Friday, September 14, 2007

Alexis Tells Her Personal Story

Alexis eloquently talks about a range of subjects, from the importance of personal activism to a tragedy in her life involving her partner, an FTM, who was murdered in a hate crime.

IFGE 2008

IFGE 2008, the 22nd conference of the International Foundation for Gender Education will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Tucson, Arizona from April 1-5, 2008. This year the conference is being co-hosted by the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. There will be numerous seminars and workshops on various trans subjects, free time for networking, fun events, and a gala banquet on Saturday night. (Learn more at the Schedule At-A-Glance page.)

Call for Presenters!
We are seeking proposals for presentations and workshops for the conference sessions, which will take place April 3-5, 2008. Our theme for 2008 is Towards A Greater Diversity.

This year we are especially looking for papers on the follow themes:
  • Issues regarding TG Persons of Color
  • Trans youth and youth of Trans parents
  • Issues and concerns of Crossdressers
  • TGs in Relationships - for SOs, Couples, & TGs with & w/o partners
  • TG Health, Medicine, & Legal Concerns
  • Issues and concerns of FtMs (There will be a full track for FtMs)
  • Creating more unity in the TG Community
  • We are also soliciting presentations by Spanish speaking presenters on most any of the topics above.
  • New ideas, new topics, and new faces are of particular interest.
Submit your proposal as soon as possible (but no later than September 15, 2007) to insure space and schedule availability. Your proposal must include a short biography and any A/V equipment needs. For panel presentations, the moderator should submit the proposal with the names, pertinent information (as to addresses, etc.), and bios of the other panel members. If this panel information is omitted from the proposal it may not make it into the program book. We offer a complimentary conference day to each presenter or panel moderator only. (Unless it is a special invited panel.)

If you have questions regarding your proposal contact Alison Laing at or P.O. Box 473, Portsmouth, RI 02871-0475.

Seeking acceptance

WHEN Sarika was forced to bow out of She’s My Son because of her second sister’s protests, she was furious.

“I’m really mad (at my sister’s reaction),” said Sarika when I met her in July.

“She’s scared that my relatives will look down on her because of me, that’s the main reason,” she said, her voice tight with anger.

We met at the Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan campus in Kuala Lumpur in July. She was there to film segments for She’s My Son in one of the theatres.

Yes, despite her sister’s objections, Sarika decided to go ahead and be involved with the documentary anyway. However, this time, as its narrator.

Transsexual Suganya, 30, is lucky as she has the support of her family, particularly her mother, Samsed.
“I’m not afraid of anyone. Anyway, my boyfriend encourages me and says that he’s very proud I’m doing this,” she said with a smile.

“I’m happy that there’s a chance for me to talk about the transgendered in Malaysia. I want to show people that they’re accepted by their families.”

For Sarika, she knew that she was a girl in a boy’s body by the time she was eight.

“I didn’t mix with the boys, I was always with the girls,” she said.

After finishing her studies in human resource management at a local college, Sarika, at the age of 20, had her sex change operation in Thailand in 2004 which cost her about RM10,000.

It was one of the best moments in her life, as it was her greatest desire to have a sex change operation.

“I must thank God that my mother accepts me and shares everything she has with me, such as sarees, jewellery and especially make-up,” she said with a laugh.

Her other siblings (except her second sister) accepted her decision too, but her father was a more difficult case.

“He was a very serious person. We are high caste Indians, he’s Ceylonese, and he didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of the relatives. Also, I’m his only son,” she said ruefully.

But two months before his death, Sarika’s father accepted her for who she is.

However, it is rare for other people to do the same.

“Some people look at me as if I’m an animal. No, worse than an animal. They ask me, ‘Why do you want to be this?’

“I’m lucky that when I was in college, and at my workplace, people accepted me,” she said. But she said that she gets teased almost every day when she walks down the streets.

Most of her transsexual friends are not as lucky. Four years ago, one of Sarika’s good friends, Amu, a transsexual, committed suicide. She was 21. . . .

Texas trans woman says she was fired from Baptist church for wearing make up

by David Webb
The Dallas Voice
Friday Sep 14, 2007

Everything considered, I think the lady makes a valid point.

Terri Beth Richeson couldn’t understand why the business administrator of the First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls kept telling her to quit wearing make up on her job as a church custodian.

After all, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, wore make up when he preached and appeared on television, said Richeson, who is a male-to-female transgender. What’s the difference between the pastor wearing make up on the job and a custodian doing the same thing, she wondered.

"The pastor wore a lot of make up," Richeson said. "I’ve got pictures of his make up. I got a call one day from another employee who said, ’You’ve got to come down to his office. He’s got his make up all laid out.’"

Richeson, 54, said she was amazed by the pastor’s collection of make up.

"It wasn’t the kind of make up I wear," Richeson said. "It was Clinique. It was real expensive make up. I’m not sure it was just for Sundays and television. But that may have been what it was for."

At least some of the make up observed in the pastor’s office was designed for women, she said.

Nevertheless, Richeson said she wound up getting fired in January, and the pastor continued on without any problems until he recently resigned to accept the position of senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

"They threatened to fire me two different times for transitioning on the job," she said.

Richeson said she first realized she had a female identity when she was about 21. Prior to that, she had secretly worn female clothing as a teenager, but she didn’t realize what it meant until later. . . .

Transsexual's rights were violated by Lithuania

11th September 2007 13:44
Tony Grew

A Lithuanian transsexual has won a case at the European Court of Human Rights over claims that he has been blocked from completing his gender transition.

The seven judges also ruled that Lithuania must implement new legislation on gender reassignment within three months or pay damages.

The 28-year-old has been undergoing gender reassignment since 1998 including hormone treatment and breast removal, but is now being blocked from more treatment because of the laws in Lithuania.

He says he suffers daily embarrassment because he is still described as a woman on official documents. . . .

A Marriage Story

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My partner and I were legally married on August 22 in Florida in a beautiful ceremony on the beach at sunset. Same sex marriage in Florida? Well, sort of. It's a long story. Transgender people are in a unique position when it comes to marriage. We were thinking of getting a civil union in New Jersey, but there is some confusion because civil union is only for same-sex partners. Now, you may be thinking that we are a same-sex couple. I think that too. But that doesn't mean the state thinks it...

In several cases, the state courts have refused to recognize a change in gender as legal. In Texas, Mr. and Mrs. Littleton found this out when Mr. Littleton went into the hospital for a simple procedure and died as the result of medical malpractice. In due time, Mrs. Littleton contacted a lawyer and sued for medical malpractice. The opposing lawyer found out that Mrs. Littleton had transitioned years ago and claimed that no malpractice suit could be maintained because her marriage was invalid. Despite the fact that she had sex reassignment surgery and that her gender had been recognized by the state in the form of a new birth certificate, the Texas courts agreed and threw the suit out of court.

In Kansas, Mrs. Gardiner found this out when her husband died without a will. By law, she was entitled to a percentage of her husband's estate, with a percentage also going to her husband's children. Her lawyer contacted her husband's estranged son to tell him that his father's estate was in probate. The son found out that Mrs. Gardiner was transgender, and hired a lawyer to claim that she was entitled to nothing as a result of her identity. Again, despite the fact that she had transitioned years ago and that her gender had been recognized by the state in the form of a new birth certificate, the Kansas courts agreed with the son, and gave the entire estate to the estranged son.

In Florida. Mr. and Mrs. Kantaras were getting divorced. Mrs. Kantaras did not want her husband to have visitation of her 6 year old dautgher, whom Mr. Kantaras had adopted, and claimed that their marriage was a sham because Mr. Kantaras was transgender. The Florida courts agreed.

Courts in Ohio [In re Ladrach, 32 Ohio Misc.2d. 6, 513 N.E.2d 828 (1987)] and my home state of New York [Anonymous v. Anonymous, 325 N.Y.S.2d 499 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1971)] have made similar rulings. In short, every court that has considered the matter to this point has said that states do not recognize a change of gender in the context of marriage. If my female partner and I get a civil union, will that be invalidated on the same grounds? No one can say for certain.

So I had our lawyer contact the county clerk in Florida, who contacted his lawyer, and after providing a copy of my birth certificate (with an "M" on it) and my name change order and an affidavit certifying these were all referring to me, we were issued a marriage license, recognized by the State of Florida and the federal government. Nonetheless, I was saddened that this loophole had been created because the state disrespected transgender identity, and those involved suffered such sad consequences.

Of course, when we tell people we were married in Florida, people ask "You mean there's same sex marriage in Florida!?" And we reply "Well, sort of..."

For those who want more scholarly treatment, here is a law review article by Frye and Meiselman, provocatively entitled "Same-Sex Marriages Have Existed Legally in the United States for a Long Time Now"and an article by NCLR attorney Shannon Minter Transgender Persons and Marriage: The Important of Legal Planning

We are very, very happy.

The Importance of Ritual

Marriage has been the topic of conversation in GLBT circles of late. Presidential candidates have recognized the importance of sincerely engaging our community’s issues. Some candidates support marriage equality without elaboration or parsing of words. Those who do not tend to want to shy away from the issue and respond to questions with questions, for example: “Why are we talking so much about marriage anyway?”

I call that obfuscation, a specious rhetorical strategy that is neither a valid question nor answer.

We talk about it for good reason. Marriage is important because it is a socially contracted marker of a significant shift in one’s life. Rituals like marriage function as necessary shorthand for the chapters in our lives. Without graduations, weddings, funerals, baby showers, house warming parties, and farewell dinners, we would feel constantly in transition.

Without communal confirmation of having shifted from here to there, we might remain in a restless state of revision and examination. Something I will return to later, however, is that perhaps the communal confirmation is more important than finding a place of rest.

Faith can have its own rituals; sacraments like baptism, confirmation, first communion, or bar and bat mitzvahs, and others including marriage, depending on the religion. Many of these experiences in a faith system occur in a specific chronology, keeping people of the same age on the same path. These shifts are experienced communally because mutual social recognition gives weight to ceremony. Tradition makes ceremony into ritual.

In discussing sacraments within the GLBT community, I am particularly interested in the experience of ritual among transgender people. I have observed some deep experiences of transition on several spectra, including gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical changes. For many, playing along a spectrum without seeking closure or static placement is a joy. For others, it is frustrating to never achieve closure along the way for lack of some ceremony or language to acknowledge these stages within their community.

While constant redefinition and exploration of those axes upon which we define ourselves can be healthy and enjoyable, it is also a long and arduous process. A lot of work goes into crafting who we are as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and arguably more intensely so among transgender people as more questions are asked and more intersections among elements of identity arise.

Without rituals that recognize and affirm achievement, transgender people run the risk of feeling adrift and misunderstood without the practice of ritual and its by-product, communal understanding.

If transgender people have commonly experienced the feeling of being in transition without clear rituals that mark life stages, it seems they might also need an intentional examination and application of spiritual sacraments to address their specific experience. As spirituality is very personal, so too are the sacraments that come with a faith for such a religious person.

Recently, I spoke to some transgender people who, for various reasons, felt had they had to leave the church in order to become who they are. Then, having reached a state of equilibrium or self-assurance, some wanted to return to a faith community. The question then, is how faith affirms one’s true self. There is a lot of language surrounding the transgender experience like “rebirth,” “new self,” “true self.” This calls for a consideration of renewal of sacraments and sensitivity to gendered language within these sacraments.

Many transgender people adopt new names to either reflect their new gender expression or denote empowerment through conscious action and consent. Baptism and confirmation are two sacraments that are often reconfigured or revisited for trans-identified individuals wherein the new name is recognized and affirmed. . . .

TV’s obsessed with transsexual subplots


When I sat down to watch the pilots for the slew of new shows set to debut this fall, a unique subpot popped up in some of the biggies:

Men with transsexual girl (boy?) friends.

Yup, seems that the hot secret for male TV characters to have this season is a transvestite lover.

mcdermott.jpg The career of Dylan McDermott’s playboy character on ABC’s “Big Shots,” premiering Sept. 27, is threatened by the fact that he had a rest stop fling with what the men on the show call a “trannie hooker”—while driving through YONKERS! . . .

3 Responses to “TV’s obsessed with transsexual subplots”

  1. Veronica

    Perhaps more important to address is why 2 of the three transsexual women on these shows are portrayed as prostitutes, and the third is portrayed as someone who presumably breaks up someone’s marriage?

    When will the media stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes?

  2. Tina

    Veronica hits the nail squarely on the head…if Hollywood is to be held accountable in this instance for more than its usual dearth of originality, it should be over the fact that when major network television shows feature characters who happen to be transsexual, they are nearly always shown as prostitutes, cons, mental cases, or getting a sheet pulled over their faces in a morgue somewhere- the latter being a condition that is often hinted to be at least partially their own fault for simply existing.

    When it comes to transsexuals, network TV is mired in the same mindset that Hollywood movie producers had in the 1930’s about ethnic minorities- cheap and easy visual shorthand for bad guys and social pariahs who deserve everything they get…with the occasional respite as the butt of “humor”....the “tricked by a tranny hooker, hilarity ensues” gag is today’s equivalent of the “Chinaman” chasing people out of his kitchen with a meat cleaver.

    Television doesn’t need fewer transsexual characters, it needs more of them- but it needs them to represent more than a handful of outdated stereotypes and be more than the butt of offensive humor based on bigotry.

  3. FECarson

    You are indeed correct to point out the stereotype, the negative imagery, and the need for more positive representation of us in the media. Success stories of transsexuals just never seem to make good plotlines, though, and there is another side to the portrayal of the TS sex worker.

    Properly presented, we could use this to bring an end to the SSA’s frosty policy on “no-match” letters. Why do so many of our young ones in all of the transgender community turn to sex work? Mainly, I think, to keep our transitions financially on track.

    At the very time of our lives when we need financial security the most, the government, in the form of the Social Security Administration, violates HIPAA law and outs us to our employers who are then under no legal bar from firing us for being transsexual. I myself am one very lucky TS girl who has found employment by companies more interested in my capabilities than in which bathroom I use. But so many people simply don’t understand the depths of discrimination we risk to be ourselves. Why wouldn’t some of our younger folks turn to sex work? It’s very risky, but the money is always a horrendous lure.This is a reality that isnt going to change anytime soon. Besides financing transition, there is also the problem of LGBT homeless youth turning to prostitution just to survive, never mind transition for those of us who need it. When parents get angry, and turn their kids out on the street for being who they are, where are they going to go? Most homeless shelters are not set up to take in youth, and are very dangerous places to be for our young ones even when a youth oriented shelter is found. . . .