Survey on Sex Education in MT Schools

Click on this link https://umt.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_a3La6F7oXfOgFlH to take an ANONYMOUS 15 minute survey and have the opportunity to contribute to the movement for inclusive, comprehensive sex education and put your name in a drawing for one of TEN $25 Amazon gift cards.

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I have been asked to invite my LBGTQI+ friends, to take a survey asking about their perceptions of high school sex education classes in Montana. The University of Montana and the Montana State Public Health Department are interested in whether sex education classes are providing LBGTQI+ (sexual and gender minority) students with the information and skills they need to stay safe and healthy.

If you consider yourself to be part of the sexual and/or gender minority community, are between the ages of 18 and 24, and attended a high school in Montana we need your input.

This is an equal opportunity survey, so If you do not identify as a member of the sexual and/or gender minority community, but are between the ages of 18 and 24 and attended high school in Montana, we welcome your participation as well.

Eulogy

“Life is difficult.”

With these three words begin a book called The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. It is a book that literally has helped me change my life- and the lives of countless others.

Today, especially, these words ring true.

Life is difficult for us- who have to try and make sense out of the pain and frustration and difficulties that he faced almost constantly.

Life is difficult for parents, teachers, family members and friends who may feel as powerless as I have felt this past week.

Life is difficult when pain overcomes all the loving words and gestures of family, of friends of therapist, of rabbis and priests- life is especially difficult then.

But how does this happen? How can we address it?

I wish I knew.

My faith tells me that we are all- all of us doing the best we can from our particular point of consciousness. My heart knows this to be true, but my brain often needs more evidence. It keeps telling me that I failed. Some of your brains may be saying the same thing.

He struggled with depression, gender identity and, quite frankly, with being an adolescent- a difficult enough endeavor without adding on the extra baggage. And I thought things were going okay- not perfectly, but there are wonderful parents here offering support and encouragement, supportive professionals taking an interest in helping, friends who do what friends do- remind us that no matter what it seems like, we are not alone. I hoped- I prayed- that he would be okay. Would come through this process with the perspective of a champion- a champion who addressed each struggle as skillfully as possible and never (or seldom) gave in to fear.

Here’s the problem- I’m always underestimating fear. I’m always underestimating the power that potential futures have of paralyzing, shutting down, creating a reaction instead of inviting a thoughtful response. Fear drives us out of our minds and out of our hearts. It’s a powerful thing. It can take the truth and twist it. It can take love and make it insufficient. Fear can make us question the unquestionable- knowing that there is never a satisfying answer- but still, trying to do SOMETHING.

And for a kid who kept things tightly held, who was a perfectionist, whose beauty was seen by everyone else- but not by the one who most needed it- fear was the final distortion.

He knew it- we talked about it- but there was still a desire to be more than just “good enough”- he wanted to be stunning. And those of us who love him saw that stunning quality. We can still see it.

Life is difficult. This is one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know life is difficult- once we truly understand and accept it- then life is no longer as difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. It’s something everyone has to deal with. It’s not just me. Or you. Or them. It’s us.

Peck ends his book with this:

“The universe, this stepping-stone, has been laid down to prepare the way for us. But we ourselves must step across it, one by one. Through grace we are helped, and through grace we know we are being welcomed. What more can we ask?”

I believe he is being helped, he is being welcomed- and yet most importantly for us today- he is being dearly missed. Because that’s the only way to respond to the loss of beauty in our world.

And how have we failed?

We can’t if we loved.

Debunking the Trans* Bathroom Myth

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Today, GLAAD released a media guide for journalists covering stories related to LGBT nondiscrimination, in collaboration with a coalition of state and national LGBT advocacy organizations. Debunking the “Bathroom Bill” Myth – Accurate Reporting on LGBT Nondiscrimination: A Guide for Journalists comes after the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in late 2015, as well as bills in both Georgia and South Dakota which threaten to harm transgender people. The guide will be useful for media outlets following the 85 nondiscrimination and anti-LGBT bills that are on the horizon across the country.

“Anti-LGBT activists are viciously putting a target on our children’s backs by using fearmongering and misinformation in a desperate attempt to legalize discrimination,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO. “Accurate reporting is crucial to provide voters with the realities of these bills. This guide will help media tell the real story of transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.”

“It’s imperative that the media fairly and accurately report on the discrimination faced by transgender people and the importance of laws which provide protections for them in housing, employment, and public spaces. Alarmist attempts to frighten voters into rejecting fair treatment for trans people must be challenged by journalists well armed with the facts,” said Nick Adams, Director of Programs for Transgender Media at GLAAD.

Nondiscrimination ordinances were recently in the national spotlight surrounding the late 2015 repeal of HERO, which outlawed discrimination against many communities, including the transgender community. In the successful campaign to repeal the ordinance, opponents used misinformation and exploited outdated stereotypes and fears about transgender people, falsely suggesting that the law would put women and children at risk. Making matters worse, many local news outlets repeated these messages, often without questioning the validity of the claims, thereby providing free airtime and a veneer of legitimacy to claims that were easily proved false.

Debunking the “Bathroom Bills” Myth – Accurate Reporting on LGBT Nondiscrimination: A Guide for Journalists provides background on these ordinances, highlights the importance of fair and accurate reporting, points out the fallacies of so-called “Bathroom Bills,” and details the impact of media-amplified myths and misinformation during the HERO campaign. Other helpful resources include best practices for media coverage in addition to terms, definitions, and pitfalls to avoid. The guide was developed in collaboration with Equality California, Freedom for All Americans, the Gill Foundation, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and the Transgender Law Center (TLC).

LGBTIQA In Montana- What’s It Like?

The Human Rights Campaign wants to know- and I want Montana to be clearly and substantially represented. It took me 10 minutes. And you don’t have to be from Montana to take it- it’s nationwide.

Take the survey HERE.

Or here:

http://lgbtexperiences.cloudssi.com/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?studyname=HRC_MEMBERSHIP_LGBT_POLL&ID&hid_pagenum=1&hid_link=1&hid_javascript=1

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THE GREAT TRANS LAMENT (AGAIN)

In a landmark moment for lesbians and gays in America, another amongst many over the last few years, “the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage, and it allowed gay marriage to resume in California.” http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/26/19151971 As the LGBT world’s collectively held breath exasperates in a crescendo of joy, it is difficult still to catch a glimpse of perspective. It is hard to know, as the euphoria winds down, just what it all means and what I should feel.

I am of course elated for Edith Windsor, and hope she feels the sense of vindication that I feel. I hope also that the IRS is forced to pay her estate taxes back, together with penalty and interest in a like amount to what she would have to pay had the tables been turned. I am tickled pink-er, for gay friends in Butte, America, who announced their engagement only this week. I am ecstatic for the LGBT Equality Movement, and its ever escalating advancement toward full justice and inclusion.

Yet, for me, something is missing. I have this niggling sense that for all the good that is happening around me, and the excitement that it brings me, it is not really meant for me. While I may share the joy, I may not reap the blessing. For it brings to mind yet again the great trans-lament, and just how far we still have to go. Who will accept me enough into the full fabric of society to love me? Who will lie next to me, hold me close and keep me safe? Who will share their life with me? Who will marry me?

It is a struggle that not even the LGBT community collectively can get their head around, let alone the broader world of which I am equally a part. For example, some of the larger world remains blissfully ignorant of even the larger LGBT struggle. In my exuberance this morning I burst in on a co-worker and said, “DOMA is unconstitutional!” In truly Ozzie-esque fashion she replied, “What’s DOMA?” If the larger world is not even aware of the LGBT struggle for marriage equality, how on earth will they understand the trans struggle to even get a date?

It begs the question: What is equality? And just what is its genesis? We can say that we seek to be equal in our application of the laws of the land, and we should. We should scream it from the rooftops. But, what about ideas, philosophies and judgements? Should we not seek an even playing field with these too? Let me put a finer point on this that might sting a little.

I have been playing the field of the on-line dating scene off and on for the last year or so – with absolutely no degree of success. That’s right – not a single date from the on-line sites including Planet Sapho, Cupid, Tagged and Are You Interested. Planet Sapho is more like planet scamo. Cupid and Sapho are related I’m pretty sure. Tagged is for people who take vicarious pleasure through sending e-porn back & forth, and for foreigners who look for love in all the wrong places (like 1000s of miles away where dates are literally impossible). Are You Interested is yet another way for Mark Zuckerberg to suck the ever living advertising dollar out of the world before we all get fed up with Facebook.

The faults and foibles of these sites notwithstanding, my experience has been remarkably repetitive on way too numerous occasions. I have been scammed, slammed, avoided, evaded , judged and condemned – everything but loved. Here’s what happens. Gay guys may think the world of me, but they are gay, okay. Straight guys always call me dear right off the bat – I mean in the very first message. And I know immediately where it is headed. They will profess great and enduring love for me, for my picture, my smile and my wondrous beauty, then evaporate when I reveal my transgender nature. And reveal it I must for the tragic potential of omission. Plus, all I have to do is Google my name to see that there is absolutely no potential to live in stealth.

Then there is the lesbian reaction which is perhaps the most deflating and discouraging of all because, for reasons we shall see, I identify as a lesbian. First, the story. I have loved women all of my life, and I have felt in heart and soul for just as long that I am a woman. Before I ask you to do the math, let me ask you to consider what determines our gender? It is physical or, God forbid, merely our genitals? Or does it include the way we think, feel and believe? Can a manly woman be a man despite the lack of a penis? Can I be a woman despite the lack of reproductive organs? I do not hold the answers to these questions, but this I know; If I was not always a woman I defy anyone to deny me that description now. I have at the very least become a whole woman in body, mind and soul. Yet, when I come out to a would-be suitor, she turns me down flat every time, unless of course, it’s a scam. I do not get it.

I know my way around a woman, really! As a dude, I was all that and a bag of peanuts, or something. I always had dates. I dated many girls in high school and college, even married a couple. Once, with my ex-wife, we counted up the number of people we had made love to. I suppose it was in the interest of full disclosure prompted by the pre-marital blood test. I do not think that I have made love to fifty women, but, I know it was more than thirty. This is not about conquest, and I write this just to say that I do know how to make love to a woman. I know what works, and what does not. I know how to give and take love, to have, hold and help her . . .and the weird thing for me is that I was always a woman even though she thought she was with a man.

Yet, though I live and love as a woman in all respects and am capable of great emotional support and attachment, and sexual pleasure, I am somehow off-limits to lesbians. I cannot figure it out, and that is the trans-lament. I belabor this point to demonstrate an even greater and more fundamental point – discrimination and prejudice lie much closer to the heart than most of us are willing to admit, for to do so would mean that we must cast it aside. I suspect few of us are prepared to do so.

My greatest fear as we secure marriage equality (it appears ever increasingly certain that we will) is that many if not most LGB activists will abandon the movement. They will stop pressing for other rights and greater equality. So, I write this rant. I reveal myself to the possibility of disagreement and perhaps ridicule, not out of self pity but as a plea. Please do not let the pendulum stop swinging.

AND A CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM

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.

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.