Tobi Hill-Meyer

The Advocate Joins in Transphobic Media

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | June 17, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Jason Stenson, Kimah Nelson, marriage, The Advocate, transphobia

It married.jpegwas bad enough when the New York Post ran the transphobic article "Wedding Crashers" which erroneously describes a trans woman and her cis male partner, Kimah Nelson and Jason Stenson, as a gay couple and how they "duped" the government into giving them a same-sex marriage.

But then the Advocate repeated the story uncritically parroting the same anti-trans message. After some complaints, they've removed the male pronouns referring to Kimah but rather than replacing them with female pronouns they opted for no pronouns.

However, the article still uses Kimah's birth name rather than her preferred name, still describes them as a same-sex couple, still dehumanizingly describes the status of her genitals, and still claims that the couple "fooled" the officials, perpetuating the transphobic fear that trans people are "fooling" people when we say we are the genders we identify as -- the very same fear that gives rise to the trans-panic defense for hate crimes and murders. The effect is clearly visible just by reading the comments this story is generating. Do we seriously need a GLAAD action alert before the Advocate will retract this anti-trans framing of the story or even just follow Associated Press guidelines for reporting on trans people?

The Advocate goes on to admonish the couple with the odd statement that "Regardless of gender identity, same-sex marriage is illegal in New York," which seems to forget that there is no separate legal status of sex and gender and that opposite-gender marriage has the same legal meaning as opposite-sex marriage.

The truth is, governmental agencies never have found a consensus about how to define sex. Kimah represented herself, truthfully, as a woman. She showed an adequate form of identification, which listed her as female. The bureaucrats had no policies demanding further identification. She did everything she was supposed to. When some of your ID marks you as male and some marks you as female what else is someone supposed to do?

While the couple's critics -- both in the Advocate and the more traditionally anti-trans press -- condemn the couple for their so-called deception, I'm left wondering how they would react if she had presented ID marking herself as male and married a woman then announced herself as a part of a same-sex marriage. Presumably, they would be equally upset about the "deceptive" and "fraudulent" marriage.

I'd love to say that the critics can't have things both ways, that trans people have to be allowed to marry people of at least one gender, but that's often not the case. Immigration officials have gone back and forth, but often refuse to acknowledge marriages involving trans people regardless of their partner's gender. And opposite-gender/sex couples involving trans people may receive marriage licenses, but always have to be concerned about a transphobic legal attack to annul them.

It's true that legalizing same-sex marriage will benefit trans people by removing these barriers. However, such a simple perspective doesn't address a major issue. The public attention on same-sex marriage over the past several years is what led to the denial of this couple's marriage rights. A decade ago, this never would have made the news and their marriage would likely have remained unquestioned.

Now, it'd be selfish to suggest that would be reason in itself to abandon the marriage fight (there are much better reasons out there). But when it comes to the fight for same-sex marriage, it's important to remember that trans people have much to lose and not much to gain. You could say that we're taking one for the team here -- except some might question if we're on the team, have decision making influence, or have the choice not to. Incidentally, when was the last time you saw a political fight that benefits trans people at the risk of hurting cis queers and not the other way around?

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I was really pissed when I read this to the point that I did make a complaint with GLAAD. It is embarrassing that the queer media would represent a transwoman in such a way. They need to rewrite the article and apologize for using such hateful language.

I mentioned this to a friend last night, who has been a long-time reader of the Advocate. He sincerely hoped that this was a mistake. I'm sorry to hear that they're sticking with the tabloid-style reporting here.

The Advocate has always been a transphobic conserva-queer Mattachine expected anything else from them?

Angela Brightfeather | June 17, 2009 1:01 PM

Well Sis, you have just about covered it I think.
The Advocate is as biased as usual against Trans people. Trans marriages being put in harms way by SSM advocates who don't even consider the ramifications to those unions, legal or otherwise.
What appears to be the eternal state of Limbo that the Catholic church may have done away with, but that gays and lesbians, along with hetero people continue to insist that Trans people live in, with a patchwork of laws across states that only makes our lives more confusing. While at the same time those same people are yelling at Trans people to choose. Either your a man or a woman, but get the heck of the fence and express your gender one way or the other or your a freak of some kind.

And finally the impact that the marriage dispute has on existing legislation that is ready to be passed but now has to take the back seat and hope for next year or the year after, or ten years from now.

Right now, it's pretty messed up if you ask me and we even have Trans people telling other Trans people who don't have jobs and can't get one, that they are wrong for not beating their drums for SSM, instead of looking for solutions to their employment predicament and the safety of their own lives on a daily basis. Now that can wait while everyone has to concentrate and shift their attention and money to getting the 1,067 benefits due to being legally married that they don't have.

We are beginning to actually become the reality that the Republicans have painted many of us all these years and that we used to scoff at, that "no one should worry about the Democrats, because they will find another way to destroy themselves."

Why isn't anyone asking if all the money that was spent to defeat Prop 8, instead was spent on lobbying and educating for ENDA and Hate Crimes, why we would not be more united and ready to totally attack the SSM issue together, instead of being so fragmented now?

Exactly who is running this agenda anyway, Howdy Doodee?

Right now, at this moment you ARE the problem Angela.

I didn't pick the battle but it has begun (DOMA, not SSM). Either we win big here, put on a good showing or tuck tail and run for the next generation. What will it take for you to understand that?

If you cannot get onboard for the battle you are proving once and for all what so many A gays have said about trans activists, that they care nothing for the larger issues and don't deserve further consideration. Is that what you are saying?

It's time to use the pot or get off it.

So dissapointing. And in the comments it gets even worse. Explicitly using surgical status to argue that she really is male and it really is same-sex? I suppose the Advocate came to the same conclusion without specifying their reasoning. The way this story is being reported all around is just depressing.

I left a comment over there. This is stupid. They should know better. Everything Tobi said.

I for one am not surprised at all, the Advocate has a long history of covering things in a 'G' tada!!!! L....b.........t fashion.
I honestly don't read the toilet paper at all.

Oh, this is so disgusting. It baffles me when gay people don't get how important trans issues are. It just makes my head go splodey.

But, surgical status, and genitals do define sex, Tobi, to virtually everyone on the planet but some (not even all) of the GLBT and those who are transgender and have no desire for GRS. The credentials listing her as female on her benefits card was issued by mistake, the article said. Even though one presents as female, they both are male; she hasn't had GRS and hasn't changed her that not a same-sex marriage? I don't think simply presenting as female makes one female. There is more to the issue than simply identifying with a different gender in order to become it. Why the brouhaha over this?

I don’t necessarily trust the original article when it says it was issued as female “by mistake.” Even so, that’s how a lot of folks I know did get their documentation changed because there was no accessible option otherwise and I don’t fault them for it. (“Oops, someone seems to have made a mistake, look at what my driver’s license says!”)

Sure, there’s a lot that goes into being one gender or another, but is the government really the final arbiter of that? Will you think of my gender differently every time I cross state lines? Will you consider a trans woman to really be a woman if their birth certificate says female even if they identify as genderqueer, or grow out their facial hair, or keep their original genitals, or don’t pass? If so, then binary identity, genitals, gender conformity, and passing aren’t the end all and be all of gender. If not, then it’s clear that birth certificates are not the end all and be all of gender.

Even knowing what her birth certificate says and the status of her genitals (which most people will never know about each other), that’s not enough reason in my mind to declare her gender false. You see her as male, the beaurrocrats saw her as female and so do I, why are you right and us wrong?

Sex is subjective – even by legal definition. So it’s a subjective call whether you want to call this a same-sex marriage or not. Recognizing that, I go with what’s most respectful and honor the way this couple sees themselves. If you want to be objective, I suppose you could call it a “same-birth-certificate-sex-status marriage” or an “opposite-sex-identity marriage.” But for those who call it a “same-sex marriage” I’m going to point out how disrespectful that is.

"surgical status, and genitals do define sex, Tobi, to virtually everyone on the planet...she hasn't had GRS and hasn't changed her BC"

Why do people assume that defining gender by government issued licenses, surgical status and genitalia is some kind of universal norm? Gender has been defined in different ways in different cultures at different times. The entire concept of birth certificates is culturally and temporally specific as well - as is government. Just because a lot of white people in the U.S. sort of agree about something does not make it Eternal Truth.

No, no, no.

While it may be the litmus test now, surgical status is a /terrible/ way to judge things.


Because SRS is not covered by virtually any insurance, and costs tens of thousands of dollars. You can't really get bank loans for it, and ways to finance it tend to amount to 'save up for it'.

There are thousands and thousands of transgender people out there who /want/ surgery, but simply don't have access to it. I was blessed with timing and luck that I could roll the costs of it (All told, my SRS experience cost us AU$40,000) into the mortgage we were getting, as the price we got on our house was well below what it was really worth.

But until such time as good, quality SRS is available for free to every trans person who needs it, it can't be used as a litmus test, it's just a class test.

This doesn't even go into the fact that female-to-male SRS is not really at a state where many people want to have it. It makes male-to-female surgery look inexpensive, takes multiple experimental and uncertain surgeries, and the results are not good even then. Most F2M's go for a masectomy, yes, but getting a flat chest isn't the same as getting a penis.

No, the only 'fair' way to do it at this point is for legal gender to be changable when a doctor says that, yes, you are indeed trans, not when someone either saves up for a decade, spends an inheretence, or impoverishes themself for years to pay for a life-saving surgery that the world considers 'cosmetic' and 'optional' and won't support.

Quite a powerful arguement you make there.

Well done.

I am up to my eyeballs in debt because I went to Bangkok to get the surgery I needed. Obviously, cheaper and better surgery then getting it done in the USA.

Now, I have to be laser focused on my biz to get my ass out of hock. I know I will eventually prevail in getting the debt wiped out, but it will take years. I guess it's better than being dead or a veg for life.

Me having to pay for this surgery really ticks me off, but a girl's gotta do what a girls gotta do.
I'm still glad I went and got the surgery done even though things are a bit of a mess financially.

I know I'm not the only transwoman to be in this predicament. You hit the wall and whip out the MasterCard access checks and you solve one prob and create another. Sometimes you just can't go on in the wrong shell, so you fix it.

Some LGB's do not understand how being crapped on all the time affects your psyche. Their priveldge makes them forget that if it weren't for their money, they'd be in the crapper too.

I never cared for the Advocate, because they don't advocate for me and my partner. We're both trans. I've had surgery, she hasn't by choice. So, is she my husband? I don't think so and neither does she. We're both women, so the advocate can suck on it! I wouldn't wipe up cat sick with the hack rag. WTF do they know about us anyway?

Just my two cents.

diddlygrl | June 18, 2009 1:00 AM

However, in some states, like Texas, you are not supposed to be able to get the BC chnged. The judge told me that when I filed for change of gender after surgery. It has been done, but if they wanted to get persnickity then they could go in there and just change it back.

And, by the same extension, Susan, to virtually everyone on the planet, you are a gay man who had his penis cut off.

Everyone but those of us who are trying to change that.

Its not a happy thing, I realize, and you know *I* don't think that way, but the argument you are making is pointlessly essentialist and utterly flawed.

Your external genitalia do not define you -- clinging to that belief is not only an error scientifically, but logically.

(btw, I did respond in that other thread)

"Your external genitalia do not define you -- clinging to that belief is not only an error scientifically, but logically."

Close enough only works with horse shoes, hand grenades and atom bombs. It most certainly defines you in terms of who you may wish to interact with. If you don't believe thats true come over to my red-neck of the woods and explain it to bubba.

Regan DuCasse | June 17, 2009 3:36 PM

People, people...

Anyway, they are a cute couple.

...they could just hop on the Metro North and come up here to Connecticut and get married. Problem solved.

And as a 46XX/46XY person (who’s also Trans… or is that a Trans person who happens to be 46XX/XY?) life can be REALLY complicated for a lot of things when you’re eternally ‘in between’.


You ‘normal’ humans have it easy.

Gina - it could be worse.

You could have 5ARD or 17BHDD, and look female at birth, but male after puberty. Or IPSR and look male at birth, but female later.

You 'normal' Intersexed people with a stable appearance have it easy. :D

(Cue Monty Python's 4 Yorkshiremen sketch)

But seriously - cisgendered people, straight or gay, have genuinely got no idea of the bizarre legal problems we face. Nor the very real possibility of imprisonment, rape and death every time we cross a border, or even get a traffic ticket for a broken tail-light. Such events are rare, but there's always that possibility.

No-one has ever been denied a passport for being gay, or denied the right to vote, or to board an aircraft or enter a federal building. Very few lesbians have been put in male jails and subject to repeated gang-rape there. But it happens to us.

What is it - 5% of the inmates of Californian jails report being sexually assaulted there? But for Trans and IS people, it's 60%. And GLBs don't realise that those figures are real, not propaganda.

This Stenson-Nelson case speaks more to the blowback effect of the gay marriage push on transgender people's ability to get married.

Transpeople have been able to get married in their corrected gender since the early 60's. But what many of you peeps realize that some of these anti-ay marriage are being interpreted to attack trans people's ability to get married by trying to claim we're 'same sex couples'.

Not many of you are aware of Christie Lee Littleton, but she had her legal op gender marriage retroactively invalidated by DOMA simply because an insurance company wished to keep her from garnering a multimillion dollar wrongful death lawsuit she filed as his spouse.

Never mind the fact she got married BEFORE DOMA was passed.

Post-operative status should not be the only arbiter of ones gender. There are those of us who don't desire surgery who also don't identify as what happens to be checked on our legal documentation.

One more thing, what about transpeople who had the misfortune to be born in Ohio???