Jun 03, 2008
Obama for President!
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!
May 26, 2008
How do I love thee?
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.
Sep 20, 2007
Gender Identity or Expression at the University of Michigan
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.
Jan 20, 2007
When I took Criminal Law, we learned about some of the theories of imprisonment and punishment. We learned that retribution and deterrence (individual and societal) were two of the main justifications (it's more complicated than that, but I won't go into an analysis of Utilitarianism and Retributivism here). I wrote back then about my reaction to rape as a crime as distinct from other crimes based, perhaps, upon my personal experience with it.
Recently, I've read a couple of stories about rape. One, which I read first at Feminist Law Professors, frankly turned my stomach (I also note that Women's Space/The Margins and Feminist Nation also reported it). It is a story about a man who kidnapped his wife, raped and tortured her to create a porn video (original story here).
ORLANDO - (AP) -- A man kidnapped his wife, raped and tortured her and then hung her from a tree to film a two-hour bondage porn video, authorities said Tuesday.
The 30-year-old man was charged with aggravated assault and battery, sexual battery, kidnapping and false imprisonment. He was being held in the Brevard County Jail Tuesday on a $3 million bond.
Do you know that there was a time -- very recently -- in this country when a man could not be convicted of rape if the victim was his spouse? Even now, the Model Penal Code says:
§ 213.1. Rape and Related Offenses.
(1) Rape. A male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife is guilty of rape if:
(a) he compels her to submit by force or by threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain or kidnapping, to be inflicted on anyone; or
(b) he has substantially impaired her power to appraise or control her conduct by administering or employing without her knowledge drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance; or
(c) the female is unconscious; or
(d) the female is less than 10 years old.
Thank the feminist movement for bringing about positive change in that particular absurdity, although we obviously have far to go.
Then, last night, I came across this story where a San Antonio police officer was just convicted of rape of a transsexual woman. I first blogged about this crime last June, and updated the story in July.
According to testimony, Gutierrez left his patrol area and forced Bernal into his squad car at Zarzamora and Laredo streets. Testimony established that Gutierrez took Bernal to a dark and secluded area, where Bernal said the officer orally and anally raped her, and struck her in the face with his hand and on the leg with his police baton.
Although this former police officer was sentenced to 24 years in prison (the minimum the judge could give under the sentencing guidelines) I disapprove of the punishment.
My first reaction was to say "YES! The bastard got what he deserved." And, so, perhaps he has. If so, is this "just deserts"? Does this satisfy our need -- and the victim's need -- for retribution? What about the deterrence aspect of punishment? Surely, spending the next 24 years in prison will deter this criminal, but what about other potential rapists (and maybe even this won't deter him -- who's to say he won't rape again while in prison)? The studies that I recall from my first year criminal law class suggest that imprisonment actually does a poor job of societal deterrence.
Back in my earlier post, I suggested castration. I still believe it's a better alternative. Maybe we could offer the convicted a choice: 10 years in prison plus castration, or life in prison. Of course, I suspect that -- as long as we have 8 men and only 1 woman deciding what is cruel and unusual -- such a plan would be struck down as unconstitutional (note that I think it might also be stricken as unconstitutional on other grounds (thinking back to the forced sterilization of women in this country in the past century)).
I am sick not only that these women were brutalized by these men, although I certainly am. I am reminded again that women hold an inferior position in society to men. These men exercised their power over these women. These men who supposedly held positions of trust -- a husband and a police officer.
We need to find alternatives to our criminal justice system. In the meantime -- lock them up and castrate them!
Hillary announces she's running for president.
Aug 15, 2006
Hello, vote Republican
I'm sorta back. I'm working on a real post -- about our wonderful vacation, but I'm in school and I'm really trying to do a good job with that. Plus, my folks are coming for a visit this weekend and we're working to prepare (the wheelchair ramp will be done, Mom, but please forgive everything else!). So, no "real" posts yet.
Aug 04, 2006
Our country is spectacularly beautiful and I’ve been to 44 of the states within it. While traveling home from Washington DC this past weekend, it occurred to me again how wonderful it is to live in this country and be able to travel from state to state without checkpoints or having to demonstrate why you are where you are (remember the line from the Hunt for Red October when the Executive Officer of the Russian submarine expresses awe at that ability?). But, my patriotism was tainted by a nagging feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on.
As the Girl and I hiked through magnificent Shenandoah National Forest, enjoying the beauty of the countryside and the wildlife (we saw hawks, and deer and my first ever in-the-wild black bear!) I twice came close to requiring medical assistance. First, as we hiked back up a long, steep trail I experienced shortness of breath and a pain in my left arm. We both knew that those could be symptoms of a heart attack. Later, being stupid, I fell as we were climbing some rock formations. As it turned out, of course, I didn’t have a heart attack and all I did was scrape the palms of my hands when I fell. But, we were in Virginia. What would have happened if I needed emergency medical attention and I was unconscious? Would they have let her make medical decisions on my behalf? Would it matter that The Girl had a copy of our marriage license in her wallet? Would it have mattered that my last name and hers were the same (I changed my last name a couple of weeks ago – hyphenated it to include her last name into mine)? Thankfully, we didn’t have to find out. But, there is no shortage of stories of couples who are denied that ability.
In a handful of states, gay and lesbian couples are allowed to enter into either marriage or civil unions that ostensibly provide them with all the state-sanctioned rights and obligations of heterosexual marriage. As we were traveling, that nagging feeling finally crystallized into the thought that among the various benefits denied to same-sex married (or civilly united) couples is the loss of that legal relationship and accompanying protections as couples travel state-to-state. In the end, this seems to me to be one of the most hateful results of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the so-called mini-DOMAs passed by various states. In our own state of Michigan a constitutional amendment was passed two years ago (the infamous Proposition 2) that said “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.” It’s that last phrase – “for any purpose” – that is problematic. That language is being used to remove insurance protections for gay and lesbian families and children. Can you believe that the Christian right has actually filed lawsuits (two, so far) to require state-funded institutions to stop providing insurance to domestic partners and their children based on this amendment? How hateful is that? The consequences of denying protections to individuals and families as they travel is, as yet, undocumented. I fear it will require tragic circumstances to ultimately cause the courts to step in and right these wrongs.OK, I have much more to say about this, but it’s Friday morning and my Girl and I are headed to Denver, this morning, for 3 days to visit family (my sisters and her brother) and then up to Yellowstone for 4 days. I still have some last minute packing to do. Expect no more posts for about 8 days. I hope all of you are having a great summer and that none of my LGBT readers provide the test case that ultimately challenges the inequities foisted upon us by the hate-filled political right.
Jul 14, 2006
I went to a fundraiser breakfast yesterday to help support my Governor's re-election bid. Aside from Governor Jennifer Granholm, John Kerry, Howard Dean, John Dingell, Debbie Stabenow, Pat Schroeder, and others were in attendance. I was privileged to shake the hands of several of them and get a front row seat (figuratively as we were all standing) to the speechifying. It was pretty cool.
Dean's message is that we Democrats need to "take back our country". I get that. If we don't get Granholm re-elected, it will be MUCH harder. We must keep Michigan blue.
Jul 11, 2006
A visit with Congressman McCotter's LA
Yesterday, I joined a group of summer interns to lobby Congress (specifically, the House) against the politically motivated Federal Marriage Amendment (H.J. Res 88, introduced by one of the Colorado representatives, Marilyn Musgrave) which reads:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
My representative, Thaddeus McCotter, is a co-sponsor of this hateful bill. I wanted to understand why. So, in my meeting with the legislative assistant (LA), Andrea Waldock, to whom he's assigned this issue I concentrated my questioning on that. Her response was that the representative co-sponsored the initiative for three principal reasons:
1) The majority of opinions that he has received from his constituents say that they support such a Constitutional Amendment,
2) He believes this is an issue that should be resolved at the various States' level and not by the federal government,
3) He holds a deep seated belief that marriage is and should be a union of one man and one woman.
I never got a satisfactory answer to how #2 is consistent with his position as a co-sponsor of an amendment to constitutionalize this issue. She merely mumbled something about how this has no chance of passing and then it will be returned to the states where it belongs. Huh?
I then told her how weak I thought #1 was -- a representative should do more then provide a mouthpiece for under informed constituents; he should lead. If his electorate doesn't like his stand on something, it is up to him to educate them as to why his position is correct. So, saying he stands for something merely because that's what his constituents wants is just shorthand for saying, "hey, I got this job and now I want to keep it, regardless."
So, we turned to #3, the real crux of the issue. Why, I asked, does he believe that marriage should be a union of one man and one woman? HOW does same-sex marriage affect, in any way, opposite-sex marriage? HOW does providing for the children of a same-sex couple detract from the children of opposite-sex couples? HOW does hurting me and my spouse help someone else? After a couple of minutes sparring she finally blurted the truth: it was his personal belief (which I support him having!), informed by his religion and supported by the views of most religions and religious groups.
How does this square with our 1st Amendment, I wanted to know? How does this square with the freedom to believe differently from the majority? Do we live in a sectarian state? Isn't that what our Founders fought against? She had no answers. She said -- as any good LA would -- that she understood my points and could see my side, but that the representative believed as he believed.
I thanked her for her time, promised her that I would do what I could to see that he failed in his bid for re-election and said good-bye. It was a very frustrating meeting.
Jun 06, 2006
To Be or Not to Be -- OUT
A subject that just doesn't seem to go away is the question of how "out" sexual minorities are, or should be. I am a strong believer in the theory that no one should stand in judgment of another's choice in this regard. I've even posted about that before.
But, my post last month on how would you react to being asked if you were trans has engendered some significant commentary and nexyjo recently put up her own post about an experience she just had at work.
Queer folk are in an interesting double-bind, I believe. On the one hand, we're told that people don't care about our sexuality (or gender identity) as long as we aren't in people's faces about it (as long as we don't 'flaunt' it). On the other hand, we are still at a significant social disadvantage as compared to other groups -- our ability to marry the person of our choice is but one currently topical example. I believe that it is fairly well accepted that the only way to change that reality is for more people to know someone who's queer -- and in order for that to happen, more people have to be out. So, while "fixing the system" requires that we as a group become very public and out, the system as it exists currently imposes some significant risk to each individual who chooses to come out.
Add to the not-insignificant-risk of physical danger that queers in general are subject to the increased likelihood of physical attack that transgenders bear and it creates yet another powerful reason to stay in the closet, to stay stealth. But, of course, if lots of us don't come out and stand proudly before society, that risk will never diminish.
I also believe, as I argued in comments to my "how would you react" post that much of our desire to stay stealth is a function of our own internalized transphobia. But, I have to admit that I may be speaking only for myself and for no other trans person. There is little doubt in my mind that I have internalized transphobia. Sometimes (more often than you might believe), I just don't want to be trans. I want the whole world with whom I interact to see me only as a woman and not as a trans-woman. Swimming upstream can be very tiring.
So, finally, I've concluded that, for me, I must be out. I'm not out to everyone I know, but I also don't make it a project to protect that. I am privileged. I am priviliged by the color of my skin and by the sex designator of my birth certificate and by the class in which I was raised. And, even after transition, I am priviliged by virtue of my education and my ability to get and hold onto a job. As such, my risk of physical danger -- no matter how out I am -- is greatly reduced as compared to many, even most, transpeople. So, I cannot stand in judgment of them. But, again, for me, it is important that I be out, that I do what little I can to help ease the way for the next generation.
May 26, 2006
As a follow-up to my previous post (and, indeed, as an extension of this post) I would like to recount a couple of meetings that I had with the Legislative Directors (LDs) of two of the congress-critters on the hill.
In one case, I met with the LD of my representative (Thaddeus McCotter), a Republican from the very conservative district in which we live. He was surprisingly knowledgeable about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and came out directly to say that he thought the law was not working and that it failed to be the compromise as it was sold to the American people. He stopped short of saying that his boss would actually support the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, but I left feeling like there was some hope for that possibility. Still, I've been on Capitol Hill enough times to know that these guys are politicians and I recognized that he could merely be paying lip service to the idea in front of a constituent.
On another occasion, I had the opportunity to meet with the LD of a Democratic representative in a purely social situation (just happenstance, no agenda except to drink and relax). As it was a conversation completely off the record, I won't even identify the representative except to say he was from a populous state with lots of Republicans in his district. This LD said to me there was no way his boss would support the repeal of DADT. He would never get re-elected if he did.
Aside from the fact that polls (both Gallup and Boston Globe in 1995) show 79% of Americans support the repeal (up from 57% in 1992 when DADT was introduced) let's grant him that assertion. He says it's better to have his boss -- who might only agree with us on 50-65% of the issues -- than a Republican who disagrees on 70-90% of the issues.
I guess I have to agree, in the end. It is the reality of politics. But, it continues to bother me that a person can look at the facts, decide what is right (you know, like NOT hurting actual people) and then choose to do the other thing because his constituents might have their feelings hurt and not vote for him. Thus, the only way we'll ever have justice for all in this society is if we actually convince a majority of the people that it is 1) justice (we seem to have convinced them, at least on this narrow issue) and 2) to act on it by contacting their representatives.
Either that, or we need a more activist judiciary who can see the failure of justice -- under both equal protection and due process grounds -- and overturn this hateful law.
May 22, 2006
And we walked
The Girl and I walked around downtown DC yesterday. It was a joy for me to share this city with her. I've been here many, many times and know it fairly well; she'd been here a couple of times but had never seen any of the monuments. I am a patriot, and I love this city (even while I abhor the politics of the current occupying force); sharing it with the woman I love was fantastic.
We started by taking the Metro from my apartment in Virginia (just across the Potomac; I can actually look out my window and see the river as well as the Washington Monument) to the stop near the office of my summer internship. Afterward we walked past the White House (and booed its occupant the whole time, while lamenting the lack of statesmanship in our government), down to the National Mall. We toured the WWII memorial -- the first time I had seen this monument! -- down to Lincoln's Monument and over to the Korean War Memorial and the WWI memorial and then across the way to the George Mason memorial (a patriot's patriot!) and then to the FDR memorial. The Girl calls his presidency the high water mark of liberalism in this country; as I wander the rooms of the monument dedicated to him it is so easy to recollect why I and so many others see him as our greatest president (the image on the left was from yesterday; the one on the right was from Lobby Days in 1998 - I sure have gained weight in 8 years). We then walked the rest of the way to see the Jefferson Memorial. Through all of this we had had no lunch or any food, so we stopped and each bought an ice cream sandwich from the vendor there. It was like a feast. Finally, we walked up to the Smithsonian and boarded the Metro back to the apartment.
It was a fun day, full of sunshine (we both got minor sunburns on our faces and arms) and patriotism. On her next trip here, we'll do the Smithsonian.
Mar 28, 2006
Scalia says - FU!
BOSTON, March 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by making a hand gesture some consider obscene.
A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.
"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."
The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper.
"Don't publish that," Scalia told the photographer, the Herald said.
He was attending a special mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and afterward was the keynote speaker at the Catholic Lawyers' Guild luncheon.
Just in case you were wondering how the justice thinks of you.
Jul 01, 2005
We are so screwed
O'Connor retires. This was what I feared last year. Bush is a complete jerk, but he'll be gone in 3 years. We will have to live with this legacy of his for a lifetime. And I thought I felt bad before.
Apr 25, 2005
For the first time (to my knowledge -- and I have done some, albeit limited, research) federal law is about to define "woman":
According to the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act of 2005 (Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 356, if you're curious), it's the ova and the uterus and nothing else. The Act, which has been criticized for its possible effects on abortion law, has been referred to committee in both the House and the Senate. It contains this excellent definition:
WOMAN- The term `woman' means a female human being who is capable of becoming pregnant, whether or not she has reached the age of majority.
This definition of 'woman' was considered appropriate by both House and Senate.
As I like to say, in this culture (hell, pretty much any culture), “women” are uteruses first and people second.
This reminds me of my Queer Theory class last semester, reading Judith Butler and the like, and the difficulty we had in defining “female” at all; discussing the idea that sex may be as constructed as gender. Is a female a person with XX chromosomes? Then what about women like Jamie Lee Curtis, who has XXY chromosomes? Defining it by reproduction doesn’t work either, as you pointed out (two of my aunts were unable to concieve and adopted children; by the legislation’s definition, they are mothers, but not women). If genitalia are to be the definition, then we’re stuck with the fact of thousands of perfectly healthy intersexed babies born every year with “atypical” genitalia, as well as transexual people. Secondary characteristics don’t always hold true either; think of Frida Kahlo’s moustache (and what about females who get mastectomies and hysterectomies? are they no longer women?)
We decided that in this society we’re taught the circular reasoning that “Women” are simply “not men,” and “men” are “not women.”
So, Mom, in case you're curious, the federal government no longer thinks you're a woman.