Cleveland joined the ranks of cities of shame with the discovery on June 13th of the body of Janice Ricks, who had been shot twice, once in the neck, and again in her abdomen. While there are reports that she was seen with someone earlier that morning, there are no suspects or motive at this time. So far police have been uncooperative to inquiries from members of the trans community. Local media coverage has been sparse, one station briefly mentioning that a man who went about in women’s clothing had been killed, although Janice Ricks was reportedly living full or nearly full time as a woman.
Following months of debate and careful consideration, a coalition of transgender groups led by GenderPAC announced that the Second National Gender Lobby Day will take place in May of 1997. The first lobby day was such a success that many of the leading transgender organizations will participate in the next one. Predictably, there was considerable give and take in the negotiation of the next date, and in the end, of course, not everyone was pleased at the outcome. Phyllis Frye announced that she will be lobbying in February of next year, and welcomes anyone who wishes to join her. The good news is that more people going to Washington is better, whether in February or May.
GenderPAC also announced the first ever transgender activist conference, to be held in Washington on the day before lobby day. A hotel has already been booked (same one as the first time) and if the gathering is half as inspiring and fulfilling as it promises to be, it will be the event of the year for TG activists in 1997. See you there.
In May, a small number of transgender activists demonstrated outside of the annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association in New York. They were there to call for an end to diagnosing transpeople as mentally disordered. This effort to eliminate “Gender Identity Disorder” as a pathological category, while supported by many in the TG community, is opposed by those whose medical insurance uses such categorization as a basis for expense reimbursement. A GID diagnosis has enabled many transsexuals to obtain payment of the $10-40,000 cost of SRS, without which they would have been unable to obtain the surgery. Unfortunately, this reimbursement comes at the expense of pathologizing tens of thousands of people, including non-complaining crossdressers and transgendered people who have no desire for surgery. Most unfortunately, GID is also used as an excuse to apply “corrective treatment” to non-complaining gender-variant children as young as 2-4, as well as against teenage butch-appearing lesbians and effeminate gay boys whose parents fear the stigma of queer offspring. Activists in the larger queer community have been alerted to this hurtful practice, and are calling for an end to GID. A compromise strategy would remove GID as a mental disorder, while retaining a medical basis for SRS reimbursement, comparable to corrective surgery for intersexuality, or childbirth, neither of which requires a psychological diagnosis of pathology.
Good news: the Human Rights Campaign, a leading Gay & Lesbian political action organization, has proven true to their word, and is now endorsing inclusion of transgendered persons in federal anti-discrimination legislation. HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch testified before Congress on March 19 that transpersons needed to be included in the Hate Crimes Act, a first step towards providing federal protection against discrimination. In her testimony she states “I would also like to point out there is another group of Americans who are targeted for hate crimes. It is HRC’s position that they should also be covered under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act… Like lesbian and gay Americans, transgendered persons are often singled out to be harassed, often with violent circumstances… I strongly urge this Congress to consider covering transgendered persons under the re-authorized Hate Crimes Statistics Act.” Inclusion in the Hate Crimes Act will cause the gathering of data showing the ways in which transgenders are persecuted. It’s a sound first step towards obtaining legislative protection.
The streets of Toronto witnessed the most severe anti-transgender crime in memory this past May, as three transexuals were murdered execution-style in the span of a few hours. Victims were Shawn “Junior” Keegan, 19, Deanna Wilkinson, 31, and Brenda Ludgate, 25. All three were shot in the back of the head with bullets from the same gun. Marcello Palma, 30, of North York, married and a father of two, was arrested in Halifax about two weeks later, and charged with all three murders. Valerie Scott, spokesperson for the Canadian Organization for the Rights of Prostitutes, says the law is to blame for the dangers to street prostitutes. It penalizes prostitutes for working in “bawdy houses” by seizing bank accounts and imposing stiffer sentences than for those who work on the street, she said. “Legally speaking, the safest place to work is the street and it’s also the most dangerous place,” Scott said. “Even more dangerous for transvestites and transsexuals. They’re really outcasts. The gay community doesn’t want to help them, the prostitute community doesn’t want to help them.”
Internationally, the New South Wales Parliament passed legislation on May 6 outlawing discrimination against transsexuals and giving people with sex-change operations legal status. The legislation, introduced by Attorney-General Jeff Shaw, amends the Anti- Discrimination Act to make discrimination on the basis of gender orientation an offense. It also gives legal recognition to people who have undergone surgery to change their gender, enabling the Births, Deaths and Marriages registrar to alter birth certificates after surgery. The legislation was opposed during lengthy debate by Christian campaigner Fred Nile, who said the proposed laws were ‘against the creative processes of God.’ ‘It is against the law of God and the true welfare of the people of NSW,’ he said. The Rev Nile said people who were confused about their sexuality deserved compassion but should receive expert counseling to give them the opportunity to reconsider a decision to undergo a sex change.
Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice confirmed on April 30th the recommendation of its’ Advocate General in the landmark unfair dismissal case, P vs. S and Cornwall County Council. As a result of that judgment, it is now against the law in all European States for an employer to discriminate against a transsexual person on grounds of their condition.
Not everyone is happy with such policies. Early in May, the European Court of Justice ruled that a TS person who had been sacked by Cornwall County Council had been unjustly treated. The response from the Government MPs was one of outrage. Elizabeth Peacock, MP for Batley and Spen said, ‘the European Court of Justice should mind its own business’ whilst Ann Winterton, MP for Congleton said, ‘the Court was an overactive eagle’.
In the UK, Liberal Democrat MP Alex Carlile has put forward a Private Members bill to make it possible for transsexual people to have their birth certificates altered following treatment. The Births, Marriages and Deaths Registration Act 1996 is approved and supported by Press for Change, a political lobbying and educational organization which campaigns to achieve equal civil rights and liberties for all transsexual people in the United Kingdom, through legislation and social change.
At a local level, Berkeley CA has passed an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting transgenders, joining Santa Cruz and San Francisco, which have similar statutes. On the east coast, the Cambridge (MA) Lavender Alliance, a powerful organization of experienced, mostly gay and lesbian activists, has made inclusion of bisexuals and transgenders in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance a top priority for 1996. In Portland, Oregon, transgender activists still face the opposition of TS Andrea Abernathy in their quest for legislative protection.
The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) once again has extended a special invitation to the transgender community to participate in it’s national “Creating Change” conference, this year to be held Nov 8-10 in Washington, DC. The conference is activist-oriented, providing training in organizing, fundraising, diversity, and much more. It is the largest conference of it’s kind, drawing about 1500 people last year in Detroit. This is one of the most trans-inclusive of gay community organizations: at last year’s conference, transgenderism was one of the most prominent and exciting features of the conference. For more information call NGLTF at 202-332-6483 x 3329 or email email@example.com.
One of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious organizations for queer physicians caused a brouhaha when Board members voted to strike the word “transgendered” from their letterhead and literature. The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) had voted to welcome transgendered physicians back in 1994, officially describing itself as “a U.S. and Canadian organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered physicians and medical students”. Explaining the reversal, GLMA President Valerie Ulstad stated the Board sought to “better define it’s mission”, doubting whether it had the resources or expertise to effectively advocate transgender issues. The action stirred up heated protest from the transgender community, including founding member and transexual physician Joy Shaffer, MD, a San Jose internist. Weeks of intense criticism by TG community and supporters culminated in a protest by about 40 transactivists outside of a GLMA Board reception. The Board, apparently moved by the intensity of the criticism and protest, relented, reinstating transgender inclusion in GLMA.
Remember Candy Walker, the transexual who was incarcerated for getting in the way of a bullet from her father’s gun? According to a TG news source, Candy apparently showed up late for hearings and court appearances, and finally almost missed her own trial, effectively prejudicing her case. She was convicted and sentenced to 6 months in the Ventura County Jail on the weapons charge. Right before she was due to begin her sentence, Ms. Walker obtained breast augmentation surgery. Although she has been living as a female and has changed her name, she has been held in the men’s wing of the Jail. In addition, she has been confined to solitary as a punishment for refusing to surrender her bra, which she claims gave her necessary breast support following the implants. The bra was taken from her, reportedly causing her great pain and bleeding from her unhealed stitches. According to members of the Transexual Menace, the Jail infirmary has refused to give Ms. Walker pain medication or female hormones (estrogen), and Ventura County Jail officials have rebuffed all requests by her lawyer, Mr. Allan Sigel, for Candy to receive proper medical treatment. Dismayed at the unnecessary abuse of his client at the hands by jail officials, Mr. Sigel requested the local Menace chapters and friends stage a public action to focus attention on Candy’s mistreatment.
In Hartford, CT, Nancy Miscenti was sentenced to 4 years (suspended to 4 months with the remainder served on probation) for “molesting” students at two of the schools where she was a substitute teacher. According to her public defender, had Nancy been a genetic woman, she would probably have been fired for her actions, but the police would never have been contacted. What did she do? Apparently she dressed in an inappropriately sexual fashion, wearing short skirts, heels, and heavy makeup, and was overly friendly with the students, apparently giving a few friendly pats. According to the judge, before whom she appeared in a bright red dress, she was sentenced to serve time because of her continuing refusal to accept responsibility for her actions. Miscenti wept and pleaded with the judge not to put her behind bars as she was led out of the courtroom by deputy sheriffs. She said she never thought jail was a possibility when she pleaded no contest to six counts of fourth-degree sexual assault. In an interview on GenderTalk radio, her PD said that if she had just played along and apologized, she would not have been sentenced.
In Chicago, 24 year old transexual Christian Paige was brutally murdered by a man she met via a phone dating service. She had only months before moved to Chicago from Nashville, in order to earn money for her SRS. She was beaten brutally about the head and face, stabbed over a dozen times (each wound sufficient to kill her), and finally burned in a fire apparently set to destroy all evidence. The man, who briefly met her roommates, has not yet been found. Two months after the murder, members of the Transexual Menace and other queer activists demonstrated at Chicago’s Daly Center, handing out over 1500 flyers calling for justice and recognition of the slaying as a hate crime. Christian’s roommate challenged whether it was really a hate crime, saying that the apartment had been ransacked and that she (the roommate) had lost the large sum of money which she had saved up for her SRS.
June saw more transpeople than ever participating in gay pride day in cities across the country, as more and more transpeople are declaring their pride in visibility, and more gay, lesbian and bisexual folk are welcoming us with open arms. In fact, some queer activists are now declaring transgenderism the leading edge of queer activism. Popular queer writer Pat Califia recently published a pro-TG piece in OUT magazine, and is reportedly working on a book about transsexuals. It’s a rising tide, folks.
Connecticut Governor John Rowland turned down a request by Connecticut PRIDE ’96 to have the month of June declared as “Gay Pride” month. The proposed proclamation included references to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, as well as “people who do drag and transgender people.” Nuala Forde, spokeswoman for the governor, said the governor will not sign any proclomation that he would have trouble reading to a second-grade class. “This proclamation is not a question of equal protection. It’s a question of endorsing drag queens and transsexuals, and he simply won’t do it” she said.
South Korea’s highest court recently ruled that an MTF transsexual cannot be raped. The ruling resulted from a case of two men accused of raping a transsexual. “Though the victim in this case behaves as a female the person cannot be recognized as one because, among other things, his chromosomes remain unchanged and he cannot get pregnant,” Justice Chong Kwi-ho told the court. South Korean law recognises rape only against women. The two men were convicted of a lesser charge of sexual assault and each jailed for 2 1/2 years.
According to the London Times, the Bethnall Green Labour party was reported to be setting up an inquiry following the election of a pre-operative transsexual woman to a women-only committee in Tower Hamlets, East London. The appointment was opposed by a small number of party members. The objectors protested that the case “paved the way for any man to disrupt internal elections by wearing a dress and a wig and calling himself a woman”. Julian Sharpe, the secretary of the Bethnall Green Labour Party said the woman at the center of the controversy “.. has always been accepted as a woman by the local party. Whether she was born a woman is irrelevant.”
Also in England, a surgeon who was a key member of the team that carried out the Queen Mother’s recent hip-replacement operation was subjected to blackmail threats and forced to go public as a Sunday newspaper prepared to reveal his desire to undergo Gender Reassignment treatment. William Muirhead-Allwood made his plans public, following telephone threats from an unnamed blackmailer and the impending publication of the newspaper story. A London Times medical columnist praised the surgeon as a well-known and respected practitioner to whom many other doctors referred as their own GP and said that he thought it would be a tragedy if Mr Muirhead-Allwood’s announcement gave rise to prejudice and anxiety that interfered with his future as a surgeon.
Renowned SRS surgeon Dr. Eugene Schrang recently posted a notice to the transgender internet newsgroups that an employer in England was seeking technically talented transgenders for employment. The real hook: generous would-be boss T. John McBrearty was willing to foot the bill for a prospective employee’s SRS. AEGIS director Dallas Denny quickly responded, pointing out that this individual has been making the same offer for years, and has yet to substantiate the existence of a company, let alone a legitimate employment opportunity.
In St. Louis, popular TV/TS/TG watering hole The Front Page is closing its doors, not due to lack of business, but because the city is requiring a new liquor license application from the owner, who’s late son owned it until he died last December. Locals planned a farewell show for June 29.