Monday, November 29, 2010

Trans Air - Flying the Not Necessarily Friendly Skies

Over the holidays, with the prospect of lots of travel including airlines, there's been a lot of hullabaloo over the TSA(Transportation Security Administration)'s new security screening procedures for air passengers, requiring either a revealing electronic body scan or a manual full body pat down.

As is so often the case, certain groups of people will have a more difficult time with these procedures. Again, as is so often the case, these are folks who have additional struggles to begin with. With regard to the new TSA procedures, I'm specifically referring to trans folks.

Trans folks have the double-disadvantage in that they may have prosthetics (padded, underwire bras and breast forms, genital prosthetics), which may cause concern to airport screeners, and that they may be red-flagged if the screener notes a discrepancy with the gender they present, either subjectively or due to a difference between the gender markers on their ID.

The point is, the marginalized community, that already has it harder, gets to have it harder still. And of course, the TSA does not require nor necessarily provide training for its officers regarding sensitivity to the LGBT community.

Fortunately, the National Center For Transgender Equality (NCTE) has come out with a resource for trans folks and "What Travelers Need to Know," as well as a useful PDF on "Whole Body Imaging."

There's a lot of just good general information for all folks, like:
  • First, it is important that you KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Even if TSA personnel are not always familiar with travelers' rights, such as the right to decline a full-body scan, you should know them. You may need to politely inform the officer of your rights and choices.

  • Second, calmly and clearly expressing your choices is very important. This makes it easier for the TSA agents to understand what your needs are and may help you get through the checkpoint more quickly.
... as well as some trans-specific facts:
  • You have the right to have manual search procedures performed by an officer who is of the same gender as the gender you are currently presenting yourself as. This does not depend on the gender listed on your ID, or on any other factor. If TSA officials are unsure who should pat you down, ask to speak to a supervisor and calmly insist on the appropriate officer.

  • You should not be subjected to additional screening or inquiry because of any discrepancy between a gender marker on an ID and your appearance. As long as your ID has a recognizable picture of you on it, with your legal name and birth date, it should not cause any problem.
During the holidays, the best way to ensure that all of us and our family and friends have safe and uneventful travels is to have the best information on travel policies that affect you.

Until we have full equality and inclusion, we simply deal with what we've got with as much grace and equanimity as possible. Travel safely!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Having Faith ... in Equality - New Report by FIA

Faith In America has released a free report on "Addressing Religious Arguments to Achieve LGBT Equality."

"Our mission at Faith in America is to confront religion-based bigotry that lies at that heart of discrimination toward LGBT people. Full equality will not be achieved until the root of the issue is addressed. This report provides important information on how to start the conversation, persuade the movable middle and win the hearts and minds of those that will help bring an end to religion-based bigotry in all its forms."

This report highlights and refutes common assertions used by people of faith to justify bigotry and discrimination against LGBT folks. For example:

"Charge: Homosexuality is a sin … it says so in the Bible. Response: First, that is your interpretation of the Bible, and you should be aware that many others don’t interpret it that way. Second, we should all remember that millions of people have been harmed over the years because the majority’s religious teachings have determined minority groups’ civil rights. Religious teachings were used to support the horrors of slavery, deny women the right to vote, deny loving interracial couples the right to be married, deny black people their full and equal place in our society and deny minority religious groups equal rights. We have learned from these horrible mistakes that it is wrong to use religious teachings to dehumanize and marginalize any minority group. It is no less wrong today to use religious teachings to deny gay people full and equal civil rights."

The report also provides strategies and techniques for addressing this type of prejudice, e.g., "Talking about religion-based bigotry is more effective than using the term 'homophobia.' Using the term 'homophobia' is generally not effective with people of faith. 'Homophobia' is defined as an irrational or unreasonable fear of homosexuality. For many people of faith, especially those who hold to a literal interpretation of Scripture, there is nothing wrong or irrational about fearing sin."

It also provides facts solid facts to covey the importance and seriousness of their message:
  • Gay kids who experience family rejection are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide and 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression.
  • 1,000+ rights and responsibilities are currently the exclusive right of heterosexual couples.
  • If a person believes sexual orientation is a choice, they are 70% more likely to be against LGBT equal rights. If a person believes sexual orientation is part
    of how you are created, they are 70% more likely to be in favor of LGBT equal rights.
Faith In America was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization in 2005 by Mitchell Gold with the goal of countering the messages of bigotry, prejudice, and hostility toward the LGBT community being taught under the guise of religious belief and religious teaching.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Don't Forget! Transgender Day of Remembrance

This Saturday, November 20, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Equality NC's Transgender Policy Task Force and the LGBT Center of Raleigh will hold a candlelight vigil in downtown Raleigh to recognize the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

TDOR was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-trans murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as trans (that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant), each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgendered people.

The purpose of the day is to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people. Transgender Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of transgender people who might otherwise be forgotten. TDOR gives transgender people and their allies a chance to step forward and stand in vigil, showing love, respect, and solidarity, and memorializing those who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

Transgender Day of Remembrance can be used to educate students, teachers, and administrators about transgender issues, so we can try to prevent anti-transgender hatred and violence from continuing.

Ways you can observe TDOR include:

• Candlelight vigils and/or marches
• Discussion forums with activists, politicians, and/or school officials
• Performance art
• Poetry or spoken word readings
• Visual representation of the number of deaths with:
  • Cardboard tombstones of Remembered People
  • Paper cutouts of Remembered People
  • Chalk body outlines of Remembered People

• Teach-Ins and Speakers Bureaus
• Art/photo displays
• Trans movie screenings (such as “Boys Don’t Cry”)
• Trans 101 trainings

As with any awareness-raising day, it's not an end unto itself. TDOR is a tool towards the ultimate goal of the elimination of bigotry and prejudice against transfolks. It's important to use this day as a starting point for discussion and education. The work of TDOR can be continued by:
• Working to add “gender identity and gender expression” to laws and school antibullying policies
• Having a Trans 101 training for workers and educators
• Working to have some restrooms designated as gender neutral
• Collaborating with others on trans issues and teaching them how to be trans allies

For more information, go to the International TDOR website or the Gay-Straight Alliances Facebook Page. For a list of related sites and resources, go to this page from the Remembering Our Dead site.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What About The Children? National Adoption Month!

My partner and I adopted our son through the foster care system here in North Carolina, so today's blog topic is a big deal to me.

November is National Adoption Month, celebrated throughout the United States in an effort to finalize adoptions from foster care, and to celebrate all adoptive families. (National Adoption Day falls on November 20 this year, the Saturday before Thanksgiving).

This year's National Adoption Month initiative targets adoption professionals by focusing on ways to recruit and retain parents for the 115,000 children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families. The National Adoption Month poster (PDF - 3569 KB) notes strategies adoption professionals can implement any day, week, or month to benefit children waiting for families. The Spanish National Adoption Month poster (PDF - 3599 KB) also provides suggestions for working with Spanish-speaking families throughout the year.

Now is a great time for LGBT folks to adopt, and the foster care system is a great place to look for kids who need homes and parents.

Thousands of children in North Carolina enter the foster care system each year, and range in age from infants to 18 years old. All foster children have unique backgrounds, experiences, personalities, strengths, and needs.

The NC foster care system is open to gay parents. (OK, well, technically, they're neither open nor not open.) Your actual experience will depend on any foster care agency you go through and/or the officials in any county DSS (Department of Social Services) that you deal with. We found everyone we interacted with to be extremely positive and supportive of us as a gay male couple looking to adopt - all they cared about was being sure that the kids in need found a good, loving home that could support and care for them.

During November, there are plenty of things you can do to observe National Adoption Month, either as a parent, prospective parent, or someone who has no plans to have children but wants to support adoptive families. Some ideas for this month include:

☼ Write down your family story and add it to a scrapbook.

☼ Contact your local paper about National Adoption Month, and ask them to publish a positive story about adoption.

☼ Contact a children's organization or foster care agency and ask how you can help.

☼ Create your family tree. Complete one about your child's birth family (if information is known) as well as your adoptive family.

☼ If you have one, ask your place of worship to offer a special prayer for children in foster care waiting for adoption.

☼ Watch a movie with an adoption theme.

☼ Donate books about adoption to your local or school library.

There are already thousands of children out there who need homes, and foster care and adoption are great ways to form your family.

(And if you're thinking about having kids or are already a parent, the Family Equality Council is a great resource.)

Adoption is a great way to make a positive impact in a kid's life, and it's also an investment in the future for yourself, LGBT folks, the country, and society as a whole.

It's easy to think that you won't be a good parent, but I can guarantee you that having you as a parent will be hundreds of times better than having no parent at all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Exciting New GL(ibrary)BT Youth Award

The American Library Association's annual children's prizes (which features the prestigious and influential Caldecott and Newbery medals) will now include an award for gay and lesbian literature.

The library association announced the "Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award" as a new addition to the ALA's Youth Media Awards, watched closely by educators and librarians as they decide which books to add to their collections.

The Stonewall prize honors "English-language works for children and teens of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered experience." Stonewall awards for adult books were started nearly 40 years ago, but the children`s category only now.

Books with gay and lesbian themes often place high on the association's yearly report of works most criticized and threatened with removal by parents and educators.

"And Tango Makes Three," Justin Richardson's and Peter Parnell's acclaimed picture story about two male penguins who become parents, topped the list from 2007 to 2009.

"Ours is a very inclusive profession and we represent a wide variety of viewpoints," says association president Roberta Stevens, who noted that the decision to add the Stonewall prize was made well before the recent wave of suicides by teens believed to be victims of anti-gay bullying. "Millions of children in this country are being raised by gay or lesbian parents. There are young people who are gay and sometimes they feel very alone. This is a real opportunity for youths who may be feeling alone to read about other like themselves."

The Youth Media awards, announced in January, already include a variety of categories, such as African-American literature, lifetime achievement and best children`s audio book.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Out Law - NC Bar Association Incorporates Anti-Bias Language

Remember a few months ago the bit at the bottom of this about the NC Bar Association:

Bar None - American Bar Association Supports Marriage Equality


Well, good news! It happened this past Friday. It, of course, refers to the inclusion of LGBT folks in suggested anti-bais language that encourages proper conduct for lawyers. This is an update to the preamble to its Rules of Professional Conduct that urges lawyers not to discriminate in their practices "on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity." (Those last two are the significant ones.)

[Information below is from the News & Observer:]

"The regulatory body for North Carolina's lawyers has given final approval to language designed to discourage attorneys from having personal bias against representing gays and transgender people.

The N.C. State Bar Council voted 35-20 Friday in favor of changes to the preamble of their rules of professional conduct.

Some attorneys and interest groups were concerned because the proposal contained "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in a list of eight characteristics that shouldn't lead to biased conduct. They said that could prevent lawyers from declining to take cases on moral grounds.

Council member Mark Merritt says lawyers can still withdraw from cases if they think they are unable to defend clients vigorously."

Another small step for inclusion .... In the long run, they mark the path to fairness and justice and victory for everyone.