Real VT: Gender Identity at the Statehouse | 802 Online

Real VT: Gender Identity at the Statehouse

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I know it's not really a novelty anymore, but I can't help feel a little thrill every time I whip out my laptop and blog from the Statehouse in Montpelier. There's just something exhilerating about sneeking my slightly subversive perspective into these hallowed halls. I highly recommend the experience.

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Today I'm here for the floor debate on H. 865, the gender identity and expression bill. I'm sitting in the plush Cedar Creek Room. Just got done interviewing Ace McArelton, builder and part owner of Black Sheep Books. Ace was born female, but considers himself "genderqueer." He says, "I don't feel like a man, and I don't feel like a woman. I feel like a transgender butch. That's a great way of describing it for me."

Ace is here to support the bill, along with a whole passel of queer activists. This is a shot of him in the Cedar Creek Room, sitting next to that nekkid slave lamp that caused all that fuss last year.

Also ran into Euan Bear, who recently stepped down as editor of Vermont's GLBT newspaper Out in the Mountains. I asked her what she was doing here, now that she's no longer an official member of the fourth estate. She shot back, "I'm a citizen. I'm allowed." So true, so true!

UPDATE, 6:46 p.m.: I should also mention I had a lengthy conversation with Kevin Blier, from the Center for American Cultural Renewal. He opposes the bill, which passed on a voice vote in the House tonight. I first encountered Blier at last fall's "Freedomfest," a gathering of conservative and libertarian activists looking to galvanize a new right wing in Vermont. At the time, he told a workshop I attended that defeating the gender identity bill was one of his group's top priorities this legislative session. But I guess they lost this round of that fight.

I enjoyed talking with Blier. We'd spoken over the phone briefly after I wrote a story about Freedomfest — he didn't appreciate my characterization of his organization, and let me know in no uncertain terms. But this time we spoke sitting just inches apart on one of those little Victorian-era loveseats they've got positioned throughout the Statehouse. Man, those benches are TINY.

We agreed to disagree about things like two moms raising a baby boy (I'm for it, he's against it). But I walked away really appreciating the fact that I live in a country where two people who disagree so passionately about something like that can have a civil conversation. And what better setting for that than the building in which our little state works out its differences? Man, I love the Statehouse.

UPDATE II: But wait! Burlington Rep. Jason Lorber just called me to say that there will be more debate about this bill tomorrow. Apparently it's not a done deal yet. Stay tuned... Here's a link to today's AP story about the bill.

UPDATE III, Wednesday 2:45 pm: I was listening to the legislative session today and it sounds like the House just passed H. 865, the gender identity bill. Voice vote, no debate. On to the Senate...

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