An unexpected moment on ‘Survivor’ sets the transphere ablaze

Truth be told, I haven’t watched Survivor in years, though I did see the season with Jeff Varner. Varner is back for this season of repeat contestants, apparently, and last night — spoiler alert! — he was voted off by acclamation (no secret vote) when he asked a fellow contestant, Zeke Smith, “Why haven’t you told people you’re transgender?” It was something nobody seemed to know … certainly not the 8 million people who do still watch Survivor.

Varner, who is gay, initially defended himself by saying being in the closet that way was proof of deception and he was just trying to save himself — hey, all’s fair right? But the castaways turned on him like a collective snake, chastising Varner for the low blow of outing someone who was not himself ready to come out. During the closing confessional, he tearfully apologized, and Zeke has even written about the experience (remember, the show was filmed months ago in private). Sadly, it wasn’t much more of a teaching moment, as the moral outrage was quickly replaced by game play. Maybe the thoughtful reflection will come next week.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DVtv in Spayse

This week, Israel Luna, Brandi Amara Skyy and I talk about TGRA’s Texas Gay, about transgender visibility, about Brandi’s column on asking her evangelical Christian parents for their blessing before her wedding, about PrEP and the new format and new website for Dallas Pride.

Check us out! And don’t forget you can watch DVtv in Spayse live each Friday on the Spayse Station YouTube channel, and then catch the reruns right here every on DallasVoice.com.

—  Tammye Nash

Sara Ramirez speaking at the All In for Equality Advocacy Day rally

Sara Ramirez

Gray’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez— who played a bisexual character on the show and recently came out as bisexual herself — was one of the speakers on Monday, May 20, in Austin as part of All In for Equality rally on Advocacy Day.

Read the story here.

See photos here.

Here is a brief video clip of part of her remarks:

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: Trans woman murdered in Baltimore identified

Guilford Street in Baltimore, where a transgender woman was murdered this morning.

UPDATE: The murdered woman has been identified as Alphonza Watson.

Police in Baltimore are investigating the murder of a transgender woman shot to death early this morning (Wednesday, March 22) in Baltimore. The woman was identified as Alphonza Watson, and her mother, who said she had come out as transgender during her teens, said Watson went by the nickname “Peaches.”

According to The Washington Blade, police responded to reports of shots fired in the 2400 block of Guilford Avenue at about 4:15 a.m. and found the 38-year-old woman with a gunshot wound to the stomach. She was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

The Blade notes that witnesses reported hearing someone yelling for help and then hearing gunshots. Immediately after the shots, witnesses said they saw black men getting into a dark-colored vehicle and speeding away.

This marks the eighth transgender women murdered since the first of the year.

—  Tammye Nash

SB 6 voted out of committee

Dan Patrick came to North Texas last year about this time to shake his finger at trans people who simply wanted to use the appropriate public restrooms at Fort Worth ISD.

To no one’s real surprise, Senate Bill 6 — aka Dan Patrick’s hateful bathroom bill — passed out of the Senate’s Republican-controlled State Affairs Committee on a 7-1 vote, despite the fact that testimony against the bill — which began about 8 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday, March 7) and finally ended just before 5 a.m. today (Wednesday, March 8) — was overwhelmingly against the measure.

Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools and colleges and government buildings that correspond to their “biological sex” as listed on their birth certificate. It also would prohibit local jurisdictions, like cities and counties, from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances permitting transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The lone “no” vote came from Sen Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, one of the committee’s two Democrats, according to the Houston Chronicle. The second Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, voted in favor of SB 6, as he said Monday that he would.

The Houston Chronicle notes that it was Lucio’s support that gave Patrick the 19 votes he needed to bring it to the floor of the Senate for a vote, something that could happen as early as this week.

The Chronicle also noted that Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston borrowed a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, calling a report — touted by the Texas Association of Business and indicating that passage of SB 6 would hurt the state’s economy — “fake news.” Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Texas Republicans have ignored warnings regarding the negative economic impact of passing SB 6, just as they — and North Carolina Republicans — continue to ignore the clear evidence of HB 2’s negative impact in North Carolina.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Robo-calling for hate (so we need to ask Jane Nelson to vote against SB 6)

This is the “cartoon” posted on the homepage of CRTXNews.com today, just so you get an idea what kind of website it is.

 

Dr. Steven Hotze

I just got word from a friend that, as hearings on Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill get underway before the Senate State Affairs Committee in Austin, robo-calls are going out from Houston GOP activist Dr. Steven Hotze encouraging constituents to call Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to urge her to vote for SB 6.

My source, who said he has gotten several calls at work since about 11 a.m., says the calls say encourage Nelson to support SB 6 “to keep men out of women’s restrooms.” He said the calls are going out under the guise of being from CRTXNews.com, “a Brietbart-esque bullshit website.” Hotze is listed as the website’s publisher.

Hotze, in case you are wondering, is the right-wingnut who in July 2015, announced the founding of “Real Marriage: One Man/One Woman for Life,” a group he said would campaign against the cultural influence of “homo-fascists.” He said the organization was necessary to fight same-sex marriage because the homosexuals “want to intimidate individuals, churches, schools and families to celebrate those that participate in anal sex. That’s what they love and enjoy: anal sex. And that’s bad, that’s evil. It’s a terrible thing to try to do and they want to try to teach it to kids in schools. Kids will be encouraged to practice sodomy in kindergarten.”

Hotze, founder of Hotze Health and Wellness Center in Houston, is a high-dollar GOP donor and a longtime conservative leader in the party.

So, maybe Sen. Nelson needs to hear from some folks about how SB 6 is nothing but hatefulness and discrimination and encouraging her to vote against it. Her number is 512-463-0112,

—  Tammye Nash

SCOTUS sends trans student case back to 4th Circuit

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

Gavin Grimm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 6, vacated a federal appeals court ruling in favor of a transgender high school student and directed the lower court to reconsider its earlier ruling.

The Supreme Court order in Gloucester v. G.G. came in response to “the guidance document” issued by the departments of Education and Justice on Feb. 22.

That document was a “Dear Colleague Letter” from two acting officials of the DOJ and DOE, advising public school officials that the Trump administration was “withdrawing the statements of policy and guidance” in two letters from Obama administration officials.

The Obama administration’s DOJ and DOE letters had advised schools receiving federal funding that Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination in education based on “sex” included discrimination based on “gender identity.”

The Trump administration letter did not disagree with that assessment, but noted that it would “more completely consider the legal issues involved.” An official in the Solicitor General’s office forwarded the Trump DOJ-DOE letter to the Supreme Court and the following day, the Supreme Court clerk asked both parties in the case to say “how this case should proceed.”

Joshua Block, the ACLU attorney representing the transgender student who is the plaintiff in the case, identified as Gavin Grimm), said the high court should proceed with the case as planned. Attorneys for the Gloucester, Va., school district that appealed the case agreed the court should proceed to hear their appeal but suggested it postpone argument until President Trump could appoint a new Solicitor General to file the government’s position on the case.

It also suggested the Supreme Court could vacate the Fourth Circuit decision and remand it, arguing that the Obama administration letters had been the “basis” of the Fourth Circuit decision.

LGBT legal activists did not seem at all surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision to take that latter course of action and all expressed optimism about the case’s eventual outcome.

“The Supreme Court acted today consistently with its ordinary protocol of allowing lower courts to fully address an issue before stepping in,” said Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). “While it is impossible to predict outcomes, I am optimistic that the lower court in this case will resolve this matter in favor of Gavin just as courts across the country have done in similar Title IX cases brought on behalf of other transgender students.”

“Given the importance of the issue to transgender students, we hoped the court would keep the case,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter. “But their ordinary practice is to give the lower courts an opportunity to consider an issue in the first instance.”

Minter said that, while it is true the Supreme Court took the appeal initially even though it was in a preliminary stage, “the Fourth Circuit had fully weighed in on the legal issues….”

“The Fourth Circuit’s decision below relied on the guidance and since the Department of Education has now withdrawn the guidance,” said Minter, “the Supreme Court is giving the Fourth Circuit an opportunity to rule directly on the statutory issue for the first time.”

The ACLU, which is representing Grimm, said it was “disappointed” the Supreme Court would not hear the case this term, but called Monday’s order “a detour, not the end of the road.”

“Nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law. Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination,” said ACLU lead attorney Joshua Block.

In urging the Supreme Court to proceed with the case as planned, Block argued that the Trump administration’s letter to public schools “makes resolution of that question more urgent than ever.” Further, said the ACLU, “the court will inevitably have to settle the question by clarifying the proper interpretation of Title IX….”

“Delaying resolution of that question will only lead to further harm, confusion, and protected litigation for transgender students and school districts across the country,” wrote Block. “Another few years of needless litigation would not help clarify the legal question facing the court, and it would impose enormous costs on individual students until the Court provides additional clarity.”

Delay of the case will certainly affect Gavin Grimm, who is currently a senior at Gloucester High School. But Lambda Legal’s national legal director Jon Davidson said similar cases in other circuits could percolate to the high court more swiftly.

In his lawsuit, Grimm v. Gloucester, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals voted 2-1 on April 19 that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 –which prohibits discrimination based on sex by federally funded educational institutions— also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. The majority’s ruling in Grimm came on preliminary motion requesting that he be able to use his public high school’s boys’ restrooms until his overall lawsuit can be resolved.

An 87-year-old Reagan-appointed federal district court judge had denied that motion, declaring Grimm to be a female and ruling that “sex” in Title IX does not include gender identity or sexual orientation. The Fourth Circuit panel reversed that decision, noting that the U.S. Department of Education had issued an opinion letter last year, saying Title IX requires “a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”

The panel had sent the case back to the district court with instructions to reconsider the preliminary injunction based on the panel majority’s decision. But the Gloucester County School Board immediately appealed the panel’s decision to the full 4th Circuit. And in August, the Supreme Court agreed to stay the Fourth Circuit’s decision until the Supreme Court could decide whether to take the case for review.

Typically, the high court doesn’t take cases in a preliminary stage, but in October, it agreed to hear this appeal, specifically identifying two questions: One was a procedural issue involving whether a federal agency’s “unpublished letter” carries “the force of law;” the other was whether the departments’ interpretation of Title IX should “be given effect.”

Both parties in the case –as well as organizations on both sides of the argument—filed briefs. Oral argument was scheduled for March 28. Now the case will be reargued in front of the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va.

The ACLU’s position is that the Gloucester School Board’s “sweeping new policy” that requires students to use the school restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate (or use a “separate” restroom that is not labeled “girls” or “boys”) violates Title IX’s prohibition of discrimination based on “sex.”

The school district’s primary argument is that, when Congress passed Title IX, it intended the word “sex” to mean “nothing more than male and female, under the traditional binary conception of sex consistent with one’s birth or biological sex.” The U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of “sex” to include “gender identity,” it argued, amounted to creating new law.

The Trump DOJ-DOE letter on February 22 said its withdrawal of the previous guidelines “does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment.”

“All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment,” said the Trump administration letter. The Trump DOJ-DOE letter said the Obama administration guidance letters did not contain “extensive legal analysis or explain how [the letters’ position] is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did they undergo any formal public process.” And it added, “there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

The Supreme Court’s new order in the case comes at a time with the U.S. Attorney General, head of the Department of Justice, is in a very public battle to keep his jobs amid allegations that he lied to Congress and had inappropriate, perhaps, illegal communications with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. Attorney General Sessions, then a U.S. senator from Alabama, was a prominent supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It also comes as the Trump administration is struggling to find a new Solicitor General. Prominent attorney Miguel Estrada told the National Law Journal last week, “I would never accept a job that requires Senate confirmation….” The reaction was an apparent reflection of Estrada’s feelings about having to withdraw his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, following a Democratic filibuster. Earlier, Proposition 8 attorney Charles Cooper announced he did not want to be considered for the job.

© 2017 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Brownsville Democrat joins the forces of evil, voices support for bathroom bill

Sen. Eddie Lucio

State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a Democrat from Brownsville, today came out in support of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrrick’s and Sen. Lois Kolkurst’s bathroom bill, aka SB 6, according to a report by The Texas Tribune.

SB 6 would prohibit transgender people from using the appropriate public restroom facilities, and prohibits local governments or agencies from passing rules allowing otherwise. (The Texas Tribune explains exactly SB 6 says here.)

A hearing on the legislation is set for Tuesday, March 7, before the Senate State Affairs Committee,

Patrick parade Lucio before reports at a press conference to brag about having a Democrat supporting his hateful piece of legislation. Lucio, described as “a devout Catholic,” has been at odds with his Democratic colleagues on other “social issues,” like for example, abortion.

Lucio said at the press conference that “Children, youth and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security from other students and parents,” Texas Tribune reported.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who gets credit for pushing through his state’s bathroom bill — HB 2 — was also at the press conference. He urged Texas lawmakers not to listen to business leaders who say that SB 6 could damage the state economically, and claimed HB2 hasn’t hurt North Carolina at all.

(Others beg to differ with Forest’s claims that HB 2 hasn’t hurt his state. The Institute for Southern Studies, in a Jan. 6, 2017, article in its newsletter “Facing South,” estimated that the law has, so far, cost North Carolina about $560 million.)

Also at the press conference today, Patrick announced that he is launching “Operation 1 Million Voices” to build support for his hateful anti-transgender bill among Christians.

—  Tammye Nash

Supreme Court sends Gavin Grimm case back to lower court

Gavin Grimm

The Supreme Court vacated a Virginia court’s ruling in favor of transgender teen Gavin Grimm after the Trump administration reversed Obama administration guidance to public schools on transgender bathroom use.

The Appeals Court ruled in favor of Grimm, a 17-year-old student, relying on Obama administration guidance that said transgender students should use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Now the court must decide if Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, extends to transgender people. If so, the lower court would again find in Grimm’s favor.

The Supreme Court was to hear the case in a few weeks. By the time the case returns to the Supreme Court, the court sill probably have at least one more conservative justice.

“Nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law,” Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT Project, said. “Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination.” Block is Grimm’s lead attorney.

“The Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to end the painful discrimination currently faced by tens of thousands of transgender students nationwide,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “The position previously taken by the Departments of Education and Justice lifted up best practices for K-12 schools to improve the lives of students and provide a clear path to opportunity.”

—  David Taffet

Trans Pride Initiative holding vigil for slain community members

Trans Pride Initiative is inviting everyone to participate in a Community Candlelight Memorial and Rally for Trans Inclusiveness on Friday, March 3, from 7-8 p.m. at Reverchon Park Recreation Center, 3400 Maple Ave.

“We invite you to celebrate the love and lives of our transgender sisters and brother we’ve lost this year,” organizer Shannon Walker wrote on the Facebook page announcing the event. “We are getting off to a horrible start in 2017, so community awareness and support is desperately needed at this urgent time.”

Walker said the vigil will be live-streamed on Facebook so that those unable to attend can participate through the Trans Pride Initiative Facebook page, and “say their names:”

• Mesha Caldwell: 41-year-old hairstylist and makeup artist in Canton, Miss., found shot to death on Jan. 4, near a road just outside the Canton city limits. Police are investigating her death as a homicide. Initial media reports misgendered Caldwell.

• Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow: 28-year-old customer service agent for Lawrence & Schiller Teleservices, found dead in her apartment in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Jan. 6. She was a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and was a member of the Sioux Falls Two-Spirit and Allies group. A member of that group suggested she may have been killed as early as Jan. 1. Police are investigating her death as a homicide. Initial media reports misgendered Wounded Arrow.

• JoJo Striker: 23-year-old Toledo, Ohio woman found in an empty garage on Feb. 8. She died of a single gunshot wound to her torso, and police are investigating her death as a homicide. Initial media reports and statements from her family misgendered Striker.

• KeKe Collier: 24-year-old Chicago resident was killed Tuesday, Feb. 21, while sitting in a car with a man in the Englewood neighborhood where she lived. She died of multiple gunshot wounds. Initial reports in the Chicago Tribune identified Collier — also known as Tiara Richmond — by the first name “Donnell.” She was the second trans woman murdered in Chicago within six months; T.T. Safore, 28, was found dead, her throat cut, Sept. 11 near railroad tracks in the West Garfield Park area.

• Chyna Gibson: 31-year-old, also known as Chyna Doll Dupree, currently living in California, was shot to death Feb. 25 in New Orleans, where she had gone to visit family for Mardi Gras. Witnesses reported hearing as many as 10 gunshots. Gibson was a popular entertainer on the House/Ball and pageant circuits, and memorials for her were held in Dallas and in Houston.

• Ciara McElveen: 21-year-old New Orleans resident murdered Feb. 27, just two days after Chyna Gibson was shot to death. A witness said that a man stabbed McElveen in his car, then pulled her from the car, slammed her head on the pavement and ran over her before leaving the scene. Initial media reports misgendered McElveen.

• Jaquarrius Holland: 18-year-old Monroe, La., resident was shot to death during a verbal altercation on Feb. 19, but was initially misgendered by media reports. Monroe police have issued an arrest warrant for Malcom Derricktavious Harvey in connection with Holland’s death.

• Sean Ryan Hake: 23-year-old trans man, shot to death on Jan. 6 by a Sharon, Penn. police officers who were responding to a 9-11 domestic violence call at the home Hake shared with his mother. The Mercer County D.A.’s office opted not to file charges against the officers who shot Hake, saying that he was armed with a utility knife, had threatened his mother with the knife, was bleeding from his wrist, and then advanced on the officers with the knife, despite their warnings. Hake’s family has said they do not believe deadly force was warranted.

 

—  Tammye Nash