In Norah Vincent's column, "Welcome to the Transsexual Age" [Higher Ed, May 29], she opines that sex-change surgery is similar to a nose job, and on that basis derides the decision of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to include such medical costs in their health coverage. Her glib reflections on postmodernism as a causative factor make me wonder if Vincent has met any real transsexuals or done basic research on the subject.

Transsexuality is not a construct of postmodernism. It is a very rare condition that has occurred throughout recorded history, affecting individuals who live as members of the opposite sex due to innate feelings of gender discordance that usually start at a very young age. People are cruel when they perceive a gender discordance. It is more reminiscent of Lord of the Flies than of Derrida. Nevertheless, despite everything in our culture pulling in the opposite direction, these individuals have realized, often after years of attempting to avoid the obvious conclusion, that their gender is at variance with their sex.

Imagine trying to live in the opposite gender role for an extended time, and you will realize this is not cosmetic surgery.

Jill Weiss

The writer recently published an article on the subject in the May issue of Tulane Law School's journal Law & Sexuality.


In "Welcome to the Transsexual Age," Norah Vincent hides behind a pseudo-intellectual argument ("signify" is fashionable? Not since I was at Bryn Mawr a decade ago). News flash: Objective reality is making a comeback. And, objectively, Vincent's views on transsexuals' rights to health care are medieval.

Vincent says we go through our physical transitions because we are "unhappy with the way [we] look." Has she looked at any transsexuals lately? By and large, we are not perfectly sculpted gods and goddesses. As a female-to-male transsexual, I can attest that inflamed scars, crooked nipples, and swollen, limp dicks will never be au courant. These medical measures are not beautifying; they are normalizing. They enable us to walk through the world in bodies that fit our souls.

Vincent writes that transsexuality "signifies the death of . . . the soul. . . . " On the contrary, transsexuality is the triumph of the soul—the power of the spirit to reconstruct (not deconstruct) the mortal coil that houses it. A body is just an object, Norah, a vessel. Seems to me you're reading too much into it. How very postmodern of you.

Jack Griffin


Will closing down clubs like the Tunnel mean the death of hip-hop? In "Hip-Hop's Clubland Battlefield" [May 29], Frank Owen constantly poses questions along this line, but amazingly, never answers them. Most likely because there seems to be little point to his piece other than to promote the Tunnel's Sunday Night jams.

The first problem is that the only person in the hip-hop community Owen speaks to about the Tunnel's problems other than club owner Peter Gatien is Funkmaster Flex, essentially crafting a 3000-word press release. When Flex rattles off, "No matter what the press says, hip-hop is less violent now," Owen lists no facts supporting or contradicting this statement. Why no comments from even one other artist in the hip-hop community, possibly one who doesn't earn a living at the Tunnel?

Owen states, "Most club owners and promoters won't go near the street-art form because of its reputation for violence." Quite frankly, the hip-hop Owen is discussing is no more a street-art form than most current punk. The popular hip-hop of the last few years is a well-marketed commodity that suffers from an identity crisis. How does a form remain "street" while being mass-marketed?

Finally, there is the idiotic idea that if clubs like the Tunnel shut down, a domino effect will be set off that will destroy hip-hop. Violence and drug use exist at punk shows, raves, and metal concerts, but have failed to stall any of those scenes. Savvy rap acts will continue to play live concerts, despite difficulties with promoters. Quite frankly, he who tours wins, and hip-hop will continue long after the death of one club.

Ken Wohlrob


In James Ridgeway's June 5 Mondo Washington column ["Jumpin' Jeffords"], Margaret Chase Smith was referred to erroneously on two counts. She was not the first woman "to enter Congress," nor did she enter Congress in 1936. In 1916, Jeanette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to Congress. Smith was first elected to Congress in 1940.

Chris Caillavet
Beaumont, Texas


Re Michael Atkinson's review of Shrek ["Manic Regression," May 22]: You are too caught up in showing off your vocabulary! So much, in fact, that even though your reviews are right on the money, they are ignored and the readers decide to not like you instead of Shrek because you come off sounding like a snobby, pompous ass! Ease up on the 50-cent words . . . One Dennis Miller is enough.

Jim Greene
Silver Spring, Maryland

Curious how the review of Shrek stands alone with a negative opinion amongst the multitude. One would think that a reviewer would have an opinion reflective of at least one other person on the planet.

Perhaps Michael Atkinson is suffering from a severe vitamin love deficiency.

Dorr Tippens
Seattle, Washington

I couldn't disagree more with Michael Atkinson's review of Shrek. The movie works well for both children and adults, and while it may not be as sophisticated as Juliet of the Spirits, I'd like to point out that it wasn't intended to be. And for someone who complains about poor writing, I think Mr. "Marzipan-ness" ought to take a look in the mirror.

Megan Doscher


A dash got lost in my June 12 Lucinda Williams piece [Rock&Roll&], changing the meaning of the fourth sentence of the second paragraph, if not the entire essay. The sentence should have read "It's well-named, too—abstract and ethereal by Williams's standards," not "It's well-named, too abstract and ethereal by Williams's standards." To be clear: I admire Williams for risking this change.

Robert Christgau

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