What the heck are we doing?

Hi Everyone,

This week has been an up and down week for me. It seems even with history being made in the election of a new President, which I thought would bring more hope to a lot of the nation (except for the ones who voted for McCain of course). It seems to have also started more divisiveness within the LGBT community (at least within the blogging world), which is sad. I’ve never really been the one to like to talk much about politics because it always brings out the worst in some people (which is another sad fact). I recently came across a few blogs on The Bilerico Project which seem to want to blame the blacks for losing to the Prop 8 proponents. Well, I myself will not go there. I’ve seen numbers that suggest that the blame is not on the black community itself, as many are suggesting. I’m sure that the proponents of Prop 8 are sitting around laughing at us as our community begins this infighting, which I’m sure they hope will tear us apart. I do not want that to happen as the right to marry should be for anyone of age.

Cindy Rizzo, a guest blogger, made what I thought were legitimate suggestions to get our rights back in California, Arizona and any other state that gets attacked by such crap. Here is my response to her blog and the comments she received:

Hi Cindy,
I’m a transsexual who recently found this blog. I’m also currently married to an Asian woman who has given me her support for my transition. This support did not come easy, but with time and a lot of discussion between us we have come a long way. You may say why is any of this relevant. She comes from a very strong Catholic background and without taking the time I did (almost 10 years, mind you, not every day) to educate her on my plight I don’t think I would have gotten her support. If I would have taken the route as some here are suggesting, “In your face, you will do what I say or else,” I’m sure I would not gotten anywhere with her. It seems some here want to force their view of the naysayers. How is that any better than what the political supporters of Prop 8 did and are doing? If we want to build more support for equal rights for all, then we need to better educate the public. It will be a hard fight, because the religious organizations do have a strong foothold in many of the communities that we need support from. Am I upset, YES I am. But to me, just sitting here blaming the Blacks, Latinos or any other group without even trying to have a intelligent dialog, I assure you will not get us anywhere. Education will be the key to our success and I believe Cindy has some valid points. We do have to strengthen our support with our allies and try to build up dialog between the ones that are opposed. If we can’t do at least that, I’m almost positive that we will not ever see any positive change for the future and it could even get worse by other states overturning the right to marry. I have a stake in this too as a transwoman; when I change the sex on my legal documents, they could have easily take away my right to stay married to my wife or any other woman. People, let’s join together and at least start taking a look at what didn’t work this time and correct those issues and do some proper education. Thank you all for your time.

I’ll take it even further. Sometimes people have to meet in the middle – now I didn’t see any of the ads supporting Prop 8 (I live in NY), but I’m sure not everything was true in their ads. What I mean by meeting in the middle is that we push for the right to marry, but not try and force a religious organization to do the ceremonies unless they support the right for the LGBT communities to marry who they like. There are other places to get married than a church, such as the courthouse, etc. The right to marry should be a fundamental right to all and not a select few, so I would not bend on that one, but I’m sure you see what I’m talking about.

Will we ever see the rights returned (especially after they seemed to be stolen from the people of California)?  I hope so. There are some blogs I’ve seen that suggest that they can be overturned because they are not constitutional. I really hope that they are overturned, because I really feel we have been burned by the religious right and many other organizations that supported Prop 8.

As I said in my reply to the original blog, I really feel that more education in the Black, Latino, Asian – hell in every community – is really needed. Things are better than they were 20 years ago, but they can get a lot better. If we continue to only attack the naysayers and not approach them with intelligence and dignity, what do you expect to get back? The same attacks and that will not get us anywhere. I hope we do have a better future with Obama for everyone.

Hugs, Michelle Lee

MSNBC’s ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’

[Update to the review: Josef has contributed to the discussion forum on the show here. Worth a read. ]

I knew that I wanted to write a post about ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’ before it even aired, especially so because many of my friends told me they were reluctant or nervous about watching it for themselves. As someone who has not made a gender transition even once (let alone twice, or even three times!) I felt I could view it dispassionately and objectively.

However, after seeing it, I found myself affected in quite unexpected ways. The aspects that I expected to feel negatively about were just not there, and my overall reaction was very mixed – finding both positive and negative emotions rolling together leaving me … somewhat neutral. I have decided simply to write a synopsis of what we were shown, and leave it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions. I’m sure if this spurs you to watch the show, you can find it on YouTube, or coming up in MSNBC’s frequent re-run schedule.

I’m going to use the pronouns that (mostly) match the current gender presentation of the two people shown in the documentary. (If this offends you, I’m sorry – in a case like this, there simply is no “right way”.) Without further ado, here’s what we learn:

It was stressed up front that of all those who transition, only a very, very tiny proportion ever “go back”. In fact, I suspect the two subjects we follow were the only ones who could be identified and were willing to have their stories told. Most similar documentary programs feature three or more subjects to give a wider experience.
Continue reading

Anyone and Everyone

I am sitting here in tears having just finished watching one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. It’s called Anyone and Everyone. It’s the story of a variety of families – Jewish, Catholic and Mormon; white, black, Hispanic and Asian – and how the parents came to understand and support their lesbian and gay daughters and sons, despite the teachings of their churches, despite all they had been told about homosexuality being a choice, despite their own bigotry and prejudice. I have to admit that I’m sucker for love stories and this is the best type of love story – one where love triumphs over all obstacles, the greatest of which are the barriers we create in our own hearts that keep us separate from each other and separate from the truth that we all are divine beings created out of love and created to share that love with others. I suppose that’s what I find hardest about those who seek to attack and shame lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into denying themselves and returning to the closet. I simply don’t understand how people can hate when it is so very painful for me to experience being judged and rejected by others and for me to do the same to others, knowing the awful pain that it causes.

I don’t know how many people will understand any of this or really care, but it’s what I believe and why I do the things I do to spread love in this world and help other people to find peace with who they are and whatever circumstances life brings them. Tonight, I feel sad and lonely, and so I reach out to you because I need your love and want to do all I can to make sure that none of us has to go through these times – the good and the bad – alone.

Blessings,
Abby

P.S. You can watch the trailer and find out about show times in your area, how to purchase copies and the story behind the film by clicking on either of the links above.

Soulforce, Willow Creek, and Me – by Julie Nemecek

Evangelical Christians have to be one of the mainline groups in America who frequently show their disapproval of any lifestyle or marriage other than that of being between one man and one woman.  I happened to read an article yesterday about a group of Gay and Trans Christians who are trying to build bridges into the Evangelical Christian community.  Perhaps reaching BACK and extending the hand of love towards Christians is a good idea.  I guess you won’t know until you try.  As long as they don’t break out with the stakes and gasoline.

The following commentary was reprinted with permission by Julie Nemecek, the founder of Julie Nemecek Consulting, a full-service consulting firm specializing in diversity consulting, training, and advocacy.     You can learn more about her from her main blog at http://julienemecek.blogspot.com/ and her web site at http://julienemecek.com .

Soulforce, Willow Creek, and Me

(or why I drove 500 miles this weekend)

This weekend Joanne and I were in Chicago as part of a Soulforce action group. The American Family Outing (see http://soulforce.org/ ) was conceived as the beginnings of a movement to increase the understanding and dialogue between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Christians and the evangelical church. Six key churches were selected for visits between Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. Once the date for the visit was set letters and phone calls went out in an effort to get a face-to-face meeting with the Soulforce group and the senior pastor and as many staff members as possible. The church that our Soulforce group visited was Willow Creek Church near Chicago.

Willow Creek is a 38-year old mega church with an average weekly attendance of over 22,000. The784,490 square foot building is beautifully sited on a 155 acre site, including a 5-acre lake that is used for some baptisms. (Winter baptisms happen in a large, glass, hover-craft baptismal platform that floats on air as it is moved out to the platform.) The church has 350 full-time employees, 150 part-time staffers, and 12,500 regularly serving volunteers. Their weekly budget is $550,000.

On Saturday our group met at a community center in the Boystown area of Chicago (just north of Wrigley Field). Our 29 members included two sets of parents with their adult gay sons and one set of parents who lost their daughter to suicide (as told in the award-winning documentary For the Bible Tells Me So). There was a gay couple with their three kids, a lesbian couple with their son, and a lesbian couple with their service dog, Riley. There was a straight ally (the son of evangelists Jim and Tammy Baker), a number of gay or lesbian couples and us . . . the transgender couple. There were five ordained ministers in the group, 2 PhDs and a mix of ages and sexes. Two couples have June 17th weddings planned!

We reviewed the non- violent, reconciliation principles of Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr, that define Soulforce’s approach. We shared our own stories and heard from former members of Willow Creek Church. We watched a 2006 teaching session by one of Willow Creek’s pastors. The Willow Creek teaching session was filled with much misinformation and false teaching. It helped us focus on our goals for the next day.

There was a gentle, wounded, but positive spirit among this group of Christians that came from all over the country to be together for this weekend. We clearly sensed the presence of Christ in our midst as we prayed together and heard more about each others’ faith journeys. Our four hours together helped make this diverse group a people a cohesive Body of Christ.

On Sunday we arrived at Willow Creek at 10 AM for a tour (at Willow Creek’s invitation). There were some non-Willow Creek protestors near the campus entrance proclaiming their “Christian” certainty of our destination in hell. Most of the group had a white top and we all wore name tags indentifying us as part of the American Family Outing. With the white shirts; nametags; presence of our mascot, Riley; and loving couples holding hands as we walked, we turned a few heads as we toured the massive, high-tech, church village.

At 11:15 AM we were ushered to reserved seats near the center front of the mezzanine section. The rock-star like stage had a 17-member worship team that led us into a meaningful time of worship. They had a VERY adequate sound system. The speaker for the day was a guest mega church pastor from Cincinnati. He had a powerful message about the importance of serving others as a way of expressing Jesus’ love. We wondered if this including LGBT “others” as well. The guest pastor referred to Willow Creek as “the most influential church in America” in part because of their regional churches and the many churches that are part of the Willow Creek Association.

After the service we were led to a private meeting room where we ate together (wonderful boxed lunches provided by the church) and talked casually around tables arranged in one large, open-in-the-middle, rectangle. There were 29 of us allowed at that meeting and 5 people from Willow Creek including their founding (and current) pastor, Bill Hybels.

Both sides shared their issues and concerns in a very gracious dialogue. The Willow Creek staff seemed genuinely taken back that our emphasis was on committed, monogamous, loving relationships and families . . . not sex. One of our group members said, “We’re just like everyone else; too busy with our lives to have much time for sex!” Pastor Hybels also responded in disbelief on hearing that many gay and lesbian Christians are being told to marry heterosexually if they expect to be part of a church. One of team members is a survivor of “ex-gay” therapy. He went through $35,000 of therapy – including electroshock treatments – before he came to reject this hateful treatment and accept the truth at God made him as he is and the problems people had with this were their problems and not his. He now works with thousands of others who suffered ineffective – often harmful – indignations because they wanted to be welcome in unwelcoming churches.

For our part, we were surprised and pleased that Willow Creek’s own 30-year study of homosexuality has led them to conclude that: (1) Sexual orientation is unchangeable. and (2) Sexual orientation should not keep someone from being received into their church. They acknowledged that 6 of the 7 verses used to condemn homosexuality are irrelevant; really referring to other things. Unfortunately, they still felt that one Genesis text supported their position that gay and lesbian members must commit to celibacy to become members. We told them how this perspective has caused many in their congregation, because of their love for Willow Creek, to live lives of deception and secrecy in order to be accepted and still enjoy sexual expression in their committed relationships.

As we looked for action steps at the end of over 2-hour meeting, we agreed to continue the dialogue. Bill Hybels also indicated that their church will continue to study to subject and that he would begin to speak out against the misinformation that some Christian groups publish. We then, stood, held hands, and prayed together.

Please pray that God will use these visits for His glory and the healing of the Body of Christ.

Blessings,
Julie

“Tragic End for Lesbians” news report

To some people, they may find it strange that I, being born “biologically male” means that my attraction to women would be considered heterosexual.  However, I have always identified internally as a lesbian, and this has created a problem between my spouse and me.  Working this out logically through reason is really not as easy as it sounds because of the flood of emotions that are evoked in even discussing this.

Well, just when I think I’ve got problems, I stumble onto something that makes me see how others in other cultures or societies are pushed well beyond their own limits.

Take, for example, the following news report from India by Queer Media Watch.

http://qmediawatch.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/pinknews-tragic-end-for-lesbian-couple-tormented-by-family-pressure/

From the site:

“A lesbian couple who committed suicide by setting themselves on fire have been put to rest in a joint cremation this week. Christy Jayanthi Malar [38] and Rukmani [40] set themselves ablaze after their families took objection to their “unnatural relationship.”

“This is common in India where there huge social and legal pressures to live a heterosexual lifestyle. The alarm was raised when smoke was seen coming from Mrs Malar’s home. When neighbours went in they found the bodies of the two women held in an embrace.”

A senior police told The Times of India newspaper:

“We can’t say the relatives pushed the women into suicide. “They might have verbally abused them, but that was to bring them back to normal life.”

Jeez, what the hell is wrong with the world today?  Obviously a LOT.

You can read the rest of the article here

Looking for Contributors – Interested?

This site has always been open for contributors.

In fact, the reason transcendgender.com was developed was to create a community where people could post and share their ideas, personal stories and struggles, and gender-related issues they felt were worthy of public discussion. (It’s also a place where contributors can link to their own personal blog or website, thereby serving as a jumping point to a growing community.)

Posts can be in the form of a personal blog, or a newsworthy article, such as the ones creating fiery discussions currently taking place over the DSM-V workgroup selections, or maybe even an interesting trans-related video.

We’re always looking for anyone interested in being added as a contributor. If you’d like to be added, please send an email to help (at) transcendgender (dot) com with your name and wordpress account if you have one or reply to this post with a comment with all the required info.

We’re also always looking for ways to expand the site or make it better. We welcome your comments and suggestions.

Thanks!

Lori Davis

Advocate won’t examine own responsibility for “pregnant man” story

My friend Peter points to a piece in the Advocate which asks:

As the media world buzzed about the “pregnant man,” trans activists stayed relatively mum. Now we’re asking: Has Thomas Beatie’s public exposure hurt the transgender movement?

When Oregon trans man Thomas Beatie first told the world that he was pregnant in The Advocate in March, readers learned that he transitioned about 10 years ago, underwent a double mastectomy, and began testosterone injections. He and his wife, Nancy, decided to have a child, but because of a hysterectomy years ago, Nancy couldn’t carry the baby. So Beatie stopped his hormone injections, underwent artificial insemination, and, after several doctors refused to treat him, finally found an obstetrician who would. His pregnancy, he wrote, was “free of complications.” Health complications, maybe, but it would not be without other difficulties.

For all the personal trials Thomas Beatie has endured, his decision to go public may cause even broader political and cultural implications for the transgender population as a whole. And some trans people worry that the sensational—and occasionally nasty—media coverage that’s appeared since the article was published is only the beginning.

[…]

Beatie, however, did have one complaint that might have been lost in all the baby news. He said he reached out to transgender organizations before he went public. Half never called back; most of the others discouraged him from the exposure. Ultimately, they said, they were worried.

[…]

“We may hear all kinds of noise in terms of morality and ethics, but to me it’s just that,” adds [transgender activist Donna] Rose, who says she has no problem with Beatie speaking out. “We heard the same noise when people first started talking about test-tube babies. But then the discussion faded.” Rose is wary of spelling out all the things that could go wrong with the trans man’s pregnancy, saying, “I don’t want to give our enemies a road map on how to hurt us.”

Which may point to why, for the most part, LGBT and trans groups have stayed relatively quiet about this story. Though some have issued press releases condemning the sensationalized press coverage, none of the national organizations The Advocate contacted would say what plans, if any, they have to counter possible backlash—like Oregon laws becoming more restrictive toward trans people.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be mentioned is that he wasn’t actually the first transman to become pregnant.

But the second thing, the more important thing is this:

The Advocate is an LGB(t) news source, and they were the first ones to break the story by printing Beatie’s account of it. They ran with the story even after the trans organizations asked him to please be careful about what he doing.

This new article in the Advocate talks about Beatie’s decision. But where is any coverage of their own news sense in running this article? Where is the account of the internal debate about whether they should run “the pregnant man” story? How many transgender organizations did the Advocate speak to before publishing it?

In the linked article, they also ask what the transgender organizations are going to do about countering the backlash.

That’s not what I care about.

The trans orgs are the ones who will have to live with the backlash. But it’s not their job to counter it.

I want to know what the Advocate, an LGB(t) publication, plans to do to counter the backlash from the article they chose to run.

Screw this whole victim-blaming crap of dumping the responsibility on transgender organizations. Trans groups didn’t publish this story — the Advocate did.