Posts tagged: transgender

The Princess and the Frog and the Gator

By , March 6, 2011 12:36 pm

Princess and the FrogFinally recovering from my miserable cold, and hoping to get back to a regular posting schedule. During my illness, I took time to watch lots of Netflix streaming movies: Sleepless in Seattle (how had I not seen this movie before?!), some European subtitled lesbian coming-of-age stories of varying artistic merit, and the most recent (and some say final) ‘real’ Disney animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog.

I was skeptical going into this movie. I grew up with the ‘Disney Renaissance,’ and was raised on films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Needless to say, I have high expectations for my animated musical Disney films. I was also nervous about the race issues surrounding Disney’s first black princess. Fortunately, The Princess and the Frog surprised me: the songs were good, the animation quality high, and while it mostly sidestepped issues of race (particularly interracial interactions in the 1920s American South) there were occasional nods to racism. I don’t feel well-versed enough in race theory to really comment, other than to say that – as an admittedly privileged white woman – I enjoyed the film.

What really threw me for a loop was the issues of ‘passing’ brought up by the alligator, Louis.

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“The Phantom Genitalia” would be a great band name

By , January 30, 2010 12:17 pm

A friend shot me an article from sfgate.com earlier this week: Gender Identity and Phantom Genitalia:

V.S. Ramachandran, a neurologist and psychologist at UC San Diego and a leading authority on phantom limb sensations, says it has long been known that some people who are born without arms have vivid phantom arms. They can swing them around, wave goodbye and make complicated gestures.

This suggests that an intact body image – the maps of the body laid down in the brain before and after birth – can develop without actual limbs. So-called mirror neurons that map the actions and intentions of others into one’s own brain may help bring the phantoms to life, Ramachandran says.

This got Ramachandran wondering whether the phantoms applied to transsexuality. To find out, he surveyed 20 male-to-female transsexual women and 29 female-to-male transsexual men.

The first finding was intriguing. Only 6 out of 20, or 30 percent, of the transsexual women who had had their penises removed reported feeling a phantom phallus. But 58 percent of “normal” men have such sensations after the surgery.

The second finding was surprising. A third to a half of “normal” women experience phantom breasts after a mastectomy, as opposed to only 3 out of the 29 transgender men. The third finding was downright astounding. Among the transsexual men, 18 out of 29, or 62 percent, said they had experienced a phantom penis long before their surgery.

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“Transgenders” versus “Transgender people”

By , November 12, 2009 2:32 pm

I was reading an article recently – well written and respectful – about transgender issues, and couldn’t help but notice the use of transgender as “transgenders” (as a noun) rather than “transgender people” (as an adjective).

Many identity labels can be used as nouns or adjectives, but others can’t. A hypothetical article that said, “Lesbians polled at the Health Center said XYZ,” wouldn’t raise my eyebrows, nor would “Lesbian women polled at the Health Center said XYZ.” (Other than being a little awkward, since ‘lesbian’ implies ‘woman.’) (But lets not get into that again!)

At the same time, saying, “Blacks polled at the Health Center said XYZ” seems awkward and dated. Using “Jews” or “Italians,” though, doesn’t seem problematic. (I’m picking examples pretty much at random, here.)

What about “transgenders” versus “transgender people”?

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TV Tropes about Gender, Sex, and Trans Topics

By , September 29, 2009 11:26 pm

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a bit of an obsession with TV Tropes, with tropes defined as “devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.” It’s as great a time-killer as WikiPedia, with more mass media and less actual “knowledge.” In addition to describing the trope, each page also has a list of comics/books/movies/shows/etc that demonstrate the trope (and often have snarky commentary as a nice bonus). Basically, it’s this.

Anyway, I’ve been bookmarking TV Tropes pages about gender, sexuality, and trans issues. As a culture-related site with a page about the Whateley universe, they have some good pages that seemed like they were worth sharing.

We’ll start with Transsexual. Their definition –  “people who are not at all happy with the sex they were born with (more clinically, whose gender identity is out of whack with their biological sex)” – actually isn’t too bad. They also go on to differentiate between transgender, transsexual, transvestite, and so-on.

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Linguistic troubles with cis/transgender

By , September 6, 2009 5:11 pm

Daisy and Mattie chimed in on the discussion of this recent post about about the best way to describe an individual’s gender, gender identity, status as cis/transsexual, and a few other related concepts. Following some discussion at Daisy’s blog, Dear Diaspora, I came up with three spectra:

  1. Gender Identity as it relates to Self Presentation
  2. Gender Identity as it relates to Assigned Sex
  3. Subconscious Sex as it relates to Assigned Sex

Spectrum 1 was coming from Daisy’s use of cis/transgender at her above-linked post, Spectrum 2 is the commonly-used definition of cis/transgender, and Spectrum 3 is the commonly used definition of cis/transsexual. (If that doesn’t make sense, please take a look at my previous post for a more in-depth explanation of these concepts.)

Basically, Daisy got me thinking about how the commonly-used definition of cis/transgender and cis/transsexual are based off of a a person’s identity as it related to their assigned sex, whereas the definition she was using for cis/transgender was based off a person’s perception of itself as it related to their gender identity. That’s the long-story-short of where the three spectra came from.

With that background out of the way, I have a few more things I’d like to clarify before moving on with this post:

  • After hearing Mattie’s thoughts, and thinking things over more myself, I agree that trying to change the definition of cis/transgender is ultimately tilting at windmills
  • Perhaps more importantly, it would force people who do identify as transgender to have to massively rethink their own self-identification in a way I’m not comfortable with
  • As such, I’ll continue to use the Spectrum 2 (commonly-used) definition of cis/transgender rather than caveating it all the time with phrases like “commonly-used.” Starting….now!

But I still do think there are two big issues which came up in this discussion that are worth examination by anyone at all interested in gender politics and identity issues, and the transgender and transsexual populations in particular:

  1. The value of having something along the lines of Spectrum 1 as a more widely-understood concept.
  2. The sloppy and problematic nature of the standing definitions of cis/transgender and cis/transsexual

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Using “Tranny”

By , April 11, 2009 12:36 am

I admit it – I’ve used the word “tranny” both online and off, and even a few times on this blog. But, as I’ve been thinking more about the issue (and about how I feel about ‘fag,’ and the-N-word) I’ve come to the realization that I don’t like what it communicates.

At first, I wasn’t even sure what was making me uneasy. The idea of word reclamation is very attractive as a member of an opressed group, and there is something extremely powerful about turning a word on oppressors. Because, lets face it, “tranny” is not generally used in mainstream media as a positive term. With the exception of an Urban Dictionary link*, most of the top search results for “tranny” are sex sites, as good an example as any of the societal fetishization and objectification of trans women. Searching for “lesbian,” in comparison, brings up links to Wikipedia, Lesbian.com, resources about being gay, etc. That sends a very specific message about what being a “tranny” means, and could actually strengthen the argument that “tranny” should be reclaimed, or needs to be reclaimed. Which is what I used to think.

I’ve changed my mind.

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Trans Fiction Shout-out: Diane Castle

By , April 8, 2009 10:34 am

I was recently reading Scrambler J’s Diane Castle’s stories over at the Whateley Academy site, Crystal Hall. (Note: someone pointed out in the comments that, although Scrambler J originated the character and stories I’m referencing, they’re now being written – including the one I quote below – by Diane Castle. Sorry for the confusion!) I  was struck by the following passage, written from the perspective of a teenage boy who, after manifesting an X-Men-style mutation, has been sent to live with a relative (who, unbeknownst to him, is trans):

What the hell had I gotten myself into?  Greg had gone nuts and had turned into a female impersonator or something.  I may have said that aloud, since the brunette gave me a nasty glare.

“Trev, this is my wife Janet.”

I stared at the brunette, “And are you a guy with a dick too?”

She glared back.  “You are such a prejudiced little fuck!  No, I’m a woman.  I’m what we call a ‘GG’.  That means genetically female.  I just happen to love your sister Gracie.  We’ll see whether I love her enough to put up with a piece of shit like you!”

I tried again.  “Greg…”

“Grace!” they both snapped at me.

“Umm, okay, I don’t understand.  You were my big brother.  You drove a really nice Bentley.  You played basketball for Chilton.”  I took a breath and asked, “What the hell happened to you?”

They looked at each other and did that ‘silent signals’ stuff that Mother and Father sometimes did in front of us kids.  Janet finally said, “Maybe you’d better explain, Gracie.”

Greg – I mean, Gracie – sighed, “Did you ever wonder if I was just a little different from the other guys?”

I admitted, “Well, no.  I just always thought you were great.  As a big brother.  I mean, you were nicer to your little siblings than most of the older brothers I knew…”  I thought for a minute and realized, “Hey!  You never dated anyone!  I mean, Paul went through the girls at Chilton like a buzzsaw, and David’s dating Melinda Hughes-Carling, and I took Ravenna Sainte James to the junior high prom, but you hardly ever dated anyone!”

“Right,” Gracie said.  “I was having a hard time dealing with my own sexuality.  I realized around about kindergarten or first grade that I was in the wrong body.  I really wanted to be one of the kids who got to wear the pretty party dresses and style their hair with their mommies.  Instead, I had to be Greg.  I had to be someone I wasn’t, in a body that felt all wrong.  And it just got worse as I got older.  Proms and weddings were the worst.  I had to wear a stupid tux and a choking necktie.  The girls got to wear the most gorgeous dresses…  It was torture.  It was like working in a bakery and having my mouth sewn shut so I could never taste all the delicacies that were laid out in front of me.

(Emphasis mine.) I’d like to offer this as an example of why trans fiction is valuable to me – it’s an opportunity to read about the experience of being trans, something that I can relate to and that isn’t found in tons of fiction.

As a reminder, I’m compiling my thoughts about trans fiction at this page on this blog. Feel free to stop by and check out my musings, as well as my reading list, and let me know if there’s something I should take a look at.

-R

Reworking Ares and Aphrodite

By , September 28, 2008 6:07 pm

Note: The first group showing for the mentorship project was a really great learning experience ance, following feedback and discussion of what I showed, I’ve decided to try and rework Ares and Aphrodite to make it A) better suited for the stage and B) more understandable for the audience. This piece will be taking components from each of the three Ares and Aphrodite pieces I’ve written so far, as well as incorporating new material and attempting to do a better job explaining the mythos I’m creating. I’ve also put ‘chapter’ markings for where I’m thinking of splitting the piece for the final performance (where it will be woven in with personal narrative).

CHAPTER ONE

Long ago, in the time when gods and goddesses were known to come down from Olympus and walk among mortals, a husband a wife lived near a great sea. They were not so poor as to want for many things, and yet not so well-off as to forget that all mortals can be brought low by divine power. They lived in happiness with their love for each other, and yet they felt their lives were incomplete for they were childless. So they prayed to Demeter, goddess of fertility, and at last the wife felt life stirring within her.

It is said that when a child is conceived it is sexless until touched by Ares, god of war, or Aphrodite, goddess of love; that the formation of any mortal body is incomplete until it is infused with the strength of Ares or the grace of Aphrodite. And yet, what happens when Ares and Aphrodite both claim a mortal child?

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Pithy title about men and women

By , September 19, 2008 3:58 pm

(Been bad about posting this week. Sorry!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about situations where my behavior or interactions or presentation will be functionally the same before and after transitioning, but where there’s still a large emotional and/or perceptional shift. For example, while out with friends over the summer, I jotted this down during the cab ride home (in the interest of full disclosure, I was not exactly sober at the time):

There is a subtle, yet fundamental difference between being catty (with ‘the girls’) and being an asshole (with ‘the guys’).

In all fairness, ‘the guys’ that I’ve hung out with aren’t exatly the assholish type, nor ‘the girls’ really the catty type. But I’ve noticed a few times recently when out with friends in girl-mode that there’s been a subtle shift in my interactions with the men and women in the group. And I think there probably is an actual difference in interactions, but I think a lot more of it is based on my own emotions and perceptions of the situation and me feeling more comfortable in girl-mode than I ever really have in boy-mode.

Which brings me to what I really wanted to talk about: being perceived and/or thinking about myself as a heterosexual man versus a gay woman.

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