Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Amanda Simpson, The DC Power Elite, and the Cultural Imaginary

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | January 02, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Amanda Simpson, Barack Obama, Obama appointments, transgender, transgender appointee, United States Department of Commerce

The announcement of President Obama's appointment of Amanda Simpson to the Department of Commerce on the last day of 2009 is a significant event for LGBT rights in the U.S. But what does it, in fact, mean? What, if any, results will it translate into? Or is it just a token of change, with emphasis on the token?

LGBT people, and particularly transgender and transsexual people, are subjected to a great deal of prejudice. A portal icon for Portal:Transgender, based on...This appointment won't change that. I'm not even sure we'll see much news in the mainstream media about it. Few other appointees have received much press, even the controversial ones.

But the announcement that a transgender person is worthy of a Presidential appointment will impact the cultural imaginary of the DC power elite. Ultimately, media and the public have limited relevance in the running of national affairs. Never forget the power elite that runs things. This appointment will impact them, and that is saying a lot.

Being LGBT in the U.S. today carries a dangerous stigma, whether you live in Laramie or New York City, and the degree of discrimination and danger depends in large measure on who you are. That is not going to change one whit based on this one appointment. The state of our culture is more accurately expressed by the recent news item about the response of a McDonald's franchise to an African-American trans applicant for employment: "We do not hire faggots."

In my opinion, the real story here is more significant than a mere first, or as an ambiguous token. More importantly, it represents a dent in the cultural imaginary, that vision conjured up by our culture in the eye of the imagination when the word "transsexual" is uttered, especially among those in the power elite of Washington. Most people who are in charge of running things are not ready to give much credence to a trans person, regardless of credentials, even if they are willing to give lip service to diversity. There's a big difference between tolerance and inclusion.

The cultural imaginary conjured up by the words "transsexual" and "transgender" is of a mentally unstable, predatory man in a dress, scheming to deceive in order to commit a crime or make sexual advances to the unwilling. The cultural imaginary stands in the way of progress in many areas of LGBT rights. That is why it important that organizations protest negative images of LGBT people in the media, as they have been doing. It is equally important that people get to see positive images. More importantly, the People Who Run Things must see LGBT people as potentially one of their own.

When I say this, I'm not endorsing the power elite, or the way things are run, or saying that the system is therefore automatically good. I see many problematic elements in these things. But I do not imagine that the System, therefore, does not exist. It exists, and to the extent that we are frozen out of it, we do not. Whatever one thinks of the system, this is a step forward for us.

The cultural imaginary decides what is privileged and unprivileged, separates acceptable from unacceptable, and elevates class over underclass. Having people see us as capable people with respected roles puts a dent in that cultural imaginary. That is why I always insist on being called "Doctor" in public roles, and having people understand that I am a college professor. I am not interested in my personal prestige, and I am sensitive to the fact that some people find it overwrought. But people need to know that we include college professors, and managers, and accountants and business people and politicians and are participants in the social fabric of this country.

That President Obama, and more importantly, the Beltway power elite that forms the administrative corps of this nation, are willing to cross that Rubicon and to face the powerful hostile forces of cultural prejudice arrayed against this appointment, is a declaration that cannot be minimized.

Mentally ill...predator...prostitute...deceiver...These are the memes that continually resurge when hate-mongers spew their venom These are the beliefs that so many Americans have swallowed whole. Some LGBT people have these beliefs, and that needs to be impacted as well. it's important to have young trans people know that they can succeed, or they won't even try. It is these memes that the wingnuts will repeat like a mantra to discredit Ms. Simpson and the Administration that appointed her, trying like mad to reinforce the cultural imaginary of trans people as crazy deviants.

The Administration's willingness to confront this evil on the national stage is the real story here. I do not know how successful it will be in denting the cultural imaginary for the wider public, but it will require Administration officials to get some education about trans issues in the process of defending their choice. It will require them to learn about and understand the issues and prejudices that face Ms. Simpson as a transgender person. Hopefully, it will have the same salutary effect on portions of the executive branch that the appointment of Diego Sanchez had on the legislative branch.

That understanding is a key to the Administration's ability and willingness to stand up for LGBT legislation, such as ENDA. ENDA will require expenditure of political capital for its enactment, and the Administration's ability and willingness to do depends on the level of education about these issues among the DC power elite. They are not going to put their necks on the line for crazy deviants. They might do so if they understand that we are part of the social fabric of this country and that the voters think so too.

It's important to realize that the Administration is a bureaucracy and a not-easily-moved system, and President Obama cannot steer the ship of state by himself. The long preliminary steps of background checks and vetting this appointment has likely already required that people in the power elite confront the issues faced by transgender and transsexual Americans. The appointment itself will continue to require the power elite to educate itself. This is key.

That the appointment came in the Commerce Department is significant because it is in commerce where transgender and transsexual people are best poised for and most in need of help. Unemployment and underemployment is rampant in the transgender community, and the most significant barrier to social progress. This will serve as a signal not only of acceptance to public sector employers, but also to the private sector that Commerce regulates and serves. The diffusion of education outward from the Commerce Department should not be underestimated.

Good luck and many good wishes on your appointment, Ms. Simpson. Remember that DC is a snake pit, and watch your back. I hope they take advantage of the opportunity to learn something about diversity in the 21st century.

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This is yet another reason for separation of transgender and transsexual.

Popping in now to say that the whole HBS debate is off limits. Stay on topic.

The topic is Amanda Simpson and the DC power elite.

I'm worn out with all the HBS drama that's resurfaced again. Not every post about trans issues needs to be hijacked by who's transier than who. If that's all you've got to say, go say it on one of the older threads dedicated to that.

Further HBS comments will be deleted as being off topic.

The points I and others have raised have been directly on point to issues raised in the original article. Dr. Weiss was addressing whether this appointment would challenge the idea that trans people are mentally ill etc.

This discussion has been totally free of all personal attacks and infinitely more civil than most trans anything discussions here.

This edict is more than a little insulting. What isn't on point when the issue of the public perceptions were directly addressed and being answered here?

This smells of out and out censorship and frankly, given your past experience of stepping in it regarding trans issues, I'm surprised you'd take this stance.

Oh, let's give mom a break. It's Sunday morning. I'll admit that my straining to make this thread relevant to Simpson's appointment was a bit tenuous. Let's see if we can continue this elsewhere. Hold that thought!

--> The cultural imaginary conjured up by the words "transsexual" and "transgender" is of a mentally unstable, predatory man in a dress,

This quote specifically, I mean. The text didn't show up in my original comment.

And yet, a separation isn't going to solve the issue -- for all you will have is two names for the same thing.


And in my experience, when most ppl see 'trans' ANYTHING they automatically think 'transvestite' anyhow...

Carol ~

And there then is the answer. We should be working to gain acceptance for trans-everyone because most of our neighbors do not know the finer points on trans-anyone. Hell, after the last couple a weeks I'm not too sure that I know much about the details. But I do know this about divisions, they divide... yes I know my grasp of the obvious is amazing.
My point here is to question the social reality of these divisions if our neighbors don't understand them and just understand trans-with-qualifiers as one thing no mater what comes after trans.
I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone not maintain an identity in favor of streamlining. I've been told many times that it would be easier for activist work if I would just identify as gay instead of bi so I'm not interested in those sorts of arguments.
I personally see Ms. Simpson as a person who has been judged to be the best candidate for the job. This candidate happens to also have a personal identity and public identity that is going to effect change and that change is going to help all of us including all of the different varieties of trans and the other letters too, LGBQ.
But maybe there is a kid out there who doesn't know if it should be Bobby with a Y or Bobbi with an I and doesn't know anything about any of the divisions or the exact proper self identity to embrace and maybe Bobby/i saw a little blurb about Ms. Simpson and felt a little better or maybe Bobbi/y's parents felt a little better about Bobby/i. And if so, that is cool.

I like what you said, Rob. All you have to is mention kids to me and I melt like a snowflake. Hits me right *there*, you know?

Rob said:

This candidate happens to also have a personal identity and public identity that is going to effect change and that change is going to help all of us including all of the different varieties of trans and the other letters too, LGBQ.
But maybe there is a kid out there who doesn't know if it should be Bobby with a Y or Bobbi with an I and doesn't know anything about any of the divisions or the exact proper self identity to embrace and maybe Bobby/i saw a little blurb about Ms. Simpson and felt a little better or maybe Bobbi/y's parents felt a little better about Bobby/i. And if so, that is cool.

Rob, thanks for expanding on my point!

To me, Ms. Simpson's appointment is nothing but positive--I feel that someone like her helps ppl understand that 'all transppl aren't crossdressers and drag queens' much better than all the rhetoric in the world about medical origins.

I realize that being gay is more acceptable now than in the past (which it seems to me was 20 - 30 years ago like being trans today), and many more ppl feel it is inborn rather than a choice. However, I am not convinced that the latter caused the former. I wonder if perhaps just having friends and neighbors and coworkers being out and being pretty normal ppl helped cause the acceptance more than the biology arguments? And the 'no choice' rationale just helps them suspend judgment?

I know that the gay ppl that President Obama has appointed to more visible positions have been the target of right-wing lies, but it seems to me that for most of the ppl, having gay ppl in prominent positions has become more acceptable, as long as they are seen as qualified rather than elected/appointed b/c they were gay.

As far as bi folks go, tho, wow. I get the impression that trans folks who stick to the binary (either transgendered or transsexual) are much more understood than are bi folks. When I bring up ppl who are bi with straight ppl I know who accept me just fine, and who understand being attracted to the same sex, they just can't wrap their minds around it. Needs more work, for sure! :)

Carol :)

Don't you think that is an opinion, Toni.

You're perfectly entitled to this opinion, and to declare it. But as an opinion, it could be incorrect.

Whereas the call for separation is a political act--and could result not only in the physical separation of transgender people from transsexual people--though I'm not sure how there is physical proximity now--but also separation in the cultural imaginary Dr. Weiss describes.

You could assert your opinion is a political act, too, then it, too, would be neither correct nor incorrect.

But then you'd be calling for the very thing that is, pretty much, the case right now--after how many years of transgender campaigning?

As a political act, I'd much prefer what Aria is calling for.

Well, Jessica, yes, it is in opinion.

As for its relative merit, I'll stick with my professional opinion as someone who studies cultural and social structures as a whole and has extensive knowledge of said concepts over the opinions of someone who hasn't had that training and lacks that knowledge.

It isn't wrong, either -- its a fundamental structure to sociolinguistics in any of the various branches of that field.

Which she would have known, had she possessed that knowledge.

An informed opinion may be wrong. But its far more likely to be less wrong than an uninformed one.

Hope your holidays were decent :)

Jessica, I have a great deal of respect for transsexual people who wish to be considered separately from the generalized construct of transgender identity. I think you have a right to determine your own identity without anyone telling you what it really is. I feel that the construct "transgender" is problematic for that reason. And yet, I have serious doubts that demanding a separation between the two is going to prevent transsexuals from being tarred with same brush in the larger culture. I respect your wish to be known as transsexual, and not transgender or crossdresser or gay. But they don't. How will separatism change that?

By the way, I identify as a woman of transsexual experience. However, I also use the term transgender because it connotes community with a larger gender variant group with which I have a kinship.

Sue Lefkowitz | January 3, 2010 12:21 AM

I think it is idiotic to debate 'transsexual" or "transgender" in light of this historical act. Ya remind of people debating whether Trotsky would have been better than Stalin.

Ya remind of people debating whether Trotsky would have been better than Stalin.

Clearly a statement of American ahistoricism and category confusion.

One might as well speak of the lack of difference between Cuba sending doctors and nurses throughout the world, and America sending troops and Predator drones.

Dr. Weiss--please forgive the overly familiar way I addressed you in a previous post--your notion of the cultural imaginary is very interesting, though I'm more familiar with the term cultural imagination which is one I will stick with in my comments.

Your use of it, and the quotes you put around "transgender" and "transsexual" suggest an ahistorical approach to the conjuring of

a mentally unstable, predatory man in a dress, scheming to deceive in order to commit a crime or make sexual advances to the unwilling.

This is also the approach Toni takes--an approach that doesn't befit persons of intelligence and education.

There are many other dangers of ahistoricism I only comment on those most pertinent to this discussion here.

In fact, when reading Radical Bitch in comments here on Bilerico, and elsewhere, and other women of transsexual history elsewhere, those who not only transitioned 40, 50 years ago, but also had surgery then, a very different picture emerges not only about the cultural imagination but how it was--and still is--being changed.

Decades before the transgender ideology was promoted in places like bilerico, there was certainly an awareness of crossdressers and drag queens and possibly of transgenderists, but no inkling they could be the same thing.

Not only not the same thing, but that they're evil. How could this notion of transgender be retroactively projected in time to fulfil the premise you and Toni share?

Many years ago on the CBC--I'm thinking a number of years after the episode I previously recounted of an interview with a transsexual woman whose face was obscured--there was a program with a drag queen, a crossdresser and a transsexual woman.

There was, I'm not sure how it was framed, a member of the public who had the opportunity to comment upon what was then the cultural imagination:

This person declared he rather understood how someone could believe themselves a member of the opposite sex, of the drag queen he just said, "That's showbiz!" But of the crossdresser he simply said this was something he couldn't understand.

Forty years later this non-understanding has been transferred not only to transsexual people but also to drag queens.

From understanding, and legal protections--as Radical Bitch and others have described--to conflation with incomprehension and loss of legal protections in 40 years, well, we've come a long way, baby.

In the lobbying for equal marriage in he Canadian Parliament, the main professional lobbyist--we watched Egale Canada and Canadians for Equal Marriage driven into the ground in paying him--has spoken about some Conservative members of Parliament who, while being quite opposed to equal marriage, rather understood how some people could believe themselves to be members of the opposite sex and supported legal protections for us.

A gay man, this lobbyist never seemed to have recorded the names of these MP's, never seemed to feel this might be important information for future lobbying, 'after marriage.'

One is reminded of the arguments about the 2004 push for gay marriage in the United States, against public opinion that sided with legal protections for transsexual people, at least. And that the push for gay marriage energized the evangelical base and was a significant reason for the re-election of Bush.

Besides the erasure of history that is the definition of ahistoricism, particularly of the history of women of transsexual history, there seems always the presence of category error/conflation.

We saw this in the article of Ron Gold who describes transgender people as "deluded" and "mutilated." Now, there is certainly grammatical correctness in describing crossdressers, drag queens and non-ops on the one hand and surgery track/post-op transsexuals on the other as "deluded"; it is difficult to see the grammatical correctness of describing crossdressers, drag queens and non-ops as mutilated.

Is there some surgery for crossdressers, drag queens and non-ops I haven't heard of?

This is clearly a reflection of a bias many gay men have. In a recent episode of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and repeated in its 2009 highlights, there was an item with Michael Mustos, an apparently well known New York gay man, who, in commenting about Carrie Prejean, the former Miss America contestant who made inappropriate comments about gay marriage, declared,

I happen to know she was a homophobic man named Harry who had his penis cut off and his Adam's Apple sanded.

Mustos thought this was very funny, as did Olbermann; the email I sent the program has not been answered, nor do I expect it. Gay men are permitted to make such inappropriate comments about transsexual women with little fear of retribution.

Try to imagine what would happen if a woman of history made some equally inappropriate comment about a gay man--I can't; the cultural imagination simply hasn't been evolved to permit this; transsexual people have not had the power transgender, feminist and queer theoreticians have had.

This conflation of transgender and transsexual, not an accident by any means, but the product of decades of transgender, feminist and queer thought, is no more a given than is gay male prejudice concerning women of history. Though there is little pre-publication censorship of either--and often little post-publication consequence--unlike the reaction to the response of women of history, repeated on this site and elsewhere.

Jerame presented another conflation when, in responding to a comment of mine said all comments are welcome on Bilerico, apparently saying that comments, such as mine, are equal to the articles of, say, a Ron Gold--even if, after publication it is removed--and those of a Rachel Dunn.

This is simply another category error.

These comments, not supporting the transgender ideology of Bilerico, would never be permitted at the top of this page as an article.

And yes, they are a political act calling not only for the separation of transgender and transsexual people, but the understanding of the processes of the cultural imagination and not to to be supine in front of them.

Gay people, people of colour and women haven't--why would you promote transsexual, and yes, transgender people to do this, Toni and Dr. Weiss?

Your point is an interesting one, Jessica, and Radical also raises the same point, so I'll post in response to her later comment.

I fully support every persons' choice to identify how they wish; however, if we were to separate transsexual and transgender from the political umbrella, we cannot throw anyone under the bus. Equal rights for all, regardless whether they are post op or man in a dress.

Zythyra, I agree with you that every human being deserves basic civil rights.

The irony is that we probably all could have had them by now if the exhibitionism of the transgendered had been checked 15 years ago. When a male exposes himself in public, that is considered both a mental illness and a crime. When transgender activists do it verbally over and over what exactly is the difference? Why was it so important to do this that it was at the cost of gaining civil rights? Because that was the result.

There is one thing that may turn all this around in ten years or so.....if every trans anything all collectively STFU about what is in or isn't in their underware. That's it. If you believe it shouldn't be important to who you are stop making it the main topic of discussion!

The one thing I agree with transgenders about is that what genitals someone has is no one else's business unless you are going to sleep with them. The thing I never will understand is why anyone would indulge prurient questions about it.

"Mentally ill...predator...prostitute...deceiver...These are the memes that continually resurge when hate-mongers spew their venom These are the beliefs that so many Americans have swallowed whole."

Pardon me for being blunt, but why on earth wouldn't John Q Public, Larry Legislator and Holly Homemaker see it that way given the "public" face of the transgender movement?

Some of the most vocal voices in TG land openly and frequently discuss their non GID mental illnesses. Others quite open about histories as prostitutes, others are open advocates of S & M and D & B lifestyles...all while heterosexual women of transsexual history are banned from discussions, never ever ever allowed a voice in the bigger blogs. You all know this is true. Without naming names this is well reflected in the contributors of both Bilerico and Pam's.

And Dyss is wrong. Back during the late eighties and early nineties that then unique American institution, the talk show, paraded woman after woman of transsexual history out on sweeps weeks and you know what the result was? Widespread general acceptance of women of transsexual history. So much so that by the late nineties I was being told by Republican legislators there was considerable support on the right for transsexual rights divorced from GLB. So much so that Pat Robertson himself advocated that transsexuality was birth condition and not a sin.....openly on his own tv show. The general public "gets" (classic) transsexuality easily. It fits the binary and only requires a small mental effort to be empathic. The general public does not get tranny street hookers, chick's with dicks, feminine penises and telling everyone their personal gender identity as in whether they are men or women is oppression. Failure to understand this simple point, in my mind, gives basis to believe that anyone pushing that gives evidence of widespread mental illness in the trans communities because it is simple common sense and only requires seeing the world, at least politically, through the eyes of the general public.

Now compare that to today......after a decade of the transgender umbrella. Now transsexual women are seen as peeping Toms in the ladies room and chick's with dicks. Just 12 years ago if you were outed, the automatic assumption was you were post surgical or going to be....

And Dyss knows while Aria might not have the educational creds she does, I do.

I have no, zero, nada, zip "kinship" with fetishistic crossdressers, drag queens and biological males who wish to remain such while presenting to the world as a woman beyond we are members of the same human species.

This "transgender" agenda has failed miserably, set back prior gains in understanding and led to judicial backlashs that have cost the women of history dearly. Back in the day, one of the things every new transitioner was reminded of was that every damn thing they did reflected on all of us because we are a minority. Today it's cis this and cis that oppressing me.

I think your point, and Jessica's, are good ones. I haven't done any sort of study of the issue, but I do get the sense from the accounts I've read that the "transsexual woman trapped in a man's body" was very successful in helping ordinary people, including conservative legislators, to understand and have compassion for the needs of transsexuals. I seem to recall having read that was part of the reason for the wave of statutes across the country, even in very conservative places, allowing transsexuals to change birth certificates upon presentation of a surgical report. There was a strenuous effort made, starting with Christine Jorgenson, to portray, in books, films and on TV, positive images of gender-conforming transsexual females, and to a lesser extent, gender-conforming transsexual males. I have no doubt that such had the effect you describe. I myself am gender-conforming to a great degree, and I take great pride in that, and in the fact that I needed only one surgical operation to take my place in the world as a woman. My gender conformity probably has had some hand in my success in relationships and in my career. For that I am grateful. I also cringe sometimes when I see a very gender non-conforming person, and I have to swallow hard to put aside my own prejudices. I'm not always totally cool with "anything goes."

But I also find the notion of a "woman trapped in a man's body" problematic. I don't want to have to live as a 1950s stereotype or a story out of the psychiatric manuals to qualify myself as a transsexual. I don't want to have to hide the fact that I transitioned. I am a transsexual. Yes, I was born male. Yes, I transitioned in my 30s. I'm bisexual, not a heterosexual female. I'm not a homebody who likes to rearrange the furniture and have a lot of emotional catharsis. I like working my ass off and accomplishing a lot of stuff. Sometimes my voice drops and gets low, and I get "sirred" on the phone. I don't eat like a bird, and I don't have a tiny little body, and I can catch a ball pretty well. I suppose my problem with your position is that I'm not sure whether I'm all that different from crossdressers and genderqueers and non-ops. I do see differences, like my ability and desire to pass, but I'm not sure how significant that is, given that I am not living a stealth life. I'm sure I'm not better in any way.

That being said, I have a lot of sympathy for your position. I certainly wouldn't lump you in with anyone you didn't want to be lumped in with. But I've made my peace with the others.

Ok let's address some of this:

I am openly bisexual myself.

I am 60 years old, big boned, heavy set and corrected nothing but the essential parts myself, no facial surgery etc. I am hardly Donna Reed. I am what I am, a sixty year old hippy chick, dyed in the wool feminist, not partnered with a guy and live in a women's spiritual housing collective I founded.

I am a Pagan Priestess. If someone asks me about my history, I am open about it. But no one asks even though our home started life as a place for newly transitioned women to bootstrap themselves I am locally known as the eccentric woman with a thing for helping trannys and stray cats. I don't get sirred ever on the phone.

I am not mentally ill, a man (nor did I ever consider myself one) and I actually transitioned at an older age than you did. So enough with the stereotypes, ok?

Oh yes, and the "woman trapped in a female body" turned out to be pretty damn accurate considering the 300+ studies that now confirm beyond any reasonable doubt the neurological intersexed pre-natal realities of classic transsexuality.

What was your problem with that again? Some Donna Reed connection that just isn't there?

Okay, point well taken on the stereotypes. You're right, I will just have to get over that. But I don't think there are 300+ studies confirming "beyond any reasonable doubt" any neurological intersexed pre-natal realities. I know that most people are going to be screaming "What Does This Have To Do With Amanda Simpson?!" at this point. Well, to remind everyone, we were discussing the effect her appointment might have on stereotypes of trans people, and we got off into a discussion of other factors affecting stereotypes of trans people. So here we are. Anyway, I think it's interesting.

Re the studies: I think the interpretation that they "prove" anything about gender identity is far too generous. I think these studies are important steps in that direction, but it's too early in the science, I think, to make any definitive statements.

I'm aware of some small-sample studies, some post-mortem and some MRI with living subjects. The post-mortems have had different results from the MRIs, though both claim that there are cerebral differences in MTFs. Then there is the study showing there is a genetic difference in some FTMs. My area of research is the workplace, and I don't pretend to be up on all the biological research. But when I read these studies, they only show that there is a difference in cerebral pattern in transsexuals, not that these cerebral differences account for the gender identity. I'm not saying it doesn't, but I don't think it's been prove that it does.

The conclusions reached in those post-mortem studies, from what I recall, is that the basal ganglion of the stria terminalis in MTF brains was closer in size to those of females than males, and this could not be caused by taking estrogen after birth because the size of the area is not affected by post-natal hormones. But the major problem is that no one knows what the function of the stria terminalis is. I'm not sure that this information is any more telling than noting that my feet and hands are closer to the relative size of female hands and feet than to the size of most male's hands and feet. That doesn't make me a woman.

The MRI studies, to the contrary, did not show any difference in the BSTc, thus contradicting the post-mortem studies. Instead, they showed a difference in the amount of gray matter in the right putamen. Well, what is the right putamen? It seems to control movement and certain types of learning. But there is nothing at this point to connect it to gender identity.

You can see one of the MRI studies here: http://bit.ly/50g94c

Whoops! Just got the memo from head office - HBS discussion off limits. Sorry, Bil, I just put this long comment in before I read your note. Maybe we can have a separate post on this topic?

Well, anyway, it's just as well. I have a zillion things to do today and this was leading me astray.

Okay, folks, move along, nothing to see here, nothing to see. :)

This is tangential, not HBS stuff at all.

I don't identify as Gay. Nor Lesbian.

Nor Aleut Eskimo.

But if I see someone oppressing Gays, or Lesbians, or Aleut Eskimos, then I'll work to stop that oppression.

Even if I'm accused of being one of those dreadful walrus-eaters as the result. Even if it means my own human rights are threatened. Even if I can't stand the smell of raw walrus meat, and am nauseated by polar bear liver. Even if the pungent aroma associated with the whole Igloo-living thing disgusts me.

Because it's the right thing to do, and I can't in all conscience claim rights for myself, if I can't claim them for others. Even those Icky Transgenders, oops, I mean, Eskimos.

I'll refer you to Zoe Brain's website and TS-Si.

The 300+ studies are reality and cover every aspect of the bimorphic differences in male and female brains. Hearing, smell, colour perception, information processing and emotional responses to name a few.

The reality of the neurological basis of classic transsexuality is, in fact, established to the level that if you drop something heavier than air, it falls.

What isn't established yet is the exact reasons why this is true, that it is beyond doubt. Why do so many wish to deny this? In the only instance of someone from my camp being allowed a guest entry here, I talked about the political and legal reality this makes.....the ADA exclusion for transsexuality was quite specific and a later question on this point was answered via legal position paper by a then US Civil Rights Division of the AG's office confirming that someone who could demonstrate a physical caused transsexuality (and neurology was specifically addressed) was covered under the ADA.

And this is not only ignored but out and out denied by trans activists. Again, I must ask why?

Dr. Weiss, I appreciate your respectful and constructive response to my comments, not referring to what I post as separatist vitriol or calling me the routine names I receive from the transgender faction and defenders, on Bilerico.

While I am on the academic track, it will be years before I can claim the academic titles or vast social and cultural knowledge that will sanction not only the ideas and evidence I marshal, but the very arguments I use.

Thank you!

Having said this, I'm not sure how you get from my arguments to

I don't want to have to live as a 1950s stereotype or a story out of the psychiatric manuals to qualify myself as a transsexual. I don't want to have to hide the fact that I transitioned.

I'm reminded of the claims that Sarah Palin, for all that her politics are odious, that she is a traditional woman. Any woman who is the governor of a state--even if leaving before the end of her term--and being nominated by one of the two main political parties for vice-president, is not traditional.

Nor would I see either Amanda Simpson or Zoe Brain as traditional. They are, well, experts in the technology of war--this is especially clear in Simpson's connection with dual use technology, which requires intimate knowledge of what technology can, well, kill, and can only be gained in the very war industries she has been a senior employee of.

It is not my goal to conform to the straw woman you pose any more than you do, any more than many women do. Why would I dispose of the gains of feminism?

Nor is it my goal to become expert in the technologies of war.

In fact, I see a future, in the years it will take to get there, one rather similar to yours--for which I was called a man on Ariablue's blog by commenters there.

The cultural imagination has progressed to this point not only in the United States, but Canada and many other places. This is precisely the point I made previously in extolling the accomplishments of not only gay people, but also people of colour and especially women in evolving cultural imagination; it can move in both a positive as well as a negative direction.

Being a woman, having the medical condition of transsexuality, is not the social construct transgenderism is, and I, among many others, are no more bound by their notions of transgression than I am by others, equally conservative, who would place me--or you--in that 50's box.

Minor off-topic point: Dual-use works both ways.

Example - when I was working on a mine-hunting sonar, some of the pattern-recognition team worked out a way of dramatically enhancing sonar imagery.

They released this into the public domain - which is why Ultrasound imaging suddenly got a huge boost on quality in the mid to late 90's, and the equipment size and cost shrank. How many lives were saved, often newborn infants? Maybe a few million by now.

Another example - I and a colleague worked on cutting-edge tech to make a logistics model that predicted how many sorties it would take to transport a mechanised brigade to um, a certain desert destination. We couldn't publish a paper on it. But what we could do was do something for disaster relief, reverse osmosis water purifiers and so on.

That model was used to predict requirements in the UN humanitarian airlift at Aceh, now considered a model of the perfect airborne relief effort. How many lives did it save directly? Maybe a hundred thousand lived, who would have died if our model hadn't been available to determine the bottlenecks.

So yes, we military-industrialist makers of better ways to kill people genuinely do have blood on our hands. We consider JDAMS and Predators and Hellfires as good things, as long as they're used responsibly.

But for the same moral reasons, we really prefer saving lives, not taking them. And in a disaster relief operation, you don't ask whether someone is a Jihadi or not: you save 'em all, and let God sort 'em out.

I guess, considering the edict at the top of the page, I can expect my comments to be deleted. So much for the claim that all comments are welcome at Bilerico.

I saw your comment either in this thread or another about Jerame's quote that all comments are welcome and your claims that they aren't. Let me explain it you in an easier way so that you'll get it.

This is written at the bottom of every comment section. It's the simple rules we post for everyone to follow. If you can't follow the basic rules, than I've got no sympathy for you.

While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising.

There are 5 listed no-no's. Just 5. If you can't participate without mucking up 20% of the time, that says you're not qualified to participate like everyone else.

Put another way: You're more than welcome to drive a car in the US. But you still have to follow the rules of the road or you get your license yanked.

We get constant complaints that many trans threads get hijacked by this same transexual vs transgender debate constantly. You're not the only reader and most of these comments come from the same people over and over and over again. Same people. Same ideas. Same arguments. Same problem. The vast majority of readers never comment - and on trans posts this is even more prevalent since the thread gets hijacked so often.

There are whole posts dedicated to the topic. Your comments on the issue are welcome there. You know, where they are on topic.

No, I'm still not wrong. You have some of the background and skills (and enough to know what I'm talking about in the first place), but, in this case, you appear to be overlooking factors for convenience.

Yes, that is what it *was*.

That does not, however, mean that's what it will be. Indeed, the fact it has changed already means we shan't be going back -- even you are aware of that one.

And you are *possibly* correct -- you may not have any sort of kinship there.

However, in classification and substantive evidence support, the underlying mechanism is the same, and the social impact is duplicative.

That doesn't make you one of them or them one of us.

But it also doesn't give you, or Aria, or Jessica, or Me, or the rest of us the right to tell others what they are.

Just as their right to be what they are does not give them the right to tell us how to describe them.

Sue Lefkowitz | January 3, 2010 10:53 AM

I had a job with a national non-profit agency working in a risk-reduction program for all TG people, the homeless, and those at risk for HIV/AIDS. This job got me placed on 6 local govermental boards and also private boards. I helped set up trans-inclusive shelters where they never existed and did this in the land of cotton and cottonmouths. Nobody ever asked me my "op" status and I can assure ya'all our clients did not care if they were called 'transgender " or "transsexual" and neither do I. Obama made history here. I see no problem, only good coming from this. Yeah, people make fun of us still, but look at the nasty cartoon in the NY Post about Pres. Obama himself. I say we need to get over this stuff. That is why I usually say "trannies". It's simpler. I just don't see how the Simpson appointment can be called a set-back. I think to quote another MSNBC person: "That's psycho talk"

Lisa C. Gilinger | January 3, 2010 1:27 PM

Interesting. At first glance, and reading through the main post it seems this entry is about Amanda Simpson and her appointment to the Department of commerce. The Presidential Appointment of a woman to government, a woman like us, one of us.

The rest of it seems like a lot of noise to me.

Good luck Amanda. I am so in support of you and everything you mean to us. Lot of pressure I know. That is why you should know we are with you as well.

Dear All:

I will put up a post at 6pm today on the subject of "transgender" and the propriety of including everyone under that umbrella. Still working on it. Stay tuned, and we can resume the discussion there. I'm working on getting the comment thread moved over so we don't have to start from scratch.

Stonewall Girl | January 3, 2010 3:49 PM

This is amazing, taking a very positive story about an extraordinary person who happens to be openly transgender and the comments and discourse that follow show that "we" as a community are really our own enemy by being so fractious and fractured.

Can we ever build on something positive which may help all of us in some way? What is really significant about Amanda is that when she transitioned during the Bush Administration, NASA for no other reason dropped her from the Astronaut list.

It is "doubly" fitting that she received a Presidential appointment. It is also fitting that Obama's White house liaison to NASA is an "Out" gay man! These are wonderful first steps in changing American culture.

Amanda is a friend who I first met because we share our transgender experience and have chosen similar venues to create change to help trans- people. Let's celebrate this good thing as something to build upon as we have so, so far to go!

Maybe some day we can have a transgender astronaut, I'd love to see a Post headline, "Tranny in Space"

Okay, gang, the new post is up for our exciting discussion of the word "transgender" and its virtues and vices. I thought it was going up at 6, but here it is. http://www.bilerico.com/2010/01/is_it_unfair_to_define_the_transgender_community_t.php

The appointment of Amanda Simpson is a very positive step in that it hasn't been that many years ago that any individuals who was LGBT could be fired were federal government jobs.

When did "imaginary" transition from an adjective to a noun?

Thanks for the link. I simply found your use of the phrase "cultural imaginary" problematic, although I thought I understood what you meant, since, as the dictionaries listed here show, except in the field of sociology, "imaginary" is strictly an adjective: http://onelook.com/?w=imaginary&ls=a.

It is being widely reported in the last few days that a transgender
named Amanda Simpson has been "appointed" by President Obama to a
federal post involving security, and that she hopes hundreds of
transgender appointments will follow.
Go to the white house web site:


The only source cited in articles viewed up to this point is an
organization whose initials are NCTE, based in Washington, D.C. The
"t" stands for "transgender."

The announcement of Ms. Simpson's appointment has just made it to CNN.com. Click here

I'm a bit late to this game, but I just have to chime in that I know Amanda as a tireless advocate for both transgender people and the entire LGBT community. During the short period I served with her on Tucson's Commission on LGBT Issues, I was consistently amazed by her energy and activism. She served our community exceedingly well in Arizona, as I'm sure she will continue to do in DC.

Congrats Amanda! Go get 'em!

Air America made an interesting connection between the Simpson appointment and ENDA yesterday: click here