Tag Archives: trans health

The Gender Bill Of Rights

Here’s something I’m working on. I thought maybe you lovely people would have some feedback, and be able to remind me if I am forgetting anything. I’m not interested in scaling this back or making it more “realistic,” only in making it more radical and comprehensive. I’m also interested in wording it in ways that emphasize the ways in which this would actually benefit everyone, including cis men and women, heterosexuals, and others who might generally feel alienated from discussion of transgender liberation.

(I also know there are also a few gender bill of rights type documents floating around out there already. I felt moved to make my own.)


These rights are inalienable, mandatory, and to be taken seriously at all times. This is a model of gender that is fully individual, consensual, voluntary, and free from state intervention. This model of gender has been designed not to oppress anyone and in fact has been designed to benefit all who are affected by gender in this society (that is to say, everyone), including men, women, non-binary people, agender people, cis people, trans people, intersex and non-intersex people, hetero, queer, and asexual people. We are a long way from adopting this model, and to do so would take time. But doing so can ultimately only benefit us all.

  1. You have a right to have your gender treated as valid, equal and real.
  2. You have a right to be referred with proper forms of address, including pronouns, honorifics, correct names, and appropriate gender descriptors.
  3. You have a right to change how you feel about, talk about, relate to and wish others to relate to your gender, or indeed to change your gender itself, in any way, at any time.
  4. You have a right to not have a gender.
  5. You have a right to privacy about your gender or lack thereof.
  6. No one’s gender should ever be assumed. No one should ever be assumed to have a gender.
  7. You have a right to full control over your gender beginning at birth. No surgical alterations should be made on unconsenting infants in order to fit them into a certain paradigm of gender. Gendered names, pronouns, and descriptors should never be used until children can decide for themselves how they wish to be known to the world.
  8. Education should be unbiased towards any gender or lack of gender. Children of school age have a right to role models of any or no gender.
  9. You have a right to be attracted to anybody of any gender or lack of gender, and to carry on sexual or romantic relationships with any number of consenting individuals regardless of gender.
  10. You have a right to engage in any consensual sex act, regardless of your gender.
  11. You have a right to say no at any time to anyone, regardless of your or their gender.
  12. You have a right to raise children, regardless of your gender.
  13. You have a right to access contraception, permanent birth control, and abortion as needed, regardless of your gender.
  14. You have a right to express any emotion that you feel, regardless of your gender.
  15. You have a right to dress and present yourself in any way that you desire, regardless of your gender.
  16. You have a right to total control over your own body and sole authority in making decisions about it.
  17. The state of your body should not be considered a factor in the validity of your gender. Levels of hormones or number of surgeries that you may or may not have undergone should have no influence on how your gender is viewed by others.
  18. You have a right to employment and fair wages, regardless of your gender.
  19. You have a right to housing, regardless of your gender.
  20. You have a right to education, regardless of your gender.
  21. You have a right to healthcare, regardless of your gender, including the right to vital psychological and medical services which may relate to your gender, including hormone therapy and transgender surgeries of any kind. Access to these necessary services should be unabridged.
  22. No one’s gender should ever be pathologized.
  23. You have a right to relieve yourself in public bathrooms which are safe, private, and desegregated.
  24. You have a right to expect that the state, if a state there must be, shall not interfere with, demand information about, or mistreat you on the basis of your gender. You should not be identified to the state or to others by information about your gender. There should be no need for gender markers on any form of legal identification.
  25. No organization, governmental or otherwise, has the right to demand information about your gender. Medical professionals need only know details about their patient’s anatomy, and appropriate polite forms of address to be used with their patients, including correct names, pronouns and honorifics, nothing more.
  26. To the legal system, if a legal system there must be, your gender should be immaterial. You should not be placed in solitary confinement based on your gender. You should not be placed in segregated facilities of any kind based on your gender. You should have a fair trial, regardless of your gender. You have a right to a jury of your peers, i.e. transgender people have a right to not be judged by cisgender people who may be viciously biased against us.

Last Day To Save Lyon-Martin

Lyon-Martin clinic still needs barely more than 4,000 dollars by tomorrow in order to stay open. Please donate WHATEVER you can to this sliding scale clinic which serves queer and transgender people in San Francisco. They have come way too far to fail now.

Folks, an average of 200 people a day view this blog. If every one if you gave 20 dollars Lyon Martin’s goal would be met. Even if every one of you gave one dollar that would be a significant contribution. I am asking you to help. Please give whatever you can even if it seems small.

UPDATE: They seem to have pulled through! Thanks everyone who donated.

School Sucks

Dear Readers,

I am sorry to have to do this to you. I really try to maintain a biweekly posting schedule, but this can be difficult when I’ve got work and school to contend with. School is the main culprit this time. I have two essays about, of all things, gender, due next week. So because I do not have a column ready, and in the spirit of academic stress, I would like to share a piece by a dear friend that I have been wanting to post here for awhile.

Zoe blogs about disability stuff over at Illusion Of Competence. But she’s also a kick-ass cis ally. She wrote this paper awhile back in response to the rampant transmisogyny in her feminist theory class. It provides a good quick-and-dirty criticism of much of what is wrong with ciscentric feminism. If the style is a bit academic for you, well, FEEL MY PAIN. This is the kind of thing I will be spending my weekend cranking out.

Without further ado, I present:

Locating Trans Women’s Experience in the Feminist Analysis of the Body

Academics, shrinks, and feminist theorists have traveled through our lives and problems like tourists on a junket. Picnicking on our identities like flies at a free lunch, they have selected the tastiest tidbits with which to illustrate a problem or push a book. The fact that we are a community under fire, a people at risk, is irrelevant to them. They pursue Science and Theory, and what they produce by mining our lives is neither addressed to us nor recycled within our community… Our performance of gender is invariably a site of contest, a problem which – if we could but bring enough hi-octane academic power to bear – might be “solved,” (Wilchins, 63).

Feminists have often used the experience of transgender individuals in their theory – to prove a point, to explore an issue, or even to point out an interesting case, a fascinating specimen of humanity. This essay will attempt to do the opposite – not to use trans people as an accessory to theory, but to show how their experiences are relevant to already-existing feminist concepts and critiques. This essay will demonstrate that trans women have a place in feminist discourse, focusing on feminist theory surrounding the body – particularly the “ideal” female body and the medicalization of identity.

The construction of society’s “ideal woman” has long been problematized by feminist thought, which points out how this concept is used to marginalize women with nonstandard or “non-ideal” bodies. Nancy Mairs writes:

I’ve spent most of my life (together with probably at least 95 percent of the female population of the United States) suffering from the shame of falling short of an unattainable standard. The ideal woman of my generation [had] blond hair pulled up into a bouncing ponytail. Wide blue eyes, a turned-up nose with maybe a scattering of golden freckles across it, a small mouth with full lips over straight white teeth. Her breasts were large but well harnessed high on her chest; her tiny waist flared to hips just large enough to give the crinolines of her circle skirt a starting push… (Mairs, 87)

Why not add, to this list of traits that our society requires of the ideal woman, two X chromosomes, a vagina, breasts, ovaries, a high voice? Trans women are marginalized for their lack of idealized feminine traits as are disabled women, women of color, older women, fat women, and others whose bodies are not accepted by society. Mairs writes that, as a wheelchair user, she is “not, by their standards, quite a person anymore,” (Mairs, 89). This dehumanization is something that trans women face every day, when they are regarded as freaks or as fascinating case studies rather than simply as women, as people. Many feminist writers have expressed their frustration at the fact that in our society, privileged groups are the arbiters of womanhood and personhood. A key tenet of feminism is that this should not be so. It should not be left to men to decide what a woman is – but neither should it be left to cisgender people. Refusal to accept trans women as women (or for that matter, insistence on regarding trans men as women) is just another iteration of society’s policing of women’s bodies.

The exclusion of trans women from womanhood is part of a cultural view that feminism has long opposed: that biology is destiny, that an individual’s personality and societal role are defined by hir genetic characteristics. A woman must possess two X chromosomes, and these chromosomes must dictate and limit every facet of her life. These arguments are inseparable, and both of them externalize control of women’s identity. Susan Bordo writes that the medical model of an identity or condition “requires the exorcising of all pre-modern notions that the body might obey a spiritual, emotional, or associational rather than a purely mechanical logic,” (Bordo, 66). This concept – that the body’s meaning is static, unchangeable, already written – is at work in the argument that biology is destiny.

The medical model is another topic that often comes up in feminist discourse surrounding the body. Many feminists have written about medical models of disability or eating disorders. They have discussed  the way that medical models can pathologize women and subject them to a doctor-knows-best mentality even when it comes to their own bodies and experiences. Susan Bordo writes: “Since the seventeenth century, science has ‘owned’ the study of the body and its disorders. This proprietorship requires that the body’s meanings be utterly transparent and accessible to the qualified specialist (aided by the appropriate methodology and technology) and utterly opaque to the patient herself,” (Bordo, 66). This is absolutely the case in the treatment of gender-variant individuals. In order to be “officially” transgender or gender-nonconforming, an individual must be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, sometimes by doctors with only the narrowest idea of what makes a “true” transsexual. The simple requirement that Gender Identity Disorder be diagnosed prioritizes the doctor’s interpretation of the patient’s body over the patient’s, and assumes that the meaning of the patient’s experiences is “utterly opaque to the patient herself.” It also makes (often cisgender) medical professionals the guardians of transgender identity, conferring upon them the power to weed out “true” transsexuals from “false” ones. Doctors can then dole out or withhold hormone treatments and Sexual Reassignment Surgery accordingly (Spade).

The importance of diagnosis is common to any medical model. Unlike social models, medical models curtail discussion of the cultural or political aspects of an identity or condition. The medical model of neurodiversity, for example, has separate diagnoses, treatments, and expectations of  “low-functioning autistics,” “high-functioning autistics,” and “Aspergers’ sufferers.” These distinctions keep neurotypicals in control of the discourse surrounding neurodiversity. A common catch-22 used to dismiss the concerns of autistic self-advocates is to invalidate their perspectives because they must not be “real autistics” – “real autistics” cannot speak for themselves. The medicalization of eating disorders has a similar consequence: Susan Bordo writes about medical professionals’ attempts “to distinguish between anorexia and ‘anorexic-like behavior,’ ‘true anorectics’ and ‘me, too, anorectics,’ ‘bulimic thinking’ and normal female ‘weight-preoccupation,’” (Bordo, 65). Bordo argues that these imposed distinctions are often used to prevent discussion of the cultural causes of eating disorders, and to justify our culture’s “female ‘weight-preoccupation’” by distinguishing it from disordered behavior.

The medical model of transgender and transsexualism functions in a similar way. Doctors often use blatant gender stereotypes as diagnostic tools. Dean Spade’s essay “Mutilating Gender” deals largely with his frustration with this aspect of the medical sector. Spade seeks both to have a mastectomy and to retain his own gender identity, which is more fluid and ambiguous than doctors consider proper for a transsexual man. “In order to obtain the medical intervention I am seeking,” Spade writes, “I need to prove my membership in the category ‘transsexual’ – prove that I have GID – to the proper authorities. Unfortunately, stating my true objectives is not convincing them,” (Spade, 326). Trans women are subjected to the same stereotyping and gender policing when they seek diagnosis and treatment. Spade notes that one doctor “diagnosed male-to-female transsexuals by bullying them: ‘The ‘girls’ cry, the gays get aggressive,’” (Spade, 326). These requirements – that trans people have binary gender identities, that trans women not be aggressive – are only a few on a long list of “diagnostic criteria” that trans people often encounter. Some treatment programs have considered that to be transsexual, an individual must be heterosexual as well – transitioning will then “save” these patients from perceived homosexuality. The diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in children rely only on gender stereotypes and conventional ideas of gender-appropriate behavior (Spade, 320).

These diagnostic requirements spring from medical professionals’ determination to “create” only the most gender-appropriate men and women. Just as the medical model of disability limits our understanding of variation in the human mind, and the medical model of eating disorders curtails discussion of the cultural anxieties surrounding weight, the medical model of transgender reinforces gender stereotypes that harm us all. In feminist discussions of the way that medical models pathologize and restrict women, the experience of transgender women should not be ignored.

Why is it important to  include trans women in feminist discourse? Because they are already there. Trans women are oppressed by the same societal forces and attitudes which oppress all women – the construction of the ideal woman, the medicalization of identity, workplace sexism and employment discrimination, victim-blaming in cases of rape, assault, and murder. This oppression is aggravated by the fact that trans women belong to another marginalized group, as is the case for women of color, disabled women, working-class women, et cetera. According to bell hooks, feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression – not just the sexist oppression of white women, or of rich women, or of cisgender women, but sexist oppression in all its forms. Until cisgender feminists include trans women in their discussions and critiques, they will not be advocating feminism – they will simply be advocating for themselves.

Works Cited

Bordo, Susan. “Whose Body is This?” Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995. 45-69.

Mairs, Nancy. Carnal Acts. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Spade, Dean. “Mutilating Gender.” The Transgender Studies Reader. Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, 2006.

Wilchins, Riki Anne. Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender. Ann Arbor: Firebrand Books, 1997.

Critical Condition: Queer And Trans Healthcare In San Francisco

I’ve written before about the dire state of transgender healthcare. This will be sort of like a sequel. It’s a little more specific, a little more local, and a little more personal. Where before I wrote about bald-faced hate, today I have to write about a more insidious kind of bigotry, a kind which is subtler and possibly even more dangerous. I have to talk about hatred as it is expressed in terms of budgets and priorities, in terms of who gets funding for what, and which organizations are first against the wall when money runs out.

In San Francisco, queer clinics are dropping like flies. New Leaf was forced to close back in August. I got free counseling from New Leaf and have been without a therapist ever since. Fortunately for me, my own mental state has been such that this hasn’t been a problem– so far. I’m sure a lot of people who depended on New Leaf’s services haven’t been as lucky.

Now Lyon Martin will be forced to close its doors unless the community can raise sufficient funds to save it. Once again, the impact of its closing will be close to home for me, but this time, it will somewhat more serious.

You see, my lover just started estrogen, and they have never been happier. For the very first time, they are experiencing a piece of themself that had always been missing. All this is thanks to Lyon Martin.

Here’s part of a statement that my lover wrote asking our friends to donate to the endangered clinic:

These people provide affordable sliding scale healthcare to underserved minority groups. They provide a service to our community that most healthcare providers are unwilling to offer, in a courteous and professional manner.

I am agendered, a type of transsexual that is not recognized as existing in conventional healthcare. Lyon-Martin provided health care to me in a safe environment where I did not have to lie to obtain the services I needed.

I can’t be without these services…. Before pursuing active transition treatments, I was able to make it from day to day. Almost. It was rough, but dysphoria was all I knew, and all I really expected to know. Now that I have been undergoing my second, more accurate puberty, I know what life can deliver, and I know that I really will have a genuinely difficult time if I am forced by some conservative Blue Shield GP to stop my treatment… I am really, really worried.

Hopefully, the above can illustrate a little bit of  the anxiety and pain that Lyon Martin’s patients are going through while they wait to learn of the clinic’s fate.

The quality of care that Lyon Martin offers is really unique. Their slogan “We treat you with respect” sums up what they have that we need, and the problems with services available through HMOs or non-GLBT clinics. To quote the Guardian,

Lyon-Martin medical staffers receive training on transgender patient care, and it even offers training in that realm for medical professionals from cities throughout the United States. “They are internationally renowned as a model for what it means to offer transgender care,” noted labor organizer Gabriel Haaland, who said he was once denied health care due to his transgender identity. “The healthcare system is a fairly traumatic experience for most transgender people,” he added.

Most mainstream health care providers receive no training in transgender medicine whatsoever. Even those who do provide some transgender care, such as hormones, are often very ignorant in many ways. Non-binary, genderqueer and agendered trans folks still have to lie and pretend to have binary identities in order to access transition services in such places. Staff often display bigotry, and fail to use appropriate pronouns and forms of address. Lyon Martin is a place where trans people don’t have to deal with any of that. Instead of paying out the nose to be dismissed and disrespected, one is given real care regardless of ability to pay.

That is a rare and precious thing.

A lot of criticism has been leveled at Lyon Martin’s board and the way they have handled finances. While this may well be valid, I think it is vital that we acknowledge that this is part of a larger pattern. San Francisco non-profits are losing funding. I have watched organizations that serve the queer community struggling desperately to stay afloat over the past few years. I have seen LYRIC forced to cut hours, The Castro Country Club begging for donations, and New Leaf close its doors. Although these organizations provide very different services, all of them are places of refuge which provide support– social, medical, psychological, emotional, spiritual– to people who don’t know where else to go.

In the case of medical services, this pattern means that many of the same patients are migrating from one dying clinic to another as non-profits fail. Take my own (not particularly severe) case as a quick and dirty example. I’ve been thinking that I need to get into therapy again. Since New Leaf has closed, I was planning to go to Lyon Martin. Now it seems that I will have to go elsewhere, possibly to Dimensions. Whatever free or sliding-scale clinic I find, it is guaranteed to be underfunded and struggling, just like all San Francisco non-profits.

The point is that we cannot be secure in the knowledge that respectful, affordable care will remain available to us. We don’t know that it will. In fact, it seems very likely that it will be taken away. Those of us who have insurance will be forced to rely on soulless HMOs where providing trans-specific care will be a low priority, if it is even dreamed of at all. Those who do not have insurance will be left with nothing.

The good news is that so far the community has made an impressive rally  in support of Lyon Martin. This may be one battle that we can actually win.

So I’m asking for your help. This blog averages 217 views a day. I understand that most of us are fucking broke, and it’s an unfortunate irony that the people who need Lyon Martin the most are those of us least likely to have money to spare. But if every single person who views this blog today donates just one dollar, that’s 217 dollars for Lyon Martin. If every single person who views this blog today donates five dollars, that’s 1,085 dollars for Lyon Martin. If everyone single person who views this blog today donates ten dollars, that’s 2170 dollars for Lyon Martin. Get the idea? A little bit can go a long way. If we all just do what we can, I have no doubt that Lyon Martin will raise the money it needs to reorganize instead of closing.

Donate! Anything helps.

If you can’t give money, at least spread the word. Repost, reblog, get the word out there so that people who can give their financial assistance will. I know it sucks shaking down friends and family for money, but this isn’t for some disembodied cause, for some vague sense of charity and noble purpose. This is to take care of our own community, our queer community, here in San Francisco. This is about real people’s health, real people’s lives.

We don’t have to be beaten this time. This time, there is hope. If we all do our bit, we will know the sweet taste of victory, something that trans people experience seldom enough.

Let this be a line in the sand. We will not lose this one.


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