Friday, January 04, 2008

Susan Stryker

"Susan Stryker is a researcher, writer, queer historian, artist, and a filmmaker. She is the former executive director of the GLBT Historical Society of Northern California, and a former history columnist for Planet Out. She has written and co-authored books like Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area and edited "The Transgender Issue" of The Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Vol 4, No 2, 1998. She recently discovered and made a film about the Compton's Riot - riots by transpeople in San Francisco that pre-date Stonewall - and turned that discovery into a documentary film, Screaming Queens."

A desire for amputation?

December 28, 2007

While traveling to Disney World the other week, I picked up a copy of Scientific American Mind to keep myself from being too bored on the flight. One by Sabine Miller called "Amputee Envy" concerns what she terms "Body Identity Disorder" (BID). People with this extremely rare disorder desire to have one or more of their appendages removed, and some actually have such discomfort that they request that the appendage be removed. A summary of the article is here.

I had heard about this sort of thing and chalked it up to being a sexual fetish. The reality appears to be much more complex. Some appear to be seeking attention rather than any sort of sexual gratification. But most interesting to me is that at about two thirds of the disorder report that amputation will enable them to express their "true" identity. Thus, there may be a parallel between this disorder and Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is of personal interest to me. Indeed there are some interesting parallels-both disorders arise early in life, and sometimes the discomfort (which can be extreme) is only resolved through surgery. . . .

Queen Biggins: 'I was insulted when they first asked me to do panto!'

27th December 2007

Nobody knows more about the magical ingredients that make a successful panto-mime than Christopher Biggins.

For almost 40 years, this happy-golucky I'm A Celebrity . . .winner has starred as one of the most popular panto dames up and down the country, playing such famous characters as Widow Twankey, Sarah the Cook and Baroness Hard-up.

He would have been strutting about the panto stage once again this year in one of those over-thetop disguises if it hadn't been for his decision to accept an invitation to go into the jungle. . . .

Willard: The buildings they left behind

January 3, 2008

State hospital near Ithaca has ties to Binghamton asylum

For a column that covers buildings of historic interest in the Southern Tier, Willard State Hospital is a stretch. OK, more than a stretch -- not in the Tier at all, Willard is on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, about 25 miles from Ithaca.

But an article on Willard seems appropriate for a couple of reasons. For one, there are some parallels to our Binghamton asylum. Both facilities were constructed in the 1860s. Similar in purpose, construction and operation, over the years they would respond identically to changing societal attitudes toward mental health. They would grow fast to keep pace with increasing demand, reach their peak in the late 1950s, then experience a steady decline in population. Twenty years ago many of their buildings were closed and abandoned.

Over recent years, several of Willard's buildings have been rehabilitated and reused. Today, the campus is operated by the New York State Department of Corrections as a drug treatment center, correctional facility and training academy. Unfortunately, like the Binghamton campus, many of the original buildings have been demolished. The few that remain vacant are deteriorating; some are unsalvageable.

There are other local connections: After Binghamton's short-lived New York State Inebriate Asylum was converted to an "asylum for the chronic insane," many patients were transferred from Willard to the Binghamton facility.

One of those was Lucy. In today's terms, Lucy would be described as a transgender individual. But in 1879, because she chose to dress and behave as a man, Lucy was committed to the Willard asylum for the insane. Shortly after that, she was transferred to the asylum at Binghamton, where she remained for more than 30 years until her death. Lucy was buried here in the asylum cemetery, and as is the case with most graves at both the Binghamton and Willard cemeteries, her nameless, numbered grave marker has long since been lost. . . .

Treasures of the Tier is a monthly column covering historic preservation issues in the Southern Tier. Luther may be contacted at

Losing Male Privilege

Jan 3, 2008

Pam's House Blend. . .always steamin'

As a WBT who came out at 21 in 1969 my first awareness was that when I looked for work now I was going to have to look under the "Help Wanted _ Women" ads. For jobs that paid less than those offered to men.

I didn't protest that this was treating me as a lesser human because I was in transition. I was in SDS and I developed a feminist consciousness. So I marched on the SF Chronicle and Examiner offices with several hundred other women to demand the end to sex segregated ads.

In her book "Whipping Girl" Julia Serano points out that much of what TG/TS people think is transphobia is actually misogyny.

The goal of the process of transition is to become female or male and to live in society as a member of the sex to which one is being surgically reassigned. It isn't to move to some sort of third status of "Transgender". Most of us who enter treatment for TS/HBS recognize that. For us transition is a period of life transformation during which time we come to realized "Hey, this is the way women are treated in society". We then either embrace the feminine mystique or we become feminists even if we are the sort that say, "I'm not a feminist but I believe in equal pay."

Embracing the identity politics of transgender is a way of saying, "I want to dress as a woman, not get SRS and keep all my male privilege but be treated like a woman." . . .

Drunken flies get hypersexual

Chronic boozing sends male flies chasing after any and every potential mate.

Fruit flies get amorous under the influence of constant booze.Fruit flies get amorous under the influence of constant booze.GETTY

From the annals of insect biology comes a cautionary tale for those recovering from their post-New Year’s celebration: heavy boozing has been shown to send male fruitflies, like their human counterparts, into a lusty fog.

In the flies, hypersexuality caused by chronic alcohol exposure has the effect of making the males chase anything with wings — other males included. Although sexual preference in humans is obviously a complex phenomenon not replicated by the fly work, the findings could be used to further establish a fly model system for the study of alcoholism, observers say. . . .