Andrew Guy

We speak to our NSW #YourChair winner Andrew Guy about his journey as a trans person #TheProjectTV

Posted by The Project on Monday, September 7, 2015

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Midsumma Exhibition - Melbourne in January; feel free to pop by

It's with great pleasure and huge gratitude to both Sally Flegg and Lynne O'Brien to share the inaugural exhibition showing of these photographs at the Midsumma Festival in Melbourne from January 18, 2012.


 

Friday, December 9, 2011

An amazing outcome from Women Say Something V3 - Feminism

I don't believe this needs much explaining...a picture tells 1000 words here really;



"It's time to acknowledge the families we create, including the role our pets play, our friends play and those who become our families. It's time to celebrate the communities we build and talk about why we do this. I will be an interesting theme to explore with some exceptional panelists" - Steph Sands


Sunday, December 4, 2011

DEATH

The topic of death is an interesting one for me, particularly at present through this transformation, but also has been for as long as I can remember. I've experienced death a lot in this lifetime, funeral tally is well up on marriages and births. I saw my grandpa's dead body at the age of 4 (an image that doesn't leave me), I've first hand witnessed how cancer breaks down the body  and mind over a 10 year period with my mum (an experience that will never leave me and still to this day breaks my heart)...there's something unexplainable about witnessing the person that brought you into this world return to the innocence of a child at the age of 50 barely able to talk or walk, and then finding yourself in the role of mum and translator between her and anyone else in the world because there is instinctual love connection beyond words where you just know what she needs and what she's saying before the words mutter out. I am who I am and where I am at today because of this life changing experience.

I've experienced the shock death of  the closest friend in the world, one day flying high and the next day on life support after eating some disagreeable food. The list goes on, other aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends children - cancer, strokes, heart attacks ... the constant to me is this, it's happening in every moment, all races/genders/ages/sexual orientations; it doesn't discriminate or rally for law passing to do what it does - it's just here and seldom to we actually discuss it...I mean really discuss it. 

It somewhat hit me today that this topic needs to brought into this blog space. Reason being my experience one year into this fairly dramatic physical body transformation, the biggest fear I've heard echoed back to me from all the dear friends and followers keeping up with me is this; 

The fear that somehow Anna (who a lot of people loved and found inspiration and comfort from) was dieing and something new ... a somewhat 'tba' ... was in creation. People are curious to meet up in person and connect to get some sense of knowing that it's all ok because I'm still here. My response today (which cud change as of tomorrow) is as follows:

Yes there are definite traits and appearances and an essence of Anna that has and is continuing to leave / fall away and there are others that are crystal clear here as they always have been. I'm certainly not controlling any of this and can only relate today to using the example of a caterpillar / butterfly transformation in that it itself does not know exactly how or what is transforming until it has done so.

This is the definition of death that I have come to know and I share this because death and 'resistance there of' (an ingrained survival trait) is a huge part of us all, without us always knowing, it is what's driving  needs and desires and is in fact what creates most industries globally when u strip it down. 

And look certainly easier said than done (as its painful), but the more we come to know and experience levels of death within us, (which by the by is happening to us in every moment, body cells and dieing and regenerating without us knowing all the time anyway), the more peace and comfort that is available.  It's funny the only thing that we as humans are actually doing is resisting what is happening  every moment anyway. The more conscious one becomes of this the more interesting the experience gets and I can say today that as much fighting and resisting is here still with me, the dieing is still happening all the time...and today I'm having a bit of a chuckle about it because I can experientially say that feeling of existence we all have within us (beyond the senses of the body system) is always going to be here as what we really are whether our body is changing or even dieing. So it's kinda true how all the fuddy duddy masters and spiritual teachers say how it's all just an illusion, we're all  here always, we never go anywhere, we just change form and then form falls away from us. 

For me right now, feeling grief fully is much less pleasant than actually experiencing the death of Anna, hands down, that just plain out sucks and doesn't seem to ever fully go away, it's just that the love for the person grows huger over time as does the longing. So I think eventually when we all get to our physical form death we'll find it a piece of cake over experiencing the loss of those we love.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Amazing how it evolves ... hoping it's possible to talk about oneself void of narcassism, one's ideal environment anyways!

Proposal Segment In Development (amongst other 'tings) this wk post the 'Sydney Stories' theatre piece ... (good times!)

"The angle for my approach to develop this type of project would be to document the actor’s journey on film for broadcast and cinema release.

Andy Guy became known to me after we met at Sydney’s Town Hall to attend a Sustainable Sydney event last September.  I sat next to Andy at the front of the Hall and we started chatting almost immediately – about my coffee and how great it smelt I think.  Because it was a sustainable event I may have felt a pang of guilt drinking what was probably non-PC coffee in a polystyrene cup and Andy possibly wisecracked in that delightful way of his that makes everything okay.

At some point our conversation turned to acting and then to film.  I am developing a documentary project about four Australian artists who are living and working in Sydney Australia.  The angle for this project is to document life through the eyes of the 21st century artist. I’d booked attendance at this particular Sustainable Sydney event because Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton were key speakers and I was very looking forward to hearing what this dynamic couple were going to say about their plans to ‘green’ the Walsh Bay precinct on Sydney’s Harbour. 

I can’t remember when Andy mentioned that he had been a girl for most of his life and was now transitioning to become a man.  I do remember replying that I’d thought ‘guy’ when I’d sat next to him.

It’s now over a year since we met and I’m now considering writing Andy into a project that will involve investigating through the form of documentary the journey of ‘the actor’." This is because I recently attended the second night of Dean Carey’s cycle of dramatic performances staged at Darlinghurst Theatre in Potts Point, Sydney.  The cycle uses real life stories that are interpreted by actors from The Actors Centre in Surry Hills, Sydney.  Andy’s real life experiences were used as the starting point for a script written to be performed for the cycle.

I was impressed by many things about this idea.  As a writer I think Dean’s technique of using real lives and interviews as the basis of writing a script is refreshing, risky and revolutionary. 

Consequently I think the content was terrific. 

As someone who is currently engaged with the documentary form the element of social worth of Mr. Carey’s cycle of performances is obvious.  Because the content is fact-based the dialogue is engaging, cathartic and truthful. The characters were familiar to the audience.  The cycle is part social commentary and part historical document and is also a representation of 21st century Sydney and the people who live here. 

It has a simple message: we need to think of ourselves as one family or we’re not going to make it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Learning, Careers and Social Artistry

Something resonating me thinks ... hmmm, yes yes!! 

Learning, Careers and Social Artistry

“Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see” - Yoda 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Aint It Funny

Right now in this moment ... I've never felt such inclusion and love from every family / community to which I belong to in my life, and it's taken doing the one thing I thought would for sure exclude me, for that to make it self be ... interestingo! ... this is all!  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SYDNEY STORIES - Presented by The Actors Centre Australia

Michael Garcia, an Australian actor approached me to incorporate this transition story into the Actors Centre Australia's Sydney Stories - Real People, Real Stories, Reality Theatre. Directed by Dean Carey, come and share in the magic of this event at the Darlinghurst Theatre, Sydney from 23rd - 27th November. Click here to purchase tickets.

I chose Andrew because of his amazing gender transformation from female to male. A story I knew needed to be heard. Courage, strength, boldness, humor, he has definately taken me on a wild ride, and will definately captivate any audience.

Andrew 31 years old, born in Sydney is currently undertaking the process of shifting his body to male form. Born biologically female, Andrew knew from a very early age that his exterior didn't match who he was intrinsically. 

"It’s one of those things, where, now that I’ve started I don’t think I could just stop it here, it just feels too, um, like I just kind of, I sort of exist at the moment in between two definite genders within the world … it’s a wierd existence where you don’t kinda fit. I feel very reliant and transient and I would like to get to the destination"



Friday, October 21, 2011

Women Say Something V3.0: The Real "F" Word - Wed 23 November 2011 Slide Bar, Sydney


Women Say Something is a Speaking Series that takes exceptional panels of women who meet in the style of "THE VIEW" to talk, debate and ponder what really matters today in our many diverse communities and the challenges that women still face in overcoming adversity. Members of our female community will have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions from a panel of women, featuring some of the communities most infamous personalities.

It is with great delight to share that I have been invited to be a guest panelist at this event in Sydney next month with the intent of offering up the following:

A somewhat paradoxical perspective on ‘women’s liberation’, and speak of the experience of being seen as female vs. a male within society, as well as some indifference's noted of a medical gender transition from female form to male as opposed to the other direction.

I imagine this decision will generate both strong interest and criticism and I invite anyone interested to come and join in this event. 

Ticket purchase information will be detailed soon at: Women Say Something V 3.0 



Thursday, October 13, 2011

pure and simple...this is just going to suck!

Well I'm a little deflated this afternoon ...

It's been a really good week thus far, the new hormone is circulating fine, I'm busy with work and other creative projects which are progressing well. This was topped off last night with a really inspiring occurrence, when I clocked that my vimeo video log has been viewed by a large amount of people in over 83 countries. It's a really lovely gift to have the awareness that humanity far and wide has taken an interest in this process.

And then the 'other' side of things has decided to rear it's little head (hm!) ... I have to say it's been a fairly intensive process this past month changing over all my identification from old name and gender to new name and gender, some institutions have been great, others such as the RTA have been appalling in terms of their customer service and willingness to make a simple change happen with minimum fuss.

I truly felt I was at 'the light at the end of the tunnel' phase with this part, and now this afternoon I've just been made aware, that the one final trust account I haven't yet changed over (a joint one with family members) is going to require a HUGE amount of work on my behalf to amend this. And when I say HUGE, I'm not talking paper work...the pages of forms to fill in are fine...what currently is making me feel entirely uneasy is the process involved which going to require at least 3 signatures on different letters from not just me, but my father (who I haven't seen now and barely spoken to now for about a year) and brother. And on top of this, for the amendment to go through they both have to provide as well as I, two forms of their own identification which then needs to be certified by a JP too. Safe to say today, little over bureaucracy with a capital O. This is going to be the most challengful thing I have ever done in my life ... so this evening I chose to feel grumpy ... hmpf! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

a refreshing reminder that it's ok to not know anything about anything

Life, as always, continues to give what I can only describe as some awesome reminders that it's ok to not have everything worked out or have all projects sorted. I don't think we ever can, even though there is a big part of me that LOVES having it all worked through ...because only then can I truly relax (ha ha ha!). 

I've experienced a few out of the blue challenges over the past couple of weeks, but today I can reflect and sit with the reminder that, nothing ever stays the same for long, and if at any moment there's a whole lot of curve balls coming your way, it's ok just to let em hit you, say ouch, and wait for the next thing to unfold...rather than using energy trying to catch, dodge and manage the entire situation.

I can undoubtedly say from experience that synchronicity and coincidences are more common these days than anything else in my life really. I know that this process is taking me places it needs to and giving me all the lessons (and perhaps a few more!) along the way.

To speak specifics, after experiencing the minor 'emotional storm' that hit me the other week, (and now if one goes for the complete 'cliche' and says) the sun is definitely out again. These past 2 days have just blown me away with what has unfolded, without me doing anything really.

Firstly the other evening, I had my thoughts focused to NYC and travelling back there next year, (while I was singing, 'Empire State of Mind' to the deaf cat in the apt I live in) and behold, I checked Facebook mid verse, only to find a kind stranger who'd found my YouTube channel and happened to live in NY, just wanting to connect, say hi and give his thoughts on what he'd watched. Such a simple delight that hugely made my evening, and was entirely spooky with it's timing!

Secondly, I've been stalling on booking a surgeon appointment over in Perth, basically just out of fear of not knowing where I'd stay, when I'd go, what the cost would be etc etc and finally yesterday I kicked myself in the butt (metaphorically, not that flexible!) to just call and book in a random date. I did this, and no longer than 12 hours later, by chance I was up early (after being gently dragged to 6am boxing by my gorgeous flat mate) wandering what the heck I'd do with my morning as all of a sudden I had an extra 3 hours to play with that is usually dedicated to sleep...to find a fb message from a fellow transfriend from Perth who'd just arrived in Sydney and wanted to know if I was free to catch  up. We had brunch and not even 10 mins into the conversation did he remind me that he lives 10 mins way from this surgeon and I can stay with him if it'd help. Ummm right?!?!

And lastly I thought to myself, it'd be really handy to have some extra cash flow come my way to not have to dip into savings for this trip to Perth...only to be greeted today by a plethora of emails from one of my jobs asking me if I wanted all these extra shifts...

Oh and not to mention my flat mate is migrating OS soon so I needed to find a new place to stay. I happened to have a coffee catch up with a friend last weekend (medical doctor & actor - nice mix for me really!) who has a spare room and mentioned they needed a little extra cash ... so bob's your uncle I have a new place to move to next month.

A week ago, I had no idea what to do about Perth and whether I should go check this surgeon out, where I'd be living next month and if I'd still know people when I get to NY next year (to name just a few).

So in conclusion it's just such a beautiful reminder for me again to know that it's ok to give up planning life and where it's all heading ... that question "where do you wanna be in 5 years time" which is drilled into us if we want to live a 'successful life' (whatever that means!) from so many authority figures, I now confidentially answer "I have no idea but I can't wait to find out" because life seems to be doing a pretty amazing job at sorting out where I need to be and what I'm meant to be doing. I don't have a clue until it happens, and that is the most relaxing place to be in, because I know wholeheartedly there is something bigger orchestrating a lot right now. I'm just gonna trust and (as a wise person I know always says) "be a shark in the water looking for clues and just follow the bread crumbs" ... thank god for that! 

More soon!!  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Some questions asked today that I'm sure others wonder about

Why does it seem to me that other countries are more accepting, and experienced with trans ops, how long will you wait? 

as long as it takes to seek what it is i know this body is willing to endure (vs not endure)

I would imagine with the testosterone changing your body you would need top surgery and genital impants? 

testosterone changes the body in many ways, some documented, some not...my face, upper body shape has changed, i have also grown in height 2 cms (this is not the norm but I sense this is due to other practises I do) ... I don't need the norm chest surgery hence my frustrations and genital surgery is a different kettle of fish all together, testicular implants is one element of this...and yes I plan to do this in due time when I find the right doctor and have the 50-80k USD that I believe I need to do what I want to get done

pardon the pun but are you feeling like a bitsa? 

yes i do I feel like a pin cushion and the subject of much gossip on certain days...for better or worse when you step into the public spot light to offer education to a topic that is often not spoken and misunderstood, this is part of the journey

has the testosterone changed the shape of your bits? 

yes

has it affected your libido? 

no

the way you think? 

no, daily life experiences change the way i think 

the way you feel? 

yes, i honestly feel like i could kill something/someone in a very real way that i never used to (i of course won't because i have a stronger and deeper love for myself and humanity over this desire) but I can understand how world wars are started, why killings happen and how testosterone is a very real factor in this (thinking of writing a book specifically just on this topic alone!)
 
or are you the same person just almost physically male?

i don't believe anyone is the same person each second, minute, hour, day, year etc, i believe we all are changing, evolving as we go through our life and a lot changes who we are, so no I'm not the same person I was, people see me as who I am now, not the Anna I was, which I find very honouring and refreshing. i do believe i still possess a lot of the loving qualities that i have always had and hopefully a lot more as i keep becoming more truer to myself 


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'A GAGA Conversation' - post MTV Music Awards Performance as Jo Calderone


D: Did you read that quite a number of people in the queer community are really upset with Lady Gaga doing the boy drag? I thought it was good, I mean she's representing herself to the mainstream and getting the whole idea of artistic expression/drag out there and making it a cool thing to do...we have to be thankful for that, I feel. I don't think shes appropriating anything, and especially not me/FTMs. I really couldn't be happier she’s doing this.

A: No I didn't hear that & frankly it doesn't surprise me at all after the flack I've copped around the word 'misrepresentation'...end of day she's an artist & freedom of creative expression is a human right for all (as is transitioning). If people within the trans community wish to personalize that to create more individual suffering and 'poor me' syndrome then good luck to them, the rest of us will still be living, being true to ourselves and grateful for the gift of life. I'm glad u see through their whinging. She's the best thing that's ever happened to the trans community in my world view! ps still going to marry her one day


D: I totally agree. I think she’s helping to break down the barriers in ways frankly we never could. She’s in touch with the mainstream in particular the kids, the adults of tomorrow who are important.

A: Exactly!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who Really Knows Whats Going On - A Trans Every Day Dialogue on the 'Red Tape'

Hi Andy,

Congratulations on your recent surgery and legal change of gender by the Births Deaths & Marriage (BD&M) Registry.

It would appear that BD&M accept a hysterectomy as sufficient to meet their requirements to change gender on the birth certificate for FtM's; is that correct?

It seams a little at odds with the MtF requirements where removal of the testicles would not be considered sufficient. Even on hormones the reproductive capabilities are removed through chemical castration. It is my understanding that they need documentation that a full Gender or Sex Reassignment Surgery has been performed for MtF.

Were you able to get anything from BD&M that documented their requirements for gender change recognition.

I have changed all my name and all my documentation to female, however I am still stuck with a male passport. I do have to travel overseas with work and it really makes things very difficult.

I think the whole focus on gender in government documents will be removed when we have same sex marriage rights in Australia.

Best Wishes

K

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hey K,

God this stuff is such a can of worms isn't it!

I didn't know it was so specific for the M2F community. As far as I am aware (still learning big time) for the BD&M registry in NSW you just need 2 doctors to sign a stat dec that they have performed an 'affirmation procedure' as part of the transition. I haven't read anywhere anything legally outlining what is counted as a procedure, just lots of other trans guys thoughts...

The two doctors I got obviously were firstly the endocrinologist (hormones) and this gynaecologist - neither had to outline what they actually did as part of their procedure. I know another guy did it just with having his breasts removed and hormones with nothing at all done down below, however I hear from other trans guys this shouldn't have been allowed legally and it's slipped under the radar. Not that I am aware of anyone who checks the radar?!

The only thing I do know is that this is the policy in NSW and is most easily done if you were born in NSW and have a NSW birth certificate...being born outside the state makes it more difficult and I know this isn't the procedure in other states, in Perth I think they are still legally fighting to get it so a hysterectomy is enough, without needing any phallo or medioplasty ... nothing is consistent.
 I hope that helps shed a little light on the clear as mud situation that this is with Govt...it was challenging on Monday for me submitting everything, the 3 people I had to deal with all were confused with how much to charge me and what the process was, it seems to me not many people know exactly what is going on really.

Test Bunny!

who would have thought...the surgeon who did my surgery is going to continue tracking my process, for his own understanding of hormones within the body, with the motivation of offering more support to menopausal women at a community clinic he works at, b/c research out there is so lacking - love being a 'test bunny' ;-D

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Legally Male

Today is the 15th August, 2011 and I have spent the morning at the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages being interviewed and 'approved' *insert big stamp sound* for a new male birth certificate and change of name certificate which officially makes me 'LEGALLY MALE' *insert cheer, clap & champagne bottle pops* :-D!!!!!!

A long time coming and very exciting as I can now re-register for a passport, head off globally anywhere as 'male' and even get married if I want (no immediate pending plans however - yikes!) ... and in celebration I have worked with two fabulous creatives Sally Flegg and Lynne O'Brien in creative photographic heaven unleashing the fresh male-ness...I call this picture:

Revealing a more Authentic Self


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Does having a hysterectomy bring on menopause for you?

A simple and good question asked by a curious person around the process of transitioning, my response in a nut shell:


No it doesn't in this instance...


If I was staying female I imagine it probably would unless one started HRT as it's true I no longer have ovaries producing estrogen in the body, however taking testosterone regularly and having the normal level of this hormone (around 25) circulating through my system, voids that from happening.

On a more esoteric note, we all have a body and have the capacity to shift how we live within the context of the word 'gender'. A significant proportion of the world population have a fixation to their gender and exist in its behavioural confines quite happily, others set out to influence and change the societal gender norms to what they feel it should be, while others just go ahead change their gender entirely to align within a deeper knowing that they are more than (different than) what their sex organs suggest.

My body did have a female operating system with sex organs and estrogen as the major hormone influence (giving the female appearance), every person's body has both hormones (just differing levels). Now that I've removed the sex organs that give the appearance of a female and given the body testosterone consistently, it takes on the male appearance and bodily functions, voiding any female operating system issues like menopause when you stop estrogen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interesting: Swedish Preschool Bans Gendered Terms

news.com.au
27 June 2011


AT the Egalia preschool, staff avoid using words like "him" or "her" and address the 33 kids as "friends" rather than girls and boys. 

From the colour and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don't fall into gender stereotypes.

"Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing," says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher.

"Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be."

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged one to six is among the most radical examples of Sweden's efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

To even things out, many preschools have hired "gender pedagogues" to help staff identify language and behaviour that risk reinforcing stereotypes.

Some parents worry things have gone too far. An obsession with obliterating gender roles, they say, could make the children confused and ill-prepared to face the world outside kindergarten.

"Different gender roles aren't problematic as long as they are equally valued," says Tanja Bergkvist, a 37-year-old blogger and a leading voice against what she calls "gender madness" in Sweden. Those bent on shattering gender roles "say there's a hierarchy where everything that boys do is given higher value, but I wonder who decides that it has higher value," she says. "Why is there higher value in playing with cars?"

At Egalia - the title connotes "equality" - boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook. One boy hides inside the toy stove, his head popping out through a hole. Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. From a bookcase, she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless - until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.

Nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no Snow White, Cinderella or other classic fairy tales seen as cementing stereotypes. Rajalin, 52, says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play. "A concrete example could be when they're playing 'house' and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble," she says. "Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on."

Egalia's methods are controversial; some say they amount to mind control. Rajalin says the staff have received threats from racists apparently upset about the preschool's use of black dolls. But she says that there's a long waiting list for admission to Egalia, and that only one couple has pulled a child out of the school. Jukka Korpi, 44, says he and his wife chose Egalia "to give our children all the possibilities based on who they are and not on their gender." Sweden has promoted women's rights for decades, and more recently was a pioneer among European countries in allowing gay and lesbian couples to legalise their partnerships and adopt children.
Gender studies permeate academic life in Sweden. Bergkvist noted on her blog that the state-funded Swedish Science Council had granted $US80,000 ($A76,175) for a postdoctoral fellowship aimed at analysing "the trumpet as a symbol of gender."

Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he's not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go. "The kind of things that boys like to do - run around and turn sticks into swords - will soon be disapproved of," he said. "So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness." 

Egalia is unusual even for Sweden. Staff try to shed masculine and feminine references from their speech, including the pronouns him or her - "han" or "hon" in Swedish. Instead, they've have adopted the genderless "hen," a word that doesn't exist in Swedish but is used in some feminist and gay circles. "We use the word "hen" for example when a doctor, police, electrician or plumber or such is coming to the kindergarten," Rajalin says. "We don't know if it's a he or a she so we just say 'Hen is coming around 2pm' Then the children can imagine both a man or a woman. This widens their view."

Egalia doesn't deny the biological differences between boys and girls - the dolls the children play with are anatomically correct. What matters is that children understand that their biological differences "don't mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities," Rajalin says. "This is about democracy. About human equality."

Friday, June 24, 2011

The End of Gender? As we come closer to entering 'The Age Of Aquarius' this seems fitting

NPR Publication - 23/06/2011


Look closely and you may see signposts

• Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising their 4-month-old child, Storm, without revealing the child's gender. According to the birth announcement from the Toronto couple: "We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place?)"
• Andrej Pejic, an androgynous Australian model, worked both the male and female runways at the Paris fashion shows earlier this year.

Could we be heading toward the end of gender?

And by "gender" we mean, according to Merriam-Webster, "the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex." In other words, the cultural expectations that go along with saying that someone is a boy or a girl. In other other words, not someone's sex — the person's gender.
"Sex differences are real and some are probably present at birth, but then social factors magnify them," says Lise Eliot, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School and author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It. "So if we, as a society, feel that gender divisions do more harm than good, it would be valuable to break them down. "

Gender Neutrality

Perhaps you have a friend or family member who is more comfortable with a new gender. Or maybe you have had dealings with someone of indeterminate gender in the checkout line. Maybe you have seen the old "It's Pat" routines from Saturday Night Live. Because there is a growing societal awareness of gender consciousness and of a certain blurriness of genders, the question "Is it a boy or a girl?" may not just be for expectant parents anymore.

And so what? Does gender matter? In a country with the ideal of treating everyone fairly and equitably, do we really need to know if someone is a boy or a girl? These questions are driving decisions and actions around the country.

• In Muskegon, Mich., officials at Mona Shores High School declared this year's prom court would be gender-neutral — with no "kings" and "queens" — after denying a transgender student the homecoming-king crown last year.
• In Johnson City, Tenn., East Tennessee State University recently announced that it is exploring gender-neutral housing for students — following the lead of Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Rutgers University and other colleges. These are not just coed dorms, but dorms for anyone regardless of how they express their gender. The roommate you choose can be gay or straight or whatever.
• Around the beginning of this year, the State Department began using gender-neutral language on U.S. passports — replacing "father" and "mother" with "Parent One" and Parent Two" — to make it simpler for nontraditional parents, beyond the male/female combination, to get passports for their children. 

Everywhere you turn, it seems, there is talk of gender-neutral this and gender-free that: baby bedding (Wild Safari by Carousel); fashion (Kanye West in a Celine women's shirt); Bibles (the New International Version).
Gender neutrality, writes one blogging parent, is the new black.

'High-Stakes Social Constructions'

A female-to-male transsexual and advocate for transgender rights, Dean Spade writes often about gender issues. Spade is an assistant professor at Seattle University School of Law and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City, which offers free legal guidance to transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming clients.

In a 2008 paper, "Documenting Gender," Spade examines the gender reclassification polices of public agencies and departments in the United States. In the past 40 years, Spade observes, society has come to recognize the existence of a group of people, currently known as "transgender," who identify with and live as a different gender than the one assigned to them when they were born.

In an interview, Spade makes a passionate pitch for the elimination of gender categorization in most government record-keeping. "I really don't think that data needs to be on our IDs or gathered by most agencies and institutions," Spade says. Tagging someone as female or male "enforces binary gender norms and it pretends that gender is a more stable category of identity than it actually is."

Spade says, "I can see why we might want institutions to be aware of gender at a general level in order to engage in remediation of the sexism and transphobia that shape our world."

For example, Spade says, gender-based affirmative action — that rectifies discrimination against women — might be called for in certain programs and institutions "so we might want institutions to do an analysis of who is getting to participate." But, Spade adds, in order to gain a general idea of the gender makeup of a particular population, it is not necessary to then turn around and post that information on a particular participant's personal record.

Why Gender Still Matters

Gender matters to Leonard Sax, a family physician, psychologist and founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. Sax has written several books on gender, including Why Gender Matters and Girls on the Edge.

When NPR asked Sax whether he sees signs of the end of gender in contemporary society, he responded with a lively defense of gender distinctions, an edited version of which appears here:

The tidbits you mention — the Toronto couple, or the J. Crew fashion catalog — are of interest only to a small segment of media people, and without resonance in the larger society.

As opposed to the tidbits you cited, I would observe:

• The new head of New York City Public Schools, Dennis Walcott, has called for more single-sex public schools in New York City.
• The newly elected mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has called for more single-sex public schools in the city of Chicago.
• Tampa public schools are opening a girls' public school and a boys' public school this fall. Not charter schools, but regular public schools under the authority of the district.

Ignoring gender won't make it go away. On the contrary: Ignoring gender has the ironic consequence of exacerbating gender stereotypes.

The determined lack of awareness of gender difference which you describe ... puts both girls and boys at risk — but in different ways. Not merely academically, but physically — increasing girls' risks of knee injury and concussion — and spiritually — increasing girls' risks of drug and alcohol abuse; increasing boys' risk of disengagement and apathy.

If you don't think gender matters in the classroom, you haven't been in a third-grade classroom recently. I have visited more than 300 schools over the past 11 years.

You will find that white, black, Spanish-speaking doesn't matter on this parameter; affluent or low-income doesn't matter; urban or rural doesn't matter. Gender is far more important, more fundamental, than any of those other parameters. On many parameters relevant to education, such as attention span, a white boy from an affluent home in Bethesda or McLean has more in common with an African-American male from a low-income home in Southeast D.C. than he has in common with his own sister, a white girl.

Many third-grade boys today in the United States have told me "school is a stupid waste of time." I have never heard such a comment from a third-grade girl in this country. Do you think that doesn't matter?
Developing policies to counter the impact of sexism and transphobia, Spade adds, does not require a belief that gender categories are "real — stable, unchangeable, natural. We can engage such strategies while understanding that gender categories are high-stakes social constructions deployed in ways that endanger and harm socially determined groups."

Boychicks

To chronicle her adventures in gender-neutral parenting, Arwyn Daemyir writes a blog called Raising My Boychick. She describes herself as "a walking contradiction: knitting feminist fulltime parent, Wiccan science-minded woowoo massage therapist, queer-identified male-partnered monogamist, body-loving healthy-eating fat chick, unmedicated mostly-stable bipolar."

She describes her boychick, born in March 2007, as a "male-assigned at birth — and so far apparently comfortable with that assignment, white, currently able-bodied, congenitally hypothyroid, cosleeper, former breastfed toddler, elimination communication graduate, sling baby and early walker, trial and terror, cliched light of our life, and impetus for the blog. Odds are good he will be the most privileged of persons: a middle class, able bodied, cisgender, straight, white male."

The adjective cisgender — as opposed to transgender — describes someone who is at peace with the gender he or she was assigned at birth.

Daemyir lives in Portland, Ore. She and her straight male partner are expecting another baby in September.
For Daemyir, gender-neutral parenting is not an attempt to eliminate gender, "because the 70s'-era gender neutral parenting movement proved that's not possible."

But, she adds, she has concerns about the ways we designate and segregate gender in public, "starting with the idea that there are two-and-only-two genders — a construction, and a myth, in our society that excludes many."

To that end, Daemyir supports, among other changes, non-gender-designated single-stall bathrooms and an option for unisex washrooms and locker rooms. "Right now, when an establishment only has one toilet stall, of course it is non-gendered. Why, when there is room for two, must they arbitrarily be designated for 'Men' and 'Women'? When a place has room enough for several large rooms of toilets and free-standing single-stalls, why must they all be gendered, when it would be as easy to make some single-gendered and some not, giving people the ability to make choices that are most comfortable or convenient for them?"

Daemyir does not think that eliminating all single-gender areas "is beneficial or safe either, necessarily, but ... we over-designate many of these things when it's simply not necessary, and actively harms a particularly marginalized population — people with non-binary genders."



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