Brian Smith must be admired and complimented for his stunning journalistic accomplishment in the piece, "Transformer" (Metro Times, Sept. 13). His remarkable skill as a writer isn't easily ignored.
And yet I am sorry to report that the trans community is largely distraught over the article, as well as my own role in telling the story. Trans people object to how the article "reinforced negative stereotypes" by "pandering to the prurient interest." It would be appropriate and nice for Metro Times to apologize for this.
As for myself: The trans community is generally uncomfortable with the image I portray of transsexuals. It should be made clear that I represent no one except myself. I told my story because there are important lessons to learn.
For one: If I'd been raised without repression and fear, I would never have turned to S&M. It says a lot about our society that about the only place many trans people feel safe about expressing our true gender identity is in the world of S&M. Coupled with the release of responsibility associated with the submissive role, it is no wonder that many transsexuals travel through the S&M lifestyle while finding our true selves inside.
But we are trapped, because if we embrace our true nature and come out of the closet, then we risk familial abandonment, loss of employment, physical abuse, etc.
After the traumas associated with my mother's death last year, I reacted by attempting suicide and then suffering a nervous breakdown. And I went on a wild streak justifiably rebelling against a society that barred me from my own mother's funeral.
My behavior during that time was provocative, and thus especially appealing to the media. But my behavior was not typical of transsexuals (except, perhaps, when we are treated like dirt and just can't take it anymore).
The word "hypersexual," in the subhead, was also a poor choice to describe someone who hasn't even had sex in the last 10 weeks! I was hypersexual when I lived as a man. At that time, I had no other outlet except sex to cope with the need to express my femininity.
But when I embraced the woman inside and began proudly living publicly as a woman, my masochistic and sexual compulsions disappeared immediately.
All of this aside, Brian's piece is an otherwise flawless work of art, and I am terribly grateful. Stephanie Loveless, Ferndale
Dear Brian: I wanted to personally thank you for writing such an honest, sensitive piece on Steffie. Perhaps it will help to tear down some stereotypes and open people's hearts to others what the world needs now. Rev. Concetta Pampinella, New Life Spiritual Fellowship, Warren
Jim McFarlin: Your observations on Judge Mathis' TV show ("Judgment day," Metro Times, Sept. 13) are strictly your opinion, but when you make statements such as "Now, all this can be extremely entertaining and keeps daytime viewers, particularly black women, coming back for more." As a black woman, I find that disturbing. First of all, do you have any statistics to back up your assertion that black women in particular are so fond of Judge Mathis' sweeping broad allegations and ridicule? Secondly, most of the black women I know are at work during the times this show airs in Detroit. I know it was only a small comment, but do you think that only black women make up Judge Mathis' rating? C'mon: America is fascinated with crap like this Reality TV has taken over; the judge's show is no different. Carla Powell, Detroit
Praise for Rosenthal
Dear Marilynn Rosenthal: It's refreshing to know that your research ("In her son's name," Metro Times, Sept. 6) supports my thoughts and analysis on this chaos the Bush administration's incompetence and wrongheaded and narrow philosophy. Linking terrorism with Iraq was a smokescreen that my pet dog could see through. Why do Americans let apple pie cloud their judgment? They still have their heads in the sand, at least 39 percent of them. (It used to be around 60 percent.)
I commend your courage and mourn your loss. You're a strong and focused woman. Ben Carter, Detroit
Tale of Two Cities
Keith Owens writes that Katrina has unmasked for all to see that New Orleans resembles Detroit ("Is New Orleans the new Detroit?" Metro Times, Sept. 6). As one who was born and raised in New Orleans, I say: hogwash. The only similarity is that both have a majority of denizens who are poor and black, and both have a high crime rate.
The similarities stop there. Detroit throughout the year looks like a ghost town, day and night, not so New Orleans even after Katrina. New Orleans is a city of major festivals. It is a city where conventions are held almost weekly. New Orleans has two large majestic parks; Detroit has unkempt Belle Isle. New Orleans has two streetcar lines, Detroit has none and New Orleans also has good bus service. New Orleans has the famous French Quarter. New Orleans has the beautiful Garden District. And, needless to say, it's famous for its restaurants.
New Orleans is not the new Detroit, not now, not ever. Ralph Slovenko, Detroit
Heat of the moment
The answer to Mr. Owens' article, "Is New Orleans the new Detroit?" is simple. Every major city (with a population of 1 million or more) in the world is Detroit, sans "the moment." And what is that "moment," you ask? It is the event, natural or human, that exposes all of a city's issues with a very harsh light. For Detroit, it was the riots of 1967. For New Orleans, it was Hurricane Katrina.
Pundits can scoff and say it can never happen in "their" city, but that just makes me laugh. If it were not for good civil planning and blind luck, New York could have been a firestorm five years ago, much like San Francisco in the last century, or Chicago the century before that.
No, the true measure in judging a city, or its "moments," is the long-term perspective. Will Detroit and New Orleans rebuild quickly and thrive, like London? Or will it take centuries, like Rome? We can only speculate. It will be up to our great-great-great-grandchildren to start passing judgment. May they have mercy on our memories and souls. Matthew A. Sawtell, LaGrange Park, Ill.Send letters (250 words or less, please) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your telephone number for verification. We reserve the right to edit for length, clarity and libel.