Posted by: aronmwrites | September 25, 2008

A Little Scared

I’m a bit worried right now.  When I opened my inbox at work this morning, I found this article in my account:

Body of Transgender Person Pulled from American River

(source: Sacramento Bee)

Authorities recovered the body of a 22-year-old transgender woman from the American River on Sunday.

A fisherman spotted the body about 12:45 p.m. floating in the middle of the river less than a mile southeast of the Highway 160 bridge, coroner and police officials said.

Officer Konrad Von Schoech said authorities initially thought the body was female, because of long hair, painted toenails and a smaller frame. The body was also covered in mud so it was hard to tell, he said.

On closer examination, authorities determined it was a male body, Von Schoech said.

Coroner officials have identified the person, whose last known address was in North Highlands, using fingerprints, but have not released the identity pending notification of next-of-kin.

Von Schoech said initial investigation indicates that no foul play was involved, but authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.

I grew up a stones throw away from North Highlands.  Literally, I was just a few large blocks from the start of the neighborhood.  And I went to school with all of the kids from North Highlands.  And I’m not that different in age from the victim. 

Is it callus to hope I didn’t know her/him/zir? 

I read about these sorts of deaths all the time.  Often enough, in fact, that I’m sad to say I’ve become somewhat desensitized to them.  Gender variant – as well as queer – folks are murdered all the time.  It’s a horrific fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  When you have to read about it on a regular basis at work, you stop reacting quite so much.  It’s a defense mechanism.  And for those that would say that the authorities don’t know if there was “foul play” involved yet – I’m 99% sure there was.  These cases always start by being reported this way.  We can just be thankful that they haven’t accused the victim of being a sex worker yet (the favorite action of media and police when reporting on murdrered transwomen). 

I can think of a few people from my high school/jr. high time that meet the few facts that have been given out about the victim.  I can only focus on something else and wait until the name is eventually released – and hope that I don’t know the victim.

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Posted by: aronmwrites | September 15, 2008

Pass It On: Nat’l Survey on Transfolk by NGLTF and NCTE

This came around a few days ago, and I’m just getting around to posting it. 

The Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality are partnering with Penn State University to undertake a national survey of transgender and gender non-conforming people (they actually say gender non-conforming in the intro survey language – I’m so surprised!) on issues ranging from healthcare to housing to employment in the United States.  It’s purported to only take 20 minutes of your time. 

So – if you live in the U.S. of A. and identify as any flavor within the gender non-conforming spectrum, please take a moment to hop on over and fill out the survey

These chances are few and far between, so I highly recommend that everyone take the opportunity to complete the survey.  Plus, from my time working as a community organizer in the trans/gender different communities, I can say with confidence that statistics and survey results – in addition to icky medical data – are really the only kind of “valid information” that those in power positions will respond to.  From small communities to large ones and from face-to-face interactions to paper lobbying, every last person that an advocate will speak with wants to know what “hard facts” there are on such a “small minority of people”.  The most frequent question, in fact, was: “How many people really are there that are transgender in this area – we don’t actually have transgender people here, right?”  Well, maybe that’s two questions.  The point I’m trying to make is that the folks in power especially tend to think of transpeople as mythical creatures.  Having a gender variant person in the neighborhood is something like finding a unicorn in your backyard.  No one believes that gender variance exists, at least outside a hypothetical, liberal-academia-induced realm where “crazy theorists” walk around asking: “What is gender, anyway?”

You get my point (hopefully).  Please take 20 minutes out of your time and take the survey if you feel it applies to you.  Otherwise, pass it along to others that might be able to take it.  Or post flyers around your campus/work/community advertising it.  Just pass it on.  Thanks!

Posted by: aronmwrites | September 9, 2008

Breaking: Legal protections for transpeople will stand in MD

I know I haven’t mentioned it on here before, so excuse me if this post is brief and without backstory – but Maryland’s Court of Appeals just blocked the Montgomery County referendumfrom going on the ballot within the county in November. This means that transpeople are still protected from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in Montgomery Co., Maryland. Awesome!

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According to a New York Times article that came out yesterday, it’s become a lot easier to transition in the workplace. I don’t disagree.

It’s nice to see the folks over at NYTimes spotlighting these kinds of hurdles that transpeople encounter in the working world. Plus, stories about positive culture change are warm, fuzzy things to hear.

At the same time, I would have liked to see them mention the troubles that Diane Schroer is having with the U.S. Library of Congress. Since Inclusive ENDA lost, protections for transpeople (much less the larger gender variant community) really don’t exist in the workplace – at least for those transfolk that don’t want to work at a gigantic corporation, like the Fortune 500 companies mentioned in the article. The Department of Justice attorneys working against Schroer’s case even get that:

The Library of Congress, represented by Justice Department attorneys, has argued that Schroer cannot sue because the Civil Rights Act does not protect transsexuals or prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

They’re not arguing that she doesn’t have a case. They’re not even arguing that she wasn’t discriminated again. Just that she, like all other gender non-conforming people, is not supported or protected in the eyes of the law. I’m the first to agree that any progress is great, but when an extremely qualified transwoman can have a job offer rescinded by our federal government purely for disclosing to her boss that she’s in the process of transitioning, I just don’t feel like it’s appropriate for the media to paint such a rosey picture.

Even more interesting is the the image (shown below) that accompanied the NYTimes article. It was… Offensive? Inappropriate? Sensationalizing? Attempting to prove that transpeople really can’t “fit in” and will be a distraction in the workplace?

Take your pick. I’d love to hear some readers’ thoughts on this. Maybe it’s just me and I’m feeling sensitive because I’ve had a rough week. What do you think of the article? Of the image above? Personally, although the HRC’s Corporate Responsibility Index has clearly made a dent, we have a long way to go.

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Posted by: aronmwrites | September 3, 2008

Pumpkin spice syrup

I consider this a public service announcement: pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks!

I know some will consider this a bit early in the season – it’s not even mid-September – but who cares? Now I can enjoy their corn syrupy goodness for even longer this year.

Starbucks, for once you’ve made my day.

Update: Great update on the PS latte craze – try this PS special order at your local Starbucks. The recipe that Bitchy Barista provides is WONDERFUL.

Posted by: aronmwrites | August 29, 2008

A proud Green Party member

I was going to post on Palin and Biden’s respective records on queer and gender identity initiatives. Although I will do this, I feel like my time is better spent on something more positive: sharing the Green Party’s platform section on social justice that pertains to gender identity and sexual orientation.

Here’s the section, ratified over four years ago:

5. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In keeping with the Green Key Values of diversity, social justice and feminism, we support full legal and political equality for all persons, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

a. The Green Party affirms the rights of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, or sexual orientation

b. We support the recognition of equal rights of persons gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to housing, jobs, civil marriage, medical benefits, child custody, and in all areas of life provided to all other citizens.c. We support the inclusion of language in state and federal anti-discrimination law that ensures the rights of intersex individuals and prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, characteristics, and expression. We are opposed to intersex genital mutilation.

d. We support the right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex. We therefore support the right of intersex and transgender individuals to be free from coercion and involuntary assignment of gender or sex. We support access to medical and surgical treatment for assignment or reassignment of gender or sex, based on informed consent.
e. We support legislation against all forms of hate crimes, including those directed
against people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and intersex.

People want to know why I’m a member of the Green Party? That’s why. The rest of their platform is why. Because unlike Obamarama, the Green Party platform is change I can believe in.
Posted by: aronmwrites | August 29, 2008

Battle of the minorities

Holy shit.

What I most feared happening with John McCain’s VP pick has happened.  He picked a woman, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska).

Let the battle of the minority candidates begin.

Posted by: aronmwrites | August 27, 2008

In honor of Del Martin

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon getting married in SF during 2004.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon getting married in SF during 2004.

Wow – I can’t believe that Del Martin passed away today.  I have trouble imagining where the LGBT advocacy community would be without her decades of dedicated work.   

Her obituary, featured on EQCA, is reposted below in its entirety:

Dorothy L. (Del) Martin (May 5, 1921 – August 27, 2008)

Died on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at UCSF Hospice, San Francisco, California. Survived by spouse Phyllis Lyon, daughter Kendra Mon, son-in-law Eugene Lane, granddaughter Lorraine Mon, grandson Kevin Mon, sister-in-law Patricia Lyon and a vast, loving and grateful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family.

An eloquent organizer for civil rights, civil liberties, and human dignity, Del Martin created and helped shape the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and feminist movements. She was a woman of extraordinary courage, persistence, intelligence, humor, and fundamental decency, who refused to be silenced by fear and never stopped fighting for equality. Her last public political act, on June 16, 2008, was to marry Phyllis Lyon, her partner of 55 years. They were the first couple to wed in San Francisco after the California Supreme Court recognized that marriage for same-sex couples is a fundamental right in a case brought by plaintiffs including Martin and Lyon.

Born in San Francisco on May 5, 1921, Dorothy L. Taliaferro, or Del as she would come to be known, was salutatorian of the first graduating class of George Washington High School and went on to study journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. At 19, after transferring to San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University), she married James Martin and two years later gave birth to their daughter Kendra. The marriage ended in divorce.

Del Martin met the love of her life, Phyllis Lyon, in Seattle in 1950 when they worked for the same publication company. They became lovers in 1952 and formalized their partnership on Valentine’s Day in 1953 when they moved in together in San Francisco. In 1955, they bought the small home that has been theirs ever since.

In what would prove to be an act that would change history, Martin, Lyon, and six other lesbians co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in San Francisco in 1955. DOB, which was named after an obscure book of lesbian love poetry, initially was organized to provide secret mutual support and social activities. It became the first public and political lesbian rights organization in the United States, laying a foundation for the women’s and lesbian and gay liberation movements that flowered in the early 1970s and continue today.

Del Martin used her writing and speaking talents to challenge misconceptions about gender and sexuality. “We were fighting the church, the couch, and the courts,” she often remembered years later, naming the array of social and cultural forces early activists confronted when homosexuals were treated as immoral, mentally ill, and illegal. As the first President of DOB, she penned stirring calls to arms. “Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?” She was the second editor (after Phyllis Lyon) of DOB’s groundbreaking monthly magazine, The Ladder, from 1960 to 1962 and ushered in a new decade of political engagement and media visibility for the nascent gay rights movement. The Ladder grew from a mimeographed newsletter in 1956 to an internationally recognized magazine with thousands of subscribers by 1970, and thousands more readers who copied its contents or circulated it among friends and coworkers. Martin’s many contributions to The Ladder ranged from short stories to editorials to missives: one of the most famous is “If That’s All There Is,” a searing condemnation of sexism in the gay rights movement written in 1970. Due to Martin’s influence, The Ladder provided one of the few media outlets confronting misogyny in the decade before the rebirth of women’s liberation.

In 1964, Del Martin was part of a group that founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in order to lobby city lawmakers more effectively to reduce police harassment and modify the sex laws that criminalized homosexual behavior. In later years, Martin was also a founding member of the Lesbian Mother’s Union, the San Francisco Women’s Centers, and the Bay Area Women’s Coalition, among other organizations.

As an early member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Del Martin worked to counter homophobia within the women’s movement – fear of the so-called “lavender menace.” She and Lyon were the first lesbians to insist on joining with a “couples’ membership rate” and Martin was the first out lesbian on NOW’s Board of Directors. Their efforts helped to insure the inclusion of lesbian rights on NOW’s agenda in the early 1970’s.

Lesbian/Woman, the book they co-authored in 1972, is one of Martin and Lyon’s landmark accomplishments. The book described lesbian lives in a positive, knowledgeable way almost unknown at the time. In 1992, Publishers Weekly chose it as one of the 20 most influential women’s books of the last 20 years.

For many years, Del Martin was a leader in the campaign to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to declare that homosexuality was not a mental illness. This goal was finally achieved in 1973.

Del Martin’s publication of Battered Wives in 1976 was a major catalyst for the movement against domestic violence. Martin became a nationally known advocate for battered women, and was a co-founder of the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women (1975), La Casa de las Madres (a shelter for battered women) founded in 1976, and the California Coalition against Domestic Violence (1977). She lectured at colleges and universities around the country. Martin received her doctorate from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in 1987.

Martin’s keen political instincts and interests extended her influence into the mainstream Democratic Party. She and Lyon were co-founders, in 1972, of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the first gay political club in the United States. Martin was appointed Chair of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women in 1976 and served on the committee until 1979. She worked as a member of many other councils and boards including the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Throughout the years, many politicians recognized their stature as community leaders and sought advice and endorsement from Martin and Lyon.

It is difficult to separate Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon and write about only one of them. Their lives and their work have intertwined and their enduring dedication to social justice has been recognized many times. In 1979, local health care providers established a clinic to give lesbians in the San Francisco Bay area access to nonjudgmental, affordable health care and named it Lyon-Martin Health Services in their honor. In 1990, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California awarded the couple with its highest honor, the Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. In 1995, Senator Dianne Feinstein named Martin, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi named Lyon, as delegates to the White House Conference on Aging, where they made headlines by using their moment at the podium to remind the 125,000 attendees that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people grow old, too, and must be included explicitly in aging policies. The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality gave Martin and Lyon their Outstanding Public Service Award in 1996. They are among the most beloved figures in the LGBT community and have served as Grand Marshals at Pride marches across the nation and been honored by every major LGBT organization in the country.

Del Martin identified her own legacy in 1984 when she said that her most important contribution was “being able to help make changes in the way lesbians and gay men view themselves and how the larger society views lesbians and gay men.” She had the courage to be true to herself when the world offered only condemnation for lesbians. Martin showed all of us how to have what she called “self-acceptance and a good sense of my own self-worth.” Del Martin never backed down from her insistence on full equality for all people and, even at 87 years old, she kept moving all of us closer to her ideal.

Gifts in lieu of flowers can be made to honor Del’s life and commitment and to defeat the California marriage ban through NCLR’s No On 8 PAC at www.nclrights.org/NoOn8.

A public memorial and tribute celebrating the life of Del Martin will be planned in the next several weeks.

(Photo credit: USA Today)

Posted by: aronmwrites | August 27, 2008

Boycotts do work!

Given the fact that I’ve talked about Bolthouse Farms and their connections to the “Yes on Prop. 8” campaign before, I felt like this would be some good news to share. Apparently, the CFO of Manchester Financial Group, the company that owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Grant Del Mar, has expressed some worry to Manchester about his decision to financially support the “Yes on Prop. 8” campaign due to the fear of boycotts:

In a July 29 e-mail to Manchester, Paul Wilkins, chief financial officer for the group, said he believed “this boycott effort will cost you millions of dollars of lost revenue and possibly tens of millions of dollars in lost value for both the Manchester Grand Hyatt and The Grand Del Mar.”

See!  Boycotts due make a difference! 

Another article in The Wall Street Journal also talks about the boycott efforts (unfortunately giving some erroneous information about William Bolthouse’s connection to Bolthouse Farms – yes, he is indeed still connected to the company, despite what Bolthouse Farm’s has said!), which have ultimately spurred Hyatt Corp. to publicly state that they do not back Manchester’s political beliefs:

A spokeswoman for Hyatt Corp. in Chicago said it doesn’t require its hotel owners to follow any particular policy. “We absolutely don’t have a position on the proposition itself but we have a really strong, long track record of inclusiveness in terms of the way we welcome our guests and the way we treat our employees. Doug Manchester…in no way speaks for Hyatt,” said the spokeswoman.

Personally, I think this is all really great news.  When the American Family Association is out boycotting McDonald’s for getting to cozy with Teh Gays (the website is pretty funny – I suggest you check it out), it’s great to see the queer folks stand up for themselves and put a bit of pressure on the Prop. 8 backers in California.  Go team!

Posted by: aronmwrites | August 22, 2008

Will VP pick Biden flake on LGBT community?

Joe BidenRather quietly tonight, in my opinion, Sen. Barack Obama announced that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) is his VP pick (great picture of Joe on the left, don’t you think?). I won’t bother repeating the fairly decent, if brief, summary that Waymon Hudson’s already put together over at the Bilerico Project of Biden’s voting record on LGBT (really queer… or really gay and lesbian…) issues. Take a peak.

Seems fairly rosey a review, though, so I’d also suggest this brief post from Citizen Crain for a bit more balance. He talks slightly more substantively about why Biden hasn’t gotten stronger scores from the HRC’s congressional report cards. Chris Crain’s question basically sums it up:

Senator Biden, you’ve avoided express commitments and delayed or avoided co-sponsorship on some gay rights legislation pending in Congress. And you’ve not said to what extent gay couples who are married or in civil unions should receive federal recognition. Are you prepared now to make firm, clear commitments and if so, why has it taken you so long?

Now I wish I’d seen them ask that at the HRC/Logo debates! Too bad Biden had “scheduling conflicts” and couldn’t attend… (I think he was the only invited Democratic candidate to not speak at the event.)

Hopefully in the coming days I’ll have some time to pull together a more thorough look into his record on gender identity related legislation. Something to watch for in the coming days at TRANS∙pose, I suppose (look, I rhyme!).

What do you think? Any preliminary impressions of the senator?

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