Tina K. Russell

February 27, 2009

Awesome Transsexuals: Audrey Mbugua

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:02 am

In a small world, some things are true no matter where you are. Kenyan human rights activist Audrey Mbugua demonstrates.

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Social Injustice And Transsexual People (Page 1 of 1)
Another minefield in transsexual people’s lives is the issue of discrimination in Kenya’s labour market. Though I have personally been denied job opportunities just because I am a transsexual, I still don’t understand the logic. I hope I am just too daft to get the argument. Here is the argument, and maybe you could help me understand the quantum electrodynamics behind it: ‘You were born a boy and you are now a woman. How could you do that to yourself? Do you actually think God made a mistake in creating you the way he did? In the first place, who do you sleep with? …blah…blah…blah…lots of crap’.

Will somebody please help me understand, because I thought the employee-employer relationship was that of ‘Give me your most productive 40 hours in the week and at the end of the month, I will deposit KSh blahblahblah in your account. Satisfied?’ That’s how I see things and furthermore if you are clean and tidy, does it matter that I look like a woman but I have a penis between my legs?

And she keeps going!

How is my penis supposed to make organisations lose profits? In fact, I am wondering why these morons are not blaming transsexuals with penises for the global financial crisis. A penis on a transsexual people is not a substitute for her brain. Look at the skills he or she possesses, not penises and vaginas. Why don’t you go around the streets of Nairobi, stopping and squatting under women in skirts to see whether there is a shwing shwong up there? Go ahead and feel the crotch of every person you meet to determine whether their genitals and physical presentation are incongruent or not. You could go further and smell the genitals. Your god will add more days to your lives and you will live to blow 1,001 candles.

Don’t annoy transsexual people further by asking them who they have sex with. That is none of your bee’s wax. How would you feel if you accompanied your dad to a bank and the cashier asked him whether he enjoys taking it up his ass or whether he suffers from impotence? Would you nominate the cashier for an Oscar or a Jerk-of-the-year award? Another thing my dearest friends, I have the right to change my sex if am not comfortable with my sex or even for whatever reasons I have. It’s my body and I don’t see how it interferes with your lives. Or, had you expected me to first consult with your church elders before I had a scalpel plunged inside my scrotum? No, maybe you wanted me to accept myself as a man that god created me to be? Why don’t you also tell diabetic people to stop taking insulin shots and accept themselves the way God created them, as diabetics? We hate such stupid and disrespectful questions and you hateful, ignorant and annoying religious nutcases need to reform.

I can’t tell you how vindicated I feel. As a Quaker, I have an innate fondness for Kenya, home to one of the world’s biggest Quaker communities. (Actually, it might be the biggest.) And, as an American, I’m grateful they had the wherewithal to fight for independence, earning it and prompting John F. Kennedy to start a scholarship program to train future Kenyan civil servants, bringing one enterprising Kenyan to a school in Hawaii where he met a kind free spirit from Kansas, a union which produced our current head of state. So, it does make me sad, of course, that such anti-trans prejudice persists in Kenya.

But holy mackarel! This woman can rant! This is exactly how I’ve been feeling all my life. I probably would have put it more politely (and I think she gets overly harsh toward the end of the linked piece), but sometimes you need to be blunt. It’s oddly comforting to know that the same things frustrate transsexual people the world over. And, I have always wondered why people always seem to think my genitals and sex life are critical public information which they have a right to know about. Gaahhh!

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February 5, 2009

Family, responsibility, identity, transsexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:55 pm

Transsexual Identity Case May Set Back Gay Marriage | News | YLE Uutiset | yle.fi
Wife Refused Consent to Save Family

The case in question was brought to the Court by a married man and father, who became a transsexual. The couple want to retain their married status, so the wife refused to give her official consent.

(Please note: you don’t “become” transsexual, like, ever. It’s something you’re born with. If it were a choice, nobody would want it, ever.)

(Also, note to copyeditors: the adjective is almost always more respectful than the noun. Someone is Jewish, not “a Jew.” Someone is black, not “a black.” I guess this works better in plural (“Jews,” “blacks”), but when talking about an individual, use the adjective whenever possible.)

(Firefox is telling me that “copyeditors” is a typo. I thought that was the right way… hmmm…)

A lower Administrative Court rejected their case, ruling that “in the realm of family law, a marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.” And so, from the court’s perspective, the local registry office did not violate the constitutional guarantee of equality of the sexes by refusing to change the woman’s gender without her wife’s consent.

The lower court’s ruling, which defined marriage as exclusively a heterosexual right, has put one more legal obstacle in front of activists calling for gender-neutral marriage laws.

The plaintiff argued that the current laws are essentially forcing her to choose between her sexual identity and keeping her family intact.

In addition, she says that her identification papers have caused real problems in security checks, for example, because they no longer reflect her new self.

There are no legal objections to a man undergoing sexual reassignment to become a woman and then marrying a man, for example.

This is a pretty insane ruling. For the record, here in the States, the law in regard to marriage and transsexuality is a surreal patchwork, and if you’re transsexual yourself, whom you can and can’t marry depends on the state you’re in. But I don’t think we have anything like this ruling in Finland, saying that changing your sex requires your spouse’s consent. (?!)

An important thing, I think, to bear in mind is that transgender people do not abandon their family responsibility when they transition. This is a matter of semantics, but it’s typical, in my experience, for trans people with families to retain the family title they had before transitioning, especially fathers who have transitioned to female after having children. This leads to interesting constructions like “she’s my dad” that may confound the unfamiliar, but it’s always said with the greatest respect. I knew a woman who told her adult children, when she transitioned, “I will always be your father, and nothing can change that.” She said it with pride and conviction, and her concept of herself as a father stood hand-in-hand with her concept of herself as a woman.

That said, it’s perfectly legitimate to want people to call you a different family title (“father” to “mother,” “son” to “daughter,” etc., or the other way around) when you transition; it’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with. However, the idea of transsexuality as a threat to the family is utterly at odds with everything I know. You don’t abandon who you are, or your responsibility to those you love; on the contrary, you drop a charade you’ve been performing all your life, and confirm your love of them through honesty and compassion.

December 18, 2008

Looking back on Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:56 pm

Letters – When Your Beliefs and My Civil Rights Collide – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

The deep repugnance and aversion to homosexuality held by the black church-going community revealed in the passing of Proposition 8 in California are not a wedge in the progressive agenda. They are simply a very common human failing. It is human to scapegoat.

This is an opportunity to make the tent even bigger, if it is construed as an opportunity to examine prejudice from the other side.

Progressives should invite the black church community to engage in the dialogue. The result would allow all those in the tent to feel and work better with each other. The tent would become an even better tent.

It would even make it easier to reach out to those still outside the tent. Name-calling means we have learned nothing.

Catherine Barinas
New York, Dec. 7, 2008

It’s sad the way the media consistently frames the post-Prop. 8 debate as “gays vs. blacks” (props to Stephen Colbert for excellently lampooning this). The truth, beyond the fact that the Obama surged actually hurt, rather than helped, Proposition 8, is that there is a deep well of social conservatism in older black and Hispanic communities. The problem that poses to gay rights is not insurmountable, and it’s important; just imagine you were gay, as well as black or Hispanic, and you were in the closet, or your were afraid to discuss your significant other, or people assumed you didn’t exist because you aren’t white. How would you feel?

We all underestimated the threat of Proposition 8, and the finger-pointing is understandable. My feeling is that we never spoke to the concerns of these communities that vote Democratic but aren’t necessarily thrilled about same-sex marriage. We never countered the arguments of the scaremongers, we never established that the same-sex marriage ruling doesn’t have any effect on schools or churches, we never claimed the mantle (as we should have) of strengthening marriage, love, and commitment for all Americans. It’s tough to establish the very real, and very sad, links between Jim Crow separate-but-equal laws and the idea of a separate institution for gay “civil unions” when gays are stereotyped as being white and well-to-do. If the truth got out—that whether or not you know, gay people are in your family, among your teachers, among your coworkers, among all the people you love and admire—it would change the dynamic entirely.

Prop. 8 might still get thrown out on the grounds that the California Constitution does not allow such sweeping changes to it without a Constitutional convention. Let’s hope the California Supreme Court rules the right way and strikes down this loathsome, opportunistic ballot measure. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Supreme Courts are there to protect fundamental rights, whether or not they’re in vogue; these are the kind of rights than cannot be invalidated by simple majority. Either way, though, I think I speak for us all in saying that I hope we learn as we heal from this debacle.

November 13, 2008

Discipleship and Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:06 pm

This essay really puts a lump in my throat. Christopher Priest on Proposition 8:

The Guy With The Microphone (According To Me)
The notion of gay marriage being a threat to straight marriage is ridiculous. The sanctity of marriage was undermined and trashed by *straight* people. These days, people treat marriage like it is the same as dating, people having “starter” or “trial” marriages—all of which I find offensive, and all of which undermines the sanctity of the institution. People, so committed to one another that simply dating is no longer enough for them, who fight for the right to be married, who risk their livelihoods and, in many cases, their personal safety if not their lives in order to marry—I can’t imagine in what way that kind of dedication undermine the institution of marriage. But, to be blunt—who cares? I mean, seriously, why do I care what other folk do?

Personally, I don’t affirm gay marriage. I don’t believe that’s what marriage is about. But, like navel tangerines [see earlier in the essay —Tina], that’s *my* belief. I don’t feel some compelling need to force people to agree with me or to live their lives the way I do. Moreover, there’s a terrible and slippery slope that begins with the denial of anyone’s civil rights. It’s quicksand: the more we do it, the easier doing it becomes. That people can’t see the connection between Prop 8 and The Patriot Act and FISA and Jim Crowe is utterly stunning to me, demonstrating how poor a job we do at educating our children, ourselves, not only about why America is great but about how easily the freedoms we take for granted can be stripped from us.

He goes on to discuss how denying civil rights to others is rather un-Christ-like. Jesus said that “my kingdom is not of this world,” imploring people to stockpile their treasures in heaven through deed rather than attempt to build a kingdom on Earth. To think we can do so is, as Priest says, blasphemous.

Priest is a minister and a writer. He was the first black writer both at Marvel and DC, and stomached a lot of bigotry for it without ever letting it change him. I cherish his run on Black Panther. Anyway, he’s excellent.

November 11, 2008

Love and Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:22 am

Please watch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

October 13, 2008

The Cure for What Veils You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:30 pm

World Briefing – Europe – France – Agency Rules That Burqa Violates Values – NYTimes.com
The French agency devoted to combating discrimination has determined that the burqa, the all-encompassing garment that some Muslim women wear, violates French values and inhibits integration into French society. “The burqa is a sign of the submission of women that surpasses its religious aspect and could be considered as a breach of republican values,” the agency, the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination and for Equality, said in a ruling, the daily newspaper La Croix reported Thursday. The decision means that women will not be permitted to wear burqas or niqabs, a related garment, in state-sponsored French-language classes.

I have mixed feelings about the burqa. On the one hand, everyone should have the right to wear whatever they want; I’d think that’s a cornerstone of American, and French, values. On the other hand, I don’t like knee-jerk liberal defense of the burqa because I don’t just dislike it when women are explicitly forced to wear the burqa (as under the Taliban), I dislike it when women are socially coerced or universally expected to wear the garment. So, in that sense, I do feel that the burqa represents oppression of women worldwide. However, I do understand that there are women who wear the burqa of their own free will, without any sort of coercion from outside, and such freedom to wear what you want ought to be encouraged. This French ruling pre-empts women’s right to wear what they want, and that I find distasteful.

I guess what I’m saying that a) I want to go to bat for the burqa because I feel this ruling is unconscionably restrictive, and b) I’m reluctant to go to bat for the burqa, because while I know many women wear it out of free will, I don’t want my (proud!) liberal sensibilities to get in the way of acknowledging that many women don’t get that choice and are forced to wear it through explicit force or through social coercion and expectation.

I wish I could wear whatever I wanted to, but society expects a standard of modesty for me. The burqa is a spectacularly restricting garment, expressing practically nothing of the women behind it. I suppose some women like it that way, and more power to them (or they like the garment for other reasons), but it still represents oppression so as long as women are forced (in any way) to wear it. I think that’s the kind of prejudice, the real threat to women, that this French ruling is meant to oppose, and it’s a shame that for such good intentions the bill is just more restriction of women’s freedoms. I don’t like the burqa, but the whole point of freedom is that I cannot and should not impose my beliefs upon others, and nobody should have the choice made for them beforehand.

Conscience and courage in Connecticut court

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:49 pm

Gay Marriage Is Ruled Legal in Connecticut – NYTimes.com
A sharply divided Connecticut Supreme Court struck down the state’s civil union law on Friday and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Connecticut thus joins Massachusetts and California as the only states to have legalized gay marriages.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed and is to take effect on Oct. 28, held that a state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, and a civil union law intended to provide all the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

October 28th is my birthday! Thank you, Connecticut. You thought of me.

Really, you should visit the article ’cause the photograph… it will just put that fuzzy lump in your heart. It’s wonderful! Human rights does that to you.

Suddenly, couples that have been together for years or decades can finally get married, and be considered equal citizens in the eyes of the state. No longer will gay people in Connecticut have to get married on a separate “track” of some kind, raising the dark specter of “separate but equal” that had a sad history in the United States. But most of all, I just love the idea that human beings, regardless of sexual orientation or race or class or whatever, deserve equal rights and respect. The fact that the government, which plays a large role in setting the tone for society, is extending that respect is wonderful.

Let this freedom spread from state to state! Equal marriage rights for gay couples! Go forth!

Striking at the heart of discriminatory traditions in America, the court — in language that often rose above the legal landscape into realms of social justice for a new century — recalled that laws in the not-so-distant past barred interracial marriages, excluded women from occupations and official duties, and relegated blacks to separate but supposedly equal public facilities.

“Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection,” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the majority in a 4-to-3 decision that explored the nature of homosexual identity, the history of societal views toward homosexuality and the limits of gay political power compared with that of blacks and women.

“Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same-sex partner of their choice,” Justice Palmer declared. “To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.”

September 27, 2008

Victorious Transsexuals: Diane Shroer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:59 am

You’ve probably heard about the severe pwnage achieved by counterterrorism expert Diane Shroer and her ACLU legal team. If this ruling stands, and God I hope it does, it’ll be a wonderful day for transsexuals who have now learned that, wow, they can get jobs now. And keep them. You know, our transsexual sons and daughters will get to grow up to be professionals, rather than be limited to prostitution and hairdressing.

GayCityNews – Trans Bias Claim Okayed
“No court would take seriously the notion that ‘converts’ are not covered by the statute,” [US District Judge James Robertson] wrote. “Discrimination ‘because of religion’ easily encompasses discrimination because of a change of religion. But in cases where the plaintiff has changed her sex, and faces discrimination because of the decision to stop presenting as a man and to start appearing as a woman, courts have traditionally carved such persons out of the statute by concluding that ‘transsexuality’ is unprotected… courts have allowed their focus on the label ‘transsexual’ to blind them to the statutory language itself.”

Anyway, this write-up from the AP is a great summary of the logic behind the ruling. A key component of the issue at hand is that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was not crafted with transsexuals in mind. Can you read the statutory language of a ruling to include people not thought of at the time? Well, you can, according to a line of reasoning increasingly used by the Supreme Court, and consistently advocated by one of its more right-wing members.

His name? Antonin Scalia.

PWN’d!

Anyway, I’m really happy to know that a federal court has acknowledged that when you discriminate against transsexuals, it’s sex discrimination. I hope y’alls, my cissexual brothers and sisters, can understand how much that feels like the clouds lifting and the sun coming out. I have a future, and it’s in large part thanks to a wise and forward-thinking ruling out of a US District Court.

Boo-yah!

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