Early May '97 GenderNews Roundup

CONTACT: Riki Anne Wilchins, (212) 645-1753,

Text of Congressional Letter to Janet Reno



[WASHINGTON, DC : May 13, 1997] IN A groundbreaking meeting today, representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community met with an Assistant Attorney General and members of the Office of Policy Development of the US Department of Justice to discuss violence and bias-related crimes against differently-gendered people.

The meeting had been requested by members of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) in a letter sent to Janet Reno following the bombing of the Otherside bar in Atlanta. Although the bombing was considered a "gay and lesbian" hate crime, the Otherside was also well-known by local citizens for its bisexual and transgender clientele.

GenderPAC's Dana Priesing, Tonye Barreto- Neto and Riki Anne Wilchins were joined by the Human Rights Campaign's Kris Pratt, Bi-Net's Lorraine Hutchins, and NGLTF's Helen Gonzales. Declared Ms. Gonzales, "As far as we know, this is the first meeting of its kind, and a crucial step for all of us in helping those on the Hill -- and in the administration -- recognize the importance of crimes against the differently-gendered."

Letters Presented to DOJ Staff

The meeting capped a week of extraordinary effort on the Hill beginning with National Gender Lobbying Day (May 5), during which gender activists from around the country gathered signatures from Congressmembers about violence against the differently-gendered. To date, three such letters are circulating the Hill. Signatories include Representatives Ed Towns (NY), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Ronald Dellums (CA), Caroline Maloney (NY), Mel Watt (NC), Bruce Vento (MN), William Clay (MO), Jerome Nadler (NY), and Barney Frank (MA). Those letters were presented to DOJ staffers today. [Letter text follows last.]

Said Alex Beckles, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Ed Towns, the first Congressmember to sign a statement on trans-violence, "Ed Towns feels strongly that no American -- be they gay or straight, black or white, or transgendered -- should be the target of violence or have to live with the fear of violence, and we were glad for the opportunity to sign on to such a letter."

Meeting Ranges Broadly

In her opening remarks, Dana Priesing noted, "DOJ finds itself in the position of having to create policy for identities which didn't even exist 20 years ago. As people increasingly identify publicly as bisexual or transgendered, there are going to be more hate crimes based on these identities. One of the reasons we are here is to serve as a resource for DOJ, as it comes to grips with formulating policies dealing with hate crimes against these groups."

Tonye Barreto-Neto, a Florida Deputy-Sheriff and Ex. Dir. of TOPS (Transgender Officers Protect and Serve) spoke at length on the problems of implementing hate-crimes legislation at the street level, saying "Even where the right statutes exist, officers on the street often lack sufficient training to recognize a trans or bi related hate crime when they see one. In fact, even when they recognize it and the proper authority exists -- as with gay bashing -- officers in the field are loath to write up such crimes because of all the greatly enhanced attention and work a hate crime brings with it."

The meeting ranged broadly from the verdict in the recent Chanelle Pickett murder trial and enforcement of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to GenderPAC's recently published 1st National Survey on TransViolence. It concluded by focusing on the three-fold challenge ahead: First is the uphill struggle to cover trans-violence under existing Hate Crimes legislation; at present, DOJ lacks the statutory authority to deal directly with violence based on gender-difference. Second is developing the proper policies to deal with such violence. And third is pushing policy and information back down to the street level, so that officers on the beat recognize and prosecute transviolence just as they currently do with elder abuse or spousal assault.

Concluded HRC's Kris Pratt, who had been instrumental in GenderPAC's strategies on hate crimes, "We feel violence is an area where we can work constructively with all members of the larger queer community. The next step is to seriously work the Hill on this issue, and see how deep and wide the legislative resolve against gender-based violence really is. Amending hate crimes legislation to include gender expression or identity will probably be an uphill battle, but one in which we're glad to participate."

Said Ms. Wilchins, Ex. Dir. Of GenderPAC, "What's surprising is who didn't sign the letters... liberal Democrats who've been demonstrably gay-friendly. We need to approach every Congressmember -- and especially ENDA sponsors -- to learn what we need to do to gain their recognition and support."


[NEW YORK, NY: 15 May 97] A WEEK following the unprecedented protest of IGM at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital by Hermaphrodites With Attitude (HWA) and Transexual Menace, and a first- ever lobbying effort on Capitol Hill by the Intersex Society of North American (ISNA) major news stories about IGM appeared in the New York Times and Newsweek magazine.

The Times article by Natalie Angier was entitled "New Debate Over Surgery on Genitals," and appeared in the May 13th Science Section. In addition to covering the escalating conflict over IGM, it also detailed ISNA's lobbying efforts in Washington as part of GenderPAC's 2nd National Gender Lobby Day. The Newsweek story, titled "Gender Limbo," appeared in the May 13th edition, and featured several intersex activists in their struggles to overcome the effects of IGM.

With this increasing national exposure, Intersex Genital Mutilation appears poised to become an issue that must be addressed by the medical community. Declared ISNA's Ex. Dir., Cheryl Chase, in the New York Times article, "We're not going to go away, and we have more passion that they do."

Both articles stressed that although doctors performing IGM defend it as compassionate and effective surgery for the infant's good, there is no data to support such claims, and no follow-up studies have ever been performed. Indeed, the only data available on long-term satisfaction or efficacy has been the testimony offered by groups like ISNA, whose members are often derided by IGM physicians as "fanatics."

Typical of many doctors implicated in the practice of Intersex Genital Mutilation was the quote attributed to Dr. Antoine Khoury, chief of pediatric urology at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, who went so far as to declare genital ambiguity a "hidden disease." Responded GenderPAC's Riki Wilchins, "If the disease is hidden, it's only because it exists entirely within Dr. Khoury's mind. This doctor is probably going to help someone cut into a baby's genitals today, all because he can't sleep nights from imagining a silent plague of large clitorises stalking the land."

In fact, a mainstay of IGM physicians are otherwise normal infant girls who are not hormonally or chromosomally intersexual at all -- but simply have clitorises judged to be "too large" by the pediatrician. In many such cases, the clitoris is removed or dramatically cut down in the mistaken, homophobic belief that doing so will help prevent the infant from developing into a lesbian as an adult. Yet in spite of this, gay and feminist groups have been slow to speak out against the practice.

Concluded Ms. Chase, "Every major city has at least one hospital doing IGM. It's time to lift the veil on operating rooms in hospitals down the street from where you live."


[LOUISVILLE, KY: 10 May 97] THE Louisville Courier Journal reports that a man was shot and beaten at Shawnee Park yesterday morning. Police officers patrolling the park were flagged down at 6:30 am by someone screaming for help. Police found Jackie Willmer, 19, with a gunshot wound in each arm and in the lower back. Willmer, who was dressed as a woman, had also been beaten.

Police are unsure of the circumstances behind the attack and have only a sketchy description of the assailant.


[CHICAGO, IL: 13 May 97] THE CHICAGO Sun-Times reports that an Egyptian sued his brother, who is now his sister because of a sex-change operation, saying she should receive only a half-share of their father's estate because, under Islamic law, a brother inherits twice the amount that a sister inherits. However, the judge ruled in the sister's favor, saying the sister was still a brother when the father died.


(CAMBRIDGE, MA, May 16): Judge Robert Barton today imposed the maximum sentence under the law on William Palmer, who was found non-guilty of murder and convicted only of assault and battery in the death of Chanelle Pickett on November 20, 1995. Mr. Palmer had admitted to taking Ms. Pickett home and assaulting her there.

The judge sentenced Palmer to 2 years incarceration (2 1/2 years with 6 months suspended) and 5 years probation. In delivering the sentence, Judge Barton commented to the defendant "Mr. Palmer should kiss the ground the defense counsel walks on." Judge Barton also cited the gruesome pictures of the victim which, by his own ruling, the jury did not see, leading some observers to speculate that the judge had made an error in not allowing the jury to see the photographs.

Gabrielle Pickett, the victim's twin sister and also a transsexual, gave moving testimony to the judge, saying "it's hell being transsexual", and "Chanelle wasn't just a sister, she was my best friend. We grew up together, took hormones together, transitioned together..."

Outside the courthouse, Gabrielle declared to reporters, "This isn't the end of it. I will continue to work to end violence against transgender people." She later told reporters outside the courtroom "There was some satisfaction in the sentence, but it doesn't make up for the fact that the verdict was only assault and battery." Gender activist Nancy Nangeroni told the reporters gathered outside the courtroom, "The judge, by this sentence, has made an unmistakable statement about the injustice of the verdict." William Palmer successfully avoided contact with the press.

Prior to the sentencing, about 45 demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse and handed out leaflets that read "Jury Upholds Death Penalty for Transexualism" and carrying signs with pictures of Chanelle and saying "Justice: A Rich White Man's Game" and "End Violence Against Transgenders". The judge requested a copy of the flyer by courier, and was accommodated by activists.

At a brief news conference, a letter from US Congressman Barney Frank to Attorney General Janet Reno decrying violence against the differently- gendered was read to reporters. The letter had been signed as part of GenderPAC's efforts to rally support on Capitol Hill last week against gender-based violence. The letter calls for an investigation into such violence, stating that transgender people are "victims of very severe prejudice in much of our society."

Alison Laing, Ex. Dir. of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), told reporters, "The verdict in this case was a blot of shame on the mantle of justice. Unless the maximum sentence is given, we will devalue the lives of people of difference everywhere."

Finally - on the Lighter Side...


[BRIGHAM CITY, UT: 10 May 97] THE Brigham City School Board has erupted in heated controversy after accused kindergarten teacher Renee Mott led children in a singing of "The Farmer in the Dell," a game long known as a mainstay of homosexual indoctrination efforts. The song contains the words, "The farmer takes a wife..."

Explained an obviously distraught Ms. Mott, "The class is way over-balanced with girls. I mean, we have lots more girls than boys. Sometimes it just happens that way, it's just chance. So when we play `Farmer in the Dell,' sometimes I let a girl go first, so that everybody gets a turn... I just wanted all the children to have a turn."

But savvy local citizens knew a transparent ploy of the militant homosexual agenda when they saw one. An emergency meeting of the School Board was called, and Ms. Mott was called on the carpet for teaching young children the depravities of same-sex marriage.

Declared local parent Jaren Day, "If you don't stand up for family values, this country is going to go right down the toilet." Agreed another parent, Lisa Perkins, "'s upsetting the natural order of things." Concurred her husband, Wayne Perkins, "It's an outrage that we can't protect our children from that sort of filth."

Defense of Cheese Act?

Parents in Brigham City have formed an action committee on the matter, and have already drafted a state law which would ban all play-acting of same-sex marriage in public schools. Summarized Brigham City Mayor Tom Merrill, "The farmer has to be a boy. A boy gets picked first. That's the way we played the game, and that's the way it should be played."

The game ends with "The Cheese stands alone/the Cheese stands alone/Hi ho the dairy- O/the Cheese stands alone." In the interest of fairness, the deal cut by the School Board leaves the position of the Cheese open to either sex.

Unknown at press-time was how this accommodation would be extended to members of the local chapter of "Hermaphrodites With Attitude."

[You just can't make these up....]


Editor's Note: This letter was signed by all Congressmembers mentioned in the release above, except Reps. Nadler and Frank (see Barney Frank's letter), who submitted separate - but related - statements.]

May 6, 1997

The Honorable Janet Reno
Attorney General of the United States
US Department of Justice
10th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20350

Dear Attorney General Reno:

Following the unfortunate occurrence of two murders of transgendered persons (Deborah Forte and Chanelle Pickett) during recent years in the State of Massachusetts, representatives of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition ("GenderPAC"), a national advocacy group, have made my office increasingly aware of the terrible toll violence takes on those who are differently-gendered. According to GenderPAC, the Forte and Pickett murders are only the most recent incidents in a long line of fatal attacks, and the organization's recent survey on violence against the transgendered suggests that such murders are merely the most extreme manifestation of a much broader range of bias-based harassment and assaults.

GenderPAC's representatives have demonstrated that despite common stereotypes, transgendered and transexual individuals are productive and valuable citizens who work, vote, pay taxes, and raise families. Yet these individuals - many of whom also identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual - face profound discrimination in virtually every aspect of their lives, from employment and housing, to health care and public accommodations. Of all the challenges they face, none is more fundamental than the loss of freedom to walk our streets free of the specter of physical harassment, assault or murder.

I encourage you to extend all reasonable resources of the Department of Justice in aiding this community to achieve the same degree of personal safety that all of us as Americans seek. Our society has no place for bigotry based on sexual orientation or sexual identity, and no person - whether heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgendered - should be forced to live in constant fear of violence, assault, or hate crimes.


[Congressmember Signature]

Online Editor: Clare Howell,

(c) 1996 InYourFace
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April '97 News Roundup
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