Lynn Conway - Transgender Activism

Transgender Activism

When nearing retirement, Conway learned that the story of her early work at IBM might soon be revealed through the investigations of Mark Smotherman that were being prepared for a 2001 publication. She began quietly coming out in 1999 to friends and colleagues about her past gender transition, using her personal website to tell the story in her own words. Her story was then more widely reported in 2000 in profiles in Scientific American and the Los Angeles Times.

After going public with her story, she began work in transgender activism, intending to "illuminate and normalize the issues of gender identity and the processes of gender transition." She has worked to protect and expand the rights of transgendered people. She has provided direct and indirect assistance to numerous other transsexual women going through transition and maintains a well-known website providing emotional and medical resources and advice. Parts have been translated into most of the world's major languages. She maintains a listing of many successful post-transition transsexual people, to, in her words "provide role models for individuals who are facing gender transition." Her website also provides current news related to transgender issues and information on sex reassignment surgery for transsexual women, facial feminization surgery, academic inquiries into the prevalence of transsexualism and transgender/transsexual issues in general.

Conway has been a prominent critic of the Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence theory of male-to-female transsexualism that all transsexual women are motivated either by feminine homosexuality or autogynephilia. She was also a key person in the campaign against J. Michael Bailey's controversial book The Man Who Would Be Queen. Conway and others filed a complaint with Northwestern University accusing Bailey of practicing clinical psychology without a license, and witnessed a complaint by a trans woman accusing Bailey of having sex with a research subject. Benedict Carey wrote an article in which he observed that "the controversy had a life of its own on the Internet." Northwestern University professor Alice Dreger published an article about the controversy, in which she concluded that the campaign against Bailey was an attempt to ruin Bailey's reputation and career by making various false accusations against him. Conway called Dreger's article "one-sided" and complained that its publication, and Carey's article, reflected pro-Bailey bias by the Archives of Sexual Behavior and The New York Times.

Conway was a cast member in the first all-transgender performance of The Vagina Monologues, in Los Angeles in 2004, and appeared in a LOGO-Channel documentary film about that event entitled Beautiful Daughters. She has also strongly advocated for equal opportunities and employment protections for transgender people in high-technology industry, and for elimination of the pathologization of transgender people by the psychiatric community.

In 2009, Conway was named one of the "Stonewall 40 trans heroes" on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots by the International Court System, one of the oldest and largest predominantly gay organizations in the world, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Read more about this topic:  Lynn Conway

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Transgender Activism

In 1952 Virginia Prince, a male-to-female transvestite, along with other transgender cross dressing people launched Transvestia: The Journal of the American society for Equality in Dress. This publication was the beginning of the transgender rights movement in the United States. In 1969, transgender and transsexual people played an integral part in the Stonewall Riots, including Sylvia Rae Rivera, a transsexual who was an instigator in the uprising. Rivera continued to be an advocate for transgender rights until her death in 2002. After Stonewall, awareness of transexuality grew considerably. Support groups for male cross-dressers were common in the 1970s and 80s. In the 1980s female to male (FTM) transsexuality became common.

Transsexual people are frequently the victims of hate crimes. On December 31, 1993, a female to male transsexual Brandon Teena was murdered in Nebraska along with two of his friends. This murder was documented in the 2000 movie Boys Don't Cry starring Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena. In 2005, the movie Transamerica told the story of a male to female transsexual preparing for sexual reassignment surgery and traveling across the United States with her bisexual son. The Transgender Day of Remembrance to commemorate those who lost their lives due to their gender identity was first held in 1999 following the murder of Rita Hester in 1998. The "Remembering our Dead" web project was also set up in 1999.

Transfeminism is a form of transgender activism, which involves challenging dominant feminist narratives which typically only describe the experiences of cisgender women. Julia Serano is a notable transgender feminist.