Transgender News
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
  Court to Debate Gender of Transsexuals
By Kim Tong-hyung
Korea Times Staff Reporter

The Supreme Court will hold a hearing next Thursday to discuss whether to legally recognize transsexuals' new gender, signaling the start of an intensive public debate over the issue. The court has invited a doctor experienced in sexual reassignment surgery, and a religious leader who had been publicly opposing gender recognition of transsexuals, to participate.

"We will make a decision over the issue of gender recognition of transsexual people and we expect to extend the talks until we reach a unanimous conclusion among the judges. We will ask the opinions of experts, whether to stand for or against legally recognizing the changed sex of transsexuals, and also consider public sentiment,'' said a Supreme Court official, who added the hearing will be closed to the public.

Progressive activists and minority rights groups have been claiming that recognizing transsexuals by their new gender would be an important step to grant them legal equality. By denying the rights of transsexuals to be recognized by their new sex, transsexual people could face serious social obstacles when applying for jobs or licenses, receiving welfare benefits or marriage among others, with their original birth certificates determining their proof of identity, according to the activists.

However, conservative voices, including many religious leaders and organizations, have been balking at the idea of recognizing transsexuals by their new gender. They point out that sexual reassignment surgery is not capable of brining fundamental changes to one's biological origin, as it inevitably results in infertility, and claim that the issue over transsexuals is more a problem of lifestyle, not gender identity.

Many countries in Western Europe, with some exceptions such as Ireland, Albania and Andorra, have adjusted their sex laws in recent years to give transsexuals legal recognition of their new gender.

The arguments over the bureaucratic recognition of those who change their sex began last year when three transsexuals filed an appeal to the Supreme Court after a lower court rejected their claims to be legally identified by their new genders. Two of them, in their mid-30s, received surgeries to become women and one went through a similar route to become a man.

Since 2002, when entertainer Ha Ri-su and another person, who both received sexual reassignment surgeries to become women, was granted legal recognition of their new sex by court, there has been a consistent number of people requesting to be listed as the opposite sex to what is marked on their birth certificate.

According to official figures, 22 transsexual people applied for gender recognition of their new sex to the Seoul Family Court and 17 other regional courts in 2004, with the courts granting the applications in 10 cases. The number of cases rose to 26 in 2005, with the courts allowing new gender recognition in 15 of the cases.

The inconsistency in the rulings have critics pointing out the need of a legal framework to determine the conditions under which transsexuals are granted legal recognition of their new sex. For gender recognition for transsexuals, courts are looking for ways mandate the applicants to prove that they have lived in their new gender and whether they intended to live that way permanently, as well as their physical changes by medication and surgery.

In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled a sexual offense case involving a transsexual victim as a molestation, instead of rape, refusing to recognize the victim was biologically a woman. In its ruling, the court wrote the "victim cannot be recognized as a woman by conventional thought.''
Ten years later, however, minority rights activists contend that changes in "conventional thought'' might actually give transsexuals a better change to be legally recognized by their new gender. 05-11-2006 17:01
  Journalism and gender variance - uneasy bedfellows?
Journalism and gender variance - uneasy bedfellows?
By Koan Bremner, 6:13 am, Sat 6 May 2006
Contributing Editor Koan Bremner also blogs at Multidimensional.Me

In my opinion, a free press is an essential element of a free and just society. And yet, for all of the examples where journalists have uncovered wrong-doing and pursued those responsible (even to the highest reaches of government) there is at least one area where the fourth estate typically fails to cover itself in glory.

Take the death of Krystal Heskin. A woman of 31, Krystal was found dead in a motel on April 18th. Police have now arrested and charged a Chicago man, Michael Davis. And how did the Chicago Sun-Times choose to cover this news?

ELK GROVE VILLAGE -- A Chicago man was charged Monday with the April 18 murder of a transsexual, police said.

Great. Just great. Faced with reporting a serious crime, the reporter falls back on the tried-and-tested tactic of objectifying this dead woman as "a transsexual". As the piece goes on to say:

While the medical examiner's report noted the victim as a white male, police are referring to the victim as a woman. The deceased "has male anatomy, but also has female anatomy, and has been referred to as a she," Schmidt said.

I became aware of Krystal's murder through this post on Jen Burke's blog "Transcending Gender". In the comments (well worth reading in their entirety), Jen gives more examples of the less-than-sympathetic coverage Krystal's death received from various news sources. Now, of course, those who are transsexual, transgender, gender variant or otherwise outside of the heteronormative binary gender divide have no right to fair and reasonable coverage from the press, right? They're fair game for any number of objectifying stories, right?

Er, wrong - in my opinion. Because, even if your personal feeling or opinion towards those from outside the binary gender divide is less than supportive, remember this - these people are somebody's son / daughter / wife / husband / brother / sister / aunt / uncle / friend / colleague. What of *their* feelings about the treatment handed out the victim by the press? In a later comment on Jen's post, Vicki, Krystal's sister made her feelings clear:

Krystal was my sister is my sister, and she was taken away from us. Why she was, I will never understand. The hardest part in all of this, for myself and for all of my family has been the cruel and unnecessary way in which the media had chose to present this story. We love Krystal so deeply, and these stories have just ripped us apart.

Krystal was the victim of the apparent murder - and now her family, and those who loved her, are the victims of the press' treatment of her story. Vicki continues:

We talked to the press, in hopes that they would treat her like a person rather than a freak (she was not a freak.. she was a loving, caring, wonderful sister, daugther, friend), and they took our words and they turned them around to something that they were not. Her life was not filled with woe, it was filled with love, it was filled with family who cared for her with friends who were there for her.

Here's a tip, for any journalist out there - "transsexual" is an adjective. If you're tempted to write a story and use it as a noun, try a little experiment before you publish the story - substitute in an adjective which might be used to describe another social or racial minority. Would the Chicago Sun-Times have published that story with "transsexual" substituted with "black"? Calling someone "a black woman" may or may not be offensive to that person - calling them "a black" is, I believe, almost guaranteed to offend.

Sometimes the press can have a more even-handed part to play. The La Crosse Tribune, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, recently ran a story reporting a talk given by Anne Rubenstein, associate professor of history at York University, Toronto to a group of students at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. Her talk included the story of Zulma:

Miguel began wearing lipstick at age 9. He was born male, but said he always felt like he was female, Anne Rubenstein told a group of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students. By age 12, Miguel had run away from home, become a prostitute and taken the name Zulma. At 18, she went to Tijuana for a sex change operation but wound up spending six months in jail for assault. She was stabbed to death weeks after her release from prison.

Whatever your opinion of the value or relevance of the story, take a look at the extensive comments thread which resulted - which runs in reverse chronlogical order, so it only makes sense if you start reading from the bottom of the page. In one discussion, you'll see just about all shades of opinion on the subject of transgender and transsexual people - from the supporters and the open-minded through to those whose convictions (religious and otherwise) give them, they feel, free rein to deny the validity of another's existence. Whatever your feelings on this subject, you'll probably find them voiced in this thread - but I'd like to pull out three for illustration. From one commenter:

Let's imagine that one day "Poof!" God makes everyone straight. Since other forms of discrimination are passe, what demographic group would you next single out to bring your little world back to its comforting "us and them" order? Me, I'm straight because I was born that way, and another person's orientation can't change that. So what's your problem? "Worry about kids", my eye. Kids see more than enough marginalization and hazing in school without your help in the real world. Some of us outgrew the brutalities of playground politics. I suggest you do the same, if you care as much for the next generation as your santimonious pretensions would have us believe.

From a commenter who calls themself "COMPASSION":


And from Julie Z:

The single most silly thing that I have seen here, is when someone that disaproves of the LGBT community brings up the subject of protecting children from us having our civil rights, when we were all once children ourselves. Seems to me that these people are only interested in the welfare of heterosexual children, convieniently forgetting about all the LGBT children that they themselves procreate. It's like they think the only gay people there are in the world are adults. Pretty amazing how thoughtless some people can be.

As I say, I respect the press more when it handles a story like this without undue sensationalism - and even more so when it provides and supports the exchange of ideas and opinions from all sides.

I'll leave you with one more story which is growing in Europe - specifically, in Spain. In response to the Spanish Government apparently back-tracking on a previous commitment to table a Gender Identity Act this year in the first semester of parliament, one trans activist, Carla Antonelli, announced that she would begin a hunger strike on May 15th, until the promised legislation was tabled. As the days have progressed, more activists have announced their intention to join the hunger strike - and the story is receiving coverage in the Spanish media, including the daily paper El Mundo - for example, this article:

Every day that passes, thousands of transsexual people in Spain live through humiliating and completely embarrassing situations when renting a house, opening a bank account, taking a plane flight, getting a job, or whatever situation possible when they have to show ID.

Overall, reading that machine translation of the article, I'm struck by the even-handedness of the article - factual and non-sensationalist. Maybe my hope for a press which treats trans people as people, rather than fodder for sensationalised pot-boilers, is not yet dead.

Blog: Multidimensional.Me
  Portland State University establishes gender-neutral washrooms
Facilities to offer maps showing locations of bathrooms next week
By Deeda SchroederMay 05, 2006

To address growing concerns that Portland State is in need of more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, plans are in the works to offer more of the bathrooms, and maps showing gender-neutral bathrooms on campus will be provided beginning next week.

Seventeen of the single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms are located in 10 campus buildings. These bathrooms are also built to serve special-needs groups like families, nursing mothers and the disabled.

“By having only male and female restroom options available to them, a lot of people feel that something very basic is being taken away from them,” said Tyrone Hanley of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition in Washington, D.C. Hanley is its youth program coordinator, and is working to help students who do not fit gender norms feel more comfortable at their schools and other environments.

“These restrooms serve a number of purposes for people on campus and we recognize that it is very favorable to be able to serve a much greater segment of the population,” said Robyn Pierce, interim director of Facilities and Planning.

“We are continuing to add more gender-neutral facilities into future capital projects and look for opportunities to transition existing restrooms,” she said.

At PSU, Pierce said, “This is one of those situations where we do not really know what the need is.” Pierce said that there had never been a request for a map of these facilities to be made, but that one would be made available at the information desk in Smith Memorial Student Union for next week.

The current update of the Stott Center’s male and female locker rooms is geared towards the ease of use for the disabled, bringing bathroom and shower areas up to ADA standards. However, this does not address the need for gender-neutral bathing facilities. The only gender-neutral shower is located in the new engineering building at Southwest Fourth and College streets.

“This is a huge safety issue for folks who look different or express themselves differently,” said Cody Rowan, one of the coordinators at the Queer Resource Center. “Historically, locker rooms have been an uncomfortable place.” Stott Center’s male and female locker rooms do allow for partial privacy. Some shower stalls have curtains, but there is no separate space.

The San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s 2001 study of the need for gender-neutral restrooms documented that 41 percent of the participants had experienced harassment or violence when using a single-sex restroom. The study included transgender, gender-queer, gender-questioning, lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The new student recreation center, slated to be built where PCAT stands today, is in the planning stages, and gender-neutral, private facilities might be included. “We could design it to have those features, and I think we should design it to serve a greater portion of the population,” Pierce said.

Those plans, and the building’s features, are currently under review by the building advisory committee, headed by Mark Gregory, the new associate vice president of Partnerships, Planning, and Technology.

“This is going to be a building designed for student use, and since we’re in the very early planning stages for it, now would be a great time for anyone interested to voice their concerns and reasons,” Gregory said. “The key is getting that word in now.”

“This campus has been said to have the most transfolk in the U.S., and it is important because this is another minority group that needs to be treated with respect and dignity like any other minority group,” Rowan said. Rowan added that signage in the most heavily used buildings could be improved to help find these restrooms.

“We’re at a point in time where people are becoming more aware of the fact that there are other folks out there beside men and women, and their needs should be met too,” said Kayla Goldfarb, coordinator for Students for Unity. “I hope that whoever is in charge of the financial aspect of these decisions will take into account how many people would like to see more happening in this area, people outside those directly impacted.”

Defining these terms is personal and individual. The Survivor Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of intersex and trans survivors of violence, uses the term “trans” as a broad umbrella term to include anyone breaking away from the societal norms of male and female.

Transgender is another widely used term, often used to describe any variance from, or transition between, the traditional male and female genders.

Elsewhere in the country, colleges are accommodating people with these needs.

“Generally, most colleges are starting out with single-occupancy rooms. People are hesitant to put more than one toilet in a gender-neutral restroom,” Hanley said.
  Wendy's Progressive Employment Policy
by Newscenter Staff
May 3, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET

(Washington) Fast food chain Wendy's International has agreed to amend its employment nondiscrimination policy by adding new written protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all employees.

The change came after lobbying by the LGBT civil rights group Equality Project and one of the company's biggest shareholders.

The New York City Employees Retirement Fund filed a shareholders resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission calling for the policy change. After the company agreed to the changes the resolution was withdrawn without needing to go to stock holders at the next Annual Meeting.

“The good news from Wendy’s proves once again that building coalitions around the Equality Principles is a strategy that works for shareholders and policy advocates alike, and deserves support by more institutions,” said Grant Lukenbill, managing director of the Equality Project.
The Equality Principals are ten objectives of the Project that include anti-discrimination policies in the workplace and in advertising.

The New York City Employees Retirement Fund under NYC Comptroller, William B. Thompson has been a leading advocate of LGBT workplace rights.

Both groups are now turning their attention to ExxonMobil, the only major U.S. company that has ever rescinded a non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation.

The provision had been available to workers at Mobil. But, in December 1999 Mobil merged with Exxon and under Exxon's direction the policy was abandoned. At the same time, it closed Mobil's domestic partner benefits program to any more employees.

The company also is the only Fortune 50 company not to include sexual orientation in its primary non-discrimination policy.

NYCERS currently holds 11.9 million shares worth approximately $446 million in the company.
For the sixth year in a row the pension fund and a group of other Exxon shareholders will present a non-discrimination motion at the company's annual meeting.

The resolution received the highest numbers of votes of all resolutions in 2005 – an impressive 29.4 percent representing 1.55 billion shares in favor of the policy.

New York's pension funds have a long history of activism on behalf of social causes, including gay rights. The funds were part of a decade-long battle to get CBRL Group Inc., the parent company of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. CBRL, which reportedly fired at least 11 gay workers in the 1990s, agreed to change its policy in November 2002 after a resolution garnered 58 percent of the vote.

It also backed a resolution that resulted in J.C. Penney Co. supporting LGBT non discrimination.

© 2006
  Transsexual wins pension battle in EU court
28.04.2006 - 10:03 CET By Teresa Küchler

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU's highest court has ruled that a British law defining pension rights based on birth gender violated fundamental human rights.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice on Thursday (27 April) ruled in favour of a transsexual woman's right to cash in her pension money, against British claims that member states have their own right to set pension rules.

60 year-old Sarah Margaret Richards, who was a man until 2001, was told by UK authorities she had to wait until the age of 65 to receive pension money, the age when all British men get their pensions.

In the UK, women are entitled to cash in their pension funds at 60 years of age.

Under UK law at the time - 2002 - the sex of a person stated on his or her birth certificate was decisive for pension rights, and a birth certificate could only be changed to rectify clerical or factual errors, not to reflect sexual identity.

A new Gender Recognition act however came into force in the UK last year, allowing gender recognition certificates for transsexuals, but without retroactive effect, which is why Ms Richard's appeal to a UK court failed.

In its judgement, the ECJ observes that the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sex is one of the fundamental human rights, to which all EU member states have signed up to.
"Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person's gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender," the court's judgment states.

"If the acquired gender is the male gender, the person's sex becomes that of a man, and if it is the female gender, the person's sex becomes that of a woman," it continues.

The case will now be referred back to UK social security commissioners for a domestic decision.
Human rights for all The ECJ ruling comes as other voices have been raised demanding equal rights for all persons, despite sexual orientation.

Earlier this week, the mayor of Amsterdam sent letters to his counterparts in eight European cities warning that gay intolerance was increasing in Europe.

Mr Cohen said he was "particularly concerned by the news that homophobic attitude and behaviour is propagated by measures and policies of local authorities in some of the new EU member states".

When he was mayor, Polish president Lech Kaczynski tried to block a gay pride march in Warsaw in June while Portugal recently turned down a lesbian couple's request for a marriage licence.

Recently the Latvian and Lithuanian parliaments decided to table amendments to their constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Mr Cohen's letter was sent to mayors in Warsaw, Prague, Lisbon, Dublin, Vienna and in the Baltic capitals of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, as well as to EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini.
Mr Frattini's spokesperson told the EUobserver that the commissioner had received the letter, but said that the matter does not fall under EU competence.
  Transgender Employment Discrimination Suits Increase Nationally
Published on
By Marie-Anne Hogarth
The Recorder04-25-2006

In what appears to be part of a new wave of employment discrimination suits involving transgenders, San Francisco attorney Waukeen McCoy is suing an international engineering firm on behalf of a 44-year-old pre-operative female who was forced out of her job.

Danielle Ryan worked as an IT systems analyst with Parsons Brinckerhoff in Sacramento for a decade before she began her shift from male to female, the suit alleges.

After she began taking hormones and coming to work in woman's clothing, she was harassed by co-workers and superiors, who asked her to bare her breasts and compared her to Klinger, a character from the television program "MASH." The company demoted her to part-time status and ultimately forced her out, according to the lawsuit.

The suit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court last month is the latest to take advantage of a 2004 amendment to California's Fair Employment and Housing Act that explicitly protects transgender employees. At least four similar cases have settled in California.
And nationally, transgenders are having more luck making their case in federal court under Title VII.

"I do think there is a momentum building and that I will get more clients like Ms. Ryan," says McCoy. "I've gotten a few calls since the case was filed. I think people are being educated by this case."

Fernando Gaytan, an associate with Hadsell & Stormer in Pasadena, Calif., said his firm has settled two cases this year that were filed under the new provisions of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

In one case, a company refused a transgender female a job with a construction company, though they had previously offered her a position when she was a male. And in the second case, a transgender female in the service industry experienced harassment and was forced to resign after working at the same job for years.

"We are receiving calls as people learn that we have handled these cases," says Gaytan.
Gloria Allred, who represented the family of slain transgender teen Gwen Araujo, says her firm settled one of these employment discrimination cases this year.

"I do think individuals who suffer from transgender discrimination are more aware of their rights than they used to be and more willing to express their rights," Allred said.

At the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, director Christopher Daley agrees courts are increasing protections for transgender people under existing language.

At the end of March, for instance, a federal district court in Washington D.C. allowed a suit brought on behalf of transgender U.S. Army veteran Diane Schroer to go forward. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit claiming the Library of Congress unlawfully refused to hire her.

Two similar suits filed in federal district court in Ohio ended up in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Daley said. After that court allowed the cases to proceed, they both settled. Another case filed in district court in Utah wasn't allowed to go ahead, though.

"More and more people are transitioning at work and are seeking remedy when they are being discriminated against," says Daley. "I really think we are seeing the start of these cases."
Because many parts of the country lack the resources to serve these clients, many transgender people might not know they have recourse under the law. "It really is an emerging area of the law," says Daley.

And apparently, both plaintiff and defense lawyers are learning about it. Daley says his seminars on preventing discrimination are attended by a healthy mix of both types of lawyers. And while lawyers at big defense firms might not be handling these cases yet, they're certainly helping clients update their workplace policies and undergo trainings.

"We talk about the importance of not kidding," says Melinda Riechert, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. "People tend to be defensive and deal with it by kidding.

"My aunt's accountant went from male to female," Riechert recalls. "She had a hard time with it because she was an old lady and had to get used to it."

Those lawyers who do take on cases on behalf of transgenders say more work often follows. Still, plaintiffs lawyers say the lack of data regarding settlement amounts makes negotiations difficult.
Heather Borlase, of Bayer & Borlase, encountered this in settling a case on behalf of an employee at the UC-San Francisco, who was treated differently after her supervisor learned she had transitioned from male to female.

Also, lawyers didn't know of any transgender cases that actually went to trial. That has many of them mystified as to how their cases would play out before a jury.

"You might really have to educate a jury," says Borlase. "Although the protection is there, people have to come to a place in their lives where they see this is a protected class."

Meanwhile, McCoy plans on using all the weapons in his arsenal to represent Danielle Ryan. In addition to filing a lawsuit, he has lodged a complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission since Ryan's employer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, has a $14.6 million contract with the city doing work on Doyle Drive, part of the Golden Gate Bridge project.

The defense has not yet answered the complaint, and Carolyn Burnette, a partner at Jackson Lewis, which represents Parsons, declined comment.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
  Yale University calls for transgender protection
Council passes resolution calling for addition to Yale's nondiscrimination policy
BY CULLEN MACBETH, Staff Reporter, Yale Daily News
Published Monday, April 24, 2006

The Yale College Council approved a resolution Sunday night calling on the administration to include the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression" in the University's official nondiscrimination policy.Less than two weeks after Harvard University announced the addition of protection for "gender identity" -- though not "gender expression" -- to its own nondiscrimination policy, the YCC pushed for a similar action at Yale.

Although some YCC members said they worried that the Yale resolution was not substantive enough to effect real change, supporters of the resolution -- which passed, 13-3 -- argue that it is needed to ensure that transgender members of the Yale community do not face harassment.

In 2004, Erin Emily Dwyer, a transsexual former Yale Dining Services employee, sued the University for discrimination, alleging harassment from coworkers and supervisors. Dwyer lost the case, but Hugh Baran '09 -- the coordinator of the Queer Political Action Committee, which is campaigning to add the clauses to the University's nondiscrimination policy, said the revisions would prevent members of the Yale community from having to follow a similar path."

Changing the policy allows for a review process and for appeals to be made to the administration," Baran said. "It allows people to have institutional and legal recourse against instances of discrimination."

But YCC Secretary Kasdin Miller '07, who voted against the resolution, said that although she fully supports equal rights against discrimination for transgender members of the Yale community, she was concerned that the resolution was not specific enough about policy implementation."With an issue like housing, for example, it means taking a specific stance instead of just suggesting there needs to be change," she said.

Loren Krywanczyk '06, who identifies himself as gender-queer, spoke during the YCC deliberations about his experiences as a transgender student at Yale. Krywanczyk said he thinks Yale's commitment to gender diversity should be broadened beyond the a binary system of men and women because the current lack of formalized recognition makes some transgender students' lives difficult.

"The absolute lack of policy and support has left my status in the hands of deans and masters, who fortunately have been very supportive in my case," he said. "It would be a tragedy if future students in my position didn't receive the same treatment because the University hasn't expressed this commitment to diversity. … I know people who have had awful experiences at University Health Services and with housing because Yale refused to recognize their gender status.

"QPAC member Jacob First '07, who helped draft the resolution, said QPAC has sought meetings with Yale President Richard Levin and other University administrators, but has been told that their schedules do not allow for any meetings.

"We're hoping that we can talk to the administration," he said. "I feel like we want to show that it's an issue that does affect staff, students, professors, everyone at Yale, and then hopefully they would then make a statement saying they do think this is an important issue. … We just want to have that conversation with them, but we can't really talk about how we can make Yale trans-friendly without having this in writing, that Yale doesn't want to discriminate in these ways.

"The decision at Harvard was made public on April 12, two days after the school's Undergraduate Council sent the Harvard Corporation a bill co-sponsored by about 30 campus organizations. But Harvard Vice President and General Counsel Robert Iuliano told the Harvard Crimson that the corporation had already agreed to add the clause to its nondiscrimination policy a week earlier.

More than 50 colleges nationwide have added gender identity to their nondiscrimination policies, including Harvard, Brown and Cornell universities, as well as the University of Iowa, which was the first school to make the change in 1996.

Yale officials could not be reached for comment Sunday night.

June 2006 /