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.

 

 

Just Call Me Che?

Posted by – June 30, 2014

To close out Pride month, I wanted to talk a little bit about this essay by Quince Mountain about a thing Laverne Cox said. What she said was:

Loving trans people is a revolutionary act.

And this bugged Quince Mountain, who is trans, and who thinks he is pretty lovable, and that trans people are, too, in general, no more or no less than anyone else. He writes:

But what does it mean, that loving me is a revolutionary act? Is it so difficult for someone to love me? Does my transness make me so untouchable that I can only hope for the mercy — and the favor — that someone might bestow upon me with their warmth? Is my self-esteem so far diminished that I can believe that someone’s love for me must be a special category of love, that it’s somehow more difficult, more important, more intentional, than other kinds of love?

So what does it mean, to love a trans person? Trans people are no more or less lovable than non trans people. They are not, by dint of being trans, any more brave, or thoughtful about gender, or feminist, or even interesting. That is, there isn’t much about transness that confers awesome amounts of lovability. There’s also nothing about transness that diminishes a person’s lovability, either.

But does it take a tremendous act of courage to love a trans person? No.

Does transness provide special challenges to how you might love a person? Yes.

Does the existing discrimination against trans people make it difficult for people who love trans people to say so? Yes. But he asks, specifically:

(And that, somehow, I would want, and not be exhausted by, this fraught and special love?)

Which is where the conundrums of partners begin. I get that he doesn’t want anyone doing him any favors by loving him or by feeling obliged to love him. Fair enough. But at the same time, partners are often in a pretty limited space: we’re not supposed to love trans people despite their transness (because that would be transphobic), or because of it (because that’s fetishizing), then how can I articulate my love for my wife? Because I can not possibly argue that her transness is irrelevant to our relationship or my feelings for her; I suspect I would love this same person if she weren’t trans, but it’s also unlikely I would have dated the woman she is now because femmes are not who I date, generally speaking.

But even if those who go through transition with a partner are a special case – grandfather clause required – then what about someone who loves someone trans long after transition? When they’re at peace with their transness? Cox has often pointed out she doesn’t “pass” – is that different from loving a trans person who does? I would imagine it would be. There would be far more stress on a couple if one person was routinely at risk of discrimination, just as there would be if one half of a couple were disabled or black – that is, no matter the cause for discrimination.

So yeah, Quince says it’s my problem, not his, or my wife’s, or any other trans person’s. I think he’s right. I don’t think I deserve a special medal for not being a transphobic jerk and I certainly don’t think it makes me some kind of uber Feminist, either. But are there days when it feels like it takes a revolutionary amount of courage? There sure the hell are, just as I expect there are days when being trans requires that much, too.

But no more, and no less.

 

 

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

3 More Days of Casa Valentina

Posted by – June 27, 2014

casa shot

Only three more days of the show, so go while you can. Who knows when this play will be produced again?

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.

Trans Health in WA

Posted by – June 26, 2014

This is HUGE. Via Gender Justice League and The Seattle Times:


In a letter Wednesday to health insurance companies, the state makes clear that it is illegal to discriminate against transgender policyholders under both state law and the federal Affordable Care Act.

Specifically, an insurance company cannot deny services for a transgender person solely on the basis of gender status. Additionally, the health insurer must pay for gender transition procedures if they are deemed medically necessary and if they’re covered for other policyholders for different reasons. Those procedures include hormone therapy, counseling services, gender-transition process, mastectomy, and breast augmentation and reconstruction.

And just like that, Gender Justice League has an FAQ up to answer all your questions, such as:

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROVE MEDICAL NECESSITY?

Medical necessity is determined on a case by case basis through guidelines established by your insurer. However, we believe that if you follow the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care version 7 you should be able to make an argument that your care is medically necessary. While there is no guarantee that your insurance will absolutely cover your care, following the WPATH standards of care is helpful in establishing the medical necessity of your care. Discuss with your doctor or therapist what course of medical care is best in your case. You can download the WPATH standards of care here: http://www.genderjusticeleague.org/socv7.pdf

If you’d like to help them celebrate, Seattle’s Trans Pride still needs funding, so do go donate.

Facebook Blue

Posted by – June 25, 2014

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.)

 

Ryland Whittington

Posted by – June 18, 2014

(via SF Globe)

(I don’t know about the rest of you, but I cried about halfway through.)

Goodbye Zoraida Reyes

Posted by – June 13, 2014

She was a trans and immigrant activist out of South California, Orange County, and originally from Mexico. She was found dead this morning near a Dairy Queen under suspicious circumstances.

She started organizing in 2007 and 2006 for the DREAM Act,” Solorzano said. “She educated young people and adults about the importance about giving access to immigrants.”

A vigil was scheduled for Reyes Friday in Santa Ana. Friends and family were expected to meet at the Santa Ana Plaza at the corner of 4th and French streets at 5:30 p.m.

She sounds like she an awesome lady. Love to her family and friends, fellow activists, and everyone who cared for her.

 

Important Italian Court Marriage Ruling

Posted by – June 12, 2014

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this news, and I’m happy to say it’s good news, at long last.

Italy’s highest court has ruled that Alessandra Bernaroli can stay married to her wife after her legal transition to female.

Their marriage had been annulled, and then was un-annulled, and then got passed up to the highest court in the country.

Congratulations, Alessandra & Alessandra! With any luck, this trans marriage will pave the way for Italy to recognize same sex marriages eventually, too.

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.

AMA: Birth Certificate Changes Shouldn’t Require Surgery

Posted by – June 10, 2014

Great, great news. Not only is this requirement unfair and biased in favor of people who transition medically – not everyone does, or wants to – it also creates a problem with socioeconomic status, where those who can afford surgery are “real” and those who can’t, aren’t.

But this line in the Forbes article is a little silly:

Transgender people say they need IDs to accurately reflect their gender when they apply for jobs, travel and seek certain government services among other things.

Probably just a sloppy bit of writing, but um, everyone needs IDs that accurately reflect their gender.

This part of the article is, however, all too true:

“Birth certificates are primarily used for legal matters, not medical,” the new policy language approved by the AMA says.  “Requiring sex-reassignment surgery places a burden on an already marginalized population.”

Last week, New York State passed a law that states that people are not required to have surgery to change their birth certificates, so hopefully this new AMA ruling will mean other states will follow suit.

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!