Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why does art imitate life?

And why does every post I'm doing today have a question for a title?

I should be working, but I was visiting one of my favorite gay blogs (looking at porn? moi? Of course not!) and saw this clip. I laughed so hard I cried. (I remember now why I really do miss Absolutely Fabulous.)

French and Saunders

What's in a name?

During my series of transgender posts, one of the comments was from Kelly. Kelly is undergoing the transition from female to male and is keeping a blog at Kelly Speaks.

What I like about the blog is the complete honesty about the process and thoughts going on in Kelly's mind, particularly about letting go of "Greg."

A close friend of mine at work was trying to tell me how sad and upset she was about me leaving. While she clearly supports what I am doing and only wants the best, the thing is, she's sad about losing me, or at least the me she knows from work. Now I've gone through all of that with my family and friends and for the most part we've moved past that stage. Yes, they are all sad that Greg is going to cease to exist, even I'm sad about that, but they're also excited about getting to know Kelly.

I'm sure this isn't a unique experience. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about how we define other people and what's behind a name. I've never met Greg or Kelly. So, from the outside looking in, it seems to me Greg is really nothing more than Kelly with male features and a male name. It's hard for me to see the struggle.

But imagine if you were Greg or Kelly. It might be akin to feeling like you actually had two people inside you -- the real "you" and someone you've coexisted with your whole life.

What makes a person? There's the physical aspect for sure. But that's not necessarily what connects us to that person. I don't recall ever thinking about my friends and why I like them in terms of their gender. I'll use the name Rhonda to make my point. My friend Rhonda makes me laugh sometimes. We joke about our cats and we talk about politics and culture. If Rhonda came to me and said, "I'm going to be Reuben the next time you see me," would I believe that Rhonda would be gone and I'd have to reintroduce myself to Reuben? No.

What makes Rhonda special to me is the same thing that would make Reuben special to me. Because the bonds of friendship have nothing to do with someone's physical appearance, the color of their skin, their gender, who they love, or their name. Although I'll confess to having a jolt anytime a woman marries and gives up her name for her husband's. That requires an adjustment for me.

Yet, it's interesting to explore the other side: What would I feel I was losing, or killing off, during a gender transition? And how much of that internal struggle is based on other people's difficulty in dealing with my transition?

Kelly continues:

As much as I want this, and I really do, I can't deny that it is more than a bit sad. So many people know or knew me only as Greg and it's hard for them to give that up. Even though Greg has really been nothing more than a shell for Kelly, the truth is actually a bit more complicated. I've let it be known that I never did hate Greg and actually quite liked him. He was a really great guy and I hope that he made a really great impact on those around him.

Go read Kelly's blog entry. It's quite moving. Maybe, just maybe, the aspects of Greg's personality that attracted friends were the truer feminine characteristics, and once the transition is complete, those who question it will realize nothing was lost.

What's in the bag?

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President Bush stopped in Little Rock on Wednesday to raise money for Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson. During a private lunch at former Arkansas Razorback basketball player Joe Kleine’s house in west Little Rock, more than 800 people contributed about $400,000 to Hutchinson’s campaign and about $250,000 to the state Republican Party, according to a Hutchinson spokesman.

Wednesday’s lunch was closed to reporters, but Bush later addressed them on the sidewalk outside Cotham’s in the City, a restaurant near the state Capitol. “I came in to get some fried chocolate pie,” Bush said, holding up a small bag. “I look forward to eating it. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Van the Man is 61 today

St Dominics Preview

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


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Photo credit: Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin - Paris and Albion Gallery - London

This almost makes me want to renew my passport and plan a lovely autumn trip to London.

Mariko Mori has been posing in her custom transparent "time capsules" at famous locations around the world for more than a decade. Her team photographs her with a 360-degree camera. All 13 segments of the work titled "Beginning of the End" will be exhibited in London at the Albion gallery from October 12 - December 22.

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Mariko Mori - photo credit: David Sims

Stephen Wallis of Departures magazine writes:

For Mori, whose art often blends pop glamour and mysticism, Zen Buddhism and Hollywood sci-fi, this project has a higher purpose.

"It's kind of a peace mission," Mori says, "connecting East and West as well as past, present, and future."

"Beginning of the End, La Défense / Paris" 1996

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Photo credit: Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin - Paris

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Meet the Enemy

fucking PRICK!

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"Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America — not the enemy — is the real source of the world's troubles?"

Since when is truth "destructive?"

Phelps Klan outnumbered at Kansas protest

Meade, Kansas is in the news again. Remember the hotel with the rainbow flag causing such a ridiculous brouhaha?

Fred Phelps decided his mentally-challenged gang of Christothugs had to get a piece of the action...

If followers of anti-gay pastor Fred Phelps thought they were going to find support in tiny Meade, Kansas they were mistaken. The militant group demonstrated across the street Sunday from a small hotel that stirred up a local hornets nest when it displayed a rainbow flag.

About 30 of Phelp's followers, mostly relatives, held signs saying "God Hates Fags", and "AIDS is God's curse."

Not far away a crowd nearly double in size help up their own signs. "God Loves Fags" read one sign. "Go home" read another.

The flag flap began earlier this summer when the son of J.R. and Robin Knight presented them with the colorful flag he'd picked up in California. The Knights put the flag over the entrance to their tiny Lakeway Hotel.

It's good to see the tiny town can muster up a crowd for a counter-protest.

some breakfast links

Amnesty International has a video clip addressing the impact of the current conflict on infrastructure in Lebanon.

Also check out ACLU "Faces of Surveillance - Targets of Illegal Spying"

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Caitlin Childs

Many people express shock upon learning that I have been the subject of surveillance by Homeland Security. What could I have possibly done that would make government officials see me as a threat to national security, they ask. The answer? I joined a peaceful protest on public property outside the Honey Baked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County, Georgia. I was arrested after that protest for taking down the license plate number of the car belonging to the homeland security agent who had been photographing us all day.

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Kirsten Atkins

The knowledge that the FBI has a file on me, and that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has monitored my activities and that of many other citizens in our "free and democratic" society makes me really angry, but it comes as no surprise. It follows a historical pattern of government harassment of individuals and organizations that speak out against the government, anti-war activists and people who stand up for the protection of animals and the environment.

This is not democracy

Me'Shell NdegeOcello is 37 today

Me'Shell NdegéOcello - Plantation Lullabies EPK

We saw her a few years ago at La Zona Rosa. Hot & funky!

Monday, August 28, 2006


What does Matthew Broderick have in common with Madonna?

California making a push for hemp growers

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Charles Meyer’s politics are as steady and unswerving as the rows of pima cotton on his Central Valley farm. With his work-shirt blue eyes and flinty Clint Eastwood demeanor, he is staunchly in favor of the war in Iraq, against gun control and believes people unwilling to recite the Pledge of Allegiance should be kicked out of America, and fast.

But what gets him excited is the crop he sees as a potential windfall for California farmers: industrial hemp, or Cannabis sativa. The rapidly growing plant with a seemingly infinite variety of uses is against federal law to grow because of its association with its evil twin, marijuana.

Read more in the NY Times article.

This is a prime example of a government gone haywire. Industrial hemp should never have been made illegal. As a result, what could have been a boon for American farmers and manufacturers of hemp-related products are now losing market share to other nations. All raw materials for hemp products must currently be imported from other nations, the bulk of which comes from Canada where hemp cultivation was legalized in 1998.

Today, China controls about 40 percent of the world’s hemp fiber, and its ability to flood the market “could result in price fluctuations the American farmer would have to weather,” said Valerie Vantreese, an agricultural economist in Lexington, Ky. (Kentucky was once the leading hemp-producing state).

Hemp is grown legally in about 30 countries, including many in the European Union, where it is mixed with lime to make plaster and as a “biocomposite” in the interior panels of Mercedes-Benzes.

In the United States, the chief argument against hemp has been made by drug-control officials, who are concerned that vast acreages could be used to conceal clandestine marijuana, which they say would be impossible to detect.

Big deal! It's not like there's a shortage of marijuana in this country. The "drug war" is and will always be a colossal failure. This idiotic attempt to control hemp farming under the guise of a "drug war" is doing far more damage than good.

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For those of you unfamiliar with hemp and its potential, here's a few links for enlightenment:

North American Industrial Hemp Council


Hemp Industries Association

Hempoline vs Gasoline

and Hemptons in South Africa which claims:

Biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as Hemp. With over 30 million successful U.S. road miles Hemp biodiesel could be the answer to the world’s cry for cheaper fuel. We have spent the last century polluting our beautiful earth with our petroleum based fuels that could have easily been replaced with fuels derived from Hemp. It would only take approximately 6% of our current arable land to produce enough Hemp, for Hemp fuel, to make South Africa energy independent from the rest of the world.

How much longer will America sit on its ass with reefer-madness and continue to outlaw a natural plant that clearly offers so much, not only for us, but the rest of the world as well? The bill to allow hemp farming in California was passed by the state legislature and has been on Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar's desk since last week. He has 30 days to sign or veto it.

California is the first state that would directly challenge the federal ban, arguing that it does not need a D.E.A. permit, echoing the state’s longstanding fight with the federal authorities over its legalization of medicinal marijuana. The hemp bill would require farmers who grow it to undergo crop testing to ensure their variety of cannabis is nonhallucinogenic; its authors say it has been carefully worded to avoid conflicting with the federal Controlled Substances Act.

North Dakota is another state pushing ahead on the issue. The ND State Agriculture Commissioner is crafting rules that would apply to hemp farmers in the state, including requiring a criminal background check on farmers who want to grow hemp.

This is ludicrous.

David Bronner, whose family’s business -- Dr. Bronners Magic Soaps -- said: “You don’t associate a poppy seed bagel with opium.”

Yet, that's exactly what our D.E.A. is doing. Why not require the same criminal background check of nursery owners who sell poppies and the bakeries offering poppy seed bagels?

another typical week has begun

Eight American soldiers were killed in Iraq today along with dozens of Iraqis. It was one of the deadliest weekends in months for the U.S. military and came in stark contrast to the prime minister's absurd claim that bloodshed was decreasing.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported last week that Iraq's inflation rate has hit 70%. Raw Story has more.

Fuel and electricity prices are up more than 270 percent from last year's, according to Iraqi government figures. Tea in some markets has quadrupled, egg prices have doubled, and all over the country the daily routine now includes a new question: What can be done without?

"Meat, I just don't buy it anymore," said Dawood, 66, holding half-filled bags at a market in Baghdad. "It's too expensive.

"We are all suffering," he said. "It's the government's fault. There is no security. There is no stability."

Meanwhile, Rummy had his hands full in a meeting with 700+ families of military personnel in Alaska. Aside from spewing much of the same worn-out garbage, he offered up what is probably a dose of false hope:

Rumsfeld, who received a mixed reception from a crowd that offered more applause for the questions asked than the answers provided, praised the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He would not commit to a date for bringing those soldiers home, but told a 12-year-old girl in the audience, "I'd bet your daddy gets home before Christmas."

He's such a caring prick.

New Orleans got Bushwhacked!

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How much more time is needed?

President Bush cautioned against placing too much importance on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's Gulf Coast strike, saying a long, sustained rebuilding effort is still needed.

"It's a time to remember that people suffered and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said Wednesday. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."

Yeah, people suffered and people are still suffering.

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A truck sits under a damaged house in the Ninth Ward area of New Orleans nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina struck

"Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" –House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 9, 2005

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." –President Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005

"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving." –Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sept. 6, 2005
Federal emergency officials claim the New Orleans levee system is storm-ready, despite the less-optimistic views of other political leaders and engineers.

"I think we're in good shape," Don Powell, the Bush administration's coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding, said Sunday. "There's no question in my mind, we're ready."

The head of the Army Corps of Engineers is not so sure.

Here's a good read from the Boston Globe called "A Year of Tears in Louisiana."

President Bush spoke from the city's Jackson Square and promised that ``we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities."

A year after Katrina, the storm's victims have yet to see Bush's promise fully realized. For a variety of reasons, federal aid has been slow to reach people who have huge mortgages on useless homes. The Corps of Engineers has yet to take responsibility for its role in the disaster and has missed its own deadlines for shoring up the city's damaged flood-protection system. Meanwhile, the city's recovery grinds along, and half the city's population has yet to return -- and may never.

New Orleans is like a 2nd hometown to me. Although I grew up about a 5-hour drive from there, my parents would haul me down there at least once a year for as long as I can remember... and before.

I fondly recall many meals at Brennan's, Commander's Palace, Tujaques, Felix's, and of course, beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde and the Morning Call when it was still located in the French Quarter before moving to suburban Metairie in the 1970s.

As a child I had chocolate milk instead of coffee. I still vividly recall how the milk would be served in the single-serving carton with a straw. I remember the tin shakers of powdered sugar and the sound of them when tapped against the marble countertops.

I also remember the stench of Bourbon Street at the age of 7 when I passed a topless-bar and briefly caught a glimpse of a woman's breasts.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? I sure as hell do and I want the city brought back to life.
It's time for some heads to roll.. starting at the top.

Get on the Blogswarm Bandwagon.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I hate it when that happens...

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It really pisses me off when a group of demonstrators get together in public, make a couple of statements that I agree with and they happen to be.... NEO-NAZIS. Gross!

It happened in
Madison, Wisconsin which is a bit of a surprise. The 64 neo-Nazis were met with hundreds of protestors during the Saturday rally.

Neo-Nazi speakers demanded Bush pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan (that's the good part) and place them on the Mexican border with orders to shoot to kill (hmmm, they were making sense until the "shoot" part). They also denounced corporations for destroying the planet. (Good point!) Several punctuated their speeches with shouts of "White power!" and "Seig Heil!"

Awww, lost me again. Just go home and blow your pathetic brains out. I'll stick with Ralph Nader.

Stevie Ray Vaughn

Stevie Ray Vaughn died 16 years ago today in a plane crash at the age of 35. He is still missed around these parts...

Pride and Joy

Pee-Wee is 54 today

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Pee-Wee Herman

Saturday, August 26, 2006

a Black Transition

I was scanning through one of the resource links which Jami provided in the interview piece and ran across this interview at Clamor.

Since none of my posts covered transitioning from a black person's perspective, I wanted to share this.

A snippet....
What has been the hardest thing for you to deal with as an FTM transitioning?

Funny, the hardest thing for me hasn’t been about being black. It’s been about being a union member. My union refuses to cover my health care needs that include chest surgery and a hysterectomy. That’s been the most painful thing for me, and that is about class. As a working class person I cannot afford these surgeries otherwise. The ironic thing is if I had a non-union job I would have more recourse to fight to get my health care needs as a transsexual covered, especially in Minnesota where the law against discrimination includes transgenered people. But as a privately held plan the union makes the decisions.

Branford Marsalis is 46 today

A Love Supreme

This oughta mellow everyone out on a Saturday.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Pussy Blog

Since I started my blog in May, I've never missed doing a Friday cat blog. With all the Blogger problems today I totally forgot about it.

So, I came into my office to grab my camera and look what was positioned before me: Tater Tot (on the window sill) and Sissy. What cute children! This picture was just snapped less than 5 minutes before I'm posting this.... that was just too damn easy! Sometimes life is sweet that way.

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Gender Identity - Part 4 - Wrapping Up

Due to Blogger issues today I have lost this lengthy post once and I probably won't have the energy to completely recreate it this late in the afternoon but I'll do my best:

I wanted to thank everyone who visited my blog for the Gender Identity series and especially those who took the time to comment. Some of them were long and very informative as well. If you haven't read them, it's worth the time. Here's one I'd like to single out, from Kelly:

I live this life and I'm still discovering new things about the trans community. I think the one thing that I can say without any shadow of a doubt is that we are all unique individuals who want nothing more than to live our lives in peace and with the dignity and respect that all of us deserve.

I often feel that the T is overlooked in GLBT and if truth be told, I have also felt that some who identify as GLB would rather not have the T anywhere near them. When I read the kind words by people like you I am filled with hope that we can all work to overcome the discrimination we all so frequently encounter.

I agree 100% that the T is often overlooked in GLBT, not only among many blogs that frequently deal with GLBT issues, but particularly in the other media as well. I would even go so far as to say intentionally ignored.

Originally my intent was solely to do the interview with Jami. When I saw the New York Times story last weekend which I covered in my first post, I decided to primarily focus this entire week on transgender issues to put it out there. Not only do I hope I contributed in a some way to helping end the discrimination and misunderstanding, but I want to press on with the hope of establishing full equality for all us queerfolk.

Also, big thanks are in order for those who linked to my posts. Shakespeare's Sister did a particularly
lengthy post and brought up some points even I hadn't considered. There are excellent comments there as well.

For all the anxiety that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals experience during the coming-out process, and for many there's a lot of emotional pain (not to mention physical pain for those kids who are beaten or thrown out of their homes), at least we aren't having to shell out
thousands of dollars to bring our sex and gender into congruence.
Here's a clip from the link:

Sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) is an expensive procedure that, for male to female transsexuals, is relatively successful. It can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $100,000 to get a sex change, none of which is covered under medical insurance.

It's easy to make the assumption that transgender people are only in big urban centers on the east and west coasts, but we know that's not the case. After a quick Google search, I found a website for a transgender support group in Arkansas. They are all across America.... even in our prisons.

Many states do not have any written policy for the treatment of transgender inmates, said Cole Thaler, a transgender-rights attorney for Lambda Legal, a national advocacy group for homosexual, bisexual and transgender people.

That quote is from an article in the NY Times. Read it. Very interesting stuff.

This is officially the end of the "series" but only the beginning of the reporting.

Some positive news out there:

teacher at Batavia High School in New York state is undergoing a sex change. This is an encouraging story.

Administrators, counselors and psychologists who have received training in gender identity issues will hold the forums with students when the school year opens on Sept. 6.

And here's one not so encouraging. A San Antonio police officer is being charged with rape and beating of a transsexual:

SAN ANTONIO — A transsexual who has accused a police officer of raping and beating her told a jury Wednesday that she revealed to the officer that she has HIV in an attempt to stop the assault.

Gabriel Bernal, 23, said Dean Gutierrez punched her in the face and hit her in the leg with a "black object."

"When he hit me in the face, I'm assuming he's going to kill me," Bernal said.

Gutierrez, 46, is charged with depriving a person's civil rights by committing aggravated sexual abuse while on duty. If convicted, Gutierrez faces up to life in prison.

The defense also tried unsuccessfully to be allowed to argue that Bernal's injuries could have been caused by having sex in acts of prostitution.

"All you want to do is plant that seed, yet you have no evidence that she was prostituting that same evening," U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said in rejecting the defense request.

The San Antonio police department (as well as many departments around the country) has had other LGBT issues in the past. I remember a sweet little incident involving some park rangers in San Antonio a few years back who were abusive to some Canadian tourists on the Riverwalk because the rangers thought they were gay (they weren't).

This shit needs to stop.

Recap of recent posts:

Part 1: Lost in Translation

Gender Identity: Part 2

Part 3: She’s Not THAT Different – The Jami Ward Interview

Elvis Costello - 52 today

Monkey To Man

I was a huge fan of Elvis during the 1980s. Txrad isn't fond of the guy. We still hear Elvis on local radio, pretty much on a daily basis. Txrad always turns the volume down. I'll get a snippity comment for even posting this.

The marriage between Elvis Costello and Diana Krall still strikes me as a freaky match!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

She's Not THAT Different: Gender Identity-Part 3

When I was 14, I went on vacation with my parents to California. We visited San Francisco and while walking through a plaza we passed a person sitting on a bench. I’m not even sure I would have noticed, but my parents were obviously looking at this person.

I recall my mother saying something along the lines of “oh mercy.” At first glance it appeared to be a woman, then after a second, it became very obvious it was a man dressed as a woman. (Those of you following these posts now know it’s way more complex than that!) But it didn’t bother me the way it did my parents. I found it to be exciting – the reason you go on vacation in the first place, to get out of your ordinary routine daily element and see what’s out there in the world. And growing up in a small town of 5,000 people in southeast Arkansas, I can tell you I never got much real world exposure.

I wanted to include an interview in this blog project. I’d been familiar with Jami Ward of Houston from her comments on other blogs and via her own blog: Not THAT Different.

I approached her about 2 months ago with this interview proposal and she cheerfully accepted the offer. So, without further ado, off we go:

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“Transgender is a term that came into usage a decade ago and covers cross-dressers, transsexuals and others whose outward appearance doesn't match their gender at birth.”

I found that sentence in a recent newspaper article. I’d first like to get some clarification on cross-dressers. I didn’t realize they were included under the trans banner. I thought cross-dressers just had a fetish for wearing women’s clothing as opposed to having a gender identity issue. After all, there are lots of married men who secretly wear women’s clothing occasionally. Jami, in your opinion, are they part of the trans community?

Yes, I do because it’s my opinion – backed up by nothing but completely unscientific personal experience – that crossdressers are just transsexuals who haven’t learned to tell themselves the truth. A lot of transsexuals start by telling themselves they’re “just crossdressers”. Ultimately, that turns out to be an inaccurate assessment of their gender identity. Also, not all crossdressers dress up for fetishistic reasons, although some do; some of them genuinely feel more comfortable that way, some of them dress as a stress relief or coping mechanism, some do it to escape from everyday expectations placed on men that they aren’t able to deal with. But essentially, anyone whose gender and sex don’t match in the manner that society prescribes should probably be included in the “transgender” category.

I actually have known a few drag queens. I lived with a guy in Little Rock who could do an amazing Grace Jones – and he was white! He had friends who were regular drag queens at the gay bar and they would sometimes come over to get dressed up at our house. But I learned very little about why they enjoyed doing that – I was a little too preoccupied with my own coming out at the time.

This may sound like a silly question, but I honestly don’t know the answer. What’s the difference between a cross-dresser and a drag queen? Is it that one is ashamed of it and the other proud, but they do it for the same reasons?

Well, drag queens are usually a lot more out front about dressing up in women’s clothes, but I know a great many crossdressers who aren’t ashamed of it at all. Typically, drag queens are gay and dress as women for show business. Crossdressers are typically straight and dress as women because that’s how they feel they should look … sometimes. And yes, there are exceptions to everything, so there are straight drag queens who might not be in show business and gay crossdressers who are.

Just no straight ones doing Streisand! I understand now that sexual orientation is a separate issue from one’s gender, but what I find interesting is that there are as many variations of sexual orientation in the trans world (that sounds like I’m talking about an airline) as there are in the rest of society. Until I started really thinking about all this, I just assumed transsexuals were homosexuals with gender issues, and with the occasional heterosexual thrown in for good measure.

Can the straight ones do Judy Garland then? Seriously, sex, sexuality and gender are three distinct things that our society tends to just lump all together. Sex is between your legs but the other two are between your ears.

My very simplistic explanation of the differences goes like this: sex is the plumbing you have (whether it came with the house or was installed later), sexuality is how you want to use that plumbing and gender is how you want to decorate the bathroom. So, a person can have a penis, prefers sex with men and looks and acts like a woman. It’s a real mix and match world and just because someone has a vagina does not mean that they want to have sex with men or identify as a woman.

That’s an excellent explanation! This is far deeper than most people realize. I never doubted I was male, but it took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that I was attracted to other males, and not women. I can’t even imagine what goes on in the mind of someone who is equally certain they were born into the wrong sex.
Did that realization also create any confusion for you about which sex you were attracted to?

I’ve known that something was wrong with my body since I was very young and it really came to the forefront when I hit puberty. I knew that I was attracted to girls, but I also knew that I wanted to be a girl and that I was attracted to boys, too. Yeah, I was a pretty confused kid for a long time, but I now think a large part of that was ignorance. I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going in my head because I had no references, again because of the way our society lumps all those things together. Thankfully, I think that today things are a lot better with the wide dissemination of information, but it can still be confusing for young people.

Jami, how old were you when you were first aware that something wasn’t quite right? Tell us some of the thoughts you were having.

I was probably 8 or 9 when it started to really dawn on me that I wasn’t a girl. My friends were all girls, I didn’t like to do a lot (but not all) of the “boy” things and I realized that my solitary imaginings – which included flying a personal rocket ship and growing up to be a beautiful woman like my mother - weren’t really going to come to be. I struggled with that realization but sadly came to understand that that’s just how the world operated. No rocket ship, no breasts, no dresses for me. Then when I hit puberty and realized that I was sexually attracted to both men and women, I learned to lie. I lied about wanting to kiss boys and I lied about the fact that “wanting to get into her pants” had an entirely different meaning for me. I lied to myself for a long time about my being anything other than a red-blooded, heterosexual juvenile delinquent boy who chased girls.

I’m convinced that transgendered people are the best liars because they have learned to lie to themselves and to make themselves believe it. Other people are easy to lie to once you master that.

I can certainly understand confusion growing up. When I was about 12 or 13 I kissed my girlfriend for the first time and really enjoyed it. I had a boyfriend at the same time and we were quite active sexually, but had never kissed. As it turned out, my “girlfriend” was a lesbian, and I often joke about the fact on blogs that all the girls I were “attracted” to were lesbians.

I am assuming you went the “full distance,” with the surgery, to correct your sex? Can you give us a brief chronology of events leading up to that?

I’ll start by asking if you generally question other people about their genitals. Like, “How big around is your dick? Are you circumcised? Does your pussy have big lips? What does it smell like?” and so on. Most transgendered people don’t feel that their genitalia are a subject for public discussion, any more than non-transgendered
people do.

Fair enough. That’s quite understandable. Let me rephrase. I guess my understanding of this is clouded from watching that Sundance Channel documentary called Trans Generation. It was very educational and I found the process leading up to the surgery to be quite lengthy and torturous, as well as explicit, but those people did volunteer to be on national television. Not everyone would want to expose such a private part of their life. Could you summarize for us in non-personal generic terms, that process, the counseling required, etc.?

THE surgery involves the creation of a functional vagina and labia for someone born with a penis and is often referred to as Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) or Gender Realignment Surgery (GRS). (My personal preference for the term is Genital Rearrangement Surgery, which is still GRS but more indicative of the process, I think.) Now, that’s just for those born male who wish to transition to a female gender identity and genitalia. For those born as females who want male genitalia, surgical construction of a penis isn’t very advanced … yet. There’s a long, standardized approach that leads up to surgery that involve examination, diagnosis, counseling and therapy by specified medical professionals.

Nowadays, though, there are more and more folks in the trans community who disagree (some strongly) with letting a group composed largely of heterosexual, male, white, cisgendered shrinks dictate which hoops have to be jumped through in order to finally be "certified" for surgery. Yes, the group that revises the Benjamin Standards (Google it) now has some diversity on the panel but the feeling still remains that we're not psychopaths who need to be looked after or to have a "gatekeeper" to keep us from hurting ourselves.

Exactly! I do remember sensing some of that frustration in the documentary series.

One of the big problems I have with the right-wing arguments about same sex marriage is all the constant “marriage is between a man and a woman” crap. One of the reasons I have never had a problem with the concept of transexuality is because I don’t believe anyone is either 100% male or 100% female because gender is not exclusively a physical attribute. Like a unique fingerprint, each person had a unique different mix. But this view of mine also contributes to an opinion I have had in the past about people who make that choice to have corrective surgery.
Obviously it would be easier to just cross-dress, live your life as a woman, despite the presence of the incorrect genitalia. Do you agree with that assessment?

Simply cross-dressing probably wouldn’t be sufficient to alleviate the gender/sex mismatch that transgendered people experience, although it might be enough for some. How much more than just wearing clothes of the opposite gender IS sufficient obviously is going to vary widely. There will most likely be some modifications to one’s body in order to make it conform more to the internal image of what it should be. These modifications typically include taking hormones (estrogen or testosterone) and cosmetic surgical alterations (facial feminization, hair implants, mastectomy, etc.).

Also, as I mentioned before, for Female-to-Male (FtM) transsexuals, the surgical science of constructing a functional penis really isn’t nearly as advanced as that for constructing a functional vagina/vulva for Male-to-Female (MtF) transsexuals. Most FtMs live without having GRS simply because it’s usually not available. For many MtFs, however, not having GRS is not a question; it’s a given that the surgery will happen because having “correct” genitalia – as well as all the other secondary sexual characteristics - is what’s necessary to bring sex and gender into congruence. I have MtF friends who have had GRS who identify as lesbians and are in committed relationships with other women. They never had any intention of using their female genitalia to have sex with men, but they still had GRS because that’s what they needed to make themselves right.

The bottom line is that it’s not about convenience or sex or anything else other than bringing the body into line with society’s perception (which is, let’s face it, the perception we all have) of what a male or female body should look like.

As for the right-wing definition of marriage as “one man, one woman”, the biggest monkey wrench in that particular machine is that so far we don’t have a legal definition of “Man” and “Woman” that encompasses all the forms and flavors that people are packaged in. Transsexuals are one of the most visible aspects of that, but there are also intersexed people and people whose chromosomes don’t necessarily fall in line with the standard “XX=woman, XY=man” definition. In order for a ban on same-sex marriage to stick, some governmental entity is going to have to define just what it is that legally defines one’s sex and do so in a manner that will be medically consistent with the myriad ways humans are built. In the long run, I think that the “man/woman” definition of marriage will fall apart for just that reason.

People just don’t fall into neat categories. Transsexuals who appear to all intents and purposes to be women yet who still have their original XY chromosomes in some jurisdictions can legally marry someone else who also appears to be a woman but who has XX chromosomes.

I like what you said about “society’s perception” of what a body should look like. Aside from the perception of what it should look like in its naked state, there’s the equally large perception of what it should look like in the “dressed” state which really is absurd. How long do you think it will take society to no longer care what clothes people are wearing – and assuming that happens, what impact would that have on gender identity, only in the sense of dressing more masculine or feminine? It seems to me the expression of gender through garment choices would just vanish.

Possibly, although I’m not sure of that. There are still way too many ways that women “dress up” that don’t involve clothes: hair, nails, makeup, jewelry, perfume, etc. There’s a relatively old thought exercise that asked the question, “What would a transgendered nudist wear?” My answer was mascara, lipstick, a great manicure and pedicure, gold sandals, a big red straw hat and a pint of sunscreen with maybe a dash of perfume.

Yes, without clothes none of the other things would be needed to know the sex of the person wearing them, but those things help in defining the gender of the person. Besides, if everyone dressed (or didn’t dress) alike, wouldn’t that be boring?

In the Catholic school uniform sense, most definitely!
I’m going to assume you have experienced some discrimination in your life. Tell us about that.

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful! Seriously, I’ve not really experienced a LOT of discrimination, but there has been some. I’ve been called a faggot by a drunken teenager, I’ve had men look at me with disgust, and similar things but there has never been anything that I couldn’t deal with. Although both men and women have hit on me, I’ve never been physically attacked or assaulted. I don’t know if that’s because I carry myself with confidence, because I tend to avoid possibly dangerous situations, because I don’t look like a guy in a dress or simply because I’ve been lucky. There’s a possibility I got laid off a while back because I was starting to make some noise about a corporate non-discrimination and diversity policy and had started looking more than a little girly on the job, but I can’t prove that because I was not the only senior person who got laid off. To be honest, I’ve probably experienced more discrimination as a woman than as a transsexual.

That is quite a statement. It says a lot about being a woman. Do you have any insight into women crossdressing as men, and is there more to it than what I’m perceiving? What I mean is, I don’t really perceive anything because so many women wear “manly” clothes that society seems indifferent to it. And yet I’ve read that some women enjoy it and actively think of it as crossdressing.

I know a couple of drag kings and a number of FtM (Female to Male) transsexuals, and their desires to align their appearance and their gender identity pretty much parallel that of MtF transgendered folks. Let’s face it; it’s a whole lot easier for women to move into a masculine appearance in our society than vice-versa. If a woman doesn’t want to wear any makeup, have short hair, wear a flannel shirt, jeans and work boots, no one thinks much of it, other than to possibly start labeling her as “butch”. But if a man wants to wear makeup, high heels with a dress and have long hair and nails, the world comes to an end! So, there may be a lot more crossdressing women than men, but they’re simply not noticed as such. Also, when a transman starts taking testosterone, he quickly takes on all those physical attributes we associated with masculinity: a deeper voice, facial and body hair, muscle mass and baldness. They still have breasts and don’t get taller, though.

I know from previous discussions that you have kids. Were they from your current relationship or a prior marriage?

No, they’re adopted. I’ve been with the same woman for over 30 years and we wanted children, but despite years of trying we never had any biological kids. But our children ARE our children, and I cannot imagine loving them any more than I do just because we might not happen to share some DNA.

And what sort of challenges have you experienced in raising young children? Particularly with the 10-year-old?

My kids have always known me as their Daddy. They’ve also always only known me to be physically the way I am today with breasts and long hair and skinny eyebrows and all those other trappings. They simply accept the fact that I’m physically not the same as their friends’ Dads, but they also know that no two people are alike and that stereotypes are meant to be disproved. Some men are small, some women are large, etc. The main thing that they know is that I love them unconditionally. How I look is immaterial.

One thing I did want to delve into was your work situation, as well as how old you were when you finally said to hell with “men's”clothes.

In actuality, I never really did say good-bye to men's clothes entirely, although I don't really have very many left - socks, a couple of pairs of sneakers, a bunch of Hawaiian shirts, t-shirts. For my kid's sake, I wear something approaching "Daddy" clothes around the house: basically, jeans or pants (both women's) and a shirt (or shirt-y blouse) or t-shirt with sneakers or flip-flops. At work, it's usually something similar: a rather ambiguous look of pants, shirt, shoes, no makeup, simply because it's easier to get dressed in the morning that way and easier to pick up kids after work. I've gotten over being looked at strangely, and I still get addressed as "M'am" about 95% of the time when doing the "Is that a man or a woman?" androgynous look. But I clean up good, too, when I have to.

That’s hilarious. I just never even think about those things in male or female terms, per se. Socks?!
Actually, as far as men go, about the only thing I ever equate as being really manly is the business suit and some styles of shoes. But technically, I guess if they come out of the men’s department, they’re men’s clothes. I can visualize a scenario in which someone now will try to examine a woman (or man) in jeans to figure out if those jeans came from the men’s or women’s department in order to determine if you are trans!

Well, the socks came from the men’s department and I can tell you for certain that men’s and women’s pants and shirts are definitely built different. Underwear, too, now that I think of it. By the way, I used to do a whole seminar for transman called “Male Presentation”. I even transcribed my lecture notes and posted them on my blog some months back. If you’re interested it’s at male presentation.

I want to ask you about media, particularly films that involve gender identity. I saw “Victor/Victoria” when it first came out – primarily because I was a huge Julie Andrews fan, not so much for the subject matter. The film really appealed to me because at the time, while I wasn’t confused about my gender, I was still struggling with accepting my orientation, and that film really made me feel better about myself, because I didn’t have to deal with the added dimension of gender identity. Did
you see the film, and if so, what did you get from it?

I liked it but not as any sort of transgendered revelation film. Like “Some Like It Hot”, it was a comedy that happened to have crossdressing in it.

Are there any films out there that you could recommend which you believe accurately portray the struggles of someone who is transgendered?

Sure! I’ll offer up some other titles (in no particular order) without comment and just let you and others watch them (or look them up at when you can and make your own decisions. (These do not include, by the way, films that you find at the “Adult Video and Peep Show Emporium”.)

“Transamerica”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Different for Girls”, “Just Like a Woman”, “Southern Comfort”, “Ma Vie en Rose”, “The Crying Game”, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, “The World According to Garp”, “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar”, “Soldier’s Girl”, “A Girl Like
Me: The Gwen Araujo Story”, “Glen or Glenda”.

I’m sure there are more, but my brain has just run dry.

And we can’t forget “Trans Generation”. Anyone who could watch that series and not feel certain that the process is driven by biology is pretty hopeless in my opinion.

Yes, there's more and more evidence that there's a large biological component to being transgendered. It's a pretty strong drive to bring sex and gender into congruence, and as I alluded to before, I don’t think people who embark on this journey do so on a whim. We do it because we have to and we don’t really need someone else to decide if we’re worthy enough to make the trip.

In order to better inform those who are reading this, could you point us to a vocabulary or acronym list related to transsexuals?

Instead of turning this into a vocabulary lesson, how about I point you in the direction of some information on the Web? I’m pretty sure the folks reading this will have access.A good glossary can be found on The TSRoadmap.

Give me some other websites that provide good information on transexuality and I will be happy to link to them here. I did link to one in a post earlier this week,
the National Center for Transgender Equality. I just ran across it in doing some research.

I would recommend reading the Wikipedia entry on "Transgender" as a kind of starting point. It’ has some good links to other places. You might also want to go to another Wikipedia entry: List of Transgender-related topics.

I’d also recommend Susan’s Place as a another place to find all kinds of transgender links. And if that doesn’t overload folks, they can always just Google the term “Transgender”. I think that will get you like 20 million hits or more and that should keep you busy for a while.

I did a lot of research and I can vouch for that!

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Jami, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. The sharing of your experiences as well as your insights are greatly appreciated.

Note from your blogmeister: I apologize for the varying fonts which appear in this post. I started out doing this interview in MS Word, saved as html, then cut and pasted the interview into Blogger. I've tried a number of times to get a consistent font to save prior to publishing and it just won't, so I give up.

It's not THAT distracting... is it?

Dave Chappelle is 33 today

Dave Chappelle - Black White Supremacist

This is one of my favorite skits. There's another one I wanted to post but the video quality wasn't great and it distracted from the comedy so I'm going with this one.

Happy Birthday Dave!

Sidenote: Part 3 of the Gender Identity series -- The Interview --- is in progress and will be posted later today. I just need to do some editing and formatting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Asinine Quote of the Day

Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom, on the role of politics: “There has been comment upon my contribution to Democrats like Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry is a good man. I’ve known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.”

Ahh, nothing like putting the corporation ahead of what's best for humanity.

Meme of Three

I was tagged by my Kiwi pal whiteflamenz . Didn’t realize until I tracked it back several blogs earlier that the keyword here is THREE. In some cases I listed more so I’ll just leave it.

1... Things that scare me

White men with white robes & hoods
Ann Coulter

2...People who make me laugh
Stephen Colbert
Dave Chappelle
Margaret Cho

3...Things I hate the most
Cleaning the litter box
Cleaning bathroom tile
Parking at the Whole Foods Market

4...Things I don't understand
Hatred towards other races and cultures
Most languages other than English
How something can have no beginning and no end.
How someone actually got PAID for designing the parking structure at the Whole Foods Market.

5...Things I'm doing right now
Thinking about work I need to do
Wishing I could roll back time

6...Things I want to do before I die
Become fluent in a 2nd language at least (Spanish)
Floss my teeth regularly
Visit Norway and Ireland
Witness the impeachment of Bush

7... Things I can do
Wake up consistently at the same time with no alarm clock
Bend the middle three fingers on my left hand at the first joint
Solve most problems

8... Ways to describe my personality

9... Things I can't do
Roll a decent joint.
Repair a car
Park at Whole Foods without throwing a tantrum

10...Things I think you should listen to
George Carlin
Conspiracy Theorists
The sound of plants growing.
Me when I’m having a really good rant.

11...Things you should never listen to
People who always seem to have all the answers
Voices inside your head that tell you to do things that you know are wrong
Anyone learning to play drums.
William Hung’s music.

12...Things I'd like to learn
basic home repair
How to design my next home

13...Favorite foods
(all vegetarian):

any hot berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream

14...Beverages I drink regularly

15...Shows I watched as a kid

The Avengers
Lost in Space
Star Trek

16...People I'm tagging (to do this meme)
Terrence (Republic of T)

First 3 out of 5 get virtual hugs and kisses!

(And it would be great if some bigshot at Whole Foods would read my blog.)

Happy Birthday Barbara Eden: 72 today!

I Dream of Jeannie - Tony Finds Jeannie

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gender Identity: Part 2

I'm going to try and clarify a few things from yesterday's "Lost in Transition" post. In keeping with my trend of incorrectly associating gender with sexuality, I'm calling this post "Gender Identity: Part 2" although it's almost entirely focused on sexuality.

Like many people, I sometimes like to assign easy labels to things. It's a lazy way of avoiding analysis. I'm a gay man. I'm attracted to men. Easy enough. Lesbians are attracted to women and bisexuals are attracted to both sexes. My point, in exploring transsexuality, is to break down a barrier of my own erection. (OK, have fun with that one.)

My goal with these posts is to achieve a more thoughtful understanding of my "T" brothers and sisters. If I seem to be obsessed with sexuality vs. gender it's because I find the sexuality aspect to be the one I've never much pondered as well as being more challenging for me to grasp.

As far as gender is concerned, I do not believe anyone on the planet is either 100% male or female. Some of us are born with male tools, some with female, and occasionally some are "to be determined." Regardless of physical appearance, gender identity is what you feel you are and I respect that.

I am physically attracted to guys who have some feminine characteristics and I've also found myself physically attracted to women who have some masculine characteristics. But when it comes to sex, I want it with the guys.

Living in Austin, we of course see a lot of diversity. One of our favorite restaurants has a large LGBT clientele. I have this really infantile game I play with txrad, (mainly because it annoys him), where I try to guess a person's sex. I love androgyny -- it keeps you on your toes. But my point is, I'd be horribly embarrassed if I ever referred to a woman as a he, or vice versa. (I know I shouldn't but it's societal residue I haven't yet scraped off my shoes.) I don't care about the size of your boobs or what the plumbing is like in the basement. If you tell me you're a woman, then I'll call you a woman. That's all I need to know. This is a lesson I only learned in the past couple of weeks.

Now, gender labels aside, I do also have an interest in understanding the sexuality -- the physical attractions of transgendered people, because the "T" encompasses the LG & B.

If a heterosexual man feels strongly that his gender is female and begins to live his life as a female, I never gave much thought to whether or not, as a female, she'd also be considered a lesbian if she was in a relationship with a woman. It's possible I've thought a heterosexual man who begins to live as a woman would then be attracted to a man if he was heterosexual. I'm not sure because, as I said, I never really started chewing on all these scenarios until recently.

Am I being silly for asking? Is it relevant to anything or am I just being a label whore? In order to understand someone I believe you have to put yourself in their skin and in their mind as much as possible. I try to imagine myself dressing as a woman. It doesn't feel right at all for me. So I have to imagine if I felt so strongly about being a woman that I'd not only feel compelled to wear women's clothing, but I might want to have my penis replaced with a vagina. The idea makes me quiver. But I'm a lucky one who hasn't had to struggle with gender identity.

Would that transformation have an impact on my sexual proclivities? I'm not sure. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter. Whatever it is it is. But it's fascinating nonetheless.

How much does a person's birth-sex interfere with or impact the sexual attractions down the road for the transgendered? If I were single and I met a man I was physically attracted to, and he was attracted to me, what would my reaction be when I was told he was born female and had undergone a gender-reassignment process? If there was no penis, or a non-functioning one, that might be a deal-breaker for me. Does that make me biased against the transgendered? Not in my mind. I could just as easily have an unsatisfying sexual relationship with someone which might cause the relationship to not work out on the physical level while maintaining a close friendship on the emotional level.

The answer to the question is damned hard for me to answer, because I will concede, it's possible it wouldn't matter to me. It all depends on the circumstances. What's important to me is that I can ask myself the question and explore it.

I don't really like my response because it seems so shallow to elevate an ejaculating cock above a physical and emotional bond. But I will recognize that it's MY problem and not the problem of the other person. It illustrates for me why I feel gender identity is a tough nut and a very bold step for those who decide to make corrections, whether it's as simple as wearing the clothing you are comfortable in, or taking it to a surgical level. The process can take years, is expensive, can disrupt families, and can create relationship challenges. And then there's the discrimination potential.

Anyone who would follow-through on this is obviously driven on a biological level and that's what's important to understand and accept.

If I did have a physical relationship with a female-to-male trans, would it somehow skew my "gayness?"

In yesterday's post, "Generic FtM" left a long and interesting comment which included this line:

I am technically bisexual but prefer men for romance and sex, which makes me, a female-to-male transsexual, gay...just like you.

That does seem to answer one question. I am sexually attracted to men. If I was physically attracted to a man who had been born as female but was now living as a man, yes I can see where I'd still be considered gay because of my attraction to a man -- regardless of that man's past history. To those on the outside, we'd be a gay couple. But it does blur some boundaries on my internal level between the term "gay" and the broader term "queer," which is precisely why I wanted to immerse myself in this subject -- to illustrate how much more complex this is than just merely knowing that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual which all wear their labels rather neatly.

What would I be if I fell in love with a male-to-female who maintained her male plumbing in full working order? A heterosexual? Somehow I don't think so. Labels can be a bitch sometimes. Occasionally they seem to just get in the way of everything.

By the way, I detest the idea of "women's" clothing vs. "men's" clothing in much the same way as I abhor assigning the color pink to little girls and blue to little boys, but as Alton Brown would say, "That's another episode." Our macho society has attached such a stigma to girly things like women's clothing. I remarked recently that it's so much easier for a woman to wear men's clothing although there was a stigma attached to that in recent history. Breaking the other barrier is tough.

My father enjoyed photography as a hobby. He often took photos of me as a child and would hang them on a wall. One photo was of me trying on my mother's bra and panties when I was about 3 or 4. Obviously I've been trying to figure some shit out for a long time!

I appreciate the thought-provoking comments that were left on yesterday's post. If anyone hasn't read them, please do. I encourage more here.
I'm not sure if this post accomplished anything other than allowing me to hash out various "what if" scenarios and exposing my obsession with sexuality. But that's OK.

All else aside, our transgendered friends have traveled a long and winding road that few of us can fully comprehend and many haven't even attempted to understand. The coming-out process for gays, lesbians and bisexuals is a breeze compared to what the transgendered community must face.

There are lots of resources on the web for more information. Here's one for the National Center for Transgender Equality:
Transsexual pioneers Bambi, Coccinelle, and April Ashley
SRS patients in 1958-1960
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