Book Reviews

from the inside out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM, and Beyond (2004), Edited by Morty Diamond

Posted by Cosimo Giovine, November 18, 2020

“Breaking the Gender Mold” by Morty Diamond

In the introduction essay to the anthology from the inside out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM, and Beyond, Morty Diamond states “I was not looking for a clinical examination of gender deviation, but rather firsthand stories representing an assortment of voices and viewpoints.” The voices and viewpoints confide that “we all identify and express our gender differently, our struggle for this freedom is the same”.

Like Diamond, I too found it disappointing that “many books discussed transgendered people in a rigid structure of female-to-male or male-to-female. This system of classification overlooked other ways in which people choose to express gender”. By anthologizing so many necessary stories written by gender variant people, the stories achieve Diamond’s intention—to give “the reader insight into how we live, and who we are”. The inclusion of stories written by gender variant people from an entire range of backgrounds including race, class, and sexual orientation provides the reader with a wide spectrum of experiences.

The story Diamond tells in the introduction about who he is and how he lives summarizes many of the stories in from the inside out: “I was taking testosterone, but never wanted to become a man. Rather, I wish to become a gender that was neither male nor female”. And to that end, Diamond concludes by saying: “We must continue to keep the dialogue open if we are to achieve a place in the world where gender is allowed to be expressed by an individual however they please. To all who have ever said, ‘this doesn’t work for me,’ and stepped out of the clutches of what society deems rights; your liberation is meaningful to us all”.

from the inside out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM, and Beyond (2004), Edited by Morty Diamond

Posted by Cosimo Giovine, November 21, 2020

“Father and Son” by Mykkah Herner

In the essay “Father and Son” included in the anthology from the inside out, Mykkah Herner shares a story about his gained confidence with living among otherness: “Towards the end of that year I attended my first FTM meeting. It scared the shit out of me; I belong there in a way. Not entirely, but I had walked in the door!” From there he began to move “around the world as a non-girl.” As Mykkah “started meeting folks who identify as genderqueer (when forced to identify); folks who were queer in sexuality, and queer in sex and relationships,” he was able to learn “a municipality of specific and alternative gender identities.” A fulfilling experience for Mykkah and one that prepared him for a welcoming visit with his father.

Because he lived among otherness, Mykkah learned “a lot about how to be a son.” During a visit to his childhood home, Mykkah realized by becoming a “Daddy’s boy” he was “getting the kid and masculine parts of me validated through validating my Daddy.” When Mykkah’s father asked “Wanna try any [of my] suits?” Mykkah described the feeling of that moment as “I jumped and flipped inside” because “For the first time in his life he is willingly and intentionally passing down his clothes to someone, to his child, to me.” And in accepting his father’s clothes, Mykkah was able to experience the “first father-son bonding moment,” and felt fulfilled enough to say “goodbye to a lot of the younger selves I had visited during the week.” And like Mykkah, by shedding younger selves, or any part of ourselves keeping us from living among otherness, we too begin to move around the world with confidence knowing we and those we love belong.

The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), by bell hooks

Posted by Cosimo Giovine, May 1, 2017

Men who show love and affection can help save the world

In a study of 2,934 fathers, 52% of the fathers said “showing love and affection to their children” is the “most important” responsibility of a father (Kalil, 2003). That means 48% of the fathers do not think it’s important to show love and affection to their children! If almost half of fathers do not think showing love towards kids is important, then how will their children learn to maintain a healthy relationship?

Fatherhood.gov is a national initiative to “encourage and strengthen fathers and families.” The tv ad campaign promoting the initiative features WWE Superstar Roman Reign and his daughter. You may have seen it: A female postal carrier stops and voyeurs through a house window at a hulky tattooed father singing “I’m a Little Tea Pot” with his daughter. The ad encourages fathers to take time to be a dad today, but fails by not emphasizing basic ways a father can use that time to show love and affection.

There is a negative connotation associated with men who say “I love you” and show affection. The most affection the daughter experiences in the fatherhood.gov tv ad is eye contact. For too many women and children, they “…learn to settle for whatever positive attention men are able to give. They learn to overvalue it. They learn to pretend that it is love” (The Will To Change). Men must learn and practice ways to express love and affection. They must learn to lead by example and with integrity.

We cannot love what we fear and that is why so many religious traditions teach us there is no fear in love (The Will To Change). We’ve heard that love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth; does not envy, boast, delight in evil, dishonor others, keep records of wrongs; is not proud, self-seeking, easy to anger; always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. It’s critical all fathers practice these basic acts of love, not just 52% of them.

As bell hooks emphasizes in The Will To Change: “…life has shown me that any time a single male dares to transgress patriarchal boundaries in order to love, the lives of women, men, and children are fundamentally changed for the better” (Will To Change). Saying I Love You, giving a hug, and being kind to your family and friends are simple yet important acts that we know will save the world.

The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), by bell hooks

Posted by Cosimo Giovine, April 10, 2017

“…we have been socialized to be the keepers of grave and serious secrets—especially those that could reveal the everyday strategies of male domination, how male power is enacted and maintained in our private lives.” ~bell hooks, The Will To Change

I was the target of male rage throughout my childhood. To soothe my physical and mental pains, I sought the peace and support of the women in my life. They hugged instead of hit; smiled instead of sneered; joked instead of jested. Life was calm around them, not callous. But by 12 I began to look like a man and the women stopped hugging, smiling, and joking with me. I was left to discover how to love on my own.

But how was I to learn about nurturing relationships with love when I rarely experienced or witnessed acts of love by the men in my life? When I was nine, my dad said I was too old to sit on his lap; at ten he stopped kissing me before going to bed; at eleven he stopped hitting me as punishment; and at twelve, we got in an argument and he challenged me to a fight. Over those years I learned how to hide emotions, withhold my affection, and intimidate with dominance. My father and I have shared moments of love and joy. But the memories of his rage and oppression are overshadowing. Men “…cannot change if there are no blueprints for change. Men cannot love if they are not taught the art of loving” (Will to Change).

There are many honorable men who are loving and kind. However, a loving and kind man may still choose dominance over love: “Many of these men were radical thinkers who participated in movements for social justice speaking out on behalf of the workers, the poor, speaking out on behalf of racial justice. However, when it came to the issue of gender they were as sexist as their conservative cohorts” (Will to Change). I’ve struggled with unlearning what patriarchal culture taught me. My willingness to change motivates me to relearn how to love others and myself.

When I was young the abuse and bullying confused me. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing and how to make it stop. I often wondered why people who said they were my family and friends hurt me. Was I unlovable? The people I wanted to talk to about my pain became the same people who hurt me. Over time I learned to hide my emotions from myself and others. The result of boys not experiencing or feeling love leads to the sad truth that “Boys are not seen as lovable in patriarchal culture” (Will to Change). Perhaps a reason why men struggle with saying “I love you” and sharing affection with their sons, brothers, nephews, fathers, and friends.

It’s easier for a man to act violent towards others who he doesn’t love. As a boy, I saw men yell at their wives, slap their children across the face, and withhold affection to gain emotional control. What I didn’t see were men who treated their wives as equals, were affectionate with their families, and nurtured lasting relationships. The Will To Change encourages men to nurture relationships with love and to “…let go the will to dominate…and be willing to change.”

Vatican City, Las Vegas (2006)

Story by F. Rex; art by T. Wolfinger; edits by Cosimo Giovine

Posted by Cosimo Giovine, April 3, 2016

There are very few revolutionary expressions anymore. But when one comes along, I jump at the chance to support the effort. So recently, when editing the graphic novel, Vatican City, Las Vegas, I worked with the graphic novelist, Fred Rex, to balance the comedic yuks and complex conversation in a text that explores all that’s rebellious, righteous and repugnant. Although not the revolutionary expression of the day, it’s a revolutionary expression that ultimately exposes humanity’s sores.

The characters in Vatican City, Las Vegas are embodiments of once revolutionary ideas. Yet when coaxed into captivity through the lure of material excess, they rattle their mortal cages and eventually dissolve. For Thomas Carlyle, the once celebrated Victorian writer and main character, disintegrates into nothing. His love for the virginal Mona unrequited. His need for a saving drink unmet. His revolutionary ideas perish unrealized.

Once the fires of revolution become self-consuming, damnation follows. For the patron pilgrims of Vatican City, Las Vegas, damnation begins with the hunger for material acquisition and ends with the acquisition of their souls. For Carlyle, his damnation begins and ends in an unconscious state, choking on the remains of his once revolutionary rhetoric. So passeth the author in a city that hath no need of the sun. Blot his name out of the Book of Life.

Get your copy of Vatican City, Las Vegas at Amazon

*Original post: Clark College Library Book Reviews

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