How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/lgbt-trump-red-states.html

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

By Samantha Allen
March 13, 2019

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City; Bozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/lgbt-trump-red-states.html

 

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I’ve Faced the Charge of Dual Loyalty

From The Atlantic:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/03/ilhan-omars-dual-loyalty-charge-was-anti-semitic/584314/

It was anti-Semitic then, and it’s anti-Semitic now.


March 7, 2019

I’m all for new voices in the U.S. Congress. But lately, some of those new voices have been voicing some very old canards.

I’m talking about Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the newly elected Democrats who populate the 116th Congress. Omar has attracted much news coverage, and the condemnation of most of her fellow Democrats, for promoting some ugly tropes about Jews.

First, when questioning long-standing congressional support for Israel, she blamed the campaign money provided by pro-Israel supporters. “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” she tweeted.

After apologizing for that comment and acknowledging her need to be “educated,” she followed with another tweet, questioning the “allegiance” of supporters of Israel, intimating that we place the concerns of Israel above those of the country that we call home.

No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.

Whether consciously or not, Representative Omar is repeating some of the ugliest stereotypes about Jews—tropes that have been unleashed by anti-Semites throughout history. She is casting Jewish Americans as the other, suggesting a dual loyalty that calls our devotion to America into question.

Maybe I’m sensitive to this charge of dual allegiance because it’s been wielded against me in some of my political campaigns. I’ve been accused of actually being a citizen of Israel. (That’s not true, although my father was an Israeli immigrant to the United States.) In 2002, well before Donald Trump and other “birthers” questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, I had to produce my U.S. birth certificate in my first run for Congress to disprove false assertions about my background and loyalties.

But it’s not just me who’s been subject to questions of dual loyalty. For centuries, this trope has been aimed at Jews in countries around the world. In embracing it, Omar is associating herself with calamities from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms to the Holocaust. That’s not historical company that any American should want to keep.

One doesn’t have to be Jewish to recognize the deep and abiding relationship between the United States and Israel. Yes, there might be serious problems with Israel’s democracy—just as we’re currently experiencing our own. But Israel shares fundamental values with the United States that most of its neighbors have never embraced.

In Israel, women can vote and serve in the armed forces. So can members of the LGBTQ community. Its Arab citizens can vote, form political parties, and serve in the Israeli Parliament. And Israeli women can drive—just as badly as the rest of the population.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/03/ilhan-omars-dual-loyalty-charge-was-anti-semitic/584314/

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Does voice have a gender? For trans singers, old categories are breaking down

From The San Francisco Chronicle:  https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/music/does-voice-have-a-gender-for-trans-singers-old-categories-are-breaking-down

Joshua Kosman

Growing up in England, Elspeth Franks felt sure that singing would be her career of choice. She had a large and versatile vocal range, and the stylistic flexibility to sing opera, concert works and choral music.

After moving to the Bay Area in 1990, Franks, now 55, established herself as a go-to mezzo-soprano. She performed with regional opera companies, sang with the chorus of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and worked as a church cantor.

The other thing Franks knew — even without the terminology to describe that confident inner knowledge — was that she was transgender.

Five years ago, Franks transitioned to male, taking the name Elliot. Suddenly, the voice that had seen him through all those years of performance had grown deeper and largely unfamiliar.

“I’d gone from a range of 3½ octaves to one, although a very pretty one,” he said. “All the things I knew how to do with my voice, all the tricks, the way I formed vowels for resonance — none of that works the same way it used to.”

It’s not all about the octaves, either. Franks is just one of an increasingly visible number of trans singers in the classical world who are challenging long-accepted notions about the intersection of gender and music. Operatic and choral singers, long segregated into rigid categories by vocal range, tonal qualities, body type and even simply gender, have begun to push back.

For San Francisco’s Breanna Sinclairé, 29, the gender transition came earlier, and has been a central part of her development as a professional opera singer. In the process of going from male to female, she felt her naturally expansive voice grow steadily stronger in the upper register. Sinclairé began singing as a tenor, but soon shifted up to countertenor, a male singer who specializes in falsetto singing. After her transition, she established herself during studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a mezzo-soprano, and is now developing her top notes on the way up to life as a soprano.

On New Year’s Eve, Sinclairé, became the first trans singer to appear with the San Francisco Symphony when she sang an aria by Saint-Saëns on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall.

“It was an honor to debut with such a celebrated orchestra,” said Sinclairé. “I’m proud to be one of the trans opera singers who are breaking these barriers. In the end, we put in the work and want to be treated as musicians just like everybody else.”

The audience responded warmly to her performance, said conductor Edwin Outwater, who led the concert. “It was a historic moment — and she hit a full, beautiful high B-flat, which she didn’t have to do!”

Continue reading at:  https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/music/does-voice-have-a-gender-for-trans-singers-old-categories-are-breaking-down

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