Monday, October 08, 2007
By: Lauren Forcella
Dear Straight Talk: I am 19 and I have a secret. I am a cross-dresser. I've been wearing female clothes and makeup since I was 11. Honestly, life would be easier if I was gay. When you are gay, people understand you, you fit in. But nobody understands cross-dressing.
October 4, 2007
I'm a good-looking, completely heterosexual male with desires to marry and have a family someday. Cross-dressing is my passion; I enjoy it and it's completely harmless.
Last year, I worked and traveled in Europe and I was able to explore my passion a lot, but being home again is depressing.
I want to tell my girlfriend, but my last girlfriend left me over it and I'm sure my family will think I'm a pervert. Some days I wonder if I even belong in this world. - Steve and "Stephanie."
From Rose, 19: You do belong. Who is to say which clothes are meant for females and which are meant for males? I wear pants all the time, so why can't you wear a dress? Your girlfriend needs to know the real you. How else can she love and accept you? Depending on your parents, some things are best left unsaid. About suicide: I've been there and it's not worth it. Life is a beautiful thing; sometimes you just have to look for it. And sometimes you just have to breathe.
From Sawyer, 16: You picked a tough passion. Last year I dressed as a girl for the Halloween dance. I looked so "hot," my girlfriend shunned me all evening. I thought it would be fun but it threw everybody off.
From Peter, 20: People fear what they don't understand. Start by showing your family videos of Eddie Izzard, a famous cross-dresser comedian. It might help if they can appreciate a man because he is funny, not because he's wearing women's clothing. . . .
It is a truism that men and women do not communicate in the same way. But is there really any evidence to support this Mars-and-Venus theory? Oxford language professor Deborah Cameron investigates in the first of three extracts from her new book
Click here for the table on Gender differences in verbal/communicative behaviour adapted from Hyde, 'The Gender Similarities Hypothesis'.
Monday October 1, 2007
Do men and women speak the same language? Can they ever really communicate? These questions are not new, but since the early 1990s there has been a new surge of interest in them. Countless self-help and popular psychology books have been written portraying men and women as alien beings, and conversation between them as a catalogue of misunderstandings. The most successful exponents of this formula, such as Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand, and John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, have topped the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic. Advice on how to bridge the communication gulf between the sexes has grown into a flourishing multimedia industry. Gray's official website, for instance, promotes not only his various Mars and Venus books, but also seminars, residential retreats, a telephone helpline and a dating service. . . .
What makes a man a man? What makes a woman a woman? Other than our obvious anatomical differences, it's really the gender role we take on that's the deciding factor.
Let's take a hermaphrodite: The way that person dresses, interacts with others, walks, talks, etc. are the traits others will use to assume that person's sex. But for the majority - who we'll assume aren't hermaphrodites - we still display behaviors/characteristics others use to decide whether we are manly men, womanly women or vice versa. Whatever the case may be, every woman and man acquires and displays both a masculine and feminine side.
But which sex has more influence on the other? On the surface, men seem to be the answer because society is primarily influenced by institutions that have been generally male-dominated.
It's perfectly normal for a girl to wear blue but still debatable for a guy to wear pink. A girl may gain respect if she downs a beer-bong in seconds, but a guy will probably lose respect if he orders a cosmopolitan.
A girl may be considered the "dream girl" if she loves watching football, playing golf and having "Boondock Saints" on her list of favorite movies. A guy, however, would most likely not be considered the "dream guy" if he loves gymnastics, getting pedicures and has "The Notebook" on his movies list. I'm not at all implying these "manly" traits apply to all men and the "girly" traits apply to all women, but I assume most people will agree to those superficial generalizations.
Going on the idea of this "dream girl," I've noticed that she's becoming more prevalent because our society has been slowly but surely moving in a direction where women have more power and freedoms.
Let's take sexual freedom for example. I visited the University of Madison this past weekend and met a group of girls who play a game called Bango. Like Bingo, Bango requires a board with squares and the first person to achieve five squares in a row wins. But Bango squares have descriptions like "Facial Hair" or "Out-of-Towner." One must at least make out with a guy embodying that description to cross that square off. . . .
In film, character roles are the first representations audiences have and their attire, voice, mannerisms and language make us assume a gender- even if a male is playing a female role or visa versa.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, men and women have switched assumed gender roles in film, creating characters from scratch and learning a new way to move, walk and talk.
Film has obviously evolved since the kinetograph created by William Dickson in 1889. The only time we view moving pictures from a machine that what an optometrist use sto check your eyesight, is when we are in a late 19th century themed amusement park or a film history museum. Along with that evolution came new ideas in both dramatic and comedic forms on how to sell box office tickets.
Gender swapping in film is not as uncommon as it seems. Normally it takes on a comedic performance so audiences don't thing twice about Martin Lawrence putting on a fat suit and becoming the female character, Big Momma.
Along with Law-rence, many of our most famous actors and actresses have acted as an opposite gender role than they are used to playing. Most times, men play men and women play women. But there is that rare actor or actress who can pull off a man or woman playing the opposite sex or an overly feminine or masculine character rendering an amusing, almost parodic of quality.
In the past few years, men and women have been praised for their gender-bending performances. Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for Best Leading Actress for her portrayal of the tough, promiscuous, gay character Aileen in Monster. Felicity Huffman was nominated for her role as a transsexual named Sabrina "Bree" Osbourne in 2006's Transamerica, and Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Leading Actor as the notoriously feminine Truman Capote. . . .
The 30-year fight for a federal gay civil rights law may fail because activists insist on including rights for transgendered people too. Has gay inclusiveness gone too far too fast?
By John Aravosis
Like an ever-expanding mushroom cloud of diversity, every few years America's gay leaders and activists welcome a new category of member to the community. Wikipedia walks us through our complicated family history:
"LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] or GLBT are the most common terms [to describe the gay community] ... When not inclusive of transgender people it is shortened to LGB. It may also include two additional Qs for queer and questioning (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark) (LGBTQ, LGBTQQ, GLBTQ2); a variant being LGBU, where U stands for "unsure", an I for intersex (LGBTI), another T for transsexual (LGBTT), another T (or TS or the numeral 2) for two-spirited people, and an A for straight allies or asexual (LGBTA). At its fullest, then, it is some permutation of LGBTTTIQQA."In simpler times we were all gay. But then the word "gay" started to mean "gay men" more than women, so we switched to the more inclusive "gay and lesbian." Bisexuals, who were only part-time gays, insisted that we add them too, so we did (not without some protest), and by the early 1990s we were the lesbian, gay and bisexual, or LGB community. Sometime in the late '90s, a few gay rights groups and activists started using a new acronym, LGBT -- adding T for transgender/transsexual. And that's when today's trouble started. . . .
For 20 years Mahyar has been a woman trapped in a man's body.
As a small child Mahyar liked dressing up in women's clothes and experimenting with make-up but as she grew older it got more difficult. "I badly needed to do it but it had to be in secret," she says.
Now she wants to have a sex-change operation - if she can muster the �00 it will cost in Iran. If her family doesn't help financially, she says she might sell one of her kidneys to pay for it.
"People say you'll get other illnesses but I think I can live without one kidney. I cannot live between the sky and the earth," says Mahyar.
Surgeons have already removed Mahyar's testicles. After the operation, her older brother locked her up for a week and wouldn't let her use the telephone. Mahyar's brother says someone has put a spell on her.
When Mahyar wants to feel normal she goes to the clinic of Dr Mirjalali - Iran's leading sex-change surgeon. There are women who were men, men who were women and those like Mahyar waiting for the operation they believe will be a sort of rebirth.
Dr Mirjalali says in Europe a surgeon would do about 40 sex change operations in a decade. He's done 320 in the last 12 years in Iran.
"If you saw them out in the street you wouldn't realise that one day they were the opposite sex," he boasts.
The doctor will use parts of Mahyar's intestines to create female sex organs. He warns it involves five or six hours of difficult surgery and weeks of painful recuperation.
Mahyar loves to go to cosmetics shops - and try out new nail varnish for her long manicured nails and discuss with the amused female shop assistants the best sort of foundation cream to hide her stubbly chin.
The sight of a man wearing make-up does turn heads on the street. Islamic tradition does not allow cross dressing - a man should only dress in male clothes. But that is not to say Iran's religious scholars are antagonistic to transsexuals.
Hojatulislam Kariminia wrote his doctoral thesis on the implications of sex-change operations for Islamic law.
He is a leading expert on questions like does a husband or wife need the permission of their spouse before a sex change operation? Is their marriage automatically annulled afterwards and what happens to the wife's dowry money or inheritance if she becomes a man.
He shows me the book in Arabic in which, 41 years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini wrote about new medical issues like transsexuality.
"I believe he was the first Islamic scientist in the world of Islam who raised the issue of sex change," says Hojatulislam Kariminia.
The Ayatollah's ruling that sex-change operations were allowed has been reconfirmed by Iran's current spiritual leader. . . .