Monday, June 14, 2010

Trans woman Delphine Ravisé-Giard's breast size dictated by French civil court


Delphine Ravisé-Giard is a long-serving member of the French Air Force who transitioned in 2007. The Air Force has been respectful and reasonable about her shift in presentation, immediately reflecting her gender accurately and with apparently very little sturm und drang.

But in trying to transition legally, she is facing bigotry and ever-moving goalposts. The civil court handling her legal change is intimately policing her body and demanding that she get specific kinds of surgery. Originally, the court demanded that she get SRS. They have thankfully backed off that, but their new requirements? Not much better.

The court is now demanding that Ms. Ravisé-Giard undergo breast enhancement before attaining legal recognition of her gender, saying "The principle of respect for private life requires that the state recognize gender according to a person’s appearance."

Huh? So, respecting someone’s private life now means…policing their body? I suppose this is in keeping with the sexist idea that women’s bodies are always, necessarily public property, and that our bodies must be sufficiently titillating to be validated.

Ms. Ravisé-Giard said to pink news: “The request is ridiculous but this is what the state demands. I am satisfied with the progress I have made through hormones but as far as the state is concerned, unless I take steps to augment what I have now through surgery, I am not being serious about my gender change. Of course, if the state applied the same test to cis women, it would have to redefine the gender of many French women. But of course, this would never happen.”

This is blatant transmisogyny. Though the French Air Force has responded appropriately, by respecting Ms. Ravisé-Giard's identity, bodily integrity, and right to privacy. But the civil court is responding to Ms. Ravisé-Giard's existence as a woman with cissexist bigotry and classist entitlement, without regard to her desires for her body or her monetary ability to pay for these expensive surgeries. Instead of letting her determine the course that her body and identity take, they are mandating the ways in which women are women, when in reality there is no one path to true womanhood.

Ms. Ravisé-Giard asks, "Will that breast size be established nationally by the Minister of Justice or will it be up to the personal tastes of individual attorneys?" This is, sadly, a society where men are allowed to decide what a woman should look like, where cis people are empowered to decide what make a trans woman real. Women’s bodies should always be up to the woman in question to negotiate, but in France, that’s not the case.

Source

12 comments:

  1. Having spent some time in France, I can say that this doesn't surprise me too much. The French are oftentimes bizarrely private about things Americans would consider public and appropriate, and unabashedly public about things we consider taboo and and private, i.e., in conversation, politics, religion and sexuality are completely open for discussion and often a lively topic, but asking about one's wife/children/family/job (what most Americans consider polite conversation) is off the table. Also, the French government, and in general, "L'etat", or the state, are very keen to keep things uniform & controlled, both culturally and linguistically (the French have an institution whose sole purpose is to protect the integrity of the French language)- the banning of burkas, head coverings, and other visible signs of Muslim faith are a good example of the state actively policing citizen's outward appearance/actions to ensure that it is all assimilated/"French". Great post.

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  2. Ashley,

    I lived in France for 2 1/2 years and your comments are spot-on. I find that individual French people and institutions are "respectful" of things like a person's gender identity or sexual identity to the extent that they don't talk about them. In one sense, it's nice: They know about you, and you don't have to talk about it at every turn.

    However, l'etat does seek to control people in ways the administration of Bush II never dreamed of. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that France has a very long history of very strong and highly centralized state control. England, as an example, never had anyone like Louis XIV. Nor did any of the Scandanavian countries or the Netherlands, or even Spain.

    That actually may be the reason why those countries have gay marriage and France doesn't.

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  3. Thanks, Ashley and Justine, for the intelligent, internationally flavored commentary!

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  4. Loving the blog

    tc


    www.frontrowmode.blogspot.com

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  5. Justine Valinotti,

    Just so you know, France doesn't have gay marriage but they do have something they call a PACS. It is a contract that affords all the priveliges of marriage and is available to straight or gay couples.

    Which, admittedly, is a huge step forward from the country I live in, Australia.

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  6. Ally, only some of the privileges, by no means all. Most notably, gay couples cannot adopt.

    The rights and obligations of married and pacsed couples are slowly converging, as marriage loses some and pacs gains some. But we're not there yet.

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  7. That's so screwed up! Since when does a woman's breast size determine whether or not she is a woman?

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  8. I love this: "Ms. Ravisé-Giard asks, "Will that breast size be established nationally by the Minister of Justice or will it be up to the personal tastes of individual attorneys?" '
    Good for her that she has the smarts to effectively ridicule this type of situation.

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  9. Off topic, perhaps, but the following comment is so typical of the unchecked American privilege present on so many feminist forums:

    "Having spent some time in France, I can say that this doesn't surprise me too much. The French are oftentimes bizarrely private about things Americans would consider public and appropriate, and unabashedly public about things we consider taboo and and private, i.e., in conversation, politics, religion and sexuality are completely open for discussion and often a lively topic, but asking about one's wife/children/family/job (what most Americans consider polite conversation) is off the table. "

    Why is what the French do "bizarre" when compared with the Americans? Why can't it just be that people do things differently? There is, to my mind, nothing bizarre about having different social rules. The judgement implicit in such statements really irritate many Europeans.

    America is not the world.

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  10. Anon, that's a really good point -- which is why I'm letting it through, I think it's worth mentioning -- but it is off topic.

    BTW, please feel free to choose a handle! You don't have to sign up for anything. We've got three Anonymous's going on on this thread :)

    Conversely (I was going to bring this up before you said anything), the fact that this is common in French culture doesn't make it RIGHT or OKAY that l'etat goes so far as to tell a woman how her body must look - and holds a double standard for those who "must" have surgery to look that way. I don't think Ashley or Justine were trying to say that it WAS okay, but I do think that eventually, especially with this last point, we have glossed the point a bit.

    Consider: in much of the U.S. abortion is heavily restricted and it's not at all uncommon for it to be that way; but it's still not OKAY that a woman is being told what to do with her body and when, or moreso in some contexts. (Of course, not everyone agrees with either point.)

    -Faye

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  11. "in conversation, politics, religion and sexuality are completely open for discussion": I emphatically disagree about religion. The French are a LOT more private than North Americans about religion. For example, a North American politician would say routinely "God bless you" which would be unthinkable for a French politician (even one from the religious far right); being sworn in on the Bible would be just as unthinkable. In France you wouldn't say to someone "you are in my prayers", unless perhaps you're going to the same prayer group as the person (and even then, that would be reeeeeally awkward). I've even seen a professional email sent by my one of my life partner's North-American co-workers that was containing Bible verses (what the???)... believe me, the probability of something like that happening in France is extremely close to nil.

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  12. "Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that France has a very long history of very strong and highly centralized state control. England, as an example, never had anyone like Louis XIV. Nor did any of the Scandanavian countries or the Netherlands, or even Spain. "

    What part of Louis XIV's regime are you thinking of here? 'Cause I can think of plenty monarchs of England and in Scandinavia with some of the same traits.

    The highly centralised state control is actually a trademark of the Scandinavian countries, which are based on socialistic principles. Also, gay marriage is not present in all of the contries you mention. We have the same sort of civil union that France offers as well. It has only just now come through in Denmark that gay couples should be allowed to adopt. Your comparison of the European states seem somewhat lacking to me.

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