And That's the Way It Is!

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #098, Summer 2002

by Monica F. Helms

It will be a long time before these words appear in Transgender Tapestry. Today, in early March, the weather is unseasonably cold and uninviting here in Georgia?but summer will have set in by the time you peel back the cover of this magazine. Somewhere across this country, pre-op MTF transsexuals will be standing in front of mirrors, modeling new bikinis the world may never see them in. Been there, done that.

All is quiet here in the 60-story Transgender Tapestry building in beautiful downtown Atlanta. Dallas?s office takes up the entire 56th floor. I understand she is currently enjoying a marathon film festival on her entertainment system, which takes up an entire wall of her office. Rumor has it Barbara Walters paid Dallas a visit yesterday to get some journalistic tips, and Oprah asked Dallas for ideas on how to improve her show. Everyone comes to Dallas for advice these days.

My new office is on the 45th floor. Yes! I have an office now! Seems I was promoted to... to...? What the heck was I promoted to? Oh, well. At least Dallas doubled my salary once again. That makes 17 times in one year. I don?t see an actual check, because Dallas says it?s being direct-deposited to my checking account. She takes good care of us. However, I still can?t seem to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. I wonder why?

Dallas must have really enjoyed ?Lord of the Rings,? because she?s given various transgender people wizard names. In LOTR, the wizards have colors associated with their name?for instance, Gandalf the Gray and Saruman the White. She insists we now refer to her as Dallas the Denim. She speaks of Julie the Jade, Tony the Tan, Yvonne the Yellow, and of course, James the Green. And what does she call me? ?Monica the Maroon.? Yep, that?s right. Gee, thanks, DD. I guess all the good colors were already taken (Uh, the word I used wasn?t maroon, Monica, but you?re close?Dallas).

Uh-oh. Speaking of colors, the big red light on the ceiling is flashing again. It?s Dallas reminding me my break is over and it?s time to get back to work. I guess I should start my column now.

In Memory of Terrianne Summers

Over the last few years I?ve watched the list of the dead grow on the Remembering Our Dead website . Webmistress Gwendolyn Smith adds one name every month, on average. With each new name, a tiny piece of my heart dies.

I never thought I would one day see the name of a friend added to the list. But on December 12 I learned someone had put a gun to the head of my friend Terrianne Summers and shot her, execution-style, outside her home in Jacksonville.

I met Terrianne at the Winn-Dixie protest in January 2001, and we became immediate friends. Not only was she my age, she was a Navy veteran like myself, an activist, and a respected leader in Jacksonville?s LGBT community.

Everyone who met Terrianne liked her. People from different parts of the country came to her memorial service, which was held on December 16. The words from her father and brother made the crowd cry.

At the time of this writing, the Jacksonville police have no suspects. We have no idea why someone targeted Terrianne. The police refuse to investigate her murder as a hate crime, even though nothing was stolen, eliminating a robbery motive. In my opinion, the police work to date has been shoddy. But the community in Jacksonville will keep after the police until they find the murderer.

Sadly, the odds are in favor of the killer. Only 38% of the cases on the Remembering Our Dead list have been solved, and only 20% of the identified perpetrators have been punished.

I stayed at Terrianne?s house the night of January 3, 2001, as we prepared for the Winn-Dixie protest the next day. As I walked to my car late that night, an eerie feeling came over me. I was afraid, but I could feel Terrianne watching over me and the others at her house. I stood outside for a while, chatting with Sandy Stevens of Iowa City. Staring up at the stars, she and I had tears in our eyes. The tears are back.

Doin? the Winn-Dixie Shuffle

From those wonderful ?beef people? on Edgewood Court in Jacksonville come all-new and exciting shenanigans. Yep-per, these corporate goons of Winn- Dixie fame ran scared in December, when they tried to shut down the web site, whining about slander. They didn?t succeed. Ahhhhh, too bad. Well, if yooz guyz didn?t want to look foolish, then maybe you shooda done the right thing in the first place, don?tcha think? It don?t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. ?Hey! McFly!?

But, wait! There?s more!

On January 12, the site did close, amidst mystery. The host wouldn?t respond to inquiries, and the person who owned the name seemed to have dropped out of sight. To date, we have no answer as to why the web page disappeared. Maybe time did what Winn-Dixie could not.

As soon as the name became available, a Mr. Lee Yen-Chun of Taipei, Taiwan snatched it up and turned it into a web search and resource site. Hmmm,I wonder who Mr. Lee really works for? It makes a lot of sense, doesn?t it? I mean, if I need a web resource location, the first name I always think of is ?shameonwinndixie.? Maybe the name has a different meaning in Chinese.

In their rush to protect their image, Winn-Dixie?s web wizards forgot there is a host of equally good dot-whatevers. Within two weeks, the site was back up under a new .org name, and Winn-Dixie was feeling the shame all over again. Isn?t the Internet just wonderful?

The second annual protest in front of the Winn-Dixie headquarters took place in the interim. It was bigger, better, and badder than the protest in Ought-One. Out of respect for Terrianne, many braved the chilly weather. We estimate 9000 cars and trucks passed during the three hours of the protest; many drivers honked their horns in support.

Melissa White, from Canton, Georgia, was standing in line at McDonalds getting food for the protesters when she overheard two women talking. When interviewed by NTAC Media Director Vanessa Foster, White said, ?Women standing in line began talking of how awful it was what Winn-Dixie did to that man who crossdressed.? She said an older gentleman became curious about the conversation and ?the first woman started explaining the case to the older man, and others who were listening began to offer their opinions.? All seemed shocked at Winn- Dixie?s behavior.

Though some transsexuals were heard bad-mouthing the protest and protesters, those who attended felt their efforts were worthwhile. The McDonalds conversations gave us the proof we needed. Since the public cannot distinguish one gender-different person from another, progress in one area translates to progress for all. It?s too bad some people can?t see that.

Sylvia Rivera

By the time you read this, you will have seen many tributes to Sylvia Rivera, the woman who helped give birth to our movement at the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and kept the spirit alive almost literally right up to the moment of her death nearly 33 years later. I never met Sylvia, so I can?t give a wonderful tribute as others have, but her passing saddens me. If the transgender community could be said to have had a true national treasure, she was it.

Sylvia?s passing is a reminder of how far we have not come since the Summer of ?69. Just one week after Neil Armstrong made his one small step for mankind, a young trans-woman in the streets of New York helped make a giant leap for the gay movement. Sylvia?s role in the pivotal Stonewall Riots has been embellished over time, but one thing is sure?she was there, and she was one of the first to throw stones in a riot that lasted five days, and three decades.

On June 27, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a tiny gay bar in New York?s Greenwich Village. The mood changed quickly when the paddy wagon arrived and a woman wearing mens? clothing was detained. At first, bystanders tossed coins at the police, then cans, bottles, and anything else they could find. When the police tried to barricade themselves in the bar, someone threw in lighter fluid and a lit match. For nearly a week, there were confrontations all along Christopher Street. When it was over, the modern gay movement had been born.

Today, some of the better-known activists in the movement Sylvia helped to start refuse to acknowledge the part transgendered people played in the Stonewall Riots. Had the Stonewall Riots never occurred, Representative (D-MA) Barney Frank couldn?t have run for his seat in the House of Representatives. Today, he refuses to consider protecting employment for transgendered people, excluding them from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Elizabeth Birch would not have her cushy job at the Human Rights Campaign if it were not for the rocks Sylvia threw that hot June night in 1969. Sylvia helped to start it all, and now they turn their backs on people like her.

Thank you, Sylvia, for being there when history needed you. The gay and lesbian movement still goes on, and our movement, the transgender movement. Even if our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters forget you, we never will. I never met you, but I will not forget you. A rock left your hand thirty-three years ago, sailing into history. Be assured we won?t let it drop until it truly, truly finds its mark.


In late February, the eyes of the transgender community turned toward the Empire State for a reason other than the death of Sylvia Rivera. It appeared the New York Association for Gender Rights and Advocacy (NYAGRA) was coming apart at the seams. At the time of this writing, several board members had resigned, others are thinking of resigning, and the group?s paid activist, Jamie Hunter, had been let go. NYAGRA, arguably the strongest statewide transgender advocacy group in the country, has membership all over the state, and has a treasury larger than some national organizations.

What happened in New York to cause such a major defection in NYAGRA?s upper ranks? It?s been said some members of the group wanted to take a soft stand on the state?s proposed non-inclusive Sexual Orientation Non- Discrimination Act (SONDA) ?This is simply not true,? stated Donna Cartwright, a NYAGRA board member. ?There is very little difference in the way members wanted to approach SONDA.? Cartwright went on to explain that NYAGRA has organizational issues.

The death of Sylvia Rivera may have exacerbated the problems of New York?s transgender community, for they lost one of the strongest and most respected voices for trans-inclusion.

NYAGRA?s problems will be old news by the time this magazine is in print. Things are happening so fast in the transgender community so fast it?s difficult for a quarterly magazine to remain current (that?s another subject).

Hell Is For Children

In Florida, Pasco County?s Circuit Court Judge Gerard O?Brien came out of retirement to hear the child custody case of Kantaras vs. Kantaras. Now, why would a judge unretire himself just to hear another custody case, and why would Monica write about it? If you?ve deduced one of the two principles in the case is transgendered, you?re right. I mean, come on! This is Transgender Tapestry, after all. What else would I write about? Submarines?

Court TV has covered the case so well some of my co-workers know the particulars. They?re hoping the judge rules in favor of the father, Michael Kantaras, a female-to-male transsexual. Too bad you can?t see the big grin on my face at this moment. My co-workers can?t wait to read each issue of TGT. They?ll love that I mentioned them in this column.

After twelve years of marriage, Michael and Linda Kantaras separated in 1998. Since then, Michael has paid Linda more than $65,000 in support for their two children. Now Linda and Michael are fighting over primary custody of the children?Matthew, 12, and Irina, 10. The trial has covered everything that has to do with transsexualism, including a course in anatomy, and has featured a variety of expert witnesses, including Walter Bockting of the University of Minnesota Program in Human Sexuality and surgeon Ted Huang of Galveston.