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Newsletter - February 2007

FEBRUARY 2007

Writing the February 2007 Newsletter should be a little simpler than was writing the newsletter for the previous month. There is only one previous meeting to summarize. On the other hand, upcoming programs are, alas, somewhat up in the air. At first I thought that we were going to have a speaker on the upcoming IFGE convention. We may still have one-in March.

But a more important problem is that I cannot do everything. I gather that the secretary may be unable to send out meeting notices any more. Fine, but I do not always have the time to do this in addition to numerous other functions a group leader has to discharge. When I was program chairperson, yes, this job requires a lot of work, but all I had to do was arrange programs-and write Coming Transgender Attractions. Yes, that could consume up to three days a week. But I knew what I had to do each week. Then in my short term as vice president, I did a lot of interesting odd jobs the group leader assigned me. But I never was overloaded doing this. But as support group leader, you never know what is coming next, or how much is coming. Now I cannot do everything. I need someone to do meeting notices, and someone to purchase food for meetings. If we have a support group of couch tomatoes, trans-tomatoes of course, it will all come out in the wash. We just will not be able to do the sorts of things an organization of our size would ordinarily be able to. Both our predecessor, Renaissance South Jersey, and Monmouth-Ocean Transgender folded when one individual was left to do most or all of the work. Let history not repeat itself.

January 2007 Meeting

I normally do not like to write up a program I have given, but a program is a program-and I would be willing to present it to other transgender organizations in the area. Due to the fact that it has proven impossible to induce Amnesty International to send the promised speakers, and likewise due to the fact that I am a member of Amnesty and also a non-practicing attorney, I held a brief presentation on Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S., edited and published by Amnesty International, USA in 2005. The work is available online. Generally searching using Stonewalled as a keyword will locate the text.

In my interpretation, one salient point is that the more you pass, the less police are likely to harass. A good deal of police abuse arises from identity questions in the officer's mind where gender is ambiguous. The United Constitution does not permit searches simply to determine whether a person is male or female. The officer must either argue that there is probable cause that the gender ambiguous individual is involved in a crime, or has probable cause to believe the individual may be armed. Gentrification makes things simpler for abusive officers. Quality of life laws are predicated on the belief that controlling minor abuses leads to control of major crime.

A second salient point is that verbal abuse of detainees and inmates may be more damaging than physical or sexual abuse. This is because an officer who taunts someone in his custody by asking if the individual should be addressed as Mr. or Ms invites the inmates to engage in sexual or physical abuse. The transgender is singled out-and the officer's mockery provides an open invitation for fellow inmates to attack. Such assailants can be prosecuted. But this is often difficult (and complaining about prison abuse often leads to a longer term), but the matter is not as serious as when an officer engages in sexual or physical abuse of an inmate. But then if inmates do this, the officer is extremely hard to prosecute for inciting them to pounce.

A third point of interest is that statistics on hate crimes are often unreliable. If more than a hate crime is involved, many police departments tend to classify offenses according to the other offenses and ignore the hate crime element altogether. For example, if a hate crime victim is also robbed, the incident is listed as a robbery with no mention of hatred as a possible motive.

These are just three points of particular interest. I do not want to spoil the book for members. I would encourage reading it yourselves. But to turn to some of the questions which followed the presentation, I am glad for the former member who noted that transgenders have it good in New Jersey. Our trans-sisters and trans-brothers in other states are not always so fortunate. But as for the equation of civil rights with special interests-special interests used to be the rich. And the Confederacy invoked the federalist system in the Constitution to uphold slavery. The history of constitutional law can be so interesting that it might be worth the trouble of reading. The history of the last fifty years has been much about civil rights and reactions against them. Were it not for civil rights movements-we would not be here. Though no member is required to join the church, if the Unitarian-Universalist Church did not espouse the cause of civil rights, we would not be meeting where we do. For this reason, I decided to undertake a change in programs as indicated below.

Upcoming Programs

February 3, 2007

A basic rule in law as regards rights is use them or lose them. We will not be showing a movie as planned. Instead, Terry McCorkell of GRAANJ, the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey, will come and speak on the meaning of New Jersey's recent adoption of transgender equality legislation. For its role in making this advance in transgender rights a reality, GRAANJ will be awarded the Visionary Award by Garden State Equality on March 4. It looked for a while as though Stephanie Battaglino would also be coming to speak on the upcoming IFGE conference and hold a workshop, but things did not work out. It is this which held up announcing the program.

March 3, 2007

Stephanie Battaglino may give the talk and workshop she planned to give in February. If not, we will show a movie-as we originally planned to do in February.

April 7, 2007

Lisa O' Connor, physician and transsexual, will speak on some aspect of transgender medicine.

May 5, 2007

Spring Banquet at Diamond's Riverside Restaurant. Consult the calendar of entertainment events for further details.

The Chinese New Year of the Boar begins on February 18. We celebrate the birth of Kuan Yin, the transgendered Boddisatva of Compassion, in February. I expect to bring some Chinese food and material on Kuan Yin with me. But as we celebrate, let us remember that this is the Year of the Boar, not the Year of the Bore, and that girls just want to have fun. Girls do not like just to sit around and chat. So, let us become more active in support group, and with a greater participation, we will think of more things to do, and our group life will become more interesting.