March 30, 2007

Sex-Change Doesn't Free Others from Their Obligations...

I saw this article on CNN and figured I'd share it with the Quench-world. I would have done it earlier, but Blogger has decided that everyone needs to switch to Google accounts, but my old account is not yet eligible (since they're doing it in waves). Long story short: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Or, as I would usually say: Moo.

Judge: Ex still due alimony when she becomes he
POSTED: 8:20 p.m. EDT, March 28, 2007

CLEARWATER, Florida (AP) -- A woman's sex change operation does not free her ex-husband from his alimony obligation, a judge said Wednesday.

Attorneys for Lawrence Roach, 48, had argued his 55-year-old ex-wife's decision to switch genders and change her name from Julia to Julio Roberto Silverwolf voided their 2004 divorce agreement.

"It's illegal for a man to marry a man and it should likewise be illegal for a man to pay alimony to a man," said John McGuire, one of Roach's attorneys.

Circuit Judge Jack R. St. Arnold, however, ruled that in the eyes of the law, nothing changed significantly enough to free Roach from his $1,250-a-month obligation.

The judge said since Florida courts have ruled sex-change surgery cannot legally change a person's birth gender, Roach technically is not paying alimony to a man.

Gender definitions are "a question that raises issues of public policy that should be addressed by the Legislature, not the Florida courts," St. Arnold wrote.

Silverwolf's lawyer, Gregory Nevins, said the language of the divorce decree is clear -- Roach agreed to pay alimony until his ex-wife dies or remarries.

Nevins said he and his client were pleased with the ruling, although they disagree with Florida's refusal to legally recognize gender reassignment surgery.

Roach, a utility worker who has since remarried, said he will press his fight to end the payments.

"We're going to try everything we can," he said. "I can't rest until I get satisfaction."

The case is the second transsexual rights showdown in Pinellas County in less than a week. On Friday, city commissioners voted 5-2 to fire Largo's city manager, Steve Stanton, after he announced he was a transsexual.

An Ohio appeals court ruled in September 2004 that a Montgomery County man must continue to pay alimony to his transsexual ex-wife because her sex change wasn't reason enough to violate the agreement.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

March 25, 2007

QueerToday missed the point this time.

I've been reading QueerToday every week for almost a year. It wasn't until this weekend that I finally felt fed up. My specific complaint is with the most recent post, titled MassEquality Supports The War!. This statement, along with the rest of the post, is both nonsensical and misleading.

(Disclosure/disclaimer: Though I publish here pseudomymously as bat_dor, my name is Ruthie, and my day job is MassEquality's IT manager [everyone else does the important work; I just keep their computers running.] I am not an official spokesperson for MassEquality, and whenever I write on QuenchZine, I am speaking only for myself and not for my employer.)

First, let me make a statement that I had hoped was obvious, but bears restating: MassEquality exists to defend equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Period.

Here's why it doesn't make sense to say that MassEquality supports the war: MassEquality's mission has nothing to do with foreign policy. Why would anyone even expect the organization to stake any position on the war? Again, MassEquality's entire raison d'être is same-sex marriage in this state. Iraq is outside the scope of the organization's interest.

There seems to be this expectation that MassEquality must represent every progressive, gay, queer, radical, leftist, or liberal person in the Commonwealth. And that's the larger mistake that QueerToday's authors seem to keep making. MassEquality does not purport to represent the queer community. Or the gay community. Or the Democrats. Or the young. Or the progressives. Or the liberals. Or [insert group here.] MassEquality represents its members -- people who, regardless of their own sexuality and politics and marital status, believe that people ought to be able to marry their significant other in Massachusetts, even if they are the same sex.

I always love telling MassEquality staff that I will not wear their stickers because I am queer.

I'm not straight, and for me, marriage encompasses the sort of relationship that I hope to find myself in someday. That said, I know that for many of my friends, marriage feels pretty damn heteronormative. And since being queer means partially or totally rejecting heteronormativity, I can totally understand how someone who identifies strongly as 'queer' could feel uncomfortable supporting an organization dedicated to protecting civil marriage rights. I respect the right of the authors of QueerToday to not support MassEquality's mission. I just wish they would do it more honestly; I wish they'd say, "It's not that we don't think same-sex partners shouldn't be able to get married in the eyes of the government -- it's that we don't think the government should be marrying ANYONE."

Of course, that begs the classic progressivism versus radicalism question: is it better to work to find a place for non-straight people within the system of civil marriage, or is the system so flawed that the only solution is to throw it out entirely? I know how I'd answer, but I'm curious to hear from other quenchbloggers and guests. Comments are open.

On a final note, I'd like everyone to notice that I was careful to use the word 'organization.' It's important to distinguish between MassEquality-the-organization, and the individuals who work for it. I am one of these individuals, and for me personally, the war in Iraq IS important. I am the child of veterans. I am opposed to senseless bloodshed and (speaking of nonsensical) spreading freedom at the point of a gun. On Saturday, I marched.

March 21, 2007

Imagine me ringing a bell, dressed in a Santa suit...

Or at least dressed up as a naughty elf.

My friend Bear Bergman, whom many of you know is a trans/queer storyteller and educator, is raising money for hir scholarship fund. The fund allows Bear to travel to communities and colleges where hir work is most necessary: you know, the ones that don't have a designated budget for inviting queer speakers to campus.

When I was Miss Professional Queer here at my university, I helped scraped together the money it took to hire Bear to speak. We got grants from Hillel, from Student Government, and of course from the Big Queer Office that was also paying me. It was hard, but it was worth it - so many people have come up to me and the other organizers since then to thank us for helping open their eyes to trans/queer issues. And I've got to say, this is a pretty idyllic place to be queer: people are ignorant, but in that very benign "ooh, more to learn!" way. Heck, we're queer-positive enough that I had a job as Professional Queer and a Big Queer Budget to draw on.

And it was still hard to pull it all together. And it was still worth it.

How much harder is it, and how much more worth it, for places that aren't as well-off and queer-positive as my school?

Ah, well. I could go on and on, but Bear says it all better. Please take a sec to hop over there and consider making a donation to plump up the scholarship fund a little. Your queer peers thank you. *smile*

March 19, 2007

School the n00bs!

So, here's a fun exercise for you. I know some of you out there are shy about commenting, but now's the time to brainstorm out loud! (err ... in print. You know what I mean.)

Imagine you are called in to speak to a group of college students. They may or may not have ever met a trans person before, and your job is to give them a "Trans 101" crash course.

At the end of this crash course, they should have enough background knowledge to:

a) understand and accurately translate conversations between and among transmen and SOFFAs, in a specifically FTM-focused environment;

b) not offend people.

What terminology would you include?

What core concepts should be covered?

What conversations might come up, which these people should be prepared to comprehend?

You folks are the potential consumers, here - you're the ones who may need to use the services of these trainees. This is your chance to make sure they are prepared to serve you well.

March 16, 2007

More bad news from Poland

As you may know, things have been getting worse for queer people in Poland over the past few years, with Stonewall-style raids on gay clubs in Warsaw, and discriminatory legislation like this on the rise:

Teachers who promote gay equality in schools risk losing their jobs under draft regulations currently being drawn up by Poland's Ministry of Education, Polish Radio reports.
The government has taken an intense right-wing turn lately. The country is being run by two vaguely fascist former child-actor identical twin brothers. No, I am not making this up. The sponsor of the new antigay legislation, Roman Giertych, is the son of deputy Maciej Giertych, who apparently may or may not be a Nazi.

March 06, 2007

Update on the Stanton case

A few things since last we spoke:

- I can admit I'm wrong; apparently City Manager Stanton has asked that male pronouns be used for him until he begins transition. Although I'm not sure some of the less-savory quotes I brought you in my last post used male pronouns intentionally as a sign of respect, I still apologize for littering them with angry sics - and for over-enthusiastically using female pronouns for City Manager Stanton in the absence of confirmation that he in fact desired them. Mea culpa.

- That said, there are more resources online for those interested in the Stanton case:

Our good friend Dr. Jillian Todd Weiss (check out the dedication to her in Quench #1!) writes about why Stanton's firing has generated so much attention, and gives a thorough analysis of the legal issues involved.

Meanwhile, the dedicated folks at offer factual background, breaking news, and practical resources for those of us interested in taking action to help save CM Stanton's job before the firing becomes final.

- Finally, a quick hello to readers who have joined us from the coalition listing at or from the blogroll at Planet 02138. Hope you like what you see; please feel free - nay, encouraged - to comment!

March 03, 2007

Largo, FL: "City of Progress."

Really. Honestly. That's the motto of the City of Largo, which voted on February 27th to fire its City Manager after she announced plans to transition to female.

Susan Stanton - who is identified in most of these stories solely by her birth name, Steve - was, at the time of her firing, a 14-year veteran of the highest seat in Largo's city government, and had served an additional three years as Assistant City Manager. Stanton, who was widely praised as an energetic, capable, and effective leader - and who once sustained a broken nose participating in SWAT team training in order to better understand the needs of the police department - was fired because, in the words of Commissioner Gay Gentry (no, I didn't make that name up),

He [sic] has done serious damage to his [sic] staff. I sense he [sic] has lost his [sic] standing as a leader.

Yup. 'Cause when your boss transitions, you're the victim.

According to Commissioner Mary Black,
I do not feel he [sic] has the integrity, nor the trust, nor the respect, nor the
confidence to continue as the city manager of the city of Largo.

Yup. 'Cause coming out of the closet is such an act of deception.

Some people have also criticized Stanton for
[calling] a press conference to announce his [sic] sex change before
telling his [sic!!!!!] son.

Unfortunately, Ms. Stanton didn't have a choice in the matter. Initially, she had worked out a plan with Mayor Pat Gerard to come out to the city in late May or early June, when her 13-year-old son would be out of school and could be sent off on vacation to shield him from media scrutiny. Before the fateful day, the Stanton family was going to sit down, on their terms, and explain to their son exactly what Susan's transition meant, and how it would affect them as a family. But until then, the only people who know were Stanton's wife, Mayor Gerard, and a few close personal friends.

One of those "close personal friends," however, decided it would be a lark to out Ms. Stanton to the press. So when the St. Petersburg Times came sniffing around, she had to make a statement. She and Mayor Gerard gave an interview to the Times explaining that yes, Stanton was MTF; yes, she was starting medical transition; and no, this had nothing to do with her ability to perform the job. Then she sent the requisite "Hi folks, I'm trans" e-mail to her entire staff.

But that wasn't enough. Apparently, it's not enough to give 17 years of your life (Stanton is only 48, btw) to your city; you also have to give over control of your body, your mind, your gender, and your family life. Silly me. If I ever run for office, I'll have to remember that they're not electing me, they're electing my uterus.

Other choice quotes (just add in the [sic] for me, will you? I'm, er, sic of it.):

Mr. Stanton is not a role model. He's proven that. I think for the sake of our young people today, you need to do what's right, and that's terminate him. ... If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated. Make no mistake about it.
- Ron Sanders, pastor, Lighthouse Baptist Church of Largo

People talk about being embarrassed. I'll tell you what: I'm going to be embarrassed if we throw this man out on the trash heap after he's worked so hard for the city. ... We have a choice to make: We can go back to intolerance, or we can be the city of progress.
- Mayor Pat Gerard

If you are as enraged as I am about this decision, and especially if you're feeling more coherently rageful than I am, here are a few places to start:

St. Petersburg Times poll: Vote to keep City Manager Stanton

Contact page for the Mayor and City Commission: Express your concern. (Note that Mayor Gentry - the first female mayor of Largo - and Rodney Woods - the first African-American Commissioner - have been standing behind Ms. Stanton. Shocking, right? Anyway, if you want to pass along kudos for them, I'm sure that'd be welcome, too.)

Contact page for the City Manager's office: Express your support for Ms. Stanton. She can probably use it right about now.

More coverage:

The Largo Leader

TroxBlog: commentary by Howard Troxler of