September 17, 2008

From the NY Times of 2 Sep 2008

The article is entitled Smoother Transitions and discusses the improved ease, in larger corporations, of declaring your gender change as a transgender individual. The article paints a fairly rosy picture of the ease of dealing with employment as an individual who come out as trans. Within larger corporations, all is sweetness and light. The article goes on to indicate that coiming out within the scope of employment may be one of the easier transitions.

I would actually love to know to what extent this has been people's actual experience. My son is trans and we are having an interesting discussion relative to this article. He was not at all sure that this represented the true situation for most trans-people... but may, indeed, reflect the situation for the large employer. It is extremely difficult as a staff member within the University to see that real world. We are typically very accepting of diversity at staff/faculty level, but view the student population as more conservative :-) As I say, would really love to know what you think of this.


September 16, 2008

Ruling Inspires New Hope For Transgender People

I read this article with a smile on my face for obvious reasons: it is incredibly important that transpeople be able to live their lives safely, healthily, and freely. The article itself was very, very positive in that it recognized this as not only an achievement, but a necessary one. The article also did a very good job in terms of using the proper trans titles (transwoman/transgendered woman for an MTF), which is not something that can always be seen in mass media reports.
Two things bothered me here. First was the focus on MTF/transwomen and so far as I can tell, no mention of transmen, something that doesn't seem to be uncommon in our society. Even articles with a positive light on trans issues tend to (indirectly) define (or imply, I guess) "transgendered" as men who wish to be and/or live as women, whether physically, socially, or both. Out in what we could call the "real world" (that is, the society, hierarchies, histories, and issues that academia studies), the word "transgendered" tends to be synonymous with "transwoman," leaving a lot to be desired from the FTM side of the fence.
I think in general that transmen are somewhat safer in public than transwomen, mostly because transwomen tend to bring out a lot of fear that turns to violence (a fear of demasculinization that plays a big, big role in our society), and, as Stryker pointed out in Transgender History, transmen are more able to "pass" as men than the other way around, making the world a little easier to navigate. As soon as you stumble though, as soon as you accidentally or intentionally don't pass, you put yourself in danger. During the RNC, I opened my home to a handful of radical queer activists from Chicago. One of their friends, a local transman from St. Paul came over one of the nights they were here. He walked in my door and the room stopped - his left eye was almost swollen shut, and an angry purple color. He was bruised and scraped and cut all over his body. We all wanted to know what happened. He told us that he was in a bar in St. Paul when two men there noticed that he had "two men" tattooed on his arms (one was a man, the other, a butch woman) and started in with the anti-gay comments, demanding to know if he "was a fag" or "loved the cock." As the confrontation escalated, one of the men saw that their prey had their chest strapped (he was wearing a sleeveless shirt, so the wrap was visible) and after a few moments realized that this person was trans. My guest was consequently dragged out of the bar and beaten by these two men - hit in the face, kicked in the ribs and dragged down the street. When the police finally arrived, the two men were let go, and my guest was arrested.
The point of this all brings me to my next issue: the fact that there need to be these protections in the first place. I think it is absolutely disgusting and backwards that people are not allowed to live publicly in their bodies as they are happiest and most comfortable. Not conforming to your *BIRTH SEX* is tantamount to endangering the lives and well-being of everyone around you, somehow.
So, while I am glad that these laws have been passed, it still saddens and angers me that they need to be.

RENT Portrayal of Transgender Woman

In an attempt to classify how transgender individuals are portrayed in the media, I reviewed one of my favorite characters from the Broadway musical and recent motion picture, RENT. Her name is Angel and she is a central point in the story-line with regard to her role in teaching the other characters how to love others, and how to love life. She is introduced in the film as a street performer, playing a bucket as a drum for money on Avenue A. and even later performs a song, "Today for You", about all of the royalties she enjoys from doing side jobs for the residents of the neighborhood (including causing the suicide of a dog, with her drumming). Angel is one of the many characters in the musical that suffers from HIV/AIDS which eventually brings about her tragic death toward the end of the film. The interesting portion of this is the conversation and portrayal of Angel at her funeral, just before and during the Song "I'll Cover You (Reprise)".
At the funeral, Angel is pictured as a man, which is contrasting to the way she was presented throughout the majority of the film, as a very femininely dressed female. The portrait is puzzling in that it may or may not signify that in death she is returning to her birth-state, a man. When discussing their favorite memories of Angel, even some of her closest friends stumble over the proper pronoun used to address her. Although Angel is portrayed as an individual without a respectable job and stereotypically dies from AIDS at the end of the film, she is one of the most lovable and open characters in RENT. Angel is always encouraging her friends to attend Life Support and live in the moment, which ties into the musical's popular theme of "No Day But Today". It is refreshing to see such a positive and likable portrayal of a transgender woman in contemporary musical media.

-Alysa Friedrich

Here is the link to the song at her funeral:

Transgender People in the Media

I also chose to write my Engaging Assignment on the 20/20 Barbara Walters program on transgender children. Here's the link to one part of the article that goes along with the video: . The rest of the articles and some video are available at the bottom of the page under "More Coverage."
The program took a very caring and understanding approach, which surprised me because of the touchy subject matter. I half expected them to condemn the parents for allowing their children to mutilate their bodies or some equally intolerant nonsense. Barbara instead focused on the real issues. She talked about the emotional struggles of both the parents and the children. She talked about the importance of parental acceptance of transgender children. The discussed the different medical approaches doctors have to treating transgender children. All in all, the parents were portrayed as loving, average parents who just want to do what is best for their children. The children were also portrayed positively, as simply average children born in the wrong body and trying to cope with it the best they can.
I think this program could help immensely in shaping a positive societal view of transgender people. By choosing to focus on transgender children she removes the possibility of people portraying trans people as sexual deviants or monstrous freaks. These children can only be seen as innocent victims of a biological mistake by anyone but the most hard-hearted. By choosing a 17 year old boy as one of the subjects, we are shown the link between these children and the struggles they will face as adults. All of could lead to a more tolerant and positive view of all transgender people in our society.

Media Depiction of the Transgender Community

I decided to look particularly at the news media and how they deal with transgender issues. I was surprised at how immature and close-minded many of these newscasters were. I found it extremely unfortunate because people look to the news to be educated, and when they see newscasters act so inappropriately they may think that it is okay to discriminate against the transgender community
Looking at this clip it is evident that the newscaster is biased and has no intention in listening to the views of woman defending the gender blind dorms. He is just waiting his turn to voice his own opinions on the issue. I thought that newscasters were supposed to be unbiased and just present the facts. Instead, I think that so much of the news today is not based upon what is true, but who can shout the loudest. The anchor further shows his ignorance when he says, “I don’t know who is attacking transgender people.?
I was particularly bothered by this clip. If I were just to listen to what they were saying, I would have thought it was a bunch of grade schoolers, not newscasters entrusted to educate people. Their behavior was inexcusable and once again shows the unwillingness of the media to approach such topics with the respect it deserves. As far as I know no disciplinary actions have been taken against any of the three newscasters.

Media image of trans gendered evolves

The article i read is from an internet source off Google. I found a very interesting article called " Media image of trans gendered evolves". The article was giving a great over view of how many thing such as movies, tv series, or magazines are involving trans gendered people in them or the image of them. Such shows such as Ugly Betty," "All My Children" and "The Riches" all use references of people of the trans gender nature. That's very intriguing to me since it's viewed on national television and shows that I'm sure we have all heard of if not seen.
The article goes on to say that the way the media produces things either gives the viewers good, understanding feelings, or bad negative feelings. if you portray a trans gender in a bad manor or as a bad person, the viewers will think of them as people of bad nature. But if we portray them in ways such as helping others, or being abused for no good reasons, then the viewers will think good thoughts and hopefully understand a little more of what they are about.
The article I read is very positive in my point of view. It's pretty much saying that trans gendered people are evolving and becoming more acceptable in everyday life and in the media. The more the media shows them in good ways the more they are likely to be accepted by people in normal day life. That is a very good thing.
It shapes me in a way that it can also help me understand more of trans gendered people. i know very little and that's a main reason im taking this class, to understand and learn more of their history, ways of living, and overall perspective on things. it's going to be a great year and these articles help me to understand it further more. Not only am i sitting in a class learning but i get to learn by reading the media or watching it on tv. It's personally a great thing for me and society as a whole.

Maryland Court Overturns Attempt to Roll Back Transgender Protections

Here is my first engaging assignment–this article popped up in google news and I found it pretty intriguing. Did anyone else know this was going on? I had no idea until I specifically googled news about the transgender community.

-Laura Johnson

Continue reading "Maryland Court Overturns Attempt to Roll Back Transgender Protections" »

September 15, 2008

Rocky Horror Picture Show

First I'd just to say this to all the Rocky Horror fans out there that i do like this movie and I am in now way trying to bash it. That being said, let's begin tearing apart the character of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. ;)

The scene I've included here from the movie is when Dr. Frank sings "Sweet Transvestite."

The first thing that I'd like you to notice is the presentation of the doctor. His attire is very symbolic of society's general image of the transsexual, at least during the time frame this movie was created. Dr. Frank wears revealing black lingerie, a rather large pearl necklace, and too much foundation; creating a general comic look about him. Seeing that this movie is a comedy, it's not too much to assume that the general attitude towards transsexuals is humorous. Society sees them as a joke. This dress though does more than set up the comic attitude about him, but the sexual as well. His obsession with sex causes him to create a man as a play thing and messing around with the couple (Janet and Brad).There are other characteristics communicated through his actions and attire, but for now we'll be focusing only on the two major ones as mentioned above: comic and sexual.

I believe this character, in a superficial glance, reinforces negative stereotypes of transsexualism. This being a comedy though makes it a little unfair as the characters are meant to be a joke, opposed to let's say an action film. The issue though is where do transsexuals appear in filmography other than in a comedic source? Rarely, other than in cases with films dealing specifically with the story of a transsexual. We do not see transsexuals appearing in everyday filmography as minor/secondary character. The result is the transsexual seem to be left out of everyday life. Our only source, our only sighting in filmography, being the comedic films we see them as something not normal--normality in this case being defined as occurring in everyday life. Society's creation of the transsexual then--the prejudice view crafted by mass media--becomes our concept of the transsexual.

-Jason Sumontha

Transgender Issues in the Workplace

This week I thought about how often a "transgender joke" would arise. Probably not that that often. Who makes jokes about people that are transgendered anyways?
Wrong. I was so wrong.
After thinking about this assignment and deciding I could not think about any specific way i could relate this topic to my daily life, I went about my week and decided to think about the assignment later.
However, it was staring me in the face at work.
"I am so sick of that, " she said pointing over to the fine jewelry department.
"What?" I asked, looking over to see what she was so upset by.
It was just my co-worker and I, alone, at the cosmetic counter on a Saturday night. The store was dead, but there were a few dedicated shoppers on this cold and rainy evening.
"Two girls holding hands...come on!" she said.
"So you have a problem with lesbians?" I said and i stared directly at her. I was so shocked by what had just come out of her mouth that what I meant to say, "so I am assuming you have a problem with gay men, bi-sexual individuals, and transgendered people." But at this point, I am not even sure she knows what the latter of the terms she is even familiar with.
"Oh no, no, no. I just don't see that where I come from." she responded, a little taken off gaurd that i was clearly offended.
"You're telling me there are only straight people where you come from?" I asked her. Hand on hip.
She trailed off, making up some kind of excuse about how there was nothing wrong with people who were gay/ lesbian, but she just did not want to see it.
At age 52, and as someone who uses the adjective, "gay" to describe things she does not like, while living in a suburb of Minneapolis that actually contains the word, "farm" in the name of the city, I decided she was a hopeless case and went on to help a customer. I also remembered backt o several weeks ago when she asked me what classes I was taking I listed them all off and when i said, "GLBT Studies" she responded, "What is that?"
I kind of felt like passing out from shock, but instead I said, "Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Studies".
When she asked me, "why on earth would you want to take that KIND of a class?" (Noting this was not asked ina respectful manner, I told her, "I like those KIND of classes." But up until last Saturday I had forgotten all about that conversation.
When I walked by a transgendered male, one who is one of our best clients at the cosmetics counter I work at that night, I just smiled and waved and kept walking to the upstairs counter. (This woman was already being helped by a sales associate). And then it dawned on me...I did not even realize she is transgendered. I mean obviously I know her and I know she is because she is bald, has a beard, and is wearing a skirt and heels, but my point is that this did not even phase me. All I saw was another human being laughing and having a pleasant interaction with my co-worker.
Seeing a transgendered individual makes me stop in my tracks just about as much as seeing a hetero-sexual couple hold hands in public. It is normal to me and it is hard for me to think of someone else who lives in such an ego-centric world that they think what is a reality to them should be a reality to everyone else.
What makes them think their "normal" is "normal"? And who exactly has the authority to decide what is "normal"? I hate that word.
This week I have seen a little bit about the prejudices that still exist in the world. prejudices I knew existed but not to such a great extent. I wondered what would have happened if my co-worker had had an encounter with a transgendered individual. Would she have offered that person the same respect and dignity and customer service that she would have given to a hetero-sexual young bride about to marry her "knight in shining armor"? And, I regret to say that, no, she probably would not have.

Tranny Mcguyver.

I recently stumbled upon this Youtube video advertising a short film; in essence a cop show starring a transsexual police officer. As the website states ( the cast is composed of various GLBT actors, including William Belli as the headliner:

Upon viewing the trailer, I found it a bit difficult to read in terms of implication. On the one hand, the primary character is portrayed as a humorous, street smart, sexually vivacious, take charge sort of individual. In addition to the primary character, it is clear that other characters (as well as the show as a whole) challenge conventional gender binaries and do so unabashedly. It's been shown time and time again that the ability to bring humor to a situation can empower us. Comedians such as Jay Leno have the ability to make bold, often offensive statements about important figures or events simply by adding humor to the mixture.

Thus, using a platform of humor, this show is able to field ideas or scenarios that might otherwise be considered too controversial or atypical. By utilizing wit, each of the characters has the unique ability to reclaim and "own" their own sexuality beyond what hetero-normative influence can take away (if that makes sense).

On the other hand, the majority of the jokes in the clip seem to utilize traditional sex-based humor. In some ways, this could be seen as reinforcing the stereotypical notion that sexually "dissident" individuals are concerned solely with sex, and tends to denigrate the image of them as an individual beyond sexual function. Given the platform, it seems that the creators could be doing far more to further a good cause and field meaningful discussions about gender and sexuality. Of course, this is probably expecting more from a production who's goal first and foremost, is to entertain. Which I'll admit that it did.

“You want the beef taco or the fish taco?? Priceless.


McCain unaware of meaning of "LGBT"

In a search for something to comment on for this assignment, I stumbled across this (albeit relatively old) link that was able to provide me with information about McCain that actually surprised me--something that's getting increasingly harder to do.
It doesn't specifically address transgender issues, but i think the position he takes on both the GLBT question and the same-sex marriage question are indicative of a larger underlying theme that undoubtedly affects the transgender community. The fact that McCain is (likely/hopefully) highly educated, experienced, and one of the most well-known men in the world at the moment put together with the fact that he is completely oblivious to an entire community of people who reside in the nation the he hopes to lead says a great deal about where we are still at not only politically, but socially. I am actually baffled that at the end of the day, beyond all of the politics and press conferences, someone of McCain's age and position has never heard the phrase "GLBT" uttered. As if the public's enduring ability to be apathetic about GLBT rights/issues wasn't enough, we now see our aspiring leader spreading the message that it's okay to be casually ignorant that the community even exists.

I also found it interesting how, after that instance, the issue of same-sex marriage was defaulted to. Great; I'm glad someone is asking Mr. McCain such a pertinent question and I'm not at all trying to negate the validity of same-sex marriages. However, no transgender issues were brought up whatsoever. I've been told I'm nitpicking, but to go along with some of the readings, it's just another example of how we name the community GLBT, but we only talk about the GL, and maybe the B if we're lucky. For me, the term GLBT and all that it represents has seemed so blurry and such a slippery slope to me that I often wonder if the T really should be included. I feel like the power of the gay rights activism movement gave us the strength we needed to find our own basis for action and strength to speak up, but by hiding under that umbrella term in a time where acceptance of the GL, and sometimes B is much more widespread than even any understanding of the T, much less acceptance, we're taking a free ticket and not pushing hard enough for our own rights. By doing so, I think we're feeding into the message that McCain is sending--it's ok and easy to ignore "them" because they're not trying to make anyone look hard enough anyway.

September 14, 2008

Stephen Colbert

I was watching the Colbert Report show last week, and Stephen Colbert made a joke about PA governor Ed Rendell being a "tranny." He continued to be "turned on" by this pretty lady. I don't watch much T.V., so this was the only reference to transgendered people I saw in the media. I can definitely see why this joke would be offensive to a lot of people, but taking into consideration the context of the show, I wasn't personally offended. I realize that the Colbert Report is a satirical show. Of course, I think that suggesting that being transgendered would create a political scandal suggests that there is something wrong with being transgendered. It is a very subliminal message, and perhaps the reason it was so subliminal is why I wasn't outwardly offended by it. Shows like the Colbert Report are generally more liberal-minded in their messages, and I believe need to show more consideration to all kinds of audiences: in this case, transgendered peoples.

September 11, 2008

ABC News Story

Hi everyone,

For my first Engaging Assignment I looked at an ABC News article about very young children who identify as the opposite sex rather than their birthsex. I posted a link to the story if any of you are interested :)

-Ashley O'Neil

Continue reading "ABC News Story" »