Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Cutting Edge- May 2015

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph. D., LCSW


In the continued saga of Ashley Diamond, the transgender inmate who sued the state of Georgia for cutting off her supply of hormones and requesting safe housing within the prison system, the newest word (NY Times May 8, 2015) is that she received a transfer to a medium-security prison after being touched inappropriately by another inmate and then receiving a threatening note from another.  Stay tuned for word about her request for continued hormone replacement.


Current US Passport Guidelines.  In the past, a temporary passport with the revised gender marker was provided to allow for travel during the transition process, but those procedures are now defunct.  Currently, you can get the sex marker changed on a passport with a letter from a doctor.  No surgery or hormone therapy is required.  All requests to update the sex designation on a passport must use Passport Application Form DS-11, regardless of whether you have a passport already or not.  Obtain and submit the form in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility, such as your local Post Office.  You will need a certified copy of your name change order, an original letter from your doctor or a birth certificate with the corrected sex, and a new passport photo.  You will also need to submit 2 fees, one of $110.00 and a separate $25.00 execution fee. For more info. http://travel.stategov/passport/get/get_4855html Source: personal correspondence.


The New York Times published the “first of a series that looks at the state of transgender rights in America, how it has changed and the struggle ahead.”  They devoted the whole of the editorial page to “The Quest for Transgender Equality,” and it includes a comprehensive history of the movement’s trials and triumphs beginning with the incident at Compton’s Cafeteria here in San Francisco.  Three years before the Stonewall Riots of 1969, trans women rioted after being ejected Compton’s, one of the few safe gathering places for the community.  That same year, Harry Benjamin, an endocrinologist who had treated transpeople for years, published “The Transsexual Phenomenon” outlining how individuals could transition medically.  Public disclosure by prominent people such as actress Laverne Cox, whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, and athlete Bruce Jenner have brought positive attention to the community.  The extraordinary complexity of the experience has been written about in the popular media, allowing the general public to become informed about and comfortable with the subject.  Legislative changes have followed with protections and expanded access to relevant health care and procedures.  On the employment front, gender identity has been included among the areas in which discrimination is prohibited.  Future entries in this series will be covered in this column as they appear.


The 2nd in the series appeared 1 week later on May 11, 2015 and was solely devoted to an individual named Diane Schroer, a former Army officer who worked at the CIA in the late 1980’s.  Her story is told against the background of a young woman, Jenny who transitioned in 2013 at the same organization. 


The 3rd was published another week later, May 18, 2015, entitled, “Increasingly Visible, Transgender Americans Defy Stereotypes.”  This segment acknowledges the individuals who stand out in the movement starting with Christine Jorgensen’s SRS in the early 1950’s; the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in which Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson figured prominently in founding the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in NYC; Renee Richards’ legal fight in the ‘70’s to play tennis as a woman; Mario Martino, who in 1977 became the first TG man to publish an autobiography in the US; Lou Sullivan in the 80’s, who founded FTM International, a support group for TG men; Rhys Harper, a transmen and photographer who documented physical transitions online in the 90’s; and most recently, Harmony Santana, 19, who in 2010 was cast as the first trans actor to play a transgender character in a major role. For more info see <nytimes.com/trans-today>


Yet another TG inmate story, this time from New Boston, TX.  Joshua Zollicoffer, aka Passion Star, is challenging Texas’ “refusal to accept new national standards intended to eliminate rape in prison….”  Having been victimized by “sexual harassment, coercion, abuse and assault in Texas’ maximum-security prisons for men,” she demands that the state implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.  Despite its passage 12 years ago, the final standards of how to prevent, detect and respond to abuse in custody took 10 years to be completed.  Even then, it took 2 more years for governors to be required to certify full compliance with the law. Today, only New Hampshire and New Jersey have done so. For the whole story, see the NYTimes, 5/13/15. Keep the faith.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Cutting Edge

Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW


Did you know that Inside Edition’s Zoey Tur became the 1st on-air trans reporter?  In an earlier iteration she was “Chopper” Bob—a helicopter pilot who covered the 1994 car chase led by O.J. Simpson.  Zoey began transitioning in 2013 and stated to US Magazine in their Feb. 16 edition, “There’s diversity in nature, why not in the media?”


The bathroom remains the last bastion to be breached giving transpeople free access to public accommodations.  According to a statement on the Transgender Law Center’s website, “multiple states are trying to make it a crime for transgender people to do something everyone does every day- use the bathroom.”  Florida, Kentucky and Texas have all introduced bills making it illegal for trans people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. The penalty can be a fine or criminalizing both trans people and the building owners who allow free access.  Ultimately, this legislation can deny transpeople access to institutions such as schools, professional offices and subsequently limit participation in the full range of activities available to others.  Especially impacted would be the most vulnerable of our trans citizens, those who cannot change identity documents “because of systemic employment and health care discrimination.”  For a fuller discussion of this subject and action that you can take to oppose this movement, http://transgenderlawcenter.org.


In a subsequent posting, the TLC reports that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has ruled that “it’s not acceptable for employers to single out transgender people for harassment—including … forcing them to use a different bathroom than everyone else.”


“Many people believed Sisa Abu Daooh was a man until several weeks ago, when she publicly revealed her 42-year-old secret.”  So goes the story in the New York Times (March 26, 2015) titled, “A Woman’s Secret Life Posing as a Man in Egypt.”  It chronicles Sisa’s tale in which she worked more than 30 years among the shoeshine men of Luxor, Egypt.  She socializes, prays and dresses just as they do.  She decided to disclose her secret with her awareness that the police are accelerating their persecution of gay and gender dissonant individuals.  Amazingly, her story has been widely accepted because “there is no suggestion that her choice of clothing had anything to do with sexuality” but with the need to support her daughter after being widowed.  A human rights activist living in Egypt interviewed for this article explained, “while the state appropriately honors her for her courage, it imprisons others who call themselves transgender.  If the government cared about principles, not exploiting prejudices, it would respect people for being true to themselves.…”


Ashley Diamond is suing the state of Georgia for cutting off her supply of hormones.  She is a prison inmate, transgender woman, and client of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  After using female hormones for 17 years, they were abruptly discontinued in 2012 with her arrest for burglary. “In her lawsuit she asks the court to direct prison officials to provide her hormone therapy, to allow her to express her female identity through ‘grooming, pronoun use and dress, ‘and to provider her safer housing.”  For more info on this story see the NY Times Apr 6 & 7, 2015.


In California, a historic victory reinforced TG rights.  On behalf of Michelle Norsworthy, an inmate of a men’s prison, the Transgender Law Center won a ruling that “it’s illegal to deny transgender people access to essential health care, including gender-affirming surgery.”  In a different case, the Justice Department ruled that it is unconstitutional for state prisons to withhold hormone treatment. For more info: <info@transgenderlawcenter.org>