No action from HISD Board on anti-LGBT flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

It’s been 36 days since news first broke that HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriquez was distributing an anti-LGBT flier as part of his campaign, yet the HISD board has still taken to action to reprimand their colleague. As previously reported by Houstini, at some point toward the end of early voting during the fall municipal elections Rodriquez began distributing a flier that encouraged Houstonians to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because Fonseca had a history of activism for LGBT issues, was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, had no children and had a “male partner.” The net effect of the flier was a statement that gay men are not fit for public office. Rodriquez later appeared on Spanish language television and said that he did not understand “why an unmarried 54-year-old man would want access to children.

At the board’s monthly meeting last night trustees considered adopting an ethics policy that would instruct trustees to “make decisions in terms of the educational welfare of all children in the District, regardless of ability, race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, national origin, sex, age, disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/ or social standing.” The enumerated list of attributes was added to the draft policy after community outrage at Rodriquez’s flier. After trustees raised concerns about other portions of the ethics policy the measure was tabled until an indefinite date. At this time there is no commitment from the HISD Board of Trustees to resume consideration of the policy.

As happened at the board’s November meeting several HISD students spoke to the board requesting that action be taken against Rodriguez. Sergio, a freshman at Milby High School, told Rodriguez “your fliers make me feel inferior,” adding “what makes you think a bully should be my representative?” Micheal, a Milby sophomore, spoke in similar terms “I have been bullied throughout Elementary and Middle School… I don’t want a bully representing HISD.” Christine Farley, the school nurse at Milby and co-sponsor of the schools Gay Straight Alliance spoke eloquently, decrying Rodriquez’s “dirty politicking” and criticizing his lack of contrition: “You have made to attempt to apologize to my students.”

Several community leaders also addressed the board, echoing the call for action or at least a sincere apology. Cristan Williams, executive director of the Transgender Foundation of America, said that she did not believe that Rodriquez understood why the community was upset. “I’ve not yet heard a type of an apology that fully recognizes the message that was sent,” said Williams. “Just because someone is GLBT, or a part of the GLBT community does not mean that they are a pedophile or should be excluded from our culture.” Lou Weaver read a resolution from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus adding his own comments. “Students, faculty and staff should all be held responsible for their actions, board members should be no exception,” said Weaver. “Don’t use your biases to get elected.”

—  admin

Local activists continue effort to remove Rodriguez

Rodriguez Protest

Protesors, led by Mike Pomeroy, outside of the November 10 HISD Board meeting

The controversy over an anti-LGBT flier distributed by HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez continues to snowball. Activists organizing on the website hisdbully.org and led by Mike Pomeroy and Cristan Williams are planning to protest at the HISD Board Meeting December 8. The protest, which begins at 4:30  pm outside the Hattie May White Center (4400 West 18th Street) where the School Board meets, is part of a two pronged approach that includes speakers directly confronting Rodriguez during the period allowed for public comments at the meeting.

As previously reported by Houstini, At some point towards the end of early voting during the fall municipal elections Rodriquez began distributing a flier that encouraged Houstonians to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because Fonseca had a history of activism for LGBT issues, was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, had no children and had a “male partner.” The flier came within a hair’s breadth of saying “don’t vote for gay people” without actually saying it.

The Houston LGBT Political Caucus discovered the flier and began bringing it to the public’s attention on Friday, November 4, the last day of early voting. By election day, November 8, the flier had become national news. Rodriguez received 916 votes in early voting, Fonseca 814. On election day, after the flier became public knowledge, Rodriguez garnered 1,485 votes to Fonseca’s 1,563. Rodriquez’s pre-election day lead was sufficient to put him into office by 24 votes.

On November 10, at the Houston Independent School Board’s monthly meeting, Rodriguez heard from students, parents and teachers in the district furious at him for perpetuating anti-LGBT sentiment. Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus revealed to the board that, in addition to distributing the flier, Rodriguez made additional homophobic remarks to local Spanish-language media.

What you all might not know is that [Rodriguez] also went on television and said that he ‘just couldn’t understand why an unmarried 54-year-old man would want access to children.’ That statement in and of itself and the implication contained within is representable and discusting.”

In response to the public outcry the HISD Board President Paula Harris pledged that the board would reconsider their code of ethics for trustees to address such behavior. The board is scheduled to consider the revised code of ethics next week at the November 8 meeting.

The organizers of the protest ask that people planning to attend RSVP on the Facebook event they created. Anyone wishing to speak at the Board Meeting must sign up online by 4:30 pm on Wednesday, December 7. The Board receives public comments at the end of each meeting, which can be quite late in the evening.

—  admin

More on transgender v. transsexual

CRISTAN WILLIAMS | Cross-posted from Ehipassiko

Since my last post on this issue, I’ve met a few really cool folks in the “transsexual-not-transgender” camp. I was fortunate enough to meet one transsexual named Zoe. We messaged back and forth for quite some time over Facebook, and she really helped me to better understand where she’s coming from. And you know what, I 100 percent support her decision to self-identify herself as transsexual and not as transgender. The thing that seems to separate Zoe from the seeming majority of those in the TS-not-TG camp is that she’s not a hypocrite, she likes facts, and she speaks for herself instead of presuming to speak for all other transsexuals.

TS people don’t identify as TG anymore

A big problem with the idea that TS people no longer identify as TG is that it’s a demonstrably fallacious idea. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force recently published the largest American trans study ever with more than 6,000 respondents. In this study, they actually asked how we self-identify. Care to guess how many self-identified with the term “transgender”? Ninety percent. Yup; as in almost everyone but a small minority.

Q4 http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf

Double standards are fun

Also, I’ve not yet seen the TS-not-TG group address a double standard I regularly observe:

• Most in the TS-not-TG group will regularly group TS and IS people together when talking about themselves because, they claim, being grouped together with other types of trans folk is offensive to them.

• However, most in the TS-not-TG group seem to have a blind-spot when it comes to acknowledging that in many regions of America, intersex people are offended when they are grouped with transsexuals.

• So, it’s somehow OK to demand that all transsexual people stop being referred to as transgender because the very idea is seemingly too offensive to contemplate, but it doesn’t matter that grouping themselves with IS people is incredibly offensive to some IS people. That double standard is what I think most might view as being hypocritical.

Grouping us together is something new that was done to us

I’ve also noticed that many of the TS-not-TG people feel that they were grouped with other types of trans folk only very recently. Perhaps where they come from, this is absolutely true. However, it’s demonstrably incorrect to make that claim for all transsexuals. In Houston, for example, our community purposefully began working to create one unified community that encompassed all types of trans people in the mid-1970s.

—  admin

If Nikki Araguz loses, all transgender people in Texas could effectively be de-transitioned

In the above video posted on YouTube last week, Cristan Willams of the Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America explains why the Nikki Araguz case is so critical to transgender rights in Texas. Araguz is the trans widow of a Wharton, Texas firefighter who died in the line of duty in July. The family of Araguz’s late husband has sued to prevent her from receiving death benefits, arguing that their marriage is void because she was born a man. And according to Williams, the case isn’t really about death benefits — it’s about the question of whether Araguz is a man or a woman in the eyes of the law. Williams warns that because Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott recently declined to weigh in on the matter, instead deferring to the courts, the fate of the state’s entire transgender population may now rest in the hands of a small-town Republican judge in Wharton. Scary, huh?

“If Nikki loses, you lose your legal status,” Williams says. “It doesn’t matter what your doctor says. It doesn’t matter what your chromosomes say. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re intersexed. It doesn’t matter if your birth certificate says you’re female when you’re male-to-female. It doesn’t matter. What will matter is that a small town judge has said that you’re legally male if you’re male-to-female. And that if you’re female to male, well, you’re legally a woman for the rest of eternity. That’s what this case is about, and I don’t know that people really understand that. … This case is huge. It affects the lives of thousands and thousands and thousands of people.”

Williams says LGBT and trans leaders will gather in Houston sometime in October to talk about the importance of the Araguz case. In the meantime, you may want to bookmark “The Trial of Nikki Araguz,” the blog devoted to tracking the proceedings.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Nikki Araguz debate with right-winger Dave Welch and trans leader Cristan Williams

This aired on Houston’s Fox affiliate last night. The station also aired the story below about the case, and is conducting a poll on its website (on the lower right side) about whether transgender/transsexual people should be allowed to legally marry. So far, a whopping 88 percent of respondents say YES!

UPDATE: After the jump, I’ve posted a press release about all this issued by the Transgender Foundation of America on Thursday afternoon.

—  John Wright