Connect with us

Equality Forum: Transgender Panel Members ‘Still Have To Do These 101s’



The New Civil Rights Movement’s John Culhane is the official blogger for Equality Forum, Philadelphia’s internationally known and always interesting cavalcade of events that celebrates, informs and provokes on all (or many, anyway) things LGBT. John will be sharing reports daily over the next few days. Read all John’s Equality Forum posts here. 

It’s fair to say that the Transgender Panel is the one I always await most eagerly at the annual Equality Forum. It’s uniformly interesting and edgy. And it’s nice to get beyond the formal equality that most often drives our sprawling community(ies) and into the murkier waters of social justice. Last night’s panel did not disappoint.

The room was packed by about 70 people, many of whom engaged the panelists in a dialogue that can only loosely be described as Q&A. As invited by moderator Joe Ippolito, the mostly transgender audience wove their compelling personal narratives into their exchanges with the willing panelists, who were very free about ceding air time. The panelists were: Jeanine Ruhsam, President of TransCentral Pennsylvania (an advocacy group); Melissa Sklarz, President of the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC; and Kye Allums, who made history by playing for a women’s Division 1 basketball team at George Washington University while identifying as a male (despite female biological origin).

The evening had two themes. First, were the gay and lesbian advocates the natural advocates of the trans-community?

Second, what is the teaching role of transpeople? (Do they “still have to do these Trans 101s?” as Ippolito so perfectly asked.)

Addressing these themes allowed both panelists and audience members to share their personal stories and experiences in illuminating ways. For example, one audience member bemoaned the fact that she’s been doing trans-activism for almost “40 years, and [is] tired of it.” She also felt as though she was often a “trans-token” on LGB (not so much T) panels and boards.

Well, who wouldn’t get tired of this? And Ruhsam gently agreed that sometimes one just needs a break. But generally, the panelists and some of the audience members were committed to the on-going project of education, and thought that such education had already helped make lesbians and gays into the allies that we should have been long ago. Ruhsam noted that we all “mess with gender” in ways that are discomfiting to the sexual majority. (I’d agree, although it’s fair to say that some gay men and a few lesbians have tried to cover “our hurt with a show of gladness,” to quote Smokey Robinson. But no amount of adoption, mainstreaming or wishful thinking can change the brute facts.)

Sklarz thought that gays and lesbians were “maybe” natural allies to the transcommunity, but agreed with one astute audience member (me) that perhaps more support had come from the public health community. It’s easy to see why Sklarz — whom I’d describe, not uncharitably, as the most world-weary of the group — would be likely to view public health advocates as natural allies. She described her own long journey, a bumpy ride that included substance abuse and long-term unemployment (that started as soon as she began transitioning by taking hormones). It’s really the public health community that would look to particular communities to find practical solutions to these problems rather than the rights-driven approach of the mainstream lesbian and gay community. Yet Sklarz — now a high-profile Democrat, after all –  understood the importance of alliances toward the goal of transrights, and said she’d take anyone who’d work with her. And some of these mainstream legal struggles — even for marriage equality — have resonance (although not in exactly the same way) for transfolks, too. (As Ippolito pointed out, even when they identify as man and woman, transpeople push the marriage equality movement in a way by undermining the gender norms of marriage.)

Allums had the least to say, and I’ll confess I wanted to hear more. He says he’s committed to traveling around the country and talking to whomever will listen about his experiences and the problems of bullying. He talks to the bulliers — a courageous act that, it seems, has changed at least some hearts and minds. Yet there’s so much rich ore to be mined in the whole area of transmen and women in sports. Although Allums didn’t talk much about his journey, I saw some parallels to Caster Semenya, the South African track star whose gender was notoriously called into question because she (1) “looks” more male than female; and (2) is very freaking fast. What determines who’s male and female? And how does the occasionally complex issue of gender affect the male-female to which sports is committed like few other areas of human striving?

Well, few other areas: Another is public bathrooms. As Sklarz painfully pointed out, the bathroom excuse for denying trans-equality emphasizes exactly the wrong class of victims — those who might have to share a public bathroom with those whose gender presentation makes them uncomfortable. But the law is really needed to protect the trans-community members themselves from violence and corrosive assumptions about “normalcy.”

Will things be better in twenty years? Answering an audience member’s question to that effect, the panelists were divided. But perhaps we can hope that we’re at least up to Trans 102 by then.

Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.

He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.

John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


Less Than Half of Florida Voters Would Choose ‘Polarizing’ DeSantis New Poll Finds



Ron DeSantis is facing much more challenging odds of winning re-election than some would assume as a just-released poll finds less than half of Floridians would vote for their Republican governor.

The poll, released by Florida progressive groups but more heavily weighted toward a GOP electorate finds just 48 percent of all registered voters would vote for DeSantis, and 43 percent would choose the Democratic nominee, Florida Politics reports. The Democratic gubernatorial primary is August 23, between U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, their former governor, and Nikki Fried, the current commissioner of agriculture.

“About 2,244 registered Florida voters [were] weighted to reflect a midterm electorate favorable to Republicans. Respondents were surveyed between July 26 and 31.” The poll was released by by Progress Florida and Florida Watch.

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis’ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Goes Into Effect as Schools Scramble to Avoid Parental Lawsuits

DeSantis is viewed favorably by 50% of voters, but unfavorably by 48%.

“Given his financial advantage DeSantis remains a favorite to win re-election, but his polarizing nature could put a ceiling on his support,” a memo from pollsters Geoff Puryear and Annika Ramnath reads.

Given DeSantis’ nearly-daily press conferences, often surrounded by children or law enforcement, many forget he won his gubernatorial election in an extremely tight race, by 32,463 votes, a margin of just 0.4%.

READ MORE: ‘Combative’ Press Secretary for Ron DeSantis Registers as Foreign Agent After DOJ Inquiry: Report

To beat DeSantis the Democratic candidate would need to overcome the poll’s five-point spread, meaning securing more than half of the nine percent of undecideds or pulling several points away from DeSantis, or greatly increasing Democratic voter turnout. Back in April DeSantis decried Democrats moving to Florida, calling it “a problem” because “they would continue to vote the same way.”

The polling memo notes that 65% of Florida voters “prefer the Democratic message” on abortion.

“Democrats in Florida need to make sure that as surely as abortion rights were on the ballot in Kansas…abortion rights are on the ballot this fall, and that voters know that Marci Rubio, Ron DeSantis, and legislative Republicans support extreme abortion bans, even for victims of rape and incest,” the pollsters’ memo adds.

DeSantis has doubled down on many of his highly controversial moves, including signing into law the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which made nationwide news for months. He reversed a 50-year law that effectively granted Disney World the ability to assume most governmental operations for its district, as a punishment for the company, a huge employer in the Sunshine State, speaking out in opposition to the anti-LGBTQ law.

Authoritarianism exert Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian at New York University, in June told Insider DeSantis is “a very dangerous individual” because “he is equally repressive, but doesn’t have the baggage of Trump.”


Continue Reading


Trump Rambles for 108 Minutes in CPAC Speech Filled With ‘Unapologetic Fascism’: Report



Former President Donald Trump spoke for nearly two hours in his closing address at the CPAC summit in Dallas.

In Trump’s view, America has been destroyed in the 18 months since he left office, with out-of-control crime, inflation, and oddly enough unemployment, which Trump estimates to be three times the official number.

Trump took the stage to the song “God Bless the USA” and began by thanking the “proud patriots” in attendance.

Trump said he was proud to be joined by Rep. Ronnie Jackson (R-TX), who was his White House surgeon.

“He was an admiral, a doctor, and now he’s a congressman,” Trump noted, saying he asked him which was the best.

“And he sort of indicated doctor, because he loved to look at my body. It was so strong and powerful,” Trump said.

Trump then introduced Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

“This is no time for complacency,” Trump warned. “We have to seize this opportunity to deal with the radical left socialist lunatic fascists. We have to hit them very, very hard. It has to be a crippling defeat.”

He went on to complain about Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for supporting the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed a procedural vote after Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote while Trump was speaking, resulting in harsh words for GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“But McConnell is the most unpopular politician in the country, even more so than crazy Nancy Pelosi, and something has to be done,” Trump urged.

Trump said Biden “surrendered our strength and our everything [in Afghanistan], they surrendered our dignity.”

Michael Hardy, senior editor at the Texas Monthly, was one of the local journalists covering the speech. He said that line had “echoes of the Nazi ‘stab in the back theory’ of losing WW1.”

Trump then described crime in “Democrat-run (sic) cities” in very dark terms.

“The streets of our Democrat-run cities are drenched in the blood of innocent victims,” Trump claimed. “Bullets are killing little beautiful little children who never had a chance. Car jackers lay in wait like predators.”

Hardy described that as “some literal blood-and-soil rhetoric.”

And Trump went on saying “we need to courage to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done,” which Hardy said “is a rallying cry for street violence and worse.”

Trump went on to call for a military takeover of San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Portland.

“Trump’s rhetoric is significantly more extreme than even a few years ago,” Hardy said. “This might be most frightening speech I’ve ever heard. Full-on, unapologetic fascism. Trump has either been reading Mein Kampf or having someone read it to him.”

Trump repeated his lies about election fraud and teased a 2024 presidential comeback.

Former RNC official Tim Miller said, “I know everyone in the DC GOP is just hoping Trump will die but it’s impossible to watch this CPAC speech and not come to the conclusion that he’s going to run and be very hard to beat in a primary. Sorry to be the bearer of bad weekend news.”

After his speech, Trump danced on stage to the song “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave.

“Don’t you ever feel sad; lean on me when times are bad,” Sam and Dave sang. “Then the day comes and you’re down; in a river of trouble and about to drown. Just hold on, I’m coming. Hold on, I’m coming.”

Watch below or at this link.


Continue Reading


Legal Expert Explains How Alex Jones’ Texts Could ‘Connect the Dots’ on Trump for the Jan. 6 Committee



Appearing on CNN early Saturday morning, former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore stated that the history of texts accidentally released by attorneys representing Alex Jones may fill in the gaps for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Speaking with “New Day” host Phil Mattingly, the legal analyst was asked about reports that the texts may be headed to House investigators, with the CNN host stating, “We saw a dramatic moment in the courtroom, in the Alex Jones proceedings over the course of the last several days. He was informed that his defense team accidentally sent two years of his text records to him.”

“There are connections and overlap with what the January 6 committee is working on when it comes to that. There are discussions of the committee perhaps getting ahold of those,” he continued before asking, “What is the process? Do you see that as a potential thing that can occur?”

“The text messages and the phone records, at least in some part are now in a court record, they’ve been filed in court. That makes them a little bit easier to get,” Moore replied. “The concern I have is the issue of the phone was delivered in all accounts, it may have been delivered in error but they did nothing to correct that or fix that or file a protective order on the evidence. So that information may be subject to a challenge.”

READ: Eric Holder predicts how Donald Trump will be indicted

“The problem for Jones is that information is now known and it’s out there,” he continued. “It’s clear there was deceptive testimony during the course of discovery and I think that makes them a little easier to get.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see these subpoenas come down for the information on the phones and ultimately at the end of the day they will get it,” he elaborated. “It will be used to see if this connects any of the dots that the committee has been trying to do for the last many months. Is there a direction from Trump, is there some direction from other people in Jones’ circle that we find in the text messages there.”

Watch below or at this link.


Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.