Transverse: Spirit Day, Healthy Masculinity, and the World's First Transgender Bird
Are you wearing purple today? If not, consider throwing on a different shirt, because today is GLAAD's Spirit Day: an annual visibility campaign to highlight and fight bullying against LGBT youth (you can also change your Twitter and Facebook profiles in support).
GLAAD does a great job of addressing media portrayals of LGBT folks (I'm in hearty agreement with their tag line: "Words and images matter"), and with a campaign aimed at stopping harassment of LGBTQ youth, I got curious about how this could be of benefit to trans kids in particular. Folks from George Takei to Shaquille O'Neal to Wendy Williams have thrown their weight behind the cause, but GLAAD has also included several trans people as "Ambassadors" this year, including former People.com editor and advocate Janet Mock and Tiq Milan of the MTV reality show I'm with Rolling Stone and the awesome ad campaign above.
Tiq works with youth at New York's Hetrick-Martin, so I called him up to learn more about how GLAAD hopes to reach trans youth. "When it comes to bullying, trans kids a lot of time get bullied the worst," he told me, "particularly young trans people that are in schools or in towns where they're really misunderstood -- you know, young trans folks that are trying to transition but may not have the money for the hormones or the surgeries that they may want or they may need; and [trans kids] who are not on the gender binary."
But violence isn't just physical. To GLAAD's larger mission, how we're represented matters. Tiq runs a group for trans youth and their partners, and says that representation is often a topic of conversation there. He says trans guys bemoan the lack of visibility, period, while trans women have other concerns. "The idea of trans-masculinity for the media-at-large is a fairly new idea.... There's also this stereotype of trans women as prostitutes, or only being prostitutes, of putting their sexuality before their humanity. And young people see these things all the time, so it's important that they understand that they're more than what they see on television."
So if you're wearing purple today, but you're concerned about how to better support trans kids, Tiq has some advice for adult allies, especially trans folks: "Just be there for them, because I know it's easy for us to go through our transition and then we've already been through the shit, and we've transitioned and we're living our lives -- but there's somebody behind us that's going through that too. So you've got to pull people up as you go."
Speaking of pulling people up as you go, today's also the final day of the amazing Healthy Masculinity Summit in Washington D.C. In this War on Women moment, the male-bodied among us need to step up and create positive counter-narratives of masculinity. Topics for the conference include violence against women and girls, race, and faith, but I'm especially excited by their inclusion of sexual orientation and gender expression as a panel, as well as one titled "Engaging Bi, Gay, and Transgender Men through Healthy Masculinity."
We're all better served by expanding definitions of masculinity, and this is a great step toward that goal. Consider checking out Men Can Stop Rape or any of the other excellent partners involved with the conference.
Finally, a fun reason to peacock this weekend: the world's first "transgender" bird. Technical issues aside (scientists are still sorting out the source of the bird's mixed plumage and cross-gender behavior; i.e. was it "born this way"?), the Dominion Post story will sound familiar to us trans humans:"'There's something we can't pin down. We haven't seen anything like this before,' [conservation officer Erin Jeneway] said.Ms. Jeneway refers to the bird as "her" while coworker Matu Booth uses "him" -- both hope to find out who's right if the bird survives and breeds.'"I'm pulling for a non-binary trans identity for our feathered friend, myself; I'd love my next post to be about ornithologists adopting gender-neutral pronouns.