AMA: Birth Certificate Changes Shouldn’t Require Surgery

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.

HUD Backs Trans Couple

So this is cool news: a trans person and her partner were evicted from their housing, and…

 More than a year later, the Justice Department followed through on filing the case, which seeks any injunction restoring the couple’s housing, barring discrimination against them, and awarding them unspecified money damages.

     Transgender Equality’s director of policy Harper Jean Tobin said in an email that she was not aware of any other case in which the HUD has gone to court over anti-transgender discrimination.

     “The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education recently settled an administrative complaint brought under Title IX by a transgender student in California – the case was investigated by the two departments but the settlement kept it from ever going to court,” Tobin wrote.

Although every time I read a similar story I’m still always stuck thinking about how exactly stupid it is that, as a country, it’s still okay to deny people housing (or anything else) based on their genders.

Argentina Raises the Bar

Argentina set the new standard for changes in gender markers on identity documents for trans people:

“The fact that there are no medical requirements at all — no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis — is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries,” said Eisfeld, who researched the laws of the 47 countries for the Council of Europe’s human rights commission.

In the US, you can get your passport changed with a letter from a doctor but no genital surgery is required, at least. The problems arise in the different ruling of the different states, so in Texas, for insance, a trans woman is always legally male, but she can legally marry her (cis) girlfriend there. Not quite how they expected the law against transness and against same sex marriage to play out, but there you go.

Bad News for Marriage

I can’t say it’s precedent, as it’s happened before in Texas, but it is sad and frustrating and entirely wrong-headed.

HOUSTON — A judge was expected to void the marriage between a transgender widow and her firefighter husband who died battling a blaze and will rule in favor of the man’s mother who argued that the marriage wasn’t valid, an attorney in the case said Tuesday based on a draft of the decision.

The suit was brought by the mother of firefighter Thomas Araguz III and argued that his widow, Nikki Araguz, should not receive any death benefits. The lawsuit claimed their marriage wasn’t legal because Nikki Araguz was born a man and Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Read more:

So frustrating. Our sympathies to Nikki Araguz.

Discrimination Suit: Man Enough

A man whose job it was to make sure men in recovery don’t switch their urine for someone else’s got fired because he wasn’t born with a penis.

TLDEF brought the case, which has now been reported in The New York Times.

So here’s how you tell this is discrimination: if a man who had lost his penis in an accident had this job, no one would have fired him for being penis-less. If a man who had hypospadias & had to pee sitting down had this job, likewise. If a man who had a penis that required a catheter for him to pee had this job, he wouldn’t have been fired.

THUS: El’Jai Devoureau was fired for being trans. As a culture, we still haven’t worked out how wholly incorrect this “genitals at birth determine gender for a lifetime” idea is.

Hormones Are a Right

US District (Federal) Judge Clevert struck down a Wisconsin law prohibiting trans people from receiving drugs in prison.

In Wednesday’s order, Clevert found that the law amounts to “deliberate indifference to the plaintiffs’ serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” because it denies hormone therapy without regard to those needs or doctors’ judgments. He found the law unconstitutional on its face and also in violation of the inmates’ rights to equal protection.

In other words, he made it possible for doctors to decide what is appropriate medical treatment: sanity prevails occasionally.

This is good, good news.

PA Changes Gender Marker Rules

Good news in PA!

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) ? The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is changing its policy on how transgender people identify themselves on driver’s licenses.

The department and Equality Pennsylvania announced a settlement Wednesday that allows people to change the gender on their licenses if they are living full-time in the new gender and it can be verified by a licensed medical or psychological caregiver.

The previous policy only allowed changes in gender for drivers who could prove they’d had sexual reassignment surgery.

PennDOT says about half the states already have adopted a similar policy. The new policy takes effect immediately.

Tomboy Sues Former Employer

The St. Louis Court of Appeals reversed a previous decision that stated Brenna Lewis could not sue her employer for firing her – for being too masculine.

Citing court records, the AP reports that Cullinan prefers to wear loose-fitting clothes such as men’s button-down shirts and slacks. She has been mistaken for a man and referred to as “tomboyish,” the story says. Cullinan, meanwhile, said Lewis lacked the “Midwestern girl look” and was heard saying that Heartland staff should be pretty, especially for women working at the front desk, the AP story says, citing court records.

I hope she wins. & Honestly, I hope Cullinan loses her job for making such a dumb-ass decision.

(h/t to Courtney)

Legal Marriage, Queer Relationship

The NYT did an article about the legal issues when you’re a heterosexual couple and one of you legally changes gender. I’ve been talking about the ramifications of this stuff for so long that I failed to notice for others it might be quite a surprise, and revelatory, but it is.

Interesting comments have come in from Cara at Feministe and a young trans woman who calls herself Critical Thinking Girl. As CTG points out, it is pretty tawdry – the usual before & after photos, etc. – and when she notes:

The tone of this article is clear – Fran is a put-upon woman, with an eccentric husband. The picture they chose is also curious as it has the trans woman in the relationship holding back her wife.

As many of my regular readers already know, one of the things that drives me batshit about the media in general is the way they choose rubes to write about, instead of speaking to activists or advocates who are prepared to deal with media, or who have become allied with LGBTQ people on the issue. For those of you who are interested, here’s a talk I gave at the Law School of Penn State Dickinson last year.

Because honestly, same sex marriage recognition would make life easier for all trans people in relationships – including CTG.

Oh – and to The Times – and everyone else: it’s “transition” not “sex change.”

SoCo Keynote: Jenn Burleton


One Community, One Family

by Jenn Burleton, TransActive Education & Advocacy, Portland, OR

Thank you to the organizers of this amazing conference and in particular, Cat Turner, Lola Fleck and Elaine Martin. And I must thank my longtime friend, Mariette Pathy Allen. My life has been truly blessed as a result of knowing her and sharing many adventures with her…some of which are suitable for sharing with the whole family.

When Cat Turner called back in January and invited me to come to Atlanta I was of course, very honored. I was also surprised. After all, we’d never met. I’d never attended a previous Southern Comfort Conference and I am not, in my opinion anyway, one of the gender community heavy hitters.
Continue reading “SoCo Keynote: Jenn Burleton”

Indian FTMs

An article predominantly about lesbians and FTMs in India (despite the photo of MTFs dancing) appeared in The Hindu, India’s national paper. The West is blamed for intolerant attitudes:

The hostility to alternate sexualities, LesBIT activists say, is a modern phenomenon. Evidence of lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships can be found in Vedic literature, tantra, Sufi poetry, and in the ancient sculptures o f Konark and Khajuraho. The criminalisation of gay, lesbian and transgender sexuality is, however, a product of the Victorian morality of British colonialism. What is interesting is that while homosexual marriages are today legally recognised in the United Kingdom, they continue to be criminalised in India.

That is, the Hjira may be evidence of a tolerant past, but their existence doesn’t prove a tolerant present.

Victoria Arellano

I just happened to be catching up on my Feministing reading when I discovered a post by Jessica Hoffman about the death of trans inmate Victoria Arellano (or Arrelano) who was denied her AIDS medication and then Hoffman followed up her post wondering why this death hasn’t been covered.

It’s interesting time as just recently I’ve been bothered by a recent article in The Boston Globe about a doctor who transitioned with much of her life in tact – ironic since Arellano didn’t wind up with even her life in tact. Big article, no article.

& They say there’s no such thing as privilege.

Mind you, my complaints about the way various media outlets cover trans issues aren’t directed at the trans people who are often featured in these articles: their intentions are for the most part good, & they are trying, in their own way, to raise awareness of trans issues in general, all of which is much needed. It’s not that it was a terrible article in terms of The Big Picture, but I’m tired of journalists/media writing a piece that is pretty much like every other piece about a trans person (choosing someone professional, white, with a traditional narrative including surgery & the like) & presenting it as if it’s a revelation.

It’s not a revelation. I’d like to get the bar set a little higher, & to start pressuring media to cover more types of trans people, in more situations, with more of the kinds of issues that come up. Like what does a person like Betty, or others like her, do about the ID issue? What do people do when their license says one thing but they can’t get their passport changed? What are the issues for young transitioners, who are going to be dealing with discrimination from the outset of their careers? How is the expectation of not getting divorced changing what kinds of legal issues couples face? How does transness come into play with legal issues? What happens if a recent medical student comes out before she has a practice or an income or a family & established community?

I could go on. I won’t. Like I said, this is good for general use, but as someone who is “in the field” & who works with the media on a regular basis, I also feel I have a responsibility to pay attention to the way media coverage ISN’T changing at all, & how the struggle to represent the diversity of trans experience, from within the trans community, is or isn’t being reflected by the media, & maybe keeping an eye toward changing that, somehow.

Trans Couples: Adrien & Elena

I’m going to tell you the story of me, Adrien an FtM transman, and my partner, Elena a free-spirited, open-minded, adventurous, bi-sexual genetic woman. Y’all get ready, because some parts of it are scandalous. OK, here we go.

When Elena and I first met, I think it was late 1998, we just really hit it off, the way you do. The meeting that stood out was at the state fair, for a friend’s birthday. We were there with lots of friends and acquaintances and between us there was that magnetic energy – we were more interested in each other than anyone else and for reasons soon to be disclosed, this wasn’t entirely appropriate. Soon after that night at the fair, we met again at a party, a lesbian party. At this point on the timeline of my transition, I was just getting into the transgender vocabulary and ideas and was definitely starting to recognize myself as trans, but I was pre-everything with only some glimmerings that chest surgery might be something feasible for me. So, I was still living at home in the bosom of the lesbian community, but starting to scratch the itch that would bring my time there to its end. At present, we still have many gay and lesbian friends, but some have dropped out of our lives as well. Since the beginning of our relationship, we always found that we felt more aligned with our straight couple friends and I definitely do not call myself a lesbian any more. Elena’s relationship and sexual history includes men and women but at the time we met, she was identified as lesbian and had a female partner. But back to the story…

Continue reading “Trans Couples: Adrien & Elena”

Coal Country

Betty & I are spending some time with my family today & Monday; we plan to be back sometime on Tuesday. We’re going to coal country, where my mother’s peeps are from, as it’s my grandaunt’s 85th birthday – yes, she’s my grandaunt Helen, there really is only one page in the Polish baby names book – while my parents are up north for a visit, too. We’ll go revisit some of the places they brought me as a kid, but with my sister’s kids, who’ve grown up going to that region on their summer holidays and tromping around what they call “the bush” (otherwise known as the woods) the same as I did.

It’ll be four generations in two cars, which to me is always a lovely, if complicated, experience.

Since I’ll be in coal country, I’ll be thinking about those trapped Utah miners & their families, of course. This bullshit cowboy mining should be illegal, by the way. I’m sure John L. Lewis is turning in his grave now that they’re even stripping the pillars. Greedy bastards. Please keep in mind, folks, that while trapped miners are always a good “human interest” though tragic news story, we don’t often hear about the accidents that just kill miners outright – not here, or in China, or in India.

Bathrooms in Arizona, Letters to The Advocate

Michele DeLaFreniere, a trans woman in Arizona, is suing a bar that kept her from entering.

The bar’s owner objects to having been quoted as saying he doesn’t want “her kind” in the place, but does admit that he’s blocked trans women from coming to the bar because of the bathroom issue: trans women were being harassed in the men’s room, and female bar patrons didn’t want the trans women in the women’s restroom.

As the story was reported in The Advocate, Anderson told the AP, “There was no place I could put these people.”

Two letters to the editor about the issue weigh in on the side of keeping women’s restrooms free of trans women, one calling them “men” and the other calling them “‘women’.”

Yet another “women’s space” issue, but I’m not sure the best answer is simply to insist that trans women use the ladies’ rooms. Education, unisex bathrooms, – surely there are more intermediate ways of handling this instead of just telling women – who may be ignorant but also fearful, for good reason, of sharing bathroom space with people they view as male. Convincing women raised female that trans women are not male requires a hell of a lot of education, which will take time, so what do we do in the meanwhile?

(My thanks to Joanne Herman for the heads-up.)

(Xposted to Trans Group Blog.)

Trans Couples: Mark and Violet

I was like an addict trying desperately to find love, or even the perfect relationship. But I always fell short and was disappointed. Little did I know it was never the relationship; it was the image in the mirror that made no sense. I was the one that needed to change. I was lost, I felt broken, it wasn’t until I was 38 years old when my life finally took a right turn. I met the most amazing female. She was different, not like the other girls I had known. She was special, something about her allowed me to be myself. She was straight and had lived with men all her life. Yet, she was curious about girls, having had a few encounters in the past, but nothing too serious. Continue reading “Trans Couples: Mark and Violet”

Trans Couples: Mike & Tasha

My name is Michael, I am a FtM Transsexual. My partner is Natasha, an MtF Transsexual. This is our story….

Depending on where we pick up our story, it all traces back to our high school years. Yes, Natasha and I actually attended the same high school around the same time as each other. Of course back then I was living as female and she was living as male. Natasha is a few years older than me, but our paths did indeed cross during our high school years. As Natasha explains, our lives were meant to cross. She calls our journey of getting together, fate. Continue reading “Trans Couples: Mike & Tasha”

Blogging for LGBT Families

This year I wanted to talk a little about a lovely couple we know who are currently pregnant with their 1st child, because we love them, & a recent talk with them about their upcoming arrival just made me so angry.

Not at them, of course. Just angry that they have to go through so much legal bullshit to make sure they are recognized as the parents of their child. They have to worry because otherwise the non-birth parent might not be able to pick the kid up at school, or make medical decisions, or even be considered the legal parent if anything were to happen to the birth parent. It goes on & on, all those things straight parents take for granted.

Ironically, of course, it certainly ends up proving exactly how fit for parenthood our friends are. I think the straight folks need a similar test of their own commitment, some days.

I’d also like to thank Betty’s family for being so willing to hear us out regarding Betty’s transness, & despite their world being very different from our own, continuing to support and love their child/sibling no differently than they had before.; and to thank my own family who have been just freaking amazing about accepting all the new wrinkles in our lives.