Nov 29, 2007
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!
Nov 28, 2007
A nice break
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!).
Nov 25, 2007
You've still got a little "man" in you...
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".
Nov 19, 2007
Transgender Day of Remembrance
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.
As a part of our "Ritual of Remembrance" we all stood, walked past a table containing one white rose for every name on this year's list, a stack of papers with each person's story -- to the best of our ability to retrieve -- and a box of stones.
Ritual of Remembrance
Ask the audience members to line up, single file and walk past the table, picking up a stone, a flower, and a sheet of paper with a name on it. Repeat until all sheets of paper are gone.
“The Stones we take away with us today continue a tradition started last year. They are intended to represent the diversity of people that we are and to remind us that, like them, none of us is permanent. These stones are different shapes, sizes, and colors, just like us. The smoothness of them remind us of our fragility and the weight and the roughness of them remind us of our strength. I encourage you to each take a stone and carry it with you for one week and each time you see it or feel it, remember again that we are all connected – those of us in this room, those whose memory we are here today to celebrate and, indeed, those who would see us murdered.
After we return to our seats we will go in clockwise fashion around the room reading each person’s story until we are finished. After the reading of each person’s name, I would ask that we say, in unison, ‘We remember and connect again with you’."
At the end of our reading of the names, we all stood, joined hands for a moment of silence and we closed with a poem:
Be patient with life, despite its cruelty.
Often it seems careless of our pain,
But just as often brings us hope again.
Remember, I wanted happiness for you.
Under every foolish word this still was true.
Be happy, then, without, as you would with me.
In your life many sweet events remain.
Not in anguish, but in joy remember me.
Nov 14, 2007
You are Spider-Man
|You are intelligent, witty, |
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Nov 11, 2007
Veteran's Day 2007
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."
Nov 08, 2007
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.
Nov 01, 2007
Letter to the Editor - DADT
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.