California Transgender Students Referendum

A referendum to overturn a California law that gives transgender students protections including the right to use the public school restrooms of their choice will not appear on the November ballot after its backers failed to gather enough voter signatures to qualify the measure, the secretary of state said Monday.

The law’s opponents were led by a coalition of religious conservative groups who said it violates the privacy of youngsters who may be uncomfortable sharing facilities with classmates of the opposite biological sex. They needed at least 504,760 signatures to force a public vote on the statute approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. They submitted 619,381, but county election officers found just 487,484 of them to be valid.

If the referendum had made the ballot, the law would have been put on hold until after the election as its supporters and opponents mounted a campaign that promised to be as bitterly fought as the one over Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California until last year.

Kevin Snider, a lawyer with the Pacific Justice Institute who represents the Privacy for All Students coalition, said he and other conservative attorneys plan to challenge the secretary of state’s determination by reviewing the invalidated signatures and going to court to try to get them added to the final tally.

“The secretary of state has had the inclination to disenfranchise voters, and we won’t sit still and take their word for it,” Snider said before the final count was announced.

The law that is the subject of the repeal attempt took effect Jan. 1. It guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use the school facilities and to participate in the sex-segregated activities that correspond with their expressed genders instead of their school records.

Some school districts around California, as well as the education departments in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have implemented similar policies by regulation. But California is the first state to detail the rights of transgender students in schools by statute.

Although the law’s opponents have focused on potential abuses and awkward encounters in bathrooms and locker rooms, schools also evaluated what it means for yearbook photo dress codes, sleeping arrangements for overnight field trips, and activities such as choirs and recreational sports where girls and boys are often separated.

The California Interscholastic Federation, which governs competitive high school sports, adopted a detailed process in 2012 that students must follow if they want to play on a team that is not consistent with their gender at birth.

 

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Queens PFLAG NYC Chapter Honors Cliff Arnesen and New Out LGBT members of the New York City Council

Tomorrow the Queens Chapter of the New York City PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays hold their Annual Awards Reception and Luncheon. I have been asked to read the speech of honoree Cliff Arnesen who is being honored with the “Brenda Howard Memorial Award.
 
 
Sunday, February 23, 2014
 
Greetings and blessings to all participants of the Queens NYC Chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) “Annual Awards Reception and Luncheon.
 
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am unable to be with all of you today to receive the “Brenda Howard Memorial Award,” for my dual roles as an advocate of 24 years on behalf of the Bisexual Community; and our Country’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Heterosexual military veterans. Thus, Bryan Ellicott, has generously agreed to read my acceptance speech to you as follows:
 
I am humbled and honored to be selected by the The Queens NYC Chapter of PFLAG to receive the Brenda Howard Memorial Award, for helping to secure human and civil rights-not special rights- for my bisexual brothers and sisters within society.
 
However, as is always the case when seeking equality for any “minority” population of people within society , I stand upon the shoulders of the monumental accomplishments of Bisexual pioneers, such as the late Brenda Howard, and so many others.
 
The seeds of my journey of advocacy was prompted in the details of my dysfunctional childhood growing up in Brooklyn, NY. Although I had biological parents, around the age of three, my loving mother was forced by the state of New York to place me in an orphanage , after being physically assaulted by my violent alcoholic father.
 
At the age of ten, my Mom sent me away to the predominately African American, Wiltwyck School for Boys, where I met and became friends with the late First Lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was on the Board of Directors. It was at Wiltwyck that I knew that I was physically and emotionally attracted to other  boys, as well as girls. 
 
1n 1965, At the age of seventeen, I joined the U.S. Army, but agonized over the painful necessity of having to conceal the “attraction and affection” I felt in my heart toward other soldiers. Finally, I told my Company Commander that I was gay/bisexual , because I could no longer live my life as a lie and conceal my “secret.” 
 
Thereafter, I was court court-martialed and sentenced to a year at hard labor in the stockade-of which I served  three months in “segregated confinement,” as other prisoners in the general population had threatened to rape and kill me. Then, in 1967, 
I was given an “Undesirable Discharge” based on homosexuality, as the military made no distinction between a soldier who was gay or bisexual.
 
Ten years later, in November of 1977, I petitioned the Department of the Army for an upgrade in discharge, which was granted and changed from “Undesirable” to “General Under Honorable Conditions.”
 
In 1988, I attended a meeting of the New England Gay & Lesbian Veterans in Boston, MA. After the meeting, I ran for office and was elected president.
 
Subsequently, on May 3, 1989 and May 16, 1990, respectively, I    became the first and only openly bisexual veteran in U.S. history to testify before Congress on behalf of GLBT veterans before the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, on issues relating to veterans who suffered from HIV/AIDS, PTSD, homelessness, and less-than-honorable discharges based on homosexuality and bisexuality.
 
During my 24 years of advocacy as an “openly bisexual veteran” I took a lot of “heat” from miscellaneous organizations and individuals for speaking up so vociferously as an out bisexual veteran. 
 
To these organizations and individuals, I sincerely state that it was, and is, my moral and ethical responsibility to speak out on the issue of the marginalization of bisexuals in the military under the now repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; and within the larger Gay Community, as all should know what terrible consequences people can suffer when one does not “speak out” about external and internal injustice. I only sought acceptance and recognition for ALL bisexual people who have made enormous contributions in helping to secure human and civil rights for the larger gay community.
 
Personally, I wish we as human beings did not have to “label”
our sexual orientation(s). But, as was the case in the U.S. Military where bisexuality was “specifically” encoded as a basis for discharge, I had to “speak up” when it was not fully integrated in the equation of the generic “Gays” in the Military,” espoused by many gay organizations, and the gay and straight media – whether intentional or unintentional.
 
For the record, I state that bisexuality is NOT a counterfeit behavior. It is a true “sexual orientation.” The unfounded fear lies within the mindset of people that oppose the concept of bisexual people as having “heterosexual privilege.”
 
To those folks, I state that people have lived and died without ever having found love in this world. Thus, no love by anyone of a specific sexual orientation or gender identification or expression should be judged by others!
 
GLB&T people must remember that all of us are God’s children, and that we need each other to fight our real mutual enemies: the Religious Right; perverted organized religions; cults; fundamentalists; conservatives; and so many others who hate GLBT people and use the Bible as a means and tool to try and justify their sick hatred of us-collectively.
 
Thus, we must ALL band together to fight the injustice of the aforementioned dark forces of evil. Otherwise, we defeat the very purpose of trying to secure human and civil rights for
each other-which is the ultimate injustice! 
 
To this effect, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
 
So, I rest secure in the knowledge that all Bisexual people , along with GL&T people- have a rightful place in the universe and within our society, as “we” are God’s children -and God does not make mistakes!
 
The greatest feeling in my heart today is to know that I have tried for 24 years to make this world a better place in which to live for all GLBT people. 
 
And, I am grateful to my Bisexual brothers & sisters who supported me over the years, which gave me the strength to carry on. Among those iconic nationally known bisexual icons and friends were Loraine Hutchins; and Professors Lani Ka’ahumanu, Robyn Ochs, and many others too numerous to pay tribute to.
 
As for myself, I have learned in my painful journey through life that “love is where one finds it.”
 
Sincerely and bisexually yours,
 
Cliff Arnesen, Past Bisexual President
New England GLBT Veterans, Inc. Boston, MA
( “Dissolved” on Nov. 1, 2013 after 28 years of advocacy 
on behalf of our Country’s GLBT military veterans.)
 
Former Board Member: National Bisexual Advisory Board
Former Medical Patient Services Assistant, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Facebook Master Photos: Cliff Arnesen
 
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Trans* Community Needs the Same Support being given too Marriage Equality Maybe Even More

There is one static that grows out discussion, the number of people that take their own life that identify as trans* “46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women in the United States have attempted suicide. That’s far higher than the 4.6 percent national average, and more than double the 10–20 percent of gay and lesbian cisgender people who report a suicide attempt.”

 

The other thing is the lack of discussion on Trans* issues. Marriage Equality has gained so much support over the past couple years with 17 states in this country allowing same sex couples too marry. Where does that leave the Trans* community? It leaves us way behind the members of the lesbian and gay community. They haven’t turned back to come help us…the people that need it most. 

 

The people of the conservative party always bring trans* issues back to the “bathroom argument” over the past two years of my personal medical transition I have many times had conversation over the bathroom. These are some of the most common ways I deal with the discussion and situation.

 

Here are the most common political arguments that they like to have about bathrooms one of them was actually said to me by Staten Island Assembly member Joseph Borelli of Staten Island in some of his campaign literature. He refused to have a discussion with me personally so here is how I would have handled that situation

 

Gender-neutral bathrooms are unsafe for women and children

 

·       this argument assumes that the safety of cisgender women and children is more important that the safety of trans* and gender nonconforming people

·       allowing people to use the bathroom that works best for their gender identity does not compromise the safety of women or children. Trans* and gender nonconforming people should not be assumed to be predators or dangerous. Also, a sign on a gender-segregated bathroom does not keep actual violent or dangerous people (of any gender) out of the restroom.

·       while gender segregated bathrooms do not actually insure safety for cis women or children, they do actually compromise the safety of trans* and gender nonconforming people

 

 

Gender-neutral bathrooms are a special privilege for transgender or gender nonconforming people. Spaces should not be required to go out of their way or spend money on creating a space for such a small population

 

·       going to the bathroom is not a privilege, but a right. Many trans* and gender nonconforming people will avoid using the bathroom if not given a safe or anxiety-free option. Not using the bathroom when one needs to can cause severe health problems such as dehydration, malnutrition, or a UTI depending on how one deals with not having a bathroom option.

·       gender neutral bathrooms do not only increase bathroom accessibility and safety for trans* and gender nonconforming individuals. Gender-neutral bathrooms also increase access for guardians who accompany a child of another gender to the bathroom, thus increasing the safety of that child. Gender-neutral bathrooms also increase access for attendants who assist people of another gender in the restroom, thus increasing the safety of the person who necessitates assistance in the bathroom.

 

Gender-neutral bathrooms increase safety and health of trans* and gender nonconforming people, but we just don’t have the money or space to build more bathrooms. We also don’t have the power to change the bathrooms we have into gender-neutral options.

 

·       Multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms actually take up the same amount or even less space as gender segregated restrooms. They are simply a single room instead of two separate rooms assigned to women and men. They are also more cost efficient because you need fewer of them, you can convert pre-existing bathrooms with only slight changes, and if you choose to take the urinals out, you will have less maintenance cost, as urinals are known to clog and break down at a faster rate than toilets.

 

·       If you cannot build new bathrooms or change some of the existing bathrooms to gender neutral, you can institute a broad nondiscrimination policy and post it in the bathroom that encourages a culture of respect where people do not police gender in the restroom. The policy should state the right for anyone who uses the restroom to do so and do so safely.

 

 

It’s more than just bathrooms, I know for me the things that has always crossed my mind is how long can I push myself to survive in a body that I know doesn’t look the way I want it too. Surgery is so important too it and me really is a struggle to get the money to have it, and the cost of HRT is expensive.

 

Many of us in the trans* community can only hold on for so long, as our community of lesbian and gay brothers and sisters continue to push way ahead of us, sometimes I wonder if they even realize that we are so far behind them. We need them to come back too our community and lend a hand too us, especially in states like New York. We need the same drive and determination for GENDA that we had for Marriage Equality in 2011.

 

The best thing that the Trans* community needs are it’s allies but we need allies who know their place in this conversation.

 

  1. Always call people by their preferred name and personal pronouns.  If you’re not sure, there are polite ways to ask.
  2. Never out anybody.  For one, this can put their personal safety at risk, but more importantly their gender identity is theirs to publicize at their discretion, not yours.
  3. Don’t ask a trans person about their body.  This kind of curiosity is pretty invasive and at the end of the day, it’s not really any of your business.
  4. Avoid outdated and offensive terms.  See a list here if you’re not sure what I mean.
  5. Don’t tell a transgender person they look like a “real” man or woman, or that they “pass,” and don’t give advice on how to look “more like a man/woman.”  A person’s gender expression is not a binary, and passing judgment in this way is delegitimizing.
  6. React to situations where you see transphobia in action.  Call it out.  Tell the offending person that their behaviors and attitudes are unacceptable.

 

We need to have the difficult conversations with the difficult people. It’s something I have personally decided to work on. I am going to talk to the people who pass our laws, and have them understand this is becoming life or death for many of us.