Tag Archives: Trans equality

The Gaze & Other Stories: Broadening The View On Gender In Fashion

H&M sister brand & Other Stories this week launched a transgender inclusive advertising campaign.

The video includes models Valentijn de Hugh and Hari Nef taking part in a photo shoot for their new capsule collection.

All those involved with the shoot are also transgender: photographer Amos Mac (editor of trans magazine Original Plumbing), stylist Love Bailey and make-up artists Nina Poon.

De Hugh says

I think it’s so weird that when we are born the first thing that we are, even before we have a name, or an identity, we are either male or female, before you even know anything about the person who was just born.

Being born male or being born female decides so much about who you are allowed to be in life. And I just don’t want to live under those constraints. I want to break free from those.”

Hari Nef added

Fashion has played a huge role in my process of constructing my identity. Fashion can apply to a wider audience of people and maybe it will lose its reputation as the scary, esoteric club where if you’re not skinny, white, thin, cis-gender, able-bodied and rich, you can’t participate.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 14.31.35

In a press statement about the campaign, & Other Stories’ creative director Sara Hildén Bengtson said:

The fashion world is embracing transgender models and we think that’s great. But we couldn’t help to ask ourselves how the traditional fashion gaze can change if we keep the same normative crew behind the camera. So we invited five amazing creatives, all transgender, to make our latest story.”

The advert has been praised by the Human Rights Campaign, who applauded the fact that H&M have become a transgender-inclusive workplace.

H&M earned a 70 [out of 100] on the 2015 Corporate Equality Index, HRC’s survey and report benchmarking corporate policies, practices and benefits related to LGBT inclusion. H&M’s transgender specific workplace initiatives include non-discrimination protection based on gender identity and the company offers transgender inclusive healthcare coverage.”


How Do Transgender People Fit Into LGBTQ? (Video)

Its a good question, as many people believe being transgender is different than being gay or bisexual, and just don’t get why transgender people are included in the same movement.

And although some Trans* people consider themselves categorically different to LGB people, they still fall under the umbrella of sexual minority.

From a cultural perspective they face many of the same challenges, especially threats to the legitimacy of their identity (i.e., cultural norms that suggest people choose their sexual or gender identity).

We share a shared history. Back in the day, trans people and gay people were seen as the same (and unfortunately still are sometimes). The gay community and the trans community were extremely close, and fought together during the Stonewall riots (which has been hailed as a gay rights movement, despite the fact that most of the people involved were trans women!).

We have similar goals for equality. Both the trans and gay communities are fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage (this is very important for transgender people too. For example, I know a trans guy who couldn’t marry his girlfriend because his legal sex was still female, even though both of them are straight), criminalization of discrimination in areas of housing, employment, medical care, etc.

Homophobia and transphobia often go together, usually stemming from religious beliefs. I’ve yet to meet a homophobe that wasn’t also a transphobe. Basically, trans people and gay people are hated on by the same types of people, and often for the same reasons.

Watch this great addition edition of Ask a Homo, with Outward contributor, Garden State Equality executive director, and real-life transgender woman Andrea Majanik Bowen explains how trans people fit into the LGBTQ rainbow coalition.

Ellen DeGeneres Addresses ‘Childish’ Jokes About Bruce Jenner

When Olympic gold medal winner and reality TV star, Bruce Jenner, recently came out as trans in an interview with Diane Sawyer – we knew there would be some backlash. But one key person to show their support is Ellen DeGeneres

Moments after the interview, she tweeted her support at the time, saying Jenner was a “beautiful, brave human being”.

Ellen DeGeneres is no stranger to addressing a sensitive topic in the public eye after coming out as gay in 1997, and the talk show host addressed the information, along with the reception of it, in her usual wonderful way.

It was an amazing interview, it’s very hard to reveal what you’ve been hiding. I know there’s been a lot of jokes and I think when people feel uncomfortable or they don’t understand something that’s how they deal with it, they make jokes, it’s very childish and I think those people are poo poo heads.

Even if you don’t understand it, you’ve got to admire someone who is willing to risk ridicule and tell the truth. Everyone has something that makes them feel different and like they don’t belong I hope we can all learn to co-exist and stop judging each other.”

She concluded on a simple note,

Let’s face it: the world would be a nicer place if we focused on what we had in common instead of what makes us different because we all want the same thing—we want love, we want acceptance and we want the new Apple watch. That’s all we want.

I hope we can all learn to coexist and stop judging each other, I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, less judging, more dancing.”

Watch | A Trans Teen’s Powerful Speech To His Classmates About His Transition

Tom-Sosnik-02Moved by the recent death of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, 13-year-old Tom Sosnik of Fresno, California stood before his classmates earlier this month to announce that he is transgender.

“I am no longer ‘Mia.’ I never really was. And now I finally stand before you in my true and authentic gender identity as Tom. I stand before you as a 13-year-old boy.”

Tom Sosnik


Tom also told classmates that if any of them were struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, he was there for them.

He then added; ‘I went through a series of horrible breakdowns. And I would stand under the water in the shower crying. I knew I wasn’t happy. He also took some time to let other students know if they were struggling with their sexual identity or orientation, he was there for them.

“I want you to know that if no one else accepts you, I always will.”

Tom Sosnik

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Criticized For Letting Their Child ‘Explore’ Gender Identity

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have faced a lot of criticism after reports that they had decided to support their child’s decision to be called John. The media went into a frenzy over the story, and so did the anti-LGBT activist who attacked their parenting skills – going as far to say their “destructive ideas are ruining people’s lives”.

Since the story came to light, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt haven’t said too much more on the subject. In fact the couple never said that their child was having an identity crisis, but just wanted to be called John.

So what do we actually know. Well in a recent interview Brad Pitt said…

“She only wants to be called John. John or Peter, so it’s a ‘Peter Pan’ thing. So we’ve got to call her John. So you know, it’s just that kind of stuff that’s cute to parents, and it’s probably really obnoxious to other people.”

Brad Pitt

It seems labelling John Jolie-Pitt trans* at this point maybe unnecessary. Brad and Angelina have not made any kind of statements that would suggest that they treat John as their son, but only that they are allowing their child to be who she wants to be without pressure to be anyone else.


“I don’t think it’s for the world to interpret anything. She likes to dress like a boy and wants her hair cut like a boy and she wanted to be called ‘John’ for a while. Some kids wear capes and want to be Superman and she wants to be like her brothers. It’s who she is. It’s been a surprise to us and it’s really interesting, but she’s so much more than that – she’s funny and sweet and pretty.”

Angelina Jolie

For this stand point we have to praise the family for their open-mindedness, and allowing their child the freedom of self.

So what is the big deal that their child wants to be called John? What we all need to remember though, is there something special about parents who accept their children for who they are without offering labels, judgment, or terms of any kind. And hopefully, as time goes on, we as a society will hear less about those oppressed by loved ones until they are pushed to the brink and more about those who are allowed to explore every aspect of themselves as they grow.

Madhu Kinnar Becomes India’s First Transgender Mayor

When it comes to LGB rights, India has a notably poor track record. Not only is being gay illegal (and can result in a lifetime imprisonment) but homosexual intercourse has also been a criminal offense in the Indian Penal Code since 1860. The Delhi High Court once deemed these laws to be a direct violation of the rights provided by the Indian Constitution but this ruling was overturned in 2013.

Where the Asian country does a lot deal better is with trans folk. In the state of Tamil Nadu, there is a transgender welfare policy whereby those looking to undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) can do so for free in a Government Hospital (though sadly, this applies to MTF only). This policy also allows for free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies.

In India, trans people were also granted voting rights (albeit as a ‘third’ sex) in 1994. Consider it a reflection of their (somewhat) progressive attitude then that trans politician Madhu Kinnar has been elected as India’s first transgender mayor.

Kinnar’s win took place in Chhattisgarh, a state in Central India. The area is home to 25.5 million people making it the 10th largest state in the country – it also makes her win all the more significant.

An independent candidate, she beat her opponent (Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mahaveer Guruji) by 4,537 votes, which is a relatively slim margin. However, her win is monumental and Kinnar took it in her stride,

“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams. I only spent Rs. 60,000-70,000 from my earnings during my campaign. It was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner.”

Not that there haven’t been naysayers, though. The Congress Party have dismissed Kinnar’s win as the result of a protest vote, with Raigarh district Congress President Narendra Negi saying that “There was no Modi wave in Raigarh this time. People of Raigarh were fed up with the corruption of BJP, hence they voted for Madhu. It is not Madhu Kinnar’s victory, but it’s a loss of BJP.”

Doubters aside, Kinnar has made history and we look forward to hearing about her policies in the coming months.

Angelina Jolie Has Private Audience With The Pope

Movie star-turned-director, Angelina Jolie, made a VIP trip to Rome to have an audience with Pope Francis where he also had a preview screening of her latest film ‘Unbroken’. Talk about having friends in high places, huh?


Angelina directed ‘Unbroken’, which about American Olympian and World War Two hero Louis Zamperini, whose plane was shot down over the Pacific during World War Two. The film stars Jack O’Connell, and tells the story of Zamperini’s survival in a raft  and his ordeal as an inmate in prisoner of war camps.

A source revealed that both Angelina and Brad ‘admire the pope’ and ‘like the pope’s message’ after he famously spoke about homosexuality in 2013, where he said: ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?’

Her meeting with the Pope comes just three months after the actress received an honorary Damehood from Queen Elizabeth II.


Angelina continually campaigns for charities and those less fortunate than her selves, spearheading her involvement with many global organisations and causes thanks to her role as a UN Ambassador.

‘I Am Who I Am, You Should Get Over It’ – A Trans* Youth’s Path to Self-Acceptance.

‘I’m from Driftwood’ is a collection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer video stories from all over the world.

“I Am Who I Am, You Should Get Over It”

Alex Williams

Alex Williams, from Philadelphia, is a trans* teen on a path to self-acceptance.

However, despite having a mother who is unaccepting, Alex finds his source of strength from his girlfriend and a support system at school.

A Trans Youth’s Story of Self-Acceptance


This is Alex’s story…

I’m Alex Williams. I’m from Philadelphia.

Growing up, I was raised very, very, like, Christian, just strict, like, down-your-throat kind of Christian religion. Before you can even walk or talk, the number one thing I think that was like, preached to you was like, “Okay, homosexuality is wrong. This is wrong, this is wrong.” So from an early age I knew that like, “Okay, this is wrong, this is wrong.” But growing up, I started to find my way, and just like, have my own kind of identity.

Ninth grade, I come out as bisexual, just to put my foot out there a little bit. And then tenth grade hits, and I just realized, like, I’m not bisexual. Obviously, I like girls, so then I started to begin accepting myself. I believe it was January, like, 2nd, after New Year’s, my mom goes through my Facebook and my iPod, and she sees that I made a new Facebook and I was open on that Facebook. And then she just started going crazy, and she started to just give me the whole Bible and I was crying and she was crying and it was very emotional. She called my girlfriend, and was like, “Oh, y’all can’t be together. You have to break up. It’s done.” And I called my grandma, and was crying for my grandma to come over. I thought my grandma could save me, but it got worse, because my grandma started to come with the Bible and everything, so it was just really bad.

I wasn’t allowed to go out with my friends. I wasn’t allowed to have a phone. I had to come straight home. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. It was just basically, I’m being punished for who I am.

And March comes along, and this is a bad day. I don’t know, it was just a bad day. I get home, and me and my mom get into it about the situation. And my mom sends me away to Belmont. I love going there, because I felt like it was a break from everything, and I didn’t have to worry about anything, and it so happens that it was on Spring Break or something, so I didn’t have to worry about school. So it was a perfect opportunity just to worry about me, and just to focus on me and what’s going on. And I have better coping skills. And there, I did group. I did individual therapy. My parents and family visited, and there I felt like I was brave enough to stand up to them. So one visit, they came, and something happened, and they brought up the conversation of my girlfriend, and then I just was like, “You know what? It is what it is. I have a girlfriend. You should get over it. I am who I am.” And it was just a big fight, and I ended up storming out, and just running out and going into my room and closing my door. And I was happy, because they couldn’t go back there. Basically, I felt like I was protected. And then I was in there for I think almost two weeks, and I got out.

I live with my grandmom currently, and my grandmom isn’t as bad as my mom, but my grandmom is trying to be more understanding, and she’s trying to be not as controlling as my mom. And that’s a good thing. I can live in that environment. I feel like with my mom, I can’t live in that environment. I mean, recently, there have been situations, because recently I’ve come out as trans*, but my family doesn’t know that, but my school does and my friends do. It’s more like a support system, and my mom still has this controlling thing that she has. She tries to control every aspect of my life, even though I don’t live with her or anything. So it was still like a daily struggle.

I actually saw her today, and we had a big falling out today, because she said that my girlfriend is not allowed to come to my graduation. She was like, “I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see that lifestyle.” I said, “Well, you might as well say you don’t want to see me, because she’s going to be there, and whether you’re there, that’s fine. But she’s going to be there.” She’s been there since day one. We’ve been going out for two years, and she’s my support system. She’s like my backbone, and anytime I have an argument with my mom or my grandmom, I know that the first call I’m going to make is to her. And we talk a lot and she supports me, and she helps me. Like, if I’m having a bad day, she’ll help me cope or anything. She’s my coping skill.

When I was in Belmont, we were in group, and we were talking about what do you live for, and what do you want your future to be. And then, in that group, I just realized that because of who I am right now, that doesn’t mean I have to cut my life short. And I realized that I just need to keep going, and no matter what, that I’m on this Earth for a reason. I’m this way for a reason. And I just wanted to live. I finally just wanted to live.

Source: www.imfromdriftwood.com/alex_williams/

Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie Announce Support as their 8 Year Old Self-identifies as Male

Congratulations to Jolie Pitt family, as they announce their support for their child’s decision to self-identify as male, and use the name John.

Last week there was plenty of attention given to John Jolie Pitt, when the family appeared on the red carpet for Jolie’s film ‘Unbroken’, wearing a tuxedo and with cropped hair.


The family has always shown full support for John’s right to explore their self-identification.

“She wants to be a boy.. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

Angelina Jolie

The family have been praised for their handling of the situation, and have been held up as a good example of how to handle a child’s exploration of their gender identity.

Why Is Hollywood So Bad at Casting Trans Actors as Trans Characters?

In terms of numbers, movies and TV shows are improving when it comes to LGBT characters. But while there are plenty more LGBT characters on our screens (both big and small) there are some glaring issues with their portrayal that stick out like a sore, offensive thumb.

Namely, there’s the fact that the majority of the LGBT characters we see are white, bisexuals either don’t exist or are promiscuous harlots and transgender characters are commonly robbed of their own storylines in favour of being on the end of some unfortunate transphobic jokes.

And, when trans characters do get their own stories, it’s rarely done right. There’s also the fact that time and time again, we are seeing what few trans characters we have be portrayed by cisgendered actors and actresses, which is disrespectful to the identities that they are portraying and disrespectful to the many trans actors who’ve been denied a chance of fame.

In this vein, the films that come to mind are ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (Hilary Swank played a trans man), ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (Jared Leto played a trans woman), ‘TransAmerica’ (Felicity Huffman played a trans woman) and upcoming films ‘The Danish Girl’ (Eddie Redmayne plays a trans woman) and ‘Three Generations’ (Elle Fanning plays a trans man). The fact that these films are just the tip of the iceberg – is absolutely shocking.

Worse still is that not only are these opportunities for the visibility of trans actors essentially being gifted into the hands of cisgendered actors, the movies themselves often have serious issues. For example, both Huffman and Leto received high praise for their roles (Leto even won an Oscar) but these are movies where little to no respect is giving to the trans characters.

The official synopsis for TransAmerica literally calls Huffman’s character “transsexual” whilst Leto’s character Rayon is constantly misgendered and disrespected throughout the film and at one point the lead character even suggests using a gun to give Rayon a sex change.

Arguably, cisgendered actors are not the only piece of the problematic puzzle but they are an example of Hollywood’s failures.

Much in the same way that you wouldn’t expect a white person to understand what it’s like to face all of hardships and micro-aggressions of a racist society, you shouldn’t expect cisgendered actors, directors and producers to be completely clued in on how to portray trans characters. This is not necessarily their fault(s) but it can and should be rectified by working with trans actors, filmmakers and consultants.

A good example of this is Transparent. Transparent airs on Amazon Instant (and therefore isn’t included in the statistic that .001% of the 796 broadcast series regulars are transgender) but it features cisgendered male actor Jeffrey Tambor in the lead role.

However, not only is Tambor’s character Maura supported by best friend Davina (who is a trans woman played by trans actor Alexandra Billings), but it features trans man Dale (also played by a trans actor) as a potential love interest for Maura’s daughter too. And, the show itself was made by creator Jill Soloway because of her own experience of having a trans parent and Soloway also made the decision to hire trans staffers for behind the camera work too.

So if Transparent can get it right (along with Orange is the New Black, which features TWOC inmate Sophia Burset) why can’t others? The main reason for this is clear – using trans stories for dramatic effect is bold and gains awards but hiring trans actors to actually play those roles is considerably risky.

Many point out that unlike with same sex relationships, there is little voyeuristic quality to displaying trans lives and characters. Questioning your gender or dealing with body dysphoria does not – for straight, cisgendered audiences at least – have the same pull as ‘two girls fall in love and make out a whole bunch in the process’. But shouldn’t we be asking for these stories to be presented for the sake of awareness and not whatever cishets think?

Absolutely. It could be pushed that the huge success of OITNB and Transparent can be attributed to the fact that they are good shows and gain from having trans characters rather than including them at their detriment. Looking at the roster of trans-related media out there: The T Word, Laverne Cox’s documentary on trans youth, ex-Navy SEAL Kristen Beck’s memoir about her transition (which became a best seller) and Tyra Banks is also putting together a trans docu of her own, it’s apparent that there is an appetite for hearing these stories. For their actual value and not for creepy, intrusive reasons either.

Could we see more trans characters – and with them, trans actors – in the future?

Demand determines everything in Hollywood and as executives look at what’s selling (queer stories) there’s good chance that they will ‘buck the trend’ and produce some good results in the process. That might seem a little optimistic but as traditional and TV movies look to compete with the inclusive shows on Netflix and Amazon Instant, it’s more than a little bit possible.

Cross your fingers and watch this space.

Denmark’s Groundbreaking New Ruling in EU Trans Rights Battle

Gender and identity is a tricky and complicated subject for many around the world. While many of us understand that it’s incredibly important for a person’s gender to be recognised (whether they aren’t cisgendered or if a person doesn’t identify with the male/female binary), in plenty of places around the world issues such as a person’s chosen pronouns and gender presentation aren’t recognised or respected and in many of these same places, the sexual organs that you’re born with are the only defining facets of your gender. That’s not the case though and the physical and the mental sides of sex and gender respectively aren’t mutually exclusive, especially for those who don’t necessarily identify with the male or female identity that the doctor’s assigned them at birth. But in order to change the gender listed on these formal documents it can be a tricky process, but thankfully for those looking to change their gender on legal documents in Denmark, things just got a whole lot easier.

That’s thanks to new legislation in the European country as changing the gender on your legal documents no longer requires you to undergo sex reassignment surgery, a move likely made to reflect the fact that more and more people realise that your physical self has no affect whatsoever on just what you feel your gender is. Too, you also don’t have to be diagnosed with “Gender Identity Disorder” as Denmark are doing away with that part of previous proceedings which bizarrely added to the stigma that trans* men and women already face. Sterilisation is also no longer required which is also great news. Now, all that’s required is a statement explaining that you’d like to change the gender on your legal documents and a 6 month “reflection” period.

Support didn’t end there either as Denmark’s Interior Minister Margrethe Vestager says that the decision “will make life easier and more dignified for the individual” while ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe) co-chair Gabi Calleja called it “another significant change in Europe” comparing it to Denmark’s monumental decision in 1989 in which it became the first country in the world to introduce a legal concept of same-gender marriage. So while the fight for trans* rights is far from over, Denmark’s change is huge and should be lauded and with support like that the future for trans* rights in Europe looks incredibly hopeful.

Source: RTE News.

‘Now is the Time to Raise Trans Rights’ – Trans Manifesto Unveiled

Trans equality is high on the news agenda following the launch of the Trans Manifesto by a number of major trans groups including Gendered Intelligence, Scottish Transgender Alliance, the Gender Trust and the National Trans Police Association.

As the General Election year approaches, the Manifesto is demanding that all political parties in the UK adopt two specific policies that will improve the rights of trans people. Supporters of the Manifesto want greater respect for trans people’s public image, autonomy and expertise. There are also calls to review the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 with regard to liberalising certain medical requirements and the abolition of the spousal veto.

Director of Trans Media Watch, Helen Belcher, was one of the main supporters of the Manifesto. She said, ‘the huge level of support for this within the trans communities, and society’s growing understanding of the issues that face trans people, mean that we should expect continuing improvements in the way that trans people are treated. My discussions with MPs and peers from all parties indicate there is support for this innovative approach’.

Paul Roberts, CEO of the LGBT Consortium, another of the initiatives behind the Trans Manifesto, argued that ‘now is the time to raise trans rights as a cross-party political issue which needs government support. LGBT Consortium has been really pleased to be able to facilitate this unprecedented step’. The LGBT Consortium supports various voluntary community sector organisations representing LGBT people all over the United Kingdom.

In recent years trans equality has benefited from a number of new laws and national initiatives such as the government’s Transgender Action Plan, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act and the 2010 Equality Act.

See more – http://www.lgbtconsortium.org.uk/transmanifesto