Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘male’

Transfigurations – Photos

From the prize-winning book of photographs by Jana Marcus – Transfigurations.

Introduction

Transfigurations aims to illuminate who transgender people are, a subject which the mainstream culture has often shadowed in mystery and misunderstood. Navigating the waters of gender politics, the work also explores what comprises masculinity and femininity. The knowledge transgender people have acquired speaks to bridging a gap between the sexes. They have experienced the world from both a female and a male perspective. They have created for themselves what they believe masculinity and femininity to be, and they have found the courage to be who they believe they were born to be, despite daunting odds, ridicule, hate-crimes and murder.

To be transgendered is to transcend gender boundaries in our society. The strict binary boundaries of what is male and female in our culture start as early as birth, when pink or blue colors are chosen for infants. However, what if you knew from an early age you were a boy, but your body was developing as a female? What if the whole world saw you differently than you saw yourself? The transgender invididual’s experience has often been traumatic. Many have lost their families, their partners, their children and their jobs. In addition, they have qduestioned their religions and undergone painful surgeries, all in the name of becoming “whole” – to have their appearance on the outside match who they are on the inside. They have gone against the status-quo to find truth and balance in themselves, no matter what the cost. For many it has been a “do or die” situation.

In 2003, I started interviewing and photographing transgender men (female-to-males) about their journeys of self-discovery. The thought processes intrinsic to what kind of men they were striving to become, and what was informing their choices, were the stories I wanted to tell. In 2005, I turned my lens to transgender women (male-to-females) to photograph and document their thoughts on femininity and how societal pressures may have influenced their views on womanhood.

In shooting the portraits, I chose to take a formalist approach. The more I learned about the complexity of gender issues, the simpler I wanted the images to be. The stark studio, sans props, does not allow you to judge the subjects by their surroundings. They stare back at you, returning the dominant gaze, asking to be recognized, and confronting the viewer with their presence. I wanted each person to be seen simply as a human being, no different from anyone else.

I discovered that gender is both real and illusory, natural and constructed. By capturing the physical and mental transformation from one sex/gender to another, the photos reveal the importance of the body in gender identity, as well as the effects of transformative practices on the body, which creates a reality beyond ordinary experience.

I invite you to look into the faces of these truly self-made men and women.

Jana Marcus

Please Come Again

Excerpt from The Penis Dialogues: Handle With Care by Gabriel Constans. Recommended by Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues).

Please Come Again

Men can have multiple orgasms without ejaculating. You heard me right – multiple orgasms without ejaculating. Though they seem to occur simultaneously, an orgasm takes place seconds before ejaculation. If you learn to stop, control and/or delay coming, you can have an orgasm, retain your erection and come again and again. It takes practice and concentrated awareness of your body, but you can’t go wrong because you end up having an orgasm either way, and you can practice alone or with your partner.

Without ejaculation, the semen is reabsorbed into the body and the orgasmic contractions massage the prostate, which actually enhances health and vitality. You get all the pleasure combined with the added benefit of knowing it’s good for your health too! Sort of like a tasty low-fat meal.

There are a number of books that talk about this Chinese Taoist technique and philosophy. I would highly recommend The Multi-Orgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know. Its authors are Mantak Chia and Douglas Abrams (a local Santa Cruz author and teacher).

Greatest Threat to Patriarchy

Communion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks (Harper Collins Publishers, 2002)

Excerpt from Chapter One – Aging to Love, Loving to Age.

Women are often more interested in being loved than in the act of loving. All too often the female search for love is epitomized by this desire, not by a desire to know how to love. Until we are able to acknowledge that women fail at loving because we are no more schooled in the art of loving than are our male counterparts, we will not find love. If the female obsession with love in patriarchal culture were linked from birth on to the practice of love, then women would be experts in the art of loving. And as a consequence, since women do most of the parenting in our nation, children would be more loving. If women excelled in the art of loving, these skills would be imparted to male and female children alike.

As long as our culture devalues love, women will remain no more able to love than our male counterparts are. In patriarchal culture, giving care continues to be seen as primarily a female task. The feminist movement did not change this perception. And while women more than men are often great caregivers, this does not translate into knowing how to be loving. Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. Socialized in the art of caring, it is easier for women who desire to love to learn the necessary skills to practice love. And yet women have not chosen to give themselves whole-heartedly over to the art of loving. As long as being loved is seen as a gesture of weakness, one that dis-empowers, women will remain afraid to love fully, deeply, completely. Women will continue to fail at love, because this failure places females on an equal footing with males who turn away from love. Women who fail at loving need not be disappointed that the men in their lives – fathers, siblings, friends, or lovers – do not give love. Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo. By failing to love, women make it clear that it is more vital to their existence to have the approval and support of men than it is to love.

Love, Sex & Gender

Excerpts from The Penis Dialogues: Handle With Care.

“I was struck by this book’s humor, probing curiosity and genuine compassion.” – Eve Ensler (Author, Actor & Playwright of The Vagina Monologues and V-Day.

“Did you come?” “Yes, did you?”

Male and female genitals come from the same fetal tissue. Despite the anatomical differences between male and female, it turns out that orgasms in men and women are physiologically and psychologically very similar. Studies have been done in which experts could not reliably determine gender when reading descriptions of orgasms with all anatomical references removed.

Researchers have also discovered that multi-orgasmic men (repeated orgasm without ejaculation) have the same arousal charts in the laboratory as multi-orgasmic women.

The next time you think a woman doesn’t understand what you’re saying, thinking or feeling (because she’s a woman), think again!

Lovemaking Olympics

Recent research legitimizes sex as a healthy form of exercise on a par with running, walking or swimming. Some specialists in cardiovascular disease have found that having sex three to five times a week can cut the risk of a stroke or major heart attack in half!

A study of 2,400 men in the town of Caerphilly, Wales, discovered that those who had three or more orgasms a week had half the number of strokes or heart attacks as those who didn’t. The study lasted for ten years.

It turns out that even mild or moderate forms of physical activity, including sex, can help protect the heart and decrease the chance of illness.

The male of the chicken.

In Latin penis (pes) means tail. The dictionary defines it as, “The male organ of sexual intercourse: in mammals it is also the organ through which urine is ejected.”

The dictionary describes the word cock as: the male of the chicken; the male of other birds; the crowing of a rooster; a weather vane in the shape of a rooster; a leader or chief, especially one with some boldness or arrogance; a faucet or valve for regulating the flow of a liquid or gas; a tilting or turning upward; a jaunty, erect position; to set; to be ready for release; a small, cone-shaped pile.

I don’t believe I’ve ever thought of my cock as a “cone-shaped pile” or an “arrogant leader or chief.” Nor have I thought of an erection as “jaunty,” but I guess I’ll have to reconsider. After all, these facts are in the dictionary as plain as day and who am I to question Webster’s?

Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?

A team of researchers from the University of Southern California has determined that “men and women are remarkably similar in their mating preferences.” They found that college-age men and women prefer a long-term exclusive sexual relationship. Both sexes want a conscientious and compatible partner.

A cross-cultural questionnaire found that, contrary to popular misconceptions, over 890 percent of older women, and over 70 percent of older men, feel that sexual activity is important for health and well-being. Another survey found that 80 percent of married men over the age of 70 and 75 percent that were un-married, remained sexually active.

It turns out that grandparents and college students want the same thing – love, commitment and sex. People of all ages enjoy one another’s bodies and the pleasures, attachments and feelings that come with them.

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Murakaza Neza (Welcome)

The two lane paved road kept climbing higher, past waterfalls, lush cultivated valleys and terraced hillsides. Kermit the Frog, from Sesame Street, would feel right at home with the abundance of green foliage that simmered before our eyes. The river that followed the road to Ruhengeri in the north of Rwanda provided a beautiful contrast with its brownish-red colored waters. Our family was traveling with a group we worked with at an orphanage in the capital Kigali. We were taking a break to visit the rare mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga National Park, which borders The Congo and Uganda in Eastern Africa. The scenery during our two hour ride along the Ruhengari Road (built by the Chinese) was spectacular, but even that lovely assault on the senses didn’t prepare us for what was to come.

When we arrived at The Gorilla Nest Lodge in Ruhengeri, just outside the Volcanoes National Park, we were stunned. Imagine a luxury hotel, superbly crafted from local stone, wood and bamboo, tucked into the jungle at the bottom of a blue-green volcanic range. Top that off with spacious rooms, fine dining and friendly service from people that speak English, French and Kinyarwanda (the national language) and you have a virtual Shangri-la in the middle of Africa.

After a peaceful night we were driven to the Virunga Park entrance and met our guide, Fidel, who has worked as a park ranger for thirteen years. He informed us that we would be walking for about three hours to find the family we would be observing. We set out, nine in all and made our way up the hillside past planted fields and traditional mud huts; over the stone wall, which was built by villagers (who were paid by the government) to keep out elephants and buffalo and to delineate the park boundary. We were well prepared for what is usually a wet misty experience (with our boots and raincoats), but were in luck with sunny weather and a clear trail.

As we walked Fidel told us that the dominant male in a family (the Silverback) is called “The President”. He said if there is no dominant male in the group than a female is the leader. “Blackbacks are males before they become adults,” Fidel said quietly. “From eight years on females are called adults because they can have babies. Gorillas can live up to forty years old. Gestation for pregnancy is about eight to nine months. Females usually live longer than males. Sound familiar? They are vegetarians. They sleep, play, socialize and eat just like us. Their DNA is ninety-seven percent the same as humans.” Fidel suddenly held up his hand and whispered, “straight ahead.” We heard the sound of twigs breaking and grunting noises before we could see anything. Fidel gently pushed aside some bamboo and my wife was staring face to face with a 500 pound silverback ten feet in front of her who was contently sitting down to lunch on some freshly stripped morsels of bamboo leaves. She froze, as we lined up alongside her; our mouths agape at the spectacle.

It wasn’t long until a number of females with toddlers and a newborn joined the silverback. We watched the children play, nurse and be pulled back to their moms when they got to far away or too close to the spectators. We were entranced. We were the ones with the camera equipment, but if the gorillas could take our picture, they would probably be laughing hysterically at images of our grinning stupefied faces.

As required, we left the gorilla family after an hour’s viewing and made our way back down the mountain. We were in such awe that there was little conversation. Everyone knew the $500.00 per person we had paid for permits to see the gorillas was the best money we had ever spent. The funds from the permits help the rangers protect the gorillas, continue research and provide funds for the surrounding communities to build schools, health clinics and crafts centers.

Rwanda is becoming increasingly noticed for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government, family life and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for infrastructure, education, investment, security and eco-tourism have made it assessable, affordable and one of the safest destinations for adults and children in Africa.

When we returned to Kigali the next day and continued our work at the ROP Center for Street Children, my wife said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if these kids could some day afford to see the gorillas?”

“It would be fantastic,” I thought. Perhaps some day soon these children will be able to finish their education, make a living and visit the rare mountain gorillas themselves. Perhaps some of them will, like Fidel, grow up and work in one of Rwanda’s beautiful national parks and lead tourists like you and me to see their beloved and amazing national treasure, our cousins, the magnificent mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park.

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