In popular culture, one of the archetypes we see over and over in comedies and mid-afternoon talk shows is that of a "man trapped in a woman'sbody," the transsexual-I-didn't-know-my-boyfriend was, the poor gender-confused thing with a Secret Crush on an Unsuspecting Guest, the badly made-up clown there to amuse the perfect Hollywood couples.

Susan Stryker writes, "...Transsexuals looking for a camera to stand in front of can usually find one; we're popular sideshow attractions in the fin de sicle cultural circus." Except in the rare cases of To Wong Foo and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, transvestites, transsexuals, and transgendered people in general are figures of fun in our society - at best. At worst, and things usually ARE at worst, they're yet another group who has to live in fear much of the time.

Take Brandon Teena, a twenty-year old female-to-male transsexual in Nebraska. The local police indentified him to the newspaper as an FTM transsexual

I think it can be agreed that if we saw more images of or information about the transgendered community, fear and hatred would diminish and these hate crimes would at least slow down. Studies have shown that this works for other groups; when polls are taken about gay, lesbian, and bi issues, respondents who say they know gay people are usually the ones who support laws bannning employment discrimination against them. In the pagan community as well, this logic is embraced, with many religious activists encouraging everyone to be open about their religious because "they can't discriminate against us all."

However, most newspapers, magazines, and television shows seem determined to do the exact opposite, showing almost nothing trans-related and encouraging the stereotypes and discrimination when they do. After Brandon Teena's murder, Norm MacDonald, on SNL's "Weekend Update," announced that "In Nebraska, a man was sentenced for killing a female crossdresser [sic] who had accused him of rape and two of her friends. Excuse me if this sounds harsh, but in my mind, they all deserved to die." NBC initially refused to issue an apology because it wasn't their policy to do so, but SNL eventually apologized. But is this enough?

Gay-bashing and homophobia in general have been fairly well exposed in the recent past, to the point where everyone in the United States can sit down during prime time and watch Ellen lose her job for being gay. The Associated Press circulates articles about anti-gay violence being the only rising hate crime in a year when hate crimes actually went down. But trans-bashing is included in those statistics, when it is catalogued at all, and thus the few hate crimes against transgendered people which the police and the government actually acknowledge are hidden in the wrong category. Transgendered people are often included in "the queer community," as in San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Parade; this both helps the trans community by giving it more allies, and hinders it because it does not yet have a voice of its own. Its voice is growing, however; online, there are many sources of transgendered stories, issues, and organizations. Julie Waters, a transgendered web designer and gender issues explorer, has a page ofrage which begins to chronicle the vast, unspoken pool$ against transgendered people today.

For example, the Page of Rage lists a variety of typical trans-bashings. Carla D., a telephone worker in Southern California, was found dead in her apartment, stabbed multiple times. A sex worker in New Jersey, Harold Draper, was also found dead of multiple stab wounds in 1992. Richard Goldman was a forty-year old man who, along with his wife, was shot and killed by his father. Marsha Johnson, an activist, was harassed one night and then found dead in the Hudson River; the police said there was no reason to suspect a crime had been comitted. Tyra Hunter died while an EMS crew joked about her body. Mary S. was fired when she began making the transition towards a sex-change operation, forced to turn to sex work to survive, and finally found in the trunk of a car in the river, lacerated by multiple stab wounds. Cameron Tanner was attacked and killed by two bat-wielding men. And, with the police standing in her doorway, Jessy Santiago was murdered by a man who wanted to date her . The police refused to consider the murder a hate crime even when the attacker had announced, "I'm going to kill that fag." (Know of similar incidents? Email Julie!)

The government and social structure of the United States make transgendered life hard enough. A sex-change operation from male to female, the sort most commonly exploited on talk shows, averages over $10,000 without breast enhancement. Many transgendered people choose to forego this operation and simply live as the appropriate gender, but then they face the danger of the highway patrol officer who wants to see their mis-gendered driver's license, or the government official who wants to see their passport, or the tax auditor who notices that their gender is different from that given on official records. The U.S. Passport Office will change the gender on your passport if your doctor has "completed" a sex-change operation, but if the doctor says ze's "performed" the operation, or uses any other term besides "completed," no new passport for you. There are other gendered speed bumps set up; for example, doctors routinely practice genital mutilation on infants who have both sets of sex organs, or an extra-long clitoris, or any other "intersexed" setup. Few businesses are trans-friendly, and there are no laws against firing somebody because they are transgendered, and transgendered people are routinely fired, overlooked for promotions, not hired, or forced to use separate bathrooms and facilities so that nobody will be made "uncomfortable" by their presence.

Teena, Brandon Brandon Teena was a female-to-male transsexual who was outed by local police in Falls City, NE. According to the news report: Police publicly released this information to the local newspaper, the Falls City Journal. One week later, on Christmas Day 1993, Brandon was raped and assaulted at a Christmas party by two men, whom he identified to local police as Nissen and Lotter, despite the fact that they had threatened to kill him if he reported the incident to the police. However, charges of rape and assault were not filed against Nissen and Lotter until after Brandon's slaying, despite the fact that his sister Tammy Brandon had called Richardson County sheriff Charles B. Laux four days before the slaying to ask why Lotter and Nissen had not been arrested when Brandon had identified them as his attackers. The full text of this article is available. There is also a first hand account of the trial. Recently, a joke on Saturday Night Live about this case sparkd some controversy. You can read a press release about this incident. Click here for more articles.

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