Friday, February 24, 2012

New Story for the TRANScribe Project

Here's an excerpt from a moving story by parents Rex and Karen L. Butt of Poughkeepsie, NY, who write about supporting their transgender daughter:

Because New York does not have a law that protects our daughter as a gender-variant person, finding employment is a struggle. Since she has not changed sex legally, she has to consider whether an employer has a policy regarding gender identity and expression. She has to decide whether she will apply as a man or a woman. She was unemployed for two years, which put an incredible strain on our family’s finances, and, although she currently has a job, she has to present herself as a man and assume her previous name while at work. Living this double life has created significant stress for her. Read more >

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Staten Island Transgender Equality and Justice Service

Post by Lead Organizer Kate McDonough, coordinator of our Pride in the Pulpit program. Sign up for updates on New York State's transgender non-discrimination bill and more.

Last Sunday, February 12, I was privileged to attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Staten Island’s special service, Beyond the Binary Code: Gender in America, exploring the limitations that gender binaries can place on an individual and putting a special focus on the need for transgender equality and justice. Throughout the service members of the congregation offered personal reflections on how they grew in their understanding of transgender identity and became passionate advocates for transgender civil rights. In addition, activist Ron B. performed a powerful monologue highlighting the triumphs and struggles of a transgender woman.

Here’s an excerpt from my own reflection during the service:
I can honestly say that I am very happy today. I am happy today because throughout my life, my family has stood by me and given me the support I needed to embrace my identity and bring my whole self to any situation. In turn, because I am not put through the exhaustion of having to fight for the acknowledgement of my existence, I’ve been able to thrive personally and professionally. Many of my transgender friends are not as lucky--both in terms of family support and acceptance within a broader society.

The harsh realities of transphobia are heartbreaking. A recent report showed that three out of four transgender New Yorkers experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job. A staggering three-quarters of transgender youth in New York State reported being harassed in school and many leave as a result. 17% of people were refused medical care due to their gender identity or expression. Another report released by the Empire State Pride Agenda showed that more than one-third of transgender New Yorkers have been homeless at one time and over one-fifth have incomes under $10,000 a year.

Within these numbers lies the human face of some amazing people, who have great gifts to offer. There is my first supervisor at Pride Agenda, who took a chance on a nervous 23-year-old he saw potential in. I owe so much of my professional development to him. He is currently studying to be a rabbi and I’m excited to see who else’s potential he will help to foster. There is my best friend who has always provided me with insightful advice even when it’s 1 a.m. and it’s a topic I’ve brought up at least ten times already. This friend is an educator, and has the ability to enrich so many with meaningful advice. There’s my boyfriend who is such a beautiful, tender soul and can always bring a smile to my face regardless of how stressful the day is, which plays a key role in keeping me sane. He’s a nanny and I sleep a little better at night know that he plays a part in shaping the attitudes of the generation to come.

Following the service, I moderated a panel with members of the transgender community, who told personal stories and answered questions from the audience. Many members of the congregation stayed for the discussion, asked thoughtful questions and shared insightful perceptions on how gender stereotypes can have an effect on us all.

GENDA Letter Drop-Off Day! Showing Senators NYS Supports Transgender Non-Discrimination

Post by Pride Agenda volunteer Theo Zegers, student and Capital District resident. Sign up for updates on New York State's transgender non-discrimination bill and more.

There can come along with the prospect of “dropping off letters to senators” a certain apprehension. The overall sense is not very unlike rolling out of bed in the morning, like “oh here we go…” But on February 6, I am content to report, I was a part of a very successful afternoon in which approximately ten concerned citizens, including transgender activists, their families, friends and allies, went and distributed at least 2,000 letters from across the state of New York. (These letters are a mere snowball in the avalanche of support that will follow.)

All of the letters came from the constituents in varying New York State Senate districts, and all expressed the urgency for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) to pass. GENDA simply expands the human rights legislation that already exists to protect New Yorkers on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc. The population that remains unprotected until GENDA passes includes, but is not limited to: people who identify as transgender, people who are gender non-conforming, and individuals with varying gender expressions.

These key points were all very articulately conveyed by the aforementioned group of concerned citizens; and the message was heard by, well, anyone who was willing to listen. The majority of our audience seemed genuine in their understanding and even agreement that this bill is vital. It was only a very small percentage of staff members throughout the entire afternoon who seemed to zone out slightly as our team relayed its message. The experience was positive and impactful.

Among some of the most powerful highlights of the day, one detail that impressed me was the support from the individuals in our group --some of whom this bill does not directly effect, and yet who uphold the notion that until everyone is free, no one is free. Among our team members, there were parents of transgender children, transgender people of color, and LGBTQ interfaith leaders all contributing time and energy. Christopher Argyros, who heads up the coordination of transgender rights at Empire State Pride Agenda, kept our hope alive by sharing that 16 other states already have this legislation, including states ranging from places like Connecticut to Nevada.

I have faith that New York’s progressive nature will catch up to and eventually outrun its bigotry. Monday’s events were just another smooth leg in the race towards equality and justice.

Also, check out this video montage put together by Transgender Rights Organizer Christopher Argyros:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pride in the Pulpit Update

Post by Lead Organizer Kate McDonough, coordinator of our Pride in the Pulpit program.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here is a story of romance:

Last New Year’s Eve I was at a Glitter and Glamour-themed house party. I was standing by the bar holding a drink called a “glitter bomb” and staring at the front door as party guests made their grand entrances. The door swung open and a dandy entourage strolled in, each one wearing an outfit that incorporated suspenders and a bowtie. The door was about to close when suddenly a black-gloved hand stopped and slowly pushed it back open to reveal an elegant individual wearing a back shimmering dress and gold glitter eye makeup.

An excitable friend was standing next to me and I could tell that he was overwhelmed, “Look at those people, Kate—everyone is gorgeous!” I opened my mouth to respond, when suddenly he grabbed my arm and shouted, “Oh my god that boy is beautiful!” I turned around and within a matter of seconds the entire room blurred and I could no longer hear the voices of the people around me. All I could see was a handsome guy standing in front of me with a teal button down shirt that brought out the blue in his eyes and a gray vest. I was brought back into the party by the sound of my own voice: “Yes, I think so, too.” This was the first time I laid eyes on Shawn, my boyfriend, who happens to be a transgender man.

Shawn works in childcare and is the most beautiful, tender soul that I’ve ever encountered. Even during the most stressful days, Shawn can find a way to make me smile. I feel very lucky to be with him, but there are times when I fear for his safety. Although Shawn presents as male, many people have a hard time figuring out what his gender is. On good days all he’ll receive is a dirty look; on bad days it’s a dirty look that quickly becomes a hostile remark. I worry because there is no statewide law protecting Shawn from discrimination. I worry because all he has to do is be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he won’t even have the law to protect him. I have no words for what it feels like to care for someone so much and live with the fear that they could be harmed simply for existing.

As we celebrate our first Valentine’s Day in a post-marriage equality New York, I’d like to congratulate all the couples who are finally experiencing this day as legally married. Happy Valentine’s Day from the very bottom of my heart. However, I think it’s important keep in mind that we are not done. Even with marriage equality, couples like Shawn and me do not have the protections needed to keep our families safe and intact. Furthermore, until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed, same-sex couples in New York State are essentially only half married. They still don’t have access to the federal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. Shawn was my New Year’s kiss. The moment his lips touched mine I remember thinking, “I didn’t even know I was looking for you, but I think I just found you.”

In Peace,