Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person.

image courtesy of The Transgender at Work project

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person. (New Republic)

Ben Barres is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Barbara Barres until he was in his forties. For most of his career, he experienced bias, but didn’t give much weight to itseeing incidents as discrete events. (When he solved a tough math problem, for example, a professor said, “You must have had your boyfriend solve it.”) When he became Ben, however, he immediately noticed a difference in his everyday experience: “People who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. He was more carefully listened to and his authority less frequently questioned. He stopped being interrupted in meetings. At one conference, another scientist said, “Ben gave a great seminar todaybut then his work is so much better than his sister’s.” (The scientist didn’t know Ben and Barbara were the same person.) “This is why women are not breaking into academic jobs at any appreciable rate,” he wrote in response to Larry Summers’s famous gaffe implying women were less innately capable at the hard sciences. “Not childcare. Not family responsibilities,” he says. “I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.”

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What happens when the opposite transformation takes placewhen a man becomes a woman? Joan Roughgarden is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Jonathan Roughgarden until her early fifties, and her experience was almost the mirror image of Barres’s. In her words, “men are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise.” In an interview, Roughgarden also noted that if she questioned a mathematical idea, people assumed it was because she didn’t understand it. Other transwomen have found changes not only in perceptions of their ability, but also their personality. In Schilt’s work with transwomen for a forthcoming book, she found that behaviors transwomen had as men were now seen as off-putting. What was once “take-charge” was now “aggressive.” And they had to adapt; the transwomen quickly learned that “being the same way in the world would be detrimental to your career.”

Very powerful argument – I’m hopeful there will be more research on this topic. Gender discrimination, like racial discrimination, is such a subtle thing; it’s much harder to recognize in today’s politically correct society. 

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Robina Asti Wins an Important Legal Battle for Transgender Couples

Robina Asti Wins an Important Legal Battle for Transgender Couples

The Naval lieutenant (who still pilots aircraft) says she never set out to be a pioneer. But that’s how she’s been hailed by the legal team that helped Asti launch the challenge to win her husband Norwood Patton’s survivor benefits that she believed were rightfully hers following his death in 2012. 

“She was a war veteran, and she’s been living her life and has been recognized as a woman for over 38 years. For the federal government to say, ‘You are not legally female’ was just so insulting at a time when she was already grieving the loss of her husband,” says Dru Levasseur, national director of the Transgender Rights Project for Lambda Legal, which took up Asti’s case in June 2013. 

Adding to Asti’s argument: Her legal documents – from her Social Security card, to her passport, to her federal taxes, to her pilot’s license – had long reflected her legal status as female. 

Your amazing human being of the day. ❤

Think You Know What ‘Queer’ Looks Like? Think Again.

Think You Know What ‘Queer’ Looks Like? Think Again.

In January 2014, Sarah Deragon posted a photo her wife had taken of her on Facebook with the words, “Queer Femme,” and The Identity Project was born. This photography project was launched because as a photographer, Sarah wanted to explore the labels that we use when we define our sexuality and gender. 

Sarah believes that The Identity Project resonates with people because the photo project pushes up against the preconceived notions of what it is to be LGBTQ in today’s society. Not only are the portraits striking, the participants in the project are playing with language, making up entirely new terms (transgenderqueer or inbetweener) and showing pride in their complex and ever changing identities.

Just fantastic. I love the idea of creating your own label, of really owning your identity. As the author of the Jezebel article stated,

I am firmly in the “labels are important and serve to bring people with similar marginalized experiences together” camp, although I know plenty of people within the queer community both in the West and in Japan who balk at labels. “Why do we even need labels,” they ask, “can’t we just get rid of all of the labels? We’ll be ever so much better off!” Well, I think that would be true if all identities and the expression of those identities were treated as equal. Then the unifying aspect of labels for marginalized identities wouldn’t be necessary. 

Check out Sarah’s website for more photos & information about her work. You can even donate money to expand her project to other cities across the country.

Sidenote: This reminds me so much of Project 562: Changing the Way We Native America. Another wonderful example of a photographer using her lens to help people see beyond labels and stereotypes.

The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School [Feb 2006]

The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School [Feb 2006]

We haven’t had one from the archives in a while, and this article is a perfect supplement to my previous post about studying bisexuality. It’s also a favorite of mine.

Alair is headed for the section of the second-floor hallway where her friends gather every day during their free tenth period for the “cuddle puddle,” as she calls it. There are girls petting girls and girls petting guys and guys petting guys. She dives into the undulating heap of backpacks and blue jeans and emerges between her two best friends, Jane and Elle, whose names have been changed at their request. They are all 16, juniors at Stuyvesant. Alair slips into Jane’s lap, and Elle reclines next to them, watching, cat-eyed. All three have hooked up with each other. All three have hooked up with boys—sometimes the same boys. But it’s not that they’re gay or bisexual, not exactly. Not always.

Their friend Nathan, a senior with John Lennon hair and glasses, is there with his guitar, strumming softly under the conversation. “So many of the girls here are lesbian or have experimented or are confused,” he says.

Ilia, another senior boy, frowns at Nathan’s use of labels. “It’s not lesbian or bisexual. It’s just, whatever . . . ”

It’s just, whatever.

The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists

The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists

But in the eyes of many Americans, bisexuality — despite occasional and exaggerated media reports of its chicness — remains a bewildering and potentially invented orientation favored by men in denial about their homosexuality and by women who will inevitably settle down with men. Studies have found that straight-identified people have more negative attitudes about bisexuals (especially bisexual men) than they do about gays and lesbians, but A.I.B.’s (The American Institute of Bisexuality) board members insist that some of the worst discrimination and minimization comes from the gay community.

“It’s exhausting trying to keep up with all the ignorance that people spew about bisexuality,” Lawrence told me.

A.I.B., which was founded in 1998 by Fritz Klein, who was a wealthy bisexual psychiatrist, is countering that “ignorance” with a nearly $17 million endowment and a belief in the persuasive value of academic and scientific research. In the last few years, A.I.B. has supported the work of about 40 researchers, including those looking at bisexual behavior and mental health; sexual-arousal patterns of bisexual men; bisexual youth; and “mostly straight” men.

“We’re making great progress where there was little hard science,” said Sylla, who insisted that research “now completely validates that bisexual people exist.” A.I.B., he added, has moved on to more nuanced questions: “Can we see differences in the brains of bisexual people using f.M.R.I. technology? How many bisexual people are there — regardless of how they identify — and what range of relationships and life experiences do they have? And how can we help non-bi people understand and better accept bi people?”

Really fascinating article. Of additional interest is that the writer participated in a couple of the studies, the results of which surprised him. Much of this has been said before, but until now, I haven’t read much about this research, just about social perceptions.

Reading this was very reaffirming for me. Something that really struck a cord was a line towards the end:

Sylla added that it was important — both for his own sense of authenticity and for bisexual visibility — to continue to publicly identify as bisexual. “The world needs more out bi people so that bisexuals can find support and community, just like gay people have when they come out,” he said. “Many bisexuals just end up saying they’re gay if they’re with a same-sex person or straight if they’re with an opposite-sex person. It’s easier to do that — you don’t have to constantly correct people or deal with people’s stereotypes about bisexuality and fidelity.”

Yes. I am very public about my sexuality; I identify as pansexual, because I don’t believe in the gender binary, and I’m sure people are sick of hearing me talk about it. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten messages from other bi/pan folks who are thankful that I am so outspoken about it, because it means they know someone else besides themselves who identifies the way they do. We all need to feel like we’re not alone in the world.

Portraits of One Person as Two Genders

Portraits of One Person as Two Genders

These portraits really speak for themselves. In case you need more convincing:

“For the series ‘Alone Time,’ Levine recreated and photographed typical domestic environments that play with gender stereotypes. As a twist, he used only one model to play both the male and female characters in the image. The result, Levine said, ‘challenges the normative idea that gender presentation is stable or constant. Rather, gender expression can be fluid and multiple.'”