Bye Bye Gender Binary?

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Krista Kleiner, aka Miss  Bb. Pilipinas-International 2010, aka  Krissa Mae, recently came  out as opposed to transgendered participants in the Miss Universe pageant.

 Kleiner stressed that people should not forget what the Miss Universe pageant is about:  expressing the “real essence of a woman.”

 “The essence of a woman is something that’s always asked in the pageant. By adding  this element (transgenders), it will totally change the whole concept of a beauty  pageant for women,” she said.

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/04/19/12/another-beauty-queen-scores-transgender-policy

Ironic considering that Ms. Kleiner, herself, has been the victim of prejudicial thinking:

Stir.ph actually has a related story about it entitled “Krissa Mae robbed of Binibining Pilipinas Universe title” and the article says that BPCI chairman Stella Marquez Araneta allegedly switched the original titles of Raj as International and Kleiner as Universe because Kleiner is born in the US and she looks like Miss Puerto Rico more than Miss Philippines.

Source: http://worldshowbiz.info/beauty-contest/miss-universe-philippines-2010-scandal-gets-worse/

The point is, barring women such as Jenna Talackova from participating in the Miss Universe pageant is just as prejudicial as saying Ms. Kleiner is disqualified from representing the Philippines because of her US birthright and mixed ethnicity.  To use Ms. Kleiner’s own argument against her it is like saying  she is incapable of understanding or projecting “the  essence of a Filipina“. How, foolish and steeped in ignorance, such perceptions are.

Moreover, Ms. Kleiner goes on to state:

“For me, I think there should be a separate pageant for the transgenders. “They can do a ‘Miss Gay Universe.’ That would be great.

Well, that’s enlightening, to be sure. Ms. Kleiner can be forgiven if she blurs definitions and interpretations of transgender expression. For her part, Jenna Talackova has made it clear that she sees herself as a female. However, within the transgender community, itself, there are wide variations on the theme and on some level we (the transgender community) have ourselves to blame for Ms. Kleiner’s confusing the issue.

Gender Queers, Gender Fucks, Androgynes, Gender Fluids, Ambigendereds, Multigendereds, and Pangendereds are just some of the terms used to describe a percentage of the trans-community. Even the notion of a “trans-community” is subject to scrutiny and debate, insomuch as it represents such a broad (pardon the pun) spectrum (pardon the visual cliché) of people and interests.

Jenna Talackova does not seek to be “other” or to represent “the third, fourth, or fifth sex”. Rather, her self-identification lies comfortably on the feminine side within the traditional gender binary.  She effortlessly emanates a feminine persona and essence, and at the risk of citing an over-used word her inclusion in the Miss Universe Pageant furthers the societal value of tolerance.

As to exploding the gender binary—my own instincts are to move cautiously and with sensitivity. Admittedly, our society continues to evolve, but running roughshod over the  security and sensitivities of a public outside of a trans-perspective is at best hypocritical and at worst, dictatorial.

Recently, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in Canada made the provision that:

“A man doesn’t need to have his penis removed to legally become a woman…”

Source: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/19/tribunal-to-would-be-women-you-can-take-it-with-you/

Fair enough, given that the process of transitioning from one sex to the other is never an easy proposition. However, there are obvious social implications of such a move.

On that note, a personal anecdote may prove enlightening. While employed at Royal Jubilee Hospital as a housekeeper, a complaint/concern was raised concerning my use of the women’s washroom prior to my having surgery.  One day, a Union rep. came up to where I was working and escorted me to our manager’s office. Management also brought in a Human Resources rep. to oversee the proceedings. They wanted to move cautiously and with sensitivity recognizing the obvious human rights implications involved.

However, once I understood the source of the complaint I immediately conceded the point. I agreed to avoid the women’s locker room and female only washrooms until such a time as my surgery had taken place. I understood that some women could take issue with my use of the facilities and that there could be some justifiable concern with my presence in “female only” designated areas.

In contrast to my attitude, a trans-friend of mine saw the Institution’s response as an infringement on my basic human rights. She encouraged me to fight the system and push for my “right of access”. But in all honesty, I felt no sense of moral outrage. I thought the request was reasonable. My only stipulation being that I wanted full access to the “female only” areas following my surgery; a privilege I was granted.

Really, I was guided by one overriding concern, namely, that I would never wish to make a woman uncomfortable by virtue of my presence. Notwithstanding, any prejudicial issues she may hold regarding transsexuals, in general.

The National Post article quoted Mercedes Allen as saying:

…the decision is bound to spark some division within the trans community, particularly among those who have already undergone reassignment surgery. They have trouble sometimes understanding how a person could transition and not require [surgery],” she said.

There is a sense of “why would you even want to be in that situation?” she added.

‘They have trouble sometimes understanding how a person could transition and not require [surgery]‘

She added: “Personally, I don’t think the ability to correct documents should be the reason to have surgery.

Ms. Allen is correct in seeing the ruling as divisive. It’s not an easy issue to reconcile, but again, I simply urge sensitivity and for my transgendered peers to recognize that the wider world out there is frequently ignorant and often uninterested in the nuances surrounding definitions and interpretations of gender. I believe there exists some moral responsibility on our part to both educate and exercise discretion when dealing with a largely uninformed public.

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