15 April 2014

Harvey Milk Postage Stamp

Getting one's image on a postage stamp is, I reckon, a bit like the Nobel Prize.  Whenever I hear about someone being honored with one or the other, I have one of two responses:  "What were they thinking?" or
"What took them so long?"


I had the first response when Obama got the Peace Prize.  (For that matter, I was even more perplexed when Henry Kissinger got it.)  But I had the latter reaction today, upon finding out that the US Postal Service is issuing a stamp with Harvey Milk's image. 

As many of you know, he was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States.  His career was tragically cut short--along with that of his boss, then-San Francisco Mayor George Moscone-- by Dan White, who had recently resigned from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, on which Milk served at the time White shot him.

A number of motives have been ascribed to White.  The one with the most empirical evidence is that White, a former San Francisco police officer and firefighter and a Vietnam veteran, represented a conservative district on the southeastern edge of the city.  Residents there were said to be resentful toward the city's growing homosexual community whom, of course, they--and probably White himself--saw embodied in Milk.

Another plausible explanation--implied in the 2008 film in which Sean Penn played Milk--is that White was a closeted homosexual who was jealous and resentful of the accomplishments and accolades that came Milk's way.

Whatever the explanation, I'm glad to see Harvey Milk so honored.  Even though his political career spanned only a few years, his work gained a lot of momentum.  I wish that he could have lived to see--and perhaps partake--of some of the fruit it is just starting to bear.

14 April 2014

What Do We Become? Some Medical Effects Of Our Transitions

Anyone who has taken hormones can attest to the changes they make in the body and mind.  Our doctors (for those of us who get our hormones through legitimate means) tell us about some we can expect.  For example, those of us who are male-to-female are advised that our breasts will develop (usually, to one cup size less than our mothers'), the hair on our heads will grow more rapidly and become finer while the hair on our faces will grow more slowly, the lines of our faces will soften and fat will re-distribute itself in our bodies.  Females-to-males learn that they will grow facial hair, their voices will deepen and their faces and bodies will fit into straighter lines.  

I also learned that I was at greater risk for breast cancer and osteoporosis, though my risk for either would probably be no more than for most women who were assigned the female gender at birth. I was also advised that I might gain weight and have a harder time losing it (Did that ever come true!) because estrogen causes the body to store fat more than testosterone does.  As a result, my reactions to some medications and other substances might be different from what they might have been when I lived as a man.  (I say "might have been" because I very rarely took medications--even the over-the-counter kind.) And then, of course, there were the emotional changes.  

Now I've come across an article saying, in essence, that women process alcohol differently than men, so the effects on their bodies are different.  Of course, any woman who is, or plans on becoming, preganant has to be concerned with the effects of drinking on her child-to-be.  Perhaps even more important, women are at greater risk of liver damage and other diseases associated with excessive alcohol consumption because their bodies break down alcohol more slowly and store it for longer periods of time.  That is related to a fact I mentioned earlier:  We store more fat, as a portion of our body weight, and keep it for longer, than men do.  That same fact is also one reason why women are at greater risk of heart attacks and diseases as a result of drinking.

(Of course, there are other hazards women face, such as an increased risk of experiencing sexual assault, as a result of alcohol consumption.)

Any time I read or hear about the medical differences between women and men, I can't help but to wonder how I will be affected.  I share some of the same medical and psychological difficulties--and rewards--of being a woman that cisgender females experience from the time they're born.  But, in other ways, my body still acts and reacts like that of a man.  The reverse of what I have just described holds true, of course, for female-to-male transgenders.

Now that we have three or four generations (depending on how you count) of people who've made medical gender transitions (as opposed to earlier trans people who lived or merely dressed as the gender of their minds and spirits), I think we're just starting to learn about the ways  in which we become and don't become--medically and psychologically--more like the gender in which we live than the one we're assigned at birth.  Also, the fact that hormone treatments and surgeries are different from those available to earlier generations, and the fact that more of us are living longer, will reveal more about the degree to which we take on the hazards and the benefits of our true, spiritual genders.

13 April 2014

A Message Like No Other

When you cycle in an urban area, you see more graffiti than the average person.  More important, you see it at closer range than someone riding a bus or cab, or driving by.

Even while seeing so closely, you don't remember a lot of it.  After all, so much of it, frankly, looks alike.  But every once in a while you see "tags" that stand out for their use of color, artistry or simply their overall size.  And, sometimes, you see a graffito that's a true work of art.  I am fortunate in having lived, for years, not very far from Five Pointz--whose days are. lamentably, numbered.

But this piece--on the side of a Barrow Street building, just west of Hudson Street in Greenwich Village, is like no other I've seen: