Someone sent me a link to this short TED talk by Paula Stone Williams
It’s very good.
The key quote I took from it was “What do any of us really know about the shoes in which we have never walked?”
I read an article in The Guardian today about “Selfie Dysphoria”
It’s an interesting article about how selfie filters are driving many people to use cosmetic surgery to make their face look more like their selfies, and how in the past people would bring photos of celebrities to a Cosmetic Surgeon whereas these days they are more likely to bring selfies with filters applied.
Just after Wimbledon Men’s Final, fans everywhere learned what they had been waiting till the end of the match for. Not who won, but who would be the new Doctor Who.
To the shock of few, the new Doctor is to be a woman.
This could raise some really interesting gender pronoun questions and bring them into mainstream discussion. How will people refer to the Doctor’s previous incarnations? And will it inadvertently, even by implication, address some of the issues that a transperson faces being mis-gendered when people refer to their old gender?
Of course, it does nothing to change the perception of gender binary as The Doctor has merely transitioned from one gender binary to the other, but it could rather ironically be a positive step as the issue becomes part of pop culture.
It will be interesting to see how things go. Will they will just whitewash it by having everything refer to the Doctor as “she”, and nobody ever getting it wrong, even if they are a recurring character who doesn’t know about the transition? Or will they will play on it by making her suffer the same awkward situations that many transpeople face of people using the wrong pronoun for them?
Pop culture has a habit of altering language and perception, so it will also be interesting to see what, if any, wider ramifications there are to this in society in general.
One thing is for sure, the internet will be awash with misogyny and transphobia right now.
Well… wow. What do you make of this? Richard O’Brien responding to Germaine Greer’s comments on transgenderism.
I agree with Germaine Greer and Barry Humphries. You can’t be a woman. You can be an idea of a woman. You’re in the middle and there’s nothing wrong with that. I certainly wouldn’t have the wedding tackle taken off. That is a huge jump and I have all the sympathy in the world for anyone who does it but you aren’t a woman.”
~~ Richard O’Brien
My opinion on this is that I think Germaine Greer is a fairly abhorrent person with regards to her views on transgenderism, but I think Richard O’Brien is kind of making a fair point, although it comes across rather badly.
As a “third gender” person myself I can see what he is saying – if I had surgery then it wouldn’t alter the person I am inside, it would only affect my outward appearance.
Your gender identiy is a state of being – an internal state of mind – and physical genitalia have little bearing on that. The difference between him and Greer is that he appears to suggest that he thinks it is possible to be a woman even if you weren’t born one genetically, and she emphatically does not.
I don’t understand how she can campaign for equality, acceptance and inclusion, and then say that trans women are not women but are men trying to usurp and subvert feminism. What an abhorrent thing to say!
By contrast, Richard seems to be saying that you can be a woman inside and no matter what you do (or don’t) to your genitals, who you are remains. As in, still a woman. And I can totally accept that.
If that’s not what he meant, and instead he really is in agreement with Germaine Greer’s bigotry, then obviously I don’t endorse that. However, what *I* am saying is that who you are inside is what is important and your physical attributes less so.
That isn’t to say that gender reassignment surgery is wrong, or unnecessary; it’s perfectly natural to want your physical appearance to match your gender identity should you genuinely need to transition. But by the same token, no matter how much surgery you have you will never reach the nirvana of being exactly the same as if you had been born differently. And, further, there is immense pressure on transgender people to transition from one society-endorsed gender binary to the other, and as I’ve observed many times in this blog, there are more options and states of being than that.
So, in conclusion, my interpretation of what Richard O’Brien is saying is that he is advocating finding contentment in being yourself rather than feeling pressured into transitioning. And that is a world away from agreeing with Germaine Greer.
A month ago, I posted a reaction on my public Facebook page to Ted Cruz’s comments on North Carolina’s decision to pass a law which makes transpeople use the public toilets (restrooms) of their birth gender rather than their identified gender, particularly his rather horrific comment that ‘Men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls’
A friend recently told me that my posted reaction was very good, but that since she isn’t on Facebook she would have never have seen it if I hadn’t mentioned it to her and linked her, and suggested that I repost it here.
So, here it is:
America’s intolerance really saddens me. But this is a country that only relatively recently moved away from institutionalised state-sanctioned racial segregation, and where interracial sex is still seen as a “kink”, and where racism and homophobia are still a real issue. As is gun crime, of course. So it’s hardly surprising that transphobia is also a real issue in the USA.
For me, as a transperson, the biggest insult is the insinuation that I would be a danger to women when in girl mode. I mean, seriously WTF? I would be at far more danger from looking like an attractive woman and being forced to go into the men’s loos and having some bloke assault me.
Also, is Ted Cruz really saying that if they let him into a female toilet he would be unable to stop himself from assaulting women and young girls? Or is he saying that it’s just all transpeople that are rapists?
I’m genuinely terrified for America’s future.
Since I posted that, the U.S. Department of Justice and North Carolina are now involved in a lawsuit over this (not my Facebook post! I mean the law that NC passed), with the DOJ taking a very robust and heartening stance, and not only condemning it utterly but making reference to the Civil Rights Movement.
An article by Mark Joseph Stern on Slate calls this the “‘I Have a Dream’ moment of the Trans movement”, and goes into it in far more detail than I will here.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is quoted as saying:
This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry. That right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution, and in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community. Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change.
And, further, she says:
But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion, and open-mindedness. What we must not do—what we must never do—is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human. This is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.
This restores my hope in America somewhat. I’m gladdened that people in power and authority are prepared to stand up for what is decent and fair.
I fervently hope that this will continue, and that decent open-minded people will continue to remain in power and authority. Right now, this is by no means certain with the current Presidential Election circus but as an outsider looking in, all I can do is hope that decency and common sense will prevail.
As I mentioned a few days ago, transgender issues do seem to be appearing in the mainstream news a lot more than they used to.
Is it actually (gasp!) becoming socially acceptable to acknowledge that we exist and that it’s a real and legitimate issue?
Today story was about Hannah Winterbourne, the UK’s first transgender officer in the British Army.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last night the weekly Surgery with Aled and Dr. Radha on BBC Radio 1 was on the subject of Gender Identity.
The entire hour of the programme was given over to the subject, and Aled and Dr. Raha were joined by Stephanie Hirst, a M2F trans woman and ex-DJ who I have mentioned in previous posts.
The programme started with an introduction, and then Stephanie was brought in and Aled interviewed her for a while about her background, her transition, and various issues surrounding Gender Identity. The programme then moved into a phone-in format with various people interviewed. Two parents of transgender children were interviewed along with several transgender individuals.
On the whole, the programme was extremely positive and it’s great to see that a mainstream National radio station is discussing issues like this and I think it is an indicator that society is becoming more tolerant and receptive to the idea of transgender people and Gender Identity issues.
However, I have two minor criticisms about the programme.
The first is that F2M (Female-to-Male, ie. born female and then transitioning to male) people appeared to be over-represented and M2F seemed to get far less emphasis. I think this is a pity, because society has always tended to tolerate masculine behaviour in a seemingly female person more than it does feminine behaviour in a seemingly male person (even the name ‘tomboy’ is less pejorative than ‘sissy’) and the cliché society view of a transgender person is of the archetypical “tranny”, so it would have been nice for this to have been explored a little more.
Having said that, Stephanie did have the opportunity to explore her own experiences so perhaps the balance was there that way.
My second criticism is more fundamental though. The majority of the programme was preoccupied with gender binaries (ie. there is only male and female) and that if you found yourself in the wrong binary then you are expected to transition to the correct one. In fact it felt like every other word was “transition” for a lot of the show. I completely disagree with this concept. Gender is a spectrum with “totally male” at one end and “totally female” at the other end, and there is an entire world in between those two extremes. In the same way that Sexuality is a spectrum with “straight” at one end and “gay” at the other, and a huge range of bisexuality in between (including “bi-curious”), there is a whole range of genders in the Gender Spectrum. It can incorporate people who consider themselves to be a mix of both genders, or indeed neither gender. There are even bi-gender people who like to move between genders as the mood takes them.
Granted, the last caller on the line in the closing minutes of the show identified as both genders, but this was the first time the concept had even been mentioned in the programme and I felt that the topic wasn’t really explored and could have left listeners unfamiliar with the concept of Gender Identity with a rather skewed and incomplete picture.
I have to say that I’m not entirely surprised. Society (certainly Western Society) as a whole does have an extremely polarised and rigid concept of a gender binary, where men are men and women are women, and there are shopping aisles for boys toys and girls toys, so it’s not a great leap for people to accept an idea of someone being in the wrong body and wanting to change into the right one. Perhaps it was too great a leap to dive straight into the Gender Spectrum.
However, it’s worth mentioning that in some cultures, the concept of the Third Gender is well accepted and even has legal status.
Hopefully this programme will pave the way for more on this subject. After all, I’m sure it isn’t the only episode of the Surgery that has dealt with sexuality so perhaps there will be a future ones on the Gender Identity issues.
As I said earlier, though, I do consider this programme to have been overwhelmingly positive and I think it shows major progress in the mainstream media’s handling of this issue. However, I think that by being so preoccupied with transition it may have painted an overly simplistic picture.
Still, in this day and age of the World Wide Web, there is loads of information readily available for further research. So if nothing else, by raising the concept of Gender Identity it could get people wanting to learn more. And that’s always a good thing.
This episode of The Surgery is available on BBC iPlayer until Friday 13-Feb-2015 at 10pm UK time.
The direct link to it is http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04xnh5v
It may not be available to you if you are outside of the UK.
I don’t know if it’s just because I am more aware of it, but there does seem to be a lot more media coverage about transgender issues and Gender Identity in the mainstream media at the moment.
Meanwhile, there are several articles published today on Conversion Therapy – the idea that you can “cure” people of homosexuality or transgenderism.
BBC Newsbeat reports that “NHS staff [have been] told to stop helping patients get gay conversion therapy” (for non-UK readers, the NHS is the National Health Service), whilst the Huffington Post has an article today entitled “It’s Time to Ban ‘Reparative Therapy’”
Last week the Daily Telegraph published an article about Voice Therapy entitled “Transgender women often want to sound like Fiona Bruce“, which is about the work of Christella Antoni. Christella is the Voice Coach that I have been using – in fact I’m seeing her this Saturday.