Trans history unearthed in Prague, but existence of LGBTs in early cultures should be no surprise

Copper Age grave near Prague appears to be that of a trans woman.

Reports have surfaced this week on several websites with news of a grave unearthed in the Czech Republic of what archeologists are saying appears to be a transgender woman.

The grave, found in a suburb of Prague, contained a skeleton that, while anatomically male, was buried in the traditional manner of a woman. The UK LGBT news site Pink News reports that the skeleton and grave are thought to be about 5,000 years old, dating from between 2900 and 2500 B.C., and is from the Corded Ware culture of the Copper Age.

Archaeologists say that males from that era are usually found buried facing west, with their weapons interred with them. But this skeleton was buried in the manner reserved for women: facing east and surrounded by domestic jugs.

Pink News quotes Kamila Remišová, the head of the research team, as saying: “From history and ethnology, we know that when a culture had strict burial rules they never made mistakes with these sort of things.”

—  admin

‘Another bridesmaid moment for the transgender community’

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ doesn’t apply to transgender recruits, who are barred from serving

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Before handcuffing herself to the White House fence, former Petty Officer First Class Autumn Sandeen carefully pinned three rows of Navy ribbons to her chest. Her regulation dress blue skirt, fitted jacket, hat and black pumps were new — fitting for a woman who spent two decades serving her country as a man.

Sandeen was the only transgender person among the six veterans arrested in April while protesting the military’s ban on openly gay troops. But when she watched President Barack Obama last month sign the hard-fought bill allowing for the ban’s repeal, melancholy tinged her satisfaction.

“This is another bridesmaid moment for the transgender community,” the 51-year-old San Diego resident said.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy now heading toward history does not apply to transgender recruits, who are automatically disqualified as unfit for service. But the military’s long-standing posture on gender-identity has not prevented transgender citizens from signing up before they come out, or from obtaining psychological counseling, hormones and routine health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs once they return to civilian life.

So as the Pentagon prepares to welcome openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service members for the first time, Sandeen is not alone in hoping the United States will one day join the seven other nations — Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Australia — that allow transgender troops.

“There is really no question, it’s just a matter of when,” said former Army Capt. Allyson Robinson, 40, a 1994 West Point graduate who has spoken to sociology classes at the alma mater she attended as a male cadet. “There are active-duty, as well as reserve and national guard transgender service members, serving today.”

No one knows how many transgender people are serving or have served. Neither the Department of Defense nor the VA keep statistics on how many service members have been discharged or treated for transgender conditions or conduct.

The Transgender American Veterans Association, an advocacy group founded in 2003, estimates there could be as many as 300,000 transgender people among the nation’s 26 million veterans.

When 50 TAVA members laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier six years ago, representatives from every U.S. conflict since World War II were there, said former Navy Machinist Mate First Class Monica Helms, the group’s co-founder and president.

Most had spent years, if not decades, as veterans before they could acknowledge the mismatches between their brains and their bodies. Helms, 59, spent four years in the engine room of a nuclear submarine during the Vietnam War, but did not start living as Monica until 1997.

Military regulations state that men and women who identify with or present a gender different from their sex at birth have mental conditions that make them ineligible to serve. Those who have undergone genital surgery are listed as having physical abnormalities. Service members caught cross-dressing on base have been court-martialed for interfering with “good order and discipline,” according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Until the American Psychiatric Association removes Gender Identity Disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as it did for homosexuality in 1973, that’s likely to remain the case, Sandeen said.

The very diagnosis that keeps transgender Americans out of uniform has enabled some to obtain transition-related medical care and other services when they become veterans.

Federal law prohibits Veterans Health Administration (VA) facilities from performing or paying for sex-change surgeries. But some VA medical centers provide psychological counseling, sex hormones, speech therapy and other medical treatment short of gender reassignment surgery.

Sandeen said the VA hospital in San Diego made it possible for her to start living as a woman once she retired from the Navy a decade ago.

“As soon as I got an appointment with the psychiatry department, the first thing I said to them is, ‘I have gender issues. I don’t know if I’m a transvestite or a transsexual or if I’m something in between, but I need to work this out with a therapist,”’ she recalled.

She eventually received a recommendation to see a VA doctor who could prescribe estrogen to help her grow breasts and hips and diminish body and facial hair. The endocrinologist told her she first would have to try presenting herself as a woman for two-and-half-months.

Sandeen, already classified as a disabled vet with bipolar disorder, had lined up a work-study job at the hospital’s patient health library.

“February 6, 2003, my first day of being publicly female, I was working for $10 an hour at the VA helping other vets with health care needs,” she said. “The VA is the organization that helped me work this out.”

The attention Sandeen received as a veteran is not unusual, but not universal, transgender advocates say. In response to complaints that some transgender veterans have been treated disrespectfully or denied care at VA facilities, Helms’ group has lobbied the Veterans Affairs department to issue guidelines on services to which transgender patients are entitled.

San Diego resident Zander Keig, who was a woman during a two-year stint with the Coast Guard, had been on testosterone for a year when he wanted his prescription transferred from a suburban VA clinic. But veterans are not allowed to change their names on discharge papers so he was directed to the women’s VA clinic in San Francisco.

Keig, 44, said a senior physician there “grilled me with questions. Why are you taking T? Do you know what it’s doing to your body? How are you eligible for these services?”

“I said, ‘I established my eligibility for VA services in 1988, I have every reason to be here. Am I going to get my shots or not?”’ Keig recalled. He did get his injections.

In 2007, the VA complex in Boston became the first veterans’ medical provider to draft a policy designed to assure transgender veterans received consistent and sensitive care.

Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the VA is reviewing the Boston policy and others, hoping to create a formal directive in the “near future.”

“As all veterans served this nation with the same expectation of honor and excellence, VA strives to provide all veterans equitable treatment respecting their honor by providing medical services with excellence,” she said.

Even with the enormous changes in their lives, many transgender veterans maintain connections with their military service. Sandeen still shops at a Navy commissary and grabs her military identification when she goes walking. Robinson considers her four years as a West Point cadet the best of her life, although she feared being caught with women’s clothes in her trunk.

“I love this country and I felt a personal calling to express that love of America through my willingness to sacrifice,” she said.

But when Robinson made her triumphant return to the academy for her speaking engagement, along with the congratulations, came comments that she was unworthy to be part of the “Long Gray Line.”

“It was as though the service I had rendered was suddenly worthless,” she said.

Former Air Force Sgt. Nicole Shounder, 52, who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1999, has spent the last four years wearing a uniform at sea, first with the Coast Guard auxiliary and now, as a civil service mariner nurse aboard the USNS Robert E Perry, which recently supplied deployments in the Mediterranean.

Shounder considers it a privilege to wear Navy-issued collar brass and shoulder boards.

“Given my circumstances, it really is,” she said. “Essentially until someone can say otherwise, I am probably the only out and open post-op transsexual in uniform for the Navy, or as close as you can be.”

—  John Wright

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

A former Aggie cadet comes out and comes clean

Clint Hooper is a gay man who went to Texas A&M and served in A&M’s Cadet Corps.

On Monday, to mark National Coming Out Day, Clint sent a letter to Col. Jake Betty, interim commandant of the A&M Cadet Corps., coming out to Betty as a gay man, and “coming clean” about how he “broke the Aggie Honor Code in every way.”

With Clint’s permission, I wanted to share that letter with all of you in Instant Tea land:

Colonel Betty:

I am a proud Aggie, and as such, I believe it is my responsibility to inform you that as a cadet, I broke the Aggie Honor Code in every way and would like to come clean and come out.

As a closeted gay man in the Corps of Cadets, I lied. I lied to my buddies, to my leaders as an underclassman, to my followers as a First Sergeant and a Company Commander, and to myself. I lied because in a setting that is so masculinized it is “Not a privilege to be gay, sir!” there was seemingly no possible way to be honest.

As a closeted gay man in the Corps of Cadets, I cheated. I cheated during the selection process for leadership positions. I was selected to be company First Sergeant and Commander over my buddies because of my dishonesty. I knew that, should I have been truthful, I would not have been placed in those leadership positions.

As a closeted gay man in the Corps of Cadets, I stole. I stole the learning experience of knowing a gay man from my buddies and fellow cadets. There is a stigma and fear of gay people that only knowing and conversing with a gay person can dispel. I have seen it time and time again, the literal eye-opening experience when a person I knew has had a meaningful and educational conversation with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person and realizes that what they have been told is wrong.

As you may know, today is National Coming Out Day. It is a day where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and allied individuals across the national make an effort to make people they known and love aware that they know and love a GLBT person. At this critical time in our nation, and ultimately, humankind’s history, it is imperative that you, the Commandant’s Staff, Corps Housing, cadets and anyone affiliated with the corps know that you are all surrounded by co-workers, friends, family, cadets, classmates, buddies, ol’ ladies, leaders, followers and professors who are openly being discriminated against and forced to live a life of lies. Since 1994, more than 14,000 soldiers have been discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; 29 states allow GLBT persons to be fired because of their sexuality, and GLBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

With nearly 2,000 cadets walking the quad every day, it would be naive to believe that the Corps uniform is not being worn by even a single gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individual. We are there. We are in the ranks of khaki. We are living on the quad. We are eating in Duncan. We are marching into Kyle Field to the beat of the drums that countless other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender cadets have marched to for over a century.

Within each fish Cadence and in every Standard is a section of Core Values that states, “We respect others and have regard for their dignity, worth and individuality.” Yet I do not believe this to be so. When young men and women, destined to become leaders in the pubic and private sectors of society, are made to feel rejected, insignificant and outcast, then there is no regard for dignity, worth or individuality.

As an integral part of a university that is constantly working on not only advancement in education and science, but on improving our society, the Corps, as a foundation of the university, should take a stand on the acceptance of GLBT cadets and individuals in general. The Corps of Cadets proudly boasts that it is producing “leaders of character.” These future leaders will undoubtedly lead or be GLBT people. To deny this is absurd. This nation is changing, and the movement is reaching far and wide. People, young and old, are taking to the streets, picking up their phones and writing to their congressmen and women, demanding their own or their loved ones’ rights. One of our own, former president of Texas A&M Robert Gates, is currently working on the process of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Wouldn’t it be prudent of the Corps of Cadets to be at the forefront of this movement?

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is succumbing to public opinion and will be repealed sooner rather than later; states will change their employment laws that allow people to be fired based on their sexuality, and equality will lead to more public acceptance of the GLBT community. When this happens, should the Corps of Cadets be left behind as a relic of the past? Or should the Corps of Cadets take the necessary steps now to ensure that its former, current and future cadets are proud to say that they received the quality leadership experience and education that I received without having to break the Aggie Honor Code?

Colonel Betty, I am asking you to take a stand for the rights and welfare of the cadets that you advise and oversee. Though they may not be known to you, they are there and they are looking to for leadership. Support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and make it known that the Corps of Cadets is a safe environment for everyone no matter their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, (dis)ability or sexual orientation. That hate is not an Aggie value, discrimination based on sexuality will not be tolerated and that the leaders, destined for the military and for the civilian sector, which are forged and educated in our corps are true leaders of character. To not do so would be an injustice to them, to you, to our Cadet Corps, and to the university we hold so dear.

Clint Hooper, Denton

—  admin

Texas Transgender Summit attendees on Nikki Araguz case: Littleton v. Prange is bunk

Dozens of individuals and organizations meeting at the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit in Houston issued a joint statement Thursday on the Nikki Araguz case. In case you missed it, Araguz is the transgender widow of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who died in the line of duty earlier this month. Thomas Araguz’s is family is suing Nikki Araguz in an effort to prevent her from receiving death benefits, alleging that the marriage was invalid. Below is the full text of the statement. For a list of signatories, go here.

HOUSTON, Texas (July 22, 2010) — We, the attendees of the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, issue this statement to demonstrate our support for Mrs. Nikki Araguz and to call attention to her plight and that of all transgender people in the state of Texas.

Mrs. Nikki Araguz legally married a man, and her marriage has been recognized under the laws of the state of Texas. Nikki’s husband, a fireman in Wharton County, tragically was killed in the line of duty, and now other parties are attempting to use the courts to have her marriage legally overturned in an effort to deny her inheritance and insurance.

These parties are claiming that Nikki is not legally a woman under Texas law. Nikki’s opponents are attempting to use an obscure Texas case, Littleton v. Prange (1999), to declare that her marriage should be invalid. The Littleton case says that a person’s gender is determined by chromosomes, not physical attributes. The Littleton case was decided to deny a transgender woman her right to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband — even though Littleton had legally changed her gender and had been legally married in Texas.

The Littleton case was wrongfully decided at the time, and if taken literally stands for the proposition that a transgender person cannot marry anyone, of either gender, under Texas law. Clearly, this is wrong. Denying anyone the right to marry whom they love is a violation of the most basic freedoms under our laws. To deny the validity of an existing, legal marriage, after one of the spouses has died, as justification for the redistribution of inheritance and insurance, is abhorrent to the values of common decency, fair play, and justice that most Texans hold dear.

We, the attendees of this Summit, extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Araguz, and call for the swift dismissal of this lawsuit so that Mrs. Araguz may be left to mourn her loss in private without distraction or worry for her financial stability.

If necessary, we also call for the courts to consider the Littleton case superseded by the recent changes to the Texas Family Code that recognize a court ordered gender change as definitive proof of identity.

Sadly, discrimination against people because of either their gender identity or expression is common. There are few laws in the state of Texas to address this need. The purpose of our Summit is to find ways to help people confront and overcome the issues now facing all transgender people in Texas and, tragically, Mrs. Nikki Araguz.

—  John Wright