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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Community: 2, Transgender Panic: 0

Araujo Defendants Sentenced, AB 1160 Advances.

January 27, 2006 – San Francisco, CA – Three defendants in the 2002 murder of Bay Area transgender teen, Gwen Araujo, were sentenced to prison one day after landmark legislation, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victim’s Act, passed through the California Assembly. Michael Magidson and Jose Merel were in the Hayward County Superior court to be sentenced on their second-degree murder convictions. Jason Cazares was being sentenced to six years in accordance with plea to voluntary manslaughter charges.

"This is a day we have long awaited," said Transgender Law Center Deputy Director, Cecilia Chung. "While seeing anyone sentenced to prison is no reason for celebration, today marked further proof that transgender panic strategies do not have traction with Bay Area juries. Despite their attempts to blame Gwen for her own murder, these men are being held accountable for their horrific choices."

In Sacramento, Assemblymember Sally Lieber's legislation, AB 1160, passed on a party-line vote on Thursday January 26th. The bill, sponsored by Equality California, is the first in the country to offer a response to defendant’s who attempt to use societal bias against their victims as a means of getting a "get out of jail free card." The bill clearly states that bias against victims should never be a factor in determining the culpability of the people who are accused of committing crimes against them.

"The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victim’s Act is a modest effort to ensure that the same societal bias that led to the death of Gwen isn’t used against people like her to lessen the guilt of murders," said Christopher Daley, TLC’s Director. "The wholly inadequate plea bargain reached in 2005 by the Fresno County District Attorney’s office in the murder of Joel Robles is clear evidence of the need for this kind of action."

The Transgender Law Center, founded in 2002, provides legal services to transgender people and their families throughout California and promotes common-sense public policy solutions to widespread gender identity discrimination.

Ragsdale: Pastor uses faith in gender change


A transgender pastor, who came to peace about his gender identity and his faith while in seminary, will speak about his experience next month at Simpson College.

Malcolm Himschoot is a United Church of Christ pastor. He also grew up as a girl even though he felt he should have been the "third brother" in his family.

His story about trying to reconcile his self-perception and how the world viewed him, his transition from "Miriam" to "Malcolm" and his struggle with faith, love and gender identity were featured in a documentary, "Call Me Malcolm," released in 2005.

"I was in my last year of seminary at Iliff School of Theology when I was invited to tell a story nobody would have assumed I would have just by looking at me," Himschoot said. "In my life, my gender journey was about discovering and living truth, living out of a place of compassion for myself and in relationship with others."

A Colorado native, Himschoot enrolled at Iliff in Denver as "Miriam" Himschoot. Originally, she hoped to study theology to better understand Christianity and the teachings of her home church even though those teachings seemed to indicate God hated her.

During Himschoot's struggle for identity, she became estranged from her parents, family, church and friends.

In college, however, Himschoot learned about transgender individuals and began investigating the condition and alternatives open to transgendered people. Shortly thereafter Himschoot began adopting a male identity.

Transgender is a broad term that refers to people who don't conform to traditional gender identity. It includes transsexuals who may transition from male to female or female to male by presenting themselves in their preferred gender or by undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. Those who change gender don't necessarily change their sexual orientation.

Christian community

Supported by the Iliff Christian community, Himschoot began presenting himself as a man, asking people to "call me Malcolm."

Joseph Parlagreco, who directed the documentary for Filmworks and the United Church of Christ, said the film is a snapshot of Himschoot's life.

"He didn't know he was going to be a minister. He didn't attend seminary with that objective. He had no job. He was where a lot of us are, trying to figure out who we are, where we fit in, who we should love and who will we marry. These are universal questions," Parlagreco said.

Himschoot, 28, is an outreach pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. He has a passion for urban ministry, addressing "poverty and how the faith community needs to pay attention to inner-city issues." He's proud of United Church of Christ's policies that welcomed him and gave him the opportunity to serve others.

"I've been privileged to claim my experience and be in ministry in a church that has been open and affirming for at least 20 years," Himschoot said.

His mission to promote understanding and his friendship with Jan Everhart, director of the Lilly Initiative for Vocational Exploration, brings him to preach and speak at Simpson College on Feb. 5.

Everhart and Himschoot met at Iliff, a United Methodist seminary.

"I knew Miriam, an excellent student who won the student of the year award studying for a masters of divinity," Everhart said. "Malcolm made his transition while he was a student there, something he did incredibly gracefully, with great integrity and faith."

According to statistics cited by FtM International, an education and advocacy group for female-to-male transgender, cases of transgender occur in approximately one in 50 people, at about the same frequency as birth defects such as cleft palate.

"Researcher Lynn Conway found that occurrence is stable across society, is found in all different cultures and it has been stable across time," said Rabbi Levi Alter, president of FtM International. "Some people are shocked at the frequency, but that's because you can't necessarily tell who is transgender just by looking at them. They don't go around wearing a sign."

Some are uncomfortable

Alter said he knows some people are uncomfortable with the transgender concept, but "this is a real-life issue."

"Some people prefer to have simple choices, black or white, right or wrong, my way or the highway," Alter said.

Himschoot agrees that most people think "God created things a certain way and if you change anything at all, you're going against God."

"That's just not the God I know or the God I worship," he said. "The stories Jesus told, the way he touched people's lives, I only see doors opened, not doors closed."

Everhart, a biblical scholar, believes that thinking about gender should be broader than the male-female construct.

"What I have learned over many years is that it is not that clear for some people," Everhart said. "God is creative. There are more than two ways to be."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Transsexual insurance
Chris Morgan

There are still members of the LGBT community that are discriminated against by the insurance industry. In his latest financial column Chris Morgan highlights the treatment received by one transsexual client.

Sophie is concerned about a life assurance application that she’s made recently to a life assurance company. She has applied to cover her mortgage for a sum of £42,500 over 12 years, which pays out in the event of her death or serious illness.

Sophie said:

‘The life assurance company are not treating me fairly, as they keep addressing any letters to Mister, even though my original application form was in the name of Ms Sophie. I changed my gender six years ago, and they are not recognising my new identity.’

Sophie has a right to feel aggrieved, as any person who has already undergone gender reassignment is entitled to apply for insurance in their acquired identity. This rule applies to all Life Assurance, Critical Illness, Income Protection, Pension and Investments applications.

The Association of British Insurers has issued guidance notes on this subject, which now acts as the industry standard. Where gender reassignment has already taken place prior to an application, the person should be treated in accordance with their new identity.

Sophie continued

‘My application has now been running for over 4 months, and the premium keeps going up. It appears that I’m being charged as a male, when the policy should be on rates charged to a female. What do you suggest I do?’

Here’s a summary of insurance industry rules that apply to Transsexuals

If you have already been through gender reassignment, then any financial application should be made and treated on your acquired gender. It is quite normal for any Life Assurance company to ask you for access to any medical records.

The premium that you pay should be on the basis of your new identity and any increased premiums on your policy should be for medical reasons only. Any correspondence from the insurance company should be addressed in line with your wishes.

Should your intention be to undergo gender reassignment, but you have not started the process then you should be treated under your current gender. If you already have existing insurance policies in place, then you are entitled to change these and be addressed as your new title.

And Sophie?

We arranged a Mortgage Protection policy for Ms Sophie, without any issues over identity and with premiums at normal rates. In our opinion, no matter what a persons gender, creed, colour, sexuality, health status you should be treated with respect.

Chris Morgan is Managing Director of Compass, Financial Advisers to the Gay Community and editor of Pink Finance the gay finance magazine

Friday, January 27, 2006

Life after Gwen
Sylvia Guerrero

I am not sure how I expected to feel at this point. When my daughter Gwen, a transgender teenager, was brutally murdered on Oct. 4, 2002, I was sure that I would never feel whole again. Looking back, I didn't yet know exactly what "transgender" meant or how to fully embrace my child's identity. But I knew one thing: I wanted justice for my child.

I thought that maybe I'd feel better on the day when the four suspects in her murder were brought to justice. More than three years and three months since Gwen's murder that day is finally here. On Friday, these men are being sentenced to prison terms for their actions, two of them convicted of second-degree murder and two taking plea bargains for voluntary manslaughter. I guess I hoped that once we got to the sentencing date, the pain would end and I could get back to my life. But it hasn't and I can't.

No amount of justice can return the part of me that these men took when they killed Gwen. The closure that people keep talking about hasn't come. It would be so much easier to write that it had. After all, that is what most people want to read: The system worked; my family is whole; the story is over. It would be comforting and allow us to get on with our lives. Of the many things I'm feeling, closure isn't one of them.

I'm angry. Angry that Gwen's brothers and her nieces and nephews won't get to grow up knowing her the way her aunts, uncles, older sister and I did. Angry that instead of celebrating her birthday, we get together each year to commemorate her death. Angry that, in both trials, the defendants tried to blame Gwen for her own murder. Angry that other young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender kids continue to face the discrimination she did in our public schools and our workforce.

I'm also grateful. Grateful that my family and our friends rose to the challenge and sat through two gruesome and explicit criminal trials to make sure that everyone knew that Gwen was loved for who she was. I'm grateful for the support we've all received from perfect strangers who have told us in-person and through e-mail that we are in their thoughts and prayers. I'm grateful for the remorse that two of the defendants and some of their family members have expressed to me and my family.

And I'm sad. Sad that I'll never get to see Gwen grow into the beautiful woman she would have become. Sad that four men chose to end my daughter's life, and throw away their own simply because they thought they were acting like "real men." And sad that other transgender women have been killed since Gwen's murder and that we don't have a realistic end in sight to that violence.

Within this mix of emotions, though, the one that I hold onto most dearly is hope. Since that tragic night, my own family has grown by two beautiful grandchildren. More and more parents are supporting their transgender children. California has become the country's most protective state for transgender people. And just this month, a new law has been proposed in Sacramento, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act, authored by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, and sponsored by Equality California, an LGBT civil-rights lobbying group, to protect people from being blamed for their own murder.

Maybe the reason I don't have closure around Gwen's death is that there is still work to do. If I've learned anything since Gwen's murder, it is that hope alone is not enough. Each of us who hopes to live in a state where our families are protected needs to work toward making California that place. For instance, boys and girls in schools throughout the Bay Area need to hear, firsthand, how important it is to be themselves and to respect each other's differences.

None of us can change the way the world was on Oct. 4, 2002. But each of us now has an important role to play in creating a state where we can celebrate more birthdays and commemorate fewer murders.

Sylvia Guerrero is the mother of Gwen Araujo and an activist for LGBT civil rights. She speaks at schools around the Bay Area through the Gwen Araujo Transgender Education Fund administered by the Horizons Foundation.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Transsexual drug dealer spared the cane

SINGAPORE -- A court has spared a Thai transsexual drug dealer from caning because Singaporean law does not allow women to be sentenced to that punishment, a newspaper reported Friday.

Thai prostitute Mongkon Pusuwan, who underwent a sex change from male to female a decade ago, was instead sentenced on Wednesday to six years in jail after a medical report concluded that she was a woman, The Straits Times reported.

District Judge Bala Reddy handed down the sentence after the long-haired Mongkon, 37, pleaded guilty to charges including trafficking in cocaine and tablets containing ketamine, the report said.

The amount of drugs in her possession was too small for her to qualify for Singapore's mandatory death penalty for some drug cases.

Mongkon, whose passport identified her as a male, was arrested in December.

Men who commit similar crimes can be sentenced to caning. Offenders are strapped to a wooden frame and lashed across the bare buttocks with a rattan rod.

The punishment drew international attention in 1994 when American teenager Michael Fay was caned for spray-painting cars, despite objections from then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The plastic activist

The Bay Area Reporter

Transgender activism is hard. One is often fighting a lonely, uphill battle against deeply ingrained societal norms, and oftentimes even our allies are shaky in their support.

That's why I was glad to hear about a new ally standing up for transgender people, a woman who built a $1.9 billion dollar-a-year empire. A most remarkable woman who has served in all branches of the armed forces, yet still has had the time for a successful career as a flight attendant, veterinarian, and ballerina.

Even after 50 years, she still has a killer body, though it's clear that there's a lot of plastic going on. Actually, that's all there is: injection molded plastic.

I'm speaking of Barbie Millicent Roberts. That is, Barbie, a 10-inch doll made by the Mattel toy company.

That she is such a fan of gender transgression might come as a surprise. All these years, I thought Barbie simply reinforced traditional stereotypes of women, and pushed a world that's all about dedication to your boyfriend and your dream home – which apparently should be painted in Pepto-Bismol pink.

When I was young, Barbie was still more something to hang miniature fashions off of, or pilot around the bedroom floor in a scaled down Corvette stingray. It was big news when she started to come out with attire and accessories that reflected the liberated, working woman.

Today, you can get Barbie in a plethora of professional outfits, not to mention ethnicities and abilities that go a little farther in showing a realistic portrayal of women in modern society. Granted, scaled up to life size, she's still 7-feet 2-inches – but at least she's a little closer to reality.

Into all this steps the Concerned Women of America, and the director of its Culture and Family Institute, Robert Knight. I'll avoid the usual comment about a man being the spokesperson for a women's organization, except to say that it probably just shows them to be a very old-fashioned group, having the man speak for the "little ladies."

CWA's main beef has been about a question on a poll present on the Barbie Web site. The problem the group has? This poll gave three options on gender: "Boy," "Girl," and "I Don't Know."

You can guess where it went from there. Shouts of how Mattel, through Barbie, was promoting the "homosexual activist agenda." Of course, days later, the poll response clanged to "I Don't Want To Say" – but Concerned Women of America is still not happy.

It's view, of course, is that this single, otherwise innocuous question promotes "gender confusion," and will lead young girls down the path of same-sex lovin.' It's a slippery slope argument that if a kid isn't sure of their sex, then it is that much easier to "trap" them into homosexuality.

CWA also contends that Barbie is materialistic. I can't argue with the group on that. Unfortunately, CWA places this view in opposition to Barbie "serving the Lord, getting married, having kids" and all that good stuff that Barbie used to do. All of those seem like difficult tasks for a doll to accomplish, however.

I have to admit: I didn't grow up with Barbie dolls, even though they often appeared on my holiday wish-list. The closest I got was a series of inferior "Wizard of Oz" dolls – yes, this probably should have told someone something about me – and the larger-than-Barbie Bionic Woman doll. Indeed, I didn't have my first Barbie until I was in my 30s, and it sits on a display stand collecting dust.

The dolls I had, however, were simply things I played with. They were toys with which I could pretend and imagine, playthings that could occupy my time in an enjoyable way. The Bionic Woman doll did not influence me to try bending steel bars, nor did the Glenda the Good Witch doll make me want to pilot around in a large pink soap bubble.

If I was still the kid I was then, and was faced with that poll, I don't know what answer I might have given. I doubt it would have been any more life changing that selecting my age within the same poll.

Of course, as I am a transgender woman – and had plenty of inkling of such from an early age – maybe I would have taken that third option. Yet if I had, this only proves something that already existed within me. It doesn't leave any room for saying that the poll contributed to my gender identity or expression. Heck, if I was surfing a Barbie Web site at that age, when the rest of the world considered me a boy, that would say far more about my gender than that one poll answer ever would.

My situation is, I suspect, one of few. For most kids, the issue of their gender isn't that big an issue. It is, at best, something taken for granted and, more than this, something that isn't that big a deal. Certainly not as big as the CWA wants us to believe.

The same is true of the doll itself. If anything, the doll may perpetuate issues with appearance and body image in women, but it isn't turning people away from their morality or values. To blame a piece of injection molded plastic for turning people away from church or family is the very definition of a scapegoat.

Perhaps this is the thing the Concerned Women of America doesn't understand. Sometimes, a doll is just a doll, and sometimes a kid is just a kid. Fretting over their gender when all they are doing is playing with their favorite plaything is just so much wasted energy.

Gwen Smith always lusted after the "Barbie Friend Ship" when she was a kid. She's online at

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

USA - Sex Change Doctor Dead At 82

TRINIDAD, Colorado, Jan. 18, 2006

(AP) Dr. Stanley Biber, a small-town physician who said he performed more than 4,500 sex change operations in his career, has died, a friend and funeral home owner said. He was 82.

Biber died in Pueblo, where he had been hospitalized for complications from pneumonia. The cause of death was not announced Tuesday.

"We've lost a tremendous friend in our community," said Mary Winter, owner of the Cormi Funeral Home in Trinidad, a town of 9,300 near the Colorado-New Mexico border.

Winter said Monday that Biber was her family's doctor for generations. "He was just a great man," she said. She said no public services had been scheduled.

Biber, an Iowa native, moved to Trinidad in 1954 after serving as an Army surgeon in South Korea. As the town's only general surgeon, he delivered babies, removed appendixes and performed other more routine operations.

He told The Associated Press in a 2000 interview that he performed his first sex-change operation in 1969. A social worker he had met through a welfare case asked for the surgery, and he agreed after talking to a New York physician who had done some sex reassignment operations, and getting sketches from Johns Hopkins University.

Word spread, and at one point he was performing 150 transsexual operations a year, he said.

He stopped doing surgery in 2003 and closed his practice in 2004, at age 81, saying insurers refused to renew his malpractice coverage. He said the companies gave no reason but he suspected it was because of his age.

Biber was a former Las Animas County commissioner and also had a small ranch east of Trinidad.

Residents of Trinidad have said the town was largely accepting of Biber's sex change practice. Former Trinidad Mayor Harry Sayre said in 2004 that Biber was a pillar of the community.

"I consider him probably one of the outstanding leaders in Trinidad of the last century," Sayre said. "He and I had our battles many years ago, but I consider him a real true friend."

Biber's protege, Dr. Marci Bowers, underwent a sex-change operation several years ago and now performs an average of five such operations a week in Trinidad.

"I think he put the operation on the world map," Bowers said. "He made it safe, reproducible and functional and he brought happiness to an awful lot of people. And when you wanted a voice of reason, he was always there."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Nepal police step up attacks on transgender people

Police officials in Nepal have unleashed a string of attacks on transgender people, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

“Police in Kathmandu are violently attacking and even sexually abusing transgender people to clear the streets of people they deem immoral,” Scott Long, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Nepali human rights groups are calling this crackdown ‘sexual cleansing.’ This amoral campaign has to stop.”

In the latest reported incident, on January 3 at about 10 p.m., three metis were walking in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. A local slang term for transgender people, a meti is a man by birth who identifies as a woman. Four uniformed police from Durbar Marg police station reportedly saw them and shouted, “Metis! Kill them!”

One meti was beaten with a baton on her back; one policeman pulled his gun and pointed it at her, saying, "These hijras pollute the society and must be cleaned out. ” (Hijra is a common term for a transgender person.) The two other metis were also beaten severely. All three reportedly have bruises on various parts of their bodies.

The Blue Diamond Society, a Nepalese nongovernmental organization defending sexual rights and sexual health, has documented numerous such incidents. On December 31 at about 11 p.m., also in Kathmandu’s Thamel district, a meti was detained by police at Shore Khutte police station. One policeman beat her with a bamboo baton, calling her derogatory names. She escaped, but her right hand is reportedly swollen and badly bruised.

On December 28 at about 1:30 a.m., a meti named Sahiba was arrested in the Thamel district. She was taken to the Shore Khutte police station. There police verbally abused her and commanded her to strip. When she refused, they stripped her forcibly of her clothes and checked her genitals while mocking her. They threatened to cut off her hair as punishment for wearing women’s clothes. She was released the next day.

In yet another incident, early on the morning of December 7, police from the Shore Khutte station raided a hotel in the Thamel district. The raid was reportedly in retaliation against the hotel for refusing to provide a room free of charge for four policemen to have sexual relations with two metis. During the raid 11 metis were arrested. Eight were held without charge for five days, then released; the other three were held for an additional day.

“The police are using brutal harassment and detention without charge to clear transgender people off the streets,” Long said. “These attacks reflect a law enforcement system that is unchecked and operating outside the law.” (

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nepal transsexual 'abuse' concern


A leading human rights group has written to Nepal's government voicing concern over what it calls continuing police abuse of transsexuals.

Human Rights Watch says there has been a pattern of arbitrary arrests and violence against "Metis", who identify themselves as women.

The organisation has called for a full investigations of such abuse and appropriate punishments.

Police in Nepal say they are taking the allegations very seriously.

However, the head of a human rights cell in the police said many of the Metis were working as prostitutes and that as this was illegal in Nepal, raids on hotels were "permissible".

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says Metis are a common sight in the city's streets late at night.

Job skills

Human Rights Watch said that in the past few weeks, Metis had been detained without warrants, badly beaten, burned with cigarettes, forced to strip and even had guns pointed at them.

Similar allegations - sometimes with photographic evidence - are regularly made by the Blue Diamond Society, a charity working among Nepal's transsexuals.

The officer said the police were in dialogue with Blue Diamond on how to train the Metis in other job skills.

Blue Diamond is the subject of a lawsuit by a conservative lawyer who wants it closed down.

However, the government has said there are no legal grounds for doing so.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

'I want to be a woman'


10 January 2006 08:02

A senior director of a Norfolk hospital has revealed to the world that he wants to become a woman, saying he has found his true identity at last.

Colin Bone, medical director and senior consultant in gynaecology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, will take three months' leave later this year to begin “gender reassignment”.

He will return to work at the hospital in the autumn, from when he will be known as Miss Celia Macleod, taking his mother's maiden name.

Last night Mr Bone, 60, said: “It's been a long, slow and hard struggle - like it has for most people. The hardest thing of all is coming out to yourself.

“The support I have had from this organisation fills me with pride and humility. I feel a great deal of admiration for the efforts people have made, it makes me feel really humble.”

Mr Bone has been married to Gloria for 35 years. The couple, who have a 27-year-old son called Alan, intend to remain together in their home at Flitcham, near King's Lynn.

“We have every intention of staying together, she's a truly remarkable woman to whom I owe a lot,” said Mr Bone.

“As I've been on a journey to come out and be myself, she's not been far behind me.

“The most difficult thing was actually recognising who and what I should be. Part of the pressure is internal pressure, pressure not to offend.

“My son has been terrific. He has given support not only to me but to his mother as well.”

Mr Bone is a transsexual, who suffers from a condition called gender dysphoria, which is believed to be caused by the mother's hormones being disturbed during the early weeks of pregnancy.

While sufferers have the physical body of a man, they feel they should really have been born a woman.

“I've been aware of gender issues since before I was 10 years old, so this has been living with me for half a century,” said Mr Bone.

“I had some very strange times in puberty and adolescence, but this was not long after the Second World War and social standards and mores being what they were, one did one's best to conform.”

Mr Bone, who has been medical director at the QEH since 2002, believes thousands of people could be affected by dysphoria.

“There seem to be more people coming out of the woodwork, my hunch is we will find the frequency of this is one person in 4000, that's a lot of people and a lot of heartache,” he said.

He said anyone who needed advice could seek information online from organisations like The Gender Trust.

Mr Bone will begin gender reassignment therapy in early June. This includes hair removal, hormone therapy and speech coaching.

If these are successful, he will have a full sex change operation a year later.

He is paying to have the £50,000 course of treatment done privately at a London specialists.

In a statement, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust said: “The transition is being made with the full knowledge of the hospital trust board and chief executive, with whom Colin has been open and frank about his intentions.

“The board and professional colleagues, along with his wife and family, will continue to give Colin/Celia support as necessary during what is certain to be a challenging time in both his professional and personal life.

“The Trust has written to all his current patients this week with a personal explanation.”

Hospital chief executive Ruth May said: “Colin has been open and honest with us as to his intentions for the future.

“He has an outstanding professional record of achievement in the medical field and the change to his lifestyle in no way diminishes his professional competence or his ability to fulfil his role as medical director.

“However, this issue may well raise further questions for patients. A dedicated helpline will be set up today on 01553 613463 and we will do our utmost to answer any questions from the public in a straightforward way.”

Mrs May has written to every member of staff at the hospital, informing them of the reasons behind Mr Bone's gender change.

“He has increasingly recognised over recent years that he has been trying to deny gender dysphoria,” she said.

“He has now reached a point in his life where he needs to accept his real identity.

“You can imagine that the coming months are both scary and exciting for Colin, representing a big step on an extraordinary journey of self-realisation.”

Waddell's TG clinic celebrates 10 years


To understand the historical significance of the Tom Waddell Health Center's Transgender Clinic, one must travel back in time about 14 years, when many more people believed that gender reassignment therapy was a questionable practice, and yet a dedicated group of professional providers decided to ask the city of San Francisco to begin funding and providing these services to those in need.

Recognizing that the transgender population would seek hormones on its own – and without medical supervision, would often do so unsafely – the staff on Waddell's HIV team began discussing the possibility of providing a medically sound alternative for hormonal therapies, combined with primary medical and psychosocial care targeted toward lower-income people in the Tenderloin, lower Nob Hill, and South of Market districts.

"A couple of us looked around and said there's this whole population that is at risk and that isn't coming to us for medical care, and yet there's something that they want – hormones – that we could be providing if it was safe to do so," recalled Mark Freeman, a nurse practitioner at the clinic. "It was before the term harm reduction had become popular but that was essentially what we were arguing, that with this specialized service they would come to us for what they want, and they would stay for complete healthcare, which would include paying attention to their sexual risk factors, drug risk factors, as well as their athlete's foot or colds or chronic illnesses. The idea was that if people get into primary care and have their own medical provider they are more likely to take their health seriously and believe they can do something about it."

The primary objection to getting such a clinic off the ground, said Freeman, was that "nobody else does this in public health." It took three years of making a case to San Francisco's Department of Public Health for the clinic to get the go-ahead, a move "that was a big step for DPH, and they should be given credit for that," said Freeman. "There were certainly no respectable clinics that provided these services free or low-cost."

It then was up to the staff to conduct research on the effects of hormones despite a lack of long-term studies, and to develop a protocol for how to administer them and monitor the people taking them.

"We were able to assure ourselves that whatever risks were there, they did not seem to be overwhelming," said Freeman. "And if people were able to take those risks, and identified themselves as a transgender person, and they were willing to engage in primary care, then we wanted to be there for them."

Ten years ago, Tom Waddell's transgender clinic became the country's first specialized city-funded clinic of its kind. To celebrate this milestone, an invitation-only party will be held at the Center for Sex and Culture, Tuesday, August 2, from 6 to 10 p.m. Expected guests include Mayor Gavin Newsom, members of the Board of Supervisors and Human Rights Commission, and representatives from area nonprofits and social service agencies. Lipstick Conspiracy, Andy Toon, Veronica Klaus, Nicki Harris, and Ben Keim will provide entertainment. Most of all, the party is to honor the transgender clinic's past and present clients, who have an open invitation to the event.

"The party is really to celebrate our patients," said Mary Monihan, RN. "These people have gone through a lot of difficulties in their lives to live as the person they know they are, and we certainly want to thank them. Everything we learned, we learned through them."

Waddell's transgender clinic operates on an informed consent model with a protocol for administering hormones that includes blood work, a physical exam, and meetings with mental health counselors to assess risk factors and allow the patients "to really explore how transition is going to affect their relationships, their work, the people in their community," said Monihan.

The clinic has about 600 active patients and has seen between 1,500 and 1,800 people throughout its first decade, she said. The majority of the patients are male-to-female, although a growing number of female-to-male clients have been using the clinic in recent years. For the most part, Waddell patients are not represented in high-visibility transgender events such as the Tranny March, said Freeman, but rather, are dealing with daily risks that come with unemployment, homelessness, and other hardships.

"What we're most concerned about are issues like getting the word out for people not to go to 'pumping parties,'" he said, referencing the recent death of a San Diego woman who received illegal silicone injections along with nine other transgender women at a private house party last month.

Pumping parties usually involve out-of-towners without medical licenses who arrange to deliver silicone injections to MTFs who wish to feminize their appearance.

"We have seen so many disasters from these kinds of procedures – silicone in the cheeks that came out through the mouth, buttocks that became infected and then fell into the leg and caused inflammation. These are not implants, it's a direct injection of some substance, which could be kitchen oil or car wax," said Freeman, adding that a Waddell patient lost her life after a pumping party several years ago, and that the clinic sees about one person a month who is dealing with infections, discolorations, inflammations, or migrations from such procedures.

But the Waddell staff members have also witnessed many positive events experienced by their patients. They have, for instance, been privy to the relationships transgender people sometimes form, which have led to the advent of pregnant gay men.

"Two of our patients, both with full beards, were the parents in the delivery room when one of them was giving birth," said Freeman, noting that the clinic had not seen fertility issues in transgender men who stop taking testosterone. "I would have loved to have seen the faces of the nurses in that situation. But good; get used to it."

Additionally, said Freeman, getting transgender people involved in their own healthcare and making them aware of the risks associated with hormones means that more transgender people are becoming healthier.

"I can't tell you how many of our MTF patients have quit smoking because cigarettes affect estrogen levels," said Freeman, who estimates that 80 percent have kicked the habit. "I can't tell you how many FTM patients have lost weight or got their diabetes under control or have done whatever was necessary so that they weren't adding another risk factor with testosterone, but removing a risk factor to do what they needed to do without hurting themselves."

It is also the transgender population at Tom Waddell, said Monihan, that has been the most vocal and articulate whenever the health center has faced budget cuts, and transgenders have repeatedly made the case to city policy makers for funding the center as a whole. When Monihan accepted an award on behalf of the transgender clinic from the transgender community last month, she told audience members that the entire health center owed a great deal to them.

"They have been the most outspoken of all our patients," said Monihan. "We owe the transgender community a lot for keeping our clinic as viable as it is."

For more information about the Tom Waddell transgender clinic, visit If you are a past or present patient of the transgender clinic and wish to attend Tuesday's party, call (415) 307-6290 or (415) 355-7588 to get on the list or to receive an invitation.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sex-swap vicar fights to stay wed

Lucy Ballinger, Wales on Sunday

SEX-SWAP vicar Dian Parry is launching a landmark court case against the Government.

The 66-year-old transsexual - who was formerly a bearded blacksmith called Bill from Croeserw in Port Talbot's Upper Afan Valley - is just a step away from being legally recognised as a woman.

But she won't take the final leap because under British law, it would mean annulling her 45-year-long marriage to wife Anita.

The grandparents - who still live together as a married couple - would then have to take new vows in a civil partnership ceremony, which were introduced just before Christmas.

This year they will aim to take the Government to the European Court of Human Rights in protest against the law, as they believe the Reverend's official change from man to woman should make no difference to their marriage.

On their website, The Christian Transgender Page, Anita said: "Things are now better. Dian has become even more considerate, tender, and placed. At the same time she has retained her self advocacy.

"While the physical side of our relationship has waned away and our relationship taken a new and different course; we have become like sisters."

Although the Parries are unable to directly comment on the case themselves, Emma Martin, from the pressure group Sanctity, which is pushing for change on the issue, spoke on their behalf.

"Before someone can get a full gender-recognition order they must annul their marriage," said Mrs Martin. "But this is like a physical break for people who have been married for years.

"Even if they did become civil partners it is not the same as being a married couple. We want there to be some kind of continuation of the marriage.

"Because of this the Parries are one of two couples taking the Government to the European Court of Human Rights, saying forcing people to annul a marriage in these circumstances is against the European Convention of Human Rights."

The Parries will argue the Government's failure to recognise their marriage breaches their right for respect for privacy and family life, the right to marry and prohibition of discrimination.

"Most marriages in which one of the couple undergoes gender- transference from male to female or female is a hell of a strain on the other partner," said Mrs Martin. "About 95 per cent of couples break up, there are very few who stay together.

"If they do, the marriage becomes more about being soulmates. But to have a full gender-recognition certificate or new birth certificate these couples must annul their marriages.

"This is not fair on the non-transsexual partner, as all they have done is support someone they love through an incredibly difficult time in their lives. For them the trauma is even worse than for the transsexual person."

The Government has stopped short of making same-sex marriages legal but recognising a marriage which took place before someone changed sex would effectively allow this.

Jo Sawyer, from equality organisation Liberty, said: "Although transsexuals can get interim recognition certificates, they would have to annul the marriage to get full recognition in everything.

"I think there are arguments about the right to stay married, particularly in marriages like this one, of long standing. There are very few other circumstances where the Government would say a family unit would have to break-up, so there are arguable grounds."

Roger Smith, director of human rights organisation Justice, said the legal challenge could take years.

"As you can't have a woman married to a woman, this is a backdoor challenge to civil partnerships," he explained.

"To take this case to the European Court of Human rights, they would have to go to the High Court and challenge the decision they should annul their marriage.

"Then they would have to take it as far as they can in the British courts, exhausting all avenues up to the House of Lords before getting a referral to the European Court of Human Rights.

"It will take several years and be rather expensive, but doing it would bring up the issues for public discussion.

"I don't think they have a brilliant chance of winning, but like in the Diane Pretty euthanasia case, it will have a impact by raising the issue."