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Newsletter - January 2008

JANUARY 2008 NEWSLETTER

Support Group member Grace Goode will give a presentation on transgenderism in the Hindu Vaisnava poets of India at our regular meeting on January 5, 2008. This meeting will be held at our regular site. In some religions, transgenders were not just tolerated. Transgenderism was part of the religious experience. In Bengal (currently divided into West Bengal, a Hindu province in India, capital city Calcutta, largest democratically Communist government in the world, and Bangladesh (literally Bengal), East Bengal, a Moslem nation, capital Dhaka), medieval male Vaisnava poets became brides of Krishna, who ministered unto the goddesses Durga and Kali. For information on the Vaisnava elsewhere in India and on transgenderism as part of the ritual in other cultures, see Grace's website www.transpiritual.com for more details.

Remember that annual 2008 membership dues will be collected at the January 5, 2008 meeting.

DECEMBER 2007 BUFFET

Despite everything working against it, the Holiday Buffet must be considered a success. Of course, this would not have been possible had not our vice president, Pat, donated the changing room. Our thanks go to her. We are going to try it again, this time with more advance notice and hopefully better participation. A family feeling prevailed at the buffet, and it was nice not only to dress up as women, but to act like women in setting up and preparing the buffet. Our thanks go to all those who helped in organizing, purchasing and preparing the buffet.

MEMORIAL

Member Joyce Dolan died of cancer on November 28, 2007. A memorial service for her is planned on Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Luke's Church [NOTE CHANGE IN TIME AND CHURCH] on 13th Street between Spruce and Pine Streets in Philadelphia. (WATCH FOR UPDATES!!!) We held a moment of silence for Joyce at the December Buffet. I am posting a memorial for Joyce based upon biographical information she composed herself, graciously provided by Sharon Paige of the William Way Center in Philadelphia. We did not provide such information the last time a chapter member died, namely Jessica Mitgaard on the March 2003 meeting date. It has been our tradition simply to hold a moment of silence. We hope in the future to be able to provide biographical information as below where it is available.

Joyce Dolan

Joyce was employed in New York City at the World Headquarters of United Press International as a Newsman in Picture Operation, spent two years in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, then worked at CBS Radio Network News.

In television, Joyce worked for CBS News doing the CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite, and with Don Hewitt in the early days of the 60 Minutes Weekly News Magazine broadcasts.

From there Joyce became the manager of a large commercial color processing lab, only to become the owner of businesses in advertising, photo graphics, and graphic arts, in both the domestic and international marketplace.

Joyce was an active member of the Renaissance Transgender Education Association King of Prussia, Center City Philadelphia, Washington Crossing, and Wilmington, Delaware chapters. She was also an active member of Sigma Nu Ro of the Tri-Ess Transgender Association, and a member of both DignityUSA, and Dignity Philadelphia, sectarian LGBT groups.

Joyce also participated in groups and events held by, and was associated with, the Transgender Health Action Coalition of Philadelphia, the Transgender Programming Committee of the William Way LGBT Community Center, and was a member of the William Way LGBT Center.

"I feel it is important for the transgender community to help newcomers and to dispel the myths and prejudices towards, and surrounding, trans-people and trans interests. I feel strongly about supporting others in the transgender community and began cross-dressing at about age 60 myself. Cross-dressing is an open display of who I am; I live as a woman 25 to 30 % of the time."

UPCOMING PROGRAMS

FEBRUARY 2008

Former member Lee Ann Etscovits will give a presentation entitled, "The Transgender Journey: An Experimental Roadmap" at our meeting on February 2, 2008. Ms Etscovits, a post operative transsexual psychotherapist, has spoken to the group before on her poetry and on therapy. She authored the column, "Making Sense of it all" in the Renaissance newsletter Renaissance News and Views. This the first visit by a psychotherapist in several years, possibly the last since a program by Aviva Nubel, R.N. back in 2002.

MARCH 2008

Alan H. Schorr, Esq, of Alan H. Schorr & Associates, PC, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has agreed to speak on civil rights litigation at our meeting on March 1, 2007. Mary Ellen Burns, an associate with his firm, is representing me in a housing discrimination case. She may speak in his place if Mr. Schorr cannot attend. With the coming of transgender anti-discrimination into force on June 17, 2007, a transgender is faced with the choice of pursing an anti-discrimination case though the New Jersey Civil Rights Division or through a private attorney.

APRIL 2008

Cerise Richards, M.D. will speak at our April 5, 2008 meeting on Brain Gender and Identity, followed by a power point presentation on Why we are who we are. Ms Richards, a cross dresser, is a former medical school professor and surgeon who has retired to New Hope, PA. She authored the column "Trans-World Med," discussing medical issues, in the Renaissance magazine Transgender Community News. This program is part of a series of talks designed to acquaint members with area physicians. Unlike Drs. O'Connor and McGinn, Dr. Richards is a cross dresser-and retired.

MAY 2008

Rental chair Jane Shafer has led me to believe that we will be regularly meeting offsite in May and December (sounds like a civil union or marriage, almost) due to church activities. Of course, we can handle the situation on May 2, 2008 exactly as we are handling it for December 1, 2007. But if members wish to do something a little different, might I raise the following issues?

First, how many people can we realistically expect to come? We need greater attendance not only at banquets but at regular meetings if we are going to survive financially. I am not able or willing to subsidize the Support Group in the manner of SNR. We cannot even think of firehouses unless we can get at least 30 diners, formerly possible, at present way out of sight.

Second, do members feel "socially accepted" only if they dine at a highly priced restaurant in rather formal attire? I started dining out en femme in 1999. I do not feel a need to legitimatize myself when I appear en femme in public. In fact, though the exquisite food has been enjoyable, I became skeptical of the prices a while ago. But I really wonder if this has been the source of some complaints about Diamond's-and more recently why some felt uneasy about dining out at the Town and Country Diner. I was trying to help members by staying at Diamond's for as long as I could where we could obtain good food at reasonable prices in a good atmosphere with excellent service without having to rent changing rooms. Was this a mistake? Do members feel a need to pay a lot so as to appear to fit in with the wealthy and educated? Some of us are educated, some not, but a lot of us face employment discrimination. In other words, I am trying to ask if we could eat at an establishment like the Town and Country Diner in May. Is there a danger of being recognized, or is it rather we who might have to accept that we are not so economically well off by eating there, and we feel uncomfortable there for that reason?

Third, can members live with restaurant policies which permit the eating establishments to offer superior food at lower prices? I refer to the problem of latecomers. Most restaurants which offer low prices will do so only if they receive full diner's lists in advance. If we cannot abide by these rules, we should be prepared to pay-through the nose.

Lastly, are members willing to help and cooperate in setting up the May banquet? When I joined NOW, they immediately offered me work on the Program Meeting Set Up Committee. Ever see the movie Jungle Fever where the males (Italian) just sit around until the woman of the family comes home to fix supper. Just sit around helplessly. If we want to be women, part or full time, now is the time to start acting it. Too many times in both this and other support groups, when board members approach members about pitching in and helping, members suddenly announce they have conflicting fun activities and stop coming. I set up banquets for past Presidents Sue Wright and Rachelle Anderson Houston. No one is getting any younger, and unfortunately my health is not what it used to be. So I need people to assist me as I assisted Sue and Rachelle. And as a corollary, are members willing to cooperate in the sense of not making collecting for banquets like pulling teeth?

I am repeating the same questions above that I posted in the December 2007 Newsletter. But I would like to thank Pat, president of SNR (Saturday Night Regulars, Sigma Nu Rho) for pointing out at her own holiday banquet held on December 15 at the National Hotel in Frenchtown, NJ that what members pay for SNR banquets (this year $40.00) barely covers half the cost. Those from the New Jersey Support Group who enjoyed the SNR 2007 Holiday Banquet should thank SNR president and New Jersey Support Group Pat for her generosity. I also thank her for stating that the New Jersey Support Group cannot afford such prices, so lay off. Unless you apparently wish to pay $80.00 apiece, the support group cannot stage a banquet like this. Thanks to the insurance crisis, we cannot subsidize banquets. On Saturday, December 22, I had the pleasure of participating in the Ladies Night Out holiday banquet held at the Sargeantsville Inn. I enjoyed pheasant, the opportunity to tend a fire and most of all the company and conversation. But my check with tip came to around $62.00, and that did not include the cost of a changing room. So, Ladies (and some transmen have been knocking on our door, so Gentlemen, too), what do you want to pay on May 3, 2008, and are you willing to make the necessary effort? If you want a lavish extravaganza on May 3, I suggest that about 25 people with $80.00 per diner, in cash above and beyond dues, for immediate deposit with the banquet collector, show up at the January 2008 meeting, and I am sure I can set up something to your liking. If you wish a more budget affair (frankly my preference), do we want another buffet, or can we risk (and are we willing to dress for) a place like the Town and Country Diner in Bordentown, assuming they can take us on May 3, or do we have the numbers for dining at a firehouse? And when will we receive the money, and who is collecting?

JUNE 2008 AND AFTER

Unfortunately the New Jersey Support Group has never utilized all the space it rents and practiced diversity in activities. We could easily have three things going on at once, the open forum in the classroom and activities at each end of the Crossings Room. I have been involved with support group programs off and on since October 1998. It is not possible to please everybody every month.

We have chosen to maintain the policy of non-discrimination which we inherited from our days as a Renaissance affiliate and chapter. If people just come only to programs which specifically interest only those of their particular bent, the support group will not survive. On the other hand, before the program starts, or after it concludes, it might be advisable to keep a broad membership by having people with possibly conflicting interests break up temporarily into separate discussion groups. I am not suggesting that any group remain segregated from the remainder of the membership for the entire meeting, as is the practice at certain other area support groups.

Back to the main theme, we have to learn to have all forms of transgenderism in the same organization even though they may conflict in numerous respects. In other words, if we want tolerance, we have to practice it. In the program talks, this means learning about different forms and approaches to transgenderism. On March 4, 2000, postoperative transsexual Rhonda Hoyman gave an excellent presentation based on her book Rhonda: The woman within me: A Journey through Gender Transition. It was a very attractive presentation on transsexual transition. But it would not convert me to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Tolerance may mean accepting programs on a wide variety of topics, and listening to speakers with whom we disagree.

But when members are asked to express their own views in the open forum and other discussion groups, this might justify specific issue-focused groups-for a short time, not the whole meeting. Of course, anyone can simply retire to the Crossings Room and discuss topics which might not interest the open forum. I believe I am fairly tolerant. Members have objected to discussing spanking in the open forum. It makes people feel uncomfortable and relates to sex. But I am not following the advice of one Renaissance official who said that I should close the meeting down and send everyone home if someone brings up forms of S & M or sex work. Instead those who wish to discuss topics which make others feel uncomfortable may do so in the Crossings Room. The support group is not going to play thought police to voluntary discussions in the Crossing Room. And on another issue, though we do not wish to become a dating service, suppose two members, of same or opposite gender it matters not, strike up a relationship outside the meeting? After all, a past president divorced his wife, only subsequently to marry the estranged wife of a member, the wife herself being an officer. And the church allowed solemnization of the union on the premises, something that would not have happened in the church in which I was raised.

One thing we do not need in any forum-group is one person monopolizing the discussion. And frankly any thought of a hierarchy, that any group, transsexual or cross dresser, is better, impedes our commitment to non-discrimination. And people should not take 20 minutes to introduce themselves at the open forum. Discussions as opposed to lectures need an openness to different ideas, but they do not need to be encounter groups. People should feel free to express themselves, which sometimes means talking in the presence of persons with similar experiences and interests, and without fear of intimidating others or making them uncomfortable.

From what I have seen of the usual rounds of transgender banqueting typical for the month of December, anyone who did not get enough to eat has only herself/himself to blame. I hope that those who will celebrate Christmas in a few days will have a merry one, and that those who celebrated Hanukkah and other holidays had or will have happy celebrations. A Happy New Year to all.

Jennifer Mae Barnes

December 23, 2007

was born in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts in 1938 and educated in public and diocesan schools in Boston, graduating in 1957. She later attended New York University and City College-Baruch School of Business.