A New Safe Space in Chicago, or “Service, space, and community? What a concept!”

Chicago House opens nation’s first transgender housing.

My hat is off to some really wonderful people in Chicago today. Chicago House has pulled out all the stops to set up a safe living space for at-risk trans people in the greater Chicago area called the TransLife Center. It’s part of a larger organization effort they’ve titled the TransLife Project to improve the lives of transgender individuals in Chicago. As many of you may know, housing security is a huge concern for transgender people, and we suffer from a much higher-than-average rate of homelessness. Although Chicago House is primarily a organization geared towards caring for those with HIV/AIDS, they have recently expanded their efforts with the trans community at the urging of activists within their troup. The TLC will be a space where trans people can live safely if they are need as they get on their feet (transitional housing), as well as get access to employment services and health care. I think this will be a huge boon to the community of Chicago.

I think it would be fantastic to see groups in other cities follow this model and make sure that vulnerable trans people do not fall through the cracks and end up on the street or worse. The rates of suicide and homicide for the transgender community are very high, and homelessness only increases those risks.

Kudos to you, Chicago House, for all your hard work!

GOP Move to Ban Rainbow Flag, or “Republicans will find any excuse to be a jerk to the queer community.”

Louisiana Republican Introduces Bill To Ban LGBT Rainbow Flag From Public Buildings | ThinkProgress.

Here we go again. A in Louisiana war veteran saw a picture of a Pride Flag being hoisted after the DOMA Supreme Court decision, and decided he was offended. This seemed so important to a Parish-Councilman that he decided to write legislation banning all “non-governmental” flags.

What really gets me here is that the GOP is trying to walk this back as “not against the gays.” But the words used by the offended veteran are:

 

I did not go overseas and fight for our country so that we could come back and be subject to something like that. Several of us feel that the flying of this flag is a poke in the eye of a way of life.

To me that reads of “I didn’t serve in the military and fight for our country to come back and have to see people being queer in public. Seeing that flag flying grosses us out.”

I have a great deal of respect for military personnel and the sacrifices they make. However, it doesn’t make your viewpoints any more valid or important than anyone else’s. People were hoisting the Pride Flag as a victory celebration for one of the biggest steps forward for our community in the history of this country. No other flags were taken down for the ceremony, and the Pride Flag wasn’t flown above any US flags.

Really, doesn’t Louisiana have more pressing issues than the Pride Flag? It sounds like just another excuse to kick dirt in the face of the LGBTQ community.

The Religious Right Kicks Trans People Again, or “Seriously, can you all just take your bigoted bullshit and fuck off now?”

Pastors argue against ‘transgender’ on human rights ordinance | News – Home.

I know this is just a lot of the same tired bullshit we hear again and again and again every time someone has the audacity to think that maybe trans people ought to be treated like human beings. But I feel it’s important to continually call this bullshit out and make it clear that it’s unacceptable and ensure that they are held accountable for their intolerant bigotry and hate-spreading.

Basically, the religious folks down in Miami-Dade are up in arms and spewing transphobic nonsense because the Miami-Dade County Commission would like to include gender identity in their human right ordinance. So, in essence, they don’t feel like transgender individuals are entitled to having their human rights protected.

From the article:

“Now you so confused you don’t know what you are that you’ve got to go — you’s a woman, you going into the men’s bathroom. You’s a man, you’re going into the women’s bathroom,” said Elder James Smith with the Apostolic Revival Center. “No, I don’t respect that.”

Sorry, Elder Smith, but I don’t respect using one’s religion and influence in the community to push narrow-minded hateful views on every around you. Despite what you might think, transgender people are ACTUALLY people, and we are deserving of equal treatment and protection under the law.

On the flip-side, I give some major points to the Miami-Dade County Commission for pushing forward with adding protections for trans people in their county! Way to go!

Some Horrible Science Journalism, or “You shouldn’t write about science and medicine if you don’t have a basic grasp for how science works.”

Autism May Start in The Gut, Study Finds – Autism Center – Everyday Health.

So basically, the above article is a pile of horseshit that completely perverts the study that was actually done. I’m absolutely disgusted and enraged reading it.

The basic finding of the ACTUAL research is that there a decrease in the diversity of intestinal flora in people on the autism spectrum, and the researchers believe that it may play a part in why autistics suffer from a lot gastrointestinal disturbances. What the article implies, however, is that somehow a change in intestinal flora is RESPONSIBLE and CAUSATIVE of the autism, and that perhaps by fixing this problem, we could cure autism. This is NEVER discussed by the researchers in their publication, and it doesn’t even make sense from a medical/science standpoint.

I have a lot anger and frustration at science journalism in the US, particularly when it comes to medical research. There is a constant tendency to over-read the research findings, draw false implications, and fail to understand the extremely basic premise that correlation does not equal causation. It’s a sensational form of journalism, and it’s wholly inappropriate for medical journalism. The public as a whole does not have the background to read the research itself, and when the data is sensationalized, you can create all kinds of public health scares and complications for the medical community.

But with autism, I think there’s an even bigger problem. Parents are often desperate for any explanation for why their children are autistic, and it’s already incredibly challenging to sift through the huge piles of information out there. Sadly, much of the information is misleading bordering on out-and-out falsified bullshit. Articles like this only add to that complication. And it really takes away from the fact that this IS a pretty major step forward. There are a number of unusual physical maladies that plague the ASD community, and GI problems are chief among them. If this research leads to a way to reduce just the GI problems that we have, that’s a wonderful thing and it will improve our lives. There’s no need to dig deep for false hope for some sort of miracle cure to come out of it.

When it come to science journalism, let’s stick to facts and appropriate conclusions and not twist the words of the researchers to fit the narrative you’re looking for.

More Violence Against Trans Women, or “Be careful, DC people!”

D.C. Police Investigate Two More Attacks On Transgender Women.

So there have been no less than six attacks in trans women in the DC area in the last two weeks. At least two of them were shot, and one sexually assaulted. It’s unclear if they are connected, or if it’s just a overall uptick in violence towards trans people. What it is, for sure, is scary and troubling.

What upsets me most is how little coverage situations like this get from the media. It’s a very real danger, and it’s completely ignored by most major outlets. So it’s up to us as a community to boost the signal, and make sure these stories get heard! It’s just as serious a crime to beat, stab, shoot, rape or rob a trans person, and it’s about time these crimes were treated that way.

Keep your heads up and your wits about you, DC people!

SB5 Rises from the Grave, or “Rick Perry really loves fetuses and hates women.”

Rick Perry Calls Second Special Session To Pass Abortion Restrictions.

Alright, so the title might be a little political hyperbole, but only just. After the heroic, body-wrecking filibuster of Sen. Wendy Davis prevented the passage of the insanely over-reaching Texas abortion legislation know as SB5, Governor Rick Perry is going to call the legislators back for ANOTHER special session and to try this again. Sadly, the law allows Perry to do this over and over again until he gets what he wants. In the end, SB5 will likely become law in Texas, because Gov. Rick seems to think trampling women’s rights and violating Roe v. Wade is more important fixing the myriad of problems in Texas.

My only hope is that enough voters in Texas are paying attention to this ridiculous sideshow, and might be willing to help throw these jerks out on their cans come election time.

A girl can dream, right?

But seriously, I think Wendy Davis has done a fantastic job of galvanizing women and progressives in Texas and it might be enough to get some changes down there.

And of course, there’s also the hope that the generally more sane Federal court system will quash this garbage before it has the chance to harm anyone.

Anyway, I still stand with Wendy, and her efforts on behalf of Texas women are to cheered as loudly as we can manage.

Texas SB5 is Dead, or “Wendy Davis -and all women- win, even after they tried to silence her.”

Texas Abortion Bill Filibustered By State Senator Wendy Davis Is Dead.

So yesterday I blogged about Wendy Davis’s incredible filibuster on the floor of the Texas State Senate to block the passage of sweeping abortion prohibitions in Texas. The entire thing was live-cast via YouTube and over 200,000 people were watching at one point, and the Twitter-verse was a buzz as the final hours clicked down to the midnight deadline for passage.

Just after 11:00pm central time, the presiding officer of Senate decided (wrongly and for the direct purpose of shutting her up, in my opinion) that Wendy had violated the rules of “germaineness” in her speech three times, and declared the end of the filibuster. A flurry of motions followed and extensive debate ensued on the nature of the rules of the Texas Senate, stretching the time down to the final 15 minutes. As the presiding officer attempted to call for a roll-call vote, the viewers in the gallery rose to their feet and created such a ruckus that the sheer noise prevented business from continuing. And they kept this up right through midnight, even as the Texas GOP tried to find a way around it. Eventually, a roll-call vote was taken, but it was announced this morning that it was officially recorded after the midnight deadline, and therefore invalid.

So despite the attempts of the Republicans to silence her, Wendy Davis won her battle yesterday, and the women of Texas retain their access to safe, legal abortions. Sadly, Gov. Rick Perry has signaled that he will yet-again call for a Special Session for the Senate to try to pass this bill. I can only hope that another brave Democrat will take to the floor, and that gallery is again packed with voices for women’s rights. Pay attention, Texas GOP. Those voices you hear in shouting at you from above are the people you represent.

I STILL Stand With Wendy!

A Day of Victory for Gay Marriage, or “Believe it or not, the Equal Protection clause applies to everyone, not just white, straight, cisgender people.”

DOMA ruled uncostitutional: Full Supreme Court opinion | WJLA.com.

Hollingsworth v. Parry (Prop 8) Full Text via HuffPo

So today was a big day for queer rights in the United States, but not quite as big of a day as we had hoped. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court broadly struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented federal recognition of otherwise legal same-sex marriages, as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. In a related matter, the Supreme Court found that a group of proponents of Proposition 8 in California (which overturned the legality of same-sex marriage in that state) did not have the legal standing to continue the appeal after the State refused to continue to defend the voter-approved initiative. The high court had the opportunity to make a wider ruling on overall legality of same-sex marriage, but chose a much narrower scope, as predicted by many court watchers.

So what does this all mean? Well, the biggest thing is means is that United State federal government will have to treat all marriages equally, no matter the genders of the couple. This means significant tax benefits, social security survivor benefits, military spouse benefits, and much more. I think it also puts some pressure on the states to re-examine their so called “Definition of Marriage” laws. For the majority opinion penned by Justice Kennedy:

DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency.

Kennedy’s entire opinion is very indicting of the entire concept of DOMA, and I cried several times while reading it. Not surprisingly, the conservative members of the Court were sour eggs on the entire thing, and the dissenting opinions reflect their continued homophobia. From Justice Alito’s dissent:

At present, no one—including social scientists, philosophers, and historians—can predict with any certainty what the long-term ramifications of widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage will be.

Alito is invoking the age-old- and completely unfounded- homophobic worries about the “dangers” that queer people pose to society at large. Scalia, ever the charmer, reinforces his protestations from Lawerence v Texas that laws may mandate “sexual norms” and makes the same tired comparison of same-sex marriage to polygamy:

As I have observed before, the Constitution does not forbid the government to enforce traditional moral and sexual norms. See Lawrence v.Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 599(2003) (SCALIA , J., dissenting). I will not swell the U. S. Reports with restatements of that point. It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol. 

There are many more gems like this sprinkled through all the dissents.

The case involving Prop 8 in California, Hollingsworth v Perry, is a much different beast. If you don’t remember, the legislators of the State of California approved same sex marriage several years ago. Then a pack of angry, well-funded Christian Right groups pushed forward with a referendum that forced a state-constitution amendment that banned gay marriage. The entire matter ended up in Federal district court, where the proposition was a struck down. At this point, the State decided to not pursue any appeals in the matter. However, the proponents of Prop 8 pushed on with the appeals in the State’s stead. Today, the Supreme Court rules that those proponents did not have any legal standing to do so, as they were not seeking remedy for any “personal and tangible harm.” So this means that gay marriage is once again legal in the state of California, but it’s broader implications are limited. In many ways, this is a punt by the Court. The one positive thing here, however, is that reinforces the notion that the angry Christian Right activists have absolutely no standing to force the courts to continue to consider appeals on any gay-marriage decisions if the States are no longer interested in defending their “one-man-one-woman” marriage laws.

Overall, today is definitely a day to celebrate a victory for queer rights in our country, and I’m overjoyed at the progress made today. However, we we still have MANY states where gay marriage remains illegal, and many places where LGBT discrimination remains perfectly legal. So, today may be a major battle win, but the war is far from over. Let’s carry this enthusiasm onwards and continue our push for equality for all!

 

The Bravery of Wendy Davis, or “One amazing woman has the guts to call the Texas GOP on their misogynistic bullshit.” [I Stand With Wendy!]

Badass Texas Senator Launches Intense Filibuster Against Abortion Bill.

So if you’re a feminist and you haven’t heard about SB5 in Texas, then you are probably living under a rock. But if you are just recently coming out of coma or something: the Republican legislators in Texas are attempting to push through sweep legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks (much like this bullshit legislation before Congress) and close all but 5 abortion providers in the state.

The measure has already gained passage in the state House, and it came to the state Senate floor today. One awesome and brave female state Senator has taken on the task of filibuster this horrific piece of legislation. Wendy Davis took the floor and as of the moment I’m posting is still standing strong. And Senator Davis isn’t just reading a phone book up there…she’s been actively destroying the “merits” of this legislation for the entire duration. She’s pulled apart the language, read court opinions, provided medical research, and shared the stories of dozens upon dozens of women.

Making this feat even more impressive are the particularly difficult rules governing filibusters in the Texas Senate. She must remain standing the entire time, without so much as leaning on the rostrum. She can take n breaks for food or the bathroom. The GOP has been looking for ways to force her off the floor, but she’s remained steadfast in her effort.

I am so blown away by Wendy Davis’s dedication to fighting for women’s right to control their bodies. I’m proud to declare her my hero of the month! If you’d like to share your story with her, you can tweet her @WendyDavisTexas or show your support by tweet with the hashtag #StandWithWendy.

A Victory for a Young Lady in Colorado, or “Really, are we STILL talking about where people can pee?”

via Rights Unit Finds Bias Against Transgender Student – NYTimes.com.

So, I am poking fun at the whole situation of the trans bathroom complicated in the title. But at the same time, as much as other people want to get up in arms about how dangerous and scary it is to have trans people in our public bathroom, all we really want is to void out bladders in relative safety with minimal hassle. I’ve already given some significant effort to discussing the trans bathroom “problem” elsewhere in the blog, but that article was driven primarily towards adults.

What’s going on here is some poor child is being forced to endure some very adult complications because of her gender identity. She’s six years old and was assigned a male gender at birth, but currently identifies as a girl. She presents as a girl and is identified as such at school. And some parents freaked out at the notion of her using the girls room and the school forced her to use a separate bathroom in the nurses office. Today, the Colorado civil rights division found that the district had discriminated against her, and ordered the school to allow her to use the girls bathroom.

Now, the challenges of appropriately handling children and students (particularly very young ones) who do not identify as their birth sex are numerous and complicated, and too much to cover in this particular post. I’ve sketched out some writing on that topic in particular that will be making an appearance as one of my usual biweekly essays some time in the coming weeks. But the important thing to point out is that the general consensus is that children should be allowed to explore their cross-gender feelings and/or identities as want, and that those who do are generally much healthier.

So I’m very happy for Coy that she can return to school and be comfortable being who she is. That’s a wonderful victory for her. But there’s language in the ruling that I think is important beyond just what it means for this brave little girl. From the article:

But the state’s ruling went even further, saying that evolving research on transgender development showed that “compartmentalizing a child as a boy or a girl solely based on their visible anatomy, is a simplistic approach to a difficult and complex issue.”

Depriving Coy of the acceptance that students need to succeed in school, Mr. Chavez wrote, “creates a barrier where none should exist, and entirely disregards the charging party’s gender identity.

This speaks to a significant level of research and understanding of the issues surrounding gender identity by the Colorado civil rights commission. And that’s huge. It means that at least in some places, the people in power are taking notice of trans issues and learning about the. And not just the basics, but actually developing an understanding of the deeper complexities of gender and gender identity. While Colorado is a relatively left-leaning state, it still gives me hope that this kind of though will continue to spread and genuinely improve the lives of trans people everywhere.

So my hat is off to the Colorado civil rights commission, and a big congratulations to brave miss Coy on her victory.