The Week In Trans 4/10/17

| Apr 10, 2017
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Kristen Browde

A trans woman in Westchester County, New York is running for the job of supervisor in the town where the Clinton’s live. Kristen Browde, 66, is an attorney and former CBS News reporter who is running as a Democrat in the supervisor race. If she wins the election she would become the first trans elected official in New York state. Learn more about her in The Journal News.

The NBA has become the latest entity to accept North Carolina’s HB142 as a replacement for HB2. While the new law does indeed replace the old, it reserves to the state legislature the right to regulate who can use which restroom, despite the fact that it was the state legislature which caused this mess in the first place. The NBA has now said that Charlotte is eligible to ask to host the 2019 All-Star weekend. Commissioner Adam Silver did say that “it’s not a done deal” that Charlotte will host. The league is asking for “assurances” that there will be anti-discrimination policies for the buildings which would host the events and for hotels where people attending the events would stay. If the league gets those assurances, then “the expectation is” that Charlotte would host the 2019 All-Star weekend. Edge Media has this story.

A few days before the NBA made its announcement, the NCAA’s Board of Governors met and decided that North Carolina could host championship events again. LGBT organizations and activists quickly voiced opposition, saying that they felt that the state has not yet done enough to warrant lifting the ban. The NCAA did ask that any proposed host site in North Carolina “submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination,” but the NCAA did not elaborate on what such documentation would be. Samantha Allen of the Daily Beast has a story on the reaction to the NCAA’s decision.

Lara Americo

There are plenty of stories in the news about the anti-trans laws that many states and localities have been introducing and getting through their legislatures. What is often not in the press are articles from people living in those states who are most affected by those laws. One such person is Lara Americo, a musician and trans activist who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Despite the recent move to change the HB2 law Ms. Americo has real concerns about how the anti-trans feeling in her state is getting worse. Read her story in Mother Jones.

The mayors of several cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Washington, Seattle, and Salt Lake City, have said that employees of their cities are still banned from using city funds to travel to North Carolina. These mayors feel that the new law, HB142, does not do enough to restore things to where they were before passage of HB2. Get the story in Edge Media.

North Carolina state Representative Brenden Jones filed House Bill 562, which would stiffen penalties for “trespassing” into the “wrong” restroom “without authorization.” The bill does not mention transgender people, nor “biological sex.” So, apparently, there is some desire to keep as much of HB2 in place as possible. Mother Jones has this story.

There was a local election in part of Chicagoland on Tuesday. Some people who are unhappy with the local school board’s policies that permit transgender people to use restrooms and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identities challenged the incumbents (who formed that policy after losing a law suit in federal court). The incumbents held onto their seats. This was so big that The Washington Post covered the story.

Gauri Sawant

Vicks, the makers of Vick Vaporub, created an ad in India that featured a trans woman mothering her daughter. The thrust of the ad was to showcase the role of mother’s, not to highlight the fact that the mother in the ad was trans. Unlike the recent Pepsi ad, which featured the product prominently and led to accusations of exploitation, the Vicks ad did not feature the product. The ad went viral. Learn more in an article about the star of the ad, Gauri Sawant, on the Mid-Day website.

Have you ever wondered why your wig doesn’t look as good as Beyoncé’s wig? Or why celebs like Lady Gaga and Nikki Minaj can wear fake hair that looks so perfect while your wig looks like you store it in the trunk of your car? (Maybe it looks like that because you do store it in the trunk of your car.) Mainly it’s because they all get their wigs from a vanishing breed of high-end wigmakers. It takes around 40 hours to hand tie a human hair wig and the low end ones go for over $2000. Learn all about the serious wig biz in an article in The New York Times.

The full bench of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals met in Chicago to hear the case of Kimberly Hivey v. Ivy Tech Community College. A three-judge panel had previously decided that the school had the right to fire its employee for being a lesbian, but the full panel voted 8-3 to overturn that decision. While previous court decisions have said that firing someone for not meeting gender stereotypes (i.e., not being “manly” or “feminine” enough), this is the first time that actually being LGBT has been ruled to be protected, in this case by Title VII. Professor Arthur Leonard has some observations about what this means.

A lesbian couple, one partner of which is transgender, won a court decision in Colorado against a landlord who would not rent to them out of fear of their presence on the property negatively affecting the ability to attract other tenants. Federal judge, Raymond P. Moore, said that such an act violates both the Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Dallas Voice has this story.

Jackie Evancho

Back in February, after she sang at President Trump’s inauguration, Jackie Evancho sent a tweet to the president asking him to sit down with her and discuss trans issues. She did that because she has a trans sister and has been moved to advocate for trans rights. So far President Trump has not replied to her tweet and no meeting has been scheduled. Evancho plans to keep bugging the president until she gets a meeting. Learn more in the Daily News.

The European Court of Human Rights has issued a ruling which says that transgender people have a right to change their legal gender without medical sterilization. Currently, 22 countries in Europe require sterilization before they will change the legal gender of an individual. This ruling does not immediately overturn laws of various countries by itself, but it can be used by litigants in various countries to get that country’s courts to overturn the law. You can find more in the Washington Blade.

Many people feel that doctors are rushing to label children as “transgender,” and that it has become a fad diagnosis, rather as ADHD was (in the opinion of these same people, who are not doctors). However, psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Stathis, who has just been appointed to run a gender clinic in Australia, says that it is quite the opposite; the majority of children with “gender issues” do not get diagnosed as “transgender,” according to him. He expects that, by the time they reach puberty, most of the children who come to the clinic will identify as their birth genders. It will be interesting to see how well he does at figuring out who will persist and who will desist. It will be even more interesting to see if his opinion changes as he works with the children in the gender clinic. This story is in the Courier-Mail.

Yonatan Marton and his partner, David Mariuma Marom, have won a battle with the Interior Ministry of Israel. The High Court of Justice has ordered the Interior Ministry to register Mr. Marton and his partner as fathers of their son, Tomer. The government, in a typical governmental move, refused to register both parents as fathers, saying that there is only space for one father on the form. The Interior Ministry went so far as to change Mr. Marton’s legal gender back to female to list him as the mother, then stated that Mr. Marton would have to get the approval of a committee that oversees sex change cases in order to change his legal gender back, even though he already had the approval of that committee eight years ago. The decision by the High Court of Justice changes Mr. Marton’s gender back to female. This story is in Haaretz premium, which requires a subscription to read the article.

Texas has a reputation as a difficult place to legally change genders, but one young Texas trans male has done so. Max Briggle got his name changed, as well as his gender on his Social Security account, and on his birth certificate. He has also had the state’s Attorney General as a dinner guest in his parents’ house. WFAA-TV has a story about this nine-year-old from Denton.

In Texas, the State Senate has passed SB6, the Texas version of North Carolina’s HB2. Speaker of the House Joe Strauss has said that he sees the bill as “unnecessary” and an expansion of the government into places that it does not need to be. While the Speaker refuses to bring up SB6, or even to assign it to committees in the state House, some members of that body are trying to attach it to various other bills. The latest attempt has been to adjust the state budget to include something that would at least accomplish what SB6 would do. Jess Herbst, the mayor of New Hope, Texas, has decided to fight back. She has gotten together a group of trans men, who will stand in front of the ladies’ room with signs asking, “Do you think I belong here?” This story was covered by the Dallas Observer.

Brianna Westbrook

Last year, Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes Surprise and Sun City, did not even have a Democratic candidate. That’s how strong the Republican hold on the district is. One candidate is already working on getting onto the ballot next year to challenge incumbent Trent Franks, and that candidate is Brianna Westbrook. She is transgender. The Phoenix New Times has a profile on her.

Every other year, the state of Colorado does a public health survey of high school students. This year, for the first time, they included questions about gender. The results showed more students than expected who had some kind of gender issues, and the levels of depression and suicidal thoughts among those with gender issues is quite high. These results confirm the findings from other studies. This story is in The Denver Channel.

Transgender youths are not the only ones who have problems. A recent study showed that transgender and gender-nonconforming people were at a disadvantage when looking for housing in Boston, even though local laws say that it is illegal to discriminate against people in housing because of gender identity. The study found that transgender or gender-nonconforming people were often quoted a higher price for rent, were less likely to be told of financial incentives that were available, and were likely to get a shorter tour (showing less of what was available). While these practices are illegal, the transgender person would often be unaware that they were being treated differently. Think Progress has the story.

India Willoughby

Last week, former news reader India Willoughby made some comments to the effect that non-transitioning transgender and gender-variant people should stay out of the ladies’ room. The comments got the sort of reaction that might be expected from the transgender and gender-variant community. This week, Ms. Willoughby apologized. She said that she has learned quite a bit about different reasons why some people cannot, or choose not, to transition. Pink News has this story.

In India, the sanitation ministry has issued a new decree on “third-gender” people. When faced with two washrooms, they may use whichever one they feel comfortable with. This story was covered by the Times of India.

You probably thought that you had heard the last of the program Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best. The show aired, people (especially transgender people and our allies) reacted, and that was the end of it. Sort of. It turns out that the program was scheduled to air in Australia, on ABC2, but the network nixed the program, less than a week before it was to be broadcast. The announcement says that the network will “delay broadcasting” the show “while we consider concerns raised about the film.” No new date has been announced. Pink News has this story.

If you missed it, the spire atop One World Trade Center in New York City was lit in the colors of the transgender flag on International Day of Transgender Visibility. This was done at the request of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who asked the Port Authority to light the spire in blue, pink, and white that evening. The Huffington Post has this story.

Fanning in character.

It has been over a year and a half since the film About Ray first appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival. (In fact, the film appeared on September 12, 2015.) It spent over a year playing at other film festivals and in limited release in a few places, then was released last fall in parts of Europe, with the new title 3 Generations. (This is the film where Elle Fanning plays a transgender teenager named Ray. Naomi Watts plays Ray’s mother, and Susan Sarandon plays his grandmother.) It never got a proper release in the United States, and now, we know why. The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an “R” rating, which would prevent anyone under 17 from seeing the film without the accompaniment of an adult. The Weinstein Company, who made and are releasing the film, argue that the teenage market is precisely who needs to see this film (even though the film is heavy drama, hardly the type that would appeal to teenagers). The Weinstein Company is appealing the rating. That process can tend to get drawn out, and that appears to be where the film is now, according to this article in Variety.

Johns Hopkins Hospital was the facility where the first gender reassignment surgery took place back in 1966. The hospital conducted GRS through 1979. They stopped at that time because the chief of psychiatry at the time, Dr. Paul McHugh, decided, based on one study, that being trans was a mental health issue and not something you could fix by surgery. So for 38 years Johns Hopkins was out of the GRS business. Now they are back doing GRS but Dr. McHugh continues to rail against surgical intervention. Thanks to Jamie Roberts for telling us about this article in The Washington Post.


An article in the Wall Street Journal claims that Target mishandled its response to HB2. It says that Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, was not consulted when the decision was made to publicize the store’s policy on restroom use by transgender people. The article also plays up the effect of a boycott by the American Family Association. In reality, the boycott had little effect on Target, and the few stores that closed were underperforming before the tweet about restroom access. At no point did Mr. Cornell or anyone else at Target actually say that they regretted the policy itself, only the way it was announced on social media. For bias and a flagrant post-hoc fallacy, the Wall Street Journal gets a TWIT Award. There article is here, behind a pay wall. (Although Target’s sales are down, “insiders” say that “any losses due to the boycott are too insignificant to require reporting to investors.”

As you might expect, the American Family Association crowed about the Wall Street Journal article, claiming that Mr. Cornell called the policy announcement “a huge mistake” and inferring from that that he felt the policy itself was a huge mistake. For overstating their contribution to this situation, the American Family Association gets a TWIT. Their e-mail can be found here.

LifeSite News is notorious for their social conservative stances on issues. It is hardly surprising to see that they are quite displeased by the news that Tia Thompson, a transgender woman, has been allowed to compete for a spot on the U.S. national women’s volleyball team. She currently meets the medical standards that have been adopted by the International Olympic Committee. Not only do they refer to her as “born a male,” they also call her “biologically male” and, in the headline, refer to her as a “transgender man.” For spraying their news report with a heavy dose of slanting, LifeSite News gets a TWIT. This story can be found on their website.

Three Republican candidates to be governor of Virginia met at a forum this week. All three voiced their agreement to some degree with anti-transgender restroom laws. All fail to see that doctors and science-based academics who have studied the matter have concluded that transgender women are not men. It does not matter that what they conclude is going to happen is not what actually happens. For not noticing reality, these three get TWITS. The Washington Blade has this story.

The Barbican, a cinema in London, introduced what it called “gender-neutral restrooms.” All that they did was to change the signs. Where the sign used to say “Men,” it now said, “Gender-neutral with urinals.” The former ladies’ room now said, “gender-neutral with cubicles.” As you might imagine, this did not go over well, especially with women, who found themselves having to share their restroom while they felt quite unwelcome in the space they were now allegedly allowed to share with the men. For not thinking this through well, the Barbican gets a TWIT. Gay Star News has this story.

Author and playwright Fay Weldon was a guest on BBC Newsnight. During her time on the show, she said, “There are lots of sort of transgender people for whom this is really a serious business, but there is also a sort of undertow of frivolous people who for the sake of fashion or the clothes or whatever want to be the other gender.” She went on and on to try to tell people how she was not saying that all transgender people are frivolous (or that their reasons for transitioning are frivolous), but that is how it seemed to sound to some people. For not having the good sense to realize how this comment would be interpreted, Fay Weldon gets a TWIT Award. The Telegraph has more on this.

Additional material and editing for TWIT was provided by Angela Gardner.

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Every week Cecilia Barzyk diligently scans the internet to assemble as much trans-related information from the weekly news as possible.

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