Category: LGBTQ

Obama Adds Protections

Posted by – July 18, 2014

President Obama will sign executive orders to grant employees working for federal contractors and federal workers freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That is, he’s doing what Congress – the House, specifically – has not done by not yet having passed ENDA.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, praised Obama for “showing strong leadership taking this historic action to advance equality in our country.”

But, Baldwin emphasized, Congress still must act. “The fight to pass on to the next generation an America that is more equal not less does not end with the president’s signature,” she said. “We have more work to do. Every American deserves the freedom to work free from discrimination and last year the Senate found common ground, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with strong bipartisan support. I will continue to call on the House to put progress ahead of politics and give the Senate-passed ENDA an up or down vote because this legislation provides workplace protections that millions more Americans need and deserve today.”

I’m not convinced Congress will act, however, so at least there’s something in place now.

“Just Like That” (Those Oprah Guests)

Posted by – July 15, 2014

Oh, Oprah. She did one of her “Where Are They Now?” editions and it turns out Christine, a woman who had been in a marriage in which both husband and wife would come out as a gay, later met a woman named Jacki.

Jacki and Christine fell in love. Awesome.

Jacki transitioned to male. Also awesome.

But while being interviewed on the show they said that Jacki transitioned in order to marry Christine, and so they “looked into transgender” and found out that “just like that” their marriage would guarantee that Christine would receive Jacki’s pension and social security.

Just like that.

M guess is that the story is being wildly misrepresented: that in fact Jacki already had some gender stuff going on, a latent or not so latent need to transition, and in these days of defeated DOMAs and lifted bans and stays on ceremonies and the murky, uneven status of same sex marriages, they thought transiton + marriage would guarantee them certain rights they could not be as sure of as a same sex couple.

The first red flag for me: Did anyone notice that Christine says Jacki is “the most authentic person I know”? I mean, is that not in the “things cis people say about trans people” list?

Which maybe it will, for them. I hope it provides them the stability and recognition of their relationship everyone deserves.

What bothers me, of course, is the way it’s been framed as the “shocking steps” one couple took. Not shocking. When people try to gain the legal rights afforded others, it’s not shocking at all. It’s entirely normal and should be totally expected. And if transition itself is still shocking to anyone — holy crap, come out from under your rock.

The problem is that many, many trans people have found their marriages declared legally null over the years – and it is far more likely for a marriage like theirs, in which both people’s sex declared at birth is the same. The status of my own marriage — which is the type that is legally upheld by the courts because we had different sexes listed on our birth certificates and got married long before my wife took the legal or medical or even social steps to transition — still makes me nervous precisely because of all of the legal details of the status of some marriages in this country.

What I suspect – and what I don’t know for sure – is that Jacki is one of very many people whose gender was already masculine of center, before meeting Christine, and whose life as a masculine woman often brought a ton of bullshit – barred entry to the ladies’ room, issues with clothes shopping, misgendering, etc. Dealing with that, plus his love for Christine maybe encouraged him to legally change his gender precisely because living with a non normative gender can be such a pain in the ass legally and otherwise. That is, there are plenty of people for whom a legal transition to male is not a huge undertaking because they are already men in so many ways. My wife’s legal transition was definitely influenced by the fact that it was getting more and more difficult for her to deal with TSA and other boneheads who had the right to judge whether or not her gender on her ID sufficiently matched her gender in person. So despite leaving for years as a woman with a male ID, we went through the legal hullabaloo to get hers changed.

The way they are presenting their story reminds me of the woman who claimed being stung by a bee caused her to transition (and who, in all fairness, said the anaphylactic shock set off a hormonal reaction, etc. etc.).

You don’t need a reason, folks. You’re trans and transition because you are.

You’re in love and want to be married because you are and you do.

Let’s please stop making excuses for gaining recognition for our lives, identities, relationships and families.

ENDA Support Pulled by LGBTQ+ Groups

Posted by – July 9, 2014

Yes, you read that right. Numerous LGBTQ+ groups have pulled their support for ENDA due to the pending legislation’s religious exemption. Those exemptions have always been a source of discord, but in s post Hobby Lobby world, it’s easy to see why many are concerned.

Celebrate Appleton’s NDO!

Posted by – July 8, 2014

As I’ve already mentioned here, Appleton passed a gender identity & expression non-discrimination ordinance a few weeks ago, very much thanks to the awesome work of Fair Wisconsin. As I didn’t do any fundraising for June, I would love to congratulate and thank FW for their efforts.

Please, if you would, join me in donating to the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, which is the board I serve on.

(And yes, it’s tax deductible!)

 

The Ethic of Queer Toughness

Posted by – July 7, 2014

I’ve just read Jack Halberstam’s manifesto on queer toughness – “You’re Triggering Me! The Neo Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger, and Trauma” – and I’m watching it gather appreciative re-postings across a queer internet that is exhausted by recent language wars (the “tranny” debates) as well as by the academic circles equally exhausted by the expectations for and encouraged use of trigger warnings.

And while there is a lot of good stuff here – I’ll get to that – I was put off by how dismissive it felt to me. Bits like this:

“What does it mean when younger people who are benefitting from several generations now of queer social activism by people in their 40s and 50s (who in their childhoods had no recourse to anti-bullying campaigns or social services or multiple representations of other queer people building lives) feel abused, traumatized, abandoned, misrecognized, beaten, bashed and damaged? These younger folks, with their gay-straight alliances, their supportive parents and their new right to marry regularly issue calls for ‘safe space.’”

What does it mean? It means that things have changed, but the sad reality is that despite GSAs and supportive parents and the right to marry, LGBTQ+ youth still have awfully high rates of suicide, depression, and substance abuse. They are still hurting, and to my mind, the need for safe space is exactly that – a growing desire to feel safe. Because as much as it is true that the kind of repression, violence, bashings, and outright invisibility of an older generation is no longer typical (although it is not, by any means, non existent), there is still a lot of pain out there, and continuing to look on important debates about identity, trauma, and community identity as whining or complaining or with accusations of being “thin skinned” or “over reactive” are – at best – belittling and disrespectful.

There, I’ve said it. As the old adage about privilege goes: when you step on someone’s foot and they complain, you don’t then tell them that they should be wearing better shoes or that they must have weak feet. No, you just apologize. It does not mean, however, that you should stop dancing, or walking, or stomping, or whatever it was you were doing when you stepped on that person’s foot. You just apologize if, in the process of doing your thing, you unintentionally hurt someone. It is this inability, in my opinion, that causes a great deal of the trouble. Bad apologies are not, per se, apologies. They are explanations. In a sense, then, what I’m saying is that people should not get so upset about all the yelling. Yelling and anger are outcomes of hurt and out of the frustration of not being heard, and, I would argue, about feeling a great deal of things that are confusing and unsettling and scary. The debates and hostilities, even over language policing, are growing pains, maybe of the integration of trans* into the larger LGBTQ+, but also of a younger generation growing up while an older generation starts to feel a little dated, and are both necessary and important.

That said: the reason this piece is spreading like wildfire (while being simultaneously parodied) is because it is much needed push back from queer and academic quarters for increased demands around sensitivity around trauma; much needed because, as Halberstam points out,

“as LGBT communities make ‘safety’ into a top priority (and that during an era of militaristic investment in security regimes) and ground their quest for safety in competitive narratives about trauma, the fight against aggressive new forms of exploitation, global capitalism and corrupt political systems falls by the way side.”

But my thoughts on how we move from this very personal sense of hurt which this upcoming generation is being excoriated for expressing – and how or even why it could and should be transformed into political action and solidarity – will have to wait for another day.

Obama Issues Executive Order to Protect Trans Employees

Posted by – July 1, 2014

Obama:

“I’ve repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Obama said. “Right now, there are more states that let same-sex couples get married than there are states who prohibit discrimination against their LGBT workers.  We have laws that say Americans can’t be fired on the basis of the color of their skin or their religion, or because they have a disability. But every day, millions of Americans go to work worried that they could lose their job -– not because of anything they’ve done.”

“I know, it’s terrible,” Obama continued, as a baby in the audience began to cry. “It’s upsetting. It is wrong.”

Obama also cited a long list of LGBT accomplishments during his remarks, drawing cheers from the energetic crowd. In particular, the president repeated his calls for LGBT-rights activists to direct their energy and resources toward other “injustices,” including progressive causes such as raising the minimum wage, youth homelessness, equal pay and eliminating racial and religious discrimination.

“Dr. King said an ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ And that means that we’ve got to be able to set up a community that extends beyond our own particular narrow interests; we’ve got to make sure that we’re reaching out to others who need our help as well,” Obama said. “That’s how we continue our nation’s march towards justice and equality.  That’s how we build a more perfect union –- a country where no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you’ve got a chance to make it if you try. You guys have shown what can happen when people of goodwill organize and stand up for what’s right. And we’ve got to make sure that that’s not applied just one place, in one circumstance, in one time. That’s part of the journey that makes America the greatest country on Earth.”

Whenever I ask my students whether it’s legal to fire someone for being gay in this country, they look at me like I’m crazy. Because it is crazy, and it’s absurdly short-sighted and long overdue.

 

 

One Good Thing #SCOTUS

Posted by – June 30, 2014

Okay, there was one ruling that was actually a good one: California passed a law a while back preventing ex-gay therapies. It was challenged, as expected, but SCOTUS smacked down the challenge, so the law stands, as does the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court which stated that ex-gay therapies are well outside of the scientific mainstream.

Hobby Lobbied

Posted by – June 30, 2014

There’s a part of me that wishes we could all go back to bed and pretend it’s Sunday night so that there would still be a chance these awful rulings wouldn’t have been handed down by the Supreme Court today, but they were.

The first is that labor unions can’t collect dues automatically from the workers they represent in negotiations with the management. It will decimate labor unions and workers’ rights.

The second is that corporations don’t have to cover contraception. The fear is that this will allow corporations to decide what kind of healthcare they have to insure. What’s happened is this: we are not talking about an individual being able to choose based on religious exemptions. We’re talking about a corporation being able to. As Justice Ginsberg put it:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Theoretically, then, a corporation could not provide pre natal care, trans health care, etc. If the company is owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they could deny all access to modern medicine because that’s their religious beliefs. Also, “contraception” isn’t just the pill; it’s also the shot (Depo-Provera), the ring (Nuvaring), contraceptive implants (IUD), diaphragms, cervical caps and permanent contraceptive methods, like tubal ligation. I haven’t read yet if it includes vasectomies, but it should (and I’m guessing doesn’t, because patriarchy).

The fear is a slippery slope where religious exemptions are claimed in order to deny LGBTQ+ people employment or marriage benefits. Why should they have to cover my wife’s health insurance if they believe my marriage is immoral and against their religious beliefs?

Here are some of Justice Ginsberg’s best quotes in her dissent, some of the major issues, and a brief synopsis of her grounds for it.

The good news, if there is any good news, is that most corporations will continue to cover contraception because financially, speaking, birth control is way easier to pay for than pregnancy.

Happy Pride: Sylvia Rivera, 1973

Posted by – June 29, 2014

y’all better quiet down! from reina july on Vimeo.

41 years ago, and she’s talking to a gay and lesbian audience about trans* women in prison, revolution, and the middle class whiteness of gay liberation.

(Courtesy of my friend Darya Teesewell, who is writing some painful and honest pieces about doing sex work while trans for FourCulture magazine.)

June 27th, 1969 – 45 Years Ago Today

Posted by – June 27, 2014

stonewall-riots.jpgJune 27th, 1969, was a hot Friday night. Turnout at the Stonewall was high. Some present that night recalled being emotional after the death and funeral of gay icon Judy Garland. They had discovered some remote sense of community in their collective mourning. Historians argue about the funeral’s significance, but there is no doubt that some people present were emotionally raw before the night began. Others argue that the burgeoning sense of community played a significant part as well.

Undercover officers entered the Stonewall in advance of the raid to identify the mafia employees. At 1:20am, at the height of the evening and without any tip-off to the owners, police approached the entrance and shouted, “Police! We’re taking the place.” There was a moment of chaos, but many of the Stonewall clientele were familiar with the drill, and the police were not shy about enforcing it. Employees were gathered into a back room. Anyone believed to be in violation of the law mandating that people wear at least three articles of clothing conforming to their legal gender – mainly trans and drag customers and lesbians wearing so-called masculine clothing like pants – were taken to a corner to be questioned or physically inspected. All other customers were herded into lines, instructed to get ID ready, and ushered toward the entrance where officers would check ID before booting them out. Anyone found without ID would be corralled into an adjoining room for arrest later . . .

The crowd looked on as the police escorted the arrested customers and staff to a waiting paddy wagon and patrol car. The mafia employees were brought out first. They were greeted with boos and hisses and catcalls from the crowd. When the drag queens were brought out, they did campy routines and strutted and sassed, and the crowd went wild. The atmosphere was still tense, but for the most part the queer response remained nonviolent.

Read more at http://www.bilerico.com/2013/06/one_night_in_1969.php#v58ZUYFQzuxCVSsA.99

Pope Francis, Kicking Ass & Taking Names

Posted by – June 26, 2014

I am not a believer, but wow does this guy make me want to drop everything & DO MORE.

Then he excommunicated Mafiosi & told people to chillax with the gays and especially welcome their children.

Honestly, there are times I think the world must be ending if we finally have a real Pope who makes this willing sinner weep on a regular basis because of the sheer joy he takes in compassion.

Appleton’s Non Discimination Ordinance

Posted by – June 19, 2014

appleton NDO 2014Last night, the city of Appleton, WI passed a non discrimination ordinance that is inclusive of gender identity and expression. It passed the City Council 12-2, with awesome work by staff, council members, and Fair Wisconsin, and by my wife, who is not always thrilled about having to come out to people but does because it’s important.

It’s pretty damn cool to wake up & realize that I got to be part of getting more people a fair shake, especially those most vulnerable to discrimination.

Appleton is only the third city in the state to manage it (Milwaukee & Madison were first, of course).

What’s even more interesting is to wake up and read another column calling for NYS to get its act together and pass an inclusive GENDA. The Federal Government hasn’t managed it yet, either.

So yay for Appleton! It’s a pleasure being able to assist a city that is so clear on wanting to communicate a welcoming environment for all.

(& Yes, this is what I do for fun around here.)

 

Outagamie County Clerk Update

Posted by – June 12, 2014

On reasonably good authority, here’s an update about Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright: she will NOT waive the waiting period for marriages other than her three reasons which she stated in public on Monday:

1. the health of one of the individual’s marrying (although she did grant a waiver for one couple where the mother of one of the women is in hospice);

2. someone is in the military; and

3. for someone from out of state.

She is not granting waivers for legal emergencies, which this should qualify as.

Let’s elect a new county clerk when we get the chance.

Of course our Attorney General Van Hollen has now publicly stated that clerks issuing licenses could be facing legal issues. What a schmo. My hero of the day is Dane County’s Clerk Scott McDonnell, who said

the possibility of prosecution “doesn’t keep me up at night.” McDonell, the first clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Wisconsin, called Van Hollen’s claim of possible charges ridiculous.

“He needs to call off the dogs and turn off the fire hoses,” he said, invoking the civil rights protests of the 1960s.

Let’s move on, people. This fight is already over, and you’re just embarrassing yourselves now.

To That County Clerk

Posted by – June 11, 2014

On Friday, Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the state’s ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. Madison and Milwaukee courthouses flooded with couples – people who’d been together 34 years, 26, 15, 2… excited at the prospect that they finally could. Our Attorney General threatened to stay her ruling, so it became twice as urgent that couples get married while they could in case the meanies decided to make it impossible again.

& As you all know, the cops brought the cake.

But in a lot of other counties in WI – I’ve heard Madison & Milwaukee referred to as Sodom & Gomorrah – County Clerks decided not to do the right thing. Ours here in Outagamie was one of them, and my friend Celia – who happens to be straight and married – got increasingly upset with her rationalizations and excuses for not doing her job.

She called the clerk and got treated rudely, and in order to be heard, Celia wrote a letter instead. Here it is.

On Monday, I called your office to urge you to waive the waiting period for marriage licenses for same-sex couples. You interrupted me mid-sentence, insisted that you would not be doing that, and thanked me curtly for my opinion. You never even took my name. 

But your rudeness to me is nothing compared to your gross abuse of your own authority over the past week. On Friday, you said you would treat same-sex couples and heterosexual couples exactly the same (your argument for not extending hours), but when couples arrived on Monday to receive licenses, you refused to issue any, claiming that you were awaiting instruction. You admitted that you had even not read Judge Crabb’s decision and only did so Monday morning.

When legal counsel reviewed the relevant sections of that decision and advised you to issue licenses, you relented, but still insisted on not allowing couples to waive the waiting period. Never mind the fact that, if the Attorney General were successful in his efforts to put a stay on marriages, these couples might not have the opportunity to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage. Legal exigency certainly would have been a reasonable argument for granting the waivers, but you insisted you were simply treating gay couples the same as heterosexual couples. 

I include this rather long summary because I contend that, at every turn, you allowed you personal feelings to cloud your judgment and prevent you from performing your duty to uphold the law. Initially, you upheld a law that had been deemed unconstitutional, and then, after counsel’s advice to change course, you clung to an absurdly narrow view of the law to guarantee that gay couples wouldn’t marry immediately.

I hope our next county clerk will fulfill his/her duties sensitively and without bias.

Celia Barnes, Appleton

Activist Clerks: Funny that the right wing hasn’t gotten all upset about them inflicting their politics on the rest of us.

Same Sex Weddings in Appleton?

Posted by – June 9, 2014

Miriam Douglass (left) and Ligia Rivera were the first same-sex couple to have their marriage license application accepted by Outagamie County this morning. BUT…. there is a five day waiting period that wasn’t waived by the County Clerk.

In Madison and Milwaukee, the very legitimate argument that “legal exigency” required them to waive the waiting period because the ban might be overturned again.

Either way: same sex couples will be getting married next Monday, June 16th, in the birthplace of Joe McCarthy – Appleton, WI.

So, so happy, and so proud of all of my friends and fellow activists and local clergy who went to the County Clerk’s office this morning to make it happen.

Mrs. Douglass and Mrs. Rivera have been together 26 years.

Here’s a picture from the courthouse this morning. Jesse Heffernan and Monica Rico are the smiling people with that flag.

Bilerico is doing a good job keeping this information updated.

 

“I never realized that I was like a second-class citizen . . . until I wasn’t one anymore.”

Posted by – June 8, 2014

So the weddings have been taking place since the news that the ban was struck down here in WI, and there have been beautiful photos – like the one of the Madison cops bringing cakes to couples getting married on the courthouse steps – and some very interesting articles.

But it was this one sentence from this article that really got to me, because that’s how it feels even for us. Despite having been legally married in the state of New York in 2001 – because we were legally gendered heterosexual at the time – we have felt such a deep envy when NY & so many other states started recognizing and performing same sex unions.

Really, it’s a huge sigh of relief, even for us, who have had recognition from the Federal government for forever but who feel insecure no matter what we’re doing in-state. It is impossible not to feel like a second class citizen when you don’t know if an emergency room attendant is going to recognize your relationship or not.

So happy weddings, happy Pride, happy Wisconsin.

WI’s Marriage Ban Struck Down

Posted by – June 6, 2014

Honestly, the news made me cry the second I read it.

Unbelievable.

Forward, Wisconsin, and HAPPY PRIDE!

Obama’s Pride Month Statement

Posted by – June 2, 2014

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect — our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples.

My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy — which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.

Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity — because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

Help Fund Upstairs Inferno Documentary

Posted by – May 31, 2014

If you don’t know about the fire that was set in a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973, you should.

The footage, photographs, and even the description of the events are hard to see and read. Very, very hard. But they are also what happened when an arsonist targeted a club for gay people and no one did anything about it – the cops didn’t find anyone or even try very hard to do so. Bodies weren’t claimed by family because of the stigma of them being gay.

Robert Camina is making a documentary about that night, interviewing people who were there, gathering the evidence of this tragedy so that those 32 people who were killed won’t be forgotten. You can contribute to the post production campaign and watch the trailer (although, once again, it’s hard to watch).

Honestly, this story makes me cry every time I read about it, but it has to be known.

Reporting on Trans Issues

Posted by – May 20, 2014

HRC posted an article about the protection of LGBT youth inspired by the horrific story out of CT in which a trans teenager was jailed and housed with adults and later put in solitary confinement. She had not been charged, and certainly has not been charged with a felony – which is when teenagers are sometimes housed with adults.

But my point is not that story in itself. My point is that HRC posted an article about it in which they wrote: “The details surfaced in an op-ed in the New York Times by Harvey Fierstein this weekend.”

Which I suppose is where HRC first read about it, or maybe they felt free to report on it because it had finally hit a major news outlet. But that’s a factual inaccuracy.

Parker Molloy first reported on this case back in early April. In The Advocate, and not in some tiny anything. And while Fierstein’s writing is effective as ever and makes a powerful argument, laying the blame squarely on all of us who would let a young trans kid suffer the kinds of crimes she did while none of her assailants were ever charged with anything, sometimes it gets a little exhausting that the only person who can get the attention of HRC is someone like Fierstein. (And by that I do not mean a cis gay man. I mean a gay playwright of his status.)

It has been this way for a long time; that is, this is not anything new. I’ve been reporting on trans issues for more than a decade and I am not even a little surprised. But there are times, occasionally, where I feel the need to point out how frustrating it is that trans* is still, for the most part, an afterthought.

Anyway. We should, as a community, care about the feminine gay boys and the trans girls and the tomboys, no matter their identity and no matter which form of “gender variance” they’re expressing. There’s a child who is the person she is, and she’s been treated like shit her whole life, and sometimes, well sometimes, it gets a little frustrating that who says what about it becomes more important than the saying itself.