Transgender reading

I’ve been reading a lot about transgender issues.

From Wikipedia:

Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from the usual gender roles.

Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s “assigned sex” (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex).

Importantly, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

Gender transition is one of the most overt and visible aspects of transgenderism. The concept that people can change their gender is interesting, and seeing results of the process can be astonishing.

Photo series are intermittently posted to online forums; usually either by someone interested in gender transition themselves, or by someone fascinated by the results (hopefully without moral judgement).

Here are some that I have come across online:

These results may not be typical, but they do show that gender transition is achievable with medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy. They demonstrate that there are options for people who want to change their physical and social gender. (Although they may lead to unrealistic expectations regarding results.)

Fortunately, there are more balanced transgender resources online. Lynn Conway has an informative site documenting her own experiences and including galleries with links to other personal stories (rather than spectacular photo series without no broader context) which often describe issues faced by transgender people.

It’s interesting to read about how transgenderism is viewed by different cultures.

Most western cultures traditionally treat transgenderism in much the same way as minority sexual orientations: as something of which to be ashamed. Although it does appear that most societies are becoming increasing progressive and accepting.

Some Asian cultures consider transsexualism to be rather novel and entertaining, which could be construed as better or worse depending on your perspective. Here’s a video of Thai “newhalfNong Poy appearing on a Japanese television program:

Transgender issues generally represent conflict between personal liberty and social expectations. People have a right to live life as they want to, but most societies strongly define gender roles. As a result, there tends to be broad social stigma associated with transgenderism (which is disappointing).

Popular culture seems to be consistently intrigued by transgenderism.

Artists and writers have utilised it as an interesting theme for exploration or documentation (eg. Ranma 1/2, Transamerica, The Iron Ladies). However, there’s a fine line between interesting media coverage and derogatory exploitation in popular culture (eg. There’s Something About Miriam, tabloid coverage of Lana Wachowski).

While intriguing, many people also seem to find it rather confronting.

Fortunately, the Internet allows anyone to engage with transgendered people (eg. via personal online videos) without intermediary mainstream media. This is particularly beneficial in improving understanding within the general population, and in providing information and solidarity for other transgendered people.

This video (while professional produced) tells a personal story:

Ruth eloquently explains that:

It’s immensely uncomfortable to have people perceive you as male, when you feel that you’re female.

That’s a plain and straightforward assessment which is very difficult to argue with in any objective way.

At some point, most people will feel that their body doesn’t match up with who they are inside. Rather than gender, these feelings may result from relative weight, height, age or any number of other factors. Although relatively minor, these experiences may facilitate greater empathy with transgendered people.

Anyhow, I’ll end this post with one of my more interesting findings:

The Australian Sports Commission overtly discredits the assumption that “males will change gender in order to reap rewards in women’s sport which they are unable to obtain by competing in men’s sport”. Wow. It’s amazing that they even have to discuss such ridiculous assertions.

3 thoughts on “Transgender reading”

  1. I have several TG friends, one of whom is a friend I’ve known for years who surprised everyone by transitioning over the past couple of years, and the rest I’ve met through the WA Chameleon Society:

    Most TG people do NOT pass easily as their chosen gender, which is a constant problem. One of my friends attempted suicide a couple of years ago because she was being harassed at work.

    When I was teaching at Joondalup TAFE last semester, one of my students surprised me by taking me aside and telling me he/she was transitioning and wanted to know whether to put Michael on the cover sheet for an assignment or Michelle. I said she should use the name she felt most comfortable with. It was obviously a really difficult and awkward moment for her, but it was easier because the old friend of mine who has transitioned recently also works at Joondalup TAFE, so the student knew I was accepting of TG people. It must be so hard for people who have no examples or role models or support.

  2. I was fortunate enough to do ‘training’ on both sides of the continent in the area of gender diversity.

    We had some rather spectacular role models dealing with these kinds of issues at UWA (Malcolm and Allan), who I believe were the instigators of ALLY in Australia (of which I became a member when I became FT staff at an ALLY university).

    Meanwhile, I get emails from here…

    The thing I will always remember from my training is that there are probably about 6.7 billion discrete gender roles represented on the planet and I try to keep that in mind when dealing with everyone.

  3. Thanks for commenting Lisa. 🙂

    I suppose highlighting very successful transitions online is a bit of a double-edged sword. On on hand, it demonstrates that it is possible, but on the other it can lead to unrealistic expectations.

    Probably in much the same way that incredible other before-and-after (eg. diet, exercise, or plastic surgery) photos can be misleading.

    I’d imagine that online results are fairly skewed since those that would choose to post online are probably more confident or happier with how things have worked out for them.

    I wonder if greater social acceptance of the gender spectrum (and division between internal and apparent gender) would make people feel better about not fitting in exactly at either end.

    It seems that there is a sizeable group of men who want to socially female, but don’t want to undergo sex reassignment surgery. However, there seems to be more social acceptance for “post-ops” than “no-ops”. Strange.

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