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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.

Gay Group Goes Public to Celebrate DADT Repeal – Members Leave in Response

September 20, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Thought of the Gay

Gay San Antonio Facebook GroupThe Facebook group titled “Gay San Antonio” will be marking the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by “coming out” from the “private” setting to the “public” setting on Facebook.  When the Administrators formed the group, they originally set the privacy settings so that, without an invitation, the group postings and its members remained hidden.  The chosen method of celebration seems appropriate and symbolic, but not all members support the change. Several of them announced that once the group goes public, they will be removing themselves from it for fear of retaliation by their family, co-workers and friends.

One of the group members who is leaving stated:

Sorry I can’t be a part of it but being a part of a political organization like this in the public eye will greatly harm my credibility at work. I’d rather be semi-in-the-closet and employed than openly gay and broke.

This is a very real and reasonable fear shared by many. “Coming out” of the closet as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is far too often a career killer.  It’s no wonder that the repeal of DADT is so bittersweet for me.  I see through the rose-colored, celebratory glasses and look directly at our oppressors and oppressions ruling us with fear.  The reality that our lives are still governed by this fear is a grotesque ode to the heavy toll denying dignity and freedom to a people has on their lives.

So to all members of Gay San Antonio (past, present and future), I offer you this video of Ms. Nina Simone, answering the question, “What’s freedom?”:

Stupid Things People Say About Gays: Motor Cycle Helmets and Barebacking

September 16, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Headline, Stupid Things People Say About Gays

Jack Finger
Jack Finger hovers during council meeting

*WARNING: The below commentary contains links to subject matter that may not be appropriate for all viewers.  Some of the information contained on “The Gathering of Pastors” website may cause nausea, vomiting and/or increased blood pressure and heart attack or stroke.*

The City Manager of San Antonio, Sheryl Sculley, completed and introduced the new budget for San Antonio with an included provision to allow for financing of Domestic Partnership benefits for city employees in same-sex relationships.  While providing healthcare should not be controversial, the right wing attacked.  Cult leaders began organizing against the budget initiative under the title “The Gathering of Pastors“.  The City Council endured countless hours of hearings, hundreds of emails and telephone calls and listened as lie after lie poured from the mouths of purportedly Christian people.

I had the pleasure of being actively involved in support of this initiative.  In spite of my objections to the fact that Domestic Partnership benefits are only needed because same-sex couples are not afforded equal protections under present marriage laws, it was clear to me that no one deserved to be denied access to affordable healthcare.  After all, “Why shouldst thou not take even as much pleasure in beholding a counterfeit stone, which thine eye cannot discern from a right stone?” (Thomas More)

With the assistance of an entire community of peoples, we worked tirelessly (o.k. I got pretty damn tired) to counter the arguments against the benefits package.

But The Gathering of cult leaders did not stop.  They argued that domestic partnership benefits lowered the bar from marriage and allowed more people to receive benefits, which would prohibit or limit the motivation of an employee to commit to a legally binding relationship (i.e. marriage).  They went on to indicate that the unwillingness of an employee to make such a commitment reveals selfishness and a weakness in morality.  However, according to the Cult’s website, “Homosexual couples can never be married per definition.”  Therefore their argument fails.

A “homosexual” employee of the city who is in a long term relationship is barred by law from entering into the very “legally binding relationship” to which the Gathering refers.  To prohibit someone from conforming to an action, then to punish them for not having undertaken that action is the truest form of selfishness.  It is for the jail keeper to do these things, not kings (and yes, that is a paraphrase of Thomas More).

On Wednesday night, September 14th, I joined other community members in council chambers for “Citizens to be Heard,” a moment when citizens may address council regarding matters before them.  Many spoke in favor of domestic partnership benefits, but without surprise, the cult spoke in opposition.  One of the opponents (and some day I will catch her name) was a woman who assaulted members of the Direct Action Network of San Antonio with holy water for unfurling a banner at a hate rally that read “Homophobia and Transphobia Kills.”  Another man, who declared himself a minister, stood at the dais and compared domestic partnership benefits to “the morning after” pill and abortion.  He then noted that the City has the moral authority to be a “no kill animal” city, but supports murdering babies.  All of which were blatantly lies, but most notable his assertion that the City maintains a “no kill” status.

At the end of the meeting, this same man returned to address city council and posed this question in front of all attendees (including children):

What is more dangerous, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, riding an iron horse or riding somebody bareback?

Although the question was improper and likely rhetorical, I still fail to see the relationship between barebacking (having sex without a condom) and domestic partnership benefits.  While I assume he was making reference to the risk of HIV infection (as accusations were made repeatedly that nearly all gays have AIDS), he failed to address the fact that the subculture of “barebacking” is not strictly a homosexual phenomena.  In fact, the appeal and marketability of pornography depicting barebacking is prevalent in both heterosexual and homosexual pornography.  See Chapter 2, “Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Bare Backing.”

One thing that became clear from the Cult commentators – they are obsessed with sex, more particularly, that gays have sex.  In fact, I was very much reminded of the anti-gay cult leader in Uganda who constantly refers to gays as eating “da poo poo” of their partners.

These cult leaders often ignore the fact that sexual subcultures do not exist solely within the framework of “homosexuality.”  The moral objections are misguided, misdirected and misconstrued – but even so, consensual sexual practices should not be grounds for denying healthcare benefits.  If it were, no politician and fewer evangelicals would be safe.

For the record, the city passed the budget with the inclusion of domestic partnership benefits for City employees.

SAPD Admits Murder of Troy Martinez Clattenburg Was a Hate Crime (Finally).

April 14, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Hate Crimes, LGBT News, Uncategorized

Troy Martinez ClattenburgAs previously reported here, Troy Martinez Clattenburg of San Antonio, Texas, was shot in the back of the head.  His murderer, Cody Carmichael, confessed to shooting Troy because Troy allegedly made sexual advances toward Cody.  During the investigation, Detective Cardenas of the San Antonio Police Department continually denied that Troy’s murder was a hate crime and stated that it was not being investigated as such.  In fact, when Troy’s sister, Ginger Hicks, inquired further, Detective Cardenas stated that just because Troy was gay and murdered, doesn’t mean it was a hate crime.

While it is true that a gay person can be murdered without bias or prejudice being the motivator, the murderer’s own confession seems to tell the truth of this situation.  Troy was murdered because he was a gay man.  But Troy was much more than just a homosexual, he was a brother, a friend and a son with a family who loved him enough to speak out about what had happened to Troy and demand answers from the police department.

In a closed meeting yesterday afternoon, Troy’s mother and other members of his family sat with three Deputy Chiefs of the San Antonio Police Department, including Jose Banales, and Dr. J. Lynne Armstrong of the Texas Police Officers Training Corp.  Upon inquiry, the deputy chiefs readily admitted that Troy’s murder was a hate crime, a revelation that came as a shock to his distraught family who had been continually advised otherwise without a reasonable explanation.  In fact, my own inquiries and those of other media persons found similar results.  This change of tone of the San Antonio Police Department came just days before the pre-indictment hearing of Cody Carmichael, who was released from prison 3 days after his confession on $100,000.00 bond.