Monday, August 25, 2008

india recognizes third gender!

I wouldn't have expected India to be such a trend setter. little did i know...

this is taken from The Inda Times

So far Pooja, a 25-year-old transsexual from Salem in Tamil Nadu, had nothing to prove her existence in government records because she had refused to be identified as either a male or a female, the only two options available in the gender column of the application forms.

Finally, the state has recognized her as an individual and given her a ration card where the sex column is marked T instead of M or F.

The step by Tamil Nadu's civil supplies department marks the first time that authorities anywhere in India have recognised the group. In Tamil Nadu alone, where transsexuals like Pooja started getting ration cards on Thursday, it would allow the estimated 40,000 members of the community to identify themselves as a third gender.

This endorses the community's alternative gender status and allows them to avail of government welfare schemes without being forced to present themselves as males or females.

"It's a move to support these marginalized people. They exist and we cannot ignore them. We have to accept them as third gender," said social welfare minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a gynaecologist herself.

"We started with ration cards because it was the simplest thing to do. Other documents such as passports and voter identity cards will involve policy decisions of the Centre."

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Summer is all about the reality show and realizing your dreams. I see these talent shows and hear people tell their gut wrenching stories about how they've given up everything to follow their dream of being a musician, dancer or fire eater. How they've sacrificed and toiled because this is the only thing they want. Then I think about my own life--what do I want more than anything? For a while I was really feeling down because I couldn't come up with anything. I started to feel passionless. Then I realized that it wasn't that I didn't have a dream, but rather that my dreams had been realized. Ever since I can remember I've wanted to have a partner that I love and care about, own a home of my own and, most importantly, to become a man. Over the past few years I've attained all these things. It's not that I have no dreams, it's that I simply have to dream up some new ones.

Below is a story chronicling the ups, downs and ultimate wonder that my dreams of transitioning could become a reality.

When I move to New York I will become a man. This is what I kept telling myself. Passing had been on my mind for over a year, but the thought of transitioning in Philadelphia where I had spent the last five years was simply too daunting. I though Harry Benjamin‘s Care Guidelines were hard and fast rules. The thought of living as my “chosen gender” for at least a year before I could even be considered for top surgery and hormones terrified me. I tried to learn ways of passing by joining a drag king troupe, but the only thing I liked about being on stage in drag was that I looked like a man while doing it. Inserting this masculine look into the rest of my life without the dim lights of the bar achieved only a few odd stares and a friend asking me why my boobs looked “kinda smushed.” How would I tell my friends and co-workers I was now a boy when I couldn’t even convince a stranger? Unassisted manhood would have to wait until I left.

For the first time since undergrad I would be entering an entirely new world where I didn‘t know anyone. I wanted the transition to be immediate. I wanted to bind my breasts and answer to a boy’s name. I hoped everyone could just assume that I had always been the man I now claimed to be. Unfortunately it was not that easy. I went to bed ready to bind my breasts the next morning. I woke up unable to do just that. I told myself it was because of the temperature. “It’s August. You can’t begin regular breast binding in August.“ Really, it was that I thought I could never pull it off. No one would believe I was a man. I‘d just be the sweaty dyke with “kinda smushed“ boobs that couldn‘t breath. I’d also enrolled under the name Elizabeth, not knowing I could do anything else. With every building I went to and every form I filled out, I had to say this name. By the third time of repeating a name I couldn’t identify with, all the bravado I had taken with me to New York had drained from my body. I was standing on the steps of South Hall when one of my new classmates asked me my name. “B-“ slipped from my mouth before I could stop myself. I choked on “-etsy” and went home feeling defeated.

This defeat was really self-prescribed. At every necessity to passing I had placed a road block in my path. I hadn’t chosen a name, much less used it on enrollment records, I wouldn’t bind for fear of looking stupid, and most importantly I had a hard time believing I really was a man. If I couldn’t believe in my manhood I could not expect it from anyone else. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t physically ready to safely walk through life as a man who may not always look so “manly.“ I wasn’t mentally ready to defend my chosen gender which was questioned at every pass. I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with those who didn’t believe in my manhood, and most importantly I wasn’t spiritually ready to stop feeling apologetic for who I was. I still though it was my problem that I didn’t look like a man, that it was my fault I was challenging others to stretch their minds around gender past what they understood it to be.

I began to realize the every day, unexpected practical challenges of becoming a man—moments where I was forced to make split second decisions as if I’ve lived them my whole life. Saying my name when I wasn‘t even sure what it should be, that moment’s hesitation before I chose what public restroom to use, filling out paperwork and feeling like I was required to check male or female when neither of these was really accurate; all of these mundane things became high stakes decisions. Every time I checked “Female” on a form I felt that much further away from becoming a man. Every time I wrote my name I lost a little bit of myself.

I finally gathered the courage to change my name. As much as I wanted it to, changing the name and pronouns people used to refer to me was not something I could subtly accomplish. I didn’t want to choose a name, my parents were supposed to do that for me. I didn’t want to tell people to use male pronouns, that was supposed to happen naturally. I didn’t want to be aware of my transition. I just wanted to have always been a man. I felt bad for asking something of people that I was certain they had never encountered before in their lives. Even the most sensitive of people needed to hear from my own mouth, “I am becoming a boy and changing my name to Eli. Please refer to me with male pronouns.” Most people needed to hear this more than once. A name isn’t just a name. It is the sound that is immediately connected with your person and knowing this made it hard to ask someone to change and even harder to correct them. Thankfully I was surrounded by people that wouldn’t listen to my apologies, they simply kept trying. Some asked what name I wanted them to call me, some needed to be told. Some waited for me to tell them to use male pronouns, some just started on their own. Everyone respected my decision.
Still, I was struggling. After six months of thinking about transitioning, the pressure to actually do something finally became too much. I showed up in the nurse’s office in January crying and shaking, begging for refills on my anti-depressants. She asked if I’d ever considered therapy. I nodded, glad she had asked, and was ushered into a serene, light blue room across the hall. While the noise machine hummed outside the door my new therapist Jennifer kindly asked me my name. I told her I didn’t know.

“People have started calling me Eli,” I said quietly.

“Is that what you’d like me to call you,” she asked?

“I guess,” she waited expectantly. “Yes,” I concluded, “Call me Eli.” She nodded and wrote my name on my chart. I had done it. I had finally made a decision and was beginning to take control of my life.

Together we worked on how to live with the most honesty possible. I knew I always wanted top surgery, but I was concerned about hormones. The health risks were a part of this concern but I was more worried about becoming just another straight, white male. I was scared of loosing the community that had made me the person I was. I didn’t want to loose the feeling of pride in walking down the street as a open queer person. My politics as a feminist and my personal identity seemed to be in conflict until Jennifer finally asked me, “What do you expect to see when you look in the mirror?“

“A flat chest and facial hair,“ I said without hesitation. That was when I knew that I needed to start hormones.

I had my first shot in June of 2004. After leaving the doctor I went to get sushi at a small takeout stand in a hallway between a laundry-mat at an apartment building on west 17th street. As I ate my avocado roll I waited for my first surge of manhood. The photos of the smiling Japanese owners on their trip to the Vatican stared back at me while the radio in the back room whined grainy hymns accompanied by a thumping bass beat from the dryers no more than twenty feet away. While I chewed, I waited for my whiskers to grow and my womanly body to fade away. When I opened my front door two hours later I went straight to the bathroom and inspected my face. Nothing. Not a glimmer of a hair, much less a five o’clock shadow. Nothing had changed. There would be plenty of time to become the man I wanted to be.

When I had begun seeing Jennifer I told her that within the next year I wanted to have top surgery, and just short of a year later, January 11, 2005, I went to Baltimore for chest reconstructive surgery. Something that the year before was just a dream I never believed could be a reality had actually come true. I woke up in the recovery room and looked down at my body. For the first time I saw the body I had always seen in my mind.

The most remarkable thing about all the doctors and therapists I have seen is that I was never asked to explain myself. I never had to prove my manhood. I was in the midst of a dichotomy between a medical profession that had seen this all before and a community of people that were struggling to understand me. In retrospect I wouldn’t have even known how to explain myself. I wouldn’t have been able to prove anything to anyone. Everything felt uncertain. I finally realized I couldn’t know for sure until I took the leap to start transitioning. I thought critically of each and every decision I made along the way. My most difficult critic proved to be myself. Once I had accepted the decisions I was making and the person I was becoming, my community, both medical and social, supported me in living my reality.

At some point in my childhood I had seen something on TV about sex changes. I was young and naive and thought maybe things would just be ok. I could go to the doctor, get the penis I seemed to be missing and restart my life as a boy. When I told my parents I wanted to be a boy at nine years old I realized from the looks on their faces that it wasn’t that easy. Now, seventeen years later it still isn’t that easy, but it is possible. It hadn’t been since puberty that I could spend a summer without my shirt on. I’ll have to wait a while longer to pee standing up. Still, what was a dream at nine is becoming a reality at twenty-six. That thought still amazes me.