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Newsletter - July 2008

Since Independence Day is a hard act to follow, the program for the day after is flexible. There was a vendor who wished to come, but I persuaded her to come at another time when we might expect greater attendance. We can simply have a social evening, start the Open Forum right away (as we have no program scheduled) or show a film in one room and chat in the other. After all, we rent two rooms. No reason for everybody to be doing the same thing.

Of course, the meeting will be for our regular meeting hours. When I used the words all night in a previous meeting announcement, I meant our regular Saturday night (really evening) meeting hours. I believe that most people understood me.

Just to plug for a film, I have offered my collection for showing at festivals within my NOW chapter and within the church were we meet. Viewing movies together with transgenders and discussing the films together with non-members of our community afterward would be a good way to educate the public about ourselves-and a good way to learn something about ourselves. As regards educating the public, if a film says some false things about transgenders, we cannot clear them up if we never see transgender-relevant movies and discuss them with non-transgenders. As regards ourselves, discussing the situations of other transgenders might surprise us and enlighten us more about our own problems than simply blathering on and on about them. We just won some rights in New Jersey. Use them or lose them, and that means coming out of the closet.

THE JUNE MEETING

The Rev. Charles Stephens, pastor of the church in which we meet, graciously came in and moderated an informal roundtable discussion of Unitarian-Universalism and transgenderism with the dozen or so members who were present. After discussing the history of Unitarian-Universalism in the United States, the presentation largely took the form of a dialogue in which members inquired about facets of the denomination and its relations with sexual minorities which happened to interest them. Of particular interest was the welcoming congregation-and the seminal role in developing it played by the parish in which we meet, as it was the first such congregation in the United States.

We plan next to invite a Anglican priest and after that a rabbi. Charles Stephens explained why the numerous Episcopal clergy who signed the petition for transgender equality all reside in the northern part of the state-them impact of a former bishop of the Diocese of Newark, Bishop Spong. I intend to try to find someone from way up north who would be willing to travel to speak to us. But if any clergy persons from the Anglican Diocese of New Jersey (with its See close by in Trenton) who is pro-transgender and would be willing to speak, let me know.

VARIOUS NEWS

The 2008 SNR picnic

The Tri-Ess chapter SNR (Saturday Night Regulars, Sigma Nu Rho) held its 2008 annual picnic at our usual meeting site on June 28, 2008. Attendance was good. Cuisine was unique (with a drunken turkey). "A good time was had by all."

Voice Modification

Recently Lauren Passman (732-887-2975, laur5682@yahoo.com) contacted me. She is a speech therapist located in the Old Bridge area (near Metuchen). She studied transgender voice counseling under Bud Hoyer at Temple University. Remember back when parish music director Carol Tipton offered voice counseling back in 2002? Carol took a musicological approach. Lauren Passman will try a different approach, using machines which image pitch (so the pupil can visualize how she/he is doing), singing techniques and dialogues composed in part by the student. Price: $150/hour. Too bad she is so far away that I cannot drive up for a trial session. If anyone does undergo voice training with Lauren, please contact me. I wish we could induce Carol to continue her work. Twins

I suppose it is too early to say this, but I have the feeling that when I finish my course as a transgender, if there is anything good I really did for the community, it was writing Coming Transgender Attractions. I used to spend up to three days a week on it and still get a lot of translating done, plus participate in various organizations. I do not know where I found the strength for all this achievement. It is unfortunate that there is no opportunity to continue this work and that no one else took it up. For transgenderism not to have cultural columns is like the Civil Rights Movement stopping at Booker T. Washington and not having a W.E.B. DuBois. Teaching people that our money is as good as anyone else's only advances rights so far. Sometimes it can breed contempt. Probably the reason that transgender culture seems to get nowhere is the irresponsibility of some physicians to argue that we are all transsexual, an approach which benefits physicians' pocket books mightily, but little else. Another reason is a science fiction that speaking only in terms of hormones and surgery makes one scientific.

If I were still writing Coming Transgender Attractions, I think I would write a "Gray Areas" if not a full editorial on a recent experience. I participate in the Book Club in my NOW chapter. (If anyone wants to start one, we could meet at a restaurant for this.) Back in May, we read Elize Schein and Paula Bernstein, Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited. It seems that Schein and Bernstein were twins who were separated shortly after birth and only learned that they had a twin when they were in their thirties. Apparently twins who are separated after birth experience a feeling of a missing heartbeat in their lives. Perhaps less known is that many twins die in the womb. The heart starts in both twins, but for some reason one twin takes over and the other twin withers and dies. Surviving twins go through life experiencing the same feeling of a missing heartbeat.

Why the book by Schein and Bernstein attracts me is because I had an experience of a missing heartbeat in childhood. I doubt that I had a twin whom my parents put up for adoption. If remnants of a twin who died in the womb were found upon my birth, it is probably not recorded. It will probably never be possible to determine if my feeling of a missing heartbeat in my early life was engendered by sharing my mother's womb with a twin who was stillborn, or by something else. Why I am writing about the missing heartbeat here is because this feeling stimulated the search for Jennie as a child. Was I the girl, or was she someone else? Identical twins of opposite gender is impossible (unless multiple ploidy would permit it), but these are the sorts of questions a belief that one had a missing twin identical but in one respect-being of opposite gender-might raise for a child.

Twin studies fell into disrepute after the work on twins by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. The study which separated Schein and Bernstein has not helped the reputation of twin studies. And what can we learn from life in the womb? Otto Rank's theory of the birth trauma (that being born, going from the sheltered existence in the womb to the hard, cold world is a trauma people never recover from) has been discredited. Jan Morris dismisses the idea that transgenderism results from exposure to the wrong hormones in the womb as an American theory in her famous Conundrum. But it might be interesting if any aspects of transgenderism derive from missing twins of opposite gender. Hopefully it could be investigated in way that would not repeat the ethical breaches of prior twin studies.

UPCOMING PROGRAMS

Before going into general policies and listing specific upcoming programs, I would like to address a specific problem. The members who have been attending recent meetings have by and large been having a great time. I think we have had some very good programs recently, like we have never had before. I have been setting up programs for this organizations on and off since October 1998. But fewer people are coming. We need suggestions for increasing attendance.

General policies: Only two persons have the passwords to edit the website, the web mistress and myself. I am the one who ends up doing a lot of the posting, often unfortunately in the week before the meeting Any speaker who feels that her/his talk would benefit from more extensive publicity earlier should contact me as soon as possible after agreeing to speak. I generally write up a short notice under the rubric of Upcoming Programs months in advance. Speakers are advised to check such short notices for accuracy. We are grateful for information from speakers regarding themselves and their presentations, but we reserve the right to edit publicity materials submitted by speakers or to compose our own publicity materials.

AUGUST 2008 MEETING

Election night. There may be some changes. While Ronnie Dougherty expects to continue as treasurer, Judy Woods wishes to continue as secretary, and I have agreed to continue on as president, Pat is stepping down as vice president. Leah Edwards, vice president from 2000-2002, wishes to run for the office. Pat will assist with treasury matters. Anyone wishing to run for election may either have someone else nominate her/him or nominate herself/himself. Only persons who have been full members for at least a year prior to the August meeting are eligible to hold office. In the event one or more of the offices is contested, we will hold an election by secret ballot in which only full members may vote. No program is scheduled, but we reserve the right to schedule such. We do plan to commemorate our anniversary at our present site (August 3, 1996) and our predecessor organization, Renaissance South Jersey. This evening is sort of like an alumnae homecoming. Former members who have ceased regular attendance are always welcome, but on this particular evening, it would be nice to welcome some long time members back.

SEPTEMBER 2008 MEETING

Betty Ajamian of Artistry Cosmetics will speak on adapting cosmetics to changing seasons and weather conditions. She will also be available for individual color coordination consultations. In the past, the Support Group has tended to invite Mary Kay consultants to speak, but the Support Group cannot endorse any particular brand. An Este Lauder representative has spoken to the group, and we may invite representatives from this firm, or from Mary Kay, Artistry and other cosmetics firms to speak in the future. I consider cosmetics programs to be mixed educational/vendor functions because the more you pass, the less transphobes are likely to harass. And skin care is a big element in passing.

OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER 2008 MEETINGS

Negotiations are going on, but these months are still open, so suggestions are welcomed. For some reason, some persons are not returning messages. Let us hope they are away on vacation and this will change after July 4.

DECEMBER 2008 MEETING

It appears that most members prefer buffets, so we will have one at the usual site on December 6, 2008. In fact, really nobody seems to want to return to restaurants, despite all the good times we have had at various establishments over the years. Defying gravity, prices keep rising, and we cannot continue to go to restaurants without subsidizing meals, which we can no longer afford. One area transgender organization will subsidize its holiday banquet again this year. But buffets are becoming fun. Some members prepare special recipes. We decorate the room ourselves. We can arrive earlier and stay much later than a restaurant would allow. And these functions are helping us out of the red. Hence members have come to prefer them, and I gather that the Chi Delta Mu holiday banquet will be similar to ours.

One problem we must consider in a future buffet is that of diners who have special dietetic requirements. It is a good bet that if a certain individual cannot or will not eat certain foods, most people in the Support Group know nothing about this. Please tell us your needs and we will try to accommodate you.

Happy Independence Day. Hope to see you Saturday.

Jennifer Mae Barnes, President