Monica Roberts

Feeling Left Out

Filed By Monica Roberts | May 19, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: California marriage equality, Christie Lee Littleton, civil rights, gay marriage, GLBT, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, transgender

Don't get me wrong, I was just as happy as many of you when the California Supreme Court came down on the side of justice Thursday. You have every right to be happy, excited, proud, party hearty or whatever emotion you're feeling as the reality of this historic day and historic decision sinks in.

But the emotions I'm feeling are akin to someone who's not part of the cool kids' clique getting to watch from their bedroom window as a cool neighbor throws a slammin' party that the non-cool kid outsider can see and hear boisterously blaring next door.

My mood is tempered because I'm thinking about Christie Lee Littleton. She's a Latina transwoman who in 1999 had her 1989 marriage to Mark Littleton tragically invalidated thanks to a retroactive application of DOMA to it by insurance company attorneys. Her name and gender change was invalidated as well.

Why did it happen? To keep her from winning a share of a $2.5 million wrongful death malpractice lawsuit she filed as her late spouse's widow.

I'm bringing this up to remind my GLB bretheren that this landmark victory has come at the cost of the marriage rights for transgender people. Our religious right friends started attacking our legal marriages once they realized that we transgender people blow a Mack truck sized hole in their bogus 'marriage equals a man and a woman' argument they use as a baton to beat on marriage equality with.

The Law of Unintended Consequences effect of the push for marriage equality has been that some of the anti-marriage equality constitutional amendments that various states hurriedly passed during and after the 2004 election cycle contain prohibitions for transgender people to get married. It also has many transgender people who are in male-female marriages nervously wondering if their own marriages will be the next ones to be invalidated.

Many of us in the transgender community have noted that when it comes to marriage equality, some of you GLB peeps are not accepting 'incremental progress' when it comes to a civil rights issue you desire to have become a reality as expeditiously as possible, but you don't share our urgency to have the same thing happen for a transgender-inclusive ENDA.

In my time working for the passage of inclusive ENDA and hate crimes legislation, I've had the pleasure of meeting and observing many same gender couples. They have been together in loving, long term, stable relationships decades longer than some hetero couples I knew who were 'so in love' back in high school.

It's a travesty that those same gender couples don't have the equivalent access to the thousands of rights that married hetero couples have conferred upon them and take for granted. It's not fair to be penalized tax wise because you love and are spending the rest of your life (hopefully) with someone who just happens to share the same gender as you.

Don't get it twisted. Congratulations! I'm happy for the GLB community and I ain't mad at you. Thursday was a historic day for civil rights.

But I still feel left out of the celebration.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 19, 2008 11:15 AM

Monica, I thought the California ruling insisted that marriage was a "fundamental right" for all persons regardless of gender or transgender.

That is correct. However, I don't think that was Monica's direction of her posting. I'll let her point you in that direction.

"I'll let her point you in that direction."

Better yet, Monica of the Sea. Let me:

Why Same-Sex marriage Will NOT Solve Everything (

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 19, 2008 1:02 PM

OK, I clicked on "marriage rights" and read the first three pages from 2004, but are we not going forward? It's midnight here and I'm sleepy. I'll read about it in the morning and thank you for your posting!

Thank you, Monica, for articulating what I've been feeling. I am happy. California's ruling (if not defeated by referendum in November,) does bode well for a transwoman like me who has a court-ordered gender change. And I'm very happy for the gays and lesbians both in California and in other states who will finally have access to a right enjoyed by MOST other citizens in the US, the right to marry who you wish to marry.

But it is tempered by the removal of trans from ENDA, getting the 'half a loaf' that is nothing, and the arguments by that portion of the community that is of the mind presented eloquently by the likes of Barney Frank, Chris Crain, John Aravosis, and HRC as represented by Joe Solmonese that trans didn't do enough lobbying, are too weird, and thus don't yet 'deserve' protection from firing, being denied housing and accommodation because society can't handle transgressing gender boundaries.

I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to go on so long about this, and I know you've all heard it before. I intend to be an activist and an ally in the coming fight to keep the right for any adult to marry any other adult of their choosing in the state of California.


Hazumu Osaragi

I couldn't have said it better. Thanks.

It's why I wrote the piece. There are stealth transwomen out there who saw what happened to Christie Lee, were alarmed by the knee-jerk right-wing reaction to the Massachusetts ruling and saw those amendments quickly get passed by 75 percent margins in some cases.

The marriage equality issue made possible the one thing that the Black community had resisted prior to 2003. The unholy alliance of fundamentalist white ministers and megachurch black ministers opposing GLBT rights by harping on the marriage issue and getting Black megachurches to bamboozle their members into voting Republican on 'family values' issues in the 2004 election.

I believe Khadijam Farmer would agree with you as well.

eastsidekate | May 19, 2008 7:17 PM

I still don't understand.

Is the point that this ruling doesn't directly address many of the problems transsexual people face? If so, I agree, but don't see the point.

This ruling is a sign of progress. We absolutely need to keep fighting on all fronts, but this strikes me as kinda whiney. I understand that transsexual people are near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to civil rights, which is why things like the ENDA debacle piss me off. However, complaining about how a court ruling doesn't include you seems counterproductive.

If I'm missing something, please explain...


Let me give you a very concrete example of what Monica is talking about:

I have a friend of operative history, a woman, who recently married to her partner, a woman without operative history, in Canada.

After the Monroe case, her marriage in Canada was recognized in New York.
All well and good; two Lesbians in a same sex marriage performed in Canada, recognized in New York.

If she and her partner travel to Pennsylvania, which recognizes her as a woman, she and her partner become two single women because Pennsylvania does not recognize same sex marriage.
Not good, but logically following from Pennsylvania's "DOMA" act.

However, if she and her partner travel travel to Texas, they are recognized as married, but as a heterosexual couple. Texas does not recognize gender change and would regard her as a male married to a woman. Texas would requuire her to have an "M" on her identification papers.

Reversing this, a woman of operative history can marry a male in Pennsylvania or New York, both of which recognize gender change.

If she and her husband travel to Texas, they are no longer married because she has become a he as soon ss the Texas state line is reached.

This points to an interesting legal question, and I'm sure I'm not the first one to see it:

Once a state constitution says marriage is "between one man and one woman", how many states have an operative legal definition of what constitutes being a "man" and what constitutes being a "woman"? We could say, for instance, that a "man" has an (XY,46) karotype, and a "woman" has a (XX,46) karotype ... but that would leave hundreds or thousands that are neither one! Furthermore, many with an (XY,46) karotype also have AIS (androgen insensitivity symdrome) and look outwardly as if they are adult females --- are such individuals allowed to enter into marriages that most passersby would perceive as a "lesbian" marriage?

I expect these are the type of questions the article at the end of the above link discusses.

(I love screwing up other people's worldviews! ... but unfortunately, they often do extremely cruel things trying to hold on to them.)

eastsidekate | May 19, 2008 9:02 PM

I understand what you're saying. I'm a transsexual woman, and I'm aware of the fact that laws regarding both marriage and gender markers vary from state-to-state. However, as I understand it, in Massachusetts and now California, two people can get married regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth or what's on their birth certificates. Guaranteeing a right to same-sex marriage will not give transsexual people full civil rights, or solve most of our problems, but it will give us the right to marry the partner of our choice, which isn't exactly chump change.

I honestly don't understand the point of this thread. Personally, I'm very, very bitter about my place in society as a transsexual person. However, from my perspective, it seems like some people here are blowing off steam at the expense of community building. I know that lots of LGB folks (and I'm a lesbian myself) don't put trans issues on the front burner, but some really do care. Complaining about a major victory for LGB and T people sort of gives the impression that some of us will never, ever be happy, and simply enjoy snipping. IMO, it's just not useful.

P.S.: Maura's comment #10 appeared while I was composing my comment #11. Maura lays out the problems in regards to transexuals and sex reassignment surgery, while my post outlines similar problems when the naturally "inter-sexed" humans are considered.

Both ways of pointing out the problems with "one man and one woman" are equally valid. In each case, an entire area of reality is treated as if it does not exist.

You weren't quite accurate in the Texas part of what you talked about. The Christie Lee Littleton ruling only affects the county that San Antonio is in. A trans women and her non-trans partner tried to get a marriage license in Houston right after the ruling and they turned them down, saying it was only in that one county where they can have that done and not in the rest of Texas. However, I was told that all of Texas has suspended changing birth certificates. That may also be a county-by-county thing as well. Am I correct in this, Kat?

If she and her husband travel to Texas, they are no longer married because she has become a he as soon ss the Texas state line is reached.

Actually Maura, the marriage is still legal in Texas. But the minute she goes to Bexar County (San Antonio) and the 14 South Txeas counties covered by the Littleton decision, then she goes back to being a male. and her marriage is null and void.

I transitioned while living in Texas.

Texas can be a strange place when it come to transsexuals and judges. For example:

While still preop and living in Collin County, I petitioned to change my name and se. The judge deferred ruling on the petition, instead saying he would need to consider the issue. Three days later, his clerk called me and said that the judge would grant the name change but would not be able to change my legal gender...and cited the Littleton case. I was asked if I wanted to judge to rule or withdraw my Petition. I indicated I wanted to withdraw the Petition. I then filed a new Petition to change my name only, though the wording was in every way, identical to the original document. The next week, I was before the judge again. He noticed that the wording had not changed, only the petition title, i.e., from Petition to Change Name and Gender, to Petition to Change Name and questioned me on it. I said that all I was petitioning for was the name change; it was granted. After he signed the order, he covered the microphone and leaned forward. In a low voice, and quite descretely said that he really wished he could have granted my initial order for both name and gender change but just did not feel comfortable doing so until I had GRS. He was most sympathetic to my issue, and it was fairly obvious to me that he had spent a bit of time thinking about things.

A few weeks later, a transsexual acquaintance of mine, in Denton County, the adjacent County to Collin (both Countys are in essence extreme North Dallas) petitioned the court for both a name AND gender change using identical wording; her petition was granted.

In summary, in Texas, the judge is the deciding factor.

As a side note, Texas will change the gender marker on one's driver's license if the court order says that the petitioner is female. Hence my identical wording on my name change petition.

All of the above was while I was preop. Upon becoming postop, I had to go through a similar series of court orders again in Louisiana for my birth certificate change, though Louisiana's BC law is statutory and though it took roughly a year to get this done, there were no hang-ups.

As a trans woman and an attorney, I don't understand what Monica is upset about either. Instead of "this landmark victory [coming] at the cost of the marriage rights for transgender people," I see the California court's decision as a victory for trans, as well as LGB, people since it protects the marriages of Christie Lee Littleton and other trans women and men against any challenge because of the pre- or post-op status of either or both partners. Here is my take on the California decision, as posted in response to Sarah Whitman's recent post clarifying some of the issues surrounding that decision:

"at least in California courts, making marriage available to all, regardless of the sex or gender of the partners, removes any question regarding the continuing validity of marriages where one spouse transitions from one gender to the other after already being married, and the validity of new marriages involving at least one trans partner entered into after this decision."

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think so.

As a trans woman and an attorney, I don't understand what Monica is upset about either

The 'angry Black woman' stereotype rears its ugly head. Trust me, when I'm pissed about something, the whole blog will know about it.

I was simply giving voice to the people who I've talked to while they are happy for the GLBT community and this decision, aren't turning cartwheels in the street either. I'm and they are skeptical that this decision helps the transgender community.

I know more than a few stealth transwomen who have concerns after watching the Littleton situation and ponder how safe their own marriages are as the inevitable knee-jerk right wing reaction to this ruling comes down.

And Abby, you missed me pointing out the hypocrisy in the GLB community not (or isn't) accepting 'incremental progress' when it comes to marriage eguality issues, but will quickly tell transpeople that we must 'wait our turn' on our legislative priority, an inclusive ENDA.

"This points to an interesting legal question, and I'm sure I'm not the first one to see it"

A.J., my position has been that any jurisdiction that has statutorily recognized gender transition and then subsequently enacts an anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment has enshrined in its constitution a definition of man-woman marriage that enompasses post-transition marital rights for transsexuals.

I used Louisiana as an example in an article that was published in the Deakin Law Review a few years ago. A PDF of it can be found at:

Yes, Abby, I think you did miss something.

Post op women who are straight are not interested in getting married under a same-sex status, but as any other heterosexual couple would. A marriage under a same sex status is no different to us than a civil union is for the LGB as it further delegitimizes our status as being something less that simply female.

The gay marriage issue is far as it goes. But as many states have statutes, if not constitutional amendments, prohibiting same sex marriage...and as the LGBT has successfully, though unfortunately, succeeded in associating transsexuals (post op or otherwise) to their cause, further leading society to the totally erroneous conclusion that transsexuals are first and foremost gay rather than first and foremost female, many of us are afraid this association may jeapordize the rights we currently have in states that do allow us to marry as heterosexual females, but prohibit same sex couple from doing so.

Though some might argue that employment is the biggest concern straight post op women have, I would suggest the marriage issue as laid out in the above paragraph is the single biggest concern straight post op females general...and with the LGBT...specifically.

There are transsexuals who are also Men (FtM.) Please don't forget that this affects them as well.

Point taken, Monica...thanks.

Though not addressed, FtoM are certainly not forgotten.