transsexual

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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)

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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.

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.”

Opening words

Published March 26, 2008 by Katy J Went

Lost for words?
A wordsmith’s writer’s block struggling to pen the opening lines of their next triumphant trilogy is nothing compared to the jihad of gender identity struggle. Both the bigger picture of society’s defines and the microcosm of personal confines penalise the freedom of identity exploration and expression.

Unworthy labels
In 18 months being out/ed as first a crossdresser, then transgendered and now transsexual, I have struggled to find appropriate labels. As fast as I accept one that I hitherto feared then it loses its power.

Perhaps that is why I use transgendering, the verb defines my undefinition, charts my journeyed course, and fathoms my fluidity – as all gender and sexuality should be – fluid.

We are, I am, human first, gendered second and sexually orientated third. Perhaps I am human, first, second and third. I am humansexual, have fallen in love with a person, their gender is secondary, our sexuality irrelevant. To say I feel part of a third gender is to simply turn a false binary divide into a three way split when androgenous Adam before the Fall was hermaphrodite and bodily united with his unborn Eve, made male and female.

A term I floated for myself was freemale, accepting my birth sex/gender – though that was debated for the first 2 hours of my existence – and giving myself the freedom to express that maleness in a more free and female way.

The gender fuck was in being fluid, not trying to pass and wearing my exploration on the sleeve of my blouse.

On March 26 the London Times published the anguished article of a young 20 something crossdresser caught in the turmoil of whether to tell his girlfriend. The posted comments suggested therapy, he come out as gay, and the usual trite ignorant assumptions.