When I wrote Sex Changes, I never imagined that other women would identify with the term transwidow. But then, I never imagined all the pain that was out there – women going through remarkably similar experiences and receiving breath-takingly little support. Fortunately, we can stand for ourselves and each other. In a stifling climate, we can raise our voices and refuse to be silenced. I remain deeply grateful for all who have offered their support to me.
I’ve been asked to provide the link to a site that readers of this blog might want to explore.
The UK Guardian and The New York Times report today that good girls don’t say anything that might hurt someone else’s feelings.
If that sounds familiar, you are in good company. Germaine Greer has heard it too. The only trouble is she is refusing to keep her mouth shut.
Some students are Cardiff University want the author censored. They have called upon their school to disinvite Greer from speaking on campus because they disagree with some of her views. Presumably they believe in censoring any opinion they don’t agree with, and expect their university to back them up.
Cardiff has refused to cancel Greer’s appearance. Greer sounds mildly baffled by the uproar.
When told that voicing her opinions might hurt people’s feelings, the writer responds, “People are hurtful to me all the time. Trying being an old woman, for goodness sakes.”
At the international art extravaganza known as the Venice Biennale, women artists have traditionally been sidelined – much as they’ve been in the rest of the (art) world. Not so this year.
The current exhibition has received lots of media attention for its emphasis on political work (not at all new for this venue), for its African curator (entirely new), and for it’s important focus on work and workers worldwide.
But I haven’t heard any buzz about the fact that this year, women artists are responsible for, hands down, no contest, the most exciting work on view.
Some thoughts on what I saw and can’t stop thinking about:
An adolescent I know identifies as male and lives in a female body. He says he’s okay with the dichotomy. His problem is the pressure he feels: medicalize or else. He binds his breasts against his own wishes, despite extreme physical discomfort. He believes that once he is of age, he will have to begin taking masculinizing hormones he doesn’t want. His is a peculiar position, brought about by the peculiar time in which he is coming of age. A time of increased acceptance and possibility, a time of rabid political correctness and the silencing of dissent.
I thought of him while reading an important opinion piece in today’s New York Times by professor of clinical psychiatry Richard Friedman, called “How Changeable is Gender?”
Friedman surveys the available data in two areas of research: the relative satisfaction of transsexuals after medical treatment for gender dysphoria; and the fluidity of gender identity in children and adolescents. Based upon the evidence, he concludes that gender dysphoric people are not necessarily happier after medical intervention, and also, that gender identity in children is fluid and unstable.
Friedman’s piece is calm, reasoned, thoughtful, and devoid of political agenda. In other words, it is astounding to find it published in the mainstream press today. Indeed, he notes the climate in which he explores these concerns when he writes:
“I was surprised to discover how many professional colleagues in this area either warned me to be careful about what I wrote or were reluctant to talk with me on the record for fear of reprisal from the transgender community.”
There are many who wish to stifle free discussion of the medicalization of gender identity, and they are enjoying a remarkable success. It can only be hoped that voices such as Friedman’s will continue to speak against the “fear of reprisal.”
Gender identity may indeed be changeable. What we are permitted to say about it shouldn’t be.
Several readers have sent me links to an article and a video that should be shared:
I’m enjoying the reading of my Shebooks story, Sextet, by actress Erica Sullivan, on Audible, and I have a few copies to give away to readers who tweet/post/blog about it!
Let me know if you’d like to give a listen!
My Shebooks story, Sextet, is now available at Audible.com:
Sextet: A Literary Love Triangle
Written by: Christine Benvenuto
Narrated by: Erica Sullivan
Length: 1 hr
The friendship of two tightly knit New York City couples whose bond isn’t quite what it seems threatens to unravel after the publication of a story in a well-known literary magazine that bears a strange resemblance to their real life. This wry, urban novelette blurs the lines between love and lust, loyalty and betrayal, laying bare the power of literature to expose parts of ourselves we may not want to see. Christine Benvenuto oh-so-lightly pokes fun at Manhattan’s privileged class, and her observations are all the more biting for their subtlety.