Monday, April 14, 2008

Grayson Perry

A transvestite artist speaks about the importance of being unique and different.

From the shadows

13 Apr 2008, S Shanthi; Amrita Singh TNN

Participants of a beauty competition for the third sex
Participants walk the ramp at a beauty competition for the third sex in New Delhi
You spot them at traffic signals, wearing makeup, brightly coloured sarees and flowers in their hair, mocking and demanding a few bucks. Their visibility has been limited to this and some social occasions where they, again, turn up to ask for money. A misunderstood community suffering from social stigma, the third sex in India has for long been kept out of the mainstream.

But times, they are a-changing. Today, you can see them hosting TV shows, acting in serials, getting driving licences, contesting elections, working in call centres and modelling for calendars. The third sex in India is slowly coming out of the closet and entering the mainstream. And, they are finally getting their long overdue support from the government and NGOs. The Tamil Nadu government in fact recently decided to grant them official status and give them ration cards.

Rose, the first member of the third sex to anchor a chat show, on a Tamil TV channel, says, "I wanted to challenge society, wanted to make people understand the real me. I realised this could be possible only through media, which can reach the masses. Hence, I developed a concept and approached a television channel, which appreciated my idea. Thus, my chat show was launched on a Tamil channel."

The show was an instant hit and Rose's producer is all praise for her. "When all other TV channels asked 'why Rose?' our point was 'why not Rose?' She has the right attitude, is smart, intelligent and with excellent communication skills, which are the pre-requisites for any anchor and that was enough for us," says programming head, Pradeep Milroy Peter.

Rose is one among many path-breaking members of the third sex. Rahul Singh, an activist with the Naz Foundation, says many of his friends from that community are working in call centres and running their own businesses. Family acceptance is also gradually coming. He recalls an incident where a middle class business family not only came to terms with its child's transsexual status but have also accepted her marriage. She had gone through school and college posing as a male. It was a shock to the family when she decided to follow her heart but the parents have accepted her now. . . .Read More

Questioning gender bends College

11 April 2008 | By Devan Barbar, Flat Hat Staff Columnist

Why do people on this campus choose such bizarre events to get upset about?

We are facing economic depression, an ongoing war halfway across the world and an historic presidential race, and yet people take time out of their day to worry about guys wearing skirts? GenderBending Day, which took place yesterday, was, apparently, something to get worked up about — flyers were torn down and vandalized, the event was mocked and some even took offense at its mere presence.

While I wasn’t involved in planning the event (and, I confess, did not participate), the premise of GenderBending Day seems clear. Students were encouraged to dress in a way that exposed typical conceptions of gender, either by cross-dressing or deviating from their typical feminine or masculine style. Essentially, the students in this group wanted to address the difference between sex and gender and encourage people to think critically about how our culture enforces a female versus male binary. Basically: Why do we claim that gender roles are somehow naturally and inextricably tied to sex?

GenderBending Day, as you can imagine, did not see wide involvement. That’s not to say that the event wasn’t successful — it certainly sparked discussion, and the students who did participate had great experiences. I’m sure it was no surprise to the group that most students on campus were either too busy to remember the event in the first place or too uncomfortable with its premise. The negative responses from some individuals, however, were somewhat shocking. Sure, GenderBending Day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but did people really have to have a big problem with it? . . .Read More, including Readers' Comments

The Rationing of Rights

April 19, 2008

Tamil Nadu’s recent addition of a third gender column on ration card applications is one of a series of much needed, progressive reforms that benefit hijras, says

DISCRIMINATED AGAINST and forced to live in secluded communities, India’s hijras have always had to fight for basic entitlements. Two weeks ago, however, a major victory was achieved when Tamil Nadu added a third gender to ration cards. Hijras may now enter a ‘T’ (for transgender) in place of a ‘M’ or ‘F’ on ration cards. The move makes Tamil Nadu the first Indian state to officially recognise its hijra citizens.

The new rule is cause for great joy. “The government has now recognised us as a third gender. It gives us much needed dignity in society,” says Noori, an HIV positive hijra, head of the South India Positive Network in Chennai. While an alphabet on a ration card may seem like a benign technicality, for Tamil Nadu’s estimated one lakh hijras (known locally as aravanis) it is a significant achievement. Ration cards, voting forms and passports have been available for aravanis only after a great deal of struggle. Ignorant administrators would leave the gender category blank, merely entering kuduma thalaivar (head of family) or, more often, ‘male’. “It is a positive development which will encourage more aravanis to openly declare themselves as transgenders,” says Jeeva, who heads the Transgenders Rights Association. Jeeva got her card in 2006, where she is referred to as kuduma thalaivar but her associate Shabina Francis is identified as ‘female.’

Historically, Tamil Nadu has had a very visible aravani community and, more recently, very vocal aravani

Yet, being hijra affects citizenship. Rose says, “It’s only been three or four years that ‘trans people’ have started asking for identity cards. Even now when we go and ask for IDs they don’t have a proper system to scrutinise our applications. Take my case. I wanted to change from a male name to a female one and retain the gender ‘M’ on my passport. If you want to change your gender on your passport, you need to have a sex reassignment surgery and I haven’t done that. For nine months my application was frozen because they didn’t know what to do.”
activists. An aravani festival is held in the town of Koovagam annually, with a highly competitive “Miss Koovagam” beauty contest. Recently, it has been home to India’s first transgender television star, Rose. . . .Read More

How we see each other

Seattle Times staff columnist

April 14, 2008

Seems like everyone belongs to a group with a cause.

And whether they recognize it or not, many causes share a common desire to be accepted.If they'd start by accepting each other, we might get somewhere.

I thought about that Thursday, when I had the chance to hear three people talk about life from a transgender perspective. The three transgender, black people were on a panel put on by the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas.

What they had to say was more interesting than their physical details.

The panel was the forum's second discussion of gender identity in the African-American community.

One of the panelists, Dean Jackson, a Seattle native who does organizing work on gender issues in communities of color, said he once thought changing genders was something only white people did.

He learned otherwise, and has made his own transition from woman to man. Along the way, he discovered that "it wasn't so much that my body didn't fit." It was more that he didn't fit into a binary system of gender classification. . . .Read More

Celebrate Transgenders

Jennifer Beckwith


As a volunteer speaker for an organization that aims to eradicate homophobia, I tell my coming out story, focusing on two main themes: diversity and communication. The acceptance and understanding of diversity has been stressed to me throughout my life and now I continually try to uphold that amazing legacy.

Open communication, I feel, is the means by which one develops understanding, particularly about issues which are generally only whispered about. Transgender people are probably the most whispered about group of all.

As a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, I face many dangers wrought by a society that refuses to embrace us as we have embraced ourselves and our identity. Transgender people, however, have it worst. They are a minority within a minority and face the most misunderstanding and ignorance, which often leads to violence.

It is quite understandable that transgender people face such discrimination if we examine the patriarchal nature of our society. Patriarchy is steeped in sexism, and sexism influences homophobia and transphobia. We live in a society that is defined by its gender roles, which favor the characteristics of men over those of women. This is why it is more acceptable for women to display qualities such as aggression and dominance than it is for men to be effeminate. However, what happens when gender lines are even more blurred?
. . .Read More

Eaton Corp. helped transgender employee

By Maureen McDonald

14 April 2008

Audrey Hopkins, 47, became the first transgender individual hired into Eaton Corp.'s 100-member information-technology group in October 2005.

Her name and capabilities were already known to her boss and many staff members who had worked with her in her former identity as Dave Hopkins, a 20-year consultant and troubleshooter for advanced computer manufacturing systems.

Today Hopkins, senior IT specialist, reports finding mostly receptive managers and employees in auto plants across America where her skills in software design and business systems are sought after.

Equal access to employment is a policy supported in spirit and statements, according to Jim Parks, an Eaton spokesperson who affirmed a company policy of empathy and cooperation for race, creed, gender and gender identity in the workplace so long as behavior doesn't intrude on productivity. . . .Read More