Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Male

The Incredible Shrinking Male (Gender Role: An Historical Introduction)

Gender roles are obviously changing in the modern western world, but why? Some might contend it is a matter of personal choice, an issue of liberation from stifling tradition, or the product of moral decadence. I contend that gender role changes are the result of forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution that moved productive work and the generation of sustenance from the home into the factory/business/corporation. This process has resulted in a vast broadening of the female role and a virtual elimination of an identifiably unique male gender role.

In traditional economies the basics of gender roles were determined by physical sexual differences. Women bore the children and raised them until they were weaned because women had wombs and mammary glands (OK, I know you know this part, bear with me) which meant womens’ productive work had to accommodate child rearing. Thus women did work that necessitated less physical strength (though no less stamina) and could be done in the company of small children. This evolved from gathering wild foods to tending fixed gardens and handling domestic duties. Men did the jobs that entailed heavier labor and that which necessitated them being away from the place of residence for longer periods of time. This evolved from hunting game to handling the heavy labor (e.g. plowing) in farm fields--and fighting wars. These are broad generalizations, but were typical in traditional economies/cultures for generations.

The Industrial Revolution, over time, eliminated the need for extensive heavy labor as machines came to do the work. The female role was obviously changed but its biological essence was not eliminated, and indeed women can do the "heavy lifting" today with machinery. The male role as "bread winner" (primary wage or salary earner)—a creation of the Industrial Revolution itself as prior to it everyone in the family contributed to the family’s economic productivity—is hardly exclusively, and in many cases not even primarily, male today. This applies as well to the traditionally male role as warrior (originally male due to strength and speed issues, but also due to the fact that biologically—due to reproductive issues--men are more expendable than women) which is no longer an exclusively male preserve, again due to the Industrial Revolution and it’s results.

But gender roles work for a society not only when they make practical economic sense, but also when they provide individual psychological rewards such as fulfillment and identity. Again, the traditional female role in rearing children remains as potentially psychologically rewarding today as it would have been centuries ago. The male role in rearing children, however, has all but disappeared. In traditional economies men play a major role in teaching the older male children how to fulfill their roles as adults. The men typically take responsibility for the ceremonies by which boys are officially inducted into manhood. Undoubtedly all this provides a sense of bonding and rootedness and connectedness that helps hold these societies together. And it gives/gave men a sense of place, responsibility, fulfillment, and yes, a sense of identity. This role has been completely shattered in the western world where today the male role in child rearing is largely optional. While many men have simply opted out of child rearing, those who choose to take an active role in rearing their children are often simply seen as “helping” their wives. Certainly their contribution is, at best, viewed by society as useful but auxiliary. Men have thus lost the traditional role that offered them a sense of identity and psychological fulfillment.

Is it any wonder that it is almost impossible for anyone to provide a sensible generally applicable definition of masculinity today? Is it any wonder that gender lines are so blurred today, particularly for men? I’m not advocating a return to a romanticized view of the traditional economy nor to rigid gender roles. Indeed those days are gone forever; but I do think it’s time we realized that the Industrial Revolution—a relatively recent phenomenon in human history (and indeed one that is still ongoing in parts of the world, and has not even begun in others)—has created a disruption of long standing traditional gender roles. While the old versions of masculinity and femininity no longer make sense; new ones that give a sense of fulfillment have not yet been created. As a beginning, we, as a society ought to recognize that traditional roles have lost their economic and psychological bases and have become little more that cultural symbols with little practical relevance. At the very least, we need to grasp that gender roles are neither eternally ordained nor something individuals simply choose of their own free will.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Review: "Talking About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity With Our Kids".

Recently our esteemed moderator, Michele, introduced a booklet to the Gender Evolve arena. This is a review of the booklet by one GE member. As they say on television, "The opinions expressed herein may not necessarily reflect the views of the staff and management of the television station!"

I have listed the link below to the booklet:

http://www.aml-lma.org/docs/an_homoparentalite.pdf

This booklet was a creation of the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec. This booklet, because of its' breavity, is not intended to be a complete and in depth study of talking to your children about gender identity. It does, I believe, provide a useful guide to start on the road to full disclosure to your offspring on what it means for a parent to be transgendered. For those who have not been around children in quite awhile it begins the journey of "telling it like it is" to your children in a meaningful and compassionate manner.

The childrens' drawings of parents, interspersed throughout the booklet, provides the right "mind set" for parents reading the booklet. I believe the drab colors of the booklet , mostly olive green and grey, miss the mark however. Children like an array of colors. When talking about mommy or daddy they generally use bright vivid colors (reds, yellows, oranges, etc) to show their happiness with their parents. The use of duller colors generally portrays a sadder emotion from kids. While discussing parental gender identity with our children might provoke such worries from children I think the authors would have been better to have been more positive in their color array choices.

The booklet is well designed in a logical, sequential order. I especially like the feature of the authors putting the main points in larger, bold print. This reinforces the main points for the reader and allows them to be quickly reviewed at a latter time.

The writers do not pretend to have all the answers. On the subject being writtten about there are no definitive answers, no "One Size Fits All". This is a strong point of the booklet.

"Our children are watching and listening to our every move." This is a constant refrain in the article. I commend the authors for reinforcing this point time and time again. Parents can try to "cover and pretend" but, in the end, kids will infer what is going on at home with mommy and daddy. It's not really a question of whether to tell our children or not, but when to tell them about being transgendered.

As the article states, deception will undermind the parental bonds with children. This bond must be preserved at all costs.

While the article is long on philisophical ideas it does not short change the practical. One major point made is to look for support groups and to introduce children to other trans parents. They do not pretend this is easy however. Reality is a strong suit of the booklet.

Some of the major themes of the article are for parents to be positive role models 24/7 and to reinforce the ideals of love, acceptance, diversity, tolerance, respect, and honesty. Being a parent is an extremely difficult job. Being a transgendered parent is even more difficult. The minority in any human society always has it more difficult. The authors do not state this factor overtly but it is a subliminal theme running through out the readings.

Perhaps the most useful part of the booklet is the "Resources For Parents" in the back of the booklet. Here you can find support groups to help you in your parenting role. There are links to other informational sources to expand your knowledge base. This might be a real "eye opener" for those who feel rather limited in finding resource materials.

For myself I come away from this booklet with the conclusion that being a transgendered parent is much more difficult than being a non-transgendered parent due to societial pressures, ignorance, and bigotry. One comes away from this booklet with a sense of inspiration however ! Transgendered parents can inspire their children to understand the true nature of love, acceptance, and respect.

Having seen many transgendered parents raising their children it inspires me, and fills me with hope, that the future shall be much better for our children than the past. I can sleep better at night knowing this fact. In a real sense you are not just your own children's parents but parents to all of societies children !

I have saved this booklet for future use and I am sure I will return to read it many times. Thank you Michele for bringing this article to my attention.

With Love and Respect,

~KAREN~

Roots of the Transgender Movement: The 1966 Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Compton Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco, I thought I would post a little bit of history about it. This event took place 3 years before the more well known Stonewall Inn Riots in NYC. At the time, it was such a 'non-event' that the riot was not even mentioned in the local San Francisco papers. However, 'it was the first known instance of collective, militant, queer resistance to the social oppression of transgender people in United States history.' This bit of LBGT history would have been lost if not for the work of Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman, who together produced the documentary film 'Screaming Queens' about the Compton Cafeteria Riot and the begining of the fight for LBGT Civil Rights. Susan Stryker's article about the riot follows.

Stacie

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http://criticalmoment.org/issue13/stryker

Roots of the Transgender Movement: The 1966 Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria
by Susan Stryker

Late one August night in San Francisco in 1966, Compton's Cafeteria was hopping with its usual assortment of transgender people, young street hustlers, and other down-and-out regulars who found refuge there from the mean streets of the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood. The restaurant’s management, annoyed by a noisy crowd at one table that seemed be spending a lot of time without spending a lot of money, called the police—as they had been doing with increasing frequency throughout the summer. A surly cop, accustomed to manhandling Compton's clientele, grabbed the arm of one of the queens.

She responded unexpectedly and threw her coffee in his face. Mayhem erupted: plates, trays, cups, and silverware flew threw the air at the police, who ran outside and called for backup. Tables were turned over, windows were smashed, and Compton’s queer customers poured out of the restaurant and into the night. The paddy wagons pulled up, and street fighting broke out in Compton’s vicinity, all around the corner of Turk and Taylor. Drag queens beat the police with their heavy purses, and kicked them with their high-heeled shoes. A police car was vandalized, a newspaper stand was burned to the ground, and—in the words of the best available source on what happened that night—“general havoc was raised in the Tenderloin.”

That riot at Compton’s Cafeteria probably involved fifty or sixty people; it was the first known instance of collective, militant, queer resistance to the social oppression of transgender people in United States history. It took place nearly three years before the larger, better known 1969 riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn, which is credited with launching the militant phase of the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) civil rights movement. Why did queer people riot at Compton’s, and why has their struggle that night, unlike the one at Stonewall, largely been forgotten until now?
I first came across the story of the Compton’s riot in 1996, when I was doing research for my book Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was looking up information on the first gay pride parade in San Francisco and dug up a copy of the program for that 1972 event in the GLBT Historical Society archives. The parade organizers noted that the parade was ostensibly a celebration of Stonewall but they reminded program readers that gay militancy had started even earlier at Compton’s Cafeteria.

Though I had never heard of the Compton’s riot, as an out queer transsexual historian living in San Francisco, I was determined to get to the bottom of the story. I ran into several roadblocks—for example, city police records for the 1960s no longer existed and the riot had not been covered in newspapers. I might have concluded that the riot story was just a tall tale had I not found tantalizing clues in some of the gay papers about Vanguard, a new organization of street youth that formed in 1966, and picketed Compton’s in July of that year for discrimination against drag queens and hustlers. I knew then that the story was out there.

I was able to learn several things that made the story of the riot extremely plausible. First, the Tenderloin neighborhood had been a sex-work district since the early 1900’s, and transgender people, particularly male-to-female people who experienced employment and housing discrimination—in part because they “looked transgendered”—had lived there in large numbers for decades. Turk Street, where Compton’s was located, was well known for the many residential hotels that rented to transgender people.

Second, relations between the queens and the cops were never good, and had become worse in the mid-1960s. The police were notorious for exploiting sex workers in that neighborhood (if you look up “Tenderloin” in a dictionary, you’ll find that it means “an inner-city vice district controlled by corrupt police officers”), and they were especially vicious to street queens whom they considered to be from the bottom-of-the-barrel. As the Vietnam War escalated and more soldiers and sailors passing through San Francisco stopped off in the Tenderloin to support the local sex trade, police raids intensified. Hardest hit were the gay and drag bars, which even then catered to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military crowd.

Another factor that changed an already grim situation from bad to worse was the effect of urban renewal and redevelopment. The Black working-class neighborhoods that surrounded the Tenderloin were torn down beginning in the early 1960s, leaving the Tenderloin as the last pocket of affordable housing in central San Francisco. New residents flooding in from adjacent areas began to displace the queens, who were among the neighborhood’s most vulnerable residents.

In response to such massive disruptions, the neighborhood activists launched a campaign for economic justice. These were the days, after all, of the federal government's so-called War on Poverty, as opposed to its usual war on poor people. Glide Memorial Methodist Church, a hotbed of civil rights activism located one short block from Compton’s Cafeteria, became the hub of a campaign to win anti-poverty funding for the Tenderloin. That summer of 1966, the neighborhood was in a ferment that could not have failed to inspire the queens. Vanguard, the organization that protested the mistreatment of drag queens at Compton's, was itself organized as part of the anti-poverty campaign.

A final factor influencing the riot's timing was a perceived change in attitudes toward transsexual surgery in the United States. Genital transformation surgeries had been available in Europe since the 1930s, but most American doctors considered the procedures unethical, and refused to perform them. As a result, transsexual embodiment was practically out of reach for decades for many transgender women who might desire it. That began to change in July of 1966, with the publication of Dr. Harry Benjamin’s path-breaking book, The Transsexual Phenomena. Benjamin argued it was impossible to change gender identity but possible to change bodily sex; he initiated a paradigm shift in American medical attitudes toward transgender people. As a result, many street queens in the Tenderloin began to believe a better life might finally be within their reach. The riot, in some respects, was the clash of newly raised expectations with the same old repression.

By 1999, I had pieced together much of the story of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot. Still, I had found no “smoking gun” to prove that the riot had happened as described in the pride parade program. By this time, however, I had decided to make a film about the story. My filmmaking partner, Victor Silverman, and I pieced together archival footage of the queer scene in the Tenderloin for a work-in-progress screening at the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. That was the turning point that led to Screaming Queens, our film about the Compton’s riot—word got out on the street and people who had been patrons at Compton’s, and who had rioted there, came forward to share their memories, which we then captured on film.

Screaming Queens introduces viewers to a diverse cast of former prostitutes, drag entertainers, police officers, ministers, and neighborhood activists, all of whom played a part in the events surrounding the Compton's Cafeteria riot. Mixing recent interviews with archival footage and documents, impressionistic reenactments, and period music, the film depicts a marginalized community few people know, one that exists in the midst of a city famous for its cosmopolitan glamour. With extraordinary candor, the subjects recount the difficulties they encountered in the Tenderloin, as well as the sense of community they created there in the mid-1960s. Felicia Elizondo tells of prostituting herself in order to survive. Aleshia Brevard, a drag entertainer, describes how her talent spared her from street prostitution. Perhaps most surprising is Sgt. Elliot Blackstone, who helps explain the conflict between the police and the city's transgender community and how the department's policies changed to reflect greater acceptance in the years following the 1966 riot.

Screaming Queens connects the riot at Compton’s Cafeteria to broader social issues that continue to be relevant today, such as discriminatory policing practices in minority communities, lack of minority access to appropriate healthcare, harmful urban land use policies, the unsettling domestic consequences of foreign wars, and civil rights campaigns that aim to expand individual liberties and social tolerance on matters of sexuality and gender. The Compton’s Cafeteria riot was the first militant outburst of the contemporary transgender movement. Making Screaming Queens has been a privilege.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Survival is not a game

My response is to a transsexual woman in a Yahoo transgender group who appears to feel misunderstood and slighted by those who seem to lump all transgendered people into a common category.

Dear Friend.

It seems that underlying the intensity of your passionate feelings lie the issues of investment, honesty, and the willingness to risk it all to be yourself. I have sense that for those who take a casual or cavalier attitude to the issue of being transgender (such as those who dress infrequently), and yet insinuate their situation is akin to that of a transsexual woman, shows a colossal discounting of the total dedication that a transsexual woman must demonstrate just to survive. Such an undertaking includes pain, loss, suffering, and disruption of her life that she must endure in order to survive.

Survival is not a game and is not fun, is not sexy, nor is it sensual. It is what it is and without such a change, a transsexual woman would be unable to survive. That set of circumstances is very different from the situation of a cross-dresser, who while might be unable to stop dressing, still has a life, a job, and friends after the clothes come off. I, for one have a great deal of admiration for you and our other brave transsexual sisters who risk it all to be yourselves.

Lotsa Love.

Felicia

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Can We Box Gender?

In a Yahoo group dealing with transgender issues, a member who identified herself as transsexual indicated that putting on women’s clothing does not make one a t-girl, a transsexual, or a tyranny. She noted an increasing number of "cross dressers" claiming to be “transsexual” but states that the term “transsexual” should be limited to someone who is "transitioning from one anatomical sex to another"? She went on to note her difficulty in grasping the concept of a 6'3", 220 pound man in his wife's stockings while she is out of town calling himself a t-girl. She further indicated that she has lived and worked as a female and been on HRT for several years.

She indicates that there are two basic gender variations: a transsexual who identifies with the opposite anatomical sex, and honestly believes she was born to the incorrect gender and has taken steps to physically change to the correct gender and a cross dresser/transvestite who basically enjoys the clothing and feeling of the opposite anatomical sex, but does not wish to become that gender on a permanent basis. She did offer that there are varying degrees of each of these categories. She indicates that transsexuals are transgendered and cross dressers are not as they have not taken the steps to look like or become female in a physical sense.

Although my understanding is that the term “transgendered” is an umbrella term encompassing many of the gender variant categories, I told her that I think she makes a number of good points on this issue. I agree that in terms of categories, what she says fits perfectly with what my understanding is of these terms (with the exception of the term “transgendered” that I noted above). I provided her with some thoughts to ponder:

1. If a 6'3", 220 pound biological male perceives the self to be a woman trapped in the body of a male and plans at some point in time (if the details can be worked out so that the benefits outweigh the costs) to make physical changes to become physically female, what do you call this person?

2. If a petite and feminine appearing biological male, identifies as a male, is a stage performer, and made changes to become physically female only to further his career as a female illusionist, what do you call that person?

I am offering these two extremes to make the point that it is not only behavior that defines us but also our thinking and intentions that help us to self-define. It is my humble opinion that the concept of gender is multifaceted with each facet on its own continuum. Some of us just don't fit well into boxes.

Lotsa Hugs.

Felicia

What Men Don't Get

The following article is written by an independent journalist in regard to the behavioral differences between men and women. If we look beyond the stereotyping based on physical gender, and instead apply what the author says to the differences between masculine or feminine people (regardless of biology), I think this article is fairly on-point. Knowing that someone born male can naturally feel and behave feminine, and someone born female can naturally feel and behave masculine, I think the author does a great job of humorously contrasting a few of the differences between masculine and feminine people.

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What Men Don't Get
Marni JamesonMarin,
Independent Journal

'WHY DO YOU want to cover that beautiful floor?" This is my husband's standard response whenever I suggest buying an area rug.

"Because a rug will finish this room."

"The room is finished," he insists. Dan thinks a room is finished when the doors are hung and walls are painted.

I huff off, frustrated again by the million and one differences between men and women - and that's just counting the differences in the home improvement arena. When it comes to home decorating, women are from Venus and men are from another solar system. Here are some more head-scratching differences:

- Men don't get drapes. Show me a man who does, and I'll show you a man who got an extra X chromosome. Ditto for wallpaper.

- Men don't get custom bedding. They really don't understand why you can't just zip two sleeping bags together. But usually, if a custom coverlet makes the woman happier in bed, he won't put up a fight.

- Men don't get centerpieces. "Why put something on a table that you just have to move every time you need the table?" they ask.

- Men don't get throw pillows. (See above logic.)

- Men don't get a big, conveniently located laundry room. Men would just as soon put the laundry room outdoors like an outhouse. Women want it central, so lugging clothes around the house isn't their primary workout. Then again, men don't get the need to do laundry until the pile morphs into a giant polar bear that walks into the room and blocks the big screen.

- Men do get home theaters and surround sounds. Women, however, don't get why it's cool to have sound so realistic the whole room vibrates and feels as though World War II planes are dropping bombs down your neck.

- Men want big grills; women want big bathtubs.

- Men love their garages, and will defend them to their death. Actually, deaths have occurred when a woman craving more space wanted to turn the garage into a gym or art studio.

- And men don't get area rugs. If you have carpet, men think putting a rug on carpet is redundant. If you have hard floors, like stone or wood, they know how much they cost, so refuse to cover them up.

None of this surprises Michael Gurian, an expert on gender brain differences, and author of "What Could He Be Thinking." To try to understand men better, I read his book and called him. Turns out the different ways men and women look at home improvement - or life - come down to the way the two sexes' brains are wired. In men, the dominant brain region ponders questions like how big? how much? and does it have a remote? While women's brains allot much more space to the region that ponders how many colors does it come in, and is it washable? Here's what else is different:

- Men focus on gross value, while women focus on fine value, says Gurian, who heads the Gurian Institute in Spokane, Wash. "Men get their identity from how big their home is and how much land they have. Women get their identity from the quality of the interior space." That's why, given a choice between a large bathroom or a small one with fabulous accent tiles, men opt for bigger, women for nicer.

- Women's brains take in more sensory data than men's. They are biologically wired to see more, hear more, smell more and feel more, he says. "This is why men don't understand why women can't relax if the house is a mess." This brain difference also explains why men don't notice gritty counters, and why more women change litter boxes.

- Women trust feelings; men trust logic. A woman will decide to buy a home if a bird is nesting in the eaves, and the cupboard knobs are just like the one's her grandma used to have. Men will buy if the seller knocks 10 percent off the asking price.

- At home, men look out. Women look in. This harkens back to our predecessors' days when cavemen focused on the woolly mammoth hunt, while cavewomen focused on finding the perfect hearthstone. That is why, 10 million years later, when a little extra money flows in for a home improvement, men want rain gutters and women want drapes.

Absorbing all this, I've come up with a strategy to help women prevail on the home front more often: Think like a man. I try this on Dan, and re-approach the subject of that area rug. "I know you think a rug will cover up our beautiful floor," I say, "but think of a beautiful area rug like great lingerie." He lifts his eyebrows. "It invites you to imagine what's underneath."

Marni Jameson is a nationally syndicated columnist who lives in the Denver area. You may contact her via www.marnijameson.com .

...just as I believe (l'un séparer)

I Believe we all have a responsibility to the world to be happy.

I Believe every talent should be utilized for the good of all.

I Believe that clarity of understanding is more important than being of a "right" opinion.

I Believe that Cold Stone Creamery was created by divine proclamation.

I Believe that human pridefulness is the reason relationships fail.

I Believe all human beings are a tri-unity: Spirit, mind, and body.

I also Believe we are all obligated to place our priorities in that exact order.

I Believe that "they lived happily ever after...", but they worked diligently together for every moment of happiness.

I Believe in the fairy tale...with some modifications to perception, that is.

I Believe in homemade espresso (with a little Grand Marnier).

I Believe that the intimate love you give another is an exclusive gift.

I Believe that sex is a natural expression of that gift.

I Believe the bass guitar is the holiest of musical instruments.

I Believe that self-analysis is mandatory.

I Believe truth always points to itself...

I Believe that nothing is ever so bad that some selfish prick can't make it worse...

I Believe that politicians are almost always the exception to any rule denoting basic human goodness.

I Believe self-deception hurts others more than it does one's self.

I Believe you only meet your true love once in your life.

I Believe in opening your heart completely to your true love.

I Believe that a relationship that hasn't experienced pain hasn't matured.

I Believe that reading is the single-most important thing you can do for your mind.

I Believe in either being in love or being alone.

I Believe that no offense is unforgiveable.

I Believe that understanding the consequences is the key to any decision.

I Believe that popcorn, dark chocolate, and peanut butter should be in everyone's home when I come over...

I Believe that children are the best teachers of how to be a true adult...

...and I'm not finished...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Conflicted

In my soul resides a box
Its origins unclear
And in that box which never locks
Lies treasures held with fear.

The wonderful, the horrible
So intricately intwined
Despairing joy
Alluring pain
Depressing ecstasy

A unified duality
fulfilling from within
Compels me forward
Drags me back
Again, again, again

Here my yin is yang
My yang is yin
I cannot stay out
But dare not stay in

Oh, highest of highs
And lowest of lows
You are my paradise
and also my prison

Strange alien friend
you inner place
That I must share
and desperately conceal
I hate you with an aching love
as you direct my will.

There in that box which never locks
resides the spectrum of my soul.

Lesbians' Brains React Differently

The following article was in the May 9, 2006 edition of the SF Chronicle. I thought it was of interest because it is related to previous studies that show phyiscal differences in transexual brains.

Maybe it's true when we say we can't help being what we are. "No, we are not 'crazy,' there is a physiological reason I am a tranny. "

Stacie
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Study: Lesbians' Brains React Differently
- By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
(05-09) 15:44 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --
Lesbians' brains react differently to sex hormones than those of heterosexual women, new research indicates. That's in line with an earlier study that had indicated gay men's brain responses were different from straight men - though the difference for men was more pronounced than has now been found in women.

Lesbians' brains react differently to sex hormones than those of heterosexual women, new research indicates. That's in line with an earlier study that had indicated gay men's brain responses were different from straight men — though the difference for men was more pronounced than has now been found in women.

Lesbians' brains reacted somewhat, though not completely, like those of heterosexual men, a team of Swedish researchers said in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A year ago, the same group reported findings for gay men that showed their brain response to hormones was similar to that of heterosexual women.

In both cases the findings add weight to the idea that homosexuality has a physical basis and is not learned behavior.

"It shows sexual orientation may very well have a different basis between men and women ... this is not just a mirror image situation," said Sandra Witelson, an expert on brain anatomy and sexual orientation at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

"The important thing is to be open to the likely situation that there are biological factors that contribute to sexual orientation," added Witelson, who was not part of the research team.

The research team led by Ivanka Savic at the Stockholm Brain Institute had volunteers sniff chemicals derived from male and female sex hormones. These chemicals are thought to be pheromones — molecules known to trigger responses such as defense and sex in many animals.

Whether humans respond to pheromones has been debated, although in 2000 American researchers reported finding a gene that they believe directs a human pheromone receptor in the nose.

The same team reported last year on a comparison of the response of male homosexuals to heterosexual men and women. They found that the brains of gay men reacted more like those of women than of straight men.

The new study shows a similar, but weaker, relationship between the response of lesbians and straight men.

Heterosexual women found the male and female pheromones about equally pleasant, while straight men and lesbians liked the female pheromone more than the male one. Men and lesbians also found the male hormone more irritating than the female one, while straight women were more likely to be irritated by the female hormone than the male one.

All three groups rated the male hormone more familiar than the female one. Straight women found both hormones about equal in intensity, while lesbians and straight men found the male hormone more intense than the female one.

The brains of all three groups were scanned when sniffing male and female hormones and a set of four ordinary odors. Ordinary odors were processed in the brain circuits associated with smell in all the volunteers.

In heterosexual males the male hormone was processed in the scent area but the female hormone was processed in the hypothalamus, which is related to sexual stimulation. In straight women the sexual area of the brain responded to the male hormone while the female hormone was perceived by the scent area.

In lesbians, both male and female hormones were processed the same, in the basic odor processing circuits, Savic and her team reported.

Each of the three groups of subjects included 12 healthy, unmedicated, right-handed and HIV-negative individuals.

The research was funded by the Swedish Medical Research Council, Karolinska Institute and the Wallenberg Foundation.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sharing the Dream

We will often hear ourselves as transgender people say, "We need to stick together". I have often wondered why we are so inclined to say this? Do we say it because we need each other for protection? Maybe. Do we say it because we need friends to party with? Partial maybe. Do we say it because we want to share makeup tips? lol Maybe that too. It is such an instinctual thing to say dont you think?

I belive ultimately we say it because we know on some deeper level the importance of community. Community is made by shared dreams. We share and live and breath as sisters in the same dream. Imagine everynight sharing wonderous dreams with people like you...What a beautiful thing to be sharing this dream with my sisters.
Amara

“The dream is owned not by the dreamer alone, but collectively by the group, and the individual dreamer is simply the vessel the dream decided to borrow to have a conversation with the whole tribe. The tribes view the dream as a map for their waking hours. It is a forecaster of what is to come for all of them. In dreams they connect with their ancestors and the rest of the universe. The dream is what is real. It is their waking life that is the falsehood.

"The dreamer is the vessel for a borrowed thought, a collective notion, present in the microscopic vibrations in between the dreamers."
~ Excerpted from THE FIELD: A Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe, by Lynne McTaggart.

Become the Beautiful Flower

As a small child about 4 to 5 years old in kindergarden one day, as part of the days activities, the class was separated having the boys go to one side of the room and girls to the other.
I remember my teacher bending down to me, having to explain to me in what seemed like some length why it was that I was on the wrong side of the room and needed to be standing with the boys.
I remember how imbarrassed I felt as the boys laughed at me.
This was perhaps my first lesson that all the world lived for each others expectations.
Amara

"Many of us unconsciously believe that we’re unworthy or defective. We adopted this belief very early in our lives when the people we looked up to disapproved of our demands, wishes and behaviors. We concluded that we had to learn to be good.

Unfortunately, ‘being good’ usually meant giving up our own differences or uniqueness. We learned that we might get the love we wanted if we acted and felt like others wanted us to.

If we seek true joy and connection with life, we now need to remove these artificial masks and express our deep authentic nature.

"For all those years you’ve protected the seed. It’s time to become the beautiful flower."
~ Stephen C. Paul"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

One Small Step Forward?

The April edition of the American Historical Review (that’s the most significant professional historical journal in the country) carries as it’s featured article “The Disruptive Comforts of Drag: (Trans)Gender Performances among Prisoners of War in Russia, 1914-1920.” On the cover is a photo one of the most acclaimed of these female impersonators, in full costume. The article is typically academic and tends to discuss the role of theater in the prisoner’s lives and psyches as much as anything. The author, an Israeli historian, concludes that the performers helped to create a sense of normalcy and comfort for POWs and that was particularly true for those men, mostly young, who played the female roles.

But in dealing with the female impersonators, the author takes what was for me a rather disappointing approach. He seems amazed that many of them actually continued to dress as females when not on stage in their everyday lives and that they worked to develop and exhibit feminine mannerisms. Indeed, they actually assumed the roles of women full time. The article even comments on how these faux females would devote an inordinate amount of attention to their feminine clothing even down to their lingerie. Imagine that!

Obviously the author isn’t one of us. As I read the article the conclusion that leapt out at me was that these young men were in all likelihood transgendered and had simply found the circumstances that allowed them to express themselves. Not only could they live as women and not fear reprisal, but would actually be praised and rewarded for it. The performer featured on the journal’s cover was quoted as saying that her regarded his time in a POW camp “as the happiest time of my life.” Given the circumstances at the time, that seems pretty understandable, doesn't it?

Nonetheless, I thought it positive that the leading historical journal in the country would devote attention to the issue and run it as it’s cover story. Even if the editor did choose to print, a bit condescendingly IMHO, the title banner in a neon fuschia rather than the standard earthtones, maybe it shows we’re getting some positive attention from serious and objective scholars.

See the article at: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/111.2/rachamimov.html


Stephanie Yates

TOP 10 Signs She's Flirting

Hi ladies,
I thought I would lighten up the mood a bit with this cute piece. I guess I just need to feel how fun it is to be who we are right now:)....


Top 10: Signs She's Flirting With You
By
Oliver Jameson

Flirting is almost an art form. It takes much practice to execute the subtle signals of interest with perfect timing. Thankfully, there is no shortage of flirting tips for men out there. However, flirting is only half the battle. To truly make your rapport with a woman successful, you need to recognize when she's flirting with you .
Women are masters of subtlety, so it's your job to remain especially aware of every gesture, every word, and every move she throws your way. Always remember that attentiveness is key.
a word to the wise
Although the signs that a woman is interested in you can boil down to these 10 points, you need to know that any single point can be deceptive. The lady you're chatting up may be an attention-seeking serial flirter with no intentions of ever going on a date with you.
Or she might simply be very nice and friendly with everyone, not just you. If you see her often (at work, for example), a good way to tell is by paying attention to how she reacts to others. If it's the same way she behaves with you, then don't get your hopes up.
The following flirting signs are good for all settings, whether in a coffee shop, restaurant, nightclub, or at work. So sharpen your senses and read on.

Number 10
She keeps glancing overAre her eyes aimed at you every time you look her way? And does she avert her gaze whenever you catch her staring? Then you might have a live one here. If she doesn't prolong the eye contact, then she's probably shy and needs a little coaxing from you. Go up to her, introduce yourself, and get her talking.

Number 9
She smiles at youThe smile is the ultimate sign of openness and friendliness, provided it is genuine. Many people force a smile when trying to be polite, but they tend to be fairly obvious about it. If she shows her teeth and has that sparkle in her eye, then you can deduce that she's enjoying your company. Your only job is to keep her smiling by smiling back.

Number 8
She goes out of her way to get you to notice herIf, on her way from point A to point B, she takes an unnecessary detour through point C (you), she might be trying to get your attention. For instance, if she walks by your table "on her way" to the washroom in a coffee shop, but your table is located at the opposite end of the restrooms, she is probably interested. Why else would she be taking the long way? If she smiles at you on her way, consider your job half done.

Number 7
She plays with her hairWomen's hair is a source of power and confidence to them -- why else would they get so devastated after a bad haircut? They tap into its power at key moments, subconsciously unleashing its seductive potential. If you see her twirling her finger through it or throwing it around, like in a shampoo commercial, then you have a potential flirt in your midst.
This goes for body language in general. Some women like exposing their necks, prepping their clothes, or placing their arms in front of them in a way that their biceps push their breasts together, augmenting their cleavage. Some magazines tell women to let their shoes dangle at their toes, displaying the curvature of their feet, which men, apparently, associate with their other curves. However, if she's crossing her arms, it means she's distancing herself. Be alert.

Number 6
She initiates the conversationTaking the first step to initiate a connection with you is a huge sign that she's interested. If she tells you something like "You remind me of someone I know," which begs a response and subsequent conversation, that's a concrete sign.
During the conversation, she may further convey her interest by asking you open-ended questions -- watch out fellas, they're starting to use our own weapons against us! She might also whisper "secrets" to you, bringing your faces close together, perhaps letting you get a good whiff of her perfume.
Is she repeating your name back to you?
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Number 5
She laughs at your jokesWhen you relate a funny story, does she throw her head back in riotous laughter or does she just look at you and say, "Is that supposed to be funny?" A big part of flirting involves reactions to the partner, so if she acts captivated by your words, you're in the green. Other reactions that convey approval include asking "really?", "wow" and opening her mouth in amused disbelief.

Number 4
She asks if you like certain activitiesDoes she ask you about your hobbies? Is she being more specific, and asking you if you like a particular pastime? Although she is not actually asking you for a date, it's an implied way of doing it. She could be leading up to asking you out or paving the ground for you to pop the question instead. If the activity in question is dancing, movies or dinner, then it is almost certain.

Number 3
She pays you a complimentWomen are sparse with compliments, so if she throws one your way, you can pat yourself on the back. This is especially good if it has to do with your physique, as this implies that she is attracted to you. Another way she may demonstrate her interest is by repeating your name, letting you know that you are memorable and establishing a closer, more intimate connection with her.

Number 2
She makes sexual commentsSome women like to put themselves in the mood by talking about things that turn them on. It brings out their frisky side. So if she steers the conversation to sexy topics, she could be trying to pull you into a flirting crescendo that might lead to a veritable verbal foreplay. Most times they will keep it understated and tasteful, so you should do the same. A crass slip-up is a sure-fire way to ruin the rapport.

Number 1
She touches youWhen a woman breaks the contact barrier during a conversation, it is almost a sure sign that she's interested. It can be as obvious as touching your arm or knee while making a point, or as faint as having her knees come into contact with yours under the table. But you must make sure that she makes the first skin convergence.
A less direct way is if she mirrors your body language, which is something women do subconsciously. When you lean in, she leans in. When you rest your elbows on the table, she does the same. Duplicating your actions is her way of showing you that she's "in-synch" with you.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ditch The Disclaimer

I spent the majority of last week surfing TG home pages in my quest to promote the petition. I ran across something on several home pages that really bothered me. I can’t for the life of me figure out why girls would put up disclaimers on their websites such as:

“WARNING This site deals with subjects such as crossdressing, transvestism, transsexualism and related issues. If you are uncomfortable with any of these things please leave now.Please note that there is no pornographic material on these pages and you must be 18 to view them”

To me that’s just saying to people that you think there is something wrong with it. Why else would you put that up there? If there is no pornographic material, then why must you be 18 years old to view it?

Sure some of the sites contained pictures of girls wearing lingerie that was a little risqué, some of them had links to adult sites, but most of them I would not think twice about letting my 12 year old look at. Are these people ashamed of who they are? Is that why they put that up? Perhaps it started with a few sites with that disclaimer and then other TG’s who were making home pages figured that’s what your suppose to do.

If someone comes across your page and doesn’t want to look they have the option of closing the page or hitting the back button. If I was a vegetarian (which I am not) and accidentally clicked on a page belonging to a meat packaging plant, there would be no warning for me. Spiders…. now there is something that I would rather not see. I have yet to find a page that warns me they are going to be on it and to hit the back button.

Please dear friends..... We are trying to promote equality here. It makes it a little difficult when you yourself don’t think you are equal. Perhaps you never really thought about what that message sends to other people or perhaps I am the only one that sees the disclaimer as the wrong sort of message, but I have a feeling there are others that see the same way I do.

If you have a home page with a disclaimer up, please take it down. If you need it up there because you have adult pictures or adult links, then state that is the reason.

Warn us if your page has annoying music, warn us if your page contains traces of peanuts but please never warn us because your page has to do with crossdressing.

Be proud of who you are because that’s beautiful.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

New Science on Gender, Hormones and the Brain

New evidence shows how hormones wire the minds of men and women to see the world differently

By Ronald Kotulak, science reporter
Chicago Tribune, April 30, 2006

Scientists are still a long way from figuring out what women and men really want, but they are getting a lot closer to understanding what makes their brains so different.That women and men think differently has little to do with whether they are handed dolls or trucks to play with as infants. After all, when infant monkeys are given a choice of human toys, females prefer dolls and males go after cars and trucks.

The differences, researchers are beginning to discover, appear to have a lot more to do with how powerful hormones wire the female and male brain during early development and later in life.

Among the newest findings: A previously unknown hormone appears to launch puberty's sexual and mental transformation; growth hormone is made in the brain's memory center at rates up to twice as high in females as in males; and the brain's hot button for emotions, the amygdala, is wired to different parts of the brain in women and men.

Scientists hope the findings may help explain such mysteries as why females are often more verbal, more socially empathetic, more nurturing and more susceptible to depression, while males tend to be more aggressive, more outdoorsy, more focused on things than people and more vulnerable to alcohol and drug addiction.

"Males and females look different, we act different, so of course our brains are different," said Rutgers University psychologist Tracey Shors, who is studying the effects of growth hormone on the brain. "Sex hormones along with stress and growth hormones change the brain's anatomy, and in that way you change behavior, your ability to think and learn."

Sex differences begin with the X and Y sex chromosomes a person is born with. But scientists now believe that whether the brain and nervous system are wired as female or male depends a lot on the early influence of estrogen, the so-called female hormone, or testosterone, the male hormone.

The brain's sexual identity is first established when those hormones are briefly released before and shortly after birth, which may influence a child's preference for dolls or trucks.

"There's a peak of testosterone in males at birth that's very important for future sexual behavior," said Dr. Sophie Messager of Paradigm Therapeutics in Cambridge, England. "If you block that, the male rats behave like females for the rest of their life.

"The sex hormones then lie dormant until they get turned on again in puberty to make the body ready for reproduction.That is where a recently discovered hormone called kisspeptin comes in. Created in the brain, it unleashes a cascade of hormones that race down to the gonads--ovaries in females and testes in males.

There they stimulate the production of estrogen or testosterone, starting the physical transformations of puberty. Messager proved in animals that blocking kisspeptin prevented those changes from happening.

But there is another target for this activity: the brain. The hormonal downrush kicked off by kisspeptin comes full circle when estrogen and testosterone travel back to the brain, imprinting neural circuits with female and male characteristics, Messager said.

Animal studies show that genetic females will behave like males if their estrogen is blocked and replaced by testosterone. Genetic males, in turn, act like females if their testosterone is knocked out.

Until kisspeptin was discovered, scientists had generally accepted the idea that sex differences were centered in the hypothalamus, a small organ on the underside of the brain. It was thought that the hypothalamus originated the flow of hormones that start puberty, determine male and female physical characteristics and orchestrate mating behavior."

The bias of mainstream neuroscience for the last 25 years has been, "OK, sure there's some sex differences way down deep in the brain in this little structure called the hypothalamus, but otherwise the brains of men and women were pretty much the same," said Larry Cahill, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Irvine.

"That was wrong, as wrong as could be," said Cahill, who is using imaging technology to show how male and female brains are wired for emotions. "Sex matters a lot in how the brain works and we neuroscientists have to change our tune."

One example lies in the amygdala, the organ that interprets the emotional content of an experience, affecting what people remember.Located deep in the brain on both sides, the amygdala amplifies memories that are pleasant or frightening. It tells the hippocampus, where memories are put together to be stored, which memories need to be most tightly locked in place. It will never let you forget what you were doing when you won the lottery or where you were on Sept. 11.

Cahill and his colleagues found that the amygdala works differently in men and women, which may help explain why women are more likely to develop mood disorders such as depression and men are more prone to alcoholism and drug abuse.

In one experiment, Cahill showed that when men and women watched the same emotional movie, the right side of the amygdala was more active in men, and the left amygdala was more active in women. "They're using very different brain processes to create enhanced memories," he said.

The right amygdala is more in tune to the outside environment, communicating with the visual cortex, which controls vision, and the striatum, which coordinates motor actions. These processes are thought to be key to spatial orientation--knowing how to negotiate your surroundings, as in hunting.

The left amygdala is concentrated more on the inner environment of the body, connecting with the insular cortex, which produces emotionally relevant content from sensory experiences, and the hypothalamus' regulation of the body's metabolic and autonomic activities. Scientists speculate that this is important for the female capacity for nurturing.

A second study by Cahill involved the beta blocker propranolol, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that also has been found to greatly reduce the activity of the amygdala. Because it subdues emotional arousal propranolol is being studied as a way to reduce the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In Cahill's experiment, normal subjects were given propranolol before seeing an emotionally disturbing movie about a boy run over by a car. Cahill found that women on the drug were able to remember the central idea of the story, such as that the boy was with his mother, but fewer of the details. Men, on the other hand, remembered more details, like the soccer ball the boy was holding, but less of the essence of the story."The drug impaired memory for the details of the emotional story in women but not men, and it impaired memory for the gist of the story in men but not women," Cahill said.

One possible explanation for why women tend to be less aggressive than men is that they may be better able to filter out overly arousing feelings. The front part of the brain, which controls emotions, is bigger in women than in men when compared with the size of the amygdala, where experiences get their emotional charge.

That difference may be why women are less prone than men to fly off the handle, Cahill said.

Scientists also have made new discoveries about growth hormone, whose chief job was thought to be to build the body. But researchers have found the hormone is produced not only in the pituitary gland but also in the brain, in the hippocampus.

That suggests the hormone plays a previously unsuspected role in learning and emotions.

Said Shors: "Sex hormones, like estrogen, have a tremendous effect on the growth and architecture of the brain."

rkotulak@tribune.com

The Crossdressers' Manifesto

The Crossdressers' Manifesto

(Last Winter I spent days answering a TG "nomination questionnaire" which among other things wanted to know “what message do you have for the TG community?” After discussing my answer with her, Shari Williams pointed out that if I have a message, I also have a vehicle to proclaim it. So here is my answer, expanded. It's been blogged on my 360 site, but somehow I knew it was destined for GenderEvolve most of all.)

In my half-century of lifetime, I have seen a significant amount of progress in the conceptualization and perception of gender-diverse issues in the public eye. From my view at least, I’ve seen acceptance become relatively real for most of the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual parts of the gender spectrum. We sit here in 2006 with an incredibly popular movie with a strong gay theme, television shows that directly deal with lesbianism, and popular personalities comfortable with admitting, even proclaiming, their homo/bisexuality. This is not the 1960’s anymore, to be sure! Even the transsexual aspects of the T-community are in the first throws of acceptance, and let's hope the well-deserved Oscar nomination for Felicity Huffman’s incredible performance in “Transamerica” will provide a significant boost to mass appreciation of the TS issues. But sadly, the heterosexual crossdresser community has almost no positive movement or insight. When the best that we (and I’m in this group) can point to is the brother on “The Drew Carey Show”, we haven’t gotten much traction. Oh well, I guess I’ll grow into my old age simply regretting that some Hollywood script writer thought gay cowboys worked better than cowboys dressed as women. Maybe it’ll happen someday, but alas, I will have missed it.

Bunk.

I firmly believe that the crossdressing community is blessed with an incredible wealth of talent, energy, and resources. Those I’ve come to know continually impress me with the gifts they have to give. What we have is the power to change our fate, but apparently not the focus of how to do it. And while I humbly submit that I am no Karl Marx, I will offer a first draft of a manifesto – a proposal of how we can bring our awesome selves to change the hearts and minds of society. This is my opinion today, but as all of you contribute ideas and energy to it, we can build this into something we can get to happen.

The way I see it, we need to work as a group to make progress on three rather broad fronts, each calling for those with an appropriate gift to take up the cause.

(1) We need Ambassadors. We need sisters who can present both a positive physical image and a mature life example to be our spokeswomen - in the media to be sure, but also in the malls and hallways of our communities. People need to see that we’re not “sickos” or “freaks” but normal people, just with a gender enhancement. If you’re thinking you want to go out and fool the world that you’re a girl, I understand the desire to match yourself to a challenge. But most of us can’t do that. If you CAN go out, we need you to go out into the world and interface with it. Talk to people – in whatever voice you have. Let them ask their questions: “So, you’re NOT gay?” “Why do you want to do this?” “You have wives, families, and jobs?” The answers we give aren’t as critical as the fact that we’re willing to try and answer them. They don’t understand any of this life we have. And yes, there are parts of it we don’t understand either – but if we don’t start sharing information about ourselves, the rest of the world will just sweep us under the carpet.

(2) We need Educators. We need verbally gifted sisters to write about our gender condition. And we need them to direct their writing in two directions. First, we need sisters willing to write of our own condition so that those inside the community can perhaps better understand themselves. I know that while we may all be crossdressers, but we are each unique in our motives, weaknesses, fears and joys. So it will take many voices to fill the need – but our sisterhood has some sharing to do, and blogs, columns, and e-mails can make each of feel closer to the group. Second, we need folks to write so that the outside world can better appreciate our feelings, our actions, and our attributes. Conventional communication forms can be useful here – why not an op-ed piece on crossdressing? But the upcoming generations take their information electronically, and we can reach them and teach them in spades. Let’s open our world to them, and (here’s the key) make them welcome. Let’s write blogs for them, not just for ourselves!

(3) We need Counselors. We need to actively provide assistance for new girls who find our community and arrive with a lifetime of burdens, guilt, and questions. This is a task every last one of us has a responsibility to do. If you’re reading this, then you discovered the online community somehow. You remember learning that there were others out there. You likely wandered around to find someone to help you – and maybe you found help quickly, maybe not. Every day new sisters find us – and we need to stop fussing about our own looks or vistas, and help them. Compose, cajole, comfort, characterize – make them welcome. We who are here have a collective wisdom, and we cannot let it go to waste! Whether online, in support groups, or in a “big sister” model, we need to find ways to make those who join us feel accepted, supported, and appreciated. Every sister we embrace, we empower. The more we act like a caring community, the more our acts will change lives. When all of us can embrace and carry our gender expressions without internal baggage, then we will be best prepared for developing acceptance from the world at large.

(Now, thanks to T-spouse Sunny Fields, we expand the maifesto!)
(4) We need Supporters. This community needs the support of spouses, parents, siblings, children, psychologists, neighbors, friends, teachers, etc. These supporters can provide an open ear, a shoulder to cry on, a back-up plan, a different point of view, someone to venture into public spaces with, and a whack on the head when we get off the beam. We need them to support us. But we need them to support us out in the community and world, too. These supporters could and should be invited to share their views and talents and help the community get more exposure, understanding and respect. Imagine the day when one of our ambassadors appears in the media, a beautiful t-girl sitting next to her beautiful g-girl wife. They'll ask the wife how she deals with this, and she'll say, "I've very okay with this. I love the person and am totally loved in return. And I love being treated and honored by my spouse, love being treated kidly and gently, love having someone who can shop." That will be a powerful day, a day we will all celebrate!

Okay, I open this to you all. Chime in with ideas, then find a role for yourself and get going!

We can change the world. But it is going to take we.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

An Exemplary Anti-Discrimination Policy

Unity in Diversity - Recognizing Heterosexism and Homophobia

I would like to share the following anti-discrimination policy developed and practiced at McGill University in Montreal Canada. Here is an example of the social progress that is being made within Canada in regard to gender identity and sexual orientation. The inclusionary approach and positive reinforcement of diversity taken at McGill University should serve as an example for educational institutes and policy makers worldwide.

Equally interesting is the definition of the terms "heterosexism" and "heterosexual privaledge", which describe the common perception of society in assuming what is "normal". Also to be appreciated is the section which describes how to deal with heterosexism and homophobia. With new paradigms being developed within the educational system, it is only a matter of time before society at large gains a greater understanding and acceptance of human diversity.

The following is exerpted from: http://www.mcgill.ca/queerequity/heterosexism/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Recognizing heterosexism and homophobia:Creating an anti-heterosexist, homophobia-free campus

Understanding sexuality

University campuses are a reflection of the wider society. Indeed, part of a university's strength is the diversity of all its members. Like other forms of discrimination and harassment, homophobia and heterosexism weaken diversity. Bias and hatred have no place at McGill University. In order to increase awareness of homophobia and heterosexism, it is useful to two of the components of sexuality: gender identity and sexual orientation.

Gender identity: A person's self-concept of one's gender that may be the same as or different from one's sex at birth (male, female, or inter-sexed*). Thus, adopting the female gender means becoming socially and culturally female, even if one is biologically male or inter-sexed. A person may also define one's gender identity as being more fluid than either male or female. In other words, one's gender identity may encompass parts of masculinity, femininity and other non-traditional gender expressions.

Sexual orientation: One's sexual, affectional and romantic interests to members of the same gender (homosexual), other gender (heterosexual), or both/all genders (bisexual). Some people experience their sexual orientation as an unchanging, lifelong part of their nature, and others experience it in a more fluid way that changes over time or across situations. Whether sexually active or not, everyone has a sexual orientation.

What is homophobia?

Homophobia involves harassing, prejudicial treatment of, or negative attitudes about lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans-identified, transgendered, inter-sexed and/or two-spirited (LGBQTT) persons and those perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities. Discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are not acceptable at McGill.

Homophobia includes a range of feelings and behaviours from discomfort and fear to disgust, hatred, and violence. It manifests itself in four different ways. Personal homophobia (or internalized homophobia) consists of personal beliefs and prejudices. Interpersonal homophobia (harassment and individual discrimination) involves individual behaviours based on those personal beliefs. Institutional homophobia includes the ways that governments, organizations, some religions, businesses, and other institutions discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Lastly, cultural homophobia (heterosexism) refers to societal values and "norms" that privilege heterosexuality over all other forms of gender expression and sexual orientation.

Homophobic behaviours include:

  • "Gay-bashing" or physical violence, including sexual violence
  • Making derogatory comments, innuendos, insults, slurs, jokes, or threats about sexual orientation or sexual practice
  • Silencing talk of sexual or gender diversity
  • Forcing people to "come out" or to "stay in the closet" (disclose or hide their sexual orientation)
  • Linking homosexuality with pedophilia (child abuse)
  • Accusing LGBQTT persons of "recruiting" others to join their sexual orientation
  • Defacing notices, posters, or property with homophobic graffiti
  • Rejecting friends or family members because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Behaving as though sexual orientation is solely about sexual practice or is a "lifestyle choice"
  • Treating the sexual orientations or gender identities of LGBQTT persons as less than valid than those of heterosexuals
  • Behaving as though all LGBQTT persons have AIDS or are responsible for the spread of it
What is heterosexism?

Heterosexism is based on societal values that dictate that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual. Intentionally or unintentionally, our society privileges heterosexuality and heterosexual persons, and devalues, mistreats, or discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirited, queer, and/or transgendered persons and those perceived to be so.

Recognizing heterosexual privilege

Heterosexual privilege bestows unearned and unchallenged advantages and rewards on heterosexuals solely as a result of their sexual orientation. These benefits are not automatically granted to LGBQTT persons.

Heterosexual privilege includes the right to:
  • Show affection in public safely and comfortably, without fear of harassment or violence
  • Openly talk about one's partner and relationships to others without considering the consequences
  • Benefit from societal "normalcy": the assumption that heterosexual individuals and relationships are valid, healthy, and non-deviant
  • Assume that all people and relationships are heterosexual, unless otherwise known
  • Not face rejection from one's family and friends because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Easily access positive role models and media images for one's gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Not be asked to speak on behalf of all heterosexuals
  • Use gender specific pronouns when referring to one's spouse or partner without discomfort or fear of reprisal
  • Have automatic recognition of one's spouse as next-of-kin in emergencies
  • Easily select reading or viewing materials in which heterosexuality is the predominantly reflected orientation
  • Have families similar to one's own represented in children's literature
  • Raise children without fear that they will be rejected or harassed by peers because of their parents' sexual orientation or gender identities
  • Receive support and validation from a religious community
  • Not risk being denied employment, housing, or other services because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Not be seen as needing therapy to "cure" one's sexual orientation or gender expression
  • Marry
What is anti-heterosexism?

Anti-heterosexism involves recognizing and questioning the power and privileges society confers on heterosexual people because of their sexual orientation. It involves respecting and fostering the inclusivity and diversity of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Anti-heterosexism challenges the assumptions that disadvantage LGBQTT persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What can I do about homophobia and heterosexism?

Whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, queer, transgendered, trans-identified or heterosexual, we all share the responsibility to end homophobia and heterosexism. Here are some tips:
  • BE NON-JUDGMENTAL. Being LGBQTT is not something to be ashamed of or judgmental about. Homophobia, not sexual orientation or gender identity, is the problem.
  • USE GENDER INCLUSIVE AND NON-HETEROSEXIST LANGUAGE. Do not assume that you know someone's sexual orientation and/or the gender of one's romantic/sexual interests. Use inclusive language even if you know someone is heterosexual. Help educate and encourage others to use inclusive language, as well.
  • ASSUME THAT ANYONE COULD BE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, QUEER, TWO-SPIRITED, TRANSGENDERED OR HETEROSEXUAL. Don't assume that everyone is heterosexual "unless you know otherwise" or that everyone should be heterosexual. Similarly, don't assume that someone is LGBQTT based on stereotypes or assumptions about one's friends.
  • DON'T TEASE OR HARASS OTHERS for exhibiting behaviours that are not traditionally associated with their gender (or what you perceive their gender to be).
  • DON'T "OUT" PEOPLE. Do not force anyone to disclose one's sexual orientation. Also, if you know that someone is LGBQTT or is questioning one's sexual orientation, don't assume that you may tell anyone else. Be sensitive to the fact that some people are "out" in some areas of their lives, but not in others.
  • DON'T THINK OF LGBQTT PERSONS SOLELY IN TERMS OF THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION. Just as the lives of heterosexual people include far more than their attraction to members of the opposite sex, LGBQTT persons also have friends, skills and multifaceted interests unrelated to their sexual orientation. Don't define anyone by one's sexual orientation.
  • DON'T ENGAGE IN HOMOPHOBIC JOKES, COMMENTS, SLURS OR OTHER BEHAVIOURS. Speak up against these when you witness them. If you don't, your silence condones and encourages such behaviours.
  • EDUCATE YOURSELF. If there are things you don't know or understand about LGBQTT issues, do some research, ask questions or contact a group that deals with these issues.
  • TALK ABOUT SEXUAL DIVERSITY. Maintain an inclusive group, classroom, living or workspace by talking openly and respectfully about LGBQTT issues when they come up. Treat these issues as you would any other issue.
  • REMEMBER THAT AN INDIVIDUAL'S SEXUAL ORIENTATION INVOLVES MORE THAN SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR. It includes attraction, companionship, intimacy and emotional attachments as well as sexual activity.
  • DO NOT FORCE PEOPLE TO HIDE their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • DON'T ASSUME THAT LGBQTT PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING or have regrets about their sexual orientation and want to be heterosexual. Likewise, if someone who is LGBQTT is having problems, don't assume that sexual orientation is the cause.
  • RECOGNIZE INTERSECTIONS AND SIMILARITIES OF PREJUDICE. Heterosexism and other forms of oppression and discrimination have similarities and areas of overlap. For example, a black lesbian may experience homophobia, racism and sexism. An East Asian man may be disadvantaged by racism in ways that are similar to the ways a gay man is disadvantaged by homophobia and heterosexism.
  • ENGAGE IN INCLUSIVE PRACTICES. Create work, study and living environments in which gender and sexual diversity are included, modeled and valued.

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OH CANADA!!!

Lots of love,
Michele Angelique

Truth and Beauty


Open your eyes what truth do you see?
Then close the doors to you and me
Take yourself on a journey where no one goes
To an unreachable place that only heaven knows

Walk a dream of your choosing
Express all of your hearts desire
You are no longer bound to the earth
But you are an unquenchable fire

An unbroken promise you live to remember
By your soul so my lives ago
A promise to priceless to sell
That your nature has come to know

In the majestic void you found your truth
How destiny has become your friend
Your sacrifice saves those who may fall
And now your truest beauty is without end

Amara

All we could ever need to feel successful, satisfied, and fulfilled lies within us. How we feel about ourselves is simply a matter of how we choose to think and the ideas we allow ourselves to entertain. When our thoughts are positive, full of self-love and self-acknowledgement, we naturally feel secure, confident, and capable. The behaviors and opinions of those around us have no bearing on how we feel, because we are the only source of the truth about ourselves. Look within you today, and take time to recognize and think about all that makes you strong and beautiful, and you will realize you are entirely precious and capable.
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