A Remarkable Life: One 95-Year-Old Shares Her Hope For Fellow Trans People

From Refinery 29:  http://www.refinery29.com/2016/05/109265/transgender-ww2-veteran-robina-asti-interview

May 9, 2016

Robina Asti is exhausted, but you wouldn’t know it as she opens the door to the Upper East Side apartment she’s called home since 1965. She’s dressed in a green top and tan slacks, her white hair is swept up in barrettes, and two turquoise earrings dangle from her ears — the first pair her late husband, Norwood, ever bought her.

“I’m sorry, I think I overdid it a bit yesterday,” Asti says. “But it was just so beautiful out.”

Asti got home late Sunday night after six hours in the air over the Hudson Valley. At 95, she still works as a flight instructor and tries to spend every weekend she can piloting planes, much as she has since she was a teenager. She laughs that insurance companies seem to shy away from her these days.

“But you know what? Every morning that I open my eyes is a good day,” she reflects.

Much of her nine decades have been spent leading a quiet life of flying and family. She was born in 1921 and grew up in New York City. When the U.S. joined World War II, she signed up for the Navy and served in the Pacific. She married, had children, and was the vice president of a major mutual fund. Then, in 1976, she transitioned from male to female.

At the time, hers was a decision few understood; she faced serious discrimination at work and strained relationships with her children. But soon after, she met the “love of her life,” artist Norwood Patton. The pair would spend decades together before finally getting married in an old airplane hangar in 2004.

“He was a proper man. He always had breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a martini at 5 o’clock,” she says, smiling. “When he was in the hospital, I even snuck a Coca-Cola bottle full of martinis I mixed for him.”

Her apartment still overflows with Norwood’s art: everything from little sketches to oil paintings, including a beautiful portrait of her. After Patton passed away in 2012, Asti applied for the standard widow benefits from the Social Security Administration. She was shocked and angry when they wrote to tell her that she had been denied because she was not legally a woman at the time of her marriage.

Asti decided to fight back. Since then, she’s been a volunteer and advocate for transgender rights, working with LGBT-advocacy nonprofit organization Lambda Legal. Ahead, Asti shares her remarkable life story and her advice for young people transitioning today, with Refinery29.

Continue reading at:  http://www.refinery29.com/2016/05/109265/transgender-ww2-veteran-robina-asti-interview

Obama Administration to Issue Directive on Transgender Access to School Restrooms

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

The move is certain to draw fresh criticism, particularly from Republicans, that the federal government is wading into local matters and imposing its own values on communities across the country that may not agree. It represents the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

After supporting the rights of gay people to marry, allowing them to serve openly in the military and prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against them, the administration is wading into the battle over bathrooms and siding with transgender people.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” John B. King Jr., the secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

Courts have not settled the question of whether the nation’s sex discrimination laws apply in matters of gender identity. But administration officials, emboldened by a federal appeals court ruling in Virginia last month, think they have the upper hand. This week, the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other over a state law that restricts access to bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms. The letter to school districts had been in the works for months, Justice Department officials said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/us/politics/obama-administration-to-issue-decree-on-transgender-access-to-school-restrooms.html

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Antisemitism has rocked Labour’s self-belief

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/28/antisemitism-rocked-labour-self-belief

Party members assumed they were the good guys, incapable of prejudice. But now Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah have laid bare the left’s capacity for racism

Thursday 28 April 2016

Actually, you’re just like a concentration camp guard. You’re just doing it because you’re paid to, aren’t you?” If you’re Jewish, and live in London, you might dimly recall those words. But if not, here’s a clue. They were spoken to a Jewish reporter a decade ago by the man who today indignantly described himself as having fought a lifelong battle against discrimination – shortly before being suspended from the Labour party for potentially bringing it into disrepute with clumsy references to Hitler.

Rereading the transcript of that 2005 exchange between Ken Livingstone and a hapless Evening Standard reporter today, what takes the breath away isn’t the rather tasteless suggestion from London’s then mayor that anyone working for a paper whose owners he disliked was probably “a German war criminal” in a previous life. It’s that when the reporter explained he was Jewish and was offended by the Nazi reference, Livingstone didn’t stop. He doubled down on the concentration camp stuff, took his spade and kept digging. And he got away with it. There were calls for his resignation, of course, but he got away with it.

He carried on being mayor for another two years, and has carried on ever since being feted by people who would have bayed for the blood of any Tory making racially insensitive remarks to a black reporter. He went on blithely to suggest that Jews have stopped voting Labour because they’re rich, and still didn’t really seem to see what the problem was; but then, he was surrounded by people who didn’t seem to want to see the problem either.

And that’s one explanation for how a politician as naturally gifted as Livingstone could ever think it a good idea to summon Hitler as a witness for the defence, when defending his party against allegations of antisemitism.

Perhaps he has simply lost sight of how it looks, outside the circles – once fringe, now mainstream in the Labour party – in which he moves. You could see today’s extraordinary day of bloodletting – which saw first the suspension of the Labour MP Naz Shah for pre-election Facebook posts suggesting Israel be forcibly transported to the US, and then that of Livingstone for only making matters worse – simply as payback for all the times someone got away with it. Fail to challenge dubious attitudes and they quickly seep into the mainstream.

But there is another possible explanation, and that’s the belief found close to many left wing hearts that they, and they alone, are the good guys – the champions of equality and fairness – and therefore incapable of prejudice. They don’t need to question their assumptions, or take a long hard look in the mirror, because the racists are the other guys.

As Ken explained in injured tones to the BBC’s Martha Kearney today, real racism is when you’re rude to your neighbour’s face in Stoke Newington, which he’d never do. And anyway, racists would hardly be attracted to Labour, would they? To which one could almost hear his colleagues screaming at the radio; well if they weren’t before, mate, they might now.

Continue reading:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/28/antisemitism-rocked-labour-self-belief

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Self-Appointed Bathroom Cop Catches Dallas Woman Using Women’s Restroom

From The Dallas Observer:  http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/self-appointed-bathroom-cop-catches-dallas-woman-using-womens-restroom-8259104

By Eric Nicholson
Friday, April 29, 2016

The way things are headed, with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick setting the state’s legislative agenda, Texas may very well have its own crack squad of bathroom police. In the meantime, it’s up to self-appointed enforcers of traditional gender norms to adjudicate which bathrooms strangers should use.

Case in point: the man who, um, heroically barged into a women’s restroom at Baylor Medical Center in Frisco on Thursday to make sure that Jessica Rush, who manages a local health-food takeout place, was peeing in the proper place.

She was, for the record, and her situation isn’t particularly complicated. Rush was born and identifies as female and has no plans to change that. “I look very much like a girl,” she says. “I’m not trying to  transition, nothing like that.”

But Rush wears her hair in a bleached blond fauxhawk and dresses androgynously. On Thursday, she was wearing a T-shirt from her alma mater, Texas Tech, with basketball shorts. As the man at Baylor explained after walking into the restroom behind her, it’s all very confusing.

Rush caught the latter end of the exchange on video:

“The point is I was helping my mom. I was confused when I see someone entering the woman’s bathroom looking like a man,” he said. “Each one of us is man or woman so … I wanted to make sure she was going to the right place.” Because in times like these, you can never be too careful.

The guy at Baylor isn’t the first person who’s found himself confused by Rush’s self-presentation. Once, when Rush was at Hobby Lobby, a woman accosted her for trying to enter the restroom her granddaughter was using. Another women berated Rush for brazenly waltzing into the 24 Hour Fitness locker room before recognizing that Rush was, in fact, a woman and muttering an apology. And pretty much whenever she goes into the restroom at the mall, she’ll hear kids murmur “Mom, there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom!”

Continue reading at:  http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/self-appointed-bathroom-cop-catches-dallas-woman-using-womens-restroom-8259104

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