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09 May 2009

More on Wayne Dynes

I have previously written on Wayne Dynes here.

To recap:

In his Homosexuality: A Research Guide, 1987, he strangely chose to open his ‘Transsexualism’ section with an assertion in opposition to the facts:
Follow-up studies have shown that many postoperative transsexuals exist in a state of almost continual depression, and for this reason the operation is now performed less often.
He also gave an amazingly positive mini-review of Janice Raymond and ignored 90%+ of transgender biographies.

He was the major editor of the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, 1990, and chose to write the article on ‘Transvestism (Cross-dressing)’. He repeats the common fallacy that Hirschfeld coined ‘transvestism’; repeats disinformation from Peter Ackroyd’s unreliable book, and concludes that “At its best, transvestism is a form of ludic behavior that causes society to take a fresh look at gender conventions”.

Let us look at the bibliography at the end of the article: Ackroyd, Bullough, Decker & van de Pol, Ellis, Feinbloom, Hirschfeld, Wheelwright, Woodhouse. Not a single trans person of any flavour.

Likewise, the preceding article by Warren Johansson on ‘Transsexualism’ has only Benjamin, Bolin and Pauly & Edgerton in its bibliography. Given all that had been published by trans persons, even as far back as 1990, not one is deemed suitable to consult. I doubt that either Dynes or Johansson would write on homosexuality and ignore everything written by gay writers.

Dynes has recently published an essay on his blog called “Shifting stigmas’ where he considers the status changes in the 40 years since Stonewall of the various groups that are adjacent to homosexuality. He particular, he observes that:
With some reservations, then, pedophilia, pederasty, and ephebophilia were UP a generation ago; transpeople were DOWN. These days that situation is hard to imagine, so much have the two groups changed in the eyes of the public. The relationship has been turned upside down.
I think that his observation is coloured by his New York residence, but let that pass. He wonders why the change happened. He considers the antisexual mood of the current zeitgeist in the US and that this fits with a common perception (true or otherwise) that transpeople have less sex. He also sees us as benefiting “from the postmodern emphasis on fluidity and transitional states--on avoiding fixed ‘essences’.” However he does continue:
Liminality may capture some of the interest, even enthusiasm that some outsiders feel for transpeople. However, it does not accord with the experience of many who are committed to the “trans” status. In particular, those who complete the full schedule of surgical intervention believe that they have attained the sex that “they were meant to be.” For them, there is no ambiguity. Likewise, many transexuals in the full sense reject the gay label; as they perceive the matter, they love those of the opposite sex. Some others pursue their own sex--that is, the sex of arrival--or regard themselves as bi.
And then:
At all events, trannies--of whatever variety--are seen as taking steps that affect themselves only. In this way their modus operandi accords with the dominant ideology of expressive individualism. One could even say that they are contributing to consumerism by their increased purchase of clothing, beauty products, and elective surgery.
This of course is much better than what he was writing in the 1980s. This is still however a comment from one who participates in gay discourse but does not consult the discourse among trans persons. Note how he uses ‘trannies’ and ‘transpeople’ (without the now required space) – in blissful ignorance of how some trans people react. He also uses ‘M2F’ and ‘F2M’ as nouns. What was it that Gore Vidal said about being homosexual, but not ‘a homosexual’?

The essay is then about the gay perception of trans people, not actually about real trans people. It was actually a pleasure to read the essay, locked as it is behind a firewall where the politics that divide the trans scene do not penetrate.

PS. Note the second comment by someone called John Lauritsen who says:
Of course it is impossible to change a man into a woman, or vice versa. A "male-to-female transsexual" is a man who has been castrated, and thereby transformed -- not into a woman, but into a eunuch. Such an individual has been *neutered* or *de-sexed*, not changed into the opposite sex. Likewise, a "female-to-male transsexual" has been neutered, not changed into a real man.
As one of the other comments says, Lauritsen is not only totally ignorant of what he writes, but he is in lockstep with the Church of Rome. This is the same Lauritsen who echoes now ex-President Thabo Mbeki and his Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, known as Dr Beetroot, in that all three deny any link between being HIV+ and developing AIDS.

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