IFGE 2009: “Disordered No More”

This year I didn’t get to IFGE & this year, Julia Serano & Joelle Ruby Ryan both went. What’s up with that? (Actually, I was expecting to be able to attend in Philly in April but they moved the whole conference to DC in February, when i was teaching too much to be able to attend.)

Either way, they & Kelley Winters presented a panel called “Disordered No More” about GID diagnosis. Lynn Conway, who was also there, has posted a ton of the information they presented, including excepts from all three of their presentations (or in some cases, the whole paper).

So for those of us who couldn’t attend, we can at least read up on their presentations, which is a very cool thing indeed.

Thanks, NYC

I’m very proud of my hometown for being kick-ass in an emergency, as always. I’ve lived through more than one in NYC – 9/11, the blackout – but those shoes of those people lined up on the plane’s wings in the Hudson – which had to be downright frigid yesterday – is remarkable. They didn’t have a lot of time with the water at 32 degrees and the air at 20; hypothermia would have happened pretty damn fast.

Go ferry operators, coast guard, the NYPD & the FDNY, as usual. The crew of USAir rocked especially.

& I also think it rocks that Mayor Bloomberg gives the news in his stilted Spanish.

& No, this does not inspire confidence in me to fly. I still hate flying.

Gainesville’s Fight

Allyson Robinson posted this message about Equality Florida’s fight for a gender-inclusive non-discrimination law in Gainesville, Florida on our message boards, & I thought it deserved a larger audience:

Many of you are aware of the fight brewing in Gainesville, Florida over their trans-inclusive non-discrimination law, passed by the city council last year. Gainesville’s non-discrimination ordinance had covered sexual orientation for years, but when gender identity was added last year, opposition was activated. The opposition group collected a huge number of signatures–over 10% of the projected voting population–to get the anti-discrimination ordinance placed on the ballot in a special election. That’s tremendous for this kind of municipal issue; more people signed the petition against these protections than voted for the mayor or any sitting city council member in recent elections.

Though the charter amendment the opposition group is pushing would eliminate protections for the whole LGBT community, their messaging is focusing on transgender people–the “bathroom diversion.” Their flyers state, in letters a inch tall, “KEEP MEN OUT OF WOMEN’S RESTROOMS.” As we’ve seen all over the country, and writ large in California last fall, this kind of fear-based messaging is very, very difficult to dislodge from voters’ minds. The special election is scheduled for March 24.

This fight has national significance. The “bathroom diversion” is quickly becoming our opposition’s weapon of choice. They used it successfully in Hamtramck, Michigan, it might have succeeded in Montgomery County, Maryland had the courts not intervened, it’s getting drug out in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and it’s already being raised at the state level in places like Connecticut that are considering inclusive non-discrimination bills this year. We must show both our opponents and our supporters that we can consistently defeat this tactic. If we don’t, municipalities or states considering trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws may become gun-shy, preferring not to deal with costly ballot initiatives in response to pro-equality laws.

Continue reading “Gainesville’s Fight”

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.

Here’s a cool resource from the AIDS Memorial Quilt organization, showing various places in the US & events for World AIDS Day in your area, courtesy of Google Maps.

& Here’s Safe Sex info from Just Say Yes. (I love the little erection/condom .gif.)

I would love to hear from people as to why, say, the Quilt seems so different than the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Both are largely about the death of those we love. Yet they feel different, & I can’t quite put my finger on how.

Weiss Woman

More and more we’re starting to see some very serious venues take on some aspect of trans issues, whether it’s 20/20 last year with GID and trans youth or The Atlantic Monthly’s current article on the same topic.

But I didn’t really expect Harvard Business Review to publish an article about workplace issues, or rather, I wouldn’t have if I didn’t know how fantastic Jillian Todd Weiss is.

I had transitioned from male to female in 1998, and my new employer neither knew nor suspected that I was transgender. Now I was receiving the condescending treatment that some of my female colleagues had complained about all along. After several such incidents, I quietly left the practice of law, never to return. As a male attorney, my competence had never been questioned so harshly by my employers, so I assumed that reports of gender discrimination were bogus complaints brought by females who didn’t measure up. As a male, I had been privileged, though I didn’t know it at the time, to avoid much of the harsh treatment reserved for females in a male bastion.

I didn’t know Ms. Weiss before her transition so I can’t say “I told you so” but I’m going to anyway! No, women aren’t blowing smoke up anyone’s ass about this stuff. I appreciate her honesty in admitting she thought they were “bogus complaints” and am pleased to know that transitioners, as I expected, are turning out to be the last tool in the feminist toolbox.

It’s one of the reasons I find the slogan “equal pay for equal work” problematic, because so much of the struggle is getting people to see your work as equal to your male peers’ — even when it’s superior.

(via Bilerico)

Sunday Night Shimmy

An old friend of mine is in town, and she was asked to guest drum at a bellydance performance tonight. As I’ve rarely gotten to see her drum, I went, & dragged my sister with me. (Betty, sadly, is not very mobile). I’ve seen bellydance performed before, but tonight, on top of my usual introverted discomfort, I kept thinking about how I was supposed to be in that room.

The dancers were all lovely. The first act, Sri Devi, was (I’m guessing) still pretty young to dancing, but she was fabulously talented and funny and fun in her performance. She seems like the type of performer who has a real star in her.

The final performance, by Hannah Nour, was really a hit out of the park. She had what I call “sea legs” for a performer – the way sailors are more comfortable on a boat than on land, some people are more comfortable performing than not. (Betty was that kind of actor.) She showed no self-concsiousness, seemed like she was really engaged and enjoying herself, and was technically stellar. And her clothes! Like a Hindu Love Goddess, all light blues and greens and whites and pinks – like a female version of the traditional representation of Rama.

Because on one level bellydance is a seductive art, sexual, exhibitionist, and yet it’s also social. It’s not burlesque. And I couldn’t figure out how to watch, at all. Most of the guys sit there just kind of ga-ga (in a more or less sexualized gaze) and a lot of the women were other dancers who were there to cheer on their friends or learn or just to appreciate the art.

But I was just there, looking like a dyke in the corner, and now that I’m aware people see me as a lesbian, it’s all I think about. I suppose if I actually desired women, I’d sit there like most of the guys, enjoying the sensuality & beauty of the ladies dancing without feeling weird about it. But because my desire, per se, is not engaged, I just sit there wondering how to watch, because it’s still titillating – dance is innately seductive, no?. I find myself tied up in knots, and kind of uncomfortable despite the performers being very comfortable with themselves and the dance form.

(I know, I know; I’m self-conscious & I think too much. Tell me something I don’t know.)

But despite my own silliness, DO GO see bellydance if you can! It’s a cool art form. The night I saw tonight happens every Sunday (thought with different performers, I think).

Living in the Land of the Binary

Our friend and book reviewer Jude Russell wrote a short, simple piece about the binary that really resonated with me. I hope it does for many of you, too.

There have been a couple of threads recently wherein gender outlaws (and I use that term with utmost affection and respect) have run afoul of cisgendered folks who have gotten the gender wrong – typically persons in “boy mode” who were androgynous or feminine enough to be gendered female – although I am sure it runs both ways.

Now, I spent many years in that gender neutral zone – where I’d be gendered female in one interaction, male in another, and trigger some confusion (and possibly, anger) in a third. It was all very interesting (from a sociological perspective), and fun (from a Loki / coyote / mischief maker perspective) but also somewhat stressful (especially when things like waste elimination came into play, or I’d run into someone who had a problem with it).

I guess my reaction to these experiences has been somewhat different than others. Because I think we need to take some responsibility for choosing to color outside the lines, choosing to bend gender, choosing to break the rules. So when I was in boy mode and got gendered female, I was less pissed off, and more amused – it was my decision to adopt a more feminine affect, and it was, in some ways, rewarding to have that recognized even as it was uncomfortable to be called on it. I began to pay attention to how others were gendering me – and acted accordingly. If I was vibing female that particular day, well, I stayed out of male gendered spaces; opting for unisex or female gendered spaces, or being cautious and quick in male gendered ones. Many a time, I sought out a unisex bathroom, or watched the gendered bathrooms until I was pretty sure they were empty, or wandered towards a pair of gendered bathrooms and decided at the last minute which one to use, based solely on if anyone was going in or coming out of either.

And when I was called on my gender blur – well, I had a collection of responses ready. “Yeah, I guess I am pretty androgynous” or “I’m still deciding” or “Sometimes I’m not really sure myself”. And yeah, when it got to be too stressful, I’d move in one direction or the other, to reduce the friction. In some ways, my decision to transition was of this nature – that living in between genders required too much energy, produced too much friction in the world.

I guess my point is, we live in this binary gendered world. And slowly, things are loosening up – there are unisex or gender free bathrooms, gender markers are removed from forms and identity documents, salutations are made optional, gay marriage (the prevention of which is, IMHO, the primary reason for rigid binary gender boundaries) is made legal.

But in the meantime, we need to live in this world. And we need to own the fact that we are the gender outlaws, that we need to live on this binary coded planet. Even if the long term goal is a lot less gendered society, we’ll grind ourselves into dust with stress and anger if we do not figure out how to bend and move in the margins at times.

Often starting our journey from a position of cisgenderer privilege – where we could use the right bathroom unconsciously, where we could simply move through the world on automatic pilot, feeling a sense of affiliation and belonging with our gender, its difficult to find ourselves stripped of that gender privilege. But the quicker we realize “I’m privileged differently now, I need to adjust my attitude accordingly”, the more gently we move through society. We can still fight for rights or visibility or a less gendered world. But we can do so without the constant erosion of our energies and self esteem…….

It’s sort of a reframing – becoming less of a victim of a repressive culture, and more of an anthropologist or explorer, carefully moving among this binary culture that we are studying and experimenting with.

The Other Hand

The AMA passed a resolution attempting to make home births illegal, and yet in the same session, they also passed Resolution 114 (MS Word .doc):

Whereas, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a serious medical condition recognized as such in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases; and

Whereas, GID, if left untreated, can result in clinically significant psychological distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression, and, for some patients without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicidality and death; and

Whereas, The medical literature has established the effectiveness and medical necessity of mental health care, hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery in the treatment of patients diagnosed with GID; and

Whereas, Many health insurance plans categorically exclude coverage of mental health, medical, and surgical treatments for GID, even though many of these same treatments, such as psychotherapy, hormone therapy, breast augmentation and removal, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, orchiectomy, and salpingectomy, are covered for other medical conditions; and

Whereas, The denial of otherwise covered benefits for patients diagnosed with GID represents discrimination based solely on a patient’s gender identity; and

Whereas, Our AMA opposes discrimination (AMA Policies H-65.983, H-65.992) and the denial of health insurance (H-180.980) on the basis of gender identity; and

Whereas, Our AMA opposes limitations placed on patient care by third-party payers when such care is based upon sound scientific evidence and sound medical opinion (H-120.988); therefore be it

RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association support public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder in adolescents and adults (New HOD Policy); and be it further

RESOLVED, That our AMA oppose categorical exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder in adolescents and adults when prescribed by a physician. (New HOD Policy)

Which doesn’t do the job entirely, but it’s certainly a good weapon in a trans person’s arsenal when arguing for why their transition related costs should be funded.

(thanks to Veronica for the news)

On the One Hand

The AMA just passed a resolution to outlaw home births. Astounding. As if women haven’t been giving birth for eons at home, with the help of midwives. My own mother was born in her family’s home in PA with the help of a midwife (and she had to fight for the right to have natural childbirth when she was giving birth to her own children in the 1950s & 1960s).

This is baffling, and unfair. For a lot of poor women, the increased costs of health insurance, the debilitating recovery needed from the over-prescribed C sections, and just the sheer cost of a hospital delivery, make it nearly impossible for these women to do anything BUT give birth at home.

& Here I was cheered by the news that the AMA resolved to support the treatment of GID by health insurance coverage (more on that tomorrow). I feel like I’ve just been spun in a revolving door.

(via Feministing)