Every fiber in my being, every cell of intellect I am fortunate to possess tells me that I should consider the source and dismiss this out of hand and by no means allow my own feelings to be hurt by this.
Can someone smarter than me, then, please explain to me why it hurts so much to watch this stupid video with these two stupid men?
It's been a long time since I wrote a blog post. And, I guess if I'm honest here, I'm not writing one now. I don't know when, or if, I'll ever blog regularly again. But, that's not the point of this post.
I came across this article nearly a week ago. But, I've been crazy busy with work and only just now found time to read it. It's quite long, and it takes a fair amount of critical thinking to get through it. But, it's really worth it. I don't agree with everything she says here. But, her main points are essential, in my view. Take some time and read this. It really is more than just a re-hashing of this decade-long debate.
According to this view, trans women lie at the intersection of (at least) two types of sexism. The first is cissexism, which is the societal-wide tendency to view transsexual gender identities and sex embodiments as being less legitimate than those of cissexuals -- that is, nontranssexuals. (Note: the word "cisgender" is similarly used as a synonym for nontransgender.) Cissexism functions in a manner analogous to heterosexism: Transsexual gender identities and homosexual/bisexual orientations are both typically viewed as being inherently questionable, unnatural, morally suspect, and less socially and legally valid than their cissexual and heterosexual counterparts. Not only does cissexism institutionally marginalize transsexual individuals, but it privileges cissexuals, rendering their genders and sexed bodies as unquestionable, unmarked and taken for granted (similar to how heterosexual attraction and relationships are privileged in our culture).
While all transsexuals face cissexism, trans women experience this form of sexism as being especially exacerbated by traditional sexism. For example, trans women are routinely hyper-sexualized in our society, especially in the media, where we are regularly depicted as fetishists, sexual deceivers, sex workers and/or in a sexually provocative fashion (trans men, in contrast, are not typically depicted in this way). The common presumption that trans women transition to female for sexual reasons seems to be based on the premise that women as a whole have no worth beyond their ability to be sexualized. Furthermore, most of the societal consternation, ridicule and violence directed at trans people focuses on individuals on the trans feminine spectrum -- often specifically targeting our desire to be female or our feminine presentation. While trans men experience cissexism, their desire to be male/masculine is typically not mocked or derided in the same way -- to do so would bring maleness/masculinity itself into question. Thus, those of us on the trans feminine spectrum don't merely experience cissexism or "transphobia" so much as we experience trans-misogyny.
Given the violence and extreme poverty that afflicts many trans people, some have suggested that the MWMF trans woman-exclusion issue has received an undeserved amount of activist attention. And the fact that tickets to this weeklong festival cost several hundred dollars -- a luxury many trans folks cannot afford -- is often cited by those who view MWMF's policy as primarily a middle-class trans issue. While MWMF is not the most pressing trans-related issue out there, such critiques miss the larger picture. This is not about the desire to simply attend one music festival. Rather, for lesbian and bisexual trans women, this is about us being able to participate in our own queer women's community -- a community in which we face anywhere from antagonism to irrelevancy on a regular basis.
Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism
"The grudging admiration felt for the tomboy and the queasiness felt around a sissy boy point to the same thing: the contempt in which women -- or those who play the female role -- are held."
In 1991, Nancy Jean Burkholder was expelled from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MWMF), the world's largest annual women-only event, because festival workers suspected that she was a trans woman -- that is, someone who was assigned a male sex at birth but who identifies and lives as female. That incident sparked protests from a burgeoning transgender movement to challenge what eventually came to be known as the festival's "womyn-born-womyn"-only policy, which effectively bars trans women from attending. The protests evolved into Camp Trans, which continues to take place just down the road from MWMF each year, and which has become a focal point for a much broader push for trans-inclusion within feminist and queer communities. Despite more than 15 years of petitioning, and a growing acceptance of trans identities in both mainstream society and within queer, feminist and other progressive circles, the festival still officially maintains its "womyn-born-womyn"-only policy, and countless other lesbian- and queer-woman-focused groups and events continue to harbor dismissive, if not outright disdainful, attitudes toward trans women.
The history of the MWMF trans woman-exclusion debate has been retold countless times -- often in an overly simplistic, cut-and-dry manner. The controversy is usually depicted in one of two ways: either pitting the supposedly out-of-touch, transphobic lesbian-separatists who run the festival against a more politically progressive transgender minority, or portraying transgender activists as bullies who selfishly seek to undermine one of the few remaining vestiges of women-only space with their supposedly masculine bodies and energies. In addition to being obvious caricatures, these sorts of us-versus-them portrayals obscure one of the most important aspects of the story: the fact that there are actually three "sides" to this debate, each driven by a different take on feminism.
Rather than rehash the history or delve into all of the details about the festival and the controversy, I will attempt to describe these three differing feminist perspectives and discuss how they have played out with regard to the issue of trans woman-exclusion at MWMF, as well as in lesbian/queer women's communities more generally.
For those unfamiliar with the subject, I will start by defining some of the trans-specific language that I will be using. Transsexuals are individuals who identify and live as members of the sex other than the one they were assigned at birth. A trans woman is someone who has socially, physically and/or legally transitioned from male to female, and a trans man is someone who has similarly transitioned from female to male. While the medical establishment (and the mainstream media) typically define "transsexual" in terms of the medical procedures that an individual might undergo (for example, hormones and surgeries), many trans people find such definitions to be objectifying (as they place undue focus on body parts rather than the person as a whole) and classist (as not all trans people can afford to physically transition). For these reasons, trans activists favor definitions based on self-identity, that is, whether one identifies and lives as a woman or man. "Transgender" is an umbrella term for all people who defy other people's expectations and assumptions regarding gender, and can be used to refer to transsexuals as well as people who are gender nonconforming in other ways -- for example, cross-dressers, drag performers, feminine men, masculine women, and genderqueers (who do not identify exclusively as either women or men), to name a few. Transgender people who defy gender norms in the male-to-female/feminine direction are said to be on the trans feminine spectrum; those who transgress gender norms in the female-to-male/masculine direction make up the trans masculine spectrum.
-- Radicalesbians (1970)
Today is my very dear friend's 60th birthday. 60. Can you believe that shit? Wow. I mean 60. I thought it was a big deal when I turned 50 (ONLY 3 years ago!) but she is SIXTY!!!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAMI!
If you have a moment, stop on over at her place (but, don't take her word for it -- she really is THAT different!) and send your
condolences best wishes for a wonderful year. She truly deserves it.
Congratulations to the people of the State of California on this historic day! How cool is it that Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin get to be at the head of the line? 55 years together. In their 80s. Legally married. Damn. How often have I heard people say "I know it's inevitable, justice always is; but I doubt it'll happen in my lifetime"? I'm so happy for them. And, truly, for all of us.
It really is a step toward that inevitable justice.
Today is a special day for me! It's Father's day! I am -- as nearly anyone who knows me surely understands -- unabashedly proud of my three daughters, and I (often) bore people as I regale them with stories of my children and their accomplishments. But, today! Today, I can revel in them without fear of reproach. Without them, I would not BE a father.
As an aside -- I know, with certainty, that not all trans-women with children identify as fathers. I honor their choice. I really do. But, for several reasons, I have never recoiled from that appellation (not even in public ... OK, OK, yes I know you all know that I asked my girls to not call me 'Daddy' in the ladies' room. Fine.). Had our circumstances been different, maybe they would have opted to call me "mamma" or some variation thereof, so as to differentiate from "Mom" or "Mommie"-- revered names reserved for the woman who birthed them. But, such was not our circumstance. And, consequently, I swell with pride at being "Daddy".
I have done a lot of the typical daddy things -- I taught them to ride bicycles, and to whistle. I tried (unsuccessfully, for the most part) to embarrass them by dancing in public places, like supermarkets and parking lots; instead, they danced with me. I would grab them and hold them in "inescapable traps", which of course, were always escapable -- bringing them much glee. I joined TaeKwonDo because they were studying it and I wanted to be a part of what they were doing. I attended their performances in school -- whether it was theater or piano recitals or chorus, or whether it was taking off work an hour and half early to drive 60 miles south to a special camp they had attended to watch their grand finale. I even argued with their step-mother over their right to live in their own messy rooms. And, I tried to help them with the expenses of school, with cash and cars. All typical daddy stuff.
But, I have also been an unusual daddy, and imperfect. I challenged their notions of masculinity and femininity. I certainly destroyed any comfort zone they had with introducing me as their father -- at least for a while; I was thrilled and honored when Amanda introduced me proudly as her "Dad" to her most beloved professor when she graduated from grad school this past May. As a result of my gender identity, the perfect nuclear family they were being raised in was abruptly, and painfully for all involved, ended. And, of course most tragic of all, I allowed my preoccupation with myself to deafen me to the needs of my eldest daughter at a time when she most needed me and I've lost her as a result.
But, I am nonetheless, a father -- warts and all. And, I'm enormously proud of that. I love my children more than the beat of my heart. Nothing brings a smile to my face sooner than the idea that I'll get to spend time with them, or hear their voices, or get a card or letter from them. For that reason, first and foremost, I LOVE Facebook. I can look upon recent photos of my kids and still play games with them and get their latest news, every day. I am still thrilled and proud every time Melody beats me in chess -- despite it happening more often than not. I am not sure I ever understood the need of my mother to constantly hear from me, to read my blog as if it were a religion until I moved away from my kids. Now, I completely get it! :)
They are all three grown, intelligent, well educated, successful and, yes, beautiful young women. I am their father. I am so proud of that.
If you identify as a father, then to you also I say -- HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
Barack Obama sealed up the nomination tonight. I am inspired by him and excited about the possiblity of seeing him in the White House. Now, I just have to figure out how I can best support his candidacy and get him into the Presidency and keep
Bush McCain out.
Oddly, I am also saddened today at the end of Hillary Clinton's campaign. No matter how you slice it today is an historic day. I would have been proud to support her for the Presidency. I *am* proud to support Obama!
Let's win in November!
Yesterday was June 1, the beginning of Pride month here in the U.S. and the day of Motor City Pride held each year in Ferndale (and sponsored by Triangle Foundation).
Rainbow Law Center had its first booth at Motor City Pride this year. We tried not to make it too elaborate. Instead we wanted to offer real help to clients and potential clients. Consequently, we did not offer give-aways and we did not attempt to collect names and contact information in order to build a mailing list.
What we did, instead, was offer free 15 minute legal consultations to whomever asked. We helped out a half-dozen individuals or couples with real-life problems, free of charge.
In addition, we developed some marketing-oriented handouts which we hoped would also be educational and we handed out over 50 packets of information to people. That seems like a small number when you think about 30,000 attendees, but it was very good from our perspective. Copies of our handouts are here:
We wish all our LGBT family a happy Pride Month!
Mary and I are leaving for Florida again tomorrow, for 3 days. I was asked some months ago to speak before the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) on the subject "Best Practices in Recruiting Transgender Law Students". LSAC is a nonprofit corporation whose members are more than 200 law schools in the United States and Canada and is best known for administering the Law School Admission Test (LSAT®). I am honored to share the stage with my friend Dean Spade, currently a Williams Institute Law Teaching Fellow at UCLA and Harvard Law Schools. In 2002, Dean founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), a non-profit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color.
The LSAC has an annual meeting of Admissions Directors from all the law schools every year. This year, it will be held on Marco Island, in Florida. When I applied to law school, as an out transgender student, I was very uncertain how I would be received. But, as everyone knows, I was so committed to being out that I made my transgender status a central theme in my Personal Statement. And, of course, I got admitted. Now, this consortium of all the country's law schools wants my advice on how to bring more transgender students to law school (although I imagine that there will be some law school representatives, such as from Ave Maria Law School who will choose not to attend this session). How cool is that? I'm very excited.
In case you're wondering how they decided to ask me (I wondered), it turns out that they use the old-fashioned approach -- they did an internet search and stumbled across this blog. After reading my law school application's Personal Statement, and skimming the Law School related posts, they decided to approach me. I'm honored, truly.
You all know I'm a veteran. I'm proud of my service. I consider myself a patriot (this in apparent direct contradiction to my belief that nationalism is a crime most heinous). But, I abhor war. I believe, sincerely, that there must be another way. I don't know what that way is. I'm not enough of a student of history to know if there were alternatives to war in WWII. With my limited (and state supplied) education on the subject, it appears to me that there was no alternative and I'm glad we fought and I'm glad we won (having said that I strongly disagree with the tactics of bombing Japanese cities with nuclear weapons).
So, when Memorial Day rolls around each year, I'm torn. I want to express my patriotism, but I also don't want to feed the death-for-glory culture we have created. I believe that dissent and protest are patriotic. Still, I recognize that my version of patriotism isn't the only version, and certainly not the only right version. The minister at the church I attend reminded us that Monday was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who died so we could be free. But, then, he went on to say that people are still dying today so that we can be free. I disagree with that. I have been opposed to this war since before its inception. Our young men and women are not dying today so that we can be free. They are dying to satisfy whatever appetites held by those in power today in this country. But, they are dying.
One such young man was Major Alan Rogers. I found his story at the SLDN blog. He was a patriot, who died doing the job they sent him to Iraq to do. He did more than merely follow orders. He shielded two other soldiers from the blast of an exploding IED, saving their lives. He was respected and honored. But, as one officer who served with him said -- "There was so much about Alan I never knew." Indeed. Alan was a gay officer and his country required him to lie in order to serve.
The story was written by a friend of mine who works at SLDN. She writes:
Why does it matter? Why should anyone need to know that Alan Rogers, an American patriot who died doing what he loved most – serving our country – also happened to be gay?
It matters because in our country the law says that gay people who want to serve in our nation’s Armed Forces have to conceal their identity for the privilege of doing so. And as a result, thousands of very good, fair, and decent straight service members have no idea how many of the phenomenal people they work with every day also happen to be gay. This invisibility creates an environment of complacency about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and what it requires of gay Americans in uniform. And change does not happen in an environment of complacency.
To honor him on this day, I give you this link and ask you to read his story. This is how I choose to honor Memorial Day. I hope you do, too.
Rainbow Law Center joins the rest of the country who values fairness and equality in applauding the decision of the California Supreme Court today in the "In re: Marriage Cases" when it said:
"Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation,""...we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union “between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In addition, because the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples imposed by section 308.5 can have no constitutionally permissible effect in light of the constitutional conclusions set forth in this opinion, that provision cannot stand."
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.
--Mildred Loving, June 12, 2007
Sunday, Mother's Day, is the 1 year anniversary of my mother's death. I still miss her every single day. Mary and I went to a concert by Cheryl Wheeler at the Ark in Ann Arbor a few weeks back and loved her so much we bought a couple of her albums. I came across this song on one of them. I cry every time. I miss you, Mom.
Since You've Been Gone Words And Music By Cheryl Wheeler A woman my age, sittin’ here cryin’ I oughta be stronger than I am Oughta take comfort in wisdom or something like that But it isn’t that way, ‘cause sooner or later I’m still that nervous 9th grader Watching you pull us together, I never knew how And since you’ve been gone I’m just fallin’ apart There’s a hole in my life, in my soul, in my heart And I stare out this window till light becomes dark And there’s nothing that’s touching me now But not to complain, we’re just bereft, not deserted Lord knows your rest was deserved It’s just your absence is present in all that I do In the sun in the field, in the poem I keep saying In the hymn that some church bells were playing You have always been part of them but I never knew How could I ever begin to say? Surely you already knew What is this world with you gone away? How can this finally be true?
Perhaps you think this post is about the scandalous Eliot Spitzer. No. He is simply another liar and a cheat whose crimes hurt mostly himself and his immediate family. No, here I speak about the Oklahoma state rep who gave this speech:
What really moved me to write, though, was a letter to this hateful Representative (Representative!) Sally Kern. h/t: Jami The letter (below the fold) was written by a graduating high school senior (not gay) who takes exception to the Representative's remark that homosexuals are a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism. He lost his mother in the OK City bombing. Read the letter.
I just came across this WaPo story about a case currently in front of the US Supreme Court. For the first time in over 70 years the Supremes will decide a case grounded in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
It seems like every day we're hearing yet another story about someone killing a group of people -- often relatives or schoolmates -- with a gun. We truly have an epidemic of violence, gun violence, in this country. There are people out there who sincerely believe that the way to curb this violence and to protect themselves and their families is to put more guns in the hands of our citizens.
I am not among them. My limited understanding of the English language and my limited understanding of Constitutional interpretation lead me to believe that the beginning clause, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," was put there for a reason. The second clause, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" cannot stand alone. But, I admit that the amendment is ambiguous. After all who are these "people" whose right to bear arms cannot be infringed upon (possibly members of the well-regulated militia)?
When this debate was a hot topic 40 years ago, the bumper-sticker slogan of the gun nuts was "Guns don't kill, people do". Yikes. That kind of thinking scares me. Guns have the ability to turn a temporary passion into a permanent condition and regret. If I'd have had a gun in the house at the time, I never would have confronted the fact that I hate knives and I wouldn't be here now to appreciate the beauty that life has to offer.
The Pink Pistols do not speak for me.
With the Supreme Court examining for the first time in 70 years the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment, a group of gay and transgender gun owners called the Pink Pistols could not miss out on a chance to tell the justices about its special needs. ...
The Pink Pistols brief, for instance, said that Heller's argument that he has a right to own a gun for self-defense is especially relevant for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.
"Even in their homes, LGBT individuals are at risk of murder, aggravated assault and other forms of hate violence because of their sexual orientation," the brief states. "In fact, the home is the most common site of anti-gay violence."
I am the luckiest person I know. I am going take a small tangent here and elaborate on that. My Girl asserts that she is the luckiest, by virtue of her having found me. I'll grant you that she's lucky. However, to resolve this dispute we decided that the people who know us best would be in the best position to say who got the better bargain. So, we agreed that my mother and my daughters would be the judges (this was a couple of years ago, even before we were married). She agreed to this! As I knew they would, they ruled -- after we each presented our cases as to why we thought we were the luckiest -- that I was, in fact, that person. I assert that it's like binding arbritation and not subject to appeal. Nevertheless, she continues to protest. ::sigh:: Have you ever been married to a lawyer? It can be difficult. LOL!
Anyway, rather than drag you through the whole long story, I'll just tell you that I got to lobby as part of my birthday. As you can see from my prior post, I was in DC the past couple of days. I lobbied Congress as part of the Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network's annual Lobby Day for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I got assigned to a team of lobbyists that included a recently retired Major General and a retired Command Master Chief Petty Officer. I was the most experienced lobbyist in the group, however, and I really enjoyed myself and I really think we helped nudge the effort forward incrementally.
I spent the first night in a hotel just across the street from the apartment I lived in while I was working for SLDN. Then, I had dinner and spent the night with the Girl's brother and sister-in-law the second night. What sweet, lovely people they are. The next day, yesterday, was my birthday and I spent it with a small group of first-time lobbyists. It was a nice birthday present for me to be there. I had a great time.
I got home last night early enough for a late dinner and presents opening. Among my presents were a new digital camera, a brand new Wii, a ten pack of movie DVDs (I love and collect movies), a new Rainbow Law Center shirt, and a new Tigers baseball cap. On my computer, I got e-cards from my sister and my sweetheart and a dozen or so e-mails or other e-birthday wishes (Facebook is a cool way to remember someone's birthday and jot them a wish). I even got a phone call from my youngest daughter. All in all, a delightful birthday.
As I said, I'm the luckiest person I know.
March is a travel month for me.
I fly to Washington, D.C. today to take part in a two-day training and Lobby Day for the Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network in the ongoing effort to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That means I'll be in DC for the start -- but not the finish of -- my birthday this Friday. That's after we drive up north to Saginaw to attend a hearing for a client this morning.
Next week, I'm a panelist on the subject of Don't Ask, Don't Tell at the American Medical Student's Association national convention in Houston, TX. I got invited to this panel because a good friend of mine is the LGBT chair for the organization. To my delight, this will give me the opportunity to have dinner with my dear friend Jami.
Then, beginning on March 17 -- St. Patrick's Day for the Irish among us -- we leave for a 2 week road trip. It seems this is becoming a March tradition. First stop, St. Louis where we drop off MIL so that she can pack a few more things to bring back. She's still not ready to shut down her house there and pack everything up. We think she really likes the idea that she's still got that place to go stay once in a while.
Next stop is in the western part of the Florida panhandle where we'll spend a day with The Girl's dad. He is an interesting character and has seemingly completely accepted me. They don't have the best father-daughter relationship I've ever seen. She tries, but he makes no return effort. Makes me sad, that.
Then, down to Spring Hill to visit with my step-dad and middle kiddle. He's lonely and somewhat isolated since my mom died. We sent him to Daytona for his 80th birthday earlier this year. He's a huge race fan. Thankfully, he is still in really excellent health. We'll spend a couple of days there. We'll get only one day with my middle kid, Melody. She's been off work for a couple of months following a car wreck where she was rear-ended while stopped at a stop sign (her 3rd or 4th wreck, all but one of which were where someone hit her). She just started back to work and is crazy busy playing catch-up (despite her classes being covered by a substitute teacher while she was off).
After that, it's to Orlando for some fun at Sea World and maybe another attraction. By coincidence a very good friend of ours will be down there (who is, coincidentally, also a school teacher -- in a catholic school, however). We're going to pick her up in Orlando and go to Lakeland to watch a Tigers spring training game at Joker Marchant stadium. This will be the 3rd year in a row we've done that and it's always a blast. I am excited about baseball season starting back up. Come on Spring!
Then, we turn around and head back to St. Louis to pick MIL back up. A night or two there and it's back home by March 31. 55 total hours of driving and over 3,000 miles.
April will be here quickly.
One of the unexpected perks of this new law practice (can you believe it's almost a year old now?), is that people actually appreciate what we do. Since we began, we lost one case that we believe we should have won but, most of the time, we've been able to accomplish our clients' goals.
We've drafted agreements (co-parenting, artificial insemination, domestic partnership, etc.), we've defended gay parents' rights to overnight visitation with their kids, we've helped them better protect their families in this hostile state (Wills, Powers of Attorney, guardianship, etc.), and we've represented clients in actions against discriminatory employers.
To our delight, we've received many thank you notes and cards. The following is an email we recently received and is representative of what people have said.
We would like to personally thank you and Mary for doing the work that you do. For over a year, [my partner] and I have tried to find a lawyer who understood our needs. Our search was fruitless and we were left feeling very confused and rather defeated by the legal world. I just can't explain how great we felt leaving your office. Protecting our family [is] more important to us than anything else. Your work is helping us find piece [sic] of mind. Thank you for that.
We like to get paid, don't get me wrong. But this type of payment is almost as important to me. This is the type of psychic reward that motivates us to go the extra mile.
We had Theresa's "celebration of life" yesterday. I was simultaneously moved and annoyed by it. There were two groups of people there -- her blood relatives and her lesbian community of friends. I would guess that there was about an even split between the two, maybe 20-25 in each camp, making the total attendance somewhere between 40 and 50. Theresa's brother, her ex-husband, and her two children dominated the service. Only an occasional nod was made to her partner.
I very much wished to bridge the gap between the two camps and let the blood relatives know that we all, in the lesbian crowd of friends, considered her family also.
We often use the word "family" when we describe other LGBT people. I really don't know how that practice originated, but I suspect it had something to do with the harsh reality that many of us are shunned by our birth families, or worse. So, when we find another soul, or group of souls, that accepts who we are unconditionally -- as a family surely must -- we provide that cherished appellation.
Spouses are, by dint of law, family. The fact that Theresa and her partner were together for 10 years meant nothing. Because, despite our best (?) efforts, Theresa had no will her partner stands to inherit exactly nothing from her estate. She is a legal stranger. And yet, in every practical way that matters, Theresa was her closest family.
I have only known Theresa as long as I've known my Girl, but I feel as if I've lost a member of my family.
I promise -- this is my last maudlin post for a while!
As if I weren't already sick of death.
The week before Creating Change here in Detroit one of our local television stations reported the murder of a "Cross-dressing prostitute", with a subtitle of "Man dressed as a woman found dead". The editor and I exchanged emails about the titling with her expressing her desire to be sensitive to our community.
Then, last week, the murder of 8th grader Lawrence King, 15, in Oxnard, CA was widely reported. In case you've been under a rock, this is about a young person being killed in his classroom at middle school because he was openly gay and wore "women's" clothing, makeup and accessories to school.
Today, I read about the shooting death of 17 year old Simmie Williams in Florida.
Perhaps, given this current spate of violence and death, I can be forgiven for my little rant over at Lobal Warming when I saw this post. I hate being politically correct; I think it's important that we have a sense of humor about ourselves. I guess today just isn't the day for a sense of humor for me. My earlier post about the Ann Coulter bitch can be found here (Yes, GM, I'd like to disassociate her from UM also!)
Most of you know me as a very optimistic person. I laugh easily and often; I love life. But, for what seems like an eternity now I have thought about death and what's on the other side of it. I am certain that it all started with the death of my (step) father-in-law just over a year ago. Following that, of course, was the death of my beloved mother last May. Last October 8 (the date of her death) and this past January 17 (the day of her birth) we paused to remember and reflect upon the life and death of my Girl's previous partner. A couple of days ago my friend Jami posted an entry that discussed, in part, suicide. A friend from law school posted just yesterday a tribute to one of her mentors who passed away this week, before her time (no link because it is on a private blog). And now, this.
We got the call last night. A very dear friend of ours likely will not survive the weekend. Just two weeks ago she and her partner stayed with us for a couple of days and we all enjoyed a movie and dinner together and excellent conversation (in an odd coincidence the partner was a former partner of my Girl's now-deceased ex). A few days later, complaining of pain in her abdomen, they took her her to the doctor. Long story short, she was ultimately diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. This past Saturday (one week ago today) she was admitted to the hospital for further tests. Suddenly, her organs began to shut down, fluid began to build in her body and she lost lucidity.
I want very much to believe in life after death. I want to believe that I'll meet my family and friends in an afterlife. I want very much to believe in a god so that I can alternately pray to him/her and curse him/her for taking people from our lives before their time. So, if you do believe, would you be my stand-in and pray for Theresa and her family for me? I love you, Theresa. I am grateful that you will not suffer long. Thank you for being in my life.
Jami posted a question in comments about a ruling from New York state's highest court that said (unanimously) that the state must recognize marriages between same-sex couples performed in jurisdictions -- specifically Canada -- where it's legal. She referenced this article on the ACLU's website. She asked me what I thought of the ruling; I'll try and give a summary of my thoughts.
First, I want to be clear that marriage is not the be-all, end-all with respect to gay civil rights, in my book. Frankly, I think marriage as an institution carries too much power in our culture and I don't think it's fair or reasonable basis upon which to allocate benefits, privileges and obligations. That said, I chose to get married (also in Canada) and I completely believe that allowing some couples to marry and not others is invidious discrimination and needs to be stopped.
I think, therefore, that it probably goes without saying that I think the ruling itself is correct and overdue (Download new_york_ruling_on_canadian_marriage.pdf).
Essentially, the court said that just because a marriage wouldn't be valid if solemnized in New York didn't stop the state from recognizing it if it were valid where performed. It cited several instances where such marriages had been recognized in the state's history (including a marriage between an uncle and a niece, performed in another US state (not able to be performed in New York because of statutes regarding consanguinity) and a marriage between an opposite sex couple that were under 18 when legally married in Canada (not able to be performed in New York because of statutes proscribing the legal age to marry as 18 or over)).
The court gave two reasons under which it could have found the marriage between same-sex couples invalid - a statute explicitly prohibiting recognition of such marriages (what the court called "positive law") or if such marriages are prohibited by something called "natural law". The defendants in the case argued that the marriage should be prohibited as against the strong public policy of the State of New York. It is the court's treatment of the last two issues that interest me the most.
First, the court gave short shrift to the idea of same sex marriages being against the "natural law". It noted that in order to prohibited under this rubric, a marriage would need to be "offensive to the public sense of morality to a degree regarded generally with abhorrence" and simply stated that such a case "cannot be said here", limiting that exception instead primarily to incest or polygamy. Personally, from a cultural standpoint, I think this is huge. It is not that long ago that it would have been this ground upon which a ruling against this couple would have been issued.
Second, the court noted that New York "unlike the overwhelming majority of states" had not enacted a mini-DOMA (legislation denying full faith and credit to same-sex marriages validly solemnized in another state). This, stating the obvious, is the part of the ruling that goes to whether or not this decision in one state can be duplicated in another. It is not the mere enactment of a mini-DOMA upon which a state can rely to deny equal recognition to otherwise valid marriages, such as this one, but it is strong evidence that a state can rely upon to prove its claim that such recognition would be violative of the state's public policy. If a state's population feels so strongly that it should deny these rights to a class of people that its elected legislature passes such a law (or, worse, a constitutional amendment) a court will almost certainly view that as dispositive. UNLESS, a plaintiff can win her case by striking down such a law as a violation of the US constitution. Therein lies the hope that this ruling in New York could eventually spread to those states whose populace have enacted such hateful and discriminatory law. And, for those states that have not enacted such law, citing to this case in New York, while not providing any binding precedent, can only be helpful.
Way to go, New York!
Does that answer your question about what I think, Jami? And, y'all should check out Jami's post regarding civil unions. No, they are NOT marriage.
This article showed up in my inbox; I'm afraid I don't know where it was originally published, so I don't have a link:
How to kill a transperson
February 15th, 2008
By Ceridwen Troy
On Saturday, Sanesha Stewart, a transwoman of color living in the Bronx, was murdered in her own apartment. She was 25 years old. Her accused killer, Steve McMillan, had known her for months, yet when he was arrested, he claimed to have been enraged to find out that she was what the media coverage called not really a woman. He stabbed her over and over again in the chest and throat. She tried to fight him off; there were defensive wounds found on her hands.
On Tuesday, eighth-grader Lawrence King was in a classroom in Oxnard, Calif. He was openly gay, and often came to school in gender-bending clothing, makeup, jewelry and shoes. According to another student, it was freaking the guys out. One of them shot Lawrence in the head. He was declared brain-dead on Wednesday.
It is easy to look at cases like this and think, how tragic. How random. How senseless.
But then, you forget how easy it is to kill a transgender person.
You forget that all across this nation, faith leaders of all stripes, men and women who claim to speak for God Himself, call us sinners, call us abominations, call us evil.
You forget that at best the media depicts us as something to be pitied, something that our families must be strong and overcome. At worst, they depict us as abnormal, exploiting our bodies for ratings, exploiting the publics fear of us for shock value.
You forget that on a good day, law enforcement agents are neglectful of us, and that far more frequently they join in our harassment. You forget the transwomen of color who are rounded up on suspicions of prostitution. You forget the beatings that go uninvestigated. You forget the molestation and rape we face when we are arrested.
You forget the medical establishment that drains our wallets for the therapy and hormones and surgeries they tell us we need. You forget the way we are then refused treatment when we are dying, dying of treatable diseases, dying of easily patched wounds.
You forget that, by the law of the land, it is legal in the majority of states to deny us employment, to deny us service, to deny us housing.
You forget the shelters and the rape crisis centers that will not allow us through their doors.
You forget that many of us do not even have family to turn to when we are at our most desperate.
You forget that the leaders of our own community have told us that it is not time for us to have rights, that it is not pragmatic for us to be considered worthy of the same respect as other human beings.
You forget that in our own circles, it is considered a negative thing to be too flamboyant. You forget the way our pride parades have been derided by our own community. You forget the scorn heaped upon drag queens by other gay men. You forget the fear to be seen in public with a friend who is considered too open, too queer.
You forget the way it seeps into the minds of transgender people, too. You forget the way a transsexual will shout that she is not a cross dresser, as if there were something wrong with that. You forget the catty names we call each other if we don't pass". You forget how many of us take our own lives every year.
You forget because the noise is always there, a constant drone in the background. Every newspaper piece that calls a trans woman he instead of she. Every talk show host who spends an hour talking about our genitals. Every childish taunt about looking like a tranny. Every trans person who talks about themselves as true transsexuals. Every activist and politician who tells us now is not the time.
You forget too, how easy it is to kill a person of color, with myths about gangstas and lies about immigrants. You forget how easy it is to kill a person living in poverty, cutting off her welfare because she is supposedly being paid to breed. You forget how easy it is to kill a sex worker, with sex-shaming language, slinging about slurs like hooker and whore.
You forget the message hidden inside every single one of those statements.
You are less than I am. You are not worthy of the rights and respect that I am worthy of.
You are not human.
It is very easy to kill something that you do not see as human.
It is very easy to kill a trans person.
As my Girl and I prepare to attend the 20th anniversary of Creating Change to be held in Detroit this week, it is with great excitement that we read the following announcement from Triangle Foundation (full disclosure, I was just named to Triangle Foundation's Board of Trustees).
As an aside, it is amazing to me how many of our lesbian friends, and clients, have never heard of Creating Change. Admittedly, I only asked 3 couples but not one of those six women had heard of it. Is it the middle-age demographic? This will be my third one and I'm quite excited. Last night, we went to The Ark in Ann Arbor and watched Kate Clinton. Damn, she's good.
Detroit City Council Welcomes Creating Change,
Supports Transgender Rights
On February 5, the Detroit City Council passed a two-part resolution opposing discrimination against transgender individuals and welcoming the National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality, Creating Change. Creating Change is bringing more than 2,000 LGBT and allied activists to the Renaissance Center Feb. 6-10.
Triangle Foundation, the state's leading anti-violence and advocacy organization, and the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project, have worked closely with City Council to include gender identity and expression in the city's anti-discrimination ordinances.
"I can't think of a better time for City Council to pass this resolution than the eve of Creating Change," said Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for Triangle. "We will continue working with the ACLU to help Council translate this resolution into an ordinance that will protect Detroit's transgender residents, workers and visitors - like the ones coming this week for Creating Change."
“We applaud the City Council’s passage of a resolution welcoming the Creative Change Conference and its statement that it opposes gender identity or expression discrimination," said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the LGBT Project. "When it passed its human rights ordinance prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in 1978, the City of Detroit demonstrated that it was a leader among major United States cities in its commitment to diversity and equal opportunity. It’s only appropriate that 30 years later, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has chosen the City of Detroit as its host for the Creating Change Conference, where LGBT activists and allies from around the country will convene to work towards full equality and opportunity for LGBT people."
Warning: Long, catch-up post follows...
Nope...not dead. I apologize to anyone who has been checking my blog only to find it not updated for these past 3 weeks. It's just that life has been crazy busy -- in a good way -- and I decided that when I began blogging again I wouldn't let it make me feel guilty if I went extended periods of time without updating. So, with no guilty feelings to motivate me, I've just been loving life. But, now I want to share all that's been going on with you (OK, well, at least some of it)!
First, Happy Holidays to everyone. This is a time of year that I've always loved. Raised a Christian, I have always celebrated Christmas. A long time ago, I gave up on the idea of JC as being the only begotten son of God and then not too long ago I acknowledged that I didn't even buy the whole "single god" theory. Still, I celebrate Christmas. Which is to say I (we) put up a tree (a real one for the past 3 years), exchange presents, overeat, watch sports on television and generally enjoy quiet family time. After that, of course, comes the New Year. No major celebrations here. We're not unlike this reporter. And, of course, for those of you who are Christians, Merry Christmas! As a side note to this whole religion thing -- you might find it amusing that I now attend an Episcopal church service every Sunday. My MIL is Episcopalian and we take her (and then go out to brunch afterward).
Our trip to Sint Maarten was fabulous! You'll just have to take my word that this picture is of me (trying to take a photo underwater -- none of which turned out wonderfully, I must add). The other picture is a photo of the resort where we stayed while we were down there. It was really lovely trip; it started off with a stop in South Carolina to visit MIL's younger sister who has heart problems. It was wonderful to see the two of them together; it's clear that they share a loving sister bond. They hadn't seen each other is several years, given everyone's health and we were so thrilled to be able to make this happen. The resort was nice, the people were friendly and the weather was amazing. Of course, the fact that we left just as a blizzard descended upon the Detroit area may have colored our appreciation of the 80 degree temps and clear skies a bit... Do we look like a couple of drowned rats in this final photo? As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge them (and thereby see my new bathing suit, which is *much* cuter on the model than it is on me...).
When we returned home (1 AM this past Saturday before Christmas), we put things into high gear for our Christmas preparations. As my Girl said: "It [was] cruch time for elves". Indeed. We got holiday cards out late (apologies if you didn't get one -- it was not an intentional slight) and then only to immediate family, darn it. We scurried around trying to do Christmas shopping for each other, and we put up a tree. Now the tree is a bit of a story (I will post a photo of it as soon as I can). Remember last year? Well, in case you don't suffice it to say that we put up a large, 10 foot tree and it fell over in the middle of the night, causing us to have to completely re-decorate it. This year, we thought, "you know, we have these beautiful high vaulted ceilings; we really should put in a tree that fits the room." (Note to self: Mistake. Do not repeat this mistake next year.) Trees look larger indoors than they do out-of-doors, especially when they're in a tree farm surrounded by other large trees. We honestly did not realize that we would have to cut off a foot of the top of the tree in order to have it fit in our 13 foot high ceiling (the low part -- where the vault meets the wall). We also did not realize that the base was likely the culprit in our tree mishap last year, and probably not our poor wrongly-accused pussycat, Buster. Without dragging you through all the agonizing details, let me just say that 1,600 lights, 6 nails in the wall, and three fishing line supports anchored thereto later we finally quit with the tree at 2:30 AM the day before Christmas.
Christmas day itself was great, as it almost always is. The only downer part of it for me was the missing of my mom. I spent last Christmas Day with her in the hospital. I think I knew then that she wouldn't live to see this Christmas. I'd give anything for another conversation with her. And funny thing is...there's nothing I could say to her that I didn't say while she was living. I just miss the conversation. ::sigh::
Although Christmas is never all about the gift-getting for me (though it is often about the gift-giving), I would be lying if I didn't admit to being absolutely thrilled to get a new PDA for Christmas from my sweetheart. She got me this HP IPAQ pocket PC. My PDA (an old Palm Pilot which I lived by) died earlier this year and I've been lost without it.
This brings us to today. Today is my Girl's and my 2nd wedding anniversary. How did I ever get so lucky as to find a woman who loves me as much as she does? I must have been very, very good in a former life. We agreed to not exchange gifts on our anniversary, but instead to simply celebrate it each year (part of which involves watching the tape of our actual wedding day...). Still, I can never let this day go by without giving her cards and flowers. It's just not in my nature. I sent her this bouquet.
Finally, please accept from me my sincere wish for a peaceful, loving 2008 to all of you.
We now have our house all decorated for the holidays (we have no religious paraphernalia (except a random angel ornament) in our decorations. This is a completely secular holiday to us). My Girl has a tremendous stash of holiday decorations -- for nearly every holiday. So, we have Halloween stuff, and Thanksgiving stuff and Christmas stuff (and other holidays as well, but you get the point ...). She doesn't mind (too terribly) that I'm a lazy butt and hate to cart all this stuff out and then put it all away again only to cart out the next holiday's stuff. But, I love her so and it's really not such a chore. And, because it's her thing, she does most of the work. Today we put out all the outside (ginormous) wreaths and put colored lights on the 12' pine that stands just outside our master bath window (all the rest are way too big to attempt to decorate). We even have two small fake trees lining the entrance on our porch.
But, despite all the decorations, inside and out, we have no Christmas tree. Moreover, we won't get a Christmas tree this year until the Saturday before Christmas. Therefore, it still just doesn't feel like the Christmas season to me yet (notwithstanding the 2nd week in a row of temperatures below freezing). Now, one might reasonably ask why we are waiting so late to get a tree.
Well, that's the point of this post. We are going to St. Maarten one week from tomorrow and will spend a full week basking in 80 degree temperatures, swimming in the ocean, golfing in the sunshine and generally relaxing. I am so excited. I've lost 20+ pounds, so I rewarded myself by buying a new swim suit. OK, so it's still one of those lycra, hold-in-your-tummy things, but hey. I even bought the pareo.
We will be staying at the Royal Palm Beach resort in Simpson Bay (the Dutch side of Sint Maarten). It may not feel like Christmas yet, but I'm coping ...
Spirit Airlines claims this ad was an innocent mistake. I might (but probably not) believe them if they could identify the island chain by name and exact location. By the way, I had to Google the term MILF to find out what it's slang for. It's incredibly filthy and underscores - yet again - the debasement of women by some men in our culture. I won't even provide a link. Honestly, it saddens me beyond words. Let's just say we shan't be flying Spirit Airlines again, no matter how low their fares.
I recently represented a young (18) trans-woman who wished to change her first name to something that seemed to her to be more feminine. The judge initially denied her request (asserting that it seemed to him she was changing it for fraudulent reasons - the only grounds the law allowed him to deny her request). Then, she retained me and I was successful in getting him to change his ruling. One question he asked me was "Counselor, shouldn't we wait with this name change until your client has completed transition?" (I successfully argued NO).
In the article copied below the fold, is a story about a man who transitioned to become, legally, female and has now been denied permission to transition back again to male, for purposes of marriage. [UPDATE: I just got the full text of the opinion. You can read it here).
I understand this article correctly, Steph was successful in transitioning (from male to female) the first time, including getting his birth certificate amended. Now, he needs to transition from female to male, legally. As I'm sure many of our FTM brothers already know, this is a bit more difficult. It is, of course, complicated by the fact that he (apparently) already (still?) has a penis, so it will be difficult for him to show that he's had sexual reassignment surgery. It seems to me that he has two options: 1) Convince his judge that he has successfully re-transitioned (I'd like to understand his lawyer's approach of asserting a "mistake"; that seems destined to fail, to me) or 2) Getting married in either Ohio, Texas, Kansas, or Florida (whichever state does not have a residency requirement). No matter what he does or what a Wisconsin birth certificate says, he's still legally male in those states. Just ask J'Noel Gardiner. See the following footnote in this post: In re Estate of Gardiner, 273 Kan. 191 (2002) (Wife received no share of estate upon death of husband as court said she was a man in the eyes of the law, despite sexual reassignment surgery, birth certificate noting her as female [issued in Wisconsin], and having satisfied all other prerequisites to marriage).
I wish this person luck. I wish we didn't have a system that confined people to one of two sexes -- and then doled out benefits based upon which sex that system determines you to be.
When I quit blogging (so I was only gone 9 months -- did you miss me?) I decided to turn on the feature that requires comments be moderated. I'd never done this before, but I began to get so many spam comments that I didn't want to give over my blog to them.
So, until people start finding out about me resuming posting (probably will take a while, I imagine as I don't intend to market myself) and begin to regularly comment, I am going to leave comment moderation turned on. Please don't worry that your comment doesn't show up right away. I will post it the minute I see it (you know, if it's not spam), I promise! And, of course, thanks for reading!
Today is Wednesday. The fact that it is Wednesday is important only to illustrate how nice our Thanksgiving break was. We quit work last Wednesday afternoon when I headed to the airport to pick up my two youngest daughters (that actually was the only downside to the break -- I lost my wallet while at the airport; and although I've not recovered it, I've been able to cancel then replace my debit cards, my attorney bar card, and my drivers' license -- I'm only out about $20). We returned to work on Monday.
To save you the math -- that was 4 1/2 days of no-work. It was awesome. I'm not saying we didn't occassionally discuss work or think about what was in store for us this week, but we limited even that. We just took the time off and enjoyed our family and each other.
We had a lovely traditional Thanksgiving meal. We used pareve margarine in our cooking to help the youngest (21) keep the meal kosher. We talked a lot -- MIL really loved the girls (she had previously met one, but this was her first meeting with the other) -- we played a lot of games (including Acquire, which I had to acquire on ebay the previous week), we watched movies and we ate well (OK, I did gain 4 pounds over the near-week). I was even able to share the video we made of Mom's memorial service in Denver with the girls and they were very touched and very happy to be able to share in it, despite the fact that they were unable to travel to Denver at the time.
On Friday evening, the Girl's brother (BIL) arrived and joined in the family fun. We taught him to play Oh, Hell! -- one of my long-time favorite card games. He is a good sport with a good sense of humor. He was also a great help around the house. He helped us to install a handrail for MIL to climb the two stairs into the house from the garage and he helped pick out a stationary cycling machine (just the pedal mechanism, actually) and a stair stepper for her to work out her knee and get exercise. She's been using them and is really doing very well. You almost wouldn't know she just had her knee replaced in late September.
The only rub to BIL's visit was that the Girl has not yet told him that I'm transgender (we don't see him all that often, and when we do it's often for some other specific reason and doesn't seem like the time to discuss it). During one game we were playing, he apparently (I say apparently only becaus I didn't hear it, but everyone else did) referred to me as the girls' mom. But, twice during game playing the girls called me 'Dad'. On the drive back to the airport, one of them said that she recalls having a conversation with him where he asked about the girls' dad and they said "Denise is our dad" (two years ago, on the day after our wedding). I told the Girl about that and that I thought maybe he already just knew, but she said she thought that maybe he just thought that was the way gay couples with children did things (I doubt that, actually). Obviously, at some point -- sooner rather than later -- we are going to have to clear this up so that none of feels like we have to censor ourselves.
I took the girls back to the airport on Saturday evening and we took BIL back on Sunday evening. So, we had a nice time with just the girls, a nice time with just BIL, and a wonderful time with our blended family. It was a very nice Thanksgiving break.
Which brings me back to today, Wednesday. We have been working so diligently from before sun-up to late at night Monday and yesterday that this is my first opportunity to post! We have a VERY full week this week and next. I'll post more about that later, plus our plans for vacation in mid-December (to the Caribbean we go!).
One of the things I hate about telling people I'm transgender is that they seem to automatically then assume that every characteristic or trait that I have that does not conform to a stereotypical female is because I'm transgender.
For example, last week, my spouse was looking particularly smashing in an outfit she was wearing and I complimented her by telling her that she looked "hot" and looking her over approvingly. My mother in law (hereinafter MIL) commented, "Denise, you still have a little "man" in you". Now, I really love MIL; she's a sweet old lady. But that comment totally annoyed me. I retorted (I hope not too meanly), "Well, possibly, especially if you assume that one woman cannot be attracted to another."
Random posting has begun. I may (or may not) post more often. We'll see.
Posts here will probably be largely about being transgender, lesbian, generally queer-related, or other political commentary. I maintain a blog over at Rainbow Law Center for stuff related to our practice of law. My most personal posts, or posts that mention family members by name will still be confined to my password protected "Family Blog".
November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this date and its significance, I urge you to check out the Remembering Our Dead website.
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was first held to honor Rita Hester, who was murdered on November 28th, 1998. This marks the 9th year of international vigils and the 6th year of vigils in Ann Arbor. TDOR publicly mourns and honors the lives of those who might otherwise be forgotten. It allows us to connect again to those who are gone and raises public awareness of violence against people who transgress the normative boundaries of gender identity or expression.
This past Sunday, at the University of Michigan, I had the privilege of coordinating and hosting this year's ritual of memory. I called it "Connections" in an attempt to remind us that we are all connected and even death does not end that. You may download the program (in PDF form) here. Download TDOR2007Program.pdf Approximately 50 people turned out for the memorial service. It was an extremely moving evening. Rainbow Law Center was very proud to join the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project (WRAP) and the University's office of LGBT Affairs in co-sponsoring the evening.
During the evening, we were privileged to hear from many voices. It would do them no justice for me to here try and recreate the beauty and eloquence of their words and emotions. Instead, I offer only my own meager musings.
Nakia Ladelle Baker died in January in Tennessee as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. Keittirat Longnawa was beaten by nine youths in Thailand, who then slit her throat. In March, Moira Donaire was stabbed five times by a street vendor in Chile. The body of Michelle Carrasco was discovered in a pit in Chile, her face unrecognisable.
Ruby Rodriguez was found naked and strangled to death in the street in San Francisco. Erica Keel was repeatedly run over by a car in Pennsylvania. Bret T. Turner died from multiple stab wounds in Wisconsin. Victoria Arellano was refused HIV related medications in California. Oscar Mosqueda from Florida was shot. Maribelle Reyes from Texas was turned away from HIV treatment centres because she was transgender. In July an unidentified cross dressing male was found dead with gunshot wounds to the chest and lower back.
Once again, we gather to remember. Once again, our hearts and eyes fill as we read the names of those who didn’t survive the year. Once again it is time to mourn.
But my good friend, Andre, reminded me that it is much more than that. It is also a time to reconnect with these souls. And, in that connection, find our own inner strength to again recommit ourselves to the end of this madness.
And, perhaps, just perhaps, it is time to reflect on how far we’ve come.
I’ve long believed that it is easier to draw strength for what lies ahead not by looking at the enormity of that task, but rather by looking at the distance one has already traveled. I have traveled this road for many years now, and I’d like to offer my perspective on that journey.
In 1995, I was among a small group of out transgender people who lobbied on Capitol Hill in Washington DC for transgender inclusion in two bills that were then under consideration in Congress: the Hate Crimes Act, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It was the first national Transgender Lobby Day and we had to educate our legislators about what the word “transgender” even meant.
Although all of us are, I’m sure, enormously disappointed with the failure of ENDA to get passed in the House with transgender inclusion, I think we should – especially on this day – not overlook the other major legislation that passed and did include gender identity.
This year, the Hate Crimes Act, renamed the Matthew Sheppard Act passed both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. This bill included gender identity as one of the affected classes. And, I don’t know about you, but I have to tell you that I was deeply moved to hear the respectful tones by which our inclusion in these bills were debated on the floor of the House of Representatives, from people who, a dozen years ago could not even tell you the meaning of the word 'transgender'.
When I began this work, when Gwen Smith first started documenting the horror, we were losing two people a month to anti-transgender violence in this country alone. That rate continued unabated for many years. This year, we remember 11 victims of hate here in the US. That’s 11 too many. But, it’s a dramatic reduction from where we started. Perhaps our voices have help to reduce the carnage. We have come far. We still have so far to go.
I would like to end with a reminder of the work yet to do. I have to say how profoundly saddened I was to read about Ian Guarr Benson’s suicide this month. We have at least two known victims of suicide this year. Of course, we know there are many more that we never hear about. It is a rare transperson who has not considered suicide at least once in her or his life. All of us in this room understand that the suicide of a trans person arises from the same societal-based fear and hatred that led to the murders of those we remember tonight. But, there is one important distinction. The desire to live is the single strongest motivator in the human animal. To overcome that desire to take one’s own life bespeaks a pain no one should have to bear. And so, in closing, I offer a poem to this year’s victims of suicide:
Unlike some, to me death was a gift:
No longer to live pointlessly in pain.
Choosing death, I might have on my own
Let loose the darkness gathered in my heart
Except that luck has seen the matter through.
How simple, then, to let one's fortunes drift
Away from one, nor care for loss or gain
Remember me as one who, not alone
Relinquished well my moorings, to depart
Yet not without a backward glance towards you.
You are Spider-Man
|You are intelligent, witty, |
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
I've written before about my feelings toward Veteran's Day and my honoring of veterans. I've also written before about my feelings toward Don't Ask, Don't Tell (long-time readers may even recall that I worked for the ServiceMembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) one summer). Like Jami, I served aboard a United States submarine during Vietnam. But, in the 31 years that I've been OUT of the Navy, yesterday was the first time that I donned my uniform and marched in a Veteran's Day parade (we had to add a gusset to the side of the uniform blouse and I had to bind my breasts (how *do* the guys tolerate that?), but I poured myself into it). In case you can't see what's on my chest, it's a pair of submarine dolphins, a "National Defense" ribbon, a Vietnam service ribbon, and a Diesel Boats Forever (unauthorized) pin.
But, of course, I was not content to merely march. My Girl calls me a "pot-stirrer" (I think she means that as a compliment). So I marched, but I also carried a sign I made calling for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (If you click on the photos it will enlarge them and you can actually read the sign -- it says "Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Honor ALL Veterans; 1,000,000 Gay and Lesbian Veterans; 65,000 Now Serving").
The day was cold and windy with an occassional drizzle. As a consequence, I believe the veterans marching outnumbered the people watching. I'm not sure, but that may have been a good thing. No one said a single negative word to me. I discovered something that I wasn't prepared for, though. I hate war; I oppose the Iraq war; I think we should stop builidng monuments to the war dead or calling the best of our killers "heroes". I do. I believe all that. But, to my surprise, I discovered a welling of pride as I marched, as I saluted the flag during the national anthem and as I stood there with the 50 or so other veterans. When "Taps" played, I cried, just as I always have (whatever else is said or done at my funeral, I hope they will play that call).
After the parade, and after the (incredibly boring) speechifying, the veterans lined up in a sort of "receiving line" and the crowd filed past and shook each of our hands and thanked us for our service. It was very nice. Several people grabbed my hand with both of theirs and squeezed it. A couple of the old codgers said "If they'd had such pretty women serving when I was in, I would have stayed in" (some people are just clueless). And a couple of people even mentioned that they supported the repeal. I don't know if it made one tiny bit of difference in anybody's thinking, but I was there and I was happy and proud to have been so. Oh, I almost forgot. Both the Detroit Free Press and our local paper printed my letter (the Free Press edited it considerably)!
Also! Check out this post on SLDN's blog:
[T]he Veteran Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System has issued a landmark memo to its employees about providing quality care to transgender veterans who use the medical facility.
According to Bay Windows, "The memo mandates that veterans will be addressed and referred to by VA staff according to their self-identified gender both in verbal exchanges and in patient records. Patients will also be given rooming assignments and access to facilities such as restrooms based on their self-identified gender. The memo explains that while federal law prevents the VA from providing patients with sex reassignment surgery, the VA will provide hormone therapy and mental health services to transgender patients according to the accepted standards of care."
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the House of Representatives yesterday, by a largely partisan vote of 235-184. The Act, which protects workers from job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, passed without the transgender inclusive language which would have protected American workers on the basis of their gender identity or expression.
I have mixed emotions about this bill. On the one hand, I am terribly proud of the US House of Representatives for finally passing this law which could protect millions of people from unwarranted discrimination in the workplace. This bill was first introduced (sans transgender protections then, as well) in the 1970s. Passage of it has been a long time in the making. Given the shift to the right we have witnessed in this country in the past several years (or perhaps just the shift in rhetoric), it took some courage on the part of these legislators to vote for a "Pro-gay" bill.
On the other hand, I am deeply disappointed that these same legislators decided to bring this bill to the floor at this time. I believe them when they say they did not have the votes to pass a transgender inclusive bill. I also believe the pundits who say that this bill, now passed in one house, will not make it into law during this session of Congress. Either it will not get past the Senate, or the President will veto it. So, why introduce a bill that only protects a part of the LGBT population? Why not wait until after the elections next year when it is more likely we'll have a President who is more compassionate toward Americans?
I am very proud to have been among the very first transgender Americans to have walked the halls of Congress to help educate our Senators and Representatives about what it means to be transgender. I attended the very first "National Lobby Day" and each of the 5 succeeding ones and have met with literally dozens of congress people and their staffs over the years. Most of them had never heard the word "transgender" before meeting me or my fellow lobbyists. To hear our rights debated on the floor of the House of Representatives was a stirring moment for me. I only wish it had been a debate about including us in the family of Americans, instead of reinforcing our exclusion.
The following is a letter I just submitted to both our local newspaper and Detroit's Free Press. In additon, I plan to march in our local parade, wearing my rainbow colors and carrying a placard calling for the end of Don't Ask; Don't Tell:
I am a Vietnam-era veteran (US Navy Submarine Service) who served honorably for 4 years. I’m a member of our local American Legion post. I’m a resident and homeowner in _____. I’m also a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community. I am very proud of all these affiliations.
In many of our communities, we have a tradition of having a parade on Veterans’ Day. As we march, or enjoy and pay tribute to those who are marching, we should not forget the 65,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans currently serving in the US Armed Forces, and the one million gay veterans, who have bravely served our country while being forced to lie and hide who they are. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” requires gay service members to hide the truth about who they are, which runs counter to the military’s ideals of honesty and integrity, or face discharge.
Since its inception, we have discharged over 11,000 qualified soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines for the mere fact of their sexual orientation. Even during time of war, we still fire an average of 2 people a day – including dozens of Arabic linguists and hundreds of people with skills for which the military is experiencing critical shortages – from their service to our country. Meanwhile, we are lowering the standards for enlistment in a desperate effort to maintain sufficient troop levels, ignoring that there are thousands of highly-qualified LGBT people in this country who would readily enlist if they could do so openly.
There is no legitimate reason for banning gays from serving openly in the military. Some of our closest and most loyal allies, including those fighting alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan, allow gays to serve openly in their militaries. Currently 24 countries allow gays and lesbians to openly serve. Studies regarding the integration of gays into the militaries of Australia, Israel, Britain and Canada have shown that it does not alter their effectiveness in any way. Moreover, many distinguished members of our own military, such as the late Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Wesley Clark, have criticized the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
With Veterans’ Day approaching, please take a minute not only to recognize the service of ALL of our veterans, but also to voice your support for the end of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell”. No other law mandates firing someone because of their sexual orientation. Tell your Representative and Senator that you support the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” because gay servicemembers and veterans deserve our respect just as much as their comrades; they should not be treated as second class citizens.
Why 'Gender Identity’ in ENDA matters to me
Of all the nouns that can be used to describe me – including woman, attorney, spouse, parent, homeowner, business owner – it is often the noun ‘transgender’ that sticks with people. And, for good reason. Despite my so-called ‘passing privilege’ I rarely let people forget that I was not always seen in my circle of family, friends, and co-workers as a woman. And, on three separate occasions, despite exemplary professional performance in my jobs, I was terminated from senior-level executive positions because of my gender identity and expression.
In the first such instance, I was the Vice-President of Finance for a small medical products distribution and home health care company located in Clearwater, FL. I had been hired 4 years earlier because the company was in financial distress and needed sound management in this area. I turned the company around and provided the owners with a liquidity they had only dreamed of. Only months before my termination I received a letter of praise and thanks from the primary stockholder. Then he discovered that, while away from work, I would dress as a woman. He was so deeply offended that he called me into his office, fired me, and then had me escorted off the premises. As a direct result of that termination my family – my children – and I lost our cars and all of our savings and were forced into bankruptcy.
Later, as the Chief Financial Officer for a small publicly held computer hardware and software company located in Tampa, FL, I helped to raise the millions of dollars necessary to finance the company’s necessary research and product development. Again, my performance reviews were full of praise and gratitude. However, when I announced my intention to transition from living my life as a man to living it as a woman, I was asked to leave.
However, as it turns out, I’m one of the very rare, incredibly lucky transgenders. I met a man who did not care about my gender expression or identity. He cared only about what I could do for his company. Four years after hiring me (when I was hired his company was producing less than $5 million per year in sales) I orchestrated the sale of the company for him for nearly $200 million, over half of which went directly to his personal bank account. Needless to say, he is still one of my strongest advocates.
What distinguished the third business owner from the first two was the recognition that gender plays no role in job performance.
A few years later, I was privileged to attend the University of Michigan Law School. At that time, the University prohibited discrimination against its faculty, staff, and students on several bases, including sexual orientation. But, it did not prohibit such discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. A task force commissioned by the University President, Mary Sue Coleman, found that such discrimination did in fact exist on the campus. The first recommendation of that task force was amending the University’s bylaws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Responding to near universal support (and, indeed, some pressure) from its faculty, staff and students the University this year did amend its bylaws to provide that much needed protection for its population. But, they were not the first and don’t merely represent the ‘liberal’ environment of higher education. Indeed, currently 9 states and over 150 cities and municipalities – plus a large percentage of the Fortune 1000 – prohibit such discrimination.
As I said, I’m one of the very rare, incredibly lucky ones. Most transgender people are unemployed, or woefully underemployed. Unemployment and underemployment of people hurts us all.
We are at an historic cross-roads. We now have an opportunity to protect American citizens from workplace discrimination that has nothing whatsoever to do with their abilities to perform their jobs. As part of my legal education, I’ve had the opportunity to read many cases regarding discrimination in the workplace that bears striking resemblances to the discrimination which I suffered. The jobs that were lost, represented by these cases, include airline pilots, firefighters, police officers, professors, city managers, bus drivers, and yes, business executives such as myself. We exist in every walk of life in America. It is contrary to our country’s value system that we allow such discrimination based not on performance but on traits that are otherwise meaningless in the workforce.
House Resolution 3685 – the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – says that it will outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That is a wonderful thing. But, it falls woefully short of what it needs to do. Over 300 local, state, and national organizations have banded together to say that this bill needs to be fixed. Representative Tammy Baldwin has proposed an amendment to the bill that can fix it.
PLEASE – call your representative – TODAY – and tell her/him that you strongly support the Baldwin amendment to HR 3685 and would ONLY support the bill if that amendment were a part of it.
If you don’t know how to reach your representative, or what to say, try the following (borrowed from my friend, Phyllis):
1. Go to www.congress.org, enter your zip code and find your US Representative.
2. Call BOTH the local office and the Washington office on the phone.
3. Tell the person who answers that you are a constituent. You live in the district. Tell that person that you support LGBT equality at work.
4. Tell the person who answers that you want HR-3685 amended to include transgenders and straight people who may express gender a little differently than the norm (like women wearing pants or men with long hair or an earring). Tell them that you want HR-3685 to be amended to include "gender identity or gender expression."
5. Tell the person that Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has such an amendment and you want a YES vote on the Baldwin amendment to HR-3685.
6. Tell the person that if the Baldwin amendment fails that you want a NO vote on the non-inclusive and toothless HR-3685 that does not protect ALL of your LGBT friends, and that does not protect you because sometimes you go outside of the gender stereotype.
The vote on the amendment is Wednesday. Please call soon.
As a member of the board for the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project (WRAP), I was proud to sign onto the following press release (I might have had a hand in writing it):
WRAP Opposes Stripped-down Version of ENDA
The Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project (WRAP) today announced that it will support only the original Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and will oppose any modified bill that purports to protect a part of our community at the expense of another.
As you may already know, the struggle for the passage of ENDA has been a long one. Many of us have lobbied for years, even decades, for this simple justice. But it cannot be justice if we leave the most vulnerable of our constituency behind. The incremental approach to rights sounds plausible, but it rarely works. In 1990, with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) assured passage, an amendment to exclude HIV+ food workers was added at the last minute. The leaders of the disability rights movement would have none of it. At the risk of losing the protections they had worked lifelong to achieve, they stood firm. All of us, or none of us. As a result, HIV-positive workers who handle food are covered by the ADA to this day.
WRAP is proud to join the growing list of organizations that oppose this politically-motivated, misguided effort by the House leadership to weaken our community through divisive means. Doing so sends the wrong message – to our own community, to the power brokers in Congress, and to society-at-large. Among the list of organizations that oppose the stripped-down version of ENDA are the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, hosts of Creating Change, Lambda Legal, and Michigan’s own Triangle Foundation and Michigan Equality. For a complete and up-to-date list of the over 150 organizations please visit www.UnitedENDA.org.
WRAP urges you to contact your United States Representative today – right now – and tell them you support only the original, inclusive version of H.R. 2015. The Representative for Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and eastern Washtenaw County is Congressman John Dingell and you can contact him at (734) 481-1100, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For western Washtenaw County, your representative is Congressman Tim Walberg and he can be contacted at (517) 780-9075.
The WRAP Board of Directors
Michael G. McGuire, President
Jeremy Merklinger, Vice-President
Jim Toy, Secretary
Barry MacDougal, Treasurer
Well, after years of effort and pressure, it looks like the Regents of the University of Michigan will vote today to finally amend the University’s bylaws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression (see President Mary Sue Coleman's motion here).
This is something I, and many other activists, have worked on for a long time. It was something that was first brought to the administration’s attention over 10 years ago by a friend of mine, Jim Toy and an ally our movement knows well, Sandra Cole. In 2004, the year I started law school here, the administration assigned to the Provost’s office the task of measuring the climate for the TBLG community on campus and making recommendations as to how best improve it. The task force was headed by another friend of mine and professor at the law school, Bruce Frier. The task force’s first recommendation, when its report was published later that year was that bylaw 14.06 be modified to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Although the University adopted many other of the recommendations, the Regents refused to adopt that first one.
Over the 3 years that I was in law school, I lobbied the Regents heavily for this change (including public speaking, marches and protests on campus, and private meetings with individual Regents). Today, they will finally vote on the amendment and I’m told it will pass. I was contacted by the Administration and asked to be present for the vote and to be prepared to make some remarks.
I know that, in the scheme of all that is going on around the country and the slow progress we are making, this isn’t a momentous occasion. Nevertheless, a lot of people worked to make this University a safe place for all people, regardless of their gender identity or how they express that identity. Today, we will take an important step in that direction, and I wanted to share it with you.
[UPDATE] The measure passed 5-2 (with the one missing Regent submitting a letter into the record indicating (eloquently, I might add) his strong endorsement of the amendment). It was a pleasure and an honor for me to be there for the vote. The Regents were all very gracious to me and many thanked me (and other activists present) personally.
She held me at the moment of my birth. Today, I held her at the moment of her death. The last words she heard on this earth was Augie and me telling her – Augie’s “Angel Face” – how much we loved her.
She was my mother, but she was his life partner and they’d been together for the past 35 years. How to console him? He wanders aimlessly about the house. I have no words and my own tears come all too easily to offer him solace. It’s just the two of us here now. I wish we had a house full of people that demanded our attention.
She loved this blog. When she was well, she would read it three or four times per day. I would always try to be sneaky and get in a post and then quickly call her so that I could tease her that I had a new post up that she hadn’t read.
As I’ve mentioned before, my mom had serious heart problems, brought on by years of smoking. When I started law school 3 years ago she had already had 3 open heart surgeries including having a heart valve replaced. She had emphysema, and was confined to a wheel chair and an oxygen tube. But, she promised me that she would live to see me graduate law school. She did one better – she waited to see me pass the bar. Yesterday, I sat with her and showed her photos of our new logo. She approved. My mom suffered much these past 6 months and I’m so very happy that that suffering is over. But, oh how I will miss her. I will hold her forever in my heart.
Farewell, my dear mother. Sleep in peace. You are forever loved and forever remembered.
My wish for you: Peace, love, compassion and forgiveness.
I started this blog 3 years ago this month. I've written 700 posts since I made the transition from AOL (my first blog post is here) and I've had over 2,300 comments from you, my dear readers, and generated nearly 170,000 page hits. I've accomplished my principal goals of informing my law school classmates about myself and of keeping my mom informed about what was going on in my life. I've graduated law school (achieving my goal of no "C" grades and exceeding my goal of at least one "A" grade); my mother will likely never read another blog post. In addition, the blog has become burdensome to me, and that I can't have.
Along the way, though, I've made some real-life friends, I've met several fellow bloggers, I've met some readers, and I've made dozens of cyber-friends. In addition, this blog has given me a space for myself -- a place where I could ruminate about the day's events or contemplate my navel. It's been a journal and a pulpit. I've been able to document an interesting and sometimes tumultous time in my life here, and that's been a great benefit of the blog. More than a handful of readers have contacted me privately to tell me that my writings have had a positive effect on their lives. That was unexpected, but it has been the greatest reward of all.
My next venture is to work with my darling spouse on starting up our law firm -- Rainbow Law Center, PLLC, located out of Ann Arbor. It will be through this venue that I will try to help others find their way through the maze of LGBTQ law and policy. I will put a link up when the website is functional.
All things in their time. It is time for me to bid you all adieu (my spouse says "don't burn your cyber-bridge. Call it a hiatus rather than an ending." We'll see. I rarely ever close a door). Thank you all for reading. See you 'round the blogosphere.
I was unable to attend this year's Servicemembers Legal Defense Network annual dinner due to my mom's illness. However, I wanted to see what happened so I hopped on over to SLDN's blog and followed a link back to Pam's House Blend who has a wonderful recap of the whole evening. Then, perusing SLDN's site a bit more, I came across this story.
A recruiter reached out to a gay black man after he posted his resume on CareerBuilder.com and, after discovering he was gay, sent the following in a series of emails:
Using a military email address, U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode fired off an email in capital letters that " IF YOU ARE GAY WE DON'T TAKE YOU. YOU ARE CONSIDERED UNQUALIFIED."
Andrew, who is black, criticized Ramode's word choices and poor spelling. In response, the apparently enraged sergeant said in graphic language that Andrew should "GO BACK TO AFRICA AND DO YOUR GAY VOODOO LIMBO TANGO AND WANGO DANCE AND JUMP AROUND AND PRANCE AND RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE HALF NAKED THERE."
SLDN has called for the immediate dismissal of Sgt. Ramode. I don't think the Army does anything on an immediate basis, but she certainly deserves dismissal. And the recruiting command needs some serious training in human relations.
I know, objectively, that people think this way, but I am always amazed when they allow their bigotry to show. I also know the Army's hard up in its recruiting efforts, but you'd think a test of common sense might be administered. What a complete and utter ______ (fill in the blank with your appropriate epithet).
I haven't posted a poll in a while; and this is the first ever American Family Association poll I've ever posted, so I thought now was the time to correct those oversights. :)
Results as my taking the poll on 4/1/07 at 7:45 EDT:
If a corporation supports the homosexual agenda, you would:
Be more likely to do business with that company.
Be less likely to do business with that company.
It would not affect my buying decision.
My Girl and I stayed up last night and watched the Largo City Commission's sham proceedings as they pretended to give Steve Stanton his day in court. Karen Doering of the NCLR made her case and made it well; Steve himself reiterated his devotion to his job and his city. Dozens upon dozens of citizens from Largo and around the state stood before the commission and spoke -- heavily in favor of retaining Stanton. I didn't do an actual count, but it struck me that the odds were something like 6 or 7 for to every 1 against.
A blow-by-blow can be found on TampaBay.com's website, here.
After six hours of speakers, commissioners take less than five minutes to reaffirm a decision to fire Steve Stanton. Voting to dismiss Stanton were Mary Gray Black, Andy Guyette, Gigi Arntzen, Harriet K. Crozier and Gay Gentry. Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods dissented.
Fortunately, Steve will get a sizable severance package. Still, he is now in a very difficult situation. The article in the St. Pete Times suggests that he and his wife, Donna, are planning a divorce. My experience with divorce in Florida (under similar circumstances -- long-term marriage, teenage children, divorcing because of transitioning, my holding a high paying, high profile job and my (ex) wife not having worked for many years) tells me that he's in for a rough time ahead. And, on top of that, he's going to have to find another job.
Steve (Susan), I wish you the very best. You have lots of friends in the trans community and a good lawyer in Karen Doering. I hope you sue, although I understand your desire not to sue the city you've served with love and distinction for so many years.
Like everyone else, I've been following Steve Stanton's case in Largo. For me, the case holds a bit of extra significance as I used to own a home in Largo and I used to work for a company with a Largo mailing address. There have been dozens and dozens of articles written about this embattled city manager and I won't try and catalog them here or to offer my assessment of his case.
What I will say is that I am sorry that it has come to this. Having experienced both sides -- a successful transition and a firing (or three) due to being transgender -- I really empathize with him (note that he prefers masculine pronouns until further in the transition).
The St. Petersburg Times scooped the story and has run most of the articles, including this lenghty one, which I thought was good (note the inclusion of Steve's wife's perspective) and this one about his communication plan (note the reference to Jillian Weiss). The Times is Tampa Bay's liberal newspaper.
Tampa Bay's conservative newspaper is the Tampa Tribune. Last week, it ran an editorial that said Stanton should be fired. You might imagine my anger and annoyance at that article.
Today, they ran an article in the business section suggesting that if Steve had worked for business instead of the government, he might have been better off. Maybe he would have been. I don't know. Whatever the outcome, his case has certainly brought substantial nationwide and world-wide attention to the issue.
The Tribune's Dave Simanoff interviewed me for its business article. I've copied it below the fold for any of you that want to read it. It included this picture, which was taken at the first anniversary party of the sale of my company. The "trophy" is an award I was given by the (former) owner of the company in recognition of my contributions as Chief Financial Officer and member of the Executive Team. Considering all that Steve's done for Largo, they should be giving him a trophy, too, and not firing him.
So much to report, so little time and space. After 15 days and nights away from home (and away from a high speed internet connection; I'm so spoiled and addicted) we're home. It has been an extraordinarily trying and emotional time.
We stopped in Lexington on the way to Florida and visited with my youngest. She turned 21 the following week. I know everyone is tired of my saying how proud I am of her, so I'll simply wish her Happy Birthday.
We also stopped in Tennessee and met, for the first time, a long-time blog reader, Sally. Sally is an older transgender woman just beginning her transition. She is in her upper 70s and has been on hormones for a few months now. It was a delight to meet with her. Sally, I look forward to continuing reports and I really appreciated your meeting with my Girl and me. And, thanks again for lunch.
Two days later, after a fun, cold, and I'm sure soon-to-be picturesque detour through the Smokies, we arrived in Spring Hill Florida to visit my mom and step-dad. I was at once heartened and dismayed to see Mom. I think our presence there helped lift her spirits and perhaps even her health. Her appetitite returned temporarily. But, it was short-lived. We stayed through last Saturday (a week ago) and then began the journey home.
Along the way, we stopped in to see the Girl's dad, my first introduction. He was very nice to me and seemed to accept me with no questions. As we left, he hugged me and said: "Take good care of my little girl". So, now I've met all of her immediate family. I like them all, and I am pretty sure they all like me (when we got home, I had a birthday card from her mom, addressed to "My daughter Denise").
We headed home through Nashville where we stayed overnight and went to see our Detroit RedWings handily beat the number one Predators (and they beat them again the next night, taking over the number one slot in both our division and in the NHL). It was a lot of fun as we were dressed in our Wings shirts amidst all the Predators fans.
The next morning, as we continued north, we learned that my mom had taken a serious turn for the worse. After pulling over in the first rest stop in Kentucky we pulled out the laptop (using a Cingular Wireless card) and looked up flights back. Basically, none of them got us in before the next morning. So, we turned the car around and drove back to Florida, arriving at 1:30 in the morning after 14 hours in the car.
We stayed another two days, as Mom showed signs of (physical) improvement. She has lost her will to live and would gladly accept an injection that would put her out of her pain and misery. At this point, I think I'd personally administer it. Why do we allow people, with terminal illnesses, to suffer like this if they don't want to keep fighting? The last day we were there my Girl and I went to breakfast and I simply could no longer maintain. I sobbed through breakfast, right in the middle of the restaurant.
I have never left anything unsaid between my mother and me. She knows how I feel and what I think (about everything!); I know the same about her. Nevertheless, the thought of a "final" conversation with her was more than I could bear. How can I not have her to call any longer? She has always been the first person I turned to when I had news (good or bad) to share. Still, I wanted to have that conversation. I wanted, once again, to tell her how much I love her and how much I appreciate the life she's given me. I didn't get that chance this trip. When we got to the hospital, visiting hours were nearly over, and she was surrounded by people. I hope I get one more chance.
Two more long days in the car and we got home about midnight last night. My sister, still in Florida, called to say that Mom is out of Intensive Care and in a regular ward. I don't know how much more of this she can take. I don't know how much more I can take.