Transsexuality is the new buzzword, thanks to Caitlyn Jenner, the world’s most famous transgender person and star of the new television reality show “I Am Cait.” But people identifying as — or having undergone the knife to become — a member of the opposite sex have always been part of our history.
Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut wore male clothing and a false beard to rule as a pharaoh in 1503 BC. Roman emperor Nero took a castrated slave boy as a wife in a legal ceremony in 60 AD. The Navahos recognized three sexes, while Sioux males and females crossed over and lived happily as the gender of their choice.
Ancient cultures revered transsexuals as wise and insightful people, but hate and violence took over when male-dominated societies with strict caste systems began crushing the first birthright of people to be comfortable in their bodies.
Modern sensibilities have helped — to a point. Great Britain performed the world’s first sex change operation in 1945, and gender-identity discrimination is banned in the American federal workplace, but the road to universal acceptance remains rocky:
• In 2013 the majority — 72 percent — of hate-violence homicide victims in the U.S. were transgenders.
• Some Muslim regimes use severe interpretations of Koranic law to justify violence against transgenders.
• Sweden — considered one of the most progressive countries in the world — sterilized transgenders who wanted to legally change their sex, until a lawsuit overturned the barbaric practice in 2012.
Trans-folk are denied the rights cisgenders (non-transgenders) take for granted, including using public facilities without fear of harassment, violence or arrest, and not having your human value based on how passable you are as a man or a woman.
Caitlyn Jenner has invigorated a compelling conversation about the right to be yourself, but the stories of America’s other estimated 700,000 trangenders are as noteworthy.
Next week A Britisher’s View begins a three-part series on a local transgender — a divorced dad from Bay Ridge — who shares her lifelong odyssey to become the female she claims she was born to be.
Next week: “I Am Nancy,” a Brooklyn man’s journey to womanhood: Part 1
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