Transsexual and transgender people have made great strides in the U.S. in the past two decades, but not enough has been done to eliminate the stigma and latent hostility that they must face when applying for jobs, housing, or services. It's about time someone stood up for the Amanda DuValles of the world. Thanks for telling us about it.
Joel Engardio's article ("Torture of a Transsexual") highlights a very important human rights issue: the systematic brutalization of people based on gender identity and sexual orientation abroad, and our country's refusal to respond appropriately.
There are countless horrendous stories in our own country of transgender individuals who have been beaten and murdered. Tragically, the stories of anti-transgender and anti-gay violence abroad are often even more heinous. Sadly, our government has failed to respond to this reality by offering asylum to those individuals who face the potential for continued violence and torture.
Though Amanda DuValle still remains imprisoned in this country, I hope that the judge's ruling in her case will mark a beginning to a new and enlightened asylum policy in the United States. Thanks to Joel Engardio for a well-written and thoughtful article.
Robert A. Perez
Human Rights Shame
I find the juxtaposition of headlines on SF Weekly's July 7 cover intriguing: one ("Torture of a Transsexual") a feature story on the torture, escape, and harrowing ricochet of a transsexual from Managua to San Francisco; the other ("Is This Really a Hate Crime?," Cothran) a column on the accidental killing of a gay man on the streets of the city.
The story of Amanda DuValle is a classic example of how the U.S. government, by excluding queer people of all stripes from the protection of our amnesty laws, has let excruciatingly obvious cases of human rights violations go unmentioned and unremedied for so long. How can the INS feel justified in deporting her after repeated explicit death threats from a hyperobservant Nicaraguan immigration official apparently possessed of well-honed powers of recognition? She was not a violent criminal by any stretch and poses little threat to anyone.
Moreover, I find it disheartening that the article made no mention of any organizations that work with issues of queer human rights: the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Campaign, or Amnesty International's LGBT rights advocacy program OutFront.
As George Cothran notes, the death of Brian Wilmes is perhaps a more complex case. While I agree that the death penalty is an inappropriate punishment for Edgar Mora as for anyone, I am still troubled by how Cothran rejects Mora's awareness of the crime out-of-hand. Mora was conscious enough to recognize that Wilmes was gay and perhaps (like the homeless man and like his girlfriend) to him a target weak enough to attack without reprisal. He was conscious enough to realize he'd done something wrong (the man he had hit did not get up) when he later demanded to be killed.
No, he didn't commit a hate crime per se -- and should not be punished for one -- but it is nevertheless important to recognize that San Francisco's rage and fear wells up from a mass of individuals who have been punched in the mouth far too many times.
So soon after a month of LGBT pride ends, we are treated to stories -- one appalling and international, the other ambiguous and local -- so laden with shame. It is obvious that even in San Francisco, awareness of the scope of queer human rights issues still has a ways to go.
Rewriting Panther History
Congratulations to George Cothran for a wonderful article on the self-deluded David Hilliard ("Mainstreaming the Panthers," June 30). There are still a lot of us around who remember the Black Panther Party and their wannabe "multicultural" supporters. Yeah, the Party did have a couple of programs that helped some folks, but that cannot and will not negate the fact that a lot of Panthers, their leaders included, were just a bunch of thugs.
But then, Hilliard, Van Peebles, etc. would rather we became revisionist, sweep those facts under the rug, and proclaim Huey et al. as "martyrs for the cause." Yeah, and all those convicts were political prisoners, too.
A final thanks for not forgetting the memory of the Party's bookkeeper, Betty Van Patter. She was a white supporter who was used, slain, and dumped in the bay -- poor, tragic fool.
Gordon D. Robertson
Another Very Lonely Canadian
May I humbly suggest that rather than holding a "Date With Terilyn" contest you should hold a "Date With Dog Bites" contest ("Win a Date With Terilyn. OK, Not Really.," Dog Bites, June 23). I am certain that there would be a flood of entries, mine included. You, judging by your writing, have personality and wit; all that I can say of Ms. Joe is that she must use hair lacquer on an industrial scale.
You may consider this fan mail if you wish. Sadly I'm in exile far to the frigid north at the moment and have been reduced to reading your column on the Internet. Hence you can breathe a sigh of relief that I wouldn't be able to accept even if I won.
Kennedys Sell Out
I was saddened by the mess the Dead Kennedys are embroiled in ("Punks at War," June 23) -- how counter to their messages over the years. Breaking it up, though -- selling out to the Gap -- could mean that three people could have enough money to live, and not "work," for several years.
However, selling to the Gap is exactly what Jello has been bitching about for the better part of, what, 20 years? He simply cannot sell out, even if he wanted to.
A rock and a hard place -- your friends and your morals.
Elizabet, You Are Alone
I can barely begin to tell you how happy I was to read that article about Johnny Dilks ("Honky-Tonk Angles," Music, June 30). It just made the hairs stand up all over my arms, I was so tickled.
For years I've been secretly passionate about the same music he is, and the history, to the point where it's of clinical interest to some people (I hear the Journal of Psychiatric Evaluation is thinking about running a cover story on my Charline Arthur obsession). And I've been sneered at all over Berkeley for wearing my vintage cowboy boots.
Anyway, thanks, it's so good to know I'm not alone. Too often it seems like I might be.
Your review is right on ("That Summer of '77," Film, June 30). What archery! Summer of Sam is racist --insultingly racist, in fact. Spike Lee, whom I usually admire, has caricatured Italian-Americans in such a lazy, dopey way that I can truthfully say that if a white director had filmed the same negative stereotypes of black men and women, the press would have crucified him.