By Karen M. Goulart
Johannes Brevis wasn't playing dress up when he
began wearing men's clothing.
It wasn't just for fun, it wasn't just
experimenting, and unlike the books he read suggested, there was
no erotic thrill attached. It simply made sense and felt right.
At age 25, Brevis made the decision to live full
time as a man. It was not an easy decision. It was a decision that
had to be made because, despite his birth gender, it is who Brevis
Like every other minority, transgender people -
people whose gender identity does not agree with their birth
identity - have always existed. Although activism and visibility
may be at an all-time high, few non-trans people - including the
gay, lesbian and bisexual communities - appreciate and understand
the struggles and challenges trans people face.
To some, the trans community is just another
minority to marginalize and misunderstand.
Like gays, lesbians and bisexuals, members of
the trans community must deal with a variety of real-world issues
by virtue of living their lives openly and honestly. But unlike
the sexual-minority community, the number and depth of the issues
faced by the gender community can be daunting: health care, legal
issues, civil-rights, employment, harassment, stigmatization are
overwhelmingly part of coming out as transgender.
At an even more personal level, it can mean
losing friends, family and a place in the community you are used
to living in just to be yourself.
It's impossible to encapsulate everything in a
community, but area trans activists Naomi Barbee, Mary Cochran,
Tamara Hopson, Wally Moyer and Ben Singer are able to share many
details. Like sexual minorities, there is a struggle for basic
civil rights and a lack of trust and understanding with law
enforcement. But there are other issues - health care and the
ability to live and work without fear - that are unique to many
transgender people. This raises the question among sexual
minorities if the transgender struggle should be part of the the
Regardless of their gender expression, barriers remain for many
Not every trans-identifying person chooses to
have complete sex-re-assignment surgery; some have partial
surgery, others either cannot or do not want any at all, but
choose to live as the opposite gender or somewhere in between
female and male.
Problems with health care range from doctor
visits to sex-re-assignment surgery and the care that follows it.
The cost of surgery is high, higher for those who want to
transition from female to male.
And beyond surgery, there are follow-up visits
and hormone treatments that continue for years. Activists say
there is a dearth, especially in Philadelphia, of doctors who are
familiar with the treatment and care of people who either seek to
or have undergone re-assignment surgery.
Responding to this void is a growing collection
of support groups for trans people where health and other issues
can be discussed and referrals can be made.
While a network of acquaintances and friends is
often the most helpful way to find trans-sensitive health-care
providers, people who facilitate and participate in them say it
"There's really been no overwhelming,
enthusiastic response from the alternative or queer provider
community regarding services for the trans community," Singer
said. "For those of us who choose to ... when it comes to
accessing transsexual medical technologies, some [health care
providers] have very bad reputations, and the way to find the few
knowledgeable ones is pretty much by word of mouth or if someone
has a therapist who can recommend doctors they collaborate with or
through support networks - it's fairly chaotic sometimes, in terms
of getting the necessary information to make an informed decision
about your medical care."
Like any other situation where service is
unsatisfactory, there is no reason to stay on with an
unsatisfactory doctor, Moyer noted. But for a transgender patient,
this can be especially exhausting, he added. People who choose to
dress by gender "standards" not of their biological sex,
and people who choose surgery may face a series of tenuous
"If you go [to a doctor] for a cold or any
common medical condition, you still have to go into the whole
thing about your body, and what it looks like and what surgeries
you've had and haven't had, and I think these become issues,"
Moyer said. "Some professionals are really professional;
others are human, and have their own prejudices. It's really a
Singer said some doctors remain reluctant to
treat trans people because they may be scrutinized by insurance
companies and colleagues because it is still considered a
"controversial area of medicine."
"And sometimes, after a while, they get
nervous about it, and back out of treating us," Singer said.
"It is difficult to find stable, quality, sensitive care, and
as a population - from the most privileged to the most
underprivileged - we all are in a very precarious situation when
it comes to medical care."
Like any relationship, understanding and trust
must exist between patient and medical personnel.
Therapist Mary Cochran has been working with
sexual and gender minorities for 20 years. She is the significant
other of a trans man, and counts herself as an activist for
transgender rights. Psychotherapy is important not only for mental
health and wellness, but American Psychiatric Association
standards require a recommendation from a therapist for trans
people to receive hormone treatment and surgery, should they
"I found out very quickly there was ... no
knowledge [of trans issues] in my collegial community,"
Cochran said. "Trans people are [the ones] who educated me
about trans people, and I think that's very fortunate. It's my
strong opinion that to be a good provider for trans people, you
need to be a trans activist in some way or you don't have a real,
basic understanding of what the issues are."
Even after an understanding and helpful
physician is found, keeping up with the financial demands of
treatment can be a burden, especially regarding medical insurance.
Johannes Brevis discovered this when his medical
insurance backed out while he was in treatment.
After paying for nearly three years of hormone
treatments necessary in conjunction with previous surgeries,
Brevis' HMO notified him they would no longer pay for the
hormones. He says they have given reasons ranging from lack of
proper doctor's recommendations, to their policy of not covering
costs associated with sex re-assignment even though when he signed
on with the company he was, in the eyes of the law, a man.
Brevis said he can't understand why the company
would cover the hormones for such a long period of time if it
hadn't had the proper doctor's notes. To stop treatment now, he
added, would cause him physical and psychological harm, a
violation of Medicaid policies.
Since last August, Brevis has filed a grievance
against the company which now involves participation from the
Department of Public Welfare. He also filed a complaint with the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. He has been doing the
legwork for himself while working and going to school because it
has been difficult for him to find a lawyer who will take his
case. He talked to about 14 before finding one who would assist
him, he said.
"If I don't try, it's not going to
change," Brevis said. "And it might not [change] after
all the work I've done, but I'd rather do this than wonder what
Money, the law
But health care is not the only area in which services for trans
people is lacking, Naomi Barbee said. Just as in any community,
there are a number of factors, including economic issues, that
contribute to the oppression of a group.
"One of the greatest problems facing the
transgender community as a whole is that there are large numbers
of trans people - in particular, trans people of color - who are
socio-economically disadvantaged and socially stigmatized to such
an extent that opportunities for them to change their situation
are virtually non-existent," Barbee said. "Housing is
one of the largest issues that we have, there is no housing
uniformly available for [homeless] trans people, you have to be
very careful when sending a trans person to a homeless
Barbee explained that in homeless shelters,
where men are usually separated from women, some trans people have
to make their appearance conform to their birth gender in order to
"People are turned away until they remove
all the things that would keep them from entering that
space," Barbee said. "[A trans woman] at a homeless
shelter for men would have to take off her hair, for example, and
still she's open to harassment by staff and other abuses. It would
be more appropriate to have them in a homeless shelter where there
are women, but then you run into problems relating to what they
consider having biological males around."
Without jobs or prospects and sometimes without
homes, Barbee said, some people may turn to prostitution, drug
dealing or other illegal activities, which create a new set of
"There really is very little in the way of
space for trans people in Philadelphia, so you then have to
provide for your own space, it could be cheap hotels, it could be
the streets and that can lead to other problems of getting into
illegal activities," Barbee said. "So there are problems
that breed problems that breed problems."
In March Philadelphia Police Department
Commissioner John Timoney approved the addition of "real or
perceived sex or gender" to police Directive 73
"Reporting and Investigating Bias Crime Incidents."
The directive had stated the Police Department
will protect the rights of all citizens regardless of "...
race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or marital status,
age or disability, religion or economic status ..."
When those rights are "infringed upon by
violence, threats, or other harassment" the directive
dictates officers are to take the instances seriously, the
perpetrators pursued with vigilance, and the investigation given
With the revised language in place, the
directive protects more citizens - including transgender people.
The language was altered to add the words "actual or
perceived" before the list of protected categories, which was
also changed to include "sex."
The document is meant to protect trans people,
and the police liaison committee believes its intentions are good,
but some activists say it doesn't go far enough.
Although it may be meant to protect trans people
when a bias crime is inflicted, some trans activists believe
police officers themselves are too often the perpetrators of
harassment of trans people. For example, in the case of
male-to-female people, some police officers assume them to be sex
This assumption, trans activists allege, leads
to wrongful arrests.
When a transgender person is arrested, there
exists a very real possibility that person will be harmed while in
police custody: A trans woman, for example, can be placed in a
cell with men because a police officer judges her to be a man.
Local activist Tamara Hopson said she harbors a
great concern for trans women and trans men who are arrested
because there are no guidelines provided for their safety.
"It is a very dangerous situation what cell
is a trans person put in, what is the risk factor there, there is
nothing set up, and there really aren't any protections,"
Hopson said. "There was a trans person arrested, she was on
the record as being a trans person, male-to-female, and for some
reason or another, she was arrested again, and they wanted to do a
full-body search. She said, 'It's on the record, you don't need to
give me a full search,' but they did. The question was, were her
rights violated? In some respects, if you look at the mentality of
slavery, in terms of slaves, they did not have civil rights,
rights to their own body, and I see this as a similar
Barbee can also see another angle to police
"The police do seem very concerned, but I
feel bad for them," she said. "They were put in a
situation where they have to do the dirty work of politicians.
They don't understand the social situations they are going into
... they are being asked to do something they don't know how to
do. The villains here, if there must be a villain, is the
Some transgender people are outlaws in their own bodies. Simple,
everyday functions can put them in jeopardy.
One example often cited by activists is using a
rest room. Who defines who uses the men's room?
"People can be arrested or harassed for
using the so-called wrong bathroom ... being in a bathroom, in
general, when you're gender variant is a big risk," Singer
said. "... generally, what we're talking about is trans
phobia. People don't want to be in a bathroom with someone who is
gender variant. If a man goes into a bathroom in a dress and
harasses people, that's a problem of behavior; they should be
removed and arrested. Generally, trans people try to draw as
little attention to themselves as possible because they already
feel at risk."
Philadelphia's charter has a non-discrimination
clause which includes sexual orientation. Activists want it to
include gender identity and expression, too.
"Everything we are trying to do rests on
equal protection under the law," Barbee explained. "If
we don't have that. it's all subject to change." Since last
October's murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard,
activists and lawmakers at state, local and national levels have
been giving attention to making hate crimes protections more
This is true for Pennsylvania where three
legislators have sponsored bills during the past year. Sen. Jack
Wagner (D-42nd District) and Sen. Joseph Conti (R-10th District)
and Rep. Lita Indzel Cohen (R-148th District) in tandem introduced
legislation in February and March respectively. Their bills seek
to include sexual orientation as a protected class for hate crimes
and give state police the power to collect information relating to
crimes and incidents based on actual or perceived sexual
As they stand, none includes language that would
specifically cover transgender people although Wagner's does
include "gender" as a protected class.
Some activists believe Wagner is willing to and
may change his bill to be even more inclusive. However, many
believe bills by Conti and Cohen - Republicans in a
Republican-controlled state - likely have the best chance to
Conti has said he is following Cohen's lead on
these bills and Cohen. Cohen stated publicly at a meeting of the
Log Cabin Republicans of Philadelphia that she would not seek to
add transgender protective language to the bills. Cohen believes
changing the language - or "diluting it," as she
referred to it - would make it difficult to pass.
Trans activists stress the importance of using
specific language, especially when there are many people who
believe sexual orientation and gender identity are the same
things. Not all trans people are gay, lesbian or bisexual, and
many never have considered connecting with these communities. But,
still, there is a logic in sexual minorities and gender minorities
working together on the issue, Moyer said.
"I think with hate crimes you have to
understand, as far as the gay and lesbian community being
inclusive of trans people, we all have an agenda and everyone has
to fight for something and most of us will fight for
ourselves," Moyer said. "But, the reason why transgender
should be with gay and lesbian is most of the hate crimes that
happen to gays and lesbians happen because of perceived gender
difference, a male who is effeminate...or a woman who is butch or
dyke will more likely receive a hate crime... so you can't exclude
trans when you are talking about gay and lesbian hate crimes, and
I think that is a place where the communities need to become more
If sexual orientation and gender identity are separate things, do
the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities need to take part in the
trans community's civil-rights movement?
Absolutely, activists say.
Often, members of the gay, lesbian and bisexual
communities cite the trans community's "divisions."
Those internal schisms make it difficult to lend support, they
say; a lot of energy would be expended working with a group that
is perceived as splintered. And often organizations which say they
are inclusive of transgender concerns know and do little about
them, activists say.
Just as society at large has been historically
misinformed and undereducated about the lesbian and gay
communities, so these communities are toward transgender
communities, activists say.
"It's a joke, it's a lame excuse,"
Hopson said. "The biggest thing they can do is open their
minds to try and understand the difference, and whether you
understand it or agree with it or not, accept that person as a
fellow human being - that's minimal."
Like any community a variety of differing
opinions, viewpoints and politics exist in trans communities. And
like gay and lesbian activists, trans activists working at a local
level often feel detached from larger national organizations,
which often seem out of touch. Trans activists question how these
issues make the trans communities different from gay and lesbian
communities, or society at large.
"People don't really understand the
dynamics of the trans community, there isn't nearly as much
dissent as people think, no more than there is in the gay and
lesbian community," Barbee said. "Right now you have a
heated debate with John Street and anti-John Street people and the
political issues that surround that, it's a very hot topic - there
are editorials about it, I see a lot people disagreeing about it,
and I think it annoys a lot of people, but no one is saying the
gay and lesbian community should not be taken seriously simply
because of differences of opinion. But I see that happening in the
trans community. Any sort of dissent or lack of conformity is just
a convenient outlet for people that have a very fundamental
bigotry ... they don't want to address the issue which is the
confusion they feel around gender identity."
Hopson sees a pecking order.
"I think the gay and lesbian population is
just as guilty as mainstream society for treating trans people as
invisible or invalidating them as people," Hopson said.
"Minorities should know better, but we don't. We simulate the
behavior of the oppressor time and again. Transgender people are
invisible, they are the new niggers of America, and when something
is invisible and made into a non-entity, people don't feel they
need to understand anything about it."
Sometimes Naomi Barbee would like to simply live
her day-to-day life. But every day, Barbee finds herself enmeshed
in the work of being a vocal transgender activist.
For Barbee and many transgender people, activism
almost comes with the territory of being out about their gender
As a member of a community which is often
overlooked by other minorities, mostly ignored by society at
large, and in which many of its members are not out, it's almost
impossible not to become aggressively involved in the struggle.
Like every other civil-rights movement, there
are differences of opinion and agendas in the transgender
movement. Along with the issues that come with living openly each
day, there is an almost inherent need to work in some way for the
Almost every trans person has to be an advocate
- or an activist - for his or her own health care, legal issues
and civil rights. Others choose to take that additional step, and
be one of many voices speaking out for the community.
And although there are many voices, there are a
number of activists - both in and out of the "spotlight"
- who are working hard to find solutions that will better the
lives of transgender people.
Like lesbians, gays and bisexuals, members of
the trans community must deal with a number of real-world issues
by virtue of living their lives openly and honestly. But unlike
the sexual-minority community, the number and depth of the issues
faced by the gender community can be daunting.
And like every other minority, transgender
people - people whose gender identity does not agree with their
birth identity - have always existed. Although activism and
visibility may be at an all-time high, few non-trans people -
including the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities - appreciate
and understand the struggles and challenges trans people face.
Where compassion and understanding might be
expected from other minority communities, often there is
exclusion. To some, even gay, lesbian and bisexual people, the
trans community is just another minority to marginalize and
Despite a variety of viewpoints, there is one
thing all trans people want: to live their lives with legal and
>From this simple desire, trans people face
many obstacles to get to a place of civil and social equality.
Across the country and in Philadelphia, steps
are being taken that have potential to improve the lives of
transgender people. That day could come even sooner if sexual and
gender minority communities recognized their differences as well
as their similarities and worked together.
Local trans activists Tamara Hopson, Wally Moyer
and Ben Singer say things are slowly changing for the better.
There are no quick fixes or easy solutions, but progress is being
Just as change has not come easily, nor has it
been fully realized in lesbian and gay communities, it has not and
will not come easily to transgender communities.
In addition to the typical fatigue that comes
with activist work, some trans activists withdraw from public life
once they have transitioned.
Changes have to be made in health care and civil
rights, they say. Doctors and legal professionals need to be
trained to serve, or at the very least, be aware of the needs of
all patients and clients. Tiring work that should be shared with
allies. The needs of youth have to be examined and met.
As the lesbian and gay communities came to realize, identities -
sexual and gender - don't always emerge in adulthood.
Today, many youth are recognizing their gender
identities at a younger age. Like their gay, lesbian and bisexual
counterparts, healthy, educated and safe youth have a better
opportunity to become healthy, educated and safe adults. The needs
of transgender youth, like sexual minority youth, are many and
Activists say as difficult as issues are for
adult transgender people, they can be more harrowing for youth who
may want to transition, but not have sufficient knowledge or
funds. Many drop out of school, which, combined with their gender
presentation, can make it especially difficult to find employment.
Without a job to make money to afford the treatment they need to
transition, or just to live, many turn to prostitution.
Addressing youths' needs when they're young
could vastly improve the adult lives of the next generation of
But while services for gay and lesbian youth
have become a hot topic and seen an increase in awareness and
support in the latter part of the '90s, many seem to be only
realizing the needs of trans youth.
The Attic Youth Center, 419 S. 15th St.,
provides a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
questioning youth. Programs, support groups and counseling abound
for the sexual minority youth but there is not as much for gender
minority youth. They are welcome, said executive director Carrie
Jacobs, who believes trans youth feel very at home at The Attic,
and participate in its trans support group.
Jacobs wishes the organization could do more.
"It's pretty obvious we need more
programming, there needs to be late-night programming," she
said. "These kids need a lot more attention than they are
getting in this city. Then there are the issues of the kids not
trusting the community and not trusting the gay and lesbian
community, they're not saying 'please give us services' either,
but if we gave them better services, they might take advantage of
Jacobs wants to be able to serve trans youth
more fully at The Attic, but said that would require more staff.
She said she'd help, even if the youth met somewhere other than
The Attic, as long as they were being adequately assisted.
"We almost need a trans youth center,"
she said. "They have tremendous needs, one of the biggest
seems to be housing. They live on their own, they need to get jobs
... they need GED training, they feel uncomfortable in medical
care, and need to be more educated on issues like hormone use, and
there aren't that many places even in this city for them to go. I
really feel that they need trans role models who can [be] positive
and show them that they can create a life ... we are providing a
space for them, keeping them off the street, but I wish there was
more for them, places that were open later where they could get
what they need, which is sometimes food and clothes and
One person who wants to be a role model is trans activist Nia
Henderson. Henderson co-coordinates The Attic's Youth in
Transition group, and works as ActionAIDS transgender outreach
As difficult as life can be for trans youth, she
points out, their futures aren't pre-determined. Henderson, 20, is
committed to showing that despite the hardships trans youth face,
they should not believe they will never live a "normal"
life. Unfortunately, she said, they often get this impression from
older members of the community.
"The youth are just coming out, and don't
know where to go - where to get hormones from, where to get
support," she said. "Your family turns you out, you need
a place to stay. Mainly, the adults we know are well-established:
They have jobs, they have their name changed. I think the youth
needs are just as important as the adults, but [the youth] are
more sensitive because a lot of trans youth, they fall under the
wrong impression, a lot of older people are a bad example. They
say, 'You're trans, you can't work, you can't live a normal life.'
It's unfortunate to say this, but they do not have the right
guidance at all. They are out there prostituting, on drugs, and
most of them they don't get the support they need."
Henderson has no qualms about putting herself
forward as a role model. She understands the needs and the
potential pitfalls associated with being young and transgender,
and wants to share that understanding.
"One reason I say I want to be a trans role
model is I want to let the youth know that just because you are
trans you can live a normal life like everyone else,"
Henderson said. "And there are laws that can protect you if
you feel discriminated against for any reason, there are ways of
working with that."
Henderson agrees with young people who say that
it isn't easy to get along in society when who you are doesn't
correspond with who you "legally" are. But it is a
process worth working through, slowly if necessary, despite
potential feelings of embarrassment.
"Until I can afford to change my name, if
there should be a problem, if they say 'you don't look like your
ID,' you let them know what's going on, and then there's not a
problem, they can say what they want, but they can also say this
transsexual is living, she is working, she is not out there
prostituting," Henderson said. "I'm not knocking people
that do [prostitute], you do what you gotta do to survive, and I
can see that as a last resort, but most youth come out feeling
like it is their only resort. But what happens when you get old?
You don't get a W2 for prostituting. If you don't have to go down
that road it's better that you don't."
As is often said of young people, some trans
youth can be impatient, but impatience where transitioning is
concerned can be dangerous, Henderson said. Without getting all
the medical facts first, many youth begin taking hormones. When
hormones are slow to change their bodies, as is their nature, some
may choose to get surgical implants, others take harmful doses of
hormones which can damage the liver and kidneys. There are some
services youth can be referred to for medical attention, but
often, Henderson said they don't want to go.
"In my experience, most of the trans youth
go by their female name, legal documents have their birth name,
and they tend not to go and get necessary health treatment,"
Henderson said. "They feel everyone will find out they are
trans, and they don't want anyone to know, and they tend not to
get the necessary treatment. If anything, I would try to talk them
into it, they have to realize it's sort of what you have to go
through if you are trans, in the beginning, it's all about
accepting yourself as being trans and the baggage that comes with
it and it's not always going to be easy."
There are a number of transgender organizations suited to a
variety of support needs in Philadelphia, but for hands-on health
care, referrals must be made.
In many cases, a series of therapists and
physicians are visited before one is chosen. This doesn't have to
be the case, Henderson and Singer said. There are models for
better solutions for the type of care needed by trans people. In
San Francisco and New York City, specialized clinics welcome trans
people, and medical personnel are available to meet their specific
"Trans people know they can go there and
get help," Singer said. "We don't have anything like
that. They have an extensive array of services for trans people
and intersexed people, based on the ability to pay, which is one
of the most important things - even the most well-off find their
economic resources just dwindling with the connected health-care
costs, and those lucky enough to have insurance, often those
claims associated with a transgender-related diagnosis send up a
Activists say there are ways to improve existing
services. If service providers could come together to network and
share information, Barbee said, it would benefit the entire
community. This would include, she noted, an understanding that
the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have many
difficulties in common.
"The true issues begin with those
socio-economic issues, those are the most salient issues,"
"There needs to be a lot more communication
between service providers to work with others in a non-competitive
manner, address the shortcomings where they may be and through
that solutions maycome to light," Barbee continued.
"They need to come together. The problems down there [on 13th
Street] seem to be dealing a hard blow, we need global solutions
because they are global problems, we need to integrate a system
that cuts across these problems in order to have solutions.'
Recently, the Philadelphia Transgender Task Force announced its
presence in response to situations in the 13th Street Corridor. In
an effort to follow an inclusive process the group is slowly
putting together a structure and by laws.
Although in its formative stages, the group
responded to recent problems in the 13th Street Corridor with an
open letter to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
communities that posed challenges to the Philadelphia Police
Department, City Council, mayor's office, mayoral candidates,
Center City developers and local businesses.
Other groups in the community took notice.
The following week, another group of trans
activists responded with a letter of support.
There have also been responses by other groups
in the community showing unity that activists believe is necessary
to create real change.
On Sept. 8, 2000 Queers, an ad hoc group of
activists who address a variety of local and national issues, made
trans issues the focus of its meeting, and is planning a Sept. 29
town meeting for additional discussion.
Also on Sept. 8, the Colours Organization sent
representatives to a meeting with the Police Advisory Commission
to speak about issues affecting people of color in the Center City
area, including transgender people.
"The gay and lesbian communities have made
a lot of progress, I've been in the community for 18 years and
I've seen a lot of progress happen," Moyer said. "A lot
of times, the oppressed become oppressors. In Philadelphia, I feel
really optimistic and hopeful. I've seen a lot of dialogue and
things happening ... Philadelphia is right on the brink of this,
which stirs up a lot of feelings. I think there is hope. We are
moving in the right direction. Some of the gay and lesbian
political organizations, at least, are becoming aware [that] they
need to be inclusive, so I think there is progress ... there is a
long way to go, but there is progress."
Barbee noted that the lesbian, gay, bisexual
communities need to understand that many of the instances of
discrimination and harassment they face are shared with the
transgender communities. In particular, for lesbians, gays and
bisexuals who are of a poorer socioeconomic status, the problems
are as much about homophobia and transphobia as they are about
"If people would come to the realization
that these problems are held in common, that there is a lot of
common ground to be held, I think solutions would begin to come
out," Barbee said. "These problems are not particular to
any part of the community, and they need to be addressed as a
whole by the community, not by tiny factionalized elements."
Activists agree that movement toward unity between the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender communities is beginning in
Philadelphia. Unity has been there in name - the frequently used
"l/g/b/t" term is one example - but now it is being
realized in action.
Moyer points out that transgender groups also
have to be willing to be inclusive and to recognize those who are
trying to be.
"It's so easy to focus on who's not
including you," he said. "There are groups out there who
are inclusive, there are religious organizations that are
inclusive, and I think we can learn from people who are inclusive
how to be inclusive. One of the things the task force is doing, we
are including other people on our task force who are not
transgender, although our focus is on transgender issues, so you
can either go through life looking at a glass half empty or half
full, but the big thing, though, is education; a lot of times,
even in the gay and lesbian community, a lot of people coming out
don't even know a transgender person personally."
There is also a need for transgender people
themselves to come forward and speak out. But, as it was in the
early days of the gay movement, and in many cases still is, it is
a difficult thing to come out as transgender. It can be harder
still to stay out.
"We're at the very beginning of the
process, a lot has to do with trans folks being scattered, not
being visible, being punished if they are visible," Hopson
said. "The fear of violence and oppression keeps people
divided, but I think it's starting to form ... I see this as a
growth period or spurt for the trans community, and that's a real
wonderful thing, even though we are at ground zero, so it's a
glass half-full or half-empty situation."
Moyer places the trans movement in a historical
- and personal - context.
"I think historically we are not any
different than any other community who has tried to
organize," Moyer said. "It's [a] very hard thing to be
out if you are passing in your gender. Actually, it's very hard to
be out if you are passing or not passing, but once someone
transitions, that in itself is a difficult feat, and then to go
out and be public about it ... but it's like any other minority
community, it's politics and personality. We come in all types,
from radicals to conservatives."
© 1999 Philadelphia Gay News
The following is a list of support groups,
organizations and informational resources which focus on
transgender issues or describe themselves as
Services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of
color. Genders Within, a support program for transgender youth,
meets at 6 p.m. Tuesdays at 1201 Chestnut St., fifth floor; (215)
Original Philadelphia Transsexual Support Group
Meets at 4 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at 1201 Locust
St.; (215) 483-7647.
Peer-facilitated confidential support group for transgender,
transsexual, femme queen and gender-questioning adults of all ages
and ethnicities; meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays at 1201 Locust
St.; (215) 981-3351.
Philadelphia Family Pride
Advocacy and support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender parents and families; (215) 843-1596.
Part of AIDS Services in Asian Communities, a support and social
group lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Asians and Asian
Americans; (215) 629-1945.
Renaissance Transgender Association
Meets at 8 p.m. the third Saturday of the month in the King of
Prussia area; (610) 975-9119.
Trans World Allies
Support group for anyone on the transgender continuum; meets from
2 to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at 1201 Locust St.;
Transgender Health Action Coalition
Business meeting is at noon the first Saturday of the month at
1201 Locust St.; (215) 732-1207.
Seeks empowerment of the black lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender communities; (215) 852-1912.
We Transition Too
Support group for partners of gender-variant people; meets from 2
to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at 1201 Locust St.;
Non-political FTM support group; meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. the
second Saturday of the month at William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.; (215) 848-7674
box 6; WeXist@aol.com
Youth in Transition
Offers support and transgender health-care information for
transgender, transsexual, femme queen and gender-questioning youth
ages 12 to 23; group meets from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at The
Attic Youth Center, 419 S. 15th St.; (215) 981-3351 or (215)
Catholic group; celebrates Mass at 7 p.m. Sundays at 330 S. 13th
St.; (215) 546-2093.
St. Luke and The Epiphany Church
An Episcopalian church welcoming of all people; (215) 732-1918
The Attic Youth Center
For gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth ages 12 to 23;
open from 1 to 9 p.m. weekdays at 419 S. 15th St.; (215) 545-4331.
Services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of
color at 1201 Chestnut St., fifth floor; (215) 496-0330.
For gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans youth and friends ages 14 to
21; meets 7:30 to 10 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of the
month at Rainbow Place of South Jersey; (609) 848-2455.
Main Line Youth Alliance
Meets at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Fridays of the month at
Central Baptist Church, 106 Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 688-1861.
Over the Rainbow
Hahnemann University lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
student group; meets from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays in Room 1321
of the Bellet Building, 1505 Race St.; (215) 762-7889.
The Pride Center of New Jersey
211 Livingston Ave.; New Brunswick, N.J.; (732) 846-2232
Safe Space Alliance of West Chester University
For gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and allies;
meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays in Sykes Student Union, Room 255;
William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender Community Center
1315 Spruce St.; (215) 732-2220
Counseling for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning
teens and young adults; (215) 563-0652.
POLITICS / ACTIVISM
Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force
Philadelphia Transgender Task Force
(215) 546-7967; firstname.lastname@example.org
Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition
TransFAIR of Pennsylvania
FTM Pride Ring
Starting point for network of sites with information about, by and
for female to male transgender people:
Transgender Web Ring
Starting point for network of sites about, by and for transgender
Trans Youth Web Ring
Starting point for network of sites with information about, by and
for transgender youth:
"Trans Forming Families: Real Stories About Transgender Loved
Ones," by Mary Boenke (Waterford Press)
"Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines,
Practical Information and Personal Accounts," by Gianna E.
Israel, et. al. (Temple University Press)
"Transsexual Workers: An Employer's
Guide," by Janis Walworth (Center for Gender Sanity)
"True Selves: Understanding Transgenderism
- For Families, Friends, Co-Workers and Helping
Professionals," by Mildred L. Brown, et. al. (Jossey-Bass
© 1999 Philadelphia Gay News
Benjamin Standards of Care:
Medical standards for the "treatment" of transsexualism
and sexual-re-assignment surgery. The Benjamin Standards were
created at a conference by Dr. Harry Benjamin and were adopted as
the world standard for sex reassignment surgeries.
Bigendered: One who has a significant
gender identity that encompasses both genders - masculine and
feminine. Transsexuals are normally do not consider themselves to
Cross-dresser: 1. A transvestite; 2. One
who, regardless of the motivation, wears the clothes, makeup, etc.
assigned by society to the opposite sex (a transvestite is a
cross-dresser but a cross-dresser is not necessarily a
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders: The guideline that the American Psychiatric
Association publishes which details what is and is not a
psychiatric illness. Transsexualism and transvestism are included
in the list of psychiatric disorders.
Drab - DRressed As a Boy: 1. Clothes
considered appropriate to the individual's physical sex (not
necessarily male); 2. "In Drab": Wearing clothes
considered appropriate to the individual's physical sex (applies
only when considered with the possibility of the individual being
Drag - DRessed As a Girl: 1. Clothes
considered appropriate to the other sex (originally referring only
to M2F but incorporated into all cross-gender dressing). 2.
"In Drag": Wearing clothes considered appropriate to the
other sex. (I went to the Halloween party in drag. She was wearing
butch drag.) 3. Can be applied to any recognizable clothes
Drag queen: 1. A M2F cross-dresser who
employs dramatic clothes, makeup and mannerisms often for other
people's entertainment, appreciation or for its shock value. 2. A
member of the gay community who expresses transgender
characteristics (i.e. cross-dresser). Note: This term is
considered derogatory by some. Also, many such members of the gay
community do not consider themselves to be transgendered.
F2M, F->M: Female to male. Used to
specify the direction of a change of sex or gender role.
Gender: Those personality characteristics
and social roles society normally attributes to one physical sex
or the other. The terms "man" or "masculine"
and "woman" or "feminine" are usually used to
describe the genders, while "male" and "female'"are
used to describe the physical sexes.
Gender identity: How one thinks of
oneself in terms of one's gender.
Gender community: Colloquial for
transgender community. People who identify as not having a gender
identity which matches society's rules for their birth physical
sex, or those who identity with the gender community. Members of
the gender community sometimes do not identify as members of the
Gender dysphoria: 1. Unhappiness or
discomfort experienced by an individual about one's gender role
assigned by society based on one's physical sex. (Unhappiness or
discomfort may be too mild of words for many individuals.) Also
referred to as gender euphoria when spoken of in the positive
manner. 2. May include unhappiness or discomfort (mild and
extreme) with one's physical sex as well. See sexual dysphoria.
Gender neutral: Clothing, behaviors,
thoughts, feelings, relationships etc. which are considered
appropriate to both genders/sexes.
Genderphobe/genderphobia: One who is
afraid of or oppresses people because one perceives them to have a
gender identity not that of their physical sex.
Hormone (therapy): Biochemicals which
have control of many of the body's secondary sexual
characteristics and brain functions. Hormone therapy is used by
transgendereds to change some secondary sex characteristics,
including mental-thought patterns, breast size, weight
distribution and hair growth.
M2F, M->F: Male to female. Used to
specify the direction of a change in sex or gender role.
No-op (transsexual) : Transsexual who
does not intend to change his or her primary sex characteristics
to match his her gender identity.
Passing (to pass): To be able to
successfully assume the gender role opposite of physical sex when
interacting with society.
Physical sex: To what sex does the body
match, i.e. male, female, hermaphrodite or neuter. Normally, the
genitalia are used as the final designator of physical sex.
Post-op (transsexual): Post-operative
transsexual. May not be considered a transsexual at this point.
Pre-op (transsexual): Pre operative
transsexual. Normally implies the individual is planning
Read/reading: To recognize an individual
as being of the physical sex opposite of the individual's gender
Real-life test: That period imposed on
the individual by the medical community in which he/she is
required to live as full time in the role of the opposite sex
before sexual-re-assignment surgery. Benjamin Standards of Care
establishes this at one year.
Secondary sexual characteristics:
Includes facial and body hair, vocal timbre and range, breast size
and weight distribution.
Sex (physical sex): Male, female,
hermaphrodite or neuter, depending on one's primary sex
Sexual dysphoria: Unhappiness or
discomfort experienced by an individual about one's physical sex.
(Unhappiness or discomfort may be too mild of words for many
individuals.) This may or may not be directly connected with
gender dysphoria in that the individual may need to match physical
sex with gender identity. This term is relatively new, and is used
to distinguish discomfort with assigned gender role and discomfort
with physical sex.
Transgendered: 1. A catch all for anyone
in the gender community; 2. An individual whose gender identity is
other than that assigned by society for an individual's physical
sex.; 3. An individual who chooses to live the life of the
opposite sex without sexual-re-assignment surgery; 4. An
individual who's gender identity is somewhere between the
transsexual identity and the transvestite identity.
Transition: The period of time between
when the individual first starts the sex-re-assignment procedure,
and when the individual is living totally as a member of the
Transsexual: 1. An individual who is
sexual dysphoric; 2. An individual whose gender identity is that
opposite of her/his physical sex, and usually desires modification
of the physical body to match that of gender identity.
Transvestite: 1. Anyone who dresses in
the clothes assigned by society to the opposite sex for emotional
reasons; 2. Anyone who expresses transgender feelings/actions yet
still maintains a partial gender identity that matches physical
sex. See bigendered.
Source: Trans activist Deni Scott of TransFAIR
By Karen M. Goulart
PGN Staff Writer
© 1999 Philadelphia Gay News
Karen also does freelance
work. Contact: email@example.com