Monday, July 09, 2007
By Jacob Anderson-Minshall
Published: July 5, 2007
Retired high school librarian Debra Davis has done it a thousand times.
Over the last two decades, the trans woman has done it in hospitals, police stations, non-profit organizations, religious institutions, business meetings, and on campuses across the county. She’s even done it on television and in front of elementary students! She’s proud of what she’s doing and has no plans to stop. Davis is the executive director of the Gender Education Center—a Minnesota organization dedicated to support, advocacy and education for differently gendered people—and she travels the country speaking on transgender issues. Earlier this year she reached the thousand-presentation milestone.”
Minnesota included basic protection for transgender people in its Human Rights Act in 1993, but the Gender Education Center began a decade earlier, as the City of Lakes Crossgender Community (clccmn.com)’s community outreach program.
After transitioning on the job in 1998, the award-winning educator, activist and speaker has come to specialize in helping other trans employees do the same. “You don’t need to change jobs,” Davis says. But, she insists, you do need someone like her—to educate your bosses and co-workers. . . .
There are a lot of groups that are under-represented in children’s and young adult literature. The most obvious is minorities of all races, all colors and all religions. I’m sure if aliens landed on Earth tomorrow and hit the local Barnes & Noble kid’s section they would think from what they found there that we are all straight white people with varying degrees of income, social problems and church-going habits. Unless of course they thought we were all wizards, elves or vampires.
I am constantly looking for YA books to review that include an African American, Asian American or Latin American character -- they don’t even have to be the protagonists, they just have to be there. Books with gay teens are a rare bird and books that move even further outside that box, like a book about a transgender teen, well, that is a flat out near impossibility.
We are talking the rarest of the rare here in literary terms: the Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the publishing world.So when I read the Booklist review of Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish I was fairly stunned. This book, about a female high school student who is tired of pretending to be a happy girl and cuts her hair, changes her name, and now seeks to be accepted by everyone as the boy she knows herself to truly be, is an absolute revelation. There is nothing overly dramatic here -- no parents that throw their child out, no physical attacks from fellow students or teachers who expel Grady after his transformation from Angela. This might seem a bit strange for those who expect chaos from such a decision. In fact Booklist reviewer Michael Cart noted, “To her credit, Wittlinger has managed to avoid the operatic (no blood is shed, no lives are threatened) but some readers may wonder if -- in so doing -- she has made things a bit too easy for Grady,” but I thought that what Wittlinger decided to do with this story was fitting. There is indeed some high school trauma from other kids and it is not at all a walk in the park for Grady, but the bigger story is not what everyone else thinks but what Grady thinks . . . .
AVON STARR arrives late, sweeps past the nightclub door staff with a wink. Her outfit, as she will later describe it, is a "funsy wunsy". To the uninitiated, it's a one-piece figure-hugging trouser suit, sleeveless and black, with a strong suggestion of cleavage.
Her hair looks like Jackie Onassis's might have after a controlled explosion. Along with the six-inch platform heels, it pushes her height to an easy six foot two. Standing next to her is Musty Gusset, blonde, in a blue crushed-velvet dress, glittering eyelashes and red lips. Also six-foot-plus, she greets admirers with a feminine west coast lilt. They could be professional sidekicks, and intend to be if tonight's audition at the newly opened Priscillas drag club in Glasgow goes well.
The walk downstairs from the hungry eyes of the clientele to their spartan dressing room is fraught with the danger of twisted ankles and bumped heads. "Be honest. Does my ass look big in this?" asks Starr in a conspiratorial tone. "Just about right," I say, passing under her arm and into the room. Her Tennessee accent comes across strongly, although it's been a while since she left the States. A few years in Norway were followed by a couple more in Inverness, where she first met Musty Gusset. Both she and Gusset see tonight as a chance to promote their drag act, which they've been honing for some time, albeit in fits and starts. . . .