Tag Archives: TransActive

Inclusive Catholics in Vancouver

23 Jul

ArchThank you to my friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this story. Good news in Vancouver, BC for transgender youth. Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese has adopted new policies that honor the gender identity of transgender youths. This is a huge move in the right direction for civil rights within the Catholic community.

Unfortunately, the Catholic school district did not create the new policy organically, but rather as the result of a lawsuit. Tracey Wilson, an 11 year-old transgender youth, was denied appropriate accommodations at her school and consequently left, moving to public school after her family filed a human rights complaint. While I’m sad that the Catholic school district only came to adopt the trans-inclusive policy as a result of a lawsuit, I am exceedingly happy that they are moving in the right direction regarding human rights.

While Tracey Wilson has no plans to return to the Catholic school, she offered that she hopes the new policy will help other transgender youth:

When I was going through the process of noticing my difference, I felt alone and not accepted and it was very hard…It was just a horrible process and I don’t want that to happen to anybody else.

Doug Lauson, the superintendent for Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese said, “We are people of the Catholic faith. Our schools will be as inclusive as we can while still retaining our Catholic identity.”
Fortunately here in Portland, we have an organization that advocates for the rights of Transgender youth around the world. If you know of any youth that is struggling with gender identity and or gender expression and is in need of advocacy, please contact TransActive.

LGBT Pride and History Month 2014: Laverne Cox

16 Jun

LCoxToday we honor and celebrate a woman who is a powerful voice for the too often overlooked transgender community. Laverne Cox was born in Mobile, AL, not an LGBTQ friendly state or city.  She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College and began an acting career.

Cox was one of the first out trans women to make significant appearances on network television, especially as a woman of color. She appeared on two episodes of shows in the Law and Order franchise and was an out trans contestant on the VH1 reality show I Want to Work for Diddy. As her fame grew, she began using it as a platform to speak about trans issues and equality.

Her fame has only increased since she was cast as trans prisoner Sophia Burset on the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black. It’s a compelling performance of a well-written character, and Cox deserves all the accolades that her work has garnered. That fame has made her one of the most famous and visible trans actors in the world and provided her with even more opportunities for advocacy and activism.

Cox is a passionate speaker who has a powerful way with words. She makes her points clearly and supports them with the sad facts about the oppression and aggression directed at the trans community. She makes space for the unfortunate reality that very few people understand — or even try to — the complex realities of being a transgender person. When she appeared in a now-infamous interview with Katie Couric, she responded to a clumsy series of questions about genitalia and surgery with a classy, informative, calm focus on the real issues facing the trans community.

Recognition of her advocacy work garnered Cox a position in history as the first out trans person to feature on the cover of Time magazine. She is also the first African-American transgender person to produce and star in her own TV show, the VH1 makeover program TRANSform Me.

As LGBT rights move forward in the 21st Century, the needs and issues of the “T” in the acronym often get overlooked or sacrificed for political expediency. Laverne Cox is a strong, smart voice dedicated to reversing that trend. Her work is critically important and her dedication is impressive. I hope all of us will stand in solidarity with the transgender community.

Katie Couric and the Transgender Community

23 Jan

Katie CouricI need to thank my friends Nel Ward and Jodi Sisson, both of whom have amazing voices for social justice, for inspiring me to write this story.  I have always appreciated Katie Couric, never more than when she interviewed Sarah Palin. Couric was one of the very few who actually approached Palin as a journalist, for which I will always be grateful. Sadly, this story brings up many questions for me around Couric’s intent and impact on the targeted transgender population.

Katie hosted  Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and model Carmen Carrera. While there was a little space for each woman to talk about their current respective projects, Couric seemed unpleasantly focused on genitalia and sadly kept showing pictures of Carrera in bandages — a constant reminder of surgery. What a sad loss of the opportunity for Couric to have demonstrated some solidarity with the transgender community. Can we focus on “hearts not parts?”

What was lovely was how Laverne Cox handled the interview.  She was exceedingly gracious and did a marvelous job of highlighting her activism within the LGBTQ community. Brava!

I don’t want to judge Couric too harshly here. I don’t presume to know the workings of her heart. I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and allow for: perhaps she was trying to set the stage for Cox and Carrera to educate the general population around transgender issues and how transgender people have to navigate the world very differently from cisgender people. I hope this was the case, and that Couric was just clumsy in this attempt.  Cox does a marvelous job of addressing the bizarre focus on genitalia:

That preoccupation…objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community and our unemployment rate is twice the national average…When we focus on transition, we don’t get to talk about those things.

Perfectly stated. Again, I will challenge us all to focus on Hearts Not Parts! Ms. Couric, if I have in any way misrepresented you, I welcome your feedback.

Sadly, we have more concrete evidence of transphobia, which Cox addressed, in Louisiana. Councilman Ron Webb of Shreveport, LA said: “The Bible tells you homosexuals are an abomination” adding that he “does not socialize with LGBT people,” in his opposition to a bill that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. Webb was using his bible as a weapon to justify his bigotry.  Fortunately, Pamela Raintree, a transgender woman, addresses Webb in a most eloquent way and causing Webb to withdraw his opposition:

“Leviticus 20:13 states, ‘If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death,'” Raintree began. “I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn’t just a smoke screen for personal prejudices.”

Well done, Ms. Raintree!  Fortunately, here in Portland, Oregon we have several organizations that support transgender people, including TransActive, which supports transgender youth.

Hero of the Week Award: April 12, the Trans100

12 Apr
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a true pleasure to celebrate the first publication of the Trans100, a project to celebrate heroes in the transgender community. Curated by Toni D’Orsay of This Is HOW and Jen Richards of wehappytrans.com and supported by GLAAD, it’s the first effort of its kind. It is intended to become an annual effort and very much a work in progress. Richards notes in her introduction:

If you recognize that this project is incomplete, and yet still has much to offer, then we trust you will find what we did: an awe inspiring collection of one hundred amazing people doing important work. Not the only hundred. Not the hundred you agree with. But one hundred that reveal a cross-section of trans people active in the United States right now, that indicate the breadth and depth of the work being done by and for the community.

The focus is clearly on the work, as emphasized by the many wonderful people celebrated on the list. It’s a marvelous project, helping raise awareness and provide contacts and context for growing media attention around trans issues in the U.S.

It was a particular pleasure to see my dear friend Jenn Burleton celebrated on the Trans100. Jenn is the Executive Director  of TransActive here in Portland, a pioneering organization providing services to transgender and gender nonconforming children and youth. TransActive will be hosting an Open House on April 17 from 4 to 7.

Honorable mention this week goes to Gail Simone and DC Comics for introducing the first out transgender character in mainstream superhero comics. Simone is an immensely talented writer with a unique connection to her fans. She understands that the comic industry is still overdependent on characters that date back to the 50s and before, frequently falling short of representing modern readers and their communities. She introduced Alysia Yeoh in Batgirl #1 (Sept. 2011) as Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon’s roommate. In Batgirl #19, out this week, Alysia tells Barbara that she is transgender. Simone notes that comics (especially independent presses and “mature audience” books) have had some trans characters before, most of whom achieved gender-fluidity through fantastical means like magic, shape-shifting, brain-swapping, and cloning.

Those characters exist [and] that’s great, but I wanted to have trans characters who aren’t fantasy-based. And I feel like there’s a lot there yet to do.

Thank you, Gail Simone for your continuing efforts to move mainstream comics forward.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 15, Jenn Burleton

15 Jun

Today I would like to honor and celebrate my dear friend, Jenn Burleton.  Jenn is a fierce social justice advocate  and one of the founders and Executive Director of TransActive, a non-profit agency dedicated to supporting transgender and gender non-conforming youth around the country. Jenn is an amazing and compassionate educator about transgender issues.  I also feel compelled to say that being transgender or gender non-conforming have nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation, although there is some overlap regarding marginalization, multiple identities, and the intersections of oppression.

Jenn does a particularly good job of helping folks understand the very important issue of gender identity, which seems a tricky business for people to understand for some reason.  Jenn explains:

At some point we have to let go of this notion that trans people who have had surgery have to be forthcoming about  that fact or be forthcoming if they have not had surgery, from a social interaction persepective it is irrelavent—anatomy on a day to day basis is irrelevant. There are some transgender people that do in fact over-emphasize or act as though being post op is a trophy. That can be a dangerous path because it takes away from the more important conversation around gender identity and puts the focus only on genitals.  The surgery should not have to be the validation of our identity.

Jenn is transgender, but she is also lesbian–two marginalized identities. What first drew me to Jenn is that she is a strong feminist and a true voice for social justice.  What I love about Jenn is that she works so hard to celebrate, educate, and advocate the complexities of gender identity.  My hope is that we come to a point when more of us celebrate and embrace our transgender brothers and sisters. Click here to learn more about Jenn and about TransActive.

The Miss Universe Contest…

4 Apr

Thank you to my friend and fierce civil rights activist Nancy Meade for inspiring me to write this article. Not a big surprise to TSM readers, but I really am usually very against any type of beauty contest for myriad reasons.  I am particularly against the Miss Universe Contest because it is owned by the nefarious Donald Trump and his hair.  All of this being said, I have to emphatically support Jenna Talakova if she chooses to re-enter the contest.

Ms. Talakova came under unfair scrutiny because of her transgender status and was initially disqualified from the Miss Universe Contest, until yesterday when they decided she could compete.  Here is what is wrong with tolerance: it is based on “all that matters is my acceptance of you.”  It is tantamount to saying, “I don’t mind that you are black; I don’t mind that you are gay.”  This type of inequitable power structure serves to sustain and maintain a white heterosexual Christian male power structure.  Gender identity is a complex notion that many people seem to have trouble grappling with, even good intentioned people.  Ms. Talakova is a woman who wants to participate in the Ms. Universe Contest.

We still have so much education to do around gender identity and gender non-conformity.  If you or anyone you know needs resources, I strongly encourage you to contact TransActive.

Hero of the Week Award: January 13, Transgender Response

13 Jan

Hero of the Week Award

Thanks to friend and LGBT ally Jenny Shaw for pointing to this week’s HWA.  In a very sad and unfortunate display of bigotry from 17 year old “Taylor” who is spearheading a boycott of Girl Scout Cookies because the Girl Scouts did the right thing by allowing a transgender girl to join, it is so nice to see this transgender girl’s response to “Taylor.”  Click here to this eloquent response.

Action: Buy some Girl Scout Cookies and support equality, civil rights, and the mission of the Girl Scouts:

Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

Let us hope that “Taylor” grows up and one day embraces all of humanity, not just the parts she chooses.  For those young people who are transgender and need support, click here.

Growing Up Transgender: A Child Knows

15 Dec

Thank you to my friend and fierce LGBT ally, Jennifer Lockett for inspiring this story.  While I am cisgender, (my gender assigned at birth matches the gender I identify with) we have brothers and sisters all over the world who are transgender.  Just as I knew I was gay when I was five, although I did not have the language then, there are very young kids know their gender does not match what the doctor told them.

Jonas and Wyatt Maines were born identical twins, but Wyatt knew at age four that her gender did not match what the doctor assigned at birth.  Even Wyatt’s twin brother was aware that he had a sister, as he reported to his dad at age four, “Dad, you might as well face it,’’ Wayne recalls Jonas saying. “You have a son and a daughter.’’

While the parents of these two amazing kids have had a difficult but rewarding journey, I’m in awe of them and I applaud these parents for recognizing they have a beautiful son and a beautiful daughter.  Their children have courage and know who they are.  I have to underscore how important it is that children now have access to puberty blockers and hormone therapies, so that kids can go through puberty as the gender they identify as.

There is a wonderful organization called TransActive which specifically addresses the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth.  If you know a family struggling with the need for resources, I encourage you to contact TransActive. Click here to read more about Wyatt and Jonas.

Fun Family Event For Good Cause

26 Nov

Mark Your Calendars: December 4

On December 4, 2011 from 2-5 pm, TransActive will be hosting a silent auction with food, fun, and an opportunity to raise money to support transgender youth.  The title of the event is Super Heroes for Super Kids, featuring guest speaker Janet Mock, the Associate Editor of People.com  Mock is transgender and she believes in giving back to the community. I encourage you to look at her bio, it is quite impressive.

All proceeds go to supporting and finding resources for transgender and gender non-conforming youth. Tickets are $15. in advance and $20. at the door.  If you are interested in buying tickets, please contact me!  This event is an opportunity for us all to make a huge difference in the lives of many young people. If you are not able to attend, but want to make a tax deductible donation, please make out a check to TransActive, or visit the website and use your credit card.

I hope to see many of you at this fun family event.  There will be lots of fun events for your kids.

Support Our Transgender Youth

1 Nov

Thank you to my friend Allison for reminding me of this fantastic, poignant story of a transgender girl that is now on Youtube. I hope all of you will take the time to watch the video and listen to her story.

Fortunately, Cammie’s mother is very supportive and understanding:

My child is gender variant (Transgender)… which means that during fetal development there was insufficient testosterone which resulted in the lack of male gender identity markers in the BSTC section of the pituitary gland in her brain. The result is a child who is born a natal male with a female gender identity. Gender exists between the ears, not between the legs. Everything that makes us who we are… our character, personality, temperament, and so forth – comes from brain function. Our physical bodies… fingers, toes, genitals, arms, legs, bellybutton, etc – have no bearing on “who” we are. This video/voice recording is Cammie, expressing her thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to live with this medical condition. She is 11 years old. Her hope is that one day the world will understand this condition for what it is. She dreams of a day when she – and many others – will be loved, embraced and accepted for “WHO” they are “on the inside.

Sadly, there are a great number of parents who do not know how to be supportive.

If you or someone you know is in need of support or resources please contact TransActive.  Transgender youth and adults disproportionately suffer from bullying, harassment, and violence.  It is our responsibility to to create an environment of safety for all.

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