Editorial: Transitional Times

20 May 2016 Melissa Cranenburgh

Editorial: Transitional Times

In 2013, Andy Guy became the first Australian transgender man to undergo “phalloplasty” surgery in the US. But the idea that the actor – who began life as Anna Guy – “became” a man after his operation is to fundamentally misunderstand the situation. As Guy explained in a predictably sensationalised Daily Telegraph article at the time: “This is a procedure about becoming the person you are, not about your sexual behaviour or sexual orientation, which is what it becomes caught up in… For me, I’ve always felt male. That’s what I know I am. I’m just a guy.”
These distinctions, and the explanation for the growing acronym surrounding them, have become an important part of the growing acceptance of a spectrum of individuals previously forced to squeeze – sometimes with disastrous effects – into the one-size-fits all boxes of gender and sexuality.
(Throughout this edition, we’ve gone with LGBTIQ – to represent what some have affectionately termed the “alphabet soup” used as a catch-all for non-mainstream gender and sexual identity. Although, there are alternative options like LGBTIQA – the “A” standing for “Asexual”. Or, written with a small “a”, “ally”, a person who supports, but doesn’t identify as, the other letters.)
For those who feel bamboozled by the terminology and newly elevated position of those who don’t fit preconceived gender norms – high-profile celebrities such as our cover model, Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox – consider this: reality is rarely straightforward. And, ironically, the desire to slot people into simple boxes makes the need to clearly define terms like “transgender” (and its opposite, “cisgender”) such a modern obsession.
But for Cox, being trans isn’t political. It’s about, as she puts it, living her truth. In a video interview with fashion magazine Nylon, Cox describes a period of her life when she had a breakdown and tried to be “normal”: shaving her hair and dressing in boy’s clothes. It lasted four days. “I just was not in a place where I was being honest with myself,” she recalls. “And I think we all get to a place in our lives when…we can no longer lie to ourselves about who we really are. And that was a turning point for me.”
Cox, who in the same interview discusses her Gemini characteristics, is asked what advice she’d give to her younger self: “You’re beautiful just the way you are. That you’re not as ugly as you think. That your feelings, your thoughts are valid. That you are in fact a girl, you’re not crazy. And…it’s gonna be alright.”
The question remains, though. With the rising visibility of high-profile US celebrities like Cox – and, in Australia, military leader Group Captain Catherine McGregor and model Andreja Pejić – are things changing for the better for trans men and women generally? This edition we include stories by two writers who also identify as trans. Film critic Cerise Howard (‘In Transition’, p14) looks at pop culture and how it relates to her reality. And journalist Kate Doak (‘Sisters in Arms’, p16) pays tribute to the women who have been so much more than mere role models in her life.
There may be a point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, where people like Cox become unremarkable. Where there is no distinction made between women and men who were assigned their gender at birth and those who have “transitioned”. For now…it’s her turn in the spotlight.

Melissa Cranenburgh, Acting Editor

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