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Today is Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Dallas Organization Formed for Transgenders

Dallas Transgender Alliance Dives into Activism, Lobbying Reluctant Officials to Include Them in Name of Gay and Lesbian Community Center

[DALLAS, TX] - The newly formed Dallas Transgender Alliance wants John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center officials to add the word transgender to the facility's name, but the campaign appears unlikely to succeed anytime soon.

Local transgender activist Tylana Marie Coop announced the new group's formation on May 25. Its mission would be transgender advocacy, education and fighting gender identity and expression discrimination, she said in a press release.

A campaign called "Where's the T?" seeking a change to the community center's name debuted almost simultaneously. The effort would involve petitioning center officials through correspondence to make the name change.

In a subsequent advisory to the original press release, Coop said that the new group would also focus on issues relating to sexual orientation.

Coop, who is president of Purple Light Transgender Services, spoke at the rally for the ExxonMobil protest in Reverchon Park Tuesday night. Several members of the new group accompanied the transgender activist.Regardless of the merits of Coop's proposal, center officials consider it impractical at this time because there would be more involved than a name change, said Jamie Schield, executive director of programs and services.

A name change was considered by center officials at their last strategic planning session 18 months ago, but the idea was vetoed, Schield said. Another planning session is not planned for at least two years, he said.

Schield noted that center officials would likely feel obligated to add additional services for transgenders if the name change occurred."We want to make sure that if we say we will do it that we can do it," Schield said.

Like many nonprofit groups, center officials have experienced a sharp decline in funding during the past two years. The center is operated by a nonprofit group called the Resource Center of Dallas. The group also operates the AIDS Resource Center and Nelson-Tebedo Health Resource Center.

Schield said the proposal might be viewed more favorably later."Things do change," Schield said. "Everything can be considered."Schield said that center officials have received scant correspondence seeking the name change and one e-mail from a transgender opposing Coop's campaign.

Coop complained that community center officials responded to her correspondence only after repeated efforts over several months."It shouldn't take too much effort or cost to update their policies, mission statement and center name to be all-inclusive of the whole community," she said.

Copies of correspondence between Coop and a center official provided by the transgender activist appears to reveal resistance based as much on philosophy as practicality.

In the correspondence, Coop urged center officials to add "bisexual and transgender" to center's name to make it more inclusive. A center official defended the current name as appropriate.

"Your organization hopes to educate society on your issues - issues related to gender identity," said Gil Flores, director of community center services. "Our organization has and continues to educate society on our issues - issues of homosexuality."

Flores said in his letter that all groups are fighting for equality, and that "each must keep its individual identity or get lost in the struggle."

He went on to say that the center now provides services to many groups, including transgenders, and that there would never be any discrimination against any group.

Coop contends that transgenders maintain "specific ties" to the gay and lesbian community so the issue of identity is not that relevant. She notes that several community centers across the country now include all groups in their names.

"The point is, although each of the communities - gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender - have separate issues and identities, many of one group also belong to another, or at least are greatly related in many areas.

Renaming the center to reflect the diversity of the community would be "an effort to be inclusive of all the community," Coop said.Coop said that the transgender movement is catching up with advancements already enjoyed by gays and lesbians. The transgender activist was successful recently in getting Dallas officials to add more inclusive language to a municipal nondiscrimination ordinance passed in early May.

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