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Dina’s Diner 8/3/15

| Aug 3, 2015
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Dutee Chand

Dutee Chand

The New York Times had two articles about Indian sprinter Dutee Chand on July 28 and 29, 2015. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (no kidding, there is one) ruled that Dutee can compete in women’s sprint races without undergoing any procedures to reduce the amount of testosterone her body produces naturally. Ms. Chand has a condition called hyperandrogenism meaning that her female body produces high levels of the hormone testosterone which of course is associated with males. That, presumably, it is thought, would give her an unfair advantage over other “normal” women runners.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAFF) had established a policy to exclude female athletes with elevated testosterone levels. That policy was itself a response to the ongoing challenges to some women athletes who possessed masculine chromosomal profiles or just looked like they might be dudes. A few years ago, another female runner, Caster Semenya, was put under the microscope because of her masculine physical appearance. She was later cleared to compete in women’s events. Some female athletes would undergo surgical procedures to neutralize “internal testes” that produce the male hormone naturally. According to The Times, four women athletes (from rural developing countries) underwent surgical procedures to “correct” this natural testosterone production in order to compete in the London Olympics in 2012. Dutee Chand challenged the policy so that she didn’t need to submit to a surgical procedure to change a naturally occurring part of her anatomy.

Ms. Chand’s challenge and the court’s ruling also posed larger questions for the future of men’s and women’s sports. It was significant that the court quoted testimony that said “Nature is not neat” and said “There is no single determinant of sex” in its final opinion. But where does that leave sport in general? The Times spoke to Dr. Eric Vilain, a medical geneticist from UCLA who said “Now I’m really worried about the future of women in sports because if we push this argument, anyone declaring a female gender can compete as a woman. We’re moving toward one big competition and the very predictable result of that competition is that there will be no women winners.” The Times columnist Juliet Macur asked whether LeBron James should compete against female basketball sensation Brittney Griner, or Michael Phelps swim against female competitor Natalie Coughlin. And even if elite female athletes could hold their own against male competitors, what of the other very good female athletes who would be out-muscled in most sports?

It’s interesting to see this issue coming up now as the public and institutions begin recognizing the concept of gender as distinct from biological sex. In a binary world of men’s and women’s competition, how do you account for a gender spectrum?


Womanless pageant contestants.

Womanless pageant contestants.

I don’t know how I first became aware of the existence of “womanless beauty pageants” but become aware I did. At least in some circles, womanless beauty pageants are referred to with the shorthand “WBP.”

As you may have guessed, the “womanless” part of the beauty pageants means the contestants are guys. Or in the case of many of the pageants I came across in my research, the contestants are boys in the middle school to high school age range.

The strange thing (in my opinion) about these pubescent and teen pageants is that they occur mostly in the South and rural areas where you would expect the most resistance to anything smacking of gender-bending and gender equality. A correspondent for the website using the name Starla wrote, “What has fascinated and intrigued me is that in recent years, the vast majority of the most elaborate and “realistic” pageants (in which the goal is to faithfully mimic girls and not to make fun of them with grotesque parodies), especially at the high school and middle school levels (and even occasionally elementary school), tend to take place in just two states: Alabama and Mississippi. Yes, in two of the most religious and conservative states in the union, where gays and trans people encounter hostility and harsh judgment, people seem willing and eager to parade their tween and teen sons on a stage in up-to-date gowns, excellent wigs or natural hairstyles, perfect makeup, and high heels, and revel in the event.”

As Starla mentions in the snippet above, some of the womanless pageants are high camp affairs — but those seem to be reserved for the adult participants in fundraising events for volunteer fire companies and the like. Many of the photos of the school age participants (who would need much help and support from their families) appear to be serious affairs hosted by the local school district with full community support. Amazing, considering the gnashing of teeth we hear about TG kids in schools and same sex restroom facilities etc. And this, again, mostly in conservative areas of the country. At one time, Mississippi had the best track record in the Miss America pageant and Texas is supposedly crazy about beauty pageant queens. So maybe those folks just take their pageants so seriously that, “dad gum it, little Billy Bob is gonna be the best damn girl in this county” kind of kicks in. As long as young Billy Bob forgets about it as soon as the gown and tiara come off.

But how interesting would it be to know how many crossdressers (estimated at 10% of the male population) got their start in middle school womanless beauty pageants as their proud parents clapped and rooted them on.


Sudo with her art.

Sudo with her art.

The New York Times had a brief profile of Japanese photographer Ayano Sudo in the June 14, 2015 Arts and Leisure section. Ms. Sudo has gained a following and positive critical reviews for her self portraits in the Harajuku or Kawaii style of Japanese youths.

Those two styles of street dress refer to young women and men who adopt clothing, hair and cosmetic styles to invoke Japanese anime and manga (types of comic art) appearances. According to The Times article, Ms. Sudo (28 years old now) first became interested in her current artistic focus when she saw a German photographer’s attempt to recreate the Harujuku style several years ago. She told the interviewer, “For me it was fake, not Harujuku style or Kawaii style. As soon as I got back to Japan, I started to take self-portraits.”

Her photos are being published in a book, Gespenster (“ghost” in German). Some have said her work is reminiscent of American self-portraitist Cindy Sherman who also affects different personas to create cinematic images. But Ayano sees her work in terms of gender bending Japanese traditions like Kabuki or the modern gyauruo boys (“gal boys”) or “strong girls” (who adopt feminine superhero personas). Ayano is herself female so the gender bending is sort of in her head and the eye of the beholder. She told The Times, “I wanted to be a boy who wears girls clothing.”

She has also now included friends to be her made-up subjects in some photos who “assume the dreamlike appearances of teenagers in anime and manga.” Ms. Sudo and some of her contemporaries in this art niche liberally use Photoshop to enlarge the eyes and make skin appear paler as they are in the drawn anime and manga world. Ms. Sudo also “sprinkles some of her images with glitter and rhinestones.” The Times said that she sees her art “as an escape, not a critique.” For herself, she concluded with, “I love images of androgynes. These images are my paradise.”


The Herkie Jump

The Herkie Jump

Lawrence Herkimer died on July 1, 2015 in Dallas at age 89 according to a New York Times obituary on July 4, 2015. In a rather large obit for a name most people never heard before, The Times explained that Mr. Herkimer pretty much invented the modern version of cheerleading in the late 1940s, including a patent on the first pompon (more about that spelling later).

Herkimer was himself a cheerleader at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and shortly after graduation in 1948 began a small garage-based business to train cheerleaders and sell cheerleading accessories to enthusiasts. Surprising that in Texas (of all places) nobody else had thought of this before 1948. Herkimer was already somewhat famous in cheer circles as the inventor of the “Herkie jump” which is the vertical leap with leg split that is a classic image of cheering. The Times reported that his first cheerleading training camp attracted 52 girls; the next one 350. The National Cheerleaders Association that he founded now runs 430 camps, with 1,500 instructors and 150,000 cheerleaders-in-training.

He told interviewers that the invention of color television prompted him to create “kaleidoscopic crepe paper pompons.” He always used the word “pompon” because the more widely used “pompom” is apparently a Pacific island idiom for prostitute. Now you know. I can imagine that all you crossdressers with cheerleading togs and pompons hidden in the closet would dislike being associated with (gasp!) hookers.

Speaking of his business and cheerleading in general, he said, “I feel we have a recession-proof business. If times get bad, a father would rather sell his boat before he would tell his daughter she can’t have pompons and her cheerleader sweater.”

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Category: Transgender Community News, Transgender Fun & Entertainment, Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.
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