Transgender people have become the new go-to characters on television on such ABC shows as "Ugly Betty " and "All My Children" and the FX show "The Riches." They also have become the topic of more news reports in recent months.
A Florida city manager is fired seemingly for disclosing he will have a sex-change operation. A sports reporter in Los Angeles decides it's time everyone learns who she really is.
A sibling in the famous acting Arquette family has brought the struggles that a transgender person faces to the big screen in the documentary "Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother," which made its debut this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary follows other indie favorites, such as "Boys Don't Cry" and "Transamerica," to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender stories to the forefront.
Fiction and reality have mixed to bring an increasing presence in the media of transgender people in the past six months. This is all positive for transgender individuals and society, say those who are active in the transgender community.
Mara Keisling, executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality, partially credits the Internet and medical advancements with allowing people to express themselves physically. That outlet, she says, has created a domino effect.
"There's so many trans people out that more and more people do have trans people in their lives, and that's going to cause more trans people in the media," she says . "... When the entertainment media stories happen, they really have a dramatic impact. When they're done sympathetically, they make people feel safe and more willing to come out.
"When they're done maliciously, that has a chilling effect, makes people feel less willing. It's really that simple."
The country saw both sides in recent months when, in February and March, the Largo, Fla., city commission voted to fire Steve Stanton as the city manager after 14 years on the job. Commissioners have said it was Stanton's judgment and not his decision to have a sex change operation to become Susan Ashley Stanton that cost him his job.
When Los Angeles Times sports writer Mike Penner wrote a first-person story in April, formally coming out to readers and co-workers about what his life had been like and what it would turn into by becoming Christine Daniels, the reaction was mostly favorable, says Daniels. Since coming out in the article headlined "Old Mike, New Christine," Daniels has been inundated with supportive emails and phone calls, received a promotion and keeps a blog on the Times website, latimesblogs.latimes.com/womaninprogress/.
"For some reason there's an acceptance or openness right now that wasn't there a year ago," Daniels says.
"One person who's known for doing an amazing job gets fired and another gets embraced," Keisling says. "Both of those stories really strike home because we now all know transgender people."
Regular readers of this blog are just ahead of the pack, that's all.
I blame the Internet. You see, there's so much more information now, we know that we're not alone, we're not even that rare. 26 months ago I knew nothing, or rather, I thought I knew things that were incorrect. Starting in May 2005, I did research, and found a plethora of data indicating that the uniqueness I had always taken pride in when everything else was lost was not so unique at all, quite common really. OK, the IPSR "ideopathic partial sex reversal", that was odd, but really not that important compared with how I felt, who I was. I'm still unsure as to how much of the physical change was within "normal" boundaries, and how much was the result of wishful thinking anyway. I know I'm excellent at self-deception, and it would be comforting to think that it's all one long chain of coincidence.
However, there's the photographic evidence, the eyewitnesses, the peculiar blood test results, the slightly atypical pelvic structure, the atrophy of what was borderline hypogonadism, the 15 year old guarded diagnosis of PAIS, and even my latest "1 in 100" post-surgical complications... something is odd, we just don't know what, and by how much.
I still have so much to learn about being a woman. I'll be getting my first hairdo in a week, but have yet to arrange a manicure or makeover. Having a boy nearly 6, medical problems, and a PhD to do all have conspired to stop me from doing some of the things that every woman is entitled to once in her life, even a middle-aged Geek Girl like me.
And I'm due to travel overseas soon, to do a little work that will pay for some of my unplanned-for medical expenses. On the way back, I'll be stopping in Thailand, though whether for a diagnostic exam and first aid, or a more extended period and surgical reconstruction under a general anaesthetic is not decided yet. Hopefully the latter. Anyway, I have to do some clothes shopping, to present a "professional appearance". With a very few exceptions, my wardrobe is all from second-hand stores, and I really need a good pair of knee boots too. The work I'm doing will pay for that though, and my surgeon gives a lifetime guarantee on his work : even when the subsequent problems are unforeseeable and not the result of his surgery anyway. He rarely has to do any follow-up, he's still the best in the world.
I'm not sure that the client I'm working for knows of my unusual medical history. But no matter, they're hiring me anyway, and not for my looks!