Monday, August 28, 2017

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back - Transitioning On Transgender Awareness and Rights

When conservatives cry about liberal control of the national agenda, they think about gay marriage, the shrinking white majority, pornography, legalization of marijuana, loss of public Christian displays.

When liberals cry about conservative control of the national agenda they think about ever increasing abortion restrictions, shrinking government, public funding going to private schools,  tax cuts, the wealth gap, rollbacks of regulations on the environment and corporate mergers and finance, about the attacks on evolution and science in general.

People who identify as liberal or as conservative all seem to think 'the other side' is winning and destroying the country.

Ignorance plays a big role in this,  That's certainly been the case with gay rights.

In this post I want to talk about the issue of transgender rights. On the one hand, great progress has been made, on the other hand there is a backlash to take it back.

At the national level, Trump has decreed that transgender folks should no longer serve in the military.   (I'd agree with this policy if it included all people of all sexual identities.)

On the local level, the forces that have fought gay rights forever here, have now put an initiative on the April Municipal ballot that would roll back transgender rights in Anchorage.

Growing up in the US, I never even had a word for transgender folks (and even now I'm not sure I'm using the right words).  If I search my memory, I'd say my awareness of the issue was when Christine Jorgensen had a sex change in 1951.  I was really young back then, but somehow the news got through to me.  I obviously had no real understanding of what had happened, just that a man had turned into a woman.

I think my real transformation came from reading.  There was Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp who was written as just another character who happened to have had a sex change.  The book that really focused my attention on the experience of a transgender person was Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex.  (You can listen to the book on Youtube.)

My son had a college classmate who later transitioned to female.  I've spent time with him before and her after, but we didn't talk much, if any, about the transition.

[I'm running out of time here.  The above is to give people some references to this topic, but I don't pretend this is the best list.  It's my personal list.  There have also been a number of films on this topic I've seen at the Anchorage International Film Festival over the years:  The Prodigal Sons, From This Day Forward, and Real Boy.  All have added nuance to my still limited understanding. So I'm going to leave links here for people who haven't encountered transgender folks and want to understand this better.  And below I'll give people some things they can do to help others understand.]

What You Can Do #1

More recently, I got to know Scott Schofield when he came to Anchorage and headed Out North theater.  He was back again this summer performing his piece, Becoming A Man in 127 Easy Steps.

Yesterday I got an email from Scott saying he's working on making his performance piece into a movie.  So if people want to be supportive during these times of transgender rights backlash, this is a way to do it.  Your contribution will help make this film a reality.  And the more people who see the film, the more people will 'know' a transgender person and have a better understanding of what this is all about.  And they'll get a more complex awareness that our binary male/female dichotomy is not nearly as simple as that.   Here's a short video of Scott explaining the film project.

What You Can Do #2   

I got a another email today pointing me to a presentation here in Anchorage by
"Mara Keisling. She has served as the director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) for 14 years and is one of the country’s most prominent transgender civil rights activists."
 Wendy Williamson Auditorium  (UAA)
7 pm  Tuesday (August 29).

The email goes on to say:
"The focus of our discussion with Mara will be, first and foremost, how we can most effectively fight Prop 1, the harmful anti-transgender initiative on the April 2018 ballot in Anchorage. This ballot question is drawing attention from national organizations—like the NCTE—because it is, unfortunately, the worst anti-transgender ballot initiative in the country.
Through her work with the NCTE, Mara has been on the front lines in so many fights similar to what we’re facing now in Anchorage. Her guidance and words of wisdom will be indispensable, so you will not want to miss out tomorrow."
Even if you aren't sure where you stand on the initiative, this would be a good chance to get to hear a person who has been prominent nationally on this issue.

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