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I also found out that I'm not alone. My baby sis has A.I.S. too!
- My Intersex Adventure
- My name is Phoebe and I have Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Back in January, my award-wining autobiographical film Orchids: my intersex adventure screened on A.B.C. television. It's my story, and it looks at my family and our lives with intersex. It's also about busting wide the shame, stigma and secrecy I experienced growing up.
- Dear Fifteen Year-Old Me
- Zoe Brain writes a letter of hope and support to her fifteen-year-old self, when back in 1973 she was enduring all of the hardships that go with growing up in a body that felt so foreign.
- Happiness and the Search for Meaning
- Gender Centre Counsellor, Anthony Carlino, writes that the idea of being constantly happy is both unrealistic and unattainable, and that humans are happiest when we are working towards something of meaning, which helps us exist in a way that feels fulfilling.
- A Second, Second Life
- Laura Seabrook explains that the virtual world of "Second Life", with its immersive environment and avatars, can be a very useful resource for transgender people to experiment with body image, clothes and interacting with other people through their similarly personalised avatars.
- The A.T.O. Bends on Transgender Expenses
- Evie Belle, a transgendered woman, has received a private ruling from the Australian Taxation Office which allows her to claim a tax deduction for medical expenses such as hair removal; the cost of a wig and its maintenance; breast augmentation and facial feminisation.
- Morgan, a board member of O.I.I. Australia, wrote and presented this paper at the After Homosexual conference in Melbourne on 4th February 2012. The conference marked the fortieth anniversary of Dennis Altman's book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation.
- O.I.I. Submission to National Human Rights Plan
- O.I.I. Australia has made a submission to the Attorney General's Department consultation on the National Human Rights Action Plan with recommendations including changing legal documentation on sex or gender, gender notation on passports, data collection and relationship recognition.
by Katherine Cummings, Polare Editor
Following my policy of trying to give various segments of our community emphasis in Polare I have included several pieces in this issue that are concerned with intersex. Our cover subject, Phoebe Hart, experiences A.I.S. and recently had her autobiographical, award-winning documentary, Orchids, my intersex adventure", screened on the A.B.C. Hart is a professional photographer and movie maker and has used her skills compellingly to tell her story, which is also the story of her sisters and parents.
She is to be admired and congratulated. "Orchids..." is available as a D.V.D., purchasable from firstname.lastname@example.org .
There are also pieces in this issue by other intersex people, including Morgan who wrote a paper for the conference in Melbourne (After Homosexuality) that celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Dennis Altman's seminal book Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation and there is an abridged version of the O.I.I. submission to the National Human Rights Plan in this issue of Polare.
We seldom agree with another person's views although we invariably agree with our own views, expressed by someone else.
Recently I represented the Gender Centre at a L.G.B.T.I. forum initiated by the Marrickville Council and held in the Petersham Town Hall. There was a panel of speakers representing different portions of the "alphabet soup" we call our own, and after the formalities of being welcomed by a representative from the Marrickville Council, the speakers each gave his or her opening remarks, with emphasis on the most urgent problems she or he saw as needing attention.
The first speaker was Simone Curry and I was interested to note that one of her most pressing concerns was the problem of ageing lesbians. Where are they to go and who is to look after them? Is it better to have them all in the same place so that there is less culture shock on the rest of society, or is that a ghetto mentality and should we be, even if the task is daunting and the road is long, educating the rest of society to understand and accept those of us who do not conform in one way or another?
I found myself in agreement with Simone that the latter is the preferable course, and that the Mountain should, in these cases, be persuaded to come to Mahomet. Society is bigger than we are, but by applying reason, by being open and informative, and by refusing to descend to the levels of aggression too often seen in those who do not understand and have no interest in learning, we will prevail in the fullness of time.
Which leads me to another point. I am sure that many lesbians have written for Polare in the past (after all, transgenders can be of any sexuality, and many remain, or become, attracted to women after M.T.F. transition) but in this issue I have included a piece by an out lesbian who has never been anything else. I was impressed by her writing style and in agreement (see above, about agreeing with one's own views expressed by someone else) with her views on the unnecessary use of umbrellas where they are superfluous and inclusive terms where they are misleading. Carolyn Gage writes of "Leaky Umbrellas and False Inclusives" and I find myself in general (if not total) agreement with what she says.
One of the points she makes, and one I have dealt with in the past, is the use of self-identifying terms that have negative or even threatening connotations.
She rejects the use of "Queer", suggesting that the negative baggage carried by the word (and she provides many synonyms from her thesaurus to make her point) is a self-defeating stratagem. We understand (Carolyn and I) that people like the idea of "reclaiming" words but this reclamation is as symbolic as walking with like-minded friends on a darkened street under the impression that this will "reclaim the night".
I will go further and say that I believe the adoption of aggressive self-descriptors such as "transsexual menace", "queer avengers", and "still fierce" are poor stratagems for winning the hearts and minds of the populace. They are redolent of "bikie" and "colour" gangs rather than discussion groups and if I were to meet strangers with "Transsexual Menace" emblazoned in scarlet on their black t-shirts, I would be more likely to cross the road than attempt to enter into a dialogue based on reason.
I have mentioned this to people who have adopted the "Transsexual Menace" label and been told it is all "tongue-in-cheek" and good-humoured self-parody ... but how is this to be conveyed to the public in time for them not to be seeking shelter or arming themselves in self-defence? "Menace" has a specific meaning and we ignore the meanings of words at our peril and to the detriment of our cause.
There is another side to the use of terms with negative connotations, and this side rests firmly with the forces of evil. The use of terms such as "tranny" and "gender-bender" are usually insults and sneers intended to denigrate transgenders and hold them up to ridicule. I know that some transpeople use the term "tranny" within their own circles and this is their right, even if I find "tranny" as deplorable and insulting as "homo" or "dyke", but this does not excuse the use of these terms by "outsiders".
An eleven-year-old transgirl in Britain, with the support of her mother, has taken the media to task and raised a petition of more than two thousand signatures, asking that the media refrain from using these terms. This is a laudable initiative but the public comments, following publication of this plea, have been deplorable. Ignorant, vicious and lacking the capacity to put themselves in another's place, they deride the girl and her mother, accusing them of being fools, of trying to make money from the situation etc. In doing so they may be exercising the right of free speech but generally missing the point that freedom of speech may be a legal and even a human, right, but the way in which that freedom is used should not be hate-driven and totally lacking in humanity. With every freedom comes responsibility.
Which leads me to comment on another form of flawed strategy, put into practice recently by self-styled "Queer Avengers" in New Zealand. Germaine Greer, for whom I hold no brief and whom I will attack in print as often as possible, was "glitter-bombed" at a book signing. This is about as ethical as Japan's attack on the U.S.A. at Pearl harbour in 1941, or their equally unethical attack on the Russians at Port Arthur in 1905. An ambush when there is no formal (note the word "formal") state of hostilities in existence is the tactic of a sneak and a bully. I do not admire Rupert Murdoch, but hitting him in the face with a custard pie was also pointless and reprehensible.
Violence is violence, no matter by whom it is practised, and if we believe that violence is bad, we should not make exceptions to this rule in order to condone our own behaviour. Even threatening gestures are seen legally as forms of violence. Our best weapons are words, framed in reason and expressed with courtesy. Engage people in conversation, challenge them to a debate, or write rejoinders to their arguments. Publish if you can. Editors are often on the lookout for interesting and controversial topics for publication. Do not assault your enemies from ambush, without giving them a chance to defend themselves. If you wish to engage with them on a physical level, challenge them to a formal duel with custard pies or glitter, and abide by the outcome. Better the Field of Cloth of Gold than the Killing Fields at Lake Trasimene even if the latter was part of a formally declared war. Or that's what I think.
Many of us are responsible in significant measure for our ongoing medical self-management ... the repetitive, day-to-day self-administration of oral medication, injections, avoidance of harmful substances, keeping to a diet and generally being sensible. The article by Max Hopwood and Barbara Paterson in this issue explores harm reduction within the framework of self-management of chronic health conditions such as Hepatitis C and H.I.V.
And to challenge your minds and stretch your concept of self there is a fascinating article by Laura Seabrook on the computer program called "Second Life". Many of those reading this are experiencing, or moving towards, a second life in real life. Laura offers us a second, second life in virtual reality. Enjoy!
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.