Mariette Pathy Allen presented her recent book, “The Gender Frontier,” along with various portraits of transgender people, and discussed issues including discrimination, healthcare and employment at CSUN’s University Club Tuesday.
She mentioned these issues as some of the observations she made in her 25 years as a photographer and author, adding that in her perspective, transexuality has definitely evolved.
Her presentation began with a picture of a women giving birth, representing birth as a time when the first question always centers around the gender of the baby. She calls it the “last gender-free movement,” in which the question is “What is it?”
Among those in attendance was co-founder of the transsexual movement Virginia Prince, who was depicted in one of Allen’s recent portraits.
Allen said Prince is the youngest person she knows inspite of her age, because her portrait represents youth and growth.
In the photograph, Prince is wearing a pink blouse and sitting down for dinner. Allen said she felt as if she was staring through the present and into the future.
Allen discussed the categories of all her photographs, which include single portraits, couples, children, and body language. One of the important aspects of all of these categories include identification. She said there is always a sense of identifying what gender is.
Within the transgender community, identification is very confusing. Allen said in recent times, young transsexuals have developed a new term called “gender queer,” which shows that teenagers and college students may feel a part of a different gender everyday. For instance, a person might feel more of a man one day and on another day, may feel more like a women. This occurs despite a person’s gender. “Gender queer (are) not transsexual, they don’t need to identify themselves,” Allen said.
The girl featured in the cover of the book was present at the True Spirit Conference in Washington. Her name is Kiwi. Kiwi was a student at NYU and now works at the university as a peer counselor. Allen chose this picture for the cover because she resembles Mona Lisa, and has a pure look in her face which represents exactly what Allen wants to portray in her book.
One of the most important issues affecting the transgender movement is the advocacy and anti-discrimination of the community. Employment, housing and medical care are just some of the issues that affect the transgender community.
“Only 30 percent of the U.S. has laws that prohibit discrimination of cross gender, which means 70 percent of the country may discriminate based on appearance and gender,” Allen said.
Robert, who was presented in a photograph was a woman who turned into a man. He participated in a documentary along with Allen. He was detected with ovarian and cervical cancer while filming the documentary.
Because there are insurance companies that won’t cover health expenses for transsexuals, he was denied treatment for a month. This, of course, contributed to his health complications. He died a few months after attending a conference called “Southern Comfort.” This is just one of the examples Allen gave to the audience to try to build an understanding of the discrimination that exists in the country.
Jennifer Reid said she is a transsexual, and explained that there is a range of categories within the community that range from cross dresser to flamboyant drag queens. She said that transsexuals are those who go through the process of surgery and hormonal change, called SRS.
She identifed cross- dressers, and used examples of men who would wear woman’s clothing for a while, or maybe try on a pair of heels and walk around.
“Cross-dressers can be conservative; they can put heels on simply to feel good,” said Reid.
Dealing with social issues, Reid said that they fight for the same rights as any other individuals.
“This community is no different than any other community,” said Reid.
“The medical community tries to figure it out, what’s going on, (but) this is something really hard to understand,” Reid said with laughter. She added that it is even more confusing in their own community.
Reid is part of the Cherokee Nation. She belongs to the Piscataquis Indian tribe. She said that in the tribe, it is a blessing of God to be transgender.
They believe the “image of the spirit leaves after the shell is gone, (which) means that you have to define yourself as a person,” Reid said.
She has deep connections with the Cherokee Indians who she said help identify who they are by their actions and not by what they look like.
Glen Becerra, senior Asian American Studies major was at the event for his class.
“It was surprising, when she mentioned about transgenders inefficient housing, and healthcare,” said Becerra. “It was surprising that they are (so) supportive in the community.”
He said that there are those who don’t take the time to understand how they feel, and it’s hard for society to understand were they are coming from.
“I’m aware of the gay community, I’m open (to) learning,” said Becerra. “That’s what college is.”