Christina Engela's picture

Missing The Mark

Somebody asked me the other day, as a transsexual woman - what does having my gender reflected correctly in identity documents and birth certificate mean to me?  In South Africa we are very fortunate in that transsexual people can change not only their names and gender, but also their gender description in the population register.

So?  What does this mean to us?  I know what it means to me.

It is an interesting question, because there are places where this is still not the case. In many countries, there are women with birth certificates which proclaim their "manhood", and men with identity documents which are still marked "female".

I feel this question can best be answered through a number of scenarios I laid out below:

Christina Engela's picture

Transgender Is Not A Myth

Over the past week I was happy to report a few great news items from the UK and USA affecting the pink community there. Top of the list was that former "Terminator" actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California (who is a Republican, by the way) signed a bill into law that inaugurated "Harvey Milk Day", in memorial to the now world-famous gay rights campaigner immortalized in the movie "Milk".

In addition to the Milk bill, Schwarzenegger ratified another bill affecting same-sex couples legally married outside of California which ensures that gay couples who wed before the passage of Proposition 8 in November retain their status as "married", while those who wed after the measure passed will retain all rights of marriage save the name. This means that married same gender couples moving to California need not register as "domestic partners" to have their relationships recognized.

Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that will expand funding for domestic violence programs targeting the gay and lesbian communities.

The "Governator", who has very publicly shown support to the gay community in California, particularly during the Proposition 8 issue last year, has also vetoed several other bills, which do not affect the gay community perse' - but just the transgender community.

Christina Engela's picture

Quack Attack!

Sounds like an old arcade game, doesn't it?  Perhaps one of those old ones you used to play at the shop while waiting for your school bus in the mornings?  You know the type, the multi-level adventure with stunningly lifelike cartoon characters and annoyingly simple sound effects, presented in the latest hi-tech 2-d format of the time.  Yes, it sure does conjure up memories.

But no, I am not talking about arcade games, but the games people - specifically medical professionals, are playing with the lives of other people - their patients.  There are a few of these in this spectrum, from the shrinks out there referring gay people to the fallacious "ex-gay" movement which falsely claims to turn gay people straight, to the quack surgeons who perform long-outdated gender reassignment surgery using bits of the victim's colon to form a vagina instead of the modern penile inversion technique - to the quacks sitting at the head of the DSM-V revision committee and doing their level best to screw it all up for everybody depending on it.

The keystone of this gripe for me is the revision to the classification of transsexuals from transsexuals to "HBS" - or "Harry Benjamin Syndrome".

Christina Engela's picture

Caster-gation Of The Rainbow Nation

For those who don't know me, my name is Christina Engela and I am a transwoman - or if you will, a transsexual woman. What does that mean exactly? Now that we have the support-group greeting out of the way, let me explain.

Once upon a time there was a little boy who always felt that - somehow, inside, he was actually a little girl...

To the world I was a little boy, who liked dolls and girly things and who was awfully confused by the way girls were treated differently to boys - and who clearly did not want to be included with the boys. I learned very early on that little boys who were soft and effeminate were frowned upon - and were given a very hard time. The world didn't understand who I was, and quite honestly, for some time, neither did I. And that is the really sad part - because the subject of gender and transgender is so taboo in conservative society that the only way to find out who you are as a transgender person is to figure it out for yourself. I was 26 before I even really fully understood who and what I was. And when I learned the truth, I grabbed onto it with all that was in me.

Christina Engela's picture

"It" Is For Objects, Not People

Recently I engaged in a private debate with representatives of international GLBTIQ advocacy groups online. Actually it started out as a call to action, to launch protests to affirm opposition to transphobia and the pathologicization of transsexuality - then one of them launched into a scathing criticism of trans people who wanted to have transgender classification removed from the coming DSM-V 
Presumably she would prefer transsexuals to continue to be classified as mentally ill - as they are deemed currently by world health professional groupings. Presumably she likes the stigma attached to being transgender and the rigamarole involved in getting the goodwill of the "gate-keepers" who hold the 
keys to their future happiness, assuming of course that they jump through all the hoops and barrels like good little freaks should.
This person, supposedly a director of a group involved in transgender education, proceded to state that "any transsexual person" wanting to abolish this current system "clearly does not speak for the community" - and then pointedly referred to trans people as "he/she/it".
"He/she/it" - "IT" ??? Excuse me? Did I read that right? 
This person just called transsexual people "it"? The email address title of the writer said "Transgender Education"?? Needless to say, I could not believe my eyes.
Christina Engela's picture

The Human Race


The issue of Caster Semenya, the 18 year old female athlete who has won two gold and one silver medal for her country - South Africa - makes me wonder. It makes me wonder how far we have come in the past 15 years post Apartheid, and how far we have come since the inclusion in the Constitution of certain phrases which are supposed to guarantee equality for people on the grounds of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation with everyone else.

Despite certain shortcomings in the wording of this document, which still allows a degree of hate crime and hate speech to slip through the loopholes, it seems clear that such a shift still has not taken place in the mindset of the people of South Africa. Clearly this also has not taken place in other countries either.

It has been reported that this fracas had a prequel three years ago in SA, and that the questions that arose now around Caster's gender could have and should have been answered then.

Following the abysmal treatment of a star athlete, SA is now making all sorts of complaints about the way she was handled - or should I say - manhandled?

SA is supposedly complaining to the UN about it, and the papers are filled with notification of outrage at the handling of this woman’s' human rights. But I have to ask a question:

Is this outrage because she is a woman who has been accused of being a man - or is it outrage because of the transgender issue?

Christina Engela's picture

Stupidity And Self-Inflicted Ignorance

Isn't it strange that having a dick automatically makes you a man, but having a vagina isn't enough to make you a woman?

Odd as it may seem, this gets proved every day for transsexual women around the world. Occasionally it is the stuff that makes headlines, peddles newspapers, or makes topical conversation around the craps table over drinks, transphobic jokes and peanuts. 
I feel it is an accurate portrayal of the fundamentalist worldview when I say their "view" is of the "join us - or else" or "I have a right to exist - and you don't" persuasion. The scary part is that the extremists see themselves as "true" Christians (or "true" men) - and everyone else as their enemy. I think it is the height of paranoia. (Of course, as the old song says - that doesn't mean we're NOT out to get them.)
For the past week or so I have been hearing and reading nasty comments based on speculation whether pop star Lady Gaga is intersex, and about a female athlete being accused of being male and having to undergo examination to prove that she is a woman! Suddenly a beautiful woman on stage that has been wowing millions with her cool songs and great voice now stops being beautiful and is a freak, a monster and a sexual deviant etcetera, etcetera. Men say online that they would never touch "it". 
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