Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stella Walsh

Paul Farhi wrote a really sensitive and smart column about Stella Walsh, IS conditions, and gender testing at the Olympics.

Walsh had no access to steroids in her day. And since her male organs were nonfunctional, Reiner says, she probably had partial or complete androgen resistance, which makes the body unable to produce or use the small amounts of testosterone that most women have. So it's even possible that Walsh was at a disadvantage compared with her competitors.

Interesting reading, and a nice companion to Jenny Boylan's op-ed in The NY Times a few weeks ago.

To fill out your gender Olympics reading, try Zagria's bio of Dora Ratjen.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Significance of Hair

Down in east Texas there is a little controversy brewing. Seems that the Needville Independent School District has a problem with long hair on boys. Worried that boys with long hair are a distraction, the school board thought it was in the best interest of the school to keep boys hair short. Oh, and I forgot, the long hair is on a Native American boy. Its being argued, by the parents, the their son does not need to conform to the hair on boys dress code for religious expressions reasons. Apparently, the just of the controversy is that in the school boards opinion the parents did not provide sufficient documentation that long hair on Native Americans constituted a religious expression. That is important because if it is a religious expression then it is a protected expression under the Native American Freedom of Religion Act and would open the door to the boy wearing long hair to school.

Of course, the father that passed on his oral history to the school board documenting long hair's religious significance and apparently oral histories don't carry any weight. If it ain't in print and authored by a respected anthro, it just can't be true. Of course, as a child, I remember sitting with the elders and listening with ears wide open, to the hysterics that they made as they recalled the 'sacred traditions' they gave to the anthros. And its amazing how many of them are still in print! Yes, its always the expert opinion of the majority whose voice carries the authority to define the minority. Sound familiar?

But of course, for me, that wasn't the real issue, whether long hair was a religious expression or not. No that was just their reason for closing the door on a loophole. The real problem as I see it is the asumption that only long hair on boys is distracting, able to disrupt the educational environment, hinder the ability of the students subjected to the presence of the boys long hair, to learn.

But for some reason it is not a distraction for the girls to wear long hair.

Clearly its a gender issue, a re-enforcement of the binary. Boys wear blue and girls wear pink. I wonder at what length the Needsville school board declares a girls hair is too short? That it becomes a distraction. Or if a girls hair is ever so long that it too becomes a distraction. Or if it is even a matter of concern. I didn't see any mention of girls hair length in the schools dress code. So there it is again, that an unwritten oral history can't be documented; laughing at the audience, catching the school board with its own lack of written word. I don't know, maybe I've got it wrong, because what to I know about gender, or hair.

The summer that I turned 14 my Abuelito said to me, 'Mijo, it is time that you should start wearing your hair long, to say who it is that you are.' Part of a boy's right of passage. And I really embraced it, because I could go back home with my hair long. Because it was the 60's, I never had to defend the cultural significance of my long locks or wonder how they may have disrupted the education process. In fact, Sen. Dawes would have been proud to see how well I assimilated, how easily my hair was lost so many, many times over with the rest of the long hairs, protesting against conformity. But that summer I also knew that my Abuelita understood the significance of my long hair, that the time was right for me to be taking those first steps into adulthood, because when I was getting ready to return home she honored my adulthood with a gift. A bean pot, given to girl's, at puberty.

And so it sometimes is, my euphoria over my long hair was short lived, not because of something some one made me do or because I didn't want to have long hair. It was because, in the winter of my 15th year that my great, great aunt passed. So I cut my hair. And that was the last time I cut my hair. For the next 30 years of my life, my hair became my strength. It has been said that the length of ones hair reflects what one has learned. I understand this and one of the most important things that I learned was embodied in that hair. As long as his hair was long she could walk in his shadow.

Of course, when I talk of life's events I often speak in context movement along a circle of life. In our teachings the circle suggests there is neither a beginning or an end, a right of wrong, morning or night ...... male or female. At any given point of time, or place, or action, it is accepted that regardless of which way one goes, one can always get back.

This year my brother passed and I cut my hair. A moment on my circle. I've had to think about this more than I like because as much as I can rationalize his passing, he still is my brother. Was my brother. So I cut my hair to honor his life, gave of myself, for all he gave for me. See, my brother was the first in my family that she came out to. At his wake a friend of my brother came to me and said, 'Remember when you first came out, well Karlo really got it. he said, 'You know, my family has changed, really changed. When you only have a brother, you sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a sister. I guess I'll find out."

So this time I think I'll keep my hair short. The circle has come around. She's much stronger now and he is walking in her shadow. And my bean pot is well seasoned.

Today, Adriel started kindergarden, his hair in braids.

Just an update, 22 Jan. 2009. A Federal District Court ruled that the Needville Independent School District’s policy violated state law and the U.S. Constitution by punishing the American Indian kindergartner for religious beliefs that require him to wear his hair long.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Survey reveals Veterans Administration discriminates against Transgender Veterans

By Monica F. Helms

The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara has released the findings of a survey, conducted by Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), that shows that transgender veterans are being turned away and being mistreated in high numbers by Veterans Administration medical facilities. The survey, with 827 transgender veteran participants, was conducted from December 13, 2007 to May 1, 2008. This represents a strong sampling from what is estimated to be approximately 300,000 veterans in the US who identify as being transgender.

Dr. Jeanne Scheper from The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara coordinated the report and Dr. Bonnie Moradi, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida did the analyzing. Dr. Gary Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute, University of California acted as a consultant and provided guidance for survey. Professors Karl Bryant, PhD, of the State University of New York, New Paltz, NY and Kristen Schilt, PhD, of the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, wrote the White Paper report. Notice that four universities in various parts of the country contributed to the creation of this report.

The most troubling figure to come out of the survey was that 10% of transgender veterans, who currently use the VA, have at one time been turned away from receiving any service or medical help. I see this figure as being very disturbing. We served our country honorably and proudly and the VA medical benefits we earned should not be denied or diminished simply because of the direction our lives took after discharge from active duty.

Other figures and interesting information came from the report:

Job Discrimination:

“ . . . nearly one third of the survey participants reported having experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace, with approximately the same amount (31%) reporting that they believed they had not been hired for a job specifically because they were transgender. A full 15% reported that they had been fired from a job for being transgender (with 40% of those people having been fired more than once). Nearly 10% reported experiencing open, blatant discrimination from an employer or prospective employer; they were explicitly told that they were being fired (or not hired) because they were transgender.”


In addition to discrimination, this group reported a high percentage of experiences with interpersonal violence. 26% reported having been the victim of physical violence, and 16% reported having been raped.”

Transgender Service Members and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy:

“A full 38% reported that when they were in the military, people suspected or directly asked if they were gay. In addition, 14% had been questioned by an officer about their sexual orientation. For younger respondents (aged 18-35), all of whom had served under DADT, this finding was even more pronounced: 61% reported that when they were in the military, people suspected or directly asked if they were gay; 20% had been questioned by an officer about their sexual orientation.”

What the survey also brought up was how disproportionate trans men are being targeted under DADT then their trans sisters.

“Such effects varied significantly by gender. Trans men were almost two times more likely to report they were suspected of being gay than trans women (72% vs. 37%). They were three times more likely than trans women to have been asked by an officer about their sexual orientation (33% vs. 11%).”

VA Medical Facility Experiences:

“. . . there were many reports of interpersonal discrimination, via lack of respect from VA doctors (22%), non-medical staff (21%), and nurses (13%). These cases of interpersonal discrimination ranged from what many veterans describe as “typical” – refusing to change to gender-appropriate pronouns, failure to use a new name consistently – to the extreme – refusing to look at transgender patients, referring to them in dismissive ways, refusing to treat them for general medical care. One FTM respondent noted, ‘I was told by a religious clerk that I should just go away because I was an insult to the brave real men who were there for treatment’. Another MTF respondent noted, ‘I am asked about my genitals and my plans for SRS regardless of whether or not it has relevance to my treatment’.


“ . . . one MTF respondent recounted the following experience: ‘A nurse pulled my partner out in the hall of the VA Hospital where I was an in-patient’ [and said], ‘You know that is really a man, don’t you’?

There were several Implications and Recommendations that came out of this survey, involving all of the above areas of discussion. The one thing that appeared in that section was a section from the VA’s mission statement:

We are dedicated to providing high quality, comprehensive health care to veterans in an environment that fosters trust, respect, commitment, compassion and excellence. We serve as a major resource for health services, education and research that benefit our patients, their families, the community, the network and the nation.”

As far as I’m concerned, the VA has a very long way to go to live up to that mission statement when it comes to this country’s transgender veterans.

Finally, the survey showed how transgender people are treated while they are serving this country. Many felt harassment and abuse by others and were investigated for being gay regardless of what sexual orientation was at the time. It shows that transgender service members can no longer be ignored in the discussion of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We are also a target under that failed policy and people pushing for its repeal need to realize that we have to be included.

In conclusion, I hope that this new document will help in our continuous struggles to become equally treated while serving in the military, equally treated while using the VA and considered equal citizens in the great country of ours. We served this country and we served proudly.

After three and a half months of dribbling out raw data for things such as job discrimination, violence and statistics associated with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Transgender Veterans Survey Report has now been published. You can read the entire report on the Transgender American Veterans Association web site. Some of the information I will present here has been seen before, while other statistics will be revealed for the first time.

The idea for the survey was presented to the TAVA Board in mid November of 2007 and after creating 117 questions, the Board approved the survey and we placed it on, a web site that has an excellent reputation with those who conduct surveys. The survey started on December 13, 2007 and ended on May 1, 2008. Between May and August, the Palm Center located a person to analyze the data and then located two people who could write the report. Even thought it took three and a half months for the Palm Center to finish the report, this is record time compared to how long this process normally takes.

Again, the full report can be read at Transgender American Veterans Association web site.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Recently I received an email from the Stonewall Democrats. This fundraising letter lauded the newly-released draft of the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, calling it "...the most pro-LGBT proposed platform in Democratic Party history.". The list of relevant platform planks seems to indicate that the platform is indeed exactly that, but what is inexplicable here is the easy acceptance and celebration of something we can't as yet be sure amounts to even crumbs from the Democratic Party on the single most important issue to literally millions of LGBT American workers. Check out this little nugget:

"We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act."

Can someone please tell me what the heck this is supposed to mean? The Stonewall Dems describe this as "A united, comprehensive strategy on ENDA that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.", but I'm not as willing to trustingly read in read in that which isn't there. Looks like the Democrats are back to playing word games again, trying to look like they're promising us the world while in reality they're actually offering us nothing substantial at all. "(C)omprehensive"? By who's measure? Do they mean comprehensive in terms of what it would cover or in who it protects? What are the elements in an employment non-discrimination bill that would be required in order for it to be considered comprehensive?

And "bipartisan"? That makes me even more nervous. Just how many Republicans do they think they're going to line up to vote in favor of an inclusive ENDA? What kind of compromises would have to be made in order to see it happen? Or maybe it's just that transgender and gender variant inclusion isn't required for the Democrats to introduce a bill they consider comprehensive?

In addition, I think the use of the word "comprehensive" may be telling, just in and of itself. Consider this: The Democratic Party is neither stupid nor ignorant. They know perfectly well that if they'd had the courage to use the term "fully inclusive" instead of "comprehensive" in the above statement our community would be all but dancing in the streets with joy and gratitude. The Democratic Party knows exactly what's been going on with ENDA, HRC, and the trans community over the last year or so, and they have to know that if they had the courage to make a truly bold and affirmative statement on transgender inclusion in ENDA in the Party Platform they could easily cast themselves as the heroes of this drama and help to unite the vast majority of LGBT voters around the Democratic Party just in time for the election. Yet they have apparently not chosen to do that.

When you look at it in the right lens, this one key word sends a message to transgender and gender variant Americans directly from the Democratic Party and it's a pretty clear one: "Transfolks, you and your issues are on the table, but there's a limit. We're all quite comfortable including you in a hate crimes law. After all, that's easy to get done and it makes us look good. Thing is, many of us are still not quite so sure we want to make the effort to actually fight for you and possibly expend valuable political capital on your behalf in order to protect you from discrimination in the workplace, so we're leaving ourselves a back door just in case we decide to chicken out again.".

Could I be completely wrong about this? Sure I could be and I hope I am, but I don't think that's the case or I wouldn't be writing this. I firmly believe that if the Democratic Party wanted us to know with a certainty that it supports protecting transgender and gender variant people from discrimination in the workplace they'd state it as a fact and in no uncertain terms. The fact that they're resorting to vague, hard-to-define descriptors like "comprehensive" leads me to believe that the signs are not good, that a lot of these people are still running scared from justice and equal rights for all Americans. They're not running quite as fast as they used to, mind you, but they're still doing everything they can to keep us at arm's length.

Of course, I must also point out that I'm talking about the Party as a whole here, not every individual politician in the Democratic Party. Many Democrats are supporters of inclusion and an inclusive ENDA, and it's not fair to overgeneralize.Yet at the same time, if this proposed Party Platform is indeed an accurate reflection of popular current political thinking within the Democratic Party, we may be in big trouble with ENDA '09.

If there's one truth that writers, activists, and politicians all fully understand and respect it's that words have power. The choice of a single word or phrase can speak volumes to the proper audience. Given that this is a draft and not a final version, there may be hope for a possible revision here, but I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm expecting one. Even if we do get some sort of change, it's probably as likely as not that it would be for another doublespeak term like "wide-reaching" or "impactfull".


I don't know about you, but the needle on my bullshit detector is in the red zone.

Transgender View of DNC Platform on LGBT Issues

By Marisa Richmond

Marisa Richmond is President of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Equality Project & Board of advisers of NCTE. She is a former Board Member of AEGIS, IFGE, NTAC, & Nashville's Rainbow Community Center. She served as Co-Chair of Southern Comfort in 2001, chaired the host committee of the 2002 IFGE Convention in Nashville, & served on the Planning Committee for Nashville Black Pride in 2004. She won the Trinity Award in 2002 & the HRC Equality Award in 2007. This year, Merisa will be one of eight transgender delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She is the first African American trans person to be elected as a delegate to any national political party's convention.

Yesterday, the Platform Committee of the Democratic National Committee met in Pittsburgh to review and amend the draft platform. In July, community meetings were held all across the country to gather input from people of all walks of life. Those of us in the 2nd Transgender Caucus stepped up in our own way to ensure that the concerns of the Transgender community were heard and included. Amanda Simpson of Arizona met with her Governor, Janet Napolitano, who was the Chair of the Drafting Committee. Several others, including me, met directly with Platform Committee members from our respective states. Tennessee has three members on Platform and I met or talked with all three. In our meetings, we expressed the desire to have language calling for Democrats to support only a fully inclusive, employment non-discrimination act. We also urged passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, access to health care for all Americans, and expressed concern over various ID laws at the federal and state levels. For Transgender Tennesseans, this includes the right to change gender on Birth Certificates, and opposition to the Real ID Act and new voter ID’s.

The Transgender Caucus also has, for the first time ever, two members on the full Platform Committee: Kathy Padilla of Philadelphia and Diego Sanchez of Boston. Unfortunately, Kathy had to resign her seat for personal reasons, but Diego was in the meeting yesterday and represented us in Pittsburgh.

We are pleased that the Platform does call for passage of a “comprehensive” ENDA, but to be honest, most of us in the Transgender Caucus do not feel the term “comprehensive” is inclusive enough. We are, however, pleased with the calls for passage of the Hate Crimes Bill, along with the repeal of both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

The fact that the Platform does use the term “Gender Identity”, and it passed without debate or dissent on that point, is a reflection of the hard work transgender activists have done over the years, not to mention the work of so many who worked through the United ENDA Coalition since it began operating last fall. And while the Drafting Committee did not have a transgender representative this year, it did include Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a strong ally of the Transgender Community and United ENDA in the fight for a fully inclusive ENDA.

The full Democratic National Convention will vote on the Platform in Denver in 2 weeks. At this point, I do not know if we will have a minority report requesting stronger language on a fully inclusive ENDA, but we do feel that we have made some real progress in educating Democrats all across this country on the necessity of passing such legislation and to ensure that the ONLY version that moves forward covers all LGBT people.

I am getting ready to head to Denver and I look forward to continuing the work started by those Transgender people who rose up against discrimination when they started the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco in 1966 and the Stonewall Riot in New York in 1969.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Safe Dating, the Silent Alarm, and Signs of Predation

This originally appeared at the Bilerico Project in draft form, and this finished version is also crossposted at dentedbluemercedes and

I do not take credit for the safecall concept -- it has been around for decades, and I first encountered it through the leather community (a version of it has also been present for a long time among escorts). But I do consider this advice important to anyone in a risky dating situation, i.e. for pre- or non-op transsexuals, queer communities, online dating communities, some sex trade or adult entertainment performance situations, or even just simple everyday blind dates. This is written without prejudice, in the understanding that in no circumstance does a person ever deserve to become a casualty. As such, permission is given to reprint this without modification (although it can be prefaced or followed with additions) anywhere that people feel this advice will be useful. I cannot guarantee your safety, but it's my hope that this can help.

Blind dating is never risk-free, especially when some aspect of a person's life exists that can cause negative reactions, or when an aspect of their life means that they might be potential prey to predators. When meeting a person for the first time, you will be completely unaware of any history of confusion, instability or biases they may have. First impressions are never enough, and the greater the risk, the more secure the safety net is needed. The recent and tragic murder of Angie Zapata is only one of thousands of stories in which dates have gone bad, and it demonstrates how serious the consequences can be.

One habit that can minimize the risk is known as the "silent alarm" (sometimes also called the "safecall"). There are several variations of this procedure... you can settle on what is most comfortable for you.

For your first meeting, it's best to insist on a public place. A restaurant or a mall coffee shop is ideal. Never agree to meet a stranger in a private place such as a hotel room or home. Make sure that your transportation to and from your first meeting is under your control -- don't rely on your date for a ride home. And don't let someone know your home address until you're comfortable with them first. If prior discussion indicates a mutual plan of going someplace later for more private fun (which might include your place or theirs), agree on the location in advance, and have the address to this location. If this location changes unexpectedly, this may be a warning sign to get out or call for help. An alternative is to meet in a double-date, group-date or activity group setting or outing.

A "silent alarm" is a situation in which you tell a trusted friend where you are going, and when you expect to be back; you also give him or her any information that you may have about the person you will be seeing and the place you will be going. You arrange with that friend to call at a prearranged time, no matter what the events of the evening bring. If you don't check in, your friend is to call the local authorities immediately, with any information they have. It's also a good idea to prearrange with this friend to have a code word or phrase that you might include during your phone conversation, in the event that you are forced to make the call under duress, and need to indicate that you need help, without arousing suspicion from a person threatening you.

Helpful points:

- If you have your date's phone number, try to arrange to call it first, to verify that it is correct.

- Inform your friend beforehand what your plans for the evening are: time, place, etc. If anything changes, let them know during a check-in call.

- Don't use your date's phone or cell, in order to help avoid the call being traced later, thereby potentially putting your friend in danger. Cell phones add a certain element of potential danger to your friends, so depending on the level of risk, you may want to consider this.

- This isn't just a first-time procedure, but can be maintained (perhaps relaxed gradually) for as long as you remain uncertain about someone.

- The "silent alarm" is most useful as a deterrent. If your date knows that you need to check in with a friend, they'll know that if they harm you, this will alert someone else. The point is that he (or she) knows that there will be some accountability if anything goes bad. Some dates may be offended by this, but most should understand that it is sound advice for blind dating.

As overcautious as this may seem, when it comes to blind dates, people met online and the like, there is virtue to it. You can, of course, modify the procedure to suit your situation, and if you feel that a more relaxed system of simply passing your date's name and number on to your friend and arranging to call them whenever the date is over will suffice, then do that. But any Plan B is better than nothing.

If your friend needs to call police, they should stick to referring to the encounter as a date. They should not disclose any information that might bias the dispatcher at the other end of the phone (i.e. if you are a member of a racial group or transsexual, or if any money is being exchanged or porn being produced).

If something goes seriously bad, vigilanteism is generally not preferred to police intervention. However, in some communities, such as where racial bias, homophobia / transphobia or discrimination against sex trade work may be present, silent alarm planning may also need to include having a personal supporter drive to the scene of a situation in the event of an emergency. That person is not to intervene or be seen unless circumstances leave no other option to ensure personal safety. There is a great degree of additional risk in this, so it should only be considered in certain situations (i.e. potential for discrimination from authorities on the basis of sex work or race) and only if the person is trusted to not be hot-headed enough to jump into danger themselves. That person's first role should be to act as an advocate in whatever aftermath may occur only -- not to interfere with the police on the scene, but to observe (a camera recorder of some kind may even be warranted) and hold them accountable for their actions; also to follow you to anywhere you may be taken, and help obtain your release if charged for any offence. Discrimination has not been completely dealt with in society, so unfortunately, this does need to be a consideration.

In addition to the silent alarm / safecall, there are other things to remember:

Never let your drink out of your sight. If it is being poured in a private setting by someone you've recently met, be sure you've observed the pouring of the drink, right from when the glass was first selected. This may sound paranoid, but the use of date rape drugs is not a new thing.

If you hadn't planned on anything sexual but are suddenly directed that way by someone you've just met, be suspicious. Your best bet is to get out of that situation at that time, and assess how this person reacts to your refusal. A non-predatory person is much more apt to understand and respect the word no, and the reasons that you would have for not wanting to jump into anything too quickly.

For beyond first dates, it is also important to watch for signs of predatory behaviour. It is true that some signs can be misread, but if they are cumulative, the evidence grows stronger. Be wary of:

- Attempts to isolate you from friends, family and / or acquaintances. This can include insistence on moving right away to a location that is inconvenient or impossible for them to visit, or wanting to prevent people from knowing where you are.

- Attempts to make you dependent upon them financially or emotionally (i.e. trying to turn you against your friends).

- Controlling behaviour which restricts where you go or who you talk to.

There is often more to safe sex than condoms (but don't forget those, either!). The greater the risk, the more you may want to do to prepare yourself.

Trans-Specific Precautions

Male-to-female transsexuals additionally have to keep in mind that after having spent time on hormone therapy, they lose much of the strength and energy that they may be accustomed to -- and as women, they may also be subject to more predation than they realize. One must not be overconfident, and instead should take some time to learn practical self-defense.

On Disclosure

For pre-operative or non-op transsexuals (sometimes even for post-ops, as surgical status sometimes does not mean much to a person who finds that their partner had been born a different sex) -- particularily MTF, but FTMs also have risks here -- disclosure is a serious issue, and there is in fact no "right" or "wrong" answer to that question. In an ideal situation, it would be best to be up-front at a time in which your privacy is protected (i.e. an online dating service which does not publish your contact information), before any other serious discussion or activity takes place. If the date is still interested, it's usually safe to proceed (with the suggestions above). In reality, there can be concerns and dissatisfactions with the type of people available to be found in these situations, and live contact can be preferable. Then, it gets iffier.

Disclosing has its risks. Whether before or after dating, transphobia can cause people to react violently, or vindictively (in the latter case, outing you to friends, the public and perhaps other potentially violent persons). It's not impossible for such a situation to lead to a later ambush. Disclosure after or during dating does have a higher degree of risk from the date him or herself, however, so this should be considered.

Telling is up to a person's discretion. But what is absolutely crucial is knowing who you're talking to. When trans issues appear in the news (i.e. the "pregnant man," the civil rights fights in Maryland, Colorado and Gainesville), they can usually be safely brought up in casual conversation as a way to see how a person will react to the subject (bring it up neutrally, -- i.e. you express no opinion -- or you could out yourself just from that). Before that, get to know how liberal (s)he is on other civil rights issues, GLB, racial, feminism, workplace equality. If (s)he's closed-minded to key parts of these or a majority, your date could be a timebomb, and you're safer to not proceed any further.

If (s)he seems pretty liberal, it's not a guarantee he'll accept. But it improves the odds considerably.

(Thanks are due to Monica Roberts, Jan and the readership at The Bilerico Project for helping refine some of this via discussion.)

Power, vulnerability, and getting read

I got read this morning.

The circumstances aren't really relevant beyond setting the context. I had just come up out of the Metro and was walking the couple of blocks to my office when a man stopped me to ask a question. My answer didn't satisfy him and he became angry and closed in on me, close enough to pick up some subtle cue that caused him to suspect I was transgender. He yelled an accusation to that end loudly as I was walking away, and I felt my cheeks flush with anger and embarrassment.

I feel blessed that this has happened to me very rarely since I transitioned, but when it has it's left me reeling with self-doubt. As I walked to the office today, that's where my thoughts went. I was obviously doing something wrong. Was my make-up or my hair unsuitable this morning? Maybe it was the clothes I was wearing, or my posture or gait. Or perhaps something deeper or more abstruse. Is my jawline too square ("Maybe I need some plastic surgery"), are my hands too big ("I wish I had some pockets to stuff them in"), is my voice shifting to a lower range ("Need to start concentrating on that again")?

And then I noticed that I was walking more quickly than usual, with my head down and my shoulders slouched, fearful of meeting anyone's eyes as I passed them on the street, wanting only to get to my office and shut the door. I was in that old, familiar place, I realized -- the place of fear -- and I was experiencing that old, familiar tension, the one between the deep desire to live openly and with integrity and the frantic impulse to safety and security.

In her book Woman Awake: Women Practicing Buddhism, Christina Feldman has a great chapter on power and the ways women experience and practice it in our culture. She writes,

In a patriarchal culture, power is equated with the capacity to have power over something: it is the capacity to control, to alter, to manipulate, or to influence the world. This capacity to control builds a sense of strength, an illusion of invincibility. Cloaking ourselves in power, we can manipulate and control our world while protecting ourselves from the effects of power.

This is the power that was employed against me this morning, but it is also the power I employed in response. Just as the man who accosted me sought to control and manipulate me to bolster his sense of strength in the world, I sought to control and manipulate myself so that I might feel less weak and vulnerable. Our instruments of power--debasement and humiliation--were the same, and we even chose the same target, my deepest sense of personhood.

These ways of being and relating are conditioned by our culture and deeply ingrained in all of us, but Feldman reminds us that such violent exercises of power do not come without cost:
In developing power or mastery over anything, we set ourselves against that which we wish to control: we set ourselves against people, against events, against nature, or even against our own nature. With the desire for mastery comes a distancing from that which we seek to control. The distance is essential to create and preserve: it serves to prevent us from being overwhelmed by the power of others and to protect ourselves from fear.

The results are predictable and inevitable: isolation, competition, destruction, the hallmarks of our modern society. Feldman urges women to break free from their cultural conditioning, to "appreciate the invaluable contribution that their disposition and yearning for interconnectedness can offer to the dissolution and transformation of destructive systems that are based on the notion of mastery over others." The first step in this process of integration and liberation, for me at least, is getting comfortable with my own vulnerability.

I need to warm up to the fact that invincibility is a myth and reject the notion that self-respect is a zero sum game. I need to reaffirm my commitment to live according to what I know to be true, not according to what feels safe, and set aside identities and roles rooted in defensiveness. I need to refuse to give my assent (and thereby surrender my true power) to social systems and relational structures that deny our mutual dependency as human beings, a truth Feldman calls "nature's first law" and the fundamental principle of our survival, both as a race and as individuals.

As these become my practice, I will grow in awareness and acquire a deeper wholeness. "For when I am weak, then I am strong."

(Cross-posted at Crossing the T.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Michfest and transgender activism

hi everyone,

I meant to post about this sooner (sorry for the delay) but last week ran an article I wrote called "Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism." It's a *little too long* to post here, but you can read it via the links above. It discusses more recent developments regarding Michfest and trans activism more generally...


Thursday, August 07, 2008

The XY Games

I wrote this piece for the op/ed page of the New York Times; it ran on Sunday, August 3, 2008. Next day, I discussed the piece on NPR's "Talk of the Nation;" you can listen to the segment at the NPR site here.

The XY Games

IN the 1936 Olympic Games, the sprinter Stella Walsh — running for Poland and known as the fastest woman in the world — was beaten by Helen Stephens of St. Louis, who set a world record by running 100 meters in 11.4 seconds. After the race, a Polish journalist protested that Stephens must be a man. After all, no woman in the world could run that fast.

Olympic officials performed a “sex test” on Stephens, who was found, in fact, to be female, proving once and for all that a person could be incredibly fast and female at the same time.

Forty-four years later, Walsh, who had become an American citizen, was shot to death in the parking lot of a discount store in Cleveland. Her autopsy revealed a surprise: It was Stella Walsh, and not Helen Stephens, who turned out to have been male all along, at least according to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office.

Last week, the organizers of the Beijing Olympics announced that they had set up a “gender determination lab” to test female athletes suspected of being male. “Experts” at the lab will evaluate athletes based on their physical appearance and take blood samples to test hormones, genes and chromosomes.

On the surface, it seems reasonable for there to be some sort of system by which Olympians can be certain that female medalists really are female. The problem is that China’s tests are likely to produce the wrong answers, because they measure maleness and femaleness by the wrong yardsticks, and in the process ruin the lives of the innocent.

It would be nice to live in a world in which maleness and femaleness were firm and unwavering poles. People can be forgiven for wanting to live in a world as simple as this, a place in which something as basic as gender didn’t shift unsettlingly beneath our feet.

But gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than afraid of it.

At the original Olympic Games, no gender testing was considered necessary. Back in 776 B.C., the Games were for men only, and they were conducted in the nude (with female spectators prohibited).

The modern era of gender testing began in 1968, at the Games in Mexico City, when it was believed that Communist countries in Eastern Europe were using male athletes in women’s competitions. (The truth was that some of the Eastern European athletes had been on a regimen of testosterone and steroids, giving them the physiques of young Arnold Schwarzeneggers.)

The test, which began as a crude physical inspection, has become more sophisticated over the years. In the 1970s and ’80s, the test was performed by a buccal smear — the scraping of cells from the inside of the mouth — and the sample studied for chromosomal material.

Over the past 40 years, dozens of female athletes tested in this manner have tested “positively” for maleness. That’s because these tests don’t measure “maleness” or “femaleness.” They measure — and not always reliably — the presence of a Y chromosome, or Y chromosomal material, which no small number of females have.

The condition, known as androgen insensitivity, occurs in about 1 in 20,000 individuals. Basically, a woman may have a Y chromosome, but her body does not respond to the genetic information that it contains. Some women with androgen insensitivity live their lives unaware that they have it. By any measure, though (except the measure of the Olympic test), they are women.

In 1996, eight female athletes at the Atlanta Games tested positively. Seven of these women were found to have some degree of androgen insensitivity, and one an enzyme defect. All were subsequently allowed to return to competition.

Ten years later, however, Santhi Soundarajan, a runner from India, was stripped of her silver medal in the 800 meters at the Asian Games for “failing” a sex test. An Indian athletics official told The Associated Press that Soundarajan had “abnormal chromosomes.” She was ridiculed in the press, and her career was destroyed. In the wake of her global humiliation, she attempted suicide.

You might think that gender testing at the Olympics is conducted to weed out transsexual women, who might be perceived to have some sort of physical advantage over natal females. Yet this is not the case. Since 2004, the International Olympic Committee has allowed transsexuals to compete as long as they have had sex-reassignment surgery and have gone through a minimum of two years of post-operative hormone replacement therapy. (As for the advantages that people born male supposedly have in competing against people born female, the combination of surgery and hormones appears to eliminate it entirely. Studies show that postoperative transsexual women perform at or near the baseline for female athletes in general.)

In the four years since the ruling, there have been no transsexuals — or at least no athletes who are open about it — in Olympic competition. But this year, Kristen Worley, a Canadian cyclist, came close to qualifying. If transgender athletes are now allowed to compete officially, and if gender testing has been shown frequently to render false results, then what exactly are the Chinese authorities testing for?

The Olympic hosts seem to want to impose a binary order upon the messy continuum of gender. They are searching for concreteness and certainty in a world that contains neither.

Most efforts to rigidly quantify the sexes are bound to fail. For every supposedly unmovable gender marker, there is an exception. There are women with androgen insensitivity, who have Y chromosomes. There are women who have had hysterectomies, women who cannot become pregnant, women who hate makeup, women whose object of affection is other women.

So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it?

The only dependable test for gender is the truth of a person’s life, the lives we live each day. Surely the best judge of a person’s gender is not a degrading, questionable examination. The best judge of a person’s gender is what lies within her, or his, heart.

How do we test for the gender of the heart, then? How do we avoid out-and-out frauds, like Hermann Ratjen, who said he was forced by the Nazis to compete as “Dora” in the 1936 high jump? (He lost, finishing fourth.)

A quick look at the reality of an athlete’s life ought to settle the question. Ratjen was male not because of what was in his genes, but because of who he was. He returned to his life as Hermann after the Berlin Games. “For three years I lived the life of a girl,” he said in 1957. “It was most dull.”

It’s hard to imagine a case like Ratjen’s recurring today, but if it did and he slipped through the cracks, then so be it. Surely policy for the Olympics — and civilization — shouldn’t be based on one improbable stunt perpetrated by Nazi Germany.

Which brings us back to Stella Walsh. While the autopsy revealed that she had male sex organs, a chromosome test ordered by the coroner was more ambiguous. She may well have had androgen insensitivity or some other intersex condition. More important, she spent the whole of her life as a woman. She should be celebrated for her accomplishments as an athlete, not turned into an asterisk because of a condition beyond her control.

The triumphant fact of a life lived as a woman made Walsh female, and the inexact measurements performed by strangers cannot render her life untrue.

Maybe this means that Olympic officials have to learn to live with ambiguity, and make peace with a world in which things are not always quantifiable and clear.

That, if you ask me, would be a good thing, not just for Olympians, but for us all.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, a professor of English at Colby College, is the author of “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders” and “I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted.”

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Cause of Anger in the Transgender Community

Recently, there has been a heated discussion on The Bilerico Project about the emotion of Anger. I have written articles on love and being in love and finding love, but I have never tackled the very misunderstood emotion of anger. I felt that this could be a challenge to spark my meager writing talents. Here goes.

I will be the first to admit I can get angry at times. (I can hear the audience now, “F-in’-A, Monica!”) I have no delusion about this one bit. I don’t deny it like others try to do. It has been made apparent several times that I am one of the biggest mixer of feces on blogs, in articles and on Yahoo lists. Yep, I even bought a huge wooden spoon at Target to make the mixing easier. Sometime, it’s real anger, while others is more like faux anger, or even “anger lite.” Less filling.

I decided that I would approach the idea of discussing anger in the transgender community by looking at the causes. Regardless of how I approached this subject, I could end up angering some people with this article. Open discourse is highly welcomed. I will also not ignore the comments after this article, because I hope to provide more input as questions and comments come up.

Let’s start with the definition of “anger:”

Noun - a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.
Synonyms – Resentment, exasperation; choler, bile, spleen. Anger, fury, indignation, rage imply deep and strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc. Anger is the general term for a sudden violent displeasure: a burst of anger. Indignation implies deep and justified anger: indignation at cruelty or against corruption. Rage is vehement anger: rage at being frustrated. Fury is rage so great that it resembles insanity: the fury of an outraged lover. Displease, vex, irritate, exasperate, infuriate, enrage, incense, madden.

How much of that describes the experiences and feelings of the majority of the transgender community? Quite a bit, if you ask me. Noticed the words, “Strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc.” Have transgender people ever been “injured?” Have they faced “injustice?” Have they been “wronged?” And people wonder why we’re angry. Some transgender people of wealth and privilege also seem to wonder why the rest of us become angry so easily, because they have rarely ever faced any of the above mentioned experiences.

Now that we have shown the definition of the word “anger,” let’s explore how it specifically relates to the transgender community. “Why would any transgender person become angry?” Most of us are painfully aware that once we start our transition, we could lose everything. I lost my parents, my family, my children and all of my friends. However, I am one of the lucky ones because I didn’t lose my job. I have been working for the same company for 18.5 years, spending 11 of those years as Monica.

Over the years, I gained back my children and the rest of the family. I had to lose my father before I my mother accepted me back. I still don’t have any contact with my pre-Monica friends, but I have made more friends in the past eleven years then I ever made in the previous 46.

As I said, I am one of the lucky ones. Others are not so lucky. Job discrimination has spiraled out of control in this community. Being fired for being trans, then not getting hired after applying for hundreds of jobs can make a person angry. No wonder people become upset with a non-inclusive ENDA and the people who created it and supported it. For all practical purposes the supporters of that bill are saying to the unemployed trans person that their situation doesn’t matter. Trans people are getting the message that only the gender-conforming, queer people deserve their rights first, so they become angry because of that perception. This makes the unemployed transgender person feel even more isolated. Some LGB people who have the money and the time to fight for equal rights seem not want to help the transgender community. Their message is that those who cannot spend time or money to speak up for themselves don’t deserve their attention. It does nothing but increase the anger.

What about “injustice?” The courts appeared to have been stacked against us for a very long time. Just a simple divorce proceeding can turn into the Spanish Inquisition, complete with rack. Every bit of the trans person’s intimate secrets get plastered all over the court records, making them look like the worst human since Genghis Khan. All of their assets end up being given over to the spouse, as well as the custody of the children. The trans person becomes saddled with all the bills and child support. And, if they have a decent job, they still live paycheck to paycheck. This one form of injustice can make a person very angry, and usually does.

Other court proceedings have had more devastating results. Just read over court cases of Christie Lee Littleton and J’Noel Gardiner and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. Michael Kantaras’ custody case in Florida in 2002 was no picnic for him, even though he won the case. Peter Oiler lost his discrimination case against Winn Dixie in 2003 and I personally saw how angry he became from that. The job discrimination case against the Library of Congress involving Diane Schroer still awaits future results. Hopefully those results won’t increase our anger. There have been many more court cases where transgender people went to court for discrimination reasons, custody battles and other rights, only to be shown the door for their troubles. Did they become angry? Sure they did. Oh yes, there have been some wins, but the percentage seems very low, making the anger very high.

Various forms of discrimination and injustice can make transgender people angry. Violence is another. In 1998, the Remembering Our Dead list came into existence with about 100 names. Today, the list contains over 400 names. You can find the updated list and all of the associated information with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on this new site. Those are the most drastic examples of violence against transgender people.

In the recent survey done by the Transgender American Veterans Association, we asked, “Have you ever been a victim of violence?” Out of 821 transgender veterans who answered that question, 211 said “Yes.” That comes to 25.7%. When asked, “Have you ever been raped?” 128 out of 813 said “Yes.” We also asked, “Have you ever been physically assaulted at a VA facility?” and seven out of 313 said “Yes.” That comes to 2.2%. All of this shows that one out of every four transgender people have faced some form of violence. Not only do these numbers anger the people who have faced the violence, but it also angers the entire community.

Others things seem to anger transgender people. I will name three things that have been the focus of many transgender people’s anger for nearly a year now. HRC, ENDA and Barney Frank. Need I say more? Barney Frank began the process of splitting up the LGBT community, and even caused a rift within the transgender community when he substituted a fully inclusive ENDA with a non-inclusive one. Joe Solmonese promised that HRC would only support a fully inclusive ENDA and HRC went back on his word two weeks later.

After that, trans people who worked with HRC jumped ship and others, sensing a vacuum or a chance to “get ahead,” filled their places. Just saying nice things about HRC or trying to quell the anger of others can get you hate mail. I lost a friend because of this anger. Of course, I cannot condense all of the events and all of the feelings of the last year into two paragraphs. Suffices to say, anger has played a huge part of the feelings by the transgender community when it comes to what some may characterize as our “Axis of Evil.”

When I wrote articles of love and me finding love, I felt extreme joy and happiness. Writing this article about anger has not been a pleasant task. Several of the examples I used have caused me to become angry, both in the past and today. No one can quantify anger, or to really define it. I just hope that when people read this, they may have a little better understanding on why you see transgender people get angry. Just remember this. What you hear them say or write just might be the tip of their anger. Many different things could cause a transgender person to become angry. Many things.

Friday, August 01, 2008

HRC and the lessons from the Cold War

The other day I was listening to a "Fresh Air" interview with an author of book on Cold War politics and I think there's a number of lessons to be learned from that in the current tensions between much of the trans communities and the Human Rights Campaign. Especially in light of discussions about a potential meeting between HRC senior staff and director and trans activists.

The author talked about how through the Cold War there was an on-going tension between some conservatives, whose POV was that the Soviet Union was inherently evil, so any negotiations with them were pointless (Barry Goldwater even opposed negotiations during the Cuban Missile Crisis!); vs. other conservatives who thought that while the Soviets were untrustworthy adversaries with goals that differed and even conflicted with ours, engagement still made sense, as well as negotiations in areas where there were shared interests.

In a related vein, American diplomacy has had a weakness in assuming that one is either fighting or talking, whereas other countries have no problem with simultaneously fighting and talking.

What does this have to do with HRC and a possible meeting? I don't think HRC is an axis of evil, though I do think they've got their own agenda and proven that they're promises can be broken. Nonetheless, I think is still makes sense to engage them.

The meeting is a bit of a no-win situation. Refusing to meet only plays into HRC's hand because they can say that they tried to bridge things and the trans communities refused. OTOH, HRC wants to meet privately with only a handful of people, leading to concerns that they'll stack the deck with the few trans activists who are supporting HRC, which isn't ideal either.

But given the Hobson's choice, the former is the worse outcome. If trans leaders do meet with HRC they can make the list of attendees an issue, i.e. meeting with friendlies isn't exactly getting feedback from the people who are pissed off. They can also make clear that any discussions will be on the record and they will share publicly what's discussed.

I also think it's perfectly reasonable for trans activists to demand moving the purposed date of the meeting -- which is in the middle of the Southern Comfort Conference, one of the largest trans conferences in the country, which many trans leaders will be attending. After all we wouldn't expect Joe and company to meet during one of their fundraising dinners. If HRC refuses, then raise hell about that. Frankly, flexibility about the date is no different that the sort of "trust building" over minor points that's a routine step in many difficult negotiation settings. I.e. if HRC isn't willing move the date out of respect to the trans community, then that casts into doubt sincerity of the whole meeting itself.

As far as any promises HRC might make this meeting, I'll refer to one of the few points where I agree with Ronald Reagan: "trust but verify." I.e. hold HRC's feet to the fire to provide detailed criteria about how they plan to fulfill those promises -- criteria that is specific enough that they can be held accountable. (FWIW, I think it's only fair for HRC to ask the same of the trans communities.)

On a related note, we shouldn't demonize people who choose to attend this meeting, nor folks like Diego Sanchez who cross the picket lines to address HRC events, merely for doing so. Diplomacy means meeting with your enemies as well as your friends. Talking to one's enemies may not convince them to change their positions, but not talking to them is almost certain to fail to do so. That said, we can certainly hold these individuals accountable for the positions they espouse. If we don't feel like they're representing our POV, we should let them and others know.

None of this precludes the trans communities from also continuing to urge boycotts of HRC's fundraisers etc. until HRC's actions demonstrate that they've changed in ways that are satisfactory. But as part of that, I think it's important for trans activists not just say "don't support HRC" but also to provide alternatives. The "Left Out Party" protest outside HRC's recent fundraising dinner in San Francisco did a good job of this. Sure there was a protest, including the traditional picket line, but we also presented Human Rights Hero awards and had our own party -- which we pointedly noted was inclusive of everyone, including any HRC members who choose to cross the street. That said, there's been some criticism about the protest hurting fundraising efforts to fight Prop. 8. Which could have easily been countered by the "Left Out" organizers pointing out where else people could donate money that they would've otherwise given at the dinner.

We also need to be able to present a clear, concise story to the vast majority of LGB people who aren't familiar with the ENDA debacle. As well as why gender identity/expression affects everyone, not just trans people. When I've done so, I've generally found people understand why we're pissed off and are supportive. Likewise, being about to provide the 60-second education about how T people have been involved in LGBT activism for decades. My quickest version of that is pointing out that California gays and lesbians are enjoying marriage equality thanks to the efforts of trans man Shannon Minter, the lead attorney in the case -- and what if he'd decided not to get involved because of the LG (OK mostly gay men) activists who argue T issues have nothing to do with LGB issues?

(FWIW, I think there's also a story to be presented about how HRC's attitude and actions on ENDA are reflective of similar issues with the larger LGB communities, i.e. their treatment of local LGBT organizations, their focus on presenting LGB people as "virtually normal" and shying away from LGB people who aren't straight-acting, etc. Again, it's a matter of making people realize our fight has things in common as their fight.)

The fact of the matter is that the PR war does matter. HRC has proven itself to be pretty inept at it -- at least among those who know the full story (and what does that suggest about the effectiveness of their lobbying efforts?) -- we don't want to be equally inept.

Yet another hater effort to rollback LGBT rights

From a right-wing rag that I won't dignify with a link:

A Christian civil-liberties organization announced on Thursday it is representing an alliance of residents, congregations and businesses against Hamtramck, Mich., to overturn a city law privileging homosexuals and cross dressers.

The Thomas More Law Center's clients are targeting an ordinance that permits males who profess to consider themselves women and wish to use women's bathrooms in businesses and public buildings. Facility owners and managers who prohibit a cross-dressing male from entering a women's lavatory can be fined $500 for each day they enforce that policy and could face civil litigation.

On Tuesday, the coalition rallied in front of Hamtramck City Hall and reported they had gotten over 1,000 city residents to sign a petition placing a measure on the November 2008 election ballot to strike down the law.

And once again, while the "virtual normal" crowd can talk themselves blue in the face about how the LGBs have nothing to do with the Ts, the haters don't bother to distinguish... This seems to be concerted tactic, since the specter of "men in women's bathrooms" is some that's raised in LGBT rights repeal efforts in Florida and elsewhere.

HRC hires its first trans woman

The trans blogosphere has been buzzing the last few days over the Human Rights Campaign's hiring on ordained Baptist minister Allyson Robinson as their Associate Director of Diversity.

I personally know Allyson from the My Husband Betty forum and I'd agree with Mercedes Allen's characterization of it being a case of "optimistic, hopeful transfolk trying to step into a situation to make a positive difference." Is she being naive? Quite possibly, but she won't find out unless she tries -- although I and others have cautioned her to be wary of being used as the token trans woman. To be honest, it's not a job I'd wish on my worst enemy and Allyson has already taken heat from some trans activists for being a supposed quisling.

That said, while I've got no love for HRC, painting every move in terms of evil intent is counter-productive. It's important to give adversaries carrots as well as sticks. Otherwise if they think you'll never be satisfied, what incentive is there to change their behavior? Likewise, it can alienate potential allies, as Bil has noted. And praising things like this hire doesn't mean that we can't also note our anger at their current position on ENDA, which would exclude protections for gender identity and expression (for not only trans people, but anyone (gay or hetero) who's not straight-acting enough).

It may be that Allyson's hiring is a simply defensive move on HRC's part. Even true, that's not entirely a bad thing, in that it shows HRC is feeling the heat. Regardless, I think we ought to be applauding the appointment -- and simultaneously challenging HRC to demonstrate that Allyson won't be just a figurehead.

I think it's important to provide kudos/carrots as well as sticks, even to someone as intensively disliked as HRC is by much of the trans communities due to their broken promise on ENDA. If nothing else, it's just good strategy -- if your adversary thinks you'll never be satisfied no matter what, then what incentive do they have for doing what you'd like them do?

Likewise, I agree with Donna Rose that the knee-jerk vitriol toward HRC on the part of some trans activist is becoming counter-productive. In a variety of activist arenas, I've seen folks who are "infatuated with anger" and who seem to assume that rage equals commitment to the cause. Now don't get me wrong, there is often plenty to be angry about -- but one has to channel that anger effectively. Part of that is knowing when to rage and when to be diplomatic. To be able to disagree violently, but but yet civilly. Part of it is remembering that adversaries are people too. As a friend of mine said: "Be fierce, but be loving too." Constant vilification may be emotionally satisfying, but it also tends to alienate potential allies -- and the small size of the trans communities inherently means we'll need allies. There are LGB folks who do think HRC's actions on ENDA were shameful, and others who, when the story is told, are willing to support us. But unrelenting, undiscriminating rage is off-putting to say the least and just plays into HRC's hands by allowing them to write us off as a bunch bitter cranks.