California’s Bay Area enjoys a reputation as one of the most liberal regions in the country, a locale infamous for ‘San Francisco values,’ the alleged libertine attitudes of the Castro, the quirky ‘How Berkeley Can You Be?’ parade, and many more things large and small that project an attitude of liberality, heightened consciousness about social issues, and community to the rest of the nation. When the conservative right wants to set its targets on what it sees as the latest sin of the left, its eyes often look to the Bay Area, and the state as a whole has been at the core of a number of controversies ranging from tighter environmental protections to the legalisation of marijuana to marriage equality.
Whenever a prominent transgender person hits the news, the US media seem to stumble. Not just on the respectful and humane treatment of the transgender community, as ample lascivious, gross, and exploitative features will attest, but on the simple matter of something that should be routine: names and pronouns.
One of the most persistent threads throughout the two years of imprisonment of accused Wikileaks leaker Private Bradley Manning has been the rumour that he is in fact, she–a transgender woman. Manning faces thirty charges, one of which “aiding the enemy” potentially carries the death penalty (though life in prison is more likely) for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents via the website Wikileaks including the shocking “Collateral Murder” video. Dismissed by many as a smear or simply irrelevant to the case, this transgender story has nevertheless refused to die.
In an important victory for transgender and intersex activists, Australian passports will now be issued in three sexes – male, female, and an indeterminate X. The Australian passport office Thursday issued new regulations concerning the sex and gender diverse community, which have caught the eye of the world with the new “X” marker. Though much of the international media coverage has confused the two, the new regime is made up of two separate options, with two different justifications.
The first is for transgender men and women who have undergone hormone therapy but not surgery. The previous regime had required genital surgery in order to access the correct sex marker, a procedure that is not always medically possible, and can involve a years-long wait on Australia’s Medicare system or expensive out-of-country travel to medical tourist destinations like Thailand. Transgender people will now be able to have the correct sex marker matching the sex they live in (ie an M for a transgender man, an F for a transgender woman) with a letter from their doctors certifying they are undergoing “appropriate medical treatment” for their preferred gender.