Faking It

Faking It is a television show that first premiered on MTV in April, 2014. The show takes place mostly at and around Hester High School which is located near Austin, Texas. Unlike every other high school in America, at Hester High School being weird or abnormal is what lands you a seat atop the schools hierarchy of popularity. The show follows a series of main characters, all of which are struggling to not only gain or keep their rank of popularity, but are also struggling to identify their own personal selves throughout the tough journey we all undergo through high school. Throughout the series, the characters display several aspects that pertain to a lot of what we discuss in class, which is queer culture.

When the show begins, we are introduced to two of the main characters, Karma and Amy. They are sophomores at Hester High School and are also best friends. The dynamic duo is portrayed as being willing to do anything to gain a spot amongst the popular crowd. This aspect is tested when Shane Harvey, who is also a main character, accidentally assumes Karma and Amy are a lesbian couple, when in reality they are just best friends. Initially the pair’s reaction was to state that they were not actually a couple; however, when the two of them realized how popular they became from being known as Hester High School’s first out lesbian couple, they decide to hide their true identities rather than losing their new found popularity. Shane Harvey, the boy who ‘outs’ Karma and Amy is one of Hester’s most popular students and plays the role of an out and proud male student who loves unveiling the skeletons hiding in the closets of his fellow classmates. Later on in the series another main character, Liam Booker, who is Shane’s best friend ends up falling for Karma and throwing kinks in Karma and Amy’s attempt to keep their popularity by prolonging their charade of being a lesbian couple. As the series goes on, the show displays many of the struggles faced by students in high school. From Amy falling for her best friend Karma, to Karma falling for Liam and likewise for Liam himself, the show depicts the main characters as finding out tremendous amounts about themselves through the relationships and friendships which they experience throughout their encounters with their classmates. The last main character that is really of relevance to the aspect of queer culture is Amy’s step sister, Lauren Cooper. Lauren is initially depicted as the new girl who is quickly very popular but soon faces her own demons when she is ‘outed’ as being intersex.

I first began watching Faking It when the series first premiered on MTV. I related to the show and even though I found myself constantly thinking, “Wow, this would never actually happen in high school.” I could not help but to fall in love with the show because of the fact that the show handles a lot of issues and is not afraid to throw awkward situations into the audience’s face. The show not only handles issues such as Amy struggling to determine her own sexuality, but it also shows the struggles of Amy’s sister Lauren who is intersex. In many ways the struggles Lauren is depicted to have resonates with our classroom discussions of the struggles which members of the transgender community face. Though Lauren is intersex and not transgender, I found it interesting that she was depicted to suffer from such similar circumstances as those who brave the ridicule that is associated with being a member of the transgender community. Another aspect of the series that I found to be quiet interesting was that many of the struggles the characters where shown to go through made me think back to when we read Martha Shelley’s. “Gay Is Good.” I recall that she spoke about how one of the worst parts about being a homosexual was not the way that they are punished by law enforcement or by society as a whole, but the fact that those who identify as being homosexuals often believed that the fact that they as individuals identified as being gay was something that was not to be revealed. Martha Shelly basically states that it is the general knowledge that being a homosexual means that you are something that is so bad that is should not even be revealed or shared, and I feel that many of the characters in this series show characteristics of identifying with Martha Shelley’s statement. All of the main characters have resentment towards themselves because in some way or another they do not feel that who they truly are is someone or something that can be openly discussed. I feel that many of the characters are shown to  believe that who they are as people is something that they are ashamed to show others which as stated, is how Shelley talks about how it feels to be a member of the homosexual community. I love the manner in which the show depicts the struggles members of the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis and how it affects them as people, and I also love how much it pertains to the day to day discussions and readings we have for class.

 

Jin Xing: I don’t want the world to change me too much

Jin Xing is probably the most renown representative of the LGBT society in China. She entered the military’s dance troupe in ShenYang, China, at the age of 9. She was the first Chinese who received full scholarship from the United States and she came to New York to study modern dance. She then went to Europe, including rome, to travel and teach modern dance. In 1995, 26 years old Jin Xing decided to perform a sex reassignment surgery and become a woman. As a well-known choreographer and dancer, Jin Xing now owns her own dance company, her own talk show. She knows five languages and she is a wife, and the mother of three children.

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One unique thing about Jin Xing is that, she does not see herself as a transsexual, she see herself as a woman instead. She is successful not as a transgender, but as a person, a woman. People also do not refer her as a transgender woman. If you ask a Chinese about Jin Xing, I believe most of them will regard her as “the legendary female dancer and choreographer”, instead of “a successful transgender woman”. In contrast, Caitlyn Jenner, who just got the ESPY award, is still having an public image of a transgender. Jenner’s speeches, including her show “I am Cait”, emphasize on her process of becoming a women and how hard was it. During our discussion in class, many people said they think Caitlyn was really fake in her show. This is completely opposite with Jin Xing, who is also known as the “poison tongue” in China, because she only say the real words. Jin Xing Also, While Caitlyn Jenner is trying to influence the world of transgender people with her experience, Jin Xing is being a role model herself, as a transgender woman, who is a dancer, choreographer, a talk show host, and a talent show judge. Jin Xing is trying to influence the world by being successful while still being herself.

On the other hand, JinJXg Xing’s determination led to her success. At a young age, Jin Xing was determined that she wants to pursue a career as a dancer. She used hunger strike to persuade her mom to let her learn dancing. Being a transgender in China is definitely more difficult than in the U.S., especially at that time when Jin Xing did the surgery. Transgender was still kind of a taboo and being homosexual was a crime in China. Also, the technology was not that advanced. One has to be really determined to make this decision and to be willing to bear the consequence. An accident during the surgery almost paralyzed her leg and doctor told her she may never be able to walk again. However, she practice hard with her paralyzed leg and believed that she will be able to dance again, and she did.

Jin Xing is definitely one the most influential women in China. She has her own unique way when looking at things including politics and problems in China, and they are always presented in a humorous way in her talk show. Those are her personal ideas and she is speaking by heart. She said that, “I don’t want to change the world, but I also don’t want the world to change me too much. I just want to be myself.”JX2

Real Man Adventures

Real Man Adventures, shown below, is a novel by a transgender man named T Cooper. It was published in 2012 making it a pretty recent book. This book is essentially a transgender memoir. Although the word memoir is never actually used to in the book, that’s basically what it is. Cooper talks about many different things throughout the novel ranging from sex to violence to transgender violence to when he “knew”.

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My favorite chapter in this book is called “A Few Words About Pronouns”. This chapter starts out with “what’s the first thing people ask when a woman is going to have a baby? Is it a boy or a girl?” Everybody cares about a baby’s sex and nothing more. The main concern of people is what’s in someone’s pants. The question second to that is, as T Cooper says, “is it healthy?”, but that isn’t the main concern. This links in to queer culture because as we all know sex does not necessarily correlate with gender. Within the chapter Cooper goes on to talk about how when he first started using male pronouns people would screw up, and he would be like no it’s okay, it’s probably hard for you. He then said “I stopped being so goddamn accommodating and started gently correcting people”. That’s a big deal. The point in which you stop letting people screw up because they don’t feel like getting it right is a big step. It is an uncomfortable thing but as he said “…you know what’s mildly uncomfortable? Not being seen for who you are, especially by people who are supposed to know and love you”.

This chapter of the book as well as the entire book relates back to our class very well. I think it connects very much with Susan Stryker’s transgender rage. The novel itself is all transgender rage filled. Throughout the book, Cooper words things in a somewhat bitter and cynical way with a hint of some “dark” humor. In the chapter I spoke about, when he wrote “…you know what’s mildly uncomfortable? Not being seen for who you are, especially by people who are supposed to know and love you”, I believe it channeled the anger and bitterness of how he felt when people screwed his pronouns up without really trying. I personally understand that feeling of anger and bitterness about things like that. It’s easily equated with Stryker’s description of transgender rage.

Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology

In the published 1988 book the Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology coordinating editor Will Roscoe puts together a collection of modern writings from gay and lesbian Native Americans – poetry, short stories, essays – and historical studies of alternate sexuality in some of the tribes. A time when gays and lesbians were starting to be heard and experimented with their own sexuality and identity. This book begins with this empowering quote I found mesmerizing:

The day I saw a poster declaring the existence of an organization of Gay American Indians, I put my face into my hands and sobbed with relief. A huge burden, the burden of isolation and of being defined only by one’s enemies, left me on that enlightening day.
I understood that being Gay is a universal quality , like cooking, like decorating the body, like singing, like predicting the weather. Moreover, after learning about the social positions and special offices fulfilled by Indians whose tribes once picked them for the tasks of naming, healing, prediction, leadership, and teaching precisely because the displayed characteristics we call gay, I knew that Gayness goes far beyond simple sexual/emotional activity. What Americans call Gayness not only has distinct cultural characteristics, its participants have long held positions of social power in history and ritual among people all over the globe
.”- Judy Grahn,

Another Mother Tongue

In the second story “Tinselled Bucks: a Historical Study of Indian Homosexuality” by Maurice Kenny discusses the problems of lack of sources for original material, as well as deliberates between the berdaches – men who lived as women and women who lived as men – and men and women living their gender roles who preferred to be sexually and emotionally involved with others of their gender and gender roles. He discusses the different terms and customs of berdaches in various tribes, as well as the levels of importance that many berdaches held in certain cultures, where they were often respected as people of great magic.

Toleration of the berdache varied from tribe to tribe. Some tribes, such as the Illinois, actually trained young men to become homosexuals and concubines of men. The Cheyenne and the Sioux of the plains may not have purposely trained young men to become berdaches but certainly accepted homosexuals more readily than perhaps other tribes(Maurice Kenny, page 26).

This type of behavior also relates to our class discussion on Ancient Greece, and their pederasty affiliations. Relations in ancient Greece was between adult men and pubescent or adolescent boys, as well as homosexual relationships between adult men did existed. The age limit for the younger member of a pederastic relationship seems to have extended from 12 to about 17 years of age. This was a normal practice among men and was not frowned upon by anyone. In particular the Zuni tribe children were not referred to as girl or boy until around the age of five, before coming of that age, they were perceived as “child”. But as these young children began to grow older a “third gender” would soon be created as adolescents. The 130 North American Indians created a third gender defining as:

“If a cultures sex/gender system makes it possible for a biological female to become a social man, then “he” is not engaging in “cross dressing” when dressing as a male, or in “ross gender” behavior by assuming the culturally defined male role. Neither is “he” engaging in lesbian behavior by having sexual relations with women. Because he is a socially recognized man, such relations would be defined as “normal”(Anishnawbe, page 35).

(page 200)

As I read this poem by Anishnawbe, I felt his pain as a two spirit being afraid to embrace himself, this picture is so beautifully drawn and resembles a perfect unity in one person.

To reiterate discussion on Sigmund Freud, I would put the “two spirits” under the category of “superego”. Not only did these Native American tribes believe the two spirits had a duty to the village, but opened up a new civilization where they were welcomed and praised by past and future generations to come. I chose to write about this topic for the main fact that not much primary source material has been found nor discussed at larger scale even though it is incorporated in the LGBTQ scale. It is important in the Native American culture and should continue to be known In our Americanized culture today. It paved the way for gender identity, reforming outlooks on past history, and acceptance of the “third gender”. It belongs in queer culture as an inspirational embodiment to not only for the organization GAI (Gay American Indians) today, but to people of all ages and races nationwide.

Joan Jett, it’s all in the Lyrics

Born Joan Larkin, Joan Jett soon became a name that was the foundation of a major change and movement in the world of rock and roll. Little did everyone know at the time, Jett would later become a name in rock and roll that will never be forgotten. Jett formed her first actual band, The Runaways, at the age of 15 in 1975. The Runaways, which was the first all girl rock band mainly produced music that was considered hard rock. Though The Runaways only lasted a couple short years before breaking up, Jett continued to fight the status quote by being a strong woman in the predominately male dominated world of rock and roll. Jett eventually went on to try to find a record label which would accept her work only to be turned down 23 times. Jett was so frustrated that with a help from Kenny Laguna she created her own record label, Blackheart Records. This made Jett the first woman artist to not only own, but also have direct control over an independent record label.

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Throughout her career, Jett often pushed the envelope by being not just the average woman who sang in a band. Jett was the only woman on the scene throughout the late 1970’s and on who was not dressed in a cute outfit singing the words to some song about her boyfriend or what have you (like all the other female singers did). Jett, on the other hand was the lead singer and guitarist for her band, which produced hard rock music such as I Love Rock ’n’ Roll. The almost grunge rock sound in her voice and the way she was not afraid to really get into her music like the men in rock and roll did set Jett apart from all other female singers at that time. The songs she wrote and produced through her record label also set her apart from all the other female singers at the time.

Jett’s music was often geared towards those of us in society who feel like social outcasts. Even though Jett does not really step into the spotlight much to speak on such social issues, some of her songs such as Androgynous tell a story of people who do not necessarily feel comfortable with their gender. Throughout Androgynous Jett tells a story of a man and a woman who are similar to what someone today might consider as being gender fluid. Meaning that one day they wake up and want to wear a dress, and the next day they might want to wear a leather biker jacket with chains (clearly not being very girly but rather masculine instead), both of the choices being available regardless of their assigned genders. As we have discussed in class this is not uncommon for people to want to dress in the opposite manner that society decides is appropriate for their biological genders. Though Jett does not outright publicly advocate these ideas in terms of speaking on behalf of such issues, she does advocate them through her music and personal style.

Gender Diversity Creeping Into Society

For so long, we have only been able to choose our gender from a dichotomy: male or female. However, within the past two years, there has finally been some progressive activity towards recognition of multiple and varying gender identities. One of the most popular social media websites, Facebook, created a multitude of gender options for its users at the beginning of 2014. Now, in 2015, there are a few progressive universities following suit. While not as diverse as Facebook’s options, the University of Vermont, the University of California, the University of Albany, and Harvard University have all taken steps towards more open gender expression and recognition. While the simple pronouns of he and she may not seem important, to many people in the world, these small recognitions are giant leaps forward in gender acceptance.

Referring to someone not by their name, but by their gender pronouns is so second nature to the human brain that most of us put little to no thought into it after we see what a person looks like; more often than not, we recognize an abundance of masculine or feminine qualities in a person which is then followed by an immediate and subconscious assignment of the pronouns “he” or “she.” What a good chunk of people do not realize, though, is that there are a significant number of individuals who either do not identify as the gender those individuals outwardly express or who do not even identify as the traditional male or female genders.

“Gender’s very flexibility and seeming fluidity is precisely what allows dimorphic gender to hold sway.” -J.J. Halberstam

As we have read from Leslie Feinberg, transgender habits, thoughts, and ways of life are not new concepts or practices, and, in fact, they have not only been around in most documented cultures, but they have even endured through the worst of hardships. This furthers arguments made by J.J. Halberstam as well; Halberstam understands that we as a society don’t have strictly male and female identities, but rather masculine and feminine qualities which we designate as male or female. Consequently, this leads him to ask why we don’t already have multiple gender expressions and identities in our society. Perhaps we, as a society, have made little progress due to the male and female categories being “so elastic” as Halberstam describes; or perhaps Feinberg’s gender continuum already exists—not in the form of multiple gender identities, but rather with these “elastic” categories of male and female. Maybe this is why the gender binary has endured for so long; maybe the elastic male and female continuum is adequate. However, contrary to what the mass populous has deemed satisfactory for so long, many people and institutions have determined the current gender binary to be sub par.

“It is apparent that there are many ways for women and men to be; everything in nature is a continuum.” -Leslie Feinberg

Fortunately, in the past two years, progressive institutions have taken steps forward to queer our normative culture by forcing alternative gender identities into our binary system. These institutions are not simply radically suggesting that individuals should have more than two options when trying to identify one’s gender; instead, they are recognizing these identities by enforcing the various identities under the domain of their own institution. While not standardized between the institutions, each is making small steps towards a, hopefully, national change.

Examples of Gender Pronouns

Some Facebook Gender Options

Recognition as simple as a third gender of neutral—like that at the University of Vermont—or just the option to choose your own gender pronouns—like Harvard University—could make a drastic change in the lives of transgendered and gender-nonconforming people. These smaller changes nationwide could be a more conservative addition to our society’s tight gender binary; after people get used to the small changes, options to have multiple and varied gender options like that at the University of California and the University of Albany—universities at which students can choose between six or more options ranging from the standard male to trans woman to gender-queer—could be a progressive outlook for the future. Although our society may never get to official public recognition of the 50+ gender options listed on Facebook, these institutions are creating a path for future movement in gender expression.

If we’ve learned anything from the past, it is that gender differences and ambiguities exist within the seemingly everlasting male/female binary. We may be destined to stay within dichotomies, but I think we are starting to see that change is eminent. Because of these small, yet revolutionary, changes in gender recognition, I believe these institutions deserve a spot in this archive.

Vanity Fair’s Not So Relatable Special Edition Issue

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This “special edition” magazine was created by GQ, the New Yorker, Vogue, Glamour, and Vanity Fair and published on August 18, 2015. The issue of this magazine features a bunch of transgender women and some transgender men. There are a ton of different pieces on transitioning, the struggles of being transgender, gender identity and expression, even the murder of Brandon Teena (which the movie “Boys Don’t Cry” is based off of), and many more things. It is interesting insight from each writer and their article. This issue was making an effort to help people understand the lives of transgender people.

Now, what makes this “special edition” so special? Well as people who are familiar with the transgender community, it should be known that there isn’t much transgender representation in popular media. Although the representation has increased in recent years, it is still not where it “should” be. GQ, the New Yorker, Vogue, Glamour, and Vanity Fair are all really big magazines and the representation that was given here was much appreciated. Yes this issue has some flaws, which I plan to talk about later in this piece, but any attempt to teach cisgender people things about life as a transgender person is very much appreciated by the community. One of the pieces is about a transgender boy named Skylar. The piece, About A Boy, talks about Skylar’s social/internal transition (his feeling like he wasn’t a girl when he was younger) as well as his medical transition. This is what makes this edition so special.

How does this relate to our class? Today we were talking about Caitlyn Jenner’s ability to relate to the average transgender person or lack thereof. This whole magazine is full of transgender people most of us other transfolk cannot relate to. Laverne Cox is the only one that has a relatable story behind her. Now, back to the not relatable people. Each transgender person has a different level of difficulty to relate to. The ones on the “maybe some can relate to” side are Jazz and Skylar. It is difficult to relate to both of them because most transgender children, teens, and even adults struggle with families not accepting that. That’s just how it goes. Also, unlike Jazz, most transgender children don’t have a reality television show. Just saying.

Then on the far side that is “this is not relatable whatsoever to 99% of the transgender community” set of folks. The main person in that category would be Caitlyn Jenner. Really, how many transgender people come out and in less than 6 months look flawless in the body they’re supposed to be in? Not many. Most transgender people are in a lower socio-economic class because there is nothing protecting them in the workplace. Inside the magazine on one of the first five pages it says, “90% of transgender people have faced disrespect, discrimination, or violence in some critical aspect of their life including in employment, housing, and healthcare simply for being who they are”. That really does make it hard to relate to her and to get the “Caitlyn Jenner effect” of transitioning quickly and flawlessly. With that said, however, each transgender person is somewhat relatable. This is only because they all have the struggle and pain of being born in the wrong body. I am not trying to undermine anybody’s struggle; it’s just that, in the words of Nicky Nichols from Orange is the New Black, “some shit stinks worse than other shit”.

The History of Pride Flags

The very first gay pride flag made its first appearance in 1978. The original flag had eight colors. Today’s gay pride flag has only six colors. Each of the colors represent a different aspect of life. The first gay pride flag was created by Gilbert Baker. He is an artist from San Francisco. Among the gay pride flag there is other pride flags that represent different pride groups. Some of these other pride flags are Leather Pride, Bear Pride, Bisexual Pride, Lesbian Pride, Transgender Pride, Asexual Pride, and Feather Pride. These are only a few of the other pride there is many more. The other main one that I want to focus on is the Bear Pride flag, because this was the next pride flag that was created. Craig Byrnes was the designer of the Bear Pride flag. He came up with the official design in 1995 as the bear pride community was growing. Each color represents all the different types of real bears all around the world.

                        

(the flag on the left is the original 8 color flag and the flag in the middle is the present 6 color flag and the flag on the right is the ear pride flag)

Gay pride and bear pride along with leather pride are the top three pride groups that usually attend pride fests. In class we watched a short clip from “Where the Bears Are”. This is an internet show about the Bear pride community. It is a comedy mystery web series which won the 2012 “Best Gay Web Series”. It has become a big hit ever since it made its debut in 2012 with over 10 million hits. This show represents basically one group of gay men who are very hairy and have a larger masculine body structure. These men also usually have facial hair as well as chest hair. The Bear pride community has many different slang terms to describe what type of bear every man is that’s in the community. Another short web clip we watched in class was “Easy Abby”. This is a web series based on a lesbian who has a lot of girlfriends that she doesn’t remember when she runs into them after not seeing them for a little while after they broke up. Both web series are based on gay people weather they are men or women. Before other pride groups were formed and came up with their own pride flags they all would have originally used the rainbow gay pride flag to support their sexuality. But now each gay group has their own pride flag. there is a pride flag for transgender people, lesbians, straight, asexual, and many more different groups.

       

I chose to do my history archive on the history of the most common gay pride flags because not many people realize that there is more than just the original rainbow (gay) pride flag. Along with the gay pride flag being one of the most popular pride flags, the bear pride flag is also one of the three most popular pride flags as well. Bear pride has been growing more popular since 1995 when the official design of their flag was debuted to the community. No matter how many different gay pride flags there is the original gay pride flag (the rainbow flag) will never fade away because it is what has formed our community and shaped the future for other pride flags to come to gay groups that do not have a special flag of their own. We all share the original pride flag, but like to stand out with our own pride flag that represents who we truly are.

PrideFlags

 

Female Masking

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For many, the thought of wearing a silicone suit is entirely out of the question, but for some heterosexual men, that is exactly what they love to do. The men who wear these latex masks and silicon suits are part of a subculture most recently known as “Female Maskers”. A short documentary titled ‘Secrets of the Living Dolls’ aired on Channel 4 in the UK . It revealed the hidden community of men who put on rubber suits to look like women.

‘Female masking’ is primarily practiced by heterosexual men, some of which are actually married. The act of wearing a mask and a body suite (which consists of all the curves that make up a female body) is more of a fetish than anything else. Unlike transgender people, these ‘female maskers’ do not feel like they were born in the wrong body. For them, dressing up as a female rubber doll is simply a way to have fun.

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Femskin, one of the many up and rising companies that makes the $850 (approximately £518) custom-made silicone outfits worn by maskers, recently stated: ‘We don’t think it would be fair to call them gay or even attracted to other men.’ ‘It’s about fun. Not all of them even want to be hot. Some want to be nasty hags.’

“A lot of men have fun by pretending to be women”

 

Many of these ‘maskers’ spend a lot of time on their female alter egos. They name them, give them their own style and are sure to embrace the personality that best fits the fantasy they create for themselves while wearing the suits. images

The lifestyle these men live remind me a lot of the characters in Georges Bataille, The Story of the Eye. Much of the discussion in class, in regards to the first section of this novel, revolved around how weird the characters were.

The class, as a whole, considered it freaky that they went to great lengths to find different forms of pleasure.Urinating, which was one of the many pleasures these characters cherished, was something we regarded as gross and unimaginable. Likewise, much of today’s society is disgusted by the “fun” men find in dressing up like female rubber dolls.

These men, their rubber suits, and their “bizarre” way of finding pleasure in dressing like women parallel the characters in that novel. For them, it is just another way to have fun, just like for the characters, certain acts were just another way to have an orgasm. It gives imagination to the idea of a means to an end.

In the same manner any reader would deem the novel and its characters abnormal so does much of society (including the queer community) deem these maskers outlandishd.

The community of ‘Female Maskers’ is still fairly new. Consequently that means not much is known about their world and way of life. But, what is certain is that this fetish is growing tremendously popular. It is with much hope that in time these heterosexual men and their way of  having ‘fun’ will soon be accepted.

 

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised As a Girl

John Colapinto Author of As Nature Made Him PictureJohn Colapinto is most recently known for his New York Times bestselling novel “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised as a Girl.” The author grew up in Toronto Canada, and earned his master’s degree in English literature fairly close to home, at the University of Toronto. For the next several years he was a freelance writer for many local magazine companies in Canada. In order to pursue a more permanent career he made the decision to move to New York City, and he then wrote for many well-known magazine companies like Vanity Fair, New York Times, and the New Yorker. Six years later in 1995 he became the contributing editor for the Rolling Stones. During his time working there, John wrote a story about a medical scandal involving a botched circumcision. The story became so popular he won a National Magazine Award, and he evolved it into a novel in 2001. Today he lives in New York City with his wife and son.

As Nature Made Him Book CoverThe novel “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised as a Girl” by John Colapinto tells the tragic story of a young twin boy who had a botched circumcision. When he was only eight months old, a doctor used an electrocautery needle instead of a scalpel during a circumcision, which burned off his entire penis as a result. This forced a life changing decision for the parents to raise baby Bruce as a girl named Brenda, based on the persuasion by Dr. John Money, who strongly believed that “The sex a baby was born with didn’t matter; you could convert a baby from one sex to the other.” Like many other families, they believed the doctor knew best and they believed Dr. Money’s theory that if baby Bruce had a sex change by age of two and a half to three years old “she could be given a perfectly functional vagina, she would develop psychologically as a woman and would find her erotic attraction to men.” The Reimer’s agreed to the sex change simply because they wanted to give their child the best life he/she could have, and they honestly thought this would be the best option. They could not have been more wrong.

“The bestselling account of the now famous “Twins” case that became a touchstone in the debates on gender identity and nature versus nurture” –New York Times Book Review

Brenda Reimer

However, the family noticed as Brenda grew up that she was masculine in every way, she refused to play with any stereotypical girl toys and even stood up to pee instead of sitting down like a girl. I think her twin brother explained it best when he said, “When I say there was nothing feminine about Brenda, I mean there was nothing feminine. She walked like a guy. Sat with her legs apart. She talked about guy things, didn’t give a crap about cleaning the house, getting married, wearing makeup. We both wanted to play with guys, build forts and have snowball fights and play army.” The story goes in depth about how the Reimer family raised Brenda as a girl, how they dealt with her differences, and how Brenda struggled growing up feeling like a boy in a girl’s body. Everyday Brenda felt deeply confused, alone, and depressed because of her not feeling like the biological sex she was given. Until the age of fourteen, the parents refused to tell Brenda what really happened to her as a baby, because Dr. Money told them it would ruin the process and therefore they had to keep this a secret. Later in life when Brenda found out about this accident, she made the mature decision at the age of fifteen to have another sex change to become a male.

“I didn’t like dressing like a girl. I didn’t like behaving like a girl. I didn’t like acting like a girl.”

I think this novel belongs in the digital archive because although it is a sad and tragic story, it is the reality of living in a queer culture where you are not totally accepted. “I appear to be a tangled knot of gender contradictions. So they feverishly press the question on me; woman or man? Those are the only two words most people have as tools to shape their question.” This idea of gender contradictions would ultimately describe David Reimer’s struggle identifying with masculine things as Brenda, even though she knew this is not what girls are supposed to do.

“You don’t wake up one morning deciding if you’re a boy or a girl. You just know.”

David Reimer

“As Nature Made Him: The Boy Raised as a Girl” relates to the transgender unit in regards to the life of a transgender, as well as the idea of gender identity. I think this novel connected well with the article we read in class from the novel “Transgender Liberation a Movement Whose Time Has Come” by Leslie Feinberg. In the article she says “Our lives are proof that sex and gender are much more complex than a delivery room doctor’s glance at genitals can determine, more variegated than pink or blue birth caps. We are oppressed for not fitting those narrow social norms.” I think that quote explains David Reimer’s life because being raised as a girl, did not make her a girl. She refused to play with Barbies, she detested wearing pink dresses, and only wanted to do things a boy would do. For example, she constantly fought with her twin brother over his toys and clothes. He was criticized daily, teased, and bullied for being different. David Reimer is just one of many stories about living as a transgender, and I believe it is imperative for society to learn about these stories and become more educated about queer culture.

“I was never happy as Brenda. Never. I’d slit my throat before I’d go back to that. I’d never go back to that. It didn’t work because that’s life, because you’re human and you’re not stupid and eventually you wind up being who you are.”David Reimer Transformation

Sadly in 2004, David Reimer decided to take his own life at the young age of thirty-eight. The author Colapinto discussed how there were many factors that contributed to his suicide including the death of his twin brother two years prior from a drug overdose, marital problems with his wife, financial issues, and the constant emotional struggles he dealt with daily due to his painful childhood. This story is truly a tragedy and something that he should never have experienced. I think this fits in well with the digital archive because it shows many aspects of the queer community, and the struggles they endure. People outside of the queer community often do not understand the complexity of gender dysphoria