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Newsletter - October 2007

OCTOBER 2007 NEWSLETTER

Former Support Group member and Open Forum facilitator Terry Fasano will give a presentation on NOW (the National Organization for Women) and her journey to feminism for our November 3, 2007 meeting. Since leaving our support group, Terry has become very involved in feminism and has risen to become Executive Vice President for NOW New Jersey.

There will be several types of outsiders present in the building on the evening of November 3, 2007. First, the Unitarian-Universalist Church will conduct two same sex weddings in the sanctuary on this date. On behalf of the New Jersey Support Group, I would like to thank the couple to be joined in civil union at 7:00 p.m. for agreeing to hold their reception upstairs in the sanctuary and church rental chair person Jane Schafer for arranging to have the reception held upstairs so that we can meet in our regular premises. Second, and this is uncertain, some members of South Jersey NOW-the Alice Paul Chapter, may attend.

I believe that support group members should welcome the presence of the aforementioned outsiders for several reasons. First, the exercise of transgender rights demands that transgenders learn to associate with persons outside the community. I realize that some cannot do this for family and employment reasons. But others can. Not all who can do so are associating with non-transgenders while en femme. Some people only dress up when they come to support group meetings, here or elsewhere. I am very glad that within about a year and a half after beginning to attend support groups, I became active in Endless Mountains Girls (EMG), as it was once a Tri-Ess chapter), operated by former support group member Alice Hardenburg. It forced me to go out into society en femme. Second, transgenders and lesbian-gays cooperated in the struggle for civil unions and transgender non-discrimination in New Jersey. Thus those coming to be joined in civil union or to witness and celebrate the same sex marriages should be welcomed as allies. Believe me, not all non transgenders support group members might encounter while en femme are transgender-friendly. I know this well from my experiences in EMG. So, those who have never met outsiders en femme before are being spoiled so to speak. But a good start can often build a strong foundation of confidence. Third, while some support group members may be downright antifeminist, and some feminists are transphobic, there is a great deal of acceptance between feminists and transgenders. We face common problems and seek common goals. Probably transphobic feminists will stay away. As for the recent statement by a support group officer that woman's suffrage was the worst mistake the nation ever made, if you want to be the object of laughter and ridicule, making such pronouncements is a good way to do it. Such utterances will undercut our own claims to rights.

The sexual minority alphabet soup now reads LGBTIQA-Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Intersexual-Questioner-Ally. The last mentioned are important. The group has cultivated allies in the form of wives of transgenders. A few years back, when we were still a Renaissance chapter, I almost termed the group the Couples Chapter because of the large number of members who used to attend with their spouses, sometimes more than 10. Supportive spouses are valuable allies, so members should be used to the presence of allies regularly attending meetings. But on November 3, the allies will not be spouses, but persons who have joined with us in the struggle for rights. They are entitled to full membership in the group if they are truly allies of transgenderism. And learn to smile or laugh (not derisively) if it becomes apparent that someone disagrees with you.

REMAINING NEWS

Unfortunately there has been a two months hiatus in newsletters This is largely due to the problem of setting up the holiday buffet. Hence, we have a lot to cover, including the August, September and October meetings, the Holiday Buffet, the ENDA and upcoming programs. Due to time sensitivity of some materials, I am not going to cover these topics in the usual order. I will first discuss the ENDA situation and the Holiday Buffet and conclude with the summary of previous and future meetings.

The Status of the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act)

Right now the point is to call your US Representative by Tuesday, October 24 and ask him/her to support the Baldwin Amendment to HR 3685. (It might be just as simple to say that you are for transgender iinclusion and the Baldwin Amendment. Numbers are confusing.) Unfortunately a trans-exclusive version of the ENDA is scheduled for voting by the full house on Tuesday. Call both home and Washington offices, say that you support a trans-inclusive ENDA only, namely the bill introduced by Tammy Baldwin, the so-called Baldwin Amendment to HR 3685, which makes ENDA trans-inclusive, which the initially proposed version of ENDA, HR 2015, was. Call-do not send a message by computer as you can only state you support a trans-exclusive version. Consult Portia's Legal page for office phone numbers for members of the House of Representatives from New Jersey.

I have signed a letter drafted by Garden State Equality to New Jersey's US representatives on behalf of the support group urging the congress persons to vote for the Baldwin Amendment. A total of 56 New Jersey sexual minority rights advocacy groups as well as sympathetic organizations have signed, the list unfortunately not including Renaissance, Tri-Ess or any chapters of these organizations in or around the state.

I have also posted information on ENDA (including a list of New Jersey US Representatives with their phone numbers) elsewhere on the website under Portia's Legal Page and may add more when the webmistress returns from her weekend at Rainbow Mountain. At present, I have posted a statement by the Human Rights Campaign on ENDA and the legal analysis of the trans-exclusive version by the Lambda Legal Chapter.

I am impressed with the way sexual minority advocacy groups and sympathetic organizations have unified to press for a trans-inclusive ENDA. But I have three criticisms to make of the endeavors. First, though I appreciate the way lesbian-gay organizations have rallied around trans-inclusion, preferring no ENDA whatsoever to a trans-exclusive version, the reason that HR 2015, the trans-inclusive version originally slated for voting on, is not being voted upon is due to the gay transphobia of US Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts. This fact was denied for several days, possibly a week, time which could have been used to combat such transphobia. Frank is now supporting the Baldwin Amendment. Timelier recognition of the problem of Frank's gay transphobia might have led him to change his attitudes earlier, early enough to make the Baldwin Amendment unnecessary. A second point derives from the fact that gay transphobia resembles plain old misogyny. Gay transphobes disdain women, want an all male world and find a man who wants to pass for a woman beneath one. I know from numerous experiences. The second point is then that while a trans-exclusive ENDA does not protect lesbians and gays, it actually poses a greater threat to straights!!! Yes, the way to overcome states rights is to take an interest in straights rights! Perhaps wrongly so, but most people in this nation view themselves as straight. But it is only today as I write, October 21, 2007, that Phyllis Randolph Frye has issued a Phyllabuster aimed at showing straights why they should call their Representatives, say that they are straight (and hey, be truthful, if you are LGBTI, maybe Q, you cannot truthfully say you are straight, even if you are a heterosexual cross dresser) and say they support a trans-inclusive ENDA. I had no trouble persuading my NOW chapter of this on October 10. A woman who has never considered herself lesbian, is not intersexual, does not consider herself bisexual, might face discrimination if she is simply too assertive. It used to be that in university presses, higher ranking positions were only open to those who started as what is termed college travelers, that is aggressive textbook sales persons. I do not know if it is still true, but at one time it was thought that only males, and certain ones at that, were assertive enough to be college travelers. No wonder Affirmative Action was first applied primarily to universities. Maybe such views are still in force. A third problem is that sexual minority advocacy group leaders have little or no idea of how to deal with the public media. They largely deal with other minority organizations, sympathetic churches, law firms and therapists. Only in the last few days has it crossed the minds of some advocacy group leaders to approach a major newspaper to-place a full page ad?!?! But on October 12, a New York Times published a Congressional Memo which pall-parroted Frank's rejection of trans-inclusive protection. No major minority rights advocacy group leader would even read the article and call the Times and ask it to stop being transphobic (which it is-I have been reading the paper since 1961) and conduct an objective inquiry allowing all sides to present their points of view. Posting an ad will cost money and not require a dialogue. Calling the Times would cost little-but require persuasive power.

THE HOLIDAY BUFFET

As a prefatory matter, what ever happened to the Holiday Banquet? First, in view of all the trouble we had meeting quota on the occasion of past banquets, I told Diane Benner at the Spring Banquet in May that we would wait to determine if we wanted to hold the holiday banquet at the restaurant. It is lucky I did so. When I finally obtained approval of the board and the general membership on August 5 to go schedule a banquet at Diamond's, I discovered that Diamond's had become Erini's. Extremely trans-friendly banquet managers like Shirley Pastore and Diane Benner had left. I asked to see a copy of the new Erini's catering menu. The board felt that the rise in prices combined with the end of subsidies would render the group incapable of meeting quota, as well as the newer more stringent catering terms and conditions regarding advance payments, forfeit of deposits and bartending requirements.

I would like to say that I am not trying to discourage transgenders from dining at Erini's. The staff there knows me by name and is asking why we are not coming. At first I wondered whether upper management there was so friendly, but perhaps this was because I missed people like Shirley and Diane. So I think banquet groups should try Erini's. Talks with the staff indicated that Diamond's practically went bankrupt due to its low banquet prices. So they went up. But prices for diners who just show up and ask to be seated have gone way down. So some dining club should try the new place out. But the halcyon days of catered banquet dining at Diamond's with superb food in a good atmosphere at extremely low prices are gone.

Then at the September meeting I thought I had arranged a great bargain at Town and Country Diner in Bordentown-$24.00 dinners in the Crystal Room. The number would be variable-from in the teens up to 60, maybe 75. We would have had separate ladies rooms and changing rooms. The Crystal Room can be accessed by the handicapped entrance requiring minimal exposure in the lobby, less than at Diamond's. There was a former officer who could not go to Diamond's for fear of being recognized. For a long time, we said sorry, but most members can dine there without fear. In September, three diners said they could not dine at the Town and Country for fear of being not only read but not recognized. This was too many, especially in view of past quota troubles. Here went the last chance for a holiday banquet. While I do not wish to point an accusatory finger at anyone in particular, one member recently tried a test meal-en homme-at the Town and Country. She saw the separate entrance and the Crystal Room. But there is one thing which made her nervous. Could diners dress as lavishly at Town and Country as they did at Diamond's and not stand out?

Maybe the question of lavishness was one reason certain individuals bitched, squawked and whined about Diamond's, as well as the fact that diners had to be determined in advance, as they would have to at most places. I do not looking like a slob as a man or a woman. But as a man, where I would not have any passing problems, whenever I wore a jacket and tie to work, I received compliments from female employees-but outdressed all but the top four to five managers. I would outdress group leaders, section chiefs, department heads, maybe division directors. I think that there is something very phony about the jeans culture. Today wealth differences are more glaring than at the turn of the Twentieth Century. But billionaires go around in jeans. Jeans have not equalized. They mask inequality. As support group president, I am not going to schedule banquets costing $50.00+ a person due to past difficulties in meeting quotas and the chronic underemployment characteristic of transgenderism. But I wonder about the people who want them, or want to go to places charging this much so they can dress up. I wonder if they do not lead Clark Kent lives and then go dress up, not as Superman, but as a rather bitchy, extravagant and promiscuous (such as wearing garters under welt high skirts and dresses) Lois Lane. Are such people not hiding their economic realities? They are deceiving themselves that they can never emerge from the phone booth as Superman. They are dressing up like women they cannot afford. But if you want to wear something better to protest the phoniness of jeans culture, be prepared for the consequences. All transgenders going outside of support group meetings should have contingency plans for being read and recognized. Furthermore, I know some women who have protested the sort of lingerie I wear. Recently Jim (my male self) gave me a lingerie chest as a birthday present and we were surprised that barely half the collection would fit in. Now we need another such chest. But I dress professionally, such that I could teach a class, plead a case or preside over a board meeting. And I wear ankle length fashions. So most people cannot see what I wear under them. But I am prepared to be read, and part of this is that I dress as I do to protest that, while I am not a mere pampered plaything, I am not just an economic tool, either. I am prepared for not passing, and that is because I want to make a statement about women's rights and homo oeconomicus.

Well, I tried the Ringoes Firehouse. The meal price of $20.00 per person sounds great-but we need $35 diners. We used to attract such figures. Not for years. Then someone suggested catering. Getting whole meals catered is more expensive than banquet dining, way more. But some supermarkets, luckily in Bordentown, NJ, offer roast turkey and other hot dishes at reasonable prices. We could charge $20.00 a head and make money. So, on December 1, we will have a buffet style dinner in Room 141 at the Ramada Inn in Bordentown, NJ.

Jennifer Mae Barnes,

October 21, 2007