Friday, October 19, 2007
By Jacob Anderson-Minshall
Kristen Worley is on a mission. The Canadian cyclist is determined to make it to the 2008 Olympics, but that’s not what’s first on her mind.
The transitioned athlete—the term she prefers over transsexual—is on a mission to prevent a repeat of what happened to Shanti Soundarajan.
A runner from India who won a silver medal in the women's 800 meters at the 2006 Asian Games, Soundarajan garnered international scrutiny when she “failed” a gender test and was stripped of her medal. Three weeks ago, the 26 year old ended up in a coma after she attempted suicide.
When testing by the Indian Olympic Association reported that the athlete “does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman,” the agency implied she had intentionally deceived them about her gender. But Soundarajan and her family insist she did nothing wrong. It’s been widely speculated that Soundarajan was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), which results in the external physical characteristics typically associated with women despite having XY chromosomes.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, while the International Olympic Committee was still gender testing female athletes, all but one of the women who tested positive for Y chromosomes had AIS and were allowed to compete. The Olympic Council of Asia continues to use the controversial practice.
Last year, Worley, herself a world-class cyclist and water skier, mounted a campaign to get Soundarajan’s medal returned. She calls what happened to the runner an example of “a gender policy gone terribly wrong,” and lays the blame on the “perpetuated ignorance,” of the International Olympic Committee’s misguided gender policies.
“The IOC lied to the world,” Worley argues. “Which compromised so many athletes—and people’s understanding of gender variance and intersexed issues in and out of sports. The IOC’s gender practices have created undo invasiveness and disrespect and violations of women’s bodies.”
She’s also critical of the IOC’s 2004 Stockholm Consensus, which set forth regulations transsexual athletes must meet in order to compete at the Olympics. Although the IOC ruling seemed a welcome to transitioned athletes, Worley insists that was never the case.
“The policy is totally exclusionary. In fact, it was designed that way on purpose. There was never an effort to make it inclusive. No surprise to me—the very reason I decided to out myself was to protest [the IOC] policy.”
She points to a line in the Stockholm Consensus: “Although individuals who undergo sex reassignment usually have personal problems that make sports competition an unlikely activity for them, there are some for whom participation in sport is important.”
“Personal problems?” Worley snorts, “What the hell is that all about? This is a gross abuse of discrimination.”
A year ago Worley, golfer Mianne Bagger and trans activist Jamison Green discovered some “staggering developments,” when an IOC representative admitted the policy wasn’t based on scientific research.
Instead, Worley says, “It was a step to protect sports, from what was perceived as a threat. Yet, when the science is on the table, there is no threat and [transitioned] athletes are incredibly disadvantaged, with over a dozen or more well know contraindications.”
She says, the admission “was a huge win for me—and for all the hard efforts by Jamison and Mianne as well.”
Worley maintains that IOC medical director, Dr. Patrick Schamasch—on a conference call—admitted that the agency hadn’t done its homework, and offered to re-consider the ruling if only someone would “get them the science.” . . .
compiled by Cynthia Laird
Next week opponents and supporters of the controversial short film The Gendercator will sound off at a public forum where the movie will receive a delayed San Francisco premiere.
The 20-minute science fiction flick by lesbian director Catherine Crouch had been selected by Frameline to be screened during this year's LGBT film festival in June. But after transgender activists and allies raised objections to the film, which they said demonized and slandered trans folk. Frameline Executive Director Michael Lumpkin, who announced this week he will step down after the 2008 festival, made the unprecedented decision to pull the film.
The yanking of the film set off another round of controversy as lesbians, and some transgender people, denounced the move as censorship and the silencing of their voices. They picketed outside the theater where the film had been set to have its Bay Area debut.
Now the film flap will hit the LGBT Community Center, whose Center Women Present initiative will screen the movie as part of its Girls on Film event series. Following the movie will be a moderated panel discussion that will include Crouch, transgender activist and historian Susan Stryker; lesbian novelist Elana Dykewoman, transgender author Jamison Green, and lesbian filmmaker Mary Guzman.
"The community felt it was important for folks to be able to participate in a constructive dialogue in a transparent, moderated setting about the issues this film has raised," said Ondine Kilker, volunteer co-chair of Center Women Present. "We are appreciative of this opportunity to help facilitate a screening and dialogue as well as to help create contextualization of this film and the issues that it has re-ignited within our LGBTQI Bay Area community."
The free public screening and panel discussion will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, October 26 in the community center's Rainbow Room. The center is planning to host a follow-up discussion on November 11. . . .
Ivanhoe Newswire) -- New research reveals it may soon be possible to assign a gender to intersex people whose genital phenotypes and sex chromosomes don’t match.
For the first time, researchers from the United States and Germany have found testosterone leaves an irreversible molecular “signature” in cells. The finding, they report, offers a clearer picture of sex than does relying only on the presence of a Y chromosome.
For this research, scientists compared people with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) to people without CAIS. Androgen insensitivity syndrome results when a person who is genetically male is resistant to androgens (male hormones). The person is left with some or all of the physical traits of a woman, despite having the genetic makeup of a man.
Paul-Martin Holterhus, from University-Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, Germany, was quoted as saying, “Androgens have long lasting effects during certain sensitive stages of our genital development and this is probably true for other organs”. He reports, “It is currently increasingly accepted that the brain shows sex-specific development in response to presence or absence of testosterone. This affects sex specific behavior and probably modulates gender identity.”
The researchers studied skin biopsies of external genitalia to compare the gene expression of normal males and CAIS females. Results show 440 genes differed in their level of transcription between males and females. Those activity levels form a ‘signature’ that researchers used to evaluate partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) samples. That information could soon help scientists better understand individual AIS cases.
Professor Holterhus concludes, “Since we compared XY females with the XY males, the difference can only be explained by differences in androgen action and not by differences in sex chromosomes.”
CAIS affects about one in 20,000 people. . . .
Report clearing prof leaves critics unsatisfied
"I'm not sick of it, I'm relishing it," Bailey said.
That's because after four years of controversy, he's getting public support for what he's been saying all along: He did nothing wrong. NU ethics scholar Alice Dreger spent a year writing a report released this summer that concluded Bailey did nothing unethical in researching his 2003 book "The Man Who Would Be Queen."
In addition, the report charges that Bailey's critics, led by transsexual activists Lynn Conway, Andrea James and Deirdre McCloskey, conducted a smear campaign to "ruin" Bailey personally and professionally.
Dreger, a visiting associate professor in NU's Medical Humanities and Bioethics program and former president of Intersex Society of North America, said the excessive backlash against Bailey's work motivated her to research and write the lengthy report, titled "The Controversy Surrounding 'The Man Who Would Be Queen.' "
"I'm led by what I find to be true, not what I find to be popular," Dreger said. "I didn't say it because I wanted to be marshal of the queer rights parade." . . .
This lad is wearing this season's hottest skirt.
We're not sure if jeans and this dress go together.
(Cordova 10/17/2007) Parents are saying Cordova High School spirit week has gone overboard. Some are finding their daughter dressed like Annie Lennox nd their sons shaking it like Madonna.
The clothes kids are wearing on "gender-bender day" have parents unraveled. Look around the Cordova High campus Wednesday and you would have seen guys in skirts and heels wobbling down the halls. You would also have seen girls in suits and ties. Students say it's all in fun, "Its our senior year, its our last chance to really have a good time. Its Homecoming week."
"Gender-bender day" at Cordova High is part of spirit week but it has some parents in bad spirits, upset at the distraction, "Actually I was not really that concerned about it at first but when I got here to the school, I was a whole lot concerned about it." Another parent said, "Well yeah, I don t think boys need to dress like girls."
Students said they just want to have fun, "I don t understand what the problem is because its not like they make you wear this, this is an option." The Student Government Association voted on the cross dress day for spirit week. Memphis School Officials say it's all in good fun, no harm, no foul and there are no plans to cancel it anytime soon.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the House Education and Labor Committee is going to look at HR 3685, the non-inclusive ENDA bill, this morning at 10 AM. They will vote whether to send it to the floor of the House as is, with amendments or not at all. I, along with many others in UnitedENDA.org, think a non-inclusive bill is a mistake. However, that being said, my guess is that the committee will send the non-inclusive bill to the floor of the House.
As noted yesterday, Representative Baldwin of Wisconsin has secured agreement from the Democratic leadership to make a motion for an amendment on the floor of the House to add gender identity and expression back into the bill. In my conversation with some congressional aides yesterday, it was suggested that this might be bad for the transgender community, and the wisdom of it was questioned. They raised some good points. Do I want the Baldwin Amendment?
They noted Representative Frank's argument that there are not enough votes for gender identity/expression, so the Amendment, while well-intentioned, will probably not pass a vote before the House. Then, there will be a lot of Congress members with "NO" votes on record. Since, as everyone knows, ENDA will not become law this year because of the Bush veto, it will have to reintroduced again next year. However, next time there may be a more sympathetic president and more Democrats in the House, so gender identity could be introduced next time with less push-back. But since many members who might otherwise be sympathetic in the future will have voted no on the Baldwin Amendment, they will be concerned to change their vote to yes lest they be accused of flip-flopping, so gender identity will be held back again. Therefore, the Baldwin Amendment is not good for transgender people.
It's an appealing argument to those Beltway insides who know the legislative process all too well. But I don't believe it, and I told them so.
First, I agree with Representative Frank that more education is needed. I disagree with him in how he's going about it: by bad-mouthing transgender people's desire to be included in all the fairness talk and the gay allies who want employment fairness except at the price of fairness. The way to get that education is to make members of Congress sit down and listen and learn about gender identity and gender expression and that transgender people are not crazy sexual deviants who are going to hurt their women and children. I have travelled to Washington eight times, along with a lot of others on lobby days sponsored by transgender organizations like NCTE, NTAC and GenderPAC (well, GenderPAC was a transgender organization then), to educate the members of Congress, only to meet with interns, hear a lot of bull about how they support the community, and realize that the Member is going to ignore my nicely-printed literature completely. And then, for thanks, I get Barney Frank standing on the floor of the House asking where I and the other transgender people were when ENDA was getting started.
I think the Baldwin Amendment is great for transgender people, though it would have been much greater had there been an inclusive ENDA. I realize that the members of Congress are uneducated on the issues, and they'll probably vote it down. But those members won't be any better educated next year if the issue is swept back into the closet this year. On this issue, any publicity is better than no publicity at all. This issue needs air and light.
I want members of Congress who ARE educated on these issues to stand up and say what gender identity is. I want them to define what transgender means. I want them to talk about the study that shows that most transgender people don't have co-occuring mental illness. I want them to talk about the dozen or so transgender K-12 teachers in this country who haven't caused shock and trauma among their pupils (and there are no reported cases of any who have). I want them to explain how a company can easily and comfortably accommodate a transgender employee, that there are thousands of such cases all over the country, and that 150 Fortune 500 companies have added gender identity to their company policies. They should talk about how the European Union countries, Canada, Australia, Spain and others have accommodated transgender people without the skies falling. I want to be seen and I want to be known, especially because there are many who aren't ready. I say - start getting them ready now for next year. Because next year is coming quickly, and if the Members don't have their nose rubbed in it now, they will ignore it until next year, and then bleat: "more education! more education!"
As I wrote in 2001 in my article in Tulane's Journal of Law and Sexuality, The Gender Caste System: Identity, Privacy, and Heteronormativity, 10 Law & Sexuality 123,
"There should be no need for transsexual people to 'prove' beyond doubt to skeptical and disapproving legal officials that they are 'scientifically' entitled to their claims of personhood and humanity. Audre Lorde, in her essay 'The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,' radically challenges how white people learn about racism, or how men learn about women: 'Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns.' AUDRE LORDE, SISTER OUTSIDER : ESSAYS AND SPEECHES 113 (1984)
I agree with Audre Lorde. Don't blame the victim because you are not educated enough to help them. That's the master's tool - a version of "you people aren't ready." If you want education, educate yourself. I and many others have been out there educating, but few members of Congress have been listening. Members of Congress: it is time, well past time, to listen. I say yes to the Baldwin Amendment.