I have lived in Illinois for nearly my entire life, since I was five, and there are a lot of things about living here that I’m not really keen with; the unbearable winters, insane traffic, the highest gas prices in the nation, government corruption, just to name a very few. But if I am to be honest about it, the years I have lived here I wouldn’t give up for anything. The people I have met, the great friends I continue to make and the life God has given me here have been a total blessing, both the good and the bad.
But a recent story I read in The Advocate, a LGBT news source, and in The Oklahoman, an Oklahoma new agency, about an Oklahoma County District judge has made me realize even more how much I am glad I transitioned here in Illinois.
In 2011 and then again in August of this year, County District Judge Bill Graves denied the name change requests of two male to female transgender individuals citing the requests were made for fraudulent purposes because “you can't change what God gave you.”
Judge Grave, 74 and former Republican state representative, has been an opponent of LGBT rights and was one of the first in the capital to fight for an Oklahoma constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
In a seven page decision written last year the judge stated, “A so-called sex-change surgery can make one appear to be the opposite sex, but in fact they are nothing more than an imitation of the opposite sex,” and “Here, petitioner has not even had the surgery by which his sex purports to be changed. Thus, based on the foregoing and the DNA evidence, a sex change cannot make a man a woman or a woman a man all of which, the Court finds is sufficient in and of itself to deny petitioner's request for a name change,” Other language used in the 2011 decision clearly show his lack of knowledge and understanding of gender identity and being transgender.
Going beyond an uneducated line of reasoning of believing DNA=Gender Identity, Judge Graves also stated, “It is notable that Genesis 1:27-28 states: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth ...' The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female.”
So does this judge have a direct line to what God’s will is for my life and the lives of these two women? “God meant for them to stay male. .”?
As a Christian and as a Transgender woman, this is the kind of thing that lights a fire in my gut.
Not only did this judge circumvent the law, but he did so by interjecting his own personal bias and beliefs and did not remain impartial as judges are sworn to do.
In stark contrast, when I went to the Kendal County Court House, the 2nd Judicial District Court of the State of Illinois, two years ago to have my name legal changed, I feared how the judge would handle the request. I sat nervously waiting in a packed courtroom for my name to be called. Would he call me by my male name or female name? I was some what put at ease when the judge called me by my last name only. My impression was that he had nothing but respect for those he was presiding over. Never once as I sat there, watching case after case (nearly entirely foreclosure and credit issues) did I ever see any hint of personal bias presented by this judge. The professionalism and compassion he showed me when not all of my paperwork was complete was tremendous. Instead of denying my request or postponing it, he allowed me to get the needed paperwork and return that afternoon while he was in chambers for him to approve and sign the order for change of name.
I should add that not all the judges in Oklahoma fall in line with Judge Graves. The majority of judges are much more like the judge that presided over my request. Name changes request are routinely granted by five other judges that handle such requests.
What this judge did was use his religion to justify judging and condemning someone else. As Christians, we are called by Christ for he said
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3
36 Be merciful,just as your Father is merciful . 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” John 6:36-38
As a Christian, I believed that if this man claims to be a Christian, he is held to a higher standard in the eyes of God. Regardless of his personal views, God has called us to set those aside and not judge others based on our views, that's God job.
Now before any of you write and say that this person is in a position to judge, I will say that is these cases, there is no crime of civil issue to judge. These ladies submitted a legal request and have the right to an impartial hearing to process their request. Regardless of the circumstances of these cases; Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Atheist; judges should put their own personal bias aside and preside according to the law.
Unfortunately, what has happened in Oklahoma is not an isolated case. Judges in Michigan and other states have also shown their own bias towards the LGBT community. Whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, black, white, male, female, Christian, Muslim, Democrat, or Republican – every single person should be allotted basic respect regardless of your own personal view. These ladies in Oklahoma and many more around the country and the world have been denied that.
Again I will say it, as I have in previous blogs, it comes down to education and putting aside your ignorance and prejudice.
As voters, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on every individual running for office. It will be the ONLY way we can remove individuals from office that refuse to fully and unbiasedly educate themselves and to show basic human dignity to those they preside over.
You may say that one vote doesn’t make a difference.
I want you to think of it this way – I call it the sand bar effect. One grain of sand may not change the course of a river, but when many grains collect in one area, the course of the river can drastically change. That sand bar can ground a ship or direct it in a different direction. We as voters have that power to help change the direction of our community and country. We can not let judges like Judge Graves to continue to use their biased, prejudicial views.