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IEEE adds LGBT support to ethics code

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE, gay news, Washington Blade

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers logo.

NEW YORK—The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Board of Directors on Jan. 8 announced it had approved the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in its ethics code.

Lynn Conway, professor emerita of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Leandra Vicci of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill spearheaded the effort to spur the IEEE Board of Directors to include trans-specific protections in its Code of Ethics. The proposal was subsequently approved by more than two-thirds of the board members.

“It means that hundreds of thousands of engineers worldwide — including in Russia, Uganda and over 60 other nations where being gay or trans is considered a crime — are now honor bound to treat their colleagues with respect,” wrote Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer in the Huffington Post.

The IEEE is the world’s largest professional body of engineers. It has more than 425,000 members from 160 countries.


Mississippi city approves LGBT resolution

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade, Mississippi city

Hattiesburg, Miss. (Photo by Dudemanfellabra; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

HATTIESBURG, Miss.—The Hattiesburg City Council on Feb. 18 unanimously approved a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

“The Hattiesburg City Council took a brave and important step that is aligned with the direction our country is headed in – the recognition that LGBT people are and should be treated equally under the law,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Equality cannot come fast enough for LGBT people in Mississippi.”

Hattiesburg is the second Mississippi city to add LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman last month approved the Magnolia State’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.


Mississippi city passes LGBT ordinance

Oxford, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Kathy Jean; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

OXFORD, Miss.–A third Mississippi city has passed a resolution in support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen on March 4 unanimously approved the resolution.

“Tolerance and acceptance creates the strongest bonds between neighbors,” said Alderman Jay Hughes in a Human Rights Campaign press release. “I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.”

Hattiesburg last month added LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman in January approved the state’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.


Puerto Rico mayor signs LGBT orders

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, Gay News, Washington Blade

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. (Photo by Melvin Alfredo via Wikimedia Commons)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital on Monday signed two executive orders designed to end discrimination against her city’s LGBT residents.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz ordered her city’s police department to apply the island’s current domestic violence laws with what the Primera Hora newspaper described as “the highest degree of respect” regardless of the reported victim’s sexual orientation. She also banned discrimination against San Juan municipal employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Primera Hora reported gay boxer Orlando “Fenómeno” Cruz was among those who attended the press conference during which Yulín signed the orders.


Council approves trans birth certificate bill

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade, 2013 Capital Pride Parade

Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) wrote the bill that makes it easier for trans people to obtain a new birth certificate. (I-At-Large) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that supporters say will modernize and remove unnecessary hurdles in the process for transgender people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their gender.

The bill, which was written by Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), is called the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of the transgender woman who was murdered in February 2012 while waiting for a bus in Northeast D.C.

“Today the Washington, D.C. City Council modernized the policy making it clearer and easier for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificate,” the National Center for Transgender Equality said in a statement.

The Council also gave final approval to the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013, which expands the list of people authorized to perform a wedding ceremony in the city.

Both bills received strong support from local LGBT advocacy organizations. The birth certificate measure received support from at least two national groups – the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – which said the legislation would set a precedent for passing similar bills in other jurisdictions.

Among other things, the birth certificate bill repeals an existing city law that prevents transgender people from changing their birth certificate unless they undergo gender reassignment surgery. Transgender advocates and officials with the city’s Department of Health told a Council committee hearing earlier this year that gender reassignment surgery presents an unnecessary burden for many transgender people who can’t afford it or for whom it may not be medically safe.

Other experts testifying before a joint hearing of the Council’s Committee on Health and Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety said for many transgender people, surgery isn’t necessary for them to transition to another gender.

The bill also eliminates what supporters said was an unnecessary and burdensome requirement that transgender people seeking to change their name to reflect their gender announce the change in a paid advertisement in a newspaper or other publication.

The legislation’s key provision changes the D.C. Vital Records Act of 1981 to require the city’s registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition,” according to a statement released by the Committee on Health.

The marriage officiant bill, which was authored by Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), would authorize same-sex or opposite-sex couples applying for a marriage license to designate a friend, parent, sibling or any other adult as a one-time “temporary officiant” empowered to perform the marriage ceremony.

The bill would also allow couples to serve as their own officiants, a provision that prompted Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) to vote against the bill at its first-reading vote two weeks ago. Bowser voted for the measure on Wednesday as did all other Council members.

Under current city law, couples planning to marry are limited to choosing a judge, a licensed clergy member, or a court appointed officiant that can only perform the marriage ceremony at the courthouse.

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a non-partisan group, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club were among the local groups that pushed for passage of the two bills.

Mayor Vincent Gray has said he supports the two bills and would sign them as soon as they reach his desk. Under the city’s limited home rule charter, the bills must then go to Congress for a 30 legislative day review that Capitol Hill observers say is likely to be completed in November due to several scheduled congressional recesses.


Maryland advocates must unite to pass trans bill

Lawyer's Mall, Annapolis, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade, Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, transgender community

Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)



The end of 2013 means the 2014 Maryland legislative session is soon to begin. Like in years past, 2014 will open with no federal or statewide law expressly banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The absence of these protections leaves the Maryland transgender community uniquely vulnerable to rampant discrimination.

A widely cited study published in 2010 confirms that transgender Marylanders are experiencing crisis levels of discrimination. Seventy-one percent of transgender Marylanders reported harassment in the workplace and nearly half reported losing a job, not being hired or being denied promotions simply because of who they are. More than half reported being harassed in public spaces. Perhaps most tellingly, 43 percent reported having attempted suicide.  The general public attempted suicide at a rate of 1.6 percent. In short, discrimination against transgender Marylanders is the norm and, with little hope for fairness, they are escaping through death. One need not be a transgender person to be alarmed.

Each year, transgender people and their allies advocate for Maryland’s legislature to pass a statewide ban on gender identity discrimination in Maryland. The statistics above, and people’s individual stories, show that these protections are desperately needed.

Each year, this newspaper covers the campaign to ban gender identity discrimination and the obstacles that stand in the way.  But for all that has been written on this topic, one thing has been missed: the need for greater unity and cooperation among all who care about transgender people in Maryland and support legal protections against gender identity discrimination.

Last year, I served on the steering committee of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, which counts among its members virtually all of Maryland’s transgender-focused advocacy organizations except for one. My position made me a first-hand witness to the conflict among activist groups seeking passage of last year’s gender identity bill, the Fairness For All Marylanders Act.

Last year’s conflicts, as with years past, extended far beyond mere disagreement. They included advocacy organizations actively opposing one another’s efforts to pass the bill. For example, I witnessed one organization holding a lobby day event and rally to gather support for the bill. I saw a rival organization actively work to suppress participation. I saw one organization try to tear down its rival by persuading its membership to resign from it. If we support gender identity legislation, then this is the type of dissension we cannot afford. Efforts need to be directed toward passing gender identity protections rather than tearing one another down.

Disagreements are normal, and even a necessary part of making progress. But active attempts by gender identity advocates to suppress efforts at passing gender identity legislation are neither normal nor productive. The Fairness for All Marylanders Act failed by a single vote. You have to wonder if its fate might have been different had advocates set aside their differences and worked together to focus their efforts on passing a bill that the entire transgender community and all of its allies could stand behind.

Indeed, we are so close to success in passing the bill that I suspect the only thing we lack is unified focus on the legislation instead of on competition among advocacy groups. Marriage equality came to Maryland once its advocates unified and formed a coalition to work together on achieving it. Passing gender identity legislation requires its supporters to do the same.

The transgender community needs advocates who will focus their energy on fighting for it instead of fighting among themselves. All of us who care for transgender people hope that the lessons of last year, and of years past, have been learned and that this year will be different. We all want the advocates to set aside their differences, pull together and get this done.

Let’s stand together and make this the year we all succeed.

The Washington Blade agreed to withhold the author’s last name due to her ongoing struggle with employment discrimination.


Nevada lawmakers approve trans bill

Nevada, Legislature, Gay News, Washington Blade

Nevada Legislative building. (Photo by Dave Parker via Wikimedia Commons)

CARSON CITY, Nev.—The Nevada Assembly on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crimes law.

“This does not afford victims special rights,” said gay Assemblyman Andrew Martin (D-Las Vegas) before the measure passed by a 30-11 vote, according to the Associated Press. “This is a statement of what our society is, and that we will not tolerate the systematic targeting of individuals who are historically disadvantaged groups.”

The state Senate has already approved the bill. A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval told the Associated Press the governor supports the measure.


Manning found guilty of lesser charges

Bradley Manning, wikileaks, gay news, Washington Blade

Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of aiding-the-enemy, the most serious charge brought against him. (Public domain photo)

A military judge on Tuesday found gay U.S. Army private Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge lodged against him following allegations in 2010 that he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.

At the conclusion of a court martial proceeding that began in June at Fort Meade, Md., Army Col. Denise Lind found Manning guilty of nearly all of the other charges filed against him, including six counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act. All of the charges stemmed from his alleged transmittal of the classified documents to the dissident, whistleblower group Wikileaks.

The verdict came after Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to 10 of the 22 counts filed against him. Experts in military law said the charges on which he was convicted carry a combined maximum sentence of 136 years of confinement in a military prison, although they expect the judge to hand down a much shorter sentence.

Had he been convicted on the aiding-the-enemy charge, he could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole.

LGBT activists following the Manning case dispute press reports that surfaced at the time of his arrest in 2010 that his motive for leaking the classified information was related, in part, to his anger over the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, which banned gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

Transgender advocates have also expressed skepticism of a claim by one of Manning’s defense attorneys that his action was due, in part, to his personal struggle over his gender identity. The attorney and others who know Manning noted that he referred to himself for a short period of time with a female name and downloaded information over the internet about gender identity disorder.

“I don’t see that his identity has anything to do with what he did,” said Maryland transgender advocate Dana Beyer. “His sexual identity, however you want to define it, is completely irrelevant.”

Beyer’s assessment appears to be shared by virtually all of the national LGBT advocacy organizations, which have either remained silent on the Manning case or have said Manning’s actions should not be condoned and don’t reflect the views of the LGBT rights movement.

That view surfaced in the news in the spring of this year when the San Francisco LGBT Pride committee rejected a proposal to name Manning as a grand marshal for the city’s Pride parade.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT political organization, told the Blade this week that HRC would have no comment on the Manning verdict.

Spokespersons for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which monitors media coverage of the LGBT community, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

D.C. gay attorney Philip Fornaci is among the small corps of LGBT activists who have joined opponents of U.S. policies in the Middle East and elsewhere that have supported Manning and helped raise money for his legal defense.

Supporters argue that Manning is a whistle blower who courageously released information showing a flawed and illegal U.S. foreign policy to enable the American public to pressure the government to change those policies.

“While the national LGBT advocacy organizations shamelessly shower President Obama with praise for allowing openly gay men and women to enlist in the military, their complete silence on the Manning case is indefensible,” Fornaci said in an Aug. 6, 2012 commentary in the Blade. “If Manning did in fact leak information to Wikileaks as he is accused, he has displayed enormous courage.”

Presenting a far different perspective on Manning was R. Clarke Cooper, former executive director of the national gay group Log Cabin Republicans. Cooper, a combat veteran of the Iraq War and current civilian intelligence officer in the Army Reserves, penned a Blade commentary in December 2011 calling Manning “a traitor to the United States of America.”

Responding to early reports, which have since been disputed — that Manning might seek to use his opposition to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a defense for leaking classified documents — Cooper called such a defense a “betrayal of all gay and lesbian service members past and present.”

He added, “Whatever his reasons or excuses, Bradley Manning does not deserve the sympathy of the LGBT community.”

Peter Rosenstein, a gay Democratic activist and supporter of the Obama administration, expressed a similar view opposing LGBT support for Manning.

“I don’t believe the fact that Manning is gay has anything to do with his case,” Rosenstein told the Blade. “What he did was wrong, maybe even treasonous. Making him a gay hero as they tried to do in San Francisco is absurd.”

Shortly after his 2010 arrest, the publicly viewable part of Manning’s Facebook profile listed the Washington Blade as among his ‘favorite’ pages along with several other LGBT-related websites, including the Human Rights Campaign, gay then U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and a site pushing for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The anti-gay Family Research Council cited reports of Manning’s backing of gay rights causes to support its strong opposition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.

D.C. gay blogger John Aravosis reported that no evidence was found to show Manning leaked classified information because he was upset over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or supported gay rights.

A national group called the Bradley Manning Support Network, whose members have corresponded with Manning and members of Manning’s family, has said Manning’s motive for releasing classified documents was a desire to correct what he believed to be a harmful U.S. foreign policy.


Transitions in parenting

‘Stuck in the Middle with You’
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
288 pages

Stuck in the Middle With You, Jennifer Finney Boylan, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Crown)

When you were younger, you wanted nothing to do with parenthood.

Life was a party then and having a family was the farthest thing from your mind. Kids changed people and who wants that? Being a parent was something that happened to somebody else.

Once upon a time, Jennifer Finney Boylan thought that, too. But then she became a father. And then she became a woman and in her new memoir “Stuck in the Middle with You,” she writes about finding love, discovering life’s sweet spot and being both a mommy and a daddy.

Well over 25 years ago, James Boylan fell in love at first sight.

He remembered seeing Deirdre’s blue eyes from the audience as she performed onstage. He knew he had to ask her out, that he wanted to be her boyfriend. After she finally said yes to a date, it wasn’t long before she said yes to marriage and yes to a family. They welcomed son Zach first and Sean a few years later.

And then James Boylan told his wife something that he’d been struggling with for his entire life: deep inside, he was really a woman. He could no longer tolerate life in hiding. After six years of being a father, James needed to live as Jennifer.

So how does a woman teach her son about being a man? Would the boys be teased, ostracized or ashamed? Would they feel as though they lost a parent?

“What kind of men would my children become,” Boylan writes. “… having been raised by a father who became a woman?”

As it turns out, Boylan shouldn’t have worried. Her eldest became an activist and works for justice. Her youngest is a fine musician. Their lives weren’t much different from that of their friends, and everyone generally “forgot that there was anything extraordinary about our family.”

Today, Boylan is still married to her wife of a quarter-century. It’s as “nontraditional” a union as you can imagine but then again, “traditional” families are no longer the norm anyhow. And besides, says Deirdre, “No matter what else you say about my husband, she’s an amazing woman.”

And though parenting memoirs replicate like rabbits these days, “Stuck in the Middle with You” is a pretty amazing book.

With her slightly askew humor and a grateful sense of awe for her family’s relative ease in her transition, author Jennifer Finney Boylan writes from the heart on the subjects of being father and mother, son and daughter. Those four roles were obviously played out by the same person, but it’s interesting to note how Boylan sees herself differently (and similarly) in each of them, pre- and post-transition. I also enjoyed her observations on connections between past and present, which nicely accompany interviews with friends and colleagues about family, children and being a child.

Readers looking for scandal won’t find it here, but if you want something that’ll bring you to the brink of tears again and again, this is your book.


Florida county adopts trans ordinance

Pinellas County, Florida, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade, ordinance

The new ordinance passed in Pinellas County would prohibit most organizations in the county from discriminating against trans people. (Image public domain, modified with trans flag photo by Michael Key)

CLEARWATER, Fla.—The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 6-1 to add gender identity to the county’s human rights ordinance.

The Tampa Tribune reported the proposal would prohibit most organizations in the county from discriminating against trans people in employment, housing and public accommodations. These include access to public restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity and expression.

“We cannot legislate against what is people’s hearts and minds, but we can set policy to protect every member of our community,” Commissioner Charlie Justice said as the Tampa Tribune reported.

The vote took place a week after Alachua County, in which the city of Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, approved a similar ordinance. Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe and Leon Counties and the cities of St. Augustine and Venice are among the other Florida municipalities that have enacted trans-inclusive human rights ordinances.