Camp Allows Gender Non-conforming Boys To Shine

This is the sort of story which really touches me – in fact I wondered if it was a cruel hoax at first, but it appears to be absolutely real.

Over the past three years, photographer Lindsay Morris has been documenting a four-day camp for gender-non-conforming boys and their parents.

The camp in the US, “You Are You” (the name has been changed to protect the privacy of the children and is also the name of Morris’ series), is for “parents who don’t have a gender-conforming three-year-old who wants to wear high heels and prefers to go down the pink aisle in K-Mart and not that nasty dark boys’ aisle”, Morris said with a laugh.

I think actually my favorite part of the story is the main photograph showing the smiling, clapping parents as a child walks in front of them in their dress.

It’s a feel-good transgender story, and there are two other lovely photographs at the link below, which I urge you to see.

Camp allows boys who do not conform to gender to shine.

Transgender Supermodel Ines-Loan Rau Bares All – Really

Seriously folks, the link below is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, so do not click it if unless you want to see a nude transwoman. Some parts are blurred out, but if you Google you can find them easily enough. I picked a photo from the page of Ines-Loan with another supermodel, the genderqueer (it’s the term they use for themself) Andrej Pelic.

Honestly, I don’t know what I can add to this. The article by the Daily Mail contains photos from a shoot with transgender supermodel Ines-Loan Rau. Also contained at the link is a video interview with Russian transgender supermodel Stas Fedyanin, who I confess I had never heard of before.

Transgender supermodel Ines-Loan Rau bares all in sizzling photo shoot | Mail Online.

Transgender Texas Teacher Triumphs

After a contentious school board meeting in Lumberton, Texas, a transgender substitute teacher who was suspended purely on account of being transgender (after complaints from concerned parents the usual transphobic bigots was reinstated at her job.

This is awesome news, although it’s clear form this and other reports on the incident that the sole reason the School Board decided to keep her on was fear of a costly EEOC lawsuit – one which they would likely lose. Some comments from the parents are either saddening or disgusting, depending upon how much credit you want to give them.

“This has caused elementary students to be confused. Asking questions of their parents wondering why a female teacher has facial hair,” said one parent.

“We’re just now talking to our kids about the birds and the bees. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to explain this. He hired in as a male. He is a male,” said another parent.

Just think about explaining your bigotry to your kids someday. Like when I heard a woman in her 70′s say once “well, white’s only drinking fountains were just a ‘thing’….everybody did it.” Nope, nothing wrong there!

Transgender substitute teacher returns to work – Tucson News Now.

The Truth About the Lab-grown Vaginas

StemCells
When I saw the news that doctors had been able to grow new vaginas for women in a laboratory environment, and have them fully function after implantation, I was really quite interested and enthused. But not for the reasons you would think – I knew right away that this didn’t mean very much in the near-term for transgender women, but let that not diminish at all the enormous quality of life improvement which could mean for cisgender women suffering from birth defects, disease, or accidents.

However, I also expected, and saw it was true, that many sites and blogs on the net which feature “transgender news,” many of them run by transgender persons, made the natural jump to “OMG they can give us real vaginas!!!!” Unfortunately, this is not the case, as one can see when they do the legwork to read the actual findings from The Lancet.

The title of the study gives a hint as to where the problems may lie: Tissue-engineered autologous vaginal organs in patients: a pilot cohort study. It’s that word autologous, which means that they started the process using tissues from the patients themselves. To build the vagina they took tissue samples which were 1 square centimeter from the vulva, then these were “seeded” upon a scaffold. There was no use of stem cells or anything else which turned cells which were very different into a vagina. Furthermore, many of these patients already had a partial vaginal cavity, so their surgeries were in some ways less involved than SRS.

Patient_SatisfactionHowever, there is a lot of good news here, in that if it were possible to engineer a transwoman’s own stem cells into making vulvar cells, then this same technique might be usable in order to make a vagina. Or skipping the middle-man entirely to make vaginal cells (I am not a physician, so I don’t want to make assumptions). It doesn’t even matter if you have a “normal” XY karyotype, as CAIS women have an XY chromosome, and yet can form a vagina. Moreover, this isn’t a brand-new study – the women in this study were followed for 8 years post-surgery, and even after that length of time had very high scores in terms of their vaginal response to desire and arousal, vaginal lubrication, orgasm, absence of pain, and overall satisfaction.

BBC News – Doctors implant lab-grown vagina.

Mom Announces Rebirth of Her Transgender Son

Its-a-boy-transgender-son-announcementOften times parents take the news that one of their kids is transgender in stride, but they still struggle with how to tell everyone else — or even if they should tell other people.

Jodi Gholson Oliver made a declaration that so many of us (especially with very young kids) would be afraid to do. She didn’t just quietly inform a select few that her son Jes is transgender, she celebrated it with a new birth announcement on Facebook. In a relatively short post, Jodi honored her son, explained the change, and let people know that she would not tolerate negativity or inappropriate questions.

While Jodi didn’t plan for her post to “go viral,” it has and it’s inspiring people across the country to send her family comments full of good wishes. Jes even got in on the act and shared her post on Tumblr where it has received more than 162,000 notes to date. I think I see a pattern of family pride, love and acceptance here.

Highly Interesting Photos of the Kansas City CD/T Scene, and an Upcoming Local Event

PrivateBirthdayParty0Unknown, 1958

I was pointed to an article in New York Magazine by an acquaintance, which highlights something which I think is very cool. The subject is the discovery and a project to exhibit an incredibly rare collection of photos of the crossdressing, drag, and transgender scene in Kansas City in the 1950′s and 1960′s. From the original article:

In 2006, artist Robert Heishman was poking around a Kansas City salvage yard, looking for material for an undergraduate documentary class, when he stumbled upon a slide carousel labeled “Jack’s Slides: Chicago and Kansas City.”

“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2. “I didn’t really know what I was purchasing, but I wanted to have time to sit with them a little longer,” he explains.

Two years later, Heishman’s longtime friend Michael Boles was helping a friend move into a new house in Kansas City — which, as he describes it, was right around the corner from the drag clubs that were vibrant in the ’50s and ’60s. He came across a shoebox of slides that turned out to be quite similar to the ones Heishman had found at the scrapyard. “When we got them together and paired them up, it was kind of amazing,” Boles reflects. “Some of them are even from the same parties.” The resulting collection — titled “Private Birthday Party,” after the signs that used to appear on club doors when drag balls were taking place — includes over 200 images and provides a vivid glimpse of Kansas City’s early drag-ball culture. Heishman and Boles have since brought on Emily Henson to help with background research; together, the three believe they’re close to identifying the photographer.

PrivateBirthdayParty1Unknown, December 1964
PrivateBirthdayParty3Unknown, December 1964

A first peek at these rare photos can be found on the project site, Private Birthday Party. I confess that when I saw the wonderful old photos complete with their classy kitsch I let out a squeal of joy which raised my wife’s eyebrows.
PrivateBirthdayParty2The Colony, 1959

What’s more, there is a debut party and fundraiser for the project which will be held on April 17, 2014, at the Guild in downtown Kansas City. Yours truly is intending to attend, and I hope to be able to ask some questions directly of the folks involved in this project. If anyone reading this wants to say hi, show up and look for the funny little lady with her camera.

PrivateBirthdayParty4The Colony, November 1968
Click here for a direct link to the photo gallery in its current form. I very much hope that they will be posting all of the photographs soon, and in higher resolution as well.

UPDATE: Social Security Administration Officially Updates Transgender Spouse Policy

I originally reported on January 31 of the case of Robina Asti, who was fighting to receive benefits from her deceased husband’s Social Security, but was denied because Social Security didn’t recognize her marriage. I also posted an update on February 25 where she had received her first benefits payment, although no official announcement had been made by the Social Security Administration.

Well it’s official now, and the Social Security Administration has issued updated guidelines regarding the eligibility of transgender individuals for survivor’s benefits. HOWEVER, residents of Kansas should take note of the following:

There are still seven states where the SSA will conduct additional legal review: Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. This is due to a belief by the SSA that state marriage laws regarding transgender individuals are unclear, making the existing case-by-case review process necessary.

I assume that this is due to the confusion over the Kansas Supreme Court decision In re Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002), which can best be summarized as “transsexuals can NEVER change their gender with respect to marriage. Original equipment is all that matters.”

As promised before (and I kept my promise), I’ll keep on this to see if there are new developments regarding Kansas and the other states listed above.

Social Security Administration Updates Transgender Policy | Advocate.com.

Art Imitates Life For Transgender Artists

Rhys Ernst is transitioning from female to male. Zackary Drucker is transitioning from male to female. Both are in love, and both are telling the story of their relationship through the transition process by a photo series, which they’ve titled “Relationship.”

At the site linked below you can find an interview with the artists, as well as a slideshow from their project. Within the interview, I found this quote right near the lead compelling:

Drucker: “The amazing thing about being a human is that we are transformative material, and we change from one moment to the next. Being transgender is a more visible manifestation of that because we are literally changing the way we are presenting ourselves to the world.”

Ernst: “The photographs sort of chronicle this amazing crystallizing of an identity we had always longed for.”

I really like that concept – that human beings are transformative materials. Not only do many (but not all) of the cells of our body constantly replace themselves via normal metabolic processes, changing even cisgender bodies constantly, but age, wear, our own actions, and the actions of others transform our bodies as well.

Our minds are of course what transform the most about us. When combined with our ever-changing bodies, the sum is a slowly different person to the world each and every day.

Art Imitates Life For Transgender Artists | New Hampshire Public Radio.

Fiona and Friends Participate in Trans-Law Seminar at KU

Madeline, Amanda, Fiona, Debi and Rachael at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Seminar at KU

Madeline, Amanda, Fiona, Debi and Rachael at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Seminar at KU

On the 26 March, a group of people came together to attend a session of a law course at the University of Kansas (KU).  The course is  the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Seminar” and it is a new course this year, created by David Brown.  David reached out to a friend in the Trans community, Julie, because many people know LGB people but not many know trans people – or know that they do as so many are stealth.

Julie asked her friends to help and a group of people responded, some trans, and some related to them – Madeline and Rachael, fully out transwomen, Amanda in the “Middle Ground”, Debi, the mother of a transdaughter, and Fiona, married to a transwoman.

We met at the law school and attended the first hour of the session, a student led discussion of the relevant topic, where issues such as bathroom usage, whether imprisonment in an opposite gender prison is cruel and unusual punishment, changing legal documents and discrimination by police, prosecutors, juries and judges was discussed.

For the second hour, it switched to a question and answer format, where we introduced ourselves and then the students asked us questions regarding our experience and issues with the law.  Madeline spoke about her life and her law practice and transitioning as a lawyer, and provided citations for the students when the rest of us could only reference cases by story; Amanda spoke of living in the middle ground, and the fear of discrimination caused by the patchwork of anti-discrimination laws that doesn’t cover the whole country. Rachael spoke of the issues affecting immigration and the climate in the UK, Debi spoke of issues affecting parents and schools, various state Family Services and custody of children, and Fiona spoke of issues regarding effective same-sex marriage in Kansas, social security benefits, name changes and the number of documents to change, and the EEOC focus on discrimination against trans people.

After the class ended, there was pizza, which is always a good thing, and many of the students stayed behind to thank us for coming, or to ask additional questions.  It was a really good experience and I would happily attend next year too.

Pizza and after class discussion at KU.

Pizza and after class discussion at KU.

Transgender Substitute Teacher Upsets Lumberton, Texas Bigots

Sometimes I wonder about whether I would have been a good mom. Whether I would have raised my children properly and taught them how to respect others, be courteous and conscientious, be open to other cultures and new experiences, and face the world guarded yet unafraid to step up and do the right thing.

And then I read about “concerned parents” like the ones in this article, and I snort and think “well hell, I can’t do worse than them.”

The basics of the story, which my friend Danna (a transgender schoolteacher herself) pointed me to are simple and sadly familiar.

Act 1 – Invasion: The transgender teacher, also known as “the Satanic Succubus in Clouds of Sulfur (SSCS),” worms her way into the classroom to “teach” her unholy agenda, telling such lies as the South lost the American Civil War and the Earth is NOT 6,000 years old.

Act 2 – Discovery: Brave soldiers of goodness and light uncover the SSCS, and bring her into the light of Jesus. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to burn her at the stake (thank you very much, evil liberal Supreme Court!), but they can ensure that she will never work again!

Act 3 – Counterattack: The SSCS enlists her unholy allies – the transgender “activists,” the “ACLU,” the “Southern Poverty Law Center,” and (gasp!) the EEOC of our Muslim conqueror, Sultan Obama.

Act 4 – The Final Battle: the forces of good and light gather throughout the state, and ultimately chase the evildoers back to New Sodom (California). Texas secedes from the United States. No one notices any difference.

Transgender substitute teacher upsets Lumberton ISD parents – 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas.

Appleton, WI elects Transgender Man to City Council

Gypsy Vered Meltzer, a transgender man, has been elected to the Appleton, Wisconsin city council. The first openly transgender person to be elected to public office in Wisconsin, Gypsy is making a major contribution to public awareness and acceptance for our people.

Also interesting within the article is a list of many other transgender persons to hold office in the US and other countries.

Appleton, WI elects transgender man to City Council.

Transgender Models Around the World

Arisce_WanserA short article with photographs of 9 female transgender models (and a link to the recent Barney’s catalog featuring many transgender models), which is probably work-safe. There’s not much I can add to it at this juncture; it delivers what it promises.

GayNZ.com Trans models around the world.

Meet Claudette, An Intersex Sex Worker From Switzerland

Every week or so I read a really powerful story on the web, or offline, which I simply must highlight. In this case my friend Elle pointed me to such a story, which is highly unusual and may be a little disturbing to some of my readers.

The story in question is a photo essay on the Huffington Post about Claudette, a 77 year-old intersex prostitute from Switzerland. The story is incredible for several reasons:

  • The fact that she is honestly intersex of course is the primary reason. Few intersex persons will open up so much about their lives as she has in this short photo essay.
  • The fact that she has willingly chosen sex work as a profession, something which is vanishingly rare among intersex persons.
  • The fact that she is 77 years old. All mention of her being intersex aside, you rarely come across stories of elderly sex workers in any context.

From the article:

To fully play with the possibilities and ramifications of gender roles, Claudette turns to prostitution. “Prostitution becomes a source of self confidence,” Claudette explained, “for people who see in prostitutes the ultimate femininity and who assume this role with happiness and a sense of relief.”

Though her unconventional gender identity and choice of profession are commonly associated with trauma and shame, Claudette wears both aspects of her life with pride and joy. Refusing to be pitied for what other people may be uncomfortable with, Claudette displays the immense power that accompanies a deep love for oneself. With honesty and bravery, she creates a life for herself on her own terms — a life that, despite the more unconventional details of her existence, is made up of the universal components of work, family, memories and love.

“Claudette unnerves some people because she lives a happy and coherent life while denying a fundamental moral precept,” Delrieu[the reporter] said.

Her story at the link below is short, and I would really love to read an autobiography. There are a few photographs which are NOT work safe, so be careful about clicking the link.

Meet Claudette, An Intersex Sex Worker From Switzerland (NSFW).

Book Review – Painted Ladies

Jasmine Frame is a former police officer who served under the name Jim Frame, until she underwent a gender transition. Her transition cost her a career she enjoyed, and facing an impending divorce, ostracism from family and friends, and a struggle to finish her transition, she’s trying to make it in world on her own as a private detective. Unable to drum up enough business, when the police ask her to help with a case involving a brutal murder of a crossdresser she jumps at the opportunity, and quickly finds herself in the nightmare of trying to catch a serial killer targeting crossdressers.

The tension mounts when Jasmine is asked to be a decoy to draw the killer out, which also leads to serious conflict within her as she must pretend to be a male crossdresser. Will she catch the killer before she becomes the latest victim? Read and find out (although the fact that there’s a sequel in the works sort of tells you that she lives…)

Much more about the book, and my review of it, can be found at the link below.

Book Review – Painted Ladies | Transas City.

Should Transpeople or Gay Men be Happy with Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig?

Hedwig1
A few weeks ago I was chatting with an acquaintance who is an author and entertainment historian, who exclaimed to me exasperatedly “Really now! Can any transperson or gay man actually be happy with having Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig?” And that’s the topic of this post.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch has come to Broadway, and most transgender people I know are pretty disgusted with it. In case you haven’t heard of it, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a film about…well, let me allow Wikipedia to summarize it:

Hansel Schmidt is an East German “slip of a girly boy” who loves rock music, and is stuck in East Berlin until he meets Luther Robinson, an American Soldier. Luther falls in love with Hansel and the two decide to marry. This plan will allow Hansel to leave communist East Germany for the capitalist West. However, in order to be married, the couple must consist of a man and a woman. Hansel’s mother, Hedwig, gives her child her name and passport and finds a doctor to perform a sex change. The operation is botched, however, leaving Hansel – now Hedwig – with a dysfunctional one-inch mound of flesh between her legs, the eponymous “Angry Inch”.

Hedwig goes to live in Junction City, Kansas as Luther’s wife. On their first wedding anniversary, Luther leaves Hedwig for a man. That same day, it is announced that the Berlin Wall has fallen and Germany will reunite, meaning as material gains go, Hedwig’s sacrifices have been for nothing. Hedwig recovers from the separation by forming a rock band composed of Korean-born Army wives.

“Internationally ignored” Hedwig and her band of Eastern Europeans, the Angry Inch, are forced to support themselves by playing coffee bars and strip mall dives. Throughout the film, these gigs are performed at a chain seafood restaurant called Bilgewater’s. Hedwig is following Tommy’s tour in order to pursue a copyright lawsuit. She tells unsuspecting diners her life story.

Hedwig2

I’ll let you read the rest. A small number of transgender women I know think the movie is artistic and philosophical enough to survive on those merits; most who have seen it tell me it’s disgusting, revolting, and disheartening.

I’m not passing judgment on it – I haven’t seen it, so I’m reporting what transgender friends and acquaintances of mine tell me their opinion is. I will note that I am biased against it for no other reason than on one internet message board I was once hounded with posts calling me “Hedwig” by a group of angry transphobic trolls. Reading several different plot summaries, it appears that fundamentally Hedwig is intended to be making a statement about how most people exist without being true to themselves, and create illusions of their lives in many ways, including gender identity.

NeilPatrickHarris
And this brings us to Neil Patrick Harris. Despite having the LGBT “cred” of being a gay man in Hollywood, he has a somewhat poor record of transgender sensitivity. For example, this site catalogs some of the transphobic screenplay and situations he has portrayed or helped portray on his hit show How I Met Your Mother. Now you may say “but he has no control over that,” but that’s clearly bunk. As my acquaintance tells me, actors who are of any status at all can easily make minor changes in the script, or at a minimum push a program to be more sensitive on a topic. Or they can just flat out refuse to participate in transphobia…

The problem becomes more apparent outside of character acting, where Harris has been guilty of throwing the “tranny” word around. Although he did apologize for it very promptly, his apology was met with suspicion by some in the community.

So what are we to make of a Broadway production which focuses on a transgender woman with botched SRS who appears to be completely insane and who in the end of the production is portrayed as a streetwalker, calls herself a misfit and loser, and appears to be incredibly gender-confused? Portrayed by a gay man with a questionable history regarding transgender sensitivity? And for the record, not a transgender actress; although the controversy over Jared Leto and Dallas Buyer’s Club has taught me, some transgender people believe that it’s OK if no transwomen get parts as leading characters in major media productions right now, and we should bide our time…

It’s not difficult to see why some transgender folks would have some serious reservations.

Neil Patrick Harris is barely recognisable in drag for Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch | Mail Online.