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Breaking: Court Rules In Diane Schroer’s Favor September 19, 2008

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Originally Posted on Pam’s House Blend

By Autumn Sandeen:

Update: The ACLU has released their press release on the court decision. Here’s a Diane Schroer quote about the ruling from that press release:

 “It is especially gratifying that the court has ruled that discriminating against someone for transitioning is illegal,” said Diane Schroer, the plaintiff in the case. “I knew all along that the 25 years of experience I gained defending our country didn’t disappear when I transitioned, so it was hard to understand why I was being turned down for a job doing what I do best just because I’m transgender. It is tremendously gratifying to have your faith in this country, and what is fundamentally right and fair, be reaffirmed.”

~~~~~~~~~~

For those who don’t remember, Diane Schroer was told she was going to be hired by the U.S. Library Of Congress, and saw the decision to employ her rescinded after she told her hiring agent she was going to transition from male-to-female in the workplace.

Schroer V. Library of Congress rulingFrom the ruling of United States District Judge James Robertson:

 

After hearing the evidence presented at trial, I conclude that Schroer was discriminated against because of sex in violation of Title VII. The reasons for that conclusion are set forth below, in two parts. First, I explain why, as a factual matter, several of the Library’s stated reasons for refusing to hire Schroer were not its “true reasons, but were pretext[s] for discrimination,” Tex. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981). Second, I explain why the Library’s conduct, whether viewed as sex stereotyping or as discrimination literally “because of . . . sex,” violated Title VII….None of the five assertedly legitimate reasons that the Library has given for refusing to hire Schroer withstands scrutiny.

And…

 

Conclusion In refusing to hire Diane Schroer because her appearance and background did not comport with the decisionmaker’s sex stereotypes about how men and women should act and appear, and in response to Schroer’s decision to transition, legally, culturally, and physically, from male to female, the Library of Congress violated Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination.

The Clerk is directed to set a conference to discuss and schedule the remedial phase of this case.

What a wonderful decision.

Great work by the ACLU on this case so far — I hope this civil rights ruling holds if there should be an appeal of the decision.

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Pakistan’s New President September 8, 2008

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Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has won a sweeping victory in Pakistan’s presidential election. These videos run a little over 20 minutes, but they do a wonderful job explaining Zardari’s history, the political context behind his election, and what we might expect from the new government.

Aljazeera coverage (part 1)

(part 2)

ANTM: The Much Anticipated (and Impressive) Transgender Reveal September 4, 2008

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We all know that Tyra Banks has always used her show America’s Next Top Model as an opportunity to discuss controversial topics, such as anorexia, gay and lesbian issues, body image, and racial stereotypes.  And in my opinion, she has always done a terrible job of it. She’s always chosen controversial contestants for their ratings values, not modeling abilities, making for the awkward message: “a lesbian (or fill in the blank) can be a top model too, except they actually can’t because this person is an awful model”. For example, last season’s winner, Whitney, was clearly chosen as the best of the worst mostly because she was the show’s forth or fifth attempt at spotlighting plus-size models.

So when I heard that this cycle would feature a transgender woman, my transgender-loving heart dropped. So many things could go wrong! What if they picked someone who had absolutely no talent and every viewer decided that no trans person could ever be a model? What if she was referred to as a “he-she,” a drag queen, or a man? 

Well, the name calling did occur, but I am happy to report that I was very impressed with last night’s episode. Overall, the insulting comments only came from other contestants, and the editing clearly labeled those opinions as the bigoted views of jealous competitors. And best of all, Isis was clearly one of the most talented contestants and she did an impeccable job explaining who she is: a complex and beautiful person. (For the record, she considers herself not transgender, but “born in the wrong body,” so I will do my best not to refer to her as such.)

I thought that it would be interesting to track some of the best and worst quotes from the show, in order to track any possible changes in opinion (dare I say growth!) from Isis’s competitors and just to keep a record for posterity purposes.

The Worst:


“Ain’t this supposed to be a girl competition? How did you get through the door?” – Kacey

“You walk around like that in a small town, you’ll get shot. And it’s not so much a close-minded view – it’s just more traditional. Coming from a good southern family, I was really thrown back by Isis. Growing up in the South, you don’t exactly run into a he-she everyday. Isis has no place in this competition” -Clark, Pawleys Island SC

“It is the funniest thing, like, in my head – her like trying to be sexy. REALITY IS she’s a man.”
-Sharaun, Chicago IL

The Best:

Kacey to Isis: “Are you . . . all female?”
Isis: “Physically, was I born female? No.”

Isis does a fantastic job of drawing the line between what body she was born into, and what she actually is – a woman, plain and simple.

“Well I think with the transgender issue, it’s very easy to caricature someone like Isis, but when I spoke to her the other day, she really knew her light, she knew what to do, and she was smart. She’s got real emotion and feeling, and I think it’s because she’s lived.” -Nigel Barker (photographer & judge)

I’m very excited to see the rest of the season.  Certainly, Isis cannot represent the entire transgender community – or even the majority of transgender women – but she is going to pave an important path for others.  Maybe she’ll even be America’s Next Top Model (I sure hope so!)!

McCain’s VP Pick is a Woman! August 29, 2008

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First reported by TRANSpose:

“What I most feared happening with John McCain’s VP pick has happened.  He picked a woman, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska).

Let the battle of the minority candidates begin.”

HOLY SHIT. 

I was very nervous that McCain might choose a woman – making the presidential race a tie in terms of priviledged white-guy points (1:1).  But I am surprised that McCain chose a female runningmate that looks so much like Barack Obama – young, nationally unknown, with only a few years of experience under her belt.  

So, the question now is, was Hilary Clinton’s show of support for Obama strong enough to lead her supporters away from a McCain Palin ticket?

Hilary Clinton Moves to Unanimously Nominate Barack Obama August 28, 2008

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I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong.  Thank god. 

I’m actually really impressed with this strong display of support from Hilary and from the Democratic delegates.  Sure, it would have been nice if the Clintons hadn’t waited until the convention to fully support Barack Obama, but at least they did in the end.

Yuck. August 26, 2008

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I’ve been overweight since I was nine years-old, but I’ve recently lost 45 pounds and I’m still losing. By the time I hit puberty I was already the pretty girl’s sarcastic fat friend, and I have until recently entirely escaped the gaze of men. The first time I was ever propositioned by a guy that I didn’t know was just a few months ago, and the propositions – much to my surprise and discomfort – are steadily increasing week to week.

Now the pretty girls that I was always friends with were hit on regularly, and at first they recoiled, but they all eventually developed a tough skin and a useful list of responses that they could use to buffer themselves from unwanted advances. I, however, never learned such skills.

Which brings me to today. Some random guy interrupts my reading while I wait for the Metro with “hey pretty,” and then mumbles something to his friend and I – ” . . . never can get white girls . . . just have to figure how to just right . . . ” I responded to the hi with the same back and an immediate fascination with the paragraph I’m reading. He’s still talking about me / at me when we board the Metro. Although he heads to the opposite side of the train car, he keeps talking to me and about me to his friend. He starts singing to me, he talks about my hair, on and on and on and on. At this point, I’ve entirely ignored him, and I know that even a firm “no” will only spur him on more, so I just keep reading that one paragraph over and over. I’m literally the only woman in the train car, and the feeling of vulnerability is almost more than I can handle. Finally, he gets off the train.

I breathe a sign of relief, but before I can even get my eyes back to the page, he is at the window of the train knocking on the window and making stupid kissing gestures at me! All I can think is, “how is this happening to me?!” Only as the Metro recording announces that the doors are closing do I feel secure enough to raise one strong middle finger at the guy and stare the look of death into him.

One question: how do women do this everyday? If you’re a woman reading this who is unlucky enough to be harassed by men, PLEASE tell me how you do this. I’m going to go imagine that I’m running that guy down and kicking his ass at the gym now.

Assassination Attempt on Barack Obama August 26, 2008

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The FBI is investigating claims of an assassination plot against Barack Obama after four people were arrested near the Democratic convention in Denver in the possession of high-powered rifles.

One of the suspects told of a plan to shoot the presidential nominee “from a high vantage point … with a … rifle.” Nathan Johnson, who denies involvement in the plot, said his friends “were here to do that – to assassinate him.”

Full Text Here

When I heard this news last night, my jaw literally dropped (in spite of my TMJ pain) and my heart pounded.   I realized months ago that assassination attempts could become a reality if Obama was elected, but hearing the news that there was even an active assassination plot hit me much harder than I’d anticipated.  But then of course, Hilary warned us of this months ago, didn’t she?

Now, why in the world is Clinton still hesitant to direct her supporters to vote for Barack Obama in November? 

Clinton said she wouldn’t tell her backers how to vote, but she told them she would cast her own vote for Obama. “We were not all on the same side as Democrats, but we are now,” she said.

Full Text Here

Of course, Clinton is expected to fully endorse Obama tonight, so I’m sure that the past three months of stalling and two-faced compliments were simply coincidence.  

On a related note, when I went in search of information about Sunday’s assassination story, I stumbled upon this incredible art exhibit by Yazmany Arboleda.  The exhibit explored the figurative, but highly effective attempts by the American populace to assassinate Barack Obama’s reputation during his historic candidacy, and the artist did a parallel exhibit for Hilary Clinton.

An Open Letter to Alix Olson from Agent K August 13, 2008

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I ran across this incredible spoken word open letter to Alix Olson, and I just wanted to spotlight it. 

Alix Olson was one of the first musicians that I discovered after coming out as a lesbian, and she is still one of my favorite spoken word artists.  As if Kat’s outstanding musicianship isn’t enough, kateofeugene also does an impressive job of critiquing Olson and other “leaders” in the “womyn’s rights” movement, without dismissing her  as an important figure in the transfeminist movement.  I was inspired by this piece, and I hope you are too.

What Women (Apparently) Can’t Do August 7, 2008

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Just in case the women out there were interested in knowing all about the things we (apparently) can’t do that men are able to do, AskMen.com has created a top-ten list!

I, for one, was very surprised to learn from Charlie Anderson, that I apparently cannot play real sports, navigate spatially, shave my head freely (this should be a BIG news flash to African American women who have been incorrectly doing this and looking fabulous up until now), fuck my partner, or age beatifully.

Thanks SO MUCH, Charlie, for the helpful information!

More on the Metro Gold Line and transportation racism . . . July 2, 2008

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The view from Mariachi Plaza

Originally uploaded by Francisco Cendejas

My last post regarding the metro gold line received some interesting comments, claiming that I was making something out of nothing. I’m going to suppress the impulse to rant about color-blind racism in favor of a more lengthy explanation about transportation racism in East Los Angeles.

Let’s start with me, because it is really important that you get some understanding of the complicated and privileged perspective that I’m coming from. I’m a white, upwardly-mobile, queer woman living in Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights has historically housed immigrant communities; it was a center of Jewish, Mexican and Japanese immigrant life in the early 20th century, and also hosted large Yugoslav and Russian populations. Today the community is reportedly 93% Latino, although the demographics have already begun to change due to gentrification (a process that I am undoubtedly adding to). When I moved to Los Angeles for a new job, the only rent that I could afford was in Boyle Heights, and I had loved living in a Latino community in Pomona. However, I am currently looking for a new apartment in the mid-Wilshire area (read: leveraging my own white privilege) for many reasons, largely because I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood as a queer woman with a transgender partner.

Ok, back to the Gold Line. My last post argued that MTA has entirely forgotten East LA families during the Gold Line extension, by shutting down bus lines, re-routing the few remaining lines on a weekly basis (with no notice except a sign at the new stop), and providing only electronic notifications of construction updates even though most residents do not have regular access to computers. Although commenters thought that I should stop ranting about a short year of inconvenience, I beg to argue that these occurrences should be viewed as transportation racism, and not written off as more annoying construction.

Furthermore, once the extension is completed, the current residents will continue to suffer as white landlords raise their rents, as chain stores push out local Latino business owners near the Gold Line, and as police presence skyrockets in an attempt to “clean up” the neighborhood (clean those sketchy brown people out so the white, honest people will feel safe). On the surface one might think that next year “the residents of East L.A. will enjoy using their new subway to get around,” history has proven that to be incorrect. Hopefully I will be proven wrong and only a few blocks of Boyle Heights will change, but considering the lack of consideration for residents during construction and the dramatic changes that have occurred in the area since January, I think I’m correct to call a spade a racist spade.

Sure, you could chalk all of this up to “good for business” gentrification – although I’m never going to embrace the notion that gentrification is a natural, rather than racist, process – but I think that it still is important to call attention to the complexities of transit expansion through low-income neighborhoods. We cannot simply embrace the paternalistic notion that the Gold Line will rescue the communities of East LA, instead we must be (perhaps overly) skeptical and attuned to the racist underpinnings of gentrification.

If MTA were expanding the Purple Line farther down Wilshire, they would never dream of shutting down Wilshire Blvd. for an undetermined length of time, or eliminating several bus lines that traverse the Miracle Mile. What do you think? Is this a far-fetched analogy? Leave me a comment with your opinion.