Monday, June 30, 2008

'Angry' Black Transwoman?

One of the things I constantly tell my African-American biosisters is that your transsisters have far more in common with you than the minor differences that separate us.

Some of the things that we have in common with you in addition to our shared cultural heritage is facing a heightened awareness that we are now targets for sexaul assault and murder, job discrimination, sexual harassment, and denigration of our beauty,

Another is being slapped with the 'angry' label when we are honestly saying what we think in mixed company.

I can't tell you how many times in GLBT Internet discussion groups, GLBT spaces, or in answers to comments I've posted to threads in discussion groups or blogs how someone will whip out the 'angry' tag when I'm expressing my opinion on various subjects that doesn't dovetail with theirs.

News flash to those people: If I'm pissed off, you and the whole world will know it.

But like all intelligent, thinking Black women, I'm a little sick of being told by people that don't share our ethnic heritage or conservaidiots such as Cal Thomas and Pat Buchanan that we're 'angry' when we candidly express what's on our minds.

Michelle Obama has been not only slimed with racist comments, she's been whacked with the 'angry' tag already and we aren't even at the party conventions yet.

Interesting is the deafening silence coming from the white feminist ranks now that Michelle's the one being attacked with racist and sexist remarks. During the Democratic primary you couldn't pry 'angry white women' away from a camera when Hillary was being slammed with them by conservapundits.

As Sojourner Truth said over a century ago, Ain't I a woman, too?

Yeah, but Ms. Obama is the wrong color one to warrant a massive public PR defense from the white-dominated feminist ranks.

But back to the GLBT ranks. I've often said that the GLBT community is a microcosm of society at large. Whatever ills and isms are part of the parent society manifest themselves in our little subset of it.

And two of those 'isms' happen to be racism and sexism.

Like my biosisters I find that sometimes when I try to express my viewpoints in meetings I get stepped over by male voices in the room and have to fight to have my viewpoint heard.

That's before we even get to the race based part.

If I express a viewpoint counter to GLBT groupthink or I point out something blatantly obvious such as last week's melanin free hearing for example, I'm called 'angry', 'miltant', 'obsessed about race', 'competing in the Oppression Olympics', challenged to come up with verifiable proof of what I'm commenting on or whatever suppression language du jour they use in mixed GLBT spaces.

I'm just supposed to be the 'happy darkie' or noncontroversial Negro just pleased that Massa is letting me sit at the Big House GLBT Civil Rights table and smile for the cameras when they wanna show the world how 'diverse' they are. I'm supposed to keep it quiet that the GLBT community can be just as bigoted, racist and sexist as the fundamentalists who are oppressing them and don't want to be reminded of that.

As Maya Wilkes, my fave character from the dearly departed show Girlfriends says, 'Oh, Hell No!'

Let's keep it real for a moment. If some peeps and organizations in the GLBT community didn't constantly repeat the negative behaviors, I wouldn't have to constantly remind you of how much work you have to do to eradicate them.

As I warned y'all in my first TransGriot post, there will be times when I piss you off. While I strive when I write post commentary to do it in a thoughful, rational, reasoned and balanced manner, it would be disengenuos to not point out that as a person of African descent I look at issues through that prism. My thoughts, writngs, musings and opinions don't always neatly line up with the prevailing wisdom in the overall GLBT community.

In addition, I'm blunt at times and call it as I see it. In the spirit of one of my sheroes, the late Rep. Barbara Jordan, I believe in morally ethical leadership and work diligently to apply those principles in my own life and leadership style. Staying true to those principles sometimes puts me in the awkward position of having to call out people and organizations I consider friends as well.

But my goal has always been to make you think and expose you to some of the drama that African-American transpeeps and transpeople in general deal with. I want to remind my African-American brothers and sisters (and the GLBT community) that just because I transitioned doesn't mean I gave up my Black Like Me card. I'm proud of my heritage, proud of my history, still share the desire to do my part to uplift the race and be considered a valued member of our African-American family.

And if that in your eyes makes me 'angry', you need to wake up and check the alarm clock.

Stonewall Anniversary

June 28 was the 39th anniversary of the riots that kicked off the modern GLBT rights movement. Contrary to some written histories that have 'whitewashed' the real story, the Stonewall Riots were kicked off by people of color and transgender people sick and tired of police harassment.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sylvia Rivera during a May 2000 vacation visit to New York when I was still the Air Marshal. It was an honor to talk to the mother of our movement about the direction of it and where she saw it heading. The historian in me just let her talk, and to this day, I wish I'd had a note pad or a tape recorder on me since she passed away two years later.

When she discovered I was from Texas she started to go there about Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, but I pointed out that as a Texan I have a vastly different impression of this complex man.

I've had the pleasure of talking to another Stonewall vet in Miss Major, and I renewed acquaintances with her at the recent NE Transgender March and pride Rally in Northampton. I met her during TSTBC 2005 in Louisville, and she told us at dinner her Stonewall story. Once again I was caught without a pen or tape recorder handy, but then again at this point I was beginning to think about starting a blog since it seemed as though I was always running into various movers and shakers in the community.

Miss Major and I had a brief chat during the Trans Pride March in whic she pointed out that next year will be the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and she openly wondered if she would even get an invite to the ceremonies that will obviously take place to mark that anniversary. That's a good question, especially in light of the ongoing efforts to write people of color out of GLBT history and the contributions that we've made to shape that history.

But as long as YouTube, documentary filmmakers and blogs exist, it'll make it tougher to do so.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wimbledon 2008

It's simply known as 'The Championships', but tennis fans all over the world know that you're talking about Wimbledon, the second jewel of the tennis Grand Slam that started June 23 and runs through July 6.

The defending champ is Venus Williams, and so far she's made it into the round of 16 without dropping a set. She's seeded sixth in this tournament and also broke the Wimbledon record for fastest serve. She uncorked a 127 mph ace to close out her third round straight set 6-1, 7-5 victory over Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Seventh seeded baby sis Serena is also in the Round of 16 and hasn't dropped a set either. She did have to work to oust France's Amelie Mauresmo in their third round match. Mauresmo forced a tiebreaker in their first set that Baby Sis took 7-5, then blew her out in the second set 6-1 to take the match.

At least this year we have the possibility of a Sister-Sister final. Serena on paper looks like she has an easier draw, while Venus has Jelena Jankovic on her side of it. The Williams sisters will also be representing the USA at the Beijing Games and my Houston homegirl Zina Garrison will be coaching the Team USA women. I'll be tuning in to the Olympic tennis tournament being conducted from August 10-17 as well to see if my girls can bring home the gold.

We'll find out over the course of this week if the Williams sisters will be the last women standing as they seek to add additional Wimbledon singles and doubles titles to the ones they've already won.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Congressional Blackout

This is a picture of the participants in Thursday's historic subcommittee hearing on transgender unemployment issues on Capitol Hill. Can you detect what's wrong with it?

What's wrong with this picture is that with the exception of Diego Sanchez, (second from the top) every other participant in it is white. There are no African-American transgender people testifying at this hearing.

Now, would you be happy if a historic hearing for transgender people happened on The Hill and your people weren't represented?

It is mind boggling for me to see that once again, a community that claims that we are one diverse bunch and that we're all in this together, puts together a historic hearing on unemployment discrimination, an issue that we African descended transgender people are intimately familar with and not one of us is at the table giving testimony about it.

This Congress now has 44 members of the Congressional Black Caucus who are wielding historic levels of power. It added another member earlier this month in Maryland's Donna Edwards. The majority whip is CBC member James Clyburn. Others have high seniority on various committees, or chair various committees and subcommittees. Oh yeah, there's some Illinois senator and CBC member who's the Democratic nominee for president.

Now I've read happy-happy joy-joy comments about how great this hearing was, what great work the Equal Sign org and Rep. Frank did in putting this together, how eloquent various people were, et cetera. I note these comments are all coming from peeps whose ethnic group was overwhelmingly represented at the hearing.

For those of us of African ancestry, all we experienced was a congressional blackout. There needed to be someone of African descent telling our stories, and no, Diego being the Latino transman at that table doesn't count.

While we all hope and pray for that day when we are all One America, the reality is that we aren't. Race permeates everything we do in this country. It's why the CBC, the CHC (Congressional Hispanic Caucus) and the Congressional Asian Pacific Islander Caucus exist. It's why I write and speak about race issues as part of my GLBT activist work.

I'm sure I'm going to hear the defensive spin over the next few weeks that 'the committee/Frank's office chose the speakers', 'we had a long, diverse list of speakers', 'HRC, NCTE and NGLTF didn't intentionally freeze out the African-American transgender community.'

Yeah, right.

If you were so concerned about having African-American representation on that panel, then why didn't y'all give the peeps at the National Black Justice Coalition a call? I do believe their headquarters is in Washington DC. You also had Earline Budd sitting there in DC as well. I think that transteen Rochelle Evans would have been happy to be flown in from Fort Worth to DC and tell her story about how hard its been for her to find employment and the blatant discrimination she's run into trying to find a job.

The point is that in the United States, no civil rights legislation passes without the CBC being on board with it. We have ten wavering members of the CBC getting tremendous pressure put on them by Hi Impact Leadership Coalition ministers in their districts (the negroid sellouts bankrolled by the Traditional Values Coalition).

An opportunity was lost in putting an African-American face to this problem. This also plays once again into the GLBT movement's ongoing PR problem in the African-American community that is exploited by the Hi Impact ministers and their like-minded friends. They are actively trying to split the coalition of African-Americans and the GLBT community, and trust me, this omission of our community will not only be exploited by them, but it has been noted by your African-American GLBT and non-GLBT allies(?).

While I'm happy the long rumored hearing happened and hope something positive comes out of this such as an inclusive ENDA, I'm not holding my breath based on the peeps who were behind it.

I'm also not happy about my people being dissed and ignored by the GLBT community once again.

Crossposted to The Bilerico Project

Friday, June 27, 2008

To Be Human

One of the things I loved about Star Trek: The Next Generation was Lt. Commander Data.

I loved the fact that Brent Spiner, the actor who played him was from Houston. The other reason I adored Data was because I identified with him on another level. Data's journey during the 178 episode run from 1987-1994 was to be human, despite being an android.

Like transgender people, despite Data's obvious competence in his job duties onboard the USS Enterprise and service to Starfleet, faced prejudice and people questioning his abilities. He underwent a trial to determine whether he was Starfleet property or a sentient being. He used his off time to revel in the joys of discovering the simple things and pleasures about life that humans and the other lifeforms on the Enterprise took for granted. He tried to understand the nuanced socialization skills that being human requires. He spent much of his off duty time perfecting his attempts at mimicking human emotions and using them at the appropriate times when possible.

Despite his great intelligence, processing ability and desire to get it right, he didn't always succeed. Sometimes he nailed it, sometimes it turned out awkwardly, but he kept plugging away at it. He asked cogent questions, he worked diligently perfecting it, but in the end he proved to be more human than many people in Starfleet and the Enterprise's crew.

Data's series long journey, in many respects is similar to what we go through as transgender people. Despite the circumstances that we start out with in terms of being in a mismatched body, like Data, we transpeople are on a quest for our humanity as well.

We struggle to deal with all the phases of transition. We fight through the awkward 'tweener' phase in which our bodies are morphing from one gender to the other. We struggle to learn the appropriate age based gender knowledge, gestures, body posture of our desired gender without having the decades long trial and error socialization period to do so. We get used to the subtle and not so subtle differences between the genders and sometimes revel in the journey of discovery as it unfolds.

We also fight for our right to simply be part of the human family. We fight for our right to exist, to be respected, loved and live a happy and productive life.

And just as Data's was a constantly evolving one until the series ended, so is ours as transgender people. We also discover that the peace of mind and joy we receive from traveling through the gender frontier and being comfortable with who we are and in our own skin is worth more than all the latinum in the galaxy.

Live long and prosper, trans Trekkies.

Michelle Obama's Remarks to the DNC's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council

TransGriot Note: There are major reasons (besides being racist jerks) that the Forces of Intolerance and their like-minded friends in the GOP don't want Barack Obama to become our president and Michelle Obama to become our First Lady. Outside of the fresh new direction our country's policies will take after the Alice in Wonderlandesque madness we've been through in the last eight years, it will usher in a spirit of optimism and hope in our country not seen since the Kennedy era.

Here's the full text of her recent remarks to the DNC's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council.

Thank you Howard Dean, for all your hard work building our party. We are proud to have you as our party Chairman. I want to recognize the members of UNITE HERE Local 6 who are working this event tonight. And thank you all for inviting me to spend some time with you.

I'm honored to be with you in a week that reminds us just how far we've come as a country. Five years ago today, the Supreme Court delivered justice with the decision in Lawrence v. Texas that same-sex couples would never again be persecuted through use of criminal law. And on Saturday, we recognize the anniversary of the day people stood up at Stonewall and said "enough."

These anniversaries remind us that no matter who we are, or where we come from, or what we look like, we are only here because of the brave efforts of those who came before us. That we are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall, in a pursuit of that more perfect union that is the promise of this country.

Over the course of this campaign, we've seen a fundamental change in the level of political engagement in this country. We've seen a renewed sense of possibility and a hunger for change. We've seen people of all ages and backgrounds investing time and energy like never before; writing $20, $30, $50 checks; investing for the first time ever in a political candidate. We've seen people talking to their neighbors about candidates and issues; working hard to clarify misperceptions; challenging one another to think differently about the world and our place in it.

It's precisely this type of individual engagement and investment that has been the mission of my husband's life. Barack has always believed that there is more in this country that unites us than divides us; that our common stories and struggles and values are what make this country great; that meaningful change never happens from the top down but from the bottom up.

I'll never forget the first time I realized there was something special about Barack. It was nearly 20 years ago this summer. Barack and I were just getting to know one another, and he thought the best way for me to get to know him better was to get a better sense of the work he cared about most - his work as a community organizer.

He took me to a small church basement on the South Side of Chicago, where a group of neighborhood residents were gathered; folks he knew from his years as a community organizer before he went to law school. They were desperate for change. They were regular Americans struggling to build a decent life for themselves and their families. Single mothers living paycheck to paycheck; grandparents raising grandkids despite an income that wouldn't allow it; men unable to support their families because jobs had disappeared when steel mills closed. Like most Americans, they didn't want much; they weren't asking for much: just dignity and respect.

I watched as Barack walked into the room, took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and instantly connected with each and every person in that room. He spoke eloquently of "the world as it is" and "the world as it should be." He said the key to change is understanding that our job as citizens of this nation is to work hard each and every day to narrow the gap between those two ideas. He explained that we often settle for the world as it is even if it doesn't reflect our personal values. But he reminded us that it is only through determination and hard work that we slowly make the world as it is and the world as it should be one in the same. His words were powerful not only because they made us believe in him - they challenged each of us to believe in ourselves.

One of the many reasons I'm proud of the way Barack has handled himself in this campaign is that he is still the same man I fell in love with in that church basement. His unyielding belief in that simple idea - closing the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be - is precisely why he'll be a President you can be proud of.

Barack is not new to the cause of the LGBT community. It has been a conviction of his career since he was first elected to public office. In his first year in the Illinois State Senate, he cosponsored a bill amending the Illinois Human Rights Act to include protections for LGBT men and women. He worked on that bill for seven years, serving as chief cosponsor and lobbying his colleagues to reject the political expedience of homophobia and make LGBT equality a priority. In 2004, his efforts paid off as that bill finally became law, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, in housing, and in public places.

He's led on gender-based violence with his work on the Illinois Gender Violence Act, successfully reaching across the aisle to put in place the nation's strongest law giving the survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence legal remedy against their attackers. He joined his colleagues in fighting to include explicit protections for the LGBT community in that act. He lost that battle, but his efforts brought gender violence in the LGBT community into the political consciousness like never before.

In 2004, after hearing from gay friends and supporters about the hurtful impact of DOMA, Barack went on record during his U.S. Senate race calling for its complete repeal. And as a U.S. Senator, he voted to protect our Constitution from the stain of discrimination by voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Barack's record is clear. There is so much at stake in this election. The direction of our country hangs in the balance. We are faced with those two clear choices: The world as it is, and the world as it should be. We have to ask ourselves: Are we willing to settle for the world as it is or are we willing to work for the world as it should be?

Despite the extraordinary challenges we face today, we have a candidate who believes that the country is moving in the right direction, despite the inequalities created over the last 8 years.

And then we have Barack Obama, who believes that we must fight for the world as it should be.

A world where together we work to reverse discriminatory laws like DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

A world where LGBT Americans get a fair shake at working hard to get ahead without workplace discrimination.

A world where our federal government fully protects all of us - including LGBT Americans - from hate crimes.

And, a world where our federal laws don't discriminate against same-sex relationships, including equal treatment for any relationship recognized under state law.

A world that recognizes that equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle; it's about whether millions of LGBT Americans can finally live lives marked by dignity and freedom. Barack has made crystal clear his commitment to ensuring full equality for LGBT couples. That is why he supports robust civil unions. That is why he has said that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide for themselves how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples -- whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. And that is why he opposes all divisive and discriminatory constitutional amendments - whether it's a proposed amendment to the California and Florida Constitutions or the U.S. Constitution. Because the world as it should be rejects discrimination.

But, it's not just about the positions you take, it's also about the leadership you provide.

Barack's got the courage to talk to skeptical audiences; not just friendly ones. That's why he told a crowd at a rally in Texas that gays and lesbians deserve equality. Now, the crowd got pretty quiet. But Barack said "now, I'm a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday." And the crowd started cheering. Then he said, "I hear people saying things that I don't think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian." And you know what? The crowd kept cheering.

That's why he told evangelicals at Rick Warren's Saddleback church that we need a renewed call to action on HIV and AIDS.

That's why he went to Ebenezer Baptist Church and said that we need to get over homophobia in the African-American community; that if we're honest with ourselves, we'll embrace our gay brothers and sisters instead of scorning them. And that's why he stood up at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and told all of America that we refuse to be divided anymore.

That's the choice in this election. Between slipping backward and moving forward. Between being timid or being courageous. Between fighting for the world as it should be, or settling for the world as it is.

My husband is running for President to build an America that lives up to the ideals written into our Constitution. We have just come through a historic primary election where a woman and a black man were running to become President of the United States. It hasn't been painless, but change never is. As I travel this country, I am certain that we have arrived at a moment in our collective history where we are ready to move forward and create the "world as it should be."

I know which world Barack will fight for each and every day as your President. But he can't do it alone. As he said in that church basement, change happens when ordinary people are ready to take the reins of their own destiny. He needs you by his side every step of the way. That kind of change won't be easy. There will be powerful forces who believe that things should stay just the way they are.

That's where you come in. Your voices of truth and hope and of possibility have to drown out the skeptics and the cynics.

If you stand with my husband; if you reach for what is possible and if you refuse to let this chance get away; we can begin building that better world in November.

Thank you.

The Big Payback

How reparations activist Deadria Farmer-Paellmann turned a one-woman campaign into a triumphant national movement


Growing up in Brooklyn, Deadria Farmer-Paellmann listened to her grandfather wax poetic about how African-Americans deserved their 40 acres and a mule to make up for centuries of enslavement. Now she’s fighting to see that we finally get paid in full. For the past seven years, the 41-year-old reparations advocate has taken on some of America’s biggest corporations by proving that they profited—and continue to reap rewards—off the back of slave labor. In her latest move to get restitution, Farmer-Paellmann is serving as the lead plaintiff in a case against companies that allegedly made money from slavery. The landmark proceeding, which names 17 businesses, including Aetna and Bank of America, is currently up for review on the United States Supreme Court’s docket.

"Her strategy of going after the private sector is absolutely imaginative and creative," says Mary Frances Berry, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "She is at the vanguard of the movement to try to get reparations taken seriously."

With a string of victories already under her belt, Farmer-Paellmann certainly has people sitting up and taking note. Along with other advocates, she has compelled businesses, such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Wachovia, to apologize for their role in slavery and to shell out millions to organizations like the NAACP and Howard University. She’s also triggered the passage of slavery disclosure laws around the country, forcing companies to fess up to their links to the slave trade.

"It is unreasonable for companies to keep wealth they acquired by stealing people, torturing laborers to work without compensation, and brutalizing those who resisted," she argues. “They must atone by paying restitution." Her current lawsuit demands a humanitarian trust fund be set up to benefit the descendants of slaves instead of individual payouts. "We need this capital for economic development, affordable housing, educational opportunities and health care," she says. "As a community we suffer in all these areas as a direct result of slavery."

The toilsome reparations fight became a passion for Farmer- Paellmann during law school, when she chose the controversial topic as the focus of a project. It became her full-time mission during her pregnancy with daughter Sabina in 1999.

Prepping for her battle has been far from easy. Farmer-Paellmann went through the laborious process of getting a list of present-day companies that existed in some form before 1865 and calling them, one by one, to grill them about past practices. Her enterprise is largely self-funded, and she relies on donations from family and friends and personal savings to forge ahead, despite naysayers who argue that the reparations fight is futile.

But Farmer-Paellmann says her progress speaks for itself. "We’ve won historic victories, and we got companies to pay $20 million," she says, referencing payments made by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America and Wachovia to Howard University and the NAACP and several other organizations. "If detractors were aware of these things, they would be a bit more optimistic."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nation's African-American Civil Rights Groups Denounce Beating of Transgender Woman

TransGriot Note: Thanks NBJC! ;)

WASHINGTON, DC --The nation's most influential African-American civil rights organizations have joined together to denounce the beating of a transgender women by Memphis, TN police and has also called for an investigation and prosecution of the officers involved.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), America's only nationwide Black civil rights organization focused upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues is joined by the Black Leadership Forum (BLF), an alliance of over thirty national African-American civil rights and social service organizations in denouncing the incident.

In an historic move, NBJC reached out to BLF member organizations which include the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, National Urban League, National Council of Negro Women, 100 Black Men, Inc., and several others to join forces to stand for equality and against discrimination and hatred toward ALL African-Americans.

A newly released tape shows that on February 12, 2008 at least two police officers were involved in the horrific act of physically assaulting Duanna Johnson while she was being held in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center. Johnson, a transgender woman had been arrested on a charge of prostitution.

"What we saw on the video was disturbing. When those who have been sworn to protect us abuse their scared duty our justice system must respond," said NBJC CEO H. Alexander Robinson. "It appears that not only did an officer use unnecessary force to brutalize Ms. Johnson he did so as other officers looked on. "While being called names such as "faggot" and "he-she", surveillance video show an officer walk over and hit Johnson in the face several times while having handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles and another officer holding her down as she tried to protect herself from the punches.

Video of the attack can be seen at:

We are deeply troubled by the continuing pattern of incidents across the country –hate crimes, police misconduct, and racial intimidation – that are all-too-often tolerated and ignored by local law enforcement officials and courts. Moreover, despite significant progress in the treatment of LGBT people, the targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals for police abuse and misconduct remains a persistent and widespread problem in the US. People of color communities comprise of at least 36% of victims and survivors of anti-LGBT related crimes in America, according to the National Coalition of anti-violence programs.

When faced with the abuse of individual civil rights we look to our local police departments not only to guarantee that those engaging in such actions are held accountable for their behavior, but to send a distinct message from the highest levels of government that such conduct has no place in our American society. Swift and firm action will demonstrate that our hard-fought federal civil rights laws are not mere empty promises, but will be strictly enforced to guarantee all Americans the full and equal protection of our nation's laws.

The National Black Justice Coalition - America 's only nationwide Black civil rights organization focused upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

The Black Leadership Forum - An alliance of over thirty national African-American civil rights and social service organizations in denouncing the incident

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's Our Flag, Too - Use It!

One of the things I have consistently griped about is the lack of American flags at GLBT community events. It would have been more appropriate to post this on Flag Day (June 14), but I was still gathering my thoughts together on this topic and dealing with other issues.

I was reminded of this yet again at the recent June 7 NE Transgender Pride March and Rally. Considering they organized it in just nine months, they covered a lot of ground and did it well. The organization of this event was first class. There was an RV on the side of the stage acting as a green room with bottled water, sport drinks and snacks for us to partake in before and after we went on stage. The event site had ample parking. The march had a police escort and even had a rainbow flag decorating the stage.

But not an American one.

I pointed out that omission to the organizers when I arrived at the site that morning, but acquiring one got lost in the last minute scramble to set up the site for the 700 plus people that later appeared there.

This is a recurring problem I've observed within the GLBT community across the country, and not just with my gracious Western Massachusetts hosts, so please don't get it twisted.

If we are going to win the war for our civil rights, we have to take away the ridiculously deceptive Religious Reich arguments that we transpeople 'aren't Americans' (or whatever country you're living in) and transgender rights are 'special rights'

We have to repeatedly make the case in order to blow up these right-wing Big Lies that we are Americans who deserve and demand the same civil rights coverage that you enjoy, it's immorally wrong to deny us those rights, and we want it now.

The easiest way to remind the Faux News watching masses that we are Americans is to wave the Stars and Stripes in their face. From this day forward, every time we have a protest, pride event, Trans 101 education event, conference or a march, we need to have Old Glory front and center. If we do television media interviews, we need to be wearing American flag lapel pins when doing so.

And we need to do it now.

I realize that some of you may have antipathy toward the flag for personal, political, philosophical or other reasons. Well, get over it. If you want your constitutional rights in the next five years, you'll take what I have to say seriously and run to your nearest hardware store to buy a flag. After you do that, bone up on the rules for properly displaying it.

As long as we are living inside the borders of the United States, Canada, or whatever country we happen to be born in, there are certain culturally significant values wrapped up in the flags of the nations of the world. They take on meanings for the residents of those countries far beyond being simple pieces of cloth.

Yes, I try to live the values that others only disingenuously lecture about and don't need a US flag bumper sticker on my car to say that. My actions do.

However, when you are talking about a political movement that is fighting to have their constitutional rights respected and not trampled on by the tyranny of the majority, symbols matter.

It's also important to note that when you peruse US history and the history of reform or civil rights movements, no civil rights movement to date trying to win rights for a minority group has done so without having the flag prominently displayed at all its events. If the GLBT rights movement wants to win, they will eventually have to do so as well.

One thing you'll note in many pictures of Civil Rights Movement events and marches is the presence of Old Glory somewhere in the picture. Even Woodstock and the 60's anti Vietnam war protesters had American flags present in addition to the modified one with the peace symbol on it.

The immigration rights movement has quickly learned this lesson. After getting savagely criticized for conducting marches that had the flags of their native countries prominently displayed but not the one of the country they are currently residing in, or if they did display a US flag it was done incorrectly, now have American flags prominently displayed at every event they conduct.

By displaying the flag at our events, and I'm not talking about that rainbow adaptation of it, it sends the message that we are proud, patriotic Americans who love this country.

Yes, by all means, use the rainbow adaptation flag, but make certain that a red, white and blue one is carried or displayed on site at the same time as well right next to it.

The United States flag is not the private property of the Republican Party, the Religious Right, or the conservative movement. Transgender vets and TAVA members put their lives on the line in several wars and honorably served our country defending the flag. We need to honor them and ourselves by claiming what is rightfully ours by dint of birth inside the borders of the USA (or to American parents outside its borders).

That's our flag, too! Use it, and do it proudly. Nothing will piss off the Forces of Intolerance more than to erase another of their Big Lies about transgender people by waving the flag and holding it aloft at every opportunity.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Yo NAACP, NBJC...Where Y'all At?

It's been a few days since the video of a Memphis police officer beating down an African-American transwoman was released, and I have yet to see any statement released about it from two organizations claiming to represent me as an African-American person.

The first is the nearly 100 year old NAACP, in which I have had membership status off and on over the years. My brother, sisters and I even had NAACP youth memberships back in the day.

Their new ad slogan is 'The NAACP Is Today', but I don't see you addressing the very real issues that transgender people of African descent face today here in the States. If the NAACP is claiming to represent African-Americans, then I respectfully submit that it includes me as a transgender African-American as well.

While I applaud you for declaring a state of emergency over the treatment of African-Americans by the police, I have yet to hear any NAACP local, state or the national chapter speak up not only about this case, but about the verbal and physical hate attacks on African-American transpeople in general.

As Duanna Johnson's case graphically points out, some of the problems we transpeople of African descent face are at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect and serve us. Nizah Morris' family in Philly is still waiting for a straight answer on what happened to her in 2002.

I suspect that the silence is because some of your chapters are squeamish. hostile or outright reluctant to get involved in speaking out against the BS that African-American GLBT peeps deal with inside and outside the African-American community for specious religious reasons.

When I checked the mirror this morning, I was still Black, I can easily afford to join the NAACP and I still get called 'nigger' and face discrimination from and by racist peeps. Being transgender didn't change that one bit.

The one group I'm most disappointed with is the National Black Justice Coalition. I've had the pleasure of meeting its CEO H. Alexander Robinson at a Louisville event a few years ago. I'm happy that the now three year old organization is making the case about same gender marriage being a Black issue as well, and they are holding Black Church Summits and conferences. I'm estatic that the NBJC not only commented on the ENDA issue, but are a member of the United ENDA coalition as well.

But if you are going to claim that you represent me as an African-American transperson, the organization needs to be more timely and forecful about doing precisely that.

It's insulting and disgusting to me when the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that has done far more in the last ten years to retard my and other African-American transpeople's progress by bitterly fighting transgender inclusion in the Employment Non Discrimination Act, rapidly puts out a press release condemning the attack on Duanna Johnson and calling for a criminal investigation. I have yet to see one syllable written about it on the NBJC website, the organization that's supposed to represent me as an African-American transperson.

Hopefully these organizations will do so in the next week, but if they don't, it's time for African-American transpeople to call them on the carpet and have them explain why.

Nashville Schools Adopt Fully Inclusive School Board Policy

Unlike the war we had to fight on our end of I-65 just to narrowly get a policy passed on a 4-3 vote that cut transpeople out of it, our neighbors in Nashville passed a fully inclusive one.

A statement from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition:

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is pleased to announce that last night, the Board of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) adopted a non-discrimination policy recommended by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. This makes the Nashville-Davidson County school system the first in Tennessee to ban discrimination against its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.

The MNPS joins University of Tennessee at Knoxville (December 2007) and the Tennessee board of regents (February 2008) in adopting fully inclusive non-discrimination policies.

We want to thank the MNEA, the union which represents Nashville's public school teachers, for its work in getting this policy approved by the Board. We encourage all of the remaining local school districts in Tennessee to join Nashville in adopting a similar policy. We also encourage the remaining institutions in the University of Tennessee system, along with all of Tennessee's private institutions of higher learning, to follow suit. We also hope this will lead to a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy for all of Nashville's public employees.

In addition to expanding the non-discrimination policy, the Board also voted to expand the anti-bullying and harassment policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity as well. The work on this matter has been led by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Support Student Safety Coalition. This makes the Metro Nashville Public Schools the second school district in Tennessee to adopt such a policy, joining the Knox County Schools which added sexual orientation and gender identity in 2005.

We greatly appreciate the work of everyone to ensure and safe and fair environment for students, staff anf faculty in the Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Marisa Richmond

Duanna Johnson Update

Here's more video, CNN Headline News analysis and a portion of a local television interview Duanna Johnson did with a Memphis TV reporter.

She has either filed or is about to file a $1.3 million lawsuit against the city of Memphis, and the feds are investigating for possible civil rights violations.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, run by Dr. Marisa Richmond commented on this issue:

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) denounces the cowardly attack by Memphis Police Officers upon Duanna Johnson, an African American transgender woman on February 12.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition was first made aware of this attack several weeks ago, but we did not issue a public statement in deference to Ms. Johnson's attorney's wishes. Last night's release by Memphis station WMC-TV of the video, capturing the brutality of the attack, and the indifference to her suffering by other members of the Memphis Police Department as well as by the attending nurse allows us to comment today.

"This reprehensible attack upon a person who was not resisting simply because of her gender expression has no place in a civilized society," said Dr. Marisa Richmond, President of TTPC. "The brutality of this attack must be dealt with by the judicial system. If Shelby County District Attorney, William Gibbons, who is reportedly considering a run for Governor in 2010, will not prosecute the officers involved for this obvious hate crime, then he should be removed from office for dereliction of duty," continues Richmond.

This past Saturday, the Memphis Police Department had a recruiting booth at Mid South Pride in Memphis, just steps away from the TTPC booth. "While we welcome the MPD's outreach effort to the GLBT community of Memphis, the fact that they still have not fired the officer who actually performed the assault calls into question their commitment to opening their doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and especially, transgender employees. Their presence at Pride was an important step, but the video shows how far they have to go," maintains Richmond.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition extends our sympathies and support to Johnson and her legal team.

Stay tuned...this is going to get very interesting. It helps make our case that we transpeople are under attack even by the people who are supposed to serve and protect us, and we can no longer afford to 'wait' to have our civil rights recognized as Barney and HRC wish.

Caprica Is A Go

If you're a Battlestar Galactica junkie like I am, you were tuned in last week to see the Season 4 midseason finale. The Colonial Fleet after three years of travel, having their twelve home planets nuked, finding and losing the Pegasus, a Cylon civil war, and surviving the New Caprica occupation arrive at Earth.

Only one problem. It's a radioactive wasteland.

You'll find out how it got that way and who the final Cylon is when they broadcast the final ten Battlestar Galactica episodes in 2009.

In the meantime, while we're waiting for those last BSG episodes, executive producers Ron Moore and David Eick have another project to keep them busy with the help of Remi Aubuchon.

It's been rumored for a few years, but it's gonna happen. The Caprica series, which takes place 50 years before the events of BSG, got greenlighted.

Caprica will follow the lives of two Caprican families who are on opposite sides of the Colonial artificial intelligence debate, the Graystones and the Adamas.

Yep, those Adamas. The Adamas oppose the creation of the intelligent robots that result from the scientific breakthrough that will have major consequences for Caprica, the Colonies, and the human race.

The pilot is scheduled for a December 1, 2008 air date, and they're assembling the cast as we speak. Actor Eric Stoltz was recently signed to play Dr. Daniel Graystone, the creator of the Toasters, err Cylons. Esai Morales will play Joseph Adama, Admiral Bill Adama's father and Vice President Lee Adama's grandfather.

The BSG show also will not end with the broadcast of the final ten episodes. They are talking about filming up to three BSG movies similar to Razor, which explore backstory events in the BSG series. The movies have the blessing of the current Battlestar actors, although which BSG character appears in what movie will depend on whether they're available from their post-BSG work. Katee Sackhoff is getting a lot of offers as a result of her BSG work and other cast members are garnering attention as well.

While I'm sad that Battlestar will be ending after four years, I am looking forward to seeing Caprica and whatever BSG movies are on the horizon.

Friday, June 20, 2008

'To Fuel The Hell-Fire Flames Of Bigotry'

TransGriot Note: One of the reasons I have a more positive view of what can be done through the political process is probably because I was exposed to some fantastic political leaders in the Houston area on all levels of government when I was growing up there.

One of those people is the dean of the Texas Legislature, Rep. Senfronia Thompson. I met her during the 1999 session when a group of us during our TGAIN Lobby Days mightily tried to get transgender people put back into the James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill we'd been cut out by our nouveau Mattachine 'frenemies' in the LGRL (now Equality Texas) before we arrived in Austin.

In 2005 she took the mic and made this eloquent speech on the Texas House floor blasting the anti same gender marriage amendment that was under consideration in the GOP controlled House. It is unfortunately now part of the Texas Constitution.

Here is Rep. Thompson's floor speech.

I have been a member of this august body for three decades, and today is one of the all-time low points. We are going in the wrong direction, in the direction of hate and fear and discrimination. Members, we all know what this is about. This is the politics of divisiveness at its worst, a wedge issue that is meant to divide.

Members, this issue is a distraction from the real things we need to be working on. At the end of this session, this legislature, this leadership will not be able to deliver the people of Texas fundamental and fair answers to the pressing issues of our day.

Let's look at what this amendment does not do: It does not give one Texas citizen meaningful tax relief. It does not reform or fully fund our education system. It does not restore one child to CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program], who was cut from health insurance last session. It does not put one dime into raising Texas's Third World access to health care. It does not do one thing to care for or protect one elderly person or one child in this state. In fact, it does not even do anything to protect one marriage.

Members, this bill is about hate and fear and discrimination.

I know something about hate and fear and discrimination. When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about "protecting the institution of marriage" as well. What they meant was if people of my color tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum's color [State Representative Warren Chisum of Pampa sponsored the amendment, House Joint Resolution 6, which the house approved, 101–29, on April 25.], you'd often find the people of my color hanging from a tree. That's what the white folks did back then to "protect marriage." Fifty years ago, white folks thought interracial marriages were a "threat to the institution of marriage." Members, I'm a Christian and a proud Christian. I read the good book, and do my best to live by it. I have never read the verse where it says, "Gay people can't marry." I have never read the verse where it says, "Though shalt discriminate against those not like me." I have never read the verse where it says, "Let's base our public policy on hate and fear and discrimination." Christianity to me is love and hope and faith and forgiveness--not hate and discrimination.

I have served in this body a lot of years--and I have seen a lot of promises broken. I should be up here demanding my 40 acres and a mule because that's another promise you broke. You used a wealthy white minister cloaked in the cloth to ease the stench of that form of discrimination.

So now that blacks and women can vote, and now that blacks and women have equal rights, you turn your hatred to homosexuals--and you still use your misguided reading of the Bible to justify your hatred. You want to pass this ridiculous amendment so you can go home and brag. Brag about what? Declare that you saved the people of Texas from what? Persons of the same sex cannot get married in this state now. Texas does not now recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, religious unions, domestic partnerships, contractual arrangements, or Christian blessings entered into in this state--or anywhere else on this planet Earth.

If you want to make your hateful political statements, then that is one thing. The Chisum amendment does real harm. It repeals the contracts that many single people have paid thousands of dollars to purchase to obtain medical powers of attorney, powers of attorney, hospital visitation, joint ownership, and support agreements.

You have lost your way. This is obscene.

Today, you are playing to the lowest common denominator. You are putting aside the real issues of substance that we need to address so that you can instead play on the public's fears and prejudices to deceive and manipulate voters into thinking that we have done something important.

I realize that gay rights are not the same as civil rights, but I can guarantee you we are going in the wrong direction. I cannot hide my skin color. In fact, in most of the South, people as pink as Rep. Wayne Smith were still black by law if they had a great-grandparent who was African.

I was unable to attend an integrated and equally funded school until I got my master of laws degree. There were separate and unequal facilities for nearly everything. I got second-hand textbooks even worse than the kind you're trying to pass off on every public school student next year. I had to ride to school on the back of the bus. I had to quench my thirst from filthy "Coloreds Only" drinking fountains. I had to enter restaurants from the kitchen door. I was banned from entering most public accommodations, even from serving on a jury.

I had to live with the fear that getting too uppity could get you killed--or worse. I know what third-class citizenship feels like. In my first term, one of my colleagues walked up and down this aisle muttering about how "Nigras" should be back in the field picking cotton instead of picking out committees.

So, I have to wonder about Rep. Chisum's 3/5-of-a-person amendment. Some of you folks hid behind your Bible then, too, to justify your cultural prejudices, your denial of liberty, and your gunpoint robbery of human dignity.

We have worked hard at putting our prejudices against homosexuals in law. We have denied them basic job protections. We have denied them and their children freedom from bullying and harassment at school. We have tried to criminalize their very existence.

But, we have also absolved them of all family duties and responsibilities: to care for and support their spouses and children, to count their family's assets in determining public assistance, to obtain health insurance for dependents, to make end-of-life or necessary medical decisions for their life partners--sometimes even to visit in the hospital, even to defend our own country. And then, we can stand on our two hind legs and proclaim, "See, I told you homosexual families are unstable."

And nearly every one of you on this floor has a homosexual in their extended families. Some of you have shunned and isolated these family members. Some of you, even some of the joint co-authors, have embraced them within your own family, for the essence of Christianity is love. Yet, you are now poised to constitutionalize discrimination against a particular class of people .

I thought we would be debating real issues: education, health care for kids, teacher's health insurance, health care for the elderly, protecting survivors of sexual assault, protecting the pensions of seniors in nursing homes. I thought we would be debating economic development, property tax relief, protecting seniors' pensions, and stem cell research to save lives of Texans who are waiting for a more abundant life. Instead we are wasting this body's time with this political stunt that is nothing more than constitutionalizing discrimination. The prejudices exhibited by members of this body disgust me.

Last week, Republicans used a political wedge issue to pull kids--sweet little vulnerable kids--out of the homes of loving parents and put them back in a state orphanage just because those parents are gay. That's disgusting. Today, we are telling homosexuals that just like people of my ilk when I was a small child, they too are second-class citizens. I have listened to all the arguments. I have listened to all of the crap.

Mr. Chisum is a person who I consider my good friend and revere. But I want you to know that this amendment is blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry.

Just Because The Po-Po's Charge You With Prostitution Doesn't Make You One

One of the things that's maddening to us as African-Americans is that not only is our community judged by the worst we produce and not our best, we are also tarred and feathered with stereotypical assertions.

Just as articulate and smart African-American women such as Michelle Obama are called 'angry' for candidly saying what's on their minds that runs counter to Euro-American groupthink, one of the irritating ones that African-American transpersons constantly have to battle is that 'we're all prostitutes.'

That assertion (along with many others) reared their pointy-capped heads in the wake of the release of the nasty video 48 hours ago of transwoman Duanna Johnson being brutally attacked by a Memphis police office in the booking area of the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center back on February 12.

As I said in a Bilerico post on this issue, do not assume that Ms. Johnson is a sex worker. Far too many times transwomen of color are profiled as sex workers by police even if they aren't.

As one Los Angeles Native American transwoman interviewed for the AI 'Stonewalled' reports stated,

The police are not here to serve; they are here to get served...Every night I'm taken into an alley and given the choice between having sex or going to jail.

She was taken in for prostitution by the Memphis PD but the charges were dropped. There's no evidence that has been produced yet and no reason to presume that Ms. Johnson is a sex worker.

But try telling that to the unwashed sheeple who are not only painting her with the 'prostitute' brush, but because she's 6'5", are disrespectfully referring to her as a 'man' and assert that the officer was justified in his actions.

Gee, if that isn't bad enough, now we have the 'scary, black predator' shade being thrown by the 'Po-Po's are always right' peeps.

Contrary to the faith-based non-scientific opinions of the Religious Reich and their non-science book reading acolytes, gender and gender identity is not the cut and dried binary world that you people want to desperately make it out to be.

One of the points I'm making is that too many times, and recent Amnesty International reports will back me up on this, police (and others) profile African-American transwomen (and other transwomen of color) as prostitutes even if we're minding our own business.

I've experienced it firsthand. A few years ago I was hanging out in a Montrose club watching two friends of mine performing in a drag show and one of the Euro-American patrons of the club walked up to me as I was sitting at the bar enjoying the show and disrespectfully asked 'How much?'

While there are some of my sisters who partake in sex work to pay their bills, the vast majority of us don't. I'm tired of the prostitution angle being brought up in the discussion when it comes to African-American transpeople.

Much of the reason this myth persists is because some media outlets and some GLBT civil rights groups are too lazy, indifferent or genuinely don't care to find African-American transpeople who are not only gainfully employed, but who would make excellent spokespeople for the community.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happy Juneteenth Y'all!

General Order Number 3, read by Union General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865 from the balcony of Ashton Villa, Galveston, TX.

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."

So what's Juneteenth? For African-American Texans and increasingly, African-Americans no matter where we're from, it's a century plus old celebration of our emancipation from slavery.

And here's a post I wrote last year about the origins of the holiday you can peruse while I scarf up my barbecue and wash it down with strawberry soda.

Memphis Po-Po's Caught Beating A Transwoman On Tape

Transwomen are all too aware of police officers who abuse their authority to harrass, assault, denigrate and rape us.

The Stonewall Rebellion we jumped off almost 40 years ago this month and the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot in San Francisco had the same root cause: Transwomen being tired of taking crap from the police.

This crap happens far too often to transwomen of color. Former San Antonio officer Dave Gutierrez is serving time in Club Fed because he pulled over then 21 year old transwoman Starlight Bernal during a 2005 traffic stop, then assaulting and raping her.

In this latest depressing incident that happened February 12, after being arrested on prostitution charges, Duanna Johnson was beaten down and maced in the police station because she refused to repond to the derogatory terms 'faggot' and 'he/she' directed at her by the officer.

It's also galling that the nurse in the video showed far more concern for the scratch on his hand the officer received than the transgender person lying handcuffed on the floor he'd just beat down.

So HRC and Barney, you still subscribe to the asinine assertion that we transgender people need to 'wait our turn' to have our civil rights respected and protected?

This is a sample of the BS we've been dealing with ever since you sent the unspoken message last fall by yanking us out of ENDA that it's open season on transgender people.

The following statement was released this morning about the incident by the Memphis Police Department:

The Memphis Police Department does not condone any misconduct of a police officer that will compromise official law enforcement duties or the rights or safety of our citizens.

As it relates to the February incident that occurred at the jail facility, the police department has been conducting a thorough internal investigation. The details surrounding the complainant, witnesses and law enforcement officials’ statements are part of an ongoing investigation and can not be released at this time.

As a standard departmental policy, a full, impartial hearing will be held with the accused officer.

Memphis Police can confirm the work status of the two primary officers involved in this complaint. Officer J. Swain was a probationary officer and has been separated from the Memphis Police Department. Officer B. McRae has been placed on non-enforcement status pending an administrative hearing.

Memphis Police can also confirm the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been notified and requested to look into the complaint further.


Detective Monique Y. Martin
Memphis Police Department
Office of Public Information/Media Relations


This is the story from WMC-TV's website.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) -Video obtained by Action News 5 shows a Memphis police officer beating a suspect at 201 Poplar in an apparent case of police brutality.

The video, recorded February 12th, shows Duanna Johnson in the booking area at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center after an arrest for prostitution. The tape clearly shows a Memphis police officer walk over to Johnson - a transsexual - and hit her in the face several times.

"Actually he was trying to get me to come over to where he was, and I responded by telling him that wasn't my name - that my mother didn't name me a 'faggot' or a 'he-she,' so he got upset and approached me. And that's when it started," Johnson said.

Johnson said the officer was attempting to call her over to be fingerprinted. She said she chose not respond to the derogatory name the officer called her.

"He said, 'I'm telling you, I'm giving you one more chance to get up.' So I'm looking at him, and he started putting his gloves on, and seen him take out a pair of handcuffs," Johnson said.

The officer hit Johnson several times with the handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles. In the video, you can see the flash of the metal. The tape shows another officer holding Johnson's shoulders as she tries to protect herself.

After taking several blows, Johnson stands up and swings back.

"I was afraid. I had had enough. Like I said, I thought the other officers that were witnessing this would at least try to stop him," Johnson said. "I mean, he hit me so hard. Like the third time he hit me, it split my skull and I had blood coming out. So I jumped up," Johnson said.

But then she sat back down, and the officer her in the face again. Then he maced her. On the tape, other people in the room are seen turning away and fanning their hands because of the smell.

"We wanted some acknowledgement - my client did - so she would know that the Memphis Police Department didn't condone this," said Murray Wells, Johnson's attorney. "We were optimistic that they would be as outraged about this as we are, and we haven't gotten any indication that they're interested in it at all.

"These are the people we depend on to protect us, and I think the majority of officers in Memphis are good officers, and when you see what you see on that video, it's a scary sight to see that that could happen to any one of us," added attorney Arthur Horne.

On the tape, Duanna is eventually handcuffed and left on the floor. A nurse comes in, and goes directly to the officer.

"I couldn't breathe, and they just made me lay there," Johnson said. "Nobody checked to see if I was okay. My eyes were burning. My skin was burning. I was scared to death. Even the nurse came in and she just ignored me, and I begged her to help me."

A copy of the tape was reviewed by both the FBI and the District Attorney's office, the latter of which dropped all charges against Johnson. An FBI investigation into possible civil rights violations is still underway.

Meanwhile, the Memphis Police Department confirmed to Action News 5 that the officer holding Johnson was on probation, and has been fired. The officer who threw the punches is currently on non-enforcement status pending an administrative hearing.

Since the video of the jailhouse beat down first aired on Action News 5, we have learned more about the other people who were in the in-take area at the jail during the incident, particularly the nurse who was called to help.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Department tells Action News 5 that a nurse employed by the Sheriff's Department was called to assess the situation.

The nurse asked Duanna Johnson if she was okay, and noticed Johnson had been sprayed with mace.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department said the nurse determined Johnson was not in an emergency situation, and then left the room to make arrangements for the Memphis Police Department to transport Johnson to The Med for treatment.

Later, the nurse returned to provide the officer medical care for a scratch on the back of his head.

Johnson was in the custody of the Memphis Police Department during her time in the in-take area.

The Sheriff's Department also stressed that none of their deputies or employees were involved in this incident in any way, but did give statements about what they witnessed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Great News From The AMA!

TransGriot Note: The good news just keeps on coming for us. A legislative victory in Colorado, positive responses to the Transgender Pride March in Northampton, and now this wonderful news out of Chicago.

The American Medical Association's House of Delegates, their highest policy making body yesterday passed a resolution yesterday calling for the removal of financial barriers imposed on transpeople by public and private insurance companies.

Resolution: 122

Introduced by: Resident and Fellow Section, Massachusettes Medical Society, California Medical Association, Medical Society of the State of New York

Subject: Removing Financial Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients
Referred to: Reference Committee A

Whereas, The American Medical Association opposes discrimination on the basis of
gender identity and

Whereas, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a serious medical condition recognized as such in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed., Text 5 Revision) (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Classification of Diseases (10th Revision), and is characterized in the DSM-IV-TR as a persistent discomfort with one’s assigned sex and with one’s primary and secondary sex characteristics, which causes intense emotional pain and suffering; and

Whereas, GID, if left untreated, can result in clinically significant psychological distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression and, for some people without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicidality and death; and

Whereas, The World Professional Association For Transgender Health, Inc. (“WPATH”) is the leading international, interdisciplinary professional organization devoted to the understanding and treatment of gender identity disorders, and has established internationally accepted Standards of Care for providing medical treatment for people with GID, including mental health care, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery, which are designed to promote the health and welfare of persons with GID and are recognized within the medical community to be the standard of care for treating people with GID; and

Whereas, An established body of medical research demonstrates the effectiveness and
medical necessity of mental health care, hormone therapy and sex reassignment
surgery as forms of therapeutic treatment for many people diagnosed with GID; and

Whereas, Health experts in GID, including WPATH, have rejected the myth that such
treatments are “cosmetic” or “experimental” and have recognized that these treatments can provide safe and effective treatment for a serious health condition; and

Whereas, Physicians treating persons with GID must be able to provide the correct
treatment necessary for a patient in order to achieve genuine and lasting comfort with his or her gender, based on the person’s individual needs and medical history; and

Whereas, The AMA opposes limitations placed on patient care by third-party payers when such care is based upon sound scientific evidence and sound medical opinion; and

Whereas, Many health insurance plans categorically exclude coverage of mental health, medical, and surgical treatments for GID, even though many of these same treatments, such as psychotherapy, hormone therapy, breast augmentation and removal,
hysterectomy, oophorectomy, orchiectomy, and salpingectomy, are often covered for
other medical conditions; and

Whereas, The denial of these otherwise covered benefits for patients suffering from GID represents discrimination based solely on a patient’s gender identity; and

Whereas, Delaying treatment for GID can cause and/or aggravate additional serious and expensive health problems, such as stress-related physical illnesses, depression, and substance abuse problems, which further endanger patients’ health and strain the health care system; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the AMA support public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder (Directive to Take Action); and be it further

RESOLVED, That the AMA oppose categorical exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when prescribed by a physician (Directive to Take Action).

Fiscal Note: No significant fiscal impact.

Umm Joann, THIS Is A Blackface Drag Show

One of the things I've pointed out in my decade fighting for transgender rights and in writing posts for this blog are the parallels between the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 50's-60's and the Transgender Rights Movement.

While there are times when it is appropriate, desirable and prudent to make those comparisons and even borrow the imagery and words of some of our leaders like Dr. King and others to highlight those similarities, there are times when it is not contextually appropriate or historically incorrect to do so.

In a recent press release by NYTRO (New York Transgender Rights Organization) protesting a June 12 drag show done by Westchester County, NY legislators at a White Plains, NY seniors home, NYTRO State Director Joann Prinzivalli stated,

"The Westchester County legislature has failed for nearly eight years to amend the county human rights law to explicitly protect transgender people ... It is shocking to see county legislators who have dragged their feet on this vital issue doing the equivalent of a KKK blackface show to mock my people."

Joann, while I have much respect for you and the work you've done in the New York area over the years, that 'equivalent of a KKK blackface show' comment was not only an incorrect application of the history of blackface, but went a tad overboard.

If you really want to see an example of a blackface drag show, check out any Shirley Q. Liquor performance by Chuck Knipp near you.

Oops, you'll probably have to check it out on the Net, since he's had a penchant for getting them protested or shut down on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, there was one that was shut down on Martin Luther King Day in New York back in 2002.

Jasmyne Cannick, myself, and a long list of African-American GLBT peeps, our straight African-American and other allies have since 2002 complained, written columns and numerous blog posts about this nouveau minstrel show that many white GLBT peeps for some strange reason find funny. There's even a website.

It's a mild irritant to me as the child and godchild of historians and a back-to-back champion History Prep Bowler when my people's history is quoted incorrectly or used out of context.

Blackface minstrel shows of the 1830's, popularized by Thomas D. Rice and his minstrel character Jim Crow were originated by white men who used burnt cork, greasepaint or shoe polish to darken their skin. Their acts, like Chucky's, centered around the caricature of African-American people as lazy, overly-cheerful, uneducated and musical.

Those portrayals not only led to negative perceptions of African-Americans that persist today, but also led to a wide array of 'Darkie' products that perpetuated the negative image deep into the 20th century.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. went to Japan in the late 80's to protest a leading department store there that had mannequins with bulging eyes and large protruding lips. There was a brand of toothpaste sold in the Asian market called Darkie that changed its packaging and name to Darlie in 1985 after its parent company was bought by Colgate and civil rights groups here in the US protested the name and logo.

While I feel you and deplore what the Westchester County legislators did in terms of dragging their feet (pardon the pun) on passing transgender rights and feeling the need to mock transgender people at the same time, that's not a blackface drag show.

The Westchester County legislators, unlike Chucky, aren't doing repeat performances of it, nor are they selling demeaning products on a website designed to profit from the image they created. It's simply a drag performance that was in very poor taste and it's not correct to call it the 'equivalent of a KKK blackface show'.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Miss Tiffany 2008 Wrapup

TransGriot readers,
I told y'all about the annual Miss Tiffany Universe pageant that takes place in Thailand in May, but thanks to all the last minute activity swirling around me in preparation for the NE Transgender Pride weekend I didn't let you know who won.

The judges had a tough job deciding which one of these thirty beautiful ladies would wear the crown, but Miss Tiffany Universe 2008 is 21 year old college student Kangsadarn Wongdusadeekul or Nong Noeng. She received 100,000 baht ($3000 USD) and a Honda Jazz in addition to the crown and all the assorted gifts that come with this title.

First runner up was Nannapas Wechakul or Nong Golf, who received 40,000 baht ($1200 USD) and also received a trophy and sash. Second runner up was Pailin Denfahnapapol or Nong Bank who received 20,000 baht ($600 USD) a sash and a trophy.

Her father is a Thai army officer and she grew up on a military base. She actually tried to join the army, but as she told the audience, "Last year, I went to register as a soldier but my figure had changed, so the government did not let me."

"We are beautiful - so we have no need to be soldiers," she went on. Transgender people are barred from serving in the Thai military despite a law classifying them as “mentally disturbed” being overturned in March.

The nationally televised pageant is one with a purpose. In addition to promoting Pattaya, 100 miles southeast of Bangkok, as a worldwide tourist destination and the Tiffany's transgender cabaret, it also serves as a fundraiser for several Thai charities.

Nong Noeng will be the Thai representative later this year at the 2008 Miss Universal Queen pageant which is hosted around October by Tiffany's in Pattaya as well. That pageant is open to transwomen around the world, and Nong Noeng has the task of trying to keep that increasingly popular and prestigious title at home.

But the major goal of the Miss Tiffany Universe pageant is promoting acceptance of Thai transwomen and showcasing their beauty and intelligence.

Miss Tiffany 2004, Treechada Malayaporn, known as Polly, is an example of the growing success of those efforts to improve the images of Thai transwomen. She is now a successful actress and television presenter and was on hand during the night's festivities as an awards presenter.

Everyone thought I was a real girl before Miss Tiffany but after that everybody knew me as I am, a ladyboy," Polly said. "Everything changed. Now I'm studying international law. I just want to be someone who is clever and socially accepted."

And that's what your transgender sisters (and brothers) in Thailand and around the world want as well.