Trans children and youth are the focus of Wednesday afternoon’s episode of ‘Anderson’

In today’s episode of Anderson Cooper‘s talk show, he talks with children who feel they could be trans as well as how schools can handle the issue with students and understanding gender definitions. From AndersonCooper.com:

Anderson spends the hour talking to children who believe they are trapped in the wrong bodies, and discusses their parents’ journey to acceptance. Anderson speaks with experts to get a better understanding of the medical and psychological aspects of transgenders, and how these families are faced with new scientific options that would allow their kids to change their gender. 

Anderson also speaks with Domaine Javier, a transgender woman recently expelled from college for applying as a female, as well as Kyle Allums, the first transgender Division 1 basketball player. 

See the preview after the jump. Anderson airs at 3 p.m. on WFAA Channel 8.

—  Rich Lopez

DCCCD considering transgender policy

College district would become second in state to add protections

DCCCD2

PROTECTING EVERYONE | A DCCCD student studies on a bench outside El Centro Community College in Downtown Dallas. El Centro is part of the Dallas County Community College District, which is considering adding protections for transgenders to its nondiscrimination policy. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Dallas County Community College District board of trustees was briefed in closed-door session about adding gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy.

The district already has protection based on sexual orientation.

If the board votes to approve the change, DCCCD would become only the second community college in Texas to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policies. San Jacinto College, with three campuses based in Pasadena, east of Houston, is currently the only two-year college in the state to offer those protections.

Resource Center Dallas Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said he has been talking to DCCCD Trustee Diana Flores since spring about adding transgender protections, and had hope the changes would be in place for the fall semester.

But the issue was not added to the agenda at the September meeting as hoped. Staff told McDonnell they expected it to be on the consent agenda at the October meeting. Instead the board received a briefing.

McDonnell said he didn’t think the policy would have a problem passing, and that the briefing was about how to implement the change.

He said he hopes the policy would come up at next month’s meeting and be in place by the start of the spring semester.

DCCCD is the largest school in Texas, with 72,000 students in seven colleges on 13 campuses. The school employs 7,200 full- and part-time faculty, staff and administrators.

The district is governed by a board of trustees who are elected for six-year terms and serve without compensation.

McDonnell said Flores, one of the seven elected trustees, has been the champion of adding transgender protections.

The University of Texas at Austin website lists 55 community colleges or community college districts in Texas. Just six of those districts have nondiscrimination policies that specifically include sexual orientation.

In addition to DCCCD and San Jacinto College, Tarrant County College, Austin Community College, Houston Community College and Lone Star College System in North Harris and Montgomery Counties north of Houston offer protection based on sexual orientation.

Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance has approached Collin County Community College in the past about adding LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policy, but the school has not done so.

With the growing LGBT population in the suburbs north of Dallas, McDonnell thought that school would be one of the next to add protections.

Other two-year schools in the area include Corsicana-based Navarro College with campuses in Waxahachie and Midlothian and Gainesville-based North Central Texas College with campuses in Flower Mound and Corinth. Neither has policies specifically protecting LGBT students, faculty and staff.

Among its student activities, Navarro College lists P.R.I.S.M. (GSA). That gay-straight alliance group formed last year. The listing links to no additional web page. With its active LGBT student group, McDonnell thought Navarro College might be among the next schools approached to add protections.

Out at Collin is an LGBT group at CCCC and under that organization’s membership requirements, a nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

That is the only student group that does include such a policy, however.

Although the CCCC listing links to a page, the words gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are not found on there. Only goals of the group, such as “Empower the misunderstood and give a voice to the under-represented” and “Bring awareness and dispel stereotypes to the larger community” are listed.

NCTC has fewer student activities than the other area colleges and lists no organized LGBT group. But most of the 13 “Official Student Organizations” listed on the Corinth and

Flower Mound campuses are curriculum-related. The only social groups are Christians In Action and Latino Leadership Council.

Although a written nondiscrimination policy doesn’t insure equal treatment, it does give an employee or student some recourse.

Protections in the Tarrant County College policies were added after instructor Jackie Gill was fired because of her perceived sexual orientation. She filed a lawsuit against the school on Sept. 7. Lambda Legal is representing her in the case.

Lambda Legal staff attorney Ken Upton said that the school has retained an attorney and has another month to answer the charges. He said that they will have 90 days to six months to do discovery.

“Then I suspect they’ll order alternative dispute resolution,” he said, meaning mediation or arbitration.

Upton said Gill’s case is interesting because she was fired before TCC had sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy.

He said the school would have to show that they have a legitimate reason to dismiss faculty based on their sexual orientation. But if they did have a legitimate reason, why would they have added the category to their nondiscrimination policy?

“Private companies have great policies that are not enforceable in court,” Upton said. But a government agency that has a nondiscrimination policy covering sexual orientation would have to show a compelling interest to fire gays and lesbians.

Despite her treatment by one faculty member, Gill “wants to teach and she loves the school,” Upton said. “They have five campuses and they have a demand. They’re looking for instructors.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

AFA’s Bryan Fischer: Homosexuals are Nazis!

Bryan Fischer

I want to say thanks to whoever emailed me the YouTube link to the video below, which was posted online by RightWingWatch.org.

The video is basically audio of a rant by Bryan Fischer, host of Focal Point on the AFA (American Family Association) Channel, in which Fischer explains why “Homosexuals are Nazis.” Never mind that the Nazis targeted the gays and lesbians in Germany for extermination along with the Jews and other groups. Never mind that gays and lesbians — and transgenders and bisexuals — are targeted daily by bigots and homophobes who deny us equal treatment under the law, who deny us protection against discrimination in housing and employment, and who way too often get away with harassing us verbally and physically attacking us, leaving many of us seriously injured if not dead.

Never mind all that, Mr. Fischer says. Because we refuse to sit idly by and allow their hatred against us to go unchallenged, we are Nazis. It makes my blood boil!

So why would I want to listen to this homophobic jerk’s rant? Why would I post it here on Instant Tea? Because the best advice in any battle is, “Know thine enemy.” So here you go. Now, where did I leave my jackboots?

—  admin

Fort Worth elections round-up

UNOPPOSED | Openly gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, right, pictured here with his partner J.D. Angle, is unopposed in this bid for a second full term on the council. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Conservative’s ‘voter guide’ offers some warnings for LGBT voters and their allies

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth residents will head to the ballot box Saturday, May 14, to cast their ballots in elections that will decide who will replace Mike Moncrief as mayor and who will make up the City Council.

Those choices could have a significant impact on how the relationship between the city government and Cowtown’s LGBT community continues to develop in the years ahead.

District 9 Councilman Joel Burns — Fort Worth’s first and so far only openly gay councilmember — is running unopposed for his second full term on the council. And District 8 Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, considered the LGBT’s strongest non-gay ally on the council, is also unopposed in her re-election bid.

Also unopposed in District 3 incumbent W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, who voted in favor of adding protections for transgenders to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.

But other two other councilmembers who, over the last 18 months since the Rainbow Lounge raid, have voted in support of LGBT-positive efforts including an amendment adding protections based on gender identity and gender expression to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, face challengers this time around.

And in District 7, incumbent Carter Burdette — who voted against the trans protections — is not running for re-election, leaving a field of five candidates to fight for his seat. Those challengers include Jack Ernest, who called the transgender protection ordinance “damnable” at a candidate forum last month.

While no LGBT political organization in Tarrant County has issued endorsements in the council elections, conservative Christian activist the Rev. Richard Clough has issued a “voter guide” that polls the candidates on their views on 10 “precepts,” a list that includes questions on same-sex marriage and the trans protection ordinance.

The guide could serve as a warning as much for LGBT voters and their allies as for the right-wing conservatives Clough was apparently targeting.
Clough, an evangelist with Kenneth Copeland Ministries, issued the voters’ guide earlier this month under the name Texans for Faith and Family. Only nine of the total 22 candidates running for either mayor or City Council replied.

Candidates were asked to say whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with Clough’s “20 precepts,” statements that ran the gamut from legalizing casino gambling to support for Israel. Only four of the 10 specifically addressed issues actually pertinent to city governance.

The three precepts related to LGBT issues were “Marriage should be defined as between one man and one woman;” “City tax dollars should not be used to advertise with the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) community” and “The city’s Transgender Ordinance is not a needed law.”

Of the five candidates running for mayor of Fort Worth, only two — Betsy Price (whose first name was misspelled “Besty” on Clough’s printed guide) and dark horse Nicholas Zebrun — replied to Clough.

Zebrun disagreed with all Clough’s precepts concerning defining marriage and spending money to promote the city to LGBT tourists and conventions, and he “strongly disagreed” that the trans protection ordinance is not needed.

Price, however, agreed that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, and “strongly agreed” that tax dollars should not be used to promote Fort Worth as a destination for LGBT tourists.

Price did not respond to the precept regarding the trans protection ordinance.

District 2 incumbent Sal Espino, who has supported LGBT-positive initiatives, did not reply to Clough’s precepts, while his challenger, Paul Rudisill indicated strong agreement across the board with all 10 precepts.

Another incumbent who supported LGBT-positive initiatives on the council is Frank Moss who is facing two challengers in his District 5 re-election bid.

Neither Moss nor challenger Charles Hibbler responded to Clough’s precepts, but the third candidate, Rickie Clark, indicated strong agreement for nine of the 10. She didn’t respond to the precept at “Sharia law should not be allowed to be practiced in the United States.”

In District 6, incumbent Jungus Jordan replied with “strong agreement” to all 10 precepts. His opponent, Tolli Thomas, did not respond to Clough’s voter guide.

Dennis Shingleton was the only District 7 candidate who did not respond to the voters guide. Ernest “strongly agreed” with all 10 precepts, while John

Perry agreed with the three anti-gay precepts and either agreed or “strongly agreed” with the remaining seven.

District 7 candidate Lee Henderson did not respond to the precept on defining marriage, and disagreed with the precepts on LGBT advertising and the transgender protection ordinance. The fourth candidate, Jonathan Horton, did not respond to the precepts on LGBT advertising or defining marriage, but did agree that the transgender protections ordinance is unnecessary.

District 4 incumbent and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Scarth faces challenger Lupe Arriola in his re-election bid. Neither candidate responded to Clough’s voter guide precepts.

—  John Wright

Ricky Martin becomes a hero for Latino gays

SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS | Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s been almost a year since Ricky Martin announced to the world he was gay, but among many gay Latinos, a community that has lived in obscurity for fear of harassment or rejection, his message is still making an impact.

“Today I ACCEPT MY HOMOSEXUALITY as a gift that gives me life,” Martin wrote last March in an open letter to his fans, after refusing to speak about his sexual orientation for years. “I feel blessed to be who I am!”

“By hiding, he validated millions of closeted gays’ that homosexuality is not honorable,” Daniel Shoer Roth, a Venezuelan columnist of the Miami Herald who is gay, told The Associated Press recently.

“In the gay community we have always known that Ricky Martin is one of us,” he added. “Because he is an idol, Ricky has paved the way so these gays now say, ‘If he could do it, so can I.”’

The revelation of the Puerto Rican singer and activist, whose album Music+Soul+Sex came out last week, has had positive effects for the Latino gay community and the society in general, according to advocates for the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

“The example of Ricky Martin as citizen of the world, humanitarian, father, intelligent person, is a good example for those who have obvious stereotypes and also for those who don’t have prejudice but have ideas that may act as barriers in the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT),” said Jarrett Barrios, president of GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). “Ideas like ‘a gay man is good to water my flowers at home but not for business’ limit the opportunities for the LGBT community.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, communications manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that “when Ricky made the announcement the tectonic plates moved, it was almost like an earthquake.”

“It was one of the most important news in the fight for equality that the Latino LGBT community leads. It touches the hearts and opens the minds of many people,” said Serrano, who became a friend of the artist after his announcement.

Ricardo Torres, a Mexican man who was raised in Texas and lives in Chicago, was in the audience when Oprah Winfrey interviewed Martin last year. He thanked Martin, saying that his revelation was good for his own relationship with his mother.

“For the first time my mother asked me personal questions. For almost 20 years she has known that I am gay but she never asked anything … she told me not to tell anyone else in my family. It was a secret … a big taboo,” Torres, 38, told the AP.

“Everything changed after Ricky came out of the closet,” he added. “Like someone in our family came out and by doing so gave us the right to live more openly.”

And the audience in general seems to support Martin.

Me, which came out Nov. 2, was a New York Times best-seller and its Spanish edition, Yo, reached No. 1 biography in the United States. His single “Lo mejor de mi vida eres tu,” released the same week of the book, was at the top of Billboard’s Latin Pop Songs chart (English version “The Best Thing About Me Is You” debuted on Oprah and was officially released on Feb. 1.)

“If in Puerto Rico people used to love him, now they love him even more,” said Serrano, who recounted that during Martin’s first public appearance post-announcement, in April at the Latin Billboard Awards, the singer not only received a standing ovation in the theater but a multitudinous cheer from the people on the streets.

“That says a lot about the welcoming and I think demonstrates the reality of our society,” he said. “Even though we still have to fight a lot of homophobia, there is much more acceptance today.”

According to statistics published online by The Trevor Project, a help-line for LGBT teenagers who may be contemplating suicide, LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers; more than one third have attempted taking their own lives and those in highly rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Torres considers that “one of the biggest positive effects (of Ricky’s coming out) is that Latino teenagers that are struggling with their sexuality have an example to follow.”

“Ricky gives hope to thousands of teens that are recognizing their sexual orientation or their gender identity and this tells them that even when there is homophobia and lack of acceptance, they can get to be whatever they want to be,” Serrano concluded. “I believe that with his story he is saving lives, and for me that is crucial, it is wonderful.”

—  John Wright

Transgender ban remains in place in U.S. military

WILL IT HAPPEN? | Trans veteran Maeve O’Connor of Dallas, left, thinks that lifting the ban on open military service by transgender people will be tricky, but it is doable. But Mickie Garrison, left, another local trans veteran, says she doesn’t believe it will happen “for another 50 to 100 years.”

Seeing the ban on open lesbians and gays in the military lifted is a bittersweet victory of transgenders, who still can’t serve openly

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

As lesbian and gay servicemembers and military veterans are celebrating the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — despite delays in implementing the repeal — transgender servicemembers and veterans once again find themselves left behind in the battle for equality.

Because repealing DADT did not end the ban on service by trans people.

“The military still puts trans people in the same medical category as pedophilia. They consider it [transgenderism] to be a medical disorder,” said Monica Helms, president and co-founder of Transgender American Veterans Association.

“Trans people still have to be deep in the closet. They can’t talk to anyone about their lives, or they risk being discharged and getting something other than an honorable discharge,” Helms added. “Because the kind of discharge you get can make a huge difference in what kind of benefits you can get.”

Helms said that there is one way in which DADT repeal will affect trans servicemembers: Now the military will have to find a different reason for discharging trans people.

“A lot of times, trans people were discharged under DADT because the military isn’t smart enough to know the difference between gender identity/gender expression and sexual orientation. They think if a man wears a dress, he must be gay.”

MAKE IT WORK | Monica Helms, president and co-founder of Transgender American Veterans Association, says lifting the ban on open military service by transgender people shouldn’t be that difficult. After all, eight of the U.S.’s allies have already done it, including Canada. (Photo courtesy TAVA)

Other trans servicemembers were discharged for “medical reasons,” others were discharged as “undesirables,” Helms said. “I guess they will go back to doing those things when they can’t use DADT anymore.”

Even those people who transition after leaving the military still face discrimination from the Veterans Administration, Helm said.

Helms, who served as a submariner in the Navy for eight years in the 1970s, said conservative estimates put the number of transgender veterans at roughly 300,000 people.

“We figure trans people are about 1 percent of the population. That’s counting everyone under the transgender umbrella, and it’s a rough estimate,” Helms said. “And the percentage of trans people in the military veteran population is about the same.”

So, with about 26 million veterans and another 1.5 million active-duty servicemembers, more or less, do the math and you come up with about 280,000 transgender veterans. Helms said TAVA rounds that up to about 300,000, based on statistics from the VA and personal experience.

“If we are at an event for trans people, when we ask the veterans to stand up, there are a whole lot of people that stand up, so we figure that rounding up the numbers is accurate,” she said.

When a trans veteran tries to access the benefits they earned with their service, particularly medical benefits, the results are mixed, Helms said.

“Some places, they are treated fairly well; some places they are treated very badly,” she said. “The benefits don’t cover any of the [transitional] surgeries at all. But we have heard stories of trans vets being turned down for even the most basic medical services that they are entitled to.

“The doctors misgender them on purpose, they refuse to change names in the database, they call them names,” Helms continued. “Doctors, nurses, other patients — we have heard stories about trans veterans being mistreated by all of them.”

Helms said she has never encountered such problems because she has never had to use any of the VA’s medical services.

“I used the education benefits, and I got a VA loan to buy my house. But I always had decent jobs and had private insurance through my employers, so I’ve never had to use the medical benefits. So my trans status was never an issue,” she said.

Maeve O’Connor, a trans veteran from Dallas, spent 4 ½ years on active duty in the Navy, and another 4 ½ years in the Navy Reserves. Like Helms, O’Connor didn’t begin to transition until after she had left the military, and like Helms, she has never had to access VA medical benefits.

But O’Connor recently reached the point of having her name and gender markers officially changed on legal documents, like her birth certificate, and she said she is unsure what will happen when she contacts the VA to have her name and gender markers corrected on her military records.

“Now that it’s official, I do need to go in and get those records changed. I don’t know what will happen when I do. I’ve not had any experience with the VA as a transgender person, so I don’t know how difficult it will be to deal with them,” O’Connor said.

For Micki Garrison, another local transgender veteran, the specter of wrangling with a hostile VA bureaucracy made it not worth the effort of even trying to access VA benefits.

Garrison said she had graduated high school and finished a semester of college when the expense of a college education became too big a burden. So she joined the Army and finished a three-year enlistment so she could get the educational benefits offered to veterans.

But like Helms and O’Connor, that military service happened long before she began her transition, although she — also like Helms and O’Connor — was already beginning to struggle with her gender identity when she enlisted.

“I just ran out of patience with the bureaucracy. I just can’t deal with it anymore. I have other battles to fight, so I will leave that battle for other people to fight,” Garrison said. “If it was just, ‘Yeah, you are trans, but you are also a veteran, so we will help you out,’ that would be one thing. But all that frustration with the bureaucracy makes it just not worth it to bother.”

Besides, Garrison said, “many of the benefits they offer didn’t turn out to that big of a benefit anyway.”

Ending the trans ban

Garrison said that while she and other transgender veterans she knows are happy on behalf of lesbian and gay veterans and servicemembers to see DADT repealed, for transgenders, it was a bittersweet victory at best.

“We are really happy for the gay and lesbian servicemembers, sure. But at the same time, it’s like getting up on Christmas morning and seeing presents under the tree for everybody but you,” Garrison said. “I don’t want to sound like sour grapes. But while other people now get the chance to live their lives openly and with dignity and respect, trans people are left empty-handed again.”

But as much as she would like to see the ban on transgenders in the military ended, Garrison isn’t at all optimistic about that actually happening.

“I’d say we are at least 50 to 100 years away from that,” she said. “Opponents would be so very adamantly against it, I don’t think there’s even a snowball’s chance in hell that it’s even a battle worth fighting right now.

“That’s very, very sad. But it’s hard for me to come to a place where I could even believe that kind of change is possible. I mean, we are still trying to get procedures in place where we can get a driver’s license or fly on a plane without hassles.”

Garrison noted that most people enlisting in the military are young — just out of high school, or college-aged. Trans people at that age are many times just beginning to fight their own internal battles over their gender identity, she said.

“How could I have been openly trans at that point in my life? I wasn’t able to deal with it [my gender identity], how can I expect the military to deal with it?” Garrison said.

She pointed out that there are different stages to transitioning, and said those stages would cause ongoing problems in the strict military environment. Things like housing and combat status could prove uncomfortable, at least, for both the trans servicemember and their fellow soldiers.

“We bring a lot of hard questions to the table, especially during that time of transition — and that can be a long time,” Garrison said. “It’s very sad, I think. As much as I wish there would be inclusion, but the complexity level of transitioning is such a personal thing. A lot of people have to pull out of mainstream life to get that worked out and then re-integrate. I think until we have an ‘in-between’ state in our culture, until it’s not just either-or genders, I don’t think there will be good answers to the military situation.”

O’Connor acknowledged that the situation is “tricky.” But, she added, “It’s not un-overcomable.”

She said, “I think if you can do the job and live up to the goals and ideas of the military, then it shouldn’t be an issue. But it is definitely a complicated situation. There’s a lot involved. When you are a transsexual, you are transitioning in some way, and if you are transitioning, say, from male to female going into the military, then the military has to be willing to treat you like any other woman in the military.”

But, O’Connor added, transgender people joining the military would have to be willing to make some concessions, too.

“Yes, everyone should be able to serve. But the military is all about discipline, and everything is very cut and dried. And transgender people joining the military have to be willing to accept that discipline, just as a matter of security,” O’Connor said. “When you join the military, you join knowing that you are giving up some of your constitutional freedoms to a certain extent. The Code of Military Justice is stricter than civilian law, and the reason for that is safety. You have to follow that chain of command.”

But for Helms, the issue simply isn’t that complicated at all.

“We are not inventing the wheel here,” Helms said. “Eight of our ally countries already allow trans people to serve openly to different degrees, including our ally to the north, Canada, which has let trans people serve openly since 1998.

“I know a trans woman in Canada who has served for 28 years. She transitioned in the military, and they paid for everything. It’s just not a big deal there,” Helms continued. “The U.K., Israel, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Spain — there are different levels of service and different policies dealing with it in different places, but come on. They all let trans people serve openly in the military.

“But our country is backward,” Helms said. “In our country, they think everything is a problem. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Just let the people who want to serve, serve openly and with integrity. That’s all it takes.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Trans fit

Chris Bruce proudly and bravely went from 230-lb. male bodybuilder to 180-lb. female fitness guru Chris Tina Foxx

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

A?MODEL?OF?HEALTH  |  Chris Bruce went from hulking male bodybuilder, inset, to proud trans trainer Chris Tina Foxx, above.
A MODEL OF HEALTH | Chris Bruce went from hulking male bodybuilder, inset, to proud trans trainer Chris Tina Foxx, above.

Chris Bruce has always been the kind of person who takes chances.

When he was still in his teens, he knew he could sell ice to an Eskimo and began his foray into entrepreneurship. After college, he established himself as a salesman, then took a big risk by investing a sizeable chunk of money into a start-up; a few years later, he was co-owner of a multi-million-dollar wholesale business, which he later sold for a handsome profit.

At the same time, he married his high school girlfriend, had two kids and pursued his interest in fitness and bodybuilding, eventually achieving 230 pounds of muscle over his 6-foot-1 frame.

Today, at 41, Bruce weighs in at 180 pounds, though often standing 6’3” — that’s when she’s wearing heels.

That’s because, over the last year, Chris Gary Bruce has transitioned into Chris Tina Foxx Bruce, a male-to-female transgender.

It hasn’t been easy. But Bruce has rarely taken the easy path, and her trans identity is something she is proud of.

As a boy, Bruce knew he was different. He cross-dressed for years, but discretely. His work in sales meant he traveled extensively, which allowed him to wear women’s clothes while on the road. Like many transgenders, he’d go through a “purge” phase, where he’d toss all his women’s clothing, vowing never to do it again.

But it wasn’t just the clothes; Bruce identified as a woman.

What at one time was a shameful secret is now a proud part of her identity. She no longer hides in hotel rooms, but lives openly as a woman.

“My purpose is to let the world know who I am and being transgender is nothing to be hid,” she says. That’s one of the reasons for her campaign for transgender equality: “Be Bold. Be Proud. Be Yourself.”

It has been a long, difficult process, though. Bruce’s cross-dressing led in part to a divorce in 2007, though her ex-wife didn’t find out he was trans until earlier this year.

“She hates it,” Bruce says. She worried about how her children — a boy, 12, and a daughter, 8 — would react, but so far they have adjusted well.

Bruce’s transition began in earnest about four years ago, after separating from her wife.

“I went out dressed as a woman for the first time in 2005 when I was in Houston,” she says. A mentor helped her; she has since passed away. She went to New Orleans for Halloween with a then-girlfriend, both dressed as sex dolls, though the girlfriend left when she began taking female hormones.

Bruce first stepped out in female dress in Dallas in January 2009, and found the experience liberating.

“[Trans people] need the gay area of town for training wheels,” she says. “We have it so good here. Cedar Springs is a consolidated, well-structured safe zone for us.”

It’s slightly odd, though, as Bruce never identified as gay — although, technically, would now identify as lesbian.

“People don’t realize: Transgender has nothing to do with sex,” Bruce says. “I’ve never been attracted to guys, but that’s the first assumption many people make.”

It doesn’t bother her, though. Bruce has felt largely embraced by the Gs, Ls and Bs as well as the Ts of the community. Some of her best friends now are gay men.

“More girls ask me out now than when I was a man,” she says. As pictures can attest, Bruce was a handsome man and never had trouble getting dates. Now, she mostly dates bisexual women and some lesbians. “I think women are very open-minded,” she says.

Bruce had her first surgery — some face work and breast implants — on Dec. 26. From there on, there’s been no turning back.

“I just started telling my family about this last Christmas. My mom and sister have been so supportive. I said, I’m not asking for your permission or your acceptance — this is just how it is.”

She’s even reconnected with old high school friends on Facebook. Her father, though, has not spoken to her since she came out, and she quit her corporate job in March once she couldn’t hide as a man anymore.

Bruce has continued to follow her bliss. She has worked part-time as a personal trainer for years, and continues to do so; she estimates losing very few clients since transitioning.

As enthusiastic as Bruce is about her fitness career, even more motivating is her quest for equality.

“People have said to me, ‘You’re not real …’ Real what?” she asks. She also finds it puzzling that she can legally marry a woman while gay men can’t marry their partners. There’s still a lot of work to so.

That’s OK, though. Chris Bruce has never shied away from a challenge. It’s what made her the woman she is today.

Learn more about Bruce by visiting DiscoverHealthandFitness.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

‘The same-sex marriage fight is just as much a transgender fight as it is (an LGB) fight’

Phyllis Randolph Frye

Phyllis Randolph Frye, the well-known transgender attorney from Houston whose clients include trans widow Nikki Araguz, sent out an e-mail Sunday slamming national gay-rights groups for ignoring the issue of “‘tranny’ same-sex marriage” in Texas.

Referencing an op-ed that appeared in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle about the Araguz case, Frye notes that in the six weeks since the story broke, few people have gotten behind her client’s legal fight. Nikki Araguz is seeking to receive death benefits for her husband, Thomas Araguz III, a Wharton firefighter who was killed in the line of duty early last month. But Thomas Araguz’s family has sued to deny Nikki Araguz those benefits, arguing that their marriage was void because she was born a man, since Texas’ prohibits same-sex marriage.

“Why is it that the Prop 8, same-sex marriage fight in CA and the DOMA same-sex marriage fight in the Northeast are BOTH so well funded by lesbian and gay groups and lesbian and gay individuals, but the same-sex marriage fight in Texas has been thus far supported ONLY by a small number of mostly transgenders plus three LGBT-allied churches, mostly in Houston, all in Texas?” Frye wrote.

“Where is the same national support given for the L and G same-sex marriage struggles?” she added. “Has it remained nonexistent for over six weeks now because this Texas fight is insignificantly and merely a ‘tranny’ same-sex marriage fight, so who nationally gives a shit? Then are we a National LGBT-inclusive community, but NOT when it comes to financing the ‘tranny’ same-sex marriage fights? From here, it seems to me — still —  that the national L and G groups and the big bucks L and G attitudes haven’t really changed very much. FOLKS, IT IS TIME YOU FIGURED IT OUT THAT THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE FIGHT IS JUST AS MUCH A TRANSGENDER FIGHT AS IT IS A LESBIAN, GAY AND BISEXUAL FIGHT.”

—  John Wright

Houston LGBTs to celebrate anniversary of repeal of ordinance banning cross-dressing

Phyllis Frye

Back when I was in junior high school — the early to mid 1970s — our school had a dress code that prohibited girls from wearing pants with rear pockets. See, pants that had pockets on the back were “boy” pants, and girls weren’t allowed to wear “boy” pants.

Having always been a jeans kind of gal myself, I broke that rule often. And I got in trouble for it more than once.

But obviously, my rural, smalltown junior high school wasn’t the only place that had such rules. Most cities had ordinances that prohibited cross-dressing. My old friend, the late Joe Elliott, told me that in the ’60s when she was a dyke about town, the butch lesbians always had to be careful not to dress too masculine in public, or they would be arrested. And I have heard drag queens talk about how they had to make sure to wear men’s underwear under their dresses to avoid arrest.

These ordinances were usually used by police to justify harassment of “the queers,” especially the transgenders and the butch lesbians. Such was the case in Houston, where next weekend the Transgender Foundation of America will hold an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the repeal of that city’s “no cross-dressing” ordinance.

Lou Weaver, who is on the TFA board, sent out an e-mail Wednesday announcing the event.

“This is not a joke!” Weaver wrote. “At that time women were expected to have their zippers on the side or in the back, otherwise, they were cross-dressing. This led to constant harrassment and several arrests for trans identified women, lesbians and anyone else the vice squad did not approve of.”

Well-known Houston attorney transgender activist Phyllis Frye led the three-and-a-half-year-long battle to get the ordinance repealed, and she will be on hand at the event to “share stories about fighting for transgender rights,” Weaver said. One of those stories is Frye’s account, following, about how they slipped the repeal vote past the homophobes/transphobes:

“On August the 12th, 1980, after several delay-tags that were put on to the repeal ordinance, it was again before Council. At the time, our Mayor was Jim McConn. He was out of town, as was Jim Westmoreland. McConn knew that it was coming up on the agenda, and he had told the Mayor pro tem for that day, Johnny Goyen, that it was alright with him. City Secretary, Anna Russell, waited until Council members Homer Ford and Larry McKaskell were on the phone. When they got on the phone, she immediately handed the repeal to Johnny. You see, the deal is that under council rules if you’re present and you don’t vote no, then it’s an automatic yes vote. Homer and Larry were on the phone. They didn’t even know what was going on. There was only one no vote, and that was Council member Christen Hartung, she was the sole and only no vote. I still hope that somebody will beat her. Homer and Larry went to Johnny about five minutes later, and Johnny says, ‘oh, I didn’t know that was going through.’ The ordinance was repealed and it has remained so to this day.”

The anniversary event will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 604 Pacific in Houston. Everyone is welcome. Food will be provided but bring your own beer and wine.

Today, we celebrate a court victory over Prop 8 in California and move one step closer to eventual full marriage equality in this country. But as you celebrate remember that just 30 years ago, butch lesbians in Houston couldn’t wear zip-up Levis without risking arrest.

So if you are in Houston next weekend, go on over to 604 Pacific on Saturday afternoon and celebrate  a significant historical victory. And if you’re not in Houston, well, take a minute that day to stop and say a silent thank-you to those men and women, like Phyllis, who were willing to stand up and fight the good fight when it was much more dangerous to do so, and win the battles that make it possible for us to live as openly and freely as we do today.

—  admin