Transgender rights arrive at Capitol

Dr. Jude Harrison of La Plata Family Medicine says a surgery requirement for transgender people to change their birth certificate markers wouldn’t fit everyone. Not all transgender people choose surgery.

Dr. Jude Harrison of La Plata Family Medicine says a surgery requirement for transgender people to change their birth certificate markers wouldn’t fit everyone. Not all transgender people choose surgery.

DENVER – With gay marriage gaining acceptance in America, advocates in Colorado have set their sights on a new frontier – transgender rights.

The entire legal conundrum facing gay couples is not fully settled. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to tackle whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, with a ruling expected by June.

But for many Americans, the issue is settled after lower federal courts across the country ruled bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, including in Colorado, where same-sex marriage now is legal.

Given the progress, LGBT advocates now are focused on transgender issues.

A measure being proposed for Colorado – which likely will be introduced within the next two weeks – would make it easier for transgender people to change the sex marking on their birth certificates.

The current process requires sex-reassignment surgery in order to qualify. The legislation, which has been proposed by two openly gay lawmakers, also would include hormone treatment, among other “transitional” options.

“They identify how they identify, and they live their life how they identify, and they express their gender how they do, but the state shouldn’t have a requirement that we inspect your genitalia when you’ve made a private medical decision about your health,” said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, who will be sponsoring the measure along with Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.

For Durango physician Jude Harrison, the issue is as personal as it gets. Harrison, who was born female, simply thought he was a tomboy. But as time went on, he realized he identified as a man. Now 61 years old, Harrison began hormone treatment in 2013.

“My being a man has nothing to do with what’s between my legs,” Harrison said.

He spoke of the legal issues he faces as a result of not having all government-issued documents match in the gender category. As a physician, this has affected licensing. It also comes up when Harrison travels, having to go through security and show identification.

“What one does to transition is going to be a different decision for every person, and for some people, they’re never going to do surgery; and so to have a requirement to have to do surgery to change your birth certificate marker doesn’t fit with what’s going to happen for a number of people for the rest of their lives,” Harrison said.

Dave Montez, executive director of Colorado LGBT advocacy group One Colorado, said transgender issues are important because they come with a host of health and safety issues, as well.

Studies have shown that trans people are subject to more harassment and bullying, resulting in high rates of depression and thoughts of suicide.

“With gay and lesbian people, we saw this incredible change, not just in laws, but in public perception, and we need to do that with transgender people, as well,” Montez said. “But in order to do that, we’ve got to reduce barriers.”

The battle, however, is uphill, especially in a divided Legislature where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats hold the House.

One Republican in the House already has introduced a measure that would allow locker room owners to restrict access to a changing space if the person is transgender.

Montez described the measure as being “engineered to drive up fear and confusion … in a hurtful, dishonest and dehumanizing way.”

But Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, said the issue is difficult for parents who have not had that conversation yet with their children. Even though a person might identify as a woman and use the women’s locker room, they still might have male genitalia, which could confuse small children sharing the same space.

“I would just hope that we wouldn’t have to expose especially young children that just haven’t learned yet,” Ransom said. “I want my children to have an understanding and tolerance of everybody. But I’m a protective mom.”

The state’s seven gay lawmakers – all Democrats – already are at odds with Republicans about other LGBT bills this year. One bill has been introduced by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, which would clean up conflicts in statute between civil unions and gay marriage, clarifying that one can’t marry someone in a civil union.

Republicans controlling the Senate have assigned the transgender measure to the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, widely known as a “kill committee” for unfavorable legislation by the controlling party.

“The only people that seem to be really hung up on it seem to work in this building,” Steadman said during an interview at the Colorado Capitol.

To be fair, House Democrats have assigned Ransom’s locker room bill to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, also considered a kill committee for controlling Democrats in that chamber.

But Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said gay-marriage issues are not for the Legislature to decide. Coram opposed civil unions in 2012, despite having a gay son.

He told The Durango Herald that if he was faced with a ballot question legalizing civil unions or gay marriage, he would have supported it. But he doesn’t believe it is the Legislature’s place to decide, especially after voters banned gay marriage.

“I just didn’t think the Legislature has the right to overturn what the voters have done,” Coram said.

Concerning the transgender bill, he said, “It doesn’t rise to the top of my priority list, but if this comes forward, and it passes, I don’t care.”

Source:  The Durango Herald, “Transgender rights arrive at Capitol: Bill would make it easier to amend birth certificates,”  By Peter Marcus, Herald Denver Bureau, Article Last Updated: Saturday, January 17, 2015 12:11pm

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Support Their Kid Wearing Suits

**It shouldn’t take “celebrity” to raise awareness to these issues, but it does help to elevate the conversation to a level of consciousness.

Brangelina’s oldest biological child prefers suits to dresses, and wants to be called John. And the famous couple is totally cool with it.

John Jolie-Pitt at the premiere of 'Unbroken'

John Jolie-Pitt at the premiere of ‘Unbroken’

The oldest biological child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, named Shiloh and assigned female at birth, has for years been stepping out at red-carpet events and family outings with the multicultural family in sharp suits, boyish attire, and ever-shorter haircuts.

Around the age of 3, the now-8-year-old informed the family that they want to be called John — and everyone in the family has obliged, according to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. (As such, this article will use the name John Jolie-Pitt, as well.)

When Pitt recently walked the red carpet at the premiere of Jolie’s latest directorial effort,Unbroken, the star was accompanied by three of his children — Pax, Maddox, and John — all dressed in suits and ties.

Jolie first discussed her first-born’s tendency toward things generally considered masculine in 2010, when the Academy Award-winning actress toldVanity Fair that  her child “wants to be a boy. … She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

The Telegraph used its recent coverage of the Jolie-Pitt family to offer readers advice on how to respond to children of any age who express a desire to be a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Drawing on an interview with clinical psychologist Linda Blair, the newspaper stresses that it’s most important for parents to accept their child exactly as they are, and not overreact to what some could see as cross-gender tendencies.

It’s possible that children who consistently express a desire to be another gender (rather than simply a preference for toys and clothing commonly associated with the opposite gender) will grow up to be transgender or otherwise gender-nonconforming, but they may also just be exploring their own identity.

“To explore what it means to be both genders is also totally normal,” Blair told the Telegraph. “But the problem is we have suppressed it for so many generations, that people are still uncomfortable with it. You can’t become what you are until you know what you’re not.”

Whether the young Jolie-Pitt will grow up to identify anywhere along a gender-nonconforming or LGBT spectrum is impossible to tell, but one thing is certain — having parents that embrace a child’s curiosity, independence, and self-direction is sure to make that young person’s life easier as they go through the fundamentally human process of discovering who they truly are.

Editor’s note: This article uses “they” as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun in an effort to respect the young Jolie-Pitt’s gender identity, whatever that may end up being. 

Source: The Advocate Magazine, “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Support Their Kid Wearing Suits,” By Sunnivie Brydum, December 20, 2014, 2:53 PM ET

Calif. Women’s College Makes Trans-Inclusive History

In a historic move, one California college has adopted an explicitly trans-inclusive admissions policy, making it the only school to do so among the nation’s 119 single-sex college programs.

Mills Hall

Last week, Mills College became the first single-sex college in the U.S. to adopt a policy explicitly welcoming transgender students.

The new policy at the all-women school in Oakland, Calif., now extends an explicit invitation to trans students, making it the only school out of the country’s 119 single-sex programs to have implemented such a policy.

The thorough policy language distinguishes between the school’s women-only undergraduate program, and its co-ed graduate program.

“Applicants ‘not assigned to the female sex at birth’ but who self-identify as women are welcome,” reads the new policy, according to San Francisco Chronicle. “Applicants ‘who do not fit into the gender binary’ — being neither male nor female — are eligible if they were ‘assigned to the female sex at birth.’ Students ‘assigned to the female sex at birth’ who have legally become male prior to applying are not eligible unless they apply to the graduate program, which is coeducational. Female students who become male after enrolling may stay and graduate.”

According to Brian O’Rourke, vice president of enrollment and admissions at Mills, between three and five of the school’s 1,000 undergraduate students each year identity as something other than their assigned birth sex. “The purpose of the policy is that we didn’t want students to feel excluded in the application process,” he told the Chronicle.

Pressure continues to mount against single-gender schools with trans-exclusionary admissions policies — most notably, Smith College — though other single-sex programs are taking steps to create a more trans-friendly environment. Earlier this year, GLAAD cochair Jennifer Finney Boylan joined the staff of Barnard College, an all-women’s school in New York.

Source:  The Advocate, “Calif. Women’s College Makes Trans-Inclusive History,” By Parker Marie Molloy, August 27, 2014 1:31 PM ET


American Medical Association Adopts Two Important Pro-LGBT Resolutions

This week, the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest doctors association, adopted two important resolutions that have the potential to impact the lives of LGBT people across the country.

In the first, the AMA affirmed a resolution providing that transgender people should be allowed to change the gender marker on their birth certificate regardless of whether they have had gender affirmation surgery.  The ability to change a gender designation and to have access to accurate identity documents is a critical issue for transgender people  in areas such as traveling, voting,  applying for a job, or seeking government services.  Out of date identity documents that fail to reflect a person’s lived gender identity also pose a potential safety issue — increasing the risk for hostility or violence based on someone’s gender identity.  Although some state offices have implemented policies requiring proof of gender affirming surgery prior to a gender designation change, current best medical practice regarding gender transition and related care does not require gender-affirming surgery for all transgender patients.

Requiring treatment that goes beyond these best medical practices in order to qualify for a gender marker change on a birth certificate is harmful for transgender patients and may interfere with the care they are receiving from their physician.  It also poses an additional, unnecessary barrier to accessing this vital change.  In a report that accompanied yesterday’s decision, the AMA’s reference committee concluded that “requiring sex-reassignment surgery places a burden on an already marginalized population.”

Dr. Jeremy Toler, speaking on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, echoed this sentiment when speaking to the AMA’s decision making body.  Dr. Toler advised that these decisions “should be in the hands of physicians that treat and manage patients who are transgender. This is an issue that is important to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and should be important to the AMA.”

At the same meeting, the AMA adopted a resolution condemning criminalization and discrimination based on HIV status.  It also condemned mandatory discharge from military service based on HIV status alone.  As part of the resolution, the AMA encouraged not only enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws, but also ensuring that federal and state laws are consistent with current medical knowledge.  The resolution also highlighted the critical importance of educating the public on the stigma and negative health outcomes caused by such unnecessary and harmful criminalization.

HRC applauds these resolutions and the AMA’s commitment to ensuring that best medical practices are not sacrificed for discrimination.

Source: HRC Blog,“American Medical Association Adopts Two Important Pro-LGBT Resolutions,” June 11, 2014

U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance Clarifying Title IX Protections for Transgender Students

VICTORY: The Department of Education says that transgender students ARE protected from discrimination under Title IX. We believe that all students deserve safe and respectful schools, no matter their gender identity or expression. Share if you agree.

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