Monday, February 12, 2007

You Go Girl!

Today the Toronto Star ran a story about a philosophy professor who appears in drag once a semester to teach gender and transgender theory in his class at York University. I found several points to be incredibly valuable -- first, this isn't the campy, humorous drag of Halloween or drag shows. Rather, he asks he's simply trying to "express my womanly self, what's the big deal? " Why indeed? As he so aptly asks, "Why is this thing that I do so terrible? Half the people in the world are women." Of course, there are people out there who live the transgender experience every day as a way of life. Kudos to him for working to bring a level of acceptance to a group that is often marginalized, even by the gay and lesbian community.

Second, he's straight, married, as well as a father and grandfather. He's been "out" as a crossdresser to his family since 1994. More kudos to him for being willing to be open, honest and willing to live his life in the open.

Third, what really struck me was the relatively mild reaction he elicited, both from his students and in the story in general. His students apparently are overwhelmingly supporting and rate him highly. Further, the story didn't include any sort of the type of polarization that you'd expect here in the U.S. -- no students who feel that he's violating their religious or moral rights, no groups who are protesting him, etc. Is that a function of the difference between American and Canadian society or that the Canadian media isn't covering it the way American media does? That's not clear at all. Still, I was surprised by the complete lack of a sense of scandal that you'd expect if something like that happened here.

Speaking of a lack of scandal, former NBA player John Amaechi came out on ESPN's Outside the Lines over the weekend. For the most part, the announcement so far seems to be a collective yawn, both from within the NBA and from media I've seen. Again, its refreshing to have a reaction that is so completely humdrum -- it makes me feel like we've made much more progress than we generally recognize.

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