And That's the Way It Is!

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #99, Fall 2002.

And That's The Way It Is!

by Monica Helms

This April, I felt privileged to attend my
first IFGE convention. I had fun, and
made new friends. The awards ceremonies
brought tears to my eyes, while the workshops
and panels informed and delighted me.
But in spite of all this, there is one evening
that will forever live in infamy. I call it The
Night of a Thousand Ribs.

The evening started innocently enough,
when Dallas suggested that a group go out to
dinner. Being the big-time editor of an internationally
famous magazine empire, several
people wanted to go just so they could bask
in her glory. However, the evening took a decidedly evil turn
when fellow Tapestry columnist Miqqi Alicia Gilbert suggested
we go to a rib joint. Dallas endorsed the idea, even though
several of us had long since given up red meat. Being that
Dallas wanted to go, the others agreed just so they could be
with her. Holly Boswell and Zantui Rose opted not to attend,
sparing themselves from the carnage we would soon witness. I
received an invitation to join Dallas?s group only because I had
my car there at the convention and could help in the transportation.
[... and because we thought we could get you to pick
up the tab?Ed.]

I followed Dallas? twists and turns through the streets of
Nashville. She drove as if she were being chased by an FBI
assault team. [You didn?t see them??Ed.] Then, we arrived at
Corky?s, Nashville?s Pork Palace. If there is such a place as
?Kosher Hell,? Corky?s could qualify. In fact, one of our
group?Holly Devor, a semi-kosher vegetarian?told me she
felt as if the room had spun when we walked in.

Six of us were in attendance. Considering the others at the
table, I felt educationally inadequate. There was DOCTOR
Miqqi Gilbert, DOCTOR Holly Devor, DOCTOR Sandra Cole,
and DOCTOR Ann Bolin, and Dallas, who only recently
retired her license to practice psychology. Heck, there were
more degrees at that table then you could find on a thermometer.
And then there was me, with my cute, little twin ?AA?s?
(Please do not confuse them with batteries or what one stuffs in
a training bra!).

We laughed, we talked?and then dinner arrived. Ann and
Sandra had the barbecue chicken sans barbecue sauce (which
caused the server to look at them as if they had taken leave of
their senses) and Holly constructed a good, non-meat meal
from side dishes [not an easy task?most of
the sides and salads had pork in them?
Ed.]. Dallas gave me a modest cost limit for
my meal, which allowed me to order a
small dinner salad and a glass of water,
with no refills. She said she was looking
out for my health. What a sweet boss.

Then we heard trumpets, as they
brought out Dallas and Miqqi?s orders.
They picked The Rib Cage Special. Every
bone found in a pig?s abdomen sat on their
plates. They had enough meat to feed a
small Bolivian village for two weeks. The
rest of us sat in awe, while the two carnivores tore into their kill
as if it were their last meal. It reminded me of an episode from
?Wild Kingdom,? the one where a mountain lion brings down
a slow-moving desert javalina. Too bad Marlin Perkins could
not have been around to record this special moment in natural
history. However, I can tell my grandchildren, ?I was there.?
Yes, my first IFGE convention will always remain a golden
memory in my life. But it will be a memory sadly drenched
in Corky?s barbecue sauce.

[Gentle reader, it was Miqqi?Miqqi, I tell you! who wanted
ribs. Your editor would have been happy with vichyssoise or a
watercress sandwich?but when in Rome... Ed.]


Welcome to Kansas...again. The Sunflower State was back
in the transgender news, when on March 15?the Ides of
March we were told to beware?the Kansas Supreme Court
Jesters ruled that the marriage between J?Noel Gardiner and
her late husband, Marshall Gardiner, was invalid. Even though
J?Noel had been post-op for four years and had had her birth
certificate changed in Wisconsin, the court ruled that for the
purpose of marriage in Kansas, she remained a male.

When the news hit the airwaves, the transgender community
was enraged. In a press release, NTAC Board Chair Yose?io
Lewis remarked, ?It absolutely defies logic, that the very same
state that created law which allowed for the issuance of a valid
marriage certificate to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner [would] later determine
that their own state procedures for marriage could be
deemed invalid! Judge Allegrucci and the other justices have invalidated their own procedures, their
own laws.? [See ?The Community Speaks
Out? on Page 18 for quotes from other
transgendered people?Ed.]

I can hear singing coming from the
Kansas Supreme Court Building. ?If I
only had a brain!? By ignoring modern
science and current decisions, the cowardly
lions of the KSSC overturned the
sanctity of heterosexual marriages,
destroyed the ?full faith and credit?
requirements set forth in the United
States Constitution, and opened the door
to same-sex marriages in Kansas. Post-op
male-to-female transsexuals can now
legally marry their lesbian partners, and
post-op female-to-male transsexuals can
legally marry their gay male partners in
Kansas. Rice will soon become a rare
commodity in the Wheat State.

Kansas? denial of the full faith credit
requirements sets in motion the possibility
of states not recognizing marriage
and driver?s licenses, birth certificates,
adoption papers, divorce decrees, name
change papers and any other legal documents
issued by other states.

Attorneys for J?Noel have decided to
take the issue to the Supreme Court. Let?s
hope the case will be heard, and not
tossed aside like the Supreme Court has
done with other transgender-related cases.
This time, the Yellow Brick Road
leads to the Emerald City known as
Washington, D.C. By then, the Wicked
Witch of the White House will have
added a few more of his Flying Monkeys
to the Supreme Court bench. Let?s pray
for rain before that happens.
?I?m melting!?


It has been one hell of an impressive
year so far, as far as transgender rights
go. Between February 28 and May 16, a
record five cities and one county passed
anti-discrimination bills protecting
people based on gender expression
and/or gender identity. These six jurisdictions
have a combined population
total of more than eleven million people,
nearly doubling the number of Americans
living in areas covering this form of
anti-discrimination protection.

Erie County, PA started this trend on
February 28. The Erie County Council
passed a measure which includes both
sexual orientation and gender identity by
a 6:1 vote. Pennsylvania activists
expressed their elation when Erie Co.
joined York, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg
in their state in protecting transgender
citizens. A month later, on April 3, the
Pennsylvania activists had another reason
to celebrate, when Allentown passed a
similar law by a 5:2 margin. But wait!
Those hard-working people in
Pennsylvania weren?t through yet. On
May 16, they added the Crown Jewel of
their state. Philadelphia, with its 1.5
million citizens, passed an anti-discrimination
bill by a 15:2 vote.

With the largest population centers
in Pennsylvania now protected, the next
step would be to extend coverage to the
rest of the Keystone State. After that is
done, I understand the activists will
become ?hired guns,? providing their
services to other states in need. I think
they need to work on Kansas first.

Pennsylvania didn?t hog all the glory
during these past few months. Just down
the street, in the Big Apple, people were
working hard to gain protections for their
transgendered citizens. According to
Paisley Currah, ?Transgender activists
and advocates from the New York
Association for Gender Rights Advocacy,
the Transgender Law and Policy
Institute, the New York State Transgender
Coalition, City Council Members
Margarita Lopez, Bill Perkins, Christine
Quinn, and Phil Reed have been working
together for the past three years to ensure
that transgender people are protected
under the city?s non-discrimination law.?
In a passionate plea in front of the City
Council?s General Welfare Committee,
Carrie Davis, a counselor at the Gender
Identity Project of the LGBT Community
Center, said, ?I have been denied jobs, I
have been denied housing. I have been
denied services. I have been harassed and
abused. I have been beaten and raped, and I
have had my children taken away from me?
[See the entire speech, which accompanies
this column. I cried when I read it?MFH]
On April 23, the New York City
Council?s General Welfare Committee
voted 7:1 to send the bill to the full
Council for a vote. The next day, the full
City Council voted 45:5 to add gender
expression and gender identity to the
city?s anti-discrimination bill. On April
30, 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg
signed the bill into law. This is a major
victory for all transgendered people in
the U.S.
The East Coast people didn?t have
all the fun. On the very day the New York
City Council?s General Welfare
Committee voted to send their bill to the
full Council, the Tacoma City Council
voted 8:1 to ban discrimination based on
sexual orientation and gender identity.
The vote brought dozens in the audience
to their feet in applause. Tacoma joined
Washington State cities Seattle and
Spokane, which have similar laws.

Finally, in a surprise last-minute
move, the transgender community of
Dallas, TX complained that a proposed
city ordinance?s original language left out
transgendered people. Mayor Laura
Miller helped revise the language in
order to cover the transgender population
of the ?Big D.? Instead of adding a new
category in the proposed bill, the definition
of sexual orientation was changed to
read, ?an individual?s real or perceived
orientation as heterosexual, homosexual,
or bisexual or an individual?s real or perceived
gender identity.?

Experts agree this is not the best language
available and will not cover all
possible situations, but it is good language,
and the first for any city in Texas
to enact an anti-discrimination ordinance
protecting transgendered people in the
private sector. Houston has a bill protecting
their transgendered city employees.

The City Council of Dallas passed
the bill on May 8, 2002 by a vote of 13:2.
If everything in Texas is considered big,
then you can say this is VERY BIG.
In all this excitement, I can hardly
catch my breath. One wonders?who
will be next? Every time I hear another
city has passed one of these bills, the
Queen song, ?Another One Bites the
Dust? comes to mind. More than ten percent
of the American population now
lives in a jurisdiction that covers protection
for their transgendered citizens.
Ninety percent to go!

These events leads me to wonder how
the Human Rights Campaign can continue
to claim elected officials don?t have the
capability of understanding anti-discrimination
protection for transgendered people.
In the six jurisdictions, the total vote
count comes to 92 in favor and 13 against.
If this past two-and-a-half months has
taught us anything, it is that our educational
efforts over the last 15 years are
finally paying off. Pay attention, HRC!