Wednesday, April 01, 2015

DoJ Comes Down Hard On A University

This past week the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against a university for firing a transgender professor. The DoJ said in a press release that,
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today the filing of a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University ( Southeastern ) and the Regional University System of Oklahoma ( RUSO ) for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against a transgender employee on the basis of her sex and retaliating against her when she complained about the discrimination. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in December 2014 that the Department of Justice takes the position that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination is best read to extend the statute's protection to claims based on an individual's gender identity, including transgender status.

According to the United States' complaint, filed in federal district court in Oklahoma City today, Rachel Tudor began working for Southeastern as an Assistant Professor in 2004. At the time of her hire, Tudor presented as a man. In 2007, Tudor, consistent with her gender identity, began to present as a woman at work. Throughout her employment, Tudor performed her job well, and in 2009, she applied for a promotion to the tenured position of Associate Professor. Southeastern's administration denied her application, overruling the recommendations of her department chair and other tenured faculty from her department. The United States' complaint alleges that Southeastern discriminated against Tudor when it denied her application because of her gender identity, gender transition and non-conformance with gender stereotypes.

"By standing beside Dr. Tudor, the Department of Justice sends a clear message that we are committed to eliminating discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "We will not allow unfair biases and unjust prejudices to prevent transgender Americans from reaching their full potential as workers and as citizens. And we will continue to work tirelessly, using every legal tool available, to ensure that transgender individuals are guaranteed the rights and protections that all Americans deserve."
I have to ask, is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) really necessary now that the courts, DoJ, and the Equal Employment and Opportunities Commission (EEOC) have found that gender identity is sex discrimination? My answer is yes unless the Supreme Court rules in our favor because all it will take is for the Supreme Court to find that it doesn’t cover us or that the next president decides that it doesn’t and not prosecute cases of discrimination. So yes we need coverage, but I don’t want to see it in a standalone law but I rather see it added to Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

When I'm Sixty-Four

As an aging trans woman I am supposed to slow down and enjoy life but many LGBT people are finding that they have another battle on their hands, the New Haven Register had this article about LGBT seniors…
State addresses unique needs of LGBT senior citizens

Among those who are aging is the growing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. It is conservatively estimated more than 3 million LGBT people in the U.S. are 55 and older. In Connecticut, there are about 21,000 adults age 62 or older, which will grow close to 36,000 in the next decade.

While many needs of the LGBT community are identical to those who are not LGBT, this community has experienced differences in their life that affect their engagement in the senior service system, including stigma and discrimination. Even though many social gains have been made in this era of "marriage equality," the historical and often contemporary experience of discrimination means that many LGBT persons are distrustful of the service system and reluctant to seek services. This results in a higher risk of social isolation.
The article says that a recent study found,

  • Quality of life: This report found that the LGBT community, like their mainstream counterparts, seek to spend their elder years enjoying leisure, travel and volunteer activities, including serving as mentors later in life.
  • Financial Security: Polling found that this community had greater concerns than the non-LGBT group with financial security and 'outliving' their money.
  • Healthcare: The LGBT community reported a "fear of judgment and inferior care from healthcare providers, with many LGBT older people not disclosing their sexual orientations or gender identities to their providers"
  • Loss of community: As they grow older, the LGBT community has seen their support systems shrink, with larger numbers of LGBT older people living alone, and fearing discrimination in housing and long-term care settings.
  • Many LGBT senior citizens are going back into the because of fear discrimination in nursing homes or senior centers. The article then mentions the group that I am with as part of the CT TransAdvocacy Coalition,

In Connecticut, there is a new initiative, LGBT Aging Advocacy, which is helping to increase the awareness of differences and unique needs for the aging LGBT community. The initiative is a collaboration among community members, service providers and Connecticut state agencies.
The needs of elder care of trans people are just starting realized.

Can you believe that all the Beatles are over 70.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Are We Turning The Corner?

Is Hollywood getting the message? There is an interesting article on the increased demand for trans actresses/actors,
Transgender actors are in demand for TV's pilot season
The Frame
By Collin Friesen
March 30, 2015

"It seems to have just happened," Garcia says. "It’s been creeping along slowly. I think it just exploded with 'Orange Is The New Black,' followed up by 'Transparent.'"

She’s talking about calls for transgender characters, which are often cast with actors identifying as trans themselves. People like Christopher Aguilar, who lives as both a man and woman.

Recalling his audition track record, Aguilar says:  “It went from [none] three years ago. Two years ago I had one, and now, this year alone, I’ve already had four.”
But there still is a long ways to go…
“There has been a great inclusion of LGBT characters on TV, but there are still no regular trans gendered characters on cable or broadcast show, characters on network or cable," Adams says. "We’re still at the very beginning stages of talking about transgendered representations.”

Alexandra Billings is the trans actor who plays the role of Davina on "Transparent," the woman who mentors Jeffrey Tambor in the ways of owning his female identity. She says while there is more acceptance, there’s also more backlash, and, in her case, lots more hate mail.

“It’s unbelievable," Billings says. “Calling me names, throwing the bible at me, all kinds of terrible things. It’s never been this bad.”
Is this a turning point for trans actors? It maybe, only time will tell, but thing is certain the more we become visible the more conservatives will push back.

News Flash!


The vote tally on the committee vote on the Birth Certificate bill has been posted...

Total voting: 25, Yea: 23, Nay: 2, Abstain: 0, Absent/Not voting: 3

What that means is that the bill has strong bipartisan support because eleven of the committee members are Republican.

The bill allows that you can change you birth certificate without surgery, you will need the same documents that you use to change the gender on Social Security and on your passports. This morning's Hartford Courant said this about the bill,
A legislative panel is backing a change to state law that would make it easier for transgender people to obtain a birth certificate that accurately reflects their gender identity.

The public health committee, which has jurisdiction over birth certificates and other vital record, voted Monday to back House Bill 7006, which now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration. (The vote won't be final until later today.)
One of the Republicans on the committee had this to say about the bill,
Rep. Jason Perillo , R-Shelton, questioned whether the state should permit people to change an essential document, such as a birth certificate.
"The birth certificate is intended to represent the state of the individual at birth,'' he said. "I don't weight what I weighed when I was born and we don't go back and change my birth certificate because my weight has changed."
But in the end he voted for the bill.

The Day Of Visibility

 Today is the Transgender of visibility, whatever that means. I say that because I am always out, I don’t know how to be more visible and those who are not out I not going to tell them to “out” themselves. I think those who are already out and proud know that by being so are help the community.

Buzzfeed has Ten Things You Can Do on the TDV

  1. Go to Local Transgender Day of Visibility Events
  2. Learn About Trans history
  3. Support Trans-Led Organizations
  4. Don’t Out Your Trans Friends
  5. Know the Differences Between Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Sex Assigned at Birth, Sexual Orientation, and Romantic Orientation
  6. Recognize the Intersections of Transness and Other Identities
  7. Help Make Women’s Spaces Inclusive of Trans Women
  8. Learn Trans Terminology
  9. Tell People When They Say Something Transphobic or Cissexist
  10. Celebrate Trans Identities

So basically Buzzfeed list is more about what non-trans people can do on today.

Of course anything LGBT is going to stir up controversy,  on the WWMT-TV website has an article about that controversy,
Controversy on International Transgender Day of Visibility

MARSHALL, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Tuesday, March 31st marks International Transgender Day of Visibility.
The goal of this day is to raise awareness about discrimination transgendered people face.

But on this day where transgender visibility is supposed to take center stage, it's being overshadowed by controversy across the county, including at a West Michigan high school.

The rock outside Marshall High School has been at the center of this controversy.

This all started with a bulletin-board in the high school. Students from the school's Gay-Straight Alliance decorated the board for Transgender Visibility Day. It had transgender facts and words of encouragement.

A picture of the board went up on social media, causing outrage from some parents.
Parents on Facebook say they don't believe it's appropriate for school and they suspected some kind of agenda was being pushed.

Several parents say this goes against their Christian beliefs.

The board was soon taken down by school officials.
Of course whenever a LGBT talks about a LGBT issue we are “pushing our agenda,” what the school did was violate the First Amendments rights and violate Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has made it very clear LGBT students have just as much rights to post their literature on bulletin boards as non-LGBT students.

The students know better than the school administrators,
"Students have the right to express their beliefs, and to take it down with the only purpose of it being uncomfortable to parents, I think that's infringing on the rights of students," said student Emily Walker.

"We're not trying to press an agenda. All we want to do is advocate for a safe space here for members of the LGBTQ youth," said student Garrett Sander. 
Maybe the administrators can take a lesson from the students.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Apples And Oranges

That is what the press is doing when they say that nineteen other states have religious freedom laws. Yes nineteen states do have religious freedom laws but they are very different from Indiana’s law. There is a good article analyzing the laws on the website IN Advance,
The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act – An Analysis of Its Controversy

Does IRFRA resemble its federal counterpart?
The short answer here is no.
What is clear is that Indiana has not copied the federal legislation or those passed by other states, but has instead added more expansive language as seen below. The IRFRA adds several clauses which rightly give pause to the endless possibilities of using religion and religious freedom as a sword and a shield.
He goes on to write,
What makes this law new and different is its application to disputes between private citizens. That is not to say that such laws could not be used in private matters (in fact, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas all have similar prvisions [sic]). Indiana’s version of the law, though, goes the extra mile to ensure the matter could remain between private individuals. It is the only one I have seen where the State can explicitly intervene at its discretion.
This is the biggie; this is what makes it so different from all the other states and the federal law. Listen to what he says in the ABC video…

World News Videos | US News Videos

An ABC News article points out that,
A federal version of the religious freedom law was enacted in 1993 but dozens of states have passed their own versions since then, including one passed unanimously in Illinois when President Barack Obama was a state senator. Illinois added specific protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation several years after passing its version of the law.
I also fault the news organizations for not challenging the fact about the other state laws and the federal being the same as Indiana’s law. The press blindly parrots the statements of the governor’s office when they say the laws are the same.

# # #

News Flash...
Connecticut To Become First State To Boycott Indiana Over LGBT Discrimination Law
Huffington Post
By Jennifer Bendery
Posted: 03/30/2015

WASHINGTON -- Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) will sign an executive order on Monday barring state-funded travel to Indiana because of the state's new law that could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers for religious reasons
Malloy's move would make Connecticut the first state to boycott Indiana over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Gov. Mike Pence (R) quietly signed into law last week. The law allows businesses in the state to cite religious beliefs as a legal defense. Opponents fear it offers legal protection for businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
GO Connecticut!!!!

Trans Privilege

There are all types of “privileges” in the trans community and it causes a lot of tension within the community. At the Buffalo Trans Health Initiative conference CeCe MacDonald spoke on privilege. The thing is that people who have the privilege don’t know that they have it and they don’t like anyone talking to them about it. In the Advocate Michelle Wolf writes,
Then she went into discussing privilege — and one by one, I could see her losing them. From there, she transitioned into talking about white trans privilege, and she started to even lose some of the trans folk. Nothing she said was the least bit untrue, but nevertheless, the message was building up the very walls she so effectively knocked down moments before.

We speak of white privilege, male privilege, socio-economic privilege, cis privilege, and so on. These are all true things that really exist; there is no denying it. Privilege exists and it has the power to profoundly impact, through opportunity or repression, what a person might achieve in this life. I can see very clearly what a huge advantage I had living as a white male, and how far I have fallen as a white transgender woman. I can also see that where I am now is a far, far more advantageous position than if I was a black transgender woman who came from impoverished circumstances. There is no comparison.
I will reiterate again: privilege does exist. It is pervasive, and it has a huge impact. We can agree on this amongst ourselves and know that it is true. Some of us can also agree that not all trans people begin the race at the same starting point, and that many of our sisters and brothers have many more hurdles to clear before even approaching the much cushier spot in line we drew. If you can and want to use that knowledge to make a difference, great. If you can’t, and the idea makes you pissy and contentious, just try not to think about it. When it comes to the cisgender population, it’s far better that we stop continuously pointing this out.
I had white male privilege and I used it. I always knew that I had it but I never realized how much it affected my life until I gave it up. I usually do not get identified as trans until I interact with people. so I get to see the effects of male privilege when people interact with me as a woman and then when I am identified as transgender I see a different interaction take place.

The effects of privilege is not doubled in you are a minority, it is quadrupled.  If you are a trans woman in machismo society you face an enormous amount of discrimination based on your loss of privilege.

In my cultural competency training I have a slide that says,
Visual non-conformity is a risk factor in causing anti-transgender bias and its attendant social and economic burdens.
How well you can assimilate in to society is a large factor the amount of privilege that you have.