Why regret matters

I was hoping not to have to write this post, but recently I’ve noticed a tendency for some transpeople to dismiss stories of transgender regret. I’ve seen a couple of blog posts that attribute regret concerns primarily to “people who think transition is bad,” and criticize regretters who claim they were deceived. I don’t think there’s any malice intended, but it’s not a good thing.

A lot of transgender politics is based on the idea that MTF transpeople are women, and FTM transpeople are men, and thus that anything that interferes with transition is thwarting their destinies, and amounts to a crime against nature. Figuring out which gender-variant people are “really trans” and thus deserving of this categorizational boost is tricky, and the subject of endless flamewars, but what seems to matter most are action and intention: if you live full-time or have concrete plans to do so in the near future, a lot of transpeople will admit you to the club.

(As an aside, I have a fairly fluid, Roschian definition of “man” and “woman” that seems to please nobody but me: I believe that everyone is a woman in some ways and a man in others, and everyone’s balance varies. It’s not even the same for a single person from day to day. I just want to go on record that I am not interested in denying anyone’s claim to be either a man or a woman. What bothers some transpeople is that I’m also not interested in helping them to repudiate their categorization in the other gender.)

What causes a bit of a problem for the transgender worldview is that there are people who were once considered “really trans,” went all or partway through transition and became dissatisfied and regretted transitioning. There is a range of actions in response to this regret, just as there is a wide range of actions in response to transgender feelings. If they can manage and/or afford it, some will have surgery to undo or reconstruct as many of the body modifications they’ve done. Others will quietly share their feelings with their loved ones. Most people seem to be somewhere in the middle. No one knows how many cases of regret there are (Principle One), but I personally know of at least five, and there have been others documented by David Batty of the Guardian. Five people have recently come forward to accuse English gender psychiatrist Russell Reid of encouraging them to transition and have body modifications that they later regretted. (For balance, you can read testimonials from some of Dr. Reid’s satisfied patients.) Continue reading “Why regret matters”

Bathrooms: The Daily News hatchet job

I’ve mentioned before that the right-wing blogs seem mostly to be responding to Pete Donohue’s Daily News bathroom article, instead of Clemente Lisi’s more sensitive Post article or any of the others. This is a bad thing, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were intentional on the part of Drudge and FreeRepublic. I think I’m going to have to dissect the article to show just how badly it portrayed the issue:

The line for the girls’ room just got longer.

If it did at all, it probably wasn’t to the extent that anyone would notice. But it’s a cute lead-in, and was taken as a serious point by many bloggers, who were apparently unaware of the Bathroom Parity law passed last year.

Men who live as women can now legally use women’s rest rooms in New York’s transit system under an unprecedented deal revealed yesterday.

They already could. The deal just ensures that the MTA Police (who patrol Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road stations, not the subway) will commit to following the law.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to allow riders to use MTA rest rooms “consistent with their gender expression,” the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced yesterday.

The group filed a complaint against the MTA on behalf of a 70-year-old telephone repair technician who was arrested for using the women’s room at Grand Central Terminal.

The technician, who is assigned to the terminal by Verizon, was born Henry McGuinness but now goes by Helena Stone.

“I’m a 24-hour woman,” Stone declared proudly. “I just feel like a woman and I like to wear women’s clothes.”

The MTA would not comment on the settlement but Stone’s lawyer said it also includes mandatory transgender sensitivity training for MTA employees and a $2,000 payment to the technician for legal fees.

Just the mention of “sensitivity training” pissed off a lot of the right-wing bloggers. Note that Donohue didn’t mention the extent of the harassment Stone endured at the hands of the MTA Police, which was described by Lisi. Some of the bloggers might have understood the point of the training if they’d read about Stone being repeatedly arrested, insulted and searched.

Michael Sullivan, Stone’s lawyer, called the settlement of the complaint with the Human Rights Commission a “milestone” toward recognition of the city law that prohibits discrimination against transgender men and women.

Stone’s lawyer is named Michael Silverman. But a fake name may make it more difficult for vigilante Freepers to harass him.

But some Metro-North riders at Grand Central yesterday were stunned by the ruling.

“I would not like that,” said Gloria David, a retiree from Connecticut. “I have nothing against gay men or drag queens, but they can use the men’s room. I just don’t want to go to the bathroom next to a man.”

Presumably Donohue knows that most of the people using the women’s room under the new law are not gay men or drag queens, but he doesn’t use the opportunity to point out David’s misconception.

One rider feared predators might dress as women and lurk in the women’s room.

I addressed this point in detail in an earlier post.

But Rena Gantz, 23, a college student, shrugged off the settlement.

“It doesn’t bother me because it is a reality,” she said. “If they believe they are women, they should be treated as one.”

Interestingly, the one sensitive quote in the article was often left off of many of the reprintings by blogs.

Update from City Council Speaker Quinn

Today I got an email from Christine Quinn, the first out lesbian speaker of the New York City Council, regarding transgender rights in bathrooms. It concerns the recent arrests in the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Statement by Speaker Christine C. Quinn:

Transgender Arrests at Port Authority Bus Terminal


On October 3, 2006, Port Authority Police arrested three young transgender individuals at the Port Authority Bus Terminal for allegedly trespassing. In response, I wrote the attached letter to the Port Authority asking them to fully investigate the circumstances under which this arrest occurred.


New York City Human Rights Law makes it illegal to discriminate based on individuals “actual or perceived gender” in housing, employment, and public accommodations. In my letter, I also made it clear that the Port Authority must fully investigate the circumstances of the arrest as well as claims of possible abuse and must initiate sensitivity training on LGBT issues for all Port Authority Law Enforcement personnel.

I’m very pleased that Speaker Quinn has taken action on this issue, and hopefully the other security forces in the city will take the hint and ensure that their personnel are familiar with the law.

I’m disappointed, however, because I contacted her four weeks ago with regard to the transwoman who claims to have been assaulted by a McDonald’s manager in Quinn’s district. I can understand if Quinn felt that the issue of three transwomen at a large public institution was a higher priority than a single-person bathroom in a restaurant. But to me, someone getting attacked with a lead pipe (and then arrested) is a higher priority than people being arrested. I hope she does something about this soon.

The bathroom issue makes its way ’round the blogosphere

Cool, thoughtful post from a cop named Steve Douglas in Denver.

This seems to have been getting a lot more commentary on blogs than earlier incidents. Unfortunately, it’s mostly been of the hateful, fearmongering type. Quite possibly because this story has been picked up by FreeRepublic and the Drudge Report.

Which version of the story, you might ask? Drudge and the Freepers often link to New York Post articles, which tend to be right-leaning and sensational. However, in this case the Post story was actually balanced and sensitive. Too balanced and sensitive for the right-wing bloggers, who have all linked to the right-leaning and sensational Daily News story. Big surprise there.

I’d link to more of these stories, but they’re so formulaic it’s downright uncanny:


Intro containing apocalyptic prediction or attempt at wit (whichever wasn’t in the headline, or both).

Quote or entire text of Daily News article.

Uninformed fear-mongering about rapists, pedophiles or peeping toms using trans status as an excuse to invade women’s bathrooms. If the poster is a man, a tasteless joke about claiming to be a woman in order to peep at women.

Vicious bashing of transpeople as “freaks,” “deviants” or worse.

Blaming the liberals for letting society get to this point.

Hm. I’m actually wondering if the similarities in these posts are more than the simple result of these people all being raised with the same intolerant, small-minded viewpoint, and they’re actually being coached on this stuff. If so, ick.

The mythical transgender bathroom stalkers

The most disturbing aspect of the negative reactions to the recent settlement between the MTA about the use of bathrooms by transgender people is the coalescence of a new “talking point” about transgender bathrooms: the fear that they will allow peeping toms, rapists and child molestors to enter the women’s rooms unhindered. People seem particularly disturbed at the idea that the judgment as to which bathroom to use is left entirely up to the pisser. Here’s a quote from the New York Daily News article:

One rider feared predators might dress as women and lurk in the women’s room.

Jerry Fuhrman, “From On High“:

If I choose to go to New York, have a few shots and beers, decide to “consider” myself a woman for the night, and camp out in the women’s restroom at the Ritz-Carlton to see what I can see, am I now protected by the law?

I know where I’m going on vacation …

Here’s a taste of the venom and hysteria in the FreeRepublic discussion thread, but then again, what do you expect from Freepers?

Now, will any provision made for safety for “real” women who don’t want to be preyed upon by rapists and thugs dressing in drag to gain access to, literally, sitting ducks? Or do they have to just suck it up in order to appease the freaks?

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful and reasonable attempts to clarify the issue by poster Dukat. I wonder how long Dukat will last on FreeRepublic; they have a reputation for purging posters who don’t toe the party line.

The tricky thing about the safety argument is that, like all lies and hysteria, it’s based on a kernel of truth. The sad fact is that women are disproportionately victims of violence and are less safe than men anywhere they go. Everyone is more vulnerable when they’re half-dressed and peeing, shitting or grooming themselves. Combine these two, and a public bathroom can be a very scary place for a woman. Gossip isn’t the only reason women go to the bathroom in groups. Continue reading “The mythical transgender bathroom stalkers”

More transgender bathroom background

In my previous post, I discussed recent transgender-related bathroom events. Now, to go back a little further, I wanted to mention two events that show how seriously some people take bathroom gender boundaries, and the lengths that law enforcement will go to.

A fellow poster of mine on the My Husband Betty Message Boards related a horrible story. Over ten years ago she was arrested in the “wrong” bathroom in her hometown, a large Southern city. She was sent to jail and, upon her release, ordered to receive mandatory “aversion therapy,” namely electric shocks applied while she viewed gay male pornographic images.

In February 2002, after protesting the World Economic Forum, transgender lawyer Dean Spade was arrested along with two friends for trying to use the men’s room at Grand Central. Here is a picture of the riot squad that was mobilized to arrest these three transgressors:

After reading about this incident, I attended Spade’s trial to show my support, and was pleased when the judge threw out all counts within five minutes. I got to meet Spade and his companions, and they seemed so physically non-threatening that the idea of all these cops waiting to arrest them is just silly.

Some Transgender Bathroom Background

There’s been a lot in the news lately about the bathroom rights of transgendered people, particularly here in New York, and I feel the need to do a post about it. Just to recap:

  • In July, a transgender person was attacked with a lead pipe in the McDonald’s across from the Empire State Building, by the store manager, for using the bathroom (with permission). When the police arrived, they arrested the transwoman, not the manager. The police have told the woman’s lawyer that “the case is closed,” and as far as I know, McDonald’s has not commented on the matter.
  • The MTA just settled a lawsuit by a Verizon employee stationed at Grand Central Terminal, who was harassed by MTA police whenever she tried to use the women’s room.
  • On October 3, three “trans youth” (an exonym) were arrested and verbally abused while trying to use the bathrooms in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. A Port Authority spokesman said, “The police inspector is very concerned and is looking into it.” Update: this article in the New York Blade provides more details of the verbal abuse that the Port Authority Police laid on these youth, and how State Senator Tom Duane is helping to pressure the Port Authority to comply with the law.

The MTA settlement has been making the news, followed by the blogs, with some predictable responses by clueless bloggers. Some of the articles are sympathetic, some not. Here are a few examples:

  • First, a surprisingly respectful and sensitive article by Clemente Lisi of the New York Post.
  • The Daily News is generally a little more clueful than the Post, so their insensitive take was pretty surprising. However, it closes with a progressive, open-minded quote.
  • The funniest quote was from a blog called Metadish: “Has anyone actually seen the bathrooms at Grand Central Terminal? This is like a giant step back for the transgendered community. Maybe next time you could lobby for some bathrooms that aren’t public health hazards.”

The other comments all fall into one category, but I’ve got a lot to say about that. Rather than use “more…” I’m going to create another post.

A star for Ed Wood!

According to Metafilter, transvestite B-movie director Ed Wood does not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood horror and costume shop The Dapper Cadaver is running a campaign to raise money for the star. Apparently, all you need is $15,000. If, as Celebrity Stink (sorry for the ugly ads) reports, there are stars for George Lopez and the Olsen twins, the standards must be low enough for Wood. Wikipedia has an extensive list of stars on the Walk of Fame.

Postrel on Glamour

I’ve got a new candidate for my list of twenty-first century geniuses. Joining Malcolm Gladwell and Jonti Picking is Virginia Postrel, who I just discovered from an article in the October Atlantic Monthly, Superhero Worship.

I did a little research to find out more about Postrel, which isn’t very hard since she’s all over the Web. It’s not like I’m uncovering some hidden gem. She’s a well-known, well-published writer, editor and blogger on politics and economics. And honestly, I disagree with most of what I’ve seen from her on those topics. Hey, I linked to Mike Huben’s Critiques of Libertarianism back in 1995!

What I find valuable from Postrel is the clarity that she brings to the idea of glamour. One fascinating point is the fact that the word “glamor” used to mean a magic spell. The OED says that it came through the Scots language from the same root as “grammar,” so the meaning pathway was, roughly, grammar > learning in general > magical skill > magical spell > charming someone with looks and style. Continue reading “Postrel on Glamour”

Coming Out at American Express

(Originally posted January 24, 2004)

From the moment I first slipped on a pair of my sister’s nylons when I was eleven years old, I knew that my cross-dressing was a shameful, dangerous practice, and that people would rather that I kept it secret. When I was twenty-four, I decided that I was tired of hiding, and I just wanted to be able to be who I was. I wanted to be able to join in the conversation when I heard women talking about clothes, not turn away. Mostly, I just wanted to stop feeling ashamed.

In the winter of 1995-96, I was living in New York in an apartment I shared with an old friend. In the previous two years, I had come out to two gay male friends, two girlfriends, my father, my apartmentmate, one bisexual friend, and one straight male friend. Everyone had been relatively accepting and supportive, so I decided to come out to the rest of the world. I had decided to post to transgender newsgroups under my real name, and I knew that it was impossible to hide that. I had started carrying a picture of myself cross-dressed in my wallet. I knew that at some point I would have to come out at work.

My work then consisted of temping for Vanstar, an outsourcing company at the offices of American Express. We were working for American Express, but we were twice removed from most of the benefits of being actual American Express employees. The American Express employees resented us for taking their jobs, and the Vanstar employees looked down on us for being temps. But the money was decent, and it was good experience. Continue reading “Coming Out at American Express”