Readers react to last week's cover story on the murder of Lauryn Paige Fuller.
"Performance Anxiety," the headline and tone of your February 17 story, does not accurately reflect the attitude of the Austin School District about the state comptroller's ongoing Texas School Performance Review.
We value TSPR's look at campus space use, which was the topic of your story. I am confident that both the AISD Board of Trustees and Comptroller Rylander desire to serve children in the optimal educational setting while making possible the best use of space. Continued analysis and dialogue will enable us to accomplish this goal.
TSPR will undoubtedly offer many worthwhile recommendations for improving management of our programs and assets. During the past few months, district and TSPR staff have worked well together to analyze business practices and seek ways to make our operations more efficient. Doing so is always important, but even more critical at this time as AISD becomes a Chapter 41 school district next year.
We look forward to receiving Comptroller Rylander's final report and to improving schools for the children of Austin.
Pascal D. Forgione Jr., Ph.D.
Phelps Is Fun, Really
Dear Mr. Black,
I read your recent article on Shane Phelps' run for Travis County District Attorney ["Two Roads to Justice," Feb. 18] with great interest, albeit not unbiased interest. As Shane's wife I know him better than anyone, so I couldn't help smiling when I read Mr. Bryce's description of his personality as somber and serious. I agree that Shane is serious when he is discussing his work, especially when discussing the death penalty. It is not a topic that anyone should approach lightly. However, I must respectfully disagree that "somber" is an apt description of his personality in general. It is ironic that in an article where Shane is characterized as somber there is a picture of him wearing his Wallace & Gromit tie. Shane is passionate about his work as a prosecutor and serious about the decisions he makes affecting others' lives. However, when away from his duties as a prosecutor, he can in fact be a barrel of laughs.
Your Transgendered Neighbors
Dear Louis Black:
Congratulations. You have found the fringe of the "gender community" in Austin. Unfortunately, the people profiled in your articles ["The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story" and "Mighty Real," Feb. 18] have about as much in common with the rest of us as Jana Birchum does with the "genetic female" prostitutes who work the same streets as her "drag queens."
I am a member of a local transgender support group which has a membership of more than 100. Our members cover the entire gender spectrum: transsexual; transgender; cross-dresser/transvestite, gay; straight; bisexual; spouse/significant other; male-to-female and female-to-male. None of these people have a lifestyle even remotely similar to that which you portrayed. They are hard-working taxpayers; they are your neighbors; they are employers and business owners; they are loving and caring parents of happy, well-adjusted children; and they enjoy living outside the gender norms of society. I assure you, they would be the last people to enjoy the "exhibitionism" of the drag queens in your story, or to have any desire to see their picture in the paper. I know of at least four other such support groups in the Austin area. The size of the TG population in this city is staggering. You have uncovered and exploited its ugliest and smallest component. But that's really nothing new. It's done everyday on the TV talk shows. Nothing original here on your part.
I know that you have to sell papers to pay the bills. But please don't do it at the expense of those who buy your papers and patronize your advertisers.
I do not know who this person, Jordan Smith, is, but I do believe that he/she has only gotten one side of drag queens ["The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story," Feb. 18]. Drag queens are not a member of the transgendered group, for one thing. Being transgendered is something altogether different. Sure, we dress, but it isn't the same. In fact, the transgendered people are not really recognized by the gays or the lesbians. In all actuality, the transgendered are in a group all by themselves. You might say that we are in a turkey shoot and we are the turkeys. At least the turkeys have a better chance than we do.
One more thing: I don't suppose that Smith has ever really talked to a transgendered person.
Dear Louis Black,
I was shocked, to say the least, that the Chronicle would present transsexuals in such a light -- the "drag queens" featured in your "The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story" and "Mighty Real" [Feb. 18] do not at all represent most of us in the "community." These are the "streetwalkers" and prostitutes, and a very small minority of the transsexual community. They may well be "most visible," but this is not representative of the transsexual community in Austin. I'm sure I'll go to work next week and have to defend myself (and friends, as well) against the misinformation you published this week. I am very disappointed in your presentation of the "sensational" side of prostitution, and referring to this as a view of transsexuals in Austin. You simply missed by a mile! The Chronicle has done a terrible disservice to transsexuals, who are basically just everyday people, overcoming "gender issues" in a legal, medically ethical, and socially acceptable way.
"Most of us" are hard-working, educated, and professional individuals, under the care and supervision of doctors, endocrinologists, and psychiatrists/therapists, and follow the "Benjamin Standards of Care," the protocol by which the medical community treats transsexuals, which is accepted worldwide as "appropriate treatment" for a medical condition. Many of us go on to have surgery (gender- or sex-reassignment surgery) and lead happy and productive lives, contributing to society by hard work and paying taxes, just like you or anybody else. Most of us are virtually invisible in the community, as we tend to distance ourselves from controversial types, like the prostitutes and street-walking drag queens you featured in your articles. For your paper to have generalized transsexuals as "homeless, drug-indulgent street walkers and prostitutes" is an unfair and totally wrong view of what life is really like for the majority of us. I had expected more from the Chronicle.
I would hope that one day you might present a more realistic view of what a transsexual is, and publish an apology for casting a dark shadow over the lives of so many good, hard-working, and law-abiding people, and for misinforming the public in an inexcusable way. I am offended.
[Ed. note: We received 10 similar letters regarding the Lauryn Paige Fuller and drag underground stories.]
Never have I read such a wretched, sickening account of human morality (or lack thereof) as written in Jordan Smith's report (Feb. 18) on the life and death of transsexual prostitute Donald Scott Fuller.
Maybe more wretched and sickening is the Chronicle's pandering to such revolting, sexually promiscuous moral rot. When you allow the mentally ill to run amok, should you be shocked if they start killing each other now and then? The blood of Donald Scott Fuller is on the hands of everyone who worships the god of sodomy and sexual addictions.
Alas, you will reap what you sow, P.C. thugs and their aphasic rhetoric notwithstanding.
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I work for Starbucks in Austin, and I could care less that some mom-and-pop coffee shop has a bad case of penis envy for the company by which I am employed. I am referring of course to the extraordinary ad by Mojo's that was run in your Vol. 19, No. 25 issue on page 110. "Starfucks," it reads. Brilliant! Now we know that their 24/7 status is used not only to fuel true Austinites but also to conjure up incredible and insightful statements like "corporate coffee sucks." Hey, that's great!
What bothers me is how a publication such as yourselves, being neither wholly original in execution of content nor style (every major city has a version of you or vice versa), allows what little journalistic integrity that remains in our society to go unchecked. How can you happily run this Mojo's ad and then happily run on page 129 a four-color, quarter-page employment ad for the company you allow to be trashed? Am I wrong or is this a conflict of interest? Too, not only is The Austin Chronicle biting the hand that feeds it, but aren't you all also quietly telling the many industries of Austin (local and national) that "we are the new whore of Austin and we'll run any ad no matter the circumstance or how it may portray your business for which we run ads also"?
To me, you paint an ugly picture of Austin. It saddens me too that the publication that I once waited for every Thursday (at my cafe, no less!) will forever be marred in my mind by this lack of exercise in ethics and code.
Titan Up, Skipper
Dear Skipper Chong Warson,
Re: "Dark Goddess: Remembrance of Deities Past" ["Exhibitionism," Feb. 18]
I realize that a firm grounding in Greek classics is not prevalent today. However, when one reviews a "spellbinding ritual bringing together goddesses from the far reaches of the world," perhaps some fact checking would be advisable. Zeus was not a "surviving Titan." He was the son of Titans and an Olympian.
It would seem that these days, more is learned from Xena than Xenophon.
Less Party, More Research
To quote a phrase, what's wrong with this picture?: Marjorie Baumgarten (she, a so-called film critic) and her Sundance Festival report (it, of dubious scholarship, veracity, and savvy) ["Dance Fever," Feb. 4]? Oxymoronic, or simply moronic? To say that RuPaul "adopts the respectability of the surname Charles" as the narrator of The Eyes of Tammy Faye implies that Baumgarten doesn't know and didn't bother to find out that RuPaul's given name is RuPaul Charles and that she deems a person of Ru's orientation to be one-dimensional, unbelievable outside the act of drag. And to suggest that the use of one's full name (actual or adopted) confers the supposedly absent respectability is shallow, bourgeois, and downright idiotic. That Baumgarten considers Ru and Tammy to be a strange pairing is utterly disingenuous, suggesting that the obvious "cosmetological" link eludes her. Tammy Faye and RuPaul, both outrageously packaged: What could be more natural! If Baumgarten had done even minimal research, she would know that Ru is also "cosmologically" inclined and has completed many projects off the runway, including the narration of several other documentaries for World of Wonder (producer of Eyes), and that Tammy has always been gay-friendly, making their alliance all the more plausible. (Jim J. Bullock, Tammy's current TV co-host, is openly gay.) Do I expect too much from a reviewer who has to crash parties at an industry festival? Lord knows what other misinformation lurks in her article! Is it unfair to ask that critics know their subject matter, verify their information, and scrutinize their thoughts before committing them to paper? Is it too much to expect the critics to have something to teach us? I lament the Chronicle's low standards. So far, at least the movie timetables have been accurate.
Lauryn Paige Outrage
[Ed. note: The following letters are responses to the articles "The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story" and "Mighty Real," Feb. 18, 2000]
I have read your article concerning transsexuals as printed in your paper. As a heterosexual transgendered person who has known many transsexuals over the years, I could not believe the stereotype you have saddled these people with in your story. It is so far off-base that the only excuse can be to sell papers and sensationalize on a topic that you don't know very much about.
Granted, there are many TS's who have to walk the street to make a living. They put themselves in harm's way every day in order to survive in the only way they are able, satisfying the sexual needs of heterosexual males for the most part.
But the vast majority of TS's do not live the way you have depicted, and for those who do not, you have painted a sleazy picture of them that they now have to try and defend in their workplaces and families. Most of them are hard-working, taxpaying citizens in jobs that have worked hard to keep under the circumstances and discrimination that articles like yours put them into.
Your articles are a shame on your investigative process of journalism and simply cannot be defended by the facts. I am sorry that I had to by your paper in Raleigh, N.C., to read this drivel, but I am glad that I am not living in Austin and having to read your paper every day for news that is much more factual than this article.
Shame on you!!!!!!!
This letter is in response to your recent articles on transsexuality. As Ms. Birchum's article was more of a photo exposé than an article, this reply will be focused primarily on Mr. Smith's article.
It is 4:30 in the morning, Saturday, February 19. I awoke early this morning, as I generally do on the weekends, looking forward to another productive day. I sat at my computer and read an e-mail from a friend of mine, pertaining to your cover story of this week. And so, I began my morning today by reading two articles, one by Jana Birchum and another written by Jordan Smith.
Having just finished reading the articles I sat for a long while, carefully pondering them. My initial reaction was one of disbelief, of course, at the very nature of the cruelty and utter lack of respect for the human condition that was referred to in Jordan Smith's retrospective on the life of Lauryn Paige. I felt a wave of anger come over me as I read of the brutal nature of her death. Not because I am a transsexual female, but because I am a human being, just like you, just like Lauryn. Each of us feels, each of us has faults, and each of us has the capacity for compassion.
I sat, thinking not "how" I must respond to the articles, but rather, "why" I must respond. And I clearly must respond. I must respond because the article moved me to think. It "moved" me to "think." Two of the things a good article is suppose to do.
Now, I am sitting here looking at my coffee, which has grown cold. But I am drinking it anyway, go figure. I am wondering whether or not I should berate Mr. Smith for writing this article, which does more to unravel all the work I have done to gain acceptance in this world as a transsexual female, or whether to praise him for moving me to a response. There is no question, the article by Jordan Smith was well-written and obviously well-researched, although I was offended at his constant referral to Lauryn as "he" and "him." Lauryn chose to live her life as a female, and the least Mr. Smith could do was respect her memory by using the correct pronoun. Mr. Smith spent a great deal of time justifying his position and providing more than adequate support for his argument. The argument, as far as I could tell, was that transsexual women are, for the most part, a sad group of individuals who suffer at the hands of a male-dominated society and typically fall into the underworld of hustling, drugs, and prostitution.
A TALE OF WOE
This coffee is really bad. Too much sugar, grounds floating in it and cold to boot. I guess that's what happens when you try to make coffee at 4:30 in the morning. I drank a lot of coffee in college. Yes, college. Contrary to Mr. Smith's article, not all transsexual females border on subhuman stereotypes. I am well-educated, have a fantastic job, and I have many friends. I live in a nice apartment, drive a newer car, wear nice clothes, and have a fairly good life all in all. Not bad for a person who was supposed to fall into a life of hustling, drugs, and prostitution. I say that with a wry grin and a wary heart, as I, like many of the people in Jordan Smith's article, have seen many people walk down that road.
Most of the transsexuals I know have had a turning point in their lives. Many have suffered poverty, beatings, verbal abuse, and humiliation, including myself. And like Lauryn Paige, they have always felt uncomfortable in the male genre. Although I was born a man, I knew from a very early age that something was wrong. It wasn't that I felt like a woman trapped in a man's body (I hate that phrase by the way), it was more like I knew I wasn't comfortable living my life as a man. I frankly never fit in. I was always considered strange and different. Needless to say, I understand her plight quite well.
In his article Mr. Smith paints a picture that most, if not all, transsexuals are drag queens and look very feminine even as men. The truth is that most transsexual females are not particularly feminine-looking as males. The fact is most transsexual females do not pass well as women, due to large bone structure and other genetic coding. I have had to work very, very hard to change my appearance to fit into society as a female. And even now, although I am accepted to the general public, I still retain many of the male characteristics that I wish I could dispose of by pouring them down the drain, just like this coffee.
Gay bars. Sure, a lot of transsexuals I know began their female lives in them. Not because they were necessarily gay, but because that is the only place where they could gain any acceptance at all. As a personal example, my early years of living my life as a female were not pleasant. There were the hours of getting ready, making sure I looked just right so I don't get beaten up that day. Learning how to put on make-up from drag queens, because you don't dare go to a professional to teach you because you are far too embarrassed. You look silly, walk silly, talk strange and are just plain pitiful most of the time. It is a time of depression and a time of pain. I lost my job, my family, many friends and faced many beatings, insults, and humiliation on many occasions along the way. I saw many of my friends follow the same path paved by Mr. Smith in his article. They were young, poor, timid, and cowered in the shadows as life passed them by. However, most of us pull ourselves up and get on with our lives. Most of us do not follow Lauryn's example. Most of us have the good fortune to be allowed to grow and learn and experience our lives in the light, no longer afraid, cowering or bowing our heads in the darkness.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
I have nothing at all against drag queens, transvestites, cross-dressers, and other transgendered people; however, it is quite clear that Mr. Smith does not understand the differences between them. And, there is a huge difference. For instance, a drag queen who just happens to be taking hormones is not a transsexual. The act of taking hormones to make your body look more female does not in and of itself indicate a case of gender dysphoria. It indicates an act of business preparation. Drag queens are entertainers. If they look more female, they make more money. Simple. I know very few drag queens that have the desire and unstoppable drive to have their gender surgically altered by gender reassignment surgery. Why would they? It would end their career.
Now, I have been typing about an hour, and I still really don't know what I want to say. I keep getting distracted thinking about hazelnut lattes. Maybe a scone to go with it. You know, one of those maplenut scones they sell at Starbucks. I love those things. But the fact remains that Mr. Smith's article paints a rather lurid picture of transsexual females here in Austin, and I suppose it is time to address that point blank.
All that being said, the two variables, 1) transsexuality, and 2) drugs, hustling, and prostitution, simply do not correlate. Let me explain: Transsexuals are people, just like you. And just like you, we have problems, we have skills and we harbor fears, and multiple idiosyncrasies. We laugh, we cry, we feel, we think, we run, we bleed, we dance, we work, and we get confused, just like you. But most of us work through it and become productive members of society. That is "our" society - yours, mine and Lauryn's.
In the heterosexual community, there are prostitutes, drug users, bar entertainers, and bar flies. In the gay and lesbian communities, there are drug users, prostitutes, bar entertainers, and bar flies. In the transsexual community the same is true. While I will not argue with the points Mr. Smith makes in his article, I must take offense to the fact he neglected to point out that the transsexuals he is writing about are a very small fraction of the transsexual community. In fact, it is arguable that none of these people he wrote about are actually transsexuals at all. They are transgendered to be sure, but transsexuals? - I seriously doubt it.
Mr. Smith neglected to show the other side of the argument. The vast majority of transsexuals do not fall into the category of poor, sex-starved whores who will do anything to survive for another day. We are not all drag queens, transvestites, and street hustlers. In fact I would say that about the same percentage of the population of the transsexual community falls into that category as do their heterosexual counterparts. By far, the majority of the transsexual women I know are productive, accepted citizens, many of whom have faced numerous and costly surgeries to change their appearance to fit into society. In fact, I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Mr. Smith wrote a similar article about African-Americans or Hispanics in Austin. Perhaps transsexuals are the next scapegoat because far too often we are afraid to step out into the public eye to express our concerns, our views, and our objections to articles like Mr. Smith's.
I think it is appropriate and frankly necessary to do a follow-up article focusing on the other side of the coin. It is one-sided points of view like Mr. Smith's that ensure our society will continue to view transsexuals as stereotypical of drag queens, prostitutes, and street hustlers. It is these stereotypes, which he is himself propagating by his article, that gave rise to the brutal behavior that he was writing about in the first place. Or, perhaps he simply does not understand that this type of thoughtlessness only makes the situation worse.
Don't get me wrong, I am not condemning Mr. Smith for his actions, only pointing out that his personal frame of reference does not allow him to use the forethought necessary to anticipate the fallout from his article on the transsexual community at large.
After reading the articles I couldn't help but wonder how the people I work with will treat me on Monday. Will they look at me differently now, wondering if I was ever a prostitute? There are many people I work with who do not know I am a transsexual, but who will, no doubt, find out due to the added publicity this article will bring about at my workplace. Let's face facts. Transsexuality is still viewed as a novelty, and people will react to these articles. Some will react to it positively. Others will react negatively. It is the latter group that makes me nervous. Whether he intended it or not, I am now faced with the fact that I will once again be placed in a position I have fought hard to avoid. Transsexuals, for the most part, struggle to be average. To fit into society in an average way. To avoid publicity, and stay out of the spotlight. Publicity brings attention, and is not always positive attention. So, I will now have to start looking over my shoulder again. Something I have not had to do for a long time. Nevertheless, even though my response to you will add even more publicity to my life, I simply feel it is necessary that you be made aware of the grievous consequences of failing to pose both sides of the coin.
I am going to go now. I am going to brew up a fresh pot of coffee, make some breakfast, and start thinking about the rest of my day. While I found this article disheartening and offensive, I must look forward to another day. My life is very good, overall, and in the long run I doubt this article will affect my attitude any more than a bad cup of coffee.
Thank you for your time,
[Ed. note: Reporter (Ms.) Jordan Smith is female and prefers to be referred to by the pronoun "she."]
Dear Louis Black,
I would like to repeat word for word Kim Ciara's [see letter above] most eloquently worded objections. I suspect you would probably not read it if I did that, so I will only emphasize the last paragraph: "For your paper to have generalized transsexuals as 'homeless, drug-indulgent streetwalkers and prostitutes' is an unfair and totally wrong view of what life is really like for the majority of us. I had expected more from the Chronicle." Thanks to Kim Ciara.
Bobbie Jean Davis
A friend from Texas suggested I look at your article regarding the transsexual community. What a skewed, inaccurate, and trashy account of reality this article is.
It is obvious your want to sell papers with sensationalism. I thought newspapers and informational articles were supposed to inform and educate with factual and balanced accounts of reality. The portrayal of those who truly suffer from gender identity as some sort of abhorrent, sex-crazed perverts and idiots are as far from the truth as black is white in the color spectrum.
Party all night, sex all the time, I think not. I am a working woman, professional, educated, and an excellent role model. I detest your article and think it not only unkind, but a personal affront, inaccurate, and perhaps subject to legal action.
The vast majority of transsexuals are not involved in this seedy underground. We have made the change and taken our place in society as any woman would. You do not see us because we blend into the mainstream. But we are there, wives, mothers, lawyers, teachers, and people you see every day.
You seem to advocate it perfectly acceptable to murder and attack anyone who is unfortunate enough to be afflicted with gender identity disorder. This is a medical condition which none of those so afflicted wished to have. Certainly, there is no justifiable reason to try to validate this kind of hate against persons who have this disorder.
What we want mostly is to have this recognized for what it is, a disorder. A disorder that is treatable and correctable and to be given the respect and dignity accorded to all worthy human beings everywhere.
We do not need to have attached to this the stigma you and the likes of Jerry Springer viciously espouse.
I strongly urge you to correct this account as you will be held personally liable for any violence against any transsexual that can be directly linked to this article.
Ms. Denise Renee
Dear Mr. Black:
What would you do if your local newspaper printed an article saying that your wife was a "law-breaking, drug-crazed street-walking prostitute"? I believe you might feel as I currently do - TOTALLY OUTRAGED!
I'm responding to the recent article: "Mighty Real" [Feb. 18]. You must realize that your actions have created a very damaging and possibly dangerous situation for many women in this world. Your publication has not been totally honest - in fact, let's call it what it truly is - slanderous libel. You and your newspaper may choose to isolate the "transsexual woman" from ever having any social status as a functioning, taxpaying member of the female gender - but the U.S. government thinks otherwise - issuing many laws in the last 20 years to protected our rights.
Do you realize the courage it takes to take personal inventory of your inner spirit and seize control of your life? The transsexual women I know are hard-working doctors, lawyers, CEO's, engineers, nurses, wives, and mothers. They would have never allowed such a careless act as your "non-editing" of the following remarks as they appear in your paper and available online via the Internet: "'I'd bet almost every transsexual works the street at one time or another,'
says Sandy. Between the difficulty getting regular work and the costs of performing, which demands a constant investment in make-up and clothes, she says she really saw no other way. 'After so many times [prostituting], they get used to it,' says Paris Channel, another performer. 'I don't think she ever thought that she might actually lose her life. A lot of these people just throw their lives away.' At 4am, those [transsexuals] who haven't had Jazmine's luck hit the streets. The long stroll down Congress Avenue is their primary source of income." (snip)
As you can see - it appears that you Mr. Black are either asleep - or simply not well informed of the real life story and struggle of the typical transsexual woman. You have used poor judgment in not editing this article and it has painted a very one-sided and negative, biased picture of all transsexual women. Most of your subscribers will simply read your "photo-essay" article, briefly scan the text, and truly believe what is written, and that all transsexuals are as you depict. Trust me, most transsexuals have blended into society as nurturing, caring females - you probably pass one in the supermarket or shopping mall each day - but only saw a proud woman going about her business.
I encourage the Chronicle to post a public apology - or perhaps better still, how about a follow-up article about the positive transsexual role models who are out there? Here's a short list:
Dr. Anne Lawrence
Melanie Anne Phillips
In closing, I hope that you will reassess your shallow appraisal of transsexual women and reflect on the important public role you play in the dissemination of accurate information.
Former NASA design engineer and transitioning woman.
I just read the article on the Fuller murder. What I would like to know is where do you have the right to publish such stuff and to label all transsexuals as "hookers," "druggies," "drag queens," and basically street trash? I will tell you this I am married to a "transsexual" who is very hard-working, pays her taxes, and is a law-abiding citizen of this here United States. Under no terms or conditions is she a "hooker," "druggie," or "drag queen," and she too has to go by the Benjamin Harry Standards of Care. I myself have no problem with this going on in our married life, for not only outside is she still the same person but inside as well. Not all, and mind you, I say "all," of the transsexuals are what you have foreseen for the public to see as. They are not a major harm to society. They lead normal lives, and some even have children from their marriages to their wives, which in turn if they have children are educated about transsexualism they have no problems in their adult lives. The Bible teaches us love one another no matter who we are and what we do. Well in turn we are supposed to teach our children the same thing, but with articles like you have published it leads our children to become confused and disoriented. It also leads society to believe that transgendered people should be burn at the stake just like the Salem witch hunts. Not true very much not true. I think people like you and the major majority needs to be educated about these issues and learn and have a open mind about all the things that are involved in the lives of the transgendered person. They should also read and ask questions not just to the professionals about them and their lives but the transgendered person themselves and that way they will get the "whole story," not just part of it. Your article was most displeasing to those of us that are involved in their lives and has done a very bad misjustice to the transgendered community.
Wife of a Transgendered Person
[Ed. note: Editor Louis Black is male and pefers the courtesy title "Mr." to "Mrs."]
Dear Editors and Mr. Smith:
I have been part of the Lauryn Paige case myself for over a year. Did you actually go to school to become a journalist or learn from Jerry Springer? Apparently you have never bothered to seek out the entire truth about the transgender community as a whole. This biased, poorly written article isn't even worthy of a first-year journalism student, much less a major newspaper. The article only focuses on the underside of the TG community and not the positive contributions of the transgender community to both humanity and society.
One prime example: Most people look to the Stonewall Riots in 1969 as the beginning of today's gay rights movement. Few people realize that in 1966 here in San Francisco, transgendered patrons resisted the ham-handed tactics of the SFPD at the Compton's Cafeteria riots fully three years before Stonewall! Never mind the fact also that it was police harassment of a transgendered woman at the Stonewall Inn that led to the Stonewall Riots in the first place. Even the gay community, who are so intent in passing their own agenda, say they are willing to support transgender rights and equality, but throw us out the window the first chance they get. The Human Rights Campaign's bigoted Employment Non-Discrimination Act is living proof of their hypocrisy. Like it or not, we transgenders have been the real inspiration, and often the leaders, of the struggle for equality.
I became involved with the Lauryn Paige saga after her unfortunate death at the hands of a hate-filled male. As is typical in the violence committed against us, it was not a mere murder, but an annihilation. Ms. Paige's death struck me particularly hard not because I was transgender, but because of her youth. Less than four hours after I learned of her death, I set up a memorial to Lauryn on the Internet so she would never be forgotten. The URL is: http://members.aol.com/poiznrose/lauryn.htm. As long as I am alive, Lauryn will never be forgotten.
Why would a San Francisco activist and a dozen or so of her closest friends care so much about a murdered girl halfway across the continent? Unlike the rest of this society, I do give a damn about these young people. So do many of my friends. We cared so much we formed an organization called TG-RAGE to fight the wave of violence endorsed and fueled by bigotry. Lauryn's death was the catalyst.
One of the things I have become widely known for here in San Francisco is my work with trans people, particularly young trans people. These kids, as I refer to them, are rejected by their families simply because they do not fit into a millimeter-wide pigeonhole of sexuality. If these parents, and the rest of society, could put away their fear, they would see these kids as the loving, caring human beings they are. Funny how the "family values"-spewing, Bible-thumper crowd refuses to acknowledge these children. I guess children are OK as long as they are profitable or politically and socially inoffensive.
What I do is simply point these young people to resources they need to survive. I myself discourage them from getting involved in the sex industry. Given the choice, do you actually think they would pick sex work as a career? No! I was once a part of that myself, and I am not proud of it. I was in it for survival, as are most of those trans people involved. It is the one marketable skill/quality we have. All of our other skills and experience go down the toilet once we transition.
I had 25 years of experience in my career as a security specialist, and was one of the top in my field, earning more than $35K annually. However, when I became a woman, all those years of experience instantly became worthless. Why? The answer is simple: transphobia is the part of the base culture of the security industry, and unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the rest of America's employers as well. We don't want handouts, just a fair chance at success just like everyone else. We do not get that chance when employers arbitrarily don't hire us because of their own insecurities and fears, and the lack of a decent set of legal protections to forbid such. As a result, I was forced to learn a new job skill. My new skills paid about half simply because I am now a woman.
This process takes a heavy toll on a lot of us. I lost my home, about 50K worth of tools and furniture, and almost my life on more than one occasion. Many of my friends have similar stories. Yet despite these adversities, many of us do become successful. We are forced to walk a path much more difficult than most others simply because of who we are. My own partner's eight-year-old son was brutally murdered in Kentucky simply because his parents were transgendered. What in the hell did that eight-year-old do to deserve such a brutal death? To add injustice to injury, the presiding judge in the trial made it pretty clear to the distraught parents that they deserved it for "being queer." He also rewarded the punks involved with light sentences.
Nine years ago, Los Angeles exploded because of the outrageous behavior of the Los Angeles Police Department, and the subsequent butt-kissing the rogue cops got from the court. We get beaten, raped, robbed, and worse all the time. Where is the outrage and demands that this lawlessness stop?
Now, Mr. Louis, do you think we want to be marginalized and killed off? Of course not, but your half-assed-written hatchet job you did in your so-called article didn't do anyone but bigots a favor. Do you not think it is a coincidence that Texas is the hotbed of such bigoted violence? For all the "law-and-order" rhetoric pouring out of the mouths of GOP politicians, how come they turn a blind eye when someone like Lauryn gets butchered?
Why don't you get your editors and yourself over here to San Francisco and let me introduce you to the real realities of life for us, and perhaps you may become outraged enough to do some real reporting. Get the whole story before you publish such rubbish again!
Rosalyne S. Montgomery
Founder and Executive Director
Transgenders United for Equality
With the Texas Supreme Court about to consider Littleton v. Prange, the opponents of transgender equality - not just elected bigots like Robert Talton but also the attorneys for Dr. Mark Prange - could not have received better publicity for their hateful crusade against the last minority whom it is still politically correct to persecute than that which appeared in the February 18 issue of The Austin Chronicle.
I would not be surprised if the court openly cites Jordan Smith's article, "The Lauryn Paige Fuller Story," as being justification for holding that Christie Lee Littleton is not female. I also wouldn't be surprised if, because of it, the Court throws in some dicta suggesting that the Legislature totally outlaw gender variance.
Mr. Smith, not all transsexuals are prostitutes. Some of us go to law school and become real whores - assuming that we can manage to avoid being disowned by our parents while we're adolescents, or being trans-bashed (at any time - adolescence or adulthood), or being thrown into homelessness because of government-sanctioned job discrimination (such as government refusal to let our identification documents reflect our transition gender.)
In addition to lawyers, some of us who have transitioned are engineers, doctors, teachers, Parliament members (in New Zealand at least), deputy mayors (in St. Paul, Minnesota, at least), computer programmers, economists, geologists, pilots, musicians, neurobiologists, clergy members, and, until Phil Hardberger and Karen Angelini decided to act as a two-person Legislature-on-the-Riverwalk last October, even plain ol' ordinary husbands and wives.
Of course, no one will come away from Smith's article with that impression - which is doubly sad. The absence of non-drag performers and non-prostitutes is just another Jerry Springer-style rape of the transgender soul - and it detracts from an otherwise good article. Overall, Smith did a wonderful job of highlighting the stark reality that transsexuals are viewed by society as being disposable people (and that's not simply heterosexual society; even the most heavily-monied queer lobbying cadre, the Human Rights Campaign, expends more resources in its crusade to convince the public that transgendered people do not belong in the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act than would ever be necessary to persuade trans-issues-ignorant legislators that we do need, and deserve, employment protection as much as gays and lesbians do).
Good aspects of the article aside, the absence of ordinary transgendered people makes it into nothing but electricity that will power the garbage disposal into which the theocrat-dominated government of Texas wants to shove us.
No excuse whatsoever exists for the absence of input from (or even the absence of any mention of) the Texas Association for Transsexual Support (TATS), one of the most well-respected transgender support groups in the country. Though it is Houston-based, TATS does have members in Austin. And, at the risk of sounding self-serving, at least one non-drag queen, non-prostitute transsexual appears in the Texas Triangle, a publication available in Austin every week.
Yes, lil' ol' me - a transsexual attorney who has successfully represented transsexuals in Travis County District Court.
Either TATS or myself could have given Smith a line on where to find transsexuals who would have more than balanced his story. Yes - he included one drag performer who had two day jobs. Big deal - out of a 5,000+ word article one sentence indicating that we can successfully (when not discriminated against) do anything other than drag or sex-for-pay.
I am glad that the Chronicle saw fit to do a story on transgendered youth, but I lament that it was not done competently. A horrifically bitter irony exists regarding the timing of the story's publication. As if to underscore the abject societal hatred of anything that is not easily classifiable according to constructs dictated by the false "XX = female, XY = male" dichotomy that Hardberger and Angelini legislated in Littleton v. Prange, in Dallas recently a physically intersexed newborn child was murdered - apparently solely because it had ambiguous genitalia.
Will The Austin Chronicle do an article focusing on the bad attitudes of many genitalia-mutilated intersexed people (at least those who manage to avoid being killed by maniacally religious parents) toward the medical establishment - and not go into any detail about why those attitudes are legitimate?
The Austin Chronicle's refusal to show transsexuals in any better light than it did is only slightly less unconscionable than the murder of that intersexed child in Dallas. Jordan Smith's article will cause some transsexuals in Austin either to get fired or never to be hired in the first place.
Jordan Smith's article will result in some transsexuals in Austin losing what little chance that they might ever have had not to end up in Lauryn Paige's profession.
Jordan Smith's article will result in death for transsexuals - the only mystery now is the number. If the Texas Supreme Court is influenced by his piece of garbage in deciding Littleton v. Prange, that number will be in the tens of thousands.
Will that make you happy Mr. Smith?
[Ed. note: Reporter (Ms.) Jordan Smith is female and pefers to be referred to by the pronoun "she."]
I was watching the news last night and I kept hearing the show hosts and reporters call the Independents who voted for John McCain in the Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries as "non-Republicans." That's incorrect. I went to the library and looked up in a U.S. Government statistics on the political parties registered in the U.S. that 39% call themselves Independents, but that two thirds of them are actually registered Republicans and registered Democrats: 14% registered Democrats
13% registered Republicans
12% registered Independents
39% total Independents
So, when you in the media say that Independents are "non-Republicans." you're not telling the truth. It's important that the news media reports the truth to the public. Please do your own homework and start calling Independents mainly "disaffected Republicans or Democrats," which is who they really are. That's the real story behind McCain's wins, and that's the story that you in the news media aren't telling.
A Registered Gore Democrat
San Jose, Calif.
Dear Austin Chronicle,
Am I the only person in town with a sick feeling about an Office Max and a Starbucks, not to mention a gym, at Fifth and Lamar? We're slowly becoming another suburb of Dallas.