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Friday, April 22, 2011

Why be out?

--by Robyn

During the troubles of last weekend, a few people asked why I identified as a transwoman (or trans woman or transsexual woman) and not simply a woman. Well, the truth is that I do identify as a woman. Trans is simply a modifier, transsexual is an adjective. The noun is "woman".

Then I guess the question becomes, "Why do I add the modifier?" The question strikes me in a couple of ways. I wonder if the person is implying that everyone would be so much more comfortable if all the transpeople would just disappear into the closet after transitioning.

The truth is that many do...maybe even most.

But the serious question is,

How are we ever going to gain equal rights if none of us are out?

At least that's the question that arose for me back when I transitioned. Someone has to lead the battle. Someone has to do the educational work to teach people that we are human beings just like other people. If not me, who?

After all, as a college mathematics professor, it's not like my transition wasn't widely known in the field of my profession, so moving away from my infamy wasn't really an option if I wanted employment.

Someone had to speak up. I chose me.

But I am not alone.

Besides, how does the advice to just go stealth, as it is called in our circles, square with the demands by straight men that we all be completely transparent about our medical history so that they can safely avoid becoming attracted to us?

Cadence's Story
Global News out of Canada has been presenting a television news series based in British Columbia this week called Transformation.

Cadence is a young (23) transwoman who has so far had about $25,000 worth of surgeries and apparently has just a bit more to go. She has known she was a girl since she was quite young and showed up at school in girl's clothes and make-up when she was 12.

People don't talk about these things because don't like to talk about what's between their legs.

--Dr. Melady Preece

Syl's Story
Syl is a transman who had reconstructive chest surgery in March. A musician and singer who put out a CD as a woman, he is dealing with the changes in his voice caused by changing his hormone of choice to testosterone.

We just trying to make it in the world. Have peace of mind. Put food on the table. Stay healthy.

Cormac's Story
Cormac is a 16-year old high school student who transitioned 3 years ago and has been accepted by his family, his friends, and his school. I'm certain that there are a lot of transfolk who are extremely jealous.

Cormac's father voiced some words I have used myself concerning the need to transition:

If you can't love yourself, you can't love anyone else.

The Cape
The song Cormac and his father are playing and singing together is called The Cape, written by Guy Clark, Susan Wallis Clark, and Jim Janosky. This version is from Dublin Blues.

The fourth episode of the series centered on transwoman filmmaker Gwen Haworth and her movie, She's Just a Boy I Knew. Gwen's story is closer to my own.

Gwen's Story
Unlike the previous central figures, Gwen entered into what appeared to be a heterosexual marriage in order to prove she was "normal". She also had to deal with the fact that when she changed her name, she was discarding her father's name. And her father took that very seriously.

We tend to see other people's experiences through our own filter of our own experience. I might be horrified and say, "Oh my God, you're going to cut these things off?" if I think about it happening to me.

--Dr. Preece

Here's the trailer for her film:

The DVD of her movie is available here.

For a little more about Gwen, we have the following Q&A that was taped at one of her appearances. She still has a friendship with her ex-wife, who married an animator who Gwen shares studio space with...and who did animation work for her film.

Self-representation is key to self-empowerment. What if every film at a lesbian and gay film festival were made by straight allies?


Every documentary about transwomen has high heels and lipstick.

Perhaps we should also take a look at what the effects are of living out and proud.

Down in Arizona, the education effort is being partly done by Trudie Jackson, a native American woman who is attending Arizona State University on a Udall Scholarship, studying public service and public policy.

In Hawaii, out and proud transfolk have Hawaii on the verge of becoming someplace we can live in relative safety. Hawaii is awaiting the governor's signature to become the 13th state to offer employment protection for transfolk. Governor Abercrombie is expected to sign, but a similar bill passed in 2009 was vetoed by former Governor Linda Lingle.

I am reminded on this Easter weekend of something about counting chickens.

In Nevada, we are awaiting state senate action on:

  • AB 211, a bill prohibiting employment discrimination that passed the Assembly 29-13.

  • SB 33, a bill prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, which has the backing of the Nevada Resort Association and which passed out of the Commerce and Labor Committee, 4-3.

  • SB 368, a bill prohibiting discrimination in housing based on either sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • SB 180, a bill adding gender identity and expression to existing hate crimes law.

Republicans oppose the hate crimes legislation, claiming that gender identity is too broad a term. I guess because everyone has one.

Employment protection legislation has been awaited since 1999, when lawmakers banned discrimination based on the sexual orientation.

“This is the most important of all the bills among the transgender community,” said transgender activist Lauren Scott, adding that its passage was aided the presence of transgender people at the hearings. “It’s easier to discriminate against people when you don’t know them.”

Amen. Let's repeat that.

It’s easier to discriminate against people when you don’t know them.

And that's why I will identify as a well as a woman...until we have equal rights.

It's not like I wear a sign or have my status tattooed on my forehead. I do have an interest in safety after all. But I will speak up for people like me wherever and whenever it seems necessary.

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