In Dallas, other Texas cities and across the nation, the gay, lesbian and transgender community has seen violence before, from the recent attacks in Oak Lawn to Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard, and an ever-lengthening list of transgender women. But never anything like this.

Sunday’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, grimly changed the equation, stirring communal fears and swiftly prompting tighter security at gay pride events. The gunman, identified as Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida, told his father he had been disturbed by seeing two men kissing in Miami.

The attack on the Pulse nightclub, which killed at least 50 people and was the deadliest U.S. mass shooting to date, occurred amid numerous events nationwide celebrating LGBT Pride Month. In Dallas and several other cities hosting events on Sunday — including block parties in Boston and a festival in Washington — authorities beefed up the police presence.

This “is a tragic illustration of the legitimate safety fears that those in our LGBT community live with every day,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

As extra police were assigned to the Oak Lawn neighborhood, a hub of the local gay community, Lee Daughtry, owner of Alexandre’s Bar, reflected on the weekend march that had North Texans showing support for those in Orlando. “The overall attitude was a little bit somber. But when we band together what we saw is we can begin to heal our wounds and move forward, and continue the fight for equality, and continue the fight against hate speech.”

Many are hoping that some good — some unity — can come from these tragic events.

A memorial has been growing at the Legacy of Love monument in Oak Lawn. People have been stopping by with flowers, posters, photographs and candles to reflect on the attack, its victims and its impact on the community. The landmark has become the area’s touchstone to what happened in Florida.

Dallas community activist Daniel Scott Cates helped organize the ‘Dallas to Orlando’ vigil for those who lost their lives on June 12. “I think that, for myself and so many in the Dallas community who’ve been impacted by a rash of hate crimes lately, what happened in Orlando hit us in a very personal spot. And I think what you see here at the monument is people who are just heartbroken… absolutely heartbroken,” he said.

The vigil drew thousands of North Texans, from all different backgrounds, to the Resource Center on Cedar Springs Road. The diversity of the crowd was something Cates believes impacted those attending and those who saw the news coverage. “What many in our community learned last night, maybe for the first time and something that some of us have known for a long time, is that we’re not alone. There are so many people out there, who simply because of who they are, because of their skin color, their religion, their sexuality, their gender, are targets of hate and violence. And what we learned last night is those people are ready to link arms together to put an end to this kind of senseless tragedy in our country and we’re ready to join them.”

Organizers also took donations during the Sunday night march, raising $5,600 for the families of the Orlando victims.

In a separate incident Sunday a man was arrested in Southern California even as Mateen’s attack was ongoing, telling police he was going to a gay pride parade. Twenty-year-old James Wesley Howell of Indiana, had assault rifles, ammunition and chemicals that could be used to make an explosive, according to police, who said there was no evidence of a connection to the Orlando massacre. Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks initially tweeted that Howell said he wanted to “do harm” at the event, but she corrected her statement to say only that he said he was going there.

“Hug the people that you love. Do it every day,” added Cates. “Because, I think this has really hit home for a lot of us, that life is pretty short. Need to cherish people while they’re here.”

Before Sunday, the most prominent incidents of violence against gays claimed one life at a time. The highest profile of these included the murder of Milk, a pioneering gay politician in San Francisco in 1978, and the 1998 murder of Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming at the hands of two men who beat him into a coma while he was tied to a fence. A federal hate crimes law bears Shepard’s name.

Investigators were still trying to determine Mateen’s motives. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call before the shooting, according to according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

But LGBT activists had no doubt that their community was the intended target.

“Our practices and institutions may change in light of this tragedy — LGBT gathering places may have more security now,” said Rev. Alisan Rowland, pastor of the LGBT-welcoming Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans. “But we will never, ever go away. We will never be cowed.”

Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, said the continued vilification of LGBT people by their detractors, and the continued resistance to expansion of their civil rights, was “an invitation to violence.”

“When people are targeted by others who are scared of difference, they’re not safe when they go dancing, they’re not safe when they go out to pray,” she said. “If we live in culture where fear of difference is encouraged, that can, in the hands of crazy people, have dreadful consequences.”

There have been a few previous attacks on gay nightclubs, but only one that caused a significant number of deaths. A fire set by an arsonist killed 32 people at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973; the arsonist was never caught.

On December 31, 2013, about 750 people were celebrating New Year’s Eve at Neighbours, a popular gay nightclub in Seattle, when Musab Masmari poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway and set it ablaze. No one was injured, and Masmari was sentenced to 10 years in prison for arson.

Sunday’s attack struck a place that has long been thought of as a safe haven for the community — the gay nightclub.

“Nightclubs have always been sacred spaces for queer people, places to gather and glitter away from the judging glares of society, where we could love and be loved for who we are and how we want to be,” wrote Paul Raushenbush, a clergyman and popular gay writer, expressing his heartbreak in a lengthy, emotional post on Facebook in which he recalled going out dancing while at seminary in New York.

 

 

With a greater focus on transgender inclusivity this year, Washington University’s chapter of the national organization V-Day raised money through The Vagina Monologues this weekend for the St. Louis Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), in addition to raising awareness for general women’s issues.

This year’s beneficiary, MTUG, works under the mission “By Trans for Trans,” drawing attention and resources to ending violence against transwomen and all trans and non-binary, nonconforming people.Although trans-inclusivity has been a feature of the Vagina Monologues since 2004, MTUG’s partnership adds an additional element of support for inclusivity. Proceeds from the production will go toward Trans 101 training, trans-visibility week and other educational and advocacy initiatives.

Seniors Amanda Harris and Rebecca Basson, co-directors of this year’s production, wanted to choose a beneficiary that was inclusive to trans rights and issues.

“When we talk about women, we’re not just talking about people who were born with female anatomy—whatever that looks like—but rather people who identify as a woman, people who identify on the spectrum of gender and try to make it as inclusive as possible to everyone,” Harris said.

“I think having MTUG as a beneficiary this year starts the conversation about how we have to focus on not just your typical idea of a woman, but [on] all the other people that might identify as women,” Basson added.

Among the monologues performed this year were “My Vagina is Angry,” a humorous description regarding all of the difficulties endured by vaginas (including OB-GYN tools and tampons) and “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried,” which depicted a transwoman’s realization of her true gender identity.

“I ached to be completed. I ached to belong,” the script read. Five actresses portrayed transwomen, including sophomore Sally Rifkin, junior Jessica Sun and seniors Katie Smith, Leora Spitzer and Kelsey Stanley.Although trans-inclusivity has been a feature of the Vagina Monologues since 2004, MTUG’s partnership adds an additional element of support for inclusivity. Proceeds from the production will go toward Trans 101 training, trans-visibility week and other educational and advocacy initiatives.

Seniors Amanda Harris and Rebecca Basson, co-directors of this year’s production, wanted to choose a beneficiary that was inclusive to trans rights and issues.

“When we talk about women, we’re not just talking about people who were born with female anatomy—whatever that looks like—but rather people who identify as a woman, people who identify on the spectrum of gender and try to make it as inclusive as possible to everyone,” Harris said.

“I think having MTUG as a beneficiary this year starts the conversation about how we have to focus on not just your typical idea of a woman, but [on] all the other people that might identify as women,” Basson added.

Among the monologues performed this year were “My Vagina is Angry,” a humorous description regarding all of the difficulties endured by vaginas (including OB-GYN tools and tampons) and “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried,” which depicted a transwoman’s realization of her true gender identity.

“I ached to be completed. I ached to belong,” the script read. Five actresses portrayed transwomen, including sophomore Sally Rifkin, junior Jessica Sun and seniors Katie Smith, Leora Spitzer and Kelsey Stanley.Freshman Anna Bartels-Newton said that there were a lot of interesting monologues about topics she may not have necessarily considered.

“I thought [the monologues] were really, really thought-provoking and empowering. A lot of the messages that were being sent about accepting yourself and loving yourself were ones that women need to hear way more often,” she said. “I feel lucky that this is something that’s offered at Wash. U. that I can listen to and enjoy it.”

Freshman Alfredo Jahn enjoyed “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried.”

“I’m a genderqueer individual so the representation—that was really nice to see,” Jahn said.

Though there were no transgender actresses portraying the transgender monologue, Harris and Basson worked to give the entire cast an inclusive educational experience.

“Obviously all of our women playing transwomen couldn’t identify with the experiences of a transwoman, but we worked to help educate them and help them understand, as much as they can, the experience of a transwoman,” Basson said.

Harris noted the importance of hearing the experiences of other women and hopes audience members will start conversations within the community.

“I think it’s important that people are comfortable not just saying the word ‘vagina’ but talking about women’s bodies and their own perceptions and their own fears and experiences,” Harris said. “I think this is a really good opportunity to start that dialogue.”

With a greater focus on transgender inclusivity this year, Washington University’s chapter of the national organization V-Day raised money through The Vagina Monologues this weekend for the St. Louis Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), in addition to raising awareness for general women’s issues.

This year’s beneficiary, MTUG, works under the mission “By Trans for Trans,” drawing attention and resources to ending violence against transwomen and all trans and non-binary, nonconforming people.Although trans-inclusivity has been a feature of the Vagina Monologues since 2004, MTUG’s partnership adds an additional element of support for inclusivity. Proceeds from the production will go toward Trans 101 training, trans-visibility week and other educational and advocacy initiatives.

Seniors Amanda Harris and Rebecca Basson, co-directors of this year’s production, wanted to choose a beneficiary that was inclusive to trans rights and issues.

“When we talk about women, we’re not just talking about people who were born with female anatomy—whatever that looks like—but rather people who identify as a woman, people who identify on the spectrum of gender and try to make it as inclusive as possible to everyone,” Harris said.

“I think having MTUG as a beneficiary this year starts the conversation about how we have to focus on not just your typical idea of a woman, but [on] all the other people that might identify as women,” Basson added.

Among the monologues performed this year were “My Vagina is Angry,” a humorous description regarding all of the difficulties endured by vaginas (including OB-GYN tools and tampons) and “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried,” which depicted a transwoman’s realization of her true gender identity.

“I ached to be completed. I ached to belong,” the script read. Five actresses portrayed transwomen, including sophomore Sally Rifkin, junior Jessica Sun and seniors Katie Smith, Leora Spitzer and Kelsey Stanley.Although trans-inclusivity has been a feature of the Vagina Monologues since 2004, MTUG’s partnership adds an additional element of support for inclusivity. Proceeds from the production will go toward Trans 101 training, trans-visibility week and other educational and advocacy initiatives.

Seniors Amanda Harris and Rebecca Basson, co-directors of this year’s production, wanted to choose a beneficiary that was inclusive to trans rights and issues.

“When we talk about women, we’re not just talking about people who were born with female anatomy—whatever that looks like—but rather people who identify as a woman, people who identify on the spectrum of gender and try to make it as inclusive as possible to everyone,” Harris said.

“I think having MTUG as a beneficiary this year starts the conversation about how we have to focus on not just your typical idea of a woman, but [on] all the other people that might identify as women,” Basson added.

Among the monologues performed this year were “My Vagina is Angry,” a humorous description regarding all of the difficulties endured by vaginas (including OB-GYN tools and tampons) and “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried,” which depicted a transwoman’s realization of her true gender identity.

“I ached to be completed. I ached to belong,” the script read. Five actresses portrayed transwomen, including sophomore Sally Rifkin, junior Jessica Sun and seniors Katie Smith, Leora Spitzer and Kelsey Stanley.Freshman Anna Bartels-Newton said that there were a lot of interesting monologues about topics she may not have necessarily considered.

“I thought [the monologues] were really, really thought-provoking and empowering. A lot of the messages that were being sent about accepting yourself and loving yourself were ones that women need to hear way more often,” she said. “I feel lucky that this is something that’s offered at Wash. U. that I can listen to and enjoy it.”

Freshman Alfredo Jahn enjoyed “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried.”

“I’m a genderqueer individual so the representation—that was really nice to see,” Jahn said.

Though there were no transgender actresses portraying the transgender monologue, Harris and Basson worked to give the entire cast an inclusive educational experience.

“Obviously all of our women playing transwomen couldn’t identify with the experiences of a transwoman, but we worked to help educate them and help them understand, as much as they can, the experience of a transwoman,” Basson said.

Harris noted the importance of hearing the experiences of other women and hopes audience members will start conversations within the community.

“I think it’s important that people are comfortable not just saying the word ‘vagina’ but talking about women’s bodies and their own perceptions and their own fears and experiences,” Harris said. “I think this is a really good opportunity to start that dialogue.”

She was hired and fired, all within an hour.

A transgender woman in Virginia says she was offered a job by KFC, but then let go by her manager after he saw her driver's license which identified her as male.

Georgia Carter, 27, says she was elated to get the job after answering only four questions. "He was like, 'You have got the job. I am going to start you out at $7.50 an hour. It's yours. We are going to start you training on the computer tomorrow.' It was like 11 to 4," Carter says.

Carter says she told her boyfriend she got the job.

"I'm an active member of society again," she exclaimed. "I was so happy."

But in a matter of minutes, the KFC manager called Carter with some bad news.

"He was like, 'My supervisor and I have a problem because on your license it says 'male,' but you're...' and I was like, 'I'm transgender,'" Carter says.

The reason the manager rescinded the job offer?

"'Oh, we can't hire you because we don't know which bathroom you can use,'" Carter says the manager told her.

She was that was really tough.

The manager now says he never offered Carter the job, and it was only a job interview.

The manager also says if Carter changes her gender to female on her license, they'll reconsider her for the position.

KFC's corporate office could not be reached for comment.

It was the most old-fashioned of courtships. Allison and T, both authors, began by writing letters to each other, sparking a friendship that blossomed into love. The couple met through the pages of the New York Times when they were both invited to write a playlist of their favourite songs. Reading T’s list, Allison felt an instant connection. Little more than a year later they were married. “We seemed meant to be,” Allison says.

Yet there was a less conventional aspect to their love story. T had been born female. When it became clear that Allison was more than a friend, he mentioned it to her, at the same time assuming she’d realised. “I actually thought she knew and wouldn’t be hanging out if she had concerns.”

In reality, Allison had had no inkling but said the only shock was how little the news perturbed her. “I took it in my stride,” she says, attributing her reaction to age and life experience. “I was a fully grown woman, I had two children – I had sampled a lot of life. I’d worked as a journalist for decades and supported myself since I was 17.”

More than that, Allison, 47, says the idea that someone’s gender can alter a person’s feelings – or that a change of gender fundamentally changes someone’s character is wrong.

“I think if you love someone, you love someone, full stop. People evolve and change in ways that can be just as profound [as gender].”

Today, eight years after they met, they are sitting side by side in the home they share with Allison’s two daughters, and it is clear how close the couple are. They swap in-jokes and pull faces when asked to describe what it was that brought them together, discussing the start of their romance in a mocking, but affectionate tone. “How I remember it is … she saw my picture,” teases T, referring to the photo that accompanied his newspaper column.

“Sure,” Allison scoffs, before deadpanning that her initial email, “sounds creepy – it wasn’t”.

Yet Allison admits to “some clutching of pearls in my family, a bit of ‘think of the children’,” when she told them about the relationship. But she had no qualms.

“Once you meet T, you realise how preposterous that is,” she says. “I just knew my children would see this incredible person and our amazing, healthy relationship – and have someone who has turned out to be an amazing father.”

Her only worries, she says, related to building a family life. “We were a very tight unit so my concerns were not about T being transgender or not, or Jewish or not, or short or not, but would he integrate into our family in a way that was healthy and beneficial?”

Allison’s daughters were very young – six and seven – so there was no “big sit down on the couch” to explain the situation. Instead, T, who is 43, and Allison provided them with information suitable for their age, and more as they got older or if situations arose. The children’s complaints about having a new parent, she says, were never about T’s identity. “They took him as he was. It was, ‘T won’t let me stay up and watch TV!’ It wasn’t like every night is about processing gender,” she says, laughing.

Now the only source of anxiety is the small, heartbreaking miscommunications that can throw the family off balance. Although T had been a man for years before he met Allison – he had taken hormones and had surgery during his transition – his parents would sometimes forget and use the pronoun “she” – slips that wound.

“I wish I didn’t care, but it’s hard not to. It’s about a basic right to be seen as you want to be seen and called what you want to be called.”

The fact this happened in front of his children made the situation worse for T: “My primary concern was that the children wouldn’t feel weird or that their life was going to be upended because people were not working very hard to say and do the right thing,” he says carefully.T is at pains to stress that his path to acceptance as a man has been remarkably easy when other trans men and women face stigma and violence. His family have, mostly, accepted his choices, but he agrees that this point of friction over gender pronouns reveals his parents’ underlying anxieties.

“Some of my parents’ issues are about a fear of what could happen for me. And some of it is a bit of heartbreak that [being trans] was hard for me and they didn’t know.”

“As a parent you always think, what am I doing to cause this? Which is a self-centred way of looking at things. Kids are their own people. If you have a child who has felt something was ‘off’ their whole life – ie, they were miserable – and they become who they are meant to be, surely it should be a cause for celebration?”

Another anxiety is the high rates of violence trans people face. According to the US National Center for Transgender Equality, more than a quarter of trans people have been assaulted because of their identity, and trans women and BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) trans people face even higher rates. T himself was once threatened at knifepoint.Statistics like this, T admits, are always in the back of his mind. “When we lived in a rural and really conservative, Christian part of the country, I was fearful that [my history] would bring harm or stigma to Allison or the kids,” T says. “In New York, we didn’t even have to think about these things, but you move somewhere like that and you have to worry.

“You don’t want to bring trouble to this person who you love more than anyone in the world.”“You don’t want to bring trouble to this person who you love more than anyone in the world.”

“We have been incredibly lucky. For other people, I have heard it spurs incredible violence.”

They laugh as they remember one particular neighbour who wore camouflage fatigues and once presented T with a freshly shot deer. “That was a little scary. I didn’t want him finding out because, who knows?”

Usually, though, they meet people who see them as exotic because of T’s gender history. Allison recounts how one neighbour was excited after she Googled T – who has written a book about living as a transgender man and his views on masculinity. “She said, ‘Oh, I just love you guys even more!’ as though we were a collectible item. But I’ll take that over nastiness any day.”

Allison and T are optimistic that the growing profile of trans issues is changing perceptions, particularly for younger generations. “Our younger daughter is in a large public school and it seems like things are improving. Girls can shave their heads without being called dykes. When kids use homophobic slurs, other children question them.”

Gender-fluid celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, also help to break down barriers. Allison, who recently interviewed the pop star, says, “She says some days she wakes up as a 16-year-old boy and so that’s who she is that day. She’s living out those identities. She does a lot of work with LGBT charities.”

Allison and T have written a young adult novel series and are in talks to develop it as a TV series. In it, the protagonist discovers he is part of an ancient race of people who change gender identity every year, finding themselves in a whole new body. In the first book, Drew awakes on his first day at high school to discover he is a girl.

The inspiration was their experience as parents. “We had a particularly ‘pre-teen’ morning with one of the kids,” says T. “They had woken up like a dragon and we started thinking about how kids seem to move out of identities daily, if not hourly.

“We wanted to make it literal – how your exterior reflects how you are perceived and whether you are welcomed or rejected in the world – even if you are the same person inside.”

They are trying to encourage empathy for different people’s experiences, says Allison. “What is the difference between a woman who gets plastic surgery to become the woman she wants to look like and a trans person? Why do we draw these lines? They break down if you think about them.”

The couple have been visiting schools, encouraging children to think about what it would be like to be someone else – their mother, for instance, or brother or friend. And Allison says that while many people may focus on the assumption that a child with a trans parent will be teased or confused, there are as many positive experiences.

“The one thing I have noticed, now that both my daughters are teenagers, is that they are tuned into discrimination on every front. That might have been the case anyway, but the younger one, in particular, if she sees someone being teased on the bus – for their religion, for instance – then she is the first to step in and say ‘That’s not cool.’

“If she hadn’t been raised in a house that was so full of difference she might not be like that. People say, ‘Oh, the children’ – as though you are setting them up for a horrible or challenging life. But my answer is that every child’s life is challenging and the very things that are difficult can make them into better people.”

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