Friday, October 9, 2009

Gender Virtualization at the 2009 Out & Equal Summit

This morning I presented my workshop - Gender Virtualization - A Discussion on Values, Principles, and Policies for the Transgender Community - at the 2009 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Orlando. We had a great discussion among the HR/Diversity professionals of Fortune 500 companies, ERG leaders, and members of the transgender community about improving policies for transgender support.

One main issue about gender transitions at the workplace is always about restroom usage. It was great to see more companies now adopting the policy of usage according to gender identity and expression, vs. segregation by biological gender which is difficult to enforce without discrimination, breach of privacy, or disrespecting the individual.

One statistic reported that only 3% of marriages survive when one spouse goes through a gender transition. It's very rough on the spouse and family. Key to surviving is having a deep common understanding and communication between the spouses, and respecting each other for the person inside, not just the physical partner.

My workshop presentation will be posted at the Summit website shortly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama's brief for DOMA support, and Same-Sex benefits for Federal employees

This week has already been quite controversial with the Obama administration.
First, hundreds of news stories on the net showed criticism for Obama's Justice Department's brief supporting DOMA - the Defense of Marriage Act that defines a marriage to be only between a man and a woman.

Many LGBT advocate groups, as well as local governments and mayors, consider this move to be a big step backwards for equal rights.

Also this week, the Obama administration is also starting to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. This tactic is probably in line with Obama's intent to gradually provide same or similar benefits to same-sex couples, even though there may be marriage parity.

With the fight on marriage equality continuing, getting equal benefits is just a piece of the overall equality pie. Marriage comes with over 1000 legal rights automatically granted to the couple - the right to inherit a partner's savings and estate upon death, the right to make medical decisions for a partner in critical situations, the right to take care and custody of their children when the partner is not available, etc. This is on top of the fiscal $4000-$6000 tax deduction difference of a Married taxpayer vs. Single taxpayer (Married same-sex couples are recognized as Single by the IRS, even for states that legally grant same-sex marriage.) All these basic human rights do not exist for same-sex partners even though they also strive to have a prosperous family, sometimes even if legally married from a state.

It's these basic rights that the public, and our federal government, is still missing out on, as the majority (as determined by votes) is still trying to preserve traditional marriage defined by the image of a man and a woman. It seems that the image is still more important to the public vs. the real persons underneath.

What if we defined laws based on perceived or expected images of people???

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Hampshire Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday the big news was around New Hampshire being the sixth state to legalize same-sex, marriage, after the legislature passed the bill, and Governor John Lynch signed.   However, careful language was inserted to give religious institutions the right to not perform same-sex marriages if they did not want to.   I think that is OK, to give people and organizations the right to act according to their own beliefs.   People can always change their religious faiths if they choose to do so too.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine approves Same-sex Marriage!

More news today, as Maine's governor signed a bill approving same-sex marriage.
Maine is now the 5th state to allow same-sex marriage.

Great quote by Governor John Baldacci - "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said in a statement read in his office. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

Even more discussion now in D.C. and in the Obama administration about what to do next as more states are supporting the same-sex marriage movement...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vermont passes gay-marriage bill

Congratulations Vermont!  Another historical news release!

This morning Vermont becomes the 4th state to legalize same-sex marriage.  However, unlike Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa (last week) where the Supreme Court made the decision, in Vermont, the state legislature (both the Senate and House of Representatives) voted to overturn the governor's veto last night on the marriage bill.

4 down, 46 to go.    When will California get back in the game?  Will the U.S. Federal Government hold out forever or be #51, or be earlier to lead the rest of this country toward equal rights?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa high court legalizes gay marriage in state

The news this morning announced Iowa as the 3rd state, after Massachusetts and Connecticut, legalizing same-sex marriage by its Supreme Court.

California is still struggling as its Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last year, but briefly overturned by voter election in November.

Iowa's ruling is important as it's the first state in (conservative) middle-America to make such a public statement.

Even though this is good progress, and we hope there will be more states following later, there is still an uphill battle continuing with remaining states and our U.S. Federal Government (see DOMA 3).   But it seems that strategies like specific lawsuits against the U.S. Govt on discrimination on specific issues are becoming more effective in making change, vs. rallying for general, broad equality across all issues.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Yesterday GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) filed this lawsuit against the Federal Government for discrimination against same-sex married couples.

I think this is great that legal disparaties are brought out into the open even more, and action is started in the areas where the problem was created - in the Federal Courts.

It seems shameful, that our country's leaders have stated that "All men are created equal" in so many instances, like our Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King Jr's I Have a Dream speech, and several others, yet our Federal Government still (but maybe not much longer) upholds laws which identifies certain categories of people to be second class.

Some states, and more states over time, have revised laws to eliminate discrimination against people due to any type of identifiable characteristic.   That seems to be the better way for this world to embrace diversity, as we are now all living in a global culture, mixing together with people from other countries, other cultures, other religions and beliefs, and all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, lifestyles, appearances, family situations, etc.

Luckily, our history has shown our people to revise laws to improve our treatment toward each other - eliminating discrimination against race and sex, granting women the right to vote, granting interracial couples the right to marry, and others.   There are still a few more things to fix going forward, but we seem to be heading there.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My First Marathon!

After 4 months of training with Team In Training, today I ran and completed the Napa Valley Marathon!  I did it!

I think many people who get over their mid-age crisis tend to get into endurance sports like marathon running.  It was a great experience for me too - be able to stay fit, meet a lot of other great people, and do something valuable for others in need.

Running a marathon is an awesome experience.  A lot of the fun, especially with Team In Training, is all the weeks of training that happens before the actual event.  Weekly training activities with a group of other similar people running their first marathon.  We're all in it together.

For weeks past Napa marathoners were telling us that the course is beautiful, and that last year race conditions were ideal - beautiful weather, and a fast tail-wind on a rolling but overall downhill course.   As we approached the last few days before the marathon (March 1st), the weather forecast indicated rain on race day.

So we ran the race in the rain - all 26.2 miles of it...   Race conditions could have been better.  But the Team reminded us that just as in life - there are some things we can't control, and some things we can.  We can't control the weather, so just deal with it, and prepare for wet conditions.  But we can use all the skills we learned from training to prepare our body and minds.

Since I started training for this in November I've done my fair share of running races.  3 half marathons, and many more 5K and 10K races on the weekends.  I'm happy that all the training has improved me greatly in all those races.  But today's marathon (in the wet weather) totally undermined me.  Even though I'm extremly proud to have finished and am very glad to have gone through this experience and would recommend anyone else to do so too, this was the most grueling, painful, and character-testing experience I have ever been through.

Running in the rain, I felt every mile step by step, watching each mile marker pass by, slowly.  I started off with a fairly fast pace, and did the first 10-13 miles pretty well.  But my legs died after that, and the entire second half was the most painful race I have ever run.  Part of this is that I always choose to run for a fast time and strong performance, vs. taking it easy to enjoy the run.  So I can only blame myself.   Watching the mile markers go by from 14 to 26 was painful.  From mile 20 my legs were cramping regularly, and I cried almost the entire final 5-6 miles, smiling only when passing the race photographers on the road.

The other reminder Team In Training told us was to run the first half with our legs, but run the second half with our heart.   When I ran with my heart I cried.  I wondered why I put myself up to this.  Why did I have to feel all this pain.   I just wish I could finish this race quickly so I could go take a hot shower and go home and be with my family.  But I also cried thinking about why I signed up to do this - to raise funds for cancer research so that we could help others who are in greater need, and who are likely feeling more pain than I am every single day.  I also cried for all the supporters and donors who helped me go through this program with all their contributions, to help with the cancer research, while I provide the vehicle to make it happen.   I could not let them down.

I will write down my marathon story at my Team In Training fundraising website shortly.  One lesson I learned from this experience, is that there are still a lot of good people out there, usually very different from the ones we assume.  So if there is one next step I'd like to do, it's to continue this training with more marathons in the future, not just as a participant, but as a mentor too, and to encourage other people to join a similar program, to help not just themselves, but to help others too.