The Many Shades of ‘Out’ [huffingtonpost.com]

by Lynn Conway

On a sultry June afternoon, as my husband and I strolled towards the White House East Entrance, I reflected back to the time of my gender transition, in 1968.

Shamed as a social outcast, I’d lost my family, my friends and all social support. I’d beenfired by IBM, and lost a promising computer research career. In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital.

Evading those fates, I completed my transition and began building a career in a secret new identity, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a contract programmer. Even then, any ‘outing’ could have led to media exposure, and I’d have become unemployable, out on the streets for good. The resulting fear channeled my life into ‘stealth-mode.’ I covered my past for over 30 years, always looking over my shoulder, as if a foreign spy in my own country.

But this was June 13, 2013, and what a contrast it was. My husband Charlie and I, along with many other activists, advocates and allies, were about to join the President’s White House Reception in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. The atmosphere was full of joy and hope for the future. As we waited for the President, I reflected further.

I had been ‘out’ for 15 years now, or so I’d thought: out on the Internet to inform colleagues about my past, out as an advocate for transgender people, out as an activistagainst the psychiatric-pathologization of gender variance.

It was one thing to hide in the back-rooms of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center decades ago, launching innovations as the hidden-hand behind the VLSI microelectronics revolution in Silicon Valley - a revolution that’s changed the world forever. I didn’t mind being almost invisible in my field back then or that no one had a clue what I was really doing, much less who was doing it. I was thrilled to even have a job.

But ‘out’ has many shades of grey — and even in recent years I kept on partly covering, shyly holding back, lingering in the darker shadows. Although times had changed, I’d clung to old habits.

Down through the years no one could explain how the VLSI revolution actually happened. The results were simply taken for granted. Although I’d gained vital knowledge about generating such engineering paradigm shifts, I feared that my personal history would loom large in people’s minds, and obscure any attempts at explanation. It wasn’t till 2012 that I finally got up the nerve to publish a career memoir, to begin telling the story of how the revolution came about …

As the president entered the room, I glanced around and took in the joyful vibes. As he began to speak, I grasped the reality of how far we’d come. Times had more than changed: a fresh wind was sweeping through our society, especially amongst the younger generations.

Then I thought of the millions of other LGBT people out there. I tried to envision the enormity of lifelong struggles against stigmatization and ostracism, of losses of families and employment, of their oppression by having to ‘cover’, often not fully engaging life nor being known for who they were, what they’d done, who they loved or who loved them.

And it hit me: we’ve come so far, so fast, that ever so many others could begin shedding old habits too. After all, freedom isn’t just an external concept, framed by our laws. It’s a gift of the spirit that we must give ourselves, in this case by going towards brighter shades of ‘out’.

Bottom line: If you want to change the future, start living as if you’re already there.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html

Transgender woman wins landmark employment discrimination suit [salon.com]

In a historic first, the federal government has ruled in favor of a transgender woman in a work harassment case

BY 

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was verbally and physically harassed at her job with a federal contractor in Maryland. The court ruled that the woman’s supervisors created a hostile work environment by failing to intervene after being informed of the harassment, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The ruling is a historic first, advocates say.

“We applaud the EEOC for conducting such a thorough investigation and interviewing so many witnesses to the anti-transgender harassment,” Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work, told the Advocate. “Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work.”

The details of the first case have been kept confidential as part of the settlement.

Another case, adjudicated around the same time, is also a major victory for transgender rights.

That case, known as Macy v. Holder, was initiated after the plaintiff, Mia Macy, was denied a job with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives after she came out as transgender.

More from the Washington Blade:

After applying for the job, Macy was told in January 2011 that she would receive a position at the laboratory. But after she disclosed in March 2011 she would transition from male to female, the contractor informed Macy the position was cut. Later, she was told someone else was awarded the job.

The 51-page decision — which was signed by Complaint Adjudication Officer Mark Gross and Complaint Adjudication Office Attorney Carl Taylor — lays out several terms for relief in the Macy case.

First, the Justice Department says ATF within 60 days of the decision must offer Macy that job she was seeking at the Walnut Creek factory and award her back pay and benefits — with interest — for the period between April 2011 to January 2012.

Additionally, the Justice Department says ATF must take corrective action to ensure future discrimination never occurs again; award Macy compensatory damages for any injuries she may have received; refund Macy her attorney’s fees; and post a notice within 30 days consistent with employment law.



“I never thought in my life that it would be over, but to have it not only be over but to have them say, ‘Yes, unfortunately, your civil rights were violated. They did do this.’ To have that vindication, it’s surreal,” Macy told BuzzFeed in a comment on the victory.

Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, says these cases demonstrate the importance of federal protections for LGBT workers, as he told the Blade: “We need action by the 113th Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and even more immediately, President Obama should sign the executive order banning LGBT discrimination by companies that profit from federal contracts,” Nevins said. “That executive order should have broad support across the political spectrum, since federal dollars should neither fund discrimination nor go to employers whose personnel and productivity suffer because discrimination and harassment are tolerated.”

http://www.salon.com/2013/07/16/transgender_woman_wins_landmark_employment_discrimination_suit/

Dustin Hoffman Explains His Insights That Every Woman Already Sadly Knows

Many years ago, Dustin Hoffman made the film “Tootsie” with Sidney Pollack.  It was quite a hit at the time.

The story was about an out-of-work actor who impersonated a woman in order to gain employment on a soap opera.  Funny and poignant, Hoffman found new insights for himself about what women experience every day.

Indiana Univ study reveals sex to be pleasurable with or without use of a condom or lubricant [iu.edu]

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — American men and women rated sex as highly arousing and pleasurable regardless of whether condoms and/or lubricants were used, according to a study led by Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington researchers and published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Led by Debby Herbenick and Michael Reece, co-directors of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, researchers reviewed a nationally representative study of men and women ages 18 to 59 to assess characteristics of condom and lubricant use during participants’ most recent sexual event, and the relationship of their condom and lubricant use to their ratings of sexual quality.

Data were from the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which involved the administration of an online questionnaire to a nationally representative probability sample of U.S. adults. Results showed that men and women consistently rate sex as highly arousing and pleasurable with few differences based on condom or lubricant use. More than twice as many women than men were unsure whether the condom was lubricated — 26.6 percent vs. 11.4 percent — or from what material it was made — 23.6 percent vs. 8.9 percent.

“This may be because men are more likely than women to purchase condoms and to apply condoms,” Herbenick said. “However, it’s important for more women to become familiar with the condoms they use with their partner so that they can make choices that enhance the safety and pleasure of their sexual experiences.”

Additionally, no significant differences were found in regard to men’s ratings of the ease of their erections based on condom and lubricant use.

“The U.S. continues to grapple with high rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended pregnancies,” Herbenick said. “We need to understand how people make choices about the products they use, or avoid using, and how these products contribute to the safety and pleasurable aspects of their sexual experiences. This is particularly important as the products themselves evolve and become more mainstream in American society. We also need to understand what men and women know, or don’t know, about the products they use so that we can better target public health education messages to individuals and groups.”

“The epidemiologic studies assessing human sexual function and behavior in the U.S. that were started 60 years ago by Kinsey are continued now by Herbenick and Reece. Gathering sexual data regarding condom use is highly relevant,” said Irwin Goldstein, M.D., editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. “Understanding current condom use offers health care providers an opportunity to educate those people uncomfortable with condoms but for whom lack of use may lead to significant sexually transmitted infection health risk.”

A PDF of “Characteristics of Condom and Lubricant Use Among a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults Ages 18-59 In the United States” is available at sciencenewsroom@wiley.com or online in the Wiley Press Room for media with log-in access. (To request a login, click here). It will appear in the February issue.

The study was supported by Church & Dwight, Inc., the maker of Trojan Brand condoms and vibrators. Co-authors include Vanessa Schick, Nicole Smith and Brian Dodge, Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington; Stephanie Sanders, The Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender and Reproduction and Department of Gender Studies, College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington; and J. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., IU School of Medicine.

http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/23720.html

How to Get Out of a Hook Up When the Guy Is Already in your Apartment [jezebel.com]

by Katie Halper / jezebel.com

It’s awkward when you realize you don’t want to hook up with a guy who you’ve invited into your apartment for that purpose. But you can and should always be able to stop a hook up you don’t want to have. (Duh). This [Law and Order dum-dum] is my story.

The Background: A few years ago, I was working on a documentary film about a play. One of the actors was very talented and good looking. We didn’t really get to know each other over the course of the week-long shoot, but we exchanged small talk and smiled at each other, like, a lot! The last night there was a cast party. As I was about to leave the party, the actor asked me where I was going. I told him I was going home and when he asked me what neighborhood I lived in, it turned out, that, lo and behold, he was going to the same neighborhood! It was late, so, being two economical people, in a terrible economy, pursuing our artistic passions and hence not making any money, we decided to share a cab.

Game On? During the cab ride, he was perfectly fine and we were getting along swimmingly. So, when we got to my apartment and he asked if he should come up too, I said, “Sure.”

Realization: Once we were in my apartment, however, his behavior changed. He seemed sure of an imminent conquest, and started acting like a douchebag. He started asking me questions about the sex life of my lesbian friend and colleague (whom he met through the shoot). It was a charming mix of bro-ish enthusiasm for all things lesbian and casual homophobia. While I had been attracted to the guy five minutes ago, now the idea of even kissing him viscerally repulsed me.

Click to read the rest of the article…

We’re All Female For About 5 Weeks of Our Lives

Guys and Dolls No More? [nytimes.com]

by Elizabeth Sweet / nytimes.com

IMAGINE walking into the toy department and noticing several distinct aisles. In one, you find toys packaged in dark brown and black, which include the “Inner-City Street Corner” building set and a “Little Rapper” dress-up kit. In the next aisle, the toys are all in shades of brown and include farm-worker-themed play sets and a “Hotel Housekeeper” dress.

If toys were marketed solely according to racial and ethnic stereotypes, customers would be outraged, and rightfully so. Yet every day, people encounter toy departments that are rigidly segregated — not by race, but by gender. There are pink aisles, where toys revolve around beauty and domesticity, and blue aisles filled with toys related to building, action and aggression.

Gender has always played a role in the world of toys. What’s surprising is that over the last generation, the gender segregation and stereotyping of toys have grown to unprecedented levels. We’ve made great strides toward gender equity over the past 50 years, but the world of toys looks a lot more like 1952 than 2012.

Gender was remarkably absent from the toy ads at the turn of the 20th century but played a much more prominent role in toy marketing during the pre- and post-World War II years. However, by the early 1970s, the split between “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” seemed to be eroding.

During my research into the role of gender in Sears catalog toy advertisements over the 20th century, I found that in 1975, very few toys were explicitly marketed according to gender, and nearly 70 percent showed no markings of gender whatsoever. In the 1970s, toy ads often defied gender stereotypes by showing girls building and playing airplane captain, and boys cooking in the kitchen.

But by 1995, the gendered advertising of toys had crept back to midcentury levels, and it’s even more extreme today. In fact, finding a toy that is not marketed either explicitly or subtly (through use of color, for example) by gender has become incredibly difficult.

Click to Read the Rest of the Story…

What if you woke up in a different person’s body every single day? [io9.com]

by Michael Ann Dobbs / io9.com

There have been plenty of young-adult novels about young people searching for their identity — literally or figuratively. But few have taken the concept as far as Every Day, the new young-adult novel from David Levithan, the co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. This is a coming-of-age story that manages to pack some age-old philosophical questions about selfhood and the body into an unconventional love story.

In Every Day, A is an identity without a body. Each day, A wakes up in a new body of another 16 year-old. A has almost none of the usual markers of identity: A is genderless, sexless, without race or eye color, neither attractive nor unattractive. A takes these qualities from the bodies A inhabits. While A has access to the bodies’ memories, A experiences the world differently from the individuals he or she inhabits. And A has no control over whose body he or she will end up in tomorrow. A has, over the years, developed a sort of moral code built primarily around a strict non-interference policy. Which all comes crashing down when A wakes up in the body of Justin and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon.

A tries to stay in touch with Rhiannon, which is difficult when A is different person each day. Eventually A tells Rhiannon the truth about his or her existence. From there, the book focuses on the young couple’s struggles to establish a relationship, when A is never sure who he or she will be tomorrow. A’s experiences as all these different people could have been nothing more than vignettes, but A’s love for Rhiannon and desire to see her again is in the background of each of these lives, complicating everything A does.

There are plenty of signs that the book could have turned into a more run-of-the-mill thriller about a unique supernatural being discovering its race or some other ridiculous plot. Luckily, Levithan stuck to the love story. He also uses the first person — thus avoiding the unfortunate “he or she” that I’ve used above. The book has an overall dreamy, fantastic quality that fits A’s wise beyond his or her years personality. While many of the daily episodes and interactions are very grounded, together they add up to something poetic. A’s life is, necessarily, deeply internal and this is reflected in the language.

 

One of the things I loved about the book was it defies easy labels just as much as A does. It’s a contemporary YA romance, but it’s also not just a romance book. It’s a fantasy book, in that there is no technology or rational scientific explanation for A’s existence or ability to move between bodies, but it’s not like any other fantasy books. It’s like a science-fiction book, to the extent that it’s about big difficult-to-answer questions, explored through an incredible narrative, but again there’s no tech or science. It’s just a unique lovely book about young love and identity, wrapped up in the impossible.

This isn’t necessarily Levithan’s first venture into speculative fiction — his poetic novel Boy Meets Boy takes place in what could only be described as an alternate or near future universe in which the school’s popular, quarterback is also a drag queen — but he is better known for his co-authoring of realistic teen fiction like the aforementioned Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. He was also involved in editing The Hunger Games. In fact, he’s probably the busiest person in YA fiction. Aside from writing and editing, he also organizes readings and teaches in the Writing for Children program at The New School (where, full disclosure, I had him as a professor).

Ten Things I Wish the Church Knew About Homosexuality [Jim Rigby]

The Crossdressing Room [gawker.com]

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:

http://gawker.com/5933857/the-crossdressing-room?comment=51776316

 

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