Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Transsexuals of Brazil

Barry Michael Wolfe

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Transgender people in Brazil are the country's single most marginalized group. Fear, ignorance, and hypocrisy lead to discrimination and lack of education, which in turn render transgender people--more specifically, people who were born male but present themselves as female--subject to violence, social exclusion, drug abuse, crime, prostitution, exploitation, and severe health risks, each of which results in further discrimination.

Brazilian sexual culture contains deep and severely repressed androgynous elements. Transvestites, as many male-to-female transsexuals prefer to be called, are the personification of this cultural equivocation. . . .

Looking Back: Jazz musician Billy Tipton's life in photos: A timeline

Click on the title above and step through the images.


Chapter One. Born Naked

21 January 1989

You're born naked and the rest is drag.
- Drag queen RuPaul, Lettin' it All Hang Out

ONE SATURDAY MORNING in January 1989, an emergency call summoned paramedics to a trailer park on the outskirts of Spokane, Washington, the home of Billy Tipton, an aging white jazz musician. Tipton had been very ill, too weak to leave his bed, but had resisted all attempts to get him to a doctor. His adopted teenage son, William, had been looking after him. That morning, after carrying Billy to the bathroom, William had closed the door and, out of earshot, telephoned his mother, Kitty. They hadn't spoken for nearly a year. Divorce had dispersed the family almost a decade earlier, and Kitty had remarried, but she could still be counted on in a crisis. She advised William to dial 911 and have Billy moved to a hospital. William made the call, then went to carry his father to the breakfast table. Billy Tipton gave a deep sigh and slumped against his son, unconscious.

That sigh was a secret escaping. The medics arrived almost immediately, lay Tipton on the floor of the trailer, squatted over him, and opened his pajamas to feel for a heartbeat. One of them turned to William and asked, "Son, did your father have a sex change?" William stepped forward and caught a glimpse of his father's upper body, then stumbled back against the screen door and down the trailer's steps. What had he seen? "I was in awe. I had no thoughts--just looked up at the sky, thinking it was some hallucination from drugs. If my father had lived as a woman, she would have had big breasts."

Nobody but Billy had seen that nude torso for about forty years, not even the women who had lived with him as wives. Billy was a very private person, they explained later. He invariably locked the bathroom, where he washed and dressed. People who knew his habits knew that he always wore binding on his chest to support the ribs that had been fractured when the front end of a Buick had plowed into his body--or so he said.

And many, many people knew Billy Tipton. Spokane had been one of the regular stops on his trio's circuit in the early 1950s, during the brief heyday of legal gambling in private clubs in Washington State, when a band could make a good living backing strippers, magicians, jugglers, tap dancers, any sort of variety act that would draw customers into the clubs to drink and play the slot machines. In 1958, Billy settled in Spokane, and the Billy Tipton Trio became the house band at a downtown nightclub called Allen's Tin Pan Alley. Billy bought a house in the Spokane Valley and started earning a second income as an agent in the Dave Sobol Theatrical Agency, booking the musicians.

In Spokane, out of professional respect, Billy Tipton was referred to as a jazz musician. He referred to himself as an entertainer, for he had long before given up trying to make a living at jazz, though he smuggled it into floorshows he worked up with other members of his trio, playing a repertory of swing standards on saxophone and piano. Oklahoman by birth, he was attuned to the stingy provincial audiences he had to please in Spokane, and he had a flair for showmanship. As an emcee, he adopted the gregarious style of the businessmen who were regular customers at the clubs, and female fans were attracted by his boyish good looks and his meticulous style of dress. . . .

EXTRA: Connie Talbot sings in Final of "Britain's Got Talent"

. . . a song for everyone!

Hormone effects: How having a twin brother can leave a girl single

How having a twin brother can leave a girl single

Girls with a twin brother tend to be only too aware that their sibling can be an occasional pain in the neck.

But it seems that having a male twin may have far more serious and long-lasting consequences - harming a girl's chances of settling down and having children.

A study has shown that women who have a twin brother are 15 per cent less likely to marry and 25 per cent less likely to give birth.

Even when they do become mothers, they tend to have fewer children than other women.

Sheffield University researchers explain the pattern - discerned from studying the lives of almost 400 sets of twins - on exposure to the male hormone testosterone in the womb.

They say this masculinises the developing girl, affecting not only her appearance but her personality, attitudes and behaviour. . . .

Thailand: Transsexual beauty queen buys buffaloes to help poor

A former transvestite beauty queen has spent her prize money on saving Thai buffaloes and distributing them to poor farmers in Lop Buri to help boost their income.

Former beauty pageant entrant, Sararat "Arf" Klinthai, who was born Sawek Klinthai, now 30, said she underwent a sex-change operation at 17 and had entered nearly 700 beauty contests. She enjoyed considerable success including the Miss Alcazar runner-up at Pattaya and the Miss Siam Contest in Bangkok, and has 200 trophies.

After retiring, Arf returned to her hometown in Tambon Tai Talad in Muang Lop Buri and raised some 100 Brahman cattle, on which she also conducted artificial insemination without help from veterinarians.

Arf said she spent her prize money - and donations from fellow transvestite contestants - to save 50 buffaloes and cows bound for the slaughterhouse and gave 30 of them to the locals and let them sell the calves. . . .