Posts Tagged ‘legal stuff’

New Yorkers sue over birth certificates

March 26, 2011 1 comment

News story:

This isn’t going to be a long post, I just figured that some of you out there who might not have caught wind of this would be interested.

A group of trans people in New York city have filed a lawsuit to be allowed to have their birth certificate information changed despite having not had sex-reassignment surgery, on the basis that they couldn’t get surgery at the current time (and one person apparently never). This could be a very influential suit, whichever way it goes. I’m not currently aware of any precedent for this (and the article certainly doesn’t provide much legal background).

In the article, the opposition only has this to say for itself: “The Health Department must be satisfied that an applicant has completely and permanently transitioned to the acquired gender prior to the issuance of a birth certificate.” Which of course does not require expensive and potentially dangerous surgery.

Other (occasionally slightly longer) news articles don’t give much additional information as to the arguments or position of the City, most of the difference lies in how much information about transgendered people they try to cram in:


Howie Hawkins press release

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I was emailed this press release:

Hawkins and Greens Support Full Rights for Gay, Lesbian. Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Individuals

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today he “supports full rights for all members of our society, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Greens like Mayor Jason West of New Paltz have provided critical leadership to issues such as the right to same-sex marriage. I will do the same as Governor.”

Hawkins said that he hopes that the statements in recent days across the political spectrum condemning the homophobic remarks of Republican candidate Carl Paladino will be translated into concrete political action to enact stronger legislation and programs supporting the GLBT community.

Hawkins expressed his disappointment earlier this year over the defeat of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in areas like housing and employment.

The Green Party supports the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender people in housing, jobs, benefits, child custody, civil marriage, medical benefits and all areas of life provided to other citizens.

In addition to same-sex marriage, I will advocate for:

* Legislation to provide penalties for acts of violence and intimidation motivated by bias based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or sexual orientation;

* The right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex;

* support transgender New Yorkers having equal health care insurance coverage for things like hormone treatments, appropriate routine medical care and screening, and gender confirming surgery;

* sufficient funding for the State Division of Human Rights to fulfill its duty to investigate complaints in a fair and timely manner, and earmarking funds to educate employers and the public at large on state human rights laws like the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA);

* legislation that would allow localities to do business only with companies that extend to domestic partners of their employees the same benefits that are extended to spouses;

* youth in juvenile justice and other facilities operated by the Office of Children and Family Services should be protected from discrimination and bias harassment based on sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression;

* insurance companies should be required to sell domestic partner insurance policies on the same basis as spousal insurance coverage;

* support legislation that would allow employees to use sick time to care for a sick family member, including domestic partners;

* support full access to reproductive health and safe abortions.

It can also be found on his website here. I’m particularly pleased about the use of the term “gender confirming surgery”.

I’m a little annoyed that it apparently took public outcry over Paladino’s hateful remarks to precipitate this, but at least it’s out there now.

Trans in the New York 2010 elections

September 18, 2010 2 comments

Transgender is a dirty word in New York this election season. You won’t hear about us in the debates or see us on the news. Many candidates want to be seen as being pro-“LGBT issues”, but few seem willing to talk about anything other than “gay” marriage and DADT. So, for that particular letter at the end of the acronym, how can you be expected to support a group of people you won’t even talk about? I have spent the last several hours on NY candidate websites finding out who’s talking about trans people and how much they’re willing to say. This information is mostly gleaned from “issues” sections of websites, the ideas that the candidates want to be associated with most. Occasionally I made use of a “search” function when available. This obviously doesn’t include candidates that did not bother to have websites, and I did not feel masochistic enough to dig through hundreds of news articles to get further information. What is presented is what any researcher could find in a few minutes, what most people would associate with particular candidates.

So let’s see what we have.

For the gubernatorial candidates, we have a grand total of two who mention transgendered people at all anywhere on their website. One is Jimmy McMillan of the “Rent is Way too High” party. He dedicates a whole page to the subject, where he asserts the rights of trans people to be treated equally and makes a point of differentiating us from homosexuals (he also, for some reason, differentiates between “gay” and “homosexual”). Unfortunately he makes no mention whatsoever of any actual issues affecting trans people or what he might do about any of it (but he does know how to pronounce transgender…seriously, why is there IPA on a political website?). The other candidate is Howie Hawkins, of the Green party. I actually contacted Hawkins earlier in the year, asking specifically about his position on trans issues. He emailed me back, happily explaining about his pro-trans platform and all the things he was doing personally to forward trans rights. On his website? The only mention of trans people at all is on the NY Pride Agenda Candidate Questionnaire. The only LGBT issue he puts in his “issues” section is the omnipresent “same sex” marriage. So, he’s very eager to tell queers all about how he supports us, but doesn’t seem to make the leap to telling anybody else.

Next we have incumbent state comptroller Tom DiNapoli. DiNapoli does not have a campaign website, but a quick search for “transgender” on the main comptroller site brings up the LGBT section of his “Your Money New York” website. Here we find the following statement: “Since becoming Comptroller, State Comptroller DiNapoli has prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression by vendors who contract with the Office of the State Comptroller…” This is nice, but something that will completely vanish once DiNapoli is replaced or retires (it’s the same sort of thing with executive orders, they can easily be reversed by later officeholders, which is why I wasn’t impressed with Obama’s executive order protecting trans federal workers or a similar one for NY state workers; not going to last). In addition to this, some of the links from the page have decent resources for trans people in NY. Then again, this is all stuff you find when looking for it, I can’t tell if he’s actually talking about any of this openly.

Then there’s the Democratic candidate for Attorney General Eric Schneider. He actually doesn’t mention trans people on his website, but the specific way in which he doesn’t do this is worthy of some comment. He writes: “…Eric is fighting to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which ensures that all New Yorkers are free from discrimination.” That’s right, Schneider is flaunting his support for a piece of legislation WITHOUT MENTIONING THE PEOPLE IT’S SUPPOSED TO HELP AT ALL. Needless to say, this pisses me off. GENDA is not for “all New Yorkers”, GENDA is legislation to protect trans people. There are two possible explanations, either Schneider doesn’t give a shit about trans people and is just supporting GENDA for the Liberal Points™, or he does care but is too much of a coward to actually come out and say the word “transgender”. I reiterate what I said in the first paragraph: how can you be expected to support a group of people you won’t even talk about?

That’s it for statewide candidates. Four. Out of 36 running for five positions. Seriously, none of the senate candidates is talking about this. I don’t think anybody after Schumer’s seat (even Schumer himself) mention LGBT issues at all. I went to the trouble of looking at all the house candidates for New York, and another three of them have some mention of trans people (out of I don’t know how many, not going to count them). None of them are from my district, by the way.

Of district 4 we have Democratic candidate Carolyn McCarthy. She flaunts her sponsorship and support of various bills, including H.R. 1913 the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act”. Among other things, “It would also amend the Hate Crime Statistics Act to require the collection of data on violent crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s perceived gender or gender identity…” That’s it. McCarthy is in favor of counting trans people victimized by hate crimes, not that they’re actually defined as hate crimes in NY law at the moment.

Of district 5 we have Democratic candidate Gary Ackerman. He says “I was proud to recently cast my vote in favor of an expansion of federal hate-crimes laws to include gender and sexual orientation.” I’m not actually sure if this one counts. What the hell does he mean by “gender” here? Protections for “gender” usually mean pro-woman not pro-trans. Does he mean to say “gender identity and expression” like it’s worded in all the legal documents, and just not bother to proofread? Or is this another case of vying for Liberal Points™ without actually knowing/caring what you’re talking about? I’m leaning towards the second myself, but I’m pretty cynical at this point.

Finally we have district 12 candidate Nydia Velazquez. I’d say she was a democrat, but it hardly matters because she doesn’t seem have an opponent. As such, she doesn’t have much of an election website either. However, by searching for transgender on her regular website, we get four results that don’t distinguish trans people from the LGBT acronym or talk about trans issues at all. They each mention trans people exactly once, to state the long form of the acronym. That’s it. So here we have the opposite problem of the rest of it, most everyone is avoiding the word, Velazquez is saying the word and thinking that’s all she needs to do. Why is it that people lump trans into anything LGB related and think that means they’re helping the trans community? Ugh, different rant.

So there you have it. The answer to who’s looking out for trans interests in NY this coming election is: practically nobody and they’ll probably stop as soon as the election is over anyway. Unless you have a really awesome state senate or assembly candidate, I didn’t look at those (my districts both have unopposed seven-year-incumbent republicans, so not only am I not voting in those elections but looking through everyone else’s candidates would have been as depressing as it would have been tedious).

Edit: reposted to Spectrum Cafe

Obama’s AIDS Policy

August 7, 2010 1 comment

I may be a bit late to the party here, but I’ve been reading the new National AIDS Policy Strategy and Implementation. Overall I like it, good goals are set and a comprehensive plan is outlined, so hopefully we actually, you know, DO it. It’s a step in the right direction, but it could definitely do better, so I’m going to nitpick the hell out of it.

This report basically ignores two groups that I consider important to any discussion of HIV infection and transmission: trans people and sex workers.

On the first, it’s not that trans people aren’t mentioned in the reports, we actually are: 8 times in the Strategy and 6 in the Implementation. Only two mentions (one each) are independent of a grouping with “LGBT” or “gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals”. It admits that infection among trans people may be as high as 30% (NOT one of the independent mentions, though it does sort of identify trans as a distinct group from “gay and bisexual men”, so let’s call it two-and-a-half), but does not include much in the way of specific protections to help trans people, concentrating its “populations with greatest need” portions on men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM), black, and latino communities. Looking at the numbers provided, the highest risk groups according to the report are black injected drug users (IDU), 2.7% for black women IDU and 1.8% for black men IDU, and MSM, 1.7% for black MSM, 0.7% for latino MSM, and 0.3% for white MSM. Even if the 30% figure is inflated, it represents a clear outlier. White MSM as the group with the highest NUMBER of infections is a product of sheer mass, and the fact that transpeople didn’t make it to the big graphs in the report is a product of small numbers, but the difference in proportions is shocking.

In terms of the goals of the AIDS policy, goals for transpeople are decidedly lacking. While MSM, black, and latino communities each have a goal of 20% fewer new infections by 2015. The only place where transgendered individuals are mentioned separately in the implementation is to say “By the end of 2011…CDC will expand its work evaluating adaptations of specific interven¬tions for transgender populations and issue a fact sheet recommend¬ing HIV prevention approaches for transgender persons.” Less than 3% population gets a 20% reduction in new infections, but as high as 30% gets a pamphlet? It’s really indicative of how little treatment transpeople have gotten that the government is citing proven prevention methods for other groups in the study, but we still need to do more research on what works for transpeople, and that it’s going to take at least another year to even figure it out.

The policy also fails to address stigma-based infection. While the reports focus some attention on reducing the stigma of being infected with HIV, it does very little with the fact that stigma is often implicated in higher HIV rates and lower survival rates amongst infected individuals. No mention is made of the fact that LGBTQ people that are rejected by their families are at higher risk for HIV infection (Rejecting behaviors in parents and caregivers lead to high rates of depression, substance use, attempted suicide, and high risk for HIV infection). The report does admit that prejudice may be implicated in poorer prognoses for HIV among POC and transpeople, but couples this information with the statement that “Heterosexual providers may not be comfortable asking about sexual history when taking a patient’s history and this may limit appropriate care.” equating harassment, racism, and denial of healthcare to prudish discomfort. And the implementation of the plan makes no suggestions, as far as I saw, for addressing this, the only changes to the behavior of healthcare providers being better coordination of resources. Any comprehensive policy of healthcare should take steps to reduce prejudice people experience from their doctors, so SOMETHING should be included here, at the very least tracking reports of prejudice directed at these programs filed by HIV infected individuals (given that the report already expands regulatory agencies to track effectiveness of programs).

As for treatment of sex workers, there is none. I would love to site numbers that say there should be, but there aren’t any of those either (in the United States…very little information is gathered about workers and their clients. As with Western Europe, many of the HIV cases that do occur amongst sex workers in the U.S. are attributed to injecting drug use rather than sex). In fact, when searching for this, I had to specify “United States” because I kept getting nothing but statistics from Africa and Southeast Asia. We know more about sex workers in Vietnam and Côte d’Ivoire than we do about those in the US. I think this is important, partly because of stereotypes about contracting STD’s (including HIV) from sex workers. It may be that they are not at much elevated risk, as condoms are considered standard fare amongst sex workers (though recent legislation may change that in some places), but surely the report should have contained a request for more information. If we are willing to distribute needles to IDU, than we should be willing to address other illegal activities to reduce HIV infection (other than trying ham-handedly to eradicate them). I don’t even have as much to say here as I did about transpeople, because there’s nothing to quote or pick at at all, just silence.

On a slightly different note: I did find it interesting to see how HIV rates so clearly outlined intersection. Women are slightly more likely than men to be infected, POC more likely than whites, queers more likely than straights, the poor more likely than the middle and upper classes. The only anomaly in this is queer women, which is understandable given the vectors of transmission.

Social activism as opposed to legal

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

A lot of attention is being given to proposed laws like ENDA, and by a lot of attention I mean attention by LGBT activists (I don’t watch the news often enough to determine if it’s being given much attention by anyone else). The primary focus of many LG(B) organizations seems to be legalization of same-sex marriage. I’m starting to wonder what such total concentration on the legal aspects may cost us.

See this from my perspective: While I currently have no job (poor economy, I live with my family in a small town far away from the university I attend making a steady job impossible, little job experience due to concentration on extracurriculars in high school, not exactly in my favor), if I did I would most certainly not be out at work, especially if I got that job in my aforementioned small town. It only takes one supervisor who is made uncomfortable by queerness (not even one who is particularly queer-phobic, just enough unease to put me under more scrutiny) to cost me my job. If ENDA were to pass, I would have to prove such discrimination in court. Unless my former boss had specifically said “I’m firing you because you are a queer/tranny/faggot” and someone else heard them, I could not possibly afford the legal battle (and only then because I could represent myself in the case of such obvious queer-phobia). ENDA may help some people, who are exposed to blatant queer-phobia and/or can afford to pay lawyers, assuming that local courts aren’t queer-phobic themselves (another reason my hypothetical legal battle would probably fail out here in the boonies), but in the end it just masks the real problem. It provides a legal route to recompense, but it doesn’t help people who are most likely to be affected in the first place. Only a reduction overall of queer-phobia and hatred will solve the issue.

As for the marriage issue, I’m probably biased in that I’ve had some very bad experiences with other people’s marriages (my family has a 100% divorce rate over two generations, and when the parents of a friend of mine got divorced restraining orders were involved). I have no desire personally to have any future breakups of mine involve mountains of paperwork, and don’t see the point in telling the government that I want to spend the rest of my life with someone. But I will say this: anti-gay-marriage activists are basing their message on the idea that there is only one legitimate kind of relationship. So, shouldn’t the fight be less about “we have this right” and more about “your basic premise is way off”?

I’m not saying these things aren’t good, they are. Legal victories are victories, but I think it’s unfortunate that those are the only kind of victories activist groups are looking for. Not only that, but legal change follows social change pretty predictably (if a little belatedly). Look at the civil rights movement: desegregation didn’t happen until enough white people woke up enough to say “hey, maybe we are being dumbfucks about this”. That’s why allies to the LGBT movement are so important, we’re a minority and that has some repercussions in terms of our legal and social power. And “separate isn’t equal” was attacking the ideology of racism as much as it was attacking segregation laws. In other words, desegregation didn’t happen until the ideology beneath it was eroded enough that the civil rights movement got the support it needed from the privileged majority (not to say that desegregation ended racism, that still has quite a ways to go).

Activist organizations DO have social programs; educational materials are distributed to hospitals, police forces, etc. But you don’t see anything like that making the front page on the NTCE website. That’s pretty much all ENDA, all the time. Laws are only as useful as the community or society’s willingness to enforce them. If we were to actually focus most of our energy (or at least a higher portion of it) on social change as opposed to legal change, not only would it be much easier to pass the protective laws we need, but eventually (someday waaaaay in the future) we won’t even need those protections. Organizations don’t even need to do anything different, just shift the priorities of certain projects.

Dexamethasone, why?

Some of you may have heard about a recent article detailing the intent of one Dr. Maria New to use an experimental in-utero drug to encourage heterosexuality and normative gender behavior in XX individuals with CAH. Now, I imagine few will disagree that using medicine to preemptively cure homosexuality and bisexuality is unethical at best (given that neither is recognized as a medical condition nor have been shown to cause risk to the individual), and that trying to prevent such gems of human diversity as “lower interest… in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role” is beyond ridiculous. But there’s one other thing that I would like to bring up now: why the shithell does this drug even exist in the first place?

The drug Dr. New is proposing to (ab)use for her purposes, dexamethasone (or “dex”), is an experimental drug for “preventing development of ambiguous genitalia in girls with CAH” or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Now, CAH has a variety of causes, some of which do not develop into intersex conditions (as ambiguous genitalia would be classified). While some varieties of CAH do have serious medical repercussions, even leading to death, which overlap with some varieties that lead to ambiguous genitalia in XX individuals, dex does not propose to prevent or treat those repercussions. Instead it focuses on creating “normal” genitalia. Intersex conditions are very often simple benign variations in genital formation (and, later, some secondary sex characteristics), sometimes leading physicians to scritch their heads over which letter to put on a child’s birth certificate. Because of this confusion on the parts of the doctors, intersex children are often subjected to repeated “corrective” surgeries to “normalize” their genitalia (repeated because they tend not to work the first time), though thankfully a growing portion of the medical community no longer supports this. And now we have this, a drug designed to treat the benign effects of a disorder. There’s hard earned grant money being spent on this drek. Not to mention that, though it has proceeded to human trials, the previous animal trials were not very promising: ” There is evidence from animal studies that prenatal dex treatment leads to neurotoxicity…”

So, a subset of the medical community has put the normative binary model of “normal” genitalia ahead of the health of a group of children who were already potentially going to be abused and mutilated by doctors. Maria New, despite her ideas being a serious threat to human diversity and just being nice to others, only really factors in to my objection to this drug as an afterthought.

Oppression for the Sake of Removing Oppression: doesn’t work.

(Note:  I am not Muslim nor do I identify as female, so if I have screwed up anywhere in this please correct me.  Nicely.)

I had something else I wanted to talk about, but that can wait a few days.  This is about an article I read this morning in USA Today.  France, it seems, along with several other nations, is attempting to place a ban on niqabs (otherwise known as “the veil”) and burqas.  There are several reasons given for this, but the one that sands out to me most is that they are “a symbol of the oppression of women.”

Here’s the thing about that:  yes, sort of.  In a number of nations hijabs and/or other coverings are required for women in public.  This requirement is a symbol of oppression of women, justified through religion-based patriarchy.  Forcing women to cover is oppression.  But are women in France being forced to cover?  One might argue, given that many European Muslim communities operate in their own neighborhoods similar to Chinatowns in cities in the US, that they are under social pressure to do so by their family and neighbors.  But I have a little story for you.

There is a girl attending my university who wears a niqab around campus.  This is a liberal, American, predominantly Christian university.  What social pressure could possibly be influencing her to veil?  The general social pressure likely is in the opposite direction.  So why do it, if the act is so intrinsically oppressive?  Certainly she has been brought up with it, being taught that it is a symbol of humility or devotion to god or similar.  But is that really much different than my parents teaching me from a young age not to wander around with my shirt off?  (Note: I possess no sexualized organs that would be covered by a shirt, so I feel the covering is comparable and only a matter of degree.)  Perhaps it lacks the religious motivations, but is that sufficient to define oppression?  Because this girl CHOOSES to cover, regardless of her immediate surroundings.  If one person chooses this, others must as well.  And that is what marks oppression, lack of choice.

So these laws being voted on, what are they?  Because if forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do is oppression, what would you call forcing someone to not do something harmless that they want to do?  I call it oppression.  These measures, being partly justified by the removal of oppression, are oppression in and of themselves.  You are taking something women choose to do and saying “you clearly can’t know what’s good for you, because this is oppression, I will figure it out for you.”  It’s in the same vein as radical feminists who think women who want to be homemakers are oppressing themselves.  Yes some people are forced into it, but it is that act of forcing, not the activity (I am referring to both veiling and homemaking at this point), that is oppressive.

There is only one instance where a law against face covering makes sense: identification.  In air travel and for government ID facial recognition is generally required.  But that doesn’t justify a wide-spread ban (France would ban facial coverings in public places), or even a ban in airports and similar.  Here’s how it should go:  “Ma’am, please remove you veil while I check your ID.  Thank you, you can put it back now.”  About the same as if I was wandering through an airport with a mask on.

Edit:  I can’t find the original article I read in USA Today online (it was on 10A though, if you have a hard copy).  I did find these two artcles on the same topic.