Saturday, October 20, 2007
Site claims Bruce makes city ‘laughing stock of county’
By RYAN LEE
OCT. 19, 2007
The small-town politics in Riverdale, Ga., features some big-time mudslinging in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election, with a website accusing Georgia’s first transgender elected official of being a man who “used an alias and fooled everyone into thinking he was a woman.”
The website — operated by anonymous supporters of Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham — also notes that transgender City Councilmember Michelle Bruce is under investigation by the Georgia Attorney General’s office for allegations of election fraud during an attempt to recall Graham from office in 2005. Filed with the Secretary of State’s office in November 2006 and forwarded to the attorney general last month, the complaint accuses Bruce and her mother of forging signatures on recall petitions, a charge Bruce denies.
“They filed charges against me with no proof — they’re just making accusations,” Bruce said of the citizens who lodged the complaint with the Secretary of State’s office, Stephanie Campbell and Sharon Kellam. “Hopefully me and my mom will be vindicated on that. There’s no proof — it’s 'he say, she say' crap.”
According to a June 29 report prepared by the Secretary of State’s solicitor general’s office, Campbell and Kellam “had reason to believe that a recall petition that was circulated to recall Mayor Phaedra Graham included forged signatures,” and believed Bruce and her mother, Barbara Williams, were responsible. But the report’s “summary of finding” details no signature forging, and lists as “potential violations” only that Bruce and Williams collected signatures without registering as petition circulators.
“The referral to the attorney general’s office is in no way an implication of significance,” said Matt Carrothers, media relations director for the secretary of state’s office.
Neither Kellam nor Campbell, who is one of three candidates challenging Graham for mayor in November, could be reached for comment by press time.
Bruce, who first won office in 2003, faces three opponents in her Ward 2 re-election bid: Wayne Hall, Georgia Fuller and Alberto Advincula. A city of 12,500 residents, Riverdale is located just south of Atlanta in Clayton County.
More troubling to Bruce than the pending attorney general’s investigation is what she calls a “hate website” that features pictures of her and ridicules her for being transgender.
“The man at the left tricked us last election. He used an alias and fooled everyone into thinking he was a woman,” reads an entry on www.getinvolvednowga.com. “Riverdale is the laughing stock of the county with him presently in office.”
The operator of the website — who did not respond to interview requests — is anonymous, but clearly supports Graham, repeatedly exalting the mayor while belittling her political opponents, including Bruce. The website also writes glowingly of one of Bruce’s opponents, calling Georgia Fuller “an intelligent, educated, employed” candidate who will tip the balance of the four-member Riverdale city council in Graham’s favor.
“There will be a two-two vote on important issues. This will allow the mayor to cast the deciding vote,” the website reads. “I am well aware that you, the voters, have confidence in your mayor."
Graham did not respond to interview requests by press time, and Fuller could not be reached for comment.
Bruce, who was born intersexed and identifies as transgender, said the website is a result of Graham’s “cronyism.”
“They’re just trying to use anything they can to smear me and get me out of office,” Bruce said. “The website itself is nothing, but — it hurts, don’t get me wrong — but it’s a shame someone has to go after someone’s race or gender and that’s all they can use."
“They’ve made comments previously [about being transgender],” Bruce said of Graham and her political allies. “She’s gone around and said we need to get that transvestite out of office — that freak of nature.”
Bruce has been endorsed by the statewide gay rights group Georgia Equality, and the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect gay and transgender public officials. . . .
By DAVID LOWE
A committed vegetarian and animal lover, she makes no secret of the fact she prefers her four-legged friends to people.
But then, Kerry hasn’t had an easy life.
From the moment she hit puberty, she’s fought a secret battle.
Kerry carried that secret with her through three marriages and a distinguished fire service career.
For the softly spoken llama farmer used to be a MAN and always felt she'd been born in the wrong body.
Kerry, 63, from King’s Lynn, says: �It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey.
�In many ways I think of myself as a salmon swimming upriver.
�I know where I have to go, no matter how hard and gruelling it is to get there.
�By living as a woman for the past three years I finally feel like I’m being honest and true to myself.
�I’ve lost friends and family and wish I could find someone special who loves me for who I am.
�Until that happens I’ve got my llamas – the most tranquil beautiful creatures.
�They’re my family now.�
Kerry was born Roger in Ashton Under Lyne, Greater Manchester, and immediately put up for adoption by a single mother.
Within two weeks the bouncing baby had been taken in by a couple in their 50s named Kitty and Frank Steed.
Kerry’s childhood was mainly spent in Devon, where she grew up in a large estate house.
But although she lacked nothing materially, emotionally life was a struggle.
Kerry says: �Mum and Dad were extremely busy running their bed and breakfast and I was mainly raised by a nanny.
�At five years old I was sent to boarding school in Dunsford.
�I was the youngest there and got mercilessly bullied.
�Even then I knew I wasn’t like the other boys.
�They wanted to carve cars in woodwork class, whereas I preferred to sew and press flower petals.
�I was 14 or 15 when I first tried on a piece of woman's clothing.
�It was my aunt’s suspender belt and I remember I didn't really understand what was happening.
�It felt comfortable, but of course looking back it all makes sense now.�
Kerry left school at 16, and drifted in and out of various jobs.
First she worked at a trout farm in Lincolnshire, before returning to London for a post in a hunting shop.
She even remembers delivering two guns to Buckingham Palace in a taxi.
But some of Kerry’s happiest times were spent during a 22-year career with the Fire Service.
Kerry says: �I was pushed into the macho way of life and for several years I actually did quite well at it.
�Working for the fire service was one of my favourite jobs.
�There was a great sense of camaraderie and I made it to the rank of sub officer.
�Of course once I’d got the job sorted my family expected me to settle down.
"I married my first wife in 1966 and we had a daughter together.
�For a number of reasons that relationship ended in divorce, but it was nothing to do with my identity.
�I managed to keep that more or less under wraps for my first two marriages.�
In 1989 Kerry said �I do� – as Roger - for the third and final time.
But it became impossible for Roger to conceal his gender identity disorder any longer, and he confided in his wife Cindy.
Kerry says: �I was at my wit’s end.
�I told Cindy I felt I should have been born a woman and although she wasn’t over the moon she was sympathetic.
�I began to dress as a woman around the house, although it was a closely guarded secret.�
Three years ago Kerry’s marriage ended bitterly, but at last she felt free to become a woman.
On the recommendation of her GP she visited the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London.
Since that appointment Kerry’s life has never been the same.
She says: �I had a very long, searching interview about why I wanted to be a woman.
�I poured my heart out to the consultant, about how I’d lived with this secret all my life and wanted to change.
�The condition I have is called gender dysphoria – basically where the physical body you have doesn’t match up with the mind.
�I was simply told to start living as a woman straight away – and I did.
�I’m on 8mg of the female hormone oestrogen a day, which I take in tablet form.
�My breasts are a B cup and I’ve had surgery on my vocal cords to make my voice higher.
�Earlier this year I was due to have full gender reassignment surgery.
�Unfortunately there was a mix-up with the Norfolk Primary Care Trust and it couldn’t go ahead.
�Now I’m a priority case for early 2008.�
Despite the disappointment of having to wait even longer to fully become a woman, Kerry did get some good news this year.
During a brief meeting with Cindy, the former man and wife realised they still have lots in common.
Now Cindy is one of few former acquaintances to stand by Kerry as she continues on her journey.
Kerry, who raises pet llamas and cleans buses in her hometown, was also delighted to finally receive an ammended birth certificate which reflects her true gender.
She says: �It meant so much to have that official document with the correct information on it.
�It might seem small and irrelevant, but it’s of huge significance on my journey to becoming the woman I've always been inside.�
October 19, 2007
BY KORIE WILKINS
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Lance Hicks will be one of about 50 teenagers in Ferndale this weekend to talk about equality, activism and health issues as a part of one of the largest gatherings of transgender youth in the Midwest.
The 17-year-old Hicks' birth certificate lists "female" for gender, but Hicks said he always has known he was male. When the Groves High School senior was a toddler, he would say he was a boy -- not a girl.Two years ago, he came out to his parents, friends and teachers as transgender -- an umbrella term that includes people who define their gender different from the sex they were born as. Hicks has adopted a new name and uses the pronouns he, him and his.
"Coming out was not a huge deal for me," said Hicks. "I was lucky. Not everyone has that experience though. ... I'm excited to be involved in this because I feel like it will start raising awareness."
The Midwest Trans Youth Conference is the brainchild of Laura Sorensen -- youth services coordinator at Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale -- and Jay Botsford, who works with transgender youth at Project Q in Milwaukee.
The two met about a year ago and started talking about the lack of services and support for transgender youth in states such as Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Both thought it would be a good idea to put the call out to transgender youth and get them talking, sharing ideas and information.
There will be 16 workshops and panel discussions, led mostly by youths. The two main topics are health and social change.
Sorensen said attendees will learn how to stay safe, because transgender people can be targeted for hate crimes. Also, there will be frank discussions about coming out, safer sex and how to deal with having a body that doesn't match a person's inner feelings.
Sorensen and Botsford say they hope the conference can be held annually.
"Trans youth have unique concerns and needs," Botsford said. "There's not always the support system for them like there is for gay or lesbian or bisexual teenagers. This conference will be a space that's by them and for them." . . .
To St. John's of Baltimore City, he's the fun-loving pastor who counsels them, takes their kids hiking, explains Scripture, and plunges into worthy causes.
To conservative Methodists, Phoenix embodies another front in the "culture wars," a rebel who has defied God and nature and should be removed from ministry.
To mainstream society, Phoenix is an enigma who transcends traditional sexual boundaries, provoking uncomfortable questions about the interplay between body, mind and soul.
To the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church he's number IV on the docket for their Oct. 24-27 session: "A Review of Bishop's Decision ... Whether Transgendered Persons Are Eligible for Appointment in The United Methodist Church."
The issue of transgenderism seems too hot to touch for religious Americans already bitterly divided over sexual orientation. A number of Methodist theologians and ethicists, asked to comment for this article, declined.
But as scientific advances and changing sexual mores allow transgender people to slowly move into the mainstream, religious leaders will soon have to grapple with theological implications of gender identity, scholars say.
In practical terms, they have to deal with Phoenix and whether he should remain in ministry. The judicial hearing of the United Methodist Church, one of the largest Christian bodies in the U.S., may be a high-water mark for transgender awareness in the pews.
"The theological issues here are very important," said Mark Jordan, a professor of Christian ethics at Atlanta's Emory University. "It's not just an issue of church discipline and it's not just a freak show."
About 18 months ago, after 46 years of feeling like a soul trapped in the wrong body, a Methodist minister had sexual reassignment surgery, at last aligning psyche and sex.
The Rev. Ann Gordon became the Rev. Drew Phoenix.
Phoenix, now 48, describes the transition from female to male as a homecoming.
"For me, now it's very much about being embodied, my spirit is in a body now," Phoenix said in an interview. As a female, "my spirit was just, like, homeless."
The 40-odd members of St. John's, who say they pride themselves in being the most accepting and inclusive Methodist church in Baltimore, said their minister's sex change was no big deal. They had some questions, which Phoenix answered in individual meetings, but no large theological hang-ups.
"It was like, 'OK, great, congratulations. You're living as God intended now, how wonderful,'" said Kara Ker, 33, a social worker and lifelong Methodist. "Every now and then people struggle with the pronouns, that's the biggest challenge."
But to some Methodists, Phoenix's ministry posed larger problems.
At a meeting of the Baltimore-Washington Conference last May, several pastors questioned whether the ministry should be open to transgendered people. . . .