GOING MY WAY?
I saw an interesting article online on April 1, 2017. I don’t think it was an April Fool’s joke despite the serendipitous dating. The headline read: “Teen Boys Now Joining ‘Men Going Their Own Way Movement.” The report was published on Australian news website News.com.au and I later saw it on other sites as well. According to the article, Men Going Their Own Way is one of those “Men’s Rights” organizations that came out many years ago in response to the supposed tilt towards feminism in popular culture. The new angle last week was that some adolescent boys were beginning to adopt the same philosophy.
Here are some quotes from the article that illustrate the viewpoint of the men and boys who have decided to shun women: “Essentially, MGTOW is a statement about living life your way rather than trying to make a woman happy or being a slave to cultural expectations. This isn’t about a specific rule book, more a mindset, although there are purists in the movement who are the most extreme and avoid women entirely. There’s a growing number of men who’ve had enough — enough of feminism and enough of being told they have to work for a greater good which doesn’t actually exist.” A fifteen year old boy said this: “It’s probably not true of all women, but I’ve got the feeling that women are dangerous. Maybe the men around me have just had bad experiences. It’s scary being a teenage boy; I’m not sure how it’s all meant to fit together in the future.”
I guess if you agree with the premise that men are a put-upon gender enslaved to females in modern society you can find some rebellious solace in the MGTOW movement. Of course, you just might be nuts. But it occurred to me that there may be some tiny sliver of fellow feeling underpinning some crossdressers’ motivation to change gender at least temporarily. Many crossdresers are trying to create their own perfect woman — the woman who is in harmony with their own emotions, interests and sexual desires. Still others want to be on the receiving end of the kind of slavering devotion, pampering, and security the Men’s Rightists are complaining about. Rather than searching for the impossible female mate, crossdressers create their own alter egos to have it both ways. Loudmouth Marty may hate all women . . . but the newly born Martina may be just what he’s been looking for all his life to heal the slings and arrows of outrageous feminism.
Give them some wigs, some high heels, and a Care package of lingerie and nylons and these Men Going Their Own Way will be going Our Way soon enough.
YOU BETTER WORK . . . WELL, YOU GOTTA WORK
The New York Times Sunday Business section had an article about transgender employment in the March 19, 2017 edition. The article was headlined “Going From Marginalized to Welcomed at Work.”
The article centered around the efforts to recruit trans individuals for employment with Pollo West Corporation, a food service company in California. The company is run by a transgender CEO, Michaela Mendelsohn. Ms. Mendelsohn transitioned during the mid-2000’s after becoming the company’s CEO. The Times article explains that most employees assumed their CEO’s leave of absence at the time was due to some terminal medical reason like cancer. When she returned to active management of the company as a woman, life went on and Michaela began looking for ways to boost transgender employment at her own company and others.
The article brought out some interesting points. There are estimated to be about 1.4 million transgender individuals in the U.S. and they are three times more likely to be unemployed and two times more likely to be living in poverty than the rest of the population. Even though the federal government and 19 states include protections against transgender discrimination, the article points out that 30 percent of trans workers have been fired or denied promotions during their working lives.
Pollo West runs Mexican restaurant franchises in the Los Angeles area (El Pollo Loco)and employs about 500 people. Ms. Mendelsohn recognized the complementary problems of finding good employees as a businessperson and helping trans people find gainful employment. Employing trans people in customer service positions has a positive side effect as Michaela explains: “For the first time in their lives, customers may be forming some form of a relationship with a transgender person in a restaurant. The potential to open hearts and minds is tremendous.” Since beginning her trans hiring initiative, the company has hired 40 trans workers, the customer response has been overwhelmingly positive and 25 percent of the hires have been promoted to management positions. The article points out that California alone has 70,000 restaurants that employ about 1.3 million people. Giving trans people an entree (ha!) to the restaurant business can lead to greater job mobility and career growth in an industry that will always need reliable labor.
Michaela Mendelsohn also founded a non-profit called TransCan Work to expand employment opportunities for trans people. The organization works with employing companies to educate and raise awareness of the availability of trans workers. You know CEO’s — always pushing for more, better, and quicker. It’s nice to see one — Ms. Mendelsohn — putting that energy to work for a good cause near to her heart.
MOVE YOUR BOD
The New York Times Arts section had an article about choreographer Richard Move in the March 8, 2017 edition. The article covered Move’s latest dance production titled “XXYY” and a brief interview with him. Mr. Move’s dance is being presented as part of New York’s “Live Ideas/Live Arts” festival. The festival this year has adopted the title “Mx’d Messages” under the direction of Julian Vivian Bond, a person who “uses the gender-neutral honorific Mx.” Richard Move, the choreographer, is known in dance circles for his career-long homages to dance icon Martha Graham, whom he often impersonates in his pieces. Whew. That’s a lot of gender ambiguity for an opening paragraph.
In the article, Richard Move tells The Times that he built his dance piece around the stories of Alessandro Moreschi and Ralph Werther, also known as Jennie June. Both Moreschi and Jennie June were gender “outlaws” in the early years of the 20th century, a hundred years ago — a long time before any widespread understanding of gender issues as we are living in today. Alessandro Moreschi was the last living “castrato” singer from the Vatican’s choir. Mr. Werther, aka Jennie June, wrote a book titled Autobiography of an Androgyne that was published in 1918 chronicling his life as a trans person in an inhospitable New York City. Mr. Move read the book many years ago and found it “disturbing” and “heartbreaking.” For the Mx’d Messages festival, he went back to the book and combined Jennie June’s story with Mr. Moreschi’s history (both living worlds apart in the same time period) as inspiration for his dance.
I must admit that I don’t understand dance as an art form and cannot imagine how dance can convey gender struggles inspired by events of a century ago. The festival organizers and The New York Times arts reporter didn’t seem to question it so it works for those with a more evolved sense of these things than I possess.
Richard Move also shuns gender specific identification and prefers the pronoun “they” in favor of “he” or “she.” In The Times interview he talked about creating the “XXYY” piece built around the stories of two little known persons in gender history. He also answered a question about being “a Martha Graham impersonator.” He answered: “Oh, I bristle [at the use of the term impersonator]. Impersonation is primarily associated with parody and. . . . I don’t think what I’m doing is a veneer or a trick. I feel that I’m inhabited with this spirit, this person . . . and completely enrapt.”
Richard Move’s dance piece adds some historical perspective to today’s awareness of trans issues. Transgender issues have always been around, though more deeply hidden, placing historical trans individuals in positions of personal struggle if not outright peril, without the same tolerance or understanding that we see improving now.
THE ARTIST KNOWN AS. . .
I was paging through the Arts section in a late March 2017 edition of The New York Times when I saw a large ad for a Manhattan gallery show. The advertisement featured a photo of the artist, Zhenya Xia, as well as some bold graphics to herald the exhibit. There was something about the ad and the appearance of the artist in it that made me wonder if Zhenya was a trans person.
So as not to hold everyone in suspense — no, Ms. Xia is not a trans person. And I feel a little strange now for having even thought that at first but it also pointed out to me that in today’s world, it is not surprising to encounter a trans person being recognized — especially in the arts. By way of further explanation, it isn’t common to have the artist’s visage used in an ad for gallery exhibits. The fact that Zhenya Xia is young and pretty surely played into the decision to use her face in the ad for her show. I mistakenly surmised that the gallery may have been trying to do a little gender-bending playfulness to goose the interest level. As I said above, that feels — now — to be an inappropriate initial reaction on my part. But there you have it and I admit it.
In any event, Zhenya has a unique artistic style that caught the attention of the gallery owner, according to his statement about the exhibit. In her autobiographical sketch to accompany the program, she wrote that she loved the arts as a child but her practical Chinese upbringing steered her into corporate finance, including an MBA from a Swiss university. But she came back to art. Writing in a third person style about her endeavors, she says, “She had to engage and question, launch a narcissist introversion. But free from any social, scholastic or idealistic constraints, she enjoyed the possibility to be free, to really create what she wanted, but to paint what and how? She realized, her dreams.”
Even though she isn’t talking about gender identity, Zhenya is talking about her psychic transition towards free self-expression through art. We can all wish her the best in that journey.