Monthly Archives: July 2014

Police Blotter – 31 July, 2014

Policewomen
Three cases of crimes against transgender persons suddenly jumped to the surface of my news feed. We try here at Transas City not to focus too much on single crimes, for two reasons. First and foremost, many in the community have “tragedy fatigue,” in that they already fully know and have experienced hatred against themselves and our people, and they don’t need to keep seeing news reports of another dead transperson. Secondly, early news reports also carry with them a high level of speculation, “he-said-she-said,” and uncertainty. And outside of opinion pieces, we deal in as much hard fact as possible here at Transas City.

In our first story of this police blotter, WDSU News reports that a New Orleans transgender woman was attacked and robbed, and manages to misgender her as well during the reporting. However, the primary topic of the article is not about anti-transgender hate crimes (even though the police say the crime was due to “sexual orientation[sic]”), but about the growing Hispanic community and its relations with the African-American community in New Orleans. My reaction?
Confused

Our next story involves a 15 year-old transgender girl whose crime against humanity was that she was trying to ride on the subway in Washington, D.C. Having ridden on the Green Line myself, I can say it’s not really that seedy of a place to be. especially at 4:30pm. The story thus far:

Metro Police have arrested and charged 24-year-old Reginald Anthony Klaiber with bias-motivated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the stabbing. They apprehended Klaiber at the Fort Totten station as he was attempting to flee the scene. Officers also recovered a 3.5-inch folding knife.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessell says the girl was stabbed once in the back and taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Witnesses told Transit Police detectives that the suspect made bias-motivated remarks about the victim’s transgender status immediately prior to the assault. The charges against Klaiber include the possibility of enhanced penalties for hate/bias motivation.

I mean good grief, why? You just have to seriously, seriously question the utility of keeping a person in society who just walks up, taunts a transgender girl, then stabs her – in public, in front of multiple witnesses, in a heavily policed area. That’s stupid, evil, AND crazy.
Stupid-Evil-Crazy
The final news item we have for you is one we will hear about in this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Specifically, an arrest has been made in the Fort Meyers, Florida murder of transgender woman Eddie James Owens. Owens was apparently murdered, and then her body was burned to attempt to prevent identification. Apparently the victim knew her accused killer, and there was bad blood between them. The problem is, when you’re transgender having “bad blood” between you and someone else may very well result in your blood which is spilled.

Model Andrej Pejic Comes Out as Transgender Woman; Faces Inane Criticism

AndrejPejic
Andreja Pejic (born Andrej) has been famous for several years as a “gender bending” fashion model, who has worked in both men’s and women’s clothing lines. Recently she had been increasingly appearing as a woman, and just two days ago came out publicly about her transsexuality.

According to Pejic, she “dreamt of being a girl” and one of her first memories is “spinning around in my mum’s skirt trying to look like a ballerina.” She started taking puberty blockers to maintain an androgynous appearance, and at 17 burst onto the fashion scene with her tall, thin, blonde persona. At first she was satisfied remaining somewhat gender fluid, but a year and a half ago she reconsidered and recently completed GRS to become fully female.

She has also come out to some strange criticism, such as from Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn, who said:

“The fact that fashion designers would put basically adolescent-shaped boys or men in women’s clothes is head-scratching for me because, anatomically, women and men have different shapes.

So, to be looking at women’s fashion on a tall, skinny guy with no hips, there’s no way you can project yourself into those clothes.”

Right. Because the average 5’11-inch size 0 fashion model is so representative of the average woman. Wait, what?

Andrej Pejic comes out as transgender woman: Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs model undergoes gender surgery – People – News – The Independent.

Transas City Chairwoman on the Radio Today Discussing Transgender Persons and Religion

GuanYin
Hello everyone. If you follow Transas City you’ve undoubtedly seen the series I’ve been posting on my research into the relationship between religion, faith, and transgender persons. Today I will be on the radio live at 1:00pm-2:00pm to speak on that very subject as part of The Tenth Voice on KKFI FM 90.1. Hostess Sandra Meade, the State Chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition, will interview me on my research, and you can stream the program over the web if you are outside the area via a link on KKFI’s home page.

We Lose Proposed Equality Protections in Roeland Park

Roeland_Park_Ending
Some of you kind readers have followed or noted that over the past 2 months Fiona and I have been joining many hard-working equality activists trying to push through an anti-discrimination ordinance in the Kansas town of Roeland Park.

While we came to the battle late, and the two of us only spoke to the Council thrice in support of the ordinance, we nonetheless had an emotional investment in the outcome. And like many, we were crushed by the defeat of the ordinance, and stunned at the level of thinly-veiled disgust shown to us by the activists who came from local and far-off churches.

More than 45 people spoke regarding the ordinance, and at times the public comment phase took on a surreal atmosphere. The very first speaker stood up and said she opposed the ordinance because, in her words, “you can’t discriminate against gay and transgender people because they aren’t black.” Unfortunately, this sage of justice didn’t really consider the fact of gays and transgender persons who could be black! I almost hope no one does tell her this fact, because it might collapse the quantum uncertainty within which she exists. It’s worse than a Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment.
Schrodingers-Cat
Another woman, a reputed physician, made a 100-second tirade against the ordinance by reading out a list of more than 20 diseases carried by gays and transgender people. The terms and the tone she used were the same sort of malediction one might hear from an animal control officer (played by the late, great John Candy) who had just discovered a pile of dead raccoons on the main stage of the Kauffman Center.
raccoons
Even the lady who has been the Iron Fist of the St. Agnes Fish Fry (because you don’t want any homos or trannies at a charity fish fry, no ma’am) seemed to have completely lost her mind, and for 90 seconds read a Bible passage which had no relevance to the topic at hand. And she wasn’t selling her bizarre message either – I mean, if you’re going to go play in non sequiter land, you at least need a voice talent like Morgan Freeman. I mean, that man could read the phone book and I’d pay to hear it…but I digress.

Morgan_Freeman
The giant letdowns of the night were five of the Council members. One who didn’t show up and thus was not on record as to their vote, and the four at the meeting who said “no” with only modest hesitation.

If it appears that I’m finding some grim humor in the situation, then you are correct. First, it was highly ironic that just that very morning, President Obama finally signed into being an Executive Order banning LGBT discrimination in the Federal Government and for all Federal contractors, with no religious exemptions. My irony meter actually melted down, and I’ve requested a return label from Amazon.

As I told a young gentleman with a flower behind his ear who was broken up and shaking outside of the meeting room – those who hate and fear us did not win the war. They won this battle, but they are unarguably losing the war.

The main photo at the top of this post is myself and my brave wife hugging each other after the verdict. There is a great video segment here, which also has about 5 seconds of me speaking at the microphone.

Local Dramatic Production – Kings of Israel, a Gay Take on the Biblical Story of David and Saul

Kings of Israel
At the Roeland Park City Council meeting last night, where the anti-discrimination ordinance was voted upon (more on that in another post), I met a young man named Schaeffer Nelson. Schaeffer came to support the anti-discrimination ordinance, and after the disastrous vote we spoke in the hallway for some time. He told me of his original play, Kings of Israel, which is premiering at Kansas City’s 10th Annual Fringe Festival this July.

The play is described as “…a Biblical story with a queer sensibility that places the young shepherd David in a series of bedroom conversations with a violent, paranoid King Saul. David must test the limits of intimacy with a king whom he is secretly charged by God to overthrow. The boundary lines of love, violence, and trust must be crossed if David is to achieve his goal.”

The play is being performed at Phosphor Studios, 1730 Broadway Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108 with performances on:

  • Friday, July 18 @ 6:00pm
  • Sunday, July 20 @ 7:30pm
  • Friday, July 25 @ 9:00pm
  • Saturday, July 26 @ 6:00pm

A synopsis follows:

Irreverently comedic and increasingly tense, Kings of Israel retells the complex and dangerous relationship between King Saul and David, the first two kings of Biblical Israel. After King Saul proves to be unstable and violent, the Prophet Samuel secretly anoints an isolated young shepherd, David, to be Saul’s usurper. But before David fulfill God’s plan and assume the throne, he is dispatched to be Saul’s private musician. Over the course of a series of bedroom conversations, the intimacy between the two men deepens. As bloody choices draw near, David questions where his loyalty to God ends and his relationship with King Saul begins. Kings of Israel takes the Biblical story in a provocative new direction.

The play contains sexual content, violence, and adult language and is for mature audiences.

More information on the play can be found here.

Schaeffer tells me that the earlier shows are sold out, but tickets are still available for the 9:00pm Friday and 6:00pm Saturday shows (July 25 and 26, respectively). If you are interested in LGBT history or LGBT religious topics, I recommend going to see it.

Obama Finally Signs Executive Order Banning LGBT Discrimination for Federal Contractors!

Obama_Signs_Order
This is it! After many “false alarm” posts on Facebook and blogs, Obama finally put pen to a policy which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for both the Federal government and Federal contractors. As I’ve posted before, this is potentially a large number of employees in the United States – 11 to 44 million in total – and could lead to many more companies putting anti-discrimination policies in place due to the “trickle-down effect” which often impacts suppliers of government contractors.

Read more at the link below:
Obama Urges Congress to Ban Job Bias Against Gays – NYTimes.com.

The Bible and Transgender Persons Part 6: Crossdressing, Femininity, and Corinthians

1_Corinthians_69Shalimar, the Latin Illusion – A Crossdresser

1 Corinthians in the New Testament is essentially the teachings of the Apostle Paul, via his letters to the early Christians of Corinth. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 contains text of special concern to transgender persons and gay men alike:

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (King James Version)

The fundamentalist view reads this text as damning crossdressers, transgender women, and gay men, and in fact it is often cited against us. However, like many passages of the Bible, a look at the original Greek in which Corinthians was composed, combined with an understanding of the context in which Paul was writing, reveals that he almost certainly wasn’t addressing LGBT persons of any era. You can read a complete examination of this verse at the link below.

1 Corinthians 6:9

The Woman Who Helped Change How Police Treat Transgender People

PattiHammondShaw

This applies in D.C. and Maryland, but is most definitely a start – Patti Hammond Shaw was arrested for defending herself from an assault, and put in with male prisoners and abused by both police and prisoners.

She was re-arrested and had the same treatment each time – and sued.  Her first attempt was dismissed by a judge, but a second lawsuit was not dismissed and both the MPD and US Marshals settled out of court after that.  The settlement includes changing how gender is reported in the Police Department Identification (PDID) system – so when you change your gender marker, it can be changed in the police system too.

In KC, The Justice Project has worked successfully with the local police to ensure equitable treatment for transwomen arrested.

Changing How the Police Treat Transgender People

Debi Jackson, Mother Of Transgender Child, Gives Moving Speech

DebiListen
You must watch this video which is part of the Listen to Your Mother series of videos, and features our very own Debi Jackson, contributor to Transas City and a close friend of mine. Her story is incredibly touching, and the video conveys fully the emotions she feels over standing behind her transgender daughter.

Again, you must watch this video and see if you have a dry eye afterwards.

Debi Jackson, Mother Of Transgender Child, Gives Moving Speech.

The Bible and Transgender Persons Part 5: Acts 8:26-40 – Transgender Acceptance

Acts_128

In my latest exploration of the Bible and transgender persons, I explore the meaning of Acts 8:26-40. This is an important passage which tells the story of Philip and an Ethiopian eunuch, wherein the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading of Esaias (Isaiah) when Philip told him of the gospel of Jesus. The eunuch, so overcome with the new faith, asks what keeps him from being baptized and saved, and Philip replies:

…If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he[the eunuch] answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Acts 8:26-40 says it right there. Believe with all your heart that Jesus is the son of God, and you can be saved. Being transgender has nothing to do with anything.

Read more at the link below.

Acts 8:26-40

The Bible and Transgender Persons Part 4: Genesis 2:18-24 – Men and Women Part Deux

Genesis_218
Genesis 2:18-24 seems almost redundant to casual readers, as it basically reinforces Genesis 1:27. Namely, that God created both men and women. However, where Genesis 1:27 states:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:18-24 says the following:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner …” So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man …”

There is a specificity to the second quote which brings up some interesting questions with regard to gender and the Bible. The discussion of Genesis 1:27 can be found here, and the discussion of Genesis 2:18-24 can be found here.

Hobby Lobby, Transgender Employees, and Lawsuits

transwoman Meggan Sommerville fights Hobby Lobby

Meggan Sommerville is at the heart of a lawsuit you’ll want to follow.

With the recent court case involving Hobby Lobby and its desire not to cover certain kinds of birth control because of its owners Christian beliefs, you might think that Hobby Lobby also has issues with transgender employees.

You would be right. And, oddly enough, partially wrong.

Meggan Sommerville is a Chicago writer whose blog Transgirl at the Cross explores her personal Christian faith and her life as a transgender woman. She is also an employee of 16 years at Hobby Lobby, and went through her transition while working there. She was not fired, her personnel records were updated to indicate her gender as a female, and her health insurance covers her hormones.

All isn’t great in the land of hobbies, though. Many of her medical appointments are not covered. While most of Meggan’s co-workers are supportive of her, a few will not use the correct pronouns. And as for the Hobby Lobby store she works in, they won’t allow her to use the women’s restroom. Meggan has to wait until no customers are around and duck into the men’s room as quickly as possible to avoid anyone seeing her when she comes back out.

It seems that Hobby Lobby is only willing to support her as a female employee up to some invisible point that they have determined without giving any full explanation of what it is.

So Meggan has done what I hope all transgender employees would do when faced with half-hearted attempts at support: she filed a complaint to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Her case was initially dismissed but is again pending before the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Just as the issue of birth control, “Christian corporation” rights, and religious objections to non-discrimination policies are all again on the table because of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, Meggan’s case against Hobby Lobby could have far-reaching effects when it is resolved. Keep your eye on this one. It could mean the difference in how transmen and transwomen are treated during a transition at their workplace in the near future.

The Bible and Transgender Persons Part 3: Genesis 1:27 – Men, Women, and Nothing Else?

Genesis_127

This is one of the most common passages of the Bible which is used to beat up transgender and intersex persons, and it has a powerful effect because most Americans with any Christian exposure at all are familiar with the words. In this third exploration of how transgender and intersex persons really can exist in peace in religion, I deconstruct a false premise which again attempts to put God into a box.

As always, I welcome comments and am researching suggestions which have been kindly offered.

Genesis 1:27

The Bible and Transgender Persons Part 2: Isaiah 56:4-5, Deuteronomy 23:1, and SRS

Deuteronomy_23_Eunuch_and_Philip
In this next installment of my exploration of the Bible and transgender persons, I review Isaiah 56:4-5 and Deuteronomy 23:1, both of which concern the acceptance of eunuchs. These texts are sometimes used to decry the use of GRS/SRS to treat gender dysphoria, but in reality there is a much more complex relationship at play. While it is true that Deuteronomy 23:1 appears to prohibit many forms of body modification, it does not differentiate between involuntary versus voluntary modification – something which some believe to be an incomplete and even haphazard ruling. But Isaiah 56:4-5 appears to over-rule Deuteronomy 23:1, in one of the very rare cases where God actually over-rules a previous religious law established by himself.

I recommend reading the shorter Deuteronomy 23:1 first, then Isaiah 56:4-5 so you can see the texts in the correct order.

ESSAY: Some Words of Hope for Those Who Are Older and Must Transition

Essay 1 Guanyin Bodhisattva

Although finally accepting that you are transgender may happen at any time in your life, it is the nature of being transgender that we are seemingly divided into two pools. The first pool consists of the young ones who can for the first time in history make plans for transition before puberty. Guided by loving parents and accepting physicians, transgender youth now have the options to take puberty blockers and to take hormone therapy from a very early age. The benefits of such a path are manifold – not only will most of their bodies develop in-line with their mental gender, but they will have been spared much of the trials of progressing through their years fighting gender dysphoria every step of the way.

But what about the rest of us, most of whom only start to realize with a grim certainty that we will transition, we must transition – but at a slower pace? Being a transwoman in my 40’s I feel this acutely, as do all of my sisters and brothers who are well past their youth. It’s very easy to think wistfully to what was and what will never be, and to mourn the untold losses resulting from maturing in the wrong body. For some the joy of transition and being themselves is overshadowed by their biological clock. They feel as if they are caught in a ticking trap, fearful of growing too old for SRS and knowing they will never again be a youth with clear-skinned smile and lightness of being. This can lead to jealousy and resentment towards the young ones, and what I want to discuss is why that is unwarranted.

Seat in Clouds
“A Seat in the Clouds,” Unknown Artist (1800’s)

Think on these things

We who have been forced to walk in another gender for much of our lives have gained a unique insight into the human condition. We have experienced the innermost details of the other side of life, and we have gained incredible richness from it. Having now accepted and transitioning into your correct gender, or having already transitioned, you now carry with you a knowledge and insight which very few human beings ever will. If you are a woman now, you may carry with you the feeling of being intimately in the company of men. You have seen their bullying and bragging, their contemplative sides, their soft sides on occasion. You may know what it feels like to have a group of close male friends. Late-night talks over beers. The feeling of having male strength and testosterone. The feeling of being automatically privileged – and of having to extend privilege by social convention. Most likely no one ever held a door or a chair for you, but you likely did it for women a hundred times. You know what it’s like to dress like a man, walk like a man, talk like a man. Even if you believe you were always “effeminate,” “an outsider,” and “never felt male,” you cannot but help having male culture and male life washed over you through most of your prior life.

Wait, you say you hated your old gender and life? I understand – believe me, this is one of your sisters talking to you. You can continue to hate the prison you were locked in, it’s OK. But haven’t you also gained a richness of experience and being? Will you not be able to empathize more with your old gender? If you have children of both genders, you now start to see how both of them really feel. You will be able to appreciate co-workers, friends, people on the street better, for you know now what it’s like for men and women. Oh I do not delude myself for a second that I grew up with a “female experience.” I will never know what my first period felt like, nor what it’s like to have a close circle of girlfriends as a teenager. I will not know the quiet desperation of waiting for a boy I have a crush on to ask me to the prom. I will not have had parents who treated me like a girl. Nonetheless, as an adult woman and living the life of such, I have experienced much of what genetic women experience. The small social privileges and the greater business disadvantages. Not only have I faced sexual discrimination, I know what men are saying behind my back. When a chair is held for me, I know what is going through the head of the man helping me into my seat. When I’m at a bar or a party I can recognize instantly the signs of a man who is interested in me, because I know what it feels like to be interested in a woman.

Ecstacy“Ecstasy,” by Maxfield Parrish (1929)

And when it comes down to it, one could choose to spend their lives yearning for that which is impossible – a second chance. Or, one could try to focus on how their past gender has created a greater depth and breadth of experience. We who walk through this life as transgender do not have to drag our past behind us through the mud – rather, we can wear it, underneath and hidden, and soak in the richness.

And do so with pride! Because you who read this right now are a survivor. You, my sister or brother, have survived something which is so destructive with its morbidity and mortality that it can very aptly be compared to cancer. Take ownership of your past, make your past what YOU want it to be – an experience which you carry with you and which makes you a greater spiritual being.

 

Cover image “Guan Yin Bodhisattva,” by Una, taken 2007.