Danger, Government Employees

And if a sports post doesn’t put people off, maybe a trans rights post will.

Some of you may have wondered, at times, why trans people are so paranoid about ID schemes, full body security scanners, and even answering census questions honestly. Here’s an example. Last week a trans woman from San Francisco went into her local Department of Motor Vehicles office to have changes made to her driving license so that it matched her new name and gender. This is all perfectly legal, and the process went through without a hitch. Until Monday, when she:

received a letter from the person who had processed her name change at the DMV. In the letter, which had been mailed to her at home, the DMV employee quoted from the Bible and stated that Amber had made a “very evil decision.” The strongly-worded letter told Amber that she was “an abomination” and said that homosexuals should be put to death.

Further details from Monica Roberts. My friends at the Transgender Law Center are doing what they can for Amber, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the DMV employee in question now has a very expensive lawyer and a bunch of well-financed “Christian” pressure groups lining up to provide protection. The local papers will doubtless be full of people whining about the need for “freedom of religion.” Yes, even in San Francisco.

Because, you know, what chance do trans people have when even Glee finds the word “transsexual” too disgusting to use on television? At Entertainment Weekly, Margaret Lyons is bemused.

Update: And I almost forgot to mention, when Apple’s famously censorious App store thinks demeaning trans people is perfectly OK.

And yes, it might only have been a letter, but the creep in question now knows where Amber lives. From yesterday’s L.A. Times:

Los Angeles police investigators are seeking five suspects in connection with an attack on a transgender woman in Hollywood that left the 25-year-old victim bloodied and battered with a broken jaw and cheek bone.

The victim had just left a bar near the intersection of La Brea and Melrose avenues in the wee hours of Oct. 1 when she was attacked by three women and two men.

According to witnesses, the attackers were beating and kicking the victim in the middle of the street, said Los Angeles Police Sgt. Mitzi Grasso. The victim was kicked in the face and was hit on the head with a bottle, leaving cuts on the victim’s neck.

For those of you not keeping score at home (for which I don’t blame you in the slightest), here’s the list of trans people known to have been murdered in 2010.

TDOR 2010 - November 20th

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18 Responses to Danger, Government Employees

  1. Brian Dolton says:

    In a sane and sensible world, that employee would be fired; it’s a clear abuse of position. They are constitutionally entitled to say the horrible things they said (such is the first amendment, and with reluctance I must defend that right; once we decide what speech should and should not be censored, we are at risk of the tyranny of the majority), but they are not entitled to use the confidential information obtined through their job to distribute said hateful speech.

    It will be interesting to see how this goes, though; as you say, in the current Tea-party-agenda-dominated world of news here in the US, any action against the employee can and will be swung as more “see how we Christians are oppressed” media fodder.

    Depressing. Very depressing.

    • Agreed. Years ago, I had a job that involved having large amounts of personal, private medical information passing through my hands as I entered and reviewed medical claims. During training, I had it drilled into me what sort of dire things would happen to me if I abused the access to those records. It also meant that I had to follow the rules in approving/denying claims, regardless of my personal feelings. (For instance, there was a claim that, after reading the narrative, I really, personally wanted to approve, but the coverage guidelines say it’s not covered. Had I approved the claim and an audit found it, I would have, at best, been reprimanded and possibly fired.)

      These restrictions on my use of personal, private, confidential data did not infringe my free speech rights at all, and I’m going to ridicule anyone who claims that such restrictions are limits on free speech.

  2. The “Peekaboo Trannies” app seeps to be gone from the app store…

    • Good to know! As Solarbird said in the item that first brought this to my attention, as long as Apple insists on a “closed shop,” then Apple is actually responsible for the content of all apps. If Apple didn’t take that attitude, the criticism should only be upon the vendor of the app. Fair is fair.

  3. Maura McHugh says:

    I cannot understand why the person who worked for the DMV and sent that letter is not dismissed. That act is a violation in so many ways, including an effective death threat.

    I thought using the public mail to issue such a threat would make it a federal offence. But, I’m not an expert on US law.

    Sometimes, this world makes me despair!

    I read about the Tranny App from Apple and that is outrageous. Apple have effectively rubberstamped rubbishing trans people.

    Oh yes, Apple PR sells itself as being all about supporting individuality – as long as your individuality is straight.

    No wonder we still have so much hate crime when from the top the behaviour is endorsed.

    • Amy Sisson says:

      I firmly believe the DMV employee will be fired. However, the powers that be do have to investigate first, to make sure it will stick. I recall that several hospital employees in California were fired just for looking up celebrity medical records — they didn’t have to “do” anything with the info to be fired. DMV will be well aware of their liability in this matter if they do not investigate and then take swift action based on the findings of their investigation. I suspect the employee has at least been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, which is standard and proper procedure.

      It is one of the most horrifying things I have ever heard of. I hope that criminal charges are filed, based on the threat itself and/or on any relevant laws about improper use of confidential information.

      Regarding “Glee,” I didn’t have the impression that the show’s producers themselves find the word “transexual” disgusting. Perhaps it’s naive of me, but to me it felt like they knew that having an episode in which an American high school even tries to put on Rocky Horror would stretch credulity pretty far, so I thought they were trying to help us suspend disbelief on that count by showing that Mr. Shue and his group were making changes to try and forestall the inevitable objections. That said, I can see why that change is disappointing, and I wish they hadn’t changed it.

      • Cheryl says:

        I’ve been talking to Roz Kaveney about the Glee thing. She’s seen every episode at least once, and having listened to her explain the context I now understand what they were doing. I guess it might have been done better, but you could say that of almost anyone.

  4. V says:

    I’ve posted a link to this elsewhere. This kind of story makes me very, very angry.

  5. Errolwi says:

    That’s appalling. NZ Inland Revenue Dept employees have been fired for no more than looking at the tax files of people they had no need to look at (e.g. celebrities).

  6. GlennS says:

    Maura is right, the DMV employee’s actions should constitute a terroristic threat…

    As for Apple, they get no slack from me unless they *apologize*. Simply taking it down is not enough. I know too many folks of interesting persuasions and plumbing *not* to take this personally….

    I think I’m gonna get an Android for Yule. *EG*

    As for your posting style, Cheryl? You may run a few folks off, but I’m not just a fan of TG rights, I’m also a baseball fan. In short, you go, girl! (And I’m grownup enough to agree to disagree as to Giants vs. Rangers… 🙂

  7. That is clear abuse and misused of personal data given in confidence.
    Which should be a firing offense.

  8. PurpleRanger says:

    Simply firing this person isn’t enough. The DMV needs to bring in Donald Trump to personally tell this person, “You’re Fired!”

    Preferably with an audience.

    And with someone to tape it and post the video to YouTube.

  9. Arnold says:

    My understanding of the U.S of A vian s system of Law and Enforcement is Very Limited. I do understand that there is a layer of state law that is topped off by federal law and that the entire damn Cake is covered with an icing of the supreme court.

    So, clearly this manic religious fanatic is now subject to that Law, as, of course he as he always was.

    We have had, and have, our own versions of the same sort of situation in the U.K. and these would be curbed by ..


    So, surely, the only question here would be which set of the U.S of A vians LAWS should be brought to bear in this instance? My pitifully limited, pop culture, and bookish/ Video media knowledge of the U.S.A. does tell me that the U.S.A. is a Nation of LAW and so its just a matter of which Law …Right? Local Police or F.B.I. ?

    As for the context of this case? This is an Awe Inspiring Co-incidence is it not ? That this ..’ Dog Whistle ‘, just MADE to call to the Religious Right of the Republicans Grand Old Party should pop up just now, and at this time in the electoral calender?

    Calling attention to the Presidents non-whiteness would be a Bad, Bad, Thing but raising the Demonic forces of fearfully sexual ‘deviance ‘ ?

    I suspect that this, not so civil servants, legal back-up was in place before ever that letter was sent.

    Any response to the initial attack had best be along the lines of ‘more in sorrow than in anger ..perhaps this SAD person is ill? No truly Christian religious person could be so UNCHARITABLE ‘ ..and so on.

    There are those who would call me Paranoid ? To which I reply ‘oh No, oh best beloved ..I’m a Realist, and that is Much worse .. or much better .. than being paranoid.

    • Cheryl says:

      This isn’t, or at least shouldn’t, be a matter of law. Any government department that employs people who deal with sensitive personal information in the course of their duties should have regulations that forbid misuse of that data, and should train their staff to be responsible.

      What should happen, as other people have suggested above, us that the DMV employee should be dismissed. That hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen, because the DMV management may be scared of being sued for wrongful dismissal, or of risking their careers (given that they are government employees). They may try to avoid a public row by saying that the employee in question is being sent for “sensitivity training” or some other such weasel words.

      If no action is taken by DMV then the Transgender Law Center may advise Amber to make a complaint to the police, but unless they can afford to conduct an expensive case that won’t get them very far.

      • Joshua says:

        Cheryl: I would say that this is or should be a matter of law, in the sense that there may be a law or regulation which prohibits someone (such as the DMV employee) from misusing data in government records to harass a person. I don’t know which specific law, if any, the DMV employee’s conduct may have violated, but if there is such a law or regulation, then that would significantly increase the chance that the DMV could fire the employee, or that Amber could sue the DMV for allowing misuse of personal data.

        If it wasn’t a matter of law (at least in the sense that I am using the phrase “a matter of law”), then the DMV could legally just ignore the issue and do nothing about it.

        • Cheryl says:

          Joshua: You are quite right that there should be some sort of law, but my point is that if the DMV doesn’t have regulations to enforce proper behavior by its staff that’s a terrible thing. It shouldn’t be necessary for Amber to sue anyone for action to be taken.

          • Joshua says:

            I agree, a regulation to prohibit such behavior by a government employee should have already been in place, and hopefully it was.

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