There’s lots happening out there: this community is abuzz as never before. For starters: PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) have now declared themselves friends of transgenders, as well. They’ve launched “PFLAG-T”, a transgender-oriented Special Outreach Network. They’re extending a helping hand to people all over the world who have friends or family member who are transgendered, as well as transgender folks who are concerned with issues of parental/familial acceptance. Their web page lists Sharon Stuart as a major participant; good work, Sharon.
Out Los Angeles way, things didn’t go so well when M2F TS Candy Walker ‘came out’ to her folks on Christmas day. Her Dad, in particular, had a hard time with the news. Three days later, she was back at her parents’ home seeking reconciliation when her father fired a gunshot that, after a ricochet, grazed Candy in the head. The police arrested her as the aggressor, despite the fact that it was her father who almost killed someone. She ended up in jail on $250,000 bail (five times the amount set for the murderer of a TS in Boston) When the LA Times ran an article on the story, the local TG community put the story out on the net, and suddenly they had all the help they could handle. As of this writing Candy’s out of jail, following a bail reduction to $20,000 and a release on her own recognizance. She’s still up on charges for carrying an illegal weapon, though. Seems the cane she carried home on Christmas had a knife concealed in the handle. According to her mother, she had been physically assaulted by her father on many previous occasions, but had never retaliated. As of this writing, her fate is pending.
Boston was the site of yet another transexual murder last November. This one was a strangling. The victim was Chanelle Pickett, a 23 year old person of color. The accused killer, William Palmer, claimed to have brought home what he thought was a woman, and to have strangled her after finding that she “was actually a man.” Initial newspaper accounts reported only this version of the story, enraging the local transgender community.
Friends of Chanelle, including Chanelle’s twin sister (also TS), stepped forward and spoke out, some telling reporters that they knew that Palmer had known that Chanelle was a TS. By the next day, coverage began reporting that Palmer was an admirer who enjoyed pre-op TSs. A few days later, Palmer changed his story, now claiming to have gone to sleep next to her while she was alive, and awakening to find her dead. The newspapers this time were not fooled, and within a week of the murder had the story — if not the pronouns — right.
The one-sided initial coverage motivated the Boston TG community as never before, and over 250 people from a spectrum of communities turned out for a memorial and candlelight vigil/march to the State House. The Remember Chanelle committee which organized the event continues to organize transgender activist effort around the city. A demonstration at the opening of the murder trial is planned.
A month later in Boston, when another man tried (and failed) to strangle a transexual, the papers got the story right, first time. Then in mid-December, both of Boston’s major dailies – The Globe and The Herald – ran stories on how Jacque’s, Boston’s premiere TV/TS hangout, is the new hip place in town. Now that’s a clear indication of transgender acceptance and respect.
The media continues to improve it’s depiction of gender variation, with a few exceptions. ABC’s 20/20 ran a feature about TOPS (Transgender Officers Protect and Serve) and transgenderism. They started it with a good review of the current state of the movement, complete with footage from the first National Gender Lobby Day. The piece made two strong points: when the department stands behind an individual, as it did for Sgt. Stephan Thorne, a TS transition can be trouble-free. When it does not, however, it invites all manner of foofaw, as in the Janet Aiello case. Secondly, the piece concluded with a strongly worded comment from interviewer John Sossell, who spoke unequivocally of the benefits of ‘coming out’, clearly urging viewers to be supportive of individuals doing so. While the piece had it’s share of flaws, we’d be hard pressed to produce a more effective piece of pro-TG propaganda.
Things were looking good when Inside Edition ran a good story on transgenders in employment, but then Saturday Night Live’s Norm MacDonald, in his “Wweekend Update”, reported on the death sentence handed down to John Lotter for the murder of Brandon Teena. Said MacDonald: “In Nebraska, a man was sentenced to die for killing a female crossdresser, who had accused him of rape, and two of her friends. Excuse me if this sounds harsh, but in my mind, they all deserved to die.” At this writing, members of the Transexual Menace are planning a demonstration at NBC headquarters in New York.
Thanks to 20/20 and Tonye Baretto-Neto, everybody now knows there’s a TS cop in Hillsboro county. And that he’s got an organization, Transgendered Officers Protect and Serve (TOPS), dedicated to reaching out and helping transgendered peace and military officers, firement, parramedics, and others in professions that “protect and serve”. They also provide support to individual TGs being hassled by the police and other services.
Then there’s the guard at a Jacksonville, Florida prison who was fired from his job for crossdressing off the job “in a french cut bikini and makeup”. Happily, Bill Smith won his job back through the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which ruled that the crossdressing wasn’t fair grounds for dismissal. The Commission also awarded him $149,500 in back pay. But in the meantime, Bill had visited a surgeon in Europe, and returned to Jacksonville as Lt. Belinda Smith. Belinda reports that she’s received nothing but support from the other guards, who say they are glad she got her job back. One inmate actually asked for her autograph.
About 20 transgender activists demonstrated at the sentencing of Sean O’Neill in Colorado Springs on Feb. 16. Sean is the young FTM who was up on 11 counts of rape for possession of a concealed vagina (his former girlfriends, when informed by the police that Sean was “physically a woman”, agreed to press charges). Sean agreed to a plea bargain rather than risk the minimum sentence of 10 years in jail. Thanks to the support of those who attended, and the testimony of James Green and Tonye Baretto-Neto, Sean was sentenced to only 90 days in jail and 6 years probation. Sean’s public defenders expressed gratitude to members of the Transexual Menace for their help. “Without your help, we couldn’t have mounted much of a defense” said PD Bill Martinez.
In Washington, DC, Fire Chief Otis Latin finally announced that he is reopening the investigation surrounding the death of Tyra Hunter. This comes as a result of unrelenting pressure from GLOV (Gays and Lesbians Opposed to Violence), NGLTF (Nat’l Gay & Lesbian Task Force), and other local groups and individuals, as well as The Menace and TOPS. According to Tracy Conaty of NGLTF, “Just as we suspected, DCFD’s own documents proved that there was never an honest investigation into the treatment of Tyra Hunter.” The EMS technician who was reported by 8 witnesses to have ridiculed Tyra rather than helping her has been identified. While we wish him no ill will, we hope that the reopened investigation makes it clear that this kind of incident will not go unchallenged.
Here’s a distressing story. The Portland, Oregon transsexual community, led by Margaret Diedre O’Hartigan, made a formal request to the Portland City Council that a hearing be held seeking inclusion of the city’s transsexual and transvestite community in the city’s human rights ordinance. The request was reported in the local press, and one TV news service (KPTU news) ran an informal viewers poll which returned 45% for inclusion and 55% against. But there’s a catch. After the story broke, another transsexual group led by Andrea Abernathy came out in opposition to the city providing protection. (Andrea reportedly claims there’s no discrimination against transgenders. She may be doing well, but how about showing some consideration for those not so lucky?) Mayor Vera Katz has directed the Portland metropolitan Human Rights Commission to hold a hearing on the issue. Abernathy’s group is holding meetings to counter O’Hartigan’s offensive.
In Middletown, Delaware, 9-year-old Steven Wilson was murdered by a 15-year-old neighbor Lamont Harden. Wilson was learning disabled, and liked to play with girl’s toys. For these he was tormented regularly by other children in the neighborhood. Steven was found raped, with fractured skull, jaw, and teeth, dead by drowning.
In Tennessee, Rahm Maaoos Al-Zarkani, facing murder charges in one stabbing death, has been charged with a stabbing attack on transvestite Melanie Davidson. Once again, reports say that the assailant picked up the woman, “not knowing she was a man”. While local newspaper reports make no mention of the assailant’s social, political, or sexual preferences, they do refer to Melanie as an “admitted transvestite prostitute”.
There’s an effort underway to move the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to eliminate “Gender Identity Disorder”. According to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder in girls include, “Intense negative reactions to parental expectations or attempts to have them wear dresses or other feminine attire,” preference for “boy’s clothing and short hair,” and identification with “powerful male figures, such as Batman or Superman.” This diagnosis is used every year to confine hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth to psychiatric institutions and subject them to “treatment” to change their behavior. Various GLBT groups are now encouraging the APA to eliminate this repressive practice. Please write letters to:
- Dr. Mary Jane England, President, American Psychiatric Association, 1400 K St. NW, Washington, DC, USA 20005, Fax: +1-202-682-6114
- Dr. Chester W. Schmidt, Chair, Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Working Group, APA, Johns Hopkins Bay View Medical Center, 4940 Eastern Avenue, B3 South, Baltimore, MD, USA 21224
Hawaii appears to be on their way to passing a law that recognizes same-gender marriage. Such legislation would have enormous impact on the TG community. If passed, this would be the first legal recognition of non-traditional marriage in our country since the 1880s. In Nebraska, Senator Ernie Chambers has also introduced a bill to recognize gay marriage, and in Washington state, a Seattle computer programmer has filed an initiative – with no apparent support or connections to GLBT organizations – that would legalize same-sex marriages.
Reaction has the transphobic and homophobic up in arms, with some state legislatures – notably Washington, New Mexico, Idaho, S. Dakota, S. Carolina, and California – trying to pass laws denying legal status to same gender marriages contracted in other states. Leading gay activists are looking forward to the Hawaii case conclusion to bring newfound leverage to their efforts to obtain the same rights elsewhere.
There’s big news on the International scene. Press for Change, the UK’s lobbying group for TS rights has won an employment discrimination case resulting in a major recommendation on their (our) behalf by the Attorney General to the European Court of Justice. The recommendation is that The European Council Directive on the principle of equal treatment for men and women should be held to cover transexuals. If this decision is confirmed, it means that it will be unlawful to discriminate in employment against transexuals throughout Europe. This is the first piece of case law anywhere in the world to provide protection to transexuals. Way to go, Brits!
And Carterton, New Zealand has elected itself a mayor who just happens to be a transexual. Congratulations to Georgina Beyer, a nationally known actor and former prostitute, for breaking new ground and becoming perhaps the first TS mayor anywhere.
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