're going to deny someone their right to define who they are, then you actually need to reach quite a high bar of justification to do that. ...

So if Mickey Kaus wants to define himself as a Democrat nobody else's opinion matters?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:08 AM
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285: We're speaking in the subjunctive because regardless of the existence of some transwoman-friendly changing rooms, we are not, in the US, now in a cultural place where there's a strong norm that you're an asshole if you ask someone apparently male-by-birth albeit female-by-dress to leave a women's changing room. (At least there wasn't such a norm the last time someone told me to leave a women's bathroom because they thought I was a man. That was a really unfortunate haircut I had back then.)

While such a norm would be better for transwomen, and would be enough better for transwomen that I think it's a change worth making despite possible other ill effects, I can also see that such a norm, if it existed, might facilitate a class of bad behavior (voyeurism or exhibitionism by cismen willing to dress as women for short periods of time) that it's not pure anti-trans bigotry to worry about. And it seems reasonable to me to treat such worries respectfully.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:13 AM
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I believe that OFE lives in Sheffield.

But Gary Sheffield is playing for the Mets.

This doesn't make any sense.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:14 AM
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258
no matter how long you live there, you're never actually from there.

Sounds like Vermont too. Apparently there are a lot of such places.

283
do we really want to live in a society where "I want to chop my leg off" doesn't merit a visit to a psychiatrist?

Maybe not, but "merit a visit to a psychiatrist" doesn't mean much. Isn't such a visit required before a surgical sex change? I'm told it was in the case of the MTF cousin of a friend, but I don't know if the cousin's experience was universal. (And the way the story was told to me, the psychiatrist easily gave the cousin a clean bill of mental health and the operation went forward.) AFAIK, all else being equal, ex recto, those visits seem like a minor imposition on individual liberty and a requirement for them seems to be motivated by reasonable concerns. I think clean bills of health like that would be rarer for apotemnophilia than for transexuality, but what do I know? I don't want the responsibility for setting that kind of policy.

Also, "apotemnophilia"? That can't be a coincidence.

308: Fortunately, I'll bet you could get comity here around the idea that those fabulous restrictions and reporting now go too far, or at least can go too far too easily. See for example teens for sending racy pictures of themselves and getting prosecuted for child pornography. If we manage to decide on correct universal standards for treatment of transexuals, fixing sex crime laws would be child's play.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:15 AM
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If I'm not mistaken, getting sex change operations put on health insurance required declaring that the subject was mentally healthy, but that their body was inappropriate to their consciousness and should be changed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:19 AM
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Perhaps we could more closely define norms in locker rooms, so that staring or harassment would be grounds for banning? Honestly, if someone is so dedicated to perversion that he is willing to dress reasonably plausibly in women's clothes, enter the locker room and perfectly mimic women's behavior, put on a women's swimsuit and swim, then go home and, er, whatever...I don't really care that much. If dude is going to stare or lurk or whatever, that's creepy.

Yes, there's gray areas, but there are gray areas in life, y'all. There's someone creepy in my collective right now. I don't really enjoy having him there, but if his behavior actually crosses a line I'll bring it up and we can kick him out.

If anything, we could plausibly pay attention to creating safe spaces through norms of behavior rather than norms of appearance or norms-about-what-you-think-the-other-person-might-be-thinking. There is no cost-free solution that makes everyone comfortable; there's the sorta-cost-free-for-cis-people solution where we ban trans folks and anyone who looks like they might be trans (so that the cost for individual trans folks is high) or the solution where we all step up and deal with creeps as and when they're creepy, even though that's not wildly fun. In which case the cost is born a teeny bit by everyone. Blog moderation is a good metaphor, I think--if we want a space to be a good one, we've got to maintain a little bit of a punk atmosphere and that takes some work.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:20 AM
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318
So if Mickey Kaus wants to define himself as a Democrat nobody else's opinion matters?

LOL, you don't seriously believe the situation is comparable, do you? Wow.

If we're talking about a context where actually being a registered member of the Democratic Party is irrelevant, then yes, of course he's a Democrat if he calls himself a Democrat. I'm not sure I even understand the point you're making.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:22 AM
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the solution where we all step up and deal with creeps as and when they're creepy, even though that's not wildly fun. In which case the cost is born a teeny bit by everyone.

I think that's right. I don't think this is a huge or unbearable cost for cispeople -- the population of committed creeps isn't that huge, and monitoring based on behavior is workable. I just wanted to raise the issue, because I think it's a concern that can turn into a stumbling block if it's not directly addressed -- when the conversation is premised on the assumption that the only reason to want ciswomen-only spaces is bigotry, I think it can have the effect of cementing opposition from some people who could be convinced if their concerns were acknowledged.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:26 AM
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So, yeah, I'd be in the corner saying 'well, what makes someone technically Welsh is pretty interesting, but fuck it, if he wants to be called 'Welsh' lets just go ahead and do it and not make a big deal about it.'

Which is all well and good until the guy tries to vote in a Welsh election -- at which point, it does matter whether he meets the definitional criteria of Welshness for eligibility to vote.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:26 AM
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The one transsexual I've known at all well made either no attempt or a completely unsuccessful attempt to mimic female behavior. Talking to her was like talking to a guy -- pro football and male-style (non-catty, non-bitchy) harsh remarks about various people. When my friends and I referred to her as "her" to someone who knew her less well, he was offended on her account because he thought we were insulting her.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:27 AM
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when the conversation is premised on the assumption that the only reason to want ciswomen-only spaces is bigotry

Given that we're talking about a situation in which there is loads of actual bigotry and harassment of transsexuals, versus an almost completely hypothetical case here, and given that there's a lot of visible and definite bigotry against transsexuals themselves, per se, which can't be rationalised away on these grounds, I think that this is actually a pretty sensible premis to start from.

Lots and lots of soldiers have equally (by which I mean, equally not) reasonable, non-bigoted arguments for not wanting to have gays in their platoon, and at some point one has to point and say "*cough* bullshit", because empirically the strategy of acknowledging their Very Real Concerns did not have the favourable consequences you anticipate in the transsexuals case.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:34 AM
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323 / 325 The nice thing about conventionally gendered bathrooms is that there at least were pretty clearcut and widely shared rules. And it wasn't good for everyone, but at least most people could go to the bathroom without convening a court of inquiry.

What we'd end up with according to 323 / 325 with two competing standards, not widely shared, each of which might end up requiring a conflict. In other words, two gray areas, one re genders and one re creepiness, and not much agreement about where the lines are.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:35 AM
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310: Give that girl a bun. Hardly. You've mentioned that fact before. I just happen to have avery good memory for certain types of information.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:35 AM
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So if Mickey Kaus wants to define himself as a Democrat nobody else's opinion matters?

AB feels quite strongly about this, albeit in the context of socially conservative, business-friendly local pols who are registered Democrat because it's a one-party town.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:37 AM
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313: Me too, McQueen.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:38 AM
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321: My BFF who went through the process had to live as a woman for a year before she could get the operation, which was not covered by health insurance. That was Maryland in the late 1990s, so of course YMMV. The thing that surprised me most when she told me about it is that depilation was half the total cost of the procedure.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:39 AM
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Soldiers have very limited rights anyway. If you can order them to get killed, you can order them to tolerate homosexuals.

My bet is that the opposition mostly comes from rightwing officers and their civilian friends. It may be that the rank and file were genuinely offended, but my guess is that they had discovered that their officers wanted them to complain loudly, just this one time.

Homosexuality is common enough in the military (e.g. my lifer great-uncle) that I think you can conclude that the ban is just one of the many ways the system has of being able to break people they want broken.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:40 AM
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empirically the strategy of acknowledging their Very Real Concerns did not have the favourable consequences you anticipate in the transsexuals case.

Oh, please. While the militaries of most non-US countries have integrated gays without difficulty, and the US should suck it up and get it done ASAP (and should have done so ages ago), I don't think you have any basis for saying that respectfully acknowledging fears of sexual harassment (which includes explaining when and how they're practically unreasonable, and offering tactics for dealing with events when and where the fears are reasonable) didn't happen in the UK or elsewhere, or that that's what's holding up integration in the US.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:41 AM
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My co-worker's ex-husband just had reassignment surgery at the beginning of this year after spending the required year living as a woman. Their two daughters (3 and 6) aren't really taking it all that well.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:42 AM
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Little bigots.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:44 AM
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328: "versus an almost completely hypothetical case here..."

Men dressing as women to use women's lockrooms for illicit purposes is hypothetical. That a sub-set of men will seek to better victimize women by creating some sort of false front is very much not hypothetical.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:45 AM
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Honestly, if someone is so dedicated to perversion that he is willing to dress reasonably plausibly in women's clothes, enter the locker room and perfectly mimic women's behavior, put on a women's swimsuit and swim, then go home and, er, whatever...I don't really care that much. If dude is going to stare or lurk or whatever, that's creepy.

There are many men who have done this very thing.

If this was acceptable, it would be done regularly.

Which leads me back to the question of whether you jail a transgendered person for going into the "wrong" locker room.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:46 AM
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So if Mickey Kaus wants to define himself as a Democrat nobody else's opinion matters?

Well, if he were to show evidence of genuinely wanting to be a Democrat and to spend a mandatory period of three years living like a Democrat and behaving like a Democrat (unlikely, I know), then once he'd had the operation it would seem churlish to deny him the designation simply because of what he used to be in 2008.

329: we are not talking about a huge problem on a scale with climate change here though are we? Sort of the whole point here is that you or I could go through our entire lives and it would be odd if we were inconvenienced half a dozen times by a policy of allowing trans people to use the bathrooms they wanted, whereas for the trannies themselves, it's every fucking day.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:46 AM
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I think it can have the effect of cementing opposition from some people who could be convinced if their concerns were acknowledged.

I think this is right, not because there isn't bigotry (there is), but that quite a lot of it proceeds from ignorance. Not that curing the ignorance magically makes the bigotry go away, but it helps.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:48 AM
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336: My first thought was that I'd expect really young kids like that to be more flexible/less married to gendered conceptions. And then I remembered that that was just about exactly the age-range where Rory, at least, and her peers as far as I could tell, were most ridiculously concerned with gendered norms. It does seem like unfortunate timing from their perspective.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:50 AM
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I don't think you have any basis for saying that respectfully acknowledging fears of sexual harassment (which includes explaining when and how they're practically unreasonable, and offering tactics for dealing with events when and where the fears are reasonable) didn't happen in the UK or elsewhere, or that that's what's holding up integration in the US

I didn't say that it was actively harmful, just a bit useless and more than a bit ridiculous. If someone says "I am honestly not homophobic, but I do have this genuine worry that if gays are allowed into my barracks, they will bugger me while I'm asleep", then what is really served by giving an answer other than "shyeah right"?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:51 AM
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Forgive me for saying this, but I'm just not sure that there are legions of men who are going to seriously, sustainedly pretend to be trans women but do it badly enough that they are obviously not women then behave as much like women as possible so as not to appear creepy and get banned.

Because you see, if they were visibly creepy, they could be banned!

If they were not visibly male, they'd look just like women born in female bodies and we wouldn't know!

So there could be already legions of well-mannered perverts in drag in every locker room in the land! The only solution is to have everyone submit to a check of genitalia and chromosomes before getting a health club membership or using a public bathroom.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:51 AM
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once he'd had the operation

Brain implantation? Spine removal?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:51 AM
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345 to 340, before that gets lost in the thread and I sound like a real prick.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:53 AM
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Dsquared, this kind of problem is on a par with climate change in many left groups. And there's no end to it.

I'm neutral-uncommitted to tolerant on the bathroom question, but I'm not a woman either. I'm more thinking about whether trannies really are women and have a right to be accepted as women, and that people who fail to accept them are bigots.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:55 AM
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everyone submit to a check of genitalia

I'm here to apply for the genital-checker position.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:58 AM
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341: Right. I think there's a fair amount of opposition from people with an unexamined fear of lockerroom harassment which comes down to a fear of cismen using access to previously women-only spaces to harass women (some, probably most of that, of that is a version of bigotry, of the failure to believe that trans-people really exist type), and I think the only way around that class of opposition is to acknowledge it and make it clear that there are solutions, and it's just not that big a cost compared to the benefits of a norm where trans-people are allowed to use spaces appropriate to their gender identities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:59 AM
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I believe that in the lesbian-tranny fight in Portland actual cases of inappropriate behavior were alleged. Another issue was just that, besides being only partly physiologically women, the trannies had not had girl-woman life histories and experiences. And I think that personal dislike of O'Hartigan came to play a major role.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:59 AM
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343: I am honestly not homophobic, but I do have this genuine worry that if gays are allowed into my barracks, they will bugger me while I'm asleep

I fear being anally-raped by a man of straw.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:00 AM
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Forgive me for saying this, but I'm just not sure that there are legions of men who are going to seriously, sustainedly pretend to be trans women but do it badly enough that they are obviously not women then behave as much like women as possible so as not to appear creepy and get banned.

Should a card be issued to show that the person has been transgendered for three years?

The context of how this comes up is that someone is seen in the women's locker room. What should be done? If anything?

Say nothing because they might be someone who has been transgendered for three years?

Because there are legions of men who would wear women's clothes in order to go into women's locker rooms to see naked women and to take pictures of them.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:02 AM
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348: There is a joke in Aristophanes' Wasps about this. The young men had to have their genitals examined in order to gain admittance to full citizen status and a judge in the play is zinged for this being his favorite part of his job.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:04 AM
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Your anus has nothing to fear from a penis of straw, Stormcrow. The penis made of sticks is more worrisome, but still can be huffed and puffed and blown down. It's the penis made of bricks that should really cause some worry. Especially if it's a surgically created penis of bricks.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:05 AM
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Also, with regard to the ability to make rules to stop inappropriate behavior, the person complaining of staring is going to sound like an overly sensitive child.

"He stared at my junk!"

"No, I didnt."

"Yes, you did."

"Homophobe!"


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:06 AM
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344: Forgive me for saying this, but I'm just not sure that there are legions of men who are going to seriously, sustainedly pretend to be trans women but do it badly enough that they are obviously not women then behave as much like women as possible so as not to appear creepy and get banned.

I'm absolutely with you on the end goal, and 'legions', eh, I really doubt this would happen much. But the 'badly enough that they are obviously not women' is goofy -- a strong societal norm that allows transwomen to use women's locker rooms couldn't possibly be limited to only those transwomen who could reliably pass as XX; it'd have to include people who were noticeably XY-presenting-as-women. At which point in an anonymous public setting, there's no obvious way to screen out cis-men in drag-for-the-purposes-of-harassment before, rather than after, they do something creepy.

This kind of problem is very small and solvable when you're in private spaces where people have histories and relationships. In anonymous public spaces, it's somewhat trickier.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:10 AM
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Because there are legions of men who would wear women's clothes in order to go into women's locker rooms to see naked women and to take pictures of them.

Uh, the taking pictures thing would be flat out unacceptable no matter what parts you were born with.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:13 AM
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Forgive me if I missed this upthread, but where does the "cis" come from? I gather from context clues that it refers to genetically determined gender.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:16 AM
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358: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:17 AM
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340

Well, if he were to show evidence of genuinely wanting to be a Democrat and to spend a mandatory period of three years living like a Democrat and behaving like a Democrat (unlikely, I know), then once he'd had the operation it would seem churlish to deny him the designation simply because of what he used to be in 2008.

So you agree there is an external test? In which case you are just arguing about what it should be.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:20 AM
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Opposite of "trans". Puts me in mind of molecules.

349: I'm also not sure that the distinction between cross-dressing and trans-gendered is well understood popularly. I'm trying to imagine explaining this to my grandmother and it's entertaining. And not that my grandmother's sense of propriety should rule the day, but if when people hear "Trans-women should be able to use public bathrooms marked for the use of women" they hear "Any guy who wears a dress can use the public bathroom marked for women", they're hearing the wrong thing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:20 AM
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357:

Of course it is. But, you have to catch them first.

The point is that men will try to get into women's locker rooms, if given half a chance. I wouldnt think it would take doing criminal defense for people to realize that this would be a regular and persistent problem.

That doesnt mean that it overrides any effort to have transgendered people be allowed into locker rooms of the gender that they identify, but I do not think it is a fact to be denied.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:21 AM
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343: Sure, most of the fears are ridiculous, and you laugh at them. But someone who's concerned about "What if I'm working for a gay man and he keeps making sexual comments that make me feel threatened and uncomfortable, and he's hinting that I'd get a better performance review if I have sex with him" deserves a patient explanation of the sexual harassment policy, and how it's supposed to protect everyone, not only women being harassed by men; if that sort of thing happens in an integrated military there's a plan for it.

Now, a reasonable person would figure that out on their own, but there's nothing wrong with walking people who have non-wrongful, even if overblown and somewhat silly, concerns through reasonable responses to those concerns.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:21 AM
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So, how would one police this in a public setting?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:22 AM
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So you agree there is an external test?

The external test of being a Democrat is whether you have registered as a member of the Democratic Party. It's awfully straightforward.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:23 AM
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Opposite of "trans". Puts me in mind of molecules.

My favorite o-chem joke is a sketch on a napkin of a jumbo jet with two wings on the same side of the plane and none on the other, and the letters "CWA" on the tail.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:24 AM
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1) I have none a M2F transsexual. She had been female so long that I never knew her as a male, and I never thought of her as a female. A friend of mine was kind of weirded out by it, and made fun of her a bit, but I ignored him (the friend) and carried on and it wasn't a problem. She (the trans) used the women's bathroom; nobody noticed or cared that I ever saw or heard of.

2) The notion that men will dress as women and leer at women in the bathroom brings up the question of why it is ok for lesbians to leer at women in the bathroom. That is, the issue there is nudity in the bathroom, not which sex is in which bathroom. Since there are never enough female bathrooms anyways, the entire subject argues for better bathrooms, and decent legal treatment of trans.

3) Personally I think it would have been totally awesome if, back in 1992, they had just created segregated combat units for gays to start off with. Then we could have had the 'Fighting Fags' and the 'Dykes of Death', which would've been totally awesome. In short order (a decade maybe) there would have been some lesbian combat veteran up in front of Congress, missing a leg and wearing two bronze stars and a Medal of Honor and that would have been the end of that.

max
['But they didn't ask me, obviously.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:28 AM
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365: apo, don't be so literal. Substitute "progressive" for "democrat".


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:29 AM
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I exclude trans fats from our kitchen, because they get the cis fats all freaked out.

I have none a M2F transsexual

known? done?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:30 AM
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361: I'm also not sure that the distinction between cross-dressing and trans-gendered is well understood popularly. I'm trying to imagine explaining this to my grandmother and it's entertaining. And not that my grandmother's sense of propriety should rule the day, but if when people hear "Trans-women should be able to use public bathrooms marked for the use of women" they hear "Any guy who wears a dress can use the public bathroom marked for women", they're hearing the wrong thing.

Well, right. At the 'grandmother' level, I think there are lots of people who don't really understand that transwomen are real, and think it's about men in dresses. There's a huge education problem there to make people like that realize that transpeople exist, and really need acknowledgment and protection.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:31 AM
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apo, don't be so literal.

In talking to James? I've found he insists upon it, BG.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:32 AM
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367,2, see 276.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:32 AM
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"What if I'm working for a gay man and he keeps making sexual comments that make me feel threatened and uncomfortable, and he's hinting that I'd get a better performance review if I have sex with him" deserves a patient explanation of the sexual harassment policy, and how it's supposed to protect everyone, not only women being harassed by men mockery.

Fixed. Honestly folks, there isn't enough time in the day for all these polite explanations, particularly when the likelihood is that the subject will come back tomorrow with another Very Real Concern for you to earnestly address.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:34 AM
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367 is about right.

The issue is one of where transpeople who don't look exactly like men or women should go. Should they go into the men's room and perhaps get beaten up, or should they go into the women's room and perplex the women in there, perhaps to the point that the women in there become afraid of some sort of evil man behavior that ends up not actually happening? It seems like the latter is preferable.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:35 AM
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360: This sounds to me like Jonah Goldberg. If the left opposes war to impose Western values on other cultures, then why are they calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality? Isn't it hypocritical to be intolerant of intolerance?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:36 AM
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Is there some study that indicates that lesbians don't leer?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:37 AM
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The more I think about it, the more I think we have to get over our fear of invisible perverts. (One could make a LOL picture--a photo of just an ordinary place and that caption....)

By invisible perverts I mean people who are possibly-maybe-but-you-can't-actually-tell doing or thinking something perverse around you and it's not obvious enough to call out. First, because the fear of invisible perverts messes up one's quality of life; second, because strategies of keeping out invisible perverts by banning the gender non-conforming is both unfair and largely ineffective; and third, because you just can't stop actual perverts from being actual perverts. The world is cruel--it's cruel to me, as a fat woman who sometimes appears gender ambiguous. It's cruel, and I do sometimes wonder if my picture is someone on one of those "ugly women" galleries. I have imaginary friends on the internet to whom this has happened. But we just have to form loving and decent communities where we support each other so that when creeps and assholes do stuff we don't have to feel alone, despised and vulnerable.

Because creeps and assholes will do stuff. There was a woman who went to WisCon (the feminist SF convention) to take pictures of various women she felt were not attractive enough and post them on the web--the usual "oooh, look, there's a fat woman dancing! And a woman wearing a tank top who hasn't shaved her armpits!". And this was a regular old heterosexual cis woman. She is, of course, banned from the convention, and she did it a lot of harm through her sociopathy. But that's a-gonna happen.

Similarly, there will no doubt be invisible perverts in women's locker rooms from time to time. (Visible ones can be kicked out/called out/punched in the nose) They will no doubt figure out ways to take pictures or whatever and post them on the internet. There's ample evidence to suggest that there's no way to deter one hundred percent of invisible perverts.

We can all step up and not allow visible assholish behavior; we can call people out when they stare, or back people up when they call others out. (And I know this is difficult; a friend of mine and I were at a coffee shop last weekend and she did actually tell this guy who'd been hitting on her in a creepy way to stop staring, and it was awkward, yeah.) We can create fairly strong community norms about treating people politely and kindly. But there is no norm or practice in the world short of suicide that will protect everyone from all assholish behavior from strangers all the time, and running your life as if banning trans women from the bathroom is the solution is....well, a bit silly.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:38 AM
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Only the most depraved consider themselves New Jerseyites.

Born and raised in PA, but everyone thinks I'm from New Jersey ("near Trenton" is my common formulation). I don't mind cause the pizza's the best.

Frowner's point seems the most important: people are routinely killed for not conforming to gender identity. I realize that in Emerson's Portland-based experience this discussion was tiresome and personal, but when you have clear and brutal hate crimes being committed because of a well-policed binary distinction, you have to address that distinction as a bigoted one.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:39 AM
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That doesnt mean that it overrides any effort to have transgendered people be allowed into locker rooms of the gender that they identify, but I do not think it is a fact to be denied.

This seems to be a red-herring. I mean, that argument brings us back to the mandatory genital check -- if men are yearning to dress as women to get into the locker room, why assume they are more likely to do so by pretending to be trans than just straightforward pretending to be women?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:39 AM
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||

I lost my wallet on Monday by the Kendall Square T. I filed a police report with two nice policemen who were standing in Central Square as I walked to Harvard Square, canceled my cards and requested a duplicate license.

Somebody who worked at one of the hotels near there found it on the street. I'm glad about that, but it's kind of weird. His boss, the chief building engineer, found it. He didn't turn it into the police department; he tracked me down by going through all of the cards in it.

First, he called one of the hospitals here. I have a card from them in my wallet, because they require it from anyone who is a patient there. They called me, but I missed the call. Then, he went to the MIT Coop, because I have a Harvard Coop card. They called somebody at the Harvard branch who gave them my cell phone number (the only one I have). I find it kind of weird that he was able to get my (unlisted) number. Would it be more difficult to turn it in to the police.

I'm going to pick it up today, but he's not leaving it at the front desk of teh hotel (inn). I'm supposed to ask for him, and he's going to bring it out. I'm not totally comfortable with this.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:40 AM
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380: If I found your wallet, Beegie, I would try to track you down rather than hand it over to the cops. Most folks don't file police reports when they lose their wallets and I wouldn't expect the cops to do much more than throw it in a bin of "lost stuff." The last time I found a wallet I just found the person and gave them a call.
You don't have to do anything but say thank you and walk away.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:44 AM
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I mean, that argument brings us back to the mandatory genital check -- if men are yearning to dress as women to get into the locker room, why assume they are more likely to do so by pretending to be trans than just straightforward pretending to be women?

Those two types of "pretending" would basically be the same thing. The issue is that if a person who appears to be a man in women's clothing is an acceptable denizen of the women's room, because zie is a transwoman, then women will wonder how they can tell such a person from someone who is a man in women's clothing for purposes of creepy intrusion.

At least that "issue" is what people are worried about. Now the default is to try to exclude all such people because the presumption is that trans-people don't exist.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:46 AM
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What 381 said. But maybe your bf could go with you?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:46 AM
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380: I'm with oudemia, Bijou. If anything, the fault is in the hospitals, who should have taken his number and given it to you. But I would definitely make all efforts to track someone down whose wallet I had found, and I wouldn't think of counting on the police to do it unless I'd reached a dead end.

Also I like finding people.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:47 AM
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Public bathrooms, feh. I think everybody should just hold it in. And not go to the gym. Jocks, feh.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:49 AM
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The hate crime angle is different. Lo these many years ago the daughter of a friend was beaten up because she dressed like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. Others are beaten up because they don't look heteronormative. The violence is the problem, not the rationalications for it. You can still dislike Madonna.

A non-binary one-seat public toilet system would solve everything. Many commercial establishments on Portland have that.

The problem in Portland wasn't personal to me, but it really pissed me off that the professional tolerance community couldn't settle their problems internally. The city wanted to give them what they wanted, and as far as I know, did so, and that was fine with me, but had to mediate an internal dispute first.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:51 AM
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It's fine. I'm going to be in that area today anyway. I'm just kind of surprised that the Harvard Coop gave out that information. I had my bag stolen once in D.C., my passport was later found in a drug bust in Maryland.

(In the end, Homeland security e-mailed me on a yahoo account, and they FedExed it to me. I asked somebody who worked at the State Department whether she thought the e-mail was legit, and I got another e-mail about my e-mail checking about his bona fides and telephone numbers for me to check. They FedExed it to me, and tehy already had my address.)

The Maryland cop found out where I'd gone to college and law school. The law school, being public gave out my info. Harvard is very protective of that stuff and sent me an e-mail with the cop's info asking me to call him. He, of course, had already turned over my passport, but he wanted to make sure that I was okay.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:54 AM
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384--The hospitals didn't give it out. They tried to call me. The Harvard Coop (now run by Barnes and Noble) did.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:55 AM
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second, because strategies of keeping out invisible perverts by banning the gender non-conforming is both ... largely ineffective;

Yea, I just don't agree with this statement.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:56 AM
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Ooh, I misread your comment, Wrongshore.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:56 AM
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BG, it just sounds like the guy feels more certain you'll get your things back intact if he doesn't hand it off to some other person. Though, personally, I'd be irritated that the coop gave out your number to an admitted stranger.

Back to the locker room chat... I'm sort of inclined to think the leering creeps thing is a red herring, too. I mean, the signs in the locker room at my gym telling people to cover themselves, please, aren't concerned with leering per se. (It's not "You can protect yourself from unwanted leering by concealing your naughty bits with a towel," but "Cover yourself up so those around you need not be confronted with the harsh truth that you have naughty bits.") I think any concern about transwomen in the locker room fits in at least as much with this purity concern as it does with fear of leering. I.e., it's bad enough that other women might see your parts, clearly far worse for men to see your parts, and transwomen surely must fit somewhere between those two on the spectrum.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 11:58 AM
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Fixed. Honestly folks, there isn't enough time in the day for all these polite explanations, particularly when the likelihood is that the subject will come back tomorrow with another Very Real Concern for you to earnestly address.

To the extent that you're bullshitting on a blog, true. To the extent that you are trying to struggle for a more just society, also true. To the extent that you are trying to create a more just society, in a manner that involves winning elections, and in a closely contested area, dismissing the concerns of the other side can have serious consequences.

See California's Proposition 8.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:01 PM
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380: Trying to return the wallet to you rather than the police sounds totally normal. The only thing that sounds odd about that is that he's insisting on doing it in person. If I found a wallet with a driver's license in it I'd just mail it to the address on the license. Probably untouched, or I guess maybe I'd commit petty theft and pocket a few dollars, or if there was some reason to be punctilious about that rule against putting cash in the mail then I'd pocket all the money and enclose a check for the amount.

Although, to play Devil's Advocate and tamp down on paranoia a bit, the finder might just want to make sure he's not giving it to the wrong person. How would he know whether the driver's license is a fake ID itself, or maybe you've had a falling out with your roommate and the only person living at the address on the card is someone who hates you, or something like that.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:03 PM
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... and of course I'm pwned by the clarification that the disturbing thing is that the Coop (as in, co-op, short for cooperative? Not "coop" as in "chicken coop," right?) gave out the phone number. Oh well.

384.last: Yeah, tracking someone down like that is fun. The problem is, they often don't see it that way, which tends to put a damper on conversations.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:08 PM
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When I was a kid I remember my parents taking me to a restaurant that required a coat and tie for males. I, of course, wasn't properly equipped, so they had loaner stuff available.

If we're in the territory of "no breasts, no vagina, no service" wouldn't it be simpler just to have sets available that people could borrow?

In the early 70s, having long hair, I was threatened with violence for my gender inappropriate presentation several times. Scary.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:14 PM
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Frowner's comment about the straight woman who harasses "ugly women" makes a good point. It reminds me of Megan's experiences with the body-mocking girls at the pool locker room. Whatever fantasy we have that women's locker rooms are some kind of space that is sacred from looking or judgment is tissue-thin as it is. When I am in the locker room and I catch another woman looking at my butt, I don't feel harmed by it. I don't know if she is mentally mocking my body or desiring it or just curious. She herself may not even know why she's drawn to look at my butt. If I were to ask, "Why are you looking at my butt?" I am guessing she'd either say "It's a fucking locker room; get over it" or "You're fat," not "I am inexplicably curious about nude forms that are unlike my own, and whether this is a sexual feeling in myself, or hatred, I cannot tell." Given that I can't know, it really doesn't seem worth trying to figure out whether that gaze itself constitutes an act of harm.

At any rate, women's locker rooms have never been some kind of holy zone of protection from a potentially harmful gaze. It's not just the threat of invisible pervs that annoys me about the OMG TRANSWOMEN reaction; it's also the assumption that other ciswomen are of course so polite and loving and sisterly that they'd never ever look at your body with harmful or pervy intent. I am much more nervous around straight ciswomen with "beautiful" bodies than I am around queer, trans, or non-standard bodies. The latter groups have perhaps a little experience with being judged themselves.

Regarding the gender thing Liz mentioned above: The problem with saying gender is chromosomal is that no one ever checks your chromosomes unless you have some kind of disorder. When you go to kindergarten, the teacher doesn't check your chromosomes, etc. It's not legally binding because otherwise we'd have to verify these things about everyone.

Genital gender is similar, in that no one but apo checks your genitalia before you do various gender-specific things. But it's enough of a signifier that when a trans (non-op FTM) student tried to move into male housing, the person he was meeting with was so baffled that she closed the door and told him to drop trou to "prove" that he was a man. What a fucking pervert.

Self-identifying gender is the last category, and seems the only one that we actually use as a standard with all the people we meet.

The problem (I went to a lecture on this recently) is that, in legal situations, judges have used one or more of these categories to rule against others, and in completely contradictory ways. In one famous case, a transwoman marries a cis-guy. Everything is fine for 25 years. Guy dies and leaves his estate to his wife. The guy's kids go to court and prove that the wife is not chromosomally female, and so suddenly (somehow) isn't the wife, and take the estate. She is left destitute. WTMFH?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:18 PM
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367,2, see 276.

You mean 267..., you mean 266... whoops, dyslexia strikes.

276: If this were a serious question, the answer would be that the perceived risk (and I think the perception is accurate) of straight-man-on-woman sexual harassment or crime is much greater than the risk of lesbian-on-woman sexual harassment or crime.

I think this is deeply silly. I think there is a perfectly good argument that men are more likely to be violent then women (or most accurately, people who like to beat people up tend to pick on people smaller than themselves); that means exactly jack when dealing with someone on female hormones, unless there's some other reason for preponderance of violence by men. In the case of men who sneak into women's bathroom for voyeuristic purposes (like the guys with shoe fetishes who run around sneaking shoe gropes at libraries) those people are already doing that and are not going to be deterred by a chromosonally-female women only bathroom policy. This is also why they have stalls in bathrooms.

Now, you could argue (I suppose) that chromosonally-female women are being deprived of the right to sit around the big mirror and do lines and make out with each other without being seen by a man or a man sans dick who is on female hormones and I would only point out that this is the exact same argument that allowing gay men into combat regiments might result in forcible gayness.

I do think bathrooms could be better designed to help ensure that no one is better harassed but none of these no-queers-not-women women policies is doing the job here.

Full disclosure: I am speaking as someone who once (more than 10 years ago) walked into an empty bathroom in a movie theatre, went into the stall, used it, and walked out, whereupon I realized I had walked in the wrong goddamn bathroom door. EEP. I apologized to the one woman who was doing her makeup while I moved hastily to leave. I am sure that, these days, I would be accused of all kinds of unspeakable stuff. I think that's more a comment on 'these days' than me, but opinions may vary.

max
['If the above sounds too mean, I apologize; not meant meanly.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:20 PM
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See California's Proposition 8.

sorry - presumably your claim isn't that the Mormon Church could have been won round if people had taken the time to explain things to them, so are you suggesting that, for example, people who thought that permitting gay marriage would devalue their own marriage should have had it explained to them that their certificates were safe? Not every close defeat is an occasion for a complete change of tactics.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:22 PM
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does need some civil rights action

Yes. First, you ban discriminatory conduct. Let the 'calling out' of attitudes that are not reflected in actionable conduct follow.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:27 PM
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Heh. I haven't said anything in this thread because I don't have anything valuable to add. My take has been bewilderment that anyone cares who else is in a locker room, but the internet is crushing that naive belief just like it crushed all the rest of my innocence. Everything above has been funnier to me because the only time I've been harassed/bullied in a locker room, it was by a nine-year-old girl. So that's who I'm picturing when people posit imaginary creeps.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:29 PM
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392.last - I got the impression that a major problem with the Prop 8 fight was that the good guys held back out of fear of upsetting people instead of pointing out that the pro-8 forces were lying like dogs.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:29 PM
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You can still dislike Madonna.

I just wanted to repeat that.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:30 PM
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I might be repeating everyone else above. But whatever, I'm pregnant and overdue; indulge me.

A locker room is somewhere where I like to believe there's a protective sheen of asexuality. Freedom to feel asexual is sometimes very important to me; in fact it's something I very much like about being visibly pregnant - you're beyond off-the-market in some basic, non-judging way.

For me, I want everyone in the locker room to pretend that we're all asexual, even though obviously as AWB mentioned above, that's probably a total fiction for every walk of female. I can't imagine trans-women or lesbians being uncooperative with my narrative, but I can't imagine many men cooperating with it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:30 PM
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I wouldn't expect the cops to do much more than take any cash and throw it in a bin of "lost stuff."

Fixed.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:33 PM
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394: Coop is short for Cooperative. The Harvard bookstore--which used to sell clothes too--(and more recently the MIT one) has long been a cooperative, but, unlike the one at Yale, the Harvard one is pronounced Coop as in chicken coop.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:33 PM
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instead of pointing out that the pro-8 forces were lying like dogs

I dare say that the paranoid fantasies and bizarre slippery slope fears of the anti-gay marriage people gain credence when genital-indifferent locker rooms are declared to be a natural and unavoidable consequence of gender equality (cf. 146 above).


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:35 PM
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Freedom to feel asexual is sometimes very important to me; in fact it's something I very much like about being visibly pregnant

You keep telling yourself that, hot mama.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:41 PM
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I can't imagine trans-women or lesbians being uncooperative with my narrative, but I can't imagine many men cooperating with it.

In my experience living in a naked co-op in college, (hippie-esque) men did just fine with this all the time. The exception was rare and noticeable and earned the guy unpleasant vibes. I would absolutely expect it from most men, and certainly from men in my social class. I'd also expect it from all the male athletes I know (admittedly at Ultimate and my self-selected gym) whom I would fully expect would treat a locker room as an asexual place where athletes change.

So long as the asexual tone starts off right and gets reinforced, nearly everyone I know does fine with it.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:42 PM
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I haven't said anything in this thread because I don't have anything valuable to add.

Oh crap. Is that the standard?

As I mentioned above, I don't care who is in the locker when I am in there.

But, I would like some appropriate rules so that people are not getting arrested for being in locker rooms.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:42 PM
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In my experience living in a naked co-op in college...

Now there's an argument from authority you rarely see on C-Span.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:47 PM
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I also think that there is a fine line between leering and looking.

In same genital locker rooms, I am more concerned about the homophobes falsely accusing gays of leering.

At my gym, a guy was asked to leave because he went WAY over the line. It was regular, persistent, and obvious.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:47 PM
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treat a locker room as an asexual place where athletes change

It's almost like Megan has never even seen porn.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:48 PM
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You're being ridiculous, pp. Porn requires pizza delivery.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:49 PM
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Now I want pizza.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:52 PM
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I think we all know what Di means by that.

I'm out for lunch. We're going to the Sacramento Tea Party. Michelle Malkin will be there. Should be something.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:55 PM
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365

The external test of being a Democrat is whether you have registered as a member of the Democratic Party. It's awfully straightforward.

"Democrat" was a poor choice, substitute "liberal" or "progressive".


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 12:56 PM
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sorry - presumably your claim isn't that the Mormon Church could have been won round if people had taken the time to explain things to them, so are you suggesting that, for example, people who thought that permitting gay marriage would devalue their own marriage should have had it explained to them that their certificates were safe?

I'm suggesting that people who weren't comfortable with the thought their children being forcibly taught about gay marriage in second grade could have been engaged rather than written off as irredeemably bigoted or clearly delusional


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:04 PM
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Went to the White House teaparty today - didn't get close enough to see the speaker, but was amused by counterprotesters in formalwear (getting wet in the rain) shouting slogans like "Tax Work, Not Wealth."

When I walk by the White House these days, I'm annoyed at the nitwits parading outside it until I remember that they used to be in the White House.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:07 PM
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substitute "liberal" or "progressive"

I don't want that creep Kaus hanging out in the liberal restrooms, that's for sure.

Seriously, James, I'm not getting your point here.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:09 PM
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415: When you get back you should explain wtf a "naked co-op" is. Sounds like a nudist group house, but I've never encountered the term before (or a nudist group house for that matter).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:11 PM
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408

... noticeable ...

It's an involuntary reaction.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:14 PM
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405: Thanks. I figured you must have meant "short for cooperative [such as a cooperatively owned bookstore or grocery store]", but I'd never seen it written like that and was wondering if it was a misspelling or if it was an idiosyncratic pronounciation. The latter, apparently.

406: I don't think that's what togolosh meant, but what do I know, I'm not in California.

But whether they have credence or not, it still seems paranoid and bizarre to me. That is the gender-neutral dystopia they're so afraid of and spent millions of dollars to fight, unisex bathrooms being the rule rather than the exception? Really? Where's the ban on religion, the social taboo against long-term marriage, the sex ed classes promoting experimentation with eight-year-olds? What a bunch of pussies wimps.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:16 PM
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419

Seriously, James, I'm not getting your point here.

My point is people are not generally willing to unconditionally accept other people's self assessments.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:16 PM
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421: I think she was talking about leering, not boners.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:16 PM
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I think 421 was a joke, though admittedly it's hard to tell.


Posted by: Unpronounceable Awl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:21 PM
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424: Take it to standpipe's blog, LB. Shearer made a funny.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:21 PM
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425: Possible. The downside (upside?) of being implausibly literalminded is that it's very hard to tell when you're kidding.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:24 PM
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417 gets it exactly wrong -- the anti-Prop 8 campaign consisted almost entirely of painfully pedantic TV ads intended to reassure voters that their kids wouldn't be forced to take classes on gay marriage in elementary schools. It didn't work. I've always thought that the forces of good would have been better off not being so goddamn defensive, but rather featuring heartwarming stories about individual couples in love.

On the main topic, I can't really figure out why we're talking about locker rooms as the main locus for discrimination against transexuals. Is going to the gym locker room really that big of a civil rights issue for transexuals? As people have pointed out above, this is a population that is still getting killed in hate crimes on a fairly regular basis. I mean, I'd think that locker rooms come fairly far down on the list. Or, is the claim that prejudice against transexuals has its origin in people's reasonable fears about men sneaking into the locker room? Because that's (a) insane and (b) can't even begin to describe or explain the intensity of the prejudice.

I'll confess to a certain weirded-out feeling about transexuals, but as for a lot of other people here, that's mostly due to lack of experience. It's also something that I recognize pretty clearly as a prejudice, i.e., an irrational and wrong distaste based on something that seems vaguely icky, and I'm sure that this is a prejudice I should change; certainly if I came into contact transexuals on a regular basis (I don't) I'd work pretty hard to get over myself.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:24 PM
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Further to 427: And of course, I'm kind of dense that way -- I patiently explain things to people who were just playing dumb all the time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:27 PM
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By invisible perverts I mean people who are possibly-maybe-but-you-can't-actually-tell doing or thinking something perverse around you and it's not obvious enough to call out.

Defined thus, isn't "invisible perverts" just another way of saying "people"? The line between perverted and not-perverted isn't the existence of sexual attractions, thoughts, etc., it's the inappropriate expression thereof. If someone who's attractive to me is exposing more skin than she means to, I'm probably going to notice and I'm probably going to appreciate, but I'm also going to be very careful not to show it. I think the not-showing is socially obligatory, but I don't think there's a social obligation not to notice and appreciate.

And if that's right, then fear of "invisible perverts" pretty much reduces to fear of normal human sexuality, or at least a desire to confine normal human sexuality to approved times, places, and modes of expression. Which, OK, there's a time and a place for everything, but noticing and flirting and so forth are a pretty low-harm sort of sexuality.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:30 PM
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428
On the main topic, I can't really figure out why we're talking about locker rooms as the main locus for discrimination against transexuals.

My guess is (a) because it's the locus most people here at Unfogged are the most familiar with, and (b) as a marginal case, it's a complicated and difficult one to figure out. AFAIK, even the most biologically determinist people here agree that literally beating someone up or killing them because they're transexual is as bad as for any other reason of their identity, so what's to talk about?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:32 PM
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I'm probably going to notice and I'm probably going to appreciate.

See, I would think "invisible perviness" wouldn't be noticing and appreciating, but noticing and mentally thinking dehumanizing type thoughts.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:35 PM
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431, it's just that the conversation has something of the feel of talking about the details of bus-stop planning after the Marxist revolution. I mean, if we're in a world in which people are more OK with transexuals, won't the locker room issue take care of itself?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:37 PM
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Which, OK, there's a time and a place for everything, but noticing and flirting and so forth are a pretty low-harm sort of sexuality.

This is (and probably means to be, I just wanted to foreground it) an argument that there's no reason for single sex changing rooms at all. And I can see an argument that women should toughen up and not expect a space free of sexualized observation to change in. But that's a pretty big social change, and a tough sell.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:37 PM
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was wondering if it was a misspelling or if it was an idiosyncratic pronounciation

No, no, no, this the HARVARD Coop we're talking about. Its pronunciation is canonical. Everyone else is idiosyncratic.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:37 PM
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further to 431: and if there is some sort of discrimination/oppression here (I don't really know where I stand on the issue itself), then it sets the ground for other things. As in, the relation of back-of-the-bus to lynch mobs, diminutives used in addressing women to sexual harassment, analogies to analogy bans, etc.


Posted by: Unpronounceable Awl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:40 PM
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My point is people are not generally willing to unconditionally accept other people's self assessments.

Okay - I get it now, but in the course of making this point, you inadvertently demonstrated that this is often incorrect. Kaus, after all, calls himself a Democrat, and he is accepted as one. As I understand it, Evan Bayh is even permitted to use the Senate washrooms without a party check.

Gender is a tricky matter - something of a continuum - hence all of the discussion. I think there's general agreement that transgender folks deserve some consideration on these things because they have taken steps (sometimes radical steps) to reassign their gender. I'd go so far as to say that the amount of consideration they are entitled to is more-or-less in proportion to the significance of the steps they've taken.

Which is a long way of saying dsquared gets it right in 340 - and I personally won't trust Kaus as a progressive until he actually has the surgery, and gets a conscience implant.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:42 PM
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This thread is so many standard deviations away from the usual breakdowns of comity, it's not even funny. What other issue or issues would find the 'tariat divided just this way?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:44 PM
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I think we cis people talk about locker rooms and bathrooms because those are the fascination/freakout locations--Unfogged is of course a special snowflake among blogs, but I have seen this particular topic discussed by cis-people elsewhere and it tends to devolve this way. No matter how often it is pointed out that trans folks are discriminated against--more than that, attacked--pretty generally, the discussion always works back to what-if-we're-all-naked-together-and-I-am-not-able-to-preserve-my-illusions? Which is good and bad--good because it does get at some of the underlying cis-anxieties about gender, gender solidarity, normality, etc etc, bad because it puts the focus squarely back on cis people, their experience, their delicate feelings. Also bad because it reduces the experiences of trans people to....to locker room issues.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:45 PM
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431: Bathrooms/locker rooms are pretty much the only places where your right to be there is determined by your gender identity -- they're going to be an acute problem for transpeople to the extent that other people feel entitled to judge the validity of their gender identity. If Jane Reasonably-Polite Bigot doesn't believe that anyone's gender identity can differ from their genital gender, she can look at Theresa Transwoman on the street and be internally sniffy, but not make trouble about it because Theresa's choice of dress doesn't affect her. But when Jane sees Theresa in the changing room at her gym, she's more likely to kick up a fuss because she sees Theresa as a man doing something actively wrongful (intruding on single-sex space) that affects her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:45 PM
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432: But how does the purely internal narrative attached to the noticing affect the one who's noticed?

434: I'm off on a tangent here, not on the main thread. I'd be fine with unisex changing rooms myself, but others aren't, and that's fine too. I was just struck by the idea of "invisible perviness" as something for people to be concerned about.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:46 PM
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Bathrooms/locker rooms are pretty much the only places where your right to be there is determined by your gender identity

what about golf clubs, executive suites, the immediate vicinity of building sites, any street after 10pm, the financial services industry ...


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:51 PM
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Sounds like a nudist group house

Close enough. It was a 60 person living co-op, with very strictly enforced rules about food and a very casual attitude about clothing.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:55 PM
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The one irrevocable thing I'm getting out of this conversation is that everyone else spends a lot more time in locker rooms and public bathrooms than I do.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:56 PM
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I became rather inured as a kid to the general concept of being naked in the locker room after going to a program at the central YMCA in our town where you and 50 other 9-12 year old boys swam naked. For several reasons (including the creepy swim instructor), I wouldn't recommend it. Would this be considered "acceptable" at all in the US today?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 1:59 PM
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What were the reasons besides the creepy swim instructor? Kids made fun of each other?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:03 PM
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439, 440: I get the freak-out idea, and, Frowner, it's interesting that the conversations tend to turn this way. I just have a really hard time wrapping my head around "Jane Reasonably-Polite Bigot" -- the number of people who would be generally sort of OK with transexualism, but not OK with a transexual in the women's locker room, strike me as vanishingly small, and surely Jane's fears of transexuals wouldn't be limited to the locker room alone.

I mean, this is an issue I think about approximately 0% of the time, but it does strike me that we're dealing with a class of people who are really subject to a virulence of prejudice that no one else in America is right now. For example, I'm sure that California law would prohibit outright discrimination, but I'm sure that most law firms would have to think very carefully about allowing a "Trans" attorney to meet clients, appear in Court. I can imagine people being uncomfortable if a trans person sat next to them on a bus seat. Etc., etc. In this kind of world, the locker room issue strikes me as a pure epiphenomenon of deeper discrimination (and the analogy to the "but they won't get to use the same SWIMMING POOLS, will they?" in Alabama circa 1950 seems perfectly apt).

I'm going to have to reconcile these thoughts with my usual political liberal, aesthetic conservative beliefs, but that's an issue for me, not Unfogged.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:13 PM
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At the age it seemed to invite some cruelties beyond "making fun of", some them of a specific physical nature. I also did not feel as uninhibited during acts of diving and jumping into the pool, a swimsuit may provide meager protection but it provides some. Certainly skinny-dipping can be fun in certain situations, but it is not the best for all swimming maneuvers and situations.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:14 PM
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I would like people not to talk to me while I am trying to pee. Even more, I would like people not to answer the phone in the bathroom while I pee.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:20 PM
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As just happened.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:21 PM
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And I can see an argument that women should toughen up and not expect a space free of sexualized observation to change in. But that's a pretty big social change, and a tough sell.

I would so not be on board with this. I'm much more comfortable with the idea that men can come in hippie varieties a la Megan's comment above, and cater to my asexual narrative.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:21 PM
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And no one comment while I pee, please.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:22 PM
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WHAT REALLY ANNOYS ME IS WHEN PEOPLE BLOG-COMMENT WHEN I PEE.


Posted by: OPINIONATED IN THE NEXT STALL | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:22 PM
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Not that my state is anywhere near as enlightened as we sometimes think we are, but we do have a transgendered person on the state School Board and no one got particularly excited about that.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:23 PM
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443: So not a home for featherless chickens from Harvard, then? And here I was starting to get all excited.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:23 PM
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I love pwning while peeing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:24 PM
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You should just start peeing in your office, redfox.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:24 PM
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You're being very tasteful and oblique, but I think I nevertheless understand that jumping in hurt your bare nuts, and that some of the teasing was grabbing/slapping. I could see that.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:24 PM
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Megan, none of that. This is a space free of sexualized observation.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:25 PM
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It is OK if they were men who were born male.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:27 PM
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Using the phone while peeing is just sensible multi-tasking, but using the phone while shitting is kind of gross.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:27 PM
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OH, SURE, STRAIGHT MEN ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE IT'S STILL OK TO MAKE FUN OF.


Posted by: OPINIONATED WATB | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:29 PM
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Well, I was peeing, but I have my doubts about her. In the women's room, you just don't know what people are up to in those stalls! (Until it becomes entirely obvious, that is.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:29 PM
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It is OK if they were men who were born male.

Unless they have prosthetic springs for legs. Because fuck those guys.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:29 PM
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Has there been a good naked/bad naked discussion yet?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:29 PM
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You should just start peeing in your office, redfox.

There's no time like the present!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:30 PM
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A stranger once tried to sell me pot in a public bathroom while I was peeing. I really hated that. I was at a urinal, urinating, when suddenly the two inch space between my nose and the wall was filled with a bag of pot.

Yeah, that was disconcerting.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:31 PM
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If I hear a flush in the background when I'm talking to someone on the phone it is all I can do to avoid simply hanging up.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:31 PM
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Hope not. I hate those discussions. The other thing you learn in the naked hippie co-op (besides rigorous definitions of vegetarian) is that all bodies are beautiful.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:31 PM
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465: Nakedness is at worst neutral.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:32 PM
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It bothers me that people have taken to carrying on phone conversations in the bathrooms in our library. I understand why they do it, but politeness is so bred into me that I feel bad about using the hand dryer, etc., because it's noisy and makes it hard for them to have their phone conversation. And then I get grumpy about feeling badly for interrupting the phone conversation they're having in the bathroom merely by participating in proper bathroom activities!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:34 PM
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I thought good naked/bad naked was a matter of circumstance, not person.

Naked with your lovah: good.
Naked in the classroom: bad.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:35 PM
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427

Possible. The downside (upside?) of being implausibly literalminded is that it's very hard to tell when you're kidding.

I was partially kidding. But if you had coed locker rooms in high school you would get guys with erections.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:35 PM
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473: ...who would be ruthlessly mocked, and very quickly that would stop happening.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:37 PM
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Somehow in the year between high school and living in a college co-ed naked house, they managed to solve the problem. Leering was the rare exception to the asexuality.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:40 PM
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Texting in the stall: distasteful, I do it all the time, somewhere in between?

I don't myself.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:40 PM
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Sadly, the level of "asexuality" in nudity varies strongly based on the hottness level of those around you. When I was around 19, I went to some co-ed nude thermal baths (outside the US) fairly regularly. Initially, I freaked out, but very quickly got used to being naked and having others naked around me (no big deal! bodies are just bodies! this is just a hot bath!). But when attractive enough folks of the opposite sex would show up, there was DEFINITELY mmm . . . something going on. Not the sexiest thing in the world, but not nothing either. I don't think that even the hippiest of hippies are immune.

In other words, keep moustachioed naked ex-presidents out of the women's locker room.


Posted by: Naked Chester A. Arthur | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:41 PM
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476: Self-selection is a powerful force.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:41 PM
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s/b to 475.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:42 PM
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458: Your comment did make me think about it a bit and other than the physical price of a poorly-executed cannonball on our massive little boy parts I think there are contexts where it could work OK. That group of kids at drafty, old, small Midwestern city, central YMCA was not that. And I will admit (somewhat shamefully) that some of it probably was my sense of grievance at this particular instance of my mother's campaign* to have us not let our middle-class existence go to our heads. (There weren't any other kids from my neighborhood swimming naked there.)

*Others of which did result in some pretty good experiences and memories.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:42 PM
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I supoose I think transsexuals should use the appropriate locker rooms in a workplace, but not in locker rooms for the general public, since some people are ignorant of transsexuals and could be seriously disturbed, not just offended. Esp. old people.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:44 PM
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On the Internet, no one knows where you're commenting from ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:44 PM
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I would like people not to talk to me while I am trying to pee.

Prostate problems at such an early age?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:44 PM
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No doubt it helped that everyone could duck into their own rooms if sufficiently hott other people were being nekkid.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:47 PM
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Initially, I freaked out, but very quickly got used to being naked and having others naked around me (no big deal! bodies are just bodies! this is just a hot bath!). But when attractive enough folks of the opposite sex would show up, there was DEFINITELY mmm . . . something going on. Not the sexiest thing in the world, but not nothing either. I don't think that even the hippiest of hippies are immune.

I think that quickly get relatively immune.

When I was a youth (slightly younger than Wolfson), I went to the beach in Nice, France. For the first day, I was thinking "Sweet, hot topless women!" But, after that first day, I didnt really think about it that much.

It was the norm.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:48 PM
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284: Megan suddenly realizes why people always ducked away when she was around the house.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:49 PM
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When I was a youth (slightly younger than Wolfson), I went to the beach in Nice, France. For the first day, I was thinking "Sweet, hot topless women!

I've never really gotten over the urge to stare. It comes with age, you say?


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:50 PM
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There was an article in Dagens Nyhetere the other day about mobiles becoming a health hazard, major germ carriers.

A person may well borrow your phone and then eat using hands. Don't call where you shit.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:50 PM
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OT: For Red Sox fans, it should superstitiously not be mentioned that Tim Wakefield is currently on pace to do something a Red Sox pitcher has done once each of the last two years.


Posted by: Byron the Bulb | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:51 PM
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I don't know as how there are asexual naked-with-people experiences unless you're horribly ill or too full of anxiety/fear/pain to focus on anything but that. One of the nice things about being around naked people (and I say this as someone who generally doesn't trust people enough to be naked around them) is (okay, I'm weird, let's admit it; everyone I'm ever attracted to is funny-looking) realizing that you could probably enjoy having sex with a far greater range of people than you'd initially assumed. But that's not the same as leering, or even staring.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:51 PM
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using the phone while shitting is kind of gross

Obligatory Onion link


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:51 PM
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One of my biggest wimp-outs was not stopping at a nudist diner/truck stop I found in some ancient edition of Roadfood. I recall it being on the Indiana/Illinois border not too far south of Chicago (Unfogged roadtrip meetup!) Not sure it is still there, searched and found a reference to "Naked City Truck Stop in the wilds of Indiana" on one of the discussion threads at Roadfood.com but nothing else.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:51 PM
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Wallet Update.

Got my wallet back. The guy had stuck his card in among my various cards. It was slightly hidden. I found it, because I wanted to see what cards might have been in there for him to call, i.e. was my psychiatrist's card in there?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:51 PM
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asexual naked-with-people experiences unless you're horribly ill or too full of anxiety/fear/pain to focus on anything but that.

F'reals? Honestly, the most surprising thing about being with naked people is how quickly it becomes boring. If you're in a kitchen with a few of the people being naked and doing their own thing, I'd bet within a few minutes you'd start deciding whether you want to put water on for tea.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:56 PM
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I've never really gotten over the urge to stare. It comes with age, you say?

Not so far.

(Urge, that is; actual staring is deprecated.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:57 PM
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AWB @ 396: "I am inexplicably curious about nude forms that are unlike my own, and whether this is a sexual feeling in myself, or hatred, I cannot tell" = hottt and deadly pick-up line if ever tried

i have never been in the [gender-not-mine]'s locker room, i passed up the chance age 5 of running into it w.my pals at infant school -- the ring leader got spanked


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:57 PM
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494: Eh, some of us are broad-minded enough to process "hmm, tea" and "titties! hooray!" AT THE SAME TIME.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:59 PM
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As I understand it, Evan Bayh is even permitted to use the Senate washrooms without a party check.

This is changing my position on the whole question at hand.

If I ran the zoo, DINOs like Bayh would have to hold it until they returned to their home districts.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:59 PM
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Honestly, the most surprising thing about being with naked people is how quickly it becomes boring.

Agreed.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:59 PM
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495: Right, right - I don't actually stare. I've better manners, really.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:59 PM
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But that's not the same as leering, or even staring.

THERE"S SOMETHING WE NEED TO TELL YOU, FROWNER.


Posted by: FROWNER"S OPINIONATED FRIENDS | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:59 PM
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realizing that you could probably enjoy having sex with a far greater range of people than you'd initially assumed.

This happens to me at the Russian Baths, where people aren't naked but are wearing ill-fitting cotton shorts and sweating a lot. It turns out that nearly bare bodies are interesting to look at and mostly attractive; when I see the same people after they've put clothes on and are waiting to pay at the front desk, they look completely ordinary and unattractive.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:00 PM
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497 is true for 10 out of 10 of British male pornography enthusiasts.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:00 PM
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RH in 428: On the main topic, I can't really figure out why we're talking about locker rooms as the main locus for discrimination against transexuals.

I brought it up, because my boyfriend's company decided to build a new individual bathroom just for the guy who transitioned to being a woman. The women there didn't want her in their bathroom. I'm sure that other people are allowed to use it, but it was built as a way of accomadating the trannie.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:01 PM
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505

I suddenly remember that sports saying: "act like you've been there before."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:02 PM
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as a way of accomadating the trannie

Just like the separate water fountain.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:04 PM
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497 is true for 10 out of 10 of British male pornography enthusiasts.

...as is 490.last and 494.first.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:04 PM
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When I was a youth (slightly younger than Wolfson), I went to the beach in Nice, France.

A friend of mine lived in Sweden for a long time (in fact he lives there again now permanently). He tells a story of walking down a beach in Sweden with several Swedish guy pals. He sees that they are soon to walk past a group of stereotypical Swedish bombshell lasses who are topless. He steels himself for the stoic non-response he will have, for he, heaven forfend, is no ridiculous, sheltered American. He and pals come face to face with the hot women, and they pass each other without comment. See how cool I am! thinks friend. As soon as they are out of earshot of the hotties, all the Swedish guys start, "Holy shit, did you see the tits on those girls?! Dayummmm" or rather its equivalent in Swedish.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:04 PM
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i want to say -- contra shearer -- that the analogy won't fly bcz politics is clearly performative in a way that gender isn't: being a liberal is what you do, not what you are, whereas being a woman...?

however, while i feel this distinction is in the right area, this statement of it doesn't get it right (some of gender is performative; yet gender isn't really ABOUT what you do)

what's interesting about the formulation "you are what you feel you are" is that "what you feel you are" is hugely a function of what you feel others feel you are, but the nature of this function is different in different people (am i reinventing freud here?)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:05 PM
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Eh, some of us are broad-minded enough to process "hmm, teabagging" and "titties! hooray!" AT THE SAME TIME.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:05 PM
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AT THE SAME TIME

So much processing power.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:05 PM
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Oh crap, 503 was homophobic. Damn!

504 is weird, and seems like a solution available only to high-powered trannies. I can't imagine it's generally very easy for that person.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:05 PM
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...who would be ruthlessly mocked, and very quickly that would stop happening.

Erections would stop happening? I suppose those boys who'd been mocked would stay out of the locker rooms in the future.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:06 PM
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"Holy shit, did you see the tits on those girls?! Dayummmm" or rather its equivalent in Swedish.

Probably no more so than they would have if the girls were clothed.

But, maybe I better google a similar image to research this issue some more.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:06 PM
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STOP MOCKING ME.


Posted by: OPINIONATED ERECTION | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:07 PM
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513: The prospect of being mocked puts a pretty effective damper on sexual excitement, no? Otherwise teenage boys would be walking around with erections pretty much all the time.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:10 PM
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Going topless was only really normal behaviour here in the early to (maybe) mid-80s, I think.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:11 PM
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(I will interject that in my experience depending on the community "tranny" is either the very cutting edge hip-radical-reclaiming term of choice or really, really offensive--and this doesn't actually track directly with how left/radical people are. I assume that most folks are from a background where "tranny" is used by your trans friends themselves, but just in case...It's really a bit like saying "the fags I know" in effect--perfectly queer/radical/genderfuck in some situations, grounds for a pretty good punch in the nose in others.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:12 PM
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Otherwise teenage boys would be walking around with erections pretty much all the time.

That's pretty much how I recall my teenage years, yes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:13 PM
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516: Shorter NPH: I'm the straight man here.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:13 PM
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At Opening Day with Iris on Monday, it occurred to me that she's approaching the age at which she's maybe getting old for men's rooms. Hadn't thought of it earlier because most men's rooms aren't quite as menly as at a ballpark. She's now old enough to go by herself (and did - with a fellow 4 y.o. - at a Penguins game a few weeks back), but massive public restrooms seem like they might be overwhelming (esp. ones with separate entrance and exit).

I'm overthinking this at the moment, but it is an interesting issue itself - I've always been completely unselfconscious about it, but at some point that will stop.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:14 PM
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474

...who would be ruthlessly mocked, and very quickly that would stop happening.

I don't think that would have been the dynamic in my high school but I could be wrong. Who do you think would be doing the mocking boys or girls?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:15 PM
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Probably no more so than they would have if the girls were clothed.

Not necessarily. Nakedness lays bare, so to speak, the difference between ordinary breasts and aesthetically exceptional ones.

Fleur and I were on a French beach a while back next to a 40-something Frenchwoman who had the most flawless bosom I have ever laid eyes on. Even the beach attendants, who see bare breasts as often as a plumber sees drains, were ga-ga over her. The next day I made some comment about the woman not being at the beach, and Fleur said, "Yes she is. She's right over there in the purple tee-shirt." We laughed when we both realized at the same time that I hadn't recognized her with her shirt on.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:16 PM
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maybe getting old for men's rooms

You should start taking her in the women's room instead. Just tell people you're transsexual.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:16 PM
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"i have never been in the [gender-not-mine]'s locker room, i passed up the chance age 5 of running into it w.my pals at infant school -- the ring leader got spanked"

I've certainly been in women's locker rooms a lot of times as a kid, ending when I was 5 or so.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:18 PM
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Going topless was only really normal behaviour here in the early to (maybe) mid-80s, I think.

Wait, what? What have you guys been doing? America needs a toplesss Sweeden.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:18 PM
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522: I am ashamed to say that in my mixed circle of friends in high school, boys and girls alike made fun of our fellow friends' spontaneous erections.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:18 PM
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489: Dammit. MLB.com is offering free live vid, but my shitty old slow system won't initialize it. Or something.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:19 PM
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520: "Straight" s/b "erect." But 513 did appear to be earnest.

522: Probably both. Lack of control is uncool.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:19 PM
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And now I see it's a moot point. Oh well.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:19 PM
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523:When Ozon's movie Swimming Pool came out a few years ago, all any reviewer could talk about -- male, female, American, European -- was how gorgeous Ludivine Sagnier's breasts are.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:20 PM
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489: Tim Wakefield

Good work, now that's ruined. It is odd to hear about him as an active player as I was jsut watching a bit on the 1992 Pirates (when Wakefield made a big splash as a rookie) and that seems like absolute ages ago (it really isn't, especially for a knuckleballer, although he was old for a rookie).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:21 PM
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527: In my school the boys would have "tent pitching" contests.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:21 PM
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As I recall, that's all the filmmaker could filmmake about as well.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:22 PM
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531: [Thread goes dormant while Netflix queues are updated.]


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:22 PM
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Pretty much everything in HSLack of control is uncool.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:22 PM
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You should start taking her in the women's room instead. Just tell people you're transsexual.

No, keep taking Iris in the men's room. Explain that she's transsexual.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:23 PM
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"She just wanted to get her ears pierced, but I said 'No son of mine is going to do something half-way'."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:25 PM
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When I worked in France, my company went on a company outing to Corsica, where we stayed at a hotel on the beach. I have to admit that my carefully cultivated air of nonchalance about seeing women aux seins nus was hard to maintain when some of my hott female colleagues sunned themselves. Fortunately, Fleur was there with me, so I had extra incentive to keep my jaw from gaping.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:25 PM
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Just take Iris to the men's room, and say it's the women's room, but everyone else is transsexual and preöperative.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:27 PM
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533: Definitely an element of that too - there was mockery if you didn't pull it off, but some boys had the ineffable trick of turning it into a status marker. So, it was cool and uncool, simultaneously, like so much of high school.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:28 PM
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518 -- Thanks, I didn't know that. I would probably be punched-in-the-nose. Is there an OK short hand term, or is "Transexual" it? We in the small frat boy Unfogged minority need help too sometimes!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:30 PM
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541: I generally found that what cool people did was cool, while what uncool people did led to them being mocked.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:34 PM
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See? In an asexual context, naked people are boring.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:38 PM
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542: I am so not sophisticated in trans politics, but I'm pretty sure polite usages are transman for FTM, transwoman for MTF, trans or transpeople for people generally. I don't think 'transsexual' is exactly offensive, but I think it might be awkwardly oldfashioned. I could be wrong about that last.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:38 PM
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542: In the interests of respect and the conventions of the left, I should add that the best spokespeople on trans issues are trans people, I am neither an expert nor trans, etc etc. However, in my experience it's pretty much always okay to say "trans man", "trans woman" "trans people". Usually best written that way rather than "transman". Some of the acronyms ("MTF" for male-to-female" and similar) are probably best avoided--and of course one would never use "MTF" or "FTM" as a noun.

I mean, also in my experience, if you're being pleasant and kind and use the wrong term people are usually pleasant and kind about asking you to use another one.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:43 PM
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437

... Kaus, after all, calls himself a Democrat, and he is accepted as one. ...

Really? For example :

And the thing is, Estrich is just a piker when it comes to being a fake Democrat. Let's see the master, Mickey Kaus, ...


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:43 PM
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Beaten, as it were, to the punch!


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:43 PM
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520: It took me several minutes to figure out what you meant by this.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:44 PM
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I guess it's time for me to re-mention my Pacific Islands friends (from Micronesia), who came from a place where toplessness was normal (except maybe at the capital, which is slightly international). After 5 or more years in the US, they started relating to boobs differently, and one guy had a potential embarrassment when his mother-in-law walked into the room.

He did say that back there, beautiful breasts are admired, the same way nice eyes, a nice complexion, or a pretty face are, but not in the extra special super duper way they are here. But they do have an exaggerated interest in women's legs above the knee, so a short skirt would be like a lowcut cleavage. A Micronesian woman wearing a bikini would be the equivalent of topless.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:45 PM
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516

The prospect of being mocked puts a pretty effective damper on sexual excitement, no? ...

Not always. There are guys who find being humiliated exciting. Being ruthlessly mocked as a teenage for involuntary erections would probably increase the number.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:47 PM
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Can we please keep Mickey Kaus out of the toplessness thread?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:49 PM
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531:Decent movie, if a little weird, and I don't remember LS' breasts as much as thinking that Rampling will probably beat Mirren in the contest for oldest sex symbol.

I can remember at least four movies in the last five years in which Rampling has played sexualized parts, the latest scene with Ewan MacGregor. She was 62.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:50 PM
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Thanks, Frowner+LB.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:51 PM
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i see no one took any notice of my gamechangingly brilliant "politics is performative (er in a different way)" takedown of the i-spy-kaus-in-the-locker-room analogy


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:54 PM
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KAUS OUT OF LOCKER ROOM PLEASE!!!!!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:55 PM
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520: "Straight" s/b "erect."

And "shorter" seems unkind.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:56 PM
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"I am inexplicably curious about nude forms that are unlike my own like mickey kaus, and whether this is a sexual feeling in myself, or hatred, I cannot tell"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:57 PM
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So, what's wrong with 481 (apart from terminolgy)? I'm not that wedded to it.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:58 PM
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556: When you are tired of thinking about Mickey Kaus in a locker room, you are tired of life.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 4:03 PM
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BACK OFF, PAL, HE'S MINE.


Posted by: OPINIONATED BILLY GOAT | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 4:16 PM
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Jeez, you blow a goat just one time and ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 4:27 PM
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559: Given that I've been arguing for sympathy and acknowledgment of the worries of people who feel like that, I'll take a stab at what's wrong with it.

If you say trans people can't use the locker rooms or bathrooms in public places for the gender they identify as, you close off use of those public places for them at all. If they use facilities for their gender-of-birth, they're doing something that's at the least very personally disturbing for them, and at worst puts them at real risk of violence. If they defy the rules, and use facilities for the gender they identify as, then if they get busted they're very likely at least publicly humiliated, and at worst at risk of being treated as sex criminals.

This is a huge deal, either way, for the trans people facing such restrictions -- the small disturbance to cis people who notice that they're sharing space with a trans person isn't comparable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:13 PM
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Man, reading quickly through what happened on this thread after my contributions waaaaay back, I'm struck by how close we're all coming to concern-trollism: "Of course I am okay with and polite to trans people, but there are so many people out there who have sincerely held concerns!" Will is right that the solution needs to be geared towards avoiding tragic arrests, but beyond that, I think we all need to get over our rigid categories. I would be sort of pruriently curious about a transwoman in the locker room, but I would also be sort of pruriently curious about a woman with a double mastectomy or a person with serious scarring.

As for the "oh my god, how we will prevent the perverts from sneaking in!" argument, I am really not persuaded. Perhaps first we can strength the prohibitions against intrusive photography in general---and actually make the penalties prohibitive. (Some of the stuff the paparazzi do seems to me to border on assault, for example, like sticking cameras under celebrities' skirts. All of that should be criminally prosecuted.) Then perhaps we could considering making it an offense to make a false claim of being trans for lecherous purposes.

Most of the harms people imagine in these debates should be addressed more seriously: If the gay guy in your platoon rapes you in the night, he will have committed felony rape and will be sent to jail; if a man sneaks into the ladies locker-room in order to leer at them and take pictures, he will have committed at the very least a form of sexual harassment and should be liable for a stiff fine and not ever be welcome again in the establishment. The transpeople, who are like .5% of the population, should be able to pee and change their clothes in peace where they want to, without all law and civilization crumbling around us.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:15 PM
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564

... If the gay guy in your platoon rapes you in the night, he will have committed felony rape and will be sent to jail; ...

Rumor has it rapists are sometimes hard to convict.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 6:59 PM
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I don't think that people are as rationally irrational as has been suggested. I don't think that people start with a specific fear, and then from that they derive the social policy. Instead, there are customs, and when the customs are threatened people the anxiety drives people to articulate a specific fear to justify the custom ex post facto.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:05 PM
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As far as helping children with washrooms, I wish that B were here to say that there should be more family rooms. Private toilet areas with a room for changing which are open to parents/carers of both sexes.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:16 PM
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The gay military rape is a pure red herring. There are lots of women in the military, and they'd be safer with more gay guys.

In all seriousness, the military rape situation, which is pretty bad already, would not be changed at all by gays or transexuals in the military.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:22 PM
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567: Why does B need to say it, when will already has? (See 172.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:23 PM
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Will can't be trusted, Oudemia. You know that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:28 PM
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Will needs them a lot more than most parents. For most parents, once your kid is out of diapers, it's not nearly as much of an issue.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:34 PM
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Wow, this thread is still perking along.

Something upthread made me think about the "It's Pat" sketch on Saturday Night Live. What I found so effective about it was how exquisitely it hit on the supreme discomfort that we [= most Americans in the 1980s, and probably now] have with gender uncertainty.

We're just really, really married (ha) to the binary categories, and it's going to take a lot of heavy lifting (which people are already doing, yay) to get beyond it.

I also remembered that I once went to a yoga class where there were two equivalently-sized (small) changing rooms. There were two guys in the men's and about 28 women in the women's. Talk about inefficient and stupid. Let there be two unisex rooms (or better, one big one) and let anybody who feels private about changing go into the single-user bathroom and close the door.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:35 PM
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Clearly, this nation needs a massive toilet and locker room expansion.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:36 PM
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572: But then you would have the problem of perverts taking yoga.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:39 PM
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I am frequently at the ball field flirting with nice ladies to try to get them to take my daughter to the bathroom.

"Hey sExY lady. Want to wipe my daughter's butt?"


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:39 PM
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Now that's some high-stakes flirting.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:42 PM
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Now that's some high-stakes flirting.

No doubt. I have to close the deal fast, as my daughter shouts "Bathroom!" with increasing urgency.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:45 PM
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Recognizing that women are disproportionately inconvenienced by public restrooms, I just pee outside, because I'm a feminist.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:53 PM
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Talk about inefficient and stupid. Let there be two unisex rooms (or better, one big one) and let anybody who feels private about changing go into the single-user bathroom and close the door.

So then you would have five people in the unisex changing room and 25 people lined up to use the bathroom.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:02 PM
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566: Instead, there are customs, and when the customs are threatened people the anxiety drives people to articulate a specific fear to justify the custom ex post facto.

I think this is right. When I was arguing for treating fears with respectful acknowledgment above, I was thinking of it sort of as salami tactics -- you take someone with an irrational anxiety who has articulated it as a set of specific fears, some insane and some reasonable (not that even the reasonable ones are the real motivation). And it seems to me that one way to persuade people like that is to address and answer their stated fears,accepting them at face value rather than looking past them to the real irrational anxiety. Once you've got someone who's committed themselves to the position that "I don't hate and fear trans people generally, I just have these rational safety fears about allowing genitally male people in women-only spaces", you can address the safety fears as being not inherently unreasonable, but still pretty insignificant.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:05 PM
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579: No, these are annoying* hippie yoga types. There wouldn't be a lot of privacy-oriented people, I'm guessing.

*Have I mentioned that I hate incense? And no, hate is not too strong a word.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:06 PM
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When their bladders exploded they'd see the light.

Portapotties are always unisex, and always stinky, and often filthy, and just barely private. Impending excretion is a powerful motivator.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:07 PM
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581: racist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:07 PM
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584

A professor on my hall likes to burn scented candles in his office. Scented candles! In his office! I would like to burn him.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:08 PM
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You know what you'd get in those big rooms. A whole bunch of transgendered critiquing one another's genitalia.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:09 PM
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So then you would have five people in the unisex changing room and 25 people lined up to use the bathroom.

This is so annoying at the university gym. There is a great locker room. Yet people use the one stall in the bathroom near the main exercise room to change, even though it's pretty clearly there so people can go to the bathroom, not for Gentle Darling's private change room.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:10 PM
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574, 579: Hold on now, you guys are playing the "Yes, But" game, aren't you?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:14 PM
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581: Incense during yoga is absurd. These alleged hippies are fake.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:17 PM
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So then you would have five people in the unisex changing room and 25 people lined up to use the bathroom.

Sometimes those situations seem to evolve toward the women's room being women only and the men's being fair game for women's use, which is probably fair enough.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:23 PM
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These alleged hippies are fake.

I bet we could get Unfogged's first 2000-comment thread out of the signs and signifiers for authentic as opposed to poseur hippiedom.

Except you and I would have comity, I think. The yoga people are not real hippies. They are annoying hippie types.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:24 PM
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585 is awesome.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:26 PM
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As far as helping children with washrooms, I wish that B were here to say that there should be more family rooms. Private toilet areas with a room for changing which are open to parents/carers of both sexes.

Eh. I don't use them when they're available, because I don't have any problem with taking Iris into the men's room with me. I mean, per my previous comment, that's starting to change, but it's changing because she's aging out of that need - it's one of those semi-awkward "oh, you're not a toddler anymore" things, like giving her a dessert fork for dinner or cutting her food for her.

The real benefit of family toilets is when you actually have the whole family - as in multiple kids - with you, and so you can corral everyone. And I'm pretty sure will is a big advocate as well. So I'm not saying they're pointless, but rather that the point doesn't have anything to do with the matter at hand (to put it clearly: bringing your toddler of whichever gender into the public bathroom/changing facilities with you shouldn't be noteworthy, just as trans people using the public bathroom/changing facilities of their identification shouldn't be noteworthy).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:26 PM
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Speaking of fake hippies, the Dead are playing in Charlottesville tonight.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:28 PM
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575: I think I already noted that when I sent Iris & her co-preschooler into the Penguins game women's room, the nice old lady in line behind them offered to keep an eye on them. But no bum-wiping was required, of course (I suspect it wouldn't have been pointless, but it wasn't actually necessary).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:30 PM
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I love the name Iris.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:34 PM
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I bet we could get Unfogged's first 2000-comment thread out of the signs and signifiers for authentic as opposed to poseur hippiedom.

It may be best to avoid any such thread.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:35 PM
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I really hate this argument. Mostly out of courtesy I just shut up. There's so much invested in it for the individuals, and it's none of my business.

Yeah, I know what you mean. The question of who really counts as Welsh just mystifies me, and I figure it's none of my business anyway.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:40 PM
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Don't talk to me about butt-wiping. The beloved grandnephew asks me to wipe him from time to time, and it's purely symbolic. He doesn't need wiping. Everything is better when you're four years old. The little bastard.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:44 PM
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These alleged hippies are fake really really high.

Fixed!

max
['He used to be a man, but now he is a Trans Am!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:45 PM
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592.---The other benefit is to give nursing mothers a quiet place out of the public hurly-burly.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:47 PM
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595: Thanks, will.

If we ever get you together with AB, you can play 6 Degrees of UVA '91 - I'm sure you knew people in common.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:52 PM
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598 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 8:54 PM
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The other benefit is to give nursing mothers a quiet place out of the public hurly-burly.

This is a significant benefit, yes.

However, I have to say that I wish things were different: I wish nursing mothers didn't need a family toilet (or any toilet at all) in order to feel comfortable in the act of feeding their children. When I was nursing, the only toilet I ever used to do so was the ladies' room on the 7th floor at Bloomingdale's: such comfy chairs! But at an airport or a shopping centre or whatever, no way would I go to the toilet to feed my child, I pretty much objected on principle, I guess. But I completely understand why so many nursing mothers feel the need to retreat to the toilet, since breastfeeding really is seen as something "improper" if not borderline "obscene" in this culture.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:18 PM
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Bave at 502: It turns out that nearly bare bodies are interesting to look at and mostly attractive; when I see the same people after they've put clothes on and are waiting to pay at the front desk, they look completely ordinary and unattractive.

I find this is exactly right, and have been thinking about it for a long time, ever since we first started going.

(a) When you see everyone with their clothes off, you aren't judging them based on whether you think you'd be in the same social groups (yuppie, hipster, hippie, dork, etc.) or not. So a much wider variety of people seem immediately accessible.

(2) Everyone is dripping wet and flushed. I tend to think I look a lot better with my hair dry, but, OTOH, naked wet people with their blood clearly pumping and gasping for air: hott.

(3) It's totally OK to stare. I thought I would hate this aspect of the Baths, since one of the key things to being in a comfortable space, as Heebie says above, is knowing that it's not a space of judgment or sexualization. And yet the Baths are a space of judgment and sexualization, and not in a dangerous way, and it turns out, it's totally great! (I embarrassed myself with my boss at the Baths yesterday by not being able to follow something she was saying as some knee-wobblingly gorgeous dude was shaving about five feet in front of me. When I explained my distraction, she was confused, apparently as someone who does not go for the knee-wobblingly gorgeous type.) In bars or whatever, I'm extremely self-conscious about looking at nice-looking guys because they act like they're somehow being de-hotted by my dumpy dorky gaze. At the Baths, no one seems to take offense.

(4) Yeah, it turns out we're all a lot more flexible sexually than we think we are. There are always stand-outs, but everyone, for some goddamn reason, is a lot more apparently sexually attractive in those gross shorts.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 9:52 PM
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Jesus fucking christ. Have all these people who are so horrified at the thought of running across a penis in a women's locker room never been in a locker room where people were actually changing in a relatively diverse area of the country? Because hoo boy, the things I see at my public pool.

You know, when people take their clothes off, you see all kinds of interesting things. Women have giant c-section scars (totally ordinary to some, but foreign to me). Some have only one boob. Some have giant floppy weird-looking breasts. Some have huge blue veins, some have bizarrely saggy butts. Some 70 year old ladies are shaved.

All this anxiety about transwomen in women's locker rooms is nothing more than transphobia, plain and fucking simple. It's pretty disgusting, and I really see no need to coddle the people who would make trans people have to have their own fucking bathroom by saying "oh, but I know you're scared, dear." Fuck you. So few of our bodies look "normal."

I love the locker room. It's fascinating.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:00 PM
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Seriously, the Tyranny of the Boner has truly triumphed when the thought of a penis is cause for such alarm.

What would we say to people with other body parts that we might not expect? Amputees? Those with deformed limbs? Third nipples? Shall we have those people get their own bathrooms, too?

No, no! That would be discrimination, you see. But people who look like and talk like and sound like women? But also have penises? HEAVEN FORFEND get me the smelling salts.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:04 PM
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606: Yellow card for using George Will's "forfend" word. No more warnings, lady.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:05 PM
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But I completely understand why so many nursing mothers feel the need to retreat to the toilet, since breastfeeding really is seen as something "improper" if not borderline "obscene" in this culture.

It's funny, I still feel a little resentful about this. With my friends, I could just nurse at the table if we went out to eat or on a bench in the park or, hell, on a few occasions (when she was still really tiny and light) while walking through the mall running errands. But in the presence of family? Straight to the restroom, because dear God was it clear that public nursing would not be approved.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:07 PM
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I have a theory that the taboo on public breastfeeding was an anti-immigrant policy, and that Americanizing immigrants were encouraged to bottle-feed. Whether it was already there in 1870 or so before the flood of immigrants, I don't know. Probably it was.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:13 PM
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I have a theory that the taboo on public breastfeeding was an anti-immigrant policy, and that Americanizing immigrants were encouraged to bottle-feed.

Oh yes. And then just the act of naturally instead of artificially feeding one's child became so shockingly taboo that a Hugh Hefner could come along and cheesily proclaim himself a sexual "revolutionary" or something just for revealing the flesh behind the definition of
"mammalian." So so tacky, and so laughably not emancipated, insofar as the (nudge nudge wink wink) revelation of the breast depended on the (naughty!) uncovering of what was supposed to be covered in the first place...


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:50 PM
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568

In all seriousness, the military rape situation, which is pretty bad already, ...

And it is bad because of the kind of thinking that says you don't have to worry about it because it is illegal.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 10:59 PM
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Going topless was only really normal behaviour here in the early to (maybe) mid-80s, I think.

Whereas at the same period the Germans hardly ever put any clothes on, but nobody made a big deal out of that.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 1:20 AM
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I know it's late to weigh in on the thread, but I'd like to write a few things as someone who has recently begun to identify as transgendered, and who is now pondering transition options. (The major limits in my case are medical. Auto-immune disorders are not the friend of extended hormone therapies, nor of surgery.)

First: There are more transgendered people than is generally recognized. The best current collection of data I know of is a 2001 paper by Lynn Conway, who finds that a simple tally of sex reassignment surgeries alone takes us very, very far beyond the conventional wisdom, and who goes on to take into account a bunch of other factors. Punchline: There is for sure at least 1:2500 TG people in the US, and likely somewhere upward from that to a plausible high end of about 1:500. Which is to say that pretty much all of you have crossed paths with transgendered people, most of whom are - just like me in real life - deeply closeted about it to almost everyone. And yes, those in transition tend to be very shy about situations where they can expect confrontations over their bodies; I've never yet met a TG who wanted to put themselves into such a situation until and unless they'd managed to fully complete surgical treatments. Which leads into...

#2. When transgendered people tell you "I'm transgendered", we are in general not asking you to take our word for it, not in real life situations like work and gym. On the net, sure, nobody knows if I'm a dog. But in local life, if I want to tell a boss or landlord or gym proprietor or whoever, I will be doing it backed up with literally years of effort. There are standards for counseling and treatment, and they are harsh and not fun. It's as long as graduate school, to pick an experience many readers here will know about. Multiple practitioners in different fields will have weighed in on my case with reference to a large body of other cases.

It's everyone's prerogative to believe that it's all bunk. I mean, I feel as strongly about the bogosity of some subjects as, say, John Emerson does about the mainstream of modern academic philosophy. But I don't think that someone who tells me they've got their Ph.D in philosophy is a philosopher by pure fiat assertion, nor that they just slouched into it. They didn't get to just say "I'm a philosopher and if you disagree you're a hater". At the point where I claim anything in real life as transgendered, it'll because I've worked hard and long to get that far, and am committed to more hard work.

In fact this is precisely what separates transgendered people from random drag-wearing creeps. Even TGs who aren't pursuing sex reassignment surgery are still getting care, treatment, and study. If one of us acts up, there are authorities you can report us to, and they can cut us off from further care, and we know it. I'm sure there is some trans person out there willing to run risks like that for ogling, but...not many, I don't think. One easy way to distinguish someone serious about their gender identity from the creep is precisely that with the creep, there's nothing there behind the claim.


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 3:29 AM
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*Have I mentioned that I hate incense? And no, hate is not too strong a word.

I don't like patchouli-type incense or whatever it is, but I really love (in small quantities) church incense. I didn't go tomy regular church this Easter, because the wait on Easter Sunday is over an hour, so I went to the Anglo-Catholic monastery, and the incense was very soothing. My BF thought that it was so thick that he couldn't see.

I spent a lovely Easter in Oxford one year, and the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin (which is not spiky at all) brought out the incense for Easter. That was just the right amount.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 5:00 AM
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Re: breastfeeding in public. All the people (fairly SWPL) I know who've done it recently have these little cloth things they carry to cover themselves up in public. That seems to be the way our culture is going.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 5:09 AM
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Thanks for your reflections Paige.

If one of us acts up, there are authorities you can report us to, and they can cut us off from further care, and we know it.

This is just so bizarre to me. I can't imagine calling up authorities or how one would do it. It sounds so fascist.

I did meet a very nice transwoman from Stanford biology who came to give a talk at my church. At my church, everyone accepts evolution, but I guess that California has enough of a certain type of evangelical that she's had students demonstrate against her teaching of evolution. She's a committed Episcopalian, so she decided to write a book about how some of the metaphors of the bible seemed to follow evolutionary theory. I thought that this was kind of a stretch, but she was very interesting. (Her specific example was the parable of the mustard seed.)

She'd also written a book about homosexuality in the animal kingdom and gave a talk about it which was sponsored by the GLBT group. There was some culture she visited (maybe in India) where there's long been a group of trans-dressing people. I guess that she was mentioning this, because there's a controversy about people getting it into their heads that they are transgendered only after they've met with therapists. (Johns Hopkins has a generally great psychiatry program, but their former chair was really opposed to transsexuality.)


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 5:22 AM
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Don't talk to me about butt-wiping. The beloved grandnephew asks me to wipe him from time to time, and it's purely symbolic. He doesn't need wiping. Everything is better when you're four years old. The little bastard.

Keep faith, Emerson. There may come a day when the wipers take revenge on the wiped.


Posted by: pain perdu | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 5:38 AM
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I think transphobia is for a lot of people not necessarily some horror about bodies, but is often expressed as a horror of bodies, when there's no confident statement on the part of leadership. Would the people with locker-room-type anxieties perhaps be showing less fear if their gym had a clear statement, along with the boilerplate "Breastfeeding is acceptable in public areas" thing, that said that this is a gym that welcomes, supports, and defends the rights of trans people to use the appropriate facilities?

I teach at a very religious women's college where a faculty member recently began transitioning, and the college handled it brilliantly, making it very clear that transpeople are to be treated with respect and dignity by students and other faculty members. And, to my knowledge, that has happened. Trans identity has been discussed in editorials in the student paper in ways that reflect the administration's position.

And it shouldn't need to happen just because suddenly, whoops, I guess we have to acknowledge this because of one person. The student I mentioned in 17 worked with a group to draft a recommended statement for companies and organizations that is just some basic boilerplate stuff about how they will recognize transpeople. It's easy to work that stuff in, distribute it to the community, and say, very undramatically (and preferably without a particular one or two people in mind--that is, not "we have all always liked Bob and we support Bob's decision," but "this is how we treat people") that it is company policy to recognize transpersons according to their identification.

That kind of legal boilerplate stuff can be very comforting in the face of fear or not knowing what to say or how to act. No one has to go rogue to police gender or bodies. It gives you something bland to say to people. When I worked at a bookstore that had very clear boilerplate on breastfeeding, it gave us something to say when someone complained about it happening. "Thanks for your concern, sir, but it is company policy that breastfeeding in public areas of our store is acceptable." You don't have to get all dramatic and personal about it as an employee. You don't have to empathize with the concerns of the complainer. It's just company policy.

Yes, a few people will still freak out or be assholes. But I feel like, for a lot of people, it's much more an issue of "I don't know how to respond to this." Getting back to the OP, sure, the endgame should be not needing to tell everyone that transpeople, as humans, should be treated with dignity, and of course they're subject to the same harassment policies as everyone else, but that their very existence does not count as harassment, but we're not yet to the point that we don't need those statements.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 5:51 AM
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When I worked at a bookstore that had very clear boilerplate on breastfeeding, it gave us something to say when someone complained about it happening. "Thanks for your concern, sir, but it is company policy that breastfeeding in public areas of our store is acceptable."

obviously in every specific case it makes things much easier, but I can't help thinking that the cumulative effect of boilerplateisation and deferral to corporate policies is pernicious.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:17 AM
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Jesus fucking christ. Have all these people who are so horrified at the thought of running across a penis in a women's locker

Yet, if we were to change the topic and discuss women who had suffered some kind of abuse, would you say that they were unreasonable in not wanting to have penises around them when they were naked?

Has anyone in this thread really taken the position that the transgendered are less than human or not deserving of rights? Or that the process is one that people do not enter into lightly?

For me, the issue that comes to mind is the legal one. A client with a penis walks in the door after being charged with going into the women's locker room. Or a client is banned from a gym bc of some similar locker room issue.

I still have not received a good response to the question of what should be done when a someone who appears to, maybe, have a penis is in the women's locker room. I think that the response "suck it up, lots of people look differently" is overly glib and the response that "not many men will sneak in the locker room" is naive.

It seems to me that almost all of the people on Unfogged would agree with the issue of acceptance mentioned by AWB regarding the faculty member.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:30 AM
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THis thread has been weird.

Some people are perhaps debating what the rules should be in the best of all possible worlds.

I think in practice, in public settings where a transgender person should refrain from showing themselves naked for other's sake, they'll do it anyway for their own sake (if nothing else).

Old ladies can't be expected to know about transgender people, therefore trans women who have cocks shouldn't undress in front of unknown old ladies, IMHO.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:40 AM
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"Old ladies can't be expected to know about transgender people, therefore trans women who have cocks shouldn't undress in front of unknown old ladies, IMHO."

And I would presume they as a matter of fact don't.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:41 AM
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Old ladies can't be expected to know about transgender people

Surely there can't be any significant number of mentally functional adults in America who are unfamiliar with the existence of sex change operations.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:46 AM
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If someone with a penis turns up in locker room for the general public, it won't occur to many people it might be a a transgender woman.

I spoke too categorically, but in general staying away from locker rooms is reasonable.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:53 AM
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623: No, but they put it in in the category of Things That People I'll Never Encounter Do In Foreign Countries.

There are still (millions of) people in this country who think they don't know anyone who's gay.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 6:57 AM
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Will: Is this a valid hypothetical? Is there any real reason to suspect that it may ever come up?

Look back at Bostoniangirl's posts, for instance. The transitioning of someone in her office was not a secret. There was some advance notice and time for complaints to be heard and all like that. That's how it's done. There are organizations of TG people and of those who work with them, who provide advice and support about this stuff. TG people don't fly solo.

In practice, the women who use a gym or other locker room regularly would be told that a trans woman wishes to use the facility. There'd be discussion about what it takes for their concerns about their safety to be honored. (Because women are damn right to be concerned about their safety in public places. It's an unsafe world, and women need places where the guards can come down some without it being an invitation to trouble.) The outcome could vary all kinds of ways. Lots of things can work if it suits the people affected.

What it WOULDN'T be is "Say hello to my little friend!" without warning. And I'd really want to know of actual instances to the contrary that don't turn out to involve straightforward features like guys with a history of exposure or attempted rape.

Bostoniangirl: What I mean is, a trans person who gets in trouble with the cops is at risk of suspended transitioning, insofar as it involves medical authorization. Doctors of all kinds involved in the transition process can say, hey, look, you're not stable enough for this, and that's one justification available.

Dsquared: My own take on the general versus personal from living with immune problems is that I like both. It's good to acknowledge the particular people who'll be affected right here and now and to make it clear that this'll apply in the future even when we're not around or needing that particular help anymore. It's like teaching with handouts and lectures - whatever it takes in the way of reasonable effort to reach folks who learn in different ways.


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:02 AM
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I suppose if there were large signs saying transgender folks are welcome to use the locker rooms of their chosen sex, it would be different.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:07 AM
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"In practice, the women who use a gym or other locker room regularly would be told that a trans woman wishes to use the facility."

Right, I'm only talking about locker rooms without regular users.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:08 AM
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I mean, with large numbers of non-regular users.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:09 AM
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David: Any trans woman who took her own safety seriously would be thinking about that, and trying to work with the gym's owners and regulars to find an appropriate solution. Transgendered people are murdered at 17 times the rate for the nation as a whole, and subjected to violence of non-lethal intensity more commonly than most minority groups. I'm not denying the possibility that somewhere out there is a trans woman who figures she can just go take her chances and never you mind, she's got the fortitude and spirit to make it all work out. But it's not the norm. It's not what you'd expect to find any trans woman doing.

It is very much what you'd expect to find a guy using a trans claim as cover doing, right alongside the guys who don't do that and just dress up a bit in drag to peep or select assault and rape victims.


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:17 AM
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Paige, thanks for weighing in. (And I've been worrying a bit about the positions I've been arguing -- I don't think I'm being a jerk, quite, but arguing for sympathy and acknowledgment for people who want to enforce bigoted rules is awfully close to sympathizing with the bigoted rules themselves. If I am being a jerk, I'd appreciate your giving me a hard time.)

I think will and I are seeing the same problems because we're looking at the situation as lawyers who get called in when things have broken down very badly, so we go straight to the "what happens when people behave badly" problem. Almost any set of laws and customs works fine when people are being reasonable -- you only need the rules to control the situation when you've got people being jerks (which is the point, d2, of deferring to corporate policies. When everyone's being reasonable, you don't need the sign that says breastfeeding's allowed -- you only need it when some idiot desk clerk decides she wants to push people around.)

In the current trans-unfriendly state of affairs as I understand it, you have spaces for cis women only, that trans women may be able to negotiate the use of or not on an individual basis but where any cis woman who wants to has an effective veto on the trans woman's use if she says she's uncomfortable. Trans women end up effectively dependent on being regarded and treated individually with respect by every person they encounter, which is a lousy position to be in; there are enough jerks out there that you just can't depend on not encountering any.

Laws that would ensure that trans women had access to women-only spaces seemed tricky to me but after Paige's 613 maybe not. I was envisioning a breakdown around 'creepy behavior' in both directions: assholes in drag making women's locker rooms threatening for the women in there, and arguing that they hadn't been doing anything wrong when confronted, and bigots harassing trans women by claiming that they were behaving inappropriately (in both cases, subtle stuff like staring) when they weren't. The problem is that stuff like 'looking at me funny' can be either all in the viewer's head, or significantly threatening, depending on the identity of the starer.

If it would be practical to distinguish trans women from men-in-skirts-for-the-day on the basis of ID or something; a letter from a doctor, I don't know what would be sensible, that would make laws mandating trans access to women-only spaces a lot more workable. Truly 'invisible perverts' are, as everyone said, not a problem. People who were visibly disturbing the other patrons either because they were jerks invading women's spaces for harassment or, on the other hand, because the patrons were bigots disturbed by the mere presence of trans women could be sorted out on the basis of ID -- cis men being abusive could be expelled, banned, or whatever, and trans women attracting hostility from bigots could demonstrate their right to be in a women-only space.

I think that'd solve the real legal problems will sees. I'm a little edgy about any solution that requires people to be able to produce their papers when their rights are questioned, but I don't see a better solution.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:19 AM
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Best of luck, Paige.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:21 AM
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Paige:

I think they are valid hypotheticals, unless you assume that all transgendered people are going to very small gyms/locker rooms with the same regular people.

If the transgendered never venture out without complete disclosure and agreement with the gym management, then it isn't a valid hypothetical and the entire conversation doesn't matter.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:25 AM
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Huh. That last screed of mine crossed with a bunch of posts. I was naively thinking of any solution that wouldn't allow a trans woman to use a public locker room without prior negotiation as insufficient. But certainly, if that's sufficient all that's required is a set of legal norms and social norms forbidding managements from excluding people actually known to them to be trans women from women-only spaces.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:25 AM
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"I'm not denying the possibility that somewhere out there is a trans woman who figures she can just go take her chances and never you mind, she's got the fortitude and spirit to make it all work out."

I don't think it's a problem. Some people on this thread seemed to take a very absolutist line, or at least weren't clear about what they were arguing. I don't feel I'm disagreeing with you about anything.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:27 AM
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Thanks, CharleyCarp.

LizardBreath: I think thinking about breakdown conditions and responses is really important. Blithe optimism is the enemy of a whole lot of important things. So no problem there.

Understand that I'm a noob to a lot of this myself still. You'd find a HELL of a lot more experience someplace like Questioning Transphobia or Pam's House Blend. Their archives are worth poking around in, to see what actual history there is.

I needed to use a wheelchair for a year and change when I first manifested what was later identified as porphyria, back when I was a teenager, in pre-ADA days. Accommodation for handicapped access then was a lot like accommodation for trans people now, a hodge-podge of speculation and individual cases, out of which grew a well-anchored set of standards.


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:30 AM
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I agree completely with 631 and 632.

Watching the movie "Normal" with Tom Wilkinson was painful for me. Such immense struggles. Such hurdles. Such pain.

I hope things go as smoothly as possible, Paige.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:33 AM
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Will: Well, like I said, I don't know of it ever actually coming up. There are a goodly number of trans women out there. If any significant fraction of them were inclined to displaying themselves au natural without any effort to inform or accommodate those around them in places like locker rooms, it seems likely that we'd be hearing about it. But I don't find reports of it, where reports of exhibitionist and rape-minded guys are easy to find. I don't think it's disrespectful to tell people, "I can understand your fears here, and thank you for being upfront about them, but the fact is that this just doesn't happen."


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:36 AM
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Will: There's this, even as much of a noob as I am...it feels a lot better to be looking at steps to take that will get me to a condition I can live happily in than to be wrestling through another year's worth of depression and body horror. It's exactly the difference between physical therapy and going around with an untreated illness.


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:39 AM
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620
I still have not received a good response to the question of what should be done when a someone who appears to, maybe, have a penis is in the women's locker room. I think that the response "suck it up, lots of people look differently" is overly glib and the response that "not many men will sneak in the locker room" is naive.

I think you haven't received a good response because it's a more pragmatic and therefore less interesting question than the rest of the discussion. I mean, ISTM like a time-place-manner thing. Does the person actually have a penis or just "appears to, maybe" have one? Is the person discreetly going about their business or luxuriating in the public shower? Is it a one-time event, a repeat offender, or several different offenders? Is the location in question (you said locker room, but what we're talking about is almost as relevant to restrooms and any other unisex place) in a hospital or private fitness center or YWCA or private business or what?

In the maximally-bad case, I'd support the person getting arrested for indecent exposure whether they're sincerely a transgendered person or not. For example, a person who frequently uses the hypothetical locker room of a rape counseling shelter, despite repeated requests not to. In the minimally-bad case, if the policy doesn't accomodate them, then the policy is probably wrongheaded. (And as for what to do about that, again, it depends. Maybe a lawsuit, maybe a boycott, maybe quietly recognizing that the institution should have the right to have exclusionary policies if it wants, maybe that doesn't come to mind right away.) For example, a reasonably civil newcomer to the restroom of fitness center with no well-advertised policy on it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:50 AM
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which is the point, d2, of deferring to corporate policies. When everyone's being reasonable, you don't need the sign that says breastfeeding's allowed -- you only need it when some idiot desk clerk decides she wants to push people around

my point was that the cumulative effect of this is to put an awful lot of power in the hands of some idiot at corporate centre, who gains a tool that can be used to push people around all over the country.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:56 AM
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Continuing my theme of "see what's already going on", this post at Questioning Transphobia on three cases involving categorization may be useful as well as interesting.


Posted by: Paige Morrow | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:57 AM
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Adding to 640, I don't have any problem believing Paige's claim that the maximally-bad case is nonexistent, or so rare as to not be worth worrying about. Also, in the second-to-last sentence, " maybe that doesn't come to mind" s/b "maybe something else that doesn't come to mind."

619
obviously in every specific case it makes things much easier, but I can't help thinking that the cumulative effect of boilerplateisation and deferral to corporate policies is pernicious.

I don't know about that. I see what you mean, it would be a better world if more people were in the habit of thinking themselves and bucking authority. But I don't see how providing explicit, consistent corporate policies that do respect the individual make that world any less likely.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 7:58 AM
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643 before I saw 641, which I think makes things clearer. 641 looks like federalism, if you'll forgive the analogy. As far as tools to push people around go, idiots at (corporate centres/Washington, DC) are often the lesser evil.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 8:05 AM
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Using corporate rules as a tool to make life easier for trans people strikes me as one of the least pernicious uses of corporate rules ever.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 8:08 AM
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641: Yeah. I like the centralization of policy in areas where the policy I like is, I think, popular with a majority but not an overwhelming majority of people -- say there's 80/20 support for allowing women to breastfeed whereever they need to. If you leave it up to individuals, that gives free rein to the 1 in 5 idiots. Under a centralized system, 4 out of 5 the initial decision-maker gets it right, and when they get it wrong, everyone notices and does something to change it (one would hope).

Where the good policy doesn't have majority support, decentralization is better, but still won't do much good.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 8:11 AM
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||
This is hilarious. Anti-SSM legislator in New York is now afraid that teh gay might contaminate a news cycle:

As Mr. Paterson was announcing plans to introduce the legislation on Thursday morning, Mr. Díaz gathered with other Hispanic clergy leaders in the Bronx to object to the governor's proposal. Mr. Díaz has said that he was especially troubled by the timing of the governor's announcement, which came so close to the installation of the new Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan.

|>


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 9:18 AM
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BTW, this adds artistic verisimilitude to some stuff people were talking about upthread.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 10:59 AM
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This story really hits home for me. It's by a trans woman activist who got arrested along with another trans woman at an anti-war demo back in 2003. It hits home partly because I've been in big demos and gotten pepper-sprayed in the face helping someone I didn't particularly like (which in no wise is as serious as the experience of the writer), partly because I know a little about how scary and unbounded, impossible to predict, those situations can be, and how wild with terror I would have been in the writer's shoes.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-16-09 5:30 PM
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I just had a look at transphobia, the blog. The first post was a criticism of bitchphd's treatment of a trans-related joke.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-17-09 5:42 AM
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Yeah, it was....to tell the truth, I was disappointed to see that joke up there. Honestly, I'm humor-impaired and I'm not really sure what the punch line is supposed to be. I know that if people aren't really up on trans issues it's not something they would neccessarily know, either, but the joke carries creepy echoes of the "panic defense" to me--the way that some men have murdered trans women and justified it (and even been acquitted) because it was just that scary to think find out that someone was trans. I know that's not in the joke, but the joke reminds me of it.

Partly because I get hassled for various failures of gender conformity myself, I really really hate jokes that hinge on "so and so looks like a man". You know, there are people on this earth who have thought I looked like a man and felt that they were therefore entitled to be assholes. It wasn't wildly amusing.

I was thinking about this---those of us who are not trans and not especially active on gender issues but who don't gender conform owe all these activists a huge debt. There is a lot more space for all of us because people (like, for example, some of the transgender activists of the late fifties and early sixties) were out there, living honestly dangerous and difficult and underappreciated lives. Silvia Rivera, a trans woman radical leftist who was simply amazing and who isn't very well known on the cis side of the radical left, for example. I can live my life much more as I see fit because those people have been out there, working and fighting. That deserves a lot better than "I can't get it up with a trans woman because she's really a man, hur hur" jokes.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 04-17-09 9:30 AM
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