Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars
Glass Plate photo

Monday, July 19, 2021


Attorney bars cross-dresser from jury

HEADLINE from Star Tribune [METRO Edition]; Minneapolis, MN Sept 29 1995 - Marget Zack; Staff Writer 

(2 articles included further on)

NYC subway 1996 - while on tour with my band "All The Pretty Horses"
- photo by Steve Herrig

    As I am about to begin jury duty, [Monday, July 19 2021] my second-time being summoned in Minneapolis, and also having just finished our Mpls PRIDE weekend (delayed from its usual occurrence during national June PRIDE month, because of Covid-19 among other issues), I thought I might reflect on my previous 1995 Minneapolis MN jury duty experience:

    On the Friday morning of my first week of my initial Minneapolis, MN jury duty at the end of September 1995, we were awoken up by an early phone call. A friend of ours rang to say all the morning shock-jock radio stations were making fun of me. 

I had come out to the art world and in turn to the public as trans in 1988, after a long difficult time of gender dysphoria which threatened to destroy both my relationship with my wife, my family,  as well causing me to cycle through multiple suicidal episodes. It seemed my only choice beyond taking my own life and giving up. Finally, after a lifetime, I felt grounded.

Since that earlier coming out time, I'd worked on the performance art stage and as a visual artist and filmmaker as my full transgender self till at the very end of 1993, I formed my band All The Pretty Horses with my then drummer Bill Bailey and then bass player Ed Ford. 

By the time of this Sept 29, 1995 early morning phone call, my band had been in existence for not quite two years. I was already used to pretty constant off-color, careless, and insensitive jokes about me from various press review/previews, clubs, and the occasional unsuspecting audience member, as well as an almost daily confrontation or ridicule from people in general with whom I crossed paths with while simply living my life. So I wasn't too terribly concerned. In fact, I had learned by then how to take just about any press, negative or otherwise, and spin it to better further the scant artistic publicity I'd been pushing forward for years. Secretly I'd hoped this unexpected radio coverage ridicule might be something having to do with one of my various musical or art-stage projects. If so, I imagined, I might be able to leverage it forward in some fashion. Twist it back on itself.

It turned out not to be any of this.

My spouse, Lynette Reini-Grandell, was not as non-plussed as I was.

While I struggled to wake up more fully after hanging up and explaining the conversation, Lynette found our delivered newspaper and the article prominently positioned on the 3rd page of the metro section. 

A judge had ruled to bar me from jury duty, after the previous day's jury interviews I had been involved in. He had become confused by my then legal male birth-name not matching how I looked while I sat with the rest of the prospective jurors in his court room jury rows. One of the attorneys in the case at hand asked that I be struck from consideration because I was "a cross-dresser." I looked like I usually looked, as in the photo above and below. The second attorney challenged it. The discussion and subsequent ruling at the bench, between the two attorneys and the judge, happened after we were all dismissed and sent back to the jury pool. None of us prospective jurors heard anything of it.  The press in the court that day however did.  

Lynette was panicked. Because of the general oppressive atmosphere we both lived since my becoming public about my transgender identity, she felt her job might be in jeopardy. She was tenure-track, not tenured yet. Despite the news outlet's use of my name, and not hers, she was referred to as an English Professor married to me. Anyone who knew her, also knew me, and therefore it was easy enough for the connections to be made. There were no job protections relating to transgender identity back then. It was even possible that *no one* in the state would want to hire her, and we'd have to sell our house and leave. Lynette had already dealt with subtle pushback from unexpected places--nothing we could put a finger on, and nothing we could confront directly--but things alway felt precarious for her because of it. She writes about this time in her forthcoming memoir. (--mine, I promise will follow, I am determined to complete it.)

July 1995 photo taken by Chuck Smith of myself and John Killacky
for the promotion of John's film "Unforgiven Fire," the first of a trilogy of films about the AIDS epidemic
which I filmed and edited using 16mm Bolex film and Fisher Price Pixel Vision video cameras

Lynette Reini-Grandell and me cira 1995

26 years have passed since. If you'd asked me then how the world might look for trans people in the coming decades, I couldn't have imagined the progress we've made. But better than imagining what I once thought was the impossible, I lived to see it.

I dug around last night to find the two articles which at the time went about as viral as they could pre-internet. I was only able to find archival library text copies with the help of Lynette's academic search skills. I'll include them both below. 

My point in this reflection is to value where we are now. As a country, and as a people. I'm fully aware of the split we're all living between the political left and right. And how this chasm feels ever larger. But maybe it was inevitable. The hate I lived was real. But at so many times it just wasn't spoken. Or dealt with. We didn't quite have the language or even the self awareness as trans people to know exactly what to do. And because of that, it remained. 

I began to challenge that hate at every step I could. By singing my lungs out onstage. By pushing my band as far as I could possibly manage. By confronting it directly with every performance art piece I created, and every film I made. Every song I wrote. And also by answering any, absolutely any question posed to me no matter how rude or un-thinkingly naive it was. Whenever it was asked. And by whomever. I got as much rejection from the gay/lesbian community back then as I did from the straight community multiple times. I could never quite predict where it would come from. And I would take that opportunity to further explain that insensitivity or naiveté as gently as I could while I answered the question so those folks could learn, and maybe move forward in some positive way. Interestingly, I was often thanked for doing that extra work by those very same people. And it was exhausting. And, I felt, absolutely necessary, If I was to someday be able to live a normal life, together with my wife, well then I was willing to change the world one person at a time. 

 And so here we are. Split as a country yes, but also look at what has happened. For real. 

It used to be that I would always add into the Q & A's after the screenings of the 2004 documentary "Venus of Mars" by Emily Goldberg, about myself, my wife, and my band, that nothing would ever be normal for trans-people until we had doctors and lawyers and teachers and politicians who were trans. 

And look around now. We have all of that. 

It crushes me, in a good way, to be able to recognize this fact. 

It used to be that I would physically keep a distance away from kids, anyone, in fact, under the age of 18, because of fears that I would be seen as some sort of threat to them. However, I wouldn't shy away from speaking my mind about the importance of understanding  that kids can be trans. Because, I would say, I was a kid. I always knew I wasn't like other kids. Therefore I was a trans kid. Proof that they exist to those who disagreed with me.

Look around. 

Look at the support and openness we have all around for trans kids. From our current president, to both our federal and local governments, to parents, and now, finally, directly to those other trans kids I habitually avoided because of the social damage I lived. We have all this now.

And I know. I know. I watch those bills against trans kids in sports get brought up. Some put into law. Those bills against helping trans kids access the medical and mental health care they most certainly need. The slow attempts to dismantle all our hard won trans rights. The basic right to use a bathroom. The political denial that trans-identity even exists. But these attitudes have always been there. These oppressions have always been used. I know this. I lived it. We simply collectively "see" them now. I have always seen them. As have so many of us who lived that old world did. 

However, look at how we have also aligned as allies, as supporters, and ourselves as a recognized, established, and fully realized trans community.

We have so much farther to go. I know this. And I know how exhausting it can be. To be mis-gendered, mis-pronounced, mis-named, mis-recognized, mis-understood. But nothing changes until each of us is willing to do the hard work of living, enduring, of patience, of forgiveness, of explanation, of teaching. 

Let's not forget. Let's remember. We can, and will, move forward together.

Happy PRIDE ❤️🌈


Venus de Mars  (she/her)

(previously Steven Grandell)

The articles:

(and do read them both... it was difficult for me to review them myself... but important)

-- Initial article Friday September 29 1995

Full Text | Newspapers

Attorney bars cross-dresser from jury: [METRO Edition]

Zack, Margaret; Staff Writer.Star Tribune; Minneapolis, Minn. [Minneapolis, Minn] 29 Sep 1995: 03.B.


The issue arose Wednesday during jury selection in the sexual assault case against Marlan Ward being

heard by Hennepin County District Judge Franklin Knoll.

Prosecutor Gemma Graham used one of her peremptory challenges, which usually require no

explanation, to remove Steven Grandell from the panel.

[Jim] Krieger argued that Grandell was dismissed because of his gender. "If he was a female dressed

that way, would the government have excused him?" Krieger asked Knoll. "It's because he's dressed in

something the government didn't like."

Full Text

A man dressed as a woman, dismissed as potential juror, posed a novel issue for the trial judge.

Was the cross-dresser a member of a protected class whose dismissal from the jury could have been for discriminatory, and thus illegal, reasons?

The issue arose Wednesday during jury selection in the sexual assault case against [***** ****] being heard by Hennepin County District Judge Franklin Knoll.

Prosecutor Gemma Graham used one of her peremptory challenges, which usually require no

explanation, to remove Steven Grandell from the panel.

Public defender Jim Krieger objected, citing his deeply held belief that all people are entitled to an equal opportunity to serve on a jury.

The Supreme Court has ruled that jurors cannot be removed for reasons of race or gender. If race or gender appears to be an issue, the attorney must articulate a reason for removal that is not based on those traits.

Krieger argued that Grandell was dismissed because of his gender. "If he was a female dressed that way, would the government have excused him?" Krieger asked Knoll. "It's because he's dressed in something the government didn't like."

Grandell is a law-abiding citizen, Krieger said, an artist married to an English professor, who interacts with relatives in a normal way.

Graham said the law does not recognize classes other than race and gender: Cross-dressing is not a gender-based issue, she said.

Knoll accepted Graham's argument. He ruled that the defense had the burden to show that an impermissible reason was used to remove the juror. The defense did not show that a cross-dresser is part of a protected class as defined by the Supreme Court, Knoll said.

That meant Graham was not required to state additional reasons for her peremptory challenge.

After Knoll's ruling, Krieger said he routinely makes such challenges during jury selection.

"Government agents can't deprive citizens of the right to jury service," he said. "These are American citizens who don't pass the political correctness test."

Lloyd Zimmerman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Richard Oakes, a law professor at Hamline University School of Law, said they were unaware of other cases that said cross-dressers were members of a protected class.

But Oakes said of the defender's action: "This was not a frivolous motion. It was thoughtful and imaginative."

If no one ever had raised the issue of jurors being dismissed for discriminatory reasons, the Supreme Court never would have dealt with the issue, he said.

Cross-dressers are a part of our community and all citizens have a right to have full access to jury duty, Oakes said.

Hennepin County District Judge Patrick Fitzgerald said such challenges about peremptory strikes still are rather unusual. He has had only one such case.

Fitzgerald said a big bite has been taken out of lawyers' right to make peremptory challenges. He said the concern is that a lawyer picking a jury, whether criminal or civil, may have a feeling about potential juror that the chemistry just isn't right.

In the best interest of the client, the person may not be appropriate for the jury.

"That part of the process has been infected," he said. "But that's the law."

Copyright Star Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Sep 29, 1995


-- Follow up human interest article Sunday October 01 1995

Full Text | Newspapers

Transgender is more about self-identity than dress: [METRO Edition]

Grow, Doug, and Staff Writer. "Transgender is More about Self-Identity than Dress: [METRO Edition]." Star Tribune, Oct 01, 1995.


On Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, [Steve] Grandell, a prospective juror, had been brought into the courtroom of Judge Franklin Knoll.

After the flicker of raised eyebrows, normalcy seemed to return quickly to the courtroom. Grandell, 35, was asked a few questions, and Assistant District Attorney Gemma Graham used a peremptory challenge, striking Grandell from a jury.

Unbeknownst to Grandell, Jim Krieger, a public defender involved in the case that Grandell was dismissed from hearing, objected to the challenge. The Supreme Court has ruled that jurors can't be removed for reasons of race or gender, and Krieger argued that Graham was
challenging Grandell on the basis of gender.

Full Text

The judge had seemed a little perplexed, Steve Grandell said.

On Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, Grandell, a prospective juror, had been brought into the courtroom of Judge Franklin


Grandell said the judge looked at the jury list, then at the juror.

"He seemed a little confused for a second," Grandell said. "Then there was a recognition, and the tone of the questions seemed to change."

What had happened?

On paper, the judge saw the name "Steve Grandell." But the prospective juror before him had long, reddish hair, makeup and was wearing tight black riding pants and a crushed-velvet jacket over a black knit blouse with a scoop neckline. The ensemble was set off by a necklace and dangling earrings.

The judicial double take was almost comic.

"I deal with this all the time, and it leaves me exhausted by the end of the day," Grandell said. "I don't find it humorous, but that doesn't mean there isn't humor in it."

After the flicker of raised eyebrows, normalcy seemed to return quickly to the courtroom. Grandell, 35, was asked a few questions, and Assistant District Attorney Gemma Graham used a peremptory challenge, striking Grandell from a jury.

Grandell returned to the jury room not knowing his life was going to be turned into a public issue - and a public entertainment.

Unbeknownst to Grandell, Jim Krieger, a public defender involved in the case that Grandell was dismissed from hearing, objected to the challenge. The Supreme Court has ruled that jurors can't be removed for reasons of race or gender, and Krieger argued that Graham was challenging Grandell on the basis of gender.

Graham didn't deny that she was challenging Grandell based on the way he dressed. But she argued the law doesn't recognize "cross-dressing" as a gender-based issue, so therefore she could use one of her peremptory challenges to have him dismissed. The judge agreed.

Grandell said he didn't know anything about it until the story of the unusual courtroom dispute was reported by Margaret Zack in Friday's Star Tribune. By then, he'd been seated on another jury, which will begin hearing a case Monday.

The report he did read troubled Grandell on a couple of levels.

First, he and his wife of 12 years were upset by the use of the word "cross-dresser." It's a term, they say, that brings up all sorts of superficial and loaded stereotypes about men dressing outrageously in drag.

By no stretch of fashion imagination can Grandell's style be considered subtle. But it's not sequins, either.

Grandell says the term "transgender" is a far more accurate description of his life.

After struggling most of his life with his identity, he began dressing in women's clothing about six years ago. He said that he could be classified as bisexual, but that he's monogamous. Heterosexual married men, he noted, may find other women attractive, but that doesn't mean they aren't faithful to their wives. Same with him. He may find other women and men attractive, but he's faithful to his spouse, he


At times in the past, he has considered extremes ranging from suicide to undergoing surgery for a sex change.

His spouse, a teacher, has helped him find some comfort as a transgender person. She had married a slender young man in a gray suit who she believed was straight. It wasn't until several years into their marriage that he came out to himself and to her.

They struggled. They considered all sorts of options. They've chosen to remain married. Their extended families and friends accept them. In fact, Grandell, a performance artist, painter and filmmaker, is well-known in the arts community. He also is getting back into music as a singer and guitarist in an alternative rock band called "All the Pretty Horses."

But acceptance among family and friends doesn't mean he's not rejected on the streets - or in places such as the courtroom. He's frequently ridiculed and threatened, he said. And on Wednesday, he was dismissed from the jury. Grandell said that he believes he was rejected by the prosecutor not only because of his style but because the case that was being heard involves sexual assault between an adult and a minor.

Transgender people, Grandell said, "are always lumped in with sexual deviants."

Back up in all of this.

Before heading off to jury duty, Grandell could have reached into his closet and pulled out the old, gray wedding suit instead of the crushed-velvet jacket. He could have pulled his hair into a ponytail and replaced the dangling earrings with a nifty little stud popular even among big, tough football players.

The fact is, most guys who wear mascara probably know they're going to get strange looks - maybe even be derided on radio programs, as Grandell was Friday morning. Even many gays and lesbians reject the transgender crowd.

Why not avoid the hassle by publicly playing the game straight?

"I'm aware I stand out as who I am," Grandell said. "I'm not trying to be Mr. Suburban Conservative. But accepting that, I still believe it should be possible for people to understand my mental normalcy. How I look at things, how I think, may be no different from anybody else."

None of this is easy just to accept.

Here sits a talented man with a lovely old home, decorated with artworks he has created. As he's talking, candles are flickering, coffee's brewing, classical music is playing and his spouse, a woman he loves, is adding supportive comments. It's all nice, gracious, comfortable. But, as he talks, it's a little tricky to see past the crushed-velvet jacket, the knit shirt with the scoop neckline, the mascara. . . .

"People always say, `You have the choice,' " Grandell said. "They say, `It's simple. It's just hair, clothing; what's the big deal? Why not just go along?' I tried that. I think that most {transgender people} have desperately tried that. Nobody wants this kind of attention, but it comes to a point where it's that or it's suicide. . . . I went to jury duty as who I am. I dressed as I always dressed. If I wouldn't have, I would have been lying. I'd have been taking a step into the closet, and I think that's a dark and dangerous place."

Copyright Star Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Oct 1, 1995

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Finishing my transition.


Fridge drawing "Venus"

This drawing of me resides magnetized to our refrigerator. It was drawn by the oldest daughter of a then nearby LGBT couple for whom I did some remodel/handy work early last winter.  She drew it in about five minutes in their kitchen just after she and I met when I dropped by their house to see what all needed to be done. Halfway through this visit, she came back and handed it to me.

I love the detail; my torn leggings, bangs, earrings, and glasses, and she even caught my coffin purse, but accidently inverted the angles of it.

I love this drawing.

As I discussed with her two mothers some of their house repair needs, she followed while carrying my coffin purse for me. Then out of the blue, she asked me how I identified. (She actually used this specific language.) " do you identify as a boy? ...or a girl?" She asked, then waited earnestly for my reply. I took a breath, thanked her for asking, and told her a girl. She expressed so much happiness at that answer and immediately had a billion things to talk about. One of which was how cruddy it was to have to wear glasses because, she told me, she also has to wear glasses and had just accidently broken hers on the playground, and she showed them to me. Eventually, and with some prompting from one of her Moms, I was able to return to the repair discussions and schedule the needed work.

The reason I'm including this drawing and this short preamble, is twofold: First the remembrance of it sustains my hope for our future. These kids are gonna pull us through. No matter what. I truly believe it.

And second, I feel her drawing captures quite well, what she saw as my "inner" self.




On Dec 12 2018, I had GRS surgery. I posted a blog here about that decision. You may have read and remember, but if not, you can find it here. It changed my life, Then again, my life was already changed when I was four years old, and realized that inside, I wasn't what people imagined. 

Soon after my GRS, which was a physically challenging event, but an emotionally positively-powerful event, I'd say maybe within months, early 2019, I began to feel the beginning of a disconnect between my new body and myself. Or more specifically, my internal "me."

And weirdly, if I might attempt to explain further, this internal "me," to be specifically accurate, I felt was directly and invisibly connected, from my mind to my face.

This unexpected disconnect, which began small but steadily grew till it sped forward, eventually gave me as much gender dysphoria as I had when growing up as a kid, and then as a young adult before I initially came out in 1988. –– It unexpectedly began to re-crush me. My old depressions threatened. And here's the thing, I'd expected my gender reassignment surgery to have solved everything. And it did solve so much. I had begun finally to truly find myself. After a lifetime. But it turned out not to be the final step as I'd hoped. Instead, became a first step.

10 months ago I had the first phase of FFS done. Facial Feminization Surgery. The bone work. Back at the Mayo. This, after having to fight with my insurance for coverage. Six months of legal challenges, letter writings, research and appeals to demonstrate, as a trans-person, the decision for FFS (or for female-to-male trans-people, the decision for FMS,) does not fall under cosmetic. It is as fundamentally significant for trans-people as the decision for either type of GRS. Perhaps even more so as new research tells us.

I won. 

I had my facial flesh pulled away from my skull, and the bones underneath altered. My jaw brought back to a more pre-testosterone line. My upper skull, brow and eye sockets, also pre-testosterone-influence smoothed. Just enough, I'd hoped, to align my "inner-self" with my new body.

I had in effect, as I had done with my GRS, jumped off a cliff. And obviously, in doing this, once done, there was no going back. 

And I am used to jumping off cliffs. It's exactly why, I think, I am a performer. Why I can climb onstage and risk social-anxiety-disaster in my attempt to share as close to, if not in actuality, pure raw emotion. When I sing. When I strip naked on the art stage. When I light fire on my body. When my band and I, both vocally and instrumentally, belt out our songs, our sets, full volume colliding into each other, powering through mistakes, wrong notes, technical failures, and all manner of various physical mishaps which is after all, what the core of glam-fetish-punk-rock is all about. Which is what my art and what I am all about. An attempt to touch truth.

However, when the swelling from my bone surgery diminished, I was left at a halfway point, many steps backwards from where I had been before my FFS began. I had not at all prepared for this. With my jawbone specifically, now smaller and narrower that it had been before, what remained, was excess skin which previously had fit nicely over my larger male sized jaw. I felt panic. I questioned my sanity. This was a hard crash at the bottom of the cliff. Not the splash into a cool deep pool I'd expected. A deep depression overtook me. For months on end. As I mentioned above, my "inner-me" now reflected back through an unrecognized and severed invisible connection with my mind. Altered beyond repair. No going back. No re-do. This was not in the least, what I had hoped to have happen.

To make matters worse, as I struggled trying to get back onto solid emotional ground, settling in for an unanticipated wait till this excess flesh could be dealt with, I discovered my insurance had denied my now-obvious-to-me needed, second FFS phase.

Despite the emotional precariousness I found myself in, I had no choice but to re-launch, from scratch, another full-on insurance fight. I began to slowly climb back up the damn cliff so I could hopefully, somehow, make another leap.

After five months of secondary appeals, letter-writing, more research, and determination, I was finally awarded secondary coverage at the end of February 2020. It was thankfully recognized and deemed necessary reconstructive surgery. Not cosmetic.

Then, as we all know too well, Covid hit.

I cautiously pushed myself to continue performing through all of this. Searching for my inner strength as I sang, wrote music, let myself fall back into art. Some of you joined me during this time: My performing at First Unitarian Society for Joe Szurszewski's photo documentation of twenty years photographing behind the scene shots of me and my band "All The Pretty Horses." My various readings of excerpts from my work-in-progress memoir.  My opening set for Nic Lincoln's "Too Much" at BLB. A fundraiser for the LGB-Trans-advocacy legal group who assisted me in my insurance battles: JustUs Health. My multiple Covid Live-Streams via my YouTube channel and my Patreon page, when we all went on pandemic lock-down. 

Slowly, because of art, I regained my emotional stability. Art did the important work it had always done for me in the past. It provided clarity, insight, complexity, balance, and strength.

On Monday, July 27, 2020, early in the morning, my wife Lynette and I entered Mayo one more time so I could be prepped for my final FFS phase. Another leap off a cliff. It turned out to be another 7+ hour surgery.

Let's do the math:

Along with the previous bone surgery, my full FFS took almost 15 hours under the knife. Add to this my GRS. That makes my full surgical gender-transition having taken more than 20 hours. Add HRT: I began hormones in May of 1994. This means my full physical gender-transition has taken 26 years.

Add to this my inner-self.

My actual life-gender-transition has now taken 60 years. And I suspect, it will continue.

Throughout everything, art has guided me forward. Deep-dives inwards towards my emotional core has given me courage. Facing all manner of ridicule, diminishment, and dismissal for more than half of my life externally, and at times self-inflicted damage, for all of my life internally, because I refused to hide my transgenderism, has given me strength, empathic clarity, and insights I would have never achieved in any other manner.

I stand now with two months of final healing ahead of me. And I also stand excited for a future, and for whatever it might hold.

I suspect I will continue to leap off my metaphorical cliffs. It appears to be my nature. But I think I can safely say now that I have finally accomplished a lifetime quest. One I did not choose to journey.

Woven throughout are many, many individuals who continually gave me support. From day one. Some I know intimately and personally. Some occasionally walked with me along this same difficult road. Many I know from the distance between stage and audience. Many more now, I've come to know from our present cyber world's vast digital breadth.

Thank you all for helping me along this infinitely, ever-changing, multi-dimensionally-complex gender and life path.

You know who you are.

I owe you everything.


-Venus de Mars

Venus, 12 days post final FFS surgery (..sans make-up)