Tag Archives: Transphobia

The Supreme Court Upholds Voter Suppression in Texas

20 Oct
Sad Legacy!

Sad Legacy!

Sadly, not many of us were surprised by the exceedingly conservative high court’s decision to uphold voter suppression laws in Texas.  The Roberts’ court continues to leave a legacy that works against civil rights, just in time to negatively impact the 2014 mid-term election. I would like to talk about how these voter ID laws negatively impact targeted/marginalized populations. Not that most of the high court is interested in how we continue to oppress targeted populations, but I hope we will at least start to have more conversations around what we all need to do to expand civil rights rather than curb them. Texas’ voter ID laws intentionally create barriers for the following communities to vote: people in poverty, people of color experiencing poverty, people with disabilities, senior citizens, transgender people, and all of the intersections of these populations. In addition to the horrible impact of this action, it flies in the face of judicial tradition. Typically, appeals courts — including the Supreme Court — act to do the least harm while the laws in question work their way through the system. Allowing the law to stand while it is under appeal aggressively disenfranchises Texas voters during the important November mid-terms. Even if the law is struck down in the long run, that damage will have been done, almost certainly to the benefit of Republican candidates. Suspending the suspect law until a final decision is made would be more typical, sensible, and just. Of course those words can rarely be applied to Scalia, Alito, Roberts, or Thomas. If only we could get more voices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s. Justice Ginsburg composed the dissent and eloquently highlighted the damage of this verdict:

…may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification…A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic. Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.

Both Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. I want to believe there is hope that this court’s majority will soon gain a better understanding of their jobs and of civil rights.

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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.

Standing Up To Transphobia: Lea DeLaria Says “No” to MichFest

28 May

DeLariaThe Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival — popularly known as MichFest — is one of the oldest ongoing music events in the country. Founded in 1976 as a women-only camping and entertainment event, it has been in the same location since 1982, drawing thousands of women each year. Sadly, it is also driven by what founder and organizer Lisa Vogel refers to as “The Intention.” This policy declares that only “womyn born womyn” are allowed to attend, actively excluding any women not assigned female gender at birth.

This deplorable transphobia flies in the face of true feminism and dangerously ignores our need to stand in solidarity. By subscribing to a narrow binary of gender identity, Vogel tragically perpetuates the kind of marginalization that she maintains the festival was created to eliminate. Since Nancy Burkholder — a trans woman — was ejected from the festival in 1991 transgender activists have worked hard to raise awareness of “The Intention” and its harmful effects.

This year an actor and comedian has led an exodus from MichFest in protest to the policy. Lea DeLaria, a strong advocate for all of the LGBT community throughout her career, has gained recent attention starring in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. After signing up to perform at MichFest she learned about The Intention from co-star Laverne Cox — one of the most visible transgender entertainers. Not content to just walk away, DeLaria issued a strong statement rebuking Vogel and MichFest for their shameful practices. She also noted some of the more dramatic protests mounted by activists outside the festival, including physical harassment and bomb threats.

After over 30 years of gay activism and as an out, proud member of the LGBTQ Community, I do not wish to be a party to infighting. We queers need to find a way to stop this fighting and work together towards our common goal. Both sides of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival dispute refuse to listen to each other. Due to their unyielding stance, I am withdrawing from the festival. I truly look forward to the time when all LGBTQ stand as one. Perhaps then we can collectively laugh at how fucked up is it when I’M the voice of reason.

Nicely done, Lea. Other performers have joined the boycott, including out folk duo Indigo Girls, poet Andrea Gibson, and rockers Hunter Valentine.

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.

Bigot of the Week Award: May 3, the Broken U.S. Congress

3 May
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

The entire U.S. Congress managed to earn this week’s BWA as they ignored the plight of millions of Americans and adjusted the federal budget for their own convenience. As the idiotic budget sequester continues to pinch government agencies, many people are suffering. Clinics have reduced hours, education programs are being cut, and seniors in some locations are losing meals on wheels due to the across-the-board cuts that should never have happened.

Republicans in the House and Senate have been whining for weeks about the sequester, blaming the President for actually following a law that they passed. This week, however, things got really ugly. Because of the blindly even cuts, the FAA has had to reduce air traffic control. This has resulted in some flight delays, with a ripple effect that has inconvenienced many travellers. Frequent fliers — like lobbyists, the wealthy, bankers, and members of Congress — are particularly inconvenienced. So this week the Senate unanimously approved a bill to change funding for the FAA; the House overwhelmingly approved the bill, with 92 Democrats jumping on board.

President Obama called Congress out for their hypocrisy. He declined to veto the bill given its probability of passing again and wasting legislative time, but insisted that lawmakers fix the whole problem, not just a small piece that makes them sad. What a pathetic display of classism and callous disregard. Apparently America continues to become the land of the Rich and Privileged. Adding this to the gun control failure makes me itch for the next election.

Dishonorable mention goes to two very different men this week. First up is ESPN commentator Chris Broussard. Responding to NBA player Jason Collins’ coming out interview, Broussard injected his narrow KKKristian values into the story.

If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.

I just loved Chris Broussard  when he was on Saturday Night Live as the Church Lady!

Professional conspiracy hack Alex Jones joins the bigot parade as well. Known for his anti-Muslim rantings and bizarre theories, Jones showed an even uglier side. Arguing — for no apparent reason — against what he calls “fake rights” for transgender Americans, he uttered this gem.

I don’t want my daughters growing up in a country where some transvestite comes walking into the thing [bathroom] hopped out of their brain on drugs vomiting and crapping all over the place.

I don’t want any children growing up in a world where Alex Jones has any say in it whatsoever.  What kind of monster is Jones?

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.

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