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LOS ANGELES -- Once again, Robin Tyler is fed up.
As a result, last Friday she reached out to her longtime friend and personal lawyer, Gloria Allred. The last time these two larger-than-life women got together to make some noise, the end result was that same-sex couples were allowed to marry in California; this time they are fighting back against the sudden and rampant display of transphobia in America.
Yesterday, Tuesday, September 6th, the civil rights activists held a joint press conference on behalf of the fans of Chaz Bono and the entire transgender community in response to the vitrol that has spewed forth since ABC announced Bono would be a castmember on season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars."
Not only has ABC's DWTS website been overloaded with horrific comments, snarky talking-heads were also pontificating to anyone that would listen, and even a transphobic doctor decided to weigh in.
Late last week, Dr. Keith Ablow took to the opinion page of the Fox News website with a commentary titled, "Don't let your kids watch Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars." Ablow started off his commentary in a negligible fashion, proving how little he understands about the transgender community:
"Chaz Bono, the “transsexual” woman who underwent plastic surgery and takes male hormones in an effort to appear to be a man, and who asserts she is a man, will appear on the upcoming season of "Dancing with the Stars," according to ABC, the network which airs the show. He will be partnered with a woman."
Ablow continued on to label Chaz's involvement as part of a "victory tour," then further explained why it is a "toxic and unnecessary byproduct of the tragic celebration of transgender surgery." His commentary basically tells parents of like-minds that their unknowing and vulnerable children will be challenged and confused by Chaz's presence on their TV screen and may choose to "model themselves" after him.
Ablow was not alone in his ill-informed claims and it seemed like the detractors were growing as the week went on.
By Friday, Tyler was literally in shock over the week of Chaz-bashing. A life-long LGBT activist, it was not the first time she had been fed up, but this time she took to her Facebook page to share her angst and frustration:
OK - I've had it! I do not watch Dancing with the Stars, however, I am going to watch it this season. We need to get this out to every list on facebook and every other social network, that when Chaz Bono dances, the entire LGBT community should vote for him. Has anyone ever voted for Dancing With the Stars (now is no time to be embarrased)? Let us know how to do this and get this out to every list you have. I don't care if Chaz can't dance one step.
Tyler received many positive responses to her post, but one in particular stood out. It was from Belinda Carroll, a comedian from Portland, Oregon. Carroll told Tyler she was responding to the hatred by organizing a "viewing party" in Portland to support Chaz's appearance on the show.
Still stinging from her disappointment in the "hung jury" verdict of the Lawrence King murder trial, Tyler realized Carroll's idea was one way the entire LGBT community could really come together and support ABC, DWTS, Chaz, and transgender Americans all across the country: By staging viewing parties nationwide and voting every week. After all, the Tea Party seemed to rally together to buoy Bristol Palin's positioning on Season 11 last year, why couldn't the LGBT community close ranks around Chaz?
Tyler quickly enlisted the help of Allred, and the two held a press conference on Tuesday. Allred got right to the point in her prepared statement. "We are here today as civil rights activists … " She referenced Ablow's commentary and what a travesty it is to single out those who are different in such a public fashion.
Allred does not represent Bono, but said she has represented many other transgender people who have been victimized in her 36-year career. A school teacher and administrator long before she went to law school, Allred called the show the opportunity for "a wonderful teachable moment."
She went on to say that minorities who are isolated and stigmatized are the ones who are singled out for violence. Watch Allred's entire statement, filmed by TMZ.
Tyler also spoke out on Chaz's behalf at the press conference with a special plea.
"Because of the enormous backlash and overt discrimination, we have decided to issue a national call for LGBT people and our allies to have Dancing with the Stars viewing and dance parties in support of Chaz Bono," Tyler said.
Carroll couldn't be at the press conference due to logistics, but got busy doing all the work behind the scenes, like setting up the Chaz Bono DWTS Viewing Parties Facebook page and creating the WeSupportChaz Twitter account.
There are several Twitter accounts that have been established to support Chaz on DWTS, so be sure to follow the right one by clicking the link above, or by following all of them. Lacey and Chaz have a Twitter account, too, called TeamSchwaz.
"I had the idea for the Chaz viewing parties because I remember how powerful viewing parties were during the Obama campaign," Carroll explained to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. "As a person who has partnered with trans-identified people, I think the amount of misinformation out there is regrettable.
"Supporting Chaz's appearance on Dancing With The Stars is, to me, supporting all of the brave trans-people out there who are courageous enough to live their lives being true to themselves. I think we as the GLBT community should be challenged to be more intentionally inclusive of our transgender community members, since people who later identified as trans had a hand in our movement's beginning at Stonewall (re: Sylvia Rivera) and continue to put hard work and effort into our community today."
"If you keep hiding people, people fear them," Tyler told Dr. Drew Pinsky on his cable news network television show Tuesday night. She thinks Bono's inclusion on the über popular TV show is important. "Hey world, we're here and it's okay."
During the press conference and then later again on Dr. Drew's show, Allred announced the formation of a Los Angeles viewing party, cleverly and aptly named the "Pro-Bono Party." This weekly party will run the length of the 13th season and launch on September 19th (the same night of the premiere). Allred also announced that she will dance with any transgender person who shows up to watch and support Chaz.
"Anyone can have a viewing party to support Chaz Bono's right to be on the show," Tyler added. Viewing parties have already also been planned for Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas and New York. The venue for the Los Angeles "Pro-Bono" party is still to be determined.
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News also spoke to Tyler on Tuesday.
"There is such violence against people who don't fit into 'gender' correct roles -- whether it's transgender people, butch women or tomboys, effeminate men," Tyler lamented. "Lawrence King, for example, was murdered because he made his killer feel uncomfortable.
"The fact that the statements by the psychiatrist on Fox were so demeaning -- he used every word but freak -- and the postings on ABC were so hateful, for us to sit around and do nothing would be unforgivable. We keep saying to youth, 'it gets better.' Well, it's up to us to MAKE it better.
"The public can watch Ellen DeGeneres but want to shove Chaz into a closet because he is unacceptable. Let's support all transgender people who have the courage, like Chaz did, to come out of the closet," Tyler said.
Both Tyler and Allred encourage all fans and even new viewers of the show to start their own DWTS viewing party to support Chaz -- whether it be at a local watering hole or someone's home -- and then share the details of the party's location on the 'Chaz Bono's Dancing With the Stars Viewing Parties' Facebook page.
More About Robin Tyler, Gloria Allred and Belinda Carroll
Robin Tyler's history of activism is almost too long to recite. After years on the stand-up comedy circuit and a stint on Broadway in the 60s and 70s, Tyler turned her focus to the LGBT community and activism. In the 70s and 80s she produced the West Coast Women's Comedy and Music Festival (WCWCMF) and the Southern Women's Comedy and Music Festival (SWCMF) before producing the first two LGBT Marches on Washington.
Tyler and her longtime partner Diane Olson were the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit that overturned the law against same-sex marriage in the state of California in May of 2008. The couple was the first allowed to marry in Los Angeles on June 16, 2008, the day the groundbreaking law went into effect. The revelry was short-lived, however; as five months later voters passed Propostion 8, which put an end to same-sex marriage. Tyler is currently Executive Director of the Equality Campaign and President and CEO of Robin Tyler Tours and Productions.
Gloria Allred has been a civil rights attorney for over 30 years. According to her website, she is a "fearless advocate for justice and equality." Allred has spent most of her legal years focusing on women and minorities. Followers have seen Allred leading the pack in high profile court cases, such as those involving O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, and Tiger Woods.
Later this month, Allred will take the helm of her own courtroom television show, "We the People with Gloria Allred." The show starts September 12 here in San Diego, following "NBC 7 News at Noon." According to NBC SanDiego, Allred will serve as an attorney with her own law firm, handling cases involving employment discrimination, civil rights, rape, child abuse and murder.
Belinda Carroll is a published author, an LGBT activist, comedian and vocalist who lives in Portland, Oregon. She has written for Curve magazine and was interviewed by Our Big Gayborhood, an online humor and activist news website. You can follow her on Twitter at BelindaComedy or on Facebook.
Photo of Belinda Carroll, above left (top) Kinawilliams.com. DWTS Lacey Schwimmer and Chaz Bono official photo credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC.