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.

More Calif. Kindergarteners Under-Immunized

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The lack of vaccinations for children under five years of age is atrocious in California.  The article ”

More Calif. Kindergarteners Under-Immunized Than Unvaccinated” from CaliforniaHealthline.org has an excellent summary of vaccination rates statewide, and the appalling lack of vaccinations within Los Angeles County.

Quoting from the article:

While about 2.5% of California kindergarteners’ parents have opted out of vaccinations via personal belief exemptions, nearly 7% start school under-immunized.

According to Amy Pine, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department’s immunization program, under-immunized children still are “vulnerable” to contracting and transmitting diseases.

The rate of under-immunized kindergarteners who are admitted to school on a conditional status varies across the state. For example, the rate is:

  • 12.28% in Los Angeles County — nearly double the statewide average;
  • 11.62% in San Francisco; and
  • 9.68% in Alameda County.

Few counties have taken steps to stem the number of “conditional entrants,” but some stakeholders have made recommendations to the state to improve the tracking of such students (“State of Health,” CHCF Center for Health Reporting/KQED, 2/2).

 

This is really a setting for an epidemic of previously eliminated childhood diseases, such as mumps, measles, rubella, and perhaps even polio.  Only time will tell!

http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2015/2/3/more-calif-kindergarteners-underimmunized-than-unvaccinated

The Life Not Lived. Another Life Lost. Listen to Your Child!

B6Fo2kqCQAAjezJA transgender teen from Ohio committed suicide on December 28th.  She was born a male, but strongly identified female from the age of four.  Unfortunately, her parents did have room for a trans child as it went against their religious beliefs.  Efforts at reparative “therapy” with “Christian” therapists seemed to simply drive the teen deeper and deeper into depression; until, seeing no way out, this teen stepped in front of a truck traveling down a highway at 2:30am, instantly dying in the process.

The teen, Leelah A., left a note on Tumblr, which is reproduced here in full.  Her parents still refer to her as “him” and have not acknowledged anything to do with Leelah’s gender identity.

“If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. 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. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

If you need help, there is help!  Do NOT give up on the chance to live as you should be.  Life is NOT an EITHER/OR question.  Sometimes life is an AND.  You can be transgendered AND live AND thrive AND cry AND grow AND have a life. 

The Trevor Project is a crisis and support organization for LGBTIQ teens.  They operate hotlines and a website.  From their contact webpage:

We’re here for you. Please call the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386) – it’s free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also ask for help on TrevorChat or TrevorText.

Talk to us on the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386), over TrevorChat, or through TrevorText – our trained volunteer counselors are ready to listen.

TrevorText–  Available on Fridays (4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. PT). Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. Standard text messaging rates apply.

TrevorChat – Available 7 days a week (3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. PT).

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Gabe’s Care Map: Cristin Lind, Mom, Illustrates What It Takes To Raise One Boy With Special Needs [huffingtonpost.com]

mindmap

by Lisa Belkin / huffingtonpost.com

Cristin Lind couldn’t find the words, so she drew a picture.

The artistic inspiration hit about a year ago, after she’d been asked to speak to a meeting of primary care physicians, telling them what it took to manage the complex care of her special needs son. Her page was still empty, despite hours trying to collect her thoughts, so she found some colored markers and began drawing circles.

Inside a small purple circle, smack in the middle, she placed a G, for her son Gabe. “He’s not always the center of the universe,” she says with a smile. “But for these purposes he was.”

Around him, she drew another purple circle containing the rest of the family: Cristin, her husband Dan, and their daughter, Dagny. She built outward from there: the health care providers in blue — pediatrics, endocrine, cardiology, orthopedics; school-related specialists in red — everyone from the teacher to the bus driver to the special education director; turquoise for the world of advocacy and support groups; pink for recreation; lavender for those who do the assessments and testing; orange for those who help fight against the rules and for the money.

We each have scaffolding in our lives, usually unseen. We are surrounded by a web we don’t always know is there, but every so often — usually in crisis or its aftermath — makes itself visible. By the time Lind finished drawing, there were 70 labeled ovals on her page, which she calls “Gabe’s Care Map.”

She felt overwhelmed, yet empowered, just looking at it.

Click here to read the rest of the story…

Gender identity and children who struggle with it [washingtonpost.com]

By  / washingtonpost.com

Gender nonconformity is a new term for many of us, but for some families it’s an issue that has gone unrecognized for too long.

Increasingly, more families with children who struggle with gender are speaking out and asking for more rights and more inclusion.

One high-profile story last year involved a mother and her transgender 7-year-old petitioning to join the Girl Scouts. Other families joined Anderson Cooper a few months ago to talk about their experiences onhis talk show.
Sarah Feliciano, who has lived in a transitional housing space for homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, is a transgender female who became homeless after her mother rejected her decision to live as a woman. (Whitney Shefte – The Washington Post)

Experts are also beginning to pay attention to these children. In March, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a collection of studies on children and adolescents with gender identity disorders.

“Gender non-conformity refers to any individual, adult or child, who does not abide by our culture’s socially defined binary gender boxes,” Diane Ehrensaft told me.

Ehrensaft is a developmental and clinical psychologist and author of “Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-nonconforming Children,” (The Experiment, 2011). She is the featured speaker for tonight’s inaugural event in the Human Rights Campaign new speaker series, Equality Talks. (Details on that D.C. event are below.)

I asked her to define some of the terminology used when we talk about gender and children, and describe how parents can better support these kids, whether at home or in the community. Here’s our Q &A:

Can you explain how a parent might recognize gender non-conformity in a child?

It may involve a person saying he or she does not feel in synch with the gender listed on the birth certificate; it may involve the girl who says she will never, ever wear a dress, even when she’s supposed to be a bridesmaid or flower girl dressed in frills.

A parent will recognize it just by paying attention — it is the child who in one way or another says a transgressive “no, I don’t want to” or “no, I won’t” or “no, I can’t” to social expectations about gender, and it is the child who in one way or another says, “But here’s the way I’m going to put gender together creatively for myself, based on my own needs and desires.” If a parent can’t see it, it may be because the child has already figured out that it’s not going to be okay in the family, and therefore hides it, and that is never good for a child’s sense of well-being and confidence in who they are. Another reason a parent may not recognize it is that it hasn’t yet surfaced in the child, and may just show up at a later date.

Many children, especially toddlers, seem to arbitrarily and temporarily reject certain clothes or rules. How might a parent know when a child is going through a temporary phase or if he or she is expressing a more deeply ingrained view of him or herself?

Almost all children, at one time or another, do something that is outside the conforming gender box. A sister may think it’s fun one day to put on her brother’s football uniform. A little boy may ask to have his toenails painted red like his mommy’s.

This is to be differentiated from the child who consistently, persistently or even insistently crosses gender lines in either presentation, activities or declaration of what their gender is. Those latter children will fit the category of gender-nonconforming children. Some parents will still ask, in these situations, “But couldn’t it just be a phase?” The answer is yes, but as more time goes on and the child continues to express in gender-nonconforming ways, it is far more likely that the child is not going to outgrow the gender nonconformity, at least for the foreseeable future.  The real challenge for both parents and professionals is knowing that we may have to live in a state of not-knowing for awhile, and in the meantime leaving all gender doors open.

Also, one cautionary note about “phases.” Often, in referring to our children, “phase” actually has a negative connotation — ”Don’t worry.  It’s just a phase, he (she) will get over it.” With gender, holding on to the notion of phase might unwittingly transmit to your child that who your child is is not okay with you. Perhaps a better way to think about it is with “cross-section:” ”I don’t know who my child will become, but this is who my child is now at this cross-section of his or her life.”

How early might a child experience gender nonconformity?

We are seeing babies as early as the last quarter of the first year of life showing signs of gender nonconformity. Typically, it tends to show up first in the toddler and preschool years as children learn what gender is and develop language and activities to express themselves.

What are some of the most important ways a parent can guide a child through this experience?

The most important way a parent can guide a child through this experience is by always remembering that parents have little control over their children’s gender identity, but tremendous influence over their child’s gender health.

To ensure that health, a parent can listen to what their child is saying or showing about his or her gender expressions (how we act and present ourselves) or gender identity (how we identify as male, female or other) and open a space for that child to feel free to create his or her own unique authentic gender self, what I call the true gender self.

Just as the flight attendant instructs parents to administer oxygen to themselves before helping their child, the challenging task of raising a healthy gender-nonconforming child can often best be done by first reaching out for the social “oxygen” of parent support groups, listservs, educational services and informed gender specialists so that the parents are not going it alone in affirming their child’s true gender self.

You plan to talk tonight about gender creativity and gender expansiveness. Can you briefly explain what those terms mean?

Gender creativity is the thread each of us uses to create a true gender self that is a combination of nature, nurture and culture, a construction that I call the gender web. Like fingerprints, each of our gender webs will be unique to us, but unlike fingerprints, the gender web does not stay permanently the same, but can evolve and change over the course of a person’s lifetime. Gender creativity is the force within us, if allowed to express itself, that will both build and replenish the gender web as we grow.

Gender expansiveness is the opening up in both the culture and within ourselves all the permutations and combinations gender might take, without privileging one type over another. We often refer to gender expansiveness in terms of gender acceptance or gender diversity.

Ehrensaft’s talk tonight will be at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washington at 6 p.m. It will also be broadcast live on the Equality Talks Web site.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/gender-identity-and-children-who-struggle-with-it/2012/04/22/gIQABBJlaT_blog.html

Joe Clementi Still Cries Over His Son’s Facebook Page [gawker.com]

By Brian Moylan / gawker.com

Try not to tear up when reading this interview with Joe and Jane Clementi in People magazine. The parents of the New Jersey teen—who killed himself earlier this year after his roommate broadcast him and a partner having sex in their dorm room over the internet—are finally speaking out, and it’s heartbreaking.

His father says that he finds solace in a Facebook page dedicated to his son’s memory. “I’ll read a few things until I get choked up—then I’ll stop,” he says. OK, now I’mabout to cry. His mother says this time of year is especially hard for her, her husband, and her two living sons. “It’s especially hard right now because this was his favorite time of year. So we’re trying to find a new way to celebrate Christmas. I’m sad—and trying to get through it.” OK, now I am crying. Powerful stuff. Everyone go home and call your parents or hug your children or something. Then cry alone in your room. That is the dignified thing to do.

http://gawker.com/5866080/joe-clementi-still-cries-over-his-sons-facebook-page

What effect does having LGBT parents have on children? [aacap.org]

An excellent study on the outcomes of children raised by gay/lesbian parents has been published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

No. 92; August 2011
Click here to download and print a PDF version of this document.

Millions of children in the United States have lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT)  parents. Some children of LGBT parents were conceived in heterosexual marriages or relationships. An increasing number of LGBT parents have conceived children and/or raised them from birth, either as single parents or in ongoing committed relationships. This can occur through adoption, alternative insemination, surrogate or foster parenting. A small number of states currently have laws supportive of LGBT couple adoption.

What effect does having LGBT parents have on children?

Sometimes people are concerned that children being raised by a gay parent will need extra emotional support or face unique social stressors.Current research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults. It is important for parents to understand that it is the the quality of the parent/child relationship and not the parent’s sexual orientation that has an effect on a child’s development. Research has shown that in contrast to common beliefs, children of lesbian, gay, or transgender parents:

  • Are not more likely to be gay than children with heterosexual parents.
  • Are not more likely to be sexually abused.
  • Do not show differences in whether they think of themselves as male or female (gender identity).
  • Do not show differences in their male and female behaviors (gender role behavior).

Raising children in a LGBT household

Although research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents are as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents, they can face some additional challenges. Some LGBT families face discrimination in their communities and children may be teased or bullied by peers. Parents can help their children cope with these pressures in the following ways:

  • Prepare your child to handle questions and comments about their background or family.
  • Allow for open communication and discussions that are appropriate to your child’s age and level of maturity.
  • Help your child come up with and practice appropriate responses to teasing or mean remarks.
  • Use books, Web sites and movies that show children in LGBT families.
  • Consider having a support network for your child (For example, having your child meet other children with gay parents.)
  • Consider living in a community where diversity is more accepted.

Like all children, most children with LGBT parents will have both good and bad times. They are not more likely than children of heterosexual parents to develop emotional or behavioral problems. If LGBT parents have questions or concerns about their child, they should consider a consultation with a qualified mental health professional.

http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_with_lesbian_gay_bisexual_and_transgender_parents