Diversity Series In Hamilton

This is big news for the Bitterroot- and I’m proud to be part of it. Click for larger version

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Limits on Understanding

An attempt at a discrimination graphic.

An attempt at a discrimination graphic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It was 9:30 at the Helena City Council meeting when the mayor slightly rolled his eyes as he tapped his gavel, signaling the close of the public hearing portion on final passage of the LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance.

 

“What’s your pleasure,” he said to the council members.

 

The council took up four amendments proposed by the sponsor in a vain attempt to rescue her two years of campaigning and soulful work on this ordinance to make it as fair and inclusive as possible.  The other members of the commission were simply not having it, as she tried to persuade them to drop the trans phobic “locker room” amendment.

 

“It’s beyond the limits of my understanding,” the mayor proclaimed with exasperation, and a council member said the same a few minutes later.

 

And, then again, “This is beyond the limits of my understanding,” the mayor repeated, seemingly liking the sound of the phrase he had coined even more the second time around.

 

He just as well have said, “I don’t understand, and I don’t want to understand!” for that is what I heard with a sinking feeling that remains with me, now rooted in my psyche just as firmly as the amendment is now part of the ordinance, which to some now codifies the vilification of trans people, and legalizes a certain form of discrimination against them.

 

I had not considered these thoughts prior to the hearing, and I apologize to the trans community for failing you.  I had taken the amendment lightly, as if any self respecting pre-op trans woman would be caught dead showing off the wrong genitalia in the women’s locker room.  (I focus on trans women only because that was the sum and substance of the hysteria at the hearing, though I do not wish to belittle the safety risk to trans men in the men’s locker room.)  I know that I would not have dared reveal my pre-op attachment – I was way too afraid of being read.  I’m thinking a penis would have been a dead give away.  But, more than that, I am far too modest and respecting of the women around me to compromise them in such a way, for I take my solidarity with women as a sacred trust.  For it is to this sisterhood that I belong, and losing that sense of belonging, as a woman among women, would be a fate worse than death.  Indeed, it would be as akin to death or more, while yet breathing, as were the last years of living as a man, drunk, dispirited and demoralized.

 

Could I have made a difference by continuing to urge a more specific understanding, as I had in general terms in my testimony?   Some have suggested that the council member who proposed the amendment relied on his belief that I “was okay with it” in so doing.  Well, I wasn’t okay with it.  In fact, I had posted just last week (and sent the post to the council) a suggested compromise to the  amendment whereby a public accommodation would not be discriminating if they asked a person who displayed socially inconsistent genitalia in the locker room to leave.  Some would have trouble with even this compromise, although, given my statements above about fear, modesty and solidarity, I think it is entirely reasonable.  I stand by it.

 

Nonetheless, I did not talk about bathrooms in my testimony, so, council members evidently did not feel that the trans community objected.  I am just one person who testified, I realize, however, many have looked to me to represent their interest and I did not.  I let you down and I regret that.

 

As I ponder these matters, in the quiet half light of dusk, with a growing philosophical sense, I realize that I am not to blame.  No one is that powerful – to enlighten the minds of those with limits upon their own understanding.

 

 

Tribal Toolkit Announced: Promotes LGBT Awareness In Indian Country

From Lewis And Clark College:

On behalf of our author group and sponsors (Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program, the Native American Program of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Western States Center, Basic Rights Oregon and the Pride Foundation) we are proud to announce the Tribal Equity Toolkit is now complete and free and available to the world:

https://graduate.lclark.edu/programs/indigenous_ways_of_knowing/tribal_equity_toolkit/

The Tribal Equity Toolkit: Tribal Resolutions and Codes to Support Two Spirit and LGBT Justice in Indian Country, is a first-of-its-kind collection of legal resources that helps tribal government officials identify discrimination in tribal codes and regulations and offers draft language to strengthen and promote LGBT equality.

An amazing opportunity to create understanding and promote awareness. Check it out!

Tune In Tonight

If you’d like to understand what transgender people go through- well, you’re in luck. My friend Bobbie Zenker will be on YPR’s Home Ground tonight at 6:30, interviewed by Brian Kahn (one of the best interviewers around).

(click to see the book)

Bobbie’s story is inspirational on many levels, and for me represents the power of truth, exploration and acceptance. Her new book, TransMontana, is a must-read,  creating understanding and humanity through the components of sexual/gender/spiritual identity. All people must- if they are interested in integrity- explore the truth of their experience and strive to live it honestly and authentically. Bobbie’s life is a dramatic example of that process.

Bobbie’s life is authentically her own, and, as I said before, an inspiration for all people who struggle to live an honest life. Tune in tonight, not only to hear Bobbie’s story, but maybe parts of your own.

10 Things in 10 Years

Ten Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years About Gay People| A Christian Perspective

By Kathy Baldock, Canyonwalkerconnections.com

September 29, 2011

In 2001, if you had asked me “Kathy, can you be gay and Christian?”  I would have hedged a bit and fallen on the side of “No”. I did not have any close relationships with gay people nor had I ever studied the issue for in the Bible.  I did not even know one gay Christian, that I knew of. It was from this paradigm that I formulated my opinions about the lives of gay people and made assumptions about their status with God.  All that changed when I met Netto on a hiking trail. It has now ten years later and I offer ten things that I wish straight people, especially Christians, knew about gay people.

People who do not understand the views of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are not all bigots and people who are fully affirming in their support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender * people are not all heretics. This conversation often is relegated to love and hate, right and wrong, but there is a wide expanse between the two sides and that middle group is, for the most part, silent. You are the ones to whom I am offering these insights from experience, knowledge, study, relationship and with a genuine interest in engaging the too often silent middle.

With Bible in hand and in spirit, an open mind and heart and a willingness to listen to people, I entered the conversation that often brings out the worst in people. I hope to inspire you to movement and to speaking up with the Jesus-voice inside you.

Ten years and thousands of miles ago, I met Netto on a hiking trail. It was a time for conversation, the answering of all my stupid questions and an opportunity to get to know my Native American, agnostic, lesbian friend. Miles translated to trust for both of us and the growing relationship challenged my cultural Evangelical stances on homosexuality. My insights include a time line to show the long, thoughtful and prayerful process. These are ten things I have learned in ten years about the gay, lesbian and bisexual community, especially the Christian segment of that community.

1Being gay is not a choice.  In the US, we are almost evenly divided on the “are people born gay?” (42%) vs. “do they choose to be gay?”(44%) question . For the most part, how we answer this will dictate related views about inclusion in the church and civil rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. When individuals hold the “born gay” option as true, it is more probable that they are also supportive about extending equality to the gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

To the contrary, those who believe people “choose to be gay” most often see being gay as a “behavior” and not an intrinsic part of person’s being.  Behaviors, they reason, are controllable and changeable and therefore, they conclude, sexual attraction is controllable, if not changeable. When sexual orientation is seen as a choice and a behavior, people are less likely to extend civil rights and inclusion in the church for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

This one issue is the key and it took a long time and many relationships for me to understand. What you believe either unlocks the passage to equality or it keeps the door shut and segregates. It is the premise upon which most of the insights I offer builds.

There is no gene yet discovered for human sexuality, whether that be heterosexual or homosexual. Opinions formed in and out of relationships along with anecdotal evidence become the basis for each of our truths. Relationship. I write and say that word a lot, it matters.

I was raised in a moderately prejudice home in the New York City area; my stepfather was horribly biased against the black community. While he was recovering from cancer surgery, he roomed with a lovely elderly black man. After a week together in a hospital room, sharing experiences and interacting with this man’s family, my stepfather’s views about the black community changed. After six decades of bigotry, he saw this man as just another human. Relationship does that.

Similarly, for me and the 42% who believe that being gay is not a choice, that conclusion is the fruit of relationships and listening. Informed decisions based in information and experience are best, lacking that your opinion on this issue says nothing about your intelligence or your ranking on the “good person” scale.  Without interaction with gay people, you may not understand that most gay people know between the ages of five and eight that they are “different”; this was a powerful message for me. Before a sexual thought ever occurs, they “knew”.   Typically, it took another five years before they began to label the difference. When puberty kicked in, they noticed the comments and feelings of their friends did not jiving with their experiences. What followed was an average of another three and a half years of struggling in confusion for self-acceptance of being gay.

Being gay and sexual orientation are not as simple as “who you have sex with”. Sexual orientation speaks of an emotional, relational and sexual fulfillment and comfort. Gay people, just like heterosexual people, are attracted, at the core, to a gender at a young age. All of this is innocent and has no sexual overtones.  As heterosexuals, when we recall a crush on a second grade teacher or the warm ease of being with a family friend, we never associate “sex” with it, yet we will often insert “sex” into the historical impressions of a gay person. Long before thoughts of sex enter a child’s brain, both heterosexual and homosexual children have a brain imprint of attraction. There is no choice for “behavior”. It is innate. Actually, 93% of mothers say they knew their gay sons were gay at an early age.

All this information bore out in the lives of people I met while with Netto. I started to meet people in long-term same-sex relationships that had never been romantically interested in the opposite sex, never. Others had been married and were parents.  I had fallen into believing marriage to the opposite sex was “proof” of a person’s heterosexuality. Being married and bearing children do not mean one is straight.  As one of my friends puts it, “It just means that you fantasize really well.” There are numerous reasons gay people marry the opposite sex:

  • They know they are “different” however exploring that difference is taboo and culturally or religiously unacceptable. Some people get married before they understand that they are not heterosexual.
  • They marry because it is expected, or they want a family
  • They are told they will change by getting married. Some people still believe the careless attitude of “All you need to do is find the right woman/right man and you will get rid of these feelings”. No amount of my being with women, and in the last ten years, with legions of lesbians,will or can make me a lesbian.   Just as I am straight, about 5% of people are gay.  (Situational sex in prisons does occur. This is NOT a change in orientation; it is a sex choice for convenience.)

The question of “born gay” or “choose to be gay” is the hinge of the rest of my insights.  A few relationships with the lesbian coffee shop barista, your gay hairdresser or a neighbor as he passes you walking his dog will not help you honestly evaluate an entire class of people. Don’t rely on an equally uninformed pastor, politician or pundit, get to know people.  Using uninformed opinions to decide on civil matters for a class of people is careless. Allowing those same distant opinions to influence spiritual “policies” is even more egregious. Do relationship, ask, listen and listen some more.

Read the rest here

 

Proposed DSM-5 Changes: Derogatory Labeling & Pathologizing The Identity Of Trans Persons

(reprinted from GID Reform Weblog)

by Kelley Winters, Ph.D.
GID Reform Advocates
http://www.gidreform.org
kelley@gidreform.org

On May 5th, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a second round of proposed diagnostic criteria for the 5th Edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). These include two diagnostic categories that impact the trans communities, Gender Dysphoria (formerly Gender Identity Disorder, or GID) and Transvestic Disorder (Formerly Transvestic Fetishism). While GID has received a great deal of attention in the press and from GLBTQ advocates, the second Transvestic category is too often overlooked. This is unfortunate, because the Transvestic Disorder diagnosis is designed to punish social and sexual gender nonconformity and enforce binary stereotypes of assigned birth sex. It plays no role in enabling access to medical transition care, for those who need it, and is frequently cited when care is denied (Winters 2010). I urge all trans community members, friends, care providers and allies to call for the removal of this punitive and scientifically unfounded diagnosis from the DSM-5. The current period for public comment to the APA ends June 15.

Like its predecessor, Transvestic Fetishism, in the current DSM, Transvestic Disorder is authored by Dr. Ray Blanchard, of the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly known as the Clarke Institute). Blanchard has drawn outrage from the transcommunity for his defamatory theory of autogynephilia, asserting that all transsexual women who are not exclusively attracted to males are motivated to transition by self-obsessed sexual fetishism (Winters 2008A). He is canonizing this harmful stereotype of transsexual women in the DSM-5 by adding an autogynephilia specifier to the Transvestic Fetishism diagnosis (APA 2011) . Worse yet, Blanchard has broadly expanded the diagnosis to implicate gender nonconforming people of all sexes and all sexual orientations, even inventing an autoandrophilia specifier to smear transsexual men. Most recently, he has added an “In Remission” specifier to preclude the possibility of exit from diagnosis. Like a roach motel, there may be no way out of the Transvestic Disorder diagnosis, once ensnared.

What You Can Do Now

  1. Go to the APA DSM-5 web site (APA 2011), click on “register now,” create a user account and enter your statement in the box. The deadline for this second period of public comment is June 15.
  2. Sign the Petition to Remove Transvestic Disorder from the DSM-5 (IFGE 2010), sponsored by the International Foundation for Gender Education.
  3. Demand that your local, national and international GLBTQ nonprofit organizations issue public statements calling for the removal of this defamatory Transvestic Disorder category from the DSM-5. Very few have so far.
  4. Spread the word to your network, friends and allies.

For more information, see GID Reform Advocates (Winters, 2010)

Moderation

There’s been a bit of an exchange in the comments on my post Being Gay IS a Choice in the last few weeks. I loved the dialog, but was increasingly bothered by the intolerant intransigence of one of the commenters. I felt that the comments were not in keeping with the theme of this site. It became not a forum to increase understanding, but a soapbox.

That doesn’t work for me.

As a result, I have decided to moderate all the comments on this site (you can read my response in the thread at the bottom of the post linked above). I still encourage comments here, but I guess I need to decide if the content fits in with my vision here. I will probably hear cries of “Discrimination!” and “Censorship!”, but that’s okay. My goal is understanding, education, awareness and a bit of silliness- not judgment, anger or proselytizing.

Namaste.