Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who Has The World's Most Beautiful Transwomen? Part 3

In this post I'm going to concentrate on transwomen inhabiting Europe.

We transpeeps need to give the Europeans major shout-outs. They have led the way in terms of the medical and scientific research, the generous medical plans that cover transitions in some countries and the groundbreaking legal statutes that protect our rights and make it easy to change documents to match presentations. Sweden passed TG laws back in 1972, followed by Germany in 1981, Italy in 1982, the Netherlands in 1985, Turkey in 1988, Britain and Spain in 2004.

The transpeople that garnered early media attention also came from this region of the world. Christine Jorgenson was the first transwoman to get international media attention, but her initial surgery was done in Denmark. After Christine, it was the European transwomen who dominated much of the international media attention through the 60s and 70's.

We'll start with the Dutch girls. They get to start early on hormones that are covered by national health plans. Romy Haag was one of the early Dutch transwomen who after transitioning at 33, has made a career for herself in Germany.

The current poster child for Dutch transwomen is Kelly van der Veer. She had her surgery at 19 and has been a fixture on Dutch TV and in Dutch popular culture ever since.

Britain not only has covered transgender issues and grappled with them since the 60's, their NHS granted Angel Paris-Jordan SRS at age 17.

Our British cousins have also had a few transwomen grab international headlines as well. April Ashley was the transgender poster girl in the 60's and was involved in a groundbreaking court case. Her divorce from Arthur Corbett led to an unfortunate ruling that hampered the ability of British transwomen until the 2004 passage of the Gender Recognition Act to have their marriages recognized and change their identity documents to match current gender presentation. The case also reared its ugly head here in the States in adverse marriage rulings in the 90's.

The British transgender it girl torch was passed to Caroline Cossey in the 70's and 80's, and it remains to be seen in the early 21st century who will be the next famous British transwoman.

You knew the French would not be outdone with Coccinelle and Amanda Lear to point to with Gallic pride in this beautiful transwoman debate. Coccinelle rivaled Christine Jorgensen back in the day in terms of world media attention and after her SRS in Morocco in 1958 became extremely popular in France. She was also an activist who fought for transgender rights in France as well.

Amanda Lear played the 'is-she-is-she-not-a-transwoman' coy role with the world media for decades even though she performed with Coccinelle and April Ashley at the same Paris transgender cabarets.

The Germans produce supermodels, so it would stand to reason that they would also have beautiful transgender frauleins to boast about. They did much of the early research in transsexuality under the world famous sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld that led to Lili Elbe's pioneering surgeries in 1931. It's also no accident at one of the Nazis first public book burnings happened outside of Hirschfeld's offices. Germany is also home to what some people believe is the youngest transwoman to transition in Kim, who began her transition at age 12.

Greek transwomen can point with Hellenic pride to their renowned poster girl Jenny Hiloudaki, who burst onto the world's radar screens in the 90's. She began her transition at age 13 and had SRS at age 20. She became one of Greece's top models complete with a jet setting high society lifestyle to go with it. She was even at the center of a Greek political scandal because of her 1997 affair with District Attorney George Sakelaropoulos which was eagerly followed in the Greek press, was named Greek Woman of the Year in 2000.

While Italy is one place the Brazilian transwomen call their home away from home, the Italians have some beautiful home grown transwomen as well, and Eva Robin's is their poster girl. Eva's story is interesting because she says she developed extremely feminine features and began developing breasts at a young age naturally, but that's been disputed, along with whether or not she's had SRS.

What isn't disputed is the fact that however it happened, she's got it going on in the beauty department and has parlayed it into a nice career as an actress model and commentator.

Spain is a relative newbie in terms of passing progressive legislation for transsexuals, having done so in 2004, but not in producing beautiful transwomen. Bibiana Fernandez also known by her stage name of Bibi Andersen, is a statuesque actress and model who has appeared in several films produced by world renowned director Pedro Almodovar.

The nations that were behind the Iron Curtain like Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Serbia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania have transpeople there, and as those communities emerge and more info comes out, they too will probably join in this debate as to who has the world's most beautiful transwomen.

Who Has The World's Most Beautiful Transwomen?-Part 2

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes. What I'm doing in this series of posts is trying to objectively ascertain what part of the world has the most beautiful transwomen. While that's an argument that will rage long after I finish this series, it'll definitely be a fun one as well.

In Part 2 I'm going to concentrate on the Americas, North, Central and South.

The Mexican transwomen have the same advantages as their Thai sisters. Over-the counter availability of hormones, petite body builds that translate well into feminine proportions, some androgynous biomale characteristics and a semi-tolerant culture despite being a Roman Catholic country.

They also have that delicious blend of Latin and indigenous Indian features. Some of the girls who were born there have emigrated to the United States. They congregate in the transgender meccas of LA, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

The Puerto Rican and Dominican transgirls combine the best aspects of being Latina with African influences. They are concentrated mostly in the New York and Miami areas.

Some people consider the Brazilians the most beautiful transwomen in the world, even over the Thais.

The Brazilians in addition to being a Roman Catholic country have the gender bending vibe running through their culture thanks to Carnaval. It is also the plastic surgery capital of South America. Because of economic and social conditions at home Brazilian transwomen also migrate to other parts of the world as well.

In the States, being that it's a large country we have various groups we can throw into this mix. The Hawaiian girls, African-Americans, Latinas, Asians and Caucasian ones from various parts of the country. Depending on the cultural group some get to start in their early to late teens while other end up starting transition in early adulthood. Even with that late start, we Americans and our Canadian cousins can still produce transwomen that rank up there with the world's best.

You do have girls that are increasingly coming from the Central American nations of Panama, who also share the African influences like their Brazilian and African-American counterparts, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. There are also the girls of Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and Peru along with girls from the Caribbean island nations as well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gender Musings

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is why some people get so bent out of shape when someone is perceived as not being in conformity with the binary gender system.

According to the almighty binary gender system there are only two genders, male and female. Males are supposed to have short hair, XY chromosomes, muscular bodies, big hands, narrow waists, rough skin, big feet and a penis. Females are supposed to have shorter hourglass shaped bodies with wide hips, small feet and hands, smooth skin, long hair, XX chromosomes and a vagina. The societal roles are organized based on those physical traits.

But as nature continues to demonstrate and science continues to inexorably point out, it is not as clear-cut and rigid as some humans wish it to be.

There are genetic men walking around on this planet right now who probably don't realize they have XX chromosomes and genetic women with XY chromosomes. Oh by the way, did I mention the peeps with three chromosomes? And just to make your head spin a little more let's add intersex peeps to this gender stew.

But let me take it back to the social gender aspects. What's up with the intense negative reaction to anything that doesn't fit the binary gender mode?

My thoughts on it is because over the last century and the early years of the 21st century we have seen rapid social changes and technological breakthroughs in our lifetimes. Those changes have sometimes altered our society in profound ways and people are grasping for something that has remained constant over time.

Gender used to be one of those things that peeps assumed was constant. Penis=male, vagina=female. Transgender peeps like myself and intersex peeps throw major curve balls into that assumption.

Gender-cued roles have also morphed as well in conjunction with the emergence of transgender people from society's shadows. You now have female CEO's, female bodybuilders, stay at home dads and beauty queens that were born male. Some peeps are having a hard time adjusting to these changes while others lash out at them using religion as their cover to do so. Some are unfortunately using violence to express their frothing anger over these events.

Transgender peeps are not a 20th century phenomenon. It's been occurring since human history has been documented and is even part of our folklore, stories and myths. We are just in an age where transgender peeps are getting more news coverage and more research is coming on line to ascertain how and why it happens.

The Human Genome Project and similar ongoing scientific research will only continue to help us answer society's most fundamental question: what is a man and what is a woman? It is something that we need to know and doesn't need to be feared.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Miss Universe 2007 Wrapup

I thoroughly enjoyed the Miss Universe broadcast last night. While I was disappointed that Miss USA Rachel Smith didn't win, it was nice to see Miss Japan Riyo Mori break through and win the Miss Universe crown. It's the first time since 1959 that the delegate from the Land of the Rising Sun has won the title.

I was also surprised and pleased to see Miss Angola Micaela Reis and Miss Tanzania Flaviana Matata make it to the semifinal rounds. I didn't think the judges would be feeling Flaviana's shaved head but her height and confidence helped her work the look. Miss Angola is also a tall and stunning looking woman. The evening gown competition is where she fell off scorewise and out of the competition.

Speaking of falling, I believe that the fall cost Rachel the crown. She was on track to probably win it up until that point. She had things lining up for her. No Miss Puerto Rico, and even if she had made it, Miss Puerto Rico would have had to battle the fact that there have never been back-to-back winners from the same country in the history of the pageant. Her other major rival in Miss Venezuela, the betting favorite going into the finals to me didn't have that wow factor that I've observed in other former Miss Venezuelas who have taken the Miss Universe title.

It probably didn't help that Rachel made the 5 finalists despite the fall and the homegirl from Mexico was eliminated. I'm amazed that she scored an 8.75 after that. It's why I say that she lost the competition right there. I could easily see her scoring in the 8.9-low 9 range if she hadn't.

The Mexico City home crowd booing during her interview probably didn't help either. Had she won there would've probably been a little controversy about that. I also didn't like the weak softball questions they asked the delegates.

If you want to showcase a woman's intelligence as the Miss Universe organization tells its critics and claims they're serious about that, then ask the delegates some challenging and intelligent questions. I'd also make the interview 60% of your score.

Even though Rachel won't be globetrotting for the next year as Miss Universe 2007, she still is the fourth runner up and she will continue to carry out her duties as Miss USA 2007 until she relinquishes her crown. I doubt that it will be the last time you see this sistah.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Miss International Queen 2006

Since I mentioned the Miss International Queen Pageant in conjunction with the post I just composed about the 2007 Miss Tiffany Universe Pageant, thought I'd take a moment to drop some knowledge about it.

Thais, like Texans, Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans love pageants and take them seriously. Because of the increasing popularity and attention the Miss Tiffany's Universe pageant garnered across Asia Japanese and Korean transwomen entered the competition. The language barriers they encountered inspired the sponsors of the Miss Tiffany Universe Pageant to create the Miss International Queen one in 2004 and restrict the Miss Tiffany Universe to Thai contestants only.

For a three year old pageant, it has rapidly become a sought after title. It offers a $10,000 USD first place prize in addition to the trophy, crown and other prizes. Like its sister pageant Miss Tiffany International the finals are televised live on Thai television.

A similar four year old transgender beauty pageant in Manila, the Amazing Phillipines Beauty Contest sent its winner to the Miss International Queen.

The first Miss International Queen in 2004 was won by a Thai, Treechada Petcharat. In 2005 Mimi Marks from Chicago's Baton club and a former 1992 Miss Continental winnerwon over the Thai and Korean runners-up in what was considered by the Thais an upset.

In last year's Miss International Pageant held October 23-28 San Antonio based Erica Andrews, representing Mexico beat out Patricia Montecarlo from the Phillipines and the Thai rep Ratravee Jiraprapakul to take the crown.

The Donald may want to reconsider the 2004 decision made by the Miss Universe organization banning transwomen from participating. It was done in the wake of transwoman Chen Lili winning the Miss China pageant that qualified her to compete in Miss Universe several yers ago. Transgender pageants have not only grown and proliferated around the world since the 1980's, they are beginning to garner attention and stature that used to be reserved for the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss America systems.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dallas Goes From Red To Pink

-As a native Houstonian I've had a good-natured love-hate relationship with the third largest city in Texas. I can't hate on it that much because my mom and uncle grew up there and a large chunk of my relatives on my mother's side of the family still call it home.

So I was intrigued to read a recent May 17 Time Magazine article that basically lets America and the world in on a little secret. Dallas has quietly become a gay-friendly city and is battling Austin for the title of most liberal city in Texas.

It's been a remarkable shift to watch. I only recently returned to Dallas last November to attend my cousin William's wedding and I was amazed by how much the city had grown and changed since my last visit in 1984. I remember riding past JR's when Oak Lawn was in the infant stages of quietly becoming a gayborhood.

Back when I was consistently running up and down I-45 on a regular basis during the 70's to mid-80's Dallas ran on the four C's of Capitalism, Christianity (the fundie kind), Conservatism and Cowboys football. Dallas was staunchly Republican before the rest of the state succumbed to that temporary insanity.

I used to rub it in my cousin's face every time he started bragging about the Irving Cowchips that we'd been represented in the Lege since 1966 and congress by an African-American since 1972 (Barbara Jordan). I'd also point out that Houston is the historical center of African-American history, achievement and culture in Texas.

But Dallas has been gaining fast and shutting down my pro-Houston bragging points one by one. Eddie Bernice Johnson joined the congressional ranks from the Texas state senate when the 30th Congressional District was created in 1990.

It was a mild source of irritation to me that Dallas elected the first African-American mayor of a major Texas city when they chose Ron Kirk in 1995, beating us Houstonians to that milestone distinction by two years. I was also a little irritated that despite being one of five Houstonians who have earned IFGE Trinity Awards for our advocacy and service to the GLBT community, it was Dallas that became the first large Texas city to pass GLBT job protections. In 2004 they elected Latina lesbian Lupe Valdez as Dallas County sheriff. Dallas may also beat us to the distinction of having the first openly gay person elected mayor of a large Texas city if Ed Oakley wins the upcoming June 16 runoff election.

Dallas has a transwoman by the name of Monica Barros-Greene who owns a popular restaurant in Big D. In 2005 she ran for city council, received the endorsement of the Dallas Morning News but lost a close race to Pauline Medrano.

Now that I've finished digesting my Hater Tots, as much as it pains me to say it, Dallas has it going on. In the 2006 midterm elections they raised eyebrows among Texans when the former Republican bastion saw Democrats sweep every city, county and judicial race in Dallas County. Dallas has according to the 2000 census the 9th largest concentration of same-sex couples residing in its metro area.

As the Time article pointed out, Dallas knows like Louisville and Lexington a fundamental truth about American urban life. Urban sophistication requires gay civilization.

Oh well, I can still tease my cousin about living in the ONLY Texas city without an NBA (or WNBA) title.

Miss Tiffany Universe 2007 Pageant

90 miles southeast of Bangkok lies the resort town of Pattaya, home to of one the first and more famous all-transgender cabaret shows in Thailand, Miss Tiffany's and its rival the Alcazar.

The transgender cabaret shows are popular with Asian and western tourists and regularly pack the 2000 seat auditoriums at both venues to see the Vegas and Parisian styled revues.

Since 1998 they have held a transgender beauty pageant there that draws contestants from all over Thailand and is a fundraiser for Thailand's Royal Sponsored AIDS Foundation. In addition part of its mission is to promote acceptance of transgender people worldwide.

The Miss Tiffamy's Universe Pageant has become so popular it is covered not only on local televison but has been mentioned on the BBC, CNN and other world newsgathering organizations. The pageant is limited to Thai contestants. In addition to offering the winner a 100,000 baht cash prize ($2,700 USD), a diamond studded crown, a trophy and a Mercedes-Benz car the Miss Tiffany winner is Thailand's representative in the Miss International Queen pageant open to transwomen around the globe that Thailand sometimesplays host to.

My homegirl Domanique Shappelle took home The Most Talented Title in the 2006 Miss International Queen pageant that was hosted in Thailand October 29 but my fellow Texan Erica Andrews, representing Mexico won it to the surprise of many Thai observers, who say that they have the prettiest transwomen on the planet.

The pageant has come a long way. The inaugural one couldn't even get local TV time while the 10th anniversary version, which was held earler this month had the finals televised live across Thailand and drew an estimated 25 million viewers.

It also received two major publicity boosts. One was courtesy of the now defunct Asiaweek newsmagazine. It asked its readers to judge who was prettier – Miss Thailand Universe 1999 Apisamai Srirangsan (a biowoman) or Miss Tiffany’s Universe 1999 Pattareeya Siringamwong. Surprisingly, the readers chose the Miss Tiffany's winner. The 1999 pageant also managed to get local TV coverage which was then picked up as a CNN newsfeed, catapulting the then unknown pageant into an international news event.

The Miss Tiffany's Universe title is considered a prestigious one among Thai transwomen and the competition for it is fierce. 60 girls showed up on May 7 vying to make the round of 30 for the nationally televised finals.

Thanyaras Jiraphatphakorn was crowned the new Miss Tiffany Universe on May 11. She answered in reponse to a question asked during the interview phase whether it was possible for a 'katoey' or 'ladyboy' to become a politician, "Sure, it is. In the future, there might be a prime minister who is a ladyboy."

However, she added that much depends on whether Thai society can change their negative views of katoeys.

"Society should judge people by what they do rather than considering what sex they are," said Thanyaras.

Amen to that and congratulations.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Miss Universe 2007

photos-Miss USA 2007 Rachel Smith, Miss Jamaica 2007 Zahra Redwood, Miss Tanzania 2007 Flaviana Matata, Miss Universe 1977 Janelle Commissiong, Miss Universe 1999 Mpule Kwelagobe

The 56th Miss Universe Pageant currently taking place in Mexico City will have some interesting stories transpiring during the live broadcasts Monday night on NBC and Telemundo.

Miss USA Rachel Smith is attempting to become not only the first Miss USA to win it since Hawaiian Brook Mahealani Lee did it in 1997, she's also attempting to become the first African-American winner of this pageant. Miss Jamaica Zahra Redwood will not only have her hair dreadlocked but is the first Rastafarian to represent Jamaica as a contestant. Miss Tanzania Flaviana Matata is competing with a shaved head.

They aren't the only women of African descent particpating in this year's pageant. Angola, Nigeria and Zambia sent delegates along with Tanzania. The US Virgin Islands has a delegate along with the Caribbean island nations of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Aruba, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia. The South American nation of Guyana is also among the 75 nations that sent delegates this year.

While they aren't the only women of color competing in this year's pageant, they all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Trinidad and Tobago's Janelle Commissiong in terms of getting the definition of beauty expanded beyond a Eurocentric model. On July 16, 1977 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Commissiong broke through to became the first woman of African heritage to win the Miss Universe title. Ironically Trinidad and Tobago doesn't have a delegate in the Miss Universe pageant for the first time in sixteen years. Miss Trinidad and Tobago 2006 Kenisha Thom lobbied businesses and the government in an unsucessful attempt to get the financial support needed to send a delegate to this year's pageant.

Women of African descent have been a competitive fixture in the Miss Universe and other pageants all over the globe. Since Janelle's groundbreaking win in the Dominican Republic, other women of African descent have won Miss Universe such as biracial Miss USA Chelsi Smith in 1995, Trinidad's Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998 and Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana in 1999.

Latinas have also done well in the Miss Universe pageant with several queens coming from Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Panama, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Mexico. In fact, the next most successful nations/territories in the Miss Universe Pageant after the United States are Puerto Rico (5 titles) and Venezuela (4 titles) and a fierce rivalry has developed between them. Asian winners have come from Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Israel, Lebanon and India. The winners from the African continent have come from South Africa and Namibia along with Botswana.

During this decade Latinas have dominated, winning consecutive titles in 2001, 2002, 2003 and last year's title. The 2002 winner, Justine Pasek moved up after Oksana Fedorova was dethroned. The current Miss Universe 2006, Zulekya Rivera from Puerto Rico will be crowning her successor.

Rachel will have some stiff competition, but she's got pageant history on her side. Since the pageant started in 1952 a Miss USA has failed to make the semifinals only three times (1976, 1999 and 2002). The 1957 Miss USA was disqualified because she was married. Miss USA delegates have won the pageant seven times, had eight first runners-up, six second runners-up, one third runner-up, three fourth runners-up, six finalists, and seventeen semi-finalists. Our Canadian neighbors have had two Miss Universe winners in 1982 and 2005.

I'll definitely be tuned in Monday night to see if Rachel Smith can make history. While I'll always cheer for Miss USA (and this year will be no different) I also root for the contestants from the Caribbean or Africa and women of color from around the world.

It's also more fun watching the Miss Universe pageant than reruns.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kentucky Primary Day

Today is primary election day in Kentucky. I and others throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky get to head to our voting precincts and vote in our respective party primaries. We have a governor's race this year in addition to races for secretary of state, agriculture commissioner and state treasurer that we'll make the final decisons for on November 6.

In Kentucky running for governor is similar to the presidency. You choose a running mate who will serve as the lieutenant governor if you win. In the governor's race the candidate I was supporting dropped out so I had to take a fresh look at the various gubernatorial candidates we had on the Dem side and choose a new one.

There were three of them I wasn't voting for under ANY circumstances and the one I did settle on, Steve Beshear had as his running mate a guy I'm still pissed at in state Senator Dr. Daniel Mongiardo. Mongiardo narrowly lost a US Senate race to Jim Bunning in 2004, but I'm still majorly agitated at him for writing and sponsoring the anti-marriage equality amendment in 2004 that is tragically enshrined in our state constitution.

I found it deliciously ironic when Mongiardo erased his deficit with a few weeks to go thanks to a series of Bunning missteps that the GOP hit him with their standard gay baiting smear tactics. But my anger at Mongiardo takes a backseat to us getting the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort back from Ernie Fletcher.

The man who in 2003 campaigned on the slogan 'Clean Up The Mess in Frankfort' created one of his own. He pardoned 14 members of his administration when they were indicted by a Franklin County grand jury over the merit hiring scandal for alegedly conspiring to hire, fire, demote, or transfer state workers for political reasons. He also invoked the Fifth Amendment when he was called to testify.

Oh well, let the campaign begin. Need to clear my schedule so I can go to the Fancy Farm picnic on August 4. They serve up great barbecue and political rhetoric to go with it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Transgender Christian-Not an Oxymoron

I was baptized at my home church on August 2, 1972. Ever since that day, just like other African-Americans my faith has been an important cornerstone of my life.

I have strived to as much as humanly possible live my life and treat others that I come in contact with as my Christian beliefs dictate that I should. While I haven't been 100% compliant in living up to that lofty standard, I continue to diligently work toward trying to achieve it. So I fail to understand why peeps who call themselves 'Christian' would harbor so much vitriolic hatred for GLBT peeps that they would do whatever it takes to make our lives miserable.

I'll deal with that in a future post. Job One of this post is to help transpeeeps and others understand that being transgender and Christian are not mutually exclusive.

How many times did you say the Transgender Child's Prayer growing up? You didn't know there was one? It's short, sweet and is a one line sentence usually tacked onto the end of the Lord's Prayer. Sometimes it's said as a stand alone one.

Lord, please let me wake up tomorrow and be a (girl/boy) forever.

I said that one more than a few times myself.

Let's fast forward into adulthood. Being transgender is an exercise in faith. You have the knowledge and conviction that you're gender and body doesn't match. You believe that somehow, someday and someway you will make body and mind match up irregardless of what the world says, thinks or does to you. You will also take steps to make that a reality. The saying 'The Lord helps those who help themselves' definitely applies to transpeeps.

That rock solid conviction that you have as a transperson is the same level of conviction that you need to have as a Christian. Just as you feel the euphoria of finally living in your birth gender, you feel the same calming, peaceful effect when you accept Him as your Lord and Saviour. You become a better person as you learn to trust in the Lord, study the Word or attend chruch on a regular basis. (unless you join the Traditional Values Coalition or the Hi Impact Leadership Coalition)

I remember when I reached a point in 1993 when I was fed up and ready to start transition. I was hesitant that I was doing the right thing and prayed for signs that I was supposed to be female.

Boy did they come fast and furiously after that.

One day I randomly opened my Bible and found myself reading Matthew 19:12. I work a San Antonio flight and see female illusionist Maya Douglas on it. I work a New York flight two days later and see a girl returning from having her facial feminization surgery with Dr. Ousterhout in San Francisco. I'd been having problems reconciling my height with the gender issue. I see one girl I knew from hanging out in Montrose proudly strutting her 6'4" frame through downtown Houston streets in daylight hours a few days later. I get home and discover I have a call on my answering machine from my fave cousin Karen inviting me to come out to Los Angeles for a visit.

After I arrived in LA we ended up at a church watching TD Jakes speak. One part of his hour long sermon struck me like a thunderbolt. I recall him saying. "There are times when you will be placed on a path in which your friends and others will revile you, your family will turn away and you won't even understand it. Keep the faith and God will guide you through it." It was like he was speaking directly to me about the emotional tug of war I was having about transition.

But it took me having a recurring dream for three consecutive nights before I finally made that appointment at the clinic that started me on the road to transition. As Christine Daniels has mentioned in her blog, I've also discovered that my spirituality and faith has been enhanced by transition, not diminshed by it no matter what our misguided detractors have to say.

There have been times during my transition when I've had setbacks, trials and tribulations. I was frustrated, felt alone and wondered if I had the strength to keep pushing forward with my desires to be the best person I could be. My faith played a major role in helping me get off the canvas, stop feeling sorry for myself, dust myself off and get back in the game of life.

TD Jakes was also right about keeping the faith. It's definitely led to a better quality of life. The amazing part about it is that I don't think God is finished with me yet.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Transgender Teen Free To Be Herself

By DEBRA DENNIS / The Dallas Morning News

photos by Ben Sklar / The Dallas Morning News

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, May 20, 2007

FORT WORTH – When Rochelle Evans chooses what she's going to wear to Eastern Hills High School each day, her choices aren't solely fashion statements. To Rochelle, her flats, makeup and women's jeans represent a hard-fought right to express herself.

And a subtle declaration about transgender teens everywhere.

The 15-year-old transgender sophomore, who started high school as Rodney Evans, recently fought a public battle against school administrators over wearing women's clothes and her reaction when confronted by school officials. As part of the deal, Rochelle is addressed as a female and gets to use the nurse's bathroom to avoid
any awkward scenes in the boys' or girls' restroom.

I just felt more comfortable being a girl," she said. "I'm not asking for any special treatment."

For a while, she attended classes wearing both male and female attire but said that felt like a compromise.

She got herself suspended when asked not to wear her wig, fake breasts and short skirt to school.

Her attorneys met with school officials this month and hammered out an agreement that got her back in school. And Rochelle must attend summer classes to make up for missed classes.

"There was never a day when I was Rochelle for the whole day," Rochelle said. "I love makeup. I started wearing makeup because it helped to complete me more. It made me feel more like a girl. With the help of makeup, you can create your own kind of life."

She has learned to make the six-block walk to school in high heels.

Her schoolwork is tucked inside a large book bag that doubles as a purse.

Rochelle says she willingly toned down to less flashy attire – going from skirts to jeans – but wants the dignity of her pronouns.

"I have earned them," she said.

Transgender teens are demanding acceptance in all facets of society including school, said Simon Aronoff, deputy director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C.

"Ten years ago, a transgender teen would not even consider being true to their gender while at school," Mr. Aronoff said. "But now we have youths who are coming out to their parents and wanting to go to school in the gender they feel more comfortable in. Sometimes, the younger generations are more accepting."

Lenora Felipe, Rochelle's mother, sides with her, although her support was not easily won.

"I admit I was confused," Mrs. Felipe said. "She's always been very feminine. I thought, as long as I keep putting him in boys' clothes, he's a boy. Well, that didn't work."

With counseling, Mrs. Felipe said she was able to better understand that her son is a transgender male who cross-dresses.

"I had to accept that," said Mrs. Felipe, a barber who has two other children – an 11-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy. "I was still being educated, but when it all came to the surface, I didn't understand. Why fight it? I support and love my child and try to make her safe and happy."

But that did not mean acceptance by all.

Mrs. Felipe said she was bombarded with calls from school administrators who said Rochelle's dress was disruptive.

They also complained that she skipped classes and used curse words when confronted by adults.

Rochelle's attorneys, Jerry W. Simoneaux and Phyllis Randolph Frye of Houston, worked out an agreement with school officials.

"They were addressing her as 'Rodney' and as 'he,' " Ms. Frye said. "Transgender is nothing new. It's gone through the schools. If it helps her to be able to deal with all of the problems that teens go through, then she should be allowed to say how she wants to be addressed."

Fort Worth school officials say they are committed to ensuring the safety of all students.

"The district vigorously enforces the student code of conduct, especially when it comes to harassment and bullying," said Chuck Boyd, the district's director of secondary school leadership. "We assure that all students are going to be treated safely and fairly. Our mission is to afford anyone a fair and appropriate education."

Rochelle and her friends say that her transformation has caused only a few problems at school.

La'Star Hardwick, 16, has been friends with Rochelle since both were in seventh grade.

She still calls her "Rodney" – a habit she has yet to break.

"Most of the students are cool, but there are some boys who act like they're uncomfortable," said La'Star. "But it's just a few, and they are not bullies."

Rochelle said she hopes to promote an understanding about transgender issues. She said she felt bullied mostly by school officials, not by classmates. Her classmates are asking questions and seeking answers, she said.

"I look at the world now and everyone knows there are transgender teens in Fort Worth," Rochelle said. "Some students thought I was gay, and I would say I'm not gay, I'm transgendered. They had no knowledge what it meant.

"They are trying to understand what it means and understand how I feel," she said. "They are asking me questions, doing their own research. They're on the Internet. In some ways, I'm a teacher."