TV & Radio
Being transgender no longer about surgery in NY
By Daniel Trotta
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Jay Kallio knew at age 4. For Justine Nicholas, the revelation came in kindergarten. Nature had dealt them a confusing anatomy. The genders they were assigned at birth were all wrong.
Now New York City is helping transgender people assume their true identities, proposing changes in the law so they can change the sex on their birth certificates without sex reassignment surgery.
As adults, Jay and Justine have made the transition and live as the other sex, but Jay cannot have the operation for medical reasons. Justine wants to have hers in two years.
The change will allow transgender people to acquire identity documents such as passports that match the way they live. Perhaps just as importantly, official recognition can help a small, stigmatized minority achieve personal and public acceptance.
The proposal goes before the board of health in December.
"I recall being 4 years old and having a profound conviction that some terrible mistake had happened at my birth. I always felt I was a boy," said Jay, 51, who was born female with the name Joy but has been living full-time as a man -- Jay -- since January.
"I wanted to grow up to be a man. It was probably my first prayer: God, if I'm good enough, will you make me into a boy," said Jay, a freelance medical writer and auxiliary officer with the New York Police Department.
Transgender people have discovered they may need only hormone treatments or nothing at all to live in their acquired gender. Many dislike the psychological term gender identity disorder because it suggests something is wrong. Others simply cannot afford a sex-change operation.
"In kindergarten, when we were divided into boys and girls, I got on the girls' line. I said, 'This is where I belong,"' said Justine, 48, who has been living as a woman for four years.
"Those of us who are transgender feel like we're being dishonest when we are living as the gender we were assigned at birth," the college English teacher said.
THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY
Jay and Justine, who are acquaintances, would not be directly affected by the law because they were born outside New York City. But they say their stories show why the law is needed.
Justine once interviewed for a job as a woman and was asked to show identification. She pretended not to have any and promised to bring it back later. She never did. Later she decided to interview as a man, found a job at a city university, and transitioned to a woman between semesters.
Experts have no idea what percentage of the population is transgender, though it is generally regarded as below 1 percent.
"We get this question all the time as if it's OK for the government to discriminate because there are so few of them," said Paisley Currah, a transgender man who served on the city's panel of experts that helped draft the proposal.
"How small a group is shouldn't be a rationale for allowing them to be treated badly," Currah said.
Eight states plus 93 local jurisdictions have transgender anti-discrimination laws, and it is commonly remarked that the state of transgender rights is where gay and lesbian rights were 30 years ago.
The law on the books in New York City since 1971 requires "convertive" surgery before a transgender person born in the city can have his or her birth certificate changed, and even then the newly issued document omits a gender designation.
That was a breakthrough for transgender rights in 1971 but now is widely seen as out of date.
WHAT IS TRANSGENDER?
Transgender is an expansive term that can include anyone from cross-dressers to those have who have had gender reassignment surgery to anyone in between, such as "gender queers," the preferred term for young, androgynous people.
Not surprisingly, the proposed change in the New York law has been controversial. Transgender advocates say it imposes too many restrictions, such as requiring the person to change his or her name in order to receive a new birth certificate. Opponents are concerned about the possibilities for fraud.
"It could be a better policy in an ideal world but it's the best in the country," said Currah, who kept his given name Paisley after making the transition from woman to man.
Others say the law merely brings New York City up to date while transgender people in most of the country remain victims of discrimination, often subject to violence.
Said Justine: "I may not live to see such a society where we are completely equal."
Advocates expect Democrats to avoid culture wars
Posted 11/21/2006 9:55 PM ET
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Advocates for abortion rights, gun control and gay rights say they are thrilled by the Democratic takeover of Congress. Even so, they admit their issues aren't likely to be addressed early — or at all — during the legislative session that begins in January.
"I'm aware of political reality when you're coming up to a presidential election," says Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "I'm afraid (Democrats will) be a little too cautious."
Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who headed the Democratic campaign committee and is part of the leadership team setting the agenda for the upcoming term, says his party was "very clear" on its priorities: The Iraq war, ethics reform, health care, jobs and other economic concerns will come first.
That's not likely to deter liberal bloggers and groups such as MoveOn.org, says University of California-Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain. Those groups will "keep the heat on," Cain says. He predicts they'll have little success. "The Democratic leadership will completely stifle" debate on issues that could hurt chances to retain the majority or take the White House in 2008, he says.
Vanderbilt University political scientist Bruce Oppenheimer agrees. "I do not expect either the Democratic House or Senate leadership to bring up things that are going to force members to take tough votes."
Many Democrats still recall 1993, when Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president in 12 years, tried to make good on a campaign vow to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Republicans seized upon the issue, forcing Clinton's compromise, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The next year, Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Among the liberal causes likely on hold:
•Abortion rights. Although she picked up 22 allies in the House and three in the Senate, Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America says federal efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies by promoting sex education and making contraceptives more available must wait. "We have some bigger issues to be dealt with early on," she says.
•Gun control: Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says he has seen a list of the top 100 Democratic priorities; reinstating the now-expired ban on military-style assault weapons is "in the 90s." At least, he says, conservatives can't weaken gun control laws.
•Gay rights. David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, expects Democrats to push legislation to bar workplace discrimination against gays and amend the federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation. Still, he says, those changes won't come until "much later" in the session.
"If champagne corks are popping from our perspective, it's because we're not going to be attacked," Smith says. Otherwise, "It's a much more measured can of Budweiser that's being popped."
New magazine says 'yes' to bringing gay industry out of the closet (Mainichi Daily News 2006/11/22)
In Japan, homosexuality is either the, well, butt of jokes, or shoved under the mat as though it doesn't exist. But a group of same-sex editors have been trying to change all that with a new magazine that's radical by Japanese standards, according to AERA (11/27).
The editors of "yes" -- a magazine for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, or collectively LGBTs -- are trying to bring homosexuality out of the closet and into the mainstream.
"We're using LGBTs' voices as a base to move a sleeping market out into the open," yes's manager Nobuko Mochizuki, a lesbian, tells AERA.
The magazine features plenty of information about LGBTs' lifestyles overseas and shuns anything even remotely pornographic. Among the topics it has recently picked up are pieces about a gay cable channel in the U.S. and same-sex marriages in Britain.
Zero Tomi, the magazine's gay managing editor, says he realized the potential in Japan's gay market over a decade ago. It was after a trip to San Francisco, where a convention for gay travelers was being held at a posh hotel with some of the biggest names in the travel business fighting hard to attract the gay and lesbian dollar. The interest the corporate world showed in homosexuals gave Tomi the yen to develop such an atmosphere in his homeland.
"I vowed that one day we'd see similar scenes in Japan," he tells AERA.
The LGBT market in the U.S. is enormous, with AERA saying that estimates put it as large as 600 billion dollars. What's more, the LGBT market is made up largely of well-educated people who have plenty of disposable income and who are known for their brand loyalty.
But Japan's LGBT market has, until recently, been almost non-existent.
"Nobody even thought of spicing it up," Tomi says.
Tomi sparked the development of "yes" with the support of Tower Records. In the autumn of 2004, he visited the company wearing a miniskirt made out of the company's yellow plastic bags. He reminded Tower's president, Hiroyuki Yoshitani, how the record company had long been regarded as gay friendly after it set aside a corner of its flagship Shinjuku store for gay-related products back in the mid-'90s, and asked for help in creating a magazine for the homosexual community in Japan. Yoshitani agreed, but the magazine has struggled, with 80 percent of its targeted advertisers in the automobile, apparel and cosmetics industries deciding not to advertise with them.
But the homosexuals are undeterred, saying that "yes" has a valuable role to play.
"'yes' is a way for the sexually discriminated to show regular society what the sexually discriminated really are all about and let them know that it's an interesting lifestyle," Yuji Kitamaru, a U.S. resident gay journalist who has worked on the magazine since its inception, tells AERA. "We want to transform heterosexual society. And we hope this magazine will be one way of doing that." (By Ryann Connell)
November 22, 2006
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