Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Misogyny, it's not just for breakfast anymore.

Recently I came across an interesting story in my newsfeed. It seems SirRichard Branson, of Virgin Air lost a wager to Air Asia Group CEO TonyFernandes. Sir Branson bet Mr Fernandes over whose Formula 1 team would be ranked higher in the 2010 Championships. Branson lost the contest and as a result, he must serve as flight attendant on AirAsia’s Perth to Kuala Lumpur flight. It all seems a bit of fun. The proceeds from the flight go to charity. However, there is something less charitable to all of this.  Sir Richard’s shame is complete, only after he dons a dress.

Rock icon Iggy Pop has posed for photos in a dress which have been turned into an internet meme. That meme intended to cast off the negativity of being a woman. Yet all too often it’s the other way around. Whilethe Iggy Pop meme has not been authenticated as the original intent of thephoto shoot, Sir Branson’s career as a flight attendant in drag is clearly meant to “shame” the loser and in turn, it insults all women. Our society seeks to bring women down though their body image, the clothing they wear, how sexually active they may be, or even because they may out earning their male partners. It’s all based in misogyny. Misogyny is not just the marginalizing of women, yet the marginalizing of any gender, gender identity, or gender expression which does not conform to the standards of the masculine oppressor.

I worked at a large, well known department store. The store manager made a wager with some of the store associates, that if the associates met their goals for soliciting new credit card applications, he would, wear a dress. This wager was made prior to my arrival at the store; however the “contest” was ongoing at my arrival. The store manager lost the bet. The insult was felt doubly for me. The image of my supervisor, was mocking not only women, yet anyone less that the image of masculinity. I had to endure the photos in the break room, and in the office. I approached my assistant store manager in charge of Human Resources, and made him aware of my concerns and the harm I felt. He immediately removed the photos. However the store manager then posted them on the inside of his office door. The reason I know this, is it’s at his desk I was asked to take my annual training on diversity and respect. Ironic, isn’t it?

When our society continues to create stereotypes for men and women and enforces adherence to those boundaries inherent in these stereotypes, anyone crossing the line is subjected to ridicule. Sometimes that’s willingly, yet most of the time it’s not.

Sir Richard’s willingness is someone else’s pain.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

That’s Okay We Can Help Each Other

I make mistakes from time to time. Hopefully in lower frequency than before, but as a human being, like the rest of us, I make plenty. I think mistakes are great. They give us a change to amend, readjust, or re-prioritize.

I made one such mistake when I can across a link for an alleged “Transgender Equality” column. It was a particularly busy week for news in the Baltimore community. There has been another murder in the transgender community on Wednesday and there were request for on air interviews.

I accept the fact that I must own my privilege in respect to race. This is why I declined to be interviewed and instead opted to give the reporter some helpful background on hate crimes and the unacceptable rate in which trans women of color fall victim to them.  I included the Executive Summary of the 2011 survey, “Injustice at Every Turn” which highlights the extreme economic and social inequities the transgender and gender non-conforming communities face. These disparities are exponentially higher in communities of color.

So I come across an article in Baltimore Outloud.  It’s not had a great reputation in the transgender community, not only in Baltimore, yet nationally and possibly I suspect, as I know folks in different hemispheres who have glanced across their site, internationally.  But as a community, we thought those concerns removed. Those concerns coming from contributors to the paper, who seek to create discord in the community as a matter of course, or to satisfy a need for self-importance. It is in this light that Baltimore Outloud is viewed, and it is with that filter, I found this piece.

On Friday April 5th, under the byline “Rational T-hought” which is billed as “Transgender Equality”, I was disappointed  to read what amounted to an extremely disturbing commentary of self victimization displayed on the site.  Two day after the death of another trans woman of color, a very white, very privileged woman in our community is bemoaning the injustice of the DC Police force in not assisting her with her lost iPad.

Hold that thought.

Got it?

Great, there’s more.

Members of our community seek jobs, housing, food, access to healthcare and the comfort of acceptance from a society too indifferent to recognize their equal place in this race we call human.  They do not seek some overpriced technological status symbol. We should be so lucky as to find ourselves at this place. That our greatest equality issues in the transgender community are the lack of attention we are given, by large metropolitan police departments serving communities in excess of six and seven hundred thousand residents, with murder rates historically at the top of nationwide lists, towards our lost….


Do not get me wrong, this is not a bash the iPad opinion I write. It is very much an own your impact and own your privilege. The column digresses into a lament of the loss of security and how when filling up that suburban assault vehicle, you wait IN the vehicle. Many members of our community utilize public transportation as their sole means of travel around town. Some will occasional solicit a hack or hail a legitimate taxi.  The relational security is not even comparable. The cost of filling up those expensive UTEs far exceeds the monthly food expenditures of most trans folk in major cities.

My suggestion is consider writing for The Patch, or, simply, own your privilege. How about we all work collaboratively towards the serious problems of economic justice for the transgender community. iPads not included.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sine Die 2013..Same as it ever was... almost

Sine Die. noun  [sin-ey-dee-ey{ < Latin sine diē without (a fixed) day >

The Maryland General Assembly (MGA) is adjourning without fixing a day to reconvene.  This means the MGA is adjourning without executing its obligation to attend to the safety and well-being of the nearly 14,000 transgender Marylanders.  An obligation they have avoided for 13 such Sine Die. Senate Bill 449 was their charge.

In Maryland a 2011 survey found alarming rates of discrimination against transgender Marylanders. The study found that among transgender individuals, 18% had lost a job, 42% had experienced an adverse job action at work, 17% reported being denied a home or apartment and 54% of transgender Marylanders reported being harassed in places of public accommodation (such as restaurants, stores and movie theaters) because of their gender non-conformity.

According to the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality (MCTE) , the statewide coalition founded by trans Marylanders for the purpose of  working to advance equal rights for transgender, transsexual, and gender non-conforming people in Maryland:

When discrimination prevents or hinders a person from gaining or keeping employment, many other problems can develop which can lead to chronic unemployment, or homelessness, and can render its victims more vulnerable to violence. Transgender individuals may be denied access to social services like shelters or rape crisis centers, refused treatment, ridiculed, or denied recognition of their gender identity by health care professionals, or refused service at restaurants or stores.


Ironically we heard from some folk not in the coalition telling our community that this year was different, that all the stars were aligned and that this was the year.  This person even stood up at a community town hall and told the audience that our bill was going to not only sail through and be signed by Governor O’Malley, but that we wouldn't even see a referendum.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now they wish to blame this on “a single act of the Maryland Senate president upon the beginning of the new year that settled the fate of this bill. “. It was even suggested that in the back story there was “the usual collection of personality quirks and family secrets that contributed directly to the unfavorable report.”

No one has time for the blame game.

The trans advocates working in collaboration with our allies and legislative champions believe it came down to one vote, one very non independent vote. A vote that was not swayed by the over 1000 constituent contacts in favor of a measure (as opposed to the three (3) contacts against the measure) a measure their jurisdiction already enjoyed. Instead it was swayed by prejudice, by ignorance and by money. That vote could have been yes without affecting a single constituent. The only thing that will change that, is changing the occupant of that seat.

To that extent, most advocates know the value of getting involved. There are some who believe you simply place your name on a ballot and you automatically ascend to office.  It doesn't work like that. Try that once or twice and see if you feel otherwise.  Involvement in the political process at the direct campaign level is the most proven way to get recognized and respected.
I can recall my own personal experience in working on the Mayor of Baltimore’s campaign in 2011. It was an honor to work with so many other committed folks from such diverse background who value collaborative efforts.  When one knocks door for an elected official, those elected officials remember you. Trust me on that.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake can spot me in a room, and the expression in her eyes tells me, she not only knows who I am, she values what I've done for her. This is something I hear from nearly every advocate I've been fortunate to meet all over this country.

Now as Sine Die is upon us, our dear legislators are free to begin full campaign mode. In 2014 we may well have new delegates and senators, but we will positively have a new governor. Who’s basket are you putting your eggs in?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kelly Young is mourned

Kelly Young has her friends and family speak to her truth.

"She was a fun person, that's it. She was, she loved everybody and everybody loved her."

If you have any information about the murder of Kelly Young, you can call the Baltimore City Police Homicide Division at (410) 396-2100