Monthly Archives: February 2012

David Wilson, plaintiff for MA marriage equality lawsuit talks to Storycorp

I’ve started watching the Democracy Now! Podcast and was lucky enough to watch the episode where they talked about StoryCorp, a project to record stories from every walk of american life. One of the stories that I heard, and there were many that got to me, was the story of David Wilson, and how he went from the treatment he faced after his first partner died, to walking down the aisle with his husband.

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I still think we should vote to overturn proposition 8

We’ve won at the 9th circuit, and we’re gonna win at the supreme court, the only thing in doubt is whether we win small or win big. California, or the entire country, and the court may wait until one of the DOMA challenges before they want to address the case of marriage equality.

It could however take a year before the court case is laid to rest, and I think that leaves us with an opportunity.

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I agree with all the arguments about we shouldn’t vote on people’s rights, and how racial equal arrive equality would never have been achieved at the ballot box. But I’m also a great believer in narratives. California was the last great victory of NOM and it was effectively the half time in this fight. Things have slowly turned towards the right side ever since.

California is a special state, it’s one of the largest in the nation, and to many it’s a state full of hope and promise. A generation ago that’s part of the reason why our forebears went the to find a place to be safe. Our loss there was horrific and agonising and the day that foul odious and unconstitutional proposition is condemned to the dustbin of history the better.

However there’s an narrative that the haters have, and that’s one in which marriage equality is against the will of the people in every state. I want to end that narrative, and California is the place to do it.

I’m not a Californian and I don’t even officially count as an American, but I do have a stake in this fight as does every american who cares about their country. I want 2012 to be the year that California says “we were wrong to hate”.

It sounds risky I know, but the narrative from that point would be clear, and it would give the supreme court all the momentum they’d need to declare DOMA and the state bans unconstitutional.

Victory is in sight on this fight, and we can make a leap forward today.

Beaumont Society in Confidence Breach: Equally Blessed and Cursed

The first time a Pregnant Man Story did the sensationalist rounds of the UK media was in 2008, with Thomas Beattie, pictured above.

Oh, the Beaumont Society; that oldest of UK trans ‘support’ organisations. In the minds of some a wonderful network of potential friends, support, and a font of knowledge, and in the minds of others a dangerous relic and bastion of old ideas, poor understanding, an overly inflated sense of importance and a certain air of self-aggrandisement. Simultaneously understated and overstated, many would be forgiven for wondering who they are, but the Beaumont society is never the less quite pervasive, and often in a rather unhelpful way.

The society has recently come into the spotlight following a rash of stories in the UK on the subject of what the press are referring to as the UK’s first male pregnancy. While it makes a definite change to see that the UK media are finally showing some manner of acknowledgement of a person’s gender identity, the story is never the less a sensation. Just like the whole Thomas Beattie affair, this story of a trans man using his body in a way he sees fit has provoked quite a stir; a stir which has also resulted in an equal and opposite reaction from those who don’t see the world through quite the same absolute-binary-tinted-glasses common to much of society.

The fact is, wider society is not ready for this yet, in that such an event stirs the passions of many people with no to little understanding of the issues concerned, who simply respond to a gut reaction resulting from an internalised assumption and belief that men don’t give birth… ever; never mind, of course, that a trans man may retain all the biological machinery required to do so. Clearly, such a man should refrain from giving birth to avoid causing offence to the sensibilities of others!.. or so it would appear to be believed.

This has, as mentioned, all happened before. There is surely no trans person who would be unaware of this fact. Likewise, there would be no trans person who would be unaware of what would happen if the tabloid media were to get just a sniff of it. Apparently though, this was not the case for the Beaumont society, who through either bravado, publicity seeking, stupidity or incompetence, have recently disrupted the life of a person who came to them for advice and support.

The first rule, for trans organisations, for dealing with journalists is simple; it’s “Don’t feed the media!”. The Beaumont Society, on the other hand, have a different approach, as discovered by the journalist Jane Fae in her attempt to get to the bottom of all this. In speaking to the Beaumont Society, she recieved this little nugget:

As their spokeswoman put it, if other organisations want to be in the press, its up to them to get back and respond. She told me: “if they want a response, we’ll give response: if the rest of the trans community doesn’t respond, then that’s their problem.”

They didn’t name any names – nobody could be quite that incompetent. What they did was to confirm that the story existed, which gave the press all they needed to go wild with the statement that there was a trans man in the UK with a pregnancy. The gutter press need at least some basis for a story, after all, even if it’s just an interview where they take the basic facts, distort them, and make up all the rest… and the most basic fact required in this story was that simple fact of the existence of a trans man with child in the UK. In the words of the Beaumont Society, again from Jane Fae’s blog:

“We were contacted last year through our information line number asking for details on this issue. As an information line, we were unable to help with this query and so referred the matter onto GIRES. Some period of time later we received a thankyou for being there and the info we provided.”

This simple fact is what allowed the story to run. Nothing more, and nothing less. All of the other information was out there to be easily gleaned from other sources. What was not out there, however, was the name of the man concerned, which leads on to the true gravity of what the Beaumont Society have actually done through their actions here.

Tabloid newspapers (perhaps most notably, The Sun), now have a bounty, through public request, on the name and location of the man concerned. That man, and his family, are having their privacy invaded and under threat of invasion, and must now live out their time in fear that everyone they encounter in their lives could be the person that’s about to sell them down the river for a quick buck, allowing the UK press to make their lives even more hellish.

Perhaps this, frankly, idiotic stance on the part of the Beaumont Society is a reflection of it’s attitudes and origins. It is these same attitudes and origins that create the somewhat dualistic perceptions of the 45 year old organisation which still clings to an old “TS/TG/IS” paradigm that’s long outdated. However, things weren’t always this way, as when the TS/TG/IS paradigm was in vogue, the BS was still clinging to an outmoded concept of Transsexualism and Transvestitism being essentially different expressions of the same thing.

Formed originally under a different name in 1966 and now named after a moneyed and privileged 18th century crossdressing spy, the aims of the society, which they themselves note to be strikingly similar to it’s current aims, were:

 1. To provide information and education to the general public, the medical and legal professions on transvestism and to encourage research aimed at fuller understanding.

2. To provide TV’s with an opportunity for a social life together.

It is perhaps also telling that the section of the society devoted to the partners of trans people is somewhat inappropriately named “Women of the Beaumont society”, which not only ignores the existence of transsexual men, but implies that transsexual women are not really women also. The implication, of course, is that the organisation primarily serves the interests of cross dressing men… an implication which would suggest that it is ill advised and ill equipped to speak on behalf of transsexual women; a fact so clearly demonstrated by this whole current media debacle.

It’s reputation within the trans community relates to exactly that. What’s perhaps more disturbing, on the other hand, is that it appears that many of the current generation of activists may not realise just how prominent this organisation is, believing that the organisation is only recently becoming a “first port of call” for media comment on issues concerning trans people in particular. The Beaumont Society is still prominently listed as a support organisation appropriate for transsexual people by doctor’s, psychiatrists, counsellors, Local Authorities, and information packs from a variety of organisations, including the NHS.

On many occasions, it is the one and only recommendation given by professionals in respect of support for a transsexual person in their care. This is not only inappropriate, borderline offensive and potentially dangerous, but also sends out an entirely outmoded message about who transsexual people are to the public at large, while demonstrating to vulnerable trans people that those to whom their care is entrusted know and understand precious little of who they are or the community of which they are a part.

It is high time that the Beaumont Society either entirely rethinks it’s nature, or desists from speaking on behalf of those it should not be speaking for. It is likewise time that professionals desist from approaching them over issues for which they are the least appropriate source of information. For many years, transsexual people as an overall community have largely ignored the negative influence of the Beaumont Society in the media, healthcare, and in social understanding.  While we at No More Lost would never claim that artificial hostile divisions should be maintained between cross dressers and transsexual people, this is premised upon each group resisting the urge to speak for or to denigrate the other. In this case, however, actual harm is demonstrably resulting.

Trans people need to redouble an effort to ensure that resources intended to support and speak for them are in fact resources suitable and appropriate to support and speak for them. This includes a challenge to the Beaumont Society to either change it’s ways or surrender the field in respect of transsexual people before it causes even greater damage to people’s lives… because that damage can not be allowed to continue. Far more appropriate venues and vectors of contact include Trans Media Watch, Gendered IntelligenceGIRES, Mermaids, the Gender Trust, Press for Change, etc.

While the Beaumont society argues that they are “authorised to speak on trans issues because they have ts members on their committee”, I too am by the same logic authorised to speak on behalf of black people, because some of my friends, forming a significant part of my social structure, are black.  The British National Party can speak for ethnic and religious minorities, because they have (or have had) a Jewish Councillor elected to Epping Forest district council. The logic simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

With the greatest of respect to the Beaumont Society, neither it’s logic nor it’s interventions with regards to trans matters are particularly helpful or useful.

One Million Moms a Generation ago

I was reading this article from a town hall/fox news contributor called Sandy Rios defending the attack on JCPenny by the conservative hate group One Million Moms for hiring Ellen Degeneres as their spokesperson and this sentence describing the problem with Ellen stuck out.

“Openly lesbian, Ellen is ‘married’ to her partner Portia Rossi. Militantly gay, DeGeneres has fought for homosexual rights including marriage and indoctrination in public schools.”

With most of these stories of a “demand for hate” I run them through my race equivalent filter, and it occurred to me a generation ago One Million Moms might have said the same thing about Mildred Loving, for example.

“Openly practicing Miscegenation, Mildred is ‘married’ to her partner Richard Loving, Jeter has fought for negro rights, including mixed race marriage and negro history taught in public schools”

NB. It goes without saying that I deplore the language used in that constructed statement, but thats the equivalent of what One Million Moms said about a lesbian woman daring to stand up for her basic human rights.

Whenever someone tells you that discrimination against LGBT people is okay, ask them to think about the same “right” to discriminate applied to race.

Why Prop 8 Proponents should stay away from the Supreme Court

So as everyone who’s not been living under a rock for the past few days knows, that in a 2-1 vote the 9th Circuit upheld Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Proposition 8 was discriminatory and had no justification for that discrimination and so was invalid.

Of course from corner to corner of the country the anti-equality crowd is howling because they know that their “shining moment” was Proposition 8, it never could get better than discrimination in law in California, ostensibly by the vote of the people. They knew they could never win a victory sweeter than that. Of course they’d hope to get a federal marriage amendment but that was always a pipe dream.

They know if they are honest that this is the beginning of the end, and it may take 20 years but equal marriage will happen in every state. However they are making a strategic error by appealing for the Supreme Court. As it stands they’ve lost the battle in California, but loosing at the supreme court could loose them the war.

Sotoyamor, Kagin, Breyer, and Ginsberg are solidly pro-equality and the opinion handed to them by the 9th circuit and Judge Walker is one that they could apply to all such bans across the US from DOMA to the ban in Texas.

Kennedy is always seen as the swing vote, and many on the right hope that his statements about marriage equality in the Lawrence vs Texas ruling mean he’s not in favour of marriage equality. However he made it clear that he feels that prejudice against gay and lesbian persons is not a universal constant and its well past time to move past it.

Now if you look at the remaining members of the court, Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Thomas can any of them be taken off the board.

Well Scalia and Thomas are known to have radical views on the constitution that seem outside the view of any other reputable constitutional scholar, and so even with the quality of the Walker ruling they can be expected to vote against marriage equality.

So that leaves the two Bush Appointees, Alito and Roberts who were political appointees placed there as part of the long game to shift the court to the right. They have shown themselves to be generally conservative on most viewpoints, including some infamous ruling such as “Citizens United”. However both have been careful and measured on their viewpoints, neither having faced an issue of equality while sitting on the Supreme Court or prior to this as justices.

What this means is that while there is some risk that the court might say that the Prop 8 ruling only applies to California, theres a possibility that they could see it as applying to all such discriminatory amendments and laws throughout the entire country.

They have lost California, I don’t see any combination of justices that would rule that Proposition 8 was constitutional, but if they go down this route, then they risk bringing equality to every State in the Union.