Saturday, January 26, 2008
January 26, 2008
It was Sir Ed who put it best: "Well, James has really changed," he remarked to his former climbing companion Dr Mike Gill. They had just met again with the reporter from the Times who had climbed to base camp, 18,000ft (5496m) high in the Himalayas, lugging his typewriter, to cover the original Everest expedition of 1953. Back then James Morris was a "fit, intensely ambitious" 26-year-old former Army intelligence officer who so impressed the Times it gave him its toughest assignment.
And when he showed up for one of the Everest reunions, as the understated Sir Ed remarked, he had really changed. He had become Jan: he was a woman.
Jan Morris doesn't want to talk about that sex change stuff now. She has been a woman for more than 35 years, since the operation in Marrakesh. It is detailed in her book, Conundrum (1974). She has suffered the sniggers, answered the questions. Now 81 and an acclaimed writer with around 40 books behind her, she refuses to discuss it any more. . . .
January 25th, 2008
We would like to introduce Yuki Choe, a commenter turned writer at XGW. Some may know her already from her thoughtful comments, but for those who don’t she has written an introduction which follows. Please join us in welcoming her to the site!
Greetings everyone! I am YukiChoe, and I am an Asian transsexual female with strong interests in ex-gay related issues. I will be living in Australia soon with my newly wedded husband. I became involved with Real Love Ministry in Malaysia back in mid 2006, and was quickly disillusioned with their camouflaged, anti-gay, anti-transgender rhetoric. I was also appalled with the way lesbians, gays and transgenders were represented by other ex-gays and felt their misinformation of LGTs needed a strong counter voice. That is when I started advocating against ex-gay efforts toward those who have no problem with their orientation.
So why is a transsexual female like me contributing to a site like XGW? I believe there is an ex-gay or ex-transsexual experience in everyone of us. Be it a gay, having to be closeted by pretending to be completely heterosexual in public due to the pressures of society, a lesbian that may be comfortable in pants being forced to wear clothes that are totally femme against her will by her family, or a transsexual female being coerced into confining herself by pretending to be a boy before the church authorities. Our differences have been exploited by people who wish to cause discrimination and marginalization among those of differing sexual orientations. . . .
An expansion of a comment (with some corrections) I wrote over at Bilerico, where the fractures and fault-lines of T politics are all too evident.
A Taxonomy stating how we differ, and what we have in common.
1. First, we're all human beings. That needs saying because we too often lose sight of the fact that everyone, even those we don't identify with, even those we feel uncomfortable being around, have human rights. And I speak as a conservative neo-con, not a tree-hugging kumbayah-singing liberal.
2. Then some of us are GLBT - people who do not fit in in some way with the standard bigendered model, where men look and act in accordance with society's norm for men and are only attracted to women, and women look and act accordance with society's norm for women and are only attracted to men. About the only thing such people have in common with each other is that it's the same people who persecute them. Many in this conglomerate - that is, a matrix containing parts of very different nature - don't remotely understand each other, and there's both phobia - fear - and loathing even when they do understand.
There's Androphobic Lesbians who see men, even Gay men, as a threat, Gynaphobic Gays who see anything redolent of femininity as beneath contempt, Homophobic Transsexuals who resent being conflated with those they see as morally corrupt, you name it. And straight Intersexed people who don't see why having an unusual medical condition automatically drafts them into a political activist group made up of weirdoes like mentally ill Transsexuals, Fetishistic Crossdressers, and perverted GLBs.
3. The there are some who are T. This is where it really gets confusing. T for Transgender. And what that word means changes from day to day. The original definition meant straight males who like wearing female attire, and rejected any insane body-modifiers or perverted faggots. Now to the bulk of the populace, it means those weirdoes who get a sex change. To political activists, it means anyone who "transgresses gender norms" of appearance, behaviour or body, except (for historical reasons) in the specific area of sexual orientation. Very often, arguments are based on both sides using different definitions, and sometimes changing the definitions in mid-stream if it supports the point they're trying to make. Again, many feel dragooned into being categorised and confused with other groups they not only don't identify with, but actively dislike, sometimes with good reason.
It appears that the majority of the "Transgendered" in the last definition, and certainly the ones with the most power and money, are (and I hate using RadFem vocabulary, but it fits) Patriarchal males in positions of relative privilege, but who are afraid (with good reason) that they will be marginalised if they have a high profile. The heirs to J. Edgar Hoover. They have much influence, a great deal of money compared to other parts of the TG mixture, but are largely unseen. Cross them, you get squashed like a bug. They have no interest in any medical or marital issues, and wish to disassociate themselves from the highly visible segments. Especially Transsexuals. They're with Virginia Prince on that one.
4. T is for....
Q: What's the difference between a cross-dresser and a transsexual?
A: Oh, about 5 years...
There's a big difference between the part-time cross-dressing male, and a post-operative intersexed woman. But there's gradations in between, and sometimes it's impossible for an external observer to tell where one begins, and another ends. Operative status is a nice, clean, easy metric to use - but is inaccurate for many reasons. Having major surgery is a Big Deal, not without risks, and neither is it free nor available to those who most need it. Conversely, there are many women who can live with physical deformities - be they having three breasts or one, or even having masculinised genitalia. Unless they intend having some form of love life, and that can be really dangerous for anyone who's transgendered, the benefits may be outweighed by the disadvantages.
My own view is that hormonal body modification is more a important divider, but even that isn't wholly reliable. So yes, there is a difference, but no, I can't give a simple test for it. You know it when you see it - the guys tend to bubble about silky underwear and frilly dresses, the women about feminism and childcare. However, those who are TS and unable to transition at puberty - and that means most - are evolving in their own identity. 80% cross-dress before transition. . . .
January 24, 2008
When I read last year’s news coverage of the first-ever Transgender Religious Summit, I was thrilled to know the event was taking place. I had always assumed that coming out transgender meant the end of my ministry career, and was so encouraged to know that enough transgender religious professionals existed to warrant a conference! So you can imagine how excited I was to receive an invitation to this year’s follow-up event, held last Sunday and Monday at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.
I’ll be blogging some of the topics we covered at the summit over the next few days, but I want to open my coverage of the event by thanking all those who made my attendance there possible and by greeting all the wonderful new friends I made (who I hope will eventually find their way here). It was incredibly inspiring and empowering to be among them, and I left them with great hope for the future–both for all trans people of faith, and for myself as a trans woman called to serve the world on God’s behalf. . . .
TransGriot note: Just in case you're wondering who the transwoman is with the boxing gloves on, that's Thai kickboxer Nong Tum, whose story was told in the film Beautiful Boxer.
One of the things our enemies and potential assailants presume to their detriment is that if a transperson is placed in a confrontational situation, we're just gonna acquiesce to the verbal beatdown (or worse) that you want to inflict on us.
Au contraire, my misguided friend.
I still chuckle about an incident that happened while I was out and about in Montrose one night. I was hanging out with one of my transwoman girlfriends outside an iconic Black gay nightclub then called Studio 13. Three white males rolled up in a truck and blocked the club's parking lot exit access to Westheimer Road. Two of them got out of the truck and started uttering anti-gay and anti-Black epithets.
Two female illusionists literally got in their faces and read them like cheap novels to the point where we were laughing at them. The 'macho' men took a swing at one of the illusionists, who not only ducked the incoming punch, but proceeded to administer a beatdown that these boys will never forget. It only ended when security pulled them away from the silly boys. They left bruised, battered and anxious to scurry back to their truck and run back to wherever they came from. . . .
One person's struggle for identity
"Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina."
When Mr. Kimble, aka Governor Schwarzenegger, got that tip from one of his pupils in "Kindergarten Cop," we all laughed.
If only it were that simple.
Meet Amanda Clark, 28. She joined the ranks of San Jose State University on Wednesday, working toward a post-baccalaureate degree in accounting. She comes to us after a four-year stint in the Army Reserve, studying Korean at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.
Oh, and she has a penis.
Amanda identifies as transgender, so she gets lumped in with the queer community. "You can't have the LGB without the T," she told me.
"I just want to live fulltime as a woman," Amanda said. "And be acknowledged as that by society."
In less sympathetic times, "trannies" were thought of as just "gays-to-the-extreme," a fetish gone out of control. And even today, some psychologists would say that Amanda is sick and suffers from a mental disorder.
But the way Cassie Blume of the Billy DeFrank Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in San Jose explained it to me, the transgender identity is misunderstood because society's ingrained notions of male and female are completely abstract. . . .