Two lesbian couples — each with a trans partner — marry in Dallas courtroom

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JJ Larson and Dani Pellett

Two lesbian couples, each with a trans partner,  married in Judge Carl Ginsberg’s court Friday morning.

Genevieve Jonte and Ashley Boucher said they contacted every justice of the peace in Dallas County, but none would perform their wedding. Then they contacted other judges. Ginsberg was the only judge who responded affirmatively.

Dani Pellett and JJ Larson decided to join them.

Ginsberg asked which couple was going first after the 100 guests filed into the courtroom.

“Dibs,” Pellett said.

The couple’s mothers signed the marriage license and kissed the brides.

Jonte and Boucher’s two children, ages 3 and 5, dressed in top hats for the occasion and held flowers as their moms got married.

The courtroom erupted in a standing ovation after Ginsberg announced, “You are now a happily, lawfully wedded couple,” after each of the ceremonies.

However, a court ruling in Corpus Christi on Thursday may affect the marriages. In that case, a judge ruled that a marriage between a man and a trans woman was legal. That overturns a 1999 case that prevented a trans person from having a heterosexual marriage, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage if one partner is trans.

The marriage licenses were issued to the two Dallas couples prior to the ruling, and it is unclear whether they remain valid under Texas law or whether Attorney General Greg Abbott will challenge their validity.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Texas appeals court rules in favor of trans widow Nikki Araguz

Nikki Araguz

Nikki Araguz

CORPUS CHRISTI — The 13th District Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi issued a landmark opinion Thursday in favor of Houston trans widow Nikki Araguz, ruling that Texas must recognize the marriages of trans people.

The opinion, written by Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez, reverses the 2011 ruling by Houston state district Judge Randy Clapp, who ruled that Araguz was born male and Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment doesn’t recognize her marriage to a man. Her 2008 marriage to her late husband, Thomas Araguz III, became invalid. Thomas Araguz was a volunteer firefighter in Wharton and was killed in the line of duty in 2010 and Nikki Araguz was denied his death benefits.

Clapp’s ruling hinged on the 1999 Texas Court of Appeals decision in Littleton v. Prange, which found that since a male who transitioned to female was born male, she was therefore still male. Her marriage to a male was therefore invalid because same-sex marriages are invalid under state law.

But the Texas Legislature opened the door for transgender marriage in 2009 when it added documentation of a sex change to the identification documents people can present to obtain a marriage license. Araguz’s appeal in September hinged on how the 2009 statute voids the Littleton ruling.

Houston attorney Kent Rutter, the lead attorney for the appeal, said the opinion marks the first time in Texas a court has recognized that trans people have the right to marry.

“What the decision today says is Texas law now recognizes that an individual who has had a sex change is eligible to marry a person of the opposite sex,” he said. “I think it’s a significant victory for trans people in Texas.”

Kent said that the ruling will result in further court proceedings to ensure Araguz receives her late husband’s death benefits.

 

—  Anna Waugh

Laverne Cox: Love for trans community will end injustices she, others face

Trans actress Laverne Cox addresses the crowd at Creating Change Thursday evening in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Trans actress Laverne Cox addresses the crowd at Creating Change 2014 Thursday evening in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice) 

HOUSTON — Transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox has learned to love herself and is pleased to see the rest of the country learning to love trans people.

Cox gave the keynote address Thursday evening at this year’s national Creating Change conference at the Hilton Americas–Houston.

She walked onstage to a standing ovation and loud cheers from the 4,000 people in the audience. But she admitted to them  she was “not used to receiving this kind of love.”

“I have to say that a black transgender woman from a working-class background raised by a single mother getting all this love tonight; this feels like the change I need to see more of in the country,” Cox said.

—  Anna Waugh

College offering course on RuPaul’s Drag Race

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RuPaul

You won’t find a class that analyzes RuPaul’s influence on culture at Bob Jones University, but head over to Occidental College, and you will.

The liberal arts institution in Los Angeles is offering a new course in the spring called “Reading RuPaul: Camp Culture, Gender Insubordination, and the Politics of Performance.” The class will study the LOGO television series from a gay and feminist perspective.

The course description notes:

While RuPaul’s show brings the art of drag performance and gay subculture issues to a wide audience, the course will consider how it addresses the history of drag and U.S. gay culture, as well as a broad range of issues such as transgender identity, HIV/AIDS, bullying and violence, racial identity, gender identity, body size, and LGBT political activism.

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6 is months away, but you can see a short trailer here:

 

 

 

—  Steve Ramos

Jelly Belly chairman donates to anti-trans campaign

 

Herman Rowland Sr.

Herman Rowland Sr.

SACRAMENTO — A group whose sole purpose is to repeal California Assembly Bill 1266 received a $5,000 boost from Jelly Belly Chairman of the Board Herman Rowland Sr., according to the Advocate.

The bill, passed in August, guarantees transgender students have equal access to bathrooms, locker rooms, sport teams and other gender-segregated school facilities, and it was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Since then, Privacy For All Students has worked to have it overturned.

Frank Schubert, a well-known activist for the National Organization for Marriage, runs the group working to repeal the legislation. NOM also is actively working to stop same-sex marriage from being legalized.

Rowland’s donation triggered a Change.org petition from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Jelly Belly Chair Herman Rowland Sr. is using some of his fortune to fund an effort to overturn California’s new School Success and Opportunity Act,” the petition reads. “This law ensures that transgender students are allowed to participate in school programs and activities just like every other boy and girl.”

—  Steve Ramos

After 2 months, no suspects but some details in Denton trans murder

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Artegus Madden

Some details of the Artegus Madden murder have been revealed to The Dallas Morning News while the Denton County’s Sheriff’s Department continues to refuse to speak to Dallas Voice or the LGBT community about the case.

The Morning News ran a salacious story about the Madden murder over the weekend. While Denton County investigators have refused to return calls from Dallas Voice, Dallas Morning News apparently saw our story because two months after the murder, they’re suddenly interested. To their credit, the newspaper was able to get certain facts and even an appeal for information.

Madden met someone on the Internet the night of her death. There was no sign of breaking and entering and unnamed items were missing from her home.

So the main suspect is likely the person she met online. But investigators apparently don’t know who that person is.

“The problem with this case is that there are so many unknowns,” Denton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Kish told the Morning News. “We’re just going back and redoing everything to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”

One of the unknowns is why the sheriff’s department refused to talk to the LGBT community to ask for help in solving the case.

“It’s a very complicated case, and the transgender part is a very important part of this case because it is what it is,” the Morning News quotes Kish awkwardly saying.

Or maybe not so awkward. It’s a murder. If she picked up someone online, there’s history in her computer or phone. Trace it.

Two months after the murder, we have a new contact for anyone with information. People can contact investigator Donn Britt in the Denton County Sheriff’s Office at 940-349-1667.

—  David Taffet

TENT seeks trans military veterans for Texas Outserve-SLDN conference

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Oliver Blumer

The Transgender Education Network of Texas is looking for trans veterans to serve on a panel at the 2013 Outserve -SLDN leadership conference.

TENT needs those who can attend the Oct. 25–27 conference in San Antonio and are comfortable telling their stories but is also looking for people who are not comfortable speaking in public to privately share their stories to collect for a “public narrative.”

Although “don’t ask, don’t tell” ended for gay and lesbian service members, trans personnel may still be thrown out of the military.

The Saturday afternoon panel is entitled “Transgender Veterans: Stories to Move the DADT Transgender Service Members Forward.” Those interested in participating should contact Oliver Blumer. Those interested in participating in the public narrative should contact TENT’s Katy Stewart.

Among the other presenters at the conference are the American Military Partner Assocation that has been following the Texas National Guard’s refusal to register same-sex partners of military personnel so they can receive an ID and federal benefits.

The 2013 Outserve-SLDN leadership conference will be held in San Antonio on Oct. 25–27 at the Marriott Rivercenter. Tickets are available online.

—  David Taffet

Gender Journey hosts discussion on plastic surgery options on Tuesday

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Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas is hosting a plastic surgery options discussion with Dr. Peter Raphael at its meeting on Tuesday.

The church’s Gender Journey Ministry meets weekly on Tuesdays form 7-9 p.m. Raphael, who is internationally known for his techniques in transgender surgery, is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Raphael has a private practice in Plano, where he specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

The event is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1840 Hutton Drive, Suite 100, in Carrollton.

Gender Journey partners with the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT). That organization announced this week that eight trans leaders across the Lone Star State will be traveling to New York  for a three-day training session on Sept. 25-27.

The training, “Public Narrative Training for Transgender Organizers,” is hosted by the New Organizing Institute. Those attending from Texas are: Antywan Smith, Oliver Blumer, Carter Brown, Lou Weaver, Tye West, Michelle Stafford, Boston Bostian and Katy Stewart.

—  Anna Waugh

Trans women talk about dangers of living in Mexico, hopes of leaving

Yokzana Martinez Balez

Yokzana Martinez Balez (Photo by Amy Lieberman)

The plight of transgender women in Mexico and the dangers they face in trying to flee to Texas are highlighted in a story from WomensENews.org.

Several trans women talk about the lack of support of family and friends when they come out as trans, and the few job options they have of working at a bar, hair salon or on the street as a sex worker.

Conditions are harsher in Puebla, where the women interviewed live, because it’s among 22 of Mexico’s 31 states that don’t protect LGBT people against discrimination. Mexico has the second-highest murder rate of transgender people.

While some of the women have resolved their family conflicts, others still wrestle with the idea of a future beyond the Texas border. Like Yokzana Martinez Balez, who transitioned at 15. Her family reacted negatively and she was forced to leave her parents’ home in Puebla shortly after. She left high school and went north, to Sonora, where she worked as a sex worker.

Now 18, she works at a bar and also some nights as a sex worker. Even though money is tight, she knows she could make more working in the U.S.

“I’d like to go to the U.S. and spend my life there and have a family. My brothers migrated when I was young and are doing well there,” she told WomensENews.org. “But it is much harder for a trans person to migrate. I fear I will get killed if I go.”

Read about more trans women’s stories here.

—  Anna Waugh

Houston’s Jenifer Pool vies to become 1st transgender elected official in Texas

Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Pool is making a second bid for Houston City Council this November. If elected, Pool would make history as the first transgender official elected in Texas. She is seeking an at-large seat.

“We’re in much better shape this time,” she said.

Last election, Pool had 10 opponents, including two who were LGBT, and did not make it into the runoff. She said this time only six others are running with no one else from the LGBT community.

“We’re more organized,” she said. “We have more volunteers, more money at the first reporting period, more support in the African-American community.”

In this election, Pool said she’s better known and has the endorsement of many of her opponents in the last race.

The LGBT community is supporting her candidacy in greater numbers than last time, she said.

“The community isn’t looking for anyone else to support,” she said.

Pool is a self-employed consultant in construction management and permitting and, like Mayor Annise Parker, is a former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Pool also hosts Queer Voices, an LGBT program on KPFT, Houston’s Pacifica station. Because of FCC rules, once her name officially is placed on the ballot in August, she will be off the air until after the election.

One of her opponents in the race is Al Edwards, a former member of the Legislature, best remembered for authoring the bill that made Juneteenth a state holiday in 1979. But Edwards also championed the anti-marriage amendment in 2005.

Also running for re-election in Houston are Mayor Annise Parker, who is lesbian, and Mike Laster, who’s gay and holds a district rather than at-large seat.

Houston municipal elections are held in November. Mayor and city council members may run for three two-year terms. This year, Election Day is Nov. 5. The runoff is on Dec. 3.

—  David Taffet