Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Transgender Community Wins Some and Loses Some

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | October 21, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Brown University, Gender Nondiscrimination Act, LGBT homeless, Medicaid, military, shelters, transgender violence, Washington D.C.

There have been a number of different events that have occurred within the trans community recently, and these point to the difficult position that the community is in. While these events may seem unrelated, they demonstrate that the community is in the process of beginning to form a unified opposition to the oppression that we face on a daily basis.

Here are some of the news items that I think are significant. The first two items demonstrate the one-step-forward, two-steps-back nature of what's happening with the community.

In D.C., where a large number of assaults on trans people have taken place within the past few months, community advocates have charged that the DC police is "completely filled with bias," and that the provision of sensitivity training to only 124 officers of a 4,000 person force is inadequate to provide appropriate police protection. The mayor's office has indicated that it will take steps to address these problems, although, troublingly, police management has suggested that no steps are necessary.

The D.C. municipal government has funded a jobs training program for trans people, and is set to produce its first 17 graduates.

Thus, in our nation's capital, one part of the government is completely insensitive to the security needs of trans residents, and another part of that same government is training us to get jobs. What's the message here?

Philadelphia, which has excluded trans people from its homeless shelters, is building a separate shelter for transgender people experiencing homelessness. It sounds as if Philly's government has given up on trying to get its homeless shelter administration to provide services to trans people, and is going to segregate them all in one shelter.

Discrimination continues against trans service members in the military, and the President of Brown University, Ruth Simmons, has stated that ROTC will not be permitted to resume its activities on campus. Aside from Brown, I have not heard of any other campuses who have wanted to address the issue of trans service members. My sense is that they just want to make up with the military and end the conflict, with no regard for trans service members. Although most colleges and universities have various academic programs that study discrimination, including discrimination based on gender and gender identity or expression, and LGBT service centers, which is a good thing, when it comes to putting their principles on the line, they have caved, which is a bad thing.

After parents discussed the medical treatment of their child, Tammy, diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, on CNN, Fox News has featured accusations from a psychiatrist that the treatment constitutes "child abuse." This follows another recent incident in which Fox News featured another psychiatrist stating that Chaz Bono was mentally ill and should not be allowed on television. While it is a big plus that people are coming out in the media, showing that trans people are real people, there is always going to be a backlash.

The University of Illinois held a reception for the Transgender Oral History Project, a collective of transgender, gender variant, and allied people who work with folks around the country in order to collect, collaborate on, and share stories from within the transgender and gender non-conforming community. Here's another example of trans people coming out, showing ourselves to be important members of the wider community.

Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed The Gender Nondiscrimination Act and the Vital Statistics Modernization Act after a months-long campaign to recognize the basic rights of transgender people. This is another major victory, although the existence of "rights" alone cannot address the social prejudice we face on so many levels.

A panel advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo on ways to revamp Medicaid has proposed that the program that pays for low-income residents' health care cover surgery and therapy for transgender New Yorkers. Transgender health care has taken some important steps forward for those working for large corporations, as HRC's Corporate Equality Index tightens requirements on trans health, but low-income people are often left out in the cold, despite the fact that medical experts agree that such treatments are medically necessary. It is time to remedy this lopsided system. Adquate health care should not be limited to the wealthiest individuals.

To my mind, these developments show that we are moving forward, as a community, showing that we are important members of the wider community, that we will address prejudice and discrimination directly and forthrightly, and that we will not permit ourselves to continue to be oppressed without speaking up and fighting that oppression.


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So Jill, I'm curious. For the things that were accomplished, how much was trans ppl working alone, and how many were due to efforts by gay and lesbian groups?

Seeing as lots of the time gay and lesbian groups are flat out counterproductive about trans issues, and how trans people can in fact organize and fight for themselves, I'd guess most of the progress came from trans groups (which may or may not also be LGB groups).

That is what I am guessing as well, but I am assuming Jill actually knows, since she has researched all this. I just keep thinking that in general trans ppl would be better off just going ahead and taking the initiative on trans issues rather than trying to get LG orgs involved.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | October 22, 2011 1:45 AM

My experience with successes in New Jersey and on local and county levels in Florida it was transgender groups working with LGBT and progressive allies. It’s common sense that we can be our best advocates for ourselves and we carry much more gravitas with the overt support of our LGBT and straight allies.

We work together. A week ago last Friday I received an e-mail from a local LGBT center telling me about a transgender high school freshman who was having a hellish time in school with bullying, cyber bullying and allegations of bullying by a teacher and an attitude of apparent ambivalence by the school authorities. A meeting was planned for that Monday morning … I contacted Chair of Garden State Equality , he contacted the parent and he, one of the vice chairs, an attorney who was directly involved in writing the anti bullying law, joined me and the locals to meet with the Principal and members of the School administration last Monday. So far, it seems there has been a positive resolution.

We complemented each other and the local pride center and backed up the student and her mother, while showing the school folks they were dealing with professionals.

Awesome! Great work! :)

Wow...I get to make the first comment of many that are sure to follow! Exciting!

Dr. Julian, there are many outstanding contributers and bloggers but somehow your style of writing is elegant, as beautiful as you, concise, poignant and as credible as a research paper..in short "second to none". Don't worry, I won't send you a bill for these flowers ;).

Indeed this inclusive post about notable and historic achievements, that in essence is an update to the "TG State of the Union" insofar as 2011 is concerned certainly plugs me into my toaster! As I see traffic increase to my blog, I am encouraged because I know the power of "1" and the exponential consequences that can result. In my case I wish to present our (trans)gender story to those that are on the fence...that by "knowing me" they can feel as if they know one of us. We are so few in number compared to the LGB side that it is vital that individually we do our part to cajole, coax, and nudge those on the fence to the side labeled "advocacy". I read over and over that the gay community was able to achieve critical mass success only after someone got to know a gay/lesbian person. As LGBT+T has come to mean LGB-T in civil rights struggles, one thing has become crystal clear: more often than not we are on our own.

(1) DC Police: pathetic attitude---that less than 5% of officers have received sensitivity training. This speaks on its own. Clearly police "management", by spinning this as "adequate" is not competent, especially given the racial and other diversity in DC. I think a consent decree is overdue...to mandate hiring of LGBT officers, maybe those as I who are seeking employment.

(2) DC Training programs: Wow...wish one existed here in CA..because I sure could personally benefit from such a program. Nothing like losing a job due to (trans)gender discrimination to sap self-esteem. The EEOC should step in and mandate that this immediately go national...as this acute problem is not an anomaly throughout our nation. Almost immediately, it would rescue many of our sisters from their daily struggle to survive. I know because this year I found myself one click away from such circumstances. Yes, bipolarity in government...point noted. A change in DC police management would remove the bipolarity rather quickly.

(3) Philadelphia shelters: grateful for a TG shelter..another example of bipolarity in government.

(4) ROTC: blatant sponsorship of T discrimination. I have commented wherever I can pointing this out, to no avail. Perfect example of LGB-T disparate treatment. Clearly they, except Brown, have failed to officially recognize the LGB+T Union. Shameful and despicable. Another reason why I remain unconvinced of the value of ever obtaining a college degree. I remain proudly high-school-only educated. The military with the repeal of DADT also remains the supreme example of LGBT-T recognition, despite the honorable service of many of such as I who have (SWT)served while transgender, although pre-diagnosis.

(5) Tammy: this story is not new...transgender children..but now that the couple are deviants...as in lesbian...every other comment seeks child abuse charges. I became righteously indignant at the one part phobia + two parts hypocrisy..I was so effective that someone pulled out the "threat of prosecution" card. What they meant for evil I shall use for good...to hold up to America what happens when we dare take a stand at something so un-American as discrimination. http://wp.me/nQPn I think it is now past time to charge sly-as-a-Fox newz to confuze with the spreading of hate speech...the enabling of transphobia. http://wp.me/pnQPn-c9

(6) University of Illinois: I dare say they probably do not have an ROTC program. Didn't know about this...very encouraging news!

(7) Gov "moonbeam"...our new Trans Hero of the year!..and yes...the proof is when the rubber hits the road...in practice..by employers. This law alone could have helped me last year...but then I would have remained on the bench...and not an active(ist) participant as I am now! Nothing like knowing the oven is hot to sound the alarm!

(8) N.Y. and Medicaid: again government bipolarity. Our much advertised diagnosed "mental disorder"...diagnosed medically no less, and yet for low-income persons (of which currently I am but receive VA care..for now) medical treatment for gender dysphoria...clearly by not allowing it they have by deed declared it, as Kaiser the VA do, as "cosmetic". A medical condition and a cosmetic condition...can't be both...which one is it? Why the one that will cost less $!

Sorry for being so long-winded but typing at 72 WPM, I absolve myself of undue culpability!...Cheers!

twinkie1cat | October 21, 2011 9:19 PM

Transpeople really have a difficult time. Often they are even vilified in the gay community. The thing with the trans homeless shelter is a difficult one and frankly, separate but equal might be the best solution in some cases becasue it keeps the transwomen safe. (Transmen tend to pass) I know in Atlanta where a lot of the shelters were run by conservative religious groups that forced transwomen to dress and act like men in order to stay there. This made them vulnerable to homophobic slurs and even assault by men, because, even as men they were obviously gay. So a lot of them ended up in catholes when they got out of jail for prostitution until they could get a place to stay.

Ideally transwomen would be housed in women's shelters and accepted as who they present themselves as. Atlanta was at one time trying to get a gay shelter going, strangly but perhaps appropriately in an unused portion of the city jail. After all, they were the ones who made them homeless by charging them with city ordinance violations.

I can back up part of what twinkie1cat said. One shelter in Marietta Ga said they were trans friendly, and gave the example of allowing a transwoman to stay at the facility, allowing her to dress during the day, but at night, required her to dress in sweats to sleep. They would put up a cloth privacy barrier in the mens dorm where she slept and had a volunteer staff person keep watch of the area. They would give her her own private time in the mens communal shower for her privacy. The administrator just didn't get it because she said they did not need to segregate gay men from the rest of the men in the men's dorm because at that period or situation that brought people to the shelter, sex was the least thing on their mind. She was basically saying that gay men are predators of straight men, except when they are homeless, but transwomen are predators of women all the time, regardless if they are homeless.

I live in Marietta. I would like to know the name of this place and where they are located so I can check out this. Maybe some local education is needed to make minor adjustments.

A shelter is a shelter. It being October 22, it becomes far more critical to have a warm and safe place rather than to quibble on a 'segregation' aspect, let that come later. That said, Morris House will address the Depression and Anxiety issue of transition, a holistic approach to behavioral health issues as opposed to simply a warm bed and meals. You are not going to find that in a shelter run by some ministry.

I noted the comment 'trans men tend to pass' and find that a bit marginalizing as I am thinking this shelter will be taking in trans men as well. My thought is why do some believe that trans women are the only one's in need? We are all in this together as trans people and should be working to together in Trans issues, rather than take sexist approaches.

As far working with "LGB's," we should all work together on common issues using the thought of 'strength in numbers' in solving equality issues, as long as we remain autonomous. As lead in a Trans Equality org, I find it ludicrous to be working an issue that affects LGBT's as whole and leave the 'LGB' out of the common need. We remain autonomous simply by independent funding, yet work in coalition to get things done.

And back to shelters: Development of shelters is taking a new turn in St Louis, where the shelters are no longer dorms, but instead, small personal rooms with locking doors. Shelters like this must be encouraged because of the inherent suitibility for not only Trans people, but LGB as well. The key here won't be privacy, but training of staff and residents of understanding and acceptance. True, I have yet to see how this is turning out here, but I am going to take the time to find out.

I think Transgender as an Umbrella term is already dead since so many are adopting it as an identity. That means is Transgender as an identity acceptable and for whom should that identity apply if it is? I see it belonging to all Lesbians, Gay's and Bisexuals even those who cross dress or live fulltime without getting surgery. So that means there is a need for a new and improved grouping for the vast majority which aren't LGBT associated. I Kinda like Intersex, Sex and Gender diverse because it can't be adopted as an individual label and it is separate from the LGBT but can work with it if it wants. I think stepping away from the LGBT will force them to either be more supportive of the needs of all the various groups under ISGD or lose their support for LGBT needs. By the way Jillian can you name one Transgender group LGBT aligned or not that saya openly how many members they actually have? I'm willing to bet no LGBT or Transgender group has membership above 1 to 2 % of the claimed 700,000 "Cd's TV's and Ts's" that make up the grouping.If I am correct that those groups have such low support then they should not have an office within the government or a say over the other 98% or more that don't identify with them. Just so you know in the spirit of Transgender inclusion I am teaching people to see all Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals as Transgender.

One of the biggest wins was having the VA to put out a consistent directive concerning trans people. It is one step closer to having the government to treat us as equals.

Actually Monica I view that directive as a failure of the VA to understand just how complex the issues are of Cd's, TV's, TS's and the intersex. Time will prove that the concept of Transgender health care is unethical and is causing severe emotional distress on the non LGBT identified portions of those communities. Just so you know Monica I will be filing civil rights complaints against Tava, NCTE, and the VA over it's Transgender wording. You can point to WPATH and say but they support Transgender wording. All I have to say is all anyone has to do is look at the board to see they've slid down the slippery slope.

Monica's point vs. Lisa's, which to prefer.......

Monica's - Monica has worked for years to get the VA to treat the trans population fairly. When the result is good, but not perfect, Lisa complains. Sorry Lisa but reality does not work the way you'd like it to.

Incidentally, Lisa, I'm with you not being thrilled being lumped in with fetish CDs, gender queers, etc. So I have no issue with your opinion. Rather I take issue with your solution.

Nerissa what your not acknowleging is that there are way more veterans than just Monica that have been working for years to get the VA to treat them better. Monica has a long history of being a Transgender bully. I want to see all Vets treated well and accepted for whatever label or political association they desire. I don't have a problem with cd's and transvestites but I don't want any medical study to lump us all together and say see they're all the same. That is what Transgender healthcare will do and just how dangerous it is can be witnessed in the injustice at everyturn survey. The LGBT has failed the population it created now it wants to institutionalize that failure. Sorry but TAVA,NCTE,NGLTF and WPATH are going to get a well deserved rebuke.