31 May 2014

How Many Stereotypes Can You Maintain With $200,000?

Sometimes you can tell that someone just had to get a grant--whether to secure tenure or some other kind of promotion, justify his or her (or his or her organization's) existence--or get another grant.

Actually, sometimes it seems as if at least half the grants in this world fall into that category.  Perhaps I'm cynical from having spent so much time in the academic world, but I have heard of more than a few studies or projects and wondered, "The world needs this...how?"

I found myself asking that question when I read that the National Institutes of Health are  spending nearly $200,000 ostensibly to study how transgender women use social networking sites like Facebook, and how said use affects their chances of getting HIV.

What have the folks at NIH learned?  Well, they say, transwomen use Facebook and the like to "develop social support structures, connect with members of their community, receive positive and re-affirming perspectives on their gender identity and inform behavioral norms."

No!  Really?

I mean, couldn't the same be said of any member of an isolated, discriminated-against community...or any number of teenagers?  Or Goths? Or anyone with a hobby, a fetish or any interest, whether or not it's in the mainstream? Isn't that one of the reasons why people--especially the young--use Facebook:  to engage with people they can't meet in person or to enter worlds they're too shy to encroach upon?

The study also says trans women use social media to find illegal hormones and sex-work partners.  I mean, really:  This reinforces stereotypes about us that, really, are just exaggerations of the worst characteristics of the most deviant members of any group of people-- the ones who want to use engage in illegal or un-approved behavior.

Plus, as Kelli Busey of Planetransgender, points out, plenty of trans people have no access to the Net because they're homeless or simply too poor to afford a device or connection, or even time in an Internet cafe. We are disproportionately poor and homeless, and many spaces are off-limits to us, especially if we are, or are perceived as, poor, homeless or sex workers.

So what, exactly, is the NIH trying to accomplish with the study?  Kelli and others have suggested that it might be a way the government is spying on us.  I wouldn't discount that idea.  But I stick to my theory about needing a grant for the reasons I mentioned.  When people and organizations get and use grants for those reasons, they've already made up their minds about their subjects and the conclusions they will reach about them.  

30 May 2014

Medicare Will Accept Applications For GRS Coverage

A US Department of Health and Human Services board has just ruled that Medicare recipients can no longer automatically be denied coverage for gender-reassignment surgeries.

Of course, this does not mean that every senior citizen who wants the surgery will get it at taxpayers' expense.  Rather, it gives Medicare recipients can seek authorization for the procedure by submitting a doctor's and mental health professional's documentation stating that the surgery is medically indicated in the applicant's case.

State-run Medicaid organizations as well as private insurers often take their cues from the Federal government in setting guidelines for coverage.  So, some have suggested, today's ruling could pave the way for gender-reassignment surgery becoming a routinely-covered benefit.

Such a prospect, of course, has opponents' knickers in a twist.  They believe that "anyone and everyone" will ask for the surgery and costs will rocket to the stratosphere.  However, even the most liberal estimates indicate that transgender people are no more than 0.4 percent of the population. Moreover, preliminary research indicates that coverage of medical treatments and procedures related to transgender issues has no discernible effect on the number of people who avail themselves to them.

29 May 2014

A Spring Night On Grove Street

Is it true that in the Spring, a young bike's fancies turn to romance?  How does that saying go?

As the young would say...whatever!  I don't give advice about love and romance, but I'm willing to make recommendations for floral gifts:

28 May 2014

Prejudice, To The Letter

Last night, I was having dinner with two friends and a friend of theirs—who, as it turns out, is a neighbor of mine.  We’re all artists and teachers of one kind or another so, as you can imagine, topics of our conversation included writers and writing, education and politics.

The friends are a couple; I met them in the church I’ve been attending.  Their friend—a nice straight woman who grew up Roman Catholic—is not religious but seems to be a theist of some sort.

Anyway, at one point, the conversation turned to the influence of religion in politics and what that’s meant for us.  One of the couple mentioned Michelle Bachmann, and talked about how she’s emblematic of what’s corrupting both education and politics:  She, like some other politicians and others working behind-the-scenes, attended fundamentalist Christian colleges and law schools.  “They want to run this country according to their version of Biblical law,” my friend exclaimed.

Of course, any time anyone tries to run anything according to the letter of any sort of scripture—religious or secular—said scripture is filtered through the mind of whoever is interpreting it.  We all have prejudices, but I am coming to realize that’s not the real problem of trying to run a country according to Mosaic or Sharia or whatever kind of law.  Instead, the real danger comes when someone tries to use a text—whether it’s the Bible or the Constitution or the Communist Manifesto—to support a particular agenda that has little or nothing to do with the text itself.

Here’s an example of what I mean:  Many well-intentioned people harbor unconscious prejudices against people whose races, nationalities, gender identities and expressions, beliefs or sexuality differ from their own.  Most of us learn those prejudices long before we learn even the words for them, let alone the intellectual tools to take those biases apart.  Being aware of, and fighting, them is all we can do.  On the other hand, some people will try to institutionalize those prejudices, whether through Biblical rationales for slavery or Koranic (Is that the proper word?) justifications for killing infidels—or using some interpretation of the Talmud as a basis for isolating themselves and their fellow believers from everyone else.

Essentially, Michelle Bachmann and her ilk are among those who are trying to use the Bible as a legal basis for discriminating against LGBT people.  What’s even worse, though, is that people like her have joined forces with lawyers and politician whose legal education is based mainly on property rights (or, again, someone’s notion of them) as well as laws and interpretations of laws designed to allow very wealthy people to gamble with what little people poorer than themselves have.

Why is the situation I’ve described so dangerous?  Well, making this country into a fundamentalist (again, according to someone’s interpretation) Christian state can leave us disenfranchised:  Enforcing bans on same-sex marriage, and repealing laws that allow it in some states, will be just the beginning.  Call me paranoid, but I can imagine someone creating a “heterosexuality test” or some determination of how closely someone conforms to accepted notions of gender identity and expression.  What will happen if such tests are used to determine whether someone can vote or get a job, loan or place to live? 
Such a test might be devised by Bachmann’s husband, a “psychotherapist” who practices “conversion therapy.”

27 May 2014

Have I Crossed The Mason-Dixon Line Without Realizing It?

Yesterday I pedaled out to Somerville (NJ), in part to see the bike races.  I also wanted to just spend a day away from any obligations I normally have:  I could rationalize it to myself because Millie told me that she wanted to be alone and not to talk to anyone.  (Our mutual friend Joanne told me that Millie told her the same thing.)

But I also wanted to revisit an old ritual:  At one point in my life, I was pedaling out to Somerville every year, whether from Rutgers (half an hour, at most) or Inwood, Manhattan (about four hours).  I also wanted to see a place that had, and hadn’t changed during those years.

The first time I rode out there—on a non-race day—was some time in the late 1970’s, when I was a Rutgers student.  Then, Somerville had a certain kind of charm:  It seemed more like a Southern town than one in west-central New Jersey.  It had—as it has now—a pretty residential area full of houses with wooden porches framed by lacy wooden columns of carved vines or flutey stone colonnades.  And in the center of town, diagonally across from the courthouse (The town is the county seat.) is the Hotel Somerset, said to be the oldest continually-operating hostellerie in the nation.  The first time I saw it, I thought no one had stayed in it or eaten in its restaurant.  It still looks that way today, even though people actually do spend the night—or longer—there.

But I started to notice something disturbing about the town.  When I got there, I wondered whether I’d passed over the Mason-Dixon line somewhere in Middlesex Boro or Bound Brook.  At some point, I noticed that the pretty historic residential area housed only white residents.  I thought even I might have been too dark to live there.  All of the people of color—very few in number during my first visit, more numerous now—live in a tightly-bounded area of town south of the hotel, along East Main Street and   --which, interestingly, ends right by the race’s grandstand.

I wonder whether anyone else who came to see the races noticed--or knows that Somerville is the town in which Paul Robeson went to high school.

26 May 2014

How We Can Truly Serve Our Country--And World

I have written about Chuck Hagel's declaration that the ban against transgenders in the military should be "reviewed" and that "every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have the opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it."

I have also written, in numerous posts, about my attitude toward legalizing same-sex marriage:  I am glad that it's happening, but I think that the government's role in deciding who can marry should be limited to establishing a minimum age.  And churches or other religious institutions should not be vested with the power to confer legally-married status on any two people.  In other words, the government should do no more than to grant civil unions to any two people of the age of consent who want to be together.  Then, the couples can decide whether they want to marry in a church or whatever.

Why am I mentioning that in the context of transgender people serving in the military?  Well, my attitude about getting rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the possibility of doing the same for the ban on transgenders is very similar:  I'm glad it's happening, but I also think there has to be an even more fundamental change.

I have long believed that the human race will advance only if we get rid of war.  If we don't, we'll die.  All of us.  If anything, we should be discouraging people from joining the Armed Forces and finding ways to put their--our--talents and skills to use to save our planet and better ourselves.  That will happen only when people respect each other's differences and stop exploiting or killing each other over them.  For what is war but the ultimate expression of a person's--or a group of people's--disrespect for the sanctity and individuality of another?

Transgenders should be the first people to understand what I've said in the previous paragraph.  And I think we should be in the forefront of teaching and showing respect for people's differences.  Doing so would preclude joining the military:  After all, what effaces a person's individuality more than becoming part of "the big green fighting machine"?

We need to find better ways of escaping poverty, paying for college or getting a good health plan--and to redefine what it means to "serve" one's country or community.  That said, I want to take this opportunity to remember those who have sacrificed portions of their lives--or their very lives--for what we now think of as service to our country.  As we now know, among them are many transgender people who camouflaged themselves, went "stealth" or however you want to describe their efforts to fit into a country's notion of what it means to serve--or simply have a job. 

25 May 2014

Tona Brown To Perform At Carnegie Hall

So...You want to see the first transgender African-American to perform at Carnegie Hall.  Well, you'll have your chance next month--assuming, of course, that you havve a ticket.

You've probably heard this joke:  "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice!"  Ms. Brown is living proof that truth behind that joke.  The mezzo-soprano and violinst says she dreamed of performing at the world-famous venue since she was a fourteen-year-old at the Governor's School For The Arts in Norfolk, Virginia.  While at Governor's "I realized that if I practiced and studied with the best, one day I could perform at Carnegie Hall.

If the following video is any indication of her abilities, we're in for a treat:


24 May 2014

Scraping The Sky, Or Brushed By Fog

Late yesterday morning and the afternoons were just interludes between rainstorms.  Or so it seemed.  And it rained even harder, from what I can tell, last night.

I crossed the Queens-Randall's Island spur of the Triborough (RFK Memorial) Bridge just before the window closed or the clouds opened, depending on your point of view:

23 May 2014

R.I.P John

Today I'm going to detour a bit, for a very personal reason.

In other posts, I've mentioned Millie.  I met her the day I moved to Astoria, in August of 2002.  She saw me as I unloaded boxes, bikes and two cats--Charlie I and Candice--into an apartment in the building next to her house.  She decided that she liked me right then and there, or so it seemed.  And, yes, I liked her immediately.

Well, over the years she's taken care of my cats whenever I've spent time away.  Two years after we became neighbors, I took a trip to France and she cared for Charlie and Candice, probably even better than I did.  Then, about two years after that, she took care of Candice when I went to Turkey.  Charlie had died a couple of months before that and, after I returned from my trip, I adopted a cat she'd rescued--and named Charlie.  A little more than a year after that, Candice died and another one of Millie's rescuees--Max--came into my life.

She's been as good a friend as I've ever had in my life.  So was her husband, John.

Referring to him in the past tense feels even sadder to me than the reason why I did so:  He died the other night, apparently, in his sleep.  Given that a tumor was causing his brain to play cruel tricks on him, that was probably the most merciful way he could have been taken from this world.

Millie has said she was fortunate to have married such a good man.  He could not have had a better companion in his life, especially in his last days.  And his granddaughter has told me he is one of her role models, for his honesty and kindness. I can vouch for both qualities.

The next time I have dinner, spend a day or a holiday, or simply sit with Millie--alone, or with her daughters and grandchildren--I will be happy, as always, to see her. Still, things won't be the same without John.

All I can do now is to thank him one more time.

22 May 2014

Transphobes Tossed Off The Airwaves--For Now, Anyway

Rochester, NY was one of the very first jurisdictions in the US to protect gender identity and expression in its human rights laws.  In fact, Rochester accorded equal rights in housing, employment, education and other areas to transgenders a quarter-century before New York City did so. 

Of course, that law didn't stamp out ignorance and hate, any more than such a law could have such an effect anyplace else.  Even so, it's more than a little surprising that a pair of popular local radio hosts--Kimberly and Beck--should go on this transphobic rant:

Being ignorant of what it means to be trans is one thing, and is even somewhat understandable. But calling us "nutjobs" is something else. So is the comment about the trans male softball player having two bats.   And there's simply no excuse for anyone over the age of seven to play "Dude Looks Like A Lady" while making fun of trans people.

(After I ended my relationship with him, Dominick left that song on my voice mail a number. I ignored it and he escalated his harassment.)

At least it's good to know that retribution against Kimberly and Beck was swift. Of course, that did nothing to stop them, but it's still good to know that caller called them out.  Others complained, and someone with the power to stop K and B took action: Their employers, station 98.9, suspended them "indefinitely".

I've been to Rochester once, before I knew about their history of transgender equality. My brief stay left me with the impression that there are some really good people there.  The reaction to Kimberly and Beck confirms that notion.

21 May 2014

20 May 2014

Coming Together While Going In Opposite Directions

Boy meets girl...

All right....Before anyone accuses me of not getting the story "straight", I'm going to tell you what happened:

Boy became girl.  Girl became boy.  They lived happily...well, they're still together, anyway.

And they've got quite an album of photos to show for it.  You see, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst are both photographers and artists.  So it seems natural that they would document their own, and each others' transitions in images.  And what images they are!

Their photos are part of an exhibit at this year's Biennial in the Whitney Museum of New York.

Of course, love stories always end with the couple going off into the sunset:

PHOTO: Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, from the Relationship series, 2008?2013.

19 May 2014

Banning The Ban In The Beaver State

As a general rule, I guard against complacency.  Still, it's hard to greet one piece of news as if it's becoming almost routine.

Today, US District Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying that it's unconstitutional.  County clerks all over the Beaver State said they were ready to issue marriage licenses, and it didn't take long for Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom to form the line for marriage licenses at Multnomah County court.

Oregon becomes the eighth state in which a Federal judge struck down a same-sex marriage ban on Constitutional grounds during the past year.  Things have gotten so that Judge McShane's ruling can't be dismissed over the fact that he's openly gay:  Earlier this year, in Utah, a conservative Republican judge (Robert Shelby)  issued a similar ruling.  It has been appealed, as McShane's ruling is likely to be. 

But the fact that bans can be appealed by such disparate judges means, I believe, that we'll see similar developments in other states.  Common wisdom used to tell us that same-sex marriage would become legal because more and more legislators--even ones as far to the right as Dick Cheyney--realize they have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends and co-workers in the LGBT spectrum.  Such awareness has certainly helped, as well as a younger generation who's more willing to accept sexual and gender-expression diversity. However, it seems to me that any jurist worthy of the title--let alone a Constitutional scholar--realizes that there is simply no Constitutional basis for a ban on same-sex marriage.  At least, my readings of the document, for what they're worth, tell me as much.

It looks, though, like opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage are going to be busy in the Beaver State, as they have been in the Beehive State and other places in this country.

18 May 2014

Transgender Culture: What Is It? Or Is It?

The moment you talk about a "culture", you're not part of it.

Perhaps it's trite to say that. But, like so many other statements that become cliches, it is so trivialized, not because it's not true--if anything, it's cliched because it's so true--but because it's uttered so often and so glibly by people who feel smart or wise for using it.

Anyway, the first sentence of this post sums up the problem I've always had with the use of the term "transgender culture."

Now, there are cultures--like the Hijra of South Asia--consisting of trans people.  They indeed have their own customs, rituals, mores and, some might say, language.  And their culture can be said to be a function of the symbiotic relationship the cultures surrounding them (i.e., those of India) have with them.  Returning to the example of Hijra:  They are treated as a separate caste and have suffered increasing discrimination as India has become more Westernized and Christianized. But people still call on them to officiate at weddings and funerals, to offer blessings for other occasions and to ward off evil spirits.

But, as Kat Callahan points out, almost anyone who speaks of a "transgender culture" is talking about a Western or American idea of what it--or culture generally--is.  And, as Ms. Callahan points out, the speaker is almost always cisgender.  

What she doesn't say, but probably thinks, is that most Americans, to the extent that they think about "trans culture," define it in much the same way people used to talk about "gay culture" or "queer culture":  bars, clubs, balls and such.  There used to be talk about "queer spaces" where lesbians and/or gays--particularly young ones--could meet.  While such things still exist, I think they are dying out, as lesbians and gays have less of a need to simultaneously assert their identities and integrate themselves into their schools, workplaces and such because of the wider acceptance--or, at least acknowledgment--that your favorite aunt or uncle or most talented co-worker might be gay.

As Ms. Callahan points out, we, as trans people, are taking our place in that world.  That gives us less of a need to create insular identities and customs; of "trans culture", whatever it means, she writes, "It is unnecessary before it even has come to exist."  

Most poignantly, she says, "I am not part of it."  I feel the same way. Perhaps that is the reason why I have had so little involvement with trans, or even LGBT-related "culture" or events:  I don't know of any secret handshakes or kisses, or have any particular habits, beliefs or customs that are emblematic of trans people.  We don't have particular foods, ways of dressing, a language, a body of artistic expression or geographic locations that define us.  Certainly, we don't have anything resembling a common religion:  I've met trans people who are atheists, devout practitioners of mainstream religions, Wiccans and everything in between.  For that matter, I even wonder whether we have a common history, as the current definitions of trans people didn't exist through most of human history.
In other words, we can be nothing more or less than trans people in the culture(s) of which we are a part.  No one else can define what that means for us.

17 May 2014

Younger And More Brutally Attacked

Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  Normally, I don't care much for days dedicated to one thing or another:  I believe that we always need to be conscious of those things to which those days are dedicated.  Nonetheless, I think IDAHOT is at least a good start to help raise awareness about violence against us.

The thing is, it's not just straight and cisgender people who need their consciousness raised.  Too often, murders==let alone other kinds of violence--are ignored or given the short shrift by the LGB media and their audience unless the crimes are particularly horrific or happen in bars, clubs, other public places  or neighborhoods that are supposed to be our sanctuaries. And violence against youth is also ignored or simply missed.

To address this problem, the Trans Violence Tracking Portal was launched just last month.  Anyone can use it to report incidents of any sort of violence--from beatings to murder--against anyone who lives under the trans umbrella.  So far, it has received 102 reports of such violence since the beginning of this year. Although that is the total number received from around the world, it's far out of proportion to our percentage of the population, even when one considers that only a small percentage of such crimes are reported.  

The TVTP reports reveal something I've discussed in other posts:  the sheer brutality of attacks against trans people. It's truly disturbing to see how often trans people are shot or stabbed multiple times--often after being beaten to death, or within an inch of their lives.  A disproportionate number of us are also set afire, whether after being killed or while still alive.

Perhaps the most frightening part of the TVTP report is how often young people are attacked. Such crimes include the following:

  • 8 year old boy beaten to death by father for being trans
  • 14 year old strangled to death and stuffed under a bed
  • Two 16 year olds were shot to death
  • Three 18 year olds stabbed to death, dismembered, or shot
  • Two 18 year olds murdered with no details being reported
  • An 18 year old suffered two violent attacks by a mob and survived.
Reading of these atttacks, I couldn't help but to wonder whether or not I'd be alive today if I had been an "out" trans child or teenager.  I'm sure many other trans people--including some of you--are asking the same question.

16 May 2014

Violence Against Us

Tomorrow is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  In light of that, I feel the need to present this:

15 May 2014

Governor O"Malley Signs Legislation; Opponents Ready To Drag It Into The Bathroom

News flash:  Governor Martin O'Malley has just signed legislation that makes Maryland one of a handful of states to extend its anti-discrimination laws to protect transgender people.

As happy as I am to see this, I am also dismayed at a depressingly familiar spectacle that accompanies it:  Opponents are launching a petition to put the law up for a referendum in this November's election.  I'm not so upset that they're trying to repeal the law:  That, at least can be defeated relatively easily, especially in a state like Maryland, home to many LGBT lobbyists and others who work in the nation's capital.  What makes me say, "Oh, this shit again!" is that, once again, opponents are using the bathroom argument. 

I mean, really:  What man will dress up in women's clothes just so he can go into a women's restroom and bother the people using it.  If a man really wants to molest, harass or attack women, he will do so by other means and in other places.  And I have yet to hear of a male-to-female transgender who actually did something she shouldn't have been doing in women's facilities.

I haven't spent a lot of time in Maryland.  But from my brief stops and stays there, I get the impression that there are enough intelligent people in the Old Line State to shoot down such a ridiculous argument.  I take that back: It shouldn't even be dignified by calling it an argument.

Anyway, kudos to Governor O'Malley.  Too bad that this year marks the end of his second term.  Because of term limits, he can't run again in November. 

14 May 2014

What Chuck Hagel Still Needs To Understand

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently said the ban on transgenders serving in the US military "continually should be reviewed.

He hasn't stated that the ban should be lifted. However, he has stated his belief that "every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have the opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it".

So far, so good, right?  Well, it is, except when you consider what he said about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  Letting gays, lesbians and bisexuals serve in the military is all well and good, he opined, but that the issue of transgenders serving is "more complicated" because sometimes we "require medical attention" that can't always be provided in the remote (or "austere", as he put it) locations  in which armed forces members often find themselves.

Now, some of you might say, "He has a point".  And you'd be right.  What if I were in some desolate area of, say, Afghanistan and ran out of my prescribed hormones?  Or, more important, what if the medical supervision needed to ensure safe hormonal therapy wasn't available.  Then, of course, there is the question of what to do if someone in such a setting were to develop complications related to surgery or other aspects of transitioning.

I would like to say that it should be possible to overcome such difficulties.  It probably is, but I couldn't tell you how.  Nor, for that matter, could most health care providers.

At least, most in this country couldn't.  I'm guessing that, perhaps, someone in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada or Israel has answers to those questions:  Those nations allow trans people to serve in their Armed Forces.

But having to consider that question leads to another:  Is transgenderism primarily a medical condition?  Or, at any rate, should it be classified as such?  Almost all current definitions used by health care and insurance providers, as well as researchers and policy-makers, are based on medical and physiological criteria, and the "treatments" are pharmacological and surgical ones.  

While some trans people exhibit physical traits and mannerisms of the "opposite" sex, being trans is as much a state of mind and spirit.  Some would argue, as I would, that a trans person doesn't become trans by putting on the clothes of the "opposite" gender, taking hormones or getting surgery.  Doing such things merely allows trans people to live more easily as their true selves.  At least, it does for some:  There are trans people who don't do any of those things but live as the gender in which they identify, whether or not their physical characteristics and behaviors conform to their culture's ideas about maleness or femaleness, or of masculinity and femininity.

Thus, some trans activists like Pauline Park denounce the "medicalization" of transgenderism.  She, and her fellow activists (including yours truly) believe that people should be allowed to live as the gender to which they identify, whether or not they choose, or are able to, take hormones or undergo gender reassignment surgery.   Some cannot afford the surgeries or even lack medical insurance; others are unable to avail themselves to those options because of other medical conditions.  Still others simply do not want to risk the possible complications of hormones and surgeries.  Ms. Park thinks--as I do--that no one should feel forced to do these procedures simply to have the right to live and work as his or her true self.

But the ability to get coverage for hormones and surgeries--to those employers and insurers who offer it--and the struggle for equality has been predicated on the notion that transgenderism is mainly, if not entirely, a medical condition.  While that may have helped to decriminalize wearing the clothes of the "opposite" gender or remove a little bit (though certainly not much) of the stigma attached to being a trans person, it also limits us.  And it will limit the military, who will deny themselves some talented, intelligent individuals who want to live as the women or men they actually are rather than by the "M" or "F" that was checked off on their birth records.  That is what Chuck Hagel and the military brass need to understand in "reviewing" the ban against transgenders serving in the military.

13 May 2014

Condoms and diaphragms can't always protect us.  Sometimes we need an umbrella:

From Prezi

12 May 2014

Can A Child Be "Outed" For Her Own Good?

I think that, by now, most people would agree that it's wrong to "out" an LGBT person who is harming no one else. 

But how do you discourage kids from bullying a trans classmate--or encourage those same kids' parents to be good examples of tolerance and honesty for their kids--without "outing" the classmate in question?

That's a question a school district in Missouri had to answer when someone who was born a boy was returning to school as a girl.  School and district officials said they were interested in ensuring the child's safety and ability to learn. 

Officials in Raytown sent a letter to parents informing them about the transgender child. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools are not allowed to release most information about a child without the consent of the child's parents. Exempt from this ban are "directory" information, such as a student's name, address, phone number and date of birth, which can be released without consent. However, the school or district must provide ample warning of the release to allow the parent(s) enough time to request that the information not be released.

However, as you can imagine, there's "gray area" in the law. While a student's name may fall under the category of "directory" information, it's not clear whether the student's gender--which, some would argue, is part of a student's medical history--also falls into that category.

Whether or not "outing" the student was legal, let alone ethical, the fact remains that the student was outed. What will be the result? Will the release of information help to prevent her from being bullied, as school and district officials claim. Or will it make her more vulnerable, not only to bullying and other kinds of harassment, but also to other kinds of exploitation?

11 May 2014

The Best Mother (Besides Mine) Of A Transgender Child

"I have lucked out in at least one area:  the Mom department."

I told my mother that once. More than once, actually.  But not often enough: I couldn't.

So why haven't you seen an image of her on this blog?  Well, she doesn't like being photographed, so I have only a few pictures of her.  And she does not want any photo of her made public.  She really doesn't like it when people call attention to her, which is the reason why I haven't written more about her on this blog. 

Since I can't put Mom's picture up on this blog, I'm going post the next-best thing: a video featuring another fantastic mother of a transgender child:

Happy Mother's Day!