Bathroom Bills and Your Right to Wee, According to Your Gender Identity(ee)

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.

And Here We Are…

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:

  1. Hillary (and her hubby Bill) couldn’t escape the baggage of the now forgotten Democratic Leadership Council which proposed a “Third Way” of mixing conservative and liberal ideas together to create a new economy that would offer benefits to business and workers back in the late 80’s to early 90’s. This was the beginning of the Corporate-Friendly Democratic Party.
  2. The move toward corporations for support of Democratic goals changed the Democratic goals, as evidenced first by NAFTA, and the embracing of free trade agreements.
  3. The move toward big money for funding campaigns made the corporations, celebrities, and other rich folks much more influential in setting priorities for the Democratic party. Worse still, the voices of the working class were eventually ignored while the leadership chased dollars of the rich and famous.
  4. The free trade agreements decimated factories, which decimated the working class.
  5. The free trade agreements required concessions from labor to keep their factories open, which again decimated the working class.
  6. The rise of automation had an incalculable effect on the working class.
  7. And the love of money, celebrity, and status became the Democratic Party’s, the Clinton’s, and Obama’s eventual downfall due in large part to the plight of the working class not being addressed.
  8. Have we all forgotten that Obama, when in the Rust Belt some years ago, mentioned how the folks there, the working class who were no longer working, “cling” to their guns and their bibles? Well, what else did they have?
  9. And no one can forget Hillary’s “deplorables” statement because, while partially true, it also was aimed, again, squarely at working class whites. (Nothing like kicking ‘em while they’re down.)
  10. The Democratic Party leaders embraced corporate crony capitalism with the goal of bettering all citizens. I have no doubt they believed this was the best way.
  11. But in so doing, the Party left its roots behind: the working class.
  12. Working class whites rebelled. They gave into fear and hate of that which is different. For they had 35 years of continued economic erosion.
  13. Working class people of color are rebelling due to the Democratic Party not keeping it’s promises to create better lives for all people who have not known economic opportunity.

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)

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The Spectacle of Bad Faith in Matters of Equality

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.

  • To slide into decisions without allowing oneself to realize that one is making any;
  • to feel dimly that one is enjoying advantages without trying to become clearly aware of what those advantages are (and who hasn’t got them); 
  • to accept mystifications because they’re customary and comfortable; 
  • cooking one’s mental books to congratulate oneself on traditional behavior as if it were actively moral behavior;
  • to know that one doesn’t know; to prefer not to know;
  • to defend one’s status as already knowing with half-sincere, half-selfish passion as “objectivity” –

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.

Call Her Captain Katie

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She breaks sound and gender barriers as the first female pilot in the Navy’s Blue Angels!

“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:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/blue-angels-first-female-pilot-takes-to-sky/

1/3 of Male University Student Respondents Would Rape a Woman if there were no Consequences, According to Study

Sadly, I read about a new study  in the science journal Violence and Gender, titled “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders”, where one third of male responders in the study would rape a woman if there were no consequences.

Quoting from The Independent:

“Amongst other questions they were asked how they would act in a situation where they could have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will “if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences”.

31.7% of all men participating in the study would force a woman to have sexual intercourse in such a “consequence-free situation” – which is rape.

Worryingly, most men who indicated that they would commit rape did not even recognise their actions as such.

When explicitly asked whether they would rape a woman if there were no consequences, only 13.6% of participants said they would do so, a marked fall on those who had described that they would commit rape.”

For some reason, the male respondents, when the action was made clear that what would be happening was legally defined as rape, lowered the percentage saying they would still rape a woman.

There seems to be a disconnect among the male respondents about what IS rape.  And somehow this disconnect seems to maintain that it is NOT rape if it is a consequence-free situation.

It appears there is still lots of work to do with education and ethics for university college males.

Link to the study: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/vio.2014.0022

Link to the article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/a-third-of-male-university-students-say-they-would-rape-a-woman-if-there-no-were-no-consequences-9978052.html

The Strange Case of An 18th-Century Sex Change Surgery [newrepublic.com]

by Alice Robb / newrepublic.com

One day in 1779, a London couple, seeking treatment for their seven-year-old daughter, showed up at the Soho Square Dispensary for the Relief of the Infant Poor. The first doctor thought she might have a hernia. The second had a different idea.

“I shall not trouble the reader with the surprise into which the parents were thrown when I first told them their child was not a girl, as they had supposed, but a boy,” wrote the second doctor. The case was recently discovered in the archives of the University of Kansas and written up in the latest issue of the journal Sexualities.

mistakenIn the early 2000s, Carol Warrenthen a professor of sociology at the University of Kansaswas researching the history of electricity in the college’s rare books library when she noticed an old pamphlet with an eye-catching title: “The case of a boy who had been mistaken for a girl; with three anatomical views of the parts, before and after the operation and cure,” by a surgeon called Thomas Brand. “I was looking through a bunch of materials that had been shoved together, and this one appeared,” recalls Warren.

According to Brand’s report, published in 1787, he noticed an “irregularity” in the patient’s “external parts.” After further examination, he concluded that the child’s “part, which had the appearance of the labia pudenda, was in fact the scrotum,” and suggested an “operation to free the penis from its confinement.” He went ahead and made some alterations, enabling the childwhose name is unknown“to urinate standing up, wear trousers, and enjoy the privileges of being a male.” Brand, who practiced at the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, was “not a quack,” according to Mary Fissell, a professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins who I spoke to on the phone.

Eight pages long, with three illustrations of the child’s anatomy, the pamphlet may describe one of the earliest instances of sex-change surgery. “The first case that I found (in America) was in the 1840s, and it was received quite critically by fellow physicians,” writes Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex and professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon, in an email.

Brand saw the operation not as sex change, but as a means of returning the child to his “proper” gender; Brand seemed to believe that only two distinct sexes were possible. He denied the existence of hermaphrodites, although he was familiar with the concept: “The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is properly understood as an animal that has both the male and female organs equally and perfectly formed,” he wrote. “But,” he goes on, “There is no reason to believe that such a case ever had existence in the human subject.”

Brand’s attitude toward sex and gender was consistent with the predominant view of his time; according to eighteenth-century norms, sex was a medical fact that had nothing to do with choice or personal expression. In fact, neither the patient nor his parents seem to have even been consulted. “Gender wasn’t conceived of as a form of identity,” says Warren. “It was conceived of as a form of body.” The idea of a person being “transgender,” of course, is not something that would enter common conception until about two centuries later.

Click on the link continue reading the article…