Monthly Archives: April 2014

SHAME ON YOU, Maryland Conservatives! Group Seeks to Quash Transgender Rights Law

Some days I want to rage against the proverbial machine, and other days I just want to bury my face in my hands and give up. The newest transgender rights law in Maryland passed the Senate and House of Delegates, and hasn’t even been signed by the freaking governor yet – and a conservative Republican group is trying to force a referendum on the law for this year’s elections.

Among other things, the legislation protects transgender people against discrimination in employment and housing. It also upholds a transgender person’s right to use public bathrooms and locker rooms for the gender with which they identify.

Those provisions have prompted opponents to label the measure “the Bathroom Bill” and to warn that it would make it easier for sexual predators to gain access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

Thirion said the law would apply only to people who have shown that they clearly identify with one gender, and not to a man who might put on a dress to sneak into a women’s bathroom. Supporters note that any illegal acts committed by a person in a bathroom remain illegal.

But don’t think for a minute that any reason is going to stop those who hate and fear transgender persons. These haters simply hate us for existing – for sharing their space. We’re the 21st-century version of witches. And these people cannot be placated, they cannot be reasoned with, and they cannot be happy until every last one of us either withdraws from the world and hides in our homes – or dies.

Group seeks referendum on transgender rights law –

US Dept. of Education Announces Title IX Protects Trans Students

There is a new announcement that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 now “makes clear that the federal Title IX law prohibits discrimination against transgender students.” Here are the relevant clarifications from the FAQ released by the Department of Education. While primarily concerned with addressing sexual violence, the full text concerning transgender youth says:

B-1. Does Title IX protect all students from sexual violence?

Answer: Yes. Title IX protects all students at recipient institutions from sex discrimination, including sexual violence. Any student can experience sexual violence: from elementary to professional school students; male and female students; straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students; part-time and full-time students; students with and without disabilities; and students of different races and national origins.

and further:

Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation. Similarly, the actual or perceived
sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations.

Indeed, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth
report high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence. A school should investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBT students using the same procedures and standards that it uses in all complaints involving sexual violence. The fact that incidents of sexual violence may be accompanied by anti-gay comments or be partly based on a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation does not relieve a school of its obligation under Title IX to investigate and remedy those instances of sexual violence.

If a school’s policies related to sexual violence include examples of particular types of conduct that violate the school’s prohibition on sexual violence, the school should consider including examples of same-sex conduct. In addition, a school should ensure that staff are capable of providing culturally competent counseling to all complainants . Thus, a school should ensure that its counselors and other staff who are responsible for receiving and responding to complaints of sexual violence, including investigators and hearing board members, receive appropriate training about working with LGBT and gender-nonconforming students and same-sex sexual violence.

Pretty unambiguous wording, which in a sweeping way now protects transgender students at any public school which receives government funding.

Good Grief! Texas Transgender Teacher Banned From the Classroom After Her Suspension

I reported earlier on a transgender substitute teacher in the quaint hamlet of Peyton Place Lumberton, Texas, who faced losing her job after bigoted parents complained about her transgender status. In the last news update, Laura Jane Klug had triumphed and won her job back.
Or wait – it turns out that the school district has given her a job which bans her from the classroom! From the article:

Last week, Klug accepted a full-time position with the district through the end of the school year, but as a condition of employment, she promised not to detail what her new position involves. She was able to confirm to Lone Star Q, however, that she is not working as a teacher.

Unfortunately, it’s a decision which Klug is being forced to take:

“I said I’m willing to do whatever because I really need a paycheck. It doesn’t make me very happy, but I think it should placate [the parents] somewhat.”

I think it’s terrible that the school has to resort to economic pressure to try and sweep this under the rug. The article notes that Klug might still have a lawsuit against the district, but that may be difficult to do in reality.

Texas Transgender Teacher Banned From the Classroom Following Suspension |

Pentagon’s ‘Human Goals’ Charter Excludes Trans Civilian Workers – But It’s Not That Bad, Really

This is a disappointment for our community, yes, but the practical impact is actually highly limited and not as bad as some bloggers are claiming. Why do I say this?

  • It doesn’t set into stone or provide any additional backing for the exclusion of transgender workers. In fact all it does is just simply pass us by. This is actually good, because then it’s a much simpler policy decision process to just clarify that transgender workers are included.
  • As the article notes correctly, the civilian workers are already protected under the EEOC decision in Macy v. Holder, which impacts all Federal workers covered by the EEOC, which includes the Department of Defense.

In fact, in a more detailed look at this topic at the Washington Blade, there is some more encouraging information given in the form of some official quotes:

But there is no reference to gender identity. Transgender people are barred from service in the military because of medical regulations, despite growing efforts among LGBT advocates to push for openly transgender service.

Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said “gender identity” wasn’t included in the section for civilian workers because it would fall under the category of “sex” in the charter.

“The Department did not specifically list ‘gender identity’ in the civilian equal employment opportunity section of the Human Goals document because discrimination against a transgender individual could be covered as a form of prohibited ‘sex discrimination,’ which is listed in the charter,” Christensen said.

Regarding the absence of “gender identity” from the military service portion of the document, Christensen said “there are no plans to change” to change the policy on transgender service.

“The Department considers that service members must serve in austere environments, many of which make necessary and ongoing treatments related to sex reassignment and many other conditions untenable,” Christensen said. “Policies on military personnel and health care regarding transgender members are intended to meet the needs of the services, which include the ability to deploy to and serve in austere environments with limited (and perhaps no) access to medical care for prolonged periods on little or no notice.”

While many may believe that this medical justification is merely thinly-veneered bigotry, remember that it wasn’t that long ago that we were excluded on the basis that we were “guilty of moral turpitude,” “disruptive to troop morale,” or even “mentally ill,” as opposed to having medical needs.

In short, this is a disappointment but it’s not really a snub and it’s not a step backwards for us, merely a missed step forward.

Pentagon releases ‘human goals’ charter that excludes transgender civilian workers – LGBTQ Nation.

Cosmopolitan – My Fiancé Is Transgender

A thoughtful testimonial essay in the mainstream media on how a cisgender woman fell in love with her transman boyfriend. It’s a happy story, and I think this paragraph carried one of the most important messages.

As we talked, his identity stopped seeming like an obstacle. Instead, it felt like just another aspect of him, like the gold speckle in his left eye or the anchor tattooed on his left shoulder. Somewhere during a lull in conversation, he leaned in and kissed me. My stomach dropped as he pulled away. I didn’t want him to stop. And at that moment, any fears about his gender vanished.

This is similar to my relationship with my spouse, who has always said to me “You were always my girl, but I just loved you no matter what you looked like,” and that in the end my gender wasn’t the most critical thing for her. And I wish very much that every one of my transgender sisters and brothers can or has found someone who can feel the same way towards them.

Transgender Dating – My Fiancé Is Transgender – Cosmopolitan.

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

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?

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 –

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

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.


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

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.