Just a quick reminder that tomorrow Tuesday 9th October at 6 pm will be the Kansas City event for the Ten Days of Trans Demands. It will be at Kansas City United Church of Christ, 205 W 65th St, Kansas City, Missouri 64113, and there will be many speakers on being an ally and an advocate in the workplace. For more details, see the Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/250229949013821/
I need to preface this post with a disclaimer: the transgender engineer who is the “star” of the film is me. Black & Veatch released a video today as part of a series called #BeYouBV, which tells the stories of many professionals with the firm who have diverse occupations, hobbies, or lives. This Spring I was named one of several B&V Trailblazers, and was filmed for this video which tells a little bit about my life and how I used the support I received from everyone in my life as a platform for my advocacy.
The film features my good friend Ari Copeland, a senior water scientist at Black & Veatch who is also a transgender man. He’s the bearded guy I’m hugging and talking to, and who is helping to present to the crowd. Also featured in the film are my wife Fiona, who is a frequent contributor to this site, and who runs the Kansas City SOFFA group. My good and long-time friend Ceri Anne is shown on Trans Talk, and several other friends and co-workers appear. Some of the short video was shot at 90.1 FM KKFI, where we broadcast Trans Talk from.
If however you don’t use Facebook, you can also find the video at this link.
Hello everyone – I’m going to be giving a presentation at the Plaza Library this Sunday about being transgender in the workplace, joined by my co-worker Ari Copeland. We are going to be discussing how we crossed both sides of the gender divide in our transitions, and this presentation should be of interest to not just the transgender community, but women and men in science, technology, engineering, and math who are interested in gender studies and gender relationships. Of course it’s completely free!
(A film crew will be present for this event, but *no one will be filmed without their prior express permission.*)
A brochure image is below, as is a map to the library.
Location: Plaza Library, 4801 Main St., KCMO
Time: 2:00-3:00 pm, Sunday, May 14th.
Hello everyone! We have two themes to our program this week. First we are going to re-open the subject of transgender prisoners, focusing on what happens afterwards and how society has placed many barriers on success for transgender persons who have served their time and are fighting to live their lives in America. We will be talking with JoAnna Ramsey, a guest we interviewed last October, to check up on her and find out how she has been doing getting her life in order. Also with us is April, a transgender woman and activist who is also trying to get a fresh start after a history of legal difficulties. In our second half we will interview Ari Copeland, a transgender man who is a senior water scientist at a global engineering firm, to talk about his life and to discuss along with Una the perils and joys of crossing the gender barrier in the corporate engineering world.
As usual, we will share with you the transgender news and the community calendar update. We do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, January 28 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.
Tomorrow I shall be speaking on both gender and transgender issues in the workplace at iCON16, the regional Society of Women Engineer’s conference in Boulder, Colorado. This is my first professional presentation on gender/transgender subjects, and the audience will be composed mostly of women engineers, engineering managers, engineering interns, and students. For my topic I shall be comparing and contrasting the differences in the workplace as a “woman” versus a “man,” drawing on not only own experience but that of Ari Copeland, a transgender man who also works at my company.
If there are any readers in or near Boulder who would like to stop by and say hi while I’m at the conference this weekend, please let me know.
I have submitted an abstract to another conference to talk about this same issue, and I intend to post a version of the presentation on Transas City here after the conference.
Hello everyone, Una Nowling here. I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s Online MSW Program’s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what NOT to ask trans*people.
As an activist and “out and loudly proud” transgender woman who works in several professional fields, I am often asked to give lectures on the transgender experience as a whole, as well as specific transgender subtopics. I typically speak at public fora, Pride events, churches, schools, universities, and civic centers. And as part of my opening myself up to the world, I am very frank about my history – I talk about the sexual assault and abuse I suffered, for example, not because I especially enjoy doing such, but because almost certainly there’s someone in my audience who has suffered the same, and been living in silence for years. I invite and will answer almost any question which is asked of me, because my goal is to educate. I do not speak in detail about my genitals and surgeries, and that is my only boundary.
But what about the typical transgender person whom one may meet? Many well-meaning cisgender persons are naturally very curious about us, and this puts transgender persons on the spot, even when they are among friends. They not only are not activists who want to be “out and loudly proud,” they simply want to live, and love, and work, and play, and worship, and be the protagonist of their own life of positivity. Their own personal “American dream,” if you will.
Here are some of my tips for the cisgender folks out there who want to learn more about our people.
First, before you ask any question, ask yourself “is this the sort of question I would ask my grandmother?” Would you, for instance, ask your grandmother if she had had “her penis chopped off?” Or “are you really, really sure that you’re female, or could you just be having a bad month?” Or even “how do you know you’re not a lesbian, grandma? Maybe you should give it a try?” Of course you wouldn’t.
First and foremost, don’t ask us questions which call into question our very existence. Asking us “are we really sure we’re transgender?” essentially overlooks the years of gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, internal struggles, and heart-rending agony which we have gone through to come to accepting that we are transgender. Many of us would have done anything, climbed any proverbial mountain, to have just had an ordinary, average gender identity. This is one reason why, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgender persons have attempted suicide. Outside of a few transgender celebrities or very lucky persons, most transgender persons are going to face job discrimination, family rejection, sexual assault, bullying, physical violence, and even murder – on top of having to deal with gender dysphoria. If that sounds like fun, please stand on your head.
Don’t ask about our genitals. I confess that I have neither the time, nor the professional qualifications, to understand why laypeople will walk right up to a transgender person and ask them questions about genitals that they wouldn’t even discuss with their physician. Would you ask a friend at church if her breasts were real or not? Many of us are asked that on a daily basis.
Don’t ask us questions about our personal romantic and sexual relationships and preference. For one thing, many of us are still working it out, and it’s a highly painful subject. For another, it’s just none of your business, unless you happen to be making a romantic pass at one of us (in which case, go you!). A large number of us will lose our spouse or long-term partner as a result of transition. Within my own transgender community, the rate of divorce as a result of one partner transitioning is over 90%.
It’s generally considered gauche to ask about our specific medications, surgical techniques and procedures, and the cost of transition. Can you imagine asking a co-worker in the middle of a conference call, “hey Bob, generally speaking how do you feel about digital rectal prostate exams versus PSA screenings?” In addition, please note that for many of us a trip to the physician is even less fun than it would be for anyone else, as nearly 1 in 5 transgender persons report having been refused medical care. Last week I myself was a victim of this, having had two physicians refuse to treat me, and having been subjected to a transphobic tirade by a nurse.
There are some “borderline” questions you can ask, if your relationship with the transgender person in question is positive and long-standing. You may be able to ask “how has your family taken the news?” or “are you going to be alright at work?” Just keep in mind that a very large percentage of us will or currently face ostracism or even violence by family members – in fact, 57% of us will experience significant family rejection as a result of transition. In addition to that, 90% of us have or will face harassment or discrimination on the job, and we suffer from double the rate of unemployment as the general population as a result of “coming out.” A large number of us have lost our church community as well, so again, be sensitive of that when asking about topics of personal faith.
Many ask us about Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, and other transgender persons who are in the media. Just as my spouse is English and has in fact never met Queen Elizabeth, almost none of us will have any “inside information” on public figures. Nor do most of us really want to discuss in detail The Crying Game or Dallas Buyers Club. I will however feel free to bore you with discussions of third-wave feminism and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Questions which show innocent curiosity and compassion are normally going to be welcome. I’m sometimes asked about the community, from the standpoint of how large and diverse we are. I’m sometimes asked to tell the story of my personal journey, with no qualifications placed on my telling, and many of us will talk a little about our history to those who listen. Other good questions help to define how people should interact with us. Ask us “what name do you prefer I call you from now on?” or “how should I refer to your gender from now on?” Please note that for those of us who are still not fully “out,” some patience may be needed on your part to remember the proper identifiers to use depending upon the context.
Most of us will be grateful to receive questions such as “how are you coping with this? Are you receiving support? Are you doing alright? Would you like to go shopping with me? Would you like to meet my family?”
But above all, the single best question which I believe we transgender persons can be asked is simply:
“How may I help?”
Information about Simmons College
Simmons College is the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender. Their admissions policy may be found here, and the official announcement of their change in policy may be found here.
Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.
This story has fired up my blood today, and I’m mad as hell. Not to repeat the Advocate overly much, but the basics are that Karis Ann Ross, age 37 a lead Special Education teacher at a Milwaukee German Immersion school, took her own life over Thanksgiving, 2014.
In her suicide note she apparently didn’t mince words, saying she took her own life due to bullying from specific, named co-workers. The situation was reportedly brought to the school’s principal, and with no effective response. After her daughter’s death, Karis’ mother, Madeline Dietrich, wrote an open letter to the Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. In this letter, the most telling part of the story was the following:
There were four professionals working in Ms. Ross’ classroom, a lead teacher and three teacher’s aids. Each were human beings, and each were women. But three were cisgender, while only one was transgender. Three were black, while only one was white. Three were paraprofessionals charged with supporting the lead teacher’s direction, while only one held a master’s degree and professional teaching certificate. The differences in race, education status and gender identity fostered an environment where Ms. Ross was regularly subjected to intimidation and resistance by the majority group.
Ms. Ross repeatedly informed the building principal, Dr. Albert J. Brugger. It had gone on for years, but in the weeks leading to the moment Ms. Ross chose to end her life, numerous emails were exchanged between Ms. Ross, school officials and the medical community, all pointing to a crisis which went largely ignored by Dr. Brugger, who rather than mediating or intervening in the conflict, chose to play down the situation and avoided any direct involvement with Ms. Ross and her aids. It is clear by the timing of the suicide, which took place the Saturday afternoon before Ms. Ross knew she must again face the hostility of her support staff and the indifference of her principal the following Monday morning. Each aide was named in Ms. Ross’ suicide letter, along with Dr. Brugger, as the primary cause of her grief. Transgender people are too often rejected by friends, employers, landlords, and family, and are forty percent more likely to attempt suicide than the mean population. Ms. Ross was rejected by the very MPS employees whose job it was to assist her in caring for profoundly disabled children.
What I want to do is say something loud and clear to all the people who know me here in “Transas City.” If you are one of my transgender sisters or brothers and you are being bullied at work, and you need help, you need to contact someone. Right now. One of my best friends is Madeline Johnson, a senior law partner and a woman who has fought for the rights and protection of the transgender community more than most anyone I know. Her contact information is MMJohnsonLaw@gmail.com. If you are being harassed, abused, or mistreated at work because you are transgender, tell her about it. Maybe she can help.
Or at worst, if you just want someone to talk to about being bullied at work over being transgender, message me on Facebook or mail me (if you don’t have my personal mail reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll try to give you some advice on what to do. I don’t promise anything, but maybe I’ll come up with something. Or reach out to your friends, your family, and remember that your job is not worth your life. Do NOT sit there and take the bullying and harassment and think that suicide is your only way out!
If you or someone you know are an LGBT young person (ages 24 and younger) struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals needing support can contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – excerpt from The Declaration of Independence
“Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.”
How does one voice an opinion on a subject that causes one’s blood to boil? An issue that causes such anger that it makes a compassionate person double up their hands into fists and say enough is enough? Well if you’re me, you sit down and write about it. Then you do something about it.
I am not alone in my anger. With Governor Mike Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana this past week, we have seen a backlash across our country of biblical proportions. Indiana faces a massive loss in revenue, from such companies as Salesforce and Angie’s List, to Apple & Eli Lilly. Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have restricted official travel to Indiana, and the State of Connecticut has officially joined them. Indiana itself has seen massive protests, and some Hoosiers have even quit their state-sponsored jobs. Even some mainline Christian denominations have become involved in the backlash – both Presbyterians and the Disciples of Christ have said that they will look elsewhere for their convention needs, and both groups have condemned this new law.
I applaud all who have stood up to this form of legal bigotry. Other states and their Governors would do well to pay attention to what is happening in Indiana. So what is this really all about, you ask? Is this a spiteful backlash on Marriage Equality, and about laying the groundwork for the future? In this writer’s opinion, Republicans have a long-term plan to supplant this great nation as a whole and replace it with a Fundamentalist Conservative Theocracy. One in which their version of Christianity is the State religion, comparable in scope to Sharia law in the Muslim world. It is not a popular or widely held opinion, but it is what I perceive as the ultimate goal of such laws. You of course are free to draw your own conclusions.
On Sunday the Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, was asked several straightforward questions. The Governor quibbled, diffused, deflected and obfuscated his way through the interview and would never answer a simple question about the rights of people in his state to discriminate. Even today he is unwilling to speak about it. Watch the interview here.
Today a letter was sent to Governor Pence from the Indiana business community demanding swift action to fix this issue, you can read the letter here. Corporate Business Letter
These laws exist in 19 states, including Kansas and in Missouri a law is being considered and has been written, and there is a federal RFRA law on the books. Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by Bill Clinton. It is important to state that if you are a person like me who opposes such legislation in one of these or another state, then do your duty and call or e-mail your representative and politely voice your displeasure towards any bill that discriminates, or otherwise impedes another’s basic civil and human rights. This is our government and we choose how it works, we elect people to protect our interests and preserve our rights, not remove them and entrench themselves in power at our expense.
Kansas Law: HB 2203 as enrolled (law as of July 1, 2013 RFRA-Kansas
Missouri Law: There is no law currently on the books or in the legislative agenda that i could locate at this time. This is a link to the proposed language of the bill. RFRA-Missouri
In Missouri there are currently two bills on the floor of the House. State Rep. Jeff Pogue (R-Salem) filed the legislation which opponents call “harmful” “demeaning” and an instrument to “create false fear” of the transgender community. One bill (HB 1338) would require all public restrooms, other than single occupancy restrooms, to be gender-divided restrooms. HB-1338 The other (HB 1339) would prohibit the appropriation or expenditure of state revenues for the purpose of creating a gender-neutral environment, unless required by a federal or state court order. HB-1339
In Kansas there is currently one such bill on the House floor. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth), (SB 175) prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against student religious groups that require members to adhere to the group’s religious beliefs. The bill passed 30-8, and it now goes to the House. Read more here: SB-175 Wichita Eagle, and read the bill yourself here. SB-175
Here is a link to a pdf dated June 2013 covering the law in both states, published by the ACLU. This has not been updated as of yet, but makes interesting reading. ACLU PDF
I look forward to reading your comments on this issue. Cassandra Frost
The Transgender Newsbank is a collection of more than 400 newspaper and magazine articles from 1911-1994, organized by year and date. I have spent 3 months finding and formatting these articles for easy viewing, in addition to typing write-ups about them and linking to other topical pages. The Transgender Newsbank is the largest effort of its kind on the Internet that I can find which is freely available, and like all Transas City features is uncluttered by advertisements.
While a Transgender Newsbank may be unexciting to some, it will form the basis of an online historical library to help researchers, scholars, and anyone who is simply interested in the history of our people.
Saks, which holds a score of 90 in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI), is accused of firing a transgender woman for being transgender. Not only has Saks claimed in defiance of all precedence and government directives that transgender discrimination is not covered by Title VII, but they have also claimed that violating their own employee handbooks – which prevent transgender discrimination – is not a big deal because they are not “contracts as a matter of law.”
HRC has of course suspended Saks’ CEI rating as a result of this action, but it really seems to be apparent that more than just that would be called for, in terms of boycotts.
I love this article in the Village Voice about Brooke Guinan! Not only is she making it in one of the toughest and butchest professions there is, but she’s textbook “out and proud” as a transsexual woman!
But some of her fellow New Yorkers, the ones she’s saving the lives of, don’t exactly seem to give her 100 percent support.
“Every day is a process of getting on a subway and wondering how many people look at you, wondering if they know that you’re trans or not. Every day is a learning experience in gender roles, how you fit in your society, what gender roles you accept and what ones you see for the fabrications that they are.”
What is worse is seeing the comments some trolls leave behind on her poster, or the FDNY Facebook page and other articles. People saying things like “I’m a man wearing makeup” or “it’s gross.”
“You have people who not only want to take away your gender identity but there are people who want to take away my humanity and turn me into an it,” Guinan says. “It took a really long time for me to get to the point of [saying], This is me. This is my truth. This is my identity.”
Her Department does give her support, although increasing gender diversity in the Fire Department of New York will be an uphill battle at best, especially since a mere 41 of its 10,200 firefighters are women. Wow.
I must say, dear readers, I’m glad to see some news about Lea T, as she had dropped off the proverbial radar somewhat. While supermodels are normally reserved a special place of jealous head-tossing in my mind, I have to give a lot of love for a trans sister who’s made it in an industry where every millimeter of her appearance and every step of her poise is under the most intense scrutiny.
I hope that Lea T’s rising tide helps lift all of our boats just a little, in terms of awareness and acceptance if nothing else.
Transgender professionals who are out and proud are uncommon. The higher demands of the corporate environment are bad enough, but when you are someone who directly sinks or swims based upon the reaction of your clients, the situation becomes even more dicey. And for the case of attorneys who have their own practice, sinking is more common than swimming.
My best friend in the world, Madeline Johnson, is an attorney who is an out and proud transgender woman, and she has had to fight years to build a successful practice. This article tells of another transgender attorney, Katie Sprinkle of Dallas County, Texas, and how she fought to make her way in the business world. And how she, like my friend Madeline, continues to fight on behalf of her clients every day.
For 58 years, author Faith Eileen Bryan lived what any reasonable person would call a “normal” life – married, with a family and a career. Faith also was not Faith; she was “John,” the name given to her at birth by parents who never knew their son was really their daughter.
“For me, “normal” was defined in the standard gender binary terms,” says Bryan, author of an upcoming new book, TRANSforming Normal: Ten Stories That Will Change How You See Transgender People. “You were either a boy or a girl.”
Bryan, 61, who came out as transgender in 2012, says society is redefining what is considered normal and acceptable in terms of the growing LGBT presence, and part of that transformation must include how society perceives transgender people.
“I believe there is a general perception that transgender individuals are somehow flawed, not ‘normal’ or in some other way do not make a positive contribution to the social construct,” Bryan says. “This work hopes to portray our community in its most human terms.
“We have careers and families, dreams and hopes like anyone, yet we do this in the face of extraordinary amounts of misinformation, blind hate and ignorance. This is what TRANSforming Normal is about … showing that transgender people are just like anyone.”
The book, projected for Summer 2015 publication, tells the stories of 10 remarkable people who work in a variety of careers: an air traffic controller, a baggage handler, an advertising sales person, a movie director/HIV counselor, a writer, an attorney, a chemical engineer, a beauty pageant director/politician, and a performance artist.
Oh, and they all just happen to be transgender, and all are actively working to advance equal rights for their LGBT sisters and brothers.
“These are vibrant and passionate people who care about others,” says the author. “People need to know that we’re not all drag performers or sex workers. Most of us have jobs, families, mortgages or rent payments, and dreams of something better. In other words, we’re normal human beings.”
Bryan, a former newspaper journalist and editor with 30 years’ experience who now teaches business and management for an online university, says this topic is not widely covered in previous works.
“A substantial body of scholarship exists on this topic that is based in scientific and medical research, and political discourse,” she says, noting there is a growing discussion of the increasing social impact of the transgender community.
“This book seeks to shine a positive light on that aspect of the transgender reality and to help fill the gap in understanding that exists between the societal mainstream and our community,” says the author. “My hope is that my book with help foster understanding where little exists.”
To donate to this project, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/790423631/transforming-normal or http://www.gofundme.com/es9mgs
To learn more about the author and to read her blog, go to http://www.faitheileenbryan.com
It may seem very ironic that San Francisco, one of the cradles of transgender rights, and one of the very first places where the police actively sought to work with the transgender population (via officer Elliot Blackstone) for social justice, has taken this long to see its first transgender police officer sworn in.
Officer Mikayla Connell is featured in a video at the link below, where she says that being the first means:
“It means you can’t screw up, because you can’t ruin it for everyone coming behind you.”
“I know people, especially in the trans community, are going to be watching me,” she adds. “I can’t let them down.”
Connell first applied to be a police officer 23 years ago, notes KTVU. “But I was a little immature back then,” she explains. She chose to leave the academy and enter the military, then study law.
Good luck, officer Connell!