Questions arise over FW trans ordinance

Double negative included in addition to protections adopted last year could bar trans from using gender-specific restrooms

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Lisa Thomas
Lisa Thomas

FORT WORTH — A double negative in one sentence of an addition to the nondiscrimination protections in the Fort Worth ordinance would enshrine one form of bias against transgenders.

Proposed Section 17-48 (b) says “It shall not be unlawful for any person or any employee or agent thereof to deny any person entry into any restroom, shower room, bathhouse or similar facility which has been designated for use by persons of the opposite sex.”

Fort Worth assistant attorney Gerald Pruitt confirmed that, as written, the clause allows anyone to deny a transgender person presenting as one sex entry into a restroom if that person has not completed transition.

The concern among members of the transgender community stems from an incident in which a transgender woman was arrested in Houston for using a women’s restroom in a public library.

Earlier this year, Mayor Annise Parker issued an executive order that prohibited that form of discrimination, allowing transgenders to use whichever restroom they feel is appropriate in any city facility. The library would have been included in Parker’s order.

The November arrest contradicted the order but the action was against earlier laws already on the books.

“We have a number of transgender employees in Fort Worth,” Pruitt said. “I have no knowledge of any action like this ever being taken.”

He said that a situation arose about five years ago when someone began transitioning on the job. Someone who had been male was suddenly presenting as female and began using the woman’s room, he said.

“I think that’s where most of the angst is,” he said, explaining that someone everyone knew as a man began using the women’s restroom.

Pruitt said that the solution that satisfied everyone was that a bathroom convenient to the trans woman’s office was designated as her private restroom.

But he denied that this particular clause was in reaction to the Houston case, which he said he had not heard about before. And he said that as far as he knew, the wording was correct.

Tom Anable at Fairness Fort Worth was concerned about that one clause. He wondered why, if something was described as “not unlawful,” it would have been listed under the heading “unlawful acts.”

“I have sent it to staff at [the Human Rights Campaign] to ask for input on this,” Anable said.

Lisa Thomas, appointed to Fort Worth’s Human Rights Commission by Councilmember Joel Burns, said she had been “made aware of this discrepancy.”

“I’ve asked the chair and administrator of the commission to investigate what is the intent of these words, knowing it is not the intent to bar admission to restrooms,” Thomas said.

She said that in all discussions in the city, the intent has been not to discriminate.

“But we have to make sure we are all in alignment and right now it doesn’t seem like we are,” she said.

Tom Anable
Tom Anable

Section 17-48 (a) (1) adds language that bars discrimination against transgender persons. “Sexual orientation, transgender, gender identity or gender expression” are added to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age as protected categories.

No “person, employee or agent” may deny anyone “advantages, facilities or services” that Section states. So section (a) (1) contradicts Section (b) since the second section does deny admission to facilities.

Section 17-48 (a) (2) makes it illegal to deny anyone admission or expel someone from a place of public accommodation “for alleged non-compliance with a dress code.”

Exemptions to the ordinance include any facility whose services are restricted to members and their guests, religious organizations, private day cares, kindergartens or nursery schools.

But that exemption applies equally to ability to discriminate based on race or religion as sexual orientation or gender identity.

Again, section (a) (2) contradicts Section (b) because admission is denied.

Violating any provision of the code is a misdemeanor. So presumably, any person discriminating against a transgender person by refusing to allow them to use a specific restroom would be charged with a misdemeanor.

The word “not” may have been placed in the sentence by mistake. If so, these additions have not been adopted yet and may be changed before the city council votes on them.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Remembering the fallen

READING THE NAMES |  As Aaron Barnes and Dorian Mooneyham, above, read the names of the victims of violence against the transgender community, others line up, below, to lay red roses on a table in memory of the victims during the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony held Sunday, Nov. 21, at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. For a full story and video of the event, go online to DallasVoice.com. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Capacity crowd marks Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A capacity crowd filled the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday night, Nov. 21.

Nell Gaither, a steering committee member for GEAR, served as MC. She noted the recent spate of suicides among gay youth. GEAR is the transgender program of Resource Center Dallas.

Among transgender adults, 40 percent have attempted suicide, a rate 25 times higher than among the rest of the community, she said.

She said 20 percent of transgender people had been refused healthcare treatment and even more experience harassment in a medical setting.

Among transgender people of color, 35 percent live below the poverty level.

A portion of the memorial was dedicated to Alexander Allison, a local trans man who committed suicide this year.

Among the speakers were Resource Center Dallas Executive Director Cece Cox.

Cox thanked the transgender community for answering her many questions so she can be a better ally. She also commented on the growing visibility of the transgender community.

“When someone tries to make me feel invisible, it makes me feel ‘less than’ and that doesn’t feel good,” she said.

Former Mayor Pro Tem John Loza said the community needs to do more than just tell LGBT youth that in 10 years it will get better — it also must provide the tools for them to get there.

“But there is reason for hope,” he said.

He listed recent gains the transgender community has made, including the election of the first transgender judge in California and Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment last week of Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge. He lauded Dallas Independent School District’s new enumerated anti-bullying policy that includes gender identity and expression.

As Aaron Barnes and Dorian Mooneyham read the names of 30 transgender victims of violence, members of the community lit candles and laid red roses on a table. Two of those victims were from Houston.

Mo Snow gave closing remarks. “I don’t want to be the reason my partner is discriminated against,” he said, calling her the most loving person he’d ever met.

For the third year, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas ensemble MosaicSong opened and performed during the ceremony. Voice of Pride winners Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales also performed.

—  David Taffet

Phyllis Frye becomes Texas’ 1st trans judge

Phyllis Frye

It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.

On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.

Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:

Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.

The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.

It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.

UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts.  Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.

It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse.  I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges.  And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge.  The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation.  This is a great honor.  I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously  confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.

(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position.  The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission.  Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011.  If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at jrpcom@aol.com <mailto:jrpcom@aol.com> .)

(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship.  I think there are a few other  appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country.  Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January.  Congratulations to Vicki.)

My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”

I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at www.liberatinglaw.com <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/> .

Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community.  And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.

I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation.  I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.

NEVER GIVE UP!

For more go to http://www.legislativequeery.com/2010/11/trans-pioneer-phyllis-frye-becomes.html
Phyllis Randolph Frye
THE PHYLLABUSTER  <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/>
www.liberatinglaw.com  <http://www.tglegal.com/>
www.tglegal.com
prfrye@aol.com

—  John Wright

DFW Pride Movement includes premiere of the new urban LGBT network GLO TV

Let’s just say GLO TV looks like they know how to make an entrance. As part of Black Pride Weekend, the new network is bringing out some big guns for its Dallas premiere party this Saturday. And according to the press release, it’s also a gesture of solidarity with DFW Pride Movement “to support the community activism and social action of ‘The Movement.’”

We can dig that, but we can especially get behind the star power they are bringing to town. The cocktail reception will include appearances by Maurice Jamal (“Dirty Laundry,” “The Ski Trip” and network president), DeMarco Majors (“Shirts and Skins”), Rodney Chester (“Noah’s Arc”) and J.R. Rolley (“Slutty Summer,” “Four Letter Word”). They will also give a peek at the upcoming season with new shows “Friends and Lovers,” “Dating Dwight,” “The Gayest Sh%t Ever” and “Beyond the Heels,” which the network deems as “a ground-breaking shows about the transgender community.”

The best part — it’s open to the public.They reception will be at The Westin City Center, 650 N. Pearl St. on Saturday at 3 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

New group forming for hate crime survivors

O’Connor, Mullinex both fell victim to hate crimes, and now they want to use their experiences to help others

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Maeve O’Connor, left, and Winter Mullinex

Options for victims of hate crimes are limited. But two transgender women who survived life-threatening attacks have the group formed Surviving Hate to try and offer more options for hate-crime survivors who are trying to put their lives back together.
To raise money to launch their group, Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna will screen his film, “Ticked-Off Tr*nnies With Knives,” on July 7 at Studio Movie Grill in North Dallas.

Surviving Hate organizer Maeve O’Connor said there are advocacy groups for hate crime victims, but survivor groups outside of a clinical setting are rare. She said she realized the need for such a group during discussions with Winter
Mullinex, who also lived through a violent attack.

“We realized we were able to empathize with each other about what we went through,” O’Connor said.

The new group is still in the development stage. Their goal, she said, was to empower survivors to live healthy lives. A website where survivors will be able to share their experiences, anonymously if they prefer, should be running next week. O’Connor said they are still creating their board of directors and then will apply for non-profit status.

O’Connor said she hopes this spawns a network of survivor groups across the country.

Surviving Hate will reach beyond the transgender community to help victims of any bias-related violence — whether it was motivated by race, religion, ethnicity or physical disability, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The most recent FBI statistics are for 2008, a year before the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crime law was enacted. Of the 7,780 bias incidents reported for that year, 16.7 percent were based on sexual orientation.

O’Connor believes that some crimes based on gender identity are included in that number, but most have gone unreported. Statistics compiled for the year 2010 — that will not be available until 2012 — will include gender identity and expression as specified in the new law.

Both O’Connor and Mullinex spoke about the crimes that affected their lives. Both were raped, beaten and left for dead. O’Connor said her rapists told her, “You look like a girl. You act like a girl. We’re going to help make you a girl.”

The attack happened 31 years ago when she was 16.

The first reaction is fear, she said, and like many hate crime victims, she did not report the crime. Next, she said, comes shame.

But she said at that age she did not understand gender identity and was not out, she believed the attack happened because of who she really was.

Winter, a survivor of multiple hate crime attacks, was first raped at age 9. She said she understood at the time she was transgender.

Both women said the purpose of their new group is not to wallow in pity. Survivors often think their reactions are unusual, but together victims discover their reactions are quite similar and normal.

The women said the victims are often blamed for bringing on the attack. But the purpose of Surviving Hate is not self-pity or assigning blame.

“How do you thrive?” O’Connor said. “How do you go on with your life? I’ve become successful. I’d like others to do that.”

“I can tell you, 31 years later, you don’t get over it,” she said. “But you do learn to deal with it and put it to the side.”

“When you’re in a victim mindset, you feel powerless,” Mullenix said. “No one lives unscarred, but survivors are empowered and capable of leading a normal life.”

She would like to help hate crime victims move past the fear.

Their goal for survivors seems simple but is something that took both women years to achieve.

“Learn to have healthy, happy relationships and trust again,” Winter said. •

“Ticked Off Tr*nnies with Knives” at Studio Movie Grill, 11170 North Central Expressway. July 7 at 8 p.m. $10. SurvivingHate.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas