Posts Tagged ‘Equal Rights

03
Nov
12

My Mom, Joe Biden and I all agree, Transgender Discrimination is the ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time’

The Vice President of the United States of America giving my Mom a great big bear hug!

So, as many of you might know, my incredibly adorable and emotionally opinionated, old hippie Mom made quite a splash this week.  She had the chance opportunity to meet Vice President Joe Biden, who was coming out of the Democratic Party Headquarters in Sarasota Florida when he spotted my Mom’s big blue eyes and made a bee-line to her to give her a big old bear hug!  It was just serendipity that my Mom was next door at her hairdressers when VP Biden was in town.  She didn’t even know the Dem Headquarters were in that building!

But when my Mom saw the Secret Service guys and found out who they were there to protect, she put on a fresh coat of lipstick and talked her way through the checkpoints.  We’re a lot alike that way.  It’s little coincidence that I became a genuine Pageant Queen (Miss Trans New England 2009), or that I’ve got a lot of opinions myself, that I am never afraid to say and say it LOUD!  It’s just how I was raised.

The further details of this encounter are easy to find.  The last time I googled, “Biden + Transgender” the results were hovering around one and a half million, with over 600 ‘news’ hits.  Suffice it to say though that my Mom, when she had the opportunity to say a few words to the Vice President of The United States of America, spoke of her transgender daughter and the imperative need to help transgender people achieve full civil rights!

My Mom posing proudly with her blonde curly locked transgender daughter.

I know that the resulting statement from Biden that “Transgender Discrimination Is ‘The Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time’” was somewhat surprising for most of the world to hear. In fact he is not far from correct in his statement.  Though even as a trans woman whose main focus is on the struggle for FULL Transgender Equality, I would remind folks that the fight for trans rights is ultimately about a fight for Human Rights for all who are oppressed.  Even so, it was surprising for most of the world to hear the VP make such a strong statement in support of transgender people.

But it wasn’t surprising to me folks!  This is the woman who raised me!  The woman who, when I was a baby and she was asked to be the featured speaker at a Feminist Rally, angrily declined when they expressed discomfort at her male-bodied child being present (In hindsight, seriously ironic…).  This is the woman who built the house I grew up in with her own freaking hands!!  And who convinced our local Rep, Speaker Of The House, “Tip” O’Neill to help her get in the program that allowed her to do so.

My Mom standing excitedly by my side moments after I won the title of Miss Trans New England.

My Mother is a woman who has never been afraid to speak her mind.  Something she also raised me to do.  A woman who, when she has something that she cares passionately about, and there’s nothing she cares more passionately about than her transgender daughter, is very good at getting people to do what she wants.  So no, I was not surprised to hear that Joe Biden, after being drawn in by my Mom’s Irish Eyes a-Smiling, said exactly what she wanted him to say!

I have been very proud of my Mom not only for being so supportive of me and working so very hard to raise me to be the person I am today.  But also for the tireless efforts she puts in to try and be a friend and ally to the whole trans community.  And when she encounters those who are alone and rejected by their own families, she never hesitates to be as much of a surrogate family member to them as health and distance allow her to be.

Though I am an only child myself, through my Mom’s Love I have found a growing network of Brothers and Sisters (and Zisters!).  Her example reminds me constantly that we are not simply a community, we are a Family!

And yes, I’m pretty much bursting with pride that my Mom, Linda Carragher Bourne, changed the world just a little bit this week.  Proud that she made the public discourse over the issue of anti-transgender discrimination just a little bit louder by getting the man who holds the second highest office in the country to amplify the heck out of it!

And with that dear readers, I duly turn my blog over to my Mom.  Who has something she would like to say directly to all of you.  I’d strongly recommend that you listen.  Not that you have any more choice in the matter than even the Vice President of The United States!

Good Evening, Friends! Hope you’re enjoying your Friday “reprieves!”

Now. We have PRECISELY FOUR DAYS until Election Day. That’s not much at ALL.

I shall be putting together a Blog very soon, but, time is of the essence, and I shall not wait one single more minute to say what needs to be said!


Yeah. Luck was with me, this week, at the Democratic Headquarters here in Sarasota. I got to “catch the eye” of Vice President Joe Biden. I got to SAY to him, basically, “Our Transgender Population, which includes SO VERY MANY Loved Ones & Friends, is NOT reaping ANY Benefits of Constitutionally Affirmed Civil Rights, HUMAN RIGHTS!”

Biden, in turn, responded that Transgender Rights is “a (or “the,” depending on which news source you are reading; personally, I can’t exactly recall. Just being honest here, Friends.) ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.” It was a wonderful moment, for me, personally, for my trans daughter, my countless number of Transgender Friends! It was also, let’s be frank, kind of adorable. The Hug. The sweetness of “it all.”

K. That’s DONE now, Friends. That’s YESTERDAY’S NEWS! I cannot stress that point ENOUGH! I was blessed with the HUGE opportunity to Speak OUT for Trans Rights. I was, apparently, “heard,” evidently agreed with.

Now. This Old Granny Rabble Rouser was lucky enough to “light the match.” However, the Community Organizer, from past days, rises up in me and SHOUTS: TIME’S AWASTIN’!!! We need ACTIONS! We need them more than EVER! We need them RIGHT NOW!

I am here PLEADING with each and every one of you to whom ANY Human Rights are held dear, most especially to those who are working day & night to achieve RIGHTS for Our Precious Transgender Population (which is MUCH larger than “folks” want t’ know!), to GET OUT THERE! TO MAKE SOME NOISE! To share YOUR STORIES! Wherever, However, with the Largest “audience” that you can REACH!!! This is CRUCIAL, Peeps!

I want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU (yes YOU!!!) to be at YOUR Local Polling Place on this coming Tuesday, with your voices, with your willingness to share YOUR TRUTHS…and, yes, with your SIGNS! The ones that will inform EVERY SINGLE “about to vote” voter that YOUR LIVES and LIVELIHOODS ARE AT STAKE in this Election.

The SOLE possibility for Transgender Rights being ANYWHERE near supported, endorsed, at the Federal Level, lies with an Obama/Biden “Win.” There is ZERO possibility for anything but fewer rights, more violence, more untethered bullying and Hatred (Hate CRIMES! Loss of LIVES!!!) if their Republican Opponents are inducted into the Office of Presidency/Vice Presidency of OUR United States. ZERO. ZIP. NADA.

So. GET OUT THERE, Lovies! Make a NOISE! Be your SweetSWEET selves, but, BE HEARD!!! It’s, honestly, and quite tragically, Our Only Hope…

Yes. That ‘s precisely what I feel, what I (at 60) KNOW! Pretty eyes be damned. That’s simply an Old Hippie “Theater In The Streets” bit, Friends. Ya use what ya GOT. THEN! YOU ORGANIZE YOUR ASSES OFF!!!

Just. DO IT!!!

Love OUT! Fist Raised HIGH! Your Always Lin
Power To OUR People!!!! That includes ANY disenfranchised “group,” but my Heart is Specific here. I know a zillion of yours are too!!!

-Linda Carragher Bourne

Trans Rights Now!

If you’re looking for more on my Mom meeting the Vice President, check out these links to The Huffington Post, Advocate.com, my own paper, The Rainbow Times and The SF Weekly.

If you find yourself inspired to get involved in the fight for Trans Civil Rights, I strongly recommend checking out and contacting the following organizations to find out how!  The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

For much more in depth information about the discrimination that transgender people face daily, I urge you to read over the results of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey performed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

And of course, don’t forget to get out and vote for Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate for President, Barack Obama next Tuesday!!!

06
Sep
12

Why the Michelle Kosilek ruling is not a terrible, horrible, awful thing (even though she might be).

It’s been quite a week for me.  Without getting into details not relevant to the subject of this post, suffice to say it was one filled with all kinds of trans community related drama.  So when I got home tonight and noticed there was some sort of controversy raging around a transgender inmate here in Massachusetts, I’ll be honest, I did everything I could to ignore it.  I’m just about on trans-issue overload as it is.

I made dinner, chatted with my roommates, watched part of a documentary about Johnny Carson until it stopped working.  Then watched some stuff about the great Improv director and teacher Del Close.

Then I made the mistake of going over to Facebook.

Why, oh why do I do these things?  Of course all the drama was right there, flooding my feed.  There were even a couple of messages from my Mother in my inbox, practically begging for my opinion.  So, finally, mainly for my Mom and because, okay, I’m a transgender advice columnist, so it’s sort of what I do…  I broke down and started surfing stories about Michelle Kosilek a convicted killer incarcerated right here in Massachusetts for the 1990 murder of her wife.

Kosilek, I should note for clarity, is also a transgender woman.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered her story.  Kosilek started her male to female gender transition while in the custody of the State 12 years ago.  She has also mutilated herself genitally and twice attempted suicide.  Without going into too many details, what is important to know is that her Doctor diagnosed SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery) to be a medical necessity in her case.  A Federal Judge agreed with this earlier today and ordered the surgery to be provided by the State.

It will be completely unsurprising to anyone who has ever turned on the TV, Radio or Internet, or spoken to other human beings about anything out of the ordinary, and most especially about issues related to transgender folks, that this decision has caused a storm of controversy.

Those are the facts you need to know up front.  And yes, you can bet I have an opinion all my own.

I will say that the controversy seems to break down along much less partisan lines than I usually see in trans related debates.  I have seen both trans- and cisgender people who are shocked and appalled by this taxpayer funded freeloading surgery.  And I have seen both cis- and transgender folks agreeing that this is a reasonable and progressive decision by the court.

Everybody though seems to agree that it’s a very uncomfortable controversy.  “Wicked” uncomfortable even, this being Massachusetts.  I mean, look, this a person who killed their wife and is serving life in prison for the crime.  Not a nice individual.  A criminal.  A murderer!!  And if I’m going to go ahead and be really bitchy and judgmental about it (hell, I am a Pageant Queen, I’m allowed bitchiness occasionally…), kinda friggin’ creepy looking.  I mean, those eyes….

Anyway.  The one thing that’s for certain is that no one who cares about trans issues wants Michelle Kosilek to be our postergirl.  You can just almost picture the folks who have worked to oppose trans civil rights gleefully cackling like a Bond Villain, steepling their fingers while watching tonight’s news.

For our opponents, Michelle Kosilek must seem like the human embodiment of all the “Bathroom Panic” commercials used to scare people away from thinking critically and positively about Transgender Rights.  Either that or as sure proof of the Immanentizing of the Eschaton (go ahead, look it up, it’s a fun surf).

But what does it all really boil down to?  My dear readers who think so carefully about all things and never jump to hasty conclusions.  I can hear you asking!  What do you think Lorelei?  Is this taxpayer funded freeloading?  Enlightened legal progress?  Guide us!

Ooooooooookay, since you put it that way.

First, let me be clear, like many of you, I’m ragingly jealous!  Why should this murderer have surgery that I’m not sure I’ll EVER be able to afford myself, provided by our tax dollars?!?!?!  Why, when most insurance plans routinely deny this necessary surgery to perfectly law abiding transgender folks, should an incarcerated felon get it for free???

Well, I’ll tell you why.  Did you notice that phrase, “necessary surgery”?

Yeah, that’s really the only important thing here.  Forget the heinous crime.  Forget the super-creepiness of Kosilek herself.  And remember only that a Medical Doctor has given a diagnosis that without this life-saving surgery, an incarcerated human being under the enforced care of the State is at risk.

You see, inmates aren’t allowed to provide for their own medical treatment.  Or much of anything else for that matter.  While they are incarcerated, and Kosilek is for life, we as “The State” are required to take care of their basic needs.  We must feed them, house them, clothe them and if they are sick or broken, we have to try and fix them, make them healthy again.

For all of you who could give a Rat’s Ass about Trans Rights, this is the argument for you.  If we are a just and fair society, we must support the decision of the trained medical personnel who care for our prisoners.  If a Doctor deems a treatment necessary to the health of a person whose freedoms we have forcibly curtailed, we must not oppose that.  For that way lies a slippery slope.

If we, as laypeople, can say our taxes will not save this life.  Then where does it stop?  Wouldn’t it ease the taxpayer burden to allow those awful rapists to be consumed by cancer?  Should we really mend the broken hand of a sticky-fingered thief?  What about the junky drug dealer who contracted Hepatitis from a dirty needle before he was even arrested?  Do we save a few bucks off the ever-increasing deficit and say, “Sorry, no help for your suffering.”

No, I for one do not wish to live in a society that does not care for the least among us.  Though it could be argued that is the case already…

Michelle Kosilek’s prison appointed Doctor has deemed this a necessary procedure.  Therefor the Judge made the only ruling that was just and proper.

Not enough for you?  Okay, this next argument is for my trans-peeps who are upset that a prisoner is getting treatment they themselves have been denied.  Who hate that this heinous murderer is being handed the surgery we want so badly and so often struggle to attain.

I want you to breathe.  Listen to me.  Ready?  Receptive?

Okay.  This is legal precedent.  Which is good.

Very good.

A Federal Judge just said that a transgender/transsexual woman MUST be provided with SRS because it is a Medically Necessary Procedure.  That’s HUGE.  It opens up all kinds of avenues for good lawyers to argue that Insurance companies should cover SRS for all transgender people because a federal court has already ruled it medically necessary.  And if it’s a procedure that’s considered life saving for an inmate, then how can the insurance companies properly justify denying it to regular law-abiding folks like you and me?

And I’m quite sure if I can see this argument, there must be some of our opponents of Transgender Civil Rights out there who see the same thing and are very, very nervous about the outcome of all this.  Who will scream and fuss and cuss and do their damndest to strike this ruling down.

We may not much like our new postergirl.  If you’re like me, she may actively give you the willies!!  But we cannot have it both ways.  If we are trying to tell people that SRS is something we need.  Something we must have to be healthy, happy and whole.  Then we cannot deny the necessity of this procedure for anyone.  Even Michelle Kosilek.

So, I beg you to stop shouting at each other.  It will only make the work of our opponents in the overall struggle that much easier.  If we are already tearing at each other over this decision, they need hardly lift a finger to set us back.

I’m not asking you to like it.  I’m not even asking you to go to work tomorrow and tell all your coworkers how awesome it is that this Convicted Wife Murderer is getting SRS…

I’m just asking you to think about it carefully and rationally.  Think it all through.  And if you agree with me, then at the very least, please don’t throw any more wood on the media fire.

Thank you.

20
May
11

An open response to Gregory Kane of the Washington Examiner

The following blog entry began, as these “Open Letters” often do, as a reaction to a piece of venomous anti-trans bile I stumbled across in the wilds of the internets. I find that I start to write a “comment” and as the word-count climbs I realize I have much more to say than is appropriate for that kind of forum. Thankfully, I have a blog of my own.
I had been intentionally refraining from writing anything about the recent beating in a Baltimore McDonald’s of a woman named Chrissy Lee Polis, who as it happens is also transsexual. The reason for this is that I felt much had been said about the incident already. Her tragedy had been claimed and counter-claimed by various people and groups all purporting to know just what this woman was going through and using the publicity generated by this tragedy as fuel for their own fires.
I don’t judge necessarily, I’m a politician and an activist I know how it works. Some of these have been noble causes. Some not so much. But for myself, I decided to stay mostly silent.
It seemed to me that most everyone was forgetting that there is a woman who has been hurt and scared at the center of all this. A woman who has had all shreds of anonymity ripped away from her by sudden and unasked for internet celebrity. Who can no longer walk around her own neighborhood without being recognized and “outed” as transsexual.
And I suppose by writing this now; I am perhaps no different than anyone who has written about this horrifying incident before me. I offer only the small justification that I do not claim to have any more personal knowledge of Ms. Polis’ personal feelings than anyone else. Only that I recognize her ordeal as one which has sadly been shared by countless other transpeople who have suffered similarly, if less publicly. It is for all those of my sisters and brothers who suffered thus that I speak up now.
Also, as a blogger and a newspaper columnist myself, I felt compelled to respond to the column entitled: “’Hate crime’ justice is no justice at all” by Gregory Kane of the Washington Examiner. Perhaps I have not yet been nominated for a Pulitzer, as Mr. Kane has, but I try to be as well informed and balanced in my opinions and writing as I am able. And I found Mr. Kane’s bigoted and pointedly mean column to be quite lacking in these qualities.
This then is my response to him. I hope that he reads it.

Dear Mr. Kane,

You sir, are an ass.
However you have inadvertently provided an almost pitch perfect example of why hate crime protections for and education about transpeople are absolutely necessary. The sneering manner in which you refer to Chrissy Lee Polis as a “woman” and insist on the fairly pointed usage of male pronouns throughout, indicates to me that you neither know, nor care about the struggles of those who are not so fortunate as yourself. Who have not been lucky enough to be born in a body they were comfortable with. Who were “gendered” in a way they found discordant with their own self-knowledge. Who, in the attempt to align their own public identities with that self-knowledge, often find themselves marginalized, hated and abused with little available recourse.
Ill-informed hatred like that you spew forth from this column is the very engine that drives this abuse. Yours are the words that justify the beatings.
That said, I am going to assume by the fact you have been nominated for a Pulitzer, that you are an intelligent man. And I would like to point out to you, and to those of your readers who might be similarly misinformed, exactly why hate crime protections are called for and indeed vitally needed.
It is not, as you seem to assume, to achieve more excessive criminal punishments than are already called for. In point of fact if most crimes against transpeople were simply punished with the same severity as are similar crimes against most everyone else, it would be a step in the right direction. As it is, even the most heinous crimes, murder for example, when committed against transgender, transsexual and intersex folks, are often punished with little more than a slap on the wrist.
We are not looking for more stringent punishments than those against non-transpeople. We are simply hoping for some degree of equity with anyone else.
A sentiment which was, I believe, shared by the wise Founders of this country. In the interest of brevity I’ll refrain from direct quotes and assume you’re familiar with a rather important document called, “The Declaration of Independence”. At least I hope you are.
The real reason we need Hate Crime protections have little to do with the whinging “political correctness” you accuse us of. It has everything to do with being counted.
This evening I attended a meeting of local activists in which one member was presenting information on the recent beating of the woman you refer to in your column, Chrissy Lee Polis. Who I would like to remind you is more than just fodder for another week’s column, to be sneered at and denigrated. She is a real flesh and blood person. And a citizen of these United States who has been brutalized while others simply stood by and watched. (How Un-American is that!?!?!)
The person giving this presentation admitted that there was precious little in the way of hard information or statistics to be found regarding crime and discrimination against transpeople. Even the F.B.I. came up flat. This is because as a community we are often not counted. Ignored even in the national census. There are few crime statistics because the way the system in this country is set up, the only crimes against minority groups that are counted, tracked and dealt with are those which are registered as Hate Crimes. Everything from funding to prevent such violence to programs to help the victims, are determined by these numbers.
Without Hate Crime protections we may as well not even exist as far as some law enforcement and governmental bodies are concerned. Without Hate Crime protections, as well as other basic Civil Rights which we are also fighting for, we will continue to be beaten, killed, denied basic dignities and generally pushed to the margins of society.
And that sir is why we are standing up in ever increasing numbers to demand that we be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. Why we ask for Hate Crime Preventions and Anti-Discrimination Laws. Why I get so angry when I see men like you, men who have power, privilege and position; belittling and demeaning people like Chrissy Lee Polis and myself who have to watch our backs every minute of the day and fight for every step up we can get.
Think about that the next time you settle into your chair and begin another column with a full stomach and an unharmed body. And thank God for your great good luck.

Slainte!
Lorelei Erisis

03
Mar
11

I Do Care

This is my open response to the entry entitled “I Don’t Care” on the “Enough Non-Sense” blog.

Hmmmm.  Well, I’ve got a lot of disagreement with the things you state here, but clearly I’m reading and so are others.  This tells me there are many out there who feel as you do.  I’d love to respond more personally, but though you seem to do a lot of attacking, you don’t have an “About Me” page.  Too bad.  I’ve got one here, check it out.  I stand behind what I say.  Even when I am proven wrong, I find it important to own my words.  We appear to disagree, so I’ll have to respond more generally to you and your active readership.

I think all this divisiveness is sad really.  As a life-long student of politics, I can tell you it’s the primary tool that those who would oppress us use to keep us under their heel.

Still, anger is just too easy.  I could spend all day responding piece by piece to your statements just in this entry alone.  But your primary thesis is that you “…Don’t Care.”  So detailed refutations would be pointless.

A particular quote that struck me personally however was this one:

“I don’t care…if those who have recently transitioned feel that special legislation will smooth the edges of their life for they don’t realize that any success they may have with it lies in their ability to be perceived as what they think they are; just saying they are doesn’t make them so.”

I recently transitioned myself.  Four/five years on HRT and the effects have been dramatic and wonderful.  I even “pass” sometimes, though it always catches me off-guard when I do.  I try to be the best woman I can be.  The woman I am.  It’s really not difficult to do, I just let myself be myself.

I also have something like 20 years or so of Improv and Theatre training, so I can convincingly portray the Prime Minister of England if I really wanted to.  Just being a socially-acceptable woman is cake.  Again, I’m really just being myself and making minute adjustments.

I even won a friggin’ Pageant!  I’m the very first Miss Trans New England.  Even as an alternative Pageant, it’s pretty much the most mainstream, heteronormative definition of “Beauty” we have in our society.  And to be clear, because I mentioned I’m in theatre, I am not and never have been a “drag queen”.  I do sketch comedy and improv mainly, but have also done Shakespeare and more serious things.  I’m basically a good Yankee New England woman.

But.  I’m also 6’4″.  If you haven’t got that, it’s exactly the same height as Abe Lincoln.  (Who I played in a long running series of shows at Second City LA)  The practical upshot of which is that no matter how well I may “pass”, how “good” a woman I may be, my height will always invite close scrutiny, which is the enemy of complete “passability”.

Also, as an actor/writer/artist I’m not in a traditionally lucrative field.  Surgeries and such will come as I can afford them.  Which very well may be never.  I was not prepared to wait for that, so I started as I could and have never for a second regretted the choice.

I will likely always be read as Trans.  But I still need to pay the rent and maybe scrape together the lucre it takes to get to my next goals.

That requires employment.  Also, protections for basic things such as housing and services would be helpful.  I don’t think asking for the same access as anyone else is extravagant.

For these reasons, I fight for legal protections for all trans people.  Transsexual and Transgender identified alike.

Yes, we have a lot of differences among us.  What large group of people doesn’t?  But we have enough in common to stand together.

I wish you would stand with us instead of tearing us down.  I wish you would stand with me.

Slainte!

Lorelei Erisis

20
Feb
11

Time To Stand Together

I‘m going to say something here that is bound to get me in trouble.  I believe that not only do trans people of all types need to band together in a unified “transgender” movement, despite our individual differences.  I also believe we have an important place in the larger LGBT movement.  Not only that, but I believe we must find ways to support and band with larger movements for social justice and freedom all around the world.

Taking it to the streets

The time is NOW!

If we want trans rights now, we need to speak out with the strikers in Wisconsin.  If we demand our basic freedom, we need to support the free peoples of Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain.  If we want to end oppression of trans people, we must work to end oppression wherever it may be found.  We should concern ourselves with the plight of the poor and the powerless on the streets of New York; in the mountains of Appalachia; and in the fields of Afghanistan.

If you are saying to yourself right now, “But why should I concern myself with all of these other problems?  I have my own problems.”  Then you have answered your own question.  This is the very attitude we, as transpeople are up against.  Most folks don’t hate us, they just don’t see why they should be bothered to help.  They have their own problems.  And everything they hear and read and watch encourages this individual focus.

If we have learned anything from the recent actions in the Middle East and Africa, it is that change will only ever happen when the people band together.  When we set aside individual concerns and turn out in numbers to demand freedom for all our Brothers and Sisters.  We saw it in Egypt when bands of Christians stood and protected their Muslim allies as they prayed.  We are seeing it in Wisconsin in the crowds that flood the Capital to say no to an unjust policy that will do nothing but hurt their neighbors.  We see it anywhere people help each other out, simply because there is need.

We must remember that the fight for trans rights is the fight for human rights.  We can either stand together and march towards victory or stand apart and suffer under the fists of oppression.

The time is now.  Together we may succeed.

11
May
10

Let’s All Pull Together To Pass A Trans-Inclusive ENDA Now!!!!

What do we want?!?

Trans-Inclusive ENDA Now!

Okay folks, I just got off the phone from a nationwide conference call with some of the best minds and hardest workers in the trans community discussing ENDA.  We discussed the realities and the misleading falsehoods, the details and the broad scope.  It was a lot to take in quite frankly and I’m still trying to process a lot of what was discussed.

But since I’m an improviser and I believe in being in the moment and going with your gut to take you where the truth is, I wanted to share with you some of my initial impressions.

A lot of what was discussed were political details.  Hows and whys and the procedures to make this happen.  Good stuff and absolutely fascinating to a political junkie like myself, but not necessarily easy to convey without some additional study.

Basically what I got though was that this version of ENDA stands a very good chance of being passed and being passed as a Trans-Inclusive Bill!  It is not perfect, nor will it be.  There are problems with ENDA.  Not insurmountable problems though.  And certainly nothing as catastrophically bad as the conjectures that have been making the rounds of the interwebs for the past few days would seem to imply.

There will be no “Genital Inspector General” appointed and no spot checks at the restroom.  The provisions in regards to bathrooms don’t make me especially happy, but it’s nothing we can’t work with and it actually is an improvement on the current workplace situation.

Mind that: “Workplace Situation”  ENDA will not affect the restroom transgender people may use when they go out to Mackey D’s or at The Courthouse.  It governs only workplace related issues.  Basically the situation is this.  An employer will not be able to force you to use the “wrong” restroom.  Though they may be able to prevent trans employees from using the “right” restroom IF it is a multi-stall restroom and they have provided an alternate solution.

That’s important.  They must make a reasonable accommodation.

I agree, not ideal and not happy.  It still gives employers the ability to single us out and create a “separate but equal” situation.  It IS better than the current state of affairs though.  Where first of all, we have no actual employment protections anyway.  And second of all, as it stands today, employers in many states MAY actually force transgender people to use the “wrong” restroom

And that brings me to my next point.  ENDA will not be the end all be-all.  It’s not even going to be all that great.  I mean, if you can describe historic friggin’ legislation as “not all that great.”….  But it will be, as Gunner Scott aptly put it, “the floor that we’re starting on.”  It will be a building block on which to base state level protections and education about transgender issues.

And that is good.  That is excellent.

We will still need to pass laws at the state legislative level to provide stronger, better protections for our community.  But these stronger, better laws will have a national precedent to help us springboard them.  And once we can get them passed they will trump the weaker ENDA.  Meanwhile, ENDA will still provide at least some protection for transfolks in places that do not currently have any protections at all!  And some protections are a heck of a lot better than the no protections at all we have right now.

Yes, it’s true, it will be a bit of time and probably several stages before we see any actual language.  There is a lot we do not know about the final form ENDA will take.  But that’s just how it is in politics folks!  That’s how every bill gets passed.  The legislative process requires us to take some risks.  To take chances.

Right now, as a community, we are going to have to take a leap of faith!!!

ENDA needs our support to happen as well as to stay Trans-Inclusive.  It’s time to stop bickering among ourselves and pull together as one, unified and powerful community.  This bill must pass and it must pass this year!!!  We will wait no longer.

So get out there and call your Congress People.  Call your Reps and tell them that you as their constituent, as their VOTING constituent, need them to help pass a Trans-Inclusive ENDA now!  Then call your Senator, so we can get them buttered up and ready to throw on the grill once the Bill comes out of The House.

There’s a tremendous amount of energy out there in the trans community right now.  If we can focus that and join ranks with a single purpose, there is nothing we may not accomplish.

Now Go!!!!  It’s time to get to work and there is not a second to waste!!!

ORIGINAL IMAGE AND CAPTION REMOVED BY REQUEST

ENDA Now!

ENDA Rally at City Hall in Northampton

People Come Together!!!

( To look at the Bill yourself, go here:  The Library Of Congress: Thomas Jefferson Legislative Information Section And search for Bill Number HR3017 )

Northampton Trans-Inclusive ENDA Rally News Segment

Northampton Trans-inclusive ENDA Rally Article in The Socialist Worker

Photos by Madeline Burrows and Elle St. Claire (Amazing Shot, but Sadly Removed -LE)

24
Jan
10

Some Thoughts On The Word “Transgender”

I wrote this as a response to an excellent post in The Bilerico Project discussing the validity of the term “transgender”.  There is quite an interesting discussion developing in the commentary section following the post and I felt compelled to have my say.  I highly recommend checking it out.  Here is the link: “Should We Scrap the Word “Transgender”? By: Dr. Jillian T. Weiss”

It made me think, and of course write, and I wanted to share what I had to say with you my Dear Readers, as I felt it was important.  Please feel free to weigh in and discuss yourselves in the comments.

Here is what I wrote:

First of all, excellent post.  I believe polite dialogue on this issue within the community is always important.  That said, here’s my take.

I myself identify as a transsexual woman.  I have been on HRT for several years and am still pre-operative.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Financial of course.  Also, being careful to take my time and let things progress as naturally as possible.  But lately, my reasons have also been political.  The more concerned individuals, strangers and the general public seems to be with the state of my genitalia, the more inclined I am to leave it as is.  I am a woman.  I live breathe and think as a woman.  Unless we are sharing intimate relations, or I’m naked onstage (which has happened and probably will again…), the state of my genitalia should be of no concern.

I am medically altering my body and mind with the use of hormones so I identify very technically as transsexual.  I also however identify as transgender, again for very political reasons.  We are fighting an uphill battle to win equal rights for our community and I believe we need every body onboard that we can get.  It is only through solidarity within the community that falls under the transgender umbrella and with our allies in the larger GLBT community that we can hope to win these rights.  When we are splintered we are weak.  The only people this benefits are those who would oppress us.

That doesn’t mean we have to agree on every single nuance, but it does mean we MUST stand together and include every single person that faces discrimination based upon their gender identity or presentation.

It is not conformance to outdated ideas of what constitutes a “properly gendered” individual, but education of the general public as to the perception of gender and the evolution of what that represents, that is what we should be doing.  In plain English, we need to make them understand that what truly defines gender in a public setting is not anatomy but presentation and perception.  Okay, so maybe that’s not such plain English either, but it’s a complex idea and by ignoring the complexity of it we do a disservice to the movement.

The label “transgender” indeed represents a great deal of variation on a theme.  The theme of gender variance.  Perhaps it would help to think of it in terms of Jazz music.  The tune, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” can be played in any number of different styles with all kinds of different interpretations and still remain recognizable.  Whether by Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, The Mamas and Papas, Ella Fitzgerald or Erasure, it is still the same song although with widely varying musical and perceptual impact.

While “transgender” may include some folks with whom we may be personally uncomfortable, if we can’t find a way to accept them, how can we ask others to accept us?

I have faith also in the general public.  On a non-political, everyday interaction level, I have found most people, if you give them the chance, are quite capable of open-mindedness and acceptance of transgender people on an individual level.  And they are certainly capable of also sorting out on a practical level when someone is, for instance, entering a restroom to use it in the manner it is meant for and when there is a person whose intent and actions in entering a restroom are socially and legally inappropriate.

Of course there are those who will panic and judge all of us without thinking, but that is why we need legally protected rights and general education.

Finally, as performer who works in a popular medium, sketch comedy and improv, it is my experience that people often need a certain generality or shorthand in order to easily and quickly grasp larger concepts.  I can refer to someone who is “African-American” in a scene and give an audience a general enough idea of what I’m talking about.  But if I say, “You know Joe in the office, the medium-dark-skinned, Indiana born and raised, Hravard Educated, Gay Man of Haitian and American slave descended, African origin ethnicity, guy in accounting?” instead of, “You know Joe in the office, the African-American guy in accounting?”  The whole thing will come to a crashing halt.  Too much information.

We need generalities to understand the world.  And if you want to know how an individual SELF-Defines, well then, just ask.

Lorelei Erisis at Noho Trans Pride 2009




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