Fort Worth now has not one but two transgender support groups

After we featured the new group Fort Worth Transgender Support on the cover of Dallas Voice, leaders with another Cowtown trans group, Trans-cendence, informed us it has started up again.

Chris Christian, the group’s co-leader, said the group was inactive for some time due to busy schedules and leadership changes. Christian first heard about the group last year after it was started by two members in June. He started becoming more involved in March and recently created a new website.

Christian said he didn’t know about Fort Worth Transgender Support, but he wants to collaborate with them on events and socials.

“The bigger the trans community is, the more support you have,” Christian said.

Christian said he found the group helpful because some groups reacted negatively to him not starting his transition yet. And while GEAR at Resource Center Dallas welcomed him with open arms, he wanted a group closer to home. He said Trans-cendence accepts everyone under the gender umbrella from cross-dressers to trans and gender-queer people.

“We welcome everyone, even people who are questioning and don’t know,” he said.

—  Dallasvoice

Trans singer Laura Jane Grace will front Against Me! Wednesday night at HOB

Last month, Rolling Stone Magazine broke the news of Against Me!’s lead singer Tom “Tommy” Gabel as beginning his transition from male to female. As described in the article, the punk rock singer had been privately dealing with gender dysphoria since childhood. Eventually becoming Laura Jane Grace, pictured, she describes her decision as necessary and a relief to the unhappiness she has felt for a long time.

The news was a bit of a shock coming from a rough and tumble punk rock world where aggressive banter and overbearing masculinity is celebrated. However, there have been many subtle, and some obvious, hints throughout Against Me!’s music. In the band’s 2007 album New Wave, the track “The Ocean” reads: If I could have chosen I would have been born a woman / My mother once told me she would have named me Laura / I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her / One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband.

—  admin

Well that takes the cake: “Drag Race’s” Carmen Carrera receives apology from TLC’s “Cake Boss”

Carmen Carrera, the self-identified trans woman who appeared on Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, got a bit of a shock on Monday night. She made a guest appearance on the TLC show Cake Boss, where she apparently thought she would be portrayed as a role model for trans youth. Instead, it turned out to be a prank between the eponymous cake boss, Buddy Valastro, and his cousin Anthony. Anthony hit on Carmen in a bar, only to be told later — incorrectly, of course — that “that was a man!”

Carrera was outraged and complained — not the least of her complaints was that Anthony referred to her as “it.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Transgender woman ticketed for using women’s restroom at Parkland hospital has criminal record

Paula Witherspoon

A transgender woman who was ticketed for using a women’s restroom at Parkland hospital last week has a criminal background and is a registered sex offender, Instant Tea has learned.

On Tuesday, we reported that 56-year-old Paula Witherspoon, of Dallas, was cited for disorderly conduct on April 25 after using a women’s restroom at Parkland, Dallas County’s public hospital.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Witherspoon was convicted of sexual assault of a child involving a 14-year-old girl in 1990 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. That same year, Witherspoon was also convicted of indecency with a child by sexual contact, involving a 15-year-old girl, and sentenced to six years in prison. According to DPS, Witherspoon remains on parole for the indecency conviction.

“Yes, I have a criminal record,” Witherspoon said Wednesday. “I can’t hide that. It’s public record. I made a mistake 22 years ago that has nothing to do with this.”

Ken Upton, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, agreed.

“That may be relevant in other settings,” Upton said, “and it paints a bad picture.”

But he said there’s no evidence that in this instance, Witherspoon did anything other than use a bathroom.

“Transgender people have a right to use a bathroom,” he said.

—  David Taffet

EXCLUSIVE: Transgender woman ticketed for using women’s restroom at Parkland hospital

Paula Witherspoon

Police cited a transgender woman for disorderly conduct on April 25 for using a women’s restroom at Parkland hospital.

An officer with the hospital’s police force wrote the citation for a class-C misdemeanor after a complaint was lodged by someone who saw the transgender woman, Paula Witherspoon, leaving the bathroom.

Witherspoon said she was at the hospital with her husband, who had a follow-up appointment after suffering a heart attack.

“I live full time as a woman,” Witherspoon said.

She said hospital police told her they weren’t there to decide whether she was guilty.

“Then they wrote me a ticket,” she said.

The ticket lists Witherspoon as a man and her name as Paul. But Witherspoon provided a copy of a letter from her clinical psychologist at the Dallas VA Medical Center, Gloria J. Emmert.

“As a frequent visitor to the Dallas VA Hospital, she is expected to use facilities consistent with her external presentation, which is female,” Emmert wrote. “Please assist this Veteran by supporting the application of this ethical approach in all Dallas settings.”

Ken Upton, a supervising attorney in the Dallas office of Lambda Legal, said lewd conduct is the closest thing he could find in Section 4201 of the Texas Penal Code, the statute listed on the ticket.

For that portion of the code to apply, Upton said, Witherspoon would have had to have acted “intentionally or knowingly for a lewd purpose.” But since she went into a private stall, that’s unlikely, he said.

Witherspoon said she didn’t even know whether there was anyone else in the restroom.

“I went in, did my business, washed my hands and left,” she said.

And the letter from the psychologist indicates she was following doctor’s orders rather than acting out of lewd intent. Upton said Parkland will have trouble defending the case.

“The officer doesn’t know if anyone else was in there,” Upton said, so his testimony would be hearsay. And if the complainant wasn’t in the restroom, that person was not a witness to any lewd behavior.

Upton said the officer probably figures Witherspoon will either pay the fine or it’ll be dismissed.

“And he doesn’t care,” Upton said, adding that the officer couldn’t have written a ticket for simply using the wrong bathroom.

“That’s not a crime in Dallas,” he said.

Officials at Parkland, Dallas County’s public hospital, are looking into the incident.

“We have verified that on April, 25, 2012, Parkland Police responded to a complaint from a concerned female patient regarding her allegation that there was a male in the female restroom,” Parkland spokeswoman Charise Thomason wrote. “Because of the complexity of the issue, the incident is currently under review. Parkland strives to treat patients, visitors and staff with dignity and respect, as well as provide a safe environment at all times.”

Roberto de la Cruz, an openly gay member of Parkland’s Board of Managers, said he plans to meet with Witherspoon on Wednesday at her home. He said his concern is that transgender people are welcome at Parkland and will be treated with dignity.

After the jump is a copy of the letter from Dr. Emmert, as well as Witherspoon’s ticket.

—  David Taffet

UT-Austin to allow transgender students to use preferred name on all university documents

UT student Joey Ovalle (Shannon Kintner/Daily Texan)

Transgender students at the University of Texas at Austin will be able to use a preferred name on university and medical records under a new policy this summer.

Students were able to request to use a preferred name on university documents beginning last fall, but the new policy includes medical records in addition to class rosters and ID cards,  The Daily Texan reports.

The policy was the result of the LGBT presidential task force that uses the input of faculty and students to advance LGBT rights on campus.

UT administrators had to address the concern of identifying students off campus in the event that a student became involved with the police and the university was asked to verify a student’s name. In order to verify the name on record, the student’s legal name is on the back of the student ID, and the preferred name is on the front.

However, a legal name change is required for a different name on diplomas or transcripts.

From The Daily Texan:

Music studies sophomore Joey Ovalle identifies as a trans man and was approved for a preferred name last fall. Ovalle said when he first came out as transgender he asked all his friends to call him “Joey.” Ovalle said while he had never had a professor call him by the wrong first name because of the change, he did have a professor mention his middle name, which was a feminine name, because the preferred name policy did not apply to middle names at the time. Ovalle said he also faced problems buying football tickets because his preferred name did not match the one on his credit card.

Ovalle said he felt outed when people would call him by his birth name instead of his preferred name.

“It’s not necessarily being outed by it that bothered me,” Ovalle said. “It’s the questions and the explanations that people feel entitled to after that which can be difficult to deal with.”

—  Dallasvoice

Miss Universe to allow transgender contestants

Jenna Talackova

GLAAD issued a joint announcement today with the Miss Universe Organization saying transgender women will be allowed to compete in the pageant beginning next year.

The change in policy happened weeks after Jenna Talackova, a contestant for the Miss Canada title, was disqualified because she’s transgender.

“For more than two weeks, the Miss Universe Organization and Mr. Trump made it clear to GLAAD that they were open to making a policy change to include women who are transgender,” GLAAD spokesperson Herndon Graddick wrote in a press release. “We appreciate that he and his team responded swiftly and appropriately.”

GLAAD points out that the Olympics, NCAA, the Girl Scouts of America and America’s Next Top Model have all opened to transgender participants.

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling issued a statement.

“No one likes it when they’re left out of something because of who they are,” Keisling said. “But it’s a noteworthy thing for a group like the Miss Universe Organization and Donald Trump to switch positions allowing Jenna to participate, and to commit to developing transgender inclusive rules.”

Trump co-owns the Miss Universe pageant with NBC. The NBC reality show star and former Republican presidential candidate made another surprising announcement recently when he said that he expected Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 and that he supported her.

—  David Taffet

Transgender center launches intersex group

When a baby is born the first question most people ask is “is it a girl or a boy?” The doctor takes a look at the baby’s genitals, if they see a penis the child is declared a boy, if the see a vulva the child is called a girl. But sometimes a child’s anatomy is not that clear cut, and sometimes the genetics, physiology or anatomy of person is more complex than the penis=boy, vulva=girl equation. The umbrella term “intersex” is used to describe people whose physical bodies, hormones or chromosomes lie between the male and female ends of the spectrum.

According to the Intersex Society of North America somewhere between 1 in 1,500 and 1 in 2,000 babies born in this country have genitals that fall between the strict male/female dichotomy. Additionally, several genetic conditions exist where people who may appear strictly male or strictly female have chromosomal combinations other than XX or XY, a combination of XX and XY, or the chromosomes associated with one gender and the body associated with another. With so many intersex people walking around, there is a fairly good chance that you know one.

But according to “Koomah,” the founder of the group, very few spaces exist for intersex people to talk about their lives. “Most of the social and support groups that I’ve encountered are online,” says Koomah. “I’ve encountered a handful of people both in and outside of [Houston's] Transgender Center that are intersex-bodied but didn’t know anyone else who was. When I mentioned I was and spoke with them more in depth about my experience it seemed to be a great relief that their experience isn’t the only one.”

Koomah realised that their was a need for a group that would allow the intersex community to talk about their experiences. This realization led to the founding of the Transgender Centers Intersex group, which will have its first meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 pm at the Center (604 Pacific). The group is designed as an informal get-to-gether for those with intersex bodies and their spouses.

Koomah explains that while the transgender and intersex communities share many experiences the terms are not interchangeable. “While some intersex people do identify as transgender and some may choose to transition, sometimes the experience of being intersex is different,” says Kumayama. “Being intersex in childhood is radically different than the experience of other non-intersex folks, explaining your body to doctors can be scary, and making choices on things like transition or relationships are easier when you have people whom you share similar experience to talk with.”

—  admin

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The amendment would also remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

SMU sends 18 to Midwest LGBT conference

Iowa State University is hosting the 2012 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay Transgender Ally College Conference Feb. 10-12. One student from Texas Women’s University, 17 from Southern Methodist University’s LGBT group Spectrum and an SMU professor are attending, according to the Daily Campus. Spectrum Co-President Harvey Luna put the group together after attending last year’s conference, according to the SMU newspaper.

Karen Click at SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives called it a national conference for student leaders. She said this is the second year SMU has participated.

“They come back inspired to create change on campus,” she said.

Registration for the event is $80 per person and the group chartered a bus from Dallas.

“The SMU Student Senate paid for them to go,” Click said.

The MBLGTACC conference began in 1991 and takes place annually in the upper Midwest. The goal is to learn new strategies to face problems LGBT students face on campus daily.

Two weeks ago, Youth First Texas hosted a conference of North Texas gay-straight alliances.

—  David Taffet