Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

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Thoughts on Capital Pride Parade and Corporate Sponsorship

10 June, 2018

Disclosure: Over the last decade, I have interacted with the parade on three levels: viewer, protestor, and participant. As protestor, I worked with No Justice, No Pride as we prepared for the demonstration last year. As participant I marched with the Smithsonian GLOBE group this year. I recognise both the damage done to our parade by corporate sponsors and the value of seeing ourselves as participants and watchers.

My thoughts: LGBTQ+ groups and LGBTQ+ non-profits should be given primacy of placement at the head of the parade, it is OUR parade afterall. Then allyship groups should receive secondary placement. Placed, last in line, corporations demonstrating allyship and corporate sponsors demonstrating a support position; corporate sponsors should demonstrate their allyship by letting LGBTQ+ groups march first. Finally, groups that want to be corporate sponsors but who prey on the LGBTQ+ community, prey on other marginalised communities, or have a low HRC score should not be permitted to march or sponsor. Those on the Pride committee that voted to include them sold us out and should be removed from the committee.

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Exilic Theology

30 December, 2017

A new study has shown that of the 100 largest churches in America 7 have a person of colour as their pastor, 1 has a woman as their pastor, and 0 are LGBTQ-affirming. A faith that once offered hospitality and hope to the disenfranchised and minoritised outsider has become the arm of the white, straight, cisgender man. We have seen this approach to faith before and we have seen how it ends:


Enslaved by monarchical theology in Egypt,

an exodus restored freedom to the oppressed.


Ruled by monarchical theology in a divided kingdom,

an exile restored commitment to the poor, the widow, and the orphan.


Dominated by monarchical theology under Rome, a pacifist Messiah ate and drank with tax collectors and sex workers and brought them salvation.


The church must abandon supremacist theology

or face a new exodus.


The church must abandon patriarchal theology

or face a new exile.


The church must listen to the messianic voices of and among the LGBTQ community

or they will lose the way to salvation.

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Privelege is Also the Privelege to Leave

30 March, 2016

I had another nightmare last night in which the tide of public opinion and policy had so turned against transgender people that I was forced to flee the country to seek refuge, but there was nowhere I could go.

This is something that people who are the “right” gender, the “right” religion, the “right” colour, the “right” orientation, and the “right” ethnicity don’t really understand. If the election or a policy doesn’t go the way they would like, they are not in true immediate danger and, as long as they hold a current, valid passport, they have places they can go. But where would I go? Other countries are also dangerous for me. They pass laws against me, they make it difficult to impossible to get the medical services I need, they have high rates of violence and discriminination against transgender people.

Part of what has made me safe here is the years I have had to build a life and a history that others do not immediately question. Part of what makes me safe here is Whitman-Walker, one of the few transgender health care clinics in the world. Part of what makes me safe here is the relative anonymity allowed to me as someone born and raised in this country.

If I were forced to flee the country, and it would be the result of being forced, I would have to abandon everything that has provided me with a measure of safety. Where could I go? Where could others like and unlike me, who do not fit into the white, cis, heterosexual, Christian mold go? We would be forced to abandon the safety nets that have taken years, decades, to build and to start over as minoritised people without the bits of safety and community that we worked so hard to make for ourselves.

Part of being privileged in America is having the privilege to pack up and leave when things do not go your way. For those of us who struggle and fight for basic human rights like the freedom to worship, the freedom to not be profiled, the freedom to secure basic documentation with ease, the freedom to use public restrooms without violence and threats of arrest, we don’t have that privilege. We cannot just say, “Well it’s time to become an ex-pat” and walk away. For better or worse, we are stuck here and, if priveleged people with a voice and relative power to influence policy and attitudes who can leave chose to leave, then it will be worse for those of us left behind.

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Regeneratio et Politica

5 November, 2011

The prevailing theory on the Doctor’s regeneration and personality states the emotions, situations, and general state of being the Doctor is in just before regeneration dictate the resulting personality of the next regeneration. This theory, the idea that we are the sum of our experiences, is one of insight and verisimilitude exposing the inner workings of the world. I have noted this in my regeneration from A to River. There are so many elements of my personality shaped by my situation as I began regeneration. From my bleak outlook on the possibility of being loved (my divorce) to the Buddhist like calm of River (the inner peace found in acknowledging who I am publicly) to the political activism that drives me (resultant of my work place and colleagues). Of these elements, it is the last that is so telling to the idea of situational personality.

As I began the regeneration process and began my (forced) public deceleration of intent, I was approached privately by a friend who—though I believe him to have been well meaning—said things I found more painful and heart wrenching than the divorce from my wife or the shunning by my extended family. He said that I was simply “[River] in a wig” and that he could accept my regeneration provided I did not “make it political.” How this came across to me was he would never see me as anything other than a fraud and that if I went down this path I would have no right to expect acceptance or fair treatment by society. It came across as, I will tolerate this choice but it is wrong and you are wrong to be open about it. That is, a denial of the right to self-determination.

The person of whom I speak is a good man, but he is one who is a possessor of power and privilege (as defined by Kate Bornstein and the Power Pyramid). He falls victim to the same blindness that all individuals in this position incarnate: an inability to recognize their own position and how different and biased it is from the majority of human doings. I am, however, understanding and compassionate toward this state of politica caecitas because I used to be a sufferer of the condition. It took a Parkinson’s diagnosis and regenerating to shake me violently enough to knock the blinders off. We cannot blame the privileged for their blindness to their own privilege; it is a regrettable but natural state.

Despite how forgivable his offense may be, it became a defining moment in my regenerative process. It helped open my eyes to the inherent bias in the American culture. The idea that outlaws and rebels, speakers for those with no voice, progenitors of change and revolution, protestors for equality and representation, are tolerable only in small disenfranchised doses is a linchpin holding the control of those in power in place.

The very act of regenerating made me a threat to the comfortable universe he lived in. But how? Simple. I represent, at my core, not just an alternative lifestyle, but the idea of tolerance for and acceptance of things his political and religious institution condemns. In most cases he would ignore this existence or even condemn it, but he could not with me. I was within his sphere of influence. He knew me, respected me, and believed in my basic decency and social acceptability. The moment I began regeneration I created a violently opposing dichotomy for him. Here is a person that embodies the more noble aspects of his private philosophy that simultaneously embodies the unacceptable, morally questionable, and sinful. This left him with three possible resolutions to this conflict:

  • ignore the positive qualities
  • ignore the negative qualities
  • redefine his personal schemata

To his credit he was not someone who could do the first, but engaging the third is such a huge undertaking it is not surprising that only the most committed or the most desperate are capable of it. This left him only one option: to ignore the aspects of who I am that are in direct conflict with his perception of me as a good human being. He had to ask me not to display these aspects in order to maintain the delicate mental and moral equilibrium his mind had created.

This also meant that he could not acknowledge my position to influence or sway others to the type of tolerant and accepting thinking that the opposing dichotomy and my position of instructor gave me. Unable to ignore the situation’s reality, he gave me a polite ultimatum: either be quiet about this and remain friends or be public (political) and be cut off. It was the only course a rational and thinking member of the powered and privileged could take. And, predictably, since transferring to a new teaching site, I have not heard from him.

Nor have I been capable of contacting him. Why not? Because the forced choice of being quietly myself or openly, actively, myself became a defining moment in my regenerative process. I was malleable at this point, subject to influence in a number of directions. This private conversation and subtle ultimatum pushed me in the direction of activist. I was so offended by the command’s audacity (as it was not phrased as either a request or a stance for consideration, but as an imperative declaration, “don’t make this political”) that I veered in the opposite direction. It is basic physics, sweetie, every action (the command against the political) results in a reaction opposite of and equal in strength to the original action (River becomes a political activist).

I know that I would have been aware of the political dimension of my existence even without this conversation. The degree of awareness and participation, however, would have been reduced. I was not one who paid attention to politics before regenerating. As a member of the powered and privileged I did not need to be, my position was secure. As a new member of the disenfranchised I could have focused only on securing the limited power and position my new life afforded me, a good white woman. But I was now aware of the bias and bigotry directed at those who make-up the bottom of the Power Pyramid. I was aware, I was emotionally charged, and I was malleable. My new personality was directly shaped by my situation, emotional state, and the people around me.

Who I am is still in development but the public outlaw, the hippie professor, speaker of truth is a fundamental part of my personality. I have been shaped, however unintentionally, by my interactions with the other—those outside myself. Whether the regenerating individual is the last of the Time Lords, a MtF, or just someone growing up and growing into themselves, who they become is intimately linked to who they were, who they were with, and how they responded to the world.

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Caitlin on the Ramifications of the SSA’s Inconsistent Policies

10 August, 2011

12:18 pm
Alexandria, Virginia

Social Security Administration is running its office on an inconsistent policy regarding gender marker amendments. The official policy states the following items of proof are needed to amend your personal information on file with the SSA:

• proof “of identity establishing that he or she is the person on the record to whom SSA assigned the SSN, and”
• documentation “supporting the change” such as “an amended birth certificate” or “a letter from his or her surgeon or the attending physician.”

When I went to amend my information, however, I was informed that only an amended birth certificate counts as documentation of gender change.

By running their offices on a dual policy four negative consequences are possible and I think it’s important to examine each of these and how they affect the transitioning individual:

1. Immediate Discrimination

The transitioning person has gone in good faith to meet the requirements that the SSA has outlined in public documentation. Upon arriving they are informed of an alternate policy and treated like a simpleton incapable of understanding basic policy. This also opens the door to being “outed” by the representative to others in the room. The clerk is already of the opinion the applicant is below standard intelligence so they are less likely to take other aspects of the applicant (such as gender identity) seriously. This can cause major issues.

Here’s how it played out for me. I presented my documentation and was asked this: Do you have an amended birth certificate Mister Song? With this question several issues arise. First, I was immediately denied legitimacy and the right to self-determination with the refusal to address me with the proper title. This is discrimination. If a cis-woman arrives she would not intentionally be addressed as male because it would be grounds for a harassment case; why then is a trans-woman with proper identification of her status being addressed as male? Because the person speaking to her refuses to acknowledge her identity and as a trans-individual she is not considered legitimate and therefore (supposedly) has no grounds for a case against the offending party.

Second, this is a public place and the clerk has now identified me as trans to everyone in ear shot. This makes me the center of public curiosity and results in stares and whispers. Further, should there be anyone in the room who posses extreme bigotry and a violent nature, they have been alerted to my presence and I am more likely to be a target. By refusing to acknowledge the proper documentation the clerk has exposed me to additional threats beyond what I may have already wandered into just by being there.

This particular clerk compounded this action by, while discussing my petition with a supervisor, pointing at me and saying “Him; he wants to be female in the system.” This occurred after I had been told to have a seat and was said loud enough for me to hear, thus anyone nearby has been informed of my transgender status. This is a violation of ADA law that gives those with medical conditions the right to self-disclosure (see point four below).

When I approached the counter and asked that I be referred to by the feminine pronoun (really I should have asked I be included in a conversation centered on me) I was told I was being argumentative and instructed to take a seat until they were ready to explain things to me. At that point the on site police officer was called over to keep an eye on me in case I should decide to make trouble. This made me a public spectacle and now the entire room has focused it’s attention on me. Anonymity has dropped to zero as has my right to live free of harassment.

2. One Hurdle Too Many

The transition process is difficult and bogged down in red tape and the pre-conceived notions of an ill-informed public. By having inconsistent policies the SSA has created a needless hurdle for the transitioning person to surmount. For some this may be a breaking point and they may give up, leaving them stuck in a state of dual existence, female in some places and male in others. This makes functioning in society impossible and dangerous (more on that in a moment). It also adds to the stresses that result in the above average suicides rates in transitioning individuals.

Some might argue that this is a positive in that it weeds out those who aren’t strong enough to make the transition. I suppose they are right. Perhaps we should apply that logic to other conditions and situations. If your kid can’t handle being bullied at school, she/he isn’t strong enough to deserve a safe environment. If a cancer patient despairs the intensity of treatment, they aren’t deserving of said treatment. That kind of logic is sadistic.

My situation was compounded by the clerk and the clerk’s supervisor refusing to explain or produce documentation of the policy they claimed prevented me from using anything other than an amended birth certificate. Let me tell you, I felt despondent after my visit and considered the idea of giving up, but that leads to a slew of problems when seeking employment.

3. Employment Issues

First, let’s say the job applicant has a wonderful interview and is highly qualified for the job. The potential employer makes a tentative offer and runs the traditional checks through SSA. Now, because of inconsistent policies that prevented the applicant from amending their gender marker, the employer will receive documents that refer to the applicant by the opposite gender. Suddenly, the applicant doesn’t look so good, perhaps they seem mentally unstable. Would you want to hire someone who is mentally unstable? And anti-discrimination laws do not help in this case because the applicant can be seen as falsifying their application documents and have their employment offer rescinded.

The situation is the same for existing employees. They can be terminated on the grounds they falsified their application. If the employer doesn’t terminate them this confidential information becomes available to anyone who can access employee records. If the person with access has questionable morals, the transitioning person can become the victim of office gossip and discrimination that can create a hostile work environment.

To avoid this issue the transitioning person would be required to identify her/himself as transgendered in the work place. If they can “pass” without doing so, why should they be forced to disclose? This leads to the fourth and most important point:

4. The Right of Self-Disclosure

The ADA protects people with biological and psychological conditions from having to engage in disclosure that could lead to discrimination or dangerous situations. However you define the transgender condition, biological or psychological, it is covered by the ADA. the SSA’s inconsistent policy creates situations for the transitioning person that denies them the right to self-disclosure. Tell the world what you are, the SSA says, or we will. This opens the transgendered person up to discrimination in all areas of life: employment, credit, housing, legal services, et cetera.

When you strip the bureaucratic BS from the situation you are left with a discriminatory practice designed to punish transgendered individuals for being who they are and that undermines their ability to live as a respectable, honest individuals in society. It dehumanizes them, reducing then to a condition or psychosis that can be ignored and holds no community or political presence.

Consider the words of Harriet Tubman, “None of us is free, until we all is free.” If we allow this type of discrimination is anyone free?

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Caitlin on Police Inaction

6 August, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011 — 10:05 am

Tony Hunter: While walking to a club with his boyfriend was attacked by Darryl Hanna and beaten to death. It took the DC police three weeks to apprehend Hanna. DC courts sentenced Hanna to ninety days in jail; after his release he beat his girlfriend and received one hundred days in jail. He beat a man to death–murdered him–and received what amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist then repeats the behavior and has his other wrist slapped.

DC Trans-woman (name withheld): While standing outside her house she was approached by an undercover officer running a prostitution entrapment. The officer propositioned her. When she refused and walked away, the officer followed and arrested her as a prostitute. The prosecuting attorney asserted the woman was guilty not just of soliciting an officer but of being a repeat offender, despite overwhelming evidence that it was a case of entrapment. Ultimately they failed, but not from a lack of trying.

Ukea Davis and Stephanie Thomas: Two transgender girls bullied so horribly they dropped out of school due to fears for their safety. They were later gunned down by semi-automatic gunfire in a drive-by. The assailants came back and fired another twenty rounds into their bodies. The case, opened in 2002, remains unsolved.

Tyra Hunter: Critically injured in a car accident and being worked on by EMTs. According to witnesses, when the EMTs discovered Tyra was transgendered they stopped working on her for several critical minutes in order to laugh at her. Tyra died as a result.

Imani Williams: This trans-woman was found beaten to death in DC. No progress has been made on the case; the police found her body in 2002.

Lashai Mclean: A trans-woman approached by an assailant asking for change. Before she could reply the assailant shot and killed her in front of a witness. This occurred July 20, 2011. On July 30 the crime was repeated against another trans-woman (name withheld). The attempt failed. DC police have reluctantly announced there “may be an emerging pattern of violence against transgendered women in the District.” To date, no significant progress has been made on this case.

Yazzmen Morse and Girlfriend (name withheld): Also on July 30, five lesbians were approached by three males and sexually harassed. Upon learning they were lesbians, two of the men beat Yazzmen and her girlfriend with closed fists about the head and face while the third recorded it with his cell phone. The police responding to the incident apprehended the primary assailant, but let him go upon learning the women were lesbians. Police dismissed the men, who proceeded to mock and jeer at the women as they left. The officers threatened the women with arrest and detainment if they did not “calm down.” There was no report filed by the officers and as of this posting no action has been taken against them.

Notice a trend here, Dearest Reader? Trans/homophobia in the District’s police force and emergency personnel has resulted in a closed eye, shut mouth policy concerning the prosecution of hate crimes. Worse, are the incidents where the people being paid to serve and protect instigate or encourage the crimes. I could go on, but I think the above thumbnail biographies say more than my commentary ever could.

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Community vs Outcasts

15 June, 2011

“A community of outcasts was found living near and interacting with one another in a local Fairfax County neighborhood. When local citizens were asked to comment the most common response was, ‘I was shocked to learn their were outcasts living in my neighborhood. They seemed like such nice, normal people.’ Local authorities have refused to comment on either the current status of the outcasts or what the plan for dealing with them is; however, if it follows traditional pattern the outcasts will be dispersed and continued inter-community contact will be prevented.”

How often do you see a news story like that? But it happens all the time. It’s happening now. We just don’t talk about it. It wouldn’t be polite or good manners to discuss the issue. Sure gossip about the individuals that’s fine. Discuss them behind closed doors and in hushed whispers (“Somethin’ really ought to be done about this here outcast issue,” a local Fairfax man whispered to his wife.), but to publicly address the issues and to acknowledge their existence in the community as normal, functioning citizens and not as some local news-hyped tragedy victim or the odd degenerate?  No, no. That just won’t do.

In the last three months I have become something to gawk at for the vast majority of the public. That’s fine. I expected as much. What I didn’t expect, however, was to become taboo. It’s fine to stare and point me out but to actually talk about the issue in a productive manner or, God Forbid!, talk to me about questions, thoughts, or concerns one-on-one (as opposed to the public debate some have tried to sucker me into), well, that’s right out.

And the scary thing about this indefinite moratorium on actively engaging and trying to understand the issue is the ignorance, confusion, and doubt that it creates not just in society as a whole but, most damaging, to the outcast community itself.  They pick up on the ban and, even though it is them the ban is against, they embrace it. Society says, they say to themselves, that there is something wrong with me. I am deviant in someway and as a deviant I need to censor myself and not rock the boat. Because of this mentality the TS population is easy to control and maintain.

Unlike homosexuality, which in many ways is far easier, the issue isn’t about who you sleep with, it’s about who you are. It’s more than preferences, and quip-quotes, it’s their entire esense, their being, their existence being banned from conversation. They are “The Almost People” from Doctor Who. They almost count as humans, they have the emotions, the intelligence, the ability to form friendships and bonds. But they lack the most important part: social acceptance. The vast majority of people are uncomfortable with the idea of gender let alone the bending and sometimes out right stretching-the-reality-of-it-beyond-the-pale that the TS individuals are considered to be doing.  So the public clings to their little fetishes and trinkets and prays that the plague passes them over all the while pretending it doesn’t exist and, by God, if you as a TS person want to fit in to society and be accepted you’ll pretend it doesn’t exist either, which means, either look like what you say you are or don’t go out. Yes, there are exceptions to this. I am privileged to know a number of people who are accepting of me as me, which is one of the reasons I cannot simply shut-up and blend in. In many ways I have it easier than so many, which obligates me to do what I can to help those who don’t have such privilege. But my being willing to be public runs us into the second issue regarding the unspoken ban on the TS community.

This ban also means under no circumstances should one ever attempt to disseminate information in a public forum to other TS individuals that would make their transition easier. No guides, no handbooks, no “So You Wanna a Be a T-Girl” informational brochures. It is an outright ban on information.

This cultural ban invalidates the TS’s right to exist and on their ability to form community. It’s like what the Assyrians did to the people they conquered—keep them separate and isolated and you never have to worry about them standing up for themselves, demanding fair treatment, or lobbying for equal rights. And with the denial of community comes the need to experiment in order to learn what being TS means and how to be TS. This is how so many TS individuals get themselves into trouble.  You see, this is more than just a gender issue.  It is also a social and political issue. The majority of TS individuals are poor and under-educated. (These stats could be impacted by the fact that most middle class and wealthy individuals who are TS also have the resources and education to go undetected and transition in total stealth mode, something I have thus far and for personal reasons refused to do.) With these two social stigmas already working against them, when you add the socially crippling stigma of TS they are playing a game rigged in the House’s favor.  Double zero, folks, House takes all; no winners. The experimentation leads to needing funds to buy hormone treatment and to purchase clothes, binding bandages, padding, falsies, surgery, name changes, license changes, gender marker changes. And those who have already run this gauntlet have nothing to say, because if they offered advice, if they tried to help in anything but a one-on-one private meeting behind closed doors, they would out themselves and all the anguishing work they put in for the last decade or more to pass and survive in a hostile climate would be shot to shit. So the uninitiated trying to survive become sex-addicts, call-“girls,” prostitutes (the sex industry is both lucrative and a source of make-up and presentation tricks), victims of violence, suicide stats, murder victims, or they do irreparable damage to their body while trying to figure things out on their own.

So when there are laws up for vote about allowing a more inclusive society, please consider where I and a number of other nice, normal Americans are at and what we need to survive in a healthy way that encourages maturation and not self-destruction. Consider your role in creating a tolerant society. Consider the quote from a banner given to me by a most prodigious math teacher, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Give us the opportunity not just to be who we are, but also to be who we are in community. Allow us to discuss with each other and anyone who honestly wants to know the issues tied into our lives and the lives of those we love. I’m not asking for TS appreciation week. I just want the same freedom to associate with and learn from others like myself in a public community without retaliation, instead of in a room in some conference center behind closed doors just in case someone walking by doesn’t like who the strangers in the room are.