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Misunderstanding Pro-Choice

Last year I went to the 31st Annual Walla Walla Wine Auction to benefit the regional Planned Parenthood, and was amazed at how much fun it was. Every year they have a theme (last year’s was the speakeasy), and the Marcus Whitman Hotel is transformed for the occasion. Grafting a live auction with wine is a brilliant stroke, because as one’s inhibitions plummet with all of the tastings (there are more than 30 wineries pouring their product there), the number of bids one puts in on the silent and live auction items rockets. When we came to the 6-bottles of Leonetti cabernet sauvignon in 2012, I kept my paddle in the air, thinking I was bidding someone else up, and instead won the wine. This year I knew better, darn it. Also Susanne looked at the ready to grab my arm and get our purse strings out of any melee. I admit I was also excited because this year’s theme was all about a steampunk version of the wild west, and I was curious to see if people would dress up beyond finding a pair of driving goggles and sticking them on a cowboy hat.

WWofW LogoOnce again we weren’t disappointed with the decorations—the line in was drawn by a hitching post, flanked by a building that read “Jail,” and then we walked under a gate to the trading post, where the wines were in mid-pour. I waved at two of the people I knew working for wineries in the first room, then took a look at the wines assembled for the “cork pulls.” Thirty bucks got donors a grab at the bucket of corks, which corresponded to the bottles on the display. It was a less fancy display than last year, but I saw some great wines on the table. Susanne has great luck with these, and in a flash, she had won a magnum from Dunham Cellars. I pulled a rose. I hate rose. But it will make someone happy at a future gathering, I guess.

We wandered around and found our favorite wineries, me sipping the tastes with our friend Leah, Susanne sniffing at the glasses and snagging a few things from a long table of charcuterie. Then we looked at the silent auction items, promising ourselves that we’d limit our household to two items. We made a bid on two magnums from Rotie (a northern and a southern blend), and another magnum from Waters—Forgotten Hills. I sampled popcorn made with nitro-infused flavors, watched a chef carve meat off of a whole pig, shook hands with folks I knew, and sashayed up to a wall of ice that held tiny bites of seafood. I love you, seafood wall. I’ll see you again, someday. Read More…

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part II)

Primary school government classes in the United States explain the ideals of representative government—that our democracy supports the election of (often ordinary) people who then keep access open to their constituents so that the needs in their local districts and states will have a voice in the voting body. Unfortunately, in many districts, this is not really how elections and governing operate anymore. Consider:

  1. From The Campaign Finance Institute

    From The Campaign Finance Institute

    Congressional elections averaged $1.4M for House elections in 2010 and and more than $1.5M in 2012. Senate races averaged nearly $9M in 2010 and more than $10.3M in 2012. The total cost for all congressional races for the 2014 midterm elections is estimated to run $3.5B. That’s billion. These extreme costs narrow the possibilities of who can run for seats, limiting elections to well networked or party-sponsored individuals, the independently wealthy, or people running on a cause that garners a lot of grassroots support. (See Table at the right.)

  2. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United has put a lot more money from organizations and corporations into elections, even local-level campaigns. Between 527 groups, PACs and SuperPACs, even small congressional districts see a lot of monetary input, often from groups outside of the state or district in contest. If candidate fundraising doesn’t come from kissing babies and shaking constituents’ hands anymore, then…
  3. Issues taken up by office holders may reflect the priorities of big donors and organizations rather than the general public. At the least there is evidence that so much corporate money spent in SuperPACs has been used to wage negative campaigns against the presumed opponent (SuperPACs are not allowed to raise money for a particular candidate). Thus candidates now must raise money to get their messages out and to defend against the negative campaigns from 527s and SuperPACs (hence the rapid rise in average campaign costs). Read More…

The Watchers and Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis screen capture filibusterThis news out of Texas was quickly supplanted by the SCOTUS decisions around marriage equality today, the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman trial, and somehow, by continued coverage of Paula Deen’s racism. But it’s worth taking a closer look at the 11-hour filibuster by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis because it was a moment that perhaps can give us some lessons to remember for future political battles—which will inevitably will come our way. Or say, next month.

1. The filibuster was well planned and executed—Wendy had several things going for her, including a thick binder of germane content to read on the floor of the chamber, testimony from women that had not been allowed during earlier hearings on SB5, a Web page collecting more on-point testimony, and apparently, a big old Depends undergarment. She also had clearly prepped on the rules of the Senate filibuster allowances, and while she was abruptly ended by the Senate President for getting off-topic, talking about how SB5 would harmfully interact with an earlier passed law on sonograms was arguably still germane to the discussion. Dr. Gunter outlines the argument why that’s the case. But that she held the floor so long, despite extreme bending of the Senate’s rules on the part of the GOP supermajority makes this moment a prime example of successful governance. Big-ticket issues like a woman’s right to choose should be filibuster material, especially when the stakes are the closure of 37 out of 42 abortion-providing clinics in a state with 26 million people. Read More…

Presiding Juror (Part 1)

I call myself a humorist. I make a piss-poor trade in identifying the funny stuff in the midst of garbage, sadness, strife, etc. I find humor to be life-saving, especially when it bubbles up in the midst of a gender transition, say. So I went into the jury summons process with an eye toward spotting the bits of funny. And somewhat paradoxically, the criminal justice system, even in the tiny universe of Walla Walla, has its side-splitting moments and instances that are absolutely chilling.

jury duty ecardIt started with a perforated postcard in the mail, back in early April, saying I was on the docket for June 2013. Walla Walla’s Superior Court uses a system in which jurors need to be on call to make an appearance on any given date during the month. Opening up the sealed card, one will find a short questionnaire which is supposed to be mailed back to the court right away. It tells the court if there are dates one can’t serve (I said I’d be out of town after a certain date in June), if one is or is not a United States citizen (Susanne gets out of all her jury duty for being Canadian), a resident of the county, and older than 18. It asks if one can read, speak, and write in English (illiterates need not apply?), and asks things about whether one is currently employed, and if so, what kind of work it is. There were other things on there, but I’ve forgotten them. Read More…

Responses to Random Comments from Others

Let the inner monologue begin.

  1. Hey, did you see that article in the newspaper about that transgendered couple? Yes. I subscribe to the newspaper. It’s easy to read, too, because it’s only 12 pages long.
  2. Hey, do you know the transsexual couple in the paper today? Yes. I’ve met them, mostly by chance. It’s a small town. I’ve met the mayor more times than them.
  3. Oh my God, was that you in the paper today about being trans? Only if I’ve been blasted with a reverse-aging gun, and shifted my entire skull structure. I hope someone lets me in on it if that’s what happened. Do you have a mirror I could borrow?
  4. Hey, there’s a high school student/college student/totally grown adult who is starting to transition. Could you talk to them? I mean, I haven’t talked to them yet to find out if they’d like you to do that, but you know, could you do that? Of course I’ll talk to them. It’s a small town and starting transition is way beyond difficult. But they get to have the last say in whether they sit down with some middle aged guy from New Jersey. I really hope that’s clear. And for the record, I am not the spokesperson for Transgender America. That would be Chaz Bono.
  5. I’m a great ally, but I’m not really out about being an ally. So please don’t go telling people I think it’s okay to be trans, all right? By definition, that makes you NOT an ally. Go home, fake ally, you’re drunk.
  6. That’s a nice idea and all, but you know this isn’t DC, right? You’re right–let’s not have any expectations for people in Walla Walla, that we can support each other, pass things like anti-discrimination regulations, and help LGBT people in crisis. Let’s leave liveability to people in big cities. But when we do that, Dan Savage wins. We can’t let Dan Savage win!
  7. You sure talk about being trans a lot. Like, aren’t you happy just being a man? I’m so far beyond happy it would blow your tiny little mind. But I feel a need to be open about my history, you know, so all the closeted and other allies can ask me to be a resource for others, or tell me that Walla Walla isn’t the District of Columbia.
  8. You might have a hard time finding a job here, because you’re overqualified. You know, that happens to men. Wow. I’d never heard of that before I transitioned in 2004. Thanks for cluing me in!
  9. What was your old name? Buy the book to find out.
  10. Do you know the pregnant man? Nope, but I know like 7 pregnant men who were pregnant years before him, and who didn’t feel the need to go on Oprah.
  11. Hey, did you hear the pregnant man is getting divorced? Yes. And he’s seeking this claim even if it means possibly hurting future transgender-related marriages in the future. One guess how I feel about that.
  12. Did you make that baby with Susanne? Let me refer you to WebMD.
  13. Does it bother you that your baby isn’t related to you? No, but I bet it bothers you that you aren’t related to such cuteness.
  14. Why do all trans men have such crazy facial hair? If I told you, I’d have to kill you.
  15. Do you mourn the old you? No, but I mourn the loss of knowing you before you asked that dumbass question.
  16. Do you ever think about going back to being a woman? Not until just now. Excuse me, I feel a wave of laughter coming on.
  17. I was just wondering, do you have phantom breast sensations? Tell me, do you have phantom intelligence sensations?
  18. Hey, do you know <<INSERT FAMOUS TRANS PERSON’S NAME HERE>>? Yes/No/We just hung out last night! How’d you know?
  19. Does it feel weird to take your shirt off in the pool? I mean, I hate that wave of cold water as much as the next person…huh?
  20. I understand how hard it is to find a doctor in town. My mom had <<INSERT DISEASE HERE>> and she had to drive to Seattle to find a specialist. Was this after the physician here insisted on giving her a prostate exam? Because that guy is really on my shit list.
  21. Is it like, totally weird living in a small town? Why, does nobody ask you how weird your city is?
  22. Are you interested in giving the newspaper an interview about being trans in Walla Walla? I’m hanging up now.

Insert your comments and responses here.

Why It’s a Pain in the Ass to Be Trans in a Small Town, Or A Simple List of Stuff People Have Said to Me

  1. walla walla upholstery signHey, did you see that article in the newspaper about that transgendered couple?
  2. Hey, do you know the transsexual couple in the paper today?
  3. Oh my God, was that you in the paper today about being trans?
  4. Hey, there’s a high school student/college student/totally grown adult who is starting to transition. Could you talk to them? I mean, I haven’t talked to them yet to find out if they’d like you to do that, but you know, could you do that?
  5. I’m a great ally, but I’m not really out about being an ally. So please don’t go telling people I think it’s okay to be trans, all right?
  6. That’s a nice idea and all, but you know this isn’t DC, right?
  7. You sure talk about being trans a lot. Like, aren’t you happy just being a man?
  8. You might have a hard time finding a job here, because you’re overqualified. You know, that happens to men.
  9. What was your old name?
  10. Do you know the pregnant man?
  11. Hey, did you hear the pregnant man is getting divorced?
  12. Did you make that baby with Susanne?
  13. Does it bother you that your baby isn’t related to you?
  14. Why do all trans men have such crazy facial hair?
  15. Do you mourn the old you?
  16. Do you ever think about going back to being a woman?
  17. I was just wondering, do you have phantom breast sensations?
  18. Hey, do you know <<INSERT FAMOUS TRANS PERSON’S NAME HERE>>?
  19. Does it feel weird to take your shirt off in the pool?
  20. I understand how hard it is to find a doctor in town. My mom had <<INSERT DISEASE HERE>> and she had to drive to Seattle to find a specialist.
  21. Is it like, totally weird living in a small town?
  22. Are you interested in giving the newspaper an interview about being trans in Walla Walla?

Responses tomorrow.

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…

Bodies, Accountability, and Journalism: What’s So Offensive about the Steubenville Trial

Judge Thomas LippsA guilty verdict was handed down by Justice Thomas Lipps today, for both defendants in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case that has caught the attention of the nation. As the verdict was read, reality descended on the two young men charged with raping a drunk and unconscious young woman at a party last August. Multiple reports about the incident noted that before and during that party, young men on the high school football team were used to behaving however they saw fit with no boundaries enforced by the adults in their lives, and that their coach, Reno Saccocchia, was considered a frequent aid in cleaning or covering up the antics of his football players. The trial highlighted accounts by several witnesses and text messages that rather than one awful moment in which Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond had a terrible, hurtful lapse in judgment, this rape behavior was more about an accumulation of unaccountability by the young men, their coach, their friends, and their parents.

The trial itself was not free of misogyny. As I’ve written about during other publicized sexual assault investigations, questions swirled around regarding the ability of the young woman to give consent to her treatment. Even though there were concerns that she’d been drugged by the defendants or their teammates, even though many witnesses attested that she was drunk–which ought to have answered the question of consent right there–and even though the assailants and others said in various media that she was unconscious, “not participating,” or passed out, the defense still saw an avenue to drag her reputation and prior behavior into the testimony at trial. Decades old questions regarding the (in)ability of men to acknowledge or notice a lack or removal of consent were brought to bear as valid discussion once again. In what some analysts called a re-victimization of the young woman, texts, photos, and video of the assault were circulated among other football team members, high school students, and the Internet at large. And of course the trial called up many of those humiliating moments after the fact as part of the prosecution as well as the defense’s case. 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…

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