Saeed Jones wrote a great article on Buzzfeed this week about the responsibility that the media has to report stories about transgender individuals with some respect for their subject. It’s worth a read and because I couldn’t have put it better myself I’m not going to paraphrase it here.
Having said this, it hasn’t been a bad week for trans positive news. All Out has teamed up with Purpose to launch an initiative aimed at removing gender from workplace bathrooms. Working for two different companies, as I do, that both have unisex facilities (one company has a sign that just says “TOILET” on the door, and the other has a sign that has a little man and a little woman on the same door), I’m not sure that I feel the initiative is really needed. However, I suppose it is cheaper to put a sticker on the door than to have to re-plumb the urinals to turn them into gender neutral stalls. Most importantly, it raises the issue again, which can only help.
Talk of unisex bathrooms always reminds me of Ally McBeal…
Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE), an international not-for-profit organization that works on trans rights at the global level, released the findings of a major survey of trans and intersex advocacy organisations this week. While the findings are not overwhelmingly great, the fact that this survey has been undertaken is hugely positive and means that work can be done to rectify the shortcomings highlighted.
Certain things jumped out at me from the survey: the subsuming of trans/intersex initiatives into larger organisations with other priorities meaning that trans/intersex issues don’t get a look in when it comes to publicity or funding; the size of the agencies – most work at the local level only – meaning that messages about trans/intersex issues are not being co-ordinated regionally or globally and the voices delivering the message are small; the lack of support by governments for trans/intersex initiatives, whether it be a lack of official data or a lack of funding; and the stats on the lack of funding and difficulties in fundraising generally. What these results say to me is that we would be stronger working together and that trans/intersex orgnisations need to start partnering in order to share resources and make a bigger noise. You can read the full report and a summary of findings here.
One arena where trans people are making a noise is YouTube and this great piece of journalism by Emily Alpert Reyes that follows all the rules when reporting on transgender issues explains why the social media tool has become the go-to place for information on transitioning. I have to say that I agree with her and her interviewees. I certainly found not only useful information on YouTube about the various processes one goes through in transition but also positive role models and affirming messages about being trans in the world.
In other research out this week, Professor Dick Swaab, a professor of neurobiology at Amsterdam University, says that smoking or taking synthetic hormones increases the likelihood of a girl being born lesbian or bisexual. Pregnant woman suffering from stress are also more likely to give birth to homosexual children, because their raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol affect the production of fetal sex hormones. And Swaab claims that the more older brothers a boy has, the greater the chance that he will be homosexual because, he says, the mother’s immune system has a stronger response to male hormones with each son, thus increasing the chances of having a gay son.
Gay rights campaigners were quick to seize on Professor Swab’s research that asserts that sexuality is determined in the womb and cannot be changed regardless of lifestyle. It confirms what gay and lesbian people have always “felt” is the case and makes homophobia an even more vile crime.
However, I think we should be cautious about being too prescriptive when it comes to the “recipe” to make a gay or lesbian baby. What about those people who are homosexual and whose mother didn’t smoke, didn’t take amphetamines or synthetic hormones, and wasn’t stressed whilst pregnant? The flip side of the science becomes a stick to beat these people with: you can’t be gay/lesbian because x-y-z didn’t happen to your mother while she was carrying you, therefore you’ve chosen your lifestyle and aren’t really gay/lesbian.
The research is interesting but human beings are hugely complex and diverse. Let’s spend our time accepting and embracing that diversity rather than finding answers to something that may never have a conclusive answer.
In another piece of research that states what we all knew already, the Australian government has found that children of gay parents do just as well as those with straight parents. Well, duh! Children thrive best where they are loved and supported. I’m amazed that the research didn’t find that the children of gay couples did better than their peers. When you consider what gay couples have to go through to start a family, they must really want those children. Since there’s no possibility of an accidental, unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, children of gay couples couldn’t get off to a better start. They are wanted and loved from day zero.
While on the subject of the gay nuclear family, I loved this piece by the Huffington Post about how traditional “traditional marriage” really is. As it turns out, not so much! If you’ve read A Very Civil Wedding, you’ll know that these are the kinds of well-researched arguments that I like. They put anti-gay marriage statements about the sanctity of the union of “one man and one woman” under the lens of history and shrink them down to size.
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