Blog header image

Welcome to my blog, which I started way back in December 2002 - long before social media was a thing! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't write that often here now, but you never know when I might feel the urge to do so.

Current Entries  Archives  RSS

Middle Sex

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I've just watched a long and thought provoking documentary called "Middle Sex" on Channel 4. Of all of the programmes I've seen about us, this is by far the most hard hitting and in depth.

After opening with a glamorous image of the trans cabaret scene in Bangkok and briefly aluding to the fascination that some people (often secretly) have with us, the mood of the programme changed abruptly to tell the story of what a group young men were doing in a California woods in October 2002. They were the killers of Gwen Araujo - searching for somewhere to dump her body, which was in the boot of their car.

I was in tears just watching it - what happened to Gwen has always touched me deeply, happening as it did so soon before my own transition. The fact that her mother Sylvia Guerrero appeared in the programme to talk about her daughter made it even more moving - as did the appearance of Andrea James and Calpernia Addams (Calpernia lost her boyfriend Barry Winchell to a brutal transphobic murder as a result of his relationship with her, an event which is now the subject of the movie Soldiers Girl).

After that rather scary introduction the programme attempted to explain some of the facts behind gender, transsexualism and intersex conditions, using both medical information (including how the body and brain develop) and the experiences of those who've had to come to terms with being born that way - including a trans man who transitioned after discovering that he had been born with CAH, and a very touching interview with the parents of an 8 year old "boy" called Noah whose interests and manner are quite obviously female at the moment.

The programme also touched on the work of the Dutch Institute for Brain Research, which revealed that the brain structure of transpeople (at least in the sample they studied) was congruent with their identified gender rather than their birth sex. Although this research is still controversial and (as far as I know) has not been repeated, it's the first time I've seen it presented on television.

The theme which ran throughout the programme was quite simple - while nature loves diversity (how can it be otherwise, given the sheer complexity of the mechanisms that determine our development?) society hates it. Tragically, people like Gwen Araujo, Barry Winchell and most recently Amancio Corrales - whose body was found mutilated in the Colorado River only 3 weeks ago, are those who've paid the price for that hatred. May they rest in peace.

After discussing the varied expressions of gender, body development and sexual behaviour in nature as a whole, the programme then moved onto human society, using two radically different cultures in the same part of the world - India and Thailand.

In India, we were introduced to Nandini - a 22 year old Indian undergoing Hijira surgery (basically a primitive form of reassignment surgery - not a castration or orchidectomy, as some may think). She discussed her story - how she had been beaten by her parents as a child for being different, and was ultimately ostracised by them. Sadly, the ostracisation of transpeople by families is a common thread throughout the world - even in the West.

By contrast, the attitude in Thailand is rather different (although still far from perfect).

Although Thai society certainly has its issues with regard to trans rights, the contrast with India is stark. That contrast, the programme speculates, may have been due to the intervention of Victorian Britain in India, and the resultant effect on Hindu culture - which still persists today.

The programme then moved into territory which is much more taboo in western society - the attraction some men (notably western) to pre-op trans women, including one very candid interview with a US man who was quite frank about his attraction to his pre-op Thai girlfirend. He doesn't want her to have reassignment surgery, and isn't afraid to admit it. Apparently he's far from alone - although many men feeling the same way would never admit it publicly.

That's a theme the programme then used to try to study the reasons behind homophia and transphobia. Why does society (and in particular heterosexual men) feel so threatened by those who do not fit the gender binary?

A telling study in the US in 1996 gives an apparently straightforward answer. The researchers took a group of heterosexual men pre-screened them by their responses to a questionaire to ascertain whether their attitudes were relaxed or homophobic - and then measured their unconcious arousal when exposed to male gay pornography. The results were telling. Of the two groups, only men in the the "homophobic" group showed any signs of arousal. The "relaxed" group were completely unaffected.

So is the violence against those of us who are different largely a result of the fears of some men about the scope of theiir own sexuality? The programme closed by drawing parallels with Gwen's story - and the fact that her killers didn't act until they knew others knew of her background. I've not thought of it that way before, but it makes perfect sense.

Suffice it to say that although I found the programme upsetting in places, I can highly recommend it.

As one Thai trans woman in the programme said, "call us what you want, but know that in our emotions and feelings we're no different from anyone else." Wise words.

Posted by Anna at 23:05 | Get Link

A couple of new friends in blogspace

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Just in case you don't notice, I've added a couple of new links to other journals/blogs (choose a name you prefer!) which I've just stumbled across.

In case you can't find them, here they are:

Highly recommended.

Posted by Anna at 00:23 | Get Link

Clarkson on the run

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This evening I was channel flicking briefly while waiting for my bath to run and came across something that had me in absolute hysterics - I briefly caught the end of Top Gear, to see Jeremy Clarkson being chased across Salisbury Plain in a Range Rover by no less than a Challenger battle tank.

Clarkson is one of those people you either love or hate. Personally, I'd be more than happy to go out for a drink with the guy, as whatever you think of him he's certainly got a unique (and entertaining) way of looking at life.

I only caught the last 5 minutes so apparently I missed them playing 5 a side football in Toyotas...

Back to Clarkson Bashing!"

Not my usual subject matter I know, but it made me laugh which makes it fair game.

Posted by Anna at 20:37 | Get Link