Interchange Schedule!

With a lineup that’s sure to rock, Interchange brings human dignity center stage to Bozeman, Montana. Here’s the fantastic schedule:

Interchange_FB_event

Wednesday, June 26th:

  • Women’s Voices for The Earth Presents “Unacceptable Levels”- Emerson Cultural Center 7:30pm, free

Thursday, June 27th:

  • Interchange Pre-Party 10pm-1am, BAR IX

Friday, June 28th:

  • Interchange Summit 5pm
  • Cocktails and Jazz (Leigh Lounge, MSU) 6:30-8pm
  • Electra Sexton’s Summer Meltdown! (MSU Ballroom) 8-10pm
  • Zebra Afterparty with the B-Side Players- $6 at the door
  • Konfadense at Plonk! -free entry

Saturday, June 29th

  • Interchange Parade (Main Street) 11am-Noon
  • Rally and festival at the Bozeman Public Library 12:15pm
  • “Racism & Human Trafficking” Library Community Room, 1:15pm
  • “Scripture & Science & Sex- Oh, My!”, Library Community Room 2:45pm
  • Interchange Festival- featuring Chiddy Bang and SOL, Lindley Park 5-10pm
  • Official After-Party featuring Ana Sia & Anavox, Zebra $12 at the door
  • Ampathy at Plonk!- free entry

Sunday June 30th

  • Kiki Garden Party- Soroptomist Park (catered by the Nova Cafe!) 9:30-11am

HIV testing will also be available throughout the weekend, provided by AIDS Outreach and Yellowstone AIDS Project. For more info, just click the Interchange logo above…. It’s gonna be awesome!

AM I REAL?

While I continue to struggle to get along in the world with my GID (Gender Identification Dysphoria), articles like an opinion piece in the Washington Times today, displaying its JID (Journalism Identification Dysphoria), do not help. On a day when another headline read; “Ex-gay Christian ministry closes, apologizes to LGBT community,” I was also entreated to lines like these:

Real girls and their parents reacted with the outrage that anyone not blinded by political correctness would have expected.”

“Sixteen states and the District have similar laws, according to something called the Transgender Law & Policy Institute.”

“The rights of the majority — in this case, for real girls not to have real boys use their toilet facilities — are subordinated to a vanishingly small minority, albeit one with political clout way out of proportion to its numbers. School restrooms are just the start, with locker rooms and showers after phys-ed next on an agenda that’s all about breaking down the real and traditional differences between the sexes.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/19/transgenders-and-toilets/#.UcM8JqIlSC4.facebook. (Emphasis added by the author).

Clearly, the Times does not know weather to wax sensationally or rationally. Or, perhaps this is the whole problem with the political right – they just don’t know how to talk about people with whom they take issue without relying on insulting, inflammatory rhetoric like that above. I apologize ahead of time if the right is able to prove me wrong on this. In any event, a professional journalist should be held to a higher standard, even in their opinions, although I must forgive “THE WASHINGTON TIMES” (Only By line) its professional lapses, given its apparent internal confusion about journalistic integrity and its own identity.

So, what is a “Real girl” Mr. Washington Times? (Oh, did I just make an assumption that a man wrote this article? You bet!) Is a “Real Girl” defined only physically, by her appearance, by her genitals? Or is it the heart, mind and soul that make a girl real? Is it a combination of the physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual? Perhaps. I know what my biases are, but, for the sake of Pete, does the Washington Times really want to limit gender to a static, stereotypical definition? Do I have to be barefoot, pregnant and subservient to a husband in order to be a “real” woman? The Washington Times might as well print their publication on papyrus in cuneiform. (Really ancient, as in pre-dating the dark ages).

Now, of course, the existence of “real” women suggests the existence of “real” men too. And what do they look like? I won’t even hazard a guess. But, I will bet it is “traditional.” Well, at least the Washington Times definition of traditional “real” men and women that it can trace for about the last century and to its Puritan, Anglo-Saxon cultural roots only. In truth, the differences between genders anthropologically speaking is much more fluid. (See, http://genderoutlaw.wordpress.com/2008/05/10/transgender-warriors-by-leslie-feinberg/)

Now, the Washington Times prints that trans people have some kind of “political clout.” Never mind that trans people are routinely excluded from health insurance policies for health related circumstances, and that they the are often the most highly discriminated against class of people. (See, http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/hrcTGguide.pdf). Heck, even local ordinances designed to provide anti-discrimination protections often have transgender exceptions – especially when it comes to bathrooms. So, what political gain does this imagined “clout” provide to a trans person?

And what about me – a post-op trans women? If I can not fit the Washington Times definition of a “real” woman or a “real” man, am I real at all. The IRS thinks so. So does the DMV, the local Election Administrator, the DFWP, my bank, my church, my work, my friends, and even all two of my enemies. Heck, I even have a credit score. Yes, I’m real, and I wish the Washington Times would get there too.

“Where Would I Begin?” Reflections on the Historic filing of the Crawford Case

The historic litigation in the case of M.C. has profound significance for many in the intersex community. Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is publishing a series of personal responses to the M.C. litigation. The first in this series is by longtime intersex activist and former AIC staff member Jim Ambrose (formerly Jim Bruce). This piece originally appeared on AIC’s blog, June 5, 2013.

“M.C. will spend the rest of his life paying for his caretakers’ actions.” – Erica K. Landau, Huffington Post

Where would I begin? I asked myself that question every other hour after AIC asked me to submit my reaction to the filing of the Crawford case. Hell, I’m asking it right now. I worked for AIC from 2009 to February, 2013 so I knew this case was coming for a while. That said I had a feeling it wouldn’t get filed, that it’d slip away or rather be taken away. I wasn’t alone in feeling that simply filing the lawsuit, just filing it, would be monumental. Looking back it was kind of like when an 8 year-old thinks Christmas is an oasis (7 months away!), too far off to comprehend day-to-day and so the kid resigns himself to childhood drudgery. Because, come on, nothing exists that far in the future least of all everything you ever wanted.

But, on the morning of May 14, 2013 The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Advocates for Informed Choice issued a press release detailing how a group of professional adults irreparably harmed a child in South Carolina. I gazed at my laptop as a press conference took place right in front of some giant brick courthouse. Attorneys representing a child called M.C. stood in a semi-circle behind a podium, and there was Anne! Anne, who will argue breathlessly that ‘They Might Be Giants’ was the greatest band of the 20thcentury, was right there on the Primetime Live at 5 Eyewitness News! Ever-measured Anne gently explained what she knows she can prove: That what happened to M.C. was unnecessary, arrogant and brutal.

You see, for me, the most difficult aspect of intersex advocacy is making this complex issue understood by any audience. Intersex stuff is nothing but sprawl. It gets everywhere: sex, genitals, going to the bathroom, hormones, clothing, fitting in, not fitting in, showering, sports, inclusion/exclusion, sex again, interpersonal connection, how we all sleep at night, self-determination, the opportunities we give ourselves and take from others and contentment. You know, the basics. These items are hardly approachable because most educated folks often fail to even understand the difference between sex and gender. So tell me how a kid is to know what a numerator is if they struggle to count to 10?

So, then two of the bravest people I may ever know did something most intersex advocates (myself included) thought could never happen. They stood in front of cameras, on record, in their son’s hometown and demanded justice. Pam and Mark Crawford denounced the needless removal of their son’s genitals and reproductive organs as “a careless and reckless action,” and that the State of South Carolina “disfigured (M.C.) because they could not accept him for who he was.” When I glanced down to watch the seconds peel away on the web clip I noticed my hands and knees were trembling. No. I was shaking all over. That’s when I realized Pam bears a passing resemblance to my own mother. My mother has that red hair, those sturdy-yet-stylish eyeglasses, and a voice that tells a careful listener suffering is something you do alone.

The thing is M.C. and I (along with many intersex people) share a similar childhood narrative. We both endured early years of ghastly cosmetic genital surgery, the loss of our reproductive organs and silence. But, M.C. was adopted by the Crawford family. I never saw the inside of an orphanage. M.C. has a sense of self and of his safety. My sense of self was gray, disoriented. I did not feel safe. M.C. has a voice that he uses. I had a voice too, but if I’d shared that voice with my parents I would have told them I was lost. M.C. used his voice to inform his family that he is a boy.

Pam projected her voice. I can hear it as I type: “The adults involved are sending him the message that your body is not acceptable and has to change in order for you to be loved.” I know how true those words are. I, and many intersex advocates, have articulated versions of them to those in power for the past 20 years. But, hey, why should highly-educated clinicians listen to a handful of surgical ingrates? History tells us that appeals for mercy through testimonials of truth and suffering have never been enough to effect institutional change. Those words from a proud and committed mother of an intersex kiddo in front of most of the world are not an appeal for mercy. They are a shot across the bow.

Pam’s unshakeable words found a spot in me I thought I’d grieved out. Out and away. I’d say it was unbearable save for the fact that I knew thousands of other intersex people were witnessing the Crawfords’ demonstration of love and belief in their son. I shared May 14, 2013 with many people, especially the ones no longer with us. And, frankly that experience reminds me how alone I was for so long, how alive I am now and, finally that resilience brings liberation to those residing on the right side of history.

Jim Ambrose is a worker bee at The Interface Project. #justice4mc

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Montana-based nonprofit to host film + discussion June 26 at the Emerson

By Caitlin Copple

From nearby mine tailings to the products we use every day on our skin, Montanans are part of an uncontrolled chemical experiment on our bodies.  An award-winning documentary film is partnering with a national nonprofit to bring the story of the chemical burden all people carry to Bozeman.

“Unacceptable Levels” will show at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26, at the Emerson Theater, located at 111 S. Grand in Bozeman. This event is free and will include a post-film panel discussion. Panelists include Erin Switalski of Women’s Voices for the Earth, Richard Eidlin of the American Sustainable Business Council, and two special guests from the Bozeman area. The idea from the film came from Brown’s experience with his wife as they struggled to become parents.

“I was drinking a glass of water one night at a restaurant where I was working,” Brown said. “There was one thing about it I noticed right away. We’re supposed to drink eight glasses of water a day, but this thing smelled and tasted like a swimming pool. I thought, ‘How could this possibly be okay?’ Then I read that there are ‘acceptable levels’ of chlorine and other contaminants in water. I forgot about it until my wife had her second miscarriage, and that’s when my mind went back to that glass of water. I started thinking, what could conceivably be in that?”

According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, the national organization hosting the event, the average person carries some 200 chemicals in his or her body on any given day. Those chemicals can include hormone disruptors, allergens, and cancer-causing chemicals – and we’re exposed to them from some surprising sources. Women and small children are disproportionately affected by toxic chemical exposure, explains Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth. Switalski will be sharing ways people can avoid these scary chemicals, as well as become involved in convincing the government and corporate conglomerates to eliminate them in household products.

“Unacceptable Levels” examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children. Through interviews with the top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law, Brown presents us with the story of how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are, and of where, if we’re not vigilant, it may take us. Learn more at www.unacceptablelevels.com.

Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies. To learn more, visit www.womensvoices.org.

 

Analysis: Most At-Risk For HIV Not Studied

 

New Analysis of World’s Premier AIDS Conference Finds Poor Coverage of Populations Most-at-Risk for HIV

Hundreds of Organizations Worldwide Call on Conference Organizers to Increase Meaningful Coverage of Gay Men, Transgender People, People Who Inject Drugs, and Sex Workers

A new report produced by a coalition of global advocacy organizations shows that the International AIDS Conference (IAC) program continues to lack meaningful coverage of populations most-at-risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, people who inject drugs (PWID), and sex workers. Over 220 organizations from more than 70 countries around the world have called on the organizers of the IAC to take concrete measures to increase coverage of HIV-related issues concerning the health and human rights of these populations worldwide.

The report features a systematic quantitative audit and qualitative analysis of the topics and countries covered by abstracts on most-at-risk populations at the 2012 IAC, also known as AIDS 2012. These populations are also called “key populations,” because they are both key to the epidemic’s dynamics and key to the response. As an in-depth examination of research presented at the world’s premier AIDS conference, the report also offers a glimpse into the current state of research on these key populations globally.

The quantitative audit of the AIDS 2012 program showed that only 17% of all abstracts presented at the conference were exclusively focused on MSM, transgender people, PWID, or sex workers. Some key populations were better represented than others. The percent of all abstracts exclusively dedicated to each key population was 8% for MSM, less than 1% for transgender people, 5% for PWID, and 4% for sex workers.

The qualitative analysis of abstracts on these populations was even more revealing, indicating that more abstracts on key populations focused on individual risk factors (40%) than any other topic, including structural factors [e.g. policy, stigma, violence] (26%); primary prevention (19%); testing, care, and treatment (15%); and surveillance (10%). Only 29% of abstracts on key populations focused on describing interventions, while 71% described vulnerabilities without offering any detailed solutions.

“This meager level of coverage on issues concerning our communities at the International AIDS Conference is unacceptable,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) and co-author of the report. “Not only was there a comparatively low number of abstracts on key populations at the conference, but the content of these abstracts was largely divorced from the most urgent needs of key populations as identified by members of the populations themselves.”

The report cites the body of abstracts at AIDS 2012 focused on MSM as an example of the gap between the kind of research prioritized by key population stakeholders and the kind of research ultimately presented at the conference. Ahead of AIDS 2012, the MSMGF conducted a global survey of nearly 300 MSM advocates and service providers around the world to identify the topics they felt would be most important to address at the conference. The top three themes were “Prevention,” “Stigma and Discrimination,” and “Law and Criminalization.” Of all abstracts presented at AIDS 2012, the percentage dedicated to these themes in relation to MSM was 1.6%, 0.5%, and 0.3%, respectively.

“After thirty years of AIDS, we know key populations are at much greater risk than the general population in nearly every country around the world,” said Allan Clear, Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Coalition and co-author of the report. “Our communities deserve proper attention, and mounting evidence argues that addressing HIV among key populations is central to ending the global AIDS crisis. It is time for the IAC and the broader AIDS response to start addressing HIV among key populations in a more equitable, more appropriate, and ultimately more effective way.”

In addition to examining the number and focus topics of abstracts on key populations, the report also assessed geographic coverage. Of all abstracts on key populations, nearly 40% focused on North America and Western Europe. A country-level analysis revealed that nearly two-thirds of all key population abstracts were concentrated in 10 countries alone. Of the remaining 79 countries represented in these abstracts, 32 had only 1 abstract on 1 key population. Numerous regions and countries with concentrated epidemics among key populations were either underrepresented or entirely absent.

“The poor coverage of topics concerning key populations, especially from lower-income countries, may reflect inequitable global funding for research on key populations as much as it reflects the IAC’s processes that reinforce these inequities,” said JoAnne Keatley, Director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco and co-author of the report. “The IAC’s organizers must update the conference’s processes to ensure the event is as valuable as possible for addressing the urgent HIV epidemics among key populations. As the premier platform for sharing the latest research on HIV and AIDS, it must lead the global AIDS research field to do the same.”

“The IAC represents a unique and powerful opportunity to impact the global AIDS epidemic,” said Anastacia Ryan, Global Policy Officer on HIV and Sex Work at the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). “The conference offers unparalleled potential to shape the industry’s discourse, funding priorities, and locus of scientific inquiry, giving key affected populations the recognition they deserve as partners in fighting the epidemic. By updating its processes to increase meaningful engagement with and coverage of key populations, the IAC will not only support the development of more effective strategies to address the needs of key populations, it will bring the global AIDS response closer to developing the comprehensive solutions we need to end the epidemic.”

The report concluded with a set of 5 recommendations for measures that can be taken by conference organizers to increase meaningful coverage of key populations at future IACs. The recommendations include conducting community consultations, issuing targeted calls for abstracts, and advocating with large funders and research institutions for more appropriate funding and support for research on key populations. A total of 221 organizations from 73 countries endorsed the recommendations for action.

The full report, entitled “Coverage of Key Populations at the 2012 International AIDS Conference,” is available online at http://www.msmgf.org/files/msmgf//Advocacy/AIDS2012_KeyPopulations.pdf  The report was jointly produced by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) , the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (CoE), the Harm Reduction Coalition, the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD), Different Avenues, and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP).

The full list of recommendations and endorsements can be found online at http://www.msmgf.org/files/msmgf//Advocacy/Action_Alerts/AIDS2014_CCC_Signatures.pdf

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ME

Yes, I am a father, and will always be a father even though I do not celebrate this special day. A friend intimated that there is a special kind of hurt when she said that I must have some way of dealing with this occasion, of coping with the loss of my relationship with my children. She is right.

She also wondered aloud what feelings my children experienced on this day. They must think about it – think about me, right? I don’t know, but I appreciated her conclusion that she would pray for them. I will too.

Many people feel a sort of angst when I tell them about this circumstance, about how my children could not make the transition with me from man to woman. Out of concern for me, they are often perturbed with the negative reaction of my children to my gender transition. My children have completely rejected me and think of me as dead. We have not spoken in nearly seven years.

It is harsh, but they are not entirely to blame. Their self-centered reaction is a reflection of their self-centered father. It is a function of the way they were raised, for children learn what they live.
Parents are responsible, at least in part, for the character defects of their children. Teach your children well.

So, my way of coping with the loss of familial association (as we lawyers would put it) on Father’s Day is one of understanding, responsibility and compassion. It must also be one of humility and acceptance. With humility serenity is certain to follow.

I am posting this blog because, not only many trans people, but I suspect many of the LGB folks as well, have a similar experience when they come out to their grown children. Well, not the Ls on Father’s day, but there is Mother’s Day too. The simple fact is that some children do reject their parent’s attempts to become authentic.

I suppose there is some stage of grief in which a person becomes philosophical about their loss, but I do wonder about the state of “familial association” in the LGBT universe. Do people have a natural inclination to resist change in the ones we love? I mean there is a whole childhood wrapped up in parents remaining the same – forever. Is not much of a young adult’s security attached to the stability, such as it is, of their parents? We like our parents the way they are, however they are. It is what we know. When they go changing stuff it shakes up our world. Sure, there are some who are mature and secure enough to focus altruistically on another’s health and wholeness, but many of us often focus on own feelings and needs first. Especially if you are self centered like me.

But, I have changed. Well, duh-uh! I have changed inside too. I now understand that my self centeredness is a character defect that I can grow beyond. In stead of drowning in self pity over the loss of my children, I can focus on their health and happiness. I can be happy for their happiness. I can be proud that they have their own lives, filled with the things that young people do and have. They have relationships and work and play. They are okay, and just as I am responsible in part for their character defects, I too can take some ownership in their successes.

And when Father’s Day is done I can wish me a Happy Father’s Day.

Infographic- Supreme Court Decision

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

BIBLICAL OBEDIENCE

I had the opportunity to join the United Methodist Yellowstone Annual Conference in Billings, MT this past weekend. It was a little bit of a retreat for me, with a room full of clergy and wonderful people whom I have grown to love since becoming a member of ST Paul’s, UMC in Helena a few years ago. We sang songs at morning services and even danced a bit. And, I sold a few books.

I learned a new phrase too, “biblical obedience.” When I first heard it, that same old fear came creeping up the back of my neck, and I wondered if I really wanted to be there. I immediately thought of all the evangelical Christians who would condemn me to hell for their literal reading of certain selected passages of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. As I sat amongst the members of the Reconciling Ministries Committee, I stifled the urge to fight or run. I knew they did not accept a literal reading of scripture that conflicted with Jesus’ command to love one another. I listened instead.
As I sat in a meeting of predominantly clergy members, I began to understand that it was they who would assert “biblical obedience,” and Jesus’ command was exactly what they were referring to. They would obey this command, rather than the Methodist Book of Discipline, which states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” ¶ 304.3. In fact, many of the Conference’s retired pastors have publicly resolved to perform same sex unions.
One Pastor, my friend, Lyle Hamilton, has written a poem echoing this sentiment called When Persons Reach out Heart to Heart. It concludes:

They honor truly who they are
As ones marked by God’s grace;
Deep love looks though the lover’s eyes,
and looking back – God’s face.

Not only is this kind of “biblical obedience” new to me¸ it is, in one form or another, a common theme emerging amongst many Christian denominations. As pastor Marianne wrote in Sunday’s bulletin, they “effectively ‘come out of the closet.’” They are Episcopalian (http://www.integrityusa.org/#), Catholic (http://www.fortunatefamilies.com/), Lutheran (http://www.reconcilingworks.org/#), etc. (see also, http://www.gaychurch.org/Find_a_Church/find_a_church.htm).
I guess we are changing the world!

Tonight: Montana PBS to Air Inlaws & Outlaws!

Some good news for Montana- Inlaws and Outlaws will be screened on Montana PBS tonight.

inlawsFrom the director, Drew Emery:

Montana friends!
Set your DVRs for Sunday night 6/9 10:30 pm: your local PBS station is airing our marriage documentary Inlaws & Outlaws — along with our story update: Just Marriage.

If you believe in love… and equality, please do pass on the word to friends & family!

Drew was in Montana last year, sharing the film with audiences in Helena and Bozeman. It’s an opportunity to see what love looks like up close.

Grab your peeps and watch this- it’s amazing.

What You Should Read To Prepare For Pride Month

Défilé de PASTT à la Gay Pride à Paris en France

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s from Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God– it’s the ninth year he’s run it, and it’s brilliant, thought-provoking, sad- and awesome.

You may recognize some of the people involved….

It’s here.