Saturday, February 28, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. — In a city that prides itself on respect for military veterans, scorn is a fact of life for former Army captain Erin Russ.
Neighbors gawk when she takes out the trash. Even simple errands can be a source of angst for Russ, who was born a man but now lives as a woman.
Decades after former soldier Christine Jorgensen stunned 1950s America by undergoing a sex change, a small army of veterans in similar straits has quietly sprung up in Tucson and around the country.
Officially, the Pentagon bans transsexuals - those who believe they were born with the wrong male or female parts - from serving. Yet some research suggests there may be a higher prevalence in the military than in society at large. That's because some young men, conflicted over their feminine feelings, enlist to try to escape them, the research found. Advocates refer to these former troops as "invisible" veterans.
"This is something I think nobody wants to talk about," said Russ, 52. "Transgender veterans basically make other people rethink their preconceived ideas of what a veteran is. We don't just push the envelope - we crumple it up and throw it away."
Mocked by strangers and often shortchanged by the veterans health care system, these ex-troops say they get little of the respect accorded to those they served alongside.
No one knows for sure how many veterans are affected by "gender identity disorder," which the American Medical Association calls "a serious medical condition ... which causes intense emotional pain and suffering."
The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System sees close to 50 former troops who are transsexual or are diagnosed with gender disorder, many of them in various states of transition from their birth sex. And there may be dozens more who aren't registered for care with the VA, local advocates say.
A national group, the Transgender American Veterans Association, estimates that somewhere around 300,000 transgender people have served, or now serve, in the U.S. military. That's roughly 1 percent of the country's nearly 27 million veterans and 2.2 million active-duty and reserve troops.
Transgender people aren't eligible to serve because they fall under a policy that excludes those with "learning, psychiatric and behavioral disorders," said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for U.S. Army recruiting command.
A study titled "Transsexuals in the Military: Flight Into Hypermasculinity" - a classic still cited in college texts on gender issues - was written in 1988 by Dr. George R. Brown, then an Air Force captain and psychiatrist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Brown found it curious that in a three-year period at the Midwestern base, he came across 11 men - eight current and former military, the rest civilians such as Defense Department staffers - all seeking treatment to become women. Each veteran told him nearly the same thing: He had enlisted hoping to "become a real man."
Brown's findings ring true for Dr. Jennifer Vanderleest, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - one of the few in the country where future doctors are trained on the medical needs of transgender patients.
Vanderleest has treated more than 100 transgender people in Tucson, including many veterans who "are very proud of their military service," she said. Many wait decades before seeking medical help, she said.
"How can you process what is going on with you internally when you are operating in a world where you can't be who you are?" she said.
Transgender people often sense their predicaments at a young age, Vanderleest said. That's how it was for Russ, the former Army captain who has been living full time as a female since 2001. Commissioned as an Army officer in 1979, Russ served a total of 11 years in the reserves and on active duty, and planned to stay on until retirement. But in 1990, Russ said, "my career came to a screeching halt."
While stationed at Fort Wainwright in Alaska, the captain, off-duty and dressed as a woman, was stopped by civilian police for a driving violation.
The traffic cop "wrote a page-long report on how I was dressed and gave a copy to the military," Russ said. "On Monday morning, I was called into the commander's office and told I was going to be court-martialed for conduct unbecoming an officer."
Russ was allowed to resign honorably and, after a painful divorce, came to Tucson a few years later.
"At that point, I was thinking, 'I can't go on like this.'"
So she grew her hair long and started going to the veterans hospital for hormone treatments, which softened her skin and swelled her breasts. "People usually don't change until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of changing," Russ said. "For me, the pain of staying the same was overwhelming."
Mick Andoso of Tucson, now a bearded construction inspector, kept his secret for 20 years as a woman in the Air Force. Andoso, 51, retired in 1995 as a first sergeant. Back then, Andoso's name was Master Sgt. Brenda Weichelt - who in 1994 was named one of the service's top airmen for her work at the military's Defense Language Institute in California.
A few years ago, after legally changing his name and gender, he said he went to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to ask for a new photo ID card to access base services for retirees. He showed a clerk a copy of his court order. The D-M staffer said the Air Force doesn't allow gender changes, Andoso recalled.
"He was really rude. I got the impression he was disgusted by me."
Andoso's run-in is not surprising, said Monica Helms, a Vietnam-era Navy submariner and president of the Transgender American Veterans Association.
Transgender veterans often are disrespected at military bases, in the VA system and elsewhere in a society that professes to honor those who have served their nation, she said.
"Transgender people have fought in every war, shedding the same red American blood as every other person who has protected this nation," Helms said.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
We, as Transgender people, need to be more visible and more vocal across the board. Remember, our job is to educate, legislate and litigate. You do not have to own a business to participate in HRBOR. You might be thinking of owning a business or you work for a company who would participate as part of their inclusive EEO statement. If you live outside of Hampton Roads, check to see if you have such an organization in your area at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
I asked the President of HRBOR, Shannon Bowman to share some comments about HRBOR:
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to address your audience on Trans Talk. Very interesting and insightful blog De. If it’s OK with you, I'd like to include in our new resources section of the HRBOR website. http://hrbor.org/home/Resources/online-resources.html
As represented in the T, HRBOR is committed to becoming a resource for all members of the LGBT community. Since the start of HRBOR, in May of 2007, we have been committed to providing a voice for the entire LGBT community and provide opportunities for networking, marketing, addressing policies that affect discrimination in the workplace and providing a voice for our members through newsletters, an online forum and a member-based events calendar.
While our membership consists mainly of members within the lesbian and gay community, it is our goal to include and increase membership in the transgender community as well. As an all inclusive organization, our mission is to continue to meet the needs of the entire LGBT community and we will continue to market to the transgender community and try and develop that base of members. We have and will continue to encourage participation of members of the transgender community so we can develop relationships that will benefit all our businesses and continue to educate the public at large regarding business and employment issues all members of the LGBT community continue to face.
Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you at HRBOR and thanks for your continued support!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In the new article below, Mr. Kudalkar appears to want documentation that his rubbers break and spring leaks. Do I smell a bureaucratic rat? How sad is this? Article taken from: The Times of India Poor-quality condoms upset transgender groups 22 Feb 2009, 0229 hrs IST, Rajiv Sharma, TNN MUMBAI: Activists working with transgender groups in the city have complained to the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) about the poor quality of condoms being supplied to them, which is leading to a higher rate of infection. Gauri Nandan of NGO Sakhi Chaar Chaughi said the condoms they gave transgender persons (which were supplied by the MDACS) were not up to the mark. "Many of our members say they tend to break during anal intercourse,'' she said. The head of the NGO said the MDACS was yet to respond. MDACS project director Shantaram Kudalkar, admitted that some transgender persons had come to him with the issue of poor-quality condoms. "But it is important to first get this issue documented. We have suggested that they should take their customers' comments,'' he said.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Reann is from rural Goochland County and is a senior at GMU. I applaud the student body at GMU for electing Reann.the school's administration for supporting the election and the wonderful diversity this school celebrates.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Anyway, I decided to take Yoga this semester as an elective partly in an attempt to do something healthy with myself and also to get my credit hours up to full time without extra homework to deal with. :)
Now, this is going to get kinda personal, but I usually wear pretty baggy jeans and I don't swim in public anymore. Thus, wearing a packy has not been high on my list of things to worry about. I've always focused more on concealing my chest. But going into the semester and knowing I was going to be wearing a different fabric I was conscious of what I would - and would not be showing. So, I finally broke down and ordered a little something online. As it ended up on backorder - I started my semester with...well, a sock. An ankle sock to be exact...not a tube sock I may say. Didn't want to over do anything of course! LOL
So...week in, week out there I am in class. Me, my blue mat and my um, well, my sock. So I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror before venturing over to campus checking out my eh, "sock" for placement. I wanted a nice buldge but not too much of one. I mean, I'm in a room with 15 attractive females in spandex, come on! I didn't want anyone to think I'm a perv!
The last time I took my sock with me to class...well, I'm not sure exactly what happened but we were doing a different pose, and it got all bunched up in front without me realizing it because I had my mind on bending and contorting my poor body into submission. Finally we get to the part where I get to lie flat on my back and focus on the lower half which is my favorite part.I happen to glance down at my toes and I have a pup tent saluting the ceiling tiles! Ack! The professor is passing out straps to help us with our stretches and I try non-chalant like to readjust myself a few times but nothings working. Whats worse, for the first time there's a new student in class, a GUY and he looks like a pretty cool guy to get to know. I can tell from body language he wants to say hi, but I'm being grumpy and totally ignoring him. Being grumpy is my impression to pass better as a dude. Men are grumpy, women smile, right? heh heh.
Finally, class draws to a close. I hurriedly passed in my index card which is my only proof I've attended like a good little student and get the heck out of there and back home where I pull the sock out of my pants before I'm even up the stairs to my bedroom. Now I'm back to wearing cargo pants to class. It's funny after all this time I feel like a brand new tranny. I shared this story with a guy friend of mine, and he said nothing else could welcome me to manhood more fully than unwanted wood. LOL
Monday, February 16, 2009
At the end of Vagina Weekend, formerly known as Valentine’s day (thanks Eve Ensler) a girl and her vagina are tired and pissed.
See, vagina meant quieter, caretaker, peacemaker. Vagina meant keeping lips closed, keeping bodies posed. Vagina was silent dolls and no action toys, Vagina was punches when I played with the boys.
Friday: getting coffee, so not awake. Standing in line, staring into my coffee waiting for magic to awaken my weary bones. The old man in front of me turned and said, “Here, get in front of me so I don’t have to keep looking back.” On sleepy autopilot I said, “Thanks”. After I moved the reality of what he said hit me. Do I turn & punch him? Do I express my anger & tell him how out of place he was? Do I jump up on my feminist soapbox?
Yes, we are Deconstruction Workers. We are exposing unfounded bedrocks That bed us to one sex, that wed us to one gender.
Saturday: I awaken to her leaving my house. I was being the perfect gentle…woman (?) [why isn’t there an equivalent] She has a great spirit and soul but I’m not into drama. Happy Valentine’s Day.
I'm pounding out my path as I cruise this gender landscape, As I peruse the choice between silence and Violence.
I meet the ladies for dinner & a play. Crying at a play…invoking my rage at not having the freedom to marry ANYone I choose. Angry tears at the reality of privileged heterosexuality. The daily fight I have in working within corporate to ancient ideologies of white patriarchal supremacy. On my time off I find myself facing that continued fight. Thank goddess for wine.
Matthew Shepard was bent, so you hang him to a fence, Brandon Teena was murdered as a liar for hiding his Vagina. And I can't even sit In a restaurant without causing a stir: "Whaddya have sir? Whaddya have sir? Whaddya have sir?" I have a Vagina!Sunday: The beauty of honoring life…grateful to have been a part of honoring a woman who I didn’t have the privilege to know. Because her son teaches that love conquers all, that in this Jerry Springer idealized judgmental landscape…a beautiful soul shines out of a transgendered body. This soul who has the greatest gift with the love of a woman, the love of a chosen family and the love of a mother, so many things that are denied so many, because our choice was in being true to ourselves.
Yes, I'm a giant Vagina! And I am too big for these boxes they give, Too real for this Gender Toyland Built over soiled contradictions With Barbie bricks and Ken cornerstones
My yearning: to tear down the web of BS and stale philosophies, so that there are no more violent acts, no more accepted violations of humanity, regardless of where the existence is within the gender binary or encompassing the whole fluid cup… That the love Lola had for her son was the norm… that there was no alternative identity or sexuality.
Yearn that my Vagina Day Weekend 2009…is not the only day to show the love I have for the courage those that have taught me so much have shown. Vagina Day isn’t the only day for teaching and accepting…and even when I may have a Valentine’s Day, there will always be a Vagina Day for the beautiful people that exist outside the lackluster gender binary that so many consider “normal”
We are overturning those stones, We are throwing them back. We are making revolution A gender evolution. We are invoking strategy, we are revoking shame. And we are calling it. We are calling it Refusal to be Named. Lyrics to “Gender Game” by Alix Olson
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The attorney was shocked at how I was so blatantly discriminated against. BUT (Oh, oh here it comes) the attorney continued, there are no laws at any level protecting you from Transgender identity or gender expression discrimination if you are a contractor.
Let's run down the list. First, forget about Virginia. There are zero, nada, zilch non discrimination laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Massachusetts, as well as the city of Boston, were pioneers in establishing non discrimination laws for sexual orientation, BUT (here we go again) somehow Transgender identity and gender expression were somehow (wink, wink, nod, nod ~ Me thinks I smell gradualism) not included at the state level. The cities of Boston, Cambridge and Northampton have some Transgender anti discrimination protection according to the organization Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders - GLAD. On the Federal level, (Thanks, Human Rights Campaign!) there is no anti discrimination protection for either sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The attorney went on to say the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are considering legislation which would fully include Transgender identity and gender expression into their anti discrimination laws. The attorney asked if my complaint could be sent to the organizations sponsoring this legislation. They might want to use my testimonal as an example of why such anti discrimination laws are necessary. "Absolutely", I said. I will do what ever it takes to get things changed. I have nothing to lose and we as the Trans minority have everything to gain. As for me, I was thrilled the ACLU even looked at my complaint and it was on record.
For Transgender and gender non confirming people we continue to be visible and vocal. We continue to strive for equality through education, legislation and litigation ~ EELL.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
In my closeted life, I used to do a whole lot of traveling with my business. I stayed in hotels and lived out of a suitcase for two to three months at a time. Hmmm, maybe several suitcases - his clothes, her clothes and every ones clothes.
During the day, I was your typical mild mannered business consultant, Mr. Conservative. In the evening, after the sun went down, in my room, the Trans Mistress of the Night came out. Funny how newbie Trans people including me act and sometimes look like the characters out of one of those bad vampire flicks. You know with lots of makeup, dressed to the nines and big, big hair. Myself, I favored the Elvira, Mistress of the Night look. (check my profile pic and you will understand that this is just wrong!) I was all dressed up with no place to go!
It was a cold snowy February night in upstate New York. The Trans Mistress of the Night (oy!) peeked outside to see if it was safe. You never know when one of those Trans Mistress hunters like Buffy might be lurking around the corner ready to pounce and drive a stake through the heart. Slowly, I walked outside and got in my car. I drove around the village and found a small shopping center. This is where it gets interesting.The parking lot was empty. The stores were closed. I would park, get out of the car and walk to a closed store. Heart beating a mile a minute (Trans of the Night do have hearts you know). I just couldn't get out of the car. Nope, chicken ....bluck, bluck, bluck.
I drove back to the hotel, walked to my room and ...geesh....I didn't have the room key. I locked it in the room in my hurry to go out. Yikes! What do I do now?
Any other person would go to the front desk and get another key but the Trans Mistress of the Night was shrewd and cunning. She got back in her car, called the front desk from her mobile phone (yes, Trans Mistresses of the Night do have mobiles) and asked if they would be so kind and unlock the door. A business colleague was picking up important papers and I couldn't make it back to the room to meet them.
After the door was unlocked, this Trans Mistress of the Night crept back into the room unnoticed and unharmed. Another nightly mission accomplished but still dressed up with no place to go!
Do you have a story to share? Feel free to send it to me to post.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
- "Billey Joe was at his former girlfriend's house minutes before the killing.2 He never entered the house, but police were called to respond to an attempted burglary there.3 This fact was not a part of the original story given by the police."
- "Billey Joe's family says that his ex-girlfriend had been staying at her father's house because her mother threw her out for dating Billey Joe (she is White and Billey Joe was Black). They said Billey Joe knew to only go to the house when the girl's father was not present, that the two of them were on good terms even after they had broken up, and that the breakup was largely because of pressure from her father. The family also claims that there is a relationship between the officer present at the scene of Billey Joe's death and the girl's father."
- "A witness heard two shots, not one, at the scene where Billey Joe died, according to an independent investigation launched by the Mississippi NAACP. The pathologist in that investigation has indicated that it would be impossible for a bullet from a self-inflicted shot to enter in the manner that it did. He also said that given the length of Billey Joe's arms and the length of the shotgun, it would have been impossible for him to hold the weapon and fire it at himself."
- "Billey Joe was a star athlete with scholarship offers from more than half a dozen schools. No one--including family, friends, and coaches--could think of a reason that Billey Joe would want to end his life."(4),(5),(6)
"A true investigation would sort out fact from rumor. But we can't be sure that Johnson's family will get the investigation it deserves. In the case of the Jena 6 we saw a District Attorney and a judge incapable of carrying out justice in a racially charged environment. In the recent case of the murder of Oscar Grant by police (and many like it), we see how unlikely it is for District Attorneys to do their job when the suspect is an officer of the law. But in both these cases, public pressure has made all the difference by shining a spotlight on local authorities. In the case of Billey Joe Johnson, we're looking for the truth and for justice. A minute of your time can help ensure his family gets both:"
Thanks and Peace,
-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, William, Dani, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
February 6th, 2009
1. "Mississippi family looks for answers in son's death," USA Today, 12-22-08 http://tinyurl.com/aul9hd
2. "Autopsy not completed in football star's death," The Sun Herald, 1-06-09 http://www.sunherald.com/local/story/1050689.html
3. Police report and radio logs detailing events leading up to Johnson's death, posted on WKRG-TV website http://www.wkrg.com/news/flash_paper/12_19_08_billy_joe_johnson/
4. "CNN Newsroom: Mystery Death in Mississippi," CNN, 12-17-08 http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0812/17/cnr.07.html
5. "Mississippi running back Billey Joe Johnson, Jr. ran for 1,559 yards and 24 touchdowns before his death in December," Collin Mickle-Press-Register, 1-11-09 http://tinyurl.com/cs7cjm
6. "Player's death report leaves many puzzled," The Sun Herald, 12-21-08 http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_11280331