Tag Archives: transgender

Dear Catholics…

10 Apr

Dear Catholics, please help me out here. I am truly and desperately trying to understand how those of you who supported Trump did so because of your identity around being Catholic. Sadly, I have family who have used the “we voted for Trump because we are good Catholics” excuse.

Here is some background information. I was talking with a white, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, middle class man last week. He was explaining to me that being gay or transgender had nothing to do with gender equity and more importantly that being gay or transgender was WRONG and those people would go to hell. Subsequently, this person explained why he supports Trump: “Because it is God’s will.” Sadly, this white heterosexual man then went into defensive mode by saying: “…by the way some of my friends are gay — they were even at my wedding. While I know they are wrong and will go to Hell, they are friends of mine.” Oy! I wonder if these “gay friends,” assuming they do exist, would consider him a friend?

Here is where I need some help. Please do chime in and illuminate and educate me. Does your God really support a man like Trump — a man who said it is okay to grab a woman buy the genitals? A man who appoints a white supremacist as the attorney general? A man whose behavior has demonstrated nothing but great avarice? A man who publicly mocked a man with disabilities? Is that the God you worship? Who would Jesus hate?

Furthermore, I thought Catholics were against divorce and adultery. How is that you are able to give Trump a dispensation here? Do the rules only apply to those who are poor and cannot afford to buy off a fraud case for $25 million dollars?

Just a quick history lesson here, for those Catholics that are climate change deniers and think science is just a bunch of poo poo, let us remember that in 1633 Galileo was locked up by the Catholic Church for heresy for asserting that the earth was round and revolved around the sun, which countered the wrong geocentric model the church subscribed to at the time. Damn that science! It took over 300 years for the church to acknowledge it was wrong and that Galileo was right. I’m horrifically sad to see that we seem to be repeating history.

Again, I am truly trying to understand how and why Catholics supported and still seem to support Trump and his administration. From my understanding of Catholicism and Christianity, his behavior seems antithetical to the teachings of Christ. I am also exceedingly sad for this man’s children. What if one of them is gay or trans-identified? This man made it clear he feels obligated to judge them and condemn them. Maybe it is just me, but this does not seem like good parenting, nor does it seem very godly. I welcome all voices on this issue to help better educate us all.

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, September 27: Cassidy Lynn Campbell

27 Sep
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this article. Cassidy Lynn Campbell, a 16-year-old student at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, CA, was named homecoming queen last Friday. The remarkable thing about this everyday occurrence is that Campbell is transgender. She is the first known transgender homecoming queen at a U.S. high school.  Brava, Cassidy!

Campbell began taking hormone blockers and estrogen injections in high school to transition and has documented her journey in videos on her YouTube channel, LanceMize. As she started this school year, she decided to stand up for the transgender community and run for queen.

If I win it would mean that the school recognizes me as the gender I always felt I was. But with all the attention, I realized it’s bigger than me. I’m doing this for the kids who can’t be themselves… it wasn’t for me anymore and I was doing this for so many people all around the county and the state and possibly the world and I am so proud to win this not just for me, but everyone out there.

What amazing courage and dedication! Few people of any age would have the strength of character to make such a bold, public stand. Fortunately, the students at her school proved supportive. On September 20, blue and gold balloon at the school revealed her win. “I instantly just dropped to the ground and started crying,” Campbell said. Campbell’s mother is very supportive, calling her “wonderful” and saying “I never would have thought in my lifetime that I would see this.”

Sadly, not everyone has been so supportive. After the election was announced, she was subjected to bullying comments and feedback that she described as “ignorant.”

After 16 years of struggling, I finally do it and I finally am myself — thinking I’ll be so happy. It’s just sad that everyone has to be so judgmental about it, and so hateful, and so mean and so negative. I’ve never done anything to any of these people. And I don’t know why they have to be this way, when I’ve done nothing to them. It just hurts so bad because I feel just as much of a girl as all of them do.

Let us all send Cassidy Lynn Campbell our support and help her celebrate both her accomplishment and her wonderful spirit. She deserves happiness and success.  Let us also hope that Cassidy’s narrative is heard and we all stand in solidarity with her to help fight transphobia.

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.

Bigot of the Week Award: April 12, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J

12 Apr
Bigots of the Week

Bigots of the Week

The musical merging of Brad Paisley and LL Cool J is strange enough as a concept. Sadly, it also results in a horrific song. The title, Accidental Racist, is bad enough, demonstrating a blatant race to innocence and ignorance of privilege. The lyrics are even worse. Paisley defends wearing the Confederate battle flag as a simple expression of “southern pride” while implying that the way people may look down on Southern whites is somehow comparable to centuries of institutionalized racism.

I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Paisley doubles down by name-checking Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band whose Sweet Home Alabama famously celebrates George Wallace.

We’ve noted Paisley’s behavior previously, notably his overt homophobia. More surprising is hip hop star LL Cool J joining in the song. He engages in some tragic overidentification with the oppressor, rapping

If you don’t judge my do-rag
I won’t judge your red flag.
If you don’t judge my gold chains
I’ll forget the iron chains.

So trendy street bling somehow neutralizes militant defense of human slavery and a long history of racist laws that were designed to define “whiteness” and oppress black folk? That’s a seriously offensive and dangerous message. Even in the controversy, however, both artists continue to defend the song, with Paisley stating, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” I’m sure you wouldn’t, Brad.  I’m sure “some of your best friends are black, or gay.”  Wow, his obliviousness to his own unearned power and privilege make me rather ill.  While, I don’t expect any better from Paisley, I am rather disappointed in L L Cool J–who is not so cool!

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Rep. Paul Broun (R – GA). The arch-conservative, who is running to replace retiring bigot Saxby Chambliss in the Senate next year, was responding to a proposal (currently shelved, by the way) to include gender reassignment surgery in Medicare and Medicaid coverage. The ever-delightful Broun commented:

I don’t want to pay for a sex change operation. I’m not interested. I like being a boy.

Apparently he also likes being a bigot and an idiot. Don’t want a sex change, Rep. Broun? DON’T HAVE ONE! But don’t use your power to prevent others from receiving reasonable medical care.

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