No matter what I do, I'll never be able to look like THAT!"
While speaking to the middle-age woman across from me, I gestured toward the attractive young lady who was walking by. Tall and slim with blonde hair, she exuded a confidence that belied the struggles she must have gone through to be where she was.
"Me, neither" said my companion. "Lots of women would love to look like Amanda."
And I'd thought I was the only one who envied Amanda Simpson for her good looks and successful career at Raytheon. In addition to her activism with Wingspan and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, she was at the time serving on the City of Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues.
Yet none of that has prevented a stream of invective from being directed her way since her recent appointment as a special adviser to the Department of Commerce. The silly television skit by David Letterman is minor compared to the remarks of people like Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality: "This is a man—and, by the way, he is a man; he's not a woman—who is one of the leaders in crusading for so-called 'civil rights' based on gender-confused behavior."
Obviously Mr. LaBarbera has never met Amanda Simpson. Far from being gender-confused, she displays an innate femininity that makes it hard to believe she's ever been anything but female. Were she not so open about her past, no one would ever guess. LaBarbera, who evidently doesn't even understand the crucial distinction between transsexuality and homosexuality, is the one who's gender-confused.
The vitriol continues as online bigots are able to spew their venom concerning a woman they, too, have never met. Someone called "Mikie" says, unedited: "I believe ANYONE whom FOOLS the opposite sex into believeing they are contrary to whom they REALLY ARE! Should be charged with a CRIME! And ALSO be OPEN to huge law suits! Those that have had 'genital changes' even more of a crime!"
If these people weren't terrified about the fact that gender isn't necessarily dependent on the sex assigned at birth, perhaps they could find better things to do with their time.
This all is another example of the "don't-confuse-me-with-facts, my-mind-is-made-up" mindset. Show them proof of global warming, and they'll deny it exists. Show them Obama's birth certificate, and they'll deny he was born in Hawaii. Show them a picture of a pretty woman, and they'll insist she's really a woman despite the evidence right before their eyes. And no matter how brilliant, successful and well-qualified that woman may be, some narrow-minded people will never accept her if she happens to be transsexual.
Ironically, Amanda Simpson is not the first transsexual appointee in the Obama administration. Shortly before her appointment, Dylan Orr was appointed as a special assistant to the Labor Department. But Orr is a transsexual man, and trans men don't create the kind of weird fantasies in the minds of bigots that transsexual women like Simpson do. Why is this?
Julia Serano devotes a major portion of her book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity to showing that the more extreme bias against trans women is a product of male-supremacist attitudes. Serano points out that "the media tends not to notice—or to outright ignore—trans men because they are unable to sensationalize them the way they do trans women without bringing masculinity itself into question. ... Since most people cannot fathom why someone would give up male privilege and power in order to become a relatively disempowered female, they assume that trans women transition primarily as a way of obtaining the one type of power that women are perceived to have in our society: the ability to express femininity and attract men."
The day may come when a strong, successful woman like Amanda Simpson will be valued for her qualities rather than being scapegoated for irrelevant details from her past.
Joni Kay Rose has had articles published in a variety of local and national periodicals. She authored The Joy Beyond Craving in Tucson in 2003 (www.desertwordsmith.com). An experienced hypnotherapist, teacher and public speaker, she holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology and a master of divinity degree. While active in the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance from 2001 to 2003, she wrote a 2002 cover story for the Tucson Weekly under the pen name Joni K. Mausse.