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    Letters to the Editors

    Transgendered people need understanding

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 13, 2002

    Re: Rights problematic for transgendered.

    As a therapist who currently works with the transgendered community and who established Pinellas County's first transgender support group in 1985, I am compelled to respond to Robyn Blumner's Jan. 6 column.

    It is time for education about this issue with the hope that it will lead to greater understanding and tolerance. This is a complicated situation for the transgendered person, who is required by medical standards of care to obtain psychological counseling in order to receive hormonal therapy and surgery. It is a lengthy, painful and expensive ordeal that is never taken lightly and that nearly always brings the extreme emotional trauma of loss of family, friends and job, compounded by social alienation and widespread abuse.

    Basing tolerance on whether an individual is flamboyant is not the point. Is it fair to employers, she asks, to be forced to accept such an individual in the workplace? I think she has confused behavior and dress code. Can it be appropriate for anyone to dictate appropriate gender attire for a person who is either in the process of legally becoming the other sex or who has already made that transition?

    You say you don't want to underplay the problem, Ms. Blumner, but you have. And then you raise the bathroom issue. Almost all of us have always shared bathrooms at home with the opposite sex. In Europe, public bathrooms have been unisex for years. And security cannot be a particular problem, since most bathrooms are left unlocked, anyway.

    Transgender goes far beyond the issue of self-image. And it is not a choice. As Dr. Walter Bockting said, generally these feelings have persisted from early childhood.

    Visibility is precisely why we need to extend protection to this vulnerable group. Let us not muddy the waters with Vanity Fair's approach to social science or add to the mockery that invites abuse. This may be an issue that goes beyond Robyn Blumner's personal zone of comfort. If she cannot make the stretch to include this disenfranchised group, perhaps she should bow out.
    -- Kathleen L. Farrell, Ph.D., St. Petersburg

    Protecting rights is important

    Re: Rights problematic for transgendered, Jan. 6.

    In arguing that transgendered people shouldn't be legally protected from discrimination because they portray their difference in "a highly visual and therefore confrontational way," Robyn Blumner misses the mark.

    Blumner is refreshingly honest in explaining how conflicted she feels about this issue. But in trying to separate the struggle for equality for gay people apart from transgendered people, she overlooks the core motive in most discrimination -- and the reason the rights of transgendered people should concern all civil libertarians.

    Lesbians and gay men face discrimination because they don't fit into society's ideas of how a man or a woman ought to look or act. From coast to coast, lesbians and gay men are fired because of how they dress or walk or look or talk -- or just because by being gay, they are not "man enough" or "woman enough."

    Our rights to decide how we define ourselves and how we live our lives -- free of interference or discrimination on account of those choices -- are among the most deeply held liberties we have. Those rights don't hinge on how "visual" or "confrontational" people are or how different they may seem.
    -- Matt Coles, director, National Lesbian & Gay Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union, New York

    A serious threat, a prudent response

    Re: Detainees wrongly treated, editorial, Jan. 1.

    To the editorial board and various and sundry writers who have dealt with the issue of the United States and the Justice Department's treatment of those suspected of potential complicity in the Sept. 11 attack on the American way of life, I would like you to have some feedback on your attempt to sway public opinion to the side of the detainees and the attempt to paint the government's policy regarding said detainees as extreme, unfair, heavy-handed, illegal, etc.

    The wide-net approach that our government has been involved in has been a prudent and necessary response to the degree of threat that has been posed to our country. The view that the United States has overreacted is a view that is sadly lacking in perspective. You have vastly underestimated the threat to our country, and your incessant drumming up of sympathy for those who have any possibility of complicity is highly offensive to me.
    -- J.H. Brown, St. Petersburg

    Large compensation unlikely

    Re: Green Beret dies in combat, Jan. 5.

    Will the family of the Special Forces soldier just killed in action in Afghanistan be added to the list of people to receive $1.6-million? Probably not. He will only be remembered by family and friends, like other veterans, and occasionally by a politician who can promote his own cause by raising the flag.
    -- Thomas E. Rollins, Tampa

    Resolutions, both good and bad

    Re: Here are some resolutions for the United States in the new year, by Bill Maxwell, Jan. 6.

    I would like to address each of Bill Maxwell's resolutions. Some are good and others bad.

    Trade with Cuba is bad. As long as Castro keeps his people in slavery we should not trade with Cuba. If Maxwell had to live under Cuba's rules he would be behind bars.

    Ending the death penalty is good. But replace it with banishment for life at hard labor. If you don't work, you don't eat. This was proposed by Bill O'Reilly of The O'Reilly Factor.

    Gun control is bad. Enforce the gun laws now on the books. Don't try to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

    Ending racism is good but doesn't go far enough. We must refuse to accept ill treatment of our fellow citizens for any reason, not just skin color.

    The next point of Maxwell's column is where he shows his true colors, his anti-Israel bias. Cutting off aid to Israel is bad. If the Palestinians would try to emulate Israel, they would be much better off.

    Finally, wine drinking is good if done in moderation. It's bad if done to excess.
    -- Frank Dahlberg, Largo

    A concern too limited

    Re: Here are some resolutions for the United States in the new year, Jan. 6.

    As usual in his self-righteous way, Bill Maxwell tells us what we in this wonderful country of ours are doing wrong. One of the things he talks about is abolishing the death penalty (which I also favor). He even quotes Pope John Paul's comment about "a culture of death."

    But Maxwell does not mention the "death penalty" carried out every day for thousands of soon-to-be-born children who are aborted. Mr. Maxwell, if the death penalty is wrong, why is it not wrong for all human beings?
    -- Ralph E. Hoffmann, Dunnellon

    It's not about skin color

    Bill Maxwell's Jan. 6 column, with his resolutions for the United States, was a great way to look at the coming new year.

    If I may be so bold, I would like to suggest that perhaps racism does not necessarily begin with the color of one's skin. I believe that rejection of a particular type of people has a lot more to do with their attitude, behavior and manner rather than the color of their skin. I personally don't give a hoot about the color of a person's skin -- there are many different colors and/or shades, if you really want to get technical -- and I have been fortunate to meet many different people in my lifetime.

    When the members of a particular group, whether it be white, black, yellow, red or tan, act like animals rather than human beings, that is when you may find that they are rejected. Then someone quickly yells racism, and that is not correct!
    -- Nelson M. Powell, Tampa

    One person's honesty

    Bill Maxwell recently stated that one of his hopes for the new year was honesty in race relations. Well here is my honesty for you: If our ancestors could see the crime rate in this country today and the devastation to society that it has caused, they would have picked their own cotton.
    -- C.B. Allen, St. Petersburg

    An ignorant attitude on Israel

    Re: Here are some resolutions for the United States in the new year.

    In his Sunday column, Bill Maxwell calls for the United States to review its aid to Israel because the Israelis are oppressing the Palestinians. The nicest thing I can say about that is that Maxwell is the victim of willful ignorance.

    To say that the Israelis are oppressing the Palestinians is to ignore the fact that the Palestinians could have, and still can have, peace any time they want. All they have to do is to stop killing and trying to kill Jews and accept the existence of Israel. They had a golden opportunity with the offer from Ehud Barak, but Yasser Arafat and company rejected that because Israel would not accept the right of return -- and the national suicide that went with it.

    The Palestinians then started the current fighting. The excuse that Ariel Sharon stupidly gave them with his visit to Temple Mount was just that -- an excuse. One of their own officials admitted that in a speech in Lebanon last year.

    The benefits of Israeli friendship to the United States are intelligence information and development of defense systems that are benefitting us today in Afghanistan and in other ways.

    I think Bill Maxwell needs to educate himself.
    -- William R. Blocher, Lakeland

    Israel is a needed ally

    Re: Here are some resolutions for the United States in the new year, Jan. 6.

    How can Bill Maxwell conclude that we "lose" by our support of Israel? Israel is our only and strongest ally in the Mideast. Does he think for one minute that the United States has the resources to seek out the likes of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden without Israeli intelligence?

    Can Maxwell, being an ex-Marine, put the Palestinian zealots on the same level as the Israelis? If he can, then it's time for him to move to Palestine, where I hope he will live happily ever after.
    -- Mae Paolino, New Port Richey

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