Top 10: County, DISD, FWISD added trans protections

TransProtections

STRIKING A POSE | LGBT activists celebrate outside the Dallas County Administration Building in April, after the Commissioners Court voted to add transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 6

Although transgender rights continue to be the last frontier in the ongoing battle for LGBT equality, the trans community made significant progress in North Texas in 2011.

The all-too-familiar scenario of transgender being left out of laws protecting lesbians and gays played out in March when the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted in favor of adding sexual orientation — but not gender identity and  expression — to the nondiscrimination policy covering the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two Democrats who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, said they had not been aware of the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

But after Dallas Voice reported on the oversight, LGBT advocates went back to the court to insist that commissioners correct the omission.

Republican Commissioner Maureen Dickey added insult to injury during an April Commissioners Court meeting when she not only announced she would vote against trans protections, but also compared being transgender to being overweight.

But on April 26 — after activists spoke at several consecutive meetings in an effort coordinated by Resource Center Dallas — the court voted 3-2 along party lines to add trans protections. Jenkins, Garcia and Commissioner John Wiley Price voted in favor of trans protections, while Dickey and fellow Republican Mike Cantrell voted against them.

Dallas County is the only county in the state with a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy — and momentum from the decision appeared to spread as the year went forward.

In late June, the Fort Worth school board added gender identity and expression to the district’s anti-bullying policy. And in early August, shortly before the start of a new school year, came news that the Dallas school board would consider a series of policy changes intended to protect transgender students, faculty and other employees from discrimination and harassment. The vote to add the protections came on Aug. 25.

The wave of transgender victories hit a small snag in November, when the Dallas County Community College District initially refused to add trans protections, insisting that the district’s protections based on sexual orientation covered trans people. But after another effort coordinated by the Resource Center, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter announced in November that an amendment to the district’s nondiscrimination policy to specifically protect transgender people is on the agenda for the board’s January meeting.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

New Standards of Care could transform trans healthcare

Colt Meier and Levi Herman

Colt Meier and Levi Herman

At a presentation at the Houston Transgender Center last Saturday Colt Meier, doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, and Levi Herman presented information on the World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s new Standards of Care 7. The new Standards of Care, released last month, offer a multidisciplinary guide to healthcare professionals working with “transexual, transgender and gender nonconforming” individuals.

According to Meier, the new standards represent a clear departure from the “gatekeeping” approach to trans medicine that had developed under the previous standards “The old [standards] used to be about what trans people have to do to get what they need,” said Meier. “The new ones are about how health professionals should help trans people.”

The new Standards of Care replace the association’s previous version, released in 2001, and reflect an additional decade of scholarly research on the trans community. Meier says that the previous standards were intended to be guidelines, not rules, but that many doctors took the general recommendations of the standards as being unyielding, and assumed that they should be applied to all trans patients. In publishing the new standards WPATH made it clear that, while the standards represent the best medical advice available, they should not be used as a “one size fits all” solution. For instance, the standards recommend that trans people who seek genital surgery or hormone therapy as part of their transition receive psychiatric care, but explicitly state that “psychotherapy is not an absolute requirement for hormone therapy and surgery.”

One of the biggest changes to come out of the new standards is an unambiguous statement on the ethics of medical professional’s efforts to dissuade trans people of the belief that their true gender is not in line with the gender they were assigned at birth. Attempts to change a person’s gender identity are “no longer considered ethical” under the new standards.

The earliest standards of care were published in 1979. According to Meier much of the early research was done by non-trans people and involved certain assumptions about the desired outcome of people seeking to transition. “Much of the research focused on people who had had genital surgery, which is just one form of surgery,” says Meier, adding that not all transgender people desire genital surgery to complete their transition. Because only a small segment of the community was included in the research the results did not reflect the full diversity of the trans experience. Additionally, in the early days there was an assumption that the purpose of gender transition was to allow the person transitioning to live as a heterosexual, with some doctors refusing to provide treatment to female identified, male bodied persons who where attracted to women. Meyer says that assumptions like this can cause participants in research studies to “tell the researcher what they want to hear,” so that the trans person is able to receive the medical care they need.

As more trans people have become involved in the research a broader picture of the community and its medical needs has come to light. For instance Herman says that “we’ve found is that when trans people conduct studies of the incidence of trans people they find far greater numbers. Perhaps because they are better able to work within the trans community.” Meier and Herman both say that there is a great need for additional research.

The full text of the new Standards of Care can be found on WPATH’s website.

—  admin

VOTE: Who will be the “Ultimate Diva!”?

Everyone knows Dallas has more than its fair share of divas. So when we decided to hold the Ultimate Diva! contest — which comes with a photo spread in the Readers Voice Awards Ultimate Diva! edition on March 18, a $1,000 donation to the winner’s charity-of-choice and best of all, bragging rights — we knew we’d get some fabulous entrants from which to cull our top 10. And we did.

Not surprising (considering the charitable contribution) was that many of those who put themselves in the running as the Ultimate Diva! were locals with proven track records as fundraisers for gay nonprofits: Edna Jean Robinson (aka Richard Curtin); Victoria Weston (aka Mike Fulk); Jenna Skyy (aka Joe Hoselton); Linze Serell (aka Bill Lindsey); Ima Lush (aka Jerry McDonald); and SheGotta Moustache (aka Greg Smith). Perhaps also not surprisingly, these Ultimate Diva! wannabes are all members of that sub-classification of divaliciousness: The drag queen.

But this was not, per se, a drag competition — far from it. It’s about style, balls, attitude. It’s about being proud of who you are without apology and bringing the force of your personality into any discussion. So we happily added M-to-F trainer Chris Tina Foxx Bruce to the lineup, representing the trans community.

It’s also not just about those born as biological who dress (or identify) as women — we had some biological girls enter the Ultimate Diva! contest, too. Stacy McKinney’s photo surrounded her feminine self with hot gay guys — always a plus. And Brandi Amara Skyy (real last name: Garcia) has the name of a drag queen, perhaps even the soul of one, but the plumbing of a girl. (She calls herself  a “biologically challenged drag queen”).

Individual divas are all well and good, of course, but a group diva? Totally. So we were excited to see Dallas Pride Cheer, the prideful group of sissy-boom-bah athletes, wade into the fray: If anyone qualifies as an Ultimate Diva!, it’s someone who forms a human pyramid to make their point.

Of course, this is just the start of these contestants’ claim to diva glory — you play a part, too. Go to dfwReadersVoice.com
and read up on each of the contestants who believe they deserve to be named Ultimate Diva! Review their photos and their charity of choice; and tell your friends to come out and support their favorite diva, whether drag queen, trans role model, woman or group. And once you vote, enter yourself in the drawing for a round-trip ticket for two on American Airlines. What a diva thing that would be to win!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Making use of a chance to educate

Instead of working to block controversial film, TENT wants to put transgender issues on the front burner at Austin film fest by sponsoring discussion of movie

Recently, Transgender Education Network of Texas has made a very difficult decision. We have been following  the controversy surrounding the film, “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.” We have been discussing the issue with Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (AGLIFF) and both organizations believe that there needs to be dialog surrounding the film.

To that end, AGLIFF will bring the film to their well-attended festival in the fall, and TENT will facilitate a discussion afterward. This was not a decision we made lightly and we want to take a moment and clarify our position.

Many trans activists, as well as GLAAD, have been very vocal critics of this film and the “negative portrayal of trans people in it.”

The majority of our board has screened this film and, though many of us don’t think the film the greatest piece of celluloid art out there, we all pretty much agree that on its surface, it doesn’t portray trans folk too negatively.

Quite to the contrary, it shows drag queens (part of the trans community) fighting back against people who want to hurt them (and are very successful … at least physically).

I’d like to lay all of our cards on the table here. Originally, we were looking at this film to use as a fundraiser for TENT. After all, with all the controversy and shouting, it was bound to be a money-maker.

And we felt strongly that we needed to have a conversation around what was really making us angry; as an organization whose mission is to educate folks about the gender diverse, we felt an obligation to facilitate a conversation.

But after our second viewing and subsequent discussion, it became clear to many of us that using this film as a fundraiser would be adding more fuel to an already over-stoked fire.

We also felt that doing nothing was not an option either. You know, if folks didn’t raise a fuss about this film it may not have even made a ripple in our community.

As a matter of fact the controversy, arguments and protests have done more to pique the interest of viewers than any standard marketing that La Luna Entertainment had planned to do.

So, it is out there; we can’t do anything about that. So we feel it is necessary to talk about it.

We also feel that to have an intelligent discussion about the film, it is necessary to actually see it. Many of the protesters have not seen it and don’t plan to for fear of giving the appearance of condoning the film. We hope they change their minds when it comes to Austin.

Let’s take a moment to talk about what the critics are saying.

One of the biggest issues early on was the use of the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado in the trailers marketing the film.

The film gives a nod to the “blacksploitation” films of the 1960s and is graphically violent, shot in high contrast and is very campy. The protesters (rightly, in my opinion) strongly objected to the use of the two very real and very tragic murders in the marketing of this admittedly violent and campy film.

The filmmaker listened to the critics and quickly removed those quotes. I didn’t see that trailer (it had already been pulled) and when I spoke to Israel Luna, the maker of the film, I said to him that had I seen the original trailer, I would probably be equally as offended.

I asked him if he understood that and he answered, “Yes, and that is why I removed those references.”

Although they have been removed from the trailer, this is still an issue that the critics hold on to as a reason to protest.

The other reason that the protesters and GLAAD would like to see the film banned is because “… it demeans actual transgender women who struggle for acceptance and respect in their day-to-day lives.”

We’re not so sure we agree with this statement.  Whereas drag queens are not indicative of all or even most of the gender diverse community, they are a part of the community and, I for one, am proud to stand side by side with them.

After all, it was the drag queens that hurled the first bottles to start the protest at Stonewall, a protest that launched a movement.
Now drag queens, by definition, are usually caricatures of women. We all know what it means to wear “drag queen” make-up, and few women wear the exaggerated make-up and clothing on the street in their day-to-day lives.

But that is the nature of being a drag queen; they are performers wearing a costume. And guess what?  They exist in real life. I know quite a few and are honored to call them friends.

In my opinion, the drag queens characterized in the film are pretty darn accurate. For the most part, I liked these characters. They were real!  Yes, I said it: Real.

Finally, there are a couple of criticisms that I may agree with. The first is the title.

I don’t condone the use of the “T” word; I don’t use the “T” word, and I advocate that no one use it.

The other criticism that has a bit of credence is the speed in which the film goes from a relatively realistic portrayal of horrendous violence perpetrated against these trans women to a “check your brains at the door” campiness. I have some real problems with that and would have a few suggestions for Mr. Luna for a re-edit if he wants to hear them.

But, all of those things aside, it is time to watch the film and talk about it.

It is for that reason that we are not blocking AGLIFF from bringing it to the film festival. In interest of full disclosure, we were given the opportunity to block it; if TENT said “no,” AGLIFF would not have brought it in.

But we feel strongly that this controversial film can open a dialog that can do a lot of good. So we said, bring it in and let us sponsor the discussion after. We hope to have the filmmaker, the critics, the supporters, and GLAAD all participate in this important discussion.

Lisa Scheps is executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas, based in Austin. The talk-back will be held immediately after the screening of the film on Friday, Sept. 10 at 9:45 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Everyone is welcome to attend.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas