Friday, December 24, 2010

How Can I Say "Happy Holidays?"

It’s hard for me to get in the holiday spirit. Yeah, I’ve got everything going for me, for the most part. I have family and friends that accept and love, a wonderful husband and a cat that sleeps beside me every night. I had a successful employment career and have a warm house to come home to, every day. To put it bluntly, I am a white trans woman of privilege.

Over the past year and a half, I have met many Brothers and Sisters. I have many Trans friends and colleagues on Facebook and those that I know personally, those that live in the area, and those that I have met in my many travels. Most I know are those that are financially challenged, there are those that are ill or have legal issues, yet cannot afford an attorney. I know those that are homeless or without the support of family and children. I have visited those in the corrections system and those in hospitals. I know those that have met with violence and I know those who have had to stand up to words of hate.

I know those that buy black market hormones because they have no insurance. I turn my head, yet plead for them to get their bloodwork done, but know they can’t afford doctors. I know those that do sexwork, for them it is income. I know those that are despondent and say their life is done.

So how can I utter a holiday phrase that begins with “Merry” or “Happy” when there is so much pain in the Trans Community. Don’t say it’s a choice, because it is not. I know of no human being that is willing to sacrifice happiness, face the discrimination and risk the violence simply because it is a choice. To those that say “It Gets Better,” I will give them the list of the 179 Trans murdered last year. I know you are going to say ‘why write such negative thoughts?” but in response to you, it’s the reality of being Trans. There needs to be a real change.

There are many in our Community trying to effect change, but I know that the next rallying call for "Equality" will be for same-gender marriage, while my Brothers and Sisters look desperately for employment, a path to proper healthcare and acceptance. Yeah, I hear HRC will now predicate Trans healthcare on their Equality Index, but if you work for those companies, most can afford transition healthcare anyway.

So, to my Brothers and Sisters, nothing will be done for the “T” Community, unless we get involved. No change will come unless we are represented in the driver’s seat, with our hands on the agenda wheel. It’s time to change buses, and get on the “T” Line.

Then maybe next year or the next, I can say “Happy Holidays.”

Robyn Carolyn Montague

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The View From My Window

Just a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t be saying this. I know I wouldn’t. But as I look out from my window, I’m seeing a different Community in St. Louis than I did just a year ago. Last year at this time, ‘Maine’ was a huge issue to Marriage Equality for the local gay and lesbian community here, much as the anti-discrimination policy in Kalamazoo, Michigan was to me. The James Byrd-Matthew Sheppard Hate Crime Bill Law was seen as a huge deterrent to hate crimes despite a state version already here on the books in Missouri. I saw it just a bit more, a nuance not seen by the “L’s & G’s”, that being Transgender individuals being recognized and protected as people by the Federal government. Real huge.

In the last year, I have traveled to a variety of Trans* and LGBT* Conferences across the U.S., Lobby Days, both state and national, even prowled to Kansas City in the auto several times. In fact, I have traveled farther in the last year than I did in the last ten years of my career in the aerospace industry, during which career I had previously traveled coast-to-coast and back again several times, and everywhere else in between. What most people don’t realize is that I left the Community in very late 2006, said I was burnt out and needed to take a Sabbatical. Which I did, to transition and so I hid for two years. And when I did come back, there was something different in the view.

What I have seen since I came back into the Community, is a strong, dedicated group of individuals and organizations working on ways to bring Equality. No, we are not working on the same things, heaven forbid, we all have our personal priorities. How possibly could anything thing get done, without a little bit of drama? I see a group leading the charge on Marriage Equality. I am working on Trans* Issues. I see a group working on Anti-Violence. I am working on Trans* Issues. IBID. But that sounding a bit unfair, I do work on Community issues, working with other groups and individuals. As they work with me on Trans* Issues. We got Gender Identity/Expression added to the City of St Louis’ Non-Discrimination Policy. That took a bit of teamwork. You know, ‘Unity.’

As I have said many times unabashedly, I am annoying and underfoot. That’s how I work. I’m the Trans lady that started yelling ‘ENDA’ while most everyone else was yelling ‘Remember the Maine.’ They yelled louder, well, so did I! But what I see now is the St Louis regional Community working their way down the Road Called Equality. I challenged Pride St Louis to make PrideFest 2010 even more inclusive to the Trans* Community than it already was, and they took it, made some changes, rolled it up in a nice package and handed the challenge right back to me. Uh. Okay. And PrideFest reflected that in the number of Trans* individuals that turned out in record numbers. I got emails from “L’s & G’s” stating they had never seen so many Trans* individuals at PrideFest. Unity.

And as I go through the ‘Events’ listings on FaceBook, I see all kinds of Community and Equality projects. I see events for Marriage Equality, Repeal of DADT, fundraising for youth, for HIV education, for Equality organizations, to help a specific person, to counter-protest Hate. And I see all sorts of people working these things. And the people are the LGBTIQA*. No longer is it just entertainment, but instead, social justice for all. Wow. Unity. Yes, we have our issues, we have our drama. But could we live together without it?

Oh yeah, do you know the word ‘Unity’ is embedded in the word ‘Community?’

Robyn Carolyn Montague

Friday, September 3, 2010

Robyn Carolyn Montague, DOA

On November 20th, the Transgender Community of the Greater St Louis regional area will be coming together to hear the ugly words. The ugly words that are names, and the date of not of their birth, but that date of their murder, those since last November 20th. The numbers are ugly in themselves, the Deustch Intstitue "Luminalis" has suggested the rate of murder for Trans individuals worldwide is roughly one every three days - the ones they know of.....

But why is it you don't care? A black gay man in Atlanta, the head of Black Pride there was recently murdered. The outrage for this previously unknown person's murder was huge, the reaction was repetitive postings on social networking sites. Yet earlier this spring I posted the murder of a Trans woman, who's murder was that by decapitation, the look of fear frozen in her face when they found her head over a mile away freom her body. Not one bit of reaction. I posted a picture of her headless body, yet again, not a word from anyone. In fact, the post that came from someone after that, was talking about going to a party, to drink and have fun.

So why don't you care? Are you so removed from the Trans Community that you fear us? We are doctors and lawyers, engineers and retail clerks. But mostly we are unemployed, representing the highest number unemployed people in the LGBT Community. Because of fear. There are those that say they are at the bottom of the 'totem pole.' But you do not see us, because we are buried in the ground underneath it. Of the hate crimes reported this past year, most was towards those being Trans. Being Trans puts us all at high risk, yet seventy-five percent of that hate was directed at Trans women of color.

The thought that our rapes and murders go unnoticed, is it because it is not seen a problem, because no one knows who these people are? Will it have to be my own brutal rape, murder and dismemberment before this form of genocide is brought to your attention? Does it take a photo of that murdered body of mine for you to understand we are being murdered at the rate of one every three days, to wake up?

Have a nice day.

Robyn Carolyn Montague

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Not Call Nov 2nd, National Equality Day?

I said this earlier this morning:

"The American Independent Party has made a list of candidates to vote against in Missouri. Everyone single one of them is our LGBT and LGBT-friendly politicians across the state. Are you going to let that happen?"

I also said this:

"Elections to the United States Senate are scheduled to be held on November 2, 2010, for 37 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate. Are you going to vote?"

And lastly, my words said last evening:

"November is perhaps the single most important election is recent history for the LGBT* Community. At stake are Equality and Social Justice issues at both State and National levels. It is imperative that our Community gets out to support our LGBT and LGBT-friendly candidates. Issues directly affected by this Vote are ENDA, Repeal of DADT, Marriage Equality, Safe School Laws and true Immigration Reform."

If we, the LGBT do not get out and support and volunteer for those folks that can help us, have we in fact given up the fight for Equality? 'Huh,' you say?

The Republicans are beginning dangerous rhetoric, that they should support 'gay marriage' yet the joke is on them, it is same-sex, better said 'same-gender' marriage, though 'Marriage Equality' works okay for me. From their rhetoric begat from the likes of Ken Mehlman, who has suddenly wanting to become the champion of Marriage Equality.

But do you trust them enough to sway your vote and risk the aspects of Equality in general? Shouldn't we be out donating and volunteering to our LGBT / LGBT-friendly incumbents and candidates. WE will make a difference, that can head us down that road where we can call it 'National Equality Day' every Election Day. I challenge each and everyone to help bring Equality to a reality.

Oh yeah, register to vote if you have not and make certain that you do vote.

Robyn Carolyn Montague

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gay Marriage is so.....uh...'Gay.'

Somehow folks don't realize that the Trans* Community is deeply affected by the Prop 8 Decision. In Missouri, a Trans person in a marriage is seen as same-sex unless some form of irrevocable transition surgery is performed, and many cannot afford it, do not want it or have unrelated medical conditions that prevent doing it. Somehow folks do not or will not recognize that this is our fight too!

I am quite miffed that the marriage issue as related to the transsexual, transgender, et al community has been totally overlooked, yet we are dealt with the same hate unless we are lucky enough to get our gender markers changed. With the Trans Community representative of the lower end of the socioeconomic totem pole of the Community, most cannot afford the surgey required to get gender marker changes. One tends to forget that unless gender markers are changed, we cannot get married...and if one does get their gender marker changed but is lesbian or cannot get married. Imagine that!

Far too often when I see Facebook postings, blogs and websites, the words are 'gay marriage' or 'lesbian and gay.' Yes, some have the words 'same-sex' but the conversation always seems to revert back to 'lesbian and gay,' meaning those of the cisgender brand. Typically, though, the majority refers to it as gay marriage.

This past year, stretching back to October of 2009, I worked with Pride St Louis to make certain that St Louis PrideFest 2010 was seen truly the inclusive event as it is, our efforts were not in vain as we saw the largest turnout of the Transsexual, GenderQueer, CD, and Intersex Community that PrideFest has ever seen. I managed to reach out to 10 of that Trans* Community to support the Prop 8 / NOM Rally, but there would have been more if the Trans aspect of Marriage Inequality had been better promoted. Clearly, we need to keep that feeling of inclusiveness strong and not simply with words now and then.

I am a persistent advocate of 'Unity in the Community' but when events include the Trans* only as an after thought in it's promotion why should I waste my efforts? I know that some may say that it's my job to promote Trans* inclusion, but why so, if they use the word "Equality" with a "silent T." Me? I have been working for the Trans* Community, but haven't forgotten the "LGB's." When the issue is across the board, the work is inclusive of them. My staff assistant is a gay man and at PrideFest, I had volunteers that were male, female, genderqueer across the diversity spectrum of Transsexual, CD, Intersex, Cisgender Gay and Lesbian, Trans Gay and Lesbian, Trans Bi, Cisgender Bisexual, and oh yeah, male and female hetero allies. Something to be said about inclusion, eh? Well, if you project it, you get it.

And no, this "T" isn't silent, and she is not going away, anytime soon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Selection of Trans-Positive Films in Film Festivals

Bringing a film to a film festival is not necessarily such a hard thing to do, other than meeting the criteria for entry and of course, having the artistic merit. As St. Louis Q-Fest 2010 was about to begin, the rather salacious and trans-exploitative film by Israel Luna was being prepared for its debut at the Tribeca International Film Festival in New York City. While I had previously looked at Q-Fest's line up here in St. Louis and saw there was no 'Transgender-related' offering, I did note to myself 'maybe next year' and then actually had a sigh of relief, as I did prefer not having to address such an issue such as 'TO#WK' rather than have just 'anything' offered up to settle the inclusive mindset that I possess.

In the course of watching many films where there is a transgender individual portrayed, I have come across any number of the scenarios where it is exploitative in any sense of the word or the person is portrayed in a 'down-on-the luck' scenario and rarely if ever is the transgender portrayed as successful or as a well-educated or 'tech' person. As we all know (and if you don't, I suggest some rather high intensity, remedial reading over at 'Wiki') the transgender individual is no less smarter, no less intellectual than most anyone else. Yet most films will dwell upon something else thus perpetuating the myth that 'gender identity disorder' is an impairment or psychosis of the brain function.

So with the possibility of TO#WK being brought to town, I contacted the Artistic Director of Cinema St Louis, which produces the St Louis International Film Festival ((SLIFF) and we began to look at bringing the film “Paulista” to SLIFF this year. After a copy of 'Paulista' was obtained by SLIFF, we sat down for a acceptance screening and it was indeed accepted and will be shown at the Festival here in St. Louis, in November. What follows, is my estimation of what it takes to bring a good film to a festival. Note: I am writing this from a 'Transgender aspect, it should apply in most any case.

1. Know the film, either through reviews by a reputable film critic or through reviews coming from other transgender folks who have seen it at other festivals. There's no point in bringing in a film you don't like yourself. And the first thing the selection committee / Artistic Director will be looking for is credible artistic value. Don't waste their time.

2. Determine the criteria from which selections will be chosen: Remember, most film festivals will not bring in a film that has been previously fully released to the public and/or available for sale on DVD or Blu-Ray.

3. Establish contact and meet with the Festival's Artistic director / Selection Committee: Explain why a marginalizing / exploitative film is damaging / dehumanizing to the Transgender Community and hurtful to the entire Community as a whole. Then explain why a trans-positive film is needed in a film festival, including the need for Transgender representation in the festival.

4. Ask to attend the acceptance screening of the film: While many films may seem innocuous simply by title or summary, there still may be that one little bit that is unacceptable as far the point you are trying to make. Remember, you are representing the Transgender Community. Also, you will be able to have a feel of what the 'age-level' will be for those “Not Rated” films, with regard to vulgar language and sexual situations. Remember that vulgarity and sexual situations are quite acceptable in a film if it isn't being used to titillate or becomes the main feature of the film. Be prepared to answer questions as to why the film is acceptable to the Trans Community

5. Is there a person, group, organization or business willing to financially sponsor the film?: Many festivals are produced and run by non-profit organizations and there is a cost to bring in the film, promote, advertise and show the film. Having a sponsor no doubt makes it attractive to the festival, but do yet remember, the film itself must pass other success criteria.

Revlon Robyn (aka Robyn Carolyn Montague)
for TOXIC Ticked off Tra**ies With Knives Clearinghouse
June 7, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Transitory Stay In A Roman Catholic Hospital

Having not sustained a major illness, condition or injury since transitioning, being admitted to a hospital since then was not only a new experience, but also offered me the opportunity to 'rate' a major medical facility in the St Louis area for friendliness to the Transgender Community. I must admit that I had a small fear of issues and went to the ER with a bit of not only reluctance, but also ready to battle.

I went to St John's Mercy Medical Center on New Ballas as it not only is the hospital of my Primary Care Physician but also is owned by the same Sisters of Mercy religious organization that owns the health insurance plan that underwrites my Medicare Advantage plan through my pre-retirement employer. With that in mind, I not only went to a hospital, but also one owned through ties to the Roman Catholic Church.

Basically everthing went smoothly, yet not without anticipating a few pronoun problems. The first three people I dealt with in the ER, to register, to assist me in my mobility and the first level of caregiving , call me with male pronouns. In each case, I immediately responded to the "Sirs" with "Ma'am" and in each case, the party acknowledged that and immeadiately corrected themselves and apologized. Do note, I was wearing a nice, flowered summer dress, so there should not have had been that problem, per se, but I did give them the benefit of the doubt and did not crucify them for their blatant errors.

In my room, I did not have that problem at all. To begin with, they placed me in a private room. My thought was at first, that this was their solution to an issue not knoiwing what to do, or simply because I was in the Heart Hospital section and they do tend to place people by themselves due to the extra level of care and the isolation from catching things from others. One thought though is that they have actually have a 'sensitivity policy' in place and this placement of a transgender person separately is their rule of thumb. One other note that I wish to make is that on the worksheet form for ER treatment, for gender I crossed out "Female" and wrote down and circled "Trans Female," as sort of a 'heads up' to them as how I wished to be treated and handled as female.

All of the nurses, who were (cisgender) female, male, Anglo, African-American, Pacific Islander treated me with respect and as female. There were no questions of my medications, those for my heart issues, for diabetes and my hormone replacement therapy and each were dispensed without question. Privacy issues such as attaching montior electrodes, in which exposure of my breasts was required, was done in decorum and as a matter of medical necessity, ie no gawking or snide looks in any of these ocassions. Any time that I was transported out of my room, I was certain to be covered so that my privacy and dignity was respected.

In conclusion, I found St John's quite friendly and understanding of the transgender patient. There was a moment of confusion by the nun that came into the room expecting to see a cisgender woman, but she recovered admirily and in her quick chat, did not use the moment to chastise or lecture. Yes, there were a couple of quick glances one might suspect unfriendly, but I also saw their quick return to a thought of professionalism within the confines of the hospital, that the purpose of thier mission was to heal and not to hate.

Not having stayed in a hospital after transitioning, before, and considering the dogma behind the organizations running St John's, I definitely will give them a gold star with an additional A+ for effort.

Robyn Carolyn Montague
June 4, 2010