Sunday, October 30, 2011

Re-posted, author J Wallace: "When the boxes get smaller, fewer people fit inside"

(Written by J Wallace, re-posted with permission)

Periodically, I get asked if there are more gender independent/ gender non-conforming/gender imaginative/ gender creative/gender variant/ transgender/ trans children and youth because there is more awareness of transpeople and trans-identities in society.

The answer is always no.

More awareness may mean more legal protections, and it may mean that there are more caring adults willing to support children and youth, but knowledge of transpeople does not make children up and decide that their own gender or sex needs to be changed. Even if it did (which it does not) I'd like to suggest that there is very little cultural material for children about transpeople. Carly, She's still My Daddy is just not showing up in many kindergarten libraries. And while there are children who read 10,000 Dresses and think "I'm just like the main character" it's not like the image it paints is so alluring that other children are going to think "hey, that's not me but I wish it was". The images of trans people that young children are exposed to are few, hard to find, and seldom positive. I dream of the day that resources like Reflection Press' Gender Now Coloring Book are more widely available, and even when they are, more awareness is not going to create more trans children.

The claim that there are more gender independent/ gender non-conforming/gender imaginative/ gender creative/gender variant/ transgender/ trans children and youth because here is more awareness of transpeople and trans-identities in society, is the polite way of saying "we recruit" and it's a slander that plays into the primal fear that "we are out to get your children". The myth that faeries would steal unbaptized children persists, and I remember being told that if I was bad, the gypsies would come take me away. The culture that I am a part of has a long history of claiming that those it wants to other will 'steal the children'. The antisemitic belief that Jews steal children to make Passover matza is a gross and disturbing example, but the idea that "we are out to get the children" has been proven over and over again as a successful way to villianize whole people. We the othered then have to spend time defending ourselves, and proving that we are not out to get your children. Often we are told that the way to do this is to act as much like the majority culture as possible and to be quiet. Talk about silencing marginalized voices.

The idea that there are more (and younger) trans people because of greater awareness of trans people also serves to distracts us from what is actually going on. Peggy Orenstein in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, documents a huge cultural shift towards an increasingly rigid gendering of childhood and children. She discusses at some length the marketing brilliance of clearly defining "boys toys" and "girls toys" and how doing so means that fewer older siblings are sharing their toys with differently gendered younger siblings and thus more toys are being sold. I frequently remind teachers that childhood now is more gendered than it was when we were children. I was born in the mid seventies and grew-up with Free to Be You and Me. While the message was that "every boy in this land grows to be his own man, every girl in this land grows to be her own women" and not "everyone gets to figure out who they are and then live that way" there was more room in the categories of "girl" and "boy". I could refuse to wear dresses, mostly play with boys, try-out and play on boys sports teams, and my behaviour was seen as "feminist" or that of a "tomboy", and inside the category of girl.

The other thing that has been happening at the same time, has been happening in the DSM. The DSM III first introduced a childhood diagnosis, Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood in 1980, and at the time it required:

Table 1 DSM-III diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood
     For females
     A. Strongly and persistently stated desire to be a boy, or insistence that she is a boy (not merely a desire for any perceived
     cultural advantages from being a boy)
     B. Persistent repudiation of female anatomic structures, as manifested by at least one of the following repeated assertions
     (1) that she will grow up to become a man (not merely in role)
     (2) that she is biologically unable to become pregnant
     (3) that she will not develop breasts
     (4) that she has no vagina
     (5) that she has, or will grow, a penis
     C. Onset of the disturbance before puberty ...

     For males
     A. Strongly and persistently stated desire to be a girl, or insistence that he is a girl.
     B. Either (1) or (2)
     (1) persistent repudiation of male anatomic structures, as manifested by at least one of the following repeated assertions
       (a) that he will grow up to become a woman (not merely in role)
       (b) that his penis and testes are disgusting or will disappear
       (c) that it would be better not to have a penis or testes
     (2) preoccupation with female stereotypical activities as manifested by a preference for either cross-dressing or simulating female
     attire, or by a compelling desire to participate in the games and pastimes of girls.
     C. Onset of the disturbance before puberty. ...

The DSM IV broadened the diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in children, with the result that children no longer had to state a clear interest in or belief that they are the other sex. Instead it said:
  1. In children, the disturbance is manifested by four (or more) of the following:
    1. repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex
    2. in boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female
      attire; in girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine
    3. strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make-believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex
    4. intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex
    5. strong preferences for playmates of the other sex
  2. In children, the disturbance is manifested by any of the following:
    • in boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear
      or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis,
      or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play
      and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games and activities;
    • in girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position,
      assertion that she has or will grow a penis,
      or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate,
      or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing.
  3. The disturbance is not concurrent with a physical intersex condition.
  4. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or
    impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
When in boys, an "aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games and activities", and in girls a "marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing." is considered a "manifestation of the disturbance" many more children can be pathologized, many more children can be considered insufficiently feminine or insufficiently masculine. It also teaches parents that their children's behaviour is wrong and not something that normal children do. I ask you, gentle readers, who's coming for the children? I

So, what "makes" gender independent/ gender non-conforming/gender imaginative/ gender creative/gender variant/ transgender/ trans children and youth? I have several answers, but I believe that key among them is the simultaneous narrowing of the cultural understandings of what it means to be a boy or girl and the broadening of the definition of Gender Identity Disorder for children. Simply put, when there are fewer ways to be a girl or boy, and more ways to be identified as having GID, more children will find that they simply can not fit into what is expected of them, and instead find themselves being pathologized.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June in Paris - 2011

One of my favourite paintings at the LouvreScammers at the LouvreJust one of the many Native appropriation images in ParisClassy BMW ScooterRuffneck Hip HopDon't you want to be tan?
Turbo DraineWarnings for food commercialsMounir est guardien des biscuitsPascal and the Mozilla Paris office treat cupboardEscargots "Papa"Salade gargantuesques Boyarde "complète"
Who needs a bell?2 Croque-MadamesSpeculoos Panna CottaAmerican Money to patch your pantsLost Unicorn in ParisJenny & the Moulin Rouge
Montmartre cemetery warning #2Montmartre cemetery warning #1Social Assistance in Paris?Jenny, Montmartre cemeteryJenny in a crypt at the Montmartre cemeteryIMG_20110611_172239
June in Paris - 2011, a set on Flickr.
So here's the most recent set of images from our last week in Paris. We've been settling in, and while there have been some low points where things seemed too overwhelming here we're really having a great time getting into a little routine here and finding fun things to do at night when I'm done working.

The pics have some stories and descriptions but let's see what else I can tell you.

We're adjusting to our tiny apartment which I have been lovingly calling "our bathroom". People laugh and think it's cute that we're so shocked by the tiny apartments but I really don't think anyone grasps how our rental is not an apartment at all - I'd be fine with a tiny apartment and understand the limits of space in Paris and the high price of real estate. We are in a bathroom however with the cheapest curtain in front of the toilet, and everything else furnishing the place is also the cheapest possible stuff from IKEA. The person who rents this 12 sq m room has basically done the bare minimum to make it rentable. I'm not going to spend a whole blog post complaining about the rental though - we're making it work. Also, my co-worker William lent us his place last weekend and will again in another week so we've had a respite and have enjoyed some space and some more comfortable living on occasion.

Let's talk about food, one of my favourite subjects. The food here is generally pretty good if you don't care much about salad. In the past few years I have started to care much more about eating greens and vegetables so it's been a challenge to basically eat bread/meat/cheese/sugar all day, every day, without any salads in there. There are salads but they are often either a) tiny and covered in mayonaise or b) topped with potatoes/meat/cheese (and maybe some mayonaise too!). So I'm definitely missing fresh fruits & vegetables in my diet. However, last night we went to a place William recommended called "Entre les Vignes" (Between the Vines). It's a cute little bistro near Gare de Lyon and it had the most delicious steak tartare ever. We will definitely go back for another round of that before leaving town. I have had a very fresh and tasty crepe on the street, a ham & cheese one so I still need to do the sweet kind at some point. I've had some South-West cooking at a place called Chez Papa which involved the above-mentioned "salad with meat and potatoes on it" as well as escargots in cream sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and also a lamb cassoulet. I love cassoulet and want to go home and make some of my own. We also cooked at home a few times and just did some simple pasta dinners to accompany wine & reading.

Life in Paris was hard the first week because of technical difficulties. The internet in our room is incredibly slow and unreliable and Jenny relies on my laptop sharing internet so that her iPad (which does not have an ethernet port) can get connected. This means her internet window when not at school (French classes) is about 15 minutes before I go to work in the mornings. This means she has to know ahead of time everything she might want to do so she can map it out. Our cell phones here required some intensive signing up procedures including sending copies of our passports to some email address, and then getting them refilled is a whole other pain in the butt. Also, the Vélib rentable bike system wouldn't accept our credit cards at the stations so we learned the hard way that we need to buy them online ahead of time. We're starting to laugh at how often we'll try to do something only to find (regardless of the level of planning we put in ahead of time) that things are closed, we're too late (or on the wrong night), or things are sold out. Metro stations, restaurants, concerts, canal boat rides. The internet has both made it easier to make this kind trip and also removed the ability for spontaneity in travel.

We have gone to see two movies: Tomboy and X Men First Class. Tomboy was all in French and Jenny was able to follow along pretty well. I loved that movie and highly recommend it. It will probably do the rounds of the queer film festivals this summer. X Men was lots of fun for me, Jenny had a nice nap. I love the X Men mythology so much and spend a lot of time trying to decide which mutation would be the best fit for me. After last night I'm mostly leaning towards the telepathy cause it seems appropriate for a slightly controlling personality who wants to help lots of people.

Tonight we'll go see some art at Georges Pompidou where a modern art gallery lives. Also we just found out about this Claude Cahun retrospective from Onya - yay!  This weekend we might go to Versailles and try again to do the canal boat ride that takes you under the city in these cool tunnels.

That's it for now.  Gotta get to work!  Which reminds me. The Paris office has been great to me and so awesome to work out of. I really do want to see if, over time, I can work out of every Mozilla office at least once so that I can get a feel for all the different customs and office atmospheres in our very dispersed company.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Arm Tattoo

Arm Tatoo by Ludovic Hirlimann
Arm Tatoo, a photo by Ludovic Hirlimann on Flickr.

Just found out about this photo on Flickr cause it's gotten a lot of views in the past few days. Such a great shot of the Hopey hound, makes me miss her more than I already do.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Summer Travel Log 1 - California->Canada->Paris

Last Saturday started with a little last-minute cleaning of the apartment for our summer Airbnb renters before we hit the road and headed North. In the past week I have been in 3 States (CA, OR, WA), 3 Provinces (BC, AB, ON), and am now in Paris, France in the heart of the city on Isle St-Louis.

 It took us two days to drive to Victoria, and we lengthened the travel time a bit by taking hwy 101 for half of it so as to view the amazing redwood trees along the coast.  On Jenny's camera there are pictures of us driving through a huge tree - which is what you do when you take hwy 101 through the redwoods.  

We spent a nice quiet week in the woods of Victoria, getting Hopey settled in and sleeping a lot. Finally on Friday the time came to start the 16 hour trip to Paris. I'd like to say that I love flying Air Canada. It's been a while, and living in the States means often flying Delta, US Airways, Southwest, or United. Air Canada's planes are so nice and clean and big. Unlike every flight I've taken in the last year, this flight had NO issues with people's carry on baggage fitting into the upper storage areas. Also, the seats are a little wider and I couldn't measure but I think I had more leg room too. Airline promo done, let's arrive in Paris!

 Our rental is in an old industrial building with a huge door that opens into an open-air courtyard, and then 4 flights of stairs up is our 'apartment'. It's quite small, but it's quiet and we're in such a great location for the next 3 weeks. Apparently it's going to rain off and on all week, but today was a hot and sunny 28 degrees, so after a nap Jenny and I went out to explore the neighbourhood.  Here's what I've observed from our initial, jet-lagged wanderings:

  • Getting keys made is something done at the cobbler's, not at hardware stores (we visited 2)
  • At 5 or 6 pm, there is nothing slightly resembling dinner available in the local cafés and the restaurants are not open yet.  We will need to adjust to this.
  • There's some great fashion here and then, in contrast, some people who seem to actively hate fashion :)
  • I love having opportunities to speak French!  Most importantly, everyone is speaking French back to me which is a pleasant surprise.
  • Everything here is REALLY EXPENSIVE!  It makes me kind of nervous.  Will need to get out of this neighbourhood and see what it's like in less touristy areas.  We plan to get Velib bikes to explore the city tomorrow if it's not raining.
  • I bought a SIM card at the airport for 19 euros and it gives you 5 euros credit which I've already gone through by using data, however there's nothing in their rate sheet about data costs. SO there's some lack of communication here.  
  • Also this:

That, my dear readers, is the DISCO TOILET in the Creperie where we ended up eating dinner. The tiny toilet booth is a totally different experience than the rest of the restaurant. So you're eating your crepes and it's all normal (top 40 UK dance hits quietly playing in the background) but if you get up to go to the washroom, watch out! The music is loud, the little green lights are dancing, and just can't help're dancing in a toilet :)

This bridge is covered in locks put up by people, looks like mostly to commemorate their love with someone else, and I'm excited to put one up there for Jenny and I at some point during our visit.  It's so beautiful here. The stone streets, the tiny cars, even this very touristy area has a nice mix of locals going about their business and visitors walking about. There's a lot of people riding bikes around and it looks pretty safe to do that here. I don't have a helmet with me because our rentals in Prague will include them. I'm trying to decided if I should pick up one of these helmets while I'm here or wait until I'm back in SF.

There's a huge thunderstorm rolling in as I write this and I wish I had the right kind of camera to capture the lightning. Time to try and get to sleep at a 'normal' hour so that I can get the most out of Paris, Day 2.