Like being publicly queer or trans, to be publicly and unapologetically fat is a political act. When a person is out as both unapologetically fat and unapologetically queer and/or trans, it requires an enormous amount of emotional labor that many thin, straight, and cis people take for granted. Between justifying our fat bodies, justifying our queerness, justifying our gender identity and how we express our gender with our fat bodies, fat people within the LGBT community have a lot of factors to contend with when being visible.
Bea Sullivan-Knopf, a trans woman and performance artist, is suing the city of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the city’s ban on women being topless in establishments that serve alcohol.
Her performances often involve nudity as commentary on society’s perception of trans bodies, and she asserts in her lawsuit that Chicago’s ban is not only sexist and transphobic, but prevents her from performances that help her make a living. Men are allowed to be topless in these same spaces, but if women bare their breasts, establishments risk losing their liquor license.
The lawsuit alleges that the Chicago ordinance violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment, Sullivan-Knopf’s freedom of expression as protected under the First Amendment, Illinois state laws that bar discrimination based on sex, as well as Illinois’s Human Rights law that bans discrimination based on gender identity.
In the press release, Sullivan-Knopf’s attorney, Mary Grieb heavily criticizes the reasoning behind the law, stating:
“In 2016, in a city as diverse as Chicago, there should not be an ordinance reflecting 19th century ideas about sex and gender. Moreover, Ms. Sullivan-Knoff is a 23-year-old engaged in the very difficult task of making a living as a young performance artist, yet has been prevented from performing deeply personal pieces due to the City’s transphobic and blatantly sexist ordinance that should be an embarrassment to a modern city in the 21st century.” […]
"This ordinance is blatantly sexist in that it prohibits female breasts from being revealed in certain public spaces, but it is also inherently transphobic in its antiquated understanding of male and female to begin with. … At this point the law does not make room for my community to exist in its rich diversity. As a result of this lawsuit, I hope the city of Chicago affords more legal space for trans people to exist on our own terms.”
I was lucky enough to go to college with Bea, and she is a force to be reckoned with. I cannot wait to see how this important conversation evolves.
It is a choice to refer to some bodies as male and some bodies as female, not a fact. Our genital characteristics are one component of who we are and do not define, medically or biologically, our sex. Additionally, all components of sex from genitals to hormones to chromosomes exist on a spectrum rather than as a binary. Some people assigned female at birth have more testosterone than others; some people are born with XXY or XO chromosomes instead of XX or XY chromosomes. People with some differences in sex development may be born with genitals that doctors characterize as female at birth but which change around puberty. Our bodies are complex and dynamic, and if we classify people as male and female, such classifications should only be made based on a person’s gender identity.
I imagined my early transition phase as a waiting period, which I intended to endure as stoically as possible before emerging as a fully formed male person. But in real life, it is an awkward stage, and there’s no getting around that. When I’m passing, I wonder if I’ll do something to give myself away. When I’m not passing, I wonder what it is about my appearance that’s betraying me. When I don’t know if I’m passing or not, I wonder if I’m currently passing. Maybe there are trans people who can take all that in stride, but it feels like an impossibly tall order to me.
Infant bodies were 'prized' by 19th century anatomists, study suggests
A new study of the University of Cambridge anatomy collection suggests that the bodies of foetuses and babies were a “prized source of knowledge” by British scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries, and were dissected more commonly than previously thought and quite differently to adult cadavers.
Historical research combined with the archaeological assessment of collection specimens shows that foetus and infant cadavers were valued for the study of growth and development, and were often kept in anatomical museums.
Researchers say that socio-cultural factors and changes in the law, as well as the spread of infectious disease during the industrial revolution, dictated the availability of these small bodies for dissection.
The study, conducted by Jenna Dittmar and Piers Mitchell from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, is the first to look specifically at how British scientists investigated the changing anatomy of childhood during the 1800s. Read more.