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July 25, 2017: California’s Bathroom Laws

Mara and I saw our first evidence of California’s new bathroom law, which mandates that single-user public restrooms — those with just one toilet and one sink and can be locked by the user — be gender neutral. (Heres an LA Weekly article on that.) We went on a short getaway to Palm Springs for the July 4 holiday and stopped about halfway along our 120-mile-or-so drive for a refreshment/restroom break at a Del Taco. This is the sign we saw at both single-user restrooms.

We’d seen them at public places in Los Angeles, even before the law took effect on March 1. Many LGBTQ-friendly businesses in L.A. were already ahead of the curve. But there was a sense of freedom when I saw it at a fast food place in a nondescript suburb somewhere in Riverside County. Not just for Mara, but for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited in line for a single-user women’s bathroom trying “hold it” while there was no one using the single-user men’s bathroom. (And I admit I did break gender ranks a few times and used the men’s room.)

Although the law applies only to single-user bathrooms, it’s a move in the right direction. Just the fact that a single-user restroom only accommodates one person at a time, who can lock the door from the inside, makes the privacy argument that so many right-wing activists use to protest against gender-neutral bathrooms moot. So this law is really a no-brainer. But it’s just the beginning. I was in Japan years ago, where even multi-user restrooms were unisex, and there were no problems. I was much younger and single, and no one bothered me. Everyone there just did their business in closed stalls, washed their hands, and left. And in the U.S., some businesses have a few individual, gender-neutral toilet rooms that are completely enclosed with communal wash basins just outside the doors.

Meanwhile, transgender bathroom rights are still being duked out in states like Texas and North Carolina, per this L.A. Times article. The Texas bills under consideration mainly apply to public/government buildings and schools. (BTW, California already has a law on the books that protects trans students.) But they also seek to prohibit municipalities (namely progressive cities like Dallas and Austin) from passing local non-discrimination laws against the LGBTQ community. While we feel very fortunate to live in California, we support the LGBTQ community in all states and nationwide. 

 

 

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June 14, 2017: L.A. Pride

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Mara and I marched in L.A. Pride’s Resist March on Sunday with our friends Rosh and Robert. The march took the place of the annual parade to commemorate the first L.A. Pride event in 1970, when it really was a march. Very fitting, considering the current political climate and momentum to turn back the rights of the LGBT community (among other communities that are deemed too “different” by the alt-right).

I don’t know exactly how many people marched, but we were packed along Hollywood Boulevard for several blocks before heading into West Hollywood. So I’m guessing it was in the tens of thousands. Police were there, stationed at points along the way to protect the marchers, many of whom thanked the officers as they passed.

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Mara and I bought pink and blue transgender rights flags and were acknowledged by several people watching from the sidelines who were calling out for protection of trans kids. It made me think of the victories those kids have had in their struggles just to use the public restrooms that match their gender identity. (BTW, someone at the march was wearing a T-shirt that said, “You can pee next to me.” Love it.)

This was the third march this year for us. (In fact, it was the third one we’ve ever done.) We also did the Women’s March in January and the Tax March in April. And every one of them was time well spent.

April 19, 2017:  A Friend in Need

A transgender friend of ours stayed with us for about three weeks recently. Although Wendy presents as male most of the time and says she’s not sure she wants to transition, she started taking hormones a few months ago without telling her wife of 30+ years. Her wife found out and kicked her out.

Wendy is staying with someone else now and is in counseling with her wife. They have a lot of work to do. But at least they’re talking. And I hear there’s been a bit of compromise on her wife’s part. But it’s gotta be difficult. It was hard enough for Mara and me when we realized she needed to transition, even though she had told me when we were dating that she might one day take that leap. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a couple who has been living in denial all these years.

We hosted a little get-together with some trans friends the night before Wendy left our place. She made some new friends and got to party with some of her own — something she rarely got to do before. We’ll follow up with her to see how she’s doing. But one thing’s for sure: It takes a lot of courage to take a stand on being oneself. You have to walk through some pretty deep-seated fears. And Wendy is walking through hers.

 

March 22, 2017:  A Whack-A-Mole Issue

One of the most troubling issues of this new administration is about transgender bathroom rights. I know, they’re all troubling. But this one keeps popping up, like a whack-a-mole these days. Essentially, Trump threw trans kids under the bus with the roll-back of the Obama administration’s directive that, under Title IX of the U.S. Constitution, they must be allowed to use the bathrooms the correspond to their gender identities in public schools. 

This roll-back doesn’t bode well for the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans teen who fought a high school policy forbidding him to use the boys’ restroom at school. Instead, he was to use “alternative private” facilities. (Hmmm…“alternative?” Sounds like a foreshadowing of the “alternative facts” idea.)

An appeals court ruled in favor of Grimm, but then the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear it, sending it back to the appeals court for reconsideration in light of the roll-back. It just pains me that the progress that’s been made on this basic right (and many others), which took so much time, effort and sacrifice to win, can be yanked away so quickly.

Add to that the hypocrisy of this administration. Trump very specifically addressed the LGBTQ community at the Republican National Convention last year, promising he would protect their rights. Then, he nominated the anti-LGBTQ Jeff Sessions as attorney general, who promptly rolled back Obama’s directive soon after taking office — with Trump’s blessing. They’re calling it a states’ rights issue. No, anti-discrimination is a national issue, enshrined in the Constitution.

The new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, was against the roll-back but went along with it because she was outnumbered and wanted to keep her job, rather than take a stand.

I know there’ll be lawsuits and other challenges, but the protestor’s sign in this photo sums up the frustration perfectly.

 

 

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Feb. 2, 2017: 20 Years Strong

Mara and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary yesterday. We’re one of the few lucky married trans couples who have stayed together this long. One reason is that I knew Mara was transgender before we started dating. And she let me know early on in our relationship that there may come a time when she needs to transition. I stayed with her anyway. But even that’s no guarantee. The bottom line is that we’re soul mates and best friends. We support, forgive and love each other no matter what.

Yes, we’ve had rocky times, but what couple hasn’t? And when we have a disagreement, it’s about the things that most couples fight about, like finances and miscommunication and leaving dirty socks on the floor. But it never has anything to do with her transition. Like my sister told me when Mara (then Gary) and I got engaged, the difference between being married and being in a non-marriage relationship is that, “When you’re married you will go to the wall for the other person.” She’s right. At least in our case. And it’s worth every moment.

Here are a few photos of Mara and me over the past 20 years:

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New Year, New Bathroom Bill

Happy New Year! Glad to see the end of 2016, but 2017 will be a doozy. Especially with so many anti-LGBT people in the incoming administration and a conservative-leaning House and Senate. Frankly, I’m a bit nervous, but I’m also confident that lawmakers who care about all Americans will make sure everyone’s rights are protected.

But the issue that’s in front of Mara and me right now is the proposed Texas bathroom bill (SB6). We’re going to see Mara’s dad in Dallas for his birthday in a couple of months, and that city has a law prohibiting such discrimination. That’s good. But SB6 would put the kibosh on that and other municipal laws in the state. Not so good. If the bill becomes state law, I don’t know when it will take effect, but we would need to be careful when we visit Mara’s dad. She has very feminine features; the vast majority of people can’t tell she’s trans. But every once in awhile, she gets clocked.

SB-6, which is nearly identical to HB2, the bathroom bill North Carolina passed before it’s governor was voted out of office last year, has a loophole designed to prevent the NCAA and other major organizations from yanking their events out of the state (or not considering the state to host their events in the first place): a provision that basically exempts them from the law at sites where (and when) they hold their events. Big whoop. I hope the NCAA et al. sees through this thinly veiled attempt to dodge the economic consequences that plagued North Carolina while discriminating against transgender people.

Dec. 15, 2016: A Sign of the Times

Mara and I saw this sign in the window of our favorite ice cream shop last week. It wasn’t there before the election, so we’re pretty sure it’s a response to all the hate that has boiled over since Trump was elected. I’ve been reading about (and seeing videos of) people of different races, ethnicities and sexual orientations being verbally and physically assaulted since Nov. 8. And it’s comforting to know that there are businesses — and individuals — who are standing up for the rights of everyone. It’s truly a sign of the times.

That said, Thanksgiving at my nephew’s place was another situation where he and his girlfriend took a stand for us, and for their own beliefs. And the day was as good as it could have been, from our perspective. Only three unaccepting people on my family were there. Most of the 27 people who came were from my nephew’s girlfriend’s family; and they either knew about Mara and accepted who she is or didn’t know and didn’t care. A few people from my family who accept Mara were there, too.

So, the unaccepting family members were far outnumbered and kept their comments and opinions about Mara to themselves. No snide remarks; no mis-gendering. They didn’t say hello to Mara, either; just ignored her. And that pissed my nephew off. But I explained to him the next day that it was the best they could do and that, as long as they didn’t create drama, I was happy.

One woman whom we were introduced to as the host’s aunts asked us if we’re sisters. I said no, we’re married; I’m the aunt and Mara is the aunt-in-law. And left it at that. I just didn’t want to explain the whole situation. And it really didn’t matter. The woman was totally accepting. That’s all that mattered.

So today is Mara’s re-birthday. It’s been exactly 4 years since she transitioned (woke up presenting as Mara and never presented as male again). Happy birthday my love! I gladly take a stand for you every day. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I seriously lucked out in the relationship department.