International Transgender Day of Visibility … Rachel Levine … New film about Mary Anning

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International Transgender Day of Visibility 

International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual event occurring on 31 March dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.

The day was founded by US-based transgender activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT recognition of transgender people, citing the frustration that the only well-known transgender day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which mourned the murders of transgender people, but did not acknowledge and celebrate living members of the transgender community. 

Rachel Levine becomes the first openly transgender official to win Senate confirmation

Rachel Levine is the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation. Photograph: Caroline Brehman/AFP/Getty Images

The US Senate on 24 March confirmed the former Pennsylvania health secretary, Rachel Levine, to be the nation’s assistant secretary of health. She is the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation.

The final vote was 52-48. Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined all Democrats in supporting Levine.

Levine had been serving as Pennsylvania’s top health official since 2017, and emerged as the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She is expected to oversee Health and Human Services offices and programmes across the US.

President Joe Biden cited Levine’s experience when he nominated her in January.

Levine “will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic – no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability,” Biden said.

Transgender-rights activists have hailed Levine’s appointment as a historic breakthrough. Few trans people have ever held high-level offices at the federal or state level.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, confronted Levine about medical treatments for transgender young people – including hormone treatment and puberty blockers – during her confirmation hearing.

Paul asked: “Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”

Levine replied that transgender medicine “is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care” and said she would welcome discussing the issues with him.

In the past, Levine has asserted that hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs can be valuable medical tools in sparing some transgender youth from mental distress and possible suicide risk. A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She’s written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.

New film about remarkable fossil hunter Mary Anning is sensationalised

Kate Winslet plays pioneering palaeontologist Mary Anning whose life’s work was stolen by men. Her story is now being told in film Ammonite, also starring actress Saoirse Ronan.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan kiss in film Ammonite

A new film about famous fossil hunter Mary Anning has been sensationalised – by depicting her as a lesbian.

In the film Ammonite, actress Kate Winslet stars as the pioneering palaeontologist with Saoirse Ronan playing geologist Charlotte Murchison.

But what is the truth about the 19th century palaeontologist?

Thanks to her ground-breaking scientific discoveries, Mary has been dubbed “the greatest fossil hunter”.

Yet she had a humble background, born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1799, as the daughter of a poor cabinet maker and one of ten children.

Mary Anning has been dubbed “the greatest fossil hunter” (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

Named after a sister who had died in a fire aged four, Mary was one of only two to survive into adulthood.

As a baby she was struck by lightning, along with three women who were sheltering under an elm tree. Yet while the adults all died, onlookers managed to revive little Mary. Formerly a sickly infant, she was said to have developed a healthy glow and locals would later link her intelligence and energy to the incident.

Mary’s father Richard supplemented his income by collecting fossils from the rich deposits in nearby cliffs, along what is now known as the Jurassic Coast, selling them on to tourists.

From the age of five she was helping him source and clean up the fossils.

The actresses play lovers Anning and Murchison in the film

Despite little formal education, she learned to read and write and started taking an interest in the new science of geology.

When her dad died aged 44, partly from injuries sustained in a cliff fall, Mary and the rest of the family continued to fund themselves from fossil collecting, selling two of the most common types – ammonites and belemnites – for a few shillings each.

Then, when Mary was aged 12, she and her brother Joseph discovered the huge skull of a strange beast among the rocks.

She painstakingly began digging out the rest of its skeleton to reveal a 17ft monster. Bought by a collector, the specimen was originally thought to be of a huge crocodile.

It was sold on to the British Museum and given the name ichthyosaurus or “fish lizard” – and later identified as the first complete fossil of a 200 million-year-old marine reptile.

The Museum at Lyme Regis, Dorset, with the plaque for Anning (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

As time went on, Mary would dig up more amazing fossils that would spark fierce scientific debate about the possibility of extinct creatures, in a world before Charles Darwin had yet published his theories about evolution or the word “dinosaur” had been coined.

Her other startling finds included the first complete skeleton of a plesiosaur – another massive marine creature. Mary also unearthed the first British pterosaur, a flying reptile also known as a pterodactyl, as well as a string of other important species.

Having become something of a celebrity, she opened up a fossil shop that was frequented by the rich and famous.

Fossil finding was dangerous work because the best prehistoric treasure was to be found in the perilous debris of the crumbly Blue Lias cliffs left behind after stormy weather, which could collapse suddenly.

Once Mary nearly drowned while seeking out a find and she defied death again in 1833 when a landslide that consumed her black-and-white terrier came within inches of burying her alive too.

In a letter to her friend Charlotte, also a keen scientist, she recalled: “The death of my old faithful dog has quite upset me, the cliff that fell upon him and killed him in a moment before my eyes, and close to my feet … It was but a moment between me and the same fate.”

She and Charlotte did meet, but there’s no evidence that they became lovers, despite the sex scenes depicted in the new film. Its director, Francis Lee, justified the storyline saying: “I wanted to give her a relationship that felt worthy of her, that felt equal.”

Winslet, who lived on her own in a cold cottage lit by candles to get into the role of Anning for the movie, adds: “She never married – so we had a bit of freedom in terms of inventing our version. I love that Francis chose to pair her with a woman.”

But her relative Barbara Anning has said: “Do the film-makers have to resort to using unconfirmed aspects to make an already remarkable story sensational?”

The film does highlight that Mary received little credit for her discoveries during her lifetime, having sold on most of her famous finds.

Yet as well as unearthing them, she studied the science involved and even pioneered the study of fossilised poo.

But she is barely mentioned in the papers of professors, who often took credit for her work and wasn’t allowed into debates analysing her finds.

The Geological Society of London also refused to admit Mary as a member.

She wrote angrily: “The world has used me ill … These men of learning have sucked my brains and made a great deal of publishing works, of which I furnished the contents, while I derived none of the advantages.”

Mary died at the age of 47, from breast cancer – still relatively poor – but today many of her finds are displayed in London’s Natural History Museum.

Along with the new film the Royal Mint is releasing commemorative coins celebrating her life and a new statue is set to be erected too.

David Attenborough has described Mary as “truly remarkable” and her work is finally getting the recognition she deserves.

● Ammonite was released on 26 March and is available to rent

One thought on “International Transgender Day of Visibility … Rachel Levine … New film about Mary Anning

  1. Its a shame that Transgender Day of Visibility is not on Thursday, but then again I am out and about in my local community every day – showing that us older trans people don’t have 3 heads. I will be as proud of who I am on 31st March as I am everyday.

    And the announcement about Dr Rachel Levine is a big step forward, when there is so much local hatred against trans people in so many Republican controlled states in the USA, many of whom are passing laws making it illegal to get medical treatment for your trans people.

    Lastly the film about Mary Anning, like the apocryphal story that she inspired the nursery rhyme “she sells sea shells on the seashore” has an invented twist. I think it is more important that her contribution to geology and dinosaurs is finally being recognised and the film clearly shows this.

    hugs

    Pauline

    Like

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