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Newsletter - October 2008

OCTOBER 2008 NEWSLETTER

OCTOBER 4, 2008 PROGRAM

Trish Sheridan, Lia Sophia Jewelry sales representative, will make her annual visit. The holidays are not far off. You can buy gifts or stock up or both.

SEPTEMBER 6, 2008 MEETING

Terry McCorkle, president of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ) kindly came on short notice and spoke on the importance of registering to vote (see also NCTE information posted on this website under Portia's Legal Page), transgender issues in the coming election and the Montgomery County, Maryland ballot initiative to repeal an LGBT anti-discrimination member passed unanimously by the Montgomery County Council.

The good news is that three days later, on September 9, 2008, the highest court in Maryland ruled that the opponents of the rights measure had not gathered enough signatures for their ballot initiative to overturn the measure.

On the other hand, it is very clear that the support group as a non-profit organization cannot endorse any party or candidate. Terry accordingly told us which platform planks would benefit transgenders and asked us to see for ourselves which party advocates them. Even if the support group were not prohibited from espousing a particular candidate or party, I would question the wisdom of doing so in an organization like this. Members need to learn to think for themselves. There has been a sort of sci-techie (to borrow the term from translations) citadel of expertise in area support groups which argued that a major party would never run a woman or a black, but would select candidates appealing to mainstream America. Maybe a little less arrogance of the sciences would be in order. In the 2008 election, the only way to avoid voting for a woman or a black would be to vote for a third party. Is Transamerica mainstream America. If not, let's make the most of it.

DOCTORS

The experience I am about to relate may be similar to the experiences of others. I switched family physicians in 2006 to obtain better treatment of my recently diagnosed asthma. For a while, things seemed to be great. I told her of Jennie right off. This made me much more open and relaxed in the cordialities which often accompanied my visits. But then I developed a urogenital infection. She inquired into my sex life. When she found out that I was single, she began taunting me, laughing and saying that she just had to be blunt, but no woman wants a man who wears dresses. (Too bad she never visited the support group back before 2004, when as many as 10 couples used to participate.) This has now happened on two occasions.

My urologist and endocrinologist have criticized some aspects of this conduct, and I do not know what I am going to do. She was opposed to having an endocrinologist check my hyperestrogenemia and sent only test results showing normal values. The endocrinologist had to call her office during my consultation to obtain the 2005 report with the extraordinarily high total serum estrogen values. Quest Diagnostics has defended this result. Quest and several individuals (including the endocrinologist) said this result should have been followed up by an endocrinological examination. It took three years for a followup to take place due to the resistance of family physicians. Well, the finding was apparently not due to cancer, or I might be dead.

Transgenders should be able to out themselves to care givers and receive the same care as anyone else without discrimination, ridicule-or pressure to transition. Transition physicians who pressure patients to transition must be included among the directors of transgender support groups who profiteer off of the community and make transgenderism very expensive. Health care for all transgenders, transitioning or not, should be a major transgender health topic.

GENDER ROLES AND HISTORY

On Women's Equality Day, August 26, I went to the Alice Paul Institute in Mount Laurel, NJ for a book signing by the author for Trish Chambers, Civil War Women: Their Roles and Legacies. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2005. I was amazed to find how many women dressed up as men and served as soldiers, even officers, in both armies in the Civil War. (Pre-induction physicals were apparently not as thorough then as the one I went through in 1969.) Combined with the role of cross dressing in the success of the Underground Railroad, it is amazing how much cross dressing went on around the time of the Civil War, and how much it contributed to emancipation and the outcome of the war. Antebellum and Civil War cross dressing and perhaps transgenderism could be the subject for an independent study.

But gender roles in the current presidential election have been the subject of analysis abroad. An article recently published in the German weekly Die Zeit [Time], a social democratic paper, argued that women in politics are restricted to two roles: School mistress or principal (Schulmeisterin) on the one hand, and little sister on the other hand. Margaret Thatcher is a sterling example of the former. Hilary Clinton was too young for the school mistress role, and too old to play the little sister role. So she had to play a man, and she nearly succeeded. She played a man well enough to attract the votes of laborers, traditionally a major Democratic constituency. Now enter the church, which differentially applies the church's upholding of the right to life, refusing the sacrament to candidates who uphold the right to abortion but not to those who approve capital punishment. (I know from being a death penalty opponent that opposition to capital punishment is part of the right to life. Many leading members of New Jerseyans for an Alternative to the Death Penalty are Roman Catholics.) Too bad the non-profit of some dioceses will not be investigated. Some Supreme Court justices should be denied the sacrament if the right to life is enforced consistently, otherwise simply restricting it to those who do not oppose abortion is playing politics. So now laborers cannot vote for their traditional base. Enter Sarah Palin as a tough kid sister, who is feminine (mother of five, beauty queen), but tough (NRA member, almost a Diana with her hunting and fishing). She is like a girl in a tough working class neighborhood who is a girl, but who can turn into a tomboy and outfight the boys to defeat a gang from outside the neighborhood. Two things are interesting in this analysis. First, Hilary Clinton had to play a male, and Sarah Palin has to have a tomboy side, so transgenderism has played a role in the current election. But second, one woman has attracted and the other is intended to attract the same constituency, disaffected largely white workers.

EXTREME CRUELTY?

Back in 1979, New Jersey's highest court handed down a decision that male cross dressing constitutes extreme cruelty. I pointed out in a Coming Transgender Attractions editorial that it was ironic that according to a 1957 Iowa decision, wife spanking is not extreme cruelty. The New Jersey court took two pseudoscientific criminalistics books which argued that, since bandits wear masks, anyone who disguises his identity must be a criminal. If one is a bandit, then one wears a mask, therefore, if one wears a mask, one is a bandit? Back to Logic 101, Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent. Great legal reasoning! (Aside from the question of whether dressing up really constitutes masquerading.) Like arguing that if an animal is a turtle, then it is a reptile, hence if an animal is a reptile, it is a turtle. What about lizards, snakes or crocodiles?

Neither the Iowa nor the New Jersey decision has, to my knowledge, been formally overturned. I have not had the opportunity to Shepardize either case (Shepardizing is a means of checking whether a case has been cited in court decisions.), but these decisions have stood for a long time. Well, members may argue, has not transgender non-discrimination done just that? Maybe in New Jersey-or maybe not. New Jersey's notion that male cross dressing constitutes extreme cruelty has found favor in Pennsylvania. Recently a former member found out when her more than forty year marriage was dissolved by divorce. Allegations of cruelty, I believe false, had been made before the divorce suit. Unfortunately before this issue had been resolved, the individual underwent breast implantation. I was at Thanksgiving dinner with her and other friends when I found out and had to go into the living room and lie down. I wondered what would happen when the estranged spouse found out. Guess what, she and her lawyer already knew! (One aspect of this case that was really uncanny!) She sued for divorce in PA on the grounds that her husband's transgenderism constituted extreme cruelty and prevailed.

I want the New Jersey decision to be dead, d-e-a-d!!! Transgenders should realize that marriage is an important part of LGBTIQA politics. Lesbians and gays may win full marriage rights only to discover that lavender marriages are as fragile as straight marriages. But the actions of some transgenders are allowing the 1979 New Jersey precedent to live on and injure persons I believe to be innocent, like my friend above. From what I saw from years of witnessing the couple, there was no way that a divorce on the basis of extreme cruelty should have succeeded.

Hurting others emotionally can often constitute extreme cruelty. The injury need not be physical. Recently a transsexual candidate contacted me about how to deal with children in transitioning. It turned out that the children were 10 or under, one child and the wife suffered from an extreme physical handicap. The family accepted transgenderism, but one child, the handicapped one, dreaded the impending transition. I said no way, Jose! I cannot stop you, but not with my blessing. I suggested being happy with cross dressing.

I have been called a transsexual-phobic for actions like this. If you disagree with my policy, elect someone else for this job. Furthermore, when a woman trusts a transgender, supports her cross dressing, only to find that her husband now wishes to undergo sex reassignment surgery, I wager that many courts will term this extreme cruelty-and a great betrayal of trust. Some women will accept transition. The former wife of Jan Morris, author of Conundrum, has reunited with her. But most marriages will not survive transition.

As for the child, the father of a five year old male to female transgender recently consulted me about finding a counselor for his transdaughter. I called two transition physicians who gladly recommended counselors. Various members have advised against such intervention. With transgender enfranchisement in New Jersey, it is the way to go. Hopefully in the future enjoying a trans-childhood will become acceptable. Then transgenders will be able to see early on whether they wish to go transsexual or cross dress, and find their way to the right marriage. The father of the handicapped son mentioned above, however, is receiving criticism for what she is putting her son through. Divorces over transgenderism create enemies the community just does not need.

I told you this so that you do not learn of it by rumor. I do not think anyone can identify the parties on the basis of what I have said above. But about my transsexual phobia? I used to admire transsexuals and considered becoming one. Whether I still admire a transsexual depends upon several factors. Transsexualism is a fiction, like other forms of transgenderism. Menstruation and the ability to become pregnant are a basic part of the female experience. If transsexualism is recognized as one fiction among others, and other fictions are allowed (such as the long history of transgendered acting and transgenderism as a religious experience, with full personality expression), si. Our support group bylaws commit us to non-discrimination, admitting all forms of transgenderism. And just because a local support group restricts itself to heterosexual cross dressers does not mean we cannot admit them. But when transsexualism becomes an arrogant science fiction, really forgets that transgenderism is a fiction, and subordinates other forms of transgender fiction to hormones, surgery and psychotherapy, no. If we are not sick, why see therapists, and restricting transgenderism to physical measures forgets Simone de Beauvoir's principle that one is not born a woman, one becomes a woman. Which means we need women as role models.

PROGRAMS-FILMS AT MEETINGS

The discovery that it is possible to show even feature films on a notebook computer to a limited audience increases the variety of educational and entertainment services the Support Group can offer members. If you missed a transgender film at your local cinema, contact the Board of Trustees. Some member may have a copy, and we can schedule a showing for you and others who are interested. Please contact the Board also if you have a film you wish to share. We need not restrict our offering to feature films. The Delaware Renaissance Chapter and the Chi Delta Mu Chapter of Tri-Ess both frequently make film showings with following discussion into the program. The Saturday Night Regulars occasionally show films. We used to show films regularly. There is no need for there to be a conflict between the Open Forum and cultural events like movies. We have enough space for three functions to be going on at once, the Open Forum, a film and informal socializing. In fact, I would be surprised if some evening the Open Forum did not begin with a short film for discussion.

PROGRAMS-SURVEY QUESTIONS

Do you have suggestions as to how the meetings might be improved, or wish to give an opinion on how Support Group activities could be improved? Check out the website. The webmistress is posting individual survey questions.

Unfortunately the webmistress has informed me that a large group out of the small number responding wants no programs, just socializing. This will kill the group off like it has another local group. But unlike the other group, no one will be there to subsidize it. So we will fold.

Furthermore, the attorney who registered us as a non-profit registered us as an educational corporation. She could have consulted with us. We after all are committed to transgender civil rights, and we do provide recreation and support in addition to educating ourselves and when the opportunity presents itself, the world outside. And believe me, there is an even greater need for such measures after transgender emancipation.

That done, go to Ladies Night out, East or West, or Dinner and a Movie. Too bad the best dining club, Girls Night Out, is a thing of the past. My predecessor used to invite board members over to her house to see videos. We should do that. Dress as men if you must, but start interacting outside of meetings.

I participated in Girls Night Out and Endless Mountains Girls. I learned the value of going out and educating the public on transgenders. We have won rights in New Jersey. Use them or lose them. And rights entail responsibilities.

Want to know what might happen if you start socializing outside of meetings? I participate in my NOW chapter as both Jim and Jennie. Usually it is Jim who has to explain Jennie. But some members of NOW have perceived Jim and Jennie as two people, and Jennie as a genetic woman. There have been a total of four instances so far. Now it is Jennie who must explain Jim to others. So maybe I can pass-and maybe our personalities are more different than I suspect. If a transgender can pass as a woman to women-that may be an achievement.

UPCOMING PROGRAMS

NOVEMBER 2008 MEETING

Betty Ajamian of Artistry Cosmetics will speak at our meeting on November 1, 2008. A topic she proposed is adapting cosmetics to changing seasons and weather conditions. I think that several members would like to receive information on this issue, especially when colder weather begins in November. But she wishes to run a series of topics by me. She also may have a colleague present who will demonstrate a dermabrasion device. 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 Estee 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, which will be a focus of Ms Ajamian's (and colleague's) presentations.

Betty Ajamian has contacts with local Dress Barn establishments. I do believe that the closest Dress Barn lies in Bordentown, something of a distance. If any members are interested, perhaps we can arrange a shopping trip some Saturday afternoon before meeting.

NOVEMBER 20, 2008

November 20 is Transgender Remembrance Day. There will be a celebration at nearby Princeton University. Let us see if the support group can send some members. Pastor Charles Stevens has indicated that we may use the parking lot for car pooling. I will check on the time and announce it at coming meetings. It is 7:00 or 7:30 pm.

DECEMBER 2008 MEETING

We will have our Holiday Buffet on December 6 at the usual times and location. Keep watching the newsletter-and attend meetings-for further information.

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.

POSTSCRIPT

The newsletter is late not only because of medical and legal matters, but because some of this material proved difficult to write, requiring redrafting. My predecessor got to the point where she did not want to appear in public en femme. The opposite is the case for me. I am going more and more places en femme. But a problem is that, if I want to go to a guy organization, I am going to dress like a guy. And I have belonged to guy organizations. But transgender organizations have a way of becoming guy clubs, and I do not want to dress up if I am going to see a group of males. I would rather belong to a woman's organization or go out to mixed company if I am going to go en femme. The non-discrimination clause in our bylaws does not make things easy for us, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I have done a lot for this support group. I am amazed at the lack of a willingness to compromise, work together, on issues such as films, transsexual support breakout groups, and attracting women back to the support group. Prior to 2004, this group could have been termed the Couples Chapter (we were one back then) given the number of couples with both members participating. I am finding my job harder to do over matters of conscience. If we are not going to have more cooperation, I wish you would elect someone else. The fact that the opposition has failed to produce a leader is to my mind a sign of bankruptcy. And please use democratic and parliamentary means, as our bylaws provide.

Jennifer Mae Barnes, President

October 4, 2008