University of Houston student Senate introduces bill to help trans community

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 12.19.48 PMStudents at the University of Houston are considering a bill to help transgender students and staff better identify themselves as their gender identity on campus.

The bill, the Josephine Tittsworth Act, was introduced by the student Senate Wednesday and calls upon the university to “fulfill its existing nondiscrimination policy (of the UH Student Handbook)” in regards to LGBT students, the student newspaper The Daily Cougar reports.

The bill seeks to acknowledge that “gender expression is the external characteristics presented by an individual such as masculine or feminine features displayed in mannerisms, speech, social environments or attire,” and to formally acknowledge “the terms, gender identity and gender expression represented trans, transgender and gender-nonconforming students, faculty and staff” on all University documentation.

It would allow students to have their preferred name on rosters and other university documents.

“Honestly, this is a freedom of speech issue. It allows people to choose which box to check. Over the past few weeks, people had unfortunately misinterpreted (the bill). This bill is about respect and tolerance on this campus,” newly elected student body President Charles Haston told the paper.

The bill comes a few months after the student government at the University of Houston-Downtown approved gender-neutral restrooms.

UH students at the meeting Wednesday explained the bill would help address students who go by a name associated with their gender identity only to be outed as trans when the professor calls roll, revealing their legal name.

The bill cites “high rates of harassment, physical violence and sexual assaults” as a result of failing to acknowledge trans and gender-nonconforming identities.

“This bill will translate into people being open with their identity,” said Tanzeem Chowdhury, former undergraduate-at-large senator.

“I think it would create a safer campus. Currently, UH is the second-most diverse campus in the nation. We’re always making progress in acceptance, and this would be a strong move forward — it would create a safer campus not only for members of the LGBT community, but for the entire student body.”

A town hall meeting to discuss the act will be at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

—  Dallasvoice

Kiss-in seeks domestic partner benefits for U of H

Pucker up!

Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday, while some battle the supermarket crowds for chocolate and champagne and others battle  that soul-sucking feeling that they will be alone forever, students at the University of Houston will be battling for equal benefits for LGBT employees.

“Our LGBT faculty and staff at the University of Houston are not given the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts,” says James Lee, one of the student organizers. “This rally is an issue campaign to let administration know we care about our professors, directors and advisers and we think they all deserve to be treated equally.”

Lee explains that the event is not just for same-sex couples, the organizers want opposite-sex couples to participate to help demonstrate that straight and LGBT relationships are the same.  Got no one to kiss? No problem, says Lee, “We will have rally signs and other goodies you can show support with.”

The smooch-fest kicks off at 12:30 pm in Butler Plaza (in front of the MD Anderson Library).

—  admin

“Defining Marriage: A Debate!” at U of H tomorrow

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

One day we will get to the point where an University inviting guests to debate marriage equality will be greeted with the same scorn that an on-campus debate on women’s suffrage or whether or not African-Americans are 3/5 of a person would engender, but that day is not today. Just in time for the expected U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling on Prop. 8  tomorrow, Feb. 7, the Federalist Society and Outlaw at the University of Houston present “Defining Marriage: A Debate!” at noon in the Bates Law Building room 109.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage, will be on hand to defend the continued prohibition against marriage equality. Mitchell Katine, who served as local counsel in Lawrence v. Texas (the Supreme Court case declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional) will defend marriage as a civil right, constitutionally guaranteed by equal protection under the law.

As a bonus the first 70 attendees to arrive will receive a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich and waffle fries, because we like our civil rights debated with a side of irony.

After the jump get a sneak peak at the kind of keen logical arguments to be expected from Dr. Morse:

—  admin

Five queer alternatives to the Super Bowl

Yes, Yes… I know… plenty of gay men enjoy football, are fans even, and there are lots of LBT fans as well, but if you’re like me you greet all the hoopla over the Super Bowl with a resounding “meh.”

So if you’re looking for a way to avoid a (morning) afternoon (and evening (seriously, how long are football games supposed to be?)) of indecipherable sports jargon, over-hyped commercials and disproportionate passion for the accomplishment of moving dead pig parts 300 feet here are some alternatives with a decidedly queer bent you might enjoy (don’t worry, you can Tivo Madonna’s half time show):

1. ¡Women Art Revolution at The Museum of Fine Arts

Starting from its roots in 1960s in antiwar and civil rights protests, the film ¡Women Art Revolution details major developments in women’s art through the 1970s. The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston presents this documentary at 5 pm on Sunday at the The Museum of Fine Arts’ Brown Auditorium Theater (1001 Bissonnet). Artist Lynn Randolph and U of H art history professor Jenni Sorkin will be on hand to provide insight into the film

!W.A.R. features Miranda July, The Guerilla Girls, Yvonne Rainer, Judy Chicago, Yoko Ono, Cindy Sherman, and countless other groundbreaking figures. Tickets are $7 and are available at mfah.org.

2. The Rape of Lucrecia at Houston Grand Opera

Written by gay composer Benjamin Britten and scored by Ronald Duncan, The Rape of Lucrecia is set during the decline of the Roman Empire. When a group of soldiers unexpectedly returns home to Rome they find that their wives have all been unfaithful, with the excpection of Collatinus’ wife Lucretia. Later that night the king’s son, Prince Tarquinius, accepts a drunken dare to seduce Lucretia. After she rebuffs his advances Tarquinius forces himself on her spurring Collatinus to rebellion against the king.

The dialogue of the Opera (which is in English by the way) is punctuated by two choruses, one male and one female, who engage the audience in the emotional responses of the male and female characters respectively.

The Rape of Lucretia plays at the Houston Grand Opera (510 Preston) at 2 pm on Sunday. Tickets start at $38 and may be purchased at HoustonGrandOpera.org.

4. The Drunken City at the Rice University, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts

“The city’s like a monster, like a sleeping dragon or some dark creature in the night that cracks open an eye, and whispers dark dangerous dark ideas into your ear.”

The Drunken City is populated by thoroughly unpleasant people, the kind of loud sequin-wearing party girls who can immediately turn a hip bar passe and the men who hunt them. Marnie, the alpha-female and soon-to-be bride, has taken her co-worker bridesmaids out on the town for a ladies night. Seriously inebriated, they soon run into Frank and Eddie. Frank quickly takes a shine to Marnie, despite her girlfriends objections. Eddie, on the other hand, isn’t interested in any of the girls but seems to know their shared boss quite well (if you catch my drift). The play is sprinkled through with warnings about human desire and the dangers of consumption.

The Drunken City is presented by the Rice University College of Visual and Dramatic Arts at Hamman Hall on the Rice Campus (6100 Main) at 3 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or by calling 713-348-PLAY .

Steve Bullitt as Hay and Mitchell Greco as Gernreich

4. The Temperamentals at Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex

The off-Broadway hit The Temperamentals, by Jon Marans, explores the events surrounding the founding of the Mattachine Society, one of the first “gay rights” groups in America (although the Society for Human Rights has it beat by a quarter of a century). The story centers on Harry Hay (Steve Bullitt), a communist and Progressive Party activist and his lover Rudi Gerneich (Mitchell Greco), a Viennese refuge and costume designer. Set in the early 1950′s in Los Angeles, the play is an intimate portrayal of two men who created history and the epic struggle they overcame.

Sunday’s curtain for the Celebration Theater produced play is at 3 pm at the Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased at buy.ticketstothecity.com.

5. Closing Night of Bring It On: The Musical at Theater Under the Stars

Bring It On: The Musical finishes up its run at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby Suite 300) on Sunday. Theater Under the Stars (TUTS) presents this musical re-imagining of the 2000 film with a matinee at 2 pm and an evening showing at 7 pm.

Two rival cheer-leading squads are out for the national championship, and neither is going to give up without a fight. The ensemble for the show features some of the nation’s most skilled competitive cheerleaders led by Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren as the leaders of the rival squads.

Tickets start at $24 and are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office (800 Bagby).

—  admin

Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

—  admin

Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

—  admin

New Standards of Care could transform trans healthcare

Colt Meier and Levi Herman

Colt Meier and Levi Herman

At a presentation at the Houston Transgender Center last Saturday Colt Meier, doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, and Levi Herman presented information on the World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s new Standards of Care 7. The new Standards of Care, released last month, offer a multidisciplinary guide to healthcare professionals working with “transexual, transgender and gender nonconforming” individuals.

According to Meier, the new standards represent a clear departure from the “gatekeeping” approach to trans medicine that had developed under the previous standards “The old [standards] used to be about what trans people have to do to get what they need,” said Meier. “The new ones are about how health professionals should help trans people.”

The new Standards of Care replace the association’s previous version, released in 2001, and reflect an additional decade of scholarly research on the trans community. Meier says that the previous standards were intended to be guidelines, not rules, but that many doctors took the general recommendations of the standards as being unyielding, and assumed that they should be applied to all trans patients. In publishing the new standards WPATH made it clear that, while the standards represent the best medical advice available, they should not be used as a “one size fits all” solution. For instance, the standards recommend that trans people who seek genital surgery or hormone therapy as part of their transition receive psychiatric care, but explicitly state that “psychotherapy is not an absolute requirement for hormone therapy and surgery.”

One of the biggest changes to come out of the new standards is an unambiguous statement on the ethics of medical professional’s efforts to dissuade trans people of the belief that their true gender is not in line with the gender they were assigned at birth. Attempts to change a person’s gender identity are “no longer considered ethical” under the new standards.

The earliest standards of care were published in 1979. According to Meier much of the early research was done by non-trans people and involved certain assumptions about the desired outcome of people seeking to transition. “Much of the research focused on people who had had genital surgery, which is just one form of surgery,” says Meier, adding that not all transgender people desire genital surgery to complete their transition. Because only a small segment of the community was included in the research the results did not reflect the full diversity of the trans experience. Additionally, in the early days there was an assumption that the purpose of gender transition was to allow the person transitioning to live as a heterosexual, with some doctors refusing to provide treatment to female identified, male bodied persons who where attracted to women. Meyer says that assumptions like this can cause participants in research studies to “tell the researcher what they want to hear,” so that the trans person is able to receive the medical care they need.

As more trans people have become involved in the research a broader picture of the community and its medical needs has come to light. For instance Herman says that “we’ve found is that when trans people conduct studies of the incidence of trans people they find far greater numbers. Perhaps because they are better able to work within the trans community.” Meier and Herman both say that there is a great need for additional research.

The full text of the new Standards of Care can be found on WPATH’s website.

—  admin

Let’s talk about sex (education)

Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the U of H“Just a few years back, I was sitting in a Texas public school and had almost zero knowledge about my sexual health because no one wanted to talk to me about sex,” says James Lee, president of the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the University of Houston. “You would think sex was a four letter word growing up in Texas. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of seeing friends of mine negatively affected by the lack of sexual education in our Texas schools.”

Which is why James and the the rest of the Student Chapter is bringing TFN’s Leadership Development Institute to the University of Houston on November 12. Among the topics covered will be an overview of the current state of sex education in Texas. The training also aims to teach participants how to develop a persuasive political message and to effectively organize at the grassroots level. The Institute explores organizing strategies such as issue education, voter registration and block-walking. Scheduled guest speakers include Susan Tortolero of the UT Houston School of Public Health, and representatives of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and the Texas Freedom Network.

James feels that the unwillingness to deal with sex education affects LGBT youth disproportionately. “For the most part, Texas schools teach abstinence until marriage sex education. In Texas it’s still not possible to be wed if you’re a lesbian or gay couple. So, when a gay student hears this kind of language they have less of an incentive to pay attention because they can not marry.” James adds “I have nieces and nephews who’re currently attending public school, I don’t want them to have to worry about some of the things my generation had to, they’re our future and we can’t let them down.”

Attendees to the Leadership Development Institute must register online to attend the free training, space is limited.

—  admin

A&M deemed unsafe for transgender conference

In the wake of an effort to shut down the school’s LGBT resource center, Texas A&M University has been deemed an unsafe venue for an upcoming statewide transgender conference. The third annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, set for August, has been moved to the University of Houston to protect “the safety for the participants,” the Houston Press reports:

“The climate at A&M for GLBT people has taken a big hit, and right now anything can fuel those fires,” the group said in its announcement.

Organizer Josephine Tittsworth cited the A&M administration’s muted reaction to the conservative protests for the move. “The lack of supportive responses from TAMU administration has been perceived as condoning a campus that is not affirming for members of the GLBT community,” she said.

Back in April, the Texas A&M Student Senate voted to support a budget amendment by State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, that would have required schools with LGBT resource centers to equally fund centers for “family and traditional values.”

The Student Senate measure was later vetoed by the student body president, and Christian’s amendment was stripped from the final state budget. But LGBT advocates say the episode has fostered a climate of hate at A&M, which already ranked among the most homophobic schools in the country.

—  John Wright

LGBT community must call on Texas A&M leaders to send message that hatred won’t be tolerated

Administration remains silent in wake of attack on resource center

By TIFFANY CREECY and JOSH COLLINS

In April 2011, Texas State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, proposed Amendment 143 to House Bill 1 — an amendment demanding that public universities that fund centers for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students also provide an equal amount of funding for student centers that promote “traditional and family values.” The amendment passed 110-24. Though it is unclear whether the Texas Legislature will include the amendment in its final budget, its introduction has created unnecessarily hostile discourse about GLBT issues at Texas A&M University.

Christian’s amendment inspired a group of A&M student senators to author a bill with identical objectives: SB 63-106, “The Sexual Education Equality in Funding” bill. While student governments at other public universities in Texas (e.g., University of Texas at Austin and University of Houston) have openly, adamantly, and clearly rejected the intentions of the Texas Legislature, A&M’s SB 63-106 passed with a vote of 21-21, with the speaker of the Senate breaking the tie in favor of the bill. The Student Government Association at the University of Houston called for the Texas governor to veto the state amendment, citing potential harm to the university’s already-existing diversity initiatives — initiatives similar to the ones in existence at Texas A&M, which have long been met with opposition by conservative Aggie student groups.

Immediately after the passing of SB 63-106, Texas A&M students both in favor of and in opposition to the bill expressed impassioned viewpoints that quickly manifested in emotional and aggressive debates. The fervor of these debates was further heightened by the publication of four GLBT-related articles in the student newspaper, The Battalion. GLBT/Ally students felt empowered by the publication of articles with positive representations of GLBT individuals, especially following the events of GLBT Awareness Week, which took place April 1-15. Some non-GLBT/Ally students felt that the articles contributed to an imbalanced, liberal-leaning perspective on the rise at Texas A&M. Many students from both perspectives on the issue have unfortunately engaged in hostile communications and the use of unwarranted personal attacks.

Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson vetoed the decision to pass the bill, sending it back to the Student Senate — where it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to override Robinson’s veto. However, the damage to campus climate as a result of the bill had already been done. Tension between GLBT/Ally students, faculty, and staff and some of the bill’s more vocal supporters has never been higher. The Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center no longer feels like the safe space that it used to be, and although it appears, for the time being, that no funding will be cut and a center for “family and traditional values” will not be established, what has been most alarming about the events that have unfolded over the last month is the lack of public, GLBT-supportive responses from university officials. In perhaps the most critical moment for GLBT Aggies since they won the right to have a student organization on campus in the 1980s, the university has failed to send the message that homophobia, heterosexism, and hatred for the GLBT community will not be tolerated.

—  John Wright