Author Archive

Gives Good Headline: How the Media Loves Its Sex Changes II

GLAAD named WTHR coverage of the murder of Taysia Elzy and Michael Hunt as a Worst for December 2008.  They say:

“A December 28 crime report on detailing the murder of a transgender woman and her boyfriend in Broad Ripple, Indiana used the incorrect name, the wrong pronouns and described the transgender victim’s life in a generally offensive manner….”

Some have called this “patently unfair” based on a legal name change not having been done and the attitude of the family toward Elzy: “I don’t think anyone could accuse Elzy’s family of insensitivity on this matter by still referring to her birth-assigned gender….” — ignoring, of course, the fact that it still can be rarer for families to accept and respect ones gender transition than otherwise. 

In response, reporter Steve Jefferson has stated that “Our goal is to catch the killer- NOT promote your cause” … which presumes a little bit about the role and effectiveness of the media, and raises a question about how using a name that the victim didn’t use is supposed to help jump-start potential informants’ sense of recall (it also begs the question about why asking for respect and fairness is a “suspicious agenda”).  No, it’s not about promoting a cause — it’s improper to co-opt someone’s life that way — but for Jefferson, it’s clearly become a case of refusing to acknowledge that a need to transition has any basis in reality (not to mention refusing to respect the victim period), more than it is about reporting facts (i.e. how the victim lived) or encouraging people with information to come forward (about the world surrounding a person they actually knew, rather than some obscure moniker they were probably unfamiliar with).

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The Future of Transsexual Medical Care

This article has been a long time coming. Each time I’d revised it, some new discovery added a pertinent dimension that needed to be addressed. But one thing is certain: the future of medical care for transsexuals is changing — whether this change comes in the form of a delisting of Gender Identity Disorder as a mental health condition, or a revision of GID of any significance in the planned DSM-V, or simply new scientific discoveries akin to the finding surrounding the elongated Androgen Receptor gene or studies of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) that call for further research.

What is needed right now is to assess what our community itself can do in order to (best case scenario) drive the change toward a better model of transsexual health, or at least to (worst case scenario) avoid a future in which transition and surgery are further restricted or made unattainable to the people who need them. I’ve said that I don’t think that we should scrap the existing diagnosis of GID without another medical model in place. We — and our trans medical professionals, students and allies — strongly need to work toward this alternate medical model now. Finding problems is easy; finding solutions takes much more effort. And I’m not presuming that we can just do this without the checks and balances from professionals that would typically be accorded to any other medical study, but there are some fundamental ways we can help shape the model of care to come.

Because if we don’t, someone will do it for us.

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Novartis Pharmaceuticals Employees Show Their Love For The GLBT Community


I have a feeling that I should post this here, because now that the original link is out in the blogosphere and the backlash is happening, I expect the original thread to be deleted soon. After all, it is easier to TOS the complainants and discussion than to deal with the complaint.

It seems that the good folks at Novartis Pharmaceuticals (or some of them, anyway) have taken issue with the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The original post-er on their message board writes:

“… Are you kidding me? Have we as a company and a nation lost our fucking minds to allow this shit. So tell me, what am I to remember? I am confused. But wait, that’s what this day is all about anyway, confusion! Remebrance? I’m certain guys like Patton, Omar Bradley, Schwarzkopf, and for you unread mullafukas, Lt. General Chesty Puller, I’m certain they would make certain these homosexual deviants would be made to feel, well, nice, in a pair of lace panties somewhere along the way. When are we as RED BLOODED AMERICANS going to stand up and say “enough of the politically correct horse shit” and tell these queers to go straight to hell….”

Transphobic and homophobic follow-ups include comments like the following (I’ll put it after the fold, because it gets kind of vile — people who aren’t normally concerned about trans issues might want to have a look too, though, as the comments aren’t particularly trans-specific):

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The Value of a Life

Today marks the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, with commemorations happening through today and some into the weekend.  Thanks to Tobi for giving the day-before link to what’s happening. 

The following was originally written for GayCalgary and Edmonton Magazine, but because of a misunderstanding, it was replaced by an article on the gene discovery, instead of beng added as a second article, and missed seeing print.

On August 18th, a Philadelphia judge acquitted Terron Oates of murder charges, convicting him instead of voluntary manslaughter, a move which could see him released in as little as 30 days.  (At the time of writing, I have not seen an indication that he has been released yet)  The ruling generally accepted that because the victim of the 2006 shooting was a transsexual, Oates panicked at the discovery and wasn’t responsible for his actions — the classic defense.  Despite the fact that Oates was described as “streetwise” and knew how to obtain a black-market handgun, it was successfully argued that he was unaware that the area in which he picked up Alexis King was a known district for transsexual prostitutes.  Despite the fact that she was shot in the back and side, it was successfully argued that she was shot while fighting him for the weapon.  It’s amazing how much latitude defendants can be given when little value is ascribed to the victim.

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Safe Dating, the Silent Alarm, and Signs of Predation

Crossposted to TransGroupBlog and  Original draft appeared at The Bilerico Project.

I do not take credit for the safecall concept — it has been around for decades, and I first encountered it through the leather community (a version of it has also been present for a long time among escorts).  But I do consider this advice important to anyone in a risky dating situation, i.e. for pre- or non-op transsexuals, queer communities, online dating communities, some sex trade or adult entertainment performance situations, or even just simple everyday blind dates.  This is written without prejudice, in the understanding that in no circumstance does a person ever deserve to become a casualty.  As such, permission is given to reprint this without modification (although it can be prefaced or followed with additions) anywhere that people feel this advice will be useful.  I cannot guarantee your safety, but it’s my hope that this can help.

Blind dating is never risk-free, especially when some aspect of a person’s life exists that can cause negative reactions, or when an aspect of their life means that they might be potential prey to predators.  When meeting a person for the first time, you will be completely unaware of any history of confusion, instability or biases they may have.  First impressions are never enough, and the greater the risk, the more secure the safety net is needed.  The recent and tragic murder of Angie Zapata is only one of thousands of stories in which dates have gone bad, and it demonstrates how serious the consequences can be.

One habit that can minimize the risk is known as the “silent alarm” (sometimes also called the “safecall”).  There are several variations of this procedure… you can settle on what is most comfortable for you.

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Trans Needs Assessment

(Update 2013: I wouldn’t even consider doing a post like this now.  But at the time this was written, it was in response to a query about trans issues in Alberta, while few trans Albertans wanted to respond to surveys or be politically engaged in any way.  Prior to 2009, in fact, many people were strongly opposed to suggestions of organizing, for fear of losing funding for reassignment surgery (which happened in 2009 and was restored in 2012).  In 2008, I tried to compile this to the best of my ability, voicing concerns that were raised in support groups and on message board — anything I was aware of at the time.  It’s inadequate, under-representative and is in dire need of updating with survey-based information.  I leave it in place because it does provide an introduction to some mostly transsexual-specific needs for people who are just starting to learn about trans issues)

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Fetish, the Other F Word

(originally posted to The Bilerico Project)

The most important things I ever learned about dating and relationships came from the leather community.  So it bothers me when I see people and lifestyles trashed as “disgusting” or “a tarnish on our community.”  Or when the medical community misuses fetish to further stigmatize and marginalize us under the titles of “transvestitic fetish” or “autogynephilia.”  I’ve said it before: the medical community really does not comprehend “fetish,” wrongfully equates harmless practices with paraphilias, and generously applies it to anything they don’t understand or find socially unacceptable.  This was how homosexuality was categorized until the early 1970s, when the medical community had the epiphany that most gay men and lesbians lived their lives in a non-harmful manner and with only the emotional distress that society thrusts upon them.  This was the means that clinicians attempted to control and stigmatize womens’ pleasure under the largely invented banner of “nymphomania,” on the societal assumption that only men were supposed to enjoy sex; for women, it was simply a “duty.”  This was how masturbation in either gender was turned into an evil spilling of the seed, until the medical community proved it a necessary part of being. 

And with regards to understanding fetish, the general public is perhaps better, but only marginally, the reservations driven by an entirely sex-negative religious right that would see all intimacy restricted to missionary-position sex done solely for the purpose of procreation, and done solely between married, heterosexual couples.

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