Pandora Assumes Only Heterosexuals Have Valentines

UPDATE: After several dozen members wrote Pandora, taking the company to task for a series of heteronormative advertisements that failed to be inclusive of LGBT users, the company wrote an email response to share with members: “Our marketing communications will be gender neutral moving forward. The message has been heard loud and clear from our end and we deeply regret the error and any offense we may have caused.”

Valentine’s Day is here, and I’m sure everyone has been inundated with advertisements. Unfortunately, many of these advertisements aren’t inclusive of LGBT shoppers — even though plenty of LGBT people celebrate Valentine’s day with their partners.

Pandora, a popular online radio service, sent out an email advertisement that was geared toward those in heterosexual relationships. Since users are required to specify their gender when they register for Pandora, it has a database of all its users’ gender. It does not, however, have any information on users’ sexual orientation. But that didn’t stop them from making assumptions.

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Academic Activists Make a Case For Transgender Children

Most people think of LGBT issues as adult issues. But people are increasingly coming out of the closet when they’re young. And children aren’t just discovering their sexuality at a young age, they’re discovering their gender.

Behind most activism are non-profit organizations and grassroots organizers pushing for change. But the fight to recognize the concept of transgender children is a fight led by academics. Two at the forefront are Natacha Kennedy and Mark Hellen, who wrote an article entitled “Transgender Children: More Than a Theoretical Challenge.” The paper was published in the Graduate Journal of Social Science in December 2010.

Kennedy and Hellen suggest that transgender children develop their identity despite efforts within schools to enforce gender conformity. They argue that if schools introduced the idea of transgender people to children, it would significantly help transgender children as they grow up. The researchers conducted this study by surveying transgender adults about their childhood — they found that past research on transgender children could have been inaccurate because directly observing transgender children ignores the many children who hide their transgender identity through childhood.

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California DMV Shows Ambivalence Over Transgender Hatred

A couple months ago, I wrote an article about Amber Yust, a transgender woman from California who was sent a shocking letter after she went to the DMV for a name change on her license. She was easily able to get a driver’s license with her new name, but the employee who processed the name change felt a need to take matters into his own hands.

He took Yust’s personal information from the DMV office and mailed a transphobic letter to her home, calling her an abomination. In response, over 1,000 people signed this petition to the DMV, asking them to hold the employee accountable.

News just came that the petition didn’t fall on deaf ears — but the DMV didn’t act quickly or respond appropriately to the incident. The clerk who mailed the letter was originally suspended by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. According to DMV spokesman Michael Marando, the employee was placed on administrative leave with pay after the incident, so that the DMV could investigate the clerk’s misconduct before taking further action. In addition, the DMV issued a statement saying it doesn’t condone this type of misconduct, apologized to Yust, and brought in a staff training led by the Transgender Law Center.

Then last week, word came that the employee has resigned. That’s a welcome development, given his obvious abusive and unethical actions. But were the DMV’s actions adequate in this instance?

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In The Life Steps Up To Stop Harmful Stigmas

There is a high human cost to the stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDS, with misinformation and fear creating problems within the justice system and society as a whole. These stigmas ultimately cause laws to criminalize HIV.

This month, In The Life, a public television program covering LGBT issues, takes a look at how stigma affects the justice system and how myths and fear about AIDS caused harmful laws. According to In The Life, “more than 30 states have laws criminalizing HIV exposure, transmission or nondisclosure of an individual’s HIV status.” These laws are meant to prevent the disease from spreading, but instead, they hurt those with HIV.

The program, called “The Cost of Stigma,” also covers how misconceptions about bisexuality may link bisexuality and poor health. Research shows that bisexual women face a massive health disparity, and that this health disparity may be caused by systemic stigma and invisibility of the community of bisexual women.

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College Student Assaulted for Using the “Wrong” Bathroom

Figuring out which bathroom to use is often a difficult problem for transgender people. Gender-specific bathrooms are sometimes unsafe for transgender people, who can face harassment regardless of which bathroom they use.

On a college level, more and more universities are installing gender-neutral bathroom facilities, in an attempt to make life safer for transgender students. But that certainly isn’t the case for Michelle Rayner, a student at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada.

Rayner is a female, but he identifies as transgender and often passes as a guy. He has been carded in public bathrooms and treated with disrespect because of his gender presentation. And he’s found that using the bathroom on campus is just as troubling and dangerous as it is off campus.

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Transgender Day of Remembrance Recognizes Hate Crime Victims

Every year, many transgender people around the world face discrimination based on their gender identity. Around one-third of transgender youth have attempted suicide, over half of transgender youth have been physically attacked, and a vast majority feel unsafe unsafe in school. For some, they aren’t just prone to employment discrimination or verbal harassment — they become the target of brutal hate crimes.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance aims to memorialize those who were killed because of hatred against or prejudice toward transgender people. The event was started in honor of Rita Hester, after her murder on November 28th, 1998. Oftentimes, deaths based on anti-transgender hatred are ignored, even though more than one person has died each month, for the last decade, because of anti-transgender hatred.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance raises awareness about hate crimes against transgender people, mourns and honors the lives of transgender people who were victims of hate crimes, and expresses respect for transgender people as a whole.

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Netflix Fails at Describing “Boys Don’t Cry”

UPDATE: Netflix has responded and has changed the description of “Boys Don’t Cry” to accurately reflect the movie’s storyline. The summary now says: “Based on actual events, director Kimberly Peirce’s powerful, often harrowing drama stars Hilary Swank (in an Oscar-winning performance) as Brandon Teena, a transgender young man searching for love and acceptance in a small Midwestern town. But even as he forges a deep connection with local beauty Lana (Chloë Sevigny), the prejudices of the community threaten to doom the fledgling romance.”

When I watched the movie “Boys Don’t Cry,” I was moved. It’s a rare occasion to see a movie about a transgender person, and even more rare to see a movie with a transgender person that is easy for transgender people to relate to.

In the movie, transgender teen Brandon Teena lives his life as a man, until locals discover that he was born female. The movie is a great commentary on what it’s like for transgender people, especially those living in towns that aren’t necessarily accepting.

Netflix, though, doesn’t seem to understand that the movie is about a transgender person. Their description of the movie is highly inaccurate and offensive. They refer to Brandon Teena using female pronouns and say that he “passes herself off as a boy… until the truth is revealed.” The description also says that the character shows “one woman’s voyage of self-discovery.”

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Straight Couple Denied Civil Partnership

Currently, the United Kingdom has “separate but equal” laws for couples who want to get married. Straight couples get a marriage license. Meanwhile, gay couples get civil partnerships, a legal union introduced in 2005, which gives gay couples the same legal protection, adoption and inheritance rights as marriage. Many LGBT people in the UK are unhappy that they’re denied the right to marriage, but you rarely see a straight couple fighting for the rights offered to gay couples.

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle are ready to take their relationship to the next level — they want a civil partnership. But earlier this week, their application to form a civil partnership was rejected, because civil partnerships are only available to same-sex couples. The couple plans to go to court and fight for their right to a civil partnership.

Their situation may leave many baffled. Why are they doing this? But their interesting situation can easily be seen as a show of support for LGBT people and a statement about the inequalities that gay couples face.

“We don’t like the patriarchal traditions of marriage and don’t want to be called husband and wife. Tom and I see each other as equal partners,” Doyle said. “That’s why civil partnerships appeal to us. They are more egalitarian and better reflect our relationship.”

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Lesbian Couple Banned From School Dance

You would think Constance McMillen’s story would teach schools a lesson — discriminating against gay students and preventing same-sex couples from attending dances is not okay. But Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia didn’t learn the lesson. Hannah Williams, a 16-year-old student, was told that she couldn’t bring her girlfriend to the end-of-year school dance.

Hannah was initially told she couldn’t bring her girlfriend because “the ratio will be off for boy/girl.” On commercial radio, Williams said that the vice principal told her “we’re a girl’s school, you meet girls every day, this is a special event to meet boys.”

When the school came under fire for their homophobic decision, they acted like Williams wasn’t allowed to bring her girlfriend as her date because of her date’s age. The explanation is illogical, considering that her date was only one grade younger than her and at least one other girl was bringing a boy of that same age.

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