Thoughts On Chelsea Manning’s Coming Out

I have some thoughts on how Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s gender dysphoria was rolled out.

Let me begin by saying I’m going to give, and I’m going to advocate for, respect for Manning’s chosen name and publicly embraced gender, and I’m going to use female pronouns and call her Chelsea. That; however, comes with a mixed bag of emotions.

Image: Chelsea ManningI’m going to respect Chelsea’s public request in part because of the Biblical teaching I learned as Pentecostal youth that I still embrace today: treat others as I want to be treated.

But as I respect her name and identified gender, I’m cognizant that Chelsea didn’t respect the trans community — the trans community of which I am a part — in how she came out.

I don’t know off the top of my head what the Army’s core values are. I suppose I could look those up, but the Army’s core values are not how I’m thinking about Chelsea Manning’s public life as her one public day as a trans woman and as a part of my military family. The core values I learned as a US Navy sailor — the ones I’m filtering her public behavior through — are honor, courage, and commitment.

One could make the argument that Chelsea Manning showed courage in releasing documents that opened up government. We Americans learned some a lot about the drone program that’s being done in the American people’s name that should have been made public by the Obama Administration.

But that said, she didn’t have sufficient time to route through all of the 700,000 documents she released via Wikileaks.

It can be said that there is honor in targeted release of specific documents, but my opinion is that there was not a lot of honor found in the mass dump of documents that Chelsea released without personally. Basically, she didn’t really know if any of the documents she released without reviewing would be harmful to her peers serving in Afghanistan. With those thoughts in mind, I personally see Chelsea as recklessly engaging in both heroic and criminal actions. Her apology to the court acknowledged her failing to fully take into account the consequences of her actions before handing those 700,000 documents to Wikileaks:

First, your honor I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that I hurt the United States.

At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to effect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.

I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.

In a manner similar to how Chelsea didn’t consider the broader effects of her actions in her release of classified information, there seems to me to be a parallel lack of consideration for the broader effects of her actions to the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community in how she came out…a parallel lack of respect for others whose lives she didn’t consider.

As I read Chelsea’s announcement, I was struck that the thrust of her statement was about her wants and needs, and that there was no mention or consideration of the impact of her statement on other trans people. For example, Chelsea made her announcement without warning to LGB and especially T community leaders even as she put LGBT community leaders the in the position of defending her gender identity. What she did was put the responsibility of defending her chosen name and preferred pronouns on LGBT non-profits and trans community activists who weren’t fully aware of if, when, or how she was going to publicly announce she has a female gender identity.

To me, it’s notable that Chelsea made her announcement that she was a woman without publicly using the terms trans, trans*, transgender, or transsexual to describe herself, or acknowledge she was part of a community that were going to be defending her gender identity.

The timing of her announcement has the feel to me as the B.Scott and the Kristen Beck announcements. The timing was, or felt to many in trans community, to be self-serving. All three of their announcements addressed their needs, but not how these announcements would affect their trans community peers. I feel that two of these folk (B. Scott and Chelsea Manning) came out in a way that helped their legal situations, but then brought to trans community members’ gender identities, gender expressions, and transitions into question to broader society, as well as subjecting trans identities to ridicule.

There is no honor in harming the community to which you are entering.

And, there is no honor in announcing the new name Chelsea wishes to be addressed by and her gender identity without considering how the timing of her announcement may impact efforts for open military service for trans people in the service.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I see a pattern of behavior where she doesn’t consider the consequences of her actions…to include the impact her behavior has had and is having on others.

Very specifically regarding her trans siblings serving in silence in the military services, Chelsea is harming the effort towards open military service by trans servicemembers. She is doing this by being a poster child for the meme that trans people are pathological and can’t appropriately serve in the military services with honor and distinction.

And, of course, there is the courage and commitment thing. Prior to being arrested, she reached out for help to her immediate supervisor, essentially outing herself as trans with the “My Problem” email and inclusion of a photo of her presenting as female. Courage and commitment to further identify as trans to the Army with intent to receive treatment for her gender dysphoria and a discharge could have included going to the next and the next and the next supervisor in her chain of command, or could have included contacting a military psychologist or psychiatrist — contacting anyone with the power to help her until someone in the Army acted or what she described as her problem. (I do believe there was a failure of leadership by her immediate supervisor for not passing on the information up the chain of command when it was a clear call for help, but that’s another issue.) It seems to me that she demonstrated a lack of courage and commitment in how she reached out for help…from the military and discharged from to be treated and discharged by the Army for what was then referred to under DSM-IV TR as gender identity disorder.

Could Chelsea have changed her name to Breanna or Chelsea while she was in service? Others I know in the service have changed their names on their way out of the service — it would have been another way to demonstrate commitment to addressing her gender dysphoria. Not knowing her deployment schedule; however, I’m not sure that option was available to her between her deployment schedule and when she figured out she had a female gender identity, but if she had changed her legal name to Breanna or Chelsea though, it would have been a sign of courage and commitment to being female when she first knew she was female back in 2010.

I will respect Chelsea’s desire to be called Chelsea and be referred to by female pronouns — this is per the Associated Press Styleguide and the GLAAD Media Reference Guide. I will slam journalists hard who don’t conform to those standards, and behind the scenes with some I already have..

But if any think I appreciate the manner in which Chelsea came out in acting with a sense of entitlement regarding her change of name and public gender, in addressing her own wants and needs in her coming out while showing disrespect for trans community that is now in the position of defending her, and in the harm to trans servicemembers who are right now honorably serving in silence by making trans service look completely incompatible with military service, that would be incorrect.

I don’t see respect, honor, courage, and commitment in her behavior to date. I see a pattern of behavior where she doesn’t consider the consequences of her actions…the impact that her behavior has on others.

I will forcefully respect her public desire to be called Chelsea and her public desire to be referred to with female pronouns. I will defend her in that to my last breath, were that required. But, that’s pretty much only because I treat others the way I want others to my trans peers and treat me…because I go to bat for my peers in trans community in the same way I want others to go to bat for my trans peers and me. It’s not at all because I have great respect at this point in time for Chelsea herself. Basically I’m standing behind trans community as a whole rather than standing behind Chelsea as an individual.

Chelsea, as a sibling in both military and trans community, hasn’t earned my respect.

Transsexual Separatist Slacktivism Doesn’t Win Legislatively

Call them classic transsexuals or women of operative history; call them true transsexuals or transsexual separatists — whatever you call them, you can also call them ineffectual slacktivists.

Over at LGBT Weekly where I write the Trans Progressive column, the August 15, 2013 column is about this year’s California Transgender Advocacy Day. About fifty people, including trans adults, trans youth, parents of trans youth, and allies lobbied for three bills that will impact trans people — trans people who are visitors, residents, past residents, and citizens of the state of California.

Image: Approximately 50 California Transgender Advocacy Day Citizen Lobbyists Cheering At The News Governor Brown Signed AB 1266 (The School Success and Opportunity Act) On August 12, 2013While these citizen lobbyists were lobbying for AB 420 (Disruption and Defiance: Reducing Grounds for Harsh Discipline in public schools, author: Assemblymember Roger Dickinson), SB 716 (the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act of 2013, author: Senator Ricardo Lara), and AB 1121 (Gender Identity: Petition For Change Of Name, author: Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins), Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed a bill that positively impacts trans youth in public schools — AB 1266 (School Success and Opportunity Act; author: Assemblymember Tom Ammiano).

How did trans rights advocates and citizen lobbyists win on AB 1266? Well it’s the same way we’ve seen bills that impact trans people in a positive way pass into law in past years. 1.) California is a progressive state, 2.) there are LGBT community civil rights non-profits, such as Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, which develop relationships with LGBT caucus legislators and propose legislation that positively impacts trans people, and 3.) these non-profits organize citizen lobbyists to lobby for legislation that in a positive way impacts trans people.

And, we vote for these legislators that cast votes in the statehouse for us, and so do our allies.

Lamenting that AB 1266 has been signed into law by Gov. Brown, transsexual separatist Jennifer Usher of Just Jennifer wrote an essay entitled A Very Bad Law. And in the same vein, back in 2011 transsexual separatist Elizabeth of Notes From The T-Side blog argued against AB 433 (the Vital Statistics Modernization Act) in her essay entitled The truth about California Bill AB 433.

Transsexual Separatists over at TS-SI website tried to organize an annual Transsexual Independence Day, and identified it as an annual event to contact legislator in 2011 and 2012. The effort of this lobbying day was described in 2011 as follows:

We urge that all of us, wherever we are in every country and political subdivision, write a letter to the leaders of our respective governments and deliver a direct message:

“People of transsexual history, those born transsexual, have a correctable medical condition that should not be confused with the sociopolitical and lifestyle activism of transgender activists. This is important because the willful confusion imposed by transgenderism deflects effective medical treatment from those who desperately need it.”

We vary in our opinions regarding the great issues of governance that animate our day, proceeding from separate assumptions about what is just, meet, and affordable in our separate countries. We do not ask in this appeal for specific policies or funding. We do not seek advantage over others, but we do ask for our liberty.

Thumbnail Image: 'Slacktivist' Autumn Sandeen with a cup of coffee and a bag of Cheetos -- not fully meeting the blogging standard of also blogging in one's PJ's from one's mother's basement. Photo was taken in November of 2010 a day after Autumn participated in the GetEqual direct action of chaining herself to the White House fence for repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.When lobbying for a piece of social legislation a group of people has to identify an area of concern, identify for a legislator a solution for that concern, propose legislation, organize a lobbying effort to tell legislators as why the solution proposed in the legislation is the right solution to the concern, then an even larger group of people has to lobby-lobby-lobby for that legislation. And, when arguing against a piece of legislation, one has to identify why a particular piece of legislation addresses an illegitimate concern, addresses a wrongheaded concern, or doesn’t provide a good solution to a legitimate concern. Then again, a group of people has to lobby-lobby-lobby against the legislation.

The message of Transsexual Independence Day was a complete non sequitur. The organizers weren’t lobbying for or against any legislation at all, and they weren’t proposing any legislation to address their concerns. In other words, there didn’t seem to be any point to contacting their legislators they weren’t making any specific ask of the legislators.

Even Notes From The T-Side‘s Elizabeth saw problems with the organizing effort for Transsexual Independence Day.

TS-SI closed its doors in October of 2012, and no Transsexual Independence Day was organized for this year. It appears Transsexual Independence Day won’t be organized again in the future. Yet, even if it were organized again in a similar manner to how it was organized in 2011 and 2012, the non sequitur messaging would be just as ineffectual as the first two of those lobbying days.

Folk like Jennifer Usher and Elizabeth focus significant parts of their writing on a few bloggers and activists with significant internet presence, but don’t actually accomplish anything political in the brick-and-mortar world. They don’t even focus on the LGBT non-profits and the non-profit leaders that work on transgender issues with any sustained effort — again, they just focus on a few bloggers and activists with significant internet presence.

Lament all they want about past legislation like AB 433 and AB 1266 becoming law, and maybe lament some more about this year’s AB 1121 likely being signed into law sometime this or next year, but organizing and lobbying in any numbers to fight against legislation is beyond them and their peers’ capabilities.

Keyboard activism alone is just slacktivism. What passes for “classic transsexual” and “true transsexual” political activism these days seems pretty much limited to slacktivism directed at a few bloggers and activists with significant internet presence — slacktivism that doesn’t have any political impact whatsoever.

And, may this slacktivism by transsexual separatists always remain as ineffectual as it is now.

Progressive Talking Heads Not Talking About California School Success And Opportunity Act

It’s kind of sad, really. Progressive talking heads on cable television aren’t talking about Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signing AB 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act. (The act will become law on January 1, 2014 — the tenth anniversary of California’s first transgender rights bill, AB 196, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act, becoming law.)

From the Transgender Law Center’s description of the bill that Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed on August 12, 1213:

California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students are still unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities and facilities. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class. For example, physical education classes help students develop healthy fitness habits and teach values like teamwork and fair competition – and count toward graduation as much as any other course.

You can find television talking heads on the right and center-right talking about this bill soon becoming law in very transphobic terms, (here, here, here, here, and here, for example), but progressive talking and left-leaning heads — such as the big four of Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Laurence O’Donnell on MSNBC — didn’t comment on the bill, let alone comment on it as a progressive civil rights bill.

And, it’s not like any of the “gang of four” were discussing LGBT issues on August 12th through the 14th. For example, Laurence McDonnell interviewed Greg Louganis about the 2014 Olympics in Russia, and Louganis mentioned LGBTQ youth:

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The text except of Louganis talking about LGBTQ youth from the interview:

It is unfortunate that we have had the Olympics where, you know, we were in Beijing. The don’t have the greatest human rights history, you know? So — and there, I mean, it is so blatantly staring us in the face as to what is happening to the LGBTQ kids in Russia.

Chris Hayes discussing the Russian Olympics and gays on August 13th:

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But nothing on the School Success and Opportunity Act from progressive and left-leaning talking heads.

It’s sad that even though LGBT civil rights are human rights, progressive talking heads on cable television apparently don’t believe that that issues specific to the T portion of LGBT community are human rights worth talking about. Instead, they leave trans people — trans youth — to be maligned by right-leaning talking heads on television without progressive cable talking head rebuttal.

Transitioning Back To One’s Assigned Sex At Birth

Image: Megan WallentIn the past few months there have been two public transitioners who transitioned first from men to women and then back to men. One was Michael Wallent (F.K.A. Megan Wallent; second transition announced in her March blog entry News), and the other was Don Ennis (F.K.A. Dawn Stacey Ennis; reported in the New York Post article I’m a guy again! ABC newsman who switched genders wants to switch back).

I wrote an essay back in 2008 for Pam’s House Blend, and I’m not sure if the reasons I spelled out in  that essay applies in these two cases — or even surgical regret without transitioning back applies here. Nevertheless, regret is a rare thing that only happens in about less than 1% in Female-to-Males and 1-1.5% in Male-to-Females (as cited by International Journal of Transgenderism paper Transgender Individuals’ Experiences of Psychotherapy).

I frankly find Don Ennis’s claim of “transient global amnesia” as the impetus to transition back to male to be a rather incredible, but it is ultimately up to him to decide whether or not he should live as Dawn or Don.

As for Michael, he states his detransition had to do with no longer being able to take estrogen due to health reasons. I believe Michael had facial feminization surgery, breast implants, and very likely had genital reconstruction surgery. Choosing to detransition over no longer being able to take estrogen seems to be an unconvincing reason. Millions of post-menopausal women do without estrogen, so it doesn’t seem that having estrogen coursing through one’s body is intrinsic to being female. It’s a reasonable sounding explanation, but that reason wouldn’t seem to explain a total detransition. Frankly, there are multiple methods for estrogen delivery, and some minimize the risk of blood clots.

To me, it seems very likely something else is going on in both of these cases, but I have no specific insight as to what that something else might be.

Again, I wrote a piece for Pam’s House Blend on transitioning back to one’s assigned sex at birth back on October 24, 2008. The piece original entitled About The “Real Life Experience” and Detransitioning is still up on the PHB website, as well as when I reposted the piece on February 26, 2009. I wrote it at the time that Christine Daniels transitioned back to living as Mike Penner, explaining to the target audience of cis lesbian, gay, and bisexual community why some transition back to their assigned sex at birth.

In November of 2009, Christine Daniels died as a result of suicide. Christine’s passing still weighs heavy on me.

Below is the essay I wrote back in October of 2008. Even though the thoughts on transitioning back to the sex one was assigned at birth may not apply directly to Don Ennis’s and Michael Wallent’s transitions back to male, it seems appropriate to again repost this essay. I attempt to explain explain some of the reasons why some transition back to one’s assigned sex at birth.

Some days I hate my job at Pam’s House Blend, and this is definitely one of those days. I really need to explain what the Real Life Experience [(RLE) — also referred to as the Real Life Test (RLT)] is and why some transsexuals detransition…And, this is because the person I met as Christine Daniels is apparently detransitioning (also called retransitioning) to Mike Penner.

Basically, I need to separate the personal from the professional when discussing how detransitioning fits into transsexual experience — a sometime component of transitioning sexes — and yet on the very personal level I wish it weren’t at the impetus of someone I’ve known and care deeply about that’s leading me to discuss the subject.

But life is what it is.

So, the first thing that needs to be explained is exactly what a real life experience is, and where detransitioning fits into the real life experience.

Page 17 of the Harry Benjamin Standards Of Care For Gender Identity Disorders says this about the RLE (emphasis added):

The act of fully adopting a new or evolving gender role or gender presentation in everyday life is known as the real-life experience. The real-life experience is essential to the transition to the gender role that is congruent with the patient’s gender identity. Since changing one’s gender presentation has immediate profound personal and social consequences, the decision to do so should be preceded by an awareness of what the familial, vocational, interpersonal, educational, economic, and legal consequences are likely to be. Professionals have a responsibility to discuss these predictable consequences with their patients. Change of gender role and presentation can be an important factor in employment discrimination, divorce, marital problems, and the restriction or loss of visitation rights with children. These represent external reality issues that must be confronted for success in the new gender presentation. These consequences may be quite different from what the patient imagined prior to undertaking the real-life experiences. However, not all changes are negative.

Parameters of the Real-Life Experience.When clinicians assess the quality of a person’s real life experience in the desired gender, the following abilities are reviewed.

1. To maintain full or part-time employment;

2. To function as a student;

3. To function in community-based volunteer activity;

4. To undertake some combination of items 1-3;

5. To acquire a (legal) gender-identity-appropriate first name;

6. To provide documentation that persons other than the therapist know that the patient functions in the desired gender role.

Real-Life Experience versus Real-Life Test. Although professionals may recommend living in the desired gender, the decision as to when and how to begin the real-life experience remains the person’s responsibility. Some begin the real-life experience and decide that this often imagined life direction is not in their best interest. Professionals sometimes construe the real-life experience as the real-life test of the ultimate diagnosis. If patients prosper in the preferred gender, they are confirmed as “transsexual,” but if they decided against continuing, they “must not have been.” This reasoning is a confusion of the forces that enable successful adaptation with the presence of a gender identity disorder. The real-life experience tests the person’s resolve, the capacity to function in the preferred gender, and the adequacy of social, economic, and psychological supports. It assists both the patient and the mental health professional in their judgments about how to proceed. Diagnosis, although always open for reconsideration, precedes a recommendation for patients to embark on the real-life experience. When the patient is successful in the real-life experience, both the mental health professional and the patient gain confidence about undertaking further steps

So, what’s supposed to happen when a transitioner has a unsuccessful RLE is that the transitioner detransitions.

I had an appointment with my own therapist, Patricia Wojdowski, L.C.S.W., on Wednesday. While at the appointment, I asked her some questions regarding detransitioning, and asked if I could post her responses at Pam’s House Blend.

I actually was kind of surprised at Patricia’s answers. Basically, in her long practice with trans clients (she’s been involved with studying and treating transsexuals and other gender variant people since the mid-seventies), the single commonality for all of her detransitioning clients has been that external pressures were the impetus. All of her clients who have detransitioned still considered themselves as having a gender identity that didn’t match their natal sex, but external pressures — issues such as inability to find employment, biases and discrimination in the workplace, an inability to find appropriate housing, conflict with friends and/or family, etc. — are why the RLE is evaluated by the client as unsuccessful, and the client decides to detransition.

I know there are other reasons than the ones my therapist cites. Sometimes the reason is relating to faith, where one becomes an “ex-transsexual” or “ex-transgender” (the trans equivalents to “ex-gay”). Sometimes it’s because the person really isn’t a transsexual, and an unsuccessful RLE catches them before they experience transsexual regret. Since my therapist doesn’t practice conversion (or reparative) therapy, she wouldn’t see those who are detransitioning for reasons of faith. But, it is interesting that in all the years of her practice, she’s never seen a transsexual who has detransitioned because the detransitioner has figured out that he or she really wasn’t transsexual — all of her detransitioners have detransitioned due to external pressures.

So, back to our impetus — is Mike Penner detransitioning from Christine Daniels because he’s under external pressures, or is it because he figured out during his RLE that his gender identity really wasn’t female? Honestly, I have a guess, but I have no real idea.

The bottom line is that when a person begins a transsexual transition — especially a very public transition — one trades one set of problems related to having a hidden, real or perceived gender identity that’s in conflict with one’s natal sex for a completely new and different set of problems. That new set of problems often include difficulties related to housing, employment, and public accommodation –basically just dealing with others’ biases and discrimination — family issues related to one’s spouse/ex-spouse and children, as well as having one’s peers, friends and family still seeing you as either still a member of your natal sex instead of your target sex, or as a member of some “third gender” rather than as your target sex.

Detransitioning may relieve most of the transitioning stress, but at least in the case of male-to-female transitioners who detransition, one can’t go fully back to one’s previous life. Prior to transitioning, most are fairly closeted about having cross-gender identity and expression issues. When detransitioning, one’s peers, friends, and family — and in Mike’s case, the sports community audience he writes at the Los Angeles Times for — know there are at a minimum gender expression issues. In other words, since in broad society most can’t tell the difference between a male-to-female transsexual, a drag queen, a crossdresser, and an effeminate gay man, a detransitioner going back to a male expression of public gender is going to be perceived as if he were gay because of the time spent living as female; basically the detransitioner won’t fully regain his heterosexual privilege.

Transitioning is hard; detransitioning is hard. My warmest thoughts are with Mike — I wish him the absolute best.

The real life experience standards have changed in WPATH’s Standards Of Care, Version 7. The requirement listed in the section entitled Criteria for hysterectomy and ovariectomy in FtM patients and for orchiectomy in MtF patients lists the following requirements:

  • Persistent, well documented gender dysphoria;
  • Capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent for treatment;
  • Age of majority in a given country;
  • If significant medical or mental health concerns are present, they must be well controlled;
  • 12 continuous months of hormone therapy as appropriate to the patient’s gender goals (unless the patient has a medical contraindication or is otherwise unable or unwilling to take hormones).

The section Criteria for metoidioplasty or phalloplasty in FtM patients and for vaginoplasty in MtF patients adds a sixth requirement:

  1. 12 continuous months of living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity;

The section Rationale for a preoperative, 12-month experience of living in an identity-congruent gender role explains why this way now:

The criterion noted above for some types of genital surgeries – i.e., that patients engage in 12 continuous months of living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity – is based on expert clinical consensus that this experience provides ample opportunity for patients to experience and socially adjust in their desired gender role, before undergoing irreversible surgery. As noted in section VII, the social aspects of changing one’s gender role are usually challenging – often more so than the physical aspects. Changing gender role can have profound personal and social consequences, and the decision to do so should include an awareness of what the familial, interpersonal, educational, vocational, economic, and legal challenges are likely to be, so that people can function successfully in their gender role. Support from a qualified mental health professional and from peers can be invaluable in ensuring a successful gender role adaptation (Bockting, 2008).

The duration of 12 months allows for a range of different life experiences and events that may occur throughout the year (e.g., family events, holidays, vacations, season-specific work or school experiences). During this time, patients should present consistently, on a day-to-day basis and across all settings of life, in their desired gender role. This includes coming out to partners, family, friends, and community members (e.g., at school, work, other settings).

Health professionals should clearly document a patient’s experience in the gender role in the medical chart, including the start date of living full time for those who are preparing for genital surgery. In some situations, if needed, health professionals may request verification that this criterion has been fulfilled: They may communicate with individuals who have related to the patient in an identity-congruent gender role, or request documentation of a legal name and/or gender marker change, if applicable.

Further reading:
Joanne Herman‘s Transsexual regret
Lynn Conway‘s A Warning For Those Considering MtF SRS
Ex-Gay Watch: Can One Be A Transgender Christian?
From Michael to Megan and Back Again: News
New York Magazine: Transgender Newsman Don Ennis Has Second Thoughts After ‘Amnesia’

Crossposted from The Transadvocate.

DOMA Struck Down; Prop 8 Case Rejected On Jurisdiction

Ruling for DOMA:


Ruling for Prop 8 case:


Statement from the White House:

Office of the Press Secretary

June 26, 2013

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act:

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

[More below the fold.]


Transgender Soldier Meets the President

Crossposted with permission from OutServe Magazine, the magazine of OutServe-SLDN.

By Anonymous

Memorial Day weekend is, first and foremost, about remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It honors the many sacrifices of those who served and who are currently serving. It lifts up families and friends who have lost loved ones to combat and in the line of duty. It recognizes the best our nation had and has to offer.

Last week, as I have on every Memorial Day spent in D.C., I joined thousands of people who visited Arlington National Cemetery to honor our fallen brothers and sisters by putting some flowers on graves and placing flags. I know how President Obama feels about lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members. He’s been very clear about that. But I wonder what he thinks about the policies that bar transgender people from serving openly. For now, I can only hope that one day the President will say the words “transgender” and “service” in the same sentence, just like I hope that one all day service members will be able to serve honorably and openly and be judged by their capabilities, dedication, and honor, rather than their gender identity. This year I visited a fallen brother from my home state of North Carolina. He was member of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, just like I am. I’ve never had the honor of deploying. He did, though, and never made it back.

He lost his life to an IED blast in Iraq, and I attended his funeral back in July of 2011. Last week, I returned to his plot in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery during the early afternoon hours to pay my respects.

As I approached Section 60, I noticed a large crowd of people gathering and several black SUV’s. I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on around me; I was focused on visiting my fallen comrade. The crowd grew as I got closer to his plot. I noticed security officers were present and quickly realized something was going on. Finally, I saw him.

President Barack Obama. Standing less than five feet away from me.

Flashbulbs were going off all around me. Cries of, “Mr. President! Mr. President!” clamored for his attention. Eventually I couldn’t go any further – the crowd and the security were too thick. And then I realized I was face to face with my Commander-in-Chief.

I was wearing my ACU uniform. My nametape, D.C. National Guard unit patch, rank, and American flag were proudly displayed where he could see them. The President looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and thanked me for my service. He called me “sir” and “young man.” My hand was shaking afterward, and to be honest, my eyes got a bit teary. I thought to myself, I will remember this, as long as I live, as one of the most profoundly meaningful moments of my life. It only lasted a moment, but even now it’s hard to believe it happened.

I eventually made it to my comrade’s grave site. I spent some time there praying. I prayed for his family, for his unit members. I wished his family could have been there to get that handshake from the President, and so much more.

Now, with LGBT Pride Month upon us I can’t help but think about something else. The President shook my hand and thanked me for my service. He called me “sir” and “young man.” I wonder what he would say or do if he knew I was transgender. How would he react if he knew that when I enlisted in the Army just over 4 years ago, I had not enlisted as the “young man” that I had always known myself to be. What if he knew that during basic training a thick bun of curly hair rested under my combat helmet and beret, or that during Advanced Individual Training in September 2010 I came out as transgender and decided to live my life authentically, full time as man. What would he say then? What would he do?

Despite the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in December, 2010, nothing has changed for me. The repeal allowed lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members to serve with integrity. However, transgender service members still face discharge if they come out or are outed. I am one of them.

I have served honorably for four years. I’ve always gotten along with my chain of command, never failed a PT test, and when I first enlisted, planned on dedicating 20 years of service to this great country. Being a soldier was all I ever wanted to do, since I was a kid.

When Pentagon leaders released a statement on May 31 to commemorate LGBT Pride Month, they noted the service, accomplishments, and devotion to duty of transgender Department of Defense civilians. They clearly and purposefully left out transgender service members – service members like me.

What would President Obama have said when he shook my hand if he had known that very day could have been my last in uniform, my last as a Soldier? How would the President have responded if I had told him I wanted to serve 20 years, or that I dreamt of re-classing to become a helicopter mechanic and a crew chief – but those dreams were being taken from me just because of who I am?

And what would he do if he knew I wasn’t alone? That there are so many of us, all hoping and praying together that we can serve openly before time runs out for us, one way or another. What if I’d said, “This isn’t just my story Mr. President. It is my friends’ story, my brothers’ story, and my sisters’ story.”

I know how President Obama feels about lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members. He’s been very clear about that. But I wonder what he thinks about the policies that bar transgender people from serving openly. For now, I can only hope that one day the President will say the words “transgender” and “service” in the same sentence, just like I hope that one all day service members will be able to serve honorably and openly and be judged by their capabilities, dedication, and honor, rather than their gender identity.

If I had gotten another 15 seconds with the President, maybe I would have asked him. Maybe then I would know what he would say to Soldiers like me.

The author of this blog must remain anonymous, since transgender service members are prohibited from serving openly in America’s military.

A Bathroom Story That Doesn’t Involve The “Bathroom Bill” Meme

There’s an interesting, but sad story found on the Army Times website entitled West Point sergeant charged with filming naked female cadets. From the article:

A sergeant first class on the staff of the United States Military Academy at West Point faces charges for allegedly filming numerous female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were in the shower, according to the Army.

The suspect, Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon, faces charges under four articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline. He currently faces 35 specifications in total.

…At West Point, McClendon served as a tactical noncommissioned officer, which is a staff adviser responsible for the health, welfare and discipline of a company of 125 cadets. The person in the position is expected to “assist each cadet in balancing and integrating the requirements of physical, military, academic and moral-ethical programs,” according to the West Point website.

No word on what the Army is going to charge the sergeant with yet. I guess we can conclude from this story that all military men are bathroom predators…hell, that all men are bathroom predators…right?

Well, maybe not.

Seriously, one can’t judge every heterosexual male by the actions of one heterosexual male. There have been men who crossdressed to get access to women’s restrooms and locker rooms in the past: here, here, and here, for example, but I can find other stories of heterosexual males filming women in restrooms and locker rooms, such as here and here. And of course, my first civil rights effort was reporting four shipmates for peeping on my then division officer as she showered.

One can’t judge every straight man by a small minority of straight men who engage in unlawful voyeurism; one can’t judge every trans woman by as small number of crossdressing males who engage in unlawful voyeurism.

To me, the “bathroom bill” argument as a tool to argue against civil rights for trans women is a fail. Yes, one can find a number of stories of crossdressed voyeurs fouling the discussions on civil rights based on gender identity, but one can find a number of stories of non-crossdressed voyeurs too that could be used to make the case that the doors on women’s public bathrooms aren’t magical things that keep all predators of all sorts out. It’s peeping that’s the crime, not crossdressing while peeping. Crossdressing is just a tool some voyeurs use in an attempt to make themselves less visible, but most often it makes them stand out more than they otherwise would.

In the end, it’s sad to read that female plebes at West Point have to deal with sexual harassment in any form, let alone this form. As a someone who’s was sexually harassed by military men myself — let me say that all women, men, girls and boys deserve better than being treated as sexual objects while going to the restroom. Women servicemembers at West Point deserved better than they apparently received from a sergeant assigned to their command.

Changing My Recorded Gender With DOD

After my surgery and later issuance of a new birth certificate last November, I wanted to apply to the Department of the Navy (DON) to change my recorded gender. The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) keeps track of servicemembers and retirees genders, so I wanted, for gender affirmation and DOD acknowledgement, my gender reflected in my Department of Defense (DOD) records.

Thumbnail Link: Autumn Sandeen Associated Press Shoot Photo, November 23, 2010 - Photo by Greg BullThere is no gender marker on military identification cards, so it’s not an issue of being outed by any gender marker on it. But, it still was important to me — every other government database records my gender as female, and the DOD showing me as male just bothered me.

After making some preliminary telephone calls to the Department of the Navy, I was connected to Division 31D of the Navy Personnel Command (NAVPERS 31D) I was then told what the requirements are for changing one’s recorded gender with the DOD. In the process I found out the DOD directly processes all change of gender packages by transsexual retirees. However, transsexual retirees still does to submit their packages through the military service that they served in. So, since I served in the U.S. Navy, I had to submit my package to the DON.

After contacting NAVPERS 31D, I contacted folk at OutServe-SLDN, and asked them if they wanted me to test the system at the DOD in similar manner as I tested the system with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) for the Veterans Administration (VA). I previously was the “test case” for NCTE on the VA on changing one’s recorded gender. Back in June of 2011, NCTE and the VA leadership agreed that transsexual people should be able to change their gender in the VA’s databases without a surgical letter. By using various forms of ID and personal documentation, I repeatedly tested the policy to find out what the “magic identification documents” the VA required to change gender. What I found out, and shared with NCTE was that the initial attempt to change VA policy on changing recorded gender didn’t achieve an easing of procedures to change one’s recorded gender. The VA and NCTE then went back to the drawing and fixed the problem — my testing of the system was the catalyst for creating a policy with a single procedure for changing one’s recorded gender at the VA.

Thumbnail link: Autumn Sandeen's DOD Gender Change Letter, dated May 2nd, 2013So after contacting the OutServe-SLDN, they told me was that no one had ever documented for them that it was even possible to change one’s recorded gender with the DOD. Allyson Robinson, their executive director, and David McKean, their Legal and Public Policy Director, asked me just to follow the current procedures as outlined by NAVPERS 31D just to document one could actually change one’s gender with the Department of Defense, and then together we would publicize the results.

The main reason to publicize the results is so that other retired servicemembers would be aware of the procedures, and OutServe-SLDN could steer other retired servicemembers through the process I documented could be accomplished.

By documenting my change of recorded DOD gender, OutServe-SLDN and I secondarily 1.) wished to highlight that even though one could change one’s name and gender, that didn’t mean one could also update one’s DD214 (certificate of release or discharge from the military), 2.) wished to show that the policy was difficult and not in line with the recently streamlined policies for changing one’s recorded gender with the State Department (for passports) and the VA, and 3) and wished to emphasize that since former Secretary of Defense Panetta announced women are now going to be allowed to serve in combat and that as of in May of 2013 that DSM-V is no longer going to list transsexual people as disordered. We thought that publicizing that military retirees can change one’s recorded gender at DOD could be a tool to open up public dialogue on the kind of open military service for trans servicemembers — the same kind of open service for trans servicemembers that repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell afforded for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers.

OutServe-SLDN and I looked at my change of recorded gender with the DOD as a tool to move the discussion forward on these issues. And on April 2nd, my documented gender was changed.

Others may believe I’m the first retired servicemember to change my recorded gender with the DOD, but I’m well aware that I’m not. For me, moving the dialogue forward towards trans people being able to change their DD214s; streamlining the policy for changing one’s recorded gender at the DOD; and helping open the dialogue towards open military service for trans servicemembers are goals I believe are well worth going public about my story to achieve those goals.

Simply put, I’m publicly joining the struggle for trans servicemembers’ and veterans’ ordinary equality, and I hope I’ve played a small part in the eventual achievement of that ordinary equality for trans people.

Further reading:
* Buzzfeed: Pentagon Recognizes Transgender Veteran, Advocates See A “Shift”
* LGBT Weekly: Changing my documented gender with the Department of Defense
* ThinkProgress: Pentagon Establishes Process For Transgender Veterans To Change Gender Records
* The Advocate: Trans Activists Highlight Military’s Step Forward
* The Daily Mail (U.K.): Pentagon recognizes transgender service members for first time in ‘symbolic’ move for LGBT community
* Daily Kos: Pentagon acknowledges transgender veterans
* Force For Change: Thank Pentagon for Transgender Veteran Equality Efforts
* Free Republic: entagon recognizes transgender service members for first time in ‘symbolic’ move for LGBT community

Leaving Notes On Arizona’s Bathroom Doors

While on layover at Phoenix’s airport waiting for her flight to yet another city to attend yet another meeting, OutServe-SLDN‘s Executive Director Allyson Robinson taped the following sign on one of the airport’s bathroom doors:

Image - Allyson Robinson left this sign in a Phoenix, AZ airport bathroom door: 'Dear Arizona, A transgender woman used this restroom today and everything is fine. No one was bothered and nothing bad happened. But, Rep John Kavanagh wants to create an unnecessary law that would allow discrimination against transgender people in restrooms. Tell Rep. Kavanagh to drop SB 1045 now; | 602-926-5170. Sincerely, NCTE (National Center for Transgender Equality)'

Dear Arizona,

A transgender woman used this restroom today and everything is fine. No one was bothered and nothing bad happened. But, Rep John Kavanagh wants to create an unnecessary law that would allow discrimination against transgender people in restrooms.

Tell Rep. Kavanagh to drop SB 1045 now; | 602-926-5170

NCTE (National Center for Transgender Equality)

The sign is a response to Arizona State Rep. Kavanagh’s “No Loo For You” bill: if you want to learn the details of the bill, and just how onerous the bill iis for trans people, please see Should you find the bill to be legislation you wish to help defeat, you can join the team to lobby against the bill here.


FYI: the twitter hashtag for Rep. Kavanagh’s “No Loo For You” bill is #NoLoo4U. The link for the twitter account to follow to receive updates on the status of the bill is

Moving Past Détente Between The HRC And The Trans Community

trans flagOn the day the constitutionality of Prop 8 was being argued before the the Supreme Court, a rally organized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Family Equality Council, GetEQUAL, Marriage Equality USA, and the New Organizing Institute was underway. The rally was almost in every way successful in how the event demonstrated unanimity of LGBT community organizations and members standing behind marriage equality.


There was an incident involving a trans person standing near the rally’s podium because the trans person was holding a transgender pride flag. An HRC staffer was reported to have asked the trans person three times to move away from the podium: the HRC representative reportedly told the trans person that the rally organizers wanted only American flags on or near the podium. The trans person was allegedly told by the staffer that marriage equality wasn’t a trans issue.

The next day the incident went viral on social media as the HRC having again shown distain for trans people and community. The HRC then put out a statement regarding the incident which included this paragraph:

“It is a not true to suggest that any person or organization was told their flag was less important than another – this did not occur and no HRC staff member would ever tolerate such behavior. To be clear, it is the position of the Human Rights Campaign that marriage is an issue that affects everyone in the LGBT community.”

Jerame Davis summed up the details of the incident well in the Bilerico piece “My View: HRC & the Trans Flag Incident” from a knowledgeable position than I can, so I’ll defer to his summary of the incident. Davis, however, believed the statement from the HRC was incredulous in its assertations.

And, Dana Beyer in my mind hits the nail on the head in her Huffington Post, Gay Voices piece “Time for a Rapprochement Between the Trans Community and HRC” when she says “What continues to be a problem is the cold war that is ongoing between the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the trans community.” Returning to the détente that had been in place prior to this incident seems untenable in the long term considering that the HRC considers itself an LGBT civil rights organization.

One long term problem for the “superpower” HRC is that the organization has a horrible reputation with the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community. In 2007, three years after the HRC publicly stated that it wouldn’t support any form of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that did not include antidiscrimination protections for gender identity, later supported a version of ENDA that did not include those antidiscrimination protections. There are other incidents that feed into the “HRC is not trans friendly” narrative, but the ENDA narrative alone is for many in community to be enough of an incident to not trust the organization.

One visible aspect of that problem is that the organization doesn’t have good optics on trans people and issues. They have the right rhetoric for most part on trans people and issues, but it appears to many that their rhetoric isn’t reflected in their staffing, and it’s not reflected in how the HRC allocates their significant resources.

Dana Beyer suggested in her piece that the HRC could actively seek to hold meetings with trans community members for input on how to end the cold war. So with a variant on that idea in mind, here are some ideas I’d like to publicly submit that could be discussed in those meetings as ways they could move past détente.