by David Torrey Peters
When I was six, my mother left a box of small garbage bags lying around. I found one, cut the bottom off, and used the cinch-tie at the top to make a small, crude dress. I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror. As my reflection stared back at me, a wave of well-being surged over me, sweeping away any real specifics of that moment. All that remained was a feeling of correctness, like finding just the right word to describe something: a reflection of myself as I knew myself to be, but had yet to see. I turned away from the mirror with a new sensation of beauty and lightness buoying my step. I descended the stairs to show my parents, who sat in the enclosed porch.
Passing through the kitchen, I spotted a coffee cake on the counter. Brimming with satisfaction, I felt a sudden inspiration, a desire to be generous. I pulled the coffee cake off the counter and held it in my arms before me. In my garbage bag dress, I walked into the porch and carefully placed the cake on the coffee table. Hands on my hips, I announced to my parents, who stared at me with their coffee cups in hand: “I’m a waitress!”
There was a moment’s pause, during which, but for the sparrows flitting past the windows, time appeared frozen. Then my mother shifted her glance to my father and the two of them burst out laughing. I held still, wearing only my underpants and the garbage bag, confused, because I felt beautiful, and why couldn’t they see that? The notion that I should be embarrassed crept up on me—and then with the force of a physical blow, I was. I fled the room, tripping and sliding on the makeshift hem as I went, the plastic clinging to my suddenly hot skin. “Oh, come on!” my father yelled back at me. “There’s nothing wrong with being a waiter.”
Click the link below to continue reading the article:
By Julie Buckner Armstrong
Lou Reed made it seem easy. His 1972 “Walk on the Wild Side” pulled gender conversion out of the closet, on to the open road:
Holly came from Miami, Fla.,
Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.,
Plucked her eyebrows on the way,
Shaved her legs and then he was a she.
Jody Suzanne Ford was one of Birmingham’s first transsexuals and owned a hair salon. She was shot to death in 1977. Photo courtesy Birmingham Post-Herald.
Because Holly was a glam-rock myth, Reed didn’t cover the reality of sex change. Holly went from Miami to New York. In places like Birmingham, going from a he to a she meant more than shaving legs.
Not long after Reed’s song hit Number 16 on the Billboard charts, theBirmingham Post-Heraldprofiled Sidney McFerrin Ford’s transition to Jody Suzanne Ford. In 1977, local papers covered Ford’s death from a close-range bullet to the chest.
Details about Ford’s life are sketchy. My own memory is like that of many Birmingham residents. I got my first “big girl” haircut at Ford’s popular Five Points South salon, Ms. Sid’s Coiffures. I remember her as media sensation, not as actual person.
Mostly, I remember my mother’s nine words on the subject: “Don’t stare, it’s not polite” and “Ms. Sid looked good.” Indeed she did, as existing photographs of her show.
Salon patrons describe Ford as kind – and as a character. At 6’4” and well over 200 pounds, she commanded the rooms she walked into.
And she enjoyed doing so, says a former client named Michael.
Michael remembers a time that he and Ford ate dinner at the Social Grill after a haircut. The waitress took Michael’s drink order, gestured at Ford and asked, “What does he want?”
Ford stood up, towered over the waitress and screamed, “He, he . . . where do you see a HE?”
Ford then spent the next hour telling Michael all he wanted to know about changing from male to female.
Please click on link to continue reading the article:
She made headlines for her love life, but April Ashley has never stopped fighting to win equality for others like herself
by Matthew Bell / independent.co.uk
She was born George Jamieson in the Liverpool docks, but later modelled for Vogue and seduced Omar Sharif. Now, in the latest chapter of an extraordinary life, April Ashley, the first Briton to have a sex change, has been awarded the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to transgender equality.
The recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours has thrilled the 77-year-old. “It’s unbelievable and wonderful and especially fantastic to receive it in the year of Her Majesty’s Jubilee,” she said yesterday, at home in Fulham, south-west London. She declined to speak until she had finished watching the Trooping of the Colour.
Duncan Fallowell, her biographer, said: “It makes me proud to be British. Proud of an establishment that can make such an award, perhaps a rather eccentric award.”
The story of Ashley’s journey from the docks of Liverpool to international high society is worthy of a novel. Born George Jamieson in April 1935 (hence the name he would later take), his father, Frederick, was a cook in the Navy and his mother, Ada, worked in a bomb factory. Childhood wasn’t easy: his mother often hit him with a belt for wetting the bed, and his father drank heavily – and also called men “darling”, unheard of in 1940s Liverpool.
George knew from the age of three that he himself had something different about him, and, in an attempt to quell this difference, he joined the Merchant Navy, aged 15; it was a failure and, by 18, he had attempted suicide and had had electro-convulsive therapy.
George fled to Paris in 1955 and reinvented himself as Toni, becoming a hostess at Cabaret Le Carrousel. Among those he hung out with were Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and Nina Simone. And then, in May 1960, having saved £3,000, George presented himself at a clinic in Casablanca and was the ninth person to undergo Dr Georges Burou’s pioneering surgery. George’s unwanted penis was removed, and he was given the ability to have an internal orgasm. The operation lasted seven hours.
Returning to London, April found her striking looks quickly attracted attention: she was photographed by David Bailey and hung out with Peter O’Toole, who would hit anyone who caused trouble. She then landed a part in The Road to Hong Kong, a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film. But her secret was revealed when a friend sold the story to The People for £5. “The greatest harm that did to me was that I have never been able to get work in Britain again,” she says. “I’ve been forced to live abroad to get work.”
She has lived all over the world: the South of France, 10 years in a large house outside Hay-on-Wye, then New York, Los Angeles and San Diego.
How has she made an income?
“You name it, I’ve done it,” she laughs. “I’ve mainly been an art consultant, advising people how to make their homes look nice.”
In the 1950s, she worked with a young John Prescott at a hotel in North Wales. “He was the sous-chef, and I had to inspect his hands to make sure they were clean every day.”
Some reports have erroneously suggested their friendship was somehow more than that, but Ashley says: “They got it all wrong. We worked together and he was very nice and very handsome. I found him extraordinarily nice, but there was nothing sexual about it.” Indeed, she says she received Christmas cards from John and his wife, Pauline, until five years ago, when she gave an interview headlined, “How Prescott made a woman out of me”. “The cards stopped coming after that,” she says, poignantly.
Her cruel exposure as a transsexual in the 1960s did little to diminish her allure, and she went on enjoy many male lovers. Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso were admirers, and, in 1983, at the age of 48, she had a one-night stand with Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS.
One admirer, the Hon Arthur Cameron Corbett, was the heir to a castle and 7,000 acres in Scotland. Trouble was, he was also married with four children, and had a weakness for dressing up as a woman. Their affair and subsequent marriage, in Gibraltar in 1963, quickly collapsed. A bitter divorce ensued, in which Corbett petitioned for an annulment on the grounds that Ashley was born a man, making the marriage invalid. Highly personal details of her anatomy were plastered over the papers, and the court eventually agreed with Corbett. It left Ashley distraught, feeling she had not been recognised as a woman legally, socially or biologically.
The status of transsexuals was left in this awkward limbo until as recently as 2004, with the introduction of the Gender Recognition Act, which allows a person legally to be recognised as the gender they are reassigned to. The MBE recognises Ashley’s work campaigning for the law to change. In the last decade, she wrote to Tony Blair and Lord Falconer, then Lord Chancellor, asking for her birth certificate to identify her as a woman. “They said: ‘Be patient’, and eventually the law did change. I got my new birth certificate finally in 2005.”
Ashley says she has sent thousands of letters offering advice to people facing similar predicaments. “I would always wish people three things – to be kind to yourself and to others. To be beautiful, on the inside, which makes you beautiful on the outside. And most of all to be brave, because you will need that.”
Duncan Fallowell praised Ashley’s determination in the face of unkindness as being as important as her campaign work. He recalled meeting her when he was an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1960s. “We gave a celebrated dinner for her in the Oscar Wilde Room of Magdalen College,” he said. “The porters served the food and stood against the walls like footmen. The climax came when April leaped on to the mahogany dining table and performed a flamenco in and out of the candlesticks. Magdalen had never seen anything like this. Ever.”
Amber is one of an increasing number who are getting specialized care. The 12-year-old takes puberty-blocking drugs and hopes to have gender reassignment surgery at 16
By Anna Gorman / latimes.com
Amber, a soft-spoken, feminine 12-year-old who loves Hello Kitty and fashion design, lives with a secret. It is a secret most sixth-graders can’t fathom, one she hides behind pink skirts and makeup. It is a secret that led to all her baby pictures being tucked away as though her childhood had never happened.
Amber was born a boy.
When she was 10, she stopped going by her given name, Aaron, and began dressing as a girl. Last year, she started taking medication to keep her from going through puberty.
“I can be who I am,” Amber said. “I can be a girl.”
An increasing number of children like Amber are realizing they are transgender and seeking care at clinics around the nation. Because of their age, the complex and emotional journey is as much their parents’ as their own. Families are forced to make tough decisions about therapy and medication, and about what to tell friends and relatives. They are trying to give their children a normal upbringing with summer camps and sleepovers while protecting them from harm and embarrassment.
“How do you move through society with a gender-variant child?” said Nancy Quay, a psychotherapist at the University of Michigan gender services program. “What do you tell your neighbors? How do you keep your child safe?”
For Amber’s parents, Michelle and Jamie, the last few years have been a roller coaster of emotions — guilt for not recognizing earlier that their daughter was transgender, grief over losing Aaron and worries about Amber’s future.
The family’s last name is being withheld at Amber’s request. They all agreed, though, to both a video and photographs. Michelle said their family and others close to them know about Amber’s transition.
Telling their story, she said, “is the right thing to do…. Hopefully it will bring more awareness and help other families.”
Michelle said she believes that letting Amber take the medication and live as she wants is the only real choice. “We are confident this is her authentic self,” she said.
Jamie is supportive but not quite as sure. “This is some pretty serious territory,” he said. “As a parent, you are always second-guessing yourself.”
Click the link to read the rest of the article on the LA Times website:
by George Dvorsky / io9.com
South African sprinter Caster Semenya created a stir a few years back on account of her “intersexed” characteristics — prompting some to demand that sporting authorities screen for these sorts of biological anomalies in the name of fairness. But a Stanford University School of Medicine bioethicist and her colleagues now says that it’s unacceptable to ban some female athletes for insufficient femininity.
The root of the issue stems from the fact that women naturally produce testosterone at different levels. Testosterone is probably the most significant factor when it comes to athletic performance, as it’s the hormone that helps build muscle. Clearly, women that produce lots of testosterone tend to do better athletically, but traditionally not in such a way that it’s a problem.
That was until Caster Semenya burst onto the scene back in 2009 when she won gold in the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships. Following her victory it was announced that she had been subject to so-called “gender testing” and was forced to withdraw from further competition. She was later reinstated by the IAAF a year later, and has since returned to the sport.
Semenya had failed her gender test on account of her intersexed characteristics. Specifically, she has a rare condition in which she has no ovaries, but rather internal testes which are producing large amounts of testosterone. This has led some observers and her fellow competitors to declare that she has an unfair advantage, including one comment that, “These kinds of people should not run with us… For me, she is not a woman. She is a man”.
But now, bioethicist Katrina Karkazis and her colleagues have stepped up to say that the policy is flawed on many levels and should be abandoned immediately. The critique was published today in The American Journal of Bioethics.
Karkazis contends that the policy is a violation of an athlete’s privacy and that despite the IAAF’s assurances to the contrary such information could never be kept secret.
They argue that testing for testosterone levels alone is inadequate and completely simplistic — that the IAAF is testing to make sure a female athlete is not “too masculine.” Rebecca Jordan-Young, a member of the panel and co-author of the report, has said, “Individuals have dramatically different responses to the same amounts of testosterone, and it is just one element in a complex neuroendrocrine feedback system.” Moreover, it’s not known what typical testosterone levels even are for elite female athletes.
The Stanford bioethicist also argues that athletic performance cannot be simply boiled down to testosterone levels, citing that performance is much more complicated than that. Moreover, they argue that other athletes have different genetic endowments, including several runners and cyclists who have rare mitochondrial variations that give them extraordinary aerobic capacity, or basketball players who have acromegaly, a hormonal condition that results in exceptionally large hands and feet. These athletes aren’t banned from competition, they argue, and neither should women with elevated levels of testosterone.
Lastly, aside from the prejudicial and potentially sexist nature of the IAAF’s policy, the Karkazis warns that the coerced surgery for these athletes is both extreme and potentially dangerous. “If the athlete does not pass, she is banned from competition until she lowers her testosterone levels,” they write, noting that the treatment options would include pharmaceutical intervention or a gonadectomy – both of which carry serious potential side effects.
In terms of next steps, Karkazis simply recommends that all “gender policing” by international sporting authorities be rejected.
ScienceDaily (May 31, 2012) — Hiding your true social identity — race and ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or a disability — at work can result in decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover, according to a new study from Rice University, the University of Houston and George Mason University.
“The workplace is becoming a much more diverse place, but there are still some individuals who have difficulty embracing what makes them different, especially while on the job,” said Michelle Hebl, Rice professor of psychology and co-author of “Bringing Social Identity to Work: The Influence of Manifestation and Suppression on Perceived Discrimination, Job Satisfaction and Turnover Intentions.” The paper appears in the Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology journal.
“Previous research suggests that employees who perceive discrimination or are afraid of receiving discrimination are more likely to fall into this category of individuals who feel the need to suppress or conceal their identity,” Hebl said.
The study examined the behavior of 211 working adults in an online survey and measured factors such as identity, perceived discrimination, job satisfaction and turnover intentions.
“This research highlights the fact that people make decisions every day about whether it is safe to be themselves at work, and that there are real consequences of these decisions,” said Rice alumna Eden King, study co-author and associate professor of psychology at George Mason University.
The study also showed that suppressing one’s true identity might result in exposure to co-workers’ discriminatory behavior, as people are less likely to care about appearing prejudiced when they are not in the presence of an “out” group member. On the contrary, the research finds that expression of one’s true identity in a workplace can have positive impact on their interpersonal relationships.
“When individuals embrace their social identity in the workplace, other co-workers might be more sensitive to their behavior and treatment of individuals like them,” said Juan Madera, a University of Houston professor, Rice alumnus and lead study author. “And quite often, what’s good for the worker is good for the workplace. The employees feel accepted and have better experiences with co-workers, which creates a positive working environment that may lead to decreased turnover and greater profits.”
The authors hope their research will encourage the general public to be accepting of people with diverse backgrounds and become allies to them and encourage employers to implement policies that foster a positive organizational culture.
“I think this study really demonstrates that everyone can have a role in making the workplace more inclusive,” Hebl said. “Individuals tell co-workers, who can act as allies and react positively, and organizations can institute protective and inclusive organizational policies. All of these measures will continue to change the landscape and diversity of our workforce.”
This study was funded by Rice University, the University of Houston and George Mason University.
Understanding this phenomenon could improve psychological support systems for sexual minorities and help young people avoid alcohol problems
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Many young adults explore and define their sexual identity in college, but that process can be stressful and lead to risky behaviors. In a new study, students whose sexual self-definition didn’t fall into exclusively heterosexual or homosexual categories tended to misuse alcohol more frequently than people who had a firmly defined sexual orientation for a particular gender, according to University of Missouri researchers. These findings could be used to improve support programs for sexual minorities.
“Bisexuals and students whose sexual orientation was in flux reported the heaviest drinking and most negative consequences from alcohol use, such as uncontrolled drinking and withdrawal symptoms,” said Amelia Talley, MU assistant professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science. “Those groups reported drinking to relieve anxiety and depression at higher rates than strictly heterosexual or homosexual individuals. One possible explanation is that people who aren’t either completely heterosexual or homosexual may feel stigmatized by both groups.”
The study followed more than 2,000 incoming college students for four years. Each fall and spring, study participants were surveyed about their sexual self-identification, attraction and sexual behavior. The students fell into different sexual orientation groups. One was exclusively heterosexual, but there were several sexual minority groups: exclusively homosexual, mostly homosexual, bisexual and mostly heterosexual. The survey also asked about frequency of alcohol use, reasons for drinking, and negative consequences experienced as a result of alcohol use.
“Exclusively homosexual and heterosexual persons drank at roughly the same rate and reported drinking to enhance enjoyment of social situations,” Talley said. “The other sexual minority groups tended to report more alcohol misuse. This suggests that it may be the stressful process of developing one’s sexual identity that contributes to problematic drinking, just as people in any difficult situation in life may turn to alcohol to alleviate stress.”
The study also found gender differences in sexual behaviors and self-definition of sexual identity.
“Females showed the greatest degree of sexual orientation fluidity,” Talley said. “They were able to admit a certain degree of attraction to the same gender without defining themselves as completely homosexual.” Talley suggested that “women may be more open to admitting to same-sex attractions because women are more likely to be objectified as sexual objects in our culture; hence, women are accustomed to assessing the attractiveness of other women in comparison to themselves.”
Males tended to define themselves as either heterosexual or homosexual. Talley speculated that this may be because many males aren’t aware that being “mostly straight” is a feasible alternative. Even a small degree of sexual attraction to other males may cause a young man to feel anxiety about his sexual identity due to strict masculine gender norms.
“Organizations could put our findings to use by providing a support network to help young people avoid using alcohol to cope with stress as they define their sexual identity,” Talley said.
The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.