Commentary on the Littleton Case

This is an official communication from the Texas Gender Advocacy Information Network who is solely responsible for its contents. Public dissemination is encouraged.
October 1999

The case known as Littleton V. Prange has been decided and it is horrible news for transsexuals in Texas. In the abbreviated version, here is what the court has ruled:

1) "Medical science recognizes that there are individuals whose sexual self-identity is in conflict with their biological and anatomical sex. Such people are termed transsexuals."

2) "A transsexual is not a homosexual in the traditional sense of the word, in that transsexuals believe and feel they are members of the opposite sex. Nor is a transsexual a transvestite. Transsexuals do not believe they are dressing the opposite sex's clothes. They believe they are dressing in their own sex's clothes."

3) "Christie Littleton is a transsexual."

4)" Through surgery and hormones, a transsexual male (note the language of the court) can be made to look like a woman, including female genitalia and breasts. Transsexual medical treatment, however, does not create in internal sexual organs of a woman (except for the vaginal canal). There is no womb, cervix, or ovaries in the post-operative transsexual female."

5)" The male chromosomes do not change with either hormonal treatment or sex reassignment surgery. Biologically a post operative female transsexual is still a male."

6)" The evidence fully supports that Christie Littleton, born male, wants and believes herself to be a woman. She has made every conceivable effort to make herself a female, including a surgery that would make most males pale and perspire to contemplate."

7)" Some physicians would consider Christie a female, other female physicians would consider her still a male. Her female anatomy is all man made. The body that Christie inhabits is a male body in all aspects other than what the physicians have supplied."

The court then makes the most offensive statement any transsexual could possible imagine. "There are some things we cannot will into being. They just are."

"We hold, as a matter of law, that Christie Littleton is a male. Christie cannot be married to another male. Her marriage to Jonathon was invalid, and she cannot bring a cause of action as a surviving spouse."

Last month TGAIN sent an Amicus or "friend of the court" brief which was accepted by the court. Anticipating exactly this kind of ruling, our brief asked the court to include in its decision a statement suggesting that the Texas legislature needed to pass a law (or perhaps laws) to clarify the issues involved in this case. On page eight of the court decision, the second paragraph reads:

"In our system of government it is for the legislature , should it choose to do so, to determine what guidelines should govern the recognition of marriages involving transsexuals. The need for legislative guidelines is particularly important in this case, where the claim being asserted is statutorily based. The statute defines who may bring a cause of action: a surviving spouse, and if the legislature intends to recognize transsexuals as surviving spouses, the statute needs to address the guidelines by which such recognition is recognized. When or whether the legislature will choose to address this issue is not within the judiciary's control."

The fact is that TGAIN has made three attempts to get exactly this kind of clarification entered into the Texas legislature. This past session we were told there was no need to have such clarification. As a result the bill died in committee. The Littleton case was exactly what TGAIN was working to avoid. Ironically, this ruling may be exactly what we need to get our legislation passed. The problem, and the blessing in disguise, is that the legislature does not meet this year. This gives us time to devise our strategy, lay the groundwork with legislators across the state, and put on a full court press in the next session.

My point is that yes, this decision is terrible. The ramifications on issues like health insurance, employability, and of course our legal status as men or women, and only now beginning to become clear. Anyone who believe gays and lesbians had nothing in common with transgenders need only to see the court's use of DOMA against us.

However, there is hope and that involves all of us in Texas. The time for hiding is over. This court ruling reaches into every closet. There is no hiding place in Texas. Tell your friends about TGAIN. Tell your family. Tell the friends of your family. Tell everyone you know in El Paso, Lubbock, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and anywhere else in this huge state. Talk to your friends in PFLAG, the NGLTF, the LGRL, and other transgender organizations. Tell them that TGAIN is committed to bringing the message to the state legislature that our biology is not our destiny. We are not our chromosomes. We have lost a major battle, but the war is only getting started. We will fight back.

A word of caution is in order. TGAIN does not believe in "outing." We do believe, however, that hiding as an excuse to do nothing is no longer acceptable. Never threaten another person with "outing." Talk with your friends. Reason with them as best you can, but never "out" someone against their will.

Thanks for your time.

Sarah DePalma
Director, Texas Gender Advocacy Information Network

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Last revised: Saturday, May 06, 2000 09:30 AM

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