Proud Parents Of LGBT Kids Needed!

Greetings,Gay or straight, our kids are great

My mother (Deb Eckheart) and I are starting an exciting new project entitled Pride Parents. These will be short Q&A style videos where we recruit parents who have LGBT kids (ranging in age from youth to adults) to share their stories and impart wisdom from a parent’s perspective regarding lessons learned around making a safe and inclusive environment for a child to explore their identities (including, but not limited to, sexual orientation and gender expression). This video idea came about through conversations my mother and I had around how the coming out process doesn’t only apply to LGBT people, but also to their family and friends who have the inner journey of coming to terms with their loved one’s newfound identity as well as the parent’s own path toward acceptance – wherever that may be on the spectrum.

Although there are some LGBT organizations present in larger Montana communities throughout the state, we would like to produce a video that could help raise awareness about creating a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBT youth while providing a bridge to accessing parental support (through PFLAG, PRIDE, etc.). Through a video format (to be posted on YouTube), we hope to target an audience of families who are unsure but want to be supportive of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity by addressing the following: advice on how to make it safe for their child to come out, how parents can receive their own support during this process, and how to be an ally for their child. Ideally, this would become a pilot project that could spur additional videos, much like the It Gets Better Project, where families can create their own videos, sharing personal stories and lessons learned to create an online wealth of support and knowledge for parents of LGBT youth. At this time, we would like to promote the initial video as a representation of Montana parents only, but with possible opportunities in other states.

So this is where you come in. If you are interested in sharing your perspective on film or have any questions about the project, please contact Deb Eckheart or Alyx Steadman for more information and the list of Q&A prompts. Remember, your experience doesn’t have to be perfect. The importance of this video is to share real stories about overcoming the challenges for parents of LGBT youth, so the more honest you are with your perspective, the more enlightening it will be for other struggling parents coming to terms with their child’s newfound identities.

Thank you for your willingness to consider working with us on this project. We look forward to hearing from you by Sunday, August 4th.

Warmly,

Alyx Steadman alyxsteadman@msn.com 406.369.5221

Deb Eckheart doyourdreams@hotmail.com 406.360.6796

MT Board of Regents approves adding sexual orientation, gender identity to non-discrimination policy

From KXLH:

The Montana Board of Regents unanimously approved the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the Montana University System’s non-discrimination policy.

The policy change will affect all campuses within the MUS and provide protection to staff, faculty, and students, according to a press release on Monday.

Clayton Christian, the MT Commissioner of Higher Education, said, “That is our hope that we send the right message that they are welcome and embraced and part of our overall state community, one that certainly has open doors and welcoming doors for the Montana University System.”

Read the full story here.

 

We Are Born That Way

Hey, did ‘ya see the headlines?  “ABC News Editor Don ‘Dawn’ Ennis Comes Out As Transgender” Now generally, I do not appreciate it when the media is the news, but hey, this is really big news!   A career professional at a company known throughout the modern world is transgender, and is going to transition on the job!  Yea, that is big!

I applaud Dawn’s courage and decision to transition.  I hope she will continue to have a long and distinguished journalism career with one of the great news organizations.

However, I admit that I have been critical about the manner in which she couched her announcement. Her coming out statement included this: “Ennis said she suffers from an ‘unusual hormonal imbalance,’ and blames her mother, who fed her female hormones as a child to prolong a commercial acting career.”

“I have a rare medical condition — nothing deadly or infectious — but it has resulted in an unusual hormonal imbalance,” she explains. “One so profound that I don’t resemble the man you first met 10 years ago.”

My posts today have demonstrated my concerns.

“This is good, but to seize upon a “rare medical condition” as the result of a hormonal imbalance induced in childhood seems a wee tad disingenuous. It seems much more authentic to just claim our true selves unabashedly.”

I got a few tepid responses, including one from a transwoman who was the successful plaintiff in a now notorious federal circuit court discrimination case which established as a matter of law (at least in that circuit) that Gender Identification Dysphoria (GID) is a “serious medical condition.”  And so it is true.

I replied: “I could not agree with you more, but our “medical condition” is not the one which Dawn is asserting. Many of us feel & assert that we were born TG, not forced to become TG by some post womb atrocity purposely committed by our mothers. I don’t believe for a moment that you really accord the feeling of being born in the wrong body to mere eccentricity, but you seem to be asserting as much. I also do not agree that gender incongruence can be induced by merely ingesting hormones as a child. It seems like Dawn’s assertion is more of an attempt to legitimize her nature in the eyes of a misunderstanding and judgmental public by reference to some scurrilous outside influence, rather than just claiming her true self as many of us have had to do. Yes, it is disingenuous and a disservice. BTW, I have read, understood and applauded the legal argument “Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a serious medical condition.” I do not see that Dawn’s assertions are analogous merely because of the “rare medical condition” language in which she has framed the legitimization of her transgender nature. So, there ‘ya have it.”

A friend wrote: “We must just continue to push through to make the world safe and accepting for all. Trans is. No need to legitimize it. It’s already legit. Takes a huge amount of personal courage to be who you are without apology or justification whether you are trans, intersex or uniquely average….”

Another friend wondered: “Can I attribute it to her being somewhat new at this, especially at being SO out?”  She is always the compassionate peacemaker, and I admire that quality in the few people I know who truly possess it.

My response: “Yes, of course. I admire your compassion. The difficulty is that, like a friend of mine says, when we make shit up, we come to believe it, and when we believe it we have to defend it. Thus, I came to believe the lies I told myself to justify my existence, while all the while no justification was ever necessary (Just as my friend so eloquently stated). I am what I am! I am a transexual! I celebrate me. And because it is so, because I am authentic, other people embrace, love and accept me too. Honesty really is the best policy.”

And that brings me to the point of this piece.  (For shame that it took so long, I know).

If you have ever had to disclose your transsexual identity to anyone important in your life, you realize immediately that most people have a great deal of difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept.   Many people simply do not understand.  And there is scant “medical science” to assist them.  They cannot run to the Physician’s Desk Reference, for instance, and read about the scientific, double blind, controlled study of the effect of too much exposure upon a fetus of what turns out to be opposite sex hormones while in utero.  But, that is the current, most widely accepted theory on the cause of GID.

Many would dispute such an unscientific theory as mere poppycock.  The simple truth is that even the best, most widely accepted theory does not help the larger world to understand and accept trans people.  Now here’s the rub.

A very important person in a high profile international news organization is suggesting an even more novel theory – not hormone over exposure in utero, but, hormone over exposure during childhood.  However, the science that we do know suggests that this is unlikely.  Gender identification is fixed by age three and is extremely difficult to change after that.  (Pamela J. Kalbfleisch, Michael J. Cody (1995). Gender, power, and communication in human relationships. Psychology Press. pp. 366 pages. ISBN 0805814043. Retrieved June 3, 2011; Ann M. Gallagher, James C. Kaufman, Gender differences in mathematics: an integrative psychological approach, Cambridge University Press, 2005; “gender identity.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 11 Mar. 2011).  So, unless Dawn’s commercial acting career was in full swing as an infant or toddler, the exposure to hormones would not likely have had the impact which she ascribes to them.  Personally, I am rather dubious if they would have that effect even earlier.

Don’t get me wrong.  The hormones would have an effect on her emotional state while she was taking them.  Just ask men who have been treated with Depo Prevara (Reduces sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies, and capacity for sexual arousal. Some users show increases in body fat and reduced bone density. There may also be other “feminizing” effects such as gynecomastia (development of larger than normal mammary glands in males), reduced body hair, and loss of muscle mass).  Most of these effects are considered reversible when use is discontinued.

Likewise, introduction of anti-androgens and estrogen therapy is a treatment option for men with prostate cancer.  It produces some of the same side effects, including changes in sexual desire, including loss of libido, changes in facial or body hair growth, and mood changes including anxiety, frustration, anger, depression and emotional outbursts.  When my late father-in-law began hormone therapy for his prostrate cancer we teasingly suggested he would grow boobs and develop a new interst in picking flowers.  Unfontunately, cancer occurred throughout his body and took him before we could test that theory.

While some might quip about possible similarities to Pre-menstrual Stress, a uniquely feminine phenomena, with the exception of sympathetic reactions in some men, there is simply no medical evidence that the introduction of female hormones to men cause them to be confused about their gender; or, to believe that they are actually women, or, that they were born that way, that they can do nothing to change that, and that they are no longer able to live in this binary culture unless they are able to become the woman that they believe inside that they have always been.  I suspect the same would be true for a small boy.

So, as a person who has painfully experienced these things over the course of forty eight years in the wrong body, I do take exception.  Yes, it is a wee tad disingenuous to assert that post-utero forced use of opposite sex hormones causes GID.  It suggests that a transperson can be made that way instead of born that way.  And, if they can be made that way, they can choose not to.  That is not the experience of the trans people I have become associated with over the last several years (1500 or so).  We are born that way. We did not and cannot choose to be trans.  Who would?  And it is a profound disservice to their courage and integrity to suggest otherwise.

 

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.

Montana HB481: A Mom’s Perspective

On Friday morning, the House Judiciary Committee with hear HB 481. This bill adds “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” to the Montana Human Rights Act.

#128 (from me and the cigar store)

(Photo credit: romana klee)

Let me tell you a little bit about who I am and why this is important to me.

I am a 3rd generation Montanan, a business owner for 30 years, a taxpayer, a community volunteer and most importantly a mom.  I am very much like a lot of Montanans, I suppose. There is one difference, however; I have a wonderful son who happens to be gay.

Like any parent, I want my son to have the same opportunities, protections and rights that his brother and his dad and I take for granted every single day. These rights are not something that we have to think about; they are always there and we know that. My son has a lot of the same opportunities as well. He goes to school, he works, and he pays taxes like the rest of us. Yet he can be denied housing, a job and other rights simply because of who he loves.

It really is that simple.

When I hear people criticize this bill, they often do so citing their religious beliefs. I respect peoples’ rights to practice whatever religion they choose, just as my family does. What I don’t understand, however, is how my son’s rights to equal treatment under the law can be seen as less important to a society than the religious beliefs of some of that society’s members. Where in the bible does it say that we should treat some of our own as second-class citizens because of who they are? And why should anyone else’s interpretation of the bible be more valuable than my own?  Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom.  That does not mean the freedom for me to practice your beliefs but instead to follow my own.

This bill is about peoples’ basic human rights and what allows them to be safe, giving, productive citizens of this great state.  Sometimes it is pretty easy to be against something that doesn’t really affect you personally. I ask you to please think about that carefully .  Equal rights are not special rights and special rights are not equal rights.  I hope the House will consider this important bill and not be led by unjustified fear. As we move forward in Montana with couples recognition and city non-discrimination ordinances, I hope that all Montanans will educate themselves and advocate for fairness for all people.

Thank you for hearing this Montana Mom out.

Bittersweet Win In Helena

Tonight, Helena took another step toward equality.
 
An LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance was passed by Helena’s City Commission unanimously with five votes. The citywide ordinance prohibits discriminatory acts in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. However, it only provides some protections in public accommodations.

Bill sponsor Katherine Haque-Hausrath was unable to convince her colleagues to eliminate an amendment requiring transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their “anatomical sex regardless of their gender identity.”

Jamee Greer, Montana Human Rights Network’s LGBT organizer, called the amendment “cowardly.”

“The capital city in Montana has become the second city in the state to pass an ordinance, which is historic,” Greer said. “I’m incredibly proud of all the hundreds of hours of volunteer work; people came to hearings starting in March 2012 and continued to come over and over. It’s a bittersweet victory for me knowing that many transgender people in our community are excluded from part of this ordinance. It feels like I can’t own it.”

While we are aware of the hard work ahead, we are grateful to all the community members who attended and/or testified at the hearings and to the staff at theMontana Human Rights Network for their leadership on this ordinance.

Together, we will continue to move our community forward.
With Pride,
Caitlin Copple
Regional Development Organizer in Montana

 

Help! Helena Non-discrimination Poll Freeped By Haters

Also published on Bilerico.com

A poll in this week’s Helena Independent Record asks the question “Does Helena need a non-discrimination ordinance?” This is seemingly in response to the order of business currently before the Helena City Commission – an ordinance of non-discrimination [pdf].

“State and/or federal law prohibit the denial of civil rights or discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, creed, sex, pregnancy, marital status, familial status (solely for housing), and physical or mental disability. In addition to these protections, it is the intent of the City of Helena that no person shall be denied his or her civil rights or be discriminated against based upon his or her sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

Thumbnail image for Welcome to MontanaYeah, kind of a big deal for Montana.

At first, the numbers were fairly even on both sides – then those in favor of the ordinance outnumbered those opposed.

By hundreds.

Typically the IR polls receive about 500 respondents total, but it appears that some conservative blogs, websites and facebookers have called in their forces to vote (in this very unscientific poll) against this ordinance currently being considered by the Helena City Council.

While I’m not sure that this is a huge issue (the poll, not the ordinance), it irks me that those opposed are marshaling the forces of discrimination across the country to weigh in.

Well, turnabout’s fair play. Vote here – and show Helena that the nation is watching.