It became evident that we’d not heard about any problems from the LGBT academic and student communities in engineering. At first, that seemed like a good thing. However, I started to think about the number of individuals in this minority group that we actually knew of. We could only name one or two, including myself!
“Why does it matter?” asked one of my colleagues, respectfully, and I was grateful for her question. It matters for many reasons.
Really interesting interview with Catharine MacKinnon here. I’ll only quote a few bits (I really am leaving out interesting things though, so do take a look yourself):
MacKinnon on who is a woman:
I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman.
And on ‘bathroom panic’:
Many transwomen just go around being women, who knew, and suddenly, we are supposed to care that they are using the women’s bathroom. There they are in the next stall with the door shut, and we’re supposed to feel threatened. I don’t. I don’t care. By now, I aggressively don’t care.
On misrepresentations of her views:
Williams: I know that you were falsely accused of claiming that “all sex is rape” (along with similar variants). What do you think people misrepresent most about your theories and why?
MacKinnon: It having taken about 20 years of litigation to establish that that statement is libel, I learned that people — in this case, originally Rush Limbaugh and Playboy at almost exactly the same time — create defamatory lies so that audiences will not take seriously work that threatens them (their power, ie their sexuality). Because of my analysis of male dominant sexuality as a practice of sex inequality, especially as deployed in the multi-billion dollar industry of pornography, they saw me as the enemy and set out to destroy me by whatever means were at their disposal. Once the New York Times Book Review voluntarily published its longest correction in history in 2006, saying I not only never said this, and my work did not mean this, but I didn’t THINK this (!), it pretty much stopped. Many academics, however, who largely don’t read, I am sorry to say, have not kept up. As you recognize, this is only one such misrepresentation.
Stonewall is a charity that campaigns for rights for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. It announced yesterday that it will now extend its remit to cover trans people.
The historic move follows extensive consultation with over 700 trans people and will see the charity use its platform and experience to help create real change for them.
Stonewall will expand its current campaigns and programmes to include and involve trans people and also develop new work on issues that specifically affect them. Over the next 18 months, the charity will take steps to make sure that trans expertise is reflected in its board of trustees as well as recruiting experts to work with Stonewall staff. Stonewall will also work in partnership with trans organisations to avoid replicating work and focus on new projects so that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people can be themselves.
After apologising for previous mistakes, Stonewall started the consultation with trans people by looking at the most effective ways of working in the future.
The full press release can be read here.
Ruth Chang writes:
It is fully searchable and really neat. If you’re a conference organizer looking for philosophers in your city who work on X, you can search the directory and come up with a list of such philosophers from underrepresented groups that fit the bill. If you’re on a hiring committee, and the usual suspects keep coming to mind but you’d like to do a more thorough search, you can pull up the directory and find all philosophers in the directory who work in a general AOS or even on a specific research topic. If you’re an editor looking for a list of possible candidates to invite to contribute to a volume or to referee a paper, the UPDirectory can help you.
This sounds like a really wonderful tool. Go check it out!
What is it like to be trans* in academia?
By “trans*” is meant any of the following (not an exhaustive list): transgender, transsexual, trans with or without the *, genderqueer, non-binary. If you understand yourself to fall in the category of being trans*, we’d like to hear your stories about what it is like for you in the academy.
The model is blogs such as “What is it like to be a woman in philosophy” though the focus is not merely philosophy. The aim is consciousness-raising as well as a sense of solidarity for those of us in this position.
Kellie Maloney (known during her boxing career as Frank Maloney), the boxing promoter who coached Lennox Lewis to a world heavyweight championship, has come out publicly as a trans woman. According to The Guardian:
Maloney, who supported Lewis in his successful bid for the world heavyweight title in 1993, and managed other Commonwealth and European boxing champions, called time on his three-decade boxing career last October, saying he had fallen out of love with the sport.
In an interview across six pages in the Sunday Mirror, Maloney said she had never told anyone in boxing about how she felt trapped in the wrong body since childhood.
“Can you imagine me walking into a boxing hall dressed as a woman and putting an event on? I can imagine what they would scream at me, but if I had been in the theatre or arts world nobody would blink an eye about this transition,” she said.
“The boxing community can think whatever they want about me now. I have come to terms with my transition but I don’t understand it. I hope society will be open minded.”
Please be warned that the Guardian article contains several bits of cringe-worthy insensitivity to the reporting of trans issues (though it does at least seem to be trying not to misgender Maloney). If anyone has links to articles that handle the reporting better, let me know and I’ll add them.
The TransAdvocate recently posted an interview with Judith Butler on gender and gender identity, specifically surrounding trans* issues. There are a lot of quotable gems in there, so I encourage you to check it out!
“We [all] form ourselves within the vocabularies that we did not choose”
“No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives.”
“My sense is that we may not need the language of innateness or genetics to understand that we are all ethically bound to recognize another person’s declared or enacted sense of sex and/or gender. We do not have to agree upon the “origins” of that sense of self to agree that it is ethically obligatory to support and recognize sexed and gendered modes of being that are crucial to a person’s well-being.”
“Sometimes there are ways to minimize the importance of gender in life, or to confuse gender categories so that they no longer have descriptive power. But other times gender can be very important to us, and some people really love the gender that they have claimed for themselves. If gender is eradicated, so too is an important domain of pleasure for many people. And others have a strong sense of self bound up with their genders, so to get rid of gender would be to shatter their self-hood. I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender. Some want to be gender-free, but others want to be free really to be a gender that is crucial to who they are.”
It may be very hard to see that one’s remarks are sexist, racist, etc. This point was illustrated on the Piers Morgan show on feb. 5. Piers had interviewed Janet Mock, a famous trans woman and activist, some days before then. This first interview seemed to be one both found acceptable, but she expressed considerable reservations on Twitter and, as he said, dropped him in the sh-t. What was going on? There was a reinterview on the 5th, and one thing became clear: while cis folk might think the journey to become a trans person has got to be the most fascinating thing about trans people, many trans persons very strongly disagree. And the language to describe their lives is important to them. Duh! For example, Janet wants to say that she was born a baby, and not that she was born a boy.
This seemed to be news to Piers, and I’d expect, most people who are white and heterosexual. The result is that what he intended to be a supportive interview stressed seeing her from a cis point of view, and viewed her as pretty sensationally different. Not good.
There is also the constantly worrying fact that too many people in the white, hetero, etc class simply do not realize that what seems perfectly fine to them may not be at all for other people.
These sorts of thing worry me every time I hear that people in a department seek to change the department’s climate. Even without the problems Piers Morgan has, that can take a lot of specialized knowledge to do. And, with the Piers Morgan problem, one can unwittingly leave the climate hostile as, for example, one praises at every talk the remarkable female graduate student who, would you believe it, used to be a man!
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a date set aside in 1999 in memory of the murder the previous year of transwoman Rae Hester.
Fourteen years later, the violence continues. According to HuffPost Gay Voices,
This past year 238 trans* people were murdered worldwide, according to Transgender Europe’s Transgender Murder Project. And these are just a fraction of the real number of deaths, because many go unreported, are not designated as hate crimes, or are not recognized as deaths of trans* people, because the media frequently reports birth-assigned names and sexes without honoring the true chosen names and gender identities of the victims.
And, as is well known, the rates of non-fatal assaults and suicides among trans* people are likewise disastrously high.
Here are two photo galleries to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The second, much more uplifting, gallery, “16 Beautiful Portraits Of Humans Who Happen to Be Trans,” is part of PolicyMic’s series in honour of Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013.
A reader writes:
I’m a transgender woman who is in both the process of transitioning and applying to graduate school in philosophy. I have a few questions that I hope you could pass on to your readers so that I can handle my situation as well as possible. My situation is that of someone finishing their degree in one gender, starting their PhD in another, and hoping to move between all of that as smoothly as possible.
(1) I don’t want my time at my PhD school to be contaminated by my old ID, how can I work with the admissions committee or whoever in order to make sure that my status as a trans person is not shared and that information regarding the ID I applied with is kept under wraps?
(2) How can I communicate to graduate schools that I am transgender in order to make sure that they know what to expect and to make sure that that won’t be an issue for their department (and me)?
(3) I’d like to come out to my own department (or at least to people within it) in order to enlist their help with my applications, but I’m terrified of taking a wrong step and tossing all of my letters out the window. Any tips on coming out discreetly and carefully within my current department?