Transgender Day Of Remembrance Prayer

I was asked to give the opening prayer of the TDOR at MSU this evening- it was a memorial- it was a celebration.
The truth sets us free….

Loving God,

You have created us all in your complicated image.

But the love you ask of us is not complicated.

It is universal.

It is unconditional.

It is simply and perfectly- love.

With no distinctions or preferences for

gender, sexuality, race, religion, geography, education,

wealth, social status, language, practice or belief.

I have to believe that you are sad that we must gather tonight to remember

your children who are and have been victims of violence and ignorance.

But I also believe that you are delighted to celebrate the great courage of

your trans* children- and the courage of those who love and defend them.

They are the bravest and most wonderful people I know.

Made in your image and likeness, God.

Forever and ever.

Amen.

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 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.

Gender Transition a Question of Ethics?

Transition (literary journal)

I read an article by an ethicist who answered a question in the New York Times about the morality of gender transition pitted against the harm it may cause a family.  It is a Hobson’s choice, really, as there is no good answer in the end.  But, I guess that’s why ethicists get paid the big bucks.

Gender transition is selfish. No doubt about it.  But,  so is just about any medical treatment, alcohol recovery for instance.  Gender dysphoria might just as surely kill you as alcoholism in my experience.  Yes, I had both, and after several years of living in the proper gender and in recovery with all of the attendant hardship, heartbreak and happiness, I am perhaps uniquely qualified to say that both are a means of survival.  I had to do both, or neither would have saved me from myself, so bad was my sense of demoralization and hopelessness.

Yet, behind me lies a trail of loss, separation and broken relationships.  My decision to transition hurt other people whether or not their reaction may be perceived as just or warranted.  Thus, I might be rightly asked whether it was the right thing to do.  Was it just?  Was it ethical?  Or was it merely necessary irrespective of the consequences?

In reverse order, my need to transition was more than manifest at the time, so frail was my grasp upon a life not hell bent on personal destruction. Some may rightly conclude that my transition should not matter to others if I was going to be dead anyway, even if by my own hand.  At the time, and for all the years since I have believed that I would not have made it, but for transition and recovery.  But what if . . . ?

What if I had found recovery and reserved transition for later in life, if at all?  Of course, I was already 48 when I began.  But, might I have learned a way through recovery to live a sober life as a man, and still kept my job, my friends, my family and my marriage?  Is that possible?  Of course it is?  But is it likely?  That is a much more germane question, given the level of dysfunction following nearly half a century of gender confusion, fear, guilt, shame, ambiguity, etc., which was merely masked and drown out through alcohol dependancy.

The answer, then, is that it is much more likely that as the masks of dependency were stripped away, the difficulty maintaining the duality of self would have only grown worse, not better, and continually threatened the chances of recovery taking hold.  But, even If I could have made it through reliance on God, a sponsor and a recovery group, what difference would it have made.

Would I have kept the relationships and people I lost in my transition – my children, friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have all turned away?  Probably, but I must believe that those relationships would be strained as ever, particularly because recovery involves rigorous honesty.  It is our secrets which often make us so sick.  At some point, I would have had to tell my truth to the people in my life.  I could not have continued to live vicariously through cross-dressing in private, for it would seem ever more the lie.  And what then?  What purpose does it serve to tell the truth and not live it – to be honest, but not authentic?  Forgive me for waxing apologetically.

I never meant to hurt the people in my life, but, I still believe to my core that I did the right thing.  Moreover, I could not foretell a person’s reaction, and, though I knew them well, predictions and expectations of how a person will take the news of gender dysphoria are pure and painful folly.

Therefore, I had to step out in faith, reveal the dysphoria and prescribed treatment and then deal with the reaction.  It does not work the other way around, as there is no way to sort of test the waters before jumping in.   People have no frame of reference, no experience to fall back on when a trans person reveals themself, and they can no more control their reaction than I can.  It is a gut level, sometimes gut rendering response that typically involves either rejection or openness, if not confusion.  If a person can be open and willing to accept the trans person, there is a chance at a continued relationship.  However, if the knee jerk reaction is rejection the door may be firmly closed.  And I have second guessed myself enough times to know that the process of revelation makes very little difference in the long run.  Either a person gets it, or they don’t.  And there is simply no way to know ahead of time which it shall be.

Thus, the trans person can take only one of two paths.  They can remain forever inside their secret gender box with all the dueling emotions and resulting pain and dysfunction that hiding brings for the sake of their family and friends and to avoid the risk of emotional harm to others.  Or, they can stumble blindly and uncertainly along the path to authenticity, assuming the risk that not all will choose to go along.

Gender transition is not a question of right or wrong, per ‘se, but rather it is one of possibility, necessity and risk.  Can the trans person live without transition, and are they willing to assume the risks inherent in either choice – a life forever locked in dysfunction and incongruence, or one without the ones they love who also lose someone dear.

The Girl Effect

The infographic below was created by the Girl Effect which is a movement about leveraging the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families and the world. It highlights the problem of child marriage which leads to pregnancy and childbirth which can be fatal for young girls- not to mention damaging to a country’s economy.

Infographic_Girl-Effect

 
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/6-infographics-about-being-a-woman-that-will-make-you-want-to-take-action.html#ixzz2Hrij8zMw