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TransNation: 2006 in Review

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By Jacob Anderson-Minshall

Following the footsteps of a watershed year, 2006 saw increased visibility and political gains for the U.S. trans community. Here are some examples:

1. With the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act, California became the first state to outlaw gay panic or trans panic defenses to justify violence.

2. Several jurisdictions—including Washington's Metropolitan King County ( Seattle ) , and Boise, Idaho—added gender identity to anti-discrimination laws.

3. Although the passage of anti-discrimination laws are significant, a Transgender Law Center study suggested they may not be enough to impact the economic health of local trans communities. Despite a decade of San Francisco anti-discrimination laws, nearly 60 percent of respondents reported experiencing employment discrimination and earning below $15,300 annually.

4. Half a dozen transwomen ran for election this year and attorney Kim Coco Iwamoto was elected to Hawaii's Board of Education, becoming the nation's highest ranking openly trans official.

5. The New York Times published a piece on lesbians who make the transition to male. The article was flawed but it was one of the few times the world's most respected newspaper covered FTMs issues.

6. By coupling a beauty shop owner and a pre-op MTF, the Danish film Soap argued love can re-wire sexuality.

7. Independent documentaries explored the diverse trans community. Cruel and Unusual exposed the difficulties facing transwomen in men's prisons, Transcendence portrayed the world's first transgender gospel choir, and Susan Stryker's Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton Café commemorates the 1966 transgender resistance to police brutality.

8. Elizabeth Stark and Kami Chisholm's FtF: Female to Femme examined lesbian femme as a transgender expression, while Sam Feder and Julie Hollar's Boy I Am explored lesbian responses to dykes who become transmen, and Jeremy Stanford's Transtasia documented the first transsexual beauty contest.

9. Other documentarians utilized the short film genre to explore their subjects, Barbara Rosenthal's Finding Peace examined trans veteran Janice Josephine Carney's struggle to overcome the Vietnam War, a film about Utah's trans community, Home is Where the Heart Is, was directed by trans state legislature candidate K. Jennifer Jackson Prince.

10. On the small screen, the thrill of seeing a transgender man on The L Word was short-lived when the FTM character, Max, was portrayed as an angry, aggressive assimilationist. A transitioned Alexis Arquette debuted on VH1's Surreal Life and Lifetime Television movie based on the death of Gwen Araujo, and her mother's struggle to bring her trans daughter's killers to justice. All My Children introduced daytime TV's first transgender storyline and quickly received criticism about the character's portrayal.

11. Academia was blessed with two essential anthologies: The Transgender Studies Reader, edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle and Transgender Rights: History, Politics, and Law, edited by Paisley Currah, Shannon Minter and Richard Juang. Two very different books examined the transitions of a lesbian turned straight man—Dhillon Khosla's Both Sides Now and the superior Testosterone Files by Max Wolf Valerio ( who became the first male published by Seal Press ) .

12. Kate Bornstein offered hope for the alienated with Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, while Alicia E. Goranson's Supervillanz delivered a trans action-adventure. Drag King Dreams, Leslie Feinberg's first novel since the indelible Stone Butch Blues, failed to live up to its promise, but author T Cooper's sophomore release Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes, did not.

© 2006 Jacob Anderson-Minshall

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