Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday NASA!

Today is NASA's 50th birthday. A Cold War baby spurred by the October 4, 1957 launch of the Russian Sputnik satellites and their progressively heavier siblings, it spurred congressional hearings and the rapid consolidation of a coalition of scientific, military, and political leaders for the establishment of an agency to coordinate space activities in the United States.

On October 1, 1958 the agency opened for business after the passage of the National Aeronautics and Space Act by Congress and it being signed into law by President Eisenhower on July 29, 1958.

Section 102 of the Space Act laid out the goals for the nascent organization:

1. The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;

2. The improvement of the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles;

3. The development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space;

4. The establishment of long-range studies of the potential benefits to be gained from, the opportunities for, and the problems involved in the utilization of aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes;

5. The preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere;

6. The making available to agencies directly concerned with national defense of discoveries that have military value or significance, and the furnishing by such agencies, to the civilian agency established to direct and control nonmilitary aeronautical and space activities, of information as to discoveries which have value or significance to that agency;

7. Cooperation by the United States with other nations and groups of nations in work done pursuant to this Act and in the peaceful application of the results thereof;

8. The most effective utilization of the scientific and engineering resources of the United States, with close cooperation among all interested agencies of the United States in order to avoid

NASA has not only fulfilled those objectives, it has done so in sometimes spectacular fashion. Only 11 years after NASA's birth Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the Moon.

If there's one consistent thread in my life, it's NASA. Being born in Houston, I'm a rabid space junkie because the space program has always been a presence in my life on one level or another.

Alan Shepard's May 5, 1961 suborbital flight happened 364 days before I was born. The Mercury and Gemini missions happened during my infant and toddler years. Thanks to the Apollo program I was an excited soon to be third grader watching on July 20, 1969 with the rest of the planet Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the Moon and had a few Saturday morning cartoon watching sessions interrupted by subsequent moon missions. I can't count how many field trips I took or times we took out of town relatives with regularity to the Johnson Space Center down in Clear Lake.

Skylab was the thrust of the program during my teen years and after writing and being one of my junior high school's winners of a NASA sponsored essay contest, I had the pleasure of meeting the first group of African-American shuttle astronauts.

I've watched the ups and downs of the shuttle program during my college and young adult years from the tragedy of two shuttles being lost in 1986 and 2003 to the launch of various space probes, the Hubble Space Telescope and the building and expansion of the International Space Station.

It's interesting that as NASA turns 50, we have another Communist nation aggressively pushing to establish itself in space. The Chinese launched their first manned mission in 2003 and have a goal of building a space station by 2012 and putting a man on the moon by 2020. They just recently completed a three man mission that featured a taikonaut emerging from their space capsule to do their first spacewalk.

In the meantime, the Space Shuttle will be retired in 2010 and its successor won't even be flight tested until 2015. NASA is considering building a moon base, but the question is will the anti-science Luddites in the GOP even allow funding for it?

Maybe competition from the Chinese will be just the tonic NASA and elements of the American public need to remind us that we didn't become the preeminent scientific power by being timid about space exploration, and that much of the technology, improved satellites, scientific knowledge and medical advances that we enjoy now came out of NASA research and the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs.

Competition is always healthy, and if it gets NASA off the sidelines and back in the game of manned spaceflight pushing for manned mission to Mars and beyond, then that's all good too.

For the human race to survive and thrive, we will have to start exploring and establishing habitats on other worlds, and the sooner we do it, the better.

Are Sistahs Still In Fashion?

While we were all justifiably proud of our sis Isis' history making turn on America's Next Top Model, the question still remains unanswered whether she or any African-American model, biowoman or transgender will be able to consistently find work in a sadly segregated fashion industry.

After the spring Fashion Week shows in New York and the European fashion capitals of London, Paris and Milan were roundly criticized for the lack of melanin on the runways and the weak excuses and justifications for it coming from many designers, all eyes were on the recently completed round of Fashion Week shows in which designers highlighted their Spring 2009 collections.

While there was some slight improvement, there were still far more African-American women in the audience than strutting the runways.

That's despite Bethann Hardison calling two summits to discuss the issue and the all Black model July Italian VOGUE issue selling out. Tracy Reese, DKNY and Diane von Furstenberg used a large number of African-American models this season while others such as Vivienne Tam, did not use any.

"Visually on the runways, it has improved," said Hardison, "But the results are still racist. You choose the same white and you never go towards the brown or the dark."

Designer Tracy Reese said the question of diversity on the runway needs to be brought up again and again to ensure change.

"If it's too exclusionary, it puts me off," she said.

One thing I'd like to suggest is that the NAACP or some watchdog group start tracking the diversity of fashion shows. That way those of us who are inclined to spend money on designer fashions have an idea and a record of which designers are consistently hiring sistah models, which ones are dissing us, and adjust our considerable fashion dollar spending accordingly.

It would also be a good idea to keep an eye on the modeling agencies as well and see if they are doing their part in signing and getting work for sistah models.

What's sad about this situation is that if I want to see a fashion show that has African-American models strutting the runway, I'll have to wait until the EBONY Fashion Fair hits town.

Oh well, at least if I attend the EBONY Fashion Fair, some of the money I spend on that ticket will go to a local charity.

Ruby Molina Is HER Name

Okay, I'm just about ready to put some of you media peeps in the same intellectual class as Sarah Palin and George W. Bush.

Exactly what is it about reporting on transpeople that causes y'all to screw it up EVERY time despite having clear guidelines in the AP Stylebook that a fifth grader could follow?

Let's try this again shall we?

People, take out your AP Stylebook, turn to the section that says 'sex changes and you will see this:

transgender-Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.

Now, let's apply what you learned to a real life situation shall we?

You have a body pulled out of a river that has long hair, breasts, nail polish on her nails and a penis. That combination of features should tell you that you have a transgender person to write about. How do you write the story based on the AP Stylebook rules?

Not the way this Sacramento TV station did or Sacramento Bee reporter Kim Minugh wrote it. - kminugh@sacbee.com

Police investigating death of 22-year-old as suspicious

Sacramento police are investigating the death of a transgender person pulled from the American River last week as suspicious.

The body of 22-year-old Fernando Molina of Sacramento was discovered by a fisherman east of the Highway 160 bridge on Sept. 21, according to police. There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play, but police say circumstances surrounding the death prompted them to label itas suspicious.

Molina, who biologically was a man, was in the process of transitioning to a female and presented himself as a woman, police said. He was known to friends and family as "Ruby."

Police say Molina was known to frequent the Watt Avenue and Auburn Boulevard area and Sacramento's downtown area. Investigators are asking anyone who might have had contact with Molina for the two weeks prior to his death contact them.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP. Callers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.


Okay, in Ruby Molina's case, when they pulled HER body out of the American River, she had long hair, breasts and polish on her nails.

Hello, isn't that a fracking big clue she's living as a female DESPITE the neoclit between her legs?

Kim, here's the way the story should have been written using AP Stylebook rules.


Police investigating death of 22-year-old as suspicious

Sacramento police are investigating the death of a transgender woman pulled from the American River last week as suspicious.

The body of 22-year-old Ruby Molina of Sacramento was discovered by a fisherman east of the Highway 160 bridge on Sept. 21, according to police. There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play, but police say circumstances surrounding the death prompted them to label it as suspicious.

Molina, born Fernando, was in the process of transitioning to a female.

Police say Molina was known to frequent the Watt Avenue and Auburn Boulevard area and Sacramento's downtown area. Investigators are asking anyone who might have had contact with Molina for the two weeks prior to his death contact them.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP. Callers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.


I'm still waiting for the day when a media outlet gets the story and pronouns right the FIRST time when it involves a transgender person.

Oh snap, I just remembered. I have at least once in my lifetime read a report on a transgender person done correctly the first time. It was the African-American magazine JET doing this story on Justina Williams in 1979.

Interestingly enough they did this without having AP Stylebook guidelines to refer to. So if they could do this in 1979, what's the media's problem getting it right in the early 21st century?

NBJC Survey

5 Questions from the National Black Justice Coalition

NBJC wants to remain in touch with your needs as a Black LGBT/SGL community. So we thought up 5 quick questions we would like for you to answer.

Please click here to respond. It takes less then 3 minutes to complete.

Monday, September 29, 2008

SCC 2008

Today is the opening day for the 18th annual Southern Comfort Conference which will be running through October 5 at the Atlanta Crowne Plaza Ravinia hotel.

This year's theme is a cruise on the SCC Celebration, but this signature event for the transgender community has always been one with informative seminars, high profile guest speakers, a career seminar for the second consecutive year and is the event where some of the national transgender community's business gets done.

The seminars will kick off on Thursday and if my work schedule allows it I may be able to roll down to the ATL for a Black transgender community event being held as part of the SCC activities. There will also be a screening of Still Black A Portrait Of Black Transmen as part of the SCC 2008 activities schedule.

Best of luck for a successful SCC 2008.

More Barack Video

Senator Obama accepting the Harold Washington Award at the CBC dinner

A Black Transgender's Perspective From the 2008 Democratic Convention

By Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of serving as a Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention from my home state of Tennessee. There is nothing unusual about that until you consider the fact that I not only was the first openly transgender delegate ever elected from Tennessee, but I was also the first African American transgender delegate from any state, ever.

This convention was not my first. I was a campaign staffer at the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York, but it was my first convention as a delegate. The experience was quite different since, this year I was part of the focus of the activities.

Every day I attended meals, receptions, and caucuses with other party leaders and activists. I used many of these occasions to talk with other delegates about the necessity of standing up for equal rights for all LGBT people on various issues including ENDA and Hate Crimes. Of course, in each instance, I was always a caucus of one since there were no other African American, openly transgender delegates at the convention.

While the platform, which was passed by voice vote early in the Monday session before I even got to the Pepsi Center, has gender identity in the language, I was very frustrated that the word "transgender" was not mentioned one single time from the podium. In 2004, transgender was mentioned three times. In 2008, that number was zero.

We are not invisible in the Democratic Party. We should not be treated as pariahs when we are out there working hard and raising money for pro-equality candidates. And in our work on the platform before the convention, many of us were active around the country pushing for support of a "fully inclusive" ENDA, for which the United ENDA Coalition (which includes NBJC) has worked. Instead, it states support for a "comprehensive" ENDA, which is not the same thing.

The Democratic Party cannot expect voters to overcome homophobia or transphobia if its own leaders cannot do the same.

Overall, it was a very positive experience and I hope in 2012, the African American Transgender Caucus will have more than one member.

TransGriot Note: 'Number Two' is absolutely right. If we're doing our part to become part of the political process and are asking the people to become less homophobic and transphobic, then our leaders must also show deeds to back up their words. I also agree the African-American transgender caucus at the DNC convention needs to grow. Hopefully I and others will be in a position where we can join her in 2012.

About Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.

Marisa is President of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Equality Project & Board of Advisors of NCTE. She is a former Board Member of AEGIS, IFGE, NTAC, & Nashville's Rainbow Community Center. She served as Co-Chair of Southern Comfort in 2001, chaired the host committee of the 2002 IFGE Convention in Nashville, & served on the Planning Committee for Nashville Black Pride in 2004. She won the Trinity Award in 2002 & the HRC Equality Award in 2007.

Transgender Girl's Looks Sparked School Fight

"Every day, I was afraid for my sister. The world, the way it is, most people wouldn't accept who she was."

By Monte Whaley
The Denver Post

BRIGHTON — Angie Zapata's life was becoming more complicated and dangerous by the day.

As she neared her 19th birthday, she needed to shave daily to keep up appearances. Her Adam's apple was growing larger, an emerging tip-off that Angie was not exactly whom she claimed to be.

She was living in Greeley away from her protective older sister, Monica, and other family members for the first time. The striking, 6-foot-tall Latina began running with a bad crowd that sold drugs.

Angie was restless. She needed money for cosmetology school and for counseling to prepare her for hormone treatments so her breasts would develop.

"Every day, I was afraid for my sister," said Monica Zapata. "The world, the way it is, most people wouldn't accept who she was."

Born Justin Zapata, Angie wanted to live and love as a transgender female.

Her quest for a normal life on her terms ended in July, when she was beaten to death in her one-bedroom, $300-a-month apartment.

Her alleged assailant, 31-year-old Allen Andrade of Thornton, met Angie on a dating website. He grew suspicious while looking at photographs of Angie in her apartment, according to Greeley police. He confronted her about her sexual status; she allegedly said: "I'm all woman." Then he grabbed her crotch and felt a penis, police said.

Enraged, he first hit Angie with his fists. Then he used a fire extinguisher, hitting her up to five times, prosecutors said.

He covered her body with a blanket and left the apartment, taking a credit card belonging to Monica Zapata as well as Monica's 2003 PT Cruiser.

Andrade faces first-degree murder and felony hate-crime charges, among others. In recorded conversations made public at Andrade's preliminary hearing this month, he described the killing in stark terms. He said he "snapped" when he learned of Angie's biological status and told his girlfriend, "What's done is done."

Andrade also told police "gay things need to die" and that he "killed it."

There were plenty of men who found Angie attractive. Her skin was flawless and her hair, dark and flowing.

"Even without makeup, she looked like a girl, a gorgeous girl," said another sister, Stephanie Zapata.

Angie spent hours primping, even before she reported to work as a shift manager at a local fast-food restaurant.

When she went out, she wore low-cut dresses with high skirts and size-10 pumps. "She was conceited about her looks; she always wanted to look good," Stephanie said.

Her heart could be broken easily. She recently met a man she liked, but he wouldn't commit because of her transgender status.

"She said she only wanted him to take her out and show her off, but he said if people found out about them, they would hurt them," Monica said. "She said to me, 'I'm never going to be happy.' "

Angie clung to her family, especially her nieces and nephews. She had a great fondness for 2-year-old Diego, her godson.

"She would buy them name-brand clothing and definitely Nike shoes. Even if she had a few dollars left, she would spend it on them," said her friend and transgender mentor, Kitty DeLeon.

At age 5 or 6, Angie showed signs that she was uncomfortable in her masculine skin. She draped towels over her head to look more like a girl, and she quickly dropped out of sports such as soccer and baseball in favor of fixing her sisters' hair and dabbling in makeup.

"When (our mom) cut her hair, she cried and cried because she wanted it to grow long," Monica said.

Angie said she was molested as a child by an older relative, added Monica, and she used that to justify her feelings.

"She said that if she could attract men like that, maybe she was meant to be a woman," Monica said.

To please her mother, Angie dressed as a boy. Once at her elementary school, she would change into girls clothing and wear makeup.

She was taunted for her looks, and it led to altercations.

"She fought two boys once and beat them up and said, 'See, that's what it feels like to be beaten up by a fag,' " Monica said.

Angie's death was part of a rash of at least 13 violent hate crimes committed across the country in June and July.

All were aimed at gays, lesbians and transgender individuals, said Avy Skolnik, coordinator of national and statewide programs for the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

The incidents — including Angie's death — fall on the heels of the Feb. 12 shooting of 15-year-old Lawrence "Larry" Fobes King at a junior high school in Oxnard, Calif. King allegedly was targeted because he began showing up to school wearing women's accessories and clothing, high heels and makeup.

King allegedly was shot twice in the head by a fellow student, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney.

"When someone finds out that someone else is transgender, that does not justify an assault, certainly not murder," Skolnik said.

But Andrade's defense attorney sees it in a slightly different way. Annette Kundelius argued in her client's preliminary hearing that Angie deceived Andrade into thinking she was biologically a female.

When he discovered the truth, he reacted violently but without premeditation, said Kundelius, who asked the presiding judge to lower the charge to second-degree murder.

"At best, this is a case about passion," Kundelius said. "When she smiled at him, that was a highly provoking act."

Kundelius employed a classic defense-attorney tactic known as "trans-shock," Skolnik said. "It's simply used by lawyers to play off the bias of jurors."

Prosecutor Robb Miller said Andrade could have reacted like most people in the same situation — admit an embarrassing mistake and move on. "He could have lived with it," Miller said, "but something inside him wouldn't let him."

Weld County District Judge Marcelo Kopcow agreed, refusing to lower the first-degree murder charge and erase the felony bias charge. The evidence, Kopcow said, clearly showed Andrade's rage toward Angie as well as gays.

It was at age 15 that Angie officially came out as a transgender female. About then, she also met DeLeon, a transgender female who also grew up in Fort Lupton.

DeLeon, now in her 30s, sensed an inner strength in Angie that needed to be nurtured. "I wanted her to live a normal life and not a sheltered life," DeLeon said. "I told her, 'You know, Angie, there will always be people who will tell you you are evil and wrong. But we can't let people tell us who we are.' "

Later, as Angie's social life flourished, friends said a cellphone seemed glued to her ear.

She would talk to boys but never go out with them until they had been vetted by her sisters. She also disclosed her status to every suitor, family said. Some of her prospective dates went away angry, but others were happy to stay around, Monica said.

"She didn't have to lie about who she was," Monica said. "Plenty of guys liked her."

But school became tougher for her with conflicts and fights. "She always had to protect herself at school, and it became too much of a hassle for her," Monica said. "I think that became her excuse to quit."

She dropped out of Fort Lupton High School in about her junior year and went to work full time, babysitting Monica's children for $600 a month.

"She started hanging out with some bad people, people who weren't good for her," said Monica.

What's left of Angie's life — her dresses and shoes and other mementos — is displayed in a basement room at Monica's home in Brighton.

"She loved people, and she loved going out and looking good," Monica said. "That was important to her."

Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907 or mwhaley@denverpost.com

Here We Go Again-Another TV Station Gets The Pronouns Wrong

This time it happened in Sacramento, CA


Do any of you peeps even bother to read the AP Stylebook?

Transgender Man's Death Has Gay Community On Alert
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) ― The gay community is on alert this morning after the body of a transgendered man was pulled from the American River over the weekend.

The body of a transgender man was found Sunday.

Police aren't sure if this was a hate crime. They're waiting for autopsy results to learn more.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center is sending out emails, warning people to be careful in the area.

(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Now per TransGriot policy, the story as it should have been written per AP Stylebook guidelines.

Transwoman's Death Has Gay Community On Alert

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) ― The gay community is on alert this morning after the body of a transwoman was pulled from the American River over the weekend.

The body of a transwoman was found Sunday.

Police aren't sure if this was a hate crime. They're waiting for autopsy results to learn more.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center is sending out emails, warning people to be careful in the area.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday At Centre

Saturday morning found me and Dawn jumping into my ride at 6:45 AM EDT and rolling 85 miles toward the Bluegrass country in central Kentucky and the picturesque town of Danville.

Our destination was the campus of Centre College for the Statewide Fairness Summit. We were going to spend all day at Centre's Young Hall in a classroom with the state's GLBT leaders and some straight allies formulating our political strategy for the next few years.

It was appropriate that we were holding the meeting here. Danville was the cradle of Kentucky's emergence as a state. This used to be the entire western portion of Virginia back during the Revolutionary War period as Kentucky County. Ten constitutional conventions were held in Danville that led to Kentucky becoming a state in 1792.

If Centre College is vaguely ringing a bell in your minds, it's because the vice presidential debate was held here back in 2000. It's a liberal arts college of 1215 students which over the last 50 years has produced two thirds of the Rhodes Scholars from Kentucky. It has also produced 27 Fulbright Scholars over the last 10 years.

Our arrival was slightly humorous. There was an air guitar competition being held nearby and as we parked the car in the lot, the dueling banjos song from the movie Deliverance was blasting over the speakers.

I noted several cars with Texas license plates in the lot, and ironically one of them also had a bumper sticker for Carnegie Vanguard High School. I'm an alum of HISD's Vanguard gifted and talented program, which was housed at my alma mater Jesse Jones HS until it was controversially moved to its own campus in 2001.

We had a facilitated meeting in which we hashed out the initial seeds of the game plan we'll use over the next five years and beyond. We also took steps to exorcise the ghosts of the 2004 Kentucky marriage amendment defeat and have a little fun in the process.

I'm part of one of the working groups that was formed to do more detailed planning concerning one aspect of our plan. There are other leaders from various parts of the state who are part of working groups responsible for formulating other aspects of the plan.

While this was technically a business trip, it's always great to see some old friends in the civil rights community, meet new ones and meet our up and coming youth leaders. Once I get the okay from our communications group to reveal exactly what we were working on this weekend, you TransGriot readers will definitely be kept in the loop and advised what's up.

It was also a pleasure to meet psychology professor Dr. Mykol Thompson and some of our gracious student hosts at Centre. I'm looking forward to seeing them again in the near future.

It was also cool to get gas for $3.49 a gallon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sarah Palin-Not Ready For Prime Time

Here's the YouTube video from the recent interview Katie Couric did with Caribou Barbie. If anybody thinks that this woman is qualified, much less even ready to be vice president (or president) they are seriously delusional and I'd recommend they get professional help immediately.

As a bonus, here's Tina Fey skewering Palin on Saturday Night Live.

And Tina Fey skewering her again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get Ready To Rumble, er Debate!

Tonight is the first of the three presidential debates on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, assuming John McCain shows up to take his azz whupping like a man.

Time for me to get in boxing announcer mode.

In this corner, at 6 foot 4 inches tall from Chicago, Illinois Barack 'Change Is Good' Obamaaaaaaaaa...

And in this corner, at 5 foot 10 inches tall from Sedona, Arizona, at 5 foot 10, John 'the Ancient Mariner' McCainnnn.

Let's get ready to rumbllllllle.

This one's supposed to be focused on foreign policy, but who knows, it wouldn't surprise me if a question on the current financial mess pops in.

At any rate, I'll be tuned in at 9 PM EDT to watch the fun. And I'm really looking forward to watching Sarah Palin's stupid (yeah I said it) behind crash and burn versus Sen. Joe Biden.

Dear Isis

TransGriot Note: I know this cycle of America's Next Top Model was shot during the summer and the winner has already been determined.

But I still cried and I'm disappointed about seeing Isis eliminated during Wednesday's broadcast.

I'm writing this open letter to my sis anyway.

Dear Isis,
I just watched the episode containing your heartbreaking elimination from Cycle 11 of America's Next Top Model, I know you wanted to go much further in the competition than you did and your brothers and sisters in the worldwide transgender community and beyond wanted just as badly to see you win it.

Sis, know that I and the entire transgender community are immensely proud of you.

Through difficult circumstances, catty remarks, borderline inappropriate questions and the ignorance of some of your fellow competitors you handled yourself with class and dignity even with a camera lens pointed at you.

I felt your pain of dealing with a transition in a fishbowl situation. My own transition was done in the middle of a major international airport in which 30,000 passengers a day transited through it. I don't know if I would have had the courage to do it with most of the planet and the unblinking eye of a television camera following my every move, But if that's what it would have taken for me to become the Phenomenal Transwoman I am today, I would have done so in a heartbeat and with a smile on my face.

I recognized that you had the weight of our community's hopes and dreams on your slender shoulders in this competition and I worried about that. I noted you were struggling with the confidence issues that many transwomen have during the early stages of transitioning from the old gender role to the new one. I'm 15 years into it and I still have nervous butterflies from time to time when I'm thrust into an unfamiliar situation or meet a relative from my extended family for the first time in decades that only remembers the old me.

The recent article I read mentioning you'd only been transitioning for two years confirmed what I'd suspected as I watched the episodes of you in that competition unfold from week to week.

Sis, you have the look, the intelligence and the talent to go all the way. I have no doubts that you will succeed at whatever you choose to do. You also have something else going for you that many people don't have who are trying to enter the fashion industry- a worldwide community of people who love you and wish you nothing but success.

As time goes on, transition will get easier for you. Your confidence will grow as you learn who Isis is, get comfortable with your body and figure out what type of woman you want to project to the world. As you work through that ongoing process, you will eventually get to the point in which you feel as strong, sexy, beautiful and confident as the Egyptian queen you chose to name yourself after. This America's Next Top Model experience will only help speed that inevitable day along.

Isis, you are a wonderful role model for us, and as Tyra said, you are an inspiration to me and many of us inside and outside the GLBT community. Hold your head up high and never forget that we love you. You are a beautiful butterfly emerging from your cocoon, spreading your wings and evolving into a classy young woman both inside and out.

Never let anybody tell you you're not.

Sincerely yours,
Monica Roberts
The TransGriot

Isis Eliminated

Yep, our girl is gone, but at least I got the satisfaction of seeing ShaRaun and Hanna beat her to the door. I'm waiting to see how long before Clark goes bye bye as well.

Here's the uploaded YouTube episodes if you wish to watch it. My comments are being compiled in the open letter I've written to her.

Transsexual Triumphs Over Gender Adversity

From the Phnom Penh Post
Written by Nguon Sovan
Thursday, 25 September 2008

From an early age Leang Sothea knew she was different, but since having a sex-change operation in 2006 she hasn't looked back

BASED on the prediction of the midwife, Leang Sothea's mother's was
certain the child would be a girl. Before she gave birth, she even
started sewing girl's clothing for her new baby.

Leang Sothea was not born a girl, but the midwife wasn't exactly wrong either.

Feeling like a woman combined with the heartbreak of unrequited love prompted 26-year-old Leang Sothea, professionally known as "Popi", to undergo a sex-change operation in 2006, becoming one of the few transsexuals in Cambodia.

While Popi enjoys reading fashion catalogues, "hair decor" and excursions to the seaside, she is not just another pretty face. From an early age, she knew she was different. By the age of eight, she knew she was attracted to boys. By 16, she started wearing women's clothing and cosmetics for the first time.

She told the Post that she felt an affinity to being female from birth. "It is my inclination by nature," she said.

As a transgendered woman in Cambodia, her life has often been filled with discrimination and misunderstanding.

The reactions from the public and her family - especially early on - were not always positive.

"I've been discriminated against and faced the public's disgust. The first time my parents realised that I wanted to be a girl, they were furious at me, but time gradually reduced their fury. Initially though, I was in a real dilemma; men didn't like me, and women didn't like me."

Crowned Cambodia's first transvestite beauty queen in 2001, Popi took the opportunity of her nationally televised victory to speak out for the rights of transgender people.

Beating out 30 other transvestites was a real turning point for Popi. She told the Post shortly after her 2001 victory, "Before people looked down on me, now wherever I go people like me."

The win even turned into a source of pride for her family. "Now my parents are happy that I won the contest. They are proud," Popi said in 2001.

Organised by the National Television of Cambodia, the pageant was both the first and last of its kind, making Popi the reigning Miss Gay Cambodia to this day. Popi explained this was due to the event being "severely criticised by the public for seriously affecting Khmer traditions and customs".

The beauty queen contest was surely influenced by similar competitions on Thai television, but "katoey" in Cambodia is nothing new.

One scholar told the Post that the Thai word for "transvestite" might have originated in the Khmer word "katoey," which used to describe both hermaphrodites and transvestites.

Back in 2001, she told the Post that she did not want to have a sex-change operation.

What changed her mind?

Even after being crowned and receiving the 500,000 riel grand prize, she faced relationship problems.

"I was really heartbroken, because my boyfriends always walked out on me. I had about 10 boyfriends, one after another, but they always left me." She felt she needed to change her sex to be more comfortable in her relationships.

Nip-tuck took time

Popi's physical transformation to the female gender did not come all at once.

"At first, I only had my breasts done in 2004. I decided to have a breast surgery in Phnom Penh which cost me about US$2,000. At the time, my friend urged me to have my sex organ transformed. I considered it for a week before deciding to do it," she said.

In late 2006, she finally went under the knife in Bangkok.

In total, the operation cost her US$10,000, and she had to go without sex for four months until she fully healed, referring to this time as her "diet of sexual affairs".

But when asked whether she has any regrets, she replied without hesitation, "No, I am very satisfied with my current body. It was expensive, but it was worth it. Before, I was often discriminated against, and some people even expressed disgust with me."

Regarding her relationship situation, she told the Post, "Since I changed my organ, I only have two boyfriends, but now I leave them, instead of them walking out on me. I really love my current self. I can have whatever the girls have, except a baby."

While Popi is quick to admit that her life has at times been an uphill battle, she feels that she has now triumphed over adversity. Currently, Popi works as beautician and an actress.

She claims to have been in around 20 movies, often playing a gay person or a maid. Despite some career success and a newfound confidence in her relationships, she has yet to achieve all her goals.

"In the future, I would like to a marry a man, and open my own beauty salon in Phnom Penh."

Copyright (c) 2006 - 2008 The Phnom Penh Post

Bulent Ersoy Trial In Turkey

From The Associated Press
September 24, 2008

A transsexual singer charged with illegally criticizing mandatory military service in Turkey said in court Wednesday she would say the same thing again.

Singer Bulent Ersoy has acknowledged saying on television that if she had children she would not want them to join the army to battle Kurdish rebels who are fighting for self-rule.

"I spoke in the name of humanity. Even if I were to face execution, I would say the same thing," the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Ersoy as telling the court in Istanbul.

In Turkey, defendants are not expected to enter a plea before a panel of judges hears testimony at a trial and returns a verdict.

Ersoy questioned the fairness of a law making it a crime to criticize Turkey's mandatory 15-month military service for all men over 20. If found guilty, she could face two years in prison.

Ersoy, 56, who sings traditional Turkish music and dresses in flamboyant gowns, served in the military before her 1981 sex-change operation, her lawyer Muhittin Yuzuak told the court Wednesday.

A small group of pro-Kurdish protesters demonstrated outside the court house in support of the singer, holding a banner that read in Kurdish "Long live Diva."

The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, is pressing the nation to do away with laws that stifle free expression.

Under EU pressure, Turkey amended a law in April that barred the denigration of Turkish identity and institutions. The law had been used to prosecute Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and other intellectuals. But human rights groups said the changes did not go far enough.

Ersoy is one of Turkey's best-loved singers. In February, she made the comment about Turkey's military service while appearing on the jury of a Turkish version of "Pop Idol."

At the time, Turkey had thousands of troops in northern Iraq pursuing rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who maintain bases there.

In the indictment, prosecutor Ali Cakir accused the singer of "alienating the public toward military service" and affecting the morale of the soldiers and their families. He asked that she be sentenced to between nine and 30 months in prison.

The trial was adjourned until Oct. 30.

Nominations Sought For 2009 Trinity Awards

The IFGE Awards Committee is seeking your help in searching for candidates for the 2009 Trinity Award. These awards will be presented during the 23rd Annual IFGE Convention to be held in Alexandria, VA (South of Washington DC), February 4 to February 8, 2009 at the Alexandria Hilton, Mark Center (by Old Town), Alexandria, VA USA.

The Trinity Awards honor our heroes: living Transgender persons who have performed extraordinary acts of courage and love in service to the Transgender Community.

We welcome your participation in the awards process and consider it very important that you nominate worthy candidates. We hope to see you at the awards ceremony at our 2009 convention.

To nominate a candidate for the Trinity Award, we will need the following Nominee Information:

Nominee Name:
Support Statement or Nomination information:

Nominated by:

If you want help or need more information refer to the IFGE web site.
Please E-mail all information to: ycr1@juno.com by October 20, 2008.

The IFGE 2008-2009 Awards Committee, Yvonne Cook-Riley

An Argentine Transgender Rights Win

One of the things about being transgender is that your family expands, not contracts. You gain a whole lot of sisters and brothers all over the world to replace the blood relatives you may lose because of this issue.

How good life is for you as a transgender person depends on where you were born. Since we are all battling various levels of ignorance and faith based intolerance, no matter what country we live in, we sometimes become reluctant civil rights warriors fighting for our right to just live our lives openly and peacefully.

That makes the transgender civil rights struggle a worldwide human rights issue. No matter where we reside on Planet Earth, we are all painfully aware that whatever we do in our own locales and countries affects everybody in the global transgender community.

For example, an advancement in rights law in Britain affects us in the US. Our South Korean sisters and brothers being able to get name changes may have had a positive effect in Japan and now led to this news from Argentina.

Thanks to Andres Duque at Blabbeando for alerting me to this post about Argentinian transwoman Tania Luna. She won a legal case allowing her to change her name WITHOUT having surgery.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trans 'Top Model' Raises US Awareness

TransGriot Note: PlanetOut has just posted a story on my fave ANTM Cycle 11 contestant courtesy of the Associated Press, so you know I had to post it here for y'all to peruse.

Trans "Top Model" raises U.S. awareness
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 02:39 PM

As a little boy in the Washington suburbs, Darrell Walls liked to pretend to be Lil' Kim or a Pink Power Ranger.

He felt different -- like a girl mistakenly born a boy.

But Walls eventually embraced that difference and today is living true, as Isis King. Now 22, King is the first transgender contestant on "America's Next Top Model," the CW Television Network reality show hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks.

"I'm just trying to be myself," King said during a telephone interview last week. "If I inspire people, that's a wonderful thing -- whether you're trans or not."

While the number of transgender representations on television remains small, activists say in recent years they have seen a movement away from stereotypical roles such as transgender sex workers or villains. Now, the roles are not as marginalized -- and some are even portrayed by transgender actors.

Last year, Candis Cayne became the first transgender actress to have a recurring role, on ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money." She plays Carmelita, the trans mistress of Patrick Darling, a New York attorney general played by William Baldwin.

And from 2003 to 2006, transgender actress Alexandra Billings guest-starred on three TV shows, including ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." Billings played a married transwoman about to have sex reassignment surgery. However, as doctors prepare her for surgery, they discover she has breast cancer, and she's told she must stop her female hormone therapy to treat the disease.

"When audiences see real gay and transgender people facing many of the same ups and downs as everybody else, it helps to change perceptions and break down stereotypes, " Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in an e-mail. "The casting of Isis on such a popular show offers a groundbreaking opportunity for a community that is historically underrepresented on television."

Audiences are seeing not only how the very slender, long-legged King fares on photo shoots and before judges, but also behind-the-scenes comments from some of her fellow contestants, including one who called her a man and another who made a "drag queen" reference.

Viewers are also getting glimpses of how she's transitioning from man to woman. A recent episode, for example, shows her injecting female hormones. King began the treatments last year and wants to have the expensive surgery -- not undertaken by all transgender people -- by her 25th birthday.

"I don't believe the surgery will make me any more of a woman," said King, who has been living as a woman since early last year. "I've always been that woman. But . . . it's something I feel will complete me."

Growing up in several communities in Prince George's County, Md., King said she had a "pretty normal childhood." She attended church. She hung out at malls her senior year.

At Charles Herbert Flowers High School, she took honors art classes, studied interior design, sculpture and fashion design. In her senior year, she said she designed and sewed 24 outfits for a fashion show -- and taught the models how to strut.

After high school, King attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where she earned an associate's degree in fashion design. While in college, she confided in some female friends that she wanted to dress like a woman.

Just before her 21st birthday in 2006, she did -- it was her own creation, a pencil skirt with an off-the-shoulder black blouse. And she decided to move to New York to pursue a fashion career and formally transition into living as a woman. "Mentally, I was ready, and that was the most powerful thing," King said.

She told her mother -- whom King describes as her best friend -- of her plans. "She wasn't for it," King said. "But I was already doing it."

King's mother, through a Top Model representative, declined an interview request.

Once in New York, she legally changed her name, selecting "King" to honor her mother's side of the family. She chose Isis as her first name, after the powerful Egyptian goddess.

But her mother didn't take to it. She instead called her "D," for Darrell.

In New York, King had also had run into obstacles. The $4,500 she had saved to move to the city had dried up, and she needed help getting back on her feet. She moved into an apartment provided by The Ali Forney Center, an organization that serves homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.

"Technically, I was homeless," King said. "I just wasn't living literally on the street."

In late 2007, "America's Next Top Model" filmed an episode in New York to raise awareness about homeless youth. The contestants modeled in street clothes and a handful of homeless youth donned couture, serving as extras in the shoot.

King was one of them.

When Banks later scrutinized models' photos for judging, "she kept on noticing Isis," executive producer Ken Mok said. "And she said, 'Who is that girl?'"

King clearly knew how to pose, understood fashion and was passionate, he said.

Earlier this year, "Top Model" found King and invited her to audition for the new season.

"I think the one message we always try to get out there, that Tyra always expresses, is you want to widen the spectrum of what is considered beautiful," Mok said.

"Top Model" was actually shot over the summer, so King and other contestants already know their fates though they are not permitted to discuss them. Fans of the reality show, which airs Wednesday nights, will have to wait until Dec. 10 to learn who wins.

King says her main challenge on "Top Model" was being so vulnerable in front of millions.

"For the world to see my issues and my struggles as a person, with my whole transition -- I think that was probably the toughest thing I had to endure," she said.

But King, who now lives in New Jersey, said she believes she has a future in fashion.

She's hopeful, too, about her family's acceptance of her life.

On a recent visit to Maryland, King was playing with her younger brother when her mother called out to her, she said.

There was no hesitation -- she was no longer "D."

For the first time, her mother called her Isis.

(AP)Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
(c) 1995-2008 PlanetOut Inc

Miss Continental 2008-2009

With all the craziness and breaking news that's been happening this month, forgot to update y'all on who won the Miss Continental pageant that was held Labor Day weekend in Chicago.

Necole Luv Dupree crowned her successor, and your new Miss Continental 2008-09 is Tulsi. Sasha Colby ended the evening as first Alternate with the 2nd Alternate being the lovely and talented Mokha Montrese.

YouTube video has been uploaded, so check it out. For those of you in the Chicago area, you may want to check this pageant out next year.

Preliminary talent winner Mokha Montrese

Tamisha Iman

Tulsi talent

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Out of the mouths of babes, the old saying goes, comes pearls of wisdom. This wise youngling is Jazz, who we were first introduced to during Barbara Walters' 20/20 documentary report last year on transkids called 'My Secret Self'.

Found this YouTube video of a now 7 year old Jazz talking about being a transkid.

There's also an organization called the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation that seeks to fund research and education on transgender issues and work to create a better future for all transkids.

That's definitely something I can get behind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's ALC Weekend In DC!

In a few hours the 38th annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference in Washington DC will kick off at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

It's an event that I've wanted to attend for years. Sadly, it's also one that every time it rolls back around on the calendar I bitterly remember the political knife wound stuck in my back from a certain Caucasian leader of a national transgender political organization. I've forgiven her for what she did, but I will never forget or excuse it.

But back to the post. It's a must attend event if you are a politically aware African-American. It's where CBC members, African-American athletes, African-American politicians from all over the country, African-American business and religious leaders, activists and others congregate to discuss policy and raise funds for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Couldn't make my schedule work to attend it this year, but it's definitely on my radar screen. I will be paying attention to the C-SPAN coverage of the seminars like I do every year.

Speaking of paying attention, during this year's event he first presidential debate happens. You can bet that the gathering will be tuned in when Sen. Barack Obama takes on Sen. McCain from the University of Mississippi campus this Friday.

One of the things that's been lost in much of the discussion is that the Congressional Black Caucus is wielding historic levels of power since its 1969 founding by it's original 13 members. It now has 43 members, and a CBC member not only will be taking part in the presidential debates, but is making a historic run for the White House that may in less than forty days achieve a groundbreaking historic dream for my people.

The CBC is known as 'The Conscience of the Congress' for its work in advocating for the predominately African-American and other ethnic groups in their districts (or states in sen Obama's case) they represent. They are also the proud heirs to the legacy of congressional representation history of African-Americans in Congress.

Here's wishing for a successful 2008 ALC and hoping that I'll be blessed to make it next year with President Obama in attendance.

TAVA Congratulates ACLU On Winning The Diane Schroer Case

On September 19, 2008, Judge James Robertson of the United States Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of former Army Colonel Diane Schroer in her discrimination case against the Library of Congress.

“It is especially gratifying that the court has ruled that discriminating against someone for transitioning is illegal,” said Diane Schroer, the plaintiff in the case.

“The court got it exactly right, sending a loud and clear message to employers everywhere: if you fire or refused to hire someone for transitioning, you are guilty of sex discrimination and may well find yourself liable,” said Sharon McGowan, one of the ACLU LGBT Project staff attorneys who tried the case.

The entire Board of Directors and the membership of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) wish to congratulate the ACLU for winning this landmark case for one of our fellow veterans in fighting discrimination in federal employment. We watched this case closely and followed all the ups and downs over the last four years. We also wish to thank Colonel Schroer for all she has done to keep this country free. If she was good enough to serve her country, she's good enough to hold a civilian federal job.

“For members of TAVA,” stated Angela Brightfeather, Vice President of TAVA, “the court decision in favor of Diane Schroer is confirmation of her love of country and why GLBT Veterans have fought and died for America in every military conflict since the founding of our Nation. The courage, tenacity, leadership, common sense and moral certainty of Ms. Schroer in her fight for equality will benefit gender diverse people and help to stop discrimination against them. Both Ms. Schroer and the ACLU deserve a ‘well done’ and ‘mission accomplished’ from all Transgender Veterans and active service members.”

Founded in 2003, the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) is a 501 (c) 3 organization that acts proactively with other concerned civil rights and human rights organizations to ensure that transgender veterans will receive appropriate care for their medical conditions in accordance with the Veterans Health Administration’s Customer Service Standards promise to “treat you with courtesy and dignity . . . as the first class citizen that you are.” Further, TAVA will help in educating the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on issues regarding fair and equal treatment of transgender individuals. Also, TAVA will help the general transgender community when deemed appropriate and within the IRS guidelines.

2008 Interactive Electoral College Map

<p><strong>><a href='http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/interactives/campaign08/electoral-college/'>Electoral College Prediction Map</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the general election. Use the map to experiment with winning combinations of states. Save your prediction and send it to friends.</p>

If you're stressing out because this historically pivotal election is agonizingly closer than it should be, you can play with this interactive electoral college map created by the Washington Post peeps to ease your mind.

The map here on TransGriot is set to a scenario in which Obama wins Virginia and Indiana. I believe the African-American vote in Indiana will be the deciding factor there and in Virginia.

If you're really feeling confident about your picks, the Washington Post is sponsoring a contest in which the person who nails the actual election night scenario wins a $500 Best Buy gift card.

You can click on various states to come up with the magic combination of 270 electoral votes that will ensure on November 5 we wake up with a President-elect Obama and a grateful planet thanking us for it.

You GLB's Ain't Off The ENDA Hook Because Diane Won

"To demand freedom is to demand justice. When there is no justice in the land a man's freedom is threatened. Freedom and justice are interdependent. When a man has no protections under the law it is difficult for him to make others recognize him."

That 1969 quote by Dr. James Cone is eerily prescient when you think about the parallels between the current transgender civil rights push and the ongoing fight of African-Americans for first class citizenship.

While Diane Schroer's win in federal court is wonderful news and may be the legal nail in the coffin for Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, we're still a long way from knowing for certain that transgender people are covered under Title VII.

So it is premature as I've been hearing in some GLB circles to think it's okay to 'ditch the trannies' and try to spin this as justification for transpeople getting immorally cut out of an inclusive ENDA by Barney last year and proceed full speed ahead with the gay only non-inclusive one.

The point I'm making is that legal victories are a major help in terms of acquiring first class citizenship status for transgender people. But more importantly, we need laws written that back up what was won in court.

Just as you GLB peeps aren't relying solely on court rulings to make marriage equality a reality, neither will transgender people put our fragile civil rights eggs in one basket either. We also will not rest until we have an inclusive ENDA passed and signed into law.

Court victories without laws to back them up are just Band-Aids placed on the wounds of injustice. All it takes is an adverse ruling to rip off the Band-Aid and reopen the wound. Laws combined with court rulings affirming them close the wound and promote the healing that protected civil rights promote.

And at this juncture, we need an inclusive ENDA on the books promoting the justice and freedom that Dr. Cone spoke so eloquently about.