A Word from the Editor

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #101, Spring 2003.

I first saw our cover girl, Trankila, at Southern Comfort 2001. She was, shall we say, different. It wasn?t the day-glo blue and orange wigs she favored that made her distinct in the midst of more than 500 crossdressers and transsexuals; rather, it was the fact that although she was dressed en femme, she sported afull beard.

This community has a history of being freaked out by male crossdressers who don?t shave. One
conference, in particular, was famous for its ?no facial hair? rule. Those who didn?t shave were not only not allowed toparticipate; because they didn?t exemplify the Phyllis Schaffly ideal of womanhood favored by the conference?s organizers, they were dressed down, told they were a disgrace.
To Southern Comfort?s credit, and to the credit of the March 2002 IFGE conference, which Trankila also attended, no issue was made of Trankila?s facial hair?although she
told me some attendees had approached her nervously tofind out what was with the whiskers. Many conference
attendees seemed to look through her or discussed her behind her back. I saw few people taking the time to
talk to her.

At Fantasia Fair, however, Trankila quickly became just another of the girls. She was accepted by theattendees, so much so that she won the Ms. Cinderella award.

Fantasia Fair is an intimate event;its leisurely pace gave others time todiscover that Trankila was intelligent, charming, articulate, and a lot of fun. They also learned the reason for Trankila?s facial hair?her partner preferred she keep it. Trankila made friends?myself included.

Our community is about nonconformity to gender stereotypes. We chafe when those stereotypes are applied to us. We must not show the same lack of sensitivity and compassion to those who don?t meet our own expectations.

If your first reaction on seeing our cover was negative, keep in mind that in all likelihood you engender the same response in others. Not a pleasant feeling, is it?


The Human Rights Campaign recently released preliminary results from its study of attitudes of the American Public toward transgendered people. Surprisingly, the numbers were similar to those for gay men and lesbians.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these data is that HRC?s ?you will cost us votes in ENDA? argument makes no sense. Instead, HRC has declared it would be unwise to embark on a campaign to educate Americans about transgender issues.

To justify this remarkable assertion, HRC relied on a minor finding from its study: when pollsters explained to those being polled just what transgender is, the approval numbers dropped slightly. This is a far cry from gender education; it was merely a clarification of terms.

It?s easy to see why many transgender activists remain skeptical of HRC. Some see the survey as an attempt to gather data to justify the continuing exclusion of transgender-inclusive language from ENDA?an attempt which backfired when the approval ratings turned out higher than expected. I would not ordinarily be so cynical, but I?ll admit, HRC?s admonishment against doing gender education has given me pause.

We should thank HRC for doing the survey, even if the motives in undertaking it were less than pure?but we should continue to take HRC to task for continuing to exclude us, since the data show we are not a political liability. How, we should ask, is our continued exclusion not discrimination, pure and simple? How, I do ask, is it not discrimination, pure and simple?

ENDA is of course, a dead issue?but the matter of HRC?s trustworthiness on the transgender issue is very much alive.

We should take special care that HRC not come to view transgender education as its purview, rather than ours.

HRC is not our enemy. Those who continue to act as if it were should behave in a more moderate fashion. But despite the addition of transgender to its mission statement, it has not yet shown that it is our friend.