Toronto Story About Transgender Locker Room Harasser is a Hoax, or “How a Toronto Star journalist fails at integrity (and journalism).”

Toronto newspaper pushes trans hoax, claims no duty to fact check | The Transadvocate.

So, over the weekend, the Toronto Star’s Ethics columnist published a response to a email from a “senior woman” claiming she was harassed by a “a “man” claiming to be transgender, who had not yet begun physical treatments” (their quotes not mine) while using the locker room at her local YMCA. This columnist then provided what was, by most accounts, a very trans-friendly and open-minded response, going so far as to point out that “transgender women, regardless of their status regarding surgical intervention, have the absolute right to use the women’s change room.”
I read this piece over the weekend in my usual perusal of the headlines for possible commentary, was shocked to hear about the initial claim, but generally pleased with how the writer handled with question.

However, the talented Cristan Williams over at TransAdvocate decided to investigate further and actually called all of the Toronto area YMCAs to see if such an incident had actually occurred. In news that comes a no shock to pretty much anyone…none of them had any idea what she was talking about! Upon contacting the columnist, he responded that it was not his responsibility to verify the accounts he’s given and essentially shirked all responsibility for fact-checking his piece.

Here’s the issue with that notion. While I understand that what he’s writing is functionally an advice column, the piece pretty specifically brings up a VERY sensitive issue, which is cis people’s fear of being harassed by trans or “trans-posing” people in locker rooms and bathrooms. It’s not as though the letter was asking for advice in how to deal with a boss who’s stealing, or a spouse who’s unfaithful…this is a story that the potential to do real harm to the trans community. One of the largest arguments made against allowing trans people to use public restrooms and locker rooms of their identified genders is precisely the fear that this hoax of a story hits on and propagates. It’s ammo for the right-wingers to curtail our basic human rights, and he had an absolute responsibility to do at least a basic fact check of the circumstances before letting such a tale go to press in a major newspaper. Failing the author’s responsibility to fact check, the editor also had a responsibility to ensure all i’s had been dotted before allowing such a potentially inflammatory yarn make it to print.

I also happened to notice that while the story’s headline at least manages to properly refer to the alleged harasser (and apparently non-existent) harasser proper as a “transgender woman”, the URL very definitely says “transgender man”. It’s a microaggression, but still definitely another black mark against the Star in this situation.

I’d like to be able to give the Toronto Star and this columnist the benefit of the doubt on this, but given the way all stories involving trans people are sensationalized for readership throughout the media, I’m finding that difficult. Toronto Star, you owe us a correction, and an apology.

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CNN Writer Taken to Task for Transphobia, or “I like reblogging with alliteration. Also, Parker Molloy is awesome.”

CNN Features Massively Transphobic Article, I Write the Author | Park That Car.

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’re probably aware that AB1266 is pretty much the biggest news story about trans people in 2013. But, just in case you ARE one of under-igneous dwellers, it’s the bill signed in California in July that grants wide-reaching protection to transgender K-12 students, including access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams of their identified gender. (Somehow, I managed to completely miss blogging about it…SHAME on me!)

Not shockingly, the bill has been extraordinarily controversial, and it’s brought out some of the most vile and disgusting transphobia in the media that I’ve seen in quite some time. And of course, it’s gotten it’s very own religious-right-driven appeal referendum petition. Since the law went into effect on January 1, there’s been a resurgence of hate-and-misinformation filled op-eds through out the mainstream media. Richard Lucas at CNN penned this doozy piece of garbage, and it caught the attention of the brilliant Parker Marie Molloy from Park That Car, who absolutely took him to task for every single lie and piece of misinformation he spouted. Her piece is one of the best counterpoints to the BS about the “dangers” of trans protections that I’ve seen yet, and it’s definitely worth a read (and a share, if you’re feeling share-y!). And of course, feel free to vent your irritations at CNN for publishing this kind hateful screed.

Happy Holidays, or “I’m not quite dead!”

So, my hiatus from blogging lasted considerably longer than I had hoped. In the first few weeks of my first semester of graduate school, I had sincerely hoped that I’d find a comparatively normal work-life balance. Sadly, that turned out to just not be the case, and I needed to remain completely focused on classwork and research for the entirety of the semester. But, now that hoops have been jumped through (which I’ll talk about in a later post), I’m looking forward to making time for regular posts once again. I already have several new pieces underway, plus a year-end review!

In the mean time, I just wanted to share send wishings of Happy Holidays to everyone, and particularly to those who are either forced to spend time with unaccepting family, or simply have no one at all because of their choice to live genuinely (in whatever way that might be relevant to you). I’m having a bit of a challenging holiday myself, and I just wanted everyone to know that they’re not forgotten, and that there’s more love in the world than just the kind that comes from blood family.

So Happy Holidays to my trans sisters and brothers, my LGBTQIA+ compatriots, my fellow feminist warriors, all the allies of the world, nerds everywhere, my chosen family, and the members of my blood family who DO support and accept me me.

Remember always that you are loved, and worthy of love.

-TheTNF

Gay Sex is Still Illegal in Louisiana, or “Unconstitutional somehow doesn’t mean unenforceable in Baton Rouge.”

Louisiana Sodomy Sting: How Invalidated Sex Laws Still Lead to Arrests | TIME.com.

Apparently, a Supreme Court ruling isn’t even enough to keep law enforcement in Louisiana from harassing the LGBT community. It appears that the Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputies t has been conducting illegal strings against the gay community since at least 2011. The stings involved an undercover officer approaching men in a park, and getting them to agree to have sex in a private location. That’s it. Not men looking to have sex in public, with children, or even for money (this is not a judgement on my part, except for the sex with kids part. Just mentioning actual enforceable laws). No, they’re just looking for gay men willing to have entirely consensual, private sex for free, and arresting them for violating Louisiana’s “crimes against nature” laws. The trouble is, the Supreme Court very clearly struck down such laws in 2003 in  Lawrence v. Texas.

The Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office initially claimed that they had no idea that the laws were declared unconstitutional and were unenforceable and the their deputies acted on “good faith.” None of the 11 men who have been arrested in such stings since 2011 have been charged, of course. That hardly seems to matter; these men were still publicly outed, had their names and pictures published, had to endure the stress of arrest and detainment, and were forced to spend money on legal representation and bail. My research turns up no instances of straight people similarly targeted for this kind of treatment, even though the Louisiana anti-sodomy law covers both hetero- and homosexual acts. It seems a little crazy to think that someone would keep authorizing these stings (and their expense) if no conviction had ever resulted in if there were no ulterior motive. This appears to me to be either a very clear case of members of the Sheriff’s department specifically targeting the LGBT community for harassment and humiliation, or incompetence and mismanagement of a law enforcement office to an extent that someone should go to jail. Which side of this coin do you want to be, Baton Rouge? In either case, I would suspect that this sort of thing will end up costing the city severely in either a settlement or a lengthy and ugly civil suit.

Unfortunately, the ignorance (or just plain ignoring) of Lawrence v. Texas isn’t isolated to Baton Rouge. In Virginia, GOP Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli is fighting to keep anti-sodomy laws on the books and enforced. Cuccinelli is dredging up the long-since-debunked pseudoscience garbage connecting and equating queer people with pedophiles to built support for his effort. Not surprisingly, he’s also pretty well known for getting his ass handed to him during an climate-change-denying witchhunt. I guess jurisprudence and constitutional law aren’t requirements to be Attorney General in Virginia.

It’s hard to deny the long-standing culture of homophobia within police departments across the country, even if it often falls just under the radar (Amnesty International did a lovely piece of this a few years back). Cases like this certainly don’t do much to improve the already very tarnished image of law enforcement in the eyes of the LGBT community. With queer hate crimes remaining still all-too common, where are we supposed to turn to when even those charged with protecting us are complicit in our abuse?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it appears that, at the very least, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff, Ed Gautreaux, is at least putting forth an effort to make amends and effect change after these cases came to light a few days ago. While it certainly won’t undo the damage already inflicted on these men, but at the very least it might reduce the chance that such things will happen again in the future. Unfortunately, with anti-sodomy laws still on the books in many states, I fear we may see some copycatting of this behavior. The best solution, of course, is get these laws repealed officially. However, as controversial as all queer related topics remain politically, I don’t see this happening any time soon. Nonetheless, it remains of vital importance for us a community to know our rights, the laws that might affect us, and to vigorously defend ourselves and each other when these kinds of violations occur.

Serious Allegations about Handling of Rape Cases at USC, or “Once again, it appears that colleges think rape isn’t a big deal.”

USC Student: Police Said I Wasn’t Raped Because He Didn’t Orgasm.

It looks like even major universities can’t get over that antiquated idea that rape is little more than “boys being boys,” and continue to patently ignore the safety of women n their campuses. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating the University of Southern California after 13 women made complaints about how the university failed to appropriately address reported sexual assaults. The allegations include a woman who had her complaint dismissed by officials, even with recording audio of the assailants confession, because they desired an “educational” over a punitive process. Because clearly, this young man was just wayward and misguided and wasn’t aware that it was inappropriate to rape women. Another woman reports that a detective with USC’s police force declined to turn her case over to LAPD, and campus officials dismissed administrative proceedings because her rapist did not have an orgasm during the attack. It appears to these officials that it’s a-okay to forcibly penetrate a woman, just so long as you don’t inseminate her. A quick check of the California Penal Code seems to contradict this, though. And in an oh-so-classic example of victim-blaming and slut-shaming, one official advised a young woman reporting an assault at a fraternity part that she shouldn’t “go out, get drunk and expect not to get raped.” So in the mind’s of USC, all women who drink alcohol deserve to get raped.

I’m well-aware that there’s a long history of covering up sexual violence on college campuses throughout the US, and that the lengths to which these cover-ups go only increases with the prestige of the institution. After all, images need to be maintained, and being known as the home of dozens of campus rapes isn’t very good for marketing. Despite the stereotypes of universities as these bastions of progressive values and liberal ideals, clearly many of them harbor a culture with beliefs about sexual assault and women’s sexuality that resembled the 1920’s. Not shockingly, USC is far from the only school under investigation. UNC-Chapel Hill, UC-Boulder, Swarthmore, and Occidental are all also currently being investigate by the OCR. When you realize how important a college degree has become to succeed in the job market, particularly for women, it’s terrifying to wonder just how many young women have had their lives and futures destroyed because not only are universities not taking their safety seriously, but they can’t even be bothered to appropriately handle a rape after it’s happened. Rape trauma and the associated PTSD are real consequences of sexual assault, and they have very negative effects on your ability to function- you know, like going to class and passing exams. And who would want to continue schooling in a place that’s unconcerned about the fact that you were raped? I think I’d run screaming.

I can only hope that the OCR’s investigations shakes these schools into some major changes and maybe catalyze a closer look at sexual assaults on campus throughout our country. But if history tells me anything, these women’s cries will continue to fall on deaf ears.

Violent Homophobic Rhetoric in Ontario, or “Two brave women in Kingston are calling out some cowards.”

Letters To Kingston Lesbians Contain Bizarre, Troubling Threats (PHOTOS).

Here’s one of those items that I feel like I needed to share just to give more give more light to just how incredibly disturbing this is, and to make sure people realize that these sorts of things still go on and that our work as advocates isn’t even close to done.  A lesbian couple in Kingston, Ontario recently received some very disturbing hate mail, demanding they move out of town, or face violence. The first note is a page-long demand letter, addressed to “Lesbian Bitches,” and it lays out the plan of a supposed “small but dedicated group of Kingston residents” to force all homosexuals out of the city. They claim to have a “head office in the Deep South”, and to have successfully forced out several other people in the area, and it includes some fairly ominous threats including “You are not going to be safe at home, office or anywhere else”. A followup letter came days later (I guess they were expecting these women to just pack up and leave town in a day or two.) This is a much shorter letter addressed to “lesbos” informing them that they have purchased BB guns for their children which are intended to be used to “hunt them down” because “what better targets than you.” It ends with a note that these “fun and games” will turn “deadly serious.”

I’m just sickened by this entire thing. I’d like to think that this is the work of one or a very very small handful of truly deranged homophobes, and that swift action by the Kingston Police and the RCMP will find these idiots before this actually escalates into physical violence. I’m hoping against hope that there aren’t actually any children being indoctrinated into this kind of culture of hate and violence, and it’s all just more ploy for their sick game. But the realist in me has to admit that homophobia, even the violent and aggressive kind, is still alive and well that it’s entirely possible that some underground hate group IS operating in Kingston and legitimately threatening the physical safety of the LGBT community in that area (the letters themselves are threats enough to their psychological safety, even if they’re BS).

I applaud the response of these fantastic women, who have remained defiant in the face of these threats. They’ve peacefully protested this garbage by continuing on with their lives, publicly exposing the threats made (even writing about it on HuffPo), and packing their front porch with supportive friends and neighbors. I was really moved by the last few lines of her post about the situation:

As we make a point of facing these threats publicly, we can’t ignore the corrosive effect this all has on our imagination. It’s odd to be surrounded by all the support in the real and virtual world, and yet still think suspicious, fearful thoughts about passers-by. The deluge can happen in an instant, but climate change — both the physical and the social varieties — has been building for years. It has history behind it. So relocation offers aside, we’ll stay on our front porch with our friends, to take cover and peacefully stand our ground.

It’s sad to realize that such ugly homophobia can still pop up in an area as progressive as Ontario, but it’s reassuring to know that our community remains steadfast in it’s strength to withstand these kinds of attacks. Bravo, ladies.

#16, or “Finally we have marriage quality…in the UK.”

Britain Legalizes Gay Marriage.

The United Kingdom has now become the 16th nation in the world to  legalize gay marriage. With the largely ceremonial assent of the Queen, queer couple in England and Wales may now legally wed their partners and enjoy all the legal protections afforded to spouses. The law only applies to England and Wales as the individual Parliaments of Scotland and North Ireland have a degree of self-determination under current UK law. Similar legislation has already been introduced in Scotland is is expected to pass this year; same-same marriage remains officially banned in far more conservative North Ireland.

Congratulations, all you fine Brits! I look forward to seeing photos of many happy British gay weddings over the next weeks. With each new country that embraces the notions of marriage equality, the US (the supposed Leader of the Free World) falls farther and farther behind in the human rights. Even Argentina and Brazil, two countries where Catholicism is the predominant religion and socially conservative views are popular, marriage equality has been enacted. It’s about time we see some movement on a national law to enshrine this important right into law.

Abortion Restriction Enacted in Texas, or “This is a set-back, but the fight is far from over.”

Perry Signs Sweeping Texas Abortion Restrictions : NPR.

So a few weeks back, I did a lot of writing about Texas SB5, a piece of horrid legislation that will severely restrict the availability of safe abortions in Texas, as well as the incredible effort put forth by Wendy Davis to prevent the bill from passing during a special session of the Texas legislature.

Unfortunately, Governor Rick Perry decided that oppressing women and controlling their bodies was SO important that he called a SECOND special session of the legislature to get these abortion restrictions in place. I find it very disturbing that the very same week that he signed that order, Texas celebrated (and I do mean celebrated) the execution of their 500th prisoner. Unfortunately, with an entire 30-day window to push through this disgusting encroachment on women’s bodies, there was simply no procedural method available to prevent the bill from being pushed through. Today, Perry signed the bill into law.

The immediate effect will be to prevent women from receiving abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The justification is the highly disputed and poorly supported idea that fetuses feel pain at that point.  But, far more disturbing will be the impact next fall. The law imposes extremely onerous restrictions on abortion providers far in excess of any other kind of medical practice. Clinics will have one year to comply or be forced to shutter their doors. As thing stand now, the second largest state in term of both size and population will be reduced from 42 abortion providers to just 5. The impact will hit low-income and minority women particularly hard; with no money to travel to a clinic they will have any notion of “choice” erased from their lives. What terrifies me most is that this will open the door for the re-introduction back-alley abortion providers; many desperate women will end up on the tables of the these unscrupulous people, and will risk scarring, infection, disability, infertility, and even death because a safe alternative simply isn’t available. It’s more than a right to choose…it’s a right to choose safely.

Luckily, lawsuits are already being written to delay and hopefully completely stop these new restrictions from taking effect. The federal courts have not looked favorably on similar bans in other states, and I’m hoping that trend continues here. After all, Roe v. Wade clearly set a precedent for the available of pregnancy termination at least to viability, which is pretty universally defined as 24 weeks. Unfortunately, Texas isn’t the only state taking the war on women’s rights to terrifying new heights. North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia have all recently enacted similar restrictions, and several other states are considering the same.

This push by the GOP to further invade women’s private health decisions and erode their rights over their body is nothing new, but it’s hitting with new fervor. It’s time those of us on the pro-choice side to start making more noise of our own and let our leaders know that will not stand for these intrusions. We need to all Stand With Wendy, and stand with each other.

A New Safe Space in Chicago, or “Service, space, and community? What a concept!”

Chicago House opens nation’s first transgender housing.

My hat is off to some really wonderful people in Chicago today. Chicago House has pulled out all the stops to set up a safe living space for at-risk trans people in the greater Chicago area called the TransLife Center. It’s part of a larger organization effort they’ve titled the TransLife Project to improve the lives of transgender individuals in Chicago. As many of you may know, housing security is a huge concern for transgender people, and we suffer from a much higher-than-average rate of homelessness. Although Chicago House is primarily a organization geared towards caring for those with HIV/AIDS, they have recently expanded their efforts with the trans community at the urging of activists within their troup. The TLC will be a space where trans people can live safely if they are need as they get on their feet (transitional housing), as well as get access to employment services and health care. I think this will be a huge boon to the community of Chicago.

I think it would be fantastic to see groups in other cities follow this model and make sure that vulnerable trans people do not fall through the cracks and end up on the street or worse. The rates of suicide and homicide for the transgender community are very high, and homelessness only increases those risks.

Kudos to you, Chicago House, for all your hard work!

The Religious Right Kicks Trans People Again, or “Seriously, can you all just take your bigoted bullshit and fuck off now?”

Pastors argue against ‘transgender’ on human rights ordinance | News – Home.

I know this is just a lot of the same tired bullshit we hear again and again and again every time someone has the audacity to think that maybe trans people ought to be treated like human beings. But I feel it’s important to continually call this bullshit out and make it clear that it’s unacceptable and ensure that they are held accountable for their intolerant bigotry and hate-spreading.

Basically, the religious folks down in Miami-Dade are up in arms and spewing transphobic nonsense because the Miami-Dade County Commission would like to include gender identity in their human right ordinance. So, in essence, they don’t feel like transgender individuals are entitled to having their human rights protected.

From the article:

“Now you so confused you don’t know what you are that you’ve got to go — you’s a woman, you going into the men’s bathroom. You’s a man, you’re going into the women’s bathroom,” said Elder James Smith with the Apostolic Revival Center. “No, I don’t respect that.”

Sorry, Elder Smith, but I don’t respect using one’s religion and influence in the community to push narrow-minded hateful views on every around you. Despite what you might think, transgender people are ACTUALLY people, and we are deserving of equal treatment and protection under the law.

On the flip-side, I give some major points to the Miami-Dade County Commission for pushing forward with adding protections for trans people in their county! Way to go!