Tag Archives: LGBT civil rights

Requiem for Journalistic Integrity

Last week, Grantland.com, which is ultimately controlled by ESPN, ran a story ostensibly about a well designed golf putter and its inventor. The actual story was about much more, namely the counterfeit credentials of the inventor, Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, which led the author of the piece, Caleb Hannan to discover that she had a transgender history. The very beginning of the piece frames the tone, as Mr. Hannan writes:

Strange stories can find you at strange times.

He remarks that in his early investigation about her revolutionary putter design, he couldn’t find any photos or videos of her on the Internet. Because of course women should be plastered all over the Web, but no matter. He digs. He’s an earnest, unknown journalist (so new, he’s never heard of the word “communique”). But I get it. Mr. Hannan finds out that actually, “Dr. V.” didn’t earn a doctorate at MIT, and actually, she didn’t exist on paper before 2000. And then, after he’s told us how brazen she was to get her club design past the world’s top club maker, he tells us that when he tried to contact her, she was obfuscatory; please focus your piece only on the design and not me. The author goes on to describe her in turn as quirky, with a strange vocabulary, a history that was both colorful and absent, and an extremely tall physical frame. Mr. Hannan may not have known it as he was researching this story or writing it, but the piece screams transphobia in its insistence on and obsession with her differences from his expectations for women. He wants them knowable, archived, ordinary, and visible. Dr. V. is none of those things, and so he persists in his probe. Read More…

Representative Misunderestimation

Barrett Pryce, Mike Hewitt's legislative aideWalla Walla’s Washington State Senator, Mike Hewitt, is not known in progressive circles for being a friend to the queers. Trans people aren’t even on his radar. His office caused a ruckus in the blogosphere (a.k.a. The Huffington Post in this case) when some as-yet-unnamed staffer told an angry caller that gays should “grow their own food” if, under his co-sponsored bill, any business owner decided to deny service to LGBT people because of “a sincerely held belief.” The “grow their own food” was apparently an option if any LGBT person living in a rural area with few grocery stores (as is actually the case in large swaths of Washington State) was denied as a customer by store owners.

Of course this was an angry caller from Seattle, not Hewitt’s district. Of course this was a stupid off-the-cuff remark from the staff member, not the Senator himself. And to further contextualize things, this Senate Bill 5927 is in response to a florist from a nearby city who refused to serve a couple looking to get gay married. She is now being sued. But that’s the point of anti-discrimination statutes. A florist is not a church. And flowers seem unimportant–as in, they’re not food–but even small moments of ignorance and bigotry cast wide ripples. For SB 5927 doesn’t limit lawsuits, it opens the floodgates for any individual with a product or service to refuse access, solely on the basis of dislike. It’s a total negation of including sexual orientation as a protected category in the state, setting up a hierarchy of communities based on which ones have unstoppered protection and which ones fall under this proposed law’s exception.

Certainly this isn’t the first time some sort of “philosophical” exception has made its way into the laws of the land. Extreme right-wing organizations actively recruit close-minded people into medicine and pharmacy now in order to have more “soldiers” on the front lines of the battle over reproductive rights in order to use their “sincerely held beliefs” to say they won’t supply Plan B to women, or offer pregnancy termination when it’s requested (or hey, needed). There is now so much room around these moral objections that the very notion that any of us in the general public finds these exceptions problematic is itself an assault on religious freedom. Read More…

Illegal Urination

Arizona, the state that brought us a ban on Ethnic Studies and some of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws in the nation, now has crafted a bill that would make using the “wrong” restroom–read, one that does not comport with the letter on one’s birth certificate–a misdemeanor, punishable by a multi-thousand dollar fine and up to six months in jail. The language in the bill reads almost opposite as the non-discriminatory language found in jursidictions around the country that protect trans-identified and gender nonconforming people from harassment when accessing public facilities:

All entities covered under the Act, as amended, shall allow individuals the right to use gender-specific restrooms and other gender-specific facilities such as dressing rooms, homeless shelters, and group homes that are consistent with their gender identity or expression (Washington, DC Office of Human Rights, District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) entitled “Compliance Rules and Regulations Regarding Gender Identity or Expression.” Title 4, Chapter 8, amended October 26, 2006)

Instead, Arizona’s proposed language requires people to use the bathroom that comports with the sex marker on their birth certificate. This is troubling for many reasons, including in no particular order:

  1. Arizona has no legislative control over other states’ departments of vital statistics, the organizations that generally are in charge of granting and validating birth and death certificates. Some states, like New Jersey, grant new birth certificates with a letter of sex-reassignment surgery, while others only amend previously created birth certificates. It’s unclear if this proposed law would “accept” such amendments over the original certificate. And then some states, like Ohio, never amend or re-release birth certificates for any reason. So any trans individual from Ohio needing to urinate in Arizona should what, cross the state line first? Ask a kind neighbor for use of their private bathroom? Read More…

Breaking the LGBT Debate Rut

I remember the 1990s well–ATMs were a novelty, all the cool kids had neon-colored pagers, and Friday nights were spent playing an X-Files drinking game.* 1992, the year I graduated college, was an election year, and there were all kinds of debates within and about the queer community, some of which made the mainstream news–also known as “the evening news.” Which was watched on television, not on the Internet.

1993 March on Washington for gay rightsThese debates included:

  • Whether bisexuals should be included in the umbrella of “queer”
  • Whether we should try to reclaim the term, “queer”
  • Whether gays should be able to marry
  • Whether queer civil rights should be about liberation or assimilation
  • How best to advocate for more/better access to health care (mostly in light of the AIDS crisis)
  • Whether lesbians should date bisexuals, and what that would mean about their lesbianism
  • Whether gay men occupied too much of the priority list at the top of LGB civil rights
  • Whether butch/femme or androgyny should be the preferred goal for lesbians

Twenty-one years later, we haven’t moved far from these debates, if at all.  Read More…

The Name Game, or, Why Judges Matter

blind justiceUPDATE: There is now a petition to remove this jurist from office.

A regional newspaper from Oklahoma reported this weekend that District Court Judge Bill Graves repeatedly denies legal name change requests from transgender people when their cases are assigned to him. But let me take a step back and provide a little context for why I’d pluck this one sad story out of the bin, and why this matters to transpeople and all of us.

Several hurdles stand in the way of any individual’s transition; in addition to the social shifts involved in telling one’s friends, coworkers and family about their gender identity, and on top of navigating the health care and mental health industries to make one’s chosen medical changes, there is also the myriad of legal rules and guidelines to manage. Making the legal changes even more complex for transfolk, most of the laws that transect gender identity weren’t designed for this purpose, leaving us to cobble together a paperwork patchwork to get what we need in the way of identity documents and necessary legal guidance (like wills or power of attorney). And just to throw another monkey wrench into the mix, consider that the requirements for obtaining new identity papers or altering old ones are different not only from state to state, but sometimes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, some states will grant a new birth certificate with no notation on the form that there has been any change from the original name or sex marker, other states will show that the certificate has been amended, and some states, like Ohio, forbid any changes to their issued birth certificates, no matter the reason.  Read More…

The Problem with Passing Privilege

trans logo/iconI had a great blog post almost ready to launch earlier today, really I did. It was about moving my office from one location to another clear across town, and who thinks what about it, what went wrong during the move, ending with why all of this is funny.

And then WordPress ate it. No matter how much I cursed WordPress,  I still was faced with a big blog of empty white space where once tiny words had lived. Sure, I could rewrite that post, as I’ve done before, only this blog post has decided to pop up in its place.

Instead of a trite chucklefest about who inhabits office buildings, what moving is like for a small nonprofit, and how hilarious (and nice) Walla Wallans can be in the midst of mini-crises, I’m going to write about passing privilege. I’m certainly not going for a laugh, but if you feel like having one, feel free to click on the keyword “funny” to the right and read any number of humorous experiences I’ve had. The ones where I’m in intestinal distress are the best, in my opinion.

On to the actual post. Read More…

What the CeCe McDonald Sentencing Says to Me

Leslie and CeCeTurns out, the 41-month sentence that CeCe McDonald plead to this spring, at the dawn of her trial for second degree manslaughter in Minneapolis, was in fact her sentence today. That’s 3-and-a-half years or so, apparently because she pulled scissors out from her purse, while running away from an attacker, and held them in front of her while he fell against her. In his words to Ms. McDonald at her plea bargain, Judge Daniel Moreno stated that in introducing scissors into the altercation–which was not the first weapon brought into play, as she’d already been lacerated with a broken beer mug–“You realize. . . you endangered other lives.”

This is the kind of twist in logic that turns the criminal justice system into a sick Mobius strip where people on the margins can’t win. In an interview with PrettyQueer.com last month, Dean Spade remarked that once she came into contact with this system, the options for justice for CeCe McDonald were extremely limited or altogether absent. That the police looked at this case and made an arrest of Ms. McDonald over and against arresting the woman who sparked the attack in the first place, Molly Flaherty (who was finally arrested last month) is testament to the inadequacy of hate crimes law and the derangement of criminal investigative process. And we thought it was all like CSI. Read More…

Across the Continent in 5 Days

National AirportI’ve got one hour until boarding time for my flight to Chicago. Flying in and out of O’Hare is always a little nerve-wracking because it’s an airport that can kick you in the teeth if you haven’t planned well or aren’t on the top of your game. I shushed my friend Barbara when she assured me everything would go well today, because I hate tempting fate. Excuse me, I mean Fate. With a capitol F.

I might as well admit to my other big airplane flying superstition: I hold my feet off the floor when we land so I can have good luck for the next flight. I guess I can’t call it “paying it forward” if it’s for my own benefit, but I will point out here I’m not completely selfish because supposedly all the other people on the flight with me would receive my good fortune as well. And I know I’m being completely ridiculous, but the little kid me heard my grandpa tell me to do it when crossing railroad tracks and landing in a plane, and now I can’t shake it for planes. I keep my feet where they are when going over tracks because 1: it makes it too hard to keep driving if I lift them up, and 2: Walla Walla has a ton of railroad crossings in and around town.

This has been a great trip, save my pangs of missingness for the wee one and Susanne. She’s been kind enough to send me pictures of him throughout the day with a video here and there so I can listen to him babble. And thank modern technology for FaceTime on the iPhone–he smiles at me across 3,000 miles and my heart leaps just as hard as when we’re together. Read More…

DC Trans Pride 2012 Keynote Address

Humor and Civil Rights

Keynote Address to 2012 DC Trans Pride

Everett Maroon

Two great tastes that go great together –Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups marketing staff.

Folks who teach about public speaking often say that you need to relay your main message to the audience three times—you tell them what you’re going to tell them, you tell them, and then you tell them what you told them. This ties in nicely to comedy writing, because threes are often the standard set up for jokes. Creative writing instructors, on the other hand, insist on a minimum of telling and a maximum of showing, usually through dialogue and character interaction. Perhaps a keynote address isn’t exactly creative writing, but old habits die hard, so I’ll try to do my telling via showing, and I’ll do it at least three times so I keep all of the public speaker people I know happy. You don’t want to piss off the Toastmasters, trust me.

So I’m going to talk about humor and civil rights in our movement. I will, after this introduction, explain what every thing in that sentence means. Well, let me define humor, civil rights, and our, right now.  By “humor,” I mean something that makes us laugh. By “our,” I mean the transsexual/transgender/trans-asterisk/genderqueer/gender non-conforming bunch of us. And by “civil rights,” I mean all the stuff that we deserve and don’t currently have, and yes, after this intro—this is still the introduction—I’ll list out what those things are, but I probably won’t exhaust everything that should be on the list because as we’ll see, I have but one perspective to bring to the movement, and as you’ll see by way of some lovely anecdotes, we need as many voices as we can scrabble together. Along the way I’ll read a few stories to satisfy the minimal showing requirement of this talk, and then I’ll finish with a self-deprecating comment to tell you what I told you. You’ll applaud, possibly because the words I strung together today were helpful and/or amusing, but more likely because I traveled more than 3,000 miles to get here and you feel pity for me that this is all I came up with in the way of a keynote. But let me thank you in advance for your excellent manners. 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…

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