Body Alchemy Wins Two Lammys
Loren Cameron’s “Body Alchemy” won two Lambda Literary Awards this past may a the 9th annual awards ceremony in Chicago. Loren became the first winner in the new “Transgender” category, while also taking top honors in the “Small Press” category. “Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits” was also nominated in the “Photography/Visual Arts” category. Cameron was also nominated for a “Firecracker Award” celebrating books by alternative presses. In accepting the Transgender category award, Loren referred to his peers: “The boys are going to be very proud. Everything that happens for ‘Body Alchemy’ happens for them.”
Transsexual Presbyterian Minister at Odds With Church
In the northwest corner of Georgia, a Presbytery ministry last June revoked the ordination of one of its ministers, Carla Pridgen, at least in part because she is transsexual. Cherokee Presbytery ministry is a part of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., and serves an area roughly from Marietta to Ft. Oglethorpe. This decision came after a previous decision by Cherokee Presbytery — to place Carla on the inactive roll of ministers — was overturned by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of South Atlantic. It is anticipated that a similar appeal will be filed in this case.
ENDA Reintroduced Less Gender Coverage
To the surprise of nobody who has been paying attention, the Human Rights Campaign reintroduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Bill (ENDA) without including coverage for gender expression or identity. In many parts of the transgender community, the news was greeted negatively and vocally. New Orleans activists publicly threatened to boycott area HRC fund-raisers unless the organization makes strides toward becoming more trans-inclusive. Similar conflicts arose in Philadelphia and elsewhere, even though ENDA is not likely to pass congress anytime soon, and transgender lobbyists are making solid progress in other areas which will likely serve as a precursor for ENDA-type protections..
Time Fair on TG Custody Fight
Last July, Time magazine reported – in a balanced and respectful manner – on a fight for child custody in California between an FTM transgender father and his estranged wife. According to the report, Joshua Vecchione’s fight to continue co-parenting his daughter is being challenged not because he is incapable of parenting, but because he underwent sex-reassignment surgery. Vecchione transitioned in 1976, and has been honest about being transgender with both of his former wives. Kristie Vecchione, who is suing Joshua for sole custody of their daughter, says that their marriage was never valid. Her claim is that since Joshua was once a woman, their union violated California’s same-sex marriage ban, and that Joshua is not entitled to joint custody of his daughter.
“Aversion Therapy” for “Gender Disturbances” Promoted
Sadly providing justification abuse of gender-variant children, the American Public Philosophy Institute says gays and lesbians suffer from “gender disturbances” and an “infantile refusal to accept reality.” According to The San Francisco Chronicle, 350 people attended a recent conference of the conservative ‘intellectuals’, whose purpose was to understand homosexuality “as a tragic affliction, with harmful consequences for both individuals and society…” Panelist Joseph Nicolosi was quoted as saying that homosexuals engage in “a narcissistic refusal to accept a gendered world and the human biological reality on which that world is based.” South Carolina Medical School professor George Rekers said that lesbians tend to be tomboys in childhood, preferring “masculine” toys and demonstrating, “a distinct dislike for doll play and other female activities.” Male homosexuals show the opposite pattern, “preferring the company of girls and wanting to wear lipstick and dresses.” He maintains that “gender disturbance” can be corrected by therapy during childhood, and uses his substantial National Institute of Mental Health funding to promote and apply “aversion therapy.”
Now Passes Transinclusion Resolution
After several years of internal debate prompted by TG lobbying effort, the National Organization for Women (NOW) finally passed a resolution on transinclusion. The successful vote followed personal support by NOW President Patricia Ireland, NJ President Bear Atwood and Lesbian Rights Coordinator Kim Ward. After passing NOW-NJ’s State Conference in 1994, the resolution was introduced at the 1995 National Conference, where a dozen gender activists in Menace T-shirts collected signatures supporting the measure. Despite overwhelming support, the measure was tabled to the National Board, where it languished for the next 2 years. Eventually, though, determined effort by GenderPAC and other groups, with inside support from Ms. Atwood, yielded fruit.
Unfortunately (in this reporter’s eyes), the resolution’s integrity (and credibility) is corrupted by the statement “BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we acknowledge that gender is a patriarchal social construct used to oppress women.” Apparently NOW remains rooted in a victim position, blaming men for all gender oppressions while ignoring women’s collusion in enforcing the two-gender system (not to mention the devaluing of men’s lives).
NLGLA Incorporates Bisexual And Transgender People
In August, the Board of Directors of the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association (NLGLA) voted unanimously to affirm Bisexual and Transgender incorporation in its by-laws. The inclusion vote followed years of work by TG lawyers from ICTLEP, including NLGLA Board membership by JoAnna McNamara, Phyllis Frye, and Dee McKellar. In 1995, the Board unanimously resolved that transgenders should be included in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and other lesbian/gay ordinances around the nation. Early this year, Phyllis Frye introduced the Bi/TG inclusion proposal, which was ultimately considered not a changing of by-laws, but instead a more complete and inclusive definition of the original by-laws. As in the Minnesota statute, the lesbian and gay community was redefined to be diverse and to include, but not be limited to, lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgendered people.
TS Attacked in Beverly Hills
The transsexual head of a firm that claims to be the world’s largest adult entertainment and mail-order company says she was handcuffed and brutally attacked last May by six security guards at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. Terri Nicole Hess, CEO of DechTar, says the guards accused her of assaulting them in a statement to Beverly Hills police officers who broke up the attack. But Hess denies initiating the attack, which she says occurred because she used the ladies’ room. According to the July 8 issue of The Advocate, a spokesperson for the hotel, a luxurious, exclusive facility that prides itself on being a safe, discreet getaway for movie stars and high-powered executives, refused comment and denied any knowledge of the accusations. Hess is quoted as saying: “While I am saddened by the whole affair, I will not take this kind of discriminatory abuse passiely.” Hess was reported to be planning to file suit against the guards and the hotel.
Activists Rally for Abused TS Prisoner
In Washington State this past July, a small group of activists demonstrated on the front steps of the Walla Walla County Superior Courthouse on behalf of an incarcerated transsexual. Their intention was to alert the public about abuses of TG prisoners in the Washington State prison system. The case which inspired the action was that of Crystal Schwenk, an MtF TS who has accused a corrections officer of sexual assault. Demonstrators handed out flyers detailing Crystal’s abuse, her pending lawsuit against the Department Of Corrections, and the abuse of transgender prisoners in general.
Public response to the action was positive. One person, after reading a flier, told of his own abuse by prison guards. Others expressed outrage that the offending guard is still employed by the Department Of Corrections. The protest was organized by Ashley Sinclaire of The Jasmine Foundation [541-757-3689, firstname.lastname@example.org], dedicated to helping transgender incarcerates. The Jasmine Foundation gets many letters from transsexuals in prison who say they’re being sexually abused and deprived of medical care. Crystal’s case underscores the problem, and challenges the widespread presumption that such abuse is inflicted primarily by other inmates. The news that this sexual abuse is perhaps most often inflicted by prison officials fortunately inspires many observers with a genuine sympathy for the victim. The recent rape of a Haitian man in New York by cops, and subsequent mass demonstrations, are also helping to further focus the public spotlight on the behavior of our penal system custodians.
Transexual Man Convicted On Rape Charge
In Washington State, 20-year-old FTM transexual Christopher Wheatley was convicted of 3rd degree rape in Franklin County Superior Court for having sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison this past April in a case similar to that of Sean O’Neill in Colorado Springs. O’Neill, charged with multiple counts of rape and pedophilia for sex with two underage teen girls while he was 19, was advised to plead guilty rather than face stacked charges. Thanks to the support of TG activists, though, he was later sentenced to only 90 days in the local jail.
According to a local newspaper reporting on Whearley’s case, the 15-year-old girl told police she believed Wheatley was male and didn’t realize he was using a strap-on penis until they had had sex several times. When the story was published, another 15-year-old girl made similar allegations. Wheatley, who began transitioning 2 years ago, takes hormones, and intends to seek SRS, is currently imprisoned awaiting prosecution on the second charge. Transactivists challenged the adequacy of Wheatley’s legal representation because he pled guilty in the first case and his subsequent lawyer, Public Defender Daniel Arnold, refused to acknowledge Wheatley’s transexualism, maintaining that his client is in denial. Activists have appealed to the TG community for support. A good lawyer has been identified, but some funds are needed for Chris’ defense. To help, contact Tonye Barreto-Neto, (813)752-9226 or TBHawk@aol.com.
Deceiving FTM Fined Big Bucks
According to The Southern Voice, a transgender man was ordered to pay $264,000 to a woman he had married only four months previously, after she found out that he “was a she”. Thorne Wesley Jameson Groves met Margaret Hunter, a 24-year-old administrative assistant from Virginia, via the internet in late 1995. Groves avoided intimacy by telling Hunter that he was dying of AIDS, and explained his bound chest by telling her that he was dealing with rib injuries suffered in a car accident. Hunter became suspicious after noticing that he was neither getting sicker nor receiving any medical bills When she fielded a phone call from Groves’ parents asking for “Holly”, she sought out Groves’ birth certificate and learned the truth. The judge awarded her $250,000 in damages and $14,000 to cover her spending on their relationship, including a $9,500 wedding.
Iowa City Promotes TG Video
According to the June 23 issue of The Advocate, Iowa City is producing a video designed to promote adherence by local businesses of the city’s transgender anti-discrimination ordinance. Aimed at educating business people about interacting with crossdressers and transsexuals, the video production effort is supported by a budget of $1450, and was scheduled for completion in August.
Cambridge Invites TG Job Applicants
City personnel management in Cambridge, MA contacted the producer of transgender talk show GenderTalk to ask that Cambridge City job openings be aired on the program. Questioned by the program’s host, Employment Manager Ralph Elwell confirmed that transgender employees would be welcomed as applicants to the city workforce. For more information, call Cambridge City Hall at 617-349-4332 and ask for job information.
US Representative Attacks TG Employee
In June, US Rep. Cliff Stearns wrote a letter to Florida State Senate and House chairs “in response to numerous complaints from constituents,” urging that State Health Care Administration employee Sabrina Robb be dismissed. Robb, an MTF transgender, is a 43-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran formerly known as Dale. Stearns, calling Robb’s behavior ” particularly appalling” and “deviant,” acknowledges “zero noticeable change in the job performance of Ms. Raab (sic) since his selection of women’s clothing”, but nonetheless says that state government employees should conform to a set standard of appearance, else “those who fail to comply should feel free to seek employment elsewhere.”
According to The Orlando Sentinel, Robb’s bosses are standing up for her, reporting that they haven’t received any complaints from co-workers or the public. Spokeswoman Colleen David is quoted: ”The agency, as an employer, has the responsibility to protect the personal rights of all its employees and to maintain a professional and productive workplace. We are doing just that.” The article quotes Robb on her manner of dress: ” I consider myself a professional, and I would not dress any other way but professionally. I’m dressed conservatively, not provocatively.” A co-worker, though, reportedly said that several employees in the small office building are uncomfortable, not with Robb’s style, but the whole idea of a “man dressing as a woman.”
TS Runs for Myrtle Beach City Council
Campaigning on a platform of diversity and change, 30-year-old African-American TS Sharon Franklin Brown plans to run for one of the seven Myrtle Beach, SC, City Council seats. Brown says she became involved with the City Council last March when Councilman Mark McBride was quoted, in reference to a gay bar opening, as saying, “We don’t want this garbage on the Boulevard” and “I don’t want to end up seeing transvestites and drag queens and people being led around on leashes in dog collars.” After hearing McBridge’s remarks, Brown says she “went to the Council and voiced my opinion, and it led from there.” She says she has attended every council meeting since the gay bar debate.
Brown, who was fired from her job as a resident hall director in a women’s dorm at North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University because of her transgender nature, was inspired by the incident to begin speaking out about the need to include gender identity and sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies. She says her gender identity has been a big issue in her campaign, and she has been frustrated by press reports calling her a “transvestite,” a “cross-dresser,” and “he.”
Pa Court: Transsexuals Not Protected
A state court has ruled that transsexuals may not enjoy protection from discrimination under existing disability law. The ruling comes from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which affirmed that a person discriminated against because of his or her transexual status is not protected by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). According to The Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, Kristine Holt began a medically supervised transition from male to female in July 1992, which necessitated that she begin dressing and presenting herself as a woman. She was subsequently transferred to another office and fired for allegedly violating the employer’s dress code. Holt filed a compliant alleging that her firing violated PHRA, but the court ruled that Holt has no claim under the act. On appeal, the majority opinion upheld the trial court’s decision, ruling that a person seeking protection under PHRA must demonstrate a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more of life’s major activities, and that transexualism does not fall within that definition. In dissent, Justice Collins suggested that Holt should be allowed to make a case that she falls within the class protected by PHRA, contending that transexualism may be a physiological disorder that effects Holt’s essential life activities and functions, which would make it applicable to the PHRA.
Transvestite Murderer Convicted of Hate Crime
After a four-hour deliberation, a Fayetteville, Arkansas jury returned a life sentence against Yitzak Abba Marta, 21, for the beating and strangulation of Alan Fitzgerald Walker in November of 1996. “This was nothing more than a hate crime,” Circuit Judge William Storey told Marta. “This person was killed because he was gay.” According to Marta’s testimony, he and Adam David Blackford met Walker outside a gay nightclub. Walker was crossdressed. It wasn’t until they were undressing at Walker’s home that Marta realized that Walker was physically male, or had “no more breasts, no more makeup, no more hair,” as Marta put it. Marta claims to have laughed and left, while Blackford returned later and killed Walker (Blackford was also convicted of murder). Police came to the scene after neighbors noted Walker’s absence. They found Walker’s nude body inside the bedroom, with “KKK” in 2-foot letters written in blood near a closet door.
Evanston Protects Transgenders
Recently, the Evanston, Illinois City Council voted unanimously to make their city the latest to extend human rights protection to their transgendered residents and visitors. By adding transgendered individuals as a protected class to their Human Rights Ordinance, Evanston prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing. The successful effort was spearheaded by Miranda Stevens, vice-chair of It’s Time, Illinois! (ITI), working with Paula Haynes, Director of the Human Relations Commission in Evanston. The Commission unanimously endorsed ITI’s suggestion that sexual orientation be defined in the Human Rights Ordinance as encompassing both affectional relationships and gender identity. In testimony before the City Council, Miranda Stevens explained who transgendered people are and why this protection is needed, saying: “For most of you, this is the first time you’ve encountered a transgendered person, outside of stereotypical caricatures on television or movies. We hope that by the end of the evening, we would have put a more human face on our community.”
Military Twisted Over Gender
According to Tere Frederickson, an unnamed MTF transgender person has found herself caught in the maw of the military machine in San Antonio, Texas. Though recognized by state authorities as a woman – and identified as such by her birth certificate, driver’s license, etc., as well as military psychiatrists who have cleared her for worldwide duty as a woman – she has been ordered by her commander to crossdress as a man in order to appear in public. It seems the commander takes exception to the idea of a woman with “a little extra.” So he has placed her under virtual house arrest, unless she dons men’s clothing. Meanwhile, the military has violated it’s own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by investigating her at length, asking a neighbor if she is gay, interviewing her pastor, and more. The bizarre and hurtful action apparently results from the Military Personnel Headquarters policy which classifies one’s gender by the sole criteria, “if you have one, you are one.” According to Tere, “she is redefining gender in the military. She’s a hero in our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered struggle for equal rights and fair treatment.”
Montreal TS Challenges School Authorities
In Montreal, Jackie Réve is hoping to redefine the rights of transsexuals in Quebec. She claims she was repeatedly harassed after Gédéon Ouimet High School officials told her she couldn’t use the women’s washroom. According to local newspaper Hour, Réve, a “pre-op” TS, says she was insulted by teachers, given the run-around by officials, and lost $120 in welfare benefits when it was claimed she had dropped out of school. The Quebec Human Rights Commission is reportedly investigating charges that school faculty discriminated against her while she tried to complete her high school diploma. “What I’m trying to do is get legal status because transexuals have almost no rights,” Réve points out. “In the period between man and woman, transexuals have absolutely no legal rights. The state doesn’t allow us to evolve as sexual beings.”
Sex Change Ban Proposed in Philippines
According to the Manila Bulletin, a bill to prohibit sex change operations in the Philippines has been filed. The proposed measure aims to uphold “the sanctity of the family life,” and to “instill health consciousness.” Sponsor Wilmar Lucero of Northern Samar said “The sacredness of the human body should not be impaired by callousness of medical science. It shall be respected, protected and preserved solely to its purpose.” The measure would punish violators with imprisonment for 12 years. Fortunately, at least one congressman strongly rejected Lucero’s proposal. “By all means I will oppose the measure,” said gay rights champion and Quezon City Rep. Reynaldo Calalay. He said the proposal is a violation of the human rights of gays, and it is the right of a person to avail himself of modern medical technology to enjoy life.
New Zealand Cancels Sex-Change Operations
Reports indicate that Midland Health in Waikato, New Zealand, recently canceled three sex-change operations after realizing that no other regional public-health authority funds gender-reassignment surgery. According to the New Zealand Herald, Midland Health program director Alan Wilson explained that a sex-change operation is cosmetic surgery no different than a nose job.
English TSs Now Protected at Work
An Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that transsexuals are protected by legislation that forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. The landmark ruling for the first time provides transsexuals with protection against discrimination under English law. According to The Guardian, “It is now unlawful to sack an employee for undergoing a sex change, to refuse to hire a transsexual on that ground alone, or to fail to prevent their harassment.” The ruling resulted from the case of an amusement park rides technician who changed her sex after four years on the job. She was subsequently ostracized by co-workers and eventually dismissed on grounds of incapability.
This ruling follows the 1996 ruling by the European Court of Justice which held that transsexuals were protected from discrimination under European Community law.
English TS Wins Over College
With the help of Press For Change (PFC), Lindsey Henley has won a 3-year battle with Sheffield City College to allow her to take a “Women Only Motor Mechanics Course”. Lindsey, an MTF TS, was barred from the course when her legal status was discovered. The college also refused to let her register for the mixed course – which was all male – on the basis that they could not guarantee her safety. She was refused legal aid on the basis that the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA), which covers vocational training, did not cover transsexuals. With the help of PFC activist and solicitor Michelle Wilson, though, the college finally conceded and will allow Lindsey to take the course. The decision was likely influenced by the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (reported above).