Jo from the Student Wellbeing Team (Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service), talks about LGBT+ History Month, this week ‘T is for Trans’…
A number of events have already taken place on campus in support of LGBT+ History this month; if you didn’t make it to anything, there is still one final event coming up! – please see details later in this blog!
Most commonly, the term ‘transgender’ is used to describe:
“An individual whose gender identity does not necessarily match the sex assigned to them at birth” (Stonewall).
However, ‘transgender’ is an inclusive, umbrella term which can be used, more broadly, to describe the diversity of gender identity and expression for all people who do not confirm to common ideas of gender roles, encompassing anyone whose identity or behaviour falls outside of stereotypical gender norms.
Recent years have seen huge strides for trans visibility, with an increase in coverage in mainstream media about people who are transgender and several high profile ‘comings out’ and breakthrough moments:
In April 2015, Caitlyn Jenner (the former Olympic champion previously known as Bruce), revealed on American TV that she now publicly identifies as a woman.
In June 2014, Laverne Cox, a trans actress and star of TV series ‘Orange is the New Black’, appeared on the cover of Time magazine and shortly after made front-page news as the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy Award.
In August 2014, Kellie Maloney, the former boxing promoter previously known as Frank, gave an interview in which she publicly ‘came out’ as trans, in a British national newspaper.
These events come on the heels of a series of breakthrough moments on television that signal that attitudes toward trans people have been shifting. Recent storylines on TV such as ‘Glee’, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and ‘Transparent’ suggest that there is an appetite for more inclusive and realistic storylines for trans characters.
The stories of youth who identify as trans and gender nonconforming have also become the content of many documentaries and films: In ‘Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids’ (BBC Two), the presenter visited a pioneering San Francisco clinic, meeting children who believe they were born in the wrong body, and the medical professionals helping them make the transition to change sex at ever-younger ages.
With this increased visibility in popular culture and tabloid headlines, the national conversation around gender identity appears to have reached a new level and the term ‘transgender’ to have now fully entered mainstream consciousness.
However, trans history can be traced back as far as pre-1800!
Prior to western contact, many American Native tribes had third-gender roles, including terms for people assigned male at birth who assumed traditionally feminine roles, and people assigned female at birth who took on traditionally masculine roles. These individuals were often referred to as ‘Two-Spirited’.
During the American Civil War (1861–1865) at least 240 people assigned female at birth are known to have worn what was traditionally men’s clothing and fought as soldiers. It was believed that some may have worn men’s clothes because they weren’t allowed to fight presenting as ‘female’. However, others were transgender and continued to live as men throughout their lives. One such notable soldier was Albert Cashier.
Jennie June (born in 1874 as Earl Lind) wrote ‘The Autobiography of an Androgyne’ (1918) and ‘The Female Impersonators’ (1922), which are memoirs that provide rare first-person testimony about the early-20th-century life of a transgender person. The word ‘transgender’ had not yet been coined, and June described herself as ‘androgyne’ – an individual, she said, “with male genitals, but whose physical constitution and sexual life approach the female type”.
Before and up to the 1900s, there were also many more trans individuals who were forced to hide their true identity for fear of being misunderstood and mistreated – with their birth gender often only being found out at death.
In 1865, James Berry, an army surgeon who studied at the University of Edinburgh, died and was allegedly found to have been born biologically female and, in 1889, an 85-year old woman, Mary Mudge, died and was found to have been born biologically male.
Jazz Jennings is a 15-year old American trans teenager and LGBT+ activist. Jazz is one of the youngest openly trans people in the world, starring in her own show ‘I am Jazz’, which documents her struggles with gender in high school. With the full support of her family she has been supported with her transition from male to female. Her parents have stated that Jazz was clear about being female from as soon as she could speak.
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, is an American TV personality and retired Olympic gold medalist, who set a world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. Previously identifying publicly as male, Caitlyn revealed her true identity as a woman in April 2015 on American TV with nearly 17 million people watching. She appeared on the cover of Vanity Fairy 3 months later and is the first openly trans woman ever to be featured. She has 6 children from her previous marriages and, since 2007, has appeared on the reality TV series ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’. Caitlyn has been called the most famous openly trans woman in the world, and currently stars in the reality TV series ‘I Am Cait’, which focuses on her gender transition.
Laverne Cox is an American actress, reality TV star and LGBT advocate, best known for playing the part of Sophia Burset in the TV series ‘Orange is the New Black’.
On 9th June 2014, Cox became the first openly trans person to appear on the cover of Time magazine and, shortly afterwards, she made front-page news again – and made history – as the first transgender person ever to be nominated for an Emmy.
In 2015 Laverne became the first openly trans person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Taussauds.
The Danish Girl is a fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe (played by Eddie Redmayne), and Gerda Wegener (played by Alicia Vikander). Gerda paints her husband, Einar Wegene, as a lady in her painting and, when the painting gains popularity, Einar starts to change his appearance into a female appearance with the name Lili Elbe. With Gerda’s support, Lili then attempts one of the first ever male-to-female gender reassignment surgeries.
The Danish Girl has been nominated for 4 oscars, and Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander have both been nominated for Academy Awards for their roles.
Don’t miss the remaining LGBT+ event this month!
This talk will focus on Hollywood movies, specifically bible epics and gay identities in America in the 1930’s;
6pm, Main Building Council Chamber, Park Place, Cardiff
Don’t forget to look out for the flying Rainbow Flag
The Rainbow Flag will be flying above the Main Building for the month of February, and we would love you to share photos of/with the flag via Facebook/Twitter!
- For Facebook, please like @studentlifecu and share your photo with us, or tag @studentlifecu
- For Twitter, follow @studentlifecu and tweet your photo, and tag in @studentlifecu
If you missed any of this month’s previous blogs, take a look now:
Jo, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team
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For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.