Transgender center launches intersex group

When a baby is born the first question most people ask is “is it a girl or a boy?” The doctor takes a look at the baby’s genitals, if they see a penis the child is declared a boy, if the see a vulva the child is called a girl. But sometimes a child’s anatomy is not that clear cut, and sometimes the genetics, physiology or anatomy of person is more complex than the penis=boy, vulva=girl equation. The umbrella term “intersex” is used to describe people whose physical bodies, hormones or chromosomes lie between the male and female ends of the spectrum.

According to the Intersex Society of North America somewhere between 1 in 1,500 and 1 in 2,000 babies born in this country have genitals that fall between the strict male/female dichotomy. Additionally, several genetic conditions exist where people who may appear strictly male or strictly female have chromosomal combinations other than XX or XY, a combination of XX and XY, or the chromosomes associated with one gender and the body associated with another. With so many intersex people walking around, there is a fairly good chance that you know one.

But according to “Koomah,” the founder of the group, very few spaces exist for intersex people to talk about their lives. “Most of the social and support groups that I’ve encountered are online,” says Koomah. “I’ve encountered a handful of people both in and outside of [Houston's] Transgender Center that are intersex-bodied but didn’t know anyone else who was. When I mentioned I was and spoke with them more in depth about my experience it seemed to be a great relief that their experience isn’t the only one.”

Koomah realised that their was a need for a group that would allow the intersex community to talk about their experiences. This realization led to the founding of the Transgender Centers Intersex group, which will have its first meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 pm at the Center (604 Pacific). The group is designed as an informal get-to-gether for those with intersex bodies and their spouses.

Koomah explains that while the transgender and intersex communities share many experiences the terms are not interchangeable. “While some intersex people do identify as transgender and some may choose to transition, sometimes the experience of being intersex is different,” says Kumayama. “Being intersex in childhood is radically different than the experience of other non-intersex folks, explaining your body to doctors can be scary, and making choices on things like transition or relationships are easier when you have people whom you share similar experience to talk with.”

—  admin

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Kiss-in seeks domestic partner benefits for U of H

Pucker up!

Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday, while some battle the supermarket crowds for chocolate and champagne and others battle  that soul-sucking feeling that they will be alone forever, students at the University of Houston will be battling for equal benefits for LGBT employees.

“Our LGBT faculty and staff at the University of Houston are not given the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts,” says James Lee, one of the student organizers. “This rally is an issue campaign to let administration know we care about our professors, directors and advisers and we think they all deserve to be treated equally.”

Lee explains that the event is not just for same-sex couples, the organizers want opposite-sex couples to participate to help demonstrate that straight and LGBT relationships are the same.  Got no one to kiss? No problem, says Lee, “We will have rally signs and other goodies you can show support with.”

The smooch-fest kicks off at 12:30 pm in Butler Plaza (in front of the MD Anderson Library).

—  admin

“Spectacular Damage” at Gulf Coast Archive puts human face on AIDS crisis

"Joe" - one of the paintings from "Spectacular Damage"

The nude models for Jack Dorlan’s Spectacular Damage show are not people one typically wishes to see naked, and that’s the point. The models, all men living with HIV, carry the lumps and scars of the virus and its treatments with dignity, defiance and a quiet longing that leaps from the canvas.

Painting in a style immediately reminiscent of the late Lucian Freud, Dorlan’s brutally honest brush makes no attempt to beautify the reality of his subject’s lives. As a result the very real, and “spectacular,” beauty of these damaged bodies shines through.

“These paintings examine the contemporary human body as it is affected by HIV treatment,” explains Doran. “Due to the effects of HIV and the medications required to manage the virus, the human body has taken on new characteristics that alter the human form in a way that has never before been seen in the history of mankind. As HIV research and treatments improve, these characteristics will cease to be a common trait among those living with HIV. These bodies are temporary.”

Spectacular Damage is presented by the Gulf Coast Archives and Museum at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) Sunday, January 8, from 3-5 pm. Admissions is free. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of prints of the collection’s paintings goes to assist the models in paying for HIV treatments and medications.

—  admin

Metro offers free bus rides on New Years Eve

Maybe there is such a thing as a free ride. Houston Metro is offering free bus and train fares starting at 6 pm New Years Eve and continuing through 6 am on New Years Day. Metro explains via press release that it “wants to help individuals celebrating the arrival of the New Year a safe option to get home rather than getting behind the wheel.”

As a bonus, the light rail is free on Sunday since it’s a game day, so if you are downtown and need to go to Reliant stadium, or at Reliant and need to go downtown, you’re set.

So when midnight rolls around on the 31st and it’s time to head home remember you have options. A DWI is a horrible way to start the new year.

—  admin

Socarides explains why ‘Equality Matters’ as HRC says

Last night, we posted the news that Media Matters was setting up a new entity, Equality Matters, which will be headed by Richard Socarides and Kerry Eleveld. In a post on the organization’s blog, Socarides explains the group’s mission:

Our culture is changing rapidly. Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens, including now over 50 percent who believe in marriage equality.

We see other signs of progress too. For example, Ricky Martin, one of the biggest pop music stars of all time and Ken Mehlman, a former Republican Party chair turned Wall Street banker, felt comfortable enough to publicly proclaim their sexuality. Now, the gay high school kid on Fox’s Glee has a great, show-stealing boyfriend. A New Jersey teenager’s suicide gave new poignancy to a PSA campaign in which Americans from all walks of life, famous and not, spoke openly and candidly in record numbers about what it means to be gay and how “it gets better” – thanks to activist and writer Dan Savage.

In Washington, however, we have missed opportunities and have not so far been able to transform favorable public opinion into the powerful and undeniable force for change that it should have been. We believe that the moment for decisive action for full gay equality is here — that this moment is a historic imperative. The goal of Equality Matters is to leverage our expertise in media and communications, and politics and policy, to support those who share that belief and help create an environment where policymakers, the courts, the media and the public at large understand that gay rights are human rights.

Despite the important victory we have just witnessed, make no mistake about it: we are still the only class of Americans for whom discrimination is codified into state and federal law. We have a lot of work to do.

They intend to hold everyone accountable. That’s a welcome and needed change.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Majority Leader Reid explains how the Senate is going to move forward

I used C-SPAN’s video tool to embed this video of Majority Leader Reid announcing plans for moving forward. C-SPAN let’s one clip only the relevant video one wants.

The Senate wants to adjourn on December 17th. That’s less than two weeks from now. And, they’ve got a lot to do. He addressed the Defense bill after prompting from Senator Levin. Transcript of those remarks is below. Bottom line is that time is still our enemy and we’ll need to see a lot of cooperation if the DADT language is going to pass this year.

You have to click on the start button (black triangle) to begin the video.

Here’s the language, from the transcipt on Defense Authorization:

AND THE OTHER THING THAT I’VE INDICATED — IN FACT I HAD A NUMBER OF CONVERSATIONS, BIPARTISAN IN NATURE, YESTERDAY — WE’RE ALSO TRYING TO FIGURE OUT A TIME TO MOVE FORWARD ON THE DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL. THE ISSUE ON THAT, MADAM PRESIDENT, IS WHAT WE DO WITH AMENDMENTS. AND WITHOUT BELABORING THE POINT HERE, I WOULD BE HAPPY TO CONSIDER DOING A NUMBER OF AMENDMENTS, IF WE HAVE TIME AGREEMENTS ON THOSE AMENDMENTS. BUT JUST TO HAVE AN OPEN PROCESS, AT THIS STAGE, I DON’T SEE HOW WE CAN DO THAT. BUT I WILL CONTINUE TO WORK WITH MY FRIEND, THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE, AND OTHERS INTERESTED, BOTH REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS, RECOGNIZING HOW IMPORTANT THAT LEGISLATION IS.
=




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

SU explains the path forward on Defense Authorization and DADT

Alex Nicholson explains the process and the players if the DADT language is going to pass “this year”:




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Kerry Eleveld explains to the Wash. Post what homophobia means in 2010.

In this week’s “View from Washington,” Kerry Eleveld takes the Washington Post to task for its editorial endorsement of NOM-backed candidate Delano Hunter. (My post on the Post is here.)

This is an especially good column because it explains what homophobia means in 2010. And, it calls out the usual B.S. arguments used by those who oppose full equality:

First off, can we please drop the canard that allowing certain people to marry each other somehow impinges on certain other people’s religious freedoms? No one will be forcing churches or religious leaders to perform same-sex ceremonies against their will, and people will undoubtedly maintain their right to worship as they choose completely free of government interference—as they always have. And for the Post to suggest that recognizing marriage equality necessarily conflicts with the beliefs of all religious groups is completely disingenuous, especially after nearly 200 religious leaders in the district stood with the multifaith group D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality.

But perhaps more to the point, it’s time for mainstream America to realize that endorsing politicians who claim to support “equality” for LGBT Americans but not marriage equality is tantamount to aiding and abetting homophobia; that they are mounting a direct attack on the love shared by fellow tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who want to make lifelong commitments to care for one another; that they are relegating people they work with, live with, and, yes, worship with, to second-class status.

There is no gray any longer, no hair-splitting, no rationalization or triangulation that suffices anymore. If you don’t support same-sex marriage, you don’t support equality and that is quite simply homophobic.

Sure, some pols are more virulently homophobic than others, but the outcome is the same: equality denied.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Trannies Director Israel Luna Explains How To Get Jarrett Barrios To Give You a GLAAD Award

Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives filmmaker Israel Luna is still smarting from GLAAD's attack on his transexual slash flick that debuted at Tribeca. So he put together this little item about how to win a Gay & Lesbian Alliance All About Defamation Award. Fake GLAAD head Jarrett Barrios guest stars!

CONTINUED »


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—  John Wright