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On several occasions, I’ve been asked why I’m so open about the fact that I am a transgender woman. No, I’m not walking down the street with a sign on my back that tells people that I lived the first 26 years of my life publicly identifying as a male, but I am very open about who I am in conversation, on the internet and in my personal life. The question tends to be phrased in the following way:

“If things are so bad for trans people, if it’s still legal to be fired for being openly trans, if you know how society feels about trans people, why would you willingly let someone know that you’re trans?”

Exactly, things are bad for trans people. However, I’m fortunate and privileged in a lot of ways. I was fortunate enough to be born into a white, middle-class family who accept me for me. I live in a fairly liberal city in a fairly liberal state. I had the benefit of hormone replacement therapy being effective to the point of not immediately “outing” myself to complete strangers.

For those reasons, I feel a sense of responsibility to try to humanize the public’s perception of transgender individuals. As I’ve written about in the past, too often the only exposure to trans people the public comes across are wildly distorted caricatures found in movies and TV programs like Ace Ventura and Nip/Tuck, among dozens of examples.

As a higher percentage of the general public became acquainted with a gay or lesbian friend or relative, support for LGB issues began to rise. A 2009 Gallup poll uncovered an important trend: knowing someone who identifies as gay or lesbian more than doubles the likelihood that an individual will support LGB initiatives (in the case of this poll, marriage equality).

So, I do this in hopes that trans people can benefit from a similar trend. Perhaps knowing a trans person will benefit us, leading to more support.

So, fellow user of the internet. I’m Parker, and now you know me. Seriously, write me an e-mail: WriteToParker@gmail.com. We can chat. I’m a pretty cool gal. Really, I am.

That aside, I am open about my trans status because I know that there are others out there who don’t have the ability to evangelize on our behalf. I am open about my trans status because a good portion of the world still fails to see us as legitimate members of society. I am open about my trans status because I believe the words Harvey Milk used regarding gay and lesbian individuals apply here:

“You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.”

So, for those with the ability, like Harvey Milk, I ask that you come out, come out, wherever you are.

A Selfish Post

August 26, 2013

Between my posts on Huffington Post and Salon this past week, I’ve found myself the target of a number of ignorant and hateful comments and messages.

When I posted to my social media profiles that I was feeling warn down and in need of distraction, the response from my local friends was less than warm (it actually wasn’t a response at all, just silence).

I appreciate that my friend Dee wanted to get lunch yesterday, but I was somewhat surprised to see the overall support lacking.

I’m tired. I’m depressed.

Among the most basic of American principles is the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” To erase one’s identity, to render them an invisible segment of society, is to deny them true life.

Last week, Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, announced to the general public something transgender activists have known for the better part of three years: she’s transgender. The media’s reporting of Chelsea’s announcement exposed a weak point within the field of journalism: the mainstream American media doesn’t seem to have a clue how to report on trans individuals.

Pronouns were fumbled, names became intertwined. Reading some of the coverage, it would be reasonable to conclude that “Chelsea Manning” and “Bradley Manning” were two separate individuals rather than a single person

Whatever your opinion on Manning’s actions, when you speak about her gender, you’re speaking about the gender of many other individuals, including myself. I, like Chelsea, am transgender. I, like Chelsea, am a woman. The way you report on her gender is the way I have to assume you’d report on mine.

Her punishment is to spend 35 years in a military prison. At no point during her sentencing was she stripped of her humanity, nor was her identity erased. At no point did the 8th Amendment, which ensures that American prisoners will not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment, become invalid.

Misgendering and misnaming an individual is cruel. These actions work to erase one’s sense of self, their identity.

NBC acknowledged that pronouns are crucial to trans identities, yet they managed to fumble the initial announcement of Manning’s trans status on the Today show. This included near exclusive use of the name “Bradley,” male pronouns, and the phrase “[Manning] wants to live as a woman” (which was not in the statement, however “I am female” was, a key difference).

Outlets like CNN have held firm that they will continue referring to Manning with male pronouns and her former name until she has legally changed that. This policy, in itself, if applied universally, would make sense. However, this appears to be a policy in place solely for trans individuals. Remember when will.i.am (legal name: William Adams) appeared on CNN election night 2008? Remember when CNN ran an article about the feud between Lady Gaga (legal name: Stefani Germanotta) and Perez Hilton (legal name: Mario Lavandeira, Jr.)? Remember when Piers Morgan (legal name:Piers O’Meara) interviewed Billy Ray Cyrus (legal name: William Cyrus) about his daughter Miley Cyrus (legal name: Destiny Hope Cyrus) last week?

Either CNN hasn’t been enforcing this “legal names only” policy, or it only applies to transgender individuals.

This is all disheartening because if you say “no, I won’t call that person Chelsea Manning” and “no, I will not adhere to the request to use feminine pronouns,” your statement goes far beyond Private Manning, extending to a blanket approach to transgender individuals as a whole. That approach tells us, “no, you’re not real, you’re not a valid member of society; I’m just humoring you if I happen to use the correct name and pronouns.”

Odds are, unless you’re transgender, no one has really ever questioned your identity, told you that you were anything but what you said you were. No one has stopped you from using a name other than the one printed on your birth certificate (“sorry, Bobs of the world, you’ll need to go by “Robert” since that’s your real name”).

It takes virtually zero effort to call someone what they want to be called. No one, not even criminals, deserves to have their identity and sense of self erased. This isn’t “political correctness,” this is human decency.

Update (8/27): This article has been picked up by the Huffington Post. Click the image for the link.

HuffPo

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Salon.com: Coming Out Trans – And Happy

ImageOver the past 2 days, Kristin “Warrior Princess” Beck has taken to her Facebook account to pen some frustratingly transphobic screeds. Before she has a chance to delete them, I just wanted to capture her statements in the off chance she tries to backpedal.

This is not a woman who should represent the trans community in the slightest. Stay off TV, stay out of Congressional hearings. Please.

The “Manning debacle”… I did not ever want to give this person any of my time…
Too many media requests have poured in, so here is what I have to say:

What you wear, what color you are, your religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity has no basis on whether you are a CRIMINAL or NOT. 
For this person, whether male or female to use gender identity to act “BADLY” is a slap in the face to me and everyone who does not fit the “Binary Gender Norm.” It is not an excuse for anything illegal or unjust.

This person took an oath to protect American interest and defend the constitution, and took additional oaths due to security clearances to protect information that leaders deem secret. There are legal avenues to whistle blow or bring attention to issues. THIS person is a liar and a thief and a traitor to many people. If Bradley is truly “Chelsea” then “she” is a traitor to ME personally. There is no excuse.
Another problem I have is the EGO that manning had that he would take it upon himself to make a decision to release documents based on personal assumptions, nearly no experience, and without the whole picture. Some say hero? some say traitor? I just say “misguided, egotistical Liar and thief” which can be applied to both hero or traitor depending on a few factors.

Let me pose a scenario….
LEVANWORTH-very tough place with a lot of Marines and others who defended AMERICA and are spending a year or two there for mistakes and bad conduct. Minor sentences, but still loyal to American interest.
GENERAL Prison population: Tough place to be in any prison.
MEDIA: Manning is know to every person in the prison.
SOLITARY: option for Manning to stay alive, but very lonely and its punishment.
TRANSGENDER: Most prisons have special accommodations to ensure safety for that person.
OUTCOME: Manning shows one photo or a few “halloween” photos or him and some of his friends dabbled? These photos are released and a story is unfolded….He is Chelsea and protected in special accommodations.
He will not be in general population where his life expectancy would be about a year tops….He is now using something AGAIN for his own gain. 

THE BIGGEST problem I have with the whole thing about Chelsea is that as a Transgender person and as an upstanding citizen and knowing many other transgender people who are beacons of righteousness AND that ALL Americans May become FREE. WE are right at a point in HISTORY were many people are beginning to understand who we are as Transgender, DIVERSE, and that we are just like everyone else…WE ARE ONE….now manning just dirtied the hope of a truly FREE America.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a Dream” speech was 50 years ago….I am still hoping for HIS dream of equality for ALL. America to be a beacon of Freedom and equality, to see his dream of the “red hills” come alive. I am still dreaming of equality….
Manning is a tarnish on my dream, he is a tarnish on Dr. Kings Dream.

She then doubles down on her internalized transphobia, playing the role of the gatekeeper, claiming that without a diagnosis (which Manning happens to have), Manning isn’t trans. (Side note: I don’t have a GID diagnosis, so…. I suppose in Kristin’s mind, that makes me a man?)

Kristin Beck- Press release and Personal comments pertaining to the United States Department of Defense and Transgender service. Chelsea Manning and other issues that may affect the DOD stance.

I served in the Military for 20 years. I knew I was transgender from an early age. Due to family, society and then later military pressure and expectations, I kept my feelings to myself. It was difficult, but for 40 plus years I lived as a fully functioning male in life and the military. I had my share of issues because of my internal struggle. There were some unintended consequences because of my struggle, but my gender did not make me into anything that I was not. 

Gender is something you are born with and it is NOT a simple binary modal as many people wish. Being Transgender or outside of the pure male or female construct is a way of life; it is a human condition that has been with us since the beginning of time.

Right now it is at the forefront of society and we need answers and information. I hope to give my story and information on this issue to the general public to rid the myths and misinformation that seems to prevail.

Private Manning has been thrust into the public eye in the last few days. Manning has told the military that “he” has a gender identity issue and wishes to be addressed as “Chelsea” and start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). This all comes out after Manning pled guilty to criminal acts and is facing 35 years in prison.

Until a doctor signs the paperwork with their name on the dotted line, this is just a claim. The Diagnosis from an accredited doctor changes many aspects of Manning’s future and possibly regulations within the Military. The Prison at Leavenworth has 550 beds and no females. The withholding of HRT and the incarceration in that prison would then be deemed “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” and accommodations would need to be made to ensure Manning is given proper treatment in line with the constitution and human dignity.

The case with Manning brings up many courses of action for the military and many diverse opinions from everyone. The one thing that I feel very passionate about is that being transgender has nothing to do with criminal activity, mental capacity, intellectual capacity, or any other endeavor or capacity an individual posses. Being transgender is a separate issue. 

Being transgender will however affect a person who is incarcerated and their treatment within the prison system, in Manning’s case, to ensure treatment that is just and fair.

How does this case affect the military and the Department of Defense?

The Department of Defense has medical regulations that list being a “transsexual” as an “unallowable medical condition.” The repeal of DADT does not include Transgender persons. Currently in the DOD, a person with gender identity disorder, diagnosed or even displayed will no longer be able to serve.

The military has Private Manning in their care for the next 35 years, possibly much less with good behavior. The Military is duty bound to ensure Manning is not punished in cruel and unusual ways and is bound to ensure Manning’s safety. After an accredited medical doctor certifies Manning’s transgender status – which could take months – the military and Department of Defense must make some very hard decisions. 

Private Manning is still a part of the Military and withholding HRT to an incarcerated individual is deemed “CRUEL and UNUSAL” punishment by precedence set in civilian court rulings.

Regulations will have to be changed to allow the HRT to Manning and ensure fair treatment for her under the law and constitution. With these changes, the doors will be open similarly to the repeal of DADT with open service to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual service members. 

The Palm Center has been tasked with a encompassing study on transgender military service for the DOD which will be far more comprehensive and thought out on every level; I look forward to this report.

I am distraught at the way Manning’s transgender issue has surfaced and by having this human condition tied to criminal activity. I hope the general public and those that have never met someone who is transgender will take into consideration my story and the many other extremely successful transgender members of the “world community.” 

I will continue to have a dream of EQUAL treatment of ALL members of the human race. I will continue to conduct myself with dignity and respect and hope that people will educate themselves about transgender individuals and the many attributes humans are born with. We are a diverse world, and the diversity of the human race is what makes us beautiful.

There is still vast prejudice against the various people around the world for being different in color, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Embracing our differences and diversity is a path to peace and happiness; I pray more people will take this path.

Some trans women have rallied behind her. Of course they’re all middle-aged, white, late-transitioning HBSers. Of course.

What do you have to gain by calling Chelsea Manning “him,” “he,” or her birth name? Are you so insecure about your own gender identity that you worry that if she’s allowed to be herself, you’ll be less of a man or less than a woman as a result? Really, what’s it to you?

Yes, she broke the law, and yes, she’ll be serving a sentence as a result. That doesn’t give you the right to strip her of her humanity.

41% of trans people attempt suicide at some times during their lives. If any other demographic had those kinds of numbers, people would take note. Instead, what is it that the general public tends to do? They ignore our existence, they tell us we’re mentally ill, they tell us that we don’t know who we really are. Surely, this type of attitude contributes to the struggles we go through.

I was lucky enough to be born into a family that loved and accepted me, that acknowledged my existence. They treated me with respect, doing their best to adapt to my identity as best they could. For that reason, I’m still here.

CNN stated that they would continue to refer to Manning by her birth name, as that’s currently her legal name. I suppose this would be acceptable if it was universally applied, but they’ve reported on people who use names other than what they’re legally listed as:

Here’s a story that involves 2 people who go by pseudonyms:

Lady Gaga, Perez Hilton feud on Twitter

(Legal names: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.)

So which is it, CNN?

Sure, you could call us freaks, you could call me a “man” and “he” or “him.” You could tell me that I’m a sick individual. But really, why would you? What do you have to gain? This is a true Pascal’s wager of a situation: you can call me names, harming me, getting nothing positive in return; or you could treat me with dignity, allowing me to exist without denial of who I am. Either way, it’s not as if you have anything to personally gain from tearing us down or building us up. Why would you turn yourself into a destructive force against a fragile group of people?

Yes, absolutely.

Do prisons provide insulin to individuals who suffer from diabetes? Yes. Do prisons provide antidepressants to prisoners suffering from depression? Yes. Do prisons provide chemotherapy to prisoners suffering from cancer? Yes.

By the way, the above treatments can be far more expensive than hormone replacement therapy.

In the United States, yes, we expect that our prisoners are given access to necessary medical care. According to the American Medical Association, hormone therapy (and yes, sexual reassignment surgery) is considered a medically necessary treatment for someone suffering from gender dysphoria.

Case closed. If Chelsea Manning asks for access to estradiol and spironolactone, she is entitled (yes, entitled) to receive that. This is not an issue up for debate.

Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in confinement, not 35 years of suffering from her gender dysphoria. Her medical care is guaranteed under the 8th amendment to the United States constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

So unless you are suggesting that prisoners should be held without medically necessary treatment, unless you believe those with diabetes should be denied insulin and those with cancer should be denied chemotherapy, let Chelsea have the treatment she needs.

Denial of this treatment should be regarded as a violation of her constitutionally protected rights, worthy of outrage.

My Huffington Post Debut

August 21, 2013

My Huffington Post Debut

Click through to read the article.

You know those “low testosterone” commercials? The ones that usually feature men doing manly things like construction, playing football or just being dude-like? “Do you suffer from depression, fatigue, decreased sex drive, or weight gain?” Um, yeah, that’s kind of what happens to people as they get older. Those are freaking ridiculous.

Could you imagine a similar type of ad targeting trans women?

“Do you suffer from low testosterone?”
“YES! INTENTIONALLY!”
“Oh…. carry on, then.”

But in all seriousness, I find it somewhat amusing that there continues to be a market for pharmaceuticals aimed at, essentially, “helping men stay manly.” Example: In 2010, Eli Lilly and Pfizer, the two brands behind erectile dysfunction medications Cialis and Viagra, spent nearly $500 million on marketing.

With the patent on Viagra expiring in the UK this past June (and in 2020 in the US, due to an extension provided by the US government), the money isn’t in ED drugs quite as much these days.

“Low T” is the new “ED”

Some estimates state that 70% of men have “low T.” Actually, anywhere between 225–900 ng/dl of testosterone is considered “normal” in men.  Click over to the websites of some of the companies behind the “Low T” ads and you’ll see their range for a “normal” man being much higher than that 225 figure, often with the high end being well above 1000.

Research and innovation goes where the money is. Where is it? It’s in men insecure about their masculinity, willing to dish out cash from age 40-death in an effort to stay “manly.”

Related to the trans community

If I ask my doctor a question about my hormone levels, as a trans woman, she answers to the best of her ability. Still, there’s very little research done on the trans community and hormones. If a tenth of the research was put into trans-specific hormone research as there was in “low T in men” research, that’d be amazing.

Anyway, just a bit of commentary from me. That’s all.

I’m testing something out. I am going to calmly and politely address the concerns of one of the California assemblymen who oppose AB1266. Below is what I posted to Tim Donnelly’s Facebook page (he appears to frequently respond to posts). He’s been making the rounds on conservative media outlets, saying some very problematic stuff. I’ll update this if he responds.

Hi Tim, thanks for taking the time to read this. I was just reading an article about your plan to pull one of your children (I’m sorry if I get any of these facts wrong, please correct me if so) out of public school in protest of AB1266, which expands the rights of students who may identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.

I understand your concern, but I’d like to hopefully provide another viewpoint. Basically, Rep. Donnelly, this bill does one thing: it lets kids who may be dealing with gender dysphoria know that they’re not freaks. It lets them know that they’re just as valid and loved as any other child in the state.

41% of all transgender individuals attempt suicide at some point during their life (compared to < 2% of the general public). Being transgender is a true challenge in itself, and believe me, is not something anyone would choose.

Growing up, I remember being so afraid to tell anyone in my life how I felt, how much emotional (and eventually, physical) pain I was in as a result of the fact that in my heart of hearts I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be a boy. I remember being 8 years old, crying and praying for God to let me wake up and just be like the other girls. Every night, more and more desperate.

I didn’t tell my parents, my teachers, or anyone else. I was afraid that they’d treat me like some sort of monster. I wasn’t a monster. I was a kid. I was a scared kid.

As puberty hit and testosterone began to fuel my system, my emotional pain turned into a physical one. Like a diesel truck being filled with regular unleaded gas, my body wasn’t running on the fuel it was wired to. I began mentally and physically falling apart.

I stumbled through high school and college (I was an A student), and I settled in to a job, working my hardest, wanting to contribute. All the while, my body continued to falter, continued to collapse under pressure.

Finally, at the age of 26, I began hormone replacement therapy, slowly reducing the level of testosterone in my body, replacing it with estrogen. Almost immediately, the physical and emotional pain I had dealt with for the better portion of my life disappeared. I was able to be me, able to smile, able to laugh.

I wish I would have had the courage to begin this transition earlier in my life. I would have been spared so much pain, so much sadness. With all the pressure of grade school and high school, the need to fit in, I have nothing but admiration for any student willing to come forward as themself, transgender or otherwise.

I find it hard to believe that anyone would willingly subject themselves to the ridicule that is sure to come along with coming out as transgender just for the chance to access a stalled bathroom or locker room. People come out as transgender because they have to, because there’s nothing else left, because they’re at the end of their rope. It’s not a game or an excuse to access certain spaces.

I don’t expect this to change your mind, but I hope that I’ve at least provided a new perspective on people like me. I’d love to have a discussion with you, and if you’re willing, please send me a message and I can address any concerns you have about transgender people.

I wish you nothing but the best.

-Parker

Update:
Tim Donnelly responded.

Parker, I appreciate your perspective. My objection to AB 1266 is not an objection or a protest of those who find themselves suffering as you did; it is with a government-mandated solution that will likely subject those who identify as transgender to even more abuse at the hands of their peers, and will subject the majority of students to the same intense discomfort that you experienced. If you read what I have written about it, and listen to my interviews, I have applauded local administrators for resolving this painful situation for a very small number of students with sensitivity and compassion, by making a private accommodation. The idea of the gov’t opening up bathroom, locker-room and other sex-segregated facilities and activities to pretty much anyone is deeply concerning to almost all parents with whom I’ve spoken. (AB 1266 has no requirement for any substantiation of the claim, which is counter to CIF policy, requiring at least 3 items of proof of transgender identification). This bill is not a solution; it is a recipe for disaster that will make everyone’s situation worse, and serve as a massive distraction from the stated purpose of our schools, which is to educate our kids. Thank you for sharing your story. Godspeed.