Sunday, September 30, 2007

TRANSGENDER - But I Don't Feel Like It...

Gay Iranians have hidden lives

TEHRAN, 29 (UPI) -- Gay Iranians simply hope to be left alone in a country where homosexuality can be punished by death, The New York Times reported Saturday.

“You can have a secret gay life as long you don’t become an activist and start demanding rights,” a Tehran resident named Reza, who did not want his full name used, told the newspaper.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University in New York this week, provoked laughter in the audience when he asserted there are no homosexuals in Iran. Gays willing to talk to the Times said they were relieved by his denial since it might mean they will be left alone.

The law making homosexuality punishable by death or a lashing is no dead letter. Two teenagers were executed in 2005 in Mashad.

While Iran may be tough on homosexuality, the country is comparatively gentle toward transgender people, regarding them as sick. The government encourages sex-change operations.

Thailand: Are you man enough to be a woman?

A group of politicians is drafting a bill that will legally recognise male-to-female transsexuals as women.

Twice Pakjira sailed through interviews and was told she had got the job. Twice they called her back to tell her she hadn't. Their reason was similar _ head office does not want to hire katoey, or transsexuals. Like Pakjira, Yolada has undergone gender reassignment surgery so she can live as a woman. However, even with beauty queen looks and a feminine voice, she still could not find a job.

Tired of being turned down, Yolada applied for a bank loan so she could start her own business. The answer from the bank was a big ''No!''

''Not only because my legal documents do not match my gender, but also because they believe katoey in general are unreliable,'' she recalled bitterly.

Ask male-to-female transsexuals about the discrimination they face, and stories of pain and anguish flow freely.

When facing the draft, for example, the military has until very recently branded transsexuals as ''permanently damaged by mental sickness'', and thus unfit for military service. This labelling affects their jobs prospects for life.

Thanks to campaigns by human rights activists, the military is amending ministerial regulations and exempting trans-sexuals from the draft. In the interim, the military has promised not to label transsexuals as mentally ill, but it admits that it is difficult to alter past draft documents.

When attempting to travel abroad, transsexuals are often refused entry to foreign countries, and can be treated badly by immigration officers. When sick, hospital staff often simply place them on men's wards. If arrested, they are commonly sent to men's prisons, which is tantamount to being sentenced to molestation and rape.

In everyday life, transsexuals find themselves targets of ridicule and harassment. The lack of job opportunities also forces many of them to earn a living in the sex industry, even if well-educated.

''Society is still very much indifferent to our problems,'' said Suttirat Simsiriwong, a transsexual who made headlines a few months ago when the Novotel Hotel refused her entry to its club on the grounds of her being a katoey.

Although after a boycott and a campaign by gay rights groups the hotel finally issued an apology, Suttirat said living a normal life will remain difficult for transsexuals as long as the law refuses to allow them to change their titles and names to match their chosen gender.

That is why so many jumped for joy when the National Legislative Assembly's Committee on Women announced it would sponsor a bill to help make their dreams come true. . . .

Transsexual MP offered granny role in film of life

5:00 AM Sunday September 30, 2007

By Cliff Taylor

Former prostitute, drag queen, mayor, MP and man, Georgina Beyer has been a person of many parts - but the prospect of playing her own grandmother in a film of her life proved one role too far.

Beyer, famous as the world's first transsexual member of Parliament, says she was offered a cameo in the forthcoming biopic, provisionally titled Girl, but turned it down.

"I overlooked the age issue," said Beyer. "But I said 'no thank you'. I loved her very much, but she died when I was 9. And I've got to divorce myself from the creative process."

The film, due to go into production next year, is being made by Australian company Lone Hand, produced by New Zealander Roger Simpson. The script was written by Simpson's partner Sally Irwin.

"It starts with my experience of being pack-raped in Sydney in the 1970s," Beyer said. "It's a pretty sensational beginning."

The former MP, who left Parliament earlier this year, said the film had been planned for three or four years and she had offered her input on an earlier draft of the script. . . .

Darkness, love and laughter mark show

Tribune Correspondent

"Before I Disappear" is a one-woman autobiographical play starring transgender actress Alexandra Billings -- a comic, dramatic and honest piece told through story and song. Following her life from age 3 to 30, it touches on her drug addiction, her time working the streets of Chicago, her career as a female impersonator and, finally, her arrival in Hollywood.

Transgender actress stages her unique life in musical

At Friday and Saturday's performances of "Before I Disappear" at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, however, don't expect to see Billings just talking about Billings. When she set out to write the show, that was the last thing she wanted to do.


She was afraid it "wouldn't be interesting."

"Well, I can tell you this is a different kind of one-person show," Billings says by telephone from her home in Los Angeles. "There's not a lot of me up there going, 'And when I was 10, this happened.' It's people in my life narrating my life."

It seems that she had no interest in getting up there and talking about herself when she could talk about, say, her mother instead.

"She is the most fascinating person to me. By sheer circumstance, she got sucked up into this other life," Billings says. "She's this average, upper middle class woman who had a son that becomes a daughter."

The audience sees an awful lot of Mom in the show, but Billings plays other characters as well, including her abusive ex-boyfriend, former co-workers and, for at least a bit, herself.

"When I first started doing (the show), it was really hard, because I was so close to (the material)," she says, "but now it's 10 years later, and it almost feels like I'm telling someone else's life story."

What a story it is. . . .