The Community Speaks Out

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #099, Fall 2002.

by Monica F. Helms

The Kansas Supreme Court decision on March 15, 2002 in ?In re Estate of Gardiner? sent a shock wave through our community that we had not experienced since the Supreme Court turned down Christie Lee Littleton?s case, the firing of Dana Rivers, or the Minnesota court case of Juli Goins. The transgender community has become used to serving as society?s sparing partner, bobbing and weaving to avoid solid contact, but it still stings when they land a strong left hook that sends us to canvas. How can anyone blame us when we respond to these emotional defeats?

In true transgender fashion, our response comes in the form of words, pouring out our emotions on the computer screen before us:

?Until more transgenders come OUT, get politically active, and FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT for their dignity, more of this so-called Christian, religiously based legal-drivel will emerge. SURELY WE DON?T THINK THE BIGOTS ARE GOING TO JUST BE NICE AND GIVE US OUR RIGHTS BECAUSE WE SAY PLEASE! I suggest we take the STUPID AND OUTDATED Kansas Supreme Court ruling and shove it down their throats! How? I hope transgendered women and their lesbian lovers and transgendered men and their gay lovers will go to Kansas?with full media attention?and get legally married the same way we did it in San Antonio, Texas?

?Phyllis R F

?There are those who demand absolutes when it comes to gender, especially in marriage. They have now realized that we are the chink in the armor of gender absolutism. Thus, we have a trend developing, first with Littleton and now with Gardiner, of dissolving previously legal marriages. We?ve gotten the attention of the absolutists (they?ve sent the first shot across the bows), and we?re now firmly in their crosshairs.?

?Vanessa E F

?The transgender community is in desperate need of a democratic and disciplined movement of persons who will not only fight for our rights, but defend everyone?s civil rights. We are facing organized opposition from the Christian Right, which not only wishes to deny us our rights, but seeks to roll back civil rights legislation in all areas of life in America. In order to successfully defend ourselves, we MUST work with civil rights and civil liberties groups fighting the conservative agenda. Membership organizations without some semblance of discipline will not achieve this goal. We need an organized cadre of activists willing and able to get tranz inclusion in all areas of the civil rights fight.?

?Marina B

?The case presents a blatant denial of equality, an offensive misreading of current medical and psychological understanding, and an abuse of the legal system. From a place of balanced appeal, the court turned into a platform for outdated social, religious and scientific judgment. This individual decision must be changed.

?The case, with all its frustration and pain, does mark another step in the historical development of our place in the wider world. Other groups before us have gone the same way, from invisibility, violent denial, and a few strong voices, on through struggle and debate to become a recognized part of society. In their progress toward understanding and equality, they have gone to the streets, the media, the courts, the legislatures, and the people. It should not have to be this way. Too many good people are hurt along the way. But it is the history of progressive social movement across Western cultural history, and it seems to be our path as well. So, we will take it, and we will win.

?I mourn for the injustice, and cheer for the ongoing struggle.?

?Marsha B

?We are particularly mindful of the Gardiner decision here in Florida because we have been so involved in the Kantaras vs. Kantaras trial. While we are disappointed at the politically driven judicial ruling in Kansas, we remain optimistic that the legal faults of the Gardiner decision can be used as windows of education to avoid a similar ruling here.?

?Jessica A

?Today in the United States of America the status of transgendered person living full-time, [whether] post-op or pre-op, is pond scum. When it comes to money, we are aliens from another planet who are not welcome. Yes, we need to be who we are, not what we are, and treated as individuals. The transgender community is still in the closet and not willing to come out. We, the pond scum, are responsible for our own state of affairs. We need to move past our personal issues and become involved in our community issues. We do not have to come out of the closet to do this. Financially supporting our community and voting for transgendered friendly officials are paths all of us can take.?

?Yvonne C-R

?It?s ironic that the men on the Texas and Kansas Courts wore dresses while denying justice to Christie Littleton and J?Noel Gardiner for daring to do the same?and even more ironic that they?ve just realized the Radical Right?s worst nightmare?for if transsexual women can?t marry men, guess who they?re gonna marry? That?s right, women. Same sex marriage realized.?
?Dallas D

?I feel the harm from the J?Noel Gardiner decision against her (and our community) is more serious than it would be on its own merits alone, due to fact that it only adds to the weight of the already negative decisions in prior cases. The Kansas Supreme Court lists all these previous cases in making in own decision, along with the laws of the state of Kansas. Should Michael Kantares, a female-to-male transsexual, lose his case involving child custody in the Florida court, it will only add to the fire.?

?Jane N

?My reaction to the Kansas Court of Appeals? decision in the matter of J?Noel Gardiner vs. J. Gardiner was far emotional then I had anticipated. I actually felt nauseated for a few moments. I was dumbstruck by the idiocy of the reasoning behind it. Yet in hindsight, I?m not really surprised. It?s a shame a nation that is supposed to be free of religious intolerance allows courts in such places as Florida, Texas., and Kansas to play such a large role in limiting the rights of gender-variant individuals based on religious grounds. Gender-variant American citizens and those that love them surely have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And, to the best of my understanding, gender-variant people surely deserve equal protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

So... who can we marry? Can we marry at all? Will it matter even if we do get legal permission to marry? What bathroom can we use? Is this really America? With such shortsighted understanding of the realities of life, no wonder the United States is at war with the rest of the world.?

?Anne V

?I think that some crossdressers don?t believe decisions such as that of the Kansas Supreme Court in In re Gardiner are of importance to them. Rest assured, however, that they are. The leading American decision on the unconstitutionality of anti-crossdressing laws, the 1978 Illinois Supreme Court?s opinion in City of Chicago v. Wilson, was based in significant part on the existence of that state?s birth certificate-change statute. Janice Raymondesque anti-transsexual lesbians conveniently forget that the same laws which persecuted ?men in dresses? were also used to persecute ?women in pants.? Crossdressers should not forget that at least some of the legal issues of transsexuals are just as applicable to cross-dressers. Don?t forget the quote about hanging together...or hanging separately.?

?Katrina R

?With respect to unfavorable decisions such as those in the Gardiner, Littleton, and Goins cases, I think the message to prospective transsexual litigants is that we have to do a better job justifying our existence. Clearly, judges who rely on precedents or concepts we view as outmoded simply do not perceive reality the same as we do. To them, we are still something not quite human, or at best we are damaged goods. Whatever transformations we go through are still invisible to them and our experience of ourselves and of the world is invalid to them. I?m not condoning the idea of begging them to legitimize us, but somehow we have to find a way to extend their reality to include the legitimacy of our reality. Until we can do that., we will remain outside their system, and their justice will not extend to us whenever interpretations of sex and gender standards are at issue. We can speak our own truth until we are blue in the face, but it won?t matter unless they are able to hear us and agree that our truth is socially valid.?

?Jamison G

?The Supreme Court of Kansas opened a 55-gallon can of worms when they decided to disregard J?Noel?s birth certificate from Wisconsin. It boggles my mind to see over and over again how the US court system invalidates our existence because of bigotry or stupidity. Usually, it?s a combination of both. Rodney Dangerfield gets more respect then we do.?

?Monica H