Author Archives: caseyborn

Canadian Military Changes Transgender Policy

According to a blog called just out the Canadian military has recently changed their policy concerning trans people. Under the new policy, transgender soldiers are instructed to wear the uniform of their “target gender” even if it doesn’t match up with their biological sex. Personnel are also instructed to give these trans soldiers privacy and respect for their decision by not asking questions about their sex change or not asking for a reason when a soldier changes his or her name on record.

However, the new policy doesn’t allow honors to be reassigned to new names even names adopted as a part of a gender transition. They back up the decision by saying, “there is no legal authority for rewriting history.”

It’s amazing that Canada has changed their policies on trans soldiers when the U.S is still arguing over whether gay soldiers can serve openly. Canada allowed for gays to serve openly and offered them protection from harassment and discrimination in 1992. Same-sex couples can get married in the military. They also receive the same benefits of heterosexual married couples in the military. The blog states, “Representatives and soldiers from the Canadian Forces are routinely seen at Canadian pride events, with a significant number of straight soldiers opting to participate in the events alongside their gay counterparts.” It also stated that the Forces have even paid for treatments for trans soldiers since 1998. Several soldiers have undergone these treatments while serving their country. “Even coming from such a good base of respecting the dignity of transgender soldiers, the Canadian Forces’ policy change has been praised as a critical move forward by Canadian LGBT advocates. Cherie Macleod, executive director of PFLAG Canada, stated in PinkNews, “This is an important step towards recognizing a community that has always struggled for equal rights and basic human protection. I went to their website and it says, “PFLAG Canada is Canada’s only national organization that helps all Canadians who are struggling with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. PFLAG Canada supports, educates and provides resources to parents, families, friends and colleagues with questions or concerns, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”  Macleod also said, “When government becomes more inclusive, over time, society will follow.”

This is a great step in the right direction concerning trans rights. Hopefully Macleod is right and maybe our society will follow. Maybe soon America will catch on and be less discriminatory when it comes to LGBT issues. This is just one more country that is more liberal with LGBT rights, which is kind of embarrassing. In a country that prides itself on its freedoms and great human rights, why are we still behind? I wonder if certain people’s biases will ever diminish so we can give equal rights to everyone. Not only have gay people been able to serve in Canada’s military for 18 years, now they are allowing transgender soldiers to serve openly and they help them. I don’t even think the U.S. has even discussed trans soldiers.

Canadian Military Changes Transgender Policy

PFLAG Website

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Politics of Location

I grew up in a small town in Northern Indiana. My high school graduating class was about 200, most of who were the sons and daughters of farmers that intended on continuing their family farm. In school there were hardly any openly gay students, and if there were, they lived a hard high school life. I can’t even imagine if there was a trans student at my school, what they would go through if they were open about it. My location has a lot to do with how people would see trans people. The old fashion values of the parents and grandparents of teenagers in my hometown surely affected how they saw gay people let alone trans people.

Now being in Bloomington, a much more accepting town, definitely changes how people view transgendered people. Just having the opportunity to learn about issues affecting this group of people is the result of our location. In the essay, A Politics of Locations by Adrienne Rich she writes, “You could see your own house as a tiny fleck on an ever-widening landscape, or as the center of it all from which the circles expanded into the infinite unknown.” I think this is important to think about. I know that because I was from such a small conservative town, the issue of transness wasn’t explored and I had hardly any knowledge of it because of it.

Another interesting thing Rich writes is, “I was defined as white before I was defined as female. The politics of location. Even to being with my body I have no say that from the outset that body had more than one identity.” She also states, “It means recognizing this white skin, the place it has taken me, the places it has not let me go.” This reminds me of a conversation I just had in my G101 class. We were talking about privilege, and how everyone carries a privilege and oppression at the same time. We were talking about different forms of privilege, like class, race, sex. I think it’s interesting that Rich talks about being white and where this has led her. When I think about my own life, because I am white I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color. Also, because I am a straight woman, I have no idea what it is like to live in this world gay or transgendered. Rich also talks about how being in the U.S. shapes our ideas. She writes, “It was in the writings but also the actions and speeches and sermons of Black United States citizens that I began to experience the meaning of my whiteness as apart of location for which I need to take responsibility. It was in reading poems by contemporary Cuban women that I began to experience the meaning of North America as a location which had shaped my ways of seeing and my ideas of who, what was important, a location for which I was also responsible.” I think this is why we know what we know about trans people. Living in the U.S. changes the way we view things, if we lived in a country more accepting of trans people, I think knowledge would be more readily available. My hometown as a location has affected the way I view things. Living in the U.S. has affected the way I see human rights, and discrimination. The politics of locations.

 

Transgender Woman Gets Hate Mail After Visiting DMV

A transgender woman in San Francisco recently went to the DMV to register her sex change from male to female. Everything was fine until she received mail in the following days telling her how homosexuality was a sin or rather “an abomination that leads to hell.” It turns out the letter came from the person who helped her at the DMV. He also suggested she go to a church website for help and to “find salvation.” She was also sent a package with a DVD and a pamphlet from the fundamentalist church. The pamphlet was about being possessed by demons. The trans woman, Amber Yust, stated, “[It’s] scary that someone who’s part of a government agency is able to take my personal information and get in touch with me,” Yust told the Chronicle. “I don’t think anyone could feel safe going to a DMV where they knew someone like that was working.”

That very employee did the same thing in 2009. He refused to help a transgender woman with her name-change application and reportedly told the woman “God will send you to hell.” The only thing the DMV did after this incident was give the employees training about the law in California that prohibits discrimination based on sexual identity. Obviously this training wasn’t good enough because that employee discriminated again a year later. In my opinion, he should have been fired after the first incident. Amber Yust’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan stated, “they left him in a position where he could harm people. Yust is filing a claim against the DMV and plans on a lawsuit.

Not only did this man violate her right to privacy but he also made government agencies everywhere look bad. He should have been fired after the first incident but he was still employed after openly discriminating and forcing his religious views on someone. It’s also ridiculous that this church assumed that because this woman was transgendered, she was possessed by demons. It’s highly embarrassing for a San Francisco government agency to continue to employ this person. The article didn’t say, but I wonder if he is still working at that DMV. I honestly hope not.

NBC Article

L.P.G.A. Will Allow Transgender Players to Compete

Lana Lawless, trans woman who sued the L.P.G.A.

According to a New York Times article by Katie Thomas, the L.P.G.A (Ladies Professional Golf Association) players had a vote and eliminated the tour’s requirement that in order to play you have to be female at birth. This means they are allowing transgendered athletes to take part in the competition. The tour was sued by a transgendered woman in federal court, which then led the new rule. The woman claimed that the new rile violated California’s civil rights law. “Steps will be taken in the coming weeks to make the appropriate changes in the language of the Constitution,” Commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement.

Lana Lawless sued the tour in October. Lawless is a retired police officer that had sex reassignment surgery in 2005. She won the 2008 women’s world championship in long-drive golf. “Ms. Lawless finds it regrettable that she had to bring a lawsuit to get somebody to follow the law, but is glad that the civil justice system in this instance worked,” her lawyer, Christopher B. Dolan, said Wednesday.

This new policy is following similar changes made by other sports organizations that are now allowing trans athletes to compete. These include the International Olympic Committee, the United States Golf Association, the Ladies Golf Union in Britain and the Ladies European Golf Tour. Also, the N.C.A.A. has said that they are reviewing their policies that regard trans athletes.

The article also explains how a George Washington women’s basketball team member, Kye Allums, came out as a trans man. He has been able to continue to play for the women’s team because he has not initiated hormone therapy or reassignment surgery.

Dolan, Lana Lawless’ lawyer, said the L.P.G.A. players’ decision reached beyond golf. “I think it’s a victory for the transgender community,” he said, “and that hopefully other women won’t have to go through this just to have the right to play golf or any other sport.”

I feel like it’s a really big change for these committees and organizations to change such a controversial rule. I agree with Dolan that this is a big victory for the trans communities. I hope that all sports will soon follow these policy changes. This may even bring more awareness to trans issues, especially if trans teammates come out and speak about trans issues. Perhaps discrimination will slowly start to decline because of the moves of these sports associations.

New York Times Article

U.N. Removal of Sexual Orientation from Resolution

As if being gay or transgendered isn’t hard enough. Now, in certain countries you can be killed for no reason. On a 79-70 votes, the UN removed sexual orientation from a resolution that protected vulnerable populations from extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. This was voted on by most African and Arab nations. For a list of the countries who voted for and voted against go here List of Countries. This new vote has caused a lot of anger from activists and the general public. This resolution was designed to protect those who were discriminated against. Sexual orientation was apart of this clause for 10 years until this recent decision.

“This vote is a dangerous and disturbing development,” Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said in a statement. “It essentially removes the important recognition of the particular vulnerability faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – a recognition that is crucial at a time when 76 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, five consider it a capital crime, and countries like Uganda are considering adding the death penalty to their laws criminalizing homosexuality.”

After researching I found that, written in 1948, the U.N. adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was written to provide a standard of agreement that all people deserve certain rights just because they are human. In article 1 it states, ”All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Article 2 reminds us that everyone is entitled to these rights. In article 3 it states, ”Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” In article 5 it states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” And finally, in article 7 it states, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” Now these rights are not forced upon any country to obey, there is no punishment for disregarding these rights. The only thing other countries can do is ridicule the countries that don’t.  I find this to be ridiculous, as if trans people and gay people didn’t have to face enough discrimination, now they can be executed just because of the homophobia that exists in the world. I feel ashamed that in this world a person can be criminally punished because of their sexual orientation, as is the case in Uganda. It is sad that the U.N. is allowing this considering their history with the declaration of human rights. The U.K. gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said, “This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

united-nations-arab-and-african-countries-vote-for-gay-execution

The Salt Mines Documentary

The Salt Mines is a documentary that was created by Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio. In the late 1980s, the filmmakers followed a  group of homeless,transvestite prostitutes that had drug addictions, living in the “salt mines,” which is a storage area for salt that New York uses to melt snow and ice. The Salt Mines explores the lives of the Latino prostitutes whose names are. Sara, Gigi and Giovana.

Sara was formerly known as Ricardo, and she wants deeply to go back to Cuba because even though she was excited to come to America she soon realized that in America money is everything. Because she has no money she said she would rather go to jail in Cuba than be in America. However she does discuss how America is good because of all the freedom people get. She then goes on to talk about how she got arrested in Cuba because of the color of her hair. Even though America is a place of freedom, I believe people over look how much pain and difficulties that trans people go through in America, relating to the Muncie Hospital incident, not everyone is as free and people like to think. And it was probably even worse when this film was made in the late 80’s before the transgender movement began. Giovana is equally constrained but is way more optimistic about life than Sara. She claims that her drag identity helps her survive. And says something about being a transvestite until she dies. I feel sad for these people because they are so sad and desperate but it has a lot to do with their drug addiction.

When I was looking up info about when the film was made I read about another movie by Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio. The documentary is called The Transformation. It was  made five years after The Salt Mines and it describes “the resurrection” of Ricardo from the “ashes of Sara.” Apparently an evangelical group convinced Sara to become a “born-again” heterosexual. And tries to convince her she could become a happily married man. Aikin and Aparicio are the unobtrusive observers of these social cast-offs, who unblinkingly reveal the terrible limitations on their lives. The evangelicals catch them (the transvestite prostitutes) at their most desperate moments. Giovana understands and rejects the evangelical group by saying: “I’m not going to change because they bring me food.”

 

Shaking Our Shells: Cherokee Two-Spirits Rebalancing The World by: Qwo-Li Driskill

The article that we had to read for class called Shaking Our Shells: Cherokee Two-Spirits Rebalancing The World by Qwo-Li Driskill is in the form of a Stomp Dance that comes from the conversations and experiences of other Cherokee Two-Spirits. The first part of the story is called Sagwu: A Call to Assemble. What Driskill is attempting to do is call all Cherokee’s to the Stomp Dance, which is performed to maintain duyuktv, which is balance, truth and justice. Driskill explains how there is a Cherokee prophecy that says, “as long as the Cherokees continue traditional dances, the world will remain as it is, but when the dances stop, the world will come to an end.” In Part One the gender systems of the Cherokees are explained. They are not the same now, after colonization and invasion, as they once were. Driskill uses “Two-Spirit” as an umbrella term because not everyone identifies with it and because there aren’t very many terms to use in English. “Two-Spirit people are currently involved in a complex process of asserting our identities through strengthening memories of our past, committing to who we are in our present, and imagining who we want to be in the future.”

Part Two is called Daksi, Daksi, Daksi Alegwui, Come on All You Shell Shakers. At the Stomp Dance it is part of the men’s responsibilities to sing songs, and the women’s to shake shells. The role of the woman is very important, “Stomp Dances cannot take place without shell shakers: our life ways are dependent on them” Driskill explains how the responsibilities of male-embodied Two-Spirit Cherokees is like shell shaking, to sustain their life ways and cultures. They have the responsibility to restore and maintain duyuktv through practicing Cherokee life ways and ending gender oppressions.

Part Three is the Friendship Dance. The Friendship Dance reflects a balance between genders. When invaders came to Cherokee land they ruined the gender roles. Before women had power over their children, homes, and community agriculture. Christian Europeans forced their ideas of male supremacy, rigid gender categories, and sexuality as something to be suppressed onto the Cherokee. Cherokee Two-Spirits feel it is in their power to restore duyuktv because of their relationship with gender.

Part Four is the Stomp Dance. Stomp Dancing is the key idea behind the continuance of tradition and remembering who they are as Two-Spirit people is a part of that continuance. “This process of cultural revitalization, for all of us, is like a stomp dance. It is through this work that we rebalance the world.”

Part Five is the Old Folks’ Dance. They look at the Old Folks’ Dance as a way to look at their elders and ancestors to understand their past and understand who they are in the present. Putting some aspects of their past into practice is part of an ongoing Old Folks Dance and is a good way for them to honor their history and it rebalances their present and future.

Part Six is the Prayer.

Unetlanvhi, 

Wa’do for all the blessings you give us.

Wa’do for our food, our water, our homes, our friends, our family. Wa’do for bringing us to this place and time to do this work.

Help us not be afraid.

Help us walk duyuktv.

Help us continue our language and our lifeways.

Help us do the work that we need to do to heal ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Wa’do

Part Seven is Going Home. Many Cherokee Two-Spirits live away from Cherokee lands and many others don’t take part in ceremonies. Most have no desire to live in conservative areas of the country where the homelands are located.  Driskill explains which I find the most important,

“regardless of where we are, we can certainly learn our language, learn our traditional arts, and learn our songs. And we can work to ensure that we walk duyuktv in our own lives through intentional and careful work to dismantle sexism, transphobia, and queerphobia from our psyches and lives. We can teach other Two-Spirit people how to come home to themselves and each other, shaking the shells of resistance and healing in order to repair the world. We can bring our story back together. Each of us has a piece.”

Shaking Our Shells Article