I have been following the Steve/Susan Stanton story out of Florida. Steve Stanton was fired as city manager of Largo Florida for wanting to transition from male to female. There is a very sensitive report in the Saint Petersburg Times about the transition from Steve to Susan. This shows a good balance of the good things about transitioning and at the same time some of the costs that have to be born by the person and his or her family. The article has a very nice picture of Susan. I hope they continue to follow this story and I wish Susan well.
Another transition in the news, one with a more positive outcome employment wise is that of sports writer, Mike Penner of the LA Times who is transitioning to Christine Daniels. This is well covered in Newsweek here. Newsweek also has a wonderful article titled "Rethinking Gender" along with links to other articles as part of a series on gender. You might also enjoy Christine's blog, Woman in Progress at the LA Times website.
This article asks:
"What is gender anyway? It is certainly more than the physical details of what's between our legs. History and science suggest that gender is more subtle and more complicated than anatomy. (It's separate from sexual orientation, too, which determines which sex we're attracted to.) Gender helps us organize the world into two boxes, his and hers, and gives us a way of quickly sizing up every person we see on the street. "Gender is a way of making the world secure," says feminist scholar Judith Butler, a rhetoric professor at University of California, Berkeley."
Yes, gender helps make the world secure. It's not strictly a social construct, but as the article goes on to explain probably a mix of social and biological factors. For most people gender identity goes along with biological sex. And even those such as Christine or Susan, want to fit in what for them is the right box, hence the desire for transitioning.
We police gender so carefully-maybe its our primate love of displays and our gender markers are often some what silly. For instance, I saw a set of boy and girl medallions in a catalog. Stare and stare at them I could not see the difference between them for about five minutes. The girl medallion had a pink ribbon while the boy medallion had a white ribbon. Geeesh!
Now don't get me wrong-I am not advocating an end to gender-just an end to the bizarre social policing of gender that infects our society. Let people sort themselves along the gender spectrum. Probably most people will end up the same, but those who don't fit our gender notions will have a much easier time of things.
On a personal note, the Kansas City area transgender community lost a key supporter in Fran Martin who died of cancer last week. She was a friend, courageous advocate and tireless worker. Fran helped many area people, myself included, sort out gender identity issues. She never condemned or judged. She is missed.