The Many Shades of Stealth

I love Lynn Conway’s piece Many Shades of Out and this piece is meant to add to what she is saying rather than criticize what she said.

Yes indeed there are many shades to out and conversely there are just as many shades to stealth.

Lynn’s transition preceded mine by several years, but we were both part of that first wave of transsexual people transitioning within the US Medical system.

While we differ greatly in our background we do share many things in common.

We had to be trail blazers because we were among the first.  There were no real maps or guidelines.

The people offering advice were as clueless as we were in creating strategies that worked.

Most often our peers were the most rigid advice givers and the harshest critics of those who deviated from the group think of the time.

Many of us went our own way back then.  I learned from the memoirs of many.  Those memoirs are worth hunting for and preserving because they show what a diverse bunch we were.

Very few of us were actually deep stealth to the point of not telling our partners.  Most of us had friends we could let our hair down with even if only to reminisce on a long distant phone call.

Which is why there are many shades of both stealth and out.

Even today the ability to earn a living, while out is a challenge.  Thanks to education, corporate policies and a low level of expectation of the peons working the concrete floors in big box store or the fast food industry life is little easier.

What isn’t easier is being out.

So many of us were raised with shame and guilt about our being trans.  So many of us have had lives filled with abuse and violence because of our being trans.

Stealth was always our friend.  Hiding our being trans when we were young eliminated some childhood bullying and abuse from both parents and peers.  We brought that experience to our adult lives having learned the wisdom of not letting others see our being trans.

When we transitioned many of us experienced loss.  We were rejected by family and friends.

We armored ourselves from that hurt, short circuited it by being proactive and cutting off friendships and contact with people we knew before.  Sometimes we went so far as to cut off contact with our sisters and brothers we went through transition with.

We walled ourselves off from people who provide support networks of friends.

I often had two separate circles of friends.

When I was involved with the Women’s Movement a few feminists knew, a number acted as though they didn’t.  I never really hid parts of my photo portfolio and at a time when there was a great deal of hostility towards transsexual women within the lesbian feminist community, my photographs show us to be ordinary women.  I showed drag performers and gender queers as being human.  I showed gay men the same way because I saw myself as documenting the LGBT world along with the music scene.

I was a photographer for and a production artist for the Lesbian Tide during the same period when Sandy Stone was being trashed.  I lived with the understanding I would be disavowed if my history were to come out.

I thought I was improving the level of acceptance of TS women within the movement by being an exemplary token.

Maybe I was, but maybe I would have improved things more if I were out.

The Transgender Movement that started in the 1990s has had aspects I detest.  The extreme level of mandatory political correctness has rankled, especially given the awareness of how wonderfully politically incorrect so many of my sisters and brothers are.  The dogmatism has bothered me greatly, the cultish aspects embraced by some drive me up the wall.

But then in the late 1990s, when I was living in Hollywood and involved with the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center I started attending events where the LGBT communities’ history was discussed and celebrated.

I started speaking up about how I had been a part of that movement and how other transsexual women and men were too, but how we had been invisible out of fear of the trashing and purges.

I used to agonize before coming out to a friend.  My outing myself required a great deal of trust and a desire to have a life-long friend.

For me the last twenty years have been marvelous beyond word.  All the silliness of the ideological arguments aside.

We’ve torn down so many walls.

Some of the Facebook groups I am on are made up of veteran 1960s Movement people. I’m out about transitioning amid the tumult of the 1960s activist movement.

I have this blog.

I’m still stealth when it comes to strangers and consider my history TMI for the work environment.

Old habits die hard, yet I’ve reconnected with a friend from High School and my cousin.

I enjoyed a conference I went to and I’d go see Namoli Brennet in a heart beat if she were to play the Kessler or Uncle Calvins.

There are so many sisters and brothers out there performing music I can see those who play in a genre I like and ignore others knowing full well that they too had an audience.

I buy the memoirs of a lot of my sisters and brothers because I like reading their stories.

But marching in a Trans-Pride Parade is a toughie for me.  I did it a couple of times in the 1990s and I don’t think it is something I feel comfortable with.

But then I was always more comfortable behind the camera than in front of one and if we had such an event in a city where I lived I wouldn’t hesitate to be the one doing the documenting.

I suspect my feelings are shared by many sisters and brothers who sit on the sideline and say, “Go team!”

Some of us are from a time when stealth equaled survival, others of us still carry the scars, as a result we still manage our information.

We still have the internal debates, the conflict.  Many of us don’t want to have Transsexual or Transgender as an honorific.

Yet we are getting old, our friends are dying one by one as time takes its toll and we do not want to return to the isolation of our childhoods.  We are often conflicted, wanting people to know what we did but also not wanting that label to obliterate the reality of lives lived as ordinary women and men.

So we negotiate in a world of gray tones neither deep stealth nor fully out to the point of wearing t-shirts and publicly embracing TS/TG as a label or identity.

Another Historic Week for Trans Civil Rights

From Huffington Post:


The past week was a historic week for the civil rights of the trans community, on three counts. First, by a bipartisan vote, the Senate committee overseeing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the bill to the floor of the Senate without amendment. Then, nearly 15 months after winning a ruling from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that expanded the definition of “sex discrimination” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include transgender and gender-nonconforming persons, Mia Macy won a judgment from the Department of Justice in the case Macy v. Holder. The DOJ determined that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a law enforcement organization within the DOJ, had discriminated against Ms. Macy on the basis of her transgender status, and hence on the basis of her sex, and ordered that she be offered the job for which she had applied and been denied based on her trans status, that she be awarded back pay with interest and other benefits, that she be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees, that she be eligible for compensatory damages, and that the ATF take corrective action at the laboratory to prevent further acts of discrimination. This is a significant win for Mia, but just as much for the trans community, as the DOJ took action on behalf of Ms. Macy based on the April 20, 2012, EEOC decision.

And that wasn’t all that happened last week: A settlement was reached in another trans discrimination case, this time at a private employer in Maryland, with the charging party represented by Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal. This case is the first such case to follow the historic Macy decision, and the result justifies the faith that some members of the trans community had in the American justice system. Tico Almeida, the president of Freedom to Work, the organization where I serve as national board chair, told BuzzFeed:

Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work.

This case’s importance cannot be ignored. There have been those in positions of leadership in the LGBT community who have ignored or minimized the impact of the Macy decision, justifying their actions based on fear of subsequent court decisions rejecting the EEOC’s interpretation of Title VII. Some have gone so far as to say that they would discourage trans persons from bringing complaints to the EEOC for fear that, ultimately, the Supreme Court would overturn Macy. As a result, there are trans persons, including some leaders in the community, who are unaware today that they have full employment rights in all 50 states, D.C. and the territories.

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Sinn Fein criticises Russian Government for passage of anti-gay laws

From Pink News:

16 July 2013

A spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora from Sinn Féin has criticised the Russian Government for introducing anti-gay legislation, including a law banning homosexual “propaganda”.

One recently passed law bans the “promotion” of “non-traditional sexual relations”, and another banned the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples.

Deputy Seán Crowe, signed a letter on behalf of Sinn Féin voicing concern about the law.

I, along with other concerned Irish citizens and politicians, have signed an open letter strongly urging the Russian authorities to end its persecution of LGBT people.

It also calls on the authorities to focus on upholding the right of LGBT citizens, and their supporters, to freedom of expression, assembly, and protection from homophobic violence.

The letter will be delivered and handed over to the Russia Embassy in Dublin this evening.

The Russian government has tried to justify this draconian legislation by stating that it will protect minors. This is completely misguided and based on the incorrect premise that someone’s sexuality can be taught.

This legislation is extremely broad and effectively prohibits the distribution of any information which deals with LGBT rights in a positive or even neutral light.

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Queen Gives Her Blessing; Same-Sex Marriages to Begin in UK

From The Advocate:

A long debate in the United Kingdom has ended with a royal blessing.

BY Lucas Grindley
July 17 2013

With this final, formal step in a long debate, Queen Elizabeth II has given her blessing to same-sex marriages, which will begin next year in the United Kingdom.

The Associated Press reports that the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said the queen’s approval came on Wednesday, just one day after Parliament had finished its work. The change in law takes effect in time for summer weddings in 2014.

On May 21, the bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 366 to 161. It passed its third reading in the House of Lords on July 15.

Prime Minister David Cameron is credited with pushing for marriage equality. While speaking to his own Conservative Party in a speech in 2011, Cameron explained, “Yes, it’s about equality. But it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society’s stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.”

LGBT activists in the country rejoiced at the news while also noting work left to be done.

“It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends,” said the head of Stonewall in the U.K., Ben Summerskill, in a news release. “The bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality — though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.”

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Sara Bareilles – Brave

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Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell

From The New York Times:

By and
Published: July 14, 2013

Like dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades. So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.

But when Nordstrom posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them, shoppers were unnerved.

“We did hear some complaints,” said Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for the store. Nordstrom ended the experiment in May, she said, in part because of the comments.

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

All sorts of retailers — including national chains, like Family Dollar, Cabela’s and Mothercare, a British company, and specialty stores like Benetton and Warby Parker — are testing these technologies and using them to decide on matters like changing store layouts and offering customized coupons.

But while consumers seem to have no problem with cookies, profiles and other online tools that let e-commerce sites know who they are and how they shop, some bristle at the physical version, at a time when government surveillance — of telephone calls, Internet activity and Postal Service deliveries — is front and center because of the leaks by Edward J. Snowden.

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Millions of US license plates tracked and stored, new ACLU report finds

From The Guardian UK:

Alarming number of databases across US are storing details of Americans’ locations – not just government agencies

in New York, Wednesday 17 July 2013

Millions of Americans are having their movements tracked through automated scanning of their car license plates, with the records held often indefinitely in vast government and private databases.

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union has found an alarming proliferation of databases across the US storing details of Americans’ locations. The technology is not confined to government agencies – private companies are also getting in on the act, with one firm National Vehicle Location Service holding more than 800m records of scanned license plates.

“License plate readers are the most pervasive method of location tracking that nobody has heard of,” said Catherine Crump, ACLU lawyer and lead author of the report. “They collect data on millions of Americans, the overwhelming number of whom are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Crump said that the creeping growth of licence plate scanners echoed the debate over the National Security Agency. “It raises the same question as the NSA controversy: do we want to live in a world where the government makes a record of everything we do – because that’s what’s being created by the growth of databases linked to license plate readers.”

ACLU based their research on the results of freedom of information requests to 300 police departments and other agencies nationwide that generated 26,000 pages of documents. The mountain of training materials, internal memos and policy statements retrieved by the group has opened a door on a previously little understood world.

Crump said that it’s impossible to put a figure on the scale of the license plate scanning phenomenon as information still remains patchy. But what is clear is that by using scanners mounted on police patrol cars, on road signs and bridges and outside public buildings such as libraries and schools, databases are now storing millions of data points.

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Mining Company Deploys More Masked Militiamen Against “Eco-Terrorists”

From Mother Jones:

Welcome to the scary new world of mining in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin.

Tue Jul. 16, 2013

Debate over a proposed open-pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin went from heated to outright bizarre last week when masked guards brandishing assault rifles showed up at the site in the remote and scenic wilderness of Penokee Hills.

Local activist Rob Ganson, 56, first came upon three heavily armed guards while leading a small group on a hike to view the mining site. (The drilling site is on private land, but the owner has been given a tax break in exchange for keeping it open to public use.) The guards, said Ganson, carried semi-automatic guns, were dressed in camouflage, and wore masks covering their faces. “As you can imagine, it was quite a shock for five middle-aged people out for a walk,” he said. Ganson tried to engage the guards, but was “met with stony-faced silence.” He was alarmed but managed to grab a few photos of the men. “I was thinking if the worst scenario happened, at least there would be photos on my camera.”

After they determined that the guards worked for Arizona-based Bulletproof Security, Ganson and the other activists posted their photos of the guards online, drawing local and national news coverage of the mine, a proposed four-mile-long, 1,000-feet-deep open pit operation in Ashland and Iron counties. In June, the company began exploratory drilling in the region for taconite, a type of iron ore used in steel.

Last Wednesday, the mining company, Gogebic Taconite—G-Tac for short—a subsidiary of the West Virginia-based Cline Group, pulled the armed guards after finding that the security firm lacked permits to work in the state. A spokesman for the company has said that the Bulletproof guards will be back once they’re properly licensed.

One of the activists in the area, however, told Mother Jones on Monday that a new group of armed guards—including one whose shirt bore the insignia for Watchmen of America, a militia group active in at least 21 states—was on patrol last Thursday, the day after Gogebic Taconite pulled the Bulletproof guards.* A spokesman for G-Tac said that the guards are necessary to protect its workers from “eco-terrorists.” The company pointed to an incident in June when protesters had a confrontation with workers; one of the protesters allegedly took a worker’s camera. But most of the protesters’ actions around the mine have been peaceful; local tribes have planted a small garden nearby, and others are leading educational tours on the ecology of the region.

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This land is your land, this land is gas land

From Waging Non-Violence:

July 17, 2013

The Obama Administration has proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on 756 million acres of public and tribal lands. The rules were written by the drilling industry and will be streamlined into effect by a new intergovernmental task force, established by the president, to promote fracking — a practice that has been linked to water poisoning, air pollution, methane emissions and, most recently, earthquakes. Environmentalists, many of whom are highly skeptical that fracking can even be regulated, hope to use a brief window for citizen participation in the rule approval process to leverage the growing anti-fracking movement.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — the government agency that manages the public lands in question — follows a dual and often conflicting mandate. Although it is charged with conserving lands for recreation and biological diversity, it must also ensure the commercial development of natural resources. The bureau tends to focus heavily on the latter part of its mission, and it has auctioned off public land for resource extraction, including oil and gas development, while following drilling regulations that were last updated in 1988, before fracking became a common practice.

“Under the old regulations, an operator would have to disclose non-routine techniques,” said BLM spokesperson Beverly Winston. “Now, hydraulic fracturing is routine, so nobody discloses it. It’s my understanding that probably 90 percent of wells on public lands use hydraulic fracturing.”

The newly proposed regulations will provide superficial environmental safeguards against industry excesses while shielding drillers and the government from the legal challenges that have begun cropping up. In April, for instance, a California judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity that the BLM had failed to take a “hard look” at the impact of fracking on federal land in the state and halted the issuance of fracking leases for the Monterey shale region until an assessment of its environmental impact is completed. The proposed laws, however, will give the BLM legal cover to keep the frack leases flowing.

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What Burns Today, Melts Tomorrow: Report

From Common Dreams:

New study finds that sea-level will rise 2.3 meters for each increase in degree

Lauren McCauley

“Greenhouse gases emitted today will cause sea level to rise for centuries to come,” concluded a team of scientists behind a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, conducted by a group from Germany’s Pottsdam Institute for Climate Impact, found the sea levels may rise by as much as 2.3 meters (roughly 7.5 feet) with each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase.

“Sea-level rise might be slow on time scales on which we elect governments, but it is inevitable and therefore highly relevant for almost everything we build along our coastlines, for many generations to come,” cautioned Anders Levermann, lead author of the study.

The study is the first of its kind to combine evidence from climate history with computer simulations of contributing factors to long-term sea-level increases: thermal expansion of oceans, the melting of mountain glaciers and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

According to their findings, though thermal expansion and melting glaciers are thus far the greatest contributing factors to sea-level change, the melting of the ice sheets will be the dominant contributors within the next two millennia.

As Levermann explains, because of their enormous mass, the oceans and ice sheets are slow in responding to the global temperature increase. However, like a rolling stone, “once heated out of balance, they simply don’t stop.”

“CO2, once emitted by burning fossil fuels, stays an awful long time in the atmosphere,” he adds. “Consequently, the warming it causes also persists.”

Scientists predict that as much as half of total sea-level rise will come from ice-loss in Antarctica, with Greenland melting contributing another 25 percent.

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