Bullshit is still bullshit, even when your “friends” sling it.
The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM Maryland
February 13, 2012
- Cathy Brennan, former Board Member of the GLCCB’s Political Action Committee
- Dana Beyer, Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland
- Tom Quirk, District 1 Maryland Councilman
- Marc Steiner, Radio Talk Show Host WEAA 88.9 FM
RADIO SHOW TRANSCRIPT
Introductory music playing: “I Want to Dance with Somebody”, Whitney Houston
Marc Steiner: Whitney Houston, we’ll be talking about her later in the hour, and playing her music all during the course of the next two hours. She tragically passed away, 48 years old, much too young. She was probably the greatest pop star, I think, as a woman in the history of this country and we lost her, so we’ll talk about that later, but we’ll hear her music all throughout the show.
We’re going to talk in this first part of the show, The Marc Steiner show, about this bill that is in the county council, in Baltimore County, Bill 312, it doesn’t say anything, human relations bill, it doesn’t say anything. It’s a bill about transgender rights, a very broad bill. And we’ll talk about that with the man who introduced the bill to the county council, Councilman Tom Quirk in his first term on the county council… he’s with us? You there Tom? Uh, ok something must have happened, maybe they pulled his bill, I don’t think so. But he’ll be back in a minute, Councilman Tom Quirk. And in the studio with us is Dana Beyer, who is the Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland
Tom Quirk: Cathy? Cathy?
MS: Excuse me, you’re on the air Tom
MS: You’re on the air. Just want to let you know.
And Cathy Brennan is with us, who is a former board member of the GLCCB’s Political Action Committee that helped pass the Anti-Discrimination Act in 2001. She’s a lesbian, a feminist and a lawyer, who wrote an email to us this afternoon, and I asked to read the email, but then I called back and said, ‘why don’t you just join us on the air’. And Cathy welcome, good to have you with us.
Do we have our guests lined up on the phone yet? Can we get the phones rolling here? What’s going on? Ok, so now we will get them all back here in a minute.
TQ: murmuring (technical difficulties)
MS: Tom are you on the air? (Tom murmuring)
Ok Can you just pot him down until we get him back on the way he’s supposed to be. So we’ll start with you Dana, how’s that? So this bill obviously came on the heels of what happened to Chrissie Polis, when she was beaten up, and we did a series of shows about that when that happened. And there’s been a lot of controversy on this bill, at first I thought the controversy was just from kind of a very homophobic right wing side. It’s not, it’s a controversial bill all the way around. So talk about it from your perspective and we’ll bring Tom and Cathy back in.
Dana Beyer: No, I don’t think it’s really as controversial as it seems to be. Small groups of people can make a lot of noise. Particularly Cathy’s group is extremely small; I don’t think it’s really much more than Cathy. But, this is not only, has not only followed on the heels of the Chrissy Polis beating, this is following up on the passage of similar legislation in Baltimore City. IN 2002, Mayor O’Malley at the time passed it unanimously. WE in Montgomery County passed it unanimously in 2007. Howard County passed it, with the exception of one Republican vote in December of this past year. So this is simply the next step.
MS: When you say “passed it”, what is the “it” here?
DB: The “it” is adding transgendered people, via the phrase ‘gender identity or expression’ to the county’s civil rights legislation, providing protections on employment, housing, public accommodations, maybe finance credit, it varies from county to county specifically.
MS: and the phrase used is ‘identity or expression’ right, sexual identity or sexual expression?
DB: Well, gender identity or expression. To clarify, the courts do not distinguish between sex and gender.
DB: Academically there are distinctions: sex is biological, gender is everything else. But the courts do not make that distinction.
MS: So we now have… our phones are straight, Councilman Tom Quirk from the first district to introduce this bill. Tom are you there?
TQ: Yes I am
MS: Welcome, good to have you with us. Glad we got that straightened out. Cathy Brennan, former board member of the GLCCB’s Political Action Committee that passed the Anti-Discrimination Act in 2001. She’s a lesbian, a feminist and lawyer, and wrote us this afternoon and that’s why she’s on the air with us now. Cathy, welcome to the show. Good to have you with us.
Cathy Brennan: Hey Marc, thanks. Glad to be here.
MS: And so, Tom, talk about the bill, and why you introduced it, what you think you introduced, and then we’ll hear Cathy’s thoughts and open the phones.
TQ: This bill’s bottom line is an anti-discrimination bill, and it’s just simply the right thing to do. I know the County Council has been working at looking at this bill, talking about different amendments; we look forward to the work group tomorrow. And the reason we decided to introduce this legislation is because it’s needed. It’s something that everybody should be treated equally and with respect, and should be judged on their qualifications of what they bring to the table, how well they can do their job, but not who they are fundamentally.
MS: And Cathy Brennan when I got your email today and it caused us in the office to start talking about it, about your objections to the bill. As a lesbian as an activist, what part of the bill do you oppose?
CB: First let me say right off the bat, folks who oppose this bill on the grounds that I’m going to discuss, also think that discrimination is wrong, and don’t think transgendered people should face any kind of irrational discrimination. However, we don’t want that public policy to come at the expense of females who of course are the biggest victims of sex-based discrimination. So, the way that the law currently defines gender identity as gender identity or expression means, and this is the definition: a gender-related identity or appearance of an individual regardless of their sex at birth. You have a circular definition that relies on the notion of sex stereotypes in order to flush it out. And Dana is absolutely right; courts do look at sex and gender the same. And in fact the Supreme Court has found sex stereotyping actionable under federal law that bans sex ‘discrimination. So there’ve been cases brought by transgendered individuals under those the existing laws, which we support and we think is absolutely great, because we don’t think folks should be discriminated against based on the appearance. However, we don’t want to codify those stereotypes in the law. The idea that there are characteristics that go along with your biological sex is anti-feminist and it’s offensive. And many gays and lesbians, and Dana can pretend all she likes that it’s just me, but there’s a larger conversation within the gay and lesbian community that I think advocates for this legislation is really going to have to deal with at some point. Because they can keep saying what they are saying and get nowhere or they can try to get somewhere. I think they’ll find it hard, and I think it’s unlikely that gay and lesbian activists are going to want to work with them if they are that unaware of the language in the bill, and the implications for women.
MS: So Dana, one of things I am going to just say, that some of the original people who opposed this bill, who think that homosexuality is a condition that can be cured, decided not to come on today. We did ask them to join us and they did not want to come into this discussion. So, this is from a different perspective, opposing to the bill. So how do you respond to Cathy before we return to Tom Quirk
DB: Well Cathy is a friend, and this is not personal. But Cathy has an extreme position that is very similar to that of the Right Wing, that trans people, trans women, really aren’t women. To Cathy the most important aspect of being female is being impregnatable, being able to be penetrated and to then get pregnant and give birth. She talks about protecting females; she doesn’t include us in that category. And that’s offensive.
CB: Dana, that’s completely a mischaracterization of anything I have ever said.
DB: No Cathy, you’ve actually done that… let me just finish
MS: Let me just, let’s do this one at a time. You finish what you are saying Dana and then Cathy and then Tom
DB: And the problem is it comes from both sides. The Right Wing sees trans women simply as men, as sexual predators; they don’t understand the science of gender identity. The left wing, the radical feminist separatists, the lesbians that Cathy relates to, don’t see us as women either, and as result she talks about protecting females, and is willing to trample on the rights of trans women, send them into the men’s bathroom which puts their lives at risk, in order to hypothetically protect other females.
MS: It has to be one at a time, otherwise we can’t hear on the radio when folks talk over each other. But go ahead, Cathy.
CB: Dana that’s completely false. We’ve advocated a definition of gender identity that protects actual transgendered people. All of the people I know, and I know lots of transgendered people because I am in the gay community and a lot of my friends have decided to transition, they need medical assistance to do that. WE have proposed a definition that requires some evidence that they are on a path to medical transition to prevent any random person from claiming this protection. But the bigger objection, and Dana, what you have just said is a complete mischaracterization of my position, sex stereotyping theory is available to everyone. It’s not just women who are not trans, or trans, it’s everyone. So you have the case out of the tenth circuit with Sandy _____ where she sued the Georgia State under sex stereotyping theory, she’s a transgender woman and she won. That’s amazing.
DB: No, it is amazing, and it’s a landmark decision. And by the way it’s the eleventh circuit, not the tenth circuit.
CB: So then I don’t understand you continue to mischaracterize what advocates are saying or you can try and get something done productively. It’s really up to you.
DB: Mark, an important point is, sixteen…
MS: You both were kind of talking over the other one and that cannot happen on radio ‘cause nobody can hear what you are saying.
DB: Sixteen states and 150 jurisdictions have protections with this language, that’s 45% of the United States population. So it’s specious for Cathy to say there are problems with this, they don’t want random people making claims. Nobody has ever claimed that any random person is going to claim to be trans.
MS: Let me ask Tom to come back in. Tom, when you, my guess is when you expect some opposition to this bill, but not this. So what are your thoughts?
TQ: I think a lot of the attention to the opposition comes down to; this is a bill about bathrooms. And this bill is really about anti-discrimination. This bill is about anti-discrimination with housing, it’s about anti-discrimination with employment, with education, with public accommodations and about financing. So to me, this is about anti-discrimination. As far as the definition of transgender, I know that County Council is looking at the definition and looking to strengthen and tighten it. But we’re working on amendments, until after the work week we want to hear from everybody. And then the County Council is going to be looking at hey, how can we make this the best bill possible with some amendments, that will ultimately be all about making sure that transgender people are not discriminated against, period. Because to me the biggest issue is: is it right to treat people unequally? Is it right to discriminate? I’ve talked to some of the opponents of this bill, and when we have really candid heart-to-heart conversations, they agree with me that discrimination is wrong. And that this legislation is definitely needed, because it’s about treating everybody equally. And that’s the much much bigger picture that I think sometimes get thrown away with this whole bathroom issue that I think opponents like to use to try to inflame people and to make people feel like this is something that it isn’t.
MS: And so, why don’t we come back and ask Cathy what would be a bill from her perspective that would work and then hear her response, but why don’t we go back to the phones, first. 410-309-8888. And Lolita you are on the air.
Lolita (caller): Hello?
MS: Hi Lolita, welcome.
Lolita: Oh thank you. I work in Baltimore City Detention Center. I work at the Accept Program, addiction program. And one day we had a transgender gentleman, or woman, in the program. It was told to me that this woman was put out of the female side of the prison because they discovered that she was a man. Now, the problem that I had with her being integrated in their with men that were on the downlow, or heterosexual men, were that there are some men in there that are sexual predators and there were also men that were showing that were showing that they had sexual interest in her. If it was up to me, I would have left her on the female side, where she would not have had to deal with any of that unwanted attention. And that’s all I wanted to say.
MS: Lolita, thanks so much.
DB: Well, there’s a group of us working with the Secretary of Corrections to deal with this very issue, because it can be problematic. We want to protect trans people who are in the system. And the best way to do that is to put them in the facility that fits their gender identity or expression but also protects them. She makes a very good point; those women are at risk from male sexual predators.
MS: So Cathy, then I’ll go to Tom. So, when Dana uses the term ‘gender identity/gender expression’. It seems to me that in some ways that is the crux of the problem of people have who do have a problem with the bill, and defining what that means.
CB: The problem that feminists of all stripes, lesbian separatists or not, have with the language that Dana is pushing, is that it relies on stereotypical notions of biological sex, and how a female should be, or how a male should be. We don’t like that because it’s females as a class of humans who suffer disproportionately because of those stereotypes. Males are also stereotyped, but the stereotypes about males are overwhelmingly positive. This is why we have sexism. So we oppose the language as it stands now, notwithstanding the fact that it has been pushed in other states. Because I live in Baltimore County, and I don’t want this in Baltimore County, because it’s wrong. And you know, the fact that some right-wing nut jobs agree with me is a coincidence, but the basis for the conclusions are completely different. And if all Dana and Abacafab are reliant on tropes on, oh well if you oppose this you are a right-winger, they’re not going to be successful. Because our issue is different than the bathroom issue, and we’ve proposed language that would narrow the class of people that could take advantage of this legislation to the people that we want to protect. I want to protect actual transgender people, and I think it’s defensible to have a medical definition since you have to have medical intervention in order to transition.
MS: I hear what you’re saying and I have some questions about that. Dana and Tom, I’d like you to respond and then we’ll go back to the phones.
DB: Well, first of all, Cathy doesn’t represent the feminist community per se, or the gay or lesbian community in general. Secondly, this is really not the same issue, Cathy, you want to medicalize gender identity. It is a medical condition for people who go all the way through transition. But if you do that, what you do is you create a second class of people who cannot afford or do not have access to medical care. Now you may not think that that’s an important issue, but it is for those who are least able to care for themselves. I’ve been blessed, I’ve been fortunate, I’ve had all the medical care I need, my documents are all in line. I have no fears. You’re right, the eleventh circuit decision was a block buster, and it knocks down discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes. That’s exactly what this legislation does.
MS: So Tom, as we go back to the phones here, tell me where the bill is now in the county council and where do you think it is going.
TQ: The bill actually has four co-sponsors of seven. It looks like we have additional support that’s signing on. The workgroup is tomorrow at 2pm. We have a lot of supporters that are going to come out. And I’ve had a many supporters from you know Republicans, Democrats, Independents, people that really truly understand this bill. Because there’s been a lot of propaganda, misinformation, saying we’re trying to allow pedophiles to come in. we actually had one woman literally say that pedophiles and rapists and sexually deviants are waiting on the border of Baltimore County so they come in and rape our women and children in bathrooms, which I think is absolutely absurd and irresponsible. Now saying that, I think philosophically where this breaks down is: is choosing to be gay, lesbian, transgender: is it a biological thing or is it a decision? And I truly believe it’s biological. Matter fact, since I introduced the bill, one thing I have been completely struck by is when I’m talking to parents that have transgender kids, the one thing almost universally that they tell me, is that at the age of four or five years old, that their kids are telling them, “Mommy, Daddy, God made a mistake. I’m a boy, but I’m really a girl inside.” Or vice versa. And that’s something that to me, is something that those kids should not be discriminated against. Those kids, or the transgendered people, or gay and lesbian people, we need to treat them equally. This is about discrimination, discrimination is wrong, and the majority of people in Baltimore County agree with that.
MS: Let me open the phones here again. 410-309-8888 is the number here. Julie in Elkridge you are on the air.
Julie (caller): Hi there, how is everybody?
MS: Well, welcome.
Julie: Sweet. Good. I have a question for the whole panel here. I’m a lesbian, and last year when we were fighting for, this is a question largely also on the Baltimore County side of things, but statewide in particular, but last year when we were fighting for the marriage equality bill, we also had a gender identity bill come up right after that. We failed with the marriage equality bill and the gender identity bill. But what I noticed, which was pretty frustrating as a member of the GLBT community, was that when we had the bill for all the marriage hearings, there were are a lot of trans people there to support marriage equality. However, just a week or two later, when they were hearing the gender identity and expression bill, it was mostly transgendered people there, and just a handful of people from the gay community. I just sorta wanted to see if there is any kind of game plan for how the transgender community can utilize folks like myself who are there to support all of the gender identity bills to pull other people from the gay community to get this legislation passed in Baltimore County and in the state.
TQ: And you know Marc, I’ll address that if I could.
MS: Tom Quirk, go ahead.
TQ: I tell you, I have been very impressed by gay, lesbian and straight people all wanting to make sure that not only are they pulled up, but they are also pulling up the transgender community. So what I’ve found, and what I’ve witnessed from the majority of people, is that there is a strong willingness to work together, and I’m talking people also in the religious community and people in all walks of life that are supporting this bill. I do think we have a minority group of people out there that are opposed to it, but I think mostly opposed to it because they don’t know what the bill’s all about. They get these emails of nonsense, and hate and fear, and then they think it’s a bill about everything that it’s not. This is an anti-discrimination bill; it’s about treating people equally. And it’s about having a county, like what kind of county do we want to live in? I want to live in an accepting county. I want to live in a county that we welcome everyone, all walks of life, that we treat them equally and that we don’t discriminate. That’s the kind of county I want to live in.
MS: Let me go back to the phones, we’ll come back to our panel. 410-309-8888. And Leo in Baltimore, you’re on the air. Leo are you there? Leo?
Leo (caller): Yes. Good evening, Marc, and guests, how are you?
MS: Well, welcome.
Leo: I’m just a little confused here. I understand what hermaphrodites are and that surgically you have to make changes in the case of one who is born with more than one genitalia. But when we deal with the transgender ‘syndrome’ as I call it, there appears to me to be some level of experimentation going on at Johns Hopkins and other places. How many categories of transgender are there? Someone said to me there are 7 or 8 or 9, depending on: it’s not all surgical, it’s psychological. And is there, can we ever again talk about a positive gender identity? Does God make mistakes? I generally tend to think not. I don’t think God makes any mistakes. And so while I understand the argument, I think intellectually I understand the argument favoring transgender, I hear from Martin O’Malley and his wife, and others in the legislature, that same-sex marriage and this whole gender issue is something that we have to accept. I don’t have to accept it. I was raised differently.
MS: Ok, let me go back to the panel. I guess I want to go around the room on this, and Dana why don’t you start.
CB: Marc, can I…?
DB: Well, there are really many points to discuss here. But I wanted to get back to one thing. Religious communities that understand the traditions understand that there is nothing in the religious traditions of Judaism, or Christianity, or Islam that are opposed to trans people. As a matter of fact the only quotes from the Bibles are very positive on behalf of trans people, speaking of eunuchs, which is the way trans people were considered back 2500, 3000 years ago. So when religious communities come out against trans people, they’re doing so simply on the tail of their anti-homosexual position. And as far as homosexuality there is really only one sentence that deals with it in the Torah that deals with that anyway. So a lot of this is really a gross exaggeration.
Sir, you mentioned hermaphrodites. That term isn’t used anymore medically, the term is intersexed. And transsexual people are a form of intersex people, where certain sexual characteristics do not line up. You are not 100% male or 100% female. You may have male genitals and a female brain, female genitals and a male brain, and you then you work to bring that into alignment. You’ve mentioned Johns Hopkins which started doing genital reassignment surgery in 1966, stopped in 1975 when it was privatized. There are thousands of such procedures done privately now all across the country and across the world.
MS: Cathy, you were trying to say something.
CB: Yeah, I would certainly not speak to whether or not God makes mistakes. But I wanted to get back to something that was said earlier, because I think this is something important point for people to realize. Medical rights are important for trans people because some of them want to transition. Those folks would be protected under the definition that I and others have put forth in Baltimore County and at the state level. Those who did not want to transition could take advantage of the law as it currently exists that bans sex discrimination. In fact, I was one of the people who testified, or who organized testimony, and who got people to try to support House Bill 235 last year, which Dana could certainly attest to because we spent many hours talking on the phone about it. I asked Glendora Hughes, who is the head of the state agency who enforces the anti-discrimination legislation, and she says that in fact her agency has occasionally taken complaints, raised by transgender people, on a variety of basis including sex discrimination. So I think it’s fine and well and good for Dana’s organization to seek to legislation tolerance, I totally get that. But I don’t think that it’s fair or reasonable to do it on the backs of females and to expect lesbians, who are the “L” in the LGBT community to stand up and say yeah this is great, this is great for us. Because it’s not great for us.
DB: Well but most lesbians, Cathy, feel that way? I haven’t heard from females who feel put upon at all as far as this goes, and you mentioned Glendora…
CB: I’m sorry Dana,
DB: Cathy please…
CB: I was still talking…
DB: You mentioned Glendora Hughes, who is a full and passionate supporter for our legislation on the state level and in Baltimore County. She believes in comprehensive gender identity legislation.
CB: Dana I would ask you or Marc to ask her the question that I put forth.
MS: Tom, let me come back to you. I think that clearly where it breaks down is around the definition we’ve been talking about, with gender identity and gender expression. And the expression part is what get’s to most people.
TQ: Right. And one thing, I did want to follow up on the gentleman’s question. You know if somebody personally, or because of religion or morals, they don’t have to agree or accept this. You know, they can do their own personal beliefs in their own homes. What we’re saying is hey, just don’t discriminate against others. To me this is a live and let live type of measure, which I think a lot of people support. You know one of the things that the opposition, like truly when you get at their core, and say well what is your real issue with this whole subject? And they’re like, well, we don’t, you know, want our kids to be indoctrinated. And I just think that’s really nonsense. Because it’s not like some kid’s going to say “oh, I’m straight, now I’m gay, or now I’m lesbian, or now I’m transgender.” This is something biological, people are born this way. And one thing I want to point out, Marc, that I think is really important: since Baltimore City passed similar legislation in 2003, since Montgomery County passed similar legislation in 2007, since Howard County just passed it in 2011, has there been any incidents or any problems because of this legislation? And the answer is a resoundingly no. Although some opponents did say outright distortions and lies, saying people are getting raped because of this bill in Montgomery County, that’s been categorically refuted by Montgomery County police. Matter of fact so much so, that the County Executive of Montgomery County wrote a letter to Baltimore County talking about the positive experience they’ve had since the legislation has been passed. Same with Howard County, Baltimore City: no problems, no issues. The only reason why there’s any issues from the opponents right now is based mostly on fear and not fact, and not anything what the bill is about.
MS: We have to take a break here. We’ll come back to see where this bill goes. We’ll have discussion. We’ve had discussions on transgender issues and transgender people, many times on the show over the past nineteen years, and we’ll continue to have them because I think it’s an important discussion to have. And I want to thank Councilman Tom Quirk for coming on the air with us, District 1 Baltimore County, down in Catesville. Good to have you on the air with us, Tom. Because you’re a stranger on the show, we’d like to have you back.
TQ: Thank you very much Marc, I really enjoyed it and I appreciate all the input and all the thoughts and comments from the citizens. And I look forward to passing a good bill and sending a loud message that Baltimore County is a welcoming county that we do not discriminate, we’re accepting and welcoming to everyone.
MS: Thank you Tom. And I want to thank Cathy Brennan for joining us, I appreciate at the last minute for agreeing to join us on the show after the email she sent to me, and I appreciate her being part of this conversation. Dana Beyer, Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland, good to have you in the studio.
DB: My pleasure
CB: Thanks, Marc
MS: And we will come back to all of this very soon.
Transcribed February 17, 2012