The slideshow above features two very beautiful women, by the names of Jenna Talakova and Lea T. Jenna Talakova is a 2012 Mrs. Universe Canada contestant that advanced all the way to the Top 12 competitors, while Lea T is a reigning supermodel in the fashion industry. Would you be surprised if I told you that both women are MTF (male-to-female) transsexuals? You should be surprised because let’s be honest they are drop-dead gorgeous and look every bit woman. I mention these two beautiful women because; the main topic of discussion in this blog post will be the increasing queer and trans on the online community, which is certainly a good thing for the LGBT community, a group of people who have been historically marginalized by society. The great thing about the online community is it releases people from social, economic, political, and material hierarchies of the real world allowing them to create a safe space to freely express their opinions and find other people of like circumstances to identify with. I will elaborate more on this a little later on in the post, nut before I elaborate I feel the need to explain the inspiration behind this blog.
Upon watching the heart-wrenching documentary Southern Comfort I felt the urge to blog. Southern Comfort follows the decline of Robert Eads, a FTM (female-to-male) transsexual in his last days of life after two-dozen doctors refused to treat Eads’, diagnosed ovarian cancer out of fear this would compromise their reputation. This struck me, because I realized in a little under a year I will be applying to medical school. Potentially in the future as a doctor I could be placed in a compromising situation, like this where I might have to choose between upholding my reputation and choosing to accept a patient at the risk of my practice. I certainly can sympathize with the doctors’ difficulty admitting Mr. Eads as a patient, but at the same I am outraged at the fact that someone was denied treatment and died solely as a result solely of their gender and physical anatomy. Did I not mention that Mr.Eads had the necessary funds to pay for treatment! Sadly, this is the harsh reality of medical profession. I do not necessarily blame these doctors, who were unwilling to treat Mr. Eads I more so blame the societal circumstances (the societal norms of Southern United States during the 1990s) that forced these doctors to make such a biased decision. There are not many other documented cases showing egregious injustice faced by Mr. Eads, but you should know that according to a recent Assessment Study conducted by Gretchen P. Kenagy in 2005, 22.7% of FTM and 14.8% of MTF patients are denied treatment when they seek it from medical professionals. Bone-chilling!
Beginning, in the 20th century the treatment of intersexual-transsexual community became medicalized. We see biopower hard at work as again and the need to conform to compulsory heterosexuality from birth for people of the intersexual-transsexual community.
“The knowledge developed in biochemistry, embryology, endocrinology, psychology and surgery has enabled physicians to control the very sex of the human body…the medical ‘management’ of intersexuality certainly developed as part of an attempt to free people from perceived psychological pain (though whether the pain was the patient’s, the parents’ or the physician’s is unclear)… the same medical accomplishments can be read not as progress but as a mode of discipline” (Sterling, 6).
In other words, the current mindset suggested by the medical field to members of the intersex-transsexual community is that their bodies are unruly and must be fixed by science, because they blur and bridge the great binary divide between what is considered male and what is considered female. Anne Fausto-Sterling, a Professor of Biology and Women’s Studies in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University in her well known essay entitled The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female are Not Enough says this,
“In the idealized, Platonic, biological world, human beings are divided into two kinds: a perfectly dimorphic species…That idealized story papers over [when we consider the fact that] some women have facial hair, some men have none; some women speak with deep voices, some men veritably squeak…On close inspection, absolute dimorphism disintegrates even at the level of basic biology. Chromosomes, hormones, the internal sex structures, the gonads and the external genitalia all vary more than most people realize.” (Sterling, 9)
Furthermore, the intersex-transsexual community confronts traditional beliefs, and raises the specter of homosexuality. Sterling suggests as many of 5 distinctive sexes, in addition to male and female sex. The other three sexes belong to the intersex group: the true hermaphrodites (herms), who possess one testis and one ovary; the male pseudohermaphrodites (the merms), who have testes and some aspects of the female genitalia but no ovaries; and the female pseudohermaphrodites (the ferms), who have ovaries and some aspects of the male genitalia but lack testes.
While discrimination and treatment of LGBTQ community has come a long way since the early 1960’s, it is troubling the great extent a member of the LGTBQ community has to go to find someone to identify with. Fortunately, with recent advances in technology like the Internet, it has become significantly easier for a person to find other members of LGTBQ community. Blogs commonly feature coming out stories, medical facilities where a person can find a doctor willing to treat them, and recommendations about doctors who perform good surgeries (breast implants, voice-box removal, etc). Rahul Mitra and Radhika Gajjala mention in their article entitled Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas: A Dialogical Encounter that, “Anonymity helps a gay blogger to be his or her self online…Anonymity is useful…it allows the blogger to decide how much of him/her self to reveal online…” (418). They then go on to elaborate on the four types of queer bloggers: those who are completely in the “closet” (even to themselves) treating their blog posts as a kind of ‘confession’; those who know they are queer, but are not “out” to anyone else either online or offline but makes ‘contact’ with other queer bloggers online forming a loose connection; those who acknowledge their queerness to themselves and contact other queer bloggers to form a stronger connection might develop into real offline ties/friendships; and lastly those who are completely comfortable with their queerness and are “out” to (some or all of) their offline friends, but are still anonymous because the lack of identity affords them a space to critique, be, act in a manner that will not have personal repercussions in their offline space.
Continuing with the theme support of LGTBQ community found online. In India where the presence of LGTBQ community is still largely marginalized with the exception of the hjiras, homosexual men and women are able to find people to identify with through online blogging and magazines directed at the Indian LGBTQ community like Bombay Dust, Trikone, Shakti, and Khush . Lastly, referencing back to the opening statement, famous transsexuals like Leat T, Jenna Talakova, and not previously mentioned Bell Nuntita (the singing sensation from Thailand’s Got Talent) with their ubiquitous presence on networks like Youtube, Twitter, and Google + inspire other transsexuals (and other members of the LGTBQ community) especially to feel proud of themselves and to pursue their dreams.
I am not a member of the LGTBQ community, but I can certainly relate to the troubles of feeling left out and discriminated against as person of color and as an immigrant. I am have noticed something we all grow up feeling strange in the world, but as we grow older moving forward, we realize it is the world that is strange not us. We are all human who are we to question what makes one happy and what sex that comes in. Let’s face it sexuality is not black and white, but, in fact, more like a box of crayons with over a 100 different colors! Times are changing deal with it, or get left behind to become a relic of the past. We cannot change the past, but we can certainly work together to make tomorrow a better place.
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