Transphobia As An Apparent Government Function
Sometimes, one can’t help but wonder if one of the functions of state and local government is transphobia. Below are two stories on agents of government allegedly behaving badly.
Story 1.) You may remember Amber Yust. She’s the California transgender woman who filed for a new driver’s license, only to allegedly have the DMV employee who assisted her send a letter to her home.
The letter was framed in antigay terms. The letter tied her name change to “[t]he homosexual act,” and went on to say:
Supporting those who commit this act and encouraging and justifying those who have the orientation also lead one to hell.
The letter quotes and highlights scriptures from Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Genesis.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel has added to the story in their article DMV employee put on leave after allegedly sending hate mail to transgender woman. In the article, learned the name of the DMV employee that allegedly wrote to Amber Yust: His name is Thomas Demartini. From the article:
[Below the fold: More about the California DMV Employee (Thomas Demartini) and the DMV’s action so far, and the DC Trans Coalition press release, entitled DCTC Condemns Alleged Anti-Trans Assault by MPD Officer].
Yust received a letter at her home from Demartini that was dated Oct. 22, the day after he processed the changes to her DMV record.
The one-page document lists biblical references that imply homosexuality and gender transitions are mortal sins. In the letter, Demartini apparently begs Yust not to complete her gender transition.
“Jesus clearly prohibits gender change operations,” Demartini wrote. “If an operation like this is the reason for changing one’s name, then one has made a very evil decision.”
The ABC affiliate in Los Angeles is reporting DMV employee in transgender case suspended — apparently Thomas Demartini has been suspended with pay.
The San Francisco Chronicle, in their piece Transgender woman says DMV clerk warned of hell, reports the following (emphasis added):
The same day, Yust said, a DVD arrived from a fundamentalist church warning of eternal damnation for anyone “possessed by demons” of homosexuality. The DMV employee’s letter had referred her to the church’s website as a source of “critical information for your salvation.”
What’s more, the DMV had kept the employee on in 2009 even after he refused to process another transgender woman’s name-change application, Yust said in a damage claim filed with the state, the precursor to a lawsuit.
I had “the demon of transvestism” cast out of me in 1979. I know all about how Evangelicals and Pentecostals — basically, Christian fundamentalists — feel about transgender people. Too bad Thomas Demartini never closely read Matthew 19:12; Isaiah 56:3-5; Acts 8:25-40; Judges 4; and 1 Samuel 16:7b, and learned that his God respected gender variance, and that while folk like him look at people from the outside, his God looks at people’s hearts.
Anyway, UPI is reporting in their piece DMV worker faces lawsuit:
In a damage claim filed with the state, preliminary step in the filing of a lawsuit, Yust alleged the DMV retained Demartini on its payroll following an incident in 2009 in which he refused to process a name-change application for another transgender woman.
California’s DMV needs to take antitransgender behavior very seriously — I know I’m planning on telling the DMV that via their General Drivers License and Registration Information number, which is 1-800-777-0133, that I want to know if transphobia is something they take seriously. Hey, I found the number on the DMV Phone Directory webpage — I plan on asking for the management official who is in charge of their antidiscrimination policy.
2.) The DC Trans Coalition has a new press release out, entitled DCTC Condemns Alleged Anti-Trans Assault by MPD Officer. From the press release:
Washington, DC – The DC Trans Coalition is alarmed by the alleged assault of a transgender woman by an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer on December 1, as reported last week by the Washington Blade. If the allegations prove true, this case would mark a flagrant violation of the DC Human Rights Act. Even more disturbing is that to date, criminal charges are still pending against the alleged victim of this assault.
According to the Blade, Chloe Moore and a friend approached a man – off-duty Officer Raphael Radon – to ask for a light for a cigarette. Upon discovering Moore and her friend were trans, Radon proceeded to utter transphobic epithets and threatened violence, and, according to Moore, also shoved her. At this juncture, Moore used pepper spray in self-defense. Radon proceeded to chase Moore two blocks, and beat her on the sidewalk. Soon after, uniformed MPD officers arrived and determined, based on witness testimony, that Radon had instigated the incident. However, Moore was handcuffed and taken to First District headquarters, where the watch commander ordered that she be charged with assault, against the advice of the officers who had arrived at the scene.. MPD officials have said that the issue is under investigation.
“What’s especially disturbing about this case is that it features several flagrant violations of MPD’s general order on dealing with trans people,” said Alison Gill, a DCTC attorney. “Medical attention was apparently not provided promptly, and the use of degrading, transphobic language is expressly forbidden,” Gill continued. Since June, DCTC has been working with several LGBT community organizations to train officers affiliated with MPD’s special liaison units in cultural competency and relevant MPD policies. So far, roughly 70 officers have been trained in this program. “What this incident shows us is that training self-selected volunteers is only a small step toward ensuring that MPD officers fully comply with DC’s human rights law. We want to see a swift rejection of this kind of behavior from the highest levels within MPD, along with a real plan for making sure that every law enforcement officer knows and follows the law, including mandatory training for the entire force,” Gill said.
“We will provide whatever support we can to Chloe Moore as she battles this injustice, and we look forward to working with Mayor-elect Vince Gray and MPD officials to ensure that this kind of violence does not happen again,” said Sadie-Ryanne Vashti, a DCTC advocate. “We call on our allies to stand up and reject transphobia perpetuated by the criminal justice system. No one should be arrested for being the victim of an assault,” Vashti said.
What can I say about this story that the DC Trans Coalition hasn’t already said?
Still, it does seem strange that alleged antitransgender behavior by agents of the government occurs still in parts of the country where gender identity or expression is a protected class. And, that antitransgender behavior by agents of the government isn’t treated by the managers of these agents of the government as seriously as other kinds of bad behavior by agents of the government would be.
I ask the question of myself and others — what can do we do to affect changes in the way government deals with antitransgender discrimination? What can we do to make sure enforcement of antidiscrimination laws and policies based on gender identity or expression are approached with the same level of seriousness that we would expect antidiscrimination laws and policies based on race, gender, and disability would be treated?
I’m know I’m starting with a phone call to the California DMV about how Amber Yust was allegedly treated. If I lived in the District of Colombia, I’d be calling the Metropolitan Police Department, the city Mayor’s office, and LGBT organizations based in DC — specifically to ask them to take action regarding the alleged behavior against Chloe Moore.
*California DMV Employee Tells Trans Woman In Letter She’s Made A “Very Evil Decision”