“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower
by Michael Ann Dobbs / io9.com
There have been plenty of young-adult novels about young people searching for their identity — literally or figuratively. But few have taken the concept as far as Every Day, the new young-adult novel from David Levithan, the co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. This is a coming-of-age story that manages to pack some age-old philosophical questions about selfhood and the body into an unconventional love story.
In Every Day, A is an identity without a body. Each day, A wakes up in a new body of another 16 year-old. A has almost none of the usual markers of identity: A is genderless, sexless, without race or eye color, neither attractive nor unattractive. A takes these qualities from the bodies A inhabits. While A has access to the bodies’ memories, A experiences the world differently from the individuals he or she inhabits. And A has no control over whose body he or she will end up in tomorrow. A has, over the years, developed a sort of moral code built primarily around a strict non-interference policy. Which all comes crashing down when A wakes up in the body of Justin and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon.
A tries to stay in touch with Rhiannon, which is difficult when A is different person each day. Eventually A tells Rhiannon the truth about his or her existence. From there, the book focuses on the young couple’s struggles to establish a relationship, when A is never sure who he or she will be tomorrow. A’s experiences as all these different people could have been nothing more than vignettes, but A’s love for Rhiannon and desire to see her again is in the background of each of these lives, complicating everything A does.
There are plenty of signs that the book could have turned into a more run-of-the-mill thriller about a unique supernatural being discovering its race or some other ridiculous plot. Luckily, Levithan stuck to the love story. He also uses the first person — thus avoiding the unfortunate “he or she” that I’ve used above. The book has an overall dreamy, fantastic quality that fits A’s wise beyond his or her years personality. While many of the daily episodes and interactions are very grounded, together they add up to something poetic. A’s life is, necessarily, deeply internal and this is reflected in the language.
One of the things I loved about the book was it defies easy labels just as much as A does. It’s a contemporary YA romance, but it’s also not just a romance book. It’s a fantasy book, in that there is no technology or rational scientific explanation for A’s existence or ability to move between bodies, but it’s not like any other fantasy books. It’s like a science-fiction book, to the extent that it’s about big difficult-to-answer questions, explored through an incredible narrative, but again there’s no tech or science. It’s just a unique lovely book about young love and identity, wrapped up in the impossible.
This isn’t necessarily Levithan’s first venture into speculative fiction — his poetic novel Boy Meets Boy takes place in what could only be described as an alternate or near future universe in which the school’s popular, quarterback is also a drag queen — but he is better known for his co-authoring of realistic teen fiction like the aforementioned Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. He was also involved in editing The Hunger Games. In fact, he’s probably the busiest person in YA fiction. Aside from writing and editing, he also organizes readings and teaches in the Writing for Children program at The New School (where, full disclosure, I had him as a professor).
“Anything that lives were it would seem that nothing could live, enduring extremes of heat and cold, sunlight and storm, parching aridity and sudden cloudbursts, among burnt rocks and shifting sands, any such creature, beast, bird, or flower, testifies to the grandeur and heroism inherent in all forms of life. Including the human. Even in us.”–Edward Abbey
I was in Boston and had opportunity to shoot some video of the veterans memorial in the Boston Commons…
by Helen Hill MFT
The holidays can be a very lonely time of year for anyone who, because of their uniqueness, finds himself or herself without family, and sometimes, friends. Sharing the time with others can be a salve for those who are tolerated or accepted. But for those of us who are unique, whether transsexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or suffering from some physical malady, and we find ourselves alone, it can be a challenge to just get through the holidays.
Families are defined by blood. Often, that is a mistake. Sometimes there are those relatives (by blood) whose views and outlooks would be offensive and cruel to any outsider — to any kind and compassionate soul. The challenge is to surround ourselves with a family we choose, who love us and accept us for who we are, rather than for what we are not.
If family during the holidays is defined by accepting only those people like themselves, then we have learned nothing about tolerance, acceptance, and compassion. Let us not make the same mistakes as those poor souls who live in fear of what they do not understand, and the resulting cruelty that manifests itself in the name of “family.”
What I would emphasize to all gender-variant individuals is that the holidays are NO TIME to be making major decisions about one’s life, one’s circumstances, one’s issues, or one’s family. Suicide is never good any time. But the holidays have a way of making us, what I like to call, “temporarily isolated” or “temporarily inconsolable.” The emphasis, though, should be on the word TEMPORARY.
During this tough economic time, many are suffering. And even in good economic times, during the holidays, there are so many people who find themselves spending the holiday alone, whether transgendered or not. And then there are those who do spend the holidays with their relatives and come back even more depressed and/or vulnerable than before they left.
Family and holidays can be very difficult even in the best of times. No matter what, whether spending holidays with friends and family, or spending them alone, I would recommend that no one make major life changing, irreversible decisions.
For those who find themselves depressed or alone during the holidays, the secret to success is to just get through them!
Survival is success!
The sun will come out tomorrow. There will be a chance for a new day and new beginnings. And hope does not take a raincheck during holidays. It is still there, even if it seems harder to grasp.
As you have doubtless heard many times before, even if you don’t feel like doing something, DO SOMETHING! A walk, a movie, reading a good book, or an activity. Invite another friend over for tea, or meet for a lunch or dinner. Some online support forums can be quite helpful during these times as well.
Solution Focused Therapy provides three very simple, yet effective, suggestions:
- If it is not broken, don’t fix it
- It it is working, do more of it
- If it is NOT working, change it
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is not a character flaw or a weakness to ask for help. On the contrary, it is one of the healthiest things a person can learn to do – knowing when to ask for help. This link http://gendersanctuary.com/resourceshelp.htm lists a number of resources that can be helpful during difficult times.
Make the time less about the holiday, and more about self-care.
But most of all, never use a temporary situation to make a permanent, unalterable decision. Never.
Hope and peace are always in season.
by Robert T. Gonzalez / io9.com
Guess what, everyone — it turns out men aren’t as horny as unsubstantiated statistics say they are! According to a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Sex Research, your typical college-aged guy thinks about sex an average of 18 times a day — that’s less than twice the frequency of the average college-aged woman, and nowhere near the once-every-seven-seconds “statistic” that we’re all so familiar with.
Psychologist Terri Fisher, who led the study, describes her team’s testing methods, and its interesting results:
By means of a golf tally counter, 283 college students kept track of their [so-called “need-based”] thoughts pertaining to food, sleep, or sex for one week. Males reported significantly more need-based cognitions overall, but there was no significant interaction between sex of participant and type of cognition recorded. Therefore, although these young men did think more about sex than did young women, they also thought more about food and sleep.
Fisher claims her study suggests that men may be a little more in touch with their “physical state” throughout the day. Of course, potential explanations for this observation abound. Maybe, posits Fisher, men are just more comfortable racking up their clicker numbers:
“People who always give socially desirable responses to questions are perhaps holding back and trying to manage the impression they make on others,” Fisher explains. “In this case, we’re seeing that women who are more concerned with the impression they’re making tend to report fewer sexual thoughts, and that’s because thinking about sexuality is not consistent with typical expectations for women.”
Supporting Fisher’s hypothesis is a finding from the study which demonstrates that the best indicator for how often a person thinks about sex is not their gender, but their score on a sexual opinion survey designed to measure their “emotional orientation toward sexuality,” as gauged by a so-called “erotophilia” score:
“If you had to know one thing about a person to best predict how often they would be thinking about sex,” explained Fisher, “you’d be better off knowing their emotional orientation toward sexuality, as opposed to knowing whether they were male or female.”
“Frequency of thinking about sex is related to variables beyond one’s biological sex.”
LONDON (Reuters) – Ever since she can remember, Katherine Cummings knew she had been born into the wrong body.
“I knew I was transgendered as far back as memories go,” said the 76-year old, formerly called John, who works at Australia’s Gender Center for people with gender issues. “Four years of age or so.”
Since her 1930s childhood, the lives of transgender people have improved dramatically in many countries. But discrimination remains widespread. Hundreds of transgender people are killed every year and many live in constant fear of attack.
“Transgenders often suffer violence, physical and social, from their families, including spouses, parents, children and siblings,” Cummings said.
She spoke to Trustlaw ahead of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20 which commemorates those who have been killed because of their gender identity.
Founded after the 1998 murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Massachusetts, the day now has a global following.
In the first nine months of 2011, 116 transgender people were murdered globally, according to Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM), a project coordinated by non-profit association Transgender Europe.
Their research indicates there have been at least 681 reports of murders in 50 countries since 2008.
It was at the age of 51, after marrying and fathering three children, that Cummings was finally ready for gender reassignment.
Despite the pervasive discrimination, she says gender activists are winning some battles. Cummings points to significant developments over the last decade, such as the recent ruling that Australians can change their gender on passports without surgery – to male, female or indeterminate.
“I feel, on the whole. looking back over the past few decades, that matters are slowly improving,” said Cummings, whose book about her transition, “Katherine’s Diary,” won the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 1992 non-fiction award.
Seven of this year’s murders were in the United States, TMM said. Washington D.C. hit headlines this year after a series of attacks against transgender people – one of them the fatal shooting of 23-year-old transgender woman Myles Mclean.
“I look forward to the day that no one has to hide or be killed, or bullied or teased or rejected simply for being the person they believe themselves to be,” said Eva-Genevieve Scarborough, 56, who is helping organize a remembrance event in Riverside, California.
“Society needs to be made aware that atrocities such as the murder of trans folks are still happening all around the world.”
Many transgender people seek surgery or hormones to change their physical gender. Others don’t, some by choice and some because discrimination or lack of means stop them accessing medical help.
Discrimination also damages their employment opportunities. And activists worldwide are battling to remove ‘gender identity disorder’ from lists of officially recognized mental illnesses.
Most of the murders of transgender people TMM recorded this year occurred in Latin America – 29 in Brazil, 22 in Mexico, 11 in Venezuela and 10 in Colombia, as well as murders in 10 other Latin American countries.
TMM also noted murders in Turkey, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Poland.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said in May that hate crimes against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people are on the rise around the world.
“Transgender people face the worst challenges, regardless of which country they are coming from or situated in,” Liesl Theron, executive director of Gender dynamiX, an organization supporting transgender and transsexual rights in South Africa, told TrustLaw (www.trust.org/trustlaw), a legal news service run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Usually trans people are on the fringes of society, and the most marginalized.”
In a 2008 paper on transgender people in Africa, she cited examples of transgender women across the continent being beaten and imprisoned.
“Most African countries still have some form of legal action, legislation and laws against homosexuality and sodomy (which includes all forms of being a trans person),” she wrote.
Poor access to medical services is the number one challenge in much of Africa, she added.
Theron quoted one Ugandan activist as saying that doctors often refuse to treat transgender people and even sometimes tip off police, leading to arrests.
Trans people in Uganda have been forced to resort to self-medication with dangerous long-term implications, the activist added.
In South Africa, the transgender community has won some victories – the Department of Home Affairs agreed this October to change the gender and forenames of a transgender woman. Yet people awaiting gender-reassignment surgery still join a seven-year waiting list.
Slowly, gender rights are improving in many countries. But the discrimination is proving hard to stamp out.
“Humanity has an ingrained need for a ‘pecking order,’ that sets some people up as superior to others,” said Cummings of Australia’s Gender Center. “Transgender (people) will be a target for bigots for a long time.”
On the other side of the world, British children’s charity Mermaids works to help children who, like Cummings nearly eight decades ago, feel they were born in the wrong body.
Testimonies published on the charity’s website, written by children with gender identity issues, bring home the confusion and harassment faced by so many.
“As a child, I acted as my real self, but then the bullying started,” reads an extract from a poem that one of these children, Sophie, wrote at the age of 15.
“Why was I born a lie?” the piece ends.
BY AMY WILLMOTT
ANCHOR ANA COMPAIN-ROMERO
Sunday is the 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, and in its honor talk show host Anderson Cooper interviewed an eight-year-old who spoke out about the difficulties of being born into the wrong gender.
From age two, Danann, born a boy, insisted that she was really a girl . After years of bullying and threats of suicide, her parents finally made the controversial decision to let their child live as a girl. Danann revealed to Cooper that she is much happier living as who she wants to be.
Cooper interviewed several other children, parents and experts in the hour-long episode, ‘Children & Teens Trapped in the Wrong Bodies’. In the episode, it wasn’t just the issues faced by the children that were discussed, as the show’s website reveals.
“While children may face ridicule at school and internal conflict, parents, too, have their fair share of emotional hurdles to jump when raising a transgender child.”
In their interview, Danann’s parents shared advice to parents in similar situations.
“You didn’t do something to cause this. It is just how, just like conjoined twins are born conjoined or you’re born with a cleft palette. This is just how you know, they’re born and,”
“It’s no ones fault.”
“It’s no ones fault. And it’s your child, you know, to be there with your child.”
The episode aired on the same day that a bill protecting transgender people from discrimination passed both houses of state legislation in Massachusetts. ABC reportsthat this is a positive step, especially against violence.
“Hate Crime statistics suggest transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence than other members of the LGBT community. If the bill is passed, perpetrators that target people based on gender identity would face the same penalties as those who target people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.”
Danann will soon be featuring in a feature length documentary which follows the lives of others who deal with discrimination within the transgender world.