Transitions of the Heart

13238264The holiday season is a time when those with far-flung loved ones update each other with cards and family letters, family members gather, and adults reconvene in their hometowns. Sometimes when the year has brought about a revelation of a child’s emerging gender or sexual orientation, parents wonder how best to share the news to a large group of people. They want to support their children and share this family news but may also be concerned about others’ potentially invasive questions or insensitive remarks. How can this be handled?

In the book Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children (ed. Rachel Pepper), contributor Barbara Gurr shares a letter she penned and sent to family members to let them know that her school-age child, who had been labeled a boy at birth, was coming to understand her feminine identity and transition socially. She writes,

Dear Friends and Family:

I apologize for sending you all a crazy form letter, but our family has news to share! And it’s so hard sometimes to get together that we thought we’d send a letter to those people who mean the most to us, and let you in on what’s going on with us.

The news we have is kind of hard to share, and after thinking and praying about it for a while, it seems best to send a letter for two reasons: we have to start letting people know what’s going on with us, and it might be easier for some people to get a letter they can react to honestly and privately—without worrying about hurting our feelings, or saying the “right” thing (whatever that is) or the “wrong” thing (whatever that is).

As some of you have no doubt begun to notice over the last couple of years (especially if you’ve spent time with us more recently), Thomas is presenting us with a bit of a surprise. Our son Thomas is transgender. This means that although he was born with boy parts, he’s really a she. What’s on the outside does not match what’s on the inside of him … We have no doubt that this revelation will be hard for many of you to accept, as well. That’s okay. We know you love us and want the best for us—that’s why you’re getting this letter. We want you to understand what this means so that we can all be honest with each other about our concerns and our fears.

Gurr goes on to explain her child’s transition and share stories from earlier years that led to this realization of femininity. She closes by saying that she appreciates the love and support of those around her. Gurr’s letter provides an excellent template for parents who want to address a child’s gender or sexuality and also send a message: This is our child’s identity. We are happy to answer questions, but we expect that you accept our child for who s/he is.

In the GLBT Student Support Services office, we talk to many parents whose students are attending or planning to attend IU and coming to terms with their sexuality or gender. We are always happy to chat with parents who are concerned about addressing their child’s gender or sexuality with family or community members.

Gurr’s chapter closes with the beautiful statement, “Genders and sexualities are complicated, but love doesn’t have to be.” Through questions, uncertainties, and transitions, this fact holds true. Life is complex—but love is simple.

Written by Jamie, GLBTSSS Office Supervisor

More recent additions to the library!

Here are some more of our recent acquisitions, just waiting to jump from our shelves into your hands! Want to find something you read about here? Search our Library Thing catalog, or email!

Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America – by Christopher Bram

Eminent Outlaws Book CoverThis volume explores how the trailblazing, post-war gay literary figures, including Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Allen Ginsberg, paved the way for newer generations, including Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, and Edward Albee that are so familiar to the literary-minded LGBT readers of today.






Almost Perfect – by Brian Katcher

Almost Perfect Book CoverLogan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. Once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama – by Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother Book CoverAlison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel’s childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It’s a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

Body Outlaws: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity

Body Outlaws Book CoverIn a culture where plastic surgery has become nearly as routine as a root canal, we’ve all but erased the unmodified figure from our imaginations. Pick up a magazine, turn on the TV, and you’ll find few women who haven’t been fried, dyed, plucked or tucked. In short, you’ll see no body outlaws.

In fresh and incisive essays, the writers in Body Outlaws reveal a world where bodies come in all their many-splendored shapes, sizes, colors and textures. In doing so, they expand the national dialogue about body image to include race, ethnicity, sexuality and power – issues that, while often overlooked, are intimately linked to how women feel about their bodies. Filled with honesty and humor, this groundbreaking anthology offers stories by women who have chosen to ignore, subvert, or redefine the dominant beauty standard in order to feel at home in their bodies.

Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians – by Candace Chellew-Hodge

Bulletproof Faith Book CoverThis thoughtful, practical guide shows readers a way through the minefield of condemnation and persecution faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians and helps foster a faith that is bulletproof—impervious to attacks, yet loving and savvy in its approach. Bulletproof Faith is filled with useful insights and proven spiritual practices that deflect attacks and enhance and strengthen faith by turning attacks into opportunities for spiritual growth.




Conundrum – by Jan Morris

Conundrum Book CoverThe great travel writer Jan Morris was born James Morris. James Morris distinguished himself in the British military, became a successful and physically daring reporter, climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and established a reputation as a historian of the British empire. He was happily married, with several children. To all appearances, he was not only a man, but a man’s man.

Except that appearances, as James Morris had known from early childhood, can be deeply misleading. James Morris had known all his conscious life that at heart he was a woman.

Conundrum, one of the earliest books to discuss transsexuality with honesty and without prurience, tells the story of James Morris’s hidden life and how he decided to bring it into the open, as he resolved first on a hormone treatment and, second, on risky experimental surgery that would turn her into the woman that she truly was.

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence – by Inga Muscio

Cunt Book CoverAn ancient title of respect for women, the word “cunt” long ago veered off this noble path. Inga Muscio traces the road from honor to expletive, giving women the motivation and tools to claim “cunt” as a positive and powerful force in their lives. With humor and candor, she shares her own history as she explores the cultural forces that influence women’s relationships with their bodies.




Emerald City Blues – by Jean Stewart

Emerald City Blues Book CoverWhen the comfortable yuppie world of Chris Olson and Jenifer Hart collides with the desperate lives of Reb and Flynn, two lesbian runaways struggling to survive on the streets of Seattle, the forcast is trouble. A gritty, enormously readable novel of contemporary lesbigay life which raises real questions about the meaning of family and community, and about the walls we construct. A celebration of the healing powers of love.





The Evolution of Ethan Poe – by Robin Reardon

Evolution of Ethan Poe Book CoverEthan Poe, sixteen and gay, struggles for balance while his life conspires to pull him in many different directions. His parents are divorcing; his older brother Kyle is damaging his right hand in the name of purity; his best friend is a Jesus freak who prays for him to be straight; he’s desperate to get his driver’s license, but he can’t seem to get enough supervised driving time. He’s just starting to see light in the form of Max Modine, a boy he wants to know much better than he does, when his rural Maine town begins to explode around him. Against his intentions he gets pulled into a pitched and sometimes violent conflict about whether to introduce Intelligent Design into science classrooms. Friendships end, families are torn apart, and the school becomes a battleground. Always seeking elusive balance, Ethan finds his way through a maze of lost friends, new love, and the mysteries of tattoos and power animals, with help from quarters where he never expected to find it. And he gains something better than balance.

Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body: Understanding What it Means to be Transgender

Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body  Book CoverBoys who play with Barbie dolls. Girls who join the football team. What is gender? What are gender roles? What’s the difference between being a tomboy and being transgender? Is it possible to be in the wrong body?

Explore the answers to these questions with an easy-to-follow examination of what it means to be transgender, based on personal experiences of the men and women who have taken steps to transition. Learn from the experiences of transgender young people who make the significant choice to live openly as another gender while still in high school. Uncover the reality of this often-misunderstood group and how it fits into the gay community.

History in the Making


LGBT History Month 2012

As LGBT history month draws to a close, we are reminded of those who pioneered the way for the freedoms we enjoy today, and that there is still much progress to be made. Equality Forum compiles a list of notable LGBT historical figures each year, and what is most remarkable about most of these individuals is not that they organized millions of people behind a cause or changed policies and laws single-handedly; what is remarkable about these individuals is that they were willing to stand out–and speak out–during times where to be anything but hetero-normative was a sentence for a lifetime as a societal outcast.

Pierre SeelPierre Seel (1923-2005) was imprisoned and tortured in a concentration camp during World War II because he was gay. After escaping from conscripted service in the German army and surrendering to the Allies, his imprisonment was not compensated or acknowledged by the French government. Neither were any of the others deported for their sexual orientation. In 1982, after having closeted himself for 37 years, he wrote an article for a French gay magazine in response to a prominent bishop’s anti-gay remarks. His memoir, “I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual” was published in 1994. And in 2003, he was finally recognized as a victim of the Holocaust.

Christine JorgensenChristine Jorgensen (1926-1989) was one of the first people to use hormone therapy to supplement her gender reassignment therapy. She was catapulted to fame when the New York Daily News intercepted a letter to her parents about her transformation and ran a story titled “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” She relocated to New York to speak out in support of transsexual and transgender people; Jorgensen moved into music and film, and toured the US speaking at colleges and universities about her story.



Tom Waddell's memoir, Gay OlympianTom Waddell (1937-1987) organized the Gay Games–an athletic event modeled on the Olympics that still takes place every 4 years, the most recent having been held in 2010. Waddell was part of the civil rights demonstrations in Alabama in the early 1960’s, and joined the army in 1966. He competed in the Olympics in 1968, after which he was a fellow at Stanford University. He came out to friends and family in the 1970’s, and inspired by a gay bowling league, he decided to create a unique sporting event where LGBT athletes could compete openly. Waddell lived to see the games become a great success, and died of AIDS-related complications in 1987.

Gloria AnzalduaGloria Anzaldua (1942-2004) “helped build a multicultural feminist movement and called for people of different races to move forward together.”  After teaching several courses in creative writing and Chicana studies & earning her master’s degree, she co-edited one of the most cited books in the history of feminist studies: This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. She refused to write in only one language, and her writings contain two variations of English & six of Spanish, and all manner of in-betweens. She died while working on her doctorate, and was posthumously awarded a PhD by the University of California, Santa Cruz for her scholarly contributions.

Although it is no longer a danger to speak out publicly in support of the LGBT community in most of Western society, many people still suffer harassment and exclusion in silence. October is also anti-bullying month. Bullying can be as simple as one child tormenting another, or an institutionalized hostility against hundreds of thousands of people. We have seen great steps taken in our society within our lifetimes, yet without continual individual effort, we cannot move forward. I am reminded of the children’s book “Horton Hears a Who,” where no-one can hear the voices of the tiny people living on a dandelion puff except an elephant with exceptional hearing. But when they combine their voices, they are able to make themselves heard by everyone in the larger world: “We are here!” So we need to remember: we may not think our voice counts or has any influence on our surroundings, but if we all speak up, we will be heard.


For more information on LGBT historical and modern figures, check out!

How is Your Health?

Photo courtesy of the World Association for Sexual Health

This past Tuesday, September 4th, was World Sexual Health Day. The World Association for Sexual Health (WASH) works toward creating an environment that is supportive of sexual health for everyone.



The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual rights as an integral part of basic human rights:

Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. They include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to:

  • The highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services;
  • Seek, receive, and impart information in relation to sexuality;
  • Sexuality education;
  • Respect for bodily integrity,
  • Choice of partner;
  • Decide to be sexually active or not;
  • Consensual sexual relations;
  • Consensual marriage;
  • Decide whether or not, and when to have children; and
  • Pursue a satisfying, safe, and pleasurable sexual life (WHO 2002a, as cited in the Millennium Declaration by WASH).

The goals laid out by the World Association for Sexual Health in the Millennium Declaration describe actions needed to achieve the ideal of sexual health and equality for all people: ideals that can be realized only with support from individuals as well as organizations throughout the population.

Read the Millennium Declaration here:

Listed below are the eight goals of the World Association for Sexual Health, and some resources from our library that can help elaborate on these ideas.

1. Recognize, promote, ensure and protect sexual rights for all:

Sexual Justice, by Morris Kaplan
Sexual Justice, by Morris Kaplan









2. Advance toward gender equality and equity:

Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men, by Anne Fausto-Sterling









3. Condemn, combat, and reduce all forms of sexuality related violence:

Boys Don’t Cry, based on the true story of Brandon Teena









4. Provide universal access to comprehensive sexuality education and information:

Activist Educators, edited by Catherine Marshall and Amy Anderson



5. Ensure that reproductive health programs recognize the centrality of sexual health 5

Women’s Health: Missing from US Medicine, by Sue Rosse




6. Halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI):


Against the Odds: The Story of AIDS Drug Development, Politics and Profits









7. Identify, address and treat sexual concerns, dysfunctions and disorders:


Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes










8. Achieve recognition of sexual pleasure as a component of holistic health and well-being


The Care of the Self: The History of Sexuality, Volume 3, by Michel Foucault














WHO. (2002a) Working Definitions.


New memoirs at the GLBT Library

Yesterday we highlighted a sampling of our new nonfiction. Today, let’s relax with some new memoirs.

 Nina Here Nor There
by Nick Kreiger
6.128 KRIni 2011

Ambitious, sporty, feminine “capital-L lesbians” had been Nina Krieger’s type, for friends that is. She hadn’t dated in seven years, a period of non-stop traveling–searching for what, or avoiding what, she didn’t know. When she lands in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, her roommates introduce her to a whole new world, full of people who identify as queer, who modify their bodies and blur the line between woman and man, who defy everything Nina thought she knew about gender and identity. Despite herself, Nina is drawn to the people she once considered freaks, and before long, she is forging a path that is neither man nor woman, here nor there. This candid and humorous memoir of gender awakening brings readers into the world of the next generation of transgender warriors and tells a classic tale of first love and self-discovery.

 The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers
by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
3.744 KILbu 2011

A happy series of accidents and a doughnut-laden escape upstate take Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his partner, Brent Ridge, to the doorstep of the magnificent (and fabulously for sale) Beekman Mansion. And so begins their transformation from uptight urbanites into the two-hundred-year-old-mansion-owning Beekman Boys. Suddenly Josh–a full time New Yorker with a successful advertising career–and Brent find themselves weekend farmers, surrounded by nature’s bounty and an eclectic cast: roosters who double as a wedding cover band; Bubby, the bionic cat; and a herd of goats, courtesy of their new caretaker, Farmer John.

 My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy
by Andrea Askowitz
6.356 ASKmy 2008

Andrea Askowitz has the best life in the world. She’s pregnant and healthy. She has friends and family who love her. She has money and meaningful work. And all she can do is obsess about the one thing she doesn’t have: Kate, her ex-girlfriend. My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy is a funny, whiny, all-too-real account of one girl’s true adventure in maternity. From finding a great donor who turns out to be shooting blanks (“I was a lesbian with male fertility problems.”) through all-day morning sickness and graduation into “fat-girl underwear,” Andrea’s life reads like an antidote to sugar-sweet pregnancy guides and memoirs. In week 8, her sense of smell becomes so strong that she can tell what deodorant people are wearing. In week 28, she plans a pity party, complete with black-only dress code and a violin player: “It isn’t an attempt to make fun of myself, because that would be too joyous.”

 The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and my Family
by Dan Savage
6.314 SAVco 2005

Dan Savage recounts his family’s campaign to convince him and his boyfriend, Terry, to get married, and explores how his family’s attitudes towards gay marriage reflect those of contemporary American society.

Drag Movies at the Library

The fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race is underway and it seems fitting to turn our attention to the movies that feature drag performances. If you are a fan or just want to see what drag is all about, here’s a selection of DVDs from our collection that you can check out.

We’ll also be showing Paris is Burning, a movie about the fashion-obsessed New Yorkers who created “voguing” and drag balls, as part of our LGBT Movie Nights. You can catch it on Thursday, April 5th at 9pm at Ballantine 013.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the DesertThe Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

With a contract to perform a drag show way out in the Australian desert, Tick, Adam, and Ralph each has his own reason for wanting to leave the safety of Sydney. Christening their battered pink tour bus “Priscilla,” the trio heads for the outback and into crazy adventures in even crazier outfits


La Cage Aux FollesLa Cage Aux Folles

This farce features the owner of a drag-revue nightclub and his partner, the high-maintenance diva who is the star of the show. When the owner’s son becomes engaged to a politician’s daughter, the family puts on a very different kind of show for her conservative family. We also have The Birdcage, an American adaptation of this French comedy.


Connie and CarlaConnie and Carla

Best friends Connie and Carla aspire to become musical theater stars but when they witness a mafia crime, it seems they’ll never be able to make it big without exposing themselves. While on the run they see a drag revue and decide to go undercover as drag queens. The plan seems to working as soon the girls rise in the ranks of L.A.’s drag community. There is a small complication, however, when Connie falls for a guy who is seeking out his cross-dressing brother.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar DVD CoverTo Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar

En route from New York City to Hollywood for a drag queen beauty pageant, Noxeema, Vida and Chi Chi are stranded in a tiny Midwestern town when their 1967 Cadillac breaks down. When their glitz and glamour wake up the sleepy local citizens, the stage is set for an outrageously funny weekend.


Venus Boyz DVD CoverVenus Boyz

Venus Boyz takes the viewers on an extraordinary journey into the universe of female masculinity. Filmed in New York City and London, this eye-opening documentary uses the performances of drag kings as a starting point into the topic of transgenderism.


 Wigstock: The Movie DVD CoverWigstock: The Movie

This documentary goes behind the scenes at Wigstock, an outdoor drag festival in New York. It features performances by acclaimed performers RuPaul, Lipsinka, and The “Lady” Bunny. It is a raucous look at the self-proclaimed “Super Bowl of Drag.”



The Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aaina) DVD CoverThe Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aaina)

A colorful, funny look into the Indian homosexual closet, this film pits two Indian drag queens against a westernized gay teenager in a battle to woo a handsome hunk. Underneath the humorous exterior, the film is an exploration of the Indian gay landscape and understanding of the deep, humanly tender bonds that exist between drag queens who form unique non-patriarchal families. Hindi with English subtitles.

If you want to see live drag, you don’t even have to leave Bloomington. Here’s a list of groups and events in our community that have drag performances.

GenderF**k IU
This all-inclusive drag show is having it’s second performance at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Friday, April 20, 2012 at 8pm.

Miss Gay IU and Hoosier Daddy
OUT, IU’s GLBTQA Student Union, hosts these pageants annually. Dates for 2012 have not yet been set.

Gender Studs
This Bloomington-based drag king group gives performances all over town. Check their Facebook page for upcoming events.

West End Girls
This group of drag queens gives performances at Uncle Elizabeth’s every Friday.