Monday, December 25, 2006


Last week I saw a televised segment in which the person being interviewed postulated how we could change the world for the better if we taught our children the meaning of peace, acceptance and tolerance, while sitting around the dinner table. I could not help but feel that this was the way for all of us, not just for parents and children. As we approach the New Year…new beginnings and the end of old and outdated ways of being in the world, it is more important now, than ever before, that we dedicate ourselves to a new sense of coalition building.

What do we stand to gain when we build these new coalitions? We create a sense of unity and solidarity, but one that eschews any sense of elitism or separatism. This new coalition is one built upon inclusiveness and is an invitation to embrace the things we all have in common as human beings. Those beliefs we all share are greater than the differences that divide us. Our unique individualities are not something which we need fear, but are the legacy that makes us human.

This banding together is not meant to be a weapon with which we arm ourselves against the dogma of disparagement. We win more acceptance and understanding when we demonstrate our openness to diversity…when we can embrace ways of being in the world that may be strange and unfamiliar to us. We encourage that diversity as we also try to educate others that we, too, are deserving of OUR way of being in the world. Our numbers swell when we allay perceived, but unreal, threats. Others can see our sincerity of purpose and our authenticity of action. They FEEL a palpable sense of community and we experience a sense of shared possibilities. Divisiveness cannot survive when the fields of hate are barren. I have often cited the syllogism of hate. The root is an inability to understand and a failure to communicate. We plant the seeds of fear when we are confronted with the new and the different and make no effort towards understanding. That fear inexorably leads to hate and hate to violence.

The way to break the cycle is to make every effort to understand that which stands outside our sphere of comprehension. If we direct our wills towards the dreams, hopes and aspirations we all share, towards the paradigms of peace, tolerance and forbearance…if we can visualize a world without classism, elitism and disdain, one for another, we CAN create a world in which all sentient beings may concentrate on what Jung called individuation…the act of truly becoming oneself. This, in turn, establishes the grounds for a community, a society and a world in which each and every person is allowed to be a vibrant and organic being, to fulfill their own destiny, and to celebrate their uniqueness. The universe finds its wholeness, paradoxically, through the expression of diversity.

We are at a crossroads…you and I and the world. The new kind of coalition we desperately need and seek is within our grasp. We can spread the gospel of peace, inclusion and tolerance as we teach our children, and ourselves, the true meaning of coalition building. It begins at the dinner table and spreads its light throughout the universe!

trickster 108

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gender and Sexuality, Part 3

Wednesday, December 20, 2006




Part one of this series addressed some of the misnomers often created when we conflate gender and sexuality. Part two addressed the etiology of the misunderstanding. Part three will focus on what may lie ahead for us if we can move past a solely binary way of perception.

Imagine a world in which society is not fixated on the pejorative aspect of what make us different. Again…imagine a world wherein those things which establish commonality and which bind us together, are those that demand our focus. In this new world, an openness to diversity will create a new model…one that embraces multiplicity yet is still capable of critical thinking. Variant modes of gender presentation and sexual preference will not only not be confused, one with the other, but will present a myriad of new possibilities. Of course, we must always bear in mind that engaging in any activity which is harmful to another is not to be tolerated. We certainly do not want to lend any credence to the Santorum postulate that sexual and gender diversity is just an open door to child predation, or to bestiality. We must keep a sense of perspective.

There are many advantages to a world that embraces diversity, not the least of which is a reduced sense of fear, hatred and violence. Tolerance, empathy and understanding are not only healthier emotional expressions but are the foundation of any real sense of “civilization”. By discrediting a solely binary model of knowledge theory, we can hope to see a palpable reduction in the antagonism that leads to parochialism and isolation. By contrast, we may look towards a kind of society in which cultural bridges are built and groups of people work together to achieve common goals.

I have been called an idealist and a dreamer. Some may call me naïve. There may be some accuracy to each of these descriptions. Nevertheless, I feel that we are at a kind of crossroads. Yes…there have been many eras that historically have been called crossroads. What makes today different is that the world is figuratively smaller. Some action in one part of the world may have effects in many other places. There are actions that are so pervasive that they affect all parts of the world. We are approaching times that will demand the making of wise decisions…decisions that will affect an entire world. Do we allow bigotry, separatism and divisiveness to claim the day? Do we enliven the dogmas of marginality and disenfranchisement? Do we choose to live with the fear that breeds misunderstanding and communication breakdown, leading to hatred and the inevitable violence that ensues? Or do we work for tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness? Do we embrace those who work for peace and coexistence?

Societies often learn their lessons from minorities. Teaching a culture to accept those within who express diversity is a move toward greater understanding. Our culture is still learning these hard lessons. Yet, today’s world shows us that we are, perhaps, backsliding. We are becoming more judgmental, less accepting, and it has become evident that the entire world needs to take a step back and look at the direction in which it is going. Religious and cultural intolerance and genocide, factionalism and antipathy…these appear to be winning the day.

We, as members of a community that espouses diversity, have a place in this world to pass a sense of this diversity on to others. We shall refrain from cringing behind walls. We shall proclaim our unique and inviolable right to present a gender that reflects the person inside. We revel in the right to express our sexuality any way we choose, so long as we refrain from intentionally inflicting harm and from blatant recklessness regarding children. We are the bridge builders, the conflict menders and we can have a great effect in the fight against intolerance by expressing a sense of pride in who we are, not solely as members of the LGBTI community, but as members of a world family. Let us avail ourselves of the power our community really has and help society at large to embrace many of our ideals.

Imagine a world…

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gender and Sexuality, Part 2

Tuesday, December 19, 2006




Part one of this series addressed the confusion that exists regarding gender expression and sexual preference and the general predilection to use these as interchangeable terms. Part two will consider some of the possible roots of this confusion.

The prevailing mindset for most of “modernity” has been what might be called patriarchal or paternal. Men have dominated the major areas of life…medicine, politics, religion, administration of education, business…virtually every academic and mercantile pursuit has been directed and executed by those of the male gender. This is essentially an historic truism. With few exceptions…those societies that embraced a matriarchal perspective and those in which matrilineal descent prevailed…societies governed and dominated by men have been the rule.

Because of this, civilizations and societies have commonly viewed their culture through the prism of rationality, the most common way males perceive their surroundings. Men and women have different modalities of being in the world and of interpreting what they see and feel. The former tend towards what might be called a binary view, the latter towards a continuum or multiplicity model. Generally speaking, the male of the human species holds certainty to be a coveted truth…no ambiguity, no ambivalence. Within this binary structure, things are black and white, right or wrong, up or down, yes or no. The ability to see shades of difference, to accept and embrace the mystery of life, uncertainty, ambivalence and ambiguity is given to the female of the human species. She not only has the ability to perceive these fine gradations of difference, she revels in them.

None of the preceding is to say that these two ways of being in the world are mutually exclusive. No man thinks entirely rationally and no woman thinks entirely intuitively. But, these are singular modalities of cognitive ability and have a dominant mode of expression. Nor am I asserting that one modality of thinking is superior to the other. What I am asserting is that one modality of thinking that prevails to the detriment of the other is potentially fallacious, counter-productive and opens up many possibilities for inequities to develop.

When we turn the rational light of the binary model on the issues of gender and sexuality, we can better understand how they have become delimited and coextensive. For the sake of clarity, the binary approach would clearly seek a simple and unambiguous understanding of gender…male and female. And, because the rational mind is aiming for clarity, it immediately makes the assumption that sexuality and gender are essentially part and parcel, one and the same phenomenon. Male genitalia implies a sexual attraction to women, Female genitalia implies a sexual attraction to men. This formula is clear, simple and concise. No ambiguity, no ambivalence, no mistake.

Unfortunately, this model has never been correct and men have had to “fudge” to make facts fit reality. Obstetricians make carte blanche decisions regarding the gender of an intersex baby. Psychologists have historically diagnosed homosexuality and transgenderism as deviant behavior. Religious institutions immediately declaim against the sinful behavior of these deviants and perverts. Even in the modern world, there are those who assert that gay men are more likely to be sexual predators than straight men. The diatribes directed against the LBGTI community are no rarity in today’s world and much of the inability to comprehend can be laid on the doorstep of binary thinking. A mind, which embraces diversity, is not so readily persuaded to pass quick and arbitrary judgment upon something it does not understand.

Those who are able to abandon the binary model are able to perceive that both sexuality and gender are better understood through the prism of multiplicity and that the convenience of identifying gender presentation with sexual preference is not only misplaced, but also wholly inaccurate. A more encompassing model is better able to avoid the traps of myopic and monolithic thinking which completely misses the point in any discussion of gender and sexuality and their relationship, one to the other.

The last part of this series will look toward the future and what the possibilities hold if we do not restrict ourselves to one modality of perception, specifically as it relates to gender and sexuality issues.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Gender and Sexuality, Part 1

Friday, December 15, 2006




A key factor in discerning what it means to be transgender, or gender variant, requires the ability to differentiate between commonly accepted, but erroneous, labels. Even though it has been general practice, the identification of gender identity with sexual preference has led to an abysmal gap in our understanding. Simply put, it is a case of apples and oranges. Gender identity and gender presentation, on the one hand, and sexual preference or sexual orientation, on the other have, been confused and misconstrued for so long it is no wonder that, until recently, it was even a source of contention within the LGBTI community. Fortunately, through the advocacy of organization such as NCTE, NTAC, HRC and NGLTF, much of the inaccuracy has been dispelled. Still, the need for education is critical both within the LGBTI population and in society at large.

In part one of this article, I want to address just what the differences are. In part two, I would like to focus on the history that brought us this unfortunate conflation of gender and sexuality. Part three will look to the future and possibilities that exist when we address these issues with a new and different mindset.

Briefly, gender identity is whom I see regarding the person I believe myself to be and gender presentation is how I wish to present that person to the world. Sexual preference is to whom I am sexually attracted. I am not asserting that these two may, at times, not have an interactive relationship. Both are extremely complex and easily have an effect, one upon the other. But, their core natures are distinct and any attempt to confuse the two will invariably end up doing disservice to both.

Until recently, it has been commonly accepted belief that one’s birth sex was synonymous with one’s gender. If you were born with a penis, you were a male and were expected to act as a man. If you were born with a vagina, the role of female was to be the assigned role. Of course, this formula completely ignores the phenomenon of intersex, which should give us a clue that binary models for sexuality may not be accurate. It has been postulated that a continuum model may be closer to reality. If we look at sexuality from a sociologist’s perspective, and we include the diversity of sexual expression that is evident in today’s culture, it seems prudent to entertain the continuum model. It is even possible to go one step further and embrace a diversity model in which any modality we perceive in ourselves is an acceptable way of expressing sexuality.

Once we make the decision to explore the diversity model, it is not so difficult a task to understand and accept that sexual preference and gender identity are just two avenues in which diversity expresses itself. The reality is that the combinations and permutations of that manifestation are extensive. There is no distinct rationale to suspect that gender and sexuality are identical, or coextensive, and to do so makes the error of an assumption, which, in truth, has no basis in fact.

An appeal to reality will validate the accuracy of this model. We may find transgender persons who are attracted to men, to women, or to both. There is certainly no reason to suspect that, because one perceives oneself to be gender variant, one’s sexuality must necessarily change. Similarly, there are many different possibilities for the expression of gender variance, e.g., androgyny, gender queer, goth, m to f, f to m, pre-op, post-op, TG, TS, CD etc., just to name a handful. None of these has their essential basis in sexuality, which can express itself in another set of differing modalities. The bottom line to gender identity is to express, on the outside, the person one sees on the inside. True gender freedom means exactly that…no limits, no intolerance, no abridgement of civil rights. In that regard, freedom to express one’s gender perception and freedom to express one’s sexuality ARE similar to each other, and no different than freedoms other minorities claim as their birthright. When we equate gender with sexuality, however, we make the mistake of delimitation that echoes the same constraints majorities have historically imposed upon minorities. As is generally the case, such situations arise from misunderstandings and mistaken labels. Both can be easily avoided if we educate others as well as ourselves.

Next: A brief history of this confusion and it’s root within the phenomenon of patriarchy.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


Thursday, December 14, 2006

I was at one of my support group meetings recently and heard the story, first hand, from one of our members, regarding the intervention her family had attempted over Thanksgiving weekend. Needless to say, I was not only flabbergasted, but, as the details unfolded, found myself horrified. Was this still possible, given all the strides the LGBTI community has made? Did families exist that were so homophobic that they would put their child through this humiliation and terror? Evidently, yes!!

This person, a m to f transsexual, is scheduled for her gender reassignment surgery. She is young, bright and destined for a long and illustrious career. She has not only availed herself of therapy but regularly attends support group meetings. Was she deluding herself, as her family had insisted? Had she been imprudent and rash? I would answer with a resounding "NO"!!

Her travail started over Thanksgiving weekend and the juxtaposition of such a warm and wonderful holiday with the anquish that ensued was remarkable, as it was equally horrendous. She had been in her old room...she no longer lives with her parents, and had just been visiting for the long weekend. She was wearing comfortable and casual makeup...had not been dressing or acting in such a manner as to exacerbate her mother's and her father's disdain for who she was and the path she was taking. All of a sudden...literally...her door was forced open by 4 uniformed policeman who handcuffed her and proceeded to take her to the psych ward of the local hospital.

Our friend spent the next 5-6 hours incarcerated and was continually grilled...fist by the admissions staff, next by an admitting nurse, followed by an intern and, finally, by a consulting team of pyschiatric physicians. One must assume that this inervention, so to speak...more like an illegal detention (this person is over 21, had been planned for there to actually be a psychiatric staff in residence over a holiday weekend. After the rigor and humiliation of repeated grillings, questionings and exams, the pysch staff made the determination that this girl was not mentally incompetent, was fully in her right mind, and was merely (if that can be said) guilty of having a gender identity disorder diagnosis. Nothing unususal. Thousands of TG and TS persons have been so diagnosed.

Of course, it is important for us to determine the etiology of such a stigmatized viewpoint that would lead a family to such a radical decision. In their case, they are strict and fundamentalist...literalist...Christians and their motive was to save their child from eternal damnation. Such a strong and prejudiced perspective is certainly not something with which we are unfamiliar. In fact, in today's polarized world where First Amendment considerations have been discarded, we find this to be a prevailing doctrine in the American South. Unfortunately, those who profess this dogma are often uneducated and lacking in the ability to see the forest for the trees. They have become so consumed by their literalist and revivalist interpretation of scripture that they have lost any ability to behave as one might expect a "Christian" to act.

The saddest part of this story and of people like this is that they are totally recalcitrant and unmovable within the confines of their dogma. Reasoning with such literalists is as effective as arguing with a wall. They consistently parrot select and favored statements and Biblical citations and any discourse with them can rarely be described as discourse, because discourse inplies a give and take. That rarely is the case.

Our hope must lie with their children, who have been exposed to a more diverse cross section of people and have seen and met enough people who might be described as different or as individuals that they are nonplussed by race, gender and religious variance. They are not so inclined to be myopic and have tunnel vision regarding a heterogeneous population. They represent a potential future wherein we can dispense with intolerance and fear, with hate and the violence which often accompanies it.

My friend, however, will be forced to live with the confusion of both loving and hating her parents, of wanting them to be part of her life and of wanting them to be a million miles away. That is truly what they accomplished with their Thanksgiving "intervention" and both my friend and her parents will have to live with the tragic consequences.