Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Cutting Edge-March 20, 2014

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW


“Transgender Troop Ban Faces Scrutiny,” an article on the Air Force Times site, discusses the current armed forces prohibition against admitting transgender individuals to the service.  An independent commission led by a former US surgeon general has concluded that ”there is no compelling medical reason” for this rule and it could be nullified by Pres. Obama without congressional approval.  The report found that “Department of Defense regulations designed to keep transgender people from joining or remaining in the military on the grounds of psychological and physical unfitness are based on outdated beliefs…. The ban is an expensive, unfair and damaging barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently ….“ said the commission led by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who served as surgeon general during Bill Clinton’s first term.

 At least a dozen countries, including Australia, Canada, England and Israel, allow transpeople to serve.  The Center for Military Readiness, which opposes lifting the ban, predicts that “putting transgender people in barracks, showers and other sex-segregated [venues] could cause sexual assaults to increase and infringe on the privacy of non-transgender personnel.”

 Following up on last month’s article in which a 92-yar-old transgender widow was denied benefits from her legal spouse, a Lambda Legal news release states that the Social Security Administration has been persuaded to grant Robina Asti the benefits due her.  The organization awaits changes to SSA policy that will ensure that this does not happen to subsequent applicants in Robina’s position.

 Jennifer Finney Boylan, Professor at Colby College and trans memoirist (“Stuck in the Middle with You’), described in the N Y Times (2/16/14) her observation that “we finally have trans characters on TV.  But what about trans actors?”   She is commenting on the new Amazon show, “Transparent,” in which the actor playing a male-to-female character, Jeffrey Tambor, “is neither female nor trans…. Why do these parts go to people who struggle to imitate us, when there are trans actors ready and able to bring to these roles the authority and authenticity of their own lives?”

 CA’s School Success and Opportunity Act went into effect Jan. 1st, “ensuring that schools have the guidance they need to make sure all students, including those who are transgender, have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate. The effort to repeal this law failed to qualify for the ballot allowing AB1266 to become law.

 “My Husband Looks Better in Lingerie than I Do—Damn It,” by Bobbie Thompson describes life with her transgender spouse, who has also authored a book, “Hung in the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery” by Alana Nicole Sholar. Ms. Thompson’s book deals with challenges greater than social disapproval and financial difficulties, such as Alana’s positive diagnosis of HIV.

 “Transgender Models Prosper in Brazil, Where Carnival and Faith Reign,” in the NY Times (3/16/14) describes the “growing class of transgender models in Brazil.”  Apparently the cosmopolitan capitals of Sao Paulo and Rio in Brazil, a country which celebrates its multi-racial and cultural heritage, “have become places where crossing gender lines is increasingly accepted.  Still, transgender models themselves say Brazil is also in many ways a deeply conservative country with strong religious forces that can create a hostile environment for its gay and transgender population.”  Sadly, they have had less success beyond the confines of fashion.  In trying to enter the performance field, one model complains that they are only considered for roles as trans characters. “The majority of actors are gay and they can play a heartthrob…. Why can’t I play a maid, a secretary, a tree?”