Tag Archives: Transgender

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

11 Oct

Me and my brothers, I’m on the far right. Note the bevel.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Coming Out in this country is something which has changed a great deal since I was a kid. For many young people today (though certainly not all), the process has become far less traumatic. The act of telling a friend or family member that you’re gay is now frequently met with a “so?” and a “cool, let’s go to a gay bar!”

While the reactions for some have changed, the process, the act of summoning the courage to say it, has remained the same. For me and for thousands of others, we spent years hiding – pretending to be something we  weren’t.

I dated girls in high school. Well, I hung out with girls in high school. At one point, one girl who was a good size larger than me, pushed me up against the band room lockers one afternoon. “I want you to go out with me.” she said. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll say yes.” Ever the pacifist, I reluctantly agreed. Nothing ever happened outside of her falling asleep on my lap at a few parties (an action she had in common with my fiancé). Every moment with her was filled with fear. I wasn’t just afraid of getting my ass kicked, I was afraid of something happening where she would find out who I really was. And tell everyone about it.

My first beard, Beth. Note my happiness.

Another girl I dated – to this day, one of the sweetest people I know, I had one date with. We went to see Shadowlands in the movie theater. The event was plagued by 3 different delays due to a faulty projector, so the already painfully-long film was met with two 30-minute intermissions. As if things weren’t awkward enough.
A card I received a few days later, professing her “love” for me…yes, she said “I love you”, caused me to end that very quickly.

So when I finally came out to my best friend John (as bisexual of course, cuz that’s the natural progression of things, right?), I expected shock and surprise. I mean, who would expect a 19 year old who’d never seriously dated a girl and dreamed of moving to New York City and starring on Broadway to be gay? Instead John offered to host a coming out party for me at his dorm and offered zero of the shock and awe I hoped for.

And of course, coming home from my first rennaisance faire with my Dad. And he claimed not to know.

In all seriousness though, when a person comes out to you, act surprised – even if you’re not. We work really hard to hide who we are in many cases and if upon coming out we’re met with a “Oh, I know. We all know,” what you’re saying to that person is “We’ve known forever, you’re bad at hiding and we’ve been talking about you behind your back for years.” Not exactly the most supportive message to send to someone in easily the most vulnerable place they’ve ever been in.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, be yourself. If you’re gay, tell someone who didn’t know before – maybe even someone who probably doesn’t care. Tell your taxi driver, your banker, the guy holding the door open at 7-11. In honor of all those who can’t come out for fear they’ll be kicked out of their homes, lose their livelihood, or worse – come out to someone new. And have a gay day.

 

 

Even NPH Can’t Say ‘Tr*nny’ : A Teachable Moment

2 Dec

It’s time for some education around Transgender issues and what is now seen as transphobic or discriminatory language.

A few months ago, I was on a bus trip from NYC to DC and the two young collegiates next to me were having a really intelligent discussion about the current political atmosphere. While I don’t think they were LGBT, they were certainly progressive enough. I smiled as I listened to them banter on about the environment and the damage that some Republican candidates would do to our country. When all of a sudden, they started discussing a party they’d been to the night before and out popped the sentence “She looked like a tranny.” To me, this was jarring because as an activist, I’ve been trained that “tranny” is an offensive and downright unacceptable term to be using.

I interrupted the young men, apologized for eavesdropping for the past hour or so and let them know that the term they were using was hurtful towards transgender people. They immediately apologized and thanked me for letting them know.

At the beginning of this month on Huffington Post, the bastion of liberal blogs, there was a little survey entitled “Who looks more like a Tranny? Sofia Vergara or Blake Lively.” When it was brought to their attention that they were using an anti-trans slur, they immediately removed it and issued an apology.

And then just a few weeks ago, Kelly Osborn issued an apology for using the word in a Glamour UK interview, with regards to a transgender friend of hers. Kelly was under fire immediately and reached out to GLAAD for advice on how the word was offensive and education on how she could reach out to apologize for her gaffe. She wrote a wonderful piece, ironically enough, for Huffington Post titled “I’m retiring the word ‘Tranny’…will you join me?

And then this morning, I was referred to a video of our very own Neil Patrick Harris co-hosting “LIVE with Kelly”. The two were inhaling a gas which was the opposite of helium, whose properties actually lower your voice in the same way helium raises it. Neil made the comment “I’ve never sounded more like a tranny in my life.”

I’ve met Neil on several occasions now and have worked with his partner David a few times, and I can tell you that if Neil had ever been informed that what he said might be offensive to some people, he never would have used it. If one of the most out, positive LGBT role models out there has not been educated on this issue, then we need to be doing better work.

I know among some, there will be the desire to break out the pitchforks and torches and make an example out of NPH. But the truth of the matter is, when even members of our own community don’t know about these things, or know and use them anyway, we should pivot to education, not attack. Each moment like this is a chance to move the ball forward. I urge people to avoid jumping to the conclusion that he is a “transphobe” or that he “doesn’t give two shits about trans women.” It comes off as not only extreme, but potentially counter productive. We make a lot of assumptions about the use of a word that many have not yet been trained to avoid.

Trans issues are happily, finally coming to the forefront. With Chaz Bono’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” and the doors that has opened, I’m hoping to see far more attention paid to the T of the LGBT – it’s about time. But in doing so, we must find as many opportunities as we can, to educate. If we start out by attacking people who honestly have not been told otherwise, we will lose potential allies.

I’ve reached out to Neil and it would surprise me if we don’t hear from him soon about this. But again, I can almost guarantee that he was not aware that his language was seen as offensive.

I would like to ask all who read this to take a little time and read this GLAAD Media Reference Guide and transgender glossary of terms. The education has to start somewhere.

UPDATE:

As expected, NPH has come through with an apology for his use of the slur. Please continue to help educate others on potentially offensive language. Many responses to this post have been met with “I had no idea that we shouldn’t use that word” or “My friends use it all the time, I’ll ask them not to now.” All it takes is a little education.

And take a look at this excellent explanation of transphobic language from Bilerico.com (thanks Vincent Villano at National Center for Transgender Equality)

If a Trans Person is Murdered and No One Notices, Did It Happen?

29 Aug

About a year ago, I heard the term “cisgender” for the first time. Naturally, I looked it up and it describes “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity.” i.e. – the opposite of transgender or intersex.

In my personal journey to be accepted, understood and embraced as a gay person and understanding that I am a part of the “LGBT Community,” I have frequently felt a disconnect both personally and as a member of this group between the LGB and the T.

While this divide has become clear from the actions of political leaders who advocate for the stripping of transgender people from anti-discrimination legislation, I have personally lived in a place of misinformation and undereducation on the plight of my own transgender brothers and sisters – and that must change.

Over the past several months years decades, the lives of transgender people have been seen as nothing more than disposable by our elected representatives, law enforcement, and even members of our own community. Transgender people have faced abuses far greater than so many in our country and the blatant brutality against them is not only ignored but accepted and mocked by those who should be protecting us all.

Last week, two trans women were shot by an off-duty DC Metro police officer. He had an altercation with the women and their friends in a CVS before the shooting took place. W Police said Officer Kenneth Furr stood on the hood of his car and shouted “I’m gonna kill you,” and fired 5 shots into their car. Three people were injured and luckily none of those injuries were life-threatening. Furr has been charged with a DWI and “assault with a deadly weapon.” I can’t help but think someone screaming “I’m gonna kill you,” and then firing a gun at you should probably fall under the “attempted murder” umbrella, but he’s a cop and the two women were transgender so I guess we’ll let it slide this time…

(l) NY firefighter Taylor Murphy (r) Transgender Model Claudia Charriez

Apparently yesterday, one of New York’s “finest,” a firefighter featured in the famous New York Firefighter calendar beat and strangled his transgender girlfriend. Taylor Murphy thought his girlfriend Claudia Charriez, also famous after appearing on America’s Next Top Model (she was disqualified when her gender identity was discovered) had been flirting with someone else and thought it was acceptable behavior to shatter her cellphone on the ground and then drag her down the street by her hair. After she fled, he met her at her hotel room where he proceeded to punch, kick and choke her. Did I mention the firefighter is 6’3″ and a 220 lb muscle thug? He’s currently in jail and being charged with “assault, criminal mischief and criminal obstruction of breathing.” Must say it’s the first time I’ve heard “criminal obstruction of breathing.” Where I come from – when someone strangles you, they are trying to murder you…thus, attempting murder.

The New York Post, that bastion of liberty and equality, labeled the previous story with the headline “Fireman busted after violently ‘beating’ tranny pal.” Firstly – the Post is well aware that the term “tranny” is just as offensive as other colorful epithets given to racial and sexual minorities. Secondly – if this firefighter’s girlfriend had been born a woman, I wonder if the term “beating” would have had those little quotes around it? Either way, the Post is not only promoting bigotry, they are putting it in their boldest print.

Last week, I attended a small rally to fight transgender violence and police brutality in DC. A trans woman told a story of her boyfriend who chased her around the house, threw knives and other various items at her, punched, kicked and left her bruised and bloodied. The police came and took a report and labeled it “simple assault.”

Many crimes against trans people remain unsolved. Is this due to overworked police departments or police departments who don’t care that a trans person was brutally murdered? Or is it because sometimes our families have disowned us and don’t bother to follow-up on the investigations (57% of trans people experience family rejection according to a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality)? It’s hard to get accurate facts on transgender hate crimes or statistics because outside of Massachusetts and DC, virtually no other police department in the country  have ever reported instances of hate crimes against transgender individuals.

Whether being beaten and raped in the street by strangers, shot by off-duty police officers or strangled by their partners, trans people, and in particular trans people of color are suffering at unimaginable rates. And what’s worse – the people who are supposed to be stopping this are only adding salt to the wound with their clear discrimination when it comes to the treatment of the victims and the criminals in these cases.

In the 1980’s, thousands of us were dying from a virus no one knew anything about. We were being turned away from grocery stores, from laundromats, from hospitals – from our homes. The community was forced to take a stand to protect our own – we cared for one another, we sheltered one another we built communities where all of us were welcome.

Our transgender brothers and sisters are dying – they are being killed at the hands of people who refuse to understand or accept them. The time is now to start standing up and demanding change. Many of us have experienced being treated as though our lives were trivial – but how many of us can say our lives have been regarded as disposable?

7-Year Old Transgender Child Refused Proper Bathroom Visits in School

25 Aug

Tommy Theollyn’s son is transgender. The child’s doctor has confirmed this. Despite female genitalia,his son identifies as a boy and all the students know him as a boy. But Dr. William A. Hunter – the Superintendent of his school has demanded he use the girl’s room. On top of that, he has threatened Tommy with a call to Child Protection Services.

Here we have a parent who has worked with his child’s doctor and clearly done what is right for his son who is transgender. And here we have a school superintendent overstepping his bounds into what is quite clearly dangerous territory.

In addition to not allowing Tommy’s son to use the bathroom of the gender with which he identifies, he will not even let the child use the unisex bathroom in their school because it is a faculty restroom. This is a child who would not feel safe using the restroom which does not apply to his gender. This is a case of a school administrator bullying a child.

Tommy has started a Change.org petition targeting the McIntosh County School Board as well as the Superintendent and other members of the faculty and staff, demanding that all students be allowed safe access to bathrooms and other facilities.

Sign his petition here and add your name to the quickly growing list of people demanding protections for our youth. Ask yourself how you would feel if your child was denied access to a bathroom in school, how you would feel if your child was punished unjustly, how you would feel if your child did not feel safe and protected by the very people who are charged with molding and shaping your child’s future. When you’ve asked yourself and you have an answer, go sign the petition.

TSA Adds Insult to Injury for Trans Flyers

17 Aug

I don’t know a single person who enjoys going through security at an airport. From the annoyance of having to take off your shoes and belt to now having to remove everything in your pockets for the new full-body scans. I spent much of the start of this year on crutches and with a cast on my foot after a nasty spill on the ice. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) frequently treated me like I was hiding anthrax in my walking boot. I had to go through the “advanced” pat downs on several occasions and was even forced to remove the cast and hop around while it went through the metal detector.

Compared to what one part of our community has to go through in airports, that was child’s play. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality‘s (NCTE) Report on Discrimination, almost one third of transgender people have experienced disrespect or discrimination in airports or with TSA agents. Now TSA is trying it’s best to make it worse.

A pilot program at Boston’s Logan airport has TSA agents enacting “chat-downs,” to look for signs of nervousness or concealment, and any other suspicious behavior. “We are looking for behaviors that are out of the norm,” the TSA’s local security director told National Public Radio.

Now imagine you are a transgender person spending a good percentage of your life trying to “pass” as one gender or the other so that people will see you properly as the gender you identify as. Now imagine not only having to go through a full-body image scanner where perhaps a non-sympathetic TSA agent decides they need to pull you aside for a “chat-down.” Those signs of nervousness and concealment you’re showing have nothing to do with terrorism, but they will not only ruin your day, but possibly stop you from getting on your flight.

Some trans people have either not fully transitioned or don’t “pass” very well as their identified gender. Add to that the fact that some have not legally changed names yet on passports or travel documents. And now mix-in the fact that they face horrific discrimination not only in airports, but in employment, housing, and every other corner where one can possibly face discrimination, and you have a recipe for a “nervous flyer.”

As a person with several family members already on the terrorist watch list (due only to their Lebanese descent and the color of their skin), I’ve heard firsthand just how de-humanizing and probing the TSA can be. My then-80 year old wheelchair-bound uncle was violently forced out of his wheelchair and searched shortly after the 9/11 attacks only because of his last name. To this day, many of my cousins remain on the watch list.

A commenter on NCTE’s blog warning about this new pilot program said:

“…My partner, who is also ftm [female to male], has started taking hormones and passes quite well. However, he has not had his legal name change yet and his birth name is obviously feminine, therefore always drawing intense scrutiny from the TSA people who check IDs/boarding passes, and has, on occasion, been questioned to the point of extreme embarrassment and having the line held up behind him. My partner also has a stutter (has had it since childhood), especially in situations where he feels uncomfortable, nervous, or scared. So the possibility of him being called out by the TSA for one of these “chats” could be greatly intensified already due to the name not matching his appearance issue, plus if he stutters during this chat, what till the TSA accuse him of?…”

NCTE ends their blog post with the following statement which we also feel is necessary to share:

NCTE encourages transgender travelers who experience problems with airport security screening to file complaints with TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties and the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. To aid in our advocacy efforts, please share copies of your complaints with NCTE.

Why Michele and Marcus Bachmann are so dangerous to the LGBT Community.

7 Jul

Marcus & Michelle Bachmann (Image via AP)

Michele Bachmann is a Minnesota Congresswoman and the sweetheart of the Tea Party. She has ignorantly riled up thousands of people with barrels of lies and propaganda against Obama and the Democratic party. Her actions have been at best irresponsible and at worst, criminal. All the while, she has smiled and made some of the most hysterical comments ever made in a political arena. Some of my favorites include:

“I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

“I’m a foreign correspondent on enemy lines, and I try to let everyone back here in Minnesota know exactly the nefarious activities that are taking place in Washington.”

“But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” .

“Pelosi is committed to her global warming fanatacism to the point where she has even said she is trying to save the planet. We all know someone did that 2,000 years ago.”

Reverend Bradlee Dean

But in all seriousness, Michele Bachmann scares me the most out of all these GOP candidates. Her own anti-gay views have been well-documented and her allies in the fight against us are some of the most violently homophobic people we have seen in this decade. Between her pal, Bradlee Dean (who has defended the execution of gay people, and has said about gay people – “On average they molest 117 people before they’re found out.”). Bachmann has repeatedly said that (abolishing) gay marriage is her “number one issue.” A few other homophobic quotes from the Congresswoman include:

“This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children.”

“It’s part of Satan I think to say that this is “gay.” It’s anything but “gay.”

“If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.”

“Don’t misunderstand. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.”

These are just a few of the ignorant and hateful comments Mrs. Bachmann has made about LGBT people. But this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage her and her husband are doing. Michele’s husband is “Dr.” Marcus Bachmann. Bachmann is no more a doctor than I am a Wimbledon contender. But unlike my false claims to be a tennis superstar, Bachmann’s claims to be a medical professional can kill people. Bachmann practices without a license.

According to his practice’s website, Bachmann dismisses any formal training because “Christ is the Almighty Counselor.” One might ask why Bachmann is getting Medicaid funds if some dead guy is doing all the work, and how Mrs. Bachmann can rail against Medicaid funds when those funds are clearly helping her keep her hair so coiffed, but I digress. On to the crux of the discussion – Bachmann’s clinic is receiving federal funds so that he can “cure homosexuality.”

Bachmann, who’s own sexuality has frequently come into question, practices “reparative therapy” on gay people. He has referred to gay people as “barbarians” that need to be “educated” and “disciplined.” This kind of therapy has been proven to be harmful and even lethal to people who enter into it. While I cannot seem to find any reports or  any of Bachmann’s patients who have come forward to discuss his harmful practices, the harm done by this type of “therapy,” has a long, bloody track record.

Through Mrs. Bachmann’s campaigning, this idea that gay people can somehow be “cured” will be given validation to those who deify her and hang on her every word. This will send more parents home to their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children to send them in to “reparative therapy,” where those children will learn to hate who they are – sometimes to the point of suicide.

***One more thing…the LGBT community has been calling out others quite a bit in the past two years for anti-LGBT bullying. The assumption that a child might be gay because of the way he or she acts or speaks or even walks, has caused some horrific retribution from classmates, teachers and even parents generation after generation. “Dr.” Marcus Bachmann’s sexuality is known only to him and whoever else he wants to know. Some are concerned that our assumptions about him based on the way he acts, speaks and walks might be hypocritical and might be a bad message to send young people – that he should be called “gay” simply because of his mannerisms.

It’s a tough discussion, because no, we absolutely should not make assumptions based on outdated stereotypes. But at the same time, Bachmann himself has inadvertently alluded to the fact he might be gay on more than one occasion by using the “we” pronoun instead of “they,” and with hints like that, coupled with the fact that he is a public figure potentially responsible for the suicide of LGBT people, his actions and possible hypocrisy must be spoken about openly.

Not Like the Other Cavemen: Gay or Transgender Stone Ager Unearthed

6 Apr

He’s not like the other cavemen.

According to the Daily Mail, in the Czech Republic, a late Stone Age era skeleton was found in excellent condition. While that’s a pretty neat find on it’s own, archaeologists were a bit confused by the burial of this fine gentleman. Due to the importance of funerals at the time, experts believe that what they found was no coincidence.

Apparently, men were always buried lying on their right side, with their heads facing west, while women of the time were always buried on their left side with their heads facing east. This man was found buried on his left side, with his head facing west. While this aloneis enough to raise eyebrows, archaeologists also noted a difference in the artifacts buried with him.

Men of the time were normally buried with weapons, swords and such as well as portions of food and drink to accompany them to the other side, while women were primarily buried with household objects such as jugs or an egg-shaped pot at their feet. Our man was found not with weapons, but with household jugs and pots as women were. Lead researcher Kamila Remisova said

“Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual  orientation, homosexual or transvestite. What we see here does not add up to traditional Corded Ware cultural norms.”

Whether he was gay, bisexual, transgender or “third-gender” as another researcher put it, it sure is nice to know that not only have we been around a while, but there may have been Stone Age societies that may have recognized and honored us for who we were. I think he needs a name. If Lucy gets one, so does our boy. Thoughts?

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