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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NYU prof slams Dobson for "distorting" research

Letter released by Truth Wins Out ED Wayne Besen

In a press release issued by Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, a letter written by New York University psychology professor Carol Gilligan blasts Focus on the Family's James Dobson for "distorting" her research in a recently released Time magazine article on Mary Cheney's pregnancy. The letter, provided by Truth Wins Out, articulates Gilligan's displeasure with Dobson's use of her research to underpin his conclusions that same-sex couples cannot provide a positive family environment in which to raise children. Her position is stated in no uncertain terms.

Dear Dr. Dobson:

I am writing to ask that you cease and desist from quoting my research in the future. I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine. Not only did you take my research out of context, you did so without my knowledge to support discriminatory goals that I do not agree with. What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work.

From what I understand, this is not the first time you have manipulated research in pursuit of your goals. This practice is not in the best interest of scientific inquiry, nor does bearing false witness serve your purpose of furthering morality and strengthening the family.

Finally, there is nothing in my research that would lead you to draw the stated conclusions you did in the Time article. My work in no way suggests same-gender families are harmful to children or can't raise these children to be as healthy and well adjusted as those brought up in traditional households.

I trust that this will be the last time my work is cited by Focus on the Family.


Carol Gilligan, PhD
New York University, Professor

Dobson's article entitled "Two Mommies is One Too Many" released Monday, December 10. was a guest column for the industry giant. This is not the first instance of Time giving Dobson a platform for hate speech.

Dobson is the Founder and Board Chair of Focus on the Family, a right-wing group seen by many as dedicated to perpetuating patriarchal nuclear families with the traditional heterosexual couple with children to the exclusion of all other family constellations. They are headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Their mission (from their Web site) -

To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional values and the institution of the family.

"No reputable media outlet should continue using Focus on the Family as a resource because they are chronically dishonest and lack credibility," says Besen. "James Dobson should start to wonder if there is something inherently wrong with his stance on gay issues if the only way he can support his positions is outright lying."

Truth Wins OUT is a non-profit organization that counters right wing propaganda, exposes the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life. For more information, visit www.TruthWins.Out.org.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sears buys ads on LOGO

American Family Association issues Action Alert in protest

by Beth Maples-Bays

The American Family Association issued an Action Alert this morning urging members to call and write Sears regarding their purchase of ads on LOGO, a cable network devoted to LGBT programming.

Sears’ public relations spokesperson declined to comment and refused to be identified. He states that Sears buys advertising across the spectrum of available markets. He pointed out that it is Sears’ policy not to comment on present or future marketing strategies. They are aware of the AFA Action Alert.

From the AFA Action Alert:

Sears has thrown its support to the LOGO network. LOGO is the 24-hour cable television network dedicated to programming for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders according to a homosexual advertising website. It is carried on many cable systems around the country. Many of you have been forced to accept it as part of your cable package. Sears is now helping to make it mainstream!

Sear's advertising will help LOGO air shows like "Sex 2K Drag Kings," "The Gayest and Greatest of 2006," and "Transgeneration."

Sears advertising (two-minute infomercials) will go to help the fledging network get on firm financial ground. Sears advertising is financing LOGO's push to legalize homosexual marriage in addition to promoting the homosexual lifestyle.

Sears is owned by Kmart Corporation.

Sears will be hearing from the Religious Reich on this. We need to let them know that we appreciate their support for our community.

Take Action

1. Send an email to Sears asking them to cancel their advertising on LOGO.

2. Call your local Sears store and ask why Sears is supporting the homosexual network with its advertising.

3. Forward this email to your friends and family.

Aylwin B. Lewis, President
Sears Holdings
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179
Primary Phone: 847-286-2500
Secondary Phone: 1-800-549-4505
Fax: 847-286-7829
E-Mail: Aylwin B. Lewis, Sears Holdings

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An important development concerning women's health in New York. - Beth


Catholic Charities Lawsuit Fails

Albany, NY (October 19, 2006)-The Women's Health and Wellness Act was upheld today by the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State. The six judges on the court voted unanimously to uphold this important law, which requires insurance plans to cover reproductive health services including osteoporosis exams, prescription contraceptives, and breast and cervical cancer screening.

The Court of Appeals decision in Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany v. Gregory V. Serio states that the object of the Women's Health and Wellness Act was:

"to make broader health insurance coverage available to women and, by that means, both to improve women's health and to eliminate disparities between men and women in the cost of health care."

"This is a great day for the women of New York State," said JoAnn M.
Smith, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State.
"The urgent need to prevent discrimination in health care was rightly - and unanimously - affirmed by the highest court in the state."

Catholic Charities sought special rights to discriminate against women employees by denying them access to needed health insurance coverage.
Catholic Charities unsuccessfully challenged the Women's Health and Wellness law in two lower New York courts. On November 25, 2003, the New York State Supreme Court found that the law protects women from discriminatory health insurance practices. That decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, on January 11, 2006.

The Women's Health and Wellness Act, which went into effect January 1, 2003, has made vital preventive health care services and treatment available to more women in New York State. The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Deborah Glick of Manhattan and Senator John Bonacic of Mt. Hope. Family Planning Advocates (FPA) led a huge coalition that worked to pass this law and brought key reproductive rights organizations together to submit an amicus brief to the court.

The Women's Health and Wellness Act helps to end discrimination against women in insurance coverage by enhancing access to reproductive health care including contraception. While birth control is the most widely used prescription drug for women of reproductive age, it was routinely excluded from insurance plans. According to Alan Guttmacher Institute,
49 percent of typical large-group insurance plans failed to routinely cover any reversible contraceptive method. Women of reproductive age were forced to pay as much as 68 percent more for out-of-pocket medical care than men.

New York's Women's Health and Wellness Law exempts employers engaged in purely religious activities, such as seminaries, from having to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, who in all likelihood share their employer's religious beliefs. A similar exemption in California's contraceptive coverage equity law was also upheld in the courts. Planned Parenthood's thirteen New York affiliates filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, urging the judges to uphold this law.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sometimes “T” is for tough

A lesbian SO’s view of Southern Comfort 2006

by Beth Maples-Bays

Reading about Southern Comfort online last year, I realized that it was simply time for Sam and I to go check it out. After 15 years of living and loving together as well as weathering the storm and demands of transition five years prior, I felt that I owed it to Sam to invest in a trip to at least one trans-oriented convention. Southern Comfort was the closest, so it was a natural choice.

Allow me to give you a bit of background about what brought us to that conclusion. When we began our relationship in 1991, Sam got a healthy, employed partner making more than $40,000 annually as a registered nurse. Before then end of our first year together, I became very sick and was soon completely disabled. Complete blindness, respiratory problems, joint and skin manifestations of the autoimmune disorder that was ravaging my body put me in a position of helplessness that I had never before experienced. With a pre-existing severe bilateral hearing impairment, the loss of my vision also meant the loss of my primary means of communication.

Throughout the ensuing eight years, I experienced numerous eye surgeries (14 total,) 32 periocular injections of corticosteroids, immunosuppressant therapy, respiratory debilitation that precluded independent ability to get from one room to the next without assistance, and many other serious medical problems. I saw internists, retinal and vitreous specialists, pulmonologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, and other highly specialized medical practitioners as we began the hunt for a diagnosis that was stubbornly elusive.

Throughout this ordeal, Sam was always by my side. I never went to a doctor’s appointment alone. I never had to worry about getting medications from the pharmacy. I was supported and loved by a partner who, initially unbeknownst to me, was struggling with important issues of his own.

One day in 1992, I was sitting on the bed in my bedroom, resting from an exhausting trip to the bathroom, gasping for breath, unable to see myself in the vanity mirror less than three feet away. Sam, who was then using his feminine name, sat down beside me on the bed. He was holding some sort of paper in his hands, and he told me that he had something to tell me. The paper he was holding was a pamphlet from the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conversation that occurred between us that day was not long or complicated. Sam told me that he is transsexual, that he had known this since early childhood, that he had had the vocabulary to articulate his transsexuality since early adolescence, and that he had actually written to the Ericson Foundation more than thirty years prior to obtain information regarding transitioning from female to male.

My immediate response was simply one of exasperation, and I told Sam that it just was not something I had the energy to discuss. I was having trouble getting through the day alive without considering anyone’s gender identity, my own included. I promised him that if I ever got any semblance of health restored, we would deal with it at that time. Sam patiently accepted my promise.

What ensued were seemingly endless years spent blind, tapping with a white cane, undergoing surgeries and highly invasive procedures in hopes of getting a handle on a medical condition that no one could name, much less treat. When 1998 rolled around, I began immunosuppressant therapy that resulted in a halt to disease progression. At the same time, Windows 98 SE personal computer operating system came equipped with accessibility features for the first time. In a rash of competition, the prices on home computers became so low that I was actually able to purchase one. That opened up a world of information that would eventually benefit both of us in ways we never imagined.

After months of intensive self-taught immersion in computer applications, I began to stick a toe in the puddle of available information concerning transgender people, including social/support and informational sites. As I racked up the URLs in hopes of one day finding the answers that Sam needed, I found that it did not take nearly as long as I thought it would. By 2001, Sam was on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) supervised by our family internist who had gone the extra mile in educating himself on this when he realized there was no one in East Tennessee at that time who was qualified to do so.

The next big hurdle was Sam’s chest reconstruction surgery. He felt strongly that without that, he would never pass as male. To make a long story short, in October 2001 he had the surgery done in Timonium, Maryland, by Dr. Beverly Fisher, despite great financial hardship. That debt became our primary financial priority for years to come.

Finally, in 2006, I could see our way clear to manage a trip to the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) held in Atlanta, Georgia. Initial correspondence with “Cat” Turner and the other gracious organizers, who see to it that no one needing a scholarship is turned away, was exciting. We both looked forward to our first conference with hope and enthusiasm.

Going to Atlanta early in order to have time to do some “touristing,” we anticipated the beginning of the conference with heightened eagerness as we realized it was about to begin. The program schedule was packed with a great mix of informative and entertaining events. The organization of the conference was splendid, and the meals and accommodations were superb. We were both delighted to have the opportunity to meet so many transfolks from so many different backgrounds. SCC is the largest conference of its kind in the world. Attendees have come from all fifty states and numerous foreign countries. Volunteers do all of the organizing and informational presentations. They do so with professional demeanor, with very few exceptions.

One of those exceptions occurred Thursday morning. I attended a welcoming reception for parents, family, and friends of transfolks. The hostess for the event was an SCC board member who is a licensed professional counselor. We were seated in a hospitality suite as the significant others, family, and friends of transgender persons dribbled in one or two at a time. Eventually there were about fifteen people present. At the facilitator’s suggestion, we took turns introducing ourselves and stating how we came to be at SCC. By the time the circle had finished, I realized that I was the only partner of a female-to-male (FTM) in the room. While I was a bit surprised, I was nonetheless glad to be surrounded by partners of transgender people. As the circle widened and more women joined the discussion, I soon realized that I was not only the only FTM’s significant other (SO), but also the only lesbian-identified partner. All of the partners present identified in one way or another as heterosexual. Most were married or planning to marry. That ratcheted my surprise up a notch, but I was still enjoying the meeting.

At one point the moderator made an attempt at a summary statement to move us on to the next discussion point in which she made a sweeping motion to indicate the whole group and said, “All of us were either married to our partners when they transitioned, or we met our partners after they transitioned.”

I was taken aback. The story I had told them was very similar to the one included at the beginning of this article. Her dismissal of my experience was one of many to come over the ensuing weekend.

When I reminded her that I was neither married or planning to do so, as the laws of my state do not allow Sam and I to marry. Her face flushed. She dismissed me, more directly this time, and moved on with her talking points. She also repeatedly referred to me as “gay,” despite my objections and explanation that I prefer to be called “lesbian.”

Later that morning, I attended a workshop on FTMs of color presented three panelists. As I listened, I heard the same tired stereotyping of lesbians that I experienced online during the time that Sam was transitioning. In fact, one of the panel members said, “I was too masculine for the lesbians, so I did not feel accepted.” Which lesbians? Hello? There are entire listservs and support groups of lesbians who are attracted only to very masculine women. Surely, this person could have found one in his hometown, which is a major metropolitan area. Recognizing one’s transgender status and taking steps to align the physical presentation to the person between the ears is entirely valid. Blaming it on lesbians about whom you obviously know very little is quite another.

In addition to the workshops, daytime activities included such goodies as a trip to the Georgia Aquarium, Lennox Square Mall shopping trip, tour of the High Museum of Art, the Alliance Theater production of “Elliott, A Soldier’s Fugue,” and a 60’s Luau pool party. The evenings were filled with myriad activities and events, ranging from Agatha’s: A Taste of Mystery Dinner Theatre and a Sweet 16 PJ’s and Slumber Party to Al La Bone’s 1920’s Speakeasy and So-Co A-Go-Go. Late night events included clubbing at the Wetbar and a 1970’s Saturday Night Fever Blowout. There was truly something for everyone.

I declined the offer to repeat the “support” group experience the following morning. The group was designed to be an ongoing support for SO’s attending the convention, however as the old saying goes – fool me twice, shame on me.

Sam and I opted to hear Dr. Toby Meltzer, plastic and reconstructive surgeon, speak on surgical techniques for FTMs. It was a highly informative choice. With a background in nursing, I was eager to hear more regarding gender reassignment surgery (GRS) from a surgeon actively practicing in that area.

Friday was filled with workshops overflowing with information for transfolks on topics ranging from HRT to political involvement to makeup tips for the male-to-female (MTF) trans women. The open microphone was a rousing good time, and the vendors offered everything from wigs and jewelry to books on transition experiences. It was a bit of a treat to see lovely ladies’ shoes in size 13 wide lined up in a delicate display. The makeup artists were there as well, creating painted ladies one by one.

The formal dinner that evening was wonderful, and we lingered a while to talk with another FTM/SO couple. They hailed from Asheville, North Carolina, just over the mountains from our home in Knoxville. As Sam spoke with the FTM, I chatted with the SO, finding that she, too, was heterosexual. Her background in occupational therapy had given us some fodder for conversation, and we were just about to launch that topic when the “support” group leader joined us. She had announced from the dinner podium her intent to form an advocacy group for elder transgender people. I complimented her on her goal and suggested that it might be good to join with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to further her objectives.

What followed was a tirade about the way transfolks have been treated by “gays.” My repeated objections in the prior workshop had been ignored, as they were again on this evening. While it is a fact that trans persons have had to fight tooth and nail for a place under the LGBT rainbow, it is not because of my lack of earnest advocacy. As an activist in my community, I am an ardent supporter of inclusion for trans people in all aspects of the LGBT community.

In 2004, I organized our area’s first-ever Transgender Day of Remembrance. There had never been an observance of that important commemoration in East Tennessee’s history. I wrote an article advocating for the inclusion of MTF community members in lesbian groups and events, posted on my personal Web site, in 2003. I have personally lobbied the Tennessee General Assembly with regard to the need for statutory changes allowing changes on the birth certificates of persons born in Tennessee who transition to another sex. Those lobbying efforts occurred in 2005 and 2006 as part of the Tennessee Equality Project’s Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. In short, I am not only an FTM/SO, I am an ally and an active one at that.

Under attack because of past injustices inflicted by others, I tried to explain, but could not break through the angry tirade. I simply got up and left the room. As far as my heart was concerned, the SCC was over. The following day, I found some healing in the sweet, tender circle lead by Holly Boswell. As the circle participants presented their requests in the healing phase of the ceremony, I found myself asking to be welcomed. The sense of isolation at being the only lesbian partnered with an FTM at the conference was truly overwhelming. In this circle of healers, I found solace and comfort.

I needed that circle more than I realized I would. Saturday morning brought fresh wounds in the workshop entitled “Partners of Transmen.” I won’t rehash the entire hour, but will offer this as an example of what I heard. The panel consisted of three women, two of whom identified as heterosexual, and one claimed “queer” as her descriptor. A bit more savvy this time, I asked the participants if anyone in the room identified as lesbian. No one did. Later in the conversation when I referred to myself as the only FTMSO lesbian in the room, the remark was characterized as “harsh,” and I was silenced. I gave up on trying to communicate at that point. I also gave up on SCC. With many burners in the fire, I cannot dally with folks who are not supportive and who will not or cannot open their minds to the possibility that there are others who are different, but who do accept and support them.

On the drive home, Sam and I discussed these events ad infinitum, analyzing and re-analyzing in hopes of coming to some greater understanding of how and why they occurred. Our conclusions were relatively simple. SCC, while doing their best to welcome FTMs and their SOs, is rooted and grounded in a culture and tradition that primarily reflects the needs of MTFs and crossdressers who are heterosexual. They were the overwhelming majority of the conference participants. It is also primarily an entertainment event. Despite the organizers best efforts to offer enlightening and informative workshops, the preponderance of participants seemed to be there for one big party. There is nothing wrong with having a party. I’m just not interested in that form of entertainment, particularly in a setting in which I received little if any validation for who and what I am.

If the organizers want to increase the participation of FTMs and SOs, they need to reach out into the community in which those people live. They need to study the subculture of FTMs apart from the FTM and trans organizations, looking instead to the local LGBT communities. The ability of FTMs to become truly invisible in the larger culture does not mean that all identify as heterosexual and choose the path of either stealth or trans activist. There are other choices. Some of us like a larger family. We feel supported and accepted on the local level in ways that cannot be replicated by national organizations of any stripe.

We find our local community to be accepting and supportive without need for credentials to prove who we are, without pressure to succumb to anger rooted and grounded in the past, without the push to live a separatist lifestyle based on Sam’s trans identity. We like our local LGBTQ community. They know us. They love us. They support us.

At a time in our nation’s history when the slings and barbs of the radical right are assaulting all of us, it behooves us to gather and find strength in numbers. It can be done.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What if the conservatives win in November?

Today's inbox shows the Christian nationalists are gearing up

A quick peek at this morning's email revealed yet another round of propaganda by the Christian Reich. Specifically targeting "liberals," the laundry list of doom is intended to frighten conservatives into voting.

Here's my version -

Here is what we can expect if the conservatives win:

  • Harsh treatment for immigrants
  • Further laws and constitutional changes to prevent marriage equality
  • Only conservative judges will be appointed. They will create laws to implement the social agenda conservatives cannot get passed through the legislative process.
  • WomenÂ’s reproductive freedom will be nothing more than a memory
  • Conservatives will continue to try to make us a Christians-only society.
  • Continued lack of balance in broadcasting – opposing views are not given equal time.
  • An increase in taxes to push new military programs.
  • Continued lack of "hate crimes" protection for LGBTQI Americans.
  • Conservatives will continue to support policies that defy the Geneva Convention including torture.
  • We will continue to occupy Iraq, sending the message to the Arab world that we have no respect for them. We will continue to threaten Iran and Syria, furthedestabilizeng the region.

Go Vote! Encourage Others To Do The Same.

Monday, October 09, 2006

OCTOBER 9, 2006
10:31 AM

CONTACT: Human Rights Watch
Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700

UN: New Report Says Violence Against Women is a Human Rights Violation
Classification obliges States to punish perpetrators and prevent abuse

NEW YORK - October 9 - Human Rights Watch and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership welcomed a report issued by United Nations today that classifies abuse against women – whether it happens in the home or elsewhere – as a human rights violation. As such, states are obliged by international human rights standards to hold perpetrators accountable.

The 140-page report entitled “In-depth study on all forms of violence against women,” which was issued by Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s office, confirms that violence against women by spouses, family members, and employers is a human rights violation, settling any outstanding debate on this issue. By squarely stating that it is, the report says that governments have an obligation to protect women whether the perpetrators are state or non-state actors.

“This report acknowledges for the first time from the highest levels of the United Nations what human and women's rights advocates have documented over the past few decades: violence against women is a massive human rights violation that is both a cause and a consequence of deeply ingrained inequality between men and women,” said Charlotte Bunch, Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, and a member of the Secretary General’s International Advisory Committee for the study.

The report describes promising practices in the fight against violence against women but dismisses state efforts so far as mostly ineffective. Even with a sophisticated analysis of the problem and, in certain cases, strong laws related to this violence, most national-level responses have been inadequate, and have not eradicated the impunity perpetrators too often enjoy.

“The Secretary-General’s study conveys a very simple message,” said LaShawn R. Jefferson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division. “The individual who carries out any form of violence against women has committed a crime. A government that does not develop, fund, and implement all necessary laws and programs to prevent and to punish this violence violates international human rights law. Both the individual committing the violence and the government blithely letting it happen must be held responsible.”

The study highlights the need for additional attention to violence suffered by women from marginalized groups (such as indigenous peoples or ethnic minorities). The report also draws attention to the problem of under-documentation of violence and control of women’s bodies and sexuality as an insidious component of gender inequality. In addition, the study addresses violence in conflict situations, pertinent issues related to criminal justice systems, service provision for survivors, the need to work with men to address violence, and needs of women who are facing multiple forms of discrimination.

It is incumbent upon the next Secretary General to commit to advancing the specific recommendations set out in Kofi Annan’s study and it is imperative for human rights advocates to keep pressure on governments to fulfill their responsibility, said Human Rights Watch and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership upon the launch of the report.

The report’s recommendations are directed at member states and at various entities within the United Nations system and include a call to document and register all forms of violence against women and to provide leadership at all levels in the condemnation and prevention of violence against women.

“What the Secretary-General’s study makes clear is that this violence is not inevitable: with sufficient political will, funding, and carefully developed and targeted programs, violence against women can be significantly reduced,” said Bunch. “The issue now is will governments and the United Nations make a firm commitment to act on the findings of this report.”


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Saturday, July 22, 2006




"The Jerusalem police 24 hours ago informed us that they are unable to provide a safe environment for the march in light of the current hostilities in the region and the excessive stress this puts on their staff. Therefore, we feel it would be neither responsible nor appropriate to hold the march until such time that circumstances allow for a safe and peaceful gathering for all. This is not the time for celebrations, and the march, which would requires extensive security, will not take place due to the situation. The parade will be held with the improvement of the security situation in the country. All other WorldPride events will take place as scheduled in a format that is sensitive to the situation and as part of the continued democratic struggle for a free Jerusalem.

We continue to hear from attendees from around the world informing us that they will indeed be coming to Jerusalem. Their participation inspires us to work toward a successful and safe WorldPride gathering in the spirit of the principles we have always promoted: peace, tolerance and respect for diversity in all its forms.

We are committed to marching in Jerusalem as we have done successfully annually since 2002. A new date for this year's Pride March in Jerusalem will be announced as soon as a cease fire is achieved in the region. We hope and pray together with our colleagues and supporters around the world for an end to hostilities and suffering in the region."

The Jerusalem Open House (JOH) is a grassroots, activist organization of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered people, and allies. Since 1997, we have worked to make our city a place where all people are free to seek self-fulfillment. Our greatest challenge is a tradition of conformist heterosexism that continues to be enforced by almost all social institutions in Israel, including the family, the school, the state, and the religious establishment. This challenge is especially formidable in Jerusalem, a city of traditional values and deeply rooted religious commitments. Visit JOH online by clicking here.


"I am fully committed to attending all WorldPride programs and events, traveling with dozens of my congregation members to Jerusalem with pride and anticipation next week. Now, more than ever, it is important that we demonstrate the values of WorldPride in Jerusalem a city like no other, a distinctive global symbol. Sadly, that symbol has been hijacked to propagate fundamentalism, segregation, and conflict. WorldPride will be held in Jerusalem to reclaim the symbol that Jerusalem is, for what it was originally all about: tolerance, openness, and respect for all human beings regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, or nationality."

WorldPride is a unique international opportunity to make a global statement, building upon decades of Pride events and the struggle of millions of individuals across the globe for self-fulfillment, for the possibility to be who they are and to follow their heart and their identity. It is through WorldPride that InterPride most effectively expresses the combined energy of its member organizations, responsible for Pride celebrations around the world that attract a combined attendance of between 15 and 20 million, from San Francisco to Montreal to Sydney to Berlin. Click here to visit WorldPride online.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Transgenders Claim FEMA Sex Change Scandal Was Fabricated, Fraudulent

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified before a House Homeland Security subcommittee to spotlight $1.4 billion fraudulent waste of Emergency Assistance Funds (EAF) to Hurricane Katrina victims. The unprecedented level of Federal Emergency Management Agency fraud was blared over television newscasts and emblazoned on newspaper headlines: "FEMA funds paid for a sex change."

However, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) is now publicly calling the media and authorities on this claim, demanding proof that this occurred and calling the press on this claim "fabricated" and "fraudulent." In reviewing both House subcommittee testimony and the GAO report (www.gao.gov/new.items/d06844t.pdf) that uncovered the fraud there was no reference of a sex change, nor any surgery of any type being paid for by FEMA funds.

"It appears [the sex change] story was prime red meat for conservatives looking to turn attention away from the President, and onto Katrina victims and FEMA," said NTAC President Vanessa Edwards Foster. "It also appears there's no veracity to the story that EAF funds were used for gender reassignment surgery. These press claims are what's fraudulent."

House Homeland Security Investigations subcommittee chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) called the discovered waste "criminal" but never mentioned anything about sex changes. However Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA) did note the sex change claim shortly after the House testimony, commenting, "I don't understand how this could happen."

How the sex change allegation originated remains unclear. The June 14, 2006 story by Larry Margasak of the Associated Press noted a sex change in a laundry list of items scammed from FEMA. While outlets as diverse as Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, MSNBC, Bloomberg Report carried the story, the more conservative news outlets such as Wall Street Journal or Fox News made no mention of the sex change accusation.

When questioned about the story, the GAO's Office of Public Affairs stated "there was no reference to that allegation … because we cannot confirm it."

"The press reported on fabricated claims of sex changes paid with FEMA funds, but no media ever mentioned $2,000 paid to a Christian Broadcast Network from EAF payments," Foster of NTAC commented. The GAO report listed $2,000 paid to Colorado-based LeSEA Broadcasting Network.

After anguishing over the initial FEMA news reports, NTAC Vice President Courtney Sharp said she "was shocked to discover that the [GAO] report didn't mention anything about anyone misusing funds to have gender reassignment surgery."

A New Orleans resident who lost nearly everything during Katrina, Sharp said she listened as co-workers and friends disparaged the person who used FEMA funds to obtain a sex change. "[It] was extremely hurtful to realize that someone had embellished the GAO report and was probably using the negative stereotypes about transgender people [for] media attention."

Sharp said she now feels the public was "bamboozled" by the news report.

"There's an inherent media bias in this story," NTAC's Foster continued. "If you have transsexuals having sex changes it's great press - even if it is uncorroborated! But a confirmed report of emergency victims' funds paid to a faith-based broadcaster is deemed not press-worthy." While acknowledging many Americans have no problem with faith-based groups receiving money, she noted that they would likely not be keen on funds intended for needy victims in an emergency being given instead to a broadcast group to spread the gospel.

"I smell a rat behind the fabrication of this news report. It's very Karl Rove," Foster commented. "It uses an unwitting transgender community to bludgeon Hurricane Katrina victims." She called the uncorroborated claim in the press "despicable."

"Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, residents of the Gulf Coast continue to struggle to rebuild their lives," NTAC's Sharp observed. "The impact has been truly unimaginable. Like the majority of residents, transgender people are responsible, productive, law abiding members of the community and they are also playing important roles in rebuilding the devastated areas.

"The media attack on the transgender community," Sharp finished, "served as my fifth personal "tidal surge" post-Katrina."

Whether originating from Congress, the press or an administration press operative, NTAC urges the responsible party to own up to, and publicly apologize for unfairly portraying the transgender community, and for deceiving the American public.

Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender-variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Power of Google vs. "Out and Proud"

By Vanessa Edwards Foster

Don't you love background checks? Yes, when in job-search mode, you become inured to this "laying bare" of your record -- and even your personal life sometimes. We know it's there and, especially if you're out in the GLBT community, you know the potential for discovery. But in our day-to-day lives, we tend to give it only passing thought.

It's occurred to me that we've been living in the 20th century if we think our lives aren't readily available to all. Take a good look around. We're living in the age of information, with computers on virtually every citizen's desk. With more users crowding the "information superhighway," user-friendly facility has become the standard.

And lest we forget, we also live in an age where evangelical neo-conservatism is in vogue, with its paranoid zeal of ferreting out and neutralizing those deemed subversive. To wit: the revelation of the National Security Administration keeping files on all GLBT organizations and their affiliates, political or no.

The potential impact for the TGLB job seeker (acronym rearranged in order of impact) with any typical employer is devastating. This doesn't require private investigators, or even the minimal cost of credit checks (a problem for anyone in the trans community who changes their name). No, all the eagle-eyed employer needs is right at their fingertips: Google.com

Yesterday I came face to face with the reality of Google in a most blatant way. Interviewing for one of a series of temp jobs, I walked in with this position's interviewer, and she sat down across from me after giving me a full once-over. She was a large-boned, grandmotherly gray-haired woman, with one perpetually cocked eyebrow, and things began rather typically: "so tell me about yourself . . . ."

After my brief report, the conversation took a mighty turn. "Obviously we do background checks here, and I was just checking online -- so, tell me, have you ever heard of the group . . ." and she referred to her folder of notes, "a group called N.T.A.C?"
It felt as if the floor fell out from under me. I knew instantly she'd done a thorough job of searching the Internet, so I answered, simply, "yes."

Her eyes studied me closely, as she asked her follow-up: "so how did you come to work with . . . THEM?" While I hate politically legalistic answers -- avoiding both lies and forthrightness, I answered in that vain: "I've worked for a number of causes, such as the Women's Political Caucus, that stand up for those whom are disadvantaged or disparate."
She acknowledge seeing my work with the Women's Caucus, then referring to her notes again, she asked if I had heard of "T.G.A.I.N"? "And how did you become involved with THEM?" Note that in her questions, there was special emphasis on her part on the one word -- THEM! It's a slightly more politic euphemism for "THOSE PEOPLE!"

Needless to say, the jig was up and I explained to her my transgender status. This drew another quick once-over, and the response "Wow. Well, I certainly couldn't tell. Surprising!" That last sentence seemed dubious since I knew she'd done her Googling pretty thoroughly. The rest of the interview was typical -- if perfunctory -- job experience questioning. Two gallons of gas burned for a job interview that wasn't going to hire me anyway. Peachy.

After telling my friend Ethan about the incident, he replied to me "well, yeah! There's like thousands of entries in Google about you!" WHAT? I figured I'd have a few. There were 119 last I'd checked . . . admittedly that was around the millennium. So I Googled myself and, lo, there were thousands of entries all right. And topping the list: the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. And there were pictures too, lending more proof. And phone numbers, home address -- even rather personal details of my physical status in an interview I'd granted with the Hill News, Capitol Hill's prime periodical.

So where does that leave outed TGLB job hopefuls? Pioneer transgender activist, Phyllis Frye is best known for her exhortation: "Be Out And Proud!" "When you transition, don't run from one closet into another closet!" Mostly, I agree. You have to be open in order to debunk the myths and demystify the misconceptions of us that society holds. But by opening ourselves for society's edification we also open ourselves to those who still cleave to their fear of us, rationale notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, especially in the red states, how do we open GLBT folk survive? There are jobs in social advocacy, and a number of gays and lesbians do find work there. Transgender advocacy is overwhelmingly voluntary (e.g. NTAC). Paid employment for transgenders in advocacy is much rarer. So where does this leave the future of activism? One can only speculate. There are, however, certain attendant costs to being "out and proud."

Vanessa Edwards Foster is a long-time activist, and is currently the Chair and Co-Founder of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.