Letters

Readers respond to articles about online dating and the "Sex and the City" bus tour. Plus, Dr. Lynn Ponton answers her letters.


Salon Staff
November 16, 2002 12:10AM (UTC)

[Read "Second Opinions: From Laramie to California," by Dr. Lynn Ponton.]

Cross-dressing as a profile in courage? No wonder you guys lost last Tuesday.

-- Tim Usher

I take issue with the article's definition of courage, which implies a sense of moral rectitude that is not evident in the behavior discussed.

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To me, courage is shown by Catholic schoolgirls going to morning class in Belfast, knowing all the while that some extremist might shoot them down in cold blood for being Catholic. It is evidenced by Christians doing charitable work in Pakistan or China, and by Jews on the West Bank of the Jordan who are surrounded by people who hate them and would like to kill them.

As this world turns a hostile face toward anyone who dares to address God with reverence, the fortitude shown by the believers in the face of secular bigotry demonstrates conviction and dedication to a higher ideal than simple material considerations of fashion. Indeed, daring to be devout is demonstrably more courageous than debating whether or not to wear nylons and stiletto pumps to school.

-- Harlow Keith

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you. I wish blessings on you, and your children, and your children's children, on all the issue of your house for 12 generations, for your words in response to "worried father," for your decision to honor Gwen Araujo's choices of name and gendered pronoun in life, for your integrity, for your sensible advice, for your humanity, and for being a voice of sanity in insane times.

-- Bear

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Thank you for your detailed and supportive advice to Worried Father in Salon this week. Your ideas were spot-on for a high school kid dealing with transgender issues. However, it's worth noting that the teen might also be a transvestite. Transvestitism in straight, male-identifying men is more common than male-to-female transgendered identity. It's important for kids to see that their options are open -- that they are free to redefine themselves, to kiss a boy one day and a girl the next, to be curious about how a skirt feels, to try out for rugby -- without necessarily being gay or being transgendered. It makes the figuring-out process seem much safer -- regardless of what's eventually decided.

-- L.

Dear Dr. Ponton:

Regarding your recent Salon piece, I was struck by the conflation of cross-dressing with homosexuality, a widely held misconception. Perhaps I misread your advice to the father but, as I recall, cross-dressing isn't automatically indicative of a gay or lesbian orientation. Therefore, I was a bit puzzled by your advice to the father to contact PFLAG. This is not to say that your advice was anything but well intentioned.

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I'm sure you have, as have I, known many people for whom desires, lifestyles, etc., defy easy categorization, living as we do in an era of fragmented identities and cultural diaspora. (I liked the way you addressed this later in the piece: "Core gender identity, gender roles and sexual orientation are often confused by parents.")

I particularly liked your take on the current state of masculine/feminine traits assigned to girls and boys and the different weight given to each gender. This is certainly a subject worth further discussion and, I would hope, one that you would consider addressing in future columns.

-- Thomas Mournian

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Dr. Ponton replies:

In the best of all possible worlds, transgendered teenagers would have their own unique organization (actually, in the best world, teens wouldn't require support groups because everyone would be so supportive of each other's differences). Though founded to help gay and lesbian members, the organizations I referred to in my column, PFLAG and LYRIC, also offer help to transgendered teens and adults. Both organizations include the term "transgender" in their mission statements, and LYRIC has on staff a Transgender Youth Wellness Coordinator. Gender is an organization focused solely on the needs, issues and concerns of gender-variant people in human society.

Since I didn't want to be too simplistic, I may not have spelled out the distinction between "transgender" and "homosexual" clearly enough. I didn't mean to imply that the son in this week's letter was gay.

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Gender roles don't predict sexual orientation. People who live with the body they are born with -- male or female -- but adopt the gender identity of the opposite sex are known as "transgendered" (an umbrella term that includes both transsexuality and transvestitism). Sexual orientation concerns which sex people are attracted to. A biological girl who identifies as a boy may be attracted to boys or girls -- or both.

I broadened my column to include teens struggling with gender roles as well as sexual orientation because I that feel the problems of self-doubt, ostracism and harassment are similar for all teens courageous (yes, courageous!) enough to express a sexuality not quickly embraced by mainstream teen culture.

[Read "Match Made in Heaven, Match Made in Hell."]

I am the ex-girlfriend with the poodle referred to in "Lovely Weirdo Wanted." As soon as I saw the heading on the previous page, "He emptied my dishwasher and I fell in love," my heart fell -- I knew who and what the story would be about. What was left out of Patty's account was the great luck of my ex-boyfriend, who is exactly as gentle, sweet, cute and loving as she says. We'd had a hellish breakup a few months before, after six years together. I left his neat life dashed to pieces. He put up the ad in September. Patty was the first person to respond. Apparently they really clicked. So this man, who has hardly "dated" in his life, instantly met someone through the personals.

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Among a million thoughts running through my head was "What are the odds ... what are the odds."

Since Patty's given me the chance, I will publicly state that I wish them the best. I guess.

-- Name Withheld

I've been a vocal (and published) critic of Salon.com lately, so I suppose it's only right that I tell you how much I enjoyed today's feature on the heaven and hell of online dating. It's done so well. The premise is not based on any assumptions -- other than the fact that we are all a little leery of having dinner (and possibly sex) with strangers. You've chosen a nice array of experiences and a good cross- section of would-be girlfriends and boyfriends. (By the way, can we resurrect the search for better words for "girlfriend" and "boyfriend"?)

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Also, it was a privilege to read the artfully written stories of my fellow Salon readers. Well done. So well done that I feel a little bad about my recent hate mail. (I write for a Web site and get plenty of hate mail myself.) It's so much more intuitive to complain than compliment.

-- Jacqueline Mitchell

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have to tell you guys how appreciative I am of reading the online dating article! It was one of the best reads I have had this year. I almost felt guilty -- I got to read it for free! Both the Heaven and the Hell Match submissions were enjoyable to read. My favorites and least favorites? My Heavenly favorite of course was "Lovely weirdo wanted." I thought her reluctance to be his 'lovely weirdo' was intensely funny and sweet at the end. Oh, the Hell one? "A bed I'd never know." He avers his breath stinks.

Jesus Christ -- why so brutally honest? He also declares: "I ooze confidence on paper."

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Thank Jesus -- I hope that is the only place he can "ooze" his breath. (Sorry, folks -- I take bad breath very seriously. I hope to God so does Joshua M. Bernstein.)

-- Bashir

[Read "My 'Sex and the City' Bus Tour From Hell," by Ashley Nelson.]

"Despite the few with tiaras, cowboy hats and lots of cleavage, most of the women were older than the 20- or 30-something urban sophisticates I imagined would be on the tour."

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If I laughed for the rest of my life, it wouldn't be long enough. Headline: Urban sophisticates shun cheesy SATC bus tour in favor of their real lives. Smaller headline: If you are not an actor, a 12-year-old, or a member of a royal family, wearing a tiara is heartbreakingly funny.

I hope the SATC writers don't miss this article.

Waiting with bated breath for that episode,

-- Sally Adee

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Let me get this straight ... you hired a writer whose claim to fame is writing a master's thesis on "Sex and the City"!? Where did she do her graduate work, Rupert Murdoch University?

I have a 9-year-old daughter who is an expert on "SpongeBob" and a 7-year-old one who knows all the "Arthur" episodes by heart. Maybe they could write for you, too. I can see it now ... a submarine ride to all Bob's favorite haunts and shopping spots ... a busload of sugared-up 7- to 9-year-olds taunting all the passersby.

-- Mark Hinton

Ms. Nelson's ridiculous bus tour only highlights her abject and willful ignorance of how backwards "Sex and the City" actually is. Feminist and empowering? I guess if your idea of that is to watch spoiled New York women throw away food to retain their size 5 waist. This awful and overhyped show promotes nothing more than a woman's right to be as stupid and shallow as men. Hardly a step to empowerment.

From my experience, "Sex and the City" fans are the same ones who destroy our roads in SUVs while blabbing on the cell and spilling Starbucks all over themselves while ignoring pedestrians on the street. Defend these bimbos all you want, but the show's vapid reality was there all the time. I mean, a bus tour?

-- Christian Divine


Salon Staff

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