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Posts Tagged ‘transexuals’

Contact:
Jen Richards
Co-Director, The Trans 100
jen@thetrans100.com

 ABIGAIL JENSEN FROM TUSCON, ARIZONA ANNOUNCED TO THE FIRST EVER ‘TRANS 100’ LIST

We Happy Trans, This is H.O.W., Chicago House and GLAAD Announce Inaugural List Focused on Positive Work Being Accomplished by Trans People Nationwide

 April 9, 2013 – Today, Abigail (Abby) Jensen of Tucson, Arizona was announced as an honoree of the Trans 100, an inaugural overview of the breadth and diversity of work being done in, by, and for the transgender community across the United States. The 2013 Trans 100 list, created by We Happy Trans, a website that celebrates the positive experiences of transgender people, and This is H.O.W., a Phoenix based nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of the lives of trans people, was presented at an event sponsored by Chicago House, GLAAD, the Pierce Family Foundation, Orbitz.com, and KOKUMOMEDIA. The first effort of its kind, the list intends to shift the coverage of trans issues by focusing on the positive work being accomplished, and providing visibility to those typically underrepresented.

For a full list of the 2013 Trans 100 visit www.WeHappyTrans.com, or www.facebook.com/Trans100.

Abby is a transgender woman, experienced attorney and activist. Currently, she is closely involved in fighting bills introduced in Arizona this year that would not just override some of the limited protections for trans people available in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, but go beyond that to actively encourage discrimination and harassment of trans and other gender nonconforming people in Arizona. You can often find her posting about current social justice issues on Facebook and on Twitter @Arizona_Abby.

Asked about her selection, Abby said, “I am honored to appear on the Trans 100 list with so many amazing and creative people, all of whom are working to better the lives of our community. I look forward to renewing my friendships and working relationships with those I already know and getting to know those I have yet to meet.”

The list began as an idea by This Is H.O.W. Executive Director Toni D’Orsay, and was then developed in partnership with Jen Richards of We Happy Trans. The project received over 500 nominations in December 2012, with over 360 individuals recommended for inclusion.

A launch event for the Trans 100 list took place at Mayne Stage in Chicago on International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day which aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of transgender people around the world.

“The only sustainable self-interest is that which extends the sense of self to include the whole,” said Jen Richards at the Trans 100 launch event. “Look around: women, men, people of color, genderqueer kids, crossdressers, showgirls, sex workers, academics, activists, artists, and allies. We are all one community.”

“The value of the work that is represented by the 100 people on this list is immeasurable,” said Executive Director of This Is H.O.W., Antonia D’orsay, about the Trans 100. “These people demonstrate the diversity, the determination, and the incredible triumph of spirit that informs all trans people, no matter where they are. This is just a glimpse of what trans people can accomplish.”

“The Trans 100 will bring much-needed visibility to the critical, grassroots work that trans people have been doing in communities across the country for years,” said GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz. “While media coverage so often misses the mark on accurate portrayals of trans people, the Trans 100 is changing the game by sharing the inspiring and diverse stories behind trans advocacy.”

KOKUMO, an artist, activist, and African American transgender woman, hosted the event. Two accomplished transgender musicians – folk-rock songwriter Namoli Brennet, and singer Joe Stevens of the West Coast-based Folk/Roots group Coyote Grace – gave live performances.

Jen Richards partnered with Chicago House and KOKUMOMEDIA to produce Chicago’s Trans 100 launch event. GLAAD served as Inaugural Sponsor, with additional support from the Pierce Family Foundation, Orbitz.com, Progress Printing, and Dr. Graphx. Both Chicago House’s TransLife Project and This is H.O.W. provide direct services to transgender people experiencing homelessness, unemployment, violence, health disparities, and HIV infection. KOKUMOMEDIA uses film, music, and literature to provide to create and generate realistic depictions of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGI) people of color.

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About We Happy Trans: WeHappyTrans.com was launched in early in 2012 in response to the lack of positive depictions of trans people in the media, and the absence of an online space that focused on the positive aspects of the trans experience. For more information, please visit www.wehappytrans.com or connect with We Happy Trans on Facebook.

About This is H.O.W.: This Is H.O.W. Inc. is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the betterment of the lives of Trans (transsexual, transgender, and gender variant) persons experiencing crisis situations such as homelessness, substance abuse, familial abuse, and transition related difficulties. For more information, please visit www.thisishow.org or connect with This is H.O.W. on Facebook and Twitter.

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My friend Michael is one of the organizers of, and the webmaster for, the Central Arizona Gender Alliance.  Recently, he asked me to write a profile of myself to be posted as the feature story on the CAGA website for January 2009.  Rather than start from scratch, I adapted my “Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do” post.  Since I wrote that post, however, my involvement in the issues affecting our community has increased.  That led to the following comments that I added to the story that will appear on the CAGA site, which I wanted to share here.

While I have this chance, I also want to say some things about activism. The trans community in this country is small, and the number of those willing to speak out on the issues that affect us is even smaller. That means that each one of us is vital if we ever want the public’s attitude toward us, and the discrimination, hate and bigotry that we face, to change. It also means that one person can have a significant impact on the direction that our community takes in addressing the issues that we face.

It sounds clichéd, but I have learned through experience the truth of the statement that if I don’t do it, if I don’t step forward and say “this is wrong and must change,” if I don’t propose solutions and work to make them a reality, then who will? The answer is no one. It happens every day. We see or hear about something that we know is wrong – another trans woman shot in Memphis, another trans woman homeless because she can’t get a job – and we stand by in silence and do nothing. Those things will never change if you don’t work to change them, even if all you can do is to say “this is wrong.” Keep in mind too that, although it is important that we in the trans community know about these injustices, it is our families and friends, our lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers, and the general public that need to hear our voices. So many people truly have no idea about the mistreatment that we suffer, how widespread it is and how few protections exist to ensure that most basic of human rights: the right to live lives of peace and dignity. Those are the people we need to speak to, because it is their sense of justice and morality that we need to invoke if we ever want things to change.

Is it scary to step forward and say, “I am trans, this is wrong and it must stop”? Of course, it is. But there are also rich rewards in showing the world that we are proud of who we are, that we refuse to cower in the darkness of ignorance and hate any longer, and in knowing that we are helping to change the world, not just for ourselves, but for people everywhere. Join me! Today do just one thing to make the world a better place to live, whether that’s giving a hug to a friend you know is having a hard time, writing a letter to the editor or simply telling your story. But, most of all, Be Who You Are!!

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Last night as I went to bed and this morning when I awoke, my primary emotion in the wake of yesterday’s election is one of overwhelming sadness. The sadness I feel is complex but comes largely from two sources, one political, one personal.

On the political side, I was elated by the election of Barack Obama and the promise of fundamental change it brings. I shared that elation with a restaurant and bar full of fellow Democrats. It was an intoxicating moment. I spent more than a dozen hours over the last four days in the local Democratic headquarters and the headquarters of our local candidate’s campaign for Congress, making phone calls to encourage Democratic and Independent voters to get to the polls and support Obama and the local Democrats. The election of a Democrat to the House of Representatives from historically conservative Northern Arizona is a wonderful victory, and part of the hope that Democratic gains in the House and Senate portend for passage of an all-inclusive ENDA and the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill, and the repeal of DOMA and DADT.

But I realized last night that my hopes and dreams for change from this election really rested on the fate of Florida’s Amendment 2, Arizona’s Proposition 102 and California’s Proposition 8, all of which proposed to amend their respective state constitutions to prohibit equal rights to marriage for same sex and same gender couples. I also realized that I hadn’t acknowledged to myself how important the defeat of those measures had become to me, presumably in a misguided attempt to protect myself from the disappointment that I feel this morning. I had told myself that, although the passage of the Florida and Arizona measures was probable, there was a chance that California’s Prop. 8 would be defeated, thus preserving the California Supreme Court’s historic decision that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the California constitution; and that, as long as Prop. 8 was defeated, we had a chance to maintain the momentum of change in the treatment of LGBT people that seemed to be building with the California court decision, the elimination of the ballot initiative to overturn Montgomery County, Maryland’s ban on gender identity discrimination, and what had seemed to be a sea change in the attitudes of Americans toward LGBT people and our community’s willingness to fight to continue those changes.

This morning, however, there is no doubt that both the Florida and Arizona measures have passed. Although there are still a substantial number of provisional and late absentee ballots yet to be counted in California, which theoretically could shift the outcome there, the passage of Prop. 8 also seems certain. The inability of our community and our allies to defeat even one of these attacks on our rights by those who hate us and believe that we are undeserving of all that this nation offers to everyone else is so incredibly sad and depressing. I find it impossible to express the hopelessness that I feel. All I can say is that that hopelessness, that feeling that nothing can or will ever change for the better, that it will never be OK to be who I am, that there will never be a chance that I am loved and respected for who I am, has been the source of the depression I have experienced since I was a young boy wanting to be a girl. Although I have learned many ways to remind myself that all those beliefs are lies that my ego tells me to keep me trapped and separated from the knowledge of the Love that I am, this morning all I feel is the darkness.

The personal side of what I’m feeling comes from this: I know what love feels like. I know what it’s like to have someone with whom I can share my deepest self, someone with whom I feel safe enough to share all of my thoughts, all of my feelings, and who feels safe enough to do the same with me, both of us secure in the knowledge that all that we share will be accepted and honored without judgment, without the need to question or change or suggest, someone who recognizes and is able to live the knowledge that we are not our thoughts and our feelings, and that our love for each other lies so far beyond those things as to be unassailable. That safety, that absolute acceptance, that connection at the level of heart, the heart that knows no fear, only love, is what I seek. Today, I long for that, sad in the recognition that is not part of my life today.

The knowledge that this is what I seek has been building slowly over the last few weeks. It came full blown into my consciousness last Thursday when I saw Byron, my friend and therapist who, over the 13 years that we have known each other, has come to know me more intimately than anyone else in my life. Byron helped me to recognize that this is what I seek, what I long for at the core of my being, and he helped me to honor and cherish that desire as an important and valued part of who I am, and who I wish to be.

That desire to connect expresses itself in many ways and isn’t limited only to the desire to have a partner to share my life with. I felt it over the last several days as I joined with other volunteers making phone calls to get out the vote here in Arizona and as I became part of the hope and enthusiasm that became palpable in this country as McCain continued to shoot himself in the foot and Obama demonstrated his integrity and commitment to change and the promise of finding a better way for all of us to live and connect. Sitting in those crowded rooms, all of us talking, dialing and sharing the moments of triumphs and connection with voters who supported Obama and the desire for change, and the disappointment from encounters with those who, seemingly beyond reason, opposed Obama and the need for change in this country, I felt connected, a sense of belonging, of doing something concrete and positive to change this country, to restore hope, to me and to other LGBT Americans who, like me, feel so marginalized and disconnected.

When I went to the local Democratic election party after the polls closed, I hoped that sense of belonging and connection would continue and that, hope against hope, I might even make a new friend, someone who might want to meet again and see if we could connect on a deeper level. It didn’t happen. I didn’t spend my time there alone in a crowd of people, as I have many times in the past. Instead, I talked with other volunteers that I had met through the weekend, and with other friends that I had met elsewhere. After the short moment of elation at the news that Obama had won the presidency, however, my sense of isolation, my disappointment at the reality that no heart connection was to be found there, and my fears about the outcome of Prop. 8 and the other same-sex marriage bans, combined to send me home to my laptop, the internet and the news. The reality of the passage of those measures quickly became apparent and my sadness became palpable, as I realized that Obama’s election hadn’t really changed anything for me, personally or politically, and that, yet again, the hope for the things that I want in my life – love, connection, community, acceptance and respect – lies in the distant future, if at all. Unable to connect at the level I needed from friends on the internet, I signed off Yahoo Messenger and Facebook, turned off my cell phone and cried. I cried at the seemingly insurmountable barriers that separate me from those things and from even my closest friends.

I sit here this morning trying to understand and express what I feel, and the tears still come. Where is hope? Where is love? Why do I feel so apart, so “other” from the rest of the world? Soon after I embarked on this road of seeking knowledge of who I am at the deepest levels and finding a way to move beyond the loneliness and isolation that I have always felt at the core of my being, I knew that I had chosen a difficult path, one that not many are willing to venture down. But I also knew without doubt that no other path offered any hope of finding my heart’s desire. Today I get yet another opportunity to experience those challenges and to remind myself why I continue to seek for love and connection. Right now, however, all I feel is pain, disappointment and near exhaustion at all that this path requires of me.

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A friend shared this video with me and now I would like to share it with you.  It states the things that are essential to a life of peace and joy, the life that each of us — trans, non-trans, gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Jew or Muslim — deserve, but many do not enjoy.  I’m doing what I can today to make these rights a reality.  Are you?

more about “The Universal Declaration of Human Ri…“, posted with vodpod

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On Sunday, September 7, CBS Sunday Morning did a fairly long story on Trinidad, Colorado, the home of Dr. Marci Bowers, one of the leading sexual reassignment surgeons in the U.S. I don’t like the phrase “sex change” but the story is pretty straight forward and not at all sensationalistic. I was in Trinidad in July to support my friend Mari through her surgery. It’s a nice little town, similar to many other mountain towns I’ve visited in the West; the people were friendly; and the care at the hospital was, for the most part, excellent. Marci is friendly and personable but, like most doctors, entirely too busy. From what I’ve seen, the surgical results were excellent, with only a few minor complications. Here’s the video:

If you’d like to learn more about Trinidad and how it has dealt with the attention that having a leading SRS surgeon (actually, for many years, the only SRS surgeon in the U.S.) in its midst, there’s a new documentary out called Trinidad that is now touring the U.S. Look for it at your local LGBT film festival.

Cross-posted from TranscendGender.

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Over on TranscendGender, Amber posted a blog about her transition at work and the dilemma of how to deal with the private businesses she visits as part of her job.  In particular, she wondered how to deal with the question of which bathroom to use at places where she is known from before her transition.  As we all know, bathroom access is one of the most sensitive issues these days in the battle for equal treatment for all transgender people, and one which our opponents are exploiting by saying that prohibiting discrimination against trans people in allowing access to public accommodations means the the dreaded, and clearly perverted, “man in a dress” will use these laws as an excuse to go into women’s restrooms and abuse every woman who enters, especially little girls.  (The truth, of course, is that there is nothing to prevent that from happening right now, so these laws change nothing in that regard.)  In her comment to Amber’s blog, Renee pointed out that private businesses are private property and that the owner can exclude anyone they wish by invoking laws against trespassing.  Her comment, however, didn’t factor in the effect of public accommodations laws.  So, I responded with the following:

While what Renee said about private businesses is basically true, they do not, in fact, have unlimited discretion to exclude people.  Virtually every state has a law that prohibits sex, race and other discrimination in public accommodations.  Thus, businesses like theaters, shopping malls, retail stores, hotels, and restaurants that offer their goods and/or services to the public are subject to these restrictions even on their private property.  Moreover, both state and federal courts have held that discrimination because a person doesn’t fit gender stereotypes, such as a butch lesbian or a fem gay man or even a trans woman or man, is illegal sex discrimination.  Here in Arizona, a friend of mine filed a civil rights complaint with the state Attorney General’s office against a night club for banning her and all other trans women because some women were complaining about their use of the women’s restroom.  The AG accepted and investigated the complaint as a valid allegation of sex discrimination; in other words, they accepted this interpretation of Arizona’s law.  Eventually, the complaint was settled by agreement (the nightclub owner dropped the ban and put a gender neutral sign on a preexisting single stall bathroom), so there is no administrative or judicial ruling affirming that this was, in fact, illegal sex discrimination under Arizona law.  Nonetheless, this remains a valid basis for asserting our rights if a private business that qualifies as a “public accommodation” treats us differently because we aren’t as masculine or as feminine as they think we should be.

The ban on sex discrimination in access to public accomodations applies to restrooms, just as it does to every other part of a business open to the public.  Many people believe that there are laws stating that only men can use the men’s room  and vice versa.  In fact, as far as I know, no state has such a law, although some cities may.  Absent such a law, which may be subject to constitutional challenge, the business cannot discriminate against anyone in allowing access to restrooms based on their sex; in other words, women can legally use the men’s room and vice versa.

When Amber goes to one of these businesses as a contractor, instead of a customer, her status is different and the public accommodations protections may not apply to her on that visit.  If, however, she comes back as a customer, e.g., to see a movie, they cannot discriminate against her because she is trans under this theory.

A final caveat:  Although many courts have accepted this interpretation of sex discrimination statutes, others have not and instead have held that it does not violate such laws to exclude someone because she or he is trans.  Most of those cases predate a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228) holding that discrimination based on gender stereotypes violates the federal ban on sex discrimination in employment.  The current, although still somewhat uncertain, trend in the case law is to accept and apply this theory to discrimination against trans women and men.  Of course, the adoption of local, state and federal laws explicitly banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression eliminates the need to rely on this theory and makes our protections much more secure.

In other words, although our protection against discrimination under existing law is uncertain, we are not wholly without remedy when we are unfairly treated because of who we are.

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For those of you who didn’t see it there, this is my response to a comment over on TranscendGender to my post, also posted here, on the effect of the proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution banning same-sex marriage on transsexual marriages:

Liz, the best chart I know of on LGBT rights in the U.S. is EqualityGiving’s State of Equality Scorecard, which includes same sex marriage. It does not, however, deal with the question of the validity of marriages by transsexuals, whether they transition before or after marriage. Lambda Legal, NCLR and NCTE may have charts or other information specific to transsexuals.

Of the states you listed, only Texas and, I believe, Ohio, have addressed the validity of marriages involving transsexuals. In both cases, however, the dispute involved trans women who had fully transitioned, had SRS and obtained new or amended birth certificates showing them as female before they married (in the Texas case) or attempted to marry (in the Ohio case). Both cases, as well as the similar decision in Kansas, essentially said, “once a man, always a man,” regardless of what you might have done since birth. Under those decisions, an opposite-sex marriage in which one partner transitions after marriage theoretically would continue to be valid. As I said, however, as far as I know, there has never been a decision in the U.S. specifically holding that such marriages are still valid. It would seem logical that, if you’re considered to be male (or female) despite surgery, transitioning and changing your birth certificate, then it should be legal to marry a cissexual female (or male). There are some, however, who essentially argue that transsexuals are both sexes and, therefore, can’t legally marry anyone. Some foreign countries, like the U.K., have addressed the risk that permitting transsexuals to legally change their sex will result in illegal same-sex marriage by prohibiting married people from changing their sex for legal purposes, unless they first get divorced. I have one post-op trans woman friend in England who remains legally male because she and her wife want to stay married.

I don’t know of any decision in Kentucky regarding the validity of marriages involving transsexuals, whether they transition before or after marriage.

In New Jersey, a court held in 1976 that the marriage between a cissexual male and a trans woman who had legally changed her sex before marriage was valid. There is no case there, however, saying that a marriage in which one of the partners transitions after marriage is still valid. That question is unlikely to arise, since New Jersey allows civil unions that are supposed to have all of the same rights and responsibilities as marriages. (New Jersey is currently studying whether the two are truly equal, as the legislature intended. If not, they are likely to change their laws to permit same-sex marriage, as is now the law in Massachusetts and California. Once same-sex marriage is legal, this issue, of course, goes away.)

Like New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont allow same-sex civil unions. I know of no decisions in either state regarding the validity of marriages involving transsexuals, whether they transition before or after marriage. Thus, the quotation in the NY Times article [on existing marriages where one partner transitions that Liz linked to] stating that Christine Littleton could legally “marry” a man in Connecticut or Vermont is inaccurate. While she could enter into a civil union with a man in those states, there is no reason to believe she could actually marry a man there.

The whole picture gets even more complicated if you consider the fact that three states (Ohio, Tennessee and Idaho, where I was born) do not permit the change of a person’s sex on their birth certificate, whether they have had SRS or not. The State of Arizona, however, has already recognized me as female on my driver’s license. Would that designation control if I wanted to get married here? Nobody knows. Of course, I could probably walk into a courthouse, except the one here in Prescott where they all know me, show my driver’s license and obtain a license to marry a cissexual man. That’s no guarantee, however, that the marriage is actually valid. A cissexual man and a trans woman, who still had an “M” on her driver’s license, or another man (the news reports are unclear regarding whether the second partner was gay or trans) recently managed to do just that and barely escaped prosecution for providing false information on their marriage license application.

Then, consider the fact that, even though I can’t change my birth certificate after SRS, I can change my sex to female on both my passport and my Social Security records with proof of surgery. If I attempt to marry a man here, or anywhere else where same sex marriage is illegal, will the courts look to those documents, rather than my birth certificate, to determine if my marriage is valid? Again, nobody knows.

The bottom line is that the marriage rights of transsexuals are a mess, contrary to the beliefs of some gays and lesbians, who occasionally express resentment at the (mistaken) notion that we can marry persons of the same birth sex with impunity. The only fair, as well as the simplest, solution to these problems for both trans and non-trans people is to allow same-sex marriages, not civil unions, without restriction based on sex or gender. Until that happens, or there’s a hell of a lot of successful litigation in many, many states, trans people will continue to have good reason to worry about the validity of their marriages, whether they transition before or after exchanging vows with the partner of their choice.

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