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Kia and Toyota Appear to Allow Disparagment of Brand with Transphobia

August 25, 2017 By: jaysays Category: Commentary

Community Toyota Kia HondaDuring the course of arguments in the Texas Legislature for the horrifying Bathroom Bill, which would prohibit any person from using a restroom labeled for a gender different than the one listed on their birth certificate, several religious based organizations which use their beliefs to excuse terrorizing LGBTQ people stepped forward in support of the legislation.

Recently, I provided a listing of the companies which signed a letter of support from one such crusading organization, Texas Values.  The list included  Community Toyota *Kia* Honda in Baytown, Texas, which *ironically?* claims on their website, “There’s a reason why we decided to name our dealership ‘Community’. Here at Community Toyota, we do more than just offer great cars to our customers. Owners Kim and Roger Elswick also support and give back to a variety of local schools, charities, and organizations. We do this because we truly care about our community, and we want to see it grow and flourish!”

Having worked on numerous franchise issues in the past, including drafting agreements for dealer sales for other manufacturers, I was relatively certain that brand disparagement would be discouraged by companies like Kia and Toyota and included in their franchise contracts. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be the case.

I contacted all three auto manufacturers in the hopes that they would have something substantive to say, and hopefully take action to protect their brand.  Below is the chain of communications with Toyota:

Thank you for contacting Toyota.

Below is a summary of your most recent email message received and our response.

We appreciate the continued opportunity to be of service to you.

Franchise Violation – Baytown TX
 Discussion Thread
 Response Via Email (Ashley M.) 08/15/2017 11:36 AM
Dear Ms. Morris,
Thank you for contacting Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS) and sharing your concerns.
Please note, all Toyota dealerships are independent businesses and assume the responsibility for setting their own policies.  TMS has no ownership interest in any independent dealership and does not exercise control over any dealer, including Community Toyota of Baytown.
However, Toyota does not condone discrimination in any form and believes that respect for and inclusive treatment of all people is good for the workplace, marketplace and society as a whole. In our experience, the best ideas come when everyone is equally engaged and valued.
Thank you again for your feedback. Your email has been documented at our National Headquarters
Ashley M.
Toyota Customer Experience Center
 Customer By Web Form (Jay Morris) 08/11/2017 01:53 PM
As you may be aware, the Texas legislature is in a special session attempting to pass legislation targeting the Transgender community. In a listing of business supporting this legislation, and thereby promoting discrimination against the transgender community, Roger Elswick, identifies himself as supporting the law on behalf of “Community,” and “Toyota ‘Kia’ Honda” of Baytown, Texas. I’m certain Toyota does not support this horrible law and wished to bring to your attention that a Dealer is disparaging your brand. Attached is a copy of the listing with a box around the offense for your information.


Kia responded via phone call and left this voicemail.

Check this out on Chirbit

I can’t decide what is most frustrating to me regarding the brand responses – is it Kia saying they, “apologize if you were offended,” or claiming they don’t take a position on legislation – which seems contrary to the roughly $670,000 in lobbying efforts in 2017 alone they spent they spent on lobbying in 2017 alone.

While I certainly appreciate that dealerships are independently owned, placing the brand name on pamphlets designed to sway legislation undoubtedly impacts lawmakers.  Seeing big names like Toyota, Kia, and Honda as “in support” harms the brand.  This experience has certainly soiled both brands for me, and I’ve recently taken the Kia Niro on a test drive and checked out the Toyota Prius as I’m considering a hybrid to lower my carbon footprint even further (I also test drove the Hyundai Ioniq).  If it were my brand promoting discrimination, particularly considering the present state of our country, I would do everything in my power to protect not only my brand, but the people being marginalized by the use of my brand name.

Of course, I do provide a caveat.  Thus far, I have been unable to obtain a copy of a Franchise Agreement for Kia or Toyota.  Perhaps the contracts give full rights to the dealership to use the Kia and Toyota brand name in any way they want – including on matters that taint the brand.  Perhaps, because the dealership is independent, one could affix the Toyota or Kia brand names to a Nazi Flag and scream “white power” and Toyota and Kia would just be like … “Hey, franchises can use our name however they want. Sorry if YOU were offended.”  But I doubt it considering the number of lawsuits Kia and Honda have been involved in regarding enforcing those Franchise Agreements.

And here’s a bit of unsolicited advise for Kia and Toyota – if there aren’t protections in your Franchise Contracts for your brand, you may want to consider new lawyers.

As of this writing, Honda has not responded to repeated communications.

Anti-Transgender Businesses in Texas – List Released

August 11, 2017 By: jaysays Category: activism, Discrimination

Bathroom discrimination - a okay!Texas Values, an organization which seems to obsess on LGBTQ people and attempts to prohibit them from freely moving in public spaces, has released a PDF of Texas Businesses supporting the so-called “bathroom bill.”  The bills (currently waiting for hearing in the House), by design, are intended to prohibit transgender people from using public restrooms of their actual gender, and requiring them to use bathrooms according to the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate.  To be sure these businesses are identified when searching for them in Google, I’ve compiled the same list in text format (instead of PDF) below.  The original is available via Texas Values‘ website (the full PDF List (Anti-Transgender Businesses) is available here as well):

  • Southwest Office Systems
  • G. R. Birdwell Construction
  • Circle T Ranch
  • Granberry Commercial
  • Hartman Income REIT Management, Inc.
  • KNW Oil & Gas, Inc
  • Community Toyota *Kia* Honda
  • Eagle Peak Shooting Range Garland Public Shooting Range
  • Stotler Feed, LP
  • Kaddatz Auctioneering & Farm Equipment Sales
  • Duncan Automotive
  • Bellomy Heating & Air, Inc.
  • Heritage Legacy Enterprises LLC
  • Alphamed, Inc.
  • The Von Dohlen Knuffke Financial Group, LLC
  • GilCat Solutions
  • The Von Dohlen Knuffke Financial Group, LLC
  • Hawkins Creek Ranch
  • Ranch House Meat Company, LLC
  • Williams Furniture Company
  • Rodenbaugh’s Flooring American & Appliances
  • Cathy Lloyd Music & Speech
  • Hartzheim Petri CPA
  • Gillaspia Signs & Neon, Inc.
  • Kenny Dyess Dairy
  • Robbins Business Development
  • Law Office of Cecilia M. Wood
  • The Bridge Austin
  • Haymond Homes Inc.
  • Tex Christopher Studios
  • The 483 Ranch House

Please consider this fact before doing business with any of those on the list above.  Also note that Kia, Toyota and Honda have been contacted regarding the use of their brand in support of this bill.  As of publication, a response from their corporate offices has not been received.

The Texas Government’s Invasion of LGBT Citizens – A glance at #txlege in the wake of Jade Helm 15

May 19, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, LGBT News

Interior view Texas Capital BuildingPerhaps there are a few people in the world who haven’t ridiculed the Texas Government for its antics at some point in time, but those people likely have no internet access or TV, and probably no interest in state government.  I dare not trace the long history of embarrassing political posturing by Texas lawmakers, but I can summarize in three words, Jade Helm 15.

Presently, the Texas legislature is comprised of a substantial Republican majority. IN the Texas Republican Party Platform, the party holds, in part:

“Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

This legislative session, the Texas GOP has done its best to limit access to rights and benefits bestowed on other Texans.  To facilitate an understanding of the status of each of the below bills, and for the sake of simplicity, I’ll break the below down into the following bill stages used by Texas Legislature Online:

  • Stage 1: Filed
  • Stage 2: Out of Senate/House Committee
  • Stage 3: Voted on by Senate/House
  • Stage 4: Out of House/Senate Committee
  • Stage 5: Voted on by Senate/House
  • Stage 6: Governor Action
  • Stage 7: Bill is law

Below is a listing of proposed legislation that target LGB and/or T people in Texas, with very special thanks to the people of Equality Texas for their hard work, both in tracking the bills and in working on the ground to oppose them.  Frankly, there is no way I could have sorted through every bill introduced and compiled such an exhaustive list without the benefit of the resources and listings on their website and much of the information below has been consolidated from their pages.  Each bill number cited is a link to the history of the legislation. For convenience, I’ve included the present status next to each bill, however, the status may change after the date of this publication.  Once you follow the links, you can then click on the “Bill Stages” tab for additional information.

License to Discriminate Legislation – Constitutional

These bills would allow individuals and religious institutions to disregard laws based on religious belief

License to Discriminate Legislation – Statutory

Would create a right of refusal for any business to violate local non-discrimination laws if the business owner believes that serving a customer whose marriage the business owner dislikes would violate that business owners religious belief.

Would allow religious institutions that receive tax-payer dollars to use those funds to discriminate against the public and would allow clergy persons employed by the government or private employers to disregard non-discrimination policies if they claim that providing service to all members of the public equally violates their religious practice:

Would prevent churches or other religious institution, or clergy person acting in there official capacity as a religious leader, from celebrating, recognizing or serving a person that the institution or person’s religious belief calls on them to shun.

Would create a new class of law suits that may be brought against governments or employers that require work environments that do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Would allow a faith-based agency, or an employee at an agency, to sue a governmental entity that requires the tax-payer funding provided by that entity for child welfare to be distributed without bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Repeal of Local Non-Discrimination Ordinances

Would take away the ability of local governments (cities and counties) to pass or enforce non-discrimination ordinances.

Anti-Marriage Legislation

Would punish state employees who follow the law by issuing marriage licenses to loving couples.

Would remove the power from locally elected county clerks and places it with the secretary of State, who would be able to disallow the issuance of marriage licenses in counties whose clerks complied with court orders requiring the issuance of licenses.

Would exempt the State of Texas from U.S. Constitutional requirements, defying the nation’s supremacy clause.

  • HB 4105 – Stage 2 (failed to be voted on by House as time ran out)

In part, would refuse funding to maintain governmental offices that may be required by court order to recognize equal access to marriage.

No Need to Pee – Bathroom Use Criminalization

Would amend the definition of “disorderly conduct” to make it a crime for transgender Texans who have not been fortunate enough to correct their official gender markers to use public gender- segregated space appropriate to their gender identity or expression.

Would create two new offenses: making it a state jail felony for most business owners if they repeatedly allow a person who has at least one “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for women, or a person with no “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for men; and making it a Class “A” misdemeanor for a person with at least one “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for women or a person without a “Y” chromosome to enter a space designated for men.

  • HB 2801 – Stage 1 (no committee action taken).

Would force school districts to assume student’s biological sex and restrict access to gender-segregated spaces based on that assumption.

Would amend the definition of “Class B misdemeanor” to make it a crime for transgender Texans who use the restroom or locker room that does not match their “biological sex” and creates civil liabilities for a business that permits transgender people to use their restrooms of up to $2000.

Retirement Benefits Refused for Same-Gender Spouses

Would attempt to supersede federal law at the state level and exempt Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)-governed pension plans administered by governmental entities in Texas from the requirement to recognize all legal marriages.

If you’re like most of us, you may be wondering what all that means to the state of LGBT affairs in defeating anti-LGBT legislation.  Let’s just say it’s been a bitter-sweet victory thus far.  Time is quickly running out for the Texas Legislature to enact more laws against LGBT Texans. The 84th Regular Texas Legislative Session ends on June 1, 2015, so time is running out, and has run out, for many of the above listed bills.

That doesn’t mean LGBT Texans can fully celebrate, but we can breathe a sigh of cautious relief.  Under Texas law, the Legislature can be reconvened for a Special Session called by the Governor at any time and for any reason.  In some cases, special sessions have been called the same day they occur, which if a special session is called to further attack LGBT Texans, we may have little, if any, notice.

The Danger of the “Call Out” – Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Part 3

March 02, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Confessions of a Recovering Activist series is intended to look critically at activism and shed light on my recovery from being “that activist.” I hope when you read this, you will keep that spirit in mind.]

We Shall OvercomeOver time, the word activism has begun to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve always been fairly certain in my assessment that there is a place for each style of activism, from rebel to reformer, from citizen to change agent, but that began to change as I found more and more rebels fighting against the reformers, citizens and change agents instead of against the most cruel forms of oppression. That statement isn’t intended to point the finger at the rebels, of which I consider myself, but to note a problem in the institution we’ve come to know as activism. Reformers, citizens, and change agents are all just as fallible, and I can easily note many occasions in which their faults cost social justice movements points in the political game, but they are not the focus of this confession.

I’m sure I’ve used the phrase, “We need to call them out,” on at least a hundred occasions. It’s true – we cannot let oppressive ideology go unchecked. However, “calling out” has taken on such a negative connotation in the world of rebel activism that I no longer feel any sort of connection with the phrase. I always felt that “calling out” oppressive behavior was a way to inspire change, which it certainly can be when used appropriately, but now I struggle with how to use it appropriately. More and more I saw the technique used to bully, harass and embarrass people. More and more I felt the technique lost touch with principles of non-violence. We no longer sought to change ideas and philosophies with a “call out” technique, but instead wage war against our activist counter-parts with it.

A recent example can be seen in Plano, Texas. The City of Plano recently passed a non-discrimination ordinance originally designed to prohibit discrimination against people based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. Sadly, the final ordinance, which passed the City Council, excluded sex segregated spaces, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, opening the door to discrimination in the most private settings. To be clear though, as the recent story out of San Antonio illustrated, sex segregated spaces don’t always mean a bathroom. In the case in San Antonio, high school buses were segregated so that “boys” rode one bus and “girls” rode another. Thus, a “sex segregated” space was created in which discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity could take place under the Plano ordinance.

Up until the passage of the Plano ordinance, LGBT organizations largely disavowed any language to exclude these sex segregated spaces from the ordinance. After the ordinance passed, opponents to LGBT rights began repeal efforts. The opposition found unlikely allies in the repel effort in some LGBT rights advocates. Many LGBT activists felt that in order to correct the inadequacy of the ordinance, it must be repealed and resubmitted without the exclusive language. However, several organizations which often represent the LGBT community in political matters have issued statements opposing repel of the ordinance. This is a very serious situation and a debate could circulate around the strategy behind revamping the ordinance.

Unfortunately, any policy debate that could have benefited political activists got lost in the “call out.” Plano area activists, for better or for worse, issued numerous statements claiming that Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas, which refused to support repeal efforts but instead supported amending the now existing ordinance, are supporting trans-exclusive policies. That statement is, at best, “partially true.” At its worst, it is extraordinarily misleading and reminiscent of a Fox News Headline – you know the ones “Radical Muslim Terrorizes School,” then you read the article and it’s about a young man trying to obtain prayer time between classes.

The Equality Summer - ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act)Similarly, “call out” techniques have been used for just about any activist who has supported marriage equality, whether individually promoting same or promotion of it through affiliation with an organization.  I can recall numerous episodes where, in spite of my vocal support and resources being placed behind non-discrimination policies, immigration reform and other policies, I’ve made mention of marriage equality and suddenly I’m “called out” as elitist and on occasion, “racist,” because marriage equality is a cis-gender, white person issue.  The impact of these continued attacks was significant.  I found myself becoming quieter and quieter about any issue of importance to LGBTQ people, rather than empowered to take action.

While certainly my observations and confession are mine alone, I do firmly believe that these types of issues have resulted in the collapse of what was a strong radical movement.  That movement, at its height, was a spark of revolution, but the revolution was stopped short by our own inability to look at ourselves critically while looking at others with less severity.  We, the radicals, continued to “call out” our LGBTQ family and our allies, when what we should have been doing is educating them in.

San Antonio School to Make Changes After Transgender Student Leads Protest

February 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: activism

Memorial High School Transgender ProtestYesterday, we learned that Jayden Blake Castillo, a transgender student at Memorial High School in the Edgewood School District of San Antonio, Texas, had planned a protest at the school to highlight the discrimination he has faced. Through social media, Jayden recounted the problems he had been facing with the school. Many teachers, including the school Principal, Michael Rodriguez, refused to acknowledge Jayden’s correct gender and insisted on referring to him with female pronouns. The catalyst that sent Jayden into action was a recent episode on a school bus, when Jayden was forbidden from riding the “boys bus” under a newly implemented gender segregation policy.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. yesterday, Jayden, along with his parents, several supportive students and human rights activists, arrived at the school seeking action and answers. Several media outlets were also present. During the protest, Principal Michael Rodriguez, who Jayden alleges had previously been dismissive and condescending to him, greeted the protesters and invited Jayden, his parents, and transgender activist, Nikki Araguz-Lloyd to come speak with him.

Jayden emerged from the meeting with several promises from Principal Rodriguez, which if implemented properly should make the remainder of Jayden’s high school tenure more tolerable. The agreements included sensitivity training from Memorial High School staff and a promise to lobby the Edgewood Independent School District officials to do the same at all schools within its District. The Principal also promised they would stop gender segregation on the buses and would work directly with Jayden to provide him access to a bathroom, in hopes of avoiding future problems.

According to Roland Martinez, a spokesperson for Edgewood School District, the district is reviwing its policy on interaction with transgender students. The current policy is to address such students according to the gender noted on legal documents supplied to the school.

Jayden’s “victory” yesterday isn’t his alone. He’s bold action and bravery will undoubtedly impact future students at Memorial High School and how those students are treated by faculty and staff. However, there is much more work to be done to insure a safe learning environment for transgender youth. As noted earlier, Jayden experienced severe bullying at his prior school.

The Texas legislature enacted anti-bullying legislation in 2011, which provided for a formal reporting process for Texas School Districts with respect to incidents of bullying. However, the original text of House Bill 1942 and its sister legislation Senate Bill 471, were modified after concerns were had over whether the bill was passable with sexual orientation and gender identity included in the enumerated categories. To overcome this concern, the enumerated categories were removed and such enumerations were left to each school district. The end result is that each of the 1,031 School Districts in Texas will be responsible for determining how episodes of bullying are reported, making statistics gathering more difficult and addressing the underlying causes of bullying particularly challenging. Thus, district by district we must walk, to effect the change we hope to see within the education system so that students like Jayden, and every other child in our public schools, has not only equal access to education, but fair access to it.

Transgender Student Seeks Action and Answers for Discrimination at Texas School

February 25, 2015 By: jaysays Category: activism

A student at Memorial High School in San Antonio Texas is taking a stand for gender equality. Jayden Blake Castillo has experienced discrimination first hand during his tenure at the San Antonio school. Now a senior Jayden has issued a rallying cry to gender activists around the state in hopes of bringing attention to the issues faced by our youth in our public school system.

For the majority of Americans, sitting in a classroom based upon your sex never causes a problem. However, for transgender students like Jayden, such a small request as sitting boy and girl can result in an unnecessary classroom disruption. In spite of Jayden’s numerous requests to his teachers, school administration, and staff, many of them continue to mis-gender Jayden by referring to him with improper pronouns and insisting that he sit with the girls. According to Jayden, the principal of the school, Michael Rodriguez, has also refused to refer to Jayden by the proper pronouns.

… as picture day neared, I talked to the principal (his name is Michael Rodriguez), about how we were taking ‘girl’ pictures and ‘boy’ pictures. I told him I was trans and that I wanted to take pictures with the boys. He treated me condescendingly, said it didn’t matter, I would take pictures with the girls anyway, called me by girl pronouns even after I told him I was trans.

Most recently, this unnecessary demand came to a head when the school began segregating the buses by gender. When Jayden attempted to board the bus designated for “boys,” he was told to remove himself and board the bus for girls.

We take a bus in the middle of the day from Memorial to the Fine Arts Academy. Our buses were at first normal, then boys on one side, girls on the other, and then yesterday they were a “boy” bus and a “girl” bus. I got on the boy bus, and the bus driver started giving me a dirty look. She told me to get off the bus, and I told her I was a boy, but she wouldn’t listen. She contacted some other bus driver, said “some girl won’t get off the bus”, and I kept correcting her I was a boy. Then, some school cops came. They got on the bus and asked for my information (name, ID number, grade, etc.) They didn’t even care when I told them the bus lady was discriminating me. I had called my mom to pick me up and take me to the Academy, and when she came, the cops also took her information (name, phone number, address, license, etc.) I was the one in trouble.

The state of the law in protecting transgender students from this very type of indifference and harassment is complicated and most efforts Jayden could undertake will take years in Court to resolve.  By that time, Jayden will have graduated and there would be little impact for future students of the school.  Historically, Texas law has treated “gender” as that sex which one was assigned at birth, making many claims under any Texas law difficult.  However, Federal Law has been much more inclusive of transgender people.  Under Title IX, a school district generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of “single-sex classes.”  The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines designed to protect transgender students in these single-sex classes on December 1, 2014.  Those guidelines instruct school districts on the proper justifications behind “single-sex classes.”  According to the memorandum, to comply with Title IX, it is only appropriate to use single-sex class environments in the following categories: (1) Contact sports in physical education classes; (2) classes or portions of classes in elementary and secondary schools that deal primarily with human sexuality; and (3) nonvocational classes and extracurricular activities within a coeducational, nonvocational elementary or secondary school if certain criteria are met.  Vocational classes may never be offered on a single-sex basis.

Further, in September, 2014, the mother of a 14 year old transgender student in Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against against Wyandotte, Van Buren and Dearborn Heights school districts, as well as a Michigan charter school, for continued discrimination and harassment of her son .  The lawsuit alleges that the districts not only failed to protect the student from bullying by his peers, but also outed him to peers and their parents as transgender without consent.  The district attorneys sought to dismiss the lawsuit early on.  However, just this week, the U.S. Justice Department urged the federal judge to deny the request to dismiss the lawsuit indicating that the boy has so far stated “plausible claims.”

While there are many provisions in the Texas Education Code intended to protect students and others against gender discrimination, a narrowed definition of gender used by Texas courts would likely exclude Jayden from protection under state law.  Historically, Courts in Texas have considered only the birth-assigned sex when ruling on a person’s sex for purposes of deciding on the validity of his or her marriage.  These complexities in the law and scattered resources make it difficult to navigate the proper course of action for people like Jayden, who are simply trying to obtain an education.

Throughout the country transgender students are often faced with choosing between their identity and the gender bestowed upon them by authority figures.  The reality is that the struggles the transgender community face are in almost every facet of their lives.  From bathrooms to buses, gender equity is threatened.  Jayden has chosen to take action via social media and through a demonstration to be held at the school today to protest Jayden’s removal from the “boy’s bus” and the harassment he’s received from school administration. You can find the event on Facebook.

Patricia Arquette was Right – Confessions of a Recovering Activist, Part 2

February 23, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Patricia Arquette at Heart Truth 2009Thanks to Twitter and Facebook and a world of blogs like this one where people can spout out whatever opinion they have of anyone at any given moment, you probably already heard a bit about the “controversial speech” given by Patricia Arquette at the Academy Awards.

In large part, her speech was inspiring and met with applause and acceptance. Here’s the transcript of her speech:

“Okay, Jesus. Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees. To IFC, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland, Molly Madden, David DeCamillo, our whole cast and our crew. My Boyhood family, who I love and admire. Our brilliant director Richard Linklater. The impeccable Ethan Hawke. My lovelies, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater. Thomas and Paul, thank you for giving me my beautiful children. Enzo and Harlow, you’re the deepest people that I know.

My friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my parents, Rosanna, Richmond, Alexis and David. To my favorite painter in the world, Eric White, for the inspiration of living with a genius. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who have helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with GiveLove.org.

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

She didn’t stop there though, and generally, this is where all the “social justice advocates” flipped the hell out:

So the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now. [emphasis added]

Many in the blogosphere and purported advocates jumped on the bandwagon to “call out” Patricia Arquette for her comments, noting that by stating that it was time for people of color to join women implied two things: (1) that people of color were not already part of the struggle for women’s equality; and (2) that somehow women of color will have to choose between their gender and their race.  The same was applied to her comment for the gays to join the women’s equality cause with a similar response.  Many noted that gays and people of color have already actively participated in the women’s equality movement and are presently actively participating in it.  But here’s where I challenge you, dear reader.  This weekend, go to the nearest “gay bar” and start picking out random strangers, particularly gay men.  After you pick out about 10 or so, go up to each of them and ask them this question, “Have you ever been to a rally in support of equal rights for women?”  My bet is you won’t find any, but certainly it will be the minority.

You see, we, as social justice advocates, assumed that Patricia Arquette was talking about us.  We added that to her words, she did not.  She didn’t play Kathy Griffin and screech, “Where my gays at?”  She DID NOT say “…and all the gay activists, and all the people of color activists that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”  She made a call to all people and her words included women, men, gay people and people of color.  In the end though, we are activists, and as activists we have an ego problem.  We’re so vain, we probably think her words were about us.

As to choosing between your race, sexual orientation and gender, I don’t believe for a moment an ultimatum to choose was given.  You see, all of those things are inherently part of us. We can no sooner choose between breathing or eating.  Without any one of the things that make the whole of us, we are no longer ourselves.  The key to intersectionality is recognizing that all of those things make up our whole selves and none of those things are mutually exclusive of the other.  Until then, we are doomed to repeat the cycle of intolerance against which we claim to be working.

Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Being That Activist

January 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Trans-Anonymous for Confessions of a Recovering ActivistAs it turns out, I’m not a courageous person.  Perhaps I successfully managed to create an illusion of courage in my attempts to inspire change.  But courage that is merely illusion or which is necessary for self-preservation isn’t the type of courage needed to be an activist.  That courage exists in only the most resilient hearts. My heart wasn’t so resilient.

Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?

– Walt Whitman

Recently, Mason Hsieh published an op-ed on Huffington Post titled, “Is the Gay Community Scaring Away our Straight Allies.”  In that piece Mason discusses going to an LGBT meeting with a straight friend who asks, “In gay dating, who’s the girl?”  He explains that his friend was immediately and “vehemently” told to “check his straight-cis-male privilege” and told he “should be ashamed.”  Clearly, a safe space was not created for Mason’s friend and it’s unlikely such a space would be safe for a newly out LGBT person or one deprived of “urban privilege.”

In the piece, Mason goes on to suggest ways to improve our relationships with our allies.  A few years ago, I may have disagreed with Mason.  I may have been one of the 280+ commenters on his posting taking a hard-nosed stance and refusing to make room for anyone at the table who would not immediately and quickly call-out a microagression.  Instead, now I feel that Mason didn’t go far enough.  That’s not to say any remark that is oppressive should stand unchecked.  But there are undoubtedly ways in which we can address such microagressions, without being threatening and without ad hominem attacks.

And now for the confession: Mason’s article could have been more accurately titled, “Are Activists Scaring Away the Community they Claim they Represent?”

I have undoubtedly been that activist, and I started to scare myself.  It was impossible to comply with the demands of my fellow activists – don’t eat here, don’t shop there, don’t say this, don’t mention that, don’t ask … don’t tell… don’t… don’t… don’t.  And I was one of the people making even more rules, whether intentionally or not.   I began to dislike myself.  I began to dislike others.  I was at an impasse in activism and had tough choices to make.

I flailed about for a while, continuing to pretend I was somehow making a difference, even though I no longer knew the answers to give to those seeking to inspire change.  I became the person I was most horrified of becoming.  I became “that activist.”

It wasn’t until late in my work as an activist that I began to fully appreciate King’s Six Principles of Non-Violence.  I naively believed that living (or attempting to live) those principles could help me focus my work more directly and limit the “rules” to six. I began reflecting on them and discussing them in more depth with fellow activists, many of whom claimed to have adopted the principles for themselves.  One of those principles stuck out more than others as it applied to our internal and external relationships:

Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.  The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

It was then that I went from being “that activist” to feeling more like Mason’s friend must have felt.  I did not feel safe asking questions or discussing my thoughts, opinions, ideas, life experiences or even what I had for breakfast among my activist circles.  Everything, no matter how innocuous it may have seemed, somehow contributed to the oppression of some group or other, but I was so “first world” starved for a damn Starbucks Coffee.  Was my egg free range?  Did Monsato have a hand in genetically modifying my corn muffin?  Often, a quip intended to bring levity to a serious situation, a technique I used for self-preservation, was met with righteous indignation. Any opinion was almost always met with passionate monologues that rarely seemed relevant to the subject matter. I no longer cared to win the friendship and understanding of even those in my own community, so I certainly didn’t care to win the friendship and understanding of the opposition.  Simply put, I was not strong enough to abide by the principles of non-violence and without them, I felt I no longer had a guide.

So there are many things we can learn from Mason’s story and many things to which folks have already taken offense.  Why should we accommodate those who make such assumptions as gender roles in our gatherings?  The answer, I’d argue, is that we should be working to create a beloved community, not prove ourselves “right.”  Otherwise, we become the evil doer.

North Carolina Pollsters Complete Ballots with “YES” on Amendment 1

May 08, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Headline, Marriage Equality

Huffington Post and others have been reporting possible voter fraud in North Carolina, including ballots that exclude Amendment 1, which bans same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships.  This, however, takes the cake when it comes to intimidating voters:

I was given a ballot that was already filled out for Amendment One.  I made them give me a new one. – N. King

"I was given a ballot that was already filled out for Amendment One.  I made them give me a new one."

The Facebook Photo that Will Break your Heart

April 25, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Headline

In spite of being legally married in the U.S. State of Iowa, Inger Knudson-Judd and Philippa Knudson-Judd don’t get to spend much time together or with their 12 year old daughter.  In fact, prior to this most recent 5 week visit, the couple hadn’t seen each other in 6 months.  Why?  The Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) allows the Federal Government to refuse to recognize Inger and Philippa’s marriage and Philippa is not a U.S. citizen.  These stories are all too common.

In early April, 2012, five same-sex couples who are not able to obtain green cards for their foreign-born spouses filed a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s prohibitions against gay couples petitioning for legal status for their spouses.  Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality who is leading the charge, stated that their group has asked that the Obama Administration to change these policies, or at least suspend green card applications rather than rejecting them until DOMA challenges can be resolved.  Neilson explained:

We have recently gotten a definitive no from the administration on that request, so we sort of feel like we’re at the end of the line on advocacy. Our next step is to take it to the courts.”

Which brings us to the photo.  Yesterday, Inger had to drive her wife to the airport after a five week visit and they don’t know when they will next see each other.  So when I opened my Facebook news feed, I saw this photo from Inger:

Inger and Phillippa say Goodbye

Inger and Philippa say Goodbye

And my heart broke.

Via Wipe Out Homophobia on Facebook, Inger released this response:

We have a 12 year old daughter and so are trying to do things the legal way…, but [we] have hit road blocks every step of the way. *** It is really hard to hold your family when their hearts are breaking, my arms just aren’t that long. After 4 1/2 years of trying to find a solution, nothing has changed.

Some say that DOMA protects families, but does this family look protected?  These are the faces of our families; this is the real suffering caused by discrimination.