27 February 2013

Who, Exactly, Is Committing Fraud?

I should look up the definitions of "fraud" and "deception" and, perhaps, do a post on them.  I could discuss the common, linguistic, legal and other definitions of those words.  More awareness of them is certainly necessary.

I say that because it seems, at times, that being transgendered means being rewarded for committing fraud and concealing our identities.

Before we "come out", we live the lie of the "M" or "F" on our birth certificates and other documents assigned to us.  Many of us know that our very survival, let alone anything like acceptance from peers, families, other authority figures and communities, depends upon presenting ourselves as someone we know, within ourselves, to be untrue.  I know that presenting myself as a masculine and fairly athletic guy saved me from a pretty fair amount of harassment and abuse--and, later, discrimination.  That's not to say I didn't experience those things:  I simply didn't endure as much of them as I might have otherwise.

When we finally do "come out" and live as the people we actually are, much of our ability to survive, let alone be accepted, depends on the degree to which we conform to other people's ideas about the gender in which we're living.  In the past, many trans people--especially male-to-females--took those notions to the extreme, sometimes with the encouragement of their therapists and others who were guiding them through their transitions.  It's no accident that, for example, Christine Jorgensen's beauty  was often compared to Marilyn Monroe's:   While they naturally had some similarities in their features, I can't help but to think that Ms. Jorgensen tried to emulate her.  But, at the same time, she didn't seek Monroe's celebrity status, and settled--to the degree she could--into the quiet life of a suburban housewife, which conformed to another trope about womanhood and femininity common in her time.

On the other hand, when someone who had been unaware of our transgender history learns of it, we are accused of fraud and deception for presenting ourselves as the people we actually are.  

That is what happened to Domaine Javier.  In August of 2011, California Baptist University expelled her after she revealed, on MTV's "True Life", that she is biologically male.  When she applied to the university, she indicated her gender as "female", as she should have, on her form.  She has identified as our gender since she was a toddler, she said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the private religious university doesn't see her her way.  Their documents say she was expelled for "fraud, or concealing identity".       

Now Javier is suing the university, and the California Superior Court is seeking $500,000 in damages for breach of contract and violation of the state's anti-discrimination laws.  Paul Southwick, the attorney representing Javier, maligned her name by making the accusation.  

While some laws don't apply to private institutions, Southwick argues that because Cal Baptist is open to people of all faiths and most of the degrees it rewards are in secular fields (like nursing, which Javier was studying), it's really a business establishment offering services to the general public and is therefore not the same as a seminary or private Bible college.

Whatever the legal interpretation of their institution, I hope that the administration of  learns what fraud and deception, and who its perpetrators, actually are.