Monday, April 28, 2008


It's not PC, Words DO Matter

Ever notice that when someone wishes to demean or lessen when they write, they will put certain words into quote marks or use the word so-called prior to a word? I have seen people such as myself described as a person who believes they are "transgender" (c'mon now, quotes aren't necessary). And I have seen us referred to as so-called transgenders. Its not IS transgender. I'll admit, I'm probably guilty of using the quote marks, but I have avoided the use of so-called.

I wrote a couple of days ago about the quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church which is meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. The issue of how the UMC will incorporate transgender people into the life of the church and ministry is on everyone's radar - the ministry of the Rev. Drew Phoenix is at stake.

While I would certainly like the UMC to fully accept people like me and accept transgender ministers fully and equally - like what the United Church of Christ did in 2003 - it is clearly up to them to make that determination. And I'll continue to say that it truly doesn't matter to me, what does matter is making a decision. Accept me or don't, then I will know whether I could ever join a UMC congregation or not. I am perfectly fine with that.

However, I would have hoped that the discussion, especially within a well respected, Christian denomination, been a little less demeaning and debasing. Some of the petitions entered refer to such things as "treatment" (in quotes as though the appropriate care ascribed and discerned by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health is mystical hokum), reference genital reassignment surgery as "mutilation" (my quotation marks as a citation only) and state "so-called Gender Identity Disorder". Well, it ISN'T "so-called", it IS Gender Identity Disorder.

I don't know what protocols, procedures or rules exist within the UMC regarding the content and submission of the petitions considered at General Conference, but I truly don't believe the referenda need to be demeaning, diminishing or debasing in tone. That is clearly inappropriate and, I would suggest, not Christian in attitude. A simply worded declaration - one way or the other - is certainly sufficient.

As I write this, my understanding is that the petitions to which I most object have received a "do not pass" recommendation from the committee considering the initiative. Those petitions, with the "do not pass" notation, will be forwarded onto the main plenary later this week.

I'll pray the floor debate will be more civil and honorable.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thomas Beatie and the FLDS

A Tale of Two Pregnancies

To this point, I've not commented on this blog about the pregnancy of Thomas Beatie, the transman from Bend, Oregon whose story became most public this past month. I did share my thoughts with the local newspaper - the link to that story is (mysteriously?) broken. And yes, I was probably surprised as anyone when I first saw the cover of "The Advocate". My first instinctive reaction, in all honesty, was "uh, oh...this can't be good for us". Shame on me. Thomas and his wife are expecting a child soon - good for them, and I'm prayerful for a healthy child - and there is no reason to expect anything else. In the article that we can't reference, Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said that many people go to extraordinary means to have children - as such, this is nothing different, nor unusual.

He's right. Fertility drugs, in-vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers, sperm donation...there are any number of "different" paths to helping us have children. I remember all the "jokes" (they really weren't funny) about the early "test tube" babies. Fortunately we don't hear those any more. Unfortunately, I have seen and heard some incredibly brutal comments about Thomas and the expected newborn. And given the intended theme of this blog, many have come from "religious" voices.

But those same "religious" voices are amazingly silent regarding the situation with the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints near San Angelo, Texas. The children from their cloistered community have been removed for allegations of child abuse. It is said that many girls have been "forced" or "coerced" into "spiritual marriages" with much older men and that many, perhaps as young as 13, have become pregnant. Why are the alleged abuses of these children not being condemned as Thomas as been.

Go ahead. Google them (I won't post links). Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, Peter Labarbera, Traditional Values Coalition, Donald know who they all are. Take a look, see if you can find anything regarding the FLDS children at these places. I'll wait.

Ding! Time's up.

Nothing. Nary a word about what may very well be a "faith-based" organized child abuse cult. Why is Thomas' pregnancy - one that from all indications is from a caring relationship - to be condemned while the pregnancies of young girls - which may be the result of an abusive relationship - not be condemned?

Maybe it's because that, according to some scholars, the Virgin Mary may herself been in her early teens - perhaps as young as some of the FLDS children. Certainly it was a different culture in her time, and human life expectations were decidedly different. Today's "age of consent" may not have been practical or appropriate then, while today it is considered necessary. But are the present day religioso silent because to condemn the FLDS is to thusly condemn the Mother of the Savior?

Let me also be fair. Google GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. They monitor media accounts of GLB and ostensibly T peoples and issues and offer criticism to those who demonstrate homophobic or transphobic commentary or portrayals. Search their site for "Thomas Beatie". Nothing. And the hostile media has had a field day at Thomas' expense.

Dear Thomas - I wish you and your family all the best. And there are those of us willing to offer our love and support publicly. Peace be with you and your family dear brother.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Matter of Trust

The Lesson of Lucy and the Football

Most everyone is familiar with the wonderful humor and perspective of Charles Schulz and the Peanuts Gang. One running story throughout the lifetime of the strip was Lucy enticing Charlie Brown into kicking the football as she held it in a teed-up position. Then, as he came rushing at the place of impact, she would pull the football away, Charlie Brown would miss wildly and plop onto the ground. In all those years, Lucy was able to get Charlie to bite.

I'm back to politics today with news that the Human Righ*s Campaign (there is no "T" in HRC) is unveiling several initiatives on behalf of transpeople. At first glance, all seem noble, worthwhile and needed. And yet....."Aaugh!"....

I was new to all this as the ENDA battle developed this past fall. Frankly, I didn't know who HRC was until a couple of years ago - possibly due to my ignorance, possibly due to their fuzzy marketing - and while I'd heard rumbles about pensive past relations, I was more than willing to see what happened. "Aaugh!". The football got yanked away....again. As I became more aware of the history of HRC and the Trans Community, I began to see what others had been hinting - or flat out stating - for most of the year leading up to the abandonment on ENDA.

This is from a press release/letter from Joe Solmonese. Is he Lucy? Am I Charlie Brown?

I am so proud to include this new resource as part of all HRC’s efforts of behalf of transgender equality. HRC continues to pursue work across the organization to educate policy leaders and the public on the need for gender identity protections. Examples of this work include:

  • The addition of two new transgender voices to the HRC Business Council;
  • Creating and growing the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, made up of over 50 leading companies in Corporate America signing on in support of federal legislation for gender identity protections;
  • Working with a coalition to develop hearings this spring in the U.S. House of Representatives around transgender discrimination in the workplace and the need for gender identity protections;
  • A March Lobby Day during which over 200 HRC members gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with key Members of Congress urging support for a fully inclusive ENDA;
  • Publishing “All Children All Families,” a guidebook to train adoption and foster parent agencies on placement of children with transgender parents and families, as well as gay, lesbian, and bisexual families;
  • Developing a “Welcoming Schools” curriculum currently being implemented in three school districts across the country that helps educators understand the harms of gender stereotyping and ways to support gender variant students;
  • Forthcoming Healthcare Equality Index which specifically rates hospitals on their sensitivity and training towards transgender patients and employees.
  • Mobilizing communities of faith to do transgender education in the 40 targeted congressional districts.

This is but a sketch of all the work on transgender issues HRC has done and will continue to do. I will keep you all updated as we continue to roll out our groundbreaking efforts.

You know how I feel? Patronized. This is coming off like they know best. In fact, that has been Joe's essential mantra regarding the ENDA issue....."I know better". I am actually hoping the faith initiative DOESN'T come to my area as it will cause some incredibly conflicted emotions for me.

Note - "two new members" to the Business Council. Not mentioned...two "replacements" for losing Donna Rose and Jamison Green - two outstanding advocates - from the Business Council who resigned in protest...and pride.

Note - the March Lobby Day with over 200 joining in. The National Center for Transgender Equality was able to generate that many transpeople for a separate lobby day this month. And they were all transgenders - HRC doesn't mention their population.

Note - Healthcare Equality Index. How about requiring employers in the HRC Equality Index to FULLY cover transgender health needs. Currently a company can earn a 100% rating by providing just ONE "benefit" - covering counseling, OR covering hormones, OR covering "medical visits to monitor the effects of hormones and other associated lab procedures", OR covering "medically necessary surgical procedures such as hysterectomy (note they DON'T mention Genital Reassignment Surgery), OR short term disability to accommodate surgery, OR diversity training regarding gender identity issues OR has supportive gender transition guidelines.

Show us how "incrementalism" can work....make it TWO of these - and I'm certainly being sarcastic with that comment.

You know what I'd like most though? An apology. A simple acknowledgment that what happened this fall was wrong, that HRC "gets it" now and lets move on together. Until I see that apology, this will all feel like I'm being patronized and that the football will, as always, be yanked away.

No Lucy, uh Joe...Not this time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hope? I'll Hope

The Methodists Meet

The United Methodist Church begins its quadrennial General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas this week. Its called "A Future With Hope". I'll offer Hope for the future of transgender inclusion, but in all honesty, I'm not optimistic.

It will be at this conference that the fate of the Rev. Drew Phoenix of St. John's UMC in Baltimore, Maryland. When Drew transitioned, his own congregation was completely supportive, but the situation caused some dyspepsia with others in the UMC. The local leadership determined that there was nothing in the UMC laws that prohibited appropriate gender transformation. The church does not ordain gays or lesbians who are involved in active relationships. But like most, they'd never considered transgenders.

So what's going to happen? Since the UMC didn't have a rule that would defrock Rev. Phoenix, there will be an intense effort to create the rule at this convention that would do just that. And then, my guess, it would be retroactively applied to Rev. Phoenix. This is likely to mirror somewhat the actions involved in the case of Jimmy Creech, who now leads Faith in America. Creech, then an ordained UMC minister, openly performed same-sex relationship wedding services. The first time he did so, many in the UMC condemned his actions, but it became known he had not violated any rule in the UMC's Book of Discipline. So at the next General Conference, the UMC adopted a prohibition of these services. Creech disobeyed and continued to courageously be a true minister to his entire congregation. And he was defrocked.

The conference lasts nearly two weeks, so the fate of Rev. Phoenix may take awhile, but given the history of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors", I'm not terribly optimistic about "A Future with Hope" for transgenders in the UMC tradition. And, if you've read my essays on Scriptural references about transgenders, it will be most intriguing to see how (assuming the "if" here) the UMC Scripturally justifies its action.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Houston's Finest

A Matter of Security?

These six mounted officers are members of the Houston, Texas Police Department.
Are they:

A.) Stationed for an Obama or Clinton or McCain political rally?
B.) Preparing for participation in a community parade?
C.) Catching a nap (maybe the guy on the right)?
D.) Protecting area members of the Human Righ*s Campaign from "terrorist" transgenders.

Yep, believe it or not - the riot police were summoned by HRC to "protect" themselves from a protest of mostly transgender women and men who continue to be angered with the organizations actions last fall with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. For the record, HRC supported dumping transgenders out of the bill, despite a pledge only days before by HRC President Joe Solmonese to the annual Southern Comfort gathering of transpeople in Atlanta, GA to support a "fully inclusive" ENDA only.

And HRC continues to defend its action and promises to do it again should a non-inclusive ENDA gain any glint of the light of day in the Senate this year.

Phyllis Frye is a Houston attorney and eminently regarded member of the transgender community. She was a guiding force behind the Houston protest. Imagine her surprise when days before the event, the Houston Police Department paid her a call. Any other transperson might have been easily intimidated, but not Phyllis and a few others who managed to exercise their First Amendment rights none-the-less. Now, at no time were any threats made. At no time were any disruptive actions contemplated. But HRC needed the mounted police for "security".

We've had much less security at our local Pride celebration each year - and we're right down the street from world-renowned loose screw Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church. And despite their horrific messages and rants and protests - I think I'd actually feel safer in their presence (at least they are smart enough not to physically assault someone - though they'd love for you to do that to them!) - than I would the Mounted Patrol of the Houston Police. The history of transgenders and law enforcement is rife with atrocities. And HRC knows that.

Shame on them.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another Faith Experience

An Afternoon with Gaia

For someone who steadfastly avoided any faith path whatsoever for so many years, I sure have been busy catching up ever since arriving in Kansas City in the summer of 2005. My home church, Country Club Congregational, is a member of the United Church of Christ. But its not the only place I've enjoyed service or fellowship. I have attended service at Abiding Peace Lutheran (ELCA), Broadway Church (American Baptist), Epworth-Roanoke Methodist (UMC), Colonial Church of Prairie Village (UCC) and twice attended the summer retreat with GALA (Gays and Lesbians Acceptance) with Community of Christ.

This weekend was yet another experience - the Gaia Community, a specific group within Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist. I was invited to offer my Transgender Awareness presentation as they are in the process of becoming an officially declared Welcoming Congregation within the UU tradition. Gaia celebrates an Earth-oriented faith that is what is termed "neo-pagan". They are polytheistic, but adopt a patron deity for each new year. They were in the early stages of that determination process as I joined them. I was intrigued by the 20 or so small jars set out on a table each with its own name affixed as a label. Members then were to place coins into the jar or jars of those they preferred. The process will winnow a few from this week and continue until they have made the final choice. I found it an interesting way to make your sentiments known, but also serve as a fundraiser for the group.

The presentation was well-received and the members were both engaged and engaging. I had a wonderful time talking and interacting with these most peaceful souls. And this day was more class than service. But at the end of our afternoon, all rose and joined hands forming a circle. Then a concluding message is shared. I was touched by the dual genderedness of the sonnet:

"By the Earth that is Her body,
And the grove that is His home,
By the Air that is Her breath,
And the music of His song,
By the Fire of Her bright spirit,
And the heat of His passion,
By the Waters of Her living womb,
And the dew that is His tears,
The Circle is open, but unbroken.
May the peace of the Goddess go in our hearts,
And the dance of the God enliven our days.
And may we care for the Earth and each other,
Because our lives depend on it.
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again!"

Many transgender women in particular pursue the neo-pagan traditions - Gaia, Wicca, Celtic mysticism, Native American spirituality. My sense is that these beliefs are all very empowering toward women. As a male-to-female proceeds to their desired self, they are, essentially, empowering their womanhood. It is sad, in my opinion, that many within the Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - often purport or condone less than affirming tenets regarding women. Women can't be ministers, rabbis or imams. Women must be subservient to men. Women are to be denied a voice or a vote.

The purpose of this blog is to connect the Transgender and Faith communities. I don't believe Christianity has a monopoly on those choices.

My thanks for their hospitality and warmth. My best wishes for their pursuit as an officially Welcoming Congregation of the Unitarian Universalists. And my journey continues....

Friday, April 4, 2008

This is Easy!

Dear Barney and Ted

The title of this entry is the words of Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser prior to the Kansas City City Council voting on an ordinance amendment to include Gender Identity and Expression into the city's anti-discrimination laws. "This is Easy!". Oh my goodness, for it sure hasn't seemed that way in other places of this country and certainly not in Congress where transgenders were tossed out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last fall by Rep. Barney Frank. Sen. Ted Kennedy has already pledged to push a No-T ENDA in the Senate.

And the vote on the local ordinance was Unanimous!!!

I will publicly offer my sincere thanks and enduring support to City Councilor Beth Gottstein, who in her first term in public office, spearheaded this effort with her colleagues. What was amazing is that she did so in such matter of fact manner that when it was formally put on the city's agenda, it came as a complete surprise to the transgender community, it became known just last Friday. I was honored to provide testimony before the committee that considered the measure on Wednesday. On Thursday...the very next day...the full council passed the resolution. To say this has been an incredibly emotional week is an understatement. I am still dizzy and giddy with what occurred here.

I was born and raised an Oregonian. I have always been proud to be an Oregonian. Today I am most proud to be a Kansas Citian.

So, Dear Barney and Ted....why is this such a challenging issue for you and Congress? Here we are in the Bible Belt and a caring individual at the very beginning of what I hope is a long career in public service has been able to stand up for the transgender community with such courage and incredible ease. "This is Easy" said the Mayor.