documentary is designed for use in a variety of disciplines:
transgender and transsexual studies, human sexuality, gender
identification, sexual development, family relations, psychology,
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Interview with JoAnne Keatley
Transgender Resources and Neighborhood Space (TRANS)
Many transgender individuals experience a lack of social acceptance
and support. What can we do to improve this situation?
In the transgender community, there's kind of two schools of
thought. There's a community of transgender individuals who
feel like living in a kind of normal environment, hetero-sexual
environment, is the ultimate goal. So, they're those that kind
of seek to disappear within mainstream society and not be associated
with transgender community. So, there's a large population like
that, that kind of just you know becomes invisible. They seek
employment opportunities, they stay employed, and things like
that. Of course, one of the things that's necessary to have
that kind of existence is the ability to pass because if you're
not able to pass, then you're not going to have access to that
kind of hidden environment.
Then, there's another school of thought within the transgender
community. It's a kind of emerging, political point-of-view,
and that is to be more visible and to create a sense of safety
for the transgender community so that all gender variant populations
will have equal access to employment, housing and things like
that. That political movement actually has been changing things
I believe throughout the country. Some communities have gender
identity specifically in their anti-discrimination language.
Now, it is illegal in the State of California to discriminate
in terms of housing and/or employment for someone on the basis
of gender identity. However, that doesn't mean that it doesn't
happen. It happens all the time. People do get discriminated
against but at least if it does happen then there's an avenue
for seeking some kind of resolution.
It's a huge issue, I think we have to do a better job of educating
society at large, really raising awareness. I think you can
kind of compare it to what was happening in the 70s and 80s
in terms of raising awareness around gay and lesbian issues.
The fact of the matter is that gender is very a kind of fundamental
concept for many people. Many people find gender to be a kind
of rigid and they don't want variance within the concept of
gender. So, when they're presented with someone who is trangressing
gender lines, they are threaten. I think people are threaten
by that, they don't understand what's going on. So, I think
that we as a community need to first be open to kind of, you
know, widening our way of thinking, and also we need to do a
better job of educating ourselves and being able to explain
what is exactly...you know, what does it mean to be transgender,
and what are the fundamental concepts that need to be kind of
looked at and explored.
I can't blame anyone for feeling the way that they do in regards
to like my gender or your gender. People have right to their
own opinion, and I'm not the person to take that right away
from them. But I do say that people should educate themselves
around something if they have strong feelings about it because
if it's going to affect how you interact with me, then you should
at least know where you are coming from in reality, not based
on some assumptions that you have made about either me or the
population I work with.
Q: What kind of issues immigrant transgenders usually face
when they come to the US and what advice would you give to them?
Many transgender individuals experience transphobic reactions
or discrimination in the home countries that they come from.
So, many transgender individuals will migrate to the United
States and then be able to come to their own in terms of their
transgender identity. But what happens is that once they get
here, they are transitioning and so they may have immigrated,
for example, in their birth sex and then when they are in the
process of transitioning, they may come up cross roadblocks
in terms of their gender identity.
With transgender people, I think that what heightens the difficulties
is the lack of either family support or peer support, so there's
not only the struggles of having to assimilate into a new society
and to a new culture but also being alienated from those people
that would normally support you while you were doing that. So,
it can be very difficult.
The other thing is that if you're a male-to-female transgender
then there's this a kind of tendency to erotise male-to-female
transgender individuals, and a lot of immigrant transgenders
end up being drawn into the commercial sex trade because of
the ability to engage in commercial sex work and gain at least
some income and some access to...perhaps medical care that they
would not be otherwise able to afford. I think, that's a problem.
Engaging in commercial sex work, while it may seem like an easy
way out, it isn't an easy way out, it's a trap. There's no easy
way out. So, in order to sustain a living, to you know in order
to have access to health care, in order to have access to the
kind of life that you're seeking, really falling into the commercial
sex trade trap is not the way to go. I think you're going to
be exposed to a lot of risk, exposed to STDs, HIV, drug use,
violence, and I think over time the best you know approach that
you can take is really to seek and get an education. And if
you're persistent, then you will be able to seek and find employment,
and I think over time that's really the better way to go. I
have seen too many people die as a result of being involved
in the commercial sex trade, and you know it doesn't have to
be that way.
T-Room for transgender term definitions (transgender, transsexual,
transvestite, tranny, cross dresser, drag queen, hermaphrodite,
shemale, etc.) and learn the differences between them! Another
good source is Wikipedia.