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March 2006 Newsletter
NCTE Welcomes New Staff Member, Simon Aronoff
The National Center for Transgender Equality announced the appointment of Simon Aronoff as Deputy Director. In this leadership role, Aronoff will direct all of NCTE’s programs and communications.
“Simon has an unwavering commitment to social justice and empowering the transgender community,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “His experience in advocacy communications and organizational development will go far in strengthening NCTE’s capabilities to advance transgender equality. I look forward to working closely with him during this exciting time in the transgender movement.”
Aronoff has most recently served as Senior Account Executive at Fenton Communications, the largest public interest communications firm in the country. In this role, he has provided communications counsel to a wide range of clients in the progressive movement, with a focus on strategic planning, messaging and media relations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nonprofits. Prior to joining Fenton Communications in 2000, Aronoff served as an account coordinator at Communication Works, a nonprofit communications firm in San Francisco.
He has held an appointed seat on San Francisco’s Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force and was a founding board member of the Transgender Law Center, a civil rights organization advocating for California’s transgender community.
A graduate of Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature, Aronoff lives in Washington, DC. Aronoff will begin his responsibilities at NCTE on March 8, 2006.
School Stands By Transgender Teacher
Lily McBeth was approved to return to the classroom this year, continuing her work as a substitute teacher in a New Jersey elementary school. McBeth, a founding member of NCTE, took some time off while she transitioned last year but is now eager to be back doing the teaching that she loves.
McBeth is 71 years old and worked for many years as a business executive. After retiring, she began substitute teaching in several school districts nine years ago. After she transitioned, she reapplied to the school board as a teacher and was approved in a 4-1 vote in early February.
Some parents voiced opposition to McBeth’s approval, citing their personal religion convictions or concern that the issue was too complicated for young children to deal with. Other parents, and several former students, however, spoke up in support of her return. The Eagleswood school district reported that she had received positive evaluations for her work as a substitute during the past five years. Under New Jersey law, it is illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and expression. Conservative groups are drawing attention to this decision and calling on their members to put pressure on local school officials.
McBeth appeared on Good Morning, America on Friday, March 3. You can find more info here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=1682922&page=1
This case is not the first in the Garden State. Last year, Kerri McCaffrey continued teaching at a Mendham, New Jersey middle school following transition.
International Conference to Focus on Trans Issues
The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) is hosting a day-long conference on March 27 to focus on the rights and experiences of trans people from around the world. The conference will look at issues such as discrimination, medical care, violence, psychiatric classifications and legal options. Panelists leading the discussion hail from a range of nations, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, China-Hong Kong, Kirghiztan, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela.
Jamison Green, who is a founding member of NCTE and a member of our Board of Advisors, will be attending the conference.
More information about the event can be found at www.ilga-world-conference-2006.ch. ILGA’s conference is being held from March 30 – April 3, in conjunction with the 2006 meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The French trans group, CARITIG (Centre d’Aide, de Recherche et d’Information sur la Transsexualité et l’Identité de Genre), is helping to organize the event. More information can be found on their website, www.caritig.org.
Progress, Setbacks in States
Governments in Iowa and Vermont all consider legislation that would further the rights of trans people, while Ohio lawmakers introduce a bill to prevent GLBT people from becoming foster or adoptive parents and Wisconsin’s State Assembly prevents trans prisoners from receiving hormones. Hawaii vows to improve the lives of transgender, lesbian and gay teens.
Vermont’s House of Representatives approved a bill on March 1 to add gender identity and expression to the state’s non-discrimination law and sent it on to the state Senate. Vermont’s hate crimes law already include gender identity. If approved, Vermont would become the ninth state to bar discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
Dozens of students in Iowa recently visited the state legislature speaking in favor of a “Safe Schools” bill which would include gender identity and sexual orientation in anti-bullying policies in public schools. The bill is currently being held up in the education committee in the state House of Representatives. Elsewhere in the state, the Board of Supervisors in Johnson County, Iowa recently directed city attorneys to draft a human rights ordinance for the county. Eight communities in the state have similar laws. It has been suggested that the legislation be modeled on the ordinance in effect in Iowa City, which includes gender identity and sexual orientation.
In Ohio, legislators introduced a bill that would bar transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people from adopting children or serving as foster parents. Florida is the only state to have a ban on adoption by gay, lesbian and bisexual people but allows foster parenting. Conservative lawmakers and groups are advocating for the bill, which is not expected to pass. As in many states, Ohio has a lengthy list of children who are eligible for adoption but have not yet been placed in a home.
In January, the governor of Wisconsin signed Bill 184, which prevents funding of hormone treatments or sex reassignment surgery for inmates in Wisconsin prisons. The law was challenged almost immediately by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union and a federal court has issued an injunction to halt implementation. There are inmates in Wisconsin who have been receiving hormone treatments who are impacted by the law.
The state of Hawaii has been far from paradise for youth in public schools or incarcerated in its juvenile facilities. The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against the state on behalf of three teens—a male-to-female transgender youth, a lesbian and a young man perceived to be gay— imprisoned in the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. As a result, the state government settled with the federal Justice Department, agreeing to make major changes at the facility, located in Kailua. The state’s Attorney General, Mark Bennett, stated plans to implement policies that will include issues specifically relating to gender identity and sexual orientation. In a victory for the teens, the judge explicitly stated that abuse based on these categories must cease immediately.
The Hawaii Board of Education appointed a task force to investigate the conditions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in the public school system. Their report is due shortly to School Superintendent Pat Hamamoto. Already the group has found serious incidents of bullying and harassment, with teachers unwilling or unable to step in as often as they are needed.
Advocating for Our Rights
In a major victory, New York City's homeless shelters agree to transgender friendly policies. Also, the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority agrees to stop the harassment of a transwoman using the restroom. In Knoxville, a transgender firefighter speaks out against discrimination.
The Department of Homeless Services in New York City has recently changed its policies to allow people to self-identity their gender when seeking services, rather than segregating people based on birth gender. A number of New York based advocacy groups worked for this change for many years, including the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. More information about transgender people in shelters is available from NCTE at www.nctequality.org/Homelessness.asp. The web page includes a downloadable resource guide, Transitioning Our Shelters, and links to advocacy organizations.
Helena Stone is a 70-year-old transwoman who repairs telephones at Grand Central Station. She has been arrested three times in the past six months for using the women’s restroom at the station and reported that she had been verbally abused by the arresting officers. Following a recent protest, the MTA agreed to drop the charges and resolve the issue with Stone. She was represented by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed complaints with both the MTA and with the city’s Commission on Human Rights. New York City law has included protections based on gender identity since 2002.
In Tennessee, a fire captain, Jamie Faucon, has initiated a grievance against her supervisors for discrimination, failing to use the correct pronouns when referring to her and for changing the conditions under which she has been working. Faucon is a veteran of the US military as well as an experienced firefighter. She serves as the quality control officer for the Knoxville Fire Department.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women to our world as well as a time to recognize the challenges that women continue to face. Whenever people face discrimination and hardship because of their gender, it is an issue that matters to trans people. Whether we are celebrating our chosen gender as women, acting in solidarity with those of our birth gender, or looking forward to the day when gender is not a dividing force among us, we can be united with women around the world who are seeking equity and freedom.
International Women’s Day is sponsored by the United Nations. You can get more information about the global effort here: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/default.asp
On Stage, On Screen, On Canvas: An Arts Update
Trans at the Oscars
(from a joint press release from NCTE and the Transgender Law Center)
Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress but she didn’t win the award at last weekend’s ceremony. Her nomination for portraying a transgender woman in TransAmerica, though, has significance far beyond any award.
“The success of this film has created an opening for innumerable conversations about transgender issues,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “In addition to her knockout performance, Felicity’s grace and generosity in interviews have helped to create an environment in which people are not scared to ask important questions about the lives of transgender people.”
Ms. Huffman and TransAmerica’s writer/director, Duncan Tucker, created a complex character struggling, and often stumbling, to show her true self to the world. In the film, Huffman’s character, Bree, meets the son she never knew she had and confronts the family who never knew her for who she is.
“Bree’s experiences are not universal for all transgender people, but her unwillingness to be a victim, her journey of discovering her true self, and her triumph over her life’s challenges resonate clearly with us,” said Cecilia Chung, Deputy Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Our hope is that following the success of TransAmerica more writers, producers, and actors will look for ways to bring to life the positive attributes and strengths of our community.”
More Arts News
“Christine Jorgensen Reveals” has re-opened on New York’s theater row. The play is the portrayal of an actual interview that Jorgensen gave in 1958, six years after she transitioned. The title character is played by Bradford Louryk, who created the show. Louryk lip synchs to the sound track of the interview. Rob Grace plays Nipsey Russell, the interviewer, and is seen only on a television screen on the set. Of particular interest are the ways in which Russell attempts to provide delicate euphemisms for his subject matter.
The show is at the Studio Theater, 410 42nd Street, in New York City. More information is available on the website, www.christinereveals.com.
The Handel House Museum in London, England, will host a unique exhibit this year, focusing on the castrati singers who worked with the composer Handel. Castrati were male singers who had been castrated prior to puberty so that they would retain their soprano or alto ranges. They were the stars of the stage in earlier centuries and were much sought after as performers. They also were very popular with fans. Historians believe that as many as 4,000 boys were castrated each year in Italy in the nineteenth century before the practice was outlawed. More information about the exhibit is available on the museum’s website at www.handelhouse.org
Logo, the new GLBT themed cable network, premiered “Beautiful Daughters” in February. The show is a documentary about a production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, featuring a transgender cast. “Beautiful Daughters” follows cast members Calpernia Addams, Lynn Conway, Andrea James, Valerie Spencer and Leslie Townsend during the rehearsals and preparation for the play. More information is available on Logo’s website, www.logoonline.com