If It's Thursday, It Must Be Transsexuality

If it's Thursday, it must be transsexuality. The front of the Style section has long been a display counter for Manhattan-stamped cultural shock items, and the front of Thursday's section featured a story (with photos of course) by William Van Meter on the hipster appeal of cross-dressing: "Bold Crossings of the Gender Line."

It's certainly a statement on our times that, in the same month, James Franco graces the covers of GQ and Candy. In GQ, he appears in a moody head shot. In Candy, a style magazine dedicated to what it calls the "transversal" - that is, trans-sexuality, transvestism, cross-dressing, androgyny and any combination thereof - Mr. Franco, shot by Terry Richardson, vamps in trowel-applied makeup, heavy jewelry and a woman's dominatrix-style power suit.

Candy, it turns out, is but one of the more visible bits of evidence that 2010 will be remembered as the year of the transsexual. Yes, Mr. Franco is just dressing up and doesn't feel he was born the wrong sex. But it is a grand gesture of solidarity with gender nonconformists and certainly hasn't affected attendance at "127 Hours."

Van Meter finds the alleged trend admirable, and strings together a few sightings:

Not since the glam era of the 1970s has gender-bending so saturated the news media. The difference now is that mystery has been replaced with empowerment, even pride. Consider a few happenings that have blipped recently on our radar. The blog of a young mother whose 5-year-old son had dressed like Daphne on "Scooby-Doo" for Halloween went viral, initiating a nationwide discussion on the fluidity of gender. (The mother ended up on "Today.") The performance artist Kalup Linzy became a downtown phenomenon in Manhattan for his gender-bending portrayals of soap-opera divas. Oprah Winfrey welcomed transsexual men to her program.

Van Meter even threw the president into the mix:

The only thing that would have raised more awareness of trans people would have been a link with the president - even better, a link that rhymed. That's when the "tranny nanny," Barack Obama's transvestite nanny from his boyhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, was discovered and made headlines. "Trans people are slowly becoming a common part of popular culture," said Paisley Currah, a political science professor at Brooklyn College who specializes in transgender rights and is the author of "United States of Gender," which will be published next year.

Van Meter did have some worries that transvestism (er, "gender liberation") could be just another trend:

For all of this newfound gender liberation, there are people who worry that it is just a passing fancy.

Perish the thought.