Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in the New Orleans area and Mississippi Gulf Coast. I couldn't let this day pass without commenting on what happened a year ago.

Many Houstonians have deep connections to New Orleans. It's just a five hour drive down I-10 or a 40 minute plane ride away. Whether it was weekend trips we made there to enjoy the city's culture, food, music and history, romance or just visiting friends and family who live in the area, New Orleans is never far from a Houstonian's mind.

As a toddler I lived on the West Bank for two years (in Marrero) when my dad was starting his radio career. If you get me around anyone from New Orleans for a long enough period of time my speech pattern will revert to Nawlinsspeak for a moment.

I made numerous visits to New Orleans over the years and my godsister still lives there with her husband and kids. I went through a lot of emotions in the days leading up to August 29 and afterward.

Concern about my godsister Angela, her family and my friends. Horror at the first pictures of the devastation. The torn roof of the Superdome. The chopped up I-10 bridges across the mouth of Lake Borgne where it meets the Gulf. Shock as the pictures of the Convention Center were broadcast on CNN and seeing the water pouring through the failed levees. Anger as people waited on I-10 for help that was too slow to get there and seeing the bloated bodies of the peeps that didn't make it.
Disgust as the Bush administration cavalierly waited for days before realizing they had a worldwide PR disaster on their hands and belatedly sent supplies in.

I want to say a prayer for the people that tragically didn't make it and the struggles that residents of New Orleans and the Missisippi Gulf Ccast are having rebuilding their lives.

It shouldn't be happening in the United States. But it is.

Monday, August 28, 2006

US Men's B-Ball Is Back (Maybe)

Saturday night I had the pleasure of watching a US international
basketball team hit midrange jumpers and three pointers, play
suffocating defense and unselfishly pass the ball.

No, it wasn't the US women. The unbeaten since 1996 US women ballers begin defense of their FIBA world championship title in Sao Paulo, Brazil September 12-23.

While channel surfing I stumbled across the start of the FIBA World Championships USA-Australia quarterfinal game from Saitama, Japan that Team USA won 117-93. This team has Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Elton Brand as featured players and is coached by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. The FIBA Championship Tournament was first conducted in 1950 and happens every four years.

They face the Dirk Nowitzki led German team August 30 and the winner
advances to the Gold Medal game versus the Greece-France winner. The French squad included the San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker but he's out
with a broken finger.

Team USA won their group with a 5-0 record but received a major scare
from perennial international b-ball power Italy. They trailed by
nine at halftime and by 12 early in the third quarter before pulling
that game out 94-85 thanks to 35 points from Carmelo Anthony and 28
points from Dwyane Wade.

While the US has dominated Olympic basketball play since 1936 (the
only times we didn't win gold were the disputed 1972 gold medal game
versus the Soviet Union in Munich, the boycotted Moscow Games in
1980, the 1988 Seoul Games and Athens in 2004) that's not the case in
FIBA championship play. The USA has only won the event three times
(1954, 1986, 1994) and suffered the indignity in 2002 of not only
losing on home soil in Indy but failing to win a medal.

This version of Team USA is determined to begin the process of
reestablishing US basketball supremacy. The rest of the world is just
as determined to not only make a name for themselves, but embarrass
the US ballers at the same time.

If they keep playing like they did Saturday night, Coach K and
company should be wearing gold medals, hoisting the FIBA championship
trophy and singing the Star Spangled Banner when this one is over.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack

From the New York Times
Photo of Shayne Caya by Darcy Padilla
Published: August 20, 2006


In the most recent season of the lesbian soap opera, “The L Word,” a new character named Moira announced to her friends that, through surgery and hormone therapy, she would soon be a new person named Max. Her news was not well received.

“It just saddens me to see so many of our strong butch women giving up their womanhood to be a man,” one friend said.

The sentiment was a tamer version of what many other women wrote on lesbian blogs and Web sites in the weeks after the episode was broadcast last spring. Many called for the Max character to be killed off next season. One suggested dispatching him “by testosterone overdose.”

The reaction to the fictional character captured the bitter tension that can exist over gender reassignment. Among lesbians — the group from which most transgendered men emerge — the increasing number of women who are choosing to pursue life as a man can provoke a deep resentment and almost existential anxiety, raising questions of gender loyalty and political identity, as well as debates about who is and who isn’t, and who never was, a real woman.

The conflict has raged at some women’s colleges and has been explored in academic articles, in magazines for lesbians and in alternative publications, with some — oversimplifying the issue for effect — headlined with the question, “Is Lesbianism Dead?”

It has been a subtext of gay politics in San Francisco, the only city in the country that covers employees’ sex-change medical expenses. And it bubbles to the surface every summer at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a lesbian gathering to which only “women born as women and living as women” are invited — a ban on transgendered people of either sex.

Barbara Price, a former festival producer, said the uneasiness has been “a big topic among lesbians for quite some time.”

“There are many people who look at what these young women are doing, and say to themselves, ‘Hey, by turning yourselves into men, don’t you realize you’re going over to the other side?’ ” she said. “We thought we were all supposed to be in this together.”

Beyond the political implications, the sense of loss is felt most keenly in personal relationships.

“I am a lesbian because I am attracted to women, and not to men," said a 33-year-old woman who broke up with her partner of seven years, Sharon Caya, when Sharon became Shane. The woman, who asked to be identified only as Natasha, to protect family members who are unaware of her lifestyle, said that she was ultimately faced with the reality of her sexual orientation and identity. “I decided I couldn’t be in a romantic relationship with a man.”

The transgender movement among men is at least as old as the pioneering surgery that turned George Jorgensen into Christine Jorgensen in 1952. Among women who wish to become men, though, the movement has gained momentum only in the last 10 years, in part because of increasingly sophisticated surgical options, the availability of the Internet’s instant support network, and the emotions raised by the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry,” based on the true story of the murder of Brandon Teena, a young Nebraska woman who chose to live as a man.

The word for the process is “to transition,” a modest verb for what in women usually means, at the minimum, a double mastectomy and heavy doses of hormones that change the shape of the face, deepen the voice, broaden the upper body, spur the growth of facial hair, and in some cases, trigger the onset of male pattern baldness.

Politically and personally, the change has equally profound effects. Some lesbians view it as a kind of disloyalty bordering on gender treason.

The Census Bureau does not try to count the number of transgendered people in the United States, and many who make the transition from one sex to another do not wish to be counted.

A European study conducted 10 years ago, and often cited by the American Psychiatric Association, says full gender reassignment occurred in 1 in 11,000 men and 1 in 30,000 women, a ratio that would place the number of men who have become women nationally at only about 13,000 and women who have become men at about 5,000.

Transgender advocates, however, say those statistics fail to reflect an increasing number of people, especially young people, who call themselves transgendered but resist some or all of the surgeries available, including, for women becoming men, the creation of a penis. Some delay or avoid surgeries because of expense. For women especially, the genital surgery is still risky.

“There are tens of thousands of us, probably more than 100,000,” said Riki Wilchins, the executive director of GenderPAC, a lobbying group in Washington, citing the looser definition of being transgendered.

Dr. Michael Brownstein, a surgeon in San Francisco, said he had performed more than 1,000 female-to-male surgeries in the last several years, and transgender advocates say there are a dozen surgeons specializing in the work in the United States.

The numbers are slight, considering the estimated five million gay men and five million lesbian women in the United States. Still, coupled with a simultaneous trend among the young to reject sexual identity labels altogether, some lesbians fear that the ranks are growing of women who once called themselves lesbian but no longer do.

“It’s as if the category of lesbian is just emptying out,” said Judith Halberstam, a gender theorist and professor of literature at the University of Southern California, San Diego, whose books include “Female Masculinity.”

Leaders of some lesbian organizations dismiss the idea of a schism or contend that it has been resolved in the interest of common human rights goals among lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

“The view in some lesbian corners that we are losing lesbians to transitioning is absurd,” said Kate Kendall, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Given our history of oppression, all lesbians should encourage people to be themselves even if it means our lesbian sister is becoming our heterosexual-identified brother.”

But in private conversations and in public forums like women’s colleges, the questions about how to frame the relationship among lesbians, former lesbians and young women who call themselves “gender queer” rather than lesbian at all, seem largely unresolved.

“There is a general uneasiness about this whole thing, like ‘What are we losing here?’ ” said Diane Anderson-Minshall, the executive editor of Curve, a lesbian magazine. The issue stirs old insecurities about women being “not good enough,’’ she added.

Koen Baum, a family therapist in San Francisco who is a transgendered man, said the anxiety some lesbians feel has complicated roots. Some, he said, believe that women who “pass” as men are in some ways embracing male privileges.

Ben A. Barres, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford and a transgendered man, recently provided fodder for that view in an article in Nature and an interview with The New York Times. “It is very much harder for women to be successful, to get jobs, to get grants, especially big grants,” he told The Times.

The idea of male privilege was also part of “The L Word” plot: When Max learns he is to be offered a job that he was rejected for as Moira, he promises that he will refuse it and tell off the would-be boss, but he later decides to take the job and say nothing.

Mr. Baum said the anxiety also stems from fear over the loss of an ally in the struggle against sexism. “The question in the minds of many lesbian women is, ‘Is it still going to be you and me against sexism, you and me against the world?’ ” he said.

There are also practical questions: What place should a transgendered man have in women’s spaces such as bathhouses, charter cruises, music festivals and, more tricky still, at women’s colleges, where some “transmen” taking testosterone are reportedly playing on school sports teams?

Laura Cucullu, a freelance editor and recent graduate of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., phrased the question this way: “When do we kick you out? When you change your name to Bob? When you start taking hormones? When you grow a mustache? When you have a double mastectomy?”

The fact that there is no apparent parallel imbroglio in the gay community toward men who become women is a subject of some speculation.

“There is the sense that a transman is ‘betraying the team,’ joining the oppressor class and that sort of thing,” said Ken Zucker, a clinical psychologist and a specialist in gender research at the University of Toronto.

Despite the tangled set of issues involved, the survival rate of lesbian couples seems higher than among gay couples when one partner changes gender, advocates say.

After Susie Anderson-Minshall became Jacob several years ago, he and his partner of 15 years, Ms. Anderson-Minshall, the Curve editor, decided to marry. Their March 19 wedding was actually their second union. The first had been a partnership ceremony as lesbians; the second was as legally recognized husband and wife under the laws of the state of California, where they live.

Other couples, like the former Sharon Caya and Natasha, found the transition much rougher. Sharon’s decision to become Shane coincided with Natasha becoming pregnant, having conceived with donor sperm. “When the baby came along, I wanted to become myself,” Mr. Caya said. “I wanted the baby to know me as I truly am.”

She began taking testosterone about three years ago, then had “top surgery” — a double mastectomy — and is now a muscular 42-year-old of medium height with long sideburns and a goatee.

For financial and practical reasons, Mr. Caya, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, decided to forgo “bottom surgery,” which could cost as much as $100,000 and would involve two or three operations to graft on an ersatz penis.

According to the standards of the European study, Shane Caya would not be counted as a transgendered person.

Natasha, a financial manager in San Francisco, still cries when describing Sharon’s decision to become male.

“You’re in love with a person, but there is something about gender that is so central to identity it can be overwhelming if the person changes,” she said.

“When she told me what she wanted to do, I was completely blown away at first,” Natasha said. Then, “I thought to myself, ‘All right, we’re good lesbians. We should be able to figure this out.’ ”

But after a month of struggling with the idea, Natasha said she could not make the adjustment. The breakup occurred when the child was 5 months old. The couple remain on friendly terms and share custody.

And when Mr. Caya attended a lesbian organization’s lunch recently, he recalled, he was welcomed by a woman who said she was “pleased to see a man supporting us lesbians.” His reply, he said, was quick and to the point:

“Of course I support lesbians,” he said. “I used to be one.”

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Repeal of Houston’s Anti-Crossdressing Ordinance

The 26th anniversary of the repeal of this odious ordinance just passed, but there's an interesting story behind it.

Photo-Phyllis Frye
by Ann Walton Sieber
From OutSmart

“You are under arrest for dressing as the opposite sex.”

With these words, two so-called vice squad officers arrested Anthony “Tony” Mayes (who later became Anne Mayes), as reported in the October 1972 issue of Nuntius,a now-defunct gay magazine in Houston.

Mayes was arrested under the crossdressing ordinance, Section 28-42.4 of the city’s Code of Ordinances, which prohibited “a person from appearing in public dressed with the intent to disguise his or her sex as that of the opposite sex.” This ordinance had its roots in combination with other ordinances that went all the way back to the year 1904, according to Phyllis Frye, the prominent transgender lawyer and activist who took on the outrageous ordinance and won.

As we celebrate the repeal of another repressive law used to vilify the gay community, we thought it important to remember and celebrate the repeal of the crossdressing ordinance 20 years ago this August 12. “The reasoning of the ordinance was totally specious to begin with,” said Jackie Thorne, president of the Gulf Coast Transgender Community, “Very similar to 21.06, the sodomy statute, it was used more to harass than anything else.”

Mayes was the most well-known person prosecuted under the law, being arrested multiple times, sometimes on the steps of the police station as she was being released from a previous arrest. But she was by no means the only one. Largely under the infamous antigay reign of Houston Police Chief Herman Short, the ordinance was used to hound and harass many in the gay and transgender communities. In bars, men in drag could be arrested unless they were on stage or on their way to or from the stage, as remembered by Ray Hill. Likewise, the police would go into women’s bars and arrest anyone wearing fly-front jeans.

Then Phyllis Frye appeared on the scene.

“In September, 1976, I began my full-time correction and was subject to enforcement of the ordinance,” recounts Phyllis. “Shortly afterwards, being terrified of arrest via the ordinance, I wrote to every single member of the then-Houston City Council, then-Mayor Fred Hofheinz presiding.”

Her sole positive response was from Councilman Johnny Goyen, who told Phyllis that he had always been puzzled by Anne Mayes, but was especially upset over the way that she’d been mistreated under the ordinance. It was eventually Goyen who would sign the repeal of the ordinance, four years later.

Part of Phyllis’ struggle was just to get policy makers to take her seriously. She lobbied on many fronts simultaneously, writing letters, making phone calls, hitting the downtown government offices several times a week, lobbying the municipal judges. She became active in the feminist movement, joining the League of Women Voters, where she believes that Lynne Johnson, then president of the league, used her influence to convince the power structure that Phyllis was indeed serious and deserved their attention. Phyllis gave lectures for many university classes. She even met with the deputy chief of vice, Fred Bankston, at the invitation of then-police chief B.G. “Pappy” Bond—pretty amazing, considering that as they discussed the crossdressing ordinance, Phyllis was, of course, most assuredly breaking it. Also amazingly, she was not arrested.

As did any transgender person during that time, Phyllis spent these four years of activism never knowing if she was about to be arrested, although of course her taking a public role made her most especially vulnerable.

As transgender writer Vanessa Edwards Foster describes the experience (although she herself has never been arrested): “You’re not a fugitive, have no outstanding warrants, obeyed the traffic laws, and you’ve not stolen a thing. Yet you now find yourself being handcuffed in front of a curious throng who stare and snicker.”

In 1979, Phyllis found an advocate in Councilman Ernest McGowen. In the spring of 1980, Councilman John Goodner made a sarcastic slighting remark about Phyllis’ crusade, further stirring up the waters. Several council members approached Goodner privately to take him to task: Councilman Lance Lalor suggested that Goodner move to repeal the ordinance, which he did, with Lalor seconding it.

As Phyllis remembers that period: “Lance told me to leave City Hall and not to come back until the repeal went through. He told me to trust his skills now that the repeal ordinance was in motion....

“On August 12, 1980, the ordinance to repeal was again before Council. Then-Mayor Jim McConn was out of town (as was Jim Westmoreland). Johnny Goyen was Mayor Pro-tem. City Secretary Anna Russell gave the repeal ordinance to Johnny while council members Homer Ford and Larry McKaskle were on the phone. He asked for a vote. Homer and Larry were not even aware it was up for a vote. Councilmember Christin Hartung was the sole and only no vote. Homer and Larry went to Johnny Goyen about five minutes later. In short, Johnny played dumb, saying something like, ‘Oh my goodness, did I let that slip by without giving you guys a chance to vote NO or tag it?’”

The ordinance was repealed that day and has remained off the books ever since.

The Drive For Five Just Developed A Flat Tire

Before the WNBA playoffs started I was happy to read that the Comets beat Seattle in their final game of the season to clinch the Number 3 Western Conference playoff seed and a series with the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs.

They'd beaten the Monarchs in three out of four games this season. I felt they had a better chance of making it to the WNBA Finals on that side of the bracket than playing the regular season Western Champion LA Sparks.

After watching those games, I think I would've rather taken my chances with the Sparks. The Monarchs beat down my beloved Comets 93-78 and 92-64 to sweep the series and move on to the Western Conference finals versus either LA or Seattle Tuesday night. It'll be Detroit vs. Connecticut in the Eastern Conference Finals. They eliminated their respective opponents the Washington Mystics and Indiana Fever to advance. It also means that with the Comets elimination Dawn Staley has played her last WNBA game.

I love my girls, but Tina and Sheryl need some help. In my opinion the Comets must get younger and more athletic in order to compete with the Sacramentos of the WNBA. They need a glass-cleaning power forward to help Tina out, an attacking point guard who can dish and create her own shot when necessary to take the load off of Sheryl and a center who can beat up on the Yolanda Griffiths, Lisa Leslies and Lauren Jacksons you'll face in the Western Conference.

While they're at it, let's see if we can get another shooting guard or forward to give opposing WNBA teams something else to worry about. And just for good measure, can somebody get Michelle Snow to stop playing so passively and be the dominating center she has the talent to become? Girlfriend has the ability to dunk on peeps, so she needs to start using that 6'5" height advantage and start attacking the rim.

But then again I'm just a fan and a former season ticket holder, not the GM of the Comets. But I'd be happy to take that job and rebuild the dynasty. ;)

Happy 60th Birthday 'Brother Bill'

Today is the 60th birthday of a man who will probably be recognized by future historians as one of the great US presidents. I ain't waiting that long. As far as I'm concered he already is.

Happy birthday, Wlliam Jefferson Clinton!

We African-Americans call him 'Brother Bill' because he was one of the first presidents in a long time who we felt truly understood us, our culture and paid more than lip service to the notion that we are American citizens too.

When he was campaigning in our communities during the runup to the 1992 elections he made a campaign promise to us that his cabinet would 'look like America.' The man from Hope, AK repeatedly let us know that if we trusted him with our votes he wouldn't forget us. He even went on our TV shows like Arsenio, did interviews with our iconic magazines and talked to Black radio outlets to tell us that.

The best part was that when he won in 1992, he won, he kept that promise.

He appointed more African-Americans to his cabinet than Reagan, Daddy Bush and GW Bush combined. He turned a deficit into a surplus. He presided over the longest peacetime economic expansion in our country's history and under Clinton we had the lowest African-American unemployment rate ever in our country's history.

He also wasn't afraid to try to accomplish bold new initiatives. The Human Genome Project was started and completed during his presidency. The Internet became a fixture in American homes. He even tried to pass universal healthcare. He got the Palestinians and Israelis to the table to talk peace. He became the second American president to visit the African continent.

He earned the undying hatred of conservatives. They spent millions on every dirty trick, investigation, and smear campaign they could to undermine his presidency. The Hateraid from conservatives and the GOP attack machine was being consumed in 55 gallon drums. They attacked everyone that was close to him, including the First Lady and his daughter Chelsea.

Through it all, losing the Congress to a GOP landslide in 1994 and the impeachment trial over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he stayed focused on being the president for all of us. For the first time since the Carter administration, I felt included in 'we the people'. He was my generation's John F. Kennedy.

Happy birthday, Brother Bill. May you have many more.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Phyllis Hyman

Another installment in my ongoing series of articles on transgender and non-trans women who have qualities that I admire.

What can I say about the 'Sophisticated Lady'?

Before she tragically took her own life several hours before a show at New York's Apollo Theater in 1995, she was an Broadway actress, model and singer who I and many of her fans felt didn't really get recognized for her talents like her contemporary peers.

Unfortunately, while she was making that music I and many of her fans loved so much, she was dealing with personal issues. Just like her, I spent most of the 80's fighting a major personal issue and connected with her in that regard.

I'll never forget the first time I heard 'You Know How To Love Me' on the radio. I was in high school at the time and a big Mtume fan. I recognized his producing style and wanted to hear more of her music. When I finally got that album a few weeks later and saw that beautiful statuesque sistah in the high fashion clothes, I was hooked.

I loved Phyllis' voice and versatility. In addition to her R&B and jazz chops she even did some rapping on the song 'Don't Wanna Change The World'. I enjoyed seeing her cameo appearance in Spike's second movie School Daze.

I remember awaiting the release of what turned out to be her last CD, I Refuse To Be Lonely. I listened to the title song and I found it quite ironic that she was singing a song about her determination to defiantly move on with her life and it had so tragically ended.

Phyllis was another example to me that tall sistahs do exist and she was a beautiful one at that. It's just too bad that she didn't see the beauty inside her that me and legions of her fans did.

Spain To Permit Legal Gender Switch Without Surgery

The Associated Press


Men who want to be considered women -- and vice versa -- under Spanish law could do so without sex-change surgery under a plan passed Friday by the government, in the latest chapter of a liberal agenda that has angered the Roman Catholic Church.

The bill says transsexuals can change their gender listing and name in Spanish civil registries without undergoing surgery, but on several conditions. A doctor must certify they were born the wrong sex and have been living for an extended period under the one they want, and the person must undergo hormonal or other medical treatment to encourage the change of identity.

"Transsexuality, understood as a change in gender identity, is a social reality that requires a legislative response," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said after a Cabinet meeting.

Spain is home to 7,000 to 9,000 transsexuals -- people who believe they were born with the wrong sex -- but the number of those who have actually undergone sex-change surgery is not known, said Beatriz Gimeno, president of Spain's main federation of gays, lesbians and transsexuals.

She welcomed the new bill, which must go before Parliament, saying Spain was far behind other countries of Europe in protecting the rights of transsexuals.

"It is good that we get up to date with regard to the rights of these people, who are Spanish citizens," Gimeno said.

Spain's state-funded health care system is run by regional governments, two of which -- Andalusia and Extremadura, both in the south -- pay for sex-change operations, according to the Health Ministry.

The new bill is the latest plank in the Socialist government's liberal platform, which has also included legalization of gay marriage and making it easier for Spaniards to divorce.

The measures have infuriated the Catholic Church, which accuses Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of undermining traditional family values.

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Spanish city of Valencia in July for a gathering dedicated to family issues, and during his stay he is due to meet with Zapatero.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Letter To Black Conservatives

This is a letter written September 6, 2005 in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster by Steve Gillard.


Dear Black Conservatives,

I would laugh at you, if thousands of dead didn't litter the streets of New Orleans. Have you read what your conservative allies have written? How they regard black people?To all you black ministers doing "outreach" with Bush: as Dr. Phil says, "how's that working for you?"Seen enough dead black corpses yet to get the point? George Bush is incompetent. He kills Americans with his slovenly ways. Sure, he talks big, but underneath is a tiny man, a man who cannot see beyond his nose. Sure, he talks about being a God-fearing man, but when it comes to Jesus's good works, he could care less. He did nothing to allivate their suffering. How can you face your congregations now? How can you look them in the face, after your betrayal of them is in such stark relief. The man you thought would help you has done nothing but let people suffer and die. How will you explain that to your parishoners? Getting government funding is more important to me than my soul?

To the lackies like Deroy Murdoch and LaShawn Barber: your God, George Bush, has failed you. Have you seen what they think about you, Powerline, Instapundit, Ben Stein, they all think those black people deserve to be dead. The people you suck up to, the people you rely on for praise and support , they hold black people in contempt, in disdain. In short, they are now saying what they have always thought, always believed as they smiled in your face. Deroy, how can you stand to fetch Jonah's coffee, when he suggested the women and children in the Astrodome grow gills. Doesn't it make you ashamed, as you shine his shoes and fetch his laundry, to work with such a man.

LaShawn, after all your praising of Bush as a good Christian, is this what your Bible says: let the meek drown beacause it isn't my fault. I am not responsible. Is that how Jesus would act. How can you look in the mirror, knowing you defended these people, people who mock the suffering of your people.

Armstrong Williams, you knew your conservative friends would abandon you at the drop of a hat, now they abandon an entire city of black people to drown and starve. They blame them for their own fate, even laugh at them, insult their intelligence. How does that make you feel? How can you look at yourself and realize you have not only defended, but promoted these people and their agenda, and when your people were in trouble, would rather toss insults than offer help. Doesn't it prove the bankruptcy of your life so far, the waste it is?

John McWhorter, can you look at the faces of the dead and dying, the suffering of the victims and justify your subservience to whites? Do you now get the reasons for black anger, human anger. It may make you uncomfortable, but do the dead make you any more comfortable? How can you serve the people who would mock the fate of your breathern. Black conservatives must face the reality that they have been lackies to some of America's bitterest racists, people who would mock the suffering of children because they were the wrong color. Doesn't that trouble your sleep? Black conservatives have betrayed the community and must now come to account for their treason. How can they face themselves, much less the community. They have been the allies of racists and those who hold even black children in contempt.The dead and suffering of New Orleans demand no less.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 2006 TransGriot Column

We ARE Role Models-To The Entire World
Copyright 2006, THE LETTER

While I was in Philly collecting the Trinity I earned I spent some quality time reconnecting with my girls Jordana and Dionne. Thanks to her musical talents she's probably the most well known African-American transwoman on the planet. She’s also lived in London and Thailand and has friends and contacts all over the world.

During our conversations she and Dionne reminded me of something that I’ve observed over the years but didn't connect the dots until they pointed it out.

African-Americans are considered some of the wealthiest people of African descent on the planet because we live in the United States. Many of our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, Africa and throughout the African Diaspora seek to emulate us. They look to us for guidance and leadership on many issues. In addition, our African cousins admire the Jamaicans and us.

What that means is that whatever we do as African-Americans has reverberations throughout the Diaspora. People in the Motherland take their cues from them and us.

How much, you ask? In addition to culture and style issues, the African colonial independence movement used the American Civil Rights movement as a model. Nelson Mandela borrowed Dr. King’s tactics when South Africans began waging their own successful battle against apartheid. He mentioned in a speech during the 90’s that support from African-Americans was critical to that success and that he and other South Africans listened to Motown, various R&B and rap artists for inspiration at various times during their decades long struggle for freedom.

Our influence even extends to attitudes about various social issues. Jordana pointed out that homophobic rap artists in the States influence much of the
homophobic content of Jamaican reggae. The sellout ministers anti-homophobic stances and US politicians using anti-gay attacks to divert attention from pressing domestic problems or to defuse political dissent has filtered back to the Motherland via Jamaica.

Here are some disturbing examples of it.

Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi has denounced homosexuality as a “scourge".

After hearing reports that a gay wedding had taken place in a Kampala suburb between a hairdresser and his boyfriend, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke out against same sex relationships by saying that the full law should be used against such "abominable acts".

Nigeria was preparing in April to pass a punitive law that would not only prohibit same sex marriages, but would also punish people who witness, celebrate with or support couples involved in same sex relationships with mandatory five year jail sentences.

Our African cousins even have their own code word for their homophobia. Instead of screaming ‘special rights’ they will argue that homosexuality is "un-African." In other words they blame the European colonizers. They declare that homosexuality is foreign to the continent, against its teachings and traditions and even against what the Bible teaches.

In fact some Africans will go further in buttressing this bogus argument by stating that there is no word for homosexuals or homosexuality in their local African languages.

But it’s common knowledge on the continent that an ancient Ugandan king "paid special attention to boys in his court". A former national President and a prominent church leader on the African continent were recently convicted of sodomy and sexual assault.

The most enthusiastic practitioners of anti-GLBT policies are Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Namibia’s former president Sam Nujoma. Mugabe has been very outspoken since 1995 against gays and has been quoted as saying “homosexuals are lower than pigs and dogs". He has backed up his hate speech by relentlessly persecuting GLBT people in his country.

President Nujoma told University of Namibia students on March 19, 2001 that "The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality or lesbianism here. Police are ordered to arrest you, deport you and imprison you."

Members of Nujoma's cabinet have made similar statements that homosexuals should be "eliminated" from Namibian society. The intolerant climate they created led to the death of a Namibian transwoman last year.

So when we say on TSTB that our images and perceptions in the African-American transgender community need to be more positive, we aren’t kidding.

The ability of people in the Diaspora and on the African continent to live their lives proudly and openly may depend on our ability in the United States to do just that.