Transgender People: The Next Frontier in Civil Rights

From Time Magazine:

Being fired for “gender non-conformity” is a violation of the constitution, an important court recently found

By Adam Cohen
December 12, 2011

When Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn was fired from a state job in Georgia, she filed a lawsuit saying that she had been discriminated against for being transgender. Georgia civil rights laws do not cover transgender people, but a powerful federal court ruled last week that Glenn’s firing violated the U.S. Constitution. There was also a second major piece of transgender news last week: a new study shows that a growing number of major American companies are paying for their employees’ gender reassignment surgery. Taken together, the ruling and the study are strong indications that transgender rights are starting to enter the mainstream.

The backstory behind the court ruling: Glenn, an editor with the Georgia General Assembly, was born a biological male but long believed herself to be a woman. After being diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, an American Psychiatric Association-recognized condition, she began making the transition from male to female under medical supervision. Glenn was preparing for gender-reassignment surgery by living as a woman outside of work and presenting as a man at work. Eventually, she informed a colleague that she would soon begin coming to work as a woman, and when Glenn’s supervisor found out, he fired her.

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Chinese Authorities Lose Control as Village Revolts

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The 99%: What’s Funny About Being Poor? Roseanne and Working-Class Humor

From Bitch Magazine:

by GretchenSisson
December 14, 2011

Can being broke be funny, after all?

Monday’s post on 2 Broke Girls generated a lot of comments—from fans of the show who felt I was being too harsh, and from others who felt I was too forgiving of the show’s many flaws.  One commenter said, “You can’t expect a comedy to be so heavy and grounded in real life struggles.”

Well, yes. I can.

One of my favorite Friends episodes deals directly with socioeconomic difference within the friend group.  Yes, the friend group was all white people from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds who live in preposterously large apartments in Manhattan.  But back on season two, there was an episode that specifically explored the clash between the friends who had more disposable income—Monica, Ross, and Chandler—and the three who didn’t—Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey.  The friends with less money comically order side salads when they go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, protesting the suggestion to split the bill evenly.  Later, the three who can afford more buy concert tickets for all six of them to celebrate Ross’s birthday, and the others are made to feel like charity cases.  A lot of the humor is derived from the awkwardness of having to talk about money.  The line, “OK…. we can… talk about that” is delivered with the hesitancy of friends that know they’re venturing into a sensitive discussion, but are willing to address the issue openly.  The zinger, of course, is that Monica loses her job at the end of the episode, showing how tenuous financial stability can be.

While Friends may have made a brief acknowledgement of difference within the group, economic disadvantage was certainly never a recurring theme in the show.  I use it only as example to show that entertainment that, superficially, has nothing to do with class doesn’t need to ignore these issues.  Roseanne, though, was about finding the humor in the hardship.  And there was no one better at it.

Roseanne never shied away from real issues families face: social class, of course, but also gay family members, working conditions and job insecurity, birth control and unplanned pregnancy, divorce, domestic violence, mental illness, abortion, and alcoholism.  In fact, not only did it not shy away from these issues, but it embraced them as critical to the show’s comedy and the “working-class domestic goddess” persona of the title character.

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How Now, Brown Cloud: What Smog Hath Wrought

From Common Dreams:

by Michael Winship
Published on Saturday, December 17, 2011 by

Have you heard about the great brown cloud? No, it’s not a new nickname for Donald Trump (his cloud is more an intergalactic nimbus of Aqua Velva and Tang), or the ominous menace in a new Stephen King novel. It’s almost as nasty, though.

The Atmospheric Brown Cloud, formerly known as the Asian Brown Cloud, is a mass of air pollution hovering over northern India along the southern Himalayas and down across Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. The cloud began growing shortly after World War II, a smoggy mass of soot and sulfates from diesel emissions, wood fires and other burning stuff that’s almost two miles thick.

A new study by scientists from a number of research organizations – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography – finds that the cloud’s pollutants are making cyclones in the Arabian Sea more intense.

This is a very big deal, because, as Dean Kuipers writes in The Los Angeles Times, “After the apparent recent increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, including the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, climate watchers everywhere have speculated whether these storms were made stronger by industrial or man-made emissions. This is reportedly the first study to indicate that human activity may, in fact, affect large storms.”

Wind shear turbulence can help break up cyclones and keep them from becoming bigger storm systems. But shade created by the great brown cloud lowers water temperature, which in turn cuts down wind shear, allowing more powerful storms to form. Since 1998, according to NOAA, there have been five storms in the region with winds greater than 120 miles per hour – killing more than 3500 people and generating $6.5 billion worth of damage.

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Trans Canadians fight for recognition on legal documents

Lately they’ve started requiring a passport to cross the boarder between the US and Canada. An extra expense for working people who live along the border.

But for pre-op TS folks or TG folks this becomes an oppressive burden due to their being denied passports that reflect the gender they live full time. I know this tread the line between sex/gender but when people commit to living full time as a member of a particular sex even if they don’t actually have SRS to become a member of that sex it seems a matter of human rights to permit them necessary identification documents that do not place an extra burden upon them by automatically revealing their being TS/TG to petty bureaucratic border enforcement officers.

I’m tired of the government spending so much energy on snooping in the lives of individual citizens while they totally ignore the crimes of the corporations and rich.

From Xtra Canada:

Andrea Houston
Sunday, December 18, 2011

Talia Johnson is nervous to travel. One look at her passport tells a border guard everything they need to know about her gender status.

Johnson, who has had her name legally changed, now wants to change the sex designation on her passport – a simple correction from “m” to “f” – to ensure all her documents accurately reflect her gender.

The federal government says trans people must undergo sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), or provide a letter guaranteeing the procedure will take place within a year.

The Ottawa resident has not yet had SRS, mainly due to the financial cost of the surgery. She would also have to take time off work and travel to Toronto. “The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto is the only organization in Ontario that offers SRS. There is a long wait and it’s not easy to get.

“The status now is I don’t have a passport. Without the sex designation change, trans people are put in constant danger while traveling under the assumed sex. At this point in my life, I will have trouble if I travel.”

Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Health Lobby Group, has been working on this issue for years. Her group is pushing to make transitioning easier by opening up access to SRS and removing the red tape around changing legal documents.

“If your legal documents don’t match at the border there could be problems,” Gapka says. “I have had bad experiences at the airport. You can be singled out for looking different. A police officer could ask questions. It opens the door to harassment and discrimination.”

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Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, dies aged 75

From The Guardian UK:

Dissident playwright who led velvet revolution and became first post-communist Czechoslovakian president dies
, Sunday 18 December 2011

Václav Havel, the dissident playwright who led the Czechoslovakian “velvet revolution” and was one of the fathers of the east European pro-democracy movement that led to the fall of the Berlin wall, has died aged 75.

Reports quoted his assistant, Sabina Tančevová, as saying Havel died at his weekend house on Sunday morning, and the news was announced on Czech television during an interview with the current prime minister, Petr Necas.

Necas called Havel “the symbol of 1989” and said he did “a tremendous job for this country”.

Havel’s state funeral is likely to draw a crowd of leaders, artists and intellectuals from around the world. Havel was a renowned playwright and essayist who, after the crushing of the Prague spring in 1968, was drawn increasingly into the political struggle against the Czechoslovakian communist dictatorship, which he called Absurdistan. His involvement in the Charter 77 movement for freedom of speech won him admiration around the world.

His commitment to non-violent resistance helped ensure the velvet revolution was bloodless. It also help ensured that the “velvet divorce” three years later, when the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was equally peaceful.

Havel opposed the split and stepped down from his position as president in 1992, rather than oversee the process. However, he stood for the presidency of the Czech Republic early the following year and won. It was a non-executive position but Havel brought to it both moral authority and prestige on the world stage. He stayed in the position, despite bouts of ill health including lung cancer, until 2003.

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After Durban: We must pull the emergency brake before the 1 per cent drive us off the cliff

From Rabble.Ca:

By Derrick O’Keefe
December 16, 2011

On behalf of Canada, Environment Minister Peter Kent recently spent several days in Durban at the UN climate talks treating the global community like, well, shit — disrespecting her, ignoring her wishes and just generally displaying rude and selfish behaviour.

But Minister Kent did not have the guts to break up with the global community face to face in Durban. So he waited until he landed back home in Ottawa before officially announcing that Canada was dumping the Kyoto Protocol, making us the first country to ratify the agreement to abandon what is — for all its flaws and shortcomings — the only legally binding international climate treaty in existence.

Ironically Peter Kent, years ago when he was a respected CBC TV journalist, had narrated and helped produce a groundbreaking documentary on global warming way back in 1984.

From 1984 to 2011 — that’s 27 lost years. Twenty-seven years of failure to do what must be done. In 1984, Kent’s documentary inquired about a potential ban on fossil fuels, or a 300 per cent tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

But nothing like this type of serious, drastic action ever happened. And that’s because the past three decades of the climate crisis have coincided with three decades of neo-liberal politics and economics. The market came before society; money came before science, the environment, reason and even morality.

The result of the 2011 Durban climate talks is that the big polluters have given themselves a few more years to fiddle while the world burns. They spin this by telling us that at Durban they agreed to a “roadmap” to a future agreement.

But the map of the road agreed to at Durban leads only one place for humanity — off the cliff.

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