Biggs is a Neanderthal

In directing public school districts to let students use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, President Obama’s administration recognized the need to provide top-down cover for a group of people that are routinely subjected to severe discrimination. They also recognized that assuring the civil rights (the right to receive equal treatment and ensure one’s ability to participate in civil life without discrimination or repression) of a minority couldn’t be left to the majority. That’s why Diane Douglas is wrong when she says “Every local community across Arizona is unique, and I know that the people who live in those communities should be making the decisions when it comes to this and many other education issues.” How well did “leaving it to communities” work for Black people in the deep South during the Jim Crow days?

Look, I get that many people are uneasy with the whole transgender issue. I managed Wingspan, (Arizona’s LGBT Community Center), for over a year and had more exposure than most to the transgender community. We had transgender people on staff (a couple of them were transitioning during the time I worked there) and we supported the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA.) If I am totally honest, I still struggle with totally embracing this community. But, I have great respect for what transgender people go through just to be themselves. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one would put themselves through the ridicule, discrimination and pain of transitioning unless they felt they had no other option. My bottom line is that I accept transgender people and respect their right to live freely and safely as equal members of our society.

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs obviously doesn’t feel the same way. He said the Administration’s directive “has no place in the value system that we seek to instill in our children from their earliest age” and that “the rules and norms of modern society may change, but biology will not”. With this statement, Biggs demonstrates what a complete Neanderthal he is. First of all, the definition of biology is that it is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, EVOLUTION, distribution, identification and taxonomy. Biology, as the study of life and living organisms, is not static, but constantly changing. I read once that 100 species per day go extinct and that in 2011, scientists discovered nearly 20,000 new species. Obviously, biology DOES change and more importantly, the more we learn, the more our understanding of it changes.

Secondly, we can’t really “instill” gender identity in our children. We can try to get them to conform to “social expectations that may accompany a given gender role” “but this can exacerbate the disconnect transgender children feel. I have met very young children who absolutely know they weren’t born into the correct gender. The lucky ones have supportive parents who help them pave their own path. Those not so fortunate have a much tougher road to hoe, one that more often than not leads to multiple suicide attempts (if the first try doesn’t succeed.) The American Psychological Association corroborates that transgender children are more likely to experience harassment and violence in school and other group programs than other children. Transgender adults are at increased risk for stress, isolation, anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and suicide. In fact, transgender people have an extremely high rate of suicide attempts, 41 percent versus a national average of 1.6 percent.

In addition, there are biological causes for the “gender dysphoria” or “gender identity disorder”(GID) many transgender people experience. “Evidence suggests that people who identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth, may do so not just due to psychological or behavioral causes, but also biological ones related to their genetics, the makeup of their brains, or prenatal exposure to hormones.” Genetic variation, hormones, and difference in brain functioning and brain structures provide evidence for the biological cause of   In fact, twin studies indicate GID is 62% inheritable. (NOTE: gender identity has nothing to do with sexual preference and a transgender person may or may not have had any surgeries to bring their body in “conformance” with their gender identity.)

Ever notice how if Arizona lawmakers and administrators don’t want to deal with an issue, and it doesn’t detract from the ability of one of their supporters to make profit, it becomes something that should be dealt with at the local level? Just look at Douglas’ comment on that she has“full confidence that government at its least and lowest level is most answerable to constituents on these matters.” Yet time and again t found these same people have found local government is incapable of making decisions about “life-altering” matters such as the use of plastic shopping bags, the admission of guns on school property, and the rights of pet shops to sell puppy mill dogs; all of which had significant lobbyist support for state lawmaker intervention.

As with any struggle for civil rights, this one will be tumultuous. The best approach is for communities to learn about the issue and have open discussions about the way forward. It cannot though, be left to individual communities to determine the “rightness” of the equality sought. That’s why the President’s directive is important. It is a validation of the “immortal declaration” in the Declaration of Independence that states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It really is that simple.




True liberty – eye of the beholder?

RE:  Senator Melvin SB 1062  “True liberty is where you are free to do what you want to do.”[i]

I am tired of radical right-wingers like Senator Melvin waiving the flag and touting liberty when I know he isn’t for my liberty.  I


believe everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That means I want my partner (of 12 years) and I to be able to marry in our state and enjoy equal rights.

We are volunteers in our community, pay our taxes and SaddleBrooke homeowner dues, and are both retired military members with 48 years of total service.  We are proud Americans, registered Democrats, and fly our flag almost every single day.  This act doesn’t define us as patriots, that lies in our hearts just as does our belief in individual liberties, the strength our diversity brings to our nation, and, the responsibility we all have for each other and the common good.

I don’t believe true liberty means you can do whatever you want.  That leads to anarchy.  True liberty means you may live your life the way you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others’ or infringe on their liberty.  It may be politically convenient for Melvin to pursue his liberty and ignore mine, but it is not patriotic.

What’s in a label?

I was at the Arizona Capitol yesterday meeting with both Democrat and Republican legislators. My focus of course, was to advocate for support of traditional public education. What I came away with at the end of the day though, was a feeling that much of the dysfunction we currently see in our political process is a result of the labels we put on ourselves and others and the perceptions that drives. To illustrate my point, please bear with me as I ask you to read the following words and pay attention to what thoughts pop into your head. Here we go: BLACK, WHITE, GAY, STRAIGHT, REPUBLICAN, DEMOCRAT, LIBERTARIAN, TEA PARTY. I’m guessing that your brain defaulted to a fairly vivid stereotype based upon your frame of reference. That’s probably normal and something open-minded people work to avoid.

The harm in these labels is they inhibit the ability of those so labeled to work outside the stereotype to bridge the gaps in understanding between people. Yes, I am a Democrat. I believe in gay rights, a woman’s right to choose, and traditional public education. I also however, believe in fiscal responsibility (as I suspect most of my fellow Democrats do), I am pro-life (no, my default is not abortion), and I am okay with responsible gun ownership (although I don’t think anyone needs a semi-automatic, I think it is absolutely ridiculous to allow folks to take guns into bars, and I am uncomfortable with open carry by ordinary citizens.) I would guess that those positions are surprising to some people who conjured up the vision of a flaming liberal when I said I was a Democrat.

Our political process has become so hijacked by political parties and labels that our legislators can’t get the work done. I don’t know about you, but when I elect candidates to represent me at the local, state or national level, I don’t just want them to represent me, or far, far worse, to just vote the party line. I want them to study the issues, listen to constituents, reason with colleagues and then make the best decision they can for the health of the entity they represent. After all, if the United States is healthy and Arizona is healthy, I’m probably fairly happy too.

That’s not what is happening now and it needs to stop. Former Senator Russel Pearce (who was recalled by the people of Arizona for being a not so great legislator among other things), is now raising funds to oust AZ GOP legislators who voted for Medicaid expansion last year. I have to believe those legislators were voting their conscience, doing what they thought was best for the state, because they sure had to know that by voting against the far-right they were putting their chances for reelection at risk. I of course, thought this vote was the most positive thing I’d seen come out of the AZ legislature in the 5-1/2 years I’ve lived in this state.

I’m sick and tired of politics as usual and will do everything in my power to support candidates who think for themselves and support traditional public education. I pledge to go beyond the label and learn about my representatives and their viewpoints and yes, voting records. After all, labels make it easy for us to be lazy. When it comes to election day, how many people just vote the straight party ticket or, just for women, etc.? I must admit, I’ve done that sort of thing in the past when I was in the military, moved every couple of years and didn’t know the local candidates. Now though, I understand how important it is to our democracy for each of us to be informed and fully participate. Plain and simple, it is OUR government and if it is dysfunctional, it is OUR fault.  You want our government to work better? Get informed, get involved, hold your legislators accountable. Please go to the Arizona School Board Association (@AzSBA) website to learn how or comment on this blog and I’ll connect you to resources.  We need #ACTIONnotANGER!

AZ Legislature Continues to Discriminate

Thomas photo med_2April 9, 2013, the AZ Legislature unanimously adopted House Concurrent Resolution 2036[i] titled “Boy Scouts of America.”  Eighty legislators sponsored this bi-partisan bill[ii] whose intent was allegedly to “honor the Boy Scouts of America for its contributions to the lives of our nation’s boys and young men.”  I believe there is another intended message.

The resolution states the Boy Scouts “teaches respect for the beliefs of others” and “is a model for inclusiveness.” Excluding gay boys from membership is hardly “a model of inclusiveness” as it: 1) proudly excludes gay boys, thereby teaching boys that gays are lesser, unworthy people; 2) keeps gay boys ensconced in the closet damaging their self-worth; and 3) likely contributed to the methodical cover up of suspected child molesters.[iii]

The Boy Scouts recently reported its unanimous consensus for its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  They are way behind the power curve.  The Supreme Court is currently considering the status of the Defense of Marriage Act and the Department of Defense has already ended its discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. As a retired Air Force Colonel who served 22 years and realized late in my career I was a lesbian, I can personally attest to the wasted energy expended by gay and lesbian service members to keep their true selves a secret.  I know a retired Naval Captain who was assigned to the Pentagon in 2001.  Having left her office for a meeting just seven minutes prior to the airplane impact, it was on this day she decided to retire from her 28-year career.  She realized if she’d been killed, her partner of 11 years would have been the last to know about her death, as she had not listed her as “next of kin” for fear of being “outed”.[iv]

As a former Program Director of Wingspan, Southern Arizona’s LGBT Community Center, I learned 20 to 40% of homeless youth on the streets are LGBT[v] and about the pervasive bullying of gay children that still goes on in our schools by children and the adults they are entrusted to.  LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts and nearly twice as likely to have been verbally harassed and/or physically assaulted as school while believing they have no adult they can talk to about personal problems.  More than 45% of LGBT youth report that their state government is not accepting of LGBT people.[vi]

The Arizona Legislature has once again proven they do not represent all the people of Arizona.  This resolution was an unnecessary piece of legislation intended to send a message of support to a discriminatory organization.  After all, where is the concurrent resolution in support of the Girl Scouts who by the way don’t feel the need to exclude lesbian girls?  I was a Girl Scout and am grateful for the experience it afforded me and wish for every child that same opportunity – to be the very best of who they are.

Diversity has always been one of our nation’s strengths.  It is one of the reasons I am proud to be a citizen of these United States.  Today however, I am not proud to be an Arizonan.