Category Archives: Legal

Legal issues of transgender and transsexual persons.

January 2017 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI


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.

October 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

transgender_prisoner
Hello everyone! We are devoting the entire show this month to a special guest and those who are supporting her. JoAnna Ramsey is a transgender woman who experienced a harrowing time incarcerated in Kansas within the male prison population, and she will be speaking with us about herself, what she went through in prison, and her transgender activism behind the wall. Also with us will be Caroline Gibbs, founder of the Transgender Institute of Kansas City, who will discuss how the Institute worked to help JoAnna, as well as plans for a future outreach project for transgender prisoners. JoAnna is also joined by her friend Tyga McHenry, who will talk with us about JoAnna’s experience.

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, October 22 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

June 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

KKFI

Hello everyone! We have two great topics this month on Trans Talk. First, we will be talking with attorney Larry Altman about the current status of North Carolina’s anti-transgender legislation, and how the upcoming election could impact transgender rights. Next, we will have a discussion with Nyla, Kelly, and Freddie, three transgender persons of color who are joining us to explain the specific challenges faced by their community, and to educate us on how we can be better allies to this community which is at such high risk.

Fiona Nowling will be co-hosting today’s program, and she will give us the community calendar update, while I will provide my view of some of the LGBT news this week. I do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, June 25 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

Georgia Governor Vetoes Anti-LGBT Bill, and a North Carolina Update

Georgia_Governor_Nathan_Deal
In news today, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has vetoed the anti-LGBT rights bill passed by the Georgia legislature. The bill, known as House Bill 757, would have exempted anyone claiming to be a “faith-based organization” from complying with any hiring, state labor practice, public service, or other laws which cover those who serve the public. In other words, it would allow groups to discriminate against an LGBT person based upon any allegation that it violates their organized “religious belief.”

The reason for the veto was money, pure and simple – an unprecedented number of companies, sports teams, and professional organizations came out against this bill, threatening to take their business elsewhere, or even move their entire company out of state. Sources close to the Governor are alleging (with no confirmation, mind you), that the most worrisome threat was that from the National Football League, which threatened to disallow Atlanta from hosting a future Super Bowl should the law be passed (one wishes that they had said the same about North Carolina’s bill, but then that bill was ram-rodded through their legislature in an unprecedented 3 hours from start to finish).

Republicans have threatened a special session to over-ride the Governor’s veto, and there is no information at this time as to how serious or possible such an attempt may be.

In related news, two transgender men, a lesbian woman, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, and Equality North Carolina have filed a lawsuit in Federal Court, seeking to overturn the state’s disastrous anti-transgender legislation which was passed last Thursday. In response to the lawsuit, North Carolina Republicans are doubling down, releasing a “frequently asked questions” about the new law which has been proven to be deceptive and misleading – a scary thing, coming from the Governor’s office – claiming that the entire purpose of the law was to prevent men from using women’s facilities.

This lawsuit has significant potential to impact the transgender community nationwide. It is very likely that unless one side relents, the case will reach the United States Supreme Court, where at this time it is uncertain whether it would be upheld or thrown out – and on what possible grounds. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the subject matter of whether transgender discrimination is sex discrimination, and transgender-rights observers are nervous about what sort of precedent could be set should a “conservative flu” be contracted by the Court on this issue.

There are some nail-biting times ahead, folks.

March 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

KKFI

Hello everyone! On Trans Talk this month the topic is legislative assaults upon the transgender community, and we’re going to focusing on two subjects in particular. First we will talk with someone fighting back against transgender discrimination – Stephanie Mott, who is the Executive Director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, or KSTEP. She is courageously suing the state of Kansas for the right to change the gender marker on her birth certificate, and will be discussing her effort and how Kansas put itself in the position of denying valid records changes to transgender persons.

Next we will discuss the recent legislative efforts in Kansas to pass additional anti-transgender legislation, and we will compare these efforts with activities in other states as well. Sandra Meade will be our guest for that segment, and frequent listeners of this program will remember that not only is Sandra the former chair of Equality Kansas, she was the former hostess of this very show.

I will also give a breakdown of some of the LGBT news this week, and we will finish up the show with the community calendar update. I do hope you will be able to join me this Saturday, March 26 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

North Carolina Enshrines Transgender Toilet Terror Bill Into Law

Torched_Rainbow_Flag
Well, they’ve done it.

In response to the city of Charlotte passing an ordinance protecting LGBT rights, Republicans in the North Carolina legislature have ram-rodded a comprehensive anti-LGBT rights bill through to the governor’s office, where it was signed with incredible speed not shown towards any other legislative measure in that state in recent history. A mere three hours of debate and 20 minutes of public comment were allowed before the bill was passed, and Governor Pat McCrory – who I’ve reported on before due to his many anti-transgender statements regarding children – signed it without any hesitation. Claiming it was to “keep our children safe.”

Why did this happen? One primary, driving issue: Republican lawmakers were horrified that transgender women might be using the same toilet as cisgender women.

That’s it. The economy, crime, jobs, civil rights, the environment – all of these issues paled to the Republicans, compared to the thought that a transgender person might need to pee in a place where they can do so without fear of harassment or assault. While widely advertised as a ban to protect kids in schools, the hateful piece of legislation actually extends to “all public facilities” as defined in the state, with no age range mentioned. Furthermore, the hateful piece of legislation also mandates that your sex is defined solely by what is listed on your birth certificate.

Mercifully, North Carolina is one of few states which will allow transgender persons to change their birth certificates – provided you have surgery. At least until Republicans figure out that we “decepticons,” as one North Carolina Republican lawmaker referred to us, can change our birth certificates. Most likely, they’ll use the same excuse used by New Jersey Republican governor Christie, who claimed he rejected a bill allowing transgender persons to change their gender marker on their birth certificate due to “security concerns.”

You can read the full text of the bill at this link, and information for this article came from this source as well: North Carolina Governor To Sign Anti-LGBT Law Into Effect

The Subtle Threat of “Religious Exemptions” – Barber Refuses to Cut Transgender Army Veteran’s Hair

Kendall Oliver identifies as mostly male and wears masculine clothing. But the barber declined to serve Oliver, saying he doesn’t do women’s haircuts.

Source: Barber refuses to cut transgender Army veteran’s hair, citing religious views – The Washington Post

Across this nation, many conservatives pushing for laws to discriminate against LGBT persons are mostly focused on events and products related to weddings. Such as the notorious “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” case, where not only did the owners refuse to cater for a lesbian couple, but they were fined $135,000 for repeatedly deriding the couple in the media. But few people truly understand just how many nutty prohibitions exist in religious books (such as the Bible chapter Deuteronomy) – and moreover, how a person who hates LGBT people can simply point to one of many explicit or implied prohibitions in virtually any religious text to justify their discrimination.

What’s more, there is literally no legal standard preventing someone from simply inventing a belief or entire belief system of their own, provided they claim to honestly hold it. This weekend, for example, I became an ordained Minister in the Universal Life Church – something which takes no more than answering a couple of questions and clicking “Get Ordained Now.” And yet, I now can legally perform weddings and officiate at funerals in Kansas and Missouri. Given that sort of legal backing, it’s a small stretch for me to say “I refuse to serve (someone) because it offends my religious beliefs.” It really is just that easy, folks.

As a result, these so-called “religious freedom protections” are no less than ways in which to roll back civil rights for virtually anyone who is hated by anyone else. What if the barber in this case which is highlighted refused to serve African-American customers? Or Jewish ones? Or Armenians? Every single time a person backs or supports the “right” of a public business to discriminate against someone for being transgender, they also are supporting the “right” of segregation, injustice, and ghettoization. And they are supporting the right to perpetuate and spread ignorance, fear, and hate.

Discriminating against a transgender person at a place of business is fundamentally no different than discriminating against them for being black – people do not choose their gender, nor do they choose their race. And before there is a rebuttal that the Bible does not preach discrimination against other races, one has to look no further than the works of pro-slavery supporters in the 1800’s. Josiah Priest, for example, published a work in 1852 wherein African Americans were equated with “the race of Ham,” and the numerous instances of slavery and human bondage employed by the Israelites was called out as an example to follow.

And here’s something that those backing the “religious rights” of business owners are not getting. When a person operates a business in the public eye, they are utilizing shared services, incentives, and protections granted to the community as a whole in order to foster business. Deductions for business expenses, property tax incentives, tax-increment financing, special business development loans and grants, zoning protections, enhanced police and fire protection, assignment of inspectors for health and safety – businesses enjoy a wealth of considerations, incentives, or protections to help them thrive. And as a result of these considerations, businesses have a duty to serve and provide for the public in general.

If a business does not want to serve the public in general, then they need to remove themselves from the public arena, and work out of their home, place of worship, or somewhere else – and not take money and protections intended for the public as a whole.

In this case which was highlighted in the linked article, a transgender man couldn’t get a haircut at one shop. Some may argue “big deal, it’s not the end of the world. Go down the street to another barber.”

Sure. And I suppose it’s better at the back of the bus too, isn’t it?

Three Republican Fails of the Week (2016-02-08)

EpicRepublicansFail
Hatred of transgender persons is not an explicit plank in the Republican Party platform (I checked), but it seems to be as implicit as the fact that these people live and breathe. Very recently there have been three major political fails by Republicans, unfortunately with transgender persons being the ones who bear the brunt of the failures.

indiana-senate-president-david-long
Let’s begin with the classic Legislative Fail, from the state of Indiana, where an LGBT civil rights bill has died in the Indiana senate. This death has had Democrats crying foul, as the bill was a compromise bill which threw transgender people under the bus like so much political road salt with the promise that then and only then, would it be acceptable to Republicans. The bill also contained sweeping exemptions for any situation or location even remotely considered to be religious, although mercifully the words “all of creation (praise be to God!)” were omitted from the bill.

(Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long)…told reporters the bill as written could not pass because it did not have enough support from Republican lawmakers, who hold the majority in both houses of the legislature, so there was no point in debating it. He promised that lawmakers would take another pass at civil rights legislation for LGBT citizens next year.

While groups like the Human Rights Campaign condemned the bill as “dangerous” and “shameful” because of its limited scope and religious exemptions, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Gov. Mike Pence, both Republicans, reportedly said it went too far in granting LGBT protections. Long said that also factored into his decision to kill the bill. He blamed both supporters and opponents equally for their unwillingness to compromise.

It also has led to rumors that the Human Rights Campaign initially gave backing to the compromise legislation which omitted transgender rights, although I cannot find hard evidence of that.

MaineLePage

Next we have the Failure of Morality and Ethics, for which we can turn to known anti-transgender hobgoblin Paul LePage. LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, is someone we’ve highlighted before when he tried to weigh in legally on where a Virginia transgender boy peed (the esteemed gentleman being somehow unaware of the fact that he does not hold a legal position in that other state, nor any actual compelling interest in where any boy pees anywhere, unless it’s on his prized deadly nightshade garden at his estate…) LePage, possibly inspired by the vision of Pat Buchanan in a slice of Wonder Bread, has stopped the Maine Department of Education and Human Rights Commission from issuing legally binding rules that would guarantee transgender students equal access. Rather, schools statewide will be encouraged to abide by “guidelines” about how to treat transgender students, issued by the Human Rights Commission last month, but will not face penalties for failing to comply with these suggestions.

This flies in the face of a ruling by the Maine Supreme Court in the case of Nicole Maines, a transgender student who was denied access to the girls’ bathroom (after years of using that facility without incident) at her elementary school. Students of course can pursue a Title IX Federal claim…unless of course a Republican is elected President just 9 short months from now. Unfortunately, the response by Democrats has been limited greatly, due to their minority position in the seats of power of that state.

“The governor is violating the law by refusing to let the rule-making go forward,” Rep. Matthea Daughtry, a Democrat representing Brunswick, told the AP. “He’s putting our students at risk.”

SouthDakotaSenatorDavidOmdahl
Finally, we come to a Failure by Simply Being Stupid or Evil. The best example of this in action is
South Dakota state senator David Omdahl of Sioux Falls. At a hearing over pending legislation to ban transgender persons from using bathrooms which correspond to their gender identity, the Republican senator made the audience audibly gasp, when he said:

“This is definitely a good bill. What’s this about?” he asked rhetorically. “This is about protecting our children. I’m sorry if you’re so twisted you don’t know who you are.”

That’s when the audience gasped and was told to quiet down.

“I’m telling you right now it’s about protecting the kids,” Omdahl went on. “I don’t even understand where our society is these days. You know, I look at what’s going on in the military, etcetera. They’re treating the wrong part of the anatomy. They ought to be treating it up here.” Then he gestured to his head. “So yeah, my feeling is let’s protect the children, let’s get this bill passed to save our kids.”

Despite the horror evinced by those attending the meeting, the bill is likely to move forward in the South Dakota legislature.

Australian Transgender Assault Victim Stunned by Assailant’s Sentencing


Elizabeth Andersen (a fellow hostess of “The Tenth Voice” on 90.1 KKFI) passed this news on to me: when transgender woman Stephanie McCarthy was beaten by two men in a case of anti-transgender violence, she lost the hearing in her left ear, has damaged eye sight in one eye, and has lost feeling in the top part of her face – in addition to suffering an untold emotional toll. Nonetheless, she stood brave and proud, and faced her assailants in court, where they were found guilty.

What she didn’t expect was to be victimized by the court system in Sydney, Australia, as the primary assailant was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and an 18-month good behavior bond. In short, pretty much no punishment. The other assailant remains to be sentenced, but will likely receive a lesser sentence. Even worse, McCarthy was not told of the sentencing date by the prosecutor or the court, and thus was denied her right to make a Victim Impact Statement.

From the article:

“I asked the leading investigator (Detective Nick Kenny) when the sentencing date would be and he told me sometime early next year,” she said.

“I waited five months for that day in court and giving the Victim Impact Statement would’ve been important for me.

“And I think it would’ve made a difference in the sentence.”

The emotional toll of the assault has also been significant as the once outgoing punk rocker and trans woman feels her life will never be the same again.

“I’m well known in [Sydney’s] inner-west and most people are very nice,” she said.

“But I’ve been spat on, bottles thrown at me and had bottles thrown at me from passing cars.

“My life will never be the same.”

Source: Assault victim Stephanie McCarthy devastated at assailant’s sentencing | Star Observer

VERDICT: Marine Guilty in Brutal Murder of Filipino Transwoman

Jennifer_LaudeThe story plays out like a bad movie script, because we’ve unfortunately all heard it before:

  • Man meets woman and wants romantic and/or sexual relations with her.
  • Man discovers that woman is transgender.
  • Man decides to prove he’s a big, manly man and murders her in cold blood.
  • Man tries to escape justice by claiming “trans panic.”

It didn’t quite work for the “Man” in this case, as Marine Pfc. Joseph Pemberton was found guilty of homicide for strangling and drowning (in a toilet) transgender woman Jennifer Laude after they met in a hotel room for a presumed romantic encounter. While Laude’s family, loved ones, and friends did not receive the verdict they were hoping for (murder), nonetheless Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison, and a fine of more than $130,000.

The case has also created a minor international incident, with the United States and the Philippines arguing over where Pemberton should serve his time, but really, that tempest in a teapot is hardly going to do anything to help the family of the murdered woman.

Source: USA Today

32 House Democrats Advise TSA to Better Transgender Treatment

A group of 32 House Democrats have penned a letter to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) expressing their concern over the treatment of transgender air travelers. Prompted by the recent mistreatment of pre-op transgender woman Shadi Petosky, who was held at a checkpoint for 40 minutes because of a body scanning “anomaly,” the letter is unlikely to lead to any change in TSA policy nor action.

The TSA, long having shown itself immune to the complaints of travelers and of government officials on their behalf, alleges that it reviewed the video of Ms. Petosky’s detainment and found “our officers followed TSA’s strict guidelines.” That video has not been released even to Ms. Petosky, however, so it’s possible that instead of seeing what really happened, TSA officials were instead viewing the latest Transparent episode on Amazon.

It’s notable that not a single Republican felt the need to sign onto a complaint regarding the treatment of transgender passengers. Notable, but unsurprising. However, it’s also notable that of 188 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, barely 1 in 6 felt like they should sign this letter.

The core of the issue here with the body scanners is that for each person who enters the scanner, a TSA agent must push a “male” or “female” selection such that the scanner doesn’t register “crotch anomalies.” If you are a pre-op transgender woman and do not “tuck,” then you are at risk of being flagged as an “anomaly.” Likewise, if you are a pre-op transgender man, you may be flagged for lack of equipment. I’m unaware of any news reports at this time of the TSA harassing transgender men in this way, save for a couple of cases where a strap-on or prosthetic which was worn through security triggered an alert.

Being a very frequent traveler, there are a couple of things which I can advise to assist with this problem:

  1. Go for the TSA Pre-Check program. With this program you will often be sent through a simple metal detector, rather than a body scanner, thus working around the problem. The downside is there is a cost involved, a bit of paperwork, and you must turn over a large amount of personal and bio-metric information. What’s more, if you have not yet made a name or gender marker change, as soon as you do you may need to go through the process again.
  2. We don’t know exactly what happened to Shadi Petosky from an unbiased source. From her own tweets, we see that she was being harassed and threatened, and we see that she did push back – the only thing she seems to have done wrong, and something guaranteed to cause a problem with the TSA. From her 3:35PM tweet:

    Cop asked me what sex I was. I told him I wasn’t going to answer that question. I am complying but come on.

    OK, refusing to answer a question from the police is not complying, but seriously? There was no justification whatsoever for her abuse!

    The critical thing which I advise in ALL dealings with the TSA is this: comply. When they ask you a question, answer as factually as possible. When they tell you to do something, do it if it is legally and ethically possible. You cannot argue your way out of a screening, you cannot beg, you cannot appeal. You need to put on your biggest smile and say “sure! What do you need me to do?” Otherwise, you’ll end up confined in a small room with the police outside, hands on their guns, while your flight takes off without you and the airline rubs its hands with glee over the change fee they’ll charge you.

    When they ask your gender be brutally honest and open. Forget embarrassment, forget your fellow passengers gawking at you. They have their own problems and are so self-absorbed they won’t care. And in most cases you have no chance of ever seeing any of these people again. Smile, do what they say, and just walk on through, and do everything possible to avoid a conflict with government workers who are underpaid, overworked, under-trained, and over-hyped-up.

I had a “TSA experience” last month on my return from India, as my Pre-Check didn’t print for my U.S. boarding pass legs. After I arrived at Newark I was sent through the normal body scanner, and there was an anomaly detected – not from my genitals, but from my Dexcom blood glucose sensor. I was taken to a private screening area, where a female agent started to frisk me in great detail near my waist, and needed me to open my skirt to show my panties. I said “sure thing! One thing you should know, I’m a transsexual woman, just in case that matters.” The agent looked at me, looked down, and said “thank you for the courtesy, ma’am.” That was it – the search was over in 15 seconds.

I cannot guarantee that it will be that way for everyone, but I also ask of you – look in detail at the numerous YouTube videos of “TSA Agents Gone Bad.” In each video you’ll see that the entire situation gets out of control very quickly when the passenger starts butting heads and insisting upon their rights. If you want to get on that plane with the least trouble and fuss possible, you need to remember that until the legislation changes, your rights are an illusion when it comes to the TSA. In this screwed-up world of security theatre madness, make your decision – do you want to get to your destination with as little difficulty as possible, or do you want to be tweeting from a holding cell?

Source: Dems push TSA to reform transgender screening procedures

Malaysia: Court Convicts 9 Transgender Women for “Posing as Women”; Plus, a Fantastic Protest Cartoon

Malaysia_Transgender_Woman

On June 17, 2015, A Sharia court in Malaysia sentenced nine transgender women to fines, and two to one-month jail terms under a law prohibiting “a male person posing as a woman.” Religious police arrested the women in a raid on June 16, 2015, and they pled guilty the next day. A lawyer filed an appeal and the two women sentenced to jail were released on bail pending the outcome.

From the original article:

The nine women, known as mak nyah in Malaysia, were attending a private birthday party at a hotel when officials from the Kelantan Islamic Department (JHEAIK) raided the party and arrested them. In each state in Malaysia, religious department officials are responsible for enforcing state Sharia criminal codes. In Kelantan, section 7 of the Syariah (Sharia) Criminal Code of 1985 states that “Any male person who, in any public place, wears woman attire and poses as a woman shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months or to both.”

The situation for Malaysian transgender women has been declining in recent years due to a steady increase in Muslim fundamentalism, especially in rural areas of the country. Human Rights Watch has published a lengthy document on the history and current status of Malaysian transgender people, and you can download it from them for free here.

The reason that this article is being updated is because of some wonderful work done by cartoonist Kazimir Lee Iskander to highlight the plight of Malaysian transgender women. Prompted by the arrest of 17 transgender women in June 2014 for “impersonating women,” he was inspired to draw a political cartoon series to show how transgender people are harassed in Malaysia – and to offer hope. “I didn’t want everyone to hear the story and assume Malaysia’s some fundie hell-hole (even though it can be),” he was quoted as saying. “I also wanted to show a little bit of the activism happening on the ground.”

You can view the complete cartoon on the artist’s site here, but the first four of the 21-part series are included below.

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_01

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_02

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_03

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_04

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Slate.

Transgender Kansas City Woman Killed After Being Run Over Multiple Times

Tamara_Dominguez

A transgender woman is dead tonight after repeatedly being run over behind a Kansas City church parking lot.

This is breaking news, but the basic details are known. Tamara Dominguez, a 36-year-old transgender woman, was killed in a church parking lot at Independence Avenue and Spruce at 3:00am Saturday night. After exiting a black Chevrolet Avalanche, the male driver hit her with his vehicle, then ran over her at least two more times.

Kansas City police say that they do not know if it is a hate crime, but it’s clear that some serious level of hate or rage has to be involved to repeatedly run someone over.

There is a short video at the link below. Her family has set up a GoFundMe site to help pay for her burial expenses.

Source: Transgender woman killed after being run over multiple times

Kansas State Agencies Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages

Source: BREAKING: State Agencies Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages | Equality Kansas

Equality Kansas, which has many fine people working for it (including my good friend and mentor Sandra Meade), is announcing that Kansas State Agencies are throwing in the towel and recognizing same-sex marriages. The reason is not given, but my speculation is that perhaps Governor Brownback or others in the government finally decided that they didn’t want a Constitutional crisis on their legacy. Whatever the reason, we are winning.

I want to note to the readers out there that it may take several days or weeks for all regional county offices to fall into line, especially the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Even well-intentioned bureaucrats can sometimes err on the side of delay out of fear of losing their job. Please observe the following procedures to make life simpler for yourself:

  • If possible, phone the local office of the DMV yourself and ask if they are issuing drivers licenses with name changes for same-sex marriages. Regardless of how they answer, note down the name of the person you speak to, and the time of the call.
  • If they reply that they are, then ask them exactly what information you need to bring with you. Ask them to repeat this if you are at all unsure. You may want to record the information just so you will not forget.
  • If they reply that they are NOT issuing new licenses, don’t get angry with them. The person on the phone is some low-level person who was given the worst possible task – answering inane and insane questions from the general public, many of whom are angry. They will not and have no ability to change the policy suddenly because you yelled at them. Contact Equality Kansas by e-mail, or your personal legal counsel, and describe the situation. Note the time you phoned, the person you spoke to, and exactly what they said.
  • If you are told they will issue you a license, and then they change your mind after you arrive, stay calm. I know you’re unhappy and you’ve taken time out of your day. Ask to speak to the manager, and note their name. Ask them politely the reason why they will not issue. Don’t negotiate with them – you will not win, and it will only make you and them angry. And being arrested for the catch-all of “disturbing the peace” is a crappy way to spend your day. Pretend like you are Mr. Spock on an away mission if you have to. Note the time and place and everyone you spoke to. Then contact Equality Kansas or your personal legal counsel.

Note that this general policy applies to most other Kansas state agencies as well. Good luck!

Trans*forming the Dialogue – Questioning the Transgender Experience

Trans_forming the Dialogue Logo

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.


What on earth did you just ask me?

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.

Hot dogsNo…just, no.

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.

NurseElle Driver from “Kill Bill” would actually have been a better nurse than the one who repeatedly and deliberately misgendered me.

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.

Not quite a positive media portrayal of a transgender person, just in case you were wondering.

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?”

Helping_Hand

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.

References

Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.