Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lift Your Voices In Pride -- And Outrage!

“I think I was just fed up with the image that had been created around me, which I sometimes consciously, most of the time unconsciously cooperated with. It just got too much for me to really stomach and so I put an end to it one glorious evening.” — singer, Jim Morrison

"Scream 'til you feel it!
Scream 'til you believe it!
Scream and when it hurts you,
Scream it out loud." — Scream, Tokio Hotel

"Evil prospers when good men do nothing." — Irish politician, author, philosopher, Edmund Burke

This will be a short post. Actually I shouldn't even be awake, but it's one of those sultry, sticky nights following nine days of temps of 100 or over (save for last Monday's 99). Yes, for those of us without A/C, it's tailor-made for regular irregular sleep patterns.

Beyond the personal, it's Pride week for many of us. As I'm on an 11AM flight to New York (thank God for frequent flyer miles!), I'm looking forward to doing Pride where the movement both galvanized and mobilized the community. Pride in New York falls exactly 40 years and about 11 hours after the beginning of the Stonewall Riots.

Since that time, we've seen massive change – some good, some bad. One thing that strikes me though is that we as a nation have become imminently more docile. You look at the election fraud in Iran and what that's produced in mass demonstration, then compare it to the U.S. where we went through two shady election cycles to begin the millennium: virtually nothing. We just took it.

Similarly there's a strong sense of of many in America falling through the cracks into destitution. Nowhere is this more urgent than in the Trans community and Queer community of color.

So where's the outrage? Even with things moving toward marriage equality in many states, including what may be an imminent passage in New York state, there is no hate crime protection nor virtually any job opportunities (much less equality) for these mentioned segments of our community. Yet even for an event such as raising the visibility of this in Pride this year, we're more content to divide into camps and stay on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the business opportunists take de facto dominion over our voice and seeming power of attorney of our decision making on how and when and what needs to be addressed. And as a result, we find ourselves jobless, often under attack and without hope ... but in some of these same locales, able to marry!

The time has come. We need to seize our voices back. Yes, this is a celebratory event, but keep in mind we are *marching* in the parade not much different than our LGBT forebearers in a much more active, much more responsible and much less docile time. Forget the commercialism, opulence and flash. Think of what it would've been like back before it became this big party if those early marches after Stonewall never occurred because Sylvia Rivera or Bob Kohler or Marsha P. Johnson or even Randolfe Wicker had decided, "no, I can't be bothered, too much work."

You have a voice. Use it or lose it. If you're outraged, if you feel manipulated, used and thrown away and disgruntled, then express yourself! And if you don't, then someone else will capitalize on your voice and you'll end up, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we'll get the governance we deserve due to our apathy.

"I know that my children in later years, my transgender community will understand: We have to stand up and speak for ourselves! We have to fight for ourselves! We save their lives. We were the front line of the so-called 1969 rebellion of the Stonewall." — Sylvia Rivera from the documentary: Sylvia Rivera, A Trans Life Story

"Time has come today.
Young hearts can go their way.
Can't put it off another day.
I don't care what others say.
They say we don't listen anyway." — Time Has Come Today, the Chambers Brothers

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trans Teen's Brutal End Was An Elaborate Hoax

Well it turns out a number of us (myself included) were suckered. Yep, punked Ashton Kutcher style. Last night and this morning we read a story about Rachel or Raychel Roo, an alleged list moderator on Laura's Playground, and a brutal murder that occurred.

It turns out it was someone's sick idea of a joke.

After posting a blog on it myself before a long day of board meetings and a reception to attend, I get home twelve and a half hours later to find all references now denying the story altogether.

The list-serv had dozens of folks expressing outrage and depression over this list moderator. At this writing, it's not known if this was even a real person (or who she was representing herself to be as a teen mentor to other trans people) – much less a victim of a heinous murder. And perhaps this person has more than one persona on this list-serv, as there was a second person commenting about the family needing privacy and personally knowing this Rachel Roo's aunt – clearly playing along with the same scam.

So this person (or people) managed to deceive an entire list-serv and a bunch of others among us as they watched their deception make its way around the global net.

Net result? More second-guessing of trans people. More skepticism in a community with an overabundance of reason not to believe. Trans Americans are perennially betrayed, played and frequently lied to from political leaders and virtually every other side.

So these jokers figure "why not create more deceit? Why not get them to not even trust each other or trust in themselves?"

They succeeded. We'll be much more unlikely to listen to or believe anyone anymore.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Legislative Chatter On The Eve Of Pride: Will We Be Equal?

"Part of the problem, frankly, is with the transgender community and some of those who put that in the forefront, because they didn’t lobby. The only time they started lobbying is when we said ‘You know what, we don’t have the votes for this, we gotta to do it partially.’ Then they began lobbying the Democrats that were supportive. I’ve never seen a worse job of lobbying. For years, literally years, I have been begging them to start talking to people about this, and have said you, look, have political problems here, I wish we didn’t but we do, and you have to deal with them." — Cong. Barney Frank in 2007

As we converge on New York City next week for the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall (and others partake in their own cities' Pride celebrations), word comes out that the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) will be reintroduced to coincide with the occasion. This is tailor-made timing to induce good vibes to soothe over the raw feelings and disastrous previous sessions' disarray and fracturing of the community. How successful the community repairs will be leaves me naturally skeptical, but we'll see how they conduct themselves this time.

We've mostly heard the wording will stay similar to the original HR 2015 (the inclusive ENDA originally submitted before we were ditched and HR 3685 eventually passed. There has been at least a bit of a murmur from one contact that "there's talk of the language changing this time," but that's yet to be independently confirmed anywhere else.

There's one thing we can bet the house on. Trans folks most in need of such legislation, the outsiders and unequivocal backers of inclusive legislation, those not of the HRC ilk will be nowhere in sight or earshot of the negotiation table (much less participating). Yes, it'll be "trust us" yet again ... y'all know the modus operandi by now.

It's good timing for Rep. Barney Frank and HRC to submit this next week. In fact it couldn't be better. The Gay and Lesbian community will undoubtedly be overjoyed. There's a possibility trans people may also celebrate it equally. Maybe.

Until we see it we don't know what we'll be dealing with. Therein lies another reason the bill is timed well for Ol' Barn' and HRC: we'll be busy partying our butts off per their estimation, giving them a bit of cover in the off chance it was needed.

And as we've already seen, just because a bill drops in one version doesn't mean it's going to stay that version or that it'll not be switched yet again.

The House won't be the big worry this time unless we see a replay of Ol' Barn' and the backroom boys making a deal about abandoning trans due to the dreaded "toilet issue" (as in, "which one?") We hopefully confronted that adequately in lobbying this past May: all they have to do is look at NTAC's Lobby Packet cover to see what it is the conservatives are truly asking for – something I don't think they intended.

The worry on ENDA will be the Senate stripping out the trans inclusive language (or stonewalling it altogether.)

On a more uplifting note, the Hate Crimes Bill should be making it to the Senate vote any time now. In this case, we should have the votes to pass it. The only caveat is it's been attached to a Tourism Bill (whatever that's about). This means there will have to be a conference committee revisitation from a joint committee of Senate and House. Prospects are good, but anything can happen in a conference committee. The downside (if any) is if it gets stripped there, it goes on to the President for signature and we have no ability to affect it at that point.

If I had to put money down on it though, I'd say there are better odds on it passing inclusively as the President has already asked for the bill and checked it's progress.

Meanwhile on the DOMA brief from the Dept. of Justice, I've been watching the rhetoric and heat flying around. It's true that the head of the DOJ is President Obama's doing, but I'm sure that there's not been a massive purge of all former DOJ employees from the Bush years, nor is it the President's responsibility to micromanage the department. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder wasn't exactly known for his "bleeding-heart liberal" credentials, save for the likes of Rush Limbaugh or other extremists. Ultimately they do their job and the President reviews, but doesn't necessarily have obligation to second-guess everything.

That said, it seems some of the immediate blasts may have been more than just premature, but from a position of not even reading the brief in the first place! Originally even Cong. Barney Frank took initial umbrage, then stepped back from his initial statements by admitting he hadn't read the brief and was relying on oral arguments!

While that is a black eye on Ol' Barn', he actually came clean and admitted! That's a refreshing bit of honesty, and I've got to give Rep. Frank credit there.

Much of this seems deriven from John Aravosis' Americablog and possibly references to Charles Socarides' article, and its initial read (if indeed it was read) on the DOJ brief. Lawdork blog had the following to say (http://lawdork.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/chairman-frank-and-aravosiss-misstatements/)

Soon thereafter, John Aravosis published a piece that just went round the bound. I have tried to keep my blog as forward-looking as possible, but it’s clear that Aravosis’s heavy popularity at his blog and media contacts have allowed his false statements about what the filing means to push the debate into the twisted, contorted view he is giving it.

The two main problems that I have with Aravosis’s coverage are:

(1) His continued misstatements regarding whether Justice should have filed a brief in this case.

(2) His “comparing us to incest and pedophilia” claim is overstated and does not withstand any serious, legal scrutiny.

First of all, it’s clear that his poisoning of the well most likely led to Chairman Frank’s misimpressions about the brief, which he said he had not read until today. (I’ll admit that I too was surprised that he hadn’t read it yet, but I have noted before that Frank is wholly dedicated to the financial reform package that he’s been working on for the past several months.) Frank said: “I made the mistake of relying on other people’s oral descriptions to me of what had been in the brief, rather than reading it first.”

So, then John (Aravosis) falsely concludes that “Frank now thinks the brief is just super.”

Here’s what Frank actually said:

Now that I have read the brief, I believe that the administration made a conscientious and largely successful effort to avoid inappropriate rhetoric. There are some cases where I wish they had been more explicit in disavowing their view that certain arguments were correct, and to make it clear that they were talking not about their own views of these issues, but rather what was appropriate in a constitutional case with a rational basis standard – which is the one that now prevails in the federal courts, although I think it should be upgraded.
Of course, John cites to none of that in his post, which is very similar to what I’ve been writing and what Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe and former Clinton Justice Department senior staffer Robert Raben have said as well. [...]

Then, Aravosis gets into this notion that the President regularly just “goes about telling the DOJ to oppose existing law in court.” Aravosis states that Richard Socarides’s vague statement results in a factual, final reality: “It’s not debatable, it’s what actually happens in the Oval office, and it’s not illegal – it’s a fact.” Yes, it is.

Aravosis has to turn words up-side-down to create this idea. He keeps changing statements from people, which admit of times when a law can be challenged, into statements that people haven’t said, which is that Justice can “never” fail to defend an existing law. Despite Aravosis’s false statements, Justice spokespersons never said that Justice always has to uphold laws. As I pointed out, Justice has consistently said only that it “generally” must defend laws. [...]

(2) “Comparing us to incest and pedophilia” claim is overstated and does not withstand any serious, legal scrutiny.

This claim, to which I’ve previously objected, has been Aravosis’s claim to fame on the brief, with him taking credit whenever anyone uses the claim.

Here’s the actual line — yes, only one sentence, and not really even a sentence but just a list of cases (called a “string cite”) after a sentence — from the brief:

And the courts have widely held that certain marriages performed elsewhere need not be given effect, because they conflicted with the public policy of the forum. See, e.g., Catalano v. Catalano, 170 A.2d 726, 728-29 (Conn. 1961) (marriage of uncle to niece, “though valid in Italy under its laws, was not valid in Connecticut because it contravened the public policy of th[at] state”); Wilkins v. Zelichowski, 140 A.2d 65, 67-68 (N.J. 1958) (marriage of 16-year-old female held invalid in New Jersey, regardless of validity in Indiana where performed, in light of N.J. policy reflected in statute permitting adult female to secure annulment of her underage marriage); In re Mortenson’s Estate, 316 P.2d 1106 (Ariz. 1957) (marriage of first cousins held invalid in Arizona, though lawfully performed in New Mexico, given Arizona policy reflected in statute declaring such marriages “prohibited and void”).

These were three cases about marriages, which were valid in one jurisdiction, not being allowed under the laws of another jurisdiction. There is nothing further. The brief does not ever use the words “incest” or “pedophilia.” And, by the way, the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), the standard for diagnosis, defines pedophilia as involving “sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).” Under that definition, there is not even a case involving pedophilia appearing in the brief at all — which is likely the reason that no mainstream publication has repeated that claim.

Despite all that, this is what Aravosis concluded this evening about Chairman Frank:

Barney thinks the language of the brief was great. He even, between the lines, defends the invocation of incest and pedophilia.
No, he clearly did not think the brief was great, as his statement made clear. Moreover, he never defended anything that isn’t in the brief, despite your constant claims to the contrary.

It is Aravosis’s spreading of this continued falsity — particularly to demean the smart, legitimate statements of members of Congress — that lead me to continued reporting about why it’s false.
That last point spiked my curiosity enough to pull up the brief and begin reading in search of the comparison to pedophilia (though I was still a long way from finishing before I got this post from the Lawdork blog. Hey, I'm not a legal beagle – it takes me a bit more time to read through the technical and the legalese. Nevertheless, I'm glad to see this. The claim seemed a bit more like hyperbole than fact, and apparently so.

One thing everyone needs to keep in mind is that the President cannot overturn DOMA. He can state his opinion (which he has), but ultimately it's something Congress must enact and then get the President's signature on. It's how the damn bill was enacted in the first place, and signed by Pres. Clinton! One person (one is they're George W. Bush with Dick Cheney interpreting his constitutional law) cannot simply overturn or undo a passed, signed and enacted law.

Additionally, it'd probably look a bit odd if the Dept. of Justice had sent a brief that supported overturning DOMA. Their job is to carry out the voted and enacted law of the land and interpret what's on the books. They are not in the business of defying existing law on the books (again with exceptions given to Bush-Cheney era justice opinion).

Perhaps they should've withheld any amicus, but they would've drawn howls for going against the DOMA law. If DOMA is to be overturned, even better than having the Supreme Court do so in a ruling, DOMA must be undone via legislation.

Yes, Obama could use his bully pulpit. But last I checked, we're still hemorrhaging jobs and the economy's still in the bottom of the tank. I know, I'm one of those falling through those widening economic sinkholes. Not to mention Iran, North Korea, corporate bankruptcies and fending off right-wing nutcases throwing the conjectural kitchen sink at him. Maybe priorities aren't there at the moment.

And this comes from one of those "impatient," "screaming" trannies from NTAC! Hmm ... and we're the only ones who are supposed to be histrionical, huh?

"No, I ain’t lookin’ to fight with you,
Frighten you or tighten you,
Drag you down or drain you down,
Chain you down or bring you down.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you." — All I Really Want to Do, the Byrds

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who Cares About The Stonewall Girls (And Guys)?

"The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants." — Jerry Lisker, from the New York Daily News, July 6, 1969

As the LGBT community been enrapt in Pride celebrations in numerous cities across the globe this month, there's been plenty of news that's hit the wires. Most all of it in America has centered around Don't Ask, Don't Tell (a campaign promise by President Barack Obama that has yet to be addressed) and marriage issues or the Dept. of Justice's recent amicus curiae brief filed regarding DOMA (the Defense Of Marriage Act of 1996).

Individual organizers in the GLBT community are using this anniversary and devoting media to capitalize on the event to address the recent outrages in the gay and lesbian community.

It's a notable anniversary for Pride celebrations and marches this month as it is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. That occasion was also about outrage. The folks that night had had enough of being treated like crap. No más!

"If the police came in, they were going to check your ID, rough-up some people. The drag queens always seemed to get roughed-up first." — Larry Stansbury of Capital Pride.

Today, of course, those surviving veterans of Stonewall are all near, or in their sixties or above. They still remember that night well. And though this is a milestone anniversary, there appears to be a collective yawn in this country at least in recalling our history and having these pioneers of Queer history around for the retelling.

Odd. We want to revel in this special anniversary with parades and parties and such. Yet the organizers and perhaps a sizable portion of at least the gay and lesbian community would rather just forget what this date memorializes or the people who created the flashpoint on June 28, 1969.

"We've had all we can take from the Gestapo," the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. "We're putting our foot down once and for all." The foot wore a spiked heel. — excerpted from the New York Daily News, July 6, 1969

"[Stonewall Inn] catered largely to a group of people who are not welcome in, or cannot afford, other places of homosexual social gathering.... The Stonewall became home to these kids. When it was raided, they fought for it. That, and the fact that they had nothing to lose other than the most tolerant and broadminded gay place in town, explains why [riots occurred]." — Mattachine Society Newsletter, Aug. 1969

We currently have two or three trans members of the Stonewall Girls, those who began the protests that night, that live out in California. I've been in touch with one of them, Miss Major, and in touch with mutual friends with the others about marching with the trans community in the Sons & Daughters of Sylvia Rivera entry in New York. She was definitely interested in attending, but finances was the prime obstacle. At one point in frustration, she wrote:

I am hoping against the reality that the gay community will get off it's ass & do the right thing by the girls that are still here from the 1969! The shit stops here. (The) riot at Stonewall – when you think about it – that was 40 years ago. If you can add, that makes us elders, ones that need the respect for what we began and for living with the bullshit they throw at at us.... WE ARE STILL HERE, DAMNIT!!!

We are not going to disappear or fade away. I have no closet to hide in – I burned the house to the ground. NO HIDING PLACES.
I had to remind her that this wasn't being organized by the Pride or any gay/lesbian orgs, but was being done by trans folks, thus the lack of funding, etc. It wasn't without inquiring though. When the issue was brought to the Heritage of Pride organization in New York, they stated they had no money and added they weren't so keen on inviting more Stonewall rioters in. The Stonewall Veterans Association they already had marching tended to be "demanding" and generally a pain to deal with.

For Miss Major it was all for naught as she ended up twisting her ankle. But at least one of the other girls in Los Angeles that she had spoken with wanted nothing to do with Pride, the March, Stonewall or any of it. As Miss Major related it, she said "she was tired of us being shit on. All (Pride, Stonewall) did was bring back bad memories of how we got screwed over and shoved to the back of the bus."

We've got a gay Stonewall vet here in Houston, whose interview I reprinted in a recent blog. There's been a little interest on Big Roy McCarthy again, mostly from out of the country – the article will be translated into Danish and reprinted there on the anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots. Not only is he not getting interest in New York, even Houston's giving a collective yawn. Big Roy's not their idea of an attractive spokesmodel.

"Screaming queens forming chorus lines and kicking went against everything that I wanted people to think about homosexuals ... that we were a bunch of drag queens in the Village acting disorderly and tacky and cheap." — gay activist, Randolfe Wicker

In another ten years we'll see the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall. Perhaps that will draw more interest in the folks who were there that night inciting the one catalytic moment in our community's history which is remembered around the world. Or perhaps, since these instigators were trans, drag queens, street hustlers, mostly people of color, and also those white trash rioters too. Perhaps that memory's one that the modern-day movement of the HRCs and the NGLTFs and the like doesn't want to face. Perhaps that's been the plan since shortly after the riots finished.

The Stonewall Girls and Guys? They virtually all feel they've been co-opted and tossed away by the modern day movement like a used condom.

Bob Kohler & Sylvia Rivera circa 1970

We march in the Parade and point to the history of Stonewall. But simultaneously there's no sense that anyone wants to know or to remember the community's warriors or even know the history of that night.

People want to mouth the words "Stonewall" as it's become only an occasion in which to party. Unfortunately there will be no lessons learned from it. In Twitter-ese, time to bring out the Fail Whale.

"I had been in enough riots to know the fun was over. The cops were totally humiliated. This never, ever happened. They were angrier than I guess they had ever been, because everybody else had rioted, but the fairies were not supposed to riot, no group had ever forced cops to retreat before, so the anger was just enormous. I mean, they wanted to kill.” — gay activist and "father" of the Stonewall movement, Bob Kohler

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Presto! New York State's Same-Sex Marriage Without Even Passing A Law!

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake,
Birds and snakes, and aeroplanes -
Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn,
world serves its own needs, satisfy your own greed." — It's The End Of The World As We Know It, R.E.M.

The world ended in New York State on May 26, 2009. Or it least it should have. The AFA and the FOF and the NOM and all of those right-wingy, cover-your-thingy, religiopolitical fundamentalist orgs had long worried about the fabric of society suddenly disintegrating if ever a same-sex marriage occurred in a state where it was outlawed.

Well it happened! After the state of New York went through court same-sex marriage occurred!

So, how is life in post-apocalyptic New York? Hmm ... funny thing is it's still there! And life is going on as normal (there's that *word*!) I talked with a friend up there ... no big changes ... just an ordinary June day. No big bang, no anarchy? I guess I should be disappointed, huh?

In fact, the news media didn't even pick up on it until today's New York Post broke it this morning! And still everything's functioning! That's gotta be breaking some stony little religiopolitical hearts.

Here's the real kick in the crotch! As much as it's been a major wet dream for the gay and lesbian community these past years to be able to marry ... it was a trans woman and her husband who tied the knot! That's okay, though. They'll be buried in the annals of history with nary a memory. (It's the way things work in GLBT ... history must be by G or L – they'll see to it.)

As the Post put it:

Hakim Nelson and Jason Stenson married on May 26 with nary a raised eyebrow among the oblivious city bureaucrats who not only OK'd the marriage license, but conducted the ceremony, despite gay marriage being illegal in the state.

The plucky couple filled out their marriage application online at the Apple Store on 14th Street in May. A few days later, they went to the City Clerk's Office on Worth Street to complete the form and get their marriage license. [...]

The gullible clerk didn't seem to notice that both Nelson, 18, and Stenson, 21, have male first names. They both had to present identification to obtain the license. Stenson used his state ID card, and Nelson gave a state Benefit Card, which he uses to collect food stamps.

By a fluke, Nelson's ID card has an "F" for female on it, because the official who issued it in April assumed from his appearance that he was a woman.

Government issued I.D. in the gender she presents, female. Yet the courts want to consider her male in some states. As a result of this paranoid thrashing attempt at social engineering by the religiopoliticos, they've actually created more problems. States like Texas and Kansas consider post-operative transsexuals their birth gender, and perhaps New York currently intends the same. But if this couple goes across the river with their fresh new marriage license, legally married in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, the state of New Jersey will honor her marriage to her spouse, especially post-surgically.

And beyond all the gnashing of teeth and protests and blitzkriegs on statehouses around the country, what exactly is being hurt by this marriage beyond some peoples' feelings? There have been, however one wishes to slice it, same-sex marriages per some states' opinions for decades and decades! It's only now that it's a hot-button to keep "the gay agenda" in check that it's been moved to the fore.

In these times with foreclosures and destitution rising like bread dough, jobs disappearing like moderates from the GOP, and Kim Jung Il threatening nuclear annihilation to all (and to all a good night), very few people have enough spare time in their over-stressed lives to pay much attention to a same-sex couple getting married. They don't like the overpoliticizing and street-protest whiners, but bottom line is that if it happens, 99% of Americans are going to shrug and go, "whatever! It's not my problem! I got crap of my own to deal with!"

Crap like how to survive this corporate-induced economic Chernobyl we're in!

“This is exactly what the right wing is afraid of. People have had a year of legal marriage in Massachusetts to see how ending marriage discrimination helps gay and lesbian families and hurts no one.” — Exec. Dir, Freedom To Marry Coalition, Evan Wolfson

Congratulations to the new Mr. & Mrs. Stenson! Now move across the river to Jersey, settle down, have a nice life and leave the battlers behind to fight amongst themselves. It's official: New York state has married (per its estimation) a same-sex couple, and the world didn't come to a calamitous end!

So, New York legislature ... how about take a clue here? Just pass the damn thing.

Ultimately there's no equal reason to not extend everyone the same rights. Marriage has happened in five states now (and a sixth in January), including all of your neighbors adjacent to your eastern border have it. Their world didn't come to an end. Moreover, continuing to hold up passage only sanctions unequal application of the marriage rights granted all your state's citizens. Do you really want to advertise that to the rest of the world?

Then once it's passed, maybe then – FINALLY – we can finally start employing trans people in large numbers in these so-called civil rights groups there in the Empire State and allowing them to make the connections, speak to the powers and enact legislation to where Trans people can work? Maybe even get some protections from hate violence too? Equanimity in sentencing for all victims' attackers, hmm? Hey, it's only been, like, fifteen years or so pushing for that stuff there, forty years after Stonewall and the Gay Rights movement.

One fact I forgot to mention: the newly married couple reside in Sylvia's Place at the MCCR Church in New York: a homeless shelter for Queer Youth. Yep, they married. They just can't work or make a livable wage to survive anywhere in the Big Apple. Get it?

But yeah, I know ... priorities. Survival subjects aren't sexy. They're just so hard to market ....

"Gay people want the freedom to marry for the same reasons non-gay people do.” — Exec. Dir. for Freedom To Marry Coalition, Evan Wolfson

"Transgenders already have legal same-sex marriage. Why then is the lesbian and gay community reluctant to use this as a wedge issue when lesbian and gay same-sex marriage is debated on the news, on talk shows, and in litigation? The reluctance is incomprehensible." — from the Albany Law Review, "Same-Sex Marriages Have Existed Legally In The United States For A Long Time Now by Phyllis Randolph Frye & Alyson Meiselman

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Difference Between Trans And Gay

"I'm tired of hearing people talk about me,
Telling me I'm a disgrace to society.
Just look at yourself clearly in the mirror.
I'm not much of a sinner!
I'm just following my feelings." — Gay Pride, Omar Kamo

A recent documentary shown locally here in Houston last week got me to thinking. It was quite well done and really showed the history of the neighborhood well. Local gay and lesbian luminaries, activists, residents and others were the interview subjects, lending local flavor to the film. Something seemed out of place or missing, though. Nearing the end of the documentary it finally started sinking in: there was no transgender participants, perspective or stories (save for the mention of prostitution).

As films, news or documentaries go, it was quite typical. But it got me to thinking: why is it that even in the 21st century, you rarely if ever see any notable trans perspectives on these type shows?

Contrasting that with the documentary done 20 years ago, Remembering Stonewall, it was interesting to note that while there were a number of trans and drag folks interviewed who were primary players, there were also a few more gay and lesbian interviewees. A couple of the gay and lesbian folks were actual participants, but most were just people, gay and lesbian community leaders perhaps, who were just living in other places, or who were elsewhere that night or even avoiding that bar area altogether. They were there to discuss what beneficial impact the riot had on their lives as gay or lesbian Americans – more for flavor or color than anything else.

The percentage was approximately 50-50, with perhaps a slight edge to gay and lesbian interviewees as opposed to the "drag queens" or "transvestites" as they called them then.

Even today, in gay and lesbian subject programs if there are any gender variant images, as a rule drag queens are the only ones shown. However, unless the subject is specifically about female impersonation, the drag characters are used as wallpaper adorning the background or inconsequential scenes, or a rare sentence or two as a comic relief.

It got me to thinking a little more deeply about the differences between trans and gay – and not merely the issue of gender variance as opposed to sexual orientation.

"I tell you one thing!
You are not going to stop me!
I'm going to keep on going on
'Cause I have gay pride!" — Gay Pride, Omar Kamo

Trans people don't have the same type of history that gays and lesbians do. Still to this day we're considered temporary ... transient. As the Montrose documentary brought home, we don't have trans ghettos per se. We're rootless have never had a side of town or a place we could call home.

Like vagabonds, we're always on the edges, seen intermittently on the periphery. Nonetheless, it's never really home.

Trans history or attachment to something fixed for the ages was rare if not altogether non-existent. In popular culture, you never see visible trans participation in history. Many of us have been there in many of these instances, but we're merely the bit players or part of the background casting. On the rare occasion that we are front-line players in history, such as Stonewall, it is quickly co-opted and those trans players like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are pushed out.

Oddly enough, Sylvia was only revered by gay and lesbian cognoscenti after her death when everyone wanted on the bandwagon. During life, she was not only a pariah to the queer establishment, but most indeed tried to diminish if not altogether write her out of the history of the event – such as author David Carter in his book "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution" from 2004.

Throughout the decades the leaders of the trans movement as determined by the community members themselves and per their work over the years have absolutely no place at all in LGBT history. If it's something beneficial to the gay and lesbian community alone, it's relevant. But if it's something we in the trans community do, regardless of trans-benefit only or LGBT in scope, it's special interest. The words LGBT are uttered in order to show consideration of all people in the community, but trans people in our collective history are completely invisible.

Much like unicorns, we're mythical creatures that are rarely ever spotted (much less heard) in media or public at large. (Nor for that matter are Bi)

"Please don't say it.
I won't take it anymore.
Why should I run and hide?
We, we are what we are.
We're just like anybody else." — We Are What We Are, the Other Ones

Rare sympathetic media attention paid to the trans community usually circles around hate murder victims. The only other time we rate media is in prostitution stings or some crime that's similaraly salacious.

Even in events or rallies, lack of trans leadership (beyond the one token trans slot) who are allowed to speak and lack of perception of anyone of note only underlines our irrelevance. And it speaks loudly, not only to our community but also to those observing from outside the Queer community.

None will ever know, much less understand what it feels like dealing with the extra obstacles: being the double minority of Queerland (or for ethnic minority trans people, being the triple minority).

They won't know the extra burden of mandatory medical treatment even without promiscuity, along with the psychiatric hurdles (to say nothing of the permanent branding as "disordered" per requirements in order to obtain surgery or even hormone therapy). None of them grasp the ID complications (especially in the era of the Real I.D. Act) and extra costs for even the name and gender consistency. None fathom the job search difficulties, much less the near total absence of professional success in those jobs once transitioned, nor the historical lack of similar connections to power or the abject lack of opportunity even within LGBT environs.

It's relatively rare for them worrying over being read in public, especially for those male at birth. Similarly the constant fear of attack is nowhere near as common, much less the commensurate level of attacks. Even in the 21st century, trans people who attempt to report an attack to law enforcement are nearly always presumed to have brought it upon themselves due to the stereotyped perception of trans person as "street prostitute." There's also nowhere remotely near the level of organizational support, nor the connections with the halls of power for defending our community.

After forty years of this movement begun at Stonewall, the LGBT community is surely on a trip towards equal rights. However we're on distinctly different roads: one a direct super-highway, the other a local road with detours, roadblocks, an uncertain path and a hell of a rough ride all along the way.

"I never asked you to go away.
Didn't want to cause you pain....
Oh, we only want to be ourselves." — We Are What We Are, the Other Ones

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chastity Bono Transitions, The Media Circus Follows Right Behind

It appears the tabloids were true. We today got confirmation that after his 40th birthday, Chaz (formerly Chastity Bono) has begun the transition process from female to male.

"Yes, it's true -- Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity," publicist Howard Bragman tells Usmagazine.com.

"He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones. It is Chaz's hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his 'coming out' did nearly 20 years ago," Bragman added.

I kinda feared that might be the case ... just a hunch (like the one I had about TransFM's Ethan St. Pierre ten years ago when I first saw him at Lobby Days!)

But the fear wasn't so much for Chaz as much as the reaction this would draw from those looking to exploit another trans figure. It was something I'd written about back in 2007 when this rumor first hit in "Freak Of The Week: The Tabloid Media" http://transpolitical.blogspot.com/2007/09/freak-of-week-tabloid-media.html

[W]hy is it such a heinous scandal to have someone attached to anything hinting of crossdressing or transsexualism? [...]

A couple of items jumped out at me this week prompting this. One was a tabloid (Star or Enquirer, can’t remember which) with a blaring headline replete with photos showing a sad looking Cher, and an alternate photo of daughter Chastity Bono in what appears to be a man’s suit. The headline was: Cher’s Heartbreak Over Chastity’s Sex Change Decision. [...]

Keep in mind if Chas (or Chaz if that's how he's deciding to spell it) decides to transition to male, this will not (or should not) be a capricious decision. There’s a lot of heart-wrenching changes this makes to both family and perhaps more importantly societal relationships.
That heart-wrenching change is something I could attest to. Career-killing, financial hell and a measure of family struggles, yeah ... it's no picnic at all!

In one sense, Chaz may have an easier transition inasmuch as finances won't be the worry. He may well discover the limitations in his career and peer set due to the "transgender effect". It's likely not to be as severe due to his high profile name, but there will be some exposure to opinions, decisions and actions which he may have glossed over before (not being personally affected) but which now will carry a new and extra sting to it.

But in other ways, I feel sorry for Chaz. The downsides are there too. Adam Lambert's recent coming out as gay was phrased as "no big thing." It's not something that trans people can hope to use and get away with. It may be another generation until it's "not a big thing" for being trans.

Due to Chaz's celebrity status, it's going to be a magnet for exploitation of the "high profile" trans. For media, it's automatic salaciousness – and salacious sells! Regardless of how low-key he longs to keep it, the media won't relent because it's how they earn their paychecks.

And for his former and current employers in gay and lesbian political advocacy, they'll quickly position to monopolize him to be their spokes-trans, and with it buy themselves validity with trans people long used to their games and the perennial hierachial agenda. If he stays with their talking points, he'll be their darling for the time. Meanwhile, he'll self-ostracize from his own newfound community as he helps his employers continue countering his own trans brothers' and sisters' work and history, and inadvertently helps long-term trans folk remain voiceless and marginalized.

Chances are likely that he'll not understand the critical backlash when that happens either.

Mostly, the one thing that a sizable portion of transsexuals do – going into stealth, woodworking in order to have a real life away from the objectification of society's view of trans – will be mostly unattainable. Just the family bloodlines alone prevent media and paparazzi from ever forgetting, to say nothing of the high profile years spent in gay and lesbian advocacy.

He's acclimated to growing up in the spotlight with his family. But still, everyone at some point wishes for a "regular life" without always being defined as "the tranny" and its vaguely sexual, "Ripley's Believe It Or Not"-styled oddity label attached to us. Nobody really wants a camera following them around 24-7 for 365 days a year, privacy and personal issues be damned.

It'll be a media circus with every media outlet wanting a story, and every political hack possible seizing upon the opportunity for some free face time for themselves – oh! And pushing forth their personal agendas for folks like themselves (read: donate early, donate heavily, and trans people are fine with us pushing marriage and their own long-term joblessness!) There's nothing we can do but roll our eyes and take notes of who does and says what.

Chaz Bono's transition is necessary for him. That his mother, Cher, has come around to accpet his true self is a very positive development. But for his coming years of media and opportunists hanging all over him to attend to fulfilling their own agendas and thinking nothing about him as a person, much less consideration to his own personal space, I gotta say I feel for Chaz's situation over the coming months and years.

"We ask that the media respect Chaz's privacy during this long process as he will not be doing any interviews at this time," publicist Bragman concluded.

Amen to that sentiment. And let that go for his mom, Cher, as well. No matter what you think about the transition, give a chance to have a life!

"They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow." — I Got You Babe, Sonny & Cher

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Remembering Stonewall, Forty Years Hence

"It's time to laugh, it's time to cry
It's time to be what you need to be!
It won't be long 'til they are gone
And we can be what we want to be!
I wanna run from everything,
Everything that holds me down!
Nothing to win, nothing to lose." — Free, V.A.S.T.

This is rearranged transcript from "Remembering Stonewall" which premiered July 1, 1989. The show itself interviewed both people at the scene of Stonewall as well as others who related how they felt hearing about Stonewall and what it meant to their lives. Rather than simply reposting, I took the liberty of culling the portions of it that had specific relevance to what happened in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn. Those relevant to the riot were left in and organized a bit better, rather than the cut and paste snippets of the original in order to give more of a feel for the sentiment of the night, especially from Dep. Inspector Seymour Pine and Sylvia Rivera – the nights two main players in this documentary.

COMMENTATOR: On Friday evening, June 27, 1969, at about 11:45, eight officers from New York City's public morals squad loaded into four unmarked police cars and headed to the Stonewall Inn here at 7th Avenue and Christopher Street. The local precinct had just received a new commanding officer, who kicked off his tenure by initiating a series of raids on gay bars. The Stonewall was an inviting target – operated by the Gambino crime family without a liquor license, the dance bar drew a crowd of drag queens, hustlers, and minors. A number of the bar's patrons had spent the early part of the day outside the Frank Campbell Funeral Home, where Judy Garland's funeral was held. She had died the Sunday before. It was almost precisely at midnight that the morals squad pulled up to the Stonewall Inn, led by Deputy Inspector, Seymour Pine.

SEYMOUR PINE: My name is Seymour Pine. In 1968, I was assigned as Deputy Inspector in charge of public morals in the first division in the police department, which covered the Greenwich Village area. It was the duty of Public Morals to enforce all laws concerning vice and gambling, including prostitution, narcotics, and laws and regulations concerning homosexuality. The part of the penal code which applied to drag queens was Section 240.35, section 4: "Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration; loiters, remains, or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked . . ."

You felt, well, two guys -- and that's very often all we sent in would be two men -- could handle two hundred people. I mean, you tell them to leave and they leave, and you say show me your identification and they all take out their identification and file out and that's it. And you say, okay, you're not a man, you're a woman, or you're vice versa and you wait over there. I mean, this was a kind of power that you have and you never gave it a second thought.

There was never any reason to feel that anything of any unusual situation would occur that night.

For some reason, things were different this night. As we were bringing the prisoners out, they were resisting. One drag queen, as we put her in the car, opened the door on the other side and jumped out. At which time we had to chase that person and he was caught, put back into the car, he made another attempt to get out the same door, the other door, and at that point we had to handcuff the person. From this point on, things really began to get crazy. [T]hat's when all hell broke loose at that point. And then we had to get back into Stonewall.

We noticed a group of persons attempting to uproot one of the parking meters, at which they did succeed. And they then used that parking meter as a battering ram to break down the door. And they did in fact open the door -- they crashed it in -- and at that point was when they began throwing Molotov cocktails into the place. It was a situation that we didn't know how we were going to be able control.

Remember these were pros, but everybody was frightened. There's no question about that. I know I was frightened, and I'd been in combat situations, and there was never any time that I felt more scared than I felt that night. And, I mean, you know there was no place to run.

For those of us in Public Morals, after the Stonewall incident things were completely changed from what they had previously been. They suddenly were not submissive anymore. They now suddenly had gained a new type of courage. And it seemed as if they didn't care anymore about whether their identities were made known. We were now dealing with human beings.

RED MAHONEY: My name is Red Mahoney. I've been hanging out drinking, partying, and working in the gay bars for the last thirty years. In the era before Stonewall, all of the bars, 90% of the bars, were Mafia controlled. There wasn't that many gay bars. You'd have maybe one, two uptown on the Upper East Side. They would get closed down. Then there'd be one or two on the west side, they'd get closed down. In midtown there'd be one, two, three, maybe open. As they would get closed down they would move around. And they were dumps.

The Stonewall? Oh, that was a good bar. That was. Just to get into the Stonewall, you'd walk up and you'd knock on the front door. You'd knock and the little door would open and "What do you want?" "A Mary sent me." "Good, come on in girls." You know. The Stonewall, like all gay bars at that time, were painted black. Charcoal black. And what was the funny part, the place would be so dimly lit -- but as soon as the cops were gonna come in to collect their percentage or whatever they were coming in for, from it being a nice, dimly-lit dump, the place was lit up like Luna Park.

SYLVIA RIVERA: My name is Sylvia Rivera. My name before that was Ray Rivera, until I started dressing in drag in 1961.

The era before Stonewall was a hard era. There was always the gay bashings on the drag queens by heterosexual men, women, and the police. We learned to live with it because it was part of the lifestyle at that time, I guess, but none of us were very happy about it.

At that time we lived at the Arista Hotel. We used to sit around, just try to figure out when this harassment would come to an end. And we would always dream that one day it would come to an end. And we prayed and we looked for it. We wanted to be human beings.

The drag queens took a lot of oppression and we had to . . . we were at a point where I guess nothing would have stopped us. I guess, as they say, or as Shakespeare says, we were ladies in waiting, just waiting for the thing to happen. And when it did happen, we were there.

You could actually feel it in the air. You really could. I guess Judy Garland's death just really helped us really hit the fan. People started gathering in front of the Sheridan Square Park right across the street from Stonewall. People were upset -- "No, we're not going to go!" and people started screaming and hollering.

"Call out the instigators
Because there's something in the air.
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know it's right." — Something In The Air, Thunderclap Newman

SYLVIA RIVERA: I remember someone throwing a Molotov cocktail. I don't know who the person was, but I mean I saw that and I just said to myself in Spanish, I said. oh my God, the revolution is finally here! And I just like started screaming "Freedom! We're free at last!" You know. It felt really good.

Once the tactical police force showed up, I think that really incited us a little bit more.

BIRDY RIVERA: My name is Robert Rivera and my nickname is Birdy, and I've been cross-dressing all of my life. I remember the night of the riots, the police were escorting queens out of the bar and into the paddy wagon and there was this one particularly outrageously beautiful queen, with stacks and stacks of Elizabeth style, Elizabeth Taylor style hair, and she was asking them not to push her. And they continued to push her, and she turned around and she mashed the cop with her high heel. She knocked him down and then she proceeded to frisk him for the keys to the handcuffs that were on her. She got them and she undid herself and passed them to another queen that was behind her.

HOWARD SMITH: My name is Howard Smith. On the night of the Stonewall riots I was a reporter for the Village Voice, locked inside with the police, covering it for my column. It really did appear that that crowd – because we could look through little peepholes in the plywood windows, we could look out and we could see that the crowd – well, my guess was within five, ten minutes it was probably several thousand people. Two thousand easy. And they were yelling "Kill the cops! Police brutality! Let's get 'em! We're not going to take this anymore! Let's get 'em!"

There were a couple of cops stationed on either side of the door with their pistols, like in combat stance, aimed in the door area. A couple of others were stationed in other places, behind like a pole, another one behind the bar. All of them with their guns ready. I don't think up to that point I had ever seen cops that scared.

"Hand out the arms and ammo
We're going to blast our way through here
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know it's right." — Something In The Air, Thunderclap Newman

MISS MARTIN BOYCE: My name is Martin Boyce and in 1969 I was a drag queen known as Miss Martin. I remember on that night when we saw the riot police, all of us drag queens, we linked arms, like the Rockettes, and sang this song we used to sing. (singing) "We are the Village girls, we wear our hair in curls. We wear our dungarees above our nelly knees." And the police went crazy hearing that and they just immediately rushed us. We gave one kick and fled.

RUDY: My name is Rudy and the night of the Stonewall I was 18 and to tell you the truth, that night I was doing more running than fighting. I remember looking back from 10th Street, and there on Waverly Street there was a police, I believe on his . . . a cop and he is on his stomach in his tactical uniform and his helmet and everything else, with a drag queen straddling him. She was beating the hell out of him with her shoe. Whether it was a high heel or not, I don't know. But she was beating the hell out of him. It was hysterical.

SYLVIA RIVERA: Here this queen is going completely bananas, you know jumping on, hitting the windshield. The next thing you know, the taxicab was being turned over. The cars were being turned over, windows were shattering all over the place, fires were burning around the place. It was beautiful, it really was. It was really beautiful.

I wanted to do every destructive thing that I could think of at that time to hurt anyone that had hurt us through the years.

A lot of heads were bashed. But it didn't hurt their true feelings -- they all came back for more and more. Nothing -- that's when you could tell that nothing could stop us at that time or any time in the future.

MAMA JEAN: My name is Mama Jean. I'm a lesbian. I remember on that night I was in the gay bar, a woman's bar, called Cookies. We were coming out of the gay bar going toward 8th Street, and that's when we saw everything happening. Blasting away. People getting beat up. Police coming from every direction -- hitting women as well as men with their nightsticks. Gay men running down the street with blood all over their face. We decided right then and there, whether we're scared or not we didn't think about, we just jumped in.

I remember one cop coming at me, hitting me with the nightstick on the back of my legs. I broke loose and I went after him. I grabbed his nightstick. My girlfriend went behind him – she was a strong son of a gun. I wanted him to feel the same pain that I felt. And I kept saying to him, "How do you like the pain? Do you like it? Do you like it?" And I kept on hitting him and hitting him. I was angry. I wanted to kill him. At that particular minute I wanted to kill him.

COMMENTATOR: The riots were well covered in the media. The New York Daily News featured it on the front page. There were reports on all of the local television and radio stations. By the next day, graffiti calling for gay power had started to show up all over the West Village. The next night, thousands of men and women came back to the Stonewall to see what would happen next. While a couple of trashcans were set on fire and some stones were thrown, the four-hundred riot police milling around outside the bar ensured that the previous evening's violence would not be repeated. But on this night, gay couples could be spotted walking hand in hand and kissing in the streets. Just by being at the Stonewall -- surrounded by reporters, photographers, and onlookers -- thousands of men and women were proclaiming that they were gay. The crowds grew and came back the next night and for one more night the following week. What happened at the Stonewall on those nights helped to usher in a new era for gay men and lesbians.

SEYMOUR PINE: Well, I retired from the police department in 1976. Twenty years have passed. I'm going to be 70 in a few months. I still don't know the answers. I would still like to know the answers. I would like to know whether I was wrong or whether I was right in ever thinking that there was a difference, in ever thinking that maybe you shouldn't trust a homosexual because something is missing in his personality.

MAMA JEAN: It's like just when you see a man protecting his own life. They weren't the "queens" that people call them, they were men fighting for their lives. And I'd fight along side them any day, no matter how old I was.

SYLVIA RIVERA: Today I'm a 38-year-old drag queen. I can keep my long hair, I can pluck my eyebrows, and I can work wherever the hell I want. And I'm not going to change for anybody. If I changed, then I feel that I'm losing what 1969 brought into my life, and that was to be totally free.

"We have got to get it together now" — Something In The Air, Thunderclap Newman

"You can't tell me what to do anymore
Now I'm free, now I'm free, now I'm free!" — Free, V.A.S.T.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Now They Figure Out We're Getting Screwed?

“Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.” — Isaiah 2:6

"First you said you would, if you just could, yeah.
Then you said you could if you just would, yeah." — Double Talking Baby, Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps

A little over two months ago, I took the Massachusetts chapter of the Equality Federation – MassEquality – to task. After the history of their organization and others dealing with rights in the Bay State over the past couple decades plus, I found their use of a friend on one of their promotional spots on their website a bit too exploitative. My blog entry Massachusetts' Shame noted it as follows:

Just yesterday I saw an advertisement for MassEquality 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."
My whole beef around this was the seeming lack of concern they had with capitalizing on a trans issue when there was already an existing trans group there working on these very issues, and here was a gay and lesbian group, with virtually every right they'd ever had on their wish list accomplished, thinking they could simply waltz in like presumed heroes and just take over like the pros from Dover!

Of course, as my posts tend to be blunt, there were reactions to my Mass In-Equality post on March 14. Two of Massachusetts's own levied severe hand-slaps for my apparent harsh views on MassEquality.

From Cong. Barney Frank's hired trans staffer on the Hill, Diego Sanchez, came this response:

Vanessa shame! ... There's too much false information in this to flag each piece. From me, someone who HAS been involved for 20 years in MA LGBT, civil rights and social justice work: Every step that MassEquality has made, since its inception (and I say that because I was there when it was a spark in an eye and not yet formed) has been strategic and with participation, collaboration, negotiation, compromise and discussion with transgender people in MA. Your thoughts about Mass are so off base, you might want to focus on the many things you actually have lived through or are working on. Mass is NOT one of them. We'll handle MA as we have. I can't imagine what compels you to talk about Mass when you know us, the people who HAVE been doing the work. This is utter nonsense.
And from Gunner Scott, Exec. Dir. of Mass. Transgender Political Coalition (a group whom I suggested should've been getting the attention instead of MassEquality on trans issues) came the following response:

MassEquality has been one of our many strong partners in the coalition that MTPC's leads in advancing transgender rights in Massachusetts. I should know as the Director and founding member of MTPC.

Vanessa your assessment is off base, additionally you don't even live here or participate in MTPC. Lashing out at organizations and partnerships that you know nothing about is not helping build coalition, move our transgender rights movement forward, or encourage other state LGBT advocacy groups to work with their local transgender political groups.

You might want to focus on your own damn state, Texas, in moving transgender rights.
Points taken. NTAC and I weren't the only group to ever get involved with locals on other state issues as NCTE and Mara Keisling do likewise rather regularly. Perhaps, I thought, I'd been given less-than-accurate information on Massachusetts, and particularly MassEquality who I'd heard was directed resources to help other adjacent states in New England win marriage equality – not toward assisting trans groups and trans individuals lift up their own within their own state. Perhaps I was wrong.

Well, during NTAC's Lobby Days early in May I read a piece of a screed on MassEquality and had to put it down and come back to it (as we were in the midst of working Capitol Hill). Recently I had the opportunity to read it en toto. It's a blog on LiveJournal from the same Gunner Scott who sniped at my blog blasting MassEquality. Here's what he had to say less than two months later in his GenderCrash blog on May 7 from http://transgender.livejournal.com:

I posted this as a response to NH not passing trans rights, but I would like more people to see this...

Transgender issues will never be a priority for LGB(t) groups. Whether that is achieving laws, changing policies, or advocating for resources. I am not just saying this because I am part of MTPC, but if we want our community to be equal then we need to do the work. LGB(t) can support this, but we need to be steering that ship and not waiting for LGB(t) groups throw us a bone.

There is more to equality/rights/liberation then just passing non-discrimination laws. I think California is a good example - even though they have non-discrimination laws many trans people are still experiencing employment/poverty issues, so they next step is services, job fairs, education etc... and that is what Transgender Law Center does and this is and will be the types of stuff MTPC will do before and after a law passes.

We need our transgender organizations to advocate for us... we cannot wait for HRC, NGLTF, or MassEquality or any other state equality group to do it for us. We need to do it ourselves which means we need to fund our trans organizations, we need to volunteer, and we need to show up.
Wow. He made that 180-degree turn look effortless! And right on the heels of saying the exact opposite so recently at that! Well, I'm glad he's finally learned now after seeing the light. Maybe ... or maybe it's something else?

Gunner's LiveJournal blog continues:

If you have a job, then start donating (if you don't already) to a transgender specific advocacy group in your area and/or NCTE - monthly, $5 a month does make a difference when we have several people doing that. If you can do more then do that. I give to several transgender specific orgs, some monthly, others once a year. Lets get more transgender people hired to work for trans rights full time - it makes a huge difference to have trans people at the table advocating for rights and resources. We are the experts on our lives... we are not some LGB(t) group.

If you don't have money then donate your time and show and do something...
... And there's the rub! Now I see what this is! Keep in mind that it was Mara Keisling that popularized the notion, and NCTE who's entire raison d'etre was about "working collegially and collaboratively with our allies." Allies like ... HRC and NGLTF, et al. We're all quite familiar with the mantra from Mara, pushing back on all those of us who tried to warn the Trans community that Barney Frank and HRC were going to ditch us, and cutting off discussion by declaring that "everyone is on board" with trans inclusion, end of story.

Shortly after Southern Comfort, notice how facile the "collegial and collaborative" Ms. Keisling was in suddenly adopting the supposed "negativity," and NCTE calling for resignations of Joe Solmonese, all second-level staff and all board, calling it "controlled by and ... dependent upon white, rich, professional gay men." Mara's a master equivocator. So is this who's knee Gunner is learning from? Is that what our movement has come down to: whoever can sell the snake oil the slickest succeeds?

“Demagogue: one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” — journalist, H.L. Mencken

"They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening." — novelist, George Orwell

Continuing on Gunner's blog:

"I know I sound like a broken record, but after doing this for over ten years and the reality is no one and I mean no one is going to fight as hard for our rights, for resources for our community then we are, trans people.

LGB people don't get us and I don't think they ever will...(and I also identify as being queer) yes they can be our ally, but our issues will never ever and I mean never be their priority. We as the larger trans community need to stop thinking that someday they will. The LGB(t) orgs are not going to save us. As long we have no power or influence in their organizations, meaning on boards and big donors, trans issues and the needs of the trans community will never be at the top of the list. There is no incentive for that. Our needs will always be pushed to the bottom.

So yes be mad at HRC or NGLTF or your state marriage group or equality group, but do something more with that anger...

We need to be our own movement, we need to make our allies and not just with LGB groups, we need to fund our own organizations, and push for our own rights.

LGB people don't get us and I don't think they ever will...(and I also identify as being queer) yes they can be our ally, but our issues will never ever and I mean never be their priority. We as the larger trans community need to stop thinking that someday they will. The LGB(t) orgs are not going to save us. As long we have no power or influence in their organizations, meaning on boards and big donors, trans issues and the needs of the trans community will never be at the top of the list. There is no incentive for that. Our needs will always be pushed to the bottom.

So yes be mad at HRC or NGLTF or your state marriage group or equality group, but do something more with that anger...

We need to be our own movement, we need to make our allies and not just with LGB groups, we need to fund our own organizations, and push for our own rights."
I'd comment on how great it was to hear the above, but it would be personally vain. It's something I've been espousing, and many others "supposed" heretics have been warning, for years now.

Nevertheless, it's good that he's come around and is now helping us get the truth out. That is, if he's truly come around. Time will tell if it's true, and those of us who've been in this independence camp will welcome the new blood if indeed they are now joining up to stay.

That said, I'm also very well aware of how many johnny-come-lately, flash-in-the-pans we've seen adopting faux anger for a time. Hell, even NCTE is back to casting furtive glances HRC's way, and NCTE's two board members who were on HRC's board of governors never left. In fact, NCTE's Dana Beyer is even helping rope in an occasional trans person to paid work for HRC. It's part of the old plan: keep talent, funding and resources away from trans people by tying them up in our "allied" organizations like HRC!

We've spent too much attention and allowed too much distraction by people claiming leadership in our community and yet have all the resolve of a flag in a hurricane. The only thing you can count on from the flag in a hurricane is that it will stand at full attention in whichever direction the wind blows, which could well be a 180 degree switch before the day's out.

We need to start holding these irresolute "leaders" accountable. We face enough obstacles with the gay and lesbian organization leaders, weak-kneed Democrats and virtually any Republican these days as they've rid themselves of nearly all moderates. Following our own leaders who zig and zag from one direction to the other doesn't lead us anywhere except to fatigue and ultimate frustration. All they've served to do is to run interference for gay and lesbian rights while keeping us directionless.

When it comes to the trans community, we need leadership who will take a firm stand and not simply adopt a posture because it's suddenly trendy.

"Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothing up my sleeve ... presto!" — Bullwinkle J. Moose from the cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends

"My friends tried to tell me, but they were too late, yeah.
What a fool I was to fall for your bait, yeah." — Double Talking Baby, Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps

“Nothing so completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity himself, than straightforward and simple integrity in another.” — writer, Charles Caleb Colton

You Can Marry, But You Can't Work

"I look at you and see the passion eyes of May.
Oh, but am I ever gonna see my wedding day?" — Wedding Bell Blues, Fifth Dimension

It became official yesterday afternoon when New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed a bill into law, making New Hampshire the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage. Lynch, a Democrat, personally opposed gay marriage but earlier said he would view the issue "through a broader lens." Virtually all of New England now allows same-sex marriage, with Rhode Island the sole exception.

Said New Hampshire's favorite gay son, Bishop V. Eugene Robinson, "It's about being recognized as whole people and whole citizens. There are a lot of people standing here who when we grew up could not have imagined this," Robinson said. "You can't imagine something that is simply impossible. It's happened, in our lifetimes."

So now we have yet another state that allows gay and lesbian couples, and even transgenders, to marry on January 1, 2010. You can bet there will be couples lined up taking advantage of the new law on New Years morning!

However if you're transgender, you won't be able to work. Like Massachusetts or Connecticut, you can only marry but still be fired for being who you are. As Bishop Robinson said, you're whole people, whole citizens – just not free to work in the Live Free Or Die state. And no, if you have no ability to be hired and end up homeless, you can't live FOR free there. Of course you do have the right to die there and they likely won't have much problem with that. It's the latter option in their motto, and we trans people certainly aren't free to work in New Hampshire.

For trans Americans (unless you live under a rock), we remember the recent New Hampshire senate vote on Trans employment non discrimination. Zero to 24 – we were absolutely shut out! That spoke volumes!

In discussing how marriage will affect the New Hampshire primaries in 2012, an Associated Press article noted it was likely to have an affect in that state's election dialogue. They note that in New Hampshire, Republicans tend to be more fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

"When presidential candidates campaign here, they have traditionally focused on the economy, foreign policy, health care," said political analyst Dean Spiliotes. "Social issues have never really played a major role here in the campaign."

That's rather interesting. It also flies in the face of recent reality, where Republicans defeated trans employment non discrimination by forcing a new name upon it: "the Bathroom bill."

Now I ask: does that sound like New Hampshire Republicans are socially moderate? Do you believe social issues never really play a major role there?

Yet even in hard-ass, conservative places like New Hampshire where they still openly play trans people as perverted freaks lurking around bathrooms, same-sex marriage is now legal. Six years ago marriage wasn't even on the radar. Employment non discrimination, which has been worked on for over 15 years is not a reality.

On employment, we in the Trans community are actually a bit worse off than we were when the marriage fight began. Not only are employment rights stalling, but bathroom issues and freakish caricatures of society's phobias about trans people are becoming more common in even the halls of government.

That's to say nothing of the increased difficulties in trans people getting jobs in the first place! Unlike gays and lesbians, when trans people transition we face the no-match problems with Social Security and other complications thanks to the Real I.D. Act. Blogger Marti Abernathey pointed this out in her TransAdvocate blog recently [http://www.transadvocate.com/no-match-no-job-no-surgery.htm]

I always thought when I got my documentation changed, I transitioned, and was passable, that I'd be able to live the nice normal life I did before transition. It hasn't quite worked out that way. Recently I was interviewed a few times and offered a job... and then I got that dreaded call.

"Marti, we were doing our normal background check and we have a problem. We keep getting a rejection with your gender."

I had to tell my potential future employer that I am a pre-operative transsexual.
It must be said that Marti lives in Wisconsin, the first state in the union to enact employment non discrimination for sexual orientation, and one that still has no such protection for trans folk like her.

Worse still, I live in good-old-boy, rednecked, so-arch-conservative-that-fascists-are-bleeding-heart-liberals Texas. My last permanant job was in 2002 with only a patchwork of temporary jobs since. Imagine the prospects for trans people in the southern tier of states.

Even if states like Wisconsin or Texas or any others newly enact non discrimination laws, it's not like marriage where folks line up and immediately take advantage of the new law. Marriage happens immediately upon the day it goes into effect.

Employment, especially for trans people who are still lagging far behind on being known and understood, it may be months, a year or years after before an employer hires trans people. So, when have we seen anyone in the gay and lesbian leadership or media prioritize employment recently?

Yes, we did have a big stink raised over President Barack Obama not nominating an "out" gay or lesbian to his cabinet yet. He's only hired 31 gays or lesbians to various staff positions that apparently aren't considered key or high-profile positions. But that's a very limited employment opportunity scope. And it's also for "high-ranking" and "respected" and "openly" gay White House staffer, per Charles Socarides May 1, 2009 article in the Washington Post.

To Socarides' credit though, he did also mention need for an "omnibus federal gay civil rights legislation, similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation." (Yeah, I know ... nothing in there that effects trans.)

But that's been about the extent of it on employment.

As for now I keep getting more stories from my friends of their lost jobs, their vastly reduced hours or income, the long-term-with-no-end-in-sight unemployment (not unlike my own!) and folks on the edge of going homeless. I've lost touch with at least one who likely has now gone homeless: another blip that stops pulsing on the radar screen.

Meanwhile, we have the right to marry who we wish in New Hampshire. That's important.

I only wish it were as important for trans people to live. Live Free ... or ... Die. Indeed.

"A lot of New Hampshire families have come to know people in their families who are gay -- co-workers, former classmates – and that's what really made this difference. We are no longer talking about an issue. We are talking about people." — Bishop V. Eugene Robinson

"To have no job is to have no pride. You're nobody. Where do you go? There's nothing...." — unidentified former professional man interviewed in a homeless encampment in Florida.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Talk Radio Has Its Voice, Gay & Lesbian Has Its Voice. Where's Our Voice?

"God forbid, if my son put on a pair of high heels, I would probably hit him with one of my shoes.... You got a boy saying, ‘I wanna wear dresses.’ I’m going to look at him and go, ‘You know what? You’re a little idiot! You little dumbass! Look, you are a boy! Boys don’t wear dresses!’" — Arnie States from his morning show on KRXQ FM in Sacramento.

There's been a bit of a brouhaha over the comments made on a radio show out in Sacramento. Today's show's second half, as I listened in, had less of the more incendiary commentary of what was said the day before (at least until the end when Arnie, the resident peckerwood, saved it for a parting shot before leaving).

One thing the commenters of this type of speech are neglecting to see is the potential to foment such behavior and validate it by high-profile (presumed to be worthy) opinion-makers. All they do, per their own words, is offer their opinion (and in a country with free speech, that should be allowed.) However, they fail to see their profile and media prominence, with an absolute lack of a counterbalance type of show, only provides a broadcast-induced mantra to the public.

As long as opinion is just opinion, it's harmless. It's just that not all listeners happen to leave it as merely opinion. As witnessed over the Bush years, and really even going back to the Gingrich revolution, there is a group that feed off of this mob mentality and feels entitlement to take things a step further. America is all about standing out, being number one, being extreme. So what happens when someone takes an opinion and superimposes their own spin, their own magnnification of it tailored to the individual's own personal frustrations and agreement that "these weirdos" are the problem?

We just witnessed a taste of that with Scott Roeder's Sunday church service murder of Dr. George Tiller. Tiller, a controversial abortion doctor known in right-wing media, especially among folks like Bill O'Reilly, as "Dr. Tiller the Baby Killer" was a prime example of media's power to stir amok with some of its listenership's emotions. Roeder was the impressionable type to pick up on a lot of O'Reilly's commentary and, after feeling both frustrated and emboldened enough, acted out in pretty much a fashion that O'Reilly's words would indicate he approved, regardless of whatever explanation his post-facto sentiments may try to claim.

So what happens when parents who are discovering they are raising a child whose birth sex and innate gender are incongruous listen in on this Rob, Arnie & Dawn show? To her credit Dawn Rossi played the level-headed foil. But hearing Rob Williams or Arnie States talking about enforcing a hard line with discipline, hitting them with shoes, belittling them with terms like "freak" and "dumbass" or discussing their "disorders" mandating therapy while doing nothing at all to try to understand they've failed to grasp this condition only signals a green light to any other vulnerable parent of a trans child looking for an answer. With suggestions that hitting them with a shoe or the child needing a beat down, a few of their listeners may use this to validate exactly such behavior.

"You know, my favorite part about hearing these stories about the kids in high school, who the entire high school caters around, lets the boy wear the dress. I look forward to when they go out into society and society beats them down. And they end up in therapy." — Arnie States from his morning show on KRXQ FM in Sacramento.

And to the Arnies of the world, I'll let you know right now: you don't ever beat it out of the kid. Lived through that. It didn't work. You can certainly beat the kid, but the kid remains the same; just beaten. They'll just wait, as I did, until they're an adult and do what they feel anyway. It's like a kid who grows up in a liberal hippie household whose parents beat him for wanting to be a soldier or a capitalist or something more conservative. The kid will eventually grow up and be themselves anyway.

The Arnies want to be understood for who they are – they just don't want to understand others (like trans kids) for who they are. All that the Arnie-style parents will do is raise kids who feel their parents were selfish, obstinate and didn't ever respect or love them. They'll guarantee their child's resentment and mistrust! Perhaps that's a victory to some parents: if your kid doesn't grow up the way you want him or her to be, just toss them out. Who needs them? Perhaps that's what our disposable society produces: disposable kids.

My personal opinion of that style parenting is the stereotyped, peabrained, liquor-addled trailer trash parent. Throw the kid away like you'd throw away a bottle beer in the general direction of the trash can. Pick up and move your mobile home on wheels to a different lot, or hell, just buy a new one altogether – a double-wide! Why stick with something, eh?

More than the kids, though, what does that indicate of those type of parents?

Now some of the commentary Rob, Arnie & Dawn received from the community was unfortunate, and quite over the line. As I explained to them, though, it's likely indicative of similar but greater frustration to what some of their regular listeners feel. They gave back some of the more extreme commentary that they've experienced over time, giving them a vicarious sense of what years of Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, Peter LaBarbera and others have wrought.

Yes, there should be free speech. But perhaps there should also be much more of the other side of this coin, and not just the inciteful and spiteful seeking what they feel is a feckless and defenseless target. They spent the morning show today belittling the gay spokesperson on FOX News for expressing his opinions, even if it was indicating he thought they should be taken off the air (which they won't). But neither Rob, Arnie nor Dawn realized he was similarly expressing his opinion! Really, when it boils down, even their extreme commenters ripping them up were expressing opinion as well.

So where is the arbitrary line crossed?

"[I'm] still saddened that people think it more important that their children conform to their preconceived notions rather than letting them be who they truly are." — Amy Guarr, mother of Ian, a transgender female-to-male teen who took his life shortly before graduation.

To be certain, as the show pointed out, transgenders are not the only people who suffer hate violence. However, we are targeted much more frequently than other groups. Therein lies the crux of the issue that this shows' hosts fail to, or refuse to grasp. The latter option is much more troubling.

Another point that Dawn rightly brought up is that the spokespeople who were on FOX or from GLAAD, speaking out loudest and maybe a bit more extreme in mainstream media against their show, were gay and lesbian – and that there was a difference between them and transgender. She noted how gay groups were trying to simply make the point and assist on the issue, but that it shouldn't automatically be attributed word-for-word to transgenders. She gets extra points for that (as many in the straight world have a bad habit of conflating one as being the other).

While we may have phrase things differently, it also points up the fact that we don't have our own organizations in media to speak to these issues. Nearly always it's a gay or lesbian leader from one of the established, funded and staffed organizations that makes the connection to media. And media, typically not knowing any better, usually believes it to be the trans community's choice, our voice, our words. Often times, it's not.

But we're left with that currently as we don't have the viable opportunities for our own voice as yet.

It was refreshing for someone outside of our greater Queer Community note that difference for once. Far too often in our own community, even we don't make those distinctions.

"Real love is unconditional. The foundation of a genuinely meaningful relationship with a child is unconditional love, for only this will nurture a child emotionally and spiritually. Only unconditional love can ensure that a child will not be plagued with immature anger, resentment, guilt, depression, anxiety, and insecurity. For only unconditional love places the needs of the child first. Unconditional love is the vital element of the first foundation stone of proactive parenting." — Dr. Ross Campbell from the website www.spiritrestoration.org

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you." — artist and writer, Khalil Gibran

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Play: "I Survived Stonewall" ... an Interview with a Stonewall Veteran, Big Roy McCarthy

The following is a reprint of an article familiar to folks in the Houston area. It was initially done for the June 1999 issue of the TATS (Texas Assn. for Transsexual Support) newsletter which I edited for a number of years. It was ten years ago – the 30th Anniversary of Stonewall.

Big Roy McCarthy worked at KPFT (a Pacifica station in Houston) at the time I was doing my own radio show there for After Hours: Queer Radio With Attitude. Big Roy did our Queer News portion of our show.

Knowing Roy's history, I decided to commandeer him one night before our show and sit for a couple hours with a tape recorder to get him in his own words on what it was like being there at ground zero and involved physically in the Stonewall Riots. He wasn't one of the "Stonewall Girls", the instigators of the riot. However he had a shadier side to his personal life then as a young gay hustler, and could very much relate to the environ at that time and an eyewitness account that few others could report.

Afterwards, I transcribed it en toto, then cut and spliced the various bits of stories and arranged them to flow a bit more chronologically.

While Roy's perspective was mildly different than the T-girls and stone butches there, he still represents a part of the gay movement that was left behind, nevertheless. An editorial note: in those days (as we learned from Sylvia Rivera), "Transvestite" or Queen was the terminology for girls like us who were not post-operative. There was no "transgender" or "crossdresser" nomenclature for many years after, and I believe Roy was using those contemporary words more to be politically sensitive than in an accurate recounting of how trans folks were referred to in those days.

While ten years has gone by since, it's still worth retelling to those who may not know what Stonewall was really about (it was said that former HRC Exec. Dir. Cheryl Jacques had to be told what it was after hiring on with the group). This is the reason for June being designated "Pride Month"!

Now, Big Roy in his own words ....

To think that it has been 30 years since that night in June that all this has happened ....

We've made a lot of progress, but there's a lot more to be made. The fight continues on – and I'm right out there!

Opening Night

I had a most unusual beginning, an initiation to the riots. I was asleep!

I was across the street ... my childhood sweetheart was fixing to start his first year at Columbia University – he was a psych major. I was spending the summer with him, and I was upstairs in his apartment sound asleep; and his apartment was right across the street from Stonewall Inn. He comes running upstairs saying "Roy! Roy! The queens are rioting across the street! The queens are rioting!"

So I go running down, following him. By the time we got down there, the paddy wagon had just pulled up. The queens were just starting to come out and someone had just thrown a high heel. There may have been coins or whatever, but I was there within a couple minutes after the festivities started. I did see high heels flying!

The queens – the transgenders or crossdressers – were yelling something from across the street by the paddy wagon. They were yelling at the cops. We were cheering on the transgenders – the crossdressers – it just sort of snowballed from there.

Setting The Stage....

You gotta understand where everybody's head politically was at at that time. We're talking late 60's: 1969. We're talking about a period of time when it was not only okay, but fashionable to riot against authority thanks to the Vietnam War, and ... to the Civil Rights Riots a year before, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. We had rioting in the streets!

We were rioting and protesting the Vietnam War all along, and we had Moratorium Day every October 17, somewhere around the middle of October. We had anti-Vietnam War Moratorium March, which almost always turned into rioting. Later on in the summer of '69 we also had Woodstock!

In the Gay community – now when I talk about the Gay community, people have to understand I'm not talking about male homosexuals. I am old school, and when I talk about gay community, the transgenders were a part of it. We never ever considered them not! Bisexuals, crossdressers, were never ever not considered part of it! We were all gay! I'm kind of sad that all this division and fracturization has come about.

Back then in the gay community we were kinda pissed off that everyone else was getting their civil rights and we weren't. We were tired of the police busting in and dragging us out just because we were out there to have a good time.

And even the crossdressers were pissed off because by law they had to have at least three articles of clothing on them that were according to their birth gender. All these things set up to ... guarantee that we would have a record. They would tell us to go across the street, and we would follow the police orders. And there would be another cop across the street waiting to give us a ticket for jaywalking.

We were tired of gay people being locked up in psychiatric hospitals and getting tortured! We had our own Auschwitzes and Dachaus! And we were just pissed off about all of that! And it had to end!

It was obvious with the paddy wagon there, they were just doing another one of their Saturday night raids.

It was hot and it was humid that night, and none of us were really in the best of moods that night. We had just buried Judy Garland that day in Forest Lawn out in Hollywood – our icon! We were kinda pissed off.

The First Acts

At first the cops cleared out Stonewall Inn. Those that weren't gonna get loaded up in the paddy wagons, the cops were telling them to go home. We started taunting the cops, and ... they saw the crowd that was starting to gather.

The crowd this time was getting bigger and bigger and we started pressing in on the police. And they got scared! They took refuge inside the Stonewall Inn and barricaded themselves inside. It was after that that somebody had pulled up a parking meter outside there from Christopher Street and smashed in a window.

I got by one of the police cars – the NYPD patrol care – and I was at the back and I start shaking up and down on the back. Then we started rocking it from side to side, up and down from the front and back, see-sawing the front and back and rocking it from side to side. Next thing, we ended up turning it over on its roof. We crushed its little 'bubble-gum machine' it had on top.

By now there was a huge crowd, and somebody somewhere had tossed a Molotov cocktail, and I helped set the cop car on fire. By that time it was only 20 minutes from the time I first arrived down there ... and there was a huge crowd!

The Emotion

Back then I wasn't as big as I am now. I was about 5'-7", about 130 lbs. I was a 19-year old male prostitute. In '69, I was a prostitute because I'd been kicked out of home and I was living on the streets and I had to survive. The Stonewall Inn was made up of the dregs of the community. Transgenders and transsexuals were not allowed in many of the gay clubs. And the Stonewall Inn was mostly prostitutes and drug addicts and drag queens and transgenders. It was not your respectable gay club!

But it was those of us who had nothing to lose and stood up, and everybody joined in afterwards. We were all very tight knit; very tight knit! It wasn't like we were giving verbal support to the queens who were getting locked up in the paddy wagon. It wasn't just some sort of spectator thing like at a football game. This was something from our heart, deep down inside.

The Climactic Scene

By this time we could hear cop cars coming like crazy from every which direction. And riot police were showing up. I was looking around for my boyfriend, my lover. I saw there was this leather-jacketed NYPD motorcycle cop who had my boyfriend in a headlock.

Now my boyfriend was wearing these John Lennon granny glasses which were very popular at the time. And [the cop] had him in a headlock with his baton, hitting him in the face with the bottom end of the baton. And blood was coming from my boyfriend's face. He was my first love, puppy love, fierce love!

I lost my mental capacity for reason. I jumped on the back of that cop and I took the baton from that cop and – with some strength from somewhere – the adrenaline got me going where I was able to take the baton out of the cop's hand and I was beating on the cop!

I know I got about three of four hits on the guy, and the next thing I knew – bang! I'm seeing stars and I'm on the ground. Then there's blood coming all down my face on the left side! A cop on horseback came up behind me and whacked me in the head with his nightstick. That was some of the TPF: Tactical Patrol Force.

This was before there was such a thing as a SWAT unit. They used Tactical Patrol and they were on horseback. And they used those police to disperse riots and ... that's what they did on me! And I was really bloodied. A piece of my skull got chipped off and wound up on Christopher Street.

To this day I've got a place in my head where a piece of my skull is missing – a little chip off the old block!

Salvation During Battle

It was four transgendered people who saved my butt! At the time they were called [transvestites] as opposed to drag queens. Drag Queen was a regular guy – gay or straight – who dressed up as a woman to perform a show. Crossdressers – or transgenders as now – were 24 hrs. Transvestites would dress up to go out to a club, but they were not necessarily performers. They would just dress up to go out to a club.

There was like one on each arm, my arms and my legs, and then they carried me down to a basement place where they helped patch me up.

There was some tear gas that had been shot at us, and in fact one of the canisters ... I do remember the canister going off not five, six feet in front of me when I was out on the street. I got a full face, full throttle. I told the transgendered person "get a bucket of water ... and just dump it on top of me." That's the best first aid; a bucket of water.

The rioting went on for about three days. I never was able to find my boyfriend until after ... later on the next week. I found out that a piece of glass from his eyeglasses got punctured through the eye and lodged in the brain. He is now in a psychiatric hospital up in Maine. Beyond repair.

His parents refused to bring charges against the police at the time because they said "this was God's judgment upon us."

In fact no charges were ever brought against any of the demonstrators. We were all originally arrested and charged with drunk and rioting and disorderly conduct and all that. But Mayor Jon Lindsay stepped in and ordered that charges not be brought against any of us, and we were all released.

When I say "we", I mean the other people. I was never in jail myself.

Antagonists Within

To this day I have no affection for Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society. To have us arrested and to tell us to "Quiet down! Don't rock the boat!" – I'm sorry!

I try to be inclusive, and I know there are other issues that people care about. But basic fundamental of the right to be, and the right to love who I feel attracted to is basic and most important, and overriding of everything else.

The Mattachine Society was afraid that if we rioted, we were going to throw the clock back 20 years – if that was possible!

The Mattachine Society is equivalent to our modern-day Log Cabiners. The Mattachine Society was a group of self-hating, self-loathing gay folks who felt we were all emotionally underdeveloped or something; sub-human in some way. These were a bunch of yellow-bellied cowards who were frightened in little corners, who didn't want us to upset the apple cart, who thought at that time that if we didn't create any kind of a mess ... if we just did things quietly and applied for disability – let the psychiatric people say we did not develop emotionally enough or psychologically, that there was something wrong with us mentally or emotionally because we loved people of the same sex or the same gender ... or because someone who was a male and always identified as a female wanted to really pursue that – obviously that person was wacked out! And it was just as strong with transsexual, transgender people.

Sexual [Reassignment] Surgery was started in the 50's or something. It was not new by the time the riot came around. However, there was a lot of kids who were sexually trying to [reassign] themselves in back rooms and hallways because of fear. And because there was just nowhere else for them to go.

However, thanks to the Mattachine Society telling everybody we're sick, we're mentall ill – that was hard enough for gay people ... but for transsexuals, where could they turn? Avenues of positive help were not open, even though they did exist.

And guys who wanted to be female had nowhere to turn. They felt so disgusted with themselves, they tried to sexual [reasign] themselves with a razor blade, and clean towels and a needle and thread! It just did not work! This was the same period of time when abortions were still illegal and many women were getting it in back alleys and butcher shops. A lot of guys hemorrhaged to death in their bathrooms and died in back alleys.

And the Mattachine Society wanted us to stay that way. I think it's also important to understand that most of the people in the Mattachine Society were middle-class and upper-middle and upper-class people economically. So they had a lot to lose, and they saw us as a threat.

The Log Cabin is in essence the modern-day Mattachines. The Mattachine Society did not speak for the gay community. Just like the Log Cabin does not speak for the transgender community. They never have, and they never will!

The Closing Act

For the next two nights there was rioting going on. Yeah, I was there! I was out there, bandaged-up head and all ... just screaming along with everyone else! We were just a big mob in the street. And there was this park – I think it was Washington Park – right there at the end of Christopher Street. Right there, at the end of three days, was born the Gay Liberation Front. Of course everything back in those days was Liberation Fronts And so, before there was a Gay Political Caucus, there was a Gay Liberation Front.

And in those early days – I shouldn't just say transgender-inclusive because nobody was excluded – the whole thing of Gay Pride Parade and everything ... of that night ... was started by and was all about the transgenders! Gay people – gay males – joined in! But it was started by transgenders.

Now even though we joined in within five or ten minutes, it was still five or ten minutes later! We joined in – it's important for people to understand! To join in means that somebody else was already there. And that was the transgenders.

Somebody said it was a brick – I say it was a high-heeled shoe. Who knows if it was a pump or a brick ... or a pumped-up brick! It was called "The Hairpin Drop Heard 'Round The World." That's how CBS news covered it, and ABC News covered it, and it was in Time Magazine.

"The Hairpin Drop Heard 'Round The World": I guess that was the first Gay Pride slogan!

The Review

My favorite memory is the moment I first went out the door, and I saw the queens and the transgenders being loaded up in the paddy wagon and somebody – finally – threw a high heel! It was that moment. It was such a liberating moment inside. It was so freeing!

It felt so good: finally we're not taking this shit no more! Pardon my french! We weren't going to take it any more! No more! Over! That is it! No más!

I have heard that people went around to a bunch of different gay clubs ... saying "out of the clubs, into the streets!" Or "out of the bars, into the streets!" I think that's what somebody told me was being said. I mean, I don't know because I was already in the street! That was a defining moment.

It feels special in some ways, and in other ways it feels like an accident of history. Thirty years later, I am so saddened by knowing where the community is at now; in which transgenders and transsexuals in many cities are excluded from the Pride Parade.

Many transgendered and many gay people do not know the role that the transgenders [played]; how important....

We would not have Gay Pride if it was not for the transgenders. We would not have Gay Pride Week! [...] Everything had its birth with transgenders and transsexuals finally standing up!

Some people call Harry Hay (founder of the Mattachine Society) one of the 'great founders.' He was founder of nothing! If anything, he held us back! And to tell us "Don't Make Waves!" Well, just remember this: if you don't make waves, you ain't going nowhere!

And we had to go somewhere, because this could not continue. The hypocrisy of it all was really astounding. Which is why, for thirty years, I have always been there for the transgendered people because, quite literally, you saved my butt! And helped patch me up!

Nobody's perfect. Sometimes, in spit of themselves, by accident they get it right!

"I like being different. I like deviating from the norm." – lesbian, feminist author, Tammy Bruce

"We are the Stonewall girls.
We wear our hair in curls.
We wear no underwear.
We show our pubic hair.
We wear our dungarees
Above our nelly knees." – chant by Queens at Stonewall Riots such as Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and others as they regrouped to re-advance on the cops.