Masculinity from one angle: The Testosterone files by Max Wolf Valerio

“Transsexuals  have an opportunity to probe deeply into the intrinsic nature of identity – its slipperiness,  its preconditions and expressions – as well as the ways in which we determine or know who we are and who we want to become”   (245)

quotes like this kept me reading Max Wolf Valerio’sThe Testosterone Files: my Hormonal and Social transformation from Female to Male.   a Native American of Latin American decent, Valerio, documents his life both before and after testosterone. He details his early life as a radical feminist, who through various relationships with women as a young woman (Anita) and then as a young man, he discusses the effect hormones had on his physical and emotional life.  From everything, from physicality to the very foundation of his politics Valerio details how his life changed as he began to take hormones, and went on both top and bottom surgery journies after a period of some years

I picked up this book because I had heard of Valerio’s writing in transmale circles as well as hearing him mentioned in the work of Patrick Califa and leslie Feinberg. I read a book so close to the understanding of myself I found it almost alarming. There were many times when I found myself outwardly nodding in agreement with what was being said. For instance, the reaction of some of Valerio’s lesbian friends, who no longer wished to associate with a straight man, and the idea of no longer fitting into a “queer” community due to being straight and male.  Valerio with poetics, power and fond reverence at times details his life as a young girl who never saw herself as such, and who grew from that little girl to someone who never fit the lesbian scene, but as many men do, took it on in order to be socially acceptable. Valerio also details the emotional affects of testosterone, the removal of emotions, distance and anger developed as a result.

However, for every nodding in agreement moment I found some cringeworthy, and was often left wondering how young men just coming out who don’t neccesarily fit valerio’s in your face extremely sexual and dominant way of being might react.  Whilst disavowing his former radical lesbian feminist roots,  as is understandable, Valerio also develops an attitude to women that is highly questionable, and often blamed solely on “vitamin T”  He said at one point the last thing he wants to be is a “sensitive man” and often resorts to relegating the differences between men and women to hormones, the experience of one or the lack of another.  Having experienced both “skins” does give you a certain sense of authority, and whilst there is an interrogation of gender running through the book,  some of the quotes from the author himself left me wondering…well, what if you are a “sensitive” man? what if you are someone who doesn’t experience masculinity in the same overtly sexual way?  Whilst reading this book, I encourage readers to keep in mind always  that this is one man’s experience of hormone, culture and politics.

I encourage young men, particularly those who don’t subscribe to mainstream cultural attitudes towards women or who’ve had alternative experiences to speak up and pen their own stories.  In the mean time, give this one a read, but critically.

 

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My letter for Ranjini

From http://www.lettersforranjini.com:
Ranjini is a mother of two who has been declared a security threat by ASIO. As a result, she has been separated from her husband and locked up in the Villawood detention centre with her children. Current law says that she has no right to be told why she is considered a threat, making it nearly impossible for her lawyers to mount a defence. Ranjini faces indefinite detention at the hands of the Australian government.

The extended form of my letter to Ranjini is below, on the site i had to deal with the limitations of an internet form. This practice is simply unacceptable and must end. To send your letter of support to Ranjini, go to http://www.lettersforranjini.com and click “send a letter” then watch twitter @Ranjiniletters as for when it goes live.

Dear Ranjini
I heard of your plight after a candlelight vigil and would like to write to you to let you know that you have a great deal of support in the Australian Community. Many of us believe that it is a disgrace to deny refugees, having already suffered so much oppression in their homeland, the right to a peaceful and safe existence.

I am not a refugee, I’ve never seen war or known what it’s like to loose family or friends but I do know that we have a duty to take care of each other particularly those who cannot speak up for themselves. My grandparents were refugees and benefited enormously from living in Australia.. it is unfair that for whatever reason, those same rights have not been extended to you or your family. You have my complete support, and I hope that the next time i hear of you you are free and these horrible practices have come to an end.

Please continue to, wherever possible, share your beautiful artwork with us. You have a gift and I hope you are given the ability to foster that gift.

with love, Friendship and support

Matthew James.