It’s that time of the year, time to celebrate the second-ever International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, 2010. Originating in Michigan last year, Rachel Crandall of Transgender Michigan started a movement by posting the idea on Facebook. Since then, events have happened all over the world. According to Crandall, she wanted to show the positive side of the transgender world rather than focusing only on the Day of Remembrance which remembers those who perished because of transphobic hate crimes. If you are on Facebook, be sure to look up the page and share the information with others. If you are looking for ideas for how to celebrate, you can look to see what other people are doing. If you already know, take a minute and share your ideas with our readers. Here in California, the day coincides with Cesar Chavez day so many schools are closed and some campuses have decided to celebrate the day early or late to maximize visibility. Our local college is planning a Gender Bender Fashion Show this week, followed by informational tabling and displays on Monday the 29th, a couple days earlier. The plan is to have free temporary tattoos available and t-shirts to buy or order. What are your ideas?
The following was shared by Robbi Cohn, as I read the story it touched me in several ways. First how the experiences are so cruel and dehumanizing, and how it would never happen to someone who fit our cultures norms. The question becomes why, why, why, we care so damn much? Can you afford to throw a stone? EVERYONE is not ‘the norm’ in someway or other. Live and let live.
My experiences have not been unusual. Sadly, they are more common, by far, than those whose personal experiences have not been subject to workplace discrimination. Whether it’s loss of work, the inability to get hired or intolerable workplace conditions, trans individuals have consistently been on the losing end of the employment equation. It isn’t because our qualifications suffer or that we’re stupid. It isn’t because we have poor work habits and it isn’t because we have criminal records. It is because we have the audacity to believe in and maintain our right to personal expression and individuality. It is despite our belief in constitutional guarantees regarding the concept of equality. It is mainly because we are perceived to be different.
I will grant you that my employment history falls well outside of the mainstream. I have lived on the “edges of society” my entire life and not directly or solely because of gender issues. When I finally overcame a life of denial and began to embrace that I was gender
diverse, I was well past 40 years old and ill equipped to survive traditional workplace roles. Imagine how less prepared I would be
factoring in gender discrimination. Add to that age-based discrimination and I faced a perfect storm — the prospect of
homelessness hovered ever near. I had always created my own way, often on the fringes — never getting rich, but living and experiencing what life had to offer. In my case, self affirmation also meant undermining much of the career I had created for myself as a live music photographer. After a less than amicable divorce, I not only lost the means to earn a living, but faced bankruptcy from previously accrued debt. My life and my career were slipping away.
As a newly transitioning trans person, entirely unsure of so many things in life, save that I had to be myself, the foremost and most
daunting task was, of course, survival. Could I find affordable housing? Pay the bills? Buy food? Much of what transition entailed had
to be shelved until I was stable. Many individuals choose to defer transition until it’s financially feasible, but I had no idea as to
how long that would be. After finally being honest with myself and the world, delay was just no longer an option. If I continued to wait, I felt it would be forever — I’d never have the funds. I wasn’t naïve, I knew this would be tough, especially living in the rural South. I was unaware, however, of the many repercussions and consequences as well as minor and not so minor details which might stand in my way. And, that spectre of homelessness was always present.
As I looked for work, lesson number one was the repercussion of gender marker disparity on documents and the dual no-win scenario
encapsulated within. Lesson number two was about the consequences of honesty. Lesson number three was about the “ick factor,” from which I deduced the corollary bathroom issue.
Given North Carolina is an “employment at will” state, employers were free to discriminate no matter how I presented myself. If I neglected to mention I was trans, invariably they noticed the gender marker disparity and thought I was deceiving them. If I went the honesty route, I got that “no way” look and no call back. The few who were at least frank with me intimated that if their customers found out they’d hired a transsexual , they’d lose business. One gay attorney was in that group. And, never articulated, but ever present, was the unanswered question of what bathroom I’d use. Nobody wanted to face that conundrum.
I realized two things. First, I would become homeless and die before I’d find a job without an appropriate gender-marker designation on my driver’s license. Second, that most employers would never hire an openly transsexual individual. I decided to return to school and pursue a paralegal degree. Under the delusion of faulty reasoning, I thought the legal community would be more open about hiring me. And, I thought that the legal experience would put me in better stead to be an effective activist. Perhaps, if enough of us understood the law, we could better effect change.
A rudimentary knowledge of the law has put me in better stead as an archivist. It has, unfortunately, not helped me find a legal job,
despite graduating Phi Theta Kappa with highest honors. The legal community is no more enlightened regarding the concept of equality than any other potential employer might be. Just like so many of my trans brothers and sisters, I am working a job for which I am over qualified and which barely pays a living wage. I am demeaned and marginalized; yet I am told “be thankful you have a job.” And, I am. Still, were it not for the kind of bigotry which has imbedded itself into the moral fabric of our culture, many of us would be thriving and contributing, not merely surviving — or not, as the case may be.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is not the end-all and be-all and many will fall through the cracks. Intolerance and bigotry are recalcitrant. The problems of hiring discrimination and enforcement are daunting, often hard to prove and it will probably
take time before being trans is perceived as no big deal. Legislation, however, does create an environment in which change is more likely to occur; it also helps to shape and advance societal understanding. Furthermore, the boon of better statistical record keeping by the EEOC and other agencies can be expected with legislative stipulations. These records will help make the case for the existence of systemic and systematic discrimination against trans persons, evidence paralleled by signficant findings from a just-being-completed study.
The combined efforts of the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force evince clear data establishing a record of consistent and pervasive discriminatory hiring and firing practices, and conditions for trans workers.
The marginalization and dehumanization of any individual is unacceptable. All persons should be free to live their lives as they
see fit. ENDA is a critical step towards this end.
To contact Robbi Cohn, email robbi_cohn…@yahoo.com.
Have you noticed the nifty widget of Coyote Grace, one of our favorite folk bands, over there on the right hand side of this website? With a rocking redhead and a charmingly handsome transman, this band has been paying dues on the road for awhile. We had the pleasure of seeing them live at Chico State this year and hearing them talk about their journey together during Joe’s transition. Their music was mesmerizing and reflected all the usual themes of love and loss with an added layer of complexity reflecting identity changes in the mix. Click on the widget over there to hear more of their music. (Check out the poignant lyrics to Ghost Boy on their main fan page while you are at it.)
We didn’t think it could get any better, but they will be opening for four shows for the Indigo Girls, queer folk legends, in late March:
Tuesday, March 23rd, in Corvalis, OR
Wednesday, March 24th, in Reno, NV
Thursday, March 25th, in Santa Rosa, CA
Friday, March 26th, in San Francisco, CA
Again, go to the widget on the side of the page, to get updated news about their tours and sign up for their mailing list if you want to keep current. It’s always fun to watch a band hit the big time. When they are genuinely amazing people, it’s even more of a pleasure….
Anyone waiting for the Toy Store video, I apologize, there has been major technical difficulty and I have to go back and re-tape it, so for today I thought I would share some thoughts.
For you Facebookers out there a few weeks ago someone started the trend of putting up ‘old school’ pictures. I posted one and then my dad asked about his favorite so I went back into the picture box, started walking down memory lane, and noticed a few things.
First, in many of the pictures I look like a boy and I am dressed like a boy. As a 6 year old I am loving my new Levi jacket and jeans, JUST LIKE DAD’s! As far back as high school I started wearing polo shirts and jeans, my style has not changed much, I have even had short hair most of my life. Now, not any of these things on there own say much to me but together…my mind was wheeling. Then the coupe de resistance, a picture of me, the first day of 8th grade, in my brown corduroy 3-piece suit! Oh, how I loved that suit, AND it was bought in the GIRLS department, so it was OK to WEAR! Throughout 8th grade I am seen many times in that suit.
Also in 8th grade was the play. I was in the acting class at school, the instructor liked me, and as most 8th grade musicals go, we had way more girls than boys wanting to participate. So, the instructor asks me to play a man’s role in the play. OH I WAS EXCITED! It was the perfect role; I had several lines, two costume changes, and appeared in most of the play as background. So for costume I, of course, wore my 3-piece suit, and had ‘work clothes’ to change into. The pants on the work clothes were too big for me, so my bright idea was to wear a pair of ‘shorts’ under the pants. To me it was like wearing boxer shorts, I felt good.
We were rehearsing hard, and it was coming up to the big show night, when all our parents would arrive. During a rehearsal the shorts were spotted as I changed. I will never forget the words “Are you wearing boxer shorts?” then the big laughter as she announced to the room that I was wearing boxer shorts, and maybe I should change in the boys dressing room. Honestly, I would have loved to, but the shame I felt was overwhelming. I protested over the laughter that the pants I was wearing were too big, but I don’t remember anyone hearing me. I shut down my gender expression at that moment, I tucked it away, and I forgot about it.
Last thing about the 8th grade, I found the graduation picture with all my friends in it. At the time, 1981, you may remember that gunnysack dresses were all the rage. In that picture all my friends were wearing them — each one different. I remember shopping for my outfit, my mom and dad took me, we had to go out of town, because we couldn’t find anything that was not a gunnysack, which I was refusing to wear! Nothing that ‘girly’ was getting put on me. Remember folks back in the day, there were not as many store choices. Anyway, we finally settled on a sun dress with a little red jacket over it. THEN I wanted to wear my Birkenstocks, but no they insisted on shoes, so funky rainbow sandals it was! A friend just reminded me, I was pissed about the shoes, there was no reason not to let me wear the birks….well no reason other than I must fit in and look like a girl!
So, posting these picture on Facebook, and sitting with the forgotten information around my 3-piece suit, graduation, thinking about getting caught shoplifiting at 16 (Yes a dumbass move) but I was shoplifting from the MENS department. It hits me; I was a gender variant kid. I always wanted the football, orange race track, a boys’ bike, I wanted to go in the creek with the boys, and climb trees. I was not allowed to do any of this. My parents did what they could, having no idea about gender variance at the time. My dad bought me a motorcross set for my girls’ bike, so a green with flowers girls’ bike, with boys stuff attached to it — Thanks dad for trying. I was allowed to play sports, girls’ sports, but still. My dad coached softball, soccer, and supported my high school years of volleyball, and softball.
I was an abused child. I had a mother who was mentally unbalanced, and extremely volatile. I was constantly told what I felt was wrong. No you are not: sad, happy, hungry, mad, playful, bright, loving; the list could go on forever but the point is I was CONSTANTLY told my feelings were wrong, to the point I not only doubted my own feelings, I don’t even know what they are, and never asserted I felt like a boy inside. Because I was wrong, I obviously was a girl.
And still I was forced to pull inward and fake it. I even faked it for myself. It is so much easier to become what others want for you, when the pull is so strong to conform. The real test is when we assert who we are to others. Not in an aggressive way, but in a meaningful way.
Head Rebel-Rouser in her blog Ten Blogs for Gender Rebels and Allies listed some of the better blogs on gender. There is one in particular that touches me; it is by a mom whose four year old son told her one day he was a girl. She responded “Today you are who you are” a Dr. Seuss quote. Now with love and support she shares her thoughts on watching her daughter navigate this world. It is filled with love and compassion.
So today, I love my maleness. I LOVE the picture of me in a TUX in 9-grade (it was the ‘in’ fashion wise). I am working to love all parts of me, but the little boy has a special place in my heart, and every day I wake I think “Today, I am who I am.”
Taking a break right now from watching people file in to the Grammy’s to catch you guys up on Lucas Silveira, the vocalist and guitarist for the Canadian band the Cliks. Lucas recently won the Sexiest Canadian Man award in an online poll for CHART (www.chartattack.com) and is in the middle of major changes in his band the Cliks. By the way, rumor has it that the Cliks is a contraction of clits and dicks! The Cliks record under the Warner music label in Canada and the Tommy Boy label in the U.S. Their music has been called rock, alternative, pop or indie, and even punk. The band’s music has been called a cross between the Pretenders and David Bowie. Major albums to date are The Cliks (2004), Snakehouse (2007) and Dirty King (2009).
The band toured in the True Colors Tour in 2008 along with Cyndi Lauper, the B-522s and Tegan and Sara. In the midst of a major transition, the newest members of Clik backing Lucas are Brian Viglione (of Dresden Dolls) and Tobi Parks, replacing queer-identified Jen Benton and Morgan Doctor in a break-up that has been said to be acrimonious. Apparently, being on the road “beat us up and knocked us out” according to Silveira.
Silveira has hinted that a new album is in the works for this Spring with the new band members. Silviera dropped out of music school and is basically self-taught. His swagger, flowing tattoos, and signature tie scream confidence and bravado which, no-doubt, has helped during recent periods of tremendous personal and professional turbulence. Sacrificing the use of male hormones in order to maintain his singing voice, Silveira’s voice and presence create an indelible image in the minds and hearts of his fans. To check him out for yourself, click on www.thecliks.com for news and music.
Maybe you’ve seen those guides lately that show you how to make healthier choices when eating out. I know I recently used my iphone app called Eat This Not That during a recent restaurant outing. I thought it would be interesting to use the same technique with businesses that do or don’t support the GLBT community.
Did you know it is still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual? As of the beginning of 2010, it’s still legal in 38 states to fire an employee for being transgender. Given this appalling state of affairs, it makes sense for progressive people to support businesses that support diversity.
The Human Rights Campaign just came out with an updated buyer’s guide for 2010. Business are rated on a scale of 0 to 100 with 100 being the highest score possible. Scores are based on whether or not businesses have policies that support LGBT people (anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, diversity training, transgender includsive benefits and external practices.) For a full list of businesses, you can download a guide from the HRC. It is over 40 pages, though, so we thought we would mention a few notables.
Shop Here: Target (Score: 100)
Not There: Walmart (Score: 40)
Shop Here: Staples (Score: 93
Not There: Office Depot (Score:45)
Shop Here: Chili’s (Score: 100)
Not There: Cracker Barrel (Score:15)
Stop Here: Chevron (Score: 100)
Not There: Exxon (Score: 0)
Stay Here: Hyatt (Score: 100)
Not There: Loew’s Hotels (Score:45)
Shop Here: AT & T (Score:100)
Not There: T-Mobile (Score: 50)
Insure Here: Allstate (Score: 100)
Not There: Humana (Score: 45)
Go to www.hrc.org/buyersguide to get a complete listing. Then think about supporting businesses that support us and putting your money where your values are.