Saturday, October 06, 2007
4 October 2007
The decision by the Democratic leadership in Congress to eliminate transgendered people from ENDA, the bill to ban discrimination against gays in the workplace, has ignited a genuine firestorm in gay political circles.
It's heartening to see that LGBT activists are coming out of the woodwork to insist that any meaningful bill that does not protect the transgendered isn't worth the paper it's written on.
But criticism that the bill is a betrayal of the most vulnerable among us, while well-intentioned, doesn't go anywhere near far enough.
A bill to protect gays from discrimination that excludes transgendered people isn't merely a betrayal of the transgendered -- it's a betrayal of all gay people. Because (as I wrote in an Advocate column a few years back, which I will quote from liberally here), in a very real sense, all gay people are transgendered.
And I believe that an emerging understanding of how all gay people are transgendered is the wave of the future, both politically and socially.
This idea stems in large part from the growing body of research into what sexual orientation actually is. The jury is still out on whether the roots of sexual orientation are biological or environmental or both or neither, but this much can be said: Researchers have found that the heterosexual majority and gay people differ in far more than just the most obvious sexual respect.
Most heterosexuals tend to feel and act and desire and respond and present themselves to the world in what researchers call a fairly "sex-typical" or "gender-typical" way: pretty much mostly male or mostly female.
Gay people, on the other hand, exhibit a whole range of "sex-atypical" characteristics, meaning characteristics that are commonly associated with the opposite sex, at least among the heterosexual majority.
These traits obviously, and perhaps most importantly, include our attraction to members of the same sex. But they also include our inner feelings of maleness or femaleness, our outward appearance as butch or femme, the unconscious way we speak and move, even the way we throw a ball or change a tire. . . .
Filmmaker uses low-tech filming style, interviews with relatives to create intimate self-portrait of his transformation
Kevin Griffin, Vancouver SunOctober 04, 2007
It's not often that a film creates a world that you never want to end. In the documentary She's a Boy I Knew, director Gwen Haworth creates an emotional space that engulfs the viewer in a way that's extremely rare in any film, whether fiction or non-fiction.
The basic story is Haworth's journey from a man to a woman -- from Steve to Gwen. What's unusual is the fact that the film has been created by someone like Gwen: a female born with the physical appearances of a male. (Haworth doesn't like the word transsexual as she always considered herself to be a female with the wrong plumbing).
As the narrator, Haworth tells her story rather than having it told by someone else. What makes the film even more interesting is how Gwen tells her story. Instead of always putting herself centre stage, Gwen shifts the focus onto the six most important people in her life who talk about how they reacted to her transition. . . .
Popular author connects fight for gay rights with broader strugglesOctober 4, 2007
By Shelby Martin
Transgender activist and author Leslie Feinberg spoke to a group of over 100 listeners in Pigott Hall last night about how LGBT struggles dovetail with the struggles against racism, poverty and imperialism.
Feinberg, who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “hir,” delivered a brief overview of LGBT history, starting with an account of how colonial oppression brought misery to LGBT individuals. Spanish imperialists castrated native men for homosexual activity; the British imposed anti-sodomy laws across Africa and Asia; and the French brought anti-gay legislation to Lebanon.
According to Feinberg, many of the conquered societies had previously been tolerant of LGBT expression. The histories of those cultures have been ignored by their conquerors, explained Feinberg, and it is easy to assume that LGBT communities have always been marginalized simply because they are now.
“Things have changed throughout history, and they can change again,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg also discussed the Stonewall Rebellion, a 1969 clash between patrons of a gay bar and the police arresting them. The Rebellion was a watershed event in the gay rights movement, and Feinberg explained that it was inextricably tied to issues of race and class struggle. The first person to fight back against her arresting officers was Silvia Rivera, a homeless transgendered Latina. Homeless youths living in a park across the street from the bar joined the riots and threw pocket change at the police.
It was the first time LGBT people fought back, said Feinberg, and their captors found out that “a stiletto high heel in the hands of an enraged transgender youth was a formidable weapon against police oppression.”
After Stonewall, gay rights advocates allied with groups fighting racism, poverty and war, Feinberg explained.
I’ve been fighting for gay rights since 1974 in Cleveland, when I was part of GEAR (Gay Education And Rights) as we became the first gay group to purchase our own building. We were proud of that, although its windows were soon broken and swastikas spray-painted on the walls.
Back then, although most people saw me as an exceptionally effeminate gay man, I was largely accepted. Yet when I transitioned, my (female) lover and I were asked to leave lesbian meetings. I was publicly disinvited to women’s events. I was twice thrown out of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. A National Organization for Women chapter told me I was welcome to join as a man. Even by 1995, when 40 of us showed up at a Falls City, Neb., courthouse after the murder of Brandon Teena, many gay newspapers ignored us, not considering Teena's murder “gay news.”
Practically the only places where I remained consistently welcome were the gay bars where I had first come out, where other genderqueer gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were always sheltered. My family had largely stopped speaking with me (even today, I have yet to be allowed to meet my nieces and nephews, now in their 20s). I was forced out of my tutoring job through daily harassment by students and coworkers who refused to even speak to me. I began a new career in clinical psychology, but left after it became clear that few of my peers would refer patients to me. I began another career consulting on Wall Street, but even there gender sometimes cost me clients and accounts.
If you’re a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person of a particular age, you may have had similarly painful experiences at some point. We’ve probably been in the same marches together, come out in the same bars, fought many of the same battles. . . .
October 3, 2007
A few months ago I had someone post a comment to a blog post I'd written and ask the question, 'Is transition for an African-American versus a white person really that dufferent?
Yes, it is.
I say that because we start from two very different places on the social scale. A white male to female transperson is coming from a position of privilege, whether they acknowledge it or not. The society revolves around you. Because of that, many feel they have too much to lose if they transition, and tend to do it later in life.
It adds complications once they do so. Many tend to be married and deep into careers. It also impacts passability. The later you do a gender transition on the M2F side, the more testosterone buildup you have to overcome. In addition to that most white women on average tend to be shorter.
An African-American male to female transperson comes from a position in which they are reviled by society. For an African-American M2F it's an improvement in status because Black women tend to run thangs in our community. We also deal with our issues at an earlier age, which helps with passability because there's less testosterone buildup to impede feminization. Another thing that helps enhance our passability is that it's not unusual to see full figured sistahs or sistahs over six feet in height with broad shoulders.
I honestly believe that one of the reasons transpeople receive so much flack is because in addition to confounding rigid gender boundaries and making peeps insecure and uncomfortable with their gender identity or sexual orientation is WMP (white male privilege). . . .
October 3 2007, 15:15 BST
By Nick Levine, Entertainment Reporter
Eddie Izzard is as strong-willed and tenacious as a three-legged Mountain Rescue dog. When his brother criticised his first Edinburgh show - "Hmm, not very good, is it?" - Eddie knuckled down and spent a decade honing his craft, reaping the benefits when his surreal, rambling stand up routines won Emmy, Perrier and Time Out gongs. His dedication to his acting career has paid off too: he's currently earning rave reviews for his role in Virgin 1's hotly-tipped US import The Riches. And, let's be honest, there's nothing diffident about a man who's prepared to take to the streets in six-inch heels and an Emma Peel mini-skirt. Doesn't Eddie's hard work warrant a few moments of your attention? Read on for ten fascinating facts about the mirth-maker, thespian and self-proclaimed "action transvestite".
1. Eddie was born in Aden, Yemen in 1962. His family moved to Northern Ireland when he was a toddler, before relocating to Wales and eventually Sussex.
2. Eddie began a Maths and Financial Accounting degree at Sheffield University, but quit before he graduated to pursue his comedy career.
3. Eddie honed his stand-up skills as a street performer at London’s Covent Garden. His early fans, it's safe to assume, consisted primarily of American tourists and professional pick-pocketers.
4. Although Eddie knew he was a transvestite when he was four-years-old, he didn't buy his first item of women's clothing until he was 16.
5. How does Eddie choose his attire on any given morning? "I wear whatever I wish to wear just like a woman can choose to wear pants or a dress," he reveals. "But it's not drag. I refuse it to be called that. It's simply a dress."
6. Eddie is currently in a long-term relationship with a woman whose identity he refuses to reveal. "I've never really gone into my relationships because partners tend to say they'd rather not be judged on the things I say," he explains.
7. Eddie refers to his nationality as "British-European".
8. If Eddie could have any super power, he'd choose "the ability to change sex at whim". Hmm. Does a cameo role in season three of Heroes beckon?
9. In 2003 Eddie received an honorary degree from the University of East Anglia for "promoting tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles" and "transcending national boundaries through his humour".
10. His stateside success notwithstanding, Eddie insists that he will never give up live performance. "At the moment I’m just concentrating on making a mark in LA," he says. "But I’ll do stand up forever." Amen to that.