Tonight, the Sundance Channel will begin airing Transgeneration, a series that aims to reveal, demystify and explain the world of transgender folks by televising the lives of “four college students switching more than their majors.” One of the students is Raci – a self-described poor, Filipino, deaf transsexual, who…well…clearly has a lot of issues to address in her life.
But addressing issues is what college is all about, I suppose.
Let’s take, for instance, the Free to Be organization at the University of Vermont. Free to Be is the student organization dedicated to advancing issues relevant to the GLBTQI community. And just in case you don’t know – GLBTQI stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersexed. Yup...gay ain’t gay, honey – it’s GLBTQI.
Anyway -- Free to Be is conducting the Translating Identity Conference, which is “directed towards trans people and others...who are fairly unfamiliar with the transgender movement and the topic of gender identity.”
Now that sounds all very academic and well-intentioned and stuff, doesn’t it? I clicked around the site and found this little tid-bit in their conference notes, which, well...read for yourself:
There will be a no-scent policy in effect at the conference... Please think carefully about all the products you use and avoid using scented products before and during the conference. Scented products can include shampoo, soap, hair gel, hair spray, perfume/scented oils, skin lotion, shaving cream, makeup etc.Can someone please tell me how a transgender conference can be a transgender conference without some MAC Cosmetics and Helene Curtis?
I guess in Vermont you’re only free to be a soap-dodging, overly-academic, allergic-to-everything, arm-pit-funk advocating transgender person.
I wondered if things were better for our transgender friends on a nationwide scale, so I looked to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – which provides some suggestions of how “to be inclusive and improve the quality of life for Trans people” at their annual Creating Change Conference:
-- Please do not assume anyone’s gender, even people you may have met in the past.So...if I extrapolate all this information, it seems to me that:
-- A person’s external appearance may not match their internal gender identity.
-- You cannot know the gender or sex of someone by their physical body, voice, appearance or mannerisms. It is best to ask, “What pronoun do you prefer?” or “How do you identify?” before using pronouns or gendered words for anyone.
-- In group situations where you don’t have an opportunity to ask someone what words they prefer, try using gender-neutral phrases like “the person in the red shirt,” instead of “that woman or man.”
-- One way of acknowledging Trans people’s needs is to designate restrooms gender neutral. In bathrooms, many Trans people face harassment that can lead to anything from deep discomfort to arrest or death. Regardless of what bathroom you are in, please let everyone pee in peace. Each of us can decide for ourselves in which bathroom we belong.
Transgender equality is based on removing:
And then you add:
-Gender-free pronoun usage
Sprinkled in with challenging:
-Assumptions based on clothing and appearance
Then what kind of transformation are we really talking about? I don’t think we’re talking about someone born with a penis wanting to have it removed...I think it’s more than that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making this world a better place for poor, Filipino, deaf transsexual college students, but is telling people to eschew Aveda and jettison gendered pronouns the real way to create a dialogue or create change?
If we’re supposed to abandon any and all of the above signifiers of gender – then what are folks transitioning to and from in the first place?
Is this goal of the GLBTQI movement really based on allowing folks to “pee in peace” or have we become a movement more focused on sanitizing culture, language and creating a gender-less, automaton-like experience for everyone?
Fundamentally, I’m left wondering how have we gone from being a movement that began with a group of pissed-off trannies and butch dykes kicking some cops’ asses at Stonewall to becoming a politically-correct, gender-free, bowel movement in a scentless bathroom stall where you’re only free to be someone else’s notion of who you should be?
And how, I must ask, is that any different from the current state of affairs?
I dunno about you – but gimme some old fashioned trannies and bull daggas who don’t take shit from anybody. That’s a cultural revolution, honey!
The folks who started the gay movement may have a difficult time finding their way in academia, in the world of politics or on the Sundance Channel on Tuesdays – but they’re welcome in my world any damn day of the week!
-- posted by: The Phoenix on September 20, 2005 05:51 PM