On December 2nd, two documentary films were shown at the Guild Theater in Sacramento. They were films about the lives of Transgender Women, and other members of the LGBTQ community. The films are part of a three-part event trying to promote solidarity, and knowledge about the LGBT community.
What does the new Gender Recognition Act mean for California
For many of us socialization, our family and school taught us about the gender binary. We learned to categorize people into a box: either you are female or male. Girl or boy. Feminine or masculine. Pink or blue. On the surface, the gender binary helps us make sense of the world in simplistic black-or-white terms; however, boxing gender into just two categories doesn’t allow for the exploration or freedom for one to discover one’s individual gender expression and identity.
Think about it – How many times have we taught our young children to stay within their gender lanes? Multiple studies have shown that when interacting with babies as young as 3 months old, adults play with babies differently based on the babies’ perceived gender (look up the Baby X experiment). “Boys aren’t supposed to play with dolls. Nice girls don’t run around and roll around in the dirt. Boys will be boys. Nice girls behave.” What’s wrong with these statements, you ask?
Not only are we constricting and imposing gender roles on impressionable and malleable children, we are not allowing our children to explore and express who they really are. We are also teaching our children to be intolerant of differences. While at times the gender binary can be confining, in other times, the gender binary can have even more insidious effects.
If we dig deeper into the gender binary, we find that gender norms often go hand in hand. For example, female-identified individuals are expected to be feminine, soft, nurturing, submissive, and uphold purity. Male-identified folks are held to a masculine, assertive, action-oriented, dominating standard. On the surface, these are harmless generalizations but upon closer inspection, they can breed toxic masculinity and patriarchy that oppresses women and men alike.
It is not a coincidence that transgender women are at very high risk of homicide and suicide in the U.S. For people who have wholly invested their identity on the gender binary, when they encounter people who do not prescribe to the same ideals, it can cause people to be confused, scared, or act out violently and aggressively to nonbinary people who are simply trying to live their authentic lives. There are whole courses in college dedicated to this topic that this article can hardly scratch the surface of. Embracing the concept of non-binary gender expressions is just one way of disintegrating the gender binary.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, non-binary gender is defined as a someone whose gender expression does not fit neatly into being either male or female. Under the umbrella of non-binary gender expression, a person can identify as being a mix of female and male or fluctuating between male and female at any given moment and many more nuanced expressions. There are numerous terms to describe this spectrum, such as agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, and bigender. These terms are not necessarily interchangeable and the differences may be subtle but important. It is crucial to note that although some transgender and intersex people may identify as non-binary, it does not mean the same thing and not all identify as such.
This idea of non-binary gender is not new, not something created by the young whippersnappers of today’s generation, and not a phase. Being nonbinary has been recognized by Native American cultures since the dawn of time and have been given a name – Two Spirit. In fact, most Native American cultures recognize 5 genders – female, male, Two Spirit female, Two Spirit male, and transgender. In the Native American culture, parents give their children gender-neutral clothing from birth to encourage them to form their own gender expression and identity. Community members revered Two Spirit people because they were perceived as wiser for being able to tap into both masculine and feminine perspectives.
I’d like to think that some regions in our country, specifically California, are slowly changing to more inclusive practices for the better. In October of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into effect the Gender Recognition Act, which will allow transgender, non-binary, and intersex individuals to update their gender on state-issued identification documentation to a third gender – non-binary. This includes California state-issued IDs, driver’s licenses, birth certificates.
The Gender Recognition Act will streamline the process to make it easier for individuals to change their gender on legal documentation by bypassing the requirement to obtain a sworn statement from a physician confirming that they have gone through clinical treatment. The law also allows minors to update the gender on their birth certificate with parental permission. The Gender Recognition Act will go into effect in 2019.
So how can you be a good ally to the non-binary community? If this is your first encounter with the non-binary community and you are confused, that is okay and understandable. The great news is you don’t need to have full comprehension of the gender spectrum to be a respectful human being. A good rule of thumb is to never assume someone’s gender. You can respectfully inquire about someone’s gender by asking for their gender pronouns. Introduce yourself and your pronouns and then ask them for theirs in return. And the best thing to do is simply listen.
On April, 16th, 2016, the Transgender Law Center and Equality California established a new campaign called TransForm California in regards to disintegrate the historical oppression and discrimination against transgender and non-conforming gender folks by promoting legal rights, respect, understanding, and safety for those whom identify along those aspects.
The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric
“California and its residents are known around the world for standing up for the values of tolerance and equality,” said Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Trans people should have the freedom to live their lives, to dream, and to plan for the future without worrying about their safety or basic rights. I am proud to add my voice to the broad coalition supporting Transform California, a new step in the march toward full inclusion for our trans brothers and sisters.” Garcetti launched the campaign in his city on April 18th, 2016.
There is a coalition of eight agencies that make up the executive committee members although and 27 steering committee members from all from throughout California that are behind this project. Along with taking a stance with beginning this movement all coalition members, Mayor Garcetti signed a Transform California pledge; vowing to combat discrimination against transgenders and non-conforming genders.
“I hope you’ll join me by going to TransformCalifornia.com today and signing our pledge to make the Golden State a place where all people can feel safe and live free from discrimination,” said Pat Manuel, a participant in the Transform California rally that took place in front of Los Angeles City Hall on April 18th.
During November people around the country participated in Transgender Awareness Month to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues that these communities face. The month of awareness featured some smaller celebrations such as “Trans Awareness Week” and the “Transgender Day of Remembrance.”
In Sacramento a local transgender youth by the name of Ronnie Swinburn recently wrote an article for the BHC Pride Action Team. I was able to interview him on the importance of celebratory months like these.
Kiara: What does it mean for you to be a transgender youth in Sacramento?
Ronnie: Personally, from experience I think that being an openly identified transgender youth in Sac or in general, makes us a prime discriminatory target not only from the cisgender community yet even occasionally within the LGBTQ+ community as well.
Kiara: Why is it important for young people to be aware of what it means to be transgender?
Ronnie: It is vital that other youth are educated on what it means not just to be transgender but the lifetime process it is, and the dysphoria that constantly occurs during the midst and in some cases even after a physical transition has been completed. Youth also need to understand that all “transgender” men and women are not unnaturally different than any other human on this planet because of how they display their personal life to society. I say this because individually, having our own differences in physical attributes, mental/emotional aspects, and overall consciousness is what unites us as a species of human beings.
Kiara: To your comfort level can you describe your transition and your journey? How was the acceptance and reaction? The hardships? Places you draw strength from?
Ronnie: I identify as an FTM (female-to-male) and I am pre-everything, which implies I have not started hormone therapy or had any surgeries, although that’s just a few of the factors within my personal transition. Most don’t realize that the “transition” itself is not only the physical process yet as well as a social transition for my close peers, family members and other correlations I maintain with associates in my community. For the most part I am fairly accepted/viewed as how I identify my gender yet every now and then I meet a handful of people who either mess up my pronouns since they never had to encounter dialogue with a trans-person or simply won’t acknowledge my proper pronouns and think my lifestyle is a “choice” due to them not being educated or having a authenticated idea of what it means to be transgender.
Kiara: What places are there for other transgender youth/people in Sacramento for support or acceptance etc.
Ronnie: Within Midtown Sacramento there is various places transgender youth or LGBTQ+ youth in general can go to for support, recreational purposes or even just to meet a new face. A few of those places I have been involved with or recommend is the LGBT Center of Sacramento or its extension of the “QSpot” where multiple weekly youth groups are held, the Gender Health Center which provides hormonal medical attention to those in transitioning also counseling services for youth and adults that identify anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum or even those who are cisgender, and the Lavender Library that I personally enjoy because of their brief selection of books on LGBTQ+ History.
Kiara: What do you do when someone gets your pronoun incorrectly?
Ronnie: When someone uses the wrong pronouns at first I tend to deeply interpersonalize it and eventually initiate self-doubt that I am not visibly presenting who I am on the inside outwardly thru my appearance well enough to be classified as the gender I identify. That alone begins what seems like everlasting.
To learn more about Ronnie and read about his journey visit: www.calendow.org
With Caitlyn Jenner recently on the front of many magazine covers, many Americans have come to have a new understanding of the transgender community, and all people who are qualified as LGBT or Q. Even so, organizations in our area have had trouble finding proper placement for LGBTQ foster youth.
Just in time for many events designed to raise awareness and show off pride, a Foster Parent Recruitment will be taking place on June 17th, from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. The event will be held at 3 Fold Communications, 2031 K Street.
According to an article on hrc.org, 4 in 10 LGBTQ youths feel that the community they are in are not accepting of people like them.
Familieslikeours.org has been reported as saying, “the need to provide safe foster homes for LGBT&Q youth has been increasing nationally. It is estimated that between 15% – 20% of current foster youth identify as LGBT&Q, and nearly 40% of run away street kids are LGBT&Q; it is estimated that 30% of which are in, or have been in the foster care system.”
The goal of the event is to hopefully gain a few new LGBTQ affirming homes, as well as raise awareness of a subject not often thought of or talked about. Every foster child, no matter what their orientation, have needs to be met and should be treated with kindness and respect.
You can email the co-chairs Ben Hudson or Bev Kearney at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Those interested in attending the event are urged to RSVP with Karen Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do so before noon on June 12th.