It is our commitment to educate on all queer related issues. From past moments and people in history to the current problems plaguing our community today. The matter of sexual assault and intimate partner violence is one of the most pressing issues among the LGBTQ.
As we enter the biggest holiday week of the year many people will face their first holiday out. The next few days are sure to be filled with parties and get togethers of all kinds. From family get togethers to church settings, the end of the year is packed full of fun and sometimes awkward gatherings.
And what can make this time period even more chaotic and anxiety inducing is one’s orientation or identity being the year’s topic of conversation. Which often feels like the case the first holiday season after a person comes out. Or the first holiday one brings a new partner home or begins to show their true gender expression. As always we are here to help.
Two of the biggest hurdles of this time are religion and family. So here are some practical tips on navigating these spaces.
Of course there are many queer people of faith, but the holidays can make these experiences difficult. Often we feel required to attend sanctuary’s from our childhood, or ones for which we are not familiar. It can be especially hard and even triggering to return to a place of faith that once held negative memories. And when returning for the first time since coming out, the anxiety intensifies.
You don’t have to go
This is a constant reminder for every event and function. When feeling unsettled about returning to religious space, then tell a family member or friend. In some cases they won’t care or understand. For some families, going to church is a “requirement” during the holiday season. Which puts many queer people in a tough position.
Go back into the closet if necessary – Our strongest suggestion is to be safe. And sadly sometimes this means going back into the closet. An incredibly devastating experience that an outsider can never comprehend. If you’re an ally reading this, then please never ask this of your loved one. It is mentally and emotionally excruciating. But as a transgender or non binary person being forced to hide their identity. Or a gay individual who is not allowed to bring their partner into church with them. Or a bisexual or pansexual whose orientation is repeatedly ignored and invalidated, just know this will not last forever. These closet doors are no longer permanent and they don’t close the way they used to.
However, if the place of worship is a friendly and accepting environment then there are ways to the experience positive.
Making The Best Of The Experience
Take what you can from the ceremony – Perhaps the teachings are no longer believed. But rituals and experiences can be nostalgic, especially at this time of year. Finding appreciation in the ceremony does not invalidate one’s growth and journey away from the past.
Find an excuse to slip out – It’s always good to have a plan prepared. Tell parents or friends about an important and expected phone call. Mention an illness coming on or ask to sit near the back to make ducking out easier. Keep the Uber or Lyft app downloaded and ready.
Bring candy – Yes this tried and true method matters. Sugar increases our dopamine levels and gives a little boost to our happiness. If sugar isn’t available then another reward system will do. Drawing or coloring also works and is meditative. It provides a good distraction to focus on instead of the message.
Stand Firm – We don’t want to trivialize religious trauma with distractions and candy. These are simply small ways to make the best of a bad situation. But ultimately the best reward is found in being true to oneself. By wearing the clothes in which one is most comfortable. And by going by the pronouns and name that is chosen and CORRECT. Most importantly, by refusing to give into the momentary pressure of denying true identity.
Don’t expect the worst – After the backlash that coming out often incurs it’s natural to be on guard. Our defenses cause us to prepare for the worst. And there is a chance we face scrutiny or harassment. Having a polite and prepared answer in response to cutting comments is appropriate. Not because they deserve an answer, but because you deserve the respect.
However, there is also something to be said for embracing people for where they are at. Setting down the gloves and remaining open to positivity will often lend itself to surprise. As hurtful as religious spaces can be, they are also known for great healing. Perhaps allowing a spiritual encounter will soothe the open wounds of past religious pain.
Friends and Family
This is of course the hardest and best part of the holidays. If a person’s coming out experience happened earlier in the year, then no doubt most close family knows by now. However, there always seems to be at least one distant friend or a random aunt that somehow missed the memo. As we’ve said before,
Coming Out is a Lifelong Process
The first holiday out, one is rarely prepared for how many times they must come out again. Our best suggestion is to have a short and to the point speech to give anyone who asks. Something that doesn’t hide who you are but also doesn’t allow for follow up questions. Quickly redirecting the conversation also helps in this situation. Some examples are as follows:
“Yes I came out as a lesbian, this is my girlfriend Denise. When is the family game of Uno starting?”
“Actually my name is Joseph now and I go by he/him pronouns. I started transitioning this past year and I’m so happy. Is there anymore apple pie left?”
Of course this suggestion is not foolproof. It works very well in work and social settings. But the difference in family and close friends is the level of familiarity. Family will ask questions that no one else would dream of asking. So It is up to the individual to decide their boundaries..
Make Time for these Conversations – Our suggestion is to have a designated time for important conversations when returning home. Especially if family does not live close by or is not seen often. The reality is you are probably the best person to help them understand who you are and what you need. If the intention is to retain a relatively stable relationship with family, then it is probably helpful to talk this out. However, when maintaining a relationship is not the goal then refer uncomfortable questions to Google (or Your Queer Story) and drop the conversation.
Hold Strong Boundaries – Unlike the rare instances of the workplace or an occasional visit to a religious institution, family and friends are more permanent and constant. Any slight ignored today could mean years of battle for recognition ahead. This doesn’t mean anyone needs to cause a scene. Usually a gentle correction for a loved one will do. Smile and shut down any inappropriate questions as firmly and quickly as possible. Leave no room for the conversation to be reopened.
Take Space – It is very important for family to realize that their queer loved one is not less than. And therefore will not be subjected to subpar treatment. Insulting gifts that ignore a person’s gender or expression should be addressed. Abusive language should not be tolerated. And if everyone else is sitting on the couch holding hands with their partner then there is no reason the gay couple shouldn’t do the same. Perhaps standing up to insulting language or behaviour will cause a fight. However, that is the offenders hangup and their responsibility to find a way to treat their loved one equally.
Have Some Personal Time – Even if things are going great, spending the holiday educating people it’s going to be draining. Have time away from family and friends. Meet other friends somewhere, take the dog for a walk, go to a movie, or find a small cafe or bar. Don’t burn out trying to fix everything and please everyone. Some people will be mad that about the whole coming out situation. And they will choose to remain that way until the next holiday season.
It is not up to the queer person to make everyone okay with their decision to be honest and live in truth. That is not why people come out. We live openly in order to live authentically. In cases where family is supportive, it is still on the family to educate themselves. The greatest gift a loved one can give their queer friend or relative is self learning.
Stay Someplace Else – This is not always affordable and realistic we understand. But if there is a cheap motel or a good friend nearby, then better to be careful. We don’t say this to be alarmist, we say this from years of experience. Especially in homes where conservative family seemed okay. There’s always the ability to cancel the hotel or friends house if the holiday goes smoothly.
But many times, even after a person comes out, it takes a while for the truth to sink in. This can turn a happy and festive atmosphere into a chaotic and tense one rather quickly. Often queer people are told they have a safe place to stay only to find themselves on the side of the road christmas morning. Please do some research before you head home and at least find a good shelter nearby.
Have Your Phone Charged and Ready – Text friends, stay in contact with a support group, reach out to a mentor or counselor. Don’t stay in an uncomfortable situation alone. And remember to keep Uber and Lyft downloaded!
Don’t numb it out – One of the easiest things to do is drown out the holidays with mood altering substances. In the moment this can feel like the best option. But in reality it keeps us from properly addressing issues and from properly experiencing healing. No one wins when alcohol, or drugs is used as a coping mechanism.
Congratulate Yourself (next year will we even better)
Whatever happens this final week of of the year, remember the most important thing. YOU CAME OUT. You took a huge and courageous step and should always be proud. The first year out is always the hardest. But as they say, it truly does get better. Keep taking those small steps. Keep fighting the fight to be true to thine own self.
And don’t forget, stay queer! Don’t get a lobotomy.
-Evan and Paul
Today we’re back with another episode in our series, “Villians of the LGBTQ”. And we’re discussing the woman who launched the modern day anti-queer movement, Anita Bryant. So much of the anti-lgbtq rhetoric we hear in today’s society is based on Bryant’s attack of the queer community. And her advocacy against us homos has been running for nearly as long as the queer revolution. But where did this woman come from? Who is she and why the hell does she have such a problem with our community? We’ll do our best to answer those questions and more. So let’s dive into the story of a beauty queen and pop singer turned Christian fanatic and queer basher.
Born in Barnsdall, Oklahoma on March 25, 1940, Anita grew up in a broken home. Her parents split shortly after she was born, and parts of her childhood included long stays with her grandparents while her mother looked for work to support the family. Anita was certainly a gifted child and it became apparent that she was meant to be an entertainer. Her first song she ever remembers learning was “Jesus Loves Me”. And apparently she never heard the other popular children’s song “Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world.” No Anita seems self obsessed from a very early age.
When she was six years old she held her first performance at the local fairgrounds near Barnsdall. Her singing caught the attention of a radio manager and Anita was often brought on air to entertain listeners all across Oklahoma. And perhaps this local notoriety gave her the boost she needed to win Miss Oklahoma in 1958 at age 18. She then went on to compete for Miss America and came in second place in 1959. The next four years were the heyday of Anita’s entertainment career. She released one pop album every year between 1959 and 1964 and had four songs hit the Billboard top 20. And of course, we remember this is in the days when the charts were solely dominated by white people and therefore offered little true competition.
Still, life was a fairytale for the rising star. She married a DJ named Bob Greene in 1960 and the two had four kids together. The entertainer kept busy appearing on various television shows, working ad campaigns, and moving on to record religious albums. Her most iconic work though would be landing the job as spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission. Anywhere a person looked there was a billboard of Anita. Or a commercial with her sipping a glass of OJ and saying “Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.” And this is all well and good. We have no qualms with Anita’s early life. She was a hard-working mother and business- woman which we can admire. But things changed in 1969. And if that year sounds familiar to you then we’ve been doing our job here at Your Queer Story.
1969 was the official birth of the queer revolution. Yes there had been stirrings for decades, but the riots at Stonewall on June 28th sparked a national public outcry. All across the nation newspapers told stories of the 2 day long riot, followed by marches and demonstrations in cities all over America. The country as a whole was in a sexual upheaval as people from all walks of life bucked the social roles enforced on them. Just two years earlier the landmark case of Loving vs Virginia allowed for interracial couples to marry. Which also struck down a long list of local laws which prohibbitted interracial couples from living together or even having sex together. Couples could now legally live openly with their relationship, though they werent safe from discrimination and violence.
Another social change came in the form of music. Rock-n-roll had erupted with the entrance of the Beatles at the beginning of the decade, and by the end famous bands such as Led Zeppelin were making their debut. And the theme of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll began to emerge in the American narrative. Which greatly unsettled white, suburban, christian households. And when The Doors Jim Morrison was accused of exposing himself at a concert, the right wing conservatives went wild. To this day no one really knows whether Morrison actually exposed himself. At the time he was arrested and convicted, but managed to walk free on appeal. He never made it back to the courtroom as he died of drug related heart failure in 1971. Regardless, the seemingly unrelated incident of Morrison’s arrest would spark a series of events which lead to the first national backlash against gay rights. An outrage that has shaped 50 years of anti-queer resistance.
When news of Morrison’s perceived exposure hit the new stands the Right went into an uproar. Within 3 weeks of the alleged incident over 30,000 people protested at the March 23rd Rally for Decency. Held at the Miami Orange Bowl, and organized by a local teen no less, the event was strictly a religious affair. Pastors, Celebrities, and christians of all walks of life filled the arena. Security banned “long haired and weird dressers” from attending. Speakers spoke adamantly about the God and perseverance of sexuality. The organizers then introduced the Five Virtues. Which were as follows: 1.Belief in God and that He loves us. 2. Love of our planet and country. 3. Love of our family. 4.Reverence of one’s sexuality. And 5. Equality of all men. A list filled with irony to be sure considering the next 50 years of activism by the Right.
But most importantly about the event was the attendance of Anita Bryant. The fading pop star found a new purpose at the rally. She was dismayed by the changes in America and the rejection of strict, fundamentalist values. For the next several years Anita worked silently as the religious right built the structure of the so-called Moral Majority. Then in 1977 it became Anita’s time to shine. And this happened with the January 18th passage of Dade County’s anti-discrimination act. This local ordinance would prohibit businesses and landlords from denying work or housing to queer people. An initiative that had been lobbied for by the Dade County Coalition for Humanistic Rights of Gays. And heady by three particular gay activists; Jack Campbell, Bob Kaskner, and Bob Kunst.
And it was a much needed ordinance. While Miami was already world renown for its gaynight life, local authorities had worked hard to remove queer people from public sight. In 1956 proud Baptist and former Florida Governor Charley Johns founded the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee. Known most commonly as the Johns Committee and was nothing more than a local group of McCarthy wannabes. For the next decade the Johns committee wreaked havoc on every form of civil rights group from the NAACP to the Dade County gay rights movement. They weeded out and fired every queer government employee they could find. The committee also printed and sold the notorious “purple pamphlet” which was meant to educate the public on the dangers of homosexuality. Yet instead it incited a public outcry because the pamphlet was filled with erotic pictures of male on male sex. While the group had intended to turn the booklet into a bestseller, instead they were sued. The only people really buying the pamplets were the gay community,who had found a very cheap form of porn.
Still, despite their hilarious blunders, the group was still dangerous. They turned their attention to the state universities, especially Florida State. Local law enforcement was recruited to apprehend suspected homosexuals on campus and bring them into interrogation.There the Johns Committee would play both judge and jury in deciding the fate of the individual. Which is even more terrifying when we remember that sodomy was still illegal in Florida – and would remain illegal until the Supreme Court ruling in 2003. The committees blatant disregard for the law along with their excessive cruelty left a lasting stain on Dade County. Though there was no remorse from Johns who told reporters years later “If we saved one boy from being made homosexual, then it was justified.” Yet 50 years later the city did not share their former governors sentiments. The Sun-Sentinel wrote of Charley John and his cronies abuse of power: [They] persecuted civil rights leaders, university professors, college students, public school teachers and state employees for imagined offenses against redneck sensibilities… Niceties like due process or the right to counsel or civil liberties were ignored… They employed entrapment and blackmail.”
But while progress has definitely been made, in 1977 the ideas of many Floridians mirrored that of Charley Johns. And the belief that any means necessary to deny gay rights was justified certainly mirrored that of fellow Baptist Anita Bryant. When Dade County passed the ordinance protecting queer people from discrimination – just 10 years after the Johns Committee reign of terror had ended – another wave of hate arose on the horizon. And we don’t mean Anita’s hair, though could see where there could be confusion.
When news that the ordinance was on the books for approval first broke it caused little concern. But some clergy were worried and begat to speak out against the anti-discrimination law. So one Sunday in December Anita’s pastor at Northwest Baptist Church plead with his congregation to fight this insidious sin. He told the church goers that if the law was passed he would be forced to hire a sodomite to teach at their christian school. And to drive the point further the pastor brought in a local police officer to speak to the congregation. The officer showed the attendees graphic images of male on male sex as well as child pornography. He assured the group that this is what would be taught in their schools if a queer was allowed equal access to job employment. All four of Anita’s children attended the church’s christian school and she was terrified by this prospect.
When the law came up for a vote in early January of 1977, the courtroom was packed. Churches all across the state had sent busloads of people to protest the ordinance. Anita herself spoke at the hearing and told commissioners “The ordinance condones immorality and discriminates against my children’s rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community” Yet despite the strong opposition, the law passed 5-3. It was a fleeting victory for gay rights activists. A counter protest was brewing and a new leader was emerging. Anita Bryant lead the charge against gay equality. She formed one of the most central organizations to anti-lgbtq activism to this day. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that Anita Bryant is the mother of the anti-queer movement.
Within days of the new law being enacted, Bryant along with her husband and over 30 other conservative leaders formed “Save Our Children, Inc”. The first goal of the movement was to collect 10,000 signatures to repeal the anti-discrimination vote. The strategy behind the campaign was necessary to overturn the vote. In reality, strategist Mike Thompson had found that more than 60% of Dade County women were in favor of the anti-discrimination law. They saw the gay community as fun, harmless, and far less of a threat to them than many straight me. In order to make these women fear the queer community Anita’s campaign had to play to their fears. And so they made the protest about the “rights of the child”. By spreading deliberate lies to paint the queer community as child molesters the Right could pull all sense of reason and sanity away from any mother.
Anita ran with the strategy. She campaigned all over the state pushing the lie that homosexuals were all child molesters in disguise. She went on national television and told parents and gay people were passing out pro-homosexual pamplets at schools in an attempt to “recruit our children”. A complete fabrication and a statement she later denied making, even though there was video evidence. On one outing she told the crowd “Some of the stories I could tell you of child recruitment and child abuse by homosexuals would turn your stomach.” As with most alt-right agendas she went to the far extreme and Bryant told listeners that if “Gays are granted rights we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters”.
By June of 1977 “Save Our Children” had far surpassed their goal and collected over 66,000 signatures to repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance. The campaign then went national. “Save Our Children” created a tv commercial that pitted so-called “wholesome entertainment” with queer entertainment. They cut up images of the orange bowl parade versus images of San Franciscos Gay Pride Parade. Making sure to choose the most shocking and offensive material to depict the queer community. The organization also ran full page ads in the papers with pictures of negative, queer headlines from around the country. And at the top the Ad read “Think All Homosexuals are Nice? There is no “human right” to corrupt our children!”
For their part the queer community lashed back at Bryant. They called for a national boycott of Florida Citrus Orange juice and created pins and shirts that read “Anita Bryant Sucks Oranges” and “Squeeze a Fruit for Anita”. The boycott did prove somewhat beneficial considering the amount of orange juice served in gay bars. Any drink with OJ was taken off the menu and in its place bars served the “Anita Bryant Cocktail”. It was made up of vodka and apple juice and many bars donated all or some of the proceeds from the drink to the gay rights movement. Florida queer organizations also tried to recruit some outside help, unfortunatley disagreements in how to run the campaign caused more division than aid. Most of the outside help wanted a civil and controlled campaign while may queer Floridians were too enraged by the outlandish lies.
In May Jerry Falwell came to Dade County to help Anita host a rally. While he had spoken out against gay rights in church, this was Falwells first national attack on the queer community. He would go on to become the founder of the political activist organization “The Moral Majority”. Which would be a formiddable force against the lgbtq community in coming years. Especially in its influence on Reagan during the Aids epidemic. But it was Anita Bryant who pulled Falwell onto the national stage. And it was Anita Bryant who told the large crowd as the “Save Our Children” rally, “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.” Say what you will, Anita knew how to stick to a message.
And the message worked. In June of 1977 Dade County residents voted to overturn the anit-discrimination act with a 61% to 39% margin. There would be no legal protections in place for queer Miami residents until 1998, more than 20 years later. And as is often the case when open discrimination is encouraged, the queer community faced a harsh and violent backlash. Two weeks after the law was overturned a gay gardner was stabbed 15 times while attackers chanted “Faggot” and “Here’s One for Anita”. Perhaps in connection of merely out of coincidence the queer communty in Dade County and across the country saw a spike in suicides around this time. But rest assured Anita took no responsibility. Telling reporters “ I can’t be responsible for how people react to what happened in Dade County. My stand was not taken out of homophobia, but of love for them.”
For the next couple of years Anita rode the wave of her activism. Even helping to stop pro-lgbt education in some California public schools. But her final spotlight soon dimmed and in the end her activism destroyed her career. Perhaps the infamous “pie to the face”, thrown by Tom Higgins in Des Moines Iowa at the end of 1977 was an indication of what was to come. Sponsors who supported gay rights, or at least wanted to be left out of the fight, soon dropped Anita. Including her most prominent contract, The Florida Citrus Commission. A few variety talk shows she was on stopped inviting her to appear. And her pop albums were no longer relevant and rarely played on most national stations. For a while she still had her religious albums. But those took a hit as well in 1980 when Anita filed for divorce from her husband of 20 years.
Anita claimed emotional abuse and it seems that is certainly possible. Especially considering her husband Bob still did not accept the divorce 27 years later. He told reporters that only God could end their marriage and he was still insisting that Anita was still wife as late as 2007. And of course he blamed the gays for their marriage failing. Regardless, fundamentalists sided with Bob. Divorce was never the answer in the alt-right world and Anita’s gospel albums soon plummeted. Abandoned by her own community Anita lashed out in an interview with Ladies Home Journal “The church needs to wake up and find some way to cope with divorce and women’s problems.”
For the next 35 years Anita Bryant faded into obscurity, no longer wanted by her liberal celebrity friends or her conservative christian followers. She remarried in 1990 and the couple tried to revive her career by building the Anita Bryant Music Mansion in Pigeon Ford Tennessee. However, the company went bankrupt and they spent the next decade moving from one failed venture to another. She and her husband are still alive today and have a mountain debt from unpaid bills and taxes. Her latest interview was in 2012 and when asked about the queer community she stated: “I’m more inclined to say live and let live, just don’t flaunt it or try to legalize it.” Despite all her hardships Anita Bryant has never learned that hate doesnt pay.
- Bryant (Wiki 1) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Bryant
- Jim Morrison – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/jim-morrisons-indecency-arrest-rolling-stones-original-coverage-250814/
- Save Our Children – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Save_Our_Children
- Johns Committee – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Legislative_Investigation_Committee
- Short doc – https://timeline.com/anita-bryant-anti-gay-dade-county-christian-conservative-video-history-e026fd5bfad8
Your first holiday season is hard and often we have to relive that moment again and again during the first year. Add in the chaos of family and various holiday functions during this time of year and things get….awkward. So we go through 3 of the biggest types of events during this time and ways to navigate the storm. Before you head out to that work party or climb in your car to head home for the holidays, take a few minutes to hear our tips. And whatever happens, remember you’re not alone. We’re always here to chat or direct you to resources in your area. But until then, let’s hit play!
The past 20 years we have seen a large surge in scientific research and understanding around sex and gender. This has been prompted no doubt by the voluntary outing of more and more trans and gender non-conforming folk. And as has been the case every time a minority group finds their voice, bigots and commentators on the “other side” find reason to increase their attacks. The realities and lies around transgender issues grows with time. Because of this, there is quite a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there about what it means to be transgender and what transitioning entails.
Why the confusion?
This is *mostly* not the fault of the scientific and medical community. Who’s main institutions agree almost unanimously that gender and sex are much more diverse and complex than our binary system teaches. Which isn’t to say that every doctor and nurse is on board. One survey showed that 28% of transgender people were verbally harassed in a medical setting. And that’s just the trans/NB people who have the courage to go to a doctor or hospital at all.
However, over the last decade the majority of medical institutions, research facilities, and even many insurance agencies have made huge strides to become informed and educated on transgender issues. So, in order to counter the attack of science and reason; every conservative blogger, preacher, and self-appointed authority has publicized their own – often uneducated – thoughts on gender and sex. All one has to do is google the word transgender. And there’s bound to be an article criticizing gender non-conforming people within the first search page. Add in the hype and flat out lies surrounding trans kids and any person would be terrified by what they heard or read.
I’m not going to address every lie out there as that would take a book and not a blog post. However, on our 76th episode of the Your Queer Story podcast, we spoke on some of the big misconceptions about sex and gender. As well as some general information about the trans community and how non-binary people fit under the umbrella. So let’s start off with the basics.
What Is a Transgender Person – A transgender person is someone who’s gender identity or gender expression is not in agreement with their biological sex or their sex assigned at birth. This term is an umbrella term for anyone who falls in this category. And therefore covers the following:
Transsexuals: people who seek medical treatment to change their bodies – Transsexual is an older term and specifically and only refers to those who seek medical intervention. Even so, most younger trans individuals prefer the umbrella term of transgender to the older term of transsexual.
Cross Dressers: This term is used in a legal sense to cover anyone dressing outside their perceived gender. But in the queer world it applies specifically to men who cross dress. Meaning they prefer to occasionally wear the clothes and makeup culturally associated with women and temporarily act in feminine fashion. Cross dressing men still identify as male and most are heterosexual. The old and outdated term for cross dressers is transvestite. But that term along with the word “tranny” are offensive and should not be used. *Side note* Drag is NOT considered cross-dressing in this sense. Drag is an art form while cross-dressing is a lifestyle.
Non-Binary/Gender Queer – There are a few terms which people who don’t fit into the gender binary use. We will not get into the various definitions on this post. Though I will point out that those who don’t identify as male or female are still considered transgender. This is because they have all been assigned a gender at birth and their expression or identity does not fully match that gender or perhaps does not match any gender at all.
Gender and Sex are the Same Thing: The more research is done on sex, gender, and sexuality, the more concepts on binary genders and orientations are broken down. But a big misconception is that sex and gender are the same. In reality we have three categories; Sex, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression.
Sex- It is the biological makeup of an individual combined with their assignment at birth. If we base sex upon gonadic criterion (meaning based upon genitals), then we have 3 sexes; male, female and intersex. But there are other ways we measure sex such as genetic (Chromosomes), hormonal (the predominant hormone either testosterone or estrogen) and anatomical (how the genitals look). In the 1990’s Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling found 5 sexes in her gonadic research alone. When we factor in the following 20 plus years of genetic research, the number of sexes becomes almost infinite. Regardless of what an individual wants to use to define sex, what we know for certain is that there are more than 2 sexes.
Gender Identity – This is the internal sense of one’s gender. Here is where a lot of the confusion comes in. Most transgender people will not debate on whether sex is limited to a few (current) definitions. However, gender identity is socially constructed and therefore is the neurological aspect of sex and gender. Studies have shown that many trans people have the brain scans of the gender they identify with rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. Though I must point out that these studies have not yet proven conclusive, there is more research to be done. Yet when people say socially constructed they mean is that gender identity is created by the surrounding society.
On the podcast we have spoken at length about the various gender identities in other cultures in times past and today. One of our most in depth episodes spoke about the Two-Spirit individuals of the North American tribes. Almost every Indigenous society in America, pre-Columbus, recognized 3-5 genders. And this was not central to North America by any means. In 2015 PBS produced a map which shows multiple gender identities all around the world.
Gender Expression – This is the outward expressions of gender through name, pronouns, clothing, etc. The final ladder on the rung of gender is by far the most culturally obvious and most dangerous. Most people in Western Society today won’t argue that an individual can dress and express themselves how they please (I emphasis MOST PEOPLE). Provided of course that the individual chooses a “gender” and sticks with it, except when entertaining – such as in Drag. And this is where our non-binary friends truly struggle. Because while a binary trans person “sticks to their role” so to speak, a gender queer or non-binary individual does not fit any role.
There is certainly a large amount of hate spewed at trans people daily simply because they ask to be acknowledged for who they are. But Ironically, it is often the binary trans community which gives their non-binary trans friends the most trouble. For instance, a transgender man wanting to put on a dress draws much harsher criticism than a cisgender man doing the same thing. No doubt this is a result of fear of further backlash from the bigots. Yet this reaction ignores the lines between identity and expression. Every individual – trans or cisgender – has the right to identify and express themselves how they please. And if the expression doesn’t seem to match the identity, then it is our perception of expression that is skewed and not the expressive individuals error.
It’s Easy to Transition – That’s such a loaded and false statement. The reality is there are many layers to transition and most transgender people never feel that they are quite done transitioning. The three main stages of transition are Social, Legal, and Medical. Not every trans person will undergo all of these stages. This does not make them more or less trans. Transition is a personal journey that varies from individual to individual. Each stage comes with its own risks and rewards. There are as follows:
Social – Coming out as transgender, possibly changing names or pronouns, possibly changing clothing and grooming habits.
*POSSIBLE REWARDS – Living openly. Expressing how one pleases. Being true to one’s self.
*POSSIBLE RISKS – Loss or ostracization of friends and family. Loss of job or housing. Social ostracization. Physical harassment and violence.
Legal – Changing one’s legal name and gender identity on government and public documents.
*POSSIBLE REWARDS – less risk of being outed by documents. Having the correct information on one’s I.D.’s
*POSSIBLE RISKS – Often lengthy and expensive process. Chances of denial by schools or government branches. Having to come out every time you go to have a new form/I.D. corrected
Medical – The first step for most trans people who want to medically transition is hormones. Testosterone for trans men and Estrogen for Trans women. Many transgender women will also take testosterone blockers in order to aid the Estrogen as testosterone is the more aggressive hormone. Surgery is a different topic all together and there is no such thing as “the surgery”. Meaning, there is not one single surgery which makes a person a man or a woman. Our identities make us who we are, not our genitals. However, the most common surgeries are as such:
For Transgender Men – Top surgery (male chest reconstruction), Hysterectomy (removal of ovaries and uterus), and sometimes Phalloplasty (construction of a penis) or Metiodioplasty (which causes the clitoris to somewhat grow and work like a penis).
For Transgender Women – Breast Augmentation (implants), Orchiectomy (removal of testes), laser hair removal on face and sometimes body, tracheal shave (reducing Adam’s apple), facial feminization (smaller and more feminine face), and Vaginoplasty (inversion of penis to create vagina).
*POSSIBLE REWARDS – Finally feeling affirmed in one’s body. More chance of “passing” so as not to be harassed. Able to change legal documents (many states require sex affirming surgeries before legal documents can be changed).
*POSSIBLE RISKS – Financial instability especially if rejected by insurance. Slow healing time. Botched surgeries. Loss of job while recuperating.
The most important thing to note about medical transition is that it is a very long, very painful, and very expensive process. Surgeries are almost never covered out of pocket and must be paid for up front as they are considered elective surgeries. In addition, few places of work will allow for the months of time off required to heal from these surgeries and even fewer jobs will give paid time off. Because of these many obstacles, the majority of transgender people undergo few if any of the above surgeries. And as stated, not every transgender person feels it is necessary to have surgery to feel comfortable in their own skin. But others will struggle with the knowledge that they need a surgery which they will never be able to afford.
Transgender Kids Get Surgery – One of the biggest lies around the trans community is spun by alt right pundits who write articles with titles like “Trans Child Experimental Guinea Pig” or “Transing Kids is Child Abuse” or “Why Are We Encouraging Girls To Mutilate Their Bodies?”. These are all real headlines that spread the myth that young children are undergoing surgeries and life altering transitions during their childhoods. It’s an absolute, flat out lie.
Children under the age of 15 do not undergo trans related surgery anywhere in the world. And the few surgeries that teens can go through at age 15 are reversible, require multiple doctor referrals, parental consent, therapist approval that the teen is cognitively aware of the consequences, and generally more than a year of social transition with the teenager living in their correct gender. More advanced surgeries such as genital deconstruction or reconstruction are only available to teens 17 and older and hold the same requirements (minus parental consent).
Social Transition is not Medical Transition
A lot of people assume that a child coming out as transgender means it’s all over for the kid. This is again due to the misconceptions about identity, sex, and expression. Doctors have found that a child expressing themselves through clothing and actions is incredibly healthy and helpful for their development. Transgender kids especially have an outlet for their frustrations over being in the wrong body. But social transition has nothing to do with medical transition. A child wearing a dress does not produce estrogen. Neither will a short haircut create testosterone.
Medical Transition is SLOW
The earliest a child can start any form of medical transition is at age 12 when they can receive puberty blockers. Puberty blockers are approved by the FDA and have been used for decades to stem hormones in children who hit puberty at an extremely early age. They are completely safe and completely reversible. From ages 12-14 a young teen can use blockers to prevent their body from changes and thus prevent the start of the wrong puberty. Again, this is after doctor and therapist have agreed the child is suffering from Dysphoria and after the parents have consented.
In the Netherlands a large study of transgender youth found that only 1.9 percent of participants chose to stop transition after starting puberty blockers. At age 16, in most Western countries at least, a child can begin the proper hormones for their correct gender. Again, these hormones are reversible, though some of the effects may not go away entirely if they are used for a prolonged period of time. For instance, several years of testosterone may cause an individual to always have facial hair. But this is only after a lot of exposure to the hormone and varies from person to person.
Trans People are Unstable and Unable to Fully Adapt to Society – This is perhaps the most foolish and harmful notion out there about transgender individuals. If you’ve followed our podcast over the last year then you know this is not true. On the podcast we covered trans heroes who made advances in the medical industry such as Alan Hart. Business entrepreneurs such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and Reed Erickson. We’ve covered activists like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Author and local character Joseph Lobdell. Even veterans such as Albert Cashier and Kristen Beck. Wherever you look in history there the trans community exists. Yes, often in the shadows or hidden in the back of history books; usually overlooked and many times maligned. But still trans people have been contributing to society the same way as every other human.
So What’s the Difference?
The biggest difference is we’re still being murdered for who we are. Since accurate record keeping began in 2008, well over 3,300 transgender people around the world have been murdered just for their identity. The slaughter of trans and gender non-conforming people is an epidemic. One that is fueled by misinformation and hate. If you would like a full list of those murdered check out tdor.info.com.
And I strongly encourage folks to be careful about who they’re listening to when researching trans issues. If the individual has a history of attacking the queer community, is this really where one wants to get their information? Wouldn’t it be better to go directly to the source and just ask trans educators? Misinformation is more deadly than no information so make sure to help spread awareness. And for those still seeking info then check out the Your Queer Story podcast. Its available on most platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher,and more! And of course you can always just tab over to the link right here on our website.
For More Transgender Resources:
- Trans Equality – https://transequality.org/additional-help
- Point of Pride – https://pointofpride.org/
- Trans lifeline – https://www.translifeline.org/
- TWOCC – https://www.twocc.us/
- QTPOC Conference – https://queer.ucsc.edu/resources/qpoc.html