Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

That's happy new year in Japanese! Here's wishing everyone good health, success, happiness, peace of mind and love in 2009. All the best always!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

International Symposium on Trans Cinema Studies

Below is the call for papers from Eliza Steinbock, a board member of the T-Image Foundation, the organization that has been sponsoring the bi-annual Transgender Film Festival in the Netherlands. I hope one day we can all see each other in an international gathering of scholars such as this one. It would be very interesting to say the least.

International Symposium on Trans Cinema Studies
Deadline - 01.02.2009

19th May 2009 at the University of Amsterdam - Co-sponsored by T-Image Foundation and The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis Convened by Eliza Steinbock, PhD Candidate at ASCA and board member of T-Image Foundation. Taking place in conjunction with the Netherlands Transgender Film Festival 20-24 May 2009 at de Balie Cultural Center.

In celebration of our 5th bi-annual festival, we will convene a full day of debate amongst scholars, filmmakers, the transgender community, and festival attendees. We imagine this symposium to be both reflective and forward-looking.

Susan Stryker (visiting Professor, Harvard University and Associate Professor Gender Studies, Indiana University) will present her groundbreaking work on Christine Jorgenson, a transsexual celebrity and filmmaker, as well as lead the closing plenary. We invite 20 min. presentations from scholars and/or professionals in the field. In the interest of staking out some of the concerns of “trans cinema studies,” we suggest the following issues:

History: in what ways have gay and lesbian television, cinema and festivals enabled trans visibility; what are the histories of other avenues of emergence; in what ways have film festivals shaped the films that have been made?

Accessibility/Distribution: what might we do about the identity ‘problem’ facing trans film festivals, which as a platform for trans cinema are sidelined as being too specialist or become redundant as more queer film festivals curate a trans program; what are the implications of greater or lesser distribution for certain films at festivals and elsewhere?

Reception: what work do (trans) viewers perform on films to make them trans, read them as trans, to make the films work in particular ways; what is at stake in trans perceptibility and how might we understand it?

Film Craft: to what extent have techniques and strategies from queer and feminist film been incorporated into trans cinema and vice versa; is ‘transness’ in the director, content, conventions/expectations, the market, or?

Genre: which genres has trans representation tapped into and why; which genres have not yet been explored; might trans cinema be an expansive term to include experimental cinema (new languages and strategies)?

Representation: what are the dominant and subjugated models of trans representation, especially in terms of the politics of nation, race, age, sexuality, and class; what kinds of shifts have occurred in terms of films with MTF or transfeminine characters and films with FTM or transmasculine characters?

Film Theory: how might feminist film theory overlap with trans film theory; do we mean ‘trans’ as a concept or a practice; what methods of film analysis and film history does trans cinema render obsolete; what tools of analysis does trans cinema call for and suggest?

Interdisciplinarity: in what ways might transgender/transsexual practice and cinema relate?; how might shared concepts, such as, duration, narrative, technology expand and enrich both fields of study?;

Please submit a 250 word abstract of your intended paper and a biographical note. Send to Eliza Steinbock by 1 February 2009. We look forward to your response and hope to see you in May! For more information visit

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas

Rainbow holiday greetings to you and your loved ones on this special time of year. Keep the myriad-colored lights shining bright till the New Year! And as the man who has my heart is wont to say, Shalom from the bottom of my heart. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Used to be a man"

One of the more despicable phrases ever coined by the modern media is “used to be a man.” It is more often than not used to describe a trans woman who has recently caught media attention and commonly occurs with at least to me, its equally offensive variations such as “born a man”, “born male”, “born a he”, or “female (supply profession/occupation here) used to be a he/used to be a man”.

This phrase has taken center stage anew with the winning of the RE/MAX Long Drive Championship in the US by Lana Lawless, a 55 year old, openly trans woman. One would think that with trans golfer Mianne Bagger’s success in the sport, the golfing world would be used to trans people by now. But no, Lana’s story is being sold as a golfing “scandal” of sorts and the media is once again having a field day throwing around all the above-mentioned phrases to describe her.

Lana seems to be taking it well though and in interviews she seems to be rolling with the punches and handling the situation with a sense of humor. So I really shouldn’t be reacting this way. Sometimes I just wish she’d confront the use of this phrase to describe her because it sensationalizes her.

Additionally, I can’t help but feel that our own community somehow is at fault here. The phrase “used to be a man” speaks of the kind of language we ourselves use in talking about our transgender experience. I would like to particularly problematize the concept of transition here.

In trans parlance, transition is the moment one starts changing one’s body and gender expression to that of the opposite gender (whatever that is to you). It is also the basis of the idea of the gender vector. The gender vector demonstrates the direction of gender change for people who transition, for example, from male to female, thus the abbreviation MTF for trans women and from female to male or FTM for trans men.

When I go to speaking engagements talking about Trans 101, I hardly use these terms in spite of their currency in our community in the same way that I don’t use the terms pre-op, post-op or non-op. I simply don’t feel that they should carry as much significance as others bestow on them. The problem with the terms pre-op, post-op and non-op is that they privilege the op or operation when we know that having the op is not the end-all, be-all of our trans experience. In the same vein, I view transition as an optional process. Many trans people will not transition or will not feel the need to do so. Or they may do so but not feel that it is a process of transitioning from one gender to another.

And I guess this is my point all along. I’ve always felt that we trans people have always been born the gender we now identify as. And no matter how that is explained—whether our transness is genetic or neurological—we were never the sex we were assigned at birth. In my case, I was never male. I was not born a he. I was not born a man. I was always female.

This is why the phrase “used to be a man” makes me cringe every time I hear or read it used to describe a trans woman because it is a clear case of ignorance of the trans experience. That or it’s an intentional sensationalizing of it. After all, as Monica Roberts has been pointing out in her blog, The Transgriot, the Associated Press has already outlined in its Stylebook what the press should do in talking about trans people. According to the Stylebook, when it comes to:

Transgender - Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.

But this is just pronoun usage which is the tip of the iceberg in dealing with trans people. In fact, many articles about Lana Lawless do refer to her as she but only after revealing that she used to be a he. And this to me is the missing link. What Stylebooks don’t teach is how to genuinely treat people of trans experience with RESPECT when talking and reporting about them. That should be done in journalism school not after.

And for that to be fully realized, we trans people ourselves need to rethink and perhaps transform the language we use in talking about our experience. We are more than our surgeries. We are more than the direction of gender change we take. We must accept that above all and more than anything, we are simply, people first.

A call from Julia Serano

hi everyone,

I am currently working on a web article that I hope will raise awareness about the ways in which trans women are often “hyper-sexualized” in our culture. And I am soliciting quotes, anecdotes and insights from the trans feminine/MTF community in order to help convey the impact that this sexualization has on our lives.

Of course, all women face nonconsensual sexualization (e.g., cat calls, sexual innuendos or harassment, sexually explicit remarks about our appearances, objectifying comments or depictions, sexual violation, etc.) to varying degrees. But those of us who are trans women sometimes find that strangers and acquaintances tend to be far more explicit, hardcore and/or debasing in their sexualizing comments and behaviors when they are aware of our trans status than when they presume that we are cis women (i.e., non-trans women).

Here is how I put some of my own experiences in my book Whipping Girl:

‘...when I am assumed to be cissexual [i.e., non-transsexual], the sexualizing comments I receive almost always come from random strangers in public. However, if I meet a man in a more social situation (e.g., at a party or a bar), he rarely stoops to blatantly crass, sexualizing comments, even when he is flirting with me. However, in social settings where I am known to be transsexual (e.g., at events where I perform spoken word poetry), men do often blatantly sexualize me: I have had men immediately engage me in conversations about how much they enjoy “she-male” porn, flat-out tell me “I’m turned on by ‘girls like you,’ ” and explicitly describe the sex acts they have had with other trans women in the past. And numerous times I have received unsolicited emails, presumably from men who found my website during a search using the keyword “transsexual,” in which they described their sexual fantasies about trans women in gory detail, or asked me graphic questions about my body and sexual activities. These emails are always centered on my transsexual femaleness; I do not receive similar emails from people who presume that I am a cissexual female.’

If you are a trans woman (i.e., someone who was assigned a male sex at birth, but who identifies and/or lives as female), I would be interested in possibly including your experiences in my web article. I am particularly interested in the following types of scenarios:

1) occasions where somebody sexualized you in an especially extreme or explicit manner specifically because they knew you were trans.
2) occasions where somebody assumed that you were motivated to transition to female for primarily sexual reasons (for example, to receive sexual attention from men, to engage in sex work, or to fulfill some kind of sexual fantasy or “perversion”).
3) occasions where medical or psychiatric professionals (particularly those fulfilling a “gatekeeper” role) made especially sexualizing remarks about your appearance, behaviors or motives/desire to transition, or were sexualizing in other ways.
4) occasions where someone sexualized your trans body, identity and/or motives for transitioning in order to dismiss your female identity or to insinuate that you are not a “real” woman.

For each incident you wish to share, please write a brief paragraph describing what happened (btw, you may submit more than one incident/paragraph). Obviously, other factors besides trans status (e.g., race, age, class, size, ability, to name a few) can also impact the specific ways in which women are sexualized, so feel free to include any other contextual information that you feel is necessary to accurately convey what happened. Also, keep in mind that other people may eventually be reading these quotes, so be sure to omit any unimportant info that you feel might place your (or anyone else’s) anonymity in jeopardy (e.g., where you live or work, people’s names, etc.). Also, I will not be editing these paragraphs at all (except possibly for length), so you might want to double-check for spelling mistakes and typos.

For those interested, please send your experiences to me at - I can assure you that YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED OR SHARED WITH ANYONE. Please paste the text into the body of the email (no attachments please). In the email, please also include a statement along the following lines: “I certify that all of the provided information is true to the best of my knowledge, and I give Julia Serano permission to permanently post these quotes on her website and to allow her to excerpt them in her future writings or presentations on the topic of the sexualization of trans women.” I hope to complete this article by the end of January, so I’d appreciate it if you sent me your experiences sooner rather than later.

For the record, this work is not the part of any kind of “research project.” I am approaching this subject as both a trans activist (who wants to raise awareness about an issue which has a profound negative impact trans women’s lives) and a journalist (who wants to chronicle a phenomenon that has been largely ignored by the cis mainstream and in cis feminist circles). It is my hope that the final web article will contain a series of quotes from trans women speaking in their own voices, describing the types of sexualization they have faced and the impact it has had on their lives. The article will be permanently placed on my website, as I hope that it will become a useful resource for trans activists, trans feminists, trans academics, and others who wish to analyze and/or call attention to the nonconsensual sexualization that trans women routinely face.

One last point: The purpose of this article is to highlight the ways in which trans women are nonconsensually sexualized by others. It is *not* about healthy, consensual sexuality, nor about trans women’s sexual behaviors and proclivities. Too often people who wish to sexualize women use our own sexual expressions or experiences against us in order to insinuate that we are somehow “asking for it” (i.e., asking to be sexualized). For this reason, this article will focus solely on the sexual assumptions that *other people make about us*, rather than on our own sexualities.

Feel free to cross-post this request on any trans-focused websites/blogs/email lists at your discretion. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at

Thanks in advance!

julia serano
writer, spoken word artist, trans woman activist

Trying to get my groove back

It has been two weeks since the historic 2008 Manila Pride March: Parade, Program, Pageant and Party and a week since I got back from Indonesia to attend a gathering of LGBT activists there for the 60th year anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR60). Yet I feel like I’ve been unhinged by the frenetic pace that was the Pride March preparations and leaving for another country right after did not help matters if any.

When I got back to work last Tuesday, the 16th, I felt a little lost and even now I feel like I’m still trying to get my groove back. I know this is just temporary because I have so much to do even this Christmas break from work. I’ve decided to give myself till tomorrow though to ride out this feeling. I hope to be back on track soon after.

I apologize for taking this long to say anything here. I know I promised to blog more this month and I could have done so with so many things happening before, during and after the Pride March but I just could not find the time. Any spare time I had I used for resting instead. Anyway below is an article about the Pride March written by 2008 Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines’ Media Committee Head, Danton Remoto who also happens to be the national chair of Ang Ladlad, the organization of LGBT Filipinos that I belong to. It was published on the website of ABS-CBN, a leading television network here. I also added a link to pictures of the march taken by Prof. Libay Linsangan Cantor, of the University of the Philippines Film Institute (UPFI). Prof. Cantor is a well-respected lesbian author, film maker and teacher here. I hope this will do for now. Enjoy!

It was time once again to paint the whole country pink last December 6. Occasion: the annual Pride March of the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos at Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila. The march is organized by Task Force Pride Philippines, an organization of LGBT groups and individuals. After the march, the Miss Queen Philippines Beauty Pageant was held at 5 p.m., followed by a street party at Maria Orosa Street with techno DJs at 10 p.m. Celebration was the theme of this year’s Pride March. And as before, we are still pushing for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that I helped write in 1999, and which is still pending in the lethargic Congress, nine years after it was filed.

This year’s Task Force Pride was co-chaired by Miss Sass Sasot of Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippinnes (STRAP) and Miss Pau Fontanos of STRAP and Ang Ladlad, the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos. Changes in this year’s Pride March included a colorful website,, more floats, and the march done by new members of newly organized LGBT groups, including guys who climb mountains (Brokeback Mountain?) and lesbians who raise families. I was happy to see that we the veterans could now go behind the scenes and work at the sidelines while the young, the fabulous, and the organized got the work done, and done generally well.

This year’s Pride March was also different in that it was the first time that LGBT Pride was celebrated nationwide, in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu), and Mindanao (Lanao del Norte). In Manila , the 2008 Manila Pride March turned the streets of Malate into one big and colorful space for celebration, even if a small group of Born-Again Christians – and foreign at that! – tried but failed to rain on our parade.

In Cebu, the Visayas Pride Network, a network of LGBT organizations and individuals promoting LGBT human rights led by Joseph Patrick Ty held the first ever Pride Day in the Queen City of the South. In Lanao del Norte, the Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders United for Peace and Solidarity (GUPS) led by Ang Ladlad member Bong Enriquez celebrated LGBT Pride by conducting a reflexology and therapeutic massage training for Mindanao LGBTs on 6-7 December 2008. As part of the training, participants got free foot reflexology, foot spa, and back and head massages to NGO workers on Dec. 8 and 9.

As Chairman of Ang Ladlad, I also introduced the Yogyakarta Principles of LGBT Rights signed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, last year as the framework for the rights of LGBT Filipinos. Grace Poore of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) explained the context of the Yogyakarta Principles.

The Yogyakarta Principles collate all the international human-rights laws and applies these legal standards to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. They were put together by a distinguished group of human rights experts who met at Yogyakarta in November 2006. It has since been introduced formally to the United Nations (UN) system, translated into the six official UN languages, and launched in several countries.

The launch of the Yogyakarta Principles in Manila is part of Ang Ladlad’s response to IGLHRC’s 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women. Ang Ladlad – along with other groups in Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China and India – launched the Yogyakarta Principles in their respective countries, helped create a banner consisting of panels of fabric representing Asian LBT activism, and sent a representative, Pau Fontanos, to the gathering of LGBT activist and groups in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for the 60th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). For more information on the Yogyakarta Principles, please visit

But the Pride March done during Human Rights Week was not a one-shot affair. The five months leading up to the Pride March were hectic, indeed, with LGBT-related activities. They included a forum on transfemale rights, the dyke dialogues, UP Babaylan’s medical mission, the launching of a new LGBT magazine called Invoice as well as the launching of GALANG, or Gays and Lesbians Activist Network for Gender Equality. Club Government in Makati Avenue also had its 4th anniversary party, while Ang Ladlad held literary readings at Mag.Net Katipunan on the second Mondays of October and November, courtesy of its owner, the painter Rock Drilon.

One Bacardi, a group of young gay men, held their 2nd anniversary at Bed Malate Bar and Club, while Circle of Friends held a Fright Nite, Pride Nite Halloween Costume Party. GALANG also held a month-long festival of LGBT films at Katipunan. A Manhunt fund-raising party was held as well at Club Government, while an LGBT Bloggers’ Night launched the Rainbow Bloggers’ Philippines group at Red Box in Greenhills 3. Bed also held its Pride Nation fund-raising party while another Trans Dialogue was held at UP, jointly organized by Ang Ladlad, Rainbow Rights, and STRAP.

My latest book, Rampa: Mga Sanaysay, published by Anvil, was launched at Powerbooks Greenbelt 3. Powerbooks also chose me as Author of the Month for November, putting up a display stand of all my books in their branches. A pre-Pride party and launch of Miss Queen Philippines was held at Palawan 2 Bar in Cubao, while a Task Force Pride Meet-up was held at UP Diliman. A World AIDS Day Form was also organized by Girls, Woman, and HIV-AIDS Network (GWHAN) and a Pride March victory party was held at Club Government last Saturday. As you can see, it was a beehive of activity, made possible by the sheer hard work of organized groups under the fairy wand of the the three fabulous trans divas – Sass, Dee, and Pau.

As one of our international participants, a guy from Malaysia whose name I will not disclose, said: “I am still stunned at this Pride March. We do not have something like this in Malaysia. This is called freedom.”

Only, as they say, in the Philippines. But said this time, with a wide grin on the face and the rainbow colors of pride.

For pictures of the 2008 Manila Pride March, click here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


The 2008 Manila Pride March: Parade, Program, Pageant & Party was a huge success! I'm still on Pride high and want to savor it a little longer.

I will tell and show you more when I get back from Yogyagarkta Indonesia for the 60th year anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)!

In the mean time long live the united Filipino LGBT community!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao celebrate LGBT Pride

In what is being anticipated as a historic first, events celebrating Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride will happen simultaneously on 6 December 2008, in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu) and Mindanao (Lanao), making this year’s LGBT Pride festivities nation wide.

In Manila, the 2008 Manila Pride March is expected to turn the streets of Malate into one big Pride festival starting with a Parade at 3 pm, a Program and Pageant (Miss Queen Philippines 2008) at 5 pm and a street Party along Ma. Orosa St. from 10 pm onwards.

In Cebu, the Visayas Pride Network, a network of LGBT organizations and individuals promoting LGBT human rights, is gearing up for the first ever Pride Day in the Queen City of the South. To join and for more information, visit the Visayas Pride Network website here.

In Lanao, the Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders United for Peace and Solidarity (GUPS), will celebrate LGBT Pride by conducting a reflexology and therapeutic massage training for Mindanao LGBTs on 6-7 December 2008. As part of the training, participants will offer free foot reflexology, foot spa and back and head massages to NGO workers on Dec. 8 and 9. To join and for more information, visit the GUPS website here.

Live, love and unite with Pride. Join this year’s celebration of LGBT Pride in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao!

Promoting PRIDE

It can be said that we did everything we could to promote LGBT Pride to as many people as possible this year. In the beginning of our work in Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, the official LGBT network that has been organizing the annual Pride March in Manila since 1999, we all agreed to try this year to bring the message of Pride to previously untapped sectors, groups, establishments, institutions and individuals. We hope our hard work will pay off this Saturday, 6 December 2008 when the 2008 Manila Pride March finally happens.

Some of the things we did for PRIDE inlcude, a Halloween party, called Fright Night, Pride Night. It was sponsored by a new TFP organizational member, the Circle of Friends (CoF), an NGO dedictaed to the ideals of brotherhood and friendship. I went as Morticia Addams.


We also held several fundraisers including one called PRIDE NATION hosted by Bed Malate, one of our organizing partners. That night I met a group of drag performers called the Love Dolls.


Then finally, we spoke with all the LGBT bars in Malate where the 2008 Manila Pride March will happen this year. We asked them if they could help sponsor food, performances, etc. We went around Malate to give out posters and flyers and someone from CoF even dressed up as a Filipino super heroine, Darna all in the name of promoting Pride.


We have two days to go before the Pride March. Live, love and unite in and with Pride. See you on Saturday!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Live, love and unite with PRIDE. MARCH!

This year we, the members of Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, the official organizing network of the annual LGBT Pride March in Manila have decided to mark TFP's 10th year by paying tribute to the things that matter most: our rights, our lives, our loves and ourselves.


These are the reasons why on Saturday, 6 December 2008, together we will march in the streets of Manila to declare ourselves proudly to the world. I invite you to live, love and unite with PRIDE. MARCH!