Trans coach finds acceptance in small Rhode Island town

 

Stephen Alexander was a typical boy. He loved Transformers and Gobots (but did not find out until later that they were a product of Hasbro in Providence, R.I., just a few miles from his home in Chepachet). He spent hours with the neighborhood kids, playing basketball, baseball and Wiffle ball. “I never wanted to go home,” he recalls.

There was one problem: His parents treated him like a girl. That’s what they saw when they looked at his genitals.

And that’s why Alexander competed on girls teams at Ponaganset High School. He was a superb athlete — one of the best in the school’s history, male or female. He scored more than 1,000 points for the Chieftains’ girls basketball team, winning four consecutive state championships and earning All-State first team honors. He was offered a full scholarship for the basketball team at Stonehill College, a Division II Jesuit school in Massachusetts. But he gave it up, because being in the women’s locker room finally became too unbearable.

Majoring in religious studies, psychology and philosophy, Alexander sought to discover who he really was. His journey of self-discovery took him about as far away from Rhode Island as he could go: Tasmania. There he studied Buddhism. Studying further, through a Semester at Sea program, he finally understood himself as a transgender man.

“I tell people I’ve crossed the equator, the prime meridian and the gender spectrum,” he quips. He says the process took him from gender identity disorder, to gender identity difference, and finally to gender identity feelings.

He returned to his home town, and finally came out to his parents. But Chepachet is a very small place. Soon, he headed to the biggest city in the U.S.: New York.

Everyone knew him in Chepachet. In NYC, nobody did. That’s where he began his career as a teacher. It’s also where he had gender reassignment surgery. His parents, who had taken their own path to understanding their son, were there. Doctors told them that most parents seldom are.

But the pull of home was strong. His sister has two children, and Alexander wanted to watch them grow up. He returned to Rhode Island, and tried to figure out what to do next.

A female friend told him the boys middle school soccer team needed a coach. Alexander stepped in. Soon he was coaching their basketball and baseball teams. Tennis and volleyball followed. He coached boys and girls teams. He loved what he was doing. There were challenges — managing young adolescents is not easy, and their parents can be a handful, too — but that’s part of the joy of coaching.

Though he was in a small town, and most people there had known him as a champion female athlete, he says that being a trans man was never an issue. No one said anything to his face; no one complained to the school board. There may have been whispers, he admits, and perhaps one or two youngsters did not try out for his teams because of the coach. But if that happened, he says, “I never heard about it.”

He worked with coaches he’d gone to school with. He coached boys and girls whose parents he’d played sports with, or been taught by. Some of those adults still call him by the name they remember. They try to call him “Stephen,” but old habits die hard.

Perhaps they’re reminded by the banner hanging in the Ponaganset High School gym. It honors the few players who scored more than 1,000 points in their basketball careers. Alexander’s is there, with his girl’s name. There is one place his name does not appear: the Ponaganset Athletic Hall of Fame. His sister nominated him, but he has not been selected.

Alexander was surprised … but then again, he wasn’t. What people say behind closed doors is not always what they say to his face.

Alexander has a lot to say. He’s created a website called Transition Games (www.transitiongames.com), in part to highlight his public speaking career. “Stephen’s story brought me to tears, and to a new understanding of diversity in sports,” praises a college student who heard him talk.

“It’s so important to have conversations about transforming sports,” Alexander says. “We need to help kids recognize early what happens when we separate the sexes. There’s this notion that boys are better, faster and stronger than girls. Sports is really about finding out who you are, whoever you are, then working together to heighten competitiveness and honor your opponents. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

And Stephen Alexander — a trans man, and boys and girls sports coach in rural Rhode Island — is doing it.

— Dan Woog

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

NY woman is 10th trans woman murdered this year

Brenda Bostick was found unconscious near the intersection of 7th and 29th in Chelsea on April 28. She died at Bellevue Hospital on May 4.

Brenda Bostick, 59, died  Thursday, May 4, after being found unconscious on a street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. She is the 10th transgender person murdered this year — nine have been black trans women and the 10th was a Native American woman.

The New York Post reports that Bostick, believed to be homeless, was found, unconscious, about 10:30 p.m. April 25 on 7th Avenue at 29th Street, about a half hour after someone called 911 to report an assault in progress in the area. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital and died there on May 4.

According to GLAAD, other trans women murdered this year are:

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28, murdered Jan. 1 in Sioux Fall, S.D.

Mesha Caldwell, 41, murdered Jan. 4 in Canton, Miss.

JoJo Striker, 23, murdered Feb. 8 in Toledo, Ohio.

Kiki Collier, 24, murdered Feb. 21 in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.

• Chyna Gibson, 31, murdered Feb,. 25 in New Orleans, La.

• Ciara McElveen, 21, murdered Feb. 27 in New Orleans, La.

• Jaquarrius Holland, 18, murdered Feb. 19, in Monroe, La. (Identified as transgender on Feb. 28.

• Alphonza Watson, 38, murdered March 22 in Baltimore, Md.

ª Chay Reed, 28, murdered April 21 in Miami, Fla.

—  Tammye Nash

Heineken offers a whole new kind of beer ad — and it’s kind of amazing

Well, I don’t drink beer. But I definitely think that this ad proves a point: When we are open and honest about who we are, and when we are willing to talk without rancor we can change the world.

Thanks Heineken.

—  Tammye Nash

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