Monthly Archives: November 2014

Fact Check: The AFA’s Latest Anti-Transgender Column


In a column published on November 21, 2014, the American Family Association (AFA) has posted a column written by Bryan Fischer, wherein he attempts to prove that “trangenders” (as he grammatically incorrectly refers to us) are not only going against God’s will, but we are endangering our health. The overarching theme of his message is that transgender persons are not only willfully acting in defiance of his interpretation of the laws of his deity, but also that transgender regret is widespread throughout our community.

Mr. Fischer’s qualifications for saying what he says are that he is Director of Issue Analysis and Host of “Focal Point.” My qualifications for rebutting him are that I am a transgender researcher, scientist, adjunct university professor, and religious scholar. But let’s not appeal to authority here, and instead look at the facts.

I’m going to rebut Mr. Fischer’s claims using bulleted lists, largely because I really enjoy using them, but also because I think it helps to separate and address each point factually, rather than attempt to sway people with an appealing narrative.

1. The Appeal to Deuteronomy 22:5

Men in kilts technically violate Deuteronomy 22:5. Break out the holy water.

The first major error which Mr. Fischer makes is in appealing to Deuteronomy 22:5, wherein he reads the texts as a prohibition against transgender persons, via its text stating “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Sadly, Mr. Fischer in this appeal to Deuteronomy has revealed that he is not in fact a Biblical scholar, or at best is a Biblical dilettante. Mind you, I’m being charitable here, and not bringing up the possibility that Mr. Fischer is either a bald-faced liar, under the influence of St. Glenmorangie, or perhaps insane.

I have written a very lengthy research piece on the true meaning of Deuteronomy 22:5, and if you want to sit back and read a few thousand words I’ve written I really do encourage you. But for those of you ready to click over to something less long-winded than I, dear reader, allow me to summarize. Deuteronomy 22:5 is a passage in a collection of various laws which not only appears historically unusual, but contains Hebrew text which could be interpreted many ways. At best, Deuteronomy 22:5 may be a prohibition against not attempting to avoid military service by pretending to be female (sort of a “no Corporal Klingers” clause), but it may also refer to a prohibition in engaging in Canaanite religious rituals of the day, which involved swapping sex roles and crossdressing.

Mr. Fischer further reveals Biblical ignorance in not addressing how many other parts of the Bible appear to welcome or be accepting to transgender persons, most especially Acts 8:26-40. Did you forget so soon, Mr. Fischer, the message of the Apostle Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch?

36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

You can read all about nearly a dozen Biblical passages, along with my scholarly research on them, on my page regarding Religion, Faith, and the Transgender Person.

 2. On the DSM and Transgender Classification

Chewbacca, who apparently has about as much chance of interpreting DSM V correctly as Mr. Fischer does.

Mr. Fischer then attempts to play psychologist, by bringing up the “scary” fact that “Until 2012, the American Psychiatric Association classified transgenderism as a ‘gender identity disorder.’ It has since relabeled it ‘gender dysphoria’ in an effort to soften the stigma that properly should attach itself to this problematic lifestyle choice.” He attempts to interpret the intent of the hundreds of psychologists and psychiatrists of the American Psychiatric Association by claiming this change was done to “soften the stigma that properly should attach itself.” It’s an example of “hate the sinner, and the sin.” But let’s set that dig he made aside, and proceed to the factual points.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has an FAQ on their interpretation of transgender as a mental disorder. Mr. Fischer could have found this like I did via a 5-second Google search (perhaps 30 seconds if he’s still on AOL dial-up, but I digress), wherein the APA has this to say about the subject of whether being transgender is a mental illness (I shall quote their answer in full, so I cannot be accused of selective referencing).

Is being transgender a mental disorder?

A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder. For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination. Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. These experiences may lead many transgender people to suffer with anxiety, depression or related disorders at higher rates than nontransgender persons.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), people who experience intense, persistent gender incongruence can be given the diagnosis of “gender dysphoria.” Some contend that the diagnosis inappropriately pathologizes gender noncongruence and should be eliminated. Others argue that it is essential to retain the diagnosis to ensure access to care. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is under revision and there may be changes to its current classification of intense persistent gender incongruence as “gender identity disorder.”

Please note the first and foremost point which the APA makes, which I have highlighted for emphasis. They clearly state that a transgender person who is happy in their gender role is not mentally ill. Why Mr. Fischer was unable or unwilling to mention this is a subject best left for others to address.

However, Mr. Fischer hoists himself by his own petard in his article. In one breath he refers to being transgender as a “lifestyle choice,” and in the next he refers to it as a serious psychological disorder. Which one is it, Mr. Fischer? It seems he cannot even stay consistent within the context of a couple of sentences.

Mr Fischer shows even more ignorance by apparently blindly linking to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, claiming that they themselves say that “transgenderism” has a “number of pathologies.” Note his quote – some of the “pathologies” in his link include:

  • Poor access to healthcare.
  • Keeping good medical records.
  • Taking hormones.
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

Tell me this if you please – on what planet are those “pathologies?” Did Mr. Fischer even read his own doggone links, or did he just outsource the entire column to interns? Good grief.

 3. Conflating Transgender “Regret” and Suicide

Attacking the most vulnerable of us all – is that really the ethic you want to uphold?

Mr. Fischer then makes a common mistake, or uses a common propaganda technique, by citing the statistics from the National LGBTQ Task Force, which are published in their watershed report Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Mr. Fischer does in fact quote correctly the statistic that 41% of transgender Americans have attempted suicide, and that this rate is at least 25 times that of the general population. But the mistake he makes is in context – in his context that being transgender is a sin, and transition fills most transgender persons with regret, he uses the statistic incorrectly.

The statistic of 41% of transgender persons having attempted suicide is over their entire lifetime as of the time of the survey. It by no means and in no way breaks down the statistics for those who are closeted, partially out, fully out, or fully transitioned. This can easily be seen by reading the original survey questions, which are published at the end of the full report (available above). In fact, Mr. Fischer should have taken the real message from the report – that in part due to the intolerance of people such as him and his organization, transgender persons are one of the most victimized minority populations in the entire world. Most Christians would take this statistic to be a call to action to help transgender persons and fight bigotry against them – rather than sanctimoniously and ignorantly wag our superior fingers at them.

4. The “Just Askin’ Questions” Fallacy

Just a couple more questions if you don’t mind, ma’am…

Mr. Fischer then engages in a propaganda technique commonly known as the “just askin’ questions” fallacy, where he writes:

Social research has revealed that 65% of all those who undergo cosmetic surgery live to regret it. How much higher must that figure be for those who have undergone genital mutilation?

This is actually a meaningless, single-source statement which is akin to saying “research has revealed that 15% of Americans don’t like turkey for Thanksgiving. How much higher could it be for those who don’t like ham?” There is no logical connection between the two. Elective cosmetic surgery is an entirely different matter than rehabilitative cosmetic surgery. Transgender persons do not undergo sexual reassignment surgery so they can look good (heaven forbid everyone should walk around pantsless, like Winnie the Pooh). Rather, sexual reassignment surgery is undergone to help a transgender person feel whole, right, and as one with their body. Mr. Fischer may as well damn an Iraqi War veteran who has facial reconstructive surgery to repair burns suffered in combat, because “he might regret it!”

5. The Grim Spectre of HIV/AIDS


Mr. Fischer then attempts to appeal to the masses by the “leper! Unclean!” technique, attempting to inextricably tie HIV/AIDS to being transgender. This really doesn’t need much rebutting, as it’s clear that being transgender in itself makes one no more likely to contract HIV than to contract malaria, dengue fever, or bubonic plague. Now, it is true that transgender persons have a very high rate of HIV/AIDS infection as a population, but if Mr. Fischer was a compassionate Christian, he might have explored why that is. The reason for the high number of transgender persons infected with HIV/AIDS is quite simply sex work.

I sit on the board of directors of a charity which helps sex workers get off the streets and get medical help, out of prostitution, off drugs, and gainfully employed or at least stabilized in their lives. About a third of the women we help are transgender women, and about half of them are HIV positive. Why were these transgender women forced onto the streets into sex work? Quite simply, due to ignorance, prejudice, fear, and discrimination by the public at large. Parents who threw their child out of their house at age 13 because they were a “freak.” Employers who fired a loyal employee when they asked to transition on the job. Ministers and congregations who refused to treat transgender persons as human beings and give them aid. These are the reasons for the high HIV/AIDS rate among transgender persons, and Mr. Fischer should be ashamed of himself for implying otherwise.

6. When all Else Fails, Bark at the Moon and Hope for the Best

Reneé Richards – not exactly the best authority to cite.

Mr. Fischer finally makes a tortured appeal to authority by quoting two self-hating transgender persons. The first is “Well-known transgender[sic] Alan Finch of Australia…” Apparently this person is so well-known that despite my years of research, my enormous transgender bibliography on my bookshelves, my thousands of archived newspaper and magazine and online articles, I’ve never heard of this person even in passing. They have no medical or transgender research qualifications that I can find, so really they appear to be a sample size of one out of millions upon millions of transgender persons around the world. A quick Googling appears to show that Mr. Finch is in fact an intersex person (claiming that a psychiatrist diagnosed them as having a “missing male chromosome”), rather than transgender.

The next “transgender” Mr. Fischer quotes is Reneé Richards. I know quite a bit about Ms. Richards, having read her biographies and researched her sports and personal careers. It’s true that Ms. Richards has spoken out against transgender persons on many occasions. It’s also true that if you read Ms. Richards biographies, you see a person who is profoundly mentally imbalanced, who had a quasi-sexual relationship with her mother and a full sexual relationship with her own sister, went on and off hormones many times, had breast reduction surgery to remove her new breasts, then went right back on hormones to grow them back, had a sex tour of Europe, and generally by her own words can be seen to be somewhat of a first class loon. The last interview I watched of her on ESPN displayed a person who appeared profoundly disconnected from reality.

And this is the spokeswoman that Mr. Fischer wants to back?

Mr. Fischer decides to make it a trifecta of dodgy references by throwing out that “Mike Penner, a sportswriter for the LA Times, famously outed himself in 2007 as a transgendered individual and overnight became Christine Daniels. He then transitioned back to becoming a male in 2008 and finally killed himself in 2009.” My reaction, heartless as it may sound, is “so what?” I know a person who converted to Christianity in college, then climbed into a bathtub with a gun and shot themselves. Should we therefore indict Jesus? Note as well that Penner committed suicide after transitioning back to male, implying (via complete and utter speculation on my part) that perhaps gender wasn’t really their primary problem? The truth is the vast majority of studies show transition results in a net, positive benefit to the quality of life of transgender persons.

 7. Putting God in a Box

I mean, seriously? What hubris.

Mr. Fischer rounds up his somewhat embarrassing column by attempting to appeal to the Ultimate Authority.


No, I don’t mean David Hasselhoff, I mean God.

God knew what he was doing when he assigned each of us our gender at the moment of conception. And he stands ready to help any willing individual come to a place of resolution and acceptance of the gender God assigned him at the moment of conception.

Mr. Fischer has that correct – God created transgender persons to be transgender. He acknowledges the supremacy of his own deity, but then attempts to put him in his own, neat little box by stating earlier that God ONLY and SOLELY creates men and women. No other options. Based on the “common sense” reading of Genesis et al, which I investigate in my links above regarding religion and transgender persons, it’s unclear even from the original Hebrew text that God intended or intends to create ONLY men and women. Mr. Fischer has made a mistake common to most Christians of defining what God can and cannot do based upon Man’s dodgy recordings and translations and re-translations and interpretations of God’s missives.

The very fact that intersex persons exist, and in rather large numbers, proves that God intends to create humans who are other than men or women. Why is Mr. Fischer ignorant of the fact that as many as 1 in 500 “male” births is actually an XXY person? And before you say “they have a Y chromosome; it’s a MAN, BAY-BE!”, note that some XXY individuals have been able to become pregnant and bear children! (see Röttger, S., et al. “An SRY-negative 47, XXY mother and daughter.” Cytogenetic and Genome Research 91.1-4 (2001): 204-207.) Mr. Fischer, God clearly made this woman and her daughter with a Y chromosome. Who exactly is a “man” and who exactly is a “woman,” again?

Furthermore, I’ve written about 10,000 words, along with more than 30 scientific citations, on the subject of how transgender persons have a brain which shows clear physiological differences from those of cisgender persons. I don’t suppose you’d care to read it, Mr. Fischer? If your deity is not responsible for creating the brains of transgender persons, who is? The Easter Bunny?

8. The End

Los Angeles Pride…which Mr. Fischer might view as a cavalcade of delusional, self-mutilating, Satanic psychopaths.

In short, this AFA column (which has their editorial backing, despite their boilerplate disclaimer) is the sort of misguided, ignorant, composed-from-Google-searches piece that we transgender persons expect to see from our opposition. Not only is there no “fire,” so to speak, I’ll be blessed if I can even find much “smoke.” Columns such as this are actually encouraging to me in a manner of speaking, as it shows that the bigots, haters, and opponents of transgender persons really have no factual legs to stand upon. When the primary ammunition of your opponents is to misinterpret their own religious texts, misquote studies, and engage in half a dozen propaganda techniques to perpetuate the “Big Lie,” it should give us confidence that we will win this battle in the end.

Una Talks to the Leader of the Face of Trans* About her WSU Speech

Photo credit: Kevin Brown

As part of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) ceremonies this week, Elle Boatman, who started the wonderful Face of Trans* project, was asked to speak at Wichita State University (WSU) on stereotypes, focusing on the transgender experience. Her talk was attended by between 40-50 members of the student and faculty community at WSU, as well as members of the local transgender community and allies. Titled “Beyond the Binary,” Ms. Boatman explained the role of stereotyping in human psychology, and then used that to lead into an education on the plight of transgender persons worldwide.

I had a chance to ask Ms. Boatman some additional questions about her speech, and I’ll post them as well as her answers below.

Thank you for taking time to talk with me, Ms. Boatman. I had a couple of questions after reading of your speech at WSU. A complete transcript was not available, so I wondered if there were there any key points of your speech which you would like to emphasize here?

Active ally support is critical to obtaining equal rights for trans individuals but the trans community also has a responsibility to stand up for ourselves and be counted as valuable members of society.

What does Transgender Day of Remembrance mean to you, personally?

For me, Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time of reflection and mourning for those lives tragically ended by hate and ignorance. Each year the list grows longer – although the “official” list shrank this year, there is evidence that as more transgender persons feel they can live public, authentic lives, they expose themselves to more violence. We know that transgender deaths outside of the United States and Europe are still vastly under-reported.

I feel the list of names is not only a testament to the rampant violence and intolerance that are so prevalent in many societies around the globe but also as a sign that education and advocacy are beginning to take root. The growing list is not due to increased violence, it’s due to increased recognition of our community and the struggles we face.

What do you think about as you hear the list of the names of the fallen being read?

As I hear the names being read I think how sad it is that these lives have been snuffed out. Many hit home especially hard as they come from cities and towns I’ve lived in or visited. But each name read, regardless of where they are from, is like hearing the tragic news that a family member has died. Also, part of me wonders, as an outspoken trans woman and activist, if I’ll be on that list next year or the year after or the year after that someday.


Did you take advantage of your speech to bring more people into your Face of Trans* project?

Yes! Thirteen people showed up to have their photographs taken, including several WSU faculty.

What are your plans for the future of TFOT*?

Since the inception of TFOT*, I’ve always had the desire to do a film, a documentary about the trans experience but with that TFOT* spin. So I’m hoping to make some more inroads toward that goal. Also, we’re in the beginning stages of a blog site aimed at giving the trans community and our allies a voice, regardless of background or viewpoint (but we will never advocate for violence). The aim is to foster an actual sense of community within the trans community while bringing trans issues to society-at-large.

Thank you very much Ms. Boatman, and good fortune for your efforts helping bring our community out into the light and into authentic lives!

via Leader of social movement speaks to WSU community on acceptance – The Sunflower: News.

Other References:
The Face of Trans* project.
The Face of Trans* project on Facebook.

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Making the Abstract Concrete

Yesterday tens of thousands of transgender persons and their families, allies, and supporters attended Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) events around the world. Since the beginning of TDOR, the annual events have featured a reciting of the names of those who were murdered through the year. It’s a lengthy list each time, with more than 220 of them for this year’s event (I’m hedging, because some counting sites disagree on the exact number of murdered).

But hearing the names is an abstract exercise. We hear the names read out like a gazetteer of sadness and pain in this world, and we go home. This article (linked below) by the Advocate contains the stories of a small sample of those who fell this last year, removed from this world by the evil of mankind. Twenty-four women; about one-tenth of the fallen.

Please if you click on one post today, click on this one. Read a bit about these sisters and brothers of ours, and make their unintended sacrifice concrete within your heart.

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Those We’ve Lost in 2014 |

Hollywood: Fight Breaks Out at Transgender Protest Against Violence

Or at least that’s how the news spun it. In reality, what happened was this: transgender rights protesters took control of a busy intersection in Hollywood, California, linking arms, chanting, and refusing to let traffic cross. Eventually someone not involved with the protest took umbrage, and came up to hit one of the transgender protesters. The assailant tried to flee, but was instead grabbed by a protester and someone watching, taken over off-balance and rather efficiently sideways-pile-drivered into a car.

I’d say “well done”, as they seemed to manage the assault pretty darned well, but overall we can’t be happy at violence on TDOR. It’s clear that blocking busy intersections is going to get a reaction, and unfortunately one must be ready for whatever reaction may come.

VIDEO: Fight breaks out at transgender protest against violence | Watch the video – Yahoo News.

Meeting with Michael Boles of the “Private Birthday Party” Project


This last Saturday I was privileged to meet with Michael Boles, one of the team working on the Private Birthday Party Project here in Kansas City. To summarize the goal of the project, Michael Boles, Robert Chase Heishman, and others have been working to uncover, catalog, preserve, and eventually share and publicize information about the early drag, cabaret, crossdressing, and LGBT community in Kansas City. Their project began with chance discoveries of priceless old slides and photographs from that era, and they have since expanded their project into interviews with the performers and their contemporaries, collections of memorabilia, and much more.

While their project has been somewhat quiet since their introductory showing earlier this year, it’s been for a good reason. They have traveled to California, Las Vegas, and elsewhere to meet with folks from the early days of the Kansas City scene, and have many more plans brewing to increase their local collection – including traveling to view a cache of old Kansas City media and records in Sydney, Australia of all places!

I spent two enjoyable hours handling some of the original relics from this time of early Kansas City community history, viewing the photographs and programmes, and listening to Michael’s categorical knowledge and back story about each photograph. According to Michael their eventual hopes for their project include a book and a documentary, and I think each would be vital for preserving the history of our local community.

Michael sent some recent scans of photographs, which the team has been collecting as they dig deeper into history, and gave me permission to share them. I will keep you updated as they continue their journey back in time!

Douglas Kirk, age 69, was once a stripper and dancer at the Jewel Box in Kansas City, from 1966-1969, when he was known as Criss Noel. He currently lives in Las Vegas, and met with the Private Birthday Party team in person.

This is Douglas as Criss in the 1960’s.

This is Robert Buvard, who used perform with the Jewel Box Revue in the mid 1950’s to the early 1960’s. The Jewel Box Revue started in the late 30’s and was the first traveling group of female impersonators. Robert also worked with G.G. Allen, who is pictured later.

This is Robert as “Robbie Ross” in 1960.

G.G. Allen, in 1959.

This is David Schneider at a Halloween Ball in 1964. David was a local psychic and hairdresser, and had a public access television show called Psychic Voyages, which ran from 1984-1996. The Private Birthday Party team is in touch with his niece and are in the process of getting copies of the show.

This is Skip Arnold, a well-known female impersonator at the Jewel Box Lounge in Kansas City in the 1950’s and 1960’s, with Esther Newton in 1966. Esther wrote a book in the 1960’s called Mother Camp: Female Impersonation in America, which is considered a groundbreaking opus in that community.

And Esther Newton today, now a Term Professor of American Culture and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.

Caroline Cossey – Two Images from 1980-1981

Caroline Cossey, who sometimes worked under the modeling name “Tula,” was born Barry Kenneth Cossey on 31 August 1954, in Brooke, Norfolk, England. After a very unhappy childhood filled with bullying over her obviously feminine appearance, she left school early and started a series of low-wage jobs. After learning the details about transgender life and possibilities from a friend who was a post-operative transsexual woman, Cossey started hormone therapy at 17 and later went on to complete her sex reassignment surgery (SRS) on New Year’s Eve, 1974.

Before her SRS she worked as a showgirl in a London nightclub, and after her final surgery she started circulating as a socialite and working as a model. She appeared in magazines such as the Australian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, was a Page Three Girl for the Sun, and even played a part in a television game show. In 1981 she was cast as an extra in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, and posed for Playboy magazine’s June, 1981 issue. She later appeared in numerous print and television advertisements.

I have two very high-resolution images of Cossey which I have decided to post here in this timeline article linked below. The first is a lovely and famous advertisement for Smirnoff Vodka from 1980. The second is her sole photograph from the June 1981 Playboy magazine, which is somewhat difficult to find.

Caroline Cossey, 1980-1981

Mary Jones, a Transgender Woman in 1836


I’ve published a short historical look at transgender or crossdresser Mary Jones, who was worked as a prostitute and was discovered in 1836 when she was put on trial for pick-pocketing her male clients. Called “the Man Monster” at the time, she received a relatively light amount of treatment given the time and the moral panic of the anti-abolitionist riots passing through New York City at the time. You may read more at the link above.

FDNY’s First Transgender Firefighter Kicks Butt

I love this article in the Village Voice about Brooke Guinan! Not only is she making it in one of the toughest and butchest professions there is, but she’s textbook “out and proud” as a transsexual woman!

But some of her fellow New Yorkers, the ones she’s saving the lives of, don’t exactly seem to give her 100 percent support.

“Every day is a process of getting on a subway and wondering how many people look at you, wondering if they know that you’re trans or not. Every day is a learning experience in gender roles, how you fit in your society, what gender roles you accept and what ones you see for the fabrications that they are.”

What is worse is seeing the comments some trolls leave behind on her poster, or the FDNY Facebook page and other articles. People saying things like “I’m a man wearing makeup” or “it’s gross.”

“You have people who not only want to take away your gender identity but there are people who want to take away my humanity and turn me into an it,” Guinan says. “It took a really long time for me to get to the point of [saying], This is me. This is my truth. This is my identity.”

Her Department does give her support, although increasing gender diversity in the Fire Department of New York will be an uphill battle at best, especially since a mere 41 of its 10,200 firefighters are women. Wow.

FDNY’s First Transgender Firefighter Really Is New York City’s Bravest | Village Voice.

Transgender Model Lea T Signs Major Beauty Contract

Lea T Redkin Contract
I must say, dear readers, I’m glad to see some news about Lea T, as she had dropped off the proverbial radar somewhat. While supermodels are normally reserved a special place of jealous head-tossing in my mind, I have to give a lot of love for a trans sister who’s made it in an industry where every millimeter of her appearance and every step of her poise is under the most intense scrutiny.

I hope that Lea T’s rising tide helps lift all of our boats just a little, in terms of awareness and acceptance if nothing else.

Transgender model signs major beauty contract – Life & Style – NZ Herald News.