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Friday, January 28, 2005

Colin becomes Coleen!

BBC Radio 1

Radio1 Dj Colin Murry became coleen for the day. See the pic's at the radio1 site.

Buster the bunny pops on his backpack, visits lesbian family and starts row

The Guardian
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday January 28, 2005

To the untrained eye, Buster is just a bunny, an innocuous cartoon character on American educational television. Each week the animated rabbit puts on his red backpack and trainers to visit a slice of real America - dropping in on a native Indian reservation in Wyoming, or maybe a Hispanic family in Los Angeles and sending a video postcard of the event to his friends.

The series, designed to show the diversity of the modern family to primary school children, is produced with $100m (£53m) of federal funding by the public television network PBS. It has a mandate to promote tolerance.

But then, Buster Baxter visited a farm in Vermont to learn about harvesting maple syrup. His hosts on Sugartime! were a lesbian couple and their children. Although the parents remained in the background - as they do during all of Buster's travels - their very appearance on children's TV was too much for the education secretary, Margaret Spelling.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Transsexual Marriage a Legal Catch-22

The Guardian
Thursday January 27, 2005 9:01 AM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Judi Howden went into her marriage knowing full well that one day her husband might become her wife.

The couple stayed together - even as Howden's husband, Michael, underwent a sex-change operation that transformed him into Mikayla. That surgery also landed them in a murky area where gender and law collide.

Their marriage - once between a man and a woman - is now between a woman and a woman, despite a ban on such unions in 40 states, including New Hampshire.

Their experience highlights a legal Catch-22. While states can either recognize or refuse to recognize someone's new gender following a sex change, either decision inescapably permits some form of same-sex marriage.

If the gender change is recognized, then existing, heterosexual marriages such as the Howdens' become same-sex. If recognition is denied, a de facto same-sex marriage emerges since the spouses' genders differ only on paper, not visibly.

``I have no answer to it,'' said state Rep. Dan Itse, a Republican who supports the state's same-sex marriage ban. ``We have ventured where angels fear to tread.''

The federal government must decide if Mikayla Howden, a U.S. citizen born overseas, can update her birth certificate. It hasn't yet ruled, and Shannon Minter, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in California, said the Bush administration has not been as accommodating as earlier administrations.

According to the center, four states don't permit gender updates: Tennessee, Ohio, Kansas and Texas. About half of the remaining states do. A firm policy hasn't been legally well established in the remaining states, including New Hampshire, said Minter, the center's legal director.

``Whether or not society will acknowledge our marriage, I think, is my biggest fear,'' Judi Howden said. ``That someday, someone may pass legislation that says, `Because you are now two females, you are no longer married.' For anyone to say that they have the right to break up a family, I don't think is right.''

The Howdens' marriage clearly was legal when it began, and same-sex marriage bans cannot automatically invalidate it, Minter said, just as states don't automatically annul marriages for adultery or abuse.

But at least one conservative group would like to change that. The Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition in Washington, D.C., said marriages such as the Howdens' should be dissolved.

``Absolutely,'' he said. ``We don't want the roof to leak in any place. We must make sure that marriage is protected.''

Sheldon's coalition, a lobby claiming more than 43,000 member churches, is crafting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. The Howdens, he said, have slipped through a ``legal loophole.''

Judi Howden may be in a legal loophole, but she said she's happy. Her household is like many across America. There are prayers at meal times and children's toys in every room.

Her wedding to Michael Howden nearly four years ago - her second marriage - has produced love and another child. She said she struggled with Mikayla's emergence, but struggled even more with the idea of separating.

``There was so strong of a connection for Mikayla and I,'' she said. ``I never knew that there was such a relationship out there in the world.''

Social conservatives often portray same-sex marriage as a moral issue. But Mikayla Howden called changing her gender a life-and-death decision, not a lifestyle choice. Living as a man was fundamentally wrong, she said, and nearly led her to suicide.

``What are you going to pick? You certainly hope for the point of wanting to pick life,'' said Mikayla Howden, who changed her name in 2003 and underwent a sex change in September. ``So many of us, because of society, choose death.''

Transsexuals are not the only people who have sex-change operations. Surgery also is used to treat ``intersex'' conditions such as improperly formed genitalia.

Updating birth certificates isn't the only legal challenge facing transsexuals. State gay-marriage bans complicate such core activities as buying and inheriting property together or collecting insurance.

In 1999, a Texas appeals court upheld a ruling against a transsexual who became a woman and married a man. The court ruled the marriage an invalid union of two men, denying the transsexual money from a wrongful death settlement after her husband died.

Cases in Florida and Illinois are addressing whether transsexuals who have become men are legally fathers of children who were born through artificial insemination or adopted into their families while they were married.

And in California, a transsexual who became a woman is challenging a ruling that denied her husband citizenship because she was born male, Minter said.

``The human consequences are really painful,'' Minter said.

For the Howdens, the responsibilities of home and raising a family - a child of their own and two from Judi Howden's previous marriage - have helped them through tough emotional times. So has open, honest communication.

``It isn't always easy, but it's the most important, even when it comes to your fears,'' Judi Howden said. ``Because when you hold those fears inside, it doubles them.''

New York City Divas

I spotted this on ButchDykeBoy.


Hats off to them, they look stunning. But DAMN they make me feel inferior. Curse the fact I come from country stock. Where's the triple choc icecream... I need comfort food :(

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Crossing sexual boundaries in Nepal

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

"When I was about 13, it came from my heart and soul, the feeling that I was different from others," says Manisha, who has the body of a man but wants to be a woman - and likes to be described as a woman.

Manisha, now 24, is what is known in Kathmandu as a "meti" or a transgender person.

"Up to the age of 18 I thought I was the only person like that in the world. I was very depressed."

That changed when Manisha began meeting similar people in the parks of the Nepalese capital.

It changed even more in 2001 with the founding of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal's only organisation for sexual minorities.

The BDS has just launched a weekly newspaper, with editions in English and Nepali.

The Blue Diamond Weekly will give a platform to many marginalised groups in Nepal, but seems likely to be dominated by issues affecting gay and bisexual Nepalese and the significant number who call themselves "meti" and dress up in women's clothes.

An autobiographical article by Manisha filled page three of the first edition.

Manisha now works full-time for BDS, which among other things promotes Aids awareness and condom usage among vulnerable groups.

BDS's founder and director, 32-year-old Sunil Pant, explored his own sexuality while studying in Belarus.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Nepal gay group launches journal

By Charles Haviland BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepal's only gay rights organisation has launched a weekly newspaper, the first publication here of its kind.

The Blue Diamond Society (BDS) says that it wants to give a voice to a range of oppressed communities, not just sexual minorities.

The publication is being funded by the British government.
A British diplomat told the BBC the funding of the project was part of London's campaign to reduce the impact of HIV and Aids.

The parallel English and Nepali language Blue Diamond Weekly papers are being brought out by BDS, which describes itself as an organisation for sexual minorities, including homosexual, bisexual and trans-gendered people.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Tajikistan's male Snow Queen


The audience at Tajikistan's state ballet production of the Snow Queen could be forgiven for thinking there was something odd about the lead ballerina.

The dancer playing the role of fabled queen is in fact a man.

According to staff at the Sadriddin Ayni theatre in Dushanbe, where the production is being staged, there were no women available who could dance the part.

"The role of the Snow Queen is very difficult and not one of our ballerinas could manage it," a theatre employee told Reuters news agency.

So Alexander Bakhman stepped into the title role in the famous ballet, which is based on a fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson.

Mr Bakhman has had to learn how to dance on pointe shoes, which is usually the preserve of female dancers.

But theatre bosses have reportedly excused him from wearing a tutu.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Harvard Man in lesbian mix-up wants satire clearly labeled

The Register
By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
Published Monday 17th January 2005 08:44 GMT

The two fathers of 'podcasting' have called for jokes and satirical broadcasts to be clearly labelled as such, after they were bamboozled by a comic female impersonator.

Two "bloggers" - former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and former software developer Dave Winer cooked up the idea of enclosing audio files in some XML code so they could be pulled off the web onto a portable device - a nifty, if not terrible original idea. With real, grassroots webcasting itself in mortal danger, its seems an odd distraction. The Webcaster Alliance is locked in epic battle with the RIAA over the right to distribute art, but instead of supporting them, these bloggers have other priorities, and top of the list is the right to be able to burp at home, and then broadcast it over the fabled Interweb. Unscripted burps are particularly welcome.

And so not surpringly, people have taken the idea and run with it, making their own burpy broadcasts in their kitchens, and shoving them up on the web. For a week on their own burpy 'show', Curry and Winer rebroadcast the adventures of a podcaster they admired, one Yeast Radio's Madge Weinstein.

Madge Weinstein is really a database programmer called Richard Bluestein, who performs the part of "a domineering Jewish lesbian" - firmly in the tradition of John Waters' diva Divine, and a long-line of female impersonators including Dame Edna Everage. He's been recording his own scatalogical skits for a while.

But Curry and Winer didn't realize that Madge wasn't really ... a woman.

Press For Change set up GRA-info site

Press for Change have set up a one-stop shop for information on the Gender Recognition Act 2004, with help from FTM Network, The Gender Trust and The Gendys network. This site should be a big help for people applying for gender recognition through the processes laid down in the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The site can be found here : GRA-info

This is a volunteer run site so if you can help by making a donation, please do.

Gay TV Campaign Targets Bush Inauguration
by Newscenter Staff
Posted: January 18, 2005 7:33 pm. ET

(Washington) A new television ad campaign has been launched to coincide with President Bush's inauguration Thursday.

The ads, by the Human Rights Campaign underscores inconsistencies in what President Bush has said and what he has done regarding equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans during his first term. Asking "What will he do in the next four years?"

Saturday, January 15, 2005

DC Trans Community Considers New Legislation

by darby
12 Jan 2005 Modified: 13 Jan 2005

On the heels of a legislative victory in Illinois, members of DC transgender communities and allies gathered to discuss possible changes to the District’s human rights code to more explicitly protect transgender people from discrimination.

On Tuesday the Illinois state House of Representatives followed the footsteps of the Illinois Senate in approving a new bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents of the state from discrimination. The law, which bans discrimination based on sexual discrimination, defines that term more broadly than past laws have, to include gender identity. Illinois joins 13 other states and the District in banning discrimination for sexual orientation, but makes only the fifth state to protect all residents regardless of gender identity or expression. According to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Minnesota and California as well as over 60 cities and counties prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.

The meeting Tuesday night in DC was to address that issue locally, where the current human rights code of 1977 is thought to cover transgender people under “personal appearance,” but many transgender activists are concerned it isn’t explicit enough. When local transgender leader Jessica Xavier asked the room how many transgender people present had been discriminated against on the job, two thirds of those present raised their hands.

Although City Councilmembers David Catania [At-Large] and Jim Graham [Ward 1] have drafted legislation to change the human rights code, some LGBT activists are concerned the new law would be overturned by the US Congress, which has oversight over all District laws. “Not only does it make no strategic sense to push the legislation in question at present,” wrote Rick Rosendall, Vice President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance during an email exchange on the subject, “and not only would it be likely to backfire… but it wouldn't even solve the problem.” If Congress rejected the amendment, the argument goes, then courts would be less likely to read “personal appearance” as protecting transgender people.

Jeff Light, one person who worked with Councilmember Graham on the legislation, said “I think this legislation, including protections for bathroom access, homeless shelters, and hate crimes, would be a major step forward for not only the trans community, but for anyone experiencing gender-motivated discrimination or violence,” in response to Rosendall’s email. During the meeting, one participant asked whether it made more sense to push for the bill or try to conduct an education campaign regarding transgender issues and human rights in DC. “We need both the education and the bill,” said Earline Budd, a prominent transgender activist in the District who was party to two lawsuits which resulted in rulings that interpreted the phrase “personal appearance” to protect transgender people. “When the human rights code was written in 1977, there wasn’t this language of gender identity and expression,” noted Kenda Kirby, a former employed of the DC Emergency Services who filed complaints concerning gender-based discrimination against the agency last year. Last week in Maryland, a gay Delegate to the state legislature, Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), said that adding gender identity and expression to a bill expanding categories of hate crimes would be “a step too far for many.”

The group of over 30 transgenders and allies gathered Tuesday night seemed to be developing a consensus in favor of pushing for an amendment to the human rights code. Irena Tran, a proponent of the new bill, said that whatever the decision, it should be made by those affected by the results. “The only people who really know what is best for the transgender community are transgender people themselves,” she said.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Gender Identity Disorder - the hidden dilemma that needs more open approach

Irish Medical Times

In Ireland today, a very small number of people live with a condition that, to a large extent, exists at the margins of medical practice. The condition is known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and is more commonly referred to as Transsexualism.

Drag queen comes out for presidential election
04 January 2005

Dressed in a floral frock and nail polish, Whangamomona presidential candidate Bruce Collis looks more first lady than first man.

And that's just the way Bruce - a cross-dresser who is known as Miriam when wearing drag - likes it.

Miriam's nomination in the presidential race has raised a few eyebrows in the tiny eastern Taranaki settlement, but he/she takes it all on a perfectly shaved and powdered chin.

Miriam is one of three nominations in this year's election - the most ever - to be held on the upcoming Whangamomona Republic Day. Another twist in this presidential race is that this year all three candidates are human - not a presidential goat or poodle in sight.

Still, the competition is tough. The republic's first president, Ian Kjestrup, whose time in office lasted from 1989 to 1999, has decided to stand again, and local garage and cafe owner Murt Kennard is also going for the top job.

For Miriam/Bruce, who has lived in Whangamomona since early last year after moving to the area from Wellington, winning the electoral race would be a dream.

"I believe I can communicate with other people from around New Zealand about Whangamomona and give them a different aspect from within the community. I just hope people give me the chance," he/she told the Taranaki Daily News during a visit to Whangamomona to meet the candidates for the January 15 election.

A writer and keen rose gardener, he/she had recently begun to show locals the "other side" of Bruce. During visits to the Whangamomona Hotel, she now regularly "comes out" as a woman wearing lipstick, jewellery and nail polish.

"When I came here people knew me as a male and now they are getting to know another part of me. I'm no different, I'm still the same person."

Locals and visitors to the town's January 15 Whangamomona Republic Day can vote. The ballot box will be hard to miss: it is an old toilet prominently displayed.

Gay rights row over US golf club


A Georgia golf club that is resisting an order to grant spousal benefits to members in same-sex partnerships has sparked a battle over gay rights.

The Atlanta club's defiant stand has angered gay activists and prompted threats of criminal prosecution and fines from city officials.

Now a bill has been submitted to the local legislature which would repeal the city's anti-discrimination law.

Atlanta is home to the largest gay community in the American South.

Republican Representative Earl Ehrhart, who sponsored the proposed bill, says it would forbid the state or any local government from penalising private groups for engaging in what he describes as lawful expression.

"What these militant homosexuals are seeking is special rights, not equal rights," Mr Ehrhart wrote in a recent editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the city's largest newspaper.

Military Has Discharged 26 Gay Linguists


Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military - at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers - is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The military previously confirmed that seven translators who specialized in Arabic had been discharged between 1998 and 2003 because they were gay. The military did not break down the discharges by year, but said some, but not all, of the additional 13 discharges of Arabic speakers occurred in 2004.

Aaron Belkin, the center's director, said he wants the public to see the real costs of ``don't ask, don't tell.''

``We had a language problem after 9/11 and we still have a language problem,'' Belkin said Wednesday.

The military's ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.

``The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security,'' said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. ``It's rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could've done that job.''

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Iran's sex change operations

By Frances Harrison
The BBC's Tehran correspondent

In a country that has outlawed homosexuality, Frances Harrison meets one Iranian cleric who says the right to a sex change is a human right.

For 20 years Mahyar has been a woman trapped in a man's body

As a small child Mahyar liked dressing up in women's clothes and experimenting with make-up but as she grew older it got more difficult. "I badly needed to do it but it had to be in secret," she says.

Now she wants to have a sex-change operation - if she can muster the £2,000 it will cost in Iran. If her family doesn't help financially, she says she might sell one of her kidneys to pay for it.

"People say you'll get other illnesses but I think I can live without one kidney. I cannot live between the sky and the earth," says Mahyar.

Frances Harrison's film will be screened on Thursday, 6 January, 2005.
Newsnight is broadcast on BBC Two at 1030pm every weeknight in the UK.