REVIEW: “Albert Nobbs” and the mystery of identity

Unlike The Crying Game, where the sex of a character is a major twist about halfway through, the genders of the characters in Albert Nobbs is not much in doubt: Glenn Close is a big star with above-the-title billing — her butched-up face is the ad campaign. And yet there is just as much mystery here, albeit of a different kind. This is a story of identity that’s almost impenetrable.

Albert (Close) is a gentlemanly servant at a high-end boutique hotel in Ireland. Everyone admires Albert: The women appreciate his respectful demeanor, his male co-workers his work ethic, the boss, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), his reliability. But no one really knows Albert, who lives in a small room in the attic and squirrels away his money and dreams of something else.

But really, Albert doesn’t even know himself. He has been living as a man for decades — who knows how long? — and cannot even remember a time when he (or she) was not Albert. He has become so repressed, he almost doesn’t have a personality anymore.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

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Limbaugh On DADT repeal: ‘Does this mean Mrs. Clinton can finally … join the Marines?’


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The Passing of a Hero – Mrs. Stella Byrd

The following comes from HRC’s Associate Director of Diversity, Donna Payne:

The struggle for LGBT equality is a lengthy journey, and we still have a long way to go. There comes a time during this journey when one person’s bravery stands out among all of us. One such person is Mrs. Stella Byrd.  Mrs. Byrd died at 85 yrs old on October 7, 2010, after a long period of  illness.

Stella Byrd is the mother of James Byrd Jr.  In 1998, James was dragged behind a pickup truck by his ankles and then dumped in a cemetery in Jasper, Texas by three men in a vicious act of hatred. The details of his heinous killing brought about national attention and activated many civil rights organizations to begin addressing race and hate crimes in Texas.

Mrs. Byrd faced an overwhelming amount of attention on her son’s death, but she handled it with courage and love.  She led the Byrd family immediately into working with lawmakers to pass hate crimes legislation in Texas.  Her heart was in making sure that no one had to go through what her family was facing.  Within four months, another heinous crime was committed; this time against a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Again there was a national outcry for something to be done about hate crimes.  It was at this time that we saw our hero stand up.  Mrs. Stella Byrd talked to several civil rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign.  Her family agreed to attend the HRC dinner in solidarity with the LGBT community.  She was 73 years old at the time.  Her courage in demanding that the Federal Hate Crimes legislation be broadened to include the LGBT community was an act of bravery.  Many attempts were made to separate the Black community from supporting LGBT rights, but Mrs. Byrd was steadfast in her support.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.  Mrs. Stella Byrd asked her daughters to represent the family while she watched it on television; she was ill then and couldn’t travel.  I called her after the signing to ask her if she was pleased to see it signed into law; she said,  “This is a good day and will help prevent other families from going through what we experienced.  Even though we’re different colors and different sexual orientations or gender identities, God made us all and he loves us all.”

Of course, we have plenty of more work to do to reach LGBT equality. The work continues, but we won’t forget Stella Byrd, who understood that justice wasn’t about just her family; it is about all of us.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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