Archive for Trans Life
There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now OK to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.
Activism for me takes the form of living a normal life and doing so very publicly. [...] A lot of good is done simply by being public, by being visible and by telling stories so people can see that a life like mine, a family like mine is familiar and it’s normal, and that it’s a lot less extraordinary than it seems.
And a comment from me: Jenny is right on the mark here, I think. May her tribe increase!
I need a sign to let me know you’re here
‘Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear
I want a reason for the way things have to be
I need a hand to help build up some kind of hope inside of me
I love my dad.
My dad has always been an incredible person to me, a person of deep integrity, pure motives, and kind humor. As a child I worshiped him, as an adolescent I idolized him, and as a young adult I sought to emulate him in every way I could. Over the years, our relationship matured and mellowed into a deep friendship that I valued above almost any other. Even though we were separated by thousands of miles for most of a decade, we spoke several times a week and emailed almost daily. I’ve never known any father and son who were closer than we were.
I didn’t get to come out to my dad the way I wanted to. Events moved in such a way that I had to do it by email, from a distance, and with the help of my sister and step-mother. After my dad found out that I was transgendered, we didn’t speak for almost a month.
As the days passed, I was surprised at how much I wasn’t hurting over it. I’d feel around in my heart and find no real pain or anger or anything. “He’s just getting used to the whole thing,” I said to myself. “It’s hard when your only son says he’s going to become a woman and asks for your acceptance as a daughter. He’ll come around. It will be like it used to be again.”
Then one day (as I was driving to see my therapist, coincidentally) I this song came on the radio. “I need a sign to let me know you’re here.” And I thought of my dad, and I missed him so profoundly that I could barely stand the hurt of it. I wept so hard I had to pull off the road.
We did talk again, the first thing he said was, “I want you to know that I love you as much today as I did the day you were born. I don’t understand, but I want you to know that I love you.” I got the sign I was looking for.
Today things are better, though we still have a long way to go. Maybe things will never be the same again. But I choose to hope–I choose to hope that someday, they’ll be even better.
Lesson learned: Sometimes the words we don’t say can shake someone’s world as much as those we do.
On Saturday, Sanesha Stewart, a transwoman of color living in the Bronx, was murdered in her own apartment. She was 25 years old. Her accused killer, Steve McMillan, had known her for months, yet when he was arrested, he claimed to have been enraged to find out that she was what the media coverage called not really a woman. He stabbed her over and over again in the chest and throat. She tried to fight him off; there were defensive wounds found on her hands.
On Tuesday, eighth-grader Lawrence King was in a classroom in Oxnard, Calif. He was openly gay, and often came to school in gender-bending clothing, makeup, jewelry and shoes. According to another student, it was freaking the guys out. One of them shot Lawrence in the head. He was declared brain-dead on Wednesday.
It is easy to look at cases like this and think, how tragic. How random. How senseless.
But then, you forget how easy it is to kill a transgender person.
Catching up with the meme that’s been circulating among the Bilerico Project writers, Rebecca Juro blogged “Ten books every transperson should read” this morning. She’s got a great list, and the comments have filled in any gaps she might have left.
Neuman Duncan, SUU’s housing director, said the school is not discriminating against transgender students. Instead, it is simply following a policy to ensure the comfort and safety of all students. “He has not transgendered completely so we are unable to assign him men’s housing,” Duncan said. SUU’s housing policy requires that transgender students provide a letter from a doctor that says they have undergone all necessary treatments and hormone therapy has been complete. “Where they’re in the process [of gender transition] I have no place to put them,” he said.
You’re right, Mr. Duncan. SUU is not discriminating against transgendered students. It’s discriminating against lower- and middle-class transgender students, who cannot afford gender reassignment surgery. And that’s to say nothing of transgender students who cannot have surgery for medical reasons, or who choose not to have it because it is incredibly invasive and frequently ineffective, particularly for female-to-male trans people.
We’re still waiting for either the Trib’s or the Deseret Morning News’ editorial boards to take a position on this.
But it isn’t a case of discrimination because the only reason Osborn was denied is because he didn’t meet the school’s baseline requirements that he’s completed hormone treatment and undergone gender-reassignment surgery, says Michael Carter, assistant attorney general and SUU counsel. Osborn’s application will be reconsidered if he can provide proof that he’s done both, Carter said.
The most obvious problem here is that one does not “complete” hormone treatment, but the deeper issue in my mind is the way the University seems oblivious to how classist their position is. Gender reassignment surgery is an incredibly expensive procedure–prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of transgendered people. They apparently expect a person in his twenties without a college education to have somehow amassed the necessary resources to meet their requirements. Those who come from all but the highest classes of our society will never be able to do so–and, honestly, how many multi-millionaire’s children are going to attend SUU? They’ve established a barrier to on-campus housing that is effectively impossible for the vast majority of transgendered students to meet.
Kudos are in order for the Deseret News, first for publishing the story, then for telling it so even-handedly, and finally for following editorial guidelines for referring to trans people according to their gender identity rather than biological sex. Now what I’d really like to see is their editorial board taking a position on this case.
InterstateQ has posted a press release from Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah updating us on Kourt Osborne and his attempt to secure gender-appropriate housing at Southern Utah University. Kourt, a former Equality Rider, isn’t giving up:
[Kourt] is currently considering his options regarding how to proceed with the issue, and maintains that he is dedicated to eliminating discrimination at SUU. On Friday, December 14th, Kourt began the process of filing an official grievance with Dale Orton, Vice President of Student Services, yet he has been unable to set an appointment with them to date.
The press release also mentions that the National Center for Transgender Equality is getting involved. This from director Mara Keisling:
Southern Utah University is way behind the times with in regards to discrimination and old stereotypes of what a transgender person is. Almost every university in the country has already thought through this issue and come to the obvious understanding that ALL students need and deserve a safe and accepting campus. That a public university funded with public money would discriminate against a student this way should be troubling to all Utahans.
Go get ‘em, Mara!
Matt Hill Comer at InterstateQ describes the situation in an exclusive interview with Kourt Osborne, who has recently been denied any campus housing at the public Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.
“During our conversation,” Kourt said, “he told me that a sociology professor on campus believed I was ‘not truly a transsexual’ because I do not seek sexual reassignment surgery.”
Kourt said the university will only allow him housing in male residence halls after he provides:
- a letter from the doctor that monitors his hormone treatment;
- a letter from his therapist saying that he has gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria; and
- official documentation that he has had sexual reassignment surgery.
Kourt had already provided the housing department with a letter from a doctor who monitors his hormone treatment. For personal reasons, Kourt does not seek to be diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” and does not want to seek sexual reassignment surgery.
He said that if he did not present the three items requested by the university, then he would not be allowed to live in male housing. At the same time, the university has denied housing for him in female housing, as well.
At this time, Kourt is not allowed to live in any part of the public university’s campus housing. He is currently considering his options and how to proceed with the issue.
It seems to me that the university is being duplicitous in its attempt to make up policy on the fly here. Is the issue that Kourt hasn’t had gender reassignment surgery, or that he doesn’t want it? The unnamed sociology professor appears to advocate the latter, the housing department the former. While the grounds for refusing Kourt housing in accordance with his gender identity remain ambiguous, however, the refusal to allow him housing in female dormitories seems completely baseless given the way the University is defining gender.
And that raises the key question: Just how is SUU defining gender? Though SUU does not post faculty biographies on its website, a look at the four faculty members who make up the sociology department leads one to guess it was either Dr. Andrew Bamford (who offers courses titled “Social Psychology” and “Body and Society”) or Dr. Shobha Gurung (whose course offerings are not listed but “will focus on courses in race, ethnicity and gender” according to a departmental newsletter). Dr. Gurung received her PhD from Northwestern University; her dissertation was entitled, “Women in Factory-Based and Home-Based Carpet Production in Nepal: Beyond the Formal and Informal Economy.” Searches of the EBSCO Research Database, JSTOR, and Sociological Abstracts at CSA Illumina turned up only this dissertation. Google Scholar adds a presentation at the 2006 meeting of the American Sociological Association entitled, “The Factory World: The Intersection of Gender, Caste, Class, Ethnicity, and Kinship.” SAGE Journals Online adds reference to reviews in the journal Gender & Society.
SUU is apparently satisfied that the opinion of one of these professors on matters relating to transgender identity is a sufficient basis upon which to craft policy. It seems to me, though, more like a “first draft equals final copy” approach to a very complex matter. An academic institution should know better.
Here’s some advice to SUU, provided free of charge by a girl who’s getting her masters degree today.
- Do your research. Be thorough. Take your time. The idea isn’t to get something turned in, it’s to make absolutely certain that what you’re turning in is your best work.
- Check your sources. It might be good idea to use more than one. And if you begin your research having already formed an opinion on the matter, you should probably check out a few sources that disagree, just to make sure you’re doing well-rounded research.
- Follow the rules. If the syllabus requires MLA, use MLA. If your nondiscrimination policy includes sex (which it does) and sexual orientation (which it doesn’t, but should), make sure you know what those terms imply in 2007.
- Clarify your argument. Is a transsexual someone who wants SRS, or someone who’s had SRS? Consistency is the key to writing a good essay; it’s also the key to drafting good policy.
- Think through the logical implications of your argument. If you’re making policy based on a pathological understanding of the trans experience (i.e. that trans people have Gender Identity Disorder), then by denying someone housing, aren’t you potentially violating your policy not to discriminate based on disability? (See, this is why you have to take your time.)
- Finally, if you need help, ask for it. You might start with the Educational Equity Section of the Utah State Office of Education. Equality Utah might have something to offer, too. Or how about the National Student Genderblind Campaign?