Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #99, Fall 2002.

I ?d like to take a few minutes today to speak to the New
York City Council as an advocate for our communities
through my role as a counselor at the Gender Identity Project
at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community
Center. I am also speaking in my role as a founding director for
the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy and a
director for the International Foundation for Gender
Education. But, most importantly, today I am speaking as a
woman of transsexual experience.
Many people feel it is their privilege to judge me on my
appearance. Like most transpeople, my body seems to be a
political act. This not because of my sexual orientation. This is
because of the way I look and because of who I am seen as.

In this process, I have struggled
to maintain my identity.
Because of that process, I have
been denied jobs. I have been
denied housing. I have been denied
services. I have been harassed and
abused. I have been beaten and
raped, and I have had my children
taken from me.

Every day, I work with
organizations that process
statistics. These indicate that
nearly two-thirds of all transpeople
are victims of discrimination and
that transpeople are 15 times more
likely to be murdered than nontranspeople.
Yet the random hardship, terror and violence that
many transpeople experience on a daily basis, is also used
against our communities. It is used to routinely deny transgender-
identified individuals jobs, services, benefits,
schooling and housing.

Still, I consider myself fortunate to be able to be here
today. Through my work, I am required to be a spokes-trans of
some sort. It has become my job to be an out woman of transsexual
experience. But when I am beaten and raped by
someone who cannot accept the fact that he is attracted to me;
or when I am hosed down with water on the street by youths
washing their car; or when I am confronted, pushed and shoved
by men wandering the streets on a Saturday night; or
surrounded and shouted at by 20 people on the A train; at those
moments, my status as a counselor and spokesperson offers no
protection. At those moments I am not being attacked and
abused because of my sexual orientation. At those moments, I
am subjected to that terror because of the way I look and
because of who I am seen as.

When, for nearly two years, I was denied countless job
interviews and or housing by real estate agents, it was not
because of my sexual orientation. Instead I was refused these
basic and necessary accommodations because of the way I
look and because of who I am seen as.

And when I am denied physical access to my two children,
I am not being denied this simple and basic parental right
because it is in my children?s best interest. I don?t endure this
loss because of my sexual orientation. I have had my children
taken from me because of the way I look and because of who
I am seen as.

That part of me that contributes and nurtures is
continually erased and obstructed. Still, I cannot see how it is
in anyone?s best interest that the complex components that
make me who I am are suppressed and obscured by a society
that prefers more simple oppressions
and expressions. And I cannot
see how it is in anyone?s best
interest to deny that transgender
employees, lovers, spouses, and
parents exist. And none of this
will, in fact, erase the reality that
we, as transpeople do exist, that we
cannot be erased, and that we can
touch and can affect those
around us.

Still, the result is plain and
obvious to those that look and are
willing to listen. The politics of
attraction and power will always
obscure the situations of those that
cannot afford to, or are unable to speak for themselves.
And so I, and my brothers and sisters, have lost most of
the privilege that our culture claims we are all entitled to.
Instead we have learned to be afraid to change jobs, to fall in
love, to take the subway, to go into different neighborhoods, to
walk to the store and to go to the emergency room. And this
fear is not because of our sexual orientation. We are afraid
because of the way we look and because of who we are seen
as. We are afraid because we are seen, and identified, as transpeople.

It is time to take steps to end this oppression. The
legislation being discussed today is a first step in a long
journey toward social and economic justice for the trans and
gender-different communities. Remember, as Lillian Smith
wrote, ?Our right to be different is, in a deep sense, the most
precious right we human beings have.?

Thank you.

Carrie Davis is a counselor at the Gender Identity Project of the New
York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center.
She can be reached by e-mail at .



Robert Kosilek, a.k.a. Michelle, sits
in a Boston prison, serving a life sentence
for strangling his wife. Michelle has
identified as being transsexual since
being sent to prison. While in prison, she
filed a lawsuit claiming the Corrections
Department is violating his civil rights
and subjecting him to cruel and unusual
punishment by refusing to provide treatment
for his gender identity disorder. He
said he suffers continuous depression,
anxiety, and a high level of stress as a
result of being denied treatment.

In the lawsuit, Kosilek says, ?The universal
prescribed treatment involves psychotherapy,
hormone therapy, and surgical
correction of the offending genitalia.?
Few would feel transsexual inmates
shouldn?t be given proper psychotherapy
and hormone treatment if they had been
receiving it since before being arrested.
However, our community?s feelings tend to
split on providing the same services for
someone after they have been sent to prison,
especially when it involves having the state
to pay for sex reassignment surgery.

In an eloquent commentary on this
subject, found in the March 10, 2002
issue of Anne Vitale?s newsletter, Juli
Goins of Minnesota writes, ?To be frank,
I don?t have a problem with referring to
Kosilek as Michelle, his preferred?and
now legal?name. However, my tolerance
for him as a first-degree murderer
goes no further. In this severe an offense,
deferring to feminine pronouns with
Kosilek is pretty insulting to both natal
and transsexual women, and by extension,
any law-abiding crossdresser who
prefers to be recognized in the feminine
voice.? She goes on to say, ?But simply
put, his plea for free surgery is bad public
relations for an embattled and heavily
marginalized gender community.?

I have to agree with Juli on this matter.
There are many pre-op transsexuals,
living near or below the poverty level,
who are far more deserving of free SRS
than a convicted murderer in a Boston
prison. If any state decided to give into
this kind of lawsuit, what message would
it send to those desperate individuals who
would see that the only way they could
ever get surgery is to commit a violent
crime? Maybe it?s time for the top SRS
surgeons to begin to consider the concept
of pro-bono surgeries. The problem
would lie in how to choose among the
thousands of pre-op transsexuals wanting
the procedure? There is no perfect answer
in this imperfect world.


In March of this year, working on a
non-existent budget, Becky Juro and
Marti Abernathy premiered their talkshow
brainchild, ?Trans-Sister Radio,?
on the airwaves of cyberspace at
They first started with the not-soreliable
Paltalk audio chat. However,
they quickly found it didn?t provide them
with the quality they had envisioned.
After several weeks, they installed a
phone system to provide them the necessary
quality, all with their own funding.

As of May, they still haven?t been able to
figure out how
to offset the
phone costs for
their weekly
show. In time,
all of these
hurdles will be
I have
to commend
these two
women for
taking on this
enormous project
and succeeding
others would
have given up.

Add to the fact
that Becky
lives in New
Jersey and
Marti lives in
Indiana, and
you can see the
extra burden
this adds to
their daunting

There are only a few other shows like
Trans-Sister Radio across the country, the
best-known being GenderTalk, with
Gordene MacKenzie and Nancy
Nangeroni. In May, Becky and Marti had
the pleasure of actually turn the tables on
Nancy and Gordene, by having them as
quests on their show. ?The student now
becomes the master, Obi-Wan.?

Okay, okay! I admit it! They had me
as a guest one time! There! I said it!
This is my ?pay-back? piece for them.
Okay? Besides, I was their guest because
I have an ego that needs constant
stroking. Why do you think I write this
column? Actually, I?m an indentured
servant Dallas bought on E-Bay for an
autographed copy of Read My Lips,
and a pair of worn and soiled tennis shoes
once owned by Ren?e Richards. To this
day, Dallas reminds me of her having
to give up those tennis shoes?yet she
fails to mention how ripe they had
become over the years.

Nevertheless, I would like to thank
Marti and Becky for providing this great
service for our community. Until next
time, my trans-sisters.