One Equal World

Archive for the ‘Trans’ Category

The non-binary flag (yellow, white, purple, and black stripes) with a non-binary symbol in the middle of it.

The non-binary flag complete with a non-binary symbol in the middle of it.
Image credit: Shutterstock

There are two incredibly valuable aspects to California’s new Gender Recognition Act, which was signed on Sunday, October 15th by state Governor Jerry Brown.

The gist of it: California residents will now be able to select “non-binary” on official documents. That is an umbrella term, and perhaps it may be refined in the future, but for now, it is exceptional that people who are neither men nor women will be able to document their identity. The ruling covers birth certificates, state-issued IDs, and driver’s licenses. It continues to leave out medical and school records, along with federally-issued passports unfortunately, but the changes will make the day-to-day lives of non-binary persons easier.

Another major win in this ruling: the process of changing one’s gender on legal identification has been streamlined. Previously, changing the gender marker on a driver’s license required a doctor’s statement that one had medically transitioned. What that meant was up to the doctor, and it was a major, painful, expensive, and even disfiguring hurdle to jump through. But that hoop is now gone.

The transgender and non-binary communities are often overlooked in the broad discussion of identity-based rights. Few states have any protections for gender identity at all, and California is the first to entrench the existence of non-binary identities into law (though a similar bill is being proposed in New York this November).

With two on the table, perhaps it will inspire the same sort of ripple effect that gay marriage did, where state after state legalized it until it became federal law.

“With Governor Brown’s signature on this bill, transgender and non-binary people will now be able to identify themselves as they are, not as who society tells them they should be,” said Scott Weiner, California State Senator and one of the co-sponsors of the bill. 

That agency is a kind of dignity owed to everyone.

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A photo of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. The words, "Nice girls don't make history" are written across the bottom of the photo.

Marsha P. Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Glaurung Quena via Flickr Creative Commons.

It’s about time that Marsha “pay it no mind” Johnson had a modern documentary about her life. The legacy of this black trans woman and activist is writ large across American LBGT history. And it should be cause for celebration that “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is trending on Netflix this week. But there’s ugliness just under the surface.

David France, the filmmaker releasing the new Netflix documentary, is a white, cis, gay man with a history of writing about the dramatic and tragic in queer history. He has books on sexual abuse and Iraq’s death penalties, and a book-turned-documentary about the AIDS crisis, titled “How to Survive a Plague.” He’s undeniably a part of the queer community, but not always a part of the stories he chooses to tell.

Now, another filmmaker, Reina Gossett has spoken up to say that France has stolen from her years of work on Johnson. She alleges that France stole her language and research, got websites to remove her work, stole her contacts and hired away her research adviser. Gossett, who is black and trans, took to social media to air her grievances, which France has claimed are baseless.

“This kind of extraction/excavation of black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life, is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life,” Gossett said on Instagram.

In the wake of the terrible 2015 movie about the Stonewall riots which completely erased Johnson and the other non-white, non-cis originators of that iconic event, it is tone-deaf to pretend to be blind to these identities. The pool of funding for a documentary on a trans woman of color is not bottomless, and Gossett’s production, titled “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” is stalled in the cradle after three years of work. Whether or not France has done what Gossett alleges, the controversy stands—which of these two artists should have the multi-million dollar Netflix deal?

The trans symbol painted on the palm of an unidentified individual.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Zeke Smith, a contestant on Survivor, was recently outed as a trans by another contestant. The intent behind this was malicious, as it was intended to paint him as dishonest and therefore get him kicked off the show. But it didn’t go that way, as the rest of the cast and the majority of the audience saw this as the disgusting act it was: an act of violence against a trans person.

Many trans people choose to keep their gender history a secret because it can be dangerous to come out. It has nothing to do with deception. Trans people face a high risk of being assaulted or even murdered due to their identity. All things considered, it’s pretty understandable that many choose to keep their transition hidden.

But there’s another reason that trans people choose not to come out; it’s because their current identity is the one they see as their authentic identity. A trans man is not a woman pretending to be a man, but a man. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.

This is in sharp contrast to coming out as gay, since many gay men and women view coming out as an opportunity to live their authentic lives. Being in the closet as a gay person means pretending to be something that you are not, but there isn’t a cultural stigma attached to coming out like there is to being trans. The narrative is one of celebrating the authentic life of a gay person, as opposed to feeling deceived by a trans person.

Outing a trans person is an act of violence in that it sets them up for brutality at that hands of other people and strips them of their own agency. Nobody has any right to the knowledge of another person’s gender history, and they sure as hell don’t have the right to announce that history to anyone else, least of all on national television.

A bathroom with a gender sign on it that says, "who cares?"

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Trans bathrooms are a hot button issue right now. Conservative pundits argue that if trans people are permitted to use the women’s restroom, there will be a massive increase in rapes, child molestation cases, and peeping Tom incidents. Even though experts have already proven this notion to be false, this “predator myth” still stubbornly persists despite zero evidence to support it.

What the latest research does show is that not allowing trans people to use the restroom of the gender they identify is incredibly harmful to our children. In other words, the future of society is at stake and it’s up to us to ensure that we create a more inclusive environment for our youth.

The study found that ensuring the safety of trans students in high school bathrooms is essential to providing them with educational equality. Based on surveys of five schools in Michigan conducted in 2014, researchers found that trans students who didn’t feel safe in the bathroom generally didn’t feel safe at school, which could impact their grades and self-esteem.

High school is already a notoriously difficult time, but for trans students trying to figure out their gender identity, it can be even more difficult. What’s more is that high school students have considerably less agency and mobility than adults, which means that when they’re subjected to unsafe conditions, it’s a lot harder for them to do anything about them.

This research comes at an important time, as several U.S. courts are currently dealing with cases related to bathroom access for trans students. This research suggest that even the relatively simple solution of including gender-neutral bathrooms in schools can go a long way towards making these students’ lives a lot easier. That may not address the underlying social problems that make trans students feel unsafe in school bathrooms, but it can help those students get by as we continue to fight for trans inclusion.

People dressed up as superheroes at Comic Con, Los Angeles.

Comic Con, Los Angeles (2016).
Photo credit: Lauren Elisabeth / Shutterstock

We often think of nerds as the picked-on rejects that band together over common interests such as Dungeons & Dragons or Star Trek. The theme of outcasts coming together is a popular one in fiction, and one that you would think would lead to nerd culture being progressive and inclusive.

And while that may be true for some people and groups, nerd culture has some serious issues with inclusivity. From the toxic nature of so many online video games, to the continued over-sexualization of women’s bodies in art, to nerd culture’s blatant courting of fascism during GamerGate and in support of Donald Trump. Nerd culture has a long way to go before it can actually call itself inclusive.

No one knows this better than EmilÆMaxima. EmilÆMaxima is a transwoman who wrote an essay for The Establishment about her experiences as a nerd before and after her transition.

When she came out and announced that she was transitioning, she was met with a lot of questions about whether she would still play video games or like Star Wars, as if those interests were reserved exclusively for men. She notes that, even though there had been girls in their social circles throughout her life, her friends still seemed to think of women as outliers in nerd culture, as if they somehow didn’t belong.

But she also found that women’s experiences of nerd culture were very different than men’s, and often quite hidden. She quickly learned that there were chat rooms and events that men weren’t privy to, where women could be themselves and not have to worry about being harassed or assaulted. She learned, first-hand, that women have a hard time of it in nerd culture, especially online, where anonymity often emboldens men to act like complete monsters.

Finding acceptance for who we are can be difficult, but it’s essential that we do so. And if ever don’t feel accepted by a certain community, it’s time we change the dynamics of that culture.

A trans woman is shown smiling at the camera.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Whether or not the new data released by a government survey team about transgender American citizens matters is up to the beholder. To some, it matters a great deal to know the size of the community of which we’re speaking.

The percentage of the population made up by transgender people is, to one way of thinking, related to how much they and their issues really matter. To many, however, the numbers don’t matter. If there were only one transgender person in all the world, their rights would matter just as much.

But the numbers are in, and there is definitely more than one. In fact, according to data compiled recently out of a 2014 U.S. government survey, there are approximately 1.3 million transgender adults across the United States.

That’s approximately 0.53 percent of the adult population, or one out of every 189 people. It’s also more than the population of San Francisco or Washington D.C. Five US states have populations smaller than that. You could populate Maine or New Hampshire with only transgender people.

The researchers, a team from the University of Michigan led by Dr. Halley Crissman, go on to say that their margin of error probably swings low rather than high, since many trans people might have avoided the survey out of privacy concerns.

They also found that transgender adults were more common in nonwhite populations, and nearly twice as likely to be living below the poverty line and half as likely to have attended college. But in other ways, they fit neatly into the statistics of the general populationthey were just as likely to be married as the cisgender population and had the same unemployment statistics, though they were prone to holding lower-paying jobs.

The findings of Crissman and their team were published on December 20th, 2016 in the online American Journal of Public Health.

A comic drawing of two transgender men.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Kylie Summer Wu is the latest comic artist picked up by the San Francisco alternative newspaper SF Weekly. Her comic Trans Girl Next Door is of the non-sequitor life commentary style, ranging from stoic to hysterical to nonsensical. They are also usually specifically about her life as a transgender woman and a woman of color. Her art style is simple and emotional.

Wu, who lives in West Los Angeles, uses clever imagery to talk about the reality of her body in a work-safe manner, using images of bananas and elephants to good effect with no need of explanation. Her comics are cheerful and amusing, even as they muse on the ways hetero- and cisnormativity impinge upon her life. She’s done strips on the laws and controversy in North Carolina, the awkward conversations with coworkers when they joke about transgender people in other countries, and grandkid-hungry parents.

Her comic, which is also available on her website, will be in each issue alongside the magazine’s two other new comic offerings, Jay Duret’s The Week in Review and Dami Lee’s Hot Comics for Cool People.

Her new syndication is not Wu’s only accolade as an artist. She was listed in 2015’s Trans 100, a list of trans men and women and nonbinary people contributing to society in the United States. She also made an appearance in Elite Daily’s 2015 list of 10 most powerful trans millenials, alongside big names like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock. Both lists come out in November, and she can be expected to be on both again.

This November, which by the way, is Transgender Awareness month, pick up a copy of SF Weekly if you live in the area, or visit her page if you’re not, and get a glimpse into the daily life of the Trans Girl Next Door.