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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee

Minutes of the October 19, 2004 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Dora Balcazar, Sally Buchmann, David Cameron, Ben Chan, Julie Frank, Ted Guggenheim, Danny Kirchoff, Aidan Kotler, Patrick Mulcahey, Ren Phoenix, Aleem Raja, Jorge Romero-Lozano, Stephen Schwichow, Brooklynne Thomas, Morningstar Vancil.

Committee Members Absent: Commissioner Cecilia Chung (excused), Commissioner Pat Norman, Becky Freund (excused), Nancy Lawlor (excused), Ellise Nicholson, Brooklynne Thomas (excused), Lauren Williams.

Staff Present: Marcus Arana, Larry Brinkin, Domenic Viterbo.

Guests Present: Ben Lunine, Eli seMbessikwini, Heidi Misken, Mani Bruce Mitchell, Sunny Nordmarken, Joan Roughgarden, Pete Tannen.

Call to Order and Roll Call:

Julie Frank called the meeting to order at 5:38 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

  1. Approval of Minutes of September 21, 2004:

    Mr. Mulcahey and Mr. Kotler advised that Steve Tierney’s correct title is Director of Substance Abuse Services.

    Mr. Schwichow moved to approve the minutes as amended. Mr. Guggenheim seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

  2. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda:

    There were none.

  3. Panel: Beyond the Sex and Gender Binary:

    David Cameron introduced the issue and noted that he added the words "sex" and "gender" because it was the two-sex, two-gender binary system that we all seem to live in, particularly in western culture. He added that he hopes that along with the three panel speakers, the Committee could examine diversity in nature and in humans and the spectrum of anatomy that exists in nature and what that would really say about gender and sexual orientation. He pointed out that President Bush’s Federal Marriage Amendment, which says that marriage is only between a man and a woman, affects not only gay and lesbian people, but also trans people and people with intersex anatomies. He then read a quote from Bnakti Ananda Goswami, a Catholic priest, who had submitted written testimony for the intersex public hearing. He concluded saying that the panel isn’t just about marriage; it’s about the existence of difference within the western.

    Dr. Joan Roughgarden is the author of the book, "Evolution’s Rainbow", which addresses the diversity in gender and sexuality in nature and people. She mentioned that there are three items she wants to address: 1) the myth of the binary, 2) the connection between the transgender and the intersex experience, and 3) a recommendation.

    Dr. Roughgarden says that she is familiar with only one binary that, from a biological perspective, is the size of a gamete. Gametes are the two cells, namely the egg and the sperm, that unite in order to create a fertilized egg. In her opinion, biologists have made one of their biggest mistakes by extending that binary to the whole body. She gave examples in which the binary does not extend beyond the gamete level, including nothing the sex and gender variance found in animals and the ways the gender of animals is determined. She added that there is a manifestation of diversity present throughout mammals as a whole which shows that we do not have a binary, or a binary that isn’t well defined. Laws that separate everything into two categories, male and female, would not work if they applied to animals.

    Dr. Roughgarden says that, anthropologically, in many societies trans and intersex people are lumped together in the same social category. Gorin, an endocrinologist from Holland, believes that there is a binary defined at the body and brain levels and claimed that MTFs were born with female brains and FTMs are born with male brains. She said that she’s not comfortable with this idea because, in society, trans people are not taken seriously enough and have to agitate to have access to medical technology; whereas intersex people are taken too seriously, having medical technology thrust upon them without consent. Putting the two in the same category tends to cover up those fundamental differences in life experiences.

    Lastly, Dr. Roughgarden recommended that as a condition for pediatricians, gender therapists, and psychologists to receive their licenses to practice in the city, they receive training in diversity in zoology and human diversity. Medical students aren’t receiving any training in the diversity of vertebrates or invertebrates so they are not qualified to evaluate what is normal because they haven’t seen a population of orders that has actually occurred in nature. This is due partly to science being viewed as an old-fashioned subject. Psychologists need to receive this training so that they understand how difficult it is to classify a person at all.

    Mani Bruce Mitchell was born in 1953 in New Zealand. Upon her birth, she was legally classified as male, but after some research, she found out that the court register had indicated that her sex was indeterminate. The first year of her life, as a male child, she went by the name "Bruce", then had surgery and it was discovered that she had a uterus after which she was classified as a girl. She added that the rural community she grew up in held an emergency meeting to figure out what they should do upon making this discovery. They decided that the best thing to do is to pretend that she had always been a girl all along and not to talk to her parents about it.

    Ms. Mitchell’s journey began when first coming to the Bay Area as part of an international team during the Loma Prieta earthquake. An incident occurred that broke down the walls of secrecy and she began to seek help. She worked with a doctor in New Zealand who was trained by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and helped her get to where she is today.

    Ms. Mitchell asked the Committee to stand up for people who do not identify with the binary. People who don’t have a sense of self or the ability to speak up for themselves are highly at risk. She also requested that more training on human rights be provided, not just training on diversity or intersex issues.

    Heidi Miskin is currently working on her Masters at California New College. For her thesis project, she organized a community called Fluid that includes people who do not fit into conventional categories such as race, ethnicity, age, class, ability, attractiveness, and every other category of structure and social order. Fluid embraces the idea that sex, gender, and sexual orientation run along continuums and even outside of these continuums. One of the core principles of Fluid is that sex, gender, and sexual orientation can be fluid and can change over time. Fluid members identify as either bisexual, queer, gender queer, pansexual, androgynous, intersex, bi-gendered, metamorphasexual, homoflexible, heteroflexible, asexual, fluid, and some have rejected labels entirely. Fluid allies with those exploring their sex, gender, and sexuality, and those who are curious are also welcomed. Fluid helps people understand, contextualize, and come to terms with their feelings, experiences, and identities by providing a safe space to talk from within a community of people who can accept, understand, and support them for who they are.

    Ms. Miskin said that the gender continuum model is somewhat inadequate because it asserts that everyone is either a man, a woman, or something in between.This doesn’t take into account genders that are completely outside of that dichotomy. Also the gender continuum model suggests that gender is linear; if someone is 43% woman, they are also 57% man. Fluid members prefer the idea of a "gender galaxy" model that indicates a variety of points of existence without any linear or dichotomous slant.

    Panelists entertained questions.

  4. Intersex Public Hearing – Update on Report:

    Mr. Arana reported that he will provide draft copies of the report for Committee members for next month’s meeting. He said that the task force has been working hard on writing findings and recommendations and that a clear picture has been emerging: Adults who had endured surgeries reported of their dissatisfaction with the medical procedures performed on them. The challenge now is for the task force to represent every point of view. The task force meets each Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.

    Mr. Brinkin reported that the panel presentation that was scheduled for the November meeting will be held in March 2005 so that more time can be dedicated to discussing the report.

  5. Approval of letter to Dr. Mitchell Katz encouraging cancellation of Total Wellness subscription (Action Item):

    Mr. Brinkin said that the original letter was to be sent to Rutherford Publishing Co., but the Commission did not pass it. He added that the Total Wellness newsletter was no longer being distributed to City Plan members because the City Plan has a new newsletter that it sends out instead. However the Total Wellness newsletter is still being given to emoloyees of Occupational Health. Mr. Brinkin suggested that the letter should be sent to Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of DPH, to consider distributing another publication such as the one provided by the City Plan. The letter explains why a column written by James Dodson, founder of Focus On the Family, is inappropriate. He said that Mr. Arana had researched Rutherford Publishing Co. and found that they mostly publish right-wing, fundamentalist periodicals and books and that they clearly are a company that believes in "traditional values". A blank space was left in the draft letter to include the name of the new newsletter. Rutherford Publishing Co. will be sent a copy of the letter which will suggest that they mention LGBT health issues in their newsletter and to include graphics that aren’t totally heterosexual in nature.

    Mr. Mulcahey moved to pass the letter as amended. Ms. Buchmann seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

  6. Commissioners Report:

    Ms. Frank mentioned that from a conversation Mr. Brinkin had with Commissioner Chung that a recruitment process committee be formed to examine the Committee’s recruitment processes. Mr. Brinkin said that Committee members requested this in the early part of the year because the process has been unclear. Mr. Brinkin said that the committee would take a look at the current process and make recommendations to make it run smoother. Committee members recommended are Ellise Nicholson, Jorge Romero-Lozano, and Stephen Schwichow. The recruitment committee will be named in November.

  7. Staff Report:

Mr. Brinkin announced that two out of nine people who signed up to work on the Anti-Racism Task Force showed up at the September 30, 2004 meeting that was staffed by Yong Lee. Mr. Brinkin reminded the Committee that if people do not show up to attend task force meetings, we would not work on that topic due to lack of interest and resources. He suggested that this item be revisited at the next retreat. Mr. Kotler suggested that this item be agendized at next month’s meeting.

Mr. Brinkin reported that he attended the quarterly meeting of the California Association of Human Relations Organizations in Burbank, CA on October 15. He said that other human relations organizations around the state are suffering, much like San Francisco’s, due to budget cuts and lack of support.

Mr. Brinkin reported that Hadas Rivera-Weiss gave a report on the mediation process at the last Commission meeting.

Mr. Brinkin reported that Mr. Arana has been providing transgender sensitivity training sessions at various City police stations as part of the rolling out of the transgender protocols. Mr. Arana provided trainings to police management staff and that all cops are now being trained. Mr. Arana has also been helping City College of San Francisco develop its own transgender protocols due to numerous reports of discrimination against transgender students.

Mr. Brinkin reported that the New York City Council passed an equal benefits ordinance (EBO) that is set to take effect next week; however, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed it. After the New York City Council overrode his veto, Mayor Bloomberg sued to get an injunction to stop the program, but the court ruled against the Mayor who says that he will not enforce it. The Council is suing the Mayor and is asking the court to order him to enforce the ordinance. Cynthia Goldstein of staff worked with New York’s City Council attorneys on developing their EBO and may be called upon to provide a declaration regarding San Francisco’s EBO and she possibly will testify in court in New York.

Mr. Brinkin reported that Ms. Goldstein also is helping Oakland’s Deputy City Attorneys implement their EBO.

9. Old/New Business:

No Old/New Business was discussed.

10. Announcements:

Mr. Arana announced that Intersex Awareness Day is on Tuesday, October 26. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will be passing a resolution commending the HRC and the Intersex Task Force for their work on that day. Assemblyman Mark Leno will issue a certificate containing similar language. Mr. Arana will send out an announcement to the Committee.

Morningstar Vancil informed the Committee that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. She announced that she will be participating in a fashion show at the Bay Area Women of Color BDSM Photo Project Photo Exhibition on Friday, October 29. Informational flyers were distributed.

Aidan Kotler announced that workshop proposals are due on October 20 for Genderblast, a conference for transgender variant or questioning youth - 25 years and under - and their allies. The conference is on November 20th at Everett Middle School, 450 Church Street. He also announced that there will be a memorial service for Wilie Walker, founder of the LGBT Historical Society, in the afternoon of Saturday, October 23, at 657 Mission Street.

Mr. Brinkin thanked Ms. Frank for doing a great job in chairing this evening’s meeting!

  1. Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 7:22 p.m.