GEAR holds annual awards ceremony

National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling spoke at the annual GEAR awards on Saturday, May 2.

Awards given during the evening were:

Blair High: Lifetime Achievement Award

High recently stepped down from a leadership position. Four people are now covering her work. The award now has been renamed for High.

Nell Gaither: Katherine Walton Service Award

Gaither created and runs Trans Pride Initiative.

Rebecca Orr: Ally Award

Orr is a clinical social worker who donates quite a bit of her time and services to GEAR members.

Terry Allen: Trailblazer Award

This first-time award was given to Allen for his work starting the GEAR men’s group.

—  David Taffet

GEAR presents scholarships, awards

GEAR, the Resource Center’s transgender program, presented awards and scholarships on Saturday at the 2014 GEAR Awards Reception to some of its members. San Francisco Human Rights Commission Executive Director Theresa Sparks spoke to the attendees, who numbered about 100.

Wendy Marsden won the Katherine Walton Award for service.

“I had a rough time of it, and I wanted to pay it forward,” Marsden said as she accepted her award.

Katie Sprinkle began a legal clinic to help trans people navigate through the legal issues they will deal with. GEAR coordinator Blair High said the only other city with something comparable is New York. Sprinkle was also given and award for service to the community.

The next GEAR legal clinic is Wednesday, April 2. Anyone who would like an appointment should call 214-540-4498 to reserve time for a free 20-minute session with Sprinkle, who is an attorney.

Ann Marie, who started a job clinic for GEAR members, was also given a service award. The unemployment rate is exceptionally high in the trans community, and many members lose their jobs as they begin to transition.

Ally awards were given to American Specialty Pharmacy and Dr. Patrick Daly. The pharmacy set up a scholarship program to cover the cost of hormone therapy for two GEAR members. Daly runs a monthly clinic for GEAR and works with trans patients in his practice.

Despite some gloomy statistics, Sparks gave an optimistic talk about being your authentic self. Although trans people face high unemployment rates, face family rejection, are harassed in public accommodation and by the police and 41 percent have attempted or contemplated suicide, “Things are getting better,” Sparks said.

She cited a recent legal case that was decided and rules that trans people can’t be discriminated against in federal jobs. The Affordable Care Act made health insurance available to many trans people for the first time. The Department of Justice published nationwide training curricula for police on trans issues. In California, a new law allows trans students to use the bathroom, join a fraternity or sorority or a sports team for the gender they identify.

After Sparks told her story of going from CEO of an international corporation with thousands of people working for her to taxi driver after she transitioned and then back to another CEO position before heading the Human Rights Commission, she gave some advice.

“You can be who you are,” she said. “We need to come out to ourselves and love ourselves. Embrace it. You’re a very special person,” she said.

—  David Taffet

Remembering the victims of trans violence

Allyson Robinson

Keynote speaker Allyson Robinson

No one knows how many transgender people are assaulted and killed. Not all the violence is reported. Brazilian authorities, for example, reported 28 deaths last year, but no one is certain of the actual number.

This year, 238 transgender people have been reported killed worldwide. Since 2008, Transgender Europe has documented 1,374 murders of trans people in 60 countries worldwide. Of these, 108 victims have been under the age of 20.

Those victims were remembered Sunday during a service at Cathedral of Hope. Nov. 20, which is Transgender Day of Remembrance, was set aside to remember Rita Hester who was murdered in 1998, five days after Matthew Shepard was murdered.

Keynote speaker Allyson Robinson said Cathedral of Hope is special to her, even though she had never set foot in it before the services.

“I’ve never been here before,” she said, “but it means hope to people around the world.”

Robinson said that while ceremonies commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance are approached differently, taking place in venues that range from bars and businesses to churches and other public facilities, what they have in common is the reading of the names of those people who were killed for living their authentic lives.

Audrey Brown, a 20-year-old transgender student, echoed that theme.

“For other people to stop you from being who you are is tragic.” she said.

Blair High, who runs the Gender Education, Advocacy and Resources Program at Resource Center, talked about how far the Dallas trans community has come, but there is a desperate need for expanded services.

High is available at Resource Center on Wednesday nights, and she said people often come in who have recently lost their jobs, their families or their homes, and they’re thinking about suicide.

GEAR is awarding legal and health scholarships to people who are transitioning, and High said anyone who is interested can call her about the application process. Scholarship recipients are required to do some volunteer work with the organization.

Cd Kirven, a community activist, encouraged those attending the service to remember the victims by working to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“Go to your representative,” she said. “Tell them, “My family matters’, and tell them your story.”

Kirven said many people, including legislators, don’t think transgender people have value and aren’t concerned with those equality issues. In Denton County, Artegus Madden, a transgender woman, was found murdered in her home Sept. 1, but Carmarion Anderson, a minister, said officials aren’t investigating the murder.

There’s no update,” she said. “Nothing’s being done.

Sunday’s program included a video that showed the victims’ names, and one rose for each person killed was placed on an altar. The video is shown below.

Metropolitan Community Church has a video for TDOR, titled Pioneering Voices: Portraits of Transgender People. Through first-person accounts and positive images, the exhibit challenges damaging myths and stereotypes about transgender people.

MCC of Greater Dallas is at 1840 Hutton Drive No. 100, Carrollton. The exhibit runs through Dec. 8, Sundays 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and Tuesdays 5:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Dallas County Community College District to schedule vote on transgender protections

Dr. Wright Lassiter

After calls and letters from individuals and encouragement from Resource Center Dallas, Dallas County Community College District has apparently decided to put an amendment to its nondiscrimination policy on the January agenda. But in an email, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter said as far as the board is concerned, nondiscrimination is already policy.

The DCCCD board is considering adding gender identity and expression to its official written policy. Sexual orientation is already included.

RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell sent Lassiter a letter that pointed out three places in the community college’s policies where wording would need to change to make all nondiscrimination wording parallel. Erin Roberts, a member of RCD’s transgender group GEAR, wrote to Lassiter that she has taken several courses at different DCCCD campuses.

While DCCCD legal counsel Robert J. Young originally said the college district would be covered under the city’s nondiscrimination policy that includes gender identity, Roberts pointed out the “government entity exemption” written into the ordinance.

“As a former white male who lived unknowingly in a world of white male privilege even though I came from very humble origins, my eyes have been opened to many different human right struggles directly because of my personal experience with discrimination on the basis that I am transgender,” Roberts wrote. “I am not less capable than before I came out. I am not less experienced. I do have much less opportunity to participate in the workforce. I am not hideous, outlandish, distracting, attention-seeking or disrespectful, but i am different. I am not able or willing to hide. The world will never get better for any of us that may be different in some way if we hide or accept that some how our differences not based on our performance, but based on perceptions of us should be allowed to justify preventing us from participating fully and contributing based on our abilities and talents to the work force and society at large.”

Lassiter replied to both Roberts and McDonnell that non-discrimination based on gender identity is the policy at the trustee level.

“I wanted you to know that I am encouraging openness and fairness in our policy language,” he wrote. “I have asked the board to take the time to give this full consideration and be in a position to make their position a matter of policy at the January board meeting. The messages that are being received are ‘heard.’ Throughout my tenure in the district I have endeavored to be as inclusive as possible — I hope this little message is helpful to you and others.”

In a message to McDonnell later in the week, Lassiter said he wouldn’t be able to get the matter on the December agenda but hoped to have it added to the January meeting.

—  David Taffet

Masquerade ball at Dallas Eagle tonight

Who are those masked men?

The Dallas Eagle knows how to throw a bash. As part of Leather Pride Week (who knew?), the club hosts Masquerade: A Night of Men, Leather, Fantasy and Intrigue. OK, you got us — we’re intrigued. The leather and fetish ball assures no Cinderellas on hand. Gear and masks are encouraged. Just don’t be that guy without one.

DEETS: Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. 10 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

Black Transmen group comes to the Metroplex

Today I received an email from Carter Brown telling me about a new group here in the Metroplex, Black Transmen Inc.

According to Brown’s email, Black Transmen, with a Carrollton address, is “the first national nonprofit organization of African-American transmen solely focused on acknowledgment, social advocacy and empowering African-American transmen. Our services include: providing resources to aid in a healthy female-to-male transition, peer-to-peer mentoring, HIV/AIDs education and awareness, employment training, financial consulting and sponsoring local and national events — to name a few.”

The group has a Facebook page, located here.

I don’t know much about the new group yet, and I hope to be able to talk to Carter Brown and other members soon to find out more information that I can then pass along to our readers. But I do know that services and resources for transgender and transsexual people are few and far between here in North Texas. There are some groups out there — for instance, GEAR — that do a great job. But there are still a lot of gaps that need to be filled, especially when it comes to services for trans men, and African-American trans men in particular.

So here’s wishing Black Transmen all the best. I hope to talk to you soon.

—  admin

Transgender Day of Remembrance observed at SMU

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The names of this year’s 120 transgender murder victims were read at a ceremony at Southern Methodist University on Friday to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. Sheriff Lupe Valdez was the keynote speaker.

Because of rain, the ceremony was moved indoors. About 100 people filled the main hall of Hughes Trigg Student Center.

Maeve O’Connor and Mo Snow read the names of each of the murder victims,  followed by the method of murder and city where the hate crime took place. The identity of many of transgender murder victims is unknown. In those cases, the crime was read as “Victim’s name unknown.” After each name, Latisha McDaniel and Lilith Calbridge rang a bell in commemoration.

Valdez spoke following the reading of the names. She put aside her notes and said that as the list of names was read, it “got sadder and sadder and she couldn’t begin with a joke.”

“It’s about people being who they need to be,” Valdez said. “We are not second-class citizens.”

MosaicSong sang during the ceremony. For their final song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” words were provided in the program for everyone to join in. A quick survey of the room showed none of the gay men using their programs.

The event was sponsored by Texas Instruments, GEAR, Equality March Texas, Resource Center Dallas, Out & Equal, the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTA Group of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, and SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives.

Beau Heyen, Maeve O'Connor, Marla Compton at SMU observance

Beau Heyen, Maeve O’Connor, Marla Compton at SMU observance

— David Taffet

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—  Dallasvoice