13 June 2016

I'm Sick And Tired Of Hearing About "Thoughts And Prayers"

I know it's been a while since I've posted on this blog.  I began one year before my gender-reassignment surgery and planned to document that year leading up to it.  I had no idea of whether I would continue after that--or, if I did, what direction this blog might take.

For a while, I was writing about my post-surgery life.  But, in time, there was less and less to say about that, so I found myself writing about various transgender--and LGB--issues.  Too ofen, they involved malicious, discriminatory acts of violence (mentally and legally as well as physically) against us.  Perhaps I don't have as strong a constitution as I thought I had, for I could only write about such things so much, and for so long.   And I have never had any interest in turning this into a blog about academic gender studies.

Lately, though, I can't help but to notice the violence against LGBT people.  I don't know whether there's been more of it lately, or whether it's receiving more notice--which is to say that people are recognizing that we are being victimized for being who we are.  

That is what happened to 50 people in the Pulse nightclub.  Though my days of going to bars and clubs are long past, and I am not as immersed in the LGBT milieu as I one was, I'd heard of it: It seems to be one of the gay destinations in Orlando, Florida.  Thus, it seems like a logical (if I might use that word) target for someone like Omar Mateen, who was "repulsed by the gay lifestyle" according to media reports.

"The gay lifestyle":  Did he actually say that?  If he did, I'm amazed that, at this late date, the media still uses it without attributing it to him.  If they were not directly quoting him, it shows that they are just as misinformed, if not prejudiced, as he was.  Being gay--or lesbian or trans--is no more a "lifestyle" than being Muslim or black or handicapped.  A lifestyle implies choice; no one has ever chosen to be gay or transgendered, though we may indeed make the choice to follow our innate selves.

Also, while Mateen may well have been an ISIS sympathizer or whatever, it's hard to imagine that it was his primary motive for going into a crowded nightclub and opening fire.  First of all, ISIS-type terrorists usually choose larger, more public venues.  Second, he was described as "self-radicalized".  It's hard to understand why, if he indeed sympathised with ISIS or any other large organization, he would carry out a mass murder-suicide mission in their name without their help.  Even if he were, as some say, "crazy", it's hard to understand why he would make such a choice.

But, I fear, the real reason why law enforcement authorities and the media want to pursue the ISIS angle--to the extent that it exists--is that they can justify throwing more resources at investigating it, and carrying out other kinds of surveillance, than they could for investigating this tragedy as just a hate crime.  I mean, they will take something more seriously if it involves geopolitics than if it involved "just a bunch of gays out drinking and dancing".  Oh, should I add that most of the victims were Latinos?

Anyway...I can only imagine how the loved ones of those who died, and those who could in the coming days, must feel.  Which is the reason why it makes me sick to hear what we always hear after mass murders and other horrific crimes and tragedies: "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Fuck thoughts and prayers.  They never prevented anything like this or helped anyone who had to pick up the pieces afterward.  What we need is to keep folks like Omar Mateen from getting the weapons that enable them to commit such atrocities.  (He was in Florida, where one can walk into a Wal Mart and buy a gun almost as easily as one can buy a fishing reel.)  He bought his weaponry just days before he walked into the Pulse:  enough time for a background check that could have revealed, for example, that he beat his ex-wife.  Also, it might have raised questions as to why he, who wore police garb whenever he could and wanted so badly to becoe a cop, never became one.  Did he reply, and was he rejected because of psychological issues?

Mourn the victims. Give the families and friends the resources they need to help them move on with their lives, to the degree that is possible.  And keep assault weapons away people like Omar Mateen.  Fuck thoughts and prayers:  Neither our high-mindedness nor God will solve anything that we won't solve for ourselves.

30 December 2015

How Important Is The Bicycle In Women's History?

In a post I wrote three years ago on my other blog, I relayed one of the most striking insights Susan B. Anthony offered:
    "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.  It has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance."

Yesterday, I came across this:

     "Advertisements, magazines and posters promoted the image of the New Woman, just as other forms of mass media would later exhibit images of the flapper, the housewife, the wartime worker, and the androgynous feminist.  The bicycle was the symbol of the New Woman's freedom outside the home, as she raced off with her friends--men or women--down city streets and into the countryside."

Obviously, that didn't come from Ms. Anthony.  It did, however, come from a source that's intersting, if not as much so as, and for different reasons from, the godmother of feminism as we know it.

The second quote is the only mention of the bicycle in The Social Sex:  A History of Female Friendships, by Marilyn Yalom with Theresa Donovan Brown.  Dr. Yalom is a former Professor of French and senior scholar at the Clayman Institute of Gender Research at Stanford University. Ms. Donovan Brown is a former speechwriter and ran a financial communications firm.

I strongly suspect that Dr. Yalom supplied most of the information and Ms. Donovan Brown did most of the writing.  After all, the section on women's friendships and the salons of 17th Century France contains ideas and insights that only someone who read the sources in the original could have gleaned.  And the prose flows freely--like, well, a good speech.

Therein lies both the book's strengths and flaws.  While Donovan Brown's prose flows freely, it often lacks depth.  While Yalom's research provides the reader with glimpses into the nature of the relationships described in the book, and shines a light onto documents that might otherwise have been lost, those documents (letters, stories, essays and novels) come almost entirely from women (and, in a few cases, men) from, or with connections to, the upper classes.  That, perhaps, is not Dr. Yalom's fault, as most women who weren't part of those classes were illiterate until the 19th Century and rarely went to college before World War II.

Still, the book is an engaging and, at times, interesting read.  It won't turn you into a scholar or an expert, but it's a good starting point for anyone who wants to read more about relationships or women's history.  Finally, there is something to be said for any piece of writing that reminds readers of the importance of the bicycle in changing women's lives, however brief and fleeting that reminder might be.

20 November 2015

Michelle Dumaresq: 100% Pure Woman Champ

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  

This day was first observed in 1999, one year after Rita Hester was murdered in her Allston, Massachusetts apartment.  She was killed just two days before she would have turned 35 years old.

Her death came just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a cold night in the Wyoming high desert.  Their deaths helped to bring about the hate-crime laws now on the books in the US as well as many state and local statutes.  Moreover, Hester's killing--while not as widely publicized as Shepard's--galvanized transgender activists all over the world.

Because I am--at least to my knowledge--the only transsexual woman with a bike blog, I am going to use this post to honor one of the greatest transgender athletes of our era.

Michelle Dumaresq was born in 1970.  In 2001, she entered and won her first competitive mountain biking event--the Bear Mountain Race in British Columbia, Canada.  After she won two more races, her racing license was suspended in response to complaints from other female riders.  The cycling associations of British Columbia and Canada, after meeting privately with race organizers, tried to pressure her into quitting.  Of course, she wouldn't, and after a meeting with UCI officials, it was decided that she could continue to compete as a female.

Other female riders felt she had an unfair advantage.  Their resentment was, not surprisingly, based on a common misunderstanding.  Dumaresq had her gender reassignment surgery in 1996, five years before her first victory, and had been taking female hormones--and a male hormone blocker--for several years before that.  By the time she started racing, she no longer had any testosterone in her body (Biological females have traces of it.) and she had lost most of the muscle mass she had as a man.

I know exactly where she's been, as I also had the surgery after six years of taking hormones and a testosterone blocker.  A few months into my regimen, I started to notice a loss of overall strength, and I noticed some more after my surgery.  Trust me, Ms. Dumaresq, as talented and dedicated as she is, had no physiological advantage over her female competitors.

I remind myself of that whenever another female rider (usually, one younger than I am) passes me during my ride to work!

But I digress.  Michelle Dumaresq had the sort of career that would do any cyclist--male or female, trans or cisgender, or gay--proud.  She won the Canadian National Championships four times and represented her country in the World Championships.  That, of course, made the haters turn up the heat.  When she won the 2006 Canadian National Championships, the boyfriend of second-place finisher Danika Schroeter jumped onto the podium and helped her put on a T-shirt that read "100% Pure Woman Champ."

Ms. Dumaresq would have looked just fine in it.