Trans* Awareness Month: My Journey to Living Authentically

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

standwithpp picNovember is Trans* Awareness Month — an awareness focused on the lives and experiences of those who identify as trans* (the T in LGBTQ) or queer or questioning (the Q).

It’s important to point out the dubious character of the word “queer.” While used as an epithet to shame LGBTQ people, the word has been reclaimed by many members of the community as reflective of their identity. Remember, Facebook allows more than 50 ways to identify one’s identity and orientation; and for many, “queer” is seen as less restrictive than many of the other letters in the LGBTQ alphabet soup.


When we love someone, gender doesn’t matter.


Planned Parenthood historically has been there for the LGBTQ community — from supporting the early liberation movement to compassionately working with HIV/AIDS patients, to today addressing the issues continually chipping away at equality for all. Planned Parenthood continues to stand with the LGBTQ community in calling for continued equality in all aspects.

Planned Parenthood has always believed in one’s autonomy over one’s own body, identity, and decisions — and that is no different when it comes to supporting and fighting for trans equality. But what are we talking about when we say “trans*”? Identifying as transgender means that one’s own gender identity is different than the gender assigned at birth. The term “trans*” serves as an umbrella for other transgender identities, such as genderqueer and gender fluid to name a couple of examples. Many folks know of Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to come out and live her life authentically. She was honest that she could no longer fake it through life — the toll was too much on her soul. It was a sentiment that I could identify with. Continue reading

Selenis Leyva: What Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover Sparked for Me as Sister of Trans Woman

Our 2015 I Stand emcee, Selenis Leyva, wrote about her own personal story in light of Caitlyn Jenner’s debut. Her original post was in Latin@ Magazine, but the Huffington Post has pics with her beautiful sister. Simply, a wonderful story on the still-common struggle of our trans brothers, sisters, and siblings.

Caitlyn, Marizol, and many folks just like me are the next wave of civil rights seekers.

Know hope.

What Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover Sparked For Me As Sister of Trans Woman
by Selenis Leyva, via Huffington Post

Selenis_LeyvaYou may know me as Gloria Mendoza, the no-nonsense, badass head of the Latina crew on Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black.” Oh, did I mention my killer eyebrow game? Yup, that’s me. My name is Selenis Leyva, and I am a true New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx. I’ve been chasing the dream of being a professional actress for 20 years, and here I am!

Granted, “Orange” is not my first gig. I have worked on numerous television shows, including all the “Law & Orders,” “The Sopranos,” “Girls, “Veep” … you get the idea. And a couple of films. I started out in the theater and built a strong foundation for hard work. But yes, “Orange Is The New Black” has changed my life. I am a mother, a daughter and a sister who goes in hard for those she loves and harder for what she believes in. Continue reading

The Mayor of Castro Street Turns 85

Harvey Milk DayThe pathway to social change is paved with an unwavering commitment to forging ahead in the face of adversity, and above all, loyalty to your community. This Friday, we celebrate the legacy of Harvey Milk on what would have been his 85th birthday, had his life not been cut short by assassination. When we talk about social movements, we often point to a specific event as a catalyst for change, and oftentimes, that event is a tragedy. I, however, believe that it is people like Harvey Milk who bring about and create change through their dedication to justice, no matter what barriers may present themselves.


“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” — Harvey Milk


Harvey Milk was one of the first openly gay politicians ever to be elected and serve in a United States public office. Upon arriving in San Francisco in 1972, Milk opened his iconic camera store in the famed Castro district, and became increasingly involved in promoting local businesses in the area. A longtime proponent of equal rights for all and an unapologetic advocate for the LGBTQ community, Milk became the unofficial spokesperson for the gay rights movement, and campaigned for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Upon losing both his first and second election for the Board of Supervisors, in 1975 he was appointed to the San Francisco Board of Permit Appeals by his ally and friend, Mayor George Moscone. Continue reading

Learn to Become an Advocacy HERO!

Want to learn to become a better advocate for the issues you care about? Check out this upcoming event from our partners at HERO: Organizing camp is this weekend!

Camp HERO is an intensive 20-3171463hour training designed to teach the principles and skills of community organizing to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists and their allies. Drawing on techniques honed for decades by progressive social movements, Camp HERO teaches empowerment, team building, leadership development, and grassroots organizing skills.

Camp HERO will gather some of our movement’s best thinkers and organizers to conduct an intensive grassroots organizing curriculum. Workshop topics will include “Developing Strategies and Building Coalitions,” “The Nuts and Bolts of Organizing,” “Finding Your Voice: Telling Your Story,” and more. The training will also include concrete skill-building sessions tailored to the specific needs and interests of participants.

When: March 21-22, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Phoenix Pride Center 

To reserve a spot:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grassroots-organizing-training-camp-hero-tickets-15426620437 

For the next 48 hours you can use coupon code HERO for 75% off!

Continue reading

Out of Limbo: An Interview With Kent Burbank

Kent Burbank and family scaled

Kent Burbank (left) and his family

Marriage equality for same-sex couples has come about partly through court decisions finding against states that have passed laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

In Arizona, the case was Majors v. Jeanes (formerly Majors v. Horne), which included seven couples and two widowed members of couples. One of the couples in the case was Kent Burbank and Vicente Talanquer, who had adopted two sons. Since Arizona did not allow two “unrelated” individuals to adopt jointly, only one of the fathers — Vicente — had been able to legally adopt. And when the couple was legally married in Iowa, that marriage was not recognized in Arizona, meaning that Kent still could not be a legal father to his sons. Only after the decision in Majors v. Jeanes on October 17, 2014, was he finally able to adopt his sons. His family is one of the first in Arizona in which both parents in a same-sex couple were legally able to adopt their children jointly.


“Vicente became the legal father. I had to, essentially, be nothing.”


Kent Burbank, who was once on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, agreed to share his experiences with the adoption process, the lawsuit, and his marriage. I was very interested in interviewing him: I am also an adoptive parent, and since I adopted as a single mom, mine was also viewed as a non-traditional adoption. As we talked, I found we had experiences in common, but that some of what we faced was quite different.

Our meeting took place at the library in downtown Tucson, on January 5, 2015.

Arizona only allowed husband and wife to adopt jointly. Is that why you got involved with the lawsuit?

Our primary purpose for joining the lawsuit, speaking just for my husband and I, was about getting the ability to have both of us recognized as legal parents. When we went through the adoption process we had to do everything that a married, heterosexual couple would have had to have done — background checks, lengthy histories on both of us, statements about why we both want to adopt — and at the very end they said, “Oh, so sorry. Arizona doesn’t allow unmarried, gay couples to adopt.” Continue reading

Toward Improved Care for LGBTQ Patients: New Guidelines Shine Spotlight on Addressing Health Disparities

doctorsOn January 5, Florida became the 36th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, joining a movement that is sweeping across the United States. With federal judges striking down same-sex marriage bans left and right, it seems inevitable that we will soon live in a country that recognizes the freedom to marry. Yet, although more Americans than ever support marriage equality, the fight for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in our society is not over, as they continue to face significant barriers to quality medical services.


Full equality includes access to high-quality medical care, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.


The obstacles that have historically prevented LGBTQ patients from obtaining medical care continue to plague our modern health care system. Sure, the American Psychiatric Association no longer considers homosexuality a mental illness. But a concerning number of health care providers still refuse to serve LGBTQ individuals, and until the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were not required to extend domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. Moreover, the stigma that surrounds homosexuality prevents many patients from disclosing their sexual orientation to doctors. Because the LGBTQ community faces higher rates of certain conditions, including depression and substance abuse, failing to discuss sexual activity can lead to inadequate treatment.

One of the U.S. health care system’s most serious shortcomings is its failure to prepare doctors to work with LGBTQ patients. Young doctors are emerging from medical school ill-equipped to deal with the specific needs of the LGBTQ community. A 2006 study published in Family Medicine surveyed 248 medical students, finding that the vast majority of students held positive attitudes toward LGBTQ patients and hoped to provide them top-tier care. Unfortunately, the same group of students failed spectacularly when tested on LGBTQ-specific health concerns. Another study revealed that most medical schools throughout the United States and Canada devote minimal (if any) instructional time to LGBTQ issues, and that the quality of such instruction varies drastically across institutions. And significantly, many doctors report that they feel uncomfortable discussing sexual behavior with LGBTQ patients. Continue reading

From Phoenix to Washington — And the World: A Short History of the Transgender Pride Flag

Monica Helms (right) holding up her Transgender Pride Flag

Monica Helms (right) holding up her Transgender Pride Flag

November is the month for transgender pride and awareness events. In some communities, it’s one day in November: One of the most widespread observations is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which is held every November 20. In others, TDOR is part of a longer observation, Transgender Awareness Week. Elsewhere, the whole month is devoted to the theme. Noteworthy, too, have been grassroots efforts organized at TransParentDay.org to make the first Sunday in November a celebration of transgender parents.


Phoenix, Arizona, is the birthplace of the Transgender Pride Flag.


However they’re timed, these events share common themes. They are occasions for transgender people and their allies to remember victims of transphobic violence. They are opportunities to assert rights, dignity, and a place in society — to demand the visibility and respect that transgender people are too often denied.

Transgender visibility has also been strengthened by a powerful symbol that first made its appearance at the Phoenix Pride Parade in 2000. Since the creation in the 1970s of the rainbow flag, a symbol shared broadly by LGBTQ people, several newer flags have appeared, each representing sexual and gender identity groups within the LGBTQ community. In 1999, Michael Page, the creator of the Bisexual Pride Flag, suggested to longtime Phoenix resident Monica Helms that she create a similar flag for the transgender community. Continue reading