Make Our Time Work Again!
Bathroom bills are on the march across the United States. Most of the states pursuing these “bathroom bills” are based in the South or Midwest of the country. However, they may not be exclusive to these areas. Either way, it is very disconcerting.
The gist of the “bathroom bills” is a ploy to allow discrimination against LGBTIQ based upon an exercise of “religious freedom”, “privacy issues”, and imaginary “safety issues”. Most are sponsored by organizations that are virulently intolerant of anyone who is perceived as “not straight.” Religion might be in their name, but it is historical patriarchal mechanisms which they are really supporting. Thus, it is a structure that cannot tolerate any threat to loss of power or influence at it’s core. This structure must constantly renew itself through immersion of people (aka students) into its values. One way to do that is to engender fear and suspicion in the community (aka school) of anyone who is different.
This brings us to the issue of lawsuits and bathroom use for transfolk who are school-aged students, especially for middle and high school. It brings up issues of support, rights, and safety, not only for the trans student, but for all students of every stripe, color, creed, race, gender, and orientation by restricting a student due to a trait or feature about said student(s). Hence, it can be the beginning of a long and winding road of discrimination of class(es) of people.
One particular lawsuit in Virginia is winding its way to a possible Supreme Court showdown. It is one in which there is a strong likelihood that the suit will be returned to the states due to the new Trump administration and their penchant for “traditional values”.
I don’t want to be a wet-noodle or a Debby Downer, but the efforts to secure a right to use the bathroom matching one’s gender identity is about to go on pause for a while in some states, and that would likely include Virginia.
I’m an old transwoman of over 20 years. I also counsel as an MFT those who are closeted or keeping secrets, or in an inquiry into their identity. These are not easy things to address.
Suing in federal court to identify a “right” to not be discriminated due to gender identity has moved forward by linking such suits to Title IX clauses prohibiting sex discrimination. This linkage is thanks to the Obama administration creating rules with executive orders which altered the interpretation of sex to include gender identity. A very logical and appropriate development, in my view. But, forgive the pun, this area of law is still quite fluid.
However, with this new Trump administration I believe it is extremely likely that these rules will be removed. In that case, pursuing nondiscrimination based upon gender identity does not necessarily have federal backing. And that means these battles against discrimination will return to the state level.
A law professor of mine once said, regarding suing for discrimination, that if you file suit, you better win. Because if you don’t win, you’ll not only be hurting yourself, but the entire class of people just like you.
Tread carefully. Work with the school districts to avoid going to court unless it is absolutely necessary. Consider accepting a compromise that does not demean, shame, or invoke suffering, especially if the motive of the school district is really about doing their best to protect and respect the trans student, as well as deal with other parents who act out of fears, not facts. Most of all stay safe.
Or as my father used to tell me, “It might be YOUR right. But don’t be DEAD right.” Good advice.
20 years ago when I came out, facing myself, and facing others, I made compromises in order to survive. There were no laws protecting Transfolk from any kind of discrimination. In order to allay others’ fears. In order to keep my job. In order to have a place to live. And in time people came around and wondered what all the fuss was about. I don’t want any of us to go back in time. But I don’t want anyone hurt, injured or killed either.
Lastly, do not take this as surrender or appeasement. One must pick their battles while also maintaining their ability to function in the greater society. It is sometimes a long and slow trudging process. Moving forward is often done in small steps, through being real and allowing people to know you, and you getting your message out there in how you live your life, and how you speak about your life.
The U.S. presidential election stunned a lot of my friends. It stunned me. There was no way I could see an openly xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic candidate actually being elected the President of the United States. Indeed, that is exactly what has happened. It is a small salve, to me, that he did not win the popular vote. But it is equally sobering that the vote shows a very polarized nation. And now we have to wait and see what happens, like the rest of the world.
I pondered this election for many a sleepless night and have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you. I’ve been voting since 1972. I’ve watched a lot of elections. I actually remember elections as far back as Johnson vs. Goldwater in ’64. But this has been one of the craziest elections I’ve ever seen. Being an armchair amateur of U.S. politics and elections, I will attempt to write about what I see, in retrospect, that might help explain what we’ve all just witnessed. Perhaps it will bring solace and hope. Perhaps not. Either way, take it with a grain of salt.
Without further adieu, here are my thoughts:
And here we are.
Hillary, who makes more in a speech than I do in several years, trying to convince voters, and the working class, that she cares about them. I believe she does. But her ties to corporate influence, celebrities, and rich folk appeared more important than issues of the working class.
Obama tried. But he too was consumed by his own “celebrity” status and loved coming to my city, Los Angeles, for fundraisers. Gawd, he and Hillary and myriad other Democratic leaders flew in to L.A. so often to raise money from the rich and famous that it became a running joke every time traffic was jammed on the 405 freeway!
Would that they had spent more time flying in to Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, and Ohio to commiserate with the working class as often as they went to fundraisers. Just to let them know they care and they are trying.
I’m sure Democratic leadership cares. But then again, I think Republican leadership cares. But I’m also sure they didn’t try very hard to address the issues of the working class.
To me that’s the lesson. Jettison the corporate fundraising, the corporate approach to influence, and get back to your roots, the Working Class, now!
If not, we’re all in for a very rough ride from a charlatan who took advantage of human suffering without having a lick of sense on how to alleviate it.
But hope is not lost. Perseverance and patience are the order of the day. Human kindness is still the biggest salve on the planet for bettering ourselves and resolving issues. Don’t forget, behind all these phobias that are now being expressed; behind the bullying and the hate speech are people who are basically fearful, not knowing their place in society, and in the future. They’d rather “burn it down” than face an unknown future. That’s what they’ve told us, in my opinion. Give them hope. Give them an economy that does allow them to provide for themselves and those they love. And, finally, give them compassion even when it is very difficult to do so. It is our only way forward.
(Clarification: I am not a member of any political party)
What is “bad faith” in matters of equality [and stereotypes]
“…it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner. Nonetheless, I doubt that any of us who does so is totally without the knowledge that something is wrong.
This great, fuzzy area of human ingenuity is what Jean Paul Sartre calls “bad faith.” When spelled out the techniques use to maintain bad faith look morally atrocious and appallingly silly. That is because they are morally atrocious and appallingly silly. But this only shows when one spells them out, i.e., becomes aware of them. Hence this one effort among many to do just that.”
Russ, J. (1984) How to Suppress Women’s Writing, London: The Women’s Press.
“I saw the Blue Angels fly when I was a young kid,” Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins said. “I was definitely inspired by that.”
Higgins is a third-generation military aviator and the first female pilot in the team’s 69-year history.
“My dad was an A-7 pilot initially, and then he transferred to the F-18 Hornet, which is actually out here on the line,” Higgins said. “It’s a great family legacy to have, that’s for sure.”
Now, she’s providing the inspiration.
“I think by including a lady on the team, that just shows little girls and guys that women can do whatever they put their mind to,” Higgins said. “Little girls have told me that they didn’t even know that ladies could fly aircraft, that women could be in the cockpit.”
They’ve been in American military cockpits for more than 20 years, but it’s taken this long for a woman to become part of the Blue Angels team.
“We do a very thorough interview where they get to know each one of us and find the right person for the team next year, and so it just so happened that they haven’t had a female pilot that has fit quite perfectly,” Higgins said.
Capt. Tom Frosch is the commander of the Blue Angels and said, “it’s not that we weren’t ready, we were just looking for the right person.”
He was one of 17 officers that voted Higgins onto the team and said they haven’t had any challenges integrating a female pilot into the unit.
“Any female can fly any aircraft in our inventory,” he said.
For more about Captain Katie Higgins, see the article on the CBS News website:
Homelessness in Los Angeles is a significant and chronic problem. It is so much more challenging for homeless women to find safe shelter for themselves, their children, and away from addicts, violence, and sexual predators. The new Guadalupe Homeless Project Women’s Shelter in Boyle Heights is a facility designed for exclusive use of homeless women. The following article by Maya Sugarman of KPCC (89.3 FM) provides an excellent write-up of the shelter itself, and insight into the challenges facing homeless women in East Los Angeles.
For more than six years, Vickie, a 63-year-old homeless artist, did most of her sleeping on Los Angeles’ public buses.
“Nobody’s going to rape me on a bus,” says Vickie, who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy. “It’s the safest place for a woman to be. The only problem is you never get to lie down flat.”
Fear of rape, violence and theft had kept Vickie off the streets at night. But she says that fear also kept her away from homeless shelters, where she could have gotten a bed.
“Some of them have bad reputations,” she notes. “The ones that have outstanding reputations are always full.”
What finally coaxed Vickie off of buses was the opening of a women’s-only shelter in Boyle Heights, one of a very few in Los Angeles, and the only one to cater to older women like her. The Guadalupe Homeless Project Women’s Shelter has 15 beds arranged in a converted classroom that used to house an after-school program. It’s run by Proyecto Pastoral, a nonprofit under the auspices of East L.A’s Dolores Mission. Most of the women are in their 50s and 60s. The oldest is 80.
Raquel Roman, the shelter’s director, says the need for a women’s shelter in East L.A. became clear last year, when the body of a 36-year-old homeless woman named Lorenza Arellano was found floating in the lake at Hollenbeck Park. Arellano had often eaten dinner at a men’s shelter that Proyecto Pastoral has run in the community for decades, recalls Roman, but because its beds were not open to women, she slept in the park. Police said she died of a drug overdose, though how she ended up in the lake remains a mystery.
“Her tragic death was a shock to all of us,” Roman says, “and I was really compelled to say, we need to provide services to women in our community that are in the same situation.”
Amy Turk, program director for the Downtown Women’s Center, a day center for homeless women, says that other than the new Boyle Heights shelter, she knows of only two other women-only shelters in Los Angeles, totaling roughly 300 beds.
Yet the need for them is great, she adds, because the fear of violence often keeps women away from traditional shelters, much as it did with Vickie. A majority of homeless women recently surveyed by the center reported being victims of sexual abuse or other violence. A vast majority said they preferred women-specific homeless services.
And yet “we hardly ever see any funding geared solely toward unaccompanied women who are experiencing homelessness,” Turk says. Women trying to escape abusive partners have more options. So do homeless women with underage children, but they tend to be younger, and overall the population of homeless women is getting older.
As they age, Turk notes, they’re getting sicker faster than the housed population, which makes it harder for them to stay on the streets.
Those challenges are evident among the women at the Guadalupe Homeless Project, where each evening they do daily chores before being taken by van to a nearby school cafeteria where they’re served dinner.
Carlette Luka, a 59-year-old from Hawaii, has an easy smile and a jovial demeanor, but suffers from high blood pressure and a bad hip. She uses a walker. Before arriving at the shelter, she says she often slept in a graveyard to avoid trouble.
Another 59-year-old, who sings in her church’s gospel choir and asked not to be named, treks out on foot every morning to look for work but is slowed down by plantar fasciitis and pre-diabetes. Several women are getting treatment for mental health issues.
The goal of most of these women is to eventually find a job and an apartment, a task made difficult by the reluctance of many employers to hire older women, according to Roman. Some of the women at the shelter face the added complication of being in the U.S. illegally.
But some of the women are starting to get back on their feet. At 53, Eva Gonzalez is among the shelter’s younger residents. She once had a business designing and selling dresses for quinceañeras. For reasons she’ll only hint at, she lost the business, and then her home. She stayed in hotels and with friends, then finally heard about the shelter and secured a bed there.
For weeks, she struggled to find work.
“They told me I was too old,” she recalls. Gonzalez finally found work selling dresses in downtown L.A.’s garment district, adding that she’s saving money and plans to get a place of her own.
Unlike some of the women living with her in the shelter, Gonzalez says she still has time to start over.