Book review: Autobiography of an Androgyne

[Writing about trans people who lived before the category of trans was identified is challenging. It’s hard to avoid language that we now regard as politically incorrect. The world in which the author lived – and to a great extent the world in which we live now – declared the genitalia to be the ultimate definition of sex and gender. Some scholars claim that it is wrong to ascribe the she pronoun to a historical figure who referred to herself as he, but that’s another rationalization that erases trans people from history. When someone describes themselves as “a woman whom Nature disguised as a man”, I don’t care that transgender was not yet a clinically defined term. It’s enough for me to use the pronouns that were denied her when she was alive.]

AutoAndrogynePeople we would recognize today as transsexual or transgender were called many different names before trans was identified as something different from homosexuality. A person assigned male at birth who was of slight stature and had a feminine voice and mannerisms and who was sexually attracted to men was an invert, fairie, fille de joie or, as the author of this autobiography preferred, an androgyne. She was regarded as a different type of homosexual from the so-called pederast. The latter practised homosexuality out of licentiousness and was regarded as immoral, while some more progressive voices recognized her feminine nature and argued that she couldn’t help herself and so should not be judged the same way. Homosexual still, but of a different sort.

It didn’t much matter, however, for the androgyne of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when this book was written, was much reviled. Earl Lind, who also called herself Jennie June, was born in 1874 into the upper strata of New York society and this autobiography is mostly a succession of chapters in which she sought out sexual contacts with men of the lower classes. It’s a short book, but the beatings and sexual assaults she endured, the robberies and threats of blackmail, the indifference of police and bystanders to the severe violence perpetrated on her often had me stop reading to come up for air.

There is an unfortunate inclination to blame the author in some small measure for her own misfortune. Her relentless pursuit of fellatio caused her so much grief that you want to give her a metaphorical shake and tell her to stop already. She called her sexual impulses a corruption of the “procreative instinct”, and said she wanted nothing more than a monogamous relationship. What she got instead was a succession of men abusing and taking advantage of her. However, she also described herself as “sexually abnormal by birth”; that is, she had the temperament of a woman but the voracious sexual appetite of a man. (Women at the time were, of course, not judged to have much interest in sex beyond procreation. Not surprisingly, given the historical period, there is a huge subtext of sexism and classism that runs throughout the book.)

What this book did was convince me that the category of transgender had to be created to save a large group of people from being victimized by a hateful and uncaring world. Jennie June was well educated and would ordinarily have had all the privileges that her class bestowed upon her, but she lived a double life that repeatedly drove her to the brink of suicide. That she didn’t die this way may have been due to her strong religious beliefs and undoubtedly to her resilience, but it takes no great psychological insight to see she was a deeply traumatized human being. She had none of the options available to trans people now, and she paid the price for it.

There is an interesting appendix to this book titled “Impressions of the Author”. It was written by a business associate of hers who knew her only from that part of her life that was judged respectable. He notes that she was regarded by most as “rather eccentric”, but otherwise recognized for her “good qualities”. He describes a scene with Jennie that induced a wave of sympathy in me: “A third very early memory was of the author’s coming up to me, and saying after we had exchanged a few words, ‘Did you know I am a woman?’ After beholding for a moment my mystification, he said: ‘I was only joking.’ He went on his way, leaving me trying to unravel the question as to wherein the joke lay.”

There was no joke, of course. It was just a trans woman trying desperately to be seen. I’m sorry that my sister across time never experienced that in her life.

Autobiography of an androgyne, by Earl Lind. Mint Editions, ISBN 9781513296968. First published in 1918.

 

The pity narrative? No thanks!

The mainstream media have a tendency to finish every story about trans people with suicide statistics in our community, as if they’re asking their audience to be nice to us out of pity. It’s a narrative that some trans folks have also adopted. I reject this pity narrative, and so should you.

I’m not minimizing the challenges that trans people face. Things may be better than they’ve ever been, but they’re still not good enough. Major issues like trauma, abuse, rejection, and fear are common for trans folks, but day-to-day minor stressors take their toll also. It isn’t easy being trans, but a pity narrative by its nature frames you as a helpless individual. We may have been victimized, but it does not follow that we need to be victims.

It’s easy to put together a long list of successful trans people who did not buy into the pity narrative. You may not see yourself in Rachel Levine, the US Assistant Secretary of Health and a four-star admiral; or actress Laverne Cox; or Aaron Devor, who heads up the largest trans archives in the world at the University of Victoria. You may not think you have any special talent that will elevate you above the feeling of being beaten down, but don’t sabotage your resilience by not believing in it.

Your reality is that you live in a cisgender world. You need to accept that, and deal with it. You have two choices on how to do that: you can hide from it, or you can face it.

Hiding from it feels at first like the safest bet, but over time it will drain you of your dreams and will wither your soul. Facing it may feel like an impossible task, but don’t punish yourself if you can’t do it right away. You need to find patience and take the long view. What you’re doing is hard, doubly so if you have little or no support. Some things take time while you work at them. Don’t give up. Acquire a skill. Whether it is being a barista or a computer programmer or a hair stylist, it will always serve you well. Find allies. Put in the work to know yourself, and make that self a reality.

In a Huffington Post article on the rise of gay suicides, epidemiologist Travis Salway noted that many of the people he interviewed who had attempted suicide told him that they had walked right up to the door of a support group and then turned around. Don’t let fear or shame stop you. Push the door open!

And to trans people in general, I say stop sniping at each other. It’s childish. You’re all in this together.

Many of you may find this pep talk trite, or even irritating. You don’t see how talk can turn into action in your own lives, but I’ve been there and can assure you from personal experience that moping will get you nowhere. Attitude is important.

I don’t see trans people as pitiable beings. I see them as dragons fiercely defending their identities. Your life is an act of resistance against a culture that says you can’t exist. As writer and feminist Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

If you see yourself as a victim, you’re undermining your own ability to face the challenges in your life as a trans person. Reject the pity narrative. Live.

Think you’ve got it rough? Here’s a story about Alana McLaughlin, the second out MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter, that left me in awe of her resilience and courage. Alana McLaughlin was victimized repeatedly, but she’s no victim.

We’re human and all feel vulnerable sometimes. There is no shame in seeking help. For 24/7 bilingual, crisis support, call the Child Youth and Family Crisis Line at 613-260-2360, or 1-877-377-7775 (outside Ottawa) or call the Crisis Line at 1-866-996-0991.

 

Gender clinics, quick assessments, and cisgender girls: cue the moral panic

The Ottawa Citizen reported recently on research published in the journal Pediatrics which studied access to gender affirming care for trans youth. The journal article endorsed timely mental health support and more rapid access, but there was one statistic that made me wonder. Of the 174 participants in the journal study, 137 were assigned female at birth. This apparently reflects an internationally documented “ratio shift which now favours trans-masculine youth”.

The media have recently discovered this anomaly and are milking it like only the media can.

The CTV newsmagazine W5 aired an item October 24th which began with a happy transition story by a young trans man from Pembroke, Ontario but then moved to some less successful female-to-male transitions in the UK that made headlines there. Keira Bell, who de-transitioned back to female, took the Tavistock Centre in London to court because she claimed she underwent only a superficial series of conversations before she was supposedly encouraged to transition. The initial decision of the court supported her, saying in effect that it is highly unlikely that a young person could understand the risks and weigh the long-term consequences of puberty blockers, deeming the procedure “experimental”. The Court of Appeal eventually overturned the ruling, but the legal actions continue.

The second and primary story concerned Sinead Watson who transitioned to male in her early 20s, then de-transitioned and is now advocating against kids gaining access to hormone blockers. Naturally trans folks are a little upset with her, telling her she was never really trans, a conclusion I would have thought was obvious but which, strangely, seems to perturb her. Watson’s sob story makes for good television, but it has absolutely no value in assessing whether hormone blockers or any other physical intervention is too liberally applied. Why would the experience of a cisgender woman be relevant for a trans person? I have some sympathy for her unfortunate fate, but Watson has still not taken responsibility for decisions she made as an adult about her own life.

The flaw in the W5 piece is that it shifts its attention from Canada to the UK – one of the most transphobic countries in Western Europe – and presumes that what applies there applies here. It does not explore the depths of transphobia in the UK, and whether that has any implication upon their reporting. (I have lots to say about UK transphobia, but it will have to wait.) Canada has absolutely nothing to learn about the treatment of trans people from the UK.

The National Post also had something to say on the same topic. (The article was reprinted in the Ottawa Citizen.) Here’s the line in the piece that made me think this might be a manufactured crisis. The author, Tom Blackwell, writes of a “nascent movement calling for brakes to be placed on a health care system geared to affirming a young person’s transgender feelings with drugs and surgery, allegedly in some instances after little assessment of other psychological issues.” If you’re launching a movement, maybe you should have more evidence than “allegedly in some instances.”

Later in the piece, Howard also writes that “critics” and “opponents” worry that the bill passed recently in the House of Commons prohibiting conversion therapy could “inadvertently outlaw more careful assessment before transition.” These critics and opponents are unnamed. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t take a lot of reflection to see how ridiculous this is. Conversion therapy is not therapy; it’s coercion. No court in this country would confuse it with an assessment done in a gender clinic. As with all things trans, there are a lot of highly dubious arguments being presented as credible concerns.

Nonetheless, the National Post also cites the opinions of trans man and registered nurse Aaron Kimberley, who runs the group Gender Dysphoria Alliance and who believes the process has become politicized; and Erica Anderson, a trans woman and senior officer with WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) who complained in an op-ed in the Washington Post that there are too many sloppy assessments and hasty decisions prescribing medical intervention.

So, what to make of all this?

At the risk of sounding like I’ve gone over to the dark side, there is undoubtedly something here that requires investigation. 137 study participants assigned female at birth out of 174 is a ratio that is seriously out of kilter. W5 statistics for the UK claimed 67% of referrals to the Tavistock Centre were assigned female at birth while in Canada the number cited by Trans Youth Can! in 10 hospital clinics was 80%. Knowing we live in a sexist and misogynistic world, that girls have always had body issues and that social network algorithms only increase their body anxieties, I don’t think it’s wise to put our heads in the sand and ignore these numbers. I realize that I’m starting to sound like J. K. Rowling, but it’s not wrong to be concerned about cisgender girls having difficulty navigating toward a female identity in a hostile world. My experience tells me, however, that people will happily throw trans kids under the bus to protect cisgender ones. You don’t have to look far to see how little trans folks are valued. This is what we need to protect against, and why we need to take this issue seriously.

Neither W5 nor the National Post gave us any useful information on whether this was happening. They gave us opinions. There were assurances from doctors and therapists that no one makes these decisions lightly, but no details on whether they are taking into consideration the unique circumstances and pressures facing those assigned female at birth. I have to believe they are, if only because they are in a difficult position. If they’re seen to hinder the transition, they’re vilified by the trans community. If they make it too easy, they could be sued, as they were in the UK. (The National Post story also told of a Canadian mother and daughter who considered suing.) No one likes to be in a lose-lose situation like that. Their best protection is to be thorough.

That thoroughness may seem like a needless obstacle to some trans youth, but it may also ensure that health care for trans youth is protected. What the dominant culture is demanding is 100% protection against cisgender kids making bad decisions and if they don’t get it, it will be looking for someone to blame, and that will be us.

Despite media attempts to raise a panic among the population, I’m inclined to think we’re still on the right course. Both W5 and the National Post stated that Canada is one of the most liberal countries in the world in the treatment of trans youth, implying that this was de facto proof that we’ve gone too far. We were also the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage, however, and we weren’t wrong there. It’s a specious point in itself, but it’s galling because it appears convincing to many people in this country with a colonial mentality: that is, we’re a nation of followers, how dare we presume to lead?

W5 asked the Tavistock Centre to comment on their story and they issued a statement saying that each young person was different and that they had no expectation of any given outcome. They added that the majority of their clients do not access hormone blockers or any other physical intervention. That last part was worth repeating because it suggested that the central issue of the W5 story was a manufactured controversy. Unfortunately, it – like the “allegedly in some instances” phrase in the National Post article – was overwhelmed by the rest of their reporting. Perhaps they were hoping no one noticed.

 

National LGBTQ2+ monument

Canadian Heritage, the government department whose mandate covers culture, heritage and diversity, will be erecting a monument to LGBTQ2+ people along the Ottawa River between the Library and Archives Canada building on Wellington Street and the Portage Bridge to Gatineau. The monument is a joint project of the Department, the National Capital Commission and the LGBT Purge Fund, which has advocated for the project from the beginning and is funding it in part from money that would have been directed to LGBT people who have died but who would have received compensation for the government’s public service purge of queer folks between the 1950s and 1990s.

According to the LGBT Purge Fund website, the organization is “legally required to use the funds from the LGBT Purge settlement for specific reconciliation and memorialization projects.” Besides the monument, an “exhibition on the LGBT Purge at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is being planned”, although a launch date for the exhibition has not yet been determined. (The museum has a bit of reconciliation to do of its own.)

LGBTMonument
On Common Ground

Canadian Heritage invited you to vote for your preferred design of the five that made the shortlist. The deadline for your vote was November 28th, but you can still view short videos of each concept on their website. I chose On Common Ground, but each one has its merits and the videos describing them are all quite moving.

The survey afterwards was lengthy and a little ridiculous. It asked you to rate each monument by a long list of objectives. They should have warned you that you needed to take extensive notes when watching each video because there would be a test afterwards. It’s a survey only a government bureaucrat would think would achieve its goals. I filled it out, but took a few guesses towards the end just to get through it. In the end, my choice was largely visceral.

Although the monument will be in Ottawa, it is a national monument that aims to tell the story of Canadians who were “persecuted, abused, dismissed, and marginalized” because of who they were.

 

Bobbi Charlton on Family Law

I would be remiss in not mentioning a second show on Canadian television that has a recurring role for a trans woman. It is Family Law, seen on Global television Friday nights. Like Sort Of (see below), the presence of a trans woman in the cast is not a big issue and the show itself simply presents her as office manager in the dysfunctional family law firm of the title. (As well as being a family firm, it also practices family law.) The character of Jerri Rifkin is played by Bobbi Charlton, whose credits include the series The Magicians and A Million Little Things.

The central premise of the series is that Abigail Bianchi (played by Jewel Staite) goes to work in her estranged father’s law firm as part of her probation and must work with two half-siblings she doesn’t know while maintaining her sobriety. In the episode I saw, Charlton’s character displayed a truer moral compass than the messed-up principals of the law firm she works for.

BobbiCharlton1
Bobbi Charlton

Charlton has worked over 35 years in the arts as actor, choreographer, director and writer. Her bio on the Global website describes her as “extremely compassionate and patient, but having personally experienced violence and human injustice she has a definite “line in the sand” that should not be crossed. This mindset ties in perfectly with her role as Jerri, whose inflexible belief in law and order crosses over to her “mama-bear” treatment of Harry’s children as well as unwavering support for Harry even though she doesn’t always agree with his decisions and personal choices in life.”

 

Sort Of a charming new series on CBC

I’d seen the trailer advertising Sort Of on the CBC streaming site Gem, but hadn’t got around to watching it until it appeared on CBC television in back to back episodes on November 9th. What a joy! Bilal Baig is a gender fluid person playing a gender fluid person of Pakistani heritage named Sabi who works primarily as a nanny. (One of the pleasures of the show is that it doesn’t waste any time explaining anybody.) It’s the kind of precarious existence trans folks will find familiar, and it becomes even more so when Sabi discovers their job will likely be coming to an end just in time for Christmas. An opportunity to go to Berlin drops into their lap, but then everything is turned upside down when the woman she works for – someone who asked Sabi what their pronoun was before they even knew – lands in a coma.

Bilal1
Bilal Baig

Sort Of has been described as a sitcom, and indeed I laughed out loud on a few occasions, but that doesn’t do it justice. There’s a moment when Sabi is returning to their apartment and finds their mom outside holding yoghurt containers of food. Sabi turns away upon seeing her, and we realize that despite living openly, they haven’t told their mom about themselves. It’s a heart-rending moment of being outed before they’re ready and one that many LGBT people will recognize. This scene is unique, however, as in the rest of the program Sabi doesn’t agonize over their identity.

The laughs are there too. Baig has a wonderful, deadpan look whenever they have to endure another of those ignorant comments that are part of most trans lives. Their long-suffering expression emphasizes the stupidity of the comment and makes us laugh at it without Sabi having to say anything more. Baig is a fine actor with a charming presence on screen, despite the part probably not being too far from their real life.

Baig is well known in Toronto’s theatre community. It was while they were acting in a play with Fab Filippo, another Toronto-based actor and writer, that the idea for Sort Of arose. Interestingly, according to a Globe and Mail article, Baig hadn’t come out to their family prior to the show appearing and as late as last month was preparing to out themselves by crafting a letter in Urdu to them.

There are other trans folks involved in the production of Sort Of besides Baig, and it shows. It’s something you can watch safely and enjoy without getting annoyed. Yes, there are scenes you’ve lived through and maybe don’t want to revisit, but Baig handles them deftly and there’s an ease and naturalness to the show that draws us into the lives of the characters. “There are trans and non-binary people who play trans and non-binary characters. There are also trans and non-binary actors who you think are cis because they never talk about their gender. They just appear and exist in the world, and then are off to do other things,” Baig said.

Cheers to Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo, and indeed the CBC for taking it on.

 

Talking about trans folks. And talking, and talking, and talking

I’ve been minding my own business lately and didn’t have much to say about anything trans, but while I was away the world was talking. The world is always talking about trans! Do we exist? Do we have a right to exist? Are we a threat to children? Women? To confused cisgender folks who suddenly think it would be cool to be trans? Every ignorant Tom, Jane and Harry has an opinion, and there are a lot of ignorant Toms, Janes and Harrys. When they express them, the media is there to faithfully report them. Then we launch a counterattack and the media reports that too. Sometimes I think we were better off living in semi-obscurity.

Lately the media has stopped printing the names of lunatics who go on killing sprees because they don’t want to give them publicity and encourage other lunatics to do the same. Could we institute something like that for people giving their opinions about trans folks? Let ’em talk, but I don’t wanna hear about it.

The CBC has been on a trans blitz recently. I trace it back to an October 23rd opinion piece written by Jessica Triff, a trans woman who views the trans activism of the last decade as radical and often toxic. That’s a discussion worth having, although it was disingenuous of her to typify all trans activism this way. Triff also had some highly problematic opinions on what constitutes a trans woman. I’m sure she thought she was being helpful. Perhaps the CBC saw it as a moderate piece that the rest of moderately transphobic Canada could agree with because they allowed comments, unusual for a trans article. (Too much hate to moderate.) Sure enough, the majority of commentators seemed to agree with Triff.

I’m guessing again, but the follow up story on November 7th was likely written because reaction from the trans community was not quite as positive. Triff’s piece was referenced in the article, although the article was otherwise about the simmering backlash against trans rights in Canada. Titled “Anti-trans views are worryingly prevalent and disproportionately harmful…”, it presents a good overview of the current state of transphobia in the country.

One of the items cited in the article is Quebec’s proposed Bill 2 that “would create separate designations for sex and gender identity on official documentation. The bill would also limit changing sex identifiers to those who have medically transitioned.” What an ill-considered bit of work that is! Let’s out trans people in a transphobic society! The bill could only have been conceived by someone who regarded us as a threat to – what? – and then sought to contain us in some kind of hierarchy of beings based on categories of sex and gender. “Since announcing Bill 2, Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said he is open to finding better solutions.” You think? How about doing nothing?

Bill C-17 has been in effect for four years now. Society has not collapsed. Women’s rights have not been infringed. And yet, how easy it is to convince people of the opposite, that something needs to be done about those category problematic trans folks. Preventative legislation needs to be enacted. No evidence required.

The last article was from CBC Ottawa on November 8th. After all that blathering, I was glad to read a mildly informative piece about the troubles two local trans women have faced transitioning during the pandemic. Covid has been isolating, no doubt of that, and getting rid of the beard has been pretty well impossible. It’s a good human interest story, but then the pandemic has been tough on everyone. Having your cancer treatment postponed is no picnic either.

We need to count our blessings, and get on with what we need to do.

In the article on anti-trans sentiment, trans woman Florence Ashley says that people who are inclusive of trans folks are largely in the background. “The best that they do is not be transphobic, not interfere with the well-being of trans people. Whereas the people who are against trans people are very negatively impacting them.”

They’re also the ones talking the most and the loudest. When we are feeling especially vulnerable, we need to shut out their endless jabbering to preserve our sanity. But be grateful for the “radical” activists who are there to address their slanders on our behalf.

 

RachelUsedThis
Rachel Steen

 

Showdown on Broadview Avenue

Tip of the hat to the large and diverse group of counter-protesters, including students, parents and politicians, who showed up October 19th to register their displeasure with anti-trans crusader Chris Elston, who was picketing the two schools on Broadview Avenue (Nepean High School and Broadview Public School). Elston has been travelling across the country and been greeted similarly elsewhere. He likes to provoke, film people’s reactions, and then play the innocent. His strategy is as much to enrage and motivate others who think like him as it is to protest. (Indeed, ultra right wing Rebel News portrayed his Montreal appearance as, “Montreal thugs attack activist who opposes puberty blockers for kids.”) It’s not just trans folks and their supporters who are his targets. He was arrested in Vancouver for “causing a disturbance” after police warned him several times to stop “antagonizing” protesters gathered in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishermen. Like all transphobes, Elston claims he is not one, but as Nepean High School student Nerisse Kazmierski astutely observed, “He claims that trans lives matter and then shows a complete and utter disrespect for all of their autonomy and their actual thoughts.” More on the CBC Ottawa site, as well as many others. The attention seeking part of his strategy is quite successful. Fortunately, so far the anti-trans part isn’t.

 

Book review: Trans Pornography

I learned a lot from this special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly on trans pornography, but could never quite convince myself – as several of the contributors have – that performing it was “empowering”. TransPornThe increasing popularity of trans porn in recent years has fortunately moved the industry from its early exploitative origins when trans people were labelled with derogatory terms like “she-male” and “tranny”, but it’s difficult to ignore that most of the people who get involved do so because they’re excluded from other employment. That there are significant issues around race and racism in trans porn, consent and HIV considerations, the fact your window to make money is very small, and that there is a “relatively high rate of regularly occurring suicides in the industry” suggest to me that trans porn might not be your best choice toward “empowerment”.

And yet, life is complicated.

The reality is trans people do need money to survive and because of their limited job prospects, the lure of trans porn, particularly in the age of new media where for the first time they are able to control the content, can be persuasive.

There is a chapter here on trans* porn remix (TPR) videos that analyzes the highly creative ways that “microporn employs images of trans* bodies taken from traditional productions, as well as cisgender images that are remediated to be read as trans*.” These sophisticated editing techniques obviously run afoul of copyright laws and so are created anonymously, but they engage the viewer in ways that I never dreamed possible. Unlike most trans porn which is directed at a nominally cis hetero male audience, TPR engages a broad range of viewers. The videos are a form of sex/gender play in which viewers imagine themselves exchanging bodies with performers of a different sex.

One example of this is a subgenre called “sissy hypno”. A gentle voiced narrator will mimic hypnosis through suggestion and repetition – “you are the girl” is a common phrase – as the “viewer begins as a man and undergoes a transformation into a sissy or woman.” The audience for this type of video is diverse. Cis men may imagine becoming the ‘opposite gender’, but trans women will have different experiences with this material. “TPR represents a dovetailing of identities and sexual practices, in which transitioning becomes mixed and conflated with fetish gender play.” Aster Gilbert, the author of this article, maintains that “TPR represents possibilities for pre-realization trans* people to experiment with their sex/gender identities in productive ways.”

The internet has become the place where we interact with others in our process of sexual self discovery, and so trans porn is the first place many people see trans bodies. The medicalization of transsexual people created an environment where they were expected or required to have a dysphoric relationship with their genitals. “A trans* woman who enjoys the pleasure of her ‘girl dick’ was historically disallowed.” Trans porn has normalized the representation of trans bodies for many, which isn’t a bad thing.

The cis hetero male, however, is still the primary customer and their sexual desire for trans bodies pose no small number of problems, including objectification, shame and, of course, violence against trans women. As Gilbert notes, “within the cultural context of expanded trans* rights and visibility, cis-hetero attraction to trans* bodies remains a troublesome terrain.”

Indeed, there is a chapter here written by a “transamorous” cis man that is perhaps more revealing than he realized. He explains his attraction by noting that his marriage works on an emotional level, but that he hasn’t had sex with his wife in fourteen years. He has a moment of self reflection when he tells us that for a while he blamed himself, but then plunged into having sex with various men and women. He does not tell us how his wife feels about this.

At the end of the article, he regrets that there is a stigma associated with being attracted to trans women and suggests that if the world were less transphobic this stigma may dissipate, but of course he himself would never speak up for his own desires. He has a wife, after all.

There is another essay written by a young trans woman performer in which she gushes about how sex work is the most rewarding job she’s ever had. She feels she’s making a difference in someone’s life when they tell her “My wife doesn’t understand me”. Cheating husbands have been delivering that line to their gullible mistresses since the beginning of time. In this new variant, trans women are the ones playing second fiddle. The author of this essay would do well to read the one in this same volume by Korra Del Rio, a trans porn veteran who has a far more clear-eyed view of the business she’s involved in.

So, yes, it’s complicated. It’s far safer for trans people to produce trans porn in which they have some control and can exercise their creativity than it is to work the street. It can be validating, but its exploitative nature is never far from view.

Pornography in general was not considered a subject for scholarly study until the publication in 1989 of Linda Williams’s book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”. This issue of the Transgender Studies Quarterly reveals that there is more than enough for study in trans porn alone.

 

Digital archive of Notes from the Underground completed

NFTUMargoThis summer I found time to scan the remaining issues of the Gender Mosaic newsletter, Notes from the Underground. Unfortunately, there are missing issues from Margo’s term as editor. These are MR9, MR12, MR14, MR18, MR21 and MR22 (issue numbers are at the top left.) If any former GM member still has a few of these lying around, I’d be happy to take them off your hands.

In the meantime, here are the last issues to be scanned. I like that Margo always had an upbeat, rallying headline to each issue she edited. From vol. 2, 2000: “Power and Presence is Yours. However You Must Reach Out and Be Seen”. Vol. 4 2000 preached unity: “One Community – Respecting and Benefiting Through Our Individual Differences”. Or vol. 4 2001, “What If We Refuse to Apologise” (Right on! Unfortunately, this issue is short pages.)

Aside from the above mentioned issues, the digital archive of Notes from the Underground is now complete.

2000-02 MR6   2000-03 MR7   2000-04 MR8

2001-04 MR14-partial   2003-3 MR20   2004-01 MR23