Sunday, July 22, 2007

Trans Rights Town Hall Meeting

The Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA) is hosting a town hall meeting Monday night on transgender rights. The meeting will be held at the Jesus MCC Church at 2950 E. 55th Street, Indianapolis at 7:00 p.m. I had a chance to sit down with one of the speakers at tomorrow night's town hall meeting, Mara Keisling, who is the Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality. She is here in Indiana to perform community outreach and support for INTRAA, which she described as one of the most active and successful transgender organizations in the country.

Before joining the National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara earned her living as a public opinion research consultant on public health matters. She is a graduate of Penn State and has a Master's degree from Harvard. Mara grew up as Mark in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Her mother is a retired government professional, and her father has been very active in Pennsylvania government and politics, having served as a chief of staff to former Gov. Robert Casey (D). Mara says she has known since she was 3 or 4 that she was female, although the male gender assigned to her at birth told her otherwise. "There hasn't been a day in my life when I haven't thought about it," she said. She officially ceased being Mark and became Mara in January, 2000 at the age of 40. The transition for her took about five years, although she notes the transition is never complete. Her parents and family have been very supportive of her decision.

Mara arrived in Indiana with a good sense of where things are headed here. The passage of Indy's HRO, which includes gender identity protection, was a major victory she notes. She observed that 55% of the American population is now covered by laws which protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and about 39% protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Although much of her organization's focus is in D.C., the real progress is being made at the state and local level. Four states this year have enacted non-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including Colorado, Iowa and Oregon. Vermont amended its law to include gender identity protection this year.

She is hopeful that major legislative victories are coming on the national front as well. The Matthew Shepard Act has already passed the House, and she expects a vote in the Senate by this fall. Senate sponsors are amending the federal hate crimes initiative into the Defense Authorization Act in hopes of avoiding a presidential veto by Bush. She is also hopeful action will take place in both the Senate and the House on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) before year's end as well.

For what promises to be an interesting and lively discussion on transgender rights, please come out tomorrow night and hear what Mara and others in the community have to say.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mara says she has known since she was 3 or 4 that she was female, although the male gender assigned to her at birth told her otherwise.

What!?!?! She was not "assigned" a gender at birth. I hate to burst her bubble, but about 9 months before her birth, a sperm hit an egg and it was decided at that time what his/her gender was. This doesn't mean people will not have the desire to switch genders, but no one "assigned" anything to her. We use gender to tell the difference between those humans with a penis and those with a vagina. The differences in gender are part biological and part culture.

Anonymous said...

5:46-

The differences you wrote of referred to sex, not gender. There is a difference.

Anonymous said...

Then what is "gender." Using this logic, there is no such thing as "gender" there is just sex and that is it.

Advance Indiana said...

anon, 5:46, I think you need to do a little more research on the subject. A new-born's gender is assigned based upon the child's sex organs. In some births, the child is of indeterminate sex and surgery must be performed at a certain point to assign the child's sex. In other cases, a child may have the physical characteristics of one sex but mentally be oriented towards the opposite sex--this is how transgender persons explain it to me. Later, as adults, they undergo a transition to the opposite sex, which involves hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. Barbara Walters had an excellent 20/20 special earlier this year which looked at cases in this latter category. The stories were heart-wrenching as the parents struggled with allowing the child to act how he/she identified their gender, or forcing the child to conform to the gender assigned to the child based on his/her physical characteristics at birth. The terminology, anon 5:49, always seems to become a point of contention. I explain it as best as I can. If you don't accept it, fine. And please don't confuse transgender folks with cross-dressers as the religious right is so fond of doing.

Wilson46201 said...

For those concerned about the City-County Council meeting at the same time tomorrow night, it will be recorded and played back often on the Government Channel on cable-TV so you can view the nuances as well as the fun & games ...

Marti said...

LOL. Gary the anons on your blog are always so moronic. I now understand why they're anon... they're embarrassed!

Gender is easily explained. Think of yourself. How do you identify as, a man or a woman? If your penis or vagina were destroyed in a horrible accident, would you still be the same sex? The fact that you WOULD and you KNOW that... the sense of who you are is your gender. Parts do not make you know what sex you are, gender does. Most people's gender and sex do match, but others don't. Hence gender identity disorder.