Trans Progressive – LGBT Weekly Sun, 28 Aug 2016 19:30:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 WoLF v. trans women and girls Thu, 18 Aug 2016 20:09:37 +0000

“A bathroom battle! Transgender students can choose which bathroom or locker room to use at schools, but now a women’s group is suing,” began Lisée Mitri for her Aug. 12 KRQE News report .

Its easy shorthand to think of the battle enemy of LGBT civil rights as being religious right aligned organizations. Sometimes it’s hard for us in the LGBT community to wrap our heads around the idea that an organization that defines itself in terms of radical feminism would work to oppress an LGBT subcommunity.

Yet, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) last week filed suit against Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) over the Department of Education’s (ED) interpretation of Title IX.

ED published a Dear Colleague letter about civil rights protections for transgender students May 13. “This letter summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the ED and the DOJ evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.”

The guidance can be summarized from the text of the Dear Colleague letter: “The Departments’ interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.”

In other words, trans girls are to be treated as girls and trans boys are to be treated as boys.

Where there has been organized political pushback – mostly from religious right aligned organizations – it’s been focused on trans students’ use of sex segregated bathrooms and locker rooms.

WoLF is different. On its Statement of Principles webpages, the organization defines its membership as:

• Unapologetically radical feminists.

• Dedicated to the total liberation of women.

• A women-only organization: We are females who survived girlhood.

WoLF filed their suit in the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque Aug. 11 in support of their stated principles. WoLF states in their suit that the ED’s “unilateral decree that women are not, as has been understood since the dawn of time, people who are biologically female, but anyone who, for any reason or no reason at all, choose to so describe themselves at any given time, is an arbitrary and breathtakingly irresponsible action that denies every female’s biological and social reality.”

The two named plaintiffs in the suit are “AB,” identified as a 15-year-old public school student, and AB’s mother. Both are members of WoLF. According to the suit, “They fear not only the increased risk of sexual assault on AB, but the embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and loss of personal dignity because they will have to share such intimate spaces with men while in various stages of undress. Each of AB’s injuries is imminent, traceable to the May 13 guidance and redressable by this Court.”

There’s not a breadth of hair’s distance between the language that WoLF radical feminists are using to describe the alleged dangers of transgender girls using school bathrooms and locker rooms alongside non-transgender girls, and the language organizations such as the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and American Family Association are using to describe the same alleged dangers.

WoLF board member Kara Dansky was asked by KRQE about children who were assigned female at birth but have a male gender identity. Dansky replied, “If a particular biological female wants to use a male space? No. That’s not our main concern.”

Of course it’s not Dansky’s or WoLF’s concern. This “bathroom battle” WoLF is waging in feminism’s name has nothing to do with trans men and boys, or even about how trans women and girls actually behave in women’s and girls’ spaces. It has everything to do with eradicating trans women and girls from public life.

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Transition and detransition Thu, 04 Aug 2016 19:50:38 +0000

Detransitioning happens; there are detransitioners who regret decisions they made while identifying as transgender and transitioning. Their numbers are relatively small, but even in relatively small numbers – compared with the size of the larger trans community – these detransitioners add up to thousands of people.

Carey Callahan, in her blog entitled Maria Catt, posted a public blog entry and YouTube video discussing her experience with transition and detransition.

“When I was trans, I was very against gatekeeping,” Carey said in her video. “I felt that my trans identity shouldn’t be apologized; that it was a healthy, beautiful thing; and that I was an adult, and making these decisions from a clear state of mind, and I should get to make them – and a therapist shouldn’t get involved.”

She believes gatekeeping by doctors and therapists at this point in time is “pretty minimal.” She talked about moving to a state that had an “informed consent clinic” where “one did not even need … one or two therapy appointments to get therapy.” She explains how one just signs a form that one understands the consequences of receiving transition related hormone therapy, and indicates one is of clear mind when asking for this medical intervention.

Carey lived as a trans guy for 9-months on hormones, and 1½ years off, and described that last 1½ years as “the worst.” She states she didn’t see herself or those people in her “trans bubble,” as receiving “the happiness we were promised.” Instead she saw a lot of people who “were trying to resolve something else” by transitioning.

Carey saw transitioning as treatment that would solve her problems that she later attributed to trauma. What she found instead was “every step of the process for me, every step I took toward affirming that trans identity – life got worse.” She admits her mental and physical expectations for transition were unrealistic.

Carey laments that there isn’t more gatekeeping per standards of care as there was in the ’60s and ’70s; she laments that it’s easy to go too quick at trying something that didn’t really solve one’s life problems. She recommends self-reflection before going for medical intervention.

She very much regrets taking testosterone and lowering the pitch of her voice – it’s a reminder to her that she tried to solve her personal trauma with a wrong treatment.

Without doubt, Carey has a good point about engaging in self-reflection prior to, and throughout the process of transitioning.

“Therapists that do gender identity work are useless,” she said in her video. She talks about how gender therapists are not equipped, and have nothing to offer, detransitioners.

“I know people who are trans who are happy,” Carey states, “I know a lot of people who are detransitioned and are very happy detransitioned.”

With regards to transition, I did what Carey didn’t: I first tried to find a way short of transition to address my gender dysphoria, engaged throughout transition in serious self-reflection and was realistic in my expectations. I believe that has a bit to do with being mature and very self-aware when I started the transition process. I was also very aware that transitioning trades one set of problems for a whole different set. I’m pretty happy; transitioning was a lifesaver for me.

My gender therapist was never useless either. I looked for and found one who challenged me on my transition-related decisions, as well as being ready should detransition care be required. Carey didn’t find that.

“I think it’s pretty unethical that the same clinics and doctors that give us so much help when it comes to transitioning have nothing to offer if you have regret,” Carey added.

What we know about the transgender experience includes knowing the rate of detransition is somewhere around four percent or less of those who begin the process. Even knowing this, the health providers serving the trans community really don’t have a good standard of care for detransitioners.

Quoting Julia Serano, “I would love to see more support from trans communities (and from health providers) for people who choose to detransition.” Me too.

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The alleged trans voyeur Thu, 21 Jul 2016 20:32:09 +0000

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is quoted as saying, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

King was talking about racism, but I believe one can extrapolate further to just plain bigotry; judging an individual solely by a characteristic that identifies them as a member of an identity community is a fail.

I know for me it’s important to visibly identify myself as transgender, queer, mentally disabled and a veteran. Yet, none of those community identities – individually or intersectionally – tell you if I’m an inherently good person. It’s instead the content of my character that defines how I should be judged.

In the transgender community, we have rapists, murderers and sex offenders. By apparent content of character, it’s difficult to call these transgender people inherently good people. It’s little comfort to me to know that every identity community has its share of people that are difficult to call inherently good.

But most of us, in any identity community, aren’t sexual predators.

There is such a thing as the bathroom predator myth. It’s a myth that assumes trans women will either be, or provide cover for, sexual predators in public bathrooms, locker rooms and changing areas. Where public accommodation protections have passed into law on the basis of gender identity, there has been no statistical uptick in bathroom predation by transgender people.

But some in LGBT civil rights organizations created a talking point that’s gone beyond the statistics. The DC Trans Coalition has posted on their Web site “We’re already using public bathrooms, and have been since we have existed. There have never been any documented problems caused by us [transgender people].” Vincent Villano, the director of communications for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), told Mic April 02, 2015 that NCTE has “not heard of a single instance of a transgender person harassing a non-transgender person in a public restroom. Those who claim otherwise have no evidence that this is true and use this notion to prey on the public’s stereotypes and fears about transgender people.”

Even the LGBT press has chimed in with the idea that there are no trans bathroom predators. Sunnivie Brydum wrote for The Advocate March 10, 2015 that “Although hundreds of trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances have been in force in cities around the country for several decades, there has never been a verifiable, reported instance of a trans person harassing a cisgender person.”

Well, never been a verifiable, reported instance of a trans person harassing a cisgender person until possibly now. Shauna Patricia Smith, a trans woman living in Ammon, Idaho, was arrested for felony video voyeurism July 11. She went into the local Target’s unisex changing area, and allegedly with her iPhone reached over the wall of her dressing room and began videoing an 18-year-old woman trying on clothing in the room next to hers.

As LGBTQ Nation reports, “Given the facts as we know them, Target’s trans-inclusive policy – which was met with scorn and petitions from anti-LGBTQ forces – has no bearing on this case. But it’s become a talking point, to the level of boasting, among right wing anti-transgender pundits.”

Yet, it was naive for anyone in the LGBT community to claim “There has never been any report of a transgender person utilizing their bathroom privileges to harass or attack cisgender people in the bathroom.” as was claimed on Gender Therapist’s Dara Hoffman-Fox’s Web site last April. That’s because it doesn’t take a gender therapist to know that being transgender doesn’t make one an inherently good person, and that there’d eventually be a transgender bathroom predator.

Shauna Patricia Smith, as well as every member of the transgender community, should be judged by the content of their characters, and not the characteristic of being transgender. In a perfect world, trans community members wouldn’t be painted with a broad brush because of what Smith allegedly did.

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‘Effective immediately, transgender servicemembers may serve openly’ Thu, 07 Jul 2016 21:42:09 +0000

Transgender service members from SPARTA pose with SPARTA’s Sue Fulton (far left) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (third from right). | PHOTO: TRANSMILITARY

I remember how tough it was for me to change my documented gender in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) as a military retiree in 2013. It was incredibly tough and onerous: I needed six separate pieces of documentation, to include proof of surgery. Most of the documents the Department of Defense (DoD) required to change a transgender person’s gender in the DEERS database were required to be originals or notarized copies.

I was the first transgender person to publicly document how to change their documented gender in DEERS. It was a big deal at the time.

Apparently, this policy is going to get significantly less onerous soon. It’s because June 30, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in a press briefing, “Effective immediately, transgender servicemembers may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military solely for being transgender individuals.”

It strikes me that transgender servicemembers now can dress as who they are off duty without fear of reprisal from their chains of command; without fear of discharge. As a transgender veteran with a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell story related to being transgender, it’s incredible for me to contemplate.

According to the DoD, within the next 90 days the Department will do the following:

• The Department will issue a training handbook for commanders, transgender servicemembers and the force.

• The Department will issue medical guidance for providing transition related care to transgender servicemembers.

• The Military Health System will be required to provide transgender servicemembers with all medically necessary care related to gender transition, based on the guidance that is issued.

• Servicemembers will be able to begin the process to officially change their gender in our personnel management systems.

This is going to include how DoD’s healthcare system is going to deliver medical support to serving transgender members, as well as when a servicemembers’ gender marker will be changed in DEERS and the Defense Accounting and Financial Services (DFAS), and when the gender marker changes in DEERS, the servicemember will then adhere to the different gender’s uniform, grooming and physical readiness standards, as well as change barracks assignment and gendered bathroom and shower room use.

In the next nine months, “based on detailed guidance and training materials that will be issued, the Services will conduct training of the force – from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating forces and recruiters.”

What’s less clear is the accession policy; the policy for bringing transgender recruits and officers into the services. The DoD’s Transgender Service Member Policy Implementation Fact Sheet states, “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition, and to have been stable in their preferred gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military.” What the Department means when they say “completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary” is going to depend a lot on what the Department says is required to be “completed” to change one’s gender marker in DEERS.

Of course, there are implications of open transgender military service beyond duty hours. If a soldier from Fort Bragg, a sailor from Harvey Point Defense Testing Activity, an airman from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base or a Marine from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point who’s changed their gender marker in DEERS, but not on their birth certificate, steps off their base into North Carolina wearing their appropriate dress military uniform per regulation, the servicemember would be violating North Carolina state law if that servicemember used a state government building’s bathroom in line with their DoD recognized gender.

Imagine, an active duty servicemember in dress uniform being arrested for using the “wrong” bathroom, and then realize that’s soon a real possibility.

I didn’t think I’d live to see the day when transgender servicemembers would serve openly, yet here that day is. In North Carolina and beyond, however, I can see how they are not only seeing the world change for themselves, but how they will change the world for other transgender people.

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Erasers Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:47:18 +0000

It seems everywhere I look, mainstream, LGBT and conservative Christian journalists are reporting about, and opining on the Orlando mass murder at Pulse, as well as lawmakers saying things and taking votes.

If we’re going to talk in terms of groups of people, instead of us as individuals, for a moment, we all see random, impersonal death that came from malevolent intent.

Beyond that, it’s as if we haven’t witnessed the passing of the same 49 lives and the physical wounding of 53 more.

I see erasers.

As almost everyone in the LGBT community knows – as almost everyone in the entire U.S. knows – Pulse is an LGBT bar in Orlando, Fla. It was at a Latinx night there when a mass murderer, who swore allegiance to ISIS, took an assault rifle and a pistol to the bar to shoot over a hundred people. About half of those who died were of Puerto Rican descent.

Throughout the coverage of, and reaction to the mass murder, some part of the tragedy, or some part of the people who were directly impacted by the tragedy, were erased.

It was seen in mainstream cable media’s initial coverage of the mass murder, when it wasn’t mentioned that Pulse was an LGBT bar, or that it was a Latinx night and the victims were almost all Latinx were mentioned.

Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott and state Attorney General Pam Bondi faced criticism in the days after the mass murder for not mentioning the LGBT community in their public remarks about it. Lawmakers across the nation generically offered prayers for victims and their families when in previous years these same lawmakers fought against the victims’ ability to have families through marriage.

In a bar that served the entire LGBT community, what media covered any bisexual people killed? A Williams study indicated that 64 percent of LGB families with children have at least one partner that’s bisexual: there were several among the dead who had children. If there were any bisexual people among the dead, lack of coverage erased their identities.

I’ve read several pieces in the religious right press that want to blame “radical Islam,” and erase the victims. Perhaps the worst example of hate was found in a Family Research Council email. In one linked story they talked about how “the Left is still twisting this massacre into an opportunity to shove Christians and radical Muslims under the same umbrella.” Yet in another linked story on the same day, the FRC demonized trans women as voyeurs, or people who enable them. “In Target, yet another man was caught ‘peeping inside a unisex changing room.’ Now that the chain’s bathrooms and fitting rooms are open to everyone, moms and dads are either shopping elsewhere or increasingly wary.”

Personally, I’m reminded of the 2012 Harvard Law Review article Civil Rights Reform and the Body by Tobias Barrington Wolfe. He listed four things socially conservative people of faith and lawmakers offer LGBT community members as solutions in their plan to systematically erase us: convert us, “cure” us, closet us, and kill us.

Islamic fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism; I fail to see a difference of effect for LGBT community members. Their solutions seem the same.

In my own experience, I went through ex-trans therapy as a Pentecostal in the late 1970s; my experience was being told to pray the gay – I mean “transvestite” – away, and deepen my faith. I was offered conversion, faith as the cure, and a life in a closet.

And, this is what fundamentalist, “radical Islam” teaches their LGBT people of faith as well: pray, and deepen their faith.

At Pulse, we had a radical person professing a fundamentalist faith kill 49 mostly Latinx LGBTQ community members, and injured 53 more. Through death, he erased 49 community members.

And with terror, with fear, he’ll likely functionally closet more LGBT community members, and leave other Latin and/or LGBT community members afraid to leave their homes. That, by function, are what hate crimes are supposed to do.

We have the terrible burden of going out into the world and being who we are within all of our minority intersections so we can change the world. And, we are changing the world.

But, we do this knowing that at all of those intersections where we live – gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, black, Latinx, API, disabled, veteran, old, young, etc. – we may find ourselves, morally, legally, or even physically erased.

Erasers have many kinds of erasing weapons.

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Our existence shouldn’t be up for discussion Thu, 09 Jun 2016 20:52:29 +0000

Recent discussions about basic freedoms for transgender people in public life, however the discussion has been framed, have generally been missing the contending theorizations of what we’re really discussing.

The assertion by transgender people is “We exist.” The assertion by the public antagonists of transgender people is “You don’t exist: you rebel against God given order, and you must be eradicated from public life.”

The transgender community’s antagonists are trying to make this about eradicating us from public life by making a male/female dichotomy of “biological sex” replace the scientific understanding of sex and gender as being on a spectrum. The antagonists reject the consensus of most medical organizations that identify medical treatment of transgender people as medically necessary.

One can draw this conclusion by looking at the organizations that are taking vocal, national roles in attempting to limit bathrooms to people in accordance to biological sex, as determined by their understanding of Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” They ignore any other scriptures, which are many, that challenge that simplistic point of view.

The best example of this is from the Family Research Council’s (FRC) white paper Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement, written by Peter Sprigg (Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at FRC in Washington, D.C.) and Dale O’Leary (freelance writer and lecturer and the author of The Gender Agenda and One Man, One Woman). The paper concludes its executive summary this way:

“A person’s sex (male or female) is an immutable biological reality. In the vast majority of people (including those who later identify as ‘transgender’), it is unambiguously identifiable at birth. There is no rational or compassionate reason to affirm a distorted psychological self-concept that one’s ‘gender identity’ is different from one’s biological sex.

“Neither lawmakers nor counselors, pastors, teachers, nor medical professionals should participate in or reinforce the transgender movement’s lies about sexuality nor should they be required by the government to support such distortion.”

The opposition, transgender people’s antagonists, has been treating transgender people’s gender identities as a lie. They use terms, such as “biological sex,” to explicitly say transgender people’s lived genders aren’t “real.”

Some examples? Nattaphon “Ice” Wangyot, a senior at Haines High School, broke ground by being the first transgender Alaskan athlete to compete in an individual event at a high school championship. Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Action, defined her as male, in saying “Allowing students to play on teams of the opposite sex disproportionately impacts female students, who will lose spots on track, soccer and volleyball teams to male students who identify as female.” After she won two medals at the track meet, Minnery was quoted as saying, “Being female or male is set at birth, as the bible says. Male and female created He them.”

Sen. Ted Cruz famously said in the last throws of his campaign for president, “You don’t have a right to intrude upon the rights of others because whether or not a man believes he’s a woman, there are a lot of women who would like to be able to use a public restroom in peace without having a man there – and when there are children involved, you don’t have a right to impose your lifestyle on others.”

This is about disbelief that transgender people are telling the truth about themselves, especially transgender women.

We exist; we transgender people exist. There should be no discussion about our existence. There is reality that we exist; mainstream media is allowing discussion to occur on our right to exist by allowing “balance” in their coverage that denies our existence. They are implicitly allowing discussion that allows for our erasure as a class of people.

We exist; I exist. My existence shouldn’t be up for discussion.

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The one finger salute from Secretary Clinton? Thu, 26 May 2016 19:35:28 +0000

Is Secretary Clinton giving the trans community the one finger salute?

Well, it seems like it to me.

Before I start here, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a #BernieOrBust gal. If Secretary Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate for president this November, she has my vote. And, I vote.

But, I want to know where Secretary Clinton stands on the issues I care about most – transgender civil rights issues. I care deeply about ordinary equality and social justice for the transgender people of our nation, be they trans women, trans men, genderqueer people or gender nonconforming people. These are all my community siblings.

And, my community has public issues that need addressing across a broad spectrum. We have public basic civil rights issues, such as housing, employment and public accommodations issues. We have public access issues regarding access to appropriate healthcare, access to appropriate identification documents and equal access to education. And, my community has civil rights issues around immigration, incarceration and open military service that need addressing.

The Trans United Fund’s 501(c)(4) created a questionnaire that asked the three remaining presidential candidates in the two major parties what their stands are on transgender public issues. Here’s a sprinkling of the questions:

• Do you support access for trans people to medically-necessary transition-related healthcare, as defined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and support by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association?

• Do you support rules for allowing trans servicemembers to transition, socially and medically and to be protected from discrimination?

• Law Enforcement – Trans people, particularly trans people of color, face disproportionate rates of negative interaction with law enforcement, arrest and profiling, detention and imprisonment, particularly for victimless crimes. Research shows that nearly half of trans people fear to approach law enforcement officials when they are the victim of a crime. How would you address discrimination by law enforcement systems and work to reduce the negative impact of these systems on trans communities?

• Incarceration – Trans people are disproportionately more likely to face discrimination, be subject to solitary confinement and face sexual abuse in prison, jail and detention systems. How would you reduce incarceration of trans people, prevent discrimination against trans prisoners and mitigate violence against trans prisoners?

• Immigration – Trans immigrants face higher barriers to emigrate to the U.S., to obtain asylum, to obtaining appropriate healthcare, and to find work that allows them to remain in the U.S. Moreover, trans people that are subject to immigration-related detention face staggering rates of violence and sexual abuse. How would you work to ensure trans migrant populations are properly cared for in the U.S.?

There are many more questions, and some as tough as or tougher than these. Sen. Bernie Sanders answered the questions, and was very supportive of the transgender community – but he’s not likely at all to be the Democratic nominee for president at this point.

If Secretary Clinton doesn’t answer the questions on the questionnaire, she’s not on record on what policies she does and doesn’t support, and what she can say she’s taking a defensive posture on without saying she broke a promise to the community.

I’m guessing Secretary Clinton’s campaign is calculating we’ll vote for her whether or not she fills out the survey – better not to be on the record having promises to break or giving ammunition to the Republican opposition – the fairly unpalatable Donald Trump.

What pressure is there that we can bring to bear to get Secretary Clinton to answer questions from the trans community? Because it will take pressure for her to respond, I’m sure.

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Government lawsuits take flight in North Carolina Thu, 12 May 2016 19:26:32 +0000

“Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a May 9 news conference announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina over the provisions of HB 2: specifically the provisions that require transgender people in public agencies, schools and rest stops to use the bathrooms consistent with their sex assigned at birth, rather than bathrooms that fit their gender identity. “… no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together.”

“[North Carolina’s HB 2] speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior; like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in,” added Vanita Gupta, the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division a bit further into the news conference. “Let me reassure every transgender individual, right here in America, that you belong just as you are. You are supported. And you are protected.”

Extraordinary statements for extraordinary times. Numerous of my transgender friends report having tears on hearing these words in response to the discrimination transgender people are experiencing in North Carolina.

Besides the United States suing North Carolina (Gov. Patrick McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the University of North Carolina and Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina), there is also a lawsuit from plaintiffs North Carolina Gov. Patrick L. McCrory and the state’s Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry (collectively known as “plaintiffs”) who’ve sued the Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta; they filed their lawsuit prior to the DOJ filing their lawsuit.

North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory has been arguing all along that North Carolina’s law doesn’t discriminate. However, the collective plaintiffs believe, according to their filing: “The overwhelming weight of legal authority recognizes that transgender status is not a protected class under Title VII.”

At Gov. McCrory’s May 9 press conference, he stated, “I want to ensure the people of our state and our country that North Carolina has long held traditions of ensuring equality.”

Well, as a trans woman let me add the caveat “unless you’re transgender.” Discrimination and inequality apparently only applies if you’re a member of a protected class Gov. McCrory recognizes.

“The majority of our citizens in our great state, and this governor, did not seek out this issue,” McCrory went on to add in the news conference. “However, the state of North Carolina and this governor welcome the opportunity to be part of the solution for all of the states and especially our nation.”

The solution that the leaders of the North Carolina Senate and House propose is stated this way: “Despite being grossly mischaracterized in the media, [HB 2] does not embody hostility toward those whose gender identity differs from their biological sex. To the contrary, the Act specifically allows a flexible system of single-occupancy facilities for persons who do not wish to use public facilities designated for their biological sex. The Act also leaves in place existing provisions allowing a person to obtain a sex-change operation, make a corresponding change to their birth certificate, and then use the public facilities consistent with their new anatomy.”

Well, that’s a mighty low set bar for the legislators to say HB 2 doesn’t embody antitransgender hostility.

I’ll place my hope and faith in that history Attorney General Lynch mentioned. As abolitionist Theodore Parker once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

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What our anti-transgender antagonists want Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:48:57 +0000

A person’s sex (male or female) is an immutable biological reality. In the vast majority of people (including those who later identify as ‘transgender’), it is unambiguously identifiable at birth. There is no rational or compassionate reason to affirm a distorted psychological self-concept that one’s ‘gender identity’ is different from one’s biological sex.

“Neither lawmakers nor counselors, pastors, teachers, nor medical professionals should participate in or reinforce the transgender movement’s lies about sexuality – nor should they be required by the government to support such distortion.”

Those are the executive summary’s closing words of the Family Research Council (FRC) report Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an ally in this endeavor. The ADF emailed school districts nationwide to push a model policy denying equal access for transgender students in December 2014. That policy, if implemented, would prohibit transgender students from using school facilities that correspond with their gender identity. In October 2015, the ADF promulgated their “Student Physical Privacy Policy,” which ostensively advocated the same kind of policy for school facilities. Then in multiple states and local jurisdictions, the ADF packaged a version of the model policy as model legislation which they call the “Student Physical Privacy Act.”

And in North Carolina, we have HB 2, where transgender people are legally relegated to the bathrooms of their birth certificates.

On one level, this is about segregation. In schools with these ADF model policies, the option for transgender students is to use restrooms, such as a single stall nurse’s office restroom, where they’re segregated from others of their gender, or not use any restroom at all. And as for locker rooms … well, if there is no private locker room, there is really nowhere where a transgender student can change or shower. The Student Physical Privacy Policy (model policy) states in part:

1. Notwithstanding any other Board Policy, every public school restroom, locker room, and shower room accessible by multiple persons at the same time shall be designated for use by male persons only or female persons only.

2. In all public schools in this District, restrooms, locker rooms, and showers that are designated for one sex shall be used only by members of that sex; and, no person shall enter a restroom, locker room, or shower that is designated for one sex unless he or she is a member of that sex.

The model policy’s definition of sex reads: “‘Sex’ means an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth. An individual’s original birth certificate may be relied upon as definitive evidence of the individual’s sex.”

HB 2 did this to every government building in North Carolina.

This goes beyond transgender segregation. The anti-transgender antagonists in this circle perceive the transgender body as an existential threat, and the erasure of transgender people is the only solution. Transgender people must be cured, converted, closeted or killed for gender identity – just as lesbians, gays and bisexuals must be for their sexual orientation. Or, maybe just commit suicide instead. Whatever else, LGBT people must never be accommodated.

In FRC Senior Vice-President Rob Schwarzwalder’s op-ed Bruce Jenner: Christianity and Transgenderism Debate, he wrote of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition stating “… we should also remember that Mr. Jenner does not need celebratory photo-shoots. He needs compassion and counsel, as do all who wrestle with confusion over their sexual identity – compassion and counsel that lead them to embrace being the men or women God made them to be.”

This is what the FRC’s, ADF’s, ally organizations, ally politicians and socially conservative Christian message is to trans people: “compassionate” segregation to contain you, with no further help for you but “compassionate” cures, conversion, the closet or death. And, that’s because they believe the transgender movement lies about gender identities.

Are you concerned yet?

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EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum on North Carolina Title VII discrimination complaints Thu, 14 Apr 2016 22:01:18 +0000

EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum

The anti-discrimination complications of North Carolina’s HB 2 are many, but probably one of the lesser known ones is that HB 2, which limits transgender people’s use of restrooms in state buildings to the gender listed on their birth certificates, is in direct conflict with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) interpretation of Title VII. The EEOC ruled in EEOC v. Deluxe Financial Services Corp. that “Deluxe refused to let [Britney Austin] use the women’s restroom in violation of Title VII,” EEOC’s position is “such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including that based on transgender status and gender stereotyping.”

Deluxe Financial Services Corp. settled with EEOC.

What this means is that if a transgender employee is not allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity in their workplace, the EEOC has acted on what they see as an employer breaking federal law.

If state law is in conflict with federal law, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution comes into play. Cornell University Law School describes the Supremacy Clause this way: “Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution is commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause. It establishes that the federal constitution and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions.”

I wanted to clarify this with the EEOC, so I contacted EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum. I wanted to know what will happen if a transgender employee files a complaint with the EEOC. I also wanted to know what an employer of a transgender person who files a claim with EEOC could expect to happen.

In a written response, Commissioner Feldblum stated, “Transgender employees who believe they have been discriminated against by their employer may file a charge of employment discrimination at an EEOC office closest to where they live, or at any one of the EEOC’s 53 field offices. They also may begin this process by calling us at 1-800-669-4000, or completing an on-line assessment to send to one of our offices. The charge will ordinarily be investigated at an EEOC office closest to where the discrimination occurred.”

As for the employer, she responded that an investigation is done, and “If there is no settlement during the investigation, and EEOC determines based on the investigation that there is reason to believe that discrimination has occurred, the Commission issues a ‘Letter of Determination’ to the charging party and the employer setting forth its determination. This then moves the process to what is called ‘conciliation.’ This is a more formal effort to achieve a voluntary settlement with the employer to stop the discrimination and get relief for the charging party (and often for other parties who have been discriminated against in a similar manner.)

“If a voluntary settlement is not reached on terms acceptable to the Commission,” she added, “the charge is referred to our lawyers who will decide whether the Commission should file a lawsuit. Given the Commission’s resources, we file a small number of lawsuits each year. For that reason, the Commission is committed to trying to achieve settlements prior to going to court,” adding the EEOC gives a charger a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue to chargers with their own attorney when the EEOC itself doesn’t sue.

Citing Lusardi v. Dep’t of the Army, Feldblum stated, “The Commission’s position that gender identity is protected under Title VII is equally applicable to applicants and employees who believe they have been discriminated against by private sector employers or state and local governments.”

Feldblum also notably stated, “The Commission has filed lawsuits to address a number of forms of employment discrimination related to LGBT status,” and “Contrary state or local laws provide no defense to an employer that violates Title VII.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but it appears to me that the EEOC is preparing to address the conflict between state and federal law in North Carolina in court.

I don’t think I’m wrong.

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LGBT oppression is bad for business Thu, 31 Mar 2016 18:11:18 +0000


Recently, I wrote about what hasn’t changed with the messaging that the social conservatives, usually on the religious right, have used in their efforts to deny public accommodation protections for transgender people. But what’s happened in the last few years is we have a multitude of bills and initiatives seeking solutions for public bathroom predation problems that don’t exist. Fortunately, most have failed.

But, one of the things that’s changed is that there’s a nationally organized religious right opposition following the same pattern and practice of using outdated and distorted studies, as well as writing model policies and model legislation used for previous fights against marriage equality and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We see the same arguments about privacy, and the same arguments of fearmongering that have been used against lesbians and gays, othering them as sexual deviants and predators.

We see the scare messaging in North Carolina, where it took about 12-hours in a special session to repeal every local housing, employment and public accommodation antidiscrimination law in the state that had ever been enacted by local government. On signing the bill, HB 2, into law, Gov. McCrory declared in his signing statement:

“The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte. This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but people who come to Charlotte to work, visit or play. This new government regulation defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman’s bathroom, shower or locker room.

“While local municipalities have important priorities working to oversee police, fire, water and sewer, zoning, roads and transit, the mayor and city council took action far out of its core responsibilities. As a result, I have signed legislation passed by a bipartisan majority to stop this breach of basic privacy and etiquette which was to go into effect April 1. Although other items included in this bill should have waited until regular session, this bill does not change existing rights under state or federal law.”

There seems to be an assumption in the messaging by the governor that there are no such things as transgender men. If it’s lookism that brings concerns of privacy and predation to cisgender women in public bathrooms, then the idea of bearded, short haired men using women’s public restrooms because their birth certificates say female should be more concerning than transgender women.

But, this really isn’t what this bill is about. The bill also removes the ability of local governments to have antidiscrimination protections for housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity – and nonsensically there was one locality that had antidiscrimination protections for veteran status voided. It also removes the ability of local governments to locally raise minimum raises based on local cost of living.

HB 2 was always an excuse for oppressing LGBT community members, as well as socioeconomic minorities.

Republicans talk about being the party of smaller government and being business friendly, yet this is the action of big government and behavior that’s causing businesses to say they’re considering taking business out of the state, and tourists and governments of other states boycotting travel to the state. Businesses are libertarian at heart; they want business friendly laws and a socially liberal environment. Businesses want to attract top talent, and top talent is diverse – often LGB and/or T. Discriminatory laws in states businesses operate in means these businesses can’t attract talented people to work for them in those states.

Just from a business perspective, North Carolina Republicans have made a tactical error. Oppression of minorities is bad for business; this is the part that’s not so “common sense.”

The bathroom scare part of the opposition messaging that they’ve sold to the easily manipulated … well, it’s incredibly disingenuous.

The consequences will be high if HB 2 stays on the books. We should expect a repeal of the most heinous parts of the law, and perhaps even changes in how many Republicans stay in office, due to this overreach.

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A second go around with the Lambda Literary Foundation Thu, 17 Mar 2016 22:12:51 +0000

The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) appears to want to repeat history over a publicly painful 2004 book nomination that, after about five weeks, was withdrawn.

Feb. 2, 2004, J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award – a Lammy – in the Transgender/Genderqueer category. The selection was made by a “baker’s dozen” of judges, and galvanized transsexual people worldwide. By Feb. 3, there were already emails expressing strong criticism of the nomination.

“Whoever made this decision needs to do a better job. A much better job. It would be like nominating Mein Kampf for a literary prize in Jewish studies,” wrote Deirdre McCloskey in a Feb. 3 email to LLF Executive Director Jim Marks. McCloskey’s book Crossing: A Memoir was a 1999 finalist in the same Transgender/ Genderqueer category.

Other prominent transsexual people of the time who wrote Marks included Karen Gurney and Kate Clarke (Australian trans rights advocates), Christine Burns (United Kingdom trans rights advocate) and Caitlyn Antrim (Law of the Sea Treaty expert).

An online petition was started by Burns demanding the book be removed from consideration. The petition collected 1,000 trans people’s signatures in its first six days online.

In a Feb. 9 interview on Boston’s Gender Talk, Jim Marks, then executive director of the Lambda Literary Foundation said “This is the first time an issue like this has come up because people generally don’t nominate or suggest titles that are not sympathetic to our point of view.” As an example of how unsympathetic the point of view was, one the book’s endorsers was the National Association of Therapy and Reparation of Homosexuality (NARTH): an organization that advocates reparative therapy.

Feb. 13, Marks wrote in an open letter that the book, by “suggestion of one finalists committee member,” was going to be re-evaluated by the entire Lambda Literary selection committee. He then added that the results of that re-evaluation were going to be released in their March newsletter.

However, Feb. 24 Marks announced The Man Who Would Be Queen was going to remain on the nominations list.

That didn’t hold long. The LLF announced that the book was removed as an award finalist March 12. When asked by if the book was removed because it was transphobic, Marks replied “the judges looked at the book more closely and decided it was.”

Which brings us to this year’s Lammy nominations announced March 8. In the LGBT Nonfiction category’s list of nominees is Alice Dreger’s book Galileo’s Middle Finger, and that book has within it an essay entitled Tangled Web. That essay is about what trans people would characterize as the bad science, and the trans activism surrounding the Lammy nomination, of The Man Who Would Be Queen. The essay is Dreger’s defense of the author, J. Michael Baily.

“This non-scientist [Dreger] … admits that Bailey’s work on the trans community is not based on his own research, but is just his contribution to promoting the work of a Dr. Ray Blanchard,” wrote Dana Beyer, M.D., in her Huffington Post critique of Dreger’s essay. “Dreger writes that the trans community organized against Bailey because his exposition of Blanchard’s thesis was so potent and accessible to the general population that it was far more dangerous than Blanchard’s dry clinical research.”

“Dr. Blanchard’s typology of transsexualism, based on nothing more than his personal mode of classification, divides trans women into two categories – extremely feminine gay men and perversely erotically-driven cross-dressing men,” Beyer also wrote in the critique.

By nominating Dreger’s book for an award, the LLF surprisingly appears to be relitigating their 2004 history of whether Bailey’s and Blanchard’s viewpoint is transphobic, as well as whether trans activism in defense of gender identity is legitimate.

It is, to say the least, astonishing.

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What’s old is new again Thu, 03 Mar 2016 22:56:03 +0000

This is the transcript of a radio spot that ran in a campaign against SB 200, a Colorado civil rights law that Gov. Ritter signed into law May 29, 2008. The spot began running Wednesday, May 21, 2008.

Girl 1: “Mom!”

Narrator: If the Colorado Legislature has its way a …

G1: “A man in a dress came into the girls’ restroom at school today.”

N: “We could all be dealing with a new type of predator.”

Adult woman (speaking in frantic voice): “Honey! There was a man in the woman’s showers at the gym today, and the management said it was, it was Colorado law!”

N: And instead of our kids worrying about classwork, they’ll be worrying about who might be in the restroom with them.

Girl 2: [SFX: School bell rings, ambient hall noise, lockers close] “No way I’m going in there. I’d rather wait all day if a guy’s in there.”

N: Our children must be protected from predators of any sex. Colorado’s Democrat controlled legislature has already passed this bill, but Gov. Ritter still has time to veto it. Call him now and ask him to protect our kids, and veto SB 200. Call 303-866-2471. 303-866-2471.

Dr. James Dobson: Brought to you by Focus On The Family Action and Colorado Family Action.

The radio spot is almost 8 years old, but the language sounds fresh to transgender people. What’s old is new again.

Tom Minnery, as the senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family Action, wrote a May 24, 2008 Denver Post op-ed about SB 200. “There are multiple problems with this legislation,” he stated, “but the problem of restrooms is the most breathtaking one.

“… Woe to the first women’s fitness facility or mall owner who objects to a man dressed as a woman who wants to enter previously forbidden territory,” Minnery continued. “And what an opportunity for sexual predators to use this law as ‘cover’ to enter intimate areas in search of a victim.”

Near that time there was also an LGBT civil rights referendum in Kalamazoo, Mich. – Ordinance 1856. Again, the arguments against the bill came in the form of bathroom and locker room arguments. Dr. Mary Ann Stark, an associate professor of nursing at Bronson School of Nursing, discovered that one of the patrons she used the facility with for six months was transgender.

“Under deceptive circumstances, he invaded the privacy of many women in that locker room,” Stark wrote in an Oct. 24, 2009 op-ed for the Kalamazoo Gazette, misgendering the trans woman. “I felt violated and worried about maintaining my dignity and privacy.”

“… This ordinance opens the door to voyeurs and pranksters,” Stark continued. “When relating my experience to men, I heard more than one say there are men who would enter a women’s locker room as a prank or for thrills if given the opportunity. As a woman and advocate for women’s health, I find this intolerable.”

When Theresa Rickman’s group Citizens for a Responsible Government needed an example of such a voyeur or prankster in their 2008 attempt to derail public accommodation protections for transgender people in Montgomery County, Md., they created their own. A “man in a dress” paraded through a Rio Sport and Health Club locker room, and one local television station took the bait and reported on the incident as if it were germane. Rickman pounced on the incident, stating “the problem is, the language is so vague [in the ordinance] that guys can still go in the ladies room.”

Rickman inadvertently admitted it was a stunt in a podcast with Martha Kleder of the Concerned Women for America; Rickman stated, “You know, essentially what uh, that [stunt] was meant to get some media attention.”

The language we see everywhere from South Dakota to Florida, from Poway to Texas. The stunt we saw in Washington weeks ago has the same feel as the one from Montgomery County.

So, what’s old is what’s new.

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Poway Unified just wasn’t AB 1266 proactive Thu, 18 Feb 2016 21:35:18 +0000

Rancho Bernardo High School student Jens Briscoe “just wants to be a boy and do what other boys do.” Holly Stewart Franz, a mother of a fellow student of Briscoe’s, has put public roadblocks in the way of him doing so.

California Education Code section 221.5, as modified by 2013s School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), states students “shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the gender listed in their student records.” There was an effort to put AB 1266 up for statewide referendum, but that effort failed. There was a second effort last year to place an initiative on the ballot that would have, among many other things, repealed AB 1266, and that too failed.

AB 1266 is law, and it isn’t changing.

The Poway Unified School District (PUSD) Board and its supervisor has now been publicly beset with the “controversy” of a transgender student using the boys locker room in accordance with their gender identity at Rancho Bernardo High School, and they were clearly unprepared for the “controversy.”

How so? There were numerous models across the state of what proactive, successful compliance with the law looked like that respected all students’ privacy. In Southern California, multiple school districts across the state looked to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In their intermediate and high schools, they’d installed curtained, private changing areas within the gender segregated locker rooms, just as LAUSD had. No student is required to change in these private changing areas, but any transgender or non-transgender student who feels uncomfortable changing in front of other students may use these private changing areas.

PUSD wasn’t proactive. And, that left space for Franz to turn this “controversy” into a media circus where a transgender boy hasn’t been allowed to just “be a boy and do what other boys do.” Franz called the local Fox affiliate, and their news division couldn’t resist the story.

Which then led to the Feb. 9 PUSD board meeting with multiple news outlets and over 350 people attending; which led to the trans community and its allies listening to multiple public speakers misgendering Briscoe as female. Perhaps worst of all, trans people had to listen to speaker Sierra White spreading the lie that transgender students are a locker room safety issue.

“What would happen after sports events, such as water polo,” White stated in testimony at the board meeting, “where students must take off their swimsuits to change, leaving them fully exposed? Or when students must shower after athletic events? This serves as an opportunity for sick-minded people to take advantage of the system. My concern is that someone will be able to use a self-established gender identity to look at, or even attack students of the opposite gender.”

In an earlier interview with me, Judy Chiasson, Ph.D., program coordinator for Human Relations at the LAUSD, described why this doesn’t happen. “People who are behaving inappropriately don’t go to the authorities and say ‘I’m going to be inappropriate. Can I have your permission to do so?’” For White’s world to be a reality, male students would have to approach school administrations and state that they wanted to present and live as girls every day, week after week, just so they could engage in sexual misconduct in girls locker rooms. In the reality based world, students don’t go to school administrators, look them in the eyes, and ask them to sexually misbehave.

If the PUSD Board had been proactive after AB 1266 became law, they would’ve had a readymade answer to shut down the media circus.

But, the PUSD Board wasn’t proactive in building curtained privacy areas in the locker rooms for any student to use, with none forced to use. And the trans community is experiencing a crapload of public transphobia because of it.

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Of legislation, death, justice and love Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:37:12 +0000

This week an editorial from The Indianapolis Star found its way first into my email box, then my Facebook feed, entitled It’s not complicated — pass LGBT rights. Well, maybe if you live in California, but not in Indiana. One of the main problems the Hoosier state legislators are having with their civil rights bills is with transgender people. As Senate leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) elsewhere stated, “The ‘T’ (in LGBT) is a stumbling block at the moment.” State Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) “heard concerns” from peer lawmakers, as well as constituents, then took the position that transgender protections should be tabled, then studied at a summer committee. Which, of course, would mean there would be a lot of years between LGB civil rights and T civil rights in the state.

Not that any of the Indiana bills proposed weren’t flawed; the bills all had huge religious exemption carve-outs that make them all troublesome bills to begin with.

There’s a quote from suffragist Alice Paul that seems to apply: “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” That said, when it comes to legislation, there’s nothing ordinary about ordinary equality.

In a piece written for The Advocate by Alison Gill and Brynn Tannehill entitled A User’s Guide to This Year’s Transphobic Legislation, they began by mentioning there were 20 pieces of anti-transgender legislation in 2015, but this year there are 28 pieces – so far. I didn’t need to find that story in my Facebook feed on Groundhog Day. The sheer number of bills year to year in some way reflects the “history repeating itself” aspect of the 1993 Bill Murray comedy by that name, but this story comes with none of the laughter.

Yet another item that found its way into my Facebook feed was the first reported transgender homicide this year. Monica Loera was shot to death early the morning of Jan. 22 in Austin, Texas. The Austin Police Department did what police departments often do, and identified Monica by her birth name, not the name she used in her day-to-day life. The transgender community didn’t even know they lost one of their own until Monica had been dead for about a week.

The alleged killer has already been arrested for first degree murder.

Closer to home in Baldwin Park, Stephen Justin Gonzales was found guilty of first degree murder in the slaying of trans woman Melony Smith in 2013. When Gonzales is sentenced Feb. 11, he’ll be facing 25-to-life for her murder.

Some justice, anyway, to read about in my email inbox. It doesn’t bring Melony back though.

Another story I’m thinking about that flew into my email inbox and Facebook feed was a story about a transgender Girl Scout named Stormi. According to BuzzFeed, Stormi was selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door in her neighborhood when she knocked on one door three blocks away from her home. A man opened the door, and after she made her pitch, he told her, “Nobody wants to buy cookies from a boy in a dress.”

Stormi didn’t react well to that. She cried to her foster mom Kim. Her foster mother and she moved her sales online to the Girls Scouts’ Digital Cookie, and Stormi wrote, “At my request my family will donate boxes to local foster kids like me!” And then Kim passed the story of Stormi’s experience to a trans family support site, and from there it went viral around social media. By Jan. 28, she’d sold more than 3,000 boxes of cookies; I know I bought a couple of boxes from her.

Stormi is going to remember the unkind thoughts of that man three blocks away from her home, but she’s also going to remember how the community rose up to send her love.

And that’s just what I want to think about at the end of this week: hope and love. I read so many articles on so many LGBT and trans-specific issues, that sometimes I forget that not all of them end badly. At the end of the day or week, there’s still room for love.

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Every community should have a public accommodations bill Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:53:35 +0000

Jonathan Alexandre, the legal counsel to the Massachusetts Family Institute recently summed up the socially conservative Christian position on equal rights for transgender people in a single phrase. “It’s about bathrooms,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Boston Globe.

Massachusetts is a state that this year is considering a statewide bill that would extend public accommodation protections to transgender people. Equality legislation that affords public accommodations protections is about a person being able to go to a private business that serves the public, or a government-owned or operated facility that serves the public, and not be turned away.

Although this protection does include public bathrooms, the protection also includes being able to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee at a diner and not hear the words “we don’t serve your kind here” as a number of my transgender friends have actually heard.

In his June 3, 1964 speech at Arizona State University, Martin Luther King Jr. identified public accommodation protections as necessary, stating, “Every state and every community should have a public accommodations bill.”

In that same year, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt testified at the Senate Commerce Committee hearings for the federal Public Accommodations Bill, and in a back-and-forth with Sen. Strom Thurmond stated, “I believe that if a man goes into a business which holds itself out as rendering service to the general public, he has an obligation to serve the general public regardless of whether the individual be a Jew, a Catholic, a Puerto Rican, a Negro, a white, Protestant or anything else. I think that as long as he is a citizen and comes under the constitutional rights of our country, then in my opinion – this is obviously a difference between us – I believe property rights are secondary to human rights.”

In Massachusetts, the “bathroom bill” arguments are over a bill affording transgender people public accommodation protections. In seven other states, the “bathroom bill” arguments are for bills denying transgender people access to public bathrooms in publicly and privately owned places in alignment with their gender identities.

The tactic used in these seven states was the one used by the socially conservative Christian community in Houston in 2015 against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In an ad to defeat the referendum on HERO, a television commercial falsely tied transgender people to bathroom predation by child rapists. The ad didn’t state that transgender women would be the rapists, but instead indicated that granting public accommodation protections to transgender women would legally sanction rapists entering women’s public bathrooms by men claiming to be transgender.

This is a lie. There’s a direct parallel: a similar ad was produced for a similar ordinance and (failed) referendum in Gainesville, Fla. in 2008, and per an email exchange with Media Matters, the Gainesville Police Department spokesman reported that in the seven-plus years since the Gainesville ordinance became law the department could not recall any incidents related to the city’s LGBT protections.

The kind of lying we see and hear is ungodly. A trans person isn’t an object: he, she, or they must be dealt with as a person sacred unto themselves, not as an animated tool to create a false narrative. To do otherwise is to depersonalize the person, and to desecrate who that person is as a fully human being. In a spiritual sense, as long as any transgender person is treated as a means to an end because they are a member of an oppressed group, the image of God within that transgender person is abused, and consequentially their humanity is lost to the sight of those who inflict that abuse.

“It’s about bathrooms” is what the inhumane oppressors of transgender people are saying to obscure transgender people’s humanity. This, at a time when we just know “every community should have a public accommodations bill.”

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Transgender people and the FDA’s new blood donation guidelines Thu, 24 Dec 2015 21:42:50 +0000


Dec. 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued final blood donation guidelines. The policy updated blood donor deferral recommendations, which they stated would reflect “the most current scientific evidence and to help ensure continued safety of the blood supply by reducing the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission by blood and blood products.”

The Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality (GLMA) disagreed. “The FDA’s removal of the lifetime ban on blood donation for [men having sex with men (MSM)] is an important first step toward an optimal blood donation deferral policy addressing individual behaviors, including specific at-risk sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation or gender, that would justify a deferral period based on the science,” President Henry Ng, MD, MPH, and Executive Director Hector Vargas, Esq., wrote in a joint statement. “GLMA supports nothing less than a paradigm shift away from any categorical restriction on MSM donating blood to a blood donation deferral policy based on individual behaviors. While the removal of the lifetime ban is a step in the right direction, GLMA remains concerned about the one-year deferral period for MSM being proposed by the FDA today because it continues to perpetuate stigma among gay and bisexual men.

“GLMA calls on the FDA to commit to a reasonable timeline to develop a blood donation policy that addresses individual behaviors, including specific at-risk sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation or gender,” Ng and Vargas added.

The FDA’s blood donation guidelines impact transgender people. Under the previous policy, transgender people were considered the sex they were assigned at birth for their entire lives. So, for example, I transitioned to female over a dozen years ago, but for blood donation purposes the FDA recommended I always be considered a male, and guidance that applied to men should always be applied to me.

In a section entitled Nonbinding Recommendations, the new policy guidelines state “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.” A trans man then would be able to go to a blood donation facility and give blood as a male, and a trans woman then would be able to go to a blood donation facility and give blood as a female. FDA policies would then apply based on gender identity, not gender assigned at birth.

But it’s not that clear since it’s listed in Nonbinding Recommendations.

Seeking clarification, I contacted Tara Goodin, the FDA’s media point of contact for the press release, and asked what should happen when a transgender person shows up for the first time to donate blood.

“Regarding your question about how the FDA’s final guidance is applicable to transgender individuals, the FDA’s recommendation to blood establishments is that the gender of a donor should be self-identified and self-reported in the context of the donor history questionnaire,” she replied. “Blood establishments typically revise their existing standard operating procedures regarding donor deferral following issuance of final FDA guidance on donor deferral.”

As a follow-up question I asked what would happen if you were someone like me who’s donated under the previous policy and are listed as male. Would, or should, the blood establishment change my gender marker in their database?

“To answer your question about how the new recommendations impact people who were previously deferred – Under these new recommendations, blood establishments will be able to requalify individuals deferred under old criteria provided that they meet current donor eligibility criteria,” Goodin replied. “Previously deferred donors will continue to be deferred if they meet any of the current criteria for donor deferral.”

I don’t read a direct yes or no in that answer.

When Goodin replied to me, she emphasized that “these are only recommendations by the FDA,” and “we recommend reaching out to your local blood donation center to determine how they will update their procedures based on the FDA’s new recommendations.” In other words, a direct yes or no in Goodin’s answer wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

As a transgender person looking at these fuzzy nonbinding recommendations, I can see a system structured to avoid taking a position on the gender of transgender people. That dodge of responsibility will subject transgender people to face-to-face harassment from blood collection agents who will transphobically misgender those transgender people who just want to give something back to their broader community. How awful.

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Authenticity often comes with a cost Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:36:01 +0000

I remember some aspects of when I first came out, back in early 2003, which have really stuck in my memory. Many of those experiences have contributed to how I approach my life as a trans woman now, almost 13-years later. It’s not lost on me how my transgender peers are treated when we stand out as trans, especially when we’re visibly trans at the intersection of another minority population.

In 1987 I had an experience that shaped how I approach being out. I took a Human Sexuality class at Long Beach City College, and for one of the classes we had three transgender people come in to talk about their trans experiences – two trans women and a trans man. One of the trans women and the trans man were in their 30s and passed in their transitioned genders, and the other trans woman was in her 50s and didn’t. The two younger ones were out to friends and family, and the younger woman to her employer. The other trans woman was retired and not out, and talked about her life in a way that didn’t strike a number of us in the class as authentic.

My take-away from that class was about authenticity. Two out of three of the trans people who presented to the class seemed authentic and one didn’t. The inauthentic one gave us a presentation and answers to our student questions that felt rote and “supposed to be” answers instead of sincere sounding ones. It’s not that they weren’t all trans, but they didn’t all come off as genuine to the seams.

And in early spring of 2003 when I began my transition, those three people shaped my approach. I knew I had to be whole, real and honest.

But what I shared with that retired trans woman I met in that 1987 Human Sexuality class is I didn’t begin by passing as female. My transition plan was to go on estrogen for about six months, have beard removal begin and then start presenting as Autumn. What actually happened was that the endocrinologist at the Veterans Health Administration in La Jolla acted as a gatekeeper, and told me that if I wanted estrogen tablets I’d need to prove to her that I was serious about transition. So, I began my transition within a week of that appointment, and had coworkers take daily photographs for 2½ months of female gender performance to document my transition for that endocrinologist.

I began my transition as someone who looked like “a man in a dress” – even when I was wearing pants. I remember specifically that when I wore my one pair of calf high boots, I was taken for a prostitute.

It took 2½ years of beard removal and estrogen pills for me to begin passing as female. I got the luck of the genetic draw on appearance, and the luck of financial security to pay for things such as a legal change of name and gender, as well as for hormones. And even though I’m at the intersection of the transgender and disability populations, both of those minority statuses are for the most part invisible.

In West Des Moines, Iowa a few months back, Meagan Taylor went to a Drury Inn on the way to a funeral. Meagan is black, and her ID card still shows her male name.

When Meagan checked in to the hotel, she was profiled by the manager of the motel as a “hooker” because, as the motel manager explained, the situation was “unusual” because, “They’re dressed as a woman, but it’s a man’s driver’s license” and “ I guess they’re dressed a little bit over the top too – I just want to make sure they’re not hookers either.” The manager also stated, “I took pictures with my camera.”

We know this because, according to staff attorney Chase Strangio of the ACLU, “… the ACLU of Iowa have obtained the audio recording of the 911 call placed by Drury Hotel staff after Meagan and her friend checked in.” The ACLU posted the 141 second call from the Drury Inn manager to the police.

I know what it’s like to be ridiculed and be denigrated with hate speech for being visibly transgender; I know what it’s like to be profiled for being visibly transgender. Authenticity often comes with a cost: transgender people are a long way from changing the hearts and minds of the prejudiced.

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Caitlyn Jenner plans to vote for oppression Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:04:53 +0000

Caitlyn Jenner

In the past, a transgender voter interested in ordinary equality and civil rights for transgender people could have found reasons to vote against a Democrat and for a Republican.

Such as in 2002, when then Assemblymember Judy Chu introduced AB 2651, the Nondiscrimination in Foster Care bill, in the California State Assembly. AB 2651 would’ve provided explicit protections of the rights of youth in foster care, including LGBT youth. The religious right labeled the bill the “Transsexual Foster Care Bill,” and vigorously campaigned against it. When the bill got to his desk, Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) vetoed it. Then California Assemblymember John Perez (D-Los Angeles) told Californians at the 2009 EQCA awards dinner that the reason the bill was vetoed was because now Rep. Chu wouldn’t remove transgender youth from that LGBT inclusive bill. Gov. Davis would have signed the bill if it had protected only lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.

On the other hand, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) signed the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160) in 2006. AB 1160 sought to curtail the use of panic strategies widely used in criminal cases involving bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I voted against Gray Davis; I voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Caitlyn Jenner is arguably the most famous transgender woman in the U.S. and has identified herself as a Republican. She represents the transgender community to the general public whether the transgender community likes it or not, and I’m seeing in social media where a lot of the transgender community is falling into the “or not” side of the divide in significant part because of Jenner’s public politics.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Jenner asked for a ticket to the Nov. 14 Democratic primary debate. There were no tickets available, but she did report to the Times that she did watch the debate with students on the Drake University campus. Quoting the Times after viewing the Democratic debate, “[Jenner] said she still planned to vote Republican. ‘They didn’t convince me,’ she said.”

Frankly, I’m not sure what Democrats running for president are supposed to convince Jenner of, but I know how Republicans should have impressed her to vote against them. With regards to transgender Americans, the first and second tier Republican presidential candidates have spoken in terms of disrespect and/or of oppressing her and her transgender peers.

In the first tier, Jenner should be familiar with what Trump said about her personally: he referred to Jenner by her former first name after she announced her new name preference, and used the wrong pronouns to refer to her.

The other top tier candidate is far worse. Dr. Ben Carson has proposed separate-but-equal transgender bathroom use, saying “How about we have a transgender bathroom?” and “It is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable.”

In the second tier, Sen. Marco Rubio in 2013 came out against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act as a “special rights” bill for LGBT Americans. That’s opposed to it being an equal rights bill.

And Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking in Iowa about transgender service members serving openly stated, “How about having the military focusing on hunting down and killing the bad guys … instead of treating it as this crucible for social justice innovations.” And, “We shouldn’t view the military as a cauldron for social experiments.”

Jenner isn’t convinced by Democrats to vote for them, but Jenner should be convinced by Republicans to vote against them.

In 2016 presidential politics, a vote for a Republican looks to be a vote for transgender community oppression. And as of this moment, Caitlyn Jenner is planning to vote for just that sort of oppression.

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Keeping the names of those killed due to anti-trans hate takes a toll Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:25:59 +0000

Gwen Smith

Every Nov. 20, here in San Diego we memorialize those people who’ve been killed due to anti-transgender hate. The day we do this is called the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, often referred to by the acronym TDOR.

Originally, the list of the dead was Americentric as Gwen Smith, who is credited with beginning that day of memorial and the starting of the list of the transgender dead, began by combing newspaper archives across the U.S. for murdered transgender people. Within a few years, people began finding murders of transgender people in other countries, as well as people who were killed for gender nonconformity – especially in English language news publications. The list began to be international.

Then, transgender people in other nations began holding TDORs, and began submitting names from their nations to the list Gwen started.

Maintaining the list takes an emotional toll; however, and after a few years of maintaining the original, official list Gwen passed the maintaining of the list to Ethan St. Pierre, who assisted Gwen with the list. Not only is Ethan a trans man, but he has a transgender aunt on the list. For him, maintaining the list had immense, personal importance.

Ethan too felt that emotional toll after a number of years maintaining the list, and four years ago he passed the maintenance of the list to Marti Abernathey, who was at that point assisting Ethan with the list. The official list is currently maintained on

“People would ask me ‘How do you decide what goes in and what doesn’t?’ Part of it definitely is, you know, because of the brutality,” Marti said in an LGBT Weekly interview with me. “Part of it is because the crimes are so horrific.”

“That’s just part of it, but it’s a component. It’s not something that’s easy to do,” she added referring to maintaining the list.

I asked Marti how she could maintain the list. “I’ve been conditioned to do this in a way. I’ve worked in healthcare for going on a quarter century, and there’s a similarity between the trauma and finding ways to cope with it that aren’t destructive.”

TDORs, as time went on, began being held in countries outside of the United States. And, with those names came stories that weren’t in English, and weren’t necessarily in keeping with the original framework of what names were to be recorded.

And as time has gone on, a number of trans people have wanted to expand the scope of the list.

“I kind of try to stick to the framework that Gwen and Ethan followed,” Marti said. “People who record names will include domestic violence and suicides, and generally we don’t include either. I feel, let me put it to you this way, I see both sides in inclusion and not inclusion, but when I think of why the list was started and why it’s needed today, it’s still to me … there’s a difference between someone who takes their own life because of discrimination and someone who was simply murdered because they were living their life and their lives were taken.

“I frequently get emails from people who say ‘This person should be on the list,’ and generally what I’ll say is ‘If that’s what you think, this is just a list. You can add to it or subtract to your event as you see fit.’ I’m just trying to get through [maintaining the list] in the framework of the original intent.

“When this started, you have to think about the people who were being murdered – Rita Hester and Channel Picket. These were people who were murdered and no one cared. I think you can go to the Web site, and I believe you can see Gwen saying she just wanted somebody to remember them.”

In other words, both kinds of deaths are significant. Which deaths of those killed by anti-transgender hate and violence we memorialize Nov. 20 each year locally is subject to local discussion.

Marti wants to pass the list to a group of people to maintain it. “People think it’s some organization maintaining the list, but right now it’s just me.

“This year has been really busy. Next year my hope is to get The TransAdvocate and TDOR incorporated. I have some ideas about TDOR – my goal for this is for this to be my last year of doing the name collection. That would be my hope and that we could find of a team of … well, a majority [of the names on the list] are people of color. And, everyone who’s maintained the list so far has been Caucasian. But that may be a hard dream to make happen.

“To be honest with you,” Marti added, “I’ll let you in on a secret. Nobody wants to do this. I’ve put out calls multiple times asking people for help, but … I don’t blame them.”

Keeping the names of those killed due to anti-transgender hate takes a toll.

Personally, I used to archive news for transgendernews, but I had to stop after being one who had to forward names of the dead to the TDOR list. I used to participate in organizing the TDOR memorial events in San Diego, but it eventually became too hard to do year after year. It takes a toll.

I can only hope Marti finds a group of people, incorporated under the TransAdvocate/ TDOR collaboration, to maintain the list. I hope too it will include people of color, and I hope the people will rotate through so that none will become too overwhelmed with the burdens of maintaining the list.

But the transgender community needs to know that the list of the dead we read each year isn’t maintained by robots, or even a group of trans people. The official list of the dead is maintained by just one woman. That’s an awful lot of burden for just one woman to carry for the entire trans community.

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Unknowingly protesting with a lesbian transphobe! Thu, 29 Oct 2015 20:28:13 +0000

Germaine Greer

Nov. 15, 2010, is the anniversary of when I participated with GetEQUAL in handcuffing myself to the White House fence for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I’m not sure I’d do it now because of something someone said on my Facebook timeline this week that says something about them that is anathema not only to me, but to a large portion of the trans community.

Way over across the pond in the United Kingdom, a second wave feminist named Germaine Greer was scheduled to speak at the University of Cardiff. Because she stated in her book The Whole Woman that trans women are men “who believe they are women” because they have been “castrated,” she’s been identified as transphobic and a number students at the school objected to having her as a speaker. These students were so upset by the idea of her being a speaker at the school that one of them started a petition to have her “no-platformed” — in other words, not given a platform to speak at the university (or anywhere else, for that matter) because of her views on trans women.

Greer then went on BBC’s Newsnight and reiterated her “opinion” on trans women, stating, “I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure, what I’m saying is it doesn’t make them a woman.”

Greer withdrew on her own from speaking at Cardiff. She used an anti-gay slur to make her point: “Bugger it. It’s not that interesting or rewarding.”

I posted about all of this on my Facebook feed. I’m no fan of these trans exclusionary radical feminists, which were dubbed by other non-transgender feminists by the abbreviation TERF. Many trans women have embraced the abbreviation, myself among them.

Not every woman or feminist who is trans exclusionary is self-identified as radical, and many self-identified trans exclusionary radical feminists consider the term TERF to be a slur. TERF however, isn’t the only way to identify as trans exclusionary.

There’s a dog-whistle term, and it’s woman-born-woman, sometimes spelled womon-born-womon. The abbreviation for it is WBW. It’s a way of stating trans women aren’t female.

Perhaps the most famous of spaces where trans women weren’t ever welcome was the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Lisa Vogel, a co-founder of the festival and person who, till the last festival this past summer, never welcomed trans women, calling the desire to exclude trans women in the end “the intention.” History will no doubt remember her as a transphobic bigot.

Unfortunately, I found out Oct. 25 that one of the women I handcuffed myself to the White House fence with didn’t believe trans women were fully women. Mariam Ben-Shalom, one of the women who I was protesting with, used the WBW dog whistle on one of my Facebook posts on Germaine Greer.

“This is just another attempt, IMHO, to negate WBW, I think,” Ben-Shalom wrote in response to an essay by Helen Boyd, where Boyd wrote a feminist take on why trans women wore both women and female.” I am no TERF, but I feel that WBW are under attack not only from Dominionist Christians, but from trans-folk and their allies as well.”

I’ve literally been sick to my stomach since I read that. I participated in LGBT activism with a lesbian I now consider a dog-whistling transphobe. She might as well of called me a man.

What a sad commentary: I went to support my lesbian, gay and bisexual community when trans people didn’t have a stake in repealing DADT. I’m left with the feeling now that I wouldn’t have participated with GetEQUAL in that November trip to the White House fence if I knew there was a lesbian transphobe in the group I went with.

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Calling out GoFundMe for allowing hate group to raise anti-trans funds Thu, 15 Oct 2015 19:00:15 +0000

An active anti-LGBT hate group is part of a coalition that’s raising money on GoFundMe to limit transgender people’s public use of restrooms in California.

Privacy For All is the coalition behind the proposed Limits On Use Of Facilities In Government Buildings And Businesses Initiative Statute (which they’re referring to as the “Personal Privacy Protection Act”), and they are currently leading a signature drive to put the proposed initiative on California’s fall 2016 ballot. One of the coalition’s organizations is the Pacific Justice Institute: a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active anti-LGBT hate group.

The Pacific Justice Institute is the organization in the coalition that has taken credit for writing the text of the proposed initiative which states “a person shall use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in all government buildings,” and sets a minimum civil penalty of $4,000 for violating the statute.

Other groups in the coalition include the California Resource Institute, Faith and Public Policy, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and ActRight (a national clearing house for conservative activists headed by the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian S. Brown), and Advocates For Faith And Freedom.

On their terms and conditions webpage, GoFundMe lists “Content associated with hate groups or terrorist organizations” under the header “What’s Not Allowed.”

This was after a late April blog post on their Web site where GoFundMe stated they would no longer host “discriminatory” campaigns. The change was in response to Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Ore. raising funds to pay off a court imposed fine for violating an Oregon antidiscrimination law. Specifically, the bakery did not wish to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, and this violated the antidiscrimination protections of the state’s public accommodation law.

“To report a campaign that you believe violates the guidelines below,” the Terms and Conditions webpage states regarding violations, “please contact us at:”. However, if a site user goes to that link to make a report on a campaign, the only selection available for reporting a campaign is for fraud. Other terms and conditions violations aren’t listed, and there’s no “other” available for selection.

GoFundMe didn’t to respond to multiple press inquiries regarding the Privacy For All fundraising campaign. The two questions I asked that GoFundMe chose not to answer were 1.) I note that the terms of service states that hate groups can’t raise funds on GoFundMe, but the reporting system only allows reporting for fraud. I can find no ready means for a site user who notes that a hate group is using your site to raise money to notify you of that. Is there a ready means to report terms of service violations such as this that I’m missing? Is that an oversight that GoFundMe is going to correct? And 2.) Does GoFundMe have a statement regarding the Privacy For All coalition raising money on your Web site, given that a member of the coalition is an identified anti-LGBT hate group?

If a hate group participates in limiting transgender people’s use of bathrooms in government buildings that would seem to be a clear violation of GoFundMe’s terms and conditions. That GoFundMe hasn’t answered the question whether they believe it is or isn’t appears to indicate they’re dodging the question.

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Traveling by air while trans Thu, 01 Oct 2015 18:00:58 +0000


When Shadi Petosky entered into TSA screening to take to the air at Orlando International Airport Sept. 21, she did so with the presumption she had a terrorist body – whether she knew it or not.

She may have never been singled out in exactly that way before, or talked to in the way she had been talked to by a TSA agent in that way before, but that didn’t mean her body wasn’t a terrorist body.

“Male bombers may dress as females in order to discourage scrutiny,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a security advisory in 2003. In countries where women wear niqabs and burqas – such as in the Middle East – male suicide bombers have dressed in these and have hidden improvised explosive devises (IEDs). They have discouraged scrutiny in order to take lives and cause terror.

The DHS threat in that advisory was worded much more broadly so that trans women who live in America – the vast majority who don’t dress in niqabs and burqas – quietly had their bodies defined as terrorist bodies. And, when trans people fly, the DHS mindset changed from one of discouraged scrutiny to heightened scrutiny.

The DHS advisory has long since been identified as outdated and obsolete, but in the sense of the mindset that trans people are inherently threatening it hasn’t. Secure Flight added gender to the list of identifying characteristics air travelers need to provide to airlines when buying a ticket, ostensively to be used as a tool to help make sure that people who have similar names to those on the U.S. no fly list aren’t inadvertently denied the ability to fly. But, it also inadvertently reinforces western societal gender expression norms.

Transgender people’s gender markers on their state identification cards don’t always match their expressed gender. Without invasive genital surgeries that are often beyond many transgender people’s economic reach – and often unwanted because these are so invasive – many can’t change the gender markers on their IDs. Someone with an M on their presented identification card who presents as female, and vice versa, can raise a red flag.

Addressing the gender marker issue on official ID cards, the Department of State changed their passport issuance rules in 2009. Under the changed rules, a transgender person can obtain a passport and/or a passport card that matches their gender identities without invasive surgeries. This addresses the TSA secure gender matching issue regarding gender identity and expressed gender.

But gender markers don’t address bodies.

On Christmas Day, 2009, Umar Abdulmutallab, who’s better known now to most Americans as the Underwear Bomber, boarded a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Mich. He turned what’s between the legs of all air travelers in the U.S. to a TSA concern.

Now one’s “junk” isn’t off limits.

And, that mattered when Shadi Petosky entered into TSA screening to take to the air at Orlando International Airport Sept 21.

Electronic scanners, while not seeing the full anatomy of people anymore as they did in 2010 when first introduced, are set to check stereotypical male and female bodies: the software literally has a pink button for females and a blue button for males on a touch screen. Since trans bodies don’t always align to the standard sex norms, a trans body’s groin area can read as an anomaly.

And that’s not even including prosthetics, such as binders, breast forms and hair pieces. These too can identify a trans body as a body that may be a terrorist body.

There are aggressive full body searches that can be opted for as either an alternative for the electronic body scan, or required if the electronic body scan shows up with an anomaly that indicates an air traveler should be treated with heightened scrutiny. But once this occurs, a trans traveler inevitably needs to out themself to the TSA agents. Often, the reaction of these agents isn’t culturally sensitive. That’s also what Shadi Petosky experienced.

Without a doubt, we want as safe an airline experience as possible; we don’t want another 9/11 or a bomb going off mid-flight.

But somehow, there must be a way to do this without the presumption that trans people are male bombers dressing as females in order to discourage scrutiny, or at least in a way that’s more culturally sensitive.

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The trans community is not homogenous Thu, 17 Sep 2015 20:16:37 +0000


I’ve had a peer trans journalist who’s 1) been out as trans about a decade less than the twelve years I’ve been out, and 2) makes a hell of a lot more at our trade than I do, tell me this past week that she doesn’t believe that the trans community exists.

And, of course, she works at the publication that published a July op-ed by Jen Richards entitled What Trans Movement? The publication that published that piece is The Advocate.

“The trans movement isn’t just a convenient narrative, it is a dangerous lie,” Richards wrote. “There isn’t a trans movement, or a trans community, but rather multiple movements and communities, divided not only by race and class but also distinct histories, leaders, resources and needs.”

I’ve reached the point where I just want to rip my hair out and scream, “We’re a diverse community! Did you expect to enter into a homogenous community when you transitioned and came out?”

Seriously. Do we say there is no black community because there are black Republicans who decry the Black Lives Matter movement? Do we say there is no women’s community because the Concerned Women Of America want to defund and shut down every Planned Parenthood clinic in America?

Was the active duty and veterans community unified on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Or are they now on open service for trans service members?

The word we’re ignoring is diversity. Not only is diversity an extra-community thing, but it’s an intra-community thing. We’re all individuals who have both commonalities and differences, and as individuals we tend to group with those with who we have commonalities.

So, within broad groups, we tend to associate with those we intersect with in other ways – such as in the trans community, trans veterans tend to clump together. So do trans people of color and trans people with similar disabilities.

The trans movement isn’t a dangerous lie. It instead is an opportunity to excel – an opportunity to step out of our natural comfort zones and create bonds across what Richards calls “multiple movements and communities, divided not only by race and class but also distinct histories, leaders, resources and needs” instead of decry that the bonds don’t naturally appear.

Well, the trans community exists. If I were only to see it in the proliferation of pink, white, and blue flags across the nation, I would know we fly under one flag.

But, I also see the community in the rallying behind the cause of ending the murders of trans women. I see it every Nov. 20 – the Transgender Day of Remembrance – when we name our dead and mourn them.

I see it too in the work of organizations such as the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and SPARTA, as well as conferences such as Gender Odyssey and the Philadelphia Transgender Healthcare Conference. We organize; we plan; we achieve goals such as legislation and regulation.

Hell, I saw the community in the first four months I came out, way back in 2003. It was when here in San Diego trans people banded together to work to add gender identity to the Human Dignity Ordinance – the city’s civil rights ordinance.

Those who aren’t seeing the trans community aren’t looking for it, or are looking for a mythical homogenous community when no identity community is homogenous. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a singular community. I’ve hit the point where I’m calling bullshit on the idea that we’re not one community if we’re not homogenous.

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Doxxed by Cathy Brennan? Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:48:03 +0000

Cathy Brennan, a well-known activist who considers herself a gender critical feminist (GCF), and someone many trans feminists and trans activists consider a transgender exclusionary radical feminist (TERF), is suing Joey Stevenson of for monetary damages “of at least $70,000 and an injunction to prevent the continuation of the defamation,” according to a report published in the Maryland Daily Record.

What Stevenson wrote in her opinion piece Lesbian Abundance in 2015 was “Currently, Brennan continues the unwanted penetration narrative with Internet articles on how men are ‘pretending’ to be women to enter into womens’ spaces and inflict sexual violence, in addition to harassing and doxxing trans women on her Web sites.”

Brennan takes issue with the doxxing part of that statement.

Well, July 10, 2012, Brennan posted my then not publicly known, pre-transition, male first name (deadname) on her bugbrennan Twitter account (an account that’s since been shut down for a terms of service violation).

Five days later on the national blog Pam’s House Blend, I outed my full deadname. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but it was something I did to take the power away from Brennan to harm me with my deadname. By Brennan’s definition of doxxing, it sure seems to me that she doxxed me.

There’s more than one definition of doxxing, by the way. “Doc-dropping (dropping docs, doxing, doxxing) is the practice of obtaining and revealing personally identifying information (such as names, addresses, places of employment, relatives) of people who use the Internet, typically in a highly public manner as a call to arms against the target,” is a definition found on RationalWiki.

By elements of RationalWiki’s definition, Brennan doxxed me in 2011 over my public plans to change my legal gender. A commenter on Pam’s House Blend wrote “Where are you filing your petition [to change your legal gender]? What is the court address and case number? There are ladies on the blogs that want to file objections to your petition.” Writing as bugbrennan, Brennan responded to that commenter by posting a link to the San Diego Courthouse webpage where case numbers and court dates were given for those who were legally changing their genders.

A number of transsexual women then didn’t believe I should have been legally allowed to legally change my gender. They were planning on using the link that Cathy Brennan posted to find my case number, and then file friend of the court briefs in an attempt to block me from doing so.

I delayed filing for my legal change of gender for months because of the chain of events Cathy Brennan’s posting of that link initiated. It took California’s Vital Statistics Modernization Act becoming law the next year before I filed.

In my opinion, Cathy Brennan maliciously dropped the link in that Pam’s House Blend comment thread “as a call to arms against [a] target” – that target being me. And looking at that RationalWiki definition of doxxing, I believe she doxxed me.

I’ve seen others’ screenshots. Looking at those screenshots, I’m of the opinion I haven’t been the only target of doxxing by Cathy Brennan.

In May, 2012 Baltimore OUTloud published a column by Brennan entitled On Bullying, and Being Nice. In it, she wrote “We are ‘bullies’ because we don’t agree with you, political transgender community.” To me, in the title of the piece and in that line she’s telling us all she knows her own reputation is that of a bully. And in an October, 2013 interview with Michele Meow of Swirl Radio, she admitted that “if you Google my name you’ll find I’m an aggressive asshole.”

In my opinion, I see basis for the claim of doxxing, and I see evidence that she believes she doesn’t have a good reputation to be defamed. There has to be a political point she’s trying to make that I’m just not seeing.

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When it’s time to shut up and listen Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:00:13 +0000

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, I found myself at a protest in Los Angeles over the number of trans people, mostly trans women of color, who’ve been murdered this year so far. The latest was Tamera Dominguez in Phoenix, Ariz. who was run over multiple times in a church parking lot by an SUV. It was caught on surveillance tape.

By the most conservative count, it’s the 17th murder of a trans person this year; all but two have been trans people of color. These have given us trans specific Twitter and Facebook hashtags of #blacktranslivesmatter, #stoptransmurders, #translivesmatter, and #ICouldBeNext. A Fox media affiliate identified the murder victim as male – an all too common occurrence with trans homicide victims.

The same thing happened in Fresno with the killing of KC Huggins. In that case, the Fresno Police Department used physiology to identify the homicide victim – she was assumed to be engaging in prostitution, because she was dressed in clothing not associated with the gender assigned to her at birth. This in spite of how she’d recently attended trans support meetings and surveillance videos from three different cameras from three different businesses suggest she was likely targeted.

The Fresno Police Department assumed from the beginning that it wasn’t a hate crime.

Here in California, we recently had the Death With Dignity Act take effect which made sure death certificates for transgender Californians accurately reflected their lived identities. Apparently we need a second Death With Dignity Act for police departments specifically to consider that crime victims – including homicide victims – won’t automatically be assigned gender by police based on physiology alone, but that individuals who wear clothing usually not associated with genders assigned at birth be at least considered transgender when reported to media outlets, and have their homicides at least be considered as possible hate crimes as a default.

I talked to Transgender Law Center Staff Attorney Sasha Buchert about such a law recently; maybe something will come of the idea.

Which in an around about way leads me to the upcoming Stonewall movie. Trans people of color and gender nonconforming people of color have often been left out of the narratives of trans and LGBT history. Since I came out in 2003, I’ve been to every Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial service in San Diego, and every year those on the list from the U.S., well, there have been more from the U.S. of black and brown skin than of white skin. Yet, until the past few years, the national narratives of trans people seem to set by Christine Jorgensen – white, middle age transitioners who frankly share much of my personal narrative.

The trailer for the new Stonewall movie features a fictional white character named Danny who’s shown throwing the first brick that started the Stonewall Riots. There are varied accounts of who threw the first brick, but almost all don’t attribute it to a white youth. If one looks at the film’s character list on IMDB, one sees there are no actors for central Stonewall veterans of color who were trans or gender nonconforming: Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie and Miss Major.

The film, due to the trailer, has been accused of whitewashing and cis-washing the Stonewall Riots. The GSA-Network has a petition up, began by 18-year-old Pat Cordova-Goff, calling for a boycott of the film. She’s publicly offered to prescreen the film so that if the film isn’t a white- or cis-wash, as director Roland Emmerich has said it isn’t, she’ll call off the boycott, but so far he hasn’t taken her up on the offer.

Well, the speakers at the rally (that was hastily organized with four hours notice) I went to this past Tuesday night frequently rallied the crowd shouting “When we say ‘Trans!’ you say ‘Power!’ ‘Trans!’” to which the crowd of about 200 would reply “Power!” This was not a crowd that was to be easily sated.

I see trans people of color wanting their history told. I see trans people of color wanting their voices heard. I see trans people of color wanting the violence and murders of their peers to stop; I see them realizing they could be next.

As a white, middle age trans woman easily out-numbered by younger trans people of color, it was my time to shut up and listen.

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The Truth project Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:20:00 +0000

At 14, I first awakened my own truth that I was trans. I realized I was growing the wrong secondary sex characteristics; I realized I wanted the ones that were for females, and not for males.

Shortly after realizing that, I talked myself into believing I was a crossdresser. I wasn’t attracted to boys, and being a boy, well back in the 1970s, the gender identity clinics and the Pentecostal Church my parents and I attended in the San Fernando Valley had a very heteronormative view of sexuality. I couldn’t be trans and attracted to girls, so I tried the bulk of my life trying to be the man I wasn’t. I lived 30 years in the closet before finally coming out as Autumn in February 2003.


Truth is a new campaign rolled out Tuesday, Aug. 4 by the Transgender Law Center and GSA Network that they describe as “a national storytelling campaign that aims to build empathy, understanding and a movement for transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families to share their stories in their own words and in their own way.”

“Hi’ I’m Danny, and I um … Wow. I just turned 15 like a month ago,” said gender nonconforming teen Danny Reinan, in a video for the project. “I go to Avalon school – It’s a Charter School in St. Paul.

“The school was very big and intimidating,” Danny continued. “And I knew I wasn’t a girl before then, but that was when I really began realizing like ‘I really feel uncomfortable with this. Like, this isn’t right. This really, really isn’t right.’”


“Everyone has a story, and every story is valid and speaks its own truth,” said Tone Lee-Bias, (pronouns: they/them/theirs), 18, from Sacramento, as to why trans youth telling their stories are so important. “Allowing an intimate, personal narrative to be fully exposed to the world can be scary and nervewracking, but also is an enlightening and self-empowering action. In my experience, sharing my story not only educates others, but in the process also assists in my own self-healing. Every time I tell my story, I gain more and more confidence, strength and power over my experiences as an 18-year-old, queer, demiboy of color. I realize how sharing these stories make such a huge difference for those trying to understand, and maybe an even bigger one for those who can relate. Speaking out is the act of purposefully putting oneself in a vulnerable position in order to bring awareness to the issues our various communities face. This vulnerability and transparency of sharing our stories is what allows for new, authentic connections and growth.”

The Truth project encompasses mediums such as videos and selfies, and platforms such as Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The project goals seek to have the participants stretch across the myriad of trans self-identities.

When I tell a story about my life, I hope that for but a brief moment you see the world through my eyes. When trans youth tell their stories, what the Truth project organizers are hoping for are stories that follow this guidance: “What everyone can understand and connect with is emotion and experience. Instead of using shorthand or ‘insider’ phrases, try to describe your identity in terms of your experience. For example, instead of just saying ‘I’m a transgender boy,’ you could say ‘I’m a transgender boy, which means everyone thought I was a girl when I was born, but I’ve always known on the inside that I’m a boy.’ Or instead of saying ‘I’m genderqueer,’ you could say ‘I was assigned male at birth, but being a boy never felt right to me, and neither did being a girl. I’ve always felt that I’m somewhere in between.’”


We really can change the world when we share our truths.

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I don’t want any more trans dead to bless Thu, 23 Jul 2015 17:52:07 +0000

Within the past week, A 16th trans person (or 10th, depending on who’s doing the counting and what criteria are being used) has been killed since the first of this year, and all but one has been a person of color.

This time it was a 25-year-old black woman named India Clark, found beaten to death in Tampa Park Tuesday, July 21.

We’ve had three trans youth commit suicide in the past months here in San Diego County. I received a pink, white and blue bumble bee at the T Spot booth in remembrance of Kyler, one of the three youth.

I participated as a substitute angel in the die-in portion of the trans contingent in the San Diego Pride parade. One of the designated angels couldn’t make it, and another was late, so I filled in. I was the only other one in the contingent dressed in white, so I stood in. The angels blessed those in the contingent who stood in for the dead; it wasn’t lost on me that I was the only white angel; I was the only angel who wasn’t a person of color of the three taking on the role of angels.

This doesn’t take into account all of the trans people who face close calls with, or actually experience, violence in their lives for being trans. This doesn’t take into account all those who consider suicide but don’t follow through, or attempt suicide but fortunately don’t succeed, with transgender experience being a contributing factor to their considering suicide.

I blessed those who stood in for the dead.

While writing for the blog Pam’s House Blend, I covered the trial of Allen Ray Andrade from the Greeley, Colo. courtroom. He was convicted of murdering Angie Zapata. “It’s not like I just went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head,” I heard him say in a recorded jail house phone call played during the trial. “You know what I mean? It’s not like I went up to a law-abiding straight citizen.”

Andrade called her “it” and “that thing” in those recorded calls as well.

I still live with the pain of the death of my friend Christine Daniels (formerly known as Mike Penner). She committed suicide after detransitioning.

I blessed those who stood in for the dead.

It rained during the San Diego Pride parade. The angel wings I wore were designed for sunny San Diego weather – they were beautiful pieces designed by trans community member Invictus. When it rained, however, the synthetic feathers soaked up the rain like sponges, and the wings became heavy burdens to raise and lower. My body, days later, still aches from the efforts of raising and lowering the wings.

With the contingent of those who stood in for the trans dead who’ve died since the first of this year, part of its message was awareness and part of its message was to invest in the lives of trans people and issues as the fight for marriage equality winds down.

Frankly, I don’t know what further investment will look like, although I believe it’ll happen. It’s already begun to happen, yet I see it happening in a more diversified way into the future.

It’ll depend a lot on if the diversity of the trans community embraces its allies and potential allies, or alienates them with rhetoric and actions that rejects, or appears to reject, them.

Allies are wanted – needed – to help stop the deluge of death by participating in the process of showing that trans lives are valuable lives worth living. And, they are lives valued by more than just their trans peers.

With that thought in mind, I want to let all those who are reading this know how difficult it was by the end of the parade for me to bless those who stood in for the dead. The physical pain matched in inward turmoil.

I don’t want to bless any more dead, not because the dead don’t need blessing, but because I don’t want any more trans dead to bless. But I know – I know – there will be more trans dead to bless for years and years to come.

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What Pride means to me this year Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:31:43 +0000


With the various Pride related events scheduled in San Diego for Pride weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Pride is.

If one wants to call the Stonewall Riots the first Pride event, since Pride events technically are a remembrance and a celebration of the Stonewall uprising and the Gay Liberation movement that followed the Stonewall Riots, then historic Pride began by drag queens and trans women breaking beer bottles over the heads of police officers, followed by a riotous crowd throwing Molotov cocktails because LGBT people were being oppressed.

I don’t think that kind of violence is how we want to celebrate Pride in San Diego this year, or any other year for that matter. I’m sure the San Diego Police Department would appreciate it.

On one hand, Pride events are a gathering of community to celebrate. It’s to say “Look how far we’ve come! Let’s have some fun!” On the other hand, the competing thought is to honor the advocates and activists who created the change we celebrate, honor the people who are still doing the work and look ahead at the work and sacrifice that will be required in the years ahead to achieve full equality and full justice for the entirety of the LGBT community.

Our community has an inherent conflict in place.

Maybe we should feel good that corporate sponsors want to join in to help us feel proud. So many Fortune 500 companies have added sexual orientation and gender identity to their equal opportunity and diversity policies – perhaps that is something to celebrate too.

Well, take Facebook. They sponsored San Francisco’s Pride Parade just a few weeks ago. They have a welcoming diversity policy, they recently expanded their gender choices to include over fifty choices to accommodate the vast array of trans people’s gender identities; all seems well.

That is, until one looks at how Facebook’s real name policy has been used as a weapon against trans people. Just in the past few weeks, the trans woman who, when she worked at Facebook, helped develop and implement the Facebook gender spectrum for trans users was kicked off of Facebook under the real name policy. She was using the same name on Facebook that she had on her name badge at Facebook when her account was suspended.

And, in their storefront along San Francisco’s Market Street, along the San Francisco Pride Parade route this past June Saks Fifth Avenue visually wooed the crowd with the message “Happy Pride San Francisco, from your friends at Saks Fifth Avenue.” Apparently all was forgotten – by them – about their January legal brief stating they had the legal right to discriminate against transgender people.

Well, at least we won’t have to worry about the bathrooms being gender policed at the Pride Festival. We have the Limits On Use Of Facilities In Government Buildings And Businesses initiative (formerly referred to as the Personal Privacy Protection Act initiative) drive coming where, if the initiative should become law, bathrooms at businesses would be able to be policed for use based on perceived gender identity. Well, we’re back to the activism part of Pride events, looking at the work and sacrifice that will be required in the year ahead to stave off this attempt to derail LGBT community civil rights.

I guess this year I’m in the advocate and activism corner as opposed to the celebration one.

It’s not to take anything away from the celebrators: there’s is so much positive to celebrate this year. But being in the subcommunity of the LGBT community with the toughest civil rights slog ahead in California in the year to come, I see so much work and sacrifice ahead.

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Celebrating and not celebrating trans lives Thu, 25 Jun 2015 22:13:58 +0000

Sylvia Rivera

“So Stonewall is a great, great foundation,” transgender activist and Stonewall veteran icon Sylvia Rivera wrote in her 2001 essay Bitch on Wheels. “It began the modern day liberation movement, like we spoke before about the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society. Yes, there were lots of other little groups but you had to be what they called themselves the ‘normal homosexuals.’ They wore suits and ties. One of the first demonstrations that they had, lesbians who’d never even worn dresses were wearing dresses and high heels to show the world that they were normal. Normal? Fine.”

This isn’t our San Diego Pride issue, and yet San Diego Pride has become an issue in this LGBT Weekly issue celebrating the trans community. When trying to organize a photo of a bunch of trans subcommunity members of the LGBT community who weren’t the “usual suspects” of go-to names and faces for the cover for this current issue, I ran into a current pitting of community members against each other.

The issue that’s dividing the two groups is a direct action planned for the San Diego Pride Parade trans contingent – a group slewing generally younger, with many people of color are planning a “die-in” at spots throughout the parade route to highlight the nine trans women of color who’ve been murdered this year to date.

From one perspective, the subjective reason for the divide could be described as a subgroup of the trans community not listening to another of the community that just wants to celebrate Pride – this year the trans community as a whole is the collective Grand Marshal – and not be pulled into a direct action that will take away from that spirit of celebration.

From another perspective, the subjective reason could be described in terms of one group of community members who value conformity and compliance with rules trying to silence the subgroup of marginalized trans community members who feel unheard – members who want to rekindle the spirit of fiery change that was the initial spirit of the Stonewall riots that not only have the privileged trans community members forgotten, but that their cisgender lesbian, gay and bisexual broader community members have forgotten as well.

After all, the reason the LGBT community celebrates Pride throughout the nation during the summer months is because the Stonewall Riots happened in June – in early summer – of 1969.

“I mean, before gay liberation,” Rivera, who passed in 2002, also wrote in that same essay, “it was the same thing: ‘drag queens over there; we’re over here.’ The world came tumbling down in 1969 and on the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall movement, of the Stonewall riot, the transgender community was silenced because of a radical lesbian named Jean O’Leary, who felt that the transgender community was offensive to women because we liked to wear makeup and we liked to wear miniskirts.

“Anyway, Jean O’Leary started the big commotion at this rally [Christopher Street Liberation Day, 1973],” Rivera continued. “… I had to fight my way up on that stage and literally, people that I called my comrades in the movement, literally beat the sh** out of me. That’s where it all began, to really silence us. They beat me, I kicked their asses. I did get to speak, I got my points across.”

O’Leary was said to have orchestrated the violence against Rivera; O’Leary took the occasion of her later speech on that same day at the Christopher Street Liberation Day (a precursor to Pride celebrations) to call … to label in vitriolic tone …Sylvia Rivera as “a man.” The silencing was of someone who was never mainstream; someone who was never “normal.”

With all the gains we in the trans community have made in the past year, with all there is to celebrate in social and political movement that has occurred the past decades, there is a marginalized population of trans people – a subgroup of the trans community I belong to – who are repeated victims of violence and homicide.

So whose perspective is the right perspective in this San Diego Pride Parade contingent controversy? The one of the trans community members who believe it should be one of pure celebration of the trans community’s progress? Or, is it the one that also recognizes that with celebration comes a need to highlight that there are marginalized portions of the trans community who the LGBT community, and broader society, need to be exposed to in a stark manner?

“Mainstreaming, normality, being normal,” Rivera added. “I understand how much everybody likes to fit into that mainstream gay and lesbian community. You know, it used to be a wonderful thing to be avant-garde, to be different from the world. I see us reverting into a so-called liberated closet because we, not we, yous of this mainstream community, wish to be married, wish for this status. That’s all fine. But you are forgetting your grassroots, you are forgetting your own individual identity. I mean, you can never be like them.”

Even though in 1969 many of our trans forerunners thought of themselves as being part of the gay community and Gay Liberation, we weren’t considered mainstream enough or normal enough, in just a few short years that followed, to have many of our gay and lesbian community peers consider us their community siblings. There are reasons why the T has its own letter in LGBT.

So, now in 2015 the argument can reasonably be made here in America’s Finest City that each of the two subgroups of the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community pitted against each other aren’t listening to the other; that each subgroup are on some level participating in the potential silencing of the voices of the other subgroup.

In becoming mainstream and celebrated in American culture, is the trans community lulling itself into believing it really ever can be a like them in the LG portion of the LGBT community, or ever be a like them in broader society? Or is Sylvia Rivera right about all of us in the LGB and especially the T community – “[we]” can never be like them.”

What I know is when I wanted to take a photo of a bunch of trans subcommunity members of the LGBT community who weren’t the “usual suspects” of go-to names and faces, I ran into a current pitting of community members against each other over what the trans community should be messaging to its siblings in the LGBT community, as well as to broader society, at this transgender moment.

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Bigotry looks like a we/they distinction Thu, 11 Jun 2015 16:52:24 +0000

When I was a pre-pubescent child in the 1960s, I played with toy guns, GI-Joes and Legos of which I made trucks and space ships, but I also played with little plastic babies and Legos from which I made them houses. At 12 every day I played handball at lunch with my male friends, but I also had to be taught by my older brother not to carry my books up at my chest and walk from my hips like girls at my junior high did.

These days, I wear pink tinted glasses, and a lot of violet clothing, and have my nails done twice a month. I also go fishing once a week and spent 20-years in the military.

By my behavior throughout my life, can one judge whether I’m male or female?

Journalist and filmmaker Elinor Burkett, believes trans women, as a class of people, have defined themselves by behavior. We are a “they” in a we/they distinction, and women (read “cis women”) are the “we.” Burkett winced when Caitlyn Jenner said to Diane Sawyer in that recent ABC interview, “My brain is much more female than it is male,” as well as when Chelsea Manning tweeted, “I am so much more aware of my emotions; much more sensitive emotionally (and physically).” These conform to female stereotypes, and Burkett doesn’t approve.

“People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers [note: a Harvard scientist who showed differences between male and female brains], shouldn’t get to define us,” Burkett wrote in a New York Times op-ed What Makes a Woman? “That’s something men have been doing for much too long.”

Then Burkett lumped trans women into a class of people, and literally called us they. “Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.”

Then Burkett later uses us, a variant of we, to take on the mantle of all women. “The ‘I was born in the wrong body’ rhetoric favored by other trans people doesn’t work any better and is just as offensive, reducing us to our collective breasts and vaginas.”

I know I don’t say “I was born in the wrong body.” It’s my body. I know many activists take the same tact I do – It’s our bodies, so how could they be the wrong ones? Genderdyphoria related to our bodies, for many of us it has meant wanting to change our bodies.

By coincidence, Burkett’s op-ed came out in the same week Major Jamie Henry Lee, M.D., announced in Buzzfeed she transitioned in the Army. She changed her name and gender marker while on active duty. This is obviously not about “the chance to wear nail polish” as Burkett describes the trans female experience.

We live in a world of sex and gender constraints that trans people didn’t create, and a number of trans people actively work at tearing down. And a different number of trans people hate that because they like the gender binary and societal sex and gender roles, and are transitioning to fit into these. Trans women are a diverse bunch: we have trans women who are butch and femme, every race and religious creed, every sexuality – at every intersection that cis women find themselves as well. We are not Burkett’s they.

Elinor Burkett likely doesn’t consider herself a bigot, but the kind of we/they distinction she used to make her point is bigotry that’s called transphobia. The Times wouldn’t have published a piece where the we/they distinctions were “blacks are like that, but we are like this,” “Muslims are like that, but we are like this,” or especially “women are like that, but we are like this,” but the Times was comfortable publishing a piece which communicated “we are like this, and trans women are like that.” And that’s wrong.

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A trans community advocate that changed the world for trans people in San Diego Thu, 04 Jun 2015 17:01:19 +0000

It’s a Tuesday here in Burlington, Calif. and Amanda Watson is in surgery with Dr. Marci Bowers having gender confirmation surgery (GCS) as I’m writing this column. She’s waited a long time for this.

Amanda is a former sailor. When her time in service ended in the late 1990s, she stayed in San Diego. She first came out to the LGBT community as a drag performer — Amanda Hugandkiss — performing at venues that are now long closed. In 1999 she began her transition.

I met her first in May of 2003. I’d began transitioning in February through the Veterans Administration, and my therapist and endocrinologist there were pushing group therapy as a requirement for continued medical treatment for me. There were two peer support groups out there at the time: TransFamily and Transpire. Because Transpire met once a month at a time that was more convenient for me on Saturday evening, I went to that group, and Amanda went to that group too.

So at that first Transpire meeting I attended in May 2003, in the announcement part of the meeting she asked that as many of us as could please show up at a City Council meeting in two weeks. The reason was the San Diego City Council was going to publicly debate adding antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity and expression to the Human Dignity Ordinance (HDO). San Diego having its own antidiscrimination protection ordinance was a big deal as the Gender Non-Discrimination Act of 2003 (AB196), which now provides housing and employment antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity and expression, was not yet law in California.

San Diego’s Democratic Club pushed for this update to the HDO. Amanda Watson and Jess Durfee were the two who made the rounds to six of the seven councilmembers prior to that public Council meeting. Number seven councilmember didn’t meet with Amanda and Jess only because he already was in support of adding gender identity and expression to the HDO.

So, two weeks after coming out to the community, I joined about two dozen members of the LGBT community making a presence in support of the update to the HDO. Then District 3 Councilmember, now State Assembly Speaker, Toni Atkins was the measure’s sponsor. Other notables there in support of the bill included current District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria and our San Diego Pride Executive Director Stephen Whitburn.

Some of us in our contingent were prepared to speak; all of us newbies in the community were nervously awaiting the debate and public pushback. But, the debate and pushback never came: at the first reading, which wasn’t even read out loud at the meeting, the measure passed the council 7-0.

A few weeks later, we all showed up again, and it passed the second reading without public controversy. It became law almost immediately; I remember it became law several months before AB 196 did. (AB 196 became law Jan. 1, 2004).

Amanda Watson, as a trans community representative meeting face-to-face with our San Diego councilmembers back in 2003, is a lot of the reason why we had housing and employment protections based on gender identity in San Diego months before we had those statewide. It’s why we have city protections on top of state protections here in San Diego.

Amanda left San Diego and took a job up in the state’s central valley a number of years back. She has pretty good insurance now, and her insurance covers “the surgery.” And, Tuesday, June 2, 2015 is the day Dr. Bowers preformed this medically necessary surgery for Amanda.

Whatever activism I’ve engaged in in my life is in very large part because Amanda inspired me. Only three months out as a trans woman, I met a trans community advocate that changed the world for trans people here in San Diego. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to pay the kind of activism that Amanda gave us trans people in San Diego forward to the trans community members that came after me. She changed me. She may be a forgotten advocate to many in San Diego, but I haven’t forgotten.

I’m so honored Amanda asked me to be here for her the first couple of weeks of post-surgical recovery. She’s a friend to me, and so, so much more.

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Interview with Sandy Stone — Part 2 Thu, 28 May 2015 16:06:02 +0000

Sandy Stone is a touchstone woman in transgender history. She has a section dedicated to her place in trans and feminist history in the book Transgender History.

This is the final piece, excerpted from that interview, beginning with her answer to the question, “So what’s it like being a professor?”

Sandy Stone: I had a very intense history with a dear, dear friend – at that time a young woman who was 17 when we met – fell madly in love, had a tumultuous affair that lasted 20 years – 20 years lost from my life. When we met the second time she was a professor of sociology. “What the hell are you doing as a professor of sociology? C’mon!” And she took me by the shoulders and she said, “Sandy, look at your life. You have no future. You have no intellectual community. Why not? Because you’re not looking for where the intellectual community is. And you know what else is going to happen? You’re going to end up with no health insurance, no social safety net. You’ve got to get into the university! You’ll find all of those things waiting for you there!”

And, I ignored her.

And, damned if she didn’t turn out to be right, but it took me maybe another 10 years to figure out she was right.

I intend to die teaching up here [at UC Santa Cruz]. I’m home now.

Autumn Sandeen: Trans people seem to be coming out younger and younger.

You mean like 3?

Yeah. The standard narrative a dozen years ago used to be mid-life transitioners. In the last few years we were discussing primary and secondary school transitioners, AB 1266 — what bathrooms they were going to use. As we’re becoming a younger community, what do you think this means for us?

For one thing I think it’s going to confuse a lot of gender critical feminists who believe gender is a performance. There’s something going on here that’s beyond gender as a guise or disguise or a social position. We don’t know what the hell it is. I’m still active in the medical field and I have no fracking idea what it is. And, I don’t know anyone who does, but we acknowledge that it’s real.

And, I think that trend will continue – and with [hormone] blockers. We’re getting to whole new places where it was impossible to go before.

I don’t know what will happen in 15 or 20 years. But what I think will happen is more and more people will transition as young as they want to. That will become more accepted.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Personal Privacy Act Initiative. Due to how California’s initiative process works, this likely will be on the ballot in November 2016.

It’s a “bathroom bill.”

It’s going to be state buildings, and if it passes it’ll impact UC Santa Cruz.

It’ll be a fight; it’ll be a fight I think we’ll win. We might not win next time because they’ll keep coming back. But, the lunatic fringe has a way of getting smaller. If we can withstand it for another 10 years I think we’ll have the edge.

In 1986 Bayard Rustin said gays were at the center of the “we/they distinction” because things people wouldn’t feel comfortable saying about other minority populations they were comfortable believing and saying about gays. Most people didn’t know any gay people. I think in 2015 trans people are now at that center point for the same reasons. How do you feel about that idea?

Many years ago a friend of mine found himself in – I think it was Germany – they had one of the Nazi war criminals there, and my friend who was Jewish had the opportunity to interview this guy. The war criminal was courteous, kind and polite, articulate, well-spoken and intelligent; they had a very nice conversation.

His friend who had introduced him to the war criminal said, “You realize he only considers you as an animal?” That brought back the reality of the situation. The prisoner did in fact consider my Jewish friend an animal – something lower than human.

To me it’s like that talking to one of the anti-bathroom people. You can have courteous conversations with them, but if you scratch their surface, they are beyond any evil I can speak.

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An interview with Sandy Stone — Part 1 Thu, 21 May 2015 16:00:26 +0000

Sandy Stone

Sandy Stone is a touchstone woman in transgender history. She has a whole section dedicated to her place in transgender and feminist history in the book Transgender History and the book is worth reading if just for that segment.

In a nutshell, Stone was the first recording engineer at Olivia Records, a lesbian collective founded in 1973 to record and market women’s music. Janice Raymond, a trans exclusionary radical lesbian feminist, attacked the collective for including Stone because Stone was out as a transsexual. Raymond created the controversy, and then blamed Stone for it. “It is significant that transsexually constructed lesbian-feminists have inserted themselves into the positions of importance and/or performance in the feminist community,” Raymond wrote in her book The Transsexual Empire: the Making of the She-M***. “The controversy in the summer of 1977 surrounding Sandy Stone, the transsexual sound engineer for Olivia Records, an ‘all women’ recording company, illustrates this well … Having produced such divisiveness, one would think that if Stone’s commitment to and identification with women were genuinely woman-centered, he would have removed himself from Olivia and assumed some responsibility for the divisiveness.”

And in actuality, Stone did remove herself. Many trans exclusionary radical lesbian feminists of the 1970s, including Raymond and Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival co-founder Lisa Vogel, would’ve rather destroyed the Olivia Records collective – when there were no other recording companies making music for and by women – rather than acknowledge a trans woman was a woman … acknowledge Sandy Stone was a woman.

I sat down recently with Sandy Stone at UC Santa Cruz, where she’s a professor, and interviewed her about her life since Olivia. This is part one of a short series, excerpted from that interview.

Autumn Sandeen: So what’s it like being a professor?

Sandy Stone: I’m crazy about being a professor. Being a professor answers a whole lot of personal problems.

The reason I tend to self-identify as an artist is because one of the definitions of an artist is a person who only does something once. The nice thing about being a professor is only having to do something once, and then you can change it for the next term. I get unhappy where I get trapped into doing any one thing.

The other thing is is that I spent decades – most of my life – trying to find my community. The problem with all the communities I found, including Olivia Records, the collective is the one thing I couldn’t do at the collective was talk to them about things that interested me. Because, one of the principles of the collective is that we were intellectually downwardly mobile. We were not only financially downwardly mobile, but we were conducting an experiment of being intellectually downwardly mobile.

Now here I was using big words, and that got me into trouble! (laughs) In other words, I was a geek when I was a kid, and I didn’t know any other geeks. And, for a while I’d come and go with geekism. I never really found any other geeks when I was young who were not just geekly, but were also fairly emotionally mature. I don’t know how else to put that!

And, there were no shortage of people who were really good at one thing. People who were tremendous at building radio transmitters, fantastic at working with computers, but didn’t know anything about renaissance art. I tend to be more of a generalist.

So when I got to university, not that the average professor is broader or more interesting than anyone else, you can find people who do have broader interests there.

When I was with the collective, a friend of mine from Santa Cruz asked me, “Why are you hanging out with a lesbian separatist collective?”

I said, “Do you know the story about the guy who lost his car keys? A passer-by says ‘Where’d you lose ‘em?’ It’s at night, and he’s under a street light and he says, ‘Oh, back there,’ and he points there back in the dark. So the passer-by says ‘Why aren’t you looking down there?’ And he says ‘The light’s better here.’”

That was why I was at the Olivia collective. It’s been true ever since, except eventually I found my keys.

In part two, Sandy Stone finishes the surprisingly long answer to that first question.

A brief history of Sandy Stone’s life is on Wikipedia.

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Adding to the list of stores I don’t shop at Thu, 14 May 2015 03:29:26 +0000

I don’t shop at Saks Fifth Ave. I occasionally shopped there, but the company tends to stock fashions that don’t match my sensibilities.

I haven’t ever shopped at Forever 21. I never actually checked the stores’ fashions out, so I don’t really know if I liked theirs or not.

I used to do a lot of shopping at Cabela’s, to include clothing and fishing gear.

Saks, Forever 21 and Cabela’s are all businesses I actively avoid now because alleged discrimination against transgender employees. Each of these businesses have had lawsuits filed against them over their alleged discrimination based on gender identity. I’ve added Barnes & Noble to that list.

Well, Saks had a discrimination lawsuit filed against them by former saleswoman Leyth Jamal, who said she had been subject to harassment and retaliation due to transitioning in the workplace. Saks, in turn, filed a particularly noxious defense, frequently misgendering Leyth throughout, and despite a recent Department of Labor ruling to the contrary, had argued that discrimination based on gender identity was not prohibited by federal law. After backlash from the LGBT community, Saks withdrew their defense and settled the case. Saks has a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI) score of 90 percent, indicating a disconnect between their policy and their policy implementation.

In my mind, Saks needed to do a very public settlement.

Forever 21 is a Christian-owned apparel company. Owners Don and Jin Chang attend church daily, give generously to their church and attend mission trips. On the bottom of each store bag shoppers will find the simple imprint “John 3:16.”

Alexia Daskalakis sought to transition at a New York Forever 21. In a lawsuit she stated that a manager told her that she was “a hot mess,” “disgusting,” “looked offensive,” and that “in my eyes and in the company’s eyes, you’re still a male.” Forever 21 responded by stating, “At Forever 21, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in our stores and in all business related activities, and strive to maintain a safe and respectful work environment for all employees … We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any sort.”

Of course they don’t.

Cabela’s allegedly went out of their way to treat Kate Lynn Blatt as male, and the Department of Labor agreed that discrimination likely occurred. Blatt told the Philadelphia Gay News over the alleged Cabela’s discrimination, “I’m very interested in outdoor adventure sports. It could have been a dream job if management wasn’t so transphobic.”

I miss shopping Cabela’s.

I now have another business I’m not going to shop at for a while at least, and this is a business that has a 100 percent rating on the HRC CEI – another apparent disconnect between great policy and implementation of the policy.

“Today, Transgender Law Center, Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP and the Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver filed suit against Barnes & Noble, Inc. for its discriminatory treatment of a transgender employee, Victoria Ramirez, who worked for six years at two Barnes & Noble stores in Orange County, California,” the Transgender Law Center (TLC) posted to their Web site May 6. “When Ms. Ramirez informed management that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female, the company responded by prohibiting her from working as a woman and then firing her when she protested.”

“I loved my job at Barnes & Noble,” said Victoria Ramirez in that TLC posting. “I put myself through college working there. I thought this company shared my values of hard work, integrity and respect for all people. But when I came out as transgender, they didn’t live up to those values – instead they responded by mocking me and forcing me to hide who I really am. After giving six years of my life to Barnes & Noble, I was devastated when I was fired simply for being myself. I lost my livelihood, my financial stability and my confidence.”

Barnes & Noble responded by touting that HRC CEI score. When I shop for books, I skip Amazon. I bought my copy of Warrior Princess by Kristen Beck at Barnes & Noble.

I’m tired of avoiding stores because of discrimination based on gender identity; I’m tired of adding to the list of stores I don’t shop at.

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Learning the bad science of Dr. Paul McHugh Thu, 07 May 2015 02:56:25 +0000

Dr. Paul McHugh

Occasionally I go on The Rick Amato Show, and I’m usually there when there’s a transgender issue involved. I’m sort of the “go to” trans person on all things trans there. The Rick Amato Show airs on the One America Now Network (OANN) at 7 p.m. PDT (AT&T U-verse 208 and 1208 HD; and Verizon 116 and 616 HD).

I’m finding I’m being confronted by other guests regarding the science of trans experience more and more when I’m on the show, and with that confrontation I’m hearing the name of Dr. Paul McHugh — the retired head the of Psychiatry Department at Johns Hopkins University.

In the 1970s Dr. McHugh shut down the Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins University due to the belief that transgender surgeries don’t help transgender women, whom he considers men. Dr. McHugh recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal an article entitled Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution,

“A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden produced the most illuminating results yet regarding the transgendered,” Dr. McHugh wrote in that WSJ piece, evidence that should give advocates pause. The long-term study – up to 30 years – followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable non-transgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

Dr. Dan Karasic of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) took exception to Dr. McHugh’s take on the Karolinska study. “McHugh does cite one study from 2011,” Karasic wrote on WPATH’s Web site, “by Cecilia Dhejne, MD and colleagues at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. However, he misunderstands Dr. Dhejne’s work. In the paper, Dr. Dhejne states that the study was not designed to draw conclusions on the efficacy of transgender surgeries, yet McHugh does exactly that. A closer reading of the paper shows that the increased mortality is in those who had surgery before 1989, and that mortality in trans people after 1989 is not statistically different from the general population. A recently published paper by Dr. Dhejne and colleagues shows that the regret rate for those having surgery from 2001-2010 is only 0.3%. Dr. Dhejne’s work shows that outcomes for transgender surgery have improved tremendously in the past 30 years, which supports the HHS decision to remove trans exclusions.”

Dr. McHugh also wrote in the WSJ article that “At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. ‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

As the Scriptures say in Genesis 1:27, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Amen.

To the Christian social conservative, being transgender is a biological impossibility and scripturally sound, so the Personal Privacy Protection Act initiative effort makes perfect sense. Dr. McHugh and the Bible tells them they’re right.

Dr. Karasic referenced Mari Brighe, a Detroit-based genetics researcher for The TransAdvocate in his WPATH commentary. “It is important to remember that the opinions of Dr. McHugh fly in the face of currently accepted medical practice and the positions of many major medical associations,” Brighe asserted. “The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Psychiatric Society, the American Public Health Association, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health have all adopted positions supporting the medical necessity of transition-related care, including hormonal and surgical interventions, as well as expressing support for insurance coverage of these interventions.”

And too, 1 Samuel 16:7b says “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Trans people know what our gender identities are in our hearts.

Multiple medical organizations – and even the Bible can – tell us McHugh is wrong.

There’s a lot more bad science connected to Dr. McHugh than even what I’ve written about here that I’m apparently going to have to familiarize myself with. Yay me.

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The Personal Privacy Protection Act initiative Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:44:58 +0000


Aug. 12, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) into law. Paraphrasing the fact sheet for the bill promulgated by the Transgender Law Center, Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the GSA Network, the bill Introduced in February 2013 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and co-authored by Sens. Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara made it clear that the obligation of California schools is to allow transgender students to participate in all school activities, programs and facilities in accordance with their gender identities.

This didn’t sit well with Christian social conservatives of a certain stripe. A group of organizations formed the Privacy for All Students (PFAS) coalition. Among the founding member organizations of this coalition are the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) and Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.

PFAS tried to force a referendum on AB 1266, but the California secretary of state, following state law for how to validate signature percentages per each county in the state concluded that PFAS didn’t gather enough valid signatures to get a referendum on the ballot.

Now, however, this same coalition, which is now also going by Privacy For All (PFA), filed to collect for an initiative they’re calling the Personal Privacy Protection Act. “Notwithstanding any other provision of law,” the initiative states, “a person shall use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in all government buildings.”

If this initiative becomes law and a trans person doesn’t use a bathroom in accordance with their biological sex, the then law puts a civil bounty of no less than $4,000, plus attorney’s fees, for that “willful violation” in the use of those public bathrooms.

So how does the initiative define “biological sex? “Biological sex means the biological condition of being male or female as determined at or near the time of birth or through medical examination or as modified by Health & Safety Code § 103425.”

California Health & Safety Code § 103425 states the following “(a) Whenever a person has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, the person may file a petition with the superior court in any county seeking a judgment recognizing the change of gender. (b) If requested, the judgment shall include an order that a new birth certificate be prepared for the person reflecting the change of gender and any change of name accomplished by an order of a court of this state, another state, the District of Columbia, or any territory of the United States.”

“Clinically appropriate treatment” in California isn’t surgical intervention. In January 2012, the Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433; 2011) used “clinically appropriate treatment” specifically so that trans people wouldn’t have to have surgical intervention to have their gender markers changed with state agencies. So, this section of the initiative appears at first brush contradictory between the first section. So personally, I’m not sure what my “biological sex” would be if this initiative became law.

“The Pacific ‘Justice’ Institute is at it again,” Facebooked Masen Davis, the former executive director of the Transgender Law Center, regarding the “biological sex” problem with the initiative. “This time they are promoting a California ballot initiative that would fine anyone who uses a restroom different than their ‘biological sex’ (‘the biological condition of being male or female as determined at or near the time of birth or through medical examination’) in government buildings (including public universities and schools). So, transgender men like me could be fined $4,000 or more for using the men’s room. Please take this seriously, California.” He followed it with the hashtag

Masen Davis has male pattern balding and wears a beard.

As Ilona Turner, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center put it, “The initiative’s definition of ‘biological sex’ is confusing, unclear and not based on any kind of scientific or legal understanding of gender.”

Perhaps the saddest thing is that for this to reach the ballot, PFA only needs about half of the signatures they needed to qualify for the AB 1266 referendum and the coalition has weeks more time to collect the signatures. It’s very likely this initiative will be on a California ballot. Think of this initiative as being as at least as significant to trans people as Prop. 8 was to all of LGBT community.

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Michelle-Lael Norsworthy and citizenship Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:42:17 +0000

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy | PHOTO: TRANSGENDER LAW CENTER

In this issue of LGBT Weekly, Stampp Corbin makes the moral and right case for gender affirmation surgery for a transgender prisoner in the California State Penal System. “Judge Jon S. Tigar said Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, 51,” publisher Stampp Corbin wrote, “should be entitled to gender reassignment surgery because it was the ‘only adequate’ treatment for her condition. Let the silly politicization of the issue begin.”

From the medical perspective, this is an issue that is without shades of gray. When a person is convicted of a crime that person often becomes a prisoner of the government, and the government deprives that person of liberty through incarceration. In the process it also deprives that person of the ability to care for their own medical needs. That means the government takes on the extraordinary obligation of that inmate’s health care. Those obligations include a duty not to inflict cruel and unusual punishment, and denial of necessary medical care qualifies as inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

And what we know in the transgender community, and many in the broader LGBT community are becoming aware of, is that transgender health care is no more expensive, no more complicated and no less necessary than health care that’s provided to others every day. That includes diabetes, heart surgery, cancer and dialysis.

But sometimes, it’s a hard sounding case when we talk inmates. Michelle Kosilek is probably best known for being a convicted murderer who’s been trying for two decades to have the state of Massachusetts pay for gender affirmation surgery. It’s a little difficult to feel sympathy for someone who murdered her wife and has been sentenced to life without parole, and perhaps that lack of sympathy played into why the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals voted 3-2 (en blanc) to deny her request for surgery.

And here’s another case. Aug. 19, 2014, Laverne Cox released a video with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) in support of transgender prisoner Synthia China Blast. “Lack of adequate medical care, abusive and evasive treatment by law enforcement officials and denial of basic human rights …” Blast wrote in a line in a letter that Cox read for the video.

You can’t watch that video online on the SRLP’s Web site now as Cox asked for the video to be taken down. Blast, it turns out, was convicted of raping and killing 13-year old Ebony Williams in 1993.

“Laverne Cox partnered with us on our End Solitary campaign by reading a letter from SRLP member Synthia China Blast in a video,” the SRLP wrote in a statement, “but has since requested that we remove the video from our site because of her concerns about Synthia’s convictions. We understand her decision is based on concerns about violence against children … [we] reaffirm our support for Synthia China Blast, and our position on prison abolition and transformative justice.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is seeking a stay on court-ordered gender affirmation surgery for Michelle-Lael Norsworthy. She cites the Kosilek case in seeking to deny her what trans people know is medically necessary treatment. “Here, medical and mental-health professionals obviously disagree on Norsworthy’s present course of treatment,” it states in the attorney general’s brief. “Indeed, other courts have found treatment similar to that provided to Norsworthy to be constitutionally adequate. While practitioners agree that non-surgical options such as hormone therapy and counseling are appropriate, they strongly disagree whether sex-reassignment surgery should be performed now, if at all, to alleviate her mental distress.”

Is Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s case against cruel and unusual punishment less valid because it’s transgender specific surgery she’s requesting? Do we look at trans specific health care treatments as not being on par with other medically necessary treatments?

That is the point. We all know – we all know – trans people are still treated as lesser human beings, even by those who would drink cocktails at a party at a LGBT organization’s fundraiser with us and tell us we’re somebody’s who deserve full equality. Well, the real, unspoken message is almost full equality.

How the lowliest of a class of people is treated teaches us what kind of citizens that class of people are; Kamala Harris is teaching us what kind of citizens trans people are in how she’s arguing this case of medical treatment for Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, and it’s not first class.

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Swords, shields and the LGBT community’s children Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:00:01 +0000


Ephesians 6:11-13 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

When socially conservative fundamentalist Christians – evangelicals and Pentecostals, for example – speak of a culture war, many of these folk are thinking in terms of spiritually putting on the full armor of God to battle their spiritual enemies. And, many of these socially conservative Christians believe that LGBT community members are their spiritual enemies.

Verses 14-17 of that same chapter in Ephesians tell us what the pieces of spiritual armor are: “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

In the recent discussions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) in red states across the country, we’ve heard discussions of whether these bills are swords to be used to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, or whether these bills are shields to protect someone from engaging in some behavior that causes them to violate a tenant of their faith.

In a culture war where the sword of the Spirit includes a number of Biblical passages interpreted to condemn “homosexual behavior,” and the shield is the faith that supports those interpretations, it only matters that the spiritual armor is worn for warfare against those perceived to be agents of the devil.

Well, in late March in Denison, Texas, a mother took a five-year old tomboy to Martha’s Miniatures to buy, from the boys department, an Easter suit. A representative of the store allegedly responded with disgust; a representative of the store allegedly stated that the mother was engaging in child abuse by allowing the tomboy to choose to wear a suit on Easter instead of an Easter dress.

If the store would have been in one of a number of the larger Texas cities, this would’ve been considered anti-LGBT discrimination. If an RFRA were in place that looked like the ones initially put forward in Indiana and Arkansas, then even in those large Texas cities their antidiscrimination laws would have been rendered void if faith were claimed as a reason why a business discriminated.

Deuteronomy 22:5 is a quotable reference: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

Given the context of the full armor of God, do we need to want to be in a position where we’re discussing with evangelical and Pentecostal Christians whether any law that allows a store to not sell a boy’s suit to a five-year old tomboy is a sword or a shield?

Well, without an RFRA that impacts dealings between two private parties, Martha’s Miniatures has turned a child into someone they believe is one of the forces of darkness; into one of the forces of wickedness. An RFRA wasn’t needed in Denison, Texas to discriminate against a five-year-old whose gender expression didn’t meet a store clerk’s standard for appropriate gendered behavior.

In fact, in Texas, Florida and Minnesota, where bills are in the legislative pipelines that are set to restrict transgender students’ use of school restrooms to the gender assigned at birth, our LGBT community’s trans children are functionally perceived as child soldiers serving the schemes of the devil.

And, of course, when these socially conservative Christians argue against marriage equality, it’s not just the couples themselves that these spiritual swords and shields are wielded against, but the children of our LGBT community’s same gender marriages.

This culture war of spiritually armored soldiers is not just an adult’s war, it’s a children’s war – make no mistake about it.

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Indiana RFRA and discrimination Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:41:50 +0000


This week, the nation – the western world – has reacted with disbelief and distain over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law.

The argument has been that this law mirrors RFRA laws of many other states across the U.S., as well as the RFRA that the U.S passed in 1993. President Obama voted for Illinois’ RFRA, President Clinton voted for the federal RFRA – so why is Indiana’s RFRA any different?

Section 9 of Indiana’s law that will take effect July 1 is what separates this bill from other bills. The federal law and all of the other state laws require the government to be a party burdening of religion; Indiana’s Section 9 allows private businesses and corporations to claim their “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened,” and can use the law as a legal sword between private parties – individuals and corporations – whether or not the government has an interest. This RFRA is more broadly written than any other RFRA in the nation.

The legislators and governor of Indiana were caught off guard by the massive backlash by corporations and government agencies. Angie’s List cancelled a $40 million expansion, conventions have been cancelled, the NCAA is reconsidering its presence in the state, states and municipalities are banning official travel to the state and many more businesses and government agencies are considering actions that could have significant economic impact.

What caught the attention of the supermajority of Republicans and the governor in Indiana was the real economic cost to the state, not whether an expansive RFRA was morally right.

It doesn’t help that Gov. Pence is claiming that the intent of the law isn’t to discriminate against LGBT community members when GLAAD posted a picture of antigay activists standing behind Gov. Pence as he signed the bill into law. And, these anti-gay activists have been telling their followers that this RFRA would allow florists, backers and wedding photographers to discriminate against gays and lesbians. And, the Daily KOS went further and identified even more activists who were making similar claims.

“Freedom Indiana has identified the right way out of the mess that Gov. Pence has created,” Tobias Barrington Wolff, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Professor of Law has stated. “If the governor is being truthful when he says that he opposes all forms of discrimination, then this proposal is the answer: extend the same protection against unfair treatment to all Hoosiers, and make clear that religion should never be used as a license to discriminate. If Gov. Pence refuses, then the business community will have its answer.”

The Indianapolis Star posted an editorial on the front page of their March 31issue echoing that thought. And, they proposed a solution. “Indianapolis, for example, has had those legal protections in place for nearly a decade,” they editorialized. “Indy’s law applies to businesses with more than six employees, and exempts religious organizations and nonprofit groups. The city’s human rights ordinance provides strong legal protection – and peace of mind – for LGBT citizens; yet, it has not placed an undue burden on businesses.”

So, here’s the rub. What do the Indianapolis Senate Democrats propose? According to BuzzFeed, “Democrats are also pushing a companion [to repealing the RFRA] measure that would expand the state’s civil rights law to include gay, lesbian and bisexual people as a protected class. Sen. Lanane said the measure does not cover gender identity.”

Good one Indiana Democrats, you’ve joined the Republicans in leaving some Indianans behind.

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Planet Fitness as the new Florence High School Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:36:40 +0000

Carly Sklodowska

On a morning this week I awoke to yet another story regarding the Planet Fitness “”no judgment” policy. The new story is about a lawsuit.

Yvette Cormier of Midland County, Michigan is the woman who complained first to her local Planet Fitness’ management that a transgender woman she considered to be a man was using the gym’s locker room. When told that according to the Planet Fitness “no judgment” policy, transgender women were allowed to use the women’s restrooms, Cormier then went back the next four days in a row and told women in the that Planet Fitness’ locker room that Planet Fitness’ policy allowed men to use the women’s locker room — she was attempting to disrupt the business. Well, Cormier had her membership revoked over the incident.

Of course Cormier is suing. And, there’s a couple of things to note about the lawsuit that many aren’t likely to pick up on should you, the reader, see the story covered elsewhere.

The first is that winning or losing this lawsuit is irrelevant. The lawsuit states Cormier “respectfully requests that this Honorable Court award compensatory damages that will fully and fairly compensate her for her injuries, losses, and damages, in excess of $25,000.00, plus costs, interest, attorney fees, and grant such other and further relief as is appropriate.”

But, the press release tells a different story. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan’s civil rights act; the law that provides antidiscrimination protections to identified, protected classes. Cormier is now part of the strategy to scuttle any plans to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that law.

“Mrs. Cormier has filed this lawsuit to protect Michigan women and children and to hold Planet Fitness accountable for its irresponsible policy and actions. This case further illustrates the potential harm caused by adding the proposed new categories of sexual orientation/gender identity to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” the press release by Cormier’s attorneys, the Kallman Legal Group, states.

Call point one a strategy: keep this a story that keeps popping up across the nation in mainstream and socially conservative news outlets. Call point two a tactic in support of the strategy: the lawsuit proffers the position that trans women in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms are inherently harassing and dangerous. “Defendants’ gave Mrs. Cormier an ultimatum, either she submit to their [‘no judgment’] policy (which is an invasion of privacy, enables sexual harassment and possible criminal activity, and endangers women and children),” the Cormier lawsuit states in point 30 of the brief, “or they would terminate her membership [at Planet Fitness].”

Further into the brief, the transgender woman at the center of the case (Carly Sklodowska) is defined as a man. And per the brief, if Carly Sklodowska is a man, her presence in the women’s locker room constitutes sexual harassment because men are inherently sexual around women in sex-segregated spaces.

“Defendants violated the Act and deprived Yvette M. Cormier of her civil rights by,” states the lawsuit, “Subjecting Yvette M. Cormier, because of her sex, to conduct and communication of a sexual nature, which had the purpose and/or effect of denying her the full benefit of the public accommodation facility at Defendant’s business and denied her full and equal access to the use and privileges of a public accommodation.”

This is the exact same strategy and tactic that the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) used regarding California’s School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266). They wanted to derail the bill, so they manufactured a story about a 16-year old trans girl at Colorado’s Florence High School allegedly sexually harassing her peer female students in the school’s girls restrooms. When it turned out that what PJI initially stated occurred in the school restrooms didn’t actually occur, PJI changed the narrative to one where the mere presence of a trans girl in girls’ restrooms and locker rooms was sexually harassment in and of itself.

In this model, trans women are inherently sexual monsters: exhibitionists, voyeurs, and sexual predators.

Over at the Dallas Voice, former DJ and current trans woman Leslie McMurray suggests respectability politics is the answer. “If we expect to be welcomed into female spaces,” she wrote, “we need to do everything in our ability to blend in and be just another woman there. Behave and dress appropriately.”

No. Ours is a struggle for ordinary equality and justice; we’ll never achieve these if our community goal becomes “blend in and don’t make waves.” They — the socially conservative religious right — already know we’re here, and they see us trans people as monsters. Blending in enough to achieve civil rights at this point is just a pipe dream. Actively being oppressed with new bills proposed for law by state legislators: that’s the reality trans people must prepare themselves for.

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Visibly trans in San Diego Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:10:42 +0000

Fabian Romero

“Every gay person must come out,” Harvey Milk said in his What America Is speech in June 1978. “As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.” In many ways it’s as true for trans people today as it is was for gay people in 1978.

But, at some point, being out in America isn’t just about creating change with intention, but being true to oneself that’s freeing.

“I’m a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention educator,” Liat Wexler told me at his office in El Cajon at the Center for Community Solutions (CCS). With a genderqueer identity, them’s pronouns are they/them/theirs.

“I’m completely out to everybody at work, and I train everybody at work – trans identity, genderqueer identity, non-binary folks. Most of the people at work from the get go were using my pronouns correctly.”

Genderqueer, gender nonbinary identities are visible here in San Diego. “I can’t really avoid not getting looks, for sure.” Fabian Romero told me at the beach near Hotel Del Coronado.” They were visiting from Olympia, Washington.

“I’m visible because I feel I have no other choice. I couldn’t survive in trying to fit or conform to cis standards. It would hurt my soul more than it hurts to get the looks that I get.”

Connor Maddocks

But that isn’t a bad thing. “I’m happiest when I can be myself.

“I’m an admissions counselor,” Fabian added, “so I walk into high schools like this. It’s pretty amazing to see trans high school students come and talk to me about going to college when they wouldn’t talk to anybody else, you know?”

Claire Russell (she/her/hers) volunteers at the Hillcrest Youth Center every Friday night. I visited her at her El Cajon home where she was baking; the rich aroma of artisan bread wafted about as we spoke.

“When interacting with them,” she said, “they’re all queer and trans too, so it’s not a big deal.”

“It feels real natural,” she continued. “You’re trans in an environment where pretty much everyone else is trans, of all these different age ranges. You’ve got to imagine this is more impactful for the youth because they don’t get to go to (*laugh*) bars or whatever all the time or make friends like you do and make friends all the time; they’re pretty much confined to their schools. This is their opportunity, once or twice a week, to actually have connection to the outside world.”

And that’s what sometimes trans people provide to others.

AT Furuya

Education is also about colleges, universities and technical schools. Andrea Livingston goes to New School of Architecture and Design in downtown San Diego.

“I just dress as myself and walk around being me and I don’t actually know if they know [at school that] I’m trans,” Andrea said. “I just live my life the way I live my life, and if someone comes up and asks me I tell them, ‘Yeah, I am.’ I’m proud to be trans. I’m not shy about it anymore. It took a while, but particularly on that; to finally be free!”

If you want to go down to The LGBT Center and meet Connor Maddocks, he’s down there working on the Trans Day of Empowerment that’s coming up April 10.

Connor is so out sometimes he forgets one actually has to say so.

“I make the assumption that everybody in this [LGBT] community knows that I’m transgender because I don’t hide it at all. And, about seven months ago, you know, I’ve been in San Diego 12 years, and I’ve been at The Center for nine, and somebody that I have known for probably eight years came up to me and said, ‘Oh my God I didn’t know you were transgender.’ And I’m like, ‘How could you not know that? I mean, everybody like knows that?’ And, I thought we were fairly close as friends and worked together a lot, and they had no clue whatsoever. And that just cracked me up because I just make that assumption that everybody knows. But for F to M’s, you can’t always tell.”

I’ll drop off one of my Trans and Proud buttons for him later this week, I think.

Will Oliver Williams

I went to talk to AT Furuya about them’s life, and we ended up talking about 45 minutes about them’s family home that they is moved back into. They’s cleaning it up and repainting; being out this past weekend was spending a bunch of time with a bunch of trans and queer youth that came over and helped clean and paint them’s family home.

Will Oliver Williams had time for me to snap his picture at his office in the County building downtown, but he was busy working. But, his peer staffers knew I was from LGBT Weekly, and knew why I was photographing him – he was being visible.

The trans community in San Diego is vibrant and pretty visible, and being out here in our hometown can be a joyful experience.

But Connor in the end thought of trans visibility in terms of Harvey Milk’s thoughts.

“I’ve been visible since almost the day I transitioned. I think it’s important to let people know we exist, that we’re their neighbors and coworkers and their friends and their acquaintances,” Connor said. “I think that most people don’t know that they do know a trans person because people think we aren’t out enough. And in order for us to have less discrimination and less hatred, people need to know who we are.”

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Trans civil rights are the current central struggle for human rights Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:40:59 +0000

Planet Fitness

“‘Homosexuality’ remains an identity that is subject to a ‘we/they’ distinction. People who would not say ‘I am like this, but black people are like that,’ or ‘we are like this, but women are like that.’ or ‘we are like this, but Jews are like that,’ find it simple to say, ‘homosexuals are like that, but we are like this.’ That’s what makes our struggle the central struggle for human rights.”

Bayard Rustin, the black and gay civil rights icon, wrote that in his 1986 essay From Montgomery to Stonewall. Substitute “transgender” for “homosexual” in that paragraph, and that’s where we are in 2015. People will believe and say trans people will do the most horrible things in women’s restrooms and locker rooms because most people don’t know any trans people – the “we/they” distinction is definitely manifesting itself in public discourse.

I read Christian social conservative leaders, such as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, commenting that we need state and federal religious freedom protection bills for business owners who want to have the freedom not to choose to serve LGBT community members – such as the freedom to not make cakes or create flower arrangements for same-sex weddings.

In Florida, the House Civil Justice Committee though has passed a bill that the article Horrific Florida Bill Would Imprison Trans People for Using Public Bathrooms at Slate describes this way: “According to the bill’s text, any trans person who enters a ‘single-sex public facility’ that doesn’t match their ‘biological sex’ is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. A single-sex public facility includes bathrooms “maintained by an owner of public accommodations, a school, or a place of employment” – basically, any public bathroom in the entire state. Any trans person who violates the act could be sentenced to one year in prison.”

Apparently, social conservatives, especially Christian social conservatives, talk about freedom only in the context of the freedom for people who agree with them. At least in Florida, it appears they want socially conservative Christian business owners to be able to deny services to LGBT community members while at the same time mandating business owners discriminate against trans people using public restrooms.

In the past week, Planet Fitness’ “No Judgment” policy has made it into the news. A trans woman used the women’s locker room, and a cis woman complained to management. When the cis woman was informed that the “No Judgment” policy meant that trans women could use the locker rooms that aligned with their sincerely held gender identities, she went back four days in a row to spread talk to women in her local Planet Fitness’ gym in an attempt to get others to complain about the policy. The gym then revoked the cis woman’s gym membership and she went to the press.

“Here’s what I think,” said Keith Ablow on Fox News talking about the incident. “I think it’s not good enough. The policy is said to be accepting of everyone, but it isn’t. Because the truth is people have feelings about this. They’re not settled on the fact that when somebody says – declares – ‘I am of this gender,’ but they are anatomically and genetically of another gender, people who see that individual have strong feelings like ‘Look, I’m being viewed, potentially, while unclothed by someone who looks to me to be of the opposite gender.’ They need to account for that too and not judge the folk who feel exposed.”

“You’re kicking out members because they feel uncomfortable that someone who seems to be a man to them and is genetically is looking at them naked when they’re unclothed as women? That’s craziness,” Ablow added. “…We are being bullied into accepting things that are untrue to our core feelings.”

The implications, of course, are that trans women as a community are voyeurs or predators. Perhaps more significantly, trans women like me are implicitly described as inhuman monsters incapable of feelings of our own. This is the public discourse: people are finding it simple to say “transgender people are like that, but we are like this.”

Trans people now are at the center of the “we/they” distinction in America, and that’s what makes trans people’s struggle the current central struggle for human rights in this country.

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Liking people like me (instead of liking me) Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:46:30 +0000

I remember in early 2004 going to the SRO bar on Fifth and Elm, one of the maybe half-a-dozen times in my life. I remember hearing the line from a cis man (a non-trans man) in male attire saying to me, “I like people like you.” I remember thinking it was the oddest line I’d ever heard in my entire life – he didn’t like me, he just liked people like me. I wasn’t interested, so I said nothing in return to him.

When I woke the next day it dawned on me what I found unsettling about this patron’s comment to me. That patron in a sense saw trans women as flesh-and-blood versions of blow-up, female-faced fetish dolls with penises instead of vaginas; the patron didn’t see me as fully human, but instead as a sex object.

I’d gone to the SRO with my then friend Poly (she moved out of state quite a few years ago) that night, so discussed the line and the guy with her, and told her how weird and dehumanizing it felt. Poly then took the occasion to explain “admirers,” also called “chasers,” to me.

There were, are, men who like to have sex with trans women who haven’t had genital surgery. Just as it’s shown in pornographic films with tag lines of “chicks with dicks” and “shemales,” there are men who like to be penetrated by trans women. The phalluses of trans women, according to a theory of Poly’s, functioned as symbols of power, and these men who “liked people like me” were often turned on by being humiliated sexually by a woman with male genitalia.

Poly also told me about trans dominatrices, and explained that this was that power dynamic “on steroids.”

Poly also told me some of these men who “liked people like me” wanted gay sex, but were uncomfortable having sex with men; she said I should think of sex with those kinds of men as a sort of “gay light.”

She also explained to me that quite a number of the trans women at the SRO were sex workers, and some of those men who “liked people like me” frequently hooked up with them. Sometimes those men “got lucky” with wide-eyed newbies like me and didn’t have to pay.

I’m white and from a middle class, fundamentalist Christian family; in 2004 I had a job at the VA and was going to school for a degree in Information Systems. And, even though I also had a 20-year Navy career under the belt where I thought I’d seen and heard just about everything, I found I was completely naïve to just about everything Poly had explained to me. I was definitely surprised at just how objectified and dehumanized I could be just by being a trans woman going to an LGBT community bar on a trans night.

Why am I thinking about all of that? Gay San Diego recently ran a story by Jeremy Ogul entitled One of the girls. “A six-foot-tall drag queen in a sequined cocktail dress and five-inch stiletto heels flicks a smartphone screen on a quiet Bankers Hill street corner,” is how Ogul opened his review of the SRO for his column Raising The Bar. “To the oblivious passerby, she sticks out like an untucked testicle. But to the crowd gathered inside the nearby SRO Lounge, she’s just one of the girls.”

There’s just so much wrong with that first paragraph it’s difficult to know where to begin; or really, maybe it’s not that difficult. He began his piece by looking at trans women through the lens of sexuality; he began by limiting trans experience within terms of clothing and genitalia; he defined crossdressing men and 24/7 trans women as female children.

Hey, on one hand I get it. One goes to a bar and sees drinking crossdressers, drag queens and 24/7 trans women “dressed to the nines,” and it’s difficult not to just see that world through the rose-colored glasses of happy partying. It’s seeing all that fun, colorful gender expression without seeing that some are exploring their gender identity in a place focused perhaps too much on gender expression and sexuality – and that focus on gender expression and sexuality can be degrading.

Oh, the dehumanity.

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The federal government, sex segregated facilities and trans people Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:12:11 +0000

Ashton Carter

When the issue of trans people is brought up, always just under the surface of discussion is public accommodations in sex segregated facilities such as public locker rooms and restrooms. Without directly discussing it, the majority of us think about bathrooms when discussing anything related to trans people. One recent issue where the public discussion of trans people and public accommodations isn’t directly discussed much is with open trans military service.

During a Q and A with troops in Afghanistan Feb. 22, the new Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was asked by LCDR Jesse Ehrenfeld, “What are your thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this here in Kandahar?”

Sec. Carter in his response said, “I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them [from serving].”

The Military Times reported in their article New SecDef signals support for transgender service, “Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said there is ‘no specific review of the department’s transgender policy ongoing’ but acknowledged that military health officials began in early February an official reassessment of the current medical accessions policy.

“That policy prohibits military service by people who have a ‘current or history of psychosexual conditions,’’ the article continued, “‘including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism and other paraphilias.’”

The current periodic review of the medical accessions policy that Christensen referred to will, according to Christensen, take about 12 to 18 months to complete. According to the Military Times, Christensen emphasized that the review “is not a specific review of the department’s transgender policy.”

Mainstream media isn’t discussing sex segregated facilities yet when discussing trans military service, but it’s there. I see service members discussing the issue of open trans military service on the Military Times’ Web sites, as well as on the online military and veteran discussion forum RallyPoint, almost without exception the comment threads turn to accommodation in the military’s sex segregated facilities.

We can make a reasoned guess what accommodation for trans military personnel would look like by looking at how other federal agencies address trans people’s access to sex segregated facilities.

A Feb. 20 memorandum from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) entitled Appropriate Placement for Transgender Persons in Single-Sex Emergency 14 Shelters and Other Facilities states, “Best practices suggest that where the provider is uncertain of the client’s sex or gender identity, the provider simply informs the client or potential client that the agency provides shelter based on the gender with which the individual identifies. There generally is no legitimate reason in this context for the provider to request documentation of a person’s sex in order to determine appropriate placement, nor should the provider have any basis to deny access to a single-sex emergency shelter or facility solely because the provider possesses identity documents indicating a sex different than the gender with which the client or potential client identifies. The provider may not ask questions or otherwise seek information or documentation concerning the person’s anatomy or medical history. Nor may the provider consider the client or potential client ineligible for an emergency shelter or other facility because his or her appearance or behavior does not conform to gender stereotype.”

The Department of Labor (DOL) states in DOL Policies on Gender Identity: Rights and Responsibilities “[Office of Personnel Management (OPM)] has interpreted OSHA’s guidelines to support the policy that, for a federal employee who has begun living and working full-time in the gender consistent with the employee’s gender identity, federal agencies should allow that person to use the restrooms and locker room facilities (if provided to other employees) that are consistent with his or her gender identity. Transitioning employees should not be required to undergo, or provide proof of, any particular medical procedure to use facilities designated for use by a particular gender.”

The Trans Progressive column Title IX and schools’ sex segregated facilities spells how the Department of Education (DOE), in its settlements with California school districts, believes trans girls should be treated like girls and trans boys should be treated like boys, and that includes in sex segregated facilities.

When open service for trans people occurs, the military services will likely follow the lead of other federal government agencies regarding sex segregated facilities: likely trans women will be treated as women and trans men will be treated as men.

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A restroom pictogram that sends the wrong message Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:36:48 +0000

The Center sign

If one needs to go to the Restroom at San Diego’s LGBT Center or at the San Diego Airport, one may find oneself presented with an all gender identities public restroom sign.

The LGBT Center’s public restroom sign has the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) international symbol for males, the ADA international symbol for females and a third gender symbol with the left side male and the right side female. Beneath that row of three symbols is raised text and Braille which says “GENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOM.” The restroom facilities there are multi-stall.

The San Diego Airport public restroom signs have the same three symbols used for The LGBT Center’s public restroom signs, plus a third symbol for an infant. Beneath that row of four symbols is raised text and Braille which says “ALL GENDER RESTROOM.” Then in additional text below the braille letters, the sign states “Anyone can use this restroom regardless of gender identity or expression.” The restroom facilities that have these signs are all single stall.

My publisher, Stampp Corbin, in his message this week applauds this development at the airport but questions the meaning of the third adult pictogram. And rightly so.

Many transgender people prefer gender neutral public restrooms. For many early in transition, or with genderqueer or gender nonconforming appearance, it’s because choosing a designated male or female bathroom is often a choice between getting yelled at or getting beat up. In the past, the Transgender Law Center had a publication on their Web site entitled Peeing in Peace. That publication advocated gender neutral/all gender/unisex restrooms for trans people.

Restrooms need signs, and the ADA has minimum requirements for public restroom signs. These requirements are:

• Gender pictogram(s) to show gender use of the bathroom.

• The International Symbol for Accessibility (ISI) pictogram to show whether there are or aren’t facilities for people in wheelchairs.

• Tactile letters showing who the room is for. That can include WOMEN, MEN, or UNISEX, or can just state BATHROOM or RESTROOM.

Airport sign

• A 70 percent (“high”) color contrast between the color of the sign and the text.

• Grade 2 Braille translation of the word or words on the sign.

These signs are placed on the side of public restroom doors so that the blind can read the gender use of the bathrooms without the door opening up on them as they are reading who the bathroom is for.

California has separate requirements for public restroom doors, so a second California compliant restroom sign is required to be placed on the public restroom door itself, and has tactile symbols. The California requirements for those symbols are:

• Men’s restrooms are identified by a 1/4 inch thick equilateral triangle with 12 inch long edges and the vertex pointing up. The color of the symbol must contrast with that of the door.

• Women’s restrooms are identified by a 1/4 inch thick circle with a 12 inch diameter. The color of the symbol must contrast with that of the door.

• Unisex restrooms are identified by the 12 inch circle with the designated 12 inch triangle superimposed on it. The color of the triangle must contrast with that of the circle which must contrast with the color of the door.

For California signs, there is no requirement for pictograms or text, although there can be.

So for the ADA required signs for the sides of public restroom doors, one can see why a business or nonprofit which wishes to advertise their inclusivity would want to come up with a separate transgender pictogram. I’d argue against going that route.

ADASignDepot sign

Trans community member discomfort often comes with that third gender pictogram of a half-man/half-woman. I’ve talked to a number of trans people over the years who look at that half-man/half-woman pictogram and see it at best as third gendering or at worst saying “she-male” – she-m*** pretty much being the worst pejorative that one can call a trans person.

Perhaps the best way to show inclusivity isn’t to include the half-man/half-woman pictogram on the ADA compliant sign. Trans positive language of “ALL GENDER RESTROOM” or “GENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOM” with just the standard male, female and disability pictograms would certainly be welcomed without the half-man/half-woman pictogram.

Perhaps the best way to show inclusivity could better be accomplished within the California required tactile sign on the public restroom door. For example, the online store has a sign with the California unisex sign in blue and white with a blue transgender symbol in the center of a white triangle.

All the messaging of inclusivity with a symbol without the third-gendering of an awkward pictogram. It’s a thought.

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Who’s in charge of SDSU training on trans student policies? Thu, 12 Feb 2015 17:04:30 +0000

Aztec Recreation Center

In recent weeks I’ve submitted several California Freedom of Information Act requests of various entities at San Diego State University (SDSU), and many have been related to training that SDSU entities do regarding transgender students. What I’ve discovered is that apparently no one has been training staff of SDSU’s Associated Students, to include the staff of the Aztec Recreation Center (ARC).

To begin with, the California Freedom of Information Act is actually called the California Open Records Act (CORA), and it’s found in California Government Code § 6250 et seq. (et seq. meaning “and the following”). The act was modified for the Universities of California (UCs), the California State Universities (SUs), and California Junior Colleges (JCs) in 2011 by the Fredrick McKee Act in 2011. For a reasonable fee that can be waived, one can obtain government, university and college system records that aren’t protected by a limited number of exceptions.

Among the requests I asked for were training records and materials from the SDSU Police Department, the Title IX compliance office for SDSU and the Associated Students (AS) and their adjunct ARC. After the alleged incident involving A.T. Furuya, I wanted to determine if the training that police officers and staffers at SDSU are taught are in alignment with Title IX standards that the Department of Education sets regarding transgender students.

The language I used in my CORA request for the SDSU Police training reports stated, “I am requesting obtain copies of training dates and lesson plans for SDSU Police Department training relating to transgender policy during the past two years.” Police Capt. Josh Mays, Custodian of Records, responded by stating in a letter “Our officers receive cultural sensitivity training on a variety of topics, including gender awareness training. In fact, our patrol officers just completed their annual gender awareness training on 01/22/2015.”

Feb. 10, I filed a second request for the information. It appears to me that the response by Capt. Mays neither provided the information requested in accordance with CORA or denied the request based on the limited exceptions. In my opinion, it appears the response signed by Capt. Mays was essentially non-responsive to the initial CORA request.

With AS and SDSU, besides training information, I asked for their transgender related policies. In an email from the SDSU Administration Associate Vice President Jessica Rentto she stated, “I just wanted to clarify that the transgender policy contained in the ARC’s entrance policies is not a university policy.” However, the response from Associated Students signed by Raven Tyson, the AS McKee Transparency Act coordinator, stated that I needed to “submit a Public Records Act request to SDSU’s [Public Records Act] coordinator Nance Lakdawala.”

Apparently AS and their adjunct ARC believes SDSU’s transgender policy applies to them, but SDSU Administration believes they have a separate policy and theirs doesn’t apply.

So, where does that leave training for ARC staff?

It’s too early to draw a definitive conclusion as to whether ARC staff were trained on transgender use of the ARC facilities prior to the alleged Jan. 14 incident involving Furuya – AS has stated in an official letter that they are still searching for the requested records – but my guess at this point is that if SDSU Administration and AS aren’t on the same page as to whether SDSU transgender student policies apply to AS and their adjunct ARC, training for ARC staff is unlikely to have occurred. But, if training did occur, then it’s unlikely to have adequately addressed ARC’s requirements under Title IX that addressed transgender use of gender appropriate locker rooms. It’s already known that ARC didn’t modify their men’s locker room in accordance with the DOE settlement models for the Azusa and Downey School Districts regarding sex segregated facilities.

This week, the South Dakota House State Affairs Committee voted 10 to 2 to advance HB 1195. That bill would void “[t]he transgender policy adopted by the board of directors of the South Dakota High School Activities Association at its meeting on June 11, 2014” by limiting “participation in athletics sanctioned by the association” to the sole determinant of a student’s sex as the “sexual identity noted on the student’s certificate of birth.” That’s apparently not a Title IX compliant potential law.

What happened regarding the DOE, Title IX and the Azusa and Downey School Districts matters beyond California; what happens here in San Diego regarding Title IX and SDSU is going to matter beyond California too.

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An ask for gender neutral restrooms in San Diego Thu, 05 Feb 2015 16:02:02 +0000

Giselle Sarai De la Rosa and Blue Montana | PHOTO: AUTUMN SANDEEN

If you use a single stall public restroom in Washington, D.C. it’s going to be gender neutral. It’s a city ordinance that mandates all of its restaurants, businesses and other public places with single occupancy restrooms to designate these as gender neutral.

In June of last year, the City of West Hollywood passed a similar ordinance into law that also requires all of its restaurants, businesses and other public places with single occupancy restrooms to designate these as gender neutral restrooms.

Some in San Diego’s trans community are asking if the same thing couldn’t be done in San Diego.

There are a number of reasons one can cite for having all single stall restrooms designated as gender neutral. One is to be child friendly. If a father takes his young daughter or a mother takes her young son into a single stall restroom to help them do their business, having a gender neutral family restroom makes a lot of sense.

Another reason is for physically disabled people who need assistance in restrooms and receive help from someone of an opposite gender. It’s a more disability friendly way to label a restroom.

Yet another reason is because women take longer in public restrooms than men. Having two gender neutral restrooms in a business means rotation through restrooms can be quicker during times of peak usage.

And too, there’s an LGBT reason. Trans and other gender nonconforming people often find it difficult to use gendered restrooms. If one’s appearance is considered too masculine for the women’s room or too feminine for the men’s room – or both at the same time – then having a gender neutral restroom provides a restroom where one’s gender isn’t policed.

Trans people have begun asking for the same thing here in San Diego: gender neutral restrooms. Blue Montana spoke at the Feb. 3 San Diego City Council meeting. “Just last week,” he stated to the Council, “a trans woman was told she couldn’t use a woman’s restroom because she was ‘a man.’”

That woman was Giselle Sarai De la Rosa. “A little while ago I was discriminated in a public restroom in Balboa Park,” De la Rosa told the City Council, speaking in Spanish, “and the point of this is that these people don’t understand how dangerous it is for me to enter a restroom that is not corresponding to my [assigned gender at birth].”

“One of the things that moves me to inhabit this world and be a part of it is respect,” she told the City Council through a translator. “And, that is something I learned as a young child from the Bible. Since then I’ve known that I am a part of the universe; I never felt excluded even with the hardships imposed on me to be happy. If people could understand this basic principle of life I wouldn’t have to be here requesting special restrooms just because some people are uncomfortable and feel strange seeing me enter the restroom that corresponds to my gender, the women’s restroom.”

So what’s the outcome for De la Rosa telling her story and making the ask for gender neutral restrooms? According to Montana, the San Diego City Council is “sending it to the Human Relations Commission to get the policy written.”

Well, we’ll see if this year ends with San Diego being the second city in California to require all of its restaurants, businesses and other public places with single occupancy restrooms designated as gender neutral restrooms.

And for a whole bunch of reasons beyond trans people’s public bathroom use, it’s really not a bad idea.

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Title IX and schools’ sex segregated facilities Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:04:56 +0000

Given the alleged Jan. 14 incident at San Diego State University (SDSU), how transgender students are publicly accommodated in public spaces at schools covered by Title IX is a relevant question.

In the spring of last year the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) released new Title IX guidelines for protections against sexual assault. In that document they made it clear that Title IX protections based on sex apply to sex discrimination based on gender identity.

“Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notion of masculinity or femininity and [Office of Civil Rights (OCR)] accepts such complaints for investigation,” DOE stated in April 29, 2014’s Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. “Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations.”

So the question becomes one of understanding what the DOE believes schools’ compliance with Title IX means for transgender students. The best answer to that is likely found within settlements that the DOE entered into in two California school districts. These settlements, although specifically addressing Title IX compliance for transgender students in primary and secondary schools, address how transgender students will be accommodated in sex segregated facilities at all schools covered by Title IX.

In the DOE settlement with the Downey Unified School District (DUSD), a teen, transgender girl was not being treated as a female student. In the settlement agreement, it stated “[DUSD] will continue to treat the Student the same as other female students in all respects in the education programs and activities offered by the District, including access to sex-designated facilities for female students at school, and at all District-sponsored activities, including overnight events, try-outs and participation in extracurricular activities on and off campus, consistent with her gender identity. However, the Student may request access to private facilities based on privacy, safety, or other concerns.”

And, in the DOE settlement with the Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD), a teen, transgender boy was not being treated as a male student. In the settlement agreement, it stated “For the duration of the Student’s enrollment in the District, the District will continue to 1.) provide the Student access to sex-specific facilities designated for male students at school consistent with his gender identity; however, the Student may request access to private facilities based on privacy, safety, or other concerns; 2.) provide the Student access to sex-specific facilities designated for male students at all District-sponsored activities, including overnight events and extracurricular activities on and off campus, consistent with his gender identity; however, the Student may request access to private facilities based on privacy, safety, or other concerns; 3.) treat the Student the same as other male students in all respects in the education programs and activities offered by the District.”

Both settlement agreements addressed how transgender students beyond these two individuals would be addressed into the future. In the DOE-DUSD agreement, it stated “The District will continue to review its policies, procedures, and regulations applicable to or governing student participation in all programs and activities offered by the District, and make any necessary revisions or modifications to ensure that all students, including students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are provided an equal opportunity to participate in all such programs and activities in a manner that does not discriminate based on sex, gender identity or gender expression,” as well as “The District will revise any complaint procedures that apply to sexual and gender-based harassment complaints, and related documents and materials, to reflect Title IX legal and investigatory standards, including the appropriate legal standards, interim measures, investigative steps, and potential remedies.”

The DOE’s take on Title IX and transgender people is, regarding sex segregated facilities, trans girls should be treated as girls; trans women should be treated as women; trans boys should be treated as boys; and trans men should be treated as men.

It doesn’t really matter what one feels about trans people’s access to school sex segregated bathroom and locker room facilities — at schools covered by Title IX, the answer to the question over what sex segregated facilities transgender people use doesn’t include the current shape of one’s genitalia as a determining factor.

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A dream for Claire and her community Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:19:51 +0000

Claire Russell

If you’re active in San Diego’s trans community, you’ve likely heard of Claire Russell. She’s known for being imaginative, being service oriented and for being an organizer. Her work includes volunteering at the LGBT Youth Center, creating an online San Diego Trans Resource Center and she was a key organizer for the first annual Trans*Pride and March.

Claire dreams and those dreams include serving her local trans community here in Southern California.

And, her dreams also include wanting to become a licensed electrologist.

Hair removal is a medically necessary procedure for transition for most trans women. Looking at oneself in the mirror and being able to see yourself as someone whose gender identity on the inside matches the gender expression and presentation on the outside often requires trans women to remove their facial hair. A visible beard line is often the difference between being gendered as male or female, and often is the difference between hearing a stranger refer to one as “sir” or “ma’am.”

As a trans woman, I’ve had to have a lot of hair removed from my face to feel comfortable with the reflection I see looking back at me in the mirror. My own beard was heavy and dark, and nearly impossible to cover with make-up. I remember in my first years of transition looking at my beard and crying.

I’ve had laser treatments and electrolysis to remove my visible beard. Even now, I have a heavy beard of blond and white hair that I’d like, at some point, to more fully remove, but finding an electrologist …

As a trans woman, finding an electrologist with whom one is comfortable is often difficult. An electrologist for a trans woman is someone providing a very personal service to someone with a far from typical sensitive issue – the hair removal going to the very definition of one’s externally perceived gendered self.

Claire knows this. Claire knows that a lot of trans women would be more comfortable with a trans electrologist. Claire also knows that the cost of hair removal can be prohibitive.

With all that in mind, Claire has a plan. Her plan is to become a licensed electrologist, partner with LGBT non-profits, and offer hair removal to trans people who need it at little to no cost. In other words, not just provide hair removal as a commercial venture, but in a way that also gives back to the community she belongs to.

In preliminary discussions with non-profits who’d be best set to partner to provide these services, her idea has been warmly received. It’s also been warmly received by the local community, some of whom have endorsed her vision in a video. Her family is supportive too.

But, Claire has to become a licensed electrologist first.

So, she plans to move to Santa Ana for between six and eight months, go to school and pass the state electrologist exam. Then she plans on moving back to San Diego, acquire equipment necessary for the trade, and start working as an electrologist, after which she’d then set-up contracts with LGBT non-profits.

She’s estimated the cost of attending school, passing the state exam and setting up business to be about $28,000, and has set up an IndyGoGo campaign to raise funds. Her fundraising page is entitled Free Electrolysis BY and FOR Transgender people.

When we talk about the needs of most minority communities, one of the first issues is employment, and most employment requires degrees and/or specialized training. Claire’s desire for a career is like the dreams of many, but Claire’s dream of combining a commercial career with service to her community isn’t as common.

I know I’m donating to Claire’s dream; I hope others do too. To donate to Claire’s fundraiser go here.

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