Monday, June 04, 2007
Published: May 31, 2007
“Anytime new diversity becomes visible as a voice of culture, that changes how everyone looks at themselves, and forces a question of just what elements our society is comprised of, who is qualified to speak as an artist and who can represent what.”Trans identified writer, poet, composer and songwriter Eli Wise is a storyteller who uses lyrics to weave his tales. He’s an artist who uses his songs to provide windows onto his inner world. The subject matter of his rock songs is often dark, but Wise isn’t a pessimist. He believes transgender musicians and artists are bring something new to cultural expression by simply telling their unique stories.
The essence of a culture, Wise says, can be found in its mythic tales. “Every culture, even our modern one, relies on archetypes, expressed in myths, in order to understand itself. For instance, Star Wars is the common example given of a modern day myth that kids and adults use…to better understand our lives. The successful entrepreneur is [another] American myth. As soon as you take ideas that are an undercurrent in every day life, and extrapolate them into a larger setting, you are using a mythic structure.”
Wise first became involved in the San Francisco performance community after attending Gender Pirates, a regular trans and gender queer performance, that Wise later co-produced. Gender Pirates is a project of United Genders of the Universe (unitedgenders.org), a San Francisco organization that sponsors support groups for “everyone who views gender as having more than two options.”
Wise recalls the scene during his first Gender Pirates event: “It was very much a community gathering, which made it feel accessible to me as a new guy in town. It was also very clearly a gender queer space, which meant it was open to me wherever I fit on the spectrum, which was great because at the time I didn’t know.” . . .
Jessica, a Kansas City police officer, is 6 feet tall with a chin dimple, pink manicured fingernails and a birth certificate that says “male.”
But in her mind, Jessica believes she has always been a female.
She legally changed her name from David to Jessica last year. And in January, she gained the right to dress as a woman at work.
She asked co-workers to refer to her in female pronouns, like “she” and “her.” She started hormone therapy and removed most of her body hair with laser surgery, but she hasn’t had a sex-change operation, known as gender reassignment surgery. She needs to raise $17,500 first.
Her co-workers are slowly getting used to the idea of working with a transgender police officer — a first for the department. But still, some point to Jessica and tell citizens to talk to “him,” prompting the citizens to look around, perplexed, since all they see is Jessica with her pink lipgloss and coiffed copper hair.
The bad guys can be equally confounded.
They see an officer wearing blue topaz earrings but shouting, “Get down on the ground!” in a deep, booming voice.
“When I get loud, I sound like a man,” Jessica conceded. “It throws the bad guys off. They can think whatever they want. I don’t care.”
Jessica understands the confusion because she lived 40 years mixed-up herself, not fitting in anywhere. . . .
By ANDREA GURWITT
It comes too late to help Carol Barlow, but she certainly could have used it.
Could have invoked it when she got fired.
Could have pointed to it when the job interviewer laughed in her face.
Could have sued after, she says, her boss said, "When you become Carol or whatever the hell you're doing, you're out of there."
Because Carol Barlow used to be Bruce Barlow. And first Bruce, and then Carol, suffered harassment, indignities and discrimination at one job and then another, and still more on innumerable job interviews.
Well, that won't cut it anymore.
Starting June 17, it will be illegal under state law for businesses to discriminate against Carol Barlow and any other transgender person. New Jersey's anti-discrimination law, already one of the most far-reaching in the country, will add "gender identity and expression" to its list of protected categories for employment, housing, public accommodation, credit and business contracts.
The legislation, passed in December, makes New Jersey the ninth state with a transgender law.
Vermont, Oregon, Iowa and Colorado passed similar laws this year, but they won't take effect until mid summer. . . .