DC Gay Man’s Death Ruled A Homicide
September 21st, 2011
Earlier reports that a Gaurav Gopalan, a Washington, D.C., man who was found dead September 10 while dressed in drag, died of natural causes appears to be wrong. The district’s Medical Examiner has ruled his death a homicide with the cause of death being blunt force trauma to the head.
Washington has seen a rash of shootings and attacks against transgender people, with four people shot since July and more than a dozen attacks against transgender women in the district this year. One woman died from the shootings. While Gopalan wasn’t transgender, his attack certainly fits the bill for an attack against gender variance.
DC Police Register Alarm Over Transgender Shootings
September 13th, 2011
A transgender woman was shot in the neck around 2:00 a.m. Monday in the Southeast section of Washington, D.C., making the incident the fourth reported shooting of a transgender person in D.C. since July. The woman, whose name is not available, suffered a non-fatal wound and walked into a district police station to report the attack. She is reportedly in stable condition at a local hospital. A suspect has been identified in that shooting and D.C. police expect to make an arrest soon.
The latest incident prompted the D.C. police to call a news conference yesterday to discuss the attacks. Transgender advocates Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who also spoke at the media event, said the latest shooting was among more than a dozen attacks against transgender women in the district this year.
The latest rash of shootings began on July 20 when another transgender woman, 23-year-old Lashai Mclean, was shot to death at about 5:00 a.m. in Northeast Washington. Another transgender woman who was with Mclean told police that two men approached Mclean to ask a question, and shot her with a semiautomatic handgun before she could answer. Police do not yet have a suspect.
On July 31, an unidentified male shot at a transgender woman just a block away from where Mclean was shot. The woman was uninjured, but police say the shooting may point to a “potential emerging pattern.”
On August 26, an off-duty Police officer shot his service revolver at three transgender women and two male friends. Two of the women and one male were injured. Officer Kenneth Furr had reportedly proposition one of the transwmen for sex earlier that morning. Furr is being held without bail and has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
One August 31, two transgender women were threatened by a man in Northeast Washington, who told them they had five minutes to leave before would come back and shoot them.
On Sept 10, three other transgender women were threatened by a man with a gun in D.C.’s Chinatown. Police have arrested a suspect and are preparing to charge him with assault with a dangerous weapon with hate crime enhancements. The suspect’s name has not been released.
During the conference, police discussed the death, also on September 10, of an unidentified person who may be a transgender woman, although transgender advocates say that the person may be a man dressed in drag rather than someone identifying as female. The person was found dead in the Columbia Heights neighborhood at about 5:20 a.m. on September 10. Police are awaiting toxicology tests before determining the cause of death. There were no signs of trauma or external injuries. The deceased was found with money and jewelry, which rules out robbery as a motive for the possible crime.
The other option
June 7th, 2011
For Kirk’s mother Kaytee in the 70′s, there seemed to be only one responsible way to respond to Kirk’s gender atypical behavior. She sought out help from trusted authorities, doctors at UCLA, who promised that they could cure Kirk of his behavior and thus help him avoid a life of difference and difficulty.
But not every parent chooses to try and change their child; some decide to love them exactly as they are. To love them and to support them, care for them, protect them, and make them strong enough to claim their own place in the world.
One such mother writes a blog about her experiences with her four-year-old gender atypical boy. Raising my Rainbow (“adventures in raising a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son”) is a real life, real time, honest expression of a gifted storyteller. It has also grown into a community of other moms who have, perhaps for the first time ever, a place to share and compare the parenting of kids who not only don’t fit the mold, but redecorate the mold in pink with sparkly glitter.
Transgender Customer Beaten at Baltimore McDonald’s As Employees Watch
April 22nd, 2011
A McDonald’s employee captured the melee on his cell phone, but offered not assistance. Warning: the video is extremely violent:
In the first part of the video, someone who appears to be a security guard appears to try to break the fight up, but he doesn’t appear to render aide to the victim. Later, when the victim is assaulted again, there is not security guard in sight. One older lady appears to be trying to intervene, but in one pan-away, McDonald’s employees are seen looking on and laughing. Toward the end of the video, one of the assailants lands a severe blow to the victim’s head, and she appears to have a seizure. You can then here a man tell the assailants to run because the police are coming as the victim continues to convulse wildly on the floor.
The assault began when the victim tried to use the restroom. Maryland has seen a significant rise in anti-trans rhetoric in the recently failed attempt to pass an anti-discrimination bill in the state legislature. Opponents of the measure stoked bigotry over the bill by warning of “men” in women’s restrooms and referring to it as “the bathroom bill.”
The victim, whose name is not yet available, was identified as transgender by the man who video’ed the event and posted about it on his Facebook page.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the attack occurred on April 18. Two women were arrested. A 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile, and charges are pending against an 18-year-old woman. The victim, whose identity has not yet been released, is reported to be in fair condition at Franklin Square Hospital Center.
McDonald’s has issued a statement:
“We are shocked by the video from a Baltimore franchised restaurant showing an assault. This incident is unacceptable, disturbing and troubling,” the company said in a statement posted on its website. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees in our restaurants. We are working with the franchisee and the local authorities to investigate this matter.”
“Daphne’s” Mom Refuses To Bend
February 7th, 2011
Remember the mom who let her five-year-old son dress as the Scooby-Doo character Daphne for Halloween? The mother, identified only as “Sarah”, got a lot of flack over it from other moms at her son’s school. That was three months ago and the controversy still hasn’t died down. This time it’s Sarah’s church getting into the act, accusing her of “libel and slander” — even though Sarah only named the other moms as mother’s A, B, and C. ABC News has this update:
(On January 26), Sarah said she was called in for another meeting, in which the pastor told her she needed to apologize to the mothers whose comments she had mentioned in “My Son Is Gay.” She said the pastor also accused Sarah of “libel and slander, and told her that she “had taken offense [from the women] where none was intended.”
The pastor offered Sarah four steps to restore her relationships with the mothers, including writing an apology, taking down the blog post and perhaps taking down the entire blog. “I was told not to take Communion and that I may have my membership revoked if I didn’t reconcile,” Sarah said.
After Sarah complained to church elders, her pastor called back and said that he would reconsider the withholding of communion. Sarah, who says she has no idea whether her son will grow up to be gay or not (I mean, really, all of this over a Halloween costume!), responded to her church on Monday:
I cannot tell you the betrayal I feel. The church, or at the very least Pastor is trying to bully me into shutting up, and I find that so disheartening. I am floored by the fact that they’ve gone to so much trouble regarding a post that discusses love and tolerance that was posted 3 months ago. I am shocked that they do not see the hypocrisy of what they are saying to me. I am in complete disbelief that this has been handled in the way it has. I have never felt less welcome in a church.
This is not the church that I grew up in. This is not the God that I know.
And again I say to you that bullying is not okay, even if you wrap it in a bow and call it ‘spiritual care.’
A mother refuses to be bullied by good concerned Christian women
November 4th, 2010
If you have not yet seen this, and you probably have, this here is the five year old son of Nerdy Apple Bottom. It’s Halloween and he’s Daphne. And his mother is not going to let you bully him about it.
If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.
If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one.
But it also was heartbreaking to me that my sweet, kind-hearted five year old was right to be worried. He knew that there were people like A, B, and C. And he, at 5, was concerned about how they would perceive him and what would happen to him.
Just as it was heartbreaking to those parents that have lost their children recently due to bullying. IT IS NOT OK TO BULLY. Even if you wrap it up in a bow and call it ‘concern.’ Those women were trying to bully me. And my son. MY son.
These good mothers at the Christian school would never ever think of themselves as bullies. But they are setting role models for their children, approving of condemnation and rejection and letting their kids know that they have the right to humiliate other kids who don’t dress up to their standards or live according to their gender expectations.
But I think this kid’s going to be okay. He has a cop for a father and a super-hero for a mother. I love this woman.
My son is gay. Or he’s not. I don’t care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don’t want to know you.
State Dept. Issues New Guidelines for Gender Identity on Passports
June 15th, 2010
According to the Washington Post:
The State Department has revised its policy on changing passports for transgender people, announcing Wednesday night that a doctor’s note will now suffice in such cases. Previously, the State Department had required that a person undergo sexual reassignment surgery before it would change the passport. The policy had outraged transgender advocates, who called for an updated approach.
Under the new policy, which takes effect Thursday, a doctor must attest that the person is undergoing clinical treatment for gender transition, State said. Limited-validity passports will also be available to applicants in the process of gender transition, the department added.
The new policy is based on standards set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Unlike the hysterical assertions from some anti-LGBT activists, this new policy doesn’t cover casual “cross-dressers,” but is intended to benefit those who live and present themselves according to their self-identified gender.
Anti-Gay OK State Rep Faces Transgender Challenger
June 9th, 2010
Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern, who has called gay people more dangerous to the country than terrorists, will face a transgender opponent, attorney Brittany Novotny (pictured), in the general election for the Oklahoma City seat this fall. Novotny, the state’s first known transgender candidate, filed papers to run Tuesday.
Both Novotny and Kern say that neither will make Novotny’s gender identity a campaign issue. We’ll just see how long Kern stays classy.
The Malawi Couple: Gay or Transgender? Or Something Else?
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
May 22nd, 2010
Transgender advocate Autumn Sandeen has published a post on Pam’s House Blend calling attention to something that we noticed on January 5th — that Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who was convicted and sentenced with Steven Monjeza to 14 years at hard labor under Malawi’s harsh anti-homosexuality law, actually identifies as a woman. Since learning of this, we’ve been extremely careful at BTB not to use the term “gay” to describe Tiwonge, and we’ve tried to avoid the use of male pronouns. (Actually, we’ve tried to avoid the use of pronouns altogether when talking about Tiwonge, as I’ll explain in a moment.) Unfortunately, other blogs and media outlets haven’t been so careful. Autumn notes:
[L]et’s be honest with ourselves — I believe we can safely say that from past coverage by the LGBT press and LGBT blogosphere that this story would not have gained as much traction in LGBT media if this were considered a transgender or intersex story.
And, that’s sad. Transphobia and homophobia both arise from the same root — that root has to do a lot with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer people not conforming with societal sex and gender norms…Especially societal sex and gender norms for those considered to be male. And, that root has a lot to do with misogyny.
But, the erasing of the woman in this story’s intersex, transgender, and/or transsexual history from this story says a lot about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and its media.
I agree wholeheartedly with Autumn’s point that this story does say a lot about the LGBT community and media. But I also think that Autumn’s position, as admirable and fully correct as it is from a Western point of view, says more about the construction of sexuality and gender in Western society than it does about how people in other cultures actually see themselves.
As I said, we have avoided describing Tiwonge and Steven as a “gay” couple, but we’ve also avoided describing Tiwonge as intersex, transgender or transsexual, and for good reason. None of these terms may describe Tiwonge very well because they speak to a Western, Euro-centric understanding of sexuality and gender, and not an African one.
And it’s critical that we wrap our brains around this because otherwise we will fail to fully honor Tiwonge. We know that Tiwonge identifies as a woman. We also know that Tiwonge wears women’s clothing. We also know that Malawi court officials assigned Tiwonge the “woman’s job” of mopping up her own vomit when she fell ill in court, although that was clearly an act of humiliation by assigning her a “woman’s” duty rather than a respectful recognition of her self-identity (which furthers Autumn’s point about misogyny.)
(And for the time being, I’ll use the female pronoun to describe Tiwonge although I have no idea if that’s the pronoun that Tiwonge prefers. Tiwonge may actually prefer male pronouns, for reasons I’ll get into in a moment.)
By Western standards, all of this evidence would be sufficient to remove Tiwonge from the “gay” box and placed her neatly and tidily in the “transgender” box, and the rest of the story would (or at least, should) proceed accordingly. And certainly if we must place Tiwonge in such a box, there is a much stronger case for using the transgender box than the gay one. But doing so may not be the best way to honor Tiwonge’s self-identity.
Research indicates that in contemporary western cultures where gender roles between men and women are more equalized, gender differences often are more pronounced when identified with a set of traits. Standardized measures for aggressiveness and openness to ideas correlate to males, while standardized measures for agreeableness, warmth and openness to feelings correlate more strongly to females. This finding, which has been replicated elsewhere, baffled researchers who expected the equalization of gender roles to result in a similar equalization of gender traits. And they were further surprised that gender traits were actually more equalized in traditional societies where gender role differences were much stronger.
It turns out that in many traditional cultures, it may be more acceptable for women to take on what westerners perceive as “masculine” traits, and for men to take on what westerners would label more “feminine” traits. Which means that many of the external peripheral markers that we use to understand the contours of our masculinity or femininity become less important in many traditional cultures. But in these non-western cultures, gender roles — what men and women do as opposed to who they are — are considered much more important in defining what is a man and what is a woman. Against that realty, our understanding of gay/straight/transgender/whatever has only a passing relevance.
And this research appears to confirm a trend that I have noticed in my own reading of LGBT narratives from Africa. I’ve noticed that some men in particular appear to shift quite easily back and forth between masculine and feminine gender identities, and that these shifts appear to mark an identification of gender roles, whether that role may be the role someone takes in an intimate setting, or a broader role in a community or society. I’ve seen narratives where a man may take a woman’s name, and then he later shifts back to his original male name with little apparent consternation or confusion to those around him. And where I’ve seen this happen, it has appeared to me to be a reflection of gender role more so than gender identity. These appear to be men who also sometimes see themselves as women, but with little apparent intention of seeing themselves as transgender. In other words, the identification appears to describe a role by taking on the cultural trappings of that role, but not a definitive declaration of a state of being as is generally the case among transgender people in the West. (Although, of course, it must be said that there really are transgender people in Africa, in precisely the same sense in which there are transgender people elsewhere in the world.)
So if I may, I would like to take three seconds to pat myself on the back for having avoided the term “gay” to describe Tiwonge. I wish others had been similarly careful. But I suppose I will now have to expose myself for a share of bricks being thrown my way for refusing to describe Tiwonge as transgender. I’m sorry, but I’m not fully convinced that “transgender” is an accurate description either, at least not until I hear it coming from Tiwonge himself or herself. I readily concede that if we must apply a Western term, transgender appears to be a much more accurate descriptor than gay. But in the interest of fuller accuracy, I will stick to the only description that Tiwonge provides, and the one I find to be the most accurate: Tiwonge identifies as a woman. And she does so according to her understanding of what it means to be a woman in the context of her culture. Until we hear otherwise from Tiwonge directly, there cannot be a more accurate description than that.
“Being the First Sucks”
January 6th, 2010
Amanda Simpson, credited with being the first openly transgender presidential appointee, said that to ABC News. “I’d rather not be the first, but someone has to be first, or among the first,” she continued. “[There will be] questions like: Is this a token? Are you here to do a job or just to fill a quota or appease other people?”
Well, one thing I know in my own personal dealings with Amanda, you know, back when she was a nobody like the rest of us back here in Tucson, is that she is certainly no token. She was well-recongized in the community for her many accomplishments. And to add to that, by all accounts her professional accomplishments were well respected by her previous employer, a major missile contractor, where her job was to make sure missiles flew and where tokenism doesn’t. But yes, it sucks to be the first, and along with that having to see yourself on late night television like this:
GLAAD and HRC have both condemned the skit, and for good reason. Transgender “panic” has too often been excused as justification for brutally beating and murdering countless numbers of people. One high-profile case was that of Angie Zapata. Her killer, Allen Andrade, said he was provoked into beating her to death with a fire extinguisher because Angie smiled at him. Late night comedians aren’t the first people we turn to for serious reflection, but this is a very serious problem and, all too tragically, it’s not a joking matter.
In related good news however, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management has added gender identity among the classes protected by federal Equal Employment Opportunity policies.
Congratulations Amanda Simpson
January 4th, 2010
President Barack Obama has named Amanda Simpson as a Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department, where she will be working in the Bureau of Industry and Security:
“I’m truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others.”
Simpson brings considerable professional credentials to her new job. For thirty years, she has worked in the aerospace and defense industry, most recently serving as Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona. She holds degrees in physics, engineering and business administration along with an extensive flight background. She is a certified flight instructor and test pilot with 20 years of experience.
As a fellow Tucsonan, I have had the rare privilege of knowing Amanda. She is not only a truly amazing, dynamic woman, but she’s a genuine trailblazer as well. She’s as been a local activist and former member of the City of Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues, and in 2004 she became the first transgender person to win the Democratic Nomination for the Arizona House of Representatives. She was recognized that same year as one of the YWCA’s “Women On the Move.”
Several of us gathered for a Christmas party on the Friday before Christmas. It was a bittersweet party since it was also our good-bye party for Amanda. We will all miss her here in Tucson, but we are also immensely proud and excited for her new opportunities in D.C. I can’t think of a more qualified person to advise the Commerce Department on the technical issues surrounding technology exports. Break a leg, Amanda!
Ft. Worth Adds Transgenders to Non-Discrimination Ordinance
November 11th, 2009
Ft. Worth City Council last night expanded the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people by a 6-3 vote. City council also discussed a broader range of issues important to the LGBT community, including offering domestic-partner benefits and expanding the city health insurance plan to cover gender reassignment procedures, including sex changes. Discussions were contentious, both inside the packed hall and outside, where protesters from both sides had gathered. The Dallas Voice reports:
There were no arrests or major physical altercations, but there was plenty of taunting and some heated verbal exchanges. Participants from both sides later accused the other of elbowing and pushing, and one of the counterprotesters admitted to ripping a gay Pride flag.
Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20th, 2008
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day set aside to remember those who were killed due to anti-transgender or anti-gender-variant prejudice.
Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, who was stabbed to death on November 28th 1998. This year will mark the tenth anniversary of her death. The event has grown over the past decade to include memorials in more than a hundred cities in all over the world.
The Remembering Our Dead web site contains profiles of some 353 people who have lost their lives around the world — some of them, their names are unknown. In fact, we really don’t know the full extent of hate crimes motivated by prejudice against variant gender identity and expression. As imperfect as the FBI’s statistics of hate crimes based on sexual orientation are, they provide even fewer clues to what’s going on against transgender and gender-variant people. Federal law only mandates the collection of statistics for crimes based on sexual orientation, not sexual identity or expression.
To find a memorial event near you, please visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance website.
Transgender Non-Discrimination Bill Passes New York Assembly
June 4th, 2008
Many people have argued that the state of Transgender advocacy is at about where LGB (without the T) advocacy was ten or twenty years ago. Which makes this development especially important. On June 3, the state assembly voted overwhelmingly (102-33!) to to amend the state’s human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections for gender identity and expression.
The bill’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain, where Republicans hold a slim majority. Gov. Paterson has indicated that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Early 20th Century Trangender
March 4th, 2008
Colleen Cason in the Ventura County Star tells the story of Lucy Hicks, a local who lived as a woman though born male.
Did he suspect she was a man, I asked him. It didn’t matter, he told me. “Lucy was just Lucy,” he said. She always greeted him with a cheery “Hello, there, young man” when he delivered her weekly order from the butcher shop to her kitchen.
Lucy stood up for her gender identity long before the notion of transgendered persons became commonly known.
Lucy challenged the authority of physicians who insisted that she was male. “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” Anderson told reporters in the midst of her perjury trial. “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.”
The Sheldon Institute also has a collection of articles from the Star
National Transgender Day of Rememberance
November 19th, 2007
With all this talk about hate crime statistics, now’s a good time to mention that tomorrow, November 20, is the annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance. This day is set aside to remember those who have been killed due to anti-transgender violence. Those deaths, by the way, don’t show up in the FBI’s hate crime statistics because the current federal Hate Crime Reporting Act doesn’t address gender, gender identity or expression. You can learn more about transgender hate crimes at the Remembering Our Dead web site.