Monthly Archives: February 2014

ESSAY: Una Muses on whether Pink, Blue, and Excessively Gendered Toys Hurts the Economy

The first thing I must note is that what spurred this essay was not a specific scientific study per se, but rather a news report of opinion by the UK Consumer Affairs Minister Jenny Willott. In the article, she says:

Society should therefore aim not to make boys who want to play with a pushchair and girls keen to kick a football feel guilty or ashamed, she argued.

“A boy who has never had a sewing kit might never discover his talent for design and a girl who has never had a Meccano set may never discover she has real potential as an engineer.

“Clearly not every girl that plays with Lego is going to be an architect… but why should we limit girls’ aspirations at so early an age by making it so rigidly defined?”

Toy shops gave off clear signals, the consumer affairs minister said: “The shelf may say ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ on it, or otherwise girls’ and boys’ toys may be colour-coded or displayed in separate aisles.

“What message does that send out? What are we telling our children? We are telling them that girls and boys are different, that they like different things and that they have different interests and skills.

“We are telling them that their gender defines their roles in society and their dreams about the future.”

This is followed by interesting testimonial from MP Chi Onwurah:

Chi Onwurah
Labour MP Chi Onwurah.

“Before entering Parliament, I spent two decades as a professional engineer, working across three continents,” she told MPs.

“But it is only when I walk into a toy shop that I feel I am really experiencing gender segregation,” she said.

“At some point over the past three decades, the toy industry decided that parents and children could not be trusted to figure out what to buy without colour-coded gender labelling.”

Science-themed toys were often labelled “for boys”, with products like miniature dustpans and brushes marketed towards girls, she told MPs.

“What happened? Did someone dye the Y chromosome blue in the 1980s or force the X chromosome to secrete only pink hormones?

“No. This aggressive gender segregation is a consequence of big-company marketing tactics.

“As every successful marketeer knows, differentiation makes for greater profit margins and segmentation gives you a bigger overall market, so with three-year-old girls only being able to choose pink tricycles, then the manufacturer can charge more for that special girly shade of pink and the premium princess saddle.

“And of course, that trike cannot be handed over to a brother or nephew, ensuring further sales of blue bikes with Action Man handlebars. It has now got to the point where it is difficult to buy toys for girls, in particular, which are not pink, princess-primed and/or fairy-infused.

“Why should girls be brought up in an all-pink environment? It does not reflect the real world. I should say that had anyone attempted to give me a pink soldering iron when I was designing circuit boards, they would have found my use of it not at all in accordance with their health and safety.”

These are some excellent points which seem “common sense,” and she presents them very well as an economic argument.

But this article set me thinking as well – why are Western parents, especially American parents, still so terrified of the colors pink and blue? Why would no “self-respecting” parent give their son a pink shirt, nor their daughter a blue top? Actually, wait, girls do wear blue all the time, although as early as the maternity wards you will find the babies wearing “color-coded” knit head covers.
Caps
Indoctrination begins just after birth…

Girls can certainly wear pink. Girls can actually wear pretty much any color we like unless specifically prohibited by workplace policies. One of my sharpest skirt suits is hot pink, and I receive many compliments when wearing it. But when I was dressing as a boy, there was no way, no how that I could wear pink and get away with it. Once I wore a pink tie with a sharp charcoal suit, and I looked absolutely smashing in it. OK, maybe there was a small hint of 1980’s Miami Vice to it, but still, there was nothing wrong with it at all. However, the teasing, ribbing, and arched-eyebrow commentary I received at work convinced me that if I was going to maintain the charade of being a boy, that tie could never come to work again.

PinkTie
Pink ties are like, so 80’s…

What’s so bloody stupid about the entire pink and blue business is it’s entirely created by social pressure. There is no genetic coding that one must wear this color and not that. Furthermore, lengthy and extensive research has shown that pink and blue gendering is entirely arbitrary, and has altered over time. (By the way, I hope you like that column by Cecil Adams; I was an uncredited research assistant for it.) And it’s a very Western thing as well – many (most?) cultures of the world have no problem with pink, and when I was in Taiwan on business pink was considered to be a lucky color, one worn by both genders equally.

So the real issue with color comes down to an incredible construct – somehow, some way, an unconscious synergy occurred between fashion mavens, advertisers, and even the United States military industrial complex to designate pink as the color of femininity, weakness, subversion, and even Communism.

Turgidson
You say you want to wear pink, soldier?

The result is a mass-culture hysterically homophobic terror of pink for boys. It’s silly and it’s ignorant, and unfortunately anyone who is familiar with Charles Mackay and his wonderful Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (a work which should be required reading for any teenager in High School) knows that this destructive anti-pink “fad” will be very slow in shambling off to the dustbin of history’s failures.

BBC News – Aiming toys at just boys or girls hurts economy – minister.

East Mecklenburg, NC, High School Crowns Transgender Homecoming King

Meck_Trans_King
It’s going to be that time of year again, when some schools crown their homecoming “royalty,” and all of them will matriculate students. And as we saw last year this time, the news will possibly be filled with increasing cases of transgender acceptance, and transgender discrimination. The hope of course is that each year we will see more of the former and less of the latter.

In this case East Mecklenburg, North Caroline Senior Blake Brockington was nominated to be homecoming king by his fellow students, and he beat out 13 other contenders to take the crown. Of course East Mecklenburg is reportedly a somewhat unusual high school:

Teacher Bill Allen is the student advisor for the Gay-Straight Alliance on campus.

He says East Meck is known as a school of diversity. He says Brockington’s achievement is the first step in representing what many of the students believe.

“Our young people understand we are all different. We have all races, genders and religious backgrounds. We have kids representing 30-40 languages in this school and people learn to accept each other as they are, and I think this is an example of what is going to be happening in North Carolina,” he said.

As we transgender people are well aware, sympathy or membership with one minority group does not necessarily extend to sympathy with any other minority group. However, the system seems to be working at this high school.

East Meck crowns transgender homecoming king | WCNC.com Charlotte.

ESSAY: Una Rambles a Bit About the Cisgender Focus on Genitals

Vogue-Breathless

I confess that I saw the Barney’s photo shoot for their catalog which featured transgender models when the news first ran, and I didn’t feel it was really newsworthy enough to report upon. Vogue disagreed, and ran a transgender advocacy piece on their website, which is linked below.

The article is an interesting read, but there’s nothing really groundbreaking. However, this quote from the article caught my eye:

It’s astonishing the amount of time that certain straight people devote to gay sex—trying to determine what goes where, and how often. They can’t imagine any system outside their own, and seem obsessed with the idea of roles, both in bed and out of it.

This is very true when I debate transgender rights on various message boards across the net, but in a different way. Many cisgender people want to focus on our genitals. It’s the first thing they think of when they meet a transgender person, and if they are socially inept enough one may be asked “OMG! Are those tits real? Did you have your dick cut off? OMG!” When a transman is encountered, the reaction can be “OMG! So do you like wear a strap-on all the time?! OMG!”

This of course is at best willful ignorance, and at worst thinly-disguised hate.

The questions also come fast and furious about our sexual preference: “So, um, do you date men? Does that make you gay, or ‘something else?’ So you stayed married to your wife? Are you, like, a lesbian? How do you have sex? Doesn’t the wife miss ‘the dick?’ ” (well if she did, I could introduce her to the giant talking one I’m facing right now…) And most charming of all, “um, hey, can I watch?”

Charlie Sheen; Jon Cryer
Yeeees…lesbians…

For all that many cisgender people define transgender persons by our genitals and sexual intimacy, they miss the glaringly obvious point that it’s they who are thinking about the penis, the vagina, the breasts, and all the rest of the naughty bits which fill the average American with a frisson of glee whenever the subject arises. In doing so they admit their ignorance on understanding what gender really is. What is a man? What is a woman? They ignore the entire 99% or more of our lives which are spent in a gender role – living, loving, going to work, playing, shopping, and everything else – outside of sex.

Conservative religious followers scream with fury “THEY WANT TO PUT BOYS IN OUR GIRLS’ BATHROOMS!” and contemptuously brush aside the overarching whole of “what does it really mean to be a girl?” Others claim that the Bible, Koran, and other holy books are always and forever literally true, every word of them: God created men and women, there is nothing else, and you don’t dare presume to change that fact. When confronted with the fact that intersex people exist, they either brush it off as a birth defect, deny that intersex people exist and claim it’s all part of a government conspiracy, or go so far as to claim that intersex people are demonic spawn who God personally wants them to ostracize, mock, hurt, and kill.

And these folks can vote. Think about that for a golden moment.

I’ve told these folks “Me personally, I don’t believe God makes mistakes. The fact is, intersex people do exist, transgender people do exist, and we are all children of God, a creator, or nature and the universe, depending on your beliefs. You believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God, but think they made a mistake somehow? What the hell, do you think they were they doing Jäger shots when they created me?”

Jager
God doesn’t make mistakes, nor did they do Jäger shots when creating intersex and transgender persons.

Rarely are their hearts and minds open to the possibility that their own God did not make a mistake, and rather it is ever-so fallible human beings who are mistaken when they wrote the Bible.

Perhaps if as a society we educated our children on understanding gender – not just the traditional roles, but the reality of gender fluidity and gender ambiguity – rather than sex, we would raise a generation of children wherein small-minded, hateful bigots would be a vanishingly small minority.

Breathless: Ignorance or Insensitivity? Dealing with Transgender Culture – Culture – Music, Movies, Art, Profiles, and More.

No Clear Message from the Obama Administration Over ENDA Executive Order

Obama_SigningOK, this is a little long, but I really need to lay down some background first about what could, if fortune favors us, be one of the most important transgender advances in recent history.

The President of the United States has some modest authority to use Executive Orders to direct how the Federal government behaves, so long as such orders are lawful. For example, the President could in theory order that all Federal employees must wear pink on Fridays, unless or until the Legislative Branch (Congress) passed a law forbidding such, or the Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court) declared such an order to be un-Constitutional.

This power, however, also allows the President to influence broad areas of America indirectly by directing how Federal contractors must behave if they are going to be qualified to bid on Federal projects. This is an incredible amount of implicit power, as a very large number of American companies are Federal contractors, or else wish to bid on Federal contracts. Wikipedia has an impressive list of the top-100 Federal contractors, and the total number of employees among these companies are in the millions. Take a look at the list – is your company on it? Mine does tens of millions of dollars of Federal work every year, and we probably are barely in the top-1000.

The total number of Federal contractor employees is not public data, and I struggled with a variety of half-baked sources and WAGs, often from Tea Party “conspiracy” sites. As best as I can tell, there are perhaps 7-10 million employees working for companies which are performing on Federal contracts, and perhaps 20-30 million employees of companies which have pursued Federal contracts. If you add this to the number of employees in the Federal government itself (4.3 million), we have somewhere between 11 to 44 million employees in the United States who would be potentially impacted by any Executive Order impacting Federal contractors.

Given that the total size of the employed United States workforce is about 144 million, and you can see that at a minimum we’re talking about 8%, and at most 31% of the American workforce is potentially impacted by an Executive Order.

So now that I’ve bored you with some statistics, now to the heart of the matter: to be blunt, President Obama has within his authority the ability to declare that all government contractors must have a strict non-discrimination policy in hiring, firing, and worker treatment to protect gender identity and gender expression, sexual preference, and sexual identity. In short, overnight President Obama could potentially make the lives of a very large percentage of the transgender community better overnight!

An order such as this would help get unemployed transgender persons off the streets and into the workforce, allowing them to start living better lives. It would protect the innumerable closeted transgender persons, who live in fear every day of being outed at work and losing their livelihoods. And it would change the entire dialog and force the issue to be confronted among many employers who aren’t even currently Federal contractors. As the size of our Federal government grows the attraction of the money available for private companies will increase, leading more and more discriminatory companies to throw in the metaphorical towel and enact their own anti-discrimination policies on their own.

However, according to the Washington Blade (link below), the Obama Administration is giving some mixed signals on whether or not they will use an Executive Order to do what the House of Representatives refuses to do – enact ENDA in any way, shape, or form.

I won’t spin the story below – it speaks for itself. There appears to be some confusion over where in the process of “consideration” an ENDA Executive Order lies. This sort of confusion is hardly new – President Obama’s staff have been historically much better at keeping secrets than past Administrations, so I don’t really think one can say for certain what will happen. President Obama may be concerned about the November elections, as the possibility of losing seats in the Senate, and more in the House, is a clear and present danger due to dissatisfaction over the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a “Obamacare”).

I hope that President Obama does enact an Executive Order ENDA soon, so precedent can build to help create change. The 2016 Presidential election is entirely up in the air, and a backlash from the masses sending in a Conservative President could easily result in a repeal of any Executive Orders which were thought to be “too Liberal.”

W.H. adviser says ENDA executive order ‘under consideration’ : Washington Blade – America’s Leading Gay News Source.

Then and Now: The Murder Of Transgender Women. Same as it Ever Was.

Nizza_and_NettlesI decided to bring a little historical perspective to this update on the murder of Islan Nettles by mentioning another case, more than a decade prior, where a transwoman was murdered and the police are apparently unable or unwilling to do the right thing.

On December 22, 2002, transgender woman Nizah Morris was found naked in the street from the waist up, bleeding from a head wound. The last time any witnesses had seen her, she was climbing into a police car to receive a courtesy ride from Philadelphia police officer Elizabeth Skala. A summary of what happened afterwards can be found here.

Officer Skala testified that Morris asked to be dropped off at Chancellor St and S. Juniper St, two minutes distant driving from the bar and 45-minute walking distance from her home. One minute after being dropped off at 3:30am a motorist testified he called 911 reporting a woman she was laying on the street naked from the waist up, bleeding from her head.

The DA has refused to release the 911 records.

The entire thing is better explained at the link above, and screams “coverup” so loudly that you have to wonder WTF.

So flash forward 11 years, and we have the case of Islan Nettles, who was beaten to death on or about August 17, 2013 after she and a group of friends were attacked by a gang of eight men. After following them and taunting them with homophobic slurs, at least one man knocked Nettles to the ground and began a bit of the old ultra-violence – because that’s what we “subhumans” deserve, right? Ye-ah.

Nettles’ case quickly turned into a three-ring circus, with a friend of the defendant making a fake confession in the case, allegedly spurred on by the defendant’s mother. Even after these folks using the justice system like a plastic sex doll, the District Attorney’s office insists that they are “aggressively investigating” the case. The group Trans Women of Color of New York made this recent press release concerning the case:

It was revealed that no DNA evidence was collected from Paris Wilson at the scene of the crime, nor were witnesses rigorously questioned. Nor has it been explained why Simone Wilson, the suspect’s mother, was never held accountable for falsifying evidence when she persuaded a friend of her son to make a false confession which was later recanted. And perhaps most inexplicably, the D.A.’s office is claiming that all 10 surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the beating that lead to Islan Nettles’ death were broken.

Nope, nothing suspicious at all here!

Good News – USDA Committed to Protecting Transgender Persons

USDA-RespectThis is really encouraging news and another sign of how progressive this current Administration really is. Let me summarize the article – it is a report of an interview with Dr. Joe Leonard, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Office of Civil Rights at the USDA. As the article notes, while we think of the USDA as being just the folks who stamp approval of our steaks, they also manage a large network of rural loans for homes and farms.

Quoting Dr. Leonard:

“The USDA is implementing historic protections for gender identity. In other words, we are making sure that if a person comes in and applies for a loan they cannot be turned away for gender identity issues.”

“If there is a person whose destiny is to become a farmer, I want them to stay in Texas and farm that land. Alvin Ailey was from Rogers, Texas. He had to go to New York City to fulfill his destiny. But there are some destinies you don’t need to leave your home to fulfill. I’d say, ‘Trans people: we are here to support you in home ownership. We want the trans family to have what every other family in America can have.’”

By the way, I made the graphic myself…feel free to borrow it.

Creating Change: USDA Protects Gender ID: Saturday at the conference: Dr. Joe Leonard, Jr. – The Gay Place – The Austin Chronicle.

2014 February 4 – Discrimination Roundup

GabourneyIt’s fun to make fun of the trannies…

Come sit around, children, while I tell a story of three cases of discrimination against transgender people in the news. Yes, Susie, I know you’ve heard similar stories before. No, Timmy, I’m not going to stop telling these stories until people stop doing evil to my sisters and brothers.

Let’s start with B-list (arguably, C-list) actress Gabourey Sidibe, who is doing the “oh crap, I shot my mouth off again and now I need to cover or else I’ll be consigned to the dinner-theatre circuit” backpedal. Sidibe, who as a woman of color ought to be familiar with haters going after her community, decided that the Arsenio Hall show was where she was going to plant her flag making fun of the transgender community. Because discrimination, something she has said many times in interviews that she has been subjected to all her life, is really fun if you can practice it towards others…wait, what?

“There was a bar that we would frequent and every time we’d go, when we were leaving every single time there was always like a gang of cops arresting trannies,” she said on the talk show. “Specifically trannies. And I don’t know what goes on with trannies but that tranny on tranny crime needs to stop!” … “It is tearing our nation apart!” she said to an audience and host Arsenio Hall laughing.

Hall for his part never raised one peep of protest, which isn’t surprising since he is not exactly popular, and he didn’t kowtow to his guests then he would likely be stuck interviewing people like Dan Crevice, the man with the world’s fourth-largest turnip. So it would be far too much of a stretch to expect a moral backbone in Hall.
So the moral of this story kids, is we “trannies,” to use the vernacular, are always worth a cheap laugh.

IrishParadeSt. Patrick’s Day…it’s not about pride after all?

Next, let’s go on to the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. One of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation (large enough that it’s televised in a lot of markets), it has had a history of shutting down hard any LGBT groups who want to join it. Quoting from the parade organizers:

“We don’t know who’s gay in the parade, and we don’t ban gay people. We ban gay demonstrations, people that are sending out the wrong messages, messages that we don’t agree with,” parade organizer Philip Wuschke told the Boston Globe. “It’s not that type of parade. They have their own parade. Ours is a day of celebration, not demonstration.”

What’s funny is that the St. Patrick’s Day parade was originally developed as a celebration of not just Irish pride but also Evacuation Day, commemorating a victory over the British forces in the Revolutionary War. Furthermore, the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade has allowed people dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars to march in their parade…just not anyone openly showing LGBT pride.

Lena-KlimovaLena Kilmova – fighting for our rights in Russia.

Finally, we arrive at the recently scary and threatening world of Russia – at least if you are LGBT – where Russian journalist Lena Kilmova has been accused of violating the nation’s anti-LGBT law against “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” by establishing a group on Facebook and other social media called “Children-404.” “Children-404,” named for the message your web browser gives you when a site doesn’t exist, is a collection of stories posted by transgender and gay teens who have been subjected to discrimination under Russia’s laws. If found guilty after her court appearance, Kilmova risks a fine of $2,800 and being forced to shut her website down. This action follows a recent use of this law, where a newspaper editor was fined $1,400 for running a news story about a geography teacher who was fired for being gay.