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November 18, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-18

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8A -

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- The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 18, 2004 NEws
"PRANSGENDER PERSONS ENCOUNTER SEVERE DIFFICULTIES IN VIRTUALLY EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR LIVES, BOTH
INTERNALLY IN COPING WITH THEIR OWN FEELINGS, AND THEN SOCIALLY IN INTERACTING WITH OTHERS.
- UNIVERSITY'S REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON THE CAMPUS CLIMATE
FOR TRANSGENDER, BISEXUAL, LESBIAN AND GAY FACULTY, STAFF AND STUDENTS

T~

0e

hiving I
TRANSGENDER
Continued from page 1A
three children. She now has estranged relation-
ships with some family members and says the
hardest part of transitioning is the anguish the
decision can cause in relationships. "I've had a
long life that I can't just ignore," she said.
Choosing to Live - Andre
Wilson came to the University as an under-
graduate transfer student in 1978. He graduated
in 1986 and entered the College of Architecture
in 1996. He describes his experiences as a "typi-
cal transsexual story."
"Things were really hard. ... It was like slog-
ging through mud," he said.
Wilson said he felt a deep sense of confusion
in finding happiness, describing his struggle for
identity. "I didn't hate my body, it just didn't feel
like mine," he said. "Everything was on strike, my
body and my mind, and I couldn't read the words
on the picket signs," he said, describing the point a
few years ago when his life slowed to a halt.
"Finally I realized that I had been repressing
something very big and it was the fact that I am
transgendered," he said.
Eventually, he said he realized he had a life-
or-death decision to make - for him, choosing
to live meant accepting his transsexuality and
beginning a transition.
"The most miserable, self-hating moments are
when one is in the closet," he said.
A lesbian during his life as a woman, Wilson
realized that coming out as a transsexual was a
big next step.
However, he feared that by transitioning, he
would lose his friends and the support that he
received from the gay and lesbian community.
He feared some people might view the transi-
tion from "an out female-to-male transsexual" as
"taking the easy route out of lesbianism."
Once he made the decision to transition, how-
ever, he said his life prospects turned around.

outside the world of sexual

"Within two days of starting hormones, I was
a different person," he said.
He said that for the first time, he felt like a
fully functioning person.
Wilson said his suicidal thoughts and feelings
waned and his depression lifted; things now feel
right for the first time in his life, he says.
He emphasized the difficulty that transgender
people face when trying to receive proper
medical care.,
"To get medical services, you have to con-
vince others of your identity," Wilson said.
"Most doctors refuse to treat transsexuals."
He also said almost all insurance carriers
have exclusions against transgender people.
Despite this, Wilson emphasized that he
is "cheaper" to cover now than before his
transition, since hormone therapy has made
his depression virtually disappear and he is
now taking fewer medications.
He said he would have transitioned a
quarter of a century earlier, if not for the
lack of information, medical services and
social support.
Happy with his decision to transition
from female to male, Wilson says he will
never go back, but his struggle is far from
over. "I do not know how I could find a job
as an architect as an out female-to-male
transsexual," he said.
Opting Out of Surgery - Stephen
Stephen Rassi is a 50-year-old trans-
gendered individual and is currently a doctoral
student in social work and psychology. He
emphasizes that transgender is an umbrella
term encompassing a wide variety of people,
not just those who are transsexual.
"There are so many different ways that people
can be, you can't put them on a chart," he said.
Rassi said at the age of 18 or 19, he fell in love
with another man. At the time, he says he did
not even know what it meant to be homosexual.
At the age of 33, he said he realized he could not

see himself living life as a straight person. But at
that point, he was not exactly sure where he fit in.
"I'm not a woman, I'm not a man, I'm some-
where in between," he said.
Rassi struggles with what he describes as a
society that makes people feel they must fit into
prescribed categories of gender.
He said people could be any gender and any

transsexual individuals, or those wt
into gender stereotypes, being fire
based solely on their gender identitie
In 1984, the Seventh Circuit Cot
case of Ulane v. Eastern Airlines. Z
based upon a transsexual who ha
from her job as a pilot for Eastern
she underwent sex change surger
denied transsexuals the rig
tion under the Title VII, w
protect against discriminatio
in regard to job discriminati
In 1989, a case was br
U.S. Court of Appeals for
of Columbia Circuit. The
Waterhouse v. Hopkins, wa
woman who claimed she h
brought up for promotion b
ure to conform to gender
The court ruled that sex
tion was protected underI
this case, specifically, tha
are not allowed to discrimi
employees who do not conf
gender stereotypes.
In a 2004 case, Smith v.
the Sixth District Court rule(
ful for employers to discrim
those who do not conform t(
reotypes. This case involved,
who had been working as a fi
seven years, when she was fi
the transgender community h
case will lead to more transgender
Title VII.
Moving Forward
Currently, there is a growing sta
movement attempting to make up fo
call the lack of federal protection
dered individuals.
"It discriminates against an en
people simply for who they are," sai
A University report issued earlier

categories
ho did not fit ter highlights the lack of federal protections.
d from jobs "At the present time there is thus little likeli-
s. hood that significant protections will be forth-
urt heard the coming from the federal government," said the
The case was University's TBLG Taskforce Report.
d been fired In 1999, Ann Arbor became one of only five
Airlines after cities in Michigan to include gender identity in
y. The court city laws against discrimination.
;ht to protec- The others include Grand Rapids, Ypsilanti,
hich aims to Detroit and Huntington Woods.
)n, especially Despite the lack of federal protection, the
on. University's transgender community is trying
ought to the to make strides in order to receive more societal
the District recognition.
case, Price A task force created last spring has result-
.s based on a ed in a thick report on the campus climate
had not been for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
ased on fail- faculty, staff and students. Some of the rec-
stereotypes. ommendations include increased education
discrimina- about LGBT issues and more funding for the
Title VII; in Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-
t employers gender Affairs. Another recommendation
nate against is the creation of more "non-binary" gen-
orm to rigid dered, unisex bathrooms to provide a safer
zone for transgendered individuals than tra-
Salem Ohio, ditional male and female bathrooms.
d it is unlaw- "I don't use binary named bathrooms ... it feels
inate against bad; internally, deeply terrible," said Wilson.
o gender ste- He said when he is forced to make a choice
a transsexual between bathrooms, he acutely feels disconnect
ire fighter for between his gender identity and what society
red. Those in regards as the proper way to act, according to
hope that this one's gender.
rights under He also expressed concern that there are issues of
safety when others in the transgender community are
forced to decide which restroom they should use.
This is just one of many issues that the Uni-
ate and local versity is beginning to respond to regarding the
r what many transgender community on campus.
of transgen- The Office of LGBT Affairs is also sponsoring
several events in the next month in order to raise
tire class of awareness about the transgender community.
d Wilson. This Friday, there will be a Transgender Day of
r this semes- Remembrance Rally held on the Diag at noon.

0

sexuality, or any combination.
Despite his conflict with society's expecta-
tions, he says he has no desire to transition from
male to female. He says he is comfortable being
himself, although American society provides no
word for who he is. "I have no interest at all in
surgery and hormones."
Ruling on Gender
There have been few notable cases regarding
transgender legal rights. All of the cases involved

"SINCE TRANSGENDERISM IS GENERALLY AN
INTENSELY PRIVATE MATTER, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE
TO ESTIMATE ITS INCIDENCE, ALTHOUGH
CLEARLY IT IS NOT EXTREMELY RARE."

"TRANSGENDER PERSONS MAY BE EITHER
HETEROSEXUAL OR HOMOSEXUAL WITH

"AT THE PRESENT TIME THERE IS THUS LITTLE
LIKELIHOOD THAT SIGNIFICANT PROTECTIONS

SI

RESPECT TO THEIR NON-

BIRTH SEX" FOR TRANSGENDERISM WILL BE FORTHCOMING
FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
ALL QUOTES FROM THE UNIVERSITY'S REPORT ON THE CAMPUS CLIMATE FOR TRANSGENDER, BISEXUAL, LESBIAN AND GAY FACULTY, STAFF AND STUDENTS

f I

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