Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gay Mayor of Vicco, Kentucky, Reacts to the "Best Segment of 'The Colbert Report' Ever"

It's being called the greatest segment The Colbert Report has ever done.
On Wednesday night, the Comedy Central news-satire program aired the latest installment in its "People Who Are Destroying America" series. The segment is on Johnny Cummings, the openly gay mayor—and a part-time hairdresser—of Vicco, Kentucky, a hamlet of about 330 people. Vicco made news earlier this year when it became the smallest town in the United States to pass a ban on discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. (The ordinance passed by a 3-1 city-commission vote. According to Cummings, who introduced the ordinance to the city council, representatives from five other towns told him that they want to be the next ones to pass such a "fairness ordinance.")
"Everything considered, I was remarkably pleased with the way [the Colbert segment] turned out," Cummings tells Mother Jones.
"Russia's not the only place trying to defend its family values," host Stephen Colbert says, referring to the culture war over America's traditional "small-town morals," as he introduces the clip. What follows is a touching, funny, and stereotype-pulverizing look at a tiny Appalachian town and how its residents feel about the anti-discrimination policy and their mayor. Watch it here:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When a boy is not a boy

When asked what the best thing about being a girl is, Melissa replies "everything."
But the path to preadolescence for this 11-year-old Seacoast resident has been far from easy.
Melissa was born a boy and named Peter by her parents, but she is transgender and says an accident of birth did not change who she was intended to be.
"When I was little, I thought other people were different and then I realized it was me who was different," she said. "At first I was confused and even angry, but now I know a lot about it and I am happy to be who I am supposed to be."
Melissa's friends are mostly, but not all girls and she says they are supportive about who she is. "Sometimes they asked questions, especially at first," she said. "I just explain it and now they don't even ask anymore."
Melissa's parents support her. The decision to let her child be who she is was the right one, her mom Linda said, while admitting it was not easy.
"We had one very unhappy child on our hands," Linda said. "She realized who she was supposed to be, that who she was on the inside did not match her outside body by the time she was 3 or 4. She was miserable. She asked why God made her a boy. She asked when her penis would fall off, or she wanted to cut it off. She said, 'I am a girl.'"

The difficult decision
The choice for Linda and her husband Mark was clear, they said. They could choose a happy, healthydaughter, or they could watch an unhappy boy sink into depression and possibly suicide. The suicide rate among transgender children is high, Linda said.
"Right-wing religious groups have called what we are doing child abuse," Linda said. "They should try being in my shoes. You have to let the kids direct you. They didn't choose this. It's hard enough approaching teenage years without fitting the mold. This is the hardest road I have ever seen. We just want her to be happy, and to be here because we love her."
Francie Mendel is director of mental health services for the Gender Management Services (GeMS) program at Children's Hospital in Boston.
"Self-harm is very high — cutting, mutilation and pills," Mendel said. "I'd say at least 25 percent of the kids who are transgender or exploring it participate in self-harm at one time or another. But very, very few of them change their minds about who they are. If they do, it's usually at puberty. "
Mendel said gender treatment follows strict guidelines.
"To be seen, the child must be at least 10 years old," Mendel said. "We require letters from the parent and the child's therapist. We require ongoing therapy. Hormone treatments must be through an endocrinologist."
Linda said she conducted online research on transgender issues. "At first, I couldn't find much. Now there is a lot," she said. "There are lots of Web sites. The first thing I saw was a TV special with Barbara Walters about Jazz, a transitioned transgender. I showed it to Peter and asked if this was how he felt. We moved forward."
Though rare, Melissa is not alone in dealing with the tumult and struggles of being transgender.
Cooper, an 18-year-old from Dover, was born female. The teen, whose last name is not being included, graduated in June from Dover High School, where he ran on the boys track team. He is now at the University of Vermont studying secondary education.
"I think I always knew," Cooper said. "I was seeing a psychologist for something else and my mom found some writing I did about what I wanted to be. I had mixed emotions and it wasn't easy. I was angry that I thought she was snooping. I was frustrated but we finally came to a place where it was OK. Then it was a sense of relief."
Cooper's mom Julie said he was never a "girlie" girl but she didn't have a name for what he was going through.
"He had boy friends," Julie said. "For Halloween he wanted to be boy characters, Harry Potter and Batman. When he was about 15, I found his blog. I approached him with the information and it was clear he had known what it was about for a long time."
Cooper said he was in high school when he transitioned. He said most of the teachers and some very understanding guidance counselors helped him along the way.
"It was an adjustment," Julie said. "Teens are a tough age anyway. I was afraid of offending him because I didn't know enough about what to say. But Coop is finally happy and outgoing socially. He is comfortable in his own skin. He was moody and withdrawn before so my husband and I are totally on board."

Monday, September 2, 2013

California steps toward transgender student equality

by: Vince Ei is a Spartan Daily staff writer.
Imagine an African-American child or teenager growing up in the 1960s, being discriminated against every day and observing the divide between them and their white peers in every aspect of society, only to come home and ask their parents why they have dark skin.
Now, fast-forward to today and imagine a transgender youth going through similar discrimination and observations, but in the context of gender, coming home asking their parents why they are so different from other kids who look like them.
These identity issues seem appropriate in the categorized eras, but in reality people dealing with the same crises have been going through them at the same times.
Kids today still question their pigmentation and there were kids in the 1960s who were transgender.
Activists for African-American and LGBT civil rights existed back then, but it just seems like society can only deal with one categorization of equality at a time, capable of backing only one group instead of humanity as a whole.
Our generation has finally reached the latter.
California is leading the way for transgender youth to grow up in a more understanding environment by passing a bill creating a statewide law allowing transgender students in K-12 public schools to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and join the sports team of which they associate.
We became the first state to allow this after Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB1266 last Monday, which will take effect on January 1, 2014.
Naturally, a huge opposition of conservatives has emerged, probably raging about the biological fact that girls were not created to use stalls and constitute the sitting versus standing debate.
Sen. Jim Nielsen said, “It's not all about discrimination. Elementary and secondary students of California – our most impressionable, our most vulnerable – now may be subjected to some very difficult situations.”
Yeah, it might be difficult for a straight kid to pee with the paranoia that some other kid is trying to look at his penis, but imagine how difficult it is for the kid who is wondering why he has a penis in the first place. (I can only speak from a man's perspective and cannot relate to a woman's, nor will I try.)
The most impressionable and most vulnerable are those who feel like they don't belong, and California is taking the right steps in looking out for the kids who really need support.
I don't think transgender children and teenagers are trying to make a scene, and they only have a problem if you make it apparent that you have a problem.
Having a transgender male or female in their associated locker rooms might actually be helpful in building foundations for a respectful and enlightened mentality.
Who better to explain the perplexities of the anatomy and sexuality than peers, as opposed to the teachers who they find incredibly difficult to draw parallels with and feel detached from?
The other half of the bill allows girls who identify as boys to play in male sports and vice versa, and some who oppose, like Sen. Steve Knight, believe students will trade sexual identity for a little high school or little league glory.
“There are kids out there that are struggling, that are having difficult times,” Knight said. "But there are also kids that are going to take advantage of the system."
Again, speaking as a man, a defector going into girls' leagues will get a huge amount of crap.
Not only does he have to announce to everybody he knows that he is transgender, but he has to live up to the chagrin of everybody who knows the truth, which is just about as much crap as a heterosexual person can handle.
A kid has to be pretty hopeless if he's trying to peep some adolescent boobs just to brag to his friends.
I doubt lawmakers were reckless enough to allow effortless bathroom and locker room hopping, which kids probably do on basis of callow dares anyway.
It's hard for me to imagine how the situation would pan out for transgender girls. On one hand I think it might be inspiring to see them compete and hold their own in sports, but on the other I think going to the men's bathroom would be overwhelming.
But several school districts in California had already put similar policies in place years ago, and had no reports of misconduct.
I can't really agree that this law empowers transgender kids, and both sides of the argument say this. I think what this does is level the playing field for everyone.
Transgender kids don't have more rights because they can compete in any sports division they want or use any bathroom they feel comfortable in.  The law gives them what they were supposed to have in the first place — equality.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Letter from parents of transgender child

Editor's note: This is a letter sent by the parents of a transgender child before the start of the youth's school year last year. The child's name has been changed to protect her identity.
Aug. 25, 2011
To the parents of the fourth-grade class:
We hope that you all had a wonderful summer and welcome back! For those of you who may not know us, we are Mark and Linda (last name deleted). Today we are writing to update you on some personal changes regarding our child, Peter.
Peter has been diagnosed with gender identity condition. This can be a devastating condition that can turn the life of a child upside down. Many of you have probably read about gender identity condition, also called transgender, or seen this subject discussed on talk shows or news programs. In essence, a person with this condition is born into the body of the opposite gender. Biologically, Peter is a boy. But in every other sense, she is a girl. Obviously this can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It's hard to imagine how heartbreaking it is for a child to realize that they have been born into the wrong body.
We realize that many of you will find this news shocking and confusing. But it wouldn't be fair to say that this diagnosis has caught our family by surprise. Peter has always identified with the female gender from a very early age. Many of Peter's friends and playmates have been girls. He has always preferred playing with dolls and girl things. Whenever we are home, he has usually been dressed up in girls' clothes, shoes, wigs, etc. This is not about dress up or imaginative playtime, this is the reality of Peter living a life that is comfortable and natural.
This summer, Peter has transitioned from living as a boy to living as a girl. Our family and friends now call Peter by the name Melissa. As loving and supporting parents, we have chosen to show our unconditional love for our child by assuring Melissa that she will not be destined to a life of misery. We will do everything possible to make Melissa's life as normal and happy as possible. Today we sadly recall those many nights Melissa couldn't fall asleep at bedtime because she had a lot of worries and was asking “why did God make me a boy, I want to be a girl!” Imagine living the first 10 years of your life pretending to be someone that you are not.
Since Melissa courageously decided be to be the person she truly is, she is a much happier child. She loves to laugh and play, sing and dance! We have the support of family, friends, neighbors, doctors and therapists. Our family is very blessed in that respect. (Our local school) has been very helpful and supportive! It's not easy to be different! God has blessed us with this wonderful little person, but at the same time, God has given our family some unique challenges. After all, of all the challenges a parent might expect to face one day, gender identity probably wouldn't be on the list.
We have worked with the school administration to ensure a smooth transition. Plans are in place to work through normal daily occurrences and activities like bathrooms, gym class, locker rooms, etc…. These practices may be new to town, but are common in many other schools nationwide.
We understand there will inevitably be questions from the students and parents. It's important that everyone keep an open mind to accept that knowledge is power. With this knowledge we can all make sure that our transgender child can successfully integrate into a normal school experience. We ask for your support in this transition. For any of you that may have questions or confusion, please contact us directly or contact the school psychologist. For those of you interested in reading more on this topic, there is a very informative book titled “The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals” by Stephanie A. Brill.
Mark and Linda