Saturday, January 12, 2013

Man-i-Fest Exhibit: FTM Mentorship in San Francisco from 1976 - 2009


Lou Sullivan was a brave soul to document the transition process in order to help other transgender individuals. Transitioning is an arduous and difficult process, but the stoicism needed to document that process is remarkable. Taking the alarming and unsettling statistics regarding anti-trans violence, I am in awe of the bravery of those who do take a public stand, even if it is in the simple form of documenting the transition in photographs.
The fact that Sullivan established the LGBT Historical Society and that his photos, letters, and documents are archived within the society is all the more touching. Saving such information and photographs for posterity was a wise and tremendously useful legacy to leave behind.
I found the letters to David of particular interest. One of the letters mentions that Sullivan was given the green light from Wardell Pomeroy to go ahead with hormones. Kinsey, Gebhard, and Pomeroy continued conducting research and collecting data on transvestitism and transexualism into the 1950s. Kinsey had intended to publish more data concerning research in human sexuality. Sadly, Kinsey died in 1956, just two years after J. Edgar Hoover and the Red Scare forced the Rockefeller Foundation to cut funding for Kinsey’s research. Later, in 1976, Pomeroy became dean to the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and continued researching and assisting transsexuals. Pomeroy died fairly recently, in 2001.
Another letter to David addresses the fact that FTMs are sparse, and that one should “beat the bushes” in order to bring new FTM members to the bi-monthly meetings. Having grown up in the transsexual community, I have to agree that FTMs are definitely in the minority. The transexual community I was in always said that this was due to higher numbers of MTF, yet the statement by a classmate in our class that FTM simply blend/pass better, thus hiding better in the general population makes me re-think the former opinion.
It is interesting to note that Dr John Money was mentioned in the 1979 “Family Circle” article about a male-to-female transexual. Dr Money was an early pioneer in sexual re-assignment surgery, despite his notorious downfall regarding the John-Joan case. He was one of the first American doctors to conduct the sex re-assignment surgery. It is ironic that he pioneered the field of pediatric endocrinology, the same field which, in the end gave rise to the notorious John-Joan case, which in turn, lead to his discredit within the transexual and intersex communities. Despite Dr Money’s obvious major mistake of his career, his research in the field of sexology was tremendous; for example, he coined the term “lovemap” which refers to the psycho-sexual unique blueprint/script of an individual’s behaviour, feelings, and fears based on their sexual history, cultural and familial background. It is what makes each person’s sexuality distinctly different, thus requiring a specialized approach to both couple and single therapy, as well as a more intricate study of the psychology of pair-bond relationships.
The exhibit demonstrated the usefulness of a magazine for a minority group which suffers from societal discrimination. It brings to mind a conversation I had with a transexual who is an activist in the bisexual movement. She told me that she suffers more discrimination as a bisexual than as a transsexual. She was also speaking about starting a newsletter for the bisexual community for many of the same reasons that Gateway was created for the trans community. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


 Sources

Francoeur, Robert T (ed), A Descriptive Dictionary and Atlas of Sexology, Greenwood Press, New York, 1991

Jones, James S, Alfred Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, Norton, 1997

Money, John, Lovemaps: Clinical Concepts of Sexual/Erotic Health and Pathology, Paraphilia, and Gender Transpostion in Childhood, Adolescence, and Maturity, Irvington Publishers, New York, 1993

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