Category: LGBTQ

HB in Pittsburgh

Posted by – October 26, 2014

Here’s a live podcast/radio show I did with Lynn Cullen while in Pittsburgh on Friday. She had just read the NYT article on trans people in women’s colleges, so I was explaining some of the language, for starters. But I found her description at YouTube cool, too:

Helen Boyd, author of “My Husband Betty” and gender studies lecturer extraordinaire for Lawrence University joins Lynn to discuss gender and trans issues. What began as a search for community has lend her to a path as a trans ally. Hopefully the world will follow her example.

Mind you, I hadn’t actually read the article before this, so I was only going on the snippets she read me.

Death of a Child

Posted by – September 3, 2014

Don’t look away and don’t stop reading.

Another child this year has been abused and ultimately killed for being himself. His parents thought he was gay. He did play with dolls. So his parents beat him to death and tortured him for a long while before that.

Before 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was allegedly beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend, they doused him with pepper spray, forced him to eat his own vomit and locked him in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams, according to court records made public Monday. . .  Fernandez and Aguirre deliberately tortured the boy to death, hiding their tracks with forged doctor’s notes and lies to authorities, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami told the grand jury. “For eight straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war,” Hatami said. The abuse worsened in the months leading up to Gabriel’s death, according to testimony from two of his siblings, both of whom are minors. They said Gabriel was forced to eat cat feces, rotten spinach and his own vomit. He slept in a locked cabinet and wasn’t let out to go to the bathroom. Fernandez and Aguirre called Gabriel gay, punished him when he played with dolls and forced him to wear girls’ clothes to school, the siblings said.

Doused him with pepper spray.

Forced him to eat his own vomit.

These aren’t sane people. But the horrifying thing to me is that since I have been paying attention, which is now more than a decade, there has been at least one story like this a year, if not more than one. That is, Gabriel’s story is not an anomaly. It’s a fact — a fact of a homophobic, transphobic culture. In the ellipses above, here’s the text that originally appeared:

Sworn grand jury testimony provided a graphic examination of the abuse that the Antelope Valley boy allegedly suffered before his death in May of 2013. The incident prompted calls for sweeping reforms to the troubled Los Angeles County foster-care system because child welfare workers failed to remove the boy. Officials have taken steps to fire two social workers and two supervisors, while others involved in the case received letters of warning or reprimand.

And yes, people should be fired for failing to save this child, and the parents should be punished for first-degree murder — no one can argue that their intentions weren’t obvious, planned, and carried through — but in the meantime, how do we save a culture that is this depraved, this homophobic, this transphobic?

We saw a young man get beaten on video by his family last week – and while that story has had a good turn, and I’m happy to see it – the violence and hatred expressed by his family is exactly the same hatred that killed this child.

So what’s to be done? I actually worried about putting up the video link last week, knowing how many of my friends and readers have had to face these kinds of responses from parents and friends and family. For some it never becomes physically violence, but the outright rejection and hatred can be just as intense.

I don’t really know what the solution is, but here’s one thing I’m going to say: this is where all the sentimental grandstanding about how much some people SAY they love the children and care for children and want the best for children find themselves coughing up their sleeves. Maybe spend a few minutes less worried about gay marriage and much, much more about sickening child abuse. And every time you hear a joke about someone not being man enough? Remember this child, and  that he maybe wouldn’t be dead if someone who knew his parents had argued with them more about their bullshit.

Judge Richard Posner

Posted by – August 27, 2014

Really, you have to hear some of these exchanges between 7th Circuit Court judge Richard Posner and the two lawyers arguing for keeping the ban on same sex marriages in Indiana and Wisconsin. Really, listen. The guy just won’t let up, and keeps asking for evidence for what or whom same sex marriage harms, and he gets a whole lot of nothing as answers.

Amazing stuff. Tradition isn’t a good enough reason, of course, and that argument was defeated both by Loving v. Virginia and in the Goodridge decision.

And honestly, they don’t seem to have any evidence whatsoever that Posner thinks offsets the harm done to the children of same sex couples.

Mindblowing.

This is, by the way, the same court that shot down WI’s attempt to deny transgender inmates medically prescribed treatments by way of hormones, and the appeal for this case was turned down later by SCOTUS.

LGBT Community Letter on Mike Brown

Posted by – August 18, 2014

When communities experience fear, harassment and brutality simply because of who they are or how they look, we are failing as a nation. In light of the recent events in Missouri, it is clearer than ever that there is something profoundly wrong in our country.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community cannot be silent at this moment, because LGBT people come from all races, creeds, faiths and backgrounds, and because all movements of equality are deeply connected. We are all part of the fabric of this nation and the promise of liberty and justice for all is yet to be fulfilled. The LGBT community stands with the family of Michael Brown, who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. We stand with the mothers and fathers of young Black men and women who fear for the safety of their children each time they leave their homes. We call on the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it–racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history. We call on policy makers on all levels of American government not to shrink from action, and we are deeply grateful to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for their immediate commitment to a thorough investigation.

At this moment, we are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies … but the silence of our friends.”

You can see the full list of the signatories at the site.

WI’s Attorney General Needs to Hear from You

Posted by – August 11, 2014

Wisconsin’s Attorney General Van Hollen is against same sex marriage. He was the one who put a halt to the marriages that were taking after a WI court declared WI’s super DOMA unconstitutional, and he has vowed to keep same sex couples from marrying no matter what the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules.

That is, he insists on defending a marriage ban that was already struck down by a WI court, and he can, because he’s Attorney General.

Wisconsin Unites for Marriage has a petition up which will let him know that same sex couples should be able to marry.

WI Unites for Marriage

Posted by – August 7, 2014



Sign the pledge
if you think same sex couples deserve marriage in Wisconsin.

Find out more about this campaign from Our Lives and the Wisconsin Gazette. Keep up via FB or Twitter.

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.