Most people accept that it is possible for a person to be "born as one sex but inside feel like the other sex" but many are confused about what transgender means, and who should be considered transgender.
- U.S. Public Attitudes on Transgender
- In September 2002 the Human Rights Campaign announced the findings of a poll that focused on public perception of transgender issues. The results of this poll show that while most people accept that a person can indeed be transgender, more public education is needed.
- While much work remains before trans people are fully accepted and included in the gay rights movement, Shannon Minter explains that trans activists have done an extraordinary job of propelling transgendered issues to the forefront of lesbian and gay policy discussions.
by Katherine Cummings, Polare Editor
Iseem to be taking up quite a bit of Polare space here and there, what with responding to letters and talking about the anti-violence project which is occupying most of my waking hours these days, but hey, that's life in the fast lane.
Some of what I have been writing of late has concerned itself with a series of breaches of copyright on our behalf ... breaches which I sincerely regret and would like to forestall for the future. One example was the result of a technical glitch (these newfangled computer programs ... can't trust them the way we used to when we cast the metal and set up the type in forme ... [wheeze, dribble, cackle]), another was pure inadvertence and the third I cannot answer for, as the material came from one our contributors.
It is as a guide to our contributors that I now write:
Copyright is property and it is a real property, which can be sold, licensed, given away or leased. It is infinitely divisible. If I write something I can sell it to one buyer to reproduce in black ink and another to reproduce in red; I can sell it to one publisher to use on odd-numbered days and another to use on even; I can sell it to one person to use in Australia and another to use in New Zealand.
The point is that if I take someone's work and reproduce it as I think fit, without permission, then I not only break the law but I am also showing disrespect for the creative endeavour of the original author. As a writer myself, I take pride in my work and do not want to see it misused or used without permission. I therefore try to observe both the spirit and the law of copyright.
Note, however, that copyright exists only in the "form" of the words. If I reproduce a passage verbatim without permission then I breach copyright. If I re-write the substance of the work in my own words then there is no breach. There is a grey area in between where legal action may be taken if passages of considerable length have been taken verbatim or altered only slightly (plagiarism). Courts and tribunals have difficulty in deciding what constitutes a breach and what doesn't. The case of The Hand That Signed The Paper, which appeared to have reproduced significant parts of other works with very little alteration, springs to mind. The tribunal established to decide whether copyright had been breached was unable to reach a decision although to the lay reader the case may have seemed watertight.
I ask that our contributors be conscientious in providing the sources from which they obtain material, if it is not their own creation. Material found on the Internet is not necessarily in the public domain and even if it is, it is good practice to cite the source.
Which having been said, please continue to provide material for Polare. We need your opinions and your input.
by Elizabeth Riley, Gender Centre Manager
The Gender Centre A.G.M.
By the time this report goes to print the Gender Centre will have held its A.G.M. on 26th September at Petersham Town Hall. I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the management committee for their dedicated and selfless service to the Centre and the community during the 2001/2002 year and to welcome new and returning management committee members for the 2002/2003 year.
While management committee members often serve in a non-conspicuous role, an active and effective management committee is essential to the representative and balanced functioning of the centre. In this regard I commend the efforts of our management committee/s in recent years for the stability, common sense and integrity that they have applied to their role. Well done guys, (non gender specific), it's an honour to be working with you.
The Gay Games.
Included in this edition is a full reprint of the long awaited Gay Games policy relating to the transgender community. The Gender Centre has expressed our sadness and dismay that the policy was so long in the drafting that by the time it was due for implementation registrations had already closed. While I understand some concession for late registrations were made to transgender people who had expressed interest in participating, others who were waiting to see the policy before making a commitment were effectively left out.
Clearly, in relation to Sydney 2002, this is unfortunate. On a positive note, however, the policy makes significant advances for transgender inclusion over previous Gay Games policies and should provide a new benchmark for advancement in future Gay Games events. In that regard I would like to acknowledge the many individuals within the Gay Games who have expressed their support for transgender inclusion and in particular those few individuals who had carriage of the policy and shared our frustration at the delays in its implementation.
Having said all that I understand that those responsible for the policy have already met with flak from some sections of the transgender community. I leave it to you to be the judges.
A Little Bit More Controversy.
I note with interest some of the correspondence that Katherine has received and her responses to that correspondence. Interestingly, or perhaps boringly depending on your perspective, we are still engaged in the trivia of labelling. Transsexual vs transgender vs cross-dresser vs transvestite vs interplanetary space traveller, (if men are from Mars and women are from Venus then we are interplanetary space travellers are we not?) vs man vs woman. What irritates me most about this ongoing debate is not the academic rationalisation of one term in preference to another, I think this a useful debate in that it is time we found clarity and uniformity in our language. The irritation stems from the inherent subtext underlying many of the arguments that assumes members identifying under one terminology are somehow better than members identifying under another. What a load of rubbish.
If your goal is to be better than other people then there is probably something intrinsically wrong with your goal to begin with. If, on the other hand, you want to be the best person you are capable of being, the way to achieve it is through the value systems that govern the way you live your life, not the label you adopt to identify yourself.
Which leads me to a new slant in all of this. I have spoken in passing on a few occasions with Rachael Wallbank, Rachael is the solicitor who represented "Kevin and Jennifer" in their right-to-marry case. Our discussions have centred around the ongoing problems with existing anti-discrimination legislation. The essence of those conversations has concerned the attempts in the legislation to be all things to all people in our community. The difficulty with this of course lies in the diversity of our community and the necessity of a period of transition for all people undergoing sex reassignment. We may be pre-op, non-op or post-op and at a period in time we may be all of these things as an individual. How then are we best served by legislation? The current legislation seeks to address both human rights and legal status as a member of a particular sex in the one package. Those of you who are familiar with the legislation will be aware of some of the problems this has created with the terminologies of "recognised" and "other" transgenders and the specifying of rights to each group.
Rachael attended the last transgender consultation at the Anti-Discrimination Board and proposed an alternative concept for debate. Her idea was to divide the legislation into two distinct parts. One of these would deal directly with legal status allowing reassigned people full legal recognition and status as members of their reassigned sex. The other would seek to afford the right to all people who express their gender outside or across cultural norms to do so, free from discrimination and harm. The latter group would not gain a changed legal sex status unless they underwent sex reassignment but they would be entitled to enjoy the social freedom to express transgender behaviours. Such a distinction would unblur the existing boundaries between legal sex status and human rights and overcome the resistance of legislators to legislate for both. A possible side benefit to this could be that legislators, in ensuring that legal status was not denied to a group within the community, could legislate to provide access to S.R.S. in the public hospital system. Another side benefit for people who have undergone sex reassignment would be that in gaining a new legal sex status they would be at liberty to brush aside the transgender/transsexual label and simply enjoy the same rights as all other men and women.
While there may be controversial elements in Rachael's proposal it presents a refreshing alternative to bashing our heads against the brick wall of existing legislation in an effort to effect change.
This could prove to be an important development and it requires considerable input from the community. I would be interested to hear from people who would like to comment. If there is sufficient interest the Gender Centre could arrange a forum to discuss the ideas more fully. I look forward to receiving your letters.
The Gender Centre advise that this edition of Polare is not current and as such certain content, including but not limited to persons, contact details and dates may not apply. Where legal authority or medical related matters are cited, responsibility lies with the reader to obtain the most current relevant legal authority and/or medical publication.
Polare Magazine is published quarterly in Australia by The Gender Centre Inc. which is funded by the Department of Family & Community Services under the S.A.A.P. program and supported by the N.S.W. Health Department through the AIDS and Infectious Diseases Branch. Polare provides a forum for discussion and debate on gender issues. Unsolicited contributions are welcome, the editor reserves the right to edit such contributions without notification. Any submission which appears in Polare may be published on our internet site. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor, The Gender Centre Inc., the Department of Family & Community Services or the N.S.W. Department of Health.
The Gender Centre is committed to developing and providing services and activities, which enhance the ability of people with gender issues to make informed choices. We offer a wide range of services to people with gender issues, their partners, family members and friends in New South Wales. We are an accommodation service and also act as an education, support, training and referral resource centre to other organisations and service providers. The Gender Centre is committed to educating the public and service providers about the needs of people with gender issues. We specifically aim to provide a high quality service, which acknowledges human rights and ensures respect and confidentiality.