Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Engaging the Shower-Nuts

I received a most interesting report this morning, written by Maryanne Arnow, a transgender woman who went out into the freezing cold yesterday to encounter the groups who were set up, trying to get petition signatures at the polling places. Equality Maryland had made a "Decline to Sign" flyer to hand out, and several people went to the places where the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever were trying to get signatures to force a referendum to legalize discrimination against transgender people. They needed to have 12,501 valid signatures last week, and turned in fifteen-thousand something. If twenty percent are invalid, which is the usual rate, then they may have had just enough to meet their midpoint quota, and maybe not. If so, they have to get another 12,501 by next Tuesday, and they were counting on election day to get a bunch.

The shower-nuts are getting signatures by telling people that the new nondiscrimination law will result in perverted men going into women's restrooms and shower-rooms. Of course that won't happen, and the law does not make it any more or less legal for men to go into ladies' rooms -- they can do it now, if they want. Whatever, it's a scary image, and people will sign a petition against perverted men in the ladies' locker-rooms. They know that nobody would bother to sign a petition to support discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which is what the law is actually about, so they switch the topic.

Maryanne's narrative is kind of long, and so, though I hate to, I'm going to edit some of it out. She went around to a lot of polling places, and found no shower-nuts at most of them. Then she went to Northwest High School in Germantown.
Arrived on location, 2:30PM - Found one older woman. Early 60's. Grandmother. Name was Jean. Table and opposition materials and petitions present on site. I approached her table. She did not read me as Trans and began her pitch. Part of her pitch included the statement "I don't even think there were any public hearings about this." She had a great deal of concern and "fear" about "predators" taking advantage of such legislation, and her great level of concern as she is a grandparent and her daughter has children including granddaughter.

I listened to her pitch, took one of her flyers, and thanked her. Told her I would be back. Retrieved my briefcase and returned to her table. I asked that she must cease and desist this petitioning, because she is fostering lies and distortions, and to please stop what she was doing as it was literally injurious to my life and my survival because I am directly one of the "kinds of people in question".

She is very old-school generation and very devout in many of her Christian beliefs. I began to explain myself, my story, and why I believe she has been taken advantage of due to her age/demographic to promote this kind of opposition, based largely in fear, distortions, and various misrepresentations. She kept going back to what seemed rote explanations based on her fear of "predators", both for herself and for her children and their children. She also called into question theology and we talked about God and the devil, and how she feels that many people are poisoned by such things which oppose the true will of God. I told her that even those which disrespect and hate me have been welcomed in my own house with warmth and hospitality, and how would that figure in me being "godless" as well as the fact that I am Jewish. I never let up for a moment and politely interfered with every attempt she made to collect signatures.

I called her out on her one statement about "she did not think that there had even been public hearings on this matter". I immediately produced a copy of my testimony from that day and pounded on the point. Gave her one of my cards. Told her to please do more research on the issue. Told her and any potential signers that they were literally signing a document that is hurting my life and my social standing, and promoting further discriminatory beliefs. I asked her about how she had been promoted to do this task. She admitted she had only just recently met Theresa Rickman/Ruth Jacobs, and had actually never discussed the issue in it's entirety with them during apparent preparations for this effort.

It seems to me, this is exactly what needed to happen. Maryanne is a woman who used to be a man. This nice religious lady was gathering petition signatures to support discrimination against exactly a person like Maryanne, but she didn't really know anything about it. Engaging in a conversation with an actual transgender person had to be a good experience for her.

While Maryanne was there, a couple came up and considered signing the petitions. Maryanne tried to talk them out of it, but the wife still signed.
At first she was a little condescending towards me and I called her on it. She became much more open and pleasant towards me by the end of it, but still signed. It was like being stabbed in the guts watching her do that while I could only stand and watch.

The most interesting encounter happened at Stone Mill Elementary School in North Potomac, where Ruth Jacobs, President of the Citizens for a Responsible Government, was getting signatures.

This one takes some twists and turns, and it's kind of a long story, so I'm going to cut out a few sentences here and there (sorry, Maryanne!), but I think you will find this fascinating.
Arrived at approx. 6PM. Table and petitioners are present. Dark and raining, turning to ice. I quietly asked the lead person about her petition - a short frail looking woman with 1 assistant present. The Lead woman clocked me immediately, and addressed me as a male pronoun. I began to try and debate/discuss with her. She was cold and entirely dismissive. I told her I would begin to interfere with her efforts in obtaining signatures. She became very defensive and so did I. She asserted that she had every right to be there and that I needed to leave her alone or she would call the police. I told her to please go ahead and that I had every same right to be there that she did, and that I fully intended to interfere with her activities. I firmly asked her for her name.

Dr. Ruth Jacobs ...

I retrieved my briefcase with materials and went back to her table and I introduced myself, and again tried to engage her in debate. I am also now immediately asking people not to sign at the same time she and her assistant are attempting to engage them. She got a bit angry, and told me that I must leave and stop doing what I was doing, or that she would call the police. Took out her phone and began to make calls as if calling the police. I did not let up and became more aggressive in my attempts to discuss the issue with her. She continued to address me in the male pronouns, rather pointedly. I called her by name and demanded she engage me in straightforward and intelligent dialogue in this issue. I asked her why was she being so rude and if that was her typical M.O. in handling such situations. She refused, turned her back, and went inside the school. As she walked away from me I reminded her that she had been quite rude to me at the County Council hearings and if she intended to continue behaving in that manner. I knew she was going to get help in having me removed if possible.

She returned with another woman and a man. As they are hurriedly walking out of the school towards me now, they are loudly addressing me as "SIR!". "SIR!". I ignored them as if had not heard it at all. As they arrived at the table, telling me I must leave her alone and stop harassing her, I immediately produced legal identification and TOLD them to please observe the name and gender marker, and to not ever address me in the male gender again. I immediately asked the woman to identify herself. She gave her name and stated she was a "Chief Judge" for that/for the polling location(s).

I did not get her name. Well dressed, mid fifties, medium dark hair, well-spoken, and generally pleasant immediately upon being corrected. I told her I knew ell that I had every right to be there doing exactly what I was doing. I told her that I was continuously attempting to engage Dr. Jacobs in intelligent dialogue about the issue, and that should not be considered "harassment". She backed down her tone immediately and acknowledged my right to be there as well, and advised me that I must make more physical space between myself and Dr. Jacob's site. I complied. She left with her male counterpart, and I immediately moved to the nearest possible distance bordering on her area.

It would be interesting to know what the function of the "chief judge" is in a situation like this. I'm sure they can enforce laws related to campaigning within so-many feet of the election booths, but this was not a campaign issue or a political issue, and I doubt that the election judge is responsible for refereeing events that fall outside the legal perimeter of the election area.

Skipping a little ...
A man arrives and is acknowledged in a friendly manner by Dr. Jacobs. I heard her say "how glad she was that he was there". He walks right up to me, nearly toe to toe. Early 50's, balding, long coat, striking blue eyes, maybe 5'9. Addresses me in the male pronoun with a threatening glare, and tells me I must stop harassing Dr. Jacobs. I insist I am making every attempt to engage her in debate and dialogue on this issue and that she had been pointedly rude to me. He does not care and continues. I address him and ask him not to refer to me in the male pronoun and that I have every legal right to be there the same as her.

I then specifically told him "I would do whatever is necessary to interfere with her activities to prevent her from gaining additional signatures". He told me that is a direct threat and that he will now contact the police because I am threatening her. I attempt to discuss the issue with him. He will not back down and continues to accuse me of threatening ...

This second guy gets on the phone and appears to be calling the police. Maryanne makes a phone call, too. The media will be contacted.
I then attempt to continue discussing the issue with this man. He is calling the police now. I am asking him why he is going to consciously and purposely distort my meaning to make his point and smear me if possible. He insists I have made a threat. I tell him that was not my meaning and the last thing I would ever consider would be any form of physical conflict or violence. I am continuing to try to talk to him the entire time he is on the phone with police. I am also still trying to engage Dr. Jacobs in debate or acknowledgement. I ask him how can he consider himself a moral or ethical standard by distorting my meaning and trying to hurt me by doing so. I ask him if he was aware of the fact that she had been called out during County Council testimony and forced to acknowledge that she has no clinical expertise in matters of gender whatsoever.

He looked surprised for a moment as I inform him I was there beside her when that happened in front of a full council chamber, and that she had shown up that day in a lab coat and stethoscope in order to bolster the public impression of her validity on this issue which was a falsehood. I ask how he could support anyone that would resort to such tactics. He claims to be a friend of hers.

Here's an interesting tidbit. Last year, Ruth Jacobs referred to a transgender woman with a male pronoun during a meeting of the citizens advisory committee working on the new sex-ed curriculum. She received several emails, including one from me, pointing out the error and noting that the other members of the committee would not tolerate that sort of rudeness. In October, she referred to this incident in testimony to the Montgomery County Council, when she said, "As a member of the committee at the schools, I received threatening emails when I slipped and failed to use the proper pronoun." Further investigation by the citizens committee failed to support the allegation that there were any threatening emails, of course, but her statement does prove that, since she knows what the "proper pronoun" is, she also knows what the improper pronoun is. There are innocent mistakes, and there are bigoted insults.

Meanwhile, a reporter from The Gazette has called, and Maryanne has filled her in on what is going on. The man who has shown up says his name is "Dan Willard." Ruth Jacobs calls The Gazette, says she's being harassed, and The Gazette calls Maryanne back -- you can just see this, standing out in the freezing rain, can't you?

Maryanne continues:
I am upbeat and in good humor and tell her it's all good and that I am fine. Police arrive on site. I am attempting dialogue with a potential signer of their petitions. I finish my discussion, and Montgomery County police officers then politely ask me to step aside for a moment to speak with me. They simply tell me that they cannot stay here and babysit us, to play nice, give each other appropriate space and distance, and that they have far to many calls to deal with something like this. I was respectful and fully acknowledge their request and thank them. They leave immediately.

Can you imagine? I didn't see the count, but there were dozens if not hundreds of automobile accidents in the county, as the roads became covered with ice. Power was going out all over the county, stop lights were dead. And here the shower-nuts have to call the cops to make a transgender woman stop talking to them? I'm sure they were not amused. It sounds like they decided to try to work it out with the reasonable one.
I now begin to intercept potential signers before they get to them now, and hand out the "Decline to Sign" flyers. I turned once to Dr. Jacobs several feet away and tell her, "Dr Jacobs" - " I admire your Chutzpah"… A few minutes later she returns the compliment to me out of the blue. We all continue in our tasks now keeping respectful space and distance. She addresses me again a few minutes later, out of the blue, and tells me that she does not have an issue with me, per-se. She quotes my statement from the Gazette article published last year in which I said "this is a "slippery slope", and says to me that she supports the unisex bathroom idea. I respond in kind and tell her that I respect her professional standing and that other countries have successfully integrated these ideas.

She mentioned Boston's laws and how they were written to better reflect such concerns as she feels have not been properly addressed in this county's legislative issue on this matter. We now begin to talk in a very civil, almost social manner, and discuss the issue. She says she is not a bigot and does not feel that such characterizations of her are accurate at all and that she is not a mean or hateful person.

Her main concerns, as she states, are that she feels that any person with male genitalia does not belong in women's facilities at all. Period. She also feels that this measure was passed too quickly with too much ambiguity and too many issues left not fully addressed, thereby creating situations where such potentially inappropriate abuses by certain males may take place. I counter with her knowledge that when certain people may actually be transitioning, the RLE (real life experience) is a clinical requirement in most cases and that this is still the same exact SOC(standards of care) issue. I ask her how can anyone live the required RLE, without actually facing this issue.

Ah, this makes it tough, the shower-nut is confronted with somebody who knows what they're talking about. Their entire exercise is based on the unlikely hypothetical situation where a man goes into the ladies room for prurient reasons, and claims to be transgender. They get signatures by magnifying the possibility of this happening, by focusing on that rather than the actual law, which prevents discrimination. But the hypothetical falls apart in the presence of an actual transgender person, its stupidity rises to the surface.
I tell her that no self-respecting transgender(ed) person would EVER consider such inappropriate indecency or exposure as it would compromise and likely destroy a persons' chances for completion of a successful transition under almost any circumstance should it actually occur. I remind her that all facilities DO have closed stalls which also lock, as well as many having more private areas or curtains in some cases. She states that if a person has appropriate ID/Documentation to assert their identity in gender that this then is not the issue, and that she really does not have an issue with me personally, or persons "like me" that have, or are successfully transitioned to the target gender.

She does tell me that no one should try to "force" their self-perception of gender identity onto or into her reality just because it may be theirs. I tell her a little bit of my personal story of very early childhood self-perception, and how exactly, for me, that has in fact become the undeniable reality of my private and public existence. She states her perceptions, that although this may be mine and others reality of self-perception, but that she and others still do not share this perception in regards to actually being "female". She states not having the ability to menstruate, or bear children, and therefore not able to face the same rigors and experiences as biological females, and in those ways, therefore, not a necessarily valid reality of a person's gender from her viewpoint, either as a clinician or individual.

This then leads back to her point of other's trying to enforce their (legislative) reality of self-perception upon any other such as herself that does not necessarily or fully agree with that individual self-perception. She still states concerns that the legislation has been written in such a way as to leave the door open for abuse or inappropriate use, and that if nothing else, the law could be and should be written better. She feels it was passed too quickly and without enough consideration from the constituency at large and that it could have been done much better and taken more of these - hers and other's concerns into account.

I hear what she is saying and thank her as well for engaging me in this discussion now. I tell her then that we need to continue in intelligent dialogue to resolve these issues instead of allowing continued degeneration into the shitstorm that this has become.

I tell her I would like to have a part in that process and once again reiterate my desire in opening a forum of open and non-conflict based dialogue, including Ms. Rickman, to work towards resolving these issues if at all possible, and that I would welcome any moderation that she feels would be appropriate. Again I restate she is welcome in my home herself and that anything would be better than continued conflict and lack of mature discussion and intelligent dialogue.

That if it should come to referendum and require re-writing that we all should have a part in that process in a mature and intelligent manner. We actually seem to agree on certain points, and that for those that still are the most concerned, this is in fact a "slippery slope", where the perceptions of those most opposed or concerned are still not resolved in a suitable manner. Of course I have to say then, that there is simply no way to make "everyone" happy with issues such as these and there will always be dissention from one direction or another at the end of it.

I have heard stories of enemy soldiers entrenched near one another, who end up making friends. Occasionally they'll take a shot over the other's head, just to prove to their superiors that they're actually fighting. That's what this reminds me of. An ignorant person campaigning to allow discrimination against transgender people, and a transgender person standing right there, not going away, keeping the conversation going. And after awhile they start to see each other as people.

You'll love how this ends.
We continued civil, open, and peaceful discussion for a few minutes more. She is preparing to leave and so am I at this point. It is 7:45PM, and we are all walking ice blocks and exhausted. She allows me to offer her a handshake, and then shares a very real and very earnest hug. A hug. Imagine that. More thanks exchanged between us both. I tell her I respect her professional standing, thank her very much for opening that conversation with me, and hope to open more dialogue with her soon. She says must soon return to her work, hasn't done any of her billings for several months, and then after all of this, maybe such a dialogue can continue in the future. Credit given where honest credit is due. Good enough for me.

I thank Maryanne for going out there and warming hearts on the coldest day. This is exactly what has to happen. These people sit around together talking to each other about the deviants and the Sodomites, convincing themselves that people they don't understand are evil. But actually meeting one of these evil people pretty much undermines the whole concept.

I don't know Maryanne, I saw her testimony at the County Council meeting and have exchanged some email with her, but I don't think we've met. I'm sure she had things she'd rather do than spend eight hours outdoors in the wintry mix, talking to people who are committed to making her life harder.

Thanks to her and the others who went out to engage the bigots. It doesn't sound like they got very many signatures. They have until February 19th to get another 12,501 valid signatures, assuming the first batch had enough. Maybe they'll do it, but I have my doubts.

Though this is Maryanne Arnow's narrative, I know there were others out there in the cold doing the same thing. I believe Equality Maryland and Dr. Dana Beyer helped organize the effort, and they deserve our thanks. Our county is infected with a small group of ignorant people who are very persistent in spreading ugliness through our community. It is up to the rest of us to actively oppose them. If you do nothing, they'll get their way. So thank you to Equality Maryland, to Dana Beyer and others who went out there, and especially to Maryanne Arnow for going out and fighting the good fight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am incredibly impressed, in fact awed, and moved by Marianne's strength of character and moral authority. This is a story that begs for mass-distribution! She has taken the high road in a somewhat difficult debate with people who refuse to debate and deserves recognition (as does Dana Beyer) in her efforts to inform and educate, especially that small group of people in Montgomery County who mask their hatred and bigotry with spurious religious "beliefs". It will be a tough battle - the battle against ignorance - but it will be worth fighting. Montgomery County will emerge as an even better place to live for its citizens who strive daily to accept those who are different and to live ethical and moral lives.
A Supportive Reader

February 13, 2008 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologize for mis-spelling Maryanne's name!
A Supportive Reader

February 13, 2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Maryanne! We have come a long ways by taking the high road and we can all learn a lot from your kind heart.

February 13, 2008 11:39 AM  
Blogger Tish said...

I know that Maryanne was recalling Dr. Ruth's statements from memory and may have missed a word here or there, but I find this report very chilling:
She states her perceptions, that although this may be mine and others reality of self-perception, but that she and others still do not share this perception in regards to actually being "female". She states not having the ability to menstruate, or bear children, and therefore not able to face the same rigors and experiences as biological females, and in those ways, therefore, not a necessarily valid reality of a person's gender from her viewpoint, either as a clinician or individual.

By this standard any infertile woman is not a woman, regardless of her physical build. Likewise many women with amenorrhoea don't meet the criteria for full femalehood.

Motherhood and menstruation don't make us women. We are women whether these things happen to us or not. To say that transwomen like my sister cannot be considered women because these particular aspects of female experience are not going to be a part of their female experience is dismissive to all women.

Just as we don't rescind the marriages of couples who can't or don't conceive, we do not re-gender adult non-mothers. I know that Maryanne is writing to us about a conversation and not claiming that Ruth Jacobs said these exact words, but the statement is so in keeping with Dr. Ruth's character and previous statements about gender that I find it completely believable.

That she would say that as a clinician she cannot accept the reality that a non-fertile woman is a women is a striking statement about her abilities as a clinician.

February 13, 2008 12:09 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

The law isn't going anywhere.

This is one of the most restrictive of the laws that currently cover 38% of the US population. There has never been a case of the hypothetical I heard so much of yesterday.

Theresa and Ruth have made it clear on several occasions that what is at root of their fear is that individuals who once had a penis are accepted by society as women, legally and socially, and are, therefore, able and free to use women's facilities. The corollary is that individuals who have vaginas must use those same women's facilities. The problem is, as I pointed out to Steina's husband yesterday, is that those trans men look and behave no different from him. He could never tell them apart. And I think he would not want those men in the women's room. Time for a new petition, guys.

If there is no strip searching to be done, hwo do you propose to implement anything?

I never denied the law applies to bathrooms or locker rooms. All that has been said is the county attorneys believe this law does not change the existing law, which is that those facilities may be regulated by the owners. Theresa and Susan simply don't believe the county attorney and exec and have called them liars.

Underlying this is something that Ruth told Maryanne yesterday, which is that she doesn't want anyone telling her how she must accept them in their social role based on their "feelings." Sorry, Ruth, that's how this society works. You expect people to call you, "Doctor," so out of respect for you they call you so. I have friends who choose to be called "Ms." and others who prefer "Mrs." My legal documentation and social expression is female, so regardless of what any of you believe, you are obligated in a civil society to recognize me as such. You don't have to like it, agree with it, have me over for dinner, whatever. But it is the social contract we all have with one another.

So, finally, Anon, you still haven't gotten to the point -- what exactly do you want? All these issues are out there -- what is it that bothers you, and what should Maryanne and Ruth discuss the next time they meet?

February 13, 2008 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


These games you nuts play with words are lies. What you are seeking is a radical redefinition of "gender" to mean whatever one feels like.

If you find Jacobs words chilling, you should chill out. Maybe you can reread it next summer at the beach. Her definition is common usage.

February 13, 2008 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday, during a Latin 1 class, students were writing a brief assignment comparing Roman religion to a modern religion of their choice. One student said she was a Quaker, and later a boy, just to tease her, said "Quakers are gay." What a teachable moment; so I gave my speech on tolerance, acceptance, respect, politeness and inclusion, specifically in reference to religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, but with reference to other characteristics (race, national origin, etc.). I waxed a little poetic, I guess, because when I was done the students clapped and cheered.

I bet Theresa and Ruth would have complained that I was discriminating against their viewpoint, and not acknowledging students' right to express prejudice. Alas.

February 13, 2008 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have a lot of those "teachable moments". To be honest, they do in fact work-- I have heard a lot less racial and heterosexist language in my classroom as well as halls. We are doing a great school-wide tolerance traning and we are excited to be part of it.

February 13, 2008 12:35 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


I've told you this before, and I will say it again -- that train long ago left the station. Just because in most instances a penis is associated with a male brain, that doesn't mean it is always so. Science and medicine long ago figured that out; even the Greeks and Talmudists had that figured out. All you and your friends exhibit is the totalitarian mindset that simply cannot accept that life is not black and white. And it wasn't that long ago that religious totalitarians such as yourself didn't accept the black as human, either.

Get an education.

February 13, 2008 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well-written, Ms. Arnow.

You're a wonderful woman and we are so lucky to have people like you who still exist in today's society.

Mr. Teacher Man

February 13, 2008 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things. I am going to get under some skin here but i have to speak for what i believe is right in my heart, so i will, and darn the torpedoes.

I will likely garner criticism and possibly even hatred from people like myself that are also daily struggling to survive in what is still all too often a very hostile culture, but if i cannot, or do not speak the truth of my heart and then stand on it, then i stand for nothing, and my convictions, feelings and opinions counted as worth even less in the long run.

The first is to Jim - Jim, you know i love and appreciate all you are doing here, and you have been an instrumental part in engaging many people in an intelligent public dialogue forum. This is completely invaluable in such controversial issues as this, and i have given you many thanks in the time i have been writing to you and in this forum.

I disagree with the use of the term and Characterization of "The Shower Nuts".

I do not support such comments as part of my own mindset or opinion about the people opposing or debating this issue with me, or others like me, as well as many earnest and committed supporters of our cause, that like yourself, are equally as committed in attaining any form of equal rights status in this state, or in the world at large.

This is not a personal criticism. I just feel in my heart that such terms or language will only serve to inflame, and possibly take us a couple steps back in terms of public opinion about what represents mature and reasonable dialogue on such matters.

Any semblance to maintaining a higher path could potentially be compromised by using such language or characterizations, especially in such a sensitive and potentially explosive issue as this has become, and i do not agree with this kind of characterization at all.

My additional reasons for this. I do not like to judge or lay blanket judgements of others using labels of any kind if it can be helped.

We are all human beings and prone to strong emotions and strong feelings and the inescapable expressions of such.

I am guilty myself of having done such things in heated and soometimes emotionally charged moments, but generally try to avoid doing so.

It may only serve to strengthen another's negative or potentially negative view, when i am already faced with such labels and stereotypical misperceptions that i have to face and deal with quite painfully, and in every waking moment of my daily life as an openly transgendered woman in the public eye.

There MAY be many "nuts" out there - many full of judgement and vile hatred and spritual or theologic "justifications" that call me a freak of nature, a faggot, a loser, unworthy of God's love or equal social standing.

All because of what is inaccurately termed as a "lifestyle choice" by many of those, that simply have no educated or informed understanding of an "incongruent" "gender identity" whatsoever - either from personal experience or clinical education.

Walk in my shoes for a day - a well spoken, well adjusted, and extremely talented woman that has staked everything in her life - her home, her marriage, her social and professional standing and any sense of "male privilege", just to be true to herself and all those she loves, and willingly face the constant ridicule and humiliation of continuous public misperception, lies, hatred, distortion and entirely innacurate characterizations.

For no other reason than being "different" and invariably then, falling far outside of any supposed "moral", "ethical", cultural and theologic "norms", which some quite strongly feel have been utterly compromised by the existence of people such as myself in open society.

If i begin to lower myself to the same point as those that wish to use such language and judgement against me, then i am no better than any of them, and there is no longer a higher path for me to take.

Lastly, i learned a lot of valuable things yesterday and last night as i watched people sign these petitions, and tried my best to speak with them in the dark and pouring freezing misery.

I learned that there are many people out here in this part of the State, that although not necessarily opposed to people like myself, per-se, - as Dr. Jacobs herself put it, but that those that signed, were determined to do so and only needed the opportunity to voice their personal opinions by so doing.

Yes, it hurts to watch and hear this. It goes right back to pervasively dogmatic misperceptions about people like myself that have been fostered for decades on top of decades.

But most importantly, i actually began to see the people for who they are as regards this issue, and why some may feel legitimate need for themselves to take such "opposition" to such legislation, or at the very least, bring it to a bigger public forum where more of the constituency of this county has the opportunity to weigh in and voice their feelings about such issues.

I guess the real point i am trying to make is, i discovered that many people i saw yesterday, as regards this particular issue, have NOT been educated fully about what has happened regarding the passage of this legislation, and why or how it even happened in the first place.

The ideal example is the first woman i spoke with yesterday - a grandmother. A blessed kind woman that engaged me with warmth and real intelligence, and one that although may have even been directed, or even used to a certain extent, because of her age, belief, or particular demographic.

She is a fellow citizen with valid opinions and feelings just like mine. It is not my fault nor the Fault of others like Dr. Jacobs or Theresa Rickman that someone like this fell between the cracks of public opinion where such legislation was concerned.

Easily swayed and influenced by the use of fear, whether accurate or not, and based on her strength of religious or spiritual convictions. Someone like this may therefore, be easily swayed, and taken fully advantage of, in this regard by the opposition, because of just exactly those kinds of issues.

She has a valid viewpoint,
even if it may in part lie in misconception, half truths, misinformation, fear, and/or lack of knowledge of such issue or specifically even about someone like myself.

She wasn't even aware that public hearings had in fact been held, and that had become part of her pitch, implying a potentially pervasive underlying belief about being blindsided by a county council "run amok" or some other such inaccurate belief.

I corrected her in an intelligent manner, and gave her a copy of my testimony from that very day during those same hearings..

How many more like her are out there, on the fringe of public awareness, just waiting to attach their name and their flag to any "worthy cause" that happpens to come along and hook into their particular belief set or individual fears ?

As a fellow resident of this county, and member of the constituency at large, she has every right to voice her feelings and opinions as i do, even if i know it may hurt my ability to be percieved as a positive and constructive human being, with potential just like anyone else.

I saw this again and again throughout the day as i watched professional, well spoken, and well dressed people - family people - that work hard to protect their children and their families and their lives and individual perceptions based solely on the information at hand.

I cannot condemn them, nor label them en masse, just because they differ in opinion or knowledge base, even if it may be entirely incorrect - even if it be based in lies and distortion and untruth.

This would even have to include even the most vociferous of opponents, simply if for no other reason they did not choose their parents, or choose the belief systems that they may have been raised with.

How can i judge anyone that i have not actually stood within their hearts and minds, and know for sure and certain what every thought, feeling, situation or agenda they have experienced that brings them to that point of belief within themselves and/or about others.

Unless you are a certified psychic, i must agree with the scriptures that clearly say - "judge not, lest be judged by the same..."

When people feel like they have not been heard on important issues, they get angry, upset,
and may legitimately feel disenfranchised from the political and social process(es).

This is where the problem really begins in some critically important ways.

If a referendum is called and this legislation is forced back onto the table for reconsideration, so be it.

That does not mean that i will not continue to oppose the opposition forces, whomever and wherever they are... - In fact, - this view has only served to strengthen my resolve in helping to educate others as to the truth of my personal experience, and how it relates directly to the issues and the difficulty(ies) at hand.

The rift of misperception in people's minds that continues to mischaracterize people like myself and why and how that have come to be in that place to begin with.

I am deeply opposed to bigotry in any form, and negativity, and the deprivement of human rights, and the perversion of human understanding that can otherwise potentially come from open, mature, compassionate, non-judgemental, and intelligent dialogue.

I hate the haters within a part of myself because of how they have hurt me almost every day of my life because i was ALWAYS "different". Even since the earkliest memories of my childhood. I cannot help that. But i cannot be like they are, or i will become no better than they have.

If there are so many people out there - fellow citizens that were late in catching the ball while it was rolling in this direction - i can't blame them no matter what the reason.

Call it socially irresponsible - but in today's world, with the amount of information being thrown at all of us, and the kinds of schedules most working families are forced to keep, it seems that a very large number of people simply dont or wont keep abreast of such issues until after the fact.

That's the point - when people find out or begin to learn of such issues and such legislations "after the fact", they may often feel, based on what i saw and heard yesterday, that they have been left out somehow or that something was slipped half under the carpet right under their noses.

They become incensed, and are then more easily influenced to oppose such issues. The opposition knows this, and has taken full advantage of this, as is their every right to do so, whether correct or not.

I don't agree with some of the tactics or "conditioning" i percieve may have used by such opponents, and i may even feel some of it is underhanded or less than ethical, but they ARE EFFECTIVE, and that's what really matters when it comes down to the public forum and the time to vote.

If i join in condemnation, judgement, and inflammatory language, blanket labels, or inflammatory rhetoric, then i am just as guilty as anyone else, and have nothing of ethical or moral value to stand on, from that point forward.

I wish Jim, that you would change the title of today's posting.

There are hard-working and intelligent people out there that signed these petitions yesterday, and all they really want is to protect their families, their children, and their sense of self as regards being fellow citizens.

All of this in a time where such values of solidairty as a people - ONE people - the AMERICAN people -has been splintered and fractioned and factioned in a million different ways.

Many of these folks may not take kindly to being referred to as nuts, especially if they have kids, and have learned to be fearful for their safety or protection for any reason, valid or not.

This will happen in a culture that IS riddled with the advances and very real threat, from many very real predatory types out there that would do them harm if they could.

i even learned valuable lessons from Dr. Jacobs about where she really stands on this issue and some of the why. I have to respect that, whether i like it or not.

If it should come to referendum, then so be it. If it should be that the law needs to be re-written, so be it. I myself could have a bigger or better part in that process, and should it come to that, i fully intend to be involved if i can be.

It is MY life. These ARE my rights, and i WILL continue to fight for them, and in every way i can within my abilities to do so.

If this law is pulled out, I WILL do everything i can to see it reinstated, even if it has to once again be amended.

That is my right as a fellow citizen and fellow countryman(woman)...

Maybe a new law can get the same things acomplished but make more people feel better about the way it is handled, or more sense of comfort that their safety or sanctity has not been compromised in some way or another that has not been heretofore fully addressed. I do not know.

I will NOT go away because some may wish it. I WILL fight for my rights, and i WILL speak out in the face of hatred, lies, bigotry, distortion and continued mis-education about these issues and about people like myself at every appropriate opportunity.

I AM, unfortunately, one of the "kinds of people" in question, in the minds of many people that simply have not been better educated on this issue or about people like me.

This is about my actual life more than all of them put together,
and as it directly impacts my life from a very real and very functional standpoint in terms of social perception, as well as my ability to survive in a world full of extremely hostile perceptions, and all too common misperceptions about people like myself.

I am more vulnerable to hatred, humiliation, compromise of my personal safety and comfort, and violence, than all of the other groups put together no matter what they may say.

I have been followed, i have been stalked, i have been harassed, embarrassed, humiliated, disrespected, and discriminated against, and insulted one way or another day after day.

I have been laughed at and humiliated for years because of people's cruel-hearted ingnorance and biotry, fear of their own humanity, and their own sexuality and that of others.

I know this because i have to actually LIVE through it every day.

All i can, and all that i should ever strive to do, is to help educate people better that are willing to be open hearted and open minded. I must and WILL deeply and fearlessly challenge, oppose, and expose the falsehood of those that are not, and so that everyone feels like they had a fair shot at the issue(s) from a more balanced viewpoint.

Many thanks always,
Lovingly always,


I Am,

Maryanne A. Arnow

February 13, 2008 4:07 PM  
Blogger JimK said...


To tell you the truth, I went back and forth about using the term "shower-nuts" in this post, because the real point was that you made human contact with one of them, and I kind of hated to take anything away from that.

Let me tell you why I think it's okay to talk that way. I don't expect anybody to agree with me, and I understand that it's inflammatory speech, but there is a kind of sense to my language.

There are two points of view about everything. For instance, regarding this law, it just may be that it's a bad idea to make this kind of discrimination illegal, for one reason or another. I can perfectly well imagine a person making a case, for instance, that the inconvenience and expense of protecting transgender individuals would outweigh the benefits, especially since it's such a tiny minority of the population. I can imagine somebody saying that people who choose to present themselves in a way that falls outside the norm need to be able to stand up for themselves and not ask for special protection, and that peer pressure is a force that maintains social order. Etcetera. There could be a million reasonable arguments for opposing this bill.

But the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever didn't choose to present a reasonable argument. Instead they pulled a hypothetical situation out of thin air. They said this law would endanger women and girls, because lewd men would have an excuse for going into ladies rooms. They tried to scare people, instead of reasoning with them.

Now, two things could happen here, and the first thing has been proven not to work. One, you can try to reason, negotiate, and compromise with them. This is the approach taken by David Fishback in the earlier citizens advisory committee for the school district. There were a lot of conservative people on that committee, and they brought in their materials and the group discussed them, and voted, and everybody had a say, and the majority rejected most of their materials. In the long run all the so-called "conservatives" wanted to do was to disrupt the process -- they had to win, no matter what. The votes didn't go their way, so they undermined the process. They made personal accusations, they went to the press, they did everything they could to stop an orderly and well-designed process from succeeding. David tried to run a fair committee, where everyone got to express their views, and that wasn't what they wanted: they would only accept total agreement with their views.

Two, you can write them off, ignore them, and make fun of them. Somebody standing out in the ice telling people their daughters will be raped may deserve the kind of personal attention you gave them, one on one, but they must not be allowed to tie up the entire process of curriculum or law-making, they do not deserve attention from the press, rational people should not have to consider counterarguments to that ridiculousness. This is a harsh opinion, and it is my own opinion only. Other TTF members probably cringe when I use a term like "shower-nuts." But when they lie and pull sneaky tricks, like having some man put on a dress and go into the ladies locker-room at Rio while they wait outside ready to call the TV crews, when they tell people that the law is about A when it's about B, they simply cannot be taken seriously. Ridicule is a better response than allowing ourselves to be sucked into a debate that is based on fake assumptions.

People on the liberal side lose because they think they have to be nice, they think they have to listen to the other side, and people on the so-called "conservative" side win because they're bullies, they fight dirty, and they don't care what the other side thinks. Well, this isn't even dirty fighting, anybody in their right mind can see that these people are simply ignoring logic and decency; this is simply calling them what they are: nuts. Yes, it makes dialog impossible, but I don't care to have a dialog with somebody who refers to people like you as "deviants" and "sodomites." I am really glad that you went out there and did what you did, you may have actually made some progress, and I applaud you for having the courage to stand out there and deal with that, but I am not inclined to spend my time that way.

"Shower-nuts" are not the poor people who believe what they're told and sign the petitions. Usually I just refer to them as "stupid people," which I understand is not very nice, either. I can't think of a nice term for somebody who signs a petition when they have no idea in the world what it's about. But I agree with you, they are not the enemy, they're just people who are, mainly, too busy to pay attention. The shower-nuts are the handful of people who won't listen to facts and seem to live for prejudice and discrimination.

I don't think it will actually make your life harder, if someone like me refuses to take the CRW seriously and makes fun of them. It sounds like you have an excellent approach to dealing with these kinds of people, but I don't think we will find that you changed anybody's mind today. I expect to see Ruth Jacobs quoted in the paper next week saying the same stuff -- Gender Identity Disorder is a mental illness, suicide rates for transgender people blah blah blah, drug use blah blah blah, diseases ...

If the Citizens for Whatever want to promote a conservative world-view, that is their right, and if they choose to make a reasoned argument based on facts, I'd be just as happy not to spend my days writing on this web site about them -- let them present their ideas clearly in a public forum, let the community debate the ideas, vote, and move on. But this battle is more than just sexual orientation and gender identity, the battle is about whether to use our god-given minds in a sophisticated, respectable, and intelligent way, or to react like a pack of dogs whenever we see something that violates our expectations, and attack it mercilessly. You can't reason with a pack of dogs.


February 13, 2008 5:00 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

There is a great deal of truth in what Maryanne has to say. She worked outside for eight hours yesterday, including those final two with Ruth in the freezing rain. I know, because I was on the phone with her, and it sounded as if her phone was encased in ice. So she has certainly earned her right to speak her mind. I hope everyone will give her words a very respectful and considered read.

I also agree that the use of terms like “showernuts” may be offensive, though that term would be the least offensive of all the potentially descriptive terms. Sometimes life is difficult and you try to leaven it with humor to keep moving on.

Still, I have to agree with the rest of what Jim has said. I have personally had very fruitful conversations with some members of the opposition, and since there are only seventeen of them, I would really like to have such conversations with all of them. That would be the ideal.

But it is rarely possible, which is why we are a representative democracy and not a participatory democracy. We elect people to do the hard work, and set up a process where concerned citizens may become involved to affect that process. Yes, it is flawed, and we all know those arguments and Churchill’s reminder that it is still the best of all political systems.

This law is a case in point. It is being opposed by the same group teachthefacts was formed to oppose, a group created in opposition to any discussion of the idea of sexual orientation, let alone homosexual orientation, in MCPS. It is opposed by members of different religious faiths – Mormons and Catholics, for the most part, but I imagine others as well - who have one thing in common – they are what we call religious fundamentalists, or Biblical literalists. Socially speaking they are totalitarians, people who would like to control not simply their own lives or those of their families or church, but everyone else’s lives as well.

They do not want to control others because they are religious fundamentalists. I believe they become so because they are totalitarians at heart who simply can’t bear the thought that there are others out who are not like them. Theresa expresses that best when she describes how she doesn’t even want to have to think about the possibility that there may be a trans woman in her locker room. Live and let live? Not for her.
Let me make it clear that not all orthodox believers feel and act this way. I know, since I was once one of them. But we have seen in the past two decades the growth of a movement in this country that wants very much to take control, and they have been in power for the past seven years and have done possibly irreparable damage both to the reality and the idea of America. They will be stopped, but damage has already been done.

We have been subject to our own little brushfire here in Montgomery County the past four years, which is why this drama is played out on these pages. That we are maybe the 100th jurisdiction to have passed such legislation with no untoward consequences means nothing to this group that was set up to be the avant-garde of the Bush theocratic revolution in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 election. Funded from Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi and Colorado, they don’t hesitate to run roughshod over the vast majority of county residents who really are decent, tolerant people. Maryanne and I met many of them yesterday, people who had no idea that men would soon start invading the women’s bathroom to rape and murder their wives and daughters, People who thought, maybe because of age and poor hearing, or the cold, that by signing they were signing an ANTI-discrimination petition. Even people who are angry that the sales tax was recently raised and want to send a signal to their “out-of-control” legislators.

I happen to have inside information that the County Council works its heart out for the County, sometimes to the point of death, as happened with Marilyn Praisner two weeks ago. A woman who was so intensely dedicated that she refused to take the time to look after her own health because she was busy working 18 hours days. She worked 18 hours the day before her surgery. My boss works nearly as hard. Yet Theresa and her friends do not hesitate to slander them and their colleagues because they didn’t get what they wanted. They have even lied to people by saying there were no public hearings, that process wasn’t followed. Who would do that to their neighbors?

The law could have easily been written to be EXPLICIT in allowing the owners of accommodations to do what they please to accommodate trans persons. No one ever asked; they just came to the Council, pretended to be experts by donning a white coat, and railed against trans people as a class. They spouted cliché hate speech about predators and pedophiles. They never asked for a meeting to discuss the language for shared shower facilities. I know, because I would have been happy to have arranged such a meeting and to have helped write the language. It is not difficult, it would have offended no one, and would have ultimately made no difference in the law.

I have pointed out elsewhere, however, that the opposition is not simply opposed to the hypothetical risk of seeing a naked pre-op transwoman. They are obsessed with the thought of such individuals, even though they know (Ruth Jacobs is a physician, remember) that such a period of time in a trans woman’s life when the event is even remotely possible is usually no more than a year. They are obsessed with the thought of gay women who are too masculine for them, or gay men who are too feminine. Or straight men and women who don’t pass their acceptability test. I’m fortunate in that Theresa has given me a personal pass, somewhat like Michelle Turner’s excusing her gay nephew from attack because he, and he alone, was born gay. They are obsessed with our sexuality and gender because they are uncomfortable with their own. This is about them, not about us.

Since they make it about us, we must respond. It used to be that we were too scared to respond, for fear of our lives and livelihoods. They used to have a free pass. No more.

As Maryanne has so eloquently expressed, there is hope. Even the most incorrigible person can be reached. Most of the residents of this county are decent people. This will become law, whether next Tuesday or later. Montgomery County will demand no less. And all the citizens are welcome to participate in the political process and have a hand in shaping legislation. All they have to do is stop lying, and give it a try.

February 13, 2008 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon

I respect what Marianne said and did -but I coined Shower-nuts(I think) and I am not ashamed. I did not use this to mean people who were mistaken in their beliefs and would be open to listening or trying to understand. I used this as a term to explain the particular form of closed minded hatred of this group- based on the latest incarnation of the RECALL's bigotry via a new website name.

I also worked the polls yesterday - largely outside from 6:30 Am set-up to leaving at 7:30 Pm when I had a relief poll closer- I was wet, cold, icy,and sore yesterday and now stiff and with a migraine- 24 hours later. I stood outside much of that time with a Republican who was supporting Al Wynn. I was there for Donna Edwards. Many people remarked that they thought we would be arguing or fighting. We never did- at my brief break(which he didn't get) I went to Rite Aid and picked up two large chocolate bars for him. This man's political views were not mine- but he didn't espouse anything bigoted. He did tell me some pretty awful things about John Mccain and gave me a website for further info(I have no need to investigate why I should not support McCain). We had some good talks out there- we live in the same neighborhood and share a love of chocolate. He said he was there because it was said this polling place was contentious(I worked a different poll last election- the only wynn supporter that time was an employee who told us he was quitting). I told him about my run-in with the Shower nuts- and how I said to them- two of them who came over to me- thinking I might want to sign that awful thing or listen to their lies- "Don't talk to me again and don't approach me again- I think what you are doing is disgusting. If you don't leave me alone, I will say something we will both regret". And when I left, I told the Bald guy who told me he didn't like what I said(oh, boo hoo)- that they were all shameful bigots.

There is a difference between differing opinions and outright bigotry and hatred. I would not try to talk to a Klansman or a Westboro member or a Stormfront member-and I wouldn't talk to the 17 Shower people either- a matter of degree - yes- but to me, still a waste of time and breath. I appreciate that some of you feel differently and believe that you can change these people. I don't- but good luck.

By the way, I'd never hug Ruth Jacobs but I did hug a Republican yesterday(not the Wynn guy- just an old friend- I didn't try to change his political beliefs either).

February 13, 2008 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We had some good talks out there- we live in the same neighborhood and share a love of chocolate."

And a passion for standing in the rain!

Talk about a nut for showers. I'm seeing a pattern here.

February 13, 2008 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bad news for Republicans these days is that Barack Obama seems to have the momentum. He has dignity and a commitment to America rather than just the Democratic party. I think he's wrong about a number of things but he's the Democrats best candidate.

The other candidate? Oh yeah...

"Hillary Clinton presents herself as the candidate of "experience." So far this isn't helping her. Why? Because most people realize that her experience is mainly in screwing up.

We all know about Hillary's arrogant attempt to take over one-sixth of the U.S. economy through her nationalized health care scheme. Americans rebelled against this, and Bill Clinton wisely dropped the idea.

Hillary doesn't talk much about that, but she does talk about her foreign policy experience. This is puzzling, because the New York Times reported a few months ago that Hillary didn't have a security clearance and virtually never attended any foreign policy meetings.

But let's say she did. What experience can she claim? Well, the radical Muslims launched a series of devastating attacks against U.S. targets in the 1990s. They bombed the Khobar Towers facility in Saudi Arabia, they attacked two U.S. embassies in East Africa, they launched a suicide attack against the U.S.S. Cole. And what did the Clinton administration do in response? Basically nothing.

Between 1996, when he declared war on America and moved from the Sudan to Afghanistan, Bin Laden was a public figure. He lived in a house provided by Mullah Omar and preached in the local mosque. He granted interviews to the British journalist Robert Fisk, to Peter Arnett of CNN, to John Miller of ABC news, to the Pakistani journalist Abdel Bari Atwan. The Clintons have been saying that they did everything in their power to get Bin Laden, but how could all these journalists so easily locate Bin Laden while the Clinton administration couldn't?

Experience counts when it points to a record of accomplishment. Hillary's experience, to the degree that she was involved at all, has been one of neglecting the threat of radical Islam and consequently emboldening Bin Laden to strike us on 9/11."

February 13, 2008 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just curious... What exactly does this last Anonymous post have to do with anything regarding the topic being discussed ?

Can you Anon, please be more specific and draw the connections between your post and the discussion already in prgress regarding Transgender discrimination legislative issues ?

Not one mention made about the issue at hand that this ENTIRE topic has been devoted to thus far. Is that a blatant effort to sidetrack the discussion ? hmmm... puzzling....

Seems rather rude and childish to me if that is the case.

I wonder if Jim would consider having it removed from this conversation.

Any particular reason for hiding your true identity, since you found it necessary to interject this post with a completely unrelated subject, Anon ?

That aside, huge and heartfelt thanks to anyone that supported our efforts, and/or refused to sign these petitions.

Thank you for all of your hard work, Andrea. Thank you for taking such a strong stance with the folks you ran into. Sounds like you obviously had a very long day of worthwhile work as well.

Thank you all, always, for your supportive and hard work in so many ways, and for all of your most respectful and mature comments, and directly pertinent dialogue on this issue.



February 13, 2008 10:18 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Maryanne, I don't delete these things, it happens all the time. I can tell you don't do this discussing-on-the-Internet thing much. People like this are called "trolls." We have several. I don't think this is one of our usual ones. They are much smarter than the rest of us, and so only need to use sarcasm to make their point. Stick around for a while, let's see how soon you're calling them "nuts."

I delete things that are moronic and personal. When people express opinions, I let it go, depending on my mood. I have banned one person in three-plus years, deleted a number of posts, but it has to be pretty bad ... my mood, that is.


February 13, 2008 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As we all know... Today is Valentine's Day! Sign the HRC Million for Marriage Equality Petition to show your support for equalit:

Remember to tell someone that you love them!

February 14, 2008 7:54 AM  

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