Sad, Sad, Sad: Transgender women reflect on a lifetime of change

I never lived in the Tenderloin of San Francisco although I spent some 18 months or so working as a cashier at a porno theater there and co-running the NTCU.

I lived in Berkeley in a hippie/radical commune when I came out and started hormones, lived in Berkeley until I was over and done with SRS, electrolysis, dental work etc.

Then I moved to Los Angeles to start over.  Most of my friends from the Stanford Program did something similar.

No one told us to do so.  Most of us didn’t much care for the Bay Area.  When I visited LA in 1973 I fell in love with the place.  When I was “California Dreamin'” as a kid I imagined warm and sunny not perpetually damp with icy wind.

Further I didn’t get SRS to spend my life in the trans-ghetto.

Hippie/leftie had more impact on making me who I was than being transsexual.

My circle of friends always included non-trans-folk as well as trans-folk.  My fondness for suburbia is a product of my old age, however I never much cared for living in the same apartment building as a bunch of other trans-folks.

Too much drama, too much spiteful bullshit.  Better to have friends scattered around the city.

This is why I think it is sad when trans-folks who were my contemoraries are still stuck in San Francisco, never mind the Tenderloin, that fast disappearing collection of near tenement apartments and scary sleazy bars, and whore strolls.

Even before I came out sisters looked at getting out of the ghetto as a major step in getting their lives together.

From The Bay Area Reporter:  http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69664

by Matthew S. Bajko
April 24, 2014

In June longtime transgender activist Felicia Elizondo will celebrate turning 68. Yet she still finds it hard to believe she has reached her senior years.

She also marvels at having lived long enough to see the enormous strides made by the transgender community since she and other trans people stood up against police harassment late one night in 1966 at the now defunct Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

“I didn’t think I would live this long to see the changes that have happened over the last 50 years,” said Elizondo, who is also known as Felicia Flames.

In March, Elizondo joined two other transgender women in their 60s on a panel hosted by the GLBT Historical Society to reflect on their lives and the changes they have witnessed.

At 14, Elizondo moved from Stockton to San Jose with a gay man she had met. By 16 she was spending weekends in the Tenderloin, considered back then the “gay mecca” of San Francisco, she said.

“Growing up we were called trash and gutter girls,” she said. “We didn’t matter to the community.”

Elizondo joined the Navy and volunteered to go to Vietnam, because “I didn’t want to be gay,” she recalled. “I thought maybe I would be killed and all this will be over. If the military doesn’t make me a man, nothing will. And it didn’t.”

In 1974 she transitioned while working as a long distance operator for Pacific Telephone.

“Transgender women could not be in the closet. We had to be out and proud,” said Elizondo. “Gay men and lesbians could be in the closet, go to work and make their money.”

Five decades ago “was a bad era. We couldn’t get jobs. We couldn’t get housing,” recalled San Francisco native Tamara Ching, 64, a transgender woman who also took part in the panel. “In the 1960s we could not walk around in anything other than our birth gender. The police were mean and would disperse you.”

Many of the transwomen Ching knew back then in the Tenderloin turned to prostitution to make a living. They rode the “merry-go-round,” she said, a circular path along O’Farrell and Ellis between Leavenworth and Jones they continuously walked in an attempt to avoid being stopped by the police.

“We whored, whored, whored,” said Ching. “Sex work empowered me.”

While she suffers from diabetes and hepatitis C, Ching remains HIV-negative despite having never used a condom with the “3,500 tricks” she estimates she was paid to sleep with.

“I expected to have HIV and AIDS like all my sisters,” she said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69664

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Vancouver transgender inclusion report excludes transsexuals, activists say

From Vancouver Straight:  http://www.straight.com/news/633476/vancouver-transgender-inclusion-report-excludes-transsexuals-activists-say

Trans and gender-variant inclusion working group criticized for recommendations

by Stephen Hui
on Apr 24, 2014

A long-time transsexual activist doesn’t want to see the words “Trans people welcome” put on washroom signs at Vancouver parks and recreation facilities.

“Would we put ‘First Nations welcome?” Jamie Lee Hamilton asked during a phone interview. “Would we put ‘Asian people welcome’? Would we put ‘Blacks welcome’?”

Hamilton plans to seek a nomination from the Coalition of Progressive Electors to run for park board in the November civic election. She spoke to the Georgia Straight in response to a City of Vancouver task force’s 64-page report aimed at making parks, community centres, and swimming pools more welcoming to trans and gender-variant people.

On Monday (April 28), Hamilton plans to attend a park board meeting in order to tell commissioners that the trans and gender-variant inclusion working group’s report should be considered a “starting point” and not a finished product. According to her, the report seemingly reflects the needs of everyone under the trans umbrella except for transsexual people.

“We were the ones that led the battles, that did the heavy lifting in the old days to create spaces for future generations of transsexual and transgender people,” Hamilton said. “We were the ones that fought to have gender reassignment surgery as a medically insured procedure. But yet that’s just all erased and wiped out for this new ‘trans’ moniker that’s supposed to include everyone and the kitchen sink.”

The working group’s report contains around 75 recommendations dealing with public spaces, signs, programs, financial accessibility, literature, training, and partnerships. One recommendation seeks the removal of “gendered symbols of bodies” from washroom and change room signs. Another recommendation calls for signs relating to men’s and women’s spaces to “indicate inclusion of trans* and gender variant patrons”.

“What we’re talking about is—10, 20, 30 years from now—trans kids of the future won’t confined by the gender limitations and constraints of today,” Drew Dennis, cochair of the working group, told the Straight on April 22. “That’s particularly exciting for me.”

However, Velvet Steele told the Straight that she was “offended” by the report. The transsexual dominatrix and sex work activist asserted that the term “transgender” has become “so bastardized and so appropriated”. She feels the working group ignored the transsexual community while focusing on “those who choose to not use any sort of definable gender marker for themselves”.

“I happen to be a woman,” Steele said by phone. “I’ve gone to great lengths to become a woman—to be the person I’ve known I was from birth….To sit there and lump us under gender-variant, transgender, trans-this—all this shit is really pissing me off. And the fact that I’ve been yet again excluded from any conversation regarding all this.”

According to Hamilton, the composition of the working group also does not reflect the trans community. For one thing, she noted that at least half of its eight members, including both of its cochairs, work at or sit on the board of the same queer arts organization—Out on Screen.

Hamilton questioned why the working group only held two community meetings during several months of public engagement. (It also conducted focus groups and online surveys.) She’s calling for “broadly based” consultations that “hear from everyone”.

“We have many members of our community—I’d say the majority—who live very stealth lives, meaning they pass in society,” Hamilton said. “They’re not out about their transsexual status. So they often don’t want to out themselves if it’s going to create a problem for them.”

Although Hamilton is critical of the working group, she supports some of its recommendations, particularly those pertaining to awareness and sensitivity training for park staff.

“What they really should be focusing on is education and educational programs,” Steele said. “Running around and changing the names on bathrooms and all these other different things so that it’s ambiguous, I don’t really necessarily think it’s the right approach. But if you want to talk about washrooms that everyone can walk into, I think it’s great. When we go visit our friends, we all use the same washroom, whether you’re a man or woman.”

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How have these corporations colonised our public life?

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/08/corporations-public-life-unilever

Our politicians have delegated power to global giants engineering a world of conformity and consumerism


The Guardian, Monday 7 April 2014

How do you engineer a bland, depoliticised world, a consensus built around consumption and endless growth, a dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation, in which all relations can be prefixed with a dollar sign, in which we cease to fight for change? You delegate your powers to companies whose profits depend on this model.

Power is shifting: to places in which we have no voice or vote. Domestic policies are forged by special advisers and spin doctors, by panels and advisory committees stuffed with lobbyists. The self-hating state withdraws its own authority to regulate and direct. Simultaneously, the democratic vacuum at the heart of global governance is being filled, without anything resembling consent, by international bureaucrats and corporate executives. The NGOs permitted – often as an afterthought – to join them intelligibly represent neither civil society nor electorates. (And please spare me that guff about consumer democracy or shareholder democracy: in both cases some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to press for change.)

To me, the giant consumer goods company Unilever, with which I clashed over the issue of palm oil a few days ago, symbolises these shifting relationships. I can think of no entity that has done more to blur the lines between the role of the private sector and the role of the public sector. If you blotted out its name while reading its web pages, you could mistake it for an agency of the United Nations.

It seems to have representation almost everywhere. Its people inhabit (to name a few) the British government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force and Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the World Food Programme, the Global Green Growth Forum, the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition programme, its Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Global Compact and the UN High Level Panel on global development.

Sometimes Unilever uses this power well. Its efforts to reduce its own use of energy and water and its production of waste, and to project these changes beyond its own walls, look credible and impressive. Sometimes its initiatives look to me like self-serving bullshit.

Its “Dove self-esteem project”, for instance, claims to be “helping millions of young people to improve their self-esteem through educational programmes”. One of its educational videos maintains that beauty “couldn’t be more critical to your happiness“, which is surely the belief that trashes young people’s self-esteem in the first place. But of course you can recover it by plastering yourself with Dove-branded gloop: Unilever reports that 82% of women in Canada who are aware of its project “would be more likely to purchase Dove“.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/08/corporations-public-life-unilever

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Florida City About To Make It Illegal For Homeless People To Have Possessions In Public

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/21/3428899/fort-lauderdale-criminalize-homelessness/

By Scott Keyes
April 21, 2014

A backpack. Spare clothes. A notebook. Some keepsake photos. Crackers.

Though they may not have a home in which to secure their stuff, homeless people still have possessions like everyone else.

Yet the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”

Last week, the City Commission gave unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified.

One woman, Gazol Tajalli, told Commissioners that is “insanity that we are even here discussing whether an individual can put on the ground the few objects that they own.” Another citizen, Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, criticized some of the Commissioners for “demoniz[ing]” the homeless.

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, chastised Ft. Lauderdale’s approach. “Maintaining city streets is a legitimate concern, but simply punishing homeless people for leaving their possessions in public places is not an effective or humane way to address it,” she told ThinkProgress. “Instead, city and business leaders should work with advocates and homeless people to develop alternative short and long term solutions, such as public storage options for homeless people and affordable housing.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, “The commission’s actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable.” The commission is also considering other initiatives targeting the homeless, including stiffer penalties for urinating or defecating in public, prohibitions on panhandling at intersections or sleeping in public, and restrictions on charity groups that hand out food to the homeless.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/21/3428899/fort-lauderdale-criminalize-homelessness/

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I Just love the David Barton Like Approach to Transgender History That Operates on Virginia Prince Myth Rather Than the Lives of Actual Transsexual Women and Men

Recently Calpernia Addams and Andrea James have discovered what it feels like when the myth lovers of the Transgender Borg declare you obsolete.

It is sort of like a right of passage into post-transsexual status.

The Community of all knowing Newbies have pronounced, “That was then, this is Now.”

Then they proceed to whip out Virginia Prince generated stereotypes of what transsexuals were supposed to be like if they were actually women.

Thing is from Christine Jorgensen and Roberta Cowell forward damned few transsexual women and men fit the stereotypes that Virginia Prince and followers tried to foist upon us.

Further if you look in the early medical books regarding transsexualism you will find how big a role the Prince of many names played in the creation of this mythology.

When I read something like the piece in Huffington Post: Parker Molloy Does Not Hate RuPaul I am forced to speak out against the perpetuation of mythology worthy of the David Barton medal of historical lies and distortion.

Recently a public dispute erupted between the transgender old guard and the new wave of trans* advocates and journalists. This kind of thing is not new. When I was a young transgender woman coming to terms with my own gender identity, I recall vividly how many transsexuals found it offensive to be lumped in with crossdressers and gender queer individuals. I don’t think I quite understood the concept yet of “transsexual separatists,” but I often heard women speak about the differences between transsexuals and transgender people. Most of the transsexual women I knew had gone to Trinidad, Colo., in the 1970s and had received what was then called a “sex change operation.” These women were students of Dr. Harry Benjamin and had been convinced that once they had physically transitioned they must join “straight” society and then marry and live obscure lives in the suburbs.

I must be clear here when I tell you that Benjamin was a pioneer in recognizing that trans* people deserved the best medical care known to him at that time. From all accounts he was a doctor who understood that people presenting as gender-variant required a doctor to oversee their transition. On the other hand, Dr. Benjamin still did not understand that gender is not binary and in many instances, he pushed patients to learn to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. These were the very early days of gender confirmation in the United States.

Over the course of the following 50 to 60 years, much has been learned about the spectrum in which gender lies. The purpose of mentioning the early days of the transgender moment is that it directly connects to what our community is presently experiencing.

First bit of mythology and total bullshit (These women were students of Dr. Harry Benjamin)

I first came out to my parents in 1962, they had discovered a bunch of clippings from a tabloid featuring April Ashley’s life story including transition and sex change operation.  They asked me if that was what I wanted to be.  I said, “That’s what I am.”

When I came out in 1969 I was in the Bay Area and a number of sisters had laid the ground work, there were doctors at a public health clinic they had educated as to our needs.

There were a number of places we could get our sex change operations.

I was a left wing hippie radical in Berkeley at the time, aiding deserters and draft evaders.  I was afraid of the Tenderloin and never went there.  My friends were other left wing hippies.

Later I became involved with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit.  I taught doctors and others about transsexualism.  Oh Dr. Benjamin wrote my surgery recommendation.

I went through the Stanford Program, including the group sessions which were as diverse if not more so than similar sessions I visited in the 1990s.

It was 1972 and I met damn few sisters with stereotypical white picket fence dreams.  Indeed feminism was as popular with us as it was with non-trans women.  Maybe more so as most states wouldn’t change birth certificates and marriage legality was sketchy at best.  After all we knew what April Ashley had gone through.

Those of us who got our SRS in those early days included folks like Lynn Conway and others who helped make the tech industry a career of choice for so many of us.

A lot of us were dykes.  I came out after SRS and after breaking up with a boyfriend of three years.  Became a photographer, worked for the Lesbian Tide.

A few, a minority got married.

Then in 1980 Jon Meyers and Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins came out with a study that pronounced Sex Reassignment Surgery a failure because so few of us conformed to the white picket fence stereotypes.

You see those stereotypes were more in the 1950s era imagination of Dr. Benjamin.  Contrary to popular thought his book wasn’t written in 1966 but was a compilation of articles written between 1950 and 1966.  It reflects the Feminine Mystique and little more.

I never called myself a Benjamin girl or Stanford girl, I was my own woman.  Most of us were.

Wrong statement. 2.:  (required a doctor to oversee their transition) Doctors were prescription writers, nothing more.  I saw more psychiatrists as a model client in an attempt to get the government to pay for SRS than I saw at Stanford as part of their pre-surgery screening process.  On doctor I went to when evaluating surgeons required only Dr. B’s letter and a letter from my prescribing physician.

All the requirements for psych professionals and doctors overseeing ones transition is a post 1980s era invention.

Fuck you and the “Transsexual Separatist” slur.  It is a tired piece of shit used to beat people up and keep them part of something long after they should have gotten on with their lives.

I had SRS over 40 years ago there are far more important things in my life than a bunch of whiny oh so sensitive trannie newbees demanding long time sisters and brothers hang around and wipe their noses.

Many of us lived lives on the edge and  face old age in poverty.  We aren’t all professional transgender care givers, paid to wipe noses.

Besides which there is more to life than just being trans*.

Most of us have lives and interests other than something we had an operation for many years ago.

Besides which the new generation knows everything there is to know and have rewritten history just like David Barton did to bolster their unwavering belief in a way of thinking that is pretty damned alien to those of us who went before.

I have my friends who are trans* but I am not part of “the Teans-Community.”  If I am a part of any communities they are defined by things like hippie or old, or swap meet folks.

 

Let This Earth Day Be The Last

It’s Game Over Time.  We are now in The End of the World As We Know It mode.  Think those weird winters and extra hot summers, the drought in California are an aberration…  Think again.  People should have listened to Paul Ehrlich when “The Population Bomb” was published in the late 1960s.  Or read “The Limits of Growth” when it was published in 1972.

It is officially too late now.  We are over the 400ppm and will soon hit unthinkable levels.  We will see ocean rise and the deaths of millions of people.

As well as the end of capitalism as we know it.

We will live far simpler lives with out the plenty of the past.

Earth Day was so nice and so feel good.  The marketing people loved it

OTOH the media labeled people actually trying to do something, people like Earth First, Sea Shepherd, and ELF as eco-terrorists.  All the while ignoring the real eco-terrorists, the people who rape mother earth for the profit of the already obscenely rich.

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179375/let-earth-day-be-last#

Wen Stephenson
on April 22, 2014

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.”
—Frederick Douglass, 1857

Fuck Earth Day.

No, really. Fuck Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.

Fuck it. Let it end here.

End the dishonesty, the deception. Stop lying to yourselves, and to your children. Stop pretending that the crisis can be “solved,” that the planet can be “saved,” that business more-or-less as usual—what progressives and environmentalists have been doing for forty-odd years and more—is morally or intellectually tenable. Let go of the pretense that “environmentalism” as we know it—virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism—comes anywhere near the radical response our situation requires.

So, yeah, I’ve had it with Earth Day—and the culture of progressive green denial it represents.

* * *

But why Frederick Douglass? Why bring him into this? And who am I to invoke him—a man who was born a slave and who freed himself from slavery, who knew something about struggle, whose words were among the most radical ever spoken on American soil? Who the hell am I? I’ve never suffered racial or any other kind of oppression. I’ve never had to fight for any fundamental rights. I’m not even a radical, really. (Nor am I an “environmentalist”—and never have been.) All I want is a livable world, and the possibility of social justice. So who am I to quote Frederick Douglass?

Let me tell you who I am: I’m a human being. I’m the father of two young children, a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, who face a deeply uncertain future on this planet. I’m a husband, a son, a brother—and a citizen. And, yes, I’m a journalist, and I’m an activist. And like more and more of us who are fighting for climate justice, I am engaged in a struggle—a struggle—for the fate of humanity and of life on Earth. Not a polite debate around the dinner table, or in a classroom, or an editorial meeting—or an Earth Day picnic. I’m talking about a struggle. A struggle for justice on a global scale. A struggle for human dignity and human rights for my fellow human beings, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable, far and near. A struggle for my own children’s future—but not only my children, all of our children, everywhere. A life-and-death struggle for the survival of all that I love. Because that is what the climate fight and the fight for climate justice is. That’s what it is.

Because, I’m sorry, this is not a test. This is really happening. The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The great forests are dying and burning. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The storms, the floods—the droughts and heat waves—are intensifying. The breadbaskets are parched and drying. And all of it faster and sooner than scientists predicted. The window in which to act is closing before our eyes.

Read the rest of this article at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179375/let-earth-day-be-last#

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Chelsea Manning: A Statement on My Legal Name Change

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chelsea-manning/a-statement-on-my-legal-name-change_b_5199874.html

Chelsea Manning
04/23/2014

Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.” I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.

It’s worth noting that both in mail and in person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been: a woman named Chelsea.

But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much: “Why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.

Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender-segregated institutions, and access to health care. And I’ve only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.

In our current society it’s the most banal things, such as showing an ID card, going to the bathroom, and receiving trans-related health care, that keep us from having the means to live better, more productive, and safer lives. Unfortunately, there are many laws and procedures that often don’t consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple, day-to-day things that others take for granted.

Now I am waiting on the military to assist me in accessing health care. In August I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they had come up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.

I’m optimistic that things can — and certainly will — change for the better. There are so many people in America today who are open and willing to discuss trans-related issues. Hopefully today’s name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we trans* people exist everywhere in America today, and that we must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are. If I’m successful in obtaining access to trans health care, not only will it be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.

Thank you,
Chelsea Manning

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