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Doctor Who is now a woman

Doctor Who is now a woman

Just after Wimbledon Men’s Final, fans everywhere learned what they had been waiting till the end of the match for. Not who won, but who would be the new Doctor Who.

To the shock of few, the new Doctor is to be a woman.

This could raise some really interesting gender pronoun questions and bring them into mainstream discussion. How will people refer to the Doctor’s previous incarnations? And will it inadvertently, even by implication, address some of the issues that a transperson faces being mis-gendered when people refer to their old gender?

Of course, it does nothing to change the perception of gender binary as The Doctor has merely transitioned from one gender binary to the other, but it could rather ironically be a positive step as the issue becomes part of pop culture.

It will be interesting to see how things go. Will they will just whitewash it by having everything refer to the Doctor as “she”, and nobody ever getting it wrong, even if they are a recurring character who doesn’t know about the transition? Or will they will play on it by making her suffer the same awkward situations that many transpeople face of people using the wrong pronoun for them?

Pop culture has a habit of altering language and perception, so it will also be interesting to see what, if any, wider ramifications there are to this in society in general.

One thing is for sure, the internet will be awash with misogyny and transphobia right now.

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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in In the News, Opinion

 

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Specifying your gender on Facebook

Just over two years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Does a rose by 58 other names smell as sweet?” where I talked about Facebook’s attempt to allow users to specify more than just a gender binary of male or female. I also mentioned how I wouldn’t be using it as I had already subverted the system to force Facebook to use the singular “they”, “them” and “their” for me by recording a null value for my gender.

At that time, Facebook were proposing an enormous drop-list of every conceivable variation, seemingly having taken on board every suggestion from every focus group they had done. It sounded like an unwieldy mess to me.

Today I decided to revisit my unspecified gender on Facebook, and made rather a pleasant discovery – what is now on offer is actually pretty good!

At the simplest level, your choices for gender are initially presented as a drop-list of “Female”, “Male” and “Custom”. This doesn’t alienate all the cis-gender people who just want to choose from a simple list. This is good User Interface design.

Selecting Custom is where it gets interesting, as the options then expand to let you choose your gender and also the gender pronoun you wish to use.

Facebook's custom gender options

Facebook’s custom gender options

Choosing your gender is via a free text field that also accepts tags. In other words you can type what you want, but if what you are typing matches something that already exists then you can select it and it becomes a tagged value instead . If not, it stays as free text. Very flexible. This is very similar to when you tag someone in a post.

You can also specify who can see your gender on your profile. You can leave it as public, or limit its visibility. This uses the standard privacy menu that is used throughout Facebook, so you can choose from the standard options or go full custom. I chose to limit it so that only Friends can see it.

You can then specify your preferred pronoun. Currently this drop-list only has the options of Female, Male or Neutral, the latter being the singular “they”, “them” and “their” that I mentioned earlier. Facebook does not allow the use of the various gender-neutral pronouns that have been proposed and adopted, with varying degrees of success, by some. See the links below for more details on this, if you are interested.
This will be a huge shortcoming for some people but it’s a balancing act between complexity and usability and, although it is fairly limiting, I think it will be sufficient for many people. It is for me. Although, having said that, the singular “they” is rather clumsy for personal pronouns and for that I would have a preference for the Germanic hir for her/his, and zie for he/she.

So, in summary, Facebook seem to have found a good balance between User Interface simplicity, and the flexibility to let people express their gender identity. From a Design perspective, going down the route of “Female”, “Male” or “Custom” was absolutely the right thing to do.

I hate to say it, but it looks like Facebook got something right for once.

 


Further reading on gender pronouns

www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/…

uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_neutrality_in_English

www.citylab.com/navigator/2015/09/ze-or-they…

apps.carleton.edu/student/orgs/saga/pronouns

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in Opinion, Transgender

 

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Farnham Maltings

On Saturday I popped over to The Maltings in Farnham for their monthly Maltings Market. I’ve not been to one of these before, despite Farnham not being too far away for me. But a recent advert in a magazine mentioned that it has around 200 stalls of arts, crafts, jewellery, antiques, collectables and memorabilia, and that sounded like it was right up my street.

It was a quick and easy journey and after a bit of searching I managed to find a car parking space – the car park was pretty full.

There were some sellers with trestle tables out in the car park and immediately outside the Maltings, and I started to browse them when I suddenly realised that I had come out without my wallet.

A quick search on google revealed that there was a branch of my bank nearby within walking distance, so I walked over with a view to trying to get some cash.

So without my card or any identification, and armed only with the knowledge of my account number and sort code, PIN number, telephone banking password, internet banking password, inside leg measurement, and with my mobile phone in my possession (and whose number they have on file and could ring), I asked to withdraw money from my account. The cashier said that all she needed was my signature. Which, it turned out, they did not have on file, despite me banking with them for 25 years, because they had recently gone digital and hadn’t digitised their paper records. D’Oh.

All my passwords etc. were no good to them – all they would accept was my signature which they didn’t have on file. It was all rather Last Century and it initially looked like I was out of luck. Fortunately when the manager was called, she had the good sense to ask me various questions about my account activity which I was able to answer, including recent transactions, where my monthly salary payments came from, and eventually was satisfied I was who I said I was and authorised the cashier to let me withdraw the £50 I wanted.

The fact that I was in guy mode probably helped enormously in this case as it would have complicated matters enormously otherwise, as I would have had to explain why a woman with no identification was trying to access a bank account whose account holder had a male name. I think that if I had been in girl mode I simply wouldn’t have bothered and would just have gone home.

Anyway, I walked back to The Maltings and tried again.

Once I’d browsed the outside stalls, I headed inside and discovered that The Maltings is an absolute rabbit warren. It has several halls, on several levels, and also has a large courtyard and also several side rooms. All of these were full of stalls. Some were selling the usual Antiques and Collectors Fair stuff (and, indeed, there were some familiar faces from other fairs), some were local artists selling jewellery and art that they themselves had made, there was one stall with handmade leather goods, there was vintage clothing, new clothing, art, postcards, ephemera, cakes, jams, and all sorts. And being in many different rooms and halls meant that there was quite a bit of exploration and wondering if you had found everything. I loved it and will definitely go again.

Dragonfly earrings

Dragonfly earrings

One seller had some dragonfly drop earrings which I liked. She saw me looking at them and said that she makes them herself, and without really thinking I said that I love dragonflies and butterflies, and drew her attention to the little silver butterfly stud earring I was wearing.
“So, um, are these something you’d wear then?” she asked, slightly surprised. Rather than be embarrassed or flustered at the fact that I had said something out-of-gender, I simply smiled and replied “Well, not dressed like this. I’m disguised as a guy today. But when I’m dressed in girl mode then definitely”. She didn’t seem overly bothered by this, and merely asked if I had both ears pierced to which I said I did, and she just shrugged in a sort of “fair enough” kind of way and I bought them for £9.

Another seller was selling older stuff, and was playing 1930’s music on a period gramophone. It surprised me just how much volume it was managing to kick out, despite appearing to be purely mechanical.

Necklace

Necklace

Amongst the stuff he was selling was a necklace which caught my eye (pictured). It was unusual not just because of the shape and decoration, but because it was the same on both sides. Usually necklaces have a show side and a back side, so if they turn themselves round whilst you’re wearing them then they don’t display properly.

I asked the price, and he said £25 and that the chain alone was worth that. I asked if he’d take £20 and he said that he couldn’t budge at all on price. And he didn’t – I couldn’t get him to drop even a penny, which is quite unusual as you can usually get something off. But I decided to buy it anyway.

I had a good wander round all the stalls and whilst there was some nice stuff, there was nothing else I wanted to buy, and eventually I headed home.

I will definitely visit the Maltings Market again next month and this time I will make sure I don’t go out of the house without my purse or wallet (delete as appropriate).

 

 

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What earrings and clothes say about you.

Do you know which ear a guy who wears an earring wears it in says about his sexuality?

  • If he wears an earring in his left ear, then it means he has an earring in his left ear.
  • If he wears an earring in his right ear, then it means he has an earring in his right ear.

Likewise, do you know what the clothes a transgender / gender-fluid person with XX chromosomes wears says about their gender?

  • When they wear guy clothes then it means they are a transgender person wearing guy clothes. 
  • When they wear female clothes then it means they are a transgender person wearing female clothes (and not ‘a transvestite’ or ‘a freak pretending to be a woman’).

I hope this clears up any confusion.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Opinion, Transgender

 

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In the News: British Army’s first transgender officer

As I mentioned a few days ago, transgender issues do seem to be appearing in the mainstream news a lot more than they used to.

Is it actually (gasp!) becoming socially acceptable to acknowledge that we exist and that it’s a real and legitimate issue?

Today story was about Hannah Winterbourne, the UK’s first transgender officer in the British Army.

 

Credit: Daily Telegraph

Credit: Daily Telegraph

It’s being reported by both the Daily Telegraph and also The Sun. The latter has it on their front page!

Credit: The Sun

Credit: The Sun

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in In the News, Opinion, Transgender

 

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Review: BBC Radio 1 – The Surgery with Aled and Dr Radha (14-Jan-2015)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last night the weekly Surgery with Aled and Dr. Radha on BBC Radio 1 was on the subject of Gender Identity.

The entire hour of the programme was given over to the subject, and Aled and Dr. Raha were joined by Stephanie Hirst, a M2F transwoman and ex-DJ who I have mentioned in previous posts.

The programme started with an introduction, and then Stephanie was brought in and Aled interviewed her for a while about her background, her transition, and various issues surrounding Gender Identity. The programme then moved into a phone-in format with various people interviewed. Two parents of transgender children were interviewed along with several transgender individuals.

On the whole, the programme was extremely positive and it’s great to see that a mainstream National radio station is discussing issues like this and I think it is an indicator that society is becoming more tolerant and receptive to the idea of transgender people and Gender Identity issues.

However, I have two minor criticisms about the programme.

The first is that F2M (Female-to-Male, ie. born female and then transitioning to male) people appeared to be over-represented and M2F seemed to get far less emphasis. I think this is a pity, because society has always tended to tolerate masculine behaviour in a seemingly female person more than it does feminine behaviour in a seemingly male person (even the name ‘tomboy’ is less pejorative than ‘sissy’) and the cliché society view of a transgender person is of the archetypical “tranny”, so it would have been nice for this to have been explored a little more.
Having said that, Stephanie did have the opportunity to explore her own experiences so perhaps the balance was there that way.

My second criticism is more fundamental though. The majority of the programme was preoccupied with gender binaries (ie. there is only male and female) and that if you found yourself in the wrong binary then you are expected to transition to the correct one. In fact it felt like every other word was “transition” for a lot of the show. I completely disagree with this concept. Gender is a spectrum with “totally male” at one end and “totally female” at the other end, and there is an entire world in between those two extremes. In the same way that Sexuality is a spectrum with “straight” at one end and “gay” at the other, and a huge range of bisexuality in between (including “bi-curious”), there is a whole range of genders in the Gender Spectrum. It can incorporate people who consider themselves to be a mix of both genders, or indeed neither gender. There are even bi-gender people who like to move between genders as the mood takes them.
Granted, the last caller on the line in the closing minutes of the show identified as both genders, but this was the first time the concept had even been mentioned in the programme and I felt that the topic wasn’t really explored and could have left listeners unfamiliar with the concept of Gender Identity with a rather skewed and incomplete picture.

I have to say that I’m not entirely surprised. Society (certainly Western Society) as a whole does have an extremely polarised and rigid concept of a gender binary, where men are men and women are women, and there are shopping aisles for boys toys and girls toys, so it’s not a great leap for people to accept an idea of someone being in the wrong body and wanting to change into the right one. Perhaps it was too great a leap to dive straight into the Gender Spectrum.
However, it’s worth mentioning that in some cultures, the concept of the Third Gender is well accepted and even has legal status.

Hopefully this programme will pave the way for more on this subject. After all, I’m sure it isn’t the only episode of the Surgery that has dealt with sexuality so perhaps there will be a future ones on the Gender Identity issues.

As I said earlier, though, I do consider this programme to have been overwhelmingly positive and I think it shows major progress in the mainstream media’s handling of this issue. However, I think that by being so preoccupied with transition it may have painted an overly simplistic picture.

Still, in this day and age of the World Wide Web, there is loads of information readily available for further research. So if nothing else, by raising the concept of Gender Identity it could get people wanting to learn more. And that’s always a good thing.


This episode of The Surgery is available on BBC iPlayer until Friday 13-Feb-2015 at 10pm UK time.
The direct link to it is http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04xnh5v
It may not be available to you if you are outside of the UK.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2015 in In the News, Opinion, Transgender

 

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In the News

I don’t know if it’s just because I am more aware of it, but there does seem to be a lot more media coverage about transgender issues and Gender Identity in the mainstream media at the moment.

Tonight at 9pm on BBC Radio1, Stephanie Hirst is a guest on Aled’s Surgery and will be discussing Gender Identity issues.

Meanwhile, there are several articles published today on Conversion Therapy – the idea that you can “cure” people of homosexuality or transgenderism.
BBC Newsbeat reports that “NHS staff [have been] told to stop helping patients get gay conversion therapy” (for non-UK readers, the NHS is the National Health Service), whilst the Huffington Post has an article today entitled “It’s Time to Ban ‘Reparative Therapy’

Last week the Daily Telegraph published an article about Voice Therapy entitled “Transgender women often want to sound like Fiona Bruce“, which is about the work of Christella Antoni. Christella is the Voice Coach that I have been using – in fact I’m seeing her this Saturday.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in In the News, Transgender

 

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Transgenderism – in the news

My friend Jo T brought two articles to my attention today.

The first was a Huffington Post Blog article by called On the Other Side: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly about how her husband became her wife, and the three categories that their friends and family fell into – good, bad and ugly. The ‘good’ being the people who were open-minded, accommodating, understanding, and willing to be positive. The ‘bad’ being people who were closed-minded and refused to accept, or were at best indifferent, or attempted to pretend that it doesn’t exist (giving a cloak of invisibility in the process). Sadly I would put my family into this category – it’s all very much swept under the rug and ignored, is not talked about, or is considered an irrelevance and of no consequence, depending on family member. Lastly there are the ‘ugly’ who were abusive about it. I am thankful that I have none of those in my life. The article also talks about how their children accepted it, and also the questions people asked. I found it a really good article.
You can read it at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marvi-matos/…

The second thing that Jo mentioned to me was the story of the Radio DJ Stephanie “Hirsty” Hirst, formerly Simon. She was a presenter on Capital FM Yorkshire and Vinyl Heaven on Gold when she was Simon, and who left her position in June after 11 years in the studio shortly after she decided to transition from male to female. It is looking very much like she was pushed out of the job by her employers who “did not think gender reassignment was suitable or commercially viable content” for her shows. I’m quite saddened by this. However, on the other hand, the public support for her has been very strong with an active Facebook campaign to get her back and also a lot of positive press and support from various quarters.
There are many articles about Stephanie if you google for them. However, I thought this article by the Independent was a good one: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/stephanie-hirst…

Just before Jo contacted me, I had been reading a report from the BBC of the truly bewildering situation in Iran where homosexuality is banned, but where gender transition to the opposite gender binary so that you are then effectively heterosexual is almost encouraged. This is a very odd dichotomy of conservative and liberal. However, it’s deeply flawed as it completely misses the rather fundamental fact that gender identity and sexuality are two completely (and radically) different things – it’s not an uncommon misconception. A man who is sexually attracted to men is not a woman inside – he’s a man who is attracted to men. His gender identity is male, and is separate and distinct from his sexuality.
You can read the whole article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29832690

I’m sure there are plenty of other stories too, but these are the ones that I came across today and I just thought I would share them with you.

 

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in In the News, Transgender

 

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Does a rose by 58 other names smell as sweet?

Facebook recently vastly expanded the gender option you can select for yourself on your profile, adding a bewildering 56 additional gender declarations to the more traditional “male” and “female”. Well, for users of US English anyway; those of us who use proper British English (and variations thereof) they are not yet available.

As a transgender person who considers themselves “gender fluid”, you’d think I would be very happy about this. But the truth is, I am completely unmoved by it. As a programmer, I know that if I offer methods on a “light bulb” class called “Illuminate”, “Incandesce”, “Turn On”, “Activate” and “Energise”, users will quite rightly ask what the difference between them is and which one they should use. And even if I was to assure them they were all equivalent, there would still be continuing confusion.

I know that cisgender friends have initially been even more confused than me about these new options, perhaps perplexed by the fact that “male” and female” appear not to be listed (but “cis female”, “cis woman”, “cis male”, “cisgender female”, “cisgender woman” and “cisgender male” are, although giving people the option to state this seems counter-productive to me). For the record, though, these are additional options; the existing “male” and “female” remain.

I believe that you can give people too much choice, though. Why do we need these 56 new options when a majority of them are synonyms or subtle differences to the point of hair-splitting? My experience is that transsexuals who want to transition from one gender binary to the other will want to identify as their chosen gender. And transgender people like me will simply want to say “other” or “gender fluid” or “none of your damn business” (or whatever). Basically, 99.9% of people will simply not want to split hairs the way Facebook is offering.
I rather suspect that Facebook had a number of Focus meetings, or otherwise garnered suggestions, and then just accepted every single suggestion.

I had a look on Flickr and Google+ to see what they offer, and I think their approaches are far more sensible.

Flickr gives you the following options:

Flickr Gender options

Flickr Gender options

and Google+ is even more streamlined

Google+ gender options

Google+ gender options

Personally, I like what Google+ is offering because it does not scream “I am different” like Flickr’s does. But I suppose that depends on how “in your face” you want to be about your Gender Identity. I suppose that if you are completely militant then you may love Facebook’s approach, but personally I think it is pants. It’s a case of going from one extreme to the other.

Fortunately, for me, a good while ago I subverted Facebook by recording a null value for my gender in my Facebook profile. Not only does this give me the gender ambiguity I desire, but it also leaves Facebook’s targeted advertising at a loss as to what to deluge me with, And that suits me just fine. Let’s not prevaricate about the shrubbery here folks, Facebook wants you to to choose the granularity it is offering so that it can fire targeted advertising at you. Facebook wants to know you are cis-female or trans-female so it knows whether or not to deluge you with adverts for feminine hygiene products (for example). It has absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression or being “right on” with the LGBT community.
Personally I am going to stick with my subverted value and remain genderless to Facebook and leave them scratching their head as to what gender-specific adverts they should vomit forth to me.

How did I do this? Well, I’ll leave it to you to google that as it is a constantly changing thing, but basically it involves using web developer / debug tools to inject a bad value into the appropriate field that Facebook uses so that it is interpreted as “not set” or “invalid”. And when that is the case, Facebook reverts to using “their” instead of “her” or “his” which suits me just fine.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Opinion, Transgender

 

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A little more real

I’ve had quite an epic long weekend!

I’ve had friends over since Thursday evening, staying over till mid-morning Monday, and I have been in girl mode for that entire time, which is the longest continuous period I have done that for.

I’ve learned several things. Firstly, it’s a bit of a palaver and I think if I were to go full-time, I’d probably be one of those girls who wears minimal makeup a lot of the time. But, also, I’ve found that I don’t actually need a lot either. Just my wig, my bewbies, and a little bit of mascara makes me look very feminine. Certainly feminine enough not to break the suspension of disbelief round the house at any rate.
However, I have also found that the wig really starts to bug me when I get tired. I can’t wait to get it off by bedtime. It’s also pretty warm.

I’ve also found my voice is all over the place at the moment. According to my Voice Coach that’s to be expected, but it’s quite frustrating especially as it’s hard to recapture my feminine voice when it goes. Particularly more so when I get tired. However, it’s been good practise and I feel very comfortable when ‘out and about’.

But this is not the reason for this post’s title. No, the reason that things have got a bit more real is that I have finally got my ears pierced. Now, I realise that is no big deal to many people, but it is to me. It is the first thing that I have done that is a permanent change that will be noticed by all, including my colleagues. Yes, I have been having the laser hair removal and I have long and well-manicured nails, but frankly those are things easily overlooked by colleagues (especially male ones). However, pierced ears are less easily overlooked, especially as getting your ears pierced at my age screams “mid-life crisis” in guy mode for those people who don’t know about me being transgender. Fortunately I’ve just finished my current job and am looking around for new work, so this seemed the perfect time.
I confess I very nearly bottled it, but two things caused me to go through with it. One was my lovely friends Nina and Tasha who encouraged me very gently; not enough to be coercion (I should stress) but enough to give me that little bit of encouragement I needed.

The other was this absolutely gorgeous necklace, earrings and bracelet set that I bought in Debenhams. I absolutely fell in love with it and realised how much I want to be able to wear earrings. Of course, it will be a while before I can wear them because I have to wait 6-8 weeks before the starter studs can come out, and then after that I can only wear simple post earrings for a while. However, it’s something to look forward to.

So, anyway, that’s my little step further along the path I have chosen. How exciting!

 
 

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