Monday, December 14, 2009

Reflections On A Historic Campaign

"Tonight is a night for all the activists." — Rick Hurt (aka: Rainbo De Klown)

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In many ways, this election cycle for Annise Parker's latest candidacy has been very familiar. It's also been very different as well.

Just as the last two times Annise has run for her first shot at a new office, I've been long-term unemployed, there's been family strife and stress to deal with on the side, severe depression set in and there was a sore need of finding a diversion to keep me focused and not obsessing on my own hell. It even rained on me again and soaked me to the bone on election night eve. It's certainly coincidental, but not something I'd ever want to plan (especially getting rained on in December).

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Cold dark weather, holidays, the isolation and feeling out of synch with the rest of the world on this whole "seasonal happiness" also add to the malaise. It's not something I'd recommend to anyone, but it does seem oddly comforting in that it produces political wins, strange as that sounds.

And after it got dark and the blockwalking we were doing became impossible, I spent the last hour plus where I was first assigned to work the polls: John Reagan High School in the Heights.

Unlike 1997, I didn't have a dozen friends and relatives die in a six month span during election season this time (too intense). The election also worked much smoother with a larger influx of volunteers and actual paid staff. Election eve was so smooth that I felt guilty leaving to drop off signs at polling places before 10pm! And of course the election, though pulling close near the end, wasn't as stressful as the first one which seemed as if everything was riding on it.

Even my time at Reagan was low impact as they closed off the other three gates and had all voters, and all card pushers, at the one main gate into the school gym. (Back when we had all four gates open, that location required lots of energy to run back and forth across the schoolyard to catch voters trying to avoid the main gate.) It actually removed the challenge of that location. Obviously I burned off zero calories working Reagan this time, but then I'm getting older too....

What little resources we had in the old days and how stressed we were at getting everything organized correctly was now a well-oiled machine moving like clockwork. There were multiple coordinators with various pieces of the tasks instead of one volunteer coordinator and one field general. It was amazing how simple it looked this time. I was a bit envious.

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Financing was a big difference this time as well, which accounted for that easier process. At the post-election celebration, about a dozen folks walked around with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund pins and even Chuck Wolfe, their executive director, was onstage with Annise during her victory acceptance.

However, it also seemed like homecoming week being back at the campaign. So many of the old volunteer stalwarts I used to pester on the telephone to come in and help back in the days were back again, 12 years later. It was great seeing Peggy Smith again, and blockwalking with Annise's best friend, Cicely Wynne, on major thoroughfares in Meyerland during rush hours.

It was great seeing the '97 TV ad guru Cindy Rindy (her official name now that she's married, although she goes by her maiden name Miller to avoid being called Cindy Rindy.) We chatted, laughed and reminisced about raising baby squirrels during the '97 campaign.


At the victory party, even more of the familiar faces from '97 that I hadn't seen for so long: former Parker staffers Kathy Elek and Terence O'Neil, former city council candidate Mary Ann Young, former Women's Caucus member and judicial candidate Mary Kay Green, and one of the other former Team Parker members, Patrick McIlvain. I even got a quick wave with Cong. Sheila Jackson Lee who was holding court with a throng of animated supporters as I was leaving.

Things like this are the blessed diversions that help prop the spirit up during dark times.

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Obviously media was everywhere. This was a history-setting day for lesbians and gays across the nation. Peggy Smith and I even showed up on a live CNN feed (unbeknownst to us) at the victory party. Thank goodness I brought my signs along from the polling place as eye-catching props.

Besides Victory Fund, it seemed a number of folks were in from out of town to catch a ride on the Parker phenomenon. You see the best and sometimes (especially at the victory) the most unctuous aspects of politics in full display. One of the men I blockwalked with (an older gay gentleman) showed up to volunteer right before dark on election night for his first time. He asked me if I'd ever met Annise (and I gave him my history going back 12 years). Then he had the audacity to ask me "does she remember you and did she do anything for you after election?" along with other questions of how one gets an insider track with someone like Annise.

In response I gave him a flip answer: "she gave me one of her cats" (true). Not knowing if he had contributed or not, I held my tongue; but I felt like telling him this isn't a quid pro quo game that johnny-come-latelys can buy into on the cheap. Other than asking for trans inclusion on the city employees' non discrimination, I'd never asked for anything personally ... and I guess you could say I got what I asked for.

It just drove home the reminder that political stardom is like a lit spotlight to moths at night. Opportunists abound.

Catching up with some of my old-time friends at the party, one noted there were a lot more gays and lesbians in attendance at the runoff victory party than attended the general election party. Admittedly, I didn't attend the general party either.

Another noted that during Gene Locke's concession speech, the "diversity" onstage with him looked anything but. It was a pretty homogenous group. But for the fact that they were virtually all African-American instead of virtually all white, it could have been a Republican victory party. Indeed, Annise's had a very nice pastiche of all cross-sections, obviously heavier on gay/lesbian but still a very sizable contingent of straight as well as seemingly every ethnicity.

An old friend from the Houston Gay/Lesbian Political Caucus days, Rick Hurt (aka: Rainbo De Klown) and a couple others commented that he was surprised the party was held in a small room of the George R. Brown, instead of one of the larger rooms. It just made it intimate and more crowded looking. He also kept repeating that "this is a night for the activists."

Maybe it was a night for activists. Annise started off as an activist. Many of the longtime Team Parker folks have been perennial activists. And it also allowed this activist a night of basking in the warmth of victory's afterglow, watching the ebullience on Annise and her family's faces as they stood onstage, seeing the pride and excitement (and maybe even a bit of inspiration) in the faces of every lesbian and gay person in the room that night. It's fun getting to see people finally achieving their dream. It's also a nice little vicarious thrill, even if for a moment.

After the victory speech, Rainbo and I went to the Montrose to check out the victory street party. It wasn't. The street was blocked off, but there was no one out there as it was chilly and damp. They were all in the bars — essentially a typical bar night. Nothing there for me.

Other thoughts that hit me during and after the victory was how many people were congratulating me; not just trans, but gay and lesbian – even Grant Martin – as well. Surely I was quick to return it to Grant, as it is directly his and Annise's leadership to this victory. But to the Trans Community I'll remind how infuriated we've been throughout the years when gay and lesbian groups like HRC, GLAAD, NGLTF, et. al. co-opt or capitalize on our issues and efforts. We should not be doing the same in reverse, regardless of whether they do it. Take the moral high ground.

This is rightly the gay and lesbian community's victory and not a time for Trans people to be in the spotlight taking bows or grandstanding. Our efforts were a part of what helped them achieve their goal.

Which brings up the issue of the next bit of history to work on: Trans people in office. It's easy for us to make a decision to run, but putting this desire to reality by being elected is another thing altogether.

In her speech to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Annise noted that she got elected "with gay money, transgender volunteers and black voters." We should work on attracting the black or straight voters. But with Trans money?!? And then who would we attract as volunteers – intersex? And Trans people still have the image problem (even within some segments of the lesbian and gay community, much less straight) and zero media presence to combat this. Even T employment in politics is rare, so how easy would it be for us to be elected? This is a discussion we in the Trans community need to have: how do we make what is a virtual impossibility a reality?

Nevertheless I'm very pleased for Houston's gay and lesbian community and especially for Annise and Kathy. Of course Annise has her work cut out for her in the years to come. We've got budget constraints, sales tax revenue that's dropping like a rock, home values that are stagnant at best with the foreclosures popping up and a lot of people dealing with major hardships.

As a Club For Growth lobbyist mentioned to me, Houston's attracted all these Fortune 500 corporations because it's a place they can locate, pay their people low wages and yet their employees can still have a good quality of life due to low costs on most everything (except utilities). While that's true, even Houston's companies have been shipping our "low waged" jobs to even lower waged countries across the globe, like all other locales in the country. Unlike these other cities, though, Houston's wage-earners are much more vulnerable inasmuch as the low wage base means there's typically little to nothing saved up in order to weather the hard times. And Texas is renown for ensuring there are virtually no safety nets at all.

None of this bodes well. And Annise's victory speech acknowledged that there's many Houstonians in rather dire economic straits. She'll have her work cut out for her. But as she also mentioned in her speech, she intends to be there for all Houstonians. This writer sure prays it's so. It can't come too quickly!

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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" — Anais Nin

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Historic Houston Elects A History-Making Mayor

"Tonight ... the voters of Houston have opened the door to history." — Mayor-Elect Annise Parker at her acceptance speech on election night.


And so it is done.

History was set on December 12, 2009 with the election of Annise Parker as our next Mayor. Not only is this a red-letter day in lesbian and gay history for Houston or Texas, but indeed this is a truly momentous victory for America's lesbian and gay community.

The gay and lesbian community worked feverishly to get her elected. Campaign Consultant and Manager Grant Martin (who joined Team Parker the year I did in 1997) conceived the gameplan way back then, stuck to it and ensured it was implemented and masterfully executed this year.

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And of course Annise herself did everything she needed to do to deftly show what was once a skeptical Houston that a lesbian (or even a gay man) could indeed be just as skilled as any other political candidate or elected official.

It wasn't some "knee-jerk" decision of "liberal guilt" that got the first out gay or lesbian elected to the top spot in a top-ten American city. This was here in Houston: home to the Bush family, where Dick Cheney ruled the roost at the corporate headquarters here for Halliburton/KBR, the region where Kay Bailey Hutchison grew up and where Tom DeLay hammered his way through Congress and even trained his own acolyte, John Culberson. This was done in a two-fisted, blue collar, refinery-laden monster city renown for having the largest rodeo in the U.S.

Annise Parker was elected by showing Houston that she was just as human as anybody else, just as committed and caring as anybody else and just as competent as anybody else ... and maybe just a little bit more so. She also demonstrated to Houston and to Texas that "gay" or "lesbian" does not have to automatically be threatening or feared. She came across as just a regular everyday professional woman from Houston.

Make no mistake, Annise certainly has the skillset to do the job after six years as City Controller and six on city council. But it also shouldn't be discounted that Annise humanized herself and the image of gays and lesbians throughout the city. Even in red-meat, fire-breathing, rednecked Republican Texas, being "gay" is no longer an automatic death-knell for any job or any career.

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Annise has long made efforts to reach out to all communities in Houston, and she is truly putting out the message that she is everyone's mayor. As she mentioned in her victory speech at Riva's Restaurant back in 1997 when she was first elected to city council: "I wasn't elected to be the city councilmember for gay and lesbian Houstonians. I was elected to be the city councilmember for ALL Houstonians.

It's something she takes very seriously. She's reached out to every ethnic community in this, the third most diverse city in the U.S. She's reached out to unions and to high-powered corporate leaders. She's reached out to Republicans and has also never shirked from the fact that she's openly lesbian and fully supports her GLBT community.

In an interview with Open Left during the run for this year's mayoral campaign, Annise noted: "in that campaign 12 years ago, I was told by members of the GLBT community, "well, if you have open transgender people as campaign volunteers or if you have identifiable openly gay people out pushing cards for you or representing you at public events, you'll never get elected." My response was, "well, then what would be the point?" and I immediately went out and my volunteer coordinator was transgender, my office manager was a flamboyantly gay man."

Even in the latter stages of the campaign, when her runoff opponent Gene Locke recognized he was losing the election and resorted to desperation passes in attempt to win, Annise stuck with Grant's gameplan: avoid the mudslinging, avoid compromising principle and hammer the opposition on the issues.

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Watching Annise onstage with her partner Kathy Hubbard and her adopted children, it was a watershed moment. It seemed both surreal and appropriate that this was happening here in Houston. Kathy was literally beatific. Annise was dignified, but you could see the pride beaming through.

Even though I've met and visited with both of the last two mayors of Houston, it's also nice to finally have a Mayor who instantly knows me on a first-name basis! That's something Trans people don't get very often down here in the Bible belt ....

And before I forget — a heartfelt congratulations to the Lesbian and Gay community here and throughout the U.S. As Annise mentioned in her victory speech (and a sentiment I also agree on): "I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office."

For the Lesbian community, and I'm sure for the Gay community as well, that glass ceiling has now officially been shattered. Savor this historic occasion and enjoy!

"We have a responsibility to live as openly as we can and to bring our full selves to everything we do, and begin to change hearts and minds." — Houston City Controller Annise Parker in an interview for Open Left Blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day Of Remembrance, And Remembering What It's About


"Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,
Packed up and ready to go.
Heard of some gravesites out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows.
The sound of gunfire off in the distance,
I'm getting used to it now." — Life During Wartime, the Talking Heads


Today is officially Transgender Day of Remembrance (DOR) across the globe. For me, it was last week in Chicago for their Day of Remembrance. Chicago does theirs a little early as Kimberly Nicole and Cyndi Richards professional set up and film the event there in the Windy City in order to have it edited and uploaded onto YouTube in order to coincide with Day of Remembrance.

The Chicago event was moving, and the location in New Spirit Church of Oak Park was an excellent stage for it. According to Rev. Bradley Mickelson, the church was apparently once where Theodore Roosevelt worshipped at his congregation — an interesting bit of history.

It was also well-attended DOR as the church nearly filled. A lot of thanks goes out to Cyndi Richards and IGA, the church staff and volunteer Marsha Jackson (an old friend from my late 90's lobby days in DC) for busting ass and ensuring that the entire event and the spaghetti dinner afterward were a success.

My reason for being there was to keynote the event. The one thing that I did was to address the creeping "external opportunism" from super-sized, cash-guzzling organizations on DOR itself, and to remind those attending of the history of how this collective community memorial came into being.

DOR was extremely grassroots in creation, totally spontaneous based upon the suggestions of Gazebo chat list attendees in 1998 in response to Rita Hester's murder, and over the course of the frustrating year following when local authorities never resolved her case. Gwen Smith, the list moderator based in the San Francisco bay area, decided to put the thoughts into action by getting San Fran activists and others together and hold the first official Day of Remembrance. There were also reports of a similar vigil taking place in Boston on the same anniversary night.

There was no big political organization, no entity, no non-profit fundraising, no staff, no one benefitting from it personally. Only volunteers.

The following year, Day of Remembrance went national with about a dozen cities. It was all begun by local group leaders, activists, volunteer national advocates like NTAC members, and just everyday trans folks who'd never been involved in leading things, but felt strongly about our community's consistent bloodbath due to hate murders. Again, no national org's with fundraising ambitions laying claim (even with a few NTAC board coordinating local events).

"Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?" — Life During Wartime, the Talking Heads


We grew DOR on our own, with rudimentary resources out of our own individual pockets, for the most part. We researched and reported on trans murders that came to our attention and spread the word on DOR to other cities on our own time. Just a bunch of ragtag trans folks putting together what we needed to do to get word out and draw attention to the glaring and criminally ignored murder epidemic.

Keep in mind this was in the days before the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) had even bothered adding "gender identity" to their mission statement, and even that would not bring about their support for us in any legislation for years to follow. There was no "help from above." We had only ourselves, our own resourcefulness and determination to push forth our issue in the mainstream media. At some point, no matter how many obstacles, the message would eventually break through.

Later while helping push this around the country for new locations, I suggested to Gwen and took initiative to bring in our first couple locations outside the U.S: Vancouver and in Santiago, Chile. Afterwards was a watershed of international cities and trans communities joining the chorus. DOR was, and still remains, an international crisis in the Trans community, and having this go worldwide was appropriate.

After years of work and finally bringing it to the world stage, it finally started hitting the straight press and the colleges. Once the straight community started joining in and agreeing this was heinous – especially once they were aware of the commonly grisly details symbolic of typical trans "overkill" murders with mass stab wounds, multiple gunshots, body mutilations, decapitations, burnings — DOR suddenly landed on the consciousness of the world and elicited sympathy in what we were experiencing.

With this came need for the press to get commentary for news stories on the annual events.

And with that came the attention of the large GLB and T organizations, heavily bankrolled (anything over five-figure annual budgets in trans standards is massively bankrolled) with staff and big fundraising mechanisms.

Here was an automatically generated day of easy, positive public relations on the cheap. All they had to do was show up and put their face out there, express sympathy for the Trans victims and the situation, then walk away looking all-too-altruistic and heroic. Afterward, use the press as basis for raising more funds for their "sincere concern" about our plight. It's a simple as falling backwards into a swimming pool full of dollar bills.

Better still, they even began offering those of us original organizers suggestions: having the day moved from the date Chanelle Pickett was murdered on Nov. 20 (too cold, too close to Thanksgiving) to a warmer day in late spring; making it more of a soiree-type event replete with refreshments, where there can be awareness seminars in colleges (and great PR to new young recruits!); even requesting of us that it less somber and depressing (too dark) and lightening it up to more of a "celebration of life."

"This ain't no party! This ain't no disco!
This ain't no fooling around!
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,
I ain't got time for that now!" — Life During Wartime, the Talking Heads


That last suggestion stunned a few of us who received it. Celebrating our memorialized hate murder victims? Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd be afraid to ask family of Holocaust victims to "lighten it up" and "celebrate" the lives of their murdered family members. Hell, I'd feel uneasy with asking Judy Shepard to "celebrate" the anniversary of Matthew's murder.

But I guess trans people are supposed to be the exception. We shouldn't have such feelings the way other humans would....

So when we insisted upon keeping our ceremonies solemn, darker and in the Fall (when foliage dies in the northern hemisphere), they simply circumvented and found other more accommodating trans folks in places like Houston, Orlando and Las Vegas [ http://lasvegas.hrc.org/node/331 ]. They tossed a little donation, got to stick their name and logo on the event and maybe even put out a little press blurb on it and – voila! – it's revised to seem they've been there all along with us and we're all just one big happy family!

At least that's the image these new organizing (and enterprising) hopefuls want out there.

But take a look at this symbolic "family": a majority of them robust and healthy, and dragging around these bony waifs by the arm, beseeching the world of this tragic situation and the need to help do something about it! Then when the world's attention is turned away, the bony waifs are thrown back into and locked in the dark closets and starved again. Yep, one big happy ....

"Sitting here in Queens eating refried beans.
We're in the magazines gulpin' thorazines.
We ain't got no friends. Our troubles never end
No Christmas cards to send. Daddy likes men....
We're a happy family: me, mom and daddy." — We're A Happy Family, the Ramones


All these years, with all the work put in by the likes of Gwen Smith, Ethan St. Pierre and other assistants like Monica Helms, Mercedes Allen or I, became a lot of blood, sweat and tears for us and a nice boost to the bottom lines and the staff of the opportunists. It's nauseating how easy it is for trans efforts to be usurped and utilized to benefit others. I never truly appreciated how hated we were until I found out how easily we were exploited.

Meanwhile, we finally got a large GLBT community action on the recent murder, decapitation and dismemberment of Jorge Mercado. As it's reported in the press, it was a most brutal murder of a gay teen in Puerto Rico. Buried in the details and away from most media reports, Mercado was wearing a blue dress and boots. This may well have been a gay teen. This was most probably a trans-panic response with all the overkill implications.

It reminds me of the Martinez case in Cortez, CO (and no, she never chose the name Fredericka! That was a joke name given to her by her classmate friends). That was yet another murder where all indications were it was "a gay teen, some gender issues, maybe trans...." At the vigil in Cortez, her mother Paula brought up an 8 x 10 framed photo of her as a female. I still recall Cathy Renna of Gay, Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) remarking in amazement that Paula had a great photo of her son, and wondered why she wouldn't use the photo of "a handsome young man" on the stage at the vigil.

How would a lowly trans such as I explain to an organizer of a national group like GLAAD that maybe they didn't take time to look at the entire picture, so to speak. In response I muttered to her that "maybe a mom best knows her child." There's no way for me to know if Renna listened or learned, but I learned something that day. We can't take all "gay hate crimes" at face value in the press. The Lawrence King story is another that comes to mind.

Another lesson learned is how easy it is for our hate murder victims to become a wonderful opportunity and potential for future fundraising to those who really don't give a flip about having us around anyway (at least not beyond the political correctness "diversity" requirements). We're street chattel: mere coffin fodder to help boost the big bucks for the ballroom boys and girls.


Cyndi Richards, who coordinated the Chicago DOR, sent an Email to me noting an observation to a preacher from a trans parishioner. The transperson noted that angels, like trans people, weren't of either of the two specific genders. Angel food for thought ....

To the hundred-plus fallen victims to anti-trans bias this year, whether you were angels or whether you were not, we do remember. We will not forget.

"A good friend once told me the way to be an effective speaker: make them laugh, make them cry and make them feel religious." — Rev. Bradley Mickelson of the New Spirit Community Church of Oak Park, IL

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." — Revelation, 21:4, King James version

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hate Crimes: A Long Time Coming And A Long Struggle Ahead

[Note: this is a reprint from a requested project at Pam's House Blend]

"It's been a long time comin'
It's goin' to be a long time gone." — Long Time Gone, Crosby Stills Nash & Young



It’s been a long time coming. The historic passage of hate crimes legislation and signature into law by the President signals the very first federal law covering trans people in America. My emotions, though, are mixed: ebullience, wistfulness, solemnity, sadness

To have this finally pass, and to have it inclusive of trans people, is a major victory. Since 1997, I’ve been consistently taking time, shelling out money and visiting offices all over Washington DC and Austin – and even once in Annapolis this year – in attempt to get even this, the most elemental protection, passed with coverage for us all. With this official passage last week, all the memories of where we’ve all collectively been working to achieve what’s finally reality – seemingly against all odds – come streaming in.

In 1999 I had the opportunity to pull in the most critical component of what would eventually be the key to eventual passage of the James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill in Texas two years later. Taking two of my gay friends on their very first lobbying visit to show them how to parry and effectively argue our case, we landed the support of Rep. Warren Chisum, long-known as an arch-conservative, lightning rod author for the most heinous anti-GLBT legislation. His support brought in other crucial moderate GOP co-sponsors and votes and also provided cover for blue dog Dems as well. Our only responsibility was to change the wording to “sexual preference” and “gender non-conformity.”

It was a victory I was pleased to help along, but a hollow one personally. In 2001, gender non-conformity was refused inclusion in the bill (with a promise made to me that if we didn’t fight this and let this pass, they’d “come back for us” the next session). The bill passed, I held my tongue, but they never “came back” for us. Even this year, while in Austin, I visited with Rep. Chisum again a couple times. He chastised me with reminder that he didn’t want to revisit this bill again. However, he was ready once again to support. I’ll always remember the bravery of those like Rep. Garnet Coleman, author of 2009’s expansion bill in Texas, and the initial co-sponsors like Rep. Rafael Anchia and Rep. Alma Allen, as well as conservative Rep. Chisum and at least one other longtime Republican friend who were ready to bravely support and push this. The bill died in committee after testimony, but these unsung heroes deserve mention.

Memories of victims past stream back. Meeting one of our homeless trans girls in Houston mere months before she was shot and killed in the Montrose sticks in my mind: would this law have helped solve her murder and bring some solace? Seeing the abject, stoic sadness in the faces of the family of Terrianne Summers as I attempted to hold my own emotions in check while eulogizing my activist protégée, knowing her murder is also still unsolved with no justice.

Even in the cases where the murderers were caught, there’s only a little solace for the victims’ families past. Random memories. Watching the silent tears stream down the solemn face of Paula Mitchell at the Cortez, Colorado vigil in 2001 for her murdered child F.C. Listening to the sobs of Sylvia Guerrero over the phone in 2002, recalling her precious Gwen and how callously her body was dumped and buried, not long after Fred Phelps had found out Sylvia’s address and viciously protested in front of her home. Sitting alongside Queen Washington as she recounted for a reporter covering NTAC’s 2004 Lobby Day how her baby, Stephanie Thomas, was riddled with bullets a mere block from her home. Hearing the broken-hearted story from Sakia Gunn’s mother about the shoddy treatment from Newark authorities and community leaders and later seeing it first-hand in 2004 when our march from West Orange into Newark had only six white faces – four NTAC members and two local PFLAG parents – and was briefly refused entry into the city by police even after organizers had received permits. Hugging an activist friend, Ethan St. Pierre, who was shaken and teary-eyed after having making his very first speech in Boston recounting his aunt, trans woman Deborah Forte, being brutally murdered and having to go to the morgue to identify her body. There’s no way to adequately relate experiencing this.

I still recall vividly the long battles and the acrimony over the years of merely having trans people covered by hate crimes. Struggling with conservatives just as we did with the Human Rights Campaign or the Anti-Defamation League for protection. Vehemently arguing with Mara Keisling and Lisa Mottet at the 2003 IFGE convention as they agreed with HRC and ACLU lawyers, and tried to convince me, that “gender” would include “gender identity” due to congressional intent. Less than six month later, finding out first-hand from our own local District Attorney’s office that they didn’t “give a damn about,” nor had the time nor budget to research what congressional intent was as they were following the letter of the law as written in Texas, and nothing beyond.

Even something as indirect as political campaigning paid off. Being an Obama delegate won me few friends in the GLBT community during the primaries. From my lobbying experience though, I knew Hillary Clinton’s fondness for incrementalism and lack of knowledge on trans people just as well as I knew Obama’s full-scope approach to rights. Trans folks, including myself, fought hard during the campaign up to the national convention and all the way up until election day. That night, 1000 miles from home in battleground Dayton, Ohio, I knew we’d finally won our rights to be included when Ohio was called for Obama and later when it became official that President Barack Obama would soon occupy the White House.

We were branded as pariahs, had our characters impugned and reputations ruined for standing firm on trans inclusion. It was worth it. We now have what we set out to achieve: coverage, rights, recognition. Finally, federally, we’re now human.

The Hate Crimes Bill is a watershed symbolic victory for Trans Americans. But beyond the symbolism, we remain vigilant. It’s an important first-step, but not the final goal.

"You've got to speak out against the madness,
You've got to speak your mind, if you dare.
But don't – no don't now try to get yourself elected...." — Long Time Gone, Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tricks, No Treats For Trans As Psychic Vampires Bleed Us Dry


“I ain't gonna work
For no soul sucking jerk.
I'm gonna take it all back
And I ain't saying jack.” — Soul Sucking Jerk, Beck


After a three month self-imposed hiatus, I’m back. A bout of depression and physical fatigue was wiping me out and gave me pause. After my friend Lisa Gilinger noted my recent inability to write about what I was feeling, and realizing my attempt to rid the blues cycle had little beneficial effect, it was obvious my pulling back wasn’t helping me.

So I restart on, of all days, Halloween. And tonight’s subject, something I’d recently learned about, is quite appropriate: Vampires.

Recently I’d watched an episode on the History Channel on the myths, legends and facts on vampirism. Everyone knows about vampires from popular culture. There are lifestyle vampires who are into the role-playing and the gothic fashion and even living it as a permanent style. There are also the most commonly known sanguine vampires – those who actually drink blood (though the attacks and neck-biting tend to be more the stuff of novels and movies.)

There is also a lesser-known category called psychic vampires (psi-vamps for short). Unlike sanguine vampires, they don’t suck blood. Instead, they feed off of others’ life energy – they suck souls. To my surprise, it made was eerily familiar to how I’d been feeling for quite a number of years.

Psychic vampires, when you come into contact with them, don’t stand out in any physical way. Rather, they usually have magnetic personalities but can otherwise appear rather ordinanry. They seek out vibrant, energetic, creative or hyper individuals or crowds of energetic people.

Per Michelle Belanger’s book “Codex: A Manual of Magick and Energy Work,” psychic vampires are unable to generate their own "life force," and must feed off of others, not just as an ability, but as a necessity. Feeding can cause an amphetamine like rush and most psychic vampires report to get greatly invigorated physically and psychologically. If unable to feed on others, symptoms of "energy deprivation" include extreme fatigue, depression, mood swings and immune system suppression.

While there are different types of psi-vamps such as elemental and symbiotic, emotional vampires only feed on certain emotions others elicit.

Usually, the negative psi-vamps will exert a strong mental control on the victim, and do as much as possible to provoke feelings of distress, shame, and sorrow. These types exhibit a seemingly insatiable need for conquest and, as such, an endless appetite for drawing energy from others – in essence, a Type A, uber-competitive version of a psychic vampire.

Sound familiar?

“Set all on ‘rave on,’ let’s see some action.
We’re gonna shine on, get satisfaction.
I am the singer. I take control.
I point the finger. I take your soul….
This is the only way to feel!” — Freedom No. 5, Scorpio Rising


While I’ve never given much belief in vampirism, it’s certainly coincidental that the trans community with all its initial energy and talent typically ends up burning out quickly, leaving us with husks of former leaders. While many gay and lesbian leaders have long, productive careers and lives, typically only the rare trans individual manages to survive similarly.

Historically, only two of the Trans community’s political leaders come to mind in a similar vein. And typically, most of the folks these two meet, work with briefly or for a period of time, end up feeling completely depleted (physically, financially or spiritually) after. Ironically, the older activist of the two is the inspiration and example for the protégée who only popped up in this decade, and who’s now overtaken and even fed upon and conquered her mentor.

It’s a rough world out there: feed or get fed upon.

Curses are something I don’t believe in either, yet the consistent pattern since my own reversal of fortunes beginning on Jan. 1, 2003, and the consistent string of horrific luck often makes me wonder if curses actually do exist, and are possible reason for my own situation. While I’ve personally hung in for over thirteen years, my situation is only agonizing refusal to give up. My tenacity’s come at a huge financial, spiritual, physical and emotional toll, though. Thus, the last-legs level depression. There’s virtually nothing left.

Incidentally it’s occurring on a constant and ever-widening basis throughout the community. Our community’s historical leadership appear to be dropping like flies, and its draining effects over time are pretty consistently noticeable.

Dr. Judith Orloff identifies several profiles of psychic, or in her terminology, “energy vampires”:
The Sob Sister who always considers her/himself the victim. The world is always against them and they’ll recount every horrible thing that has happened, wallowing in every perceived slight and whining all the time.

The Charmer, a constant talker or joke-teller who has to be the center of attention ad-nauseam.

The Blamer who cuts you down with criticism doling out endless servings of guilt.

The Drama Queen who lives in extremes of emotion with life being unbelievably good or horrifically bad and wearing you out while blabbing on and on and on.
Psychic vampires have various ways of sucking your energy. Sometimes it can merely be a casual contact, but they also have the ability to reach their victims long distance through anything from phone calls, to dreams, to even visualization (essentially meditating and seeing themselves drawing the energy from a vibrant individual into themselves and feeling the increase in power and invigoration.)
Effects on the people they drain might include: depression, fatigue, or loss of energy when people are around you, people sometimes avoiding you or withdrawing from you for no apparent reason, or people giving you harsh feedback about your alleged neediness, clingyness, intrusiveness or negativity.

Negative comments are very efficient at draining the life right out of you. ‘You can’t do that; you should do this; are you living in wonderland?” are all very effective at bringing you down. “What’s wrong with you? You are bad” – are (psychic) vampire tools that make you feel weak and small even if you are robust and tall.
Indeed I’m fully familiar with the chorus of steady criticisms beginning in 2000 on, beginning with the constant negative feedback from HRC folks to the latter trans community leader, post-GenderPAC schism. It was well-orchestrated and made for a nice echo chamber effect of cast suspicion and dubious intent on anyone in the ragtag activist element in the Trans Community.

It never abated and instead continues to crescendo even now from most of the very same parties and even some newer psi-vamp entries into the game. Just recently, none other than Mara Keisling passed along a typical comment to Ethan St. Pierre, declaring grassroots activism “dead.” It drew a rather emotionally rancorous response from Ethan, and he’s now paying a price most severe as the retribution is continuing to mutate and virally grow like an old 50’s era horror movie monster.

Yes folks, while Count Dracula may be figment of a novelist’s imagination it appears that at least psychic vampires are for real. And it appears the active members of the Trans community are all part of a mass psi-vamp feeding frenzy.

Google psychic vampires and read up on them, as well as how to keep them from depleting you and pulling you down. Break their cycle of usurpation.


Oh! And eat lots of garlic!

"It was enough to make an old world monster go back into the earth, this stunning irrelevance to the mighty scheme of things, enough to make him lie down and weep.” — The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Speaking Up For Those Mute "Trannies"


"People with virtue must speak out; People who speak are not all virtuous.” — Confucius

This blog I'm going to begin with what I finished with in the previous blog: how would the Gay & Lesbian community would react if Matthew Shepard's murder drew a manslaughter conviction instead of the murder conviction it ended up with?

Would Judy Shepard feel this was justice if Matthew's murderers received a manslaughter conviction?

Let's say theoretically that the jury found that the men that beat Shepard and left him bound to that cross-tie fence on a cold Wyoming plateau never had the desire to kill him, but just to "beat him and teach him a lesson," and they then came out with "Manslaughter One" conviction: how would the gay and lesbian community react to press reports of this being a "victory"?

Moreover, how would they react if it were Trans community, or African-American community members from NAACP that were coordinating this press and speaking the message in the mass media: this manslaughter conviction was justice served? Hey, what if they found Matthew partly culpable, drawing the unwanted reactions essentially by being gay and out in public in a place where gays should remain in the closet? Everybody knows Wyoming's no gay mecca!

How would they feel if we or the NAACP came out with those statements without bothering to ask their sentiments on the ruling?

These are questions I'd like answered honestly from the gay and lesbian leaders of our so-called movement (hereafter referred to as "the Biz".)

Will they answer? No! They know where this subject is going and damn sure don't want to face the dual standard.

Instead, they'll point to "facts in the trial" and offer a tempered response to the outcome. Yet, these same leaders, when given opportunity of speaking out on gay issues, have no problem opening up and letting the discord show.

Take a look at the responses of "injustice" plastered on media about California's vote to ban same-sex marriage, and later the state's courts upholding the vote response. Note their response to President Barack Obama in not being more outspoken on supporting them afterward (even though his campaign promises were always supportive of recognition of domestic partnerships, not marriage). Even the hue and cry over the lack of "out" gay or lesbian Cabinet members that the community could "respect," and the anguish over only 31 mid-level openly gay or lesbian staffers in the Obama Administration.

If you'll notice, the released press and statements were less concerned with the actual facts on the ground, and more about the big picture: furtherance of gay and lesbian values and desires through aggressive media advancement.

Media goes out to the entire public (not just the politicos). Aggressively asking for more than you expect means that when inevitable compromise comes, it settles on a much more desired result much closer to the actual goal. If you don't aggressively set the bar high (pushing the envelope, so to speak), when the eventual result settles in you end up with less.

That's smart press.

To wit: note how much the discussion has advanced (and the acceptance levels risen) in the subject of same-sex marriage. Note also how even while most of them supported his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the primaries, the pressure the gay and lesbian press has put on the Obama Administration has shaken out some beneficial responses (more hirings, the recent reception for the community leaders and their partners in the White House, more attention paid to their leaders and issues).

Smart, aggressive press produces results.

So compare these to the press just release by these same folks on the manslaughter conviction for Lateisha Green. What is the message communicated from this? Weak.

"All my life I wanted to fly
But I don’t have the wings, and I wonder why
I can't break away!" — Breakaway, Big Pig


Of course there's been defense by those involved, and of course brushback from a few of our own. My Husband Betty's En-Gender blog by Helen Boyd wrote a piece entitled "Trans-Centric" :

I don’t agree with is the vitriol directed at the LGB leadership of the organizations that called the ruling on Teisha Green’s murder a victory.
[...]
What bothers me about the politics between the LGB & T is that there are plenty of other gay bashings and hate crimes experienced by the LGB that the trans community pays little attention to, such as Sean Kennedy’s. If you want an example of an absolute failure when it came to our legal system, that’s it. It’s horrific. Every time I see that young man’s beautiful face, and think about his parents’ loss, I wonder where exactly the trans community has been in raising awareness of that horrible injustice. No, he wasn’t gender variant. He was a young adult who was out and proud about being gay. But he’s dead just the same as Teisha Green is, & for the same reason: someone hated him for what he was.

Do we know Michael Scott Goucher? Richard Hernandez? Satendar Singh? Ryan Keith Skipper? Jeremy Waggoner? Daniel Yakovleff? These are the names of gay men who have been murdered for being gay in the last couple of years. I didn’t know most of their names.
Point taken. And indeed many of these hate crimes Helen notes have made nary a blip on the national screen. In fact, in one case on the hate crime for Sakia Gunn in Newark, I was rather astonished with the dearth of public press. It was interesting to note the press never materialized for them, and when the march and rally from West Orange NJ to Newark took place, there were only two groups who sent national level people: an African-American group and a transgender group (myself from NTAC). PFLAG had two local parents join the march. That was it: no GLAAD, no NGLTF, no HRC. Nada in their budgets for that show of support, I imagine.

Odd, that they will devote the money and work so hard to craft the trans message when similar cases of their own beg for attention.

However the most notable distinction in Helen's question on where the Trans community is on these cases: when is it that Trans people or Trans organizations are the spokespeople in gay or lesbian hate crimes – or any directly gay and lesbian issues? They certainly wouldn't trust us with that. It's pretty clear they'd worry about us bungling up their message by not fully speaking from the gay and lesbian community perspective.

So how is it we're expected to be the ones to forgive bungling this press from their leaders and the isolated house trannies they employ?

As Helen added in her blog post on En-Gender:

I agree with her that our standards are low when it comes to justice for the trans people, and their families and friends, who are murdered.
[...]
Our standards are low because we are too used to seeing no justice at all when it comes to people who intentionally hurt and kill trans people for being trans.
Far too many in the Trans community, regardless of whether they're speaking up or not, were upset with the manslaughter charge and it's portrayal as a "victory." Of course, who was going to bother asking us! Additionally, the hate crimes charge – while a first – may well be a complicating factor in a couple senses.

One has to be concerned with how legislators are going to view a pending bill like New York's GENDA with its hate crime coverage and what the response from the less supportive senators will be: "see, you're already covered, no need for more legislation."

As such it's galling that a group like Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the very group that could not be troubled with including trans coverage in their bills when they were coming up – wouldn't discuss it – are now prominently celebrating press over the "justice" of a hate crime conviction knowing full and well what happened years ago. This happens while the state senate is considering the pending bill in the legislature that still has yet to come for vote! Are they really that politically naive? Or are they quite aware of their actions and how this may well dissuade some of the more conservative potential supporters?

If what I fear ends up happening on this conviction and the subsequent legislation, there will be no excuses.

This was not optimal press, certainly not a "victory" the gay and lesbian community would've been suffice with and not how we'd have done it on our own. But as always, we don't have that choice for our input.

As Helen noted in her blog, "Community goes both ways." Indeed it should. Unfortunately, it rarely ever pans out that way.

Well mama told me when I was young,
"Stand tall girl, you're number one."
(She said)
You can't be what you wanna be;
But you can shake the course of your destiny." — Breakaway, Big Pig

Friday, July 17, 2009

Syracuse Sucks If You're Trans And Murdered

"It's just one of those days
When you don't wanna wake up!
Everything is fucked, everybody sucks!" — Break Stuff, Limp Bizkit


How furious am I today? Let me count the ways ....

On second thought, no. Who's listening? Precious few. Yeah, cumulative things get to be a rabid bear when they're piled atop each other and compounded. Starting off the day fighting doesn't help. Nice sticky heat with none of the forecasted "cooling rain" magnifies it. Then losing water (my precious lifeline to cooling off!) for a good portion of the day added a topper to that.

But the news forthcoming wasn't anything pleasing. Quite disquieting actually – some of it, downright infuriating. As they say down here in Texas, it was enough to piss off the dead. First was word that the overwhelmingly democratic U.S. Senate, in its infinite wisdom, decided it would be a good thing to add the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act onto S. 1390: the Dept. of Defense spending bill replete with funding for F-22 fighters which are wasted spending and which Pres. Barack Obama has already vowed to veto if it makes it to his desk!

That's right. Democrats are helping kill off the trans-inclusive Hate Crimes bill in the Senate by sending a veto-ready bill for signature! And that, of course, is if it makes it past a Conference Committee with a joint-session membership (and manages to maintain all the aspects of the current Hate Crimes bill.) If something goes awry and gets cut out and passed in joint session, it goes from there to the President.

Then another headline caught my eye: "Sex-changer's suit claims bias against Parks Department." It was a headline from the New York Daily News (think FOX News in a newspaper format). Now the writer, Jose Martinez, did actually stick to the guidelines, mostly avoiding pronouns, and once referring to "her." But the screaming headline and later referencing that she had not had "a sex-change operation" lets you know where this is going.

The plantiff Chanel Birden wasn't helping her own case either, something her attorney Derek Smith should've monitored and didn't. As a result, the Daily News writer didn't focus much on the slurs and insults she was receiving and filing grievances about before her firing from the mail clerk position at New York's Central Park. Instead, the writer highlighted quotes from her self-describing herself as being "a gorgeous woman" and how she "would always go to work looking very glamorous" and similar responses. Sure, it wasn't officially out of bounds. But it's still predatory journalism looking to caricature and dismiss trans women who don't know better while sublimely covering his own tracks.

"The trans community always seems to have a knack for finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." — trans activist, Cathy Platine


Then I got the bombshell. Lateisha Green's murderer, Dwight DeLee, received his verdict in a Syracuse Courthouse. He was found innocent of second degree murder. He was convicted of first degree manslaughter. The jury determined that after DeLee had lobbed invective and epithets at Lateisha Green sitting in her brother's car, after he'd gone into the house to retrieve his rifle, and after lobbing a few more epithets and leveling the gun at point blank range into the car and shooting Teish, that he'd intended to only "seriously injure" her but had no intentions of killing her. Manslaughter, not a murder.

Any other victim killed in such a manner would expect their killer to receive a murder sentence. Ah, but Teish was murdered while Trans! And further, as my homegirl Monica Roberts would say, she was murdered while Black and Trans! As we read between the lines of this logic, it helps validate the killer's motivations. Why, having a trans person outside near his house practically requires one to go in their house and retrieve their rifle ... pop off a warning shot in their direction from a few feet away, just to make sure you don't have to fear for your life from the transsexual menace!

Certainly any average citizen in Syracuse would understand that threat, that fear! It's palpable!

Reality time: essentially this verdict actually foists some of the blame on the victim. That's right! The good people of Syracuse decided that being Trans, Lateisha Green should've known she's partially to blame for being attacked! It's kinda like women being partially to blame for being raped, Asian store owners being partially at fault for getting robbed in their stores, unarmed black men being partially understood to have been shot by police because of their potential threat – or even white men being partially culpable for getting shot while driving through a minority neighborhood! Everyone should know that's coming, and certainly expect that those who commit these crimes aren't to be fully blamed for it!

At least, that's the logic in Syracuse.

There were a number of statements in the press to note the verdict: "Today's verdict brings justice for Lateisha Green, but it can never heal the immense loss her family has experienced," said Jarrett Barrios, incoming President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

"This verdict sends a strong message that hate violence will not be condoned. How many more like Lateisha Green must spill blood before our society says no to harassment, no to discrimination and no to violence against transgender people? ... {J]ustice was served today." said Rea Carey, Exec. Dir. of National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)

A measure of justice, perhaps. But was absolute justice served? Is Manslaughter a strong message? It must be noted that neither Carey nor Barrios are Trans. Point of fact, only one of the statements put out yesterday on the DeLee verdict by the organizations was from a trans organization (TLDEF - the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund), but the statement was from their non-trans executive director.

Oddly, the lone trans person responding from any major org was from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) who tacked on a trans voice to Exec. Dir. Joe Solmonese's statement. "I am relieved to see Lateisha’s killer brought to justice," said Allyson Robinson, HRC Associate Director of Diversity.

Both IFGE and NCTE remaining silent on this is odd. And to think that NTAC was criticized for putting out press and "drawing attention to ourselves." So leaving the attention to non-T voices and orgs is better?

Either we just don't pay attention to the details any more, or maybe it's just gotten so bad that any conviction more than simple assault of a person who murders a trans woman is a victory. Maybe it's me and all the other Trans folk around the country who are pissed at this lesser treatment by the court that are out of step?

Or maybe this is just a great way to put out a message that's consistent, celebratory and assures that there's no dissension: ensure that there's message control.

One has to wonder how the Gay & Lesbian community would react to this? If Matthew Shepard's murder drew a manslaughter conviction with a maximum 25 year sentence, would Judy Shepard feel this was justice served? If it were the Trans community declaring before press that such as sentence was justice, would the Gay & Lesbian community agree with our statements and consider it closed?

Or if not, would they speak out? After watching their responses in recent months, I believe I already know that answer.

“Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.” English writer, Gilbert K. Chesterton

"If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." former First Lady to the 2nd U.S. President, Abigail Smith Adams

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The 3 R's in Mass.: Rights, Religion And Restroom Fixations


"After complaints that there was a man in the woman's bathroom, a bouncer approached her stall and asked Ms. [Khadijah] Farmer to leave. The masculine lesbian has now filed a lawsuit ... to stop "sex stereotyping in public accommodation." After all, the toilet should not see gender, but flush feces with fairness.

[I]f you dress like a dude and alter your appearance so you look like one, you run the risk of people taking you for something you're not." — Greg Gutfeld, host of FOX News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld


Yesterday the state of Massachusetts had public hearings again regarding their non discrimination bill covering "gender identity or gender expression" pending before the legislature. Numerous Trans community members and their family members testified (and a special kudos to Ellen Hurn for her courageous testimony!)

Nicknamed the "Tranny bill," the "Bathroom bill" and "an important part of the Homosexual Lobby's agenda," the bill in this "most liberal state" as Rep. Barney Frank denotes has gotten national attention from the 19th century-minded groups and their press vehicles.

The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) has begun running radio ads warning mothers that they may no longer want to let their young daughters use public restrooms because "Beacon Hill is about to make it legal for men to use women's bathrooms."

"There's no restrictions in this bill as to what opposite gender can use the facility. We're not going to be able to police this," said Kris Mineau, president of MFI. "There's no pre-requirement of surgery or appearance or anything else."

Mineau said the bill would make it easier for the thousands of registered sex offenders in Massachusetts to gain access to children and women in public restrooms by claiming they are transgender.

Clearly there are a number of flaws in Mineau and MFI's convoluted logic. Foremost is that sexual predators tend to hang around where children congregate – places like parks and game rooms, the malls or adjacent to school grounds. Since when did America's daughters start hanging out at the public restrooms? Typically they are preyed upon when their defenses are down, and to do so, predators have to find situations that are sublime and seemingly innocent, such as being approached by the adult male in a park or near the school looking for a lost dog, or in a mall asking for directions to a store.

How sublime and disarming do they think it will be for their daughters to be approached by an adult male in a women's restroom and have him "get the drop on them?" Seriously?

Additionally, If they're felonious sexual predators, then being genteel about appropriate restrooms is the last thing weighing on their mind. If they're in the mood to commit such an act, then a "Ladies" sign or a female silhouette icon on the door won't be stopping their quest: Trans identity my ass! It'll be "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!"

If they're so concerned about sex-segregating the bathrooms to the Nth degree as per their birth certificates regardless of what gender someone presents as in public, then where does this end? Will we now need laws declaring male and female bathrooms in every home in America? We can't use the same restroom! Oh, that's right! It's family! There's no such thing as family incest or molestation, is there? Yeah, right!

And since it's the parks, game rooms and malls that attract both young daughters and those sex-offenders following them waiting for an opportunity, will sex-segrated malls be next? How about sex-segregating parks and playgrounds too? Don't want men around those places. There have even been infrequent incidences of daughters being molested or being preyed upon where people pray! As in churches! So should we also begin sex-segregating churches in order to keep daughters as far away from all men as possible? Lord knows there's a higher occurrence of these incidences from "men of the cloth" and Sunday School teachers than there are with Trans women. If it's a potential threat, segregate them all stringently beforehand – don't wait!

With all this segregation by the sexes, maybe the orthodox Sunnis in Saudi Arabia are onto something with that concept of "only men" and "only women" in various public functions. Perhaps America's family associations need to look to them for successful models to follow?

"Who is a hero? He who conquers his urges." — the Talmud

Another little kink in their seemingly impeccable logic on concerns of "men in restrooms" identifying as Trans women: we're on hormones! No, I'm not talking about crying jags or getting emotional ... think back for a minute. Back in the day, they used to prescribe estrogen as a kind of "chemical castration" for those who used to be convicted of first- or lesser offenses of sexual violations. The reason was simple: it greatly tamped down the male libido (as well as other feminizing side effects).

So now that there are male-to-female transsexuals and pre-ops who have self-castrated, chemically speaking, what is it these MFI types think we're going to get the notion to do in the public restrooms? Sex? From our over-nourished, female-hormoned "male" libidos? Really?

Instead they insist upon these female-appearing folks going into the men's room. Where their young sons may well be. That'll be an interesting conversation! At the same time, folks like Ethan St. Pierre (below) will be forced to use the women's room. Yep, this is what the conservatives want to push into the women's room with your daughters: take a peek at what this will look like!


Of course the Big Gay Man on the Hill, Barney Frank, isn't anywhere to be found on this bathroom discourse. He's not been very helpful to us on this subject in the past, and now that the current Congress is gearing up for Don't Ask, Don't Tell (and that touchy subject about shower usage amongst G.I.'s straight and gay, it's a subject he'll avoid at all costs about now.) But it begs the question: when sexual orientation discrimination was outlawed, was there a sudden surge in bathroom predators stalking kids in public restrooms? Nope? So much for that big fear about nothing ... maybe Trans rights will bring the same results, ya know?

"And you knew who you were then!
Girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again!" — Those Were The Days (Theme Song for "All In The Family") sung by Jean Stapleton & Carroll O'Connor


Not to be outdone by restrooms, Timothy Tracey, a lawyer with the conservative Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, told members of the Committee on the Judiciary that the bill infringes on the religious rights of those who believe that men and women are different.

"The First Amendment mandates that no individual should be required to affirm, in act, word, or deed, that a man is a woman, or a woman is a man, against their sincerely held religious beliefs," Tracey said. "Yet this is precisely what (the bill) will do."

Mr. Tracey's obviously a sharp-eyed trial lawyer, but a crock of crap is still a crock of crap no matter who serves it up. There is nothing in this bill taking away his freedom of openly worshiping how he pleases, which is what the First Amendment covers. I'm unsure what religion it is that worships men being men and women being women, but rest assured that they will still be able to openly declare that they worship men being men and women being women after this bill is passed!

Meanwhile it will also ensure that those to don't believe in people who change gender or accepting them shall not abridge the beliefs and acts of other religions who, as Jesus noted to his disciples that "the call isn't for everyone" and, indeed, even eunuchs (both those born in the womb as so, and those castrati of that era) could follow the call – could follow Jesus. Some people actually believe in all of Jesus' teachings from the Four Gospels and wish to respect that, even if the folks Mr. Tracey represents wish to ignore and deny His words.

Some people believe in the Golden Rule: treating others as you would wish to be treated. Mr. Tracey represents folks who eschew that. No matter. It only means that the folks Mr. Tracey advocates for don't deny ability for others to worship and believe as they do, where everyone should be treated as equals without full considerations for a special group, and lesser considerations for the others left out. Mr. Tracey and others can continue defying the Golden Rule as per their religious beliefs.

This stuff really gets exasperating. It's amazing the lengths to which people will go to not only validate but to keep their irrational fears enshrined as the law of the land. Miscegenation, women as lesser humans, slavery, even mistrust of other different religions, all these things used to be controlled by laws of the land because of phobia: fear that those in power just cannot get beyond.

Let's hope this time that fears once again will not triumph over the courage of doing what's right. Lord knows that in this "most liberal state" in the Union, courage by even liberals in their own bastion has been in preciously short supply.

"If I were King of the Forest – not queen, not duke, not prince –
My regal robes of the forest would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.
I'd command each thing, be it fish or fowl....
Though my tail would lash, I would show compash
For every underling!
If I, if I ... were King!" — If I Were The King Of The Forest sung by Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion of the "Wizard of Oz"

"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare." — Mark Twain

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeking Justice When The Empire (State) Strikes Black (Trans)


"Just waking up in the morning, gotta thank God.
I don't know but today just seems kinda odd....
Plus nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A.
... Today was a good day." – It Was A Good Day, Ice Cube


As I intermittently work on this blog the day before the trial begins for the murder of Lateisha Green (fka: Moses Cannon), I'm thankful for a few things. First of all, the District Attorneys appear to be taking an aggressive approach to prosecuting this case. This is much better than many cases where trans victims of murder are African American, or to a slightly lesser extent other ethnic minorities. The second thing I'm thankful for is that Teish, as she's referred to by friends and family, has a family that loved and supported her death after her death as well as (to what extent I can tell) before her murder as well. Teish's family are actively involved in monitoring and pressing for justice for her.

That latter fact – the family's involvement – cannot be dismissed. In all of the cases I've noted over the decade plus of hate crimes our community has lived through, the supportive family – especially parents who refuse to accept dismissive investigation and prosecution – make the most notable difference in successfully bringing these cases to light and to justice in the court system.

Additionally, I'm happy to hear that there is a good amount of pre-trial publicity getting out there, thanks to the initial work of the TransGriot blog by Monica Roberts (one of NTAC's co-founders and former board members). Additionally there's some of our folks on the ground to monitor and tweet the ongoing court proceedings: both Gay & Lesbian Alliance for Anti-Defamation (GLAAD) and especially the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) will be there. Having our watchers there is a reminder to the court and prosecutors to keep it on the up and up.


Another thing I'm grateful for is that her killer was known, and quickly tracked down and arrested. Far too often, most especially in cases where it's a trans woman of color who nearly always gets the automatic presumption that "she was a sex-worker" from authorities, there is a rather lax attitude about bringing their murderers to justice.

Murders aren't only illegal if they occur to non-minority, and especially non-trans people. It's supposed to be "blind justice." We're taught to expect "equal justice" in our democratic system. Far too often, we get neither. Why is it that our community and our families are practically required to ride herd over the investigative and judicial process in order to ensure no apathy that sets in?

At least the tools are in place to make this a successful prosecution for justice. The DA's office has even filed hate crime charges against Teish's killer. That said, I'm fairly certain that hate crime violations will be sacrificed in order to get a full sentence for the murder.

It's not that I don't believe there was no hate crime committed – there was. The problem is that New York State's hate crime coverage for transgender victims. As I learned from Houston's Harris County's D.A. office years ago, prosecutors will not push for charges or convictions on laws that aren't explicitly on the book (as is the case in both Texas and New York).

The reasoning as explained to me, beyond Texas' conservative narrow-minded approach to law, is that if there is a charge and eventual conviction on a law that isn't explicitly on the books, it opens the door for challenging later in a retrial. All it takes is a sharp-eyed defense attorney (or even a jailhouse lawyer who has nothing better to do with all his incarcerated time than to file challenges, and sometimes effective ones.) Nevertheless, I see it as a good strategy to use this now at this stage of the trial, especially if they can get a solid plea deal from the defense. It indicates the D.A. in this case wants to send a message that a victim who is Trans deserves the same level of sentencing that a non-Trans victim would.

And therein lies my beef. New York has had over six years since SONDA and the infamous "promise" form Empire State Pride Agenda's then-executive director, Matt Foreman (who shortly thereafter escaped to a nice reward: Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force - NGLTF). In the years since, that promise (to place GENDA and Hate Crimes on the forefront of ESPA's agenda) has been of as much value as a three-dollar bill.

These rights should've been extended by now in so-called "liberal" New York. But they haven't. It sends the country a clear message: their Trans citizens are less than everyone else in the Empire State. Trans people are not human (or certainly not human enough to be covered by their human rights laws)! The bottom line is this: New York's legislators are being either lazy or cowardly, or a combination of the two. And every year that passes since their executive director Foreman's promise helps further cement ESPA's legacy of unconcerned deceit.

If they don't like it, do something concrete to address it. Otherwise, live with it.

Now I'm fully aware that not all groups support Hate Crimes bills. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project came out with a statement earlier this year declaring their opposition (not a misprint) of the GENDA bill as it included hate crimes enhancement provisions, which they oppose. In one sense, I can understand their position.

However they also overlook one glaring point: there is no parity in sentencing in general. It's especially so when the victims are non-white, and most certainly so when the victims are transgender women who typically have their lives completely debased, sliced, diced and offered up to the point of virtually slanderous claims of lascivious prostitutes and sexual freaks while the defense is cross-examining and pressing the defendant's case (which is what they get paid to do). Other than the Angie Zapata trial, there has rarely if ever been equitable sentencing for those convicted of murdering Trans women. And to believe that there is no difference between a simple murder of a Trans woman (such as over a debt or a simple quarrel) and the murder of a Trans woman because of the homo- or transphobic connotations – not to mention the perception by many in society, even in New York's legislature – that we are lesser human creatures, tacitly implying that no one will care for us simply strains the limits of credibility to its break point.

Until there is equitable sentencing, until there is equal consideration for the lives of all victims regardless of race, class or Trans status, until there is demonstrated action in treating murderers of Trans women or Trans men as the murderers they are, and not allowing the a bit of leeway because, "hey! She's just a tranny, probably with a sordid past and who cares about them?" ... until we reach that day where I don't have questions about the message they send to all of society about us by their light treatment of our victims, I'm firmly standing on the side of enacting hate crime coverage for gender identity, and prosecuting to enhance it everywhere it is applicable.

And if people have problems with it, well ... there's a simpler solution! Simply work to dismantle all other coverage for hate crime enhancement based upon race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and the like! See if you don't get a rise out of them when you attempt this! And explain to them that it's an unfair law, and ask their sentiments on whether or not they feel sentencing has always been just when their own community was attacked in such incidences.

Meanwhile, we're mourning in America. Yet another young, unrealized potential ... another African-American woman who happened to be Trans ... is gone. And it's just one more name on the litany of lost lives among Trans women of color. Something needs to be done to stop this pattern of hate and violence.

Doing nothing and accepting things as they are just isn't going to cut it. I'll care about our attackers sentences or the hurt feelings of legislators or our political leaders once they first start caring about the sanctity of our lives.

"Here's another point in life you should not miss:
Don't be a fool who's prejudice,
Because we're all written down on the same list." — It's Like That, Run-D.M.C.