Well, isn’t this interesting: The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is drawing to a close after 40 years. I remember getting a flyer for this when I worked in Columbus, when the festival must have been in its near-infancy and spelling “women” with a y was considered real transgressive stuff.
Later on I wrote about it for a magazine here, and interviewed the founder and head honchess, Lisa Vogel. It was pretty clear there were already some deep divisions within the tribe, although at the time the transgender issue, which is apparently what brought the fest to its knees for good, hadn’t emerged in the mainstream. At the time, I was more agog that they banned male children from the main grounds, and by children I mean any boy over the age of 5. Vogel patiently explained that for the sort of women attracted to a four-day, all-female music and arts fest held in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan, it is a genuine, almost physical relief to not have to see or even think about the other gender. I get it; it takes all kinds, and while these women aren’t my kind, I respect their right of free association. It must have sucked to be one of those who had a boy child to look after, that’s all. They are confined to a separate boys campsite. Probably had plenty of fun there, but.
The real split came over the organizers’ rules restricting the festival to “womyn-born-womyn,” which is evidently a big split among feminists well to the left of me. The New Yorker had a thoughtful piece about it last summer, and Vogel is quoted:
Michfest, as it’s called, takes place every August, on six hundred and fifty acres of land in the woods east of Lake Michigan. Lisa Vogel founded it in 1976, when she was a nineteen-year-old Central Michigan University student, and she still runs it. The music, Vogel says, is only part of what makes Michfest important. Each year, several thousand women set up camp there and find themselves, for a week, living in a matriarchy. Meals are cooked in kitchen tents and eaten communally. There are workshops and classes. Some women don extravagant costumes; others wear nothing at all. There is free child care and a team to assist disabled women who ordinarily cannot go camping. Vogel describes the governing ethos as “How would a town look if we actually got to decide what was important?”
She told me, “There’s something that I experience on the land when I walk at night without a flashlight in the woods and recognize that for that moment I feel completely safe. And there’s nowhere else I can do that.” She continued, “If, tomorrow, we said everyone is welcome, I’m sure it would still be a really cool event, but that piece that allows women to let down their guard and feel that really deep sense of personal liberation would be different, and that’s what we’re about.”
I feel passionately about a great many things, but this isn’t one of them. You have to respect those who do, however, even if it may seem a bit, oh, much. I’m glad my ideology is still a little more flexible.
For now, anyway.
Another big rewrite today, another just-plain-write tomorrow. So how about some writing by someone else?
Did you know there are kosher kitchen gloves? Well, there are. Speaking of rigid.
You know Jay-Z has been living in the bubble too long when he launches his “better for artists” streaming service by parading a bunch of his millionaire friends up on that stage and having them get all windy about Art. Predictably, Tidal is tanking.
And so am I. Happy weekend, all. I plan to sleep.
alex said on April 24, 2015 at 8:01 am
Years ago I got into a spat with a woman whose work I edited. She insisted upon the use of “womyn” — whether singular or plural — and applied it to any female regardless of said female’s ideology. She was outraged. “I spell it that way because there has never been and never will be any “man” in me!” I might have pointed out that she was one of the butchest women I’d ever met but I didn’t want to risk a retaliatory physical assault.
I guess this all serves to show that too much ideological rigidity, regardless of left or right, ultimately spells doom for any enterprise. The GOP hasn’t taken heed yet. And I doubt it will ever voluntarily shut down rather than go on as a fractious group at war with itself.
Kath said on April 24, 2015 at 8:06 am
I knew that the Womyn’s Music Festival must have been on the wane, because I haven’t seen an “I saw you naked at Michigan” bumper sticker in Minneapolis for about ten years. The kids are all going to Dinah Shore nowadays.
I have never been myself due to my distaste for outdoor nudity, but my partner, a native Michigander, made two treks in the 80s. From this experience, she developed a lifelong aversion to camping. She won’t even go glamping. BTW, the boy’s camp was called “Brother Sun,” and the girl’s camp was “Sister Moon.”
beb said on April 24, 2015 at 8:08 am
I imagine a mixed Jewish-Arabic marriage trying to keep both kosher and Halal. Two sets of kosher dishes, a third set for halal and maybe a fourth set for when you say, “oh, fuck it, I’m ordering pizza!”
With the way the record business games the system I’m surprised there are any millionaire musicians.
I suppose the ban on womyn not born a womyn was to keep out cross-dressing men who came to ogle the naked grandmothers at the event. But it does seem a slap in the face of the trans person.
john not mccain said on April 24, 2015 at 9:33 am
Armistead Maupin made great sport of the womyn’s festival in the Tales of the City novel Significant Others. Also the Bohemian Grove.
Judybusy said on April 24, 2015 at 9:45 am
I would have liked to attend, just to experience total physical safety and not having to worry about the male presence for a few days, and to have deep a connection with other women, especially lesbians. We are so still marginalized/invisible to much of the world. I can’t remember the last book I read with a lesbian character who didn’t end up a murdering psycho. But, I don’t like the kind of music there, hate camping, so it wasn’t a priority. I am sad it’s closing down. I was supportive of their stance on only women born women being able to attend. Maggie Jochild has written a lot about this, and there is a lot of animosity (including death threats) leveled at radical feminists who are addressing the deeper issues of gender and the medicalization of such.
Deborah said on April 24, 2015 at 9:45 am
I had a work colleague years ago who was not Jewish but married an orthodox Jewish man, so she converted. Her husband wasn’t orthodox to the degree that he wore the hat and fetlocks and all that but they kept kosher. The wife was at her wits end because of keeping kosher, she said if one spoon got put it in the wrong place it was a huge deal and lots and lots of work to rectify. His grandparents were holocaust victims which made her feel doubly guilty if she screwed up practicing the rituals. I lost touch with this woman over the years, but if I had to guess, I’d say they’re not married anymore.
nancy said on April 24, 2015 at 10:03 am
I know a few Jews who were raised in fairly secular homes who now keep kosher. The degree of practice ranges from casual-with-your-heart-in-the-right-place to nutso-with-separate-rubber-gloves. As you can probably guess, my sympathies lie with the first group, and my friend who explained it nailed it, I think: Kosher living is supposed to remind you, several times a day, that you are a Jew and you should live like one, not just to the dietary laws, but to the overall high standards of morality, etc. Yes, she will occasionally slip, but does so mindfully and not often.
The ones on the other end admit that the practice is also designed to keep you in a tight-knit community with neighborhoods, shops, etc. that cater to you and yours. How comfortable you are stepping outside the eruv is up to you. They were mostly very uncomfortable, hence stuff like separate gloves.
Maggie Jochild said on April 24, 2015 at 10:13 am
I attended MichFest from its inception for many years, and it was the making of me. For a few days each year, I saw what women are capable of when not subjected to male scrutiny: Amazing feats of technical skill, land stewardship, art, and community. And the nudity revealed what women actually look like sans all the feminizing claptrap designed to ensure we appear fuckable to men. I would come home energized for the year.
Even more extraordinary was the effect an all-girl environment had on the daughter I was helping raise the years she attended. Girls there are absolutely safe and can be allowed to form their own girl-packs without adult supervision. All their needs are easily met — comfortable group tents, great food three times a day, health care, and endless entertainment. And no boys to demand all the attention. Girls who were submissive, cutesy and/or fearful come into their confidence and use it to foster a cooperative community that we can only dream about. It changes them for life.
There is no way to filter out males who seek to invade the private space of women and girls for sexual reasons from those who claim to be merely transgender. Indeed, overlap often occurs and the rights of sexual pervs tends to hotly defended by the trans cult without rational judgment. A very high percentage of the men in prison who, once there. claim to be transgender and seek reassignment, then access to trapped females, are in fact in prison for sexual violence, especially against children. As it turns out, the rates of sexual violence perpetrated by male to trans individuals is the same as the rate of sexual violence perpetrated by non-trans males. But this is never acknowledged by the likes of the Sylvia Rivera Project or poor dumb Laverne Cox, who last year decided to advocate female prison reassignment for a male to trans who turned out not to have just raped and murdered a girl, but helped cut up her body.
Whether you believe males are inherently violent (I emphatically do not) or that masculine socialization creates this pathology in them, the reality is that over 90% of the assaults on females are done by males, including what we would call little boys. Seeking relief from this constant threat is tremendously empowering for females. MichFest did not ask trans folk not to attend — many were there each year, working on crew, performing, and attending openly. But males with penises were asked to abstain. And that is why they (we) were relentlessly hounded and vilified.
The years I attended, I often worked a shift on security. We had to guard the perimeter against stupid men who tried to sneak in with cameras. On the rare occasions when they succeeded, we had to protect them long enough to get them off the land before they were torn to pieces. I respected those idiots no more than the 40-something privilege white males who decide they must be women because they love to wear panties, make-up and long hair, and screech oppression because we lesbians actually do know the difference between male and female in close quarters. Human rights I staunchly defend; access to my body and my intimate circle is mine to define.
Making fun of dykes and butches is an easy and cheap shot. Male supremacy will always reward it.
nancy said on April 24, 2015 at 10:20 am
Thanks, Maggie. Always good to hear from you. Knowing the general area where the festival is held, the problem with stupid men trying to sneak in with cameras must have been significant. That is Rural-with-a-capital-R Michigan.
Dorothy said on April 24, 2015 at 10:26 am
Okay along these lines of discussion, the other night Mike and I were watching NBC Nightly News and they had a story about a family who had three children, the oldest was born a girl whom they named Mia. But Mia told them a couple years ago that she wanted to be a boy. (I think she is 6 or 7 now.) She decided her name should be Jacob, and wanted to be called a boy. They worked through the issues, I think they saw a counselor and/or doctor about it, to be sure they were doing what their gut told them to do. So now they have Jacob and his two younger sisters. Jacob is no longer a “she” or “her” to them. I loved the story and the family seemed remarkable to me mostly because of the fact that they were sharing this on national t.v. So it prompted Mike to ask me if my cousin Tim’s daughter, who came out as lesbian several years ago, might have wanted to do this when she was younger. I had no idea if she wanted to or not. She has cut her hair very short, wears mens shirts, ties, suit coats, and physically resembles a man more than a woman. She is in college. Maybe someone here can explain to me the difference between still calling themselves a woman, but physically resembling a man, versus wanting to make the transition to not calling themselves a woman anymore. I’m guessing they have to pay attention to an inner voice, a gut feeling that tells them “This is wrong – I should NOT be a woman.”
Bitter Scribe said on April 24, 2015 at 10:32 am
A friend of mine in college once lived with several roommates, one of whom was an Orthodox Jew. This guy would insist on keeping a gas burner on continuously if it was turned on during the Sabbath or something, because Jehovah doesn’t want your light to go out or who the hell knows what. Not only did it waste money they couldn’t afford, it was a fire hazard. I would have kicked his observant ass out.
nancy said on April 24, 2015 at 10:36 am
As trans issues push into the mainstream, I predict everything Dorothy and Maggie mention is going to be a huge issue. I further predict — can you see my index finger, held high? — that this would be a fine time for the LGBTQ community to put their heads together and decide how they’re going to answer well-meaning, natural allies like Dorothy (and me) who will occasionally find themselves confused by all of this. Screaming CIS PRIVILEGE is not going to work, and there is still going to be a fairly large segment of people who will see Bruce Jenner, et al., as suffering from a heretofore unseen sort of mental illness. The education and consciousness-raising has to be kind-hearted and dare I say? Gradual. Most people simply will never accept the “gender is a societal construct” business, at least not for a long while. But at the same time, they want to treat people with respect. So let the great sorting begin.
nancy said on April 24, 2015 at 10:37 am
Bitter Scribe, your friends are lucky. This could have happened.
Maggie Jochild said on April 24, 2015 at 10:50 am
Here’s the best article about there about what MichFest means / meant.
Maggie Jochild said on April 24, 2015 at 10:55 am
And thanks, Nancy. I will never scream at you about any privilege. It was MichFest, in fact, that taught me not to see straight women as somehow privileged over me, a dyke.
Trans created a huge umbrella for a wide variety of folks to huddle under — a variety that has turned out to be not so similar, in essential ways. Just as the gay male movement had to remove NAMBLA, trans advocates are going to have to excise the woman-haters from their ranks, esp the woman-haters who claim to be women.
alex said on April 24, 2015 at 11:04 am
As a child I was what they used to call “gender dysphoric.” I would have gladly become a girl if the world would have permitted it. I can only say in hindsight that I have come to accept myself as I am and would have regretted altering my body surgically. I suppose that this will be a question faced by a lot of people; at what age is one mature enough to consent to body modification and is it really necessary? Glad I wasn’t given the option or I might have done it.
There will be people who feel very passionately on both sides of this issue, no doubt. Consider the issue of deafness. Now that there are medical cures for some forms of hearing impairment, those who have been heavily invested in destigmatizing deafness are upset with those who don’t want to be deaf and can opt out. Likewise, if there were an in utero test for gayness and you could choose to abort on that basis, I would be vehemently opposed to it even though I support abortion rights.
Bottom line, every individual is dealt a different hand in life. Some have the Ace, some have the deuces. But it’s really not any of our business to tell others how to play theirs.
Charlotte said on April 24, 2015 at 11:16 am
Personally, I don’t know that being in an all-woman environment would make me feel particularly safe, but I’ve known some pretty vicious women. On the other hand, I do know for certain that my life was absolutely saved by 5 summers at an 8-week all girls camp (run by two lovely women who weren’t in any closet, but weren’t particularly out either). Camp *was* absolutely safe, in large part because the camp director, with whom I’m still in touch, realized early that my parents were not reliable or consistent people, and so went out of her way to protect me (and by extension, through her friendship with the folks who ran my brother’s camp, to protect him). Camp was where I learned that adults could be trustworthy and reliable, that if you broke a difficult task down into bits, and worked on them one by one, you could accomplish something you didn’t think you could, and that if you genuinely worked to overcome some of your own personality and character flaws, there were folks who would see that, and reward you at the final council fire. It was absolutely the opposite of my home life the rest of the year, and I credit that environment for putting me on my feet.
As for the kosher thing — there was a terrific memoir/cookbook that came out in the 90s called Miriam’s Kitchen — about a woman gradually becoming more observant and keeping kosher as a genuine spiritual practice.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 24, 2015 at 11:41 am
Thank you, to everyone. This comment thread/discussion is why this is a necessary daily stop for me. I may not be a secular humanist, but I’m wanting to be a better Christian humanist, and these sorts of conversations help me keep moving in that direction.
Or as Terence said back around the time of Jesus, “Nothing human is alien to me.”
Jeff Borden said on April 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm
I live near a fairly large Hassidic neighborhood. I’m still enough of a small-town rube to find it charming to see boys on their bicycles with yarmulkes on their heads and prayer beads hanging down –how do they keep them from getting caught in the spokes?– and older boys who look a bit comical in the black frock coats and big black hats. As I understand it, the women wear wigs rather than a hijab or other covering, so that only their husbands see their real tresses. They dress conservatively, but likely would pass unnoticed by others.
I’ve struck up a friendship with a Jewish student in his late 20s in my community college class. He’s an interesting fellow. He is kind of plump, but put on a great demonstration of Kav Maga in class. Lately, he has been sprouting a beard, which he told me he cannot cut until some date well after Passover. His religion prevents him from using a razor blade. . .ever. . .which he hates because his electric razor irritates his skin. And I thought Catholicism had a lot of rules growing up.
Basset said on April 24, 2015 at 12:09 pm
I am a straight, middle-aged white male. So shoot me.
brian stouder said on April 24, 2015 at 12:23 pm
Basset – as I am seated in the same part of the stadium as you – I’m now shooting you a look (the “Huh? Wha?” one)
Bitter Scribe said on April 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm
Basset, the only way you’ll die from being a straight white male is if self-pitying victimhood becomes toxic.
beb said on April 24, 2015 at 12:58 pm
I have to echo Jeff (TMMO), today has been an eye-opening one. Many good conversations.
Scout said on April 24, 2015 at 1:08 pm
I never got the chance to experience the Michigan Womyn’s Fest, but if I’d ever have had the opportunity I would have gone. I am in no way, shape or form a separatist, and sometimes the stories I’d hear (“man on the LAND!”) would crack me up, but I could have seen myself having a good time there. Thank you Maggie, for your well expressed views on what the Festival meant to you.
bassett – you always seem like a cool guy, so that comment seemed pretty random and out of character.
Sherri said on April 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm
Maggie, so glad to hear from you again. I’ve missed you.
Deborah said on April 24, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Ditto what Sherri said, Maggie I enjoy reading your comments, they’re well written and I usually learn something.
Deborah said on April 24, 2015 at 1:36 pm
Back in the 70s I heard an assistant in the delivery rooms of hospitals talk about sexuality and gender. Way back then she said that it’s basically a continuum and that has stuck with me ever since. I think it’s not an either/or like most of life.
Dorothy said on April 24, 2015 at 1:38 pm
Count me among those complimenting Maggie – it’s been too long since you commented! But I guess you must read here frequently. Please continue to write. The more voices here, the better.
Jolene said on April 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm
The NewsHour had a good piece about being transgender last night. The guy featured in it, who began life as a female, seemed entirely natural as a man and advocated the sort of gradualism Nancy described as a way of promoting acceptance. Essentially, he said the same thing people often say with regard to homosexuality–that acceptance comes through knowing people as people. Legislation is needed to ensure and protect people’s rights, but it’s human contact that changes hearts and minds.
Maggie Jochild said on April 24, 2015 at 2:10 pm
Thanks, Sherri. I have been critically ill for six weeks now with what was finally diagnosed as back-to-back pneumonias. I’m on my third major antibiotic and having to wear BiPAP 24 hours a day, which seriously affects my ability to communicate and even impedes typing. I am exhausted all the time. But I read Nancy Nall every day.
Kirk said on April 24, 2015 at 2:48 pm
Recommended reading from The Columbus Dispatch, re: the challenges of being a transgender kid
Joe K said on April 24, 2015 at 2:59 pm
I think being mixed up with the kardashians would make anyone want to cut their own throat let alone their dick.
Bassett should be passing over bna around 5 your time, then about 7:30 but I’ll be at 21000ft so I’ll just wave.
brian stouder said on April 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm
Kirk, that was a superb Columbus Dispatch article. Thanks for linking it
Basset said on April 24, 2015 at 3:55 pm
Scout and others, I’m just tired of being the default oppressor. Bitter Scribe’s comment is a good example.
Joe, I’m next to a large park about ten miles SSW of JWN. Beep the horn as you go by…
BethB said on April 24, 2015 at 4:46 pm
Nancy, your blog is an essential daily read even though I rarely comment. I am in awe of this entire site–what you choose to write about, your sense of humor, the links you include, the comments and links of others, the give and take of the comments, and the level of intelligence and thoughtfulness shown by all.
I also am thrilled to have found a place that does not think the present administration is the reincarnation of the devil, that has people who have voted the same way I have, that has folks who have a sense of humor similar to mine, and who have heard of NPR. I don’t remember how I found you but I am glad I did.
nancy said on April 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm
So much love today! I’m blushing.
I’m on another train — Amtrak this time, headed for Chicago, an impulsive trip to meet Alan at a conference and spend two (!!) nights in a Magnificent Mile hotel. I’ll be on my own all day tomorrow, and can’t decide what I want to do. Probably just wander and shop and eat. Suggestions welcome.
We’re west of Ann Arbor now on a brilliant sunny day and I’m doing some casual bird-watching in the spring-flooded cornfields — turkeys on the high ground, geese in the puddles, vultures soaring over it all. And I’m getting a little work done. But soon I may hit the bar car, but just for a single beer– OMG I THINK I JUST SAW A SANDHILL CRANE. Big brown thing on long legs standing in the middle of some corn stubble.
Oh, and for those of you who asked: I emailed Coozledad and asked if he was OK because we haven’t seen him for a while. He’s renovating his kitchen, and sent this vintage C. reply:
I think our kitchen was designed for people who fried slices of Virginia ham and ate them with biscuits and canned beans. It wasn’t a pizza, bread, pasta and salad kind of place.
We finally replaced our old 70’s Whirlpool range with a couple of battery ignition LP stoves, and got a three basin stainless steel restaurant sink. I’m building a range hood out of a ventilator fan and an old fuel oil drum polished down to accept an automotive finish (this is hard). We looked into getting a restaurant hood, but the size we needed weighed 250 lbs and cost four grand. I looked at that and thought, I can do this!
I can, but it would be a lot easier with an aircraft hangar and some skills.
Basset said on April 24, 2015 at 5:29 pm
Meanwhile. mrs. B and I are waiting in a parking lot behind Dave Ramsey world headquarters for our weekend prison dog to show up, the van should be here any minute.
MichaelG said on April 24, 2015 at 6:28 pm
When I was a kid we had orthodox Jewish neighbors. On Saturdays they would pay me a nickel or a dime to go into their kitchen and turn on the stove. My father explained the Kosher thing to me, but being only ten years old I failed to get the distinction between turning on the stove oneself and doing it by extension through the person of a ten year old neighbor kid. For that matter, I still don’t.
There isn’t any single transgender cause or root or story. There are the crossdressing fun seekers that Maggie alluded to and there are people with serious physical anomalies that need to be addressed and everyone in between. It’s a large and complex subject that needs to be approached with openness and wisdom.
I’ve seen some of the transgender child reporting on NBC. The parents seem sane and reasonable enough. I didn’t get the feeling they were pushing any agenda on the child and they seem to be seeking good advice. My only hope would be that they keep it on a counseling/discussion basis until the child is grown. I may be wrong but, absent any physical anomalies, I think it is probably best that nothing irreversible be undertaken until the youngster is grown.
There was a situation in a small Valley town a year or so ago that involved a young boy who wished to become a girl. This was serious, not some spur of the moment transient thing. The school board tried to do the right thing and protect the kid and require equal treatment and so forth but then a lot of young females pushed back. They didn’t want a penis in the ladies room no matter what. This is truly a tough thing to deal with.
Maggie, we hear from you all too infrequently. You can be depended upon to toss out a full ladle of the cold truth. I was reading the Michigan Womyn’s Fest postings and thinking that it seemed like maybe being a little overwrought and that after, all, I never did any bad stuff to women. Then I read your post. It made realize that I probably have done stuff. That just being around, just being part of the male gender I can be perceived as a threat, never mind that I would never intentionally hurt anyone. Your post made me really see some things that had passed me by for almost 71 years and I think I have a little better understanding of women because of it. I can truly see (to the limited extent I am able) what the festival means.
I hope your physical travails pass soon.
MichaelG said on April 24, 2015 at 6:28 pm
Good to hear that the Cooz is fine.
Deborah said on April 24, 2015 at 6:36 pm
Hey Nancy, would love to meet you for a drink or something somewhere around town if you have time. I think you have my email. It’s chilly in Chicago too, and rain is forecast for Saturday. Although Sunday is supposed to be sunny.
Wim said on April 24, 2015 at 8:26 pm
MichaelG, you were a shabbes goy.
I’ve found it interesting–in a morbid sort of way–what strong passions the Michigan Womyn’s Festival could excite in men who seemed to feel somehow chastised by its very existence.
Suzanne said on April 24, 2015 at 9:09 pm
JoeK, yes on your take on hanging out with Kardashians.
I didn’t even know there were Orthodox Jews when I was growing up & I didn’t know Kosher food existed. Sheltered much? Yep, that was me!
MichaelG said on April 24, 2015 at 9:41 pm
Very well said, Wim. That’s basically what I was trying to say.
Bitter Scribe said on April 24, 2015 at 10:03 pm
Bassett: Oh “default oppressor” my ass. Don’t act like a jerk to people who are different and you won’t be an oppressor.
Basset said on April 24, 2015 at 11:27 pm
I’m not, just f’ing sick of being told I am. I suppose that if I were sufficiently sensitive I would realize that as a male I am an oppressor by definition, but I am not quite socially advanced enough to apologize for my very existence.
Basset said on April 24, 2015 at 11:28 pm
And learn how to spell “basset,” or at the very least learn how to spell “women.”
alex said on April 25, 2015 at 1:08 am
I wasn’t going to watch the Bruce Jenner coming out party with Diane Sawyer, but ended up at the home of some friends who had it on after extricating myself from a dysfunctional family get-together that happened impromptu while I was trying to pay a visit to an elderly friend of the family in an assisted living facility. I last saw her at her husband’s funeral in February and she shamed me for not having visited in ages. So I finally made the time only to walk in on her children fighting over the estate. When they weren’t regaling me with politics and conspiracy theories too loony even to have been gleaned from Fox News, which was even more repulsive. I couldn’t decide whether I needed a shower or a stiff drink, but I knew where I’d find the latter, along with some relative sanity, on my way home.
Jenner came across much more sympathetically and warm than the frightened soul stalked by the paparazzi that I have seen in passing being served up for yuks on TV and on magazine racks in the supermarket. He has a large, supportive family and money to burn, so he’s one of the lucky few who doesn’t have to give a damn what anyone thinks. Although whether he will find happiness only he will ever know.
I’ve known trans individuals and it’s a mixed bag. I remember one in Chicago who went from male to female. She felt she didn’t fit in with the gay world and felt very isolated and alone and decided that maybe she wasn’t cut out to be a gay man. So she had the change. The gay world can be very isolating, so I understood where she was coming from. Alas, she wasn’t happy with the result after going through the surgery. She was a talented photographer but had to support herself in an endless string of menial jobs where she never lasted very long because she gave customers and co-workers the heebies simply because of her very being. And she always had to live in fear of the other shoe getting ready to drop. And she regretted making the change. It made her only more isolated. And high-maintenance because of all of the hormones and other stuff involved. This was when I last spoke with her fifteen years ago so I have no idea how she’s faring these days but things weren’t looking very promising then.
On the other hand, I knew a trans who like Jenner was hetero as a male and had married a woman, who was fine with it when she thought they were just going to play with lingerie in the privacy of their own bedroom. His wife wasn’t prepared for him to take it any further than that and they divorced. He/she was remarkable in that as a male he was awkward and introverted and not a very happy person. As a female, she was gregarious, vivacious, bubbly, effervescent, outgoing and always the life of the party and the belle of the ball. She was clearly a person who benefited from gender reassignment. Alas, she died of a heart attack having lost her job and health insurance and never made the full transformation.
I don’t think I would have ever seriously entertained a sex change, but one thing that I found helpful on my own journey and that I believe is beneficial to society at large is the loosening up in recent decades of the rigid, suffocating gender roles that were a fact of life when I was much younger. With all of that came the arbitrary assignment of masculinity or femininity (read strong versus weak, good versus bad) to superficial things like interests and tastes and hobbies. I remember people being moved to comment over such things as my choice of giftwrap because it offended their sense of right and wrong. As a man I faced severe judgment and disapprobation for having good taste. These days I can be a male who doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about sports and can enjoy cooking and gardening and it doesn’t make me the antichrist the way it did thirty years ago. But I also don’t feel that changing my plumbing was what I needed to do so much as changing my attitude, knowing what I like and not giving a rip how people might judge it.
One thing that was surprising about Bruce Jenner was his candor about the fact that he’s a Republican and deeply religious. It calls to mind an article that was discussed here years ago with regard to the deep south, where many found it easier to come out as transgender than as gay because being gay was the greater stigma. I’m glad to see this changing, although I see Jenner as a different animal altogether. He’s a hetero man who wishes to be a woman. He’s the athlete I never desired to be. I didn’t even pay him any mind when he was enjoying his heyday in the limelight, although I might have sprung a boner looking at his physique.
Dexter said on April 25, 2015 at 1:46 am
I’ll read this busy thread later today…this is the first chance I have had to glance at a few posts…no traffic to speak of and a quick trip to “Battle Crick” and completion of my testing and examination there. From constant trips to Toledo VA, then Battle Creek VA, now next week to Fort Wayne Lutheran Hospital Associates who will administer an MRI to my bad hip. This healthcare is a job, man.
MichaelG, so glad to hear from you. Glad to read they “got it all”. Great news.
The eye doctor Friday was a very gay very young doctor. I mean, its bullshit straights don’t have “gaydar”. (Sorry for the antiquated terminology.) I had previously mentioned that my exam doc was a young female African American doctor. So a gay man and an African American, both top notch pros…nothing unusual, just a first for me in both areas. I told yas I’ve lived a sheltered life! 🙂
Sherri said on April 25, 2015 at 3:32 am
I hope we get to see pictures of Cooz’ kitchen remodel. Sounds fascinating. I wish I could watch.
Basset, I love you, and you’re whining. Cheer up, winter’s over.
Maggie, I hope you beat the double pneumonia into submission soon.
I’m just up late at night trying to peel another layer of the onion about letting go of my college age student, because it doesn’t do either of us any good for me to have more anxiety about her being halfway through college than she does. (I’m an hopeless overplanner, always trying to plan ahead for every contingency; she (and my husband) are a much more live in the present sorts.) Oh well, as my 12 step sponsor used to say, this is a quality problem, as in, if this is the biggest problem I have, I have a quality life.
Jessica W said on April 25, 2015 at 7:40 am
I went to Michigan once during the early 90s, before trans was much of an issue. I didn’t much like it, not being cut out for camping or for being in a crowd. But I understand why others did. The concerts were good, and there were some interesting workshops buried among the silly (to me) ones. But the food and having to wash your own utensils in a long trough was just a bit too vegetarian refugee camp for me. Given the penchant for political disagreement that was always present in the community and that got even deeper as the general culture got more polarized, I’m not surprised at the kind of irreconcilable disagreement toppling a valuable institution.
Julie Robinson said on April 25, 2015 at 7:44 am
First world problems, right, Sherri?
This whole thread has been fascinating and educational, and I’d like to thank everyone who commented. As a straight white woman, I started out being oblivious to these issues and have come to understand that both sexuality and gender are more a spectrum than an either/or.
The survey for an online class I’m taking (anyone else here doing the Laura Ingalls Wilder class?) had three choices for sex: male, female, and other. I hadn’t seen that before.
Jessica W said on April 25, 2015 at 7:53 am
Echoing Alex somewhat: when I was a little girl I wanted to be a boy – it was easier and I didn’t like girl stuff much, or thought I didn’t. My definitions at that time were just too narrow. But I never thought I actually was a boy in the wrong body. Eventually I started falling in love with girls and figured out what was really going on. At 13 I was glad not to be a boy, because I didn’t have to learn Torah trope; back then girls only read the Haftorah which, blessedly, has vowels.
My family kept Kosher at home but settled for ingredient Kosher eating out or at other people’s houses. My father never figured out that restaurant vegetables tasted better because they used butter. Nobody was mean enough to enlighten him.
Basset said on April 25, 2015 at 8:36 am
Thanks for that support, Sherri. Not whining, just defending myself…. And I’ll say again that members of several societal subgroups, starting with the women of the Michigan gathering, automatically consider me an “oppressor” just because I am what I am. Add “Southern,” “gun owner,” “hunter,” or several other descriptors and the list gets longer… perfectly acceptable to have a problem with it if you’re one of the subgroups, but if you’re one if them mean ol’ white males, it’s “whining.” Abandoning the topic here, and we move on.
Joe K said on April 25, 2015 at 8:39 am
If you go to wane.com scroll down to the story on the Dekalb county airport, right after the airport manager is talking about the need for a 7000 ft runway there is a shot of a white plane with the engines running, the guy moving around in the cockpit is yours truly, and later when the guy in the stripped shirts is talking the twin Cessna 310 in the background is mine.
brian stouder said on April 25, 2015 at 9:42 am
Joe – excellent stuff!
And indeed, you and I would agree with the old “you didn’t build that” thing that worked up so many people in the last presidential election cycle, eh?
Sherri – word. I’m finding that watching the human beings that my lovely wife and I are raising navigate through life is a mostly indescribable mix of joy and apprehension; a bit like reading a good book series, where you can always see the end of the book you’re in coming; and you hope the sequel goes a particular way, but the author has the habit of springing surprises.
This thread has been enlightening and genuinely thought-provoking; no blog on the net can exceed this one, at least with regard to affecting me
beb said on April 25, 2015 at 12:08 pm
MichaelG @38 brings up an interesting point about keeping kosher. Jews are not supposed to do any work on their sabbath but is flipping a light switch “work”? Is turning on a self-igniting stove “work”? But why turn on a stove unless you plan to cook, and that is work! Most of what I know about Judaism comes from reading the Rabbi mysteries so I may be running off the rails here. It just seems like commonsense guidelines about letting your slaves and animals having one day of rest each week got turned into a rat’s nest of rules and stipulations that have become divorced from commonsense.
This reminds me of a story about Marvel Comics in the early days. Stan Lee had promoted himself to editor emeritus or some such, and would from time to time drop a note to the managing editor. One day he mentioned that the helmet used by Iron Man didn’t look like it had room enough for a nose. The next thing you know Iron Man’s helmet started sporting a little built-in nose. Which looked horrible. What Lee meant that the face of the helmet was being drawn too flat. It needed more arc so it would look like a face could fit inside.
Basset, not everybody is talking about you when they’re talking about “Teh Men.” So buck up, ignore people. Agree to disagree… It makes life easier.
Jakash said on April 25, 2015 at 2:37 pm
This has been an enlightening discussion, indeed, and I appreciate the opportunity to see different perspectives presented in an agreeable forum such as this. I’m not a regular commenter, obviously, but I realize that essentially supplementing Basset’s comments isn’t likely to win me many friends here. I was just struck by the quote from Nancy’s post, and some of the commenters’ additions. “… for that moment I feel completely safe. And there’s nowhere else I can do that.” The fact that this might be the case is just something that the average guy is not aware of, it seems to me. I don’t doubt that it’s true, but it’s certainly heartbreaking.
I’m past 55, but it’s only recently that such a concept has entered my consciousness. One of the things that also contributed to my education about this idea was that video a while back where the woman was walking the streets of New York with a video camera and recording all the cat-calls and unwanted attention she got from men on the sidewalk or driving by. Reading commentary about that, it became pretty clear to me that many, if not most or all, women are ALWAYS on a heightened state of alert when around a random strange man. And that, given the likely options, their default position is that they’d prefer no social interaction at all take place in such a situation. Maybe I’m dense, but as a non-threatening dweeb, this hadn’t occurred to me before.
I can (and have certainly begun to) empathize with this attitude. But it seems pretty sad to me. And it does unfairly paint all men with a broad brush. Understandably, I guess. I’m not an extrovert, at all, but I used to generally make small talk in certain situations — on an elevator, for example — but have stopped doing that, given my newly-arrived-at perception that it is not appreciated by many women.
As a Northern, non-gun-owning, non-hunter, I’m not really in the same demographic as Basset. But due to the one demographic category that we definitely share, I can at least see where he’s coming from in feeling blind-sided by some of these comments. As I said, I don’t doubt that there are very good reasons why some women can only feel “completely safe” when surrounded by other women. It’s just pretty depressing, I think, though it’s certainly good to have one’s awareness raised.
Charlotte said on April 25, 2015 at 3:03 pm
Nancy — sounds like a Sandhill crane to me! They’re everywhere out here this year — glad to hear they’re expanding east as well.
Sherri said on April 25, 2015 at 3:51 pm
Jakash, as long as you speak pleasantly like you would to any other human being, not particularly to a woman, most women (but not all) will be okay with it.
Here’s how I can describe it best. As a mother, a part of my brain is always thinking about my child. When she’s away at college, a much smaller part of my brain is thinking about her, and it’s very freeing. When she’s home, even though she’s the same age, she takes up that larger space again, and it’s harder.
As a woman, some part of my brain has to always be devoted to be aware of my surroundings, because my safety demands it. Not because all men represent danger to me, not even because most men represent danger to me, but because I don’t know when a man will be dangerous to me, and even though I’m a strong woman, I know that my options against a man are limited. And I’ve never been raped, and my husband is the gentlest man I know. I make a conscious effort not to live my life in fear, and even so, there’s a part of my brain, a small part in my case, devoted to my surroundings and evaluating the men around me. Other women, with different experiences, may have larger or smaller parts of their brains devoted to it, but I don’t know of any woman who doesn’t have any part devoted to evaluating her surroundings.
The thing for you to understand is, it’s not personal. It’s not about you, Jakash, basset, MichaelG, and what you may or may not have done to women over the years. If I were to meet you in the elevator, you could say something pleasant to me, and that would be fine. I would still have to evaluate you as a potential danger. If you, a stranger, said something like “you look nice”, well, that would probably raise my hackles, because a comment on my appearance from a stranger feels dangerous to me; now I’ve got to expend more energy on evaluating you as a potential danger. If you said, “what about this weather”, that doesn’t increase the evaluation.
My big point is, it’s not about you. It’s about us, our safety. What’s the saying, that men are afraid that women will laugh at them, and women are afraid that men will kill them?
MichaelG said on April 25, 2015 at 4:05 pm
Basset, I think Jakash says it well. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that you’re a male.
Deborah said on April 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm
I am back from a pleasent lunch with the very lovely Nancy Nall herself and the equally lovely Heather. It was great to finally meet Nancy in person and to see Heather again. I’m glad to have had the opportunity. It was a lousy, dreary, rainy day in Chicago, but the lunch brightened it right up. I hope to do it again someday.
brian stouder said on April 25, 2015 at 5:38 pm
Deborah, very cool, indeed!
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 25, 2015 at 8:17 pm
Sweet home, Chicago!
Jakash said on April 25, 2015 at 9:01 pm
Thanks for the reply, Sherri. I think I understand that (it’s not about me) pretty well, at this point. And the joke you end with is funny, if one doesn’t linger on the horrible premise. When I referred to small talk, it was of the weather variety, since I’m definitely not one to be offering appearance appraisals. I’m glad to hear that you and I might have a brief chat on the elevator with no unfortunate repercussions. Sadly, that doesn’t really change the calculations for dealing with other strangers, though, does it? I’m not worried that somebody will laugh at me, (well, not THAT much…), these days I’m worried that I’ll unnecessarily traumatize somebody, at least to the extent that any exchange will possibly result in them expending more energy evaluating the potential danger, as you put it. And realizing that every woman is constantly conducting such evaluations of me and every other guy, just to get through the day, is depressing — necessary and understandable as such evaluations may be. I guess this state of affairs should have been obvious to me for a long time, but, all I can say is, it wasn’t.
Deborah, I can only second Brian’s remark — very cool, indeed. And nothing says “Springtime in Chicago” like 40 degrees, rain and a wicked wind from the East!
Sherri said on April 25, 2015 at 9:49 pm
Jakash, it doesn’t sound like you are doing anything to traumatize anyone. Just treat women with respect and as ordinary human beings, and accept that they have different experiences with the world than you.
Of course you weren’t aware of it; to use a perhaps loaded term, that’s what privilege is. And that’s okay; that’s life. It is annoying though when men get defensive about it.
basset said on April 25, 2015 at 9:56 pm
MichaelG@60, my point exactly. Doesn’t mean I have to feel good about it, though. And no matter what I do or don’t do, some people are going to see me that way.
Took prison doggy to Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Costco, a church plant sale and a fast food burger place today, he did great. Came home, mowed the yard and did a bunch of digging and planting on my ten days post-op knee, that was a real good idea. I’d say just shoot me but it might offend someone.
alex said on April 25, 2015 at 11:30 pm
It was a sucky cold rainy day here. So I bought a bicycle and two clematises and made a Mediterranean chicken stew.
Sounds like the Chicago rendezvous was fun. Hope I get to meet some of the Chicago NN.Cers some day. We’re planning a weekend there in June.
Dexter said on April 26, 2015 at 3:12 am
I got quite an education from listening to XM radio talk shows the past ten years. I learned some ideas that some Jewish people have today; I learned more about what a “social Jew” is. A frequent Jewish female caller said “oh, we eat bacon when we want”, which made me listen closely. She and folks like-minded know the rules, but ignore them. I am not Catholic, but certainly not all Catholics have Joe Kennedy size families…some are practicing birth control. So we all know people can be very choosy about religious rules and practices.
Here’s another thing I learned: As I awaited the VA eye doctor yesterday, I was in a waiting area with two chatty old blind men. They asked me why I was there and I asked them why they were there…they were there for i-Phone training. They told me the VA gave them i-Phones, tablets, computers and palm-held GPS units. Old timers getting all the modern gadgets. One kind of funny thing: they were amazed I could still drive a car, and all the way from Ohio? I couldn’t figure that one out…maybe they went blind years ago and haven’t driven in a very long time and sort of forgot old guys still drive cars when they age and can retain their vision.
I did get a commitment from my Columbus daughter to watch my dog for a month or so later this year. I only have two roadblocks to hurdle before consulting with an ortho-doc: the MRI (Thursday) and completion of the weight-loss program I start Tuesday. I have a feeling that I’ll be on the road to surgery in a few months. No homemade ice cream on top of hot apple pie this summer. No DQ or candy bars either. 🙂
Snarkworth said on April 26, 2015 at 7:55 am
Alex, sounds like an interesting stew. Did you saute´the bicycle first?
Heather said on April 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm
Definitely yucky weather for our lunch, but with the company it didn’t matter. So great to meet up IRL and have an excuse to drink wine during the day.
Sherri said on April 26, 2015 at 2:29 pm
This is fascinating video: oldest known footage of London juxtaposed with modern video of major landmarks.
beb said on April 26, 2015 at 2:43 pm
Two items of Daily Outrage, from Boingboing
and now the state is trying to take the kid away from his mother because … reefer madness.
The woman who organized Pakistan’s first Hackathon was murdered recently.
Files these under “The War Against Woman.”
Deborah said on April 26, 2015 at 2:49 pm
Great footage, Sherri. When I worked in London I walked across the Tower Bridge everyday to get to the office in the Docklands area. We had a flat on Floral Street in Covent Garden, this was in the late 80s. We went back around 2000 for a vacation, it was already quite different.
Deborah said on April 26, 2015 at 4:50 pm
We’re going to a movie this evening, The Clouds of Cils Maria, with Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche, read a review in the New Yorker. Last night we watched, Burn After Reading on DVD. I think I watched it before but I didn’t rememember any of it, Lordy that is a funny movie. I love Francis McDormand. And Brad Pitt was a hoot.
brian stouder said on April 26, 2015 at 5:30 pm
Pam and the young folks (except for Chloe) and I finally watched Birdman last night, and I was with it all the way to the end, when it lost me.
beb said on April 27, 2015 at 8:12 am
Good Mooring, everyone. It looks like Nancy needs a little vacation to recover from her vacation.
Over the weekend floated the rumor that Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder was considering a presidential run. One wonders what Snyder can bring to the primary that Govs Jindal, Perry, Kaisch, Walker, Bush and Cristie haven’t (have I missed any?). If Snyder goes through with his vow to veto any Religious Freedom Restoration Act that the Legis. is thinking about passing, Snyder’s chances of getting elected will drop from scant to slightly negative.
People in Baltimore are wondering how a man supposedly peacefully arrested could end up with a broken neck. I don’t recall the city but a long time ago I read of one cities practice of “softening up” prisoners by putting them in the back of a van, handcuffed but unsecured to any chair then taking him on a wild ride of fast turns, starts and stops so that he would be thrown around in the back of the van. I’m not saying this is what happened in Baltimore but it’s something to think about.