Eric Marcus

Chick with a... At Hillcrest High School

Filed By Eric Marcus | December 07, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: Alan Cumming, gay teens, Hillcrest High School, Jamaica, Live Out Loud, Queens

For the past few years I've volunteered with Live Out Loud, a New York City-based organization that does the kind of grass roots work that brings about change at the most local level. Live Out Loud "connects LGBT youth to leaders in the LGBT community through events and programs at area schools and universities." That translates into sending people like me to give talks at public and private high schools, colleges, and universities. I've also moderated panel discussions, and even hosted a poetry slam. Fun stuff.

Recently, Live Out Loud launched The Homecoming Project, which encourages gay folks to go back to their high schools (actor Alan Cumming hosts a great PSA about The Homecoming Project on the LOL web site). Why go? As Live Out Loud explains, there are three reasons:

• Serve as a positive example for LGBT youth;
• Empower young adults to reconsider the challenges and unspoken fears of growing up gay;
• Replace your old and uncomfortable memories of high school with new and positive experiences.

So a couple of weeks ago...

... after a little gentle arm-twisting on the part LOL's enthusiastic and lovely program coordinator, Aartie Manansingh, I agreed to go back to my high school -- Hillcrest High in Jamaica, Queens -- for the first time in thirty years to speak to a combined class of 125 students. I had plenty of anxiety about the idea of returning to a place I ran from long ago. Aartie said she'd go with me. That helped.

Everything about Hillcrest was intensely familiar, from the inspirational mosaic in the entry hall that pictures Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, and Lincoln, to the vintage 1970s tiled halls (pink tile!) and the Scandinavian-modern auditorium, which is where I would address the students.

I'd worked so hard to leave Hillcrest and my painful teen years behind me that I didn't find myself fighting off memories--good or bad. I mostly struggled to recover the vapors of memories long-since deeply buried. But there wasn't much time for that because soon after I arrived in the auditorium, the students started pouring in.

I was told in advance that the students I'd be speaking with were in this class to learn about diversity (many come from immigrant families), self esteem, and the kinds of issues inner-city kids have to deal with -- from how to stay out of gangs to planning for life after high school. Some were openly gay, some were closeted or questioning, but most of the kids were straight.

In advance of the class I'd prepared a list of questions for a student interviewer to ask me. I hate straightforward presentations where there's the danger of boring your audience, so I prefer the back and forth and comparative spontaneity of an interview format. And by writing the questions myself I was certain to be able to make the points I wanted to make and maintain some control over the discussion. Not that I'm afraid of any particular question, but we had only forty minutes and there was a lot of ground to cover, starting with "What was it like to be gay at Hillcrest in the mid-1970s?"

To involve more than just one student, the teacher copied my list of questions and handed it out to a group of students she thought would be good at asking questions. And they were. But before long, we were off the script and one hand after another was in the air, attached to a student eager to ask questions that were not on my list. This was a little more challenging, but I'm used to answering questions and I knew from experience that if I got a question I didn't like or felt I couldn't adequately answer I could always say, "Let me think about that and I'll come back to it later." Later could mean later. Or it could mean never.

The most aggressive and sexually blunt questions came from a group of boys sitting together in the last occupied row of the auditorium. Their genuine curiosity was wrapped in the kind of bravado and macho banter that terrified me when I was their age. But given the decades I've lived since Hillcrest and having had years of good therapy, I mostly marveled at their energy and their persistence (and felt grateful that I wasn't still in high school praying I could get home on the subway without getting the shit kicked out of me by a similarly tough-looking bunch of teens).

These kids were deeply curious about how I could NOT be attracted to girls. "They've got all the right stuff, you know, soft on top and..." And they kept coming back to this one point, asking me in several different ways the same question as they struggled to sort out how a guy could possibly find another guy sexually attractive and how a guy couldn't find a girl sexually attractive when finding girls sexually attractive was the most natural thing in the world for them. I did my best to explain my world view, using humorous anecdotes and generally trying to get them to put themselves in my shoes by turning things around and asking, "Well, why don't you find a guy sexually attractive when it feels like the most natural thing for me...?"

The final question that came from the back of the room reminded me of a Jerry Springer moment. With the encouragement of his friends, the young man said, "Okay, let's say there's this girl and she has a dick, would you be attracted to her?" I'm sure I smiled. And I know I scratched my head. I wish I could say that I answered the question by responding, "I don't know, would you find a guy with a vagina sexually attractive?" But I wasn't thinking as fast on my feet as I like to think I generally do and gave an answer that got my point across but not nearly as efficiently.

After the class I was surrounded by a group of girls, all but one of them gay (not surprisingly, it's a lot tougher at Hillcrest for boys to identify as gay). Some of them had questions. Some just wanted to talk about their family circumstances (I was shocked by some of the breathtakingly terrible things their mothers had said to them--and I'm not easily shocked). I marveled at their confidence, was inspired by their open hearts, and was just about moved to tears by their yearning to be accepted and loved by their friends and families. Although more than thirty years separated their experiences and emotions from my own at that age, I was right there with them.

Then after some group pictures it was time to go. Me, back to Manhattan, a mere 13 miles and a lifetime away from Hillcrest High School. And them, on to the next class and then home to the families that don't understand or embrace them.

Going back to my high school was an incredibly gratifying and healing experience (for a long list of reasons). And apparently it won't be a one-time visit because Live Out Loud is in conversations with my old high school to bring me back to talk to the faculty and to the parent-teacher organization. Next time no one will have to twist my arm and I think I'll be able to make the trip on my own.

So don't just take my word for it that going back to your high school is a good thing--for you and for the students. Give yourself a gift and do it yourself. Here's a link to the Live Out Loud Homecoming Project application: www.liveoutloud.info/homecoming-apply.html. You really can go home again and you might just be glad that you did.


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That was an incredible thing you did. In my opinion you handled it very well.

I had a job once, it was a silly bar show, or was supposed to be. I played a 'sex therapist' and I was answering questions from the crowd, I had to answer them honestly (so we wouldn't get sued) but I also wanted to be sensitive yet still funny enough to get us more gigs. These were drunk adults mind you, but I did get a lot more serious questions than silly.

Most were related to LGBT and some folks even thanked me after the show. Its not even close to the same thing but I was so worried the first few times I was in the spotlight..

I felt happy after every successful show, I felt that somehow, I made a difference, even if only a small one.

I applaud you for speaking at your HS, and I appreciate your article. Just one teensy tiny complaint...

I would (gently) suggest that your headline "Chick with a ..." is misleading, sensationalistic, and borderline offensive. The phrase "chick with a dick" is considered derogatory by many (most?) in the transgender community. It falls into the same category as fa@@ot or ni@@er: labels that should only be used if you are one (and only with caution even then).

Your otherwise inspiring article provides no caveats about the use of this phrase. Indeed, there was no actual person fitting this description in the encounter you describe, and the incident involving this phrase is only a small portion of your story. Which is why I find your use of this phrase in the title of your article sensationalistic and misleading.

Finally, in an ideal situation you would have discussed these issues with the student(s) who originally used the term. Although, I admit that I myself am not always quick enough on my feet to think of these things as they arise.

But I say again, thank you for an otherwise fine article.

Dear Angel,
Guilty as charged! I was completely aware that using that phrase was sensationalistic. I had a couple of reasons for using it, but above all I thought that by using it I would get people to read my post. I am not above using such tactics, nor am I embarrassed to admit it. Second reason is that this was what the young man who asked me that question wanted to know about. (My Jerry Springer reference was really to a song from the Jerry Springer musical that I saw in London--and in NYC in a concert version at Carnegie Hall). There's a song in the show called "Chick with a Dick." I apologize to anyone who took offense by my use of this phrase as it was unintended.
I wish there had been time to discuss anything in depth with the students at Hillcrest. This was not a senior level college seminar. These were high school students with a lot of questions that were all over the map and I only had a very few minutes to answer each one. It would be great if trans graduates of Hillcrest could go back to talk about their experiences as trans people. There is so much work to be done educating people about trans folks, but I'm clearly not the person to do it. By the way, there's a great article about trans people in Mexico in today's NY Times.

Eric,

I think it's important to be aware that it's more than just the issue of taking offense. When I first saw the title, my response was somewhat of an, "Oh shit," and I quickly went to reading through the article waiting for the hammer to drop. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, and as I wondered what the context for the title was I thought, I've read Eric's posts, he's certainly aware enough not the refer to anyone he met by that. It was only when I reached the question about "a girl who has a dick" that I relaxed.

I'm actually quite interested by the phrasing and context of their question, as it seems to indicate to me that they were firmly identifying a girl who has a dick as a girl and the fact that they avoided the more colloquial yet culturally loaded "chick with a dick" feels promising.

Anyway, I thought the article was great, and it's got me thinking about what it would be like to go back to my high school. Yet I thought you should know that my experience of reading the article was not as great, filled with tension and apprehension, and perhaps not the experience you aim to give to your readers.

Eric;
Kudos for going to the event, but using a sensationalistic title that is offensive to part of the LGBT community is a no-no, respectfully.

Only recently, various organisations chided the Christian Right for references to "she-males"

We cannot stand against the Christian Right's behaviour when some of our respected authors/activists do the same for the "Fox/Rupert Murdoch/Randolph Hearst" effect of attention getting sensationalism

Carol H. Jewell | January 13, 2009 10:03 PM

Hi Eric.
I graduated from Hillcrest in 1977. I came out in 1998, at 39 years old. What a difference 30 years can make, and yet, I feel for those students who are still struggling.
Thanks for going to speak at our old school.

Carol

"I was completely aware that using that phrase was sensationalistic. I had a couple of reasons for using it, but above all I thought that by using it I would get people to read my post. I am not above using such tactics, nor am I embarrassed to admit it."

And this demonstrates why I have a growing discomfort with ANY trans related issue being linked with gay men in particular. Please explain how this is different than the obnoxious tactics of HRC using the TDOR or, going back a decade, gay male activists telling (not asking) Calpernia Addams to pose as a drag queen rather than the transwoman she is when her boyfriend was murdered so it could be made to be a gay hate crime?

Gender identity has NOTHING to do with sexual orientation. It is repeated often and yet somehow the message is never received.

There was no actual pre/non op transwoman at the school, the point was a minor one by your own admission, yet you unapologetically used a known slur for a minority group you do not belong to in order to draw attention to your blog entry. I don't think any acceptable explanation under the circumstances is possible.

I'd rather you came to grips with your own lack compassion for another minority group. It's called xenophobia (not xenaphobia which is a fear of warrior princesses) and being a minority group member does not assure one doesn't express it towards other minority groups.

Shoot you?......no thanks, But you have provided an excellent example why lesbian women and women of trans or intersexed history should be making common cause with the women's movements instead of with gay male conserva queer dominated "gay rights" organizations.

If you're hoping to convince anyone of anything, it sounds to me like the OP's example is going to be a hell of a lot more useful than yours. Anecdotally, the OP ended up with a diverse yet captive audience and an inspiring experience. Your alternative is further splintering and reinforcing artificial alliances within an already limited minority? What's really xenophobic here? What's really inclusive?

OP = Original Post/er.

ie Eric Marcus and or his original article

"I'd rather you came to grips with your own lack compassion for another minority group. It's called xenophobia (not xenaphobia which is a fear of warrior princesses) and being a minority group member does not assure one doesn't express it towards other minority groups."

This is a fascinating response. You say these things without any hint of irony that this applies at least as well to yourself, and in my view, much better than to Eric.

You don't want GLBs to be part of the trans community, which makes you the one who is doing the excluding. And you attack gay men while explaining that they aren't allowed to attack you because of your minority status, while ignoring theirs.

Alex..
He most certainly did NOT apologize until long after I responded. What he did was admit he used a phrase just to provoke response knowing it was at least somewhat offensive and then stated he did it with eyes open and no sense he did anything wrong.

Find me the apology in that.

Alex.....I am primarily heterosexual with some bi- mixed in. Why on earth would I thus feel that my orientation has anything to do with that of a gay man? Victimhood is not a reason to united except in a most general fashion. I've arguably suffered more discrimination during my fairly long life on the basis of my religion than I have for being hetero, having a trans background etc. Should we, following your justification, add a MR to the alphabet soup? (minority religion)...

Yes, oppressed people should work together to fight all oppression BUT putting all my civil rights eggs in the gay male basket just seems downright stupid to me. That's why I respond here and that's why my primary activism is for women's rights BEFORE gay male rights. The women's movement is very very inclusive of lesbian issues, there is no contradiction here.

My "agenda" is not to break alliances, it's to force those "in name only" alliances to either get it together or stop doing more harm than good. A gay man doing "educational outreach" who sees no problem in using the single most offensive term for someone of trans history is not educating, he IS the problem. That's how I see it.

Might I suggest then Cathryn that you go back to your HBS/WBT web friends and leave Bilerico alone.

Quite frankly as a pre-op MtF transsexual (SRS due on the 25th of December 2008 thank god!) I don't have any problem with the headline at all. It grabbed my attention and made me read the article. I think a lot of trans* people need to lose the chip off their shoulders and get on with life.

Campaigning for equality does not equal screaming like a banshee whenever your sensibilities have been slightly hurt. Campaigning for equality is about knowing when and how to respond, and I am sorry Cathryn I don't believe that in this case you have shown that sort of judgment.

Cathii

Actually, I've been thinking a lot about coalition building lately, and I'll be the first to say that sometimes even I want to cut ties with the gay male community. There are definitely issues to be worked on here, and of course you should be spending your time agitating working on causes you think will be successful. I'm sorry if what I wrote was read as a personal attack. It wasn't meant to be.

What I have an issue with is that there are many of us who see GLB's and T's goals as so intertwined that telling some people in that group to pack up and do work elsewhere doesn't make sense to me. There are people working together already, there are people who are making progress together, and instead of belittling what they're doing, we should be encouraging more of it.

And, yes, minority religions would make great allies on many issues. But there are a bunch of jerks there, just as there are in every community, and there are well-intentioned people there who make mistakes, just like everywhere else. Suggesting that we should cut off ties with those folks because of that doesn't advance anything.

And about Eric personally, well, he can speak for himself, but he was willing to show up in the comments to discuss this and is a thoughtful person. There are productive ways to discuss this issue, which many people on this thread chose, and there are other ways.

BTW, I don't see myself as an expert on transgender issues. I'm a queer boy who gets bothered by transphobia so much so that he blogs about it sometimes, just like I blog about sexism and racism, but it doesn't make me an "expert" on those topics. It makes me someone with an opinion. I know that you need to find a reason to attack people personally when you go after them, but, come on.

Did you know that trans* women have an incredibly high likelihood of being shot (or otherwise murdered)?
Moreover, TDoR was only a couple weeks back; we mourned several trans* women who were literally shot.

"Chick with a dick" highly offensive (and pretty well known to be; ditto with "shemale" and "tranny"); my straight cis* friends know they're offensive and that they shouldn't use them.

"Did you know that trans* women have an incredibly high likelihood of being shot (or otherwise murdered?) Moreover, TDoR was only a couple weeks back; we mourned several trans* women who were literally shot."

Wow. That is WAY THE FUCK OUT OF LINE, and **extremely** offensive. How dare you liken using an allusion to a potentially inappropriate phrase with cold-blooded murder?

That kind of thoughtless rhetoric does absurdly more damage than a hundred insensitive comments. You aren't empowered or qualified to issue edicts condemming anyone on behalf of the entire community.

inclusive?........a phoney concept using a positive feeling word that actually means "hey you, shut up cause my shit it more important than yours"......in my experience.

All these years and lesbian women's issues are still almost totally ignored within the G with lbt groups. Hmmmm....

Everything isn't always a numbers game and although it might still be largely a man's world, that too is changing.

Women uniting in fighting common oppression is hardly an artificial alliance.....we have more in common, straight, lesbian and such than we do with men. It's putting gay men with lesbians that's an artificial alliance, not to mention sticking women of transexual history in that mix.

If what you're talking about doesn't sound dated and ineffectual, then you're welcome to pursue them. It really does to me.

In any case, I find your whole diatribe depressingly ignores the use and power of real human connection. Your immediate reaction to a personal story full of empowering and undoubtedly positive experience (not to mention that the story revolves around an idea that demonstrates concrete utility in breaking up the heteronorm dominance in high schools across America) is to call into question the OP's "lack of compassion" which while perhaps evident in his DICTION was utterly absent in OP's recounted ACTIONS.

Can we give some weight to the notion of intent and the specific consequences of the use of language in question here? Or must we speak in generalities about the supposed power of words? I guess that's comes easiest when your evidence is mostly anecdotal...

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 7, 2008 7:15 PM

So shoot me!

Eric, really. Maybe I'm misreading your tone, but as a fellow Bilerico poster, I'd suggest that an apology is in order here. You semi-knowingly used one of the most offensive phrases known to the MtF trans community, on an ostensibly LGBT site, and when called on it, you get belligerent?

Yes, Cathryn came on strong. And you'd already apologized once. So either ignore her, or respectively reiterate your apology.

Instead, you get in her face? I can imagine the outcry if a similar exchange were to occur regarding an issue sensitive to gay males, and a trans poster responded this way.

Is Bilerico a site whose posters are seriously committed to transgender equality or not? If it is, then posters should be trying to learn from fellow posters.

"You semi-knowingly used one of the most offensive phrases known to the MtF trans community, on an ostensibly LGBT site, and when called on it, you get belligerent?"

First, Eric did not use that phrase. He intimated that it was used in his article, which it was not. Second, saying a phrase such as "the N word" is not the moral equivalent to actually saying the word that that phrase represents. Similarly, implying its use here also not the same as using it.

Third, Eric was relaying a story where this idea was actually brought up by his audience, and it was interegal to the article, and a fascinating look into the mind of a high school student.

Fourth, inasmuch as this is a GLBT site with a GLBT audience, and Eric is a GLBT contributor, one would imagine - or hope - that he would be given the benefit of any doubt about where his heart lays. If this was a general interest site, and Eric was an unknown quantity, it might make more sense to automatically go on "red alert" and look for offense.

My group has a guideline: assume best intentions. You can have a disagreement, but if you think the other person is merely misguided or uneducated, the quality of that disgreement will have an entirely different tenor than if you come to the argument thinking your opponent is evil or stupid.

"Is Bilerico a site whose posters are seriously committed to transgender equality or not? If it is, then posters should be trying to learn from fellow posters."

I haven't seen anything to indicate that Eric isn't seriously committed to transgender equality. And given the seriousness of such a charge, it strikes me as a fairly beligerent thing to say; and not indicative of gentle rejoinder from a friend.

However, saying "so shoot me" seems more of an expression of frustration; that was also my reaction to which he was responding.

If every time anything trans-related is jumped upon, it won't be worth anybody's while to write about it. Then we all lose.

This is better than what I wrote.

"This is better than what I wrote."

I try my best, Colin. ;-) Thank you.

Rory,

I can totally understand loosing your cool at some of the things Cathryn said, and while I don't think using this phrase is anything like an unforgivable crime, I do think it's appropriate to bring up why it's a problem here. That all seems pretty settled, especially in Eric and Brynn's comments here.

However, I'm a little startled by what I think I hear you saying in your reaction to this dustup.

I'm a little perplexed by your claim that saying "chick with a..." is any better than saying "chick with a dick." Your analogy of "The N Word" vs "Nigger" doesn't make sense to me because it is more about context than syntax, right? If your intention is violent, euphemisms don't really blunt the impact. And if your intention is only to reference the word and it's use, then making a direct reference seems only to add clarity. Personally, my reaction to this use was that it was outside of any context, and while I knew it was not within a hostile context, it also was not being used as just a reference. The "..." did nothing calm or temper my apprehension or anxiety from reading the phrase.

Then you also call the phrase "potentially inappropriate." Do you really have any doubts as to whether or not the term is offensive? I'm getting the impression, or perhaps I simply hope that, you're having a knee-jerk defensive reaction. Actually defending the term would be much more disturbing.

Your anger with those trying to point out the problems with using the phrase in this title is pretty strong, especially if you are, as you suggest, assuming that they have the best of intentions. I cannot be sure, but I get the impression that you are more upset with the impugned reputation of those called out for behavior hurtful to trans people than you are upset with behavior that is hurtful to trans people.

Myself, I try to assume the best of intentions, but even if someone is intending to waltz with me, if they are accidentally stomping on my feet, I might yelp in pain. And I will feel the need to speak up -- if only to help them with the steps. Assuming everyone has the best intentions, there's no reason to presume anyone complaining about the title is doing anything more than that.

Tobi -

You've covered a lot of ground, so if I missed a salient point which I've failed to address, please let me know.

You correctly observed that I was concerned about the author being unfairly maligned as actively hostile to the trans community ("belligerent"), and as someone responsible for transwomens death (Drakyn referring to the TDOR). Those charges are beyond the pale, and aren't comparable to your analogy about stepped on feet.

Of course if someone is hurt unintentionally, they can point this out, as you and a few others have in your comments in an appropriate way. But doing so by attacking the writer's character and motivations without any history or evidence is quite different. You'll note that I didn't respond to your criticism, or Angel's, of Eric.

My suggestion for people to assume best intentions wasn't meant to be interpretted that I assumed people who maligned Eric had such. I think that the nature of their inflammable charges without ample justification precluded that. Hence my suggestion.

Context is always important in determining the meaning of words, as is who the speaker is, the audience, and the setting. All of these matter in interpretting communications. I used the term 'potentially offensive' because it might be possible to use the offending phrase in a non-offensive way. And offense is in the eye of the beholder, not mandatory.

In any case, the quickest way to derail debate is to make accusations against the speaker, rather than address the merits of the presentation. I'm not saying this about you, Tobi. I've appreciated your comments. However, the people to whom I've directed my comments didn't contribute to the discussion in a positive way.

Rory,

That makes a lot more sense.

Still, I think you might be reading or projecting more into those comments than what's actually there.

I can find nothing in Drakyn's comments that claims or infers that Eric is responsible for those deaths. It appears to me that he's pointing it out as context, that changes the impact of the "So shoot me" comment.

Brynn's comments seemed to be some of the most constructive here, seeing as how they produced further civil dialog and some level of agreement. You worry about Eric being unfairly maligned, but Brynn was careful to focus on what he did, not who he is. Eric's not belligerent to the trans community, nor did anyone say that, but he was belligerent in a comment made (not that I entirely blame him) and it's okay to comment on that.

I suppose if you really did think he was being called out as an anti-trans person responsible for killing trans women, then your comments seem to be a more proportional response. But from my initial perspective, it appeared to be just what I was recently writing about where the focus of a conversation is shifted from behavior hurtful to trans people to the "unfairness" of an accusation of transphobia.

"I can find nothing in Drakyn's comments that claims or infers that Eric is responsible for those deaths. It appears to me that he's pointing it out as context, that changes the impact of the "So shoot me" comment."
Exactly. I was pointing out how inappropriate his reply of "so shoot me" truly was.

"I can find nothing in Drakyn's comments that claims or infers that Eric is responsible for those deaths. It appears to me that he's pointing it out as context, that changes the impact of the "So shoot me" comment."

I can't imagine why someone would follow up a discussion of the appropriatness of a phrase by asking if you know how many people were murdered, unless it was intended to analogize the two. What other possible relationship could there be between anti-trans violence and answering a teenager's question?

Further, he continues to discuss the phrase in question in the following paragraph, which reinforces my impression that the previous mention of murder was associated with what Eric wrote.

Given how emotionally I reacted to what he wrote, you'd imagine that if there was a misunderstanding that he would have stepped forward to clarify his point. But there was protestation to my post.

"I suppose if you really did think he was being called out as an anti-trans person responsible for killing trans women, then your comments seem to be a more proportional response."

I did feel just that, as I noted above. In my view, Eric was being unjustly piled on, including outlandish accusations alluding to violence.

I appreciate your having this dialogue with me, Tobi.

I suppose I'll go up to the next KKK meeting in Gainesville and scream at the top of my lungs that I don't want to be included in their meeting or under their "white" umbrella. Think they'll tolerate me for any length of time? I suppose it would make sense to some people.

Dear Brynn,
In fact I did not know that I was using "one of the most offensive phrases known to the MtF trans community." If I had known I would not have done so. Or I would have put the phrase in quotes. I'm clearly guilty of something here because I've had feedback that tells me so. And I've already apologized. What I object to is the extreme reaction I find so tiresome of people who are far more interested in confrontation and division than discussion/dialogue. Sometimes I get frustrated and hence my "just shoot me" response. Why don't we pretend for a moment that we're all grownups and that sometimes some of us don't get it right. I don't mind being corrected. That happens all the time. The older I get the more clear it becomes to me that I don't know everything. Not even close. But the hypersensitivity and the gay male bashing (we are not the anti-Christ) are tiresome. But since I posted this piece I guess I asked for it, so I really don't have any right to complain. Again, I'm sorry for whatever offense I caused. But lets keep in mind that it was a student at Hillcrest High School who asked me if I'd be attracted to a girl "with a dick." And I did my best to answer that question in a way that I hope raised consciousness among a group of young people who don't often have the opportunity to ask questions of someone like me. Best, Eric

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 7, 2008 8:22 PM

Eric, as a fellow projector, I can totally relate to your frustration over folks who are only looking for confrontation. I'm not sure if that's what was going on this case. However, let's say that it was. Wouldn't just ignoring the comment, or saying something non-confrontational have been more effective in defusing things?

Another thing to remember is that it's not only the person you're responding to who reads the comments. As a transman who's pretty thick-skinned, your "shoot me" comment brought me up short and, frankly, shocked me. It was so unexpected after the sensitivity exhibited in the post. Even more so given that your answer to Angel gave the impression that you knowingly titled your post the way you did.

Finally, because it's not your issue, you may be unaware of the extent of transphobia in the gay male community, and the emotional toll it takes on transgender people. I'd venture to say that since the ENDA debacle, that transphobia has become overt and acceptable in a way it was not previously. To the point that, after nearly 30 years as an activist, I'm seriously beginning to wonder if T inclusion will ever truly become anything more than lip-service.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 7, 2008 8:27 PM

Oh, and thanks for your quick, reasonable and nuanced response. (I meant to open with that but rewrote my comment several times.)

And thanks yours in return. Yes, you're absolutely right that I could have ignored the comment or posted a well-reasoned response. I broke my own rule about not responding in the heat of the moment. Lesson learned. But I'm sure not for the last time!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 7, 2008 11:50 PM

Ah, life's a constant learning experience! ;-)

Eric - thanks for the article, and the talk. OK, you didn't handle Trans issues, but if I was asked about Gay ones, I'd be just as lost. You did good.

Please though, don't ever say "so shoot me" in the context of talking to Transwomen. 6 of us have been since the election. I know it wasn't meant, but it's about as - not insensitive, as you weren't - but upsetting as talking about gassing to Jews, or hanging to blacks.

No apology necessary, just a word to the wise.

I just got home from the LGBT bloggers summit, and Bil and I were talking in the car about the kudos we got about the discussions that start here. Someone at the conference even pointed out that we've done a good job of improving the tone of the comments conversations here.

And I saw that Eric's post had 20-some comments, so I thought I'd read up. Imagine how affirming of the years (now approaching two) and hours (in the thousands) of work Bil, Jerame, the edteam, and I have put into this site it was to see two of my favorite contributors, one gay, one trans, discussing a sensitive issue with respect and honesty. I know it might sound silly to all of you, but I'm actually tearing up here seeing that something I poured my soul into is being used by people I respect and admire to help make all of our lives better.

I don't mean to detract from the serious issues being discussed here, but I'm just thinking a lot about process right now.

OK, a few responses:

Brynn, Angel, Tobi~ Actually, I'll admit that Eric's title didn't jump right out at me as offensive, either. While I probably wouldn't have used it myself, it still wasn't on my mind at all. Thanks for pointing that out.

Eric~ I ought to do the same thing, going back to high school! I was the only kid who was out my senior year there, and if I go back I might still be the only out person in the building. I'm back in my hometown for the time being, so I might just drag myself down there.

I also know what you mean about those kind of teenage boys. I was definitely intimidated by them, and I think on some level I still am.

But I ran cross country so I got to see a lot of them naked, so.... Oh, wait, that's not the direction this comment was supposed to go in at all!

Cathryn~ How can you say, without any hint of irony, that sexuality and gender aren't even related? My goodness, in this culture, there's no denying that people's sexuality affects their gender expression, that their gender identity is directly related to their gender expression, that the same many of the (and the best-funded) folks who hate trans people hate gays, that many gays transgress gender and many trans people identify as LGB, and, and, and....

And, the way I see it, they hate us for the same reason: we all upset their neat little view of the world, that all families are one man who works outside the home, one woman who works in the home, and their biological children, and you can tell someone's destiny in that framework and prepare them for it based on their genitalia viewed several seconds after birth.

Our destinies, in modern Western culture, are tied up in one another.

I know your whole thing is to try to break up the LGB and the T, but aren't we all short enough on allies as it is? There are lots of gay men who are pretty frustrating when it comes to trans issues, I agree, but there are plenty who aren't. several hundred orgs signed on to UnitedENDA, for example, and many of those were exclusively or predominantly run by gay men.

And no explanation is acceptable? Eric apologized, and someone a lot smarter than me once told me that if we aren't willing to accept apologies, then we're not ready for progress.

One more thing~ Am I the only one who's not reading the "girl with a dick" comment from the teen as about a transwoman? I thought it was more of one of those stupid things high school boys come up with to test the boundaries of an abstract concept, like "Well, what if someone said he'd kill a cow if you didn't eat a steak? Would you still be vegetarian then?"

got the comment to link wrong: here's my response to Alex in place:
Alex..
He most certainly did NOT apologize until long after I responded. What he did was admit he used a phrase just to provoke response knowing it was at least somewhat offensive and then stated he did it with eyes open and no sense he did anything wrong.

Find me the apology in that.

Alex.....I am primarily heterosexual with some bi- mixed in. Why on earth would I thus feel that my orientation has anything to do with that of a gay man? Victimhood is not a reason to united except in a most general fashion. I've arguably suffered more discrimination during my fairly long life on the basis of my religion than I have for being hetero, having a trans background etc. Should we, following your justification, add a MR to the alphabet soup? (minority religion)...

Yes, oppressed people should work together to fight all oppression BUT putting all my civil rights eggs in the gay male basket just seems downright stupid to me. That's why I respond here and that's why my primary activism is for women's rights BEFORE gay male rights. The women's movement is very very inclusive of lesbian issues, there is no contradiction here.

My "agenda" is not to break alliances, it's to force those "in name only" alliances to either get it together or stop doing more harm than good. A gay man doing "educational outreach" who sees no problem in using the single most offensive term for someone of trans history is not educating, he IS the problem. That's how I see it.

Oh, and to be clear since reading comprehension seems to be less than 100% among some commenters....my beef was with the use in the title of this entry to provoke response, not in the context of the story itself. Alex, you often hold yourself as an "expert" on trans issues and clearly do not like or approve of me. If you fail to see "shemale" as a deliberate slur on pre/non transwomen specifically and all transwomen in general then I suggest you do not have the knowledge or sensitivity to judge these issues you think you have.

"One more thing~ Am I the only one who's not reading the "girl with a dick" comment from the teen as about a transwoman? I thought it was more of one of those stupid things high school boys come up with to test the boundaries of an abstract concept,... "

I agree with you, Alex. I think the kid was trying to determine if same sex attraction was based on genitalia, or something more ephemeral. It's not unlike teenage philisophical debates if masturbation is inherently gay.

How can you say, without any hint of irony, that sexuality and gender aren't even related?

This idea is something many people should rethink. Claiming this as fact, while casually dismissing the viewpoint to the contrary, displays exactly the sort of thing that Cathryn is talking about when she says that gays don't get it when it comes to transsexuals.

If you have never experienced the mind-body dichotomy that transsexuals have, the divide between sexuality and gender constructs may not be so clear. In this case the two are being talked about in descriptive rather than concrete terms. It is difficult to try to reason using descriptive language.

What your statement actually says is that, like straights, you assume that somehow sexuality and gender influence each other in some undefined way. On a superficial level, this is true for people who don't suffer from the transsexual problem. Relatively minor things such as the way we dress and talk interplay with the kinds of sexual expression we have.

This leads to the assumption that somehow transsexuals are "playing" at gender in order to get to the sexuality they want. This is a real problem when people dealing with the trans problem are trying to discuss it with others.

My goodness, in this culture, there's no denying that people's sexuality affects their gender expression,

If by this you mean "the kind of sex you want affects the way you act and dress" I suppose you could be correct. But that isn't what's at issue. The underlying assumption of most gays who talk about this seems to be that transsexual issues, the central drive for the "lifestyle" they "choose", has something to do with the kind of sex the person wants. I am going to assume the reason certain gays believe this, is that it's the case for them.

But it isn't true in the context of the transsexual issue. Moreover, this lack of understanding belies a fundamental lack of respect. Whether this is intentional or not doesn't really matter, does it? If it weren't blatant disregard, people would be taking the time to really ask the questions and show concern for the person's opinion. But instead we make assumptions and pay lip service to cloudy ideals.

that their gender identity is directly related to their gender expression, that the same many of the (and the best-funded) folks who hate trans people hate gays, that many gays transgress gender and many trans people identify as LGB, and, and, and....

This is an example of the basic equivocation of "gender" as we currently use it. Because we have dumbed down our language so that "gender" means only the clothes we wear and our mannerisms, the deeper meaning that "gender" carries to some is lost. To the person suffering from the trans problem, they are often speaking of "gender" in terms of pure identity, not the way it is expressed. That is why "gender expression" substituted for "gender identity" is such a profound insult to people with transsexual issues.

Whether you want to believe this is due to neurology, or something less deterministic, whatever causes this horrible pain is far more than the lack of a cute outfit or a good lay.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 8, 2008 6:32 PM

Aria,

I think you've taken Alex's comments out of context in ways deliberately designed to misinterpret them.

Your points, if made alone, are well taken. But to say that Alex was saying what you say he was, I believe, is unfounded.

If you have never experienced the mind-body dichotomy that transsexuals have, the divide between sexuality and gender constructs may not be so clear.

actually, that's what I'm saying. So I'm glad we agree.

The underlying assumption of most gays who talk about this seems to be that transsexual issues, the central drive for the "lifestyle" they "choose", has something to do with the kind of sex the person wants.

Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my comment, but I don't think I said that at all. I was saying that there is a gender role transgression inherent in all the L, G, B, and T people because we all have identities/actions/desires that are counter to the dominant narrative of what boys and girls are supposed to do.

Whether you want to believe this is due to neurology, or something less deterministic, whatever causes this horrible pain is far more than the lack of a cute outfit or a good lay.

Actually, I'm more insulted that you would read that into what I wrote, since I in no way said that.

I'm not trying to criticise anyone directly, I'm sorry if my language comes across that way. I know people here are really trying. The point I was trying to make is that, as you said elsewhere, there is a discussion in the "trans" community about identity, and those on the outside of that unintentionally take sides with the use of language. There are many of us who are quite upset that the default position seems to be that "medical transsexuals", for lack of a better term, are simply a subset of some gender protest.

Perhaps the fault lies in the indiscriminate use of the word "gender". Nobody agrees on what this word means anymore. Any literal definition has been watered down so that people can use it entirely different ways. I think this is a common pitfall for any movement that tries to be open and accepting.

For certain feminists, gender represents everything bad about social roles for women in society. It is a word for the paradigm that stifles and imprisons them. And for the person whose primary issue with gender has to do with sexuality, gender and crossing gender lines means being outside the standard heterosexual narrative.

Then there is the "trans" perspective, which is actually 2 different views depending on who you ask. For the "transgender" activist proper, gender is an empowering thing, a choice. It represents freedom from conformity. But for another group, the "medical transsexuals", gender is a mixed bag.

The sloppy way we use the word leads this last group to think of gender as something innate, something that drives them to do what they must. But it is rarely a 100% pleasant association in my experience. In this case "gender" is a biological imperative. There is little meaningful choice involved. That's why I dislike using the term "gender" to describe the central issue for the medical transitioners.

Perhaps there is a better word, but all real discussion on the topic seems to have ground to a halt in the "trans" section. In fact things that used to be set have been redefined in a very politically charged way. Some people are unwilling to concede that disparate groups of people may not all be the same. I'm not sure why. Fear maybe. But there is a very real danger of damage being done to some in order to benefit others. That is anything but empowering.

Gerri Ladene | December 8, 2008 7:39 AM

"But before long, we were off the script and one hand after another was in the air, attached to a student eager to ask questions that were not on my list. This was a little more challenging, but I'm used to answering questions and I knew from experience that if I got a question I didn't like or felt I couldn't adequately answer I could always say, "Let me think about that and I'll come back to it later." Later could mean later. Or it could mean never."

"The final question that came from the back of the room reminded me of a Jerry Springer moment."
"The most aggressive and sexually blunt questions came from a group of boys sitting together in the last occupied row of the auditorium."
"With the encouragement of his friends, the young man said, "Okay, let's say there's this girl and she has a dick, would you be attracted to her?" I'm sure I smiled. And I know I scratched my head. I wish I could say that I answered the question by responding, "I don't know, would you find a guy with a vagina sexually attractive?"

"But I wasn't thinking as fast on my feet as I like to think I generally do and gave an answer that got my point across but not nearly as efficiently."

So, what was the answer that you gave to this question? Don't worry Eric, I don't want to shoot you, after all you where in an unfamiliar territory! Bang, bang, LOL.

Dear Gerri,
The question came at the very end of the class, actually past the end of the class, so I really didn't have time to think or respond at length. I'm sure I said something like, "That's an interesting question and I'll have to think about that..." and then repeated what I said in response to an earlier question about whether I'd be attracted to a girl who was dressed as a boy. And that response was along the lines of, "Would you be attracted to a boy who was dressed like a girl? Sexual orientation and sexual attraction are more complicated than simply external appearance and body parts..." and took it from there and talked about my crush on Rachel Maddow and how that likely had something to do with her cute boyishness. This is all so incredibly complicated to explain, but how we respond sexually is so automatic and innate and in fact very simple. But not. I'd love to hear how you might respond to such a question. Best, Eric

When I used the term "chick with a dick" for someone who literally fits that phrase to a "T" and makes it public knowledge of that genital condition it was considered a TOS. When Peter LaBarbera used it GLAAD protested about it loudly........but when a gay man uses it to garnish attention it's ok????????

We just had someone else here answer me with a "go away you HBS bitch" (not literally but pretty clearly) who is about to have SRS (why was that added beyond me)......I'm guessing she'll learn the hard way about her new "place" in the scheme of things somewhere down the line.

I make no secret that I am an outspoken Crone (look up the real meaning) with opinions held with conviction and a very very feminist worldview. Within that worldview and long experience of living a woman's life in a man's world I have little trouble seeing patriarchal privilege and given, as has already been mentioned here, the now openly displayed gynophobia, neo-gynophobia and transphobia on the part of many outspoken gay men I will never hesitate to call them on it. So shoot me.....but be forewarned I'm also armed and fully intend to take an honour guard to the afterlife if you attempt it.

If Eric actually learns anything from all this, great! But given his last blog here actually discussed many of these things in comments, his claiming he didn't know the phrase was loaded rings hollow as hell. Nope, all he learned from that prior experience (in my viewpoint) is making a trans reference in a blog entry title will get you a boatload of responses and he USED that, by his own open admission, for that purpose.

Mission accomplished Eric.

A few thoughts:

First, is there really anyone who doesn't think that a significant percentage of teenage boys, probably the majority, do see transwomen as CWD's? That being the case, I don't see how Eric was out of line to use it in the way he did. Context is indeed king here.

Second, I also see a certain refocusing in some segments of our media and activist community toward "all gay marriage, all the time", but I also strongly suspect that wave will hit a very solid brick wall at the federal level. Post-Prop 8, I think there are going to be less, not more, Democrats willing to stick their necks out for us, and that's going to be especially true when things like DOMA and DADT come up for review. Anything that even smells like an endorsement of same-sex marriage is not going to see the light of day in Congress for a while yet, even with Obama in office.

Think about it: As an issue, same-sex marriage is in about the same relative political space right now as the trans community and our issues were in the 90's. We not only had an unfriendly and disinterested Congress to deal with, though, but also had to deal with much the same from the activist leadership of our community.

Another part of the overall problem as I see it is that the issue of same-sex marriage is not at this time a viable prospect nationally, in fact quite the opposite. Far more areas are passing trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws than are legalizing same sex marriage or civil unions. The tide is drawing us ever closer to equality in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations at the same time it's pushing same-sex marriage farther and farther away from that shore.

Transfolks are used to being the underdogs. We don't like it any more than anyone else, but we're used to it and we know how to organize and maximize our impact from that position.

Gay men, on the other hand, are used to being in charge. They're used to being first in line and telling everyone else what we're all going to do. Now forced to operate as an underdog when advocating for same-sex marriage, their political SOP just doesn't work anymore. In the minds of many, God is on the other side of the debate and that settles the matter.

And hey the trans community isn't doing much better at being at the head of the line, though I'm hoping that when the next Congress convenes we'll see our community, our whole community, out in force lobbying for all of the issues of important to our community.

We still have so much to learn from each other...hopefully we're not all still as stubborn as we have been in refusing to learn it.

Transfolks are used to being the underdogs. We don't like it any more than anyone else, but we're used to it and we know how to organize and maximize our impact from that position.

Gay men, on the other hand, are used to being in charge. They're used to being first in line and telling everyone else what we're all going to do. Now forced to operate as an underdog when advocating for same-sex marriage, their political SOP just doesn't work anymore. In the minds of many, God is on the other side of the debate and that settles the matter.

This rings very true with me. There are quite a few gay men (not all) who are in the whole "It'll come eventually on its own, so we can sit back and passively accept the equality." Good luck to those folks!

And there are still too many people leading the movement with that mentality. It's frustrating.

Post-Prop 8, I think there are going to be less, not more, Democrats willing to stick their necks out for us, and that's going to be especially true when things like DOMA and DADT come up for review. Anything that even smells like an endorsement of same-sex marriage is not going to see the light of day in Congress for a while yet, even with Obama in office.

I'd hate to say it, but I fear the same thing. We're always saying that the Democrats should repay our support. And we say we'll support them if they do. But all that campaign in Cali proved was that queer support will come riddled with incompetence. It wasn't putting our best face forward.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 8, 2008 6:44 PM

So shoot me.....but be forewarned I'm also armed and fully intend to take an honour guard to the afterlife if you attempt it.

Cathryn, I'm stunned. How can you write this after all the discussion, prompted by your original exchange with Eric?

I found Eric's original "shoot me," troubling. Yours, after all this, is even more so.

I think all the BS is just getting to her, you know? It's extremely frustrating when you feel not only silenced, but those that silence you now have become your spokesmen. What makes it worse is when you feel all alone in your struggle to be heard. The only people you have to turn to seem reluctant to listen because your "spokesmen" are doing all the talking for you. You end up being portrayed as a malcontent in the ranks rather than as your own person with a legitimate issue.

If the "transgender" movement is about crossing boundaries in general, then why not include gays and lesbians? Why don't the trans-activists try to speak for these other groups that have that tangential relationship to them? Why don't we just get rid of GLBT and rename it "People for Free Expression"?

Somehow I think there is more to all our issues than "gender expression". The "transgender" construct is a political idea that won the argument before it ever started. It was a coup-de-grace that silenced those who disagreed before voices were even raised. It presumes as fact things that were never in evidence, and any real evidence to the contrary is ignored. As are the people whose real lives do not serve this ideology.

These are not the hallmarks of a just movement.

Brynn, unlike Eric I have received numerous death threats. I find that more troubling and the fact that when I tell about this, it is ignored or dismissed. Most of those death threats come from within the transgender community for daring to express my opinions.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 9, 2008 2:14 PM

Cathryn, why do you assume that Eric has never received a death threat?

Sad to say, I have been threatened (more than once). Most memorably, I (and my ex) were threatened at home by a neighbor in San Francisco who claimed to have an AK-47 (he was a DEA officer, so it was an easy claim to believe) who said he was going to "get the faggots" who lived upstairs. I wrote about the experience for Newsweek back in the early 1990s. The whole thing was beyond terrifying. But I'm happy to say that the neighbor was quickly evicted. Another time I was threatened on the air on CNN when a caller to the program I was on said that I had rights, as in I had the right to be chained to his truck and dragged down a highway. Lovely stuff, huh?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 9, 2008 3:40 PM

Eric, sad to say, I am not at all surprised. I myself have been threatened as a dyke and as a faggot. To date, I've not been threatened as an FtM--and may that remain true for as long as possible!

What surprises me is that, given the hatred out there against all of us, that members of the LGBT "community" are so prone to the in-fighting we see evident in this thread.

Why are homosexuals speaking for the transgender in the first place?

Oh, wait...now I remember.

"Why are homosexuals speaking for the transgender in the first place?"

You have either not read the article, or your need to be snide and disengenous knows no bounds.

One would imagine that given the risks of ridicule and being shown as intellectually deficient in commenting on something you hadn't read would be sufficient reason not to do so.

However, in case it wasn't, these are the salient facts from the article:

* Eric was there representing himself as part of a program where people went back to their own high school. The nature of the program doesn't require you to be anything other than who you are.

* There were no identified trans people present, either as speakers or as audience members, so Eric did not usurp anyone's voice.

* The reference made by the student about a girl with a penis was not a question about a transperson. It was a question directed to a gay man about his motivation for sexual attraction. A young person tried to be sensationalistic in the manner he was asking if gay people were primarily interested in genitalia.

* There was no indication that the young person had any concept that he thought of a girl with a penis as a transwoman. This seems to be a construct that some transpeople, who think about issues of gender identity a great deal, have overlayed on a teenaged boy who likely has thought about gender not at all.

* There were apparently no questions asked at all about Eric's gender identity or expression, or about the subject of gender dysphoria in general.

Therefore, your charge that Eric was speaking for transgendered people is without merit, regardless of how you arrived at it, and not helpful to this discussion.

Maybe it's because the headline of the story gives the impression that a gay man is answering these kinds of questions. How would it be if a "transgendered" person wrote a story about the talk they gave at a school and rather than title it appropriately, they focused on one particular question that had little bearing on the story itself. And that question is a a horrible slur not to the transgendered, but to transsexuals in particular.

I was going to come up with an offensive example of a "transsexual" person speaking for gays, but nothing really has the same impact in the other direction. It is the same sort of thing when some African Americans would come up with racial terms for caucasians, I think.

They lacked the same punch in the larger community because of the nature of the power structure. The slurs of "minorities" don't carry the same weight as the slurs of those who hold all the power in a relationship. Calling someone a "breeder" does not have the same punch as calling someone a "faggot".

Maybe Sue was alluding to the idea that because of the complete lack of respect for women "transsexuals" (not transgender, many of whom identify as gay men) in the gay male community, it's only natural that they feel entitled. If the consensus there is that women "transsexuals" are just other, inferior, gay men then it doesn't matter if you use terms like those in the title. Nobody will call you on it because when the minorty isn't around, you can all have a good laugh at their expense. (How does every good racist joke begin?)

Nobody's identity is respected because we lack common language. Some people seek to own language and enforce that on others. Besides being a blatant power grab, this leads to a lack of boundaries, and a lack of mutual respect for one another. The all-inclusiveness of the umbrella term is an idea taken too far. To the contrary, sometimes fences make good neighbors.

It is the polar nature of this "all or nothing" approach that defines overzealous application of idealism. Idealism should never override practical considerations, nor should it be used as a means of beating up on people who disagree with you. Idealism often leads to tyranny.

In fact, men and women "transsexuals" have no natural insterest in GLBT politics outside of being a minority. And if it is the case that we are put in a box by a common bigoted enemy, it still does not change who we are. Are we to let the worst elements of human nature redefine our lives? There is no peace to be found in living up to your enemy's expectations.

*I am unpersuaded that I must change my life to live in an identity constructed by bigots. And much of the transgender movement seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to fear of potential bigotry. Hastily cobbled-together standards (or lack thereof) are not the foundation of a successful, moral political movement.*

This is why "transgender" is a bad idea.

Now, Mr. Rory, where do I charge Eric of speaking for transgendered people? The question I posed wasn't that difficult to understand. And it still stands, but to put it another way: what are homosexual men doing commenting on transgender issues of which they have no direct insight into? Take it even further if you like: why are transgender issues even discussed in the same breath as homosexual ones at all?

Go on...make my day, Mr. Rory...tell me it's because they are related. And, when you do, please make sure to explain just how issues of the transgender in general, and transsexuals in particular, when the proportion of homosexuals in each group theoretically should be no more higher than the mainstream are related to the issues of homosexuals, which are entirely issues of sexuality and sexual orientation.

Why don't you answer that for yourself if you like, though the question is platonic in nature...I know the answer.

"Now, Mr. Rory,... "

By all means Susan... you may call me Rory.

" ...where do I charge Eric of speaking for transgendered people?

You responded to an article written by a gay man who was charged by some commenters with speaking for the trans community by saying, "Why are homosexuals speaking for the transgender in the first place?" Inasmuch as Eric is the gay man in question, there simply can be no other possible interpretation than you're accusing Eric of speaking for trans people. You only need to connect the dots from A to B. Surely you didn't think that would elude us.

"The question I posed wasn't that difficult to understand. And it still stands, but to put it another way: what are homosexual men doing commenting on transgender issues of which they have no direct insight into?"

That is not the same question. To answer this question, gay men still have the right of free speech, even under the current administration. They can comment on anything they damn well please. More specifically, Eric wasn't asked, nor did he comment on, any trans issue whatsoever. Again, if you read the article, the question was about Eric's sexuality. However, if he had been asked a question about gender identity, I would have want wanted him to answer the question to the best of his ability. Since there was no other available speaker to answer such a question, I think that would be preferable to leaving the student in the lurch and uninformed.

"Take it even further if you like: why are transgender issues even discussed in the same breath as homosexual ones at all?"

There is no evidence that any transgender issues were discussed. I'm fairly certain I covered this in a previous post, which you either forgot or couldn't comprehend. However, it seems unreasonable to hold any speaker responsible for the questions he is asked. I know when I speak to students, I encourage them to feel free to ask any questions they would like. Without questions, we can't be sure we're reaching our audience. If the question is inappropriate, it can be handled as such if that comes to pass.

"Go on...make my day, Mr. Rory...tell me it's because they are related. And, when you do, please make sure to explain just how issues of the transgender in general, and transsexuals in particular, when the proportion of homosexuals in each group theoretically should be no more higher than the mainstream are related to the issues of homosexuals, which are entirely issues of sexuality and sexual orientation."

Okay, I have no idea what this sentence means.

"Why don't you answer that for yourself if you like, though the question is platonic in nature...I know the answer."

Again, I really don't know what the question was, or if there was actually a question at all. I assume however, that you meant to say that the question (whatever it was) is rhetorical, not platonic. My relationship with questions are usually non-sexual.

My question is for Eric himself. Other gay men are also invited to take the question from their own point of view if they like ..

Eric ! Please answer the question

"Okay, let's say there's this girl and she has a dick, would you be attracted to her?"


Now you have the time to really think about it before you answer. I am going to assume that you will give an open and straitforward answer dased on your own personal preference and experience.

Dear Leigh,
Glad you asked! I'm one of those gay guys who is off the Kinsey chart. If no one had ever told me that I was supposed to date girls and then marry a woman it never would have occurred to me. So I've never been sexually attracted to females (although I had--and have--many friends who are females).

When the teenager at Hillcrest High School asked me the question you've referenced in your comment, what came to mind for me was a woman with a penis. As I am not sexually attracted to women, the addition of a penis would really not change anything (as far as I can imagine) in terms of the feelings that a woman with a penis would evoke in me.

So the simplest answer to that question--for me--would be, no, I would not be sexually attracted to a woman who had a penis because I have never been sexually attracted to women. I'm not sure this clears up anything because sexual attraction is such a complex thing and simple answers are usually not adequate. But thanks for asking! Best, Eric

Eric

Now thats a very good answer. However, your reply begs another question which is:

"What would your position be if the "girl" in question was in fact a transgender?"

Isnt that the question the boy was REALLY asking ?

Dear Leigh,
That was not my impression. As far as I could tell (and I could have been wrong) these kids were not well-informed or at all sophisticated about sexuality and gender. I really think that the questioner was most interested in trying to get a rise out of me (no pun intended) and, at the same time, to wrap his mind around how it was possible that I didn't find girls sexually attractive. I think--although I don't know for certain--that he assumed that all I cared about was a penis. So you add a penis to a girl and voila, sexual attraction.

Regarding whether I would be attracted to the girl in question if she had been born male and now identified as female (am I right that this is what you were asking?), I feel compelled to circle back to my original answer. To put is most colloquially, I'm a guy who likes guys. Is it possible that I would be attracted to a transgendered person who was once male but is now female? I don't think so, but I've learned never to say never.

I wish you had been with me at Hillcrest High School to ask the followup questions! Best, Eric

Eric,

Be careful what you wish for.... :)

Heterosexual boys don't think in terms of natal girls having a dick. Therefore sophisticated or not, the latter is probably true, the question was almost certainly as you say, to ascertain whether or not having a penis was the focus of your attraction rather than would you be attracted to a transgender.

Take care

ok....
not sure if this will get any response,
but-

the other way around is probably the REAL million dollar question:

'"Okay, let's say there's this girl and she has a dick, would you be attracted to her?""

"What would your position be if the "girl" in question was in fact a transgender?"

Isnt that the question the boy was REALLY asking?'

........as in FTM, as in are FTM's "guys"
to Gay men?
even after phalloplasty?
lets say a good one with full function.
can this person be a "guy"
in the eyes of the gay community?


(same question reversed, to Lesbians)

seems to me as Hamlet said:
THAT is the question..........

can we ever really be accepted by this group?
or straights.
here's hoping.

*Eric Marcus?

ps
i am not asking re/ the school kids question
i am asking a NEW one.....