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Trans advocate Jamison Green talks about increasing visibility
by Joshua Irvine
2020-08-19

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Jamison Green would really like to go hiking again.

He last went on a serious hike three years ago, before he and his wife left the Bay Area. He's been an outdoorsman his whole life and he lives in an area just north of Portland that's lush and green with forest.

But then he gets an email in his inbox, from a trans veteran who can't get a specialized wheelchair, or about a retracted study the Heritage Foundation is using as a cudgel against gender-affirming surgery—and Green goes to work.

Green has been a transgender-rights advocate for decades. He was at the lead of San Francisco's trans scene in the early 1990s as the publisher of the FTM Newsletter, and later became president of the World Professional Organization for Transgender Health ( WPATH ).

Later this year, Vanderbilt University Press will release an updated edition of Green's 2004 memoir, Becoming a Visible Man, with updated terminology to reflect developments in the trans community as well as new insight into Green's life.

It's another part of the battle for recognition that Green has fought for 30 years. He hopes re-releasing the book will help reach and educate a broader audience about the trans male experience.

"Visibility is crucial," Green said. "It's how we articulate our needs, what we want to accomplish, how we want to succeed, what all this transness means for all of us."

Becoming a Visible Man details Green's life from Bay Area misfit to his transition in his thirties and beginnings in advocacy. The book also doubles as a guide to trans masculinity, complete with a sample of options and pricing for those seeking gender reassignment surgery, and an academic discourse on transgender identity.

For Green, the new edition offers a refresher course for trans men, particularly for younger members who he worries lack a connection to the broader saga of the community.

"A lot of trans people right now think they don't have a history," Green said. "Today, trans men are still invisible."

He's also concerned with the legacies of men like Steve Dain and Lou Sullivan, two pioneers to the Bay Area trans male community. Sullivan was one of the first openly gay trans men and founder of FTM Newsletter before his death in 1991; Dain was a physical education teacher whose transition in 1975 brought widespread attention to the trans male community, as well as being Sullivan's mentor. The new edition updates both their biographies with new information in its homage to the trans men of 1990s San Francisco.

The book also expands on Green's own life after 2004, specifically his move to WPATH after passing on the FTM Newsletter. WPATH numbered around 300 when Green first became involved; it now claims over 2,100 members globally and a full-time staff.

Green, a technical writer for many years, said he finds his own legacy in bringing the grassroots activism of the San Francisco scene into doctor's offices and corporate boardrooms.

"You can change huge, huge systems if you have the right point of leverage," Green said. "Sometimes that point is outside on the street yelling with a bullhorn and sometimes it's inside in a conference room."

Now 71, Green sees his own role shifting, particularly as the trans community and its allies has changed throughout his career.

"There's a lot more of us now," Green said. "There's a lot more trans people involved, there's a lot more parents involved, there's a lot more doctors involved."

He's adamant, however, that this is not his swan song. WPATH still calls on him to write policy statements for the organization, which he's been doing since 2008. He's an editor on a history of transgender medicine in the U.S. and has plans to adapt his dissertation — Green received his doctorate in equities law in 2011, at the age of 63 — about a famed trans paternity case. He also has a pair of novels he's been putting off for years.

And he'd like to go hiking again. He wants his next climb to be the Olympic Peninsula, in northwest Washington.

However, he'll have to get through his emails first.


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