29 June 2015

For The Community, A Victory. For You And Your Partner, Maybe Not So Much.

As I have said in earlier posts, even though I support marriage equality, I would much prefer that the government got out of the marriage business altogether, save to set a minimum age at which people can enter into a union.  And it would be exactly that—a union.  It would allow couples visitation and inheritance rights and specify custody and other responsibilities. It would also allow one member of the couple to add the other to her or his health care policy and apartment lease agreement or title to the house. However, there would be no tax benefit for getting married. 

One reason why I believe in such an arrangement even more firmly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling became apparent to me today.  Now same-sex marriage is legal throughout the US, employers will be required to allow workers to add their same-sex spouses to their health insurance policies.  This begs the question:  Will employers stop offering domestic-partner benefits?  Will they require couples, whether hetero- or homo-sexual, to be married in order to share in the benefits the company offers?

One of the great ironies of my life is that I was once included in a partner’s health-care benefits—when I was still living as a man with a female partner.  We had a domestic partnership agreement, which New York City was offering to all couples at that time (late 1990’s and early 2000’s).  If I were still with her—whether in my former or current identity—would she be allowed to include me on her health insurance? 

I’m guessing that the answer would be “yes” just because this is New York City and her company had a surprisingly (to me at the time, anyway) enlightened view of such things.  But what if we’d been in one of those states where same-sex marriage—and even domestic partnerships—weren’t legal before last week’s ruling?  It’s hard for me to imagine that a company based in a state that didn’t have domestic partnerships would allow partners’ benefits, especially if it was compelled by court order to offer insurance to same-sex couples.

Somehow I think the battles not only aren’t over; they haven’t even begun yet.

28 June 2015

Body Language And Marriage Politics

Four years ago, marchers in New York City’s Pride March—and revelers on the streets and in parties during and after the event—celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Empire State, which had come to pass only a few days earlier.

This year, there was similar jubilation because, just the other day, same-sex marriage was legalized in all of the United States.  The cool wind that blew drizzle and rain into this city through much of the day didn’t seem to keep very many people away from the march and other celebrations.

Something I saw after this year’s march bears a striking similarity with something I observed four years ago.  In most years, one sees LGBT people and their allies, alone or in groups, walking around with their rainbow flags and other regalia.  One also sees couples, but many of them have a certain tentativeness that can be seen in the almost-truncated ways they hold hands, put their arms around each other or simply walk with each other.  It’s almost as if some of them know that they can display their affection so publicly for that one day.

But this year, I saw none of that furtiveness.  The couples I saw—young old and in-between; men with men, women with women and cis people with transgenders—walked with more confidence and less of the ostentation people display when they know their moment of bliss can be rudely (or, worse, violently) interrupted.  In other words, they seemed to enjoy the sense of security—Nobody can take this away from us—most cisgender heterosexual couples don’t even realize they take for granted.

I was noticing change in couples’ body language and, it seemed, in their sense of time itself, not on the Christopher Street Pier or in Chelsea clubs or Jackson Heights bars.  Rather, I observed them in the South Bronx, where I rode my bike to meet a friend after the festivities.   I also noticed it later in my own neighborhood of Astoria—which, while it has a fair-sized LGBT community living openly, isn’t exactly Chelsea or even Jackson Heights.  Somehow I imagine that had I gone to other neighborhoods in Queens or Manhattan or the Bronx—or Brooklyn, or even Staten Island—I would have seen something similar.  In short, everyone was breathing a little freer today—even more so than we were four years ago.

27 June 2015

A Black Woman--Like Me? Like You?

You may have noticed that, until today, I hadn’t commented on the woman of Czech, Irish, Swedish and Native American ancestry who claimed she’s African-American and became the president of an NAACP chapter.  Frankly, I haven’t been thinking much about it, partly because I think the whole idea of classifying people by race is silly.  We’re All African; Get Over It!

But this morning I heard someone echo the canard conservative talk-radio personalities have been parroting:  If she wanted to portray herself as Black, it must mean that there’s no such thing as “white privilege”.  (If anything, those talk-radio guys show us that there’s no such thing as “white superiority”.)  People like them believe that laws to protect people of color, women, LGBT people and others are “special privileges”; never mind that white men have enjoyed such privileges since the day this country was founded.

It reminded me some things a few people told me when I was starting my transition.  “Oh, you’ll have it made,” said one.  “Men are going to hold doors open for you.”  Oh, sure, I transitioned for that.  And it more than makes up for the times I’ve been slandered (in particular by Dominick, but also by others) , accused of things I didn’t do, rejected and passed over for jobs. 

And then there was Elizabeth—who, I have since realized, resents anyone who is happier than she is—who accused me of transitioning so that I could “go to the top of the Affirmative Action food chain” and get a job that should go to her or some other “real” (Yes, she used that term!) woman. 

Uh-huh.  I took hormones and abuse, and underwent surgery, just so I could teach gender studies or gender theory or some such thing.  I can just imagine what someone like Elizabeth—who, I also realize, wants to be a Second Wave Feminist with a man who will support her—would, if she were black, say about Ms.

What I’m saying is that I made my transition so I can live my life—which, I suspect, is the reason why Caitlyn Jenner made hers.  In fact, I’d say that’s the reason, or at least an important reason, why most trans people go through their process of becoming who and what they are.  Really, there aren’t many—perhaps any—other reasons.

I suppose Rachel Dolezal  is claiming blackness for the same reason.  However, contrary to what some believe, that is about the only comparison that can be made between her and transgenders.  I’m not saying that a person couldn’t have been born in the “wrong” race; it’s simply something I don’t understand because I’ve never experienced it (though I’ve often felt I should have been French, which is a cultural—for me, anyway—rather than a racial identity).  On the other hand, I understand how it feels to have been born in the “wrong” body—which is still how most people define transgenderism.  More important, I understand what it’s like to be brought up, educated and acculturated in the “wrong gender”.  Most important of all, I have experienced growing up with the mind and spirit of a gender different from the one in which I was living and presenting to the world every day for the first 44 years of my life.

Hmm…Maybe I do understand a little more of Ms. Dolezal's dilemma than I thought.  But just a little.  Whatever the case, I find no reason to worry about whether she claims she’s black, white, Martian, Tralfamadorian or whatever.  All I can say is that it’s very, very unlikely she’s claiming blackness just so she can teach Black Studies or be the President of an NAACP chapter.  After all, as a white woman, there are all sorts of other things she could do—even though she wouldn’t have the same access and other privileges white cisgender men enjoy.