Sunday, March 29, 2009

We're In For A Long Suicide Season In Trans America

"...It looks like the end.
And you're back out on the street.
And you're tryin' to remember.
How will you start it over?" — Wasted Time, Eagles

We could be in for a long, torturous suicide season.

I'd been really lucky of late. Other than talking a couple folks down after the IFGE board announcement a couple months ago (very minor, comparatively), I haven't had a serious watch in about five years now. The stuff on my plate – organizing things in New York, Washington, Cape Cod and Houston, and monitoring bills in Austin – sorta had my full focus. Focus is good.

But there is a bad side of focus: you lose sight of the periphery. And as we know, those little overlooked details can devastate you. And as I well know, suicides are like tornados and come up suddenly with little or no warning. They hit, you react.

My friend C called me up Friday night to chat, hadn't heard from me in a while and asked what I was up to. After I went through a brief description of all I had working, she blurted out the bombshell: she'd attempted to end it all Monday night. After my initial harping, she ripped me right back for not calling or writing.

She's right. It had been well over a month, and regardless of my schedule, I'm also acutely aware of her situation.

She's been very long-term unemployed and at best minimally employed. It's hard enough in the Great Lakes area for anyone, exponentially worse if your trans at the cusp of transition with no degree and a resume with gaps in it. To keep her mind off of her tanking personal life, she sinks herself into volunteer work in activism (she's a high level board member with a state trans advocacy group and a local group leader, as well as assisting on production for one, and sometimes two national trans conferences. Meanwhile her personal finances sink and she's been perilously close to foreclosure for months.

From the outside, she's in good spirits: happy-go-lucky, a party animal, self-deprecating and humorous, and unfailingly honest. She compartmentalizes well. Even though her personal life is disintegrating before her eyes, she most always averts the eyes to focus on community work in order to keep a sense of something positive – even if it's not her own.

It's a defense mechanism I know well as I'm a similar situation and do the same thing. Apparently that's the reason she opens up to me as we're heading to hell in the same bucket.

"I may be going to hell in a bucket, babe
But at least I'm enjoying the ride!" — Hell In A Bucket, the Grateful Dead

In C's case, she fears the foreclosure may be very close to being real soon. Even without it, she'll lose her utilities once the winter cold disappears (and her bills are all way overdue). Desperation days are upon her very shortly. So what does she do with ten years worth of accumulated stuff? She certainly can't pack it in her mid-sized car.

And even if she does leave, where does she go? We all know the difficulties of homeless life for trans people where options are extremely scarce. As a rule, most shelters are one gender or the other and prohibit anyone who's crossed from one gender to the other.

Living semi-homeless in a car as a bio male isn't as bad as you don't have the automatic "prey" sign flashing above your head. You can do things like change in the back of your car or taking a bath in front of a gas station using the water hose with much less fear. The fear of living in a car as trans is something I can fully appreciate.

Even tent cities or campground living still puts trans people at risks a bit greater than the rest of society.

So where does one go? And what do you say to them when you're powerless to help? There've been a few other trans folks I've had to talk down from similar situations of abject loss of everything. Two of them hung on, and at least one (if not both) are doing quite well today and landed on their feet eventually.

"Where do you run when it's too much to bear?
Who do you turn to in need, when nobody's there?" — Hold On, Kansas

The third girl I talked back away from the edge (and who lived in a very crime-ridden area in Houston) ended up being broken into for a third time after our talk, whereupon they stole her computer – her only means of communication. Between the safety fears and joblessness – and now the loss of communication with people, she ended it about two weeks later. Adding insult to injury, her evangelical family buried her as a male. Both me and my mom had talked her back to living, so this news hit both of us hard.

Hopefully my mom got a chance to feel the powerlessness, and what that stuff did to me growing up when she went through her big bouts. You don't forget those. Then again, I'm glad I learned to talk folks through this stuff at an early age as you need it periodically – even for yourself!

When C initially called, it was more of a social chat (even though she was a little tipsy) but grew more serious as the conversation continued, partly thanks to six tequila shots. Her anger, frustration and fear were bleeding through the phone. She returned numerous times to the hopelessness of the situation, and especially focusing on her worthlessness. And as the 'worthless' talk crescendoed, I could sense the move back into that mindset of taking an immediate solution.

"Just a bad situation
Got me low, feelin' down I'm wonderin' why.
Caught me unawares, no one knows and no one cares.
They put you down no matter how you try." — Just Another Suicide, U.F.O.

Yes, even people who are very highly active in their community can end up with such desperation and no avenues out that they end up feeling the self-worth has been stripped away. In this society, where jobs identify a person and display that self-worth, it's easy to see how being unemployed and trans – regardless of their level of volunteer activity in the community – ends up feeling less than zero.

So as the Bush "economic recovery" morphs seamlessly into this "recession or depression" with such large numbers of everyday Americans falling through the cracks and losing it all, what happens to trans people like C? Jobs are still disappearing in large numbers with good reason: there is no expendable income, so producing products that virtually nobody will buy is pointless. what is there to be done when there is virtually no urgency in putting trans people to work and getting them back on their feet?

What do you say to them? You can't feed them lies about how "everything's going to work out fine," as that eventually becomes discovered and only compounds the situation. Depressed people aren't ignorant. You must be real with them, and do a lot of listening to their verbal clues.

"Just a cold realization,
Gotta go. I wanna turn and run away.
Got me in a spin, I'm gonna lose and never win.
They put you down no matter what you say.
Another night, it's another shakedown
Lookin' for a place to hide.
This could be a nervous breakdown." — Just Another Suicide, U.F.O.

Psychologist Karl Menninger once said: "Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse." Personally I'm of a different mind. Hope dies for most people, so telling them to keep their "hope alive" ends up ringing hollow and mocking them. Reminding them of what they may have been working on and how that will be not seeing that finished is a one step – it brings back some of that fighting spirit and most importantly gives them something to look forward to.

Reminding them of their self-worth – counter to their arguments otherwise – is another step if they happen to be active in the community.

Mostly impress upon them the fact that none of us know what tomorrow will end up like, and that there's always a chance it could improve. Get them to see that stopping at that particular point only removes what could've potentially been – the unforeseen.

The biggest assistance though is to just keep them talking, subtly easing them from the edge and do a lot of listening. Don't try to over-suggest or direct them to a solution for every point as that becomes less about listening and more about telling.

So the delicate little dance away from the edge helped – for the moment. I'm not stupid enough to believe the situation is solved. Anything but! And what do you suggest to someone outspoken, as I am, who may well face the prospect of having nowhere to go in a frigid, unforgiving climate?

One thing she kept repeating was how she'd told herself her move into her current home was her "last move. The next move [she makes] will be leaving in a pine box." One thing history's taught me is that when people do intend to go through with this, they'll find a way go off without telling anyone and at least attempt it.

All the conditions are ripe, and I'm fearing this may well be a very tragic few years for our community.

"Look in the mirror and tell me just what you see?
What have the years of your life taught you to be?
Innocence dyin' in so many ways.
Things that you dream of are lost ... lost in the haze.
Baby hold on,
'Cause there's something on the way.
Your tomorrow's not the same as today." — Hold On, Kansas

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NH House Pushes Marriage Forward, Trans Non Discrimination Tossed

“I think we'll get to the point where we should be insisting that liberals support marriage. I mean, nobody believes that they're really personally against it. They're just being political. I'd rather have them admit that.” — Congressman Barney Frank from April 2009

After being locked up in a dead heat in committee earlier in the month, the committee moved HB436, the same-sex marriage to the legislature and the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed it. The state's gay and lesbian community eagerly await its submission to the state senate (where Democrats hold a 14-9 edge).

Now it's become a bit of a race between Vermont, New York and New Hampshire to see which will get their bill signed and become the third state in the union to approve of same-sex marriage. Vermont's seems to have the worst chance as their Gov. Jim Douglas has already come out with threats to veto. New York still has a way to go, so it could possibly be the Granite State taking the third state honors.

The excitement was palpable on the New Hampshire Freedom To Marry Coalition website (

Today the House voted 186 to 179 to pass HB436 to extend marriage equality to gay/lesbian couples.

In what was an extremely close vote the house ultimately passed marrige [sic] equality on to the Senate.


This was a very close vote and we succeeded only because so many of you contacted your elected officials.

The opposition is mounting a full fledge [sic] attack, radio ad's [sic], phone banks and door to door canvasing [sic].

We need to match their efforts call for call, and that will take resources.

Please give generously!
The New Hampshire House also voted to kill the anti-discrimination act for gender identity and expression, even though it was approved by vote to send to the legislature by the Judiciary Committee.

Republicans in the state referred to it exclusively as "the bathroom bill." To the GOP, it's all it was about. Forget trans unemployment and the difficulties surrounding just finding a job; in conservative circles they just can't get their mind out of the bathroom or the thought of us in them! (Forget the fact that we already use the restrooms with them on a daily basis and they have no clue.)

Rep. Joseph Hagan said he voted against it as a conservative who feels gender issues, "are one small facet of a much broader psychiatric illness." He said that if transsexuals get more rights, others will lose them.

In addition fifty-two Democrats were absent from roll call when it voted 157 - 172 to kill the bill. That's right, 52 Democrats took a walk on the transgender bill. Tres considerate!

The trans community's hope for employment in New Hampshire's laws was flushed down the same toilet that the Family Research Council and other religiopolitical supporters used to scare everyone away.

New Hampshire Freedom To Marry was a little more subdued reporting on the Trans bill failure:

This is a respectable vote considering this was the first time the issue had ever been discussed in the NH legislature. The bill will be reintroduced in 2011.
It appears that we may soon end up with a third state allowing same-sex couples to marry. Six years after the Massachusetts history was set, it's something the New Hampshire LGBT community has been waiting for.

However, it may also be the third state where we can marry ... but if you're transgender, you still have no right to work.

"I think it's now time to start pushing people on marriage.” — Congressman Barney Frank from April 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Again HRC To Support Only Trans-Inclusive Bills – And This Time Is Different How...?

"Fate comes a-knockin',
Doors start lockin',
Your old time connection,
Change your direction.
You ain't gonna change it.
Can't rearrange it.
Can't stand the pain
When it's all the same to you...." — Same Old Song & Dance, Aerosmith

Isn't it a bit late for Groundhog Day? I know it's March – I meant the movie starring Bill Murray. It seems we're caught in a loop where we wake up to what we believe is a new day, and everything instead plays out as an endless copy of the day before.

This came through today in an undated press blurb from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) through one of my friends who used to work with the group:

It's the policy of HRC that the organization will only support an inclusive ENDA. In 2007 House leadership informed us that there were insufficient votes to pass an inclusive bill, so they decided to vote on a sexual orientation only bill. We made a one time exception to our policy in 2007 because we strongly believed that supporting this vote would do more to advance inclusive legislation. We will not support such a strategy again. We look forward to Congress sending President Obama a fully inclusive ENDA for his signature.
Yes, it seems it's time to trot out the "new and improved" version of HRC, yada yada yada. As one of the respondents to the Facebook post replied in "awesome snarkiness": "is it time for their annual trans appeal mailing already?"

Seasons change, but other things just don't. They play the same lines we've heard before and seek to convince at least a few trans folks to let the guard down, be a bit more docile and allow them to wedge us: keep the new believers pitted against those of us who've been through this exercise too many times to ignore.

"I don’t believe the American people should ever be told any lies, publicly or privately. I don’t believe that lies are practical." — author, Ayn Rand

Back before I even got into activism in the mid 90's, there was move on HRC's behalf to fix the problems of the 1993 Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) after trans activists had banded together, even before the was a GenderPAC, to protest HRC's decision to leave trans out initially. HRC brought in attorney Chai Feldblum who, along with attorney Dana Priesing of GenderPAC and Jessi Xavier of It's Time, America to craft legislation with gender identity included in it. Supposedly in 1995 it was to be the direction HRC was undertaking to make things right.

Later that session we learned different. The ENDA bill actually came up to a close vote in the Senate late in that session: 50-49 was the official vote (back story notwithstanding – but that's for another story.)

Again transgenders were up in arms. HRC began working with GenderPAC, creating a bit of a wedge to factionalize the trans community. The International Conference for Transgender Law & Employment Practice (ICTLEP) dropped off the lobbying scene, two years later National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) came into it. Less street protests, more press highlighting HRC's disparate treatment of trans people. After a few years of that, HRC had to change it up again.

Fall 2002 at Southern Comfort in Atlanta was where HRC announced a collaborative study with Mara Keisling, and where Mara would move to Washington DC, work in conjunction with HRC on what was to be trans-inclusive federal legislation. Piece by piece we discovered both the hate crimes and employment bills would not be inclusive.

We again learned different of this "support" for trans-inclusion in spring 2004 with Mara (now leading her newly-formed group NCTE) right in the room with us hearing it all.

So in August of 2004, the HRC Board of Directors held their annual meeting where Mara Keisling and others from NCTE and other places presented before their board. After the presentation, the board voted to "only support an inclusive ENDA." Done deal – this was official from the board, not even the staff this time. Or so we thought. Over the course of the next couple years, we heard the warnings from those of our Capitol Hill contacts. Still we waited. Word from all parties – not only HRC, but NCTE, NGLTF and others – were all saying HRC and even Barney Frank were on board, fully supporting an inclusive ENDA. There was even a revisit to Southern Comfort in 2007.

Yet again we learned different when the public ditching of trans language in ENDA became known in October, 2007.

Now we see the latest sequel of "Transgender Community's Largest Advocate," starring HRC. Doubtless they want us to throw concerns and history to the wind and be "one big happy family." Many of us have been through this numerous times. Considering they've never once trusted us (for whatever esoteric reason), if you were in my position, would you trust them?

"We ain't got no friends.
Our troubles never end.
No Christmas cards to send.
Daddy likes men.
We're a happy family." — We're A Happy Family, the Ramones

Monday, March 23, 2009

Washington's Transgender "Insider" Hiring A Different Washington "Insider"

"Times are hard.
You're afraid to pay the fee.
So you find yourself somebody
Who can do the job for free." — Dirty Work, Steely Dan

Some in the activist community have recently been abuzz about a job posting that came up with National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Certainly this is good news for Mara Keisling, as I'm sure it's what she desires - a buzz about her group. It keeps things lively.

The buzz though may not be what she was perhaps designed, though. The job posting is below:

NCTE Job Opening: Policy Analyst


Job Description:

The Policy Analyst will work closely with NCTE’s Executive Director to advocate on federal issues affecting transgender people; monitor federal and state policy; and educate decision-makers, the media, our members and the general public. The Policy Analyst will work to ensure that the lives and needs of transgender people are reflected in our federal laws and policies by addressing issues such as employment non-discrimination, hate crimes legislation, health care reform, privacy & documentation and many others.


Use research and analysis to create recommendations for transgender-inclusive policies and practices.

Manage relationships with lawmakers and other policy-makers to shape policies and government practices.

Cultivate sufficient knowledge to act as a subject matter expert for community members, allies, lawmakers, and
the media.

Write policy reports, fact sheets, and columns.

Conduct presentations and workshops for members and allies at conferences and public venues.

Skills & Experience:

Demonstrated ability to research and analyze policy. Federal level policy a plus.

Excellent writing, verbal communications, and interpersonal skills.

Clear grasp of federal government structure, operation, and function.

Collaborative spirit and the ability to work well within a team of fun-loving, hard-working professionals.

Commitment to full social justice and understanding of issues affecting transgender people.
Someone had sent that to me, knowing my employment situation, saying "don't you do this type of work?" Indeed, it is advertising for, in essence, a lobbyist. Someone to "cultivate knowledge" and "manage relationships" with lawmakers in Washington, and then answer to the Executive Director.

It begs a couple questions:

If Mara's hiring a lobbyist, what happened to her original raison d'etre: to be "the one", the "Washington insider" who is Capitol Hill's "go to" trans contact - the "one contact" to keep from having separate contacts, thus separate agendas in theory? In a tunnel-vision like focus, Mara has insistently pursued this singular "insider" position to act as liaison to the trans community.

In her initial days in 2002, those around then remember that Mara was to be a one-person operation -- the hired lobbyist on New Years 2003. Summer of that year she decided she needed to choose a board and become an organization, though still a one-person office. By late that year, she was pushing for memberships.

Initially Mara eschewed lobby days, panning NTAC for them, calling them "ineffective", "pointless", "does more harm than good", and that "professional organizations like NGLTF and HRC don't have organized lobby days" and how "we" needed to be more like them -- professional. That was before she tagged along on NTAC's 2004 Lobby Day, and the next year, she was organizing her own NCTE Lobby Days (a bit unusual for someone more controlled with messaging).

Nevertheless, the organized lobby events don't come across the same as when it's staff; the representatives of the organization. Hiring someone else in is counterintuitive for Mara Keisling. If nothing else, Mara is a master at "positioning," in marketing parlance. Moving herself out of the direct contact of the congress critters distances her from that limelight and also runs the risk someone can wedge between her and the "inside" – even from her own group.

It's hard to fathom someone with that level of message control fixation as well as the constant need to position herself, allowing this task – the Washington insider role – to someone else.

"Well, I'm a Washington insider, and you know, that's quite silly. What does that even mean?" — journalist & author, Bob Woodward

"I'm a fool to do your dirty work, oh yeah.
I don't wanna do your dirty work no more." — Dirty Work, Steely Dan

There's another lesser known possible explanation. Scuttlebutt on the Hill has it that Mara's not seen favorably in a number of offices on the Hill. The recent attempt to circumvent Barney Frank and LCCR on the Hate Crimes bill drove a wedge between her and the out Gay/Lesbian members on the Hill. Additionally, a number of the new Dems from 2006 have had a less-than-favorable impression as well.

It's something I'd heard years before from our "friendly contacts" within two of the LGBT organizations on the Hill, having to establish meetings for Mara in certain offices and even descriptions of her attempting to use, as one contact put it, her previous gender's "privilege."

Even her visit in 2004 on NTAC's Lobby Day to Sen. Ted Kennedy's office was an eye opener. Both Ethan St. Pierre and his wife Karen were stunned to hear her drop the "F-bomb" in the visit with the aide – not once, but twice! It wasn't in anger; just dropped in the course of conversation. For the record, that's something anathematic to NTAC – no cussing or epithets while lobbying, even in anger.

Maybe there's a cumulative unfavorable impression on the Hill that's built up about Mara over the years? But for her to willing displace herself as that "go to" for Congress, and moving from the "insider" to the one the insider reports to just defies conventional logic.

And it begs a last question: if Mara's not the lobbyist on the Hill, then what exactly is her function?

"Conjunction Junction, what's your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses." — Conjunction Junction from ABC's Schoolhouse Rock

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Equality Isn't (If You're Trans)

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." — author, George Orwell from the novel "Animal Farm"

The past few days were a bit of a shot to the gut. First the report of a Greeley, CO talk radio station advocating for trans people "their teeth kicked in," following on the heels of the prosecutors not using the defendant's confession in Angie Zapata murder trial. Then yesterday, for me personally, a bomb-drop: the senator I was counting on to author and sponsor the companion to our Hate Crimes bill won't do it because, as the aide said: "we had already committed to the 121 bills that we currently have filed. However, as you are quite aware, she will continue to be supportive."

And as a nice little two-fer, our name and gender change bill hadn't been sponsored in the Senate, and when I inquired of Phyllis Frye on the bill, she said "Equality Texas is running the show on this and all of the LGBT bills. I have no knowledge of the bill number." That bill's not introduced in the Senate either.

Two years earlier I'd gotten reports from everyone in the trans community locally, practically gushing over the Equality Texas Lobby Days. We hadn't had that kind of sense since the 1999 Equality Begins At Home, brainchild of Kerry Lobel of NGLTF. Of course, we weren't aware of what was afoot by our state group Lesbian-Gay Rights Lobby (LGRL) at the time, so the euphoria at lobby days time was still on a Lone Star high.

Those were happier, much more innocent days – before the scales fell from our eyes.

After the 2001 LGRL ditching of trans – even after I'd helped pull in one of our most conservative GOP folks to support the bill, albeit with his choice of nomenclature (sexual preference) – I was hopeful when Randall Ellis took over LGRL in 2002. To his credit he immediately did things the right way by involving the community -- even we trans leaders burned raw from his predecessor. He fielded the heat, understand the mistrust and worked to resolve it. Unfortunately, his was a short-lived tenure as he was suddenly ousted once the org was absorbed by the Equality Federation.

"Attention all planets of the solar federation ... we have assumed control ... we have assumed control ... we have assumed control ...." — 2112 Part VII, Grand Finale, Rush

There was an initial shock, dismay and wariness about this new move to the Equality Federation with it's mixed-bag history on trans stuff (most being not falling on the positive side)

Nowadays those of us with an active history in this trust nothing. It's not a bad thing. We need to be more involved and certainly much more educated and vigilant of what law is being passed lest we fall asleep and have another attempt to aggressively strip our rights a la Patriot Act.

However, I must say I fell a bit for the hype from my own trans community on the 2007 Lobby Days by Equality Texas. They even had a couple of trans folks on their board (shocking in that the requirement for board was once a $2400/yr. "give or get" contribution – very pricey in trans circles). Armed with the good sentiment, I had one view in my mind's eye going up.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." — Buddha

............."Absolutely nothing? Are you shittin' me?!?"

Well, that was kinda dumb. But what gets me is that most of the trans community here is still going to fall for the facade of it. Keep up the image and no one's the wise. Hey, it's a paycheck!

Meanwhile, the only GLBT bothering to show for testimony on the Voter Photo ID bill was my broke-ass! Actually it's not that surprising: it deals with photo identities regarding our right to vote, which is not their issue. It's our issue. And therein lies the rub. On our issues, the only ones who really know our priorities or are aware of the nuances of things like our identification and how key that is to our lives are us!

"Well I won't say that I'm giving up,
but why wait around for nothing
when things are going the way that they should –
but never my way?" — The Worst Of Times, Eric Hutchinson

Why should we be placing our eggs in a GLBT basket (always gay or lesbian led, with priorities and perspective that would naturally reflect that)? What are we trans people thinking putting blind faith in that? It's our issues, our lives on the line – why trust it to those who really aren't aware of the differences, much less importance? It's why, unemployed, broke or whatever, we must be hands-on active about our future and not stand for pat answers.

This year's result is that we have two crucial bills we've long been fighting for, and it appears neither will even make the senate at this point.

Equality is a nice word, and means a lot if you are gay and lesbian. It means a chance to be equal.

If you're trans? Equality isn't.

They have it right: "YOU make equality happen -- don't wait around for them!"

"Whatever you want in life, other people are going to want it too. Believe in yourself enough to accept the idea that you have an equal right to it." — news anchorwoman, Diane Sawyer

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Kick A Tranny's Teeth In!": What Conservative Talk Radio Has Come To

"Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win
Kicked in the teeth again
Ain't this misery ever gonna end?" — Kicked In The Teeth, AC/DC

This is going to be a tough blog to write. Violence isn't my bag, but I now know what the mindset is to commit a hate crime because I'm experiencing it now. After reading the below and actually hearing the commentary by a radio personality by the name of Trevor Carey with KFKA (also broadcast as KNUS) in Greeley, CO, I too now have the urge to take up arms. Against him!

Yes I realize this is the wrong thing to think. I've been screaming alone in my house until I'm hoarse. Unfortunately I don't have a heavy punching bag like at Ethan's and punching holes in the wall is expensive, so I gave that up decades ago.

But this instigative piece of crap on the radio pushed the wrong button.
Typically I will do everything to reason and reach an agreement of the minds, even in volatile situations. For twelve years I've been lobbying for hate crimes protections and trying to educate others on what this does and its impact on the victims, their families and their respective communities -- even signing on as one of the first national locales for Day Of Remembrance when it went national, and even finding the first international leaders to lead this outside of the country. It's part of my nature to be as patient as possible and persistent as I can.

But after reading the comment by Carey, practically exhorting others to kick in the teeth of transgenders, and stating so openly about a murdered trans person who had that very thing occur ... I cannot tell you how close to home this hit for me. Especially painful was the repeated encouragement of transsexuals getting "their teeth kicked in." I wasted a third of the day in a tearful, fitful rage. Even now, I'm enraged.

"I get mad. Drinks get spilled.
At five past two I don't feel sad ...
But then I see you ... and I see red!" — I See Red, X

What I've felt today isn't right and I shouldn't think it. Yet I'm also resident of one of the most obstinate, proudly hateful states in the union. It's an environment that embraces good old boy culture of criminal apathy. We're the state of James Byrd, drug to his death and literally decapitated and mutilated at the end of a chain on the back of a pickup. This is a state with no hate crime protection for transgenders, just as most states in the country. I'm fully aware of the relentlessly thick skulls that will never listen nor give in, and their intransigent minds.

And it's pretty obvious this Trevor Carey and the station KFKA/KNUS that promotes this are self-centric, hopeless ideologues in search of every echo chamber they can find. Their line-up underscores this mindset: Fred Thompson, Neal Boortz, Linda Ingraham, Dr. Laura (Schlesinger) and Michael Savage. Just take a gander at the station's conglomerated website:

Below is a transcript of the whole interview from the March 14 show thanks to Media Matters-Colorado, where Trevor Carey brought on a caller to discuss the decision of the court to disallow Angie Zapata's murderer's confession. It must be noted that Carey's references to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) are reported to be misrepresentation. At least it's one silver lining: there's an obvious suit for GLAAD to sue for slander and defamation!

The transcript.

CAREY: Topic B for me tonight is transgenders. Now, you might have heard of the story that happened in Greeley where there was a man who was a transgender who was a man living as a woman; Angie Zapata was his name. Now, I got in a little bit of trouble; the Associated Press states that transgendered are to be referred to as "shes." The Weld County District Attorney's office in this case is referring to this victim as a she.

She faked a guy into, there was some sexual relations. It didn't go all the way, but there was some sexual relations that happened. And when this man found it out that it was another man, he beat the victim. The victim woke up from the beating gurgling blood, whatever, out the mouth. He took a fire extinguisher and finished the victim off. Then stole the victim's car, got caught, I think it was in Denver. Anyhow, he's in jail now. So the big issue is, do we call this individual a he or she?

So in a quote in the Greeley Tribune, I stated that I had said "he," "she," and "victim" all in the same breath almost once; I didn't know what to say. I talked to our news director, and he said, "I'm calling the victim 'the Greeley transgender.' " Of course, I stated in the article that that man didn't deserve to die, but we can't -- the fact that the man was living as a woman is the whole point of the story. It had so much to do with the murder -- the rage.

So then I get a call from GLAAD in Los Angeles from this guy saying, calling in referencing to the referencing of transgenders with the gay and lesbian, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. And we got into a conversation; I found out, I asked him, "Are you homosexual?" he said, "Yes, I am." I said, "Do you wanna, you know, have you ever had the desire to have your manhood removed?" He said, "No." And I said, "Well, I'm glad to hear you're normal," and, you know, "you don't want to have that removed." I go, "If you were down in Trinidad strapped to a stretcher and they were coming at you with a saw to remove it, would you be screaming bloody murder?" He said, "Of course I would." I said, "because see, that's abnormal."

What you want to do in the privacy of your own life in your own bedroom, go ahead and do it. That's between you and God, whatever. But -- I'm not here to say my sin's worse than your sin, whatever you want to balance it out here. But at least you're normal in the state that you want to keep what God gave you. I think I said "junk in the trunk," and he got offended, but that's what I was saying, you know, you want to keep that.

I said, "Why is it that you guys don't see this as a mental illness? Why do you associate yourself with the transgenders?" 'Cause I got him to say it was abnormal. I said, "So if it's not normal, why wouldn't you want to help these people; there's obviously something going wrong in their head.

So I've invited him on the show; let's hope he comes on the show, 'cause I think that could be some lively discussion. I said to him -- [caller], I'm about to come to you in Littleton here -- but I said to him, "What if I just wanted one day to say, 'Hey, I'm black. My name is Dimitri; I'm black, I want a NAACP scholarship.' " Well, you're not black. Yes I am, because in my mind and in my heart I'm black. This is what he told me the transgender felt -- in his or her mind or heart, they felt like they were a woman, so they should be called a woman.


CAREY: And what the transgender segment of our society needs to be telling their type is, you don't commit fraud because --

CALLER: No, that's exactly what it was.

CAREY: A), you're at least gonna get your teeth kicked in, and B) -- [caller laughs] -- here's a story from Greeley that turned out very tragic, and you should pay attention to this, because --

CALLER: You know, when I was growin' up in Greeley, I grew up in Greeley, that kind of stuff didn't ever, you know, surface in this town. And it's just sad, you know; my heart just weeps for all, everybody that's concerned. But, you know, we gotta go back to basics. You're a man or you're a woman, and, like you said, if you're fraudin' somebody, then you deserve to have your teeth kicked in. Not necessarily hung or you're killed, but it just -- they shoulda known better, you know?

CAREY: Well, you do know, now, that Governor Ritter paid back the homosexual platform by passing the transgender law now, where a transgender can go into the restroom and use the restroom right next to your daughter?

CALLER: Yes, sir; I read about that, you know. And I was in Black Hawk and Central City, and they have them type of bathrooms up there. It's like: "What the hell am I doin'? Maybe I oughta go out and piss on somebody's car." [Carey laughs] You know? I don't know where I'm safe anymore. Maybe I oughta just be taken to jail for indecent exposure and pay the consequences there rather than --

CAREY: Well, in this economy, [caller], that's three square meals a day; you could get yourself a college degree, if you don't have one already. You could work out. I mean, that's -- what's a health club membership? Seventy bucks a month? You got cable. You got cable. You got, you know, you got some friendship, you know, you develop some --

CALLER: Ah -- no, I want my freedom more, you know? I want to smoke a cigarette when I want, and drink a beer and live my lifestyle the way that, you know, and be a man about things, and man up to it. But you, it all comes down to what you said about fraud.

CAREY: That's right, [caller]; we gotta roll though, buddy. Thanks for listenin' to the show; I appreciate it. [Caller] right there on The Trevor Carey Show, back in a minute.
If you're of a mind to flood the radio station with phone calls to let the station know this type of hate incitement will not be tolerated, GLAAD has provided the following contacts:

Trevor Carey
Host, KNUS, "Trevor Carey" and KFKA, "AM Colorado with Trevor, Troy and George"
Phone: (720) 434-2714

Justin Sasso
General Manager, KFKA
Phone: (970) 356-1310

Kelly Michaels
Operations Director, Salem Communications (KNUS)
Phone: (303) 750-5687

While there have been a number of trans issues GLAAD has dropped the ball on or outright bungled, this one they got right.

Do I think flooding their stations with phone calls will work? No. Maybe writing to their advertisers or flooding them with phone calls, encouraging them to drop their advertising there would be more effective.

Ambrosia Day Spa & Salon - 970-330-6811
Westlake Wine & Spirits - 970-330-VINO
Ben's Furniture - 970-352-0146
Nu-Way Cleaners -

Ultimately, the cynic I am says none of this will really register with these guys. You can turn the other cheek from now until doomsday -- these numbskulls won't get it and you'll just end up with really sore cheeks. There's something I learned from my football coach back in my teens. As Coach Fisher used to say, "If you want get someone to change their pattern, there's one way to do it. Pain! If they get away with something, they're going to continue doing it until you make them do otherwise."

It's a very Texas approach to things, but not completely untrue. There are some people who will never understand why people are so emotional about hate violence ... until they understand us first hand.

"I find it incredibly tedious, hate that it murders itself with its own conservative pomposity." — actress, Fiona Shaw

"Life is one big road with lots of signs.
So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind.
Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy.
Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality." — Wake Up And Live, Bob Marley

Monday, March 16, 2009

This Is A (Trans) Man's World! ... At Least In Theory

"A man can be short and dumpy and getting bald but if he has fire, women will like him." — Mae West

The "Calling All Trans Men" post drew out some interesting comments in response, which I'm happy to see. Indeed there was more to discuss on the topic, but I tend to write long enough blogs as is.

While the first blog was more focused on the politics and avenues to utilize our male or female presentation status, there's still more to it. One thing I've noticed and even alluded to briefly, and that one of the respondents to my blog wrote covered how trans men are treated. TransFM's Ethan St. Pierre responded:

I was reading your post and laughing as I was reading it. Not because I disagree but because whenever your stubborn, Texas ass disagrees with me, you always blame it on my "maleness."
Which is true, except it's not the "disagreeing" really -- it's the part where he doesn't listen to me. It's my own fault really. I mentioned to him some time back that he was male and could cut people off and talk over them and get away with it. When I'm on the phone with him, I've learned to let him wind down before I get my point in -- something I didn't do before. Continuing on Ethan's comment:

There is a lot more to write about this topic, specifically the way some transwomen treat transmen. For instance, I was in a Yahoo group just recently when a transgender woman actually said that there was little difference between a butch dyke and an FtM.

Before we can move on together, as a movement, I think that respecting each other's identities should come first.

I understand what you are saying, Vanessa but there are still transgender women who do not respect transmen nor do they treat us as men. So while society at large might see us as the men that we are, before we can go anywhere, we need to be seen that way in our own community first.
I haven't had time to go to the specific quote Ethan had mentioned, but others have seen it as well. That type of commentary is as mindless and laser-accurate as micro-surgery with a sawed-off shotgun. Think of the reverse comment: there's no real difference between a gay drag performer and an MTF. Even beyond the specifics of the comment, there's a right and wrong way to talking with a trans man, just as there is with talking with men in general. One thing I try to avoid, for instance, is telling them "you need to do this" or "you really shouldn't do that." (Ethan had someone "instruct" him in such fashion, and this came from a recognizable name in the community.)

Instruction or directing in a controlling manner -- or even trying to intimidate -- tends to be viewed by all but the most timid as dismissive and even emasculating. From what I've seen, people tend to tune that out. Really, not even trans women like it but we need to become more inured to it to an extent. Unless I'm actually running something specific, like an event or lobby day, etc, I tend to avoid command language (although I'm sure I'm probably not as good at avoiding it as I'd like to think).

With both males and females I try "warning" language (if I can get their attention at all), basically telling them "well this is what's gonna happen if you do this." At least I can try to warn them, but then ... they typically go off and do the deed anyway. For me, letting them learn on their own works better -- they learn, and it's not me telling them what no to do, but rather what to expect. I mentioned it in a chat with Diego Sanchez about what he was experiencing from staffers on the Hill -- there was no way I could tell him what to do. He had to learn it himself, and as I mentioned he'll learn more of it as time goes on.

Contrasting that to one of our other trans community "leaders" who's female, and her style of leading. Many MTF's find it dismissive, but imagine being a trans man trying to function in a man's world and having a dismissive, top-down controlling type to deal with. Even other non trans, genetic women have noted this "use of male privilege" in her style.

It's something I've witnessed from other trans women, an assertiveness that doesn't come from female socialization, but rather from what we had to live through in our previous incarnations. While I can't say for certain, I would imagine today's transitioning teens (likely both male and female) have a lot less of this to "unlearn." But for many of us, the early years while we were still trying to "throw off" the potentially suspicious peers left its impression. But for those of us who've had many more years in the wrong gender role, if we're not mindful we can let the old behaviors slip in.

To this point, one respondent called Noach said this:

I'm a little shocked at this analysis. It's so gender normative. I think this analysis of gender roles post-transition is flawed. Trans Women's role in political activism is based on their former (and, I argue) still extant, gender privilege. Our histories persist. No matter how much some of us may wish them gone, the gender in which we were raised leaves its mark.

Transmen's purported lack of activism (which I don't find to be the case in California politics) is erroneous.
It is true that trans men in California have realized their potential and are moving on this. This will help shave a bit off of time it will take before trans women start reaching that same threshold. Meanwhile Noach's point above appears to concur with the blog point on behavior patterns, but ....

I think our history of living in the opposite gender role has given us the benefit of experience other humans don't have. If we are transmen, our compassion and empathy are what make us a different breed of man. If we are transwomen, our aggression and activism make us a different breed of woman.

It's time to capitalize on those differences, rather than fearfully trying to "blend in" and to conform to tired old stereotypes.
While I agree with the added benefit of both experiences, it shouldn't be used to excuse a more male dominion pattern as a trans woman. I'm big on breaking stereotypes, but some (such as using the privilege) can have both beneficial (being heard, making progress) and negative impact (trying to dominate over trans men). Frankly I also disagree that all who "blend in" do so out of fear. Some do it because it's easier, has a personal upside (avoiding stigma) and can be very uncomplicating as well as providing clear benefits (both career potential and relations with friends, peers). Of course the downside is the lost potential to educate or to help their own community.

On the flipside of this argument, Antonia D'Orsay tended to take sides with using the stereotype role.

Transwomen need to start doing what transmen did first: building a consensual community.

We need to start organizing the bake sales and fundraisers and house parties and community centers, and *while we do so* we need to remember the transmen, not after its done.

We're women - we are supposed to be thinking of the boys in what we do....

Transmen need to Provide and Protect, transwomen need to Support and Comfort.

And instead, we do the reverse, all too often.

So be sure to mention that yeah -- we do have a job to do, and it's *more* important in a lot of ways, and that job is that while the boys make the changes in law and get heard, we make the homes and the support systems for all transfolk.

"The best thing about being a woman
Is the prerogative to have a little fun" — Man, I Feel Like A Woman, Shania Twain

Good points, except some of them seemed to be almost adherent to the women-as-frail-housewives-home-baking-cookies image. It's a nice image, but real-world application is highly improbable for trans women as Rebecca Juro pointed out:

Personally, I think the biggest problem here is a basic one, and one that transwomen can be just as guilty of as transmen when they find themselves in the position to take advantage of it.

As we all know, generally speaking transmen are more visibly passable (and therefore more commonly accepted in their chosen genders) than transwomen. Given that, I don't think it's any surprise that so many transmen choose to live under the radar and not put themselves out there publicly.

Conversely, transwomen are commonly far less accepted in everyday life as members of our chosen gender, and I believe that's a big reason why so many of us are comfortable putting ourselves out there publicly. Often we have no private lives to protect since we're known as trans pretty much everywhere we go, and certainly (in many cases, including my own) every time we open our mouths to speak.

The result is that transwomen are far more visible in general than transmen so we have far less to risk by being out and open. Add to that the natural tendency to find men more credible and capable than women in general and we find ourselves in the situation we do.

Unfortunately, transmen like Ethan St. Pierre, Diego Sanchez, and Shannon Minter who are out and open, as well as being willing to be so in the public eye are the exception, not the rule, I fully expect that will continue to be the case.

After all, how many publicly vocal transwomen would still be openly and publicly trans if we could simply pass through life accepted as the women we are in all aspects of our lives? I think we all know the answer, don't we?
Becky made a number of salient points, especially noting that there is no "provide and protect" available to trans women from any source, trans men or otherwise. We, like they, are "out there" and even just the basic survival is tough -- maybe even a little tougher for trans women as opportunities are fewer, and the "ick factor" (as Barney Frank likes to refer to it) is more pronounced with MTF's. As Julia Serano noted, trans women tend to be everyone's "whipping girl" replete with all the sexually deviant connotations from the unknowing general public and even a bit from the gay and lesbian community as well.

Not all "passable" trans women avoid being public, however, I might note that trans women who "blend in" are about commensurate in percentage with trans men -- nearly all of whom blend. While trans men's numbers may be numerically lower, the difference comes from the trans women who may not "blend in" making up a significant portion of the trans activism community. Necessity is the mother of invention, and their need is palpable -- thus they involve themselves. Save for those who get into advocacy as a means of economic opportunity, the vast majority of trans activism has been done by those who had the greatest need.

Antonia did have points to make as well. The bake sale and house parties thing aren't something I can visualize (if no one's got money in the first place, how do you have bake sales or house parties?) and when you've got people who've been through financial, emotional and sometimes physical hell, the "support and comfort" function doesn't come easy either.

Another point she brought up was the FTM consensus building approach being learned in MTF circles. Focusing on making the homes and the support systems and community centers may not employ all of us, but it's a start and will begin at least some basic function for our community.

And if nurturing isn't our role (and for a lot of the hardscrabble types amongst us, it's not), there is another alternative. Not all wives are the soft ones -- some nag. Loudly! As I'd mentioned in the last blog and Antonia mentioned, essentially the guys will have to get our rights. As Spanky's gang had on the sign in front of their clubhouse "no girls allowed." But as Sylvia Rivera showed, we can damn sure raise hell outside and create the impetus for moving the reluctant gatekeepers along, lest they face a lot of pissed off, ugly women with rolling pins! The guys are the lever, we girls are the fulcrum.

Another issue brought up in a comment by Katrina Rose was noting Ethan's comment on the "difference between a butch dyke and an FTM."

However, I have also seen certain non-MTF individuals utilize that purported "little difference" to sickeningly inflate the number of 'trans people' employed by a certain transphobic gay organization in DC.
There has been a propensity by non trans folks, frequently (though not solely) Human Rights Campaigns employees, who identify as lesbian for the "privilege" in LGBT world, but will state they feel or identify as "trans sometimes" in front of a trans audience. It happens more frequently as time goes by as we never made a big stink initially. Apparently they think it's something they could continue to get away with.

Nevertheless these trans-voyeurs live in a non-trans world, with virtually all non-trans friends and have non-trans experiences and jobs. But the convenience of having a throw-down tranny ID allows them both easy claim for their employer (both for their EEO and some feigned caché as a bonus) and the ability to avoid facing the trans reality of lost job and wages, lost friends (who don't particularly like trans, but dislike traitors more) and maybe even lost love and family.

Think of someone saying they identify as lesbian "sometimes." Are they a full-fledged lesbian? Do they receive carte blanche entre into places you would normally not get to go as non-lesbian? Do you think the Michigan Womyn's Festival will fling its doors open for a slew of weekend lesbians? It's kind of like saying your black sometimes just so you can hang out in the hood some time for shits and giggles.

At the last IFGE conference, FTMs Spencer Bergstedt and therapist, Sam Allen were discussing some of the genderbois using the term FTM casually, while at the same time railing against anyone who called them a "dude," "man" or anything "trans." Per their report, these kids were pretty militant about their self-terminology ... and yet would self-describe as FTM. As Sam said "if [they] don't want to be "man" or "dude" or anything, then stop using FTM!"

Spencer agreed, adding, "What the hell is FTM anyway? Female to ... MALE!"

We all need to be mindful that as trans men are establishing themselves and striving to reach their potential, they face a lot of clumsy trans women still treating them as women, lesbians or subordinate as well as dealing with other non-trans folks nibbling in from the fringes trying to claim their identity as well. These things take a toll. Then after they get done with that, then they must battle with dismissive gay men and then with red-meat good-old-boys!

And for us trans women, I guess it's time to bake a cake. If you're like me and can't afford it, there's always the Sylvia Rivera method! It's all we have left.

"Get in the streets and rock!" — When Electricity Came To Arkansas, Black Oak Arkansas

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Massachusetts' Shame!

"In violent times
You shouldn't have to sell your soul!
In black and white,
They really, really ought to know!
Those one-track minds
That took you for a working boy,
Kiss them goodbye.
You shouldn't have to jump for joy!" — Shout, Tears For Fears

Just yesterday I saw an advertisement for Massachusetts Equality ( with a photo of my friend, Ethan St. Pierre, on it. It was a very flattering photo of him showing up link stating "get the resources to help fight transgender discrimination here." Indeed it's an important first step for Mass. Equality -- an important first step in 2009.

Many would think this a positive development.

Many would ... and would also completely gloss over the shameful history of both Massachusetts and this very organization, MassEquality, on transgender rights. Many would completely ignore the selfish agenda of this organization and the gay and lesbian community in Massachusetts -- commonly referred to by no less than Rep. Barney Frank as "the most liberal state in the union."

Many would ballyhoo the fact that trans people, as well as gays and lesbians, have the right to marry in Massachusetts for the past five years. Many would also overlook the fact that trans people have that right alone (and just recently the right to get a proper gender designator on their drivers' license, passed in 2009), but can still be fired from their jobs, or attacked for reasons of hate -- just the most basic of rights.

And these same people would overlook that non discrimination in Massachusetts was passed for sexual orientation twenty years ago! Of course, they would also overlook that hate crimes protections were enacted only for sexual orientation there in 2002 as well!

"but the voice-with-a-smile of democracy
announces night & day
"all poor little peoples that want to be free
just trust in the u s a"

suddenly uprose hungary
and she gave a terrible cry
"no slave's unlife shall murder me
for i will freely die" — Thanksgiving 1956 by e. e. cummings

A year ago, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) finally went pro, hiring an executive director and becoming a full-time organization devoted to transgender rights. Most people wouldn't notice that after MTPC's entré, only then did MassEquality finally get up off their duff and begin assisting in pushing for employment non discrimination. Of course, they were concerned with the upcoming elections in 2008 -- critical, of course! -- and even noted to the trans activists in the state that it was unlikely they could push for the Trans Employment Non Discrimination bill there. They didn't want to risk turning off voters on progressive issues by pushing something controversial.

Then again, many people would overlook that while they did ease off on Employment Non Discrimination, Mass. Equality still managed to push forward with passage of legislation recognizing out-of-state same-sex couples' marriages in Massachusetts. Right! Much more important (and less controversial) having out-of-state couples marrying in the Bay State, rather than having trans people have the right to work! After all, how many Massachusetts residents care about that, to say nothing of the controversy that would stir!

Per my friend Ethan, according to the report this year from Mass. Equality, one of their biggest agenda items, since most everything they wanted in their state was accomplished, was to work with adjacent states to help them pass marriage equality! Surely people will conveniently overlook that Trans people there still have no right to work or no right to address hate violence (in one of the most notoriously violent states in America for trans hate murders, no less!) Yeah, no urgency there ....

Now that suddenly people are waking up in straight America to the continuing disparities in the transgender community, not to mention our lack of equal voice, it's funny to watch how these GLBT organizations (BT in name only) are suddenly rushing to put splashy little web pages on their sites, giving the world the impression they truly care about their trans brothers and sisters. Surely no one will notice there's also money they can raise from trans people, trans supporters and foundations for their GLBT organization!

And I must note that MTPC -- the transgender organization, remember them? -- ekes by on roughly about $25,000 per year for their executive director, and not much else! Who wants to bet that in "the most liberal state in the union" as Ol' Barn' likes to refer to it, that the big GL(*BT*) organization draws in at least eighty times that in annual budget? No one will notice that.

So now, because the guilt stuff is nibbling around the edges, MassEquality decides maybe that they need to jump on this bandwagon and "be the transgender voice!" And many people will overlook the fact that they don't hire trans people there to be our own voice -- after all, gays and lesbians frequently aren't the ones who are their own voice, right? And those same people will overlook the fact that there is a Trans group (remember MTPC?) already existing, trying to work on expressing the trans needs by putting a trans face to it.

"be quiet little hungary
and do as you are bid
a good kind bear is angary
we fear for the quo pro quid" — Thanksgiving 1956 by e. e. cummings

Nobody's going to notice that the transgender issues are being championed and pushed by people who are themselves not trans, nor ever had much of a sense of the urgency in the community; much less a full awareness of all the nuances unique to the trans community that never even occur to those outside of our community. It will be overlooked that there even any need for trans input there.

Yes, many will overlook their history of ignoring trans people. Many will overlook the history of avoiding hiring of trans people. Many will overlook this spontaneous awareness and brazen exploitation of trans people. And many will overlook their -- ahem -- "generosity" with trans people in their own state. Better to devote resources and work on equality for gays and lesbians who happen to live in other states. That's equality -- not egalité (those get confused all the time!)

And of course, nobody will notice when those who speak out on this glaring disparity are challenged, discredited as crazy, isolated -- even encouraged to be isolated by some of our own more expedient trans folks -- censored and summarily dismissed into oblivion. It's always easy to tune out a trans-centric voice.

"I do for you a famous Soviet suppression: Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. "So how do you like life in Russia? (Hand over mouth, answering) Mmm! Mmm-mmm, mmm-mmm!" — comedian, Yakov Smirnov

Many people will overlook this. And many people -- especially trans people -- will not! The histories of these organizations are long-term lessons we in the trans community have learned the hard way. Lose the history, lose the lesson. And as George Santayana long ago noted: those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

"uncle sam shrugs his pretty
pink shoulders you know how
and he twitches a liberal titty
and lisps "i'm busy right now"

so rah-rah-rah democracy
let's all be as thankful as hell
and bury the statue of liberty
(because it begins to smell)." Thanksgiving 1956 by e. e. cummings

"I hope we live to tell the tale!" — Shout, Tears For Fears

Personally I won't overlook history and I have no intention of willfully allowing it to repeat. I remember the lessons I learned the hard way from Sylvia Rivera (and she was completely correct!) I remember what happens when you overlook small details that seem insignificant, like 2006's Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill language, and then it becomes much more significant later when the small detail becomes set in stone to our detriment. I remember the hard lessons of having allowed those the "benefit of the doubt" only to see it used to play us as fools, and watch as this only emboldens these same parties to play us subsequently as "old fools."

I also remember fully that the gay and lesbian community leadership, as exhibited by their own quotes from the likes of Hilary Rosen, Joe Solmonese, Barney Frank, Matt Foreman, have done an excellent job of not forgetting nor overlooking history either! Nobody in the gay and lesbian rights movement overlooks their own disparities, or the history thereof.

Blogger Jenna Lowenstein, writing on the marriage rights vs. civil unions debated noted it this way:

The idea that there is a trade-off for any rights movement – between principle and compromise, revolution and assimilation, absolutism or gradualism, belief and strategy – is what forces this debate, but I think the answer is easy....

We can compromise on taxes and on infrastructure funding and on health care costs. But we cannot – we must not – sell out the fundamental right to equality.

Why should we simply allow others more funded, with more power and privilege and with more access to media to come in and simply co-opt our issues and take ownership of our voices and hold our own rights in their hands -- something that means our lives, but means only an new funding opportunity and maybe an easy way to self-assuage their own guilt? Would that be viewed as equality to them? Why would they believe we would compromise our own voice and abdicate our own future?

There are plenty of very active and very effective trans activists in Massachusetts, including some who are unemployed. You want to do something about "equality" that'll send a message to your own and the trans community, and most importantly to the employers who note you don't even hire trans people yourselves (thus, why should they)? How about forgetting about putting trans men on your website and instead hiring these same trans men -- or better still, seriously underwrite the trans organization to hire staff (not just one person on a near-poverty shoestring) and open the doors to the powers that be to make an egalitarian dream for trans people something more realistic?

No ... folks like MassEquality conveniently overlook that we might be our own most effective advocates on our own issues! Better that they take our issues and advertise themselves with them. They'll take whatever funding they can draw to their own org via the plight of the trans community. They'll enjoy every second of media they can draw to themselves and paint themselves as heroically standing for trans equality (whatever that means to them).

It completely escapes them that trans people might want to be their own advocates, do their own work, raise our own funds, create our own community infrastructures, increase our own visibility (not possible when it's always a gay or lesbian face on TV), develop our own political résumés and help add to our own experiences and build the confidence wherefrom. We also might not want to forget our own intertwined histories!

So how does this empower trans people in Massachusetts, having other people take over our issue simply because they can? Is this supposed to instill trans people with pride?

If they can't help lift up transgender people or organizations, then don't exploit! That's not pride — that's shame.

"Shout! Shout! Let it all out!
These are the things I can do without!" — Shout, Tears For Fears

Calling All Trans Men!

"When a man speaks his mind it is accepted as charming, interesting, sexy, but when a woman speaks hers she is aggressive, unattractive, pushy – some might even say a bitch." — actress, Lauren Bacall

Originally I was going to send this out last weekend, coinciding with International Women's Day. I thought better of it, probably too offensive. But I'm glad I waited ....

Something struck me at Equality Texas' Lobby Day a week and a half ago. There were about sixty trans people (estimating). Other than Reed Bogle (who's on the board of Eq. TX), there was one other trans man -- Darren from Houston. That's it. Two. So I've gotta ask: where the hell are you guys?!? You should be out here in larger numbers, not less than trans women! You're killing us here!

The reason I say this: trans men are going to be the lead on getting trans people overall our rights. It has to be. Yes, I realize activism's been overpopulated with trans women the whole time, and led by us in our own efforts. But in the real world outside of Trans land, it will be trans men that win this and finally get people to listen to us.

And yeah, trans women, that means we won't be listened to. You can be pissed off all you want, but it's true. You can be the loudest, you can be the strongest, you can be the one that works your ass into the ground. None of that will matter. You won't get that opportunity to lead us to our goal.

Fair? No. But that's the way society is geared, whether you like it or whether you don't.

I'd arrived at this a few months ago after a trans woman friend made a comment about Diego Sanchez being the first person hired on as staff in Congress. After I thought it over, it made total sense. And I believe it's something we're all overlooking to a greater or lesser extent in our trans lives. Our perspectives on how we'll be perceived and treated are coming from the genders we were raised in -- whether we want to admit it or not.

Far too many of us trans women feel that if we're only a little more assertive or insistent, or just emotionally frame our arguments just a bit better, we'll be listened to and given immediate credibility and be able to win our goals and be heroic. Far too many trans men grew up not wanting to be the male assholes they'd witnessed growing up, understood the reason for feminism, and felt that the world would be a better place if we just listened a bit more in a spirit of mutual support and came to consensus, rather than forge ahead with their own ambition.

Well, we've all got it backwards.

"Boys in the girls room,
Girls in the men's room...." — Androgyny, Garbage

Trans guys, when you're out in the gay or the straight world, you need to cast aside that sensitive, consensus crap and as Ann Coulter would say, "grow a pair!" When you're out there, you need to be the "assholes," to put it bluntly. It's something I'd mentioned to Ethan St. Pierre back in the day, about the time he was inheriting Presidency of NTAC. And he took it to heart and has done well progressing with the male insistence. Especially when considering the context of the trans rights fight, you guys must be assertive -- aggressive even. Take that ambition and starting pushing hard. Be like the gay men or the straight men you see in interaction: climb upward, climb hard, be ambitious and don't worry about the cries from those you elbow out of the way. If they shove you, shove them down. If they shove you again, flatten them to the ground and kick them in the nuts so hard they wear them as a bow-tie! Like it or not, this is how men operate in business (and civil rights has become BIG business).

Trans women, sorry about this. At best we're only going to be the loud harping bitches to the outside world. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we will not be the ones with the credibility that opens those doors. We can go back to recapturing females softness, or we can stand up and speak out and be strong women. But strong women are still dismissed by men, and even given sideways glances from some of the less ardent women. Add to this the fact that we're trans, and the whole "failure to give up male privilege" thing comes into play. Our best role is to be the outspoken bomb-throwers in back of the trans men, but we will not be the ones invited to the table. In essence, our role is the newer versions of Sylvia Rivera.

It's still an important function: trans women will be the fulcrum of this leverage system, immovable and ornery enough to draw the attention from those we're trying to move. But it's the trans men that will be the levers, and must do the pushing. Yes guys, you've gotta. We would if we could -- but we can't.

"And the woman who could win the respect of man was often the woman who could knock him down with her bare fists and sit on him until he yelled for help." — journalist, Agnes Smedley

This all played out before me again at the Texas Senate in Austin the other day. During the senate debate, the author -- a quintessential, moustachioed "good-ol-boy conservative" named Troy Fraser -- took turns talking down to the female senators. One senator, a Democratic freshman attorney and tenured city councilwoman, Wendy Davis, was especially (and embarrasingly) dismissed by Sen. Fraser. Sen. Davis practically had to talk like an third-grade schoolteacher when questioning Fraser on his bill. Yet still the fool kept saying he "didn't understand" and "couldn't hear" her. He completely dismissed one question of hers, saying "being a freshman, you probably don't know how we do things here ...." She understood, he just didn't understand her question. At one point, he even pulled out a hearing aide and put it on, saying "I have a problem hearing women's voices"!

It sounded humorously dismissive, but in actuality there was some candor and truth there. Most all men with power don't hear women. They don't afford them the contemporary status held for other men in their peer set, and thus tend to tune out when women speak. And like it or not, the halls of power -- whether corporate, political or judicial -- are all dominated by these male-oriented men.

Now if it's still happening this blatantly for born females, then how do you think male-to-females will be perceived?

"Take this pink ribbon off my eyes.
I'm exposed and it's no big surprise.
Don't you think I know exactly where I stand?" — Just A Girl, No Doubt

After Diego's hiring in Congress, I began looking at the scale of how we are perceived by observation, empirical be it may.

Trans men hold more credibility with both categories of the gay and lesbian community than trans women. But the biggest differences are with straight men, and indeed men as an overall category. Trans women have virtually no credibility with men in any category except trans men -- and even there, it's lesser than trans men's credibility with their own. Meanwhile, trans men have credibility with most straight men, an increasing amount of gay men (though less than straight) as well as all of their own.

Even among women, trans men have a slight edge by having more credibility among lesbians. And if you look at it from society at large, female-to-males are taking a step up in the world, male-to-females are stepping down.

Again, men dominate the halls of power. James Brown said it over forty years ago, and it's still true today: "This is a man's world."

Get it?

"You see, man made the cars to take us over the road.
Man made the trains to carry heavy loads.
Man made electric light to take us out of the dark.
Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark." — This Is A Man's Man's Man's World, James Brown

This is why there was a Diego Sanchez as the first on the Hill. It's why there was Jamison Green and Shannon Minter working with HRC and NCLR so many years ago, or a Kylar Broadus being the first hired trans person at a GLBT org, or even a Gunner Scott being the first statewide trans group leader receiving the first substantial funding from gay groups like HRC.

We are on the verge of a watershed in trans rights in the coming years. And right now the trans community is in serious pain, and it's getting worse. However, opportunities will soon be ripe for trans men in GLBT and straight America. Trans men, wherever the hell you are, you need to come out of the woodwork, start flooding the public sector and the organizations and kicking some serious ass! We need you in there now, to start working upward and seizing power.

Then, once this occurs, remember the trans women are still outside starving! We need this ASAP!

"I'm gonna rock this land!
I'm gonna take this itty bitty world by storm –
And I'm just gettin warm." — Mama Said Knock You Out, L. L. Cool J.

It may be as much as a decade before we can start moving trans women in there. This takes quite a bit of time to work, and for the men to get to a place to where they can make the demands to get us in. There's nothing we can do about it except get trans men in there in large numbers and as soon as possible. Before anyone starts whining about trans women being the most desperate, having expended the most time, etc, spare me. I've spent 13 years and $21K at this myself, another decade means I'm in my 60's -- it's game over for me. Regardless, we have to progress and that means getting trans men into all these spots as much as we can humanly do so. They have to work their way up before women can get in.

Meanwhile we trans women can begin tuning up our loud voices. It's the one thing we can do is create the intimidation factor: the bad cop to the guys' good cop. We'll make their eardrums bleed while the guys push them to negotiate.

And trans men, I cannot stress this enough, you must begin inserting yourself in there and getting aggressive. Pattern yourself after the other men you're dealing with in politics. Be just as ruthless. You can no longer just kick back and let trans women do this as we'll never be able to kick those doors in. Y'all can kick them in, but you've got to be here to do it. If you don't start, and start now, then we're all screwed.

One thing I'm sick of seeing is trans political efforts being dominated by trans women, knowing full well that we're never gonna be given the time of day. Trans men, step up and use that credibility and your new (even if unused) male privilege. We're dying out here and can't wait any longer!

"You think that I'm not human
And my heart is made of stone.
But I've never had no problems
'cause my body's pretty strong." — I'm A Man, Chicago

"This is a man's world –
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl." — This Is A Man's Man's Man's World, James Brown

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Texas Senate Slumber Party: How To Keep Trannies From Voting

“A man without a vote is a man without protection.” — former Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson

Texas Capitol building, very peaceful at 2AM ....

The Texas Legislature is pulling extraordinary measures to enact a law that will strip transitioning transsexuals right to vote. This is a violation of our voting rights to knowingly strip law-abiding, taxpaying citizens from the vote. And I fully encourage all trans people in transition to go vote, take along a witness to take notes, and the minute you are turned away after providing your photo ID (and per the new law, the election workers or election judge should do so), contact an excellent an aggressive attorney and file a federal lawsuit against both the State of Texas and Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)

Shortly after I arrived back home from Austin this morning, the Texas Senate forced through a passage of a Voter Photo ID bill (SB 362) after nearly 24 hours of live testimony and senate debate. Sure, there were experts testifying from 5:45PM Tuesday until 7:45AM this morning. Yes, we all sat through an all night session virtually non-stop in the State Capitol’s Senate Chambers.

And those of us who signed up for public testimony Tuesday before 1PM finally saw our opportunity to testify before the entire Senate begin shortly before 8AM this morning! Ultimately, the fix was in. We shouldn’t have bothered wasting our energy.

The Senate undertook this one bill for the purpose of ferreting out only some potential fraud (not all) and additionally to find ways to disallow votes from people who may not bring both voter certificates and valid, matching photo IDs: elderly, the poor, the recently foreclosed homeless, minorities, the disabled of varying stripe and transitioning transsexuals – overwhelmingly people who are Democrats.

(And for those who don’t know, Texas is dominated on all three branches – with special thanks to Tom DeLay’s mid-term redistricting – by Republicans).

The Senate also suspended the normal protocol of working this through committee, and suspending the needed 2/3 vote for passage; so urgent was the need to deal with this potential voter fraud epidemic. This was highly unusual.

With this, and the potential for what this would do for trans community voters, I decided to make the trip to Austin to testify before the Senate.

“Identity Matters!” — TX State Sen, Florence Shapiro (R-Plano)

Both the transgender community and I couldn’t agree with the good senator more! For well over a decade, the transgender community has been pushing for passage of a name and gender change bill that would make the process much easier (alleviating the need for attorneys, courts, the idiosyncratic judges and their individual “discretion,” and especially the cost!) And for well over a decade, the legislature has ignored us. People transitioning, who have an ID in one gender but live as the other, will effectively be disallowed the vote per the Voter ID bill.

As Sen. Shapiro said in debate on the Senate floor, “we’re just trying to make sure everyone’s identification matches.” Sen. Fraser as well reiterated, declaring “I just want to make sure this person is who they say they are!” The trans community has been attempting to facilitate that with our own for years, and yet it’s these same partisans who’ve done nothing to attain that – zero. Therefore we have problems getting identification that matches our gender thanks to Texas’ Republicans and other Democrats running in fear of them – and yet also have to listen to the likes of Sen. Fraser complain about identities that don’t match!

"Sen. Wendy Davis (R) deposes (and is ignored by) Sen. Troy Fraser (L) during senate debate."
This especially impacts a couple friends of mine who are transitioning here in the Houston area. In both cases they are going through divorce, and per the judge’s decree, they are instructed by the court to not proceed with any change of name or gender until their divorce is final. We can’t fault the judges in this case: there is no such Voter ID law in effect at the time of their ruling, so they can’t be faulted for violating the voting rights of those in court before them.

However, the Texas Senate is fully aware. I testified openly to that fact to the whole of the Senate, with the bill’s author, Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), standing in front of me not forty feet away, staring me down as I testified. He heard every word – unless of course he considers me a woman. During his dismissive debate with freshman Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), Sen. Fraser kept asking her to repeat herself, saying “I have problems hearing women’s voices.” My sympathies to his wife.

One thing that struck me as odd about Sen. Fraser is his apparent lack of knowledge of his own bill. During debate, Sen. Leticia VanDePutte asked him if his bill required having both the voter certificate and the photo ID, or just the photo ID?”
"Sen. Troy Fraser (R) responds to Sen. Leticia VanDePutte (L, opposite corner) during senate debate."
Sen. Fraser answered her: “I don’t know. I need to look at [the bill].” Odd, considering that he responded to Sen. Davis at one point that his bill was “not rocket science.” There’s actually a couple oddities in the bill that I noted that seem to open a back door to new fraud. I wouldn’t be surprised that Sen. Fraser hasn’t noticed this, but I won’t divulge at the moment – I need to get this to our House members and have them bring this to light.

Of the expert testimony, Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation was one of the highlights. He gave glowing testament to passing the Voter ID bill including studies conducted while he was a career employee with the Bush Dept. of Justice (DOJ) on Georgia and Indiana, two previous states with the same statute. Next Sen. Elliot Shapliegh (D-El Paso) deconstructed the expert’s premise, noting numerous complaints from his tenure among DOJ employees for ignoring data and cherry-picking – as well as letters of criticism from sitting congressmembers. On one point, von Spakovsky noted one claim made against him was a lie – to which Sen. Shapleigh pressed him to admit the author of the letter was a “liar” in his words.

The author of that letter was then-Senator Barack Obama. I’m sure the President would be interested in that.
"Sen. Eliot Shapleigh(top far side) questions expert witness Hans von Spakovsky (at podium) during senate testimony."
Even though I was disappointed in my own testimony due to brain fatigue and too short of a time to speak to all the points I wanted to make, it at least had the attention of the Senate – including the Republicans like Sen. Dan Patrick, Sen. Steve Ogden, Sen. Fraser and my own Sen. Joan Huffman. Or at least they seemed to listen intently.

Once I walked out the door of the senate chamber, I was chased down by Sen. Shapiro and Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and gave me a big hug. After I got over the initial shock, both mentioned they were just discussing the courage of some of the public coming up to testify and by coincidence I then began my speech and caught their attention. It apparently went better than I’d thought for the two senators to make a special trip to come outside the chamber to visit with me.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst stands next to Sen. Fraser in the back. If you look really closely at the close on the back wall, you'll see it says 2:45 ... that's AM!
“Courageous” testimony aside, Sen. Shapiro voted for passing the Voter ID bill, knowing our situation and the potential for federal lawsuit for voter disenfranchisement. I’m sure much of this had to do with the Texas Senate’s version of the “barking police dog” keeping everyone in line – Sen. Dan Patrick. He’s the quintessential hyper-partisan and even a radio talk-show, Rush Limbaugh wannabe. He and Tommy Williams are Texas’ versions of Trent Lott and Tom DeLay – hammering all their party members in order to keep uber-discipline and ensure pure party line votes.

“One thing I do know is if you want to really mobilize voters, try to take away their right to vote! They’re going to be out and active in the next election and they will remember!” — unidentified woman giving public testimony before the Texas State Senate on 3/11/09

At least some good came from my trip to Austin for the senate testimony, besides scoring points with a couple senators. We better start seeing some serious push on the name and gender change bill as a result of their awareness of us. Otherwise, they’re active participants in disenfranchising us – not helpful when the federal lawsuits are filed.

Note to Phyllis Frye: we need to start pressing some folks like Senators Fraser, Shapiro, Huffman, Patrick, Ogden and Craig Estes.

On other legislation, I also managed to get the new bill number for the House expansion of Hate Crimes to include “gender identity or expression”: HB 2966. Additionally I also set an appointment during my testimony wait time with Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) and reminded him of our visit a decade earlier and the need to add the final categories to the Hate Crimes bill. He’s not sure what “gender expression” is, but I think I may have successfully impressed upon him that that term is a choice (something that was important to him). If he can agree on our existing wording, all the better!

Later I also visited with Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s staffer Brete Anderson (and personally let her know as well) that I’d gotten Rep. Chisum on a good day, and that we were ready to proceed with discussing bringing him on board. This makes it even better that we visited and brought on a few of the other Republicans in the House already. We even had such a nice visit that chatted about other things like our love for the old rock and roll music, why Lubbock’s GOP Rep. Delwin Jones’ office had Elvis paraphernalia and not Buddy Holly (Lubbock’s native son), and the differences between life in the Panhandle and life in Houston.

After his wife called and he had to leave, I even managed to grab a quick photo with him. I just realized, that may be a first … a photo with the Rep. in Warren Chisum’s office! Little victories ….

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice” — former Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson.