Every now and then, I like to indulge myself with fantasies of storylines that could be, if only I could trust television to do them right. Those dreams loom especially large in the wake of finale season, when I think ahead to what we’ll be seeing on network television in the fall, and wonder if this is perhaps the year when television breaks out of itself to do something amazing. Which shows could have the potential to take a storyline in a new and fascinating direction, rather than letting it slide into Tropeville? And what could they do with said storyline?
Everett Maroon, Bumbling Into Body Hair (Booktrope 2012)
Cis people have a seemingly endless fascination with transition, particularly the minutia and the deeply personal details. They want to know what it’s all like, whether someone has had the surgery, how you know you’re transsexual and/or transgender. The thirst for trans memories seems unslakeable, and many members of the trans community are willing to oblige, with books running the gamut from attempts at emotional tours de force to wry memoirs where everything is made into one giant joke.
Some members of the trans community seem equally fascinated by this recent explosion in literature, although not all of us will admit it. Inevitably, the authors of trans memoirs are viewed as spokespeople and representatives for the whole community, and their work is closely scrutinised. The assessments are often quite biting, as individual authors and memoirs are expected to carry so much weight, and inevitably there are parts of the community who feel left out.
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.
It’s been something of a historic week in the fight for same-sex marriage in Australia. And it’s been a significant year for LGBT rights more generally (not so much, arguably, for Q* or I or any of the other letters that might otherwise go on the end of that acronym). Unfortunately, the hyperfocus on marriage has obscured the leaps, bounds, and deficiencies in some of the areas in more urgent need of attention. Here’s your guide to where Australia’s at, and where the lucky country, as we call it, has to go in order to spread that luck around more evenly.
Susan Stryker, Transgender History, Seal Press, 2008.
Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman, eds. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Seal Press, 2010.
The feminist press Seal has carved out a distinctive niche for itself in its line of transgender authored books, still often something of a rarity in today’s publishing world. Two recent books from Seal demonstrate the vitality of transsexual, transgender and genderqueer writings in the present day, as well as some of the ongoing political tensions between various groups in the transgender umbrella
Susan Stryker’s Transgender History is, as the name suggests, is a history of transgender people and politics of the last hundred 150 years, primarily in the United States. Pegged as an introductory guide, this entry in Seal’s Seal Studies series is a readable and accessible primer on trans identities and politics. Historian Stryker is an expert in the field of transgender studies, having edited and published numerous works, most notably The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge 2006). Though it covers some of the same ground as Joanne Meyorowitz’s How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality In The United States, Transgender History carves out a distinct niche in its focus on the many forms of activism that trans people have engaged in over the last century.
As the ongoing fight about a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) bill rages on in the United States, a recent report in New York has raised questions about the effectiveness of such bills in tackling discrimination against transgender people in the workplace.
Undertaken by Make the Road New York (the “New York LGBTQ Justice Project”), the “Transgender Need Not Apply” report engaged in a rather stunning experiment. They investigated potential employment discrimination in New York by using the “matched pairs” methodology used in some social science experiments. The matched pairs of job applicants used were alike in every way (race, sex, age, qualifications, interview technique) except transgender status, thus attempting to filter out other variables in discrimination. Two pairs of job-seekers were sent out to the same interviews at high-end Manhattan stores like J. Crew, American Eagle and Virgin Megastore. The results were stunning. Continue reading
If you’ve been perusing my home blog and other transgender-themed blogs across the Internet recently, you may have noticed the TDOR acronym pop up, and wondered what it means.
TDOR stands for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. For the last eleven years, every November 20 we memorialize and call attention to the people we’ve lost due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.
I was celebrating with every trans person around the world in November 1999, when I heard the news that New Zealand’s Georgina Beyer became the first open trans person elected to a national legislative body. She served as a Labour Party MP from November 27, 1999 until February 14, 2007.
In 2003, Aya Kamikawa became the first trans person elected to public office in Japan when she won a place on the local assembly for Setagaya, one of Tokyo’s biggest local government areas. She was reelected in 2008
That groundbreaking achievement was followed up by Italy’s Vladimir Luxuria, who, in the Italian General Elections of April 2006, became the first open transgender MP elected to a European parliament. The Communist Refoundation Party member was defeated in an April 2008 reelection bid and has stated that she has no desire to reenter politics at this time.
The success of Beyer, Luxuria and Kamikawa caught the attention of trans people in the United States and elsewhere in the world – people who, like myself, have contemplated running for political office. It gave us evidence that the psychological barriers to voters putting a qualified trans person in office may be coming down. It also gives us hope that some of us can personally run, and win.
I was at a wedding several years ago when the celebrant made a comment that pricked up my ears. She said, “in Australia, marriage is between a man and a woman.” I initially thought, Way to state the obvious, thank you for making the queer people here feel even more uncomfortable, but, after talking to the bride, discovered that it was actually a legally required part of the ceremony.
Although it’s rarely noted, like the United States, Australia in 2004 passed a Federal Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. Rhis appears to unequivocally thwart the chance of same-sex couples getting married—and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been reluctant to even implement a separate-but-equal civil unions system as in the UK.
Recently, a story circulated in the Australian media that after July 1st, the Australian government will recognise some same-sex marriages—but only those in which one person is transsexual. The idea was that with the passing of the Same Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Law) act, previously legal marriages would continue to be legal. In contrast to the US. where this situation already exists, this is actually a novel approach in Australian law for same-sex partnered trans people (for instance, a couple with a male-to-female partner and a female partner). Continue reading