Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Coming Out Issues for Spouses & Significant Others

(en) Gender: helen boyd’s journal of gender & trans issues

Trans Partner Advocacy

Posted in trans partners on July 30th, 2007

Recently on our message boards, the partner of someone who was transitioning posted about her very last day with her male husband. She was sad, she was mourning, and she was feeling both loss & resentment.

Sometimes the larger trans community seems to view feelings like that as anti-trans; that a partner isn’t throwing the big coming out party for her transitioning companion is seen as less than enthusiastic, and the difficult feelings are interpreted as saying ‘trans is bad.’

But the thing is, it’s part of the gig. There’s a lot of change involved in transition, which every trans person with half a brain admits. I mean, that’s the point. Change is a difficult thing for most people - all people, really - and it is stressful even when the change is a good thing, like getting a better job or getting married or having a baby that you’ve long wanted.

But to miss the old, worse job, or thinking fondly about the time when you were single or childfree, doesn’t mean you don’t want the new change in your life. You do. But you can’t just tell your mind not to think about how it once was, either.

& Sometimes I think that’s what’s expected of partners, that we never have a time to say, “I did love him as a man.” We can’t admit that we liked the cocky or shy guy we first fell in love with, & the partners of FTMs aren’t supposed to mourn the loss of breasts and smooth cheeks that they loved to touch.

But the thing is, as any trans person should know, repressing a feeling of loss or sadness is really bad all around; repression poisons the groundwater, in effect, and everyone feels it. So while I don’t advise partners make themselves miserable longing for the past (just as I wouldn’t advise trans people to think the future will definitely be rosy simply because they’ll transition), expressing the more difficult feelings associated with transition is healthier, in my opinion, in the long run. Not easy to hear as the trans person, for sure, but from what I hear from same trans people, they too may need some time to mourn the loss of their own former self.

What book publisher says

GROWING up in a traditional Chinese middle-class family meant that Ms Leona Lo had to suppress her gender identity conflict throughout her adolescent years.

Click to see larger image
From Leonard To Leona: A working cover of the book. The final version is being decided upon.

One of the reasons Select Publishing decided to publish MsLo's book is to foster better understanding of such issues.

Said its managing director, Ms Lee Wen Fen: 'Select Publishing, a subsidiary of Select Books, publishes a wide range of books on Asia, ranging from literature to works on Asian history, society, politics and culture.'

It includes within its publishing portfolio each year a few works on niche subjects that are under-represented on book shelves or in public discourse, such as books on migrant worker issues or civil society.

'When the subject of transsexualism is publicly discussed at all, usually it is treated with derision or, at best, as a subject of ribald humour,' said Ms Lee.

This book contributes to the raising of gender awareness, she said.

Co-worker's sex change is upsetting


(Published: July 30, 2007)

Q. I work for a large federal organization, and for three years I've worked with a man who's a bit of an odd duck. "Frank" is moody and indecisive. When you talk with him, he often doesn't finish a thought or even a sentence, and so when you and he discuss something, you're left hanging. He also has a strange appearance for a man, with obviously manicured fingernails and plucked eyebrows.

Two months ago, the situation changed from odd to surreal. We were told Frank was undergoing surgery to change into a woman. We all left the meeting shaking our heads. I consider this sort of behavior immoral, and I decided I would interact with Frank only when I absolutely had to.

Two weeks ago, Frank returned from surgery. Management informed us by e-mail we were to call him "Frances." Last week, things got worse. Frances and I got assigned to the same business process improvement committee, and so I have to work with him daily. Yesterday, I was en route to the restroom when I noticed Frank behind me in the hallway. I stopped just short of the restroom door and then he went in. This makes me nauseous.

I went to see my manager, who sent me to HR, who told me that Frances can use the women's restroom as he's now a she and has the right. What happened to my rights?

A. You have rights -- but not the right to tell Frances what sex she is or what restroom she uses.

In the last two decades, about 200,000 individuals have elected surgery to change from male to female or female to male. Nine states, among them Washington, Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, New Mexico, Maine and California, ban gender-identity discrimination.

Although no Alaska law addresses this issue, the U.S. Supreme Court set a partial precedent in its landmark 1989 Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins decision. When the accounting firm denied Ann Hopkins the right to become a partner because she dressed and acted in a masculine manner, the Supreme Court ruled in Hopkins' favor and against sexual stereotyping.

Since then, multiple employers such as American Airlines, IBM, Xerox, Walgreens, Nike, Apple, Kodak and Aetna have created specific policies so that transsexuals -- those who choose sexual identities different from the one in which they were born and raised -- can work without facing discrimination from co-workers.

Meanwhile, your employer can support you as well as Frances. No-cost arrangements, such as asking Frances to use a single stall bathroom with a locked door or inexpensive modifications such as ensuring that restroom stalls provide adequate privacy can go a long way in making this situation more palatable.

Although many share with you the strongly held belief that changing one's sexual identity is a moral issue, three thoughts may help you come to terms with the fact that you work with Frances.

First, those who feel at home in their own skin ordinarily perform better than those who always feel not quite right. Some of Frances' former odd behaviors may fall away now that she has the chance to present herself to the world in the sexual identity that she feels is hers.

Second, although you feel put out by Frances' transformation, can you imagine what it must have been like for her to have felt in the wrong body and sexual identity since birth? No one elects the painful and rigorous surgery needed to change sexual identity without having experienced severe anguish over the situation.

Finally, as you employer apparently feels, Frances and Frank possess the same skills. In the workplace, that's what matters.

Female impersonator is a Rehoboth 'Eyecon'

Zoom Photo

Female impersonator Christopher Peterson performs at the Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day.

Television viewers may enjoy watching ABC's new celebrity impersonators show, "The Next Big Thing," but Rehoboth Beach has hosted a master of the craft for close to a decade now.

Christopher Peterson takes the stage of the ballroom at the Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center on the boardwalk every Friday though Sunday. For approximately 70 minutes per evening, he portrays the likes of Liza Minelli, Bette Davis and Cher. Instead of taking breaks or intermissions, he changes wigs between songs right in front of the audience.

This is his third, and possibly final, season at the hotel. It booked him in 2005 after his former venue, the gay nightclub the Renegade, was torn down by developers. That club's owners had discovered him in Key West, Fla., where he still performs each winter with the help of his stage manager (and partner of 23 years), James Mill. Peterson's career got a national boost in 2001 when he landed a scene-stealing cameo opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. in the comedy movie "Rat Race."

Peterson, 44, is in fine form. A recent show found him kicking off the evening with a Cher impersonation. And yes, folks, those are his real, uh, vocals. He kept the crowd in stitches between songs with jokes about national topics and also local references geared to the coastal Sussex Countians in the house. While the crowd at that particular show was predominantly gay, more and more straight people have been attending the show to see what all the fuss is about.

We caught up with him Monday for a chat.

Q: Is this really "farewell"?

A: We only signed up for three seasons (at the hotel). Neither side has decided yet whether we'll continue or not. I'd certainly like to continue to perform in Rehoboth. This is my home in the summertime. The ballroom at the Sands is great because it almost has a Vegas feel to it.

Q: Your Bette Davis and Liza Minelli impressions stole the show when I saw you.

A: I always save the best for last. And I opened with Cher because that wig takes a lot longer to put on than the others. It's a fun opening.

Q: You also have two other shows which are completely different?

A: Yes. I have one where Marilyn Monroe opens the show wearing the "Happy Birthday, JFK" gown. That gown sold for $1.3 million at Christie's; mine cost about 1-one-hundredth of that.

Q: What was it like working with Cuba Gooding Jr. in "Rat Race"?

A: He was a total professional and a very nice man. He was very funny between takes. I was paid a flat sum for that movie and had to sign away my rights for six years, but now the contract is up so I just received my first residual check.

Q: Have the crowds changed over the years?

A: I'm 44 and they're getting older along with me. But there is a lot of nostalgia going on these days. Even the rock bands who come to Dewey are old bands from the '70s and '80s. And look at the biggest band in the world (the Rolling Stones). They're fossils! I always say my audience consists of gay men and women and their mothers. But we're getting a lot of straight people who come to enjoy a good cabaret show.

Q: Will you ever retire for real?

A: The promoters say I'll be able to do this into my sixties because some of the people I'm portraying are that old anyway. Every performer wishes they could take their final accolades and then the curtain closes and you drop dead. It doesn't always happen that way, unfortunately. But that's what I want.

Transgender inmate wins hormone therapy


Associated Press Writer

An inmate who castrated herself with a disposable razor blade after prison officials refused to treat her for gender identity disorder should have female hormone therapy paid for by the state, a federal judge said.

Jenniffer Spencer, who was born biologically male, sued the Idaho Department of Correction and its physicians, claiming that her constitutional rights were violated and that she was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment when the doctors failed to diagnose gender identity disorder and treat her with female hormones. Instead, the department and its doctors repeatedly offered Spencer the male hormone testosterone.

A trial over the lawsuit has not been scheduled, but U.S. District Judge Mikel Williams ruled Friday that the state must provide Spencer with psychotherapy and estrogen pending trial. Williams also noted that Spencer is scheduled for release in two years, and that getting the lawsuit to trial could take that long or longer.

The state's attorneys contend that prison doctors did not find conclusive evidence that Spencer, 27, has gender identity disorder. It would be unethical for the doctors to prescribe a drug that wasn't needed and that could do harm, attorney John Burke said.

The judge disagreed.

"There is no evidence before the court that female hormones have, in fact, proved harmful to male subjects who are no longer producing testosterone," Williams said.

Other transgender inmates are already receiving female hormone therapy, the judge said, and so the state is able to handle any special concerns that might arise if Spencer were given estrogen. . . .