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That Landmark Congressional Hearing.

Well, Congress heard from the transgender community directly for the first time ever this week. If you missed it on C-SPAN (I did), Donna Rose has audio of the hearings here. If you’d prefer to read it, NTCE has transcripts here.

It’s all food for thought. Enjoy.

Review: “My Secret Female Body” on BBC America

Having reviewed “Transvestite Wives” earlier, I felt it was only fair to give a similar treatment to “My Secret Female Body”, another in the ‘Reveals’ series that premiered on BBC America on June 22, 2008.

This documentary focused on a twenty two year old transman, Danny. From the BBC America web site:

Born as Katie, Danny has been living as a man for four years and has had male hormone injections every two weeks for a year. Now, at 22, Danny undergoes a dramatic surgical transformation, which physically changes his body from female to male. This documentary sees Danny embark on the first stage of this irreversible procedure – a double mastectomy, followed by complicated penis surgery.

Like “Transvestite Wives”, Danny has an amazingly supportive girlfriend who loves him in his pre-op body, and is fully behind him in his decision to undergo SRS. We also get to hear from Danny’s mother (“I had a wonderful daughter, and now I have a wonderful and happier son”), sister and best friend who talk frankly about their initial misgivings and current acceptance. There’s very little discussion of social intolerance – just a couple of anecdotes about altercations “down the pub”.

Much of the focus is on the physical transformation. We see Danny’s doctor administering his testosterone shot, and discussing the bodily changes these have already brought about. We’re also there for Danny’s first consultation with the plastic surgeon who will be doing his top surgery. A note to sensitive viewers – although BBC America did blur out some visuals, probably to bring the show into line with American censorship guidelines, there’s still plenty of detail to the scenes in the operating theater and the descriptions used by the doctor made me squirm just a little.

When the surgical results are not as perfect as they could have been, the viewer is spared none of Danny’s anguish and emotional turmoil. At the end of the hour, we are left with the impression that there is no fairytale ending for Danny and his girlfriend – and yet Danny’s life is clearly a happier one even though he faces more procedures in the future. Just from watching his face as he listens to his friend discuss how his new phallus was fashioned from forearm grafts, we can tell what’s on the horizon for Danny…

This documentary is highly recommended for any FtM pre-op transsexual who is considering the next step. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything, but still manages to convery a message of hope.

For those of you with access to BBC America, this will be shown again as follows:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 1:00 AM
Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 5:00 PM

“Transvestite Wives” will also be shown again on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM, if you missed it the first time around.

New transgender policy at New York juvenile jails

Associated Press article, via the Tucson Citizen:

Transgender youth in New York’s juvenile detention centers are now allowed to wear whatever uniform they choose, be called by whatever name they want and ask for special housing under a new anti-discrimination policy drawing praise from advocacy groups.

Transgender youth are provided private sleeping quarters and are allowed to shower privately. They are also allowed to shave body parts, use makeup or grow their hair long.

The policy directs staff to learn and use the words gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in an appropriate context when talking with youth.

While all residents may ask to be called by a preferred first name rather than their legal one, the policy says males who believe they are female must be called “she” and females who believe they are male must be referred to as “he.” Staff must use the preferred name and pronoun in any documents they file.

Read the full article here.

I think that’s pretty amazing. I just hope the implementation of the policy goes smoothly.

Edited to add: The Daily News article found here presents the same story in a much more negative fashion. I guess that’s inevitable, given the state of society today.

I told the boss!

Hi all,

Today, I told my boss that I have Gender Identity Disorder.  It was kinda scary, but I needed to do it sooner or later, and the right opportunity came up.  I had a laser treatment on Monday and I think the doctor used a bit too much power.  My face and neck has big blochy spots on it and a couple of places blistered a bit.  Anyway, he asked me what happened to my face and I told him “this is what happens when the doctor uses a bit too much power on the laser”  “Laser?  What’s the laser for?” he asked.  I said “facial hair removal, I’m having all my facial hair removed.”  We went on to discuss the service calls for tomorrow and I was thinking, “you dummy, it’s the perfect time to tell him!”, so I went into his office and sat down and proceded to tell him about my GID.  He asked me a few simple questions and I gave him basic answers, no sense in complicating it at this point.  I told him that I hoped this wouldn’t affect my job because I like the job.   He said that he didn’t have a problem with it, he likes the work I do for him.  So, we’ll see how the summer goes now that he’s aware of this aspect of me.  It’s one thing for him to know what’s going on, it’s another thing to see it developing.  I’m hoping that by taking it slow, they’ll be more accepting of me as things change.

Amber

Writer’s Block: Gender Bender

Livejournal has a feature which I’ve never used – a daily question with which to inspire posts in those who lack anything else to write about. It’s a bit hokey, but today’s question caught my eye:

Do you ever want to be of the opposite sex? If so, what attracts you to the idea? If not, what repels you?

Read the responses here – it’s interesting what aspects are the most important in the minds of those who have never considered the question before.

Anyone and Everyone

I am sitting here in tears having just finished watching one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. It’s called Anyone and Everyone. It’s the story of a variety of families – Jewish, Catholic and Mormon; white, black, Hispanic and Asian – and how the parents came to understand and support their lesbian and gay daughters and sons, despite the teachings of their churches, despite all they had been told about homosexuality being a choice, despite their own bigotry and prejudice. I have to admit that I’m sucker for love stories and this is the best type of love story – one where love triumphs over all obstacles, the greatest of which are the barriers we create in our own hearts that keep us separate from each other and separate from the truth that we all are divine beings created out of love and created to share that love with others. I suppose that’s what I find hardest about those who seek to attack and shame lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into denying themselves and returning to the closet. I simply don’t understand how people can hate when it is so very painful for me to experience being judged and rejected by others and for me to do the same to others, knowing the awful pain that it causes.

I don’t know how many people will understand any of this or really care, but it’s what I believe and why I do the things I do to spread love in this world and help other people to find peace with who they are and whatever circumstances life brings them. Tonight, I feel sad and lonely, and so I reach out to you because I need your love and want to do all I can to make sure that none of us has to go through these times – the good and the bad – alone.

Blessings,
Abby

P.S. You can watch the trailer and find out about show times in your area, how to purchase copies and the story behind the film by clicking on either of the links above.

Soulforce, Willow Creek, and Me – by Julie Nemecek

Evangelical Christians have to be one of the mainline groups in America who frequently show their disapproval of any lifestyle or marriage other than that of being between one man and one woman.  I happened to read an article yesterday about a group of Gay and Trans Christians who are trying to build bridges into the Evangelical Christian community.  Perhaps reaching BACK and extending the hand of love towards Christians is a good idea.  I guess you won’t know until you try.  As long as they don’t break out with the stakes and gasoline.

The following commentary was reprinted with permission by Julie Nemecek, the founder of Julie Nemecek Consulting, a full-service consulting firm specializing in diversity consulting, training, and advocacy.     You can learn more about her from her main blog at http://julienemecek.blogspot.com/ and her web site at http://julienemecek.com .

Soulforce, Willow Creek, and Me

(or why I drove 500 miles this weekend)

This weekend Joanne and I were in Chicago as part of a Soulforce action group. The American Family Outing (see http://soulforce.org/ ) was conceived as the beginnings of a movement to increase the understanding and dialogue between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Christians and the evangelical church. Six key churches were selected for visits between Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. Once the date for the visit was set letters and phone calls went out in an effort to get a face-to-face meeting with the Soulforce group and the senior pastor and as many staff members as possible. The church that our Soulforce group visited was Willow Creek Church near Chicago.

Willow Creek is a 38-year old mega church with an average weekly attendance of over 22,000. The784,490 square foot building is beautifully sited on a 155 acre site, including a 5-acre lake that is used for some baptisms. (Winter baptisms happen in a large, glass, hover-craft baptismal platform that floats on air as it is moved out to the platform.) The church has 350 full-time employees, 150 part-time staffers, and 12,500 regularly serving volunteers. Their weekly budget is $550,000.

On Saturday our group met at a community center in the Boystown area of Chicago (just north of Wrigley Field). Our 29 members included two sets of parents with their adult gay sons and one set of parents who lost their daughter to suicide (as told in the award-winning documentary For the Bible Tells Me So). There was a gay couple with their three kids, a lesbian couple with their son, and a lesbian couple with their service dog, Riley. There was a straight ally (the son of evangelists Jim and Tammy Baker), a number of gay or lesbian couples and us . . . the transgender couple. There were five ordained ministers in the group, 2 PhDs and a mix of ages and sexes. Two couples have June 17th weddings planned!

We reviewed the non- violent, reconciliation principles of Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr, that define Soulforce’s approach. We shared our own stories and heard from former members of Willow Creek Church. We watched a 2006 teaching session by one of Willow Creek’s pastors. The Willow Creek teaching session was filled with much misinformation and false teaching. It helped us focus on our goals for the next day.

There was a gentle, wounded, but positive spirit among this group of Christians that came from all over the country to be together for this weekend. We clearly sensed the presence of Christ in our midst as we prayed together and heard more about each others’ faith journeys. Our four hours together helped make this diverse group a people a cohesive Body of Christ.

On Sunday we arrived at Willow Creek at 10 AM for a tour (at Willow Creek’s invitation). There were some non-Willow Creek protestors near the campus entrance proclaiming their “Christian” certainty of our destination in hell. Most of the group had a white top and we all wore name tags indentifying us as part of the American Family Outing. With the white shirts; nametags; presence of our mascot, Riley; and loving couples holding hands as we walked, we turned a few heads as we toured the massive, high-tech, church village.

At 11:15 AM we were ushered to reserved seats near the center front of the mezzanine section. The rock-star like stage had a 17-member worship team that led us into a meaningful time of worship. They had a VERY adequate sound system. The speaker for the day was a guest mega church pastor from Cincinnati. He had a powerful message about the importance of serving others as a way of expressing Jesus’ love. We wondered if this including LGBT “others” as well. The guest pastor referred to Willow Creek as “the most influential church in America” in part because of their regional churches and the many churches that are part of the Willow Creek Association.

After the service we were led to a private meeting room where we ate together (wonderful boxed lunches provided by the church) and talked casually around tables arranged in one large, open-in-the-middle, rectangle. There were 29 of us allowed at that meeting and 5 people from Willow Creek including their founding (and current) pastor, Bill Hybels.

Both sides shared their issues and concerns in a very gracious dialogue. The Willow Creek staff seemed genuinely taken back that our emphasis was on committed, monogamous, loving relationships and families . . . not sex. One of our group members said, “We’re just like everyone else; too busy with our lives to have much time for sex!” Pastor Hybels also responded in disbelief on hearing that many gay and lesbian Christians are being told to marry heterosexually if they expect to be part of a church. One of team members is a survivor of “ex-gay” therapy. He went through $35,000 of therapy – including electroshock treatments – before he came to reject this hateful treatment and accept the truth at God made him as he is and the problems people had with this were their problems and not his. He now works with thousands of others who suffered ineffective – often harmful – indignations because they wanted to be welcome in unwelcoming churches.

For our part, we were surprised and pleased that Willow Creek’s own 30-year study of homosexuality has led them to conclude that: (1) Sexual orientation is unchangeable. and (2) Sexual orientation should not keep someone from being received into their church. They acknowledged that 6 of the 7 verses used to condemn homosexuality are irrelevant; really referring to other things. Unfortunately, they still felt that one Genesis text supported their position that gay and lesbian members must commit to celibacy to become members. We told them how this perspective has caused many in their congregation, because of their love for Willow Creek, to live lives of deception and secrecy in order to be accepted and still enjoy sexual expression in their committed relationships.

As we looked for action steps at the end of over 2-hour meeting, we agreed to continue the dialogue. Bill Hybels also indicated that their church will continue to study to subject and that he would begin to speak out against the misinformation that some Christian groups publish. We then, stood, held hands, and prayed together.

Please pray that God will use these visits for His glory and the healing of the Body of Christ.

Blessings,
Julie

New England Transgender Pride March: Thoughts from a straight ally

I discovered this thought-provoking blog post from Jendi Reiter:

The first-ever New England Transgender Pride March took place this weekend in Northampton, and I was there with my “Episcopal Church Welcomes You” rainbow tank top and a digital camera to capture the pageantry. I was hoping to blend into the MassEquality contingent, but they were scattered around other groups this time, so I just milled around looking like I knew what I was doing, and took lots of pictures. Next thing I knew, someone had handed me a bunch of purple and white balloons, and I was marching behind the lead banner, shouting “Trans Pride Now”.

Go read the whole thing! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

Trans and Proud

Beginning in the fall of 2006, as I began to plan for my transition and think about what the future as Abby would be like, I always felt fear when I thought of those moments in public when people would realize that I am transgender or transsexual (I used both terms depending on the situation). I felt that same fear when I went out in public as Abby, watching carefully for disapproving glances and listening for rude remarks everywhere I went. As time passed and I didn’t see those glances or hear those remarks, I began to believe that I could live in this world as Abby without “being detected,” in other words, I thought I could “pass” without notice. As that belief grew, I became more and more confident in myself and more and more comfortable with my decision to transition. When I finally transitioned, my fear of being “clocked” as transgender was as great as ever, but, based on my experience, I believed that the risks of that actually happening were tiny, if not nonexistent. Without that belief and the concomitant belief that I could escape the shaming, harassment and even violence that is often the experience of my trans sisters and brothers, I doubt I would have transitioned.

A very curious thing has happened since then, however. Beginning only two or three months after my transition (on May 14, 2007), I began to realize that I am proud of who I am and of the many challenges and the tremendous pain that I overcame to learn the truth about myself and have the courage to live that truth as I do today. Today, I don’t bring up the fact that I am trans with most people. However, when it’s relevant or the moment can be used to teach about trans people, especially that we’re not freaks or perverts but people not so different than most, simply striving to live in peace and with a modicum of happiness, I am willing, and I do, tell people about my past. Yes, I still feel a tinge of fear each time I tell someone for the first time but I have never yet allowed that fear to stop me from revealing the truth of who I am, and I hope I never do. Considering the fear with which I began this journey, I am constantly amazed at the comfort that I feel with the knowledge that I am trans and my willingness to share that information with others whenever and wherever it might help to create greater understanding and acceptance of trans people.

For example, a few weeks ago, I had lunch with a woman friend from my Course in Miracles study group. I have never discussed being trans in that group (they’re nearly all women) because it has never seemed necessary or appropriate. However, based on a few things this friend had said to me in private, I was confident she would be comfortable with that information. How did I know? Well, when I first told her that I was applying for a job in Washington, D.C. with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, after congratulating and encouraging me, she asked if I had seen an article that had just run in the NY Times the previous week about trans men attending women-only colleges. Given that she, not I, brought up the topic of trans people, and given her other comments about that article, not only did I conclude that she would probably be open to the information that I am trans, I also assumed that she had already figured it out and was trying to communicate her knowledge to me in some kind of “code.” So, a few weeks later, we decided to go to lunch. I went with the intention of telling her about myself and even believing that things transgender were likely to be a major part of our conversation. As it turned out, however, although we talked about many things, including my job application, an appropriate opening to bring up that topic didn’t appear until we had talked for more than an hour. For reasons that I no longer recall, I began telling her that, back in the 1970’s, after graduating from college, I had worked on a “hotshot” crew fighting forest fires and even, for one summer, as a smokejumper (those are those crazy guys – back then they were all guys – who jump out of perfectly good airplanes to fight forest fires). She responded that I must have been one of the first women to do that. Recognizing this opportunity for what it was, I told her, “Well, actually, I wasn’t a woman at the time.” After looks of surprise and then understanding crossed her face, I added that I am a male-to-female transsexual. The rest of our conversation was about being trans, what it means and what my experience has been like. (As it turned out, contrary to what I thought, she hadn’t figured out that I am trans, although she had had some suspicions.) At the end of our conversation, she simply congratulated me for finding a way to peace in my life and praised me for my courage in following my truth, which, at least among women, is the typical response of those who learn about my past. (During our conversation, I told her about the challenge that transgender children face and about Trans Youth Family Allies and my friend Kim Pearson, TYFA’s Executive Director, one of the best friends that transgender children in the U.S. have. Not too long after, my friend talked to Kim and is now volunteering for them. Now, that’s the kind of happy ending I like!)

All of this is simply a lead-in to quote a blog post by my friend Callie about being trans and proud. Yesterday, she wrote about her struggle to find a way to attend this weekend’s Trans Pride March in Northampton, Massachusetts and be “present at the event, present in a visible and potent way,” given her obligations to care for her parents with whom she lives as their son. As she wrote, she discovered the message that she would have carried there if she had gone: “that pride is pride, lifting us when we actually embody our best possibilities, which, I hope, is the goal of the transgender quest.” Today, she wrote the words she would have spoken at the March if she had gone and been asked to speak about the experience of being trans, as she has many times before. Here is part of what she wrote:

We are not gathered to say that we are proud to be trans. Our being trans is an accident of birth, just another way some people are born.

No, we are gathered here to say that we are trans and we are proud. And in a society that works hard to shame non-normative people into silence, that is a remarkable thing to say. We have taken the shaming and the ostracism, taken the threats and the fear, taken the abuse and the separation, taken the pounding that tried to keep us down, taken the brickbats and the bombs, and we have emerged. We have emerged alive, we have emerged thriving, we have emerged proud.

And who are we not to be proud? Are we not children of the creator as much as any other human on earth? Do we not have the possibility of wonder written into our souls? Do we not have the spark of life burning in us?

Many people still tell us that we should be ashamed, ashamed of who we are, ashamed of our choices, ashamed of our very nature. They tell us that by being visible we can corrupt their children, make the world safer for sexual predators, offend those who value fear and obedience to the norms over expression. They tell us that we are indulgent and challenging, and we should be very ashamed of who we are.

But we gather here together to say this, to share this: It is possible to be trans and proud. And, in fact, any trans person who has created a whole, integrated and healthy expression in the face of such shaming, has a great deal to be proud of, transcending the internalized self-loathing to come out into the sunlight of such a bright June day!

* * *

We are proud of the transpeople who are out today, showing themselves as valuable members of society, just doing the everyday work. They challenge the lessons that all transpeople are sick and broken, and show that we can be as potent as any human when we come from our own gifts.

* * *

We are proud of the history people like us wrote, and proud of the future that we can imagine, where kids can actually be who they are, bringing out the best of them without being shackled by compulsory gender that puts genital configuration over the power of their open heart.

We are here today saying that yes, yes, yes, it is possible to be trans and to be proud.

And that is a message that there is no going back from. It is a message that all need to hear.

And it is a message we need to carry in our heart every day.

It is possible to be trans and to be proud.

All I can say to that is “hear, hear!” And thank you, Callie, for these words and for reminding me today that I am proud of who I am.

A recent study that we all should read!

I found the link to this study along with a copy of the paper at Transgendernews, a yahoo group. Here’s the link.

http://www.intersexualite.org/Zucker_boys.html

I think you’ll find it quite enlightning about Zucker’s real agenda, but you should read it and make up your own mind.

Amber