Trans people make great strides over this year

College basketball player comes out as trans; LGPA announces rules change, and 1 trans judge elected while another is appointed

Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Recently our community marked the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a somber day devoted to memorializing those murdered over their gender identity and expression.

Also recently, however, we’ve seen transgender breakthroughs that are, in a word, fabulousgreatwonderful.

College basketball season has begun, and many a media outlet has covered the story of Kye Allums, a junior guard at George Washington University.  At 5-foot-11, Allums won’t be shattering glass, but his story is.

“Yes, I am a male on a female team,” Allums, 21, told USA Today. “And I want to be clear about this. I am a transgender male, which means feelings-wise, how it feels on the inside, I feel as if I should have been born male with male parts.

“But my biological sex is female, which makes me a transgender male.”

This was a college student taking great pains to educate a sportswriter, who’s accustomed to Xs and Os, on Xs and Ys. The sportswriter can expect a midterm.

When Allums’ college playing career is over, he intends to transition. He planned to keep quiet until then, but “it just got too tough not to be me.”

His teammates, coach and university all appear to be supportive.

The NCAA probably thought not long ago that it would have to deal with this issue the day the Rhode Island School of Design won the Rose Bowl. But the NCAA has a policy, explained a spokesman:  “A female who wants to be socially identified as a male but has not had hormone treatments or surgery may compete on a women’s team.”

So this college basketball season begins with an African-American, openly transgender person playing Division 1 hoops. This represents so many steps forward it’s practically traveling.

Turning to a different sport, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) will soon have a different understanding of “lady.”

GolfChannel.com reported the LPGA will propose in a Nov. 30 player meeting to axe its “female at birth” requirement.

It’s not that association honchos experienced an epiphany. It’s that they have drivers aimed at their heads.

Lana Lawless, 57, who had gender-reassignment surgery five years ago, filed suit in San Francisco over the LPGA declining her application for tour membership. Her suit claims the organization discriminated due to her transgender status, a violation of California’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The LPGA has landed in the rough indeed.

A change to the constitutional bylaws requires two-thirds of the LPGA membership to agree. The association has already told players the old gender rule was established “in a different time,” and defending it legally today would be harder than putting with your eyes closed.

Also, the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Golf Association and other golf entities now allow transgender participation. The fairways are getting fairer.

Victoria Kolakowski, who had reassignment surgery in 1991, has scored big in a different arena. In a race so tight it couldn’t be called until two weeks after the election, voters in California chose Kolakowski for Alameda County Superior Court.

An openly transgender woman wins a popular election. Thank you California for being, well, California.

Kolakowski, 49, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the election result “speaks well of our ability to look past differences and look to the things that matter: our ability and experience.”

Here’s hoping she has both, because she’ll be scrutinized like an American Idol finalist.

Two days after Kolakowski declared victory, transgender LGBT activist Phyllis Frye was appointed a municipal court judge in the Houston City Council chamber, the same room where 30 years ago Frye helped repeal Houston’s “cross-dressing ordinance.”

Frye, 63, said to the Houston Chronicle, “Things have changed, and it’s pretty wonderful.”

Two judges in two days. That’s the right kind of order in the court.

Leslie Robinson lives in Seattle. Read more of her columns at GeneralGayety.com. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Transgender woman arrested for entering women’s bathroom at Houston library

KTRK reports that a preoperative transgender woman in Houston was arrested last week for using the women’s restroom at the city’s main library.

The woman’s arrest appears to conflict with the city’s nondiscrimination policy, enacted by Mayor Annise Parker earlier this year, which permits people to use restrooms according to their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.

Tyjnae Moore pleaded guilty to “knowingly entering a restroom of the opposite sex” and spent two nights in jail before being given credit for time served.

Tyjnae Moore

Right-wingers have long used the restroom issue to fight discrimination protections for transgender people. So it’s hardly surprising that the Houston Area Pastors Council is seizing upon this incident, even though there’s no indication that the woman was acting inappropriately. From KRTK:

Earlier this year, Houston Mayor Annise Parker expanded an anti-discrimination executive order that allowed city employees to use restrooms based on their gender identity. But it’s unclear if that order conflicts with existing city statute. It’s one reason why the conservative Houston Area Pastor Council has asked the attorney general for an opinion.

“It’s the sort of legal and moral confusion we fully expected to take place and shows why it’s a bad public policy. It needs to be reversed because there is no legal standard of what gender identity means,” said Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council. …

The mayor’s office issued a statement Monday evening saying, “There appears to be a misunderstanding regarding applicability of my executive order and we need to clarify that. This is a matter of providing practical solutions in a diverse city. It is not about behavior. Where there is inappropriate behavior, there will be enforcement.”

UPDATE: The Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America issued the below statement late Monday. Also, Darrell Steidley, who is lead counsel in the Nikki Araguz case and a partner in Phyllis Frye’s law firm, debates the issue with Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastors Council in the video below.

Houston, TX – November 22, 2010 – A young male-to-female transgender library patron named Tyjnae Moore was arrested and taken to jail on November 17 because she, in accordance with the Houston City Ordinance, used the female bathroom at the Jesse H. Jones Library in downtown Houston.  A Houston Library security guard initiated the incident by informing an HPD officer that, “a man [sic] is in the restroom.” The arresting officer took the patron to jail for the alleged offense of violating a State of Texas law which states, “It is unlawful for any person to use a restroom of the opposite sex unless given permission…”

City of Houston Executive Order 1 – 8 and 1 – 20 ensures that all individuals regardless of race, gender identity, nationality or sexuality can have equal access to City restroom facilities. “The arrest should have never happened.” said Cristan Williams, Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation of America. “The City of Houston has given this victim explicit permission to use a restroom consistent with their gender.  This means that the library patron was acting in a manner consistent with both state and local law. Since she broke no law, this is a case of unlawful arrest and imprisonment.”

The victim, a native of Minnesota, states that she will be leaving Texas as soon as she can. She states that this is the second time she has been harassed by Houston police.

—  John Wright