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Positive Changes

To the Editor:

The article in Metroland on the transgender community of the Capital District was incredibly well-written [“Coming Out of the Shadows,” Aug. 15]. Nancy Guerin has done an excellent job describing both the humanity and incredible diversity of transgender people. Transgender people are coming out in greater numbers here in the Capital Region, and everywhere in the world. Education is one of the vital keys for their full inclusion and acceptance in workplaces, schools, and community-wide events.

I am privileged to work in many capacities with transgender people, as a family therapist, a social-work advocate, an educator, and a trainer of other health care professionals. I have witnessed numerous people coping with transgender feelings, as well as those who chose the complex and expensive path of physical transition. The ease and success of gender transitions often depends on the support, acceptance, and love of family, friends, and community.

I encourage all those reading this article who have transgendered loved ones, colleagues, coworkers, children, parents, as well as those of you in the medical and social services profession who are advocates for clients, consumers and their families, to open your hearts and minds and embrace what at first may seem baffling. Your support might make the difference in someone else’s life, and you also might find that reaching out has changed you and enriched your life in positive manner. I stand in awe at the dignity of a community coming of age.

Arlene Istar Lev
Project Manager Rainbow Access Initiative

To the Editor:

I am very impressed with the way that your paper covered the issues of being transgendered in “Coming Out of the Shadows.” Health, safety, family, community, and employment issues make up who we are as citizens, and you showed that the transgender community faces these issues like the rest of us.

Your fair and inclusive reporting will not only educate many of your readers, but will probably improve (and possibly save) the lives of those struggling with who they are. Now they can seek out the many support organizations available to them, or they may realize that they are not alone in this sometimes cruel world.

Your excellent journalism has been recognized by the LGBT community.

Donald Hitchcock
National Field Director, National Coalition for LGBT Health
Washington, D.C.

Bridge Gaps

To the Editor:

I was disappointed in your article “A Tale of Two Bridges” [Newsfront, Aug. 15]. Resolving the responsibility for the maintenance of the pedestrian bridge over a section of Manning Boulevard is clearly needed because that section of road was designed solely for speed without respect for the facilities and communities it bisects. The article’s treatment of the Hudson River Way was, however, myopic.

Questioning the cost of the celebration was appropriate, though the event has made the bridge an instant favorite. Glossing over the difficulties of shifting construction grant monies from one project to another was perhaps an oversight. But the overall one-sided report and the quote at the end of the article claiming the Hudson Way is a “bridge to nowhere” requires a strong response.

In many cities it’s downright stupid to say that going to the shores of the Seine or Danube is going nowhere. Our Hudson is not a less important waterway. Unfortunately, in Albany, commerce and transportation locked the river off from the public back in the age of robber barons. Then DOT (DPW at the time) easily negotiated a right of way from the railroad, which was (is?) trying to back away from large landmark stations.

Getting from downtown to the river is a much-needed regional amenity. Also, this is not a new goal. A more extensive park with many access points across Interstate 787 was touted back in the early 1970s, but only a bare semblance of a park (bikeway) with very limited access was finally built with meager funding. Meantime, the Hudson has been greatly cleaned up at great cost and rediscovered, so it’s timely to provide improved access not only from Albany but also from Menands and Troy.

Please don’t disparage one very good project just to illustrate the need to resolve another issue.

Ivan Vamos

To the Editor:

Mayor Jerry Jennings’ passing of the buck on the Arbor Hill footbridge is ridiculous, irresponsible and an all-too-familiar response to the needs of the minority community. Even if maintenance were the responsibility of the school district, who does he think will pay when someone gets hurt on that bridge? His constituents do! Stop pointing fingers and fix this eyesore and accident waiting to happen. Trust me, as soon as someone falls (and that’s not if, but when) their lawyers will be quick to decide who is responsible for the damages. Just fix it!

Wanda Lubinski

The Grass Is Greener . . .

To the Editor:

It was good to read that the marijuana reform party is campaigning in support of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes [“The Other Green Party,” Aug.8]. This is also the issue highlighted on their Web site.

The Green Party itself goes further, supporting the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This would legalize use by individuals while maintaining criminal penalties against those who sell large quantities. This position was advocated in 1972 by President Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. The Greens support a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source.

Both Stanley Aronowitz, the Green Party candidate for governor, and Ralph Nader, our recent presidential candidate, have publicly spoken in favor of legalization of marijuana and an end to the War on Drugs. Bill Clinton may smoke but not inhale it and George Pataki may bake it with beans, but the Greens are the only major national party that supports legalization of marijuana.

The Green Party also supports many other issues such as public funding of elections, peace not war, corporate accountability, a halt to global warming, abolition of the death penalty, reproductive freedom, closing Indian Point and other nukes, gay marriage, the right to organize, repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, a $10-an-hour minimum wage, etc.

Enforcing existing marijuana laws costs taxpayers $10 billion annually, with 734,000 individuals arrested nationwide per year—far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder and rape. Marijuana arrests have more than doubled since 1991, while adult use of the drug has remained stable.

People of color get arrested for marijuana more often than whites. Among smaller counties, Albany was in the top 10 nationally for disparities in arrest rates, with 10.56 blacks arrested for every one white.

Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 80 million Americans. Marijuana is significantly less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning, with more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. The 1999 federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine found that “except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other medications.” The European medical journal The Lancet stated that “the smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. . . . It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat . . . than alcohol or tobacco.”

Former President Jimmy Carter told Congress in 1977 that: “Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”

Mark Dunlea
Vice-Chair, Green Party of NYS

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
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