Tag Archives: Transphobia

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?

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.

Christian Group Member Throws Girl From Wheelchair at Hateful Counter-Protest

14 May

We believe that a good counter-protest is what free speech is all about. That is why Talk About Equality was one of the sponsors of last summer’s “The Big Commit” in Washington DC – a response to the National Organization for Marriage’s hateful anti-gay bus tour. The event was peaceful and featured several positive speakers from a wide variety of social and religious backgrounds. We were proud to take part.

Unfortunately, the hate that drives so many individuals to fight against gays and lesbians around the world, also fuels violence. In Adelaide, Australia today, 150 members of the LGBT community gathered to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. During the rally which featured mock weddings and calls for equality, a Christian group decided that the peaceful protest needed to be broken-up.

The group screamed and chanted over the rally and then marched alongside the gay and lesbian group as they walked for equal rights. A young lesbian was pulled from her wheelchair and thrown to the ground during the march.

The hatred that we so frequently see in dark alleys or outside gay bars late at night as gay men and lesbians are beaten and killed, was in full view today in Australia. When the only way you can get your point across is by physically assaulting another human being, you clearly don’t have much of an argument. It’s sad when a rally to end homophobia only ends up proving just how needed a day like this is.

Oak for King!

27 Sep

A classic fall high school story. Oak Reed, from Muskegon, Michigan, ran a facebook campaign for Homecoming King at Mona Shores High school and won.

The problem, for the administration, is that Oakleigh Marshall Reed used to be named Oakleigh Marie Reed.  So, despite the common belief that Oak earned the most votes, the school principal invalidated his candidacy on a technicality. The school records still indicate that Oak is a girl.

Another story of young people being affected by the short sighted policies of adults.  It seems everyone in the school community is aware of Oak’s gender identity, including the teachers who use male pronouns and even the administration who selectively allows Oak to act on his gender expression.

There is an interesting twist to this story, one that gives us hope for future generations.  It seems the student body, band parents, and  Oak’s mother have been incredibly supportive.  Some students even created an Oak is my King facebook group and are intending to wear solidarity tee-shirts on October 1st.
Oak Reed for Homecoming King!

Kudo’s to Oak for sharing his story with the world and living openly and honestly and to the supportive students at Mona Shores High School.

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