The right of inclusion: 4 tips for managing a business with transgender employees

From The Toronto Star:–the-right-of-inclusion-4-tips-for-managing-a-business-with-transgender-employees

Barb Gormley
Friday January 25, 2013

When the knock came on John Chung’s office door, the human resources director assumed the worse – a talented systems administrator was quitting.

The reality was more startling. The employee announced he was having sex reassignment surgery.

This was a first for Chung, but not for his employer, The Jonah Group, a thriving Toronto consulting firm that designs solutions for custom web applications, data warehouses and interactive media. The 65-person company hired its first transgender employee four years ago.

“Transgender,” is an umbrella term for the spectrum of people whose gender identity differs from what they were assigned at birth. The most-current highly-visible transgender person is probably Chas Bono, formerly Chastity Bono, the son of Sonny and Cher.

Today transgender individuals are identifying themselves in record numbers. “Three recent studies suggest that one in 200 people are trans,” says Hershel T. Russell, a Toronto psychotherapist who works with trans clients and their families.

But not every company is as accepting of employee diversity as The Johan Group. A 2010 study showed that while most trans people in Ontario are relatively well educated, half earn less than $15,000 a year. At blame are discrimination, harassment, violence and fear of a transphobic workplace, says Nicole Nussbaum, a London, Ont., lawyer specializing in human rights cases.

For organizations with transgender employees but no corresponding policies or plan, the list of potential missteps is endless. The consequences of mismanagement range from legal action to company-wide losses in productivity, job satisfaction and employee engagement. So, here’s how to avoid the biggest blunders:

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The Trans Woman Who Is Taking on the Military

From The Advocate:

Decorated Army veteran Allyson Robinson has some major plans for the country’s only organization dedicated to serving LGBT people in uniform.

BY Sunnivie Brydum
January 25 2013

Allyson Robinson is a decorated veteran, a wife, a mother, an ordained Baptist minister, and the executive director of the recently combined advocacy organization for LGBT people in uniform, OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The Army veteran was tapped to lead the 6,000-member organization in October, and her appointment is noteworthy not only because she is one of the few women leading a military group but also because she is the first transgender person to lead a national LGBT organization.

Robinson’s appointment is anything but an affirmative-action hire, said retired Navy captain April Heinze, cochair of OutServe-SLDN’s Board of Directors in a statement announcing the hire. “Allyson Robinson is exactly the right person at the right time to be our leader and voice in Washington in the fight to achieve full LGBT equality in the military,” said Heinze.

Indeed, Robinson is exceedingly qualified for her new position. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Robinson served as a commissioned Army officer commanding Patriot missiles in Europe and the Middle East, a senior trainer for NATO, and an adviser to the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Now Robinson is ready to engage in a different kind of battle — one of words instead of weapons.

Robinson says the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which paved the way for open military service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, was an important first step toward true equality in the military for LGBT people. And while she celebrates heartfelt stories from LGB soldiers who were finally able to introduce commanding officers to their families after repeal, Robinson is clear that OutServe-SLDN’s work is far from complete.

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LGBT Movement Warned Against Its Own Complacency

From The Advocate:

An annual meeting of LGBT activists, this time in Atlanta, came with celebration for all that has been accomplished with the most recent election and a warning.

BY Daniel Villarreal
January 25 2013

Coming off a string of successes, LGBT activists were warned today against complacency.

During her annual State of the Movement Address to the 3,000 attendees of the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality in Atlanta, Georgia, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said the 2012 elections yielded “a record number seven out members of Congress,” “beat back marriage opponents in Minnesota” and “won marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington state,” she added that we must “resist the pressure to become smaller, to narrow our sights, to be lulled into thinking we are near the end of our work.”

Carey declared, “We are family, and we will not leave any of you behind!” By “family,” Carey meant the countless activists who have fought for LGBT rights over the Task Force’s 40 year history as well as the many LGBT citizens who need legal protection beyond those offered by legalized marriage equality.

“If there is one message we can take away from Election Night 2012,” Carey said, “it is that we are not alone. We are not alone as a movement, as a people, and we need to make sure no one else is alone either… We must choose as a basic moral value, never to leave any of our movement’s family behind.”

Among those still needing legal protection in our country, Carey included those who choose not to get married, schoolchildren in need of comprehensive anti-bullying policies, transgender immigrant detainees who face sexual and physical abuse in federal detention facilities, trans people who can still be refused a hotel room or hospital care without public accommodations laws, any LGBT person living in a state without marriage equality or employment protections as well as those suffering from sky-rocketing HIV rates.

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Republican House Leader Vows To Use ‘Power Of Humiliation’ To Undermine LGBT Program

From Think Progress:

By Scott Keyes
on Jan 23, 2013

The fifth-ranking House Republican took a shot at the LGBT community at a recent town hall, saying he wanted to use “the power of humiliation” to undermine a program that helps individuals who need substance abuse treatment.

Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), who at the same Oklahoma City meeting earlier this month blamed gun violence on “welfare moms”, took a question from a constituent irate about a program that counseled LGBT individuals with substance abuse problems. The woman accused the Substances and Mental Health Services Administration of “pushing the homosexual agenda” and “indoctrinating our citizens.”

Lankford agreed with the woman’s concern, vowing to open an investigation into the matter. “They love functioning in the dark,” the Oklahoma Republican said of the LGBT program, promising to use “the power of humiliation” to uproot it.

CONSTITUENT: I want to know if you’re aware of the Substances and Mental Health Services Administration that has a book called the Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Individuals.


CONSTITUENT: They are going around the nation, they just did this here in Oklahoma, December 7th, and having conferences that are educational. […] About 2 percent of the conference is dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. 98 percent is doing indoctrination or pushing the homosexual agenda. This is what our president is doing. He has a federal agency doing it. Our state, the Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department, put this conference on and is indoctrinating our citizens who are totally against this. Is there any way you can look into this?

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L. Ron Hubbard’s Grandson Blasts Scientology as a Brainwashing ‘Cult’

From Alternet:

Current TV’s Cenk Uygur interviews Jamie DeWolf, who called Scientology a ‘devious, systematic brainwashing system.’

By Alex Kane
January 25, 2013

The great-grandson of the founder of Scientology said that the belief system is a “cult” last night on Current TV with Cenk Uygur. Jamie DeWolf, the great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, blasted Scientology in scathing terms.

Uygur had DeWolf on to talk about how people get sucked into Scientology. “How do they do it?” asked Uygur.

DeWolf said that Scientology leaders “prey on narcissism….[You’re] told you’re a God-like creature.”

DeWolf also explained how Scientology specifically tries to rope in celebrities, though they are often “insulated from the nastier aspects of it.” DeWolf said Elvis Presley turned down an offer to join Scientology.

“Is it a case study in how you can gradually brainwash people?” asked Uygur. “I think it’s one of the most brilliant and devious systematic brainwashing systems that’s ever been invented,” responded DeWolf.

Scientology “works through electrified hypnosis. It works through past life regression therapy. It works through a lot of hodgepodge of ideas thrown together with this extremely brutal sort of security sense and this kind of like CIA-like structure that becomes really intoxicating to people. But to meet people who’ve been out of the cult — I mean, yeah, you want to ask them about Xenu and aliens — but the fact is these are smart people. They’ve just been completely destroyed,” said DeWolf.

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See also Raw Story:  Scientology scion: ‘Cult’ uses the most ‘devious, systematic brainwashing’ ever

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WWJD? Conservative Christian Radio Host Freaks Out About “Family-Destroying Whores”

From Alternet:

The conservative Christian take on feminism.

By Miranda Blue
January 25, 2013

Christian conservative radio hosts Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner are not exactly big fans of feminism in any of its forms. So far this month, they have opined that a woman fired for being too attractive  shouldn’t have been working for a man who wasn’t her husband in the first place; that “socialist” single women are  taking over America; and that Sandra Fluke  isn’t “ladylike” enough to be considered for Woman of the Year.

On Tuesday’s edition of Generations Radio, Swanson and Buehner sat down in Swanson’s basement studio to discuss a report they came across that claims “rising college costs are driving a new trend called ‘Sugar Daddies.’” This led to a wide-ranging discussion of the scourge of women’s independence and a new unified theory of feminism.

There are “two forms of feminism,” Buehner argued. There are “cute” feminists like Sarah Palin who will find jobs in the “marketplace” and “get themselves a husband” but  will “never submit to the husband, in fact they will use their power probably to make their husband submit to them.” Then, there are the “ugly” feminists whose “lack of attractiveness has not given them access to power that they wanted in the marketplace.” These “attractively challenged” feminists will only find careers in academia and in government agencies, for instance, “you can run the EPA.”

What all these feminists have in common, Swanson argues, is that “all of them want to be free from the family” and together with “the homosexuals” are “destroying society.” Buehner speculates that in the future, feminism will be remembered as “a time in which women lost the love of their children” and “decided to become selfish, narcissistic, family-destroying whores.”

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See also Right Wing Watch:  Conservative Radio Hosts Parse Feminists: Some are ‘Cute,’ Some are ‘Ugly,’ All are ‘Family-Destroying Whores’

See also: Raw Story:  Christian radio hosts: Feminists are ‘selfish, narcissistic, family-destroying whores’

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Reclaiming Our Imaginations from ‘There Is No Alternative’

From Common Dreams:

by Andrea Brower
Published on Friday, January 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

We live in a time of heavy fog. A time when, though many of us dissent and resist, humanity seems committed to a course of collective suicide in the name of preserving an economic system that generates scarcity no matter how much is actually produced. To demand that all have enough to eat on a planet that grows enough food, that absurd numbers of people do not die from preventable disease, that utter human deprivation amongst plenty is not tolerated, or that we put the natural laws of the biosphere above socially constructed economic “laws” — is presented as unrealistic, as the fantasy of idealists or those who are naive to the “complexity” of the world’s problems. If we create and recreate the world everyday, then how has it become so supposedly absurd to believe we might actually create a world that is honestly making the possibilities of egalitarianism, justice and democracy?

Capitalism — the logic of subordinating every aspect of life to the accumulation of profit (i.e. the “rules of the market”) — has become today’s “common sense.” It has become almost unthinkable to imagine coherent alternatives to this logic, even when considering the most basic of human needs — food, water, healthcare, education. Though many have an understanding of capitalism’s failings, there is a resignation towards its inevitability. Margaret Thatcher’s famous words, “There Is No Alternative,” no longer need to be spoken, they are simply accepted as normal, non-ideological, neutral.

What sustains the tragic myth that There Is No Alternative? Those committed to building a more just future must begin re-thinking and revealing the taken-for-granted assumptions that make capitalism “common sense,” and bring these into the realm of mainstream public debate in order to widen horizons of possibility. We can’t leave this task to the pages of peer-reviewed journals and classrooms of social theory — these conversations must enter also into the family dining rooms and TV screens. Here are some thoughts on conversation starters:

Alternatives could never work. Does capitalism “work”? Even by its own indicators, as we’ve become more capitalist (i.e. neoliberalism), economic growth and productivity has actually declined.

Today’s globalized world is too complex to organize things any differently. Of course the world is complex — each of us is a bundle of contradictions and we need look no further than the dynamics of a single relationship to make a case for social complexity. But things are also quite simple — we live in a world where one billion people go hungry while we literally dump half of all food produced. Can we not come up with a productive socio-economic system that also meets people’s most basic needs? The gift of today is that we have the ability to reflect and draw-upon many forms, past and present, of non-capitalist social organization, and to creatively experiment with blending the best of these possibilities. The fact that we are more connected than ever before and have advanced so far technologically gives us more possibilities, not less.

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California unions grow, bucking U.S. trend

From The Los Angeles Times:,0,795664.story

Latino workers, demanding respect in a precarious job environment, helped boost the state’s unionized workforce by 100,000 in 2012.

By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times
January 24, 2013

The latest snapshot of the U.S. working class shows that unions are in trouble, their ranks thinning amid a backlash against organized labor and a still sputtering economy.

But California and a few nearby states in the Southwest are showing a vastly different picture — labor’s ranks are on an upswing. The Golden State’s union organizers signed up more than 100,000 new members last year, while the nation as a whole shed 400,000, according to data released Wednesday.

The reason: Latino workers.

After working hard to get here, many Latino immigrants demand respect in the workplace and are more willing to join unions in a tough economic environment, organizers say.

“There’s an appetite among these low-wage workers to try and get a collective voice to give themselves opportunity and a middle-class lifestyle,” said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation.

Just 12.5% of the workforce was represented by unions nationwide in 2012, down from 13% the year before. But 18.4% of California’s workforce was represented by a union last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The nation is paying attention to labor’s ability to gain traction in states such as California.

Strong membership in California could help unions negotiate higher wages, lobby the Legislature and fend off anti-labor attacks that have become common in the Midwest. Unions in once pro-labor states like Wisconsin and Michigan have been put on the defensive by legislation aimed at eroding the bargaining power of public-sector unions.

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Meet the “The Untouchables”

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‘Foodopoly:’ Exposing the Handful of Corporations That Control Our Food System From Seed to Dinner Plate

From Alternet:

Wenonah Hauter’s new book, “Foodopoly,” delves deep into the history of the food system and how we can fix it.

By Wenonah Hauter
January 24, 2013

The following is an excerpt from  Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, published by The New Press and reprinted here with permission. Copyright © 2012 by Wenonah Hauter.

In 1963 my dad bought a ramshackle farm with rich but extremely rocky soil in the rural Bull Run Mountains of Virginia, forty miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Today it is on the verge of suburbia.

He grew up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, rode the rails, and eventually, in his late fifties, found his way “back to the land.” So we moved to what was then a very rural landscape — a place culturally a world away from the nation’s capital and physically linked only indirectly by two-lane roads. Our old farmhouse, with a mile-long rutted driveway accessible only by fourwheel drive, was off another dirt road and had no electricity or plumbing. Eventually my dad did manage to get the local rural electricity co-op to put in poles and hook up power, but he never did get around to installing indoor plumbing.

He was an unusual man — a religious iconoclast and an organic gardener at a time when few people knew the term. He was considered a crank and a hobby farmer, if you can call it that, growing a few vegetables and keeping bees. His wild-blossom honey was the only vaguely successful part of his farming venture. My dad, who died in 1991 at the age of eighty-one, would be shocked now to see both his farm and the massive development around it.

Today the hundred acres of mostly wooded land is bordered by a megamansion subdivision on one side and an expensive “gated community” a mile away as the crow flies. Thousands of town houses and new subdivisions have cropped up where once there were fields dotted with cows. This has brought on the box stores, including Walmart and fast food joints-blights on the once bucolic rural landscape. A major highway, I-66, recently engineered to be either six or eight lanes depending on the location, means we can zip into the nation’s capital during the rare times that commuters are not clogging the road.

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Quinoa: Good, Evil, or Just Really Complicated?

From Mother Jones

By Fri Jan. 25, 2013

“Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?,” thunders the headline of a recent Guardian piece. Hard to say, but reality check: It isn’t just vegans who enjoy quinoa. Like many occasional meat eaters I know, I’ve been eating it for years. Quinoa is also big among gluten-intolerant omnivores. So quinoa’s truth—unpalatable or not—isn’t just for its vegan fans to bear.

So what is going on with this long-time staple of the Andes and newly emerged favorite of health-minded US eaters?

The FAO has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa and even runs a Facebook fan page for it.

First, the good. Quinoa is the grain-like seed of a plant in the goosefoot family (other members include spinach, chard, and the wonderful edible weed lambs quarters), and its appeal is immense. Twenty years ago, NASA researchers sung its praises as potential astronaut chow, mainly for its superior nutrient density. No less an authority than the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization hails it as “the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins and contains no gluten.” The FAO is almost breathlessly enthusiastic about quinoa—it has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa and even runs a Facebook fan page for it.

And quinoa has generally been a success for the people who grow it. Unlike other southern-hemisphere commodities prized in the global north, like coffee and cocoa, quinoa, for the most part, isn’t grown on big plantations owned by a powerful elite. A 2003 Rodale article describes its cultural place in the Andean highlands, an area that encompasses parts of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador:

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wá), a seed grain, has been cultivated in the Andean region for over 7,000 years and was considered sacred by the Inca Empire. The crop was relegated to status of animal feed by Spanish colonists, perhaps because of its religious significance and, later, shouldered almost completely out of production by cereals such as barley and wheat and other crops such as potatoes and corn.

Colonial agriculture never really worked very well in the highlands, despite the introduction of agrichemicals. “Pesticide and fertilizer use in Ecuador … increased dramatically over the years,” Rodale reports, “leading to depleted soil and a rise in associated health problems.” But the new technologies failed to bring prosperity—”the farmers’ yields were low, their return was almost nonexistent, and their children were suffering from malnutrition.”

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NY Orthodox Counselor Gets 103 Years for Sex Abuse

From ABC News:

 By COLLEEN LONG Associated Press
NEW YORK January 22, 2013 (AP)

An esteemed religious counselor in New York City’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community was sentenced Tuesday to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her faith.

Nechemya Weberman was convicted in December of 59 counts, including sustained sexual abuse of a child, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse. He testified in his own defense, saying he “never, ever” abused the girl, and maintained his innocence at sentencing.

His trial put a spotlight on the ultra-orthodox community and its strict rules that govern clothing, social customs and interaction with the outside world. Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000. Both Weberman, 54, and the accuser belonged to the Satmar Hasidic sect there.

The girl’s school had ordered her to see Weberman because she had been asking questions about her religion and was dressing immodestly in violation of customs, and he was help her get back on the right path. Weberman wasn’t a licensed counselor but spent decades working with couples and families in his community.

The accuser, now 18, had testified that Weberman abused her repeatedly behind his locked office door from the time she was 12 until she was 15.

“I clearly remember how I would look in the mirror,” she said at Tuesday’s sentencing, her small voice shaking. “I saw a girl who didn’t want to live in her own skin, … a girl whose innocence was shattered, … a girl who couldn’t sleep at night because the horrifying images of the recent gruesome invasions which had been done to her body kept replaying in her head.”

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Exclusive: Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science

From The Independent UK:

Audit trail reveals that donors linked to fossil fuel industry are backing global warming sceptics

Steve Connor
Thursday 24 January 2013

A secretive funding organisation in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate “counter movement” to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.

The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.

However, an audit trail reveals that Donors is being indirectly supported by the American billionaire Charles Koch who, with his brother David, jointly owns a majority stake in Koch Industries, a large oil, gas and chemicals conglomerate based in Kansas.

Millions of dollars has been paid to Donors through a third-party organisation, called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, with is operated by the Koch family but does not advertise its Koch connections.

Some commentators believe that such convoluted arrangements are becoming increasingly common to shield the identity and backgrounds of the wealthy supporters of climate scepticism – some of whom have vested interests in the fossil-fuel industry.

The Knowledge and Progress Fund, whose directors include Charles Koch and his wife Liz, gave $1.25m to Donors in 2007, a further $1.25m in 2008 and $2m in 2010. It does not appear to have given money to any other group and there is no mention of the fund on the websites of Koch Industries or the Charles Koch Foundation.

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