#stopHB609

Because this issue is not going away, I thought I’d put my testimony against HB609 on the internet so that people could see it, read it and think about it:

March 23, 2017
HB609

 

My name is Greg Smith. I am a fourth generation Montanan, born in Butte and raised in the Ruby Valley. I am a licensed Mental Health counselor specializing in LGBTQ issues, and I’ve been a priest for almost 26 years.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences as a pastor and as a psychologist.

I’m one of those Christians that believe causing pain and suffering to anyone is sinful. Jesus was very clear on the matter “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke10.27) Some of my clergy colleagues may disagree, but I think that this bill is not about loving others as ourselves, but about creating barriers of shame, fear and isolation. I know that this bill would create a great deal of pain and suffering for transgender individuals and their families in the State of Montana. Not only that, I believe It defies science, it defies experience, and it defies reality.

The reality is that transgender people exist. In fact, they live here in Montana. I need to say this out loud: they are not going away. Just because some of us don’t like this reality-or don’t understand it- doesn’t make it any less real. In fact, I believe the definition of mental health involves seeing and acknowledging reality. To deny reality is to live in mental illness- and transgender persons are real. To deny the reality of transgender persons is to live in mental illness. It is a fundamental denial of reality.

I am proud to work with and for transgender persons- these children of God are not being intransigent- they are expressing their truth. I believe you have the power to help make people’s lives better- and passing this bill will not make anyone’s life better. There have been no reported assaults in locker rooms or restrooms by transgender persons. In fact, the hypersexualizing of this issue causes a lot of misunderstanding and needless fear.

Please see this not as a safety issue- because it isn’t, but as a civil rights issue- which it is. This is not about “choosing” gender- we are born knowing our gender, it’s in our heads, not necessarily in our bodies. I have worked with hundreds of transgender persons in my career and I would like to help you understand that this is not about “switching” genders. It’s about being faithful to the person your brain tells you that you are. And many do so with a great deal of physical pain and discomfort- and with a great deal of emotional pain and social stigma.

This bill seems to be nothing more than an attempt to harm transgender persons as well as their families and friends- I can’t find anything in here about loving our neighbor- it’s all about fearing your neighbor. As a Christian minister, I cannot support it.

Thank you for your kind attention, I am happily available to answer any questions you may have.

Rev D Gregory Smith, STL, MA, LCPC, LMHC

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.

PFLAGPNW Conference In Boise Oct 2-5 features Bishop Gene Robinson, Dr Caitlin Ryan

pflagThe 2014 Pacific Northwest PFLAG Conference is inviting people in the Boise/Treasure Valley and surrounding areas to join them on Friday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 in the North Star room at the Riverside Hotel. After a short welcoming speech by Bishop Gene Robinson, there will be a film and presentation by the Family Acceptance Project.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan will provide a brief overview of the Family Acceptance Project’s work to support diverse families and will screen her award winning film – “Families Are Forever” – the moving documentary of a devout Mormon family’s journey to accept and support their young gay son. Mitch Mayne, former executive secretary in the bishopric (religious leadership) of the LDS Church in San Francisco, a national voice on Mormon LGBT issues and a Boise native, will share his experiences supporting Mormon families with LGBT children and will facilitate a discussion with the audience.

“Families Are Forever” has received 18 awards from film festivals across the U.S. and in India, to date. This work is also of important interest in people working in schools, counselors, health care providers, social services and law enforcement. People not attending the conference are welcome to make a small donation.

Bishop Robinson and Dr Ryan will also be presenting in plenary sessions on Saturday October 4th, and we conclude with an ecumenical healing service with Bishop Robinson on Sunday October 5th.

More information on the conference can be found here: http://www.pnwpflag.org/2014-regional-conference/

My interview with Bishop Robinson is here.

ENDA is Up – Again

What to do about ENDA? The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is up for committee hearing next week – again. It will likely pass out of committee on July 10, as all the committee dems (12) are sponsors and even one Republican is on board. We’ve been here before folks. It’s a long, hard road to pass a bill – think, “There’s a bill up on Capitol Hill.”

ENDA, originally introduced in 2007 by Sen. Ted Kennedy, has never enjoyed significant congressional support, however. And nothing appears to be much different in that old house. So, the efficacy and life of ENDA seems still doomed to be stalled in the Senate chute.

Ironically, ENDA is viewed by some as more of a transgender bill, largely because trans women have represented the historical sticking point – think Barney Frank. Yet, the twist here, is that trans people represent a class that has at least some discrimination protection under law since the EEOC decided Macy v. Holder in May, 2012 (recognizing transgender discrimination as a type of gender discrimination under Title VII). Sadly, if you are gay, lesbian or bi, you can still be fired or denied housing and public accommodation merely because it is so in states that offer no state or local protection. If you are transgender and you are fired you at least have a federal remedy.

Yes, ENDA is about LGBT Equality!!! So, what can we do to get this law passed? Some have suggested re-branding:

Following up on that bit of news, Michelangelo Signorile quotes former Bilerico editor Michael Crawford talking his ideas on how to get ENDA actually passed: rebrand it. I couldn’t agree with him more. Ditching the name ENDA and expanding the scope of the legislation would give LGBT federal nondiscrimination legislation some nice forward momentum.
‘When we talk about it as discrimination, it’s about bad things that are happening vs. reframing in a more aspirational way, framing it as freedom to work,’ he explained. ‘Everyone wants to be able to work and take care of their families. Framing it as something the general public can understand and connect to.’…

~ Filed By Bil Browning, Bilerico, 7/03/2013.

Good idea! But, regardless of how the law is framed, now is the time for all people concerned about LGBT Equality to get behind it.

I have mentioned before that I am concerned about the post-marriage victory let down amongst our movement. Will it be, or will we seize upon the momentum we seem to have accumulated over the last few years and extend it beyond marriage equality? I hope it will be the latter for the sake of those who have lost or been denied employment or associated benefits. And I can think of several people I know right off the top of my head who have endured these struggles right here in Southwest Montana. I can only imagine what it is like in larger urban areas of the country.

So, here’ my pitch: Don’t let down! Don’t stop! All the same cliches about equality and justice not being so until they are so for all remain true and unfulfilled. Please do your part to help pass ENDA.

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.

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.

Analysis: Most At-Risk For HIV Not Studied

 

New Analysis of World’s Premier AIDS Conference Finds Poor Coverage of Populations Most-at-Risk for HIV

Hundreds of Organizations Worldwide Call on Conference Organizers to Increase Meaningful Coverage of Gay Men, Transgender People, People Who Inject Drugs, and Sex Workers

A new report produced by a coalition of global advocacy organizations shows that the International AIDS Conference (IAC) program continues to lack meaningful coverage of populations most-at-risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, people who inject drugs (PWID), and sex workers. Over 220 organizations from more than 70 countries around the world have called on the organizers of the IAC to take concrete measures to increase coverage of HIV-related issues concerning the health and human rights of these populations worldwide.

The report features a systematic quantitative audit and qualitative analysis of the topics and countries covered by abstracts on most-at-risk populations at the 2012 IAC, also known as AIDS 2012. These populations are also called “key populations,” because they are both key to the epidemic’s dynamics and key to the response. As an in-depth examination of research presented at the world’s premier AIDS conference, the report also offers a glimpse into the current state of research on these key populations globally.

The quantitative audit of the AIDS 2012 program showed that only 17% of all abstracts presented at the conference were exclusively focused on MSM, transgender people, PWID, or sex workers. Some key populations were better represented than others. The percent of all abstracts exclusively dedicated to each key population was 8% for MSM, less than 1% for transgender people, 5% for PWID, and 4% for sex workers.

The qualitative analysis of abstracts on these populations was even more revealing, indicating that more abstracts on key populations focused on individual risk factors (40%) than any other topic, including structural factors [e.g. policy, stigma, violence] (26%); primary prevention (19%); testing, care, and treatment (15%); and surveillance (10%). Only 29% of abstracts on key populations focused on describing interventions, while 71% described vulnerabilities without offering any detailed solutions.

“This meager level of coverage on issues concerning our communities at the International AIDS Conference is unacceptable,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) and co-author of the report. “Not only was there a comparatively low number of abstracts on key populations at the conference, but the content of these abstracts was largely divorced from the most urgent needs of key populations as identified by members of the populations themselves.”

The report cites the body of abstracts at AIDS 2012 focused on MSM as an example of the gap between the kind of research prioritized by key population stakeholders and the kind of research ultimately presented at the conference. Ahead of AIDS 2012, the MSMGF conducted a global survey of nearly 300 MSM advocates and service providers around the world to identify the topics they felt would be most important to address at the conference. The top three themes were “Prevention,” “Stigma and Discrimination,” and “Law and Criminalization.” Of all abstracts presented at AIDS 2012, the percentage dedicated to these themes in relation to MSM was 1.6%, 0.5%, and 0.3%, respectively.

“After thirty years of AIDS, we know key populations are at much greater risk than the general population in nearly every country around the world,” said Allan Clear, Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Coalition and co-author of the report. “Our communities deserve proper attention, and mounting evidence argues that addressing HIV among key populations is central to ending the global AIDS crisis. It is time for the IAC and the broader AIDS response to start addressing HIV among key populations in a more equitable, more appropriate, and ultimately more effective way.”

In addition to examining the number and focus topics of abstracts on key populations, the report also assessed geographic coverage. Of all abstracts on key populations, nearly 40% focused on North America and Western Europe. A country-level analysis revealed that nearly two-thirds of all key population abstracts were concentrated in 10 countries alone. Of the remaining 79 countries represented in these abstracts, 32 had only 1 abstract on 1 key population. Numerous regions and countries with concentrated epidemics among key populations were either underrepresented or entirely absent.

“The poor coverage of topics concerning key populations, especially from lower-income countries, may reflect inequitable global funding for research on key populations as much as it reflects the IAC’s processes that reinforce these inequities,” said JoAnne Keatley, Director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco and co-author of the report. “The IAC’s organizers must update the conference’s processes to ensure the event is as valuable as possible for addressing the urgent HIV epidemics among key populations. As the premier platform for sharing the latest research on HIV and AIDS, it must lead the global AIDS research field to do the same.”

“The IAC represents a unique and powerful opportunity to impact the global AIDS epidemic,” said Anastacia Ryan, Global Policy Officer on HIV and Sex Work at the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). “The conference offers unparalleled potential to shape the industry’s discourse, funding priorities, and locus of scientific inquiry, giving key affected populations the recognition they deserve as partners in fighting the epidemic. By updating its processes to increase meaningful engagement with and coverage of key populations, the IAC will not only support the development of more effective strategies to address the needs of key populations, it will bring the global AIDS response closer to developing the comprehensive solutions we need to end the epidemic.”

The report concluded with a set of 5 recommendations for measures that can be taken by conference organizers to increase meaningful coverage of key populations at future IACs. The recommendations include conducting community consultations, issuing targeted calls for abstracts, and advocating with large funders and research institutions for more appropriate funding and support for research on key populations. A total of 221 organizations from 73 countries endorsed the recommendations for action.

The full report, entitled “Coverage of Key Populations at the 2012 International AIDS Conference,” is available online at http://www.msmgf.org/files/msmgf//Advocacy/AIDS2012_KeyPopulations.pdf  The report was jointly produced by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) , the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (CoE), the Harm Reduction Coalition, the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD), Different Avenues, and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP).

The full list of recommendations and endorsements can be found online at http://www.msmgf.org/files/msmgf//Advocacy/Action_Alerts/AIDS2014_CCC_Signatures.pdf