Archive for February, 2010
Appropriation of genderqueer identities seems to be trendy in several communities I’m in lately, so I thought talking about how it occurs – and what it reinforces both on a community level and systemically – would be a good place to start with my guest blogging. None of this, however, should be an excuse for binary gendered people (especially cis people) to decide who is and isn’t genderqueer enough.
First, I’d like to talk about what genderqueer is and isn’t. Genderqueer, in terms that are likely to fit everyone who is genderqueer, is having a gender where neither man nor womon is a fully adequate description of it. Or, as I tend to view gender as an interaction between one’s self and others, genderqueer is the state of constantly being misgendered in some way in a binary gendered culture. There are varying levels of discomfort with that, and many genderqueer people prefer being read one way or another, whether because of comfort or safety, but genderqueerness will always be somewhat unintelligible to the dominant culture as long as the dominant culture constructs gender as a binary. In some ways, this is a source of shared experience with binary gendered trans people; the difference is that while many binary gendered trans people have the experience of their gender being read correctly by the majority of the people around them all or a majority of the time, this isn’t really a possibility for a genderqueer persyn on an individual level (unless one were to limit oneself to a very definitive social circle who “gets it” and not interact outside of that, which is impractical and generally undesirable).
Things genderqueer is not:
1) between male and female; while some genderqueer people identify as between male and female and/or man and womon, not all relate to binary gender in such a simple way, and some do not define their identity in reference to binary gender at all.
2) between trans and cis. One, many genderqueer people access some form of medical transition (which, while it affects the power relations between oneself and others, is irrelevant to whether one is trans or not). Two, not being adequately described by man or womon self-evidently makes one trans.
3) not all genderqueer people use genderqueer pronouns! They don’t make anyone more or less genderqueer, and people have a lot of varied reasons behind their pronoun choices. I tend to say genderqueer pronouns rather than gender neutral pronouns, as I, and a whole lot of other people who use them, have a whole lot of gender; this isn’t to imply that they’re the only pronouns used by genderqueer people.
When I’m talking about genderqueer identities being appropriated, I’m mainly concerned with cis people, as binary gendered trans people don’t have the systemic power to oppress other trans people, though, of course, appropriation can cause hurt, even if it isn’t systemically oppressive. We’ll look at the reasons that cis people might appropriate genderqueer identities, and then discuss what it looks like, and what sort of responses might be appropriate, from binary gendered and genderqueer people.
Cis people appropriate genderqueer identities for several reasons. One of the biggest is as a political statement. This occurs when someone decides that they are totally down with smashing the gender binary, and that they’ll show it by taking on a genderqueer identity. Closely related to this are people who appropriate a genderqueer identity to “shake things up” in what they perceive to be a particularly heteronormative community or region. Both of these share the common theme of appropriating other people’s identities and oppressions to serve what the appropriator perceives as a good ends, thus using other people, whom they have hierarchical power over, as a means to an end. While creating a culture where all genders, not just those of man or womon, are viewed as equally valid should certainly be part of any larger anti-oppression goal, reifying cissexism to do it is not going to accomplish it. In the latter case, a cis persyn’s judgment of a community or region in regards to transphobia are very likely to not be entirely accurate, and serves to mask that transphobia is one of the vital means of control and oppression of the entire dominant culture.
Some other reasons that genderqueer identities get appropriated are to seem radical and cool – as an attempt to grab attention and positive regard from one’s community. While certainly everyone in a community should start from a point of getting attention and positive regard, this is a busted way to do it – as it’s a way of getting perceived positive aspects of being genderqueer without getting the actual negative. The final most common reason that comes to mind is someone claiming a genderqueer identity only when called out on misogynistic or transphobic behavior. Yes, all genderqueer people are, to varying extents, subject to sexism and cissexism (as they are neither men (or at least not uncomplicatedly men) or cis), however, one’s behavior can still reflect the oppressive dynamics of the dominant culture even if one isn’t privileged along that axis – trans people can enact transphobic behavior against other trans people, people who experience misogyny can be misogynistic toward other people who experience misogyny, etc. So, first off, it doesn’t get one out of the busted actions one did, and secondly, generally, it’s pretty transparent.
So what does this appropriation of genderqueer identities do? The most obvious effect is that it makes it harder for actual genderqueer people to get their identities recognized and respected. Either people trivialize what it means to be genderqueer, portraying it as either a fashion choice, or nothing more than a statement of views about the world, or they view people that don’t match the legitimate, to their binary gendered perceptions, of genderqueer as appropriating genderqueerness. The people most subject to being viewed as not legitimately genderqueer are genderqueer femmes and genderqueer people who are perceived to have been assigned male at birth. This is because the people who to binary gendered perceptions are most obviously genderqueer are those who fit the most common expression of genderqueerness accepted by larger trans and queer communities: perceived to be assigned female at birth, white, college educated, young, thin, temporarily able-bodied, and masculine in a way that is often perceived as boyish.
The more serious concern is that when cis people can appropriate genderqueer identities for their own ends, there is no need for actual genderqueer people. The appropriation of genderqueer identities makes it easier to erase us, our lives, and our identities. Who needs to acknowledge the existence of actual genderqueer people or their needs when one can just put on a mask of genderqueerness whenever one feels like?
People who appropriate genderqueer identities are often only genderqueer when convenient, which is different from managing one’s outness in regards to safety. Generally, it’s only something that comes up when the appropriator feels they have something to gain from putting on a facsimile of a genderqueer identity – whether it’s avoiding accountability for their words and actions, or trying to force conversations about genderqueerness in particular or transness in general to be about them, it’s about fulfilling their wants and needs.
None of this is to say that binary gendered (and particularly cis) people should feel free to disrespect the identities of anyone they feel is appropriating a genderqueer identity. Normally, that’s not your call to make. People with a binary gender, and especially cis people, should never disrespect the pronoun preferences of someone, even if they feel their identity is appropriative. In general, people with a binary gender should focus on the harmful actions that are occurring, and not their judgment of someone’s identity. It’s vital that we work to create communities where it’s safe for genderqueer people to be out and articulate their identities, particularly those who are often invisibilized, erased, or silenced, and binary gendered people deciding who is and isn’t genderqueer does the exact opposite of that.
Some important notes: while it’s occasionally useful to talk about community dynamics for groups of genderqueer people in terms of them being AFAB or AMAB (Assigned Fe/male At Birth), it’s generally pretty busted to use that to categorize individual genderqueer people. While some genderqueer people do feel that the sex/gender they were assigned at birth is a part of their identity, many of us do not, and it’s invasive and cissexist to ask anyone what they were assigned at birth, particularly as a way for a binary gendered persyn (or, especially, a cis persyn) to decide whether they’re “really” genderqueer or “trans enough”.
Also, conversation here needs to center genderqueer people, and not the concerns of cis people or binary gendered trans people have about genderqueer people.
Hi, I’m your friendly neighborhood anarchafemme, and I’ll be guest posting a bit; I usually blog over at Memoirs of a Genderqueer Femme Anarchist. As an anarchist, I work toward eliminating all systems of oppression and hierarchy; more specifically, as an anti-civ/post-civ anarchist, one of the things my overall analysis is based in is that the dominant culture – civilization – is inherently oppressive and destructive to all life, but that it’s neither possible nor desirable to go back to a noncivilized, hunter-gatherer state; we need to work toward a synthesis that is truly sustainable and also non-hierarchical and non-oppressive.
As far as positionality, what seems most salient at the moment is that I’m a fat genderqueer femme who has accessed medicalized transition (I prefer genderqueer pronouns, and generally use “they” as that seems to be the easiest for the most people, but any of the other genderqueer pronouns work just as well), I’m white and settler privileged and come from a mixed working class/middle class background. I’m considered crazy/mentally ill by this culture, though that’s not how I label myself, and am a person with disabilities.
I’m most interested in writing here about placing trans feminism into a larger radical context, appropriation of genderqueer identities, genderqueer invisibility and stereotyping, the position of femmes who are under the trans umbrella in trans and queer communities, the position of trans and queer people in radical communities, creating trans, queer, and femme centric spaces (as an aside, I’ve been involved with Camp Trans for years), and seeing fighting against cissexism, sexism, and femmephobia as a point of solidarity with other struggles.
Off the internet, most of what I do revolves around being a street medic, helping give care to my community as an herbalist, and working in a collective to educate other white and settler privileged folks about white and settler privilege, the construction of whiteness, and the history of the US settler state, with the goal of helping white people get to a point where they can be in meaningful solidarity with people of color and indigenous peoples.
I’m also particularly interested with how we, as trans people, can care for our own health needs and how we can establish clinics to look after ourselves and help us interface with the rest of the medical system. I became a wilderness EMT this past fall, and am pursuing either becoming a nurse practitioner focused on holistic health care, or a naturopathic doctor, in addition to continuing to increase my knowledge of herbalism. So I may well write here about not only the intersections of trans and disability, but also how we can regain agency over our bodies and our medical care.
Edited to fix my bad HTML.
This is a guest post from Tobi Hill-Meyer. Her blog has recently been re-launched under the new url: nodesignation.com
If you’ve been around for internet discussions on trans issues long enough, you’ve probably seen it. Someone is being called out for their transphobic behavior and in defensive posture they dismiss the trans person talking to them as “angry,” “shrill,” or “hypersensitive.”
Of course the trans person is angry after being hurt then dismissed when they speak up – I get upset just reading such exchanges. It’s a very appropriate response. It’s not uncommon, though, for others to step in and lecture the individual about their effectiveness , saying something along the lines of “Yelling won’t change their mind.” Of course trans people don’t have a moral obligation to be educators, let alone effective educators. Many of us identify and call out this scenario as a tone argument an unfair expectation to educate our oppressors. But please follow me for a moment as I analyze this increasingly common situation with another anti-oppression tool.
One thing that I encountered, over and over, early in transition was the suggestion (demand, even), that I document my transition. It’d be fascinating, document something important etc. The suggestion seemed nonsensical–I’ve never been a very visual person, I’m a writer, a poet–but worse than that, it annoyed and upset me. Like a lot of trans people, I have a fraught relationship to photography.
This post by Rebecca articulates a lot of things. She writes compellingly about the anger she feels at her parents for displaying photos of her pre-transition:
I’m angry at them for remembering as joyful (or even merely placid) the time I felt as painful and turbulent. I’m angry at them for happily framing and mounting photos that remind me of how horribly trapped I felt at all times. I’m angry at them for mourning the loss of someone who was never really there, regardless of how ‘normal’ he was or how little ‘fixing’ he seemed to need. And that anger, I haven’t really even started to address.
But the problem with photography goes further than simply “documenting” an unhappy period–it is that it comes with a cissexist history of interpretation which fixes the photographed trans person as “really” their assigned sex. In other words, like all texts claiming to merely “reflect” reality, the photograph constructs, placing the subject into an interpretative framework. Like all texts, we read the semiotics of the photograph generically–family photograph, wedding photograph, advertisement etc etc. And yet if we realise how fake magazine photos are (with its attendant airbrushing, lighting and so on), when it comes to the casual photo, we very often see it as truthful. As Cedar said:
And it is precisely the medium of the photograph, that purports to tell the unmediated, timeless, “unavoidable,” “natural” truth, on which nothing has been written, that propagates that violence across time to the present day, that amplifies the memory of oppression. It is precisely how a camera takes a person and makes a static image, an object that can be reproduced, moved, or displayed without my knowledge or consent that reiterates cis power to determine my body, its appearance, its reproduction, and its movement, and puts it on display without my knowledge or consent.
Cedar is suggesing that, like other marginalised groups (think National Geographic), the camera has had an oppressive history for trans people. Jay Prosser notes in Second Skins the ways in which trans narratives have been framed by photographs. I think we’re all familiar with the placement of “before” and “after” photos side-by-side, in magazines, in books about trans people. Their constant, almost obligatory, usage by cis people suggests that there is something important at stake for the cis gaze which is confirmed by the “before” photos–the “truth” of the assigned sex.
What I think is painfully missing from the world at large is a transsexual gaze. And no, I don’t mean the ability of trans women to possess an objectifying gaze (as I’ve read radfem interpretations of Laura Mulvey’s infamously misunderstood thesis about the Male Gaze). A transsexual gaze would register the changes and movements of transition, but would also begin from the position of trans legitimacy–from the straightforward proposition that trans people are our sexes.
What I mean is, we lack the ability to register across time, not “before” and “after,” but one mode of sex and then other. It would confirm not a cissexual truth, but a sex that already existed prior to transition (for we do not come out of nothing, creatio ex nihilio), it is that a cissexual gaze does not see the trans person there.
In other words, we need to see the woman in the pre-transition photo of a trans woman, the man in the pre-transition photo of a trans man. That, and only that, will help begin to dissipate the painful and fraught relationship so many of us have with photographs.
The Sección Diversidad Sexual of the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual in Havana, Cuba, has recently issued the following statement:
STATEMENT ON DESPATHOLOGIZATION OF TRANSSEXUALISM
Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for Sexuality Studies
5th Cuban Congress of Sexual Education, Orientation and Therapy
The Sexual Diversity section of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for the Study of Sexuality (SOCUMES) proposed the adoption of the following Declaration in its General Assembly of Members on 18 January 2010 in Havana, based on a proposal made by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People, of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).
Recalling the current inclusion of transsexuality as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) published by American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) of the World Health Organization (WHO);
Recalling also that the Standards of Care adopted in Cuba by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People rely on those published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), which also includes the classification of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and International Classification of Diseases E-10;
Considering that the American Psychiatric Association will publish in 2012 the fifth version of the above mentioned manual and that the chief and other specialists of the working group responsible for the review have recently proposed the non-removal of this category, as well as the application of corrective psychological therapy to children, to the sex assigned at birth;
Taking into account the concern expressed by individuals and human rights groups at the international level regarding this issue,
Considering that all transgender people -including transsexuality, transvestites and intersex people- may be vulnerable to marginalization, discrimination and stigma, based on the socially regulated binary approach that recognizes only two gender identities: male and female;
Considering also that the above classifications perpetuate and deepen social discrimination against these groups, causing irreversible physical and psychological damage that can lead these people to commit suicide;
Considering in addition that transsexuality and other transgender expressions are not an option for a lifestyle and that the modifications to their bodies have no cosmetic intentions. It is a right and an inner need to live with the gender identity which the person feels to belong;
Recalling the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, especially Principle 18 on “Protection from Medical Abuses” which, among other things, make States and governments responsible to “ensure that any medical or psychological treatment or counseling does not, explicitly or implicitly, treat sexual orientation and gender identity as medical conditions to be treated, cured or suppressed”;
Considering that the right to public health and universal free access to its services are guaranteed by the Cuban government for all, but still requires additional laws to fully protect the rights of transgender people;
Recalling Resolution 126 of Public Health Ministry, of 4 June 2008, which regulates the procedures involved in health care for transsexuals;
Recognizing that multidisciplinary care provided by the National Commission for Comprehensive Care of Transsexual People, since its foundation in 1979 until today, has led to a remarkable improvement in the quality of life of transsexual people and their families.
Express our support for the removal of transsexuality from the international classification of mental disorder, especially in the DSM-V update to be published in 2010.
Reject the application of psychological therapies for transgender people, in order to reverse their gender identity, as well as sex reassignment surgeries performed to those under 18 years old.
Reaffirm that transsexuality and other transgender identities are expressions of sexual diversity, to which it must be ensured all psychological, medical and surgical treatments required to alleviate alterations to the mental health of these individuals, as a result of stigma and discrimination.
Also reaffirm that the implementation of these procedures respects sexual rights of each person, and are consistent with bio-ethical principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice.
Reaffirm in addition that transgender care should be comprehensive, beyond just medical and psychological care, to ensure recognition and respect for their individual rights.
Reiterate the need to consider all necessary legislations to ensure recognition of these rights, especially the Gender Identity Bill, which includes the identity change regardless sex reassignment surgery performance.
Call for a broader implementation of educational strategies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity at all levels of education and to the general population, as stated in the National Program for Sexual Education.
Reaffirm the need to include the attention to transgendered people in comprehensive social policies of the State and Government of Cuba, in correspondence with the “Declaration of the General Assembly of the United Nations, condemning the violation of human rights based on sexual orientation and identity gender “, supported by Cuba on 18 December 2008.
Havana, 22 January 2010
Sección Diversidad Sexual
Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual
Although it may be tempting to say that Cuba now joins France in regarding transsexualism as not being a mental disorder at all, there is some dispute about the reality of the French Health Ministry’s announcement in May 2009.
There has been some fairly lively discussion between various trans support groups in Europe, and there is a view that the French Health Ministry’s announcement was only about principles of reimbursement, and not about the moral obligations of the medical profession. Apparently, the French HAS (Health High Authority), which is run directly by the Ministry of Health, is currently promoting more pyschiatric control of trans people. It seems that the HAS report explicitly recommends that the French Social Security’s “official teams” (ie. those who are charged with pathologising and psychiatrising French trans people) be extended to the whole country.
Additionally the report also says that “psychiatric assessment will still be needed” for trans people to access their civil and human rights, no matter what is decided by the Health Ministry regarding reimbursement and classification.
The inference is that France is not working towards “depsychiatrizing” trans people and is therefore not fully committed to depathologisation.
Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox
Today, February 10, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has published a draft of the fifth version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). It must be stressed that this is only a draft, posted for review and comment – the full publication remains slated for May 2013. Needless to say, it still seems as problematic as expected, even (especially?) with the introduction of so-called dimensional ratings.
From The Economist:
The APA’s DSM-V task force, however, has suggested it would like to introduce a “new paradigm” into the manual. It wants to recognise that many conditions, such as anxiety and depression, tend to overlap, so that a diagnosis of only one or the other does not always make sense. The new version of the DSM is also expected to include a “dimensional” component, one that considers the severity as well as the nature of symptoms.
It’s going to take a while to read through the review documents – there are a lot of them – but it seems clear there will be much heated debate. How could there not be with proposals to add, for example, Hypersexual Disorder and Paraphilic Coercive Disorder to the DSM-V?
Autogynephilia, as expected, looks set to be given the fancy new title of Transvestic Fetishism – and if the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group thought they could bury it in the depths of the Paraphilias section (along with such things as pedophilia) where nobody would notice, well, guess what Dr Zucker? We’ve got news for you…
The main index page for the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders consultation documents is at http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/SexualandGenderIdentityDisorders.aspx
Read it and weep.
ETA: Digging a little deeper, I see that in section 302.3 Transvestic Fetishism, under the Rationale tab, a distinction is made between “paraphilias” – which don’t cause distress or impairment, and thus don’t require psychiatric intervention – and “paraphilic disorders” – which do cause distress or impairment, and thus do require psychiatric intervention.
The Paraphilias Subworkgroup states: “This approach leaves intact the distinction between normative and non-normative sexual behavior, which could be important to researchers, but without automatically labeling non-normative sexual behavior as psychopathological.”
Another change worth noting appears in the end notes under sections 302.6 Gender Identity Disorder in Children and 302.85 Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents or Adults – “Gender Identity Disorder” will be renamed “Gender Incongruence”:
In a recent survey that we conducted among consumer organizations for transgendered people (Vance et al., in press), many very clearly indicated their rejection of the GID term because, in their view, it contributes to the stigmatization of their condition.
So what was previously described as “a strong and persistent cross-gender identification” is now referred to as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender”.
The term “sex” has been replaced by assigned “gender” in order to make the criteria applicable to individuals with a DSD (Meyer-Bahlburg, 2009a, 2009b). During the course of physical sex differentiation, some aspects of biological sex (e.g., 46,XY genes) may be incongruent with other aspects (e.g., the external genitalia); thus, using the term “sex” would be confusing. The change also makes it possible for individuals who have successfully transitioned to “lose” the diagnosis after satisfactory treatment. This resolves the problem that, in the DSM-IV-TR, there was a lack of an “exit clause,” meaning that individuals once diagnosed with GID will always be considered to have the diagnosis, regardless of whether they have transitioned and are psychosocially adjusted in the identified gender role (Winters, 2008).
Which seems to suggest two things:
- First, it enables the diagnosis of intersex people with GI. The use of the highly contentious acronym DSD – “disorders of sex development” – doesn’t go unnoticed. The Organisation Intersex International (OII) has been protesting the use of the term since it was first coined in 2008 – more details here.
- Second, it will enable people who have transitioned to be free of the diagnosis. I’m unclear what effect this may have on people who have transitioned and who live in countries where there is state-funded prescription of, for example, hormones. Presumably if it’s decided that you no longer experience GI, then there will be no requirement for the state to contribute to the cost of your meds. I don’t know if that’s what will happen, but it certainly seems like it could be a possibility.
ETA, February 12: The concept of “Assigned Gender” is a new introduction in the DSM 5 – but it doesn’t seem to be clearly defined anywhere in the documentation. It appears in sections 302.6 Gender Identity Disorder in Children and 302.85 Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents or Adults, under the description of Gender Incongruence – “A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender [...]“.
“Experienced/expressed gender” seems fairly self-explanatory – but “assigned gender”? The cynic in me wonders if the omission of a definition might be deliberate, to give practitioners plenty of ‘wiggle room’ in their interpretations.
Does it mean “legally assigned gender” or “medically assigned gender”?
If “legally assigned gender” is intended then:
- In the end notes, where it says “[...] one’s assigned gender (usually at birth) [...]“, does that mean “most people are not transsexual and for non-transsexual people the concept is simple” or does it mean “legally reassigned gender is usually to be ignored for diagnostic purposes”.
- Does it mean the legally assigned gender where the patient resides, or the legally assigned gender where the patient is being diagnosed, as these may be different if a transsexual person travels?
- Does it mean the legally assigned gender at birth, or at the time of diagnosis?
- For people who live in federated republics (such as the U.S.) does it mean legal gender in Federal law or legal gender in State law?
- What about places (for example, the state of Victoria, Australia) where babies may be assigned a gender of male, female or intersex?
- What about people who have multiple citizenships and passports (and other documents) in different sexes? (See my recent post about Jenny T. Ramsey for an example of the kinds of problems already existing)
But if the DSM 5 means “medically assigned gender” then:
- What about people who have multiple medical providers (and/or non-government insurers), some of whom treat the patient as being “medically male” and others regard the patient as “medically female”?
- Does it ignore, or not ignore, prior medical gender reassignment?
- What about the situation where a second medical opinion results in a different medical gender being assigned?
- Some countries (for example, Cuba) regard transsexualism as not being a mental disorder at all. Is the medically reassigned gender of people in those countries considered for mental health diagnostic purposes?
Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox
On February 2, 2010, the U.S. Tax Court issued an important decision in O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, ruling for the first time that treatment for gender identity disorder qualifies as medical care under the Internal Revenue Code, and is therefore deductible. [Via GLAD]
In 2002, Rhiannon O’Donnabhain deducted the costs of her hormones, genital surgery and breast augmentation from her federal taxes. The IRS said no in 2005, and she took the case to tax court in 2007. Earlier this week, the court ruled 6-4 in her favour – mostly. They didn’t allow her to deduct her breast augmentation because the evidence apparently showed that her breasts had developed as a result of hormone therapy. (Which might suggest that, if she hadn’t had breast development from hormones, then the breast augmentation deduction might actually have been allowed).
The ruling is available to download here (direct link to PDF, 139pp) and perhaps one of the most interesting parts is in footnote 2 on p63, where the court appears to open the door to the possibility of deducting the costs of FFS from federal taxes:
Respondent also argues that the various surgical procedures petitioner underwent to feminize her facial features in 2000 and 2005 demonstrate a propensity for cosmetic surgery that is relevant in assessing whether petitioner’s hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery were undertaken for the purpose of improving petitioner’s appearance rather than treating a disease.
We disagree. The deductibility of petitioner’s facial surgery, undertaken in years other than the year in issue, is not at issue in this case. However, there is substantial evidence that such surgery may have served the same therapeutic purposes as (genital) sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy; namely, effecting a female appearance in a genetic male. Both Ms. Ellaborn and Dr. Meltzer testified that petitioner had masculine facial features which interfered with her passing as female. The expert testimony confirmed that passing as female is important to the mental health of a male GID sufferer, and the Benjamin standards contemplate surgery to feminize facial features as part of sex reassignment for a male GID sufferer. Thus, we conclude that the facial surgery does not suggest, as respondent contends, that petitioner had a propensity for conventional cosmetic surgery.
Crossposted at Bird of Paradox
You may remember Sass Rogando Sasot’s moving speech at the UN, “Reclaiming the lucidity of our hearts”, which I linked to here in December last year. She’s now forwarded the following email with approval to repost, which I do.
It’s a more extreme (but not uncommon) illustration of what Sass calls one of the 21st century dilemmas faced by many transsexual people the world over; that of the chasm that too often exists between our real lives and our legal documentation, and the impact this discrepancy can, and does, have on us.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that the situation was only addressed here in Britain six years ago with the passing into law of the Gender Recognition Act – and even then, the process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate is not the simple process that some people seem to think it is. Before 2004, in the eyes of the law, transsexual people in Britain simply did not exist. The character Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist may well have had a point when he said “the law is a [sic] ass — a idiot”; unfortunately it’s an ass with a powerful kick.
“You cannot renew your passport as you can’t have dual identity,” said a staff of the Philippine Embassy in Berlin to Jenny T. Ramsey. Jenny didn’t do anything illegal. She’s not pretending to be somebody else, deceptively living two lives. She just epitomizes two of the inconveniences of being a human of transsexual experience: 1) Having a legal sex that doesn’t match one’s actual, lived, and to be a bit scientific about it, neurological sex; and 2) Having a legal name that doesn’t match one’s actual, everyday name. But Jenny’s case is in an entirely different level. And I reckon that, given that there are just very few countries in the world that legally affirms the gender identity of transsexual people, this is one of the 21st century dilemmas of transsexual people: Jenny currently has two legal sexes and two legal names from two different countries.
Jenny is one of the four original founders of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines. Sometime in 2003, Jenny went to Germany to study; she lived in Erfurt with her German partner. In 2006, Jenny decided to undergo sex reassignment surgery in Thailand. During this time, transsexual people (at least, post-op transsexual women) have successfully petitioned local courts in the Philippines to legally change their sex and name. One of them even got married in a civil wedding in the Philippines. But unfortunately, in October 2007, the Supreme Court of the Philippines rendered a decision that this can no longer be done unless Philippines Congress passes a law that would allow such changes. This was known as the Mely Silverio Decision.
Because of the Silverio Decision, Jenny decided to file a petition to change her name and sex from male to female in a German court. She was represented by a top-notch lawyer in Germany. On 23 July 2008, Amskerich Ehrfurt granted Jenny’s petition. It was a groundbreaking case in Germany as Jenny was, as far as we know, the first non-German citizen to be able to change her legal sex and name in Germany. Sometime last year, another Filipino was able to change his legal sex and name in Germany, this time from female to male.
After more than five years of being together, on 2 April 2009, Jenny and her German boyfriend married. Afterwards, Jenny was granted a temporary residence permit with her female name on it. Then Jenny inquired with Ausländer Behorde (German immigration) about what would happen when she travels abroad: Would she use her Philippine passport, hence would travel as “male”? The immigration officers discussed this among themselves and provided this solution: They issued Jenny a Reiseausweis für Ausländer (Travel document for foreigners) bearing her female sex and name. According to www.duesseldorf.de, this passport is a temporary passport and is only issued in very exceptional cases.
On 28 January 2010, Jenny went to the Philippine Embassy in Berlin to renew her Philippine passport. To make sure that Jenny is not illegally staying in Germany, they asked her to show her visa. Jenny showed her temporary residence permit and Reiseausweis für Ausländer. The discrepancy between Jenny’s identity in her Philippine-issued documents and German-issued ones led to the confiscation of Jenny’s passport (though they told her that they are just getting it for “safekeeping”). They said they will raise this issue with the Department of Foreign Affairs of Manila (DFA) and wait for a decision. Given that it’s national election season in the Philippines, this will mean Jenny has to wait.
When in Rome, do what the Romans do – but which Rome?
But wait for what? What could be the possible decision of DFA? I can think of two possible scenarios: 1) DFA honors the change of legal sex and name of Jenny and issue her a Philippine passport bearing a female sex and name. Or 2) DFA doesn’t recognize the decision of the German court and issue Jenny a Philippine passport bearing a male sex and name. Because of the Silverio Decision, Scenario 2 is more probable to happen than Scenario 1. If Scenario 2 happened, I would like to ask the DFA a glaring WHY?
In July 2009, 67 Filipinos were arrested in Saudi Arabia for crossdressing. In reaction to this, Silvestro Bello, a cabinet secretary and top aide of the Philippine president, pulled the when-Rome-do-what-the-Romans-do card and was quoted saying, “When [Filipinos] enter their host country, they should know the culture of their host country.” Crossdressing is a crime in Saudi Arabia. The 67 Filipinos were sentenced to imprisonment and flogging but were pardoned and released.
Now, why am I bringing this up? Pardon my legal ignorance but it seems to me that the Philippines is more bent on honoring and respecting a ridiculous, dehumanizing law, such as the anti-crossdressing law of Arab countries than honoring and respecting a life-affirming legal procedure such as the legal change of sex and name that was granted to Jenny by a German Court.
Yes: It’s such a shame that it’s not Jenny’s mother country that has showed care, compassion, and consideration to her humanity. Well, this just proves that no matter how familiar a place is to you, sometimes it just don’t feel like home. Jenny now considers Germany as her home now as this is the country where she can live her real life, socially and legally. And to the Philippine Embassy in Berlin: It’s not Jenny’s fault that she currently has a dual identity: It’s the fault of the Philippine government as it refuses to recognize and affirm transsexual people’s reality.
During our phone conversation, Jenny and I were musing about what is her legal status now, given that her Philippine passport was confiscated (okay – was kept for “safekeeping”). She’s not yet a German citizen. The Philippine embassy won’t yet issue her a new passport as they don’t want her to have a dual identity. Is she currently a stateless person? A refugee? A possible asylum seeker? We don’t know. All we know is Jenny is willing to renounce her Philippine citizenship anytime.
After all, who needs a citizenship that doesn’t legally affirm your reality?
Curtsey to the TGEU listserv for the heads-up
Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox
This post has been crossposted to my own blog here. It’s a little more general in regards to oppression than I normally write, but in the face of the recent failures of mainstream feminism and their fallback to “omg I didn’t intend to hurt the transgender and transsexual people!” it is entirely relevant to us.
Warning: This post is sarcastic to such a point as you may actually slip in the pools of sarcasm that are dripping off of it. Please walk carefully. The caution cones are there for your protection. Also, we totally didn’t intend for you to slip so we’re not responsible if you do.
Today, someone said a slur. It actually doesn’t matter what slur it was, because you see, he didn’t intend to hurt anyone and therefore it couldn’t possibly be a slur. Much like how intent magically protects the actions of all privileged fuckjobs, intent means that anything you say, no matter how many groups it hurts, what awful views it enables, no matter what systemic bigotries it props up through the usage of language that enforces social concepts that crush a marginalized group, it mystically negates all of that.
So if you out a trans woman? Your uncanny intent wraps around her and protects her from murder, harassment, degendering and objectification by the people you just outed her to! If you say something ableist, you’re not actually contributing to the system that demeans PWD because your intent will gird your words with alchemical shields, made of eldritch power themselves, that prevent the words from creating and furthering social associations between disability and being bad, wrong, broken or unwanted! I know? Isn’t it grand? I love magic!
See, the great thing about this thaumaturgy is that it protects anything a privileged asshole says! So it fits in line completely with that glorious sense of entitlement that privilege tends to confer, basically, the idea that you can say anything you want and should never have accountability for what you say! Because you see, all privileged people have this ancient eldritch power called “Intent”. In fact, intent is one of the primary elements of the world (see figure 1). Like fire, water, wood, metal, air and earth, Intent helps make up an important part of the very existence of the universe. So when you invoke its ancient might, its tendrils of ephemeral power shift in the very fabric of the ‘verse, creating a magic so powerful that you can manipulate thousands upon thousands of threads of fate, just to protect the person you just said or did something supremely privileged and horrible to.
So say, if you make a bunch of racist jokes, instead of contributing to the systemic oppression of POC, the bewitching might of Intent (I’m capitalizing the I now, to give it proper respect as a primary element) spreads out, blocking every single person from fully hearing the awful racist shit you just said, further preventing them from internalizing it and using it to justify actions. It also prevents it from creating an environment where racist behavior is seen as more acceptable, by twisting the very threads of fate there as well! And, the best part? If you say it in earshot of someone who’s offended or hurt by it, the occult powers of Intent change everything! Now, instead of hearing a hurtful slur or sentiment that reminds of past abuses at the hands of privileged fuckjobs, the marginalized person in question only hears the beautiful natural sound of birds chirping. Or whale noises! Because you see, Intent is just that powerful. It literally keeps anyone from getting hurt by your fuckery!
But you see, it goes further than that.
Intent is so unbelievably epic that it doesn’t just cover slurs. No, it covers actions as well! Because you see, the very threads of fate are not immune to this otherworldly flow of what you meant to do or say. So if you kick a trans woman out of a homeless shelter into the cold because she didn’t fit your views of what a woman should be and she didn’t want to be put in with the menz (where she faces a risk of rape and murder for her, or at least harassment), your Intent literally changes the tapestry of fate so that instead of freezing to death in the cold, she actually is heated by an unexpected fire, lit by a lightning strike from clear skies, onto a pile of garbage that can’t spread the fire to anything else, right next to where she just happened to fall in exhaustion! I know! Isn’t it awesome?!
Intent is a power that you only have if you believe in it. Because so many marginalized people don’t believe in the power of intent when it comes to their/our marginalizations, few of us are able to call on its supernatural strength. Some rare marginalized folk are able to, but only in given situations and generally only in relation to themselves.
But you see, it isn’t even limited to the fuckery of kyriarchy, self applied -ism and/or privilege. It works everywhere else too! Made a really bad business deal that bankrupted your new business but didn’t intend to screw that up? Intent will magically negate the effects of the business deal on your finances! Drove during a foggy night while drunk as fuck and accidentally ran down a college student with your car going at high enough speeds to instantly kill him? Intent’s eldritch power will restart his heart and heal his wounds! Intent has the ability to change everything and anything you do and say to match your intent. That is simply how strong it is as one of the primary elements of the universe. It’s why we’re so darn unreasonable for being mad at the fuckery of privileged assholes, or for even calling them assholes. They didn’t intend to hurt anyone! They didn’t intend to do anything bad! And clearly, due to that Intent, to that thaumaturgic sorcery that spills forth from the mindset of the asshole who claims its power, any harm or bad shit they caused is magically negated!
Because you see, Intent is the ultimate alchemy. It doesn’t change lead to gold, it changes harmful, negative or damaging actions into happy, fun, “everyone hugs and no one is oppressed”, magical unicorn actions. It dips its eerie powers into the pools of time and space and counters each and every ripple of fuckery and pain created by the actions of an unthinking douchebag who was too privileged or self absorbed to see that their actions were a problem.
Isn’t that magical? I sure think so.