Monday, July 29, 2013

Rational T-hought Returns

Back in 2011 when I was first getting organized with thoughts of activism and making forward progress I started this blog.  I've let it sit dormant for some time now as I had originally viewed it as a campaign.  At the time there was a deep community argument regarding incrementalism and civil rights legislation for the T in LGBT.  That battle ended up being called by the MD Senate President in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded for the home team.  I have left those posts up here because I think you need to keep a history of where you have been.  My thinking and methods have changed some since that time and I have managed to be a part of passing comprehensive legislation in 2011 and 2012.

Today some of those same issues exist, and we have made great local and national progress and I have been writing about this for some time in Baltimore OUTloud for a while now.  I have decided to start placing a copy of what I write on this blog for posterity and to insure timely web publication.  I know some of you follow me on OUTloud or Facebook but now and again the OUTloud website does not get updated and I want you to enjoy the fruits of my wisdom (just kidding).

Bear with me a bit as I try and move/copy things here, it will take me a while to get it sorted out.  But you can read my latest post here

Occasionally I will post here on matters that do not go to publication with OUTloud but those might just be commentary. 


Friday, July 26, 2013

Broken Record

With the recent events of the Supreme Court and marriage the LGBT community has much to be happy about.  Yes there is work to be done in states where marriage laws need to be amended, struck down, or repealed.  Organizations like Lambda Legal are on the case filing suits all over the country on behalf of couples who want to see progress made.  What is alarming is that it seems to be the only song that is playing on the “LGBT radio.”  Marriage, marriage, marriage.  It would seem almost twenty-four hours a day, one song.  And I have to pose the question, what about everything else?

Am I surprised? No.  In fact I kind of foreshadowed it.  And the sad part is the media has played along.  There have been some pretty momentous changes for Trans folk in the past few weeks but I doubt few know of it.  Certainly the fact that a handful of the reactionaries in congress are trying again for a one-man one-woman marriage amendment to the constitution seems to have overshadowed that news, or some legal activity that essentially codifies what SCOTUS has set into motion seems to be much more important out there.  It’s OK; I will use this space to catch you all up.

This past week Gender Rights Maryland announced that in a letter to the LGB Caucus of the Maryland state legislature that the key Maryland state offices responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA a.k.a. “ObamaCare”) have agreed to insure that Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation anti-discrimination protections in the act will be put in place in Maryland as of October 1, 2013.  Maryland will now join California, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia with such a policy.  I know some are going “eh” but the reality is for transfolk this is huge.  You see it has been quite common for insurance companies to deny any kind of coverage for transfolks just because they were Trans.  Meaning that therapies they use for other folks would be routinely denied.  For example, hormone therapy.  This now means that if coverage is offered to anybody it must be offered to everybody, Trans or otherwise.    This is a big step for equality for Trans persons in Maryland.  It’s ok, you can shout about it and have a celebratory party later.  But for once Maryland is not playing catch up here with the rest of the country.

The other matters concern the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Last year the commission determined that Trans discrimination was sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  The case, Macy v. Holder, found that the ATF had discriminated in not hiring Mia Macy for a position they had previously offered her.  Macy is an MtF Trans person.  The Department of Justice, (DOJ) was instructed to correct those issues and this week did so by offering her back pay with interest, legal fees, and a job.  It remains to be seen if she will actually take the job.  I know how it is when you have been told they don’t want you someplace, you are usually reluctant to go back there.

In light of this another case brought in the private sector by Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal reached a settlement on another trans discrimination case with a Maryland defense contractor.  That marks the first time such a thing has happened in private sector EEOC matter.  This is also huge.  The message is clear.  It is no longer OK to discriminate against trans persons in employment.  Anyplace in the U.S., period.  Unfortunately there are legal naysayers who say it is not binding and that the Supremes have yet to see a case on such things.  And so we should not vigorously pursue cases with the EEOC.  Rubbish.  That kind of argument could be applied to any matter, and if it was you would not have seen DOMA go there.  

This reinforces the fact that the EEOC is now taking your employment discrimination claims nationally, with, or without, a local or state law that protects you for gender identity discrimination.   My take is this is a new “right” we have right now, and we need to stop waiting for the future protections and embrace what is in front of us in the present.  Rights, when not exercised vigorously atrophy from disuse.  Nothing in these advances suggest we should not pursue things like the Employment Non Discrimination Act or other state level statutes but it does say get moving now!  Go file your complaint, if you have one, now, today.

As to that broken record out there of the same song being played over and over again (marriage, marriage, marriage).  I suggest you adjust your tuner, there are a lot of other stations to listen to.

As published in Baltimore OUTloud, 7/26/2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Out in the Rain

Out in the Rain
Pride events tend to be a mixed bag for trans folk. I dare say that even though we generally are welcome “it is not our party.” Even though many of us may self-identify as LGB many in the LGB crowd have us pre-labeled with the “T”. Sometimes that “T” fits comfortably and others not so much.

For me the reality is over the last few years I find I occasionally want to be at arm’s length from some events and people. There are aspects of Pride that have always made me uncomfortable. I’ve never attended or participated in a Pride parade despite having probably been in nearly 100 parades in my youth (I was a self-identified marching “band fag”). And you would likely not find me within a tactical nuke of a high-heel race. And I do not participate in or watch drag, period. Never have, never will.

Recently there was a dust-up online about the folks that run the BET awards asking their host B. Scott not to wear heels and makeup during the awards. I would have thought they should have known about Scott in advance. Scott, who identifies as a gay male, regularly appears in public “en femme”. What surprised and irked some was the headline on the matter which read “Trans Media Maven B. Scott…” (

In recent years the term transgender has been morphed to trans or trans* as a way of pleasing those who do not identify as transgender. I know that just sounded oxymoronic to some of you but many who identify as “transsexual” are not comfortable being lumped under the transgender “umbrella”. So asking B. Scott to “represent” for persons like me is problematic. Is he transgender? Indeed, by the accepted definition he is. Do I want him, or Ru Paul, as a role model and person whom others equate with me and who I am? No. No more than I want any other gay man to do so.

My dear friend Diego Sanchez, fellow trans person and former staffer for Rep. Barney Frank, shared the following wisdom with me: 
“While transgender is an umbrella term used to describe an extensive variety of people, I believe you will find that many transsexuals prefer to be out in the rain rather than under the umbrella.”

You see that umbrella covers drag queens / kings, crossdressers, transsexual, and many other gender-variant people. Not all are happy living under that framework. transsexuals in particular have issues with such things. Let’s presume the following: You are a male-assigned person who identifies as female. You may have gone to some effort to effect that change be it medication, hair removal, and/or possibly various surgeries. You have likely changed your name, your documentation, and your general appearance to get to a place of comfort. You may have a partner or spouse who also sees you as a woman,regardless of your orientation. You live life as a woman. So, are you still transgender, or just a woman? I would say arguably you might not be trans anymore. Congratulations you are “cured”.

Many trans folk who get to that place would rather stand in the rain than under the umbrella – the rain being the world outside the “T” or even the LGBT community. What is interesting is the schism that results from that mindset. Some trans persons go “stealth,” blending into the woodwork and living lives where they have little interaction with other “Ts”. And the “why” is confusing to many. The problem: public perception. You see the media and many in the LGB universe, tend to go for the extremes, and this is the perception of what transgender means in homophobic America. Not those of us who live in the mainstream world. Those “part-time” persons create a distorted set of assumptions about the rest of us.

Why does this stuff rub some many transsexual persons so wrong? Partly because for those of us who identify as such you will find that on Monday morning going to work or school we will look, act, and be attired as the same person we were on Saturday night. And when you are one of the other categories you have the option to fall back to your “regular” gay, straight, and/or gender conforming persona and that cultural safety net, no matter how small, is still there for you. For those who have transitioned not so much. Who and what you are is ever-present, often even with a casual glance by others whether or not you have an umbrella overhead. Oh look, it’s raining again.
As published in Baltimore OUTloud