Sunday, October 14, 2007

Aurora Borealis Theme Winner

My Welcome To Direct Transgender Advocacy

October 12th, 2007 by Autumn Sandeen

Today three of my transgender peers and I met with Rep. Susan Davis.

Our group “director” was Vicki Estrada, who is a representative of California’s Transgender Equality Alliance (TEA). Kelly Moyer (a.k.a. kellyanon) was there as one of the representatives of the TASC of San Diego LogoTransgender Advocacy and Services Center of San Diego (TASC). She facilitates a support group for gender variant youth, and another support group for gender variant young adults. Connor Maddocks was representing TASC as one of the organization’s Co-Chairs. He’s also the San Diego Chapter Chair for FTMI. And, me, also representing TASC.

As well as being the representative of Sodom California’s District 53, Rep. Davis is on the House Education and Labor Committee — the very committee that will mark up any/all of the versions of ENDA.

Well, our gang of four had planned to go in with a six talking point presentation, but we changed the presentation based on what we heard from the Office’s chief of staff — he communicated to us that Rep. Davis, being one of the 171 fully inclusive ENDA sponsors and on the committee that will review the ENDA bills, is already very familiar with the details of the sexual orientation only ENDA, and the reasons pro and con for supporting a fully inclusive ENDA. Rep. Davis is also aware that just about every LGBT specific and LGBT friendly non-profit in San Diego, as well as non-profit chapters in San Diego (including the San Diego LGBT Center, the Democratic Club, Pride At Work, etc.) has come out with a statement in support of a transgender inclusive ENDA. And, she’s aware of how many of these organizations/organization chapters have stated that they would oppose a transgender exclusive ENDA.

What Rep. Davis wanted to hear instead is personal stories. She wanted to know where and how members of our community has experienced discrimination in the workplace, where and why some of us haven’t experienced discrimination in the workplace, and how all of these experiences have effected us.

So, we went to the meeting and told our stories. We also told some of our peers stories. She’s now heard several reasons why passing a fully inclusive ENDA is really necessary.

I was there to give my “gender variant” story. Here’s what I had for notes:

(my story and my leassons learned after the break)

In late 1999/early 2000, I was sexually harassed by a subordinate and my Executive Officer (XO) for being perceived as an effeminate gay male.

I had been married in 1983, but I separated from my ex just before I was assigned to the USS Coronado, and I “lost” the protection that marriage gave my significantly effeminate dress and body language.

I tried, but I couldn’t hide my female gender identity from my peers — but my peers presumed I was gay because I acted effeminately — they didn’t identify me as a “pre-out” transsexual.

I have a propensity for depression. I’d been in treatment for depression about three and a half years after my divorce. I was just about out of my depressive bout when I was harassed for my gender non-conformity — I sank into a such a depression after being sexually harassed that I was pulled off of my ship.

I’m now rated 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration in large part because of a propensity for depression. I sought and received a VA disability rating in the first place specifically because of the personal difficulties I experienced for being harassed for gender non-conformity.

A prior roommate of mine — Jamie — experienced a similar harassment for gender non-conformity issues when she worked at as a temporary employee at San Diego based cell phone manufacturer. She was an out transsexual; however, a fellow worker on her particular manufacturing line called her “fairy” and “faggot” over and over, day after day, for about two weeks. She complained, and then was transferred to a different line that was shut down two weeks later. She was laid off when that line was shut down, while her harasser on the first manufacturing line kept his job.

My therapist told me that prior to 2004, when California’s protections for transgender people came into effect, the majority of her clients would be let go from their jobs as part of their transition process.

Some employers and co-workers identify gender non-conformity as method for identifying an individual as gay. I don’t believe an ENDA without protections perceived gender won’t adequately protect effeminate gay men, emasculate lesbian women, and transgender people.

At the end of our meeting, Vicki asked Rep. Davis how we could help her pass a fully inclusive ENDA.

What’s become clear from Rep. Davis’ response is transgender people need to do more outreach to our congresspeople. Not just to the Democrats, but Republicans like Rep. Bono, Rep. Issa, and Rep. Bilbray too. Apparently, there hasn’t been as much educational effort directed at congresspeople about transgender inclusion in ENDA as many of us transgender folk thought was occurring by our national LGBT organizations.

Heck, the gang of four learned at our meeting a number or congresspeople and their staffers don’t even know what transgender means in the most basic sense of the term, and have never met, let alone been lobbied by, any transgender people.

Frankly, I was too complacent. I assumed that in 2004, when the LGBT non-profits and LGBT civil rights organizations came together and decided they wouldn’t support federal hate crimes legislation or employment non-discrimination without transgender protections, I’d assumed they were taking one or more of their organization’s transgender staffers in with them when they did congressional lobbying. Also, I assumed alarm bells would be sounded if they got wind that an LGB minus T legislation was in the works.

Obviously, I was wrong on all counts. Apparently our LGBT organizations have been guilty of saying LGBT without fully integrating T’s into their lobbying schema, and our congresspeople weren’t really clear on the sea change that happened in 2004 where when most of our organizations said we will only support a T-inclusive ENDA, they really meant it, and LGBT people for the most part really supported that decision.

I’m limited by my disabilities. I recognize I can’t do everything, but I also recognize I need to do more — even if doing more increases my stresses, and my stresses end up aggravating my disabilities and shaving years off my life. This has been my wake-up call — my real welcome to the urgency of direct advocacy.

I feel I owe the next generations of LGBT people a legacy of more than just hope; the next generations need all of the civil rights and protections we can win for them. . . .

Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

While many of us in the transgender community are estatic that you have finally turned your formidable media spotlight on the transgender community and given some of our issues some attention, there's one thing that bothers me and many of your African-American transgender fans and our supporters.

Many African-American transpeople over the years have e-mailed and written letters humbly asking for a chance to tell our stories on your stage. We've been told by your staffers in reply that your show wasn't interested in doing transgender topics.

So now that you are doing these shows, the folks that need the airtime most desperately, your African-American transgender brothers and sisters feel hurt and left out.

White transpeople have had the attention of the United States media ever since Christine Jorgenson stepped off the plane from Denmark in 1953. The media face of transgender people over the last fifty years has overwhelmingly been a white one.

Even African-American publications such as Jet, Ebony, or ESSENCE rarely cover our issues. That has led to a knowledge vacuum that combined with negative preaching from the pulpits has opened many of us up to anti-transgender violence, discrimination and hatred in our own community. About 70 percent of the people on the Remembering our Dead list that memorializes victims of anti-transgender violence are disproportionately African-American and other people of color.

There are too many times that African-American transpeople's images have been tied to the adult entertainment industry, female illusionists and shows like Jerry Springer. There are far more African-American transpeople that like myself have college educations, good jobs, are proud of our heritage, have families who love them, and want to do our part to uplift our society.

But you'd never know that based on the media coverage that African-American transpeople get.

I was approached by Jerry Springer's people back in 1998 to appear on their show and turned them down. As someone who is considered an award winning leader in this community, as you can tell I'm greatly concerned about our image. I personally will not be a party to appearing on a show who's only interest in transgender topics is reinforcing stereotypes and exploiting them for sweeps month ratings points.

Your show is one of the three that should I be blessed to get that call, along with Tyra and Montel that I would drop whatever I'm doing to talk to this nation about transgender issues from an African-American perspective.

I know that your show, along with the other two I mentioned are not only high quality productions, but will take what I have to say seriously, it will be received in the spirit of imparting information to a vast audience and I (or any other transperson who appears on the show) will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity by you and your audience.

While any positive coverage of transgender issues is greatly appreciated, it does make your African-American transgender brothers and sisters wonder when we are finally going to get some face time?

Respectfully yours,

Monica Roberts
The TransGriot
2006 IFGE Trinity Award Winner

Crisis of identity

By: Chelsea Lankes

I am an American. I am a Texan. I am an Aggie. I can be labeled many different ways and, with those labels, I can be presented in a negative or positive way.

In society, we are defined by what we do, what we believe and, sometimes, where we come from. I am a daughter, a sister and a friend. I am a Christian, a believer and a sinner. I am a writer, a student and sometimes - most of the time, a procrastinator. There are many components that make up our identity, including our sexual orientation. It seems, however, that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals are labeled primarily by their sexual orientation with no regard to their other characteristics.

Some may not agree with the lifestyle choices and sexual preferences of anyone who isn't straight, but that doesn't mean that those who do not fit the classic mold should be demeaned or criticized. Texas A&M students and faculty are held to the Aggie Code of Honor as well as to a standard of ethics. This includes a list of aspects that will benefit individuals, the University and society as a whole. As members of this University, Aggies should uphold that code of ethics and, in this case, build relationships through equity and respect.

The University has recognized GLBTA - ­Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Aggies - as an official organization on campus. The purpose of GLBT and Coming Out Week is, "To provide support for all gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals within the University and surrounding communities.To provide educational information on historical and current issues regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. To create opportunities for welcoming, safe and supportive social gatherings that strive to minimize the fear of harassment or exposure." This recognition and representation of the diversity at A&M is a monumental step for the students and faculty that can relate and are associated with the GLBT. . . .

Smooth transition

By John Wright
Oct 11, 2007

Dallas Police Department’s first transgender officer says she has been accepted by fellow officers, officials

Deborah Grabowski began her 18-year career with the Dallas Police Department as a man, but began living full time as a woman in 2006, with the support of her superiors. *(JOHN WRIGHT/Dallas Voice)
Nineteen years ago, Mike Smith attended police academy alongside Joe Grabowski.

Today, as a sergeant for the Dallas Police Department, Smith supervises Officer Deborah Grabowski.

But Joe and Deborah aren’t husband and wife, brother and sister, or father and daughter.

Deborah Grabowski, 42, is the department’s first known transgender officer, having undergone sexual reassignment surgery in May.

But Smith said that for him and others who work with Grabowski out of a substation at Love Field, little has changed.

“To me, she’s the same person as she was 19 years ago,” Smith said. “We get along the same way. I treat her just like any other police officer. “

Grabowski said she’s thankful for that.

She’s witnessed horror stories from around the country involving transgender people being fired and the like.

Although Dallas has an ordinance, passed in 2002, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, Grabowski says she was fearful when she came out. But with the support of the city, she began living as a woman full time in 2006.

Grabowski, an 18-year veteran of the force, sat down with Dallas Voice recently to talk more about her experience.

Dallas Voice: Since coming out, you’ve shied away from the media. Why is that?

Grabowski: “I just didn’t want this to reflect badly on the department or any of my coworkers or any of my neighbors. I didn’t want this to become any type of sideshow issue that somebody would laugh about or something like that. But I figured I’ve already transitioned and I’ve been living as a woman full time for about a year and a half now, so I figured I would say something and maybe it might help somebody.

Dallas Voice: When did you first notice that you identify as a female?

Grabowski: It’s always been an issue since as far back as I can remember — from early childhood. Growing up I did my best to suppress it. I had a sister. I always used to wear her clothes, and my mother and my sister would always catch me wearing them.

I really kind of did my best to emasculate myself in activities to see if I could try to cure myself. I was a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, I was in the Air Force Reserve and I became a police officer. … It was a relatively new phenomenon back then, and I thought I was crazy. I really did. I thought they’d lock me away in a rubber room or something.

Dallas Voice: When did you finally come out?

Grabowski: It wasn’t until about about 1995 after I came back from the Oklahoma City bombing. I went up there with my reserve unit. My best friend from New York died, and my father died about a year after that. I started to really suppress my gender identity by drinking heavily and came to the realization that I better either get help or continue down the road of just drinking myself silly.

I went to a therapist in Denton and I started to develop more of an integrated person with myself as a female. I would go out cross-dressed on my weekends and do all my shopping and stuff like that. After doing therapy for a while I finally decided I’m transgendered and I started saving money for an eventual surgery. The only thing I wanted to do first was retire from reserves and the Air Force before I actually did anything, and I did that in 2005.

Dallas Voice: How did you go about notifying the city?

Grabowski: I contacted Bob Gorsky. He’s an attorney with our police association, and I told him I wanted to transition on the job. I was fearful at first, because I knew the policies were there and I didn’t think they would come after me or anything like that, but I was still a little bit scared. He approached the chief through the city attorney’s office, and the chief said we don’t have a problem with it whatsoever. There was an officer in Richardson who had come out previously, and he [Gorsky] gave me the number to contact her. She didn’t have that many problems transitioning there, so I just made it happen.”

Dallas Voice: So the city was supportive?

Grabowski: They really were very supportive of me living full-time as Debbie. I didn’t expect otherwise, but there was always that fear in the back of my mind that pitchfork-wielding mobs would chase me out to my car or I’d be set ablaze, but that didn’t happen. It really didn’t. It’s really been quite a smooth transition, and that’s really what I wanted.

Dallas Voice: How did your coworkers react?

Grabowski: I came out during detail one day and said, “I’m transgendered, I’m going to transition on the job, and if anyone has any questions over it, just come up and ask.” People were a little bit surprised. They had no idea. I’d never been married or anything like that, and I lived home alone with three cats. I don’t know what they thought. I was pretty unassuming. I just kind of showed up at work, did my job and left. … Of course we’ve had our turnover of officers since then, but the attitudes haven’t changed. Everyone’s been very supportive.

Dallas Voice: How about the general public? Has anyone noticed?

Grabowski: The first week I started working full-time as Debbie, a citizen called up and said, “What’s your policy on officers in drag?” And my sergeant goes, “No she’s not in drag. She’s preparing for sexual reassignment surgery.”

Dallas Voice: Do you think of yourself as a role model?

Grabowski: I never really have seen myself as a role model, but if someone can get a positive story out of this and use me as an example, yeah. I’ve really been lucky. Maybe I feel as though I have to let somebody know that there are actually good stories, that there are people who do make it through this. . . .

Performers transcending labels

Drag show wraps up National Coming Out Day

By: Alyssa Griffith

Former Duke University student Chris Shreve performs
Media Credit: DTH/Kate Napier
Former Duke University student Chris Shreve performs "Let Me Blow Your Mind" as Phalene at the GLBTSA Transcendence drag show Thursday night. Shreve was one of several amateurs. Visit the photo blog at for more.

Performers in sequined dresses and flashy stilettos flounced, sashayed and entertained members of the UNC community Thursday night in the Great Hall.

All of the dancers were a part of "Transcendence," the fifth semiannual drag show presented by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender-Straight Alliance, which celebrated the finale of National Coming Out Day.

"The show presents a time for coming out in solidarity. There is strength in numbers," said Robert Wells, GLBTSA executive board member and drag show stage manager. "Drag shows present a history of gender and sexuality in a performance setting."

GLBTSA brought in four professional drag queens from Legends nightclub in Raleigh to perform - which consists of walking, sauntering and even gyrating across the stage in flashy costumes. Amateur acts were also showcased.

The amateur performers included students from UNC and one student from Duke.

"This show is a forum of celebration; we're looking to promote gender identity expression in an entertaining way," said Taylor Brown, co-chairman of GLBTSA.

Wells said some people don't understand that not everyone's gender identities match societal norms of male or female. He said GLBTSA hopes to raise this level of awareness through events like the drag show.

First-time UNC performer Erin Black said, "I'm performing as a girl dressing up as a boy dressing up as a girl."

One drag queen, decked out as a sunflower, thrilled audience members as she stepped off the stage announcing that she was "going to soak up the sun." . . .

Savage Love

by Dan Savage

I’m a 21-year-old college student. I’m a gay male, and I have a thing for crossdressers. That isn’t unheard of, I know, but my thing for crossdressers comes with a twist: Most admirers like crossdressers who look like girls. I don’t. I like it when a crossdresser is a macho, moderately hairy, athletic jock, who just happens to be wearing women’s clothing. When I see some tall lacrosse player with gorgeous hairy legs, I think, “God, he’d look so damn good in a skirt.” So it’s not the pretty, passable crossdressers that do it for me. It’s the all-American jock next door. Put a body like that in a sexy teddy, and I’m so gone.How do I deal with this desire? It seems like most crossdressers are either straight, or they’ve got a feminine body. How can I find the macho man in dresses of my dreams?Loves Jocks in Frocks

I’d say you’re into not crossdressers, LJIF, but sexual transgression. It’s not any guy in women’s clothing that turns you on, but masculine, built, hairy guys in women’s clothing. So what turns your crank isn’t the fact of the crossdressing, per se, but the dissonance, the tension and the contrast created by the crossdressing.

But that’s neither here nor there: How can you find the macho man of your dreams? The overwhelming majority of male crossdressers are straight, as you know, and most of the gay crossdressers out there are interested in passing.

This leaves you with two options: a long, frustrating search for the mythical big, burly, gay jock that gets off on women’s clothing, or finding a big, burly, gay jock who loves you so much that he’s willing to dress up for you.


October 10, 2007 -- MEN who wonder what it's like to sashay around town in women's footwear can find out tomorrow. Cross-dressing expert Veronica Vera, founder of "Miss Vera's Finishing School for Boys Who Want To Be Girls," will teach a class in "How To Walk, Sit & Pose in High Heels." Men, women, transsexuals and transvestites are welcome. "We all want to get rid of the clomp in our clip. A bent-kneed 'spider walk' is not attractive," she said.

Civil rights for LGB . . . and T

Democrats tried to get away with a discrimination bill that left out transgender persons. Big mistake.
By Christine Daniels
October 10, 2007
The basketball expression for it is "low-bridge." It is the dirtiest foul in the sport, the act of suddenly taking out a player's legs as he or she leaps for a rebound, pass or jump shot. It's a cheap and devious move, in that it may look spontaneous but is almost always premeditated -- and almost always a prelude to a fight.

That's what happened to the transgender community on Sept. 26. We were low-bridged. By -- of all people -- Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But, in a shocking upset, the transgender community picked itself up, rubbed its newly scraped elbows and fought back. Frank, Pelosi & Co. didn't know what hit them.

The impetus for this brawl was the struggle over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that is the proud product of some hard battles won by a unified coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and advocates. ENDA seeks to protect civil rights so fundamental -- and so fundamentally American -- that it seems absurd we are still haggling over this in late 2007. ENDA would make it illegal to fire or refuse to hire or promote anyone based simply on the employee's sexual orientation or gender identity.

On paper, Frank, an openly gay Democrat, seemed the right person to lead this game plan. But as September rolled on, surveys of House members showed that ENDA did not have the votes to pass if it protected transgender people, but it did if it just covered gays and lesbians. So Frank huddled with Pelosi and other Democratic leaders and decided to play Solomon with ENDA -- only with half the wisdom. On Sept. 26, Frank announced his plan to split ENDA into two bills -- one bill protecting sexual orientation, which would get introduced immediately to Congress, and another bill protecting gender identity, which Congress would get to somewhere down the line. Maybe in a year or two. Or six or seven.

Ordinarily, self-interest dominates everything and everyone in Washington, and it often rolls right over decency and ethics. With ENDA, congressional thinking seemed to go: "This boat is listing. We better do something! But what? We really have no stomach for this sort of fight ... so let's throw the transfolk overboard! So what if they are the minority that needs ENDA's protection the most? Nobody knows a transgender person anyway; decades of intolerance and ignorance have kept them closeted. Who'll miss them in this bill?"

Big miscalculation. The strategy did not yield the usual we-got-ours run for safety. Lesbian, gay and bisexual activists stood alongside their trans sisters and brothers, and together we raised the roof. It was a beautiful noise, let me tell you. . . .

Scenes from the 2007 Out & Equal Workplace Summi