Robyn's blog

If the right to life right is not respected, the others lack meaning.

is usually the case, I was searching for stories to cover for my columns. I stumbled across an editorial in the Washington Blade, entitled We must protect rights of transgender people. Well I'm all for that. That is the theme about which I write most…especially so over the past week.

I do have to acknowledge some disappointment over the reception those stories have received. In my world, human rights have priority #1. Everything else comes tumbling after.

The Blade editorial focuses on two reports released earlier this month which "paint a disturbing picture of the global status of trans communities – a portrait of human rights violations, violence and marginalization."

Well, duh. If you haven't gotten that much out of what I have been blogging about since 2005, then apparently we have been miscommunicating.

I'm going to cover one of those documents. I guess I'll save the other for a rainy day.

Let me note up front that the report covers life to the south of our own country, which concerns me because that usually means nobody will be interested. But there is no reason to embrace American exceptionalism on this issue. The United States suffers some of the identical problems as our Latin American neighbors when it comes to the treatment of transpeople. Indeed some of them do much better than our country.

Yet these reports show how trans people are subject to especially extreme abuse, from many angles. Lest anyone use these stories as reason to rejoice for not living in one of “those barbaric countries” it’s worth noting that the U.S. racks up one of the higher murder rates of trans people worldwide. Routine police mistreatment and abuse of trans women in one neighborhood of New York City was recently documented – with stories remarkably similar to those told in Bogota, Johannesburg or New Dehli.

It is also important to note that much of the political agenda advanced in the name of LGBT rights – whether same-sex marriage or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – have little relevance to these communities. A marriage license won’t stop a bullet. As noted in a statement put out on Dec. 17 by 50 organizations, the LGBT rights movement needs to better address issues of criminalization of trans people.

--Washington Blade editorial



New Zealand judge determines price for being abused in prison

It is not unusual that a transwoman gets sentenced to serve time in a men's prison. It is, unfortunately, rather the norm.

Glen Cooper was sentenced on Wednesday to serve two years and one month in prison upon conviction on a charge of wounding with intent to injure for striking a man over the head with an unopened wine bottle during an argument.

New Zealand Department of Correction policy requires that Cooper serve her time in a men's prison because she has not yet had surgery.

Cooper's lawyer, Kelly Ellis of TransAdvocates, revealed to the press that Whangerei District Judge Duncan Harvey reduced the sentence by 15% in recognition of the abuse her client will experience in the prison because she is a transwoman. Cooper has already been attacked in prison during her pretrial confinement and is now locked in her cell 23 hours a day for her own protection.



Terror, Horror and Human Rights (or rather lack thereof)

I hope you can wade through to the end. This is important. And I think it is even more important to share the first three stories in order to highlight the last one. So I'll start in India, then proceed to Indonesia, followed by Cote d'Ivoire.

But those place names could just have easily have been Washington, DC, Indianapolis, or Charleston. This is one area where America is much less than spectacular.

The places could be anywhere where some people are considered less than human. For us transgender people that doesn't exclude much of this planet.

The stories will set the background for the story from New York about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and others speaking about Human Rights Day.

I caution the reader that there is violence in the first stories.



Not so much equality

Somewhere along the line the concept of equality has become muddled. We can certainly see that in deliberations around North America in the past week.

In Boise, ID, Helena, MT, East Aurora, IL and Canada we have seen what happens when the public chooses to consider the equality of minority people...especially those of us in minorities that most people don't know much about, don't want to know much about and generally detest anyway.

The idea that giving us equal protection under the law will endanger other people because a third set of people might take advantage of our protections is just ludicrous. It's like saying that disabled people shouldn't have protections because able-bodied people might use their set-aside parking spaces.



Drama in New Hampshire, update from Canada

As reported earlier this month New Hampshire voters chose the first openly transgender state legislator, Stacy Laughton of Nashua, who represents Ward 4 . That didn't sit well with some apparently so the Laconia, NH Daily Sun dug into her past and discovered that prior to her transition, she served 4 and a half months of 2008 in jail on a felony conviction of conspiracy to commit credit card fraud.

She was also convicted of tire slashing and at one point reportedly admitted she faked illness to gain an ambulance ride from Weirs Beach back to the heart of Laconia.

Neither of those latter incidents were felonies of course.

According to NH State law convicted felons can vote and run for public office as long as they are not incarcerated and have successfully completed any court-ordered probation.



A trio of tales

Sometimes the news articles just start piling up and the best way to dismantle the pile is to do a diary which shares multiple stories. Tonight I have a trio of stories to share, featuring human rights progress Canada, the election of a transgender politician in Cuba, and a transgender summit (of sorts) at the White House here in the US.

But I'll start off with a separate item, namely first time that the transgender flag has been flown over the Castro. After several months of contention, the Board of Merchants of Upper Market and the Castro consented to the raising of the transgender flag (the one designed by Monica Helms) for Transgender Day of Remembrance on Tuesday.







On with our stories:



Transgender Politicians Win

Nashua, New Hamphire voters elected the first transperson ever to the New Hamphire House of Representatives on Tuesday. Stacy Laughton, 28, places gender issues at the top of her agenda, but wants to be treated like any other woman on the House floor.

Laughton has been politically active since she was a teenager. When she lived in Laconia, she was unsuccessful in several attempts at securing city positions and one attwempt at a run for the State House while running as a Republican.

She worked on John Kerry's campaign in 2004 as an independent. Her shift in allegiance had a lot to do with Gov. Craig Benson's budget cuts.

He cut welfare funding, he cut special ed funding, he cut a lot of these vitally important programs, and these were programs that I knew lots of people who were on, and I started to see their lives change, but they didn't change for the better.


Laughton became a Democrat in 2010 and was elected as a selectman in Ward 4 in Nashua, where she now lives. Several friends and mentors suggested a run for higher office, but it was newly-elected Rep. Maggie Hassan's plea for people to run which ultimately caused her to do so.

This area of New Hampshire needed somebody like me, somebody who understands the complex issues that this district faces, somebody who understands what it's like to live with a lower income, somebody who knows the people in the area.




Cyndi Lauper & Homelessness

in the day…back, back, back when I was living on the streets of San Francisco's Haight Ashbury neighborhood…back in 1968 when I was 20 years old, there was a presidential election going on as well. Republican Richard M. Nixon defeated Hubert H. Humphrey that cycle. Nixon was one scary dude.

What's right for Richard M. Nixon is right for the country. And what is right for the country is right for the world.

But it wasn't as scary as wondering where our next meal was coming from…or where we would sleep at night…or how cold and wet we would be come morning.

In 1968 twenty-year olds were not allowed to vote, so even had we been fiercely involved in the election, we would have had a very limited impact.

Here we are 44 years later and there are still homeless young people. And after the election which we hope we will be able to celebrate, they will still be homeless.



Once again traditional values fail to include compassion, honor, fair play

Here's news of a news release from the Traditional Values Coalition, on the attack against democratic candidates for the Senate Kaine of VA, Casey of PA, Donnelly of IN, Baldwin of WI, Brown of OH, Teeter of MT, and McCaskill of MO:





Traditional Values Coalition is running awareness campaigns in 7 states to inform voters which candidates for U.S. Senate support putting transgender teachers in the classroom.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is radical legislation that hurts kids and forces schools to hire or retain transgendered teachers in every school district in America.



Merged OutServe-SLDN names new leader

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and OutServe have formally merged (but the OutServe website does not appear to be merged yet). To oversee this merger and lead the combined forces of OutServe-SLDN forward against the forces of inequality, there is a change in leadership, with SLDN leader Aubrey Sarvis and OutServe founder Josh Seefreid stepping down, to be replaced by Allyson Robinson.

Robinson is an Army veteran, a 1994 graduate of West Point, who commanded Patriot missile units in Europe and the Middle East before resigning her commission in 1999, when she chose to become a Christian minister. She earned a masters degree in divinity with am emphasis in social justice from Baylor University in 2007.






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