Trans-Actions #5

December 1996

Media Wave Catches New Gender Activism

Not surprisingly, transgenderism continues it’s media popularity, but with newfound respectability and reach.  In particular, national Gay publications are boosting transgenderism as never before.  The Advocate recently published a piece by Gabriel Rotello titled “Transgendered Like Me,” which opens: “..Do I look transgendered?…  I increasingly believe that I am transgendered.  What’s more, I believe that if you are lesbian or gay or bisexual, your are too.  And I believe that an emerging definition of all gay people as transgendered is the wave of the future.”

Sf Chronicle Transphobia Attack

Of course, there has been no shortage of unfriendly media attention.  In San Francisco, the Chronicle ran an exaggerated story hinting at mass sex-change surgeries at taxpayer expense.  The story attacked local trans-activists’ inquiry into the exclusion of trans-related medical services from the city’s insurance plan.  It become national news when the AP wire service picked up the story and alleged that 6,000 folks in the SF area could potentially apply for sex-change surgery.

Apparently, exclusions in the city health plans of trans-related medical services appeared to place the city in violation of its own 2- year old city ordinance outlawing discrimination against the transgendered.   According to FTM International director James Green, only 7 transexual city employees would actually be affected by a correction to the health plans, and at no cost to taxpayers.

SF Creates Trans Housing Focus Project

The Housing Focus Project of San Francisco is attempting to create a trans-friendly neighborhood in the lower Haight area.  FHP says they will pay any transsexual person $125 for establishing a household at a qualifying address.  Says HFP’s Jennifer Freeman, “We hope to create an alternative to the inner-city Tenderloin.  Once enough proud transsexuals move into the area, the idea of a ‘trans-town’ will become self-sustaining.”

Tiffany Club Members Harrassed, Office Vandalized

In the Boston area, the long-standing Tiffany Club ran into problems with local youth. A club officer tells of a brick thrown through the club office window sometime early on a Sunday morning in November.  She reports that local police have been somewhat unresponsive, reporting that crime as simple vandalizing rather than a hate crime, as she requested.  However, she claims to know which youth are responsible, and promises to handle the matter gracefully, with police cooperation.

Transgendered Youth set on Fire in Atlanta

A particularly disturbing story comes from Atlanta, where local television stations last November ran a story about a “transvestite” who had been set on fire.  The approximately 15-year old teenage “male” suspect was arrested and found to have 15 packets of crack cocaine in her pocket.    Apparently, she had been in an argument moments before being set aflame, and suffered burns over about 15% of her body.   A tasteless joke about the incident on a local talk show stirred anger in the local TG community.

Transcommunity Founds National Movement

Last November, representatives from 12 of the community’s leading organizations met in Philadelphia to sign the Articles of Association for GenderPAC. The signing marks the founding of a unified, national movement against gender-based oppression.  GenderPAC is a “public advocacy coalition,” dedicated to “gender, affectional and racial equality.”

GenderPAC began in June of 1995 as a loose-knit advisory group of trans-organizations to raise money and direct activism. However it’s focus quickly grew to include such activities as congressional lobbying, hate crimes, employment discrimination, National Gender Lobbying Day, community-based research, and legal advocacy.

Supporting organizations included AEGIS, FTM International, IFGE, ITA, Renaissance, Tri-Ess, the American Boyz, ISNA, THAC, TOPS, Deaf Transgendered Alliance, EON, Outreach Institute, and ICTLEP.

Burlington Rallies For Crossdressing Teen

Led by members of the Transexual Menace, dozens of local supporters turned out in downtown Burlington, VT to demonstrate in support of local teen Matt Stickney, who was suspended after wearing a dress to school.  Demonstrators rallied on the front steps of the Unitarian Universalist Church, and enjoyed complimentary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream afterwards.

Stickney, a gay male making a brave statement about expressive freedom and pride, was officially suspended for unruly conduct.  After Matt was verbally assaulted by other students, the principal claimed it was Stickney who was “creating a disturbance,” and demanded he change his attire.  A series of confrontations then ensued, which led to Stickney’s suspension.  The case attracted a barrage of national media attention.

Hermaphrodites With Attitude Picket Pediatricians

The first demonstration by intersexuals in modern history was held last October, as 26 gender activists from across the spectrum gathered outside of the American Academy of Pediatricians’ (AAP) annual meeting in downtown Boston.   Their protest, aimed at AAP’s continued support of Intersexed Genital Mutilation (IGM), was jointly called by Hermaphrodites With Attitude (HWA) and The Transexual Menace. It attracted widespread media attention and sympathy.

IGM, touted by some as helping intersexed bodies achieve “normal genitals,” has been equated to giving homosexuals electroshock and lobotomy to help them achieve “normal heterosexuality.”  One protester, an HWA member, who had lost all erotic sensation to IGM, heard that her pediatrician was inside, chairing a panel on “managing” intersexed children.  “That [deleted] cut off my clitoris, put it in formaldehyde, and has it in a  jar” she cried, before breaking down in tears.

GID Controversy Grows

Continuing a series of protests, last November about 40 activists from a broad coalition of  groups demonstrated outside the national offices of the American  Psychiatric Association (APA) in Washington DC.  Demonstrators protested the APA’s continued use of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) as a mental illness, claiming it unfairly pathologizes gender-variant youth and transpeople.  The protest, as is usual with Menace actions, was polite and friendly.

Acknowledging that some TG folk wish to retain GID to assure continued availability of professional services and protection from discrimination, a press release from the Transexual Menace nevertheless called for the end of GID by asking “is  mental illness a sound foundation on which to build a national  movement for gender rights?”

Only a few days earlier, a talk by Phyllis Burke, author of Gender Shock, a book which denounces the use of GID to pathologize children, was interrupted by 3 Transgender Nation protesters chanting “Keep Your Hands OFF Our Diagnoses.”

The APA demo was organized as part of NGLTF’s “Creating Change” conference, attended by more than 2,000 people.  A new national organization, Colleagues, was launched, to work for gay, lesbian, bisexual,  and transgender rights in the workplace.

Ohio Judge Issues Marriage License to Male-to-Female Transsexual

In Painesville Ohio, a judge issued a marriage license to a MTF transsexual who plans a sex change after she marries a lesbian.  Since Ohio law specifies marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman,  the judge asked for a doctor’s note specifying  that the to-be woman still had male sex organs.  This ruling came just two weeks after President Clinton signed a law denying federal recognition of  same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, in a long-awaited ruling, a judge in Hawaii ruled that denying a gay couple a marriage license violates their civil rights.

Presbyterian Transsexual Ministers Ordination Upheld

As reported sympathetically in Newsweek, the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta authorized  the ministry of counseling of Erin Swenson, a male-to-female transsexual  minister.

In 1995, the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta declined to affirm her ordination.  After some members indicated that the issue would have theological implications that could resonate on a national level, the presbytery reconsidered.  “It’s the first time, that I know of, that a mainstream Protestant denomination has upheld the ordination of a minister who has transitioned in ordained office,” Ms. Swenson said. “The future seems a little brighter for all of us today.”

Meanwhile in Akron Ohio, a lesbian married to a pre-op male transsexual was escorted off  her church’s property by police, and church leaders told her not to come back  because she “remains unrepentant and seeks to mock God.”  The church’s administrative board issued a statement saying church members want to gather for worship, prayer and Bible study “without the fear of  harassment, threats or general chaos.” The church had issued guidelines in 1983 welcoming anyone who believes in Jesus, but also only condoning the relationship between husband  and wife.  According to AP reports, at least one church member renounced her membership over the woman’s ouster.

Gay Student Wins $900,000 Lawsuit, Sets Landmark Precedent

In a case that made national headlines, Jamie Nabozny won $900,000 last November in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in a lawsuit claiming school officials violated his rights by not protecting him from years of harassment by other students.   The out-of-court settlement came after a federal court jury found that three school administrators violated his rights. Nabozny said the abuse by other students ranged from name-calling to being shoved, beaten, spat upon and even having his head pushed in a urinal and being urinated upon.  He testified during the two-day trial that he was kicked in the stomach so many times he later required surgery.

The case has far-reaching implications, especially since it found the administrators personally guilty.  This means that any youth being harassed in school for being gay – or, presumably, transgender – can expect serious attention to be directed towards their situation, or else the school administration risks serious consequences.

Intersexed Person Wins Lawsuit Over Mistreatment

In Los Angeles, Intersexual Candice Sue Penn won a $30,000 out-of-court settlement for emotional distress after being arrested, mishandled and abused by transphobic officials. She was allegedly “forced to remove all of her clothing in front of numerous sheriff’s deputies and inmates,. ridiculed, threatened, embarrassed, humiliated, [and then] forcibly incarcerated at the Men’s Central Jail in March 1995 — even though `it was clear and apparent’ that she was a woman” according to the LA Times.

Penn had originally been sent to a women’s facility, where inmates complained that she was a man; she was then examined and transferred to the men’s facility, re-examined, and then transferred back to the women’s the following day.  While at the men’s jail, Penn alleged she was “attacked, threatened and subjected to abuse” by other inmates.

County documents concluded that Penn was found to have “abnormalities” in her genital  area, but she was “otherwise a normal female.”  The County Sheriff’s Dept. agreed to the settlement after she filed suit in federal court.

Wife Sues for Genital Mutilation

In Baton Rouge, a woman’s lawsuit against her anesthesiologist ex-husband finally went to trial after eight years in the courts.  She claims her husband persuaded two surgeons to perform a female circumcision, removing the clitoral hood, while she was sedated in a procedure conducted 24 years ago.  Apparently, she didn’t know what was done to her until 1988, when she met the surgeon who had assisted in the operation.  When he reportedly acknowledged the guilt he’d been carrying for years, she said, “For what?”  He replied, “Don’t you know what they did to you?”

She said her husband kept her in a drug-induced stupor for two months — and when she complained about the pain, she was assured by the surgeons and her husband that nothing was wrong.

Transsexuals Win State-Wide Protection in Oregon

In what may be the first case of transsexuals obtaining protection under existing law, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries announced last October that their Civil Rights Division will accept complaints of discrimination based on transsexualism under current state law.  The announcement culminates 10 months of effort by Oregon transsexuals to persuade BOLI that the state law protecting the civil rights of disabled persons did not exclude transsexuals.  Activists are still lobbying an amendment through the Portland city council which will include transpeople in the protection of the city’s human rights act.

“Same Sex” Based on Role, NOT Anatomy, Says Cambridge

Cambridge, MA is on track to become the first city anywhere to pass a law which defines sex as based on something other than anatomy.  An amendment to the local Human Rights Ordinance, worded by this author, adds ‘gender’ to the list of protected categories. Since the ordinance allows for discrimination on the basis of sex for same-sex housing, the proposed amendment defines ‘same sex’ as “occupying the same social and identity roles as another with respect to being male or female.” The City Council approved the amendment for public hearings.

Notes accompanying the amendment proposal point out the conflict that can arise when a transgender person seeks access to same sex housing.  It justifies the same sex definition as providing a fair means for determining a person’s appropriate assignment, while protecting those in same-sex housing from intrusion by “pretenders”.  Full text of the amendment and notes are available from the author or at

The amendment was proposed and sponsored by the local Gay activist organization, the Cambridge Lavender Alliance.  Activists were delighted by the 7-2 vote, which indicated an unexpectedly high level of acceptance. By the time this is published, the amendment will likely be law.

Judge Okays Drag, But City Says it Will Fight

In Raleigh, NC, a county judge ruled that a local gay bar (“Legends”) can continue to present  drag shows as long as they don’t cross the line into nudity.  City officials cited the bar earlier this year for violating  zoning restrictions regarding adult establishments.  Legends’ owners sued and won.  Judge Manning sided with their argument, but city officials said they’ll appeal, citing complaints of “boisterous, sometimes disreputable”  crowds attracted by the club.

Buenos Aires: TGs Lead Fight for Police Reform

In Buenos Aires, transgender activists are playing a lead role in reforming police policy, a reform which could have far-reaching effects for all citizens.  Their efforts are inspired by extreme harassment at the hands of city police, who regularly arrest, abuse, and extort money from transvestites, gays, and sex workers.

The newly obtained reforms nullify police edicts allowing police to arbitrarily arrest people not committing an offense.  Police, however, are fighting back.  Just before the new policy took force, harassment increased markedly.  Those arrested were told things would only worsen, that police would not abdicate their profits, and that evidence could easily be fabricated to justify arrests.

In response, a courageous group of transgender people, lesbians,  gays and pansexuals demonstrated at the swearing in of the new statute, demanding an accounting for the unsolved deaths of 50 transvestites over a span of only three years.

UK:  TS Surgeon Regains Admitting Privileges

The medical committee of the King Edward VII Hospital  for Officers in London reversed an earlier decision disallowing Sarah Muirhead-Allwood from practicing medicine. The committee had withdrawn her admitting privileges when she went public with her gender reassignment plans rather than be outed by a British tabloid.

Ms. Muirhead-Allwood is now free to again admit patients, a move that has both her and their Chief Executive of the hospital “very pleased.”  She is considered one of Britain’s leading orthopedic  surgeons, and assisted in the replacement of the hip of the Queen Mother in 1995.

Australia:  Transgender in School Row

Tabloid newspapers and TV  pounced on the story of male to female transgender teacher Lee Oliver, who has been forced into an office job away from the classrooms.  The teacher was banned from teaching duties while the subject of disciplinary action stemming from her drama course at a secondary college.   Parents took exception to her taking students to see a play that featured male nudity, and conducting drama workshops that involved teenage girls talking about loud orgasms.  Some parents complained that she was “flaunting” her sex change.

The teachers’ union, arguing on her behalf, implied that Oliver was removed from teaching duties because of her sex change treatment.  The Education Department denies that transgenderism is an issue with her relocation.  One TV report showed students as supporting Oliver and demanding her return to teaching.

Contact: Please direct news or inquiries to Nancy Nangeroni, email nrn ‘at’, snailmail redacted.  Nancy hosts GenderTalk radio in Boston on WMBR, 88.1 FM, Wednesdays at 8:30 PM.  For more information, check out web site