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Posts Tagged ‘Transgender’

eQualityGiving is proposing a bill to correct the unequal treatment of LGBT people in all areas of federal law – employment, housing and public accommodations discrimination, the American with Disabilities Act, DOMA, DADT, etc. Read about (and download) it here. Whether or not a comprehensive bill like this is ever introduced or enacted, I think it serves a useful purpose in uniting the debate on the many ways in which we are treated unequally and helping to ensure that the changes we seek are consistent.

What do you think?

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FYI, here is eQualityGiving’s email announcing its proposal:

INTRODUCING THE EQUALITY & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT

Dear Abigail,

What if we asked for legal equality all at once in one comprehensive omnibus bill?

THE BLUEPRINT FOR LGBT EQUALITY

What would a bill for total legal equality look like? We asked attorney Karen Doering, a very experienced and savvy civil rights attorney, to prepare such a bill. It was presented and discussed on our listserv, which includes many of the major donors to the movement and the executive directors of all the major LGBTQ organizations.

We believe now is the time to introduce an omnibus bill.

We have prepared a section of our website with all the information about the proposed bill:
www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

There you can read the actual text of the bill and read the answers to the frequently asked questions. There is also a section reviewing the status of the incremental bills currently proposed. You can also post your comments directly on the site.

WHAT THE OMNIBUS BILL COVERS

1. Employment
2. Housing
3. Public accommodation
4. Public facilities
5. Credit
6. Federally funded programs and activities
7. Education
8. Disability
9. Civil marriage
10. Hate crimes
11. Armed forces
12. Immigration

INCREMENTALISM vs. OMNIBUS BILL

Some people think that an omnibus bill is too unrealistic to pursue because Congress functions in a very complex way. But the country voted for a new leader who promised major changes to the way our government functions.

We have tried incrementalism at the federal level for LGBT equality for 35 years without any results. Now is the best time to capitalize on the energy of new leadership and propose what we think change looks like.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“A right delayed is a right denied.”

Asking for an omnibus equality bill does not mean that we need to pursue it at the expense of incremental bills. Both approaches can be used simultaneously, and we encourage this strategy.

An Omnibus bill has two major benefits:

> It points out in clear legal terms all the areas in which we are not treated equally under the law. If we ask for less, we will certainly get less.

> An Omnibus bill provides a standard to which incremental victories can be compared. We may discover, for example, that even the trans-inclusive ENDA introduced in March 2007 still did not provide the same level of protections in employment that other groups receive.

SAY WHAT YOU THINK

If you believe that, in addition to incremental bills, we should also push for an Omnibus Equality Bill, tell your member of Congress, talk to your friends, and write about it on the site. All the info about the bill is here:

www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

For many months we have been preparing this Omnibus Equality Bill. Join us to push for it, so that we can achieve LGBT legal equality faster.

Best regards,

Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D.
Ken Ahonen-Jover, M.D.
Founders, eQualityGiving

P.S. Please forward this alert to others who could be interested.

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UPDATE – 3/24/09

Recently, there has been some discussion in the blogosphere about the impact of what some believe to be a narrower definition of “gender identity” in the federal Hate Crimes Bill (HR1592) from 2007, when compared to the definition of that term in the gender-inclusive ENDA (HR2015) from that same year.  (The Hate Crimes Bill defined “gender identity” as “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics,” while the inclusive version of ENDA defines it to mean “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.  To learn about this discussion, read Kathy Padilla’s recent posts on The Bilerico Project here and here.)  In a comment I left on eQualityGiving’s website, I pointed out this difference and the risk of unnecessary litigation over whether the definitions are intended to have different meanings.  In response, eQualityGiving has amended their Omnibus Bill to include the same definition in all its provisions, including hate crimes.  The revised version of the bill, dated March 21, 2009, is available for download on eQualityGiving’s website.

In my original post, I failed to note one huge advantage eQualityGiving’s Omnibus Bill has over even the inclusive version of ENDA.  Rather than enacting a separate statute with a broader exemption for religious organizations and other provisions that differ from existing civil rights law, eQualityGiving’s bill would simply amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the federal law banning sex, race and other discrimination in employment) by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its terms.  As Karen Doering, the drafter of the Omnibus Bill, explains on the FAQ page for the bill, this approach has substantial advantages over ENDA.  Having worked as an investigator of discrimination claims under Title VII and being familiar with its terms and, especially, how it has been interpreted by the courts, I see this as a major improvement over current proposals.

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UPDATE: Once more, it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the day on which we honor the memory of a great man who has proved so inspiring to so many of us.  I, too, have a dream and I pray each day for the day we can each can celebrate our diversity and our equality throughout this country and the world.

I originally posted this one year ago today [i.e., January 2008] on my old Yahoo 360 blog, while the wound from transgender people being excluded from ENDA by HRC and Barney Frank was very raw (it still is).

Today is the day in the United States that we celebrate the dream of equality and freedom that the Rev. Martin Luther, Jr. inspired in this country and, I hope, in the world. There is not much that any of us can add to his inspiring words, so I simply invite all of you to take 17 1/2 minutes of your day to listen to his words and to share his dream. (The video and the direct link to YouTube are below.) As you do so, you might want to note as I did, the following words, which seem so appropriate today as we struggle for recognition of equal rights for all transgender people against the argument that we need to wait our turn, that incrementalism is the path to freedom and justice for us:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” (Beginning @ 5:15 on the video below)

I followed up the next day with another post on Martin Luther King’s opposition to incrementalism and how he convinced LBJ that that was not the right approach:

As I noted yesterday, in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed applying “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” to the civil rights struggle of that time.

More information about Dr. King’s opposition to that strategy came out last night on Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS. During that program, Moyers recounted a previously unrevealed conversation between Dr. King and Lyndon Johnson that Moyers was privy to as a young presidential aide. (You can watch or read the transcript of this program here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/watch4.html.) Initially, LBJ tried to convince Dr. King to quell the demonstrations and other unrest that he and others were encouraging, in order to help Johnson convince the white supremacists in Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In keeping with his words at the Lincoln Memorial, King refused, saying that “his people had already waited too long. He talked about the murders and lynchings, the churches set on fire, children brutalized, the law defied, men and women humiliated, their lives exhausted, their hearts broken.” After listening to King, Johnson changed his mind and told King to “keep doing what you’re doing, and make it possible for me to do the right thing.” King did as asked, LBJ used his legendary arm-twisting skills in the Senate and one of the most important pieces of legislation of the last century, and one that today provides the only glimmer of hope for protection against employment discrimination for most trans women and men in the U.S., was passed.

So, Lyndon Johnson insisted on doing what was right at the time, rather than what he thought was practical or pragmatic given the resistance he faced. As civil rights pioneer and U.S. House of Representatives member John Lewis said on the floor of the House during the ENDA debate last November [2007], “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” Johnson, King and many others knew this in 1963 and 1964. Why is it that today so many people believe that this principle doesn’t apply to our own struggle for equal rights?

Today is still the time to do the right thing!  Perhaps, with Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow as our next President, we will finally begin to achieve the civil rights, the human rights, that we all deserve.

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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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The discussion on various Yahoo groups that I belong to regarding the impact of the same-sex marriage bans just enacted in Arizona, California and Florida on marriages involving one or more transgender partner continues. I’ve previously posted about those issues here and here.  This is my most recent addition to that discussion:

I agree with the basics of your description [of the law concerning marriages in which one partner is trans], but want to clarify that what happens in most of these cases is that the couple is able to get a marriage license and marry simply because they appear to be a typical male/female couple. Thus, although they are allowed to marry, they are “legally” married only in the sense that no one has challenged it yet. Many couples involving a trans partner may marry, live out their lives and die without anyone ever challenging the validity of their marriage, and thus escape the uncertainty I’ve been talking about. But there’s no way to predict which couples will be that fortunate and which ones will face the horror of being told years later that they were never legally married.

As for the “trans lesbian” who married her partner that you mentioned, I assume that you are referring to cases where a MTF transsexual marries a cisgender female, before the trans partner has changed her name or sex marker on any of her identification documents. I know of several such cases. Again, as long as the couple appears to be a male/female couple to whatever clerk issues the marriage license and to whatever judge or other authority marries them, their marriage is treated as a legal, opposite-sex marriage, but may, or may not, in fact be legal if it is ever challenged.

The basic rule is that a marriage that was legal when and where it was entered into continues to be valid until dissolved by divorce. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), however, makes an exception to that rule for same-sex marriages by allowing states where such marriages are banned to refuse to recognize a legal same-sex marriage entered into in another state or country. DOMA should not apply, however, to a marriage between a trans woman who was legally male at the time and a cisgender female since, at the time it is entered into, it is a legal opposite-sex marriage. The same applies to a trans man who is legally female at the time he marries a cisgender male. Such marriages should, therefore, be safe from challenge even after the trans partner legally changes her/his name and sex. A marriage between a man and woman, one of whom realizes that she/he is trans after the marriage and then transitions, should also be legal, since the only difference between that situation and the ones I just discussed is simply a matter of timing.

BUT, and this is a big “but,” I know of no cases anywhere addressing whether a marriage in which one partner transitions after marriage continues to be valid. Everything I know says it should be, but stranger things have happened, especially when it comes to trans people.

Finally, just to clarify, the majority of courts that have faced the issue have said that a marriage between a trans woman (i.e., an MTF transsexual) who is “legally” female at the time of marriage and a cisgender man (or vice versa) is INVALID as an illegal, same-sex marriage, despite any change in identification documents, birth certificates, or whatever.

The bottom line is to get married before the trans partner has legally changed her/his sex if you can. If not, once married, see an attorney to draft wills, medical directives, child adoptions, etc. to legally create as many of the benefits of marriage as possible, in case the marriage is declared invalid at some future date. (In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do those things even when the couple marries while they are still legally of different sexes, just in case.) In other words, do the exact same things that other “same-sex” couples have to do to create the semblance of a legally recognized marriage. That’s why marriage equality is just as much an issue for trans people as it is for gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

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I have participated in the Arizona Transgender Alliance (AZTA) since its inception. Like any organization, it has struggled to define itself and its purposes in a way that unites, rather than divides, us. Nonetheless, it continues because people see a need to join together. One of AZTA’s current projects is to produce a calendar with photos and biographies of trans women and men to help educate the public about who we are. I volunteered to participate and wanted to share here the biography I submitted because I think it expresses some of the most important aspects of my transition and who I am today. This is what I said:

I was 52 years old before I first began to accept what I had always known: that I’ve always wanted to live my life as a woman, because that is who I am. That moment was one of revelation, but not one of surprise. It was a moment of calmness and gentle peace. It was a moment when I simply realized, “oh, yes, that is what I want.” A month later, I began taking estrogen and I’ve never looked back. Each step along the way, I tested whether I was on the right path for me by asking, “is this bringing me peace or anxiety, love or fear?” And each time, the answer was always the same: “this is right for me because this is who I am.” There were, of course, many moments when I felt scared. In those moments, I simply waited to see if the fear would pass. When it did, I continued forward. Because of that process, when I finally decided it was time to transition, I was ready. My confidence in my decision was unshakable. It is that confidence that has allowed me to live my life as a woman with a calmness and comfort with who I am that others see and that helps them to accept me as who I know myself to be.

When I transitioned, I feared those moments when people would learn that I am transgender. Much to my surprise, however, after transition, I have found that I am much more comfortable when people know about my history. My transition was part of a lifelong search for wholeness and integrity, so situations where fear leads me to believe that I need to deny or hide who I am tempt me to violate my sense of wholeness, of personal integrity. The pain of that violation is much more powerful than any fear of what people may think or how they might react. Consequently, I stay true to myself and am “out” in virtually all parts of my life.

Together, my comfort in who I am, and the pain I feel when any of us suffer because of the bigotry and hate of those who feel threatened by who we are have led me to be an advocate whenever and wherever I can. That takes many forms, from standing before the Scottsdale City Council arguing for the passage of ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression to proudly becoming, as far as I know, the first attorney to ever appear before the Arizona Supreme Court as both a man and a woman (and in the same year!). But mostly it takes the form of simply being who I am, a woman of integrity and grace who lives in peace with herself, allowing others to see and learn about who I am and, in that process, to see that trans people are no threat to them and thus build tolerance and acceptance of who we are. Today I am proud to be transgender and grateful for each opportunity I get to show the world who I am and, hopefully, change the world one heart, and one mind, at a time.

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Tomorrow, November 20, 2008, is the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I’m not going to attempt to describe all the emotions that this day, and the reason it is needed, raise in me.  Suffice it to say that it brings up the most profound sadness and doubt about the future, about whether it will ever be possible to create a world without hate.  But I will not stop striving to create that world, because, without it, all hope is lost and I know that I cannot live without hope.

Please visit the websites below to find out more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the location of a vigil near you where you can join with others to honor those who have died because of who they are.

Remembering Our Dead, the project that began the Day of Remembrance

International Transgender Day of Remembrance, maintained by Ethan St. Pierre, contains a comprehensive listing of Transgender Day of Remembrance events around the world.

Transgender Day of Remembrance, a website maintained by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance Webcomics Project, a collaboration of various webcomics to help raise awareness about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Although there are many videos memorializing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, one of the most moving I have seen is this one, created just this year as a collaboration of several members of the trans community.  After you watch it, click on the link above and leave a comment thanking all those who participated in this project.

Whatever you do, please take a few moments tomorrow to honor those whose lives have been ended simply because they expressed their gender in ways that made other people uncomfortable, which, at bottom, is the source of all hate and bigotry.  Then, think of one thing that YOU can do to help end the hate and DO IT, and KEEP DOING IT until there are no more names to add to the list of our dead.

UPDATE, 11/19/08, 1:55 p.m. MST: To understand why the Transgender Day of Remembrance is vital to our community and why some of us are so angry about our needs being ignored in favor of priorities that others have set, read little light’s latest post. If her writing doesn’t make you cry and vow to take action, at least to show up at your local Transgender Day of Remembrance event, I don’t know what will.

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After I graduated from high school, I left Idaho for Stanford University.  I was a student there from 1971-1975.  In many ways, those were some of the best years of my life.  Stanford was the first place where I experienced what it’s like to be part of a community, to have friends who truly care about me.  At the same time, I also was very depressed during much of my time there, isolating myself from the very friends who I knew could most help me out of that dark place.  Although mostly repressed, my gender dysphoria was still present during those years, revealing itself to me, but never to others, in various ways during those years.

I’ve stayed connected with several friends from my freshman dorm (*waves to Pam, Kevin, Rob, Bruce, Anne, Jon and Hilarie*), but I’ve only been back to the campus a few times since I graduated.  Before I transitioned last year, I wanted my friends to know about me, so I sent an email to dorm buddies telling them about my plans.  In response, I received unconditional support from them all, for which I count myself very fortunate.  Although there have been questions, the support and love has continued just as it did before.

Stanford is very diligent about maintaining contact with its alumni, so I still receive Stanford Magazine regularly, and I always read the “Class Notes” section for news of my friends and classmates.  Every month after my transition, I would wonder about somehow announcing my transition and change of name there.  Until a few months ago, however, I never knew quite how to go about it and the time never felt quite right.

Then, in the May/June issue this year, there was an article about the support given to transgender students on campus and the addition of “gender identity” to Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy.  Seeing that article, I knew that it was time to share my transition.  Before that article, I had never seen the word “transgender” mentioned in any official Stanford publication, nor had I ever read of any other transition in the Class Notes.  But I wanted both current students, and my classmates, to know that it’s OK to be trans and that, wherever they are, they’re not alone.  Thus, not long after that article appeared, I contacted the “class correspondent” for the Stanford Class of 1975 and shared my story.  The result is this addition to our “Class Notes” in the November/December issue of Stanford Magazine:

Following up on the article on transgender students in the May/June issue of Stanford, one of our classmates was inspired to share her story. Abby [Abigail] Louise Jensen writes, “While I was at Stanford and until last year, my name was Sherman Jensen. On May 10, 2007, I legally changed my name. Four days later, I transitioned, finally and forever, to live as a woman. It’s the best decision I ever made for myself and has brought me more peace and joy than I have ever experienced.

“After graduation, I worked fighting forest fires for the U.S. Forest Service and as a civil rights investigator for the Idaho Human Rights Commission; received a law degree from Boalt Hall Law School (Class of 1982); worked 12 years in Seattle as an associate and partner at Garvey, Schubert & Barer, along with Soto dormmate Rob Spitzer; had three beautiful daughters; got divorced and moved to Prescott, Ariz. Since 1997, I have worked as a sole practitioner doing criminal appeals and state post-conviction proceedings as court-appointed counsel for indigent criminal defendants, where I’ve had some success in changing the law of Arizona to be fairer for all.

“At Stanford, I did my best to suppress any thoughts of who I knew myself to be, even then. Nonetheless, I remember distinctly one afternoon spent hiding among the shelves in Meyer Library looking at books containing pictures of genital reassignment surgery. I suspect that’s not an experience that many of our classmates share. Beginning in 2005, the gender dysphoria that I struggled with since I was very young began to assert itself, leading to my transition last year to living the rest of my life as a woman. I have been fortunate to have escaped the harassment and discrimination that many who follow this path experience. In particular, I am grateful for the loving support I have received from the other Soto dormmates with whom I’ve stayed in contact: Pam Franks, Anne Watson, Kevin Wright Enright, Hilarie Hathaway Pierce, MA ’75, Jon Levin, ’76, and Bruce Williams, as well as Rob Spitzer.

“As my transition progressed, as well as my increasing interest in civil rights issues, I have become involved in advocating for fair treatment of LGBT people. In December 2007, I appeared before the Scottsdale, Ariz., City Council and spoke on behalf of the Arizona Transgender Alliance in support of proposed city ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That night, Scottsdale became only the fourth Arizona city (after Tucson, Tempe and Phoenix) to enact a ban on such discrimination in city employment. In addition, to the best of my knowledge, last year, I became the first attorney to argue before the Arizona Supreme Court as both a man and a woman. Both of those appearances, as well as all my other court appearances since my transition, have been handled with dignity and respect by both the judges and my fellow attorneys.

“Finally, I joined the board of directors of and became president of QsquaredYouth, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides support, education and advocacy for LGBTQ youth in Yavapai County, and the Board of Directors of the Prescott Area Women’s Shelter. I am now hoping to move on from my current career to a position where I can devote my time and energy to improving the lives of LGBTQ people.” Abby, thank you for sharing your personal experience with our classmates.

It will be interesting to see what kind of response I get. I’m listed under my current name on the Stanford Alumni website (my first name is Abigail, although I go by Abby), so it should be relatively easy for any of my classmates, other Stanford alums, or students to contact me, and I would certainly be interested in hearing from any and all of them (as long as they remain respectful, that is).

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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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The November 2008 issue of The Atlantic magazine contains an article called “A Boy’s Life.”  It’s a comprehensive exploration of the topic of transgender children:  where it comes from, the struggles that parents and children experience as they strive to find ways to deal with it, and the difficult choices they must make in that process.

I’m not sure how I feel about this article.  Much of it is troubling, since I wish the whole topic of the origins of being transgender and how best to treat it to be neat and simple, but it just isn’t.  In the end, I believe that children should be allowed to make their own decisions to the extent that’s feasible.  (Obviously, that’s a huge loophole, but, for the moment, I have neither the time nor the inclination to try to define my position any further.)  If a child typed as a boy at birth wants to live as a girl, she should be allowed to do that with her parents’ support.  At the same time, her parents need to make clear that either choice is OK.  If she later decides that she wants to live as a boy, that too should be allowed.  Will it be more difficult then?  Yes, of course.  Every choice we make has consequences and, as much as we might like to, we cannot insulate our children from the consequences of their choices any more than we can avoid the consequences of our own.  But I believe that the challenges of returning to life as a boy, after living as a girl for weeks or months or years, will be less traumatic than growing up never having had the chance to have that experience and to make a more informed decision about her future.

Eventually, she will be faced with decisions that will have permanent, physical consequences — whether to begin cross-sex hormones, whether to have SRS.  That is where the use of hormone blockers has the greatest benefit, since they delay the onset of changes that will make living in her affirmed gender infinitely harder until she has the maturity and the information she needs to make that momentous decision, while retaining the option of allowing her puberty to proceed as it would without intervention.  In the end, however, it must be her decision, not her parents’, not her doctor’s.  None of can know what is truly best for another person, even our children.  All we can do is ask Spirit to guide our choices and the choices of our children and then trust that She will respond to our calls.

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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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