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May 2006 Newsletter
With election victories and progress in transgender-inclusive legislation, we continue to move forward towards transgender equality. With NCTE’s Lobby Days just around the corner, you can join other trans people in our nation’s capital to advocate for our rights. We’d love to see you.
Trans Women Win Elections
With the April election of Vladimir Luxuria to the Italian Parliament, Europe now has its first transgender member of parliament. Luxuria, known for her television appearances and flamboyant style of clothing, (which she says would not be appropriate for Parliament), is also a GLBT rights activist. Luxuria ran on the Rifordoazione Comunista (Reformed Communist) ticket. Three other LGBT politicians were elected to the Italy’s Parliament at the same time. Luxuria joins Georgina Beyer as the second openly transgender member of a House of Parliament internationally. Beyer, a member of the Labour Party, was first elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 1999 and is still serving as an MP.
Closer to home, Jessica Orsini was elected to the Centralia, Missouri, Board of Aldermen last month. Orsini has been involved in local government there for a number of years. Congratulations! You can find her on the list of out elected officials on the Victory Fund’s webpage at www.victoryfund.org; click on Leadership Institute and then on Out Officials. If you are interested in running for office, there is great information on the same website about trainings and resources.
New State and Local Laws Passed
Civil rights legislation that includes gender identity and expression continues to pass in state and local governments, increasing the number of transgender people covered by non-discrimination legislation. Hawaii passed a new law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression in public accommodation; the legislature passed the measure and it became law without the signature of Governor Linda Lingle.
Vermont’s legislature has also passed an anti-discrimination bill, which is now awaiting action from the governor. Christopher M. Kaufman, executive director of the R.U.1.2? Queer Community Center in Burlington, comments, “We are very excited to make Vermont the 9th state offering protections based on Gender Identity and Expression. Passage of this bill is a tribute to the extraordinary partnership developed between local queer organizers, fair-minded legislators and our national partners including the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. We are thrilled to be moving forward in Vermont!”
In addition to the progress in Hawaii and Vermont noted in an earlier NCTE press release (click here to read the earlier press release), the Bloomington, Indiana City Council voted unanimously on April 24, 2006 to pass a measure extending protections based on gender identity to the human right laws.
In September of last year, the city’s Human Rights Commission recommended that gender identity and expression be added to the law and the City Council has now acted on that recommendation. Bloomington becomes the second city in Indiana to pass such a measure. Activists worked diligently for two years to achieve this victory; included in the coalition were the efforts of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA), Indiana Equality, the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination, the Indiana University GLBT Student Support Services, Bloomington Beacon, bloomingOUT radio, Bloomington Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Indiana Stonewall Democrats, Bloomington United and the Hoosier Rights Campaign, according to Indiana Equality.
Check out this week’s 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality, www.nctequality.org, for information on how you can help pass anti-discrimination legislation in your part of the country.
Sadly, Kentucky took a step backward last month when Governor Ernie Fletcher rescinded protections that covered state workers from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Fletcher re-issued the state’s anti-discrimination policy on “Diversity Day” last month; the new policy failed to mention gender identity and sexual orientation, which were included in the previously standing version. One of the reasons cited for the policy change was the perceived difficulty in determining restroom usage by transgender people. A number of Kentucky lawmakers have objected to the governor’s move and a large number of people have pointed out the painful irony in issuing this policy shift on “Diversity Day.”
Transgender Presence, Wins At GLAAD Media Awards
At the Media Awards sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), transgender people and trans-themed films were more prominent than ever. Transamerica got the nod for Outstanding Film—Limited Release and the Outstanding Documentary award went to TransGeneration.
TransGeneration follows the lives of four transgender college students during the course of a school year. The eight-part documentary series explores their different backgrounds, perspectives and transitions as they navigate the world of higher education as transgender students. The film includes both FTM and MTF students who are from Smith College, University of Colorado at Boulder, California State University in Los Angeles and Michigan State University.
The series originally aired on the Sundance channel last year and played on Logo last month. You can get more information, and purchase the DVD, on the web at TransGeneration.
Transamerica stars Felicity Huffman as a transwoman who sets off on a cross country road trip with a teenage son she had only recently became aware she had. The film chronicles their evolving relationship and the challenges of interacting with her family. This at times moving and at times humorous film has received a number of awards. The film’s website is Transamerica.com.
Deep Stealth productions principles Calpernia Addams and Andrea James assisted with the production of Transamerica and were present for the media awards. In addition, sisters Rosanna, Alexis, and Patricia Arquette were among the presenters. Alexis Arquette is trans and is currently appearing on the VH1 Reality Show, The Surreal Life.
Keisling to Receive "Person of the Year" Award
Mara Keisling, NCTE’s Executive Director, has been named the “Person of the Year” by the Harvard University Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance hcs.harvard.edu/queer). Along with the annual award comes the invitation to present the Papadopoulos Lecture at Harvard, which she will give on May 9. Past winners include Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer and California State Senator Sheila Kuehl.
Mara also spoke last month at a rally celebrating changes at Harvard University to include gender identity to their non-discrimination policies. The cake in the photo was part of those celebrations. Mara is no stranger to the Harvard campus, having done her graduate work in American Government at the school.
Universities Make Progress in Transgender Inclusion
Harvard University is just one of a number of schools to add anti-discrimination policies that include gender identity and expression so far this year. Occidental College (California), Parkland College (Illinois), Brandeis University (Massachusetts), Western Michigan University (Michigan), Princeton University (New Jersey), Vassar College (New York) and Evergreen State College (Washington State) have also done so.
Some schools are also making progress on critical issues such as health insurance coverage for transgender students and access to gender neutral restrooms. Suffolk University in Massachusetts just announced that they have made changes to their insurance coverage, which will take effect August 15, and will give trans students coverage for hormones and appropriate mental health treatment. When students brought the issue to the attention of administrators, the school took steps to address their policies and make the necessary changes. You can read more about it in an article in The Suffolk Journal at Suffolk Journal.
Transgender students and their allies at Grinnell College took action late last month to raise awareness on campus of the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms at the Iowa school. The Transgender, GenderQueer and Allies Discussion Group led the action. In their statement in the school paper, the group cites the work done by the Transgender Law Center in their resource, “Peeing in Peace.” You can find the resource at www.transgenderlawcenter.org.
For more information about the climate at colleges and universities, check out the Transgender Law & Policy Institute’s website at www.transgenderlaw.org, and click on “College and School Policies.” This excellent and informative website has been maintained for many years by Brett Genny Beemyn and contains a list of schools, links to their policies, plus information about issues like housing, restrooms and health care.
GLSEN Releases Report on Climate in Schools
The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network released its report about the experiences of LGBT youth in America’s schools. The 2005 National School Climate Survey reports information from 1,732 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in K-12 schools in all 50 states. Sadly, 40.7% of the students felt unsafe in their schools specifically because of their gender presentation. In addition, 45.5% had been verbally harassed, 26.1% had been physically harassed and 11.8% had been physically assaulted because of their gender expression. Only 10% of the students reported having school policies that include gender identity and expression.
While the study notes a small decrease in harassment due to sexual orientation, there was no change over previous studies in rates of harassment related to gender. Students who experience harassment and assault in school are, for obvious reasons, less likely to regularly attend classes or achieve academically.
On a positive note, the study did show that schools that have comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that were enforced did have a lower incidence of harassment. They also had higher rates of intervention by school officials when a problem occurred. In addition, fully 90% of the students were able to identify at least one member of the staff who was supportive of LGBT students and 47.2% said that there was a student group, such as a Gay-Straight Alliance, at their school. Both were factors in students feeling safer at school.
GLSEN also reported that nearly 4,500 schools participated in the 2006 Day of Silence, held in April, up from 3,600 schools and colleges last year. Record numbers of young people participated this year in this important and growing event of student activism.
You can read more about the Day of Silence and access a full copy or executive summery of the 2005 National School Climate Survey on their website at www.glsen.org.
Trans Article Appears in Tikkun Magazine
In its May/June Issue, Tikkun Magazine, a progressive Jewish publication, includes an article about transgender people’s participation in an important Jewish ritual. The article, titled, “Opening Up the Mikvah,” explores the ways in which transgender people are using the immersion in the mikvah, a ritual bath, as part of their journeys. The article can be read at Tikkun Magazine.
Cross Dressers in the News
The Arkansas Times, published in Little Rock, recently published an article about the En Femme gathering for cross dressers held in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The article interviews the event organizers and provides information about cross dressing. En Femme is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. You can read the text of the article at Arkansas Times.
In Leeds, England, academics held a conference last month on the Chevalier d’Eon, a notorious 18th century French spy and cross dresser. The conference, The Chevalier d’Eon and his Worlds: Gender, Espionage and Politics in the Eighteenth Century, was held at the University of Leeds. The conference website, where you can find a picture of d’Eon in female attire, is at University of Leeds. You can read an article about the conference and a brief biography of d’Eon in an article in The Independent at The Independent.
Mara Keisling, our Executive Director, and our intern Jaya Kalra are playing this season on the Outfielders, joining teammates from NGLTF, as part of the Congressional Softball League. “We have fun and at the same time interact with teams representing congressional staffs and other people in positions of power in Washington. It gives them an opportunity to get to know transgender people in an informal, social environment,” commented Jaya.