Sunday, July 17

Man who ‘appeared gay’ rejected from Ind. blood center

So, now you can be rejected if you appear to be too effeminate; does that mean that women can be rejected for appearing to be too butch? After all, women have HIV too, don't they? Shouldn't acceptance or non-acceptance of a person's blood be based on tests, not their appearance? Seems to me that how a person looks is subjective; this man could just as easily go to another donation center and donate because the person taking the blood doesn't see him the same way. They don't appear to be using any type of objective criteria to determine whether the blood is good or not, and as badly as blood is needed, I should think they'd want to do everything they can to include people, not turn them away.

Article by January Alexander,
07.15.2011 6:14pm UTC

A man who “appeared to be a homosexual” was told he could not donate blood at an Indiana blood center.

Aaron Pace, a “noticeably effeminate” straight man told the Chicago Sun-Times, “it’s not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can’t. And I’m not even a homosexual.”
Blood centers, including the American Red Cross, still cite a 30-year old rule that bars gay men from donating blood – a policy sparked by concerns about HIV.
Curt Ellis, former director of HIV public education group The Alliveness Project, said that “the policy is based on the stigma associated with HIV that existed early on… It seems like some stigmas will just never die.”

Today, they test all donated blood for HIV and other infectious diseases.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voted not to recommend a change to the FDA policy that does not allow gay men to donate blood.

According to a spokesperson, the American Red Cross has recommended that the FDA modify the criteria for deferral.

Thursday, June 23

'Religious trial' begins for openly gay Methodist pastor

First of all, what gives them the right to hold a 'trial' of any kind, for anyone? And a 'religious trial' sounds suspiciously like something from the Spanish Inquisition, or even worse, the Salem witch 'trials'!! Let me make this clear; I am a god-fearing Christian woman, but the difference between me and these people is that I am an intelligent, logical Christian, not one from the Dark Ages. She should be judged by God alone, not by these close-minded bigots who are going to be so afraid for their own positions that they won't vote in her favor even if they want to! To have a 'hearing' for her because she performed a marriage ceremony their church doesn't approve of, that's one thing, but to put her on trial for being a homosexual??? That is ridiculous! And let's guess what her 'sentence' will be, shall we? Can you say 'EXCOMMUNICATION'??

KAUKAUNA, Wis. -- A religious trial starts Tuesday for an openly gay United Methodist minister who broke church rules.

The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola in western Wisconsin has admitted to officiating a 2009 marriage ceremony for a lesbian couple in Menominee, violating church rules.

The 44-year-old is charged with being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" and "conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions."

The jury of 13 will be selected Tuesday at Peace United Methodist Church in Kaukauna from at least 35 pastors from the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Appleton Post-Crescent reports she informed church leaders of the wedding in an annual report.

She's part of a growing number of United Methodist Church pastors who say they won't obey the rule that prohibits them from officiating same-sex marriages.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, June 18

U.N. rights forum proclaims equal gay rights

It is about time something worldwide was done; it's fine that individual countries have made a stand, but it's better that there is a world standard to be upheld when it comes to equal human rights.

GENEVA (Reuters)
The top U.N. human rights body declared Friday there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation, a vote Western countries called historic but Islamic states firmly rejected.

The controversial resolution marked the first time that the Human Rights Council recognized the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, diplomats said.
The text, presented by South Africa, was adopted by 23 countries in favor, 19 against with 3 abstentions and one delegation absent during voting. Libya's membership in the 47-member Geneva forum was suspended in March.

"All over the world, people face human rights abuses and violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and killing," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement issued in Washington.

"Today's landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal," she said, calling it a "historic moment."

The White House later praised the vote as a "significant milestone in the long struggle for equality," and said: "The United States stands proudly with those nations that are standing up to intolerance, discrimination and homophobia."

Britain, France joined the United States in voting in favor, while Russia voted against and China abstained, results showed.

South African Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila said the aim was for a dialogue on discrimination and violence meted out to those "whose only crime seems to be their choice in life."

But delegations from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Bangladesh took the floor to reject the text in a heated debate held on the last day of the council's three-week session.

Mauritania's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Cheikh Ahmed Ould Zahaf, said that the issue did not fall within the scope of any international human rights treaty.

"This issue has nothing to do with human rights," he said, speaking before the vote. "What we find here is an attempt to change the natural right of a human being with an unnatural right. That is why calls on all members to vote against it."

Homosexuality is generally taboo in Islamic states as it is seen as a violation of religious and cultural values. Homosexual men in the Gulf are regularly arrested and sentenced to prison terms.

Mexican Ambassador Juan Jose Gomez Camacho said the issue had nothing to do with imposing Western or other values, but with non-discrimination. People are already protected under international treaties against discrimination on grounds of race, religion, and gender, he said.

"Non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is exactly the same," Camacho said, winning applause.

The resolution calls on the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to draw up the first U.N. report on challenges faced by gay people worldwide.

Her report, due by December, should document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Laura MacInnis in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright © 2011, Reuters

Thursday, June 16

El Paso Restores Gay, Unwed Couples' Benefits

Why did they take their benefits away from them in the first place? Personally, I am trying to figure out if the voters actually knew the full repercussions of what they were doing when they voted; did they know they would be taking these people's health benefits away?

Hema Mullur-KFOX News Anchor/Reporter

Posted: 3:23 pm MDT June 14, 2011Updated: 9:17 pm MDT June 14, 2011
EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso City Council approved an ordinance to reinstate health benefits for domestic partners of city employees and anyone else who lost them after voters approved the traditional family values ordinance last year.

The eight city representatives were split down the middle, with Mayor John Cook having the tie-breaking vote. He voted in favor of the ordinance he introduced. Reps. Beto O'Rourke, Susie Byrd, Steve Ortega and Rachel Quintana voted to approve the ordinance, while Carl Robinson, Ann Morgan Lilly, Eddie Holguin Jr. and Emma Acosta voted against it.

Holguin said he had every reason to vote in favor of the mayor's ordinance.

“The voters of El Paso voted, and they stripped benefits from lots of people including myself,” Holguin said.

But he voted against it.

“People already feel that their vote doesn't count,” said Holguin. “What council did today basically confirmed that their votes don't count.”

Robinson suggested restoring benefits only to those unintentionally affected by the vote. A federal judge's ruling on the issue, however, included a warning about that.

“If you restore these benefits to say, retirees, City Council members and other employees, but not domestic partners, you will run afoul of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause,” said O’Rourke.

The final vote drew anger from Pastor Tom Brown, the man behind the traditional family values ordinance.

“It's over with. There is no direct democracy in El Paso anymore after today,” Brown said.

Brown said he’ll move forward with a plan to recall those who supported the ordinance. Until a recall petition is under way, he said his hopes lie on the shoulders of someone not even on the council yet: Dr. Mike Noe, who will replace Quintana in July.

“I'm hoping that Dr. Noe will do the right thing and say the vote of the people matters,” Brown said. “If he can do that, then we will reverse the City Council again.”

The new ordinance restores benefits to all partners, including same-sex and unwed couples as well as retirees and elected officials.

Copyright 2011 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, June 15

Bachmann Feared Abduction by Lesbian, Ex-Nun

And she's running for the Republican nomination for the PRESIDENCY??? This is a joke right? It might not be so bad if there had been any kind of truth at all to the allegation, but to not even have charges filed because there is no basis to it? How does she dare to try for the nomination in a time when gay rights is one of the hottest topics on the ballot?

by Jeffrey Hartinger
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is now seeking the Republication presidential nomination, had claimed in 2005 that she was almost abducted by two women in a bathroom, according to The Daily Beast.

The pair consisted of a lesbian and an ex-nun.

At the time of the alleged attempted kidnapping, Bachmann was a state senator from Minnesota and had already started to campaign against LGBT rights. She had previously been caught hiding in the bushes of a gay rights event.

When she refused to speak about gay rights at a constituent forum, the two women encountered Bachmann in the bathroom and questioned her on the subject.

Pamela Arnold, a 5-foot-tall lesbian now in her 50s, began a conversation with the then-senator, when Bachmann screamed out, “Help! I’m being held against my will!”

Arnold stepped aside and opened the door. Bachmann rushed to an SUV waiting outside and shortly after, filed a police report stating that she was “absolutely terrified and has never been terrorized before as she had no idea what the two women were going to do to her.”

No charges were filed in the case, as the Washington County attorney deemed the incident to be a simple conversation between a politician and her constituents.

Bachmann, a vocal adversary of gay rights, has a lesbian stepsister, Helen LaFave. It is reported that the two had a close relationship growing up. Recently, LaFave and her same–sex partner of 20 years attended one of Bachmann’s anti-gay rallies in Minnesota.

In addition to her crusade against LGBT equality, she and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, own a Christian counseling practice in Minnesota.

Posted on June 15, 2011 02:50:00 PM ET

Saturday, June 11

Gender identity disorder? Why does it have to be a mental illness? It may be different from the way most people are, but red-haired people are different from most too, no one says they have an illness!

In this March 9, 2011 photo Ophelia De'lonta speaks during an interview at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va. De'lonta has filed a lawsuit against Virginia Prison officials seeking a sex change operation. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

DENA POTTER,Associated Press

DILLWYN, Va. (AP) -- Crouched in her cell, Ophelia De'lonta hoped three green disposable razors from the prison commissary would give her what the Virginia Department of Corrections will not -- a sex change.

It had been several years since she had felt the urges, but she had been fighting them for weeks. But like numerous other times, she failed to get rid of what she calls "that thing" between her legs, the last evidence she was born a male.

Months after the October castration attempt, De'lonta filed a federal lawsuit Friday claiming the state has failed its duty to provide adequate medical care because it won't give her the operation. She says the surgery is needed to treat her gender identity disorder, a mental illness in which people believe they were born the wrong gender.

If she wins, De'lonta would be the nation's first inmate to receive a state-funded sex change operation. Similar lawsuits have failed in a handful of other states, and lawmakers in some states are trying to ban the use of taxpayer money for the operations.

If she loses, she says she will continue to try self-surgery -- acknowledging another attempt could kill her.

"That's a possibility," the 50-year-old said during a recent prison interview, pausing then smiling contently. "But at the end I would have peace."

Some physical changes have already taken place. Hormones won under a 2004 court order have caused her to develop noticeable breasts. Her eyebrows are perfectly plucked, and makeup accentuates her smooth cocoa complexion.

Still, special allowances such as feminine clothing and psychotherapy aren't enough to keep her mind off wanting to become the woman she says she was born. She longs for permission to grow out her short salt and pepper hair like female inmates, even though she's housed in the all-male Buckingham Correctional Center.

Experts say that De'lonta's behavior is an unusual -- but not surprising -- manifestation of her disorder. At least 12 other inmates in Idaho, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky and North Carolina have castrated themselves over the past 14 years, and several others have tried, said psychiatry professor George R. Brown at East Tennessee State University.

"This is not a choice. Transsexuals are born and not made," said Brown, an expert in gender identity disorder. "If you didn't have this condition, why would you want to have your genitals removed, if not by a competent surgeon but by your own hand?"

While many with gender identity disorder wish to get rid of their genitals, the majority never act -- often because hormones and other treatments help make them feel more comfortable, Brown said.

According to research by Brown, about 27,000 people nationwide have gender identity disorder. Experts estimate 500 to 750 Americans undergo the surgery each year, with hundreds more seeking the procedure abroad.

Treatment is more readily available outside prison, though dozens of other inmates nationwide have won the right to hormones and psychotherapy. Based on counts of inmates with gender identity disorder in a half dozen states and personal correspondence with inmates during his research, Brown estimates that at least 750 of the more than 2 million prisoners nationwide had gender identity disorder in 2007, his latest count.

Inmates in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Colorado, California and Idaho also have sued to try to get the surgery, making arguments similar to De'lonta's that denying treatment violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. All but one of those have failed; a decision in the decade-old Massachusetts lawsuit by convicted killer Michelle -- born Robert -- Kosilek is still pending.

Kosilek says that for her, sex reassignment surgery is a medical necessity, not a frivolous desire to change her appearance.

"Everybody has the right to have their health care needs met, whether they are in prison or out on the streets. People in the prisons who have bad hearts, hips or knees have surgery to repair those things," Kosilek told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview from a state prison in Norfolk, Mass.

"My medical needs are no less important or more important than the person in the cell next to me."

Federal courts have said prisons must provide adequate medical care, and that they must protect inmates from themselves. But correctional officials and lawmakers balk at using taxpayer money for sex-change operations that can cost up to $20,000.

A Massachusetts bill to ban the use of public funds for sex change procedures, hormones and other treatments has been before a joint committee since January. Wisconsin lawmakers passed the Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act in 2006, but a federal judge declared it unconstitutional last year. The state appealed, and a decision is expected soon.

Republican Virginia Del. Todd Gilbert says he would seek state legislation if De'lonta's lawsuit is successful.

"The notion that taxpayers are going to fund a sex change is just ridiculous," says Gilbert.

Harold Clarke, who became Virginia's corrections director last year, says it would be a security risk to allow the surgeries because Virginia's inmates are housed according to their gender at birth, not anatomy. While De'lonta sleeps and showers alone, she is not segregated from male inmates. Her lawsuit also asks that she be moved to a women's prison.

Federal courts have said mental health professionals -- not prison officials -- should dictate treatment.

But Rudolph Alexander, an Ohio State University professor who has studied the treatment of inmates with gender identity disorder, believes mental health providers are reluctant to say the surgery is medically necessary because they fear for their jobs. Almost always, the deciding physician is a state employee or has a contract with it.

Advocates argue that treating repeated self-mutilations costs more than the surgeries. De'lonta, for example, has needed expensive airlifts three times for self-inflicted wounds.

The hormones and other treatments had kept her urges in check for years. She snapped Oct. 8 when an officer used a male pronoun toward her, despite a court order that prison workers refer to her as a woman.

"I screamed 'She, damnit!' becoming so overwhelmed it was hard to breathe," De'lonta said.

Looking down, she felt repulsed and helpless. She cried herself to sleep, then hours later she prepared for her surgery attempt by covering her cell door's window with paper and putting towels around the commode.

Using knowledge gained from mail-order anatomy books, De'lonta cut on and off for three hours before she passed out. It took 21 stitches to repair the damage.

"It's like if this doesn't exist, then I won't have any more problems," she said.

Born Michael Stokes, she didn't understand from an early age why other girls' names were different from hers, or why she felt no connection to the boys in her gym class.

She constantly looked in mirrors and couldn't understand why the reflection was so unlike how she envisioned herself.

Years ago she legally changed her name. Ophelia was chosen for the Shakespearean woman who died for love; De'lonta because it was the last name of a slain friend; middle name Azriel for the angel who helps one cross over.

De'lonta first tried to cut herself when she was 12. By 17, she was robbing banks with the hopes of getting enough money to have a sex change operation. By 18, she was in prison, sentenced to more than 70 years for robbery, drugs, weapons and other charges.

She is eligible for parole this year, but a wide range of prison infractions mean it's unlikely she'll be released any time soon. Asked why she can't just wait until she's free to get the surgery, De'lonta says she would if she could.

"This is not something that I have any control over," she says. "This is just how I was born."


Associated Press Writer Denise Lavoie contributed to this story from Boston.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Thursday, June 9

UPDATED: Is Missing Lesbian Blogger for Real?

Why is there any question about her identity or the validity of the story at all? Because she's lesbian? Because she's Syrian? Hmmmm....

This updated version of the article includes comments shared with EDGE by Huffington Post writer Leah McElrath Renna and information from a June 8 AP article on questions regarding the veracity of "A Gay Girl in Damascus" blogger Amina Arraf’s accounts, as well as questions regarding her identity.

by Kilian Melloy

The blog’s dateline is Damascus. Its topic is a terrifying late-night visit from Syrian state security forces.

"[T]hey came late, in the wee small hours of the morning," the blog entry recounts. "Everyone was fast asleep. I woke when I heard the clamor and immediately guessed what had happened.... I haven’t been shy in making my opinions about the situation here clear and I had suspected that, sooner or later, I’d get a visit. Already, friends and comrades had been taken. So why not me?"

Weeks later, the other shoe reportedly fell. Online reports about "armed thugs" grabbing the blog’s author, a young and openly lesbian Syrian-American woman named Amina Arraf, and stuffing her into a car. The rumors started at once in the international press: Had the courageous blogger been detained by the Syrian government? What horrors might she face as an open lesbian, not to mention a participant in anti-government demonstrations?

But a June 8 update to a June 7 New York Times article posed a more troubling question: Just who was Amina Arraf? And why was it seemingly the case that none of the journalists who had spoken with her had actually met her in person? Were the accounts she wrote factual, or works of fiction? Indeed, did Amina Arraf even exist?

In the age of J.T. LeRoy and other wholly invented literary personalities, it’s not being paranoid to ask such questions. It may seem callous, in the face of a reported abduction, to wonder whether the victim is even a real person -- but it also makes journalistic sense. Given Arraf’s sensationally compelling story, which reads like the outline for a novel, a skeptic might well entertain just such doubts.

Arraf, the daughter of a Syrian father and an American mother, had been born in the United States. She and her family traveled between the two countries until a government crackdown in 1982, at which point they remained in America, according to media accounts. Arraf could have opted to remain here instead of returning to a country where women are second-class citizens and gays and lesbians have even less status.

But nine years ago, at age 26, Arraf returned to Syria and became a schoolteacher. When the "Arab Spring" began earlier this year and unrest in Syria precipitated into a series of brutally quashed street demonstrations, Arraf found herself among the protesters because the school where she taught was closed.

Arraf described life in Syria and the sights of the street protests in her blog, fearlessly titled A Gay Girl in Damascus. She relied on luck and her family’s connections to protect her from arrest for her blogging. According to news reports, her father was able to dissuade the government agents who had come for her in the night. After that, the story goes, Arraf went into hiding, staying in various places around the city and staying on the move.

Then came the abduction, in broad daylight, on June 6. Arraf’s cousin Rania Ismail, described the abduction in an entry posted that same day on Arraf’s blog, an Associated Press story said. At the time, Arraf was on her way, in the company of a friend, to a meeting with someone associated with the Local Coordination Committee, which organizes street protests.

"We are hoping she is simply in jail and nothing worse has happened to her," Ismail’s June 6 blog entry at A Gay Girl in Damascus read. Another entry from the same day followed up.

"Unfortunately, there are at least 18 different police formations in Syria as well as multiple different party militias and gangs," the follow-up posting read. "We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back. It is possible that they are forcibly deporting her," the blog entry read.

"From other family members who have been imprisoned there, we believe that she is likely to be released fairly soon. If they wanted to kill her, they would have done so."

In one of her last entries on the blog, Arraf wrote, "I am complex, I am many things; I am an Arab, I am Syrian, I am a woman, I am queer, I am Muslim, I am binational....

"I am also a Virginian. I was born on an afternoon in a hospital in sight of where Woodrow Wilson entered the world, where streets are named for country stars."

The two worlds Arraf bridged could not be more different. The AP article reporting on her alleged abduction drew a stark backdrop against which to portray the event.

"Since the uprising against Assad began in mid-March, a government crackdown has left about 1,300 people dead and more than 10,000 detained, according to human rights groups," the AP article reported. "Several activists who were briefly detained during the revolt said they were tortured, humiliated and forced to sign pledges to avoid anti-regime activities."

Could the same grim treatment await the brave young woman who had dared to raise her voice against the regime?

The June 7 New York Times article on Arraf’s abduction suggested that even worse might befall her, reporting on how one young Syrian was killed while taking video of government tanks. He had previously posted similar video online.

But the June 7 update to that article injected a note of a different sort of uncertainty.

"After this post about the author of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus was published, Andy Carvin, an NPR journalist and expert at debunking Internet rumors, pointed out that none of the reports of the arrest of Amina Abdallah Arraf appeared to have been written by journalists who had previously met or interviewed her," the update said.

"It’s just odd that I can’t find anyone who has actually met her in person," Carvin said.

The update noted that, "it remains possible that the blog’s author was indeed detained, and has been writing a factual, not fictional, account of recent events in Syria," but also said that "the one person who has identified herself... as a personal friend of the blogger, Sandra Bagaria, has now clarified that she has never actually met the author of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog." Rather, Bagaria said, she and Arraf had corresponded extensively via the Internet.

Likewise, when CNN conducted an interview with Arraf, contact was limited to an exchange of emails. The update went on to say that contact had not been achieved with Arraf’s family, and that some of the material appearing at Arraf’s blog "was previously posted online in 2007, in a blog attributed to the same author that was described by her as a mix of fact and fiction."

The Huffington Post’s Leah McElrath Renna claimed in a June 7 article that she had corresponded with Arraf, who provided a "cleaned up" version of one of her blog postings for publication at the Huffington Post (the same one cited at the start of this article). Renna also wrote that she had communicated with Arraf’s family.

"Although her cousin and father have made numerous inquiries, they have told me they continue to be uncertain about whom exactly has taken Amina and where she is being held," Renna’s article said.

Contacted by EDGE on June 7 to comment on the questions regarding the identity of Arraf and the veracity of her blog, Renna emailed the same day to say that she was uncertain about what was actually happening with the blogger.

"I am as confused as the rest of the world about the issue of her identity and location and don’t really have anything to say that would shed additional light on the situation," Renna told EDGE, adding, "[T]here could be many reasons for that (getting lots of homophobic hate-mail, for instance -- take a minute and review the comments under the news of Amina’s abduction and the update).

"Occam’s Razor leads me to believe that a woman exists who wrote this blog and who appears to have been detained by the Syrian government," Renna continued. "By which I mean it is the most simple answer. If I were an out Syrian lesbian protester, I’d go incognito too and use a pseudonym or otherwise hide my true identity.

"But is that woman named Amina Arraf? I have no idea," Renna said in her email. "I will say that if the blog is a work of fiction, it’s a damned good one."

A June 8 AP story said that further doubt had been cast on the question of Arraf’s accounts, and possibly her existence, when a British woman named Jelena Lecic came forward to say that her photo had been posted on Facebook and identified as Arraf.

"A representative for Jelena Lecic said the London woman first learned her likeness was being used on the Facebook account of a blogger known as Amina Arraf when her photo was linked to article about Arraf in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday," the AP reported.

Moreover, the Local Coordination Committees activist who had earlier confirmed for the AP the story of Arraf’s kidnapping followed up on June 8 to say that he had ""no independent confirmation" for the abduction claim. Moreover, he was also unable to speak to the question of Arraf’s existence.

"As far as we know, nobody’s emerged who has actually met her," he told the AP.
Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.

Monday, June 6

Be a voice for Troy Davis - An Interview With the Death Row Inmate

You would never think that something like this could happen in the United States, after all, we're a Democratic society! And yet I am still updating it in my blog after all this time. After spending two years in Georgia, as much as I love it I can believe every word that has been said about the judicial system there, and I fully believe that Georgia is determined to execute this man. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes Troy Davis is a walking, talking, breathing, dead man.

June 6, 2011

Troy Davis, a Georgia death row prisoner who has been wrongfully incarcerated and facing execution for nearly 20 years, is in grave danger.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling that denied Troy a new trial. U.S. District Judge William Moore oversaw a court hearing where Troy's lawyers presented compelling and convincing evidence of his innocence. Moore admitted that the case against Troy wasn't "ironclad," but he nevertheless rejected the plea for a new trial.

Thus, Troy has still never been able to present evidence of his innocence to a jury. There was never any physical evidence--no murder weapon, no fingerprints, no DNA--that pointed to Troy as the person who shot and killed Officer Mark MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. The case against Troy came down to nine witnesses presented by prosecutors at Troy's trial--and seven of them have since recanted their original testimony, with most saying they had been coerced by the police to implicate Troy.

Little now stands in the way of Georgia setting an execution date, which would be Troy's fourth. Executions were on hold in Georgia while state officials tried to figure out which drugs should be used in lethal injection executions. But a new "killing drug regime" has been decided on, and executions are likely to start up again.

Troy answered questions by mail from Marlene Martin of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, in this interview for the New Abolitionist newsletter.

TROY, WE heard the sad news that you lost your mom recently, someone who was very supportive of you over the years. We want to express our sympathy at this difficult time. How are you coping with the loss?

THE LOSS of my mother was a complete shock, very painful at first, but people need to realize she was a woman of great faith and so am I. I gave that pain to God--I can carry it no more. Those who walk by faith understand.

My mother was very strong and religious. She treated everyone she met like family and led by example. If I could trade her for another I would refuse to do so because she was one of a kind--"a giant in a small body" and "a walking angel."

THE U.S. Supreme Court recently turned down your appeal, leaving in place Judge William Moore's decision not allowing you a new trial. What is your reaction to this decision?

THE SUPREME Court was hoping Judge Moore would grant me a new trial so it wouldn't have to. However, within the first 10 minutes of my hearing, I sensed tension and bias from Judge Moore. I expected nothing less coming from a court in Savannah.

The courts keep passing my case along because my case exposes everything flawed about the death penalty. No court or judge wants to be responsible for allowing this case to force authorities to end the death penalty and have to worry about a floodgate of innocence being revealed.

IN JUNE 2010, you were finally allowed an evidentiary hearing where evidence of your innocence was heard before a judge--including recanted testimony from several witnesses, as well as new witnesses who said another man, Sylvester Coles, admitted he had committed the crime. Why isn't this enough for you to get a new trial?

IT IS enough to grant me a new trial. In fact, it's more than enough. But this is more about the system than my innocence. Research will show that the Georgia state Supreme Court and 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have overturned hundreds of cases with just one or two recanted witnesses. Georgia feels it's better to kill me than admit I'm innocent.

Ask yourselves how can someone be convicted and face execution with no evidence against them? If the district attorney had the right man, then out of all the physical evidence they have, how come my DNA and fingerprints don't match any of it?

If the recanted witnesses are lying, then why hasn't the state produced the interrogation tapes for all seven? The state claims it doesn't have interrogation tapes of any of the seven witnesses who have recanted. They only turned over two tapes--one of Sylvester Coles pointing the finger at me and the other of someone they never called at trial. Why don't they show the handwritten statements of these witnesses? Because it would prove Troy Davis was and continues to be framed by Savannah and now the state of Georgia.

THE MEDIA isn't allowed to come into the prison and interview you. What would you say to the media that they seem to be so determined doesn't get out?

THE TRUTH about my case, about the judicial system, and about the prison system in Georgia. Since I've been on death row, I've witnessed several people who got their sentence and convictions overturned.

PEOPLE ON death row are painted as monsters--as cold-blooded killers. If the cameras were rolling, what would people when they saw Troy Davis interviewed on film?

THEY WOULD see their brother, son, father. Someone beaten, but strong. Someone they know. What would confuse them is the fact that after all I've been through, I'm still smiling. They would see a human being who refused to give up, who refuses to hate and who loves life. They would see the humble face of innocence.

YOU HAVE often said this case is much bigger than you. What do you mean by that?

MY CASE is about justice denied to the poor and innocent. My case brings a face to injustice by showing how so many innocent people are being framed and denied justice. My case tells the world why the death penalty and this system of death needs to be demolished all over the world.

IF YOU were white and the son of a senator, do you think the evidence presented at your evidentiary hearing would have been enough to win you a new trial?

YES. HOWEVER, I would not have even been indicted in the first place with such a lack of evidence. What this says is that there is still bias and racism in the criminal justice system when it comes to the poor and people of color. Had I been the son of a senator, I would have never been arrested, not until every "i" was dotted and every "t" was crossed.

WHAT WOULD you like for your supporters to know? What should they be doing to try to save your life?

IF WE never give up, we can win. We need to let our elected officials know that they work for the citizens of this country, and as citizens, we refuse to stand around and let innocent people continue to be abused by the system. We will not stand for innocent people being executed, tortured or tossed into prison anymore. I'm alive because God placed it in your hearts to get involved and be the solution that erases this problem.

So many people have joined together to free me, and it moves my heart in a joyous way to feel so much love and know one day that the world will celebrate with my family as I walk free. Then I can truly help change the system so that humanity and justice can really overcome evil and injustice in a system that has killed too many innocent in the name of justice.

My supporters can write U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking to appoint a special investigator to my case. Encourage religious leaders to get out the churches, mosques, etc., and speak out. Write letters, sign petitions, tweet and make calls to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Parole Board and media to stop this pending execution and grant me my freedom, new trial or clemency.

Please be a voice for me and get involved. Saving my life will save thousands of others just like me. You're making a big difference.

A voice is just a whisper in the wind unless it is used to speak up for a cause that brings positive change to the voiceless. Don't expect change--create it by getting involved. I'm already free because of every voice speaking up on my behalf.

Thank you and God bless you all.

First published in the New Abolitionist.

Monday, April 25

Baltimore police investigate brutal attack on trans woman at local McDonald’s

As a staunch defender of the rights of LGBTQ people, I am always the first to jump up and scream "hate crime", but in this case I'm sorry, I think the press and everyone else is using the term when it doesn't apply. The victim herself says nothing about it having anything to do with gender or orientation; what it did have to do with was plain and simple jealousy! One of the girls got angry because one of the guys had spoken to the victim, and decided to punish her by jumping on her when she came out of the bathroom.

Just like blacks for a long time would yell "racism" at the drop of a hat, we are beginning to yell "hate crime" the same way. We are beginning to see hate crime where there is nothing but ignorance and childishness, such as that seen in this video. The brutality of it does not change the fact that this was no more than two stupid young women among a restaurant staffed with stupid employees, filled with stupid patrons who did absolutely nothing to stop the fracas.

Police in Baltimore are investigating a brutal attack at a McDonald’s restaurant on a person reported to be a transgender woman.

The beating on Monday, April 18, resulted when the woman got into a confrontation with female patrons and refused to leave the women’s restroom.

At least one McDonald’s employee yelled at the two women to stop attacking the customer, however none of the workers attempted to intervene in the attack or prevent the women from dragging the victim across the restaurant floor.

According to the Smoking Gun, the video was captured by Vernon Hackett, a McDonald’s employee, and uploaded to various social media accounts.

In a Facebook posting, Hackett, claimed, “that was not a female that was getting beat up… that was a man… He was dressed lik a woman.”
McDonald’s fires employee who recorded brutal beating of transgender woman.

(Video and full story can be seen here.)

McDonald’s on Friday released a statement regarding the beating, saying, “We are shocked by the video from a Baltimore franchised restaurant showing an assault. This incident is unacceptable, disturbing and troubling.”

Baltimore County police said officers were called to the restaurant at 6315 Kenwood Avenue, in Rosedale Md, around 8 p.m. Monday after getting reports of a fight, and said they found a 22-year-old woman who appeared to be having a seizure, WBAL-TV reported.

The police report identified the victim as Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, who appears identical to Christopher Lee Polis, according to Smoking Gun.

The civil rights group Equality Maryland has identified the McDonald’s victim as a transgender woman. Board President, Chuck Butler, issued this statement on Friday:

“A member of our community was recently the victim of senseless violence. Equality Maryland is saddened that in this day and age, bigotry and discrimination against transgender individuals continue, especially in our own backyard.

“No person ever deserves to be a victim of violence regardless of their gender identity or presentation. We encourage the State’s Attorney General to investigate this as a hate crime based on gender identity. We are encouraged that McDonald’s is working with local police to investigate this incident, and hope that the company will follow-up with appropriate disciplinary action against any employees involved.”

A 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile in the attack and charges are pending against an 18-year-old woman.

Sunday, April 24

Pastor Is Accused of Helping to Kidnap Girl at Center of Lesbian Custody Fight

And once again, we visit with Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, that lesbian couple who were fighting over custody of the daughter that was conceived by choice after they were married. Here's the latest:

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 5:11 a.m.

Federal authorities last week arrested and charged a Tennessee pastor with aiding in the “international parental kidnapping” of a girl who has been missing since late 2009 and is at the center of a lengthy custody battle between her two mothers — a onetime lesbian couple who were in a civil union.

Janet Jenkins has legal custody of a daughter born with Lisa Miller.
Lisa Billings/Associated Press

The two had a bitter falling-out after one became an evangelical Christian and denounced the other’s continued “homosexual lifestyle.”

Their legal battle over visitation rights and custody, carried out over the last seven years in Vermont and Virginia courts, received wide publicity because of the clashes over sexual orientation and religion, and because it raised questions about the rights of non-biological parents in same-sex unions that are not recognized in many states.

Lisa Miller, the girl’s biological mother and a newly fervent Baptist, was championed by conservatives for her efforts to shield her daughter from homosexuality. A Vermont court had granted her primary custody of the daughter, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, after Ms. Miller split with her partner, Janet Jenkins, in 2003. But the court also declared Ms. Jenkins to be a legal parent with liberal visiting rights, and Ms. Miller, who had moved with the girl to Virginia, defied repeated orders to permit the visits.

The case took a turn in late 2009, as the Vermont family court, citing Ms. Miller’s noncompliance, shifted primary custody to Ms. Jenkins. Ms. Miller and Isabella, who is now 9, disappeared. A warrant was issued for Ms. Miller’s arrest, and they have not been heard from since.

According to an F.B.I. affidavit unsealed in Vermont on Thursday, the pastor, Timothy David Miller of Crossville, Tenn., helped arrange in September 2009 for Ms. Miller and Isabella to fly from Canada to Mexico and travel on to Nicaragua, where he worked as a missionary for Christian Aid Ministries. (The F.B.I. said it had no evidence that Mr. Miller and Lisa Miller were related.)

Ms. Miller and Isabella stayed in a beach house in Nicaragua that is owned by a conservative businessman with close ties to Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., and whose daughter works at the university’s law school, according to the affidavit.

Lawyers from Liberty, including the dean of the law school, Mathew D. Staver, represented Ms. Miller in court appeals on the custody issues. They argued without success that Ms. Jenkins had no parental rights and that laws in Virginia, which ban same-sex unions, should prevail over those in Vermont.

On Friday, Mr. Staver said the legal team has had no contact with Ms. Miller since the fall of 2009 and had always advised her to obey the law. He said he knew nothing about the accusations involving a law school office assistant, Victoria Hyden, and her father Philip Zodhiates, the beach house’s owner.

Mr. Zodhiates runs Response Unlimited, a Christian direct-mail company in Waynesboro, Va. He did not respond to requests for comment, but on Friday he told The Advocate magazine that the pair were not living at his house in Nicaragua and called the accusations “absurd.”

Ms. Miller and Ms. Jenkins were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and planned to raise a child together. Isabella was conceived by artificial insemination and born to Ms. Miller in 2002, with Ms. Jenkins present at the birth. But the parents’ relations soured over the following year. Ms. Miller moved with Isabella to Virginia, became deeply involved with a Baptist church and renounced homosexuality. A Vermont court dissolved the civil union but treated Ms. Jenkins as a full parent with visitation rights.

Over time, Ms. Miller began refusing to allow the required visits, among other things objecting that Ms. Jenkins’s “homosexual lifestyle” would offend Isabella’s religious beliefs. At one point, a court in Virginia, which does not recognize same-sex unions, agreed with Ms. Miller’s claim to be the sole legal parent, but the Virginia Supreme Court eventually confirmed that the Vermont rulings should prevail.

Last June, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, an unnamed person called one of Ms. Jenkins’s lawyers, Sarah Star, and told Ms. Star that the mother and daughter were hiding in Mr. Zodhiates’s Nicaraguan house. Much of the evidence in support of the criminal charges and other accusations, the affidavit said, was obtained through court-approved, covert searches of e-mail accounts, uncovering messages from Mr. Miller that appear to arrange the mother and daughter’s 2009 flight to Nicaragua and from Mr. Zodhiates arranging to send them supplies.

On Friday, Ms. Jenkins issued a statement through Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a rights group in Boston that has also represented her in court.

“I know very little at this point, but I really hope that this means that Isabella is safe and well,” it said. “I am looking forward to having my daughter home safe with me very soon.”

The United States attorney for Vermont, Tristram Coffin, told the Rutland Herald newspaper that Mr. Miller had been arrested on Monday night in Virginia and was scheduled to appear in Federal District Court in Burlington on Monday. Officials declined to say whether others may be arrested or what measures they are taking to find Ms. Miller, who faces criminal charges, and Isabella, who under current rulings should be in the primary custody of Ms. Jenkins, with visitation rights for Ms. Miller.

Monday, April 11

Fired sex-change teacher 'won't be silenced'

Jan Buterman, a transgendered teacher who lost his job in St. Albert, poses at Grant Notley Park in Edmonton, Alta. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI AGENCY)

Finally, someone who actually realizes that it's about the benefit to all, not about the benefit to self; someone who realizes that to accept the money and keep silent is to strip all legitimacy from the allegations, to take all power from the argument that we are people too, and need to be treated as such. I wish him all the best, and hope that the road ahead will be easier for him.

By Allison Salz QMI Agency

EDMONTON - A man fired by the St. Albert Catholic School District over a sex change operation says accepting a cash settlement in exchange for silence would only further discrimination. "I won't be silenced forever," said Jan Buterman. Buterman says he turned down a settlement offer because it would require him to keep quiet and drop a human rights complaint. He says he was removed from the substitution list in 2008 after receiving a letter from a deputy superintendent who wrote, "Since you made a personal choice to change your gender, which is contrary to Catholic teachings, we have had to remove you from the substitute teacher list." He says the publicly funded school district can't buy his silence with an offer of $78,000 cash or a one-year teaching job. "They added into it that they wanted me to remain silent about the fact that this had ever happened," he says. "I wasn't OK with that. I would have rather just worked for that money." David Keohane, superintendent of the Catholic school district, said the board has been working with the human rights commission to try to ensure the offer is seen as fair and reasonable. Buterman anticipates the Catholic school board will ask the Alberta Human Rights Commission to dismiss his complaint. The commission has the right not to send a case to hearing if a "fair and reasonable settlement" is offered. "If it's dismissed, then that's the end of the struggle," he said. "But it's not the end of finding ways to develop a voice." Pushing the issue into the public arena is a good thing, says Kristopher Wells, a researcher at the University of Alberta. "A case as complex as this could end up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada," he says. Wells has long been an advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. He says all too often people are paid to keep quiet, which only perpetuates the problem. "The same kind of behaviour gets repeated over and over again," he says. "There is no precedent, there is no knowledge," Buterman agrees and says this isn't just about him, it's about all transgender people. "We need concrete examples of things like this that happened," he says. "Erasing them historically affects situations in the future." This isn't the first time a school board has been accused of discriminating against a transgender person. In 1988, Carol Allan was forced out of her classroom after she told the Edmonton public school board she was making the transition from a man to a woman. Allan was eventually given a job teaching adults. She was eventually allowed back into the elementary classroom. She retired after 31 years as a teacher.

Wednesday, March 30

Catholic Priest Gives Anti-Gay Rant To His Students

This is one reason we have so many young people killing themselves. While a large part of the problem is because of 'bullies', people like this teacher are also contributing to the problem. The homophobes are so worried about the effect that gay marriage will have on their kids, and on the education that their kids get, but they totally disregard the damage they are doing to those kids who either are confused about their sexuality or who already know they are gay. Take a Catholic school-raised gay child and give him/her a teacher like this, and you've got a recipe for suicide.

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Mar 30, 2011

A teacher at a Catholic high school in Indiana was caught on video telling students that gays are condemned by God and comparing homosexuals to prostitutes and people with drinking problems.

The chaplain for Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis, Father John Hollowell, espoused anti-gay views to the class for more than two hours, denying to students that gays are born with an innate sexual orientation, and declaring that gays should not be allowed to adopt children because same-gender sexual acitivity would take place in the same house where adoptive children were living.

Hollowell said such a home environment would be "unhealthy," and drew parallels between gay adoptive parents and pornographers.

"If porn was being filmed in a home, we would pull the child out of that environment. If sex was occurring in the home which was bondage or S & M type sexuality, the CPS would pull the child out of that environment," Hollowell asserted.

Hollowell also seemingly claimed that the Catholic Church advocates "reparative therapy," a faith-based approach that claims to "cure" gays through therapy and prayer.

"The church, though, is saying that what we identify right now as being ’my attraction,’ this is something that I have within me, this homosexual attraction, right, but through counseling, through whatever it may be, I can perhaps lower that through the same type of deal that you’re talking about with Alcoholics Anonymous, that kind of stuff, okay?" Hollowell told the class.

Mental health professionals warn that reparative therapy may, in fact, be deeply harmful, and dispute the notion that sexual orientation can be changed. Though some individuals have claimed to be "cured" of homosexuality, it is unclear whether they were gay or simply emerging from an adolescent phase of sexual experimentation. Moreover, some bisexual individuals may choose to focus on their sexual attraction for one gender while ignoring similar yearnings for those of the same sex.

"Ex gays" who have said they have been "cured" of homosexuality have also noted that they "struggle" on a daily basis with sexual desire for individuals of the same gender. Some say that they have conquered homosexuality by blotting out all sexual interest, becoming asexual.

Moreover, the Catholic Church teaches that gays and lesbians do not "choose" their sexual orientation, but are born with it. The Church also teaches that gays are "called" to solitary lives of celibacy, asserting that homosexuals are "disordered" in their ability to form personal relationships and condemning same-gender sexual intimacy as "inherently evil."

Hollowell’s lecture contained other factual errors, including an assertion that Massachusetts was the only state to offer marriage equality, noted GLBT site Good As You in a March 24 article. Five states currently extend marriage parity, as does the District of Columbia. In two states, California and Maine, voters repealed marriage rights for gays and lesbians at the ballot box, in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Hollowell also claimed that the United States has laws against anti-gay speech, during a portion of the lecture in which he said that allowing gays civil parity would erode religious freedoms.

Hollowell went on to compare heterosexual couples incapable of producing children to "winless" athletic teams that garner glory for sports even without securing victory on the field, Good As You reported. The article went on to say that Hollowell acknowledged having cribbed parts of his lecture from claims and statements made by anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

"Several commentators, including Bishop Gene Robinson, have already drawn the link between this kind of anti-gay religious-based bigotry and the astronomically high rates of suicide and attempted suicide in LGBT teens," noted Equality Matters in a March 25 posting.

"Seventy percent of Catholics and a majority of the American public now believe that these kinds of messages contribute to higher rates of LGBT teen suicide," the posting added. "With anti-gay lessons like this being taught to young teenagers, it’s not hard to imagine why."

Good As You reported that the students responded with challenges to the lesson they were being given. Some said that NOM’s chair, Maggie Gallagher, seemed "bigoted" and "angry." Others contested Hollowell’s anti-gay claims.

Several video clips of the two-hour-plus lecture were included in the Equality Matters posting.

Monday, January 24

While a hostile relative re-writes my life: 'Who is, and is not, my family'

Leslie Feinberg
[please repost]

Leslie has requested that this message be reposted and disseminated all over the world; I am doing my part to do just that.
I just read Stone Butch Blues about a year ago; it opened my eyes in a way that no other book ever has. It raised my consciousness to a much higher level, showing me just how different our (lesbians) lives are from those in the so-called "straight" world... It is a book that I urge everyone to read, especially if you're struggling with gender identity issues.

In autumn 2010, Knopf published a “transgender” themed young adult novel. The author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, is an estranged relative of mine.

The analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Hyde’s young adult fiction novel will come from those who are living the identities, and oppressions to which she has applied her imagination.

However, as part of the media coverage and publicity tour for the release of the young adult novel, Hyde claims much of her expertise and authority for writing her “transgender”-themed young adult novel as based on my life and identity.

The author is a relative with an axe to grind. When she claims me as kin in order to counter-narrate my life, I am forced to get up out of a sick bed in order to respond in writing.

Since I became acutely ill in October 2007, it has been very hard for me to write, or to speak. So it is opportunistic and unconscionable that a hostile relative would take this opportunity to re-tell my life in a way that changes my sex, mis-describes my gender expression, and closets my sexuality. Hyde also attempts to silence me politically as a revolutionary, reasserts the dominant legal control of the biological family, and ignores and disrespects my chosen family.

My verbal and written request for no further contact has been violated by my relatives numerous times over the last forty years. So I do not rely on them to respect my wishes. Instead, I have clarified and strengthened my legal papers, and I am making this statement public: My living biological relatives—Irving David Feinberg, Betty @Vance Hyde, and @Catherine Ryan Hyde—are not my family. They do not speak for me.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) defines “family” as: “The person(s) who plays a significant role in the individual’s [patient’s] life. This may include a person(s) not legally related to the individual.”

Irving David Feinberg, Betty Vance Hyde, and Catherine Ryan Hyde have not played any significant role in my adult life. I have not seen or spoken to my parents in 40 years. Catherine Ryan Hyde was a child when I left home as a youth, and has only met me a handful of times in her adult lifetime.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s narrations about my identity and early family life to audiences and media on her young adult novel book tour is not the first time that she or other relatives have narrated hostile accounts of my life--in person and in print.

Who is, and who is not, my ‘family’

My estranged biological relatives know very little about the decades of my adult life. They are strangers, by my choice, because of their history of bigotry and abusive behaviors toward me.

Yet the capitalist state often cedes legal power to blood relatives by default. So, I’ve had to struggle to assert legal independence from the white, patriarchal, heterosexually-modeled nuclear family into which I was born.

For four decades I have been forced to create and revise sets of legal forms for every state in the U.S. in which I’ve lived or sought medical care. These foundational documents state in clear language that I have been legally autonomous from my birth family since I reached the age of legal consent.

My documents state that Irving David Feinberg, Betty Vance Hyde, and Catherine Ryan Hyde have no legal rights in my life.

My legal papers also spell out clearly who does have the right to speak for me if I am unable to speak for myself.

Minnie Bruce Pratt has been my family, legally and in life, since 1992. As lovers, we have shared a home, life and struggle—in sickness and in health. We are domestic partners. We are civil union’d. Yet the state and federal government discriminate against our same-sex economic family unit by denying more than a thousand of the benefits that recognition of same-sex rights as a civil “marriage” certificate would provide.

Because I am female, and in a same-sex relationship, I have to live and travel with legal documents that expressly state who is, and who is not, my family.

Even chosen family members who travel with their legal documents intact can find themselves barred from visiting their loved one in an emergency room, while vindictive relatives who are virtual strangers can proceed to the bedside to make life-and-death decisions.I carry a hospital visitation authorization, the new Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST), my domestic partnership and civil union papers, advanced directives, living will and last will & testament. In addition, I carry a copy of caregivers’ rights, and requests for secular-based care.

I have to legally state in paperwork that Minnie Bruce Pratt is my health care proxy, together with my attorney--who has taught issues of law and transgender. They have my powers of attorney. Based on legal documents that I’ve worked hard to prepare, my chosen family would speak for me if I were unable to advocate for myself.

Minnie Bruce and I both have to carry each other’s documents at all times, as well.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is attempting to undermine all my painstaking documentation of chosen family relationships, by claiming blood ties give her intimate knowledge of my life and identity, and the right to re-write them.

Self-expression of oppressions,
Versus bashing counter-narrative

On her author promotional tour, Catherine Ryan Hyde is developing an embryonic biography of my life--fictionalized and unauthorized—to which I give no consent. Her assertions are all easily found on the web in a google search.

“This is totally my story to tell,” Catherine Ryan Hyde publicly maintains. She claims insider knowledge, because, she says, she grew up with a “transgender sibling.”

She also claims that because I have written and spoken publicly about my own oppressions and life’s struggles, my life is now public domain for her imagination. This argument draws an equal sign between the right of oppressed individuals to self-expression, and the bigoted “voice-over” that contradicts and denies those oppressed identities and life experiences.

Hyde claims she learned acceptance from an early age because she “grew up” with a “transgender sibling.” However, she must admit she is either a virtual stranger to my life, or is maliciously re-writing my identity—or both.

Catherine Ryan Hyde appropriates the description of my life in order to contradict my identity. In her commentary, she co-opts my life’s journey, changes my sex, denies my pronoun(s) of choice, mis-describes my gender expression, and closets my declared sexuality.

I can say with certainty that if anyone claims “insider” knowledge of my life based on patriarchal blood relations--or claims to have been a long-lost “good friend,” or to have “dated” me long ago—in order to deny and obfuscate my life’s struggles, then I can guarantee you that the “love” is not mutual.

When a basher narrates my bio

The only authority any of my biological relatives, including Catherine Ryan Hyde, can muster to justify talking about my early life is that they were “there. “

But, those who take part in group beatings and gang rape of oppressed individuals are also “there” during assaults. That doesn’t give those bigots the right to “own” or re-write the biographies of those who survived their attacks.

Nor do bigots and bullies have the right to rewrite their violence against an oppressed individual as “loving” and “consensual.” Such actions are a continuation of the violent and prejudiced abuse; it’s trying to take over another person’s life; it’s attempting to control and define someone else, against their will.

“As some of you may know already, I grew up with a transgender sibling,” Hyde states--assigning a later 20th-century identity to my mid-20th-century birth.

“A transgender person is someone who is born with a type of birth defect, for lack of a better phrase,” she asserts. (People Profile; posted:

Hyde makes this pronouncement as someone who is not self-identified as “transgender.”

Hyde narrowly defines her use of the term “transgender” for her young adult novel character when she says that he has “not transitioned yet.” (my emphasis]

My own life’s journey and oppressions are different than those of her protagonist. To state or imply that my life’s identity is the same as Hyde’s leading “transgender” character pits my life and identity and oppressions against those of others.

See my writings for how I’ve defined my life’s journey, my sex, gender expression, sexuality, and politics.

So in having based herself as an authority on my life, is Hyde proclaiming my sex, my gender expression or my sexuality as biological “birth defects?”

In any case, she wasn’t around for my birth. As the youngest of three daughters, I was already about 6 years old when she was born.

Hyde was only about 7 years old when I was 13, and I had to ask my parents to sign working papers, so that I could get a job after high school and not have to come home until it was time to go to bed.

Outside my parents’ home, and beyond high school corridors and classrooms, I was able to find wage work during the Vietnam War, and loving relationships. I found communities, struggle, my voice and pride.

What happened, in Hyde’s publicity-tour narrative of my life, to my out-and-proud butch lesbian life in communities and struggles in Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania; St. Catherine’s and Toronto, Ontario—at a time when same-sex love was illegal and subject to raids by police and groups of bashers?

I later moved out of my parents’ home before the legal age of consent, despite the fact that I was still their legal ward. After years of living independently, I had to return shortly before my 21st birthday, in order to ask my parents to sign permission for me to begin taking hormones. I did not self-identify as transgender at that time.

Several years later, when I told my parents that I was going to stop taking hormones, my biological father ridiculed me and my biological mother sat silently in another room, her back towards me as I left. Catherine Ryan Hyde was nowhere to be seen.

My biological parents reportedly debated, for the second time in my young life, whether they should sign legal papers that would forcibly confine me to a psychiatric institution. I did not self-identify as transgender at that time in my life, either.

By suddenly publicly claiming me as kin, and implying that familial knowledge is a foundation for her young adult novel, Hyde erases my chosen family, in order to return me, inaccurately, as her “brother,” back as a 20-year-old still under the legal control of the father-dominated, heterosexual, nuclear family.

I am not a daughter or a son to Irving David Feinberg and B. Vance Hyde; I am not a sister or a brother to Catherine Ryan Hyde. I could not be forced into those legal categories or those violent dynamics of group bigotry with these three relatives, even at gunpoint: metaphorically or literally.

Burying my life in fiction,
while I’m still living the non-fiction

After 20 years of respecting my request for no contact, Catherine Ryan Hyde called me and asked to meet. At that time, I thought she accurately narrated the prejudices articulated through group scapegoating in the nuclear family of my birth.

But when I agreed to meet with her several times over the most recent two decades, she just delivered more “family” horror stories: an earlier account of parents debating whether to permanently institutionalize me when I was a young teen; family members actually speculating, as adults, whether I might have been possessed by an evil spirit at birth; the patriarch of the family disowning me in his will; the fear of a family member that I might kill her children if I knew of their existence.

If Catherine Ryan Hyde, the willing messenger, answered the bigotries, she did not relate that to me.

I last met Hyde when she came to my 60th birthday party. I had hoped to spend one-on-one time with many loved ones that weekend, on the eve of treatment for long-untreated Lyme plus serious co-infections.

Catherine Ryan Hyde dominated my weekend when she argued with me for hours that the story of the Tutsi people in Rwanda is hers to tell. Her statements about the peoples of Rwanda were so racist, so apologetic for colonialism and imperialism, that I informed Hyde at that time that she was no political kin to me.

She continued to press by e-mail argument. At that time, I restated my request for no further contact from these living biological relatives.

Now Catherine Ryan Hyde is appropriating my life and voice in order to try counter-narrate it. Hyde, a coward who is emboldened with Knopf’s power and money behind her, is trying to bury my life in fiction, while I’m still living my non-fiction journey and struggles.

‘Crossing the street to start trouble’

In a web interview traveling the Internet, Hyde writes that she created a “transgender” character because: “I was so outraged by the violence and abuse faced by transgender people. The way someone will cross over from the other side of the street to start trouble. To get in their faces, push them.”

The fact is, however, that’s exactly what this biological relative is doing to me.

Hyde’s counter-narration of my life attempts to silence my adult lifetime of revolutionary anti-capitalist political writing and activism. She replaces my message of collective struggle and liberation with her timid appeal for “tolerance.”

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s story of my life and her relationship to it omit this real-life fact: She and her parents are not welcome in her “transgender sibling’s” home.

The only way Irving David Feinberg, Betty Vance Hyde, and Catherine Ryan Hyde can prove they’ve learned a lesson in acceptance is to respect my stated and written requests to stay out of my life--and the lives of my chosen family.

However, based on past experiences, I do not expect any of the three to respect my requests. And in this case, the bully pulpit of the public relations speaking tour is paid for and promoted by a major industry publisher, with money and media power.

As public relations, repeated over and over in publicity, on the web, and before audiences, this co-optation of my own life’s narrative is a form of identity theft.

I can only write this public message one time. I have suffered a serious medical setback during the time and effort it took me to write and post this.

I thank each person who has asked me if there’s any way they could help lift a burden from me in time of illness. I ask your help in circulating this statement from me into the public record.

I ask for help in circulating this message from workers in the publishing, and other media industries--from media for LGBT communities to Publisher's Weekly—from legal and library and medical workers, those who work as secretaries and researchers, bloggers and journalists, those who defend the rights of youth and elders, revolutionaries and all who fight for social and economic justice, my literary agency Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc., and my labor union--the National Writers' Union, UAW Local 1981.

I ask you to aid delivery of this message—on flat typography and raised Braille, in signed languages and spoken languages. As an internationalist and anti-imperialist I am sorry to be posting a message that I hope will be read around the world, and yet, I am only able to post my statement in the English language—the lingua franca of imperialism.

I ask help from some of the skilled and thoughtful translators I’ve worked with around the world in translating this statement.

Message to my chosen family:

I have had a very low quality of life since October 2007; however, I treasure the love in my life—the only riches I desire.

To my chosen family: I can feel the strength of your love and caring and support--even when there are so few words in the English-language that recognize the power of our bonds.

We are all unique. We don’t all share the same ideas. Instead, as chosen family, we are defined by our loving, mutually supportive relations. Our chosen family bonds are built on principles that aren’t for sale, including mutual respect, and a process of understanding through increasingly clear communication.

My caring circle extends across the U.S. and around the world, and each member of my chosen family can recognize a bashing, whether the verbal delivery is hard-knuckled or honey-smooth.

So I take this opportunity to publicly thank you for your support. And I’d like to also honor two of my relatives, who I do think of as family.

After rejecting mean-spirited family gossip about my sister Christie, I went to visit her in a nursing home on her birthday, shortly before her death. Because I will not co-opt her voice in life, or after death. I will only say that I talked to her about the way I felt that violent family dynamics pitted me against her. I learned a lot that day about how she felt about the role she’d been put in as a child, as well.

When we said our goodbyes, I hugged her as a sister.

I also want to honor one of my grandfathers; I never met either one.

I honor my grandfather who labored all winter long without a paycheck during the last Great Depression in order to stoke the furnace at the “poor house.” I’ve been told that when he later died, his funeral drew more people from the town than that of its mayor.

I have never taken off my hat for a cop, a boss or a foreman. But as my grandfather’s communist grandchild, I take my place in that gathering of respect--hat in my hands--to honor this worker, who demonstrated with his labor, his consciousness of the class truth that the union movement is built on: An injury to one is an injury to all!

Saturday, January 22

Hawaii Law Bars Release of Obama Birth Certificate

Mark Niesse
Jan 22, 2011 – 6:58 AM

When are these so-called "birthers" going to give up? Why are they willing to go to these ridiculous lengths to raise doubts about our Commander-in-Chief? Do they really believe this stuff about him not being a citizen, or is it a case of 'If we throw enough mud something has to stick!"? What is it going to take to make these people understand that there is no basis for any of these accusations?

HONOLULU - A privacy law that shields birth certificates has prompted Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie to abandon efforts to dispel claims that President Barack Obama was born outside Hawaii, his office says.

State Attorney General David Louie told the governor that privacy laws bar him from disclosing an individual's birth documentation without the person's consent, Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said Friday.

"There is nothing more that Gov. Abercrombie can do within the law to produce a document," said Dela Cruz. "Unfortunately, there are conspirators who will continue to question the citizenship of our president."

The Obama campaign released a copy of his certification of live birth in response to claims by conspiracy theorists that the president wasn't born in the United States.
Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama's parents and knew him as a child, launched an investigation last month into whether he can release more information about the president's Aug. 4, 1961 birth. The governor said at the time he was bothered by people who questioned Obama's birthplace for political reasons.

But Abercrombie's attempt reached a dead end when Louie told him the law restricted his options.

Hawaii's privacy laws have long barred the release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who doesn't have a tangible interest.

So-called "birthers" claim Obama is ineligible to be president because they say there's no proof he was born in the United States, with many of the skeptics questioning whether he was actually born in Kenya, his father's home country.

Hawaii's health director said in 2008 and 2009 that she had seen and verified Obama's original vital records, and birth notices in two Honolulu newspapers were published within days of Obama's birth at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu.

Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo again confirmed Friday that Obama's name is found in its alphabetical list of names of people born in Hawaii, maintained in bound copies available for public view.

That information, called index data, shows a listing for "Obama II, Barack Hussein, Male," according to the department's website.

"The index is just to say who has their records within the department. That's an indication," Okubo said. "I can't talk about anyone's records."

The Obama campaign issued a certificate of live birth in 2008, an official document from the state showing the president's birth date, city and name, along with his parents' names and races.

Saturday, January 15

Widow who lived with corpses could get them back

In This June 25, 2010 photo, Jean Stevens, 91, holds a photograph from the 1940s of herself and her late husband, James, outside her home in Wyalusing, Pa. Authorities say Stevens stored the bodies of her husband, who died in 1999, and her twin, who died in October 2009, on her property. (AP Photo / Michael Rubinkam)

Okay, this one is a little different, it still points out the craziness in this country, but in a way that has a happy ending. I wonder though, why is it a problem for her to have her husband and sister's bodies? If there was a law against it, why'd they let her dig them up in the first place? I wonder who helped her do it; I can't imagine this old woman sneaking into a cemetery with a shovel when she was 79 years old and doing it herself!

Associated Press

WYALUSING, Pa. -- It looks like Jean Stevens will be reunited with the two people she loved so much that she wanted them to keep her company after they died.

The 91-year-old widow who lived with the embalmed corpses of her husband and twin sister—until authorities found out and took them away—is hopeful they’ll be returned soon.

Workmen at Stevens’ rural property outside the northern Pennsylvania town of Wyalusing have been busy the past few months, erecting a gabled building with gray siding and a white door. It resembles an oversized shed, or a smaller version of Stevens’ detached garage.

In reality, it’s a mausoleum that Stevens intends as the final resting place of her husband of nearly 60 years, James Stevens, and her twin, June Stevens. And authorities have told her it’s the only way she can get them back.

She can’t wait.

“I think about them all the time,” Stevens told The Associated Press a few days before Christmas, “and I always will.”

The coroner, she said, “has them up there in the cold box, which makes me shiver. He says, ‘They’re all right, Jean, you don’t have to worry about them.”’

Stevens had their bodies dug up shortly after they died—James in 1999, June in 2009 -- because she couldn’t bear not being able to see them again. She kept her husband on a couch in the garage, and her sister in a spare room off the bedroom, where “I could touch her and look at her and talk to her,” Stevens told AP last summer.

“Death is very hard for me to take,” she added then.

Stevens’ tale touched a chord. She estimates she received about 70 letters from around the world, most of them expressing well-wishes and sympathy. She’s written back to some. One of her new pen pals mailed a Christmas package with fruitcake, mints, and a holiday tin stuffed with Chex mix. “Dearest Jean,” wrote her correspondent, “you’ve sent us a Christmas treasure, your letter!”

Stevens also knows that some people think she’s strange. She laughs heartily as she leafs through a pair of supermarket tabloids that had blared her story. She says Jay Leno once cracked a joke about her.

But it’s Stevens who may get the last laugh.

Bradford County authorities, who have been storing the bodies in the morgue since they took them away in June, have told Stevens she can have them back if she builds an aboveground vault.

Coroner Tom Carman said he plans to release them once it’s completed.

“I want to get Jimmy and June back to her just as soon as I possibly can,” he said.

Carman has struck up an unusual friendship with Stevens. He’s spent hours listening to her talk, mainly about the past. “She’s a wonderful lady,” he said.

Stevens plans to place her husband and sister in body bags with clear panels, so she can see their faces.

The mausoleum is large enough to hold as many as eight bodies. Stevens said she’d like to transfer the remains of several loved ones to the crypt, including those of her long-deceased mother and father.

One of the spots will be reserved.

“She means to be placed there, as well,” Carman said. “She’s made that very clear.”

(Copyright ©2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Friday, January 14

Vaccine-autism researcher should be prosecuted

The United States needs to put together a team from Law and Order like District Attorney Jack McCoy, Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid, Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot, Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak, and Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver, and then (since the whole thing started in Britain) add in Senior Crown Prosecutor James Steel, and go after this guy! Can you picture it? Not only would he be prosecuted and convicted of fraud, for all the people who died as a result of not taking the vaccine and contracting the illness and dying, he would be charged with untold counts of murder, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to the electric chair!

Unfortunately, this isn't Law and Order, this is real life, and in real life, the justice system just isn't interested enough in a case like this to spend the man-hours and money necessary to pursue such a judgment. If he gets prosecuted for anything it will be fraud, and perhaps theft by misdirection (or something else equally as stupid) and MAYBE be sentenced to a couple of years; and I wonder how much of that time he would actually do? I hate to think of the anguish of all the families whose children died from whooping cough in an age when no one even gets it anymore...

By Alex B. Berezow, Special to CNN

(CNN) -- Finally, after 13 years of needless controversy, the British Medical Journal determined that Andrew Wakefield's vaccine-autism link constituted an "elaborate fraud."

Having already lost his medical license in the UK for unethical professional conduct, it is now time for him to be prosecuted.

The prosecution of a scientist, or any academic for that matter, might conjure up images of the trial of Galileo. For the sake of research integrity and academic freedom, it is not something to be undertaken lightly. Scientists require the flexibility to publish unconventional research, especially if that research is controversial or unsettling. However, there is a distinct line between controversy and fraud. Wakefield clearly crossed that line, according to the medical journal.

In 1998, Wakefield conducted a small study with 12 children in which he reported finding a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. However, it was recently revealed that Wakefield manufactured the vaccine-autism link by falsifying patient histories. Despite the British journal's accusations, Wakefield maintains he did not commit fraud.

Scientific fraud is a very serious matter. From a fiscal standpoint, it is essentially stealing money. Whether the funding comes from taxpayers, charities or private sources, there is an expectation that the recipients of such largesse act in good faith and honesty. Any knowledge produced from this funding then enters the public domain via scientific journals. Thus, when a scientist fabricates data, he is not only squandering limited financial resources but is also violating the public's trust.

Even worse, when a scientist commits fraud, he misleads his fellow colleagues for years, if not decades. Thousands of hours and millions of dollars are often wasted disproving the research, and those precious assets could have been better spent elsewhere. In this case, the scientific community has been wasting its resources on Wakefield's theory for 13 years.

As bad as that is, wasted time and money pale in comparison to the devastating personal consequences that occurred across the globe as a direct result of Wakefield's behavior. The marked decrease in vaccinations which occurred in the decade following his research literally cost people their lives. When parents refused to vaccinate their children, many of them contracted diseases such as measles and pertussis (whooping cough). Some of them died.

The reluctance of millions of people to accept the annual influenza vaccination also likely stems, at least in part, from the fallacious vaccine-autism link.

Prosecuting scientists is not common, but it is also not without precedent.

Eric Poehlman, a former obesity and menopause researcher, falsified data in grant applications to the National Institutes of Health. He was convicted of scientific misconduct and sentenced to a year in prison.

Additionally, disgraced researcher Hwang Woo-suk fabricated data in regard to the cloning of human embryos. He was tried in South Korea and convicted of embezzlement and bioethical violations, but he escaped a fraud conviction and jail time.

In the current case, the journal says, Wakefield purposefully manipulated patient histories in order to fabricate an erroneous link between vaccines and autism. The direct result of this was the creation and perpetuation of an insidious myth that may be unparalleled in modern day medicine. Amazingly, Wakefield even established the "Thoughtful House" in Austin, Texas, from which he promoted his quackery in the United States.

It is for these reasons that Wakefield should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of American and British law. Perhaps if he spends the next few years behind bars, people who have suffered from the impact of his actions will see that justice is being done.

Unfortunately, Wakefield's enthusiastic supporters have little use for facts. With Jenny McCarthy and others willing to use their celebrity to propagate this myth, the scourge of preventable childhood diseases may be with us for years to come.

Let us hope Hollywood sends us a pro-vaccine actor.

(Editor's note: Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience. He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alex B. Berezow.)

Monday, January 10

Countering The Westboro Baptist Protests Of The Six Slain In Arizona

This is a child, a child whose parents deserve to have a quiet time to say goodbye to their child; when is someone going to stop these people? All these high-powered lawyers manage to find loopholes to get criminals off everyday, and they find ways to whitewash some of the crummy things some of these politicians do, so why can't they find a way that the cities can deny this group the right to be so offensive and insulting? If the police can get away with shooting people in cold blood on a subway platform in front of witnesses, why the hell can't they do something about these jerks showing up at private funerals and disrupting things? This was a little girl for goodness' sake! How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian honestly believe the things that these people spout?? Okay, enough from me; here is the article I came across on LezGetReal...

by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
The funerals will soon be held for the six who were slain during the same shooting that nearly took the life of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and the people from Westboro Baptist Church are planning on showing up to hold their usual disrespectful protest. One group of gay activists are planning on raising money during that time from passers by to help fund the Anti-Violence Project of Southern Arizona. There are, however, those who could, and should, come out for these funerals.

Imagine the cadre from WBC being surrounded by the combined might of the current Philadelphia Phillies and the LA Dodgers when the come to protest at the funeral of Christina Taylor Green. Her father works for the Dodgers and her grandfather managed the Phillies. All the players have to do is form a circle shoulder to shoulder and stand with their backs to the group.

The same should happen when it comes to the funerals of Judge John Roll and Gabe Zimmerman, but this time with Federal employees from the area. For the other three, members of the various religious communities of Tucson should form the human circle. The media should just ignore WBC.

As for Phelps-A-Thon, their aim is noble. Here is their press release:

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group,
Progressive Approach, is hosting an online PHELPS-A-THON to
counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church’s (WBC) picket of the
funeral of the victims of the recent shooting in Arizona. The WBC is
protesting the funerals because they believe God sent the shooter to
punish America for its tolerance of LGBT people.

During their own protest, the Westboro Baptist Church will in fact be
raising money for Wingspan, the Anti-Violence Project of Southern

The website, is collecting pledges online for
every minute WBC pickets the funeral. The longer they protest, the
more money they will raise.

“I believe everyone has the right to free speech, but protesting these
funerals is beyond wrong, it is disgusting,” said Chris Mason,
Director of “A lot of people are angry with this
and have emailed, asking us to do something. We feel this is an
appropriate response to such hatred; while the Westboro Baptist Church
is celebrating violence, they will also be raising funds to fight it.”

Fred Phelps and his group travel all across the United States
spreading their “god hates fags” message at schools, churches, and
soldiers funerals. Many states have passed laws against protesting at
funerals in order to stop the group’s actions.

Those interested in the Phelps-A-Thon can find out more information by
visiting the website: