Today, the Colorado Human Rights Division got the transgender bathroom thing right in the Coy Mathis case. “This is the first ruling in the nation that holds that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are. There are thousands of families like the Mathises who are feeling relieved and vindicated that the commission ruled that Coy is a girl just like any other girl,” said Michael D. Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/us/agency-says-district-discriminated-against-transgender-student.html
How can I tell you how this feels, how my eyes begin to well with salty tears at the thought of being aloud to grow up in a world that matched who I am? I cannot fully explain, not really, because I was not aloud to be in that world. I have never lived in a world of acceptance and affirmation. And perhaps none of us have. But I suspect that some of us grew up with more rejection and fear than others, and bear deeper scars and wounds for having survived the battles – mostly waged within.
I want to tell you, but I struggle with the words. I am reminded from my own recovery experience to tell you just that – my experience. I always wanted to use the girls bathroom, and not for some prurient interest either. Six year olds do not have prurient interest, do they? I did not. But, I could not tell you about the bathroom. I wanted to wear a dress, but I could not tell you. I wanted to smell the pretty lotions and potions and such, but I could not tell you. So many things I could not tell, that come trickling back to me slowly, like a leaky faucet dripping secrets I had all but forgotten. I was afraid that you would not like me. You would not approve. You would not let me be. You would hurt me. So, I could not tell you about the daily battle inside my head that seemed to never end or go away. So, I hid it and I hid it well.
We are as sick as our secrets, it seems, and I became mightily ill. I hid myself away and swished it all around in booze, perhaps to wash myself away. But in hiding and drinking I could never come clean. And now a brave little girl shall lead us. She is showing us how to tell, to be. I want to wear a dress. I want the pretty things. I stubbornly must be.
Coy Mathis has a family who allows her to be authentic. I have tried to express what it was like for me in an effort to describe what, perhaps, it means for this child to have this chance. I do not know what Coy will be, but, I suspect that she will not grow up enmeshed in fear, uncertainty, doubt, guilt, shame and ambiguity about something as fundamental as self. She has no doubt, no fear. She has a family, and now a tribunal that will support her. Perhaps someday soon, the rest of us shall follow where this child leads.
Here are just a couple key points:
— Since 2002, student debt in America has quintupled from $200 billion to $1.1 trillion
— 62% of workers aged 30-39 have insufficient resources for retirement — meaning less money on critical necessities like housing, food, and medicine
— If Congress doesn’t act by July 1st, the average student will owe an extra $2,564 — but if Congress passes Sen. Warren’s plan, they’ll save $6,552
- Over 1 Million Supporters Sign Elizabeth Warren’s Student Loan Legislation (wallstreetonparade.com)
- Elizabeth Warren: Students Should Get the Same Rate as the Bankers (business.time.com)
With a lineup that’s sure to rock, Interchange brings human dignity center stage to Bozeman, Montana. Here’s the fantastic schedule:
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!
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.
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
- When to Do Surgery on a Child With ‘Both’ Genitalia by @AliceDreger (theatlantic.com)
- Justice for M.C. (counterpunch.org)
- Parents of Intersex Child Sue Over ‘Unnecessary’ Surgery (usnews.com)
- Carolina Infant’s Mistaken Sex Assignment Surgery More Than a Case of Malpractice (huffingtonpost.com)
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.
- Why Are There So Many Chemicals In My Body & How Did They Get There? (icountformyearth.wordpress.com)
- New Documentary: Unacceptable Levels (oldthinkernews.com)
- Bozeman scientists travel to Mongolia to offer habitat help (billingsgazette.com)