Letters in Response to
"Girls to Guys--its on the rise!"


To The Editors:

I just regrettably finished reading your December 18th article headlined "Girls to guys--it's on the rise." What a disappointment. Pampalone had an opportunity to confront the real revolution occasioned by transpeople, who rightly force us to examine and expand the ways gender is lived and perceived while drawing attention to the limiting ways gender norms operate, choking all of us--including trendy biofemales like me. Instead we get this piece, which declares at the outset with its rhymingly cute headline that we'll be treated to a simplistic and reductive musing on boys and girls and the strange people who choose to 'swap.' It is clear that Pampalone has taken none of the struggles of transpeople and other genderqueers into her soul. The result is an outrageous simplification and a tragically missed opportunity. I was glad to hear that Good Vibrations is such a transfriendly workplace--I would have liked to have read more about that.

Emily Drabinski

Brooklyn, NY

To the Editor:

I read Tanya Pampalone's article ("Girls to Guys -- It's On the Rise," 12/18/01) with excited interest that turned quickly to dismay. As someone with many FTM friends, I hoped for a balanced examination of the factors behind the current increase in FTMs (a situation one of my friends calls a "tranaissance"), a summation of the obstacles trans people face, and an honest, human accounting of what it's like to be trans.

Instead, Pampalone eschewed sympathy and journalistic depth in favor of a sensationalistic, medicalized account of FTMs. Her obsessive, fetishistic focus on medical aspects such as surgery and hormones was an insulting oversimplification of trans experiences and trans lives. She quotes a doctor who says that many FTMs don't take hormones or get surgery, but never asks how that might complicate traditional, medicalized narratives of transgenderism.

The truth is that many people in this new generation of FTMs possess a highly nuanced, playful, defiant, and liberatory attitude towards gender roles and the connection between gendered bodies and the gender(s) we can include in the array of identities we negotiate every day. These attitudes contain important lessons for all of us, genderqueer or not.

Trans folks are not defined by the medical processes they may choose to undertake. They are defined -- as are we all -- by dreams, aspirations, and deeply-held truths. In shunting these very human aspects to the sidelines, Pampalone does her subjects, and trans folks everywhere, a grave disservice.


Sara Marcus

Brooklyn, NY

Dear Editors and Ms. Pampalone:

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment in your recent coverage of transgender experience in "Girls to Guys--its on the rise." I was very sorry to see that your treatment of the very rich and interesting topic of the recent growth of the transgender rights movement and the ways that it has created opportunities for more people to safely "come out" as transgender was nothing more than sensationalized, disrespectful, and misinforming coverage. Your use of language like "scorns female gender" was blatantly inflammatory, as was your mischaracterization of transgender access to healthcare. You suggested that the surgery business is "booming" and that FTMs have "easy access" to the medical aspects of transitioning. Your ability to find the fact that 25 FTMs are getting hormones through Dimensions to be a significant statement about our access to healthcare or hormones is a shocking testament to the inadequacy of your journalism. Your focus on the issue of whether coming out as transgender is "trendy" and whether young transmen will make regrettable decisions about body modification because of the "easy access" to hormones is not only offensive, but also invites crack-downs on our already very limited opportunities to recieve the medical services.

In addition to these problems, I was shocked and disturbed to hear that you misled Mr. Marcus Rene Van regarding the topic of your article. He was told that this article would focus on his employment at Good Vibrations, and the success that Good Vibrations has had at creating a trans-positive work environment. Instead, you used the information he shared about his life to produce an article that degrades transgender experience, objectifies our bodies, and fuels myths about transgender people that already create severe obstacles to our daily lives.

I doubt that I can convince you of the damaging impact that articles and journalistic practices like yours have on the lives of those who come under your misguided focus. Perhaps in order to get a sense of how outrageous your disrespect is, you might imagine a similar article written about a group with more social and political power. Would you publish an article that suggested that homosexuality was a trend that homosexuals would later regret? What about an article that suggested that people converting to Judaism or Christianity were similarly trend seekers, with too "easy access" to facilities for their transformations? Would you treat these topics with such a circus side-show sensationalism? Your article completely disregards the bravery and difficulty of FTMs who come out to a world in which we are percieved as mentally disturbed, not taken seriously, discriminated against in healthcare, housing and employment with no legal consequences to the discriminators, abandoned by transphobic friends and family, and then subjected to the ridicule of being told that we are taking this path because it is "trendy."

I hope that this letter and the others you will no doubt receive regarding this article will help you to fully realize the damaging effects of your irresponsible journalism. In the future, please refrain from writing about commonly misrepresented groups if you cannot engage in respectful truth-seeking and avoid sensationalism.

Dean Spade

Dear Editors:

I am livid. Barely able to contain the rage filling the spaces beneath my fingers as I type. I picked up the Examiner today, expecting to find an article on how Good Vibrations is a supportive place for Trangendered people to work. Instead I was greeted with a bold blasphemous headline "Girls to guys on the rise" and "Marcus Rene Van, one of many who SCORN the female gender." Two complete offensive preludes to what was to follow in the article. After examining the article further, I saw that it was not at all about the discussed topic-Good Vibrations is barely mentioned, and instead the article takes us through a blow-by-blow step of the perception of what it means to physically change into an FTM-complete with diagram for the skeptics.

What can I say other than this is a complete misrepresentation of true and human spirit of transgendered culture. The distaste in which the Examiner headline and caption writer views this issue is apparent. The headline, the caption and the article make a circus of what is reality for many people. I trusted the person who wrote the article. Trusted that she was connected enough to the community to do a good job at representing the spirit of being trans. I am appalled by the sideshow attraction spin that was put on this. Yes, the article provides much of the scientific facts about the process of transition, but doesn't even come close to capturing what it means to live in these bodies as HUMANS, not insects to be put under someone's microscopic pen.

And to use the word "SCORN" to describe our relation and view of the female gender just makes me want to holler! I, and many of my trans brothers, have nothing but respect from whence we came. I have always felt that in order to be true self, I needed to embrace the male gender. This does not mean spitting on women-my root and my allies. I love women and everything that they stand for. You don't have to personally be or want to be a woman to be feminist. Walking in the world as a man does not change the experience I had a woman.. They do not cancel each other out, but coexist in the same space and person. I am aware of the privileges I step into as walking in the world as a man, and the place of inequality in which many women exist. And because of that, and my dyke core, I would never even consider speaking poorly of women.

Would it be a different spin if this was an article written about how men who loose their penises have it reconstructed in many if the same ways that new penis's are constructed for FTM's? Would there be a whole diagram showing their #1 vulnerable spot? The scarred places held sacred and private? In this article we are dissected and examined as animals, a species gutted for the amusement of people who don't understand. Displayed on some page for those who have no prior knowledge of the true struggle and emotion that propels us to do what we do.

We are transgendered. We are new men. We are simply living in the bodies and selves that choose us. Gender ambiguity and reassignment are as ancient as Native American tribes where we were shaman. Considered brave and spiritual leaders for richness of our journey-- walking in the middle of both genders. We exist in the beautiful and the horrific aspects of our full selves. Most people should be jealous, because few would ever know what it's like to have seen both sides-existing as woman, and as man. It adds layers of truth to your understanding of people. Our lives are constructions of gender roles. A woman curling her hair and putting on lipstick. That is gender. A man putting on a musky scent instead of lilacs. That is gender. The rituals of gender are engrained. Anyone who doesn't understand that is not examining the culture around us.

On a personal level, I am offended to be featured in such a skewed light. But in the light of the community and what this article represents, I am saddened This is not at all a positive step in making it easier for people to understand trans culture. I encourage the people who think this is a poor representation to speak up. Send letters to the Examiner and make calls. Let them know that this culture is not a joke or game.

Marcus Rene Van

Dear Editors,

I am writing in regards to Tanya Pampalone's article, "Girls to guys-- It's on the rise." I hoped the tone of the article would not match its rather flippant title. I was gravely disappointed.

First, the inclusion of a surgical diagram in the article displeased me immensely. Ms. Pampalone seems to use this as an alibi for her "objectivity" (somehow rendering her article "scientific?"). She also falls prey to the common elision that takes place when transgender issues are discussed: that trans exists only in the context of medical intervention. The multitude of ways that trans folks and genderqueers seek to enact, perform, and otherwise manifest their complex genders (rather than "swapping" from one to the other) is glossed over in this assumption.

Second, when surgery or hormones are a chosen method of transition, the access is not nearly so "easy" as Ms. Pampalone would have us believe. FTMs (and MTFs, for that matter) are often forced to conform to a rigid narrative in order to obtain the stamp of authoritative approval. Are there other scenarios in which people must prove a psychiatric disorder to qualify for surgery? To what extent do we worry about regret when women opt for breast enlargement? Or when men and women choose liposuction? When the surgery is aligned with the so-called "proper" gender identity, is the patient's psyche examined? Are we terribly concerned about the psychological and emotional repercussions? Or is it not the "bodily mutilation" itself that worries us, but rather the _desired_effect_ of that "mutilation?"

Lastly, I am concerned with Ms. Pampalone's subtle imposition of the same brand of gender policing that has perpetuated sexism, homophobia, and transphobia for years. Her relegation of trans to a fad, whether intentional or not, acts to stabilize the "reality" of "male" and "female" as the only gender possibilities. Trans means many different things to many different people. One of the most exciting things to me about the increasing visibility and dialogue around gender transition are the ways in which we are forced, in and through this concept, to renegotiate the rigidity with which we understand gender and sexuality. I wish that rather than distancing ourselves and dismissing trans as a trend, we could instead critically evaluate and interrogate our discomfort. I think we would find that it is not trans-as-fad that is the problem, but rather the tired, tired fad of simplistic and obsessive cohesion of females to femininity and male to masculinity.

Chris Hanssmann

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