Sunday, July 19, 2009


One of the things I've always liked about Vanessa Edwards Foster is that she doesn't lose sight of the goal: actual equality. I agree with her that our standards are low when it comes to justice for the trans people, and their families and friends, who are murdered. I agree that "manslaughter" is not murder, and that shooting at someone who is basically a sitting duck in a car can't possibly have been an accidental killing.

But what I don't agree with is the vitriol directed at the LGB leadership of the organizations that called the ruling on Teisha Green's murder a victory.

Our standards are low because we are too used to seeing no justice at all when it comes to people who intentionally hurt and kill trans people for being trans. There are too many cases that break your heart. There are too many families who have had to hear the most hateful bullshit about their trans loved one. There are too many cases that are simply not solved, nor investigated.

But that the jury came back to rule her death a hate crime is a good thing.

What bothers me about the politics between the LGB & T is that there are plenty of other gay bashings and hate crimes experienced by the LGB that the trans community pays little attention to, such as Sean Kennedy's. If you want an example of an absolute failure when it came to our legal system, that's it. It's horrific. Every time I see that young man's beautiful face, and think about his parents' loss, I wonder where exactly the trans community has been in raising awareness of that horrible injustice. No, he wasn't gender variant. He was a young adult who was out and proud about being gay. But he's dead just the same as Teisha Green is, & for the same reason: someone hated him for what he was.

Do we know Michael Scott Goucher? Richard Hernandez? Satendar Singh? Ryan Keith Skipper? Jeremy Waggoner? Daniel Yakovleff? These are the names of gay men who have been murdered for being gay in the last couple of years. I didn't know most of their names.

Community goes both ways. We all have more than enough mourning to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

'Bobbi with a I' and I

I'd run across "Bobbi with an I" by country singer Phil Vassar a few months ago and was intrigued. The song tells the story of the singer's friend Bobby, a former "linebacker, a quarterback sacker," who drives a tow truck and bench presses 335—and who shows up one night at the local bar "in his pink party dress." Jaws drop, but over time nobody gives it a second thought, it's "just Bobbi with an I."

Given that country music isn't known as a bastion of social progressivism it was a pleasant surprise, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor (one reason Bobbi gets respect is because "he's been known to knock a few teeth out if you ask him for a beauty tip") that doesn't make Bobbi the butt of a joke. It seemed like Vassar either knew someone who crossdressed, or at least had run across crossdressers hanging out at a bar somewhere.

Vassar just released a music video for the song and it's got some, ah, interesting differences.

The video adds a prequel where Bobby is invited out by his friends, but demurs because he's broke. But his eyes light up when his friend mentions "it's Ladies Night, free drinks for the girls!" Did someone say: free drinks? Cue the music. Bobbi enters the bar, a cigar-chomping burly "man in a dress" (in fact he's wearing sunglasses to conceal the fact that he's not wearing any make-up). And in interviews and his "behind-the-scenes" video, Vassar says: “Bobbi is actually a guy I knew—this outrageous guy who showed up at a club one night dressed as a girl. It was just a funny way to pick up chicks.” In other words—it's all just good fun, it's a one-time thing, and Bobbi doesn't really want to be seen as a woman.

I'll take Vassar at his word, he seems like a decent guy—but also a guy who comes across as savvy enough to know how far he can push things with his fans. Not that that might be a reason the video is at odds with the actual lyrics. (And don't think too hard about how Bobbi, who's flat broke, manages on short notice to get decked out in a cocktail dress, high heels, earings, platinum wig, fashionable women's sunglasses and a black sequin purse, or why he's got seemingly hairless legs.)

But even if the video undercuts the lyrics, Bobbi's having a great time, his friends are having a great time, in fact everyone's having a great time except an eye-rolling old man, who's presented as a curmudgeonly killjoy. The "big-boned girl with a platinum curl" is the life of the party. As Vassar sings: "That's how it is, nobody gives a second thought these days."

Would I have preferred that the video stayed true to its roots and cast someone like Victoria "Porkchop" Parker as Bobbi? Hell ya. But if the "lite" version ends up making life a little easier for some trans person in some shitkicker bar somewhere, I'm not gonna complain too much.

* Before anyone kvetches, yes I know Porkchop is a gay man who's a professional female impersonator. But she's burly enough as a guy to be a convincing Bobby and femme enough to be a Bobbi who would've left viewers stunned and amazed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

DC Bathroom Campaign

DC Trans Coalition and Office of Human Rights Launch Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign

Groups Mobilizing Community to Ensure Enforcement of the Human Rights Act

Washington, DC – On Friday, July 3rd, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) along with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) launched the Bathroom Access and Safety Campaign, otherwise known as the Pee in Peace Campaign – a community mobilization project designed to ensure bathroom access and safety for all residents, including transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming individuals, in the District.

Even with the District’s comprehensive Human Rights Act, which includes protections for gender identity or expression, trans and gender non-conforming people continue to experience verbal and physical harassment ranging from being attacked and thrown out to even being arrested for simply trying to use the bathroom in the District. In fact, according to a recent citywide survey for transgender and gender non-conforming people, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced problems accessing or using gender segregated bathrooms.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Embracing Trans Diversity is not a Luxury

By Monica F. Helms

Over the 12 years of living my life as Monica, I have been privileged to learn many things about the TBLG community, but mostly about the trans community. The biggest lesson in my short life as a woman has been the diversity of our people. Trans individuals have covered every segment of human experience since the dawn of time. We span all races, all sexual orientations, all gender identities, all gender expressions, all social and economic levels, all job experiences, all education levels, all ages and all health issues. If every American trans person populated just one city in America, it would be the third largest city in the country and every job in the city would be covered.

When I moved to Atlanta in 2000, I received the most important part of my education on diversity, that of the African American community. Living in Phoenix most of my life, I received a big education on the Latino and Native cultures of our population, but not much on the African American culture. But, coming to Atlanta had been the biggest eye-opener for me in finding out about the rich history – and sometimes tragic history – of my African American brothers and sisters. Moving here has proven to be one of the best decisions in my life.

I may have come a long way in understanding diversity, but because of a recent event in the White House, it has been shown that maybe the rest of our community still has a lot to learn. I’m not going to get too much into the event, since it happened on June 29. In a nutshell, President Obama held a gathering of about 200 TBLG people to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall, of which only about eight trans people received invitations. Out of that eight, two were of Latino decent. However, they didn’t have any trans veterans of Stonewall, or any African American trans people. I don’t see that as embracing diversity in the trans community.

Several questions about the event in DC have not been answered to my satisfaction. 1.) Why wasn’t Miss Majors invited to this? 2.) Who provided the list of trans people that suggested who should go? 3.) Who picked the attendees from that list? 4.) Who didn’t make the cut and why did they not make it? 5.) Had there been extensive background checks made on these people? 6.) And, why were there not any crossdressers, intersex people and gender queer people invited?

The lack of African American people at this event speaks to a larger problem facing the transgender community in general. The most vocal and most well-known African American trans person I know, Monica Roberts, wrote about this event and the lack of African American trans people in her article on TransGriot, dated July 1, 2009. It was posted in other places.

She also posted it on The Bilerico Project, where she got over 60 comments, some of them from gay white men who attacked her. She provided a list of several people who should have been there, but the most glaring omission to the guest list had been Miss Majors. She has the distinction of being the last known African American trans person who helped to start the riots at Stonewall 40 years ago.

In the comment section of the Bilerico article, she and others pointed out that several trans African Americans could not only pass the Secret Service background check, but would have represented all trans people proudly. Yet, none of them received invitations.

Why does the transgender community find it so hard to accept diversity and admit we have a problem in race relationships? As a white trans women, I get angry and disappointed in how some of my white brothers and sister treat race issues with such a low priority. In the comment section of Monica’s article on Bilerico, only one person who attended the event at the White House cared enough to answer some of the questions by others. All of the other people who attended didn’t even make an attempt to contact Monica privately on this issue. Is it that they have too many other fancy events to attend to bother addressing one of the core issues dividing our frail community?

Yes, I’m being factitious, but since they don’t want to listen to one Monica about this problem, then maybe two Monicas in stereo might get their attention. Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath on it.

The trans community has too many things that divide us to go out of our way to make some of them worse. Indeed, some make it a point to create ways to divide us, while others divide us without realize they had done it. Too many times I have seen a newbie trans woman on a diverse discussion list start off with, “Hey, girls.” If none of the trans men say anything, I try to point it out right away. Some particular life experiences tend to give people a narrow view of our community. People need to constantly be aware of the diversity of the trans community, as they transverse through it.

When it comes to race relations, the lessons become harder to learn, but not impossible. What I saw taking place from the discussion of the DC event were people who have been made aware of a problem in race relations, but choose to ignore it. The problem will not go away. The prominent white “leaders” in the trans community need to put as much effort in healing the rift between the Black leaders in our community as they do in lobbying Congress for our rights. A summit is in order. But, I don’t see any of the white leaders making an effort.

Since the beginning of the century, we have seen massive improvements on the state and local levels protecting the rights of transgender people. However, the number of People of Color ending up on the Remembering Our Dead list has grown to over 70%. We have an African American President who has shown great pride in his heritage, but hosts an event that shuns trans people of that same heritage.

We have trans organizations (TAVA included) where the top leaders are white. We have young African American trans people living in a world with few or no known heroes to emulate. We have several African American trans people who can make ALL of the trans community proud, but they get little press or exposure from the white trans leaders. We have a major problem that many white trans people seem to ignore.

Well, I refuse to ignore this any longer and I am standing up to be counted as a white person who will fight racial indifference in the white trans community. I know many of my white brothers and sisters will be counted as well. Some people say I’m a “leader” in this community. If so, I’ll stick my neck out here, as I have done so many times in the past.

“As the President of the Transgender American Veterans Association, I call for a Race Relations Summit.”

It’s not like TAVA is doing a damn thing anyway, right? I’m sure no one will respond to this. Why should they? They’re too busy with their own issues to care and TAVA wasn’t one of the national groups invited to the White House, along with our African American brothers and sisters. We will be ignored, but not forever.

As veterans, we fought along side our Brothers and Sister of Color, counting on them to watch our backs as we watched theirs. Veterans understand the need to work together, because our lives depended on it in the trenches, the fox holes and on board ships. Well friends, our lives as trans people depend on it just as much today. It would be advisable to work toward that goal. After all, embracing diversity is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Friday, July 03, 2009

White House appeal is a no-go

The White House will not appeal a federal court ruling of nearly $500,000 to a Library of Congress hiree who was discriminated against for transitioning.

When Diane--then David--Schroer informed the Library of Congress that she was undergoing surgery to become a female, the Library of Congress rescinded her job offer the next day.

While the Bush Administration argued that this is not an example of illegal discrimination according to the Civil Rights Act, the Obama Administration let the opportunity to appeal expire shortly after welcoming LGBT leaders to the White House and promising more action.

While this may win Obama more favor with the LGBT community, the Daily Kos remarks how this victory has flown "under the radar" and is under-reported.

Originally posted on The Colonic