“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”: amateur sleuths delve into a possible homicide of a gay icon from Stonewall

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”, by David France (“How to Survive a Plague”, 2012), is a valuable account of a citizen investigation of the 1992 death of Marsha P. Johnson, a drag queen who had been on the scene of the first night of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1969.

Marsha had drowned in the Hudson River near one of the Christopher Street piers. Had she been fleeing an attacker, then the death would be a homicide, at least manslaughter.

In modern times, Victoria Cruz tries to do a gumshoe citizen investigation of the death, with the help of local activist organizations for poor people.  She is rebuffed by retired cops who say not to call again, and that she should leave her investigations to the professionals or she could get people killed.

There are scenes in the Village, especially Julius’s on W 10th Street, one of my own favorite gay bars, known for its burgers.  The way “Mafia” bars had worked in the 1970s, at the time of Abe Beeme, comes up, but I had thought that by even 1992 the Mafia was pretty much out of the gay bar area (Stonewall had given a big push).

There is a great scene of the 1973 CLSD in New York, in which I marched;  I may have spotted my younger self for  split second.

Sylvia Rivera gives a very radical speech in Washington Square Park, blaming middle class establishment “cis male” gays as part of the privilege problem, even back in the 1970s (before AIDS).

There is a sequence where homeless tents are broken up for a new high way, and one of the volunteers offers “radical hospitality” to a homeless person, taking the risk.

The film purports to address violence against transgender people, but Marsha herself was not regarded as trangender (cross-dressing alone is not).

There has been controversy over the Stonewall Inn as a national monument with a rainbow flag in the Trump administration, Washington Post story by Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears.

This film is opening in Los Angeles Oct. 13.

Name:  “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”
Director, writer:  David France
Released:  2017
Format:  1.78:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play, 2017/10/12
Length: 105
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  Facebook, Tribeca 

(Posted: Friday, October 13, 2017 at 12 noon EDT)

LGBT Showcase at DC Shorts 2017: “The Whole World” is the best film

Here is a rundown of the LGBT shorts program at DC Shorts 2017, sponsored by the DC Center for the LGBT Community and DC Center Global.

The Whole World” (“El Mundo Entero”, directed by Julian Quintinalla, Spain, 30 min, in Spanish) was the best and principal film.  This film is set in a town in southeastern Spain, set up in sunlit, exaggerated colors, almost as if animated.  The town itself looks like a glimpse of heaven. Julian, an attractive 30—year old, visits the cemetery where his mother La Chary (Loles Leon), who had died at 51 from breast cancer, materializes in her only afterlife form.  She relates how she protected him as different, from the bullies, and from a rogue psychotherapist.  Then Julian will meet Peter (Candido Gomez), who was another attractive gay teen when he was growing up, ten years older.  But the overriding idea is that Julian himself seems to be in a layered afterlife of his own.

Pool” (“Piscina”, directed by Leandro Goddhino, Brazil 20 min, in Portuguese).   Claudia wants to investigate the family’s past as it fled the Nazis, and encounters a German lady, Marlene, who has set up an apartment in an empty swimming pool.  Marlene recounts the past persecution of gays, while there is a parallel story of Claudia’s own lesbian marriage in which she is raising a child.

Dusk” (directed by Jake Graff, UK, 15 min), tells the story of gender-fluid Chris Winters in the hostile 1950s, a time that took Alan Turing’s life.

Little Potato” (directed by Wes Hurley, 13 min, USA/Russia) invites a young gay man to tell his story growing up in Vladivostok, Russia, at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. His mother also contributes.  But the film anticipates the hostile 2013 anti-gay propaganda law in Russia, which has led to asylum seeking in the U.S.

The Real Thing” (directed by Brandon Kelly, 7 min) puts a new spin on the whole debate about the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the military.  A father returns home from deployment to his home in Texas, in fatigues, to find his child has transitioned to female. He hugs her at the end.

Better Known as Peaches Christ” (directed by Jeff Dragomanovch, 4 min) lets a drag queen tell his story. Is he more than just an entertainer? I knew a bartender named Peaches in Dallas in the 1980s, but he was very cis.

(Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 10:45 PM EDT)

“TRANS/gressive”, by Riki Wilchins: now, expectations of binary gender even in a partner seem not quite OK

We’ve gotten used to understanding that being gay is very different from being transgender.  In fact, in my own experience, I look for “upward affiliation”, I get interested in men who look more “masculine” in appearance, swagger and bearing than I did;  I want someone to “have it all”, as I explained in Chapter 2 of my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book.

So, I would be perfectly happy to vote for “Lady Valor”, Kristin Beck, for president.  She would be about as well qualified on both national security and social justice issues as any candidate imaginable.  She would be a friend, but not an intimate partner. But note the pronoun, “She” (like the 1965 Robert Day film about an “African Queen” who had the secret to immortality). I perceive Beck as a woman.  She could become the first female president, instead of Hillary Clinton.  I don’t know if I would feel the same way about Caitlin Jenner (who says she is a Republican), and I would have real doubts, of course, about Chelsea Manning.

Doing away with the idea of binary gender could be very threatening psychologically.  Today the latest rage is “gender fluidity”, where the person bends genders and varies on a continuous scale, like the alien angel Pie ‘O; Pah in Clive Barker’s 1991 novel “Imajica”.  Activists try to change English grammar, so that the pronoun “they” can be used in the singular for a gender fluid person.  This sounds a lot more radical than gay marriage.

When I was growing up, in the 50s and early 60s, women were to be noticed for their appearance but men were not. Except that, under the table they were. Though rarely mentioned openly, colleges had rite-of-passage hazing ceremonies for freshmen (not just fraternity rushes) called “tribunals” in which men experienced physical shame – having their legs shaved – and had to get over it.  This worked more easily in the days of racial segregation, traditional gender roles, and before competitive cycling and swimming were routinely followed by the media.  I mentioned this in Chapter 1 of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book, especially with the goings on at William and Mary in 1961 and my later inpatient stay ar NIH in 1962.   In such an environment, it was easier to eroticize bipolar gender and build up a lot of fantasy around it.  That’s one reason why, over the decades, many men resisted the gradual changes in norms of gender and sexuality.

I saw all this to introduce the book “Trans/gressive: How Transgender Activists Took on Gay Rights, Feminism, the Media, and Congress, and Won!”, by Riki Wilchins (b. 1952). I picked the book up in person at the DC Center’s Outwrite book fair in early Augusst 2017.   Riki doesn’t actually tell us that she has had the surgery until late in the book, but it probably doesn’t matter, because her activism would have made the same sense were she “fluid” or binary trans male-to-female.

She starts her narrative in the 70s, and notes right off that trans people were viewed as ‘gendertrash” even as conventional gay men and lesbians slowly gained acceptability if they could “pass”.  The Camp Trans, of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, was a centralizing activity. Over the years she dealt with many cases of anti-trans violence, especially getting into the 1990s.  1996 would be a critical year where she would deal with getting people to organize politically and resist, and pressure the HTC (Human Rights Campaign) to migrate toward a position where it would include trans people in ENDA and other non-discrimination matters.  As we know, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” regarding gays in the military was officially repealed in 2011, but Donald Trump has resisted lifting the ban on trans recently (by Twitter).

Riki understands well the idea that society expected men to confirm to gender roles in order to fit in to the collective security of the group. On p. 139 she writes “When I was 10 and was taunted for throwing a ball ‘like a gril’ those schoolyard bullies didn’t suspect me of sleeping with men.  They based me for not being boy enough. That goes for almost all of us. Whether we face prejudice for being too butch or too femme …, or being perceived as gay or lesbian, we are all ultimately disliked for the same basic reason: transgressing our expected gender roles.” I’m used to thinking of this as the “sissy boy syndrome”.

Yet, I always saw dealing with this in terms of my own individual capacity, not in terms of being part of a distinct minority facing systematic oppression, which is more the experience of blacks, given the history of slavery and segregation (and the recent threats from “white nationalism”).  But the solutions in the book definitely demand solidarity and mass movement tactics.

At the end, she provides a detailed discussion of intersex, which means having biological features of both sexes, not the same thing as fluidity.  She also discusses gender dysphoria and a lot of the evolution of AMA non-positions.

The book has goads of black-and-white photos and activism posters.

Author: Riki Wilchins, photos by Mariette Patty Allen
Title, Subtitle: Trans/gressive: How Transgender Activists Took on Gay Rights, Feminism, the Media, and Congress, and Won!”
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1-62601-368-1
Publication: Riverdale Avenue Books, 2017, 209 pages, pager (and ebook), 8 chapters, Foreword, Afterword
Link: Blogger

(Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2017. At 10”45 PM EDT)

“Real Boy”: documentary about a California female-to-male transgender teen

PBS Independent Lens aired “Real Boy”, by Shaleen Haas, a documentary about a female-to-male teen, Bennett (born as Rachel) being raised in southern California.  The 72 minute runtime was compressed to about 56 minutes on PBS on June 19.

Early in the film, the younger Bennett explains to his mother how he was born in the wrong body. His mother is willing to approach his claim with some objectivity.

Bennett becomes best friends with a kind of mentor, Joe. The visuals in the film present a contrast. It would seem very improbable that a female-to-male transgender person would “look” come to look as fully cis-male as Joe, who is real hairy and fits the social stereotype for a Caucasian male. (OK, you can get into genetics, and how having ancestors in a colder climate affects the gradual evolution of physical appearance and what cultures view as desirable.)

The film traces Bennett to age 22. At one point he moves into his own apartment and takes a retail job on his own. He plays his guitar. He talks a bit about workplace ethics. To get an oven going, he has to figure out how to operate a pilot light. He says he doesn’t know older technology. In fact, my own mother’s house had an old stove requiring a pilot light, which I have had to light only one. But I had an electrically ignited stove installed because I think it’s safer. The same is true of the water heater, when it was replaced. There was a chance here for the film to venture into “This Old House” (a famous PBS series centered in Boston) territory.

Eventually Bennett does have plastic surgery for his chest in Florida. The film does not seem to cover whether all possible surgeries are done, but they are obviously challenging when going from female to male.

Personally, I would lose the tattoos, which to me seem disfiguring.

I would expect to see a film about Gavin Grimm one of these days on PBS.

Name:  “Real Boy”
Director, writer:  Shaleen Haas
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS, 2017/6/19
Length:  72 (56 on PBS)
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS Independent Lens
Link:  PBS    FB

(Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 12:30 PM EDT)

“Laerte-se”: the life narrative of a male-female transgender cartoonist in Brazil

Laerte-se”, directed by Lygia Barbosa and Eliane Brum, is a biography and self-focused life narrative of transgender Brazilian cartoonist Laerte Coutinho.

Laerte, now 65, didn’t start crossdressing until 2009 and announced herself as a woman soon thereafter.  The film has a lot of childhood 8mm reels of the boy Laerte who looks rather cis.  His family seemed somewhat understanding.  But Laerte says that as a man she was more reticent about homosexuality than gender change.

The film shows a lot of her cartoon work and paintings, and tries to convey her life narrative by metaphor in the cartoons.  She says that conservatism is capable of progressive ideas but moves to slowly.  Her cartoon activities were in support of the Left in Brazil, including some demonstrations in Sao Paolo. She has also covered professional soccer and likes to follow sports teams.  While the film gets into political polarization sometimes, it never takes up something as dangerous as, say, the (radical Muslim) cartoon controversy in Europe (Jyllands-Posten and Hebdo).

But the personal side of her transgender experience becomes quite telling. As the film opens, she is hesitant to start the interview process with the filmmaker, as there is an exchange of emails about the utility of time.  She says that sometimes transgender women who have completed the surgery believe they are “better” or more entitled that those who have not.

About 20 minutes into the film she talks about removing male body hair, and says doing so revealed a new person underneath.  This observation seems more relevant because she is Caucasian (European Portuguese descent) than it would be if she were any other race.  There is a shower leg shaving scene that reminds me of a bathtub scene in Sydney Pollack’s 1982 comedy “Tootsie” (Columbia) where Dustin Hoffman plays an unemployed actor who depilates and cross dresses to get work.  Actually there is a similar in “Magic Mike” (2012, directed Stever Soderbergh (Lionsgate) where Channing Tatum’s character winds up explaining to his girl friend why he “shaves his legs for work”. And don’t forget what happens to Troy McClain when he “took one for the team” on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”. In fact, Serbian author Bazhe, who escaped the violence after an eldercare situation, explains his forays into cross-dressing in his 2003 book “Damages”.  In fact, modifying one’s body to join the group used to be the point of hazing ceremonies, like the “Tribunals” at William and Mary in my lost semester in 1961, where “they” shaved the (freshman) boys’ legs.  I played hookey on that one.

She gets into some ruminations about “the body” as I have.  But I tended not to pay enough attention to my own appearance until I was old enough, 29, to come out a second time. (“My Second Coming” in my DADT-1 book). I was already going bald.   I didn’t have the experience of other gay men of being “desired” for a CIS body.  Ironically, I went bald in the legs in middle age.  No I didn’t smoke or have diabetes.  It all seems like a moral reflection.

Laerte has two cats, one of whom becomes a constant character in the film, demanding attention a lot.

The film (100 minutes) ends with a rather shocking nude scene of Laerte and one other woman not completely done with transition.

Sao Paolo long shot picture (Wiki).

Picture: “Lady Valor” Kristin Beck at gathering in Arlington VA December 2016.

Name:  “Laerte-se
Director, writer:  Lygia Barbosa, Eliane Brum
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1  (in Portuguese with subtitles)
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length: 100
Rating:  NA (“R”)
Companies:  Netflix (first from Brazil)
Link:  Metacritic

(Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 1:30 PM EDT)

“Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric”, on National Geographic, explores gender fluidity from medical and social viewpoints

Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” aired on the National Geographic Channel Monday, February 6. 2017, at 9 PM EST, two hours with commercial breaks.  The film is credited to “Katie Couric and the World of Wonder”.   The film could accompany (“NatGeo”) National Geographic Magazine’s recent issue “Gender Revolution: The Gender Issue” (earlier review).

Couric started by recalling how things were a half century ago.  Gender was strictly binary.

The documentary then shifted to a  rather clinical and medical examination of the brain biology of gender.  It’s rather intricate, as a schedule of hormones (especially androgens) affect the development of external genitalia and perceived gender identity and probably sexuality.  All of these can be affected by epigenetics and by mitochondrial DNA passed only from the mother.

Soon the documentary says that more pre-teens are uncertain of their gender than the public realizes.  Some physicians will prescribe puberty blockers as “pause buttons” to give the tweens more time.

The film gradually shifted focus to the social acceptance of a less binary idea of gender.  It covered an outdoor camp in California for transgender kids, and a fast food chain (Pollo Loco) with restaurants with a substantial transgender workforce.

The film moved toward the political and legal questions associated with the “bathroom bills” in several states, including North Carolina and Virginia.  (The HB 2 in North Carolina also interfered with local governments’ passing their own anti-discrimination laws, and led to a political crisis of sorts.)  The case of Virginia female-to-male teen Gavin Grimm is headed for the Supreme Court.  Gavin was shown with a pet pig and parrot.

Later in the film, Couric interviews a group of Yale students in a dorm setting.  Only one or two students are “cis gender”, that is, their gender identity matches birth sex.  The other terms like pan-gender and “gender fluid” are introduced.

The film does not mention that sexual orientation itself is usually totally separate from gender identity.  Gay men often look for other “masculine” partners, and usually identify themselves as cisgender males.  The film tends to suggest that people should get used to the idea of potential romantic partners who are less fixed as to gender, a personally discomforting notion.  The film does cover other native cultures, like in Somoa, where gender fluidity is much more readily accepted than in the west.

The film also does not cover the idea that cisgender people sometimes engage in cross-dressing for acting purposes.  Paul Rosenfels at the Ninth Street Center used to say that most transvestites are straight. I think that the Rosenfels ideas of polarity and balance can occur with a cisgender person (you can be a cisgender male and still be feminine subjective, for example).

The film does cover a transgender female surgeon who does reassignment surgery in San Francisco.  She says that the oldest person on record for reassignment surgery was 76.  In one couple, an elderly man had “become” a woman but stayed married to his wife.

The film ended with an interview of Hari Naff and tennis star Renee Richards.

The film maintains that there are about 1.4 million transgender people in the U.S., about 0.6% of the population, or about 12% of the LGBT population, even though “cis-gender” gays (especially men) are much more common. (Thinkprogress source.)

(Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 8 PM EST)

“Transgender Teen”: lengthy but useful handbook for parents

The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens” (by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney) is a lengthy (338 pages) and practical guide for parents of (older) children and teens who say they do not have a conventional “cisgender” identity.

Indeed, a great deal of the book deals with basic terminology.  One of the most important terms is simply “non-binary”.  Two others are “assigned sex” and “assumed gender”, in light of “personal gender identity”. “Congruence” refers to the procedures (including medical and cosmetic) to make the person’s appearance more like what is expected for his or her   The modern use of the word “queer” refers to any aspects of gender (including but not limited to sexual orientation) that does not conform to what society has nominally expected for the person’s assumed birth gender. I recall that at the GOP convention in July, Donald Trump stumbled over adding the letter “Q” to LGBT.

Sexual orientation is a very different concept from gender identity.  The most common setting for gay men, especially, is for a someone who perceives his biological identity as “male”, and generally there is no aggregate difference in appearance or physical performance between gay and straight men.  “Gay” people are more common than “non-binary” or “transgender” people.

The book cover refers to a “generational divide in our understanding of gender”.  I grew up in the 1950s as a boy who fell behind in what was expected of future young men physically. Although I read women’s magazines and enjoyed watching “The Homemaker’s Exchange” cooking show, I was also interested in trains and science, and later music.  I never sensed a desire to be identified as female, but, as I have detailed elsewhere, gradually developed an awareness of my attraction to men during my teen years.  But the surrounding culture drilled into me that it was my duty to adapt to the needs of the world around me, to fit in to my community and be able to help protect it from potential outside adversaries.

The book dispels many of the myths, and notes that some teens will say “I can’t survive until age 18”.  The controversy over “bathroom bills”, such as the notorious HB2 in North Carolina, overlooks the fact that some transgender teens say they are not welcome in any bathroom.  State laws are likely to require a birth certificate change, which would normally require parental consent.

There is a disturbing report of a Cub Scout troop in New Jersey that told a transgender child that he (originally born a girl) could not continue to stay in the troop a month after the troop found out.  The BSA has been through a long process of accepting gay scouts (after winning a Supreme Court case in 2000 which took the libertarian position that it could do what it wanted).

Although the book goes into many concepts related to gender and sexuality, it doesn’t come close to Paul Rosenfels’s polarity theories (as in the 1971 book “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process“).

Authors: Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney
Title, Subtitle: The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens
publication date 2016 (sent to me as a complimentary copy for review)
ISBN 978-1-62778-174-9
Publication: Cleis Press, paper, 338 pages, 12 Chapters, Bibliography, Glossary
Link: publisher’s

(Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 8:30 PM EST)

“From this Day Forward”: a filmmaker’s father makes a transition to female

800px-fulllakeoftheclouds

Name: From this Day Forward
Director, writer:  Sharon Shattuck
Released:  2015
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  PBS 2016/10/10
Length 75
Rating an
Companies: Argot, Full Fork, PBS
Link: official

In the new PBS POV film “From This Day Forward” (75 min), director Sharon Shattuck returns home to the Michigan U.P. to visit her parents, including her dad who had transitioned to female while staying married (despite a near divorce) when Sharon was in middle school.

Part of the film looks at Sharon’s mother, with the obvious, nearly existential trauma of keeping an intimate relationship with a partner transitioning from male. I can’t imagine being game for this myself.  The parents announce a divorce, which then never happens and “goes away”.

But then it moves to focus on preparing for the wedding (reminding me of a 2002 film Melody Gilbert’s “Married at the Mall”, referring to the Mall of America near Minneapolis). There is the artistic detail of sewing the gown, and an omnipresent playful cat who seems not to care at all about the gender of humans in her life.

Sharon’s dad is a painter, emphasizing natural scenes, but has painted a picture of her former male self as a clown in disguise.  The film does briefly describe some of the reassignment surgery, hormones, epilation.

The film was shown on PBS Oct. 10 along with the short film “Pink Boy” (Sept. 13).

The film has no connection to the 1946 film with the same title. To get the new film to come up on imdb, you have to search by the director’s name, not the title. (Some films, especially with title duplication, on imdb will not come up by title, seems to be a database index problem.  It is common for unrelated films to use the same title, especially by translation, unless the title is the name of a branded franchise.)

Wikipedia attribution link for picture from Porcupine Mts of Michigan, p.d., by Troy Heck

(Posted: Monday, Oct. 10 at 11:30 PM EDT)

“Century of Growth”: New epistolary book from the Paul Rosenfels Community

DSCNF377

Authors: Dean Hannotte, Ann Agranoff
Title, Subtitle: Century of Growth: A Conversation Between Childhood Friends
publication date 2016
ISBN 978-1533-16387-5
Publication: Amazon Create Space, paper, 232 pages, indexed
Link: authors

Century of Growth: A Conversation Between Childhood Friends” is set up as dialogue of letters between two friends, unfolding two (actually three) life stories as if a novel, rather set up like an English epistolary novel.

The childhood friends are the letter authors Dean Hannotte and Ann Agranoff.  I know Dean, from my own days of involvement with the Ninth Street Center in the East Village in New York City in the 1970s, as I detail in Chapter 3 of my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book.  Dean, at the time, was the partner of therapist and philosopher Paul Rofenfels, who had developed his theory of human polarities in a series of books and monographs, the best known of which is “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process” (see blog Index).  I gave a thorough discussion of my own take on this concept in all three of my DADT books.

Ann, starting out with architecture, became an English professor at CUNY, active in meeting climate change, and, with her husband, wrote an iconoclastic book “Ice Palaces”  (1983).

Dean’s life narrative comes through the letters in the book.  The Center continued operating until about 1991 (I last visited it in 1986), but an informal group of people online remains as the Paul Rosenfels Community.

nyc7

There is an irony in this history of the NSC.  Despite its reputation as a place offering “a new way to be gay” back then, and despite Dean’s relationship with Paul at the time, Dean is and was largely heterosexual.  In fact, Dean says that when the Center opened it was expected that a lot of straight people would come, but in time it came to attract almost exclusively gay men (and not transgender).  I was never fully aware pf that history.  Sometime in the 80s or 90s, he met Rachel Bartlett, who had grown up in Communist East Germany (before the Wall fell in 1989).  Gradually they would develop a relationship.  From 2004-2008, the Rosenfels Community ran a monthly chat on Sunday afternoons that I sometimes participated in.  At the time, I can recall Bartlett’s saying that the unification of Germany under capitalism had not been a good thing (or I found that on her own blogs).  This book reports she had been quite militant in support of communism younger.  I remember meeting young women with this sort of outlook in the early 1970s at the “People’s Party of New Jersey”.

Dean goes on to relate some of his health problems, and Rachel’s support of him, probably extending his life.

But all this sets up the moral tone of the letters.  Dean describes himself as a “realist”, and skeptical of any philosophies that give automatic answers to questions.  He questions whether it is practical for an individual to concern himself or herself with the big issues of the outside world (as I do, and as Ann does too – and it seems that Ann and I have similar views about sustainability of our way of life – we can protect it if we take it seriously and “work smart” – and other know I’ve taken up the issue of the security of the power grids in a similar way. Ann is skeptical about libertarianism, as she feels it blames the unfortunate their poor station in life — but communism (especially Maoism) was determined to make “almost” everyone share proletarianism.

The letters refer to many other “good books” (Dean attended St. John’s College, right abreast of the Naval Academy – in Annapolis MD in youth to become a quiet-life scholar), and many other systems of psychological categorization, especially the Enneagram of Personality.  I would probably be a mixture of 3-4-5 on his chart, but I am viewed as a “subjective feminine” (unbalanced personality) in Paul’s system of polarities.  The letters often refer particularly to the writings of Ron Gold, whom I recall from the Center.

Ann, at one point, discusses the connections between polarity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity – all separate concepts – and offers that transgenderism is increasing in frequency because of pollution, processed foods, and similar concerns.  Dean seems to feel that biological gender just doesn’t matter all that much anyway – it is character specialization (polarity) that does.

The  book constantly prods on moral dilemmas, and brings them down from policy to individual actions.  On p. 109 Dean makes a particularly acute observation about a masculine’s being “good” and a feminine’s being “dutiful” as demanded by external society – noting that duty may become a moral imperative but doesn’t add to growth unless accompanied by genuine openness of feel and love in new ways – that is, love people who may seem unappealing to the outside world, even in stressful circumstances, like an infrastructure breakdown.  Dean also summarizes the polarity-typical behavior of some men at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s, with masculines ordering feminines around who in turn tell the masculines to “shut up”.  But it’s the feminines who, after being barged in on with demands to get with somebody else’s program even if the “community” goals are imperfect, sometimes get to told so silence their own self-indulgent prattle or (to mention Ravel) “G Major clatter”.

Dean’s last letter, long and intricate, from July 2015, gets into interesting stuff, like the (cosmological) links between mind, brain, and individualized consciousness (amenable to polarity), ending with an odd reference to the evil villain in the film “Hostage” (to be reviewed soon).  Other films (and books) get mentioned along the way, like Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” in a discussion of atavism.

On my legacy book reviews blog, I covered number of other books on growth, including Dean’s “It’s Simple” from 2012.   In 1990, Dean also published a set of essays “We Knew Paul”, and there is a reference to people who probably tried to use the Center (in the 1970s) for personal cherry-picking.  I was “guilty” of that.

(Posted: Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016 at 5 PM EDT)

“Citizen Lobbyist” documents 2004 transgender activism in Congress

IMG22103

Citizen Lobbyist” (2005), by Timothy Watts. Is a 58-minute documentary tracing a few days of lobbying by members of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.  It’s all filmed in Washington, with a session in Senator Lugar’s office, on the Metro (in the days before Safe Track, about when “Five Lines” was filmed), and a closing section at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial near the Lincoln Memorial.

I often talk about “citizen journalists”, so it’s natural to ponder the role of the “citizen lobbyist”.

The main point of contention is that the regular “gay establishment”, especially HRC (Human Rights Campaign), doesn’t seem to have the backs of transgender people, at least in 2004.  HRC is viewed as willing to throw transgender under the bus to get ENDA and hate crimes bills passed for “normal” gay men and women.  The film maintains that over 50% of transgender people are unemployed.

The first lobbying session happens on April 30, 2004, which is ironically the day that I started substitute teaching.   These are the time just before gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts after the Goodridge decision . The lobbyist point out that anti-gay violence often increases after gay political victories, and anti-trans violence is out of proportion to other crimes.  Anti-gay violence is reported to have increased particularly after the Lawrence v. Texas ruling on the 21.06 Texas sodomy law in June 2003.  There is a narrative a murder of a trans person in Washington in 2002 where police didn’t even leave any tape to close off the crime scene. While the woman relates that story, a passage from what sounds like the Symphony #8 by Shostakovich plays in the background.

In the scene in Lugar’s office, a woman-to-man transgender man explains that he is heterosexual now, and he enumerates the possible mathematical combinations of sexual identity components. But a transgender woman frankly supports the “blurring of genders” and “gender queer” in public consciousness (a bordering on identity politics).

The section at the Vietnam memorial gives a number of transgender people talk about their issues wityh “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, still in place at the time, and also some relate their experiences serving in Vietnam, or even as drill sergeants (even at Fort Jackson).

Let me come back to the difference between journalism (which demands objectivity) and lobbying (which demands loyalty to the constituent group and often must honor partisanship).  I value my own independent voice online as a “journalist”, and I would have to give that up to work publicly to support another group’s agenda or in various conflict-of-interest situations, which would force me kicking and screaming back to identity politics.  I don’t need to pay someone else to speak for me, but if I had to make a “real living” like most people as a huckster, I’d have to.

The film is posted by the Center for LGBT History and Archives.

(Posted Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)