Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween-The Transgender National Holiday

Before I transitioned, I used to circle October 31 on the calendar and look forward to its arrival with the anticipation and enthusiasm that I greet Christmas with.

I guess I wasn't alone. From the 30's to the 60's on the South Side of Chicago they eagerly awaited that year's edition of another Finnie's Ball. It was an event so big that EBONY Magazine covered it back in its early days. There were also well attended drag balls in New York that traced their origins back to the Harlem Renaissance. Those balls eventually morphed into the ballroom community that we know today.

In Houston because of the tragic 1974 murder of 8 year old Timothy O'Bryan by his father Ronald Clark O'Bryan with a cyanide-laced Pixy stick, Halloween as I used to know it died.

The days of me, my brother and our friends roaming through three or four neighborhoods in search of candy and having enough to eat until Thanksgiving ground to an abrupt halt. The emphasis in Houston in the immediate aftermath of it became going to houses of family friends and people we'd known for years, church parties and costume oriented events.

The costume aspect of Halloween became more important as I entered adulthood still trying to deal with my gender issues, and it became to me like many transpeople, our unofficial national holiday.

From 1987 onwards I hit the Montrose gay clubs in drag along with other local peeps. The only Halloween I didn't do drag during that period was for a 1990 CAL Halloween party that I attended. I went dressed as a general and made the finals of the costume contest, but lost to a co-worker who dressed as a Las Vegas showgirl. I was even more irritated about it not because she won, but she had the body to pull it off.

Halloween was, and still is a way for people who are contemplating transition to get their feet wet. It was when I dressed and didn't care that it wasn't October 31 that I began to question my assertion that I was simply a crossdresser. I lied to myself for another few years even though I started an abortive attempt at hormones.

It's funny now that I've become the Phenomenal Transwoman I am, I don't have the same enthusiasm for Halloween anymore. It's the same emotional feeling I got when I first got drafted by my parents into the Santa's Helper's Corps and learned the three most dreaded words of the Christmas season:

Some Assembly Required.

But for the folks that are behind me on the gender journey, Halloween to them will always be the Transgender National Holiday.

Happy Halloween!

Have fun in your search for candy tonight or wearing your favorite costume!

Transgender Rights Are A Worldwide Struggle

One of the things I've noticed over the last few years is how transpeople all over the world are gathering the courage to stand up, proudly proclaim their pride in who we are and fight for our human rights to be respected. The battle over ENDA in the United States is just one front in this struggle to not only gain recognition and respect but to be able to openly and honestly live our lives.

As a transgender person, my brothers and sisters are everywhere. I am not limited to the borders of the United States or my ancestral home continent of Africa in this regard. Any success that we as transpeople have somewhere on planet Earth affects me positively. I also share the pain and disappointment when I hear about the violence and repression faced by transpeople in many parts of Africa, Central America, South America, Jamaica and the United States or the legal setbacks in various countries when it comes to transgender issues.

I cheered when Israel's Dana International won the Eurovision song contest. I'm envious of my sisters in Thailand who get to transition early without the faith-based hatred that we face here in the States. I marvel at the beauty of the transwomen from Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and other parts of the globe. I was moved to tears when Georgina Beyer became the first transwoman ever elected to a national legislative body as a member of New Zealand's parliament. I was happy to see that then 12 year old Kim in Germany was allowed to transition and is now happily growing up as a teen aged girl. I'm thrilled by the victories that Spanish transpeople gained in terms of their name change rights. I was fascinated to discover that transpeople even exist in Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

I jumped for joy when the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 was passed by the British Parliament. The recent Irish case allowing a transwoman there to change birth documents will hopefully help us here in the States.

Some of my early role models when I was growing up in the 70's were international in scope such as Britain's Caroline Cossey. I'm inspired to fight harder for my rights here in the States by drawing on the examples of courage from Ugandan Victor Juliet Mukasa , the Queen of Africa and transactivists in Argentina.

And my thoughts are reciprocated in other parts of the world as well. The upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance started here in the States but has quickly become a worldwide event. I was pleased to discover that my blog is read internationally when I noted that Portugal's Eduarda Santos links her transgender blog to various posts of mine on occasion. I hope that you international readers are enjoying getting to learn about what life is like for a transgender person who also happens to be an American proud of her African roots.

I'm delighted to see that transgender pageants are exploding in popularity in the Philippines, Thailand and Great Britain and that our transpeeps in South Korea, thanks to Harisu, can not only get their name changes done but get married as well.

Even China has an emerging transgender community with Chen Lili as its poster girl. And like Georgina Beyer, more transpeople are getting elected to public office in various countries, including my own.

We are all interconnected. Transpeople know this lesson better than anyone. Just look at how SRS technology advanced. It was an international effort and we traveled to wherever it was available.

In 1952 the late Christine Jorgenson got her pioneering surgery done in Denmark. Others later flocked to Morocco in the 1960s to get the updated techniques from Dr. Georges Burou that modern SRS is based on. The late Dr. Stanley Biber of Trinidad, CO built upon and perfected it during the 70's and 80's. Montreal surgeons Dr. Yvon Menard and Dr. Pierre Brassard built on that work and Dr. Michel Seghers was doing cutting edge SRS surgeries as well in Belgium. Now transpeople flock to Thailand from all over the world to take advantage of the reasonably-priced cutting edge work of the Thai doctors to get it done.

The civil rights struggle, like the medical advances in SRS techniques is an international one as well. We may feel in our various countries from time to time that we're fighting it alone, but we aren't.

But the fight is an ongoing one. Just as we have religious zealots in the United States seeking to retard our progress, so do our brothers and sisters around the world. Islamic fundamentalists are opposing our sisters in Malaysia and Indonesia. Nigerians have the double whammy of being opposed by Islamic and Christian fundamentalists.

Like the US Republican party, there are politicians pandering to the bigot vote like Prime Minster John Howard of Australia and our transsisters are caught in the crossfire. The Catholic Church has moved from an affirming position on transgender issues to an increasingly intolerant one under Pope Benedict XVI. Our sisters in the Philippines have recently suffered a blow from their Supreme Court in terms of being able to change their birth documents.

As former South African president Nelson Mandela so eloquently stated, 'the people are their own liberators.'

We must take his words to heart and act as our own liberators. We must continue to support each other, reach out to supportive family members and friends, win allies, pool information, strategies, tactics and information so that we reach our ultimate goal: respect of our humanity.

We transpeople should never give up hope. We must continue to fight to have our basic human rights in our various homelands respected and protected. That must happen if we wish to contribute our talents to help build our communities and our respective nations. We must be able to work without being harassed or denied employment we are qualified for. We mush be able to live quality lives without having fear, shame, guilt and the specter of violence heaped upon us. We must be able to freely use our talents to accomplish whatever we set our minds to do and have the faith to believe that one day we will prevail over the Forces of Intolerance.

And yes, I believe this will happen in my lifetime.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stop The Pain

A Call to the SGL Community to Stop the Pain
by Bishop Yvette Flunder

I read with sadness the dialogue with an alleged former lover of Rev. Donnie McClurklin who claims he and Rev. McClurklin were actively intimately involved while Donnie was very verbal regarding his negative views about homosexuality. I remembered the pangs of the double church life. I also once thought it was necessary. I hurt so for him because I have been there. I have been angry with him for some of the places he has allowed himself to be manipulated into and for some of the things he has said and written. I have read with disgust Donnie’s remarks about waging war against the gay community, but I really know that this duplicitous rhetoric is because of the war that is raging inside of him. Sometimes we just try to fake it till we make it. And then there are the harder questions that plague him and many of my beloved colleagues in ministry… How do you succeed as a gospel music artist, a Pastor and a gay man? How can the choice be made to have the integrity to stand in your orientation reality when it will mean losing everything, especially when your principle income is not just based on your gifts but on the believability of your testimony of deliverance from being gay? What a huge dilemma.

My challenge today is not to the churches and religious institutions that have rejected SGL folks or that have forced us to positions of invisibility or don’t ask don’t tell. Why can’t SGL folks and our allies build mega churches, mega organizations, and mega faith based enterprises? We are building them for our abusers! Why is so much of our talent, money and skill under girding and supporting institutions that are blatantly undermining our freedoms and attacking our personhood? Imagine what we could accomplish if we would bring those skills together to build something that is devoid of shame and supports the inalienable rights of all people. Why contribute to our own debasement and marginalization? Why won’t we support those who support us? It seems many of us would rather leave church than support affirming church. Is it fear? Is it greed? Is it internalized hatred, self-loathing, or internalized homophobia? Sure, aligning with an affirming ministry or faith-based community may bear a cost. There may be some loss of prestige and even funds for a period, but isn’t it time we pay the price for our own freedom the same way so many of our forefathers and foremothers did? Sister and Brothers, think of the continued price we pay in the loss of our self-esteem, integrity and the inevitable exposure.

Donnie could have just as big a church in New York with a membership made up of SGL folks, allies, and people whose theology has evolved to the point that they do not need to hold to a narrow exclusionary Godview that limits the table of God to only a few. What stands in the way of our supporting our own? Is it the need for big church pageantry? Anonymity?

This is a call to stop the pain. I challenge SGL people of faith to support the churches and organizations that affirm us, and wait for the growth that our talents and abilities are certain to bring. We know the game and we are killing ourselves with it. Enough is enough. I pray that we will take seriously the prophetic call and challenge to not only seek to be liberated but to seek to liberate.

Pax Christi! (Peace in Christ)
Bishop Yvette Flunder

And The Winner Is...

There's a new Amazing Philippine Beauty queen.

Kris Andrea Dawn Barrameda took the crown in the fifth annual Amazing Philippine Beauty pageant held at the Manila Film Center on October 19. Kris will not only represent the Philippines in the upcoming Miss International Queen Pageant taking place in Pattaya, Thailand on November 5-10, she also receives a cash prize and a one year performance contract in the Amazing Philippines Show.

Barrameda beat 23 other contestants, including 23 year old crowd favorite and first runner-up Miles Gio, who was voted Miss Friendship and took the Best Evening Gown category. Second runner-up was stunning 18 year old Angel Herrera, third runner-up was 18 year old Mona Gonzales who took the Best Talent part of the competition. Fourth runner-up was 22 year old Mikee Coloma.

From the initial 24 contestants that began the competition, the five finalists round was scored with 60 percent based on facial beauty and 40 percent on the contestant's intelligence. Personally I think that percentage should be reversed, but it ain't my pageant.

Rounding out the top 10 finalists, which was scored in this round based on 60 percent facial beauty and 40 percent figure, were Beth Imperial, People’s Choice awardee Joyce Azarcon, Miss Fashionista Joanna Santos, Ayumi Lopez, and Angelica Cruz Ilustre.

The girls making the 15 semifinalists were Cynthia Soliven, Kimberly Hernandez, Asyana Zulueta, Hershey Marie Francisco and 5'11' Erika Louise Peralta, the tallest candidate in the competition. Erika also took home the Best in National Costume award. 2007 Miss Photogenic winner Channa Mendez failed to make the cut.

The pageant is the brainchild of the Amazing Philippine Theater, a show similar to the ones put on by the transgender cabarets in Thailand. It was established on August 15, 2001 and showcases the best of Filipino GLBT talents.

The first and biggest theatrical variety show in the country features Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Broadway, musicals, comedy acts, modern dances, Filipino folk and stylized traditional dances. In 2003 the Amazing Philippine Show started the pageant in order to look for the most beautiful transwomen in the Philippines to be employed with the company.

“We’ve made great strides toward this pageant and other goals since the day we’ve decided that we will keep this family together for the long haul. I vow that the Amazing Philippine Theater Family will continue to be guided by a passion for bringing you the best in the field of entertainment—for doing the right thing, and for reaching those who seek what this beautiful country and its people has to offer,” said Iron Chang, the theater’s president to Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon of the Manila Standard Today.

The objectives of Amazing Philippine Beauties are to uplift all the appalling impressions of GLBT beauty pageants, give opportunities for transgender people to showcase their beauty and talent, be employed as a performer to enhance their personality and contribute to the quality of the theater’s performances in the aspect of cultural entertainment to match the discriminating tastes of many tourists; to be accepted by the society as a productive individual; build friendship and camaraderie; and rekindle the lost flame of fame and reputation that the Manila Film Center used to have.

Judging by the international coverage that this pageant is starting to garner, they are well on their way to fulfilling those goals.

Previous Miss Amazing Philippine Beauty titleholders are Sarah Trono (2003), Kaori Michelle Artadi (2004), Ardee Cansino (2005) and last year's queen Patricia Montecarlo.

Barrameda, a 22-year-old business management major has set her sights on surpassing what her predecessor did in last year's Miss International Queen pageant.

The statuesque Montecarlo was the first runner-up to Erica Andrews, who represented Mexico in the Miss International Queen contest held in Thailand last year. That was the Philippines’ highest placement in the three-year-old pageant that features transwomen from around the globe.

Congratulations to Kris and we'll see when the semifinals and finals take place on November 9-10 if she captures that increasingly prestigious crown as well.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Drag Kings In The House At MIT

MIT Grooves To A New Beat As Drag Kings Take Up Residence
by Bob Young
Boston Herald

Move over, drag queens. The drag kings are about to elbow you off stage.

For four days this week, the all-black Nappy Grooves drag king troupe from Oakland, Calif., will be setting up shop in a place that doesn't exactly conjure up San Francisco's Castro district: MIT.

Then again, looks can be deceiving: The land of geeks and nerds hosts the largest annual student drag show in the country every year.

For the uninitiated, drag kings are mostly female performance artists who dress like males and sport facial hair makeup; drag queens are men who dress in female clothes and makeup, often for performances.

Where they both meet is at MIT's "Fierce Forever" drag show, scheduled to be held next April 24.

"We usually have more drag queens than drag kings in ('Fierce Forever')," said Michele Oshima, director of student and artist-in-residence programs at MIT. "There's not as much gender balance."

As a way to expose the MIT community to the flip side of the drag world and to raise students' consciousness about gender and race, Oshima booked Nappy Grooves for a residence at the school (Wednesday through Nov. 3), including a free public talk, "Too Hot to Handle," on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Broad Institute Auditorium. The press release calls it an adult performance.

"I went to the International Drag King Community Extravaganza last year and Nappy Grooves blew me away," said Oshima. "They're very committed to fighting homophobia and racism and stereotypical images of black people."

And stereotypical images of those in drag.

"Drag queens and drag kings have all different sexualities," said Oshima. "Bisexual, lesbian, gay, heterosexual, transsexual, asexual,omnisexual. Who knows?"

The five women of Nappy Grooves, according to member Mattie Richardson, all have different LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual) identities.

"People have done gender performances for a very long time," said Richardson, an English professor at the University of Texas. "But the particular crop of people who call themselves drag kings has gained momentum."

Drag kings have become more and more a fixture in queer performance events. At MIT, Nappy Grooves will tackle issues such as racism and politics through music and play-acting. Richardson, for example, often plays a swaggering black male character who's a womanizer secretly attracted to men.

"Be they straight or gay or trans or bi or whatever," said Richardson, "I think drag is useful and challenging to anybody who is open to questioning gender norms. Anyone who's open will be inspired by our performance."

"Too Hot to Handle," a lecture/demonstration by Nappy Grooves, takes place Wednesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Broad Institute Auditorium, NE30, 7 Cambridge Center. Free. Go to

Sunday, October 28, 2007

ENDA Insanity

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

That was a quote by Benjamin Franklin, one of our Founding Fathers. It seems as though some people in the GLBT community have forgotten that when it comes to transgender inclusion in civil rights laws such as ENDA.

In jurisdiction after jurisdiction from the local to the federal level, GLB people have repeatedly cut transgender people out of civil rights bills only to see them fail. Their transgender-free ENDA bill in 1994 passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

You would think that if it failed without transgender inclusion, and local and state measures have passed WITH transgender inclusion, that the federal powers that be would at least run an inclusive ENDA at the federal level and see what will happen with it, especially if this is supposed to be a symbolic bill that Bush isn't going to sign anyway.

But nooo, Barney and his Mattachine clones stubbornly plod on, spewing the spin that if we add transgender peeps, the bill will fail. They berate us and call us 'selfish' for doing our jobs and lobbying for legislation that our community desperately needs. They deviously work behind the scenes to browbeat members into not voting for inclusive legislation in order to make their dire predictions come true.

Talk about insanity.

Obviously these peeps don't want their rights badly enough. If the overwhelming evidence is that close to 70% of the US population supports expanding civil rights protection for transgender people and 31 states now have inclusive laws at the state and local level, a GLBT legal organization tells you that adding transgender people improves the bill, and you've failed to pass GLB only protection at the federal level, wouldn't it make sense to add transgender people to your bill and not only improve coverage for your group but enhance its chances of passing?

Barney keeps saying that people on the Hill need 'more education', but when you point blank ask him who are the legislators that need education, he refuses to divulge that list of names. That makes me question whether or not there are members that 'need education on transgender issues'. Maybe there are, but his arrogance, history of transphobia, lack of candor and the duplicitous way he has conducted this push for ENDA passage in the 110th Congress causes me to question his integrity. It's also insane to trust and think that a person who hates your group will write solid legislation that will cover you.

The insanity on the transgender community's part is repeatedly trusting an organization with large segments of it that not only hate transpeople, but has a long history of leading the charge against transgender inclusion in GLBT rights legislation.

Some elements of the transgender community have also acquiesced to HRC's arrogant demand that we have ONE organization and ONE leader for them to negotiate with. That's stupid.

The African-American community for example has multiple organizations that handle our community business such as the NAACP, the Urban League, SCLC, et cetera. Even the gay community has multiple organizations that speak for it such as Lambda legal and the Task Force.

So why should the transgender community meekly submit to a program that even the gay community doesn't follow because a organization that has worked to retard your progress demands it? The other advantage of spreading your community leadership among multiple organizations is that if one becomes corrupted, you have another one ready and able to assume the mantle of leadership and keep your civil rights drive moving forward.

The other insane thing in the transgender community is turning a blind eye to people who sell us out. To my white transgender brothers and sisters, frankly you are newbies at operating in the political world as a minority. You not only needed people of color involved in your organzations from the outset because we have intimate knowledge of the coalition politics necessary to operate in this environment, we're used to it. Transsexuality cuts across all cultural, racial, economic and demographic lines and the leadership in the community needs to reflect that reality.

You can no longer think and act the way you did when you were part of the majority group. You have to have morally principled leaders as the heads of your organizations. Selling out cannot be tolerated or rewarded. If these sellouts prioritize their personal ambitions over advancing the group as a whole and are going to act as facilitators in concert with our oppressors to divide and conquer us and cripple our community, then they need to be isolated and expunged from further political activity on behalf of that group they have betrayed.

Dr. Ron Walters of the University of Maryland once stated that "the task of Black leadership is to provide the vision, resources, tactics, and strategies that facilitate the achievement of the objectives of Black people.

These objectives have been variously described as freedom, integration, equality, liberation, or defined in the terms of specific public policies. It is a role that often requires disturbing the peace. And we constantly carry on a dialogue about the fitness of various leaders and the qualities they bring to the table to fulfill this mission.

Substitute transgender for Black, and you have an analogy for what transgender leadership is striving to achieve in a nutshell. Criticizing people for not living up to those principles is NOT 'horizontal hostility' as some people call it, it is a critical dialogue needed to determine whether someone has the qualities necessary to lead.

It's time for sanity, clear thinking, reason and logic to reign once again for all parties not only in this ENDA debate, but all public policy debates in the United States, period.

Rep. Anthony Weiner's ENDA Floor Speech

TransGriot Note: A few days ago Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) took to the floor of the House to talk about ENDA. Since we don't have a transgender member of Congress (yet) to speak for us and refute the disinformation spewing out of the mouth of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and others, it was nice to see a congressmember take some time to speak FOR us.

Here's the text of his floor speech.

Rep. Weiner:
"Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, later on this week or perhaps early next week, this House will embark on the latest chapter in our Nation's history of extending the civil rights that all Americans should be entitled to one other group. We will be considering the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. It is an effort to make sure that people are not discriminated against in their workplace because of their sexual orientation, because of their gender identity. It is something that is intuitive to so many Americans, and, frankly, the overwhelming number of Americans. And it is an example of how sometimes we in this House lead on civil rights issues and sometimes we follow.

"In this case, it is a little bit of each. Under ENDA, we will be following to a large degree. Hundreds of companies, including virtually all of the Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies, already recognized fundamentally that it is good business to judge people by the quality of their work, their intellect, their drive, by what they bring to the business, not what their sexual orientation or gender identity is.

"Overwhelming numbers of companies, and not just companies that you would describe as being progressive, but companies from all across the political spectrum, financial services groups like American Express and J.P. Morgan and Lehman. You have companies like Clear Channel Communication, Coca-Cola, Nationwide Insurance, Nike, Microsoft. These are all companies that, when they write the contracts for their other workers, it is fundamental to them that there will be no discrimination based on someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.

"For these companies and for the 90 percent or so of American people that responded to a Gallup poll in 2007, employment nondiscrimination based on gender identity and based on sexual orientation is obvious; it is not even an innovation.

"But we are going to be leading in some important ways. There are still about 30 percent of people who respond to polls who are members of the lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who say that they experience discrimination at the workplace regularly. Some of them, 25 percent, say they experience it on a regular basis. Why should that be? Is that an American value? Is it an American value to say we should discriminate on someone based on the sense of who they love or how they express it? Of course not.

"So, for those men and women throughout all 50 States, we will be leading later on this week when we pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. But it is very important that we also realize that we are leading on another element to this discussion. There is an active discussion going on in this Chamber and elsewhere whether or not to include gender identity in the same category we include sexual orientation. I say unequivocally the answer is yes. There are people who every day experience discrimination because of their gender identity.

"Susan Stanton spent 14 years as the Largo, Florida city manager; 14 years, obviously doing a good job, rehired, reappointed. Susan was once Steve Stanton. When he started hormone therapy and planned to become a woman, was fired.

"Diane Schroer, 25 years of distinguished service in the Army as David. Recorded 450 parachute jumps, received the Defense Superior Service Medal, hand picked to lead a classified national security operation. Retired and was offered a job with a private homeland security consulting firm. The offer was rescinded when Schroer explained he was transgender and wanted to begin the job as a woman.

"But the question has come up: If we can't include gender identity in this bill, should we do anything at all? Should we take half a loaf.

"My colleagues, I think the answer is no. I think we cannot toss this element of an important civil rights coalition to the side. We have to make sure, particularly in the context of us doing what is largely symbolic, there is no sense that the Senate is going to act on this, and certainly no sense that the President of the United States and this administration is going to. Maybe what we should say is we are in this together.

"If we are going to make a symbolic stand, the symbolic stand should be let's pass a one House bill with only part of the protections. Let's let the symbolic message be that we are sticking together, that when we say `GLBT,' we mean it. And we should do something else. We should also make it very clear to those watching this discussion that we are not going to negotiate against ourselves. We are not going to say if we toss this element or that element off to the side, maybe we will be able to get what we need. There are some things that are immutable, some civil rights that are immutable. This is one of them.

"We are going to stick together and pass an inclusive ENDA, or we are going to come back again and do it right."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tom Joyner's Father Passes Away

October 23, 2007
Hercules L. Joyner, 89, passed away Sunday in his Dallas home.
A native of Plant City, FL, Joyner is father of Tom Joyner, the nationally syndicated radio personality, and Albert Joyner, owner of McDonald’s franchises in Jackson, MS.

“I really appreciate all of the sympathy and prayers expressed by all of my close friends and my listeners,” Tom Joyner said. “Those that ever had the pleasure of meeting Pops know what an inspiring life he lived and what a proud man he always was. My family and I are thankful for all of your prayers.”

Known for his dry wit and gentle ways, ‘Pops’, as he was affectionately called by family and friends, graduated from Florida A&M College with as B.S. in Chemistry. While at Florida A&M, Joyner pledged with the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and became an avid golfer. In later years, ‘The Herc’ Golf Tournament was named after him.

After he enrolled in the program to become a Tuskegee Airman, he decided to switch from a military career and instead became an accountant, later spending much of his career working for the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Tuskegee.

Joyner was the only child of Dr. Oscar Albert and Ruth Griffin Joyner, and married the late Frances Dumas, a graduate of Tennessee State University.

To share his passion for black colleges, Joyner was an active member of the Tom Joyner Foundation, created by his son in 1998 with the sole mission to help keep students enrolled in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made on H.L. Joyner’s behalf to the Tom Joyner Foundation, P.O Box 630495, Irving, TX 75063.

Friday, October 26, 2007


One of the things I miss about home is sitting down with a group of my friends and playing dominos.

Dominos is as much a part of African-American culture in Texas as strawberry soda, barbecue, football, and Juneteenth. I first learned how to play the game watching the seniors in my old Sunnyside area barbershop. They would be there for hours even after they'd gotten their hair cut playing and talking trash to each other.

My barber Charlene Washington taught me how to play. I wasn't in a hurry to go home after she cut my hair one hot summer afternoon and she needed a partner to help her whip up on some trash-talking old men. Once I figured out the rules and strategies involved after a while I became as lethal as she was.

The basics are that you play to 150 or 250 points and can play with up to 4 people.

The game starts after the dominos are shuffled and all players select seven dominos to make up their hand. The person holding the highest double domino starts the action. That domino becomes the 'spinner', the only one you can play on four sides. Every other subsequent play in the game you have to match one of the dominos on the open ends with play proceeding to the right.

If a person doesn't possess a domino that will match any of the open ends they are passed or as we called it 'knocking'. First player to get rid of all their dominos wins the hand and the process starts all over again until they reach the target score.

Scoring is done in multiples of 5 with the maximum for one play being 30 points if you're playing with a Double Six domino set.

I understand Latinos and peeps in the Caribbean are as crazy about the game as African-Americans are. Some have elaborate tables made specifically for playing the game with cupholders built into them to hold drinks.

During my freshman year at the University of Houston me and my running buddies discovered one day when we didn't have the funds to bowl that the UC had a set of dominos we could check out to play. For the next three years we got a group together on a regular basis and started playing dominos on our lunch periods, some early mornings before class and sometimes after class.

And what entertaining games they were. We took trash talking to a new level when we playing. It got so raucous sometimes that we had other UH students watching our antics.

Of course, you know yours truly and her friends would come up with creative monikers for our domino games. I called all-out scoring in which points were scored in escalating fashion up to the big 30 point play 'Run and Shoot dominoes' after Mouse Davis' high-powered high scoring football offense. 'Four corners dominoes' was what I called it when somebody tried to limit scoring and 'lock up' the hand.

When it was your turn to shuffle the dominoes for the next game it was called 'washing the dishes'. Sometimes one of my friends would mimic pouring dishwashing soap into the mix or make pithy comments after selecting their domino hand like 'I can see myself' after the Joy diswashing liquid commercial of the early 80's.

Even when we scored we had comments for it. A five point play was a 'nickel'. A ten point play was a 'dime'. A fifteen point play was greeted with the term 'three's please' or 'her name was Trina' and a twenty point play was 'four on the floor'.

I used to mimic James Brown when I scored 25 points and say,"Heyyyyyy, hit me five times." If we made someone pass, it was 'who's that knocking at my door?' If you scored repeatedly in five point increments you hear that player say "fish and bread keep po' men fed." If somebody laid out an obvious sucker play in order for their team to score bigger points, your partner would warn "all money ain't good money." There were also the naughty erotic references made as well.

There were people like Craig and Raymond Jolivette who liked to add to your embarrassment after a loss and make you sign the score sheet after they beat you. They would write, "I got my azz thoroughly kicked by Craig and Raymond at the bottom of the page and make you and your partner autograph it. Of course if they lost, they had to eat crow and do the same thing.

Raymond Jolivette was definitely the most entertaining one of our bunch. He graduated from Smiley High and arrived at UH in the fall of 1981. He earned the nickname of 'Smurf' from us because of his 5'5" height and after the popular cartoon of the time.

He took the nickname and ran with it. His 5'1" Black Filipina girlfriend Victoria was called 'Smurfette' by us and he was a fun person to be around. I'm still telling Raymond Jolivette stories to this day.

There was one game we were playing in which I made a boneheaded play that was not only going to result in me and my partner suffering a thirty point blow, but cost us the game as well. Raymond took the scoring domino out of his hand, went to the back wall of the UC pool room where we were playing, ran to our table hollering 'Banzai' all the way before slamming the domino onto the table to heighten my embarrassment.

Ah, those were the days.

Happy Birthday Hillary!

Today is the big 6-0 birthday for Senator Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

I'm willing to bet that when she blows out the candles on her cake later today her birthday wish is going to be getting inagurated president on January 20, 2009.

We can only hope and pray it's either her or somebody else with a 'D' behind their name on the ballot.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm The ENDA Bill

sung to the tune of 'I'm Just A Bill' from ABC's Schoolhouse Rock
Music & Original Lyrics by Dave Frishberg
Performed by Jack Sheldon, 1975

You sure gotta climb a lotta steps to get to this Capitol Building here in Washington. But I wonder who that sad little scrap of paper is?

I'm the ENDA bill
Yes I'm the ENDA Bill
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill

It's been a long hard road
To the capital city
HRC and some gays have been acting real shitty
But I know I'll be a law someday
Oh how and hope and pray that I will
But today I'm still the ENDA bill

Gee, bill, you certainly have a lot of patience and courage.

Well, I got this far. When I started, I wasn't even a bill - I was just an idea. Some folks back home decided they wanted a law passed, so they called their local congressman and he "You're right, there ought to be a law." Then he sat down and wrote me out and introduced me to Congress, and I became a bill. And I'll remain a bill until they decide to make me a law.

I'm the ENDA bill
Yes I'm the ENDA bill
And I got as far as Capitol Hill
I'm waiting for Congress and Barney Frank
To determine my fate
While gays and trannies
Fight, cuss and debate
Is gender identity in the bill today?
Oh how I hope and pray that it is
But today I'm still the ENDA bill

Listen to those congressmen arguing! Is all that discussion and debate about you?

Yes. I'm one of the lucky ones. Most bills never even get this far. I hope they decide to report on me favorably, otherwise I may die.
Yeah, die in committee.

Oooh! But it looks like I'm gonna live. Now I go to the House of Representatives and they vote on me.
If they vote "yes", what happens?
Then I go to the Senate and the whole thing starts all over again.
Oh no!
Oh yes!

I'm the ENDA bill
Yes I'm the ENDA bill
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill
Well then it's off to the White House
Where I'll wait for some time
The fundies will tell Bush
"This ENDA one you don't sign"
No override I won't become a law
Oh how I hope and pray that I will
But today I'm still the ENDA bill

You mean even if the whole Congress says you should be a law, the President can still say no?

Yes, that's called a "veto". If the President vetoes me, I have to go back to Congress, and they vote on me again, and by that time it's...

By that time, it's very unlikely that you'll become a law. It's not easy to become a law, is it?

No, But how I hope and pray that I will
But today I'm still the ENDA bill

T’was the Night Before ENDA

Guest Post by Monica F. Helms
Based on the poem by Clement Clarke Moore

T’was the night before ENDA and all through the House
Not a Congress Critter was stirring, especially The Mouse.
Our prayers all hung on the votes that would appear,
In hopes that the Baldwin Amendment would soon be here.

The trans people were anxious, all snug in there beds,
While visions of employment danced in their heads.
And Air Monica in her ‘kerchief and I in my Navy cap.
None of us were ready for the upcoming slap.

When out of the House there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my computer to see what was the matter.
Away to the MS Windows I flew like the Flash,
Tore open my Outlook and pulled up my stash.

The light from my screen looked like new-fallen snow
Gave a falsehood of hope from my E-mails below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
The death of ENDA from the Congress’ big queer.

This little old Rep was so vile that it stank,
I knew in a moment it must be Barney Frank.
More rapid than eagles his hate it came,
And he blustered, and shouted, and called us nasty names!

“Now Drag Queens! now, She-males! now, transvestites and such!
It was easy to tell he hated us so much.
The words he used showed contempt and disgust.
That removing us from ENDA to him was a must.

As dry leaves that before the California fires fly,
Frank burned down our hopes of jobs with a lie.
So up to the House his hate of us flew
With a folder of false facts, and Speaker Pelosi too.

And then, in a twinkle, I heard from the House
That Frank was skulking, just like a mouse.
The Baldwin Amendment he said they should pass
But, behind our backs, he was kicking our ass.

Dressed in Armani from his head to his toe,
He was the darling of rich gay men wherever he’d go.
A bundle of promises he had packed in his case,
With a sinister grin splashed across his face.

His eyes how evil! his voice how scary!
And when he was angry, he would explode like Carrie.
He would proclaim his superiority wherever he’d go,
And the hair on his head was as white as the snow.

His face would fume when he would grit his teeth,
And everyone he saw, he would give them grief.
He had a broad face and an overstuffed belly,
That shook when he screamed, like a bowlful of KY Jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right evil old elf,
And I had to laugh, because he’s so full of himself!
A squint of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had everything to dread.

He spoke a bunch of words, and went “straight” to work,
And took trans people out of ENDA, just like a jerk.
And sticking his middle finger up into the air,
He told 300 groups that he really didn’t care.

He sprang to his office, to HRC he gave a whistle,
And the way they all flew like a nuclear missile.
But I heard him scream, “ENDA is all mine!”
“And you ain’t even getting it in Two-Thousand and Nine!”

Monica F. Helms is the founding president of the Transgender American Veterans Association and the creator of the Transgender Pride flag. She was honored with an IFGE Trinity Award in 2003

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Got My Rights-Forget Y'all

One of the things that will make me go straight the hell off is when people utter the statement "I got my rights. I don't need to lobby nationally". I hear this far too often from many GLBT people who live in areas that have local or state protective laws. When you ask them to help us lobby on a national level, they'll look at you disdainfully and say, "Why?"

Why? Let me break it down to you why you peeps who are fortunate enough to live in areas where your rights are covered need to get off your asses and help the folks that don't.

While I reside in Louisville, which has a local GLBT protective law along with Lexington and Covington, other parts of the state don't. Henderson, KY passed one in 1999 but had it rescinded a year later when one of the members of the narrow 3-2 pro-GLBT rights majority on the Henderson city council retired. He was replaced by a member of the Forces of Intolerance which flipped the 3-2 majority to the anti-GLBT crowd.

In 2004 we had to pick ourselves up one month after a devastating defeat in the anti-marriage equality amendment battle and fight tooth and nail in Louisville just to keep our Fairness law on the books.

Every year in Frankfort we have to fight a bill a right-wing Republican state legislator is proposing that would take away a city's ability to enact civil rights law, reserve that power for the state level and ivalidate the inclusive laws we painstakingly passed at the city level.

And please don't send me any comments that say,"Why don't you move to (insert your inclusive city/state here), then you'll have rights?" Been there, done that.

As much as I like Louisville, it isn't home. Texas is my birth state, Houston is my hometown and my family's roots on my father's side in the Lone Star State predate the Civil War. But because my hometown only protects transgender employment for city employees, I made the reluctant decision to relocate.

But why should people have to move to get their rights? Transpeople live in other areas besides northern and southern California, the Northeast Corridor, the Pacific Northwest and Chicagoland. We have people that live in the reddest of red states, like it and no offense to you peeps that live there, have a variety of personal reasons why they would rather not live in Massachusetts or California.

So shouldn't they be able to live in the areas that appeal to them and have their constitutional rights protected and respected?

To get those rights, since hell will freeze over before some 'flyover country' state legislatures pass GLBT inclusive laws, the only alternative in the rest of the country is to have those rights codified at the federal level.

We need help. For example, you Californians have the largest Congressional delegation with 52 members, but we rarely see you, much less anyone west of the Mississippi River besides Texans, Arizonans or the occasional person from Colorado at national lobby days on a consistent basis.

It would be extremely helpful to the transgender rights cause if you Westerners helped your fellow transpeople east of the Mississippi and not only showed up for a Washington lobby day in force, but hit your local offices, meet with your congressmembers at local events, develop a relationship with them and call them up when we need you to. It's one thing for those of us who are participating in these lobby days to show up in these offices, but there's nothing that impresses a congressmember more than a constituent who took the time and made the effort, especially from Western states to come to DC to chat with the member about issues that concern them.

As a minority, you have to think nationally and globally. You have to be vigilant on aything that may remotely affect your civil rights. We African-Americans know all too well how fragile civil rights are in the face of determined opposition to gaining those rights. Everything affects you on one level or another even if it's not happening in your backyard. That's why people from as far away as California were part of the 40,000 people who showed up in Jena, LA for that September 20 protest.

John F. Kennedy once said in a nationally televised speech on civil rights in June 1963, "When we give rights to others, we expand rights for ourselves."

Think of it this way. By getting more involved in helping an inclusive federal ENDA to pass for example, you'll expand rights for yourselves. You'll have an extra layer of protection for the inevitable day that the Forces of Intolerance try to take away your local civil rights laws. You'll also be helping your brothers and sisters in conservative-dominated states enjoy the same rights you have.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Monica's Recipe For A Phenomenal Transwoman

3 cups of faith
2 cups of fortitude
1 cup of courage
1/2 cup of fashion sense
1 cup of divatude
2 cups of estrogen
1 cup of progesterone
1 cup of pride
3 cups of broad-based knowledge
2 cups of healthy self-esteem
1 cup of self-love
1 cup of sisterhood
1 cup of patience
A pinch of flava
Add surgical enhancement to individual taste

Sprinkle a sense of humor into the mixture and stir well. Yields one Phenomenal Transwoman when done.

This recipe does not use any self-hatred, shame and guilt, or silicone

Call For Transsexual Narratives

From Julia Serrano

I am currently working on a paper (which I plan to submit to a peer-reviewed psychology journal) that challenges psychologist Ray Blanchard’s causal theory of “autogynephilia” (which has recently gained attention via J. Michael Bailey’s book The Man Who Would be Queen). This theory posits that all transsexual women who are not exclusively attracted to men transition to female because we are sexually aroused by the idea of being or becoming women. Many trans women (including myself) find this theory to be flawed because it mistakenly confuses/conflates sexual orientation, gender expression, subconscious sex and sex embodiment, and it unnecessarily sexualizes the motives of countless trans women who transition to female for reasons other than sexual arousal.

To refute the assumption that lesbian/bisexual/“asexual” trans women are the *only* transsexuals who experience pre-transition fantasies about being/becoming their identified sex, I am hoping to collect applicable narratives from the following groups:

1) FTM transsexuals: narratives that discuss/describe any pre-transition sexual fantasies you may have experienced that primarily centered on you physically being or becoming male rather than on the physique of another person.

2) MTF transsexuals who are exclusively attracted to men: narratives that discuss/describe any pre-transition sexual fantasies you may have experienced that primarily centered on you physically being or becoming female rather than on the physique of another person.

To refute the assumption that “autogynephilic” fantasies *cause* transsexuality, I am hoping to collect applicable narratives from MTF transsexuals who are lesbian, bisexual or “asexual” in orientation and who:

1) were stereotypically feminine and girl-identified as young children and transitioned during late teens/early adulthood

2) never experienced pre-transition sexual fantasies that primarily centered on physically being or becoming female

3) did experience such fantasies, but only after consciously recognizing/realizing that you wanted to be female

4) regularly engaged in such fantasies pre-transition, but then experienced a sharp decline or a complete absence in those fantasies over time. (Note: if you fall into category #4, please include any reasons/explanations as to why such fantasies no longer arouse or appeal to you).

Narratives should briefly describe the pertinent details in 1 to 4 short paragraphs. There is no need to be overly graphic or detailed - just the basic facts will suffice. Please be sure to include the age at which you first became aware of your cross-gender identity/desire to be the other sex, and the age at which you first experienced such fantasies (if applicable). Narratives that are germane to the points I wish to make will be compiled onto a single webpage that will be used as supplemental data for my article. I can assure you that YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED OR SHARED WITH ANYONE. Obviously, other people will be reading these narratives, so be sure to omit any unimportant info that you feel might place your anonymity in jeopardy (e.g., where you live or work, names of partners, etc.)

For those interested, please send your narrative to me at - be sure to paste the narrative into the body of the email (no attachments please). Along with the narrative, please include the following information:

1) whether you are an MTF or FTM transsexual
2) whether you are sexually oriented toward men, women, both or neither
3) a statement along the following lines: “I certify that all of the provided information is true to the best of my knowledge, and I give Julia Serano permission to permanently post this narrative on her website and to include and/or excerpt it in her forthcoming article.”

The purpose of my article is not to discount or discredit trans women who self-identify as autogynephilic, but rather to finally take into account the experiences of the many trans women for whom sexual arousal was not a primary motivation for transitioning. In other words, this study aims to clarify the psychological literature on this matter, not to distort it further. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you be completely honest and open in the information you provide. If I have reason to suspect that any narrative I receive is fabricated, I will not include it.

Feel free to cross-post this call for narratives on any trans-focused websites/email lists at your discretion. It is also available on the web at this link:

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at

Thanks in advance!

The Calm Before The Storm

We're 24 hours away from D-Day. The US House will be taking a vote on a bill tomorrow that will either be inclusive or be the first civil rights bill in history in which a wide majority of the people it's intended to help not only don't want it, but will leave out entire sections of the community.

While I can't predict which way the votes will go on the Baldwin Amendment and HR 3685 itself, I can say with certainty that the aftermath will be ugly not only for the GLB community but the transgender one as well.

And the sad thing about this mess is that it didn't have to happen. If Bush isn't going to sign ANY ENDA bill, then why wouldn't Rep. Frank leave HR 2015 alone?

Pehaps he and his like minded Mattachine transphobes feared the same thing I fear now about a non-inclusive ENDA passing. That Bush just to be contrary, will sign it anyway assuming it gets through the Senate.

I hope that some senator will see the wisdom of not leaving the transgender community out if the Baldwin Amendment fails and Frank's Folly passes the House without us in it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Open Letter To The CBC

Dear Congressional Black Caucus,
When the 110th Congress was gaveled into session back in January it made history on many fronts. The members of the CBC for the first time would not only chair many subcommittees, but important committees such as Ways and Means and Judiciary.

An African-American would serve as the Majority Whip for the first time in a decade. It would even include not only its first representative from Minnesota, but that representative would be a Muslim as well. And the thing I am most proud of is that a CBC member of the Senate is not only running for president, but has a serious shot to win the Democratic party nomination for the job next year as well.

Yes, the CBC has come a long way since its founding in 1971 and it's not called the 'Conscience of the Congress' for nothing.

So as an African-American who happens to be transgender, I would like to appeal to that conscience and humbly ask why some members of the CBC aren't voting to expand civil rights to their fellow African-Americans who happen to be transgender.

I'm not naive to politics. I'm a student of history who is painfully aware of our tortured history in this country and how long it took civil rights for African-Americans to pass.

But I fail to understand why some CBC members are balking at expanding rights to people who desperately need them in the name of 'pragmatic politics'. There are over 300 organizations including the National Black Justice Coalition and the International Federation of Black Prides that support an inclusive ENDA.

I understand that the misguided ministers of the Hi Impact Leadership Coalition and others in Congress are placing tremendous pressure on some of you to vote NO not only on the Baldwin Amendment that would fix the problems in Rep. Barney Frank's HR 3685, but on HR 3685 as well.

But looking at our history, you can well understand why as an African-American transperson I'm imploring you to vote YES on the Baldwin Amendment and include people in this legislation that should have never been cut out of it in the first place.

Over 70% of the people listed on the Remembering our Dead List, which memorializes victims of anti-transgender violence are African-American or other people of color. Many of you were in Washington when Tyra Hunter was denied emergency medical treatment by an African-American EMT and subsequently at DC General that would have saved her life. The hate for transgender people is so palpable that several years ago Willie Houston, an African-American who was helping a man cross a Nashville street was shot and killed because he happened to be holding his wife's purse at the time.

I thank the CBC for standing tall on the hate crimes bill that passed the House May 3 and I and others expressed that sentiment to many of the CBC offices I was able to visit then. But what is more vitally important to transgender people like myself is having job protections.

It does me no good to have hate crimes protection if someone feels that they have a God given 'special right' to mess with my employment, fire me because I transitioned, or deny me or any person gay or straight a job we have the qualifications to do because we don't fit their impressions of how a man or woman is supposed to act, walk, talk or look.

I have already felt the sting of employment discrimination because I'm transgender. I need a roof over my head, food to eat, and clothes on my back. I have to earn money to pay for those necessities of life and that requires a job. Since medical care at the moment is tied up in gainful employment as well, an inclusive ENDA is a life or death issue to us.

The late Barbara Jordan, a fellow Texan, one of my heroes and a distinguished member of the Congressional Black Caucus once stated,

"One thing is clear to me: We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves."

As a transgender American of African descent that's all I and any other transperson is asking for. All we want is an expansion of the 'We, the People' in the Constitution to include us. All we are asking for is an opportunity to be able to use our talents to work and live our lives free of harassment. All we want is an equitable opportunity to do our part to help build our country. Because the Forces of Intolerance are arrayed against us now, we can't wait decades for a separate transgender-only ENDA to pass.

In short, we're asking for nothing more than you would want for yourselves or your children: First-class citizenship.

Whether we get that will be determined in large part by the actions of the Democratic Party and the members of 'the Conscience of the Congress.'

Since the CBC's founding you have never failed to lead on civil rights issues before. Please don't let failing to expand civil rights protection for transgender Americans become the first stain on that impressive and morally principled record.

Sincerely yours,
Monica Roberts
2006 IFGE Trinity Award Winner