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U.S.'s First Openly Trans Active Military Soldier Is Fighting For Equality

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Four years ago Sergeant Shane Ortega began his transition while serving in the U.S. Army. Before enlisting Ortega had served two tours with the United States Marine Corps, but upon joining the army he decided that it was time for him to start living his life honestly as an openly transgender man. Ortega underwent hormone therapy with the medical guidance of his own doctor and a military physician while enlisted and was able to maintain all of his professional duties.

In 2011 Ortega began living full time as a man and took all of the necessary steps to align his governmental documentation with his fully-realized identity. To the outside world Ortega had gradually become a fully capable and respected male member of the service. By the Army’s standards, however, Ortega’s gender identity presented a unique challenge.

CBazWVjUgAACNxoThe Army’s current views on transgender-identified people are complicated. Like all American military services, the Army still has provisions on the books that automatically label openly trans people from enlisting.

It typically assumes that all trans-people suffer from gender dysphoria, a form of mental anxiety associated with being profoundly at odds with one’s biological gender. Gender dysphoria is considered an adequate reason for dismissing officers, but Ortega has been repeatedly deemed not to suffer from the disorder by Army doctors.

Ortega’s been able to continue his service, but the Army’s views on his gender have led to a number of odd and ultimately discriminatory decisions about just how he can service. Technically speaking the Army consider Ortega to be a woman despite his assertions to the contrary. Following a routine physical it was determined that the amount of testosterone in Ortega’s bloodstream was abnormally high--a result of his hormone treatment. He was subsequently barred from his duties as a helicopter crew chief.

Rather than remain stuck in procedural limbo Ortega has taken the proactive route and is now agitating for the Department of Defense to make make its decision about his ability to serve clear. In recent months he has become more open about his fight for recognition within the military in hopes of demonstrating that trans people can be just as able and committed to the service as their cis counterparts.

“One thing my father always said was, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ ” said Ortega said in an interview with the Washington Post. “I definitely wanted to be that change.”

In February Pentagon spokesmen Nate Christensen said that the Department of Defense’s medical requirements were under review and that potential revisions to its rules could determine the professional futures of other trans service members like Ortega. The exact timeframe for when the Pentagon’s review will be complete is unclear, and there’s been no word as to whether the review will even look into the DOD’s treatment of its trans population.

In the meantime Ortega, the military’s first and only officer to serve while openly trans, is stuck in a sort of no man’s land. As promising as his continued service is for where the American military is headed policy-wise, there’s no clear end in sight to when, if ever, he can be certain of his future with the Army.

“As I fight for my country in foreign lands, all I want it is to be able to serve openly while keeping the job that I love,” Ortega explained in a public statement. “I will continue to fight this fight for the 700,000 transgender veterans that have gone before me who were forced to choose between serving their country and being true to who they are."


HBO's VICE to Look at Struggles Faced by Gays and Transsexuals in Iran Tonight: VIDEOS

Lashings

Tonight at 11PM on HBO's VICE, the newsmagazine series looks at the struggles faced by gays and transsexuals in Iran.

The following preview clips look at the lashings faced by those breaking Iran's strict laws and VICE correspondent Thomas Morton with Arsham Parsi, founder of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, as they visit World Pride in Canada.

Writes VICE in the promo:

Post-revolution Iran is notorious for its religiosity: when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 he enforced strict Islamic custom that made homosexuality punishable by death. Surprisingly, though, the state treats transsexuals differently, allowing sexual reassignment surgery and in some cases even paying for it. It’s become so widespread there, in fact, that Iran is now one of the world capitals for the procedure.

But the fatwa allowing the surgery has a grim drawback: families, therapists, and the state see gender reassignment as a solution to the “illness” of homosexuality—not understanding the risks of forcing the long, life-changing process of a sex change on someone who wasn't born wanting it. Gay Iranians now face the agonizing choice of fleeing their communities or permanently changing who they are.

Watch the clips, AFTER THE JUMP....

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Continue reading "HBO's VICE to Look at Struggles Faced by Gays and Transsexuals in Iran Tonight: VIDEOS" »


Elton John And Michael Stipe Rally Behind Abused Trans Georgia Inmate Ashley Diamond: VIDEO

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Elton John and Michael Stipe have issued a joint statement calling on the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) to provide safety and hormone therapy to transgender women housed in male prisons in the state, according to the Guardian.

Earlier this month it was reported that transgender inmate Ashley Diamond has been denied access to her hormones, assaulted and raped at least seven times by other inmates.

Diamond filed a lawsuit against the GDC in February after years of unsuccessfully trying to convince corrections officials to provide her proper medical treatment and protection.

Last week, the US Justice Department voiced support for Diamond, calling the state’s denial of hormone therapy for gender dysphoria “cruel and unusual punishment”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed a federal lawsuit against the GDC on behalf of Diamond.

The statement by John and Stipe reads in part:

John_stipe“We applaud the US Department of Justice for supporting Ashley Diamond and the trans community in arguing that Georgia’s policy of denying transgender inmates their medically necessary hormone treatment is unconstitutional. But we must do more to end the culture of violence and discrimination surrounding gender identity and expression. We urge the state of Georgia to embrace desperately needed changes to their correctional system.”

Watch a SPLC report on Diamond, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Elton John And Michael Stipe Rally Behind Abused Trans Georgia Inmate Ashley Diamond: VIDEO" »


Bullied Transgender California Teen Dies In Apparent Suicide: VIDEO

Taylor Alesena

A Fallbrook, California trans teen who spoke on YouTube about being the victim of bullying has taken her own life, reports ABC 10 News.

In a video posted last November, Taylor Alesena talked about her loneliness at Fallbrook High School, saying "I've lost friends - tons of friends - and it's been hell.”

Max Disposit, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center in Oceanside, said that Taylor was constantly cyber-bullied and called names in school but nothing changed when she complained to counselors.

The Fallbrook Union High School District issued the following statement:

"One of Fallbrook High School's students tragically passed away during the spring break, on Thursday, April 2.

“We are attempting to honor the family's request for privacy while also helping our students and staff who have been impacted by this sad event. The district has had counselors on site to support our school community.

“Fallbrook High has a continuum of appropriate services (social, emotional, academic) to ensure every student is supported and successful at Fallbrook High School. It is never easy when something like this happens, but we are working to move forward together and stronger than before."

Last month 16-year-old North Carolina trans teen Ashlyn Haffner died close to his family’s Indian Trail home when he stepped into the path of an oncoming vehicle, the same way Ohio transgender teen Leelah Alcorn died in December of last year.

Watch an ABC 10 report on Taylor’s death, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Bullied Transgender California Teen Dies In Apparent Suicide: VIDEO" »


New Report Sheds Light on Cable News' Dismal Coverage of Transgender Issues

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Media Matters has published an extensive report showing that cable, broadcast, and Spanish language networks have ignored an epidemic of violence against transgender women in 2015 despite (most of them) devoting coverage to trans issues.

Among the findings in the report, which covered the first two months of 2015.

CNN and MSNBC devoted nearly 108 minutes to transgender stories combined in January and February while FOX News devoted 11 minutes.

CBS devoted 10 minutes while NBC devoted 6 and ABC a paltry 2.

Bruce Jenner, Chelsea Manning, Leelah Alcorn were the most discussed transgender stories.

Only one Sunday show, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, discussed trans issues.

Networks ignored an "epidemic of deadly violence" against transgender women.

National News Networks Largely Ignored The Murders Of Seven Transgender Women Of Color. ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and NBC ignored the murders of seven transgender women of color during the first two months of 2015. CNN's Don Lemon briefly mentioned the murder of three of the women during a discussion about Bruce Jenner during the February 5 edition of CNN Tonight.

Fox News,  ABC, And NBC failed to host transgender guests when discussing trans issues - CNN's trans guests were white while MSNBC featured trans women of color.

Univision and Telemundo devoted less than 10 minutes to trans issues.

Read the full report here.

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L.A. News Anchor Rips Diane Sawyer for Interviewing Bruce Jenner: VIDEO

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KTLA 5 News Anchor Sam Rubin is having none of it with the media circus surrounding Bruce Jenner’s upcoming interview with Diane Sawyer, ripping the award-winning journalist on-air for participating in the vapidity of the Kardashian media juggernaut.

"I don't care if Bruce Jenner is transitioning from one gender to another, one political party to another, one religion to another. What I do care about is that Jenner has been a passive participant in what can best be described as a cultural crime that has gone on for years."

Rubin ponders why an interview with Bruce Jenner merits two hours of airtime, regardless of whether he’s transitioning, switching political parties or religion.

Rubin also butchered CNN Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter’s comments after he called the Jenner interview, "(Sawyer’s) biggest scoop since stepping down from ABC’s World News last summer." Rubin lambasts Stelter, calling him an "idiot" and claiming that he only got his job because "of his uncanny physical resemblance to the man who hired him at CNN.

Watch Rubin’s barb-filled on-air rant, AFTER THE JUMP

Continue reading "L.A. News Anchor Rips Diane Sawyer for Interviewing Bruce Jenner: VIDEO" »


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