Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Cutting Edge-October 29, 2014

By Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW


Have you seen “Transparent,” the new Amazon show that has received raves from critics and fans alike?  Rotten Tomatoes’ site gives it a 97% approval rating, describing it “as much about a change in television as it is about personal change.  Transparent raises the bar for programming with sophistication and sincere dedication to the human journey, warts and all.”  Jill Soloway created the pilot about 3 siblings whose father reveals he is going through a significant life transition.  She says the show stands for gender freedom for all and within that freedom we can find grays and muddled purples and pinks, chakras that bridge the heart and mind, sexiness that depends on a masochistic love or a sweeping soul dominance.  In particular, Transparent wants to invent worlds that bridge the binary….”


“Easing the Law for New Yorkers Shifting Gender” is an article in the NY Times Oct. 7, 2014.  It refers to a change being advanced by the N. Y. City Council and the Mayor in the definition of “what constitutes a transition from one sex to another, allowing a person’s own identity, not anatomy, to be the determining factor.”    It would allow alterations to birth certificates at the recommendation of physicians, psychotherapists, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and midwives.  The criteria for amending a certificate will be “that the requested change more accurately reflects the applicant’s sex and is consistent with contemporary expert standards regarding gender identity.”  The long-standing requirement for SRS will be dropped and original birth records will be sealed.


“Lily McBeth, 80, a Focal Figure for Transgender Rights” is the heading of an Oct 5, 2014 obituary in the NY Times. Formerly, William McBeth had been a medical supplies salesman from New Jersey. Upon retirement, s/he took a position as a substitute elementary school teacher.  Having taken a break to recover from SRS, upon returning to the classroom in February 2006 as Lily, an intense debate arose among parents leading to an exploration of the human rights issue concerning opportunities for transgender people.  Ms. McBeth, who died on Sept. 24, was referred to as “the state’s most important civil rights figure in the last 2 decades.”  It is notable that the NJ school administration defended her right to teach based on NJ Civil Rights laws.  Parents were divided with some trotting out the usual claims that children were being forced to confront issues of sexuality beyond their ken while others felt her teaching skills were unimpaired by her transition.  Although never terminated, the school stopped requesting her services as a substitute teacher, and she finally withdrew her availability stating in an interview that “they put me in a closet again.”  She never wrote her autobiography but in an interview she stated that had she done so, it would have been called, “From He to Shining She.”


On Sept. 3, 2014, Mills College in Oakland, CA became the first all-women’s college in the US to openly welcome gender non-conforming students.  Any student ho self-identifies as a woman is welcome.  Applicants “who do not fit into the gender binary” are eligible as long as they were assigned “female” at birth.  An enrolled student who transitions and later identifies as a man may stay and graduate.  However, those who were assigned “female” at birth but already legally identify as a man, are not eligible.


About 3 to 5 of the 1,000 undergrads identify as gender non-conforming every year.  Mt. Holyoke has an even broader policy of inclusion admitting “any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman.” (Think Progress website, Sept 2, 2014)


Don’t be surprised if some of your glamour photos end up some day on display.  Robert Swope found a cache of 340 snapshots of men ”dressed cozily as women, engaging in domestic pursuits…, having dinner or playing scrabble.”  He learned the photos, found at the 26th St Flea Market in Manhattan, were taken at Casa Susanna, a weekend retreat in the Catskills for 1960’s cross-dressers.  120 of the images have been collected into a book published in 2005 by Powerhouse that is now in its 3rd printing.  Now all of the photos are to be auctioned at the Wright Auctionhouse in Chicago in the hopes that an institution will buy them for public display. (NYT 10/16/14)


Lastly, don’t miss the13th San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, Nov. 7-9 at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. @ Valencia.  For more info: WWW.SFTFF.ORG.