Speaking for Ourselves

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/speaking-for-ourselves_b_4767057.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

Dana Beyer

Last week we saw the continuation of the Janet Mock/Piers Morgan saga. What started off in the first interview a week earlier in a manner that seemed to please both the host and the interviewee degenerated into a situation where both protagonists ended up speaking past one another. Still, I believe that however difficult it has been for everyone involved, it is ultimately all for the good.

To review the facts as I know them, having watched both CNN programs and read about the explosion in social media, I have a few thoughts. The most important is that, finally, we are seeing trans persons speaking for themselves, and about themselves, in the mainstream media. This has been the case in social media for some time now. Still, it is significant when a major mainstream media outlet finally takes the time to bring the trans community to light.

As I’ve mentioned in previous weeks, I’ve lived through Psycho, Phil Donahue and Jerry Springer, Tales of the City and Silence of the Lambs. I’ve watched theLaw & Order franchise move from outright hostility to grudging admiration and acceptance. America is changing, and while it is not happening quickly enough, particularly compared with the recent acceleration in gay acceptance in the U.S., it is still moving very rapidly. Ms. Mock’s appearance on CNN is evidence of that progress.

I don’t know what the discussions pre-interview were like. Were the questions to be asked discussed? How important was the book’s content going to be for the interview? Were any questions out of bounds? Janet is not a novice, and she has a history of media appearances, beginning with the Marie Claire article. I presume Janet has a book agent and publicist, and that she has a media adviser as well. The way the first interview proceeded, and Janet’s apparent pleasure with it, led me to believe that things worked out as she expected.

I will say, speaking for myself, that while some of the questions asked were salacious and invasive, they are the questions I have come to expect when I teach and lecture. I answer them forthrightly, but I make sure to add that these questions are often considered rude by many trans persons and are not acceptable in polite conversation. For a lecturer trying to teach, to share, to engage, they’re acceptable as long as the boundaries are laid out in advance. I take it as my responsibility to have that discussion beforehand. I also realize that as a surgeon I am much more comfortable speaking about the human body, and I speak freely about genitalia and brain sex. One of my main goals over the past decade has been to educate others on the fact that human sexuality is primarily a brain function, not a genital one, and to try to move people away from obsession with their groin area. It is not easy, and I do not expect that large swath of Americans who, if they think about trans issues at all, think about genitals and “sex changes” will absorb it all anytime soon. Moving the general populace away from equating gay people with their sexual behavior did not happen overnight. It was a multi-decade effort, only recently coming to fruition.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/speaking-for-ourselves_b_4767057.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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