More anseriform foolishness than is absolutely necessary.

[Trigger warning for homophobia and violence]

Madame Secretary,

As you are undoubtedly aware, on Saturday, May 28, Moscow police stood idly by as protesters attacked participants in Moscow’s pride parade. Following the attack, [TW] police arrested several victims of the attack, including at least two Americans. Just prior to the parade, Russian authorities revoked parade organizers’ permit. Irrespective of the veracity rumors of police officers’ participation in the beatings, this last minute withdrawal clearly set the stage for this year’s parade to become the scene of violence, as has been the case in past years.

While I know you’re busy, I ask you to indulge a personal tangent.

Ten years ago this March, my partner and I went on our first date. We spent a week traveling throughout Estonia and Latvia (how this came to be our first date is a somewhat longer story). It was truly a magical experience, and we both cherish our memories of holding each other close while we explored Riga’s streets as winter sighed its last gasp.

Over the past ten years, our lives have changed. Seemingly ages ago, I came out as a transsexual woman. My partner and I are a very happy openly queer couple. We can’t go back to Riga. We fear that even in flusher times, we won’t be able to show our daughter the countryside from whence her ancestors fled war and poverty for life in the United States.

All that has changed in the last ten years is that my family no longer fits the narrow image that reactionary forces are willing to accept. This, and this alone, is enough to expose us to the threat of state-sanctioned violence.

Latvia is very proudly not Russia, and this is not about tourism.

There are people throughout Russia and throughout the world who are living in fear because of their governments’ distaste of their gender or sexuality. Some of these people are American citizens, such as those beaten and arrested this past weekend.

I understand the importance and delicacy of America’s relationship with the Russian government. However, I also understand the importance of our relationship with the Russian people– all of them.

I ask you to condemn the Russian government for its hateful, violent actions, and to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to human rights.

Kate Forbes
Syracuse, NY


…or I get to keep more of my money due to my newfound heterosexuality.
…or I can be lesbian, feed my family, but not both.

It finally came this week. My family and I had just returned from a free (unless you count the jewelry we pawned for gas money) weekend vacation with queer family. Waiting in the mailbox, was a sweet taste of heterosexual privilege, in check form, no less. It was a lovely, and totally expected gesture.

Me and my newly hetero lover debated how to spend the money. Vibrators? Glitter? As subversive (although I understand the my straight, er, fellow straight friends also use such things) and fun as those ideas are, we decided to use the money to deal with the latest disconnect notice from the utility company. Indeed, our inability to pay our bills and provide for our daughter was the impetus. We simply couldn’t afford to be lesbians anymore.

At this point, I probably should explain things. My family has health insurance through my employer. In addition to my daughter and me, my family includes my partner, who is, er, was, a lesbian. While the State of New York extends health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of its employees, federal regulations make the accounting a bit bizarre.

Health insurance is really important and essential (although not essential enough that everyone automatically gets it), that employees’ contributions to health insurance premiums are tax-free. Usually. If you’re the domestic partner of an employee, your sweetie pays for your health insurance premiums after income tax is taken out of hir check. Also, any employer contribution to your health insurance premiums counts as income, because your health insurance is a bonus. This whole set up is to protect the children. Or something.

If you turn your domestic partnership into a federally approved (heterosexual) marriage, a few things happen. You pay fewer taxes to the federal government (due to differences in withholding, it’s not yet clear to me what this means in my case, but my bi-weekly take home pay appears to have risen by a three digit amount). You get to file taxes jointly, which has its benefits. If you’ve already overpaid the taxes on your new spouse’s insurance benefits, your employer might end up sending you a check in the mail, like mine did:

There are all kinds of benefits to marriage, which plenty of other folks have cataloged. These include deeply personal rights, like hospital visitation, as well as any variety of financial benefits (including the costs of not having to pay a lawyer to secure some of the benefits that go along with marriage).

One assumes that straight couples regularly turn their domestic partnerships into marriage. In our case, I happen to be transsexual, which by the very bizarre logic of the federal government makes my lesbian relationship hetero (more on this later). Of course, the big point is that most gay and lesbian couples can’t just choose to receive these benefits for their relationship. That, and I got a check in the mail for not being a homo.

One of the many reasons I don’t like talking about the fact that my sweetie and I are married is that I’ve seen random people use transsexual people’s relationships as punching bags far too often (regularly, even). I don’t want to have to defend my lesbianism, nor my partner’s, to accusations based on what other people thought about me at my birth. We don’t identify as a married heterosexual couple—we never have, for that matter. Read more…

I’m in an optimistic mood this weekend, and much of it is because of two community events. In my experience, online community can bring people together, but to me, it can also make me feel isolating. I’m not sure what the rules are forming online communities, but they seem much more structured than offline ones. Online communities are often founded on common values. Offline, I often find myself in communities that are determined by proximity. Anyhow, here are two uplifting community responses to anti-LGBT bigotry in Syracuse. Read more…

[Trigger Warning: transphobia, violence]

This is difficult for me to write about, and I really hope I strike the right tone. I really, really appreciate the hard work that everyone in the trans, LGBTQ communities and our allies have placed on publicizing the senseless violence that takes places against trans people. I love that much (albeit not all) of the discussion has kept the humanity of the victims front and center. Nobody deserves to be murdered, much less to have their identity stripped away after the fact by the media, and by defense attorneys looking to justify the taking of a life. Lateisha Green’s murder troubles me deeply. I’m a transsexual woman and a mother. Talking about the taking away of somebody’s child because of who they makes me nauseous. I won’t be surprised if I spend much of the next week trying to stay away from news of the trial, because I simply can’t take it. I understand the need to focus on the horrifying consequences—and the need to prevent homophobia and transphobia (yes, the two are intertwined, and yes, that’s a discussion that’s been ongoing elsewhere).

Something about the response to Lateisha Green’s murder troubles me, though. I live in Syracuse. My friends and neighbors live in Syracuse. I feel the need to point out that crimes like Lateisha’s murder don’t happen in a vacuum. Furthermore, while violence against trans and gender non-conforming people is one of “my” issues, something I take very personally, I also care about all of my friends and neighbors, be they cisgender or transgender. When I see people from around the country speaking up about one of my neighbors’ lives being treated as disposable due to her identity, while remaining unaware or ignoring the rest of my city, I feel uneasy. I live here, and this city’s issues are my issues. How can I expect my neighbors to fight for my rights, when people like me seem hesitant to fight for my neighbors’ rights? Read more…

A couple of recent posts elsewhere (stemming from timely headlines in the “real” media) remind me of what happens when society assumes that access to social services is a privilege, and not a right. Health insurance, politics, and the free market do not mix– they’re like oil, water, and, uh… rock?

Look, there’s always going to be somebody deciding what procedures are provided to which people. This will involve politics to some extent. But, ya know’, it’d be cool if doctors had some say.

Anyhow, exhibit A:

Folks over at Feministe were discussing birth certificates for transsexual people. In the comments, someone (lets call him piny) pointed out that the cost of transsexual-related medicine (I hate that way of putting it, because it relegates some medical procedures to queer world, while normalizing others) should be irrelevant to whether insurers actually pay for it. And he’s right, of course. Insurers have made the same arguments with regard to mental health and autism, although recent legislation has gotten insured people closer to parity in coverage for mental illness.
Read more…