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TRANS-ACTIONS News Shorts - March 1997


Logan Smith, a young black man, was confronted by a Hoffman Estates (IL) police officer in January 1996 for "failure to signal a right turn" and failure to display a license plate" (despite a temporary license plate clearly displayed in legal fashion). The officer maced Logan's brother (who was removing groceries from their car) and called in reinforcements who kicked Logan in his abdomen and sprayed him with pepper gas. Smith offered no physical resistance. Immediately following his arrest Logan complained about severe pain in his abdomen, repeatedly requesting medical assistance. The Hoffman Estates Medical Center Emergency Room diagnosed it as a urinary tract infection and released him back to police custody, where his condition rapidly deteriorated. Logan's mother finally secured medical care for Logan, but it was too late. Logan died that evening from septic shock due to a punctured bladder. His mother is now suing Hoffman Estates police department and the hospital.


A young TS woman, shot twice in the back after being assaulted by two young men, crawled to the house of a friend, who called paramedics and police. Both Police and paramedics, though, refused to assist her, stating "That's not a woman, that's a man." Refusing to help her into the stretcher 40 feet away, they declared, "If you can run here, you can get up in the chair." The woman had to be carried by friends to the stretcher, after which she was taken to Edgewater Hospital, where she was subsequently operated on for 5 hours to repair internal damage. The case was reported as aggravated assault and was being investigated as such. The perpetrators have not been apprehended. After a call from It's Time Illinois reporting this as a hate crime, an investigator from the Civil Rights Division of the Chicago Police Department was assigned to the case. Complaints to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and the Office of Professional Standards about mistreatment by the Police and the Paramedics have resulted in no action thus far.


In Madison, Wisconsin, trans-inmate Dee Farmer, who fought all the way to the Supreme Court for her right to sue the Federal prison where she was raped, has lost her suit. After Farmer had been raped in prison, she charged that prison authorities - who knew of her transgender status - had failed to take proper steps to protect her from a sexual assault which was virtually inevitable. A Wisconsin Federal Court Judge threw out Farmer's case on grounds that the prison had not been properly notified of the special risks she faced. Ms. Farmer, with little money and few resources, refused to back down, appealing her case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court heard the case last year, ruling that prison officials could not require notification if the risk at hand was obvious. The case was sent back to Wisconsin court for a trial attended by members of the local gender community. One observer remarked that the case "was basically a circumstantial one that she was being placed in a penitentiary setting with a much higher rate of violence."


In January, Washington state prison system (Walla Walla) inmate Crystal Marie Schwenk, a transexual, filed a civil rights action against a prison guard, Robert Mitchell, charging him with sexual assault, harassment and intimidation. Another inmate who has supported Ms. Schwenk in her suite, Donald Merlyn Snook, states that since the charges were filed, the prison hierarchy have been waging a campaign to retaliate against Ms. Schwenk. A trail date for the litigation has been set for July 14th. The State Attorney General's office is currently using taxpayer dollars to defend accused guard Robert Mitchell.


The "International Conference on Prostitution: An Interface of Cultural, Legal and Social Issues", taking place in Van Nuys, California, this March, includes several sessions addressing issues involved in transgender prostitution. Co-sponsored by Cal State Northridge and COYOTE LA, the conference includes groundbreaking sessions and papers entitled "She-Male Prostitutes: Who Are They, What Do They Do, and Why Do They Do It?" "Prostitution in The Transgender Community" "The $1500 Lick and Other Stories: The Lives of Transgender Sex Workers in Detroit, Michigan", and "Asian Pacific Islander Transgender Prostitution."


A member of Connecticut's QUASH (Queens United Against Social Harassment) was treated poorly by a West Hartford Center store employee who took exception to her being transgendered. In response, QUASH chairperson Mucha Mucha, transgender activists, and a number of supportive lesbians all planned to picket the store. However, informed of the upcoming action, the owner -- who was previously unavailable -- suddenly made herself available and met with the parties involved. The store has since agreed to diversity training for all employees, and jubilant local activists are planning how best to implement the course.


The city of Cambridge has become the first jurisdiction anywhere to legally define sex as based on something other than anatomy. The City Council unanimously amended the city's Human Rights Ordinance, granting broad gender freedoms to all citizens, including transsexuals and transvestites. The amendment adds "gender" to the list of protections such as sexual orientation and marital status, and then defines gender as " the actual or perceived appearance, expression, or identity of a person with respect to masculinity and femininity." It also defines "same sex", for the purpose of administering same-sex housing, as "occupying the same social and identity roles as another with respect to being male or female." The ordinance provides what might be the broadest protection yet enacted for all peoples' freedom of gender expression. According to a local transactivist, "This isn't about protecting some special interest group. This is about expanding the scope of everyone's personal freedom. It's no infringement on anyone else if I'm more masculine or more feminine. So there's no reason why I shouldn't have that freedom."


The city of Pittsburgh is moving closer to joining the ranks of those protecting freedom of gender by redefining sex. The Commission on Human Relations recently voted to formally recommend that the word "sex" be legally defined as: "Sex: the gender of a person, as perceived, presumed or assumed by others, including those who are changing or have changed their gender identification. " Pittsburgh already has laws on the books prohibiting discrimination based on categories including sex and sexual orientation. If this definition of "sex" is approved by the Pittsburgh City Council, transgendered people will have the same legal protection.


The Metropolitan Human Rights Commission, despite several openly gay members, refused to pass a motion supporting Oregon's ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) because it did not include protection for transgender folk. In October, MHRC had voted unanimously to recommend the inclusion of "transsexuals and other sexual minorities" in Portland's human rights ordinance, following a meeting with transgender activists. One MHRC member stated that she thought most members were left with the impression that transsexual leaders were saying, 'Please don't support a bill that excludes us.' But local transgender activist leaders were quoted as saying that they would not get in the way of anybody getting civil rights, that they would not work to prevent passage of the trans-exclusive bill.


For the first time, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and GenderPAC recently lobbied together on Capitol Hill. They conducted basic education around bi/herm/trans issues, and discussed prospects for ENDA trans-inclusion with the bill's sponsors. Unfortunately, the advice of most legislative assistants, including ENDA sponsors, was that trans-inclusion is not viable, and might delay the bill's passage 5-10 years. Said Riki Anne Wilchins, "This may signal time to re-evaluate our emphasis and consider shifting some of our resources to Hate Crimes, Psychiatric Abuse of Gender-variant Children (PAGC), and Intersexed Genital Mutilation (IGM)."


A Virginia woman filed a $575,000 fraud lawsuit against her spouse after she discovered that her husband "is a woman". They met over the internet, but throughout their courtship and marriage he pretended to be a man dying of AIDS to avoid sex, the woman claims. His breasts were covered with heavy bandages, which he said were needed because of rib injuries from a car wreck. The woman wants reimbursement for money spent on food, transportation and telephone calls during the relationship. She also wants an annulment of their marriage.


As reported in The Advocate, there's a huge difference between guys in dresses and female impersonators, according to the major of Raleigh, NC. While the city has been trying to shut down a drag-queen show at a local bar, the mayor saw no conflict in attending a theatrical production of Cinderella in which men dressed like women to portray the evil stepsisters. After the performance Mayor Tom Fetzer told a reporter that he thought Cinderella was a "good production" and that there was no comparison to the drag show he opposes. Fetzer said the difference is that the play doesn't generate "criminal activity or solicitation for sex acts against nature."


The parliament of the Australian state of New South Wales passed legislation June 5 banning discrimination against transgendered people and granting transexuals the right to correct their birth certificates The laws were championed by state Attorney General Jeff Shaw. "The days of institutionalized bigotry and punishing those who do not adhere to so-called gender norms are over," said Nadine Stransen, co-convener of the Transgender Lobby Coalition. "This has taken five hard years of lobbying, so we are feeling ebullient."


The Australian state of New South Wales has announced plans to move transgendered male inmates to women's prisons. The plan will allow offenders currently in male prisons but who recognize themselves as women to serve their sentence under their elected gender. Women who considered themselves male could also request transfers across the gender divide. The change in NSW Corrective Services policy was sparked by the high rate of assaults against transgender inmates. There are believed to be fewer than 100 transgendered males in NSW prisons.


The newly-formed Intersex Society of New Zealand intends to provide peer support for intersexed people and their families, and public education and advocacy against harmful and unnecessary genital surgeries, secrecy, and stigma. Founder Mani Bruce Mitchell has already spoken before several groups of physicians, and is scheduled to appear before New Zealand's Human Rights Commission.


The German Federal Constitutional Court found that it is against Article 1 (human dignity) and Article 2 (free expression of personality) of the German Constitution to deny a TG individual the correct addressing of "Mr." or "Ms."(in German "Herr" and "Frau") according to a person's gender role, especially if this person has legally changed their given name according to the German TS law. The Court decided that only an individual's expressed gender role is important in claiming a correct addressing, regardless of the civil or genital status of that person. The case was filed by a non-op M2F TS who serves a life sentence in a men's prison. She changed her name officially, but the prison administration and the local Minister of Justice refused her wish to be addressed as "Ms. N.N." and continued to refer to her as "Mr". A Superior Court and later a Court of Appeal ruled that she did not merit addressing by her true gender, but the Federal Court declared null and void both verdicts. (Courtesy Eva Kroecher)


For the last 12 months harassment and pressure against the TS and TV community in Turkey has been increasing. The actions are apparently provoked by a 65-year old woman with support from the police and extremist group members and organizations. The woman is landlady to a number of girls, and recently demanded rent increases of 500%. When the girls refused to pay the illegal increases, the harassment started. She obtained support from extremist organizations which assert that the girls "don't belong to the Turkish race since they represent a lower form of human beings." Four homes of TS folk have been set on fire, and others have had windows smashed, doors broken down, and telephone wires cut. Police conduct frequent raids on TS and homosexual homes and clubs, inflicting maximum physical damage and arresting anybody present. Area businesses have been closed down on trumped-up charges, and the local TG community has been reduced to a handful of survivors.


Last August, Buenos Aires, Argentina, gave itself a new set of statutes, which banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and repealed the "police edicts" that allowed the authorities to detain citizens temporarily without giving a reason. But the now-non-existent edicts are still being used -- with gays, transvestites and prostitutes still the favored targets. Says correspondent Alejandra Sarda, "Unfortunately, the legal mechanisms that will replace them [the edicts] have not been implemented yet and the police are acting as if nothing ever happened," On one recent Saturday night, 72 people were detained under the ex-edicts -- "average for a Saturday night."


For about six hours this February 11, almost 30 transvestite, lesbian, gay and bisexual activists demonstrated at the Buenos Aires Justice Palace, denouncing the systematic human rights violations against transvestites by the government. Activists called for an anti-transphobia campaign aimed at the general public, to involve all citizens in the defense of freedom to choose one's sexual/gender expression. The Palace's main entrance was blocked by life-sized dolls carrying the names of some of the 64 transvestites and transsexuals murdered by the police in recent years. A dozen LGTB activists chained themselves to the stairs. Almost 4,000 leaflets were distributed to passers-by. The city's most relevant media were present as was a large police "custody", that fortunately remained idle. Public response was mostly supportive. Transvestite activist Nadia testifies about her mistreatment in January '97: ""four of them came and took me to the patio. Another one came and grabbed me by the hair and neck, while the rest took both my legs, opened them strongly and push my tights against the floor with their knees. Meanwhile, one of them was twisting my right hands' fingers and another my arm. I shouted desperately" they made me lay against the floor, hands to the back, put a straight jacket on me, beat me on the stomach, and I do not know what else happened."


Rosario, Argentina, the country's second largest city, passed on December 20 a proposal similar to the one adopted by Buenos Aires a few months ago. The proposal, submitted by the gay/lesbian group Colectivo Arco Iris, reads: "no discrimination involving exclusion in the name of or under the excuse of race, ethnic affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, age, "(etc)" or any other circumstance will be allowed ... The city promotes the removal of any and every type of obstacles that, actually restricting equality and freedom, impede a person's full development and her/his effective participation in the social, political or economical community life. Activists hope the new clause will help alleviate the hard realities faced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Rosario. Firings due to sexual orientation (the organization receives around 30 complaints per months), arbitrary arrest and youth suicide are the main problems affecting the Rosario GLTTB community.


If Roberta Close's experience is any indication, Brazilian transsexuals are having a tough time. Ms. Close, a famous TS model and magazine pinup, has appealed to Brazil's Supreme Court for the right to use the name "Roberta"' and the sex "female"' on her identity card. But if the court accepts the recommendation of the Federal Attorney General's office, Close will officially remain Luis Roberto Gambine Moreira, who is male. Deputy Attorney General Flavio Giron said Wednesday in Brasilia that denying the change did not violate Close's constitutional right to human dignity. Close underwent a sex-change operation in 1989. A Rio De Janeiro court then granted her the right to change the name and sex on her documents, but the Attorney General's office blocked the ruling. BRAZIL MURDERS A QUEER PERSON EVERY 3 DAYS The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission IGLHRC) and Grupo Gay de Bahia (GGB) have reported the ongoing persecution of Gays, lesbians, and Transvestites in Brazil. Their report documents 126 murders of gay, lesbians, and transvestites (which includes transsexuals) in 1996. Said report author Luiz Mott, "Behind its international reputation for welcoming sexual diversity, Brazil hides a shocking secret: a homosexual is murdered every 3 days."


In Managua, Nicaragua, transvestite Jose Ramon Martinez Arteaga spent eight days at the bottom of a well in mid-December after two homophobes raped him then threw him in, reported La Prensa. Arteaga, also known as "Shakira," said the men picked him up at a dance club. "With lies, they led me to a field where they violently assaulted me, one after the other, and when they had satisfied their animal desires, they tied a cord around my neck as if to strangle me," Martinez said. Martinez fractured a leg when he was tossed into the pit and could not climb out. Searching family members heard his cries eight days later.


The Gender Trust, a charity for transsexuals, won a #33,700 lottery grant to help with the cost of establishing a small office and employing a part-time worker. Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley was upset that the grant had gone to the Gender Trust, and she called on the National Lotteries Charities Board to justify its decision. But Bottomley was accused of "transparent hypocrisy" after a leaked letter revealed her sympathy for sex-swap operations which could reduce the chances of suicide. It is estimated that there are more than 7,000 sex-swap patients in Britain and that the NHS pays for between 60 and 70 operations a year.

News courtesy of GenderTalk