TransMSU Promotes Inclusion in Bozeman and Montana State University

Cassidy Medicine Horse is a Pride Foundation supporter and founder of TransMSU, a new group at Montana State University in Bozeman. **Photo courtesy of the Bozeman Chronicle

Cassidy Medicine Horse is a Pride Foundation supporter and founder of TransMSU, a new group at Montana State University in Bozeman.
**Photo courtesy of the Bozeman Chronicle

By Caitlin Copple

Being trans can be a challenge anywhere, but it’s especially tough in Montana, as there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for gender identity, including at Montana State University. A coalition of student organizations is working to change this, including TransMSU (TMSU) a support group for transgender MSU students.

Founded by graduate student Cassidy Medicine Horse, the group came into being after Medicine Horse was invited to talk about barriers to the community to the MSU student senate.

Despite Bozeman’s reputation for being a fairly liberal college town, Cassidy explains that prejudices exist when it comes to bathrooms, showers, dorms, and health care providers. Even though the school is receptive to hormone therapy coverage, it’s common for insurance carriers to exclude it from their prescription formulary. Cassidy adds that, to her knowledge, there are only three therapists and as many doctors in the Bozeman area who treat trans individuals.

Navigating these barriers while also going through a major life and identity transition was extremely difficult for Medicine Horse, and she started TransMSU to ensure other transitioning would have a built-in support network.

“Transitioning can be, at the very least, a lonely time,” she says. “Sometimes it can be filled with self-recrimination, self-loathing, anger, and great loss of family and friends.”

Beyond support, Medicine Horse hopes the group will provide a place for trans advocacy and increased visibility of the community, as they have with the efforts to add gender identity and expression to the Montana University System bylaws.

“What I am truly hoping for is that trans as a paradigm of the ‘other’ will cease to exist,” she says. “Sometimes I joke, half-heartedly, that I don’t want people just to come out of the closet. I want them to burn the closet down. The fact that a person is transgendered or transsexual should be about as interesting as whether you had mustard on your last sandwich. To be transgendered is not about sex. It is not about being homosexual or straight. It is about identity.”

Until then, she and TransMSU are partnering with the Montana Human Rights Network, a longtime Pride Foundation grantee, to work for equal protections for all Bozeman residents.

“Cassidy’s work to establish TMSU is essential to helping fill a gap as LGBTQ policy work moves forward in Bozeman,” said Jamee Greer, LGBT organizer for the Montana Human Rights Network. “It shows trans Bozemanites that they belong here, and also helps educate cisgender* folks around why trans inclusion matters.”

“Bozeman is a great little town with great folks,” adds Medicine Horse. “It’s time that we stand next to Missoula and Helena and give an additional voice to the concept of equality.”

When asked how people can be better allies to trans people, she shared:

  1. Learn the correct use of pronouns. If you don’t know, ask respectfully about pronoun preference.
  2. Don’t out us, and don’t use “bio” or “real” when referring to trans folks. If you need to designate, use “cis” or, better yet, how about referring to us just as a “person.”
  3. Do not ask me what my “real” name is or whether I have had had the surgery. It is, frankly, no one else’s business.
  4. Don’t automatically identify trans people as homosexual. Again, it’s not your concern and has nothing to do with being transgendered. Recognize that not all people fit into a nice little binary world of gender identification.
  5. Speak out when you hear pejorative remarks about trans people.

Currently, TMSU has 23 members, and the group welcomes trans, MtF, FtM, intersex, questioning, students, faculty, local residents, spouses, and supporters. The group meets weekly on Monday nights on the MSU campus from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

*A cisgender person is someone who identifies as the gender/sex they were assigned at birth.  The colloquial use of cisgender suggests that it is the opposite of transgender.

Caitlin Copple is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Montana.

Help Find Pride Foundation’s Next Montana Staffer

Dear Supporters,

As many of you know, Pride Foundation’s Montana Organizer, Caitlin Copple has recently accepted a role at the national nonprofit Women’s Voices for the Earth to be a part-time communications contractor. Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national nonprofit organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices, and government policies. Caitlin was with Pride Foundation for over two years and was an inaugural member of our regional team that expanded our staffing impact and structure across our 5-state region.
All along the way, and for years before, Caitlin has served as a proud champion and activist in our LGBTQ movement in Montana, and we are sad to see her go. Yet, we are aware of the incredible network and foundation she built with your help and excited for the opportunities ahead both for her and Pride Foundation’s work on justice issues around the Northwest.
With Caitlin’s departure, Pride Foundation is conducting a competitive regional search for the Regional Development Organizer (RDO) in Montana. And we’d like to ask for your help in this process.
Pride Foundation is a donor-supported community foundation that inspires a culture of generosity by connecting and strengthening organizations, leaders, and students who are advancing equality for LGBTQ people and their families in the Northwest. The Regional Development Organizer in Montana will provide strategic vision and leadership for Pride Foundation’s programmatic efforts throughout Montana. This person will also oversee all aspects of grants and scholarships across the state including scholar and grantee recruitment, review processes, and on-going support.

Additionally, the new RDO will have the unique opportunity to serve in collaboration with other statewide LGBTQ and allied organizations to continue to move equality forward in cities across the Treasure State. Finally, the new RDO will work closely with Pride Foundation’s Community Giving and Communications teams to ensure best practices in fund raising, donor stewardship, storytelling, and community support.
The ideal candidate would bring a creative and thoughtful approach to program support while maintaining an appreciation of Pride Foundation’s history, legacy, and commitment to social justice philanthropy. Pride Foundation has a $3 million operating budget with 16 full-time employees and several student interns. It is governed by a Board of Directors with 23 members from across the 5-state region with diverse professional, cultural, and personal backgrounds.
This position reports to the Director of Regional Operations and Leadership.  Please see the full position description and share the opportunity with your networks of friends and colleagues.
Best,
Amy White
Director of Regional Operations and Leadership

 

http://www.pridefoundation.org | info@pridefoundation.org | 1.800.735.7287 | Headquarters Mailing Address: 1122 E Pike St PMB 1001 | Seattle, WA 98122 US

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WWES? (What Would Ezekiel Say?)

“Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle, or like, premarital sex between heterosexuals … it says that that’s a sin … I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he said on the show. “So, I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize that person as a Christian.”

~ Chris Broussard, ESPN Commentator.

Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I do so wish to avoid judging those who judge others.  Thus, I have tried to avoid comment upon the religious right rhetoric about LGBT people.  Yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that statements like the above quote stray from even the most basic of Christian tenets, Jesus’s command that we “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34-35.  Moreover, for a biblical literalist, the above scriptural interpretation  (Not cited, but denominated as biblical by the phrase, “it says.” ) is simply inaccurate.  Finally, one of the most basic rules of journalism is that the media represent all sides of an issue.  And, there is another side to this story.

So, what is gained by my silence? Some great Christian leaders have posited that to be silent in the face of oppression is to join the oppressor.  (E.g., Dr. King, and more recently, Bishop Gene Robinson).  Thus, I gladly risk the criticism that I am being judgmental in favor of speaking out on behalf of the oppressed.  I speak my truth to power.

Now, about Gay Christians.  The term is neither an oxymoron nor disingenuous.  I personally identify as LGBT and Christian.  I believe that Jesus is Lord!   According to scripture, I cannot make such a statement lightly, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12:3).  Moreover, if I say it and believe it than scripture guarantees my salvation.  (Romans 10:9).  Hence, the scriptural formulaic equation for salvation is not exclusive.  I can be Gay and Christian.  And I am not alone in this belief.

There are a whole host or Christian organizations, many of which we see on Face Book every day, dedicated to the same proposition. We are in the minority now, but I believe that as we continue to change the world that all of Christendom will likewise evolve.  One such group is called Fortunate Families, a national organization of Catholic parents with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender children, with a passion for social justice advocacy and a focus on the Catholic Church and LGBT issues.  In my present church affiliation, Methodist, we have the Reconciling Ministries Network whose purpose is to mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.  The Episcopal church has an organization called Integrity, whose mission it is to inspire and equip the Episcopal Church, its dioceses, congregations, and members to proclaim and embody God’s all-inclusive love for LGBTQ persons and those who love them.  Perhaps you know of others.

When it comes to scripture, I am merely a “jack-theologian,” so-to-speak.  While I have a minor in religious studies, I certainly do not have any sort of divinity degree.  However, I have at least read the passages to which I refer.  I understand that they have been through multiple translations over the millennia, and were written in a vastly different culture with a vastly inferior world view, knowledge and technology, and that they were gathered into what we now know as the Bible by church fathers in the Third Century.  (Even a cursory search reveals that the origins of the Bible is a complicated story rife with dissension and debate).  Scripture did not even have line and verse until the 16th century.  (The Bible was divided into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton and into verses in the 16th century by French printer Robert Estienne).  People believed over the entire 4,000 or so years that the various books of the Bible were written that the world was flat and the heavens (and God) resided a few hundred feet above them.  Science now informs our world view to cast aside such notions, as well as the notion that the Biblical genealogy found in Genesis denotes the age of the world.

Against that backdrop, we have the self-righteous and inflammatory conclusions above.  They can be summarized as follows: The bible says that homosexuality is a sin in open rebellion to God and Jesus.  In claiming to be LGBT and Christian I must, as Gene Robinson says, “unabashedly” assert that this statement is false! None of the Gospels attribute to Jesus as ever uttering a single word about homosexuality, much less the word itself, or that he would accord it to himself as “open rebellion.”  No such word existed in Hebrew or Greek, the two main languages in which the books of the bible were written.  The word “homosexual” is not in the Bible, except in oblique translations of the six or so references to men “lying” with men in the Hebrew text and Paul’s letters, the most notorious of which is found in Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”  (Evidently, the only reason one lies with a female is to have sex.  But is it okay if I lie with a woman until I need glasses?  Sorry, I digress (impishly laughing to self with tongue firmly in cheek)).

The Hebrew term, shiqquwts is translated as “abomination” by almost all translations of the Bible. The similar words, sheqets, and shâqats, are almost exclusively used for dietary violations.  Toeba, is also translated as abomination in some texts. Many modern versions of the Bible translate it as  “detestable”or “loathsome.”  I hear one Rabbi refer to it as “yicky.”  Biblical literalists interpret this to mean that same-sex sexual activity is an abomination and therefore inherently sinful.  (Note, however, that it is not one of the Ten Commandments).

However,please consider that a word or phrase which has been translated through multiple languages over centuries and the subject of great debate and disagreement among the worlds great scholars and theologians, inherently, cannot credibly be taken as a modern-day literal truth.  Moreover, this supposed proscription was part of what is called the ancient Hebrew Holiness Code which highly regulated the everyday lives of ancient Hebrew men, from what they were to wear to what they were to eat.  Violations of these rules were also called abominations.  The code referred to how they were to treat one another too.  Later prophets make this clear.  In a little referred to scripture, Ezekiel says at  16:49-50: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.”  Clearly, Sodom’s lack of hospitality is the abomination.

Yet, there is no mention of the word, “homosexual,” again defying the literalists.  They cannot rely on the literal words of scripture to reach the result they want, but must interpret the meaning of the words used through their various translations over time in spite of  later clarification within the Bible’s own pages.  Now I wonder how to characterize the above quotation from the ESPN announcer.  Is it hospitable, or detestable and loathsome?  Is it an abomination?  What would Ezekiel say?