Antonia D'orsay

O just might like the T more...

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | January 27, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: air marshals, Amanda Simpson, Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security, Diane Schroer, Don't Ask Don't Tell, feminism, Janet Napolitano, Lily Ledbetter, NCTE, President, State Department, Trans, transgender, transphobia, transsexual, TSA, TYFA, Veronica Doe, women

Is President Obama more willing to treat trans people better than GLB people?

The question is fairly simple and doesn't have much deeper subtextual value, but the things it makes one look at in order to answer it effectively are what matters here.

One commenter when I posed the questions asked if it matters that he may be more "friendly" towards trans folks that GLB folks.

Yes, it does matter. Moreover, if its true, and there's a pending situation that can test this to at least some extent, it changes a dynamic that exists where the voices of trans people are not heard in the LGBT community with the same clarity and force as some G/L people.

Let's look at what we've got so far.

Relatively early on in office, the President signed a rather important piece of legislation regarding equal pay for women. In a move that wasn't quite unprecendented but certainly strikingly different from historical trends, the President made it a point to bring in a Trans woman to send a signal that he felt that this law should apply to them. Such a signal is fairly strong -- this sort of stuff has been used in cases in the past to show intent of the law (not merely at the federal level). It's a weak point, granted, but still that was the goal and the effort involved.

Come the White House Easter Egg Roll, the President (or, more likely, his wife) had his office seek out a wide variety of kids. Indeed, they specifically contacted a few organizations that were trans to track down trans kids and make sure they had an opporutnity to be there. This was another big deal, as although they had gay parents, that had happened before. To no one's knoweldge has any White House ever gone to the trouble of tracking down trans kids in order to say "We want you, as yourself."

The President also issued a relatively early change in policy of his Administration, and included Gender Identity in the list of things that could not be considered for the purposes of a job. This was highighted again, recently.

The president instructed his staff not to appeal the decision in the case of Diane Schroer. It would have been nice if he'd said just drop it, but it had been started prior to his administration and was out of his hands.

Now, these are all fairly simple, basic things, and there could be another perfectly reasonable sounding explanation for it all.

They may not, in fact, be indicative of a general greater willingness to aid trans folk. Now, trans folk are not believed to be a large political block. Worse, trans folk are generally believed to be a hindrance -- something that takes away from whatever they are attached to (even inside the Trans community, which really annoys me).

So there's not much to gain for the President by going out of his way to make sure that trans folks are included in events which are generally pretty boring and not all that exciting otherwise. Indeed, most of this stuff wasn't even really covered in the mainstream media -- outside the trans community, most folks don't know about these things, or glossed over it when it was mentioned, even in LGBT publications and blogs.

And yet...

Now we can see for ourselves. There is an Air Marshall out there. Air Marshalls protect planes and are part of the Department Of Homeland security, which is a State Department function, and under the control of the Executive Branch, which is embodied in the person of the President.

This Air Marshal has faced some fairly severe criticism from their coworkers and has found that their transition from male to female was accompanied by a great deal of discriminatory behavior.

They are suing the TSA and my former governor, Janet Napalitano, the head of Homeland Security.

Now, the suit was not brought by the TSA or the administration -- they are not going after anyone, they are in the position of defending the Admnistration's actions via its supervisors and employees.

The President has already declined to get involved in court cases with the brief filed in a Defense of Marriage Act challenge. We also know he generally doesn't get much direct say in the matter of who writes and pursues these things, or even the efforts they engage in (they are obligated to fight on behalf of the taxpayer, after all).

So the case will wind through court, and what will give us our chance to see is not only what he says tonight during his speech regarding DADT (which does not directly affect trans folk, who are discharged regardless of sexual orientation with or without it), but whether or not they choose to appeal the decision here should they lose.

Should prove interesting.

Of course, he's also appointed a Trans woman to a high position in a critical area, as many people have noted, and he also appointed a Trans man to a post at the same time (and the guy got in a tad bit ahead of the gal).

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing a pattern here. Then again, I could just be cross eyed, you never know. And it's not a bad thing if he is -- Trans folk generally have a habit of overcoming objections about sexual orientation fairly easily and quickly, because they happen to confuse the hell out of people since people never know what a trans person's is, plus trans folk tend to make them look at their own. Just by existing.

One of the benefits of having them as part of the the LGBT.

In the meantime, it is starting to look a little bit like the President likes the T more than the LGB...

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To (mis)quote a Smothers, "Mom always liked us best?"

I suspect that's reading a bit much into things. Chances are, as he was working up to leadership and "fierce advocacy," he had every intention of helping the LGBT folks across the board, maybe from the get-go. But once in, well, it's politics as usual.

Now, he's getting all sorts of "pragmatic" advice from advisers and strategists. Such as, "we have to time this carefully to avoid losing a second term" or "if we push ENDA now and fail, we'll suffer the double-whammy of upsetting both our LGBT voters at the failure and rightists / some centrists for the attempt."

Meanwhile, the things you're pointing to as trans successes are minor things he squeaked by or did more impulsively, and therefore didn't get run through the filter of advisers.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 27, 2010 6:15 PM

I don't think your taking something into account, namely that trans folks have fewer rights, by and large, to participate in this society than LGB people do. Most states protect LGB persons from discrimination in housing, jobs and so forth but precious few extend those same privileges to trans people. If Obama works to bring our social status up to even with that of LGB people, that's not favoritism, that's fairness.

Another thought, if there is anything to it: perhaps he feels that by doing something for those of us who he perceives as "more fringe," it will seem a signal that he supports all.

What planet do you live on to claim:

"The President has already declined to get involved in court cases with the brief filed in a Defense of Marriage Act challenge. We also know he generally doesn't get much direct say in the matter of who writes and pursues these things, or even the efforts they engage in (they are obligated to fight on behalf of the taxpayer, after all)."?????????????????

Those with their hands on the switch in the US Department of Justice, the ones who decide which cases are pursued and what language will or will not be included in their court briefs, and which ones are ignored, ARE APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT. HE'S THEIR BOSS. NOTHING remotely as controversial as their recent briefs DEFENDING DOMA and DADT move an inch without approval by the President himself or someone with the authority to act for him.

Yes, the name of a career DOJ attorney hired during the reign of Bush pere was ONE of those on the pro-DOMA brief, as well as another who predated Obama Inc., but BOTH REPORT TO the person named at the top of the brief, Tony West, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division after being appointed to that position by Obama as a reward for his having been a major fundraiser for BO on the West coast. West's boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, is a member of BO's Cabinet, also hand-picked by him.

In addition to asserting balderdash, you contradict yourself:

"...they are obligated to fight on behalf of the taxpayer, after all" BUT

"The president instructed his staff not to appeal the decision in the case of Diane Schroer."

We suggest the next time you choose to try to read tea leaves you don't get too close to the hallucinogenic kind.

Angela Brightfeather | January 27, 2010 7:43 PM

"...regarding DADT (which does not directly affect trans folk, who are discharged regardless of sexual orientation with or without it)"...


Just to inform you, DADT has not been associated with Trans people because there was never proof that they were affected by it.

As a co-founder of TAVA (Transgender American Veterans Association) and as the present National VP, I objected to the lack of inclusion of Trans people in the present legislation backed by GLB organizatons based on a gut feeling that they are affected. Without strong proof, I had to back down on that position over four years ago.

But since that time and due to the returns from the TAVA survey of Trans Veterans (882 Transgender Veterans), we now know that Trans people have most definitely been kicked out exactly the same as GLB people under DADT. In fact, the proof is indisputable in the survey and the surprise about that was the greatest Trans populaton that was affected was the FtoM portion, although MtoF's are also noted in the survey.

I mention this because so many people (like yourself) who have not referred to the survey for this information continue to think that Trans people have not been dismissed from active military duty under DADT, which is not true.

The survey can be reviewed at

On top of misrepresenting what Antonia was trying to say, no matter how many times some people insist "snow falls up, Charlie Brown!" [who knew Lucy was trans?], it is misguided to attempt to mix attacking discrimination against gays by the military WITH attacking discrimination against trans servicemembers just because the Pentagon confuse the two as the survey reveals.

If your goal is a solution and not just attention, you might consider approaching the issue directly rather than trying to hijack the issue of DADT itself.

Good point. I was put out in 1990 prior to DADT and never violated the UCMJ. I was given an OTH discharge, lost two pay grades and all of the benefits I had earned. All less than four months after my good conduct award and straight 4.0 evals. I tell people who are put out under DADT that while I sympathize, they have no idea how good they've got it compared to some of the rest of us.

Some responses to great comments:

Mercedes: yeah, probably. There's cynicsm and there's skepticism, though. THe question is which side to fall on.

On the subject of DADT, I'm quite well aware that servicemembers who are trans are tossed out under it. However, they were tossed out before it, and they will be tossed out after it. It simply provides an additional excuse and means for doing so.

However, in and of itself -- outside of the actual use its put to -- DADT was not meant to affect trans folk on the basis of being trans. That they are is due to the general cnfusion in the wider social understanding about the differences between the two -- one of the main reasons that LGBT makes sense to more people outside it than it apparently does inside it.

Het/Cis folk figure its all one big mess anyway -- and have for well over a 100 years. Which is a realistic awareness I think, on my part, that I try to bring forward.

I'm in favor of letting all of us serve, and I am strongly vocal in my position that the DADT campaigns need to focus on more than merely DADT. Indeed, if they were to expand a tad, they'd like have more effectiveness than merely getting a President to say he's gonna get around to it sooner or later.

After all, *I* am a veteran.

Lastly, I wrote this article for a reason, which Mercedes picked up on, I suspect.

Saying that "Mom likes us better" is usually a sure fire way to upset people, and yet Trans folk here it every single day from fellow members of their community.

Once in a while, a little sauce is just as good for the gander as it was for the goose...

Trans service members will benefit from the repeal of DADT. Plane and simple. The military will have to resort to the old ways of getting rid of trans people, which will require them to think outside the box DADT has created. The military is not big on thinking outside of any box.

While they are reeling from the loss of a procedure that allows them to easily exercise their bigotry, there will be ways that TAVA will be using to counter the old arguments on why trans people shouldn't be allowed to serve. There are countries who allow their trans people to serve, which were not available before DADT started. We have it all mapped out, but the first step will be the repeal of DADT. As a veteran, your ideas on how to proceed after DADT is repealed will be greatly appreciated.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 28, 2010 1:29 PM

I was thrown out before DADT, though I had never violated the UCMJ. They trumped up some drug charges against me although I
A. Was not guilty of using
B. The so called "random" test happened on a Wednesday when all random DTs in my unit were done on Sunday.
C. Though I requested one, I never got a follow up done by the Navy. The last drug test I took while in the Navy was the supposedly positive one. I didn't even take one at separation, though that was a direct conflict of policy.
D. The follow up I got through a civilian lawyer was ruled as inadmissible at my mast. It showed I was negative.
E. The chain of custody was corrupted. The date of the drug test had been changed from the Wednesday I had taken the test to the next Sunday, (I still have the original signed and dated release because I had a good friend in admin).
F. I was never allowed to see the results of the test.
G. BOTH of my witnesses who I requested were suddenly shipped of to a school across the country in Virginia when my mast came up.
H. I had exactly one and a half hours of preparation time for mast between the time they told me when it was going to happen and when it took place.
NONE of these clear violations of their own policies made any difference and to this day, despite the overwhelming evidence I have of misconduct by my unit, I still have yet to regain anything I have lost.
Don't kid yourself that repealing DADT will help trans people because it just won't. If they want you gone, gone you will be.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 28, 2010 1:34 PM

To be fair though, I was enlisted, (AMS2). I'm sure officers enjoy(ed) much better treatment than we grunts did.

Dr. McGinn, who was a Navy flight surgeon, was discharged from the Navy under a medical discharge since GID is a recognized mental condition. She told me that regardless of what may happen with DADT, cases like hers would be treated exactly the same as she was treated.

So, does this mean we are suppose to just throw our hands in the air and say, "This is how it will always be?" So many people have a defeatist attitude. If that was the case, then slavery would still be the norm.

I remember the peace moratorium down in Washington, D. C. back in 1969 when I was in my first year of college. I remember walking past the White House with a placard I picked up at the Lincoln Memorial with the name of a veteran who died, needlessly, in Viet Nam. Right behind me was a guy from Costa Rica who invited me back to his apartment for coffee at 4:00 am in the morning? We discussed things like imperialism. I think he was interested in something beyond politics but he was upset enough to join the demonstration.

How was it I related to him? He saw me as white middle class and an American part of the problem. I was trying to be part of the solution. I ended up getting a high number in the draft but I was counting on being rejected by the military because I didn't think they'd want me, etc., etc., etc. I didn't want any part of what the military was doing at the time.

Straight had much different connotations then. . .

Actually, there has never been a peace moratorium. It's a much different group working as activists today. Het/cis, straight? Most of the people I know are het and cis. Hardly any of them are straight. Some of them are dead. They were rebels who probably never would get clearance to work for defense contractors because they were too busy fighting the powers that be.

I think politics will always leave me in the margins. It's made me bad company for almost forty years. I remember being nineteen and being told about blacklists and how I would pay the price for the rest of my life. I don't know how I made it to fifty-eight.

I am still waiting for Obama to kick it into gear. The military, at best, is a necessary evil. How does one get to use it without it using them. I read someone say, today, we haven't seen a president as liberal as Eisenhower in fifty years.

DADT? What ever happened to HNWWG. Hell, no. We won't go?

Was it the military who brought all the social change everyone has enjoyed over the last forty years? I know a lot of people who made big sacrifices because they wouldn't serve. Some of them gave their lives. None of them are "trans" but if they were, they would not be sheltered by policies offered by feudal corporations who boast about offering benefits to no more than a handful while funding political campaigns to deny them to millions.

"Was it the military who brought all the social change everyone has enjoyed over the last forty years?"

Actually, tho it had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point where it began to take equal opportunity among races seriously [circa 1971], the necessary evil of the American military, once the last large institutional perpetrator of racism, is now a model for racial diversity and lessons learned from that demonstrably carry over to the civilian world when members leave the services.

Ironically, several countries that have already lifted their bans on out gay servicemembers send people for training on how to enforce equal opportunity in other areas by our Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, an agency of our Department of Defense.

DEOMI also trains civilian federal agency managers.

Though they have a ways to go in regard to women servicemembers, the US military is still far ahead of most civiliam corporations in the way they constantly remind male servicemembers that gender discrimination and sexual harassment is a no-no and career advancement is determined, in part, by demonstrated allegiance to that [as well as racial blindness].

DEOMI will be THE agency tasked with enforcing gay integration, too, whenever it happens.

Given his clearly telegraphed homophobia (I think marriage should be between a man and a woman) are you surprised? I'd point out that they like the T more in Iran as well, because they can still be fitted into a heteronormative framework.

concerned citizen | January 28, 2010 3:41 AM

The response of the Administration to federal employment discrimination based on gender identity has been widely overstated. While there were leaked stories about regulations being changed to prohibit such discrimination in the federal sector, the only thing really done so far is to provide a statement on OPM's website that the government will not discriminate on this basis. This does not carry the same force as either a formal regulation or an Executive Order, and both of these options (among MANY others) are available to the Executive branch acting on its own. What has been done so far could be changed by this or any subsequent administration with little more than slightly altered html code.

Meanwhile the government continues to defend specific cases of alleged federal discrimination based on gender identity, in part on the (in my view erroneous) ground that existing law provides no protection against federal discrimination on this basis.

I understand there have been symbolic gestures in support of trans people -- a group that undoubtedly disproportionately supported the President's campaign. Inclusion of a handful of trans activists and children at presidential events certainly were a nice perq for those people and their families. But when one judges political leadership in the Executive Branch, I think that many would prefer defense of their rights, particularly in light of the largely unused tools available to the administration.

Obama ran out of LGB crumbs and T crumbs is all he has left.

That's cynical. Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't. Either way, the LGBT community won't settle for an ENDA that isn't trans inclusive. Maybe some orgs would, but the community would initiate self-destruct sequence before a non-inclusive ENDA got to the Senate floor.

The common wisdom is that it's harder to pass legislation that includes gender identity. I don't think that's true, but just that it's the common wisdom.

An optimistic speculation would be that Obama believes: 1) we won't support a non-inclusive ENDA; 2) trans inclusive ENDA is harder to sell in congress; 3) he has to get an ENDA passed by 2012.

The trans inclusiveness in policy, events and administration is a signal to congress to get used to the idea of it so it won't be a debate among those who already support ENDA for gays. Then there are those who wouldn't vote for any ENDA but would go after the gender identity part like "gays are okay, but what's this transgender stuff?" Their argument is also weakened.

Maybe he does actually have a plan.

"Obama ran out of LGB crumbs and T crumbs is all he has left."

Agree! Those crumbs are getting smaller and smaller.

It is my feeling that if the president and Washington wished to signal an end to the rights war, and truly signal their support, they would pass an inclusive ENDA, remove DADT, and DOMA. I believe it shows that there is a majority of the population that supports an Inclusive ENDA, I think the end of DADT also. The DOMA is a bit harder sell in some circles but it should be pressed forward on the grounds it is as much as rights issue as free speech. It would incense the ultra conservatives but I was under the impression many of those in Washington were sent to there to move the country off the course it was on under the last eight years of so called Conservative leadership, if you can call Bush leadership that is. Personally i do not care how they get it done but it needs to be done, and it will take every facet of the LGBT Community to get it there along with those who would support these rights outside it. Adding to the fraction of those who fall under the LGBT umbrella will serve no good purpose as I see it. Each subgroup has it's own positions which they feel need to be addressed more strongly than others, but it is in my humble opinion something that needs to be approached by everyone within the lGBT group, and fragmenting it by reading more support for one or the other is not going to be productive in the end. One thing I do believe we within the LGBT community need to do is to try to better understand each other because in my opinion doing so and finding a common place that allows us as a group to keep pressure on Washington is the only way we will get the rights due us all.

I'm beginning to feel like all the letters in our community can go to hell as far as Obama's concerned. Maybe we'd have better luck if we all switched to a different cause. We could get some wins under our belt and go back to feeling like human beings instead of punching bags.

Bil - I can truthfully say that I've had less overt, blatant and unashamed transphobia on most Conservative websites than from, say, Queerty.

Read the comments here and weep.

Angela Brightfeather | January 28, 2010 3:11 PM

"If your goal is a solution and not just attention, you might consider approaching the issue directly rather than trying to hijack the issue of DADT itself."


Our goal has always been to better the service and the attitude of the VA towards Trans Veterans and for obvious reasons, if you took the time to read the survey you were directed to, you would also note the reasons for our concerns.

The fact that until the survey came out, no one ever thought there were Transgender veterans, much less consider them in any way, although they have been serving in every war that our country has ever fought in, is what the real crime has been. The fact that they have also been discharged with dishonorable discharges when, or if they were outed, either by others or by accident, and that DADT has been used to make that a reality, does not mean that Trans Veterans are co-opting DADT. It does mean however, that anyone who thought they didn't exist and that Transgender people do not serve in the military proudly, is missing a few links with reality.

Until the survey results, we all knew what was going on but it was never recorded officially. If bothering to expose a condition like DADT affecting Transgender people who serve their country is construed as co-opting DADT I think your sadly mistaken. In fact what it should do is to broaden the argument against DADT since now it has been proven to affect a larger number of people besides GLB's who proudly serve. And again, it proves that GLB&T people suffer the same kind of discrimination in their lives, which in turn means that we fight the same battle for repeal of DADT.

Transgender Veterans and those serving on active duty don't want to co-opt anything and note that it's hard to co-opt a fight that your already affected by. Any shame about this is the fact that, as usual, there are GLB people who never recognized that other people are being discharged using DADT for the same reason they are.

Your attitude is contrary to that of the GLBT Veterans I know, every one of which agree that no one should be stopped from serving their country based on their sex or gender orientation. If you look at the countries that allow GLB people to serve in their military, you will find that they also allow Transgender identified people to serve. I think there is a reason for that outside of Trans people co-opting the right to serve after GLB people achieved that distinction in those countries and it should be no different in the U.S. Military.

Typically, you attempt to defend your indefensible reach for relevancy to my points by asserting things you are in no position to know [I HAVE read the survey, thank you] and asserting I have positions which nothing I wrote justifies.

It outrages me when I have to deny such things because of the reckless blindness generated by others' puerile self-righteousness, but here it is: I totally support the opportunity for military service by out trans people who wish it. Would you like blood now?

As noted by others above with actual experience, trans servicemembers were unfairly discharged before DADT existed AND will be discharged unfairly after its elimination...unless the core problem is remedied.

As noted by others above with actual experience, when the military, just like civilian institutions, really wants to get rid of an individual, they will FIND a way.

HOWEVER, that is not to say we should not pursue [albeit SEPARATELY] an explicit nondiscrimination policy against trans servicemembers that can prevent them from overtly using trans status to discharge [post DADT] just as they are now legally permitted to overtly use gay status to discharge.

My point was to attempt to get you to see that such discharges are not BECAUSE of DADT [and nowhere does your survey even claim it is] but rather SOMETIMES THROUGH DADT, and to keep arguing to others the contrary, that "snow falls up," will attract no allies with any real power to help us snowplow the streets of the actual issue: transphobia/hatred.

But if you wish to stay stuck in your bitching ditch, feel free.

Why separately?

Why not together -- at the same time, since there are gay trans people and trans gay people?

Jessica H. Christ!

And there are black gays and fat gays and Hispanic gays and bald gays and bowlegged gays and dumb gays and smart gays and bilingual gays let's dump all THAT into the discussion, too!

You just had to trot back to being a part of the problem not a part of the solution didn't you?


So first you avoid answering the questions, and then you more or less make that question some sort of problem.

Michael, yes, let's dump all that into the equation as well, but first, let's just answer those two simple questions I asked first, if you don't mind.

You are the one who brought up doing it separately -- I'm simply asking *why* do that way and not do it combined.

Now, of course, I'm going to have to ask a third question, derived from your own words, just as the last two were:

What problem?

You can't demonize a demon, Michael.