Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #097, Spring 2002.

by Monica F. Helms

This column began taking shape on September 15, 2001, four days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I?m telling you this so you?ll know why you?re not reading my usual jovial opening. I wanted to put down my thoughts while they were still clear. Consider this my chance to heal, if healing is at all possible.

I?m 50 years old, so I hadn?t yet arrived when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I am old enough to remember when an assassin?s bullet took President Kennedy?s life. We were living in Germany at the time. I remember my mother telling me to go get my father at the high school gym, where he and his friends were setting up for a square dance. It seemed surreal as I hurried through the cold November night. When I arrived at the gym, it was dark and deserted. I had horribly sad news, but no one to tell it to.
What happened on September 11 staggers the imagination of even those who experienced Pearl Harbor first- hand. The terrorists didn?t learn from what happened to the Japanese 60 years ago. The sleeping giant called America has once again been awakened. As I write this, the giant doesn?t know who the enemy is, but by the time you read this, I?m sure the giant will be in action.

The terrorists united this country in a way we?ve not seen for more than a half century. Life will not be the same. Activists must be on the alert to insure the government doesn?t use the events of 9/11 to take away our liberties in the name of protecting us. The thought of losing my civil rights scares me more than anything the terrorist could do to me.

We?re Still Here

In the wake of the terrorist attacks, the world scrambled to locate friends and loved ones. The transgender community was no different. The word went out for every TG person in NYC and DC to check in. The activists and artists of our community began networking in an attempt to account for transgendered people known to live and work in the target areas. The community could identify only one person who had died or was missing. Her name was Karen Vix. We learned she died at the World Trade Center.

How many stealth transsexuals and closeted crossdressers were amongst the dead and missing? We?ll never know. The relatives of those people may never reveal that information to the public. However, our community has been well- represented in the cleanup and rescue efforts, with transgendered firefighters, police officers, and health care workers on the job. Heck, even His Honor, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has publicly dressed in drag more than a couple of times. Somehow, that gives me comfort.

Buttering Up the Editor

People always try to find ways to get in good with their bosses at work. It?s no different here at Transgender Tapestry. The writing staff is constantly looking for ways to get on Dallas? good side so she?ll give them more space in the magazine. Rumor has it one of the writers went so far as to paint Dallas? entire house. I think that was the issue where my column abruptly ended in mid-sentence.

Not to be outdone, I came up with a plan to ensure a healthy word-count for the next half-dozen issues. It seems that for many years, Dallas has been doing wonderful things for the transgender community here in Georgia. She?s been helping our community so long the documentation has to be translated with the Rosetta Stone.

Since Dallas has done so much for this community, the transgender leaders here in Georgia decided, at my suggestion, to give her an award. The award is called Georgia?s Ultimate Transgender Service Award, or GUTS. We decided to give Dallas her GUTS at the activist reception at Southern Comfort.

Georgia is blessed with another who has helped the community for many years. Dr. Erin Swenson, the Chief Executive Officer for the Southern Association for Gender Education (SAGE) is a licensed therapist and a Presbyterian minister. She has helped transgendered Georgians not only with their psychological needs, but also with their spiritual needs. We wanted to give her the GUTS award as well.

In order to ensure Dr. Swenson?s attendance at the activist reception, we reminded her that as CEO of SAGE she needed to be there. Dallas wasn?t sure she could attend, so I upped the ante by telling her she needed to be there because we were giving an award to Erin. They both showed and were surprised when we gave them their well-deserved awards.

Having given Dallas the award, I?m sure I?ll get extra space in the next few issues. In order to make up for it, I understand Miqqi Gilbert?s column will be reduced to the size of a limerick. Sorry, Miqqi.

Day of Remembrance 2001

Ten names this year. Ten people taken from us because of hate and intolerance. Ten times did the bells ring in cities across the country. Ten souls touched our hearts, and ten-thousand tears were shed for their passing. We gathered to remember again, as we did last year, and as we will have to do next year. Will it ever end?

There were ?only? ten names, down from sixteen last year?but the only number acceptable is ZERO. On November 28, twenty-three cities across the country held ceremonies remembering victims of gender-bias crimes. Four universities?Penn State, Washington State, the University of Georgia, and Ohio State?held ceremonies on campus to remember the dead. Other candlelight vigils and ceremonies were held at city halls, state capital buildings, churches, community centers, and parks across the country. Transgender-related websites blacked their backgrounds for the day.

Although there were fewer names than last year, the crimes were no less horrible. James Jerome Mack was stabbed, choked, drowned, and set on fire for dating a transgendered woman. Willie Houston was holding his wife?s purse while she used the public restroom. A blind friend needed help in the men?s room, so Houston offered his arm. When Houston came out of the restroom, he was shot. In Colorado, F.C. Martinez was beaten to death in the small town of Cortez. Martinez was a sixteen-year-old Navajo youth; hir killer was only eighteen. Here in Georgia, Robert Martin, a gay crossdresser from the small town of Ashburn, was beaten on the head with a blunt object and lay in a coma in the hospital for three months before he died. Hir mother never left hir side.

It?s important that we as a community never forget those who are killed for being gender-different. With each Day of Remembrance, we will continue to educate others so they won?t forget either.

?I Gotta Go Pee!?

Not in Minnesota, you don?t. Julienne Goins, a transgendered employee of a publishing company called West Group, was told by a the Minnesota Supreme Court that she did not have legal grounds to sue her former employer for preventing her from using the women?s restroom. This from a state which supposedly passed employment protection for gender-different people back in 1993. What the hell is going on there?

Hannah Allam of the Pioneer Press wrote, ?The justices took an unusual six months before unanimously ruling that a West Group policy of designating bathrooms by biological gender does not violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act. They also found that the Eagan-based publishing company did not create a hostile work environment for 28-year-old Julienne Goins, who said co-workers stared, gossiped, and monitored her bathroom use. The ruling was closely watched by advocacy groups for transgendered people, who dress and live as the opposite gender but have not had their bodies surgically altered.?

Because of this ruling, West Group can legally designate bathrooms by biological sex. Transsexual employees will either, as Goins was ordered, walk great distances to use a unisex bathroom in another building, or resort to using catheter bags.

Ann DeGroot of OutFront Minnesota sees this as ?one court case, one decision. It won?t change the state?s reputation as a tolerant, safe place for transgendered people to live.? However, a line from an old Frank Zappa song keeps coming to my mind ?Watch out where the huskies go, and don?t you eat that yellow snow.? They tell me it snows a lot in Minnesota.

In North Carolina, of All Places

?Why, Uncle Jessie! I didn?t know you cared!? Jessie Helms doesn?t care, but a recent survey by Equality North Carolina showed his former constituents do. Equality NC found most North Carolinians feel it?s wrong to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity.

The survey, funded in part by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and conducted by The Lucas Organization, revealed that 60.7% of the Tarheels polled said it?s wrong to discriminate because of sexual orientation in public (government) jobs. An even larger number?68.0%?said it was wrong to discriminate because of gender identity. Gender identity was defined as ?exhibiting characteristics usually associated with the opposite gender; that is, either a man who exhibits certain feminine traits or a woman who exhibits more masculine traits.? 26.3% said it should be legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, while 13.1% said they weren?t sure. For gender identity, the numbers were 16.4% and 15.6%, respectively.
When asked about discrimination in the private sector, the numbers dropped, with 56.2% saying to sexual orientation job discrimination and 61.0% saying ?no? to gender identity job discrimination.

What does this mean? It means that in North Carolina, of all places, the people say it?s wrong to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That in itself is a major finding. But the icing on the cake is that more of those wonderful people in the First in Flight State say it?s wrong to discriminate on gender expression than sexual orientation.

This brings me to my final thought. What does this do to HRC?s argument about keeping gender expression out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)? It seems HRC paid to have itself shot in the foot. Apparently, the massive amount of education they?ve claimed will be incessary in order to make the words gender expression acceptable in ENDA has slowly and quietly taken place.

Perhaps the survey results will cause HRC to finally put its money where its mouth is. HRC put gender expression in its mission statement, but still finds excuses for keeping it out of ENDA. This survey shows America is ready for a gender-inclusive ENDA. Will HRC hear this message, or will it continue to ignore the obvious pointed out by this survey? Only time will tell.

Hey, HRC. You need to get that foot looked at.

Monica Helms lived most of her life in Arizona. Today, she resides in Marietta, GA. She has two sons living in Arizona, one 19, and the other 17. Arizona was where she started transitioning nearly 5 years ago, and was also where she became activism. Monica is currently involved in transgender activism on both the local and national levels.