Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

This was a memorable Memorial Day in my kitchen. We had visits from relatives whom we hadn't seen in years and a very nice picnic to which I contributed my version of German potato salad. The significant days continue today, with the coincidence of my firstborn son's birthday and the Prop. 8 decision from the California Supreme Court as well as the announcement of Judge Sonia Sotomayer as President Obama's US Supreme Court Justice selection. Wowser!

Sunday afternoon saw both me and my spouse rather worn out and looking for a nice nap. It was interrupted, however, by the appearance of spouse's nephews whom I hadn't seen since I came out to her family. I've mentioned here before how spouse's family still mostly refuses to accept, with some notable exceptions, the changes we've traversed. To see the young people of her family show up unannounced was nothing short of a joyous bombshell. They were kind, friendly and, apparently, at ease with seeing me in my new role. New name and pronouns were scrupulously used. Their visit reinforced the observation that the younger generation is a lot more tolerant of people's life choices and needs. It gives me hope that the future will see more and more acceptance of TLGB people in our culture. Both spouse and I were floating after they left.

We went to a local park for a picnic with the other small part of spouse's family the next day. We were asked to bring a dish to pass and we put together our favorite dish for these occasions, German potato salad, on the evening before. It's a pretty easy recipe and is popular with almost everyone. I peeled and sliced into quarters (lengthwise) about 2½ to 3 pounds of golden potatoes. Regular white potatoes work well for this dish too. Russets are too soft and red potatoes are too dense but they would work in a pinch. While boiling the potatoes, I cooked up 5 slices of bacon (if it doesn't have pig fat it isn't German!) and carefully reserved 2 tablespoons of the drippings. Then I cut up about ½ to 3/4 cup of sweet onion. I think we had a Vidalia in the house.

Once the potatoes were done, I drained and let them cool before slicing them about 3/16 to 1/4" (5 to 7 mm) thick. The bacon was crumbled into small pieces and thrown along with the onion, into the bowl with the potatoes. Then I made the dressing, 1 cup of beef broth, 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings and about 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar (more or less to taste). A pinch of salt was then thrown in to taste (depends on how much salt the bacon has).

I warmed up the dressing in the microwave to just warmer than room temperature, whisked it to distribute the fat with the broth and poured 1/2 of it onto the potato salad. I folded the potatoes, bacon and onions with the dressing, covered the bowl and placed it with the rest of the dressing into the fridge for an overnight stay. The next morning I took then out, let them come to room temperature, rewarmed the remaining dressing and folded that in. The potato salad is best served at room temp or slightly warmer making it a good choice for a picnic.

Today, 31 years ago, I became a brand new parent when my son was born. He lives far away, in Portland, OR and I haven't seen him in person for a few years. We keep in touch via Facebook and he is apparently doing well. I wish him a happy birthday and happy everdays too!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Today is the New York Statewide GENDA Call-in Day!

Please take a few minutes from your day to call New York Sen. Thomas Duane, the sponsor of GENDA in the Senate, along with your own senator, and ask them to please support equal protections by moving GENDA out of committee, onto the Senate floor and passing it into law. Talking points may be found at the site linked above, if you want them.

Senator Thomas Duane can be reached at 518.455.2451
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith can be reached at 518.455.2701

The committee members that will have to vote for GENDA to get it onto the Senate floor:

Senator Craig Johnson can be reached at 518.455.2622
Senator Ruben Diaz can be reached at 518.455.2511 (Yes, that Ruben diaz)
Senator Pedro Espada Jr. can be reached at 518.455.3395
Senator Martin J. Golden can be reached at 518.455.2730
Senator Jeffrey D. Klein can be reached at 518..455.3595
Senator Michael F. Nozzolio can be reached at 518.455.2366
Senator William T. Stachowski can be reached at 518.455.2426
Senator George Winner can be reached at 518.455.2091

Please make at least one phone call to Sen Duane and your state senator. It's only a few minutes and can make the difference between getting equal protection or remaining powerless in the face of blatant discrimination in much of New York State. This year is our best chance to get this bill passed but it won't move unless we remind the Senate that marriage equality isn't the only vital issue for the GLBT community.

Thank you so much!

hugs & smiles

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NYS Assembly passes marriage equality bill!

I see that the New York State Assembly passed AB 7732, the civil marriage equality bill. I'm very pleased that they did so. I am a staunch supporter of civil marriage equality, something many of my previous blog posts have illustrated. Those who discuss this matter in my local newspaper's online Letters to the Editor section probably guessed that too. I'm sure the community will fight hard now for its passage through the state senate.

I still haven't heard any details regarding the Empire State Pride Agenda's (ESPA) call in day for GENDA (Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act). I guess they've been busy with other things. An article in the NY Post (don't ask) says that "Democrats in the Senate are working furiously to get enough votes to turn the proposal into law." This comes as no surprise. As I previously noted, it sure looks as if the GLB committment to GENDA sure flew out of the window in a hurry when Governor Patterson made his marriage bill announcement last April 16th.

So, with the same amount of hope as the fellow that began bailing the Titanic with a teacup, I sent a note today, to Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith and to the senate sponsor of the marriage bill, Thomas K. Duane, asking them to remember GENDA and pass it first.

Dear Senators Smith & Duane,

I've just finished reading about your vigorous efforts to push marriage equality legislation through the New York State Senate. I'd like to thank both of you for your efforts in this very important issue. I would also like to take this opportunity to ask you not to forget the thousands of unprotected transsexual and other gender variant people that are watching in dismay how their main legislative interest seems to have been pushed aside.

I had hoped that when Governor Patterson announced his introduction of marriage equality legislation, that GENDA would not be forgotten. Unfortunately, in the public sphere and in the news it seems it has been. I'm not a politician and there may well be other factors involved, but I would think a vote for GENDA would be easy to do right now with all the noise and attention being paid to marriage equality but once again, those of us who do not fit gender stereotypes are poised above the wheels of the bus, so to speak, waiting to be dropped. Please do your best to correct the state's omission when they passed SONDA, seven long years ago, without the inclusion of gender identity and expression.

While I consider civil marriage equality to be very important, I believe that GENDA is vital. The ability to marry a same sex sweetheart is pretty worthless if you can't get a job no matter what your qualifications are or if your landlord has thrown you out of your home because he doesn't "rent to your kind." Being married to a person of the same sex doesn't help when a bouncer throws you out of a bathroom or your family out of a restaurant because some paranoid and ignorant customer made a complaint about your appearance.

I think this bill is vital and will not cause the harm its opponents predict it will (with no evidence). I am asking you as a lifelong, law abiding, citizen of New York State, please join your colleagues in the Assembly, work to pass S02406 out of committee and ensure its full passage in the New York State Senate.

Thank you,

I hope those who read this will send these two senators similar emails or faxes. Please be sure to let them know there are real people being affected by the apparent shift of priorities away from nondiscrimination and towards marriage equality.

Thei email addresses:
masmith@senate.state.ny.us, duane@senate.state.ny.us

I make jokes about hopelessness but I really think it is imperative that these politicians are reminded that GENDA is about survival, it's about having and keeping a paycheck when someone transitions. It's about keeping a roof over your head when you come out to your landlord. It's about being treated with respect and dignity in the public spaces we all have to enter sooner or later. Let's make sure that even if they fail us on GENDA, that we can hold our heads high and say, "It may not have been much, but I did my best!"

Friday, May 8, 2009

E and J Day, NY and GENDA

I think I need to get a laptop computer when I'm in funds again. My desktop compy is in the Library/Office of my house and it takes me out of my kitchen.

I read a blog today, The Curvature that talked about one woman's experience at this year's Equality and Justice Day, in Albany, New York, on April 28th. It echoed a great deal of my experience and also my conclusions. It seemed very clear that, once again, trans people and their issues were pushed behind marriage equality.

When Governor Patterson made the announcement, a few weeks before E&J Day, that he would be introducing a marriage equality bill I was filled with dismay. I thought this would be the year for GENDA, the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act. It was widely known and pretty much accepted that marriage equality legislation had no chance in the state senate. I felt that, finally, the GLB community would have nothing to distract them from their promise of 2002 (when sexual orientation was added to NY nondiscrimination law), that they would, "come back" for gender variant people. The governor's announcement changed all that.

I then realized that this may just be a brilliant political ploy! With all of the right wing opposition to civil marriage equality being highlighted, with all the noise about "protecting marriage," there would be perfect political cover for those who wish to vote for protection while not wishing their center/right constituents to notice. The heat and smoke of a civil marriage debate is perfect for minimizing the political cost, if there ever really was one, of voting yes on GENDA.

I determined that the tone of E&J Day would provide a clue as to how much the GLB community would come to the same conclusion. I figured that the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) would loudly and publicly fan the flames for marriage equality while telling the meeting facilitators to concentrate on GENDA and the Dignity for All Students Act, a bill to protect youth, TLGB youth included, from bullying in schools. Too bad that's not what I perceived. The meeting facilitator for my district was a trans woman from Rochester, New York and we were able to get all three issues on the table. I felt lucky in this because there was no real instructions from the leadership to present GENDA first. As a matter of fact, on one sheet of the handouts, one titled, "What we are seeking from our elected officials," the first issue listed was marriage equality.

Well, I guess I should have expected it, and I guess I did, to a point. So now GENDA finds itself stuck in a senate committee waiting for a vote to get it to the full senate. ESPA is publicizing a call in day, date as yet undetermined, to try to get it moving. I don't expect a lot of GLB support in this, however, so I decided to send a letter, on my own, to the Investigations & Government Operations committee of the New York State Senate:

Dear Senators,

I am writing today to urge you and your colleagues in the Investigations and Government Operations committee to approve of and vote for bill #S02406, commonly known as the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA), in order to pass it on to the full Senate. I believe the need for this bill is critical and that it's passage is long overdue.

While the current furor over same sex civil marriage rights is raging at full force I believe that this bill is more important by way of its impact on people's lives. Those people, like myself, who do not express their gender in stereotypical ways are still vulnerable to harmful discrimination that leads to the loss of jobs and housing along with denial of public services without the benefit of legal recourse. It matters not what sexual orientation a person has, gender identity and expression are separate issues based on identity, not sexual attraction. The Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (SONDA 2002) does not include gender expression and identity and does not protect us from the kind of harm that New York nondiscrimination law was written to prevent.

Some opponents of this bill have incorrectly concentrated upon the public accommodations portion and specifically on bathrooms, changing and locker rooms. The argument is that a gender identity and expression law would expose women to, or somehow protect, male predators when they enter ladies bathrooms and commit crimes. Examples are not given because they do not exist. The argument is made with no proof or example from the 13 states and almost 100 other counties, cities and towns that already have passed similar laws, the first in 1976! Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and New York City are among those places that have similar laws with no reported problems. The fact is that nondiscrimination law that includes gender expression and identity has never caused the kinds of problems its detractors in New York and elsewhere say it will.

While I consider civil marriage equality to be very important, I believe that GENDA is vital. The ability to marry a same sex sweetheart is pretty worthless if you can't get a job no matter what your qualifications are or if your landlord has thrown you out of your home because he doesn't "rent to your kind." Being married to a person of the same sex doesn't help when a bouncer throws you out of a bathroom or restaurant because some paranoid and ignorant customer made a complaint about your appearance rather than behavior.

In conclusion, I think this bill is vital and will not cause the harm its opponents predict with no evidence. I am asking you as a lifelong, law abiding, citizen of New York State, please join your colleagues in the Assembly, pass S02406 out of your committee and ensure its full passage in the New York State Senate.

I would like to urge everyone who reads this to either copy/paste or write your own letter and send it to the members of the committee. Trans people and their allies cannot rely on anyone else to take their bull by the horns. It's our job. Here are the email addresses:

johnson@senate.state.ny.us, diaz@senate.state.ny.us, espada@senate.state.ny.us, golden@senate.state.ny.us, klein@senate.state.ny.us, nozzolio@senate.state.ny.us, stachows@senate.state.ny.us, winner@senate.state.ny.us

I will participate in the ESPA call in day when it's announced. I urge everyone else to also. I want to remember not to rely on organizations whose main focus is the gay and lesbian community, however. Let's help them help us but let's not think we can do nothing else for our own good.