Friday, October 2, 2015
Since the American press largely ignored or downplayed the Pope's January 2015 Vatican visit with a transgender man from Spain, many Americans have nothing to counterbalance off the Pope's Kim Davis visit to understand that the pontiff's visit is not meant to signal he has taken Davis' side, or joins in condemning gay culture. Rather it is the Pope's demonstration of compassion for all people.
While those eager to criticize and even hate the Pope for his visit with Davis, those with open minds can consider the Vatican visit with Diego Neria Lejarraga and his fiancee as a refutation of the hatred that the Davis camp is spreading. The public following the Pope is due more comprehensive exposure to Pope Francis' inclusion of the different voices and lifestyles he embraces in his spiritual vision of the Church in the future, and the vist with Neira represents the Pope's boldest departure from Catholic doctrine to date.
Monday, September 14, 2015
She’s back — but what happens now?
That is the question on the minds off all Rowan County watchers. There, in small-town Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis went to jail earlier this month rather than issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, said her faith prevented her from blessing such unions, so she refused to issue any licenses despite a court order. This landed her in jail for contempt of court.
Last week, after five days behind bars, Davis triumphantly emerged arm-in-arm with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to the strains of “Eye of the Tiger” — and, though clerks have been issuing licenses in her absence — with a bit of ambiguity about what would happen when she returned to her job.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Nearly four decades before Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world, Phyllis Randolph Frye came out as a transgender woman in a far less glamorous way. No Diane Sawyer, no Vanity Fair.
It was the summer of 1976. As Bruce Jenner, 26, was celebrating his decathlon victory at the Montreal Olympics, Phillip Frye, 28, was admitting defeat in suppressing his gender identity. He, becoming she, had already lost a lot: He had been forced to resign from the military for “sexual deviation.” He had been disowned by his parents, divorced by his first wife and separated from his son. He had been dismissed from several engineering jobs.
Monday, September 7, 2015
New Year’s revelers clamored outside the window of Shagasyia Diamond’s apartment in the Bronx the day she was arrested.
Newly into 2014, she was in the midst of a dispute with her husband when officers showed up at her front door, placed her in handcuffs and escorted her to a nearby precinct. It was there, Ms. Diamond recalled, that the violations began.
Although the New York Police Department amended its patrol guide in 2012 to require respectful treatment of transgender people, Ms. Diamond, who is a transgender woman, said she was subjected to a strip search by a male officer. Two other officers watched from a few feet away, gawking as she spread her legs. Officers then placed Ms. Diamond in a cell for men, she said, where she cowered in the corner as other inmates heckled her and used the exposed toilet in her presence. When she expressed her discomfort to an officer, he replied, “You know you like it in there with all the men.”
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Nawel was in Tunis’s city centre when it happened. “This guy came up to me from nowhere. He was dressed really religiously and, without any warning, he just slapped me across the face – and the weird thing was that it wasn’t just the slap. It was that no one did anything. They all just carried on. It was if I deserved it.”
Nawel shakes her head, still stung by the casual indifference of the crowd. There isn’t anything unusual about her that might mark her out for attack. With her short hair, jeans and T-shirt she is indistinguishable from many other young women.
Tunisia’s attitude to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community goes beyond the social. Article 230 of Tunisia’s constitution forbids acts of sodomy, with those found guilty facing jail sentences of up to three years. Article 226 rules against outrages to public decency, a catch-all law often used to target the country’s trans community. Both laws date from 1914 and remain untouched by the 2011 revolution and the subsequent rush to reform.
Much of the focus for Tunisia’s LGBT pushback has focused on the pressure group Shams, which campaigns for the repeal of Article 230. But an organisation formed in June last year is providing a feminist alternative. Chouf, whose members see themselves primarily as visual activists, offers a desperately needed safe haven for Tunisia’s most isolated and vulnerable groups, its lesbian, bisexual and trans communities.
Monday, August 31, 2015
One of the informal prerequisites for the court to deem something a suspect class for purposes of equal protection is that the members of that class have an "immutable trait," something that they are born with and is not amenable to change.
As its name suggests, transgender implies an identity that is mutable. However, a recent NYT story challenges that inference.
Dr. Kranz studied four different groups: female-to-male transsexuals; male-to-female transsexuals; and controls who were born female or male and identify as such. Since hormones can have a direct effect on the brain, both transsexual groups were studied before they took any sex hormones, so observed differences in brain function and structure would not be affected by the treatment. He used a high-resolution technique called diffusion tensor imaging, a special type of M.R.I., to examine the white matter microstructure of subjects’ brains.
What Dr. Kranz found was intriguing: In several brain regions, people born female with a female gender identity had the highest level of something called mean diffusivity, followed by female-to-male transsexuals. Next came male-to-female transsexuals, and then the males with a male gender identity, who had the lowest levels.
In other words, it seems that Dr. Kranz may have found a neural signature of the transgender experience: a mismatch between one’s gender identity and physical sex. Transgender people have a brain that is structurally different than the brain of a nontransgender male or female — someplace in between men and women.
This gradient of structural brain differences, from females to males, with transgender people in between, suggests that gender identity has a neural basis and that it exists on a spectrum, like so much of human behavior.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Same-sex couples may have won marriage equality, but some gay and lesbian individuals have been left wondering if their unions are still less than equal in the eyes of the government.
Kathy Murphy is one of them. She has been unable to collect survivor and death benefits from Social Security since she lost her spouse, Sara Barker, to cancer in 2012. Ms. Murphy retired from her career in publishing in 2011, earlier than she expected, to care for Ms. Barker, who died at 62.
Ms. Murphy finds herself in this predicament largely because her spouse died before the Supreme Court’s monumental ruling in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared that marriage is a fundamental right. That case came after the landmark Windsor decision, in 2013, in which the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Thus runs a tentative theory being floated by MSNBC, of all parties:
With his penchant for name-calling and plans to deport every undocumented immigrant living in the United States, Donald Trump hasn’t exactly established a reputation for tolerance. Yet the real estate mogul and reality TV host might nevertheless be the most LGBT-friendly Republican running for president.
Asked whether private companies should be able to fire employees simply because they’re gay, Trump told “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday that he didn’t think sexual orientation “should be a reason” for letting workers go.
The question is a significant one for any White House hopeful – currently, 31 states lack employment protections for LGBT Americans, by the Human Rights Campaign’s count, and there are no federal barriers to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Trump’s response, however, marked a significant departure from the rest of the crowded GOP presidential pack, many of whom have pledged to expand protections for those wishing to turn away LGBT people on religious grounds.
About three weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Colombian government issued a directive that received little international notice. On June 4th, the government announced that it would allow Colombian citizens to change their gender on identity documents without first undergoing gender-reassignment surgery or obtaining permission from a medical professional. These requirements, which remain in place, either in whole or in part, in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, were “profoundly invasive of the right to privacy and based upon an impermissible bias,” said Yesid Reyes, the minister of justice. “The construction of sexual identity and gender is a matter that does not depend on biology.”
England and Spain passed the first laws making it easier for a person to change her gender on official documents, in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and Uruguay followed suit in 2009. Three years later, Argentina passed the most progressive gender-identity law in the world. Not only are Argentines spared the usual requirement of reassignment surgery or a medical diagnosis to change identity documents, but medical practitioners are bound by law to provide them with free hormone treatment and gender-reassignment surgery. Colombia’s decree, which was issued by the president, lacks the reach and force of Argentina’s legislation, but it is striking just the same. Now, in Colombia, all an individual has to do to change his or her gender on official documents is appear before a notary public.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Seattle follows Philly in making public restrooms gender neutral.
No matter how you identify, you’ll now be able to use a single-stall bathroom in the city of Seattle.
The Seattle City Council passed a law on Monday that requires all public spaces–both those controlled by the city and those of private businesses–to designate any existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender, reported local news outlet Seattle Pi.
This goes for all local businesses, including coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and stores. The law prevents business owners from labeling any restroom as gender exclusive.
Monday, August 3, 2015
An automatic legal pardon should be given to all men convicted under historical homosexuality laws without the need for families or individuals to apply to the government, the Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham has proposed. His pledge, following consultation with Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions and current Labour MP, means it would be possible to quash up to 50,000 convictions for acts that would be not be illegal today.
Burnham, who currently shares roughly the same number of constituency nominations as Jeremy Corbyn, said he will press prime minister David Cameron to make a relatively simple change to the law, but if he does not do so, it would form part of the first legislative programme of a Burnham-led government. The move comes two years after the royal pardon granted to second world war codebreaker Alan Turing.
Were there any women convicted the referenced law?
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
So reads the headline from an Atlantic article. The contents thereof read:
Gay Americans can now get married in the morning and then, in the afternoon, just for being gay, their employers can fire them. Is doing so legal? Up until last week, the answer was yes for Americans living in the 28 states without explicit bans on workplace sexual-orientation discrimination. But an important rulingfrom the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) means that courts in those states are now more likely to say that such discrimination is illegal, and that gay Americans are already protected from such discrimination under existing law.
Related articles include:
Monday, July 27, 2015
President Obama is presently traveling through Africa. Recently, he gave a speech in Kenya condemning the nation's refusal to protect the rights of its gay citizens. From the NYT:
NAIROBI, Kenya—Widespread celebration of President Barack Obama’s visit to a country teeming with national pride over an American leader considered a local son was briefly overshadowed Saturday by a public disagreement with his Kenyan counterpart over gay rights.
In an awkward moment of tension, Mr. Obama condemned Kenya’s treatment of gays and lesbians as “wrong—full stop” while standing alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint news conference.
The president, whose personal story has deep resonance in Kenya, even used himself as an example of why discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation should be illegal.
“As an African American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” said Mr. Obama, whose father was born and raised in Kenya.
To no avail......
But none of it swayed Mr. Kenyatta, who responded by saying his country does not share the U.S. president’s view.
“For Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” Mr. Kenyatta said, stressing matter-of-factly that economic and security concerns are of higher concern.
Gavin Grimm sat quietly in the audience last November as dozens of parents at a school board meeting in Gloucester County, Va., demanded that he be barred from using the boys’ restrooms at school. They discussed the transgender boy’s genitals, expressed concern that he might expose himself and cautioned that being in a men’s room would make the teenager vulnerable to rape. One person called him a “freak.”
When Gavin, 16, got his turn at the podium, he was remarkably composed. “I didn’t ask to be this way,” Gavin said. “All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.”
On Monday, Judge Robert Doumar of Federal District Court in Virginia is scheduled to consider whether the school board’s decision to prohibit Gavin from using the male restroom is unlawful discrimination. The case addresses one of the main unresolved battles in the fight for transgender equality.
A favorable decision for the student would be the first time a federal court has ruled that refusing transgender students access to proper restrooms is discriminatory. Any other outcome would reinforce cruel policies that deny dignity to some of the most vulnerable students and subject them to more bullying and stigmatization.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Something extraordinary happened Thursday to advance fairness and equality in the United States. Members of Congress introduced legislation to amend the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to embrace a more robust vision of equality.
The bill -- aptly named the Equality Act -- would amend existing law to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expand protections against discrimination for women. The bill would also extend the reach of protections against discrimination by businesses and stop the use of religion to discriminate. It's historic -- and it may also be a surprise because many people think such discrimination is already illegal
Friday, July 24, 2015
From the LA Times, an interesting comparison with the much more open policy of the Girl Scouts.
The Boy Scouts of America didn't go as far as it ought to have with its new recommendation on gay Scout leaders, but it did make reluctant headway. This wasn't the leap of an organization that now views sexual orientation with more tolerant eyes, but rather a shuffling step by a tradition-bound group that has been prodded by dramatic changes in societal views of sexual orientation, as well as the financial realities of needing to woo back corporate donors such as Walt Disney Co. that are reluctant to sponsor an organization that discriminates against gay people.
The resolution approved last week by the Scouts' national executive committee puts an end to the organization's official ban on gay Scout leaders and volunteers. But rather than banning such discrimination entirely, it leaves the decision up to individual troops and units. (The new policy is expected to be ratified by the executive board July 27.) Some of those troops already have shown interest in welcoming all interested and qualified adults, regardless of sexual orientation; many others are expected to keep a ban in place.
Compare that with the way the Girl Scouts recently made news: A Scouting council in western Washington rejected a $100,000 donation that came with the stipulation that it not be used to support transgender Scouts. That's in line with the organization's history. The Girl Scouts also became racially integrated much earlier than the Boy Scouts, and had little problem accepting atheist members.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
On Thursday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dropped a bombshell: Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, the EEOC ruled, is already illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This ruling—which is binding on EEOC conciliations between employers and employees, and is an extremely persuasive authority for courts—has been a long time in the making. In fact, it can be traced back to a unanimous 1997 Supreme Court opinion written by none other than Justice Antonin Scalia.
That case, Oncale v. Sundownerdealt with Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination “because of sex.” Joseph Oncale worked on an oil rig with seven other men, who sexually harassed him physically and verbally. Oncale sued his employer, arguing that he faced discrimination because of his sex. But the court ruled against him, holding that Title VII did not protect men against sex discrimination by male co-workers.
In a terse opinion, Scalia emphatically rejected this reasoning. Male-on-male sexual harassment, Scalia acknowledged, “was assuredly not the principal evil Congress was concerned with when it enacted Title VII.” (The principal evil, of course, was male-on-female workplace discrimination.) Still, Scalia explained: "Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed."
This passage has formed the bedrock of the EEOC’s expansion of Title VII’s protections to sexual and gender minorities. In a 2012 decision holding that Title VII bars discrimination based on gender identity and transgender status, the EEOC placed Scalia’s “comparable evils” declaration at the center of its analysis. On Thursday, the commission pulled the same maneuver, faithfully quoting Scalia and noting that the text of Title VII does not exclude sexual minorities from the law’s protections. And now, thanks in part to Scalia, LGBT employees in every state are protected from workplace discrimination by federal law.
Friday, July 17, 2015
WASHINGTON – A Michigan congressman today proposed to do formally what the U.S. Supreme Court effectively accomplished last month: take the gender references out of the federal tax code.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, introduced legislation intended to make clear that all married couples, regardless of gender, are equal under the tax code, removing gender references such as “husband and wife” and replacing them with nongender references like “married couple.”
Transgender people in Ireland have won legal recognition of their status after a law was passed allowing them to change their legal gender with no medical or state intervention.
The majority of countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo surgery and sterilisation, or be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if they are married, in order to have their desired gender legally recognised.
The gender recognition bill, passed late on Wednesday and set to be signed into law by the end of July, makes Ireland only the third European country, after Denmark and Malta, to allow transgender people aged over 18 to change their legal gender without intervention.
The bill was passed months after the people of Ireland backed same-sex marriageby a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a country that decriminalised homosexuality just two decades ago.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
HONOLULU — Gov. David Ige signed a bill Monday that will allow transgender men and women in Hawaii to more easily change the gender on their birth certificate.
The new law eliminates the requirement that someone must undergo gender reassignment surgery before officially making the switch.
"I know that this has been a tough issue," Ige said. "As all of you know, the birth certificate is one of those foundation documents."
Many in the transgender community can't afford or don't want to undergo costly surgeries. But having a birth certificate that reflects their gender expression is critical for school transcripts, job applications, health insurance and many other aspects of life, advocates said.
"With this new law, it's life-changing," said Tia Thompson, 30, of Honolulu, who was denied a birth certificate that reflects her female gender identity. "Words cannot express what's going on."