What's the Gender Agenda?
Eschew the shoe: I am sick that this paper has run yet another tokenizing/transphobic article, "Transblazer" [Lauren Smiley, Feature, 10/21]. What is SF Weekly's agenda?
Start with the bubblegum-pink cover with heeled pumps and curlicue script. These are symbols of conventional, stereotypical femininity. Theresa Sparks' résumé shows she is the kind of woman (like Hillary Clinton) who gets labeled "exceptional" and "barrier-breaking" and also "unfeminine," along with a host of cruder epithets. Hyperfemininity is a trademark of drag queens, female impersonators, and some cross-dressers, all of whom can be confused with transwomen — but not by anyone who has done basic research.
Then there's the constant critique of Sparks' presentation. Would Medea Benjamin's [of antiwar organization Code Pink] shoe size warrant a mention? Would comedian Sandra Bernhard's baritone voice deserve mention other than as a trademark? And what's meant by verbs like "gives away" and "belying"? What is given away or belied are Smiley's personal stereotypes of what a woman's voice should sound like.
I doubt Sparks is telepathic, nor does she appear to have the time to ascertain everyone's subconscious perceptions of femininity, much less perform them simultaneously or satisfactorily. Perhaps all cisgendered women do this flawlessly and without effort — or maybe they just give each other more space for expression, since they're in the club by birthright. It's clear from Smiley's presentation patrol that Sparks is allowed in as a mascot, but never a true member.
I cringe when a candidate is introduced hair and wardrobe first, and I am appalled when journalists insist on making transition the primary goal of a storyline. The "tragic/triumphant tranny" has been told everywhere within range of satellite TV. Is it really the best use of more than two pages of print? There are abundant relevant questions about discrimination, issues in District 6, unemployment, workplace discrimination, tokenization, etc. The abbreviated sections on issues pertinent to Sparks as a candidate were tantalizing, but stopped abruptly.
What Smiley and SF Weekly continue to do is common among self-proclaimed trans-activists. It's just done more publicly and in print, which in turn encourages the atmosphere of hate and intolerance.
Repeat After Me
Don't toss around terms: Thanks to Katy St. Clair for choosing the Sutter Station Tavern, or the Gutter — as in "Sutter Gutter" — for a venue in this week's Bouncer column ["Don't Try the Pineapple Truffles," 11/4]. I, too, think it is a wonderful place for a variety of reasons. One that might not be worth mentioning is the ridiculous evening lingerie show they have there a few nights a week. One certainly worth mentioning, since St. Clair does write that she had to catch a BART train, might have been that the front door of the bar is a few drunken steps from the entrance to the BART station. That might have been some nice information for the physically disabled or lesser-abled people out there.
More importantly, though, I think St. Clair is a little off when she writes that Sylvia's mimicry of her is "echolalia," which is usually associated with Tourette syndrome. That is, that it is uncontrollable for Sylvia not to copy what a person says. If so, I think it's insensitive to suggest that she "likes to repeat" St. Clair's words when St. Clair is on the phone. Certainly, developmental disabilities are often difficult to define, which is probably why St. Clair doesn't attempt to classify Sylvia's particulars. But throwing in an inappropriate technical term for the "disability nerds" simply muddies the water further.
It sounds like St. Clair's initial impulse was correct, since she seems to know Sylvia relatively well. Sylvia chooses to mimic her when St. Clair is rudely talking on the phone, instead of paying attention to the person she's allegedly attending to. It doesn't seem that St. Clair has given Sylvia nearly enough credit for knowing what's going on around her.