Thursday, January 24, 2008

Queespawn Radical Cheer

I was flipping through a copy of COLAGE's newsletter Just for Us and came across the cheer that the high school radical cheerleaders workshop performed at Familyweek last summer. It reminded me just how much I love this community. Here is the text:

The nation now is so uptight
All queerspawn have got to unite
The G-O-V's got hate and spite
So us queerspawn gotta shed some light

Resist! Resist! The system that we're in
Picture-perfect families don't let every one in

Families on TV have a mom and a dad
My family's different and we sure are rad
I see you you shooting that documentary
but that's not everybody's family
Families of color and KOTs
Single parents and divorc'es
Second-gen's not what they want to see
Resist the expectation that they have for me!


If all our families come together as one
That's the way it's gonna get done!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Art Hero

What happens when you dump half a million plastic balls down the Spanish Steps in Rome?

Graziano Cecchini, the mastermind behind this stunt was also responsible for turning the 18th century Trevi Fountain red in October.

I'm (rarely) tired of using technology

The purpose of my journey out west, in under four words was “building a bigger toolkit”. I can feel it already, half way through my stay in San Francisco. I’m an activist; it’s official. Although I’m not sure that I’m a writer. But my ability to have the greatest impact depends on my communication skills. I am writing this resource guide - the pamphlet for KOTs. It will exist within the next six months, out in the world. What a gratifying thought.

I got a new tool this week, thanks to my colleague Lauren, who is writing a training manual for local and national volunteers to understand and integrate COLAGE’s social justice framework. She is a writer and impresses me on a regular basis. She showed me this program called Scrivener, which is a magical intuitive writing software that allows you to work on multiple documents within a larger document, among other common-sense tools. I downloaded a 30-day trial and started using it this afternoon. It’s sadly only available for Mac OS X Tiger or higher. My nerdy love for this application is almost too much to admit. The most useful feature, in relation to productivity, is the full screen view, which blacks out the rest of your screen and leaves you with a blank page to write on. As yet another easily distracted member of the information age, this feature may change the way I work. Isn’t that what innovative technology is supposed to do? The software is created for writers, so the tutorial kept reminding me that I must be a writer if I’m using the program. Let’s consider it positive reinforcement.

Yay toolkit!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doctors Give Massachussetts Health Care Reform a Failing Grade

Physicians for a National Health Care Program (PNHCP) released an An Open Letter to the Nation from Massachusetts Physicians today, explaining the shortcomings of the Massachussets model of healthcare reform.
“It is urgent that the rest of the country know that Massachusetts is a living laboratory for the health care reforms being pushed in California and by the Obama/Clinton/Edwards campaigns. Right now the Gov. Romney/Massachusetts’ plan gets a failing grade on the ground,” said Dr.Rachel Nardin, Assistant Professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Apparently, mandating residents to enroll in private health care plans benefits insurance companies more than it benefits the people of the commonwealth. Mitt Romney push through something for big business? Go figure.
Starting January 1, 2008 Massachusetts residents face fines if they cannot offer proof of insurance. Yet as of December 1, 2007 only 37% of the 657,000 uninsured had gained coverage under the new program. These individuals often feel well served by the reform in that they now have health insurance. However, 79% of these newly insured individuals are very poor people enrolled in Medicaid or similar free plans. Virtually all of them were previously eligible for completely free care funded by the state, but face co-payments under the new plan. In effect, public funds for care of the poor that previously flowed directly to hospitals and clinics now flow through insurers with their higher administrative costs.
Oh, the joys of privatization. Thanks, Mitt. Hopefully, the federal government will learn from the Massachussetts model and enact real health care reform. I can't say that I am very hopeful though, considering the Dems also like big business, especially when giving perks to the insurance companies seems more like populist reforms than corporate handouts.

The United States should have universal health care. Politicians talk about this great nation, but how embarrassing to be the wealthiest country in the world without a national health care system. As the doctors of PNHCP said, "The lesson from Massachusetts is that we still need real health care reform: single payer, non-profit national health insurance." Hopefully, we will get just what we need.

In the mean time, I am uninsured, living in California, hoping I stay healthy and wondering what overpriced ineffective insurance policy I'll be required to purchase when I move back to Massachusetts.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mommyman, Mommyman

I joined Livejournal today, in order to post a response to a transgender parent whose daughter was asking him to where a dress to her wedding. Hopefully, he'll take my advice about leaving the door open for his daughter to come around. We all transition - the whole family - and everyone goes through their own process. It's really hard to hear when parents expect their kids to accommodate them and shirk their parental responsibility.

This is a big challenge, since people going through a gender transition tend to be a little self-involved. I mean, it is an enormous life change. The problem is that if the parent's gender stuff eclipses their parental role, no one wins. Kids are resentful that they've 'lost' the parent they used to know. Perhaps this 'new' person is more interested in their own transgender emergence than in their relationship with their kid, which creates a real loss for the child. My consistent advice to parents: You are the parent! Act like it. It doesn't matter how old your child is. You need to act like the parent and be supportive of your kid.

On a lighter note, one of the parents on lj posted a song his 7-year old sang to him, to the tune of the spiderman song: "mommyman, mommyman, does whatever a mommy can. Can she spin a web, yes he can...cause he's mommyman, mommyman...". I love this kid, wherever he is.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Blair Waldorf's Gay Dad

In honor of my first sick day of 2008, I've decided to share one of my guilty pleasures. I only recently started to watch TV on the internet (not the be confused with TV on the Radio) after a few years of an occasional TV series on DVD. This could be a dangerous new world of procrastination. I have been watching Gossip Girl, the CW hit about Upper East Side teenagers, based on a series of young adult novels. It is basically 42 minutes of over-privileged hotties running around New York. Somehow, it keeps me entertained.

One interesting element of the plot is that Blair Waldorf's father has recently left her mother for another man. In the Christmas episode, Blair's father returns home with his new partner, expecting that if they are all in the same place, things will just work themselves out. Of course, Blair is completely heartbroken that she doesn't get to spend special time with her daddy. Never fear, though, daddy and Roman just bought a villa in France with a room decorated just for Blair.

While the episode is as ridiculous as the rest of the show, some elements are true to life. Roman was an old family friend who the father fell for after years of knowing him, which happens sometimes. The dad has unrealistic expectations for the family, which often happens after a divorce. Ultimately, it comes down to the parents being adults, even if the teenagers act like adults already.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

KOT in the Media: Travis Stanton

Susan Stanton made headlines in early 2007 when she lost her job as city manager of Largo, Florida after moving forward with her transition. She made further waves just last week over a profile by the Saint Petersberg Times in which she called some trans women 'men in dresses' and expressed support for the non-trans-inclusive version of ENDA. Needless to say, the transgender community is perturbed and disappointed that she would make these comments to the media.

The article also includes the words of Travis Stanton, Susan's 14-year old son, who is rolling with the punches of having such a high-profile transgender parent. Our parent's transitions impact the way in which we see the world.
"Everyone thinks my dad has hurt me and my life is ruined. But that's not how it is at all. I just think I get things more now.

"Like, I used to think gay people were kind of weird. Now I see how they feel," Travis says.

Hopefully, Travis will feel more comfortable around transgender people than his father does. It sounds like the experience has made him more open-minded. There is so much pressure on a family when a parent transitions, that it must be especially hard to deal with a parent who makes national news in the midst of so many other changes.

I still find it hard to answer questions about my relationship with my dad. While in Boston, I did an interview for a journalist with WBUR, Boston's NPR station. At one point, she asked me, "Do you have a good relationship with your dad now?" I told her we relate as adult child to parent, that the relationship is important to me, and that, we have our history, like any family. There is some really hard stuff in that history (I left that out) and most of it has nothing to do with her transgender identity. When our families get placed under a microscope, it's hard to figure out which parts to leave in the petri dish. That's why it's good to have trustworthy support, people with whom we can talk about the ugly stuff without worrying that they will pin it on our parent's trans identity. I am hoping that the email discussion list will create that space for KOTs.

At the end of the Stanton profile, the reporter included an essay by Travis. Interestingly, one of the comments on the article is from someone who knows Travis and says he didn't write it himself. In any case, here is the essay as printed:

Susan Stanton's only son, Travis, is 14. This fall, his middle school teacher asked the class to write about tolerance. With his parents' permission, and Travis' consent, here is the essay he wrote, edited for spelling and space.

Throughout my whole life, I thought my dad was a really tough guy. He went out with the cops and busted bad guys. He shot guns, fought fires. He was an aggressive driver. He liked football and lots of sports.

Then one day my thoughts changed about him when we had a family meeting and he told me how he felt about himself. He said he felt like a woman on the inside and was going to change into one. He said he tried his best to be a manly guy, but he couldn't stop his feelings to become a girl.

At first, I thought I was in a dream. I thought he was 100 percent manly man, more manly than most guys.

After a few days, I thought about it. I knew he was making the right choice to become a girl. Although I can't relate to his feelings, it must be really hard to hide something like that. It would be like having $1-million and not being able to spend it. After just so long, your feelings would take over and you would spend it. ...

I think that everyone should be who they are and not try to be the same as other people. If you ask me, this has got to be the most manliest thing he has done in his whole life. It takes a real man to come out of his shell and say, "Hey, I am who I am."

Now he is who he is meant to be. He is himself.

This seems to me like an essay written by a youth working through his father's transition. Adjusting to new pronouns takes time for family members. Is Travis being used as a 'poster child'? Hopefully, his father's recent comments will force her out of the spotlight and give the family a little privacy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

School Based Gender Identity Protections in Effect in California

As of yesterday, California public school students are now protected against sexual orientation and gender identity based discrimination. Go, California!

Sadly, the enactment of a law that passed in October didn't make the headlines, but those still organizing against it are making national news. According to the New York Times, conservative groups filed a law suit against the law, arguing that protections against 'perceived or actual' sexual orientation and/or gender identity are too vague.
“This lawsuit argues that the redefinition of gender should be declared unconstitutional because it is too vague,” said Jennifer Monk, a lawyer for Advocates for Faith and Freedom. “If it’s not based on physical anatomy or how they act or dress, and it’s all based on what they think they are, then how is a teacher to know how a student identifies?”
Well, Ms. Monk, you could ask them. Fortunately, we have smart people on our side. I guess if we didn't, there would be no progress.
“The same concocted concerns could theoretically apply to any of the categories,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who filed the motion to intervene on behalf of the two groups. “A student could identify as African-American or Muslim or Jewish, even if others do not perceive that student as such.”
What this issue comes down to is securing the basic right to public education in an environment free from discrimination. Fortunately for LBGTQ students in CA, the law is now on their side. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Polar Bear Plunge 2008

Carson Beach, South Boston, Massachusetts

photo credit: Kasey H.