Posts Tagged ‘harassment

29
Jan
14

Obama’s State of the Union Address Ignores ENDA (and more), or “Remember when the President stood up for trans rights in front of Congress? Yeah, me neither.”

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama talked extensively about jobs and the economy. He discussed immigration reform. He touted the success of the Affordable Care Act. He devoted several minutes to discussing current foreign policy situations. He touched on education, tax reforms, and pressed for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Sadly, he left a number of critical issues completely untouched- chief among them the concerns of the LGBT community and the languishing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly known as ENDA.

Oh sure, he gave the minimum of lip service to our existence in his brief mentions of “marriage equality” and later his hat-tip to “sexual orientation” in his statement about equality in regards to the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi. Meanwhile, in 29 states it remains perfectly legal to fire (or refuse to hire) someone because they’re gay, lesbian or transgender. 33 states offer no protections to transgender workers. According to the most recent report from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 90% of transgender workers have experienced some form of harassment. Nearly half (47%) had been fired, had not been hired, or had missed out on a promotion because they are trans, including 26% who had been actually lost their jobs. Because of the persistent discrimination and transphobia in the US, losing our jobs has even more catastrophic effect than it does for the straight, cis population, leading to four times the rate of extreme poverty, and four times the rate of homeless (1 in 5 trans people will be homeless at some point in our lives). Most heartbreaking of all, 41% of trans people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, more than 25 times the risk of the general population.

These bleak facts stem for a systemic, entrenched anti-trans bias within the entirety of the US economic system, from education to the workforce. While we have lots of work to do to disassemble this bias, comprehensive workplace protections for transgender individuals (and indeed, all LGBT people) would provide a large measure of stability and would represent a huge leap forward in trans rights. Congress has an excellent opportunity to enact such protections, though S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013. The proposal passed the Senate in November 64-32, including three yes votes from Republicans. While Congress has previously considered similar bills, this marks the first time such a bill containing protections for trans people has gained final passage in a chamber of Congress. All indications are that- if allowed to come to a vote on the House floor- the bill would pass, and President Obama has indicated that he would sign it. So what’s keeping this critical legislation from passing? The unwillingness of Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote, as he views it as “unnecessary” (I’d be willing to bed the 1 in 4 trans people who’ve been fired would handily disagree). Unfortunately, the rules of the House make it nearly impossible to circumvent the Speaker’s block on the vote.

So, back to Obama’s State of the Union Address. President Obama prodded the members of Congress towards action on a number of issues, including extending unemployment benefits, increasing the federal minimum wage, closing tax loopholes, and funding preschool education. Unfortunately, he entirely failed to prod Congress on the final passage of ENDA. Job protections for LGBT people are not a particularly controversial topic for the public at large. A poll by the Center for American Progress back in 2011 demonstrated that nearly 3 of 4 Americans support workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, including a majority of Republicans. More troubling is that 90% believe these protections already exist. So, we have a policy that the majority of Americans- and a majority of Congress- supports (indeed that most think already exists) that won’t become law because of one single legislator’s objections. The State of the Union seemed like the perfect opportunity to press for action on such an item. Mr Obama could have very publicly called on Boehner to allow such a vote (either directly, or indirectly). The President could have promised to sign an executive order to require protections for LGBT people in all federal contractors as an additional pressure, much as he did with the federal contractors and minimum wage. President Obama’s press office included such items in his pre-address “fact sheet”, but that’s a far cry from a expression of public support in a major address. When the President took the podium, all we heard was a deafening silence on one of the most critical issues facing us today.

Some might argue that it’s a fairly “minor issue”, affecting a small number of Americans, and not worthy of the President’s limited speech time. However, as a comparison, roughly 1.6 million people recently lost their unemployment benefits, about 0.5% of the population by my estimate. LGBT identified folks make up about 4% of the US population by current estimates, more than 8 times as many who would benefit from the far-more controversial unemployment extension. However, that issue was found worthy of mentioning at length in his speech. Returning to the minimum-wage issue for a moment, about the same number (1.6 million) of individuals currently make minimum wage (per Bureau of Labor Statistics)  as recently lost unemployment checks. And yet, raising the federal minimum wage was a key issue in Obama’s address. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe these are both very important and worthwhile issues and they certainly warranted being discussed in the President’s speech. But in sheer numbers, the passage of ENDA impacts a greater number of people, and it’s nonsensical to argue that we’re comparatively insignificant minority.

I could take the President to task for many oversights in his address, from drug policy to criminal justice to reproductive rights to proper funding for the NIH. However, his failure to press for action for such basic protections that could do so much to improve the lives of trans (and other LGBT) individuals is absolutely inexcusable, particular given that that ENDA enjoys wide support with Americans and has functionally zero fiscal implications. If this version of ENDA dies in the House without reaching the President’s desk, it will represent an enormous missed opportunity to provide trans and queer people with something most have never had- a chance to live their lives without fear of losing their livelihoods and incomes simply for being who they are. The simple fact is, Mr Obama had the opportunity to take a groundbreaking step in going to bat for the LGBT population in his address (and, in doing so, keep a key campaign promise). However, as has become so common a theme in his administration, President Obama left queer and transgender Americans out in the cold.

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28
Jan
14

Why Genital Essentialist Comments are Transphobic Microaggressions, or “People need to stop talking about what “real” men and women have in their pants.”

Microaggressions: those little phrases you hear every day that give you a stinging reminder that the world considers you “less than”. The term was originally coined back in the 1970s in regards to racism, but it’s come into usage in feminist, queer, and pretty much all other intersectional conversations about privilege. Dr Derald Sue, who has written extensively about racial and other microaggressions gave the following definition in a Psychology Today article in 2010:

“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

Think of it like this: open aggressive harassment is like someone dropping a big rock on your car from an overpass- it’s sudden, immediate, and it’s probably going to do some serious damage. Microaggressions are like being caught behind a gravel truck every day- each little hit does a fairly minor amount of damage but the accumulated effect day after day is going to make a big mess. Some microaggressions are direct: intentionally misgendering of a trans person, or asking a black guy what gang he’s in. Some are more subtle: men referring to certain tasks as “women’s work,” or someone commenting on the enjoyment of cake by a random person of size passing by. Jared Leto’s recent acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is another perfect example, as Parker Molloy recently discussed over on The Toast. If it’s sort of thing someone might brush off criticisms of as “being too sensitive”, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a microaggression. If you’re still having trouble conceptualizing this, the good folks over at The Microaggression Project have cataloged more examples than you’ll ever need. (Caution: it can be a pretty triggery website.)

Transphobic microaggressions take many forms, from downright hostile comments about how “gross” or “weird” trans people (and/or their bodies are) to insidious things like the use of phrases like “hot tranny mess” in a derogatory fashion about someone’s appearance. One that seems to be among the most prevalent (and dismissed) are comments about the sort of genitals (or other features) that “real” men or women should have, a situation commonly known as “essentialism”. When these comments are specifically about the sort of genitals that one particular gender has (or doesn’t have), it becomes genital essentialism. I recently came across this post in the blogosphere, ostensibly written about standards of female beauty, but unnecessarily containing a bold transphobic microaggression. (I have extended criticisms of the entire misogynist piece, but we’ll skip those today.) The writer opines:

“I’m going to let you and the rest of society in on a secret, real women have vaginas. In fact, that is the number one prerequisite in being considered a person of the female persuasion. It’s not the shape of your hips or the size of your rump, it’s the fact that I can’t find a penis anywhere on your body.”

The problem here, of course, is that a statement like this also very clearly implies that anyone without a vagina is not, in fact, a “real woman.” It’s an implicit rejection of the femaleness every single trans woman on the planet who has not had GCS. Sure, it’s a flaming angry tirade from a religious crazy about what evil sexual perverts we all are. But, it is a jab at something that trans women hold fairly sacrosanct- their identity as a woman. In that, it becomes a transphobic microaggressions, even if the writer had no negative thoughts about trans women in his mind when he wrote it. A more wide-reaching example occurred just today on Twitter when Joss Whedon (of Buffy, Firefly, and Avengers fame) tapped out this doozy:

whedontweet

Once again, reducing femaleness to genitals…and this time not even the presence of a vagina, but simply the LACK of penis and testicles, making it not only an anti-trans microaggression (by implying that by having male genitals, trans women aren’t women and that by not having a penis trans men aren’t actually men), but also a sexist microaggression (by defining women as simply “that which is not a man,” the implication being that gender is defined in the context of maleness). Again, I’m not necessarily saying that Mr Whedon had any particularly transphobic or sexist intentions when he made this statement, but the fact that a statement like this can be tossed off like it’s nothing speaks volumes about the invisibility of trans people in the minds of the world at large.

Quite unfortunately, this whole “real women have vaginas” thing is a lot more prevalent than you might imagine. You see, a few years back the internets spawned a meme about female body image, centered around the phrase “real women have curves.” Not unexpectedly (nor at ALL unreasonably) there was significant backlash against this reduction a woman’s identity to her physical body appearance. After all, it’s pretty cruel and offensive to declare that thin women aren’t “real” women. Disappointingly, the phrase that seemed to frequently be substitutes in place of it was -you guessed it- “real women have vaginas.” This phrase became a rallying cry against the imposition of unfair beauty standards. Writer Dory Hartley wrote in a piece for Huffington Post:

“Number one: they all have vaginas. If you’ve got a vagina, you’re a real women.”

Again, the implication is clear: No vagina = not a woman, vagina = woman. There’s no room in that equation for trans bodies, and it becomes an inherent denial of our femaleness or maleness of this reduction of identity to genitalia. Tamsin Howse of Kiki & Tea was so body as to actual title a piece “Real Women have Vaginas.” In it she writes:

“Remember – Real women have vaginas. And some people I call women don’t even have that.”

There it is, again- a bold declarative about what exactly the sorts of body parts “real women” have. The follow-up statement feels like an attempt, perhaps, in being inclusive of trans women. But her phrasing contains an implication that she doesn’t believe they really ARE women, just that she calls them women, which feels almost like another microaggression in itself. I could, quite literally, go on for another 1000 words of similar examples. None of these pieces were written by trans-exclusive rad-fems bent on the oppression of trans people; I’m 99% sure none of them harbored any transphobic thoughts as they composed these articles. But each one of them is one more tiny jab at the femaleness (or maleness) of trans people, and a reinforcement of our invisibility.
The common response to this sort of criticism (so common I can practically hear the voices) is that we’re being “too sensitive,” that we’re “looking for transphobia” where it doesn’t really exist, that we’re trying to enforce “overly-PC” standards. These are the sorts of arguments consistently made by oppressor classes defend their privileged status. Similar arguments were made for years in regards to queer microaggression comments (for example, insulting a man by calling him a c*cksucker) that are now quite widely perceived as being offensive and inappropriate homophobic statements. Genital essentialist statements like “real women have vaginas” functionally reduce an extraordinarily complex portion of a person’s identity- their gender- to a rigid, overly simplistic, inaccurate, incomplete, and frankly incorrect biologic assumption that becomes an ugly, painful kick at something critically important to trans people, our firm understanding of our own femaleness or maleness. The accumulated effect of having statements like this bombard us daily from everywhere we look just adds to the pervasive transphobia that we endure from our culture. So, please stop reducing everyone to their genitals, and assuming that “real women” or “real men” have any single defining characteristic. Real women have bodies. Real men have bodies. Real Non-Gender-Binary-Identifying-People have bodies. That’s all you can assume about them.

14
Jan
14

#NotYourTransStereotype, or “Kat Hacé writes beautifully on the perceptions of trans people.” (Reblog)

#notyourtransstereotype | Papier Haché.

Kat Haché is a recent addition to my list of favorite trans writers in the blogosphere these days. Her writing is brilliant, poignant and insightful. Plus, she’s also a grad student and a bit of a nerd, which pretty much put her stuff right the sweet spot here. I’m a little disappointed in myself that this is the first time I’ve reblogged her!

Her most recent (as of my writing today) is an absolutely perfect take down of so many of the perceptions and preoccupations the world has of trans people. This bit particularly hit home for me:

“I am not something to be ashamed of.  I am not the butt of your jokes.  I am beautiful, capable, intelligent, and not mentally deranged.  I do not look like a freak or exist to be gawked at, regardless of my attire.”

As per my goal of getting people to read lots of the brilliant stuff penned by the numerous talented trans writers now making their voices heard on the Net, I’m not going to say much other than the piece brought tears to my eyes, and that you REALLY should go read it. 🙂 Scoot!

 

07
Jan
14

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.

07
Aug
13

ABC News Editor De-Transitions (maybe), or “There, and back again: a case of tragic media sensationalism.”

Transgender News Editor Says He’s Not Transgender Anymore – Dawn Ennis Becomes Don Ennis Again – Cosmopolitan.

 

If you read my little corner of the interwebs with any regularity, you might be a little shocked to see me linking to a story from Cosmopolitan. Hell, I’m shocked to BE linking a story from Cosmo. But, as this story pretty fresh in the headlines, this is actually the only piece so far that seems to cover all the facts AND isn’t incredibly transphobic. So, +1 in the good column for Cosmo for once.  As I read and researched this particular story, I was weary of even writing a commentary. But it’s one of those thing that’s just entirely too visible and has the potential to do a lot of harm to just stick my head in the sand over.

So, I’ll start, as I so often to do, with the background. A few months back, Don Ennis, a producer with ABC News came out proudly and publicly as a trans woman, and announced she would now be living her life as Dawn. My heart went out to her; transitioning later in life, particularly with a very public job, is a very scary thing and she was handling it quite bravely. Overall, the media handled it fairly respectfully, and I was impressed. The story sat on my queue for commentary for a few days, but I couldn’t come up with a ton of meaningful commentary other than “Go Dawn!”, so I put my writing energies into other pieces. Well, today Dawn announced that she was returning to life as Don, and that the entire thing had been a big misdiagnosis and misunderstanding. Dawn explains in an email to colleagues that she had been suffering from a hormonal imbalance for years and that it had been triggered by being given female hormones by her mother so that she could continue a career as a child-actor. She goes on to explain that she recently suffered from a episode of transient global amnesia that took him back to a point where he hadn’t identified as female, and that following her recovery from that episode, she no longer suffered from gender dysphoria.

There are just so many things frustrating and confusing about this situation. The biggest challenge here is that the story was first covered by the New York Post, a source that I out-and-out refuse to link to because I believe it lacks anything even approaching journalistic integrity. As far as I have been able to locate through the magic of my google-fu, the full text of the email isn’t available anywhere, nor has Dawn released any official public statement. I searched high and low for a way to contact her and confirm this story directly (other than tweeting directly at her, which felt accusatory and cruel), and came up empty. So, there’s no way to verify that what the Post is reporting is even factual. Trans people make easy targets for this kind of harassment, so I place it as entirely plausable that this entire situation is a concoction of some kind designed to grab headlines and thoroughly humiliate Ms Ennis. [Note, I’m continuing to use to refer to her as female as I cannot find any secondary verification of this story). I am catagorically NOT accusing anyone of doing this, just posing it as a possibility that cannot be eliminated.

So, since I’m unwilling to take it as fact that there’s truth to the situation, the rest of my commentary here is framed in the hypothetical that the article is true. If this does turn out to be true, there’s a lot that doesn’t add up. I’m not going to tear it all apart, because I feel like there’s enough of that already going on with this story. But, I will say that experience that’s allegedly described in the email regarding “transient global amnesia” doesn’t seem to fit the literature descriptions of this condition. That, combined with some of the other pieces of her statements both when coming out and in this alleged email, point to possibility of someone who wasn’t quite prepared for the stresses and complications that living full-time entail, and retreated back from the progress she had made. She certainly wouldn’t be the first trans person to do so, and I don’t think anyone who’s lived through transition could blame her. Given that her transition and career were in a very public sphere, it may be that she felt a pressure to come up with an explanation for her de-transitioning (the most common term for returning to your birth gender after beginning transition), and thus the TGA story. Another possibility is that she doesn’t fall as firmly on the “woman” side of the spectrum of gender identity as she had initially thought, and that her time living as a woman left her continuing to feel conflicted,  her ultimate decision was to return to her male life. Again, that’s a completely legitimate experience. Once more, that kind of sudden change back may feel like it requires a lot of explanation even if you didn’t make national headlines when you came out…I can only begin to imagine the pressure she would have felt to explain herself, no matter what the “real” reason for her de-transition. Other possibilities (including that her story is 100% true) exist. Whatever the reasons and/or causes, this is ultimately her decision, and she shouldn’t HAVE to explain it to anyone (aside from, to a certain extent, her wife and children). Ultimately, transition (and by extension de-transition) are personal, medical decisions and the motivations behind them aren’t anyone’s business but our own.  Parker Marie over at Park That Car wrote a wonderful open letter to Dawn (or Don) that touches on some of these issues beautifully.

On a final note, I want to cover why stories like these are so dangerous and why they leave me so concerned and upset. Transgender people have suffered a long, difficult up-hills slog towards the very marginal acceptance we currently have in society. Many people still view our situation with skepticism at best, vitriolic disgust and violent hatred at worst. When a case like this breaks into the headlines, it grabs attention so much more than the many thousands of positive transition stories from blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages around the world. It gives the transphobic activists munition to drum up fear of us, and it endangers baby steps of progress we make each day. Transgender stories are still all too often treated a titillating “weird news” with no respect for the people or communities involved. Transgender topics remain inherently sensational, and negative stories about trans people even more so. Not a single post or article beyond the Cosmo posting and Parker’s Open letter even begin to touch on how this might affect the transgender community as a whole, or takes absolutely any steps to clarify that the experiences of Ms Ennis are an extremely unusual case and should not be extrapolated to other transgender individuals. That kind of failure just spreads more wrong or misguided ideas about the trans community and transition, which must, in turn, be debunked and disproved by our community in our writing and conversations.  The media as a whole needs to seriously examine how it treats transgender people and topics, and maybe think about treating like us actual human beings. It’s simply unacceptable that any trans related topic that makes the news continues to be reported as if it were some seedy criminal sex scandal.

Oh, and just for the record, and to ensure that I’m thoroughly communicating where all of this has gone wrong, let’s dispel some of the notions the coverage around this story may have created. The cause of gender dyphoria/gender identity disorder is still largely unknown; we were not all given cross-gender hormones by our parents as children. We’ve also generally pretty much always felt this way; we don’t just randomly wake-up one day with gender dysphoria, nor does it just suddenly vanish one day. Inducing an episode of transient global amnesia will not “cure” gender dysphoria. Finally, transition is a complicated and difficult process and not everyone has the social, economic, or psychological resources to undertake it. Just because someone decides to not continue with transition does not invalidate their gender dysphoria, nor does it invalidate the dysphoria and transition decisions of anyone else.

If it turns out this story is just hokum, then I’m dreadfully sorry to Dawn for dragging her name through something so ugly, and I will replace this story with a lengthy evisceration of the Post as soon as I figure out what happened. If the story is legitimate, then I wish Don the best, and hope that the decisions he has made are the ones that will bring him happiness.

01
Aug
13

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.

27
Jul
13

The Pardoning of Alan Turing, or “Sorry, United Kingdom, but you are 60 years too late for this to have much meaning.

Alan Turing to receive pardon – CBS News.

Okay, if you don’t know who Alan Turing is, you should crawl out from under your rock and look him up. He’s one of the largest pioneers of what would later become the field of computer science, as the Turing Test (for computer intelligence) is named after him. The Turing Machine is one of the earliest electronic computing devices. He is largely credited with breaking with the German Enigma code in World War II, which allowed the Allies to decode classified, encrypted German military communication. Many believe the intelligence gained from this shortened the war by a matter of years. Unfortunately for Turing, he was also gay, and any form of homosexual sex was illegal at that point in history. In 1952, after admitting to having a relationship with a young man over the course of an investigation into the burglary of his apartment, Turing was charged, tried, and convicted of “gross indecency,” which was nothing more than homosexual sex. Turing was forced to undergo a treatment known as “chemical castration” to render him impotent and destroy his sex drive, or face a significant prison sentence. He lost his security clearance, and his position with the British government. In 1953, Turing took his own life with cyanide.

Turing wasn’t the only man forced into inhumane medical treatment, or who had his life destroyed by the rampant homophobia of the time. Almost 50,000 men in the UK shared his fate during that period. But the tragic loss of such a brilliant, celebrated young scientist and war hero for having the audacity to be gay and unashamed sheds stark light on just how recently our world treated the LGBT population as little more than vermin to control. Turing saved countless lives through his efforts in cryptology, but even that didn’t grant him a bit of leniency in the face of the widely-held notion that being gay is evil and immoral. The fact that Turing’s conviction stood for 60 years is just a further testament to how deeply entrenched those ideas are. Even just last year, there wasn’t enough positive sentiment for Parliament to pass such a pardon. Finally, it appears that later this summer, Alan Turing, father of modern computing and hero of WWII, will be pardoned for his crime of nothing more than being gay.

While I’m sure that for some of the remains of Turing’s family, the pardon is a meaningful act that may give them some peace about the memory of the this extraordinary man. But in the grand scheme of things, it feels like a hollow gesture to me. It makes great press, but little else. Turing is still lost to us, as are all of the contributions he had yet to make. 50,000 other men were still humiliated and subject to horrific medical treatment, and they haven’t received pardons. If this is Parliament’s way of proving it’s commitment to the LGBT community, then they have a long way to go. I recognize that the UK has comparatively progressive attitude towards LGBT rights, especially compared to the US, but some compensation for those subjected to the same treatment, some concrete action on improved services for the queer community, or recognition for current queer leaders would have a great deal more meaning than a shallow correction of a horrible mistake that was left to fester too long, and tarnished the memory of one of the most important scientists of the 2oth century.

24
Jul
13

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.

02
Jul
13

More Violence Against Trans Women, or “Be careful, DC people!”

D.C. Police Investigate Two More Attacks On Transgender Women.

So there have been no less than six attacks in trans women in the DC area in the last two weeks. At least two of them were shot, and one sexually assaulted. It’s unclear if they are connected, or if it’s just a overall uptick in violence towards trans people. What it is, for sure, is scary and troubling.

What upsets me most is how little coverage situations like this get from the media. It’s a very real danger, and it’s completely ignored by most major outlets. So it’s up to us as a community to boost the signal, and make sure these stories get heard! It’s just as serious a crime to beat, stab, shoot, rape or rob a trans person, and it’s about time these crimes were treated that way.

Keep your heads up and your wits about you, DC people!

12
Jun
13

The Audacity of a Female Game Critic, or “The tumblr post that nearly made me throw my laptop across the room.” (Reblog)

Feminist Frequency • Twitter vs Female Protagonists in Video Games.

Do I even have commentary for this that isn’t a string of curse words? Basically, Anita Sarkeesian over at Feminist Frequency (now on the blogroll!) had the audacity to comment on Twitter the fact that ZERO of the games revealed at E3 had a female protagonist. What she received in response is some of the most vile sexist bullshit that I’ve read in some time, and I couldn’t even make through a third of the tweets she posted. They range from a simple “shut up” or to the tired trope of “wharrrr, feminist agenda!” to the sterotypical “girls don’t play games!” to the oh-so-charming “no one wants games about cooking and cleaning HARHARHAR girls are dumb”.

Sadly, women are still having to fight like hell for even the slightest crumb of respect in the majority of the geek/nerd community, and it seems like the gamer portion of that community is among the worst. The tired cliches of “there are no girl gamers” and “geek girls are all fakers” continue on and on. There’s ZERO logical or factual basis for these claims, and they do nothing but make the community look backwards and idiotic. Tirades like the ones Anita received do little more than cement the image of gamers as entrenched sexist pigs with the social maturity stunted and halted at the adolescent stage hallmarked by a deep insecurity with genital development and resultant fear of the opposite sex. Yes, I’m implying they’re acting like teenage boys with small penises who are terrified of girls.

Grow up, boys. And major points to Anita for her audacity. She’s my hero for the day.




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