Dina’s Diner — 9/25/17

| Sep 25, 2017

SOCIETY SOMETIMES FAILS, SO THEY MUST PASS

The New York Times Science Times section on August 15, 2017 had an article about the importance of “passing” for some trans women today. Despite the gains in trans awareness and acceptance in the last several years, many trans women feel pressure to present as genuinely female as possible for employment reasons and personal safety. That often means expensive cosmetic surgical treatments. The headline of The Times article said it all: “Elective Surgery, Needed to Survive.”

The Times article noted, “In an era in which protections allowing transgender students to use the restrooms they prefer have been rescinded and 14 transgender people have been murdered so far this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights advocacy group, many transgender people say they feel increasingly unsafe, and that “passing” is necessary for survival. In 2016, advocates tracked at least 22 murders of transgender people in the United States, the highest number ever recorded, though numbers on transgender violence tend to be unreliable since many cases go unrecorded. “These experiences are not just restricted to transgender individuals living in more conservative areas of the U.S.,” Ms. Jaclyn White Hughto [of Yale University] said.”

Abbie Paige meets with Dr. Marecks.

The transwomen interviewed for the article were fortunate enough to be able to pay for many of the cosmetic procedures out of their own pockets. Although the Affordable Care Act banned discrimination against trans people, it was interpreted to mean that procedures could not be denied to trans people if they were allowed for non-trans folks. However, most cosmetic or lifestyle type procedures are viewed as personal choice and not covered for anyone, hence no discrimination against trans people in particular if they are denied by insurance.

It was interesting to read about a few transwomen who were successfully employed and had been able to fork out the tens of thousands of dollars for various procedures to make them appear more feminine. This improved their psychological outlook but also improved their employability and, ultimately, personal safety so they could “pass” and avoid some of the animosity directed towards trans people by some individuals and groups. At times, it seems trans life is dominated by celebrities who get a lot of positive press or at-risk trans individuals who are often tragic victims or gritty survivors. There are many thousands more  who are just trying to live normal lives and it was good to hear of a few in this article.

The Times quoted, “I’ve met many transgender patients who have faced horrific challenges to societal acceptance, from discrimination to violence,” said Dr. Rian Maercks, the Miami plastic surgeon who performed surgeries for Abbie Page (pictured above, right). “When their femininity or masculinity is natural in appearance, it protects them from the traumas they may otherwise experience.”

The concept of “passing” seems almost quaint nowadays. You don’t see it used much in discussions any more. It’s kind of “square” and conformist and judgmental when viewed in the brave new world of trans acceptance. But reality has a way of sharpening one’s focus and there is nothing superficial about wanting to have a normal life, get or keep a good job, and certainly not becoming a target of hatred.

A FEELING OF BETRAYAL

Elle Hearns

The New York Times had an article on August 7, 2017 about the discrimination and dismissal that African American trans people feel from other African Americans. The headline of the article said a lot with one line. “An Open Wound for Transgender African Americans: ‘We’re Considered a Joke.’”

One of the promptings for the article was a well-covered comment by a black hip hop artist who told a radio host that he would kill a transgender woman if he discovered her during a romantic tryst. The Times said that one of the people who reviewed a clip of the show was Elle Hearns.

“Ms. Hearns is a black transgender woman who has devoted much of her life over the past few years to defending black people — mostly men — from the harassment, brutality and killings they face at the hands of the police. Yet here was a black man, interviewed by three black hosts, lobbing what Ms. Hearns felt was “an attack on the entire community. I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was angry,” she said. At the heart of Ms. Hearns’s pain is a betrayal that black transgender people say has long afflicted them.”

The unkindest cut for black trans people is that they receive so little support – even active hate – from their own community. “I feel like we have been at the forefront with so many people fighting, and now that it’s time for people to be joining in our fight, no one’s there,” said Atlantis Narcisse, 45, the founder of Save Our Sisters, a support organization for black transgender women in Houston. “They will stand up for a drug dealer being killed or a black man being beaten, but won’t stand up for black trans women being murdered. “We’re considered a joke,” she said. “They still look at us as men dressing up, playing in women’s clothes, which is not the case.” The comments on the show would have been more upsetting if they hadn’t been so predictable, Ms. Narcisse said. “That’s what black people are taught to think about us — that we’re tricking people,” Ms. Narcisse said. “How can I get mad at a message that’s been grounded into a community for years?”

The Times reports that black attitudes towards transgenderism is heavily influenced by traditional religious beliefs and the view that black men must be strong and masculine to survive in a white dominated society. “To be seen as feminine if you’re seen as a black male is a sign of weakness,” said Kiara St. James, the director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group.”

When a black trans activist, Ashlee Marie Preston, later confronted the aforementioned radio host about the offensive interview, it was she who was put on the defensive by the reactions from the black community. The Times reported, “One person said that transgender people were “getting out of hand.” Others were angry that they were criticizing a black show and defended [the hip hop artist] as just sharing his opinion.“Shame on both of you for the embarrassment y’all put on the black community,” someone wrote on Twitter. The worst thing about the discussion on the radio, Ms. Preston said, was that it painted black transgender women as scheming and assigned all the blame to them. “It’s the same antiquated rhetoric that law enforcement uses when they justify shooting African-Americans during routine traffic stops,” she said. “The idea is that if someone kills a trans person, she must have done something. She must have been guilty of doing someone some sort of harm.”

It underlines the deep personal feelings people have about gender identity issues when the African American community – embattled on many fronts – cannot seem to unite in support of black trans people.

I READ IT IN A MAGAZINE

Angela Gardner on the cover of LadyLike #54.

If you started out in crossdressing before the internet really got going – say, early 1990s or before – you probably had a stash of crossdressing and tranny magazines at some point. Imagine if some serious academic effort was made to preserve some of those magazines digitally. Well, there is, or was, such an effort for at least some of those old magazines.

I happened upon this accidentally as I browsed the Web looking for something I no longer recall. I clicked a link that took me to a site headlined as “Regional Digitization in Massachusetts, funded by LSTA Grant and administered by the Boston Public Library. Books digitized through MBLC.” The LSTA is the Library Services Technology Act and the MBLC is the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. Among the many categories of books, periodicals, videos and lord knows what else, the MBLC authorized the digital scanning of hundreds of crossdressing, transgender, and female impersonation magazines. You can select the periodical you wish to see and scroll through each scanned magazine edition page as if it was on your lap.

Hooray for Massachusetts librarians. Oh, some may question the academic or historical value in digitizing dozens of issues of Female Mimics International and LadyLike and even some more pornographic picture magazines but I am not one of them. I really don’t know what possessed them to undertake this project. Some of the periodicals, like Tapestry, published by the International Foundation for Gender Education, were serious attempts at providing information about transgender issues. But Female Mimics International or FMI for short, was a glossy picture magazine of semi-pornographic pictorials of drag queens and “she-males.” Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But other than providing snapshots (so to speak) of a certain time in tranny erotica, I don’t know if it is deserving of preservation under a federal grant – no matter how many times I use the website to look at those pictures again and again . . . and again.

The numerous editions of LadyLike magazine may be of most interest to the TGForum readership because it was published by the late JoAnn Roberts who was also our original publisher of TGF. I had forgotten that my Diner column was featured in the magazine for a while before we went online here. The photos contributed by readers may include your own, or friends from that era. I found our own Angela Gardner on the cover and profiled inside one Ladylike issue. Our tax dollars hard at work. Thanks, Uncle Sam and the Massachusetts Library Commishes!

Afropunk attire.

AFROPUNK

I saw a photograph in the August 31, 2017issue of The New York Times of a young woman at the Brooklyn Afropunk festival that occurred earlier in August. I never heard of Afropunk before. But I liked that young woman’s outfit (pictured to the right).

Wikipedia says, “Afropunk refers to the participation of African Americans and other black people in the punk and alternative music cultures, especially in the United States, where this scene had been overwhelmingly white. In the early 21st century, Afro-punks made up a minority in the North American punk scene.” So it’s mostly a music and arts scene but exotic fashions are a big part of it – as it was in the British and American version of punk culture in the 1980s. In my last Diner I wrote about my enthusiasm for the comeback of the natural Afro hairstyle. And if more women (African American, or any nationality, really) want to wear fishnets and platform shoes in public, I’m all for it.

LOOK, IN THE LEATHER ARMOR, IT’S WONDER WOMAN!

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

The New York Times Thursday Styles section had an article about the design house of Whitaker Malem in the August 3, 2017 edition. The name of the firm refers to its two founders, Paddy Whitaker and Keir Malem, both 52 years old. The pair are benefiting this year for designing the leather armor creations they crafted for the year’s biggest film, Wonder Woman.

The Whitaker Malem partners have been designing leather fashions for many years and have outfitted film characters before. The Times said, “Called “beyond cool” by New York Magazine, Wonder Woman’s armor has become a breakout star in its own right. “We were allowed to go close to the body and do sexy armor, which is unusual, as a lot of armor is massive,” Mr. Malem said.”

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

I haven’t seen the movie but it seems a far cry from the rather tame image of a bygone era’s Lynda Carter in patriotic Wonder Woman gear. Oddly enough I mentioned this year’s Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, in an earlier Diner item about unsnapped stocking garters in a different film.

Back to the designers, they have been working in leather fashion for a long time with varying degrees of success. They hope to use their newfound fame and fortune to create and sell “personal fine art work, which largely involves male and female bodies fashioned in leather and spliced together to create a wall sculpture.”

I could only find one Whitaker Malem piece on sale online and it was a simple leather vest priced at $950. So if you were hoping to go to next month’s local Halloween contest decked out in the updated Wonder Woman leather bustier, you better start saving your lunch money. People may not wonder if you’re a woman, but they may wonder where you got the nice leather bustier.

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Category: Body & Soul, Fun & Entertainment, Opinion

About Dina Amberle: I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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