Archive for August, 2009

“Man’s ‘secret love’ of transsexual women” – because it’s *always* about the cis man…

August 31, 2009

Wendy WilliamsThe Examiner has a two-part article (link to Part 1 here, link to Part 2 here). It’s about the increased use of so-called ‘transsexual porn’ by cis men and contains so many wrong ideas it’s hard to know where to start…

…*picks up the pink sparklehammer of deconstruction*…

How about we start with the title? “Man’s ‘secret love’ of transsexual women: Do new trends predict a second sexual revolution?” So, why is it a “secret love”? Is it because that to say it publicly would demonstrate that the cis man is using pornography that other cis men might deem to be outside the parameters of what’s acceptable to them? The problem there is that the cis man’s sexual orientation is given more weight than the transsexual woman’s gender identity.

Research gathered from more than a dozen major sources […] reveals that nearly 190 million heterosexual men are attracted to transsexual women and actively seek romantic contact with or sexually explicit images of them annually.

I wonder how many transsexual women reciprocate that interest. It seems to me that living in a world where the many forms of violent oppression against us – invariably at the hands of cis men – could make a transsexual woman very wary of having “romantic contact” with any cis man, regardless of his sexual orientation.

“The Internet really has made the whole thing more popular in the last few years,” says Steven Gallon […] “You’re now seeing [transsexuals] [sic] in mainstream advertising and on TV shows. That and the Internet have made it [socially acceptable for transsexuals] [sic] to be out there on display.”

Oh how we love sweeping generalisations based on incorrect assumptions and stereotypes. The – comparatively few – transsexual women seen in the mass media are usually hypersexualised and portrayed as conforming to all the binary ‘norms’ applied to cis women; there is no room for the less ‘glamorous’ of us. In addition, more often than not the – comparatively few – roles of transsexual women are given to cis women. And anyone who seriously thinks that it’s “[socially acceptable for transsexuals] [sic] to be out there on display” has obviously not been keeping up with the news feeds, nor spent any time at the TDOR website.

Such displays come as no surprise to Hollywood darling Seth Rogen […] “One thing I’ve learned through various mainstream sex sites is that way more guys are into transsexual porn than one would like to think,” […] “I feel like it’s the elephant in America’s room: the secret love of transsexual porno.”

That is such a depressing quote. It centres the experiences of cis men above those of transsexual women and, in the process, contributes to our further marginalisation and objectification via this gross hypersexualisation. And, for me, the ‘elephant in the room’ quote underlines how many cis men evidently feel guilty about, and uncomfortable with, their sexualities and project that on to transsexual women.

All of that is bad enough, but it bothers me more that the lived experiences of transsexual women sex workers are completely erased in pursuit of making cis men feel better about themselves. The fact is that many transsexual women move into sex work because it’s the only form of paid work open to them. Hormone therapy and surgery does not come cheap, and having to do sex work to pay your medical bills seems to me like coercion, plain and simple, and nothing at all to do with spearheading a ‘sexual revolution’. But no, we must overlook that and concentrate on ego-stroking the cis men. (An aside: how many of the transsexual women thus coerced into sex work have yet to undergo surgery – and is surgical status a factor in the manufacture and consumption of ‘transsexual porn’?)

But it’s the “heterosexual male” descriptor that continues to baffle many observers – or so they claim. Might they, too, be harboring a “trans-secret?” Gallon thinks they might be: “The majority of customers [who purchase transsexual porn] are straight men.” In fact, Gallon says, “[transsexual content generates] practically no response in the gay market at all. I don’t even bother to promote it to the gay market, because it would be a waste of money.” Not only are most of his customers heterosexual men, Gallon says, “some are movie stars, rock stars and sports figures” – guys most would consider “heterosexual role models.”

“Let me tell you, it’s not gay,” […] “Gay men do not want to watch [transsexual women]. It’s straight men who want to watch it.”

This is quite a compelling insight into the testosterone-fuelled and prejudiced logic of those cis men who use ‘transsexual porn’. These “heterosexual role models” are just as likely to react with violence towards any transsexual women they come across in real life, who dares not to meet their absurd constructs of how we should express ourselves – and yet will happily accept images of a transsexual woman’s sexed body, provided it’s in a sexual context, and provided they still control the context. How many of these cis men – were they to find themselves in a real life tryst with a transsexual woman – would be prepared to indulge in recreating demeaning onscreen fantasies with a living sentient being with her own needs and desires, instead of viewing passively?

And as for the barely concealed gay panic that runs through the quotes: is this not, in reality, another manifestation of the transphobic tropes that transsexual women can only ever be our assigned-at-birth gender and are nothing more than deluded “blokes in frocks”? (Note also that not one of these “socially acceptable” transsexual women appears in the interviews included in the article)

There may be a “willing suspension of disbelief” when cis men make and use transsexual porn, but they sure as hell keep a firm grip on their cissexism and trans-misogyny while they’re at it…


Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour

TGEU call for action/support – “Stop Trans Pathologization 2012”

August 29, 2009

STP-2012 logoTGEU has issued a statement in support of the international campaign by the Trans Depathologization Network for the removal of the Gender Identity Disorder category from the international diagnosis manuals (the DSM and the ICD).

The five demands of the STP-2012 campaign are as follows:

  1. The retirement of GID from the international diagnosis manuals (their next versions DSM-V and ICD-11)
  2. The retirement of sex mention in the official documents
  3. The abolition of the binary normalization treatments to intersex people
  4. Free access to hormonal treatments and surgery (without the psychiatric monitoring)
  5. The fight against transphobia: working for education, social and labour insertion for trans people

In addition, TGEU is calling for these additional actions:

  • The creation of an alternative non-pathologizing category in the ICD 11, recognizing that our gender identities are not mental health disorders while still enabling hormonal and surgical medical assistance to be provided for those trans-people who seek such assistance.
  • The funding of hormonal and surgical medical assistance for trans people by national health insurance.
  • The creation of processes for changing legal name and gender without compulsory treatment or any form of diagnosis.

TGEU also adds:

In 2008 the Steering Committee of TGEU already published a declaration, stating “that the stigmatization, which in part is grounded in the mistaken assumption that gender variance is prima facie a medical disorder, is discriminatory” and demanding that “[a]ny revision of the DSM and the ICD must be carried out with full compliance to the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” (see Yogyakarta Principle 18 “Protection from Medical Abuse”).

The Steering Committee of TGEU very much welcome and support the position taken by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in his Issue Paper “Human Rights and Gender Identity”:

“The first aspect in discussing health care for transgender persons is the existence of international and national medical classifications defining transsexuality as a mental disorder… Such classifications may become an obstacle to the full enjoyment of human rights by transgender people, especially when they are applied in a way to restrict the legal capacity or choice for medical treatment… Alternative classifications should be explored in close consultation with transgender persons and their organisations. From a human rights and health care perspective no mental disorder needs to be diagnosed in order to give access to treatment for a condition in need of medical care.”

Campaign Background:

The campaign “Stop Trans Pathologization: Goal 2012” of the Trans Depathologization Network aims at initiating and monitoring actions directed against the “Gender Identity Disorder” category in international classifications of diseases, especially focusing.

The revision of the DSM IV will finish in 2012 with the publication of the new DSM V. The Network has intensified its actions, and decided to have coordinated demonstrations and other actions demanding the depathologization of trans identities in as many cities as possible around the globe always in October until the year 2012.

A joint action among French and Spanish trans groups in 2007 was the starting point of the Trans Depathologization Network. Since then they have broadened their scope and have continued organizing demonstrations against trans pathologization in every October. In 2008, already 11 European cities participated in joint actions. This year the set date for demonstrations in cities worldwide is October 17th. To date, more than 80 trans organizations and allies from more than 40 cities in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe have confirmed their participation or expressed their support and many more are expected to join in over the next few weeks.

Click here to download a PDF (in English) of the TGEU’s supporting statement


Previous posts about the DSM on this blog:


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

FINAL REMINDER – UK trans survey on domestic violence

August 28, 2009

Spectrum London logoA timely reminder via Denise at Spectrum London that the closing date for the UK trans survey on domestic violence is September 1st:

Many thanks to those of you who have completed the survey, your help and taking part is so appreciated by Spectrum London and Broken Rainbow. The survey ends on the 1st of September.

For those still thinking about taking the survey or might not have got to taking it yet please if you can spare 10 mins to complete it, only working together can we share the vital information and make an impact with the agencies that have no knowledge that Trans people suffer Domestic Abuse and Violence too and so are not geared up for it.

Many Trans people are frightened to make contact with organisations they feel have no knowledge and lack of understanding… we need to ensure we can contact someone when we need it who will understand our needs…

So 10 minutes today, or over the weekend, over a coffee and completing the survey will help so very much, even if you have never experienced DV/DA we have questions for you too…




Previous related posts:

Pakistan’s undesirables: ‘Dealing with’ the hijra problem

August 28, 2009

Kuvagam hijrasThere’s a thought-provoking post over at Sherryx’s Weblog (link here) about the hijra community in Pakistan.

(T-Vox carries this definition of hijra: “In the culture of the Indian subcontinent a hijra is a physically male or intersex person who is considered a member of ‘the third sex.'”)

Through the last month, Pakistani media celebrated the recognition of the citizenship rights of the hijra community by a Supreme Court ruling which declared them entitled to ‘protection guaranteed under Article four (rights of individuals to be dealt with in accordance of law) and Article nine (security of person) of the Constitution’. The ruling has been hailed as an important step toward the integration of ‘the Third sex’ into the Pakistani society, who are now going to be registered and surveyed (with ‘Third Sex’ designating their gender on the ID cards and forms) so as to enable them to access the services of state social welfare departments and financial support programs.

[…] Whilst the English speaking elites have hailed the decision about the Hijras as some great civil right victory, freethinker elaborates what does it means for the LGBT community of Pakistan, for it means nothing. It has only increased dangers for us. A genuine civil rights decision is what Indian High Court has taken. Whats happening in Pakistan is “rotten radicalism” which exists only in minds and it changes nothing and only helps establish reaction.

One of the problems with the ruling, it seems, is that it positions hijras as the problem – and not the entrenched ‘norms’ of society, which seem likely to be further reinforced.

When [the hijra] are seen as another sex category, the gendered body politic of the society comes to regulate and control them as well, their bodies becoming ‘sexed’ and providing the basis of a sex role, a body ideal, and a clothing distinction that applies to their sex. Much more likely is a medicalized view that ‘pathologizes’ their condition as defective maleness or femaleness (‘intersex’ as the medical classification goes), like it did in late 19th century Europe and became a part of the notorious eugenics movement. The concept of ‘intersex’ is heavily criticized by transgender activists in the US. In Iran, an adherence to this concept has led to a State-funded program of SRS operations which has both religious and scientific backing. The rationale behind these potentially life-threatening operations is the ‘integration’ of their ‘hijra’ into the society, but that does not necessarily mean a better life […]

(In her recent blog post Transsexual-Intersex, Sophia Siedlberg defines intersex as “a medical label that has traditionally been applied to people with a number of conditions that are diagnosable at birth. While diagnostic tests are not always carried out at birth and some escape the horrors of these terms during childhood. The traditional view has been simply that it is visible at birth.”)

As Sherryx points out, the ruling raises more questions than it answers:

What is going to constitute ‘the Third sex’? And what happens to those who do not qualify for this category? What about those ‘gender-confused’ people who do not want to be identified as ‘Third sex’, preferring instead to be identified as ‘male’ or ‘female’?

But perhaps the most crucial question here is not directly concerned with either identity politics or gender theory; it is simply this:

Does discrimination go away after formal barriers to progress have been removed, or does it merely become invisible and more difficult to fight?



Curtsey to Justus of the TGEU listserv for the heads up

Image by Kabir Orlowski from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia and The F-Word

Trans activists in Italy, San Marino, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina – please read this!

August 27, 2009

Via the TGEU listserv:

The United Nations review every member state on the state of their human rights every four years or so. During the next review Italy, San Marino, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (amongst other non-European countries) are under review. Please get in touch with John Fisher ( and tell him about the issues that trans people face in your country. You don’t have to write something long, a short e-mail is enough.

Issues you might want to address are:

  • legislation on how to change your name/gender: are medical treatments/surgery/sterilization/divorce or other things required? Is a name change/gender change possible at all?
  • anti-discrimination: are trans people protected from discrimination by the law?
  • violence: do trans people face a lot of violence?
  • healthcare: are surgeries/hormone treatment covered for all trans people who need it?
  • asylum: can trans people get asylum on the basis of being trans?
  • any other issues that trans people face

Remember: the deadline is SEPTEMBER 8!

Imogen Heap – First Train Home

August 26, 2009

Gender Recognition Certificates, jumping through hoops – and infinite loops

August 24, 2009

birth-cert_150x72It occurs to me that I’ve not written about receiving my Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) a couple of months ago. It’s something I want to talk about but I’m feeling a little unfocused today, so this is more of a notepad for a couple of aspects of it that I hope to return to in more depth when I feel a little clearer.

As someone who views her transition as comprising medical/surgical and social, as well as legal (to name but a few) aspects, obtaining my GRC is a significant step; even though it seems to have had no obvious practical effect on my life. That’s not to say it’s worthless, quite the opposite. It confers full legal status on me in terms of such things as protection under sex and gender discrimination legislation, employment rights and entitlement to state benefits/pensions, and so on – but to my mind, its primary function is the legitimisation of my identity as a woman. There has never been any overt pressure on me to declare that I’m a transsexual woman, but as I’ve been very open about that since the start of my transition, that’s perhaps almost incidental. But cis society has exerted its power to apply a more subtle pressure to reveal my trans-ness even as it legally recognises me as a woman.

The fact is, that as soon as I began transitioning, the various power structures in cis society required that I out myself to numerous people and organisations, in order to begin the two-year long process of jumping through the necessary hoops leading towards the legal recognition of my status.

My family and friends were first to know, and although my friends have been incredibly supportive, the knowledge that I’m trans has resulted in estrangement from my family. I don’t believe that a GRC would have changed that rejection.

Next, I needed to tell my employers – the physical effects of long term, high dosage estrogen therapy would have made it obvious anyway – but there was also the question of the so-called ‘Real Life Experience’ (and that’s a problematic term in itself). I couldn’t just expect co-workers to start using my preferred name and pronouns without an explanation. Real life just doesn’t work that way. Thankfully, I was working for a company that not only had a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy, but my HR Manager and my line manager had both worked with transitioning people before.

In tandem with all the personal self-outing, there was the question of the self-outing needed to acquire the documentation needed to be able to “prove” that I existed, as a legal entity, in the eyes of the various organisations and institutions that govern all our lives. Tax, National Insurance, council tax, banks, utility companies – I needed to inform all of these. Interestingly, with one exception, all of these accepted authorised copies of the Deed Poll (effectively a legally binding declaration that I had changed my name – another hoop to jump through) as sufficient to amend their own records. Given the legal significance of the GRC, you might think it strange that there was no insistence on it – although, with the GRP’s own requirement that “You have lived fully for the last two years in your acquired gender”, it’s not hard to see the potential for an infinite identity loop. Approximately it would be: no GRC = no documentation changes = no way to establish your “new” identity = no RLE = no GRC.

The GRC acts as an indelible two-way link (infinite loop) between the legal and medical aspects of transitioning, with the change of identity “reward” being the carrot on a very stout stick. At the same time, it will always be on somebody’s records that you’re not “just a woman”, you are forever a trans woman (ID cards? National centralised database?). For example, if you want to make a formal complaint to the authorities about receiving transphobic discrimination, you will, at some point, have to out yourself as being trans. Because if you’re not trans, then you couldn’t suffer transphobic discrimination, now could you?

Damn those infinite loops…

Sex work and sexuality group blog

August 24, 2009

Via Caroline at Loserdust (link here):

Sex work and sexuality group blog

I am in the midst of setting up a group blog for sex workers and allies about, as the title of this post suggests, sex work and sexuality.

I’d like for it to be concerned mainly with the UK and Europe, though I do want to include US bloggers and issues.

I think this has a hell of a lot of potential. Blogging is a fantastic way of getting the message out to people and so often the US dominates discourse, so having a blog to really push the UK and Europe forward will be a very big thing. And I want this to work.

What I need – some folks from the UK and Europe. So, if you are a sex worker or ally from the UK / Europe and you’d like to participate in this, whether you’d like to be a regular contributer, post sporadically or just want to be in on the ride, give me a shout: shepherd[dot]cc[at]gmail[dot]com. I’ve already got one or two very groovy people, so you’ll be in awesome company :)


Cross-posted at The F-Word

J.S. Bach: Double Concerto for Two Violins in D minor (First Movement)

August 20, 2009

Robert Henry Gregory, 30:3:1931 – 20:8:2009

August 20, 2009


I wasn’t able to see you before you died and I know this is a poor substitute for being able to say goodbye to you in person, but it’s all I have.

I hope you’re at rest now, and free from all the pain and discomfort you’ve been suffering.

Bye Dad, I love you.