Δευτέρα 5 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Imagining trans masculinities in the greek mainstream media. Introducing trans feminism in the greek lgbt communities.

When, in autumn of 2008, a trans man, was invited to speak about his life in the greek tv show “the
protagonists”, the guest plastic surgeon, specialist in gender reassignment surgery, as a figure
endowed with institutional authority, said: Women who become men have female sensitivities, they
are a model for the ideal man. They are monogamous, family guys and hard working. On the
contrary men who become women have a tendency to prostitution
This tv show was not the first to speak about trans men, but it was the first to have as a guest a trans
man introducing himself with his full name and with his face uncovered. His family, mother, father
and his brothers spoke about him. So did some of his friends. Aggelos was introduced as an
hermaphrodite. While the reporter was talking about what hermaprhoditism is, we could see
ancient (or ancient-looking) sculptures,, on our screen and hear about Hermaphrodite, son of Venus
and Hermes, who had both male and female genitals.

Today, according to the scientific field of biology, hermaphroditism is said to consist of the combination of male and female chromosomes in an organism.
 Some time earlier, in 2002, another tv show had hosted a trans man, having his face
covered and his voice altered. He was in the dark, speaking about his experience. By contrast, under
the lights of the tv studio was the discussion panel consisted of a psychiatrist and the plastic surgeon
i mentioned above. After 2008 transgender men appeared in other tv shows, in a way that i feel
there is a visibility boom ever since. The last one, some months ago, became also a topic for some
newspapers as “the first Crete man who changed sex and married his girlfriend” or as “Katerina
who became Giorgos to marry Maria”, both titles of newspaper articles.
 And he is not the only one.
Some months ago there was a trans man within greek police who caught media attention. Most of
the articles written for him were mis-gendering him, at least.
Visibility on one hand, but let's take a closer look on what this visibility is constituted of. I have
traced a main path that the greek media follow about trans men. First of all, the mainstream
television seeks for the reason, the explanation of this phenomenon. Why they are men, and not
women, and how it came and they were born with a female body. And the explanations derive,
firstly, from the body. In multiple ways. Aggelos has androgynous chromosomes, and his body
power and some hairs is the physical evidence of this androgyny. Giorgos was also to have
ambiguous genitals, that a doctor could mention and give his permission for the sex change. The
plastic surgeon who is always present on these tv shows talking about sex changes, mr, Voukidis,
asserts that gender identity resigns on a brain cell which recognizes the right gender, or better links ones sex with ones gender.

Maybe he never crossed Nitche who claimed that the brain is the whole
body and we cannot so easily separate their functions. People who rearrange their sex, in his own
words, cannot recognize their sex due to this malfunction. Biology, as gonads, genitals,
chromosomes and brain cells, appears as a strong evidence for ones gender. An important note
here. When I talk about sex and gender I distinguish biological from social facts on the one hand
but I always have in mind that they are strongly connected and there is no such a clear distinction
between them after all. Also in greek language there is not such a distinction, fylo means genus, sex
and gender given in one word.
Another important option of gender is sexuality. As Susan Stryker argues, gendering practices are
inextricably enmeshed with sexuality. The men who appear on tv appear as heterosexual Giorgos
married Maria,

 Aggelos was never into boys. We should also take into consideration the fact that
doctors pose questions to trans men and women about their sexuality before giving approval for
sex change. These medical practices don't recognize the coexistence of homosexuality and gender
identity of trans people. Trans gay men are lead to hide their homosexuality to achieve surgery.
Which partly explains their absence in the public sphere and the resulting false assumption that
all trans men are into girls.

And last, but not least, there is one's appearance and performance, Aggelos, Giorgos and so on
always preferred boyish clothes over girly, they liked cutting their hair short, and as kids they were
playing football with the boys.
On the year 2008, the same year when Aggelos appeared on tv, another tv show invited Thomas
Beatie, the trans man, from u.s. who became famous when he got pregnant to his first child.

In this
show the guest psychiatrist and one member of the greek ministry of health argued that Beatie is
mentally ill, because he is neither a man or a woman. The second one, very characteristically said
“mr Beatie wanted to be a man but didn't remove the essence of femaleness, the womb. He is
distorted at least”.
The greek media seem like they can't escape gender non normative people. They exist, they speak
and they live around us. But there is a filter through which their experiences must pass in order to
gain visibility, in order to be able to speak at all. This triple filter that links sex-gender-sexuality is
strongly needed to be gender binary and heterosexual. When the plastic surgeon says that they
cannot recognize their gender so they become men, he seems unable to imagine another self
representation outside this man-woman, male-female system, so it is inescapable to be a man, if oneis not a woman. And if it happens and someone crosses the borders he falls in the category of ill
mentality, as Thomas Beatie mentioned above.

But why they appear as hermaphrodites? I have some not-well worked on thoughts on this question
that I think it is important to mention. During the decade of 1990s trans women, travesti or
transexuals, were appearing on the greek tv shows, in after-midnight trash shows or on early
afternoon gossip talk shows, in a certain hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualized way. So maybe the trans
identity is linked with those women and the identity of the hermaphrodite is a way to speak using
another language about them. We cannot forget mr Voukidis' opinion about the men who become
women and their lustful tendencies. I won't go deeper on this, i think the sexist and misogynistic
background is obvious in contrast to the privileging of masculinity. Also, maybe, a trans identity, a
trans body, is an identity, a body of confusion, of unclear language and confusing messages. And
this confusion comes with sorrow and/or violence. The psychiatrist of the fisrst tv show i watched,
from 2002, said clearly that there is nothing worst than being genderless and friendless. As if human
relationships need gender to be created and sustained. Or, as Butler puts it, When we ask, what are
the conditions of intelligibility by which the human emerges, by which the human is recognized, by
which some subjects become the subject of human love, we are asking about conditions of
intelligibility composed of norms, of practices, that have become presuppositional, without which
we cannot think the human at all (2004: 57). So hermaphroditism provides this link between the
body and the mind, inside a specific grid of intelligibility, that, I argue, depoliticizes gender identity
ignoring gender's social and cultural dimensions.

And what these men are telling about themselves and in which voice consciousness, echoing
Gayatri Spivac? The men who share their life experiences in the tv shows speak a lot about the pain
and the agony of mis- and dis-identification. A 50-year-old man, Giorgos, in the tv show of Anita
Pania, a show-woman, well-known about her trash shows, was talking about his mother's violent
reactions towards him due to his non normative gender identity and sexuality. She used to beat him
and call him sernikothiliko, meaning male-female or man-woman. He was crying on this memories
and he was trying to escape this accusation of non-normativity, accompanied with physical and
psychological violence. On the other hand, Aggelos had the acceptance of his family as soon as the
doctors told him he was an hermaphrodite. Most of the men state that they were always men,
trapped in a female/wrong body. They never felt lesbians, or homosexual women. And there were
times they were standing in front of themselves not knowing in which way to perceive themselves.
Nicci Sullivan, claims that identity is never autonomous, but rather, is constituted in and through relations with others and with a world (2006:556). When Aggelos and Giorgos are invited to speak
about themselves they are expected to use a certain kind of language so they can be understood and
accepted. And this discourse offers a way of making the self recognizable and able to exist. and identified himself as a trans man.
Also, this discourse of the body-mind and sexuality linkage is the discourse that enables sex
reassignment surgeries and the prescription of hormones. To be recognized from the state as a man
or a woman one has to get through psychological tests, and two years psychiatrist treatment,
although many trans people tend to find shorter ways on this. And to change his or her legal papers
one must take hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgeries.
Whilst the normative discourse of the media it is still important to notice that those men are
introduced as ideal men, tender, handsome and gentle, allowing the question of how those
masculinities relate with the hegemonic greek masculinities.

On the other hand, there are the activists....

Since 2004 there have been many Athens Gay Parades. I believe that the meeting of different nonheterosexual
people, in the organization of the parade and also on the streets has to do with the
reconfiguration of the Greek LGBT' s political strategies. There is also the queer politics criticizing
identity politics introduced by groups such as Qvzine and the appearance of trans men and women
at the Lesbian Group of Athens.
 On March 2010, the Transgender Association was established, aiming, among else, to:
 ...the promotion and supporting of equality and equal treatment of the
transsexual and transgender persons who live in Greece (transvestites, cross
dressers men and women, transsexual and intersexed people).
1 Link for the full declaration: http://www.transgender-association.gr/

The group Queertrans was created one year before Transgender Association. They described
themselves at a three day festival What Queer Fest, at November 2010 as follows:

Our group consists of trans people and allies. We are inspired by queer theory,
feminist and transfeminist theories and practices, anti-hierarchical political
principles and activism [...]
Once the Transgender Association and the Queertrans are established, the categories of sex and
gender are being put under question, in a political way.  The umbrella terms transsexual and
transgender which the association uses include different gendered identities as transvestites, crossdressers
men and women, transsexual and inter-sexed people.
 The group Queertrans argues that the
body, the way someone looks, the able-boding, the social behavior, the gender identity and gender
expression, everything is under permanent and close regulation and control, accompanied with
penalties, rules and hierarchy.

The last four years, following the example of the transgender movement in west Europe and north
America, the Transgender Association organizes the Transgender Day of Remembrance, for the
people who have been victims of murderous transphobic violence. Before this demo, a two-day
event takes place, which includes videos in which we can see, the names and pictures of murdered
trans women and trans men, from all over the world. It also includes speeches by lgbt groups, non
governmental organizations, psychologists and academics. Trans men are also present in this Day
or Remembrance, on documentaries and announcements.

The Lesbian Group of Athens,http://www.loa.gr/ during the last Day of Remembrance announced their criticism on
the feminism of second wave radical lesbianism, with a desire to meet transfeminism's political
tools. And this announcement resulted from inner movements and the participation of trans men and
a trans lesbian in the group. Meanwhile some younger trans boys talk about their experiences,
physically and mentally, on you-tube and queer Internet forums. They speak another language on
gender, making identities political and trying to gain visibility through their ambiguity. They do not
appear as always and inevitably heterosexual, they do not search for bodily traces of their gender
So trans identity, as an identity and as a way of deconstructing identities is in enduring negotiation
in the contemporary greek reality. The Transgender Association, and the Queertrans claim the
depathologilization of trans people and their right to be recognized as their lived gender, even if
they haven't undergone any surgical procedure. This is a new way of doing gender politics in  greece
which rises at the same time with neo-fascist homophobic/transphobic attacks on the streets.
For the closing of this announcement I just want to mention, aiming at further research, the
connections of tthe appearance of rans men on tv with the arise of new kind of political transgender
groups, and the connections of this same arise with the extended riots of December of 2008 in
greece and a critical political discourse on gender that came with them.

Andrianni Simati

Anouncement at the 1st International Conference on Men and Masculinities: Identities, Cultures, Societies. Held by the Initiative for Critical Studies of Masculinities (ICSM) in collaboration with
Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, Ankara University
Women’s Studies Centre (KASAUM) and Izmir University Women’s Studies Centre.11–13 September
2014, Izmir, Turkey.

Judith Butler, 2004, Undoing Gender, Routledge, New York, London.
Nikki Sullivan, 2006, Transmogrification: (Un)becoming Other(s), on Suzan Stryker and Steven
Whittle, eds. The Transgender Studies Reader, pp. 552-564. Routledge, New York, London.


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