What is the Body Capable of? What is the Body for?


A Guest Essay by

j/j hastain, MFA






In Kelley Winter’s essay Maligning Terminology in the DSM: the Language of Oppression she states:


“I’m speaking of affirmed transwomen being called “he” and transmen being called “she.” I use the term Maligning Language to describe this specific kind of verbal violence.” (1)


I wonder what an authentic replacement to this verbal violence (concerning gender and identity) that Kelley refers to would look like…I wonder what types of spaces would necessarily evolve, if we as a species were somehow more precisely able to focus our gestures and efforts on the continued re-structuring and imagining of the places where these violences take place.


The following outpour is a phantasmagoria built off of questions. It is a document to dream through. It is a grouping of inquiries rooted in belief that it is possible to proceed in our work with gender and embodiment practices, in ways that are more involved, more evolved, more interested and more creative.


The following is a place to begin.


There will always be some sort of a future to reckon with–to recognize through. I find that there are some very real questions that need to be asked concerning how to create a future that makes all beings want to be here for that future.


What would it mean if we were to truly gesture toward the future of health for all persons?


In order for this future to truly occur, there need be inquiry into what and how

gender variant bodies can most accurately be referred.


This future would also need to obviously use accurate pronouns. By accurate I do not mean correct in terms of the polarist options of typical patriarchal categoricism

(e.g. he/she). I am speaking of an accuracy that would be dependent on the person utilizing the pronouns (as reference) actually inquiring of whom they are referring, how they wish to be referred. For example:


Do you wish to be referred to as he or she?    Or is there something else that you more deeply identify as?


What would it be to engage intimacies and accuracies rather than binary induced categorization? What would it be to replace traditional notions of categorization with  fundamental openness and curiosity? And what effects would these particular revolutions have on our bodies as we continue?


Perhaps the authentic replacement that I am referring to would look like many spaces of uninhibited imagination, overlapping and commingling. Spaces that are not typical or traditional. Spaces that emphasize specificity and precision concerning the vitalities of the individual.


Perhaps this replacement would emerge as spaces wherein the body is no longer seen in terms of how an exterior position would categorize it–but instead is seen as a space for forms to move through. A space that needs to be seen, acknowledged and named in terms of awe and enigma.


Imagine what it would be like if we were to treat each body as if it were an ever original, non-debatable conglomerate. An always developing compound. Always perfect. Always amidst. And always continuing.


I propose that it is possible that we make a neoteric future. I believe that a future such as this will need be based on extreme invention and vision. It will require new realms of interactivity where language is engaged in as action, activism and opportunity to touch the most inner places in bodies.


In this future we will name our own realities based in what it is that actually anitmates us–what it is that brings us to life. A future where we reach to understand others’

self-named realties with excitement and vigor rather than fear or complacency.


This will be a future that requires that we not fear differentiation. This will be future that demands that we understand variance.


In this future we will necessarily transmogrify the polarizing issue of exteriority.

Traditional categorizations and misperceptions will be further specified, because there will be space made for variant bodies to speak their accuracies concerning them.


In this future, in the place of patriarchal history we will implant shining, myriad glossaries of exactness.


As Lyn Hejennian states:


“a work that is not a closed symmetrical whole, but an unfolding dynamic integrity.”(2)


This future is a work that we allow to progress through models of motility.


If we consider perceiving in terms of its limits and we admit those limits and are willing to extend further than our own perceptions in order to expand, I believe it is possible for us to progress into this future with deeper and more profound notions of respect.


If we engaged in these ways, then perhaps what we would construct as methodologies to engage with the very bodies to which were are referring  would be that much more developed in terms of space, capacity to understand and willingness to offer.


This future would no longer be dominated by rhetoric that incites fear or exteriorly deterministic frames of acceptability that demand social normatively. This future would be a place where we as a species, take pride in the study and active progressing of axiological tendencies concerning aptitude.


In this future, where previous histories and categorical imperatives, are seen and understood as insufficient (in their representation of all bodies) and are thereby in need of extreme imagination:


A place of beautiful distinctions and descriptions where we admit to one another:

I know you are not solvable. I will not try to control you or limit you.


A place from there we engage the following questions together:

What is the body capable of    What is the body for?


“I can only begin a posteriori, by perceiving the world as vast and overwhelming; each moment stands under an enormous vertical and horizontal pressure of information. Potent with ambiguity, meaning-full, unfixed and certainly not complete. What saves this from becoming a vast undifferentiated mass of data and situation is one’s ability to make distinctions.”(3)


This is my hope for a future of personal, infused sites for accurate, limitless imaginations and motilities.


This future engages languages which attend and adhere to the body as a multifarious site of motions along an unending spectra. This future that prides itself in the urgencies of inclusion, that honor and recognize gender variant or gender transcendent (4) bodies: bodies that are not currently, thoroughly or accurately represented in the context of patriarchal historicity.


Our future that sees the body as subjective matter in desperate need of spaces to declare itself, within a social context that allows those declarations to be accurate, full and visible.


To consider our bodies as one would the following question:


Is there an answer for bread?


In this future we would become the work we engage in. A work that is reaching to itself by breaking open/discovering and accumulating spaces for its future.


This future would be the inherent reversal of Dylan Scholinski’s question:


“have you ever been so false your skin is your enemy” (5)


At cadences of ritual and nourishment, honor and vivisection


where we become what it is that moves us



our voices increasing halo


supplying new types of verdant



as ever unconditional fields for us to plant in.






(1) Maligning Terminology in the DSM: The Language of Oppression (Kelley Winters)


(2) The Language of Inquiry (Lyn Hejenian)


(3) The Language of Inquiry   (Lyn Hejenian)


(4) the following italicized term is a term used in both essays and conversation with Kelley Winters


(5) The Last Time I Wore a Dress (Dylan Scholinski)





 About the Author:    j/j hastain is a performance artist, photographer, musician,

gender-revolutionary and phonic-theorist. j/j’s poetry, essays and chapbooks have appeared in publications both online and in print: Cliterature, Hot Whiskey, Mappemunde, MiPOesias, slumgullion, Fact-Simile, hotmetalpress Poetry Prize 2008, etc.   j/j published a book with livestock editions. j/j has a book coming out with BlazeVox.   j/j received a BA in poetry, music, gender and cultural studies, and an MFA in contemporary poetics.


j/j defines as trans (which is different than transgendered, though not at all discounting it).   j/j is interested in the differentiated usages of the prefix trans (when it is utilized in ways that are not at all related to previously determined models with binary derived bases).   j/j’s life work involves embodying/inhabiting the body as one would a neoteric space—through ways and methods that are not related to previously prescribed shapes that are based in limit.


j/j lives outside Boulder, CO with j/j’s Beloved.   contact j/j at: www.jjhastain.com



Published here with permission of the author
Copyright © 2008 j/j hastain


DES’s Other Daughters: Neglected Evidence of Prenatal Gender Development


A Guest Essay by

Dana Beyer, M.D.





I spent the first half century of my life searching for the reason I was assigned, reared, and living as a man even though I knew I was female. As a child it was utterly confusing, and when coming out to my parents led to threats of incarceration in the state mental hospital, being the smart little kid that I was, I went silent and focused on trying to determine the causes of my misery. I could never imagine, in my wildest dreams or fantasies, ever transitioning and living full-time as myself; I couldn’t even imagine spending even a day in public as a woman. So I focused my attention on an academic future, scouring all the major libraries in the northeast, reading everything I could about gender variant behavior, trying to understand how I became who I was.


My cover being near perfect, I could do this research without arousing suspicion. I could even ask my mother questions about her pregnancy with me, and my brother, and try to tease out some information that might help me. One day she mentioned having taken the drug, DES, or diethylstilbestrol, to prevent miscarriage. Having miscarried her first time around, and being the dutiful woman that most were back in the early 50’s, she took this drug which had come highly touted from the Harvard labs. She told me she was always concerned about her exposure, but could never really learn anything about it, and was afraid to speak out. I, however, as a medical student, was under no such constraints. So I learned that the drug had been banned by the FDA in 1971 after having been tied to a cluster of eight cases of vaginal adenocarcinoma in very young women. This been unheard of in the Boston area, epidemiologists eventually traced the tumor to DES exposure in utero, and the drug was pulled.


Eventually I learned about additional long-term consequences of DES exposure, but the vast majority of them were in those assigned female. Even female homosexuality was recognized as a complication, along with breast cancer in the mothers as well as daughters, and an epidemic of infertility. A group, DES Action, sprang up in the 1970’s, fueled by the young women’s movement and books such as “Our Bodies, Our Selves.”  Lawsuits were filed and won, Congress got into the act, and DES was eventually recognized as the worst drug disaster in American history. 5 million women were poisoned, and while the vaginal tumor developed in only 1:1000, it was still a true tragedy.


But what about those assigned as male? Nothing. While males were part of the few long-term follow-up studies, nothing more than a whisper of testicular cancer or a variety of genito-urinary tract anomalies popped up. DES Action put a man with brain cancer as the front for a DES Sons group, yet he didn’t even have internet or email capabilities, effectively shutting down any effective advocacy for those men.


We all know men are uncomfortable with their bodies, and don’t like to talk about their medical problems. The DES researchers, generally men, were not investigating issues of human sexuality either, so it became very easy to announce that the drug has no effects on male offspring. This in spite of the fact that DES was a super-estrogen, capable of crossing the placental and blood-brain barriers, and bathing the developing male brain with an overdose of estrogen before neurodevelopment had progressed very far. Those dosages of estrogen sure seemed to be capable of overwhelming the testosterone produced by the fetus’s testes, but the possibility was not taken seriously. Except by basic science researchers, such as Professor John McLachlan of Tulane University, who studied DES’ effects on rodents.


At a Congressional hearing on DES in 2001 I bumped into the good Professor and recounted my personal history. He told me that my medical history was classic for DES exposure, referred me to his papers, and I finally had my answers. Funny thing, by that time I had decided I could no longer live as a male and had decided to transition, so it no longer mattered to me existentially. But I had the answer.


As the medical advisor to Dr. Scott Kerlin’s DES Sons International Listserve, I had been toying with outing myself as transgender. Finally, I came out, and that opened the door to hundreds of other exposed DES “Sons.” Strange how things happen. That flood inspired Scott to start collecting data online, leading to his presentation of a paper at the e.hormone conference at Tulane in 2004, and my presentation, along with the nationally renowned intersex expert, Dr. Milton Diamond, of an expanded version of the paper, at the International Behavioral Development Symposium in Minot, North Dakota, in 2005. All the heavy hitters were there – Bailey, Blanchard, Zucker, Meyer-Bahlburg –  and while they were able to ignore the paper because of our lack of proof in medical histories which had been destroyed decades earlier, the younger and more open-minded researchers accepted our thesis. Shortly thereafter Shanna Swan published her paper proving, for the first time in humans, that endocrine disruptors, of which DES is the paradigmatic compound, caused feminization of male fetuses. This past summer Congress banned the importation and sale of children’s toys containing one of the more ubiquitous EDCs, a class of molecules called phthalates.


Progress may come slowly, in fits and starts, but it does come. It will come, if people will it to happen.







Berkson, D. Lindsey (2000). Hormone Deception, Contemporary Books.


Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., Erhardt, A. A.,  Rosen, L., Gruen, R., Veridiano, V. F. H., and Neuwalder, H. F. (1995). Prenatal estrogens and the development of homosexual orientation. Developmental Psychology 31: 12.


McLachlan, J. A., Newbold, R. R. , Burow, M. E. and Li, S. (2001). From malformations to molecular mechanisms in the male: three decades of research on endocrine disrupters. APMIS 109 (4): 263.


Beyer, D., Kerlin, S. and Diamond, M. (2005), The Presence of Gender Dysphoria, Transsexualism, and Disorders of Sexual Differentiation in Males Prenatally Exposed to Diethylstilbestrol: Evidence from a 5-Year Study. Presentation to the International Behavioral Development Symposium, Minot, ND, August 2005.


Swan, S., Main, K. M., Liu, F., Stewart, S. L., Kruse, R. L., Calafat, A. M. , Mao, C.S, Redmon, J.B., Ternand, C.L., Sullivan, S., Teague, J.L. and the Study for Future Families Research Team. (2005). Decrease in anogenital distance among male infants with prenatal phthalate exposure. Environmental Health Perspectives 113 (8): 1056.



About the Author: Dr. Dana Beyer is a retired ophthalmic surgeon and physician and is currently a senior advisor to Maryland Montgomery County Council Member, Duchy Trachtenberg.  A vice-president of Equality Maryland, Dana was instrumental to a recent effort that successfully defended a transgender civil rights law in Montgomery County. In a historic 2006 campaign, Dr. Beyer ran for the Maryland General Assembly.