I who may well be...

Musings from the perspective of a human being who may well be not locatable completely within the usual categories of male or female or gay or straight or transsexual or intersexed or exploiter or exploited or supplier or consumer or performer or spectator.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


As a social justice campaigner, I like hanging out with other people committed to the cause of ... well, humanity, I guess. I never imagined I'd find that at the local church. But, there we are, a very small congregation of special people, like Jesus, outcasts and rebels and heroes, many of us expelled from other churches by the same sort of hypocrites who beset the Christ, sharing communion and appreciation for what we have, and appreciation for what we are, and what we are worth as human beings.

I was invited to this church after having a few articles published in the local newspaper (South Sydney Herald) they produce as an act of social outreach/ consciousness raising. I was becoming more and more concerned by the right wing hijacking of Christianity to justify their pro-war anti-gay anti-women agendas, which by my reading of the Gospels is antithetical to the teachings and examples of Jesus. I had not been at church since I'd been a child, and I was curious to see what the sort of intelligent adults who made the local newspaper made of Christianity. I was also keen to meet one of the ministers of this church, Dorothy McCrae-McMahon, who has been one of my heroes since she controversially came out as a lesbian while in a high position in the Uniting Church.

That was about six months ago, and since then I have only missed a few Sundays, and even then I knew my congregation were cheering me on in absentia while I was "on a mission" at the concentration camps at Baxter and Villawood. It's really good to be accepted, queer, barefoot and colourful, by this warm congregation that includes a virtuosa opera singer, a gay couple with their two kids, a few local "characters", a hard-working Labor Party hack, and little old ladies with somewhat amazing histories. (Some of those little old ladies came along to support me performing slightly nude at an avant-garde cabaret night, and appreciated what I was doing in terms of gender illusion and illusion shattering, without being obsessed by perceptions of prurience. My mother, on the other hand, when I said some ladies from church had come along to my show, snorted "I wonder what they would've made of THAT!!")

Unlike the authoritarian mode many churches are bound in, the Uniting Church leave it up to each individual to assess the truth of the Bible themselves. This seems to me more in line with Jesus exhortations not to caught up in legalistic detail, but to follow the spirit, to love one another and not obsess about how much of what herb is allowable. (see, for example, Matthew 23:23 - "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.")

Whether or not Jesus actually existed as an historical figure who said all the things attributed to him in the records made fifty or more years after the event is irrelevant. In Jesus I find an inspirational hero, like Bhudda or Superman, and I embrace their values of universal compassion and being true to oneself at all costs. And I get a lot out of being with other people who also find those values inspirational. And I really, really like the singing.

I find it particularly ironic that Christianity is being used to justify "family values", when Jesus is so dismissive of mindless loyalty to his family of origin, and not even remotely supportive of marriage. ( A couple of quick examples: Matthew 10:35 - "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." Matthew 10:37 - "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." , and Luke 20:35 - "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage", and my favourite on Jesus total lack of support for heterosexist supremacy: Matthew 19:10-12 "His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

And who are the "eunuchs"? Some suggest it is people whose sexual behaviour does not cause offspring, so may include gay folk and infertile intersex people. I suspect it is simply about people who do not see their potential or actual partners as "other", as objects to be manipulated or owned. And the kingdom of heaven is not just some place we go to when we die. Jesus makes it clear (to me) that his teachings are about the here and now, and heaven is a way of living here and now, as, sadly, for many, hell is.

My Jesus is the anarchist who kicks over the money changers tables in the temples, who denounces the pharisees, lawyers and hypocrites, who says that love is all that matters, and demands acceptance for all of humanity. He preaches against the violence of the state, which in the end crucified him, but truth cannot be destroyed. (How can Bush or Howard claim to lead Christian cultures into war? Ah, clearly the hypocrisy Jesus preached against was not limited to his time!) You may have noticed that the title of this article observes that "I ANARCHIST" is an anagram of "A CHRISTIAN".

Anyway, you can find me any Sunday morning (demos permitting), 10am, at the Uniting Church in Raglan St Waterloo (just up the hill from Pitt St). Come as you are, and sing a song with me. And remember, not all Christians are rabid Papists who quote the Old Testament to bash poofters while conveniently ignoring the bits about not wearing mixed fabrics or what price to charge for your slave's children. Some are nice nuns who believe in the prince of peace, and some are queer anarchists more likely to be chanting "Om Namah Shiva" than saying "Grace".

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Sex/Law Tango/Tangle

Social progress is so often a matter of three steps forward and two steps back.

In 1996, we (transsexuals) were included in the Anti-Discrimination Act of NSW, but only "recognised transgender persons" were guaranteed equal treatment with others of their gender. To be a "recognised transgender person", you must change your birth certificate, which requires (A) being born in a state (or country) that allows for such a change, and (B) satisfying the prerequisites for such a change, which means having had irreversible surgical procedures for the purpose of living in the "new" gender. This may mean a full vaginoplasty or penoplasty, or be as "simple" as a hysterectomy or hormone implants.

In 2004, it was established that in Australian Federal law, the legal sex of a person is not determined solely by the sex assigned at birth, but by the sex they are now, which is influenced by how they are seen by their social environment, and by supporting surgery. This was a judgment by the Full Court of the Family Court, "In Re Kevin", in which it was held that a transgendered man (who had not had full penoplasty, but had undergone some other transsexual medical processes) was a man for the purpose of the Marriage Act.

This would seem to shift the drawing of lines for when transgendered people must be considered legally to be of the sex they present as.

Yet there have been retrograde decisions too, such as the granting of exemptions to apparently allow Mission Australia and Edward Eager lodge to discriminate against transgendered people.

Mission Australia’s exemption states that they may run women-only services, but transgendered women are a kind of women, and I cannot see how they are allowed to use the old criteria of "Recognised Transgendered Persons" for the only transwomen allowed in, when In Re Kevin supercedes this state law. In Re Kevin says that what you are now is what you are now, not neccesarily what was assigned at birth, so a transwoman is a woman even if her birth certificate is male.

Edward Eager Lodge accepts transwomen and treats them as men, and vice versa for transmen. This is contrary to the principles of good welfare provision, where the humiliation of needy people is no longer an accepted practice.

To add insult to injury, I have just been informed that SAAP (Supported Acomodation Assistance Progam), which funds many agencies including Edward Eager Lodge, Mission Australia, and the Gender Centre, is asking all agencies to report the sex of clients, with sex defined "as a biological distinction between male and female, whereas gender is a self-identifying term. An example may be in the case of a client who was born with male anatomy but identifies as female. Under the new guidelines, that client should be recorded as male". Of course this is contrary to the NSW law applying to "recognised transgender persons" and flies in the face of the federal legal ruling of In Re Kevin.

I am working with the Gender Centre and SAGE (Sex and Gender Education) Australia to change the exclusionary practices of Mission Australia, and against an extension of Edward Eager Lodge’s exemption, and to try and have the bureaucrats of SAAP adopt a more respectful and legally appropriate practice.

On a brighter note, those transsexuals who were born in the UK can now have their birth certificates changed to reflect the appropriate gender. (See Polare for more details, or go to pfc.org.uk)

But Lord only knows what complications will follow the federal government’s amendments to the Marriage Act made last August, which prohibit people of the same sex marrying in Australia, and render invalid in Australia any marriage made homosexually overseas, but do not address the question of marriages made heterosexually that become homosexual by virtue of one partner changing sex, or of marriages made heterosexually overseas but the partners are the same sex in Australia (due to the different determinations of legal sex in different jurisdsictions).

In Iran, transsexuals are now recognised as their self-identified sex.... after sex-change surgery. But homosexuality (or any sex a pre-op trany girl has with a man) still gets a wall pushed on top of you. Not surprisingly, there is a reduction in the number of "in-betweenies" (my frivolous term for people like me who are of ambiguous or androgynous gender) or effeminate queens, and an increase in "women trapped in men’s bodies" seeking surgery and gender "normalisation".

Ah, wouldn’t it be nice to just be accepted as a human being, without having to have a "normal" Type A or B identity, or without having to get universal agreement about what your sex or gender is.

On the plus side, glamourous transwoman Miriam charmed Big Brother in Australia, while another transwoman won the UK series last year. More and more transgender people are being visible in many varied fields, from the glamour of TV to the grind of politics. I met Georgina Bayer a few months ago, the transsexual woman who retired (from showbiz) to the country, got interested in local council politics, and after being elected Mayor a couple of times and then local MP, is now being courted by the national politicians in New Zealand. Despite the many legal and other challenges we face, there is room for us to achieve in whatever fields we choose, without our trans identity limiting us.

The world is a changing place, but by and large most people are more accepting of diversity than they may have been ten or twenty years ago. There are still bigots, but they are by far the minority, and far less influential than in bygone days. And enough of us have survived, to build support for each other, to grow strong and assert our right to exist on equal terms with others. We know there’s nothing wrong with who we are, even if that doesn’t fit nicely into other people’s expectations or the standard sex categories.
And, as transgendered people, our liminal nature may even be a gift to the world.
The law, of course, remains an ass, but such is life.
Useful links:


If your home is being bombed, you flee for safety.

If you’re gay or transsexual and you live somewhere where this is horrifically punished, you flee for safety.

If your family is starving and you can feed them if you go to another country, you go to another country.

If you speak out against tyranny and injustice, and the state then tries to kill you, you flee for your life.

The people who come to Australia outside the normal immigration channels come here because they had little choice. They are not so much seeking a better life as simply seeking a continued life.

If I have a million dollars, I can do just about anything I want with it anywhere in the world I want, with the protection of trade agreements stopping any local govermental or environmental concerns.

If all I have is my labour, well, the sex industry may be the most rewarding, but I am subject to incarceration if I am caught without state approval. And states never approve immigration for sex workers.

Incarcerated at the concentration camps in Australia are gay men fleeing death or other persecution aimed at sexual diversity. And sex workers who came to Australia just to feed their children. And children who no longer have parents, who fled bombs raining down on their villages. And people facing death sentences in their country of origin because they dared speak out against the tyrannical regimes there.

We consider ourselves to have a fair and just system of government, where people are free to pursue their own interests, and are not persecuted for not being "normal". We haven’t been invaded or bombed in the last fifty years. It’s not surprising that many people fleeing their countries for the sorts of reasons outlined above will flee to Australia.

Why then do we lock up asylum seekers and "illegal immigrants"? It’s more than a bit hypocritical, considering the dodgy legality of our own government’s claim to rule Australia in place of the indigenous people who previously had sovereignty and who never relinquished that sovereignty. It’s to make us feel superior and "safe" from "foreigners", we who for the most part can’t speak one word of the languages native to this country. It’s to make money for the international corporation that profits based on how many people are locked up and how many costs if can cut.

We may consider ourselves to be fair and just, but as long as we lock up people for nothing other than seeking shelter in our country, we are not fair or just. If we want to have a fair and just society, we must close down the immigration detention regime. And if we want to have a fair and just society, people with labour to offer must be as free as people with capital to invest.
Globalise labour, not just capital! Close the concentration camps and free the refugees. The greatest evil in this country since the extermination of aboriginals by the early white invaders is being perpetrated now. You and I will probably live another twenty years at least. What do you want to say to the young people in twenty years time when they ask you what you did to stop the concentration camps?

"When they came for the communists I didn’t speak out: I wasn’t a communist. When they imprisoned the social democrats I didn’t speak out: I wasn’t a social democrat. When they came for the unionists I didn’t speak out: I wasn’t a unionist. When they came for the Jews I didn’t speak out: I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me there was no one left who could have spoken out."