Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

QNotes: Marriage Equality or Bust?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 05, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, marriage equality, North Carolina, Q Notes, Robbi Cohn

Robbi Cohn, a strong advocate for the trans community, has written an important piece in QNotes.

...this will probably be deemed contentious and recalcitrant. I know how important the issue of marriage equality is to many within the gay and lesbian communities. You may have wondered why some of your trans friends are turning their collective backs regarding this issue. It's not that we don't support the general agenda of equal rights. We do. And, it isn't that spousal equality doesn't affect trans individuals. It does.

...For a significant portion of the trans population, life has become a matter of survival. For a majority of trans identified individuals, life is substantially burdensome. And, too many trans persons are marginalized, vilified, ostracized and, in some cases, murdered.

Yet, the history of trans activism within the LGBT umbrella has seen a consistent pattern of pejorative treatment. If it wasn't the baseless and untenable argument that we should be patient and wait our turn, then it was the patronizing and condescending handling of trans issues or the co-opting of trans tragedy as a fundraising tool to increase the coffers of Gay, Inc. and its single-minded effort to work on legislation paramount to the gay community. To wit: marriage equality, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT).

Strong words, indeed. The full article is well worth a read if you're interested in what makes ours an "LGBT" community, rather than a "gay" community.

But is this criticism fair? Can people be blamed if they want marriage equality and trans rights too?

A lot of this comes down to resources. As noted in my Comment of the Week post, Jarrod Chlapowski of Servicemembers United found, in his conversations with community leaders, that ENDA couldn't get resources because many organizations are so tied up with marriage equality to the exclusion of other issues.

This intersects with an editorial by Kerry Eleveld of Equality Matters, in which she says that the pols in charge fumbled the ball in a way that left permanent scars on ENDA's chances, partly because those pols weren't honest with the community, and still haven't been. As a result, we're miles away from ENDA passage. Meanwhile, the gobs of time, money and effort thrown at the marriage issue have paid off by making this into a winnable issue because the American public understands it and it will help gay people around the country, particularly in rural areas. Meanwhile, Congressmembers are still in the dark on trans issues. Differing with both Cohn and Chlapowski on the resources issue, she notes that "ENDA and marriage equality are simply not an either-or proposition. Fortunately, the resources required to advance each of these issues at the federal level share similarities but don't infringe on each other. And choosing between them is not an option." It may not be an option, Kerry, but it may wind up being a choice.

More importantly, as Cohn notes, there is a fundamental contradiction between the representation accorded to the gay part of the community and the trans part of the community. When it comes to marriage equality, the tactic of incrementalism for civil unions is unacceptable, but a transgender rights bill from which "public accommodations" protection was ignominiously stripped is okay.

Frankly, I'm not sure whether to oppose the Maryland trans workplace protection bill on these grounds, or just be thankful that something, anything, is happening to ease the burden, however slight, on trans people. I get calls from people every week telling horrific stories of losing jobs and inability to get any jobs, for which I can do little. Unfortunately, it seems that the bill has been sidelined by the legislature, so maybe it's beside the point by now. But for the future, and a better understanding of the strategy, do you support or oppose the Maryland bill? Do you support or oppose incremental progress in marriage by seeking civil unions legislation? Is there a contradiction in our movement advocacy?


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I think in order to decide whether incrementalism is appropriate you have to look at the whole picture. What's on the table to take away? Can you win without compromise? Is that based on actual research or is it just people's "feeling" that we need to cut something to win.

For example, there was a big fight within the local trans community here when we tried to get a local non-discrimination ordinance. Some people felt we needed to write exclusions allowing facilities owners to ask for ID if they are unsure of someone's gender and another exclusion allowing discrimination against pre/non-op trans people in shower facilities.

Both of those proposals would have cut out protections for large sections of our community, focused around those who had the least privilege to begin with - undocumented immigrants, people who can't afford medical treatment, and those who don't pass. And at the same time it was clear that it wouldn't sway the opposition leaders to make that compromise and wouldn't actually buy us anything.

I think in most cases, "incrementalism" is more about the prejudices and lack of dedication of a policy's advocates and in many cases the kinds of things we are talking about won't actually change a bill's fate. It can certainly have it's place, so long as we're not talking about cutting the most vulnerable people out of a policy's protections. Cut something that doesn't equate to cutting people (or cut the most privileged people) and show me how it would concretely make a difference, and then I'd be willing to talk.

When I'm stuck in situations like you've described -- where someone else decided to put forth an incrementalist bill and it's pretty clearly a choice between that bill or nothing, unless they're cutting out trans people or the poor, I usually simply choose not to advocate for or against it and put my energy towards something more useful.

It makes life much simpler if you just see trans women other than those who are part of the gay male community as not really part of the gay community. I wonder if things would work better, or at least more honestly, if we just accepted that gay ppl have their own priorities, and that those don't have much to do with us.

Carol,
Edith gave me this link in reply to a comment I made it is a real eyeopener to the damage being caused to us by the transgender umbrella and LGB association.
http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/18414/glaad-media-guide-reform-its-time

Amy, I thought the link you put up was a good analysis, yes. No, I don't think transsexual issues are LGB issues. I think that should be understood but I think LGB issues do concern me. This thread is about trans issues, though. My state has included gender identity and gender expression in its non-discrimination laws for ten years without incident. Here is another link: link:http://www.glad.org/rights/rhodeisland/c/anti-discrimination-law-in-rhode-island/

It's a good law. I'll leave it there for now.

Amy, this is exactly the opposite of where I am coming from. My point is NOT about transsexual women being unwillingly subsumed under the GL-whatever umbrella. Please understand, I have absolutely no agreement whatsoever with your crusade. NONE. AT. ALL.

Complete and utter nonsense.

It is amazing that so much attention is paid to Maryland, but Delaware -- right next door to Maryland -- is completely ignored.

Delaware is going for civil unions RIGHT NOW.

Kinda blows that "incrementalism is OK for T, but not for LG" talking point right out of the water, doesn't it?

If you want to talk about Maryland, talk about Maryland.

Just don't use the situation in Maryland to extrapolate some larger point about the movement around the rest of the country when it is clearly not the case.

Delaware is right alongside Maryland as one of the nine states in which "Gay, Incorporated" stabbed trans people in the back by cutting us out of the state anti-discrimination laws. It's no surprise at all that they're digging the knife in deeper by pushing for domestic partnerships next, and it's a safe bet that the moment they get domestic partnerships, they'll be pushing for full marriage while continuing to ignore trans rights.

Thank you for reinforcing my point about consistent incrementalism -- though of course you don't grasp it.

Just as Maryland is being discussed as an example of inconsistent incrementalism, Delaware is being consistently incremental.

I would further note that all bills are incremental -- even the version of federal ENDA in the last Congress with its many exemptions.

I just don't recall a great hue and cry in 2009 and 2010 about how bad federal ENDA was for large parts of the workforce and how it would leave them behind.

When did Delaware enact their anti-discrimination law? Wasn't it one of the first to do so - long before trans rights were being included?

Kathy Padilla | April 6, 2011 9:46 AM

No - just a few years ago. And there was a battle over that lack of inclusion.

Kathy Padilla | April 6, 2011 9:48 AM

Just checked - 2009.

Thanks Kathy. I appreciate the info. I don't know why I thought they were one of the first.

Kathy Padilla | April 6, 2011 9:54 AM

Oh - and the earliest statewide bill was trans inclusive.

Minnesota Non-Discrimination Law

Gender identity protected? Yes
Minnesota law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public service, education, credit, and business based on “sexual orientation,” which is defined to include transgender individuals. MINN. STAT. §363A.01 to §363A.41

Sexual orientation protected? Yes
Minnesota law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public service, education, credit, and business based on sexual orientation. MINN. STAT. §363A.01 to §363A.41
http://www.hrc.org/issues/workplace/equal_opportunity/1070.htm
===========

That same inclusive language was used in other earlier bills like Los Angeles in 1979 - and even Harrisburg, PA in 1983.

Then transgender & transsexual people people got dropped out.

Kathy Padilla | April 6, 2011 10:04 AM

Pardon - that was the earliest inclusive statewide bill. But - many of the earliest local bills did have inclusive language.

I have not commented on the Maryland situation because it doesn't affect me. (Monica is soooo self-centered again.) I am getting a little sick and tired of hearing trans people getting so upset that the "public accommodation" part of the jobs protection bill was removed. They act as if a hot knife has been put through their hearts.

"Gimmie, gimmie everything or the legislators are nothing but a--h----!"

And here I sit, in a state that doesn't have shit for protection for ANY of our LGBT people. We have a governor who won his primary election by using our LGBT youth as a whipping stick. A State House Rep compared LGBT people to drug dealers on the House floor and no one cared, except us. He refuses to apologize. (And, he has a fetus in a jar on his desk.) Getting a jobs protection bill or anything trans related would only happen here if Harry Potter intervened, but I doubt that would even help.

So, don't expect sympathy from your trans brothers and sister in the South, the central states and those in the Rockies. The Maryland trans people better be on their knees thanking whomever they pray to that they are at least getting something that more than half the country will never get, even if the federal government mandates it.

Kathy Padilla | April 5, 2011 11:18 PM

As someone who also lives in a state without protections for lgbt people - I take a different position from Monica. Though I hasten to note we both live in cities with both employment & public accomadation protections.

The history of statewide bills is of course different than that for the federal enda on the scope of coverage - but even there the community has come to see the piecemeal approach as not serving our needs well. Hence the support for Rep. Polis introducing an omnibus bill - and of course the Dallas Principles.

I think the fear that passing this more limited bill will both set a precedent for other jurisdictions and not be revisited by MD for a very long time have some merit. But I also worry that legislators in other states importing that approach - in states that cover neither sexual orientation or gender ID - will set up a dynamic that will cause trans people to be dropped from those bills as people would argue an omnibus bills could be passed for sexual orientation alone. This could then effect the national omnibus bill.

On marriage v civil rights - well - I've stated my opinion often enough.

Well, first of all, I live in Marietta and not Atlanta. Second, the Atlanta law has no teeth, so there has been a lot of violations that nothing was done. Third, Georgia has no hate crimes bill for anyone, much less LGBT people. The PA law to add LGBT people was passed by a Republican majority and signed by a Republican governor. That would never happen here.

It's apples and peaches. Georgia is one of the states who filed a law suit against the Obama Health Care and is in the process of passing an Arizona-style immigration law, only on steroids. It doesn't matter that the AZ law was declared unconstitutional. So you see, every individual state can pass protection for LGBT people, but Georgia will fight it tooth and nail.

It irritates me when people bitch about only getting something. We would love to experience a little incrementation just to have something to fight for.

Kathy Padilla | April 6, 2011 8:45 AM

The PA Hate Crimes law was overturnedby the courts - the current crop won't be passing any lgbt legislation.

I get irritated when people give our adversaries a road map on how to split the lgbt coalition. They have learned a lesson here that they will take on a road show. And pols will bargaining down from the last low tide mark.

But take heart - it's not just us. Look at the attempts to dismantle workers rights, social security, medicare, etc. If we're going to be chumps; at least we'll have company.

Sadly, you're right, and all of those other things are actually scarier. I just hope the Mayans are right. We need to cleanse this planet and start back to the dinosaur age. Maybe evolution will get it right next time.

There are a lot of post-transsexual women who are in same sex relationships and can't marry. There are also straight post-transsexual women married to men who are having their marriages challenged.

Marriage equality is important to both those groups.

Quite possibly more so than ENDA as being post-SRS often frees us from issues that are much more a part of transgender people's daily lives. Particularly since our ID situation tends to be easier.

Many of us are getting old and are in relationships that would be much more secure and have lives that are much more secure if we could marry our partners.

That said it is time for our movement to grow beyond just being able to focus on one thing at a time and acting like spoiled brats if everyone doesn't join us in focusing on just one issue.

The I'm going to take my marbles and go home routine is immature.

We have been getting our butts kicked by people who attack on all fronts at the same time. Attacking abortion and Medicare, teachers salaries, the right to organize, as well as both same sex marriage and an inclusive ENDA.

We need one big movement to fight back. Not just TS/TG people or even LGBT/T people but anti-war, unions, immigrant groups, environmental groups.

And we have to start supporting a whole range of causes not just one that appeals to us at the moment.

I agree that it would help a lot if we were more united on all fronts. One thing I would like to question you on, though, is why you choose to call out surgical status in discussing this issue.

Surgical status is not the defining criteria for marriage - documentation is. In addition, most employers don't know people's surgical status but often must keep copies of their employees documentation. Other discrimination in daily life is based on a lot of things, such as appearances and documentation, rarely do people have a chance to know surgical status.

And there's no direct link between documentation and surgical status. Plenty of post-op folks live in states that won't allow amended birth certificates ever. And plenty of pre-, non-, or post-some-but-not-"THE"- op folks do have access to corrected documentation.

So in the interests of unification, why speak in terms of surgical status here?

It seems a little to easy to say those States would never amend birth certificates. I can tell you that if you follow the link above that I posted into this thread you will see that we will never get LGB help in getting them to change and that being associated with the word transgender only puts up one more barrier to getting those states to amend birth certificates.

I'm not saying that those states will never change, just that the way they are now creates a situation where surgical status cannot automatically be equated with corrected documentation.

Also, I'm not advocating for the word transgender, I didn't even use that word in my comment.

Tobi I responded to what you wrote about the states that won't change birth certificates.As for my metioning of the harm caused by the umbrella term transgender I own that and I appreciate that you didn't use the word transgender or advocate for its use.

And there's no direct link between documentation and surgical status. Plenty of post-op folks live in states that won't allow amended birth certificates ever. And plenty of pre-, non-, or post-some-but-not-"THE"- op folks do have access to corrected documentation. So in the interests of unification, why speak in terms of surgical status here?

Quite a mouthful right there. Documentation is a very important issue. In most states my marriage rights are affected because of my changed genital status. Whether people should be documented and how the are to be documented is a question, a very important question. Discrimination is not synonymous with oppression. It is a facet of classification and ordering. The laws we are speaking of specifically say "discrimination based on . . . " Does public accommodation language actually provide for accommodations to match one's so called "gender expression"? I think Dr. Weiss wrote of a case in Minnesota where it didn't.

It's easy for you to dismiss the fact, Toby, that states like the one I was born in, Tennessee, won't change birth certificates regardless of of genitalia. That kind of dismissiveness is really offensive. Genital status might be an issue separate to documentation but it is a significant factor in someone's life.

Your last question:

So in the interests of unification, why speak in terms of surgical status here?

is a very important one. Twenty four states clearly recognize sex changes based on surgical status, almost all states recognize legal sex change on some sort of basis. The question of unification for people who have had a legal sex change is how one is to be unified. The commenter you responded to was suggesting a very broad coalition to fight for all forms of inequality and discrimination that various groups of people are under imminent threat of. That coalition would include a lot more than LGBT and people of transsexual history. Most of those people don't have labels imposed on them and are accorded rights in their legal sex. If someone wants to express their feelings contrary to the gender norms of a particular sex, they shouldn't be discriminated against. People who have changed sex, however, should not be discriminated and separated from those of the sex they legally changed to in order to be united with those who don't want to change sex but simply express themselves contrary to gender norms. I am concerned that a unification that is imposed on me would end up segregating me from the sex I am. That does not mean I do not support human rights for everyone, however.

Suzan marriage equality is only important to me because I support those in same sex relationships. But if you are saying that as a heterosexual woman with a TS history marriage equality is important to me why not just call me a man in a dress. In a nutshell that is what you are saying and it's no more acceptable for me to accept that as it is for a lesbian identified woman with a TS past to be told she's in a heterosexual relationship. You can say "but it shouldn't matter your relationship is legally recognized" but that isn't true if it is viewed as a same sex marriage.

Everyone talks about "resources," but what about the people providing those resources? If an org spent those resources all on employment protections and forgot about marriage, would they get those resources again next year?

Donations in the nonprofit world don't come with no strings attached, even if they're given freely. Eventually a nonprofit's director is going to notice that the people handing over those resources want certain work as a result, and that if they have the resources to be handing over in the first place they probably don't care to much about employment protections.

Yes, Alex. The orgs represent their donors. And other than hating to see injustice, why should cis gay ppl really care much about trans-specific issues? I feel it is great that they often do, and appreciate it, but really, cis gays still have enough crap of their own to deal with. Why should they be fighting for public accomodations or whatever for trans ppl? And why should trans ppl expect them to?

I don't know that I have heard a good answer to this (other than the 'b/c it is right' reason), just lots and lots of angry recriminations from various trans ppl. I have a hard time understanding why trans ppl feel cis ppl should be spending their time, money, and political capital to fight for them.

I know that some trans ppl give money and other support to the gay orgs, and perhaps that is why they expect to be included? Well, just don't support them, then.

Apparently there was a trans-specific movement at one time, and that is how we got the ability to change birth certificates a lot of places. Maybe it's time for trans ppl to advocate for themselves again, if enough of them can get along long enough to do it.

I have become one of *those* ppl annoyed when ppl add the 'T' reflexively to 'GLB', though, esp when whatever is being discussed explicitly excludes trans ppl. I wish ppl would just be more honest and leave it off. Personally, I wish politics were more like in the movie Bullsworth, where he told one group, "Well, you don't have many votes, and frankly, you don't give me much money, so why should I care about you?"

Carol the Crank

Justus Eisfeld Justus Eisfeld | April 6, 2011 7:48 AM

I believe that incremental steps can work in some places and not so much in others, but the fundamental question is whether or not the people affected by the decision were part of making that decision! If Equality Maryland wants to take out public accommodations they have to ask trans people in Maryland if that is OK, if the Georgia LGBT group wants to go for incremental change, again, they have to ask trans people in Georgia. The answer may be very different.
For me the main thing that I take issue with is the fact that gay organizations never ask trans people about our issues - they decide what's best for us, or as the case may be, easiest for them!
Too many funders still believe that they are actually getting LGBT when something is labeled LGBT. We have some educating to do here. We have to dismantle the LGBT myth, we have to be much more public about the extent of trans employment in LGBT groups (less than 5%), and the level of employment of those 5% (mostly in eternal entry-level positions). We have to be vocal about the low level of support that the trans community receives from LGB institutions (how much of the resources of your 'LGBT' group reaches the trans community?), and a out the amount of solidarity we receive (ENDA anybody?).

Kathy Padilla | April 6, 2011 8:46 AM

The PA Hate Crimes law was overturnedby the courts - the current crop won't be passing any lgbt legislation.

I get irritated when people give our adversaries a road map on how to split the lgbt coalition. They have learned a lesson here that they will take on a road show. And pols will bargaining down from the last low tide mark.

But take heart - it's not just us. Look at the attempts to dismantle workers rights, social security, medicare, etc. If we're going to be chumps; at least we'll have company.

Gay, Inc: We are too busy fighting for DADT
Gay, Inc: We are too busy fighting DOMA
Gay, Inc: We are too busy fighting for..on and on
Trans: Okay, can you help us get FULL rights now?
Gay, Inc: Sorry, we are too tired, now

So, Dana, why do you feel that Gay Inc *should* help with trans rights? And seriously, please, because I am trying to understand this issue.

People advocate for something that's important to them personally or that is important to someone they love.

As a transgender woman, I wish that gays and lesbians would do more to advocate for transgender protections, but I'm not deluding myself into believing this will just start happening on its own. It won't because frankly it's not that important to most gays and lesbians.

For those who say "how can you spend so many resources on marriage equality when you should be focusing on ENDA instead?", you need to look in the mirror. One could just as well ask why ENDA should be the #1 priority. Why is ENDA more of a priority than, say, trying to save our planet from climate change? Or reforming the prison system that decimates populations of African American men? Or stopping drone attacks on civilians? Or providing health and dental care to people who desparately need it? Or finding a cure for AIDS? Or stopping gun violence? Or comprehensive immigration reform? The list goes on.

There are a lot of causes that need work. Marriage equality is one of many good causes as is ENDA.

The trans community does not have enough political clout to get changes made on our own. We desparately need allies. This is what we need to work on. The initiative needs to come from us. We need to get more savvy about politics and grow our political power base.

As a Post-transsexual woman I wish people who feel fit to pick and choose who falls under the transgender umbrella(Heterosexual cross dressers do but drag queens do not) would seriously start considering transgender to be a voluntary identity.

As it is *I* am more concerned with marriage equality than the squabbles in Maryland. I am more irritated by the assumptions of Transgender Inc that I their interests are more important than the interests of gay and lesbian people are to them.

Particularly since so many people under the transgender umbrella are able to exercise heterosexual privilege when it comes to marriage.

I've been around for more than 40 years including co-running a Transsexual Counseling Center in 1971.

I've seen/been in many Pride Day events and yes gays and lesbians do get to advance goals they have been working for for those last 40 years and yes "Transgender" is a recent appendage to "Gay and Lesbian".

Transgender Inc hasn't learned how to work with others very well. I have rarely seen transgender folks other than post-SRS dykes and drag queens do much of anything within the greater L/G Community.

However in Canada and else where I have seen this going beyond the interests of the "Transgender Community" including workers organizations, peace groups etc.

If I were involved in Maryland I'd sugget taking any bill that could be passed this year, even if the glass is only half full. Come back next year and add to it.

Gays and Lesbians have been doing this since about 1965.

Oh and cut the name calling and trashing of each other, the cannibalism makes people who would otherwise work together on stuff less likely to do so.

I agree with you that people can identify as they choose. If you don't identify as transgender I will not put that label on you.

You have some strong words about Transgender Inc. My opinion is that Gay Inc is overrated and Transgender Inc doesn't really exist. True, there are people and organizations advocating for transgender rights, they are small and trying hard but a far cry from the lobbying power of groups like the NRA, the AARP, or the Christian Coalition.

I love how you lump AARP in with the Christian Coalition or the NRA.

I personally believe that al LGBT/T people should own guns if they can do so legally and concealed carry permits if they can legally do that, but I am not a fan of the NRA.

OTOH why isn't there a TS/TG Group in AARP? Don't we have the same concerns as all other older people?

To begin, I'm not trying to be dismissive of folks who cannot change their birth certificate based on the state they were born in, just pointing out that it happens. But when these conversations happen (not just here) I don't see a sense of reciprocity. Why would it not be considered similarly dismissive to point out that some people cannot change their birth certificate based on their surgical status - especially when some people here seem to approve of such a policy. Similarly, specifically because genital status can be very significant to individual's personal lives, I find it callous for people to divide people up based on it without any real reason.

In most states my marriage rights are affected because of my changed genital status.

Only indirectly. Marriage rights are based on documentation. Once you have your documentation changed, unless the state goes to extreme measures, they don't even have the ability to KNOW what your surgical status is, let alone act on it.

Additionally, while you site 24 states that base documentation off of surgical status, they don't all agree on what surgical status that is: "Surgery for sex reassignment," "Irreversible surgery for sex reassignment," "Irreversible genital surgery for sex reassignment," "Irreversible genital surgery constructing the appearance of the opposite sex," and "Irreversible genital surgery constructing the appearance, form, and function of the opposite sex" are all very different. Not to mention that many of those states have different policies for different state ID that may be even more forgiving.

So again, the main thing I'm reacting to here is calling out surgical status in a situation where folks with corrected documentation of all surgical statuses are in the same boat. It feels awkward and nervous. Maybe there's an actual reason, and if so I'm asking for it. I mean, if a person were specifying that they were talking about white trans people's access to marriage and white trans people's risk of discrimination when there's no clear reason, it would similarly make me nervous.

Tobi... Why do you assume we are all straight after SRS?

I'm a lesbian and can't marry my partner.

Eek, comment nesting errors. Sorry all.

Anyway, Suzan, I don't think you're understanding what I'm saying here. I'm not saying that all trans people can marry post SRS, I'm saying that there are trans people who can't marry their same-sex partner at every level of surgical status.

It's very true that a post op trans woman who has changed her documentation can't marry a woman without same sex marriage laws.

Neither can a pre-, non-, or some-op trans women who has changed her documentation.

My point is that access to opposite-sex marriage is based on what's on someone's documentation. If I ask for a marriage licence and my ID has a different sex than my fiancée's, then nobody's going to do a panty check before finishing the paperwork.

I was wondering why you were framing your examples in terms of surgical status and while you haven't answered directly, I believe I've discerned the reason. It sounds like you are assuming that all post-op folks have their documentation changed and no one else does.

Tobi you have no idea the level of contempt I hold for those who play papers games using original birth assignment idea to marry someone of the sex they have been reassigned to and then claiming they are in a "same-sex marriage".

To me that is the worst sort of heterosexual privilege.

But I'm nearly 40 years post-SRS. I don't think in terms of being transgender or pre-op or rally even transsexual in the present tense. Time does that. Not a matter of elitism or any sort of negative label people want to put on it. simply a matter of viewing things the way my peers view those things.

I think this reply is going to wedge in between yours and Suzan's. You and Suzan may have more in common than I do with either one of you. I won't go into that. I believe Suzan had a post on her blog yesterday about a Catholic group where a person stated you can't change sex because every cell blabaddy, blabaddy, blah. I don't know. Courts have tried to define sex. There is no clear definition. Occasionally I correspond with a person who masculinized at puberty. He is very masculine looking from the pictures I've seen of him. Because of the real i d act he was having trouble getting his drivers license renewed with the male gender marker. He could get the state to go along if he could document that he was born with ambiguous genitalia. He wasn't. The guy is not a girl. He hasn't had surgery to remove his reproductive organs. There are many people like him, maybe not in terms of percentages but they're out there. There are also women who are born with testicles. They're out there, too. They're intersex people. They exist. Surgery for a woman who has their testes removed from their abdomen have to rely on hormone replacement therapy to maintain their femininity and prevent bone loss.

Then there are people who say they have long neo-clits and are men who get pregnant. I have two children that, I believe, I have parented but I have had a sex change. I don't know. Who should I compare myself to?

You can find the trailer to this film on line:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Orchids-My-Intersex-Adventure/121811557871641
She's really cool, as far as I'm concerned.

These stories may be improbable but the people I am speaking of and who I correspond with are not space aliens. As far as I I know all of these people exist in a general population among men and woman in a society that is divided between men and women. As long as that is the way it is, I wonder where the line should be drawn. That's a very good question as far as I am concerned. Another good question is how often that line should be drawn and how sharp it should be.

For people who genital surgery and gonadectomies are good for, it is good. It does make a difference. All I know about is my own experience. It is very good for me. Call part of my surgery plastic surgery if you like but I will strongly disagree that it is cometic. It matters. If there are only two groups I definitely should not be lumped with males. I don't think it would be a good thing to have three groups or any finite number of groups to lump people into. Having two is problematic enough. I think it will continue to be that way for some time.

If I sound defensive, it is because I, too, seldom see "reciprocity". I became interested in this blog because of Ron Gold. Surgery is not mutilation. When it is dismissed as irrelevant all kinds of implications come into play. The huge question of why constantly hovers over the person who has had surgery when the answer to the person who has is all too clear. Do you have any concept of how complex the relationship between intersex people who have had non consensual surgery and transsexual people is?

Then you have people like this who are as bad as the Catholics on Suzan's blog:

http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/transgender-time-to-change/

I don't know. Sometimes "the surgery doesn't matter crowd" sounds as bad as the fundie Catholics and Protestants.

Oh, the love. Can't you just feel the unity! I'm late for work at the nuclear plant. Maybe it'll blow . . . meh

This has quickly gone well beyond the scope of my question and I believe you are projecting quite a lot onto me.

I do not think surgery is unnecessary
I am not negating or dismissing anyone’s gender
I do not think intersex folks don’t exist or are space aliens
I do not think that surgery is mutilation
I am not invested in the word 'transgender'
I do not think we all need to be under one umbrella

I do believe there is a host of different issues that trans people face based on degree of medical and legal transition achieved and/or sought and that discussing those differences can be very useful.

I shouldn’t have to pull out my credentials and list off my personal connection to SRS or intersex experience, I believe my perspective is enough to stand on it’s own.

To reiterate, my point is not that surgical status never has any relevance, but that the specific issues being discussed effect people of all surgical statuses (as well as affecting both men and women) so I was unsure why only post-op trans women were being discussed.

I might be too old for any of this to matter very much.

If someone should ask for my birth certificate it clearly states I am male. A person sent an appeal to a number of different places on the internet for help and advice about having an i d renewed with a gender marker he had on his i d for years. The Real I D act had created a nightmarish situation for him. I believe he was legally married at one time to a woman as a man without surgery. I don't think he is now. It' a confusing story because it does not really follow any kind of a trans narrative. I used his experience as an example of how complicated classifying someone according to a binary sex system is. Eventually documentation becomes an issue. If his marriage had been contested documentation would have been an issue. There were historic cases with a similar scenario in Britain well before the April Ashley case. Regardless things that weren't a problem have become a problem because of the Real I D act.

I am sixty. I am only three years post op. I got married thirty-seven years ago. I had no reason to dump my spouse. Maybe I just have no business being part of this conversation. I was going to try to stay out it but, three comments in, my name was mentioned. My situation is not the same as Amy's but at the same time I understand some of what she's trying to say.

I tried to say anti discrimination based on gender identity and expression have been a good thing where I live. The way I think it should be is that there should be complete consistency when someone has their sex/gender documentation changed. I don't know exactly what the criterion to have legal sex markers changed should be. I think the way a person should be accommodated publicly, however, should follow consistently with how they are legally classified. I don't think anti discrimination legislation is adequate to protect a person as the sex they have been re-classified as legally.

I am sorry if I made false assumptions about how you feel about these issues. Personally, I am not exclusively focused on genitals. One of the main reasons I am not has nothing to do with transsexual and transgender people. It has to do with loyalties I have to intersex friends of mine who often are not that sympathetic to my situation. That's the way it goes.

My marriage is a very personal thing for me. You have not commented on that but you are not the only offering observations along this thread. A comment was made implying that people game the system using assigned sex to enter a marriages that they are trying to convince others are same sex marriages. My comments in this regard are not directed at you. There is no question that my spouse was assigned the sex she is, however. If my marriage is not same sex where does it leave me? I am afraid to ask. I don't know. Maybe sex after all is like fine wine and takes time to age. I don't think so but yes, at this moment I wish I had kept my mouth shut and let Amy's misconceptions about where I stand and what my point of view is prevail.

Eventually, I think the question of what constitutes sex will arise in a legal setting. No one blogging or commenting at sites like these, except for one or two, here and there, seems to recognize just how complicated that question can become. I suppose I should maybe have heeded the advice Orson Welles offered long ago, "no whine before its time".

Edith my apologies for mentioning you in my post I only intended to credit you for the link. As for your situation I atleast suspected that you were lesbian but that doesn't change my support for you.The longevity and the strength of your relationship should be respected and recognized with legal protections. I lived in Woonsocket RI for a few years and I grew up in Mass so I know a little bit about where you are at.I've travelled and lived in quite a few different places so I guess you could say I'm a high mileage model :)

Amy, I don't really identify as lesbian, just old. I like women, though. It's a long story. I've been with the woman I am with going on forty-two years- from the time I was nineteen. We're committed to each other but it has never been easy. It's a long story. If I started talking about my sexual orientation I'd come across as even more of an asshole than I already appear to some people. Yeah, Woonsocket! My spouse was born in Norhthampton, don't ya just love it! But she lived in Woonsocket for a while. We're going up to Framingham some time over the weekend. We're going to drive by Prospect Street where she used to live, then go through Blackstone up onto Rt 16, through Holliston and back on to 126. Looking forward to the ride. Guess you know the neighborhood!

Yeah Edith I know the neighborhood I was born in Framingham and spent my childhood moving from Natick ever slowly towards Woonsocket.While I consider T issues important enough to disagree with others on them I never view those people as assholes.Also when I say Mass is the most transphobic state I've been in I say it from the experience of growing up there.