By Lesley Williams*
Bathed in red stage lights, a singer in a strapless purple evening gown clutches a mic, head bowed. The accompaniment soars and the crowd cheers as she raises a bearded face and begins the winning entry for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.
The musical event, judged partly by the viewing audience, has become a bellwether of social and political concerns in Europe and beyond. Recent winning songs took up bullying, Russian expansionism, or the #MeToo movement. But in 2014, when Thomas Neuwirth, aka Conchita Wurst, performed “Rise Like a Phoenix,” it felt more like the opening salvo of a revolution. Thomas uses masculine pronouns to refer to himself, but feminine ones for his stage persona, Conchita.
Soon, characters popped up everywhere: on prime TV interviews and glossy magazine covers (remember when Bruce “became” Caitlyn Jenner?), in movies, documentaries, and sporting events. The media presented the faces of “successful” gender transitioners—people who
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“Sweden recognizes trans parenthood,” Transgender Europe, tgeu.org, March 9, 2019.
“How common is intersex? a response to Anne Fausto-Sterling,” PubMed, www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov, Aug. 2002.
“Gender-affirming hormone in children and adolescents,” BMJ, blogs.bmj.com, Feb. 25, 2019.
Gabriele Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2015), p. 10
"Boi or grrl? Pop culture redefining gender," NBCNews.com, Oct. 1, 2005.
See Walt Heyer’s latest book, Trans Life Survivors, which contains stories of 30 “regretters.”
For that reason, the present article is written under a pseudonym.
“Sex changes are not effective, say researchers,” The Guardian, www.theguardian.com, July 30, 2004.
Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh, “Sexuality and Gender,” The New Atlantis, www.thenewatlantis.com, 2016.
Cecilia Dhejne et al., “Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden,” PubMed Central, www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov, Feb. 22, 2011.
See Reference 3