Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts

27
Nov
12

Killer Kosilek, Part Deux!

Well hello dear internetizens!  As many of you will have noted, a few weeks back I wrote a blog about Michelle Kosilek, the transsexual woman and murederer who won her case to have her GRS provided for her while incarcerated for life, which I concluded with a plea for folks not to add fuel to the media fire.  And although the story has died down just a bit, it seems that the embers keep bursting back into full flame.  With the ensuing roaring pyres of comment threads that you might expect.

Well, at least I know I’ll never be a transgender issues writer who finds herself lacking for material…  Just today I ran a across a fresh thread of vitriol spewing off the posting of a spanking new opinion piece about the case from the blog of a Boston area radio station.

And either because I’m apparently a masochist or I’m just an idiot who likes to stress myself out unnecessarily, I read through the comment thread and the piece it sprang from.

Basically, I saw nothing new.  But since it seems the flames from this unpleasantly ongoing case will not die down, I was inspired to sit down and write out a couple of things worth considering, in addition to what I have written previously.

To begin with, do any of you realize how much the state is paying to fight this?  I’ll give you a hint.  The surgery costs in most ranges I’ve seen reported go from a low-end of $7,000 (the most likely, bare-minimum cost that the prison system would provide) to a high-end of $20,000 (unlikely that an inmate will get the ‘premium’ surgery).

Also, Kosileks lawyers had offered to waive their fees, which are substantial, if the state did not appeal. Since an appeal was called for by some important folks in high positions, it proceeded before the lawyers could even meet. Therefor negating the fee waiver.

How much are those fees? Right now, including out of pocket costs for Kosileks legal team (paying experts, etc.), they stand at around $800,000 altogether, of which $644,573 would have been waived.

But that’s not all!!  Since this appeal is apparently going through, that means we, as taxpayers are not only on the hook for previous costs, we’re going to have to foot the bill for even more!  I believe the proper internet lolspeak expression to insert here would be: FACEPALM.

So, who does this benefit?  Well, Scott Brown for one.  Soon to be former Senator Brown was one of the loudest voices calling for the condemnation of this decision and for the State to begin appeals.  Brown, it might be noted, was in the middle of very tough fight (that we now know he lost) to hold on to his Senate seat.  And this sort of issue was just the perfect thing to fire up his base of support.  If you doubt me, go check the comment threads about how this is, “… an example of why the right hate liberals.”  Also, see all the comments from folks saying they are liberal but don’t support this.  Nothing like firing up that swing vote.  In fact Brown desperately needed it.  Interestingly, it should be noted (again) that the judge who made this decision is himself quite conservative and a Reagan appointee!

But, you say, what about Governor Patrick?  He backed the decision to appeal.  And he’s even been a vocal supporter of trans rights!  Good point.  Same idea though.  As the defacto top Dem in Massachusetts, Patrick needed to look tough and appeal to those same, “I’m a liberal, but don’t support this” swing voters for the party to come out on top in this very important election year.

Want more?  Okay.  Remember the Drug Lab Scandal?  You know, the one that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in overturned convictions and force the state to retry all those cases?  Yeah, that one.  How long has it been since you heard about that?  Want to take a wild guess about which juicy, issue and opinion-triggering story kicked it out of the headlines?

Given the topic of this blog, you can probably guess.

I could go on about ratings and page-views and other behind the dirty scenes media tricks and tropes, but you seem like intelligent folks, I’ll let you make that leap yourself.  I could also mention how there are a lot of people who are very upset about the passage of the recent Trans Civil Rights Law in Massachusetts, who are gearing up to fight us on the remaining issue of Public Accommodations.  And how stirring up all of this incidental anti-trans sentiment is very useful to them.  How this issue lets them get under the skin of otherwise very well-meaning folks.

If you doubt this, look at any of the threads on this topic and read the comments from people who say they have no problem with transgender people, but then go on to throw around ugly slurs and misconceptions, deliberately use the wrong pronouns and generally question the whole validity of transsexualism, transgender people and the medical need for Gender Reassignment Surgery.  Oh, and that’s not even getting into the folks who go on to compare transgender folks to pedophiles.

It’s all given a very thin veneer of, “This is not about transgender people, it’s about a killer.”  But as a writer, media analyst and member of the media myself, I can tell you pretty comfortably that the broad generalizations that follow easily give the lie to this excuse.

And yes, trust me, the headline on the piece that inspired this blog is pretty leading.  I write headlines, I know.  The author is deliberately putting you in a mind to question the validity of gender reassignment surgery.  As someone who writes a regular opinion column myself, I stand her no judgment for that.  But readers need to be aware, it’s not a journalism piece, it’s an opinion piece.  Frankly that’s what the headline is supposed to do.

So, what am I saying?  I’m saying, come to your own conclusions.  Read my previous piece about the case itself if you want to hear a reasonable argument from a bona-fide transgender person.  But please think, ask questions.  Ask yourself, who stands to benefit and what are they trying to get you to think?  And most importantly, what are they trying to get you NOT to think about?

Slainte!

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.

10
Aug
11

Why Vote?

I’ve been thinking about the Democratic Process this morning as I often do.  (Yeah, I know, I lead such an exciting life….)  It was spurred by a question my Mom posted to her Facebook page expressing frustration with the current political situation and asking in all earnestness if anyone could convince her of any good reason why she should continue to vote.

It should be no surprise that a lengthy debate ensued with many opinions and tangents expressed.  But it really got me to thinking and I thought I’d share my response with you here.

The basic question under discussion essentially boiled down to this:  Should you (or any of us) continue to vote?

The short answer is yes.  But that certainly bears some lengthier explanation.

I am not sure really how much individual votes actually count anymore it’s true.  I really believe that our original Electoral College system is far too easily gamed.  Individual votes can easily get lost, discounted or simply disregarded.

However, I would still urge you all to continue to vote.  As my old friend Ben Gulacsi put it, “if ya don’t vote, ya shouldn’t complain”.  That sounds harsh, I know, especially in light of the argument that individual votes don’t necessarily count.

The problem ultimately, with not voting, is that it encourages a form of political apathy.  It represents a refusal to participate at the most basic level of our “Democracy”.

Right now, many of us are pretty pissed off at our leaders, even the ones who are supposed to be “on our side”.  Frankly I think both parties are to blame for the current crisis.  The Republicans for being willing to play chicken with our national economy and ultimately putting average Americans into a situation where we are likely to face an even greater downturn in the current recession.  Democrats for being too cowardly to make a stand, too willing to just give in and give up on their principles.

And how have we gotten here?  How have we gotten to a point where the Super Rich are able to essentially purchase “Democracy”?  Apathy.  People who are willing to let their elected representatives do their jobs behind closed doors with little to no real constituent accountability.  An electorate who are more than willing to look no further for their news than what they get from the corporate mouthpieces of the big media outlets.

I’m not talking about merely Fox News and the Murdock Media Empire here either.  I’m talking about CNN, The New York Times, AOL, Yahoo, Time Magazine, etc..  There is real information out there, but in this internet age, you have to not only dig for it, you have to be able to think for yourself.  You have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff.  And have a willingness to go to the original sources.

And that requires an active and interested engagement with the political process.  Take the Tea Party for example.  They may be more corporately funded that they like to appear and I would probably disagree with 90% of the platforms they are pushing for.  But I admire their zeal.  Their political cohesion and their ability to mobilize the vote.  Heck, I envy them!  As much as I think they are being spoon-fed massive amounts of disinformation, at least they f—king care!!

An interview with a reporter talking about lobbying groups I was listening to recently, talked about the importance of politics at the state level and why so many of these conservative PACS were focusing on influencing legislation at that level.  Basically it boiled down to the idea that while the media tends to be overly focused on what’s going on at the national level, the real change comes from the local level.  This is a Republic, it’s important to remember.  A collection of affiliated States, each with a distinct social tone relatively unique to that geographic region.

If you can influence change in enough of those parts, it will inevitably effect the larger whole.

Finally, a specific example of what I’m talking about here in regards to the importance of voting, the effects of apathy and the reality of change coming from local levels, would be the still fairly recent election of Scott Brown (R) to The United States Senate from our great State Of Massachusetts.  Nobody here thought that a Tea Party supported Republican had a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected to the Senate seat that had been held by Democratic Lion, Ted Kennedy for so very many years.  Certainly not the State Democratic Party.  But Scott Brown, like him or not, went out there and WORKED for the vote.  He spoke to constituents.  He got people energized.  He ASKED for people’s vote.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Mass Dems just sat back and figured the usual suspects would do as they had always done and elect the Democratic Candidate.  They underestimated the will of the people.  They took the electorate for granted.

And we all got f—ked because of it.  Of course Scott Brown got elected!  He wanted it.  He worked for it.  And people who agreed with his views or who simply were dissatisfied with the Status Quo, VOTED for him.

As Stan Lee would say, “’Nuff said.”

22
Jan
10

The complete text of my speech from Trans Lobby Day at The Massachusetts Statehouse

Yesterday I was honoured to be given the opportunity by Gunner Scott and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to tell my story of employment discrimination at the Trans Lobby Day event at The Massachusetts State House.

It was a truly marvelous gathering of Transgender people and our friends and allies including legislators and members of the clergy.  I was humbled to see so many of us turn out to represent our community by working on direct action to pass a much needed Transgender Rights Bill.

It was wonderful for me to have the chance to share a podium with so many other fine speakers.  Below is the complete text of my own speech, telling the story of my long search for employment in Massachusetts and the discrimination I faced while I was engaged in it.

Transgender Lobby Day Speech

Hello.  My name is Lorelei McLaughlin.  I am a Transgender Woman and a native New Englander.  Although I’ve lived all over the country, I was born in Northampton, grew up on Cape Cod, and graduated from Barnstable High School.  I currently live in Holyoke.

About a year and a half ago I returned to Massachusetts from Southern California.  I had lost my job, which I held for several years, due to my transition.  I moved back because I felt my physical safety was at stake, but the main reason was because of the rapidly declining health of my Nana.  I had decided to come home to Massachusetts to help take care of her.

When I moved back to Massachusetts I took to finding a job as if it was a job.  I had several differently targeted versions of my resume.  I scoured craigslist and any other local job boards I could find.  I picked up the local classified sections.  I sent out scores of applications and wrote a sheaf of cover letters for all occasions for months on end.

I could fill out all the applications I wanted and no one turned me away directly, but I could never actually talk to a hiring manager or have an actual interview.  I would walk into a place with a help wanted sign IN THE WINDOW only to be told that, well, they weren’t actually hiring right now but would be happy to put my application on file.  I couldn’t even get anyone to LOOK at my resume.

There is for me a happy-ish ending that illustrates just how bad the discrimination we face is.  I did not let myself become discouraged.  While I was looking for work, I also volunteered to help with various non-profits and community organizations.  I networked like crazy, asked everyone I met if they knew of someone that was hiring.  I was asked to serve as a Board Member of Northampton Pride but still could not even get a job bussing tables.

Finally a local psychologist, Dr. Shelley Janiczek Woodson, put out that she needed an Administrative Assistant for her expanding practice.  I jumped on it.  We exchanged emails and she asked me to come in for an interview.  She was the first person to actually interview me in the 1 1/2 years of looking.  The first person to treat me as a potential employee and actually look at my resume.  She hired me practically on the spot.

Even so, she was warned by her colleagues against hiring me.  They said it would hurt her practice to have a transgender person at the front desk.  She took a chance though and her business continues to thrive.

I found the one person in a thousand willing to look at me as a person, but I was lucky.  We need this law to help the countless other transpeople even to get their feet in the door, to be given not special opportunity, but the same opportunity as anyone else.

Thank you.

For more information on how to get involved, please visit the MTPC website and support the fine work they are doing.  Also please contact your local legislators to urge them to support H1728/S1687 “An Act Relative To Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes”.  And if you don’t live in Massachusetts yourself but know someone who does, ask them to contact their own legislators and do the same!

29
Dec
09

Deep Fried Fear at The Cape Cod Mall.

Nothing quite so instills me with fear than The Cape Cod Mall.

The sense memory, reminder of childhood fear combined with the ever-present Out-Transwoman reactions.

Stirred into a cocktail of deep fried and fish battered fear.

So what in the name of whatever Gods happen to hold sway in this part of the universe am I doing here?

Every time I come back to the Cape, I repeat the same pattern.

Drive down Main Street.

Visit an old home.

Drive by only.  Never get out.

And walk through The Cape Cod Mall.

I hope that I will spot someone I know/knew.

Although I almost never do.

All the people I knew are grown and gone or quite simply know better than to spend any more time at The Mall than is absolutely necessary.

But still I go.

Soak in the sickly-sweet and artificial, terror infused ambience.

Remind myself to slow my pace.

Smile.

As if I am not bothered in the least.

When I can take no more, I leave.

And typically I will head to Sam Diego’s.

Same idea.

An order of nostalgia with a nice stiff drink.

And maybe I’ll see someone I know/knew.

Sometimes I do.

Usually I don’t.

But I do get to hear that accent.

That particular working-class accent.

So homey and dangerous at the same time.

16
Jul
09

“My Adventures in the Land of Trans Rights” or “Lorelei attends the House Judiciary Committee’s Hearing on HB1728/S1687”

Yesterday I took my radical trans self out to the Eastern part of our great Commonwealth of Massachusetts to attend the hearings being held by the Judiciary Committee at The State House on Beacon Hill in regards to HB1728/S1687, known in the English version of governmentese as “An Act Relative To Gender Based Discrimination And Hate Crimes”.

I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and did all the things I have to do to make myself not just presentable to the larger world, but to the press as well!

Somehow, I managed through a combination of highways, subways and my own two feet to arrive at The Statehouse in time for the press conference held by The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
in The Senate Reception Room at 11:00.

There were already a number of the movers and shakers in the Mass Transgender community there as well as a number of supporters.  Gunner Scott, the Director of MTPC was there as well as his new right hand woman, Rachel Katharine Zall.  Also in attendance were the chair of MTPC, Nancy Nangeroni; Ethan St. Pierre, of “The Radical Trannies” podcast on TransFM.org; and my new friend Interfaith Leader, Mycroft Masada Holmes.

There were a number of others there as well, including a very nice woman who was there with her transmale son.  I spoke with her and her son for a few minutes as I regained my “social sea-legs”.  They were totally inspirational to me!  It’s so nice to see such support at the family level.  She just absolutely loves and supports her son and they were both pitching in to fight the good fight for Trans Right!!!

The press conference was fairly brief, essentially just an overview of the bill we are supporting, the work that MTPC has been doing and an introduction of several of the expert panel members who would be testifying later.

At this point, I did not expect to be testifying myself, I was simply there to support as a face in the crowd (albeit a fabulous one!) and a body in the seats.

After the press conference, I went and had a small lunch at Finagle A Bagel down the street with Mycroft.  And by lunch, I mean, for myself, primarily coffee!  (My lifestyle brought to you by the miracle of coffee!)

I have always loved watching the crowds of business people and others in the lunch hour buzz of downtown Boston and was pleased to have such excellent company and conversation to share it with.

Lunch was over fast though as Mycroft got a message from Gunner saying that bodies were needed in the lobby of The Gardner Auditorium where the Hearings were being held.  So off we went, back into the fray.  As we entered the State House we passed a couple of sweet looking little old ladies holding a banner for MassResistance, a group that has put an astonishing amount of time energy and effort into hating LGBT folks!!!
So much so that I often wonder what kind of issues the folks in charge of that particular Hate Group are repressing?  I’m not saying anything particular, but I’ll just mention that they put as much energy into hating us as I put into loving cheese (sweet, glorious, yummy cheese…)!!!!!!

I greeted them with a pleasant hello anyway, because that’s just how I roll.  And also because they were “kind enough” to give me some fabulous publicity when I first came back to the East Coast, by making me essentially the face of “The Tranny Menace In Massachusetts”.  A fact which my friend Justin Adkins, a hardworking trans-activist of note I might add, and a great guy, seems to be quite jealous of!!
(Note to MassResisitance: Justin feels awfully slighted by your ignorance of him!  He’s just as Evil as the rest of us you know, and he’s been working really hard spread the Transgender Agenda!!)

As soon as we got to the lobby of the auditorium I was intercepted by Dan Ring of The Springfield Republican for an interview.  He needed a Western Mass transperson to interview and had been aimed at “The really tall girl around here somewhere”, which is actually a pretty accurate description of me and my habit of being in as many places as possible.

It was a decent interview, Dan seemed like a good enough guy.  It was really super-hot in The Statehouse though and as I poured sweat in the interview I couldn’t help thinking of Dick Nixon facing down Kennedy in their famous debate.  Thankfully I fared a might better than old Tricky Dick.

As soon as the interview was over I was asked if I was interested in testifying and since I make a point of saying “yes” as often as possible, I signed my name to the dotted line.  Gulp.  “Oh my, I guess that’s that.” I thought.  Somehow, I always knew I would end up testifying before some governmental committee.  I’m just glad no one was asking if I was now or ever had been a member of the Communist Party.  I’m not by the way, but my politics are pretty far left…  Oh heck, just call me Comrade!!  (wink, wink)

Caught up in the whirlwind at this point, I was glad to be called upon to switch into “techie mode” for awhile.  I was “volunteered” to help Gordene MacKenzie, Nancy Nangeroni’s life partner and co-host with her of “GenderVision” and also a very nice woman, to set up the camera and microphones for taping all the testimonies.

Nothing gets me over a case of the nerves like adjusting a tripod, plugging in wires and setting levels!  A potentially hostile and packed crowd full of strangers immediately becomes simply an obstacle to be gotten through when I’m carrying camera equipment!
I tied my hair back and I was able to set aside thoughts like, “OMG!!!!  What the heck am I going to say!?!?!” for several minutes while I fiddled with knobs and listened for buzzing.

After all that was fairly well-settled and set up, it was time for the waiting.
I stood around, listening to testimony on a bunch of other, very interesting bills.  I opened up my trusty yellow pad and quickly outlined what I was going to say.  Three minutes to testify and hopefully get my message across, so I kept it as simple as I know how.

2:30, the appointed time for the testimony on our bill came and went.  3:00, 3:30, time passed as we all waited, asking each other for any scraps of useful information on when our testimonies would be heard.  All the while the pressure differentials of the packed auditorium were wreaking havoc with my sinuses and seriously f—king with my equilibrium.  I could hear the sound of my own breathing echoing in my ears and the room sounded like I was underwater.  Awfully unsettling.

Finally, around 4-4:30, the judiciary committee chair, Newton Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D), announced that they would begin hearing testimony on “An Act Relative To Gender Based Discrimination And Hate Crimes”.

I couldn’t hope to do justice to the details of the many, many testimonies that were offered by both sides of the issue.  However, I will relay my general impressions.

I was especially impressed by one of the initial speakers in support of the bill, Jennifer Levi, Esq., Transgender Rights Project Director at GLAD.  Her testimony was informative, insightful, well reasoned and very persuasive. Immediately after she finished the Committee asked her a number of questions all of which she answered like a pro.  Well okay, I guess actually she is a pro, but her answers simplified and explicated a number of complex issues.

For hours the testimonies continued.  Back and forth, between supporters of the bill and those who opposed the bill.

On our side, we had people from all across the spectrum.  Transpeople with personal stories of triumph and difficulty.  All manner of experts.  Parents of transfolks.  Professional business types.  Pretty much all walks of life were intelligently and movingly represented.

As for the opposition.  I will try to be fair.  There were those who seemed decent enough and genuinely concerned.  For the most part though, I was shockingly reminded of just how much blind hatred and ignorance there still is out there towards transgender people.
I sat and listened as we were called all kinds of horrible things.  Rarely directly mind you, usually by association.  We were alluded to as potential child molesters and perverts.  Emotionally charged stories of rape and abuse were used as arguments against us.  None of these stories involved transpeople doing the raping or abusing mind you, but it was implied that if this bill passes it would open the door for all kinds of perverts and predators to begin their reign of terror in the name of the evil “gender expression”.

I listened to endless streams of testimony about “The Bathroom Bill”.

While we were asking for equal rights, for protections against job discrimination and violent Hate Crimes, our opposition was more concerned with where we should pee!

The usual cries of “Save the children!” were heard over and over.  Despite the fact that not a single incident involving a transperson attacking someone in a public restroom has ever been reported.  Despite also the fact that most child-molestation occurs within the family unit.

The opposition to this bill that would protect the basic human rights of transgender people, often seemed to boil down to the fact that they were “uncomfortable” with us.
I know what my kindergarten teacher would have said about this.  She was a sweet but stern woman, who would have told them that there are all kinds of people in the world and just because some people are different and that makes you uncomfortable is no reason not to let them join in your games.  “Now go back and play nice or I’ll have to make you stand at the fence for five minutes.”

There was one Catholic priest who used the tired old “Deuteronomy calls them an abomination” argument.  To which I badly wanted the opportunity to point out that Deuteronomy also strongly recommends the stoning of Sabbath Breakers!!

Sadly also, a number of the testimonies from the opposition to the bill called upon the name of the DSM-IV, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.  Which lists gender dysphoria among a whole host of serious and troubling other philias.  Our inclusion as a group in this book was used to link us to the aforementioned perverts, predators and pedophiles.  Another strong reason why we need to step up the fight to have ourselves removed from the next edition, the DSM-V, currently being compiled, just as the Gays were removed from it years ago!

As I grew more tired, I began to welcome the testimonies from our opposition, as the anger that was stirred up each time was helping to keep my caffeine starved-self awake!

Finally as the room was slowly emptying and the night wore on, I heard my own name called.  I was totally prepared and had been ready for hours, but as soon as I sat down at the single brown table in the middle of the room, between the audience and the Judiciary Committee’s long table, I was swept by a wave of nerves.  I could feel myself shaking ever so slightly.  It was as if I had never spoken in front of a crowd before.  The literally thousands of people I’ve performed for over the years disappeared from my mind.
I was just Lorelei, trying to tell my story.  Hoping the words came out that needed to be said.

I told them I was a proud transgender woman and talked briefly about my family’s long history in the State of Massachusetts.  I then went on to talk about my difficulties obtaining a job and the sometimes subtle but still overwhelming amount of prejudice and discrimination that I have faced.  Essentially a pared down version of what I submitted in my written testimony, but with the force of being an actual person speaking before them.  Trembling slightly, scared and nervous, but not afraid to speak up for what I believe in.

As soon as I saw the sign that said “Time” flashed by the woman sitting quietly to my left in front of the table, I wrapped up with a statement that I had written out so I could deliver it clearly and succinctly.

“I support this bill because I wish to have the opportunity to once more become a gainfully employed and contributing member of society and this great Commonwealth.  Thank you.”

After I delivered my testimony I stayed for a while longer to listen to others and finally, at around 10:30, with the hearing still going I began the long midnight journey back to Western Mass with my friend Danica Marie, who also gave a very powerful and moving testimony, along for the ride.

All in all it was a glorious day!!  I felt like we were ready and fully charged for the battle we fought.  It made me proud to see so many transfolks stepping forward in solidarity and speaking up for the rights we deserve!

Hopefully we were heard loud and clear and the Judiciary Committee will pass this crucial bill along for approval by the House and Senate.

It’s hard to know what will happen from here, but one thing is for certain.  We will never give up the struggle against discrimination and hatred.  No matter what the outcome of this single battle, we will never give up the fight for Transgender Rights!!!!  We cannot and we must not.

03
Jul
09

My testimony in support of “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes.”

Dear Honorable Members of The Joint Committee On The Judiciary,

Hello.  My name is Lorelei McLaughlin and I am a transgender woman, Massachusetts born and raised.  I was born in Northampton, grew up on Cape Cod and graduated from Barnstable High School.  My Great-great-great-great-grandfather Noahdiah Leonard was a Minuteman at Lexington and served throughout The War For Independence in The Continental Army.  Part of UMass Amherst was built on what used to be my family farm.  And one of the biggest fish hatcheries in the Northeast, The Charles L. McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown was named after my Grandfather, who was Director of The Massachusetts Department Of Fish And Game in the early sixties. I mention all these things not to brag, but to impress upon you my and my family’s long connection to and active history in this great state.

Although I have lived in several diverse parts of the country over the past few years, I have always counted Massachusetts as home.  Recently, due to circumstances surrounding my transition, I have returned to Massachusetts to reside.  Since I started Hormone Replacement Therapy and began to live full-time as a woman, I have encountered a great deal of prejudice, discrimination and even outright hatred.

Thankfully for me, my family has been very supportive.  This is not often the case for many transpeople however.

I am proud to posses a stellar resume.  I have run companies, been trusted with management positions, consistently shown both loyalty and the ability to excel in whatever field I have worked in and have excellent references.

Despite this, I have been fairly consistently unemployed since I began my transition.
By training and profession, I am an actor and comedic performer.  However, these are rarely lucrative professions, so I am often forced to seek additional employment in order to support myself.

Stereotypically, I have often worked in the service industry.  I am a great waitperson for instance with exceptional experience in all levels of service, from diners to fine-dining.
I have also worked in more technically oriented positions in theaters and niteclubs.  Most recently, I was the Showroom Manager for several years at The World Famous Hollywood Improv.  A position I lost unexpectedly after I returned to it from a leave to take care of a dying relative at the beginning of my transition.

These are positions which often required me to interact with the public as an integral part of my job.  This is something I am extraordinarily good at.  I am a “people person” who is affable, friendly, easy going and good natured.  I like people and make friends easily.  I am a team player and a hard worker.

I am, in short, just the kind of person you would want to represent your business.  Except, apparently, that I also happen to be a transgender woman.

I have been pounding the pavement for years.  Dropping off resumes, asking for interviews.  I am very good at this.  My people are hard-workers with a strong employment ethic.  I treat looking for a job as a job.  I even have different versions of my resume for potential employers in different fields.  Before I came out as a trans woman I never had any trouble at all securing employment in a timely manner.

None of this seems to help.

Although no one has yet been foolish enough to outright deny me the chance to fill out an application, it’s the same story over and over.  I can fill out as many applications as I want, yet somehow every place I go has either just filled the job or is not actually hiring now “just looking” or I get a promise that my resume will be “put in the stack”.  I almost never get the chance to have an interview.  When I ask if there is anyone I can speak to, that person has always just left or won’t be in until later in the week.

Individually, these things would seem to be perfectly reasonable and not especially discriminatory.  Added together though, there is such an incredible homogeneity to these responses.  The remarkable similarity of the responses and lack of even the tiniest shreds of interest are far too overwhelming to be simply coincidental.

I present myself well and professionally.  Never more than the most basic makeup, always conservatively and appropriately dressed.  I smile and am friendly, courteous and respectful no matter how I think I am being treated.

I am easily readable as transgender however.  Although I make an effort to be the best woman I can be, I am very tall and so invite closer scrutiny by my height alone.  My resume also betrays this information.  It is obvious that I have changed my name, I note it so that anyone who wishes to check my references will not be confused or think I am trying to hide anything.  Additionally, I am open and out about my transgender status.  I won’t bring it up in a job interview unless there is reason, but I am totally comfortable discussing it.  I am proud to be who I am.

But no matter what I do.  No matter how many places I go.  I cannot seem to get an even break.  I am consistently denied the opportunity to prove I can be just as good an employee as anyone else with the same qualifications.  If not better and more motivated to prove it!

To get this chance though, I need your help!

Please help pass H.1728/S.1687, “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes.”

I am not asking for any special rights, I only desire to be allowed the fair chance to secure and then to keep gainful employment as well as decent housing and equal access to community services and programs.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and hopefully, for your support of H.1728/S.1687.

Sincerely,
Lorelei McLaughlin

For info on how to submit your own testimony to the Judiciary Committee before the preferred deadline of July 10th, follow the link below to the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition website.  They’re fine folks who are working hard to help you!!!

Submitting Written Testimony




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