All that Jazz?

Jazz Jennings posing with her book that was written to support transgender teens.

Fourteen-year-old Jazz Jennings became a You Tube star as she advocated for transgender rights.  Recently, Clean and Clear featured her in an online advertising campaign called “See the Real Me.”  [youtube][/youtube].

Now she is becoming the first to star in a reality TV show that focuses on the life of a transgender teen.  According to CNN, the show called “All That Jazz” will debut on TLC in the summer of 2015 and focus on Jazz and her family “dealing with typical teen drama through the lens of a transgender youth.”

I’m glad to see more shows with diverse casts that feature people in in more complex ways who are transgendered.  But, given that TLC is the same network that featured such “reality” shows as Here comes Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers and Tiaras, I am not holding my breath waiting for a thoughtful portrayal of the life of a young person who also happens to be transgendered.

If this show falls prey to the same oversimplified, one-dimensional representations of gender that some of the other TLC shows include, this leaves us with question: Is it better to have no or few representations of a person who is transgendered, or one that may have some truths to it, while overemphasizing “drama” and perhaps reinforcing some stereotypes too?

Is it a phase?

The Whittington Family released a Youtube video of their son, Ryland, and it went viral. It is a video about their son’s story and how they found out he was transgendered. Ryland was born female, but by the time he could speak, he identified as a boy. The family wasn’t sure if he was just ‘going through a phase’ like most parents thought, but it became more evident as he grew up and identified stronger. They eventually sought out professionals on the subject, and they all came to the conclusion that he was in fact, transgender. They, as parents, realized that this is their child and they wanted to do everything they could to make them happy and stray away from the statistics that they learned about when children are forced to be something they are not.

The family received support and also a lot of backlash from the community and the viewers of the video. To the point that the comments have been disabled from the video so the backlash could discontinue. Dr. Richard Besser, on his interview with inside edition, confirms that by the age of 4 to 5, people are able to gender identify themselves and know that it is true. He says that, “what your child really needs from you is love, compassion, total acceptance, not judgement.” The parents of Ryland show just that, and he has “never been happier in his entire life.”[youtube][/youtube]

Grey Area to Bridge the Gap

A popular ABC primetime show Grey’s Anatomy never ceases to amaze viewers on what the patients and staffers might do next. If you are an avid fan but have not watched Season 11 or the episode from Feburary 19th you may not want to continue reading, blog post contains spoilers.
The Feburary 19th episode of Grey’s introduced a new character Kurt Warren, Dr. Ben Warrens brother.  Kurt and Ben were shown in the beginning of the show spreading their deceased fathers ashes and when trying to return home Kurt collapsed and fell down a rocky hill.  Once Kurt was admitted into the hospital the doctors found out that his lab results showed very high levels of hormones and drugs that should have not been there.   Kurt later told sister-in-law Miranda Bailey that he was trying to be come a she.

On a gossip tv website TVLine the secret is revealed that Kurt’s storyline and transition is going to become a primary theme in this season of Grey’s Anatomy.  Why is it so important that Kurt becomes a story line rather than a family member who shows up for an episode or two?  Many times the writers of Grey’s introduce new cases, some family members, to relate to things going on in the world.  However, Kurt is here to stay because more of the American population is coming out as transgendered and our society needs to be aware of what that really means and how to need to adapt.   In Chapter two of Gendered Lives queer theory is moving beyond the two binary labels.  This theme in Grey’s Anatomy is helping to close gap between the “black and white” binary labels.

More controversy will be on the rise from this because Kurt was using illegal drugs to become a woman?  Now the hospital is going to help him transition?  According to the TVLine article Kurt will gain a love interest.  Do you think there should/ will be more characters and shows like this on tv?

Just Ask Milla

Recently I came across this video and it stuck a chord with me because of what we have been covering in class.  I was willing to sit through the 7 minute video because I believe that there was an incredibly personal story behind it.  Milla was born a girl, but from an extremely young age he identified as a male.  Growing up Milla liked to dress in boy clothes, underwear, played with boys toys and even liked Batman, Spiderman, Bob the Builder and Ninja Turtles.  Milla was diagnosed with gender dysphoria or the fact that Milla’s gender did not line up with the feelings inside.  Milla was born a female but his brain identifies as a male.  Though I do not know much about this, I could only imagine how hard it must have been for him.

In class we covered what transgender was, and it refers to individuals who feel that their biologically assigned sex does not match their true sexual identity — they are women, despite having male bodies, or men, despite having female bodies.  This video was a great example of how this can affect transpeople of all ages.  They do not have to be in their teens or late adulthood… Some may know as young as Milla.


Bathroom Binary Code

Over 150 universities have bathrooms that are not labeled with binary terms. The bathrooms were changed due to comfort of non-gender conforming students rather then safety concerns. “These are two gender-open bathrooms where students of any gender can go in, and use the restroom, and feel safe, regardless of gender expression or gender identity,” Michelle Margulis (Links to an external site.), president of NU’s Rainbow Alliance LGBT student group told CBS Chicago.




From Bob to Zoey and Back in the Helicopter

Helicopter reporter pilot, Bob Tur, had been a news journalist for 27 years. He covered the O.J. Simpson car chase in 1994 and the LA Riots in 1992.  Bob Tur has recently come out as transgender and has completed the reassignment surgery. He now goes by the name “Zoey Tur” and is the first openly transgender reporter in the United States. As seen in the video, most people are rather supportive of Zoey, however there still are some that are not, like her daughter Katy.

Upon first seeing this segment by Inside Edition, I was amazed by how well Zoey was handling herself. I applaud Zoey for being willing to make her transition public. As she stated in a Los Angeles Magazine article, she “wanted to help others struggling with gender dysphoria, make them feel less marginalized, and show them what transitioning looked like.” While the life of a transgender is rarely without its obstacles, it is amazing that Zoey Tur has chosen to handle herself so gracefully and become a role model to others in the world.

Glee Does it Again…

If you watch Glee, then you will see they have been raising another issue on gender. This time they have brought attention to the transgender and transsexual community. To define transgender, it is when one doesn’t feel that their biological sex matches their gendered identity. A transsexual is one who surgically changes sex so that their physiology is a physical match to their gendered identity.

Despite Sam’s obvious misconceptions, this scene is probably the most heartfelt scene the show has ever produced. However, Sam’s linking gender to sexuality is a common mistake many of us make. We need to stop assigning sexuality to gender. While they are often times related they are in no way linked together. I think the show did a good job on directing our focus to the inner turmoil that leads to the decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery.


Fight Night


In the world of sports there has been a lot of debate over the fighter Fallon Fox, in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Fallon Fox was born a man but now identifies as a woman. She has gone through all of the horomonal and physical changes that qualify her has a legal woman and therefore is allowed to fight in the women’s division in MMA. Many people claim that she has an unfair advantage because she previously developed as a man. They claim that these physical attributes can never fully be taken back and therefore she should not be able to compete against other women.

In my opinion, I believe that Fallon Fox does have some advantages physically over other women she is fighting. She should therefore be required to explain her physical past against her opponent so that they may know what they are getting into when they decide to fight her. I agree with Ronda Rausey, in that there are some physical changes that can not be undone. Fox will almost always be able to perform in a superior way than other female fighters who were born women, purely because of the difference in the biological make-up of men and women.

This debate has given light to the type of situations and questions that transgender people face as well as how society responds to different types of genders. Our society is so use to dealing with just two genders and it is interesting to see how it must adjust in accepting and acknowledging new identities. I love this debate because it shows just how far society has come. It may be hard to distinguish what is fair and unfair, but I’m happy that society is being put to the test. I’m glad that I’m being made to think outside of what I thought was possible. I’m open to new ideas and regulations for different ways that people identify.

Leelah Alcorn, Taken Too Soon

At the end of last year, an Ohio transgendered teenager’s death impacted the world. Leelah Alcorn, born Josh Alcorn, committed suicide by walking in front of ongoing traffic at the end of December, 2014. Her tragic suicide caused the LGBTQ community, and their community’s supporters, to begin an online uproar via a variety of social media websites about how our society needs to become more accepting of everyone.

Leelah wrote and posted her suicide note to the popular social media blogging site, Tumblr, right before she committed suicide. In the note, the teen shares stories of many battles she struggled with throughout her teenage life, most involving her family. Leelah had known since she was 4 years old that she was, “a boy trapped in a girl’s body.” She finally realized that there was a term that accurately represented how she has felt her entire life, and cried tears of joy. However, when she decided to share this news with her family, they weren’t as ecstatic as she was. Her parents had told her that she was just going through a phase and began to take her to therapy sessions that were ran by Christian therapists. These so called therapists kept telling Leelah that she was being selfish and not thinking of her family by wanting to be transgendered. Leelah’s parents and therapists led Leelah into a deep depression she saw no way out of.

Finally, at the age of 17, Leelah had had enough. She felt the only way to truly experience peace was to take her own life. Leelah wants her death not to be something to be upset by, but something to make people realize that our society must change and become more accepting of people who are in the LGBTQ community.  In her suicide note, Leelah stated that, “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s f***ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”


Article on the Leelah Alcorn story.


InTouch: Out of Line

A couple of weeks ago, January 15th to be exact, InTouch magazine released a cover page for their magazine that featured a very feminine Bruce Jenner.

Jenner: Photoshopped on to Stephanie Beacham

The magazine claims to have had an inside scoop on Jenner’s plans to ‘come out’ as transgender during 2015. Following Jenner’s last few years and slight changes and operations InTouch felt as if it was acceptable to consider the cover for print.

Not only does it appear that InTouch failed to be considerate of Jenner’s private life and went for the cover without his consent but they were also extremely insensitive towards others who are transgender by seemingly mocking them.

The cover sees Jenner’s face photoshopped on to an image of Stephanie Beacham from 2013 with added makeup to emphasize what seems to be Jenner’s transition.

The topic that needs to be raised here is, how can it be acceptable for a magazine to distastefully portray transgender people. Putting the topic out there in a manner that comes across as a joke to the public.

Also if you get a chance it’s worthwhile taking a look at how Twitter reacted to the whole situation.