Thursday, April 2, 2015

Alice Dreger and making the evidence fit your thesis

So last week I found out that Alice Dreger's new book, Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, has recently been released. I have not personally read it, but I am well aware of one aspect of the book: the part where she describes the ensuing controversy surrounding psychologist J. Michael Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen. And while I don't know precisely what Dreger says (or more pertinently, fails to say) about that controversy in her new book, I am very familiar with her views on the matter, as I am one of the numerous scientists, academics, and knowledgeable parties who contributed peer commentaries to her book-length article on this very matter, which appeared in the sexology journal Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2008. (For those with access via academic institutions, her article and all the peer commentaries can be found here.)

If you were to suddenly develop a strong interest in this story and/or found yourself with an inordinate amount of free reading time to pour over those essays, you would find that most of the peer commentaries argued that Dreger's retelling of this tale was horribly one-sided, focusing almost entirely on how Bailey was bullied by a few "out-of-control trans activists," but with almost no serious discussion about 1) the history of psychologists holding (and often abusing) institutionalized power over trans people (e.g., via the DSM & gatekeeper system), 2) how Bailey's book peddled anecdotes and conjecture as though they were science, and 3) the very real problem of pseudoscience being used to reinforce the discrimination and delegitimization of marginalized groups. As I say in the last paragraph of my peer commentary:

Monday, March 16, 2015

crowdsourcing for instances where "autogynephilia" is used to sensationalize or invalidate trans identities - please help & share with others!

As many of you may know, over the years I have written a lot about Ray Blanchard's theory of autogynephilia, which wrongly argues that trans women are sexually-motivated in our transitions - I debunked the theory in the article provided in the link, and further discuss how it sexualizes and invalidates trans women here.  

I am currently working on a piece that (in part) compiles instances where people outside of science/psychology cite "autogynephilia" in their efforts to sensationalize trans people or to promote anti-transgender agendas and policies. 

I have a few examples of this in hand - most notably, from Sheila Jeffreys's recent book, one from an anti-trans Catholic organization, that horrible Rolling Stone article about Lana Wachowski published before she came out as trans, and of course, last year's New Yorker article in which Michelle Goldberg used the theory to slut-shame me

I have seen many more examples than this, but I have found them to be especially difficult to track down online, as the bajillion webpages and posts discussing and debating the theory itself overwhelm any and all search engine queries I have attempted.

So that's where you come in (hopefully!). Perhaps you know of articles, news items, or stories along this line? If so, please pass along a link, a description, or a few key words so that I can search for it myself. You can do so by:

1) leaving a comment below
2) Tweet it to me @juliaserano
3) email it to me - my address can be found here:

Thanks in advance! -julia

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Nobody reinforces the gender binary & nobody subverts it either (plus some retrospective thoughts about Whipping Girl)

I usually don’t publicly respond to critiques of my writings. People inevitably interpret (or misinterpret) things that I have written in all sorts of ways, and I usually just strive to articulate my ideas better the next time around. However, in the last two weeks, I have stumbled across numerous instances where people have accused me of claiming that two-spirit and other indigenous non-binary-identified people “reinforce the gender binary.” This notion so goes against everything that I believe and have written in the past that I feel compelled to address the matter here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Double Standards Work (understanding the unmarked/marked distinction)

This is one in a series of blog posts in which I discuss some of the concepts and terminology that I forward in my writings, including my recent book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive

In Excluded, I argue that instead of focusing on only one or a few forms of sexism and marginalization, we should acknowledge that there are myriad double standards out there. And given this, it is crucial for us to more generally recognize and challenge double standards whenever and wherever they occur.

To be honest, I think that we as activists tend not to be very good at doing this—it is a main reason why people who are quite familiar with one particular form of marginalization (typically one that they are personally impacted by) will nevertheless continue to single out and invalidate other groups of people, often using the exact same tactics that they abhor when used against members of their own group. In other words, a failure to recognize and understand how double standards function in a general sense is what enables various forms of exclusion to run rampant within our movements. It is also what enables numerous forms of sexism and marginalization to proliferate in society at large.   

I discuss this issue over the course of Excluded, but I address it head on in Chapter 14: “How Double Standards Work”—it is one of the pieces of writing that I am most proud of.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Transgender-themed artists, bands, music, songs & anthems

Last week, I encountered quite a number of posts & tweets in which people shared their favorite transgender music artists and trans-themed songs. I later discovered that these posts were initially inspired by an article in Bustle that featured videos of trans anthems by trans artists (e.g., Laura Jane Grace, Namoli Brennet, and Mina Caputo) in response a recent trans-themed song by Kate Pierson. Subsequently, The Advocate published a post called 37 Alternative 'Trans Anthems' by Trans Musicians featuring additional trans-themed songs/music videos by trans artists - definitely check all those wonderful songs out!

Since I have recently returned to making music, and since many people who know me primarily as a trans author & activist are not aware that I started out as a musician/songwriter, I figured that I would take this opportunity to compile some of my own trans-themed anthems to share with the world. So here we go:

My current music project is a solo lo-fi indie-pop endeavor called *soft vowel sounds*. I recently released my first record, and it contains two trans-themed anthems:

The title track Ray is my take on/parody of The Kinks' song "Lola." The video is admittedly not especially video-ish, as I wanted to highlight the lyrics of the song:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Julia Serano's compendium on cisgender, cissexual, cissexism, cisgenderism, cis privilege, and the cis/trans distinction

When my first book Whipping Girl was published in 2007, it was (to the best of my knowledge) the first print publication to include the terms cisgender, cissexual, cissexism, and cisgenderism.* I did not invent these terms - they had been coined and used by trans activists before me, albeit rarely and sporadically. And in the years since, as these terms have increasingly caught on, I find that people sometimes use them in rather different, or even outright disparate, ways.

So for those interested in the history and evolution of cis terminology, I have subsequently written three (freely available!) blog posts that explain various aspects of, and differing perspectives on, these terms. They are as follows:

1) Whipping Girl FAQ on cissexual, cisgender, and cis privilege (2009)

This article discusses:

  • the origins of cis terminology
  • the reasoning behind why many trans activists use these terms
  • my responses to common critiques of cis terminology
  • a discussion of how the concept of "cis privilege" is sometimes misused

2) Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 1: Who Exactly Does “Cis” Refer To? (2014)

This article discusses:

  • the specific way in which I used the terms cis, cisgender, cissexual, cissexism, and cisgenderism in Whipping Girl
  • a discussion of how these same terms are often used in a rather different manner today
  • how ambiguity regarding the terms "cis" and "cisgender" often erases the experiences of non-transsexual transgender-spectrum people
  • my proposal of an alternative (albeit not mutually-exclusive) "three-tiered" model for considering gender-non-conformity and social legitimacy - one that may better account for the gender-based marginalization experienced by those who fall under the cisgender umbrella and/or who do not fit neatly into the cis/trans distinction.

3) Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 2: Reconciling Disparate Uses of the Cis/Trans Distinction (2014)

Marginalized populations often have different perspectives on, and take different approaches toward, articulating the obstacles they face. Two especially common activist approaches are “decentering the binary” and “reverse discourse” strategies. In this essay, I discuss the logic behind these differing approaches to activism, and explain why they tend to result in very different understandings of cissexism and the cis/trans distinction. In fact, some of the most common complaints about cis terminology are actually critiques of "reverse discourse" approaches to activism. Rather than outright championing one approach over the other, I encourage activists to familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of each strategy in order to use them in the most judicious and effective way possible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Julia update November 2014: upcoming events, new writings & music videos!

So earlier today, I sent out my latest email update (btw, you can sign up for my email list here). It offers links to some of my more recent writings, an interview, plus two speaking events coming up this week in St. Louis & San Francisco.

I also describe two music videos I recently created for my new solo music project *soft vowel sounds*. Since I couldn't embed them in my email, I will do so here:

Music Box is the first song on the record. It is about being a third wheel and it appropriately takes place inside of a vehicle:

Ray is my parody of The Kinks' song "Lola". The video is admittedly not especially video-ish, as I wanted to highlight the lyrics of the song:

The entire record is available for listen or download (for free or name your price) on the *soft vowel sounds* Bandcamp site.

and speaking of music, on Tuesday December 2nd, I will be performing a couple of songs for the Bad Dyke Book Release + Bawdy Storytelling, featuring Allison Moon, Dixie De La Tour and other storytellers TBA. At Awaken Cafe (1429 Broadway, Oakland), Doors at 7, Show at 8, Tickets $15 (available for purchase here). More show details can be found here.

that's it for now... -j.