Tag Archives: civil rights

How HRC Is Botching Its Apology to Trans People (Part 1)

Late last week HRC President Chad Griffin offered a keynote speech at the Southern Comfort transgender conference acknowledging his organization’s failure to support the transgender community and its history of obstructionism (see here, here, and here) against trans civil rights. I and others called it a problematic apology, because he seemed to couch his understanding of HRC’s mistakes as one of simply not knowing enough about us (which has not always been the issue), and he framed his new approach in a paternalistic way, instead of asking us what HRC should be working on or how they can help.

People in the LGBT movement have for years been wondering amongst themselves just what will happen when the infrastructure that has been set up (to funnel money into the same-sex marriage movement) doesn’t need the same focus anymore. Will the donors move their money to a new issue? Buy yachts and celebrate the institution of marriage? Fund political campaigns?

I’m not here to argue about whether HRC is anti-trans or not (I’ve certainly made my views clear), not in this post, anyway. Instead I’d like to point out that Mr. Griffin’s idea that HRC will include trans-specific protections in the next anti-discrimination omnibus bill is far, far from what transgender and transsexual and gender non-conoforming people need, as civil rights movements go. Nobody is against anti-discrimination bills, especially if they include “gender identity or expression” as part of their protected classes, but it’s too easy for LGB activists to throw that clause in there without a real understanding of what protections for trans folk would look like. Well, let me ask us to reframe these considerations, in this way:

Let’s look at the trans person’s life cycle, from cradle to grave. What might we need to support our lives and experience that cisgender people would never need?

1: ChildhoodIn part because trans people have been more visible in the last generation, today’s children more often understand themselves as trans and ask the people nearest them (read: their parents and teachers) for support. A public policy for supporting trans kids would do some or all of the following:

  • Offer trans-supportive mental health/social work services for trans kids so they have objective partners in their process
  • Offer family support through identification of a trans identity (because you know, parents don’t automatically support their trans kids or know how to) into and through transition (if that is what the youth wants)
  • Educate school systems, administrations, and teachers to provide a hostility-free learning environment for trans children, including using a child’s chosen name even if that name is not their legal name
  • Readily identify trans-related bullying and help trans youth find alternative paths toward a high school degree if their primary school becomes an untenable place to learn
  • Ensure that after-school and extracurricular activities are trans-friendly and accessible to trans youth
  • Change rules around school sports to ensure than trans children can participate in a way that comports with their gender identity or expression
  • Modify existing law around custodian care so that if only one parent is supportive of a trans child, they can still help direct their care and services
  • Relax rules around emancipated minor laws for older trans teenagers who may need to leave their parents’ home
  • Train crisis care counselors, suicide hotline managers/call centers, and any local government-run mental health care workers in trans issues so that they are culturally competent
  • Educate physicians on hormone blockers, hormone therapy for adolescents, and the medical needs of trans youth
  • Change laws so that trans-related care is included in health insurance policies
  • Train youth homeless shelter staff in trans issues so that they are culturally competent
  • Enforce rules changes with a resource/response board to hear complaints and advocate for trans youth

Read More…

Why God Hates Us

rush limbaugh with cigarThis was originally a post on I Fry Mine in Butter from 2010.

In the beginning, there were good preachers and there were scary preachers. The good preachers seemed kindly, they talked about love, they talked about forgiveness, they talked about acting as Jesus did, minus all the getting betrayed and walking up a huge hill with a board, and getting crucified. And that was good. And they have remained basically the same, still talking about love and forgiveness and modeling.

There were also the scary preachers. They ranted about hell fire and damnation, and sin. Lots of sin. Everyone a sinner, with the implication, never acknowledged, that they must be sinners too. And while scary preachers could raise a ruckus, most people preferred the other kind of preacher, especially when the scary preacher got embroiled in personal scandal, showing that despite their invective, they were not better than the rest of us. Read More…

Snappy Comebacks for Trans People

image from mad magazineThe thing about being gracious is, as soon as you let up, everyone notices. There’s no reward for seeming snappy, even if it bites at the heels of years of diplomacy and smoothed over tensions. So at the risk of letting my slip of hostility show under my skirt, let me just say that I am not a fan of the zoological presentation of transfolk as the primary means of educating the non-trans public. I am a fan of careful conversation, principled debate, and sensitive discourse when interfacing with any marginalized community.

Many of us have heard the now-standard “Trans 101″ talking points: don’t ask what surgeries we’ve had, what our former names were, or other invasive questions about our bodies you wouldn’t want to answer yourself. But there are still more questions that deflect from a helpful give-and-take between parties, or that make some of us trans people weary and exhausted, well intentioned though these questions may be. So when I’m feeling ungracious, I may use some of these following answers. Apologies in advance for my snippishness, really. But when I’m on the edge, my responses may look like this:

Question 1: What’s your story?

There are many versions of this question, so much so that they may sound like different interrogatives, but really, they boil down to this: how in hell did you realize you were the wrong gender? And they’re often predicated on this: I’ve never considered anything even remotely as weird as that! It is a bit of a puzzler, at least as far as my experience goes, but the explanations get old faster than a baked avocado. So my answer to this is: “What, you haven’t read my memoir yet?” Read More…

Where Do We Go from Here? More Thoughts on CeCe McDonald’s Case

me holding the first DCTC banner on DCNow that I’ve settled down from most of my anger (trust me, there’s a lot still in here because her situation is so completely unjust), several other thoughts about what we can do as a community of gender non-conforming people have occurred to me. To paraphrase Leslie Feinberg from earlier this week, it is outstanding to see so many of us organized to support CeCe even against such massive institutions like criminal jurisprudence and the prison complex. For years now I’ve seen a small but growing voice articulating its concern about the annual Day of Remembrance–and it asks how we can come together to do proactive work in addition to mourning the violent losses of trans women and other trans-identified people. While we are outraged about CeCe’s forced “choice” to take a plea deal, we should also acknowledge that we’ve shown some measure of grassroots-created power against these corrupt systems. With collective power in mind, I humbly offer the following:

1. In your local community, organize a letter writing campaign for CeCe. Yes, people are writing letters to her now en masse. At some point in the next weeks or months, these will slow down to more of a trickle, in all likelihood. So schedule the letters among your group, so she is receiving mail not just this May but when autumn is approaching, through the holiday season, and at the anniversaries of her trial and sentencing. If we say we won’t forget CeCe, let’s set ourselves up for success on that promise. Next week I’m going to visit an LGBT youth group and I’ll bring along 50 blank cards and stamps. And markers. Dang, I love markers. Black and Pink has a list of LGBT prisoners who would love to have pen pals! Read More…

Where Trans People May Tread

Some amount of hay–I haven’t quantified it in any way–has been made over the disinclusion of Jenna Talackova from the Canadian Miss Universe pageant. The usual suspects that get trotted out in the name of “unfairness” after all, couldn’t be a part of the rationale for disqualifying her; Ms. Talackova’s presumed muscle mass didn’t matter in a non-physical contest, and her “male socialization” was moot given that by definition, the attributes sought after on the part of the judges would specifically be looking for gender neutral areas (as in the Q&A section) or feminine-coded areas, like how good contestants look in an evening gown or swimsuit. In other words, Ms. Talackova was either on equal par with the other candidates, or at a disadvantage, not an advantage.

Jenna Talakova, Miss Universe contestant

But no matter, she was out. Until Donald Trump himself, manager of the whole affair, reversed his decision. Through his attorney, Michael Cohen, he said:

The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.

The application process does not make any mention of transgender inclusion or exclusion, so it’s interesting that there was any basis to rule her out in the first place. Read More…

The Violence of the T-Word

ru paul photoI was in graduate school in snowy Syracuse, New York when the word “queer” came onto the scene as a self-identifier for LGBT people. One colleague whispered her horror to me, saying that “queer” always was and always would be a terrible word. Yet the wave swept over a large segment of the LGBT community and the collective decision, at least in my generation, was to “reclaim” the word for ourselves. We were out, loud, and proud, and we had just discovered that we could co-opt Roy G. Biv for our political purposes and move past the pink and black triangles of our elders. Queer Nation was here.

Fast forward into the age of the information superhighway, and conversations roiled online about the use of “tranny” among LGBT people. We’ve arrived in a different place with this epithet, and it doesn’t include any kind of reclamation. Whereas people in the LGBT umbrella felt that they themselves could use “queer” as an in-community term, that has not been the conversation with the t-word. Even Kate Bornstein, the author of Gender Outlaw, was told in no uncertain terms that her trans sisters were hurt whenever they heard her use it, and they wanted her to erase it from her vocabulary. She went public with her feelings of conflict.

If trans women are walking away from using “tranny” en masse, then the rest of us should, too. Read More…

Transgender Day of Sadness

TDOR posterXena bless Gwendolyn Ann Smith for starting the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, to focus on the losses our chosen family incurs from bigotry and hatred. But there is a kind of bleakness in the event—we’re certainly not celebrating as we come together, and I for one have to stave off the blues the week afterward because the names of the dead float around in my head. And trust me, I already think about those who haven’t made it on a regular, frequent basis.

Still, I won’t let the day pass without some reflection; it’s a time to re-commit myself to mentoring others, to putting myself out there so I can be a resource in times of trouble, in agitating my local community to push past their stereotyped notions of who trans people are, and in doing work that materially benefits the “T” part of LGBT, since it is so often carelessly forgotten. We want to stop future deaths from violence, but all we have to work with are ourselves and our sense of mission to cobble together a response to that violence. I try to focus on proactive work—call it violence prevention if you will—but I’m supportive of others who take different paths. A variety of responses gives us a better movement, if those responses are in concert with each other and not in opposition. Read More…

Legalizing Bullying

In the ominous news of the week last week, the Michigan Senate attached an exception to an anti-bullying law that was working its way through the state legislature. That’s right, an exception for bullying youth. The text of the exception read:

This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.

To clarify, the state senators wanted to exempt any individual who stated they were using their “sincerely held” religious or moral belief to bully others. This represents nothing less than another over-the-line moment of an increasingly strict fundamentalist, conservative few attempting to dictate its values to the rest of the country. In context with the attempt to redefine personhood in Mississippi (which failed on election day), destroy collective bargaining rights, and undermine the federal budget with still more tax cuts for corporations, the ability of state senators to validate harassment against children is a fine example of just how off the rails the GOP has ventured.  Read More…

The Wrong Logic to Advance Same-Sex Marriage

Kim Kardashian divorce posterLet me begin with a disclaimer: I don’t put the fight for same-sex marriage at the top of my LGBT civil rights to do list. It’s not my priority, as much as I think the US is living in the Dark Ages with regard to marriage rights for all of its residents, not just some of them. I roll my eyes at President Obama’s unwillingness to fully support same-sex marriage, and I think it’s crystal clear at this point that the front lines against equal marriage rights are really about hatred and anger at gay people, and not anything else.

Perhaps it’s because fighting tends to polarize debate, especially in our modern reductivist climate, but it’s easy to chuck a principled stance by the wayside in favor of low blows, bumper sticker sloganizing, and arguments that don’t work, ultimately, in anyone’s favor.

Take, for example, Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated marriage to whatshisname. Read More…

National Coming Out Day’s Offsping

colorized street in DCThe joke when I first started telling people I was queer was that it took a broken leg for me to do it. Truth be told, I started admitting I was pretty darn gay a couple of weeks before my fateful trip around Goldstein Auditorium on roller skates, but it made for a nice chuckle, and who am I to deny anyone a moment of fun? Besides, hobbling around on crutches with plaster caked up to my keister could potentially, I thought at the time, help me get a date. I was one of only a few people I knew (even still) who came out without a relationship as the main motivation.

This was May of 1991. I was about to turn 21, which, as it turned out, was much less a big deal for my life than I presumed it would be at the time. But I felt like freedom was close—I’d finished my junior year of college, and the humongous Real World pressed upon me—and I needed to fully explore it. Which okay, was a little challenging in my then-current condition.  Read More…

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