Defining Fairness

Beyond Pink and Blue: Rebecca Grant, Defining Fairness

Rebecca Grant was a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard. Twelve years into her military career, a fellow soldier found and circulated a picture of her wearing a dress. The Army took issue with the photo because she had enlisted and had been serving as male—her biological sex.

Rebecca is now the president of Sienna, a transgender social, educational and support group, and has come out as transgendered and a lesbian. But embracing her identity hasn’t been without challenges. “Right now, I’m able to still marry, let’s say, my partner, a female, legally,” she explains. “But once I have my sex change, I would not have that opportunity. And that seems completely wrong.”

Rebecca Grant told WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis her story, starting with a different transition: from soldier to civilian.

Audio MP3

On Language
“At Sienna, we look at the ‘trans-asterisk.’ Anyone who has any kind of gender variance. There are differences between cross dressers and transsexuals and there are people who just identify as transgender now. Then you have your entertainers, which is still a gender variance. If you have someone who is biologically male performing as a female, they’re a drag queen. And it’s a performance, but it’s still types of gender expression.”

On a Binary Model of Gender
“There’s a boy who was born, and they get a blue blanket. There was a girl that was born, and they get a pink blanket. But it’s not just that simple. There are indications that there are variations, within the womb, of gender. It’s not just one or the other. It’s a very wide in-between area.”

On Growing Up
“Growing up in the ’80s, that’s when the height of the AIDS was coming around in society. It was very wrong to be LGBT. At home, my parents were really good. I was able to, to a point, dress like a girl. They didn’t care. And, to a point, even cross dressing, or wearing clothes underneath my male clothes. Those that are are considered ‘gender conforming,’ they’re able to go out to school when they’re in their teens, and be judged by public opinion. Trans kids aren’t able to do that as much. They have to hide it.”

On Acceptance Within the Gay Community
“I go to more lesbian-type events. I don’t want to say I haven’t been accepted, but it took me a little longer to be accepted into the lesbian community. When I was coming out, when I was outed, my largest support was actually in the gay community. And I think for the most part I already was accepted there. When I started feeling more confident about myself, and dressing more as a female, I was able to gain friends, and most of the time it was gay males.”

On Trans Issues Being Put on the Back Burner
“I believe that is getting better. We’re not being pushed to the back as much. There are more trans people that are having a voice towards the fight. More trans people are being able to be out of the closet, because society is getting better as a whole. And we’re able to speak more about the issues at hand, and not just hide in the closet and hope that our, usually gay, part of the organization stands up for us.”

Arts and Humanities Local News

Lambda Literary Foundation Honors Leung

Louisville novelist Brian Leung is the recipient of the Lambda Literary Foundation’s outstanding mid-career novelist award. Lambda is the premiere organization honoring both individual books by and the careers of LGBT authors.

Leung, the director of the University of Louisville’s creative writing program, is the author of one short story collection and two novels. His debut short story collection, “World Famous Love Acts,” was published by Louisville’s Sarabande Books. His latest novel is “Take Me Home,” an historical novel about the Wyoming mining settlements in the 19th century.

Defining Fairness Local News

LGBTQ Community More Than Black & White: Tiff Gonzales, Defining Fairness

Tiff Gonzales is a fourth-generation Mexican American, native to Texas, who identifies as queer both in gender identity and sexual orientation.

Tiff moved to Louisville five and a half years ago for work. She says when we talk about race in Louisville, we’re generally only talking about black and white. Latino issues re rarely part of the conversation, and when they are, it often only includes immigrants. “There’s so much that draws me to this city,” she says, “but that invisibility is something that I, on a regular basis, would struggle with to determine whether or not I can continue to live here.”

Tiff says there’s a certain loneliness in the lack of a community of folks who share similar identities. “I could name maybe just a couple of other people who I feel like would hold the identities of being a queer Latino here in this city.” But, she says, “I’m hopeful that there will be some change in that in the city that I really do love.”

When Tiff Gonzales spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis, the conversation at one point turned to tokenism and whether the trouble with seeking diversity on panels and projects like this is that one person is asked to represent the experiences of an entire group—whether it’s race, class, LGBTQ status, etc. “I really struggled with accepting this invitation. I thought, I’m going to be put into this position where I need to answer a question as one person, for—truly, when we’re talking about Latinos in the United States—millions upon millions of people.”

“I am one person, who has been shaped by many other people, and many other experiences. I can only tell you what it’s like to be me.”

Audio MP3
Defining Fairness Local News

Bringing Faith to the LGBTQ Community: Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, Defining Fairness

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard was born in Promised Land, South Carolina, the son of a Southern Baptist Minister, and says, “I grew up in church as much as I was in home.” He was given his nickname at the age of three, when his grandfather noticed his ability to replicate any dance move he saw.

When he came out as a gay man, he experienced rejection from the church. “I was angry at God,” he says. After struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation, he says he came to the conclusion that, “I was created like this, so I can’t believe in a God who would create me bound to hell, as they’re telling me I am.” Blanchard is now a co-chair of the Faith Leaders for Fairness—part of the Fairness Campaign—and leads the True Colors Ministry at Highland Baptist Church. He’s earning his Masters of Divinity at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and will be ordained at the end of May, making him the first openly gay person to be ordained at Highland Baptist.

Maurice Blanchard spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis, beginning with a story he says illustrates how far Louisville still has to go in making public spaces feel safe for LGBTQ citizens.

Audio MP3

On the Work of Faith Leaders for Fairness
“We’re rebuilding bridges for the LGBT community, back to faith. To be honest with you, the biggest conflict I get is from LGBTQ folk when I tell them I’m a gay minister. There is some animosity there, understandably. That’s probably the biggest struggle I see right now, is re-introducing faith to a people who have been wounded so much.”

On Being Called to Ministry
“I began reading deeper into scriptures, speaking with theologians, doing study, getting into the ministry, and realized that there is a place for everyone in the Kingdom of God. That has been a realization that has taken time to soak in. And I have felt the calling to ministry, and no in seminary, and active in my church, and leading a True Colors Ministry, which is the first LGBT-affirming ministry in a Baptist Church that I’m aware of.”

On Ministering to the LGBTQ Community
“The first thing I do, when confronted with a person who’s obviously been wounded, is not to say anything, but to be a listener. I think too many times religious leaders talk too much and listen too little. Sometimes we meet two or three, four times, and I haven’t really said anything about my own faith. Because I need to hear what they’ve been through, and I need to understand that, to be able to respond in a way that would be appropriate. Some folk respond to scripture well, some folk don’t want to hear anything about it. So mainly, with folk, I try to listen to them, hear where they’re coming from, and then start wading in the water and introducing them to the fact that there is a faith community, there are congregations that love you—not in spite of your sexuality, but simply for who you are as a child of God.”

On the Issues Facing LGBTQ People of Faith
“They’re facing outright rejection that they’ve felt their entire lives, from churches or church members. These people are covered in wounds and scars that emotionally run so deep, and we don’t see it on the outside, but they know very well they’re not welcome in many churches. They’re confronted with going back in and opening themselves up to be slighted again, to be condemned, and they don’t want to do that. And I don’t blame them. So, for example, my ministry, the True Colors Ministry, offers them a place almost like a wading pool. You’re not jumping into the pool—the pool being the full church—but you have something you can dip your feet in and get comfortable again, and start learning to trust again. And then when you’re ready, you can move into the larger pool.”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Fairness Director Praises Obama Endorsing Gay Marriage

The Louisville Fairness Campaign is praising President Obama for coming out in support of gay marriage on Wednesday in an interview with ABC News.

The president said after personally wrestling with the issue and it was important he affirm that he supports gay couples being legally recognized under marriage laws. Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden indicated that he had no problem with gay marriage and Mr. Obama was being pressured if his “evolving” position had changed.

Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says the announcement is a sea change in the gay rights movement.

“Never before has a sitting president come out so resolutely in favor of marriage equality. So this is a historic day for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer Americans—undeniably,” he says.

Local News Politics

Fairness Campaign Praises Federal Extension of LGBT Protections

Louisville Fairness Campaign leaders are praising a landmark decision by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled that discrimination based on gender identity qualifies as sex discrimination under existing federal law.

The decision is being heralded as a “sea change” by gay rights advocates and came about as part of a resolution to a case filed by Mia Macy and the Transgender Law Center in California. Macy says she was denied a job as a ballistics technician at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms because she is transgendered.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

House Panel Could Hold Hearing on Fairness Law

The House Judiciary Committee has posted a bill that would create a statewide fairness law to its schedule, which means the anti-discrimination legislation may receive its first ever hearing in the General Assembly as early as next week.

Gay rights advocates have been lobbying state lawmakers for over a decade to bar discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Across the state, only the cities of Louisville, Lexington and Covington have passed laws giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals civil rights protections.

Similar ordinances have been considered in the cities of Richmond and Berea, but Fairness groups still believe pushing for a statewide law is necessary.

State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, introduced the proposal. She calls the bill’s movement exciting because Kentucky has never had fairness issues posted to committee.

“This is really groundbreaking for Kentucky to be able to start educating legislators and the public on the need for this legislation,” she says. “All Kentucky citizens should be guaranteed justice and equality. Our gay citizens pay taxes, they’re part of this commonwealth and certainly they should enjoy the same justice that everybody else does.”

Local News Nothing But Net Politics

Ward-Pugh Discusses LGBT Issues in Online Testimonial

In a YouTube video for a gay rights group, Louisville Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, discusses her faith, being an openly gay elected official and coming out to her family after relocating to the city.

The group Straight Against Hate produces the weekly testimonials featuring various residents discussing their personal stories, bullying and Fairness laws in the state.

Addressing residents, Ward-Pugh discussed moving from Nashville to Louisville in the late 1980s as a lesbian while attending seminary. She says despite instances of discrimination things have changed significantly and there are opportunities and support for LGBT citizens in the city.

“What I would want to say to you is to know that you are loved. You are loved by a boundless God and neighbors and co-workers and family members and, yes, even your elected officials,” she says. “Never doubt that and never doubt who you are.”

Check it out:

The organization says it is dedicated to increasing heterosexual residents involvement in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Fairness Leaders Back Anti-Bullying Bill

Gay rights leaders from across Kentucky are supporting a bill that would strengthen the state’s current anti-bullying laws.

The legislation was introduced by state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, and would create or improve protections against discrimination based upon students’ race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or learning disabilities.

State lawmakers passed a broad anti-bullying law in 2008, but supporters contend it overlooks certain students and have ratcheted up support after the suicide of 14-year-old Kentuckian Miranda Campbell, who reportedly shot herself after being teased for being bisexual.

Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says state and school officials should pay closer attention to students who are being bullied, but stricter laws should apply to prevent young people from being perpetually harassed.

“The legislation is pretty clear that school boards and the department of education develops what sort of penalties are associated with bullying incidents. But when there is physical harassment…when it rises to that level it becomes a misdemeanor as it would anywhere,” he says.

Local News

Fairness, Black Gay Pride Plan “Procott” at Tryangles Bar Friday (AUDIO)

Leaders with the Louisville Fairness Campaign and Kentuckiana Gay Black Pride Association have changed their protest of a local bar into what they’re calling a “procott.”

Last week, businessman Michael Flatt, who owns a gay bar in downtown Louisville, posted a picture to his Facebook page that compared President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee. The photograph showed former President Ronald Reagan feeding a chimp and a caption that said it was the former president babysitting Mr. Obama in the early 1960s.

A boycott was organized, but Flatt has since apologized for posting the picture. Now, leaders with both groups have agreed to have a discussion with Flatt this Friday outside of his bar.

Fairness Campaign board member Jaison Gardner says highlighting racism within the LGBT community has caused a backlash from Flatt’s supporters, but the conversation is necessary given African-Americans’ role in the movement.

“Black folks and brown folks have always been a part of this movement and so it’s never okay to hold us to the fire for bringing up issues of racism when we’re a part of this community and we’ve led these fights in many regards. And so, it’s very much a part of our mission,” he says.