Original article appeared in the Huffington Post. See it here.
It's Oscar time and did you know that the very first transgender performer to be nominated for an Academy Award boycotted the event?
Anohni, the first transgender performer to be nominated for an Oscar, boycotted the Feb. 28 event.
"They are going to try to convince us that they have our best interests at heart by waving flags for identity politics and fake moral issues," said the "Manta Ray" singer in an essay.
In an essay for Pitchfork, the best original song nominee says she wasn't asked to perform her song during the show and will not be attending this year's ceremony.
Anohni is nominated for best original song for her collaboration with J.Ralph on "Manta Ray," which appears in the documentary Racing Extinction. The apparent problem is that other nominated songs were scheduled to be performed, Oscar producers omitted a performance of "Manta Ray" and David Lang's song "Simple Song #3" due to "time constraints."
Lady Gaga, Sam Smith and The Weeknd performed their nominated songs from The Hunting Ground, Spectre and Fifty Shades of Grey, respectively, while Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, not nominated in any category, gave a special performance at this year's ceremony.
Transgender discrimination? Time constraints? Hmmmm!
Meanwhile across the country a widespread movement to bully and endanger transgender youth has caught fire!
Once isolated to a few fly over red states the war against transgender people in general and the most at risk youth in particular has been endorsed by the Republican National Party! The Republican Party is now the official party of "The Potty Police"! So much for being the Party of Small Government! Perhaps more accurately it should be known as the party of "small minded government"?
The GOP resolution clearly rejects the legitimacy of transgender identities and calls for policies that refuse trans people access to bathrooms that match their gender identities. It also demands that the Department of Education rescind its interpretation of Title IX "that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students."
Words and actions, actions and words and what do we hear from our billionaire or other well heeled trans Republicans? The sound of silence!
War has been declared and we are fighting back politically. What began as a basic Facebook page articulating the transgender inclusive statements and actions of Hillary Clinton, gathered steam when technically able and talented volunteers led by Sarah McBride and Lisa Mottet helped organize a steering committee and relaunched Trans United for Hillary as a web page and Facebook page with links for fundraising and action... Empowerment!
We have started off with positive publicity in the Beltway.
Clearly, however, this is a true national coast to coast effort with a growing list of trans activists that include:
Angelica Ross (Ill.)
Ames Simmons (Ga.)
Barbra Casbar Siperstein (N.J.)
Blossom Brown (Miss.)
Daria Lohman (Ariz.)
Daye Pope (Pa.)
Geena Rocero (N.Y.)
Jacquelyn Ryan (Mass.)
Jay Brown (Md.)
Kellan Baker (D.C.)
Kimi Cole (Nev.)
Lisa Mottet (D.C.)
Lou Weaver (Texas)
Mara Keisling (D.C.)
Marisa Richmond (Tenn.)
Meghan Stabler (Texas)
Melissa Sklarz (N.Y.)
Paula Schoenhower (Okla.)
Rhodes Perry (Ore.)
Sarah McBride (Del.)
Zackary Drucker (Calif.)
The list is growing!
The new website articulates her history of actually doing and her vision of equality.
No myths, no slurs.
Just the Facts and a vision!
'The Grinch who stole the trans movement:' Transgender solider Chelsea Manning launches Christmas attack against Caitlyn Jenner for her behavior after coming out.
So now is this incarcerated military felon the new self appointed voice of the Transgender community in America? Is she's making judgments about America's #1 transgender media entrepreneur? GIMME A BREAK!!
I refrained from commenting about the convicted national security Wiki leaker when she came out as Chelsea, a transgender woman. At the time I did cringe, understanding full well (before modern statistics verified my gut impression) that transgender people serve in the military with greater frequency than their non-trans (cis) brothers and sisters. I also am aware of the enormity of the added pressure that transgender service people often endure as they mask their true gender identity because they cannot be open or honest. Still I cringed at the widespread media story and the accompanying optics that might further stigmatize trans people.
Yes, trans people are more likely to serve in the military. Think about it ... often transgender women struggling with societal, religious and family pressure will enlist to prove to that they are really men and can do the manly warrior thing, which works only temporarily. For transgender men, it is easy to understand the military provides the opportunity to serve openly while performing at least some task deemed societally as male oriented. I recall my old acquaintance from south Central Jersey, Jessica, who driven to be the "man" her father wanted her to be, became a Green beret and volunteered for the most dangerous and covert missions in the Vietnam theater. As a soldier, she was successful, but in the end her father and she, herself, knew the truth.
While former Navy Seal Kristin Beck has done a commendable job of promoting herself as one who served admirably and extraordinarily in silence, and Special Forces Colonel Diane Schroer's actions in Washington, DC have done a great deal to spotlight and turn the corner on overt and unconscionable discrimination in employment in the Federal government.
Chelsea Manning obviously struggled with her gender identity and the Army had opportunities and should have reacted when she reached out for help. But that is not an excuse for her actions.
I will credit Manning with publicizing the inequities and added hardships and dangers that incarcerated transgender people often must bear compared to the cisgender prisoners.
We can point to Autumn Sandeen who served in silence and for many years has been "out" serving as a transgender and LGB advocate, putting her own welfare at risk! In 2013, she became the first person to change her gender in the Dept. of Defense database, paving the way for others.
We can point to SGM Jennifer Long who after several combat tours in the middle East began her stealth medical transition only to be called back to Afghanistan, where she continued her transition monitored by American Medical personnel there. She successfully completed her mission, engaged in several fire fights, received a bronze star and other combat awards, all the while under the stress of being "outed" by the US Army. Now retired, in late 2014 she was successful in forcing the US Army to change her name on her DD214. She is currently a VFW Post Commander and involved on a statewide level.
So who should be our spokesperson?
I've refrained from publicaly commenting about Caitlyn Jenner as well, but I think now is the time.
Cait Jenner? I was charitable calling her a media entrepreneur. How do you describe her and the rest of the Kardashian clan? She was a legitimate Olympic sports hero... but what does she and the rest of them do now? What talent? Oscars? Emmys? Tonys? The Jenner-Kardashian Empire is estimated to be in the hundreds of Millions! Hardly typical of an average transgender family!
Cait comes out, surrounds herself with other Hollywood Media people and includes an elite, Ivy League academic, and has her own TV show. Things are good, the audience numbers are obviously there and the show is renewed for a second season!
Cait Jenner our spokesperson?
Jenner is a Republican who intends to continue to vote Republican. She does not fully support marriage equality. Does she not realize that marriage equality is a transgender issue as well? Many in the trans community objected to the Cait Jenner Halloween costume that trivialized her Vanity Fair cover, but Cait was fine with it. I'm going to make an assumption, although I don't know for sure, that Cait received licensing fees. Royalty fees are good when you are on the receiving end and publicity is good when driving your "brand." Cait is a public figure but what is the affect on ordinary trans people who are on the receiving end of mockery and insult?
Her statement to Time Magazine "If you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable" was perhaps her Marie Antoinette moment. That's easy to say if you have the financial wherewithal to buy the very best in plastic surgery! Ironically my partner rightly observed that because of her size and features and athletic build, she probably does not pass and can never be what so many transgender people want... "stealth." I'm not sure that the concept of "stealth" is relevant to the head of the Jenner/Kardashian empire.
Many have complained about Caitlyn's obsession with clothes and make-up, and part of that I do understand as she is in Hollywood. And to a degree, I've been there and know many others who have as well. I transitioned later in life and went through my female adolescence as a learning and growing stage, i.e. the female childhood that I never had. It was a stage that I grew out of. I'm now in my 2nd (first as a female) mid life crisis!
We shall see if Cait grows up or it's just part of her "media" thing!
Caitlyn is an avowed Republican and what does bother me is her silence on statements by the GOP presidential candidates as well as statements and actions by local and state leaders that denigrate and stigmatize transgender people in America.
The surging Canadian, Ted Cruz, has apparently taken the lead in transphobic statements by declaring that supporting transgender students in schools in "lunacy," then doubling down a week later by stating that the man who shot three people at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado, rather than being a right wing anti abortionist was instead a transgendered leftwing activist! Chutzpah!
Not to be outdone, NJ Gov Chris Christie compared trans youth's access to their bathrooms matching their gender identity to be"domestic terrorism."
Silence! Perhaps if Cait really wanted to reach out to the "other" side, with a little thought she might have reached out to Dr. Marisa Richmond, an Ivy League educated college academic who also works in the grassroots trenches of Tennessee as both a transgender activist and a lobbyist at their State House! Dr. Richmond is the former president of the Davidson County Democratic women, and former president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. Always working to educate and create change, she is currently a member of the Davidson County Democratic Executive Committee (Nashville).
But Caitlyn did reach out in the Deep South... Barely a month after the ignominious electoral defeat of the the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), she reached out to a Southern Baptist anti gay minister who led the victorious "Potty Police," accompanied by her fellow media elites, then met in his temple of Hate and prayed together. Pray away the "trans?" They seemed too busy to meet with some of the experienced local trans activists. Is anyone surprised? Good job, Cait, dividing the trans community apart into haves and have nots and doing us all a disservice.
I've had enough! It's about time we started hearing from and publicizing the "Doers!"
This blog also appeard on Huffington Post
On Monday July 21, 2014 President Obama signed an executive order doing 2 things. First, it added “gender identity” an existing executive order protecting gay and lesbian federal workers from discrimination thus protecting transgender federal workers. (It institutionalized and strengthened an existing Federal policy which started under the Obama Administration). Secondly, and more importantly, it prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination for employers that work with the federal government as contractors or subcontractors. It is estimated that the executive order extending gender identity and sexual orientation employment protections extends to 28 million workers across the country. Although most contractors already have LGBT non discrimination employment policies, some very large and medium size companies declaratively do not. I will list Exxon Mobil and Leggett and Platt as representative examples.
Specifically, the order amends the existing federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order, Executive Order 11246, to include sexual orientation or gender identity. It also amends the existing federal workforce nondiscrimination order, Executive Order 11478, to include gender identity. President Clinton had amended that order in 1998 to include sexual orientation.
There seemed to be a compromise that no additional religious exemptions for the sexual orientation or gender identity provisions beyond those already contained in the existing executive orders, a request made by some religiously affiliated leaders. At the same time, however, the order does not take action requested by some civil rights groups to rescind an executive order issued by President George W. Bush. The Bush order provides an exemption to Executive Order 11246 for any “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” that allows such contractors to hire people of “a particular religion.”
The bottom line is that millions of LGBT Americans now have explicit workplace protections that can ensure that they and their families aren't cut out of a job because of who they are and who they love. Unfortunately, with the gridlock in Congress and a group of Republicans who represent a minority in the House controlling Speaker Boehner, a federal Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) might have added protections to over 100 million workers was declared dead. With ENDA and its now controversial religious exemption intact presumed dead, with it appears that this was now the final incentive for the President to take his action.
The executive order aims to fill gaps between Title VII sex discrimination protections and a handful of state laws that ban anti-LGBT discrimination. Today, only 18 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have gender identity employment non-discrimination laws on the books.
It was a personal honor for me to be present at the historic signing in the White House and to be among over 200 LGBT activists, allies, organizations heads, individuals, federal employees as well as local, state and Federal elected officials. It may be worth noting that two US Senators were present and acknowledged by the President, Senators Baldwin and Merkley (the latter being the Prime sponsor of ENDA that passed the Senate earlier this year 64-32), but I did not notice any members of the House of Representatives. New Jersey unfortunately was not particularly well represented, but I did meet Don Guardian the new out gay Republican Mayor of Atlantic City.
On Wednesday July 23 in New Jersey, Garden State Equality (GSE) announced that Andrea “Andy” Bowen a transgender activist with a proven record of nationally notable policy victories, had been named their new Executive Director of Garden State Equality (GSE). Andy is one the first openly transgender Executive Directors of a statewide organization for LGBT civil rights.
Andy came to GSE with a brief yet intense resume and represents a new and young generation of trans leaders with a positive and open attitude. She came from DC, where as a grassroots leader she played an integral role in engineering key victories for transgender justice.
Personally, for my part, as a former Vice Chair of the organization, I congratulate GSE for ‘walking the walk’ and being the model of a truly inclusive statewide LGBT organization.”
SOME WORDS IN PASSING
As a transgender woman, I frequently heard from those around me, during and after my transition, that I was or wasn’t “Passing”. It’s a commonly used term and it is thought that we newly transitioned women and men are very occupied by the necessity to “Pass”. However I have adopted a new term. I call it “Blending”
In today’s culture, in referring to the transgender community, the term “Passing” is still used frequently. I have felt, however, that the term “Passing” implies deceit, and pretense. Hearing the term “passing” applied to me, even approvingly, feels as though I am still in hiding, and that the appearance I project to the world is not the authentic me.
I would argue that the reverse is true. I feel that it is actually during the years before gathering the courage to transition, is when we are “Passing” and that is when we are pretending to be someone that we are not. Since the age of five, I felt that I was struggling to “Pass” as a boy, and much later as an adult, I was doing my very best to “Pass”, to convincingly say to the world that the image I presented to the world was authentic and real. And I knew very well that it was not! For years, my most fearful thought was “If you knew who I am inside, you wouldn’t want to know me.” I also realized that revealing who I was inside would make me vulnerable to being physically threatened, or worse! That went on for many years, and the feeling of having to “pass” stayed with me. It was only at the time I started to transition, that my feeling of pretense and hiding evaporated. I was finally daring to reveal my authentic self and was not pretending anything. “What you saw is what you got”. Whether I “blended” well or not so well, I was finally revealing my authentic self.
In truth, the point at which I stopped “passing” and began to “blend” was not well defined, but gradually the sense of rightness with me became so strong, that all pretense was gone, and I knew I was hiding nothing. The term “Passing” was no longer appropriate and the term “Blending”, whether blending well, or not so well, was the right word to use.
This is a follow up to my Transpective blog entry of July 2011. It has been a year and three months since my sexual reassignment surgery. The healing is long finished, although it took nearly a year what with some minor post surgical adjustments. My feeling of body-congruence is remarkable! Initially, at the end of my year-long RLT (Real Life Test), and before surgery, my life had achieved a level of stablilty as I was so relieved to be living as my preferred gender identity. However it has gotten better!
I have enjoyed the benefits of my new freedom and self-acceptance. Over this last summer of 2012, I travelled for a month in Europe with my daughter and grandson. (See the photo) We visited Paris, the Loire valley, were guests at a wedding in Bordeaux, swam in the Mediterranean and visited far too many museums and churches for my 11 year old grandson’s comfort. I’m no longer a stranger to my body and am feeling a new clarity.
Getting to this new-found clarity was difficult. I found the heart of the difficulty in the process of moving away from a self that I was not, and away from the compelling image of what I ought to be. This involved significant changes in appearance and relationships and here is where I was fearful that family, friends and employment would fall away. As it turns out, I didn’t lose employment because of my decision to transition. In 2009 the national recession required that a huge portion of staff at my workplace be let go, me included, so I did avoid the challenge of transitioning while in the job and savings allowed me to focus on making decisive changes. While I was not legally required to leave home, there was no way I could have successfully transitioned in that hostile environment. My transition tragically necessitated a divorce and I lost easy contact with my youngest children.
The best medicine has been to be able to live easily as my authentic self. Ninety percent of my family and friends are still loving and supportive and we have excellent relations. In spite of the turmoil at my former home, I found new confidence in going about daily life. Feeling that I was finally in alignment with my authentic self, it felt natural to share that love more strongly with remaining family and friends. I have heard this same sentiment expressed so often by my transgender sisters and brothers. This harrowing, living on the edge, transition experience often leads us to give new value to ourselves and to discover and share our own uniqueness.
Now in the last phase of 2012, the dust is settling for me. I have maintained my connection with my transgender support group at the Pride Center of New Jersey. I still need their support and understanding as I expand my outreach to family, new friends and experiences. Those of us in the group who are post-operative are able to offer experience and support to those who are just starting or are mid-journey. I have a very real, personal sense of new potential and can throw away years of self-imposed limits. I enjoy how Dr Seuss writes about this feeling:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!
This being my inaugural blog for “Transpective” it is difficult to know where to start. How about with some basic terms? The terms GRS, SRS or GCS can be a puzzle and an alphabet soup! “Gender Reassignment Surgery”, “Sexual Reassignment Surgery” and the one I like best is “Gender Confirmation Surgery” Also, I want to recommend a book Whipping Girl by a trans-woman, Julia Serano. (Available on Amazon.com) It is, bar-none, the very best book I have read about the transgender condition and gender discrimination in our current culture. You will appreciate her clarity.
Getting down to it, I’ve been knowingly working toward GCS ever since age four or five. Being born in 1942, I have to say that the culture and my military family would in no way have understood or accepted that message from a 4-year-old boy! Some 60 years later, I’ve noticed gratefully, that the younger folks in today’s world, kindergarten through elementary school age, have hardly any issue with their classmates easily choosing and presenting as their preferred gender. And the culture is catching up bit by bit for the youngest among us. Thankfully, there are educational conferences springing up around the US for parents of non sis-gendered children. It’s we older folks, and parents who still have the deeply held inhibitions regarding gender variance. I’m happy to say that 99% of all relatives and friends (from 12 yrs to 93 yrs.) have been quite supportive and we are still in touch. Facebook friends even! Sadly, in my case, divorce was inevitable.
On the brighter side, I cannot stress the importance of long-term counseling before and during the transition period. Acting on my long-held need to transition I have come brutally face-to-face with worries about the acceptance of family and friends, and most importantly, my acceptance of myself! This “inner work” is so necessary! Before Surgery! You might find that minor cosmetic surgery rather than radical vaginoplasty is appropriate. Long-term counseling also leads to much calmer and effective transitioning on the job, of divorce should it happen and designing money-earning opportunities within the transition period.
In addition to counseling, I have found that a support group is critical throughout the transition period, and even before, when you might be just questioning! During my transition period, I have benefited from friends who have or are going through what I’ve been going through. Their sharing of intimate details of losses and gains of family and friends and issues of self-doubt is like no other experience. So we support and love each other. This keeps us all going and moving successfully toward our transition goals.
No matter how extensive my preparation, and how comfortable I already find myself in my “new” role, I have been amazed at how my focus on the impending surgery has taken over my life during these last months. My exclusive attention has been on completion of the extensive medical/physical testing, preparing for changes in medications, arranging multiple transportations to and from hospital, recovery support and shopping for post-op recuperation. This is planning of a very high order for a concentrated few months of activity! (Or, since I’ll be flat on my back for some of it, for someone else’s activity!)
This is a good place to stop. I will try to keep you posted throughout my recovery. While I cannot apply my experience to everyone, it might provide bits of information not normally available. Feel free to respond, comment etc.
Blessings to all you trans-folks out there! Kate.