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 In the successful campaign to repeal the ordinance, opponents used misinformation and exploited outdated stereotypes and fears about transgender people, falsely suggesting that the law would put women and children at risk.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).

“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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HIV-positive Women Find Support In Dating Again

 

Being HIV-positive is a challenge. Being HIV-positive and single is often a nightmare. We all want to love and be loved, but the barriers- social and psychological- for HIV-positive persons are high. From The Seattle Times:

 

Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Nicole Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. She now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.

 

In 2000, Nicole Price’s ex-boyfriend fell ill. They had recently ended a five-year relationship, so she went to see him in the hospital. He had AIDS.

English: HIV positive dating

She got tested. She was 24.

“It was the longest two weeks of my life,” said Price, now 37. We thought we would get back together because we both had it.”

At the time of her diagnosis, Price was using meth and living in California when her mother, a Bothell resident, learned about a Seattle-based support group for HIV-positive women.

Within two years, she packed her bags for Bothell for a fresh start.

Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. Once she settled here, she became increasingly involved with the support group, BABES Network-YWCA, eventually rising to program manager. Price now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.

“They can stop having sex altogether and never do it again,” Price said. “Some of our women have chosen to be in a lesbian relationship. Actually quite a few of our women have. I think they feel that betrayal. They feel like maybe they got betrayed, and now they have issues when it comes to men.”

Trusting a sexual partner and dealing with rejection are regular topics at BABES.

Through peer counseling, support groups, educational lectures and retreats, BABES tackles the challenge of maintaining relationships — especially romantic ones — after testing positive. Women take part in mock disclosures, an exercise meant to ease the stress of telling a partner about being HIV-positive.

“I encourage women to date when they’re ready. I ask them questions to see if they’re ready. When do you want to disclose your status? Are you ready for the response?” said Brenda Higgins, a BABES peer advocate.

“I’m never ready for the response I’m getting,” she added. “There’s really no way of preparing someone with that.”

 

Read the full story here

Stop Being Afraid

 

If this is your photo or you know where to credit it- leave me a comment-

The Pope Chooses War, I Choose Self Defense

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI spoke to a group of bishops on their ad limina visit- and with all the topics available to him (hunger, poverty, abuse of women, social injustice, racial inequalities, nuclear threat, stewardship of resources, etc), he chose to speak to them about the necessity of battling the “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage….The church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution,” which is “rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation,” he said.

“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” the pope said.

Defending traditional marriage is not simply a matter of church teaching, he said; it is a matter of “justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.”

Whenever I hear a leader speak the word “Safeguard”, I pay attention. It is a word used by institutions and governments to promote the protection and defense of something fundamental to it. It is not a passive word. It says to me that the Pope is ready to fight for his narrow theological/historical position on sexuality and marriage. Something he believes is fundamental to Christian faith- even though marriage is curiously absent from the Nicene Creed (325-381 ad)- which most Christian churches profess as containing the essential, fundamental elements of Christian belief today.

He did not choose dialog or express interest in hearing about the experiences of thousands (millions?) of LGBTQ catholics and their families. He did not choose to understand, he chose to condemn.

In other words, he openly advocated war.

It’s a culture war, it’s a war of ideologies. It is, in fact, if you count all the open and affirming Christian churches that  welcome LGBT persons and their partners and children into their congregations, a war of christian theology. But it’s a war nonetheless.

I believe it to be totally unnecessary- and I also believe it conflicts with the very theology the catholic church espouses.

“War” is defined thusly: “a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state”. “Armed conflict” is an important term to notice here. I think it can also mean non-physical weapons- weapons of ideology or theology, for example. But I would be naive not to think that some of the faithful out there may hear in these words a clarion call to harm LGBT persons and their families. I would also submit that the Pope’s words have already harmed them by creating ‘enemies of the church” out of persons and families who have nothing more important in mind than following their hearts and minds- and souls. And, if you recall your history, enemies of the church have not fared so well.

And in that case, the Pope needs to take a closer look at his own catechism.

If someone attacks me and threatens my life or my way of life, according to the Catechism of The Catholic Church, I have the right to defend myself.

 2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.[65]

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]

And with the rhetoric being used by the Pope to the bishops in his address yesterday, I have every reason to believe that these are not words of someone struggling to understand the reality of LGBT persons, these are the orders of attack given by a supreme commander to his highest officials. And I’m confused because- try as I might- I can’t imagine Jesus saying them.

I also have every reason to fear for my safety and the safety of all LGBTQ persons. And before you accuse me of being overly dramatic, remember that the pro-life message has spurred numerous acts of violence- in the name of life, I might add. People in Uganda, the Middle East and elsewhere are being butchered and abused because they are known or perceived to be gay.

So do you think these words will be like soothing balm on the righteous indignation of the zealot?: …”threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions.”

I’m an idiot if I don’t believe that someone out there is going to see this as a reason for violence- physical or psychological. And remember how powerful psychological threats are- those are the very things killing our kids.

I want to be clear- I am not advocating violence in any form. I’m advocating self-defense. And I’m advocating a careful, calculated, firm and reasonable response to this madness. I want the argument to be two-sided. I want the voice of the Pope and the bishops to be countered by the voices of people who see the Christian message in a different way.

If the Pope chooses war, I choose to oppose that war. I challenge it on its very principle.

So, if I may be so brazen, I would like to be one of those counter voices. Feel free to add your own voice in the comments.

To my LGBTIQ family,

Love toward yourself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is important and necessary to insist on respect for your own right to life. I believe you have been created to fill a very important place in this world- a place often dramatically misunderstood and opposed by people out of ignorance and fear.

It is crucial that you understand that you are not alone- there are millions of people who want to understand you and accept you and who will love you. You have the right to be understood- and you have the right to love and be loved in the ways you feel are most faithful to your created nature.

You have the right to live free from fear of attack and violence. You have the right to defend yourself against ignorant attacks on your dignity, happiness and self-respect. You have the right to fulfill your potential and to follow your heart and mind and soul and dreams to the best of your ability. Despite ignorance, despite persecution, despite fear and power and hate.

I believe that we are all beloved by the God of our understanding. I believe that we are valuable in being beloved. And that value is not diminished, even in the face of anger, fear and ignorance. Even in the face of religious belief which would deny us that value.

We are a courageous, wonderful people, with visions of love and acceptance and equality and happiness that I believe are deeply important to the future of the world.

I beg you, don’t let go of these visions- no matter how strongly others try to pull them away from you. They are your birthright.

They are the key hope to a world filled with peace.

Amen.

“Boys Don’t Kiss Boys Here”

A brilliant, heartwarming and serious look at the way gender hyper-stereotypes may be crushing our children’s spirits, from The Good Men Project:

“Time to clean up your toys and come downstairs to say our goodbyes.” I yell upstairs as two sweet boys come sliding down the stairs, giggling—still covered in markers and delight.

English: A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek.

“Give your friend a great big hug and a kiss and tell him we’ll see him soon,”

“Mom, I can’t kiss him.”

“Why not?” I ask with a smile, imagining some funny, as-only-kids-will-say statement. Sadly, my smile withdrew as I heard the following response come out of my child’s mouth.

“Because Sam’s mom said that boys aren’t allowed to kiss each other.”

Fear. It creeps in like a villain who, even after dying one thousand times over by the hands of the comic book hero, manages to live on.

This incident left me befuddled. It felt similar to a time when my son showed a love of dance that was so intense it only made sense to enroll him in lessons. At three years old, he was the only boy in a class of all girls. Comments from other parents were surprising.  My husband was particularly frustrated when one mother said, “Wow—that’s great of you. I just don’t think I can enroll her brother in dance. My husband would kill me.”

As a mother of a boy in a post-feminist society, I stopped a sole focus on career aspirations and cracking that ever-present glass ceiling and instead, altered my sightline.  Raising a boy is one feat, and requires presence of mind and reaction timing surpassing that of an NFL quarterback. To raise a man, however, requires forethought and an open mind. It made perfect sense that Tom Matlack started Good Men Project—what struck me in my desire to better parent a boy, is how little support and information there is out there to do just that.

You may remember the story about the kid whose mom let him dress up as Daphne for Halloween– this essay is just as frank, just as important and asks some very important questions.

Please read the whole essay here.

‘Montanans With HIV’ makes the paper

Map of USA with Montana highlighted
Image via Wikipedia

The Great Falls Tribune yesterday did a featured story on HIV in Montana with several sidebars on testing and the classification of the disease from AIDS to HIV stages 1-3. Along with Trisha Gardner of the Cascade County Health Department, Dean Wells of the Yellowstone AIDS Project and an anonymous man living with HIV in Great Falls, I was interviewed for the piece, which, among other things, focused on the stigma of persons living with HIV in the state.

Excerpt:

On average, about 20 Montanans are diagnosed with the disease every year, said Trisha Gardner, community health education specialist and HIV case manager at the Cascade City-County Health Department.

“The number of newly diagnosed cases has held pretty steady every year,” Gardner said.

Overall, the number of people in Montana living with HIV is increasing because they are living longer, she said.

While that number is on the rise, most in Montana never publicly disclose they have HIV, Gardner said.

“They don’t have to,” she said. “For the most part it’s kept a pretty private issue.”

Many who live with the disease in Montana fear losing their jobs, friends or family, and even becoming a social outcast.

“My view is that the stigma definitely reduced over the years, but it’s still there,” said Dean Wells, executive director of the Yellowstone AIDS Project in Billings. “Many of our clients live in fear of someone finding out about it.”

John, a pseudonym because he fears losing his livelihood, was diagnosed with HIV eight and a half years ago.

Trying to be honest and open after his diagnosis, John told his employer.

“It wasn’t a week later, they asked me to find another job,” he said.

Fear and stigma is still with us but there’s a lot of hope in current HIV treatment and prevention.
The key is to get tested. HIV unsuppressed in the body does damage- sometimes very significant damage- which  cannot be reversed by treatment.