We arrived in Washington, DC on April 16th for our first visit to Senator Scott Brown’s office to a warm welcome and a great meeting. Later that afternoon we were taken on a personal tour of the Capitol by his staff and then given tickets to the Senate and House Galleries.
On Tuesday the 17th we met with Congressman Bill Keating who was appalled at the treatment I received at the hands of the Southern Judicial System. Congressman Keating supports equal rights for all citizens. We were invited to attend breakfast with him the following morning. Later that same afternoon we met with the Judiciary Counsel at Senator Diane Feinstein’s office where I was able to share my personal story as well as the stories of other transgender’s who are at great risk and who are also persecuted in our country as well as the stories of the transgender’s who are brutally murdered around the world each year.
At each meeting I delivered a personal letter outlining our request for civil rights legislation leading to an amendment to the US Constitution. A copy of the letter is on my previous post. We also sat in during sessions at the House and the Senate which was truly an eye-opener and I understand why at this moment is virtually impossible to get anything passed in either place. It is important that we use our voices during the upcoming election and remove the Republican stumbling blocks and replace them with a more reasonable representitive. Let’s take the House and Senate back.
David and I took a mini honeymoon and visited the Outer Banks in North Carolina prior to Washington. Yesterday we arrived on Cape Cod to a wonderful reception of new friends and family members. An official reception is being given in our honor on Saturday, April 28th. It is a undescribable feeling to finally have the love and support of a husband who not only loves me unconditionally but also shares my dream of equality for all. David was born and raised in Barnstable, Massachusetts and as we ventured out today everyone in town knew of our wedding and they also know everything about me and their overwhelming love and support was visible from the moment we met. I am looking forward to the next two months here on the Cape while David and I focus strictly on our writing.
In July we will head to Hollywood to meet with my screenwriter Monica Sun and then return to San Francisco for a few months.
While in Washington I spoke to my attorney’s in Tallahassee and was told that the lawsuit is in the drafting stage and will be filed in the Northern District Federal Court in Panama City, Florida in May. It’s been a long time coming and I am truly grateful to finally be able to have my day in court.
Good Day Dear Friends and Supporters,
Below is the letter I will deliver to Senator Brown and Congressman Keating during my visit to Washington, DC during the week of April 16th and to other members of the Senate and Congress.
David and I are grateful for this opportunity and would like to thank all of you for the overwhelming support that we’ve received from you.
April 16, 2012
Dear Senators, and Congresspersons,
The purpose of our visit today is to request your support in drafting Equal Rights Legislation for the protection of all residents of the United States including but not limited to Lesbians, Gays, and Transgender citizens. This legislation would be similar to the Civil Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson with one exception; this time no human resident of the United States would be excluded.
At the moment LGBT Rights organizations are fighting one State at a time for the right to marriage equality for same-sex couples. In every instance where a State may allow same-sex marriage it remains vulnerable to the passage of one administration to the next or from one election to the next. The right to marry is under constant attack from religious organizations that wish to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In my opinion this is a form of religious persecution.
When our ancestors arrived at Plymouth Rock fleeing religious persecution, America was born. Yet today the tides have turned and the religions of the right will stop at nothing in their quest of persecuting and denying the rights of others who do not conform to their concept of religion. This in itself is a violation of the United States Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson eloquently states in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
At no time are we advocating the abolition of our United States Government but what we are suggesting is that the rights of all citizens must be upheld through our laws, without the interference of religious beliefs or any other beliefs to interfere with the administration of such rights. Our Constitution states that no State may implement a law which discriminates against its citizens. Yet throughout the history of our Country many States have usurped the United States Constitution with laws which have clearly demonstrated discrimination against one class of citizens or another.
Everyday in our country LGBT children are made to suffer from the discrimination and abuse of those same religious beliefs. In our schools children are bullied and sometimes beaten because of their differences. The children who are doing the bullying are merely repeating the voices of their parents’ hate of diversity, which is reflected in their children’s behaviors. This is causing long term emotional devastation to children who will grow into adulthood with permanent emotional and physical scarring.
Each year children are thrown away by their parents because they are born differently. These abandoned children are forced to live on the streets to experience starvation, brutality, and abuse after being told by their own parents that they aren’t worth loving. This forces many of them into the sex trade just to have a meal to eat. Of all minority classes of people, Transgenders are the most vulnerable to this type of brutality and are now at the highest risk of contracting HIV and AIDS. All of these bullying and abusive actions stem from religious beliefs which state that Transgender children are somehow deviants.
Personally, I have witnessed the devastation caused to transgender persons and the emotional damage these sorts of actions create. Transgenders are denied equal rights to housing, medical care, shelters, and a host of other rights that are guaranteed to most individuals. Transgender females may even have their legal marriages invalidated in individual states.
I would like to present three cases in addition to my own, beginning with Christie Lee Littleton in Texas, whose marriage was invalidated after she attempted to file a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband Jonathan. They had been happily married for seven years with Jonathan’s full knowledge of her history as a transgender woman. Christie was denied equal protection under the law when it was ruled that even though she’d undergone surgery, she was still male because of her chromosomes.
The second case is the case of J’Noel Gardiner of Kansas whose marriage was invalidated as a same sex marriage after the death of her husband, when her step-son Joe contested the will based on the fact the J’Noel is a transgender female. Once again the equal protection of the law was denied because of a birth condition.
The third case is the most recent and involves another transgender female from Texas; Nikki Araguz’s marriage was invalidated after her fire-fighter husband was killed in the line of duty. The result was the denial of her rights to a widow’s benefits.
I would like to point out that in each case this discrimination is against only transgender females who were married to men. In the State of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has agreed to support and sign into law legislation making transgender marriage illegal.
And then we come to my story of how my marriage was invalidated in the State of Georgia and then I was wrongly prosecuted for stealing a family vehicle. I was imprisoned for four years after my fatal mistake of giving up during one of the court hearings and pleading guilty. During the months preceding that fateful day I had been subjected to such overwhelming and abusive discrimination that I sank into the deepest hole of depression that I’d ever experienced. It was clear that I would never receive a fair trial based on the facts, when even the legal team appointed to represent me told me that I was condemned to hell for changing what God had created. Two days later I attempted to withdraw my plea, but I was immediately shipped off to prison.
When I arrived at Metro State Prison in Atlanta I discovered that I had been imprisoned under my original male birth name, Eddie James Mundell. Over four years I was harassed, threatened, and denied equal protection of the law as I navigated my way through the legal system filing a writ of Habeas Corpus. My legal documents were either thrown away or sent late, thus missing court deadlines. I was repeatedly denied usual and customary hearings with the parole board and I served the entire four year sentence. It became so bad that I filed a discrimination suit in the Northern District Court in Atlanta. At each step I had to become my own attorney and eventually won the right to a Habeas hearing from the Georgia Supreme Court. Although I lost at that hearing, I did feel a victory with the last comment made by the State Attorney to the Judge when she stated that the State was not stating that a theft ever occurred but that since our marriage was not a legal marriage and I was in possession of the vehicle I was guilty. I believe that said it all. The State of Georgia has since wiped my criminal record clean including any record of my incarceration . What do remain are the transcripts of the Habeas hearing in Dekalb County and my Federal lawsuit in the Federal Archives.
At several times since then I have come under attack because of the tabloid articles of that time. The most recent instance was in Panama City, Florida where I was wrongfully arrested and convicted on three counts of grand theft when running a legitimate business. During that process my sex was listed as male on a warrant, I was forced to submit to humiliating gender verification in non-medical settings, my former male birth name surfaced again and was listed on the indictment, and I lived under a death threat. Needless to say this caused undue confusion and unnecessary humiliation. I am currently suing the Florida State Attorney, the Panama City Police, and the Parker Police in the Northern District Federal Court in Panama City and this time I am represented by Civil Rights Attorney Marie Mattox of Tallahassee.
My life was destroyed repeatedly because I am a transgender female. Regardless of my experiences I am still one of the fortunate ones. Every year around the world including right here in the United States transgenders are brutally murdered. Some of the stories of how they died so brutally can be viewed on the internet and are shared every year on Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20th. Website address: http://www.transgenderdor.org/ At each event I attend my heart breaks and the tears still flow as I imagine just how each one suffered at the hands of their executioner. Transgenders are not deviants as believed by the religious right. If this were the case, children at three, four, and five years old would not be announcing this fact to their parents. This is a birth condition that must be recognized and protected as such.
I witnessed first hand the look of hate and disgust as I was told that I am a deviant, even by a legal system that is supposed to uphold the truth and administer justice. To this day I am desperately afraid of the police and I become physically ill when I have to enter a courthouse.
Because our country is a world leader, it is imperative that we lead by example and institute legislation to protect our citizens and residents from these sorts of hate crimes. I recall the fifties and sixties when it was still legal to deny equal protection to the black community in our country. I remember when a black man could be hung from a tree without one thought for the suffering of the family he would leave behind. As a teenager I crossed the USA with my family and remember the signs “Whites Only,” or “No Niggers Allowed.” I was appalled then and I am appalled now whenever I encounter this type of discrimination, and certainly we as transgenders are seeing it today in this country. Where are the laws to protect us from this type of discrimination and hatred?
As a historical transgender figure in this country I implore you to examine your conscience and take action through the drafting of legislation that will protect the rights of all humans in the United States. With such legislation the need to take on one State at a time would come to an end and millions of dollars spent each year on individual lawsuits could be used to improve the conditions of our homeless children. Canada has already drafted such legislation, which is now being heard in the House of Commons. Let us all live our dreams without fear and enjoy the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The article I am posting below was forwarded to me earlier this morning and details the exact legislation to be encouraged and requested during my upcoming meetings in Washington, DC during the week of April 16th. Once again Canada is ahead of the US in remedying human rights violations.
I have witnessed and experienced the same types of discrimination outlined in this article and relate to the transgender victims around the world who are brutally murdered each year and feel that we must introduce such legislation to protect the rights of all humans including transgenders. As a world leader it is unthinkable that we allow a minority to live under such vile conditions as spoken about in this article.
As US Citizens it is our responsibility to push for such legislation and we are asking you to begin an email campaign to your Senators and Congress persons to seek their support for this legislation.
I apologize for the blank screens below this heading but if you scroll down past them you can read the full article. There was some difficulty pasting this in.
Bill to Guarantee Equal Rights to Transgender Canadians
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A bill up for debate this month proposes adding gender identity to the list of protected human rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The upshot of this bill is that it would become illegal to discriminate against somebody on the basis of their gender identity. Currently, there are no legal protections for transgender, transsexual, or gender non-conforming individuals.
The bill was introduced by NDP MP Randall Garrison back in the fall. This April will open up debate after the second reading of the bill in the House of Commons.
This bill has received remarkably little media attention, but non-traditionally gendered people are speaking out on what a bill like this could mean for their lives. Natalie Reed, a blogger on transgender issues, has written at length on her experiences being discriminated against, misgendered, and denied services — just the sorts of things that people can still get away with when their targets are an unprotected minority group:
How many trans people (including myself) have been openly and loudly misgendered at the welfare office? How many trans women have been kicked out of women’s shelters on the basis of being “really men” and forced to humiliate themselves and risk violence or sexual assault trying to be accommodated by men’s shelters? How many have been turned away from food banks on the basis that they don’t have “proper” identification? How many of us, exposed to this bigotry, humiliation, invalidation and risk simply stop trying to seek work or assistance, and end up falling between the cracks of the system, all because nobody can even be bothered to acknowledge this crucial gap in Canadian human rights law?
She makes an interesting but possibly spot-on analogy to class. At the moment, transgender citizens potentially don’t even have basic human rights: access to emergency services (like shelters), equal opportunity in job interviews, government services, etc. On the other hand, as she points out, there is a lot of rallying around the cause of same-sex marriage.
I find myself increasingly frustrated by the amount of energy the LGBTQ rights movement expends on issues such as marriage, adoption or DADT. It seems like a rather explicitly classist mentality to prioritize the ability of those already comfortably situated as full participants in society to pursue middle-class, nuclear family privileges while others do not yet even have the basic level of protections required to be able to seek employment, or at least receive assistance from institutions like emergency shelters.
I’m not sure I would use the word “privilege” with respect to equal marriage rights, but her point is well-taken. I’m reminded of early feminism, which was largely about equal rights for white, middle-class women, and not women everywhere. It was necessary for other women to speak up to be included in that social progress.
Which is not to say we should all abandon the cause of DADT and same-sex marriage until trans rights have caught up. I don’t think that’s what Natalie is saying either. She goes on to point out that the trans community absolutely supports all of these things.
The issue at hand is that there isn’t more interest and outrage at the fact that discrimination against transgender citizens is legally acceptable. We don’t have to choose one cause or another. If there was a finite amount of attention we were willing or able to devote to LGBT issues, then I might suggest this would be a good time to focus our attention on Bill C-279, and get back to less urgent LGBT topics after it’s been passed. However, since I don’t think that’s the case, I suggest we continue to do all of the above.
Things you can do to help C-279 (paraphrased from Randall Garrison with some additions made):
-Contact your MP and tell them how important this legislation is to you. You can find out who your MP is at http://www.elections.ca/scripts/pss/FindED.aspx?L=e.
-Write to the Minister of Justice and tell him how important this legislation is to you. His contact information can be found here, http://www.robnicholsonmp.ca/contact/.
-Write to the Prime Minister of Canada and tell him how important this legislation is to you. His contact information can be found here, http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/contact.asp.
-Sign our petition.
-Don’t stop following this issue and talking to your friends about it.
Image credit: Holly Boswell