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October 31, 2008

Engaging Assignment #2

I thought Bornstein’s gender exam was interesting because even before I took it Bornstein made a disclaimer to let the reader know this is not a fair test but this is how we are tested everyday in our culture. I felt angry and ashamed when answering some of these questions and especially the ones where it asks if you believe you are better than others due to some circumstances. I was surprised at some of my answers as well because after going through the test again I realized I came off as superior on some of them and I do not believe that is who I am. Although I felt that way I still only got a 770 on my exam.
I completed the exercise on page 63 and this one was about making a list of the different identities I have been and no longer consider myself to be. Then I listed some things I liked and some things I didn’t like about it about those identities. After completing the exercise I realized all the things I used to be I didn’t like besides one identity. In fact I could not find anything positive about what I used to be so that makes me feel as if I am on the right track in my life. Most of my former identities were harmful and only got me into trouble. Like I stated there was one certain identity I could not find anything negative about so I would like to incorporate it back into my life.
Gender according to Bornstein is something that is linked with sex, it is about the man and the penis and it is something we learn how to achieve. Gender according to me is a continuum rather than binary. I believe there are more than two genders and it is up to the individual to decide which gender they may be. I don’t believe gender should be so rigid and unfortunately it is in our culture. I believe the individual should have as much time as they need to see who they really are and then go from there. Gender according to dominate society is all about class, either you belong to the male class or the female class and there is no in between. Society also pressures you to figure out what class you are in so then you are not considered deviant.

October 29, 2008

Engaging Assignment 3

On Sunday, October 19th, I attended Kate Bornstein’s book reading at Amazon bookstore. A local trans poet opened for Kate, and for the life of me, I cannot remember her name. I need to go back to Amazon and find out, because her poetry was so powerful. I don’t usually like poetry, but I liked the bold, unapologetic statements she made mixed with song. Her poetry would be very empowering for any transgender person. Her poetry had something I think everyone could relate to. I felt it when she read a few lines about wanting a love she’s never had. She read a few poems about Barack Obama, which I think everyone enjoyed.

Finally Kate came on to read some of her work. First, she gave some background about her past life with her wife and daughter. She heartache that she suffers as a result of estrangement from her daughter actually have nothing to do with her decision to change, but everything to do with her decision to leave the church of Scientology. I knew Scientology was a shady organization that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I had no idea the means this organization will go to to make former members suffer. Kate managed to put a funny spin on all the horrible things this group has done to her, remaining defiant and proud of herself. She read from her upcoming autobiography, which she more acted out than read from. Kate’s passion and energy are arresting. I felt transfixed by her. Especially when she talked of cutting herself, I think everyone in the room was breathless and felt the pain right along with her. After she read a bit from her autobiography, she noticed a trans writer friend of hers in the audience and insisted that he come up and read some of his work. Clearly at a loss to say no to Kate, he reluctantly agreed. I wanted to hear more from Kate, but was willing to listen to someone with a different voice (unfortunately I can’t remember his name, either). He asked if the audience would rather hear about love or sex, and while I cast my vote for sex (along with the opening poet), the majority decided they wanted to hear about love. He read an excerpt from a recent story about a new, passionate love he has found. This reading perhaps got me the most visibly emotional, since I knew the feeling all too well and had just suffered a loss of that feeling. It’s not easy listening to an overwhelmingly optimistic account of love when one is going through a break up. My own feelings aside, it was a beautiful piece of writing.

Anyway, Kate went back on after that to talk about the latest work she has published, Hello Cruel World. I had heard of the book before because a member of my favorite band wrote the introduction, but I had never read the entire book. Although not quite as powerful as her autobiography, it was a still a touching passage she read about the history of the trans movement and alternatives to suicide.
I had been to a few readings at Amazon before, but this was by far the most intense and rewarding experience I have had there. Kate has such a presence, such a passion for life. She is genuine and connects with her audience in a way I have never seen a speaker connect. I was very disappointed I couldn’t make a few of her other talks, but this event was, I’m sure, the most intimate and personal.

October 28, 2008

Who's On Top Reflection

In hir complicated, yet comprehensive, explanation of gender in My Gender Workbook, Kate Bornstein discusses the different theories and way about which one can approach and examine the concept of gender. Bornstein openly rejects the traditional concept of gender being a binary system of opposites, as this dichotomy simply does not address the entirety of the population. Kate also goes on to discredit the “ying-yang? and “continuum? concepts, and even the theory of gender being “a circle?. In Bornstein’s opinion, society has constructed a pyramid-like structure for gender, with the top consisting of white, executive, wealthy and happy men, a small and often unattainable portion of the population for most. Bornstein recognizes that citizenship, health, monogamy, heterosexuality and the possession of power and property all dictate where one might fall into this theory. The man described in supposedly society’s interpretation of the Perfectly Gendered Individual.

While completing Kate Bornstein’s activity in the “Who’s on Top?? section of My Gender Workbook, I was surprised with the results of the exercise. I initially thought that because of my background, financial standing, race, and definite gender identity, I would be toward the top of Bornstein’s Gender Pyramid. I only received a score of 578, therefore putting me in "far from perfect" category. Apparently, I inherently can never be at the top due to my lacking in dominant genitalia, but also in my religious beliefs (or lack thereof). According the Kate’s standards, which are reflective of society’s standards, many of us can never make it toward the top. Bornstein embraces this concept and recognizes how the simple act of toying with, or challenging, gender in our modern world might cause hostility. Regardless of hir complex explanation of the gender paradigm, the definition of gender and gender roles and identities in modern society are still up in the air, as I expect them to be for some time to come.

My gender workbook

I have to say that I was a little taken aback by my score in Kate Bornstein’s gender quiz. I have never not “passed? as my gender, I have always fit quite nicely into my gender, that being said, I only got a score of 550. That puts me into the almost lowest category of “Um, you don’t get invited to a lot of ritzy places, do you?? I guess I don’t fit into my gender from society’s standpoint as well as I thought I did. Even though I am white and middle class coming from a protestant family, which seem to be the making of the most heteronormative person, I guess my ideals really hurt me on this.

While I was taking the quiz, I kept thinking about how I was doing. I knew that I didn’t want to score too low or two high. I kept wanting to be average. I don’t think I’ve ever actively wanted to be average before. Without the bonus points, I would have been on the lowest rating. I guess that part of me wanted not to be on the bottom, even if I knew that there was no real value assigned to it.

I think that obviously this quiz can’t be taken too seriously, but it can be a jumping off point to look at why we think we are the way we are and give us a tool to think critically. I think that the best thing that we can do is look at social constructs critically and try to understand why we give validity to some and ignore and debunk others.

Engaging Assignment 3

While I was doing the gender workbook the quiz, I kept wondering to myself how I was doing, or if I was getting the answers “correct?, even though I knew that there was no right or wrong answer. I have no idea why I thought that a quiz written by Kate Bornstein would tell me exactly what gender I was. Everything that Bornstein wrote before the quiz was about how the gender system was a rigid, binary system that did not allow for any gender outside of male or female. Despite this, a little part of me kept thinking that the quiz was serious or legitimate. After going through all of the questions and calculating my score I turned to the last page quickly, expecting some sort of concrete answer regarding my gender. What I found instead was, “Ok, so the scores are totally arbitrary. Right. So’s the rest of the culture. So are the ideas of real men and real women. So’s gender in general. So there? (Bornstein 62).

Reading that last sentence was a little deflating. I was curious to hear what my answers to the quiz had to say regarding my gender. Then I realize that even if Bornstein had meant the scoring to be serious, it wouldn’t matter. What I took away from the quiz was that I can do all the quizzes I want and listen to society to tell me what a “real? man or woman is, but it all means nothing. What matters is how I feel about my gender. If I feel like I am male, that’s fine; if I do not, so what. I do not have to define myself to by society’s or anyone else’s definition of what gender is.

Society considers gender to be interchangeable with sex. If you have a penis your sex is man and your gender is male; and if you have a vagina your sex is woman and gender is female. It is as simple as that. The problem is that life is not simple. It is not black and white. It’s impossible for everyone to fit into these specific categories set up for them. In spite of this, this rigid gender system remains in which your gender is determined at birth and you are expected to fulfill the requirements of that gender for the rest of your life.

Gender according to Bornstein, is set up like a pyramid. Those at the bottom of the pyramid have the least amount of power and are furthest from what society considers the “perfect gender?. Those at the top of the pyramid possess all of the power and are considered “perfectly gendered?. Bornstein describes these people to be “white, male middle aged, conservative, capitalist, heterosexual, and middle to upper class? among other things (Bornstein 43).

Unlike dominant society, I do not believe there are more then just two questions. To me gender is very complex and can not be considered the same as sex. I do not consider a person’s biological makeup a determining factor when it comes to gender. I think that many things can influence gender, including family, society, religion, and culture. When I think about gender, I think about the way that a person acts, if they are masculine or feminine. I think that people should be able to determine their own gender and not have society do it for them.

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EA3 -Gender

'These things [Sex & Gender] are really tangled up!' (p26 of My Gender Workbook)... I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Kate Bornstein speak in Saint Paul. Hearing her discuss her male to female to something of both or neither conversions and transformations underlined the fundamental complexity of being human. Beyond the color of our skin and the size (and number?) of our feet and, the presence and absence of various genital appendages, we are something more. We become more than simple biology, because we can sit here and worry about societal constructions (norms of being and 'norms' of wanting-to-be). We have a harder time changing the biology than we do understanding and altering our social constructions.
I certainly enjoyed reading the Bornstein articles... they raise profound question about societal expectations of gender and sex and the relationship of the two. When she read excerpts from her works it was a moving experience. It was possible to see the pure pain that is caused when we merrily simplify the equation of gender = sex = sexual preference. As human beings, we do not need to do this. The inventors of calculus, do not need to resort to this simple arithmetic. But all too often we do, resulting in pain and anguish for those where simplicity does not rule. Kate Borstein is an excellent spokesperson for those require deeper and fresher and more open societal calculus.

Is this another example of science as sex industry (a la Wilchins)?

Check out this article on love, sex and infidelity from today's New York Times. How do you think it fits in (or doesn't fit in) with Wilchin's discussion of the sex industry of science in her chapter, "Can Sex Have Opposites?" Are certain rules of gender (and sexuality) being reinforced here?

Gender Workbook Exercise

According to Bornstein, gender is any form of categorization where people are separated and designated as different from each other in one form or other. Sex, however, is any type of the act itself. Bornstein argues that gender gets conflated with sex in dominant society through the "biological imperative" and concepts connecting sexual preference with gender identity, sexual attraction with gender attribution, and the act of sex as gendered and specific. It is a "sex-as-gender" perspective.

Personally, I feel that Bornstein makes many points that I can relate to in my own life, such as the attempt to attain a perfect gender identity, the safety of an identity within the dominant female/male binary, and the structures of power and privilege attributed to individuals within dominant hierarchies. The exercise I react most emotionally to- the one that hit the most personal level- was the one where readers are asked to describe the last group or relationship they used to belong to and the reasons for leaving. To make a long story short, it reminds me of a past relationhip I had with a man and the many questions I still have about the relationship and why it ended. Although I was rejected by him not because of a shift in gender identity but rather because of my ideals about what kind of relationship I wanted and his fear of another hurtful experience, I think that it is still very relevant to look at that rejection and question both our reasoning and perspectives. It seems important to do this in order to get at the ways in which the dominant heteronormative hierarchies work in our lives. For example, why do I look for a monogamous, committed relationship rather than a non-monogamous one? Why would either of us fear a sexual or even emotional experience with another person? Why were we and still are, regardless of of the fall-out, attracted to each other?

I could write pages upon pages on how his status as a fit, white, heterosexual male seems to allow me as a fit, white heterosexual female to be attracted to him, why I fantasize about sex with him in a certain heteronormative way in which I take a passive or subordinate role, and even why I consider myself to be heterosexual in the first place even though I have had almost no sexual experience. There were a multitude of racial, class, and sexual factors that came together in my experience and interaction with him that relate directly to Bornstein's metaphorical pyramid of gender/identity/power. Even though I have only given an overview of my experience, Bornstein's exercise prompted me to question and critique my personal gender identity and preferences in sex as well as see the way in which dominant society conflates the two in my own life.

Engaging Assignment #3: Gender

First of all, I really like Kate Bornstein. Not only is hir writing amusing, but it seems to be written for everyone. It isn’t all crazy, advanced theory terms; it’s intelligent but very easy to understand, and very funny. I think this was perhaps hir goal–the book is supposed to teach everyone about gender, even those deemed “perfect?, who would presumably not be reading a book about gender that shakes the very ground that holds them at the top of the pyramid (to use Bornstein’s example). Which brings me to…

Gender. I honestly have no idea what it is to me. I’ve gotten as far as gender is an identity, but I have no words to describe what that identity is. If I fall back on society’s definition of gender, it is “male? and “female? (and probably based on genitalia and hormones and gonads, etc). . If I choose to reject those binaries (which I do), gender becomes anything between “male and female?. This definition, however, still assumes “male? and “female? as sort of norms–everything is defined in terms of the two binaries. Why should gender be squashed within two completely constructed identities? More importantly, how do you get gender out?

Bornstein basically sums up my thoughts on gender in the section Gender: The Shell Game, on page 31. She talks about living in systems of gender–the “two gender system? and then living out of the system entirely. I am struggling with understanding how Bornstein “got out of the system?. As though in response to my thoughts, Bornstein states, “I think it comes down to an understanding of gender as simply one aspect of identity. Gender is a kind of identity, that’s all?. This is where I’m at.

My completion of the “Who’s on top?? quiz and a gender exercise, as well as my day to day experiences, have confirmed a lot of my opinions on society’s definition of gender. I think it is very much about power, and society sees that power most manifested in a straight, white, middle-class, etc. male (basically everything Bornstein lists on page 43). I was put in the “um? result category, and while I don’t think this necessarily describes the way I am viewed in my everyday life (at my high school, at home, at tournaments), it caused me to consider how people who see me on the street or the bus view me. The other day I was transferring buses (ironically, after a class discussion on gender binaries), and two men behind me had a very loud conversation (and later proceeded to ask me) about my gender–whether I was a guy or a girl.

I think that this is indicative not only of societies definition of gender as the incredibly rigid “male and female?, but also of the need of so many people to classify everyone as “one or the other?. I am not allowed to exist just as Laura, a person; I must be “Laura, the lesbian, middle-class, white, Christian, female?. I can’t escape identity–I want identity; to a certain extent, I need identity in order to exist in our society. At the same time, however, I can’t seem to find one that fits.

Engaging Assignment #3

Bornstein's "Who's on Top" exercise was one that elicited both surprise and anger from me (and surprise at being angry). When I was taking the test I was pretty ambivalent about it--I'd figured I'd end up with the same results I always get on these types of surveys and ratings: the middle category, where you're not special enough to praise, but not weird/abnormal/low-scoring enough to wonder about.
However, when I graded my exam and found myself in the second-to-last category I found myself surprised and angry. I was surprised because I felt like I knew that, had I taken this exam four or five months ago, I would have scored much higher simply because I didn't identify transgender. I felt like after reading all of these words about how gender is so elusive and isn't someone's entire identity as a person, and because I feel like I'm still trailing off of a life where I lived gender congruent, surely my relatively new claim to being transgender wouldn't change everything so completely (not to say this one test is everything, but you know what I mean). And, there my score was, proving society's point--it doesn't matter who you were and how successful you were in that identity, what you do, or what place you occupy in the world. If you're transgendered, you are automatically knocked down to the bottom of the ladder.
I felt significantly discouraged. So I decided, like any normal human, to look at what was to be said about those in the bottom category, and that's where my anger came in. To see that Bornstein praised the bottom category of people really frustrated me. I know the scores are arbitrary and this is just one person's quiz on a totally elusive concept, but it reminded me of the culture I've found myself immersed in since I came out as trans and moved to the Twin Cities, and it also pinpointed the following notion that I had been previously unable to articulate: Even in the trans/queer community, you have to look, act, or feel a certain way, or else you are pushed to the side. You either have to be fully passable or a complete genderfuck to fit in, and if you're not either of those things there's not much, if any, room for you. It's also completely representative of how incestuous the GLBT community is--if you don't fit the aforementioned prerequisites, you'd better know someone popular in the community in order to fit in and be just as loved.
So, essentially, seeing the acknowledgment of the dominant society's values on the top of the score chart and the praise for those who are the "prime" of the GLBT community on the bottom in combination with seeing my score and knowing that it's a visual/numerical representation of what happens in everyday life really frustrated me. The GLBT community (or even just the trans community, more specifically), I feel, claims to be an all-inclusive and supportive place to go for those of us who don't fit in, but once you try to sign up for the club, you realize that it's just as exclusive as the rest of society.
As for gender...I think gender is a monster that we've all created, but none of us can afford to kill. It's a completely arbitrary system and hierarchy, but at this point I think it may just be something that we'll never be able to escape. So many of the foundations of our everyday life are grounded in gender, and with the paradox of progress that we've created (the more efficient we get as a society, the more we fill up our newly free time), I think if we were to try to deconstruct something so basic to nearly everything in everyone's lives it would cause so much of a breakdown we would be back to square one, thinking of equally arbitrary ways to classify people and make it easier to navigate everyday life. So, while I know gender is stupid and not even real, I can appreciate the necessity we have to continue to use it every day.

Let's Have a Social

We all fall into the same trap and why shouldn't we? We are products of society, and being thus we follow social standards; prescribed behaviors constructed by society, but sometimes these behaviors aren't always for the best. Just because society prescribes these behaviors does not make them right. Even so, deviation from them usually causes isolation. So we follow, blindly and unconsciously, these social constructs.

I feel like two people. One person is society. He sees in the eyes of society, made by society, to live in society. The other resists society and the idea of conforming to what the group thinks is best without first consulting what he (I) think(s) is best. I think in all of us these chasms exists. Gaps between what we want and what society wants.

If we give into society we lose what I'd like to think of as our individuality. We can't make a choice for ourselves, what feels right to us. Instead we make choices to appease society. On the other hand to do something we feel is right that contradicts what society feels is right leads to negative sanctions from people around us. Depending on the severity of our actions in their deviation, these sanctions could range anywhere from a frown to jail. So there the choice lies, what you feel is right vs. what society feels things should be.

These social norms do exist for a reason though. They teach children what is right or wrong (morality), they unify people for a united purpose, they make life generally easier. Laws protect people. Institutions teach children. But the cost of this is a loss of personal power over actions. So maybe the choice is more like personal power vs. safety/unity.

I don't know how I feel about this so far. Right now I'm confused. I feel like the solution is viewing society through a critical lens, always measure your actions through a grain of salt, but there still seems to be a problem with this. Can we really ever be without the desire to fit into a society? If not then the problem lies in reform, but reform to what and how? Questions.

October 27, 2008

"Who's On Top" Gender Workbook

Society defines gender as a hierarchy; just another way to lump individuals in to categories to determine the "haves" from the "have-nots"...basically, lumping people who are biological males at the top of the pyramid, women fall underneath them (of course, because they are inferior being that they have no penis) and then anyone who does not fit in to one of those two categories is at the bottom of the hierarchy. Bornstein refers to this as, "a hierarchical dynamic masquerading behind and playing itself out through each of only two socially priviledged monogendered identities." Bornstein asserts that gender has very little to do with genitalia (65) and is simply a method of categorization (26). I agree with Bornstein's definition of gender as a simple method of categorization. So far, this is the best defintion of gender I have ever heard.

The gender exam really got me thinking because I have always felt that I was part of the "norm" as far as my identity as our culture defines it...I am a caucausian female, I love to be overtly feminine (it is just how I like it...some poeple tell me I am so flambouyant I should have been a gay guy..haha),I am hetero-sexual and in a monogamous relationship with the man I will spend the rest of my life with, I am in perfect health (always have been), I came from an upper-middle class family, and I was always told by my parents that "I can be anything I want to be as long as I just work hard enough at it (I found this ironic because Bornstein mentioned this on page 57)". So when I scored 606 and fell in to the category of "Um, you don't get invited to a lot of ritzy places, do you?" Then it hit me that although I feel confident and proud about my gender and being a woman and have never viewed being a female as a "handi-cap" so to speak, sometimes it is a handicap. I am viewed as weak and less capable then i would be had i been born with a penis. I started thinking about how this affects my daily life; why am I always the one that has to make dinner while he watches the football game? Why does he always drive the car (even when it is my car)
when i am just as capable? Why can't I open doors for men when i am just as capable of pulling it open as the man in front of me...I am not weak! Why do I make less at my job (which I am VERY good at) than someone doing a job at my work that takes less skill but is a man? Why does my dad tell me I can not use certain words because I am a "lady"? Why am I told that I should subtract the "one-night stands no one will ever know about" from my number of sexual partners so that people will not think I am a slut when my guy friends seem to multiply their number of sexual partners with pleasure everytime I talk with them? And then I started realizing I have been blind to how my gender affects me and that how I view my gender as equal to that of a male is not viewed by society in that way.
just some thoughts,

October 26, 2008

My Gender Workbook Exercise

According to Kate Borstein--and I really think she hit the nail on the head--gender is "anything that categorizes people" (65). She says that it includes appearance, mannerisms, biology, psychology, hormones, roles, genitals and any other aspect of the human that assigns a group. Thinking this way about gender is almost mind-blowing to me, because even though hir definition makes perfect sense, I've still grown up thinking of gender and sex as one entity and only now do I see that they are as different as night and day. After completing the gender exam and the workbook exercise, I am realizing that my own view of gender and my own definition is changing for the better. For example, now everytime I even see the word "gender" I look at the context in which it's used. I'm surprised how much I find a word used when I'm actually looking for it, and even more surprised that I still have yet to see the term "gender" used correctly.

Gender, according to dominant society, is still synonymous with sex. I guarantee that if someone sent out a survey for the general public to take, that almost nobody would be able to differentiate between the two. Young people might have a better understanding than the older generations though, and I think that's because we are more willing to adapt to new ways of thinking.

Gender according to me...This is tricky. I honestly think that Kate Bornstein's definition is exactly right, and I hope that one day I am able to think with hir train of thought about gender and sex and people in general without consciously making myself do so. But right now, I don't always see gender as it should be seen, and I find myself defining it by dominant society's definition. Do I want to do this? No. But unfortunately after growing up for 18 years thinking that gender and sex are the same thing, it is proving a little difficult to break the habit. Despite that I am glad to say that I am starting to think of gender and sex in a new light.


October 25, 2008

Engaging Assignment #3

Before reading Kate Bornstein's chapter "who's on top" I somewhat assumed, (not to be vain) that I would end up "on top." In my life I've had the social privilege of being a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, heterosexual female who looks and dresses "femininely? and have thus always been assumed to be “normal? and non-subversive (before I open my mouth, that is). I was quite pleasantly surprised , then, to find that the quiz took into account more than just sex and gender physicality so that I was labeled by Bornstein as “weird.?

What this says to me is that gender is an issue largely of power and encompasses much more than just the physical social signifiers that we are asked to masquerade around in every day. Examining my answers to each question, it became clear just how largely gender and sexuality feed into seemingly unrelated areas of my life and opinions - including basic health, financial status and social etiquette. Essentially, the activity or passivity with which you address situations in your life has a great part to play in your social gendering. Society’s ability to mold one’s notions on gender and sexuality comes from and permeates all different facets of life. Borstein really works to make those connections in the minds of the readers and open up an entirely different perspective on gender.

At the same time however, in this cursory, superficial society of ours, it’s (sadly) important not to underestimate the power of the physical. While Bornstein places me in one of the least privileged categories based on my ideas and sense of self, I have personally experienced very little discrimination or social hardship, likely based on my ability to physically appear as a “well-gendered? individual.

October 23, 2008

Next week's class

It sounds like the Kate Bornstein event was amazing. Maybe we can spend the first 15 minutes or so talking about it (and your engaging assignment #3).

-Engaging Assignment #3 is due on the blog (or handed in to me) by Tuesday, 10/28
-Your topic for the annotated bibliography is due on Tuesday, 10/28

If you are having any problems coming up with a topic, email me (or post on the blog) for suggestions.


October 22, 2008

Tonight's class

Here is Handout #6.
Have a great week!

October 21, 2008

Engaging #3 on Bornstein

Before I read the Kate Bornstein chapter “who’s on top?, I figured that it would deal with the power dynamic in an individual personal/sexual relationship. As I finished it, I was excited to see that her descriptions matched both my understanding of gender and my experience of it also.

Bornstein defines gender as more than sex, genitals, personal identity, sexual preference, etc—all the things that we have been discussing all semester. She defines gender in terms of power to both be successful yourself and then to mold the society and its institutions to your point of view for continued dominance of the prototype. The prototype on the “top? of the pyramid is the white male who has a number of features that she lays out in the chapter, the most prominent of which are perfect male genitalia and producing sons that look the same. Anything else slides further down the pyramid.

Before I read the article, I was somewhat surprised by the questions asked in the exercise, but afterwards, it was clear that she is asking us to explore the gender-power axis for ourselves and see where society places us versus where we might think we fit. I have always thought a lot about this in my rise to professorship in a white male dominated scientific field and university. I personally don’t think that I have suffered greatly from discrimination, for sure I am here as tenured professor. However, as I look back, I wonder if I had to work harder, acquiesce to things I might not have liked, or “toe the line? and I think that in reality I probably did. Being observant, I could see what success looked like and jumped the barriers to get there, even if they might have been higher for me. I remember a male colleague discussing the importance of golf course and locker room talk to get business done and feeling out of the power structure that determines our destiny. I am not sure if things have changed, but Bornstein puts my thoughts and experience into a model that explains a lot of what has occurred.

Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition

The Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition’s (MTHC) website allows for education, and information not just for transgender people but also for the community on how they can help. The MTHC is an organization made up completely of volunteers. They are dedicated to improving the health care for transgender people in the community. They have training services for clinics, public health fairs, and other events. The website also outlines other transgender themed or related events in the community. The website also has a list of unisex public restrooms. They call it the “Safe Restrooms Project.? The MTHC is devoted to the health and safety of the transgender community and helping them receive quality health care wherever they choose to go. This website is a wonderful place to get involved in the transgender community, both in the health care field, volunteering for the MTHC and through other events in the community.

The transgender community has the right to the same quality of health care as anyone else. They may be treated differently by many, but good health care should not be is something everyone should have. I have never really thought about the availability of trans-friendly doctors. It seemed to me that there would be more than there are. It is disgraceful how few health care professionals are listed on this site. With the organization doing outreach, they should have been able to find more options for the transgender community. Transgender people right now are treated inappropriately. When at a doctor’s office one should be able to talk about anything. The MTHC is doing what it can to allow for a transgender person to have the same experience, or at least close, to the experience that we all deserve.

Sorry this is so late...


October 19, 2008

Thoughts on "My Gender Workbook"

After working through Kate Bornstein’s “My Gender Workbook,? I feel that for me, gender is a place where I’ve always fallen a little bit short. While I don’t feel that I was assigned the wrong gender at birth, I also don’t feel that I’m the “ideal woman or man,? which is what I believe our society demands of us. As Bornstein suggests, there isn’t room for outlaws to the system of gender, which has become mistakenly interchangeable with sex. I thought Bornstein’s organization of gender as a “hierarchical dynamic? made a lot of sense and accurately depicted how privilege operates to reward those that fit within the “two socially privileged monogendered identities.? (pg. 42) Bornstein’s defining of gender made me finally understand some of my own feelings of inadequacy, and made me realize that we’re all constantly being pushed out of our gender comfort zones to become what society views as a perfectly gendered person. Whether or not we conform or attempt to is another question, and I think Bornstein is suggesting that we don’t.

October 16, 2008

Social Justice High School-Pride Campus

I just found this article, since we have already discussed this school in class, I thought it would be good. http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/10/14/obamas-position-unclear-proposed-lgbt-high-school/

October 15, 2008

Engaging Assignment #3 due 10/28

Engaging Assignment #3 is now due 10/28 instead of 10/21. You have two options for it:

1. Follow the assignment as it is described in the revised syllabus
2. Attend one of the many Kate Bornstein events and write about it.

Reminder: Check the blog!

If you have missed class or are missing an assignment, please check the blog. I will post class news and handouts/assignments here for you to download.

Handouts from 10/14 + engaging assignment #2

Here is the new engaging assignment #2. It was due on 9/23, but I will still accept it. Here is Handout #5 from today’s class. Finally, here is the gender/sexuality definitions that I promised to post.

October 14, 2008

Group 4 Discussion on 10/7/08

Our group had a great discussion about the debate.

We believe that Biden speaks more to the needs of the GLBT community, but more through care and consideration of the GLBT community, and less through the "tolerance" that Sarah Palin seems to espouse. In all honesty, both of the answers by the VP candidates were relatively similar. Biden seems to strongly support more constitutional benefits toward same sex couples, but both candidates do not want to change the definition of marriage. Biden (and Obama) want to leave the marriage language out of the issue, and keep it an issue of faith and religion, and not of constitutional right. Our group did have a discussion to whether or not gay marriage was an issue of faith, and whether or not the word marriage should be taken out of the equation. I think we all agreed that the blatant exclusion of the GLBT community from certain rights and privileges afforded to heterosexuals was wrong, but we were inconclusive on our stance of gay "marriage" versus civil unions that give rights to everyone.

As far as questions go, our group was interested in questions concerning what would specifically be done, especially in legislation, to insure the same civil liberties in all unions. It seems that Senator Obama has many plans to work hard with the GLBT community to help them with their struggle, while Senator McCain wants to leave everything up to the states. Also, we would like to ask questions concerning what type or types of anti-GLBT discrimination measures would be taken in the senators' respective administrations, and whether or not they support anti-GLBT discrimination in the realm of hate crimes. Senator McCain seems to defer everything to the states, but in reality the public looks to the President and his or her administration to pave the way for legislation and discussion, and Senator McCain seems to want nothing to do with the GLBT community.

Group 2 Discussion

Biden and Pahlin both speak to the "GL Community", but fail to address the "BT community." The GLBT COmmunity, in their minds, is an essentialist heteronormative ideal. Obama and Biden speak to the GL Community more effectively. As Biden showed during the debate (and juxtaposed against Pahlin), Biden understands the issues facing the GLBT Community, and has more tolerance. He was also very clear on the political issue of civil rights.

October 13, 2008

California - Proposition Banning Gay Marriage

So I stumbled upon this video on youtube regarding the gay-marriage-banning proposition in California. It is apparently a television commercial that aired there.

It'd be interesting to get some other people's opinions on this video. I for one find it to be utterly juvenile as well as pernicious. The video is not only fear-mongering (as well as untrue; there will be no mandatory requirement for California schools to teach kids about gay marriage: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.html/edc_table_of_contents.html), but it preys on parent's basic fears about the "indoctrination" and safety of their children. Not only that, but it also puts forth the laughable notion that children can "catch the gays" if they are exposed to such material.

I just...am completely astounded by this commercial. I'm actually shaking because of how upsetting it is.

Ugh. Well, cheers guys.


Group Six Discussion

Our discussion of the presidential debate primarily regarded the issue of gay marriage in general and whether or not we thought the candidates were correct in denying gay marriages completely.

We thought that marriage in general was an institution that should be de-privileged in the United States legal system. Since marriage is privileged not only with social benefits, but financial and legal benefits as well, we decided that it either needed to be removed from the religious sector, maintaining a separation of church and state, or that it needed to be given over primarily to the religious sector but striped of its legal benefits. Privileging marriage with financial and legal benefits not only gives unfair preferential treatment to heterosexual couples, but it privileges normative, hegemonic couplings, completely overlooking individuals who simply choose to remain single.

Overall, we thought that Joe Biden's response to the question of gay marriage was very well balanced and fair, while Palin's answer was a little hazy, as well as condescending. Saying that she is "tolerant" to gays seemed to us a way of saying that she would reluctantly accept their presences in the U.S. Other than that, her answer was extremely dismissive and unclear, making clear to us that she is not a proponent of GLBT rights in the least and merely wished to avoid the subject all together.


Our group decided that Obama-Biden was the one to vote for when dealing with GLBT issues. Biden said that he supported rights for GLBT people and all those in between. Palin said that she supported "tolerance" of GLBT people; that is not giving them rights. However, our whole group, and I believe the whole class, was wondering why neither candidate for VP was willing to even discuss the issue of Gay Marriage. Especially Biden, a Democrat, who supports other issues and rights for the GLBT population, why wouldn't he support marriage for them? ~SEB

October 12, 2008

Response to Presidential Debate on 10/7

This is my extra-credit response to the presidential debate that took place last Tuesday. I wasn't sure if it had to be about GLBT issues (they didn't really come up in the debate), I wrote about the role of emotion in politics and how Obama and Mccain used emotion in the debate.

Last Tuesday, I watched the Presidential debate after class. The debate had a moderator who asked questions, but many questions were also asked by the audience of undecided voters. I had just finished reading part of Drew Westen's The Political Brain, and was interested to see some of his theories about emotion and politics in action.

Westen argues that democrats have traditionally attempted to win over voters by assuming a "dispassionate mind"–that is, by weighing pros and cons and arguing with evidence to prove their point on a particular issue. However, Wetsen points out, this ignores the relationship between emotions and decision making. Every decision on an issue will be made based on its emotional implications. Westen goes on to argue that the technique of winning voters on an emotional level has been untouched by (and cost elections of) the Democrats–and mastered by Republicans.

Throughout the debate, I studied McCain and Obama for efforts at making some kind of special emotional connection with the audience. Previously, both had succeeded on some level at connecting to voters emotionally–especially Obama, with his acclaimed speeches of "Yes we can?.

During the debate however, I think both candidates lived up (to some degree) to Westen's analysis of their respective parties–McCain seemed to approach the audience with a more "Hey, I'm one of you!" attitude, speaking directly to the person who asked a question, calling them by their first name, and (to a certain extent) contextualizing everything with the individual. Obama, on the other hand, would first address the individual who had asked the question, but then proceed to give a “more technical?, detached answer. That is, he would explain his policy and why it was important, but instead of backing it by using the moral justifications of the individual who asked the question, (as McCain did,) he would explain its superiority on a “policy level?–weighing the pros and cons and using rational argument, just as Westen said democrats would.

That is not to say that I don’t think Obama connected with the audience at all. I think that he did an excellent job of balancing roles as the rational policymaker and the inspirational leader. The “debate results? reflect this: post-debate polls show undecided voters shifting towards Obama. Maybe people are more eager for the rational argument (vs. emotional connections) side of debating because of the economic crisis–they want someone who looks like they know what they’re talking about, who discusses the big picture and understands it. Maybe McCain was unconvincing. (I personally think he sounded phony and didn’t have very substantive answers to questions about his policies on specific issues, although I am a bit biased, being an avid Obama supporter). Whatever the reason, Obama is now on top, so he must be doing something right.

October 11, 2008

The Presidential Debate: Small Group Discussion, Group 5

Discussing the presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin in small groups this past week, we felt that Biden provided a better argument for his beliefs. He is for installing more rights for gay/lesbian communities whereas Palin seems defensive, focused on “tolerance,? doesn’t explicitly define her beliefs and her reasoning for them. There is no debate about discrimination based on difference between Palin and Biden where it would be beneficial and relevant. Constitutionally, everyone should be given the same rights, but discrimination causes real-world displacement of power and wealth. Fiscal issues, for example,

surrounding marriage providing heterosexuals with an advantage would definitely be relevant and up for debate. Another issue that came up in our discussion was the hypocrisy in the argument for the “sanctity? of marriage as a way to argue against gay/lesbian marriage. We question this seemingly standardized ideal by questioning the media. If the sanctity of marriage isn’t upheld in reality television shows, doesn’t that invalidate the argument?
Palin promotes “tolerance? for gay and lesbian communities in the debate. In doing so, we felt that she took on a dominant stance and perspective. She’s almost asking these communities to be thankful for that tolerance. Palin is safe in her dominance. By implicitly saying that it’s “o.k. for you (gays and lesbians) to be there and me (Palin) to be here, but you have to stay there.? She creates a safe space for herself while creating a boundary between the gay/lesbian community and herself. “Tolerance? acknowledges the existence of the gay/lesbian community but doesn’t address issues of equal rights and oppression. In contrast, Biden doesn’t promote the idea of “tolerance.? He focuses on faith and location as a factor against gay/lesbian marriage. In his view, marriage is something for the church to decide and depends on a specific church, type of faith, and location in the world.
In addition to gay/lesbian marriage, we felt that issues surrounding taxes, adoption, and insurance need to be addressed. If given the chance, the questions that we wanted to ask the candidates were: (1) Why don’t GLBT people deserve the same amount of rights as others? (2) Do you think it is a choice to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender? If not, then why don’t we have the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts? (3) How about the transgender community? What are your views concerning rights for those people not addressed? (4) Does gay marriage affect the economy? If it does, is it a negative or positive effect? Discussing these questions, we decided that the rejection of gay/lesbian marriage seems to be rooted in prejudice, not economy. We also made an analogy between issues of sexuality, gender, and equal access regarding gay/lesbian adoption and teen pregnancy. Just as teaching safe sex in schools doesn’t necessarily mean that teens will have lots of sex, raising a child in a homosexual household doesn’t necessarily mean that that child will be a homosexual. In response to the explicit question of equal civil rights for gays and lesbians, we noticed that Palin avoided a definite answer through nuanced and loaded language. Biden, on the other hand gave an in-depth explanation of his views. In general, we felt that congress, the state, and the people need work for change in GLBT issues. The president is just one person and won’t make much impact as an individual.

October 10, 2008

Critical Response Topics...

To keep it simple, you can use your critical responses as a way to offer a general overview and critical reflection on a particular reading from class (following the directions on the critical response handout). However, if you are feeling stuck and want some ideas for particular ways to engage with the readings, here are some possible topics for your critical responses:

1. What is transgender? How is it different from transsexual? You could look at how Strkyer and/or Feinberg define the term.
2. What are some tensions within the GLBT community? You could look at the history of tensions between lesbians and transfolk in Stryker and/or WeissOR tensions between gays/lesbians and bisexuals in Garber and/or Weiss.
3. Why is gender important? You could look at Riki Wilchins and her discussion of gender in Queer Theory/Gender Theory: An Instant Primer.
4. What is sex? Does it have a history? How does it relate to gender? You could look at Wilchins and her chapter, "Can Sex Have Opposites?" and/or David Valentine's "the categories themselves."
5. What are the heterosexual/homosexual binary and the gender binary? Why are they problems (for bisexuals/transfolk)? Garber, Stryker and Wilchins all talk about these binaries.
6. Why is claiming transgender history important to Stryker? To Feinberg?
7. What is gender? Look at Kate Bornstein's discussions in Gender Outlaw or My Gender Workbook.

October 9, 2008

Handout #4

Here is Handout #4.

Thoughts for next week…

Because we had to end class a little abruptly this week, we didn’t really get to talk about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. If you want to know more about the MWMF/trans controversy, check out this website. If you want to know about the trans community’s response, check out Camp Trans. Both the controversy surrounding Janice Raymond’s book The Transsexual Empire and the continuing conflict at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) raise important questions about community and, most importantly for next week’s class, gender/sexual identity. In different ways, Raymond and organizers of the MWMF present us with an essential gender identity of “woman? which is directly linked to biology and “sex?: “real women? are biologically born as women.

In next week’s class, we will begin exploring how transgender and queer activists/scholars are complicating the explicit connection between sex (the body/biology) and gender. We will ask questions like: Does sex have a history? How are sex and gender connected? And what role does gender play in our understandings and representations of sexuality (particularly in terms of categories like butch and femme)?

GLBT issues in presidential debate- ex. cred assg.


They didn't get into GLBT issues last night on the debate, but I found a really great website that lays out what each candidate stance on GLBT issues. In looking at the website above, I found that neither candidate supports same sex marriages but Obama does support other GLBT issues that McCain does not, such as same-sex adoption, lifting the military ban, and including transgendered in hate crime laws.

October 8, 2008

National Coming Out Week Events at the U of MN

This week, October 6-11 is National Coming Out Week (NCOW). Here are events that the Queer Student Cultural Center is hosting.

Venues are subject to change of logistics, so please visit the QSCC 2nd floor of Coffman.

Wednesday 8:
Queer Student Cultural Center
A gender violence and prevention presentation by Jill Lipski, who is the Violence Prevention Education Coordinator of the Aurora Center.

Presidential Room
Coffman Memorial Union
Discussion about GLBT themes in science-fiction.

Pi Bar and Restaurant
2532 25th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 877-4368
Come meet other members of the GLBT community in the interests of networking, friendships, or more. The mixer will be followed by karaoke and dancing. This event is open to all undergraduate and graduate college students and each person is invited to bring friends, significant other, or come alone. 18+ and $1 cover with a college ID.

Thursday 9:
Queer Student Cultural Center

Friday 10:
Minneapolis Convention Center Room L100
1301 2nd Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 335-6000

West Bank Auditorium
Willey Hall
A transgender slam poet, Kit Yan, and a lesbian folkrocker, Melissa Li team up for a show that is progressive, edgy, and funny. They smash every stereotype out there while putting on a show you will never forget. The Good Asian Drivers have heart and a voice they're not afraid to use. Their FREE performance will be one of the highlights of National Coming Out Week!

Saturday 11: National Coming Out Day!
The Whole
Coffman Memorial Union
Join us in celebration of NCOW with an exciting drag show; volunteers, musicians, and artists still wanted.

I hope to see you at some events! Have a great week.

October 7, 2008

The Task Force

The Task Force is a New-York based non-profit group devoted to building political power for the GLBT movement. According to the website's mission statement, they do this through providing resources (research and policy analysis, training activists, etc.) to various GLBT organizations, and also by direct and grassroots lobbying. The organization is led by a board of directors, which includes two co-chairs, Paula Zeman, who is the Westchester county commissioner of human resources, and Mark Sexton, who has also served on the board of the Stonewall Community Foundation. Other board members come from a variety of backgrounds, including realtors, attorneys, students, personal fitness trainers, and presidents of companies. The Task Force's work is very important because not only do they advocate for GLBT rights by pragmatically fighting the legislation that is so prejudiced, but they offer their services to all kinds of different people, including people of faith, youth, and the elderly. Specifically, the Task Force has many strategies to fight for their cause. For example, they help organizations to identify their core organizational challenges and develop multi-year plans; assisting with fund raising, strategic planning, and building a base of supporters; developing political initiatives which include Transgender Civil Rights Project, LGBT Aging Initiative, and the Legislative Lawyering Project.

I was pleased to learn that Minnesota, along with Iowa, Maine, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, and Washington DC specifically protect transgendered people in both private and public entities, and surprised that the generally more liberal states like New York and California don't protect in all areas. The state of Colorado was very disappointing in that it only protects transgendered people in employment and the right to sue, and neglects education, housing, and public accommodations. I was also saddened to read about transgendered youth having trouble gaining access to homeless shelters due to strict rules about about gender-related dress. The idea of a homeless shelter turning away someone in need because of "inappropriate" dress is unfathomable and despicable, and I am glad that there are organizations like the Task Force to battle these issues and fight for the rights of all GLBT peoples.

October 2, 2008

No Office Hours Today

I will not be around for my office hours today from 1-3. If you want to schedule an appointment, just send me an email. Thanks, Sara