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News :: Education
Northhampton, MA - Smith College Students Protest for Transgender Rights
07 Jun 2014
Students and activists protest admissions policies at Smith College
Photo: Jenny Perrin
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College students recently held a protest on campus in response to admissions policies they say are exclusionary towards transgender women, and many local activists agree.

“After several talks with administrators, they still have not accepted our central demand of a gender supplement compromise so that Office of Admission materials do not have to have all female gender markers,” said Sarah Fraas, organizer of the protest with Smith Q&A (Queers and Allies), a student-run consensus-based organization dedicated to justice for trans women, starting with the Smith community. “They have, however, made a couple great changes—Office of Disability and Office of Financial Aid materials no longer have to have all female gender markers.”

Students and activists are still fighting for other admissions documents, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, the Common App., a guidance counselor recommendation, and mid-year academic reports, to not have to include female gender markers. Smith Q&A suggests that the Office of Admission change their policy to allow a supplement, so that if admissions materials have a “male” gender marker, Smith can request “two letters of support from health providers, school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, advisors, clergy, family, employers, etc.”

Smith Q&A suggests that the Office of Admission change their policy to allow a supplement, so that if admissions materials have a “male” gender marker, Smith can request “two letters of support from health providers, school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, advisors, clergy, family, employers, etc.”

A flyer composed by the group states “Smith Admissions has always been concerned that someone might assert they’re a woman for the wrong reasons—this eliminates that risk as it would be hard to imagine two trusted adults being ‘in’ on such a scheme. Although we know that not every single trans girl will have two adults willing to affirm her identity, it’s certainly a start.”

“Less than half of trans high school students are able to change documents like their transcripts, and that is readily accessible information,” Fraas said. “In practice, Smith’s policy excludes most women without a supportive school and family, which in reality is most trans women, and perhaps the trans women who need to come to Smith the most.”

BET POWER ALWIN, executive director of the Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation, Inc. and curator of the Sexual Minorities Archives, also attended the protest.

“Admissions at Smith College is blocking entry to trans women undergraduate students and that is blatant discrimination in education,” said Power Alwin. “Smith cannot claim to be a college for all ‘Women of the World’ if they exclude trans women, who are women. It is very frustrating because student and community activists like myself have been working to improve this situation for over a year and yet another school year has come to a close. It won’t be until fall semester when student activists will work on this problem some more. In the meantime, trans women who may apply to Smith this spring and summer will encounter a barrier to entry in the form of having to present gender credentials from others that cisgender women do not have to supply. It is the rare case, indeed, when an adult—much less a youth—who is trans has all of their identity documents consistently ‘F’ or ‘M’ across the board. It takes decades to achieve that, and years of time, effort, and money to achieve that! In many cases, it is outright impossible. There are several states that will not change the gender marker on a birth certificate or even amend it to the correct gender.” “

Smith cannot claim to be a college for all ‘Women of the World’ if they exclude trans women, who are women.” — Bet Power Alwin

Genny BEEMYN, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, shared their take on the situation as it stands now.

“Smith officials are not doing enough to enable trans female students to be able to attend the college,” Beemyn said. “There is no reason that all of a student’s documents have to indicate that they are female. I have spoken to leaders in the Department of Education about this, and it is not an issue for them if MTF [male to female] students attend a women’s college. Smith could enable a MTF student to include a statement with their application confirming their female gender identity. This would not be too onerous on their Admissions people, but be a tremendous benefit to trans women.”

“Smith could enable a MTF student to include a statement with their application confirming their female gender identity. This would not be too onerous on their Admissions people, but be a tremendous benefit to trans women.”—Genny Beemyn, Director, UMass Stonewall Center

MASON DUNN, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, also commented on the issue.

“By relying on administrative, state, and federal documents to affirm gender identity, Smith College is silencing the voices of trans applicants,” said Dunn. “All people should have the right to define their gender identity for themselves, rather than rely on often unachievable or discriminatory processes imposed by schools and government bodies.”

Additionally, CARLY BURTON, deputy director of MassEquality, shared her perspective.

“My personal take is that the admissions office needs to make these changes quickly so that the next class of Smith students is truly as diverse as it could be,” Burton said.

The issue was spurred last spring after Smith College rejected the application of Calliope Mora Wong, stating “undergraduate applicants to Smith must be female at the time of admission.” While Wong identifies as a woman, her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) listed her gender marker as male, prompting the college’s decision to return her application.

The issue was spurred last spring after Smith College rejected the application of Calliope Mora Wong, stating “undergraduate applicants to Smith must be female at the time of admission.” While Wong identifies as a woman, her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) listed her gender marker as male, prompting the college’s decision to return her application.

Students protested outside the Smith admissions office Thursday, April 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“The rally was a peaceful celebration of unity and sisterhood, as we chanted ‘It’s been too long! Trans women belong!’” said Fraas. “We handed out over 300 flyers explaining the cause to students, prospective students and their families, passersby, faculty and staff.”

Fraas shared that several members of the faculty were in attendance. The event featured acoustic guitars, chants and picketing outside. NYC-based musician, activist and trans woman Joanna BLACKHART spoke about her experiences and read a statement from Wong, and the group also read a solidarity statement sent to them by the Trans Youth Equality Foundation.

“You could hear us from every vantage point on campus,” said Fraas. “We marched into the library, the campus center, and college hall to make our presence known in other spaces on campus as well. People spontaneously stopped and were given a sign to hold and joined the crowd. We sat-in at the Admissions office, and also walked through the very busy office chanting and holding our signs every hour. The rally certainly sent a strong message that the inclusion of trans women at Smith has popular support in the student body.”

The Office of Admissions did not officially respond to the protest. Fraas said she e-mailed the Dean of Admission to ask her to come outside and make a statement, which she also declined, saying that the admissions practices were on the website and that media could contact College Relations if they had questions.

After the event, Karen KRISTOF, senior associate director of admission for Smith, said she “could not answer questions about the student demands and referred any questions about policy to the college website,” according to MassLive. “But she said as far as the admission office was concerned, ‘it was business as usual.’”

Fraas, however, shared a different perspective.

“I do know that we caused quite a stir: parking had to be re-routed, tour groups were snuck out the back door, and guides were apparently told not to answer any questions about the protest,” she said. “However, many prospective students and their families came up to us and asked for a flyer and asked us questions, ultimately asking ‘Why can’t Smith just change this?’”

ELLI Palmer, co-chair of Smith Q&A last year and current member, said she believes there is “a pretty evident disparity between the understandings of most students and the administration of Smith when it comes to trans women.”

“All people should have the right to define their gender identity for themselves, rather than rely on often unachievable or discriminatory processes imposed by schools and government bodies.”—Mason Dunn, Director, MTPC

“From the conversations I have had it seems clear to me that the administration simply does not understand the complexity of this issue,” said Palmer. “They seem to see trans women as just another ‘special case’ rather than a group of women who face extreme oppression and who should have the extra support of women’s spaces. Quite simply there is a divide that exists between the way Smith students see the world and imagine the Smith community and the way the administration sees the world and envisions the Smith community. So long as the administration does not have to change the policy, I believe they won’t because they simply don’t seem to see how problematic it is. So for student activists there are only a few options available to us with that understanding—we can try to teach the administration why what they’re doing is wrong, which requires a desire to learn and change which we have not seen from them, or we can effectively force them by showing them it is their only option to avoid protests, bad press, etcetera. Hopefully we can change the policy with a combination of these two methods, but the future is still unclear and I see no change in the policy in the near future.”

Smith student Raven Fowlkes-Witten said that Q&A meetings will resume again in the fall, but that people can get involved now by sending a picture holding a sign that explains “why you understand that trans women belong at Smith and why it matters to you” to Fowlkes-Witten also suggested calling or e-mailing Smith’s Office of Admission to share your thoughts.

“As a women’s college, Smith should be admitting all women—not just the women they label as ‘real’ or ‘legitimate,’” said Julia Marciano, ANOTHER Smith student. “Smith College has a longstanding tradition as a college for iron women, a place where feminism is an integral part of the liberal arts. By disenfranchising trans women—as well as women of color and queer people, on a whole other note—the college contradicts itself. I believe that there needs to be a transition from white ‘pearl and cashmere’ feminism, which is trans exclusionary and violent in nature, to good intersectional feminism that includes all women, not just those who were given that title at birth. As a feminist, it makes sense to me to fight for this issue. I love Smith enough that I want every woman to have the chance to go here.”

Marciano said Smith Q&A is on hiatus for the summer, but is currently planning for the fall, including working on establishing privately funded scholarships for trans women who wish to attend women’s colleges.

“After the rally and the tremendous attention it’s received, it is my hope that we can re-establish a working relationship with the administration and pass the gender supplement compromise,” said Fraas. “There’s nothing stopping Smith from doing so, and it would open up access to Smith a lot, changing women’s lives in the process.”

Smith College did not return this reporter’s inquiries.

For more information, visit the Facebook page for Smith Q&A at
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Re: Northhampton, MA - Smith College Students Protest for Transgender Rights
08 Jun 2014
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New York State Makes It Easier For Transgender People To Update Their Birth Certificates

On Thursday the New York State Department of Health announced it will no longer require transgender New Yorkers to provide documentation of gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatments to update the gender on their birth certificates.

Before it was nixed, the requirement left those who had not met the state’s standards for physically transitioning without any viable options to obtain a birth certificate to accurately reflect their gender.

Only about a quarter of trans people have had any surgical procedures related to their transition, and many choose not to as they are costly and pose significant health risks. For those who do, the transition can take months, sometimes years, and even after transitioning, New York state required extensive medical documentation as proof deemed necessary for an updated birth certificate. The change in the policy will eliminate these burdens, and now any transgender New Yorker can change their gender on their birth certificate — unless they were born in New York City.

New York City issues its own birth certificates, and despite the change in state policy, transgender people born in the city will still be required to provide proof of reassignment surgery to get a new birth certificate. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit against the City of New York in March 2011 to challenge its discriminatory policy. Despite a state Supreme Court ruling a year later in a similar lawsuit which required the city Health Department to reevaluate its requirements, the policy still remains unchanged.

According to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, New York City’s policy prohibits many transgender people from getting documents such as driver’s licenses and passports needed to provide eligibility to work, apply for housing programs, and other social services.

“Having a birth certificate that shows the wrong gender can make doing any of those things difficult or impossible,” states the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “When we show a certificate with a gender other than the one we live in, we are often accused of fraud, turned away, or harassed, attacked, humiliated, or discriminated against because of our gender. Even in the best of cases we face embarrassment, confusion, and delays.”

In 2008, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force surveyed 6,500 trans Americans and found that 40 percent who presented an ID that didn’t accurately reflect their gender were harassed, 15 percent were asked to leave, and 3 percent reported being attacked or assaulted. New York City’s refusal to change its policy along with the rest of the state places its transgender residents at risk of a similar outcome.

The World Health Organization issued a statement Friday recommending that gender reassignment surgery not be a requirement for legal recognition, because discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a “human rights violation.” Still over 30 states still consider it a requirement to changing the gender on one’s birth certificate.
Re: Northhampton, MA - Smith College Students Protest for Transgender Rights
08 Jun 2014
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Dear Time: Thanks for nothing.

One of the big buzzes at the beginning of last week (the day after Memorial Day) was that a transperson was to be featured on the cover of Time — Laverne Cox, one of the co-stars of Orange Is the New Black. Time teased us with a Q-and-A with Ms. Cox but kept the online version of the cover story behind a subscriber paywall. Some of my wonderful and extremely supportive friends were excited about this and messaged me on Facebook and sent links to the Q-and-A and offered me their copies of the issue when they were finished with it. And I, too, was somewhat excited, cautiously curious at how Time would play this story.

I finally got a copy in the mail at the beginning of the week (courtesy of my friend and former Fresno Bee colleague, Diana Ramirez-Simon), and, well, I wanted to read it and let it swirl around a little bit before I added my two cents to what I’ve been calling the last frontier of civil rights for some time now.

Okay, I’ve read it, all nine pages — actually, four pages, after you take out the photos and the half-page of air on the lede page — and, well, I’m not happy. Time, thanks for nothing. I’ll explain …


The story itself was okaaaaaayyyy, kind of a glossy, Trans 101 primer for people who, years into this, still have never seen or encountered a transgender person. In some ways, it’s what I was doing four years ago when I started running “Ask Aunt Fran” installments on this here blog, only with some updates and a couple of recent stories, such as Cassidy Campbell, the trans homecoming queen in Huntington Beach, Calif.; the update on the current political progress (or lack thereof) on the civil rights front; and Cox and her journey from feminine, bullied boy to stunning star.

Since I don’t give Netflix my money, I haven’t seen Orange Is the New Black. It didn’t hit me until a couple of days ago, when I saw one of the many Web articles about the upcoming season and finally realized: “Holy shit! The new season starts this Sunday!” Immediately followed by: “A-HAAAA! No WONDER Time put Laverne on the cover!” And then the anger came in a rush.

If you’re in the news business, you damn well know — or should — that the whole gender-dysphoric spectrum has been news for some time now.

Hell, deeply red-state Fresno — the place where I came out, the place all the elites in the Bay Area and L.A. ignore, save to peer down their imperious noses and scoff at and joke about — had a transman run for prom king — followed almost immediately by the country’s first trans prom queen (at two different high schools) — seven years ago! And it was also seven years ago that network TV had a trans actress in a prominent role — Candis Cayne in Dirty Sexy Money.

And let’s see, a bunch of trans happenings, good and bad, since then:

It’s still legal in 32 states to discriminate against transpeople … Congress refuses to acknowledge the presence of transpeople (including my representative, a 30-year Democratic congresswoman in a very safe seat; I sent a letter to early last year about perhaps working for trans civil rights on the national level, with no response at all from her staff) — except when it’s someone like Barney Frank, working with the “Human Rights” Campaign’s blessing, to lop transpeople off a failed attempt at passing an employment Non-Discrimination Act … Amanda Simpson, the first transperson appointed by a president to a federal post, four years ago … Chaz Bono’s coming-out three years ago … Last year, close to home, Calliope Wong, a senior transgirl at Amity High School in nearby Woodbridge, having her application turned down by so-called “liberal” Smith College for not being a real woman …

Two mothers, Cheryl Kilodavis (My Princess Boy) and Lori Duron (Raising My Rainbow) who have written bestsellers about their gender-nonconforming sons … Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace and MMA fighter Fallon Fox coming out publicly … Kids who have had to fight in court just to use the damned bathroom in school … The American Psychiatric Association finally ceasing last year to consider gender dysphoria as a disorder … Kristin Beck, a former Navy SEAL who came out and wrote a bestesller about her experiences and transition last year … Laverne and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Carmen Carrera gracefully deflecting Katie Couric’s ignorant what’s-under-the-skirt? question on her (now-canceled) talk show … Janet Mock writing a bestseller and having to endure Piers Morgan’s ignorance on his (now-canceled) talk show … Karen Adell Scot, the science teacher (and ex-soldier and ex-cop) at Yosemite High in Oakhurst, Calif. (less than an hour north of Fresno), who had to warp-speed her coming-out …

And, hand in-hand with the continuing struggle to have our civil rights as Americans recognized, there’s a 16-year-old Latina transgirl who has been sitting in an adult prison here in Connecticut for two months now without ever having been charged with a crime, and only now, as of yesterday, is being released to a juvenile facility out of state … and the continuing violence against transpeople — just a week and a half ago, there were the two black transwomen assaulted on a MARTA train in Atlanta, and bystanders did nothing but cheer and pull out their phones to video the attack.

So, with all this having gone on, the editors at Time wait until the week of the season premiere of a popular series, slap a photo of one of the stars on the cover and proclaim loudly, with some self-congratulation, “Hey! Look! Transpeople exist! Aren’t we hip and trendy to notice?”

Uhhhhh … no, Time, you’re not. If you’re actually journalists, or look down the above list, you’ll see that you’re way behind the curve. This fight to have our rights as Americans recognized has been going on for some time now, with its battles and victories and defeats and temporary setbacks.

The one parallel I can think of is had their predecessors at Time waited until the fall of 1965 — the premiere of I Spy, with Bill Cosby’s groundbreaking role as the first black co-star of a network TV drama — to write a cover story about the black civil rights movement.

Just how the hell do you think that would’ve gone over?

Uhhhhhh, yeah.

Same with trans civil rights.

So, in closing, Time editors, I just want to say: Thanks sooooo much for turning our civil rights battle into a cheap product tie-in. Thanks for nothing.
Re: Northhampton, MA - Smith College Students Protest for Transgender Rights
08 Jun 2014
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Maine Supreme Court rules in favor of transgender girl in Orono school bathroom case
PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday guaranteed the right of a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the gender with which he or she identifies....

It is the first time any court in the nation has ruled it is unlawful to force a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the sex he or she was born with rather than the one with which the child identifies, according to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, which represented the girl and her family.

“This sends a message to my children that you can believe in the system,” Wayne Maines, the father of Nicole Maines, the girl at the center of the case, said Thursday afternoon in a conference call.

An emotional Wayne Maines said that he was proud of his wife, Kelly Maines, Nicole Maines and her identical twin brother, Jonas Maines. The children now are 16. Wayne Maines live in Orono. Kelly Maines and the children live in southern Maine, where Nicole and Jonas attend private school.

“I want to enjoy the moment, hug my kids and do some healing,” he said.

Nicole, who spoke to reporters in June after oral arguments before Maine’s high court, was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

“I wouldn’t wish my experience on another trans person,” Nicole Maines told reporters then. “I am happy the court was able to hear my case today.

“I hope they understand how important it is for students to be able to go to school and get an education, have fun, make friends and not have to worry about being bullied by students or the administration and to be accepted for who they are,” the teenager said. “That’s the most important thing.”

In a 5-1 decision, the justices Thursday said that Superior Court Justice William Anderson erred when he ruled in favor of what is now Riverside RSU 26. The court found the district had legally banned a transgender child from using the girls’ bathroom in Orono schools.

It is the first time the state’s highest court has interpreted amendments to the Maine Human Rights act that prohibit discrimination based on sexual

orientation. It also is one of those rare times when a law court decision makes law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

“The Law Court made very good law here and it’s going to help not only the people involved in this case,” Zachary Heiden, Legal Director at the ACLU of Maine, said Thursday.

The court’s carefully worded majority opinion focused on students’ educational needs as well as anti-discrimination laws.

“Our opinion must not be read to require schools to permit students casual access to any bathroom of their choice,” Justice Warren Silver wrote for the majority. “Decisions about how to address students’ legitimate gender identity issues are not to be taken lightly. Where, as here, it has been clearly established that a student’s psychological well-being and educational success depend upon being permitted to use the communal bathroom consistent with her gender identity, denying access to the appropriate bathroom constitutes sexual orientation discrimination in violation of the MHRC.”

The incident that sparked the court case began in 2007 when a child, who was born male but identifies as female, was forced to stop using the girls bathroom at the Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono. She was told to use a staff bathroom after the grandfather of a male student complained.

“This is a momentous decision that marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, who argued the case before the justices last year. “Schools have a responsibility to create a learning environment that meets and balances the needs of all kids and allows every student to succeed. For transgender students, this includes access to all school facilities, programs and extracurricular activities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.”

“A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls’ restroom. This ruling is consistent with what educators and human rights commissions — including the Maine Human Rights Commission — around the country have concluded,” said GLAD Senior Attorney Bennett Klein, who was co-counsel with Levi in the case.

Portland attorney Melissa Hewey, who represents the school district, also praised the decision.

“In its decision issued today, the Maine Supreme Court confirmed what has been the Orono School Department’s contention all along — that its personnel acted with ‘tremendous sensitivity and insight’ and undertook a ‘rational and compassionate approach’ while ‘working in uncharted territory,’” Hewey said Thursday. “And this, from our perspective, is the most important part of the decision.

“The court has also provided helpful guidance about how to handle this issue that is becoming more and more common in schools around the state and the country,” she continued. “Now that its obligations have been clarified, the Orono School Department will take all necessary steps to ensure that it complies with the law.”

The Maines, using the names John and Jane Doe and Susan Doe for their daughter, and the MHRC sued the Orono school district, now called Riverside RSU 26, and then-Superintendent Kelly Clenchy after the commission ruled in the girl’s favor.

The justices’ questions at oral arguments in the case in June in Bangor focused on a conflict between a law passed in the 1920s that requires separate bathrooms for boys and girls in schools and the provision enacted in 2005 in the Maine Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley and Justices Donald Alexander, Ellen Gorman and Joseph Jabar joined Warren in the majority. Justice Andrew Mead dissented. Justice Jon Levy recused himself from the case for reasons that have not been made public.

Mead said that the Legislature, not the court, should address the conflict in the law.

“I depart from the court’s casual dismissal of the fact that the plain language of a specific statute explicitly requires segregating school

bathrooms by sex,” he wrote. “The plain language of the provisions of [the school bathroom statute] and the MHRA are in conflict, and I believe that principles of comity require us to defer to the representative branch of government to resolve the issue.”
11 Jun 2014
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Trans Day of Action: ‘We will not be silenced!’

By Workers World staff on June 13, 2013

The following call was issued by Trans­Justice, a political group for trans and gender nonconforming people of color. TransJustice, a project of the Audre Lorde Project, “works to educate, agitate, and mobilize our community and allies on pressing political issues we face.” ALP is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit and gender nonconforming people of color community organizing center based in New York City.

We call for our communities of Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) People of Color (POC) and our allies to come together and join TransJustice as we mobilize for our 9th annual NYC Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice!

This year we are excited to celebrate the resiliency of our communities, call for social and economic justice, and raise awareness of the many pressing issues TGNC POC face. On the 44th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, we will lift up and celebrate the legacy of the amazing TGNC POC warriors that have paved the way for our movements today. We will also honor and continue the struggle for justice, liberation, and recognition for all oppressed people across the globe.

We as TGNC People of Color recognize the importance of working together alongside other movements to create the world we want to see. We live in a time when oppressed peoples including people of color, immigrants, youth and elders, people with disabilities, women and TGNC people, and poor people are underserved, face higher levels of discrimination, heightened surveillance and experience increased violence at the hands of the state. Let’s come together to let the world know that TGNC rights will not be undermined and together we will not be silenced!

Come join us for a rally and march at the Christopher Street Pier on Friday, June 28th, from 2:00-5:00 pm, and help us honor, celebrate, and lift up the amazing work of TGNC POC everywhere!

For more information, email Elliott at efukui (at) or call 212-463-0342 ext. 13. To endorse, email endorsetdoa (at)
Re: Northhampton, MA - Smith College Students Protest for Transgender Rights
11 Jun 2014
Are You a Girl? A Child’s Question: Reflections on the Journey to Living as Female

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw

After a coffee date with my girlfriends on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I came home to my apartment and found the two young girls who live downstairs from me outside of our building playing with their friend. One of the young girls just started school, so she is probably five or six. Her little sister is probably three, and their friend was also about five or six. Their parents are very nice people and the rapport between us has always been good, even though we are of different cultures. They are a family from India and they have an arranged marriage. Regardless, they have always been nice to me and I to them.

As I walked to my apartment door, I passed by the young girls as they were playing. I remarked what a beautiful day it was and how it’s so much fun to play in the sun. The girls just looked at me and smiled. As I was unlocking my front door to enter my apartment, one of the young girls, the friend, asked me “Are you a girl?” I smiled at her and said in a pleasant voice , “Yes.”

It’s interesting to hear what children ask. Kids are often curious and have no fear of asking questions. They just want to learn. The question she asked took me by surprise and made me think. I considered it a small victory that she didn’t ask if I was a boy, or if I was a boy or a girl, or even if I was a girl or a boy. She just asked me if I was a girl.

won’t lie to you. It’s not easy being transgender, especially those of us trans women who came out later in life. We have had decades of testosterone production working against us and the estrogen therapy has been under 10 years, so the testosterone effect is much higher than the estrogen effect. Yes, we still retain some of our old male physical characteristics. We also retain some of our old male social characteristics. All of our life experiences have mostly been from the male perspective, so it’s hard to get to and learn the female perspective. It’s a very challenging learning curve, if you will.

I think in some ways I have been challenged even more than most trans women. After all, I am 6 foot 3 inches. I weigh in the upper 200 pound range, am hair challenged, was given a low voice, and my testosterone has been working unobstructed for 56 years. I have physically and socially been given the male gender in life, which was so deeply embedded for over five decades into my being, but it is all quite overshadowed by the fact that I am so overjoyed at finally being able to express as female every day of my life.

Every day I wake up and I am so glad to finally be me. I am Deja! I am female! I remember how I felt in the past before I had the nerve to be me. I was always pining to live my life as female. It was always on mind. Always.

Yes, I did have a good life as a male and yes, I totally enjoyed being a husband and a father, but I always knew that there was something else that was missing in my life. I knew exactly what it was. I felt an overwhelming need to be and to express as female. Back then I didn’t know that it was even possible to do so. I just kept my feelings buried way deep down in my soul. Finally, I had the nerve to let my feelings out. Now, I am living as female and have been a female full time for over six and a half years. Even if some folks today think I am still somehow male, I don’t care. I know who I am.

After I told her the little girl who asked if I was a girl “Yes,” she simply went on playing with her friends.
Re: Northhampton, MA - Smith College Students Protest for Transgender Rights
11 Jun 2014
A Defense of Crossdressers: Accepting the Gray Areas Under the Trans Umbrella

Merely hours ago, I returned home from spending the past two days at the True Colors Conference in Connecticut. I was there to represent one of the several organizations with which I work: in this case, the Transcending Boundaries Conference, which will be happening in just a few weeks.

Given the wide variety of attendees at True Colors and the overall focus on youth, I had rather expected to write about some new, particularly cutting edge gender thing, or a fresh take on sexuality and identity. Instead, I find myself, quite unexpectedly inspired to write a few positive words about an oft-maligned and controversial segment of the transgender umbrella: crossdressers. I’m not really sure it’s going to win me a lot of friends, but I honestly believe that a little defense of crossdressers is in order.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that I tend to see the world as a complicated place. I firmly believe we live in a world less as black and white, but rather filled out by gradations of gray. In the world of gender identity and gender presentation crossdressers definitely represent a big old gray area, a wild and wooly frontier of gender.

An admission: crossdressers make me wildly uncomfortable, a feeling I know I share with a good number of other folks. Speaking as a politician and activist, the inclusion of crossdressers under a trans umbrella can be politically inconvenient. They are the fly in the ointment when it comes to arguments for public accommodations.

More than that though, crossdressers often remind transsexuals and other transitioning folks of awkward, confused and painful times in our own transitions. Many of us, particularly those who have transitioned later in life, will have gone through a stage where we did not pass as well as we would have liked to, when perhaps we were not yet comfortable in our own skins, trying to figure out how to dress, move, talk, and be accepted as a woman, playing catch-up on years of missed female socializations. When our opponents talk about men in the women’s room, it is often a picture of a badly dressed crossdresser, or at least the idea of one, that they will put forth, and it definitely is a thorny question. What is the priority when it comes to public accommodations: gender identity or gender presentation? Both?

Frankly, I’m speaking pretty specifically here of male-bodied, male-identified people who choose to present for varying and most often temporary periods of time as female. People who, while their gender presentation might be female, their gender identity remains, at least to some large degree, as male. The reasons they may do this are a great deal more varied than the general public tends to realize. While it is absolutely true that some wear women’s clothing for erotic stimulation or sexual satisfaction, there are a great many more, in my own experience, who present as female in order to express some part of themselves that they may not have the outlet for in other parts of their lives. It can be a way to connect with a softer or more feminine side that is often inaccessible to those who dwell within a still very often hyper-masculinized world. They may live in a world where men are supposed to be tough, strong, dirty, sports-loving and beer-guzzling, a world where they must never, never cry or show tender emotions and which quite frowns upon frilly, pretty things. Cross-dressing for these folks is a way to play with these forbidden expressions of femininity, to explore their own gender and self-identities.

That is the central thesis of this roundabout argument—that exploration of self—because these lines are very rarely as clear as we’d like. This is the gray.

Many of us share these narratives where we tell the world how we’ve always known our gender, how we knew when we were kids that we were women. Yet, though in many senses that is often true, for many of us it takes a long time and a lot of work to realize the truth of this. It may then take a good deal longer to accept ourselves for who we are. We may flirt with our identity for years, convince ourselves we simply like to play dress up occasionally. While that may remain true for some percentage of folks who identify as crossdressers—which is a perfectly fine and healthy thing—for many of us, it is a stage we go through on our way to acceptance. It is often a very necessary launching point for our journeys of transition.

So, what I ask is this: the next time you find yourself speaking out against our crossdressed cousins, take a moment to consider what it is that truly bothers you, why you feel the need to separate your particular segment of the umbrella away. Try looking inward. There are few things that are capable of making us more uncomfortable than our own reflections, but any one of those folks who identify as a crossdresser today might come out as one of our trans sisters tomorrow.

Re:Transgender Rights
14 Jun 2014
What’s It Like Being Trans? The Good, the Bad, & the New Way of Thinking

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—

Being trans involves living your life, but with more questions, unusual situations and new thoughts than the average person.

One question people frequently ask is: Why are we trans? Many transwomen will tell you the theory of the trickling hormone wash. You see, female is the default gender for the fetus. We all begin as female fetuses. To make a male fetus, there must be a heavy testosterone wash to masculinize the fetus. However, if there is just a trickle, the theory says that the fetus remains mostly female and the result is a transgender female. This may be an acceptable theory for people who are born female in male bodies, but how does it work for people who are born male in female bodies? I’ve never heard of any medical theory explaining how they came to be. It’s my opinion that we are just simply male spirits born in female bodies or female spirits born in male bodies. I realize that it’s a non-medical reason, but to me it makes the most sense and it covers both genders.

When telling our life stories at an outreach program, many transpeople will tell you how they lost friends, family members and even their jobs when they transitioned to their true gender. The inquisitive person might ask: If everything has gone wrong in our lives, did we ever think of transitioning back to our birth gender? I believe most would say we would not. Why not? The reason I give is because of the wonderful peace that I now feel. I’ve never felt this peace before, and now I do. You might ask me if it is worth it to lose friends, family and a job and I will agree that the cost is very high, but it is worth it to find peace in your being. What is really troubling is the fact that some of your friends, family members and employers cannot or will not share the joy of your peace. You may become excluded from their lives. Yes, even family members may shun you. Some folks might reason that we are selfish for becoming someone who they don’t approve of and as a result of our transition, relationships with family and friends are broken. I question who the selfish one might really be. Is it us for being who we truly are, or them for wanting us to return to being who we were? It’s a stalemate situation and the only thing you as a transperson can really do is wait and hope that someday they’ll change their minds.

We get questions about our genitals. Some transpeople may be happy to tell you all about theirs, but I feel that this is a private matter that is really not up for discussion. When someone does ask me about my genitals, I ask them nicely if they would like to talk about their genitals. That’s usually the end of that conversation.

Another question we get is about whether we like men or women. I will answer that I like men, and folks are fine with that response. However, many transwomen will answer that they like women, leaving the person asking the question puzzled and with more questions. They might ask: “If you like women, then why did you change into a woman? Why didn’t you stay a man?” These folks are obviously trying to relate to the heteronormative model of one man and one woman, and when they hear that transwomen like women they have a hard time understanding that concept. The transwomen then might state that they are lesbians, and the resulting looks are first of puzzlement but then of understanding. It’s a quick learning curve. It may set them back a bit when I say that since I like men, I am straight. At first they may want to call me gay, but then the wheels turn and the reasoning sinks in.

These are just a few examples of how different the life of a transperson may be. The questions and the situations are thought provoking. I’ve often said that transgender thought is a new type of thought. Things that you may have always taken for granted are suddenly in question. It’s a whole new way of looking at things.
Re: Transgender Rights
15 Jun 2014
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Denmark allows gender change without forced sterilization

The Danish parliament voted to scrap a law forcing transgender people to undergo sterilization before they are legally allowed to change their gender, making Denmark the first country in Europe to legalize sex reassignments without a clinical diagnosis.

The new law will take effect from September 1 this year and will allow any citizen over the age of 18 to change their gender after six months of ‘reflection’ and without the need for a surgical procedure.

“[The new law] will make life easier and more dignified for the individual, for example, when you are asked for ID in shops,” Interior Minister Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday.

The Danish law comes after the World Health Organization (WH, along with several of its UN subsidiaries, issued a report last week calling for the elimination of “forced, coercive and other involuntary sterilization,” because “These sterilization requirements run counter to respect for bodily integrity, self-determination and human dignity, and can cause and perpetuate discrimination against transgender and intersex persons.”

Although this is the strongest statement yet from the WHO in support of transgender people, they still classify them as suffering from Gender Dysphoria, or Gender Identity Disorders, which campaigners argue perpetuates discrimination by suggesting that transgender people are suffering from mental illness, which is still a stigma.

The Netherlands also banned forced sterilization for gender reassignment in December 2013, as well as Sweden earlier this year.

Europan LGBTI rights groups have applauded the change.

“Just like in 1989, when Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce a legal concept of same-sex partnership, today Denmark pioneered another significant change in Europe. Instead of keeping the state in charge of a person’s body and life, the parliament recognized that these are rights pertaining to the individual,” Gabi Calleja, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, told Gay Star News.

In 1992, the European Court of Human Rights recognized that a state’s refusal to allow someone to write their changed gender on their official documents was a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.

But more than 20 years later many transgender people across the continent are still struggling to get their gender recognized legally, including in countries which champion human rights like France and Belgium.
Re: Transgender Rights
17 Jun 2014
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On NPR News

Activist Janet Mock: Please Respect Transgender Teens






By editor





We first spoke with writer and editor Janet Mock back in 2011, when she first wrote about her experiences as a transgender woman, for the magazine Marie Claire. For many people, that article was the first exposure they had had to an in-depth discussion of the life of a transgender person. Since then, a lot has happen in the realm of transgender rights and activism, including the disclosure of the transgender identities of a number of celebrity children. So we thought this would be a good time to bring Janet Mock back. She authored a memoir, earlier this year, called "Redefining Realness." And she is with us now from New York. Janet, thanks so much for joining us, once again.

JANET MOCK: Thanks for having me back.

MARTIN: Since we spoke with you, back in 2011, as I mentioned, a number of people have come out and come to the fore in public consciousness. I mean, recently the actress, Laverne Cox, has been put on the cover of Time magazine - has made a big splash with the Netflix Original Series "Orange Is The New Black." And you, of course, for people who may not remember this, there was a lot of discussion around an interview you did with a former CNN host named Piers Morgan, around the publication of your book, where you felt that you were asked some questions that were just way more personal than you felt would have been asked of someone of a different background or identity. When you look at this altogether, how do you feel the conversation around transgender identity is going? Do feel encouraged by it? Are you discouraged by it?

MOCK: I'm completely encouraged. I think that when we have uncomfortable discourse, oftentimes, that means that we're moving forward. We're all learning. We're trying to develop language. We're try to teach each other. And I think that particular instance, with me on CNN, was one point, in which, I think, for one of the first times that a trans person in a space, in a public media space, pushed back and said that, the way that you've been covering our lives for the past 60 years is no longer really advancing the conversation. And so how can we come to a space to speak across difference? How can we learn to not dehumanize trans-people by talking about their body parts or their medical history? And so I'm completely encouraged by the conversation. I think, it's one in which we're kind of having it on a national level. So it can kind of be a little scary for a lot of people. But I hope that it doesn't discourage people from wanting to be a part of the conversation.

MARTIN: One of the stories that we wanted to talk to you about is that it has been reported that Jay Kelly, who is one of the children of the R&B star, R. Kelly, has come out as transgender. And now, you know, R. Kelly is very controversial and polarizing figure. He's been prosecuted for having inappropriate relationships with underage girls. He was acquitted for that. But Jay Kelly, it's now been reported, has come out as a transgender boy. And this has become a very controversial issue social media, in part, because Jay Kelly's only 13 years old. And this information was gleaned from, apparently, his social media sites. So the first question I have for you is, what's your top of the mind, you know, reaction to this story?

MOCK: I'm - I'm just so icky talking about a 13-year-old, you know, that's how I kind of how I feel. And I think that the way that we - as someone, who worked in media, as you said, as a pop culture editor, I understand that sometimes children are fair game. But there's a part of me that feels a bit of a ickyness and uncomfortability around the media kind of, in a sense, stalking or looking at this young person social media accounts, then reporting on it just because their father is a celebrity, right? And a father that apparently has very little connection with Jay's life. But, you know, now that he is kind of a public figure, because his father's public figure. I think it teaches us a lot of lessons about the ignorance some - some media outlets have, in terms of reporting on trans-people's lives.

MARTIN: I do want to mention, by the way, that this was not reported in, you know, the New York Times, for example.

MOCK: (Laughing) I know.

MARTIN: This was a blog that specializes in not just celebrity coverage, but also a lot of dysfunctional behavior among regular people. I just have to say, I mean, I just - you know what I mean? There's a lot - it's not - this is not a major media outlet, but it has gotten the attention of other outlets, in part, because other bloggers criticize the discussion. So the first thing you're comfortable with this is the fact of the reporting itself. And then, what else?

MOCK: And then, you know, just I think just the sense of agency, right? And how do we report on trans-people's lives? And so this is a coming-out story for a young transgender boy. Things that, I think, we can learn and maybe take away from this, is the idea that we need to respect people's names and pronouns. And that includes like not calling Jay Kelly, R. Kelly's daughter, but calling them are Kelly's child. And there are different gender-neutral terms that we can use. I think that also the idea of seeing trans, as not so much a condition, or a sickness, or a choice or lifestyle, but seeing as part of our grander diversity as people. Now, I also think at another level, too, the medical history and procedures. I think I saw a lot of coverage the talked about Jay's own medical transition to say, right?

MARTIN: Or was speculating about whether the transition.

MOCK: Yes. Yes and I think that what I find so fascinating about Jay is - is his own handling of this situation, in such a public way, as such a young person. And I think like a lot of young trans-people, that I interact with online, he's choosing to live visibly through his account, where he allows people to ask him questions about being trans. And he's also using his parent's spotlight to educate people. And I saw him discussing policy on his account, telling other young people that, you know, he uses the nurse's office, as a locker room and as a restroom at school. And he also shows how family, and how his family in particular, has been very supportive of him. And I saw him - he states something about, you know, we need to use correct pronounce and names. And that his parents ask him about - or his mother, who's very supportive, supposedly, ask him what clothes he wants to buy for himself. And he just says that he's appreciative of his family. And I think this is a great way to model powerful behavior on supporting and affirming young trans-people.

MARTIN: Do you feel that, the mere fact that this reporting exists, says something about interest in or something about how the transgender experience is viewed? Do you see what I'm saying? Do you feel that...

MOCK: Yeah, I do. I think, there is something titillating about the idea of reporting that someone is transgender, right? And so I think, transgender stories have always been framed in this very sensational way. And only some people come in to want to educate themselves and learn about the trans experience. And others just want to gawk and gaze. And we often know that gazing and curiosity doesn't really lead to much transformation of our culture and society. And what I love about this story, particularly, is that there is an African-American mother, who is supportive of her LGBT child, her transgender child. And I think that we need more modeling of that within communities of color.

MARTIN: As I mentioned, we last spoke in 2011. And a lot has happened since then. I'm just more interested in a final kind of thought from you, about where you think is going. If we get together three years from now, what do you think we'll be talking about?

MOCK: I think, we'll be talking about that time when - you remember when our nation was talking about pronouns? And we couldn't get over pronouns and what to call transgender people? I think that that's the space that we'll be in, in three years, because we'll realize that we need to just let - all of us need to have the power to determine and declare and define ourselves for ourselves and for everyone around us to respect our own definitions of self. And that's all that we're talking about here with trans-people and identities. A lot of these things are big deals, because - around pronoun usage and around names, because for trans-people it's such a big deal for themselves. But I think, overall, if we just respect people and call them by what they want to be called, we wouldn't have all - a lot of these big old dustups, I think, that we're having. And so I think that we'll hopefully advance in our language, in a way that we can speak across difference and, hopefully, be more embracing of one another.

MARTIN: Janet Mock is a writer and a transgender activist. Her book "Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, And So Much More" debuted on the New York Times Bestsellers List, earlier this year. And she was kind enough to join us, from our bureau in New York. Janet Mock, thanks so much for coming in.

MOCK: Thanks
Re:Transgender Rights
18 Jun 2014
Saskatoon mom applauds Alberta move on transgender ID

A recent move by the Alberta government to allow transgender children to switch the sex listed on their birth certificates is being applauded by a Saskatchewan mother who is lobbying for a similar change. "For them to do this pro-actively is phenomenal. I wish our premier would do the same," Fran Forsberg told CBC News. "I don't know why Saskatchewan always seems to be the last to follow suit."

In Edmonton, 12-year-old Wren Kauffman, who was born with female genitalia, was recently granted a new birth certificate that recognizes him as male, a first for a child in Alberta following a landmark ruling.

Prior to the ruling that struck down Alberta's law, the province — like Saskatchewan — required that a transgender person undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to change the sex on his or her birth certificate.

However, in April, Alberta's Premier Dave Hancock revealed that the surgery requirement would be dropped from the Vital Statistics Act. He made the announcement a week before a human rights tribunal judge ruled that Alberta's law violated the rights of transgender people.

Saskatoon case similar to Edmonton one

In Saskatoon, Fran Forsberg filed a similar complaint to the province's Human Rights Commission on behalf of her six year-old daughter, Renn, after the Vital Statistics Agency refused to change Renn's sex designation from "Male" to "Female" on her birth records. Renn was born with male genitalia but has identified as a girl since she was three.

Forsberg submitted reports from a physician and psychologist confirming Renn's gender identity. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, children establish their gender identity between 18 to 30 months.

"I would like for people to be able to self-identify," Forsberg said.

Concerns about confusion, discrimination

Forsberg argues that sex markers aren't necessary on identification documents such as birth certificates, driver's licences, or passports, and that when the M or F doesn't match one's physical presentation, it triggers confusion and discrimination.

In response, Saskatchewan's Minister of Justice Gord Wyant reiterated his earlier position Wednesday in the following statement to CBC News: "The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is still considering the complaint. We await the outcome of the Commission’s work. We haven’t been given a timeline by the Commission."

In 2012, the government of Ontario changed its legislation to remove the surgery requirement after a Human Rights Tribunal ruled that it was discriminatory.

Rule change applies to adults

While this was celebrated as the first legislation of its kind in Canada, many aren't satisfied because it doesn't apply to children under 18 and a person must still present a doctor's note that verifies their gender identity.

A recently introduced bill in British Columbia would allow children, with parental consent, to switch the sex listed on their birth certificates.

"I don't want to wait anymore. There are children who are suffering," Forsberg said. "We need to change it now."
Re: Transgender Rights
21 Jun 2014
Modified: 06:53:40 PM
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Many men want to meet crossdressers but lack a basic understanding of the different types of transgender folks. You’ve probably met crossdressers and didn’t even know it. Crossdressers (sometimes written as cross dressers or abbreviated as CD’s) are a largely misunderstood group, yet they make up the largest single sub-group within the larger transgender community.

Many outsiders believe the popular misconception that cross dressing is the pastime of gay men and that the act of cross dressing is perverse. This is absolutely untrue. A Crossdresser usually self identifies as a male and they may or may not be heterosexual. Many crossdressers are married and cross dress to relieve their stress and slip the bonds imposed by the strict definitions of male and female in our society.

Crossdressers usually maintain a separate male life, apart from their crossdressing persona which they allow out to play at times. Crossdressers are usually intelligent, successful and more sensitive than average. Crossdressing is an expression of their feminine side. It is known to greatly relieve stress and tension and may be therapeutic in that regard. Cross dressing is not a mental illness. There may be, however, certain cases where the cross dressing creates difficulties in marriage, employment or other responsibilities.

Unfortunately, many crossdressers do not know how to meet other CD’s or accepting friends. This can lead to a sense of isolation and sometimes self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse. On the positive side, there are many more resources available for crossdressers now.

Many seek to meet other CD’s or admirers online at social sites, message forums, chat rooms and crossdresser dating sites. Some crossdressers date each other and may take turns in the male and female roles. This provides a sense of comfort and safety as they experience life as a female out on a date, or simply out socializing with a gentleman. Others have learned that there are many very nice TV & TS admirers who are more than willing to accompany them on a date. Some of these dates will progress no further but some crossdressers are bisexual or homosexual and find it quite natural to become romantically involved with their date.

See Also: Tgirl Draws Her Life
Re: Transgender Rights
21 Jun 2014
Porn Problem – Erotic “Trans” Videos – My Observations and Critique

I should have no complaints about the instant availability of 'shemale x videos.' With modest internet access a person can find a number of sex video sites that have x-rated 'trannie' and CD/TV clips. Back in the old days I had a few VHS videos that were more expensive than 'regular' videos. My copy of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” began to get blurry because my partner watched it so much. ( I hated the music.)

So, now I could spend every free hour watching transgender and friends videos if I wanted. ( I get emails from men who say they just about do.) I might see and copy more still pictures of tgirls in one day than all the magazines I had in the past. A visual cornucopia. But I still have complaints.

So many of the movies have intrusive camera work. The whole idea of a trans is a visual illusion – the apperance of a woman were there is no woman. Like magic. But, the camera must step back. The whole 'woman' must be shown. Like a gaggle of strange obsessives the camera operator in video after video after video rush in close to the tgirl with the man and zoom in on genitals. As if to plant a flag, or win a race. These videographers miss the point. When people see Piccasso's painting of a town in Spain being bombed by the fascists they don't look at the teeth of the horse featured in the work to check it's mouth. What's the visual point of the scene? A person who looks like a chick has a dick. Show the whole chick, not just the prick.

When I look for videos to copy on Youporn in the Shemale category I have to go through ten videos of a Tgirl fucking a man in the behind before I find one of a Tgirl acting like a woman and getting fucked by a man. Why would someone go through all kinds of sugery and treatment and medication to become more 'fem' – to act like a Gay man and fuck a man in the ass? But that seems to be the dominate motiff in trans porm. I guess there is an audience for that. I think it says more about those men's way of dealing with certain sexual acts than it says about any tgirl or transgender flavored person.

There are also lots of videos of trannies fucking women. A pretty blonde pre-op transexual with a pretty blonde woman who looks like her Barbie twin and that they go to the same hair salon. The videos seem like a circus act to amuse a jaded audience that wants an arcane visual thrill. “Now there's something you don't see everyday.”

People can make whatever style movie they want, and I hope they enjoy watching whatever they care to. But...I can't put comments at the bottom of most X-rated videos, and no one would read them anyway. That's not what erotic images are about. A stiff prick is not an Art Critic.
Re:Transgender Rights
22 Jun 2014
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The Time Is Now for Transgender Equality - Eoghann Renfroe

Transgender Rights Organizer, Empire State Pride Agenda.

Just days ago I sat in the New York State Assembly chambers and watched legislators debate, and then pass, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) for the seventh consecutive year. As Transgender Rights Organizer for Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's statewide LGBT rights organization, I watched as assembly member after assembly member stood up and explained why they were voting yes, why transgender lives matter. I watched as the most vocal conservative opponent was forced to acknowledge that transgender issues are serious, and that discrimination should not be tolerated. Assembly member Richard Gottfried, the bill's sponsor, ended simply by saying, "The reality is this is an important bill for human rights, and I vote in the affirmative."

Last week I was able to walk into a drugstore and buy a copy of Time magazine with transgender actress Laverne Cox on the cover, next to the headline, "The Transgender Tipping Point: America's Next Civil Rights Frontier." I was able to use that cover in a presentation I gave to employees of the Department of Health on transgender issues. During that presentation I was able to announce to the room that the state of New York had, after years of advocacy from Pride Agenda and other allied organizations, updated its policies on gender changes for birth certificates, doing away with the outdated practice of forcing transgender people to go through invasive medical procedures -- a practice that essentially resulted in the state-mandated sterilization of transgender New Yorkers and had already been long-discarded when it came to updating driver's licenses and passports. The entire room broke into spontaneous applause at the news.

Just days before the news on birth certificates broke, headlines across the nation proclaimed that exclusions on transgender-related health care were being lifted from Medicare. The week before that the mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, announced at the Pride Agenda's annual Spring Dinner that the city of Rochester would join a daily-growing list of cities across the nation to offer transgender-inclusive health care to all municipal employees. Last month Maryland became the 18th state in the nation to pass a law barring discrimination against transgender people. Not long before that was the announcement made by the New York City Department of Education that it had updated its policies to make sure that all New York City public schools would be safe and inclusive spaces for all transgender students. Janet Mock has spent months bringing widespread media attention to transgender lives, and her memoir, Redefining Realness, became a New York Times bestseller. Laura Jane Grace has been touring the country with her band Against Me!, making kids dance and mosh to the tracks on their latest album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Keeping up with every video about a transgender child gone viral, every article about a transgender prom king or queen, every op-ed from The New York Times' editorial board calling for transgender rights (three in the past month!), every new transgender character on a television show or in a comic book, every legislative or policy victory is like trying to keep up with a growing snowball rolling down Mt. Everest.

When I was growing up in Dutchess County, New York, hanging out at the South Hills Mall and talking about the latest episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my friends, I would have been hard-pressed to find a single snowflake. I'd never knowingly met another transgender person, let alone another transgender boy. I'd never seen a transgender character in a book, on a television show, or in a movie, with the exception of a couple of fanciful and stereotypical depictions in movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I'd never heard of a real, successful transgender person, ever. I didn't even know the word "transgender."

I didn't have a word for who I was.

We are witnessing a truly remarkable moment, brought to us by the intersection of decades of hard work by fearless activists, and by the unstoppable dissemination of history made possible by information technologies. When I was a teenager watching my VHS copy of A Clockwork Orange and marveling at its groundbreaking soundtrack, I had no way to learn that the musician who created it was a transgender woman, because that history had been erased from the books I'd read, just as the homosexuality of Bayard Rustin and Lorena Hickock had been expunged from the history I'd been taught. Now history is at the fingertips of everyone with access to a wi-fi connection, and we in the transgender community have made the most of the opportunity presented to us and finally made it impossible to erase our voices, once and for all.

And finally, people are listening.

After I graduated from high school, I left New York to go to school in the Midwest. That day on the El train when I stared down with a shock of recognition at an article on transgender Chicagoans in one of the cheap, throwaway daily papers that another passenger had left on the seat next to me, I could never have imagined where I am now: a proud, gay transgender man, fighting for transgender rights in the state where I had grown up thinking that no one else in the whole world could have any idea what it felt like to be like me. Now I know that I was never alone, that I had allies -- family -- all across the state, and the country, and the world.

I want to be able to go back to my hometown and walk past the places I grew up and know that I finally have the same rights that everyone else in New York has -- the right to be free of legal discrimination at the drive-in theater where I used to go with my friends, the diner where I used to eat with my family, the grocery store where we used to shop. I want to know that I could get a job there without fear of being fired just because my employer found a piece of paperwork with my old name on it. I want to look at the house where I lived when my dad first taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels, where my sisters and I used to play and pretend to be cats or spies or Ninja Turtles, and know that if I wanted to live in that house, if I wanted to create my own family there, I couldn't be refused just because of who I am.

At the beginning of the GENDA debate in the Assembly last week, another assembly member asked Richard Gottfried why, since the New York State Senate had refused to bring GENDA up for a vote time and again, the Assembly was wasting time on GENDA again. Gottfried said, "Well, to quote the great Martin Luther King, 'It's always the right time to do the right thing.'"

It is time for the New York State Senate to do the right thing and stop transgender New Yorkers from being treated like second-class citizens. It is time for Gov. Cuomo to become an integral part of this historic moment in transgender rights and call for the Senate to bring GENDA to a vote. It is time for GENDA to become law.
Re:Transgender Rights
22 Jun 2014
WATCH: Bamby Salcedo's Moving Speech on Trans Rights

The trans activist elicited laughter and tears during her acceptance speech at the 2014 West Coast Liberty Awards.

Trans activist Bamby Salcedo gave a stirring speech on transgender rights, focusing on issues of oppression and privilege, at a Lambda Legal event.

Salcedo, who was honored last Friday at Lambda Legal's 2014 West Coast Liberty Awards for her groundbreaking work in Angels of Change, an organization that provides health care services for trans youth, spoke candidly about the ongoing fight for LGBT equality and pinpointed the key issues to address in this battle.

“I want to talk about two things that I think are very important. One of them is oppression, and one of them is privilege,” Salcedo told the audience at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles after an introduction by trans actress Candis Cayne. “And I do want to say that I’m a very privileged trans woman. I do have a job. I am able to go to school. I have a car — a cute car too! But that’s not the reality of my community.”

After an emotional pause, Salcedo revealed that a tragedy almost prevented her attendance that evening. But ultimately, the terrible event had galvanized her to come out and speak against the systemic, legal, and social discrimination faced by trans people.

“I almost didn’t make it tonight … yesterday, a very dear friend of mine was found dead in an alley, and I was notified today,” Salcedo said of Zoraida Rayes, a 28-year-old trans woman who died in Santa Ana last week. “And it saddens me, because she was a woman, a trans woman, who was actually walking beside me in the movement. She is… she was one of the few young activists that are doing this kind of work. And for me to learn she was dead today was really devastating. So I want to give honor to Ms. Reyes, who is no longer with us.”

“Let’s look at our privilege and let’s be grateful for where we are tonight. But at the same time, let’s not forget those that continue to be oppressed,” she said, adding, “We also need to be mindful of the way we advocate for laws that are supposed to protect us. Trans people are not protected the way we should be protected.”

At the conclusion of her speech, Salcedo elicited cheers and applause when she turned the stage into an impromptu runway, performing a few triumphant turns on the catwalk.

Lambda Legal is at the forefront of legal advocacy for transgender people and has published an online legal guide titled "Know Your Rights."

In addition to Salcedo, the legal organization also honored Rep. Henry Waxman, actor Dan Bucatinsky, and the creators and executive producer of ABC Family’s The Fosters at the 2014 West Coast Liberty Awards.

Watch the video of Salcedo’s emotional awards speech, courtesy of Lambda Legal, below.
Re: Transgender Rights
23 Jun 2014
A transgender woman seriously injured in a late night attack in Palmerston North by three men. She will likely require facial reconstruction. Anahera Rangitaawa, 33, also known as Angel, was found lying on the ground near the entrance to the Copthorne Hotel, on the corner of Fitzherbert Ave and Ferguson St, between midnight and 1am on Saturday. She remains in a serious condition in intensive care in Wellington Hospital today.

Rangitawaa's family believe her gender identity was at the heart of a late night attack, which they believe could not have been a robbery because she was not carrying her purse at the time, family member Scott Engebretsen said today. Speaking from Wellington Hospital, Engebretsen said physically, Angel's face looked severely swollen with a small graze, belying extensive internal injuries. She had suffered multiple fractures, including her shoulder blade, cheekbones and sides of her skull, and her eye sockets were ''smashed''. One of her eyes may be permanently damaged.

She was in a stable condition, and was no longer in an induced coma, but had not woken up, he said. He anticipated she would spend another two weeks in Wellington Hospital before returning to Palmerston North, and would likely require facial reconstruction surgery. Her family were by her side and they were grateful for the ''overflowing'' amount of support they had received, Engebretsen said.

Detective Johnny Oram said this morning a scene examination has been completed and officers were continuing to make inquiries. ''Over the next few days we will be speaking to local business owners as well as reviewing CCTV footage in the area which will hopefully give us a clearer picture of how the victim has sustained their injuries''. Oram said the injuries were unexplained, and it would be "premature" to speculate on how and why they were received.

Yesterday, Rangitaawa's aunt, Esther Topfer, took to Facebook to ask for people's prayers for her niece, whom she called a "loving, happy young woman". She said Rangitaawa was transgender, and "has been since the day she was born", and her aunt believed that was the motivation behind the attack.

Three unidentified men were behind it, she wrote.

"I am saddened and appalled that in the 21st century ignorant, judgmental and evil people can smash a person to within an inch of their life for ... being who they are! Please. I ask of you, take a minute to send her loving light." A woman, who did not want her name published, said she was at the same quilting exhibition as Rangitaawa, at The Square Edge, earlier on Saturday night. Rangitaawa was from Auckland and had been in Palmerston North visiting family, she said. She described her as "a beautiful woman", and said her attack had caused concern in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"We think Palmerston North is safe and it's small, and like a little home town, and yet this beautiful woman has come in from outside of town, she's clearly transgendered ... Of course it was because she's transgendered, of course it was." The woman said she knew of another transgender woman who had been beaten in The Square in Palmerston North in the past six months. "There's no doubt it was about her transgender, why else would anybody beat her within an inch of her life?"
Jailed transgender teen moved to psych center
26 Jun 2014
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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A troubled transgender girl detained in the Connecticut adult women's prison for two months without criminal charges was moved Tuesday to a psychiatric center for children following an outcry by her supporters.

Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz said the 16-year-old girl was relocated to the Albert J. Solnit Children's Psychiatric Center, a DCF-run facility in Middletown. The teen had been detained at the York Correctional Institution, the state's only women's prison.

The girl's lawyer and supporters protested her detention in the prison, saying she was being held in solitary confinement that was causing her more psychological harm. The girl has been traumatized by a history of neglect and severe sexual and physical abuse, said her lawyer, Aaron Romano. DCF officials denied the girl, known to the public only as Jane Doe, was being held in solitary confinement.

The teen had been in DCF custody before being sent to the jail. DCF officials said she was too violent for them to handle and asked a state judge to transfer her into Department of Correction custody as authorized by a seldom-used state law. The judge approved the request in April.

"All along we've said that jail was inappropriate for Jane and we're pleased with this move," Romano said Tuesday. "It's not perfect, but it's not jail."

Romano said DCF officials have promised to continue looking for a foster family for the girl. DCF, meanwhile, still plans on placing her in an undisclosed private youth treatment center in Massachusetts, where she has been accepted for treatment. That move is pending final approval.

"Given the progress Jane Doe has made, we are convinced that this interim step of placing her today in our program for girls in Middletown is a more appropriate place for her than the adult York Correctional Institution," Katz said in a statement. "This certainly has been a difficult ordeal for Jane Doe, and I am hopeful that she will continue to heal from the very traumatic experiences she has suffered."

Romano contested Katz's statement that Doe made progress in prison.

"It shocks the conscience that the commissioner makes a claim that jail serves a therapeutic purpose for a child," he said.
Transgender Rights
26 Jun 2014
Trans Residents Celebrate Monumental Health Care Ruling in Mass.

On Friday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a number of changes to how MassHealth, the state-run insurance program, along with its private-market counterparts, will treat transgender patients. Starting this year, both MassHealth and the state’s private insurance companies will begin offering coverage of transition-related care for the state’s transgender residents.

Massachusetts now becomes the sixth state — along with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia — to prohibit insurance companies from issuing blanket denials for transition-related care. Joseph Murphy, commissioner of insurance at the state's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation issued a memo Friday informing the state’s insurers that each will be expected to cover transition-related medical care, or face legal penalties.

“If [an insurance] carrier refuses to cover medically necessary treatment because the insured failed to conform to the carrier’s idea of how a man or a woman should look or behave, then the insured has been discriminated against based on the individual’s sex,” the guideline reads in part. “Thus, denying medically necessary treatment based on an individual’s gender identity or gender dysphoria is prohibited sex discrimination under Massachusetts law.”

“Therefore, the Division has concluded that excluding coverage for gender identity or gender dysphoria-related treatment will be considered prohibited sex discrimination because it would be a limitation on coverage based on the sex of the insured,” concludes the directive.

A number of Massachusetts-based LGBT advocates lauded the news.

“Gov. Patrick has once again illustrated his forward-looking and compassionate leadership in implementing these policies,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “As transgender rights become more visible across this country, Massachusetts will continue its tradition of being the beacon of light that so many other states can look to for guidance on equality.”

“This is a monumental step forward for the LGBT community in the Commonwealth,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini. “We applaud Governor Patrick’s leadership in ensuring that transgender people receive the medically-necessary services they need to lead healthy, productive lives. We look forward to working with the administration on the implementation of these changes.”
27 Jun 2014
Modified: 11:17:41 AM
Porn Problem – Erotic “Trans” Videos – My Observations and Critique

I should have no complaints about the instant availability of 'shemale x videos.' With modest internet access a person can find a number of sex video sites that have x-rated 'trannie' and CD/TV clips. Back in the old days I had a few VHS videos that were more expensive than 'regular' videos. My copy of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” began to get blurry because my partner watched it so much. ( I hated the music.)

So, now I could spend every free hour watching transgender and friends videos if I wanted. ( I get emails from men who say they just about do.) I might see and copy more still pictures of tgirls in one day than all the magazines I had in the past. A visual cornucopia. But I still have complaints.

So many of the movies have intrusive camera work. The whole idea of a trans is a visual illusion – the apperance of a woman were there is no woman. Like magic. But, the camera must step back. The whole 'woman' must be shown. Like a gaggle of strange obsessives the camera operator in video after video after video rush in close to the tgirl with the man and zoom in on genitals. As if to plant a flag, or win a race. These videographers miss the point. When people see Piccasso's painting of a town in Spain being bombed by the fascists they don't look at the teeth of the horse featured in the work to check it's mouth. What's the visual point of the scene? A person who looks like a chick has a dick. Show the whole chick, not just the prick.

When I look for videos to copy on Youporn in the Shemale category I have to go through ten videos of a Tgirl fucking a man in the behind before I find one of a Tgirl acting like a woman and getting fucked by a man. Why would someone go through all kinds of sugery and treatment and medication to become more 'fem' – to act like a Gay man and fuck a man in the ass? But that seems to be the dominate motiff in trans porm. I guess there is an audience for that. I think it says more about those men's way of dealing with certain sexual acts than it says about any tgirl or transgender flavored person.

There are also lots of videos of trannies fucking women. A pretty blonde pre-op transexual with a pretty blonde woman who looks like her Barbie twin and that they go to the same hair salon. The videos seem like a circus act to amuse a jaded audience that wants an arcane visual thrill. “Now there's something you don't see everyday.”

People can make whatever style movie they want, and I hope they enjoy watching whatever they care to. But...I can't put comments at the bottom of most X-rated videos, and no one would read them anyway. That's not what erotic images are about. A stiff prick is not an Art Critic.
India's First Transgender Engineering Student
01 Jul 2014
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Grace Banu became the first transgender in the State to get admission into an engineering college, through Anna University counselling for lateral entry, fighting many odds after her parents deserted her when she was studying Plus-Two.

At the Anna University counselling for engineering dourses (lateral entry) held at Alagappa Chettiyar College of Engineering and Technology here on Saturday, Banu, a diploma holder in Computer Engineering, secured a seat in the self-financing Sri Krishna College of Engineering, Arakkonam, to pursue Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE).

“I should be the first transgender in the whole of the country to secure admission in an engineering college but I could only manage to get an admission in a self-finance college,” she said.

She had passed out the diploma course with an aggregate of 94 per cent and despite belonging to Scheduled Caste community and the only transgender to appear for the counselling, she could not get a seat in the government college, Banu lamented.
Europe: Progress for Transgender Rights
01 Jul 2014
The Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland have moved to improve the rights of transgender people. However, each country retains some requirements that undermine the right of transgender people to have their identity reflected in law.

On July 1, 2014, a new Dutch law on transgender rights will come into force allowing transgender people to change the gender designation on their official identity papers. It eliminates requirements for an applicant to take hormones and undergo surgery, including irreversible sterilization. However each request for a gender change must be accompanied by a medical expert statement affirming the person’s permanent conviction to belong to another gender. The minimum age to request a change is 16.

“The new Dutch law will make a huge difference in the lives of Dutch transgender people,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch. “The new law will give transgender people the legal recognition they need to live according to their preferred gender without intrusive and abusive medical requirements.”

In Denmark, the law on legal gender recognition has also significantly improved. The new Danish law is expected to come into force on September 1. In contrast to the Netherlands, legal gender recognition for transgender people in Denmark is based on a person’s self-determination.

The new Danish law does not require a medical expert opinion, which is a significant improvement over the Dutch law. However, the minimum age for an applicant in Denmark is 18, and it introduces a six-month waiting period, after which the applicant needs to reconfirm the decision to be legally recognized according to their preferred gender.

In Ireland, the government has proposed a new law on gender recognition and sent it to parliament. The draft includes a the minimum age for gender recognition of 16, but 16 and 17-year-olds will require parental consent, a physician’s letter, and a court order to apply for legal gender recognition. The Irish Parliament is expected to discuss the draft bill later this year.

Human Rights Watch believes that it is better not to introduce a minimum age, but instead to review cases on an individual basis. Children under 16 may also benefit from the ability to legally change their gender.

Human Rights Watch published an 85-page report in September 2011, “Controlling Bodies, Denying Identities: Human Rights Violations Against Trans People in the Netherlands,” which documents the impact of the 1985 Dutch law – article 28 of the civil code – on the daily lives of transgender people. Human Rights Watch recommended amending the law on the grounds that article 28 violated the human rights of transgender people. The report was presented to the Dutch government and to several members of Dutch Parliament.

Several European countries like Germany – through a ruling by the Constitutional Court – Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Austria, have already done away with the surgical and hormonal requirements.

The gender identity law widely seen as the most progressive gender recognition law in the world is Argentina’s, which does not require surgical or hormonal intervention, nor any third party involvement. The law permits children under age 18 to change their gender under the same procedures as adults if their request is submitted by a legal representative with the “explicit agreement of the minor.” If a legal representative does not consent to the child’s request, the child may appeal the decision to a judge.

“The Dutch requirement for an expert opinion could lead to long waiting lists, because only a limited group of medical professionals are currently designated as experts,” Dittrich said. “The requirement is at odds with transgender people’s rights to personal autonomy when they want to determine their own identity without third party interference.”