Archive for transexual

Transgender History- Susan Stryker

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I finished reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker during my long post-Thanksgiving public transport journey. It was overall a very informative and straightforward book. It was easy to read and understand, which is a feat for non-fiction, and a contrast to Striker’s recent CUNY lecture, which was considerably more cryptic. I really enjoyed the book, it felt immediate and relevant, engaging the reader with the past 100 years of struggle for transgender rights.

The movement towards visibility has been pretty fascinating. It seems that the first people to challenge the assumption that transpeople are not only mentally ill, but also extremely perverse, were people within the medical establishment, German and Austrian psychologists and doctors. Then it was wealthier white male bodied individuals, who campaigned for the rights to cross-dress, and separately, to be granted sex-change operations. The book moves from that telling, to the history of early FTM agitators for change, who also seem to have started within the upper class, or rather gained initial success there.

Direct action, and quasi-revolutionary groups later emerged in the second half of the 20th century, with Stonewall, and it’s predecessors, such as for example, the staged sit-in that occurred at Compton’s restaurant, inspired and enacted by civil rights activists, who were also queer, many of whom were trans,-rights activists. That intersection between transpeople and LGB folks was a theme that Stryker consistently explored in relation to recent trans history.

It seems that although there was a lot of overlap between struggles during the 60s, that unity was often fractured by both, feminist lesbians, who rejected trans people as impostors of a sort, and gay men who labelled trans individuals somehow not radical enough because they were willing to seek help from the medical establishment. As transgenderism remained a disease in the medical books, certain gay activists, judged the transpeople who sought sex change operations, while some lesbian feminists claimed that by enacting femininity in a stereotypical way, transwomen mocked their struggle towards an androgynously expressed equality, and that anyone not born a woman could never fully understand and experience Women’s Oppression.

With so much fragmentation prior to the late nineteen-nineties when queer emerged as a blanket, inclusive term for a whole wide variety of folks, it is kind of nice to see how much of the old divisiveness has died down. However, recently when transgender people were left out of the new anti-discrimination law, many of those old flames were rekindled. In explanation of this political division the distinctions between homosexuality and transgenderism are offered. As well as the wide ranging differences within the transgender umbrella. People often presume that transgender people are by definition homosexual, when historically and continuously that is often not the case. While for some the distinction between gender and sexuality is obvious, many members of the general public don’t quite get what the difference is. Stryker clarifies this within her large definitions section. For anyone who is still confused please refer to the text!

Be Like Others, Q & A w/ Tanaz Eshagian

Posted in film, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

In the lead up to Trans Rememberance Day, whether intentionally or coincidentally there are several trans stories in NYC events this week. As your faithful socialite, I dragged myself uptown to see Be Like Others at Lincoln Center. Eshagian, the Iranian-American filmmaker returns to her home country and films a group of Transwomen who are pre and post sex change operation. Most of the footage is shot in the clinic where there operations take place, with extensive focus put on the doctor who performs the procedure. He is part of a group of men in the government of The Islamic Republic of Iran who have either decided, agreed with or implemented the concept, put in place by Ayatollah Khomieni (the father of the Iranian Islamic Revolution), that sex-changes are permissible under Islam. Khomeini passed a Fatwa to this effect, officially declaring them legal. In a country where homosexuality is highly illegal and punishable by a stoning death penalty, it is surprising that being transsexual is so legal that people are given a new legal name and passport post-op. Take a look at the trailer, only available on her website and a brief interview with her below.

Much of what’s contained in this interview was seconded by the vibe I got off her last night. She didn’t really seem to want to take sides, so to speak. I wasn’t sure if this was just another case of the gay disclaimer, or if she was really a distant outsider, looking in at this story from the perspective of novelty. The film sheds light on an interesting subject that not many people know about. In that sense its investigative journalism, but in terms of its humanity at moments I wondered if Eshagian herself was transphobic, or if she was just somehow hiding behind a lens of impartiality. Questions for the interview, I guess. If you read this, talk back! Maybe she will be at transhistorian, Susan Styker’s lecture at the CUNY Grad center tonight at 6:30? See you there.