And That's the Way It Is!

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #105, Spring 2004.

by Monica F. Helms

As always, Dallas has given me more work than an Army pack mule. She even has a mule whip in her office to keep me and the other columnists in line. I suspect some act up on a regular basis just so Dallas can pay them a private visit with the whip. I don?t understand. Am
I missing something here?
Life has made an interesting turn on the personal front. An old debt caught
up with me, and I got a notice to appear in court. Because I plan on filing for bankruptcy, I asked a trusted friend for
a name of a good lawyer. From what
I understand, the word bankruptcy is about as commonly used in our community as the word gender. I?m not scared, because I know it will ultimately help make my credit better. I declared bankruptcy back in 1990, seven years BM (Before Monica). I just can?t wait for
this to be over.

Something else has begun to hit
me hard. Burnout. After five years of activism, I?m feeling the pressure to slow down. I?ve taken on many tasks, and there are some important ones looming in the future. The thrill of victory is not the drug it used to be, and the pain of failure cuts deeper each time. The 38 names that had to be read this Day of Remembrance drained the energy from my soul.

On top of that, the responsibility that comes with being a part of the Trans-gender American Veterans Association has increased tremendously, and I wish
to focus my energy and time there. This doesn?t mean I will stop doing this column (Darn!?Dallas). I won?t give up the column until they pry my cold, dead fingers off of my keyboard. After all, I have an ego the size of Mt. Rushmore, and I have to keep it fed somehow. (Also, I
have a feeling Dallas would actually miss me. Don?t tell her I said that.)

We Finally Face the Wall

Transgendered veterans from across the country will meet in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 2004 to participate in a historical event for our community. The first ever Transgender Veterans March to the Wall will take place on that day, to show we served proudly.

Back in September 2001, Angela Brightfeather, who was a drill sergeant in the Army during the Vietnam War, came up with the idea of having transgendered veterans march to the Vietnam Memorial. The idea is to honor our fallen comrades-in-arms and to heal from the emotional wounds war inflicted on us. She got the idea from visiting the Wall with thousands of Harley-Davidson riders over
the years. She felt transgendered veterans should do something like that, for all the same reasons. Angela never gave up on this wonderful idea, and when she became the Special Projects Director for TAVA, she finally had a vehicle to make her idea come true.

When asked why we need to do the March, Angela said, ?There are many
reasons why the Transgender Veterans March to the Wall should happen. Most of those reasons lie within our own hearts and the pride with which we served our country, and to finally pay
our respects to our service members and friends, as we should, and in a way that they never knew us, as people of transgender experience.?

The schedule includes a reception at the Radisson Barcelo Hotel on the evening of April 30 and a farewell breakfast on Sunday morning, May 2. On Saturday, the group will visit both the Wall and the Iwo Jima Monument. In the afternoon, we?ll be laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It will be the first time in history that any transgender group has officially laid a wreath at the Tomb (it?s important to note that as of the time this issue of Tapestry went to press, TAVA had not received permission to lay the wreath at the Tomb, so there?s
a possibility the wreath-laying won?t happen). Saturday will end with a dinner at
a local restaurant.

It?s my hope that we will have many transgendered veterans attend this first-ever event to show the world we indeed served in the military, and have been serving since our country began. We would like to see hundreds attend, but even if only 25 people show up, it will be a success.
A website has been specially set up by Joney Harper to provide information on TVMW. You can find it at: http://www.

Cannon Fodder

November saw the 5th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Nearly 110 cities all over the world geared up to remember those transgendered murder victims with candlelight vigils, prayers, marches and speeches.
As I mentioned earlier in this column, there have been 38 victims since the
last TDOR, compared to 26 the year before. Six of those murders occurred in December 2002. There were 21 international victims. Five were in Italy, four in Guatemala, and there were two each in Canada, Chile, and Brazil.

Of the 17 American victims, three died in Washington, D.C., and two each in Houston and Indianapolis. D.C. is now one of the deadliest cities in the world for transgendered people, with Houston rapidly catching up. This is why I titled this segment Cannon Fodder. The murders of transgendered people have become an epidemic no one cares about. You don?t see the Centers for Disease Control plotting these figures.
The F.B.I.?s Hate Crime Statistics for last year listed only eleven hate crimes toward GLBT people. Our deaths apparently aren?t worthy enough to report to the F.B.I. A sniper kills six people in the D.C. area and is hunted down with the full force of the F.B.I., yet when two transwomen are murdered in D.C. and one is nearly killed at the very same
time, little effort is put into finding the perpetrators.

Local authorities and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation mounted an intense manhunt for a man who killed two real estate agents in Cobb County, tracking him down in Minnesota within a week. However, 13 transgender murders in Georgia?some going back to the early 1990s?remain unsolved. Not only are we being slaughtered at an alarming rate, most transgender murder cases gather dust in the cold case files. On top of that, those caught and convicted of murdering a transgendered person usually get light sentences.
On Thursday, November 20, we in Georgia once again stood in the shadow of the Georgia State Capital Building and read off the names of those killed for being different. Nearly 90 people showed up. We had an emotional event, as we had in the past. My words and the words of those speaking that night did nothing but echo off the walls of the buildings downtown, but we cried nevertheless. The people spoke beautifully about the 38 victims. Heaven knows how many names we will read next year.

You May Now Kiss My...

Okay, class, what is the most over-
discussed subject in America these days? Michael Jackson? Nope. Kobe Bryant? Not even close. The war in Iraq? A distant second. It?s... marriage! When you attend an ?illegal? same-sex marriage here in the good ol? U.S. of A., and the preacher says, ?Is there anyone here who objects to the union between this man and this man, speak now or forever hold your peace,? millions of hypocritical
conservative Christians have the you-know-whats to object. They say that recognizing same-sex unions would be the ruination of the sacrament of marriage.

But wait! How can that be? Have same-sex couples contributed to the 50%-plus divorce rate? No! Have television networks spent millions of dollars relegating the sacrament of marriage to game-show status by having a man pick from 25 other men for the sole purpose of matrimony? No! So, who truly has led to the ruination of the sacrament of marriage? Heterosexuals?who else?
Do you realize that in some states, 14-year-olds can get married? Mass murderers, convicted rapists, and child molesters can get married. Even Michael Jackson can get married. In Las Vegas, a straight couple can be married by Elvis, even if they have known each other for only 10 minutes. Many men in America refuse to take responsibility for fathering children, and many young unmarried women will not say no to sex, popping out children like gumballs. Does any of this sound like the devious workings of gay and lesbians? Seems like heterosexuals don?t need homosexuals to screw up the sacrament of marriage. They?re doing just fine by themselves.

So, what does this have to do with transgendered people? you might ask.

I?m glad you asked. Everything: a lot,
very little, nothing. Pick one. There are
as many opinions in the transgender community about this latest discussion on same-sex marriage as there are people in our community. Some are saying that if an amendment to the Constitution is passed to limit marriage to a man and a woman, it will be the end of life on this planet as we know it. That?s exactly what the conservative Christians are saying will happen if an amendment doesn?t pass.

Why all this fuss? A Massachusetts court recently ruled that their state couldn?t discriminate against same-sex couples and ordered state legislators to fix the discriminatory situation within six months. This has fueled the fires against same-sex marriages. Where are those life-ending asteroids we keep hearing about? It seems we can sure use one now.

What?s interesting in all of this is that there are no legal definitions for man
and woman in the U.S. legal system. The Defense of Marriage Act has never been challenged on that basis, and the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment would be built on the same two undefined terms. If conservative Christians found out, they could create definitions that would screw transsexuals, changing their legal sex status. This is what has generated all the doom and gloom

Don?t worry about me mentioning
the lack of definitions here. I?m willing
to bet Transgender Tapestry is not on the Concerned Women for America?s recommended reading list (and if it is, thank you very much, Beverly LaHaye?Dallas).

Same-sex marriages affect our community because many transgendered people are attracted to the same sex?
but the fight for same-sex unions will be fought mostly by the gay and lesbian communities. They are already pushing this like spammers on the Internet push Viagra. Conservatives are pushing in the opposite direction. In fact, if the G.O.P.?s plan is to turn the focus of the voting public away from the President?s many failings by whining about same-sex marriages, they?re succeeding.

Monica Helms is the founder and current
President of the Transgender American Veterans Association and Executive Director of Trans=Action, Georgia?s transgender advocacy organization.
She serves on boards of various Georgia groups,
and is a winner of the 2003 Trinity Award.
She can be reached via e-mail at: