Reader query: transitioning and applying to grad school

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?

The Genderbread Person Redux – When Activism Gets Problematic

[This post has been completely re-written, so if some of the earlier comments seem to be referring to things that aren’t here, that’s because they are. Thanks to Sam B for pointing out the plagiarism issue and to Rachel for helping me find the end of the article…because it’s been just that kind of day for me.]

This weekend I stumbled onto the site It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, and found a graphic explaining the different aspects of sex, sexuality, and gender.

It turns out that site’s creator, Sam Killermann, plagiarized that graphic, and now has thrown a bunch of intellectual property stamps on it, and has even included it in a book he made. (Though you can get the book for free. But he has still made money off of all this.)

The four original authors of the concept are: Cristina GonzálezVanessa PrellJack Rivas, and Jarrod Schwartz

As awesome as it is to have people want to be cis straight while male allies,  we have to as allies constantly keep vigilant that we are not blocking out the voices of the people we are trying to support with our own.  Otherwise we are undermining the very project we are trying to help. And one thing you notice sort of quickly from Killermann’s projects is that you see a lot of him, and hear a lot of his voice but you don’t see or hear a lot of specific people that he is advocating for.

So again, here are some of their voices, specifically on his plagiarism.  (Same link as above.)

And here is one of the earlier gingerbread persons:

Some parts of Killerman’s projects still have merit: the comment thread on this post has some good stuff in it. But I think legitimately, some people will not want to visit his websites.

As Laverne Cox said when this issue of plagiarism was brought to her attention,

“…those who lay the groundwork don’t often get the credit. The universe is trying to tell me something. We cannot silence the voices of those doing the hard work so that we can flourish.”
(Sorry I can’t find the exact tweet. This is also in the storify post linked above.)

That is, without respect for the people we are trying to support, our support is hollow.

From Cisnormativity (the Storify OP):

 Without that respect, any work done in the name of social justice isn’t actually the practice of social justice. It’s erasure. It’s a tossing of the most marginal people from the bus of acceptance, enfranchisement, and citizenship. It’s the theft of lived experiences. It’s why intersectionally marginalized people along multiple axes still cannot reach so many of their dreams, their potentials, or their hopes .

Spousal veto

England and Wales have just made marriage between two people of the same sex legal. This is grand news, in some respects, moving us a little closer towards marriage equality. However, things are not so great for trans folks.* The Corbett v Corbett court ruling in 1970 meant that the law treated trans people as being their biological sex. This affected such things as: ability to marry, employment protections, which prison you could be sent to, and so on. In 2004 (!), under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, the government issued a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), allowing trans people to apply for a new birth certificate and so gain rights lost by the 1970 ruling. (The 2010 Equality Act removed some of those rights for good, although it didn’t take things back to the dark days of 1970). However, since marriage could only be between two people of the opposite sex, you couldn’t apply for a GRC if you were married. You needed to either get divorced and then legally change your sex, or stay married and remain your biological sex in the eyes of the law. The new marriage laws just passed should have ended these complications, but this hasn’t happened. It’s no longer essential to get divorced in order to be issued with a GRC, but you have to have your spouse’s permission to apply for one. If your spouse doesn’t give permission, then you have to get divorced. This seems like a pretty strange ruling. The government say they’ve added this clause so that ‘both parties have a say in the future of their marriage’. But what kind of say, exactly, do they have in mind? The only scenario that I can think of is someone, married to a transperson who has transitioned for more than two years (a requirement of being issued with a GRC), who – despite, one presumes, living with their spouse, being seen out and about with their spouse, going to friends’ houses with their spouse, etc. – is so deeply in denial about the situation, that they insist on thinking that their spouse is still a man/woman, and has the power to deny their spouse their rights on this basis. Why might one be in such denial? One obvious reason is that by recognising your spouse’s sex, you thereby acknowledge that you are in a homosexual relationship. The government’s ‘spousal veto’ clause thus seems to be about privileging the straight identity of the cis-partner over that of the trans person.

You can read more, including news about campaigns (completely ineffective so far) here.

*Slight understatement.

What do you need to disclose for meaningful consent?

In the UK, you can legally conceal your marital status, wealth, HIV status, and age, but apparently not the gender you were assigned at birth.

The young relationship started as so many do these days — online. Thirteen-year-old “Scott” and 12-year-old “M” developed a friendship that over the course of three years and many instant message conversations, bloomed into romance. M began calling Scott her boyfriend — they even talked about getting married and having kids. After M’s 16th birthday, Scott, then 17, traveled from his home in Scotland to visit her in England. They watched a movie, kissed and, before long, things went further.

It may sound like a sweet story of teenage love — but Scott was sentenced by a court in England to three years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life as a result of the relationship. That’s because Scott was born Justine McNally and assigned at birth as female. In an appeal of McNally’s sentence, which was made public late last week, a U.K. court reduced McNally’s sentence but affirmed that the 18-year-old had violated M’s sexual consent by presenting as male. It was deemed a “deception” and “abuse of trust.”

I have no idea how this kind of affront to the rights of trans* people is legal. Read the rest of the story here.

…and then they came for the transpeople…

As readers will know, Greece is suffering as a result of the global recession. History has shown us time and again that with recession comes social unrest, and repression. Well, things are currently looking pretty ugly in Greece right now.

Operation Zeus in August last year marked the start of an ugly reminder of a European past that we thought we had long buried. Nearly 60 years after the end of the Second European War, migrants were round up from the streets of Greece and shoved unceremoniously into internment camps. In May, women working in the sex industry were pulled from the streets, forcibly tested for HIV, publically humilitated and imprisoned. In March, they rounded up drug users from the streets of Athens and put them too into camps. Last month in Thessaloniki they came for transgendered people.

You can read more from Second Council House of Virgo.

Recognition for Australians who identify as neither sex


Australian judges have ruled that people do not have to be registered as a man or a woman on the register of births, deaths and marriages.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision that a person’s sex could not be listed as “non-specific” under Australian law.

The court ruled that sex does not bear a binary meaning of “male” or “female”.

(Thanks, DW!)

‘Mx’ in Brighton

Got all excited when I read a student essay telling me that Brighton is introducing ‘Mx’ as a title and making it the only title to be used in all council paperwork. Sadly, it seems they decided not to do that. Instead, they’re adding it as an additional title for those who reject the gender binary. Still good, but not as good to my mind as dropping all titles that tell you gender or marital status. It does, however, come along with a broader commitment to being trans-friendly, and that’s great.

Picking Our Battles: The Paradox of Power & Social Justice

Yesterday I was watching the Melissa Harris Perry (MHP) Show and legal scholar  Kenji Yoshino talked about a possible paradox at play in regards to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling on Prop 8 (and the other case that no one seems to reference by name).  He brought up the following point: a group has to have a significant amount of political power in order to even make it to the Supreme Court, who will rule on whether they are being discriminated against.  This can be restated as,

“A group must have an immense amount of political power before it will be deemed politically powerless by the Court.”

I can’t find the exact clip, though here is Sunday’s MHP show.  And since I was forced to search the internet for another mention of Yoshino’s quote, I stumbled across a law review article he wrote on the topic (no pay wall!).

Today I was reminded of this paradox as I logged onto Facebook and was greeted with a newsfeed awash in red and pink:

a pink equals sign on a red background

(more after the jump)

Read More »

Don’t Buy Transphobia

Don’t Buy Transphobia is a campaign to force the Daily Hate Mail to change its transphobic ways by putting pressure on companies that advertise in its pages.

For those who have not been keeping up with recent events, Lucy Meadows was a primary school teacher in Accrington, who was transitioning from male to female. The school were supportive, Lucy was just getting on with her life, but then the Press found out and hounded her until she killed herself. Chief amongst them was Richard ‘National Disgrace’ Littlejohn of the Daily Mail, whose column is one hate-filled rant after another – each one aimed at those the Daily Hate has deemed the enemies of Modern Britain (the LBQT community, immigrants, etc.).

If you’ve had enough of this, then don’t buy from companies that advertise in the Mail, and write to let them know why.

You can also sign the petition calling for Littlejohn’s dismissal here.