Unclear on the concept?

UPDATE: I have just learned that the Montgomery showerheads are continuing their disgusting attacks. Like Mr. Delgaudio, they are guilty of something akin to blood libel. Such people will be held accountable by history.

To the left is a handout that I created for members of the Board of Supervisors (click to view full size PDF). These images were provided to accompany my remarks during the February 1 public comment session (kindly delivered by my husband because I was en route to Richmond, but that’s another story). Those remarks are reproduced below.*

The context: If you have been following this issue, you know that two of our local supervisors, Mr. Delgaudio and Ms. Waters, adamantly opposed amending the county’s Equal Employment Opportunity statement to include the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and that one flash point for their opposition is the notion that “men in dresses” (which I assume is their ignorant and defamatory way of referring to transgender women) would suddenly be able to use women’s restrooms. Here is Lori Waters from the January 5 board meeting: Would it mean men who dress as women [sic] going to ladies’ restrooms? It could. It could! I don’t know.

As we know from other instances of bigots exploiting the fears of uninformed people, these sorts of campaigns always pretend that transgender men don’t exist. After all, the reality of the actual transgender community tends to undermine their carefully constructed fiction about “men in dresses” threatening the ladies in public washrooms. I asked this question of the bigots making these claims in Montgomery County a few years ago:

Are the perpetrators of these lies themselves so ignorant of transgender issues that they believe their own talking points – or, are they doing this with full knowledge of their deception? I’m sad to say that I think it’s the latter.

In the case of our local characters, I have to say I’m not so sure. Several independent reports from people in the board room that night suggest that Lori Waters didn’t understand that she was looking at pictures of transgender men. According to one of her colleagues, she wrinkled her brow in confusion as she looked through the photos, while murmuring “these are just men.

Yes, exactly. That’s why you wouldn’t want them using the ladies’ room. The good news here is the possibility of education. People make mistakes because they don’t have all the information they need, or they haven’t thought about something in a way that wouldn’t occur to them without some help. I would never hold that kind of mistake against someone. It is not the same thing as intentionally bearing false witness.

* Chairman York, members of the Board, Mr. Hemstreet:

I have provided some photos for you. I hope you’ve had a chance to take a quick look at them, because a quick look is all that should be necessary.

I note with amusement that, if Mr. Delguadio and Ms. Waters had their way, based on their statements in this room a few weeks ago, these guys would all be required to use the ladies’ room in Loudoun County.

I don’t think that would make anyone happy.

I want to thank this board, first of all for doing the right thing with regard to the county’s Equal Employment Opportunity statement. In spite of what any of your detractors may think, it is important that prospective employees see in writing that Loudoun County is an inclusive, welcoming place to work and live.

And, I would note, having that statement in our written policy is even more important now, given unfortunate recent events that would give exactly the opposite impression.

I want even more to thank you for taking time in your personal board comments to draw a necessary line, and to affirm that some things are simply unacceptable.

Mr. Delgaudio: You do not speak about other people that way. Ever. But then to lie about it? Disgusting.

My husband is a second-generation Holocaust survivor, and when we see a sitting elected official state that some members of our community are less than human, we take that very seriously. It means the world to me personally that you understood the meaning of this and are taking it seriously too.

So, thank you. I hope, having said that, that you can now move on, continue doing the county’s business, and deny Mr. Delgaudio any further platform from which to line his pockets at the expense of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Thank you very much for listening.

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9 Responses to Unclear on the concept?

  1. Cynthia says:

    Hi David!

    I too have wondered about the blind spot many people have about transmen, and the ability of our opponents to conveniently ignore them. To a certain extent, I think the problem can be boiled down to a simple question:

    WHERE ARE ALL THE (politically active) TRANSMEN????

    With a few notable exceptions, I see a disappointing lack of transmen speaking out at local GLBT events and gatherings, or participating in blogs where they can confront some of the on-going bigotry. When some politician makes news for transphobic commentary, it’s not uncommon to see responses in the “comments” section from half-a-dozen transwomen, and 0 transmen. (See http://michiganmessenger.com/33506/paul-scott-targets-transgendered-people-in-race-for-secretary-of-state for example.)

    I know you guys are out there — there are plenty on YouTube. There are even a few in my local support group, and I know some from various conferences. But when some 90 to 95% of personal trans exposure I see on the intertubes appear to be grassroots responses from individual transwomen, is it any wonder that knowledge of transmen, their issues, and the ramifications of anti-trans bigotry and legislation designed to protect innocent women from “men dressed as women” are blithely ignored?

    Sorry to sound so accusatory, but I’d really like to know where y’all are! Not that I want to join in and drink beer with you or anything, but I think trans-friendly legislation would be a lot easier to move forward if every time there’s a rally, a testimony before some government body, or even just comments on news articles there were just as many transmen there as there are transwomen. When I lobbied in Annapolis on Monday, our group consisted of 3 gay men, one lesbian, one straight woman, and two transwomen. It seems to me our rainbow coalition was missing a stripe.

    I hope you and J. are staying warm and having a wonderful time. I haven’t seen you in ages – let’s do lunch some time!

    Take care,

    Cynthia

  2. Jonathan says:

    Regarding “bigots exploiting the fears of uninformed people”, When I heard about the violent rape that occurred in a women’s bathroom at Montgomery College Takoma campus, I asked myself if the rapist was a “man in a dress”. He wasn’t, of course. He was a regular cisgender man. Then, I thought, shame on Peter Sprigg and Ruth Jacobs and their supporters including our local anti-gay agitator Chuck Colson who produced a BreakPoint radio commentary supporting their Montomery County campaign. But to see them deceptively use this event to call for pogroms against transgender women, the group “Maryland Citizens for Responsible Government” has gone too far. It is a hate group plain and simple and it needs to be held accountable for its propaganda.

  3. David says:

    The evidence is clear – the danger to women and children comes almost exclusively from heterosexual men.

  4. David says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    Sorry about the spam filter – it ate my own comment above because I wasn’t logged in…

    I agree with you and share that frustration on the one hand – but on the other hand there is a lot of power in the ability to illustrate the fact that there are all these transgender men in society – Oh My! – and the screamers and know-it-alls are clueless.

    The education that can be done is of a different kind, but I would argue it is just as valuable. It’s not unlike the situation of having a crazy aunt who loves you dearly but suffers from anti-gay prejudice based on misinformation – and in the midst of one of her ignorant diatribes you quietly say “Aunt Lila, I’m one of those ‘homos’.”

    There are different roles for people. I think there are a lot of transgender men who are quietly and effectively doing that kind of education, so please don’t assume that their absence from a more public profile means a lack of involvement.

  5. Cynthia says:

    So this whole time the showerheads have been fretting over transwomen in the bathrooms, transmen have been quietly taking over the government. Wow. Wait till they figure THAT one out! Too bad nobody told me sooner – I could have been sitting back and watching everything from a distance and munching on popcorn!

    😉

    Evil Cyn

  6. David says:

    Sneaky, eh?

    The poor dears. They just have no idea.

  7. Ted in Richmond says:

    Thanks David, for sending this post to me! I haven’t had a chance to read it until tonight, but it’s *great*!

    Cynthia, I am one of those trans guys who does show up. I can’t lobby because I work for the state govt., but I do a lot through my job in HIV prevention to educate people about the health needs of trans folks. And I try to encourage other guys I know to get involved. It’s hard because so many of them are working so hard just to survive. They have a difficult time considering advocacy as an option. There are some leaders emerging, but it takes time to build leadership.

    Thank YOU for your work, anyway! I hope more of the guys will be able to publicly come forward the way David does and the way I sometimes can in forums that don’t involve legislative advocacy (radio and newspaper interviews so far).

    Best, Ted

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