sex change

All posts tagged sex change

On being an Aussie male…and how to report on Trans in the News

Published October 7, 2011 by Katy J Went

The Canberra High Court in Australia has ruled that characteristics that identify a person as male or female are “confined to external physical characteristics that are socially recognizable.” This recognition does not require knowledge of a person’s sexual organs, the court said. This was after the Australian Gender Reassignment Board 3 years ago had refused to recognise the transmen’s gender without complete surgical reassignment, arguing that “having a female reproductive system is inconsistent with being male”. They had undergone mastectomies and had each been on testosterone for more than 5 years rendering them infertile (although possibly reversible if the hormones were stopped).

Surgical prerequisites for legally changing gender have already been relaxed in South Africa, Britain and some other European countries.

Australia has also passed legislation this year that allows Male, Female or Indeterminate gender options on its passports, a move that Britain announced last month it was also considering. “There have been very many cases of people being detained at airports by immigration in foreign countries simply because their passports don’t reflect what they look like, it’s very distressing, highly inconvenient and frankly sometimes dangerous.”, said Senator Louise Pratt, Australia’s first MP with a trans (FTM) partner,  in an interview with ABC Radio.

News stories such as these must be a nightmare for journalists wanting to write it up with respect and yet still grab the reader’s attention through headlines and human interest. Headlines and grab quotes proliferated, such as “Court passes ruling on what it takes to be a man in Australia” (DT), “Men in Australia no longer need a penis to be legally considered a male” – this one is rather stupid in reverse, since if one loses one’s penis due to cancer, accident (remember that in the Hebrew Bible crushed testicles de-manned one and excluded one from entry to the Temple), or deliberate choice, one doesn’t lose one’s status as a man unless one is explicitly transitioning.

Whilst the Daily Telegraph used “female-to-male transsexuals”, the Guardian and Independent called them “transgender people” but went on to refer to them as not having had full “sex change surgeries”, a phrase deprecated by trans communities in favour of variations on gender confirmation/recognition surgeries. The Telegraph used “gender realignment surgery”. Other terms abound: gender reassignment surgery, sex/genital reconstruction surgery, sex affirmation surgery, sex realignment surgery.

Australia had refused to grant the men “gender reassessment certificates”, a proof of gender certificate which within the UK is called “gender recognition”. Not to be confused with Sexual Attitude Reassessment/Restructuring – an often explicit image and group-work based seminar for increasing sexual health professionals’ comfort and knowledge of different attitudes to sex and sexuality.

A sad, strange, and sick story back in 2010 was headlined “Transvestite had sex with a dog at English Heritage Castle” in the Daily TelegraphWhat sickened the DT most was probably that it was at an English Heritage Castle, anywhere else would perhaps have been okay. They seemed relieved that after calling EH for comment their spokesperson said “This was a very rare incident”! Phew, well that’s alright then! Other papers, if one can call some of them that, ran with “Transvestite rapes dog – A cross dressing pervert…deviant…” (Morning Star). The dilemma is the dog incident and press language describing sexual perversion, whilst broadly appropriate there, is also used for mainstream transgender stories.

The label ‘transsexual’ conjures up in the minds of some journalists the idea of a sexual deviant rather than someone likely to be struggling with gender identity or exhibiting legitimate gender variance. Admittedly transsexual, to me, is an illogical term anyway, first used by D. O. Cauldwell in 1949 (originally with one ‘s’) but which would be better used for someone attracted to trans people, along the lines of homosexual, heterosexual, pansexual etc. This is why transgender or transperson is a much better suited term.

It it difficult to expect the media to stick to one term when the trans community itself can’t agree. We do, however, agree on disparaging the use of “sex change”, “sex swap” and incorrect gender pronouns in articles and undue attention to the birth gender background of the subjects.

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Transgender on TV

Published April 2, 2008 by Katy J Went

Transgender and transvestitism are becoming more ok on the appropriately abbreviated TV. In the last month alone I have caught the following shows.

BBC2 ran a programme on Transsexuals in Iran, watched by 1.7 million UK viewers, portraying how this Islamic country allows gender change but not homosexuality. More sex change operations are carried out there than anywhere apart from Thailand. Admittedly, for some it seemed the only way to have a legal gay relationship, and others have suggested that it is part of an Iranian program to stamp out homosexuality. Crossdressing is only allowed if you are scheduled for surgery, hence transvestitism is illegal but transsexuality ok. Triple standards.

C4’s Cutting Edge documentary Sex Change Soldier aired on 20 March 2008. Jan Hamilton, formerly Captain Ian Hamilton was a British paratrooper officer who served in the Gulf War and Afghanistan. S/he is the first British Army officer to complete gender reassignment but was dismissed from the army and cut off from her family. (Wiki)

Sexcetera ran episodes on shemale parties and visits to Fairplay Imaging‘s crossdressing services on Staten Island, NY.

Married US senator to be William Baldwin cannot end his affair and love for his transgender shemale lover in Dirty Sexy Money, the new hit US show.

Gorgeous lesbian and sexily named Portia de Rossi (she changed her name at just 15 after the famed character in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice) from Sirens and Ally McBeal now appears in Arrested Development. In a currently aired episode she is passed off by her daughter Maeby as a pre-op transexual to her school chums as her mum is getting more attention than she is and trying to date one of the high school seniors.

In the same show Barry Zuckerkorn, the Bluth family attorney, played by the Fonz, Henry Winkler is portrayed as having ambiguous sexual preferences including transvestite hookers.

Back to Portia, who wouldn’t? She is now dating Ellen DeGeneres since coming out as lesbian in 2004/5. First she feared Hollywood’s reaction then she had problems convincing anyone she was gay!

Portia de Rossi and spookily similar seeming Joely Richardson, who plays Julia McNamara coupled up as a gay relationship on Nip/Tuck in 2007, an episode about to air in the UK. Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy says that was no accident “Since the show is always about the search for identity”.

Julia’s coming out to her ex-husband Sean and fellow surgeon Christian leads the men to offer vile anti-lesbian insults. Apparently,the scripts brought back some of de Rossi’s own early experiences. “It makes me remember all the people I had to come out to and how often I had to come out,” said de Rossi, “People think you just hold a press conference, but you don’t – you tell individuals. And you cross your fingers with every single person you care about, hoping that they’ll love you just the same.”