A Call to Action: Justice for Erika Keels

31 05 2007

letter from a friend in Philly:

dear friends,

I am writing to ask you to support work that I’m doing with the Justice 4 Erika campaign here in Philly. Erika Keels was murdered on March 22, 2007 on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. Witnesses saw an assailant eject Erika, a 20-year-old black transwoman, from his car, and intentionally run her over four times, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiner’s report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police ruled Erika’s death an accident and have refused to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges–including “hit and run” charges. When Ms. Keels’ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were asked to disclose their “birth” names and told they were “trying to make something out of nothing.”

Our immediate goal is for the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and the Accident Investigation Division to reopen Erika’s case and conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding her death. We want to send a powerful message to the Philadelphia Police Department that we stand together to demand justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, police accountability, and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person. Things you can do to help:

1. Sign our community support letter (read below and sign at http://www.petitiononline.com/ErikaK/petition.html ).

2. Get organizational sign-ons from groups you’re in or connected to. (Organizations should email Justice4Erika@gmail.com to confirm their support.)

3. Come to the Justice 4 Erika demonstration on Thursday, June 14 at noon @ 6th and Arch in Center City Philadelphia.

4. Sign up for weekly email updates on the campaign (email Justice4Erika@gmail.com)

5. SPREAD THE WORD. Write letters to local newspapers. Ask everyone you know to sign on to the letter.

Thanks. I can answer any questions about the campaign.
Contact me if you want to get involved with the organizing…

in love & struggle,

COMMUNITY SUPPORT LETTER
http://www.petitiononline.com/ErikaK/petition.html

To: Captain Michael Murphy
Accident Investigation Division
Philadelphia Police Department

Cc: Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson
District Attorney Lynne Abraham
Michael Hinson, mayor¹s liaison to LGBT communities
Mayor John Street

June 2007

Dear Captain Murphy,

Young transwomen of color living and working in Philadelphia know they are
at risk of physical attack at any moment, and many experience layers of hate
and harassment on a daily basis. Erika Keels was one of our own.

On March 22, witnesses saw an assailant intentionally run over Ms. Keels
four times after ejecting her from his car at Broad and Thompson streets in
North Philadelphia, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiner¹s
report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police have ruled the death
of this 20-year-old African American transwoman an accident and have refused
to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later
apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges‹even ³hit and run.²
When Ms. Keels¹ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police
officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were
asked to disclose their ³birth² names and told they were ³trying to make
something out of nothing.²

We, the undersigned, refuse to be told that the murder of Ms. Keels‹and the
subsequent police denial of the brutal, hateful assault on her‹are
³nothing.² The Philadelphia police have failed to protect her basic human
rights and dignity. The schools and businesses of Philadelphia never gave
her a chance to choose a career‹they failed her, and she was forced to earn
her survival on the streets. The social services of this city failed to
shelter her in a safe place to explore her own potential as a young person
with imaginative goals and opportunities to thrive.

We, as a community, will not fail her. We are individuals and organizations
representing Black, Latina/o and Asian people; trans and gender
non-conforming people; lesbians, gays and bisexuals; youth; immigrants;
educators; students; social service providers; activists; religious
communities; professionals; neighborhoods; and supporters around the world.

We demand a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Ms.
Keels¹ death. Her case must be re-opened. Now and in the future, the police
must follow their mandate to protect and serve all Philadelphians, including
those targeted for hate because of their gender expression and identity. All
levels of city government and administration must ensure that policy meant
to protect human rights of people in this city is followed in letter and
spirit.

Sincerely,
______________





A Call to Action: Justice for Erika Keels

31 05 2007

letter from a friend in Philly:

dear friends,

I am writing to ask you to support work that I’m doing with the Justice 4 Erika campaign here in Philly.  Erika Keels was murdered on March 22, 2007 on North Broad Street in Philadelphia.  Witnesses saw an assailant eject Erika, a 20-year-old black transwoman, from his car, and intentionally run her over four times, killing her and leaving the scene.  A medical examiner’s report supports these eyewitness accounts.  But police ruled Erika’s death an accident and have refused to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges–including “hit and run” charges. When Ms. Keels’ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were asked to disclose their “birth” names and told they were “trying to make something out of nothing.”

Our immediate goal is for the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and the Accident Investigation Division to reopen Erika’s case and conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding her death.  We  want to send a powerful message to the Philadelphia Police Department that we stand together to demand justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, police accountability, and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person.  Things you can do to help:

1. Sign our community support letter (read below and sign at http://www.petitiononline.com/ErikaK/petition.html ).

2. Get organizational sign-ons from groups you’re in or connected to. (Organizations should email Justice4Erika@gmail.com to confirm their support.)

3. Come to the Justice 4 Erika demonstration on Thursday, June 14 at noon @ 6th and Arch in Center City Philadelphia.

4. Sign up for weekly email updates on the campaign (email Justice4Erika@gmail.com)

5. SPREAD THE WORD.  Write letters to local newspapers. Ask everyone you know to sign on to the letter.

Thanks.  I can answer any questions about the campaign.
Contact me if you want to get involved with the organizing…

in love & struggle,

COMMUNITY SUPPORT LETTER
http://www.petitiononline.com/ErikaK/petition.html

To:  Captain Michael Murphy
Accident Investigation Division
Philadelphia Police Department

Cc: Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson
District Attorney Lynne Abraham
Michael Hinson, mayor¹s liaison to LGBT communities
Mayor John Street

June 2007

Dear Captain Murphy,

Young transwomen of color living and working in Philadelphia know they are
at risk of physical attack at any moment, and many experience layers of hate
and harassment on a daily basis. Erika Keels was one of our own.

On March 22, witnesses saw an assailant intentionally run over Ms. Keels
four times after ejecting her from his car at Broad and Thompson streets in
North Philadelphia, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiner¹s
report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police have ruled the death
of this 20-year-old African American transwoman an accident and have refused
to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later
apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges‹even ³hit and run.²
When Ms. Keels¹ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police
officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were
asked to disclose their ³birth² names and told they were ³trying to make
something out of nothing.²

We, the undersigned, refuse to be told that the murder of Ms. Keels‹and the
subsequent police denial of the brutal, hateful assault on her‹are
³nothing.² The Philadelphia police have failed to protect her basic human
rights and dignity. The schools and businesses of Philadelphia never gave
her a chance to choose a career‹they failed her, and she was forced to earn
her survival on the streets. The social services of this city failed to
shelter her in a safe place to explore her own potential as a young person
with imaginative goals and opportunities to thrive.

We, as a community, will not fail her. We are individuals and organizations
representing Black, Latina/o and Asian people; trans and gender
non-conforming people; lesbians, gays and bisexuals; youth; immigrants;
educators; students; social service providers; activists; religious
communities; professionals; neighborhoods; and supporters around the world.

We demand a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Ms.
Keels¹ death. Her case must be re-opened. Now and in the future, the police
must follow their mandate to protect and serve all Philadelphians, including
those targeted for hate because of their gender expression and identity. All
levels of city government and administration must ensure that policy meant
to protect human rights of people in this city is followed in letter and
spirit.

Sincerely,
______________





A Survivor’s Response

30 05 2007

This powerful post comes from the blog Taking Steps. If you follow the link, you will also find a really interesting conversation going on in the comments section. Thank you to little light (blogger) and to Pigeon (guest poster)!

on the record

This is another guest post by Pigeon, in response to the huge mess going around right now in relation to the accouncement regarding the Duke lacrosse rape case. I didn’t feel qualified to offer an opinion myself, certainly not one that’s not already been offered by folk who know better than I do, but this is important to read. If this doesn’t bring it home for you and hurt, I’m not sure you’re a person.
Anyway. I should leave it at that.
Except this, considering how many trolls are out running around right now: if you so much as consider being an asshole about this, I will moderate you so hard your ancestors will feel it, capisce?
–ll.

i tried to write about this post a few days ago, a few days after the duke verdict came out.
i tried, and erased and rewrote and erased, and gave up.
i want this to come out right. i want this to be so many things, i don’t much think it will be. but i think i need to write this anyway.i didn’t expect the duke case to shake me so much. i feel like i hear about, talk about, read about, think about rape every day. i like to think i’ve built up some callous at this point, a tough, thick covering to take the edge off.the whole thing caught me off guard. i didn’t follow the case very closely, mostly just reading feminist analyses on various blogs, snippets on npr. closely enough though, to know that the whole thing was deeply fucked up, that something happened to that woman that night, whether or not it fit the official charges or was perpetrated by the three accused.and now they’ve been proclaimed not guilty, and that’s fine. i don’t know if they did it, but let’s presume innocence. glad they got their names cleared.

except now you hear the news, following “three boys innocent” with “she was never raped” and liar and whore. and no one seems to notice that the accused men’s innocence has nothing to do with whether or not she was raped, only that they didn’t do it. she called 911 for a reason, she went to the hospital afterwards, the examination supported her claims of sexual assault. we have no reason to think those results were wrong, no new information to contest it. perhaps she picked the wrong guys from the line-up, but that has little to do with what actually happened to her.
(go to feministe for more intelligent, coherent and thorough thoughts on this. read the comments at your own risk. i wish i hadn’t.)

but no one seems to remember that. instead it’s just liar, liar, liar. as if survivors aren’t called liars often enough as it is. this case just adds fuel to the fire of news media crying out, “she says she was raped, but what if she’s lying!” perpetuating the idea that women routinely lie about sexual assault to deflect attention from their own misdoings.

i don’t know a lot of statistics, and am never quite sure when to trust them, but i do know a lot of women, and i trust them a whole lot. of all the women i know, more than not have been raped, sexually assaulted or sexually abused at some point in their lives. of these women, more than not never reported. and of the few who did, more than not suffered pretty intense negative consequences because of it.

Read the rest of this entry »





Mosadi Music in Philly & NYC this weekend!

30 05 2007

 

TELLSOMEBODY!

 

 

CATCH MOSADILIVE

 

 

 

IN PHILLY & NYC THIS WEEKEND!

FRIDAY JUNE 1, 8:30 PM
1508 South Street


Philadelphia, PA


WWW.TRITONEBAR.COM


WITH
CJ BOYD, ASHLEY DEEKUS, & FEELER GUAGE

&

SATURDAY JUNE 2, 8:30 PM



KNITTING FACTORY


MOSADI’S 1S VISIT TO NYC!


74 Leonard Street


New York, NY 10013


8PM


WWW.KNITTINGFACTORY.COM


WITH KIN & 3RD PARTY

 

BE THERE EARLY!
MOSADI TAKES THE STAGE AT 8:30 PM BOTH SHOWS!

 


ALSO
MOSADI MUSIC IS REVERBNATION’S
FEATURED ARTIST!

 

VISIT
http://www.reverbnation.com/





From Newsweek – Rethinking Gender: What Makes Us Male or Female?

29 05 2007

A growing number of Americans are taking their private struggles with their identities into the public realm. How those who believe they were born with the wrong bodies are forcing us to re-examine what it means to be male and female.

By Debra Rosenberg

Newsweek

May 21, 2007 issue – Growing up in Corinth, Miss., J. T. Hayes had A legacy to attend to. His dad was a well-known race-car driver and Hayes spent much of his childhood tinkering in the family’s greasy garage, learning how to design and build cars. By the age of 10, he had started racing in his own right. Eventually Hayes won more than 500 regional and national championships in go-kart, midget and sprint racing, even making it to the NASCAR Winston Cup in the early ’90s. But behind the trophies and the swagger of the racing circuit, Hayes was harboring a painful secret: he had always believed he was a woman. He had feminine features and a slight frame—at 5 feet 6 and 118 pounds he was downright dainty—and had always felt, psychologically, like a girl. Only his anatomy got in the way. Since childhood he’d wrestled with what to do about it. He’d slip on “girl clothes” he hid under the mattress and try his hand with makeup. But he knew he’d find little support in his conservative hometown.

In 1991, Hayes had a moment of truth. He was driving a sprint car on a dirt track in Little Rock when the car flipped end over end. “I was trapped upside down, engine throttle stuck, fuel running all over the racetrack and me,” Hayes recalls. “The accident didn’t scare me, but the thought that I hadn’t lived life to its full potential just ran chill bumps up and down my body.” That night he vowed to complete the transition to womanhood. Hayes kept racing while he sought therapy and started hormone treatments, hiding his growing breasts under an Ace bandage and baggy T shirts.

Finally, in 1994, at 30, Hayes raced on a Saturday night in Memphis, then drove to Colorado the next day for sex-reassignment surgery, selling his prized race car to pay the tab. Hayes chose the name Terri O’Connell and began a new life as a woman who figured her racing days were over. But she had no idea what else to do. Eventually, O’Connell got a job at the mall selling women’s handbags for $8 an hour. O’Connell still hopes to race again, but she knows the odds are long: “Transgendered and professional motor sports just don’t go together.”

To most of us, gender comes as naturally as breathing. We have no quarrel with the “M” or the “F” on our birth certificates. And, crash diets aside, we’ve made peace with how we want the world to see us—pants or skirt, boa or blazer, spiky heels or sneakers. But to those who consider themselves transgender, there’s a disconnect between the sex they were assigned at birth and the way they see or express themselves. Though their numbers are relatively few—the most generous estimate from the National Center for Transgender Equality is between 750,000 and 3 million Americans (fewer than 1 percent)—many of them are taking their intimate struggles public for the first time. In April, L.A. Times sportswriter Mike Penner announced in his column that when he returned from vacation, he would do so as a woman, Christine Daniels. Nine states plus Washington, D.C., have enacted antidiscrimination laws that protect transgender people—and an additional three states have legislation pending, according to the Human Rights Campaign. And this month the U.S. House of Representatives passed a hate-crimes prevention bill that included “gender identity.” Today’s transgender Americans go far beyond the old stereotypes (think “Rocky Horror Picture Show”). They are soccer moms, ministers, teachers, politicians, even young children. Their push for tolerance and acceptance is reshaping businesses, sports, schools and families. It’s also raising new questions about just what makes us male or female.

What is gender anyway? It is certainly more than the physical details of what’s between our legs. History and science suggest that gender is more subtle and more complicated than anatomy. (It’s separate from sexual orientation, too, which determines which sex we’re attracted to.) Gender helps us organize the world into two boxes, his and hers, and gives us a way of quickly sizing up every person we see on the street. “Gender is a way of making the world secure,” says feminist scholar Judith Butler, a rhetoric professor at University of California, Berkeley. Though some scholars like Butler consider gender largely a social construct, others increasingly see it as a complex interplay of biology, genes, hormones and culture.

Genesis set up the initial dichotomy: “Male and female he created them.” And historically, the differences between men and women in this country were thought to be distinct. Men, fueled by testosterone, were the providers, the fighters, the strong and silent types who brought home dinner. Women, hopped up on estrogen (not to mention the mothering hormone oxytocin), were the nurturers, the communicators, the soft, emotional ones who got that dinner on the table. But as society changed, the stereotypes faded. Now even discussing gender differences can be fraught. (Just ask former Harvard president Larry Summers, who unleashed a wave of criticism when he suggested, in 2005, that women might have less natural aptitude for math and science.) Still, even the most diehard feminist would likely agree that, even apart from genitalia, we are not exactly alike. In many cases, our habits, our posture, and even cultural identifiers like the way we dress set us apart.

Now, as transgender people become more visible and challenge the old boundaries, they’ve given voice to another debate—whether gender comes in just two flavors. “The old categories that everybody’s either biologically male or female, that there are two distinct categories and there’s no overlap, that’s beginning to break down,” says Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor at SUNY-Stony Brook. “All of those old categories seem to be more fluid.” Just the terminology can get confusing. “Transsexual” is an older term that usually refers to someone who wants to use hormones or surgery to change their sex. “Transvestites,” now more politely called “cross-dressers,” occasionally wear clothes of the opposite sex. “Transgender” is an umbrella term that includes anyone whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex of their birth—whether they have surgery or not.

Gender identity first becomes an issue in early childhood, as any parent who’s watched a toddler lunge for a truck or a doll can tell you. That’s also when some kids may become aware that their bodies and brains don’t quite match up. Jona Rose, a 6-year-old kindergartner in northern California, seems like a girl in nearly every way—she wears dresses, loves pink and purple, and bestowed female names on all her stuffed animals. But Jona, who was born Jonah, also has a penis. When she was 4, her mom, Pam, offered to buy Jona a dress, and she was so excited she nearly hyperventilated. She began wearing dresses every day to preschool and no one seemed to mind. It wasn’t easy at first. “We wrung our hands about this every night,” says her dad, Joel. But finally he and Pam decided to let their son live as a girl. They chose a private kindergarten where Jona wouldn’t have to hide the fact that he was born a boy, but could comfortably dress like a girl and even use the girls’ bathroom. “She has been pretty adamant from the get-go: ‘I am a girl’,” says Joel.

Male or female, we all start life looking pretty much the same. Genes determine whether a particular human embryo will develop as male or female. But each individual embryo is equipped to be either one—each possesses the Mullerian ducts that become the female reproductive system as well as the Wolffian ducts that become the male one. Around eight weeks of development, through a complex genetic relay race, the X and the male’s Y chromosomes kick into gear, directing the structures to become testes or ovaries. (In most cases, the unneeded extra structures simply break down.) The ovaries and the testes are soon pumping out estrogen and testosterone, bathing the developing fetus in hormones. Meanwhile, the brain begins to form, complete with receptors—wired differently in men and women—that will later determine how both estrogen and testosterone are used in the body.

After birth, the changes keep coming. In many species, male newborns experience a hormone surge that may “organize” sexual and behavioral traits, says Nirao Shah, a neuroscientist at UCSF. In rats, testosterone given in the first week of life can cause female babies to behave more like males once they reach adulthood. “These changes are thought to be irreversible,” says Shah. Between 1 and 5 months, male human babies also experience a hormone surge. It’s still unclear exactly what effect that surge has on the human brain, but it happens just when parents are oohing and aahing over their new arrivals.

Here’s where culture comes in. Studies have shown that parents treat boys and girls very differently—breast-feeding boys longer but talking more to girls. That’s going on while the baby’s brain is engaged in a massive growth spurt. “The brain doubles in size in the first five years after birth, and the connectivity between the cells goes up hundreds of orders of magnitude,” says Anne Fausto-Sterling, a biologist and feminist at Brown University who is currently investigating whether subtle differences in parental behavior could influence gender identity in very young children. “The brain is interacting with culture from day one.”

So what’s different in transgender people? Scientists don’t know for certain. Though their hormone levels seem to be the same as non-trans levels, some scientists speculate that their brains react differently to the hormones, just as men’s differ from women’s. But that could take decades of further research to prove. One 1997 study tantalizingly suggested structural differences between male, female and transsexual brains, but it has yet to be successfully replicated. Some transgender people blame the environment, citing studies that show pollutants have disrupted reproduction in frogs and other animals. But those links are so far not proved in humans. For now, transgender issues are classified as “Gender Identity Disorder” in the psychiatric manual DSM-IV. That’s controversial, too—gay-rights activists spent years campaigning to have homosexuality removed from the manual.
Gender fluidity hasn’t always seemed shocking. Cross-dressing was common in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as among Native Americans and many other indigenous societies, according to Deborah Rudacille, author of “The Riddle of Gender.” Court records from the Jamestown settlement in 1629 describe the case of Thomas Hall, who claimed to be both a man and a woman. Of course, what’s considered masculine or feminine has long been a moving target. Our Founding Fathers wouldn’t be surprised to see men today with long hair or earrings, but they might be puzzled by women in pants.

Transgender opponents have often turned to the Bible for support. Deut. 22:5 says: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” When word leaked in February that Steve Stanton, the Largo, Fla., city manager for 14 years, was planning to transition to life as a woman, the community erupted. At a public meeting over whether Stanton should be fired, one of many critics, Ron Sanders, pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church, insisted that Jesus would “want him terminated.” (Stanton did lose his job and this week will appear as Susan Stanton on Capitol Hill to lobby for antidiscrimination laws.) Equating gender change with homosexuality, Sanders says that “it’s an abomination, which means that it’s utterly disgusting.”

Not all people of faith would agree. Baptist minister John Nemecek, 56, was surfing the Web one weekend in 2003, when his wife was at a baby shower. Desperate for clues to his long-suppressed feelings of femininity, he stumbled across an article about gender-identity disorder on WebMD. The suggested remedy was sex-reassignment surgery—something Nemecek soon thought he had to do. Many families can be ripped apart by such drastic changes, but Nemecek’s wife of 33 years stuck by him. His employer of 15 years, Spring Arbor University, a faith-based liberal-arts college in Michigan, did not. Nemecek says the school claimed that transgenderism violated its Christian principles, and when it renewed Nemecek’s contract—by then she was taking hormones and using the name Julie—it barred her from dressing as a woman on campus or even wearing earrings. Her workload and pay were cut, too, she says. She filed a discrimination claim, which was later settled through mediation. (The university declined to comment on the case.) Nemecek says she has no trouble squaring her gender change and her faith. “Actively expressing the feminine in me has helped me grow closer to God,” she says.

Others have had better luck transitioning. Karen Kopriva, now 49, kept her job teaching high school in Lake Forest, Ill., when she shaved her beard and made the switch from Ken. When Mark Stumpp, a vice president at Prudential Financial, returned to work as Margaret in 2002, she sent a memo to her colleagues (subject: Me) explaining the change. “We all joked about wearing panty hose and whether ‘my condition’ was contagious,” she says. But “when the dust settled, everyone got back to work.” Companies like IBM and Kodak now cover trans-related medical care. And 125 Fortune 500 companies now protect transgender employees from job discrimination, up from three in 2000. Discrimination may not be the worst worry for transgender people: they are also at high risk of violence and hate crimes.
Perhaps no field has wrestled more with the issue of gender than sports. There have long been accusations about male athletes’ trying to pass as women, or women’s taking testosterone to gain a competitive edge. In the 1960s, would-be female Olympians were required to undergo gender-screening tests. Essentially, that meant baring all before a panel of doctors who could verify that an athlete had girl parts. That method was soon scrapped in favor of a genetic test. But that quickly led to confusion over a handful of genetic disorders that give typical-looking women chromosomes other than the usual XX. Finally, the International Olympic Committee ditched mandatory lab-based screening, too. “We found there is no scientifically sound lab-based technique that can differentiate between man and woman,” says Arne Ljungqvist, chair of the IOC’s medical commission.

The IOC recently waded into controversy again: in 2004 it issued regulations allowing transsexual athletes to compete in the Olympics if they’ve had sex-reassignment surgery and have taken hormones for two years. After convening a panel of experts, the IOC decided that the surgery and hormones would compensate for any hormonal or muscular advantage a male-to-female transsexual would have. (Female-to-male athletes would be allowed to take testosterone, but only at levels that wouldn’t give them a boost.) So far, Ljungqvist doesn’t know of any transsexual athletes who’ve competed. Ironically, Renee Richards, who won a lawsuit in 1977 for the right to play tennis as a woman after her own sex-reassignment surgery, questions the fairness of the IOC rule. She thinks decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Richards and other pioneers reflect the huge cultural shift over a generation of gender change. Now 70, Richards rejects the term transgender along with all the fluidity it conveys. “God didn’t put us on this earth to have gender diversity,” she says. “I don’t like the kids that are experimenting. I didn’t want to be something in between. I didn’t want to be trans anything. I wanted to be a man or a woman.”

But more young people are embracing something we would traditionally consider in between. Because of the expense, invasiveness and mixed results (especially for women becoming men), only 1,000 to 2,000 Americans each year get sex-reassignment surgery—a number that’s on the rise, says Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Mykell Miller, a Northwestern University student born female who now considers himself male, hides his breasts under a special compression vest. Though he one day wants to take hormones and get a mastectomy, he can’t yet afford it. But that doesn’t affect his self-image. “I challenge the idea that all men were born with male bodies,” he says. “I don’t go out of my way to be the biggest, strongest guy.”

Nowhere is the issue more pressing at the moment than a place that helped give rise to feminist movement a generation ago: Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Though Smith was one of the original Seven Sisters women’s colleges, its students have now taken to calling it a “mostly women’s college,” in part because of a growing number of “transmen” who decide to become male after they’ve enrolled. In 2004, students voted to remove pronouns from the student government constitution as a gesture to transgender students who no longer identified with “she” or “her.” (Smith is also one of 70 schools that have antidiscrimination policies protecting transgender students.) For now, anyone who is enrolled at Smith may graduate, but in order to be admitted in the first place, you must have been born a female. Tobias Davis, class of ’03, entered Smith as a woman, but graduated as a “transman.” When he first told friends over dinner, “I think I might be a boy,” they were instantly behind him, saying “Great! Have you picked a name yet?” Davis passed as male for his junior year abroad in Italy even without taking hormones; he had a mastectomy last fall. Now 25, Davis works at Smith and writes plays about the transgender experience. (His work “The Naked I: Monologues From Beyond the Binary” is a trans take on “The Vagina Monologues.”)

As kids at ever-younger ages grapple with issues of gender variance, doctors, psychologists and parents are weighing how to balance immediate desires and long-term ones. Like Jona Rose, many kids begin questioning gender as toddlers, identifying with the other gender’s toys and clothes. Five times as many boys as girls say their gender doesn’t match their biological sex, says Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, a psychiatrist who heads a gender-variance outreach program at Children’s National Medical Center. (Perhaps that’s because it’s easier for girls to blend in as tomboys.) Many of these children eventually move on and accept their biological sex, says Menvielle, often when they’re exposed to a disapproving larger world or when they’re influenced by the hormone surges of puberty. Only about 15 percent continue to show signs of gender-identity problems into adulthood, says Ken Zucker, who heads the Gender Identity Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

In the past, doctors often advised parents to direct their kids into more gender-appropriate clothing and behavior. Zucker still tells parents of unhappy boys to try more-neutral activities—say chess club instead of football. But now the thinking is that kids should lead the way. If a child persists in wanting to be the other gender, doctors may prescribe hormone “blockers” to keep puberty at bay. (Blockers have no permanent effects.) But they’re also increasingly willing to take more lasting steps: Isaak Brown (who started life as Liza) began taking male hormones at 16; at 17 he had a mastectomy.

For parents like Colleen Vincente, 44, following a child’s lead seems only natural. Her second child, M. (Vincente asked to use an initial to protect the child’s privacy), was born female. But as soon as she could talk, she insisted on wearing boy’s clothes. Though M. had plenty of dolls, she gravitated toward “the boy things” and soon wanted to shave off all her hair. “We went along with that,” says Vincente. “We figured it was a phase.” One day, when she was 2½, M. overheard her parents talking about her using female pronouns. “He said, ‘No—I’m a him. You need to call me him’,” Vincente recalls. “We were shocked.” In his California preschool, M. continued to insist he was a boy and decided to change his name. Vincente and her husband, John, consulted a therapist, who confirmed their instincts to let M. guide them. Now 9, M. lives as a boy and most people have no idea he was born otherwise. “The most important thing is to realize this is who your child is,” Vincente says. That’s a big step for a family, but could be an even bigger one for the rest of the world.

This story was written by Debra Rosenberg, with Reporting from Lorraine Ali, Mary Carmichael, Samantha Henig, Raina Kelley, Matthew Philips, Julie Scelfo, Kurt Soller, Karen Springen And Lynn Waddell.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18618970/site/newsweek/?GT1=9951





Editorial: Defending the ‘good girls’

21 05 2007

From: TheState.com

Posted on Fri, May. 04, 2007

By CONSEULA FRANCIS
Guest columnist

There’s probably been more than enough said about both Don Imus and the Duke rape case. I have debated whether I should add my voice to the throng. But then I think about this statement and why it bothers me so much:

“Why do people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson always play the race card? We will never get over our divisions unless people learn to let things go.”

What does this even mean? Does it mean that racism will end if we let racists be racist in peace? We can live in a less racially divisive society if only I can learn not to bother you with the circumstances and consequences of my oppression? Your need to live free of emotional and social discomfort is more important than my right to be heard?

And what exactly am I getting out of this? The right to be called a “nappy-headed ho” on national radio? Thanks but no thanks.

If this was the only thing bothering me about the whole matter, I might be able to let it go. I can’t though. Here’s why:

In the rush to defend the Rutgers women’s basketball team, it seems that they have earned our support precisely because they are not actually “nappyheaded hos.” They are not the young woman in the Duke case. That nameless young woman — a single mother, a college dropout, a former exotic dancer, as every article reminds us — didn’t deserve our defense. We could be outraged on her behalf. We could rail against the white male privilege run amok. But defend her? No.

Her very existence undermines what so many black women try so hard to prove every day: We are not welfare mothers. We are not video vixens. We are not “nappy-headed hos.” But being the sexual entertainment at a party full of white men doesn’t really demonstrate that, does it? So there will be no defense of her, no meetings with her, no rallying around her now that North Carolina has decided she’s a liar.

But the Rutgers players? These young women are on the Condoleezza Path of Success. They have struggled, worked hard, followed the rules, played the game. and it’s paying off. They have been trotted out on TV, not a nappy head among them, looking every bit the bright, high-achieving women they are. And the implication, at least to my eyes, is that they deserve our protection because they are good girls. What would have happened if they had been less than good?

Maybe this all bothers me because I was placed on the Condoleeza Path of Success early in life. I learned, even though no one ever said these words, that being smart and well-spoken and modest would protect me from many of the degradations that so many black women have to live with every day. And I succeeded. I live with a certain amount of privilege that many black women don’t have.

It’s amazing how people’s facial expressions and body language change when I introduce myself as Dr. Francis or mention that I’m a college professor. A whole set of assumptions about me get thrown out because of that PhD. But Dr. Francis isn’t exactly tattooed on my forehead, is it?

I walk around in my brown skin, appearing very much the nappy-headed ho to the Imuses of the world simply because of that skin. And it’s small comfort to think that, apparently, my only defense against that is trying really hard to be Condoleezza.

Dr. Francis is an assistant professor of English at the College of Charleston.





Town Hall Meeting: What will it take to end sexual violence in our communities?

18 05 2007

Imagine a day when Durham, North Carolina is free of sexual violence.

What will that day look like? What will it feel like? What needs to happen in order to make that day a reality? What will need in order to sustain the work of creating a city–and even a world–without sexual violence?

If you want to create and live in a world without sexual violence, you are not alone. Join community members and organizations for this important meeting where we connect and vision a way forward!

Location: Stanford L. Warren Library, downstairs meeting room, 1201 Fayetteville Street, Durham, NC

Date: Saturday, June 9th, 2007

Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

RSVP or questions: dotvolunteer@gmail.com

See you there!








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