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Newsletter - December 2008

DECEMBER 6, 2008 PROGRAM

We will have our Holiday Buffet on December 6 at the usual time and location. Admission will be $20.00 per person. While many people probably can come at the earliest at 8:00 p.m., our usual meeting time, some of us will probably start eating earlier if desired. So there should be plenty for those who cannot come until 8:00 p.m., but since it is a buffet, people can start early, at least 7:30 p.m. if not earlier than that.

We can access the room early and two individuals have volunteered to go to the front desk, ascertain in which of several rooms the buffet will be held, obtain the key and open up. Decorating and set up should really be in full swing by 4:00 p.m. if not earlier. Check at the front desk. Food preparation by some individual members will probably be in swing at this time, if not before, as was the case last year.

Diners are not required to bring food, but we certainly welcome participants who do. The support group will provide some basics as in the past, but all sorts of dishes are welcome. We will have Sterno cans for steam tables and I believe there is a microwave oven on the premises. Contact the web mistress (though the main link-both she and I receive all messages sent through it) as to what is still needed-or just bring your own recipes. IF YOU HAVE SPECIAL DIETETIC REQUIREMENTS, SUCH AS FOR VEGETARIAN DISHES OR FOOD FOR DIABETICS, OR YOU ARE SUBJECT TO RELIGIOUS DIETARY RESTRICTIONS, ASSUME WE DO NOT HAVE THE PROPER FOODS AND THAT WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT YOUR NEEDS. IN SUCH CASE, EITHER LET US KNOW OF YOUR NEEDS IN ADVANCE OR BRING SUITABLE DISHES YOURSELF.

Of course we can stay until sometime Sunday morning. This we cannot do at our regular meeting site. If someone wishes to stay overnight in the changing room, we can offer a reduced overnight rate. Generally most if not all of us want to get out somewhere near our regular time. This in addition to price is one great advantage of the buffet, as we discovered last year. When we went to restaurants, the staff could indeed take their time in serving us, but we really could not stay very long after finishing. It became apparent in last year's Holiday Buffet and this year's May Buffet that we can largely wait upon ourselves at our own rate and then sit around and talk as long as we want, way into the evening. Drinks of course are extra, but people may simply go get them from the bar. While restaurants will permit patrons to take home unfinished portions in doggie bags, it is hard to beat some to the leftovers we have had in the past.

There is one aspect of the buffet that some enjoy while others may not. Gender stereotypes are receding, but for many women, dinner is a do it yourself affair. If you want someone else to fix dinner with all the trimmings, like guys, really, restaurants will be delighted to accommodate you-at their prices (more than twice and in some times thrice ours), on their schedule, and give you the boot when you are done. But for only $20.00, New Jersey Support Group Holiday and May Buffets offer participants the opportunity to dine and recreate at their own pace as well as to work side by side with women in getting dinner.

Holiday functions of regional transgender organizations are listed under upcoming programs.

THE NOVEMBER 1, 2008 MEETING

Before the meeting, seven of us had dinner at Bowman's restaurant before the meeting. We all had a great time. We plan to have pre-meeting dinners at Bowman's in the future. We intend to stay with Bowman's so that members will all know where to go and when. The next dinner at Bowman's is planned before the February 7, 2009 meeting. Consult the webmistress, who will be arranging the pre-meeting dinners.

Unfortunately, it was not possible for our scheduled program speaker, Betty Ajamian, to come give her program due to traffic conditions. She has graciously agreed to present it at our January meeting. This gave us the opportunity to talk about numerous issues. Questions regarding meeting premises are currently under negotiation. Nonetheless there were some issues not openly discussed which might need airing.

The NOW chapter in which I participate recently notified members that meeting attendance was low. It got results. The NOW chapter consists largely of women. I have been told that my disclosure of low attendance and the financial effects thereof has driven members away from our support group. I guess the expression, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," can be interpreted in various ways. I used to think that it meant that the tough pitch in and help, not exit fast.

But to say a few things on the newsletter, first, I am the president, the support group leader, not the secretary. Somebody should keep records of what goes on at meetings and of the topics covered in the open forum, just like we need a written treasurer's report every month. I need some assistance.

Second, someone should help with basic recording to leave my hand free to write a support group newsletter. I hate to say this myself, but "Coming Transgender Attractions" brought many favorable comments about our group. I do not have time to duplicate my efforts then. It took me three days a week to write that column. Now I would probably not have the time to run through TV Guide listings to find transgender-relevant movies. But I could still review transgender-relevant films, plays, literature and the like. And I also should have the time to research and update Portia's Legal Page, and to finish my history of transgenderism in New Jersey.

Third, transgenderism is in need of a more cultural newsletter like "Coming Transgender Attractions." There is too much science fiction in transgenderism today. The talk is of hormones and surgery, but nothing about the fact that a sex change is a fiction. So all talk of fiction is silenced. I am sure that premenopausal women would love it if vaginal sex came without menstruation and the chance of becoming pregnant. For women, vaginal sex comes with experiences which transwomen can never have. So a sex change is just one fiction. A cultural newsletter, yes involving humanities scholarship as well as other approaches to transgender history and culture, is needed to present all forms of alternative transgender fictions to permit reasoned decisions. It is regrettable if only a small minority is interested in this. I have not been reading transgender periodicals to the extent that I used to. But I have the impression that little work is being done on these topics.

Fourth, we need a cooperative attitude. Back when I was writing "Coming Transgender Attractions," if I was unaware of some cultural function, I met the reproach that, "You know nothing of film," or the like. If you learn of some cultural event I do not write up, tell me about it. Or even better, write it up yourself and submit the review. I never claimed to be omniscient. Were those who criticized me for not being omniscient themselves omniscient?

Lastly, transgenderism is controversial. We should be able to take debate without anger. Furthermore, what appears to be negative to one person may not appear such to another. We need to be able to take criticism from outside the community-and to engage in self-criticism.

Look, it is good we are getting together outside of meetings. In November we had the dinner at Bowman's, and after many years of talking about it, at last four of us went to the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Princeton. While I am not saying the state is perfect and without flaws, transgenders in New Jersey are spoiled. We have some of the strongest anti-discrimination, anti-bullying and hate crime protection in the nation. Exercising these rights will lead to greater freedom and choices. But emancipation will not be the work of furtive loners. It may be a long way off, after many of us now present are gone, that transgenders will enjoy here the respect they did in some societies. But if transgenders in this state ever do come to enjoy such status, it will bring with it social obligations.

RECENT EVENTS

Four members of the support group, including myself, attended the National Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration sponsored by GRAANJ at the Princeton University Chapel. The extinguishing-relighting of candles ceremony for each hate crime victim within the last year was quite moving. The chapel and its organ are an imposing setting for such a memorial. Unfortunately there was an arrest during the service. I doubt the full story will ever be known, but apparently it was based either upon a protective order or some sort of outstanding warrant against a transman. The state and campus police handled the matter well-if, that is, the matter could not have waited until after the service. I wonder why it could not. Absent clarification on this issue, if such a thing ever happens to me while I am standing in the sanctuary of a church, atheist or not, I will invoke the historical appeal to sanctuary, if for no other reason than to embarrass the police if they could wait until afterwards.

Dinner and a Movie turned into Dinner and No Movie on November 29 when a water main break forced the cinema to close. We retired to a familiar tavern.

UPCOMING PROGRAMS

JANUARY 3, 2009

Betty Ajamian of Artistry Cosmetics will give the program originally scheduled for November 1, 2008. She speak on adapting makeup to changes in the weather (for example, when to wear a thicker moisturizer layer and when to wear more foundation), adapting colors to the seasons, and color coordination. Betty and her assistant will be available for drape color coordination. Her approach to color coordination is similar to the older Mary Kay theory based on warm and cool colors, but she will include eye color as well as skin tone. Mary Kay representative Roberta Meluskey last conducted a drape color coordination session in 1999.

No dinner before the meeting is planned for January. It follows too closely upon New Year's.

FEBRUARY 7, 2009

The Rev. Alison Boden, Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University, will speak on the position of the United Church of Christ toward transgenderism. Several clergy of this denomination signed petitions in favor of transgender non-discrimination in 2006. Ms Boden gave the invocation and the closing prayer at the National Transgender Day of Remembrance Service held on November 20, 2008 at the Princeton University Chapel.

This meeting will be preceded by a dinner at Bowman's. Contact the webmistress who is handling all premeeting dinner arrangements.

Program speakers are needed on the following topics. In some transgender organizations, the program chair person is someone other than the president. Please assist if you can:

Transgender health care without pressure either go undergo sex reassignment surgery or to refrain from transgenderism. Should be offered by a physician who is not transgendered and who does not specialize in transition medicine.

A PFLAG presentation. I have not received a response from one chapter I contacted.

The OASIS program of the Episcopal Church. Many clergy I have called and chatted with, but none has been willing to come. This may be due to the fact that we meet in the Diocese of New Jersey, which at least in this area, is reputed to be somewhat conservative, while clergy who support transgenders and other sexual minorities are more likely to be found in the Diocese of New Jersey and in Eastern Pennsylvania. It may also be due to the effects of the split off of some conservative dioceses. Nevertheless, 45 Anglican clergy signed the petition for transgender non-discrimination, more than any other, and I am not giving up.

HOLIDAY BANQUETS FOR OTHER REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:

Ladies Night Out will be hold its December gathering on December 13, 2008 at the Inn Phillips Mill north of New Hope, PA. There will be a chat at 6:30 and dinner at 7:30. Consult Emily Platt through the link provided on the Calendar of Entertainment Events page.

On December 20, 2008, the Saturday Night Regulars, Sigma Nu Rho, will hold its Christmas Party at the Main Street Manor in Flemington, New Jersey. Admission is $60.00. Reservations required. Contact Pat or the SNR website.

It would be great if someone could write up events like Ladies Night Out, East and West and post them on the Calendar of Entertainment Events, or submit the writeups for posting to the webmistress or myself. We should also be posting other types of events, such as programs given by regional transgender organizations at regular meetings. We also need to post special events and educational functions. If you would be interested in researching and writing up such events, or simply reporting what you happen to learn of, contact the webmistress or myself.

HOLIDAY DOLDRUMS

It has been remarked that some of my recent newsletters have shown anger. This was not intended. In fact, I really was not aware of it. This year I received neither a Thanksgiving nor a Christmas invitation. It irritated me. This Thanksgiving, I went to Longwood Gardens. I had a good time there and intend to spend Christmas Day there. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas. Longwood Gardens might not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you normally would spend any December holiday with someone else and you will be alone, keep in mind that many more places are open on such days than in previous years. While it is too bad that institutions such as Rainbow Mountain are no longer open on Thanksgiving to provide a place to go for sexual minority members who otherwise would spend the holiday alone, it is easy to understand why the employees of this resort and similar facilities want the day off to spend the holidays with their families. But if you are going to be alone, look around. Had I not discovered Longwood Gardens, I was planning to go to a movie. It used to be that most such places were closed on major holidays. Possibly the fact that they are now open is due to the fact that there are many people who do not celebrate Christmas or even Thanksgiving for religious-ethnic or other reasons. Or maybe some people do not have invitations. But take advantage of the fact that they are open. Do not sit home alone and become depressed. Now I have a frequent visitor pass at Longwood Gardens, and I told them of Jennie and could have gone there as Jennie. Instead I chose to simplify matters and go as Jim. But if you either cannot or will not out unless en femme, and it could cause problems if you do go out en femme, perhaps transgenders without invitations could simply get together. Simple meals and if desired a low budget Polyanna should suffice, as having company is what is important. If people are interested, the Support Group might be able to help organize one this year, but surely next year. We could do the same for next Thanksgiving.

Happy Holiday, whichever you celebrate, and a Happy New Year.

Jennifer Mae Barnes, President

December 1, 2008