Our Transgender Community: #Calltoarms

It seems appropriate that, while discussing our Transgender community, we discuss the rights that LGBTQ have or do not have here in Cleveland. It is important to understand them in context to where we are and what we should be thinking about for the future. The current administration has shown us that they do not care for the LGBTQ community and are taking steps to reverse the progress we have made. Let me be clear in saying that we have made progress, but our fight is far from over.

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Ohio adopted its first sodomy law in 1885 in and four years changed it to include fellatio. This wasn’t removed from state law until 1972. Ohio was one of a few states that were already repealing their sodomy laws, however it was still considered a misdemeanor to express interest from one man to another. In 1979 the importuning law, expressing of interest romantic or sexual nature, as a misdemeanor was changed to read as an unwelcome or unsolicited interest by the Ohio Supreme Court based on the case State vs. Phipps. This wasn’t overturned until 2002 when the courts reported that the First and Fourteenth Amendments did not allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation in these cases. It wasn’t until June of 2003 that the United States Supreme Court ruled to remove all remaining sodomy laws from the states. These statutes were used to specifically target LGBTQ people.

Same sex marriage wasn’t passed until June 26, 2015 from the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges. Adoption and parenting for same sex couples is legal in the state of Ohio. In 1987, Ohio enacted In re Ladrach, which made it illegal for someone undergoing gender confirmation surgery to be able to change the gender on their birth certificate. Though it is perfectly legal for Transgender people to amend their driver’s license to reflect their gender identity. It wasn’t until March of this year (2018) that four Transgender Ohioans filed a suit against Ohio Department of Health to revoke In re Ladrach and to have their birth certificates re-issued with their correct gender. At the time of this filing, Ohio was one of three states that Transgender people were banned from amending their birth certificates.

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While Cleveland offers protection from discrimination based on race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, Ohio at large does not have any protection laws in place. Nor are their any hate crime laws in relations to sexual orientation or gender identity. Some State protection does come into play from Federal laws. There are no laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy  in Ohio. In 2015 a bill was introduced to prevent the usage of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors in Ohio by senator Charleta Tavares, however that bill died due to no legislative action. Since 2016 four Ohio cities (Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati) have enacted bans on conversion therapy. That’s right, Cleveland does not have any laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy.

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Conversions therapy suggests that it is possible to change the sexuality or gender identity of someone by using spiritual or psychology interventions. These are measures that took the place of things like institutionalization or castration to prevent homosexuality. They stem from a period in our no so distant history where it was believed that to be a LGBTQ was a mental illness that could be treated. Today they include things like electroconvulsive shock therapy. The Mormons use a version of this that combine audio/visual stimulation in conjunction with electroconvulsive shock therapy. There are electrodes connected to parts of your brain that monitor your reaction to the visual and audio cues they provide you. Essentially, if they show a young boy images of gay sex, two men kissing, of various other things that can trigger a response from someone who is gay, they are given large amounts of electric current. The mindset is that given enough of this kind of “treatment” your orientation would start to change. These types of interventions are nothing short of torture and are not quantifiable by any medical standard. None of these studies have shown to “cure” anyone of being LGBTQ. These therapies do more damage than help, causing feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety, which only creates larger issues needing more help. Suicide rates amongst LGBTQ or question youth is already horrible numbers to consider. LGBTQ and questioning youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 40% of Transgender adults have reported attempting suicide, of those 92% have attempted suicide before they turned 25. Numbers are often hard to quantify in these studies since more often than not, they are misreported or not known.

We cannot become complacent in our fight for our rights. We definitely should show support to Cleveland for what it offers, but at the same time we need to challenge for better situations. Ohio was home to one of the first cities (Toledo) to pass a ban on conversion therapy, we should push to be the first state to completely ban it. In December 2015, MTV.com reported that 77% of the LGBTQ population live in states where it is legal to conduct conversion therapy. We must #uniteandfight, let our voices be heard that we will not stand by and watch our community still be treated this way. We must get out there and vote every election to ensure people who support us are representing us and the changes we want made for out country. Make your voice matter and show them our votes do count. #votethemout

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Our Transgender Community: Transgender Teens

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Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlations to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes anymore from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

When it comes to talking about civil rights, we seem to always focus on groups that are similar to our point of view. We all are guilty of it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just normal. I do it when I write. I elected to talk and share stories of our Transgender Community, but I forgot that also includes adolescents and teenagers. What we forget are the struggles of those younger than us. We forget the LGBTQ teens and adolescence and the sad part is the statistics show this is where a large number of LGBTQ suicides come from. So we need to make sure we include those that are younger than us in our fights for rights.

July 13th of this year, BJ Colangelo did an article for Scene magazine about a Transgender teen who was denied the rights of a name change. For most adults it’s a fairly simple process, you go to court and petition for it to happen, they may require you to post to a newspaper of your name change, and then you show up for the actual date to make it happen. Stressful and scary, but easier that it was for an Ohio Transgender teen. And it isn’t just in Ohio.

15-year-old Elliot went with his parents to make his change, so that he would be ready for the simple things like a driver’s license and applying to colleges. He has already been to doctors and affirmed with his parents, who agreed with him, that this is what he truly wanted. They similarly thought this would just be a formality. What happened was far worse, Judge Kirby, who presides over Warren County, decided he knew better than Elliot, his parents and his doctors and that it was only a phase brought on by media and as such denied him his name change. At 15 the struggles of living as a teenager are hard enough. You have hormones, peer pressure, what will happen after graduation, finding and maintaining friendships, and just learning about whom you are physically and mentally. To come to a point where you have made a decision about who you are and have the support of those more important to you be ripped away from someone who thinks they know better can shatter your world.

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I admit that in my earlier years after coming out I was guilty of the mindset that kids and teenagers couldn’t understand the world full enough to make decisions about being a homosexual or transgender. Still dealing with changes and not fully understanding their place in the world. After meeting many kids who knew themselves much better than I am, I came to realize that revelations like this do not have an age criteria like some amusement park ride. How could I stand and tell someone that I am who I am because I was born this way and not validate someone else for that statement simply because they were much younger than I am.

During the whole process, Judge Kirby continued to refer to Elliot as “she” and calling Elliot by his “dead name.” Even though he later mentioned that he understood that using improper pronouns can be offensive to the transgender community.

           

“Whether [the teen] is experiencing gender dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal,” Kirby wrote in his decision. “Is [the teen’s] distress brought about by confusion, peer pressure, or other non-transgender issues – or is it truly mismatch between her gender identity and her body.”

The journey that Elliot and his family went through to get to the point of wanting the name change was simply tossed aside by a judge who thought he knew better than Elliot, his parents, or his doctors. This is a reaction that is all too often the normal. Elliot and his parents are in the process of appealing this decision with help of LGBTQ attorney Josh Langdon.

“This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that Elliot and his family are treated with dignity and respect. We hope the 12th District Court of Appeals moves quickly to overturn Judge Kirby’s decision to put transgender children on trial.”

Judge Kirby told Elliot and his family to ask again “once you become an adult.” In his footnotes of the case he wrote “Age, Develop, Mature. The court was cited saying that they are not saying ‘no’ to the name change, ‘just not yet’. Elliot at least had the support of his parents.

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Photo Credit to Ginger from her interview

In 2014 Leelah Alcorn of Warren County committed suicide and was reported she was being forced to go through conversion therapy. Leelah was 17 and left a note stating simply “I’ve had enough.” She had reached out to friends and transgender suicide hotline for help. At 14, she was already experiencing problems with her family accepting her for who she identified as, so she turned to friends for her support. She struggled with accepting who she felt she was and what her family wanted her to be.  She wanted her struggles to be a catalyst for progression for Transgender rights.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in a post on her Tumblr account.

She left a message to her parents stating “you can’t just control other people like that.” Even in death, her family refused to acknowledge her. There are no statistics on how transgender suicide, since it is not always known or accurately reported. However, in 2010 it was reported that 41% of 7000 transgender people had attempted suicide.

This, all too often, goes unnoticed by our community in Cleveland. We forget that many of the rights we have, here in our city, do not translate to our municipalities in Ohio. And these incidents are far too common throughout our great nation. This is why we need to #uniteandfight, stand together with our community to ensure that all civil rights are ours. And that no one should have to suffer these kinds of indignities.

We have to realize that we are the stewards for the future LGBTQ people. We need to lay the appropriate groundwork to give them a better place than what we are leaving. We have to ask ourselves if our mindset is holding back progress and if so how can we change it. You don’t have to agree with everyone, you just have to realize that his or her lives aren’t your journey. Advocacy is about realizing the cause or person is the right thing to fight for, not necessarily being the person who needs the cause. Are you being the best possible steward for the future?

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Our Transgender Community

Something that I have only briefly touched on in my blog is Transgender issues. Not being trans, it isn’t something that I can write effectively on or give it the proper respect it requires. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be giving space to the people in our community to share their stories and letting their voices be heard. It is important, as it is for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, for them to be seen and heard, for people to realize that their lives more than likely already touch someone. So I have wanted to make people aware that there are far more Transgender men and women here among us, especially in Cleveland

Already with the current administration, we have seen the stripping of so many rights of LGBTQ people. Transgender people are now not allowed to serve openly in the military, unless they were already in and, as the government quantifies it, “stable.” Many states are picking us legislature that will force teachers and doctors to disclose to parents if any of the children they support identify as transgender. States are slowly revoking bills that were in place that would prevent discrimination of varying sorts, including gender-neutral bathrooms, protection of employment status, and simply hate crime laws. Even locally we have seen crimes committed against the transgender community misreported as cisgender crimes.

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Recently, in London LGBTQ Pride we have seen representations of our own community committing acts of protest against the Transgender Community. Radical feminist groups are protesting that the only real women are the ones born as a woman with the XY chromosome, pushing forward binary concepts of gender. Many have taken to labeling these radicals as TERFs (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism). This mindset is not indicative of the Feminist movement, but a more smaller radical side.

Also recently, the controversy over Scarlett Johansson being offered a transgender role in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug instead of a Transgender actor. There are 70 transgender actors, currently, in Hollywood and most transgender roles go to cisgender actors. Transgender actors have said that when they come to these auditions, they are told they are too passable to play a role. How does one get labeled too passable to play a role about a transgender person? Scarlett Johansson was quoted as saying “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.” Still strides need to be taken to ensure proper casting for the future. This is also an issue that still plagues Native American actors, to this day. Clearly Hollywood and civil rights haven’t progressed.

This will be their space to share the struggles and triumphs they face in their lives. A place to speak unfiltered, share without judgement, and be who they truly are.It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration and these types of views before we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share some their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

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Shock and Awe

This title recalls the Bush era of going to war in the Middle East where he said he would give them Shock and Awe. Its seems this current president has gone to war with the LGBTQ people of this country with his own brand of shock and awe.  Daily we see how our rights are changing and the horizon looks more dark that hues of rainbows. The Goose stepping Government Goons are determined to hit us as much as they can. One right, as of yet, they can’t seem to refuse is that of LGBTQ rights to marry. Because of this, he and his anti-LGBTQ cabinet are targeting everything they can.

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In the two plus short years he has been in office he has overturned or put into place so many hate filled vitriol pieces of legislation. He has enacted a ban on Transgender People from being allowed in the military. He has judicial nominees that are fully against any further LGBTQ legislation set to be pulled into their positions or already have been. These officials are poised to remove any protections LGBTQ workers may have. He has rescinded a right of all K-12 students that are Transgender their basic civil liberties and are now forcing teachers and doctors to tell their parents, if they do not already know. He has rescinded another memo from the Obama era granting protection to Trans workers from being fired. He is allowing and siding with business after business the right to discriminate based solely on being LGBTQ, whether it is workers or patrons. He even argues that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal, as the Federal Civil Rights act doesn’t include LGBTQ people. He has allowed The Department of Health and Human Services to enact new regulationsand created an agency, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, that will purportedly work to ensure health care providers’ religious liberties aren’t violated, which essentially gives protection to health care provider the ability to deny giving care to LGBTQ patients. He also fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without an explanation; this came before recent news that shows he is allowing the Ryan White Fund to be drained to support his Child internment camps. He refuses to recognize June as LGBTQ pride month, a month that holds historical significance for our community in its fights for rights. And as of yesterday, the House of Representative passed a bill that will allow adoption agency to deny, legally, any LGBTQ couple from adopting children and provides no recourse if the Federal government chooses to step in and impose fine to those state agencies denying those couples a chance to adopt.

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This, my friends, is the same person who stood up and held a Pride Flag claiming that he was a friend to the LGBTQ community and that he would fight for our civil liberties. And many people bought into this line that he tried selling us, like so many others. Here we are on the precipice of change, yet again. This time we are witnessing 50 years of struggle being washed away and many times without the public even realizing that it is happening until it is done.

Recently, long time activist Larry Kramer was quoted saying “For Gays, the worst is yet to come. Again.” The article he wrote for the New York Times states how we do not have the activists and leaders our cause once had. It almost seems we laxed into a time of complacency because of the progress we thought we were making. I feel we were to easily riding the wave of feeling good. I remember in 1999 when my lover asked me to marry him and he was making plans for us to fly to Hawaii to get married, since at the time it was legal. I never thought it would last. I doubted we would ever get some of the rights that we did in the last 20 years. When it happened I was in awe about it and thinking we are on our way to finally being treated as an equal.

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On this day, as I look forward and backward, I grimly see that we were only on a step stool that has quickly been pulled from us like a childish prank. The generation of LGBTQs that grew up with it being legal to get married, adopt and safe from losing your home and job for being who you are now have woken up to realize that this dream is fading. It is to them we must look for our next leaders and activists. We must be there to offer them strength.  Strength because they didn’t witness what happened to us in the recent past. Pride month may be over and our rights may be diminishing, but we must remain strong in the pride of who we are. We must Unite and Fight to take back that progress and push it to new heights. We must show the oppressors that we will not settle for going back to the shadows and closets we have already burst forth from. We will fight every inch for what is ours, we will fight with our very lives if it is necessary. #RiseandResist

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

You have the right to what, exactly?!?

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LGBTQ rights are always a slippery slope. Since the first fights at Stonewall Inn in 1969 till this very day, we have fought and clawed to have the views of us changed from degenerates with mental illness to being treated as real people. We always get one small step forward while being pushed back two steps. We considered it a major win during the Obama administration when first, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed and then when DOMA was defeated. I still pause and wonder if we should have made the focus about the right to get married. That, however, is a subject for another post.

Today, while flipping through Facebook, I was treated by an article touting that the Trump Administration is in support of employers being able to fire people due to being gay. Granted, living in Ohio that was something that was still legal for the state to do. This is purely outrageous A case, currently under investigation, involving Donald Zarda says he was fired from him job for being gay. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was on his side and quickly they found out that the DOJ (Department of Justice) was arguing that his employer, Altitude Express was within their rights to fire him based on Title VII

Are you familiar with Title VII, maybe not? Even as someone who has been a manager in retail for a long time, it wasn’t a Title I knew. Title VII says employers under Title VII are permitted to consider employees ‘out of work sexual conduct in regards to their employment. In this case, DOJ lawyer, Hashim Mooppan stats that “there is a common sense, intuitive difference between sex and sexual orientation.” Basically meaning, it’s ok to be gay as long as you aren’t having sex with your same sex partner. Essentially coming down to the fact of applying different roles based on gender. This can also affect Transgender People, since gender is the focus here. More about this can be found here Department of Justice says rights law doesn’t support LGBTQ

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This is majorly important since this statement came days after Trump’s tweet that stated Transgender People will be banned from serving in the military. This basically starts undermining LGBTQ rights we have won from previous administrations. As the administration has moved along in the President’s term, he has worked to rewrite language of legislation to omit LGBTQ from it and first of it being with healthcare. Being a child of the 80s, I fully remember the stigma and fear surrounding AIDS patients and LGBT health. Doctors refusing to assist patients for fear of catching AIDS. Not treating LGBT members just out of fear, in general.

Roger Severino, an appointee of the Trump administration for health department civil rights official has said “Same-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda, the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.” This is the mindset of people who are currently making decisions in this government. We are allowing it due to our own complacency. This is why your right to vote is so important, if you aren’t voting you are assisting.

Fighting for our rights is essential. If we acquiesce to this now, other minorities will start to feel it as well. You can already see the seeds of it in the Trump America. Racial hostility is on the rise. Families torn apart when they only come to seek asylum from their tyrannical governments, only to end up in this one. Enter Rise and Resist, the modern incarnation of what ACT UP was for the 80s. Using Civil Disobedience to fight back. Rise and Resist is “a direct action group made up of both new and experienced activists committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties. We work collaboratively, creatively, respectfully, and with all the joy we can muster for the health of the people and the planet.”

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Not everyone feel comfortable joining this type of group, but there are still things you can do. Contact your elected officials about any law you feel strongly about. Let them know you have a voice and opinion about how you are treated let them know your support. Don’t just do it once, do it often. Make an impression and be heard. If you aren’t registered to vote, change that by going to Register to Vote and then get out there and vote. Vote in every election, about every bill that means something to you. Know the ballot, who stands for what, what bill effects you and how. Get educated and get empowered to make a change. Let your family know your feelings and get them to vote with you.

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