The Passing of Aimee Stephens

From NPR.org:

Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman at the center of a major employment rights case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, died in Detroit on Tuesday at age 59.

Stephens was the first transgender person whose civil rights case was heard by the Supreme Court, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented her. Her case concerns the question of whether federal law prohibiting employment discrimination applies to transgender employees.

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After years of working as an embalmer and funeral home director at R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Livonia, Mich., Stephens informed her boss in 2013 that she was transitioning from male to female. She had been living as a transgender woman outside of work, and planned to follow the company’s dress code for women on the job. A short time later, Stephens was fired.

Backed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she sued her former employer. In 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled against the funeral home owners, saying that LGBTQ people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states employers cannot fire, refuse to hire or otherwise penalize people because of their sex.

The funeral home owners appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the civil rights laws were not intended to protect gay and transgender people. Additionally, they said, the funeral home was within its rights to insist that Stephens adhere to its dress code for male employees during work hours.

The case currently before the high court asks whether it is illegal sex discrimination, under federal civil rights statutes, to fire someone because they are transgender. The Supreme Court started hearing the case last year and its decision is expected by July.

Stephens, who suffered from kidney disease, was in the end stage of renal failure in recent weeks. She died in hospice care at home with her wife, Donna Stephens, by her side, the ACLU said.

According to a GoFundMe account asking for financial assistance to cover Stephens’ funeral costs and end-of-life care, being fired from her job in 2013 resulted in the loss of adequate health care coverage, “years of lost income” and “immediate financial strain, leading her spouse Donna to take on several jobs.”

“Aimee Stephens just wanted to continue to do the job she was hired to do, that she was good at, and that she was prepared to continue while living as her true gender,” Brian Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, said in a statement.

“Her fight will continue as we strive for equality for all, inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

In an interview last year with The Detroit News, Stephens said she was optimistic about the outcome of the pending Supreme Court case.

“I believe in what I’m doing. I’ve stood up for myself to make sure that it happens. That’s what keeps me going,” she said.

“If you’re part of the human race, which we all are, we all deserve the same basic rights. We’re not asking for anything special. We’re just asking to be treated like other people are.”

Love, Hannah

United Airlines to Offer Non-Binary Gender Booking Options

There are two big things I want to do en femme.  I would love love love to be a bridesmaid, but a more realistic goal is to fly pretty.

Thanks to their new policy, I will probably fly United Airlines.

From their website:

United Airlines today announced it has become the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout all booking channels in addition to providing the option to select the title “Mx.” during booking and in a MileagePlus customer profile. Customers now have the ability to identify themselves as M(male), F(female), U(undisclosed) or X(unspecified), corresponding with what is indicated on their passports or identification.

“United is determined to lead the industry in LGBT inclusivity, and we are so proud to be the first U.S. airline to offer these inclusive booking options for our customers,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist. “United is excited to share with our customers, whether they identify along the binary of male or female or not, that we are taking the steps to exhibit our care for them while also providing additional employee training to make us even more welcoming for all customers and employees.”

 

On a related note, we should also be up to date on TSA’s policy when it comes to gender non-conforming, non-binary and transgender people.

Love, Hannah

 

Drawing the Line

I noticed Too Faced cosmetics was trending on Twitter the other day and I was curious why.  I like Too Faced, actually.  In fact, the MN T-Girls did a makeup demonstration at Ulta a few years back and Too Faced sent over a few of their regional trainers to give makeovers, help us shop for products, and to demonstrate different techniques.

I assumed Too Faced was trending because of a new eyeshadow palette or something similar buuuuuut it wasn’t.  Basically the sister of the co-founder of Too Faced made some comments about a makeup artist who recently came out as transgender.  This caused, to say the least, backlash against Too Faced.

Whether or not someone you feel that Too Faced deserves the backlash based on what the co-founder’s family member said (God knows I don’t endorse or agree with everything my family members say), it made me think about the importance of supporting organizations that support our community.  Specifically I am thinking about the way we are viewed not only by the corporation itself, but by the employees who work for them.

Case in point, Target.  Target came out a few years ago saying that their guests should use the restrooms and changing rooms that match their gender identity.  This caused some boycotts which likely affected their business.  I’m sure Target was aware of what this stance would cause, but they did it anyway.  Risking profits by making this their policy says to me that they really do support us.

I shop at Target in both male mode and en femme.  When I am there en femme I have always had a positive experience.  I feel welcome there by the employees and I feel welcomed there by the corporation, based on their policy.

Of course, not every corporation is like Target.  I was disappointed to hear a CEO from Victoria’s Secret make some disparaging comments about our community.  I was even more disappointed by the company’s response to what was said.  I had been shopping at Victoria’s Secret for years as both genders.  In male mode I was mostly ignored (thankfully), but Hannah was always welcomed there.  I made the decision to stop shopping there, but in doing so I discovered so many other options for my lingerie from companies that truly do support our us.

If we want more businesses to support our community, then our community must support the ones that already do.

I don’t frequent businesses that have beliefs or a corporate culture that don’t align with my own morals and values.  It does make it a little different when the experience is positive at a store level (such as shopping at a Victoria’s Secret store) but is very different from a company culture perspective.  I missed shopping there (until I tried other options), but I couldn’t bring myself to spend money where they employed a CEO that didn’t think a transwoman should be allowed to model for them.

Of course, I am not so naive to think that it’s possible to live a life where you never interact or have to deal with people who you disagree with.  I am related to people who prefer to live in a world where the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t exist, after all.  I would like them to change, but I know they likely won’t.  I would like for all organizations to be welcoming and supportive of our community, but it’s not realistic.  However, I believe you can voice your opinion with your purse more than you can with your tweets.

I often wonder where I should draw the line.  I wonder if I am a hypocrite in some ways.  Yes, I won’t eat Chick-fil-A but how well do I know the values of the owner of the coffee shop that I go to?  Should I toss out my Harry Potter books?  Do I need to google every organization that I interact with?

I try to live a highly principled life but I often wonder where I should be drawing the line.

Love, Hannah

 

Drag out the Vote

Drag out the Vote is coming to Minneapolis!

  • The Muse Event Center

Drag Out The Vote is partnering with @phiphiohara’s #QueensUnited & @flipphoneevents to raise money and to register voters in 2020 and get them to the polls!

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Featuring @TheGingerMinj, @monetxchange, @lee_fontaine, @jaidynnfierce, @misssherryvine, @thewendyho, @mercedesimandiamond, @martigcummings and more!

Tickets available at FlipPhoneEvents.com

What is Drag Out  The Vote?

 

Drag Out The Vote™ is a non-partisan organization that works with drag performers to promote participation in democracy. We register voters at drag events across the country. We organize drag queen-led get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities during election cycles. Our first campaign is #DragOutTheVote2020 to register voters and get them out the polls for the November 2020 election.

Drag queens have been fighting on the front lines since the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement. Even now, many continue to use their prominent community status to champion equality. We are looking for queens from all over the U.S. to join our movement and bring more voters — no matter their gender, race, sexuality or age — to the polls. Queens, join us here.

LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive rights are under attack and Congress is doing little to battle climate change. It has never been more important to get registered, vote, and make your voice heard. If you want to be the first to know about our drag events and activities, join us here. Learn more about about how to get registered here.

Love, Hannah

The Force is Fabulous

Billy Dee Williams, best known for his role in the Star Wars movies, has just come out at as gender fluid.

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From out.com:

The Star Wars actor recently opened up about his gender fluidity and using both he/him and she/her pronouns in an interview with Esquire. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

I totally heart this for a number of reasons.

For starters, it goes against the stereotype that identifying as non-binary is something that is typically associated with a younger generation.  At 82, Williams is older than many of the celebrities that also identify as gender-fluid, transgender, pangender, or other gender related identities.  When someone comes out as non-binary, whether they are a celebrity or not, its not uncommon for them to be dismissed as being young and confused about who they are.  I think it’s wonderful to have this type of representation in our community.

Physically, Williams also presents as someone with an appearance that most would associate with masculine characteristics, mainly because of his mustache.  As someone who is over six feet tall with big boy hands and broad shoulders, I often think I am too masculine (physically at least) to present as anything other than male.  Of course, I have gotten over that as there are no standards one must meet to be any gender (or non-gender) that you want.  Williams is a role model for us as he reminds us that we do not have to be David Bowie-esque androgynous in order to identify or come out as anything we want.

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Finally, Star Wars for a very long time has been considered very much a boy thing.  There was a huge backlash against actresses Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran who starred in the films and much of the criticism and harassment was by men because Ridley and Tran are girls in a movie.

I know, I know, NOT ALL MEN, thank you.

Having an actor in the biggest movie franchise of all time who is a member of our community is a huge thing.  We need allies and representation and thankfully Williams isn’t the only one.  Mark Hamill also often voices his support for the LGBTQ+ community as well.

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Having LGBTQ+ actors and actresses starring in movies is important, but the movies also need to have LGBTQ+ characters as well.  Entertainment should be inclusive and have representation.  At the very least it shouldn’t be anti-anything.  I’m not saying that every movie and television show necessarily needs to have a LGBTQ+ character, but saying a movie (especially one with aliens and robots) can’t have a gay or transgender character is ridiculous.

Growing up I only saw transgender/crossdressing/non-binary characters in movies and television shows portrayed as a laugh or as fetish-y.  It reinforced the idea that we were to be mocked and feared.  I never saw anyone like me.  No one did.  How ground-breaking would it be to see a movie with a husband and wife in bed having a conversation while he’s wearing a nightgown?  A male character wearing leggings and reading a book or something normal.  The clothing shouldn’t be addressed or a plot point, just… something subtle that isn’t turned into a big deal.

As our society is introduced to ideas and representation and perspectives that are outside the traditional male and female thinking, the closer (however slow it may be) we get to being, well, maybe understood or accepted is too optimistic right now, but perhaps tolerated is the best we can hope for at this point.  I would love for Hannah to turn heads at the mall because of my gorgeous dress, not because of my trans-ness.  I would love to run errands in boy mode wearing a femme t-shirt and yoga pants and have no one care.

I mean, I don’t know if they care, and I don’t care if they care, but you know what I mean.

I love that emotions, characteristics, and clothes are moving away from being labeled as masculine and feminine.  Yes, it’s a slow process and not without resistance, but it is progress nonetheless.

Love, Hannah

 

 

Minneapolis Bans Conversion Therapy

After a statewide ban was defeated at the last minute, I am happy to see that the city of Minneapolis has banned conversion therapy for minors!

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From Minnesota Public Radio:

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday passed a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” for minors.

The controversial practice aims to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. But the LGBT community and others say it doesn’t work.

Council president Lisa Bender read a statement from council member Phillipe Cunningham urging other members to support the ordinance.

“Conversion therapy, which is actually conversion abuse, is a blight on our country. It is tantamount to torture,” the statement read. “I believe that we should continue to push for this change at a state level. But also believe that where there is opportunity for us to save lives, we must.”

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Repost from Glaad.org:

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

How can I get involved in the Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Participate in Transgender Day of Remembrance by attending and/or organizing a vigil on November 20 to honor all those transgender people whose lives were lost to anti-transgender violence that year, and learning about the violence affecting the transgender community. Vigils are typically hosted by local transgender advocates or LGBTQ organizations, and held at community centers, parks, places of worship, and other venues. The vigil often involves reading a list of the names of those lost that year.

Please see resources below on how to write stories about transgender people who have been victimized by crime, and additional resources for writing about the violence that affects transgender people, especially transgender women of color.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, GLAAD remembers the transgender people whose lives have been lost to anti-transgender violence this year and over the years.

Information for media:

Organizations and resources:

Reports on violence and discrimination:

More information:

As always, be safe.

Love, Hannah