Sunday, July 26, 2009

Speaking Up For Those Mute "Trannies"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's smart press.

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

Smart, aggressive press produces results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 17, 2009

Syracuse Sucks If You're Trans And Murdered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least, that's the logic in Syracuse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Massachusetts Model

"In this month of July, as we have just celebrated the Fourth of July and our Independence Day and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we ... are reminded that the phrase, “All Men are Created Equal,” at the time really referred to only certain men, and at the time, only certain men who owned property. Much has clearly changed in this country since 1776. As our country grew, our population grew, and our Bill of Rights and the interpretation of them included a rational and evolving sense of what liberty and justice and equality for all meant." — Mass. Atty. Gen, Martha Coakley in July 8, 2009 press conference.

The year was 1989. Massachusetts passed a state law on non discrimination covering sexual orientation, giving gay and lesbian state residents protections in the workplace against unfair treatment, hiring or firing practices. Being one of the early states to enact it statewide, they were among the vanguard of the progressives.

Since that day twenty years earlier, more legislation has since been enacted covering the state's gay and lesbian residents: Adoption (1993), Hate Crimes (2002), School Bullying (2002), Marriage for in-state couples (2004) and for out-of-state couples (2008). They've also had not one, but two elected officials who were gay – Gerry Studds (1972-1997) and Barney Frank (1981-current). So-called the "most liberal state in the Union", Massachusetts had done well by its gay and lesbian residents.

Taking this into consideration, let's also take a look at the progress of Trans rights in this "most liberal state." By default, Massachusetts' Trans residents have the right to marry per the 2004 edict. Additionally by default, other non-Mass. Trans citizens may now marry there per the 2008 law. In 2009, Trans people saw the first trans-specific law passed: the right to have the new gender marker listed on their drivers license.

And that's about it currently. There's a current non discrimination bill to cover trans folks some two decades later which will go to hearings soon. Of course the same bill also went to hearings in 2007. Hopefully it passes now, but it's still a coin flip.

Twenty years after their initial rights victory, five years after winning the first-in-the-country same-sex marriage rights, and even a year after winning those rights in Mass. for same-sex couples from other states, the Trans rights push is in its early toddling steps. This in the "most liberal state" in the Union. It's a point that even the Big Gay Man on the Hill, Barney Frank, has used in his own defense to deflect crticism when he himself got cold feet on Trans inclusion in non discrimination bills.

Earlier this year MassEquality, the state's prominent LGBT advocate, made tacit promises of finally devoting attention to Trans rights in the state with its Trans rights org counterparts, Mass. Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC). Not long after, they plastered a photo of one of the Trans community's prominent Trans men, giving instructions for folks to contact them on info for Trans equality!

Shortly and subtly thereafter, they then start edging away from working on Trans issues in the state and focused more prominence on helping their neighboring states' marriage equality rights fights! They apparently discovered what Trans organizations have known for many years: big gay and lesbian money pours in on gay and lesbian issues, and magically evaporates when it's Trans issues. There's nothing sexy about Trans issues to gay and lesbian America, no pressing humanitarian (read: big media face time) need for involvement, nothing much to be gained for them personally. Why engage? Maybe another pressing G&L need may arise in the future? Perhaps divorce rights will be the next big ticket item on the agenda?

And if not, hey! There's always plenty of vacation spots to visit....

"I started looking at small companies that were running a sort of virtual reality cottage industry .... that's your dream of what it's going to be." — musician, Thomas Dolby

Of course, once all the rights for sexual orientation on their potential wish list are attained and there's nothing else left, why not give new up-and-coming gay and lesbian leaders a shot by ... coming back and getting those hapless trannies their rights! You continue keeping the org in place and keep the name recognition going! There's certainly no real urgency from a sexual orientation standpoint. They can give more young gays and lesbians an opportunity to develop leadership skills. (Something Trans people don't really need – after all, what are they going to do with them?) It spotlights again the talents and abilities of the gay and lesbian young leaders (something Trans folk have never really had, and frankly in their estimation don't need.)

It also keeps the reins firmly in gay and lesbian hands. You don't want to give trannies the keys to the bank 'cause Lord only knows how they could screw that up if given chance!

And if by chance they manage to win rights for their hapless gender-confused charges, all the better! It does so at low cost, gives these individuals a badge of honor and some pride in accomplishment, keeps the Trans community beholden to the gay and lesbian leaders and helps assuage some of that old "incrementalist" gay guilt and may help bury the legacy (which really needs sanitizing in order to look attractive in the historical annals).

To paraphrase the old adage, why teach a man to fish or give him access to fishing when you can simply just give him a fiah that you catch? Then he gets fed only at your convenience, and best of all helps keep the cottage industry under control! There's nothing like a captive audience to drum up business! If they must bring into their fold a Trans person, make sure they are agreeable and will help aggressively market the paradigm of LG first, then B, then T. A good Trans marketer in LGBT orgs can be an excellent public relations tool and adds the dual benefit of providing "cover" with the Trans and curious straight community folks.

And if they're crafty enough, they can stretch this out for quite some time and make a nice career of it! It's not like Trans people aren't familiar with the concept of gatekeepers.

After all, only a fool would give away the business secrets that make their business a success. When did Coca-Cola or Col. Sanders ever give away their secret recipes? Answer: never! It's why they're a success story for the ages!

Of course once all is acheived in Massachusetts, as we've seen, why not export this model to the other states? After all: "there's more education needed on Transgender issues ... they don't know who you are." And with any luck by these incisively-minded G&L leaders, they likely never will in our lifetimes!

As the Big Gay Man on the Hill loves to point out on progressive issues: as goes Massachusetts, thus follows the rest of the nation.

If you're Trans, you better pray, meditate like hell or scream bloody murder that it doesn't!

"The notion that you don't protect most people if you don't protect them all – that's never worked." — Rep. Barney Frank on ENDA in 2007

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's Marriage Mania In Maniacal America

"I'm goin' coconuts but least I'm goin' my way.
I'll probably be here when that sun goes down.
Goin' crazy, ooh, from the heat!" — Goin' Crazy, David Lee Roth

Maybe it's just the unending heatwave in Texas, where any day below triple digits actually feels slightly chilly, but it seems to my overcooked brain that both sides on this same-sex marriage tug-of-war are coming down with a chronic case of the wackies. Or maybe it's just a sizzling hot summer everywhere and it's not just me – everyone's losing it.

Marriage mania is in full bloom, and Pennsylvania joined the litany of states pushing for marriage recognition for same-sex couples. Amazingly marriage didn't get forced down the throat of President Barack Obama when the 300 some-odd LGBT leaders and their partners were invited to the White House for a private reception. However, just this week both Massachusetts and Oregon filed suit claiming the Feds violate their federalist states' rights by DOMA's effect on their states' ability to make independent decisions on marriage rights.

Meanwhile the California suit against the Feds has gotten interesting. Initially when this was filed (including one attorney who offered to press the issue who was also part of the Bush legal team who filed suit successfully to place Bush in the presidency post-Florida 2000 election results!) it was thought that things were looking rather rosy. Even LGBT organization heads from groups such as Lambda Legal, the ACLU's LGBT Rights Project and the National Center for Lesbian Rights all stepped up and encouraged all other groups to take a back seat in order not to complicate or jeopardize the pending suit. "Ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back."

Well that was then. This is now. It seems these same three groups are now filing amicus briefs to intervene to allow PFLAG, Lavender Seniors of the East Bay and Our Family Coalition to file suit with the Supreme Court as well. (And they all thought we Trans folk couldn't get on the same page or being politically "realistic"!

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), who was leading the charge in Federal Court, wrote a pointed letter back to the three above mentioned groups, noting how they had all initially worked collaboratively on the project and anguishing over actions and quotes in the media from these other players that they felt "undermine" the case and the goal which they were all working towards.

Not only were they there first on this suit, AFER worries that this case "could be mired in procedurally convoluted pre-trial maneuvering for years—while and gay and lesbian individuals in California continue to suffer the daily indignity of being denied their federal constitutional right to marry the person of their choosing." I've attached a photocopy of the full letter from AFER to the parties below. It's, um, interesting:

So what are they trying to do here – out-compete each other for top attention and ego strokes? Or maybe bog it down in order to slow the process (and maybe milk more donations while it continues?) No matter! At least everyone's on the same page and it's all in the firm capable hands of our professionals in leadership of the gay and lesbian community! Lord knows if Trans people got a hold of it, it'd be a confusing mess, hmmm? Yeah, that's what they say ....

"What is important in life is life, and not the result of life." — German playwright, Johann von Goethe

Of course, not to be outdone on trying to conspicuously blunder and lose, the opposition is also working hard to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory! It was bad enough that a FOX commentator compared the same-sex marriage issue to bestiality a la Pat Robertson and so many others. That's actually old-hat stuff now! Get the latest on the intra-species marriage issue from FOX (again)!

This was actually reporting on a story of a Swedish study that found that marriage was good for couples in that it kept them from dementia and Alzheimer's disease with absolutely not connotations on same-sex couplings at all. Yet their own Freudian mentality just keeps slipping out as on FOX & Friends morning show, we heard this from one of their triad of morning hosts, Brian Kilmeade:

BRIAN KILMEADE: I'm just amazed that they thought about doing this study in the – by interviewing people in the 1970s and the 1980s.

DAVE BRIGGS: A little dated, you think?

KILMEADE: The average is 50, and they see that they keep it together. I find this – I find this somewhat ....

BRIGGS: Go ahead.

KILMEADE: Different. Leave it to the Finns and Swedes to some up with something. They literally –

GRETCHEN CARLSON: Don't look at me, pal.

KILMEADE: Because that's a – we are – we're – we're a – we're – we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other....

CARLSON: Are you sure they're not suffering from some of the causes of dementia right now?

KILMEADE: I mean, the Swedes ....

BRIGGS: What are you getting at?

KILMEADE: See, the problem is, the Swedes have pure genes.


KILMEADE: Because they marry other Swedes because that's the rule. Finland – Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody.
That's right folks! Intra-species marriage is already here in America! As Kilmeade noted: "we keep marrying other species and other ethnics ... the problem is the Swedes have pure genes (ah! gotta watch them! the Master Race people!) ... Because they marry other Swedes because that's the rule. Finland – Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody." This is rife with alarmist xenophobia!

And marrying "other species"? Really? Are they buying that Georgia freak's Obama-as-Curious-George-the-Chimp T-shirt fetish as scientific fact? What a serious media outlet FOX has turned out to be, huh? It sure sorta hearkens back to the old miscenegation days from what I can see, all this concern about America's "intra-species" marriage and breeding! Wow.

"The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it with faulty arguments." — Friedrich Nietzsche

But if that's not wacky enough, it gets crazier! From no less than Washington DC, home of Marion Barry who supports everything EXCEPT for his staunch disapproval of same-sex marriage (and subsequent arrest this week for stalking – way to drive home the point of morals, Mr. Ex-Mayor!), we have testimony on the DC consideration of accepting same-sex marriage as law of the district from Rev. Leroy Swailes:

This one has to be seen to be believed. I can't make this stuff up, folks! Some of the reverend's philosophical proferrings are:

"You have human rights and you have inhuman rights. When a man dealing with a man and a woman dealing with another man, that's inhuman." Make sense of that logic!

Discrimination's a negative and a postive. ... I came out of my mama's womb like I didn't have a choice. That was a negative discrimination." Yeah, I guess you didn't have a choice ... unless you managed to self-abort! Is this an advertisement for abortion?

"If you discriminate against a homosexual that's a positive. Why? Because of children. You've got people they call pedophiles.... When you look in the eyes of a child and tell them "sex is between Adam and Adam, and Eve and Eve," that's a pedophile." Wow, it's that simple? And all this time I thought it was about something physical, like molestation or at least child nudity. What was I thinking!

"This book here talk [sic] about 'All Families Are Different' has to do with what? You have God's family, which is a natural family, and you have Antichrist's family." Yeah, all Godly families have to "be like us." That's exactly what the racist white families used to think during the days of Jim Crow, too, and they believed that the Bible told them where everyone else's family fell. It must be said that Rev. Swailes is African-American though his logic is eerily familiar, harkening back to those bad old days.

One child grows up to be
Somebody that just loves to learn.
And another child grows up to be
Somebody you'd just love to burn.
Mom loves the both of them.
You see it's in the blood.
Both kids are good to Mom:
'Blood's thicker than mud'
It's a family affair...." — Family Affair, Sly & The Family Stone

"Everybody should have human rights, but you have to be human! Human means you deal with the opposite sex...." Meaning that, what? All Trans people have tails? All gays are sick little monkeys? And I'm sure he meant it in the best way possible, no offense and all!

"Homosexuality destroys (life), it'll be the extinction of the human race.... Eighty-six civilized cultures, it was the death of their cultures why? Because they gave into ... strange flesh: the same sex, which is a form of bestiality. Why is that a form of bestiality? Because a beast has four legs and one gender! If you put two men together, you have four legs and two penises. That's one gender. That's a form of bestiality." Ah! Well that explains it! Four legs and one gender is animal! So if there's a three-legged dog, or a couple who are same-sex, but one partner only has one leg, then they'd be semi-bestial, right? Or if both partners are one-legged, then same-sex marriage would be okay because they'd be human! I recalled a show on Oprah once that showed a dog born with no front legs, and it literally taught itself to walk on it's hind legs, upright! That would make him human, not animal! So then a woman could then marry that dog and not be engaging in bestiality per Swailesian logic! But what about "eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb?" Vexing! Or for that matter, how about "eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men?" Hmm ... clear as mud!

"When you separate something, you have discrimination. When I put a glass of water here and a glass of poison, which one are you going to choose? You're going to choose a glass of water. That's a form of discrimination!" Ah! I'm getting it! We discriminate against poison every time there's a glass of it on the table and we avoid drinking it! Shame on us anti-poison bigots!

"I cannot look into the eyes of a child and tell them "you have a choice to be heterosexual or homosexual." That would make me a sadist! So what is a sadist? A sadist is the one who destroyed sex! ... and I don't practice Satanism." Not sure where the satanism thing came into play – a Freudian slip? And all this time I thought sadism, named after the Marquis De Sade, was all about inflicting physical or mental cruelty! Then again, I can see how some would get confused and think it cruel to tell kids they have choices in life. Better to eliminate all choices and just pre-destine everyone's life for them from inception! It eliminates all the guesswork! Just hand them an assignment sheet saying "here is your life – don't think, just live what we tell you." Hey look, I'm supposed to be a garbageman ...!

It's a wonderful world out there, kiddies. Yes indeed, batshit crazy.

Meanwhile, halfway across the globe, Iranians are protesting and taking to the streets, risking incarceration and even their lives for defying the Ahmadinejad Administration! And here in the U.S, that saga sure fell off of the radar screen fast! What's a country got to do to get a little media time over life-and-death issues like marriage? Iran's free people need a strong advocate here – someone like Mary Cheney: she who couldn't be bothered to bring up same-sex marriage or gay rights issues in her dad & Bush's campaign, and supported her daddy and the GOP (even with the antagonistic approach the Bush Admin took on her issues) because "there are terrorists who will stop at nothing to hurt this country ... I had to support the candidate who was going to do the best job to protect this country. And no offense to John Kerry, but it wasn't him."

So now that the people of Iran are trying to oust one of the heads of Bush's Axis of Evil, and folks in America are focusing on that less important stuff like same-sex marriage, where is Mary Cheney these days?

"...things get confused out there: power, ideals, the old morality...." — G. D. Spradlin as Gen. Corman from "Apocalypse Now."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The G & The L Rises, T Sinks And Fails, And All Is AOK? BS!

"He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." — Martin Luther King Jr.

Well it didn't take long for responses to my last blog. One person wrote me privately saying she was disappointed I didn't "understand" how "serious" the Pam's House Blend controversy was and that I should've "come down harder" on her and Autumn Sandeen for these bannings or muzzlings they enacted on their trans "members and bloggers." Then on my posting I had a response from another suggesting I sit down with Mara and patch up philosophical differences, noting she was "not a card carrying member" of either of our organizations ... preferring to contribute to NGLTF because "they promote trans-inclusion."

Two completely different perspectives saying roughly the same thing: we need to make things work in gay and lesbian organizations or functions for us in order to make gay and lesbian led-groups succeed. Talk about your WTF moments! Perhaps my point in the previous blog wasn't clear enough.

Let me restate that point: we need our voice and for that matter autonomy, respect, experience, and control of our own destiny without shackles or limitations placed on us just as they need theirs. They have theirs already. Where do you see ours in any similar measure? It doesn't happen within GLBT. And outside GLBT we get a little awareness, but most of our own seems more than happy to build up the very gay and lesbian institutions while leaving the trans ones in neglect!

How do I need to rephrase this in order for our own community to understand? Maybe I do suffer from the communication disability that the G&L leaders so famously peg on us all. Lord knows trans people can't articulate our own issues, but let me know what I need to do to get this out and I'll struggle my way through it!

In 2000, during a visit at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) with Michael Gray and Alex Fox, I'd expressed how I personally didn't have a problem with them leaving the T out of their mission statement and their work. Yes, I meant every word of it. HRC was – is – the voice of the gay and lesbian community and Trans wasn't their forte. We in the T community needed our own voice, and needed it expressed from our perspective just as they needed and had theirs.

In the next two years, they first amended their mission, then worked with a new upstart individual to create another Trans organization that would supplant NTAC and its independent voice. This new group would help them by humiliating those of us who weren't working "with our (so-called) allies," and isolating those of us trans people who apparently weren't our own allies for wanting to speak to our own issues. It was better addressed by the "allies" as their "professionals" and by this logic knew our own issues and could address them better than we did. HRC was "the 800 lb. gorilla in the room ... (that) must be dealt with."

Even after the new group moved away from being such fans of HRC, they still had to be friends with them as they "had to work in the same space."

That latter sentiment is pure BS. None of these so-called allies is required to "work in the same space" as NTAC or other Trans organizations kept out of the mainstream of the entitled Queer movement. None of them have ever gone through "proper channels" on anything with us, not even any of the newer Trans organizations now or in the future. Why lend credibility to any of that?

"I would like to be open with the public. I would like to not keep secrets or be careful when I talk. I don't want to have to plan things...I want to be outspoken. I want to say my opinions and I hope they're taken in the right way. I don't want to stop being free. And I won't." — actress, Angelina Jolie

Gay and Lesbian America are quite well established and are perfectly positioned for, and awash in successful ventures. They even have us (with our limited resources) giving them a hand to build up theirs.

Now take a look at Trans America and our own ventures. Where in the hell do you see anything of theirs reciprocated back to us in whatever configuration? There is no similar effort to build our functions nor any dollar-for-dollar return on funding, much much much less anything commensurate (considering the size of their community comparative to our small and quite limited cumulative income levels between our two communities).

And after so many years of demonstrated history, noticing the all-too-obvious patterns, we trans people are insistent upon building up gay and lesbian institutions for what again? Their outspoken leaders are ballyhooed and given prominence. Our outspoken leaders are shamed into silence – and they even enlist some of our own to assist in doing so!

It's been clear to many of us for most of this decade that there's nothing in this "LGBT movement" for Trans folk. We're appends that they begrudge but tolerate as they must appear politically correct. So these leaders do enough for appearance's sake, manage us best as they can and seek out ways to make it pay for itself.

Their leaders are heroes. Our leaders are zeroes – mere trash to be tossed. Not much unlike how Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were considered back in their day, as only in death were they fondly remembered. We're every bit as useful and wanted to them as sand off the beach tracked into their shiny vehicles.

Make no mistake: Sylvia and many of the trans leaders and rioters of those days despise the movement for its hypocrisy and hard-heartedness. And though we must recapture our own voice, our outspoken leadership are and will continue to be as welcomed and as necessary as sand tracked into their vehicle after coming in off of the beach.

As Barney Frank, the Big Gay Man On The Hill, has noted so many times: they don't know who [trans] are. And as it's always a Barney, or a Joe Solmonese or a Matt Foreman or a Rea Carey or a GLAAD or someone similar who's always our prominent face to the rest of the world in politics, media and representation, that's who America will always believe we are.

And yes, in case you haven't noticed, they're all gay or lesbian. And yes, if that's who some of you trans folks wish to build up and promote, then I don't want to hear a word when we get ditched (due to insufficient education on Trans) and subsequently assumed and developed as a future cottage industry for these very same folks to continue validating themselves while continuing to keep us at bay and voiceless. Look around your NGLTF: how many trans people have they hired onto their staff historically? How many in any of these groups were leaders or highly visible throughout the years? If you can't answer those questions, then you haven't been paying attention anyway.

"All people saw on television were a few of my outspoken supporters out front; and they came away thinking that was me." — Sen. George McGovern about his presidential campaign in 1972

Ten years ago, I was one of the so-called "moderate voices of reason." My goal was to try to get us to some understanding of the needs of both sides and get these established groups to understand us as equals and to forge actual egalitarian ideals in our pursuit of rights as painlessly as possible. For my troubles, I ended up being written off as a radical protester and an enemy to be isolated and buried a few years hence. Yes I was naive and paid a price most severe.

Well, I'm not buried any more, and am in no mind to play "compromising" games that again rip our voices away from us. Giving up your right to voice your displeasure is and absolute zero sum game. You get less than nothing: helping them make their job easier is your only result.

Meanwhile, the State of Massachusetts announced today that they are suing the federal government over same-sex marriage and DOMA's infringement over the their state law per federalism. Meanwhile, trans people in that same state still have no hate crimes protection, no employment non discrimination and few if any job prospects. So do you think our voices have been heard? Do you really think that we actually matter? Or maybe fear and poverty aren't so bad, hmm?

This deep-seated mistrust of G&L institutions and functions didn't form in a vacuum and didn't happen overnight. This has been roiling underneath for quite some time. And it's about to boil over....

"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose." — Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pride 2009: We Yelled, They Screamed. But Did Anyone 'Hear' Us?

"When you're drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,' you just scream.” — John Lennon

It was one for the ages. Forty years after Stonewall, to the day (with an additional 12 hours added) ... we found ourselves marching down Fifth Avenue through downtown New York and cutting a path directly through Greenwich Village and right down Christopher Street in front of the Stonewall Inn where the riots – the flashpoint for the organized Gay Rights Movement around the world – began.

Marching through this parade, in the very same New York, with a banner for the contingent noting "Sons and Daughters of Sylvia Rivera" on this anniversary was inspiring. The roar of the crowd as we passed, especially throughout Greenwich Village, was absolutely deafening! My ears were literally ringing afterwards.

In so many ways this was an event to remember! As Sylvia Rivera recalled saying that night of the riots, "I'm not missing this for the world!"

Privately, it was also a trying and disappointing result. I knew it would be a logistical task coordinating something in a locale hundreds or thousands of miles away. But this one was a bit more "Murphy's Law"-like than most others. Everything that could go wrong ....

The banner people were nothing but a mass of confusion, and the banner had to be sent to Mona Rae's house in Yonkers NY as I was afraid I wouldn't receive it until after my flight to NYC. I literally picked up the banner at a drop off point on Friday in Manhattan just a few minutes before the Trans Day of Action after criss-crossing the town to pick up poster boards (which were shipped late) after a speech out in far East New York, and dropping those off in Hoboken where I was staying! Between that, crossed wires, lost items, help arriving too late to be of any good, a subway weekly pass that arbitrarily stopped working and family and personal issues to deal with long-distance while in New York, it was, um, interesting!

Coordinating things in your back yard is simply stressful. Coordinating things 1500 miles away tends to border on madness.

We were also unsuccessful in getting the Stonewall Girls to the 40th anniversary. One showed interest but the other two didn't. As one noted, there was far too much bad blood over how she and the other trans folk were treated to gloss over it. For a lot of old-line trans members, there's nothing to really celebrate and much more to mourn or stew over.

We had participants cancelling due to health reasons (theirs and their spouses), even a group cancelling while en route due to a communter train's power outage! We had a number of confirmed attendees who simply didn't make it; no idea why, just no-shows. Locally, even though I made the circuit to promote, we didn't draw any from those, save for five from Mid-Hudson Valley Trans Assn. up in the Kingston / Poughkeepsie region.

That said, we did get Alyssa Harley (who's taken pains to remember Sylvia Rivera every year by attaching red roses to the lamppost at Sylvia Rivera Way.) Both she and Breanna Smith helped lead our contingent and worked their asses off to stir the crowd. Jamie Dailey who made it down from Connecticut also gets props for working the crowd and for her help on the banner preparation on Pride day.

We also brought in a couple of the old Transy House crew: Rusty Mae Moore and Jamie Hunter. It was great seeing them again and especially marching as the Sons & Daughters of Sylvia Rivera. In fact, Jamie even brought her boyfriend Michael Gredowski, a brand new straight ally. Rusty originally wasn't sure that she could make it through the entire length of the parade route, but I noted admirably that she was just as energetic, holding her sign high above her head and stirring the crowd even at the very end of Christopher Street! Meanwhile Jamie did her own tribute to Sylvia Rivera by marching the entire route in heels (amazingly!) and was leading our contingent running and stirring the crowd herself. Michael, who stood in as our "Son" portion of the "Sons & Daughters" absolutely kicked butt and really got into the march himself.

Special thanks go out to both Jamie Hunter and Michael for all their help during and especially before and after the parade. They were indefatigable assistants that really helped make this succeed. In fact, with all the complications and potential to fall flat on our face, our team made it look effortless and successful!

We later had another older latino man (not even sure that he was gay) who joined us from the sidelines on the banner as our second "adopted" son of Sylvia, ha! We even had a couple other latinas join us as well! We were pulling people in from the crowd – it seemed everyone wanted to be part of the Sons & Daughters of Sylvia Rivera!

The Sons & Daughters of Sylvia Rivera garnered a lot of attention from photo journalists and the crowd itself! However, I believe I overestimated its importance to the Trans Community. While Sylvia herself was around and had her voice, people listened. However, she's been gone for over seven years now. Most of the newer trans community members either don't know of her or the history, or they are busy making their own individual history and doing and participating in their own ventures. Rather than one group, we're now spreading out into hundreds of groups and individually expressing our own perspectives.

"I just can't do what I done before,
I just can't beg you any more.
I'm gonna let you pass and I'll go last.
Then time will tell just who fell
And who's been left behind,
When you go your way and I go mine." — Most Likely You'll Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine, Bob Dylan

This is a good thing. However there is also a downside to that dispersal. As we all know after hearing it from Barney Frank or other gay and lesbian critics of the Trans movement, people "don't know" us, and we're "a very small segment" of the community. The message has always been that Trans people are an infinitesimally small portion of the greater Queer (originally Gay) movement. Between the stigma of Trans and being out about it, and the compulsion to do our own thing, it's tough to gather trans folks in numbers adequate enough to make a statement to gay and lesbian leaders and the world that we're not tiny, insignificant and doomed to utter obscurity.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping record, I can't stress the need for quantifying numbers of us. We need to establish our population and our income (especially lack thereof). Its needed not just for demographics for political attention, but even afterwards to establish our market share (the key to corporate funding for things Trans the way even the gay and lesbian and all other segments are able to draw.)

And again, these numbers will help us actually steal back our own voice (which is incresingly being co-opted and capitalized on of late). It's about the only thing we ever really had in the Trans community was our voice and it appears others think we've abdicated it. When you sit back and let anyone represent you, you end up with the type of governance or oversight you deserve.

Even while I was up in New York, there was an apparent dust up between trans folks and others on Pam's House Blend which ended up resulting in a number of people being censored or banned (I'm not sure which). There was a noticeable hue and cry over it all with folks complaining about the list's owner and the uneven treatment. But a reminder: it's Pam Spaulding's list, she's not a trans person and she can do whatever the hell she feels like with her blog (emphasis on "her blog"). If she wishes to ban trans people, it's her blog! She has the autonomy to do so.

If we trans readers disagree, well then, start your own. Nobody should think that anything trans that's valid must come from an entity that is always led and/or created by a gay or lesbian. Similarly anything that was created and that provides autonomy to trans people should not be quashed simply because it isn't led or created by gay or lesbian leaders who then choose the agenda and represent the de facto face of the trans community. TransAdvocate is attempting to do that right now.

Yet too many of us end up contributing to building up gay and lesbian-led institutions as "they're our allies" and end up watering down or thwarting our own voice in order for some perceived considerations or reward. Maybe that worked adequately for Mara Keisling or a few select folks from the NCTE ilk. For the rest of us there is absolutely nothing gained — it's an absolute net loss. All we do is water down our own numbers, our own voice and our own efficacy. We must get out there and actively take control of our own fate, lest we end up not even being the face of our own community.

"You know, with all the press releases you do, people think that it's just NTAC — or just you – drawing attention to yourself." — Mara Keisling of NCTE in a conversation to me in August 2004

Taking back the Trans community's voice is a must. It is more than needed, it's urgent. The original hope was that this would hopefully serve as a catalyst to begin earnestly to re-seize our destiny and our voice.

Is it possible? Well, after seeing the response on the march in New York and how easily separable we are from our own community, it's not likely. Far too many of us have no desire for the involvement (much less the work getting it done). The few of us with such desire for involvement or working to make things happen will be going our individual directions in things such as Pride parades. The solution to this still needs some rethinking.

We've got to find a way to take a Trans movement that's dying on the vine and get it spurred in the ass into some forward motion. We have people dropping out of the movement in frustration, fatigue and dreams of wanting to have a "real life" away from being "the tranny" or "the activist" and on point constantly. I've even had numerous others ask me how I'm doing this still after 14 years with the obvious burn-out and the high, high cost that it's come with. Certainly it would seem better to just admit it's fruitless and walk away. But that only makes certain defeat.

We need to bear in mind trans history, with all our forebearers efforts ending in absolutely nothing for those who gave all. We need to recognize there's nothing ever to gain from relinquishing our destiny to the trust of others who have no full understanding of our needs, much less the urgency. And I fully keep in mind that with no future or hope, I certainly have nothing to gain by giving in, and in fact nothing to lose (save for my life, which we all lose in the end) by anything I do. As I noted to the most recent activist stepping away asking how I continue this, I just put myself on auto-pilot – or more precisely auto-battle mode. As I had on one side, "when hope is gone, fight like Sylvia! (fiercely and to the very end!)"

In years down the road, Trans folks will realize we must re-seize our movement. Until then, I'll just be the crazy, quixotic old tranny, screaming in the wind about our need to own our voice, our movement and our destiny. Sylvia said the same thing years ago, and nobody much listened to her while she was around either. They may not hear, but we should continue speaking truth to power and never stop screaming it.

Maybe it's the roar of the crowd drowning us all out.

"Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty." — Lift Every Voice And Sing, James Weldon Johnson

"Ain't no one gonna listen if you haven't made a sound." — Filthy Gorgeous, the Scissor Sisters

Friday, July 3, 2009

Moments Of Pride After Forty Years

Some videos of the New York City Heritage of Pride Parade on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots:

The marchers enter into Greenwich Village.

Marching down Christopher Street (and even picking up some extra volunteers to carry the banner!) Everyone wanted to be a part of the Sons & Daughters of Sylvia Rivera contingent heading down to Sheridan Square!

Marching next to Sheridan Square and coming close to the Stonewall Inn.

The Sons & Daughters of Sylvia Rivera contingent marches past the Stonewall Inn (and I nearly do a backflip over a crouched Japanese photographer taking pictures towards the Stonewall!) 40 years after and Sylvia Rivera's memory will not fade away, no matter what!