Monday, March 30, 2009

Different voices for different needs

From time to time I run into criticisms in causes, especially in Human Rights/Civil Rights causes of particular people and their views.

Some are accussed of being too strong, of being to vitriolic or angry etc and likely to turn the average folk against the cause. Some are accussed of being too soft, of pandering to the comfort zones of the oppressive forces and of putting their needs ahead of the needs of the real victims.

But really are these not simply different voices fulfilling different needs? The oppressed usually need an angry and inspiring voice to shake them out of fear or complacency and to give them courage and motivation to act. The mainstream need sympathetic images to help undermine the hate-images built up of the victimised groups and calm and clear voices to help them come round to the side of justice.

One voice alone can only give a false representation of a group. Whether within or without the group itself we should not expect a single lone representation can be valuable nor condemn there being a variety of voices for a group. Instead we need to support there being a variety of voices as well as helping get the right voices to the right audiences and meet the right needs.

Groups need the angry voices, the calls to act, the fierce and strong calls to stop hiding, the motivating force. They need the charismatic positive and/or sympathetic figures too for the effect they have upon the privileged in disarming them of their illussions.

Both are essential.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A touching of the soul

It's another expression of emotions post.

One of two good Goth friends who recently moved away from town gave me some music and one song in particular, even though the bands music is far from what I consider the epitome of Goth music, has especially lodged itself in my heart mind and mp3 player :)

Here it appears on youtube

The lyrics really move me so I'll quote them, especially for those who might not watch the youtube link.

I've seen the terrible hand of struggle
and felt the pain that hubris brings
I have tasted the wisdom of divinity
and the horror of its sting

And though they tell you i am lost
and their words report my death is come
the fates have left me breathing still
very much alive

And though my mind is cut by battles
fought so long ago
I return victorious
I am coming home

And if the paths that I have followed
have tread against the flow
there is no need for sorrow
I am coming home

For the distance I have traveled
upon an ocean of despair
have led me back into your arms once more
an answer to a little prayer

And though they tell you i am lost
and their words report my death is come
the fates have left me breathing still
very much alive

And though my mind is cut by battles
fought so long ago
I return victorious
I am coming home

And if the paths that I have followed
have tread against the flow
there is no need for sorrow
I am coming home

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

(Trans)gender Security Threat?

Well finally the Australian Human Rights Commissions report into the Identity Documentation Issues of Sex And Gender Diverse People is out... and it's mostly very good indeed.

They have sensibly included a call for the Government to remove as many sex/gender markers as possible from peoples documentation which is excellent.

But they still have two points in which they argue that they are neccessary one of which makes sense and the other... the other I am convinced is not just absurd but threatens our national security!

One is that census data on women is important for Australia to fulfill its obligations to UN treaties to measure the degree of sucess in reducing inequality to women. Well that does seem pretty reasonable. Adding other options to the Census would be good too then to allow for more than just M or F. If someone has gone to the trouble of getting a U for Unspecified on their other documentation then surely they should be able to use that in the Census too.

But the other need for sex markers....
You see... they say that having your sex marked on a document is neccessary for Identifying you for Security Purposes!

There are many ways in which a person can be identified as who they claim to be. By measuring characteristics of them as they present themselves with ones previously recorded about them.

DNA is one of the primary standards as few people will share an exact DNA match (of course there are identical twins), there are fingerprints of course, Iris patterns too. Much has been made of Facial Recognition software. Then there are less unique ones that nevertheless help identify someone compared to someone else.

Height, build, eye colour, skin colour, hair colour, handedness, blood type....

Each of these can narrow down which of, say 50 people in a room, is the individual you are looking for.

Many are very mutable... none are immutable!
Blood type has been known to change in a single instance from a bone marrow transplant. Handedness changes to a point (I have personally lost a good deal of my ambidexterity over the years). Hair colour is easy to change and skin colour is for some and changes naturally over time for many. Eye colour changes too. I know 2 people one of whom is my brother whose eyecolour changed naturally. It can also be disguised easilly by contact lenses. Body proportions change as does height over time. Iris paterns shift and alter especially with certain illnesses. Fingerprints don't just change... they can completely dissapear! Few people hear of this but it occurs to from what I've heard about 13% of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers! Even DNA changes, though not greatly and ussually it's genes switching on or off.. still it does change. Facial structure... well a lot of costly surgery can change that.

As does Measurable Sex, naturally on occassion and with medical assistance (to affirm sex identity).

And yet sex markers on documents is apperntly KEY to identifying someone. Not Blood Type, not DNA and certainly not facial proportions. The entire field of Biometrics which is frequently touted as a vital tool against terrorism etc is less useful than an M or F (or U or X) on a document???


At absolute best it halves all the possible people you could be other than the person you claim you are!

Especially when, except when walking through one of those new 'views-through-clothes' cameras the only way this suppossedly vital characteristic is tested is by visual examination of appearance!

Lets imagine this in an easilly possible hypothetical scenario shall we?

You are an official at an airport checking passports.
First in line is someone called Leslie Smith. Leslie has a genderqueer appearance... it's hard to tell if they are male or female. They have an F on their document. Suspicious? Off you send them to be interrogated, possibly stripped and perhaps physically violated with an internal cavity search. On to the next person in line.

Second in line is Joe Smith. Joe looks like a guy and it says Male on the document. Guess he must really be Joe then. Off he goes onto the plane.

Third is Habib Hussein. Looks Male, it says male. He fits two flagged catagories though, he looks arabic and he's male. That means he's a high-risk of being a terrorist then. Off you send him for interrogation just in case.

Fourth is Maryanne Michaels. It says female, looks female. She is passed through.

Later at the inquiry you discover that Leslie was a military trained security analyst and martial arts expert.. if she'd been on board things might have turned out differently.

Turns out Joe Smith was a known member of a hate-group fleeing before an arrest warrent was issued for murder. But being visibly male and white and having a common name he got waved right through as no risk. But he didn't do anything bad on the plane...

Poor Habib. A christian convert. Is now languishing in extended detention without charge. His lawyers hope that the results of this inquiry will help them get him released.

Maryanne Michaels though.... she was a terrorist. Her name wasn't Maryanne Michaels, the real Maryanne was found buried in an unmarked grave in the woods later. The passport was a fake. But she looked unlike an Arab. In fact she wasn't. She was a member of another non-arabic and non-islamic terrorist organisation (remember them?) and most importantly she looked female and it said F on her document! She didn't appear to belong to either of the high-risk catagories. And how were you to know she wasn't really Maryanne when the key to identifying a person is that M or F on their documents?

And yet she took over a plane and killed hundreds of people.

You see how ridiculously stupid this is? There have been plenty of female terrorists. Enough that any sex-based screening is a threat to national security that can and has been exploited by terrorists.

And sex markers merely cut down the number of people someone can be. And not very well at that! To have a catagory like that as considered vital to identifying someone is beyond rediculous. We could replace it with facial recognition, with swift blood-typing technology, with digital fingerprinting, with Iris scans and rather than having a loss of security we would in fact have an increase in it!

In fact if we combined those four off-the-cuff options together we'd have several measurable biometric identifiers that in combination could vastly improve our security far more than paying someone to look at an F or M a photo and a name and decide using their own highly fallible subjective judgement as to whether they are who they say they are.

And what is the real practical function of sex marker visual screening? What does it really do?

Does it correctly identify people reliably? Heck no! As my example shows the visual apraisal by an official comparing your appearance to an M or F classification has only one practical function! Only one result, regardless of intent. It makes life more difficult for people whose appearance goes against gender stereotypes!

Thats the only conceivable logical result! It can do nothing else! Whether it's facial bone structure, hairstyle, makeup, bodyshape, clothing style... all these contribute to whether an official will decide you 'look like an M or F'. If that does not match the document you suffer.

Not just transsexuals. Not just Crossdressers. Not just Androgynously fashionable Goths and Emos. It's the subjective appraisal of the official you see. It entirely depends on how they personally catagorise M and F!

And that means a crossdressing terrorist that 'passes' will get through this idiotic notion of identification but a law-abiding citizen may not.

And the passport theft nonsense? A man can steal another mans passport and a woman a womans. So why then is the possibility that, GASP, a woman could try and use a stolen mans passport or vice versa something so desperatly serious when its a lot easier to have a woman using a stolen womans passport without attracting attention!

Believe me 'passing' is not easy. To do so as to not attract any attention would be for your average cis errorist far more trouble than recruiting some terrorists of the opposite sex!

This is idiocy of the most farcical level!
I would have thought it were some kind of joke.

And really that is what it is. A dangerous, a deadly, joke.

If sex markers are considered important, nay vital to identifying someone for security purposes then terrorists rejoice! Our security services are clearly utterly incompetant morons!

The only real practical effects of making sex markers an important part of security identification is to discriminate unjustly against sex and gender diversity to ensure compliance with sex and gender stereotypes while making life easier for terrorists!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Operating on Healthy Bodies.. happens everday

Once again I run into the argument that operating on healthy bodies is bad or scary or worrying.

But its an everday occurance! 'Unsightly' but healthy moles get removed, benign non-cancerous growths too.

Varicose veins, fat redistrobution, liposuction, tummy tucks, nose-jobs, breast implants, reductions and reshaping.

Hair transplants, pec implants, buttock implants even.

Tattoos and tattoo removals, body piercing, facial piercings even common old ear piercing.

Those are some of the permanant changes. We make temporary ones too like shaving and waxing and plucking and cutting of head hair and dying of it and shaping of nails and painting them and makeup.

These are not new. We know of ancient cosmetics in Egypt and it's neighbours. There are mummified bog and ice bodies with tattoos. The indiginous peoples of the world have tremendous varieties of piercings tattooings brandings and scarrification.

There isn't even a taboo on genitals either from labial reshaping to penile enlargement to the extreme genital modifications of some indiginous peoples.

The permanant modification of healthy human bodies is not new, its happened throughout human history. It's not unusual, tattoos and piercings are extremely common and cosmetic surgery is done countless times every day. As you read this here are people getting their healthy noses and breasts and teeth altered cosmetically.

Clearly there is a fundamental universal human right to do with ones own flesh whatever one wishes, from a facelift to becoming a lizardman (and to not be forced in any way to undergo such procedures, not even in order to have ones rights or identity recognised. Requiring SRS for recognition or rights is a Human Rights Abuse just as banning or making overly difficult to obtain SRS is a human rights abuse!)

So there can be nothing whatsoever wrong with a person choosing to change their sexual organs, to have a sex change to any degree of primary or secondary sex characteristics irrespective of biological causation of transsexuality or not.

The squeemishness about SRS is clearly NOT about Altering Healthy Bodies. That's patent nonsense!

What it is about deserves examination. But people change their healthy bodies cosmetically every day. It's a common experience. Considering the amount of ear piercing and dental work in the world it's something that probably the vast majority of people have done to at least some extent!

Because of that nonsense mant Transsexuals are so desperate to reinforce their own claim to a biological causation and neccessity to transition that they base all validity on such causation and decry and try to invalidate Transgender people that do not match their specific view of that causation. Sure it's important to recognise that SRS is often a life-or-death need for many. Thats important to recognise so that impoverished TSs can get their needs met, same too for those where private or partially public health systems need to cover such surgeries.

But biological causation is not required for the human right to modify one's own body! People modify their bodies everday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Discussion on Freedom of Speech and other Rights

Carolyn Ann has taken up an offer I made over at Questioning Transphobia to discuss Freedom of Speech and it's interactions with other freedoms etc here to help keep the discussion there on topic.

So this should have some interesting discussions through the comments :) By all means if anyone else wants to chime in be my guest.

So I guess I'll kick it off.

The initial discussion concerned Carolyn's concerns that moderation on a blog regarding certain forms of comments was contrary to freedom of speech.

Lets start with the pro for that.

It means that the commentators responses in that discussion in its immediate context are limited. At the very least this does appear to be against the spirit and substance of freedom of speech.

Con. The commentator still has the capacity to have their own blog and hence express their views. They are no longer in the initial context of the initial discussion however so that suggests moderation still goes against the spirit of free speech even if the substance is not hindered.

However comments on a blog are published in effect by the blogger, as such are they not falling within the bloggers free speech? Is the moderation by the blogger, so long as the comentator can blog themselves elsewhere, of their own blog not in fact an excercise of their own freedom of speech? Do the comments publication then exist as purely the comentators free speech or are they also part of the bloggers free speech?

In general a blog is considered to be an edited publication like a magazine or newspaper. Where the editor decides what will and will not be part of the publication.

Is this fair and valid is the question?

I previously suggested an analogy I like about street-speech VS lawn speech.

In the street if you offend someone they have every right to walk away and
ignore you. On their own private lawn however they have every right to ask you
to leave their property or to define by what rules you must abide to remain
there.Well a blog is like a front lawn, accessible from the public street where
you can be invited to sit on the porch or verandah and chat, or asked to leave
and threatened with having the hose turned on you or the police called if you
continue to be rude.

I think it's a good analogy and can show how personal space extends into public spheres. Like a t-shirt slogan or the way one dresses free expression exiss in public space with few valid limitations. However a persons home, or lawn, is owned. It is personal space in which activity is to a large degree conditional. It exists by consent, consent which may be withdrawn.

So someone may object to what someone is wearing or saying while they are in their front yard and may validly withdraw consent for them to be there on that account but they cannot do so if the person is merely walking down the street, a public space, so long as their appearance and speech in no way overrides others rights.

The error of many who object to the words or appearance of others in public space that upsets them is that they are failing to recognise that they are extending their personals space over the other persons. One may have fair control over ones front yard as an extension of personal space but not over the shopping mall.

And might I add thats so even if one owns the shopping mall! A business is more than personal space, it provides a neccessary public service and as such is partially public space and partially personal space and as such cannot discriminate in the way that the business owner may with their own front lawn. The same is true of a rented property. To enter into business is to engage in a social contract, the individuals obligations to the rights of others are more pronounced in a way that control over ones front lawn does not interfere with. If someone cannot have access to your lawn to talk t you there rights are not harmed. If they cannot enter your shopping mall to buy bread and milk their access to goods neccessary for life are limited, so their rights are indeed harmed.

So Carolyn and anyone else interested, agree? Disagree? Have anything you wish to add? This need only be the launching point so any rights/liberty based related issue is welcome, it need not be a narrowly focussed discussion.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is how Kids are brought up seriously damaging to Crossdressers (and the rest of Transgender)

This was originally written for an MtF crossdressers forum hence the focus on MtF CDs rather than all of Transgender but I'm sure most readers will be astute enough to see the similarities and if any would like to raise differences or contrary views in comments then please do so!

Is how kids are brought up seriously damaging to CD's?
I've been considering the issues of why most CDs are in the closet, often well into marriages before they are able to come out to their wives if at all.

Why is that so? Usually we answer 'because society isn't accepting of CDs'...

That sounds logical but is it really how it works? Do we at whatever point we start CDing, from 3-4 through to teens, think to ourselves: 'Yup, this is who I am, but gee i better not tell anyone as society isn't accepting'?

I think that usually we are all well aware that it's taboo before we try on our first piece of womens clothing. Certainly as we see here many of us struggle daily with the reality that we are crossdressers.

From the very beginning of our lives we have been living ina gender-coded world. Colours, styles, toys, books, tv shows, clothes... almost in every case from baby to teen we have gender coded things. Cribs and mobiles and wallpaper and posters and comics... almost every single thing is gender coded.

And that coding is segregated. It's made clear that people are not suppossed to like the things from the other gender code. When we see examples of people doing so they are usually mocked or derided. It's made clear to boys growing up that 'throw like a girl' or 'act like a girl' are serious insults, as is Sissy.

Often conformity to the boy part of the code is enforced through violence or threats of violence, often enough that has even come from parents who considered it important to 'toughen up' their boys.

We get no role models of people crossing the gender line, we get no messages of acceptability of crossing the gender line. If we see or hear of it at all it's as a negative.

Is it any wonder most crossdressers live in, or pass through, intense fear and shame and guilt? Is it any wonder that we hide the full reality of being crossdressers even from ourselves?

Some can handle it better than others... but that is true of all things.

I think that the way we grow up is quite literally abusive. Not always intentionally so but abusive nonetheless. And that it abuses not just transgender kids but everyone else too. I think it is because of this that society struggles so much to accept us, that family and friends struggle so much to accept, that wives struggle so much and that CDs themselves struggle so much.

I think that to judge ourselves, to judge one another and to deal with the issues of CDing in marriages fairly we will have to accept that we have been abused. That it effects most of us profoundly emotionally and psychologically.

And that to get societies acceptance and ensure future generations will not suffer as badly as we then we will have to raise the public awareness of crossdressing.

Not just in our imediate streets and shopping malls and neighbourhoods by being out etc, though when any one of us is strong enough to do so it definately helps, but by getting the subject more, and importantly better, media exposure!

The next generation of teens have the advantage of the gender fluidity in some anime... but thats certainly not enough, just better. TS and CD teens still struggle with being TG.

So do you think I'm right? What are your views on the subject?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Politics of Appearance and Personal Expression

Well, as appearance can be such a political topic, as personal expression seems to cause such a stir these days especially when it comes to transgender and people who do not fit the neat binary gender catagories or for that matter when it comes to Goth and related subcultures I suppose
pictures will speak strongly as well as words... so this is me.

So there we go. Eyeliner on the tame side perhaps compared to some days. Passable or not? That is in the eye of the beholder.. I have passed as female when in masculine expression and I have failed to pass and yet received compliments on my appearance at the time when in this style of feminine presentation. Pretty or beautiful or attractive or not? Again the eye of the beholder.. I have my admirers and those who disagree with them.

:) this is my 'uh-uh' pic at a friends suggestion which indeed is their favourite pic of me. Note the fingernails like the hair are real. They are rarely not painted and at the time these pics were taken were uncommonly short. At this time I have only been out in my town with this degree of feminine presentation in small amounts, it is a rural town after all so I'm taking my coming out slowly with an emphasis on safety.

Here are my nails at a little closer to the normal length I tend to keep them at. Note the cute goth nail-art :) The other hand had little skull-and-crossbones with love-heart shaped eyesockets. My nails are not like this for crossdressing. They looked just the same whether I wore pants or a skirt (and these nail-art decals have come down in price recently too!)

And here it is... my 'male' presentation. Masculine enough? Handsome? Again some have said yes, others no. This is generally my ordinary look for a days shopping. Only I might have purple lips or red nails and other colours and often I'll have more eyeliner than the first two pics and in this summer heat the great coat stays home. But here is one of my main points. While I have failed to pass in the presentation of the top pic i have passed for female unintentionally dressed as a male like in this pic, even without any makeup and even on those rare times my nails have been short and unpainted.
For those obsessed with the bathroom nonsense from a binary gender perspective, this is how i look every week when I do my shopping and have to use the mens public toilet.
I am not conforming to others expectations. Many days I fit in even more between these two. Some times I may have a couple days of beard growth when my skin is playing up and I can't shave daily or when i'm too exhausted. I don't just wear black but colour too. I don't dress as a Goth to fit into a crowd as I did it when I was the only out Goth in town. Nor did I do it to rebel either. I go from colour and t-shirts through to picking up pizza in a top hat, brass cane and lace cuffed shirt, satin vest and cloak.
My looking different causes no-one any harm. It infringes no-one's rights. My gender non-conformity is no threat to others lives or rights. How I feel inside, my gender identity certainly doesn't match most stereotypes or assumptions of crossdressers though it's common enough amongst the ones I've spoken to. Same with my style of gender expression, neither mockery or exaggeration nor fetishistic nor an attempt to blend in.
The only threat that comes from my appearance is that of all diversity, of freedom, of someone disobeying unjust rules and not conforming to expectations or neat little boxes or catagories.
That's not a bad thing, it's a good thing!
The notion of required conformity is the enemy of all liberty and all justice. All ethical difference, all variations that respect the rights of others are automatically good no matter how unusual or unpopular and any restrictions or condemnations of ethical difference are unjust unreasonable and a threat to everyones equality and fair treatment.
So there is me. As Man? As Woman?
Most importantly as Human.