On its face, The Triple Echo could be seen as a straightforward WW2 drama involving a crossdressing soldier who is attempting to escape the horrors of service. However, after viewing it twice I have come to the conclusion that the film touches on more than mere situational crossdressing or forced feminization, but actually includes a portrayal of gender transition from two standpoints – that of the soldier, and of his lover. The film is reviewed in full at the link below, and part of a series of early transgender film reviews I’ve been working on.
It seems that nearly every item of transgender news that landed in my brain this week concerns toilets, toilets, and still more toilets. And of course that’s important news, and an issue which will eventually impact every transgender person in the United States. In my last “Trans Talk” program on 90.1 FM KKFI I spent perhaps 5 minutes of my news update focused upon the toilet issue, so I do recognize its importance. But I’m also uncertain what my adding another article to be shared on the subject will do to add to the debate. I have no original research to present upon the subject, and while some may cry “every article creates awareness!”, when even people in the transgender community are tired of hearing about toilet news…how interested can the cisgender community be in the subject at this juncture?
Instead I want to share a couple of positive transgender news stories from the international scene which you may have missed this week. Note my post title implies that you did in fact miss this news, which is rather presumptuous, but that’s what gets posts shared – a bold, presumptuous title. I’ve also led this article with a photo of an attractive transgender woman, which also encourages folks to click on links to this article. Because that’s what blogs do, right? At least I don’t have, and never will have advertisements on Transas City. It’s frustrating to see so many on Facebook and other social media share clickbait sites with transgender “news” which is culled from BBC and other actual news sources, then loaded up with 50 advertisements per page. The ironic thing is the person making those pages is probably some sweatshop employee in China who couldn’t give a toss about transgender rights in any way – but they do know how to make a flashy title and put a teasing graphic to get clicks – and ad revenue. For all you know the most heavily-distributed transgender clickbait “news” is funding a group of skinheads sitting around a Starbucks, sipping $5 Frappuchinos while they plan their next “pride” rally.
I’m sometimes asked why we should care about international transgender news at all, and that question always baffles me. Normally I look at the questioner with the same stare our cat gives a new variety of food – he knows what it is, but he simply can’t understand why he’s even being presented with it. There are a million possible reasons, but the primary one is that sometimes I feel as if I can close my eyes and feel a giant transgender family which exceeds the bounds of Kansas City, the Midwest, this nation, and all political boundaries. I’ve traveled extensively in both this country and the world as a transgender woman, and everywhere I go I carry with me this sense of family. Sure, sometimes members of your family really piss you off – family doesn’t imply universal love and acceptance (a fact which ever-so-many of my transgender siblings have experienced first-hand!) – but a family nonetheless. I believe I once described it as a Fellini version of The Waltons, but there you go.
With no further self-editorializing, I present to you Ms. Geraldine Roman, the first openly transgender politician elected to the Parliament in the Philippines. Not only that, according to the BBC she is also the only out LGBT politician in the heavily conservative and Catholic nation. While on the campaign trail Ms. Roman reflected upon one of her secrets to success in her election and life – the support of her parents.
During the campaign trail Ms Roman shared that her family always remained supportive of her, and her father advised her to “remain confident” despite being bullied for her gender identity in school.
“That somebody of my condition is going to enter congress for the first time is a statement that even transgender people can serve our country and should not be discriminated against,” Ms Roman told the AFP news agency during her campaign.
Ms. Roman left home to study in Spain, where she focused on language studies, learning 5 languages and earning two Masters degrees. She later worked as an editor at a Spanish news agency, and underwent her gender transition two decades ago. In 2012, she returned home to repay the love her parents had shown her, taking care of them in their old age while promising to continue their political legacy (her mother was a former Parliament member, and in fact the seat held by Ms. Roman was once held by her mother).
After winning 62% of the popular vote in her native Bataan, Ms. Roman promised to not be a one-issue candidate, emphasizing that she intends to be open and vocal regarding her gender identity.
“I’m elated; very, very happy. I’m also excited to work. I realize that the burden is bigger because the stereotype of [LGBT] people … is we are frivolous, that we have nothing substantial to say, so I have to prove them wrong…”
For one thing, in 2001 a law was passed making it impossible for transgender Filipinos to change their name and gender. Ms. Roman has vowed to campaign to lift those restrictions, and to push for an anti-discrimination bill that ensures equal treatment in the workplace, schools, commercial establishments and government offices.
The second transgender politician I want to highlight did not win so lofty a seat as Parliament, but nonetheless she won an important seat as the UK Labour Party’s first openly transgender councilor, and the only current elected Labour transgender politician in the UK. Last week Anwen Dawn Muston won the city of Wolverhampton’s East Park ward with 1,022 votes, running a campaign focused on local issues for her constituents. While other political parties in the UK have elected transgender councilors (the UK being somewhat more progressive than other countries in that regard), Ms Muston is the first Labour politician to win.
According to her campaign site, Ms. Muston is an Army veteran and has been continuously involved in civic projects and charity work since her retirement. Her focus is on community services, helping elderly residents of her city, and campaigning against anti-social behavior and promoting community safety.
Ms. Roman and Ms. Muston, I salute both of you. Well done!
We have three items from the United Kingdom to highlight in this little news roundup. The first is from Brighton College, where the school is allowing all kids the right to wear the male or female school uniform, depending upon their gender identity. Note that although the school has “college” in its name, this is actually a pre-university private school. From the Daily Mirror:
Mr Cairns told students last week that uniform codes dating back to the school’s inception in 1845 would be replaced by a ‘trouser uniform’ and a ‘skirt uniform’ for all pupils up to the age of 16.
The trouser uniform will see pupils wear a full tweed blazer, tie and trousers and the skirt uniform requires students to wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck reverse blouse.
Parents will be required to write to the school before pupils can switch from one uniform to another.
Girls are already walking around the campus in trousers and the school said more than one boy has expressed the desire to wear a skirt.
Pupil Fred Dimbleby, 17, son of BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby, 77, said: “Personally, I’m completely in favour of it.
“I think it’s brilliant that we as an institution are leading this new approach and that we are leading this respect towards everyone no matter what they define themselves as.
“What’s really surprised me is the way that people have taken it within the school.
“I think that it’ll be foreign for people to see someone who defines themselves as a male wearing a skirt, and I think that will be something big, but I don’t think it’ll cause any outrage or backlash because that person will be massively supported by the pupil body.”
In another bit of news from the UK, a transgender girl has inspired the New Chapel Unitarian and Free Christian Church in Greater Manchester to start offering transgender baptisms. In short, to allow transgender persons to be baptized in their new name and gender expression.
Worship leader Jean Clements came up with the idea after meeting a couple who had a transgender child.
The church then backed the change to help others in the same situation.
Mrs Clements told the BBC : “I felt saddened by the fact that this family were being shunned by many mainstream churches.
“However, when the family came to New Chapel, the congregation welcomed them with open arms.”
Finally, a 5-year-old Nottinghamshire child has become one of the youngest cases of gender transition in Britain. Little Danni McFayden has re-entered her primary school as a girl after a social gender transition fully supported by both parents and teachers.
Children can take drugs to postpone puberty as well as hormone treatment, before NHS gender realignment surgery at 18.
The Gender Identity Research and Education Society says referrals for treatment of young people are growing by 50%.
Colin Pettigrew, from Nottingham County Council, said it was determined to support the youngster’s wishes.
He said: “Transgender is a new area for many school and is a characteristic protected by law.”
Georgina Turtle (born George Turtle, later Georgina Somerset) was a transsexual woman who claimed to be intersex, bearing an ovary and rudimentary womb. She was born March 23 1923, and died November 30 2013. She lived her life in England.
Although her earliest recollections were of wanting to be a girl, these were suppressed as she entered young adulthood being trained in her father’s profession as a dentist. After being called up as the war in Europe ended, Turtle served as a surgeon-lieutenant in the Royal Navy until 1948, at which point she established a dental practice in Croydon. In the mid-1950’s, Turtle began taking estrogen and living as a woman, and underwent her first surgery for gender confirmation in January, 1957. Later that same year she was attacked and raped, an event which she never completely recovered from and which led to a gender back-lash for her.
In 1960 Turtle’s birth certificate was finally corrected to show “him” as a girl named Georgina Carol Turtle. Two years later, she married Christopher Somerset, a design engineer. At her 13 October 1962 wedding at St Margaret’s in Westminster, Gina (as she liked to be called) asked her brother to give her away. When he declined, she asked two uncles, and then her family doctor: all declined. Her landlord stepped in, and the wedding went ahead. The couple settled at Hove, where Turtle ran a busy dental practice until her retirement in 1985.
At the link below, I have collected 8 photographs for my readers, three in high-resolution.
I love intersex persons, because they demonstrate to us by their existence how diverse life can be, and how wonderfully varied nature is. I know some intersex persons are bitter about their condition, and I would be the last one to place my values on top of theirs, but I truly believe intersex persons are remarkable humans, and they fight battles with their gender identity and body morphology which are at least as major as we transgender persons do.
This article which I have linked is an example of a miracle of sorts. Hayley Haynes was born with a Y chromosome, meaning by many definitions of the word she was “male.” Yet she also was born with a nearly complete set of “female parts,” save a womb and ovaries, due to having complete androgen insensitivity (CAIS). However, after several examinations her doctors discovered that she had a small womb, which they encouraged to grow by hormone treatment. Thanks to the donation of an anonymous egg and in-vitro fertilization, and after a struggle with the UK’s National Health Service refusing to pay for treatment, she was able to give birth to healthy twin girls.
This is an uncommon case, in that Hayley was further along her development than many CAIS women. But we can simply hope that as medicine advances more intersex persons will have options open to them to live the life they want to, and must live.
Captain Hannah Winterbourne is no stranger to conflict. In addition to her service in Afghanistan, all her life she fought an even greater conflict within herself – that of her gender identity. Not only has her transition been wildly successful – thanks to the British Army having a good policy in place since 1999 – but she is now the transgender representative for the British Army, helping with education, welfare, and issues transgender soldiers may have.
Which of course all begs the question: why is the United States military completely unable to handle the issue of openly transgender soldiers? Why can the UK do it, and not us? The reason, dear readers, is almost certainly not due to a problem with our military, but more with our society. And transgender acceptance within our society is a battle which is still very much underway.
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.
Quite a lot of sad news here I’m afraid, so stop reading right now if you don’t want to read.
I have four articles to highlight here, and I think by far the most important one is the fact that there may be a serial killer of transgender women in Detroit. The first murder occurred sometime in November, 2013, when the body of a transgender woman was found burned beyond recognition and stuffed into a trash container. The second murder occurred on 15 August, 2014, when a second transgender woman was shot in the head just a block from the first murder scene. And since that time two other transgender women have been shot, with both surviving but seriously wounded – both of them shot within blocks of the two murders. I don’t have anything I can add, save that again, we need to exercise extreme vigilance when we are on the streets. Even in a generally transgender-friendly city like Kansas City, safety first, last, and always.
I wish I could give a more positive update on the investigation into the murder of transgender woman Islan Nettles. Unfortunately, New York City Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Viorst has only said they are still “pursuing leads” more than a year after Nettles was murdered by a group of men in a blatant hate crime. In the photograph above, we see Laverne Cox using her celebrity status to attempt to draw attention to the crime, but to no apparent avail.
This next story involves a woman who preyed upon the transgender community, but in a different way: by running a silicone “pumping” business. Which unfortunately led to the death of two transgender women, Marilyn Hale and Karima Gordon. Tracy Lynn Garner, herself a transgender woman, was convicted on 29 August, 2014 of the murder of Karima Gordon, and will be facing sentencing on 2 September, 2014. I’ve warned repeatedly of the dangers of pumping silicone, some of which isn’t even medical silicone but rather nothing more than window sealant, and this story is merely sad proof that you can indeed die from this.
The former story is a little unusual because in that case the transgender woman was the murderer. But my final story also features a transgender murderer, in this case Melissa Young, who stabbed a male acquaintance to death in his apartment when he rejected a gift of trainers (shoes) and a calendar. Young is appealing her conviction, claiming that the Archangel Michael had possessed her body, forcing her to kill an “unclean demon.” Young, who is on the right in the photograph above, apparently had a history of threatening people with knives, and is currently serving a 20-year sentence.
Roberta Cowell is notable for being one of the very first transsexual women in the public eye in the United Kingdom, and she is one of the very earliest to undergo male-to-female sex reassignment surgery in the world. As she predates the much more famous Christine Jorgensen on both counts, her story is an especially interesting one from the pre-Christine perspective.
Roberta was born Robert, the son of a surgeon in the British Territorial Army. Her mother was a housewife who was active in social work. Being a middle-class child, Roberta was very quickly sent off to preparatory schools, where she discovered an aptitude for both mathematics and boxing, also liking tennis and fencing (as I do).
An early bought with obesity likely started a series of body image problems, and Roberta from the earliest pages of the book focuses quite a bit on her belief that she was intersexed. She describes having female hips, a female fat distribution, small features, female hair patterning, etc. She focuses on this quite a bit in the very start of and the second half of the book, and maintained for all of her life that she was intersex (examination late in life proved that she actually was not, unless it was a subtle hormone irregularity).
An aptitude for mechanical things, especially automobiles, was evident very early on. She learned how to repair, build, and race automobiles, something she frequently did in the pre-WW2 years. This love of racing and machines led to a love of airplanes. She joined the R.A.F. as a student pilot in 1935, and later enlisted fully in 1940. She received her commission of Captain at 1941, and was sent to Iceland to head a repair shop. She eventually received a flying assignment and joins a fighter squadron. Although she did not see much action, she had several narrow escapes due to some abnormal flying accidents and incidents. A large amount of the book details both mundane and somewhat interesting items of the war preparations and training.
Roberta’s first real sexual experience came from the unsuccessful advance of a fellow male tennis player, which increased her horror of being thought a homosexual. She had a few girlfriends in short relationships. She married a woman engineer in 1941, but only had two weeks of marital bliss before she was sent to Iceland. She speaks very, very little of her wife – practically nothing is said on the courtship, and only a few sentences devoted to anything else regarding her.
The war adventures continue, and sometime after D-Day, she is shot down over German lines. Amazingly, she is taken to the same prison camp, in the same month, as my paternal grandfather! I got a little thrill over that, thinking that it was actually possible my grandfather had met Roberta Cowell. Her descriptions of Stalag Luft I match what my grandfather used to tell me. She is eventually liberated by the Russians and returns home to try starting up a small business, finding that the English post-war economic climate is anything but good. She also suffers from some mild post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 1948 she separated from her wife, despite having brought forth two daughters, and begain psychotherapy over a general depression and malaise. Here her story of psychoanalysis, Freudian style, lines up with that in so many other trans histories I’ve read. The entirety of Freudian psychoanalysis sounds, from the viewpoint of the patients, to be a colossal load of unproductive money-wasting rubbish, and it doesn’t help Roberta in this case either. But it does give rise to the start of her realization that, along with her feminine features, there is actually a woman inside of her.
A physician speculates on her intersexuality, and suddenly, when she can conceptualize her growing feelings of femininity in a medical context, she starts to feel better. At this point in the book, you can start to see the typical gender transition snowball rolling down the hill. She meets more and more physicians, all of whom are reportedly “in wonder” over her intersexuality. A female endocrinologist (surely a rarity in 1940’s England!) prescribes a hormone regimen for Roberta, and like many transwomen who write autobiographies, she claims remarkable and rapid transformation to all parts of her body. Skin, breast development, loss of muscle, everything happens on fast-forward somehow, even her beard vanishes completely, something which beggars belief. At this point she realizes she is only interested in men. Even her handwriting changes unconsciously. To hear her tell of it, you almost expect her penis to suddenly invert and for her to start having periods!
Two years of hormone treatments pass, with Roberta still not fully out as a female. In 1951, she claims that the doctors were convinced, without any surgical alteration, that she was female, and they even ordered that her birth certificate be altered. At this point a series of SRS operations is decided upon, to correct her “intersex” condition to give her a female-appearing body. She moves out with a platonic female friend, and starts appearing in public as a woman more and more. Her SRS goes without a hitch, although the book is vague on whether it was simply a labiaplasty, or if a vaginoplasty was performed. Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is next, and goes well for her (or so she reports). At this point, she claims that thanks to hormones, she gained 5 inches in her bust, 2 inches on her hips, lost 5 inches around her waist – all of this is possible – but amazingly, lost 1.5 inches in height!
She then enters a world of learning about cosmetics, hair styling, clothing, and cooking (which she especially enjoys). She reports having men trying to pick up on her, in an awkward 1950’s English style, and about a first date with a man. One scene which was funny was when her date’s starter was stuck, and she knew how to fix it, but didn’t want to let on that she knew more than a mere woman should – so she “sat by demurely while telephoned the A.A. and at length got help.” In fact, she says she had to adopt the quote from Martin Luther, “no gown worse becomes a woman than learning,” and continually had to play dumb to let men take care of her. In fact, Cowell evinces a somewhat patronizing disdain towards her fellow women which is not really endearing.
She meets her mother and father as Roberta, and the introductions are rocky, but they eventually get along well. At this point in the book Cowell segues into a discussion of transsexuality and other famous transsexuals, such as Lili Elbe and Christine Jorgensen. She then talks of transvestites and her experiences with them, and moves on to discussing genetics and intersexuality – much of it relevant still at a basic level. Some of her suppositions about hormone effects are a bit naïve, but were not uncommonly adopted by physicians of her time.
Roberta with her father.
She returns to the story and relates an account of her first trip abroad as a woman on vacation, and how it led to a wonderful date with a charming man in Paris. She describes it with a Wodehouse quote: “It’s like eating strawberries and cream in a new dress by moonlight on a summer night, while somebody plays violin far away in the distance.” Whereas my first trip abroad as a woman was to inspect a coal power plant in Yorkshire…
She writes a little of how her feminine emotions continued to evolve, including gaining the ability to cry refreshingly, and the book finishes with one nice quote: “The past is forgotten, the future doesn’t matter, and the glowingly happy present is even better than I had hoped. I am myself.”
Roberta Cowell was a pioneer, but she is not an icon for the trans community to admire. Later in life she made a point of claiming she was XX, despite having sired two children, fudged a bit of her history and war record, and most critically, made some ugly statements about transsexuals, calling them “freaks” because they weren’t “intersexed” like she claimed to be. This feeling does not come through in her autobiography, as it ends too soon, so the book stands alone as a decent read and an interesting insight into the pre-Jorgensen transgender world.
Sometimes we win against the haters – more often, lately, than ever before. In this case a scumbag who found a mobile phone and tried to blackmail a transsexual woman into paying him £200 was arrested for blackmail, and was sentenced to two years and four months in jail.
The creep was a real piece of work. From the article:
The following day the male friend of the phone owner received a text from Devlin saying he knew he had a girlfriend and that he had been “sh***ing that tranny prossy”.
Miss Kidd said the concerned recipient of the text contacted the phone owner, a former man who previously changed his name by deed poll and underwent transgender surgery to now live as a woman.
When the return of the phone was mentioned, Devlin made a crude suggestion as to sexual favours the owner would have to perform on him and his friends to get it back.
Miss Kidd said further text messages were made in which Devlin said unless he was paid £200, “everyone will find out your secret” and that he would reveal it “all over” via social media.
Too bad for the dating scene that this prize pig is in jail now for 28 months…somewhere I hope Nelson from The Simpsons is pointing towards him and exclaiming “Ha HA!”
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.
It’s not like divorce isn’t difficult enough to go through, but imagine you are a transgender woman and a court official adds a sticky note on your divorce papers, saying the following?
“Colin it’s right! Man — changed his name to woman’s name — statutory declaration attached! Takes all sorts!”
Since it’s Scotland, the likely result will be a single apology, and no real action taken to fix the issue. It’s not only disheartening, it’s scary when people in the government decide to score “points” off your gender. Hey Scotland, 1970 called, it wants its bigotry back…
Why is this news? Because it’s a polite treatment of Hinoi Tonkin, a transwoman who is making a “Hail Mary” effort to get cosmetic surgery prior to her SRS. What I found telling is that the United Kingdom’s NHS is not funding her surgery because apparently she doesn’t suffer from significant enough mental distress. This is important to highlight – although I’ve read many transwomen write “damn, I wish the US was like the UK so my SRS would be paid for,” remember that nothing is free, and there are still many hoops to jump through.
Nikki Sinclaire, who represents a region of the U.K. in the European Parliament, has just come out as transgender and also a rape survivor. She has an autobiography which will be published next Monday, and the U.K. tabloid The Sun carried an extensive interview with her.
This story was personally touching for me, in that there is a strong similarity to mine. Sinclaire identifies as lesbian, in a long-term relationship with a woman, after she was raped in 1999 (she also experimented sexually with women before the attack.) That’s really not too far off from how my own sexuality evolved, so I can’t wait to read her autobiography.
I’ve posted a review of the trans love story/drama Different for Girls (1996), which can be read in full at the link below.
Movie Review: Different for Girls (1996)