Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Yesterday, like so many others I was tuned into the live White House video feed to watch President Obama’s speech at the White House reception in honor of LGBT Pride Month.

One thing's for certain, Barack Obama knows how to give a speech. It was the clearest and most direct statement on our rights from him that we've heard in a while. Unfortunately, given what we've been hearing since he took office, that's not really saying all that much.

Thing is, we all know he talks a good game. He can make LGBT Americans feel welcome and included like no other President, maybe even no other federal politician in history, ever has. Other than his lack of support for same-sex marriage the problem the LGBT community has with Obama has never been about what he says, the problem is with what he does - or doesn't do.

Even knowing that, I'm still heartened by this speech. Not just by what he said, but by the way he laid his agenda out there and basically told everyone in that room (and by extension the rest of our community) to hold him accountable for it.

During the campaign, Obama called jokingly called himself a "hopemonger". I think it may be perhaps one of the most truly accurate descriptions of him. His words can't help but fill you with hope for the future. But hope does not, in fact, spring eternal. Hope has a limited life span unless it's nourished with progress toward the hoped-for goal. And when hope dies, it's often replaced by anger.

Congressional Democrats have failed to nourish our hope by passing anything significant on LGBT rights as yet, and the Obama Administration made things infinitely worse by offering that horrific DOMA brief and (thus far) failing to withdraw it. Not just a failure to nurture our hope on the part of the Administration, the DOMA brief was political equivalent of spraying it with a highly toxic poison, causing it to wither quickly and dramatically, inspiring a corresponding and predictable surge of anger from the LGBT community in response.

Obama's speech yesterday was certainly an attempt to undo or at least lessen some of the damage done to the Administration's and the Party's relationship with the LGBT community. Not true progress in any real sense, this speech was more of a palliative effort to buy himself and Congress a little more time to get things done.

I'm inclined to think we've made our point, but by no means do I think we should stop pushing or stop holding the President and the Democrats accountable for failing to deliver. In fact, I think it's time to keep the pressure on like never before.

By denying the DNC donations, we deny the entire Party, which I believe is appropriate at this time. In order to corral the votes of skittish Democrats we have to be to demonstrate that it will cost them just as much to oppose our rights as it would to support them. Aside from our actual votes, withdrawing monetary support is the single best way to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party and its failures.

Conversely, there should be a resumption of support once truly significant progress is made, but that support should be clearly and directly tethered to continued and consistent progress on LGBT rights. Much like the Democratic Congress did with the bailout money by requiring the automakers to demonstrate viability as a precondition to receiving the funds, we need to tie our support of the Democratic Party to actual, measurable success in delivering on their promises to us.

As the Democrats in Congress have clearly demonstrated over and over, particularly in the Senate, the only time they can be counted upon to do anything significant on our issues is when there's a political gun pointed at their collective head. We have to be the ones holding that gun and we have to keep holding it right where it is, ready to fire at a moment's notice, until we get what we want and need from these people.

It would be nice if we could just trust that all will be well in time without forcing the issue like this, but after all the history - not just this century, but even just this year - it's the only strategy that makes sense anymore.

While the Senate is attaching the hate crimes bill as a sweetener to a defense authorization spending bill that contains money for F-22 jets the President doesn’t want and has said he will veto, another transwoman is violently attacked in a hate crime in a state where the hate crimes law doesn’t cover people like her.

Obama’s words may make us feel good, but feeling good just isn’t enough. Americans are losing jobs and careers and being denied opportunities for no good reason. Americans are being thrown out their homes. Relationships are being denied legal recognition to detriment of thousands of law-abiding, taxpaying Americans, their friends, and loved ones. Americans are being violently attacked and even murdered in the streets of our cities for the crime of being who they are.

This is happening right now. Today. It has been going on unabated for decades, centuries even. With Barack Obama in the White House and strong Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, there’s no longer any rational excuse for failing to pass equal rights for all Americans into law, and there’s no excuse for delaying the process even one second longer than absolutely necessary. Not if the supportive words we’re hearing from this President and this Congress are to have any real meaning at all.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The “New” NJ Trans Drivers License Regs, Part 2: Buying My Identity

The first part of this story can be found here.

Shortly after my first unsuccessful attempt to take advantage of the new, less stringent regulations regarding changing gender markers on drivers licenses in New Jersey, I met with a gender specialist to get the form signed, certifying that though born biologically male, my gender identity is in fact female.

While certainly an easing of the previous regulations, which required proof of genital surgery, these new regulations eliminate that requirement but still require the signature of a licensed gender specialist.

Of course, having lived fulltime as a woman for over 12 years, the doctor knew just after a few minutes of talking to me that I was for real and not only signed the form for me, but also gave me something I’ve never had (or really thought I needed before), a “carry letter”, a letter from the gender pro on official stationary which you show to cops/officials to prove that you’re a bona fide transsexual.

All together including gas, just getting this form signed cost me just over $500, almost two entire week’s worth of unemployment payments. I was damn lucky the doctor was willing to take payments over 3 months (apparently this is a common issue in her practice) or I don’t know how I’d have survived until my next unemployment check.

Then, a week later (after my next unemployment check arrived because I was nearly flat broke after seeing the doc), signed form and reams of ID in hand, I went to my local Motor Vehicle agency. Two hours of waiting was broken up by odd looks and questions, scratching of heads, and waiting, waiting, waiting, for someone who had a clue about the new regulations. Then after still some more waiting, I paid an $11 fee for my new license (which I had just renewed two weeks previously for about twice that much) to top it all off.

Finally, after all that, I am now (at least as far as New Jersey is concerned) legally female.

Now, with my new identification safely in my purse, I can’t help but think about all the transpeople in New Jersey who, like me, live hand-to-mouth, often barely squeaking by, especially in today’s economy. I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have to pay rent where I live, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have expenses. As rough as this was for me to pull off financially, I can only imagine what it would be like for someone else in the same situation but in even more desperate financial straits than I am.

The reality is that a lot of us just don’t have half a grand to shell out for something like this, no matter how much we may dream of being legally recognized in our chosen genders. When the choice is getting the right gender marker on your driver’s license or eating that week and paying the rent, there’s only one possible realistic choice, the one that keeps you alive and a roof over your head. The problem is that it’s also the choice that forces you to continue to present identification in your daily life that will help to ensure your continued second-class citizenship and potentially invite even more bigotry and discrimination into your life every time you have to present it.

That’s really the worst part of all this: For many of us, it’s a Catch-22: You can’t get a job with a livable income unless you can successfully pass in your gender of choice. You can’t successfully pass in your gender of choice unless you can present legal ID that confirms that gender. Without a livable income, you can’t afford the cost of obtaining legal ID that confirms your chosen gender.

I was able to break that cycle because I was in a position to come up with the money by cutting my normal expenses to the bone for a couple of weeks, and I’ll have to do it again twice more when I make my next payments to the doctor. Not easy, not fun, but doable. A lot of people aren’t so lucky. If I were paying rent where I am, there’s no way I’d have been able to pull this off.

That’s the real problem with this, and frankly, a big problem with New Jersey politics and politicians in general. Politicians in New Jersey don’t seem to realize that there’s a significant lower class in this state and that we have needs too. These people seem to think that everyone who lives in Jersey is upper-middle-class, living in a nice two-story colonial with a BMW in the garage, a white picket fence, and 2.3 children.

Our Governor, Jon Corzine, while a good guy and very progressive (when it’s to his political advantage to be), is also a Wall Street multi-gazillionaire, so I guess it’s not surprising that he’s apparently just as out-of-touch with the needs of average working-class New Jerseyans as the rest of our state elected officials.

I remember during the last gubernatorial election I got a call from the Corzine for Governor campaign asking for my vote and financial support. The woman on the phone told me that Jon Corzine supported efforts to improve schools and increase benefits for senior citizens. I responded that I was 45 and had no kids (nothing about being transsexual), and asked what did then-Senator Corzine have on his agenda as Governor that would benefit single working-class folks like me? Dead silence was my response.

The woman had no answer for me, none at all. It was quite obvious that the only issues she knew enough about to promote were those concerning the very young or the very old. Those of us who are not seniors and don’t have children were apparently just not considered important enough by the Corzine campaign to bother coming up with a supportive agenda for. I hope they’ll do a better job this time around, but given my experience with these new license regulations, it doesn’t seem very likely that anything’s changed much in that regard.

I say all this not to attack Governor Corzine or our elected state representatives, but rather because I believe it’s long past time that politicians in this state finally realized that not everyone who lives here shares their privileged lifestyles. It’s time our state officials started taking into account the actual real-world needs of those of us in a lower tax bracket than their own, not their own obviously uninformed imaginings of what they might be.

Wishful thinking perhaps, but personally I think it’s the very least we should be able to expect from those elected to govern our entire state, not just the wealthier parts of it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Still No Doctor in the House

Those who know me well really know my disdain of 'our' medical system. They also know that it is very easy for me to rant rabidly over medical policy in this country, usually diverting the conversation away from whatever issue was originally posed. But I have to start there because its an important part of my perspective and I'll try to keep focused.

I am sure that my inability to get reasonable and affordable medical care lead me to seek alternative forms of medical care to meet my medical needs. My response included resorting to self diagnosis and self medication. There's also this little bit of discomfort I had with my body and exposing it and me to insensitive and unsympathetic medical practitioners. Growing up on the streets, I learned quite quickly how to get the medications I needed without following proper 'channels'. Which is how I began my transition, unsupervised.

It was a number of years before I finally decided that I would find a doctor to help 'monitor' my transition. Of course, it was D's persistence in demanding that I see a doctor that really pushed me to that first visit. By that point, my 'puberty' was nearly complete and my first visit's disclosure took my doc by surprise. I had heard about her from another T-Woman and she was this doc's first TS patient. I was her second. She was great, we hit it off very well and eventually became close. Like me, she had a history with Haight-Ashbury FC, liked working with under-served populations and had a very strong interest in helping trans clients.

This past spring she retired. Her reason, too much paperwork. She was finding that she either had to shorten the time she spent with her clients, take fewer clients or both, in order to keep her practice open. So for the past 6 months I've been back on my own and D is again wanting me to 'get supervised'.

So I've been looking for health care and as I googled the net I came across this place, The New Orleans Health Care Clinic. I began reading and it started out pretty good. From their Health Services page:

We are dedicated to providing safe, affordable, high quality, comprehensive sexual and reproductive heath care in a caring, respectful, and confidential environment. Medical and Health services at our Clinic currently include: Gynecological Care, Sexual & Reproductive Health Care, Prenatal Care, Breast & Cervical Cancer Screenings, Abortion Referrals, and Health Information, Counseling, & Referrals.

From their Gynecological Care page:

Although we centered our services on meeting the particular needs of women of color low-income women, and uninsured women, NOWHC’s gynecological services are available to all women – regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender identity and expression, ability, faith, income level, citizenship status, work sector, or age – in a caring, respectful, and confidential environment.

And from their Sexual & Reproductive Health Care page:

NOWHC provides sexual and reproductive health services to all women regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender identity and expression, ability, faith, income level, citizenship status, work sector, or age – in a caring, respectful, and confidential environment. Our current sexual and reproductive health services include: and it goes on listing their offerings of services.

I must have spent about 15-20 minutes looking over the information and thinking to myself, hey this sounds great. They really seem to have their heart in the right place. Why can't I find something like this closer to home? What's wrong with a system where it is so difficult for me to get health care that is affordable, where the staff is knowledgeable and I feel safe going into the facility.

And then I read this:

We provide care to hetero, bi, lesbian, queer, and questioning women; trans and gender non-conforming individuals; and women with DSDs who were female assigned at birth. We are currently working to expand of trans and gender non-conforming affirmative health care services and enhance our health information and referral services to people and families affected by disorders of sex development. We are committed to working with all of our clients to provide care that respects individuals' relationships with their bodies and gender identities. We are currently not able to provide care to trans people who were male assigned at birth or who have had genital sex reassignment surgery. Please call for referrals.

WTF? How is it that one can 'provide care to .... trans and non-conforming individuals....' and not include me? What is it about my kind of transness that makes me so untreatable. I read all the services that they offer and MOST of them could apply to me, just like the majority of women. Sure, I have no need for cervical cap or diaphragm fitting and there is a good chance that I would never need an abortion referral, but I also know many non-trans women that would be just like me.

I tried to understand the justification for this. Perhaps it was that the staff was trained to specialize in women's physiology, that they felt uncomfortable to provide adequate health care to formerly male bodied clients. Or is there something so fundamentally different with my body, that I am unaware of, that having something physiologically male on the inside makes it difficult to provide me with proper care? Maybe it was because, as a women's clinic, does my presence challenge or threaten their clients to a point of where it is unsafe for them to use this clinic?

And then it really hit me, its OK to visit this clinic if you're FTM. Its OK to visit if you're an intersex woman assigned female at birth. A transman with a mastectomy is fine, but me needing a mammogram? No way! I see this as nothing less than discriminatory practices based on transphobia. And under all of this is the sad fact that this clinic is all about serving 'marginalized and under served women', especially 'women of color and low-income women'. Who is at the bottom of the list of this list of under served and marginalized women? Trans women of color.

For me, this is about health care, its not about merit badges proving I'm 'made it' into women's spaces. Nor is it about a woman's space that is focused on sensual and sexual anatomy. In this type of clinic and who the intended clients are, much of the practice will be primary care. Not specialties, those will be referred out and they apparently are well enough connected to already be able to provide those referrals. Does the fact that I have an atypical body automaticly mean I can only be seen by a specialist, if I have a cold, need a stitch or two or need a mammogram? I hope not.

When I go to a doc, there should be no need to even consider whether or not I'm an interloper. I'm not there struggling to rationalize my female identity with a not quite female body. I'm visiting a doc because I have a body, living right now, and I occasionally need some advice or help with it. Choosing a doc is a very personal thing. One needs to be comfortable with that person, needs to feel that you're in a safe place and unfortunately in this time and place, that you can afford it. Going to the doc should not be any more complicated than that. At the end of the day, basic health care should be available to all, not "Women and Trans" unless you're M2F.

And I still haven't found a new doc.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Colbert Report on "Stonewalling"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Stonewalling
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford


Team Activities for Trans Youth?

I’ve always been a team-oriented person: sports, scouting, projects, etc. However, in my youth, I found that aspects of my “team worker” mentality often conflicted with my gender identity. I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts: instead I found myself selling cookies for the girl scouts. I wanted to play soccer and lacrosse with the boys: yet somehow I ended up playing field hockey. All of these “team” activities often put me in extremely uncomfortable situations when considering my gender identity. In my girl scout troop, I often felt like an outsider – I wanted to go backpacking, kayaking, learn survival techniques, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, many girl scout troops do these things, but where I was raised, it was out of the question. And my sporting endeavors? Don’t get me started on awkward locker room situations…

Thus we get to the meat of my concerns: where do young Trans people, or Trans adults for that matter, go to participate in team activities? I’m pretty sure there are no Trans-Scouts, and sporting activities are few and far between. Why do I even bring this up? To be honest, I feel as though these team-oriented activities build characteristics that are vital to the future of the Trans community: leadership, communication skills, etc.

I wanted first, to bring your attention to this article:


I thought that was pretty amazing! However, what about those of us who do not fall into the Male/Female spectrum of gender identity? The genderqueers, third gender individuals, etc? Where do we play soccer? Learn how to tie knots, etc?

But there is hope! At least during the summer: Camp Aranu'tiq! While at the Trans Health Conference in Philly I finally got to put names and faces behind this camp that I have heard so much about. This is a camp for Trans/Gender Variant youth that will be coming to the East Coast in the summer of 2010. For me, I know that going to camp (obviously Girl Scout camp) during the summer was a wonderful experience. It was a chance to grow, learn and form friendships. I hope this camp will give Trans/Gender Variant youth a chance to experience all these things and more.

So, is there a future for Trans team activities for youth and adults? I like to think there is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rep. Baldwin introduces LGBT health disparity bill

Representative Tammy Baldwin introduced the Ending Health Disparities for LGBT Americans Act (ELHDA) earlier this week, declaring that "Our current health care system fails LGBT Americans on many levels.”

Co-sponsors include Reps. Henry Waxman, Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, and Nydia Velazquez.

Baldwin explains that the government lacks basic data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and health, and for this reason, this bill includes investments in data collection and research as well as:

non-discrimination policies for all federal health programs, provides funding for cultural competence training for health care providers, extends Medicare benefits to same-sex domestic partners, creates a new office of LGBT Health within in the Department of Health and Human Services, and provides funding for community health centers who serve the LGBT community. full article
Originally posted on The Colonic

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Trans men may be butch but they're not (usually) butches...

To Sinclair Sexsmith,

I've liked your writings, but I gotta tell ya, including trans men in your "Top Hot Butches" list was a Major Fail.

Imagine someone compiled a list of "Top Hot Hetero Women*," celebrating them for really rocking intentional femininity -- and included femme lesbians on it.**

And then said that while they knew that these femmes don't self-label as "hetero women," but that they were going to call them that anyway because it's the most accessible and recognizable word representing the sort of femininity they wanted to celebrate.

I appreciate that you took quick action in removing the trans men from the list, but your inclusion of them in the first place is reflective of a larger Fail irony: You say you started the list because you were appalled that After Ellen's "Top 15 Hottest Butch Women" list was filled with media-imagined images of butches -- but yet you're putting people on your list who you envision to be ideal images of butches who embody "female masculinity" and "reject compulsory femininity" regardless of whether those on the list self-identify as butches or as female.

It may have been well-intentioned, but it's not showing respect. Especially when you acknowledged up front "that not all – and probably very few – of these people identify as butch, and some do not identify as lesbians or queer or woman..."

Want to celebrate female masculinity? By all means. Want to celebrate butches (without trans guys -- except for those who want to be on the list)? Go for it. Want to celebrate "butchness"? I don't think people would be nearly bent out of joint.

Oh yeah... and just so you know... "but they were hot" isn't a good enough excuse, or even an excuse at all. Any more than it would be if my hypothetical list-maker used it as a justification for including femme lesbians on a "Top Hot Hetero Women" list.

Just saying...

BTW, as far as those 13 now-empty spots, if you're celebrating butchness, there's also men (both gay and hetero) who engage in "intentional masculinity" (akin to femmes). Folks such as Jack Wrangler, the gay porn star who sparked the Castro Clone look -- and whose image was most definitely consciously constructed. Or, say, hetero guys who butches seek to emulate. Obviously you would know better than I who they might be, but I'm thinking of someone like Steve Irwin, who was "stereotypically" masculine -- tough, scared of nothing -- without being a tool, and who was also someone able to cry over something beautiful or tragic. I realize that may not be your thing, since from your writings it looks like you're focused on queer/female masculinity, but it might make people think a little about the "diversity of gender presentation."

* And, yes, there are hetero women who are every bit as intentional in their femininity as femmes.

** Yeah, there are some trans men who don't mind being called butches, just as there are some femmes who wouldn't mind being on the hypothetical list, but in both cases I'm pretty sure they're the definite exception.

Fiercely yours,

Monday, June 22, 2009

trans federal employees included in recent Obama memo

According to John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Obama Administration, the presidential memorandum that President Obama signed last week giving same-sex domestic partners of federal employees benefits also extends to trans employees. Full article

Originally posted on The Colonic

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Barney Frank to reintroduce ENDA as all-inclusive

According to his adviser, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) is planning to re-introduce an all-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed in the House in 2007.

The older version of ENDA was--despite a lot of controversy--split into two bills, separating sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill did nothing in the Senate and died. Now, Frank claims the political climate is more conducive to pass with protections against gender-based discrimination and sexual orientation in one shot.

Southern Voice reports:

Sanchez said that, as of Wednesday, the bill had eight House co-sponsors, including four Democrats and four Republicans. Among the sponsors were gay House members Frank, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lead Republican sponsor is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). full article

Originally posted on The Colonic

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Big Shitty Lie: Transgender Trouble and Toilets

On twitter yesterday, Kyle Pratt of Ruminations Blog posted this:

'Bathroom bill' foes rally in Mass.: http://digg.com/d1tt6Z?t
More problems with "transgender" guys and restrooms.
Of which I responded with:
Can you name one person that's been a victim of a sex crime by transgender person in a bathroom? Lying to scare people is pathetic.
he responded by saying:
I don’t think I scared anyone, it wasn’t a lie--it is a warning. There 's no reason a man should go into a women's room.
While I'm a very liberal Democrat, I can respect people who hold different/opposing views than mine. What I cannot respect is dishonesty. The article he pointed to says:
Activists want to add transgender to the Bay State's existing "hate crimes" bill. Evelyn Reilly, director of public policy for the Massachusetts Family Institute, tells OneNewsNow that lawmakers who support the measure are bowing to a fraction of the population -- and in that process, are endangering women and children.
Zoe Brain over at A.E. Brain frames it succinctly:
It's legal to persecute the transgendered in 37 states, but in 13 it isn't. Yet in those 13 states, there have never been these mythical "bathroom issues". Not once. Oh, perverts have used womens facilities as places to attack, rarely, but they've never tried to use the human rights legislation, either mentioning "sex" or "gender identity" as a defence. Not once in 33 years.I guess though that Lincoln was right: you really *can* fool some of the people all of the time. Enough of them, anyway.

If there really *was* a danger - then we'd admit it, and try to find a solution to work around it. We have children too. And we'd be in just as much danger.

But you can't work around something that doesn't exist. All you can do is show that it's a myth, and a deliberate lie.
That's what these so called "conservative Christians" have to revert to, to scare people about a nonexistent problem... a very deliberate, very focused lie. Meanwhile there are transgender people who are sexually and physically assaulted in restrooms of their birth gender that happen every day. It's not theoretical, it's a reality. It happens and these so called "Christians" care more about their dishonest agenda than transgender people's safety? That doesn't seem very Christ like.

Cross posted from Transadvocate.com

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Obama wishy-washy on LGBT issues

A few days ago, the Obama Justice Department, in dismissing the first same-sex marriage case filed in federal court, upheld the Defense of Marriage Act--although he opposed DOMA as a presidential candidate.

The dismissal came shortly after June 1st, when President Obama declared June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. While the religious right is outraged, evangelicals are not Obama voters to begin with. No political loss.

Although I am not a fan of marriage, it is clear to me that a marriage license is a tangible item, and dedicating a month is abstract, symbolic and not particularly productive. I am not impressed by the dog and pony show.

Originally posted on The Colonic

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Harvard endows professorship in LGBT studies

The Boston Globe reports:

Harvard University will announce tomorrow that it will establish an endowed chair in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies, in what is believed to be the first professorship of its kind in the country.

Harvard President Drew G. Faust described the academic post as an important milestone in an ongoing effort by faculty, students, and alumni to raise the profile of LGBT studies at the university.

The university has received a $1.5 million gift from the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus...full article

Originally posted on The Colonic

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The New NJ Trans Driver License Regs: A Step Forward, If You Can Afford To Take It

Last Friday, I drove down to New Jersey Motor Vehicle Department headquarters in Trenton and tried to take advantage of the new, less oppressive identity regulations for gender markers on New Jersey driver licenses. I got a pretty rude awakening when I arrived, though. When this new regulation was released, everything we were told about it led one to believe that all that would be required to change the gender marker on a New Jersey driver's license in the future was a signed affidavit attesting to the fact that the driver intended to live in a certain gender identity and the change was not for fraudulent purposes.

Seems perfectly reasonable, doesn't it? It did to me too...until I actually tried to do it. I was handed a form that required a gender specialist signoff stating that they believe my gender identity to be either male or female and for that to continue for the foreseeable future. If this form had been handed to me even as little as six months ago, I would have had no problem getting it signed. The problem is that Dr. Aviva Nubel, the gender specialist who I'd seen for six years, the one gender specialist on the planet who could credibly testify to my gender identity, has moved out west and effectively dropped off the radar. Since Dr. Nubel treated many transpeople in New Jersey and surrounding states for decades, it's likely that I'm far from the only New Jersey transperson in this predicament right now.

Now I have to go to another gender specialist and spend who knows how much more before this new doctor who I've never met will sign the paper. The real-world result of these new regulations is that I've now got a whole new set of expenses to worry about at a time when I can least afford them.

Of course, I'll end up paying it, whatever it is. How could I not? Hopefully unemployment will at least get me far enough to get that paper signed. I'm probably not going to be able to establish a real ongoing relationship with a gender specialist for a while, at least not until I've got a decent job. My car is going to be repaired soon so hopefully (key word) that won't be an issue for all that much longer, but it's still going to be an additional expense that I really just don't need right now.

And then, there's the other part of all this. On the one hand, I know I should probably be grateful that things are easier than they were, and yet, on the other hand, it's hard for me to feel gratitude when the state is still saying to me and every other transsexual in New Jersey that unlike as in every other case involving attesting to the truth of presented information, my word as a citizen isn't good enough to attest to my own gender identity.

My sworn word is good enough to testify in court, vote, join the military and kill for my country (if I were still young enough), enter into a legally-binding contract, and on and on. Even a convicted mass murderer can be legally sworn in to testify in a court of law and then be held responsible for the truth of his testimony.Yet, as a transperson my own sworn word must be backed up by that of a gender specialist when I am testifying to the veracity of my own gender identity.

This, to me, is the greatest insult of all, perhaps even greater than the surgery requirement this new policy replaces. The old policy relied mainly upon the simple presence or absence of certain physical parts. The new policy presupposes that a transsexual person cannot trusted to know his or her own mind, that their assertion of their own gender identity must be backed up by someone else.

Let's dig even deeper. Obviously, it's not possible for one person to truly know the mind of another, no matter how intelligent they are or how many degrees they may hold. One can argue that a competent mental heath professional could certify someone sane or insane, but can they really know their patient well enough to be truly certain of that patient's internal gender identity and be able to certify it to the state? And if we allow for that to be possible, for someone else to be able to certify such an intensely and deeply-held personal aspect of another individual, how is it reasonable to presume that the assertation of the individual in question is any less reliable than that of the professional?

I guess my true core issue here is one of class. This new policy, while far easier to deal with for some, is still an unreasonably high hurdle for low-income transpeople, those who can't afford the services of a gender specialist to obtain that signature on the form. Thus the ability to change the gender marker on one's driver's license in New Jersey remains the sole purview of those who can afford to pay out-of-pocket for expensive professional care that most employee insurance plans don't cover.

I did six years of it when I was working and making a decent paycheck. Now the one person who could certify that is gone and I must start from scratch, all because the State of New Jersey will not take me at my word as it does myself and every other citizen in every other case where one might be called to offer sworn testimony.

For those who can't afford to pay a gender specialist and don't have access to one through other means, there's no practical difference between the old policy and the new one. For those who slip through the cracks because of lack of access to outside proof of gender identity, proper legal recognition remains just as unobtainable in the State of New Jersey as it ever was.

One might think I blame Governor Corzine, our community activists, or the motor vehicle department for this failure. I do not, not in any way. The new policy is indeed a quantum leap forward in some ways. It makes life easier for a lot of people, but not for enough people. It doesn't eliminate the high cost of legal acknowledgment for transsexuals in New Jersey, it simply lowers that cost somewhat so more middle class transfolks are able to afford it. Many of those on the lower end of the income scale will remain without access to proper and accurate legal identification.

There's no doubt that Governor Corzine's heart is in the right place. He's earned not only my vote but also my respect and gratitude for the way he's stood up for LGBT rights in New Jersey during his tenure as our state's chief executive. There's also no doubt that there were the best of intentions in mind when these new regulations were created. The problem is that there's still an undue burden being imposed exclusively upon transgender New Jersey citizens for no good reason, in the service of no compelling state interest.

How can anyone, regardless of their level of education and training, understand the specific inner workings of an individual's mind better than that person themselves? Unless that person has been certified incompetant (and in which case, why would they be applying for a driver's license anyway?), why shouldn't that same sworn personal certification that's accepted as legally-binding in a court of law and in all other legal matters have the same weight when certifying one's own gender identity? In the end, is there truly anyone other than the individual in question who can possibly certify their own gender identity with any real credibility?

For those who would argue that there's the possibility of fraud here, I'd respond that there's that possibility each and every time someone puts their signature to a legal document, and there are laws proscribing legal penalties for such crimes already on the books. For an adult citizen who has not been declared legally incompetant, their signature on a sworn statement declaring their own gender identity should be considered no less valid and no less legally-binding than any other legal document they may sign. To do otherwise is to set transgender citizens apart from other New Jersey citizens, defining us as different from everyone else, and then denying us equal protection and consideration under the law based solely upon that difference.

I know there are some who would say that this is best we can do and we should be thankful for whatever small victories we can manage. I don't disagree that we should honor and laud the gains we make and those who help us achieve them, but I also know that our true goal has to be not less discrimination but no discrimination at all. If not, then we have no real goals and we will always be settling for second-class citizenship.

Here in New Jersey, a significant step has been taken that will help many transsexual New Jerseyans live their lives facing less discrimination. Now it's time to take the next step and guarantee that benefit to all transsexual New Jersey citizens, not just the middle and upper classes.

No Match, No Job, No Surgery

Maybe it was my naiveté, but 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. In this circumstance, I was lucky. I am a skilled worker and the HR person that I was dealing with had family that was transgender. Had not both those things been in my favor, I'd probably still be unemployed.

There's been talk about repealing Title II of the REAL ID Act, but so far there hasn't been a lot of movement. As it stands now, you can have all your documentation changed but one call to the Social Security Administration will reveal your transgender status. This is a form of ghettoization that subjects transgender employees to humiliation and exposes them to discrimination. For many transgender people, this is part of an ugly cycle of workplace discrimination that is almost impossible to prove (that being discrimination in the hiring process). This discrimination leads to increased rates of unemployment or under-employment. Unemployment/under-employment can lead to decreased health care and an increase in risky behavior (especially "pumping" silicone and black market hormones). Because the Social Security Administration requires sexual/gender reassignment surgery (GRS/SRS) to change a gender marker, this also mandates surgery for anyone who wants consistency in their documentation.

In many instances this unemployment/under-employment causes transgender people to not be able to afford the very surgeries that will fulfill the SSA's requirements. This vicious cycle of poverty forces many transwomen into pornography or sex work, in order to pay for the required surgeries and therapy.

In the end, there are very few reasons for an employer to know what genitals you possess. Until this section of the REAL ID Act is repealed, transgender people will continue to have skyrocketing numbers of unemployment, HIV/AIDS exposure, and poverty. Gender shouldn't ever be allowed to be used as a weapon of discrimination and oppression.

cross posted from Transadvocate.com

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GLAAD Action Alert: KRXQ

TAKE ACTION: Demand that KRXQ Radio Hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States Apologize for Encouraging Violence Against Transgender Children

June 2, 2009— In a lengthy May 28 tirade on the Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning radio show heard in Sacramento, California on KRXQ 98.5 FM and Reno, Nevada on KDOT 104.5 FM, hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States verbally attacked transgender children. While discussing a recent story about a transgender child in Omaha, Nebraska and her parents’ decision to support her transition, the two hosts spent more than 30 minutes explicitly promoting child abuse of and making cruel, dehumanizing and defamatory comments toward transgender children.

You can listen to the entire segment beginning at 4:48 by clicking this link:

Among the comments made by the hosts:
ROB WILLIAMS [11:12]: This is a weird person who is demanding attention. And when it’s a child, all it takes is a hug, maybe some tough love or anything in between. When your little boy said, ‘Mommy, I want to walk around in a dress.’ You tell them no cause that’s not what boys do. But that’s not what we’re doing in this culture.
ARNIE STATES [13:27]: If my son, God forbid, if my son put on a pair of high heels, I would probably hit him with one of my shoes. I would throw a shoe at him. Because you know what? Boys don’t wear high heels. And in my house, they definitely don’t wear high heels.
ROB WILLIAMS [17:45]: Dawn, they are freaks. They are abnormal. Not because they’re girls trapped in boys bodies but because they have a mental disorder that needs to be somehow gotten out of them. That’s where therapy could help them.
ROB WILLIAMS [18:15]: Or because they were molested. You know a lot of times these transgenders were molested. And you need to work with them on that. The point is you don’t allow the behavior. You cure the cause!
ARNIE STATES [21:30]: 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 [29:22]: 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.

To her credit, co-host Dawn Rossi stood up to Williams and States during the segment. Despite her apparent lack of familiarity with transgender issues, Rossi repeatedly defended transgender people and made an on-air apology for her colleagues’ defamatory remarks.

Please contact KRXQ management in Sacramento, California, where the show is produced and demand that radio show hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States publicly apologize. Call on KRXQ to hold Williams and States accountable for their remarks and establish clear standards to ensure their media platform will not be used to condone or promote violence against any parts of the communities they serve.

John Geary
Vice President & General Manager
(916) 339-4209

Arnie States
On Air Personality
(916) 334-7777

Rob Williams
On Air Personality
(916) 334-7777

Please use the share page functionality at the top of this page to alert any of your friends and others who may also wish to take action. When contacting KRXQ, please ensure that your emails and phone calls are civil and respectful and do not engage in the kind of name-calling or abusive behavior.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Boost Mobile’s Education on Trans Issues

By Monica F. Helms

As an activist for the transgender community, I never know when an opportunity will come up to educate a company or an organization. Sometimes it’s by accident and other times it’s intentional. However way it comes about, myself and others have to take the time to help them understand. To me, the opportunity happened with Boost Mobile, whose parent company is Sprint Nextel, the company I’ve worked for nearly twenty years.

The education of Boost Mobile on trans issues started with this commercial featuring Danica Patrick as their new spokesperson:

As you can see, this commercial just looks plane dumb on the visual level, but it also uses men in women’s clothes in a negative context. Trans people who saw this commercial went ballistic. Even though the commercial does not specifically make fun of trans people, out of the 300 million Americans, many will use this as another excuse to discriminate and hold back equality for Transgender Americans.

Then, thanks to Helen Boyd, I saw this piece that shows the producer and Danica Patrick defending the content of commercial:

If Boost Mobile had not been part of Sprint Nextel, I would have viewed the commercial, posted a comment on Facebook, tell some important LGBT organizations and let them take on this issue. However, I have access inside the company, allowing me to get names and contact information of people responsible for this commercial. After telling my supervisor and my manager about this, I contacted HR about the issue.

I have had to deal with HR for a few issues in the past, including applying for an opening in HR and I have always had a great experience with them. I am up front on who I and that I am one of Sprint’s transsexual employees. I also give them a background on my activities outside of Sprint, to give them an idea that I know what I am speaking of. It sets the tone for the conversation.

This experience proved to be no different. I explained to the woman why myself and the transgender community find the commercial offensive, then I framed it to how it affects me at work. Every time I go onto the company intranet, I see a picture of Danica Patrick, which reminds me of the commercial. I would feel uncomfortable when my co-workers would make snide remarks about the depiction of the pit crew in the commercial, make my work environment a bit more “hostile.”

She listened and totally agreed with me on all of this, even admitting to have seen the commercial and was not happy about it herself. She promised to take this issue up with her manager and see what the next steps can be.

I also had plans for a next step. The next day, my supervisor did some research for me to locate the VP of Marketing for Boost Mobile. When she found him I shot off an inter-company E-mail requesting a few moments of his time about this new commercial. He sent an E-mail back saying that the Advertisement Manager would talk with me. She sent me an E-mail with a time for us to talk.

Before my conversation with the Advertisement Manager took place, I sat and thought of how I would approach this. With something of this magnitude, I realized I needed to look at the big picture as far as the company was concern. They spent a great deal of money on this commercial and to have Danica Patrick as a spokesperson and that nothing short of a major lawsuit would get the commercial pulled. Knowing this going into these conversations, I decided to change my goal; one of educating Sprint and Boost. I later realized that made good sense. However, I know that many in the transgender community would not agree with my strategy, but they don’t have to work for this company and I do.

My conversation with the Advertisement Manager went very well. She explained the intent of the commercial and that the idea that Danica Patrick is competing in a traditionally male sport and doing it very well. Men dominate all aspects of the sport, so having her pit crew being forced into female attire went against all gender stereotypes.

I could easily see the intent of the commercial, but I informed her that many Americans pick up on things like this and read something totally different into them. They use a commercial like this and would say, “You see! If you give rights to transgender people, we’ll see men dressed like this all over the place! Hell, we’ll even see men dressed like this teaching our children!” She understood my viewpoint and that of transgender community.

Later that day, the HR person called me back to give me an update of her progress. She passed this onto several people and they had a discussion with other people in Boost on how to handle this. They suggested that I also speak with the Public Relations Director for Boost Mobile and that she would set it up for me. I told her about my progress as well. She said I was acting very professional.

Then, on that very same day, the VP of Marketing called me on my way home. He had heard of my conversation with the Advertising Manager and the intervention from HR and wanted to personably reassure me that the intention of the commercial was not to make fun of trans people, but surprisingly understood how it could be seen that way by the transgender community. He then apologized for the fact that some trans people were offended by this.

As of writing this piece, I haven’t had the chance to speak with the Public Relations Director for Boost Mobile, but I have a feeling the conversation will go the same. I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, I can convince Boost Mobile to do something for the transgender community to help smooth out this issue further. That is something for another time. As far as I see it, they owe us one.