Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zed in top 100 and possibly free sex toys!

In a sense of divinely inspired timing I have received two pieces of news which may affect my future. First, this weekend, the Globe and Mail posted their top 100 books of 2006, and my novel, Zed, was number 1 for First Fiction (and it wasn’t listed alphabetically, I checked). The second piece of news is that I have been contacted, due to this blog, to become an affiliate of an adult products website (which also has a healthy gay/lesbian section) which (if I take them up on it) would mean I would make hefty money from anyone buying lubricant after visiting my site. As the comment from yesterday blog says “sex sells”.

Hmmmm, let’s compare. Zed was a couple years work, and while it did win an award and was favorably reviewed, it really isn’t a big seller and each book that sells makes me about $1.25. Putting up a link to an adult website would require virtually no work at all, and I could be making $5 from every dildo sold while I am sleeping.

Zed, while a work I love, does tend to get me down, particularly when I get a bunch of emails from people telling me they had to stop reading the book because it was so harsh or gave them nightmares. On the other hand, by simply putting up a link, I might end up with FREE SEX TOYS (Ha! I bet even Maya Angelou doesn’t get that as a perk! Nor does Dan Brown!).

Before I make that choice, I really would like to recommend that people read Zed. I know it has been charged with being extremely harsh simply because it has: incest, sexual molestation, pedophilia, using people as race horses, heroin overdoses, cannibalism, abuse of dead bodies, poisoning, kicking little girls until their ribs crack, mob lynchings, assisted suicide, sadism, necrophilia blow jobs, prostitution, setting people on fire, knife fights, orgies, 300 different uses for the word “fuck” and 12 pages of torturing a girl with lit cigarettes, power tools, knives and salt. But seriously, that’s just life. If you obsess about little things like that you’ll miss the point: which is that no matter how shit life is, we can become better than ourselves. The point is that even a orphan feral child who is loved by no one and must keep two steps ahead of everyone to survive can believe that there are things more important that just herself. (see how that just set it up as an inspirational gift for Xmas. If I tell you that two different pastors told me it was one if not the most inspirational books they had read, does that mean you will buy it as a gift for your conservative Christian relatives....please do!)

Now, on the other hand: Making money on OTHER people’s sex drive. Actually, that’s something I’ve been doing for a couple years with my giant gay/lesbian DVD sales (which is how I pay for things like...fencing). But I like to think of that as sort of missionary work – letting LGBT people from around the world know about films they might never of otherwise heard of (like the lesbian road film Suddenly, the gay rom/com Slutty Summer, or the LGBT mystery/comedy Gaudi Afternoon). But just seems that my entire writing income might be so easily eclipsed because humans are horny, horny creatures. That is, if I decide to turn “Screw Bronze” into a commercial product – OMG! I finally have a chance to “sell out!”

I’ve checked out their site and I have to admit, they seem pretty LGBT friendly, indeed, they have my curiosity aroused (yeah…my curiosity). The third choice on the page is “lesbian sex toys” and they have a special section called “lesbian vibrators.” Which immediately makes me wonder; “What makes these more lesbian than other vibrators? And why are there FIVE categories of lesbian vibrators?” Wow, I am seriously being tempted here; I mean they even have little phrases over their lesbian pages like “Lesbian sex toys bring lesbian couples closer and make things more fun.” AND they have lesbian erotic graphic novels.

Okay, back away from the computer Beth, a few deep breathes. Remember, you were supposed to be pimping your book and how the Canadian equivalent of the New York Times has selected it and here you are steaming up your computer screen and shouting, “Show me the massage oils!” So, uh, I’ll be thinking about it. But, you can still buy Zed, right now and no, there are not sex toys included with the book. Geez people try to focus, I know I’m still trying.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snowed in: Yuri & Girl/Girl action, sex blogs and squirrels

Well Victoria, BC got snowed in yesterday, which usually just produces laugher and joy from the parts of Canada where snow is a season that starts in September and ends in April. Of course Victoria sold any effective snow clearing equipment long ago, probably for greenhouses for the city orchids, so it meant that Linda, working for the government, got a snow day. Odd, I thought having days off when it snowed ended after elementary school.

Of course we got up early anyway and then continued on our original plan to read Rememberance of Things Past by Proust before Christmas (yeah right! I’ve read Swan’s Way a few times before saying, “Fine, you’re a genius, but no more!”). More like we wasted the time like the lazy felines we are.

My blog somehow got linked to a blog about a woman going out with her bisexual friend to find “a lesbian encounter” only to end up in bed with the bisexual friend who promises to leave her boyfriend for her, thus ending the orgasm. The blog is called Girl with a one Track Mind and has been covered by virtually all of the UK press as well as being turned into a book (with a six figure advance). The entire blog involves an anonymous UK female going around having sex (shagging) everyone from ex’s to office delivery people all written in what I presume is a “hustler-confidential” tone like this: “Finally porn gets it right. This is as great as it looks. I rubbed my nipples against hers feeling the throbbing between my legs increase as I did so.” Which is what gets her blog over 1 million hits. Personally, as a woman who has sex with a woman, I tend not to reference my actions to pornography created for heterosexual men – but hey, that’s me. Maybe when she (and many straight couples) have hetero sex, they are thinking about how this is just like (insert hot steamy gay love film here). I dunno. But it did confirm my understanding that the best way to have a successful blog is to a) write about one topic obsessively and b) talk about sex. See, this is where this whole monogamy thing is just getting in the way of my blogging career; that and that I don’t feel the overwhelming need to have the entire population of Manchester between my legs during a 10 year period. Which is why I haven’t been offered a 6 figure yet. Though, looking at the amount of people who end up at my blog by looking for “beth naked”, “Elizabeth masturbating” and “hello kitty lesbians” – who knows?

What I did do yesterday was a) go to a specialist and b) catch up on my lesbian; girl/girl; yuri anime (no those two things aren’t related). While everything else in the city was closed, my specialist doctor was open and luckily one of the 6 buses running went within a ½ block. Actually how lucky was it? Not so much when you have a doctor’s visit where he uses the words like “biopsy” and “anesthesiologist consult” – but hey, the good news is that this is Canadian medical – so it will be free, and nothing will happen for weeks if not months – for once, thank God for waiting lists.

So on to brighter things, which was my watching the entire 12 episodes (plus extra Xmas episode) of the anime Kashimashi otherwise known as Girl meets Girl. This is probably the best yuri anime I’ve seen since Read or Die or Battle Athletes. Story starts with Hazumu, a boy, in love with a shy girl called Yasuna as well as having a childhood friend, a girl who is a major tomboy called Tomari. Hazumu, having been rejected by Yasuna, goes to the top of the mountain where he likes to collect flowers and is landed on by a spaceship (just go with it) – who reconstructs the person, but ends up female instead of male with female DNA – caught in the arms of Yasuna and Tomari. Everyone seems to accept Hazumu as a female pretty quickly (his/her parents even had a entire female wardrobe “ready”). Because, let’s face it, it was pretty obvious that while Hazumu had a male body earlier, he was really a she anyway (those little clues like promising Tomari he would be her bride when he grew up, or when Yasuna says about him as a boy, “You’re so feminine” his reply is, “that’s okay, everyone says that”). In fact Hazumu thinks the falling starship is a falling star and makes a wish “Oh star, try to help me be masculine” (If you have to PRAY to act like a guy, this might be a clue!).
So starting in episode 2 we have the lesbian/yuri love triangle of Yasuna in love with Hazumu and Tomari in love with Hazuma. One of the pairings come out as a “couple” and start shyly dating while all sorts of longings and secret kisses are going on from the other side – sort of a love/lesbian/angst sandwich all in a high school setting. You can find all of the series on YouTube including the bonus episode (in which Hazumu does end up the bride of....). There are also some lesbian laughs in here, particularly with tomboy Tomari, who has quite the female following, including love letters and declarations of love. At one point, trying to attract Hazumu she asks her mother for a dress – which immediately has her mother calling her father to come home at once, “Tomari wants to look like a girl!” she yells into the phone excitedly!

I’ve also started watching Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru, which somehow combines the gender bending anime genre with the yuri genre - based on a PS2 game about a boy who must, due to a will, enter an all girls school, and fits in so well that he/she is elected Elder, the school’s representation of pure womanhood. Of course lesbian love occurs everywhere, including finding the history of his/her mother’s female lover. It seems to border on the absurd and mildly perverted, but hey, that should move me toward my 6 figure book contract right?

Unfortunately fencing was cancelled last night, so I ran full tilt into a wall multiple times to simulate fencing aches. With ice covering everything, I am very limited in what lunging I can do in the apartment. Today, I went down to the park to feed the ducks and squirrels. My favorite squirrel, Scatch (named for a scar he got early in life on his back), found me feeding two other squirrels and the three of them sat around me munching on shelled peanuts and letting the shell bits pile up around their feet like guys watching football. Now that it is -7 or so below outside, they are pretty desperate for food and company. And it seems that every squirrel in a 5 block radius sees me as an endless peanut machine since a few days ago, a grey, chasing a black squirrel for two blocks, recognized my voice and stopped to beg for food. “Weren’t you just doing something? Like chasing him” I ask it, pointing to the black squirrel who is waiting 10 feet away, looking between us to try and figure out what is going on.

In the park I was watched by a drunk man who went through three big cans of beer and slurred out, “yaaa gotta bury em” (meaning the peanuts, I guess, or maybe just a mob killer confessing?). I did not strip down naked and have sex with him, nor did I lie in the midst of the field, naked on a fur coat while dusting myself with icing sugar. These actions would probably be more financially beneficial for me, blog wise, but no, I really did go feed the ducks and squirrels on the basis that a) with the short day, no one else can go and b) they are probably hungry.

Thanks to anime, I have learned a new word: Androphobia. One of the character’s has it. It means a phobia of men, but can also translate to an inability to be able to distinguish between different men, and thus not know which are trying to help or hurt you – thus adding to the whole terror factor. I don’t have it, unless you want to hold up the many strange limpet men who try to sexually attach themselves to me as representative of men. To this, I hope to induce a new condition: ElizabethWithBigEpee-Phobia!

See girl with giant overpowered arm and big shiny sword, see men make rude sexual comments, run men run!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

To dream the impossible dream; to fight the unbeatable foe

In one week, at 8:00 am, I will check in at the Women’s Epee Canadian Nationals 2006-2007. It has been suggested by some epeeists that I have no place at such a competition, and even my Coach has told the club and shouted at me less than a week ago that I am not a winner, and that I will NEVER be a winner. And reasonably, they are right. My goal is to reach the top 16 in the Nationals, and to reach the quarterfinals (maybe even number 1) of the 2007 provincials. These are not reasonable goals. I have no natural athletic ability; quite the opposite in fact: from high jump to track, from basketball and volleyball to archery there seems not one sport in which any amount of training developed the slightest promise. Next week, I may be the oldest competitor there. I almost certainly be the one newest to the sport (about 8 months). The chances of me even making the 30% cut out of the pools is slim to none.

On Friday, I did a series of “homework” footwork workouts, outside, in the cold, back and forth across the parking lot. One step and lunge all the way down the parking lot and back, two step and lunge, down and back, three step and lunge, across and back, bounce and lunge, and again. For periods during the workout my blood pressure went so high I become temporarily deaf (my resting heart after the cool down was still over 180 beats per minute). Then, later I went and did my 2.5 hours of fencing. I know that some of my opponents train longer than I do. But I cannot train harder. I only sleep through pain pills, and when they run out, I wake up, in agony. One night last week, at 4 am, I honestly believed, from the pain, that I was having a stroke. But when morning comes, I get up, and I train, knowing that my goal is, let us bluntly say it, impossible. So why?

Because for me, the dream is what enables the reality. If you want the raw naked truth; My life is one where some days or weeks simply breathing is a challenge; and if that is uncontrollable, then let it have meaning; the meaning I give it. Several years ago, I was bedridden for a time. Every time someone had to put on my socks, or help me try to stand, I would think, “I am going to run again. I am going to sprint again.” Every time I had to lie down after going from the kitchen to the living room I would swear, “I am going to run again.” And I did, some months later, with Linda watchfully beside me, jogging oh so slow. And in the last 100 yards, leading back to the car, I started to sprint (what to others would have been a jog), and Linda is yelling at me that I’m going to injure myself and I am laughing hysterically and crying at the same time. Because all those times in pain, lying there, I would imagine it, imagine what it would feel like and God, it hurt but it was real. Here I was, running again. Do you know what that means, to have it all taken away and win it back? So who is anyone to tell me what is and is not possible? I try because I dream, and until I try, how can I know what is possible?

Maybe that is Canadian, as certainly most of our country was mapped by people who were looking for the impossible. Or look at Terry Fox. Terry WAS a teenage athlete, and later went to Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to be a PE teacher, playing on the university basketball team. There, at 19, he was diagnosed with cancer in the right leg, resulting in it’s amputation above the knee. The night before his surgery, he read an article about an amputee who ran the New York City Marathon. Less than two years later, with a running leg constructed of a pogo stick and motorcycle shock absorber he started training. After his runs, his leg stump with be covered with sores and cysts. Still, after only 12 months of training on running with one leg he dipped his artificial leg in the waters at St. Johns and began his daily marathon in an attempt to run across Canada to raise money for cancer. His plan was 26 miles every day, for month after month, having to cross almost 6000 miles, in constant pain and slower than any two legged runner. His chances were, to put it bluntly, impossible.

His friend Doug Alward would drive the van ahead one mile, and hand him water when Terry arrived, before driving off. Terry became tired and irritable. They fought. Sometimes they would spend a day without talking. After two months of continuous running Terry Fox hit bottom. He swore and vented as drivers would force him off the road. He wondered if this was it: mental breakdown. It wasn’t. Arriving in Montreal, Terry and Alward were given a room at the Four Seasons, whose president had lost a son to cancer. It was their first day off after 73 days of running. From here, things would look up, as with his entry into Ontario, Terry was soon running into welcome bands, standing ovations and meetings with the Prime Minister. Many runners would join him, which he hated, because “I’m running on one leg. It may not look like I am running fast but I am going as fast as I can.”

He passed the halfway point across Canada at Sudbury but by this time, his health was poor. Often, he woke up tired, other times he would ask just to sit alone in the van so he could cry. But then he would get out and keep running. Three weeks later, on Aug 31st he stopped due to pain. The cancer was back and had spread to his lungs. The doctors gave him a 10% chance of beating the cancer. He had run 3,339 miles but would not let anyone try and finish his journey; he was going to come back. He died 10 months later, on June 28, 1981.

Terry Fox did not run across Canada; he failed. And yet, in trying, he got farther, and did more than anyone believed possible.

Linda has a notepad she writes me little love notes on, and on the bottom it has printed: “Success consists of getting up once oftener than you fall down.” And that pretty much sums up my complete athletic and other abilities. Many people make the mistake of thinking falling down is the same as failing. Falling is inevitable, but not getting back up is failing. Last week I went to a local fencing tournament and finished sixth out of seventh. A lot of people saw that as failure (and made sure I knew it). I considered the whole experience more valuable than if I came in second place. I fell, I understood why, and I got back up, determined not to fall that way again.

But couldn’t I fence without the pain, just take it down a notch? No. Why did Terry have to run a marathon every day, why not 20 miles, or 15, wouldn’t that have been easier? I train as I train because it is the most that I can endure. Because even miracles have a cost. Because the fastest way to get rid of the pain is to simply not get back up. And for some of us (many I believe), there is always the whisper, the temptation begging you to not get back up. My life as a success is defined not by how much or closely I win, but by getting back up. Sometimes that takes a week; sometimes it takes a month; sometimes two years; sometimes 10 years. But know this, I GET BACK UP. And when I walk away from fencing, be that in a month or a few decades, it will be with the knowledge that I tried as hard as I could under my human limitations. So next week, when I stand on that strip, facing one of the best in the world, I will not be hoping for a miracle. In ways that only God and Linda knows, simply being on that strip is a miracle; flinging myself into a lunge at their thigh with a scream of “Yahhhhh!” is simply finding out what is possible. As Terry Fox said in the news conference to announce the return of his cancer; “I just wish people would realize that anything is possible if you try. Dreams are made if people try.”

Friday, November 24, 2006

Shut up and Sing: How America learned to hate Dixie Chicks

Last night I went to a premier of Shut up and Sing, the documentary about the Dixie Chicks controversy and its effects on the three women of the group. Many people will shy away from this film because they believe it is about country music, others will go or not go because they believe it is about partisan politics; yet it is these reflex judgments and the effect they have on people which is the real theme of the film. A film I recommend all to see.

The statement which started the “incident” was in 2003 at a UK concert where the lead singer Natalie Maines, in mid song banter, days after the largest anti-war demonstration in UK history said, "Just so you know, I’m ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." The statement was met by overwhelming and prolonged applause. I was living in the UK during this time and trying to explain to Americans, even in emails or on forums, the feelings about their actions in the EU was universally met with “who cares, since you aren’t American” (oddly it was this very attitude which was alienating the EU member countries). The quote or concert was not run by US media, but by the UK paper, The Guardian, which over the days and weeks, was picked up and amplified, in the way only the US media seems able to do, to become THE story; a story which was now not just about a statement of personal feelings about a president but about betraying a country, not supporting a war, making political commentary and personally disheartening the US troops overseas by saying their struggle was in vain (what effect the statement had on the UK and other coalition troops was never considered....but then again, they aren’t American).

The title of the film came from a Country Music Times editorial written by the Director of CMT two weeks after the comment entitled, “Shut up and Sing?” In which he calls her stupid for speaking and lacking conviction and insincere for later apologizing. He states that the statement, regardless of apology, was a direct attack on Country Music, Country Music listeners, their values and their patriotism and condoned the banning of Dixie Chicks by hundreds of radio stations under corporate orders (praising it as “free speech”), and the demonstrations to publically destroy Dixie Chicks Albums before finishing with a direct message to Natalie Maines; “you have a message? Hey, put it in a song…But, otherwise -- shut up and sing.” An odd statement when “Traveling Soldier”, the number one Dixie Chick single at the time was considered so patriotic that it was rerecorded by other artists, so listeners could hear the pro-soldier message while still hating and banning the Dixie Chicks.

The footage of people with flags in their hands or around their necks stomping and burning all things to do with three women singers from Texas did have an uncanny resemblance to the “anti-US” demonstrations carried out by the “enemies of freedom” (usually seen on CNN with tones to indicate these are "bad" countries; countries likely to be invaded by the US in the future). The uniform lashing by all media brought to mind other singers like Paul Roberson who, after entertaining the troops during WWII, was banned from NBC in 1950 for speaking out against lynching of blacks (In parallel NBC in 2006 refused to run ads promoting the Documentary on the Dixie Chicks “Shut up and Sing”) and had his passport taken away in the same year by the US government because, "his frequent criticism of the treatment of blacks in the United States should not be aired in foreign countries”. Shut up and Sing Paul, because things sure have changed in 53 years.

Besides the overlooked feminist implications of a nation exploding because a woman expressing her opinion is against “country music values” the heart of film lies in the outcomes of social abuse. America has this strange and openly growing capacity to hate almost without thought or reason and then act on that hate (for example, in a recent survey 82% of Americans said that France was an enemy of the US – yet in asking around I could find no one who could remember WHY they hated France so much: France vetoed a UN resolution which the US pushed through to justify war; so the US went to war anyway and the country exploded into anti-French attitudes, and Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast were born). Watching the effects of the daily attacks and brutal abuse of women who had ALREADY APOLOGIZED, to the point that they believed (as did the FBI) that someone in Texas was going to kill them. Again, with bizarre irony, in 2003 the FBI did not reveal to the Dixie Chicks the full number of threats against them, they did however, using wiretapping of cell phones at Dixie Chicks concerts (On the basis that terrorists can use the noise of concerts to pass information – the first group they used this new plan on: The Dixie Chicks), help President Bush sue the Dixie Chicks on their recent tour for appearing on stage to the tune “Hail to the Chief”

As time went on the wary look and statements of the Chicks, particularly the lead singer Natalie were ones that Linda and I knew all too well. “They’ve become honorary gays” I whispered to Linda and she nodded back. For the Chicks there is the cycle of disbelief, the loss of hope, the inability to know who to trust; all chronicled on large screen as sponsors and fans drop from sight or distance themselves, as all incoming messages are negative and when the realization comes that it simply isn’t going to end, maybe ever. One band member wonders after a concert if this is last time they will ever play this big, or be able to play publicly at all. Indeed, their recent 2006 concert tour, while playing to sold out audiences in UK, Canada and Australia, has been banned by many southern states.

Together, two years later, with Natalie, living in LA, realizing they may never play a concert in Texas, their home state again, the Dixie Chicks work to reinvent themselves. It was not a choice of going back, because there was no where to go back to; the hate still lives on (as the many many public review sites where the film Shut up and Sing is getting 0 out of 10 ratings, yet unviewed, attests) – to buy a Dixie Chick record is now, for many Americans, a political impossibility. So yes, the Dixie Chicks start again, but as we see, individually scarred, individually beaten up and maimed. Being on the end of collective hated does bad things; just ask the filmmaker Arthur Dong, who needed 20 years from his gaybashing to cinematically deal with the subject. This film gives a little insight, a little connection, in showing how the wielding of indiscriminate hatred can affect you, regardless of social income or situation. The Chicks accept, like the so many minorities hated by Americans before them, that the only victory is in going on.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Anhedonia and why vampires tend to kill themselves

I ate today; it was...different. You see, I haven’t really found the idea of eating interesting lately. I have been drinking water sometimes, since I have been doing strenuous exercise about 3 hours a day for a week. I think I am getting thinner.

Life is very busy now; working, training, sleeping, repeat. I also I know I have Andehonia, but it just doesn’t seem to matter (a little joke).

If you don’t know, Andehonia is a condition of greyness, where a person becomes unable, or incapable of deriving pleasure from life, through any means. It also usually comes with sleep irregularities. It is one of the reasons I have great difficulty with people who romanticize vampires (who are traditionally suppose to not “feel” human emotions anymore). When you are deep in the cocoon of Andehonia, the most something becomes is interesting, even agonizing pain (which you still feel, it just doesn’t always seem to interest you that much, or can simply lower your social inhibitions.). The thing which has always produced the greatest joy: not worth the effort. Your fantasy food: there no longer is such a thing, as everything nothing at all. Sylvia Plath experienced a long bout of Andehonia before she put her head in the oven, Van Gogh wrote to his brother about it a week before shooting himself in the heart. So you can see why the idea of eternal life with eternal Andehonia would likely be a very short life indeed. It is, in a way, like waking up missing a sense, like sight or smell, as you try, one after another, the things which gave the greatest satisfaction or joy. As each feels instead like an empty exercise, you turn inventive and extravagant, almost desperate; perhaps buying something will make me feel something, or a bubble bath, anything indulgence that you can think of. And you feel…nothing.

I have blogs I have been working on, I wish to finish; so stay tuned; things will return to....well, not normal...but with fewer tasks over a greater time.

Oh yes, Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Straight & LGBT: the common connections

Under the optimistic belief that “people are people” I have been brainstorming about the way that straight and LGBT people share many of the same histories, worries, troubles and experiences. This is my “let’s our share our common experiences under one rainbow” post.

1) Families: you have to love them, they seem to have to mess with your head.

I think everyone can agree that family is the greatest blessing but also a source of endless therapy. For instance, how old were you when you finally got to eat at the “adult’s table” at large dinner parties. Were you like me at 19 and stuck with the 11, 8 and 3 year old at the folding card table. Really hard to convince everyone how mature you are with that? Not to mention the coming home from college and other life changing experiences and having siblings/relations still treat you like you are 16. You know, that never changes; my grandmother and great aunt still act like they are 16 and 18. Hearing a 88 year old woman chewing out a 86 year old with “you’re not going out dressed like that are you?” is a little surreal. And what about the relative who “has religion”; which in my case is my aunt, who has slight (read overpowering) control issues. She has two sons; one went on a student exchange to Japan and then refused to come back for almost 2 years, the other packed up stuff in the dead of night into his car and disappeared. All the signs of a healthy family dynamic. Not that I can talk since my way of dealing with boundary issues with my family has to maintain a minimum of 1500 miles between me and them.

2) Getting hot and heavy somewhere embarrassing

I have to believe this is a universal human condition. I believe that adolescent hormones is God’s way of making soap operas with situation comedy. Where have you made out? Where have you been caught? Let see: I’ve been caught by park rangers in a tent on what I “thought” was a deserted stretch of beach (Of course the first question he asks, looking at the clothes and hair askew is “What where you doing in there?”), Or I’ve made out like squirrels in springtime on the minister’s couch (while they were in another room), also, in our search for a place to make out in our secret relationship (meaning we couldn’t go to her house or mine) we made out in a children’s playground, inside the miniature fort…until we got caught. Okay, maybe they community watch did have some point about “lowering moral values”

3) Finally getting that “dream” thing you want, only to find out it isn’t that great after all.

I think this can apply to that great pair of shoes to a trek across Siberia. Lots of times the things you want are great, and are even better than imagined…but sometimes not. I grew up on National Geographic and so to me climbing a mountain was just “cool and amazing” – I mean, there were so many pictures of people doing it, it had to be great, right? When I finally reached my first summit, I had a “I’m sure this isn’t it…the really amazing feeling must be coming soon……any time now…….sigh” moment. You can also chalk up this amazing black overcoat I got on sale (discounted from $1000). I mean, it is so svelte and classy. It is also cashmere. It also can’t get wet and needs special cleaning. So I now I am too scared to wear it, I just look at it in my closet and wait for the invitation to the white house or the opera.

4) Someone at work is really annoying

For some reason, there is always someone who is annoying where I work (and I’ve worked about 30 places) – even worse, it’s usually a manager. I guess for some people out there, the person was me. But regardless of orientation, I think there will always be someone who is annoying at or around where you work (in the same way there will always be an aspect of a dream job that is tedious or annoying). For me, the kleptomaniac and the practical joker are high up there – you can tell the klepto because they will be the one eating your chocolate bar when you come into the lunch room. While the practical joker will be the one who puts your “porn name” into your name plate during the presentation at the director’s meeting.

5) Having your heart broken sucks

Regardless of orientation, this holds true – along with other truths about “ex’s”: the fact that you will willing to meet them half way but they weren’t, that they know how to bring out the worst in you and that they stole something when they left just because they know how much it means to you. Also, while you may have understood them while in love, they are a baffling mystery of motivation once you break up.

6) Joy sometimes comes in the strangest guises

Don’t worry, I’m not going all mushy on you. This is my lone attempt at “the good things of life” which is that they are different for everyone and that sometimes it is the smallest or the strangest things that can bring the greatest moments of joy or contentment. While I could list the many “intellectual moments” of joy (like finding a really witty writer) I think things like pillow fights, sexual tickling and running around a room yelling “Oh, I am SO going to get you” somehow come pretty on that list. So too when someone you love says, “When I hear this song, I think of you” (unless that song is “Runaround Sue” in which case beware!). I like chasing Linda while singing, “Hey, little red riding hood, you sure are looking good, you’re everything a big bad wolf could want, Arrrroooooooohhhh!”

I suppose I could go on for a while but wanted to get the ball rolling and let all those straights know that while I often talk about the frustrations of being gay or lesbian in a straight world, I do think there is a lot that connects us too – though I will warn you that getting caught making out on the minister's couch with someone of the same sex (like his daughter) does tend to get a more severe reaction than someone of the opposite sex.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What does NCIS, the US military and Iran have in common?

As part one of my strange jobs I earn money by watching new DVD boxsets, and recently watched the series NCIS this week along with the DVD Coming Out Under Fire, a documentary by the filmmaker Arthur Dong.

I was particularly leery of NCIS because, hey it deals with the military, specifically the US military and from my viewing experience, often shows like this preach the message that it is better to “serve the Corp” than, for example, “tell the truth.” But reviews of NCIS talked about it as a CSI with “fun” and “wacky” characters “outside the military.” After 23 hours, I am not really sure who this is marketed to, certainly not for me or anyone I know. It appears the target audience is one which unquestioningly accepts everything the government says, believes every military operation is a perfect one and watches the show painted up in camouflage, wrapped in a US flag while leaping to their feet every few minutes to scream “Ho-oouup!” and “Semper Fi!”

How I wondered, would they deal with LGBT people in, or associated with the military? At first I thought the “they don’t exist” line (or as the lead senator in the 1993 senate hearings said, that if LGBT people were “true patriots” they would be willing to give up part of themselves, like being LGBT, in order to serve the country) but toward the end of the series, within 5 episodes there were three dealing with LGBT people, specially lesbians, then transsexuals, and gay men. To summarize the NCIS message, it was hard for me to differentiate the sentiment in these three episodes broadcast to tens of millions of Americans and the public execution of a gay man in front of a cheering crowd in Kermanshah, Iran yesterday.

Here are the episode outcomes: two men return home from “serving their country as heroes” only to find their wives “stabbing them in the back” by falling in love with each other. One lesbian is killed while the other is arrested (though it is unclear how a 125 lb woman snapped the necks of TWO people - maybe it is their anti-american backstabbing ways which grant them their evil powers) while the lead investigator sighs his way through the sad aspect of “betrayal.” The transsexual, once discovered, ends with the lead investigator putting a gun to her head and then pulling the trigger in what even his associates understand as a case of premeditated (but okay and understandable) murder. The gay Navy SEAL is found out by his wife, and thus, to protect the name of the service, and his unit, commits suicide. This, it is concluded, is a “good man” when the ending scene eliminates any doubt that the solution to don’t ask, don’t tell is if found, kill self for the national good. In final minutes one investigator talks to a priest the man had been confiding in. The priest says that though it may not be the stance of the church, he had been trying to encourage the man to be true to what he was. “I think, in the end, he was” the investigator states (meaning, he was because he realized that his “true” nature was military, not gay, and thus, he acted to “protect the service” – aka a good gay marine is a dead gay marine).

Coming Out Under Fire is a documentary about the history of the US military with homosexual recruits, focusing on WWII, when the military started screening for sexual perverts. Of course, for those tens of thousands of gay men and women who volunteered, the choice between lying and being sent home labeled a sexual predator by the US government was an easy one. Ironically, once admitted, gays flourished in the military as they could only be removed under the articles of war for sodomy. So, as long as you didn’t have sex, or kept it very hidden, you could be as out as you wanted (and with the definition of sodomy, there was no way to throw out lesbians at all). Gay men started hanging around with each other, and clubs were formed, even a gay military newsletter was created by two gay typing clerks and sent round the world. The military decided to use the “special abilities” of these sexual deviants by making some into drag queen entertainers for the troops (one ex-marine said; “I was just like any other marine, and I carried my pack, it’s just that my pack was full of dresses and costumes”) while one suggestion to the W.A.C.’s was to promote lesbians into positions of leadership.

However, due primarily to the repeated request of commanders, the policy was changed so that no longer did there have to be an act of homosexuality but merely the suspicion of moral and sexual deviancy in order to be thrown out. The policy makers stated “there has never been and there will never be a place for homosexuals in the US army.” Thus, unit spies, mail censoring, illegal arrests and held until further names were given up started as standard policy. Once enough names were gathered, the individuals were dumped onto the streets in Wartime US, with a “blue paper” a dishonorable discharge for being a sexual deviant. After the War, the policy was expanded to the entire US federal employees, in order to set a standard on the moral fabric of hiring policies. And since then, many different reasons have been given, passed off without substantiation or research to back it up, that the US MUST NOT have LGBT personnel. On that note, two weeks ago, Justin Fisher, who orchestrated the murder of pfc Barry Winchell in 1999 for dating a transsexual, was granted early release. Still, that was just over ½ of his original lenient sentence. Due to the escalation of harassment which lead to Winchell being beaten to death, the Military created a 13 point anti-harassment plan. It has yet to be implemented.

Perhaps it is just me, but when the military, training what will become our future police, firefighters, EMT personell and other professionals teach and train that while gay people are an automatic no-no, harrassers of gay people are okay and murderers are semi-okay (they shouldn’t have killed or conspired to kill, but hey, it wasn’t the same as killing a “real” solider), I get worried. And when TV shows reinforce that view (only showing that if you are high up enough, you CAN murder them), painting open LGBT people as traitors and betrayers then it is downright scary. Particularly during a time when the justification for any action or excess in the US is “we’re at war”, and there seems to be the feeling that the US is going to be “at war” a long time. And quite frankly, the US has shown that it has a far greater ability to catch and punish homosexuals than the murky waters of their operations on “terrorism and freedom.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Take a holiday from the hetero way: Yuri and Shoujo-ai

It has been about five months since I’ve talked face to face with a lesbian other than Linda (at least an “out” lesbian – I still have hopes about that toned and tanned golf playing butchy girl at the post office). So I am in major lesbian gossip withdrawal. I mean, playing celebrity “I know she’s really a lesbian” just isn’t the same by yourself. As for playing it with straights, pphffff, forget it; “What, you think Angelina Jolie is bisexual, no way?” (Hello? The film Gia and her girlfriend give you a clue?). I miss the book and movie recommendations, the travel dialogue, the discussions about Olivia Cruises, the L-word, Sugar Rush, the stories of stupid things people say when you come out (“I knew you were a lesbian cause you drank beer”) and the twists and turns of semi-closeted lesbian lives and loves (“She’s joined a tank battalion and she and the gunner first mate are going out.”; “What about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell?’”; “I guess they don’t talk a lot.”).

So when all else fails, I turn to the one place where I can be assured of a decent queer love world view: anime. Sure there is an aspect of fantasy here; since few lesbians I know remember spending high school making out in perpetual embraces between brushing their long flowing hair. But at least there is a decent representation of falling in love and having relationships between girls (those who don’t turn evil, anyway). The Yuri AMV below gives a good visual survey of the many relationships already out there in anime land (just hang in past the stupid phone conversation – the song gets better).

But wait, that’s not all! Another reason I like yuri and shoujo-ai anime is that often these aren’t girls who just stand around all day dreaming of each other and picking flowers; no, they have SWORDS! Yes, these are women who slice and dice and blow up things and are secret agents (even when they are bookish like in Read or Die). Not only do they have swords, they have swords and heroic love quests. The idea of the Heroic Quest is best seen in the first work of literature; The Odyssey, where Odysseus fights against danger, death and the odds to return home to his love Penelope. Sound familiar? It should since it is the source of every action romance. Only where are the heroic lesbians battling to be by the side of their beloved? Not in the culture of western society. Lesbians can be killers, psychos, schemers or occasionally quiet lovers but no grand heroic center stage please! Of course my favorite anime, Utena is about a girl who fences all comers to protect her Rose Bride. The yuri AMV below is about another anime, The Book of Why, where Hatsumi is doomed at midnight on her 16th birthday to shift dimensions/alternate universes leaving her lover, Hatsuki, behind in a reality that tries to convince her she never existed. Hatsuki grabs her sword and leaves earth behind in her search through the dimensions, finding look-alikes and dead ends in her quest to rejoin her beloved. (this video, containing the narrative of that quest, won 2nd place at the Anime North Convension).

Hmmm, now that I think about it, there seems to be a slight connection in girl-on-girl and lesbian themed anime to athletics. Elizabeth’s life: lesbians and atheletics, check! Elizabeth’s life: swords and shouting, check! There is also a theme in yuri anime about pain and injury as a sign of dedication/obsession. Elizabeth’s life: pain and obsession, check! Anime even has a sort of lesbian Olympics called Battle Athletes where girls are breaking bones and doing all sort of harm in pursuit of personal excellence (Go Kris!). Gee, I wonder why the idea of going to the lesbian olympics appeals to me so much? Oh well, off to do some more fencing practice (two weeks and 5 days to competition!), I leave you with the AMV video Butterfly Yuri (“Someone who is strong, still a little shy, yes I need, I need my samurai”) – oh yeah, what might look like guys in the video are known in the lesbian world as butch (or stone butch, bull dyke) – but still girls.

That’s it, back to work. The message of this post: I’m lonely and I’m tired of living in a straight world (p.s. Hollywood please hire me to write lesbian scripts and TV shows – I can give you three quick points to make Battlestar Galactica better with lesbian lip lock).

Monday, November 13, 2006

The cost of feminism, and why I can't afford it

My exhaustion with feminism, or perhaps just on-line feminism , is that the debates, intents, judgments, finger-pointing, accusations of betrayal and ritualistic back-stabbing all in the name of the good seem to be set by people who have values which seem to come from the great land called “entitlement.”

Let me give you examples. A month or so ago, there was a great boo hoo about which feminist bloggers waxed versus those who didn’t; the idea of giving into the beauty expectation versus personal choice and even Hugo, the male feminist, driven by angst, repented of his chest hair shaven and proclaimed himself hairy and righteous again. Another toted issues is regarding where and how one shops; of course never at Walmart and always organic, but then making sure that is it local organic and not the new “branded” organic and how aware and conscious are you regarding your shopping choices; how much do you buy into the beauty myth? How many beauty products have you bought, what type of lingerie you allow yourself, etc? Okay, there is, for me, a HUGE problem with these and similar debates: they assume you have money.

I don’t wax: because I have no money. We don’t buy organic: because we have no money (strangely, when on a very tight income, even a small price difference means we can have more to eat if we don’t eat organic). We buy at Wal-Mart: because we have no money (the reason so many people buy at Wal-Mart is….it’s cheaper - $50 a paycheck cheaper on average, which is why working class people go there to shop). We don’t buy at local coffee houses over Starbucks, we don’t go buy out at all: because we have no money! Do you see a common theme here? Do you see how alienating, annoying and insipid it might seem to have people declaiming a person can or can’t qualify as a feminist revolving from arguments which arise out of disposable income. We don’t buy CD’s of local artists, we don’t buy whole earth products, owe don’t buy beauty products, we don’t buy any products, or go to any restaurants or music festivals or events because: we have no money.

Ironically, in the debate about body image, weight and exercise, I would love to participate; but I can’t afford to. Because I can’t afford to go to the gym, and haven’t been able to afford to for years. At the Y, which has a form for people on low or fixed income, we are below the income expectations of their form. Their form allows deductions for transport (either car or bus – neither of which we can afford), but not for shoes. Nor does it allow for the types of little costs which slowly sink any money you might get: haircuts, having to replace glasses, emergency dental problems, medical costs, replacement of clothes.

In Canada, feminism achieved educational equality by helping to put quotas on the employment of university lecturers and professors. Which is nice, but again, the action seems designed to help the very types of highly educated women in positions where disposable income and voice are available; aka – those who are setting the tones of the feminist debate. I (and I think a lot of working women) would have other suggestions for what could be fought for. Equity in cost of haircuts would be a great change. I mean a REALLY great change. Or equitable cost in clothes. Or free birth control. Another thing that would make a great difference would be making companies that pay minimum wage (or near to it) supply their clothes requirements. I applied for a minimum wage retail job recently which had stricter clothes requirements than Linda’s workplace (who works for the government). Taking a minimum wage job would have required me to spend between $200-$400 to work there. And even elsewhere, a woman is judged more on what she wears than how capable she is (The director Linda works for told his previous assistant that if she wanted to be considered for management, she needed to come to work in suits). Or instead of quotas at university, quotas for supervisors or managers at retail stores. That way Wal-Mart (who has as many employees as there are employed teachers in the US) wouldn’t be facing a giant class action suit from the women at Wal-Mart who are routinely passed over for jobs that have promise of promotion.

I realize that I am still one of the privileged because we chose getting internet access over a TV; so throw in free internet access and computers – because that is one of the economic standards which determines who gets to participate in the debate. Greater funding for libraries would make a dramatic difference; I know they have in my life, as my library has free CD’s and DVD’s and online search capability which means I reserve lists of items and they are delivered to the library down the block, then I am emailed, free of charge. That is how I can afford to watch 20 documentaries, or foreign films. My ability to understand the plight of others around the world from the isolated island where I live is, in many ways, economically determined. Thankfully, for me, the library allows me to educate myself. What about those who don’t have that opportunity?

You see, I have no interest in a feminism that doesn’t address the issues which faces me and which doesn't either include me, the women I know, or my mother or grandmothers. There have been times in my life when feminism and dignity was getting a hot shower (how exactly does that work in the Beauty Myth?). You see, I always thought I was one of the lucky entitled ones, (and I still do) because though I’ve rarely had enough funds that buying something didn’t involve having to sell something else, I’ve had the luxury of education. I can think and read and speak and write. Only, It seems I don’t have the ”right” experiences or issues to involve myself in the debate. For example, I can’t be objective or hardline about prostitution or the sex trade because, for me, when you often teeter a few steps above giving blowjobs to survive, the knowledge that when the world has determined it has no need for the knowledge in my head, they will still want to rent an orifice or two, has far more power to inform me than an academic debate. The whole thing reminds me of why I didn’t blog in Britain, and why when my publisher suggested it, I explained that survival isn’t interesting – writing “Worked 12 hours to survive; didn’t have running water....again!” isn’t a good narrative when printed day after day. And it is still why I don’t write much about what I do; because beyond the sacrifices made for fencing, I live in my head – because beyond my temperament, it’s what I can afford.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My fencing secret: just add terror and blackmail

I’ve been quiet lately, partially because I have the winter blues and partially because I am busy with my new secret (or busy trying to make money for my new secret). And that secret is...I’m going to the nationals! Yes’siree, that’s the fencing nationals, which starts with F and rhymes with S and stands for suicidal!

‘But Beth’ you say, ‘how hard could this exciting challenge be?’

Well, the 2005-2006 Canadian nationals had 37 women in senior epee. The US nationals had three divisions with around 400 competitors who had qualified in tournaments. Then there is another 90 or so in the Veteran’s Division. In Canada there is no Veterans, or separation of divisions. There‘s just Seniors which covers 20-80 years of age (you can fence after 80 but the lunging gets far more dangerous). That means that the Canadian nationals had only 14 more women than the Seattle open.

Still, how hard can that be? Well, one of the women will be Sherriane Schalm-Mackay. You may have heard of her, since she just won the 2006 overall world cup circuit (first North American to do so) and is ranked the number one in the world. Then there is Julie Lephron (32nd in the world – the first American is at 48), then Ainsley Switzer (64th in the world), and Catherine Dunnette (72nd in the world). In the Vancouver World Cup, the last World Cup of the 2005-2006 season, there were four Canadians in the top 12, no Americans. The Canadian women's epee team in the last two months got individual and team gold at both the Pan-Am Games and the Commonwealth Games. Then there’s the next generation of 3 athletes already working their way up to the top 100 in world cup circuit and the 6 behind them, preparing to enter the world of international fencing. They are all coming to the Canadian Nationals.

And the reason that matters? Well the Canadian Fencing Federation, deciding that “too many” people were coming to the nationals decided to change the rules in order to emphasis “quality over quantity.” That means that 20-30% of all fencers will be eliminated directly out of the pools. And (because the number 2 seed last year was knocked out in Direct Elimination by the number 36 seed) the top 4 finishers in the pools will go directly to super pools. Now while that might make sense if there were more than 50 epeeists, knocking out up to 30% of 35 epeeists before they can even have a full length bout seems vicious.

The Nationals are in three weeks, December 3rd and I have been training as hard as possible. Indeed, most mornings I do not wake up but am awoken by the complaints of one or more parts of my body. And working lots to get the money to go, about $850 in expenses so far. In my life right now, that’s a lot of money. And I worry that I will be eliminated right off the start.

This is what will happen. There are 47 women registered right now, so probably 40-42 will be at the event (since the late registration is $300, I'm not expecting any more to sign up). We will be put in pools of six people each. In pools, each person fences everyone else in the pool in five point bouts and everyone are ranked according to how many points and victories they score. Then the bottom 20-30% are eliminated. This means that to MAKE SURE I don’t get eliminated I will need to be 4th or above in my pool. Except that there will be at least 1 world class international athlete in my pool, and 1 budding international athlete in my pool and 1 person trained as “high performance” in special training camps in MontrĂ©al. Which means I have to beat the two people who paid hundreds of dollars in airfare to come if I have a chance to go into the Direct Eliminations because the CFF is standing there with a gun at our heads saying “Fence, damn you, fence...harder!”). I just think it is really weird in a fencing competition to have 10% of the fencers be the best of the best in the world (including the number 1 in the world) and another 10% to be international athletes working to be the best. It feels like winning your high school basketball team championship and then having to face off against the US Olympic “dream team”. You want a national medal? Then you have to beat the best in the WORLD.

On the bright side, if I make it out of pools, I WILL be fencing at least two of the top epeeists in the world in one competition. That’s cool. I try not to think about how MacKay has been fencing for 20 years and has a personal Hungarian coach and I have been fencing epee for 9 month (by the tournament) and have Mr. Ho whose advice before competition is, “Close eyes and stick out arm.”

I’m excited about it, really, actually, I’ll go with excited. I’m not adding any extra days of training because I can’t afford to get sick or injured. I’m just brushing up on what I know, and doing some drills, and a little endurance work. Beyond that, I’m depending on that fencing saying, “Anyone can beat anyone…for that day.” Oh yeah, and Mr. Ho doesn’t know...yet. Last time I tried to enter a competition Amanda was in he told me if I went I couldn’t use any club equipment ever again – so I didn’t go. Since then, I’ve been buying all my own gear. You know I never liked being blackmailed (by the way, anyone know where I can get a severed horses head?).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A day in Victoria: transit, male groins, VD's

Yesterday, after I filled a prescription at the doctor’s, I headed toward the bus shelter because it was raining, and walking endlessly in the rain without an umbrella doesn’t hold the excitement now that it did when I was five. About a half block from the bus shelter, I see two women bolt simultaneously out of shelter. Getting closer I see that there are two “colourful” guys in the shelter; they have facial hair of various sorts, look to be in their fifties, don’t wash too often, may be drunk, bachelors, homeless or any combination thereof. This, I think to myself, is a case of stupid guys harassing women, something I had just been talking about to the doctor. I told him, that no more guys rubbing up against me in supermarkets or yelling out things about seeing me in tennis outfits; I have a freakishly muscled fencing arm and any guy who gives sass is going to get it back double.

But getting closer I see that the sleazy/creepy guy with the goatee standing has his pants unzipped; not only unzipped but he has both hands down inside the unzipped pants and he rocks and gyrates around. His elbows are swinging, his hips are rocking; this is a guy with very busy, whole body occupied hands. I stop in the rain. Am I going into a bus shelter with a guy with both hands down his pants busy in some sort of prolonged activity? What would assertive Beth do? Assertive Beth would hit him with a stun gun, if such were legal. But right now, I am unsure what disturbs me more, squeezing into the bus shelter with him, or challenging him and even worse, having him TAKE HIS HANDS OUT – cause, I KNOW where those hands have been. I cross the street and keep walking, I really don’t need public transit THAT badly.

Later that night, as I’m getting off the bus at Vic West, a car of four guys cruises by and one of them yells out, “Got Crabs?” This appears to be the Vic West version of “You so pretty, me wanna play naked twister with you.” (In the same way I found out last week on Halloween that having someone throw a lit firecracker at you is just a “Hi, welcome to the neighborhood”) Now while those sex ed classes about being careful about sexual disease and vermin have done a good job, I personally prefer a different approach to that question, like maybe buying me a whole lot of drinks first before screaming the question over sound of the DJ at a club. Anyway, I actually was left speechless, without a witty retort (if you know a good retort to a group of guys asking if you have crabs, please let me know), which is a rare and personally disturbing occurance.

That's all, just wanted to pass on another normal day here in Victoria and do what I can to promote the Victoria Tourist industry, reasons Victoria IS the cool daytripping destination and the excitement available to you through public transit.

P.S. - No, I don't have crabs.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bad science: curing gay rams to help intersex people

Dr. Charles Rosselli of Oregon Health and Science University is in hot water, along with his collaborator Frederick Stormshak of Oregon State University for getting federal grant funding to try and change gay rams to straight. PETA has launched a campaign of protest with the lesbian tennis star Martina Navaratilova urging people to write in to ask the 3 million in funding to be spent somewhere other than a sheep ex-gay program.

Rosselli and Stormshak have been receiving federal grant money for several years to study sexual orientation in sheep. About 200 rams a year are tested for sexual orientation, of which some are determined to be asexual, some either/or (what we would call bisexual) and some exclusively “male oriented” (the scientists never use the G or H word but say “male oriented”). Once the “male oriented” sheep are determined, they are immediately killed so that Rosselli can try and figure out what in their brain is different than other ram's brains. This led to their 2004 paper on “male oriented sheep” and their subsequent federal funding of a two-tiered approach; Rosselli will drug the pregnant ewes to prevent certain hormonal actions and continue to kill “male oriented” rams in order to try and prove a connection between the two while Stormshak is already putting hormone distribution devices in “male oriented” rams to try and alter the ram’s sexual preference to straight.

This strange study, currently funded to 2008, but expected to be refunded to 2013, was initially given an economic justification; that farmers with gay rams needed to know how to alter this loss of economic sperm. However, as the project has continued, Rosselli and Stormshak have expanded the potential application of their research to humans, including other forms of sexual orientation, like their 2004 contributions to New Scientist’s article on humans and asexuality. What worried PETA (And lots of gays and lesbians) on their last NIH application was the statement that the experiments on sheep will provide information and hypothesis to be used testing “the biological basis of sexual orientation in higher mammals including humans.” First they come for the sheep, eh?

Many feel these two have been unfairly targeted because of political reasons (read: those overly sensitive gays) and that they are just two scientists doing what scientists do, exploring the boundaries of knowledge by testing hypothesis. However, my problem is that this pair, Rosselli in particular is that they are excruciatingly bad scientists doing bad science with bad premises filled with cultural assumptions. Rosselli says he chose sheep to begin with because "Sheep are the only species in which a small percentage of males have been shown to exhibit an exclusive same sex attraction" That’s a particularly odd quote because it simply isn’t true, gay cats (International feline specialist David Taylor details gay and even transsexual cats), gay swans and particularly gay penquins occur with regularity within the species (indeed two books: Biological Exuberance and Evolution’s Rainbow list over 450 species with same sex behavior, including some mammals which have ONLY been observed in same sex matings). It also happens that quote is a word for word repeat of what Jacques Balthazart 2002 said about an earlier version of the same sheep project, started at Oregon Health and Science University with Kay Larkin (Rosselli assisted Kay and now has taken over the project). That study replicated in “male oriented” ram brains the research and outcomes of those done on gay men by the controversial researcher Simon Levay (controversial as in both bad science AND projecting cultural stereotypes in his assertion that gay men are “more like women” in brain biology and that to have a lasting gay relationship it needs to reflect The Birdcage, with one partner a supercamp femme).

Yet, in a blog interview Rosselli states he has no interest to cure homosexuality. When asked the intention of his research he states:

“Moreover, sexual behavior and sexual partner preference play a fundamental role in reproduction and psychosexual development. There are serious medical conditions that are the result of variations in sexual development, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia and androgen insensitivity syndrome. These conditions may lead to problems of sexual function, social and psychosexual adjustment, mental health, quality of life and social participation. Understanding variations in psychosexual development that may affect these individuals requires reference to studies in non-human species that show marked but complex effects of androgens on sex differentiation of the brain and on behavior. A greater understanding of the biological underpinnings of partner preference may greatly assist in providing affected individuals with the medical services and support that they may desire.”

That sounded pretty good to me. Except one of the conditions he mentions “helping” made my memory tweak: androgen insensitivity syndrome, otherwise known as AIS or CAIS. AIS is an intersex condition, as is congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Overall, there are over a dozen intersex conditions; intersex at it’s basic means that a person’s biological gender markers fall outside what is typical for male or female. Before I go on to explain about AIS you should start asking yourself about the first and second sentences in the statement above, specificially why does this scientist think that studying sexual partner preference in adults will have any effect on conditions relating to gender and gender identity (unless you somehow think that gay men are really just psudo-females?).

AIS, which has seven levels of severity means that the body is incapable at some level of absorbing the hormone androgen (males and females have BOTH estrogen and testosterone/androgen in their bodies, just in differing levels, androgen is the dominant male hormone). What this means is that a sperm and egg meet, making an XY combination, the DNA creating small testes. However, because androgen cannot be absorbed (this is an inherited condition 66% of the time) the fetus follows the Eve Default, because all fetus are female, it is the washes of hormones and the changes which subsequently occur which make males. Thus, when a baby with Complete AIS (CAIS) is delivered, there is a normal healthy girl. The girl, complete with appropriate genitalia, will not have a uterus or ovaries, but rather internalized testes, along with an XY chromosome instead of the XX chromosome. The girl will develop normally through puberty, including breast development but without menstruation. It is either now or later that a doctor will be consulted, who with a consult to an endocrinologist, will determine the CAIS condition; which is usually followed up with a recommendation for removal of the internalized testes as they can become a significant cancer risk.

It is interesting that Rosselli chose AIS as his justification for helping because the condition leads to “problems of sexual function, social and psychosexual adjustment, mental health, quality of life and social participation.” Interesting because the number one problem for intersex people is the misconceptions and stigmatization placed upon them by society and doctors. And CAIS is THE intersex condition which most clearly demonstrates this. One of the problems with an intersex condition is early intervention in assigning gender identity. Hospitals used to use (and in some cases still do) a ruler in cases of ambigious genitalia (which occurs 1 in 2000 births), if the genitalia was X long on the ruler then it would be a clitoris and the baby would be “made” and raised as a girl; if it was Y long, then it would be a penis and the genitalia “corrected” to that assumption. It is these imposing of gender identities from the 1960’s onward which lead to so many cases of mental health difficulty as well as some sexual corrections in adult life to the appropriate gender identity. CAIS females, however do not have gender identity problems. They know they are female, everyone knows they are female. It is only when the XY chromosome normally associated with males becomes known that society starts imposing their binary preconceptions (if you think gender is only determined by chromosomes you can give yourself a wake up smack now; if you are a Christian and use the phrase “God doesn’t make mistakes” to justify this view, find yourself a really big bible to smack yourself with). CAIS intersex females are often used in medical shows like ER (season 6), Grey’s Anatomy and House (season 2) with a “surprise it’s a boy!” stereotype enforcing story. In House season two, House takes days to make a diagnoses normally performed by a competent GP in order that he can deliver the “you’re a boy” statement to the patient and “you’re a homo” line to the father who had sex with his CAIS daughter. Classy! (note that to the FCC if you imply straight teens have sex, you get fined $3.6 million, call someone a “homo” and get fined....nothing!)

Traditionally doctors have lied to their CAIS patients, often removing the testes under the guise of removing problematic ovaries, or simply saying they have a uterus problem and can’t have children. Of course, when the patients found out later as adults, THAT caused psychological problems. Some stories here, will illustrate the lack of respect doctor’s have had toward CAIS patients. Indeed CAIS used to be called Testicular Feminization (tell me you can’t hear the male oriented panic in that term). As regards to sexual orientation, one CAIS female reports that lesbians occur about 10%, the same percentage as the general population. But only ignorance places CAIS as anything other than females, they just happen to be an XY female. Indeed, It was because of conditions such as these that the Olympic committee dropped the “chromosome test qualification” in 1990, simply because 1 in 400 women were getting negative results; and having to face the media storm of “it’s a man!” before being cleared by doctors as females (ALL females competitors who tested negative in recent Olympics were cleared by doctors as females). Some competitors, after the initial negative test results were so traumatized, that they dropped out of sports entirely (like sprinter Eva Klobukowska who had XXY chromosomes; another intersex condition).

So why would Rosselli pick as justification, an intersex condition with completely stable gender identities, and with a sexual orientation spread the same as the rest of the population along with the other intersex condition CAH which in its mildest form occurs in 1 in 100 people? And how will his work help this litany of terms he gives that intersex people suffer from (you may recognize them as the same terms used to classify homosexuality as a destructive mental illness)? More importantly, how can a scientist who mixes gender identity with sexual orientation help intersex’s greatest problem, social stereotypes and misunderstanding (for those confused gender identity is what your gender is, male or female, while sexual orientation is who you are sexually attracted to – only very bad, bad science assumes that if you are attracted to Johnny Depp, you must be female, regardless of your gender).

It seems that Rosselli and Stormshak fall into that group of retro male scientists who like viewing the world and human population as what “should be” normal and then trying to alter anything else. That a sheep study, started to connect gay ram brains to gay human brains and the “female” aspects thereof, has now morphed into trying to change hormones in sheep of same sex orientation in order to help human intersex conditions from the terrible and horrid life of…being intersex (from Rosselli’s point of view anyway), then yes, yank this funding. I shudder to think what “correction” Rosselli has in mind for AIS women, much less the rest of LGBTI people. And quite honestly, if I wanted the federal government to fund misinformation, they might as well give it to NARTH or Exodus, whose misunderstanding of gender identity/sexual orientation is so skewed that they think the cure to a lesbian is high heels, a nice cocktail dress and a make-over. Or better yet, why not give $40,000 (about what the Federal Govt. has funded each gay ram), to each time a straight man beats to death a transsexual women yelling, “You fag, I’m not a homo!” – Or wait, was that the kind of boneheaded ignorance we were trying to eliminate instead of perpetuate?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Those grey days, rules, humans and more rules

Ever have one of those days when no matter how hard you work you can’t seem to make anyone happy; when all your relationships seem to have gone toxic? In fact sometimes whole weeks seem to consist of “put one foot in front of the other.” That pretty much sums up my week, plus having insomnia. Insomnia is like having a really bad cold or flu, it is impossible to remember how truly sucky it is until you have it again. Nothing quite as fun as lying there, hour after hour, trying to do something that used to come naturally, something which, at the end of the day, is out of your control – falling asleep. Then having naps later to try and get some sleep, only to wake up 20 minutes after falling asleep. I get insomnia once a year or so, and feel really bad for people who have it regularly, but then once it is gone, I go back to forgetting about them.

Our apartment manager, Fran, notable for only renting the apartment to us on the condition that she tell the owner that we are “sisters” instead of “randy sex-crazed lesbians”, has turned into the ultra annoying OCD type personality in the shared house who drives everyone insane. Fran, who I think would make a really good prison guard, spends much of her time patrolling to make sure that infractions are not being broken. On Monday, coming back from fencing, she was in the lobby when I returned, and though she recognized me, came to the door, and put her hand on the lock she would not open the door until I buzzed Linda and got her on the phone to verify my identity AS THE RULES STIPULATE.

Her new hobby over the last 10 days has been putting up notices; big long bold notices about new and bizarre policies. She has literally turned into the housemate who puts yellow notes on everything and everywhere. Monday it was a new notice to say that while the stairs could still be used (we live on the third floor) they needed to be used QUIETLY, which includes not running up or down the stairs, a sedate and quiet pace please. Then it was the notice that when using the laundry room, owners MUST set alarms in order to ensure that loads are NOT left in the washer or dryer for any period of time (which she actually checks regularly), Yesterday, in an attempt to get her to actually turn up the heat, she came into the apartment to check the regulator but then gave me a lecture on the amount of moisture allowed in an apartment and Linda a lecture on communicating only on the forms provided (in a room she has locked), today there is a new notice saying that when using the stairs or entering the building that the doors must be opened SLOWLY and that one must look carefully both ways before entering a hallway (honestly I don’t make this up). There are, as yet, no rectal searches when entering or exiting the building (there is an apartment open if anyone feels they need a bit of "correction & discipline" in their life).

She is really the least toxic of the people I deal with right now, but somehow the turning of our apartment building into Gulag 17 seems to fit in with the whole “grey life” right now. So, that’s it, nothing particularly cheery, or hopeful. Life sucks, one survives and hopefully it sucks less tomorrow. I do think it is interesting how humans, in general, have so few ways to make each other happy, accepted and loved, and so many, many ways to make each other feel hurt, damaged, abused, insecure, dislike, hated, or simply alienated. If humans have a genuine gift, I think it is at the speed and ability in which we can piss each other off. On that note, have a really nice drive home (and remember, the other drivers can’t actually hear what you’re screaming at them).