Judge Rules Against B. Scott In BET Discrimination Lawsuit

I reported briefly last August on the case of blogger and reporter B. Scott, who was forced to change clothes and appear as male at the BET Awards pre-show ceremony last year. BET (Black Entertainment Television), which purports to be a network free of any bias or prejudice, was responsible for the deliberate misgendering but was recently found not liable for any damages. As a result of their somewhat hypocritical defense, BET can exercise its First Amendment rights to discriminate against transgender persons by forced misgendering, with no repercussions.

Scott is hoping for an appeal, but has not started the process at this juncture.

Judge Rules Against B. Scott In BET Discrimination Lawsuit | The Urban Daily.

Countries Introduce Gender-neutral Policies for Transgender Persons

India_Transgender
Some bloggers have been noting several recent advances in transgender rights around the world, and have been declaring that these countries are so much more advanced than the United States. But one really must take the whole picture of how transgender people are treated, not just one or two factors. Yes here in the good ol’ U-S-of-A we are lagging behind in several areas of transgender acceptance – but we also do have a basic legal structure and set of Constitutional protections which many countries which seem much more open to transgender persons appear to have.

For example, my friend Shoshana sent me this link to advances made recently in India, where Indian’s Supreme Court has in a landmark ruling recognized transgender people as a third gender. Quoting:

“It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.

But remember, homosexuality is still a crime in India, and so this brings into play a troubling issue – are transgender persons only allowed to have sex with men and women, but not other transgender persons?

Hijra_BBC
And note that the transgender persons of India, many (but not all – this is important) of whom are hijra, are not exactly living happily there. Even a cursory study of the lives of the hijra finds that they are still and may well be for decades an oppressed underclass. Also from the BBC article:

Their fall from grace started in the 18th Century during the British colonial rule when the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 categorised the entire transgender community as “criminals” who were “addicted” to committing serious crimes. They were arrested for dressing in women’s clothing or dancing or playing music in public places, and for indulging in gay sex.

After Independence, the law was repealed in 1949, but mistrust of the transgender community has continued. Even today, they remain socially excluded, living on the fringes of society, in ghettoised communities, harassed by the police and abused by the public. Most make a living by singing and dancing at weddings or to celebrate child birth, many have moved to begging and prostitution.

Stepping back to the CNN article on the subject (linked below), they report that several countries have passed laws to protect the rights of transgender persons, including Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Portugal. Meanwhile, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have also worked hard to improve transgender rights. So yes there is a lot of progress here, but the United States has been advancing rapidly as well on innumerable transgender fronts. I like to tell the audiences I speak to that transgender rights have advanced more in the last 5 years than in the last 500, and I feel that might even be underselling the situation somewhat.

It still can really suck to be transgender in America, but it sucks less than ever before.

Countries introduce gender-neutral policies for transgender community – CNN.com.

How Phoenix Convicted A Transgender Woman For Walking Down The Street

This has been reported on in several places for a couple of weeks, and I finally did some investigation into the reports. This linked news story seems to present the best and most accurate summary of the situation. And it’s something which should scare any transperson living in or thinking of going to Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix, in a ham-fisted attempt to stop the rampant prostitution which exists in the city (and if you ever visit Phoenix and drive the main streets at night, the prostitutes are EVERYWHERE, and very obvious), has devised a “solicitation” law which seems blatantly un-Constitutionally vague. The defendant in this case, Monica Jones, is a transsexual woman who was caught up in this by the act of accepting a ride home from a bar.

What happens to women who are swept up in this giant net is even more disturbing – they are taken in handcuffs to Bethany Bible Church, where they are forced to participate in a diversion program. While taken against their will they are not allowed to call an attorney or anyone for help, creating a terrifying situation similar to those detained under the PATRIOT Act.

In all fairness we must note that in the case of Jones a prior conviction for prostitution meant she was ineligible for diversion, so instead she was arrested and given a court date. While waiting for her day in court,

JONES: “Walking while trans” is a saying we use in the trans community to refer to the excessive harassment and targeting that we as trans people experience on a daily basis. “Walking while trans” is a way to talk about the overlapping biases against trans people — trans women specifically — and against sex workers. It’s a known experience in our community of being routinely and regularly harassed and facing the threat of violence or arrest because we are trans and therefore often assumed to be sex workers.

I have been harassed by police four times since my initial arrest last May. The police have stopped me for no real reason when I have been walking to the grocery store, to the local bar, or visiting with a friend on the sidewalk. The police have even threatened me with ‘manifestation with intent to prostitute’ charge, while I was just walking to my local bar!

As a result, she was convicted and sentenced to 30 days – in a men’s prison. Her appeal is pending, and I hope very much she can succeed.

How Phoenix Convicted A Transgender Woman For Walking Down The Street | ThinkProgress.

Two Schools, Two Acts of Discrimination

anais-celini-and-nathaniel-baez
Here are two short stories, one takes place at a high school, one at a university, and both involve trans-discrimination.

In the first report, senior Anais Celini at Martin Luther High School in Queens, New York, was told her boyfriend, transman Nathaniel Baez was not welcome at their school prom because “his transition was unconventional and not beneficial.” The second word throws me, and is reported as a quote by the Huffington Post. What do they mean by “beneficial?”

Instead of fighting the decision the couple have decided to not challenge the school and hold their own private prom elsewhere. Honestly, it’s difficult to find fault with the couple – while on one side I wish they would fight so they would pave the way for those who follow them, at the same time they are just kids, and kids have enough stress and hassle as it stands without throwing into everything a media sensation and spending a lot of time with lawyers.

jayce-m-george-fox-university

In our next story we have the case of transman Jayce M., who is seeking permission from George Fox University, Oregon, to move into the male dorm after he completes transition. The university has told him that he isn’t welcome in the dorms with room mates, and should stay either off campus or in a single rooms.

The university’s position is somewhat baffling:

“George Fox strives to be a Christ-centered community, and our residential facilities are single sex because of our theological commitments. The student’s request to switch from female-only on campus housing to male-only on campus housing is one that many institutions would struggle with.”

They would rather have a transman living with women rather than with men – and they believe this is the “Christ-centered” way of doing things? Really?

Couple Plans Own Prom After School Bars Transgender Boyfriend From Attending.

Camp Allows Gender Non-conforming Boys To Shine

This is the sort of story which really touches me – in fact I wondered if it was a cruel hoax at first, but it appears to be absolutely real.

Over the past three years, photographer Lindsay Morris has been documenting a four-day camp for gender-non-conforming boys and their parents.

The camp in the US, “You Are You” (the name has been changed to protect the privacy of the children and is also the name of Morris’ series), is for “parents who don’t have a gender-conforming three-year-old who wants to wear high heels and prefers to go down the pink aisle in K-Mart and not that nasty dark boys’ aisle”, Morris said with a laugh.

I think actually my favorite part of the story is the main photograph showing the smiling, clapping parents as a child walks in front of them in their dress.

It’s a feel-good transgender story, and there are two other lovely photographs at the link below, which I urge you to see.

Camp allows boys who do not conform to gender to shine.

Transgender Supermodel Ines-Loan Rau Bares All – Really

Seriously folks, the link below is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, so do not click it if unless you want to see a nude transwoman. Some parts are blurred out, but if you Google you can find them easily enough. I picked a photo from the page of Ines-Loan with another supermodel, the genderqueer (it’s the term they use for themself) Andrej Pelic.

Honestly, I don’t know what I can add to this. The article by the Daily Mail contains photos from a shoot with transgender supermodel Ines-Loan Rau. Also contained at the link is a video interview with Russian transgender supermodel Stas Fedyanin, who I confess I had never heard of before.

Transgender supermodel Ines-Loan Rau bares all in sizzling photo shoot | Mail Online.

Transgender Texas Teacher Triumphs

After a contentious school board meeting in Lumberton, Texas, a transgender substitute teacher who was suspended purely on account of being transgender (after complaints from concerned parents the usual transphobic bigots was reinstated at her job.

This is awesome news, although it’s clear form this and other reports on the incident that the sole reason the School Board decided to keep her on was fear of a costly EEOC lawsuit – one which they would likely lose. Some comments from the parents are either saddening or disgusting, depending upon how much credit you want to give them.

“This has caused elementary students to be confused. Asking questions of their parents wondering why a female teacher has facial hair,” said one parent.

“We’re just now talking to our kids about the birds and the bees. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to explain this. He hired in as a male. He is a male,” said another parent.

Just think about explaining your bigotry to your kids someday. Like when I heard a woman in her 70′s say once “well, white’s only drinking fountains were just a ‘thing’….everybody did it.” Nope, nothing wrong there!

Transgender substitute teacher returns to work – Tucson News Now.

The Truth About the Lab-grown Vaginas

StemCells
When I saw the news that doctors had been able to grow new vaginas for women in a laboratory environment, and have them fully function after implantation, I was really quite interested and enthused. But not for the reasons you would think – I knew right away that this didn’t mean very much in the near-term for transgender women, but let that not diminish at all the enormous quality of life improvement which could mean for cisgender women suffering from birth defects, disease, or accidents.

However, I also expected, and saw it was true, that many sites and blogs on the net which feature “transgender news,” many of them run by transgender persons, made the natural jump to “OMG they can give us real vaginas!!!!” Unfortunately, this is not the case, as one can see when they do the legwork to read the actual findings from The Lancet.

The title of the study gives a hint as to where the problems may lie: Tissue-engineered autologous vaginal organs in patients: a pilot cohort study. It’s that word autologous, which means that they started the process using tissues from the patients themselves. To build the vagina they took tissue samples which were 1 square centimeter from the vulva, then these were “seeded” upon a scaffold. There was no use of stem cells or anything else which turned cells which were very different into a vagina. Furthermore, many of these patients already had a partial vaginal cavity, so their surgeries were in some ways less involved than SRS.

Patient_SatisfactionHowever, there is a lot of good news here, in that if it were possible to engineer a transwoman’s own stem cells into making vulvar cells, then this same technique might be usable in order to make a vagina. Or skipping the middle-man entirely to make vaginal cells (I am not a physician, so I don’t want to make assumptions). It doesn’t even matter if you have a “normal” XY karyotype, as CAIS women have an XY chromosome, and yet can form a vagina. Moreover, this isn’t a brand-new study – the women in this study were followed for 8 years post-surgery, and even after that length of time had very high scores in terms of their vaginal response to desire and arousal, vaginal lubrication, orgasm, absence of pain, and overall satisfaction.

BBC News – Doctors implant lab-grown vagina.

Mom Announces Rebirth of Her Transgender Son

Its-a-boy-transgender-son-announcementOften times parents take the news that one of their kids is transgender in stride, but they still struggle with how to tell everyone else — or even if they should tell other people.

Jodi Gholson Oliver made a declaration that so many of us (especially with very young kids) would be afraid to do. She didn’t just quietly inform a select few that her son Jes is transgender, she celebrated it with a new birth announcement on Facebook. In a relatively short post, Jodi honored her son, explained the change, and let people know that she would not tolerate negativity or inappropriate questions.

While Jodi didn’t plan for her post to “go viral,” it has and it’s inspiring people across the country to send her family comments full of good wishes. Jes even got in on the act and shared her post on Tumblr where it has received more than 162,000 notes to date. I think I see a pattern of family pride, love and acceptance here.

Highly Interesting Photos of the Kansas City CD/T Scene, and an Upcoming Local Event

PrivateBirthdayParty0Unknown, 1958

I was pointed to an article in New York Magazine by an acquaintance, which highlights something which I think is very cool. The subject is the discovery and a project to exhibit an incredibly rare collection of photos of the crossdressing, drag, and transgender scene in Kansas City in the 1950′s and 1960′s. From the original article:

In 2006, artist Robert Heishman was poking around a Kansas City salvage yard, looking for material for an undergraduate documentary class, when he stumbled upon a slide carousel labeled “Jack’s Slides: Chicago and Kansas City.”

“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2. “I didn’t really know what I was purchasing, but I wanted to have time to sit with them a little longer,” he explains.

Two years later, Heishman’s longtime friend Michael Boles was helping a friend move into a new house in Kansas City — which, as he describes it, was right around the corner from the drag clubs that were vibrant in the ’50s and ’60s. He came across a shoebox of slides that turned out to be quite similar to the ones Heishman had found at the scrapyard. “When we got them together and paired them up, it was kind of amazing,” Boles reflects. “Some of them are even from the same parties.” The resulting collection — titled “Private Birthday Party,” after the signs that used to appear on club doors when drag balls were taking place — includes over 200 images and provides a vivid glimpse of Kansas City’s early drag-ball culture. Heishman and Boles have since brought on Emily Henson to help with background research; together, the three believe they’re close to identifying the photographer.

PrivateBirthdayParty1Unknown, December 1964
PrivateBirthdayParty3Unknown, December 1964

A first peek at these rare photos can be found on the project site, Private Birthday Party. I confess that when I saw the wonderful old photos complete with their classy kitsch I let out a squeal of joy which raised my wife’s eyebrows.
PrivateBirthdayParty2The Colony, 1959

What’s more, there is a debut party and fundraiser for the project which will be held on April 17, 2014, at the Guild in downtown Kansas City. Yours truly is intending to attend, and I hope to be able to ask some questions directly of the folks involved in this project. If anyone reading this wants to say hi, show up and look for the funny little lady with her camera.

PrivateBirthdayParty4The Colony, November 1968
Click here for a direct link to the photo gallery in its current form. I very much hope that they will be posting all of the photographs soon, and in higher resolution as well.

UPDATE: Social Security Administration Officially Updates Transgender Spouse Policy

I originally reported on January 31 of the case of Robina Asti, who was fighting to receive benefits from her deceased husband’s Social Security, but was denied because Social Security didn’t recognize her marriage. I also posted an update on February 25 where she had received her first benefits payment, although no official announcement had been made by the Social Security Administration.

Well it’s official now, and the Social Security Administration has issued updated guidelines regarding the eligibility of transgender individuals for survivor’s benefits. HOWEVER, residents of Kansas should take note of the following:

There are still seven states where the SSA will conduct additional legal review: Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. This is due to a belief by the SSA that state marriage laws regarding transgender individuals are unclear, making the existing case-by-case review process necessary.

I assume that this is due to the confusion over the Kansas Supreme Court decision In re Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002), which can best be summarized as “transsexuals can NEVER change their gender with respect to marriage. Original equipment is all that matters.”

As promised before (and I kept my promise), I’ll keep on this to see if there are new developments regarding Kansas and the other states listed above.

Social Security Administration Updates Transgender Policy | Advocate.com.

Art Imitates Life For Transgender Artists

Rhys Ernst is transitioning from female to male. Zackary Drucker is transitioning from male to female. Both are in love, and both are telling the story of their relationship through the transition process by a photo series, which they’ve titled “Relationship.”

At the site linked below you can find an interview with the artists, as well as a slideshow from their project. Within the interview, I found this quote right near the lead compelling:

Drucker: “The amazing thing about being a human is that we are transformative material, and we change from one moment to the next. Being transgender is a more visible manifestation of that because we are literally changing the way we are presenting ourselves to the world.”

Ernst: “The photographs sort of chronicle this amazing crystallizing of an identity we had always longed for.”

I really like that concept – that human beings are transformative materials. Not only do many (but not all) of the cells of our body constantly replace themselves via normal metabolic processes, changing even cisgender bodies constantly, but age, wear, our own actions, and the actions of others transform our bodies as well.

Our minds are of course what transform the most about us. When combined with our ever-changing bodies, the sum is a slowly different person to the world each and every day.

Art Imitates Life For Transgender Artists | New Hampshire Public Radio.

Fiona and Friends Participate in Trans-Law Seminar at KU

Madeline, Amanda, Fiona, Debi and Rachael at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Seminar at KU

Madeline, Amanda, Fiona, Debi and Rachael at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Seminar at KU

On the 26 March, a group of people came together to attend a session of a law course at the University of Kansas (KU).  The course is  the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Seminar” and it is a new course this year, created by David Brown.  David reached out to a friend in the Trans community, Julie, because many people know LGB people but not many know trans people – or know that they do as so many are stealth.

Julie asked her friends to help and a group of people responded, some trans, and some related to them – Madeline and Rachael, fully out transwomen, Amanda in the “Middle Ground”, Debi, the mother of a transdaughter, and Fiona, married to a transwoman.

We met at the law school and attended the first hour of the session, a student led discussion of the relevant topic, where issues such as bathroom usage, whether imprisonment in an opposite gender prison is cruel and unusual punishment, changing legal documents and discrimination by police, prosecutors, juries and judges was discussed.

For the second hour, it switched to a question and answer format, where we introduced ourselves and then the students asked us questions regarding our experience and issues with the law.  Madeline spoke about her life and her law practice and transitioning as a lawyer, and provided citations for the students when the rest of us could only reference cases by story; Amanda spoke of living in the middle ground, and the fear of discrimination caused by the patchwork of anti-discrimination laws that doesn’t cover the whole country. Rachael spoke of the issues affecting immigration and the climate in the UK, Debi spoke of issues affecting parents and schools, various state Family Services and custody of children, and Fiona spoke of issues regarding effective same-sex marriage in Kansas, social security benefits, name changes and the number of documents to change, and the EEOC focus on discrimination against trans people.

After the class ended, there was pizza, which is always a good thing, and many of the students stayed behind to thank us for coming, or to ask additional questions.  It was a really good experience and I would happily attend next year too.

Pizza and after class discussion at KU.

Pizza and after class discussion at KU.

Transgender Substitute Teacher Upsets Lumberton, Texas Bigots

Sometimes I wonder about whether I would have been a good mom. Whether I would have raised my children properly and taught them how to respect others, be courteous and conscientious, be open to other cultures and new experiences, and face the world guarded yet unafraid to step up and do the right thing.

And then I read about “concerned parents” like the ones in this article, and I snort and think “well hell, I can’t do worse than them.”

The basics of the story, which my friend Danna (a transgender schoolteacher herself) pointed me to are simple and sadly familiar.

Act 1 – Invasion: The transgender teacher, also known as “the Satanic Succubus in Clouds of Sulfur (SSCS),” worms her way into the classroom to “teach” her unholy agenda, telling such lies as the South lost the American Civil War and the Earth is NOT 6,000 years old.

Act 2 – Discovery: Brave soldiers of goodness and light uncover the SSCS, and bring her into the light of Jesus. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to burn her at the stake (thank you very much, evil liberal Supreme Court!), but they can ensure that she will never work again!

Act 3 – Counterattack: The SSCS enlists her unholy allies – the transgender “activists,” the “ACLU,” the “Southern Poverty Law Center,” and (gasp!) the EEOC of our Muslim conqueror, Sultan Obama.

Act 4 – The Final Battle: the forces of good and light gather throughout the state, and ultimately chase the evildoers back to New Sodom (California). Texas secedes from the United States. No one notices any difference.

Transgender substitute teacher upsets Lumberton ISD parents – 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas.

Appleton, WI elects Transgender Man to City Council

Gypsy Vered Meltzer, a transgender man, has been elected to the Appleton, Wisconsin city council. The first openly transgender person to be elected to public office in Wisconsin, Gypsy is making a major contribution to public awareness and acceptance for our people.

Also interesting within the article is a list of many other transgender persons to hold office in the US and other countries.

Appleton, WI elects transgender man to City Council.