poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Gender Immigrant
By Jennifer L. Pozner, AlterNet

Broadcast TV bookers seem to think transsexuals are flaming, cheating sadsacks on Ricky Lake and Jerry Springer, murdered victims of brutal hate crimes on lurid nightly news segments, or pathetic, selfish husbands who break the hearts of angry, grieving wives and children in order to become female. In a February special titled "Scenes from a Marriage," Dateline NBC spent a year following a woman named Joyce and her husband David, who was in the process of becoming Victoria. A year's worth of footage was edited to highlight Joyce's pain and loss, and to downplay the couple's commitment to one another, leaving audiences with the implication that their marriage was doomed to disintegrate, despite having survived "so far."

All this makes transgender author, comic novelist and English professor Jennifer Finney Boylan's contribution to our political climate particularly important. Since the publication of the New York Times bestseller She's Not There: A Life In Two Genders, a memoir about Boylan's sex change at age 42, she has made the media rounds, her humor and savviness as an interviewee resulting in a relatively rare phenomenon: coverage of transgender issues that educates rather than exploits. Light on political theory but brimming with anecdotes about the ways gender politics trickle into our daily lives, She's Not There is subversive, poignant and funny. The book's working title was "Gender Immigrant": Boylan has traveled from the culture of men to the culture of women and has emerged with insights extraordinary yet distinctly relatable.

Jennifer Pozner: The subtitle of your book is A Life in Two Genders. Having lived most of your life as a man, what were your expectations about becoming female?

Jennifer Finney Boylan: It's important to understand that if you're a transsexual, you're not changing genders in order to get a better deal. Having lived in this culture and having been a professor for many years, I had a pretty clear sense of the realities of being female, but what I most wanted was a sense of peace. And that is absolutely what I've found now that my gender and my spirit match. As I go through the course of my day there are things that are aggravating about being a woman and many things that are wonderful – but I can wake up in the morning without having to wonder "what gender am I?" or worry about what to do about a struggle that to most other people is incomprehensible. That is the particular dilemma for transsexuals: The main thing that is required to understand the condition is imagination.


House committee agrees to constitutional ban on gay marriage

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Legislation to place Louisiana's existing ban on gay marriages in the state Constitution received approval Tuesday from a House committee - despite an emotional prediction from a former lawmaker who said an election debate over same-sex marriage would tear apart the state.

"You will create division. You will create hatred. You will create violence over this issue," said former state Rep. Risley "Pappy" Triche, who told lawmakers his son was murdered more than 20 years ago because he was gay. Supporters said the proposed constitutional change by Rep.

Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, would create an added level of protection against court decisions, like that of a Massachusetts Supreme Court, that could authorize same-sex marriages.

State law has long held that people of the same sex cannot marry, and Louisiana does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states, but supporters said those existing laws could one day be thrown out by the state Supreme Court because of Louisiana's "due process clause" in the state Constitution.


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