28 April 2011

The Birthers and A Transgender President: Donald Trump Should Be So Proud!

Donald Trump is proud of himself.  He said so yesterday, after President Obama showed the world his birth certificate and Trump claimed that he forced the President to do so.

Of course, The Donald had to say something like that.  He is just smart enough to know how stupid he seemed in light of his claim that Obama was born in Africa.  Well, at least now we know that TD/DT is in the 25th percentile in intelligence:  One out of every four Americans still believes that the Obama wasn't born in the USA.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  After all, four centuries after Galileo and Copernicus, and five centuries after Columbus, we have a Flat Earth Society.  They might be jokers, but they're not kidding.

The whole (non-) controversy about Obama's birth certificate got me to thinking what might happen if we ever have a transgender President.  Let's say that person has been living "stealth":  His or her previous life is unknown even to his or her friends and closest work associates.  How long do you think it would be before someone with too much money and too much time on his or her hands finds out that Madame President had been a dude, or that Mister President had been a mistress?  

Would the President ignore the rumors, as Obama did about the birther's claims?  And, if he/she did, for how long?  Obama held out for two years?  Would our tranny president ignore the demand to know about his or her past?  

Would someone demand to see the original birth certificate of our great two-spirited leader?   Remember that in most states that issue new birth certificates (including Georgia, from which I got mine)  keep the original on file.  The original, of course, includes the gender to which the baby was assigned and the name he or she was given at birth.  So, even though my current birth certificate has the name by which you know me and an "F"  for sex, in Atlanta there is still a copy with the name I was given on the day I was born and an "M" where there always should have been an "F."  So, if I were to be elected President and someone who hasn't read this blog (How likely are both of those to be true?) heard about or suspected my past, would he or she demand that I show my original birth certificate?

Hmm...What if we were to re-fight the Civil War and I ran for President of the Union?  Would the fact that I was born in the Peachtree State make me ineligible?  

And would Donald Trump (or his future equivalent) be proud of him (or her) self for "forcing" me to show a birth certificate that indicates my birth as a boy named Nicholas in the state of Georgia?

I think he would.  I would let him be.  

25 April 2011

Not Our Kind Of Place

Here's one of the most disturbing videos you'll ever see:


The next time someone tries to tell you that we're looking for "special privileges," show him or her this video.  How can anyone say we're trying to get "preferential" treatment when too many of us have to risk our lives to do something that every person--straight, gay, trans, cis or otherwise--needs to do every day? 

How safe are we when an employee of the McDonalds in which the beating took place cheers the attackers on?

And don't get me started on the rates at which we experience unemployment, poverty and homicide. 

24 April 2011

If You Watch Something With Your Mother, Does It Turn Into A "Chick Flick"

All right.  I'll admit it.  I actually watched Titanic tonight--well, the last 2-1/2 hours of the movie, anyway.

I first saw it not long after it came out.  Someone had asked me to get a copy, and I watched it before sending it off.  If I recall, that copy was a VHS and I got it on Canal Street. 

But tonight I watched it on a wide screen TV, on one of the cable channels.  And I watched it with Mom, who's seen it a few more times than I have.

When I first saw it, I made a point of sneering at it, at least when it was over.  Everyone, it seemed, gushed over it, and I, being the macho snob (Is that a contradiction?) I was, or was portraying myself to be, wanted no part of it.  But, deep down, I was enjoying the spectacle of it more than I admitted.

So, you ask, did I see the movie differently tonight?  I did, but first I'll mention something in my view of it that hasn't changed:  I was not impressed with the acting.  To be fair, Leonardo di Caprio was a baby, or so it seemed.  And his innocent cuteness is what, for many viewers, evoked the sadness they felt when his character sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic.  And Kate Winslet wasn't much older, though she looked it.   I think that was used to make the audience feel sympathy for her character:  a very young aristocratic woman who was following the imperatives of her milieu.  However, I felt that she was more of an objet d'art, or a model that might appear in one. 

They're like all those famous actors who always remind you that they're the Famous Actor playing the Important Character.  To me, most A-list Hollywood actors fall into this category.  If I'm not mistaken, their performances are examples of what Uta Hagen called "indicative" acting:  they indicate what you're supposed to see or feel, rather than embodying--or, even better yet, revealing--the essences of those characters.  (I still think one of the best examples I ever saw of the latter was Sean Penn's performance in Dead Man Walking.)

OK, I'll stop being a snotty critic and cut to the chase:  I took some not-so-guilty pleasure in watching the movie tonight.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as Leonardo di Caprio's character could no longer maintain his grip on life that was even more ironclad than the ship's hull, and disappeared into the icy darkness of the water.  And the trickle turned into a stream when I saw the old woman Kate Winslet's character becomes, and when one of the people who interview her says that there was no record of the young man who sank into the cold and darkness.

I know that the movie impressed lots of people with its special effects, as James Cameron movies tend to do.  And I know there was lots of emotion that is to the human heart as the stuff played by music boxes is to music.  But somehow it felt good to experience it as I did tonight.  Now I wonder:  Was it because of the hormones, the surgery, or simply being with Mom at what is now seeming more like a late stage in her life (as much as I hope and wish it isn't so!).

23 April 2011

Arriving To The Passage Of Time

I'm at my parents' house in Florida, having gotten here last night and almost immediately dozing off.  The latter is not so much a commentary on Mom or Dad as it is on how tired I was last night.

Anyway, today I went for a nice but familiar bike ride and had an equally nice and familiar dinner of Mom's lasagna.  Tomorrow is Easter Sunday; Mom is going to Mass and later we will have dinner.  The day after that, Mom and I are planning to have lunch with a friend of hers with whom we had lunch the last time I was here, at Christmastime.

Although this is all fine, and I enjoy it, I am feeling rather strange about it all.  Yes, Mom and Dad raised and supported me.  But who was that "me?"  And all those times in my I adult life I came to their house, wherever they were living, are among the reasons I am here now.  But who was that person who spent those holidays, those weekends and those days and nights with them?  That person had a different name from the one I now have, and made all sorts of choices and decisions I would not make now.  Some of that, of course, is a matter of what nearly everyone feels upon reaching the age I am now:  Nearly all of us have done things that, knowing what we know now, we wouldn't do.  I am sure both of my parents feel this way.  But, as you can imagine, for me everything was complicated by the fact that I was living, literally, as a different person from what I am now.

I can't help but to wonder whether they would be living the lives they're living, in this house, had they raised me as a girl--had any of us known that such a thing was even possible, as foreign as it would have been in the places and time in which we were living!  I can't help but to think--even if I can't explain why or how--there are things they might've done differently if they had been raising Justine rather than Nick, and those things would have affected other choices they made.  Perhaps I would have been better off, or at least I wouldn't have to learn the things I'm learning because I would have learned them earlier in my life.  But what of my parents, and my brothers:  Would they have been better or worse off?  Or would it have made a difference?

Maybe it's just the realization that they have less and less time left in this life that's causing me to realize how much time I lost or wasted.

21 April 2011

Diana Discovers The Real Tea Party Agenda

The other day, McDonald's took applications for 50,000 positions they plan to fill.  

Some are saying that's a sign the economy is "turning a corner."  Perhaps it is if you're a McDonald's executive, or perhaps the owner of one of its franchises.  However, I don't think that the people who waited all night outside those restaurants to fill out an application would tell you that things are getting better.  Granted, some of them are young people who've never had a job before. But there are many others who had jobs that paid well, or were even professionals of one sort or another.  Now they're lining up for jobs that pay minimum wage, or not much more.

I guess the economy is turning a corner.  Here in New York, turning a corner can bring you into an entirely different neighborhood--and world.  And it isn't always for the better.  

So what are we entering?  I am not an economist, historian, futurologist, sociologist or any of the people who get paid to comment on this sort of thing.  But I don't think it's an economy that's going to benefit very many people.

We've heard it all:  First the manufacturing jobs went overseas.  Then customer service went to call centers in India.  Now we're seeing lawyers', engineers' and other professionals'--not to mention clerks'--work sent to countries with low wages.  Those last jobs were thought to be the ones that would never be "outsourced."  

So are there any "safe" jobs or professions?  Some have mentioned health care and law enforcement.  The former (even the so-called private facilities) are largely paid for through public funds, i.e., taxes.  And law enforcement is almost entirely financed that way.  We're seeing the consequences of that now:  The other day, Paterson, NJ laid off one-fourth of its police force.  

I think that what we're seeing is the real Republican/Right/Tea Party agenda.  If people are willing to do anything to get on the lowest rung of the employment ladder, those who are hiring can demand just about anything from them.  So the would-be employers are creating a buyer's market for labor.  And guess who the buyers are?

There is, however, a far more insidious manifestation of the Tea Party agenda. In fact, it's been all but unnoticed.  But it goes hand-in-hand with reducing large parts of the workforce to wage slavery.

On her blog, Diana described an example of what is happening.  In Michigan, the Governor essentially gave himself the power to throw out locally-elected officials and appoint his own people.  Those appointees, in turn, can toss out other officials and, in essence, run their localities by edict. 

This scenario has already played out in one city.  It just happens that city is the poorest and blackest (Yes, even more so than Detroit!) in the state.  I'm talking about Benton Harbor, which has been the subject of a number of articles and a book ("The Other Side of The River" by Alex Kotlowitz) in which the city is depicted as a poster child for post-industrial decay.  

If that could happen there, it's not hard to imagine, for instance, Chris Christie doing something similar with Camden or even Trenton, the state capital.  Newark wouldn't be out of the question, either.  

That is a corporate fascist's dream:  Large portions of the population without money and without a vote, or any other form of recourse.  (Think of what they're really trying to accomplish by de-funding Planned Parenthood.  It's not, as they say, about "reducing government." )

Some days it's just unbearable to be teaching college students who still believe that their degrees are going to get them wonderful, high-paying jobs.  I just hope that I'm helping them to open their eyes and that it leads them to vision rather than disillusionment.  Otherwise, what is the point of their time in school?

18 April 2011

Nevada Assembly Passes Transgender Protections Bill

The Nevada State Assembly has just voted for a bill that would outlaw job discrimination against transgender people.

Now the bill has to go before the state Senate for a vote.  The bill's supporters believe they have the votes to pass it, but no one seems to know whether Governor Bill Sandoval will sign it.

One legislator tried to claim that there aren't legal barriers to employment for transgender people, and others pointed out that there haven't been any discrimination cases involving transgender people.  However, Paul Aizley, one of the bill's sponsors, says that the reason why there haven't been court cases because transgender people lack the legal standing to bring them.  To that, I would add that most of us also don't have the economic standing to do so.

Although I'm not a fan of big government and more legislation, I don't see how  else to make conditions equitable for transgender people who want and need to work.  While most people will do what is fair, others need incentives or sanctions to do so.  On the other hand, discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to prove.  A gay black man I know says that human resource offices hide behind claims that an applicant "isn't a good fit with the culture of the organization," or some such thing.   He is about half a dozen years older than I am, earned a PhD a long time ago and has published two books.  Yet he's still working as an adjunct instructor in a couple of different colleges.

One thing I find interesting is that a state like Nevada--which is actually quite conservative once you get out of Las Vegas and Reno--is basically on the same level, at least when it comes to transgender rights, as New York.  This State's anti-discrimination laws were passed with language to protect gays and lesbians, but not transgenders because, as more than one legislator said, "the upstate Republicans wouldn't vote for" the bill if it included protection for gender identity and expression.  And those same legislators who passed the bill claimed that once the bill became law, it could be changed.

That was almost forty years ago.  In the meantime, several other states and about 100 municipalities--including New York City and Rochester (which, believe it or not, was one of the first in the nation)--passed their own laws and ordinances aimed at protecting transgendered people.  Now it looks like Nevada might be next.  

For once, at least one group of people is hoping that something that happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas!

17 April 2011

We Get The Storm

I know this hasn't much to do with being transgendered, or about changes in one's self.  But I want to show you something that happened only two blocks from where I live:

The same storm system that sent tornadoes tearing through large parts of this country gave us a storm that, while not quite as powerful, pounded us with heavy rain and hail, and slammed us with wind gusts over fifty miles an hour.  Those winds tore a side off the tree and left large limbs on the other side of the street.

I'm glad I'm not the owner or driver of this car!

16 April 2011

Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, One Year Later

The other day, someone sent me a link to a site that displayed one of my posts on this blog.  

I was a bit surprised, as the post is a year old.  But I am glad, for one thing, that someone is reading something I wrote a year after I wrote it.  My writing may not echo through the eons, but knowing that someone else is thinking, when I'm not, about something I wrote is nice.  

However, as much as I want to be a famous writer and all that, there is a far more important reason why I'm happy someone is referencing a post of mine a year after the fact.  You see, the post has had more views than any other I've made on this blog.  I'm happy for that, though not the occasion that prompted the post:  the murder of  Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar.

She was a young and beautiful woman whose given name was Edelbuerto.  Her death was ruled, not only as a homicide, but as a hate crime.  And, thankfully, her killer was caught.  But that makes her case almost one in a hundred.  According to Interpol, more than ninety percent of all killings of transgender or other gender-variant people since 1975 haven't been solved.  Some are never investigated in the first place; worse yet, no one hears about many other killings of trans people because so many have been cast aside by their families, friends and other communities.

Amanda experienced some of that rejection, I'm sure.  But people who knew her have told me that she was an outgoing, friendly woman who had a number of friends.  Apparently, she had not become alienated or hostile, as too many other members of marginalized minorities become.  That should serve as a reminder that hostile people are, for the most part, made, not born.  

I just hope that wherever Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar is, one year after she was killed, her spirit is appreciated and she does not have to experience the violence--to her body or spirit--to which she was subjected at the end of her life here, in Queens, just a couple of neighborhoods away from where I live.

13 April 2011

Tranny Baiting

Yesterday I had one of those classes that made me wish I'd gone into business or something rather than education. 

I was showing a film version of Shakespeare's Othello, the Moor of Venice.  The class in which I showed it consists mainly of freshmen, the majority of whom are at or near the "traditional" age for students in their first year of college.  So, as you might expect, there are some who are very, very immature.

One of them showed up after missing more than a month's worth of classes.  Worse, she is one of those students who wants her instructors to "freeze" the class to bring her up to speed.  Worse yet, she hadn't read any of the play and insisted on sitting next to me and asking me to explain the play, characters and story.  

The cynic in me says that her claimed disabilities aren't real, and that she's using her claim to them so that her professors don't demand of her what they demand of other students.  I've had other disabled students, and none had the sense of entitlement she seems to have. 

And then there's a group that sits in one part of the room.  They are the most immature ones of all--though, I must say, one of them is very smart and would be even more so if he weren't always trying to sound smart.

Again, he's not the first student of that type I've had.  What I find troubling is that he and a friend (who was absent) are trying to bait me. Or, that's how I feel anyway.  They're gay, and though they'd turn purple with rage if anyone "outed" them, that's what they're trying to do to me.  They seem to be the sorts of gay men who think that all transwomen need are good boyfriends (like themselves) to disabuse us of the notion that we have of ourselves.  

How do I know?  I've run into that kind of man before.  In fact, one of them used to make jokes that would get a guy fired in another workplace. But this guy was a prof with tenure at a college in which I worked before my current schools.

Yesterday's class was at my "second" job.  I haven't talked publicly about my history and identity because, well, I got tired of doing so at my other job.  Also, I find that the very same people who encourage me to talk about those things, and to lead workshops on gender identity or some such thing, are the very same people who will use the fact that I'm talking about those things against me.  

I have to admit, though, that the class--and I--couldn't help but notice that one of those guys was eager to play Desdemona when we read two scenes aloud.  Some in the class giggled; I wanted to either use it as a "teaching moment" to reiterate something I'd said earlier about English theatre in Shakespeare's time--namely, that there were no actresses and the female parts were played by boys--or to take that young man aside and ask him something like "What's Up With That?"

I just might ask him that tomorrow.  

11 April 2011

They All Want To Write About LGBT Issues

One of the classes I'm teaching this semester is in research writing.  All students at the college in which I teach it have to take it when they are juniors, though some wait until their very last semesters.  

In that course, I assign some readings on a common topic and have them write two papers about them.  Along the way, I give them guidance about research, planning, writing a draft, revisions and documentations.   Then they can choose a topic, write a proposal and, after I approve the proposal--or after they revise it--they begin to write their papers.  I can't remember rejecting a proposal outright; I usually ask students to focus their topics more or suggest things they might want to research within that topic.

What surprises (in a good way) and fascinates me is that about a third of my students want to write on some LGBT-related topic.  Now, at that college where I'm teaching that class, my identity is known.  I always tell the students that I don't want them to choose topics or say what they say to get in my good graces; I just want them to choose something that interests them and that's doable in the amount of time we have.  But every one of those students insists that he or she has other reasons for wanting to write about LGBT-related topics.  Two students are doing so because they're gay; three other students are writing about homophobia in Caribbean countries. (Interestingly, a Haitian-American and a Nigerian student are writing about the homophobia in Jamaica, while a Jamaican student plans to write about the phenomenon as it occurs in other Caribbean countries.)  

While I'm happy to see them take on those topics, I wonder why a much greater portion of my students this semester than in previous semesters want to research and write about LGBT issues.  Is there something in the water? ;-)

08 April 2011

It's A Girl Again!

Another "girl" was "born" today.

Or, more precisely, a girl who was born on 7 July 2009 became who she is, again.

Actually, the event happened a couple of days ago.  But I just got the official documentation of it today.

I'm talking about my birth certificate.  I know I should've had it changed a while ago.  But somehow it didn't seem as urgent as changing my passport or Social Security cared, or my state ID.  Those last three documents are the ones used in nearly all situations requiring personal identification.  However, I can't remember the last time I had to show my birth certificate.

On the other hand, I didn't know I would feel as good as I did about getting that new birth certificate.  When I said getting it didn't seem urgent, I was telling just part of the truth.  Something about changing my birth certificate seemed even more monumental (at least in my life) than changing those other documents.  After all, most people get new passports, driver's licenses or other government IDs every ten years.  Some people even get new Social Security cards.  However, most people get only one birth certificate in their lives.

Getting the new birth certificate was easier than I expected.  It turns out that Georgia, where I was born, actually has an easier process than many other states--including New York!  I had to send the following items to the Georgia Bureau of Vital Statistics in Atlanta:

  • My old birth certificate
  • A certified copy of Marci Bowers' letter certifying that she performed my surgery
  • The court order for my name change
  • A photocopy of my New York State ID and US Passport*, and
  • A money order for $35.
I sent these items via Express Mail, and included a pre-paid Express Mail return envelope.  Today, ten days later, I received my new birth certificate.

It is a brand-new certificate.  I found out that many other states issue amended copies--in some cases, with the former name and gender visibly typed over.  And some other states won't change a person's name or gender at all.

Now I have an official Georgia birth certificate that records my sex as "female."  Does that mean I'm now officially a Southern Belle?  Well, maybe if I were a little bit more belle, I guess I could be one.

07 April 2011

Another Campaign of H8

Even if you haven't heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, you may know about its founder, Reverend Fred Phelps.  And even if you don't know about either one, you probably know about some of the things they've done.  Back in 1998, they showed up at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, chanting "God Hates Fags."  A few years later, they would show up at the funerals of American military members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There, they yammered about how God hates the military and that he would destroy the very soldiers and airmen who were fighting there.  

I guess this all shows that hate really is a cancer that feeds on everything around it.  How else could a pastor and his followers, all of whom purport to be Christians, be so filled with hate?  

06 April 2011

When Girl Meets Girl

When you're a performer of any sort, someone in your audience is going to have a crush on you.  Anyone who's a singer or musician knows that.  So do actors and dancers.  Also, I've discovered, it's equally true for professors or teachers as it is for preachers and politicians.

Now, if that has happened to me both as Nick and as Justine, I know it can happen to anyone who teaches!

Anyway...One of my students, it seems, just can't stop looking at me--with a longing, winsome smile.  It's funny that, even though this is not the first such experience I've had, it seems even stranger--yet, in some odd way, more gratifying--than any student crush I've experienced before.  

Not to boast, but I am one of the few faculty members I know who has been the object of longings from both male and female students.  So no such attention should seem out of the ordinary by now.  So why am I talking about this particular student?

I'll call her Matilda.  She was born in Venezuela and came here as a teenager. In one of her papers, she described the day she realized she had sexual feelings for women.  She mentioned it in relation to something we'd read in class,  and she's older than the "traditional" college-age student (though she's very youthful-looking).  So I didn't regard it as a "coming out."  In fact, I somehow felt that her sexual self-identity was normal, perhaps even routine, to her.  I daresay that the way I relate to my own gender and sexual identity is probably newer for me than hers is for her.

In another assignment, she said (again, in relation to something we'd read in class) that she never has never been with a man, and never had interest (at least sexually) in them.   Before she realized she had feelings for women, she said, the other girls in her class had boyfriends and she tried to believe what her family told her: that her "turn" hadn't come yet.  

Now, when you teach a work of literature, your students (at least some of them) are sure to relate something or another about it to some experience or another in their own lives.  I do not discourage that, for that is often the "gateway" for students.  Some have told me some very personal stories.  So, in a sense, what Matilda did wasn't so unusual, at least to me.  Still, I somehow felt that she was revealing even more of herself to me than students normally do.

Then I started to think--especially after I noticed her gaze and her smile--that she was trying to tell me something more than the connection she found between her experience and the reading.

Of course, I have no intention of pursuing a relationship with her.  Certainly, I would never do it while she was my student.  But I wouldn't go on a date with her even after she has completed the course with me.  For one thing, if she's still in school after that, it would definitely lead to some awkward moments.  And, for another, I realize that my allure (such as it is) would probably be gone once I'm not her prof any more.  The fact that we are in the same class (albeit in different roles) might be the only thing we have in common.

But, even so, I find her attraction to me even more affirming than the first time a man was attracted to me after I started living as Justine. (At least, he was the first one that I noticed.)  He was a Puerto Rican artist, whom I'll call Dario,  about a decade or so older than me.  When I "confessed" who I really was to him, he said he was willing to stay with me until my operation--which, at that point, was still well into the future--and beyond.  In fact, he said, he wanted me as a woman.

Dario also insisted that, sexually, he was interested only in women.  I had my doubts then, which were later confirmed.  That wasn't the reason I didn't go out with him, though.  I just didn't sense that we were terribly compatible in other ways.

On the other hand, I am sure Matilda has never been interested in men.  I wouldn't care if anyone I dated had relations with both genders, as long as he or she were honest and disease-free.  But I know--or, at least, I've surmised from what I've seen--that she isn't interested in any manifestation of my Y chromosome.  I've run into a few women who seemed to want me to be a boyfriend, only better.  That's not what I'm sensing in Matilda.

So, as strange as this attraction is, I'm enjoying it.  We probably will never see each other again once the course is over.  Perhaps one or both of us will have come to know ourselves better as a result of this.

05 April 2011

They Need A Few Good Bikes. The Women, Too.

A counselor at my second job is a volunteer with Neighbors Link, an organization that helps recent immigrants. He is asking people to donate bicycles and sturdy clothing and footwear (such as jeans, overalls, T-shirts and work boots) to that organization, which will give them to recent immigrants.

The idea intrigued me for several reasons.  For one, I notice that more and more immigrants--mainly from Latin America and Asia, and mainly men--are using bicycles for transportation. I'm not talking only about the guys who make deliveries for various restaurants, cafes and diners.  Others are riding their bikes to work at construction sites, warehouses and other places where native-born degree-holders fear to tread.  Some, I suspect, are also riding to classes at the community colleges, language institutes, trade schools and GED centers in the area.  

As you can imagine, they're not always riding the best of bikes.  Sometimes they're on cheap department-store bikes, most of which are not assembled properly (in addition to being of poor quality).  Others are used bikes of just about every genre.  These days mountain bikes from the early and mid-90's seem to be the most common pre-owned bikes to find their way into the immigrant communities, and there are large numbers of "vintage" ten- and twelve-speed bikes, in addition to some English (or English-style) three-speeds.  (Do you know what makes me feel old? Knowing that I rode "vintage" bikes when they weren't vintage!)  All of these bikes, even the best of them, are in various states of disrepair.  

Image from "The Urban Country"

I think the counselor who's coordinating the collections is doing a great thing. If you're in the NYC area and have anything to donate, I can refer you to him, and he will arrange a pick-up.

But now that I've undergone changes, I've become a radical feminist.  (Ha, ha!) So I notice that these immigrant bike riders are invariably male.  That is not a stereotype or sweeping generalization; I can't recall the last time I saw a Latina or female Asian immigrant riding a bike for any reason.  Every female cyclist I've met here has been native- or European-born.  

So now I'm thinking about why that is.  It seems to me that bicycling, like education, can make such women less dependent on men and less isolated.  I have had many female immigrant students, some of whom were single mothers and others who were married to abusive men.  Even those who seemed to be in happy marriages and families were living in a kind of isolation I can just barely imagine.  I mean, I've lived in a culture different from my own, and I've traveled to others. But I realize now that, when I was living abroad, and in my travels until recently, I had a great deal of freedom simply from being a single American, and from living as a guy named Nick.  But even when I went to Turkey five years ago--as Justine, but still three years before my surgery--I was able to move about in ways that I never could had I been a Turkish woman.

Oh, and I didn't see a single woman on a bike when I was there.  And I wasn't riding, either.

Anyway...Let me know if you want to make, or know anyone who wants to make, a donation to the program I described.  I'm also interested in hearing any thoughts you might have about the situation of immigrant women I've just described.

04 April 2011

What Would MLK Do?

Forty-three years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death.  It's the first assassination of a public figure that I can recall:  I was nine years old at the time.

Of course, anyone who concerns him or herself with equality has to think about King.  Thinking about him invariably brings to mind the man who is often thought to be his opposite:  Malcolm X, who was also gunned down.

Most people who are working, or have worked, for the betterment of their group of people see King as an icon.  The fact that he faced the institutionalized (and, too often, legal) discrimination of his time is reason enough to venerate him.  However, I think that it's often assumed that King would be in support of some cause or another.  The same people might have wanted to claim Malcolm X as an ally, except that they see him as someone who pursued his ends through violence, and advised others to do the same.

I think it might be fair to assume that King would favor LGBT equality.  However, I'm not so sure of what he'd think of same-sex marriage, or even legal protections for transgender people.  After all, he was ordained as a minister in a conservative Protestant denomination.  Then again, his views on LGBT equality might have evolved had he lived longer.  There was evidence that some of his views, or at least his focus, was starting to change in the days before his assassination.  He had treated the fight for equality mainly as a legal and moral issue.  However, it is said that by the end of his life, he was starting to think about the economics of the issue more.  Perhaps he understood, as James Baldwin said more than half a century ago, that no community can hope to improve its lot when even the local supermarket isn't owned by someone in the community and the profits are going to some faraway place.

Malcolm X understood that from the beginning of his days as an activist.  He said that, in essence, African-Americans had to develop their own economy, which would be separate from the larger American/Western economy.  He did not want, or expect any assistance from the government or any other established institution.  Ultimately, I believe that he had the right idea:  Groups of people, if they want to better themselves, ultimately must establish their own stores, banks, schools and whatever.  However, that wasn't possible in his time because African-Americans and other marginalized communities didn't have the resources necessary to bring about such a system. 

King was beginning to understand that.  And, after the journey to Mecca he took the year before he was killed,  Malcolm was starting to realize that in order to bring about economic, not to mention ethical and spiritual, justice, unity rather than separatism was needed.  So he started to see the need for a universal brotherhood that would include alliances and friendships with sympathetic whites and people of other races.  That, of course, was Martin Luther King's territiory.

Would they have joined forces?  (Interestingly, their widows became very close friends.)  Would their alliances and brotherhoods have include LGBT people.   Somehow the notion that they would have done those things seems not so far-fetched.  

03 April 2011

Why We Should Be Worried About Anti-Islamic Hate

Although I still have something that resembles a belief system, I have just about no use for religion.  Still, I am very, very afraid when I see people using their influence to spread hate against other people on account of their religion.  After all, if you learn nothing else from the Holocaust, you learn that when they go after the Jews, it's only a matter of time before they go after you.

A certain amount of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment has long existed in this country; 9/11 simply pushed it to the forefront and made anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry socially acceptable, at least in some circles.  But lately, it seems that the Islamophobes have "turned up the volume," if you will.  Whether or not there has been more violence and hatred against Muslims, I don't know.  But I've certainly been hearing a lot more about it lately.

The Florida pastor who burned the Koran is just the latest example.  You just don't do that to someone's holy book, even if it's The Whole Earth Catalogue or Mad Magazine.  I mean, what if some imam in Afghanistan burned Bibles or copies of the US Constitution?  I'd be willing to bet that the same people who preach hate against Muslims would be purple with rage.  

Among those people would be folks like Congressman Peter King.  His hearings on terrorism turned into an anti-Moslem referendum.  Until those hearings, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: I suspected that he lost someone close to him on 9/11.  However, I've met other people who lost loved ones that day and have not heard--from them, anyway--the kind of bilge coming out of King's mouth.  Yes, they're still grieving; they're probably angry and some may well hate Muslim or Middle Eastern people.  However, they're not acting the way King has acted. 

Plus, as Diana has noted on her blog, violence against Muslims and people who are (or are thought to be) of Middle Eastern descent has increased and shows no signs of abating.  The FBI says that there are now about 1000 hate groups operating in the US.  Many of them are white supremacist groups, or include white supremacy in their goals and mission.  It's not a stretch to say that the ones who haven't openly expressed a wish to make life more difficult or even to deport or kill Muslims are engaged in doing so.  

And once they're finished with Muslims, they'll come for you!

01 April 2011

Maryland HB-235: Trans People Thrown Under The Bus, Again

What is it with LGBT legislation?  It seems that it's only for the L's and the G's.

Mind you, I don't believe that legislation is the way to achieve equality.  If anything, I think less legislation will do us more good. 

Same-sex marriage is a case in point. First of all, I think that government has no business in marriage.  If the government has no right to decide who is and isn't married, then there can be no favoritism in the tax codes or in any other part of the body of law.

But when laws are passed with clearly-defined language for lesbian or gay rights, but not for transgender people--or when gay-rights laws are "amended" by adding the words "gender identity and expression--that is worse than having no law at all, for such laws create new inequalities that didn't exist before.

Such has been the case in New York State for forty years.  And now it looks like Maryland is going to emulate The Empire State in that regard. 

HB-235 in Maryland is one of those pieces of legislation that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and other areas.  However, the way "housing" and "public accomodations" are defined has more holes in it than an old pair of pantyhose.  That is part of the "compromise" that's supposed to make it at least somewhat palatable to middle-of-the-road legislators.  

So why is that discriminatory against transgender people? Well, it still means that, as the bill is written, transgenders could still be denied the right to stay in a homeless shelter or a "safe house" for women who are fleeing domestic violence.  It also means that someone who is trans--forget that, any male or female whose appearance is not in line with societal standards of masculinity or femininity--can be arrested for using the "wrong" bathroom in an office building, restaurant or other establishment.  

I am not the only one  who thinks the bill was deliberately written that way to appease the ones who think that men in dresses are going to bathrooms to molest little boys, or some such thing.  Much as it pains me to say this, Archbishop Timothy Dolan was right about something:  He pointed out that most child molesters are straight married men.   And, I would add, very few of them wear dresses or any clothing that isn't stereotypically masculine. 

(My experience reflects what Dolan said:  In my childhood, I was molested by a married man who probably never even wore anything red,  let alone pink,  in his life, and by another man who, as far as I know, was straight.) 

The thing is, no law that even pretends to be trans-inclusive will ever win the approval of anyone who thinks that way.  The few who might have been swayed by the "compromises" may have been swayed by other means.  So, if the bill passes, inequalities are enshrined in law:  another case of trans people being "thrown under the bus."