Monday, April 30, 2007

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

TransGriot Note: After the original May TransGriot column got sent to my editor I discovered a few e-mails from both sides of the debate that it was too late for me to add to the article after my deadline. The other problem I ran into was having to edit some very interesting and well thought out responses in order to fit it into my column's word limit. So in this post I'm going to continue the discussion.

photo-transwoman violinist and singer Tona Brown

All the panelists are African-American and ranged in age from 25-55. They are residents of East Coast and Midwestern US cities. The transwomen in terms of transition time range from a few months to 20 plus years.

In addition to transwomen Joann, Traci, Lexi and Angelica and biowomen Audrea and Jazz from the May TransGriot column, Part 2 will add the comments of blogger Jackie to the mix along with transwoman Tia.

I tried to keep as much of the flava of the original e-mail responses as possible but some editing was done for the sake of clarity.

The Questions

1. TransGriot: What do we transwomen need to bring to the table to make friendships between us and genetic women work successfully?

First of all I am glad to see this being addressed. I will try not to be too wordy.

Although I know it's important for transwomen to have their own community, I absolutely feel they should be understood and included as women, period. I think we would both be stronger for it.

One of the problems is Transgender visibility. After transition many transwomen disappear into stealth mode. I certainly understand that. But it's damaging, when the only supposedly Transgender people visible are on the Maury Povich or Jerry Springer show. I hate that. So one thing transwomen can do is be out there in the world honestly. Interact with biowomen but do it honestly. Many non trans people don't know the difference between RuPaul doing her drag thing and a Transgender woman working in an office.

Remember that biowomen never think of gender, they don't have to. So the thing transwomen need to get across to biowomen is that the thing that makes you a woman is the same for both. It's not genitalia but how you are wired. If you are wired in your mind, spirit and psyche as a female there is nothing that will change that. Then find common ground we all have as women, our similar challenges and triumphs. Be open to friendships.

OK,OK ......seriously...... Assuming we’re talkin’ bout a friendly capacity and not romantic.

Trans women need to bring nothing...Just themselves...Most of the Trans women I have meet personally are pretty decent people... some are not quite sane ...But that’s ok neither am I

I think many Transwomen have a lot of emotional baggage which puts a lot of people off.. We can be overly critical and too quick to judge...and times this can be rough to deal with...even for me and I am well aware of all the reasons behind it.. Transwomen can be very guarded when it
comes to dealing with people outside of our community...some is justifiable some is not. In either case for a person, GG in particular who does not know a person is trans guarded behavior comes off to them as the TG acting flaky.. My thinking is that if many Transwomen could figure out how to not bring all that bad attitude to the table when we meeting genetic women for the first time things may work out a lot better..

I feel that communication and honesty are important parts of any friendship; regardless of the friends' appearances or backgrounds. Personally, I feel that transwomen and genetic women are the same essentially, and they should all be treated, as such. Some women may feel threatened or resentment towards transwomen, but those feelings are based on fear and ignorance. These things have no place in a true friendship.

What has worked for me so far has been not being forceful about being included in whatever activities or conversations are going on. I usually wait until an offer to join is extended. I don’t try to take over anything that’s being discussed. I tend to start off by listening first and then finding areas where I can make a comment or two. I think that this has caused them to feel comfortable around me and include me in whatever’s going on. It’s resulted in being invited to lunch every day, shopping trips, parties, dinners, picture sharing and trips to Virginia Beach & Puerto Rico. It’s only taken a short time to feel included.

I would think that you should just be you. Be open and honest about yourselves and who & what you are. But this does not mean that you have to bend over backwards. To fit just because you were not born a genetic women.

2. TransGriot: What do genetic women need to do to make it work?

I think genetic women should just be open to getting to knowing transwomen.

I think many need to learn the truth about what we Transgendered Women are and are not. It’s time to let a lot those old misconceptions about us go. It seems that a lot of our Genetic counterparts are a still very far behind the times in this respect. Some Bio women look at Transwomen as being some kind of threat to their femininity and they get very resentful to any and all Transwomen, especially one who can put herself together better than she can. This bugs the hell out of some Biowomen because it makes them feel that they have some how been neglecting themselves and that’s when we called a whole bunch of "Fake Bitches" by you and stuff. This sort of stuff needs to stop because it's not right on so many levels when you have to make some one else feel bad in order to make yourself feel good.

Understand that a transwoman is a woman. Not a man dressed as a woman. Not a man who chose to become a woman. Interact with transwomen as we would any woman but, appreciate the journey any transwoman must have had. Be open and don't stereotype.

I feel that if genetic women educated themselves more thoroughly about transwomen and the trans lifestyle, they would be much less likely to enter friendships or relationships with transwomen with stigmas and fear in their hearts. Being a transwoman is not so different from being a genetic woman, as far as feelings are concerned. If more genetic women realized this, this would not be in question.

Patience and understanding that I haven’t been at this as long as you have and will make some mistakes. But, don’t assume I am a total novice or that I don’t understand “any” of what your saying or feeling. In fact, don’t assume anything. Just treat me as any other woman but know that I may ask a question that you’ve known since you were a teenager.

3. TransGriot: What in your opinion are the mistakes that both parties make that create barriers to forming healthy friendships and what can be done to avoid them?

The mistakes we as transwomen make are “demanding” to be included in women’s social groups without first being invited and then being disruptive and argumentative when we get there and also not learning to communicate and socialize as women.

The mistakes biowomen make would be seeing us as “men in women’s clothing” and not understanding what it really means to be “trans”.

Transwomen be honest. People don't like to be fooled. Of course it is an individual choice to reveal (and when to reveal) one's background information but it is difficult to form healthy friendships not based on honesty.

For biowomen, be respectful. Do not ask stupid, invasive personal questions. Respect gender presentation. Regardless of where a transwoman may be in her transition, pre-op, post-op or no-op respect her, get to know her.

Education, education, education. The more one knows, the less likely it is for us to make harsh comments, and see people for who they truly are. People. Everyone is different. So, if we all try to make less assumptions about a particular type of woman (trans or genetic), the more likely it is for us all to get along. I think a lot of mistakes are made when there's a bias or self-righteousness on either side; which can cause rifts on either side.

The barriers might be for the genetic women not feeling that transwomen are real women because they were not born in a woman's body. As for the transwomen I would think it would be just trying to be accepted as a woman. Said to say but we do not know much about trans gender people as a whole. The more we know the better we can understand each other and get along.

We both do not give each other due respect. We TGs and GGs go in attack mode when in each others company...ready to rip into each other head off as soon as something get said that’s the slightest bit out of line. Nobody want a friends like that.

What can be done on our part? We need develop a thicker skin and not be so rough on GG's .. We need to learn that not every GG in the world is not out to dog us because we are not "real women" as the saying goes ...Some just don't know and others may be just stuck on stupid ...but that should not be held against all have to deal with each on a individual basis...Some just need time to get used to the notion that you are a woman...others never will get it...It’s like i wrote earlier "Some Women don't Like other women period Trans or Bio

I also think there is not enough positive Transwomen of color who are open about being Trans....It is getting a lot better mind you but I think we as Black TGs still have a long way to go. A big part of being trans is wanting to fit in or to blend with other women and to go unnoticed... But on the down side all this covert stuff is that it’s counter productive and ends up hurting more that it helps...How can you ask people to understand who and what a Transgenderd woman is if no one really knows one personally? The only one most folks know bout is the Tranny Hooker on the corner...Therefore she is by default represents for all of us to that community.

Because in most cases she is the only Trans woman any body knows about...No one knows that the big ole tall lady across the street was born a male....Nah, she couldn’t be a TRANS she’s so sweet and everybody loves her. Unfortunately the big ole tall lady choose to be in Deep Stealth and allow the misconception about Transwomen to persist which ultimately pushed the next Transwoman into even Deeper Stealth yet.

At some point this cycle has to be broken. My thinking is that that only way we are going to break it is to give more folks outside the TG community a chance to get to know us by living and working around Transwomen of color who are positive, proud of being a Transwoman and are not afraid to stand up and be recognized as such.

The discussion continues with Part 3

May 2007 TransGriot Column

Genetic Women and Transwomen: Can We Be Friends?
Copyright 2007, THE LETTER

I’ve done a lot of thinking about the undercurrent of tension between genetic women and transwomen. I posted the following set of questions on the Net a few weeks ago to discover if it were possible to overcome the hostility and form healthy friendships with each other.

1-What do we transwomen need to bring to the table to make friendships between us and genetic women work successfully?

2-What do genetic women need to do to make it work?

3-What in your opinion are the mistakes that both parties make that create barriers to forming healthy friendships and what can be done to avoid them?

4-What are the advantages/disadvantages to both parties in cultivating friendships with the other?

Thanks to transwomen Joann, Traci, Lexi and Angelica and biowomen Audrea and Jazz for consenting to express their thoughts on this subject. It’s deeply appreciated.

The consensus of both sides to Question 1 was that transwomen simply need to be themselves and be open and honest about their status.

Audrea stated, “I feel that communication and honesty are important parts of any friendship; regardless of the friends' appearances or backgrounds. Personally, I feel that transwomen and genetic women are the same essentially, and they should all be treated as such. Some women may feel threatened or resentment towards transwomen, but those feelings are based on fear and ignorance. These things have no place in a true friendship.

The consensus on both sides concerning Question 2 was that education was the answer

“I think genetic women should just be open to getting to know transwomen,“ said Jazz.

Joann agreed. “I think many need to learn the truth about what transgendered women are and are not. It’s time to let a lot those old misconceptions about us go.”

The panelist’s thoughts about Question 3 were that insecurities on both sides and lack of respect for one another led to the condescending comments and disagreements that inflames tensions between the two groups.

"I think if some of us were honest, I believe on both the side of genetic women and the side of transsexual women there is an element of intimidation. Women who are around beautiful transsexuals compare themselves by thinking "I'm a real woman, and I don't look like that." or "I'm a real woman, you're just pretending to be one." And as transsexuals we sometimes are intimidated believing that they are indeed "real" women and we are not. So sometimes we over compensate for the things we believe we lack in being a "real" woman,” said Angelica.

Question 4 had both groups seeing having the other as friends being a plus.

“They should comprehend the fact that we can be very formidable allies when it comes to deciphering the male ego. They should also know how deeply we desire to bond with them as the true sisters that we all need to be,” said Traci.

As for the negatives, the transwomen expressed concerns that the insecurities of both groups would rear their ugly heads or that their genetic female friend would be mistaken for a transwoman once they start hanging with the genetic woman on a consistent basis.

“I have to say that I think the issue in relationships between transwomen and natal women is multi-dimensional. I think Angelica said it best when she wrote about the insecurities that both sets of women feel around the other. So, in my opinion, that is the first and probably biggest factor,” said Lexi.

So in closing, there appears to be willingness on both sides to keep open minds and get to know each other.

Said Audrea, “I say that the more diversity one is exposed to, the better. I don't see any disadvantages developing when involved in an open, adult friendship. I appreciate my transwomen and men friends just as much as my genetic friends. When choosing friends what gender one is should make no difference. I'm happy to say, for me it's a non-issue.

Same here.

TransGriot note: This article triggered a series of blog posts on the subject.

I'm Boycotting Jamaica

No love
It's not right
If you're gay in Jamaica
You get beat down on sight

(sung to the tune of Bob Marley's 'One Love')

TRELAWNY, JAMAICA - A cross-dreser was set upon and severely beaten by a mob in Falmouth's Water Square yesterday morning.

Police who were called to the scene had to fire warning shots to disperse the stone-throwing, stick-wielding mob, which succeeded in tearing off the man's black-and-white form-fitting blouse and jet black wig.

According to eyewitnesses, the man was spotted at approximately 8:30 am in the town centre apparently waiting for transportation. He was wearing heavy make-up, high-heeled shoes, a long pair of shiny earrings, a black leather jacket over a snug black-and-white blouse, a tight-fitting pair of jeans, a black wig, a pair of sunglasses and a handbag slung over his broad shoulders.

It was not clear yesterday how the alarm was first raised. However, the Observer was told that the assault began as soon as someone in the busy square shouted that the person was actually a man wearing female attire.

The news of the man's presence in the community spread rapidly and in a matter of minutes scores of angry residents converged on the scene and began to rain blows all over the cross-dresser's body with sticks, stones and whatever weapon they could find. "Where is the police station at?" the frightened man screamed.

During the melee, the wig the man was wearing fell off and wads of newspaper stuffed in a brasserie to lift the man's chest dislodged, while a cosmetic kit containing lipsticks of varying colours was thrown from a bag he was carrying, much to the amusement of the large crowd who stood watching.

"B***y boy fe dead," persons among the mob shouted. The sentiments were echoed by the rest of the riled-up crowd.

"Falmouth no pet no b***y boy. We no want none a them bout here," one woman yelled.

After the mob dispersed, the victim was whisked off in a police service vehicle, much to the disapproval of the crowd who rushed upon the vehicle demanding the man's release. "If you ever did see him. Him dress hotter than you and me," one young girl was overheard telling her friend.

"Nu worry man, we gi him a proper [beating]," one man said proudly.

The man was admitted to a hospital. However, a police spokesman said last night that a group of people, who wanted to beat the man on his release, were waiting outside the hospital, which, he said, could delay his release from the health facility.

Yesterday's beating was the second such in a month in western Jamaica.
In the previous incident, several men alleged to be homosexuals were chased, beaten and stabbed, resulting in one of them being hospitalised, during the Supreme Ventures carnival on Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay. The men were said to have gone onto the stage and gyrated on each other, angering the patrons.


Sadly, this is not an isolated incident in Jamaica these days.

When is someone in the Jamaican government gonna step up to the plate and state the obvious? It's not okay to beat down or kill your fellow citizens simply because you ASSUME they are gay, don't like who they sleep with if they are, or look better in a dress and heels than you do. It's also bull feces to hide behind religion to justify your naked bigotry.

Until Prime Minister Portia Simpson or someone in the Jamaican government makes that simple declaration, I propose that GLBT people worldwide initiate an immediate economic boycott of Jamaica.

Maybe hitting them in the wallet will get them to stop the madness.

The sad part is that Jamaica is one of my top ten places in the world that I would love to visit. But since they're beating and killing GLBT people on the streets and probably aren't taking the time to ascertain whether they're tourists or locals, I'm not going to the most homophobic place on Earth.

As of today I refuse to spend any more of my hard earned dollars on potential Jamaican vacations, Jamaican products, Red Stripe or Jamaican rums until they come to their senses. If I'm on a cruise and the ship stops in a Jamaican port I'm not going ashore to support the local economy.

If Jamaicans will not make room for my GLBT brothers and sisters to live peacably in their homeland and continue to viciously attack them and kill them, then why should my dollars support their naked bigotry and hatred?

Thank you Bishop Noel Jones. You and your cohorts in the Jamaican Anglican church have the blood of the Jamaican GLBT community on your hands for not only fostering the climate of hatred, but lobbying the Jamaican parliament to keep the anti-gay laws in place that are one of the root causes of the violence.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Arsenioooooooooooooooooo Hall!

AC and I were talking politics one day over dinner. During the course of our discussion the Arsenio Hall show appearance of Brother Bill came up. I smiled when I remembered the nights I used to eagerly tune in to watch Arsenio.

Through 1,284 shows aired from January 3, 1989 to May 27, 1994 Cleveland-born Arsenio Hall gave Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno major competition in the late night talk show arena. His show pulled a 3.9 rating at its peak which was remarkable considering it was syndicated and it varied in the times that it aired in various markets.

Some of the elements of Arsenio's show were timeless. He had a band led by Michael Wolff and he opened his show with a monologue. But it was a hip and cool talk show geared to my generation, the MTV generation and my culture.

It was groundbreaking as well. Before the end of the year people were barking and pumping their fists in the air mimicking Arsenio's shout outs to the 'Dog Pound' section of his studio.

He didn't have a sidekick or an anchor desk. He did have couches to give the guests the feeling as if they were sitting in his living room. He put a multiethnic cross section of artists, musicians athletes, comedians and other personalities on his stage who weren't normally invited to other late night shows.

To realize just how groundbreaking The Arsenio Hall Show was you have to see old videotapes of it (or just check out the TransGriot Video). Every major act of the 90's from MC Hammer to TLC to Mariah Carey performed on that stage. The rap world got a major boost from various artists being spotlighted on his show. Even old school artists like James Brown and Prince came on Arsenio to perform.

He also used the show as an education platform as well. Magic Johnson made his first public appearance on Arsenio's show after disclosing he'd contracted HIV. He did one commemorating Dr. King and his legacy. Jesse Jackson, Sr. made an appearance. Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan was one guest that caused controversy along with Andrew 'Dice' Clay. Then presidential candidate Bill Clinton came on Arsenio in a surprise appearance that many pundits agree probably won the 1992 election for him.

Hall received two NAACP Image Awards in 1991 and a Key of Life Award for his work as “a crusader in the fight of human rights."

Since 1994 the late night talk show world hasn't been the same without Arsenio around. Here's hoping that one day he'll grace our late night TV screens again with his presence.

I Am NOT A 'Queen'

Me and my homegirl Sharron were having another one of our marathon phone conversations the other night. (despite the fact I've been battling a nasty bug for the last few days) She's an intelligent biowoman with a very enlightened outlook on things and fun to be around. Her friends encompass a diverse spectrum of people, including the TransGriot.

She's been instrumental in helping me understand the way Louisvillians think. She's been a major ally in terms of getting me to see that femininity is between your ears, not your genital configuration. Sharron also doesn't hesitate in checking me when I start whining about how I wish I'd been born female from jumpstreet. At the same time I've spent more than a few nights helping her decipher the mysteries of biomale behavior.

During our chat she relayed a conversation that she had with a gay male in which she was discussing me and a friend of mine. She objected to the gay male's constant references to transwomen as 'queens' and called him on it. The gay male dismissively said to her, "If they still have a d--- they're queens to me."

News flash to any gay or straight male, straight female, lesbian or anybody else who harbors that assumption. No disrespect to peeps that may think of themselves that way but I'm nobody's queen. I have friends who do shows. I occasionally judge pageants if asked but I am NOT a drag queen. I am a transwoman.

That condescending attitude is what causes major problems between the gay male and transgender communities. It's that Jim Fourattesque dissing of us that has been around since Stonewall that we regularly have to call peeps on.

Fouratt was one of the founders of the post-Stonewall Gay Liberation Front. He's also in some transpeeps eyes the third most hated person in the transgender community behind Janice Raymond and Germaine Greer. His views that transwomen are just 'misguided gay men who undergone sexual mutilations' enraged many of us. He has a long history through the 80's and 90's of liberally eating Hater tots when it comes to transpeople.

Unfortunately his views are still shared by many peeps of his generation. They continue to be espoused by some gay peeps from the elite upper echelons of it to the working class gay clubs. Fouratt described transgender transitions as a socially-forced "cure of homosexuality that were submitted to by confused, crazy queens". This wildly incorrect and distorted image of us was unfortunately accepted by many gay men.

That false image negatively impacted relations between the transgender and gay communites for over two decades. We fought a decade long battle with elements of the Houston Gay Lesbian Political Caucus just to get included in that influential organization. The time we wasted fighting each other distracted us from the bigger issue of the radical Religious Right-Republican takeover of Harris County and Texas. We still have echoes of this drama when you hear some GLB activists claim that we aren't part of 'their' movement or that we shouldn't be participating in 'their' pride parades.

The late Sylvia Rivera (who I had an interesting chat with during a New York vacation in May 2000) was a Stonewall Vet and founder of STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) She had this to say in 2001 about Fouratt which is apropos to this post.

"You and others must realize that as many of you were born gay males we are born Trans. Stop speaking for me and my sisters and brothers of the Trans Community. We can speak for ourselves. Neither you nor anyone else can know our lives and our feelings."

That's one reason why this blog exists. Too many misconceptions are around about transgender peeps, especially transpeeps with my ethnic heritage. In many cases the myths and misperceptions are promoted and spread by folks who are supposed to be our allies.

Do me and other transpeeps a favor. Honor Sylvia's memory by letting us speak for and define ourselves.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NTAC Lobby Days May 15-17

I'm going to be pulling the blue and black power suits out of the closet, packing my black flats in my bags and heading to DC next month to take part in NTAC's portion of Transgender Lobby Week May 15-17.

NTAC, NCTE and GenderPac are all hitting the Hill that week to lobby in support of HR 1592, the transgender inclusive Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevetion Act that has been introduced in the House by the CBC's Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and in the Senate by Sen Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen Gordon Smith (R-OR).

Yesterday the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced in the House by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Christopher Shays (R-CT). NTAC is currently examining the bill language to ascertain if the proposed legislation actually covers transgender people. If it does then the lobbying effort will be expanded to advocating for passage of that bill as well.

I haven't been up there since 1999 and I'm looking forward to it. This trip to DC will have a different feel to it. In addition to this being the first time I've participated in a lobby day when the Dems were running thangs on Capitol Hill, we actually have a damned good shot at making some history happen.

If you're interested in participating and haven't lobbied before, no sweat. A training session will be held on May 15 and we will have some experienced peeps to pair you up with. Lobbying is not just the province of DC based law firms, 527 orgs or corporations. You do the hiring and firing of these congresspeeps by exercising your right to vote. It is your right and duty as an American citizen and constituent to see what your congressmember is up to.

If you're worried about what to say, don't. You are more persuasive than any K Street pro in the eyes of your congresspeeps. All you have to do is stand tall, dress professionally and simply tell your story.

If you want to help make some history and participate drop AC a line at or hit up the NTAC website at

You don't have to be transgender to participate. If you simply want to help I'm sure Ethan, AC and company will greatly appreciate any time or assistance you can give them in terms of making this lobby day a fun, prductive and successful event.

TransGriot note: I'm definitely planning on giving y'all the 411 on what happened while I was on the Hill exercising my constitutional rights to visit my lawmakers. I hope some of you can join us as well.

In Iraqinam

sung to the tune of 'Village Ghetto Land' by Stevie Wonder)

Would you like to patrol with me
Down this Baghdad street?
Would you like to come with me
To Iraqinam?

See the soldiers kick down doors
While insurgents kidnap and steal
Car bombings and IED's
Taking lives, legs and hands

Firefights break out everywhere
It's a chaotic scene
Killing plagues the citizens
In a Baghdad less serene

Our troops need to come home now
The American public understands
Neocons laugh, get rich and drink
While ignoring our demands

America should stay the course
Says the commander in chief
Iraqis and us burying our dead
While we all express our grief

Neocons say we should be happy
'Cause there's no more Saddam
Tell me would you be happy
In Iraqinam?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is the Lone Star State Turning Back To Blue?

I've been saying for several years now that the current GOP dominance of Texas is a temporary thing because of the Lone Star State's longer history as a bastion of progressive populist politics and the cyclical nature of politics in general.

A recent DSCC poll conducted from April 11-15, 2007 of 800 registered likely voters has some interesting findings. The polls plus-minus error rate was 3.5%

*Texas voters give President George W. Bush a negative job rating (47% positive – 51% negative) and they are split in their opinion as to whether their family would be better off with a Democratic or Republican majority in the United States Senate (41% Democrats – 43% Republicans).

* A strong plurality of Texas voters believes the country is headed in the wrong direction (34% right direction – 49% wrong direction). Voters give President Bush an even more negative job rating on his handling of Iraq (41% positive – 57% negative).

* Republican John Cornyn has lower than expected name recognition for an incumbent US Senator, with 40% of the electorate unable to rate Cornyn either favorably or unfavorably. Overall, Senator Cornyn’s favorability rating is 41% favorable – 19% unfavorable.

* Senator Cornyn’s re-elect vote preference against a generic Democrat is under 50% (47% Republican John Cornyn - 38% Democratic candidate - 15% undecided).

With 2008 being a presidential election year could Texas finally be carried by a Democrat for the first time since Jimmy Carter accomplished the feat in 1976?

Cornyn's plummeting popularity coincides with a long overdue resurgence in the Texas Democratic Party. In the November 2006 elections they sent former US reps Nick Lampson and Ciro Rodriguez back to Congress. The most delicious part of Lampson's victory is that he now represents the congressional district of the man who in 2003 Delaymandered him and five Democrats out of office during an unprecedented and contentious mid-year partisan redistricting.

That midyear redistricting resulted in the Democratic House and Senate contingents relocating to Oklahoma and New Mexico in order to deny the Republicans a quorum to conduct business. The GOP-controlled Lege couldn't come to consensus on what to do about Texas public school financing system despite being under a court ordered deadline to fix it, but Governor Rick Perry in order to do Delay's bidding called two special sessions specifically for the redistricting issue over the objections of many Texans.

Six new Democratic state representatives were elected to whittle the GOP margin down to 81-69 and put them within striking distance of regaining the Texas House. They also swept local, judicial and county races in Dallas and Hays counties. Last weekend a DSCC fundraising event in Austin raked in an astounding $1.1 million from supporters throughout the state. Back in my home county, according to the most recent credible polling data more Harris County voters call themselves Democrats than Republicans by a 43% to 33% margin.

It's positive trends like this across the state that have Texas Democrats energized. They are determined to take the Lone Star State back from the peeps that ruined it in the first place.

Many Texans are weary of 13 years of total Republican control of state government that has brought massive debt, scandal, reactionary policies and inaction on many issues. They remember how the late Ann Richards as governor from 1990-1994 efficiently erased a $6 billion debt, turned it into a $2 billion surplus, had the most inclusive administration in Texas history and through her magnetic personality got several major companies to relocate their corporate headquarters to Texas in just a single term.

Texas is also considering legislation to move the 2008 primary date up from early March to February 5. With Texas being a major electoral vote rich state, moving up the primary date would force presidential candidates of both parties to spend more time actually campaigning in The Lone Star State instead of treating it like a political ATM machine.

For national Democrats to continue their momentum toward becoming the majority party they have to get Texas back in the game. The Texas Democratic Party has to channel the spirit of great Texas women such as Ann Richards, Billie Carr and Barbara Jordan. They also need to combine it with the political courage of Ralph Yarborough and Barbara Jordan's rock solid ethics.

They've also got to be in it to win it. Texas Dems can't be 'scurred' to articulate their message against peeps whose 'proven conservative leadership' campaign mantra only proves how well they muck up things and gay bait to cover it up. Never again should an election happen in which every top statewide office went uncontested as it did to my disgust in 2000.

It looks like they may finally be doing just that. It couldn't have happened at a better time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Why I Can't Stand The NRA

No sooner than I'd hit the SAVE button on my Virginia Tech post did the National Rifle Association chime in with their bull feces assertion that if the students had been armed the tragedy wouldn't have happened.

Just what I want to see. Drunken fratboys indiscriminately firing 9MM pistols at campus gatherings.

I believe if you want to have a gun, that's your prerogative. My dad owned one and so did my grandfathers. I owned a BB gun and was taught how to properly use it by my grandfather. Like 73% of the American population I want common sense restrictions on guns. I don't think anybody should have AK-47's, Uzis or M-16's since those weapons are only designed for one purpose: to kill mass quantities of humans as quickly as possible.

My dislike of the NRA actually started in February 2000 when I came to Frankfort to help lobby for passage of a civil rights bill. We were done with our appointments by 1 PM and decided to sit in the gallery and watch the Kentucky House session play out on the floor. I'd noticed Lexington and Louisville police officers meandering in the Capitol building and discovered they were there in support of a bill that then state rep Eleanor Jordan (D-Louisville) was sponsoring.

The Louisville and Lexington PD's were seeing the same guns repeatedly being confiscated in commissions of crimes and were destroying them after the criminal cases were disposed of. Injunctions were filed to stop it after it became public knowledge that's what was happening to those guns. Rep. Jordan's bill would simply give them the authority to do so.

You would think that a bill that helps the police do their jobs more effectively and takes weapons out of the hands of criminals would be a slam dunk with 'law and order' Republicans, right?

Not in GOP Bizarro World. For some reason this was seen as 'gun control legislation' that got a full frontal assault from the NRAoids in the Kentucky House. I and the Louisville and Lexington officers in attendance watched dumbfounded over the next ninety minutes as this bill was attacked. The surreal nature the debate took at one point made me wonder if I was watching aTwilight Zone episode. One rural Kentucky legislator suggested in response to one of Rep. Jordan's points about the different ways rural and urban peeps view guns that the NRA come into the 'hood and do gun safety training.

Rep. Jordan pointed out along with other urban legislators that the kids could probably teach the NRA instructors a few things about guns they didn't know. They turned deaf ears on the concerns of urban legislators about the toll gun violence was taking on our kids and forced votes on two amendments that went down urban-rural/suburban lines. The amendments basically gutted Rep. Jordan's bill to the point where she ended up voting against the bill she authored. To add insult to injury the amendments not only contained language banning Kentucky police departments from tracking the serial numbers on confiscated weapons but ordered then to be turned over to the state police for sale at auction. As the urban legislators feared two of those confiscated weapons sold at a state police auction were used in commission of a series of murders in Louisville later that year.

Rep. Jordan was majorly upset about what happened to her bill along with the police officers in the gallery and let them have it on the floor. Little did any of us know that when she attempted a few months later to become the first African-American elected to Congress from Kentucky a snippet of the news film of her excoriating the NRAoids was used in an Anne Northup attack ad aimed at her.

Like many issues in this country gun control has the volatile element of race in it. Your attitude about guns in the United States depends on your race, gender and where you live. If you're white, male and a suburban/rural dweller nine times out of ten you probably have an NRA sticker on your car. If you're a city dweller like I am you most likely won't.

The NRA knows they have a serious image problem in my community. Various NRA leaders such as Charlton Heston, Wayne LaPierre and Ted Nugent have made racist statements over the years and that perception crystallized over the last decade thanks to their overwhelming support of GOP candidates.

The NRA trotted out Karl Malone and former US House Rep JC Watts (R-OK) several years ago in an 'I'm The NRA' ad campaign attempting to counter the views of many African-Americans that they are a racist organization. They are still deafeningly silent on the issue that matters most to African-Americans: ratcheting down the level of gun violence in our communities. Their simplistic 'buy more guns' spin doesn't wash.

I'm sick of the myopic attitude that the gun peeps have toward sensible gun legislation. Unfortunately the NRA lobby has become a powerful one on the Hill and in many states that many politicians on both sides of the aisle are loath to cross. Anyone who criticizes them is labeled an 'anti-gun extremist'. If that criticism comes from a celeb or a media pundit they are bombarded with sometimes profane e-mails from the pro-gun zealots. If by some miracle politicians get some cojones and pass sensible legislation like the Brady Bill, it gets attacked and watered down and the politicians who passed it find themselves either threatened by the NRA or in a political race with a well funded opponent in the next election cycle.

For years people have worked to have peeps with mental illnesses added to the National Registry of peeps banned from purchasing guns. The NRA has opposed that.
Now a person with a history of mental illness passed a watered down gun check and used those weapons he purchased to kill 31 peeps and himself on the Virgina Tech campus. While those students were grieving, a man who got a bad performance review killed his supervisor and held a woman hostage at NASA's JSC campus in Houston. This incident ironically took place on the seventh anniversary of the Columbine High School tragedy.

How many more lives must we lose before the NRA gets over their fetishistic love affair with guns and hiding behind the Second Amendment to justify a gun culture that is making us less safe?

By the way, when is Vice President Cheney scheduled for his NRA gun safety training class?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happy Birthday 'Lufer'

With all the negativity that April 20 is associated with in terms of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado and it being Adolf Hitler's birthday I thought it was time to point out something positive that happened on this date.

Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born in New York City in 1951.

Boy do I miss 'Lufer' as one of my friends used to pronounce his name. I remember when I first heard him singing during the disco era on Change's 'The Glow Of Love and Searchin' tracks and my reaction when I walked into Soundwaves and saw his Never Too Much album being sold.

There are very few artists that I buy their albums, much less debut ones without listening to it first but I did in this case. I wasn't disappointed.

From that point on every time he released an album or CD I was plunking down cash on the counters of my local record stores to purchase them. I attended EVERY Luther Vandross concert during the 80s and up until 1991.

Yeah, I'm a huge Luther fan. The man could SANG. The 25 million albums sold, the 14 albums ithat hit either platinum or multi-platinum status, eight Grammy Awards and other awards he won over his career are a testament to that. He had much success in the commercial jingle arena as well. It's also impossible to count the number of people who got busy to his music or how many children were conceived as a result of their parents listening to Luther's romantic songs.

Even the 1999 movie The Wood alluded to this when two of the characters, Alicia and Mike ended up slow dancing at a junior high school dance to Luther's 'If This World Were Mine'. They later remembered the moment as high school juniors. They were in Alicia's bedroom when the song played on the radio just before she and Mike lost their virginity together.

It's ironic that the lifelong bachelor who became synonymous with love, romance and relationships was himself always in search of them. He was consistently dogged by gay rumors which he vehemently denied during his lifetime. He was posthumously outed after his death due to the complications from the debilitating stroke he suffered in April 2003.

He was interviewed in May 2004 on Oprah and at the end of it sang "I believe in the power of love" in reference to his 1991 hit song 'Power of Love'. I cried for ten minutes after hearing that and hoped like many Luther fans that he was on the road to recovery. Unfortunately he took a turn for the worse a year later and passed away July 1, 2005.

Luther is no longer here with us, but his music, the fond memories I have of those concerts and the memory of his Oprah television appearance will stay with me forever.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nikki Giovanni's Encounter With Cho

Professor Had Expelled Gunman From Class

AP National Writer

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- The mood in the basketball arena was
defeated, funereal. Nikki Giovanni seemed an unlikely source of
strength for a Virginia Tech campus reeling from the depravity of one
of its own.

Tiny, almost elfin, her delivery blunted by the loss of a lung,
Giovanni brought the crowd at the memorial service to its feet and
whipped mourners into an almost evangelical fervor with her
words: "We are the Hokies. We will prevail, we will prevail. We are
Virginia Tech."

Nearly two years earlier, Giovanni had stood up to Cho Seung-Hui
before he drenched the campus in blood. Her comments Tuesday showed
that the man who had killed 32 students and teachers had not killed
the school's spirit.

"We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid," the 63-year-old
poet with the close-cropped, platinum hair told the grieving
crowd. "We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We
are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to
invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this
In September 2005, Cho was enrolled in Giovanni's introduction to creative writing class. From the beginning, he began building a wall between himself and the rest of the class.

He wore sunglasses to class and pulled his maroon knit cap down low
over his forehead. When she tried to get him to participate in class
discussion, his answer was silence.

"Sometimes, students try to intimidate you," Giovanni told The
Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. "And I just
assumed that he was trying to assert himself."

But then female students began complaining about Cho.

About five weeks into the semester, students told Giovanni that Cho
was taking photographs of their legs and knees under the desks with
his cell phone. She told him to stop, but the damage was already done.

Female students refused to come to class, submitting their work by
computer instead. As for Cho, he was not adding anything to the
classroom atmosphere, only detracting.

Police asked Giovanni not to disclose the exact content or nature of
Cho's poetry. But she said it was not violent like other writings
that have been circulating.

It was more invasive.

"Violent is like, `I'm going to do this,'" said Giovanni, a three-
time NAACP Image Award winner who is sometimes called "the princess
of black poetry." This was more like a personal violation, as if Cho
were objectifying his subjects, "doing thing to your body parts."

"It's not like, `I'll rip your heart out,'" she recalled. "It's that,
`Your bra is torn, and I'm looking at your flesh.'"

His work had no meter or structure or rhyme scheme. To Giovanni, it
was simply "a tirade."

"There was no writing. I wasn't teaching him anything, and he didn't
want to learn anything," she said. "And I finally realized either I
was going to lose my class, or Mr. Cho had to leave."

Giovanni wrote a letter to then-department head Lucinda Roy, who
removed Cho.

Roy alerted student affairs, the dean's office, even the campus
police, but each said there was nothing they could do if Cho had made
no overt threats against himself or others. So Roy took him on as a
kind of personal tutor.

"At first he would hardly say anything, and I was lucky to get, say,
in 30 minutes, four or five monosyllabic answers from him," she
said. "But bit by bit, he began to tell me things."

During their hourlong sessions, Roy encouraged Cho to express himself
in writing. She would compose poems with him, contributing to the
works herself and taking dictation from him.

"I tried to keep him focused on things that were outside the self a
little bit," said Roy, who has been at Virginia Tech for 22
years. "Because he seemed to be running inside circles in a maze when
he was talking about himself."

He was "very guarded" when it came to his family. But she got him to
open up about his feelings of isolation.

"You seem so lonely," she told him once. "Do you have any friends?"

"I am lonely," he replied. "I don't have any friends."

Suitemates and others have said Cho rejected their overtures of
friendship. Roy sensed that Cho's isolation might be largely self-

To her, it was as if he were two people.

"He was actually quite arrogant and could be quite obnoxious, and was
also deeply, it seemed, insecure," she said.

But when she wrote to Cho about his behavior in Giovanni's class, Roy
received what she described as "a pretty strident response."

"It was a vigorous defense of the self," she said. "He clearly felt
that he was in the right and that the professor was in the wrong. It
was the kind of tone that I would never have used as an undergraduate
at a faculty member."

She felt he fancied himself a loner, but she wasn't sure what
underlay that feeling.

"I mean, if you see yourself as a loner, sometimes that means you
feel very isolated and insecure and inferior. Or it can mean that you
feel quite superior to others, because you've distanced yourself. And
I think he went from one extreme to another."

When the semester ended, so did Roy's and Cho's collaboration. She
went on leave and thought he had graduated.

When she and Giovanni learned of the shootings and heard a
description of the gunman, they immediately thought of Cho.

Roy wonders now whether things would have turned out differently had
she continued their sessions. But Giovanni sees no reason for people
who had interactions with Cho to beat themselves up.

"I know that there's a tendency to think that everybody can get
counseling or can have a bowl of tomato soup and everything is going
to be all right," she said. "But I think that evil exists, and I
think that he was a mean person."

Giovanni encountered Cho only once after she removed him from class.
She was walking down a campus path and noticed him coming toward her.
They maintained eye contact until passing each other.

Giovanni, who had survived lung cancer, was determined she would not
blink first.

"I was not going to look away as if I were afraid," she said. "To me
he was a bully, and I had no fear of this child."

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The Virginia Tech Tragedy

College is supposed to be an overall positive experience. You're finally getting to sort everything out in terms of what you want to do in life, where you're headed and learning and growing as a young adult while having some fun in the process.

For many peeps it's the first time you get to step out, live away from home and get your first taste of adulthood. It's the last time in your life when the only responsibilities you have are to get up, go to class and study your butt off unless you also have a job you're juggling to help pay your tuition.

I guess it's why I enjoy walking around on various college campuses when I do follow Dawn to various fencing tournaments. It takes me back to my own college days in that respect. It's hard for me to imagine what it would have been like to have that peace of mind shattered by a gunman suddenly popping up in one of my classes, firing shots at me and my classmates, then to discover a day or so later that he was a classsmate that peeps had been seeing disturbing behavior patterns about for two years leading up to that horrific incident.

Even the folks who weren't in those Norris Hall classrooms that morning are haunted by 'That could have been me' thoughts. I can only imagine what was going through people's minds as their buildings were on lockdown wondering if the incident was over of if their building was next on the shooter's target list.

What about the peeps who for some reason decided not to go to class that morning? I know they feel just as hurt as the gun shop owner who sold Cho the weapons he used.

How would I feel about that? How do you put that behind you and move on with llfe, if you ever do? It's also tough at that age to lose a classmate because up until you get past your college years and your ten-year high school reunion you have this false feeling of immortality. You walk around in your late teens and 20's with this attitude that you have plenty of time to accomplish the things you want to do or get your life together.

There are 32 people that have been tragically taken from us including Cho. But to the Virginia Tech students who may be reading this blog, life does go on. In 1966 The University of Texas suffered a similar tragedy. It took a while but people eventually forgot until Monday that a deadly shooting occurred on its campus. It brought back the flood of memories in Austin and on the UT campus of what Charles Whitman had done almost 41 years earlier.

It was interesting to read Nikki Giovanni's account of her 2005 encounter with Cho in her writing class she was teaching at Virginia Tech. I think what needs to happen in the wake of this tragedy is to strenghten the ability of college professors and administrators to compel folks with disturbing behavior patterns to undergo counseling once its verified.

Would that have prevented the shooting? That's a debatable question. As far as the gun issue I'm going to deal with that another time. In this post I want to continue focusing on the 32 people we lost, the folks at Virginia Tech and their families who are grieving and trying to make sense out of an irrational situation.

We will never know what types of contributions those fallen people would have made to our society and others around the world. We can only guess about that as we mourn them, memorialize them and sadly have to move on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The Revs" DO Speak For Many African-Americans

I continue to be amused and amazed by the vitriolic hatred that comes out of many conservapundits mouths whenever "The Revs" are asked to comment on issues like the recent Don Imus flap.

"The Revs" I'm speaking about are the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. It seems that many whites can't conceal their outright hatred for these gentlemen. I even heard Evan Cohen on Fox Sports Radio rant repeatedly for three hours during a third shift show early Monday morning about his 'disgust' as he put it for Rev. Jesse attending the Jackie Robinson memorial event in Los Angeles. (News flash, Evan. Rev. Jackson preached the 1972 funeral for Jackie Robinson and is a friend of the family, so explain to me why shouldn't he be there?)

It seems as though these peeps have selective memories when it comes to The Revs. In Rev. Jackson's case they never fail to bring up the 1984 'Hymietown' comment but their memory banks suddenly get fuzzy when it's mentioned that in 1983 Rev. Jackson traveled to Damascus, Syria to rescue a downed US Navy pilot, ran for president in 1984 and 1988 and rescued hundreds of hostages Saddam was detaining in Iraq in 1990.

Rev. Sharpton constantly has the Tawana Brawley case thrown in his face, but he too has run for public office and has been a thoughtful and eloquent spokesperson along with Rev. Jackson on various issues. I guess y'all forgot about the thunderous speech he made at the 2004 Democratic Convention calling out the Bush misadministration.

What, y'all gonna withdraw your support for Senator Barack Obama and take back everything you said about him if The Revs come out and openly support him in his presidential bid? Then again I wouldn't be suprised if that happened considering the level of the negativity spewed at Reverends Sharpton and Jackson.

The bottom line is that no matter how much Hateraid you drink and spit back at The Revs, they have much love and respect from many African-Americans. They have been on the frontlines for decades doing the African-American community's civil rights grunt work. That's more than we can say for the Negroes that are constantly trotted out by right-wingers as examples of peeps THEY think should be our leaders and THEY think we should listen to like Condoleezza Rice and others.

You don't get to make that call, we do. As long as Condi and company are supporting positions, people and politicians that work against the interests of African-Americans, they'll continue to have zero credibility in our eyes.

If you're distressed that The Revs have that status, then your media outlets need to start calling the peeps that are the African-American community's ELECTED leaders in the Congressional Black Caucus to appear on the Sunday morning talk shows and other events. They need to talk to the next NAACP president. That person has juice as the head of one of the oldest civil rights organizations in our country and has a membership that crosses the spectrum of Black America. They need to talk to Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League which encompasses our business leaders. You need to have frequent chats with Cathy Hughes, the head of Radio One, the seventh largest radio corporation communications company in the US, the heads of the various Divine Nine fraternities and sororities, the editors of Jet, Ebony, Essence and Black Enterprise magazines, et cetera.

But since the media likes controversy, they'll continue to call on "The Revs" for their opinions on various issues. Bear in mind as you throw things at your TV that they DO speak for many African-American most of the time on many issues.

Sometimes they even speak for the TransGriot as well.