Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Study: Discrimination Takes A Toll On Transgender Americans

March 28, 2011 Posted at http://keystothecloset.blogspot.com/ reposted from

More than 40 percent of transgender Americans have attempted suicide. That's according to a new, first-of-its-kind survey into discrimination against people who express a gender identity different to the one with which they were born. Host Michel Martin discusses the findings and experiences within transgender communities with Jaime Grant and Michelle Enfield, a transgender woman who was born a biological male.

This report is avaialble at:

LGBT Health Awareness Week

Posted on  alert from National Youth Advocacy Coalition [nyac@nyacyouth.org] and reposted at http://keystothecloset.blogspot.com/

LGBT Health Awareness Week aims to bring attention to the devastating cycle of discrimination and health disparities that affects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Because LGBT people are regularly discriminated against in employment, relationship recognition and insurance coverage, they are more likely to get sick and less likely to be able to afford vital health care than their straight and non-transgender neighbors. In support of LGBT Health Awareness Week and LGBTQ youth, NYAC encourages you to be active in taking care of you in order to have a strong youth movement. Here are some links for more youth information:


Monday, March 28, 2011

Low serotonin levels make mice more bisexual

There's a new peer-reviewed research paper out this week that purports to show a link between an animal's levels of serotonin—a brain chemical probably best known for its association with happy feelings—and who that animal chooses to be its sex partners.

You're going to see this study in the news, and you're going to hear about it anecdotally for years to come. I can almost guarantee it. Why? Because, in mice, serotonin appears to affect how bisexual a male mouse is willing to be. Specifically, the male mice in this study demonstrated more bisexual tendencies when their serotonin levels were low.

The other thing I can almost guarantee: The results of this study are going to be widely misinterpreted and misused. Luckily, we have Ed Yong—science blogger extraordinaire. On his site, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed offers a clear, understandable, and fascinating explanation of what this study is really about, what it proves and doesn't prove, and why the results of this study can't be automatically extrapolated to apply to humans.
[In the new paper] Liu and Jiang cite a study by Milton Wainberg, which they say showed that "SSRIs inhibited compulsive sexual behaviours in homosexual and bisexual men". But Wainberg isn't happy with this description.
His trial tested the effects of SSRIs in gay and bisexual men with compulsive sexual behaviours. The drugs did lower their libido, as well as reducing the frequency of solo sex acts like masturbation. But contrary to what Liu and Jiang write, all of the volunteers, whether they took SSRIs or placebo, showed less compulsive sexual behaviour. More importantly, even though their serotonin levels had gone up, none of the trial's volunteers started having more heterosexual sex.
Results like this make it clear that we must be cautious before extrapolating the results of rodent studies into humans. Serotonin may be a common player in animal nervous systems but its effects can vary from species to species. For example, drugs that affect serotonin levels have very different effects on the sexual behaviour of rabbits and rats.
At most, the results in these studies can tell us something about the biology of sexual preference. In that regard, there does seem to be something in Liu and Jiang's results, and certainly intriguing hints that are worth following up. Problems will only arise if (or perhaps, when) people try to apply the results to cultural debates.
Posted at http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/24/low-serotinin-levels.html. Reposted at keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Can Transgender People Bear Children?

Part of a focus on LGBTIQ Health Week

by Joanne Herman, Transgender advocate and author of "Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not"

Heightened awareness to and sensitivity toward all transgender people is resulting in younger and younger gender transitions. And the desire of younger transsexual people to become parents can be just as strong as for those who are not transsexual. But it presents a fairly significant challenge.

For a transsexual woman (assigned male at birth), genital surgery generally gives her a functional vagina constructed from her prior genitalia. It does not, however, give her ovaries, a uterus or a cervix. Medical science is far from being able to transplant those female reproductive organs for anyone, trans or not.
For a transsexual man (assigned female at birth), genital surgery generally gives him male genetalia that can sometimes be used for sex. It does not, however, give him functional testicles, and doctors are far from perfecting transplants for them, too.

These considerations are often missed by policymakers who set genital reconstructive surgery as a requirement for changing the gender marker on an identity document. GRS generally removes the ability to reproduce via conventional intercourse, and its exclusion of GRS from most employer health insurance coverage renders it unaffordable for many.

Much as non-transgender people who cannot conceive are resorting to creative means to bring a much-desired child into the world, so are transsexual people. For my information on this, I am relying on one of the best resources available for parents of transgender children, "The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals" by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper.

For those needing to transition now but wanting to preserve the option of having biological children, both sperm and eggs can be banked for later use. When it later comes time to have children, one can choose to do so through assisted reproduction services with their female partner, or through engaging the services of a traditional or gestational surrogate. These are approaches also used by non-trans people.

Some transsexual men may still have female reproductive organs, either because they were unable to afford the cost of their removal, or because they may have chosen to maintain them "to keep their options open."
Yet bearing a child after being on testosterone therapy is not without risk. One is generally able to conceive and carry children about 18 months after stopping testosterone therapy, although there is no guarantee that the reproductive system will still function correctly. Trans men on testosterone treatments often have an elevated risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which usually causes infertility. There are also increased risks of birth defects after lengthy testosterone therapy.

A more pragmatic problem with this approach is that testosterone therapy will have already caused facial hair growth and lowered the voice, effects that are not reversible. You will thus appear to be a "pregnant man," the label given to Thomas Beattie when he received worldwide attention for carrying his child. The other trans men who have taken this route to have their own children have been more secretive in doing so.

Transsexual women, on the other hand, may still have male reproductive organs, either because surgery was unaffordable or to preserve reproductive options. For those desiring children, stopping estrogen therapy for a period of time may allow sperm production to resume, although it may not be at a sufficient level to produce a pregnancy without assisted reproduction, if at all.

The pragmatic challenge in this case will be that, without estrogen, facial hair may resume growing and breasts will shrink a bit, two things that are difficult for any woman to accept. For that matter, so will be going to sperm bank as a woman to store, rather than obtain, sperm.

Now, consider the additional challenges facing parents of transgender children. A child may be devastated when puberty arrives, bringing with it the prospect of a low voice and male facial features for those who believe themselves to girls, and breasts, menstrual cycles, and short stature for those who feel they are boys. These "secondary sex characteristics" are the features most likely to cause others to fail to perceive the child as a member of their gender.

Parents may respond now by placing the child on medications to block puberty before later allowing the child to begin cross-hormone treatments. But without having gone through natal puberty, anatomical males will not produce sperm and anatomical females will not have eggs capable of maturing for fertilization. Yet since natal puberty can resume normally as long as the blocker is stopped by age 16, some parents will feel safe following this course.

The much harder decision comes if the child insists on having genital reconstruction surgery. Ignoring the fact that surgeons almost never perform GRS on a patient under age 18, GRS before natal puberty essentially eliminates the ability of a child to produce their own biological children. This is an agonizingly hard prospect for most parents to accept.

So while there will likely be increasing numbers of "out" transgender children in the coming years, those who base policies on anatomy will need to be prepared for the fact that most of these children will not yet have had genital surgery.

Dragon Age Writer On Characters’ Bisexuality

I am not at all familair with the world of gaming, but this post was passed on to me. The quote below is not interesting , but the response of the author of the game to the homophobic posting by a player, is well done.

"Homophobic (or at least stridently heteronormative) fans of Bioware's Dragon Age II are upset at the game's omnisexual characters, which offer players romantic dalliances regardless of their avatars' sex. After a player requested a "no homosexuality" option, one of the game's writers let him down firmly but gently. The real problem, of course, is that the romances are played out in game-engine CGI, summed up by QT3's Malcolm Tucker as 'cringe-inducing gamer-stigmatizing Uncanny Valley evoking boner-annihilators.' "

The response:
A peculiar accusation was made against Dragon Age II on the BioWare forums, in which a user accused the game of not properly catering for the straight male gamer. Honestly, I’d launched into writing this with the intention of factually reporting it, but just typing those words has made me want to start throwing chairs. What? Good grief, even if that were true, which it so spectacularly isn’t, wouldn’t it… but… good grief. Amazingly, one of BioWare’s writers, David Gaider, gave a calm, level-headed response where I would have said capital swears. He makes some interesting comments, as EG point out.

In Dragon Age II you’re able to form relationships with your companions. In order to cater for players choosing to play as, or indeed being, male or female, these characters are essentially bisexual. Some are overt about this, others you’d never know until you played again as a different sex. When I finally write my treatise on the game, I will have some criticisms to make of the way relationships are handled, but the variety, and offering of straight, gay and bisexual relationships certainly won’t be one of them.
The original poster said things that make my spine hurt, like,
“Its ridiculous that I even have to use a term like Straight Male Gamer, when in the past I would only have to say fans.”
But the crux of his argument was,
“In every previous BioWare game, I always felt that almost every companion in the game was designed for the male gamer in mind. Every female love interest was always written as a male friend type support character. In Dragon Age 2, I felt like most of the companions were designed to appeal to other groups foremost, Anders and Fenris for gays and Aveline for women given the lack of strong women in games, and that for the straight male gamer, a secondary concern. It makes things very awkward when your male companions keep making passes at you. The fact that a “No Homosexuality” option, which could have been easily implemented, is omitted just proves my point.”
Imagine the news stories if BioWare had included a “no homosexuality” button. Anyway, we’re not supposed to be dragging some guy on a forum over the coals for what some may think are deeply homophobic remarks. Gaider’s reply is the interesting part of this story.
He does point out that it’s a politely expressed ignorant opinion, before going on to criticise the behaviour of others in the (clearly heavily modified) thread. And then offers an eloquent explanation of the decisions made for Dragon Age II’s romance. I’ll paste the whole thing here:
“The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.
More than that, I would question anyone deciding they speak for “the straight male gamer” just as much as someone claiming they speak for “all RPG fans”, “all female fans” or even “all gay fans”. You don’t. If you wish to express your personal desires, then do so. I have no doubt that any opinion expressed on these forums is shared by many others, but since none of them have elected a spokesperson you’re better off not trying to be one. If your attempt is to convince BioWare developers, I can tell you that you do in fact make your opinion less convincing by doing so.
And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.
The truth is that making a romance available for both genders is far less costly than creating an entirely new one. Does it create some issues of implementation? Sure– but anything you try on this front is going to have its issues, and inevitably you’ll always leave someone out in the cold. In this case, are all straight males left out in the cold? Not at all. There are romances available for them just the same as anyone else. Not all straight males require that their content be exclusive, after all, and you can see that even on this thread.
Would I do it again? I don’t know. I doubt I would have Anders make the first move again– at the time, I thought that requiring all romances to have Hawke initiate everything was the unrealistic part. Even if someone decides that this makes everyone “unrealistically” bisexual, however, or they can’t handle the idea that the character might be bisexual if they were another PC… I don’t see that as a big concern, to be honest. Romances are never one-size-fits-all, and even for those who don’t mind the sexuality issue there’s no guarantee they’ll find a character they even want to romance. That’s why romances are optional content. It’s such a personal issue that we’ll never be able to please everyone. The very best we can do is give everyone a little bit of choice, and that’s what we tried here.
And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least. And that’s my opinion, expressed as politely as possible.”

This quote originally posted at http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/25/dragon-age-writer-on-characters-bisexuality/ was refered to in a blog posted by Boingboing.  It was reposted at http://keystothecloset.blogspot.com/.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Info on Affordable Care Act and LGBTIQ Community

Upcoming Free Webinar on Cyberbullying and Suicide

MARCH 29—CYBERBULLYING AND SUICIDE: What Schools Must Do to Protect Students and Districts:

This national webinar will address the true magnitude and toll of bullying and use of the Internet to taunt children all day, every day and everywhere; legal consequences for school districts and legal recourse for parents; how the anonymity that the Internet offers can cloak perpetrators’ identity and enhance the vitriol of their taunting; and what schools, parents and communities must do to keep children safe in the virtual world. The webinar is Tuesday, March 29th, 2011, from 3:00 pm-4:30 pm, EDT. This webinar is free of charge and is sponsored by the Wyoming Department of Health and Wyoming Department of Education. To register, visit https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/724520755.

Reposted at  keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Transgender and Birth Certificates

"This policy is unfair to me and to other transgender people who just want an ID that matches who we are."
—JOAN PRINZIVALLI, a transgender New Yorker who is suing the city over its rules for changing gender status on birth certificates. New York's Health Department requires proof of surgical procedures before changing birth certificates — operations that many transgender people cannot afford. The lawsuit says a note from a doctor verifying transgender status should be sufficient. [via Reuters]
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/24/transgender-residents-sue-new-york-city-over-birth-certificates/#ixzz1HXjGR1PO

National LGBTIQ Health Week 2011

In honor of National LGBTIQ health week (March 27-April 1, 2011) I would like to introduce you to some leaders in the community who are making a difference.

Gay and Lesbian Quitters of Steel
Brief description: Gay and Lesbians interested in Kicking Butts Foever thru forming a United Force.  68 members.  They can be found at “Become an X: Re-learn Life without Cigarettes Group page.”

"This group is dedicated to gay men and women (and their supporters) who are truly dedicated to kicking the butts forever.  I mean, how the hell are we going to be strong enough to fight for the freedoms we deserve if we're killing ourselves by inches by smoking?  See what I'm saying?  So, if you're interested in getting support and understanding from others who know exactly what you're going through, join the group.  Lets keep working together to eliminate as many ills as we possibly can."

Clergy Call for Equality

This May 22-24, we encourage you to join HRC’s Religion and Faith Program and hundreds of fellow religious leaders from across the country to build the faithful movement for LGBT justice.  Now more than ever we need religious leaders like you to keep equality at the forefront of our nation’s conscience.  Sign up now for the 2011 Clergy Call for Justice and Equality in Washington, DC and  gather with colleagues from Ohio and beyond to organize, learn, worship and bring your witness for justice to Capitol Hill.  Learn more at www.hrc.org/clergycall.

Reposted at keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Local Action Team Trainings for Lobby Day for Equality 2011

Sixth Annual
Lobby Day for Equality
is May 18, 2011

Make your voice heard at the Statehouse. Over forty new legislators need to hear your story!
Register here.

Local Action Team Leaders and Members needed - Equality Ohio's Local Action Teams' goal is to expand our education efforts, create better relationships between LGBT and allied people and their communities, media and officials, and create a better educated body of media representatives and elected officials in Ohio who will support equality for all their constituents. (Click here for more on this program). Since the inception of our Local Action Team Program, the team from Senate District 6 in 2009 was successful in gaining the support of Rep. Terry Blair (R) and then Rep. Peggy Lehner for EHEA. Work from citizen lobbyists like yourselves in Findlay, Ohio helped secure the support of then Rep. Cliff Hite and the on-going support of Rep. Ross McGregor is the work of the team out of Springfield, Ohio.

To pass pro-equality legislation, we have to engage legislators from both major parties and hearing one-on-one from their own constituents is the most effective way to educate our legislators. Where we have strong teams and a dedicated leader, the Local Action Team's are very successful. We still need leaders and teams from parts of the state, however. We still need volunteers from Senate District 5 (Miami and parts of Darke and Montgomery Counties), Senate District 7 (Warren and eastern Hamilton Counties), Senate District 12 (Allen, Mercer, Shelby, Champaign, Prebel and parts of Darke Counties), Senate District 14 (Clermont, Brown, Adams, Scioto and the western part of Lawrence Counties), Senate District 17 (Western Pickaway, Fayette, Clinton, Ross, Vinton, Highland, Pike, Jackson, Gallia and Eastern Lawrence), Senate District 19 (Richland, Morrow, Delaware and Knox Counties), Senate District 23 (West Cleveland area), Senate District 25 (far east Cleveland Area), Senate District 26 (Sandusky, Seneca, Wyandot, Crawford, Marion, Logan and Union Counties), Senate District 28 (Portage and parts of southeast Summit Counties), Senate District 30 (Columbiana, most of Tuscarawas, Harrison, Jefferson and Belmont Counties), Senate District 32 (Ashtabula and Trumbell Counties) and Senate District 33 (Mahoning, far eastern Stark, Carroll and far northeastern Tuscarawas Counties). Want to make a difference? Consider being a Local Action Team Leader.

Contact kim@equalityohio.org for more information.

Join us for a Local Action Team Training and get information about the EHEA, the Comprehensive Safe Schools Act (CSSA) and other legislative priorities for this year, learn what progress has been made in the past year with your legislator, and practice and prepare with others from your area in advance of meeting with your representative.

Reposted at keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Fully Committed:A Gay Wedding Affair

Interested in brunch, mimosas, fashion, and prizes?  Then join us and other members of the LGBT and allied community for Fully Committed: A Gay Wedding Affair.  The event will be hosted at The Athletic Club of Columbus from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m, and will feature Columbus' best gay and allied wedding vendors.  There will be champagne cocktails, appetizers, a mix and mingle fashion show, and giveaways!  Tickets are only $20 in advance ($30 at the door) and proceeds go to Equality Ohio Education Fund.
Buy your tickets today!

Find out more information at


http://www.fullycommittedcolumbus.com • TICKET PROCEEDS BENEFIT EQUALITY OHIO EDUCATION FUND

Conservatives Remain Unsupportive of Gay Rights at Their Peril

A series of polls released over the past few weeks confirm what many Americans are witnessing in their homes, workplaces, and houses of worship—support for gay and transgender equality is on the rise. This polling data comes on the heels of the Department of Justice announcing it has determined the Defense of Marriage Act—which prohibits the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples—is unconstitutional and will therefore no longer defend it in the several current federal court cases challenging the law.

Most Americans support the Justice Department’s decision as well as President Obama’s leadership against DOMA in general. Unfortunately, many Republican leaders, including the top likely candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, still think it is 1996, when President Clinton signed DOMA into law after huge bipartisan votes in Congress.

Much has changed since then. According to a poll released by the Human Rights Campaign and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 51 percent of voters now oppose the Defense of Marriage Act. The gap is even wider among independent voters, who oppose the law by a margin of 54 percent to 32 percent. Support for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans does not just end there. After reading statements for and against defending the law in federal and district court, 54 percent of voters stood in firm opposition to the recent announcement from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that the House of Representatives would take the place of the Justice Department and represent the government’s interest in the various DOMA cases.

Some conservatives, however, continue to be in denial about where the public is on marriage rights in general and DOMA in particular. Reacting to the Justice Department’s decision to stop defending DOMA, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a possible Republican presidential candidate, argued that it was an “an affront to the will of the people.” Similarly, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told supporters in a fundraising email that the president “continues to push his far-left, socialist agenda on the American people.”

A new interactive from the Center for American Progress Action Fund highlights these and many other examples of inflammatory, anti-LGBT language among possible Republican presidential candidates. Just last year, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly “there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us.” And on the issue of marriage equality, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said that giving gay and transgender people equal rights was akin to “accommodate[ing] those who want to use drugs” or “believe in incest.”

This is obviously not the first time politicians have used anti-LGBT rhetoric to garner financial and political support from religious and social conservative voters. But it remains to be seen if this tactic will work this year, given how far the country has come in terms of support of equality for gay and transgender Americans.
These claims, and the others available in the interactive, do nothing more than to show just how out of touch these politicians are with the actual will of the American people. In fact, a Washington Post and ABC News poll recently concluded that 53 percent of Americans support legalizing marriage for gay couples, a first in nearly a decade of polling. This poll also found that support has grown most notably “among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.”

This change is also happening rapidly among younger conservatives, who are finding it increasingly hard to support candidates who actively speak out against LGBT equality. Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, came out in full support of marriage equality after the election. He also said the Republican Party would be better off affirmatively making gay rights part of its national platform. Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential reelection campaign manager and former head of the Republican National Committee, offered a similar suggestion when he came out as a gay man after ending a lifelong career in conservative politics.

Thankfully, in addition to Republican leaders like Schmidt and Mehlman, some elected officials are also now supporting marriage equality and other rights for gay and transgender people. For example, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who voted for DOMA in 1996, has now signed on to sponsor Senate legislation that would repeal the law.

Like many people, Murray’s and others’ attitudes on marriage equality (and additional gay and transgender equality issues) have changed over the past 15 years, as gay and human rights advocates worked hard to educate and engage the general public. The struggle over gay and transgender equality is by no means over. But all indications are that those who oppose equality are fighting a losing battle.

Noel Gordon is an intern with LGBT Progress and Jeff Krehely is Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress. Posted at http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2011/03/turning_the_tables.html
Reposted at keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Potential Republican Nominees for President and Their Stances on LGBT Equality

Interactive: Conservatives on LGBT Issues
By Noel Gordon, Jeff Krehely
This interactive looks at the current field of potential Republican nominees for president and evaluates their stances on various LGBT-related issues in light of comments made in interviews, news stories, and articles. There are many potential challengers to President Barack Obama in 2012 but this interactive surveys the 13 politicians who have emerged as major contenders for the Republican nomination. Click on a candidate to view their comments.
Find out where each potential Republican nominee stands on the following issues: relationship recognition, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Employment Non-Discrimination Act, constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, adoption, Defense of Marriage Act, and spousal benefits.
Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
Last year, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly “there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us.”

Apple: The Reluctant Arbiter, Exodus & The National Story

 “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Whenever there’s a heated debate, a breakthrough in insight can come from an outsider with a fresh perspective. This has happened in the case of Apple and the Exodus International app. A writer from outside our inner circle instructs us.

I have been following the case of Apple, the Exodus International app, views on homosexuality and the current petition to have the app removed from the App Store. The basics of the story were covered by TMO just a few days ago.

Typically, a case like this starts with heated discussion on both sides that may or may not lead to a change in course by Apple. In the course of reading the two sides of the story, what I found missing was a unique, breakthrough viewpoint that shed significant light on the whole issue. Then, bingo, I found it in this article, “The Internet, Freedom of Speech and the Anti-Gay App,” by Victoria Pynchon. I do not know Ms. Pynchon, and she’s certainly not one of the heavyweights in the Apple analysis community. But her observations are important, and you can go read it now, or follow me along and go back to it later.
Ms. Pynchon’s contribution to the dialogue is that Apple has created an iconic device in the iPad. More to the point,
The furor over the Exodus App suggests that the iPad, by virtue of its shape and function, is assumed to be carrying our national “super story” – the tale a community tells about itself to establish a shared identity. As scholars explain, these national narratives hold us together and keep us apart. They help us make sense of our experience as we flip through the various idealized images the culture suggests we adopt as our own. When we fail to find our own story within the larger narrative — or find ourselves demonized by it — we lose confidence, hope and coherence. We want to be celebrated, or at least included, in the tales told around the community camp fire every evening.”
In other words, and this is a nuanced issue, the iPad has become the de facto village newspaper and the views expressed there, via apps, are subject to the judgment of Apple. Everyone wants to become a part of the national super story by having their voice heard on that so very popular platform. That, in turn, has placed responsibilities on Apple whether or not it likes the idea.

The Legacy of Newspapers
In the history of print, newspaper editors have long wielded considerable power and influence. They learned professionalism, values and judgment from many years on the job. If an outsider were to try to seize the tone of a newspaper’s content, it would be resisted. For example, if I were to write an essay for submission to the Denver Post that President Obama’s grandfather was a Nazi and a murderer, it would likely be rejected on the basis of the editor-in-chief’s knowledge, experience, and training. And their estimate my credibility and professionalism.

Similarly, every day, you come to TMO and find content that is the accumulated judgment and experience of our editors. You do this, realizing with wisdom that the people who most annoy us are sometimes the people we grudgingly respect*.

That’s not to say that newspaper editors haven’t made mistakes in judgment — they’re human. But if making a single mistake, any mistake, must lead to instant loss of position, then no editor could long endure his office. We live and learn. As I am fond of saying, “Judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

The nuance is that while numerous newspapers seek to have their presence on the iPad, each with its own voice, the irony is that the iPad itself has become the delivery vehicle, via apps, and thus the arbiter of the national super story. Apple takes a stand on what it considers decency and honor amongst apps.

The American Princess
Another popular arbiter of American values in the past has been the winner of the Miss America contest. During competition, her views and goals are assessed and combined with other attributes, not to mention basic good looks. Some people have been jealous or alarmed by this institution because winners have often articulated values that leave them out in the cold, isolated from the national super story. Watch any contestant take a stand on sexual values, and watch the fur fly.

Over time, for various reasons, we decided that this was not the best platform on which to tell our national story. Too many voices were left out. But also, the forces that tried to marginalize the often very good values if the young women became more strident and influential. It just goes to prove Ms. Pynchon’s point: the more influential an American icon of national story telling is, the more other voices will struggle to be heard. Sometimes the force of gentle reason doesn’t seem sufficient and opponents go overboard.

Core Values
Now we’re geting down to the core issue of the Exodus International app which seeks to assist the user to better explore and understand his or her feelings and values. (I have examined the app.) The reason Apple approved the app is because it’s honest and sincere about helping people follow what is believed to be the teaching of the Bible. One problem here is that people of different religious faiths interpret the Bible differently. Forcing other people to believe what you believe never works and is offensive. However, helping people understand themselves is a good thing.

Ms. Pynchon makes a critical observation: “These religious beliefs (that sexual conduct outside of a one man-one woman marriage is sinful and can be “cured” by Jesus) are held by fewer and fewer Americans. They have also been repudiated by many liberal American Christian churches (including my own. -JM] They fly in the face of American secular legal principles [read as separation of church and state - JM] and contradict our contemporary scientific understanding. They are matters of faith, not science or reason.” What this author is summarizing is what is becoming the national story — that our individual DNA is our essence, and we treat our essence with respect. It’s similar to our other national stories, for example, that you don’t stone a woman to death for adultery.

With sober reflection, we realize that while those who oppose them may win by the sword of their petition today, they may die by that same sword tomorrow. There is a place in American life for science and the best that religion has to offer. However, and please read this carefully, there are those who believe that self-realization and fulfillment can come from pain, struggling to become what one is not yet, even if pain includes falling on the sword of one’s own DNA. Those who hold to this view want their voice also heard on the national iconic platform, the App Store. With sober reflection, we realize that while those who oppose them may win by the sword of their petition today, they may die by that same sword tomorrow. There is a place in American life for science and the best that religion has to offer. 

Corporate Values
The emerging arbiter of the above is Apple. Apple’s executives are women and men with lots of technical experience, and now they’ve assumed the role, perhaps unwillingly, of being the editors of our iconic platform. Occasionally, they make mistakes, but they usually correct them. But one thing is certain: we want our corporations to have values. And when they betray us, we seek to punish them.

We expect our agri-businesses to sell food that’s safe to eat. We expect our wireless carriers to have fair, transparent pricing and honorable license agreements — even if we don’t always get all that. We expect our banks to protect our money and we expect Facebook to protect our privacy — even when that’s not one of its business goals. We hope and pray that when companies start selling personal robots that they will inculcate Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Without those laws, humans risk becoming an extinct species. Because corporations are so entwined in our modern technical village, the policies they have and the products they build are increasingly tasked to represent our society’s values. When they fail us — or allow others to harm us — we are appalled. When done right, we celebrate.

Everywhere we turn, we expect corporations to adhere to our national sense of American values and the national super story. And yet, when confronted by those values, many who would have no master seek to change the direction of the national story for their own ends. It’s almost like the situation in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart. We get a glimpse of how Bedford Falls could have gone so terribly wrong, a wretched hive of scum and villainy, in an alternate timeline bereft of the values brought to bear by George Bailey.

We look at instant replay in sports events in infinite, slow-motion, excruciating detail over and over to make sure the game is played fair and without brutality. We also expect corporations to treat us fairly, and to do that, they must have values that we sign off on. All those things that Apple won’t tolerate in the apps that it approves are a by-product of those American values and are part of emerging national super story — like the newspaper editors and beauty contest winners they are replacing. I hope they’re up to the task because that is the task that fate has thrust upon them in our technical village. There is no turning back. None.

And the Winner is…
Don’t look for a verdict in this spot, for I am not here to take sides. There is grace to be found on both sides of the Exodus argument. The applicable value could well be tolerance for the softest and most reasoned voices of love, or it could be intolerance for emotional and strident voices of anti-science. I’d hate to think, however, that the default value lies in demagoguery and, simply, a poll of how many people are offended.

In any case, we honor Apple, the reluctant arbiter in our technical life, for having the courage to make a stand, to represent our best national values, our national story. The company’s greatest failing would to be rudderless, to have no values at all.

Author note: Just as this essay was published, it was learned that Apple pulled the app.
* For me, that’s columnist George Will.

John Martellaro is a senior scientist and author. A former U.S. Air Force officer, he has worked for NASA, White Sands Missile Range, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Apple Computer. During his five years at Apple, he worked as a Senior Marketing Manager for science and technology, Federal Account Executive, and High Performance Computing Manager. His interests include alpine skiing, SciFi, astronomy, and Perl. John lives in Denver, Colorado.
You can follow John on Twitter at twitter.com/jmartellaro.

This has been reposted at keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thousands Urge Apple to Remove 'Anti-Gay' App

More Than 120,000 Sign Petition Urging Apple to Remove 'Anti-Gay' App

March 22, 2011
A so-called "anti-gay" application in Apple's App Store is stirring debate online, but despite a petition signed by more than 100,000 people, Apple has given no indication that it will be removed.
Released in mid-February by the Orlando, Fla.-based Christian group Exodus International, the free app provides video, podcasts, blog posts and other content that reflect the group's mission as a "refuge for people looking for help in their journey out of homosexuality."
"Exodus is a Christian ministry that supports those wanting to reconcile their faith with their sexual behavior," the group says on its site, adding that it believes that changing homosexuality is possible because thousands of people in its network can attest to it. On its homepage, Exodus emphasizes that its "4+" rating from Apple means that the app contains "no objectionable content."
But a Change.org petition launched soon after the app's release, takes a very different view.
"No objectionable content? We beg to differ. Exodus' message is hateful and bigoted. They claim to offer 'freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ' and use scare tactics, misinformation, stereotypes and distortions of LGBT life to recruit clients," the petition says. "They endorse the use of so-called 'reparative therapy' to 'change' the sexual orientation of their clients, despite the fact that this form of 'therapy' has been rejected by every major professional medical organization including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association. But reparative therapy isn't just bad medicine -- it's also very damaging to the self-esteem and mental health of its victims."
The petition, which has been signed by nearly 130,000 people, maintains that the app is Exodus' latest attempt to target youth, which is says is particularly "dangerous" given the recent LGBT youth suicides across the country. Apple did not respond to a request for comment from ABCNews.com.
Jeff Buchanan, senior director of church equipping and student ministries for Exodus International, said the app is not intended only for young people but for a broad demographic that shares the church's beliefs.
"We are reaching those with unwanted same sex attraction," he said. "We were disappointed to see this petition. What we're asking for is fair and equal representation on the Apple platform. We see this as a religious freedom."
Buchanan said that given that the "pro-gay" Metropolitan Community Church of New York has a place in Apple's online store (with a podcast app), Exodus should be allowed to distribute its application there as well.
Since the online protests started, he said, his group has not had any response from Apple.
But this isn't the first "anti-gay" app to cause a flap in Apple's iTunes store. In November, Apple pulled another controversial application after just 7,000 people signed an online petition at Change.org.
The application, called Manhattan Declaration, was a "call of Christian Conscience" that advocated "the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty," according to its website.
In a statement at the time, Apple said, "We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."
Posted at ABC News
Reposted at keystothecloset.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Funding Opportunities

GLAAD Announces National Media Training Institute for People of Color
The new program will provide people of color who are LGBT or LGBT allies with advanced spokesman training plus ongoing support and coaching from GLAAD staff; sessions will be held in Los Angeles and New York City....

Posted on March 16, 2011
Deadline: March 25, 2011

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Invites Letters of Inquiry From Social Change Organizations
Grants will be awarded to social change organizations and projects that directly address the depth and complexity of critical issues in LGBTI communities; all potential grantees, including 2010 recipients, must apply for consideration....

Posted on March 11, 2011
Deadline: March 15, 2011 (Letters of Inquiry)

Posted at Keystothecloset

Monday, March 21, 2011

Call for Presenters & Workshops

We are currently accepting program proposals to be presented at the 4th Annual TransOhio Transgender & Ally Conference to be held August 5-7, 2011!

This year our conference will include: Friday, August 5th: 2nd Annual Provider’s Day Explicitly for medical, legal, and social work professionals (CEUs/CLEs)

Saturday, August 6th: General Conference Covering a broad range of interests throughout the community

Sunday, August 7th: General Conference Continuation of programs with a diversity of topics
The proposal can be for a seminar, presentation, panel, workshop, discussion group, activity/performance space, fellowship activity, arts and crafts, etc. We will seriously consider all submissions, and will give preference to fresh ideas. So don’t be shy, and think outside the box!

Please fill out this form as it will appear for publication.

The information that you submit will be used on the conference website, in advance publicity, and in the program book. Keep in mind that Friday’s program is geared toward the continued education of service providers.

Please indicate in the space provided whether you have presented the topic before, and if CEUs/CLEs were offered with attendance.

Depending on scheduling, we may request that you present both Friday and Saturday if the topic will also benefit the larger community, and we will consider this as space allows.

Need ideas? Have any questions, comments, or concerns? Please direct them to us at: workshops@transohio.org!

Reposted at Keystothecloset

Monday, March 14, 2011

Religious Right Group Says Anti-Bullying Programs Will "Homosexualize" Children

Rick Green of WallBuilders hosted Elizabeth Swanson of the Protect Kids Foundation, a virulently anti-gay group that opposes programs to protect children from bullying and harassment in schools. Like other groups such as Focus on the Family, the California Family Council, Mission America, and the Family Research Council, the so-called Protect Kids Foundation claims that gay-rights proponents “indoctrinating kids to accept and adopt LGBT lifestyles, starting in kindergarten.” David Barton, the head of WallBuilders, himself said that public school students “are getting homosexual indoctrination” and manufacturing the bullying problem.
According to the Protect Kids Foundation, gay-rights advocates are “obsessed with power” and “are determined to transform schools, kids, and culture into their hedonistic vision of a new utopian America…radically transforming society by using our children as pawns for social change.” The organization believes that the immense bullying faced by students who are gay or perceived as gay in schools is not a significant issue, accusing supporters of anti-bullying policies of “fabricating an issue and claiming victim status to gain power” and “indoctrinating impressionable school children.” In their words, the establishment of anti-bullying programs “stigmatizes the normal and normalizes what has for centuries been deemed deviant” and somehow takes away the rights of heterosexuals who don’t support attempts to “homosexualize their children”:
The civil rights issue actually runs in favor of the estimated 96% of the population who are not homosexual. Having LGBT activists homosexualize their children will trample upon their civil rights. For the first time in our history, America is faced with a powerful movement that defines its alleged “rights” in terms of the deprivation of the fundamental rights of others. As a result, the homosexual movement is depriving other Americans of civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
Swanson told Green on WallBuilders Live that people should “reclaim” the word 'homophobic,' which she believes, has unfairly become a “pejorative” and a “racial epithet.”
Rick, you said a very key word, 'tolerance,' that we're going to teach tolerance. But the redefinitions of the words go even further. So when you look at the definitions that GLSEN has put forward, there’s a document called Tackling LGBT Issues in the Schools, and it’s a document prepared jointly by GLSEN and Planned Parenthood. And interestingly, the definition that they use of the word “homophobe,” “homophobia” or a “homophobic level of attitude,” which is a word I do not normally use because that word in itself was created by an activist who wanted to get back at people that were disagreeing with homosexuality as a moral good. So to me the term is a pejorative term, a racial epithet if you would, that should not be used because you’re basically name calling people right there if you say ‘Oh, they’re homophobic,’ so that’s a word that needs to be reclaimed and not used in our every day vernacular when talking about this issue.

Fischer: Native Americans Need to Leave The Reservation, Convert To Christianity, and Become Full-Fledged American Citizens

One of the staples of Bryan Fischer's daily radio program is the reading of, and expounding upon, the latest blog post he has written.  And today was no exception as he dedicated more than ten minutes to reading his latest post in which he claims that God used the Europeans to conquer North America because Native Americans were "morally disqualified" from exercising control and that they remain mired in poverty and alcoholism today because they refuse to give up their "superstition" and embrace Jesus. 

During the program today, Fischer hammered home that latter point, saying that Native American fathers much get their children off of the reservation so that they can assimilate into mainstream society and convert to Christianity instead of embracing the silly Native American superstitions demonstrated during the Tucson memorial service:

Santorum: Obama Will "Eviscerate" Freedom By Supporting Gay Rights

Bachmann Taps Mat Staver To Teach Tea Party Class

Posted on rightwingwatch.org reposted at http://keystothecloset.blogspot.com/

There are few "mainstream" anti-gay activists operating today that can match Matt Barber for shear anti-gay vitriol.  In fact, it was his attacks on gays that turned Barber into a Religious Right celebrity in the first place, eventually landing him a job with Concerned Women for America before Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel lured him away and gave him a position as Associate Dean at Liberty University and Director of Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel.

And Staver snapped up Barber because he shares his anti-gay views and because of their endless anti-gay attacks, Liberty Counsel found itself on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of anti-gay groups.
So, of course, Rep. Michele Bachmann has tapped Staver to come and teach her Tea Party class to members of Congress ... after, of course, she joins him for the upcoming Awakening 2011 conference, along with Newt Gingrich:
Staver joins David Barton and Jay Sekulow as anti-gay Religious Right activists that Bachmann has sought out to teach her Tea Party class on the Constitution. 

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Invites Letters of Inquiry From Social Change Organizations

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is accepting Letters of Inquiry for consideration in the 2011 cycle of its United States Fund in support of Lesbian, Trans, Intersex, and LGBTI social change organizations and projects (including film, video, media, and cultural projects) that directly address the depth and complexity of critical issues in LGBTI communities.

All applicants must submit the LOI Form to be considered for funding in this grant cycle, including prior grantees who may have received a U.S. Fund grant as recently as 2010. Once LOIs are reviewed, a subset of applicants will be asked to provide additional proposal materials to complete their full application for this cycle.

Complete program guidelines and application information are available at the Astraea Foundation Web site
Primary Subject: Civil and Human Rights
Geographic Funding Area: National


Maryland Gay Marriage Bill Dies Without Final Vote

By TOM LoBIANCO   03/11/11 07:37 PM   AP

A final vote had been expected in the House, but the overwhelmingly Democratic chamber's leaders instead withdrew it. A confluence of factors helped fracture Democtatic support, including a split among black lawmakers, the opposition of churches and trouble by some freshman lawmakers in determining what their constituents wanted.

"The vote would have been very close, make no mistake about it," said Busch, D-Anne Arundel, minutes after lawmakers returned the bill to a House committee on a voice vote, effectively killing it for the year.
The unexpected move came after two weeks of intense lobbying that included Busch meeting with delegates over the past several days to try and secure votes. He said Democrats would try again next year.
The bill to make Maryland the sixth state to allow gay marriage had already passed the Senate, and the governor said he would have signed it. Before this year, measures to extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples had never made it as far.

The Senate narrowly approved the measure two weeks ago, voting 25-21 to send the bill to the House after adding language to keep religious groups from being forced to serve gay weddings.

But the bill hit trouble in the House two weeks ago after a committee had to delay a series of votes on the issue. It ended with Busch and his lieutenants deciding it was better to save a final vote for next year, rather than put delegates on the record with a failed vote this year.

Some predicted that, if passed, the measure would have been pretitioned to referendum in the deeply Catholic state.

"I would have hoped that we could have resolved this issue and then let the people decide," said Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, after the House killed the measure. "I think an issue like this was bound to go before the people in a referendum, and I would have hoped that we would have been able to have accomplished that today."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller had said he believes citizens would have rejected gay marriage in such a referendum.

Delegate Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, said House leaders failed to do a good job of keeping track of where each of the party's members stood, hampering efforts to rally support. Democrats hold 98 seats of the 141-seat House.

"That system was not in place for this bill, and I think that there just wasn't enough time to get a good count," Anderson said.

The pickup of six seats by Republicans in the last election also helped erode support, said House Environmental Matters Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh, one of the chamber's openly gay members.
"If in the general election we had retained all of the Democratic seats I think we would be declaring victory today," a tearful McIntosh said.

House Democratic leaders also said they failed to secure the votes they needed from black lawmakers.
"They took the black votes for granted because they're so used to having it," said Delegate Jill Carter, D-Balitmore. "This issue was too big, people's connection to church and religion were too deep."

Several of the chamber's 33 black lawmakers took opposite sides during Friday's debate.

Delegate Jay Walker, D-Prince George's, said he would represent his majority-black district's wishes even if it conflicted with his personal views.

"If I want to truly represent my district I vote red (no)," Walker told his colleagues.

However, Delegate Keiffer Mitchell – the grandson of the legendary NAACP lobbyist Clarence Mitchell Jr. – said the debate was about civil rights.

"It is a civil rights issue when we as a state and a government deny equal protection under the law," said Mitchell, D-Baltimore.

But Delegate Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County, a black pastor and opponent of gay marriage said the struggles of gays could not match the violence against blacks during the civil rights era.

"Those who desire to ride on our coattails are historically incorrect," Burns said.

Still, because no roll-call vote was taken on the issue, it was hard to determine where exactly the Democratic rift fell. Anderson, also a black lawmaker, said the vote had less to do with race and more to do with differences between conservative and liberal members of the party.

Delegate Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery, another of the chamber's openly gay members, said supporters were always a few votes short of the 71 and that many factors blocked their way.

"I think in some cases it was the churches back home," Kaiser said. "I really can't explain people's motiviations. Many people who promised us their votes changed their minds."

Opponents said the decision Friday was a victory for defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

"We took a position to support the existing definition as being between one man and woman and that prevailed," said House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert. "I think it was the appropriate action."
Associated Press writer Brian Witte in Annapolis contributed to this report.