Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

New Equality MD Director Carrie Evans And Trans Rights

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | November 10, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland, Maryland, transgender rights

carrie-evans.jpgThe Washington Blade has a story about the appointment of Carrie Evans as the Executive Director of Equality Maryland.

After the debacle last year of the failure of both a marriage equality bill and a trans rights bill, and a divisive split in the trans community about whether to support or oppose the trans employment rights bill because it failed to include public accommodations, as well as the meltdown experienced by Equality Maryland afterwards, this story caught my eye.

I'm glad to see that Equality Maryland has found someone to lead, and Ms. Evans sounds like a competent leader. What will this mean for trans civil rights protections in Maryland?

Here's what Ms. Evans had to say about Equality Maryland's stance on trans rights in the Blade article:

The marriage bill isn't Equality Maryland's only priority. It's also pushing a measure to bar discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

"They took out public accommodations this year because of the misinformation about bathrooms and locker rooms ... so we just have to give voice to our transgender supporters," Evans said. "We have work to do in forging those relationships so it's a lot of heavy lifting; hopefully the governor will put his support behind the trans bill like he has for the marriage bill. We want to move him to that place, that's essential."

I'm glad that Ms. Evans spoke about trans rights, but I can't help but notice that she didn't mention the major organization expressly organized by trans advocates to move trans civil rights, Gender Rights Maryland. That new organization, organized by the politically savvy Dr. Dana Beyer, has been actively successful in obtaining support in the Maryland legislature. Most recently, former Governor Parris Glendening, who had previously opposed similar bills, announced that he was strongly in support of a trans civil rights bill and of Gender Rights Maryland.

The Gender Rights Maryland blog has a long letter of support from him, and I found the following quote quite edifying:

In 2001, the state of Maryland passed anti-discrimination for gay and lesbian people but fell far short of the inclusion of transgender individuals. Gender Identity is not a "gay" issue and requires the equal promotion of education, tolerance, equality and acceptance.

Due to the absence of securing anti-discrimination for transgender individuals in 2001, I staunchly support the transgender community's efforts in the 2012 legislative session to have full and comprehensive legislation added to the Maryland antidiscrimination policies for transgender individuals.

Gender Identity anti-discrimination is about basic human rights - the right to a job, a place to live and fair treatment in public spaces.

I understand you might have frustrations, given the recent Maryland State Legislative session, but I urge you to continue your steadfast support for legislation into 2012 with Gender Rights Maryland.

Governor Glendening clearly grasps the politics of this matter, noting the problematic nature of having sexual orientation protections in place since 2001 and, ten years later, still no gender identity protections. He's also quite explicit in noting that trans civil rights is not a "gay" issue, but a "civil rights" issue, and that's important in positioning this bill.

It's not a matter of "which gay issue do we support, marriage equality or trans civil rights?" which poses major problems for a trans civil rights bill. Civil rights is civil rights, and trans advocates in Maryland need to be careful that the two aren't conflated, especially since support for marriage equality in Maryland is low (polls of Marylanders suggest 46%-48%) but support for trans civil rights is high (polls of Marylanders suggest 63% across all demographics).

I must admit I'm a little surprised by Ms. Evans's assertion that she wants to move the Governor to a place of support for trans civil rights, given that he has publicly announced his support.

I've also learned that Gender Rights Maryland has a plan in place to get the bill to the floor, sponsors who are politically strong and able to get support from other key politicians, and a clear understanding of political positioning of the bill as a civil rights bill, rather than a "gay" bill. In fact, Jonathan Shurberg, a Board member, recently wrote an article in Baltimore Outloud detailing their plans, and it sounds like they are way on top of this. (Shurberg is also the lawyer who argued and won the Doe vs. Montgomery County Board of Elections case, protecting Montgomery County's comprehensive gender identity civil rights law.)

The trans community should be a bit wary of Equality Maryland because of the events of the last go round with the trans civil rights bill, and Equality Maryland's political and organizational difficulties. The question in my mind is not whether Equality Maryland's new Executive Director should start taking the lead on a trans civil rights bill, but whether they should back off and let trans advocates and organizations take the lead. Equality Maryland should certainly be supportive financially of trans organizations working for civil rights, and should coordinate with those organizations to find out what's wanted and needed. I'm afraid that this is perhaps a bit naive on my part to hope for such partnership, but there, I've said it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad Ms. Evans is supportive, and I'm glad that she acknowledged in her statement that there was "misinformation" the last time round the mulberry bush. I wish her much success in her new role. I'm just thinking that it's time to give the trans community and its organizations, who seem to really know what they're doing, an opportunity to lead on this.

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Not to mention, it's entirely possible to offer major support to a campaign without being the organization to lead it.

Jillian, thank you. But the most important fact is omitted.

Gender Rights Maryland isn't doing the field work or organizing it needs to. That work is not getting done. I would not be the least bit surprised to see GRMD enter into an agreement with Equality Maryland, to have Equality Maryland take the lead on field organizing. The problem with last years bill was that Equality Maryland didn't do the work that is needed. It took a bunch of activists to make enough noise to allow Senator Miller the cover to kill the bill.

Not a single member of GRMD's board stood in support of public accommodations last session. No one.

Many members of the trans community in Maryland hold the strong belief GRMD will not do the work needed. As an employment specialist, you are well aware of the gross underemployment of the trans community. One would think with this amount of resource, they would have reached out to the community to enlist their services.

They want to spend $60,000 or more on a lobbyist. They could hire two transgender field organizers with benefits for that. They could contract a campaign manager to organize the efforts.

They believe "smoozing" alone will do the deed. Ask why several board members have quit in frustration....

Thanks for your insights, Jenna. It looks to me like GRMD is on board with public accommodations protection. My guess is that the people you mentioned were trying to made the best of a bad business as lead by Equality Maryland and are hoping to do it better this time around. I'd like to hear more about your ideas on field organizing. It sounds like that would make a good addition to the efforts. Perhaps if there were a cogent plan, the money could be raised to get the field organizers in place, too.

Jullian, would you like the conversation of field organizing to be public or would you like to carry it on in private. In public, GRM and/or EQMD, while it will not listen to the community, will have to see it. Privately, those who still wish to deny basic human rights will get a bead on our efforts.

In the words of Dana Beyer, "I don't discuss organizational issues on Facebook" ( it probably applies here too.)

Jenna, my thought is that public discussion is healthy. I'm not suggesting you reveal any top secret plans. I think it's useful for our community to hear ideas about how to tackle an organizing campaign. Who knows, it might prompt someone who cares about our community to step forward with some cash to help get it done.

I'll post my outline at TransAdvocate and send you the link.

Much of what needs to be done is in the organizing arena. The great concern of Dr Dana Beyer is a referendum. While it is true the polls show a 63% support rate and recent surveys show 9 out of 10 persons of faith support equal rights for transgender people, in Maryland you only need 3% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election to sign for a call to referendum. The real struggle is, without serious funding, to organize now, so those people, the cisgender community, the 6 out of 10 or the 9 out of 10 are personally vested in this process and will be equally there IF a referendum arises.

Additionally EQMD joined a strategic alliance with other groups to create Marylanders for Marriage Equality. EQMD's part is to provide the resource of manpower. Where is GRM's partnering with those who already have a donor/volunteer/supporters list? And if not, where id their efforts in building their own beyond the world of white privilege?

When they wanted "input" from the community on language of a bill, they were really seeking the appearance of community buy in on a three bill approach. An approach which thankfully, our legislators rounded rejected. But this community "town hall" was held in the bastion of white suburbia, Howard County Maryland. For those not of means, namely those 90 % of us living under the poverty line, we were forced to take a 2 1/2 bus ride if we could not catch a ride. One person of color to my note attended. One. Who are we fighting for if they are excluded from the process? The group launched with out a single trans person of color and to this day, less than 30% of their board resides in Maryland and is transgender.

The strongest Queer Student Union in the area, Towson University is holding a panel discussion "TransAction: Organizing a Movement Around Gender Identity and Expression" GRM was been invited by several persons including myself. Their response was, " We are already spread across 3 other events that night" One of which is to "pay tribute" to another one of their board members. What are the other two events? Were are all of the board members if not willing to participate in an important discussion with the mother lode of energetic and enthusiastic souls wanting to change the world?

Equality Maryland, the DC Trans Coalition and TransMaryland will all be represented. All of us are actively engaged in laying the ground work.

Jillian, please allow me to revise my prior statement. In it I stated "Their response was, " We are already spread across 3 other events that night" . This was an erroneous interpretation of a response I received.

In contact with the person I originally spoke with, they clarified their early point and in light of that, I need to make it clear this is not an official statement of GRM or came any member officially. It was a misunderstanding of the point to which I wish to retract. I do understand it as of this time that they ARE committed to several other events, BUT were seeking fair representation, that had not been worked out at that moment. I do expect if they are able, they would attend.

Please forgive my error.

Maybe they could hire Cathy Brennan?

It is funny but I worried when EQMD was restructing that would be a consideration. As much as was made about the changes at EQMD one of the most telling for me about the previous people running EQMD was that Cathy was their biggest defender on Facebook. I saw it as a good move when they got rid of Morgan and the rest. I am reserving judgment on the new direction of EQMD but the fact that Cathy has been silent on their Facebook page makes me hopeful.

I have a healthy respect for Ms. Brennan's intellect, though I disagree strongly with her views on the trans community. She has many supporters in the Maryland community, and her connection with EQMA is another factor in the tension between the trans and LGB communities, as Carol has pointed out in her usual elliptical fashion.

You know, it's funny to watch people I have never met talk about me like they know anything. I have NO connection to Equality Maryland, at all, and have not since I got kicked off the board of its predecessor organization, Free State Justice (which anyone who has been around since the 1990s knows). Please know that many of us who actually know what is going on in Maryland read these blog posts and shake our heads, wondering what fantasy worlds you live in. The #1 problem with the gender identity legislation is that it does not give due consideration to the specific concerns raised by females who don't want to have people who are biologically male intrude into sex-segregated spaces. That some frame that as "bigotry" speaks to the rampant misogyny in the GlBT community.

Cathy, you write about:

"females who don't want to have people who are biologically male intrude into sex-segregated spaces."

I'm assuming that you left unstated that the 'sex segregated spaces' in question are not *all* sex-segregated spaces, just those reserved for women. Perhaps an interpolation of a "their" between the "into" and the "sex-segregated" would do the trick nicely.

I don't know too many women who would want men in women's spaces, but the problem in the way you articulate the statement is in another unstated assumption that you may be making about biology that is likely to be unwarranted.

In 1965, medical experts on a blue ribbon panel commissioned by the City of New York concluded, based on the best medical evidence available at that time, that trans individuals are merely delusional members of their originally-assigned sex, for whom any treatment is merely "palliative."

Between 1995 and the present, though, there have been numerous medical scientific studies that show that the medical science of 1965 is wrong. Biological sex is not solely based on the development of the mullerian or wolffian duct systems, or on the gross shape of the 23rd chromosome pair. There are genetic and ontological development factors present in a small minority of people who end up getting misassigned at birth, and there is an increasing recognition of the science as time goes on.

It's reminiscent of the clash between the traditional biblical classification of whales as fish, and the modern understanding that cetaceans are properly classified as mammals, exemplified by the "whale Case" of Maurice v. Judd (Court of Common Pleas, New York County, 1818), reported by Sampson, "Is the Whale a Fish? An Accurate Report of the Case of James Maurice against Samuel Judd" (New York, 1819), as more recently analyzed in the fascinating book, "Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth Century New York Court Case That Put The Whale On Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature" by D. Graham Burnett (Princeton University Press, 2007).

What is happening here is that society is starting to catch up with the scientific advances that have bee made in the past 17 years.

The philosopher and eminent semioticist Umberto Eco has written a number of books that describe the processes by which improved understandings of reality are gradually accepted. One of these books is entitled Kant and the Platypus, and it focuses on situations such as those we are experiencing at the current time in the understanding of the nature of the assignment of sex as it relates to people who are not cissexual.

The Vatican took 400 years to come up with a weak apology for what the Church organization now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did to Galileo on the issue of solar system mechanics. It only took the New York Times 49 years to retract its editorial about how rockets could not possibly work in the vacuum of space because they don't have any air to push against.

The whale is not a fish. The sun does not make a daily orbit around the earth (that is only what it looks like as an artifact of the earth's rotation). Rockets do indeed operate in outer space. Trans women are not biological men. Trans men are not biological women.

I don't have an issue with what you wrote in the clause I quoted, except for the needed clarification as to "sex-segregated spaces" and "biologically." The unstated assumptions are the ones that can do the most damage.

Dana LaRocca | November 13, 2011 1:12 PM

When you say "Trans women are not biological men. Trans men are not biological women," that says what they are not, it doesn't address what they are.

Would you also say that transmen are men, and that transwomen are women?

And where does "gender identity" come into all of this? We are trying to pass a law about gender identity, not about sex.

I think she is saying just that and that people like Cathy have constantly insisted that they aren't biologically so should not be protected. Now I am not sure on her argument but it is an interesting one. Though the fact still remains that Cathy is opposed to gender identity and did her darndest to fight it last year. I know the two of you are friends Dana and you have an issue when anyone criticizes her but facts are facts. Cathy is the enemy in regards to the gender identity bill. She opposes that legislation.

Speaking as a biologist with an interest in sex physiology and development, I have no bloody clue how to define sex. Saying that transwomen are not biologically women and transmen are not biologically men confuses me because I can't even properly define what it means to be a man or a woman. I can't even quite say transwomen are developmentally male or transmen are developmentally female due to studies on their neurophysiology.

Ultimately, however, this line of thought concerns me most because it appears to be trying to define nature in artificial boxes instead of trying to use our artificial boxes to enhance understanding of nature and it is attempted to grant legitimacy to a view point by saying it is a scientific reality when science does no such thing. Define male and female socially, biology is the wrong tool.

Tim, what is more telling about EQMD is not the ED but the new board. I respect Patrick Wojahn and Lisa Polyak. However, Patrick had asked for my consideration on joining their new board. I chose not to because the other board members were not seated and there was no executive director chosen at that time. Who sits on a board is a vital consideration on whether I will work with someone, let alone join that board. Additionally, since their focus has been marriage first, I could not in good conscience fundraise when my community is still being denied our basic civil rights protections.

Cathy's views have earned her disdain for many in the LGBT community. It is a shame, she is an ardent so-ju warrior.

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Wow, Jenna is a "male identified person." Got to hand it to Cathy, she's not afraid of showing her true colors.

Jenna's Blogger profile says "I was born in the correct gender and body, as incongruent as they may be. Society unfortunately was born with the incorrect tolerance, patience and understanding."

Maybe that explains it.

No, Cathy was snidely misgendering Jenna, who identities as female on Facebook. I don't want to speak for Jenna, but I believe that quote from her blog simply means she was born with a gender of woman and that the "born in the wrong body" narrative doesn't speak for her experience. That's not anywhere near the same as saying someone is "male identified."

Dana LaRocca | November 11, 2011 1:15 PM

I guess anything is possible. But Cathy has never misgendered me or any of the transfolk I know. It hasn't happened on line or in person so far as I know.

I wonder how this discussion became about Cathy?

That's really weird.

"I wonder how this discussion became about Cathy?"

That's my fault, I made a bad joke. Jenni was talking about hiring a trans coordinator for $30k a year to do work in Maryland. I thought the idea of recruiting a well-off (assuming here) lawyer who is active in Maryland and who hates trans women was pretty funny. Kinda like recruiting Tony Perkins for Joe's spot when he leaves HRC.

I wasn't even thinking of her past history with the Maryland whatever groups, as I really don't much know or care about any of that, but apparently it got taken as a reference to whatever happened back whenever.

Thank you to those who read and recognize what I actually wrote.

I state my gender and body are incongruent. That I am at peace with that. That society, is the one with the problem, not me.

I can suspect many trans people can identify with not only my Blogger profile statement, but with the transphobia expressed by those who wouldn't let themselves.

Good luck to both of you.

Jillian, thank you. But the most important fact is omitted.

Gender Rights Maryland isn't doing the field work or organizing it needs to. That work is not getting done. I would not be the least bit surprised to see GRMD enter into an agreement with Equality Maryland, to have Equality Maryland take the lead on field organizing. The problem with last years bill was that Equality Maryland didn't do the work that is needed. It took a bunch of activists to make enough noise to allow Senator Miller the cover to kill the bill.

Not a single member of GRMD's board stood in support of public accommodations last session. No one.

Many members of the trans community in Maryland hold the strong belief GRMD will not do the work needed. As an employment specialist, you are well aware of the gross underemployment of the trans community. One would think with this amount of resource, they would have reached out to the community to enlist their services.

They want to spend $60,000 or more on a lobbyist. They could hire two transgender field organizers with benefits for that. They could contract a campaign manager to organize the efforts.

They believe "smoozing" alone will do the deed. Ask why several board members have quit in frustration....

I have an elliptical fashion? Wow, cool!

Now if I just knew what the hell an elliptical fashion was...

(is it that I use a lot of ellipses?)