Sorry I’ve been hermitic lately. One more paper and then I’m home free for the semester!
Bold Crossings of the Gender Line
WILLIAM VAN METER, December 8, 2010
Candy, it turns out, is but one of the more visible bits of evidence that 2010 will be remembered as the year of the transsexual. Yes, Mr. Franco is just dressing up and doesn’t feel he was born the wrong sex. But it is a grand gesture of solidarity with gender nonconformists and certainly hasn’t affected attendance at “127 Hours.”
Other celebrities have flirted with “the other side,” cross-dressing for fashion publications. On the cover of the current Industrie, Marc Jacobs is decked out in one of his signature women’s designs (albeit with a beard). Japanese Vogue Hommes revealed its new male model, Jo Calderone, who was, in actuality, Lady Gaga.
Not since the glam era of the 1970s has gender-bending so saturated the news media. The difference now is that mystery has been replaced with empowerment, even pride. Consider a few happenings that have blipped recently on our radar. The blog of a young mother whose 5-year-old son had dressed like Daphne on “Scooby-Doo” for Halloween went viral, initiating a nationwide discussion on the fluidity of gender. (The mother ended up on “Today.”) The performance artist Kalup Linzy became a downtown phenomenon in Manhattan for his gender-bending portrayals of soap-opera divas. Oprah Winfrey welcomed transsexual men to her program.
In November, a transgender student pledged a sorority at Trinity University in Texas. Original Plumbing, a zine for trans-guys, came out with a fashion issue.
This month, Simon & Schuster will publish “My Princess Boy,” a children’s book about a boy who wears pink gowns. “It’s not acceptable for us to sit back when children are taking their lives because they’re not accepted for who they are,” said the author, Cheryl Kilodavis, who based the book on her 4-year-old son.
The only thing that would have raised more awareness of trans people would have been a link with the president — even better, a link that rhymed. That’s when the “tranny nanny,” Barack Obama’s transvestite nanny from his boyhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, was discovered and made headlines. “Trans people are slowly becoming a common part of popular culture,” said Paisley Currah, a political science professor at Brooklyn College who specializes in transgender rights and is the author of “United States of Gender,” which will be published next year.
“Sixty years ago, The New York Daily News used its whole front page to talk about Christine Jorgensen’s sex change operation — ‘Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty,’ ” Mr. Currah said. “Now you have transgender models and mayors. They elicit interest, but it’s not some incredulous response. The public is much more aware of the possibilities of transgender people existing and taking part as leaders in the social and cultural life.”
And so they are. “There are always going to be people who don’t fit into boxes,” said Victoria Kolakowski, who was just elected a superior court judge in Alameda County in California. “What we consider to be normal is evolving and changing. That frightens many people, but it’s the nature of our times.” When Ms. Kolakowski takes the bench in January, she will be the nation’s first transgender trial judge.
Moonlighting fashionistas dabbling in cross-dressing have surely helped advance the transsexual image, but the real strides in 2010 were made by actual transsexuals and those who define themselves on a spectrum of gender rather than simply male or female. The clearest call to arms was the arrival of the transsexual model Lea T.
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