Archive for July, 2009

Results of survey on health of Massachusetts LGBT community published

July 30, 2009

mass-logoThe Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has published the results of “the largest survey to date comparing the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents to heterosexual and non-transgender residents in Massachusetts”.

[Click here to download a PDF copy of the report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Persons in Massachusetts]

The Executive Summary points out that the health of trans people is worse than amongst cis people; and that we also have “worse outcomes with respect to self‐reported health, disability status, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and lifetime violence victimization”.

Some of the results do stand out – they may not be particularly surprising, given the amount of anecdotal evidence one hears from conversations with other trans people, but they do seem to confirm it:

  • While 10.4% of heterosexual respondents and 7.8% of gay men and lesbian respondents did not have a personal doctor, 17.6% of bisexual respondents and 17.3% of transgender persons indicated that they did not have a personal doctor.
  • With respect to overall health, respondents were asked if their general health was excellent, very good, good, fair or poor. Heterosexual respondents had 82.5% responding Excellent or Very Good while gay men or lesbian respondents reported 78.0%, bisexual respondents 73.5% and transgender persons 67.3%. Self‐reported general health has been found to be a good indicator of an individual’s actual health status.
  • Respondents were asked to report how many days in the past 30 days they have felt sad, blue or depressed. Heterosexuals reported 3.97 days, gay men and lesbians 4.18 days, and bisexuals 6.38 days. Transgender persons reported 7.79 days, higher than non‐transgender respondents (4.29 days).
  • Respondents were asked if during the past 12 months they had seriously considered attempting suicide. Among heterosexuals, 2.3% reported having considered suicide and among gay men and lesbians, 4.4% reported suicide ideation. Transgender persons (30.8%) and bisexuals (7.4%) reported higher rates of suicide ideation.
  • Respondents were asked if they had ever been threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner. Among heterosexuals (12.3%) reported a lifetime history of being threatened with intimate partner violence victimization, compared to gay men and lesbians (14.0%), bisexuals (18.4%). Transgender persons (34.6%) were more likely to report being threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner than non‐transgender persons (13.6%).
  • Respondents were asked to report whether they had ever had an HIV test. Gay men and Lesbians (72.2%) had the highest rate, followed by bisexuals (66.7%), transgender persons (65.4%) and heterosexuals (49.0%).

To my mind, what’s missing from a lot of these data is the “why” aspect: why are trans people less likely to have access to a doctor than gay and lesbian people, why do we feel depressed more often than cis people, why do we feel suicidal more often, why are we more likely to report being threatened with physical violence by an intimate partner than cis people, and so on. Of course, those reasons will undoubtedly vary widely between individuals, but it would have been interesting to know if any patterns had emerged, and if there were any differences between trans and cis populations.

Overall, I think the report is to be welcomed, cautiously – but I also hope that a more rigorous (and bigger) survey can be carried out in the near future. If nothing else, it suggests that the problems we face in our everyday lives are in urgent need, not only of study, but positive and supportive action by the mainstream cis society which oppresses us in so many ways. However, I also think that for there to be any real improvements in our circumstances there first needs to be a substantial change in cis people’s attitudes to us – and that doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon.


Curtsey to Stefani for the heads up


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

Fifteen books in 15 minutes

July 29, 2009

I’ve been tagged by Marigold to do this one, and because I always do as I’m asked (except when I don’t)…

Fifteen books in 15 minutes

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag friends.

  1. Changes by Neil Gaiman (from Smoke and Mirrors) – For such a short story, it made quite an impression on me. I wrote quite a long blog post about it here.
  2. Whipping Girl by Julia Serano – I don’t think I’m the only trans woman to have found this a hugely influential work, irrespective of its flaws and omissions. Ask me “What does ‘trans’ mean?” and this is the book I’ll throw at you.
  3. Invisible Lives – The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People by Viviane K. Namaste – Ohz noez! Not another book about gender theory! Yep – and I wrote a little about it here.
  4. Gender Politics: Citizenship, Activism and Sexual Diversity by Surya Monro – The third book about the politics of gender identity in this list. Something of a preoccupation of mine, for some reason…
  5. Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories by Jaime Hernandez – Books with pictures – what’s not to love? All human life is here. Pretty much…
  6. Out Of The Tunnel by Rachel North – The London bombings of 2005 affected many people in many ways. Rachel lived through it. I’m honoured to call her a friend.
  7. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland – With the passing of time I’ve come to like Generation X better, but this was quite a comfort during the early days of my first full-time IT job when I wondered what on earth had possessed me to make a career change like that.
  8. HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide by Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy – I’ve been tinkering with HTML and building websites for about ten years now and the Fourth Edition of this was an essential reference.
  9. A Humument by Tom Phillips – Arguably more a work of art than ‘just a book’. Fabulous.
  10. The Belonging Kind by John Shirley and William Gibson (From Burning Chrome) – William Gibson’s books have been favourites of mine since I first read Neuromancer. Although I find his recent work (particularly Idoru, Pattern Recognition and Spook Country) more to my taste these days, The Belonging Kind is one story that really resonates with me.
  11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Great book, no question. Even though it doesn’t have the sound effects from the original radio series.
  12. The Once And Future King by T.H. White – A very visual re-telling of the Arthurian legend; apparently quite an influence on Disney’s The Sword In The Stone.
  13. Breakfast Of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut – Another “life, the universe and everything” sort of book, simultaneously playful and serious. Top-notch illustrations…
  14. The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake – A sprawling Gothic fantasy that I first read as a sulky teenager. True confession? I had a book-crush on Fuschia Groan for weeks
  15. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – I’ve loved this book since I was a child. I have mixed feelings about the forthcoming film version, though.

Bonus sixteenth book:

  • Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua – I’m getting ahead of myself with this one as I’ve only just started reading it. It’s a collection of essays and poems drawing on Anzaldua’s experience as a Chicana, a lesbian, and an activist. It’s about borders and boundaries, how they move and change – and how they can be moved and changed. As bfp (to whom I’m grateful for recommending it) says:

    And yet–for Gloria–the solution–the strategy for change– was shifting and flexibility and undoing and weakening borders.

    The question wasn’t how can we build ourselves into a safe space–but how can we undo an unsafe space?

    How can we learn to take up more and more and more space?

And that’s about it. “Tag friends” you say? Well now, that’s tricky as I seem to be about the last person on the interwebs to do this particular meme. But if anyone does fancy having a go at it, leave a link in comments when you’re done.

ENDA update: Call Your Reps TODAY + Handy Congress Spreadsheet

July 28, 2009

Via LJ Transgender:

Hi People,

Please fwd. this widely to other el jay groups, MySpace, FB, email lists, as soon as possible:

CALL your reps (even if you do not live within their jurisdiction, it is still important!) Phoning is more effective than email, FYI. Please contact their offices and ask for their support for the *transgender inclusive* ENDA, HR 3017. Remember to specify that you feel both gender identity and gender *expression* should be included.

For daily updates and bulletins, check out:

Rep. David Dreier of California (26th District)., Phone: 909-575-6226
Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia (VA-D-09), Phone: 276-628-1145
Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey (NJ-R-02), Local phone: (609) 625-5008

Very handy spreadsheet put together by the Inclusive ENDA Facebook Campaign.


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

UK government publishes response to ID cards petition

July 27, 2009

ID card (front) smallIn November 2008 I wrote at some length (link here) about the proposal of the Home Office’s Identity & Passport Service (IPS) that (in the words of the Daily Mail):

People who are undergoing a sex change will be allowed two cards – one in each gender. But they will also be forced to pay twice – landing them with a £60 bill.

It has decided they will have to hold a card in their current sex, which can be used for travel in the EU.

But they will also be able to apply for a card – with corresponding picture – in the name and sex they are undergoing treatment to become.

Another major area of concern has always been the question of how secure the data required to be submitted to the government would actually be. Although the governement has promised to respect the GRA, it still requires birth gender and acquired gender to be recorded and held in the contentious centralised ID database system.

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person with grave doubts about the idea and in February this year, my friends over at Gender Spectrum UK raised an online petition to voice the two main concerns that many of us shared:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that the safety of the Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersex and gender-queer Communities is not placed at risk by insisting that harmful data is kept on the National ID Database and that many should carry hold 2 ID cards, identifying them as belong to both male & female genders.

The petition ran until March 6 and received over 800 signatures.

The government has today issued the following response (link here):

Thank you for your e-petition which calls on the Government to ensure that information pertaining to the transgender community to be recorded on the National Identity Register (NIR), is kept secure.

Where individuals who have registered with the Scheme and subsequently obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) notify the Identity and Passport Service to update their details on the NIR, there will be protections in place in our systems and procedures to ensure that the record of their previous gender is then protected from being disclosed in line with the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act. The Identity Cards Act makes unauthorised disclosure of information from the Register a criminal offence with a sentence of up to 2 years if convicted of a breach.

However, in line with the provision of the Gender Recognition Act, there may be occasions, for example for the prevention or detection of crime, where the disclosure of a person’s gender history may be necessary. However, it is expected that such cases would be exceptional.

As such, when an individual is using an identity card to prove their identity to an employer and a confirmation of their details is requested from the Register, their gender history would not be revealed. While a record of the person’s birth gender is kept as part of our fraud prevention measures, a person’s gender history will be very well protected within our systems and, as previously described; there is a criminal offence that reinforces our initial procedures against unauthorised disclosures.

The government has addressed only one of the two points raised – that of the security of information held – and completely ignored the question of dual ID cards. And even this limited response is couched in so many disclaimers as to make it effectively worthless. In brief, only those people with Gender Recogition Certificates (GRC) are entitled to the any security – and then, only as set out in the Gender Recognition Act. And those protections are flimsy, at best.

So, to summarise the government’s response to the question of data security:

  • If you have a GRC we’ll try not to out you, but we’re not promising anything.
  • If – for whatever reason, and there are many – you don’t have a GRC, well, if we out you, we out you.

And to summarise the government’s response to the concerns raised about dual IDs:

  • …Helen watches the tumbleweed rolling past and waits… and waits… and waits…

As Alison succinctly points out in her comment over at GSUK: “I am not sure this actually addresses the petition”.

It’s a strange thing, even though I don’t think I expected anything else from this government (or any other, come to think of it), I still feel more than a little disheartened about the outcome.


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia


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Brave new feminist world

July 26, 2009

brave new feminist worldThese days I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of feminist cis women’s blogs I visit, primarily because I’m really not interested in exposing myself to the virulent transphobia that runs rampant on too many of them. Now I can add another reason for disengaging – not that I was looking for one, particularly; the transphobia’s reason enough – having seen this comment by Sam Berg (via Renegade Evolution) it’s clear that her hatred has escalated beyond her usual mindless verbal violence into what is as close to a call to arms as makes no difference.

Being against those who make money from non-consensual/coerced sex acts? Yes, me too. But this self-righteous sister wants to “put AIDS-covered bullets in their brains”.

Talk about overkill. Like a bullet to the head wouldn’t be enough. But just in case it wasn’t, Ms Berg wants to make sure the job is done by making her victims HIV+

So is this what cis women feminists think is acceptable behaviour these days? And if not, why the deafening silence; why haven’t you spoken out against this hate speech?

Because if that’s what a feminist looks like…

Ms Berg, your death threat disgusts me as much as it scares me. Vigilante executions of those with whom you disagree? If that’s your idea of a brave new feminist world, then you can put one of your “AIDS-covered bullets” in my brain right now.

Human rights violations in U.K. jail

July 25, 2009

Power is the road to justice and money walks it on crooked legsLike (I suspect) many other trans people I keep an eye on various trans-related online news feeds and often see one story replicated amongst several outlets. I’ve just spotted one such report which I imagine originated with one of the big news agencies and has now turned up variously in three tabloid newspapers and one online news service. Two of the tabloids, The Mirror (link here) and The Metro (link here) have identical coverage, presumably simple copy/paste affairs; whilst Pink News (link here) at least attempts to edit it into a more narrative style.

As for the third tabloid, The Daily Mail (link here), well… …*sigh*… All I can really say is that I know this paper from my time as a contributor at The F-Word (link here) where its obnoxiously cissexist style would often generate a communal apoplectic rage amongst bloggers and readers alike.

Suffice to say it can be equally vile when it turns its attention to a trans-related subject: it has diligently misgendered the subject and generally exercised its various cis privileges – and the resulting piece is a textbook example of how offensive reactionary right-wing tabloid journalism is. Needless to say, I won’t be referring to it any further in this post.

To my mind, the content of the report itself has echoes of the mistreatment of Nastaran Kolestani in the U.S. which I wrote about back in April (link here, cross-posted at QT link here).

A transsexual prisoner serving life for manslaughter and attempted rape committed while she was a man has claimed the refusal to move her to a women’s prison is a violation of her human rights.

Well duh. Of course it is. Can you imagine the public outcry if the authorities put a cis woman in a cis men’s prison?

And when you add this to the equation –

The court heard the prisoner’s female sex had been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and her birth certificate amended accordingly.

– you have nothing less than the unlawful treatment of a trans woman by the state and a breach of a trans woman’s human rights.

Prisoner A, in her 20s, watched the court proceedings via video link from prison, and her seated figure was visible on screens in the courtroom as [barrister Phillipa Kaufman] argued the refusal to move her to a women’s prison breached her right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Via the Gender Recognition Panel website (link here) –

The Gender Recognition process enables transsexual people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender. […] Successful applicants will receive a Gender Recognition Certificate and will, from the date of full recognition, acquire all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to a person of his or her acquired gender.

It couldn’t be clearer. The court is deliberately ignoring one of the laws which it is sworn to uphold. Why is that, Your Honour? And your reason is?

The Department of Justice and the prison authorities argue the prisoner would be no more likely to be accepted by inmates at a female prison and that, if moved, she would have to spend long periods in segregation at an extra cost of £80,000 per year.

Where’s she being kept at the moment while all this is going on? Presumably in segregated accomodation. I hope – for her sake.

I don’t understand why there should be any extra costs involved. It’s not like the government is going to have to build a segregation cell specially for her, is it? Or that it’s going to cost more in terms of heat, light, water, electricity or food, etc?

And the acceptance argument is a complete red herring. As the holder of a GRC she is legally entitled to have her privacy safeguarded. In addition, it’s a subtle invocation of the iniquitous ‘passing privilege’ trope. The fact remains that she is protected by sex discrimination legislation, just as any other cis woman is.

[The Department of Justice and the prison authorities] contend that a move to a female jail might have a serious impact on her mental health and make it more difficult for her to reduce her level of risk to society and win early release from her sentence.

So having to serve her sentence unsegregated in a men’s jail wouldn’t have an effect on her mental health? How does that work? And what’s all this about her being a risk to society? If she’s transitioning – and there’s enough information to suggest she is – then hormone therapy would surely be an effective way to reduce that risk?

No, I’m sorry Your Honour, but I can’t see that the state has a leg to stand on in this case. It would be better for all to accept that fact and stop withholding her human rights. Right now. Full stop, end of chat.

Bag Raiders – Shooting Stars

July 25, 2009

Pretrial hearing in Larry King murder case – latest update

July 24, 2009

Via the LA Times (link here)

After hearing testimony for three days, a judge Wednesday said a gay junior high school student in Oxnard was fatally shot in class “with the cold-blooded precision of an executioner” and that 15-year-old Brandon McInerney should stand trial for the crime.


On Wednesday, the judge also agreed to a newly added special circumstance that McInerney was lying in wait for King. The shooting took place 15 or 20 minutes into class. King was shot from behind.

After the hearing, prosecutor Maeve Fox said McInerney could face 53 years to life if convicted.

The Ventura County district attorney’s office has offered him a 25-year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, but he has not accepted the deal. On Wednesday, Fox said the offer is still on the table.

McInerney’s attorneys would not discuss their client’s reaction to the plea-bargain offer. They said they are planning to ask appellate judges to order the case into Juvenile Court, where sentences are lighter and more rehabilitative services are available. Although California law allows 14-year-old murder defendants to be tried as adults, attorney Scott Wippert said Ventura County prosecutors had “abused their discretion” in charging McInerney.


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia


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BBC Book Challenge

July 23, 2009

Caroline tagged me with this over at Facebook, but because I’m so rubbish with FB, I can’t figure out how to put it in my Notes. So I brought it over here instead…

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How many have you read?

How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.

Tag other book nerds

1 Pride and Prejudice
2 The Lord of the Rings X
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee X
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy X
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare:
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurie
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger X
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaet Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams X
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis X
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne X
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding X
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck X
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac X
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy X
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding X
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson X
75 Ulysses – James Joyce X
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome X
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks X
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute X
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables — Victor Hugo

30. I’m such an illiterate :)

Also – who to tag? …*thinks*…

Update on pretrial hearing in Larry King murder case

July 22, 2009

The LA Times continues its coverage of the pretrial hearing – link here.

Dan Swanson, a police detective and specialist in neo-Nazi gangs believes that “The evidence strongly indicates [Brandon McIrnerney] had been indoctrinated to some level” and went on to discount earlier testimony that McInerney had black and Latino friends at school, contending that white supremacists are accustomed to hiding their true beliefs.

Meanwhile the usual smear tactics are in play by the defense: Larry King was the aggressor, harassing Mr McInerney. But the most interesting quote comes from prosecutor Maeve Fox.

“Is the defense ‘gay panic’?” she asked. “This is just a fishing expedition to paint Larry King as someone who needed killing.”

Says it all, really.

Testimony is expected to conclude today.


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia


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