transgender

All posts tagged transgender

International Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV)

Published April 1, 2014 by Katy J Went

Yesterday was the International Trans Day of Visibility (ITDoV/TDoV), as such I shrugged off my Harry Potter cloak of invisibility and ‘outed’ myself – oh no I did that 7 years ago, or rather my partner did that for me!

Ironically, as transgender people we are often all too visible to society if we do not “pass” well – something that many trans aspire to and many find psychologically and socially distressing if not achieved. What is true, however, is that for every trans you notice another 9 or 99 are invisible, because they’ve either disappeared into the general hubbub of society and are accepted as people first, and gendered persons of trans history second, or, they may be part of the invisible iceberg of trans not yet out.

KJ in hat Industry Networking NightThis latter group, for whom gender identity becomes a self-aware issue typically by the age of 7 may on average stay hidden till coming out in their 40s. If families, partners, media and society were more accepting, less judgemental and ridiculing, then I am quite sure more would be out and visible. Perhaps, like International Coming Out Day, today is a day we can celebrate increasing safety for more trans to come out, not to be ‘outed’ as I was initially. People call me brave for being ‘out’, but I had no choice, being ‘outed’ to friends and family by my then partner. By then it was “in for a penny in for a pound”, a “sink or swim” choice.

Transgender Day of Visibility was started in 2009 by trans activist Rachel Crandall-Crocker, of Michigan, USA. It began as a Facebook event but grew to encompass all kinds of awareness and visibility raising events.

Events on the day have included protests, actions, sit-ins, poetry, educational and social events, anything to show that the transgender community is a valuable part of society to be accepted and respected.

These positive publicity events are in contrast to the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) held each 20 November where the tone is remembrance and commemoration of all those who’ve lost their lives, often violently, for being out or outed as trans. A Transgender Awareness Week has now formed in the week leading up to TDoR.

The prevalence of transgender people in our communities is a hotly debated subject and one which is subject to several studies that are each seen as underestimates by the next one to be carried out. Numbers are made all the more likely to be on the low side by the difficulty of polling people who are not out or maybe trying to live discreet post-surgical lives. Surgery figures may only reflect those via recordable national health clinics and not those going privately or abroad for surgery. Similarly being trans covers everyone from transsexuals at various stages of hormonal and/or surgical transition, occasional and full-time crossdressers/transvestites, and some trans who identify as a third or non-gender outside the binary of male and female. Whilst transsexuals may represent just 0.1% of the population, non-surgical trans may be 1% or higher as only a fraction pursue surgery and many are not ‘out’ to everyone. Figures as high as 1.5% have been quoted and the numbers coming out each year are excalating as exponential rates as it becomes more safe to do so. I live in a city of 200,000 adults and know over 100 local trans personally and of another 50-100+. There will obviously be those I don’t know and those not out yet so 1-in-1000 is a gross underestimate and yet that is a figure considered high by the NHS.

More prevalence research data here:
http://www.gires.org.uk/assets/Medpro-Assets/GenderVarianceUK-report.pdf
http://tgmentalhealth.com/2010/03/31/the-prevalence-of-transgenderism/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexualism#Prevalence

The best thing you can do on this Transgender Day of Visibility and on every day following it is to reduce the tacit acceptability of transphobia in humour, toilet/bathroom access, and general gendered sexism and stereotyping. Allowing teens to grow up in the gender or expression they are comfortable with. Encouraging teens to be free to be tomboys and/or effeminate, irrespective of birth gender.

In another article Mey, an Idaho based Latina transwoman activist, outlines 15 ways to support trans people on the day of visibility and every day.

In the UK we have many visible trans already such as the comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, Turner Prize winning artist and speaker Grayson Perry, LGBT Pink List topping radio and print journalist Paris Lees, several contributors to the Guardian newspaper such as Jane Fae, Juliet Jacques, Roz Kaveney; Prof of Equalities Law at Manchester Stephen Whittle, Christine Burns and many more besides. In business there is Kate Craig-Wood, an entrepreneur and founder of one of the UK’s largest IT groups. There’s comedians Bethany Black and Andrew O’Neill, and several other comics too, musicians like CN Lester, Thomas Dolby’s son Harper, and a magician, Fay Presto. I could go on and know of 100s of trans lawyers, doctors, activists in public life here in the UK alone.

In 2011 Channel 4 broadcast My Transsexual Summer and launched 7 British trans people into the limelight including friends of mine like Donna Whitbread, as well as Maxwell Zachs, Sarah Savage, Drew Ashlyn Cunningham, Lewis Hancox, Raphael Fox, and Karen Gale. Big Brother (UK) has seen several trans winners and contestants including Nadia Almada, Luke Anderson, Lauren Harries, Alex Reid and Rodrigo now Rebekah Lopez.

April Ashley, Jan Morris and Caroline Cossey are all well known British women with open transgender histories.

In the US Janet Mock, among others have blazed the way by being out and public in their defence of being themselves. Recently we’ve seen big names like Lana Wachowski of the Matrix films, Chelsea Manning of Wikileaks fame, Cher’s son Chaz Bono, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me. Actors like Alexis Arquette, Candis Cayne (“Dirty Sexy Money”), Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) and Calpernia Addams, who recently advised Jared Leto on his Oscar winning role in “Dallas Buyer’s Club”. Nor is “Gender Outlaw” author Kate Bornstein to be forgotten. Dr Marci Bowers, is an American gynaecologist and surgeon and actually carries out gender/sex-reassignment surgery. There’s the US biologist and author of “Evolution’s Rainbow” Joan Roughgarden.

The names above are just a sprinkling of the hundreds of thousands of out trans people worldwide and possible even over a million or more yet to come out, I mean 1-in-1000 it would be 6-7 million worldwide.

Here’s hoping that more trans feel comfortable being more visible each day as that would not only make their lives happier but society itself all the more accepting and embracing, which is good for everyone. We are not invisible nor scary – but a little afraid ourselves, talk to us.

For more information about the transgender spectrum visit www.genderagenda.net.

Transgender Visibility Day (31 March)

Bisexual Visibility Day (23 September)

Intersex Day of Awareness (26 October)

Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November)

Advertisements

Ben Summerskill resigns from Stonewall UK, what is the future of LGB and T lobbying and education?

Published January 24, 2014 by Katy J Went

Stonewall diversity champions?After 11 years in the post, Ben Summerskill has stepped down from Stonewall, the UK LGB lobbying and rights group. I say LGB rather than LGBT as over the years it has been infamous in promoting the understanding of gay or LGB rights, as opposed to the whole gamut of LGBT+, not that many bisexual friends felt represented either. There is no doubt that it has done tremendous work, although it was criticised for being slow to support equal marriage.

Ruth Hunt takes over as Active Chief Executive and has promised to speak to trans voices, but also reiterated that Stonewall had “always spoken to trans groups – I have hosted round tables at Stonewall with trans groups, and there are a lot of conversations to be had with a lot of people who have strong opinions”, in an interview with Pink News.  She went on to say that, “The more conversations we have the better, but I wouldn’t predict the outcome of any of those discussions.” – So no change there then.

Stonewall with the T

Just as there now 2 fewer stripes in the rainbow flag, so too are 2 groups, T&I, excluded from Stonewall’s diversity championing

Transgender activist groups have long been debating whether to give up on Stonewall and go it alone. Many have used the slogan “don’t forget the T in S onewall”.  From one such group‘s About section: “Stonewall UK excludes T from the equality index and other leadership training for UK employers.This is a discussion group to help them understand that they need to be fully LGBT inclusive”.

Of course trans groups and activists are difficult to work with, we are angry and we are diverse – I mean we can’t even agree among ourselves! But that’s diversity for you.

Being a member of the trans community and fighting for understanding and representation of trans, intersex and queer, identities and issues, at various tables, committees and forums, I find that Stonewall has lived up to its name, but not its founders. The original Stonewall Inn riots of 1969 saw a subsequently selective history transmitted. One in which the many African-American transvestites and transwomen were ignored from the original explosion in LGB activism, both for their colour and their gender identity. Stonewall became an edited history of white gay male privilege.

Michael Cashman, MEP and former Eastender’s actor – famous for the first gay kiss on British television, is very supportive of trans rights and spoke at a TGEU conference in Berlin that I attended in 2008. Cashman was also one of the founders of Stonewall UK in 1989. Cashman criticised Stonewall in 2010 for its slow and grudging response to equal marriage.

It should be pointed out that Stonewall Scotland is trans inclusive and campaigns for and with transgender groups, from its website: “Stonewall Scotland works for equality and justice for transgender people, as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”

In England and Wales, at least, it seems it would be better to walk our own path and clamour “foul” loudly when Stonewall speak on LGBT or gets LGBT equality funding but only serves LGB ends. I have been fighting for 2 years to get the local police to stop lumping homophobic and transphobic hate crimes into the same statistic when all the other protected diversity characteristics get their own independent stats. I’ve also experienced opposition from LGB activists for trying to get intersex inclusion added to our campaigning and representation, not from the public sector – they were only too happy to follow the European Community’s lead in becoming LGBTI supportive. All this seems reminiscent of LGBT rights history. Anyone who has watched “Milk”, the film about the assassinated first gay in political public office in the US, Harvey Milk, will know what I am talking about. It seems the gay rights movement was reluctant to have lesbian “assistance” and to become LG rights. Even more so were both unwilling to add “fence-sitters”, aka bisexuals, to their campaigns. Finally, they did not want the weird tail to wag the now established, respected and assimilated dog, and let transsexuals be part of their political voice. I’ve been told that to add intersex representation would “confuse issues”.

In 2008 and again in 2010 Stonewall nominated transphobic journalists for journalist of the year awards for promoting equality! One of those same journalists was cited in a 2007 report by Stonewall Scotland for transphobia.

Stonewall has made educational videos raising gay awareness and confidence to come out, and targeting homophobia – but getting it wrong on transgender. One video had a mother hearing her son’s coming out and proclaiming “at least you are not trans”, another gets transgender differences, mixed up, and again, certainly, seen as worse than being gay. There is palpable relief when someone is told “there’s as many ways to be a girl as there are girls”, helping a tomboy realise she need not be trans. The school’s training video also inappropriately explains and uses the word “tranny” for transgender.

In 2012 Paddy Power ran a transphobic advertising campaign including a “spot the tranny” competition on Ladies Day, subsequently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. This year, Stonewall teamed up with Paddy Power to supply rainbow laces to football teams (largely unsuccessfully) to combat homophobia in the sport. Redemption is all well and good, but when Stonewall’s media manager appeared to endorse the use of transphobic stunts as furthering the issues of homophobia, all was well and good? Apparently, the piece in the Guardian was edited after Stonewall submitted it, but it represents yet another own goal in their dealings with the trans community.

Perhaps, then it is time to realise that LGB and T/I need to go it alone – politically, at least, to reinforce the idea that sexuality and sex/gender are two different things. Although I personally believe there are huge areas of overlap, in identity, sexuality, hormones and gender.

Another One Bites the Dust, why? RIP #chrisieedkins trans role model, parent, performer

Published June 14, 2013 by Katy J Went
Another One Bites the Dust, why? 😦 Chrisie Edkins, in many ways a confident trans role model and advocate, has passed away, circumstances as yet undisclosed. [update: it now appears this was suicide]

“Chrisie passed away in the early hours of Monday 12th June. There are no further details at this time. Her family have requested a period of time to privately mourn and grieve for their loss, after which, they will provide details of the funeral arrangements along with ways her friends and supporters can pay their respects”

Chrisie was a popular performer at many Prides including London 08/09, as well as being signed by modelling agencies Model Moi and All Image Solutions. This year she had offered to perform free at Prides worldwide.

She was nominated for inclusion in the International Transgender Historical Society’s Hall of Fame 2012/13 and 2013/14 classes.

She had appeared on the ITV This Morning and Trisha shows to talk about her transition and promote trans awareness.

Though brave, confident and transparent about her past life, and having been reported on in the Daily Mail and Echo, she was nonetheless as human and upset as the rest of us when media coverage got it wrong and portrayed her as something she was not.

Last year she tweeted:

“What makes life so good… knowing it ends so make the most of it as dead is on only certain thing.” (May 2012)

Here in the UK over a third of trans folk attempt to take their own lives, 80% think about doing so. In other countries such as Northern and Southern America those figures are higher still and transwomen in some countries are 49x more likely to get HIV. This week Greece has been rounding up transwomen on the pretext of sexual health and prostitution checks as if it were a fascist state of the late 1930s.Mental health issues will affect 1-in-4 of us, as I know myself, having attempted suicide on 3 occasions. Being trans may not be a mental illness but living with it can make you ill, and some choose the difficult path of exiting this world. Having lost 2 trans friends in the last year or so to unexpected physical illness, the loss is felt no less keenly, whatever the cause and my thoughts are with the family members left behind.To every trans person, or anyone else living a lie not a life, carpe diem, seize the day, enjoy the present, live life to the full, who nobody knows what tomorrow may bring.

RIP Chrisie x #chrisieedkins

PostScript
Some folk have thought it insensitive to use Another One Bites the Dust in the title, undeniably, it is. Death is offensive, insensitive, untimely, taboo and no respecter of persons. Chrisie’s death was a shock to me as the third trans friend’s death in 18 months. Less than 15 months ago was my third suicide attempt. Chrisie was a performed and singer, I can’t ask her now whether she’d appreciate the Queen song reference. That’s death for you!

Freddie Mercury himself was taken before his time. I was at Queen’s last ever full line-up concert at Knebworth in 1986 where a fan climbed a lighting rig tower to get a better view, just 2m from me, fell off and landed on another annoyed fan who stabbed him. The delay getting through the 120,000 strong crown led to his death. We were all held back for hours afterwards whilst the police looked for and eventually arrested 4 men.

I had a “suicide” playlist on my iPod – now renamed “depressed” as some were offended by it! Bohemian Rhapsody even appears on it based upon the lines, “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all” which I listened to on repeat before one suicide attempt 4 years ago.  Tears for Fears, Mad World, “The dreams in which I’m dyin’ / Are the best I’ve ever had” also appears.

11 year old trans girl Sadie reminds the President Obama what ‘full’ inclusion and equality for ‘all’ mean

Published January 24, 2013 by Katy J Went

Words of wisdom and a personal plea from an 11 year old trans girl to the US President. 

‎”Sadie was so proud of President Obama for including the gay community in his inaugural address on Monday; however, she felt like the trans community wasn’t included,” Sage, Sadie’s mother, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “That inspired her to write her own ‘speech.'” www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/transgender-girl-obama-speech_n_2533298.html

President Obama made history during his Inauguration Speech on 21 January 2013 when he said everyone should have equal rights under the law:

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls [the influential women’s-rights Convention, probably the first to be organized by women in the West], and Selma [1965 Black rights marches on the Alabama capitol], and Stonewall [1969 LGBT uprising]…”

The US President continued:

“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/21/obama-inauguration-speech-stonewall-gays_n_2520962.html

This the first time that a US president has addressed gay rights during an inauguration speech, but the trans community hoped that he would have gone further and been even more inclusive after mentioning women, Afro-Americans, gays and lesbians and the Stonewall uprising. Trans were a significant if not majority presence at Stonewall. The 1969 homophobic and transphobic NYPD police raid on a bar featured a large proportion of trans people including Afro-American trans and drag queens, and yet both trans and non-Caucasians have been somewhat airbrushed out of this part of LGBT history, not only by politicians but by the gay community and LGB historians. 

It’s a great start and Obama is the best President yet in that department (Clinton was pro-LGBT too), however, some trans have been waiting 44 years for recognition of their leading involvement in Stonewall (it was after all, in part, the NYC ordinance prohibiting wearing more than 3 items of women’s clothing that gave the dubious basis in US law for the raid on the Stonewall Inn – ie it was transphobic & dragphobic repression). 

 

 

It is a shame that many LGB/T organisations such as Stonewall England & Wales (Scotland is more inclusive) forget that you can’t spell S’onewall without a ‘t’. Neglecting trans rights on the basis that it would ‘drag’ the process because we are less politically acceptable could be classed as short-term practical expediency, but 44 years? Take the UK Equal Marriage campaign, no mention of trans, who have to divorce to transition, just of gays and straights. No mention of intersex at all. 

 

Now an 11 year old kid reminds us was true inclusion means. Sadie’s speech in full:  

“The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves, including people who have a creative gender identity and expression. Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job, and even make friends.

 

Transgender kids like me are not allowed to go to most schools because the teachers think we are different from everyone else. The schools get afraid of how they will talk with the other kids’ parents, and transgender kids are kept secret or told not to come there anymore. Kids are told not to be friends with transgender kids, which makes us very lonely and sad.

When they grow up, transgender adults have a hard time getting a job because the boss thinks the customers will be scared away. Doctors are afraid of treating transgender patients because they don’t know how to take care of them, and some doctors don’t really want to help them. Transgender patients like me travel to other states to see a good doctor.
 
It would be a better world if everyone knew that transgender people have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. We like to make friends and want to go to school. Transgender people want to get good jobs and go to doctors like they are exactly the same. It really isn’t that hard to like transgender people because we are like everyone else.”

 

Sadie transitioned from male to female in kindergarten, was then home schooled until recently and is now in public school fifth grade. Her mother is supportive and actively encouraged her to write the ‘essay’ to help her express herself. With affirmation at home, she has remained confident despite open discrimination and according to her mother, Sage:

“isn’t shy or ashamed of who she is,” who adds, “I’m always ‘on’ when we go out because I never know when she’ll strike up a conversation with the person in front of her in line at Trader Joe’s. When she chats with people, she introduces herself as, ‘Hi, I’m Sadie, my favorite color is pink, I’m vegan, and I’m transgender. Who are you?'”

Discrimination does not exist in the womb, being transgender does. It is great when young people teach adults a lesson in history, identity and hope.

 

Diversity is not an Ugly Word

Published March 31, 2012 by Katy J Went

Last week the Archbishop of C said that “society is in danger of becoming fragmented by a preoccupation with homosexual rights, feminism and separate racial identities, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. Dr Rowan Williams claimed that identity had become a ‘slippery’ word and that, while much had been achieved for minority groups, it was time to focus on the common good.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2121411/Gay-rights-obsession-damage-society-Outspoken-Archbishops-warning-minorities-agenda.html)

This week police were caught on camera boasting of strangling a black ni****, yet also a Gurkha was let off being added to a domestic abuse register and awareness course due to cultural differences, ie it was ok to hit women where he came from, and a 5yo girl was among the 150 forced marriages investigated under the age of 15 in the UK last year, for which no criminal offence exists. At the same time a conference of African-American pastors rejected LGBT identities and rights, despite the experience of oppression and prejudice themselves they allowed religion to override a common experience of injustice. My memory of the Scriptures is that justice and minorities were incredibly important to God in both Testaments. Micah 6:8, what does God love, but to do justice. Jesus was drawn to minority groups such as sex workers, women, children, working class fishermen, rebels & revolutionaries, Samaritans, Gentiles, Romans, lepers, eunuchs, outcasts…

I’ve been signed off by my Dr for the next stage of Gender Transition having what is called Gender Identity Disorder. My individual identity and right to transition is important to me, as is my sense of belonging to a social & sexual gender group. These do not alienate me from the common good. Indeed, in teaching and training on Trans identity, rights and respect I have learned even more about gender, sexuality, culture and more about all groups and identities and not just my own.

Identity, Culture, Minorities, Rights need not fragment or destroy society, indeed Durkheim argued that they could cohere a society as part of a cultural common group consciousness that outweighed the cult of the individual. He argued that cultural diversity could enable emotional belonging to groups and fostered internal interaction, when that is twinned with mutual understanding and interactions of groups and minorities, common interests then society bonds in the common good. 

Now is the time to celebrate cultures, identities, minorities, *diversity is not an ugly word*, it is a beautiful fact of creation/evolution, indeed necessary to healthy survival in an evolutionary worldview.