Author Archives: sarahelizabethhughes

Dress Rules Established for Transsexuals in the Military

In the same vein as previous blog topics regarding gays and lesbians in the military and the discrimination that they face with the DADT policy, I felt like this article regarding transsexuals dress code in the military is similar in the sense that the military is once again attempting to conceal LGBTQ people that have enrolled.

Written by Tom Blackwell for the National Post the article reports how Canadian Forces have issues a new policy detailing how the organization should accommodate transsexual and transvestite troops.  The CF military administration manual states that soldiers, sailors and air force personnel have the right to privacy and respect if they change their sex or sexual identity, but they must conform to the dress code of what of what the CF calls their “target gender.” Cherie Macleod who is the executive director of PLFAG Canada said that she has helped a number of Canadian Forces members undergo sex changes, and surgeries that now the Canadian military funds.

A quote from MacLeod states, “This is an important step towards recognizing a community that has always struggled for equal rights and basic human protection. When the government becomes more inclusive, over time, society will follow.”

Not everyone in the Forces is as happy as MacLeod and disliked what they read in their emails last week. Scott Taylor a publisher of Esprit de Corps military magazine beliefs that headquarters staff are out of touch and resent what they consider “politically correct” policies.

“You couldn’t get much worse timing on that internally” says Taylor. “It’s so removed from what the guys are facing over in Afghanistan…that doesn’t really relate to the dress codes of the transgendered.”

The National Defense Department helps one or two of it’s troops go through sex changes a year, drafted a report in response to questions from administrative staff.

Rana Sioufi a department spokeswoman said:

“The Canadian Forces is unique in that it must recruit, house, clothe, train and deploy it’s members. This requires clear direction and standardized instructions to deal with individuals who may not fall into the generally accepted gender categories.”

 

The new chapter in the National Defense manual defines a transsexual as someone who a psychological need to live as a member of the opposite sex, whether they’ve undergone sex-change surgery or not. The chapter goes on to say that a transsexual service person must comply with the dress code and standards of deportment of that gender to which he/she is changing.

BUT in fine print the chapter also says that the Canadian Forces will NOT change the name of a transsexual person who receives any medal or award because “there is no legal authority for rewriting history.”

Cpl Natalie Murray who is a IT technician in the Canadian Forces who recently transitioned told CBC Radio show that many of her colleagues were supportive but her superiors attempted to push her out of the army.

“They try to turn things around and invent an excuse so that they can get rid of you, and they almost succeeded, but fortunately cooler heads way up high prevailed.”

Writer’s Comments:

Although it seems like the Canadian forces are being progressive in not only funding sex change surgeries and procedures, but allowing trans people in the military to dress as a opposite sex that positive progressiveness seems overshadowed by the fact that they refuse to acknowledge name changes on official awards. I get the feeling that the military is trying to appear on the outside as doing good, but if anyone were to look back on a successful victory by the Candia Forces in a historical text they would see a name like John Jones, when in reality it was Jane Jones, a self proclaimed transsexual who abided by all the dress code rules and regulations associated with a woman in the military.  I will think the military is being progressive when they choose to be affiliated with those types of descriptions in history books.

 

 

Violence Against Venezuelan Trans Women

Recently we have been discussing the concepts of globalization of trans individuals, and how they take on roles in other countries in which those women have dispersed and implemented themselves into the working world. We discussed a book, which I had the pleasure of reading over Thanksgiving Break called Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. This book describes a concept in which they define as female migration “making up the difference”, how fewer families can rely solely on the male breadwinner, therefore women in the home must seek out work, and migrant woman take their place in the home, or the less fortunate women end up in sex work. The picture of trans individuals in migrant sex work appears to be a common one, and very dangerous. The article I came across describes just how much trans individuals are at risk.

 

In an article by Laura Woodhouse, with the title “Violence against Trans Women in Venezuela and Across the Globe” she goes over a transphobic violence report from Venezuela where over 20 trans people have been murdered in this year alone.

Helen G who runs a similar wordpress blog has documented instances of transphobic hate crimes the following quote is from her Venezuelan research:

“Many attacks against transsexual or transgender people-especially against transsexual prostitutes go unreported. The police aren’t interested in investigating them properly. They just define them as crimes of passion, file them away, and leave it all that.”

Helen furthers her comments upon her research by saying

This is, I’m sorry to say, an all-too-common experience for too many trans women across the world. We are systemically excluded from legal protections, we are demonized, marginalized and invisibilized to the point that for many sex work is the only realistic option to raise the money, not only to pay the rent and grocery bills, but also to pay for the various medical services we need. Although it’s something of a truism that many of us transition, not as a “lifestyle choice” but as a matter of survival, the corollary for too many of us is that it’s a case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire”

This quick article just reminded me of the migration of trans workers that we have seen in the films we have watched. In Paper Dolls we are introduced to a group of trans Philippine individuals who have traveled to Israel to find work, and be in an atmosphere that is more accepting of their lifestyle. The jobs that they are able to secure are homecare of elderly people. Again I was reminded of the book Global Woman and the replacement of women within the home due to the need for more than the male head of the household to be the breadwinner. Caring for the elderly is stereotypically a nurturing, mothering role that these trans migrant workers are filling. Overall it was an interesting and insightful article.

Here are some other links to help with the article:

http://books.google.com/books?

http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/06/violence_agains_4id=PtlZhM2kAXYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Global+Woman&hl=en&ei=_ZD9TPuyFYnInAe1l8TGCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Transgender Teen Denied Homecoming Queen

As our class enters the last full academic week before finals start and we are finished with Fall semester, I started to look back over our readings for the class, specifically the ones that focus on trans individuals or “third gender” people in a historical context. Why I wanted to do this is because there are still discriminatory practices in place when it comes to trans people, and that is so surprising since in our short time together as a class we have managed to educate ourselves about gender variant individuals who have been active members of society long before we were born. A lot of positive light has been shed on trans teens in the news lately, but there are still social setbacks within the community. I managed to find an article that focused on a trans teenager that was discriminated against by her high school officials and classmates.

Last week at a North Dallas High School, Andy Moreno a transgender teen was denied the opportunity to run for homecoming queen.

“I felt like I am being discriminated [against] because I tried running for homecoming queen, and I wasn’t able to because the principal said it wasn’t based on tradition.”

A school administrator had a problem with Moreno running for the homecoming queen position and reported it to the school’s principal Dinnah Escanilla who said that Moreno was a “gay male”, and is obviously uneducated when it comes to the topic of transgender issues.

The high school prides itself on having “one of the most progressive anti discrimination school districts in the state” due to the fact that the school has a extremely strong Gay Straight Alliance Organization that was put in place two years ago. Although the school administration still sides with the principals decision to deny Moreno the chance to run for queen.

Moreno’s desire to run for queen was at first a joke with her best friend Ruby who also is a transgender teen who decided to run for homecoming king. Even though it started off as a joke the campaign started to become serious and after the vote last Monday Ruby was nominated for homecoming king, and Andy was denied.

Queer Liberaction member Elizabeth Pax who got attention from the crowd by yelling into a bullhorn about trans misconceptions visited the rally that took place after school.

“Transgender people are born with the brain of the (gender) they identify as and the body of the other gender…Andy is, in fact, a biological woman. Her brain is the brain of a woman.” –Pax

Although the Principal denied Andy’s decision she has only used this incident to build more strength for the trans community and reduce ignorance.

Moreno’s states “I hope I can be a mentor to people, I encourage people to come up and ask me things. That’s how you eliminate ignorance, is by asking”

The discrimination against trans teens seems to take place not only in southern areas of the United States but also in areas throughout the continent. It’s impressive how this young teen manages to absorb the blatant discriminatory treatment and use it to fuel a campaign to reduce trans ignorance. It appears that if the school officials just took a small amount of time to learn about trans issues, they would be more open to change, just as our class has done by reading documents which show that gender variant people and have been active members of society for quite some time, and that these issues are not new.

To learn more you can check out this link:

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1650249/20101018/story.jhtml

 

 

 

Les Travestis Pleurent Aussi

This clip from the documentary Travestis Pleurent Aussi I feel best exemplifies the tone of the film. The filmmaker Sebastian d’Ayala Valva follows two trans sex workers in Paris. They are  Mia, who chose prostitution over working the land in order to help his* family back home, and Romina, who is working in order to fulfill her dreams and goals, which includes a car, a house, and a loving companion. The film tends to switch back and forth from almost flirtatiousness to loneliness and sadness quite frequently. Both Mia and Romina mention that they enjoy who they are as people at different parts in the film, yet eventually they both admit that they would like to leave sex work, and that it is a lonely occupation. Romina fills her life with a “husband” and a “lover” she also has a small dog that she loves very deeply, her role within her relationships almost mirrors a domestic homemaker, whereas Mia lives a solitary life, until his sister comes to stay who is also a prostitute, and he is more concerned about making money for his family, and being financially sound. He also appears to be somewhat of a matriarchal figure of the sex working group known as the Bois de Boulogne, making sure that each worker is charging the same amount so that every one is equal and makes a decent amount of money.

One of the scenes that struck me the most was during a Pride parade that was taking place in the streets of Paris, and Mia, who had mentioned earlier in the film, only wore makeup and feminine clothing while working, was explaining that he was going to be a main “attraction” of the parade since he has had plastic surgery and has breasts. Many people in the parade (which appear to be white middle class tourists) stop and snap photographs of this masculine figure with breasts, and Mia appears to lap up all the attention, and poses dramatically for the photos. While watching the scene I had the feeling that Mia allowed herself to be objectified by these strangers because she was so lonely and any attention good or bad was comforting. I compared her reactions to Romina’s daily life, and her companions and pet and I believe thats how she combats her loneliness, but that can only fill up a void so much.

The documentary also sheds light on the concept of migration within Europe, since both Mia & Romina travel to Paris from their respected homes in I believe El Salavdor, in order to be in a environment in which their work is more accepted, and where they can make more money. In class we discussed why individuals choose to travel and live in other parts of the country away from their families in order to obtain more work, and more money, and in certain countries money being sent home is the second highest on the list for income among families.

Overall this film was moving, and allowed insight into the lives of trans sex workers and how they are battling between staying within the sex work industry and maintaing everyday lives. The only real issue I had with the film is the fact that the director sets the up the beginning of the film to appear as if the ending is a happy one and in fact he ends on a much more somber note. I understand that he could have done this to emphasize the harshness of the environment in which Mia and Romina work, but it was somewhat misleading. Overall I would recommend this film to anyone interested in learning more about international sex work and the personal lives of sex workers.

*I refer to Mia with both male and female pronouns because in the film Mia states that he/she is both man and woman. Whereas Romina uses female pronouns in regards to herself, and also claims transvestites are the “third sex”.

 

Against Transgender Rights: Understanding the Imperialism of Contemporary Transgender Politics

Summary of Weekly Reading: Against Transgender Rights

by Viviane Namaste

Introduction:

The purpose of Namaste’s essay is to take a position against transgender rights as they are defined, articulated, and defended in current political forms in North America.  Namaste also wants to show how efforts by activists currently attempt to enshrine and protect transgender rights, and they are deeply imbedded in imperialism. The sense of imperialism in this text mean to designate the imposition of a particular world view and concentrated framework across nations, languages and cultures. Namaste’s wants to be clear in the definition of transgender politics as well in the essay, the term encompasses middle class transsexuals, and transgendered people including male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM). The two cases that Namaste attempts to address within the essay are

1. The struggle and effort to gain access to health insurance for transsexuals with legal employment

2. The effort to include transsexuals in human rights anti-discrimination legislation.

Namaste makes a point to state that the essay spends most of its time devoting attention to mainstream forms of political organizing for multiple reasons. Some include the following:

1. Most of the work has taken place in the last decade, more specifically within the last five years.

2. These specific political activists are declared to be successful and celebrated in certain sections of the broader transgender population.

3. These strategies of political action are endorsed as appropriate models for future political work.

Lessons from Feminist History

Namaste focus’s on the struggle for women’s rights specifically in Canada, in this section. She explains that historically suffragists views of non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants were not very openly contemptuous but certain women favored a political program the emphasized assimilation. Which Namaste points out is a form of imperialism achieved through the imposition of language and culture. She goes on to mention that critical feminist historians have helped understand that historically the appeal of women’s rights in Canada is also simultaneously a history of imperialism. Also how the appeal of “rights” concealed the social relations of racism. This theory allows the question of whether a invocation of “transgender rights” is actually liberatory, or whether it is bound within specific social relations of domination despite its rhetoric of justice and equality. This leads to the possible explanation of the current paradox in which although many feminists are supportive of the rights of transgendered people before the law and in regards to access to health care, and even though many are involved as allies in helping protect transsexual and transgendered people there is little reflection or discussion on the appeal to “transgender rights” that is central to their thought and activism. The lack of these two components leads to the questions of whether or not feminists have truly integrated the lessons from critical women’s history in Canada. Namaste concludes that the following section will expose the ways in which current articulations of transgender rights in North American are insidiously linked to imperialism, and how it appears that feminist history is doomed to repeat its mistakes.


Against Transgender Rights Pt 2

Health Care for Employed Transsexuals: a Form of American Economic Imperialism

http://magazine.concordia.ca/2009/fall/features/namaste.shtml

(a link to Concordia university magazine that discusses Viviane Namaste’s research on HIV/AIDS and health care education)

Namaste begins this section with a case study that falls into the category of transgender health care, specifically the inclusion of transsexual and transgender employees of the City and County of San Francisco under the health insurance coverage of these employers. In 2001, the City and County of SF agreed to ensure that transgender medical care is a covered benefit. This was recognized as a important victory and the links to lesbian and gay activism was most apparent. FTM activist James Green states

“Just as we paved the way for domestic partner coverage years ago, the city and the county of San Francisco demonstrates that once again discrimination will not be tolerated”

Green goes on the explain an important argument that touches the very core of the health care issue when he says :

“Often the argument against removing exclusions involve statements such as, there are not enough people to warrant providing coverage if we provide this benefit we’ll be overrun with people who want to change sex….”

Namaste explains that Green’s argument captures the complex way in which through advancing the individual rights of some transsexual and transgendered people, we are prevented from having any kind of broad analysis of the health care system, much less engaging in critical health care activism. She breaks down Green’s argument and how support of the health care program is actually bound within the broader relations of economic imperialism.  She explains that the entire paradigm takes for granted that the provision of health insurance is a right to be accorded to those who can work. She makes a point to state that the US framework in regards to this topic is the dominant one, how people obtain healthcare through their employers. How in the US sick bodies that have not been working outside the home are presumably disregarded.

She criticizes Green for not mentioning the model of health care that is deemed a universal right by the state. She states that Green unwittingly accepts a administration, political and economic context in which health care is linked to employment.

She then goes on the point out the second aspect of Green’s argument which is taken for granted and that is the role and function of insurance companies. She explains that the insurance industry is primarily invested in making money. She gives a slew of statistics that provide all the assets of major insurance companies like Prudential and their $116 billion in assets. She calls for people to reflect on the broader socioeconomic system that the pool supports namely one wherein health care is offered as a commodity to be bought and sold on a market. Will this model ensure that trans people get the medical treatment they deserve?

She makes a final point in saying that there is a unquestionable link between employment and health care, and how in the US in order to understand how dangerous it is to engage in so-called “activism” that supports this industry.

Namaste explains that numerous polls show that Americans have a national system or universal health care coverage. Also she mentions that over time numerous Americans have stated that they want to have a single payer model of health care similarly to the Canadian form. She frankly points out that this request doesn’t even make it to the table (governmental) as a agenda item in the current political context. She adds a disturbing fact that shows the American government spends more on health care administration per capita that countries with national health care systems.

She goes on to offer a reason why even though Americans want a change in health care this system remains in place. That answer is analysis of the close links between political lobbyists and the medical insurance industry and how they further prevent any real social change in the realm of health care.

She gives a example in which the United States insurance industry directly influences the formulation of national policy on health care, a structure which can be related to the fox guarding the henhouse.

Namaste goes back to activist James Green’s argument and states that Green is telling “us” that the fox really isn’t bad after all. Indeed he wants “us” to feed the fox, and the fox wants to guard not just the transsexuals and transgendered people in SF or the US but throughout America. Namaste states that Green is correct however the consequences of that situation extend beyond the transsexual employees of the city and county of SF. The situation helps ensure that the state sponsored health care remains impossible in the US, and that this type of program affects all citizens of the US.  Green wraps up her section with saying that a support for transgender rights by Green is at the same time a call for rallying behind the interests of American big business within and outside the US, and how in a way transgender rights cannot be separated from the project of global capitalism.

Gender Identity and Human Rights: Imperialism and the Law

Namaste revisits her previous sections points by stating that transsexual activism supports the imposition of American conceptions and practices of capitalism in which the poor have everything to lose. In this section she shifts her attention to the Canadian context. She has selected case studies to analyze that focus on the effort that transsexual and transgendered people with support from some lesbians, gay men, and feminists, protect transsexual/transgendered people before the law. Namaste mentions in English Canada, the primary strategy proposed for such protection that that of adding “gender identity” as a protected ground to exiting human rights codes.  She goes on the mention that most recently the Northwest Territories of Canada has officially included gender identity in its human rights code. This inclusion has been dubbed a victory by some, specifically John Fisher a executive director for EGALE(Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) declares a statement about the decision:

“Bill I represents a historic step towards equality for transgendered people. Both the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the BC Human Rights Commission have recommended that discrimination on the ground of gender identity can be prohibited…..the inclusion of this ground sends a message loud and clear: discrimination against transgendered people is just plain wrong, and must end.

Hopefully , this initiative by the Northwest Territories will encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit.”

Namaste goes on the reflect on the limitation of this strategy. She explains that the proposed strategy for protection of transgendered people before the law is organized through the concept of “gender identity.” It’s a program that reflects a concept of English language, since French does not have a equivalent for the term gender. In a country with two official languages, that makes claims about its multiculturalism and diversity, it is important to consider the relevance of drawing on one framework relevant to Anglophones in Canada.  She goes on the explain that the adoption of legislation that protects individuals based on “gender identity” can assist transsexual and transgender people while they are victims of discrimination. Yet when this political program appeals the categories that have relevance only to English Canadians. She explains this type of activism is a form of imperialism. She states that with the demand that “we” use the term gender this activism functions as a means of transforming individuals who do not have English as a mother tongue into English Canadians. She continues to argue the use of certain terms is a direct implementation of imperialism by the US into non US territories.

Conclusion

Namaste concluded that careful examination of current transgender politics reveals the contradictions of the transgender movement. She explains how at first glance much health care and law reform secures some rights for individual transsexual and transgendered people, closer analysis illustrates that these programs impose certain cultural and economic understandings of the world, which in turn reflect certain national and ethnic values. Her essay demonstrated that imperialism is deeply imbedded in the consciousness, thinking and political action of many Anglophone transgendered people and their allies in North American, hence her encouragement of people taking a firm stand against transgender rights.

Bloggers Comments/Reaction:

To all the readers out there, I apologize for the length of this blog but I thought it was difficult as the writer to summarize Namaste’s argument, and theories without delving into her case studies and quotes, they were key to understanding her overall idea and argument. On that note I thought Namaste does a excellent job of exposing the negative concepts of health care programs in the United States and elsewhere, and how unknowingly trans activists succumb to the dominant imperialist worldview, by simply not questioning or thinking about their statements or word choice. I think Namaste’s critical analysis is an important outlook to focus on, even though I did find her overall rejection of transgender rights activism to be a little off putting (I think we should still support transgender rights activism, but in the future focus on what we don’t say and the implication that causes) her writing was strong and she was extremely blunt in her statements, which allowed the reader to understand exactly what her thoughts were.

I’ve included some interesting links that relate to the article in some way:

http://www.queensu.ca/humanrights/tap/3discrimination.htm

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hypatia/v023/23.1hale.html

http://zagria.blogspot.com/2009/09/viviane-namaste-invisible-lives-review.html

 

“Hir” Poem

This is a slam poem I came across that was televised I believe under the segment “Brave New Voices”, the quality is not the best, but I thought it was extremely moving.