Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clinton Supporter's Bigotry Comes Out Of The Closet

If you want to know why I've lost respect for Bill and his wife after South Carolina, this following clip is why. Your campaign injected race into this campaign when Barack started whipping Hillary's behind, and here is an example of the ugly aftermath of it blowing up at today's DNC Rules Committee hearing in DC.

Superdelgates, time to end this crap now.

And to Ms. Harriet Christian of Manhattan and all the White Democrats who are spouting the same bullshit, here's something for y'all to chew on.

African-Americans for decades have been the most loyal constituency to this party. We have voted for White, Black amd Latino Democratic candidates at 60-90% clips at all levels of government. But when it comes to an African-American candidate, we don't get the same respect and love as Democrats that we show you.

Meanwhile Ms. Christian, 'good Americans' who share your ethnicity have ignorantly voted against your political and economic interests for Republican candidates who don't give a rats anus about you for a variety of logic-defying reasons, up to and including your own racism.

Not this time. When it comes to this 2008 election, it''s put up or shut up time. Barack Obama is going to win this nomination. Deal with it. We African-American Democrats expect nothing less than for all true Democrats to do the same for us that we African-Americans have done for candidates of your ethnicity for the last 40 years. Vote for the Dem and keep the lips zipped about any negativity you have for that candidate in the interest of party unity until after Election Day.

Remember it's attitudes like this that got us George W. Bush in the first place, and this country cannot afford another four years of GOP rule.

When this campaign is mercifully over, it's time for the United States to take a long, hard no-holds barred look at the damage that slavery has caused and how it still impacts us only 150 years removed from its end.

W.E.B. DuBois said it over a century ago, and I fear this quote is coming true in my lifetime.

'Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States'

I think the phrasing of this quote more apropos to this post is, either the United States will destroy racism or racism will destroy the United States.

It's D-Day

And no, I'm not talking about the upcoming anniversary next week of the World War II Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6.

The D-day I'm talking about is the meeting that's being held today in Washington DC to sort out the mess Florida and Michigan created when they bucked Democratic Party rules and held their presidential primaries before January 29.

They were punished by having all their delegates for this year's convention taken away. But with Florida and Michigan being critical swing states in the fall election campaign, the DNC was going to come to some compromise bout this situation.

The problem is twofold. If you reinstate the delegates, how many and how are they allocated since Sen. Obama and the other Democratic candidates all agreed to not campaign in the punished states primaries. Hillary Clinton agreed to the rules at first, then reneged and campaigned in Florida. Now she's trying to claim all the delegates by asserting she 'won' both states.

Yeah, right. It's easy to win when no one else is competing against you.

The result she wants, seating all the delegates and Sen. Obama getting none of the Michigan ones ain't happening. Michigan and Florida clearly broke the rules and they must be enforced. If you dont, during the 2012 Presidential election cycle you'll have more states trying to pull what Florida and Michigan did and we may end up with the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary happening during the 2011 Christmas season or earlier.

At best they should split them 50-50, but it's up to the 30 person Rules and Bylaws Committee. Let's hope they come up with a solution that is acceptable to all parties and we can focus on kicking GOP behind this fall.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Colorado GLBT Peeps Flying High Over SB200 Signing

TransGriot Note: Our GLBT brothers and sisters in Colorado are flying as high as the Rockies today thanks to Gov. Bill Ritter (D). In the home state of Unfocused On The Family, it is now illegal to discriminate against GLBT people when buying a home, renting an apartment or using public accommodations. And yes Barney and HRC, we transgender people are included in this bill. So I ask again, what's keeping the Feds from doing the same thing?

Ritter signs bill giving gays equal access to accommodations
CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0367 or mark.barna@gazette. com
May 29, 2008

Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday signed a bill that makes it illegal in Colorado to discriminate against gays, bisexuals and transgendered people when buying a home, renting an apartment or using public accommodations.

"The governor felt that this bill, SB200, was about fairness and treating people equally," said Evan Dreyer, spokesman for the governor's office. "It essentially updates anti-discrimination laws that in some cases have not been updated for 50 years."

Bruce DeBoskey, regional director of Denver's Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization, said the law is a step forward for Coloradans.

"No one should be denied housing or public accommodations solely because of his or her sexual preference," DeBoskey said.

One aspect of the law enables transgenders - those who were born one gender but identify with the other - to use public restrooms in which they feel most comfortable.

Beginning May 21, Focus on the Family and Colorado Family Action began sponsoring radio advertisements on four radio stations in Colorado Springs and Denver denouncing the bill.

The ads warned that cross-dressing predators could endanger children
by using restrooms designated for the opposite sex.

Focus founder James Dobson said Thursday:

"Who would believe that the Colorado state Legislature and its governor would have made it legal for men to enter and use women's restrooms and locker room facilities without notice or explanation?

"Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence."

DeBoskey denounced Dobson's view.

"It is unfortunate that they feel they have to exaggerate the dangers and play on people's fears," DeBoskey said. "This law is about fairness and justice for all people living in this state."

Last May, Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, introduced the forerunner to SB200 known as SB25, a bill that prohibits employment discrimination against gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. Ritter signed it into law. SB200, which Veiga also introduced,
extends the rights of these people to housing and public accommodations.

"This is a law whose time has come," said Ryan Acker, executive director of the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Colorado Springs.

"The passing of this bill shows that Colorado is a progressive state."

Copyright C 2008 Freedom Communications

One Denver Trip Ain't Happening

As many of you regular TransGriot readers know I was looking at the prospect in a few months of taking two Denver trips. One was going to be for the TRANScending Gender Conference at the University of Colorado-Boulder in October.

The August Denver trip was in the hands of the DNC. The Bilerico Project, the blog in which I'm a contributing writer was a finalist for the credentialed blogging spots at the upcoming Democratic Convention in Denver. I'd already arranged a place to stay and was prepared to use vacation time so that I could be there for what undoubtedly is going to be a historic convention.

But unfortunately, we got the word last night from the DNC that The Bilerico Project wasn't on the final list for credentialed blogs. While I'm disappointed for Bil that we didn't get it, I'm happy for fellow contributor Pam Spaulding. Her Pam's House Blend not only will be there, it's one of only two GLBT oriented blogs to get credentials for the upcoming convention.

What's bugging me, though is the same thing that's bugging Bil. The other blog that got an LGBT slot, Towleroad, while it is a quality blog that I peruse from time to time, doesn't even do politics on a regular basis like the Project does, much less tackle the prickly subjects head on such as race in the GLBT community or go in depth on transgender issues.

It's also overwhelmingly monoracial. Towleroad's readership is moneyed white gay male and their focus reflects that demographic. (translation-the peeps most likely to donate money to the party.) So like Bil, I have to wonder how much politics factored into the selection process and I'm a little disappointed I won't be there.

Fortunately Pam's blog not only does politics, it does it quite well. It's one I frequently read, and I've posted comments and diaries there from time to time. It's a diverse place to boot just like Bilerico and will serve the GLBT community well.

I have much love and respect for Pam. She's a role model to me. She was one of the first bloggers to give me a boost by allowing me to link to her blog when I started TransGriot in 2006 (Jasmyne Cannick was the other) and she's cool people to boot. I'm also happy that other African-American and minority bloggers will be there to record history as well.

But it looks like my return to Denver after two decades will be delayed now until October.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What Do You Mean Black Transwomen Are Ugly?

One thing my biosisters have told me over the years is that we transwomen and they have far more in common with each other than the things that separate us. In many ways, we share the same trials and tribulations they do.

One of those things as I pointed out in a previous post is the dissing of African-American beauty. I got another taste of it as I was recently visiting a transgender dating website.

While I was lurking, there was a discussion thread in which the guys started talking about the ethnicity of the transwomen they were attracted to, liked to date and the qualities they thought made them attractive.

When one of the guys noted in his post that he liked African-American transwomen, one person posted a derisive comment about it which he punctuated with the words, 'they're ugly and look like men!'

Excuse me?

After a few transsisters who were members of this particular online community blasted him for his ignorance, I signed out and started pondering what would make this person say that.

One of the factors is that beauty has been defined for centuries in a Eurocentric context. We saw an example just last week when Maxim magazine published their list of what they considered the 100 most beautiful women. Only six Black women made that list, and none of them were in the Top Ten. (FYI they were 14 Beyonce, 15 Rihanna, 37 Ashanti, 42 Zoe Saldana, 63 Selita Ebanks, 72 Gabrielle Union, 77 Alicia Keys)

No Meagan Good, no Halle Berry, no Tyra Banks, not even Miss USA 2008 Crystle get the picture.

Maybe if Mr. Black Transwoman Beauty Critic stepped away from his computer and quit surfing the adult websites, he'd get a little 'ejumacation' in terms of the varied beauty of my transsistahs. I have homegirls who if I didn't know their status, would have never guessed they were born boys. They would take great offense as I do to this person's ignorant characterization of us as 'ugly' and 'looking like men'.

It would also be a great surprise for this person and his friends who may harbor the same negative stereotypes to discover that transwomen don't have to come from Thailand, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico or assorted European countries to be considered beautiful. As an FYI to Mr. Black Transwoman Hater, the Brazilian transwomen you think are so 'exotic' looking have the same African bloodlines that I and my African-American sisters do.

If this person has the time to roll up to Chicago on Labor Day weekend, I'd suggest that he check out the latest edition of the Miss Continental Pageant that nine sistahs have won over its twenty plus year history. I'd like to point out that sistahs have won the last three titles in a row.

I haven't even touched on the other pageant systems that Black transwomen are competitive in, much less the ballroom community that's a showcase for our beauty, creativity and talent. Some of my sisters went from walking ballroom runways to fashion runways as well.

One of the reasons we have Black run ones such as the Miss Black Universe, Duval and the other Black transgender pageant systems is because the negative African-American beauty perceptions that were espoused by this person are sadly part of the dominant culture. The end result is a perception in our GLBT subset of it that results in Black transwomen not getting fair shakes in judging when they compete in predominately white GLBT pageants.

Far from being 'ugly' or 'looking like men', my sisters and I run the gamut in skin tones from vanilla creme to the deepest darkest ebony hue. We vary in height from a petite 5 foot 1 to a statuesque 6 foot 2 and up. We have luscious and dangerous curves over every square inch of our bodies. We can wear any fabric from silk to leather and it looks sexy on us. When we do our hair in the various lengths and styles to complement what Mama, nature and hormones gave us, you pause while out come the claws from the insecure women that don't measure up.

Yes, my sisters and I are smart, talented, beautiful and strong women. Maybe the reason this person uttered that statement is because he wasn't man enough to step to us with the class and dignity it's going to take to capture our hearts.

There are a lot of words you can use to describe me and my transsisters. But 'ugly' ain't one of them.

TransGriot Note: Women in photos are Tracy Africa, actress Meagan Good, Stasha Sanchez

Stealth Post Roundup

I was going to post something on being stealth and how I think it has harmed the transgender community more than its helped us. I decided instead to let y'all peruse some of my previous writings on the stealth issue that I either wrote as a full length post or it came up in the context of a discussion on another issue.

I also need to do as Dr. King would say, more hard, solid thinking on the subject.

So while I'm finding a nice quiet spot and clearing some time to do that hard, solid thinking, enjoy these past TransGriot posts.

Note To World-Black Transpeople Exist

Stealth Transpeople, C'mon Out

Stealth vs. Out

Letter To My African-American Transgender Elders

Time To Elevate Our Game

Genetic Women and Transwomen: Can We Be Friends? Part 2

Are The Divine Nine Sororities Ready To Admit Transwomen?

How Boys Become Boys (and Sometimes Girls)

New research explains how three proteins conspire to determine an embryo's sex
By Nikhil Swaminathan
From Scientific American

In research that could give doctors a way to reassign sex in cases of unclear gender, scientists report this week that they have figured out why some children with genes that should make them boys are instead born as girls.

The study, published in Nature, explains why some embryos with X and Y chromosomes—which should be born as male—develop ovaries and eventually become girls.

The key is whether a gene called Sox9, involved in formation of the testes, is active. "There are a surprisingly large number of cases where this process goes wrong," says Robin Lovell-Badge, a biologist at London's MRC National Institute for Medical Research, who estimates that this phenomenon could effect up to 1 in every 20,000 genetic males. "Maybe one could treat some of these sex reversal or intersex cases after birth by manipulating whether Sox9 is active or not. This is all speculation but it's possible."

If Sox9 is somehow switched on in a genetic female—an embryo with two X chromosomes—it causes male gonads to form; if it fails to turn on in males, the cells it controls will become follicle cells, which mature into ovaries.

To work out this process, Lovell-Badge and his colleagues manipulated the Sox9 gene in genetically engineered mice. They found that what switches on Sox9 is the product of two other genes. When either of those genes—one of which is found on the Y chromosome, only carried by males—is defective, Sox9 remains off and the embryo develops ovaries.

Richard R. Behringer, a geneticist at the University of Texas's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, called the study "an important step." Behringer, who was not involved in the research, says scientists must now determine how Sox9's activity actually leads to the creation of testes.

Lovell-Badge and his colleagues believe that the findings in mice will apply to humans as well, particularly in diagnosing "male" embryos that are likely to develop into girls. That's important, he says, because those people are at higher risk for ovarian tumors.

He adds that he's very hopeful that with further analysis, scientists may determine ways to reassign gender later in life, "perhaps for cases of sex reversal or perhaps even for individuals who want to undergo sex changes," although he acknowledged that "this is getting very contentious."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Talking About My Faith

Most Sunday mornings I get out of bed, get into diva mode and point my car in the direction of my open and affirming church to hear my pastor Rev. Sally McClain.

That's right, you didn't misread that. I have a female pastor. Quite frankly. she can say in a 25-30 minute sermon what it took some pastors in some Black churches I attended back home one to two hours to say. I'm one of four transwomen and three Black members who attend Edenside Christian Church.

See, I'm a little more complex than some of y'all thought, huh?

One of the things I've noted in my decade plus interactions with the transgender community is the bitterness and in some cases outright hostility toward people who profess to be Christians.

When I've attended various gender conferences in the past I've seen a variety of faith traditions expressed and embraced up to and including atheism and agnosticism. But say you're a Christian and you're looked at like you just dropped in from Mars.

Those strange looks also come from the Forces of Intolerance little 'c' Christians as well. The ChristoBorg had it implanted in their hive mind consciousness that we GLBT people aren't and couldn't possibly be Christians.

Au contraire, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I just don't believe in your warped, Scripture-twisting, vengeful God, hate filled version of it.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the JCPS employment policy battle a few months ago was when I got to see the YouTube video of me speaking in front of the board. At the point of my remarks in which I announced I was a Christian, a voice in the background says, "No way!"

Yes, way! I was baptized on August 2, 1972 at my home church in Houston. Deal with it.

I have had to call on that faith many times before, during and after my transition. It gave me clarity of thought when my mind was troubled or I was upset about things going on in my life. It gave me the strength and courage to become the Phenomenal Transwoman I am today when I was unsure, fearful and afraid that I could do it.

When I suffered through a six month employment drought and didn't know how I was going to pay next month's rent on my apartment or put food on my table when i exhausted the money I had saved up for surgery, people stepped up without me asking them to feed me or pay back money I'd loaned to them and forgotten about dating back several years.

Sen. Obama had this to say about faith in a June 26, 2006 Chicago Tribune interview:

I see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death. It is an active palpable agent in the world. Ir is a source of hope.

I agree with him. It is a source of hope. It is why I have the unwavering conviction and confidence that we transpeople will accomplish our legislative crown jewels. My faith is why I believe that the current negativity that we suffer from friends and foes alike will end. My faith is why I know that one day we will be fully functioning and valued members of society all over the world.

The day I stop believing that will be the day when I accept every myth and falsehood that our detractors say about us, and that ain't happening. Tammy Faye told me this when I met her in 2003, and I hold fast to this comment every time I hear the Religious Reich spewing forth anti-transgender Hateraid disguised in Christian drag.

"Never let anyone say that God doesn't love you, because He does."

Thanks Tammy Faye, Rev. Sally, Soulforce, Dignity, More Light, and every Christian theologian, pastor and real Christian who never lets me or any GLBT Christian forget that, feels that way, and backs up their words with positive actions.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Miss Tiffany Universe 2008

The 2008 Miss Universe Pageant won't be taking place until this July in Vietnam. Until then, pageant happy Thais can satisfy their pageant jones with the 2008 edition of the Miss Tiffany Universe Pageant.

The transgender Miss Tiffany Universe pageant is now entering its second decade and according to the Pattaya Daily News is taken as seriously as any pageant with biowomen contestants. The pageant has 22 businesses sponsoring it this year, according to Ms. Alisa Bpanthusak, the chair of the contest and Assistant Managing Director of Tiffany's, the Pattaya cabaret that hosts the pageant. The May 30 finals will also be broadcast live on Thai television.

Sorry pageant girls, this one's only open to Thai transwomen. The winner of Miss Tiffany Universe not only receives a cash prize and a car, but serves as Thailand's representative for the pageant they host at Tiffany's for the rest of the world's transwomen called the Miss Universal Queen Pageant. They also send the winner to the Queen of the Universe Pageant held in Los Angeles.

Ms. Bpanthusak also noted in the May 7 press conference held in Bangkok that the pageant was not only gaining increased acceptance and cachet, but the quality and variety of the contestants that entered was rising as well. She noted she had more contestants that were college students or had thespian training.

The judges definitely will have a tough job whittling the pool of applicants down to the 30 girls who'll take part in various related scheduled activities from May 26-29 and selecting Miss Tiffany Universe 2008.

Rochelle's Tough Year

TransGriot Note: Remember Rochelle Evans, who last year fought the Fort Worth Independent School District for the right to be herself? Well, that was the easy part. This Dallas Voice story updates us on what's transpired in her life since.

Fort Worth Transgender Teen Trying To Put Life Back Together

by Ben Briscoe
Dallas Voice
photos by Ben Briscoe

It’s been just more than a year since local transgender teen Rochelle Evans made headlines by fighting her school district for the right to be called “she” and to be herself.

Now Evans says this year was even harder than the last.

It all started when Evans’ mom and dad got divorced after her father couldn’t handle the transition from Rodney to Rochelle.

“That was really hard,” Evans said. “But it quickly got worse.”

Evans’s mom, Lenora, lost her job and the family had to move into a one-bedroom apartment because that’s all they could afford. Evans went to live with her mom’s aunt, but there was a catch: She had to come as a male not a female.

“It just felt like I had been teased. As if you know, as if the world had teased me about what I could be,” she said. “I could be this beautiful woman. Stand up on my own. Be who I wanted to be. I could fight my school district with my mom’s support. And to have that ripped away from you hurt a lot.”

Evans and her aunt and uncle struggled over her identity. The conflict got so great that Evans moved two more times and was in and out of school so much that she racked up four months of absences.

When she tried to re-enroll in a Fort Worth Independent School District she couldn’t because she had missed too much school.

But Evans recovered. She’s living with her best friend’s family and is in an academy now and doing well.

“It’s been going great. No bullying from kids. I get along with all the teachers, all the staff. So as far as now, I’m just worried about getting my education,” Evans said.

In fact, education is so important to her that she wakes up every day while it’s still dark outside to ride the bus to school. Having just turned 16, Evans could get a license and drive, but she chooses not to because she wants to have her name legally changed to Rochelle before getting any form of identification.

"I’ve talked to a lot of older transgender men and women, and they all say until you get your name changed and your F for female put on your driver’s license, life is going to be hard,” Evans said. “And with my mom going through her financial hardships, I just haven’t been able to pursue that yet.”

Like any other teen, Evans is obsessed with text messaging her friends and trying to find a job for some extra spending money. But unlike others, employers are turning her down for being transgender.

She’s had several prospective bosses tell her so in a roundabout way and one at a restaurant chain that just bluntly said it.

“That was really like a punch to the face. Like, oh, that hurt,” she said. “But I can move on. It will heal.”

Evans considered legal action but says she wants to put any more lawsuits on hold, at least until summer. That’s because her primary goal right now is doing well enough in school to get a scholarship to Texas Christian University where she wants to major in psychology.

Another hardship this year has been learning how to date as a transgender teenage girl. A situation can get sticky when Evans has to tell guys she’s interested in that she is biologically male.

“Normally they are, ‘Click.’ You know, [they] hang up in [my] face and [I] never hear from them again,” Evans said. “And you know, I can’t really blame them for it. But it still hurts.”

Plus, she always wonders in the back of her head why those who don’t hang up stay on the line.

“It’s just hard too because I feel like a lot of times, I’m a fetish. Men think, ‘Oh, I haven’t tried that before,’” Evans said. “But I’ll get through it. I’ll find that one person. I’m only 16. I’ve got some time.”

For now, Evans is just taking everything day by day.

“Rochelle, she is just having to do a whole lot, just growing up a whole lot by herself,” Lenora said as tears ran down her cheeks. “I’m just proud of her because as always she just succeeds by herself.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Going Home Again

A hometown visit brings back the struggles of growing up black and transgender.

by Danielle King
Friday, May 23, 2008
From the Washington Blade

I RECENTLY HAD the opportunity to return to my hometown of Camden, N.J., a city relatively unchanged since my childhood.

Camden, at times, has had the dubious distinction of being named the nation’s most dangerous and poverty-stricken city. With a crime rate that rivals larger cities like Atlanta and Detroit, growing up as a “tranny” in the town was no walk in the park. But today I am grateful for all of those experiences that caused me to appreciate growth, look toward the future and reflect upon my past.

I remember the first time I encountered a transgender woman there. She was wearing tattered jeans, a faded shirt exposing her midriff and chalky make-up. I recall being taken aback by her assertive air. She wasn’t the most “passable” trans person, yet she had an unwavering conviction about who she was and how she wanted to be perceived.

She frequently consorted with the vagrants of our neighborhood and her profession was well known. Occasionally, while riding our bikes along the docks of the Delaware River, my friends and I would see her and a “john” parked by a dilapidated industrial building, engaging in what was no doubt the end result of a business transaction.

Over the years I’ve often wondered about her and dreamed that life had cut her a break. Surely someone had offered her a job. Perhaps she’d even found a wonderful partner, married, adopted two kids, a dog and purchased a house surrounded by a white picket fence. But then, I’d always wake up.

AS A PROUD African-American transgender woman, I understand that unless I actively engage in the ongoing fight for equality, a life like the one I dream of for that transgender woman — and for members of the LGBT community, including myself — will remain beyond reach.

Since my youthful days in Camden, I’ve experienced plenty of “awakenings” — piercing looks from passersby who seem to instantly evaluate and dismiss me. There are tense rides on the Metro during rush hour (an event that my friend Tiana calls the “judgment hour”) and I’ve had my fair share of being the subject of giggles and whispers.

But ironically, those events fuel my strong sense of obligation to the LGBT community — a community that I fervently believe will someday collectively see equality unconditionally afforded to us all.

DURING THIS SEASON of Pride, as we reunite with old friends and make new ones, let us not forget our obligation to the entire community throughout the year. Complacency is the enemy of any cause.

In the true spirit of Pride, disregard your own personal level of “passability” and proactively seek to understand the issues that affect all of the members of our community. Be kind to one another and openly affirm who you are and your right to live your life the way you wish to live it.

We must work toward the day when college students in New Jersey are not shot down because of their same-gender-loving affection and 15-year-olds are not slain because of their gender identity. And we must ensure that all transgender women, despite their “passability,” have the opportunity to become gainfully employed.

Until that happy day arrives, we all have much work to do.

TransGriot note: Danielle King is the Classifieds Manager for the Washington Blade

Hillary Puts Her Foot In Her Mouth Again

I used to have a lot of respect for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton before this 2008 presidential campaign cycle started. But whatever thin layer of it I had for her died Friday when she alluded to the June 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as one of the reasons she's staying in the race.

Never mind the fact that it's been one anxiety ridden thought in the back of many African-American minds along with many Obama supporters throughout this campaign. One commenter on my Obama rally post alluded to it when I talked about the security layer I had to navigate before I was even allowed to enter the hall for a recent Obama rally here in Louisville.

Sen. Obama received Secret Service protection in May 2007, earlier than any candidate in history with the exception of Sen. Clinton herself, who as a former First Lady continues to receive it.

We African-Americans were already pissed about Mike Huckabee's gun joke at the just concluded National Rifle Association convention here in Da Ville.

Now Sen. Clinton, in the wake of the Huckabbe comment, brings up RFK less than a week away from the 40th anniversary of his June 5 assassination. In a statement released yesterday, Obama campaign spokesperson Bill Burton said, "Senator Clinton's statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign."

Sen. Obama was campaigning in Puerto Rico, and had this to say on Radio Isla Puerto Rico about Sen. Clinton's remark. "I have learned that when you are campaigning for as many months as Senator Clinton and I have been campaigning, sometimes you get careless in terms of the statements that you make and I think that is what happened here. Senator Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it and I will take her at her word on that."

Assassination is not something to be joked about or commented on lightly. There are more than a few unhinged folks who would love to make what Sen. Clinton alluded to a reality. I've heard too many rumblings on the Freeper/batshit crazy end of the Net that we have to 'do something to stop the n----r for taking office.'

Robert F. Kennedy was the 1968 version of Sen. Obama in terms of the popularity and cross cultural appeal of his campaign and his promise to end the Vietnam War if elected, but was more analagous to Sen. Clinton in terms of his chances of winning the nomination.

After winning the June 4 California primary election, he was preparing for a Democratic convention nomination battle with Vice President Hubert Humphrey at the upcoming convention in Chicago.

Part 2 of the Kennedy California victory speech

Part 3 of Kennedy victory speech

Part 4

But an asssassin's bullet just after midnight at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel changed all that. Assassinations are history altering events. Can you imagine just how different our country would be if John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were still alive?

At any rate, this is just another example that she's far from being 'ready on Day One' to run this country and that Sen. Obama will be.

Friday, May 23, 2008

HBCU's, When AreY'all Gonna Stamp Out Homophobia On Campus?

Morehouse College in Atlanta has the gravitas and justified pride in being the only all-male HBCU (historically Black college and university). It has produced distinguished alumni such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee and NAACP head Julian Bond. It also has a thriving gay subculture, as was alluded to in Spike's movie School Daze.

But it also has another reputation it didn't want: It's been listed since the mid 90's in the Princeton Review's Top 20 Homophobic Schools.

I was heartened to see that Morehouse at the urging of influential alums and students is taking steps to grapple with this issue. Senior student Michael Brewer and Morehouse Safe Space recently organized activities during the week of April 21-28 that started with a film created by three students at neighboring women's HBCU Spelman College called 'No Heteros'.

The film documents the experiences of GLBT students on both campuses. The 'No More No Homos Week'activities were designed to trigger a discussion on sexual orientation discrimination and homophobia not only on campus but in the African-American community at large.

It definitely needed to do so in the wake of an ugly November 3, 2002 incident. Sophomore student Aaron Price received a 10 year sentence for beating a fellow student with a baseball bat because he thought the man was making a sexual advance at him. The victim of the attack didn't have on his glasses and stared to verify if Price was his roommate.

But Morehouse isn't alone in having a problem with homophobia on campus. Keith Boykin recounts in his blog a 2006 speaking engagement at Dayton, Ohio's Central State University that turned into an ugly mess.

One of the ongoing missions for Black colleges is to not only uplift the race by molding quality young men and women, but to serve as our community's sword and shield to dispel and disprove negative shade that segregationists and our detractors hurled at us. Since back in the day being gay had a negative context, any rumors of it on HBCU campuses were loudly debunked as the gay students on those campuses were put in a confining 'don't ask, don't tell' straitjacket in which violation of this unwritten rule would merit swift and sometimes violent disapproval.

But with more African-American GLBT students being openly proud of who they are, those who wish to pursue their educations on HBCU campuses still find that the unwritten 'don't ask, don't tell' rule is in full effect on many of these campuses. If they wish to matriculate at a GLBT-friendly college, most of the time their options narrowed to attending a predominately white one or going back into the closet to attend an HBCU.

It's also depressing to note that in the Campus Climate indexes put out by Campus Pride not one HBCU as of yet in the ones I've reviewed have taken the time to fill out the survey so that they can be ranked.

But thanks to a determined group of young Black GLBT people, many of them are paving the way to broaden the choices for these students. Like Michael Brewer and Morehouse Safe Space, they are getting HBCU's to begin dialogues about the issues and starting on campus GLBT support organizations. They are also making the point that being Black and GLBT are not mutually exclusive or separate identities.

But they also need to get the conservative administrations of many of these HBCU campuses to end their silence and speak up about these issues as well. Too many times, silence from the administration is interpreted as non-support by the GLBT students and an open invitation to the bigots to harass them.

HBCU's have a special mission and a long history of producing quality individuals who have pride in our communities and themselves. Three members of my own family and others in my extended family graduated from various HBCU's. The famous United Negro College Fund tag line 'A mind is a terrible thing to waste' also includes GLBT African-American people as well. Some of them are also alumni of HBCU's, and it's past time for HBCU's to make room at the table for our portion of the African-American family.

And one prerequisite for having GLBT people on campus is providing a safe environment where they feel comfortable enough to where they can focus on getting their educations.

What's In A Transperson's Name?

When a mother is pregnant with her child, one of the things that they think long and hard about during their pregnancy as soon as they have a general idea of the presumed gender of the child is the name.

African-American mothers, as descendants of Africans, realize that there's great importance to the name you choose for your child. It says a lot about the individual, their family and their connection to the community at large.

They spend a lot of time carefully putting together combinations of names, poring through various baby name books, and considering various factors in consultation with the father and sometimes the soon to be grandparents before coming up with that combination of three names that gets entered onto your birth certificate soon after you exit the birth canal and enter the world.

Names carry a lot of weight in our binary gendered society, and transpeople know this reality all too well. It's why one of the first things we do when we finally start making those moves to transition is choosing a name that accurately represents who we are. It's one reason why our fundamentalist enemies spend so much time making it hard for us to legally change our names and the gender markers to go with those names.

I believe that some of the negative friction that happens between transpeople and their mothers is fueled in one small way by the fact that many of us unilaterally choose our new names as part of the process.

Granted, some of that friction is caused by the parents rejecting their child in the early wake of the child's announcement of their wish to transition. But sometimes when we logically paint the worst-case scenario for transition and presume that we're going to get cut off from our immediate family's love and it doesn't happen, then I submit that one way to facilitate bonding of our families into the transition process is to allow them that input in the name change decision.

One of the things I would do differently in my own transition if I got the chance to start it over again would be to give my mother and my baby sister some input in choosing my new name. My brother and I got some input in choosing my baby sister's name, so I should have done the same and allowed sis some input in choosing my new one just to be fair.

One mild issue with my intersex roommate and her mother was that when it was time to choose a name that matched her new femme presentation, she went a different direction than choosing the feminine derivative of her old male name she was given at birth by mom. As V's mother saw it and told me in a phone conversation we'd had, she was hurt that her daughter didn't go that route. Some mothers see it rightly or wrongly as a rejection of them.

When I was going through the process of choosing my new femme name, I definitely wanted to keep my MKR initials, since they were my link not only to my family, but mom as well. I also decided to choose a feminine name which would have been popular during the decade I was born. I'd been to far too many gender conferences and attended gender group meetings in which 20-something, 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, and 60-something year old transwomen were running around with or had changed them to currently popular names of the 80's, 90's and 2K's that really didn't fit the person that was standing before me.

I knew too many people in the transgender community back home that had the feminine derivative of my old name and wanted to find another feminine name starting with M. I'd already settled on my middle name starting with K, which was a combination of the first and middle names of a female cousin who is more like a sister to me and I spent a lot of time in her and her two sisters lives on one level or another.

I then thought about the qualities I associated with various feminine names, and the name that I thought best fit the woman I was evolving into and wanted to project to the world while sticking to my 'it had to start with M' prerequisite.

One name that popped into my head as I was trying out various 'M' names with the femme middle name I'd chosen for myself was Monica. Most of the Monica's I'd grown up with or gotten to know were classy, smart, talented and beautiful women. I liked the name even more when I read one definition for it.

Possibly (Greek) "solitary" or (Latin) "to advise; nun". Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, prayed for her son and saved him from self-destruction. As a result, Saint Augustine became one of the greatest saints in history. The name is popular with Catholics.

As an activist, writer and blogger I definitely do a lot of advising. Writing tends to be a solitary activity along with my tendency to engage in a lot of solitary thinking. Some of the work I'm trying to do is along the lines of getting transwomen to avoid self-destructive things and behaviors. My spirituality is a major component of who I am as a person. I'm happiest when I'm either writing or curled up with a good book, and I'm a Phenomenal Transwoman to boot.

That's how I arrived at my new name. It not only seems to fit quite well with who I am, who the people that meet me see and the woman I'm continually evolving to be, I'm comfortable with it as well.

If you sat ten different transpeople down and asked them how and why they chose their name, you'd get ten different answers as to how they conducted the thought processes or the myriad reasons that eventually led to their new name. It's why we transpeople go off on the media so much when they disrespect us by putting our new names in quotation marks or parentheses or don't use the proper pronouns in describing us in various news stories.

We go through a lot just to get to the point where we not only evolve to become the persons we are, but thinking about the various ancillary aspects of manhood and womanhood.

So what's in a transperson's name? Plenty of hard, solid thinking, blood, toil, drama, sweat, tears, hope, history, roller coaster emotions and prayerful consideration that it will lead to the respect that we demand for ourselves and from others in the world around us.

TransGrior Note: women in photos are actress Monica Calhoun and singer Monica Arnold

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why We Need Black Colleges

By Kevin McGhee -- Black College Wire
Posted May. 07, 2008
The Clarion, Lincoln University (MO)

There has been much talk about whether there is a continued need for historically black bolleges and universities. Most agree that they played an instrumental role in the development and integration of blacks into American society, but now, some say our society has matured past the point of needing these institutions.

Lincoln University, then called Lincoln Institute, was established by the 62nd United States Colored Infantry after the Civil War and stands as a testament to black people’s resolve and forward thinking. It is a pillar in the capitol of Missouri that stands for change. This was also evident in 1954 when Lincoln University began to allow all qualified students to apply and attend.

One justification for this type of thinking is the decreased enrollment in HBCUs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1972 over 35 percent of all black students that received a college degree received them from HBCUs. In 2001 that percentage had fallen to under 25 percent. Some say this decrease in enrollment leads to admission purely for the purpose of receiving tuition and aid from the federal government.

Some other arguments are that affirmative action allows blacks better access to majority-white institutions, and that socially Americans have grown to the point that these schools are not needed.

All of these arguments are true and seem to suggest that there is less of a need for HBCUs now than in the past, but there are other issues to consider. According to data from the last census 30 percent of blacks who hold doctorates degrees, 35 percent of black lawyers, 50 percent of Black engineers, and 65 percent of black physicians currently in the field all received their educations from HBCUs.

These Institutions have also helped to shape some of the greatest African American minds of the past and today. Oprah Winfrey graduated from Tennessee State University, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Morehouse College, and Sean “Diddy” Combs attended Howard University. Black colleges produce some of the best and brightest of each generation.

Lincoln is still proud of its foundation as a historically black university. It has value in the community as an institution created after blacks were freed in the United States. Many HBCUs have historical values in their community and in the nation as a whole. For instance, as was shown in the movie The Great Debaters, Wiley College was one of the first Black Colleges to debate a White school.

There are 106 HBCUs in the United States and Virgin Islands. Collectively they enroll more than 370,000 African American students annually. The opportunity to receive a college education would not be available to all these students if it were not for these institutions.

One reason so many black students attend these schools is because they do not meet the requirements to get into the majority-white colleges. This comes from the discrepancy in the education received to that point especially early childhood education. Even those who do well enough to get into those schools are sometimes unable to because of the cost. There is an entire group of people that fall victim to this, but still want an education.

NCES reports that only 18 percent of African American people that are in four-year colleges or universities attend HBCUs. This is a testament to there success. A large portion of today’s black middle class have been HBCU graduates. The continued existence of these schools will help to continue this trend.

Race is a touchy issue for many Americans. Some people feel that to keep these institutions is the perpetuation of the same racial inequality that they were created to overcome. America has come a long way from slavery times, but the job is not done. Statements such as the one Rush Limbaugh made about Donovan McNabb, and Don Imus about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, is proof that the fight is not over. Even blogs about the Jena 6 showed defined racial lines.

Historically black schools were not built to put up walls. They were built to tear them down, and as long as racism exists in this nation, they will always have a place here.

Kevin McGhee, a student at Lincoln University (Mo.), wrote this article for The Clarion, Lincoln's student newspaper.

The State of The Trinity/Virginia Prince Awards

One of the things I was looking for news wise out of last month's IFGE Conference in Tucson and I look forward to hearing about when an IFGE Conference convenes is who won the Trinity and Virginia Prince Awards.

I didn't find out about the Class of 2008 recipients until after the IFGE conference was over, and only because there was some controversy about Cheryl Ann Costa's acceptance speech remarks.

But my question to the IFGE board is this: If the Trinity and the Virginia Prince are considered the highest honors our community give someone for meritorious service to it, isn't that a newsworthy event we should be shouting from the rooftops?

I was set to write Bilerico and TransGriot blog posts publicizing the award winners. But I can't do that if I don't know who won them in a timely fashion.

I'm also concerned that as a 2006 Trinity winner, I have not had any input or been asked to join whatever committee oversees that process. The fact that we've only had three African-American winners of this award, with none of them African-American transmen speaks volumes as to why I'm concerned about the lack of input. You can't tell me that there aren't people of color who are doing yeoman's work for the transgender community that don't deserve at least some consideration for the Trinity or the Virginia Prince.

Now if the Trinity and Virginia Prince are supposed to be our community's highest award, then I submit that one group of people who definitely need to be in the loop on either choosing them or suggesting worthy candidates for these awards is former Trinity/Virginia Prince winners.

I would also suggest that they automatically get that right for life once they win either award. If we wish to increase the diversity of the winners of this award, it might help to have the only three African-American winners on that panel and other people of color as well.

We also need to do a better job publicizing the award. For example, the NAACP Image Awards get major television exposure, so do the GLAAD Awards. If we're going to dispel the myths our opponents throw at us we need to seize every opportunity for positive publicity or that paints our community in a positive light.

What could be more positive and uplifting than to have your community's heroes and heroines get the publicity they deserve as they win these awards? It doesn't
necessarily have to be a TV awards show, but most definitely a press release and a television camera or a newspaper photographer needed to be on hand trumpeting the awards.

This was a positive news opportunity that was missed, and we definitely needed it in light of the negativity flowing from conservative pundits and fundies concerning the recent Thomas Beattie story, the continuing negative attacks we get from our 'frenemy' Barney Frank, other anti-inclusionary ENDA GLB peeps, and elsewhere from other transgender haters.

While I'm making the case as a Trinity winner for better handling and promotion of this community's signature award, I'm also sounding a warning as well. One of the reasons the NAACP Image Awards were created was because of the lack of diversity in mainstream awards shows. Don't think that transpeople of color haven't noted and aren't happy about the lack of diversity when it comes to choosing these awards. You may find yourself one day looking at an African-American, Asian-Pacific Islander or Latino/Latina version of the Trinity if things don't expeditiously improve diversity wise.

We really can't afford as a community any more to be fumbling positive news ops if we wish to make federal transgender rights coverage in our lifetimes a reality.

Anti-LGBT Violence Up 24%

by Newscenter Staff
Posted: May 20, 2008 - 3:00 pm ET

(New York City) A report released Tuesday shows that violent attacks on members of the LGBT community nationwide grew by 24 percent in 2007 over the previous year.

The 78-page report was prepared by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs with input from more than 30 of its members across the U.S.

The number of incidents of anti-LGBT violence rose from 1,486 in 2006 to 1,833 in 2007, based on reporting from the exact same reporting regions as the year prior.

Additionally, 2007 had the third highest murder rate in the past 10 years that NCAVP has been compiling the report with murders more than doubling from 10 in 2006 to 21 in 2007.

LGBT people also reported a 61% increase in sexual assaults perpetrated as hate crimes.

Part of the increase is attributed to an increase in the willingness of LGBT people to report hate crimes.

"The fact that more people within the queer community are reporting sexual assaults is a hopeful sign that they are coming out of isolation to heal from trauma. It also demonstrates the positive impact of education and outreach," said Jovida Ross, Executive Director of Community United Against Violence in San Francisco.

The report also notes that the most sizeable increases in anti-LGBT incidents in 2007 occurred in the nation's midsection.

In Michigan the number of reported incidents rose 207 percent to more than 200 attacks.

The report blames the increase in Michigan on a three-year high profile campaign against domestic partnership benefits. In February of 2007, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the trial court's holding that public employers may offer domestic partnership benefits. The result has been the loss of benefits, such as health insurance, for thousands in Michigan.

But attacks also rose by 135 percent in Minnesota, 142 percent in Kansas City and 28 percent in Pennsylvania.

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report includes higher percentages than those reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI includes bias crimes against gays and lesbians in its annual report on although currently there is no federal hate law that includes the LGBT community. The most recent FBI report, released

The Matthew Shepard Act, which would add sexuality to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law, passed the House in May and the White House threatened to veto it.

In an effort to get around a veto the Senate version tied the measure to the 2008 defense authorization bill. It passed in September (story) and then went to conference where the provision was stripped out.

The FBI report found crimes against members of the gays and lesbians were the third largest reported, at 15.5 percent.

While the FBI report is based on formal complaints to police departments and does not include crimes against transsexuals.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report is based on people who have sought help from member agencies as a result of being victims of crimes.

It is generally believed more people tell peer counselors they have been gay bashed than go to police.

Still, Avy Skolnik, National Programs Coordinator at the New York City Anti-Violence Project cautions that the number of violent anti-LGBT incidents is likely even higher that its statistics show.

"We know that the 2,430 people who called on our organizations in 2007 are only a small fraction of the actual number of LGBT people who experienced bias-motivated violence," said Skolnik.

"Anecdotally, we constantly hear stories of LGBT people surviving abuse - sometimes multiple attacks per day when that violence comes from a fellow student, a neighbor, a co-worker, a landlord, or a boss."

(c) 2008

Izza Lopez Bias Case Moves Forward

Transgendered Female's Title VII Claim Moves Forward

A federal district court in Texas concluded that a biologically male applicant, living life as a female, stated a viable claim under Title VII for an employer's withdrawal of its job offer ostensibly because she misrepresented her sex during the hiring process. (Lopez v River Oaks Imaging & Diagnostic Group, Inc, SDTex, 91 EPD ¶43,164)

The court rejected the blanket assertion that Title VII offers no protection to transgendered individuals, and in the absence of Fifth Circuit precedent, applied Price Waterhouse v Hopkins, USSCt (49 EPD ¶38,936), which interpreted Title VII's protection to extend to individuals who fail to conform to traditional sex stereotypes. "There is nothing in existing case law setting a point at which a man becomes too effeminate, or a woman becomes too masculine, to warrant protection under Title VII and Price Waterhouse," emphasized the court. Holding otherwise would allow employers and courts to superimpose a classification such as "transsexual" on a plaintiff and then legitimize bias based on the gender nonconformity by formalizing it into a purportedly unprotected classification, cautioned the court.

Since there was enough evidence to defeat both parties' summary judgment motions, the applicant could proceed with her bias claim as a male who failed to conform to traditional male stereotypes, held the court.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New England Trans Pride March Calls for Organizations to Participate

May 20, 2008

(Northampton, MA) The organizers of the first New England Transgender Pride March and Rally invite community organizations to sign up for the June 7 event in Northampton, Massachusetts. "We invite the participation not only of transgender and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals and groups, but also of schools, businesses, labor unions, religious and civic organizations, and anyone else who supports the equal rights of transgender people," states Marie Ali, one of the coordinators of the march.

Interested organizations throughout the region can register free of charge as a contingent to march with their banner by going to the New England Transgender Pride March website at

The march will begin at noon on Saturday, June 7 from Lampron Park/Bridge Street School in Northampton and proceed to a rally downtown from 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. at the Armory Street lot behind Thornes Marketplace. The rally is free, open to the public, and will feature a range of transgender and transgender-supportive speakers and

Ali adds that people can also support the New England Transgender Pride March by giving financially, becoming a sponsor, or volunteering to help at the event. More information about donating time or money is available on the march's website.

Kentucky Primary Election Day

Today is primary election day in Kentucky. Over the last 72 hours there's been a burst of frenzied activity as candidates walked blocks or shook hands with people at various events, volunteers delivered yard signs, and phone banks were cranked up making calls to sway those undecided voters.

Hillary had an event here at the Fairgrounds last night while Michelle Obama stopped in three cities including Louisville for some last minute events. While he has a large statewide grassroots organization here, and had a rally Sunday at Shawnee Park that featured my gospel singing Houston homegirl Yolanda Adams, this state's going to go for Hillary. It's 90% white, and 47% of those voters are her prime vote getting demographic, white working class non college peeps.

I got up early to cast my ballot for Obama this morning at my precinct, which is housed at the 100 year old Crescent Hill Baptist Church. It's a good Baptist church BTW, not a Southern Bigot Convention one. I beat the crowd because at the time I arrived at 7:10 AM I was only the 15th person in the precinct to vote, but I'm sure there will be far more Democrats voting before it's over. My Crescent Hill area precinct has a 2-1 Democrat/Republican registration ratio. The Republicans are mostly Southern Baptist Seminary students.

Dawn is our chief election judge, so she bounced out of the house a little after 5 AM EDT in order to get the polling place open at 6 AM. I'm gonna crash for a while because the polls here don't close until 6 PM and she's stuck there until they close. I have a feeling I'll be making some lunch runs before this day is over.

Speaking of over, even though Hillary's projected to win here, the script is flipped in Oregon. Whatever delegates she gets here will be cancelled out by the delegate haul Barack gets in Oregon. The best news is that after tonight Barack is going to clinch the majority of pledged delegates despite what Clintonian fuzzy math and her protestations that this race isn't over.

You can't spin math or this large crowd that showed up at this rally in Portland, OR.

It's over Hillary. The obese singer began singing arias when John Edwards endorsed Obama even after you won by 41 points in West Virginia. What you're doing is akin to a basketball team making three pointers late in the fourth quarter after you couldn't buy a basket in the first half, and are hurriedly trying to make the final margin of defeat look palatable.

Even Bush and McCain acknowledged the obvious and have started tag team attacks on him. In the meantime Sen. Obama just keeps campaigning and connecting with all segments of the US population, like he's doing at this Montana event with the Crow Nation.

Besides the battle between Obama and Clinton on the Democratic side, we're also choosing who will be our nominee to oppose Sen. Mitch McConnell. On the Repugnican side Anne Throwup (oops Northup) is trying to make a comeback after her failed challenge to former governor Ernie Fletcher last year. She's in a four person race to see who's is going to be the Republican candidate to take on Rep. John Yarmuth. Rep. Yarmuth, to progressive Louisville's great delight, ousted her in 2006 after she held this 3rd District seat with a 2-1 Democratic registration advantage for ten years.

Her secret recipe for holding on to it was shoveling faith based bucks at two local Black megachurches, Canaan and St. Stephen. I was astounded and disgusted after I moved her to discover that this woman had 30% support in the Louisville Black community despite an anti African-American voting record.

Well, time to get some beauty sleep. Looks Like I'll be up for a while tonight watching CNN, KET (Kentucky Educational Television) and the local news stations as well.


Yesterday I received an e-mail from my old friend Melinda Bogdanovich concerning the impending graduation of her son Alexander from his Austin area high school on May 31. It triggered memories of my own high school graduation that happened on this date 28 years ago.

Put your calculators down. My 30 year reunion is coming up in 2010.

Although I'm Class of 80, in reality my high school years covered the tail end of the 70's. We only spent a grand total of five months in the 1980's

So when I looked at Alexander's handsome face on his graduation picture, it took me back to that magical month when I (and his Aunt Melanie) were about to hit that milestone day. I'd turned 18. I'd just gotten my license after driving around on my learner's permit for two years. The All Night Senior Party at Astroworld had come and gone and I stayed until the park closed down at 6 AM. I was still pondering who I was going to take to the prom since two of my top five candidates now had boyfriends.

I had mixed emotions at that time. While I was happy on one level that my time in high school was coming to an end and was excited to be moving on to college, there was sadness as well on two levels. Those of us who had spent three years bonding together as 'The Class With Class' were about to go our separate ways and pursue our various dreams. For some peeps, that meant college. For others it was off to the military. And for others they were still trying to sort things out in terms of what direction they wanted their lives to take.

I will never forget seeing all of us in the caps and gowns in our school colors as we excitedly awaited the start of our ceremony at 7 PM. All 700 of us marching into the then Astroarena (now Reliant Arena). The choir singing and the band playing as part of the ceremony with the senior members participating in their caps and gowns.

Listening to our graduation speaker Judge Thomas Routt. Hearing the shouts of joy from the relatives and friends of people when their baby's name was called as they crossed that stage. Tearing up as we started singing our class and school songs. My classmates and I tossing our caps in the air after the benediction was said to close out our ceremony. The endless snapping of photos with various clusters of classmates before we turned in our caps and gowns.

Unfortunately, since ours was on a Tuesday night, we still had to go to school the next morning. (The school year didn't end until the first week of June) The only thing many of us did was go straight home and to bed. We still had other Senior Week events to go through including the prom that Saturday.

It's also ironic when you think about it, the world of May 1980 and the world of May 2008 have some interesting parallels. We'd just had the winter games in Lake Placid, but there was talk of a boycott of the Moscow Games because of the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Gas prices had spiked to a horrible $1.49 cents a gallon. We had inflation as a result of the gas spike and President Carter's popularity was plummeting because of the economy and the Iran hostage crisis. We were facing a crossroads presidential election with a charismatic candidate in November that I was going to be eligible to participate in. Texas had an unpopular Republican governor. The 'Disco Sucks' movement was gaining momentum.

Hmm, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

So to the Class of 2008, congratulations. Whether you're moving on to the next level of your educational careers or leaving college for the working world, may your dreams come true and you have a smooth and relatively pothole free road to success.

And the other issue that was bothering me at the time? Well, you know.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Easy Pickin’s Protesting In The Big Easy

Guest Post by Vanessa Edwards Foster
From the Trans Political Blog

“When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” — Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights Movement & Gay Activist

“Well, I saw the HRC sign and I thought “what’s this about?” and had to come over here and see. I don’t like HRC either, which is why I never donate to them! I just want to say I support you – you go, girl!” That was a quote from a gay man from Lapanto, Arkansas who had just returned from a cruise with two lesbian friends from there and happened to be staying in the hotel directly across the street from the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans as the Human Rights Campaign banquet began Sunday afternoon.

He watched us for a while, went back to the hotel, then came down a half hour later and helped us protest HRC. He also liked some of the raunchy, loud rock – like Linkin Park – which I was blaring from my boombox.

As it turns out, the boombox music worked well. It was very ugly, angry and possibly abrasive to the ear. But it accomplished what I had wanted: drawing the attention, expressing the mood and doing it all without us saying one word. No cheers, no chants, no shouting matches with attendees – and most pointedly, no words that the HRC people will then use to blast us and justify their marginalization of us later.

It’s also distinctly trans music – not of the typical gay disco, dance, diva or even show tune fare that typically is the choice of gay and lesbian America. It’s the stuff that typically is heard blaring from the jukeboxes of what’s affectionately known as “tranny hooker” bars.

An additional bonus to the music was a surprise: we got a number of thumbs-ups and supporters who either liked the music (some of the Buffalo Soldiers contingent in town for a get together, as well as Gen X & Y types who were also enjoying!) even support from the riders on the passing trolleys. It was quite the spectacle!

“I don’t get it. Why would they do that? They’re wacked! That’s not being equal.” Such was the quote from a very polite young junior high-aged teen, replete with longish blonde hair, braces and a Bob Marley T-shirt upon hearing why we were protesting HRC. Truth told, he appeared drawn as much for the Korn song playing as our signs and protest march.

As I explained to him who we transgenders were, who HRC was, what they’ve done historically and how “equality” isn’t equal to all people, I watched his young face watching me and noted a seeming androgyny. I’ll never know if his curiosity was more than just cursory. One thing I did note was he was very diligent in his learning, was patient to listen to the entire story and even thanked me for the information.

Indeed we reached at least one youth (as well as loose gaggles of other teens and/or young adults who passed by).

And those were just two of the folks among the numerous curious who asked. Two of the MCC ministers who volunteered for the HRC banquet came out, got a full education from protesters Phyllis Austin and Kelli Busey (who rode down from Dallas). There were hugs all around and animated chat as well as some new local connections made or renewed by both local girls, Phyllis and Courtney Sharp. One of the ministers who wore his “equal sign” pin removed it!

Another older woman engaged Courtney in explaining her reasons for protesting the banquet. When Courtney explained, the woman asked “are you against transgenders?” Obviously Courtney replied to the contrary, and the woman answered “good! Because I was about to protest YOU if you were!”

Of course we had security running around monitoring us nervously, but there was one big distinction this protest: there was NO police presence! We somehow managed to get the drop on them before they had chance to react (either that or they couldn’t convince the NOPD that the handful of tranny protesters was worth expending resources and manpower on.) Oh, the menace of transgenders ….

“[T]he Gay Elite condemns them and others to death because of our obsessive need to be seen as the Morally Superior Victimized Minority.” — Tammy Bruce, columnist for FrontPageMag

Some of the most memorable items: one black, obviously gay male in a red and white striped shirt talking frantically on a cell phone walking out and giving a head count of the protesters and asking what could be done about us. It was satisfying to see the unnerving.

One of the hotel’s patrons walking by and yelling at me to “turn that shit off!” while the Geto Boys blasted “F*ck ‘Em All!” from the boombox. He clearly wasn’t into our musical choice!

One apparently conservative guy who asked me about the protest and offered support for our protest – but then asked why I was supporting transgenders: “you’re not one of them, are you?” When I assured him I was (including the part about my football days), he stood agape giving the once over a few times. He then gave me a little compliment, wished me “good luck” and walked back across the street rubbing his chin and looking like I hurt his feelings. Poor guy – at least he supported us!

And of course the banquet-goers themselves: nervous people with fast walks averting eye contact with a fixed-straight myopic stare, the cold-hearted elite glares and smug eye-rolling glances and those few who gave physical flinches at both the sign messages and the raunch music with looks of shock and, yes, a few pained expressions. It is painful, and it’s admittedly not a great thing to sate oneself with others pain.

In the case of the Human Rights Campaign, though, it’s collateral damage that has to be factored and accepted into the equation. Sadly, that’s the only option other than our giving up completely and being obliterated. Not only does HRC not care to know about trans people nor the irreparable pain they’ve inflicted, they actively engage in continuing the damage and increasing the intensity.

As with Rep. Barney Frank, HRC takes continuing pleasure in watching the havoc from the chaos they create for us with their strategies, manipulation and implementation. They delight in watching us learn to mistrust our own community by their own selective wedging operations and externally assisted classism. They practically pee their pants laughing at the disenfranchisement, unemployment, economic tragedy and vulnerability they create for us with their own empty promises.

And they will continue this pattern.

They have the money, most all the media and certainly the power: there’s nothing to stop them, and everything to gain by continuing the damage to the trans community. The only way they will learn what we’re feeling is when they have to live with the same pain, the same fear, the same desperation and to feel the effects of the same type of damage.

Money, power and attention (and increasing all three for themselves) is their only desire. Only once those have been impacted will they make “attempts” to come around – even if true reconciliation never comes.

Meanwhile, we make impact … as we did with the last inquiry: a modelesque twenty-something with her equally attractive boyfriend. She was going into the restaurant across the street with her beau and (after seeing our signs) felt compelled to ask us why we were protesting HRC as she had attended their banquet at the Ritz-Carlton the year before. “I’m confused. Why would you protest [HRC]?”

We enlightened her completely on “equality” as opposed to everyone being equal, to which she replied: “Well that sucks! Thank you for letting me know that!” Control that damage, HRC.

The lies, the hurt, the pain, the hate
Really keep fucking with me –
There's no where else to go.” — Korn, Embrace