This Ain’t About Jobs (10/20/17)

Maybe you saw or heard about the memo put out by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on October 4th that essentially ordered the Justice Department to do a complete 180 with regard to employment rights for Transgender people.  This memo effectively rescinds the policy detailed by Obama era Attorney General Eric Holder. 

It also runs counter to over two decades of court opinions including FIVE US Circuit Courts of Appeals (if you’re keeping score at home, those would be the 1st, 6th, 7th, 9th and 11th) plus numerous Federal District Court rulings that have agreed with the interpretation that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protections against sex discrimination, include gender identity. 

Full disclosure – I’m a transgender woman so you might expect me to be somewhat biased. Maybe so – but I’ve spent a fair amount of time examining the issue and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how you would possibly be able to argue a discrimination case for or against a transgender person without addressing sex. It can’t be done. The very nature of the issue is that I have transitioned from one sex to another. 

If you try and ignore the fact that I’m female because I was identified male at birth and want to fire me because I don’t conform to the norms expected of other men? See Price Waterhouse v Hopkins. 

But go ahead and ignore 20 years of court rulings and a policy that has had no adverse effects on anyone and legalize state sanctioned discrimination – because that “Makes America Great” or does it?

Before I go on, I feel compelled to illustrate the time and place where this memo came out – this is the same Justice Department that investigates major crimes and oversees the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Just 3 days after the worse mass shooting in modern American history – THIS is what you do? 

Some sick F&$k amasses a pile of semi-auto rifles and equipment to help them fire off bullets at an insane rate, then shoots up a country music concert and before the echos from the gunshots fade, you write a memo to permit religious bigots to keep Transgender people from writing video game code or selling furniture? That’s your priority? Are you insane?

2018 can’t get here fast enough. 

On the same day, DOJ lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the first lawsuit against Trump’s ridiculous transgender service ban, depicting honorable decent and dedicated transgender service members as “Disordered Deviants.”

This from the agency tasked with defending our civil rights. 

Needless to say…it was a very disappointing week. Life as a transgender person is hard enough – believe me. I’m not asking for sympathy but it would be cool if the federal government would just get off my back!

As often happens, a member of the electronic media reached out to me for a comment on this memo from Sessions – they were looking for someone who had lost their job that day or were in fear of losing it. What they don’t understand is that it isn’t about jobs – this is a systematic and terrifying erosion of basic civil rights. 

But the reporter wasn’t interested. They wanted to talk on camera with a transgender person who was going to go on air and essentially call their boss a bigot because they were in fear of being fired for being trans. I don’t know anyone that foolish. 

Is this memo going to result in transgender people losing their jobs? Absolutely. We’ve been losing them without the memo. This just alters the narrative. Instead of “we are going to let you go because we’ve decided to go in a different direction” they can now say “we don’t want transgender people representing our company.”

I remember applying for a job with the Dallas County District Attorney as a clerk. A job I was more than qualified to do. I posted my resume on the County website and I was called in for an interview. I was told over the phone that they had received over 215 resumes for this position and that mine “stood head and shoulders” above the others. The interviewer said she wanted to meet the person behind this resume. When they did, I was not offered the job. 

Look, discrimination is going to happen. It’s hard to prove and it’s just plain wrong. We don’t need the government egging people on and opening the door for this kind of behavior. That doesn’t “Make America Great.”

Lastly – the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach isn’t because I can be fired or not hired for being transgender. It’s the message that is being sent to the hundreds of thousands of transgender kids in America and their parents who already know what an uphill climb their precious kids will already have. To see two memos come down from those charged with protecting them saying not only do we not have your back – we are throwing you to the wolves. That isn’t going to cost jobs – it’s going to cost lives. 

As Harvey Milk correctly said: “You Gotta Give ‘em Hope”

To those kids: There are some awful people who are trying to take that hope away – but there are some very powerful and strong people who will fight to their last dying breath to keep that from happening. 

I’m one of them (I’m not powerful, but I’m stubborn)

Who’s with me?

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He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My “Other”

What has become of the America I grew up in? I have never seen it so fragmented, so fractured. Ever. 

Not during Watergate, not during Vietnam – not even during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Sure, there was division then, but not like this. 

It’s almost tribal and the tribes are split into so many pieces! If you believe what you see on Facebook, most of those tribes hate each other. It’s never been like this. 

Sometimes it feels like we are split into those who are just plain angry and those who are oppressed – and maybe they are angry at their oppressors. 

So much of it seems centered around the desire for simple respect and civility. Why can’t we be nice to one another? Why can’t women wear what makes them feel pretty or confident without fear of being harassed or worse?

Why can’t African American men drive to a friend’s house without fear of being pulled over and harassed or shot because of the color of their skin?

Why do our own Dallas police officers have to wear less protective gear instead of the kind that would have saved five lives in July 2016 because they worry that the mere appearance of that type of equipment may incite violence?

Why can’t we love each other?

Life is too short – too precious and just too damn hard already. 

I believe part of the problem is lack of time and information overload. We just don’t have time to figure out WHY football players are kneeling during the anthem. It’s so much easier to just hate them for doing it. 

We don’t know that maybe the person trying to get around you on the freeway that you are blocking like a NASCAR driver might be someone like my dad who was racing to the emergency room with chest pains – yes, he was having a heart attack. 

A woman who seemed distracted or rude to you today may have found a lump in her breast this morning in the shower and is scared to pieces. 

Why can’t we understand that each of us leads a life that has joy, sorrow, triumph and tragedy. Can’t we just give each other the benefit of the doubt? 

Yeah, I’m liberal and while I strongly support a woman’s right to choose, I’m not “Pro Abortion”I really don’t think anyone is. It’s a hard decision but unless you are that woman, it’s not yours to make. 

I don’t care what religion you espouse – no one is trying to take it away from you. I will fight anyone who does – but making a cake for the day when/if Katie and I decide to get married doesn’t threaten your ability to worship as you please. 

Why can’t you just bake the cake and wish us well? 

A doctor provided care for me when I needed five stitches earlier this year (although the State of Texas has made it legal for him to refuse medical care to me because I’m transgender) I really hope you won’t – because when I get cut, I bleed just like you do, and I hurt. 

When someone is hurt – where is our compassion? I’ve seen so many “Me Too”posts that it breaks my heart. I want to cry for each of them…For the record, Me Too.  But I have also seen enough posts from men who try to minimize the experiences of women – or to say “Not All Men” yeah, but that changes the narrative – women have been hurt – our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. Are there really good arguments to preserve the status quo?

Why can’t we love and respect our women? 

Burger King ran an interesting anti-bullying ad that is similar to the ABC show “What Would You Do?” They used actors – high school age kids in a Burger King restaurant and these kids were bullying and humiliating a younger, smaller classmate while diners looked on, for the most part, doing nothing. 

At the same time, the food made for these bystanders was smashed and torn up, then wrapped up and served. Like a giant fist in the middle of their burger. 95% of the diners had some pretty strong words about their 99 cent hamburger being “bullied” but only 12% of people thought a helpless kid was worth speaking up for. 

What have we become as a country? I kind of feel sorry for our flag. It represents us – it represents America. It seems to be taking the blame for our behavior. 

This isn’t a gay or straight thing, not black or white, Christian or Muslim, liberal or conservative. It’s a big country, there is room for all of us, but there is no room for hatred.

Spirited discussion? Count me in. Disagreements? Sure, but let’s keep them civil, respectful and coming from a place of love for our fellow Texans and fellow Americans. To me, that’s what makes America Great. 

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Remembering Our Dead (November 26, 2017)

Every year in November, the Transgender community comes together to mourn our dead – Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed every year on or around November 20th. 

Election results of last week notwithstanding; 2017 has been a particularly brutal year for us – It bothers me hearing the list of those murdered as being a “record.”  It makes it sound like a challenge. I’d prefer it stand forever unbroken. It sickens me every time I hear of another one of my sisters or brothers losing their life way too soon – and for what?

Church shootings of Christians and people run down in New York are national news. Transgender people being relentlessly and senselessly murdered makes not a blip. 

The Gay and Lesbian community has had plenty to celebrate, and, being a Lesbian, I celebrate with you – but not as a trans person. Just in the last year we’ve seen a change in how Title IX is interpreted which The Trump administration says no longer protects transgender school children. We’ve seen an executive order stripping transgender people of employment protections and a lawsuit by Texas AG Paxton granting doctors the right to REFUSE CARE to transgender patients. 

The transgender community has little to celebrate. What brings us together each year is a day to remember those in our community who have been murdered. 

I went to my first TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance) at the Cathedral of Hope in 2014. It was beautiful and it was heartbreaking. We remembered those who were murdered in an emotionally wrenching way. As someone read the names of the victims and where in the world they were killed and the details of their murder, there were a group of us who would carry a rose in their name up the center aisle of the sanctuary and lay it on the altar. 

Name after name, rose after rose and grisly violent detail – the roses piled up. Until there were well over 300 of them. I was sobbing after the first few names and by the end I couldn’t stop crying. 

Why are they killing us? 

Most of those killed are trans women of color. Being a woman of color in this country is hard enough, being a trans woman of color has to feel like being a deer during hunting season. 

Our lives mean something, they are important, they are worth living. 

Being transgender anywhere in the world is a challenge. Worrying about someone ending our lives in a violent way is horrifying. Something else that struck me was how little we know about those who have been taken from us. Sure, we know their names and how and where they died but little else. 

I bet some of these girls were good dancers. I bet some had pets that loved them. Maybe brothers or sisters. Maybe others were helping to take care of elderly parents. I’m certain that each of them were loved by someone. 

Now, there is an empty spot in church, a dog that wonders when mommy is coming home, a mother who mourns the loss of a child. A smile or laugh that is gone forever. A best friend with an empty heart and a thousand yard stare. My heart breaks for each of them. 

A thought occurred to me that with the murder rate so high for trans people and when we are shot, stabbed, strangled, bludgeoned, dismembered or set on fire – besides the horrific details of our death, we are further insulted by often being misgendered by law enforcement or the media. Maybe there is something we could do to change that a little. Instead of remembering how we died, how about remembering how we lived?

I’d like to invite transgender people to write their own obituaries. I know that sounds grim, but who knows, maybe if people knew who we were, how we lived, the kind of people we are, maybe our lives would seem less disposable and worthless. 

Here’s mine: 

Leslie Michelle McMurray – age 59. Resident of XXXX Texas. Leslie was born in Long Beach, Ca daughter of Bill and Mary McMurray. She grew up near the Pacific Ocean and never lost her love for the beach. Leslie spent 34 years on the radio, a job she loved.  – from Sacramento to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Houston and Dallas. She was recognized by the Texas House for her charity work. Music has always been a big part of her life. She has two daughters, Sarah and Chrissy whose love and unwavering support through transition meant the world to her. Leslie has three grandchildren who she adores. Her partner, Katie, is the love of her life. Leslie delights in making Katie’s favorite meal; BBQ ribs. Leslie enjoys  reading as well as writing, she is an avid golfer and activist for the transgender community. She has two Border Collies; Breezy and Patches who think she likes throwing the ball for them more than anything in the world. 

Ok, so I have a hard time writing about myself in the past tense – but you get the idea. I’d love to hear from any trans person who wants to share theirs. Perhaps we will start a Facebook page for them, or I’ll add them to mine or send them to The Dallas Way. 

I’d just feel a little better if folks knew more about us. My partner, Katie, is an attorney, other Transgender friends are air traffic controllers, doctors, surgeons, airline pilots, teachers, university professors and business owners. Our lives are just as precious as anyone else’s. Just as worth living. 

Please, no more mentions of another “Record” year for Transgender murder victims. 

Please, stop killing us. We aren’t numbers, we aren’t statistics. We are living breathing precious miracles. People who have endured hardships that most can’t comprehend. We are loved and we love. We fought so hard just to be who we are. Can’t we just please live our lives?

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The Wisdom of Yoda (Nov 26, 2017)

Katie and I are both big Star Wars fans. We have seen all of the movies multiple times. We bought our tickets long ago for “The Last Jedi.” December 15th can’t come soon enough!

Not everyone is aware, but George Lucas is a Buddhist and there are teachings from the Enlightened One all through the movies. Even the names “Yoda” and “Buddha” are eerily similar – and I don’t believe that’s an accident. 

Yoda taught patience and discouraged attachment – among the pillars of  Buddhist teaching. 

Over the last year plus, I’ve written and spoken about a tool that is being used quite frequently to motivate the unenlightened masses – it’s an incredibly effective one, if only for the short term; and that tool is “Fear.”

In the last year, our President has sought to inspire fear of immigrants – Mexican, Muslim, and Syrian refugees. Fear of Transgender people serving in the military, fear of North Korea. 

Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick painted transgender people as predators hoping to make average Texans so terrified of encountering one of us in a bathroom that he could bully the legislature into passing a law to dictate where we pee. Fear is a powerful motivator. 

What did Yoda have to say about fear?

In the 1999 Star Wars Prequel “Episode One; The Phantom Menace” Yoda was speaking to young Anakin Skywalker and said: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate and Hate leads to suffering.”

Besides being a very Buddhist thing to say (as eliminating suffering in all living things is the highest purpose of Buddhism), it also applies here in a Galaxy Far Far Away. 

It’s pretty easy to see that Yoda’s words ring true. 

Transgender people were again murdered at a unprecedented clip this past year – men sometimes afraid of what loving a transgender person says about them makes them angry – though that anger is misplaced. This anger turns to a malignant hate, which leads to suffering that is widespread. 

You need look no further than a Trump rally. Trump wants you to fear and mistrust the media. That leads to anger at the media. And so it goes. 

I’d prefer we just exercise a little critical thinking. Don’t let CNN or Fox do your thinking for you. Look at the facts. Do some research. Put down the phone for a minute or at least quit using it to watch cat videos. 

LGBT people of a certain age remember things like the Briggs initiative. Back in the late 1970s in California, a proposition on the ballot – Proposition 6 written by conservative legislator John Briggs from Orange County. This initiative, which failed, would have banned anyone who was gay or lesbian or possibly even anyone who supported gay rights from working in California’s public schools. 

Anita Bryant and her “Save our Children”campaign sought to make Californians fear gay and lesbian teachers – that they would somehow harm children. Anyone with an ounce of education or who had done their own research knew better. 

Fear infects the intellectually lazy. You can break free, but you have to put in the work. No one can do it for you. “Do, or do not, there is no “try”  (Yoda again.)

Fear lives in the future, and since the future hasn’t happened yet, often what we fear never comes to pass. You can’t fear the past, it can’t hurt you. 

Rational fear can be useful. If someone is threatening you with a knife – that situation ought to have your undivided attention. Find a rattlesnake in your kitchen? OK. I’m up on the countertop with you. 

But when a cab driver is robbed and dozens of others quit their jobs because of fear, that’s irrational fear. Voting for a bill to tell transgender people where they can go to the bathroom because of fear of predators, but the facts say that no one has ever been attacked by a transgender person in a public bathroom – that’s irrational fear that can lead to anger which can and does lead to hate, and sadly, that leads too often to suffering. 

Needless suffering. 

Buddha said: “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.” “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

So, how can we know the difference? How can we tell good from bad?

Well, Yoda has an answer for that too –

“You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at

 peace. Passive.”

He’s a smart guy that Yoda. He didn’t live 900 years by being afraid. 

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I’m Going To Need More Cheeks. (November 30, 2017)

Katie and I live in a fairly conservative bedroom community in North Texas. Republicans dominate the landscape.

We have lived here for nearly three years and not once, ever has Katie or me ever been Mis-gendered. We have been treated by our conservative neighbors as just – neighbors. We are two tall girls, about the only distinction that seems to be made about us. 

Our next door neighbor shares our love of Border Collies and the neighbors across the alley behind us just replaced their fence. It’s beautiful. Makes us want to replace ours. 

The point is, we are comfortable there. I can relax and let my guard down. I suppose the takeaway here is that while some Republicans want to see transgender people removed from society, the ones we call our neighbors, shop keepers where we do business and our city government have rolled out the welcome mat and treat us like anyone else…friendly, the Texas way. 

That’s not to say I don’t have issues, I do. In of all places, the Gayborhood and even where I work in an office environment in Oak Lawn. I got misgendered by a coworker three times in one meeting! 

Frankly, some of the comments made to me by gay men are appalling and wholly inappropriate. I’ve been told I look “Booby” I’ve been asked how much I spent on my surgical transition. One gay man felt the need to discuss the bathroom bills as if he had some special insight that I, as a transgender woman (the target of these bills) might not be aware of. He had the audacity to tell me that I didn’t need to worry anyway because I am “big and would do fine in a men’s room.” The only place I’ve been called a “Tranny” is in Oak Lawn. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been called “Sir” by gay men. 

In fairness, just like all Republicans aren’t out for my blood, the percentage of gay men that hurt me to the core with their inappropriate comments are in the minority – but enough that I’ve been reduced to tears at my desk by the end of the workday. 

I’m not a big Bible thumper, or even a little one, but I’m familiar enough with some of the scripture to quote the Gospel of Matthew, an alternative for “an eye for an eye” is given by Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other.”

I’ve tried, I really have. I hear those comments and I don’t want to make a big deal. I don’t want people to feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me. I have a wicked sense of humor and I know a lot of these comments are not said with the intent to hurt me. But I want you to know, they do hurt. 

Getting called “Sir”or referring to me as “him or his” to someone when I’m sitting right there is quite literally as painful to me as a slap in the face. It strikes a blow at my very identity. It makes me feel insecure and unsafe in a place where I should feel safest of all. It can even put me in physical jeopardy to be outed where someone may not particularly like transgender people. Please, don’t do that to me. 

The big difference is, a literal slap in the face stings for a while but being misgendered can have a deep effect that can last for days – it feels a lot like short term acute depression. 

The person who told me I’d do fine in a men’s room because I’m “big” hurt me in several ways. First off, he ignores the fact that I don’t belong in a men’s room, period. Second, I’m not so big as to fend off assault if I were to enter a men’s room and lastly, as a transgender woman, I fight a daily battle with body issues. I nit pick myself to death and when this guy piled on with that comment, I was so hurt and felt so disgusting, I didn’t eat anything for two days and haven’t eaten more than one meal in a day since then. I have lost over 10 pounds though…so…thanks? 

I certainly don’t wish to drive a wedge between the LGB community and the Trans community, but I think it’s time to acknowledge there might be a problem. I’m not asking for anything special – just respect and common courtesy. Transgender women are women. My pronouns are she, her and hers. They aren’t up for negotiation. If you get it wrong, I will probably correct you. If you get it wrong more than once, I will likely do everything in my power to spend as little time as possible around you. 

Each one hurts like a slap in the face, and we don’t slap our friends in the face.  

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Holding Dreams and Counting Blessings

Like many of us, we’ve been watching the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang. I’m continually inspired by the amazing things these kids do. NBC has done a number of pre-packaged interviews with Olympic athletes and their families. A common thread is big dreams. One athlete told of his dad saying the very same words my dad said to me: 

“You can do anything you want to if you want to do it bad enough”

My dad would have never put up with it if I told him my dream was to live life as a woman. Who could blame him, this was the early 1960s, but that was my dream. I thought about it a lot, but not even I believed it was really possible. Happily, I was wrong. 

One thing I’d like to do – if not today, then maybe this weekend, is take a little time to count my blessings. I have the life I’ve always dreamed of – with some details being quite surprising – but it’s so easy to get self absorbed on a day to day basis where “planning” is sometimes figuring out what’s for dinner or what to do this weekend (if we want to really get long range) and the weight of the day can seem to take on more importance than it really has, I think that is a common barrier to happiness. That, and Facebook. 

I need to take a few deep breaths, get quiet and just remember how hard I fought to get where I am and all that I sacrificed to be who I am. Just living every day as Leslie is a revolutionary act. It is my closest held dream that never carried with it the possibility of really coming true, yet here it is. 

It’s funny that something so momentous, so impossible and so rebellious is now ordinary. It’s just the new normal – yet like the recipient of a heart transplant – it’s easy to take for granted the miracle I’m living every single day. When I was little and would dream of living my life as a woman, I always thought I’d be ridiculed and laughed at. I’m not, at least not that I’m aware of. 

I never imagined the big challenges would be political; institutionalized bigotry designed to deny me healthcare and access to public accommodations necessary to participate in society. That political leaders who are grown men and women would sow the seeds of fear and hatred towards someone like me with no evidence at all that I deserve either. That’s been a surprise. 

In dreaming about this impossible dream – I never pictured my finding love. That was so far removed from the realm of possibility. I’d always imagined myself living as a happy hermit, living my authentic life, but completely alone. The reality is that somehow, the stars aligned and Katie and I ended up crossing paths and her kindness towards me that began as nothing more than helping a friend has turned into something more; a lot more. Having someone who loves me like she does makes this journey so much richer and worth living. I love her dearly and would do anything for her. I have no doubt she feels the same way. 

Pushing 60 gives things a sense of urgency they didn’t have when I was younger. My dad’s “somedays” ran out February 21st 1987 when he was 67 years old – just 8 years older than I am. I plan on living longer than 67 but so did my dad. It’s a somber reminder that sometimes things don’t work out according to plan. 

My first thought is to create a list of blessings. 

I don’t think the form it takes is nearly as important as remembering and acknowledging each blessing. They can be whatever I want them to be, from huge ones like my daughters who love and accept me, or the warm safe house Katie and I bought together and our two Border Collies. Or it could be simple things like the feel of the warm sun on an early Spring day. 

The point is that believing in your dreams and being thankful for the people and things that make life worth living are important to living a happy life. I also hope to live my life in such a way that I can be a marble in someone else’s jar. 

I live a simple life, but a good life. I’m happier than I’ve ever thought I would be and I understand things now that I didn’t when I was younger – like how you should never let go of your dreams, they might just surprise you in the most incredible ways. 

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So far – as of 1/31/18

January 18, 2018: The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights opened a “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” that will promote discrimination by health care providers who can cite religious or moral reasons for denying care.

December 14: Staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were instructed not to use the “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based” in official documents.

October 6: The Justice Department released a sweeping “license to discriminate” allowing federal agencies, government contractors, government grantees, and even private businesses to engage in illegal discrimination, as long as they can cite religious reasons for doing so.

October 5: The Justice Department released a memo instructing Department of Justice attorneys to take the legal position that federal law does not protect transgender workers from discrimination.

September 7: The Justice Department filed a legal brief on behalf of the United States in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing for a constitutional right for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and, implicitly, gender identity.

August 25: President Trump released a memo directing Defense Department to move forward with developing a plan to discharge transgender military service members and to maintain a ban on recruitment.

July 26: President Trump announced, via Twitter, that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

July 26: The Justice Department filed a legal brief on behalf of the United States in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, arguing that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or, implicitly, gender identity.

June 14: The Department of Education withdrew its finding that an Ohio school district discriminated against a transgender girl. The Department gave no explanation for withdrawing the finding, which a federal judge upheld.

May 2: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to roll back regulations interpreting the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provisions to protect transgender people.

April 14: The Justice Department abandoned its historic lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s anti-transgender law. It did so after North Carolina replaced HB2 with a different anti-transgender law known as “HB 2.0.”

April 4: The Justice and Labor Departments cancelled quarterly conference calls with LGBT organizations; on these calls, which have happened for years, government attorneys share information on employment laws and cases.

March 31: The Justice Department announced it would review (and likely seek to scale back) numerous civil rights settlement agreements with police departments. These settlements were put in places where police departments were determined to be engaging in discriminatory and abusive policing, including racial and other profiling. Many of these agreements include critical protections for LGBT people.

March: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) removed links to four key resource documents from its website, which informed emergency shelters on best practices for serving transgender people facing homelessness and complying with HUD regulations.

March 28: The Census Bureau retracted a proposal to collect demographic information on LGBT people in the 2020 Census.

March 24: The Justice Department cancelled a long-planned National Institute of Corrections broadcast on “Transgender Persons in Custody: The Legal Landscape.”

March 13: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that its national survey of older adults, and the services they need, would no longer collect information on LGBT participants. HHS initially falsely claimed in its Federal Register announcement that it was making “no changes” to the survey.

March 13: The State Department announced the official U.S. delegation to the UN’s 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women conference would include two outspoken anti-LGBT organizations, including a representative of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM): an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

March 10: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it would withdraw two important agency-proposed policies designed to protect LGBT people experiencing homelessness.

One proposed policy would have required HUD-funded emergency shelters to put up a poster or “notice” to residents of their right to be free from anti-LGBT discrimination under HUD regulations. 

The other announced a survey to evaluate the impact of the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative, implemented by HUD and other agencies over the last three years. This multi-year project should be evaluated, and with this withdrawal, we may never learn what worked best in the project to help homeless LGBTQ youth.

March 8: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removed demographic questions about LGBT people that Centers for Independent Living must fill out each year in their Annual Program Performance Report. This report helps HHS evaluate programs that serve people with disabilities.

March 2: The Department of Justice abandoned its request for a preliminary injunction against North Carolina’s anti-transgender House Bill 2, which prevented North Carolina from enforcing HB 2. This was an early sign that the Administration was giving up defending trans people (later, on April 14, it withdrew the lawsuit completely).

March 1: The Department of Justice took the highly unusual step of declining to appeal a nationwide preliminary court order temporarily halting enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination protections for transgender people. The injunction prevents HHS from taking any action to enforce transgender people’s rights from health care discrimination.

February 22, 2017: The Departments of Justice and Education withdrew landmark 2016 guidance explaining how schools must protect transgender students under the federal Title IX law.

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Knock Knock – Originally published in March of 2018

“Knock Knock”

“Who’s There?”


It’s been quite a while since my last column here. It’s not that I haven’t thought of things to write about, it’s been more like there is too much to write about! 

There has been a dizzying array of distractions going on in Washington, many of which effect my people, transgender Americans. What with Ben Carson withdrawing training materials on how to accommodate transgender people in homeless shelters because we might make someone “uncomfortable.” 

Trump has doubled down on his ban of Transgender people serving in the military – with every bit of his rationale being dictated not by science, reason, or the wishes of the Pentagon – no, this was almost word for word taken from the agenda of the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council – genuine hate groups with an agenda. It was bigotry on display. 

I could write volumes about those and a dozen other issues – but after watching Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” and listening, I mean really listening to these amazing, eloquent, beautiful kids sharing their stories, demanding change and calling bullshit on MY generation, it felt like a wake up call and I hope we don’t over-sleep. 

I thought my generation, the Baby Boomers, held so much promise. Some of us went on to do great things, but the wholesale change that we had hoped for has been slow. Boomers have occupied the White House for the past 28 years and many in this country believe we’ve had our chance. 

Make no mistake, change is coming. Listening to these kids, I like what I hear. What I didn’t hear was partisanship; Democrats vs Republicans. What I did hear was: “Fix it!” Not surprisingly, students are sick and tired of being afraid in their classrooms. Schools are a place of learning and shouldn’t be remembered as bloody reminders of mass murder. 

Imagine having a millennial president and congress – Millennials, are less alarmed by immigration by a 5 to 2 margin. They say that immigrants, in particular Asians and Latinos, “strengthen society” rather than “threaten” its customs and values. 

Millennials support marriage equality and legal pot at a greater rate than Boomers. They favor a bigger government providing more services and are less likely to claim a religious affiliation. For Boomers, we may talk diversity but millennials embody it. Not all of their views line up with either Republicans or Democrats. 

However, this is where opportunity lies – the issue right now is one we can all agree on, students shouldn’t be terrified to go to school because some nut with a semi auto rifle will bust in and start shooting. But we DON’T all agree. 

In a statement demonstrating extreme ignorance, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum suggested students would be better served by taking CPR classes. I won’t even waste the ink responding to that kind of stupidity and insensitivity.  The NRA is still arguing against ANY kind of gun control, modifications of equipment or closing gun show loopholes. 

If these millions of kids who will be of voting age in 2018 and 2020, (and the oldest of the millennials will be eligible to run for president in 2024) all get out and vote, the likely party to benefit from this are the Democrats. 

If you are a Democrat, that’s great news, right? Maybe. These kids aren’t idiots. They also aren’t going to sit around and wait, nor are they going to listen to excuses. If you can’t get the job done, they will call you out and vote you out. 

Democrats may have an opportunity here, but it’s not one where reclaiming the Senate or House is a mandate for the same old business as usual – you may have just one shot at it. 

Let’s make sure you are up for the challenge and get it right. If you are running for office (or are in office) and you weren’t at one of the marches around the country – where were you? March if you want – but listen to what’s being said and who is saying it. 

This doesn’t sound the same as what we’ve heard before. This time it’s different. Don’t mistake their peaceful demeanor for passivity. Don’t dismiss their youth for naiveté.  This generation will call Bullshit. 

This country has a gun problem. It has a mental health problem. No amount of CPR classes or active shooter drills are going to make it go away. If we do nothing – I promise you – it will happen again. We must start the conversation and treat the lives of our children as though they are important. Where are our priorities?

I hope these kids vote. I hope the people they vote for actually listen to them; if those elected to do the job fail to act, they may not get a second chance. 


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The 2nd Street Bridge

Robert Fortune was a Scottish botanist, best known for stealing tea plants from China on behalf of the British East India Company. He died on April 13th 1880. More on Mr. Fortune in a little bit. 

The sound of cars driving over expansion joints in a bridge – the distinctive, almost train like, “clack clack” sound as the cars pass overhead takes me instantly back to some of my favorite childhood memories. 

It was the Summer of 1971 and ‘72 I was a Sea Scout – the Sea Scout Base is still in the same place today, under the 2nd Street bridge near “Mother’s Beach” (Though it wasn’t called that back then) in Long Beach, California. 

The training I received in the Sea Scouts served me well. I learned knot- tying, sailing, water rescue, how to empty a swamped canoe in deep water and climb back into it plus a whole lot more. Growing up just a couple of miles from the Pacific Ocean, that was all handy stuff. 

What I remember most was just how carefree I felt then. The summer air was cool under the bridge, I was always barefoot and having sand under my feet was as familiar and comfortable to me as breathing. The water of Alamitos Bay was salt water as it was affected by the tides from the Pacific. It was also what people in the South would call “cold” (Mid 50’s to mid 60’s) – but I didn’t know any different so to me, that’s just what water felt like, and I wanted to be in it or sailing on it. 

Some of my most powerful memories of my early teen years are from my time spent under and around that bridge. Walking barefoot through the boat yard carried the coolness of the salt air and breeze from the water. The smell of fiberglass resin and lubricants for marine equipment. There was a small speaker that played music, from the latest bands like The Carpenters, America, or Crosby, Stills and Nash. 

And the sound of the cars driving over the bridge above, “Clack-Clack” “Clack-Clack” in the background. 

One of the first thing we had to do in the Sea Scouts was prove we could swim. So on day one, first thing in the morning we had to run out into the calm waters of the bay and swim 400 yards down to what is now known as “Mother’s Beach.” 

At the far end of the bay, to the north, was Marine Stadium. I used to watch the drag boats there. Boats with names like “Mr Ed” or “Panic Mouse” the guys who drove these incredible machines were my early heroes. 

Another boat that captured my imagination was the Robert Fortune. It was a work boat. Maybe 35-40 feet long with an open bed like a pickup truck. The name “Robert Fortune” stenciled across the transom. 

I never saw it going more than about 3 to 5 mph. It was taking guys and equipment out to the Oil Islands off the coast of Long Beach. I recall seeing this boat leave and then return later in the day. I don’t know why the name stuck, but it did. Maybe just seeing it so often burned it into my memory. 

The Long Beach oil islands were drilling platforms in Long Beach harbor, they were disguised to look like buildings with Palm Trees and attractive lighting. They were pretty, but the facade hid the oil drilling equipment. The islands also had names; Grissom, White, and Chaffee. Named for the astronauts who perished in the Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad. 

I guess there are a lot of reasons why this time in my life was so special – mostly though, it was a place where there weren’t any distractions. My body was beginning to do things that were the last thing I wanted and here was a place I could just be me, the Ocean doesn’t judge. Nobody was walking around glued to a cell phone, they didn’t exist. It was just sailing, swimming and learning about how to use the wind to your advantage and also what to do when things went wrong. 

Using headwinds to help you get where you want to go became a valuable metaphorical lesson for dealing with the headwinds to come in the years ahead. 

I miss those days. But whenever I step foot on a beach and feel the sand wrap around my toes, whenever I hear the sound of cars going over a bridge, especially the echoey sounds heard from underneath the bridge or when the air is cool and the breeze is light – I get to go back there – to a simpler time, if only for a minute. 

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My Mother’s Bowl

Unless you’ve known me for a very long time, you probably don’t know my mom. She passed away in 1992 at the age of 72. I miss her terribly.

Think of the ideal moms you see in sit-coms- that was her. She was the real deal.

My brother and I grew up near the beach and we went there a lot. The water in the ocean in Southern California was chilly and I remember her always having a warm dry towel ready for me as I ran up on the sand where she’d set up camp. She had sandwiches, soft drinks and sodas for hungry kids who had been swimming in the surf.

My parents were married 20 years before they had kids. They had owned a restaurant in Lake Arrowhead for 11 years before moving “down the hill” and settling in Long Beach. I think that partially accounts for the way my parents loved us – because we were so wanted. They waited a long time to have kids.

My friends adored my parents and our house was always at the top of the list when my friends wanted to go somewhere because “your parents are so cool.” Part of that was because my mom still had a little of the restaurant in her and for my friends, she was a short order cook. Cheeseburgers were always a hit – they were so good, the best ever.

My parents also both baked. My mom would make Toll House cookies and my dad was the pie maker. They both passed recipes down to me and I remember them by heart. No recipe card needed.

I cherish the memory of them. One way I keep them alive is through recreating the yummy treats they would make us. This weekend, those memories were thick as I spoiled my partner, Katie on her birthday, with all sorts of yummy baked goods. Banana bread and Oatmeal Raisin cookies and home made chocolate pie along with smoking ribs on the Big Green Egg.

Each recipe usually starts out with mixing the butter and sugar together in a bowl, adding in the eggs one at a time, then vanilla and so on. To me, the one constant is – “The Bowl.”


It’s an ordinary bowl, made of glazed clay. It’s green and over 50 years old. I have no idea where she bought it or how long she had it – this bowl has just been a constant.

It would sell for 50 cents at a garage sale but I wouldn’t part with it for any amount of money. That bowl is a connection to her. She held that bowl in her hands and mixed up everything from meatloaf to cookie dough.

It’s a miracle that this bowl has survived for as long as it has. One drop and it’s over. But it has survived countless dishwasher cycles, hand washing by kids who could be careless at times (my brother and me) and it has made it through over 20 moves to new homes. It’s survived them all and waits in the cupboard for the next treat to be mixed in it.

Today it was Katie’s favorite – Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.


It’s just the perfect bowl for these things.

I hope one day to pass this cherished part of my childhood – and one of the few things that has been with me for my entire life – on to my daughters in the hope that they, too can create yummy treats for their children.

It really is a miracle that this bowl has survived as long as it has, what wth buttery hands and hot stoves, small kids, dogs underfoot, tile floors and moves.

It’s a simple green bowl – a mundane part of fairly unremarkable lives but oh, the stories it could tell.



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